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Caroline Yetman

5 ways to future-proof your strategy: takeouts from NM roundtable, June 2014

Our latest roundtable event* convened a group of attendees from the Chief Strategy Officer Summit where Jenni presented on rebuilding our companies by coming together.

These are my key takeouts from the event, which I’ve called…

5 ways to future-proof your strategy:

1. Measure organisational health against corporate values

A question from the group emerged around how they could remain a commercial business and stay true to their values at the same time. All the companies present, from both for profit and NFPs, felt that being a values driven organisation was extremely crucial for providing commercial value because it leads to trust and loyalty. But it’s also a good indication of the health of the organisation itself, which is starting to be used as a key measure in some companies. 2. Encourage everyone to live your organisations’ values

Attendees felt that everyone in an organisation should; a) know their corporate values, b) understand them and, c) live them every day.

Teams working together towards a truly authentic purpose is infectious.

- roundtable attendee

There was a particularly good example from NPR who actively encourage its staff to live their values by taking part in something they call, ‘serendipity days’ – where employees can take a couple of days out of BAU to take part in charity work etc.

NPR also hosts something they call the ‘penguin awards’ for those who have tried something new and embraced failure (something very similar to our ’church of fail’). I personally enjoyed the story behind the naming of this initiative:

After the big thaw, the first and the bravest penguin will dive down, and if he hits ice, he’ll probably die. But if he’s lucky and pushes through, and he’s got the timing right, and he’s really pushed himself, then he’ll get the first fish, so he’ll get the greatest reward. The idea is empowering people to take risks.

- Kerensa Jennings, Head of Strategic Delivery, BBC


3. Use technology as an enabler

The group felt that technology is helping organisations win trust back by humanising organisations. But this will only be successful if the interaction is truly authentic and not when it’s just a marketing initiative in its own right. This means using technology to break down barriers and flattening hierarchies, enabling customers to feel a closer, more genuine, connection to the organisation without becoming intrusive. Comic Relief, for example, used to list all of its sources of income on the website to drive trust and loyalty by being more transparent.

4. Think about Gen Y, now

The group recognised that the world is changing at a fast pace and in order to keep up with this, there needs to be a shift in thinking. Customers are demonstrating changes of behaviour and so are employees. Younger generations, in particular, are expecting different things from organisations and workplaces.

I don’t know where we will be in 5 years, but we need to focus on the 17 year olds. They don’t care about technology. Their life IS digital.

- Derek Gannon, Chief Operating Officer, Comic Relief

One attendee felt that the change was a result of digital technology and gaming. The online collaborative game, Minecraft, was named as a particular game which has led to this change in behaviour.

It’s a norm for the new generation to collaborate. Over 35’s would once call people-helping-you-do-your-homework, ‘cheating’.

Derek Gannon, Chief Operating Officer, Comic Relief

The group responded that we should be encouraging new, highly collaborative, ways of working rather than preventing them. However, one attendee pointed out that life expectancy is growing and there’ll be a crossover between the current and the new digital generation, so everyone will have to adapt.

5. Help leaders let go

The group felt that a great deal of empowerment was required in order to build organisations fit for the future.

‘Empowerment’ implies that someone is going to have to let go of power. How will leaders deal with that?

- Jenni Lloyd, NixonMcInnes

The group responded that good leaders are already encouraging the shift in power from top down to bottom up, and that it involves a change of mindset. One of the companies present are doing an interesting experiment in relation to this, called ‘digital guerillas’. This experiment involved recruiting young people based on their values and attitude, rather than their qualifications experiments to work in a warehouse. Here they will face real world challenges that businesses face everyday to see the difference in how these are approached. I’m personally excited to see the results of this experiment, and how leaders will respond.

With special thanks to graphic facilitator, Lance Bell, for the images created on the day.


*Our roundtable events are a chance for us to stay close to our client’s challenges by hearing from other similar companies. And also, a chance for attendees to connect with peers to openly share stories and learn from each other’s experiences. If you want to join us for a future roundtable event, please contact Louise Ash -

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