Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

Strategy: A Two-Step Dance

September 25, 2014

Very little planned change in any organization, community or individual occurs without strategy. It’s a core competence that requires deliberate attention. Far too often, it shows up in  a simplistic process at the annual retreat. Sometimes it is implicit and embedded in conversations about routine functions.

But, great managers know that strategy is the map that provides direction to daily decisions and actions. Once talent and capital are in hand, strategy is job 1. It has  just two steps and both are critical.

 

strat2x2

The matrix above offers a quick way to think about the two steps. Strategy formulation and execution are equally important. One without the other has little value. When both are sound then there’s “a  good chance” of securing intended progress. When one or both are flawed, we can explain deficits in progress and bad results.

Accountability provides the “glue” for any effort that relies on strategy to improve and perform. It makes both steps relevant by specifying individual and shared ownership. In any organization, accountability occurs through relationships and structures that review performance. Formal and informal reviews specify expectations, competencies, attributes and results among participants. Without accountability –  wander, squander, delays, decline and failure are likely. With it, the “dance” can deliver value.

When assessing your program or organization’s progress, look carefully at formulation and execution. Ensure there are explicit high-quality processes for both, along with robust accountability.

(For lots more on strategy, see past tinker posts, like: Ten Good Strategy Questions-July 2010, Avoid Strategy Sabotage-October 2012, Great Plans Adjust-June 2012)

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Can The Pope Clean House?

April 24, 2014

 

NotreDame

Current actions in the Catholic church offers insight on what some are calling “the Francis effect.” Jorge Bergolgio, 77, is the recently appointed Pope Francis. He is the man responsible for rebranding the Catholic church in the past year.

The Situation

Many would agree, as the Economist suggests, the “world’s oldest multinational was in crisis.” Competitors were gaining share in emerging markets. In traditional markets, scandals were keeping out prospects and the staff were disengaged. Despite guaranteed lifetime employment, recruiting new priests was difficult. Finances were in disarray and insider leaks indicated the bank was riddled with both corruption and incompetence. In addition to poor and fractious governance, the last pope was forced to resign.

What has Pope Francis done so well that suggests great new potential in the Roman Catholic church? Clearly, he is popular. Polls indicate that one of his roughest market segments, American Catholics, are high on him. Both attendance and membership are on the uptick. Analysts say he has focused on some key levers.

Decisive Actions

First, mission. Pope Francis is clear about the Church’s primary aim: helping the poor. He’s demonstrated personal alignment by choosing simple congregate housing (instead of a regal papal apartment), took the name of a saint affiliated with the poor and animals, and ditched luxurious transportation (the loaded Mercedes), clothing and shoes for utilitarian options. He also has avoided lavish displays in official events and spoken with credibility about the mission. These choices set culture and attracts followers.

Second, repositioning. There are new and more inclusive messages which are more accepting on controversial topics. These actions tackle what and how to communicate.

Third, restructuring. A newly appointed group with expert external help will review organization structure, internal processes and the troubled bank for improvements. These moves signal discontent with the status quo.

It’s too soon to say whether or not these efforts are right or enough. But, it appears that intentional decisions have been made to recast a worldwide enterprise. What does this example tell us about change management?

Pope Francis may be the leader who shows how to manage crisis, shake up a stodgy organization and deliver growth.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com

Strategy Is Not A Plan

April 13, 2014

Mach

An Italian historian, diplomat, philosopher and author, Niccolo Machiavelli was influential  during the Renaissance. He is considered the founder of modern political science and well known for The Prince, a book about unscrupulous politicians. Machiavellianism is most often associated with strategies founded on deceit and psychological manipulation. While these strategies offer many politicos inspiration, other leaders offer more positive, ethical examples.

Strategy Generates Power

Regretfully, because of overuse and ubiquitous application, the word “strategy” has lost meaning. Lawrence Freedman’s new book, Strategy: A History, suggests strategy employs whatever resources are available to achieve the best outcome in situations that are both dynamic and contested. He suggests strategy generates power. Perhaps we too often mistake strategy as a simple way to get to a clear and final result.

Instead, Freedman counsels that strategy is simply a thoughtful means to get from one stage to another. Each new stage has its own challenges, risks, assets and potential. Strategy needs to be devised, and revised as circumstances evolve. Strategy is not synonymous with a plan. Plans support forward movement and actions, but they may or may not be strategic. Even so, high-quality implementation of a strategic plan – one built on choice points that considered alternatives – can be a significant challenge.

