What do leading MBA students see when they look into the future? What shifts do they see affecting their companies? How well do they think their employers are tapping the human resources of their companies – and what changes would they like to see in how their company approaches business?
These are some of the questions I recently put to the students in an Accelerated Executive MBA program at a leading Northeastern business school where I spoke recently on Noble Enterprise. Though the sample is small (a little over twenty students), I found it interesting because these are all at least mid-level management people who have several years of experience, and who are looking to improve their management skills. They come from a wide range of industries (and even some from outside the “for-profit” world).
In just a short blog post, I can’t do justice to their many opinions and insights. I anticipate providing a more in-depth report on this survey in our next Leading in a New Light e-newsletter, so if you subscribe, you’ll receive that soon. (You can sign up at lower right.)
Here is just a sampling of what we heard from these students:
- Human Capacity Utilization: Low
Though the economy is recovering, these managers and professionals felt that their employers were only tapping a fraction of the capacity of the human resource. In fact, less than a third of the students believe their company is tapping at least 90% of the available human resource, whereas a full third felt it was below 80%.
Considering how much the human resource costs most firms, that’s a huge amount of untapped capacity! Just think of the competitive advantage you could create if you could tap at least half of the unused capacity!
2. The HEART: The Great Untapped Resource
When asked to estimate what percent of the Mind is being called on by their employers – and what percent of the Heart is being called on, nearly every participant reported that the Mind was being tapped at a far greater % of capacity than the Heart.
Hmmm. That may not be surprising. But just consider how much more these companies (and perhaps yours?) could achieve if they tapped more of the Heart. Now that’s a worthy avenue of inquiry. (You’ll hear a lot more about that later on when I tell you about the next book I’m working on.)
3. Spotting & Assessing TRENDS
I found it interesting what kinds of trends they saw that they anticipated would change business. In brief
- The trends cited by the most participants were within their Industries, with Government/Societal shifts coming in a close second. Shifts in Technology were a solid third.
- Then it gets interesting. Asked to identify which trends represented a Threat and which an Opportunity, here’s what they said:
* Changes within their Industries were seen more as THREATS, by two to one
* (more) Governmental regulations were mostly seen as THREATS
* Technology changes were widely viewed as OPPORTUNITIES
Yet unmentioned were any underlying, fundamental shifts in such areas as Human Evolution (and motivation), shifts in the perception of reality by science, or shifts in the underlying economics of the firm. (If you’ve read NOBLE ENTERPRISE, you’ll remember that it is just such shifts that are laying the foundation for Noble Enterprises built on a different reality.
4. Likely Changes in the “Business Model”
Asked what impact these shifts might have on the definition of a winning “Business Model”, the participants listed the areas they felt that companies would improve as a result of the anticipated trends.
- They provided a rich array of areas they thought would be improved in how companies operate, including
* more efficient operations
* better use of information technology
* providing better value for the customer
* utilizing technology to improve the product
- Only a few participants cited likely improvements in
* the human resource
Yet, what if the major breakthrough in business over the next decade were about to happen in this second list? What if companies put as much energy into improving the management process (i.e., the management system) as they do in other business process redesign? What a payoff that could be. The companies cited in the book NOBLE ENTERPRISE that achieve far beyond the norm do attend to all of the above dimensions, but they also focus powerfully on the people and management dimension.
5. Desired Changes to their own Companies
I also asked them what changes they would like to see their companies make – to improve their performance. These included
- Changes in Strategic Direction, Operations & Technology
- Improvements in the Human dimension (integrity, team environment)
- Changes in Management – including “less structure”
What’s fascinating here is that the folks in the middle ranks, and these are rising stars, who want to learn more and want to find ways to manage as well as they can – these folks see that Management and the Management Process is one of the dimensions that needs improvement. If, however, you read surveys of CEOs and what they think are the major challenges they face, they list all of the other areas (revenue growth, technology, customer care, marketing strategy, efficiency, business process redesign, etc), but seldom do they cite management itself as an aspect of the company that needs improvement.
6. How will Needed Change Happen?
Is it likely that there will be a major push to improve the management process in companies? Perhaps, but only
- Where there are inspired, enlightened CEOs who “get it”
- Where there are mid-level managers who are pushing for improvement in the management process
- Where competitors start winning – and their competitors figure out that it isn’t new products, or better service, or more efficient operations (though they are the “messengers” of change), but rather the underlying management system and leadership that is providing the new “high test” fuel that is powering their human resource and thus creating a resurgence in their business performance.
That’s my take! What’s yours?
Stay tuned for more insights about the coming shifts, as learned from this survey and elsewhere – in an upcoming Leading in a New Light e-newsletter. (Sign up for that distribution list at lower right.)
For information about NOBLE ENTERPRISE, click here.