As spikes in Covid numbers seem to be occurring almost globally, I hope that you are keeping well and safe – and taking those basic precautions to remain so.
As we get to the end of 2020, it’s particularly important that we use a bit of hindsight – 2020 vision, if you will! – to check in on what we have really learnt. Let me be clear, I am not one who normally believes that we need to analyse the past in order to strategise for the future. As Bill Gates famously said, the past is no predictor of the future, or words to that effect. Yet, this year was so different in the magnitude and complexity of change that it brought, that none of us have been “allowed” to keep our pre-2020 mindsets. We have all changed in some way. But what have we really learnt? And what have been some of the big game changers this year?
Let’s have a look at the second question first. My recollection is that the whole question of climate change was starting to take more traction just before the pandemic. And perhaps it was the extent of the bush fires, added to the plastic in our oceans, that really hit home for me as massive examples of man’s ultimate inhumanity to man, man’s uncaring, greedy narcissism, not only to each other but to this planet we call home – the ultimate $h!%%!#@ on our own doorstep! For me, it was as if the planet decided to take back control, if it was ever relinquished, and started to sort out some of the mess we had caused.
Of course, while this was happening, a little virus was beginning to spread and grew to become the biggest atrocity the world has perhaps seen, behind the holocaust, for now. It has changed the way we dress, work, live and engage with each other. Virtually everyone, if not everyone, knows of at least someone who has been affected by Covid-19, if not succumbed to it. Whilst everyone dispersed to work at home, for a moment people started to care about each other’s health. For a moment, and then corporate year-ends rolled in and shareholders’ interests again jumped to the top of the queue as losses or minimal profits were, with the aid of years of practice, massaged in a way that placated the owners – and the lessons we were forced to learn in 2020 now hover on a precipice.
It gets a little worse. According to Dr Alan Watkins, executives have shares in their companies. Over the years this ownership has destroyed long-term shareholder value by inadvertently shifting focus from real market returns to predictions of future income, resulting in shorter and shorter time horizons. If the Board can deliver healthy profits and a relevant story that allows the market to expect market-busting returns over the next three years, then the share price will almost certainly rise because of those expectations.
Perhaps I am being too cynical, I know – yet if we don’t learn the lessons that the universe is spitting out at us in 2020, when will we learn? Yet there are patterns here, aren’t there! Yet further examples of man’s inhumanity to man, with greed the main driver. We exploit the planet, each other, the market.
What comes after bushfires and the pandemic? What happens to the 645 million people who lost their full-time jobs in the first two quarters of 2020 (not to mention those who lost their jobs in Q3 and 4)? What impact will this have on the global economy now and in the future? Just how do we pick up the economy? What have we learnt that is going to make us do things better?
In many of the organisations and businesses I work in, the major focus is on results – your performance is largely measured by your results, your numbers. Yes, you have other key performance indicators, but your results tend to be the important outcome that outweighs all the others. And if you do well in that one number, you’ve performed and this probably affects your bonus and your increase. If you didn’t hit your number, this month or this year, you are in trouble and told to do better.
It is a vain attempt to manage the scoreboard – and you can’t manage a scoreboard because the score is a consequence of what happens on the field or court. It’s like a football manager walking into the change room at half-time and telling his team that they are 0-2 down and walking out again. Surely a discussion about the game plan needs to take place, with or without adjustments to that game plan. Focusing completely on the outcome is a waste of time.
So, it all seems to come down to three things, levels if you like: Planet, People and Profits! Some twenty-five years ago, these three P’s were put forward as a triple target for organisations in place of the single target to satisfy shareholders with results. I wonder if that isn’t closer to the essence of what the pandemic has taught us this year? Life is not just about us, it’s about all of us, the whole planet. Isn’t it time for us to put the soul back into our businesses and our lives?
I’ll leave you with that thought as you enter the holiday and festive season. I truly hope that you will keep well and safe during this period and that you and your families will find ways, even in isolation, to grow your game plans so that you are able to return in 2021 not only recharged and rejuvenated, but happier and even better people.
Best wishes to you all
PS: A cautionary note: please understand that the examples I use and commentary I provide are largely anecdotal and based on my observations of and experience with numerous clients over 20 years. Although I tend to read extensively, I am not a psychologist and the “theories” contained herein are intended to provoke thought, discussion and awareness. I hope that you enjoy them in the manner intended.