Division of labor has been around for millennia. From the ancient Sumerians to Plato to Henry Ford, everyone seems to champion the divide-and-conquer approach. Yet when a complete overhaul of strategic thinking is required, putting the transformation on the shoulders of a few is simply not good enough. The resource scarcity strategy is not a form of department. It’s a mindset.
By the time the word department was first used in 1735, the modern corporation had begun its slow conquest of the world, growing in size, complexity and compartmentalization. Dividing the work in the form of clearly marked departments seemed like a perfect idea –– so perfect, in fact, that by 1922 the bureaucracy model was hailed as the ideal form of organization.
Until the 1990s, it all went well. Then, the magic started to give out a little. Well, a lot. The collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia signaled the beginning of a new era of globalization. Then came the Internet, the dot-com crisis, 9/11, the rise of China, the social media revolution, Generation Y, the global economic crisis of 2008 –– all against the backdrop of rapidly declining resources and the collapse of our linear throwaway economy.
As a reflection of the rapid speed of change, a whole new era of business thought was developed –– named, appropriately, change management. We did not have muchchange to manage before the 1990s. Now we do, and the idea of a perfectly controlled bureaucracy made up of neatly stacked departments can hardly coexist with the reality of the rapidly changing world.
The mindset required for development and execution of a successful Resource Scarcity Strategy is built on a range of distinct capabilities –– and the particular winning cocktail of competencies depends on your company, your industry and your reality. Yes, the trusted aptitudes of the corporate world, often referred to as left-brain capabilities,are still in the game: we continue to need solid analysis, precise measurement and disciplined execution.
Yet, a new set of competencies, more often associated with the right-brain world of artists, inventors and “cultural creatives,” is required for the unexpected, complex and messy challenges of navigating the path from line to circle.These skills deserve particular attention:
• Systems thinking which focuses on how things interact within a whole –– allows you and your team to manage and change at the scale of the entire value chain, rather than being stuck with dispersed, disconnected and useless pieces of your puzzle.
• Stakeholder management particularly comes in handy as you begin your transformation from line to circle and from a vertical to a horizontal orientation –– as it is likely that you will discover yourself in relationship with people and organizations you never thought existed. Suppliers of suppliers of suppliers, community leaders halfway across the world, customers you did not know you had, competitors you can benefit from, legislators who need your help...the list is long.
• Design thinking has become the latest “it” tool for any respectable businessperson to conquer. Unlike the decision mindset –– the most used managerial tool, which is all about making a hard choice between easy-to-identify alternatives –– design thinking assumes an easy choice between difficult-to-create alternatives.
The question that remains here is where to start –– or what, exactly, should your steps toward resource-intelligent innovation be? What should business do?