THE RIOT POINT

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The fruits of riotous experimentation

Posts in Strategy
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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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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Why do businesses continually enter races they can't win?

Last week both Dennis Kimetto and I were in Germany. I was there to conduct a Problem-Solving Leadership workshop, and Kimetto was there to run a marathon. And though my programme went well, it was Kimetto’s performance that made the newspapers. 

Dennis broke the marathon world record in Berlin by completing the course in 2:02:57, beating the previous record by almost 30 seconds.

This is a remarkable feat, but remarkable feats in distance running are not uncommon within Kimetto’s, Kalenjin tribe of Kenya. Their five million members have won an incredible 40% of the major international distance races since 1980. 

Let’s put this into context: There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon. There were 32 Kalenjin men who did it in October 2011.

What is the secret of their success, and what can it teach organisations?

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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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Recruit customers and colleagues who value what you do. Fire those who don’t.

Meet Carlo Anichini. If you're in London and need a haircut complimented with a case study on Brand delivery, he's your man.

Carlo is an artisan descended from a long line of artisans. His grandfather was a master mason in Florence, a place where they know a thing or two about working with stone. From his mother he inherited an acute eye for design, line and detail.

In addition to being an outstanding barber and a successful entrepreneur, Carlo is also something of a Brand-meister. He is clear on his brand values and executes them clearly, and precisely.

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What makes a good brand? The predictable delivery of an exciting promise.

Goodness we make things difficult for ourselves.

Before Christmas I participated in a conference on Strategy and Branding. I gave a presentation entitled, “Market-driving vs market-driven: consequences for organisational culture,”

I will amplify the content of the presentation in future articles, but I want to focus on a question which came up in subsequent presentations, and whose answer clearly has implications for the way we drive a business.

What constitutes a good brand?

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Where do you start? The end or the beginning?
I was asked yesterday to summarise my approach to strategy how it compares to that of others. Using the graphic above I explained about the two extremes of the strategy generation spectrum and the placement of my approach. By far the common strategy approach commences with construction of an idealised future proceeded by reverse engineered a plan laying out a path to the 'broad sunlight uplands.'
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