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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Continuous Improvement: The link between "Strengths" and "Opportunities"

Many of us that have some exposure into management either by academic preparation or by practical experience know a simple technique called the SWOT analysis. It is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This powerful technique is often delegated to management and leadership for major things like new product development, change management implementation, and sales & marketing. Its simplicity in personnel development as part of the individual development plan to raise above the competition is less understood and practiced.

For example, most people get exposure to specific techniques like programming, spoken language skills, design skills, communication skills and many others. One even goes to get certified from prestigious vendor neutral (e.g.: Project Management Institute, CompTIA) and vendor specific organizations (Microsoft, Oracle). Admiral pursuits like these give us the competitive edge in the form of strengths leading to opportunities like new job or promotion either laterally or vertically.

But, too often, not having the written SWOT analysis with SMART objectives for a 3-to-5 year strategy soon moves our own strengths into the weakness quadrant. This is because a lot of new developments happen. For instance, when I was in Vietnam last month, I saw ambitious projects like a tunnel from Vietnam to Japan being considered. Academic institutions had representation from a number of countries teaching and training at their universities. Students traveled several hours each way to attend classes to increase their career potential. As globally several colleges prepare their learners to excel and several non-profit organizations provide numerous opportunities for volunteers to sharpen their competencies, the supply of such new skills and competencies is constantly increasing. So, unless someone awakens to the competitive reality, one loses the competitive edge they once thought they had!

So, how do we sharpen the saw? The best way to do this to open up the mind and time for opportunities outside. Kaizen or Continuous Improvement is the key that is going to unlock the opportunities available by giving us a reality check on whether the skills are still on par with the market demand and allow us to gain the competitive skills on time. For instance, project managers often think delivering on OBOSOT (On Budget, On Scope, and On Time) is the important metric. With the strategic talent triangle in place, the need for benefit realization is taking equal prominence in addition to OBOSOT needs. How will we ever know this if we don't attend professional networking events and certification workshops and gain guidance through mentors or coaches? 

I personally saw the six mega trends advanced by Vielemetter and Sell (2014) for leadership, such as globalization 2.0, environmental crisis, individualism and value pluralism, digital era, demographic change, and technological convergence. Don't let your skills get rusted. Refine, supplement, and augment them by sharpening them. Increase your competencies through volunteering and begin serving the ikigai that you are meant to. Opportunities only knock the doors of those that not only knock the doors but also build them of glass for opportunity to readily see and come.

Where is your SWOT and how are you preparing yourself for the future?

Ref.: Vielmetter, G. & Sell, Y. (2014). Leadership 2030. New York, NY: Amacom

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