Moving from “what is?” to “what if?”

Moving from “what is?” to “what if?”

Changing marketplace compels every business owner to change the way they work to fulfil their customer’s needs. The future is unpredictable, but many owners take it as a challenge to convert the unpredictability into an opportunity and create a competitive advantage for business. For this to happen, the owner needs to take a creative pause and look inside & most importantly outside your organisation is a critical aspect of this process.

Systems, structures and processes are mostly developed with a clear understanding of generating data and control points, which helps the owner to review the current business performance and move in a structured manner. The information generated is mostly useful in decision making. These systems need to be organisation specific, as every organisation operates on a different value system and at a different scale. System and practices that work in one organisation, if replicated similarly in another organisation seldom works. 

According to me, every organisation has its own way of working, analysing, responding, money making and reputation building. With changing time & external environment, business demands change. Every owner needs to review their plans to survive and to grow to remain relevant and meet customers’ expectations.  

Dynamic market environment demands critical change, the system must not only be able to give a consistent performance but also be capable of giving early warning signals. The organisation culture plays a very critical role in implementing the systems. If the organisation culture does not accept a system, the best of the system fails. 

In my observation, most of the organisations are giving strict warning to their employees to follow the system. The general assumption is that if we follow the system we will get results. If we follow the system we will surely be operationally effective, we surely will be achieving operational goals but the question is – Will we become more competent to deal with the future needs of the business?

We need to build a system which can also create an environment for us to think together and make decisions. This will happen only if we all as a team start thinking business as a whole and not in parts. We need to come out of our comfort zone. What I mean by comfort zone is the functional expertise which we have acquired through our experience and education. Let us say for example what if, a finance person starts looking at sales & marketing needs from marketing and business point of view instead of only from accountancy or budgetary viewpoint. Will it not help? I am of the firm opinion that it will.

For me, success is, when you can use your resources to its full potential. For this to happen, you need to have actionable intelligence. We need to nurture strategic outlook. Instead of asking departments to just follow the instructions, we must encourage an open exchange of information and perspectives. Today with technology and computerized systems, leaders are bombarded with a lot of information but under supplied with perspectives.

In most of our business review meetings our focus is on “what is”, it should also be on “what if”. Instead of just following the system we must build the capabilities of our team to look at it strategically and try to improve it by questioning the purpose and longevity of the system with a global perspective and creative thinking.

To be a truly effective leader one must develop the ability to actively listen to people – make an effort to understand what they want to say and use it as an input for better planning, rather than make people do what he wants. This inclusive thinking helps build a better perspective and can become an invaluable tool for the organisation in strategic planning.

If there were no uncertainty, success would have been same in all organizations.


By. Chandrashekhar Bhat