The Independent Business Professional
The Focus is on Performance!

by Rick Sidorowicz

The set of skills, attributes and attitudes of the independent business professional are precisely those needed by individuals and organizations alike to respond effectively within a turbulent environment. In this sense individuals and organizations share a common challenge of adapting quickly to new and unique circumstances and re-inventing how they can create and deliver value to their customers.

There are several key themes suggested throughout this series on the high performance attributes of independent business professionals. The first is, if you are working as an independent business professional, or want to, or think you will have to, be prepared, learn new business skills quickly, and focus on the delivery of value and achievement of results. The second, if you don’t want to be an independent, start acting like one to improve the likelihood of keeping your job. The third is for organizations who are truly interested in improving performance - hire independents, engage them, get as many independent thinking individuals into your organization as you can to move it quickly, dramatically, and very positively.

If you are an independent - focus on performance!

If you’re not an independent  - start acting like one!

If you want great performance - hire independents!

The structure of the economy has changed, and changed permanently, or at least for our working lifetimes. Downsizing, rightsizing, re-structuring. re-positioning, re-orienting, re-engineering, re-architecturing - what do they have in common? They blow out people at an alarming rate! And they’re blowing out management! - many typical middle management positions that will never appear again. We are talking about lean and mean, rapid response, less bureaucracy, flatter organizations, eliminating blockages, accelerating cycle times, empowering people, a more productive and responsible front line, self managed work teams, and a focus on innovation and creativity. 

We are seeing more and more of a recognition that middle management adds very little value! Filling a slot to ensure ‘sameness’ adds no value. Slowing something down adds no value and in fact creates negative value. ‘Control’ adds no value if it impairs your ability to execute quickly and decisively. It is at best an illusion anyway in a politically self serving and defensive context. On the contrary, adding value means creating something new, adding something someone will pay for, adding useful life, doing something faster and better, inventing some new way of contributing in a positive and meaningful way to others. Traditional, ‘slot filling’, bureaucratic thinking middle managers have little chance of survival in organizations seriously preparing for the demands of this next century. 

Many individuals and organizations seem stuck in a mind set of ‘sameness’ and fear - fear of risk, fear of change, fear of growth, fear of each other and uncertain of their true capabilities and promise. This mind set creates a self reinforcing cycle of mediocrity and truly limits organizations and individuals from achieving anywhere near their potential. Staying the same in a rapidly changing and fragmenting world adds no value for your stakeholders and constituents. Being afraid to experiment, challenge, risk, and invent when all your competitors are rapidly doing so is a disservice to yourself and those who entrust their assets and well being to your leadership.

Changing the mind set of an individual or the culture of an organization first involves an awareness of the attitudes, assumptions, and behaviours that perpetuate a self serving and self limiting state of affairs. On an individual basis the adaptation is often one grounded in survival, where the immediacy of the situation demands either a new focus on ‘performance’ or an oath of perpetual poverty. Those individuals who have adapted as independents have ‘taken the leap’ to re-define themselves as ‘value adders’ and ‘value creators’. 

For organizations the threat of extinction may be visible - as in the immediate threat of new competition, technologies, or external factors, however, the most ‘threatening’ situation is the insidious erosion of the bottom line over time. The greatest danger in the ‘leakage’ of customer spending, erosion of core business profitability, ‘guerrilla’ tactics of new competitors, and the general malaise of ‘strategic drift’, is the degree to which the organization’s ‘immune system’ will rationalize away the perception of the danger. The danger, even though real and formidable, is being ‘managed’ as opposed to being responded to in a strategic and decisive manner. Bureaucracies by their very definition exist to provide order and stability - sameness, routine, habit, and predictability. The traditional mind sets that exist in large bureaucracies are indeed the greatest threats to creating new and unique ways to respond to customers, employees, competitors, and the market.

Several years ago individuals expected to have lasting lifetime ‘careers’ within stable, orderly organizations. The world is changing and many individuals have had to respond to a new reality of insecurity and uncertainty - and to respond effectively by rediscovering their capability to perform and deliver value. Organizations face the same challenge of ‘personal’ re-definition. Imagine the start up of your business today - in the courtship and caring for customers, the focus on quality and reliability, the personalized and knowledgeable service, the repeated failures and accelerated learning, the experimentation, the risks and leaps, the care and attention to detail, the ‘hands on’ know how and personal impact, the follow-up, and so on. The notion of a re-start provides insight into the type of response organizations need today to create the future. 

Independent contractors are living the reality most organizations face today, and are adapting very positively. Independent business professionals do ‘do it better’, where the ‘it’ is performance!

Definitions:

Middle Management
Creates no value, adds no value, slows down decision making cycle time and therefore creates negative value.

Slot Filling
Actively and intentionally recruiting and rewarding individuals who fill precise and strict definitions for management roles within a bureaucracy for the ‘implicit’ purpose of maintaining the status quo, minimizing risk, and eliminating any potential of significant change in the activities under their ‘control’, and generally not getting much of substance done.

Control
To dominate, influence, have authority over; to regulate; to check or restrain; to be ‘in the know’ and have no surprises; at best achieved only briefly in tiny segments of the universe; usually an illusory sense of the ability to directly influence the outcomes of events. 

Performance
The act, process, or manner of ‘doing’ and accomplishment; fulfillment; an accomplishment or deed; getting ‘stuff’ done.

Independent Business Professionals
Self reliant, self directed ‘business’ people who have the ‘freedom’ of mind and mindset to focus on creating value, being ‘of service’, performing very well and getting great ‘stuff’ done for money.

From  “A New Reality of Superior Performance and Adventure"


Rick Sidorowicz is the Publisher and Editor of The CEO Refresher and
the Minister of Culture of High Performance Retail.

Many more articles in Performance Improvement in The CEO Refresher Archives

   


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