Delayering, obsolescence, Kodak and you

I know a very smart and enterprising young woman working in publishing who has taken to using disposable film cameras. She has found a regular source of supply and has discovered the joy of photography as it was in the pre-digital era.

What I find delightful and surprising about this is that young people, Gen Y in particular, are typically seen as “want it, need it now, can’t wait”.  Yet here is a twenty-something who recognises the pleasure of anticipation and patience to see the result of her photography.  And she appreciates the higher quality images possible with continuous tone film compared to the digitized images made by the ubiquitous smartphone.

What also surprised me was that disposable cameras are actually still available. Her boyfriend is now buying her a film camera for her birthday – I didn’t know they were still around either.

Which brings me to the point: We all know the story of how Kodak and Polaroid were slow off the mark when obsolescence in their key markets was staring them in the face. And we can all be Harry Hindsight, the smartest person in the world, and wonder what on earth they were thinking: “Didn’t they see this coming?”

So why should the “obsolescence factor” matter to us?  Let’s take a look at our own world of work:  What we know for sure is that every company, large or small is having to do more with less just to stay viable. And that means constantly getting leaner.

One of the strategies that sits within restructuring is that of delayering – cutting a stratum of management that can be regarded as obsolete. Delayering has a number of obvious benefits:

  • It offers opportunities for delegation, empowerment and motivation as the number of managers is reduced and more authority is given to frontline staff.
  • It improves communication within the organisation as messages have to pass through fewer levels of hierarchy.
  • It can neutralise internal rivalries if divisional heads are removed, and the workforce is organised to work in more collaborative teams and departments.

Oh, and one other point, it can save heaps of money

So, take a look over your shoulder.  Could you be delayered? No? Don’t be so sure; no layer is immune.  Every option is on the table for companies these days.

So how well prepared are you should it happen to you? If you don’t have a contingency career strategy that will enable you to sail through the challenge because you saw it coming, then you run the risk of career interruption that could derail you for months and set back your progress by years.

Plan your career strategically with an emphasis on contingency thinking. Take the bits of this model that make sense to you:

  • Use an enterprise mindset that is open to change. Your career is your business. What are the trends in your business and where do the best opportunities lie? What changes would you need to make in reviewing your career direction to take advantage of those opportunities now and in the future?
  • Think and act holistically. Take the wider factors into account when developing your career strategy, including: time, place, environment, culture, significant others, lifestyle preferences.  You know how it goes.
  • Be able to adapt your career/business model to changing conditions. Today it’s all about resilience, nimbleness and fresh eyes. The rate of change of technological change, (yes that’s what I mean), compels us to use vision and imagination in how we continually adapt. And to stay ahead of the game.
  • Leverage technology. It used to be all about networking the hidden market. Now, it’s more about running your social marketing campaign. Spend time telling your story on LinkedIn, create your blog to showcase your innovative thinking style, contribute thoughtfully on Twitter.  Make the business world come to you.

Kodak and Polaroid suffered more than they needed to by not being ready and prepared to act.  But they recreated themselves in niche markets.  Make sure you understand your niche and have your transition plan ready to move.

Posted by Bob Pierce

If you need help in finding your “niche”, or simply want a career “health check”, contact Bravo Consulting for more information about how we can help you make that all-important career move.

BonnieSue Nevin

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