Unlimiting Business Boundaries

As a leader, the focus should on enabling people to sift through the reasons that organizations are unable to achieve their purpose and hence unleash their potential- addressable or otherwise.


Often associated with those starting something new- a new product, business, territory- it is as much of a prerogative for the mature organizations – whether looking for reinvention or not. Perhaps what’s amiss in the latter’s desire for growth is exactly the reason why they don’t think it's important to focus on their strategy to address the market. Well, in several cases, the point is around our over-confidence in what is our market and how we have figured it all out on how to get to it!

As I was talking to an old colleague who as the second-generation CEO-owner of his business struggled to figure out how to drive growth in times of such unprecedented headwinds in their business. Well, headwinds right- unprecedented I disagreed. A traditional industry supporting power supply where the grid was unreliable on under-capacitized, already had struggled to remain afloat when the country’s power situation improved enough to be at a negative power deficit. The business had not only stayed afloat but grown too! Why then was now being such a struggle.

To me the issue remains in our view of the market. Continuing the same conversation, I asked this friend what the potential of their business was- to be told a specific number in nine digits- to the first decimal place. Knowing exactly what that was, I asked the question again – he probably assumed a bad network was causing me to not get through adequately to me. Pat came to the same answer- once again. Until I paused him and said, is this what you think you can achieve in this month, or any average month with the current performance. Yes, that is what it was. Potential being equated to expected performance.

This to me was the underlying cause of unleashing business potential. As I corrected the friend to define potential as all the money which I thought was my entitlement and not just what I was wont to achieve against my sales targets this month and next and the one after that, is my potential. It is a combination of what I think I can achieve and all my lunch that the competition is taking away from me.

In fact, several times, competition is defined in ways wherein, anyone far away from the ground reality almost is convinced that it’s not even competition! One classic example is the “addressable” vs. “unaddressable” market. For someone in the food delivery business, is the competition just those restaurants who have their own delivery or is it also those which have pick up services, or perhaps even the home-chefs.. the narrower the definition, the easier to feel smug in our achievements. But also to be blinkered on the size of our opportunity. How we choose to define our market determines the potential we will reach out for. In other words- the size of the pie of which we have a slice at this point- if the pie is small and I have a large piece of it, I can continue to believe I am doing what’s possible to cover the whole market. But if one envisioned the pie as being much larger, and one being a small piece, the runway to achieve is long and wide!

The other issue in my mind is the people we are looking to, to achieve this market potential. Several times it is not that people do not have it in them to view things differently or to be driven to make them happen. The problem arises because though we expect them to behave differently, we continue measuring them in the same way. Our signalling to them, no different from what we signal in the market, is key. It is important to measure what we expect and not have a contradiction between our expectations and their measurement. A person driven by a sales target for next month will have very little motivation in pushing for newer pastures if the only measure for his performance is what comes in the next cycle! This especially in case of businesses which by their very nature require a much longer lead time to develop than what may translate into an invoice or a collection next month!

But aligning metrics is perhaps much simpler that defining the purpose for which the market is defined thus. A lot of times, the use of the word “purpose” is assumed to be for this warm, fuzzy feeling, restricted to the organizations that have arrived in the wealth creation arena, or with leaders who have been-there-done-that. Well, the reason it is associated thus, is because these are the organizations that have ensured over a period of time, and hence made a mark. Or viewed differently, these are the leaders for whom, purpose has been beyond wealth creation. It is these organizations, their leaders, or above all, their people who are the clearest for what they are there to achieve- potential, metrics, et al- unblemished, unrestricted.

As a leader, the focus should on enabling people to sift through the reasons that organizations are unable to achieve their purpose and hence unleash their potential- addressable or otherwise. The roadblocks could be internal- including in the minds of people who are calling the shots or at the helm of driving teams. In fact, in a lot of cases, one comes across team members very driven by the purpose and its infinite potential that an organization can achieve, but not with the right kind of encouragement that their manager needs to provide, thus scuttling the initiative. At other times, it’s the restrictions our relationships with our business partners- suppliers, customers, etc- that keep us from achieving our fullest. In fact, the biggest fallacy of relationships becoming restrictive is not just the myopic view of the stakeholders in question, but our inability as an organization to help them see the alignment of purpose. In fact, if not for a shared purpose, it is very difficult to sustain relationships, several in the process becoming a millstone around the necks of organizations, sinking or being jettisoned in the long run.

Why just organizations, even people- a microcosm of the organization, tend to achieve their potential in exactly the same way. The possibilities of human potential are immense- as long as we know how to unleash it, we know how to achieve it. Its the clarity of purpose that we normally miss and the ability to gauge our achievement of it. Used to pushing the boundaries, we sometimes are too harsh on ourselves in extending the boundaries limitlessly- perhaps that’s probably where the similarity of the individual (the microcosm) and its larger representation (the enterprise) ends

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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