Business - 06.05.2020

In Times of Disruption, Large Companies May Need to Act Like Small Companies

The need for transformational thinking has never been greater. Hunters need to become farmers, and vice versa.

Tony Hunter Author: Tony Hunter

There’s a difference between Hunter and Farmer organizations. In a previous post, I outlined the Hunter to Farmer, Farmer to Hunter thinking that I use at my advisory firm to assist big and small companies in adopting this operating style, feel free to check it out.

Hunter organizations are small business or entrepreneurial ventures. In the orgagility framework, they excel at operating from a shared vision and mission, have a culture that promotes speed and action, and they are competitive and innovative. On the other hand, there are often gaps in leadership capability and the structured frameworks that drive accountability and alignment may be shaky or even absent.

Farmers are large businesses, established companies, often with familiar name brands. The successful ones have strong leadership and accountability, but they’re pain points lie in operating from a shared vision and mission, cultures that lack speed and action, and there is often an urgent need for more innovation.

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that Farmers adopt habits that will force them to think and act like Hunters, not only during this pandemic, but to thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace.

During my tenure as the CEO for the Chicago Tribune, our teams excelled when we all clearly knew the organization’s — and our particular division’s — vision and mission. I took that part of my responsibilities very seriously. I’ve always believed that leadership is singularly responsible for communicating the vision, “where we’re headed,” and the mission, or “what we do everyday.” These two critical components are the connective tissue between the organization, its customers and employees. Discipline, consistency in messaging, over communication to the team, are key to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction, and perhaps more importantly, knows how they can contribute to the company’s success.

I also found that introducing a bit of “productive paranoia” in the leadership team was helpful to maintain the Hunter mentality. This paranoia is a reference to “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins, and is essentially a way to maintain an edge, the urgency leaders need to ensure they are always looking around the corner and over the horizon to identify risks to the business. By creating this creative tension in the organization, your team will understand the need for urgency, preparedness and the need to constantly innovate.

Speaking of innovation, let’s define that. I define it simply as “injecting continuous improvement into everything you do.” Simplifying and demystifying innovation alleviates misunderstandings, and encourages everyone to participate.

At the Tribune, we knew that standing still meant falling behind. We wanted to maintain our industry leading position, and we knew that our talent was our only competitive advantage. So, we empowered every employee to contribute to our continuous improvement plans, and it paid dividends. Involving everyone in an innovation effort can lead to valuable, incremental changes in every department, creative, breakthrough thinking, as well as the occasional mind blowing idea.

The Farmer companies that set themselves apart after this indefinite of coronavirus-related disruption is over will be the ones who capitalized on the opportunities afforded by this disruption. So, make sure your employees know where your company is headed, and what they can do every day to create an environment and culture that creates and thrives on speed, agility and innovation.

In a marketplace where change is accelerating, disruption in sectors is commonplace. The need for transformational thinking has never been greater. So, in some ways large companies must act like small companies. They must hunt as well as farm.

In my role as a leadership and management advisor to organizations, I’ve seen that the Farmer companies that thrive are the ones that make an active effort to fill in these three orgagility gaps, a shared vision and mission, a culture of speed and action, and a competitive and innovative team. When a Farmer can think and act like a Hunter, and a Hunter can think and act like a Farmer, both types of companies will be able to grow and thrive in challenging circumstances.