Whilst the Chinese Year of the Pig began, David Socha takes a light-hearted look at how our industry might find some inspiration in the 12th animal of the Chinese Zodiac.

Gong xi fa cai! The Chinese Year of the Pig began on 5th February 2019. In these times of great change, let’s take a look at some key characteristics of the pig and perhaps consider how the best of them could remind us of what’s really important, and how we can best drive our industry towards a successful year. Just for fun.

Introducing the pig

The pig is the twelfth (and therefore the last) of the Chinese Zodiac animals. Some versions of the traditional story of the order of the Zodiac animals call the pig lazy, or say that he arrived late because he overslept. Hmmm…not the most auspicious of beginnings. But moving on, the pig does have many positive attributes. The pig is a traditional symbol of wealth and prosperity. Pigs are respected for not complicating simple things and always being capable of reaching their goals. They are sincere and selfless, communicative, outgoing and know how to manage their time. They can also recover from setbacks quickly. Let’s consider a few ways our businesses can take some inspiration from the pig in 2019.

Keep it simple

The energy industry, like so many others, is in the midst of transformation, driven by digitalisation; increasing customer expectations; the Energy Trilemma; and competition from alternative providers, to name but a few. We all know this. Many of us also know that at any time - not only in times of great change - it’s very easy to take our eye off the big picture and be seduced by delivering something of value at a Departmental or Business Unit level, often without considering the implications of that delivery on other parts of the organisation. All too often, such an approach leads to a proliferation of competing standards, tools, applications and approaches and silos of duplicated data. In other words, increased risk and cost; reduced capability; conflicting data sets and increased uncertainty. Not a good set of outcomes for any business!

This year, instead of doing more of the same, let’s be more like the pig. Let’s simplify, by agreeing and sticking to standards; sharing tools and applications where possible; and massively reducing data duplication.

Deal with the setbacks

In times of change, not everything goes to plan first time around. In fact, it may be that even some of those things that did go according to the original plan turn out to not have been such a good idea after all. These failures - real or perceived - can add new risks to a transformation programme, as staff and sponsors lose faith or budgets are stretched as Change Requests flood in from partners and vendors.

Again, let’s take our inspiration from the pig. We must be able to bounce back from setbacks and continue to take our business forward. This starts with planning for an acceptable level of failure right from the start, of course. But it’s also about recognising what can be learned from our failures, to ensure we do better next time around. And knowing when to be clinically objective and cut our losses too.

Critically, it’s also about how we communicate to all stakeholders about those things that didn’t quite go to plan, as well as all those great things that did.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

The pig is sincere, communicative and outgoing. These are certainly traits that will be useful as we reimagine our businesses and our entire industry. Most people don’t like change. Most institutions don’t like change. Even when we all agree that we need to change and we subscribe to the reasons behind it, change is difficult.

Simple, honest communications at every level are a fundamental part of any successful change programme. Keeping difficult decisions secret for too long, hiding failures or even simply failing to share information at all are strategies that never end well. Whenever possible, let staff and sponsors, partners and vendors, even customers and investors know what’s happening and why. Quash rumours and discontentment by being as open and honest as possible. Seriously. It works.

So in 2019, let’s be like the pig

The pig is always capable of reaching its goals. That sounds like just the kind of inspirational character we all need. Let’s all aspire to be a little more like the pig this year. Doesn’t wealth and prosperity sound good to you? Sheng yi xing long!

About the author

David Socha is Teradata’s Practice Partner for the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT). He began his career as a hands-on electrical distribution engineer, keeping the lights on in Central Scotland, before becoming a part of ScottishPower’s electricity retail deregulation programme in the late 1990s. After a period in IT management and consulting roles, David joined Teradata to found their International Utilities practice, later also taking on responsibilities in Smart Cities and the wider Industrial IoT sector.