Strategy Development

Certainly both strategic processes and strategic thinking are essential in managing and leading. Don Knauss, CEO, Clorox Company says he learned strategy development from the Marine Corps. The acronym SMEAC provides a framework: situation, mission, execution, administration and communication. These five factors  require attention and deliberation.

As a leader, trust-building is an intentional strategy in the culture he promotes. Knauss said in a recent interview that “the less you use the power you’ve been given, the more authority people will give you…It starts with integrity…You get things done much more quickly when people trust you.”

Evidence, Facts & Results

Personal lives, government, organizations and programs all need strategy. Whether you are losing weight, staying married, providing healthcare, managing a “conflict” in a foreign country or improving education – your chances at success increase if there’s a strategy. Better still if it’s evidence- and fact-based.

Winston Churchill’s insight is relevant, too. He said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Slaying Goliath

March 2, 2014

goliath

David, a shepherd boy, killed Goliath with a stone slung at his exposed forehead. He won the battle against all expectations. His victory relied on great strategy and skills.

David was a slinger. His weapon was a leather pouch attached on two sides by a long length of rope. Slingers were part of ancient armies. These warriors used a rock or lead ball hurled by a sling at their enemies. Slinging required extraordinary skills honed by extensive practice.

With considerable courage, using the advantages of speed and maneuverability, David ran directly at Goliath in his attack. David hit the one point of the giant’s vulnerability, knocked him unconscious, then killed Goliath by his own sword.

The outcome of this battle challenges common assumptions about power. We assume, in error, that big and strong always wins. But, it is possible for speed and surprise coupled with passionate intent to prevail. David’s example provides a two-step recipe: the right strategies with capable execution.

  • What assumptions do we hold about the Goliath we face this week?
  • What studied attention have we given to strategy development?
  • Can we skillfully implement  optimal choices?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Strategic Camps

August 15, 2013

Great strategy is key to creating public or private value.

It helps us with fundamental decisions and actions that shape what any organization is, does and its rationale. Strategy supports results in both the private and social sectors.

Recently, an influential client wanted better strategy to more effectively distribute hundreds of millions in capital. As a small part of our assignment, we helped them reflect on their current strategy development process.

The graphic below, based on analysis by leaders at Booz & Company, maps the history of strategy. This landscape is informed over time by more than a dozen strategy “giants,” experts like Deming, Hamel, Porter, Kim, and Zook.

strathistFINAL

It shows four general camps of thought regarding strategy: adaptation, position, execution and concentration. Each has strengths and challenges. They represent an evolution in thought. The x-axis represents strategy authors. The y-axis is a time orientation focus.

In a practical exercise, we asked each senior executive to identify which quadrant they relied on most to prepare strategy for their program plans and associated budgets. The scatter of dots offered fodder for an important conversation. It supported questions, like:

  • What rationale informs the choice of your “primary” camp?
  • Where would others place their orientation to strategy development?
  • Why is there variation among the camps?
  • What are the strengths and limits of camp features for your context?
  • Should the organization act from the same camp? Why or why not?

As you consider improvements, understanding your current strategy development process is an important step. The historical evolution of camps can certainly inform a  hybrid. Given emerging and powerful factors like data, technology and innovation, there’s no question future camps are forming now.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Lincoln Lessons

January 31, 2013

Lincolcn

Your choices and actions can make great contributions to both public and private value. Recent attention and related discussion around the film, Lincoln, offers a spotlight for some powerful lessons in managing and leading. The movie focuses mostly on the 13th Amendment, which made slavery unconstitutional. However, the leadership Lincoln demonstrated in the period before the Emancipation Proclamation is also significant and revealing.

The Situation. Lincoln was burdened by the tensions created in a commitment to abolish slavery but preserve the Union. Opponents were merciless in criticism and allies were very frustrated. He was troubled by huge loss of life from the Civil War, depressed by his own child’s death, faced intense political opposition and other practical difficulties.

Lincoln Attributes. Most historians and contemporary observers agree that Lincoln was resilient, patient, thorough, emotionally intelligent, showed moral clarity and passion, was accessible, present, authentic, intuitive and credible. He was also known for his honesty and humility.

Lincoln Competencies. A review of his skills and knowledge indicate Lincoln was a careful listener, a capable analyst and strategist, adaptive, integrative and evidence-based. His management choices were well-timed and he was a deliberate thinker.

The Lincoln Lessons

(1) Keep the big goal constant. Disciplined thought and action against that North Star will ensure forward progress. Lincoln never wavered on his intended primary result.

(2) Be accessible. Leadership doesn’t hide behind closed doors as it ensures only isolation, insulation and elitism. Lincoln engaged in “open hours” with citizens at the White House and communicated constantly with those inside and outside his influence.

