There is an old tired question that constantly does the rounds and one that provides plenty of opportunity for commentators and consultants to write and talk about. The question is this:
“What is it that keeps the CEO awake at night?”
My own standard answer is, “Nothing – except sometimes my dogs.” There is however another standard answer to this question, and that one goes something like this.
The main things that keep me awake at night are Regulations like POPI, Skills Shortages, Disruptive Innovation, and Global Competitiveness. I even Googled it a moment ago – and sure enough nothing has changed since I last ran Risk Management workshops for companies ten years ago. I think that these guys are barking up the wrong tree completely.
This traditional answer is like asking Allister Coetzee what keeps him awake at night, and getting the answer, “The rules of rugby.”
If Toetie said that, we would laugh at him. We would say to him, “But Toetie, the rules are the rules and they are the same for everybody. They change a bit from year to year – but they are mainly quite predictable and you can plan for them. They are the rules of the game. If you don’t like them, find another game.”
What Toetie should be telling us (and maybe he is), is that the things that keep him awake at night are:
- Not being better than the competition at mastering the rules,
- Not being flexible and agile enough to apply the rules with flair and speed.
The things that keep me awake at night (figuratively speaking of course, since we have already established that I sleep very well) are the following:
- Organisational inflexibility – Lack of depth and leadership.
- Lack of imagination – A lot is vested in our traditional understanding of how things work.
- Lack of agility – We resist change and we have systems and processes that are hard and costly to change.
- Cognitive bias – We look for and consider only the evidence that supports our pre-conceptions.
- Egos – We compete against each other instead of collaborating.
I fear that we at Tarsus are still struggling with all of the above real risks, but that we are luckily not being outperformed by most of our competitors in these categories. These things are hard, and if we are honest we will concede that very few organisations are good at tackling them. We are working at improving our agility, our imagination, addressing our biases and subduing our egos.
We have a good strategy and some carefully-crafted maxims to help us with the roadmap – the execution is always the hardest part.
There are also other external risks – or new rules of the game that many commentators seem to ignore. I will write more about these next time.
We need to be thinking deeply about some of the following matters – all quietly leading to a social revolution under our noses:
- The income gap and growing deeply embedded unemployment.
- The allocation of investment capital – communism has failed, and capitalism is not so quietly starting to fail. What will the new system look like? (#FeesMustFall, Brexit, Donald Trump, Land Ownership, Arab Spring and many other examples.)
We must find better ways of bringing compassion and caring into the workplace – understanding that this always comes with performance strings attached.
We must find new gaps in the market and take them.
We must learn to trust each other and encourage both teamwork and individualism.
We must remember that there are no short cuts, keep our patience, keep our focus, keep our resolve and we will ultimately build a wonderful supplier, customer, employer, investment and corporate citizen. Go for it.
Miles Crisp is the Tarsus Technology Group CEO