THE RIOT POINT

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The fruits of riotous experimentation

Posts in Leadership
Concerned your poor strategic thinking will be exposed? Time to write a book.

Wool-suited, french-cuffed and tied (at that time), executives can sit cooly for hours in 40C heat but don’t ever extinguish the projector. Nothing brings on a perspiratory flash-flood faster than the prospect of delivering a slide-less presentation. 

An executive should be able to communicate her or his strategy in 10 mins or less. They should be able to do so engagingly and with clarity. 

Any Executive who cannot do this surrenders their right to admonish sub-ordinates who are similarly fuzzy in their communication of the strategy.

Can’t past the test? Fortunately a remedy is at hand.

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What did the Ancient Greeks ever do for us? Quite a lot it seems.

The Ancients knew a thing or two about Strategy. 

The early Greeks viewed life as a voyage in which you would head in a general direction. Constantly navigating between Cosmos and Chaos—Order and Disorder with the realisation that winds from both sides could provide useful momentum. But sailing too close to the craggy shoreline of either extreme would lead to destruction. 

Contrast this with the modern, titanic, corporate warriors. Insulated out of necessity (internal meetings, financial reviews, presentations to analysts, fear of bad customer feedback), they delegate strategy to staff who, with finger-crossed confidence, report that every future has been anticipated, every contingency planned. This well engineered business will withstand any iceberg. Nothing left to chance. 

Or so they believe. It usually ends in tears—or an unfriendly take-over.

So what can we learn?

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How to remove the pain and add the profit into Employee Engagement

Executives tell me, in their more candid moments, that they doubt the value of the ‘employee engagement survey.’

They find it time-consuming and stressful, and most have all but given up on trying to calculate any return-on-investment. No wonder then such surveys have the reputation of being “all pain and no profit.” 

So why bother? The answer lies in why we form organisations.

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Is the glass half empty or half frozen?

-25'C flashing on the car dashboard always heralds is a fresh start to the day, but the cool temperature didn’t deter the hardy souls I saw jogging as I drove out for my morning coffee.

Yet, if the comments of dial-in listeners on the morning news show where representative of city, a visitor would take Torontonians as feeble-minded as well as feeble-bodied.

 Enough. This is winter. This is Canada.

You see, when it comes down to it, we can deal with these parky conditions in one of three ways:

  1. Complain. Wish things were different but do nothing about it.
  2. Ignore. Insulate yourself from current conditions and carry on in isolation.
  3. Embrace. Modify your actions to make the most of the environment, and change as it changes.
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Can your team deliver innovation? Find out with my Christmas Gift to you.

Are you hop-skipping delightfully from one good idea to another but never getting things done? Or are you perfecting the present, making a great sailing ship while the rest of the world moves to steam?

I have seen businesses that are so innovative, nothing ever gets completed. They flounder as they flail excitedly from one awesome idea to another. They may not run out ideas, but do they do run out of cash.

Conversely, I have worked with highly adaptive organisations who grow, painstakingly, by tweaking past successes. They make few mistakes, but one day they end up with perfect sailing ship, while the rest of the world has moved to steam.

The Holy Grail is, of course, Delivered Innovation. This requires the best of both approaches but each extreme often sees the worst of each other thus making mutual collaboration difficult.

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Bead-counting alone doesn’t tell the story

The leader had self-esteem.

Contrary to popular belief, many business managers lack self-esteem; they are fearful of dissent and it bursts through their leadership style and binds the psyche of the organisation. 

Here are some tell-tale signs. If you see a large organisation that;

  • was once a leader but is devoid of competitive advantage
  • is diverse in population but not in thinking
  • hails investors yet hides from customers
  • tries to control rather than shape the future
  • put numbers before narrative
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The sands in China are shifting

This week I conducted a leadership workshop in China’s largest and most prosperous city, Shanghai. It has been five years since I last visited the city, and there have been two dramatic change in that period.

Dizzyingly tall towers continue to shoot up at a rapid pace. Globally, Chinese contractors are now the masters of modular construction of these structures, and cosmetically at least, the results are impressive. But the quality of the electrical, plumbing and mechanical is far below the sophistication of the outer casing. 

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S1 E3: This I have learnt—Norris Zucchet, CEO (retired), Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries

Imagine having a market where demand is guaranteed (yes, guaranteed) to grow, where competition is limited, and the cost of entry is high.

Too good to be true? Maybe.

But there is a downside. Such dynamics can cause organisations to become sluggish and indifferent to innovation. After all, why should they change?

Norris Zucchet faced such conditions. It turned out to be the most demanding, exhausting and exhilarating 13 years of his career.

What did he do and what did he learn? Grab 15 mins of wisdom in this edition of 'This I have learnt.'

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Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave: Can you handle the brutal truth?

Like any patient participating in a check-up, the leadership team has to be braced for any results arising from an examination.  For some, this thought alone prevents an appointment from being made. But for those who do proceed, the feedback provides a prodigious increase in corporate confidence about future organisational health. The process lifts the fogginess on possible routes to growth.

Investigating if there's a gap between culture and strategy is unnerving for some. Participation means exposing ourselves to the brutal truth, and dealing with the consequences of the results. Our corporate bodies are no different.

We can, though, may the process more comfortable.

 

 

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Leading people is labour intensive; popping the bubble of the 4-hour work week

The 4-hour work week might be attainable if you forward orders of vitamin shipments to a third-party, or have only one employee—you. But if you are dependent on people to collaborate effectively for achievement of goal, here's the wake-up call. It takes time. In fact, the better your team and the bigger the change, the more time it requires.

Leading people is labour intensive. It takes time and energy. It requires passion for that role. If you don't have the appetite, stay away from this buffet.

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Corporate indigestion: or what happens when strategy tries to eat culture for breakfast

This CEO of global pharma business was never a shrinking violet. But this year, at his global Town Hall meetings he was positively pugilistic.

The strategy, wrestled for many hours on the 21st floor at Bockenheim headquarters, was failing to deliver. Well, in reality, it wasn't being implemented well enough to know if it could deliver.

The issue was crystallised for the CEO in a conversation late one evening. During post-presentation beer and sandwiches at their largest R&D facility, he exasperatedly asked the Site Manager, "why aren't you implementing the strategy?" To which the long-standing, retiring-in-a-year-after-20-years of service, replied, "why don't you give us a strategy we can implement?"

There are few occasions in business when scales from the eyes, but this was one of them. In one pithy response, the consequences of a mis-match between strategy and culture had been laid a bare.

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S1 E2: This I have learnt—Tom Schmidt, Managing Director, Norton McMullen Corporate Finance

Large organisations are characterised by the size of their employee population. Engaging the group to co-operate for combined and individual benefits is the single largest challenge of leaders in such in an organisation. In fact, in some ways, it is the only thing they do.

Tom Schmidt has had a successful career within a number of large organisations. In this episode of 'This I have learnt' he shares with us some of his experiences on how to lead others, but also how to lead and develop oneself in order to be a better leader. 

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This I have learnt—from Michel Drancourt

In July I will launch a monthly series of videos entitled, “This I have learnt.” It is said that experience is teacher who gives us the lesson after we need it, but with this series, we will short circuit the process.

I will be interviewing individuals who have had extended successful careers in the public and private sector. Some have excelled in both.

Through a short, honest conversation we will hear how each person has dealt with the challenges of work/life balance, strategy, leading others and making difficult decisions. Early recordings have highlighted some commonality in approaches, but also some interesting, particular (peculiar?) distinctions. It makes for fascinating viewing

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