This week I attended the Australian Institute of Company Directors Governance Summit. It has been a fascinating experience at a number of levels – as a business owner, as a consumer of services, as member of society and as a leader in Australian industry. The question that keeps hitting me is about what is the right mix of long term thinking and immediate impact. I heard for the first time the term Always Be Making (ABM) – which i like and relate to in terms to acting on ideas and not over thinking. BUT there has also been much discussion about sustainability, purpose and the consideration of long term value.
What has struck me is that, as leaders, we all need to maintain this balance of action and strategy. And this is especially important as we build Tingle Tree. All action and we lose sight of what will be of value in the long term to our clients, society and the owners of the business. Short term revenue may be good, but will it hit a ceiling if there isn’t the addressable market? And if revenue stays flat while a strategic pivot builds, is that ok? If the lead indicators are good (positioning, IP, talent) then the lag indicators should follow.
The third level of my thinking is the work we do with our clients. Much of that advisory work is trying navigate these dilemmas in a deliberate and well managed fashion. For example,
- Do we want speed for speeds sake, but build up technical debt in our strategic technology platforms?
- Should our clients do their workforce planning based on a focus on attitude, skill, experience or sector understanding?
- Should fundamentally pivot or can we become great through continuous improvement and better management of our human, intellectual and technology assets?
My conclusion is that there are many right answers to the questions and, in many ways, they are driven by context. Or what is right at this moment in time is situational. BUT, more fundamentally, my belief is that surfacing the truth and being clear and deliberate in your action based on that truth is what really matters. That way you know your hypothesis, you can test its validity over time and act. Or put another way, if your flying blind or, even worse, you can see the truth but aren’t engaging with it….you will fail. Fail intellectually, strategically, operationally and morally.
So where does that leave us?
Whether you are moving fast and creating operational debt or being strategic at the risk of short term output, it doesn’t matter. What is more important is you understand your direction and are honest about your performance by short and long term measures of success. Seeking the truth and maintaining an open honesty are the only ways to thrive.