It’s no secret the world is changing rapidly. But the change is no longer from an industrial economy to a service economy, the change is to a knowledge- based economy. The question is not “Where are we going?” but rather “Will you be there after the change?”
In the 1950’s, 75% of us worked in manufacturing; today that number is 14%. In 1960, the first robots were installed in manufacturing. Today, that number is soaring past 2.3 million. The auto industry is at zero growth; computer technology, the hallmark of our knowledge-based economy, is growing at 25% a year.
As the world continues its rapid change, where does this leave you and me?
Well, those of us employed by manufacturing corporations find ourselves in the hunt for a share of the global market, doing battle with our global competition.
With this competition, we must take advantage of the ever-increasing opportunities that the expanding global market provides.
New business structures
The major transition we see in business today is from a hierarchical structure to knowledge-based self-sufficiency.
An illustration of this is the Internet. It is filled with information, competition, and opportunity. It’s entirely up to us to choose to use the Internet or not. Once we do, it’s also up to us to find our way around it, to take advantage of what we find and join the competition by creating our own home page. While there are services that provide us with access, once we are on-line, we are literally on our own.
In the past, companies provided hierarchical structure; we were part of the organization. Today we see out-sourcing and independent contracting, and we discover that structure must be within ourselves if it is to exist at all.
In knowledge-based, self-sufficient organizations, the structure is internal. You have to creatively develop your own strategic plan and approach to work. Then you manage it, then you do it. You think; you implement; you manage; you do the work. You own your work; you are responsible for your education and training. You take your office and your work home.
The advantage of operating as a selfsufficient organization is that you remain, regardless of what happens to the hierarchy.
But what about those of us who are still working in a hierarchy? What do we do to compete? How do we take advantage of our opportunities?
The answer is to think like a self-sufficient organization, to become more like an entrepreneur. If you will, to become more like the “brown-noser” we all disliked so much in school. In short, we must add value by re-creating our job in our image and then providing superlative performance.
The ultimate result of the transition to a knowledge-based economy is that you will be given no economic opportunity unless you continually add value to your relationship with your employer. Understanding this concept is at the core of being successful in the future. Let me repeat it. “You will be given no economic opportunity unless you continually add value to your relationship with your employer.”
Your employer says, “I paid you today for the work you did yesterday. What are you going to do for me tomorrow?” This is the same relationship that independent contractors and entrepreneurs have with your company today. And whether you know it or not, you are in competition with those outside vendors, at least to the extent that your performance is being judged by their standards: “What will you do for me tomorrow?”
So, if you want to remain competitive in your job, you had better learn the new rules.
People who wait for work to be assigned them, and who wait for retirement, will find themselves out of work. That is the reality. If you want to keep your job, you will need to adopt the attitude that your employer is your most valuable client.
Your new philosophy, therefore, will become: “How do I develop my skills and talents in order to become my employer’s most valued vendor?” If you choose to focus on your opportunities and add value to your work, there are several steps you must follow.
First, you must commit to change. If you want different results, you must act differently. To expect different results from the same activities is absurd. Change requires the commitment to change.
There are four steps to successful change.
Determine your preferred future. Decide what you want to have happen. What will make you happy when you get it. That becomes your goal.
Take action. The desire to change without acting on that desire is merely a daydream. In the self-sufficient organization, you must be responsible for your own actions, or lack thereof.
Monitor the results of your actions. Look at what you achieve and evaluate it. Are you happy with the results? Why? Why not? What would you do differently? What would you do better?
Modify your actions to achieve your preferred future. If you don’t evaluate and modify, you will be like a sail boat that never tacks; you will never reach your goal.
Secondly, develop the proper balance between your professional life and your personal life. If you work all the time, you will not be refreshed. As Stephen Covey says, “Your saw will not be sharp.” Or, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Likewise, you must keep work in its place. Instead of spending quality time with your family, spend quantity time with them and spend quality time on the job. To do that requires a structured day that is set up to execute a strategic personal plan.
