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Critical Questions to Ask that Impact the Workforce of the Future



Critical Questions

Few questions are more critical for business executives to ask today than these:

– How, how much and when will different types of technology impact my business, and what do we do about it?

– What will the resulting implications be on my Workforce of the Future, and how do we prepare for it?

Why are these questions critical? Because different industries and companies will be impacted by technology at different rates, depending on their mix of capabilities (skill sets, behavioral patterns, and technology assets). These impacts will shape where and how different businesses make and lose money (for commercial organizations) and social impact (for public sector organizations). The questions will also determine how effectively the organization responds to market opportunities, risks, and challenges.

And all have very real implications on:

– What organizations do and the value they deliver over time

– How they engage their customers

– What capabilities they need to do so

– Where they focus and how they execute – and with which partners

“So what? We know this,” you say. But how do we go beneath all the presentations we hear and the hand waving we see around these questions?

And here it gets pragmatic.

Capabilities (skill sets, behavioral profiles, and technology assets) are the foundation of execution. No capabilities, no execution. No execution, no customers. No customers, no business. Pretty straight forward — until it’s not.

Twenty percent of any organization’s capabilities drive roughly 70 percent of the value they deliver. (Go through this analysis and you’ll see.) A changed competitive world requires a new 20 percent of capabilities critical to capturing the 70 percent of new value. The question becomes: What is that new 20 percent, and what do you do about it? And it matters because capabilities decay in competitive relevance over time as technologies advance, markets shift and customer expectations change.

Therefore, the competitive game becomes knowing what capabilities are needed to respond to which opportunities when, and how, in order to orchestrate them, and with what quanta of capital allocation implications.

Playing this game sets the rules for how to answer the two critical questions of “technology’s impact” and the resulting “impacts on your Workforce of the Future.”

What are the 3 steps to take to answer these questions?

Step 1: Build a baseline capabilities model.

No, not the typical way of summarizing activities into a spreadsheet or even some database that turns out not to be usable, but in a way that you can ask questions of it, such as:

– What are the core capabilities that make up my business?

– What are the top “5” capabilities that drive the majority of value-cost-compliance issues, etc?

– What is the competitive decay rate of these core capabilities and how can we change that rate, or do we even want to?

Building such rigor into a capabilities model provides an algorithmic way to begin to understand the implication of different types of technology and their impacts on your business, with differing implications on your workforce of the future.

Which leads to step 2.

Step 2: Ask and answer the new strategic questions.

I passionately believe that our competitive landscapes have changed for good. Merely witness the explosive growth rates and much higher market multiples of companies we all know — and many we’ll know soon — across all industries.

A changing competitive landscape requires new strategic questions. The questions: Where is the value being created — and destroyed — in the ecosystem and value chains in which you’re engaged? And what role do you play within it with what set of (new) capabilities to do so?

Asking these questions leads you to look at your competitive landscape from an ecosystem perspective, rather than that of your business and even your industry. Doing so logically leads you to ask: What is my ecosystem? How is it changing?

And critically: What are the specific clusters of capabilities catalyzing those changes?

Which leads to step #3.

Step 3: Clarify — and mobilize around — your new 20 percent of capabilities critical to capturing 70 percent of new value.

There it is.

Answering the critical questions of technology’s impact and its resulting impact on your Workforce of the Future in a rigorous, consistent way requires following these steps. Why? Because we need a rigorous method, resting on an analytics platform that allows us to both predict and to anticipate the different types of impacts that we’ll face.

These critical strategic questions that executives need to answer are far too important to be left to the traditional strategists or strategy firms. Because the world has changed, we need less talk and more rigor into how to build predictive models, scenarios and analytic platforms to help us find answers.

How do you answer these questions?

Ralph Welborn is CEO of CapImpact, a predictive analytics and advisory firm focused on new growth models. Previous positions included CEO of an innovation technology company, where he received the European CEO award in 2016; leader of IBM’s Strategy & Transformation business in the Middle East & Africa; and senior vice president of KPMG Consulting. He is co-author with Sajan Pillai of the new book, "Topple – The End of the Firm-Based Strategy and Rise of New Models for Explosive Growth" (Greenleaf Book Group Press, May 29, 2018) describing how to look at our changed competitive landscape through the lens of business ecosystems. Learn more at or