Sitting as a board member recently, I was struck by a report I was reading. It was detailed and accurate, telling me (at length) what had been going on, what the various activities undertaken had been, and who had been involved. As I read it, a single question emerged in my mind, “So what?”.
It wasn’t a criticism of what had happened, clearly it had all been a great success, but it told me nothing about what it all meant about the future. As a board member, I am expected to discuss policy and strategy. I often describe the ideal place for a board to be as 1 mile above the organisation, and 5 miles out in front. This enables a board to set an appropriate strategic direction for the organisation to travel.
The report I read was telling me that where the organisation had been was spot on. But it gave me little indication of what that meant about the future. Had we been too pessimistic about our goals perhaps? Was there anything to learn from what had happened that should suggest we move in a different direction, or to new fields of work? I felt like we were being asked to drive a car using the rear view mirror to help us navigate.
When composing a report, I apply the 20:80 rule. The first 20% of a report should be about the past, telling the reader about what happened, the good, the bad, and the ugly facts. The remaining 80% should be future focussed, answering the question “So what?”. This is not as easy as it sounds, but makes for a far more informative and useful document on which to base strategic decisions.
But it got me thinking about the term “recession proof”. I don’t think any organisation (with the possible exception of high street banks, given the government’s recent action) can ever be recession proof.
The best any business can hope to be is aware of the economic climate, and be able to adjust its business plan accordingly. Periods of growth demand a different strategy from a period of decline.
Are businesses out there struggling because they are unwilling to take the steps required to stay in good shape? No business has a “god-given right” to survive, not even a charity.
Interesting business breakfast this morning. Good pitch by a local authority strategic director.
Raised a chicken and egg question: which come first, the housing or the jobs? This is made particularly tough by the fact that each is “managed” by a different body. How quickly can a local authority react to a change in business needs? Would you locate to where the staff are, or base yourself in a place you like to live? Which can be changed quicker: the skills, or the availability of staff?
Must be a tough job predicting what we will need in 10 years time when most folk don’t know what they will have in 10 weeks time.