On Thursday 21 April 2016, the British High Commissioner in Singapore joined several members of the Skarbek team now based in Singapore, along with 120 guests, leaders and influencers drawn from the business and public sectors. He asked them all to raise their glasses and toast Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday before welcoming Skarbek officially to Singapore and introducing one of the team, Lieutenant General (Ret’d) Sir Graeme Lamb to speak about ‘Staying Agile in a Constantly Changing World – Lessons for Organisations in AsiaPac’.
Graeme set the scene with the challenge facing everyone in business – the two-fold need to both be able to see and seize opportunities. However, in a situation where we are operating faster and faster, at times, our ability to see is limited to the 13” computer screen in front of us. Going on to quote Churchill Graeme highlighted times where nations have witnessed the rise of some great evil. Whilst the guilt lay with the evil, the blame lay with those who had seen, but not take action when action could have been taken to prevent an evil rising. Quoting Churchill from his book ‘Gathering Storm’ “How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to re-arm. ”
The ‘ability to see’ coupled with the ‘ability to act’ underpins the ability to be agile and seize opportunities. He proceeded to describe how Lee Kuan Yew found himself on the 8th August 1965 isolated as Malaysia voted by 165 votes to nil to separate from Singapore. With little land, no water and no natural resources, Lee took Singapore from being a third world country to being a first world one in one single generation. He not only understood the need for a strategy to be implemented but single-mindedly led his people to seize the opportunity quickly as time was not on their side. TE Lawrence wrote: “…but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible” Lee Kuan Yew was a dreamer of the day.
With a cautionary note against being happy to go with the flow drawn from a piece of graffiti seen on a wall in the Middle East: ‘Only dead fish go with the flow’. Graeme outlined several factors that have contrived to make strategy implementation even more difficult:-
- What was: Complicated, State, Limited
- What is: Complex, Stateless, Extended
- What will be: Chaotic, Faceless, Endless
To be ready to deal with this new reality requires first a mindset open to Change. Reminding everyone of this with a quote from General Shinseke “If you dislike change, you’ll dislike irrelevance even more” he then exhorted the audience not to flatten our organisations but to flatten our thinking. We need to be able to shape businesses to see the opportunities and to then seize them rapidly.
At the end of a passionate and thought-provoking talk, Graeme advocated a few key tips:
- Take time to see the problem from a different perspective, step back from the problem and view it from afar.
- Empower execution underpinned with clarity of a common purpose and action enabled with a shared consciousness
Thanking Graeme for his presentation, Paul Heugh, Skarbek’s CEO said “I am fortunate to work with people in a team who inspire me to be the best that I can be.” He added, “The greatest pleasure that I have right now is working with fantastic people, whether those are people in the team, or clients. We set up Skarbek, named after Krystyna Skarbek, who was a phenomenal individual. We bring together multi-skilled people drawn from business, professional services and the military. Someone whose idea of getting things done was ‘Immediately or sooner.’ All I would say in closing is, we do strategy implementation – for us, it’s all about deeds not words.”