By Nick Marvin

A key function of leadership is to constantly maintain a comprehensive perspective of the organisation.

This means regularly taking time out from doing to observe.

Getting the balance right is vital. Too little doing or too little observing can lead to failure.

Performance relies greatly on results, but the right results are achieved only if the organisation’s purpose is well aligned.

In order to gain the right insight a leader must seek to understand the organisation, the environment in which it exists and, most importantly, how it engages with this environment.

This three-lens approach forms a critical part of our management framework which we use in our WestMarv practice and one that has proven to be very effective.


The Window – External

We start with observing the external. The market, the ecosystem in which an organisation exists.

As noted in an earlier article: paying attention to the external requires not just a focus on the competitors or the customers, but even the non-customer.

It mandates understanding the past and the present and what it tells us about future.

Opportunities and concerns. Trends and aberrations. Inefficiencies. Innovations in one sector that can be applied to an alternative industry.

Unless we get a clear understanding of the environment we cannot effectively operate in it.


The Mirror – Reflective

The next step is to look in the mirror. Know thyself!

Understanding the organisation in a deep and meaningful way can be very powerful.

What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? How do we perform? What are our preferences? What are our proclivities? What makes us unique?

In our management framework we call this Comparative Competence.

Put simply, we answer the question: How do our strengths compare with everyone else?

Knowing this – allows us to respond to the outside.

Critically, it allows us to understand how and where we can create value. What are the jobs to be done? What problems do we solve? What gap do we fill?


The Blind Spot – Objective

Finally, we need an objective perspective. Regardless, of how rigorous we are in understanding ourselves and our market, we must be open to an objective viewpoint.

We must concede that we do not have all the answers – that being inside the business does place limits on objectivity.

It is imperative on any leader or organisation to accept the existence of blind spots – especially because they cannot be seen. The unknown unknowns.

There are numerous ways to gain objective intelligence.

A simple yet effective tool, we’ve used and recommended over twenty years is to have every new employee complete a summary report on their thoughts of the organisation in their first five days. They consider the inside and the outside with fresh eyes – unbiased and uncalibrated. Actioning this feedback has resulted in significant improvements and some of the most successful initiatives.

There is, of course, one of the most proven practices to gain objective insight and that is the role of an external consultant.

Trained, experienced professionals who provide a comprehensive perspective. Whilst this can come with a cost – the value often far outweighs the investment.

Most leaders today are faced with a very rapidly changing world – where action at the speed of light seems the norm.

There seems to be far less time in the day to pause and think.

Yet, it is this frenetic pace that demands vigilance. To consistently and constantly pay attention to the window, the mirror and the blind spots.


This article was originally posted on Nick Marvin’s Management articles.

Nick Marvin is a company director, management consultant, and author. Nick Marvin studied Business and Computing at Monash University and has an MBA from RMIT University. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management (FAIM) a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Turnaround Management Association. He was listed in the 100 Most Influential West Australians (2015 and 2016) and in 1991, he won Rolling Stone Magazine’s national writing award.

Marvin has been married to Leigh for almost 20 years; they have six children who are home-schooled. They attend daily mass at Victoria Park Catholic Church.