Deep Dive into Temporal Business Consciousness

METRIC 1 – Temporal Business Consciousness

This measures the organisation’s self-consciousness in terms of time. The timeline of past, present and future is the focus here. How does the organisation consciously draw from its past – understanding its history, learning lessons, recognising historical patterns and effects? To what extend does it take conscious responsibility for its past actions? How well does it know how its current habits, patterns and processes are rooted in past patterns and processes in ways that allow it to use history to inform the present and future action and decision making?

Temporal consciousness for a business focuses on its ability to draw from history and also to identify trends that play into the present and the future. A conscious business can score high to low in this area as follows…

HIGH CONSCIOUSNESS – The Proactor has an ability to anticipate, see in advance/pre-empt, enabling pro-action. In this high consciousness state the business is able to deliver on the “day to day” activities but is also sensing outwards, inwards and forwards. There is a high degree of market sensitivity, customer and stakeholder feedback, as well as forecasting and scenario planning. The business is well aware of its history, its roots and often draws from the past as a resource for the present and future. Trend data is useful. Lessons and learning, stories and experience from experienced staff are valued. There is a rich knowledge base of experience. The business is also very “present”, sensing its environments, quick to pro-act and react, to learn and to re-imagine its future in the light of present and emerging knowledge and experience. The business sees itself clearly as having a biography, on a timeline of potential.

Critical Check list for High Temporal Business Consciousness

1. Feedback consciousness. The business has real time feedback from its markets and these are used in real time proactive decision making. Its “present” data is always up to the minute and truthful.

2. Honesty and Openness. Feedback is accurate and never part of a collusion of mediocrity (a norm in a business which avoids zones of discomfort and uncomfortable truth)

3. Sense of reality. The business actively seeks out problems and challenges and doesn’t wait for problems to arise, putting it into a fire fighting mode. Feedback from customers and suppliers is welcomed and suppliers never feel fearful of giving feedback, no matter how uncomfortable. The business is never defensive about customer feedback. Sales and marketing staff work in a climate where there is no need to “spin” good or bad news. Sales forecasting is based on reality, not fearful idealism.

4. Forecasting and conscious visioning. The business engages is intelligent forecasting, collects and uses trend data and is able to scenario plan. It forecasts market, technology, legal, political, social, and environmental critical issues in ways that allow it to be proactive and to create flexible plans and strategies. There is a high degree of shared understanding of the historical roots of these strategies, and why current strategies are being deployed in terms of realising future visions.

5. Biographical consciousness. The business understands its own history and how past cultural habits are playing into present behaviours. The business isn’t afraid to name these influences – to harvest the good and let go of the bad. For example, certain aspects of product design from the past may serve branding well the present and into its future. Other aspects may need to be ditched. This awareness of history is openly shared wherever it needs to be in the organisation. The business also names things in ways that allow it to apologise for the past and consciously move on. It is never “haunted”  by the past.

6. Shared visioning. Visions of the future are achieved through conscious dialogue – through open discussion. Intuitions are brought out into the open and acts of faith in leaders and founders are debate to the point at least of understanding of motives for action. We know why we are doing what we are doing even if some of us do not agree with it.

8. Problem consciousness. The business is able to quickly debrief and deconstruct problems, seeking root causes. It asks of the past: what happened, what would have happened if… and what do we wish had happened. It asks of the present: what is happening now/ It asks of the future a set of questions transposed from the three past questions: what will happen, what would happen if, what do we want to happen.

9. Improvisational Skill. There is a high degree of trust to improvise in the “now” based on the above forms of business consciousness. The business is “present”, in the moment, but rooted in its timeline. It is a fast proactor and a lightning reactor. After such action, it always engages in learning and reflection in openness and honesty. Stories are collected and shared for intra and inter-company learning and continuous improvement.

10. Environmental Sensing. The business’s “senses” are outwardly and inwardly sharp and awake. The business is able to sense the zeitgeist – this is the mood or spirit of the times, the shifts in paradigm and crowd behaviour that can sometimes elude statistics and research. The business shares feelings, hunches and is emotionally intelligent. It makes use of devil’s advocates.

MEDIUM CONSCIOUSNESS – The Improvisor – Brought into awareness in the present or the immediate future – enabling improvisation and immediate response. Here the business has elements of proactivity but tends to be very present-focused. It improvises well but neglects its history and possible learning from it. It does vision the future but this tends to be done only occasionally as part of “strategy” making. It’s future radar isn’t very real time.

LOW CONSCIOUSNESS – The Reactor – is brought into awareness after the fact, enabling reaction. The business is very reactive, in the now, and doesn’t tend to take time to reflect and draw out learning and lessons from the past. It moves on quickly and often re-invents the wheel and is in a state of present-based pressure. It can be skilled at reaction, but tends to lurch from one crisis to the next and its strategy feels a bit abstract and not grounded in the present picture as it is evolving.

ZERO CONSCIOUSNESS – The Aftermather – Is not brought into awareness until a state defined as “too late” sleep – disabling eve- a kind of sleep state leading to regular  firefighting. The business doesn’t hold a sense of useful history, there’s a high turnover of staff and little sense of continuity. The business doesn’t forecast, plan accurately or identify useful trends. The business does not recognise nor value experience, nor does it value visionaries.

Immediate Improvement check list

1. Develop feedback systems that are closer to real time

High end example:

A major retailer uses bar code technology to ensure that purchased products are updated on its sales reports in real time. Automatic stock re-ordering reduces waste and keeps inventories to a minimum. Trends can be quickly identified – short and medium term, and this can inform decisions about new product lines and making changes to current approaches.

Small business example

A small company selling solar energy products uses the low cost micro-blogging platform, which is an “app” on the mobile devices of its staff and management team to keep in touch, enabling real time decision making and live feedback to the management team. The use of a shared Google Drive document – a simple spreadsheet allows real time stock ordering and sales data to be shared.

2. Use real time communication – more informal forms of meeting on a day to day basis including possible micro blogging such as Yammer.

3. Improve decision turnaround times as higher levels of management and leadership

4. Hold an away day or conference- honest and open that explores the business history – find and share stories of the good, the bad and the ugly. Bring negative and positive historical influences out into the open, right across the business spectrum – from product design and brand, to cultural habits and “myths”.

5. Create and encourage more real time feedback – internally, and right along the supply chain. Create a customer extranet with the opportunity for real time feedback.

6. Generate simple, daily reports to decision makers providing critical business data. Ensure cost data is live, comprehensive and accurate.

7. Remove any fear of staff, customers and suppliers offering honest feedback. lead by example from the top. Initially feedback and input may have to be anonymous such as anonymised 360 degree feedback.

8. Welcome third party auditing of the business as it is seen ethically, environmentally,t socially and in terms of its brand. Act on the input.

9. Create a vision of the future that is rooted in action and also in real timeline based forecasts and trends. Link these to core values which should be understood throughout the business. Why do we exist? For what purpose? Where do we want to be in ten years’ time? Regularly review openly.

10. Put proactive problem solving in place that allow problems to be learned from, and ensure solutions and root causes are shared. Developed a shared knowledge base of stories for cross-company learning.

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