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Hard vs Soft Stuff

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OD: Organizational Dev

Hard vs Soft Stuff

The Powerful Example of Malaysia

Malaysia elected a new ruling party for the first time in over sixty years. It was done without bloodshed, civil disobedience or unrest. It was an exercise in democracy leading to a result the significance of which is hard to overstate.

You can read about the great story of how this happened elsewhere (and it is a good story!) but my hope for the country’s success lies in it’s soft stuff.

The election result has already proved that, if the ties that bind people together are strong regardless of race, religion or status massive results are possible.

But how does this relate to business?

Well, just as in the administration of a country, in business there are typically two sorts of ‘stuff’ you can be talking about.

“Hard stuff” : the stuff of numbers

“Soft stuff” : the stuff of people

 

Hard stuff examples can include:

– the costing model

– the product development life-cycle

– the pricing structure

– the number of leads

– the conversion rate

– the gross margin

– the profit and loss statements

– the balance sheet

…and hundreds more…

 

Soft stuff examples can include:

– values (how we treat people)

– purpose (the impact we want to make in the market, region, country, world!)

– culture (what it’s like to work here)

– the quality of our conversations

– how well we know our team members (and their families)

– core themes for the month and quarter

…many more of these too…

 

The nature of hard stuff makes it easier to quantify and talk about. It also gives you a sense of whether you’re making progress.

Soft stuff seems to be more “touchy feely” or by another expression “warm and fuzzy” instead of the results-driven language we’re probably more familiar with.

It’s also – sadly – seen as weakness to talk about it.

However the results show a much larger long-term pay off from adopting a clear and consistent focus on the soft stuff. Soft stuff-focused companies bring to bear the most valuable weapon in adapting to change: their culture!

Resilient vs. Robust

Companies with strong, supportive cultures are more resilient. They can adapt to change much faster and more effectively.

Robust companies are likely to have efficient processes and systems but lack flexibility and support within and between their teams. They are therefore slower to change.

Consistency Is key…

Soft stuff is closely connected with human nature. It’s in our nature to be distracted, to have up-days and down-days, to take shortcuts, to forget! Think about a young child trying to remember to say “please” and “thank you”…

 

We may neglect certain soft stuff matters like:

– our timeliness

– other peoples good work

– our temper

– our honesty

– our personal service level to our teammates

 

Leaders must be the drivers and custodians of the soft stuff. Leaders must remember, they’re always on display – as such, it comes with the territory!

“The future can be bright, very bright, the future is soft and hard results will prove it!”

It’s a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day task which can never be neglected.

R.O.I.

The pay off is the bright future for you, your team members, the company, the people who deal with it…and the community at large. Don’t neglect it!

My very best wishes for your success, Malaysia.

Originally from the UK, Ian has lived and worked in Southeast Asia for nineteen years. The last eight of those have been spent coaching and mentoring over sixty executives and business owners. Ian's specialist area is helping executives in mid-market growth firms improve their strategy and revenues, retain their key team members, improve execution and build cash.

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