The third step is something I call OAR — ownership, accountability, and responsibility. You must be responsible for your own actions, for your own success.
In order to assume OAR, you will need to rethink how you think about work and money. In the mid-1800’s, we began to focus on time being equal to money. The more time we spent in the field or at the job, the more we grew or the more we produced, and therefore the more money we earned.
Then we added the concept of effort to the equation. “The harder you work, the more you will make.” “Just keep your nose to the grindstone and you will be successful.”
Corollaries crept in and soon you kept your nose to the grindstone and your mouth closed. “Life is hard, you have to pay the price to succeed.” “Don’t think, don’t question, just work.”
Our parents, who believed these time and effort axioms, saw that during economic downturns, the white collar workers kept their jobs. So our parents sacrificed to send us to college so we could keep our jobs all our lives. In the global economy, however, jobs disappear as competition causes change. The hierarchy can no longer provide us our security. Hard work and college degrees do not promise security. No longer does time and effort equal money.
So, what do we do? We focus on results. Successful people get paid for results, not for the amount of time spent on the job. Troy Aikman gets paid for throwing touchdowns. Michael Jordan for making baskets. The better their results, the more money they are worth.
Your employer/client doesn’t care how hard you work, how long, how many days. All he cares about is results. He asks, “What have you done for me today?” For you to be successful in making your employer/ client happy, you will need to determine which key results he expects, and then determine what are the focus activities necessary (your KASH — knowledge, attitude, skills and habits) to achieve those results.
You will exchange your I-work-hard,- therefore-my-employer-will-take-care-ofme attitude for one in which you take care of yourself. You need to invest in yourself, send yourself to seminars, read and study. You will discover that tenure does not equal experience. How long you have worked is not your value to your employer/ client; your value is the kind of results you generate.
Because you will be given no economic opportunity unless you add value to your employer/client, you will need to change how you approach your job. You will begin to think like an entrepreneur and act in a self-sufficient manner. You will do this, if you believe this makes sense, and if you make the commitment to change.
Here are six strategies to help you achieve your preferred future and save your job.
Define success for yourself. You must know what your goals are and what will make you happy. Only then can you tell if you achieve your goals or not.
Create a personal strategic plan. Just like your company has a strategic plan, you need one also. Your plan will develop out of your values.
Once you have a plan, manage it. Monitor your plan on a yearly basis, a quarterly basis, a monthly basis, and a daily basis. Sailors who make small, frequent corrections stay on course much more than those who let too much time pass between adjustments.
Build a team. No organization can operate alone, neither can you. Your team will include those employees you manage, your peers, your friends, your spouse, your family. It will even include your boss. To help everyone to do their part, teach them, train them, do what you must to make them successful. When they succeed, so do you.
Maintain a positve attitude. You have to believe things will work out for the best. I have a friend whose five-year old son gave him his daily motto. In response to being told by his dad that something was not going to work, his son told him, “I have to think it will work.” And that’s the secret. You have to think it will work.
Manage your integrity. Be honest with all those with whom you work. Honor your commitments: be on time, do what you say you will do, and finish what you start. If you honor just those three commitments, you will be ahead of 95% of your competition.
And above all, honor the commitments you make to yourself. If you choose to lose weight, do it. If you choose to quit smoking, do it. If you promise yourself to clean the basement, do it. Most of us honor commitments we make to others but not those we make to ourselves. If you won’t, who will?
As the transformation to a knowledge- based economy becomes complete, it will become more and more evident that you will be given no economic opportunity unless you continually add value to your relationship with your employer. Those of you who understand this and make the commitment to change will be the ones whose lives are fulfilled and whose preferred futures become realities.
And true to the structure of a self-sufficient organization, the choice is yours.
The next article in this series will give you details on how to reorganize your most important organization — YOU Inc. The article will help separate the factors you can change from those you influence and how to treat each accordingly.
Richard G. Zalack is a Cleveland-based business consultant and is president of Focus Four, a program that helps highly successful entrepreneurs develop personal strategic plans. (330)225-0707.