(3) Actively seek diverse opinion and thought. A range of thought was key to great perspective. Inclusion is an important principle. Lincoln invited his rivals’ opinions and experiences.

(4) Humility and honesty win. Ego, lies and manipulation take time and energy. Lincoln’s character was consistent and reliable. He rarely sought retribution or vengeance and kept a long view.

(5) Expect challenge and adversity. Change involves opposition and risk. Lincoln faced tough opponents and new obstacles repeatedly.

(6) Adapt tactics to context. Gathering information, sensing and interpretation are vital tasks which inform revision. Lincoln was willing to alter plans.

(7) Recognize timing matters. An emotional or even fast response may not be best. Lincoln waited strategically to share the Emancipation Proclamation after a battle victory for good reason.

(8) Share responsibility and success. Know that others have important contributions to make. Find and engage great people. Lincoln worked with and through a team. Competent managers act this way.

(9) Be persistent with complexity. Don’t react, respond. Think long enough to untangle the knots. Lincoln was known for his intellectual exploration.

(10) Messages matter. Effective communications are important in connecting with people. Lincoln used humor and told stories with a lesson. Compared to others, his public comments were short and clear.

Harvard Business School uses a case on Lincoln’s presidency to illustrate good practices. Our 16th president was very capable, but not flawless. Nobody is. But, his choices can offer inspiration and constructive example.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : http://www.pwkinc.com

Avoid Strategy Sabotage

October 22, 2012

A primary challenge in strategy development is anticipating the future – correctly. It’s a tall order. Strategy creates public and private value. It’s central to every organization and team.

Determining the actions most likely to secure your intended results employs strategic planning. Creating strategy, for a program or entire organization, generally requires a series of explicit steps. While a routine function, the process of strategy development offers plenty of opportunity for error.

In this list, I’ve noted the most common “sins.” Consider these as you guard against missteps and improve the quality of your strategy development.

1. Failure to know where you are now. Clarity about your current situation is essential if you are pointing towards a new target. Strategy has everything to do with decisions about the optimal route for the outcome you intend. If you don’t know the current situation then you have no good data on how to create forward action. Shaky ground isn’t equal to a solid foundation – so it’s vital to get this part right.

2. Difficulty in detecting patterns. Your “read” of the context and forecast for the future is important to analysis, interpretation and application. Seeing patterns and anticipating new ones are vital to strategy development. Testing whether others “see” things the same or different and knowing why is a good idea.

3. Lack of choice points. A clear specification of issues and their perceived implications are vital in strategy development. Framing both the challenges which impede progress and the context which will catalyze motion are critical to decisions about forward actions.

4. Unwillingness to acknowledge bias. We all have opinions and perspectives based on prior experience and training. How deeply these are held and whether we can accommodate and explore new mental models affects the discussions and review of strategy. Being aware of bias can mitigate it.

5. Absence of actionable measures. A few and the right measures are important as touchstones for determining progress. To inform decisions or actions, measurement must be part of any strategy. It provides feedback data to confirm existing direction and to indicate necessary course corrections. Winston Churchill said it.” However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

6. Reluctance to review capacity. It’s possible to desire a new outcome, but the potential for achieving it relies heavily on what assets your program or organization has in hand for execution. Do you have the skillful talent integral to the work ahead as well along with the financial resources and time to make results a real possibility? An “internal audit” will surface both needs and assumptions about organization/team capacity that are key to strategy success.

7. Inadequate engagement. Who participates in strategy development matters a lot. It’s also vital to the subsequent socialization and implementation of strategy. Be sure dissent and minority opinions are aired to “kick” strategy. Careful consideration should be given to who participates and when in your process.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com.

10 Good Questions on Strategy

July 30, 2012

We all face external factors that change fast, frequently and unpredictably. Regardless of sector, work is intensely dynamic. Are your strategy development and related planning processes responsive enough?

Re-tool and Refine

Strategy marshals the resources and actions that enable an organization to secure intended results. Strategy is crucial to the decisions that guide any program or organization. More and more, experts suggest the effort on strategy should equal that spent on operations. Getting strategy “right” matters a lot.

Analysis, Inclusion, Speed

Old routines, inadequate sensing, biased inputs, erroneous assumptions, poor timing, delays and other complexities in strategy development can severely limit program and organizational potential. Creating a clear, disciplined process for strategy that considers diagnosis to commitment, execution and assessment is fundamental. Better strategy and strategic management values analysis, inclusion and speed.

