This blog is about the 10 signals that can help you to determine whether or not the organisation you work for is in good shape and future proof.

End-of-the-year Intentions

The end of the year is getting closer. Most of us are rushing to finalise the current year. But after that, there’s a short period of reflection, resolutions, intentions.

One of them is the decision to stay or to go. I’m talking about work, employment,¬†etc.

And one of the elements to decide to stay or to go, is the question whether or not the organization you work for is “future proof”.

I wrote a blog in Dutch about that earlier this year. You can find it here. This Linkedin Article is a translation.

The 10 Signals

Here are the main indicators to know if a company is dying.

01. Decreased relevance for customers

They are complaining about what you do for them (or to them). Low NPS, declining loyalty, pressure on the price, quality issues.

02. Decreased relevance for talented people

The stars of the company are leaving. Attrition rates go up. It becomes hard to gain and retain talented people.

03. A Culture of Complacency

People think nothing can happen. Why should we bother with whining customers and those traitors that are leaving? The company will survive. This is particularly cumbersome when this attitude reigns at the board table.

04. Low quality Leadership

Sometimes it’s said that a fish rots from the head down. Even though this is not true for real fish, it may be true for organisations. Lack of leadership quality is crucial as it influences culture and morale. When leaders have lost their credibility (for whatever reason) and there is no hope for improvement, you might consider to leave.

05. Lack of Innovation

The organization fails to deliver new products and services. Failing to do so will lead to the first problem, lack of relevance for the customer. But even when people still think your product is relevant, when the pipeline is empty you should start to worry. Or when innovation processes get stuck in bureaucratic labyrinths, run.

06. Lack of agility

The organisation seems to lack agility; This means it responds very slowly to events and that it is unable to proactively change. The urge for stability, reinforced by a conservative attitude, inhibits change. Or when change is initiated, it is done clumsily, halfheartedly and especially badly.

07. An Unhealthy Risk Appetite

When organizations are in trouble, they may take more risks than before. Without risk there will never be success. But once the organization drops a health cautiousness and takes more risks than before, you might see this as a sign of despair.

08. Lack of Learning

If organizations do not learn from events, incidents and mistakes it will never improve itself. So if the reaction to errors is blaming, people will stop sharing and they will stop learning.

09. Lack of Vision and Transparency

Maybe it all boils down to vision and strategy. But when leaders do not have a vision, or they fail to make it alive for all, then people are lost. It’s increasingly important that leaders share the vision and also the progress. Once they start hiding bad news (e.g. bad customer reports, or a decline in the employee satisfaction score, the loss of a big customer) they will generate distrust and fail to mobilise people.

10. Lack of respect for the Company Values

Most companies have values. Very often they are generic and they are about respect, trust, customer orientation. But when the distance between the espoused values and the perceive or experienced values is too big, the company loses its gravity. How people are treated, how customers are treated, how suppliers are treated, … these are important signals to see if an organisation is future proof. Because if it fails to balance the interests of all stakeholders and does not live up to its own values, it becomes a toxic place. And who wants to work in a toxic place?


So when you are wondering if you should stay in your current organisation, look for signs that the company is future proof. If you find such signs, talk about it with your peers. Maybe you are just seeing things with shaded glasses. never jump to conclusions. Don’t forget that it’s never black or white and that organizations cannot satisfy everyone all the time. If they would do that, then they would be in trouble.

See your doubts as hypotheses that can be falsified. It’s a scientific way to check if you are right or not.


So why don’t we just look at financials?

Well. There are lies, big lies and then there is accounting. Accounting is the result of a decision. Some organizations are great at legally embellishing the results. And besides, if organisations lack future proof capabilities, there might be a sudden death syndrome. So the signals are independent of current financial results. These might still be excellent. And so consider the signals as early warning signals that tell you how future proof your organisation really is.

Many leaders derail. It means they overuse there capacities in times of pressure. They become colourful, over prudent, …

Otolith works with managers and leadership teams to improve the quality of the strategic process and the quality of leadership.

Our approach uses the Hogan (TM) Suite, our vision on how to make leadership future proof and other proprietary methods.

If you want to improve the quality of your leadership, contact us.

Get in touch