The art of strategy

As the business world is becoming more uncertain by the day, where systemic changes can occur overnight, it is important to disrupt traditional methods of strategic development.

Gone are the days that the highly orchestrated, annual offsite strategy weekend produces the required level of product innovation or industry disruption.

The really big ideas were created in a totally different light. They often come from industry outsiders and tend to originate from people with a particularly large reality distortion field, people who can completely ignore ‘how we’ve always done things’.

Strategic planning truly is a form of art, a creative process that is quite atypical from textbook business administration. To run a quality strategy process, one cannot rely on insiders alone. It pays to bring in a positive deviant, an optimistic disturber of the status quo, someone who can see the future clearly.

But where do you find such unicorn?

Try #noosa.

About your performance …

Dear CEO

We need to have a frank conversation about your failing leadership.

You are clearly not growing the business fast enough, profitability is poor and most importantly, your ability to engage your workforce is well below our expectations. It is as if your people have lost faith in your ability to explain how the corporate vision aligns with their lives. You used to call them your ‘most important asset’.

You are investing in continuous improvement, your automating repetitive tasks with clever software, self serve portals and you have automated and outsourced call centres and accountants overseas. Additionally, you still waste bucket loads of money on blanket advertising on television and in print media in the knowledge it no longer works. Your website is too busy, too complicated and you are missing in action on social media.

As an employee here, I wonder what you really do for me, long term? You are not adequately developing my skills, you seem disinterested in my quest for independence, I’m getting the feeling you leading me to a future I don’t want a part of. As the culture here becomes more toxic, I wonder if you really care at all?

The bottom line dear CEO is, you fail to inspire anyone around you and you’ve become so predictable, we might as well replace you with a robot.

You’ve got 3 months, or else…

The art of corporate reporting

No matter how much data your organisation collects, processes and publishes, it is quite easy to be looking at the all the wrong indicators to use for decision making.

As both consumer and employee loyalty are increasingly emotive aspects in business, traditional tangible metrics such as financials are rapidly decreasing in value. Coupled with that, intangible measures are traditionally much harder to quantify and make sense of. Another major limitation of information, is that it is typically only available for the past, whereas decisions are made to influence the future. Many organisations are challenged to formulate and monitor true lead indicators that help them guide.

This is where the art of corporate reporting comes into play. Like with any art, this competence takes a unique approach, starting with a clean slate and pushes the boundaries from the viewpoint of the audience. For the embedded teams in organisations, it can be tricky and sometimes impossible to influence the standard reports management requires.

More often than not, the need for organisations to innovate does not extend to their corporate reporting environment until very late in the game. We believe there is a good argument to turn this on its head, and to start asking better questions upfront about what the organisation needs to know today, to ensure prosperity – or sometimes survival – in the future before the pencil hits the canvas.

Constructive irritants are winning

Organisations are uniform in advocating honesty, integrity and a culture of innovation. There are hardly any exceptions. Few however are genuinely open to debate the issues when these matters are challenged internally.

Good news that there is a new breed of corporate operators emerging. The constructive irritant has earned their stripes in delivering on the tasks of the job description. Their value lies in the courage they show to go above and beyond the call of duty in exploring the root causes, debating the deeper issues and importantly in offering mitigating solutions.

Going with the flow is easy, even a dead fish can do that. But it takes a special character to stand up challenge the status quo and move an industry forward. The people who are prepared to do it, appear to be amongst the few left who are winning.

We think you should hire one today.

Tough gig being CEO…

CEO’s and the likes have it tough and it is time that we properly recognised their troubles.

Having to lead in times of economic, geopolitical and social uncertainty is difficult enough, but to maintaining composure whilst keeping the increasingly confused and anxious troops calm is a tall order, now that it is so evidently clear that the corporate globalisation game is on its last legs as it is being robotised by software at an amazing pace.

What about the continuous juggle of conflicting interests of employees, customers and stakeholders when trust has eroded all round… Especially to try and challenge the obsolete experience of some of the more ferocious members on the Board who have no clue of which iceberg the Titanic is setting sail into next.

In times when inflatable politicians encroach into living rooms just before Bachelors and Masterchefs – with delusional importance as they verbally combat each other in the hallways of some old building in an unpleasant town while the rest of the nation is educating themselves on YouTube and signing up to the blockchain to legally reduce their tax footprint.

