Time seems to be flying by this summer.
But as I look back over the last few weeks, two events really stand out.
Fujitsu World Tour was a highlight. It was great to meet up with customers and partners and find out what they’re dealing with here and now in 2019.
And prior to this, I was lucky enough to attend the president’s dinner and annual conference at the Institute of Water in Belfast, alongside our EMEIA President Duncan Tait (who wrote a blog post about his experience).
These two events set me thinking about the way we approach regulation in our most important industries. Should regulations be targets to aim for, or a minimum value to exceed?
Knowing how time flies, I decided it would be good to capture my thoughts in my own blog post. So, here it is!
Lessons about targets from the Gender Pay Gap
At the Institute of Water, Duncan gave a stimulating talk about disruption, and the battle for talent.
He spoke about the work Fujitsu has been doing in the last year to improve the gender pay gap. For many people, the way we’ve managed to reduce the gap is a positive thing.
But for Duncan, it’s not enough.
Closing the gap at a pace of 2% per year means it will take decades before parity. And Duncan explained that, as the father of daughters, he has to go home in the evening and tell his children that they’ll have to wait thirty years for a fair world.
This point grabbed the attention of the leaders, especially the CEOs, sat around the room.
When Duncan then revealed that he, with his team, have put in place a plan to close the gap in three years, the audience were astounded.
One CEO responded that at their current rate their own pay gap would be around for the next 100 years – a very honest comment in the context of the battle for talent that is frightening in terms of its implication for the company and the sector.
This made me think about the way we approach change. Do we set targets and then just accept them? Or do we push for more, when more clearly needs to be done?
Why targets are central to trust
A second point came up at the annual conference which made me think.
It stemmed from a question about a recent fine imposed on one of the UK water companies based, on failure to meet its obligation for treating sewage and the manipulation of the sampling processes.
There were concerns from everyone present that this incident could tar all water and sewage companies with the same brush in the mind of consumers.
I couldn’t help but think about this year’s Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision, which is all about trust and how to rebuild it in a time of great disruption.
All these points seemed connected to me.
If we want to regain trust, with our employees both existing and future, then we need to strive harder rather than accepting a multi-decade normalisation of pay as well as the removal of cultural biases that inhibit attracting the best talent.
If we want to regain trust, with our customers and stakeholders, then we need to strive harder to surpass the outcome delivery incentives (ODIs) set by the regulators. We should look at these ODIs as table stakes, a minimum requirement that we expect to over-shoot – not something to aim for.
Accept the changes of today, and be brave in our expectations of tomorrow
As I have always said to my children, if you only aim to pass then you run the risk of failure (I must have been a most annoying father, but with one studying medicine and the other training to be a commercial pilot, I’ll take that criticism!)
Some might say funding restricts the level of performance that can be achieved against the targets set.
But I would argue we need to be disruptive in our thinking and not accept the norms of the past – things have changed.
Technologies have changed, costs have changed, and the importance of natural resources and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals has changed.
After all, we’re on the edge of environmental collapse. If we don’t accept this, and start living up to it, water leakage and renewable energy targets will be missed, and eventually our life critical resources will be in short supply.
The same stands for our nation’s CO2 emissions targets. We need to start diminishing the size of our carbon footprint, and the targets we have set ourselves shouldn’t be a ceiling in our efforts, but the bottom rung of what we hope to achieve.
Let’s re-think our attitude towards targets
So, my message is that we must not accept regulatory targets as the ‘gold standard’ which we aim only to meet.
What if we fail to reach them? In this case, they must be viewed as the minimum entry requirements, which we should always expect to exceed.
When we do this, we’ll gain the trust of our customers, of our staff and our stakeholders.
But first we need to think differently and not take working practices of the past as beyond question.