Strategy Development

Here are ten good questions to use as you retool strategy to improve performance:

  • What outcomes define success for your organization?
  • Who holds responsibility for strategy?
  • What are your key issues, critical decisions, data and uncertainties?
  •  What framework exists for colleagues to inform, develop, implement and revise strategy?
  • How are strategic priorities named and resources allocated?
  • What internal communications are used to effectively express strategy and related plans?
  • How are cross-organizational projects handled?
  • Are savvy, fast decisions made through clear processes to support strategy?
  • How are directors/trustees and partners involved in the development and execution of strategy?
  • How is the implementation of strategy and related plans tracked?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Break Throughs Take Will and Capacity

June 17, 2012

Yiannis Boutaris, 70, a successful Greek winemaker has been mayor of Thessaloniki for 18 months. Thessaloniki, Greece, is a sprawling city of 800,000 people on the Aegean Sea. It is second in size only to Athens.

Bankrupt & Corrupt

Boutaris inherited a city on the brink of bankruptcy (nearly $130 million in debt), with outdated laws and regulations, corruption, manufacturing decline and few tourists. His predecessor and 17 colleagues have been indicted – accused of stealing about $38 million.

Under these conditions, pundits gave the new mayor little prospect for success. Bloated municipal employment, inadequate basic services, discord with Turkey, and tangled regulations were all accepted as “normal.” However, this wiry septuagenarian who sports a pierced earring and frequently punctuates his point of view with profanity, knows two fundamental factors vital for change: will and capacity.

Will & Capacity

Will is the practical and political determination to persist. Will endures both obstacles and critics. It prevails. Boutaris advises: “When you propose the slightest change, people say no. If you do it all at once, it is a different thing. Something has to break through.” He adds: “You cannot step back, if you step back you lose.”

Capacity is about the strategic management acumen to make smart, hard choices that enable performance. Capacity reflects knowledge, skills, training and experience. Boutaris has made unpopular but effective decisions about budgets, employees, public policy and external relations. He is changing practices with a focus on different and better.

Whether a community, an organization or individual, will and capacity are requisites for change to occur.

Boutaris is undeterred in his reforms. (For more, see NYT Saturday Profile.) To date he has begun recycling programs, resumed relations with Turkey, grown tourism, and instituted unheard of practices at City Hall: job descriptions, goals and evaluations. He has cut city costs by 30%. One man insists on making his hometown a place of progress and growth.

I bet it happens.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Grow Taller and Bolder

March 26, 2012

In a study of 20,000 people, German scientists found a correlation between height and backbone. When it comes to risk, taller people are bolder.

Every day we encourage people to “stand tall” regardless of their vertical measure. Risks are a normal part of work and life. The tough question is: what risk and when. Inevitably, the associated fears and transition are part of leading change.

Very Tall

In 2011, plenty of CEOs and senior managers took risks and will ride out the implications. For example:

  • Microsoft spent $8B to buy Skype
  • Kraft split in two
  • AOL  bet $315M to acquire the Huffington Post
  • Walmart raised prices and added “mini-stores”

In the nonprofit sector, well managed organizations take risks and cite specific results. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) is one example. They have 12 goal-level indicators against a five year strategy. By noting them publicly, the staff and governance take considerable risk, provide transparency and display accountability. Not long ago, United Way of America publicly named specific social benefit targets with a deadline, e.g., fewer high school drop outs. 

Risk & Perspective

Risk is relative. So, a financial adviser has some, but it’s different than a construction worker, soldier or commercial fisherman. Everyone can name a job that they think is riskier than their own. This is good because it provides perspective.

David Ropeik is a Harvard instructor and author of How Risky Is It, Really? He writes about the brain and risk assessment. According to Ropeik just 22 milliseconds after you have “registered” trouble your cortex starts reasoning through the situation. Then, other regions of the brain send signals that begin determining solutions. Activity in emotional centers means a greater willingness for risk, while activity in cognitive reasoning yields more conservative decisions. This is good evidence for employing far more than an emotional response when facing an important decision.  

Inaction Has Cost

When tackling risk, cite your challenge and its remedy. Then, list your upside gains and the potential losses. It is important to be concrete and clear. It’s even better to discuss your thinking with others to check for blind spots and bias. Be sure to profile the opportunity cost – it’s the “price” of inaction.

While some choices have incremental influence, others can reset your organization’s entire trajectory.Although people didn’t buy much during the Great Depression, from 1929 to 1933, refrigerator sales went up 30%. Refrigerators were a highly innovative product. The industry was willing to hire people, invest in research, development and marketing. This savvy (and risky) move was a game-changer.

How tall are you?

No matter your height you do have a backbone. Remember, not taking action can be very risky. Nothing ventured is almost always nothing gained.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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