CEO’s gotta have superpowers to survive these days, let alone inspire their employees, customers and shareholders.

The question is whether we should really continue to care about competing for shareholder value and about earnings growth, really…?

Perhaps if more CEO’s came up to Noosa for a little while, things would be seen more clearly… Perhaps ONE corporate CEO would be able to inspire us with a vision that matters to us, that we connect with and that we can believe in.

Just ONE?

 

 

 

Looking down on people

Once upon a time when I was younger and wiser, I used to look up to people. Particularly the kind of people that were rich and powerful, or certain professionals with impressive career achievements used to attract my admiration. It was a bit of an obsession really, but I was just curious how they ‘rolled’ and it all seemed pretty mild and healthy at the time.

Unfortunately, my admiration turned out to be just fugazi and I wish I woke up earlier…

Today, I believe experience can be a rather dangerous proposition. It tends to confuse people, in some cases even corrupt them and make them delusional as if they ‘know’ things. As things just keeps changing faster and faster, it appears that many people with ‘experience’ are male and some like to congregate in numbers our executive suites, boardrooms and parliaments. Frankly and respectfully, I’m starting to think of experience as a liability, rather than an asset.

As the saying goes, there is no fool like an old fool!

Some ‘experienced leaders’, are the kind of people others are supposedly expected to be ‘following’ and buy products and services from. But herein lies a case of mistaken identity can be confusing, particularly if we observe what garners success on social media channels. Here the ‘experienced leaders’ are largely missing in action, yet inexperienced hipsters are being followed by the masses in what is an interesting and disruptive twist of society.

Over the past years I have spent time exploring what made Steve Jobs truly successful through using positive deviance. Steve inspired us to only perform work we love and to stay hungry and foolish. He leveraged old images of Ghandi, Mandela and John Lennon to ‘target market’ us and told us to disrespect the status quo and to grow a healthy disregard for ‘the rules’.

And so I did…

For a while now, I have been following a different set of leaders. My leaders are very clear about their future dreams and goals, they communicate with me in straight language leaving no doubt about the clarity of their vision, their strategic intent and their core values. I diligently complete all of their surveys not matter how futile and I make sure I’m never late for my meetings with them. They have earned my trust years ago and they have never missed a beat since!

When all is said and done, I hold nothing but the highest regard and respect for them. It is a bit like an unconditional love that is only getting deeper with age like a fine wine.

My leaders are both female, they are no older than ten years of age and boy am I grateful they live in my house. It’s just that I’m taller, that I tend to look down on them occasionally, but that’s entirely my mistake of course…

Perhaps it is selfish, but I just wish they never grow up!

Management Overwhelm

Spare a thought for the poor middle manager.

Busted his/her guts for years in Word and Excel to attain a privileged position above the worker bees, now armed to the teeth with data and an inflated sense of influence, plus the approved authority to boss people around. It’s no surprise they’re instilled with an unrelenting confidence in the inevitability of their success…

If only it was real! Suddenly their game changed. And changed again the next day. Then changed some more and then started changing really really fast until a wall hit.

Now that the world has gone social, the middle manager is running out of jargon faster than time. Touching base for scrum-team stand-ups to stay on pitch in that space… Sending an MIA to the mindfulness love-in today, wrestling back-to-back meetings before the blue sky innovation board paper is due for review. Not to mention the annual engagement pulse-check, and the fourteen 360′s, the online mandatory OH&S training all due last Tuesday.

Management Overwhelm is a common and growing concern for the middle manager type and its troubling. On the one hand its like an addictive aphrodisiac satisfying managers with a false sense of belonging, void from life and it keeps them ticking over burning oil, busy-busy-busy and disconnected from fresh air. On the other, the exponentially widening gap to any semblance of professional career upside is crushing hope for a raise let alone that lucrative promotion.

Once leading (now clueless) corporations are laying off tens of thousands – even in Tech! – and with looming pink slip redundancies, impending mortgage in-service-ability, middle managers are constantly reminded that their life’s purpose is futilised at the expense of others and they have little to believe in, other than self preservation at any expense because the next Jubilee-GFC is only a breeze away.

