As we emerge from the pandemic into a world of even greater uncertainty, bold moves and decisions rather than incremental solutions will move the performance dial, just as they did pre-pandemic.
Over the years, VUCA [“volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity”] has forced multinationals to re-examine their business models. The challenge has been to create change and quickly adapt to a dynamic marketplace further disrupted by technology.
“The world is undergoing six major shifts,” writes Swami Raote, Worldwide President of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care. “People are living longer and growing older, fatter, more crowded, more connected and more urban. As a result, society is unsettled, which is paving the way for disruption and reinvention.”
Managing this disruption has been difficult, given that the very nature of organizations has been to “organize work” into predictable activities governed by inflexible procedures, structures and bureaucracy, which allow organizations to systematically set budgets and allocate resources to achieve results.
So what do multinationals need to do in 2023 to manage this disruption and reinvent themselves to compete more effectively? Here are seven bold ideas:
1. Stimulate innovations – organizations must find new sources of growth either by outsourcing the task of innovation to third parties, or by leveraging diversity. Contracting third party consortiums such as the Food Nest that nurture start-ups and accelerate innovations is one alternative. Another is to create more opportunities to stimulate and reward diverse thinking and new ideas in change resistant cultures.
2. Redirect energy externally – bureaucracies and functional silos are strangling companies. It’s like death by a thousand cuts. Employees are spending too much energy fighting each other and losing touch with their customers. Leaders must find ways of creating space for their local operations to focus outward on the market. Otherwise, local competitors will continue to out manoeuvre them.
3. Empower to increase agility - organizations will need to create work cultures based on trust with the right balance between empowerment and control. With enough direction and clear expectations, empowerment will give people and teams the freedom to make decisions and act quickly. Execution must be based on sound judgment and incomplete information, rather than only doing what you are told.
4. Make bigger bets on where to compete - no longer will multinationals be able to cling to existing distribution channels while dipping their toes into new opportunities. They will have to make bigger, bolder bets based on forecasting trends that are reshaping how retailers compete and where consumers will buy. For example, Costco in the U.S. sells popular brand detergents in bulk and at a discount. That might narrow down the channels in which FMCG companies should compete.
5. Optimize talent - outstanding companies must discover how to leverage the full potential of their workforces and restructure quickly to address change. Human Resources must view their organizations more holistically, rather than by geography, functions or businesses. They must serve as the “stock market of people,” across the whole company, breaking down boundaries to put the right talent in the right jobs.
6. Develop people as a priority – VUCA has made it difficult to manage careers. But more demanding employees, including the so-called millennial generation, have forced organizations to identify top talent and shape disciplined development programs. These programs offer intensive skill development and opportunities for people to gain valuable experience. In 2023 and beyond, investing in individual growth is a sound retention strategy.
7. Clarify digital strategy - despite the past hoopla surrounding the success of digital players such as Amazon, Alibaba and Facebook, most established companies still only use digital to enhance operations, rather than change how they do business. That might not be enough. Companies need to be clear about the role of digital in their future business and how to change to reap the benefits.