What developments will we see in the business landscape over the next 12 months? We asked some of our faculty to look ahead and, well, there’s good news and bad... On the plus side: exciting new opportunities to do things differently and get results. Better stop reading now, though, if you’re hoping for quick fixes.
1. Companies will own less
Tammy Erickson, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour
2019 will be the year in which we’ll begin to see companies step up to the “own less” reality: identifying resources (functions, facilities, people) it makes sense to “own” and embracing a variety of flexible arrangements for others (rent, contract, share).
Notice the rapid growth of companies that rent ever-changing wardrobes, allowing customers to have exactly the clothing they need for this week’s activities. Or the number of teens and twenty somethings who are not learning to drive, content to rely on just-as-needed transport options. Watch how young people arrange to meet – not through pre-established commitments, but rather through real-time coordination, based on immediate need and convenient availability.
These behaviours make sense. Economists, beginning with Ronald Coase in the 1930s, predicted that as communication costs fell, we would own less. Today it’s easy – and virtually free – to get what you want, when and where you need it.
Smart companies will continue to own or employ full-time certain categories of resources: those that are extremely scarce, to ensure availability; those that are highly strategic, to prevent availability to others. I would also argue in favour of holding tight to the humans who perform roles that will be least likely to be taken on by technology: those who form relationships and make tacit, values-based judgements.
But there are other categories of resources, both physical and human, that companies should begin to access in new and creative ways, leveraging today’s technology: fungible resources – particularly if demand fluctuates and if qualifications are easy to verify and, most importantly, resources for which future demand is difficult to predict and where greater optionality would have high value.
Just as the 1980s was the decade of process redesign as businesses leveraged the power of computers, the 2020s will be the decade of enterprise or business model reconstruction, leveraging the power of digital and related technologies. Smart companies will get a head start in 2019.
2. Performance management will give way to performance leadership
Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour
In 2019, leaders will start thinking more about performance leadership systems instead of performance management systems.
The goal of management is to relieve uncertainty by making processes more predictable and efficient. Performance management systems focus on hitting quarterly targets and following known processes, so that promises and regulations are met. Achieving these results is really good, until you end up efficiently producing what customers don’t want any more. Think Kodak, Blackberry, Nokia, Sears, Borders.
The goal of a leader is to help an organisation stay effective and competitive. Leaders need to balance something that doesn’t want to be balanced. Efficiently meeting promises to customers and regulators makes it hard to experiment and learn. But short-term results are in vain if they can’t help keep the organisation relevant to the future. As one leader told me: “We need to be able to work on the plane while it is flying.”
There are two good reasons why leaders will become increasingly wary of performance management systems in 2019. First, they are usually focused on the past, not the future. Focusing on high-quality cellphone reception might work until competitors offer internet access and music capabilities on cellphones. Aiming for more and more efficient performance today is a great way to go out of business in five years. Second, measuring results means that you are not rewarding learning. When you focus on outcomes and achievement, what you lose is experimenting with new approaches. If we want people to innovate, stop rewarding good results based on bad processes and start rewarding experimentation even if the results are bad.