And we wonder why employee engagement is plummeting in most work places…

Short of applying for an AA platinum card (not the airline), the knowledge that management overwhelm is a slow and silent killer by virtue of a long term spiritual cardio vascular disease is a recipe not worthy of practising for anyone’s Masterchef ambitions.

Dear Middle Manager, find inspiration and something to ‘core’ believe in. AirBnB, Uber and Cell411 have made it abundantly clear now that innovation for a better future is just not going to happen by fitting in and marginally tinkering, is a simply a ludicrous proposition.

You serve no-one by playing small…

Dear Leader …

If #obedience is all you truly care about, please report our occasional non-compliance to the chief #puppet_master, so we can #inspire her to change her mind…

All we want is to #engage, #innovate and rock-on.

That would be awesome, totally….

Your_team

(Hashtags for #Snapchat)

Delusional incompetence

Those are the options, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. As a leader you need to make a choice just to be fair to your followers, whether you lead a family, a company or an entire nation.

Either you admit you don’t know what to do anymore, or that you continue to reign control as you hide the fact that you are merely carelessly serving yourself, saving skin whilst guiding your tribe like deer into headlights…

Just watch the news and note this is what the Fed does to investors, its what governments do to voters and sadly its what many parents do to their children. Back in 2007, no leader told us about the GFC before it arrived. And boy, how did they all panic either with delusional predictions, or in total incompetence how things got handled.

At least now in 2016, we can run a FRED chart to see that US Federal Debt doubled since then, and we can google how many countries have resorted to negative interest rates to try and keep their games alive. And of course we can see scrambling interest groups of anarcho capitalists, gold bugs, crypto currency developers and psychedelic drugs shamans rise to unseen levels of attention and interest.

See, the internet has changed things around more than you think, well beyond most people’s imagination.

Thankfully, younger generations are starting to wake up to the fact that universities are largely overrated, that no career has ever made any executive truly happy, that you don’t have to own toys in order to play with them and that it pays to remain a globetrotting anarchist for as long as you can hack it.

Personally, I confess incompetence, no idea how the next few years are going to play out but I watch the show from the sidelines with interest as the dinosaurs are battling each other with inertia towards their inevitable extinction, while they put all their ‘assets’ at risk.

It’s the unicorns who set the pace of momentum in the digital revolution as humanity is flowering into enlightenment.

 

Pre- Post-internet

The world is changing so fast, few have time left to breathe or to consider how to engage with life.

What is clear is that some global mega trends have been set in motion, courtesy of tech innovation. Who can still imagine life without an interconnected smartphone? All of us have one, and it has really only been just a few years.

We’ve seen an explosion of applications, a global embrace of social media, we’ve seen Uber’s and Airbnb’s disrupt global industries, all based on a few new ideas translated into bits and bytes, costing nothing to string together.

In decades to come, people will refer to this era as a matter of distinction much like the beginning of times. They will refer to the pre- and post-internet age due to the magnitude of the shift in human evolution the internet has brought upon us.

What’s curious, is that this moment in time also appears to be separating the human species between dinosaurs and hipsters.

Global corporations and the majority of their executives still treat the digital age as a fad, or an afterthought at best. They should know better as they are increasingly defenceless against the next new idea.

CEO’s of listed corporations or public authorities are largely still MIA online, either on personal blogs, on twitter or LinkedIn as ignorant as if they don’t exist or don’t matter. So, when it comes to their leadership skills and how they ‘lead’ their ‘followers’ into an uncertain future, I wonder how they could possibly rate themselves, given they have no followers. Yet it is highly likely, that even their own children have long left Facebook in favour of Snapchat, Kik and Periscope.

Dear Hipsters, have no fear because the game is fast changing in your favour. Corporations are on the way out. If it wasn’t for central banksters speed-printing fiat currency, and if it wasn’t for incompetent incumbent governments in-fighting as if they pretend to care, Wall Street would be tanking! The fundamentals upon which that game was built are now shaking 9.0 on Richter’s scale. Of course your news channel won’t be reporting this, but just have a quick look for yourself what has happened to US sovereign debt, since a debt problem created the GFC in 2008.

Hopefully the transition to a new brighter world remains orderly and I look forward to continue working with you on the other side.