Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Re-Visioning leadership 2 – staying in-industry or bringing in new, outside experience and skills 1

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 5, 2013

This is my second posting to a series in which I discuss leadership styles, and the issues involved in meshing the right leader to the right organization, and for their style and approach and their hands-on skills and experience, and for the organization’s current and emerging needs (see Part 1: reconsidering the standard approaches to meshing leadership and business.)

I mentally flipped a coin to decide which of two fundamentally important sets of selection criteria to discuss first, and which to turn to next: business stage-specific fit or industry-specific fit. Initially I was planning on starting with stage-specific issues but I decided upon further reflection to begin with the set of criteria that are more commonly seen as important, and that are usually at least considered in passing when bringing in a new chief executive officer: industry fit and the perceived need to hire from within a business’ own industry. I add as a starting point to this discussion, that any consideration of industry experience that job candidates offer is usually very limited and one-sided – and can simply mean automatically stating that only candidates from within the same industry will be or can be considered.

• That is the most common, and even reflex-like reaction to this set of issues and taking this beyond the question of leadership per se, many businesses seem to only hire, and for any position at any level, from within their own industry – at least when hiring for any position that is far enough away from entry level for prior work experience to matter. And for some industries hiring strictly from within their own is all but universal.
• But this can mean shutting off crucial opportunity and real sources of new value, and before ever getting to see what could have been brought in – or who.

So this posting is about discussing at least some of the criteria that should be considered when determining whether it would make the most sense to simply hire from within the same industry – or alternatively when essential value could only be found and brought in through throwing a wider net and hiring from outside of the norm, and the standard and every day of that same industry.

• I begin that type of analysis by considering a business’ needs and priorities – and by noting that this process cannot succeed if it is limited to only considering the immediate here and now.
• Tomorrow will happen and so will next month and next year, and anticipation of at least predictable trends, and proactively hiring for emerging and soon to arise needs and priorities are important too.

And with that in mind and overlapping that analysis I consider the contexts of the marketplace and its consumer members, and of the competition and the competitive pressures they provide.

The first set of issues I consider, with these various context considerations in mind involve change and rate of change:

• Is this business looking for a new leader while in a rapidly changing industry?
• Is its competition challenging it with the pressures of having to face and respond to a steady and rapid stream of innovation and even disruptively new innovation?
• If the answer to any of that is yes then is this innovation primarily or at least significantly arriving as new improvements to business efficiency and to business processes that determine how consumer needs are identified and met? That, I add, can mean more rapidly setting up and preparing to produce and deliver current products and services, matching marketplace demand to supply produced for what is already going out the door, and even with less predictable peak demand periods. Or that can mean greater agility and speed in producing and delivering new products or services. Or it can mean better customer-facing sales and support services. Or this improvement can primarily be in internal processes rather than more directly customer-facing ones. But bottom line, innovation here is all about improving the company to better meet consumer needs and to drive improved sales and market share.
• Or is this innovation primarily coming as new competing products and services themselves, or as significant generational updates to current offerings? There, I assume by “updates”, a significant enough level of change so that current competing products and/or services can now offer levels of value improvement comparable to that of entirely new offerings, but with a measure of comfortable familiarity of use still built in too.
• To differentiate between these last two bullet points I note that processes for delivering products and services can improve while the basic products and services offered are left unchanged – or the products and services can change and even very significantly but with both delivery and customer support systems, and also more internal business processes remaining unchanged. Obviously, with an actively innovating business competitor, both basic forms of innovation might simultaneously be in play.

Alternatively and as an opposite extreme, a business might be hiring into a situation where their products and services and their operations are stable and static and not seemingly going anywhere new. And their competition is just as settled into fixed patterns too.

• Is this business looking for what amounts to a new caretaker chief executive officer?
• Or is it looking for leadership that can help it to move out of this slide into morbidity and obsolescence, that will show itself for what it is when a new competitor does offer disruptively new?

This seems to be a good point at which to end this posting, but I will continue its discussion in my next series installment. I will add a range of other factors there as to whether to look inside your industry or outside of it for new leadership. I will then look into business stage-specific factors. And after outlining and discussing this fuller range of basic considerations that would be considered in determining where to look for new leadership, I will discuss the selection process itself. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.)

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