The column executive briefing

Issue #3

W.R. Ashby wrote a book, Introduction to Cybernetics, almost a half century ago. One of the principles he developed and outlined in the book was his “requisite variety theorem.”

“For a successful response to the environment, the complexity and the speed of the firm’s response must match the complexity and speed of environmental challenges.”

Now for the translation …. To be competitive and ultimately successful, you “the company” must at least “match” with the competitive environment or current market conditions in which you operate. To move ahead of your competition, you must anticipate future market conditions and position your company to operate more effectively than your competitors.

In the past, a high percentage of companies have largely promoted from within and enjoyed good results. However, with the economic climate showing signs of recovery at hand, “good” may no longer be “good enough”. Determining how to meet the near and long term demands for acquiring and retaining top executive leadership will once again become a formidable challenge for many organizations. A strong bench, along with a well-defined succession plan, is a “must” for companies who intend to not just match their current market conditions, but look down the field and tackle foreseeable business challenges while capitalizing on strategic areas of opportunity.

Of course, there are “table stakes” involved — the strategies, products, and sales channels of today’s corporations are changing so rapidly, it is difficult to predict the talents and experience a company will require in its managers and executives in just a year or two. Hence, the skills to implement new innovative, creative and possibly entrepreneurial ideas may require specialized knowledge and leadership not currently on your team.

Whether your organization is part of a growing dynamic industry or not, you must have a strategic plan for developing and attracting talent (internal/external) at all levels. Companies seeking to acquire leadership talent to accommodate their ever-changing environment will see the ROI by developing a customized “go forward” strategy and succession plan that includes developing a long term partnership with a “classic” retained executive search firm.