Posts tagged culture
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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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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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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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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Who benefits from your dissatisfaction?

I participated in privately sponsored symposium over the Easter Weekend. The 50 participants were brought together to address the topic, “the Challenges of being a Leader in the C21st.” The headily diverse group of executives from the private and public sector ensured the topic was whacked, pulled, pummelled and prodded from a variety of perspectives. During the panel discussion at the end of the day, I was asked whether, in my experience, one positive attribute of leadership stood above all others.

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Will you break the gain line this week?
The Six Nations Rugby Championship ended in Europe this weekend past. Natural order was restored with Wales beating England to win the Championship—again. This is the second year in a row where Wales have been winners. It is always good for smaller adjacent nations to be superior to their larger neighbours in at least one aspect of physical, culture or economic endeavour. It provides balance in their mutual dependency, and diminishes the need to display ‘small-man’ aggression.
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When the complicated becomes complex and is treated simply`

Here is a minor but amusing example of what happens when some event disruptes a complicated process and makes it complex.  

A healthy confident organisation responds appropriately. It relaxes,delegates and trusts teams that 'do'. The focus is doing the right thing.

Frightened organisations focus on avoiding mistakes internally. Their response is to tense the corporate body. They become  rigid and more restrictive when they should be doing the reverse—loosening the boundaries (within restrictions), and delegating the capability to front line problem solver.

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