Posts Tagged ‘challenge’

Unreasonable Progress

March 25, 2014

kamprad

It’s a well-known brand with great appeal to a broad range of consumers. IKEA is among the world’s most successful mass-market retailers. It sells affordable Scandinavian-style home furnishings and other home goods in 33 countries.

The founder, Ingvar Kamprad, profiles an “unreasonable” man who has generated important progress.

A brilliant strategist, Kamprad realized that a large part of furniture costs were in its assembly. So, he sold unassembled furniture and shipped it cheaply to customers in flat boxes. It was a huge change and a big success. However, his industry peers were furious with this innovation. In retaliation, they launched a boycott of IKEA and the company faced ruin.

Undaunted, Kamprad looked across the Baltic Sea to Poland which had far cheaper labor and plenty of wood. Although Poland was in Communist chaos in the 1960s, he made connections and tenaciously developed the infrastructure necessary to manufacture. Despite being labeled a “traitor,” he persevered.

Considered a renegade, time has proven his vision and principles have game-changing results. IKEA’s net profits in 2012-13 were $4.5 billion. Kamprad was open to imagining new approaches and he was able to challenge common preconceptions. He was “disagreeable” – meaning he was willing to take social risks to do things that others might disapprove. He also had the discipline and persistence to implement his ideas. Kamprad was both an innovator and a revolutionary.

George Bernard Shaw captures the character of change-leaders like Kamprad well: “The reasonable person adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable person.”

Want to get farther faster? Consider the risk and return for being “unreasonable.”

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

Five Growth Factors

November 12, 2012

In Pablo Casals’ later years, a young reporter asked: “Mr. Casals, you’re 95 years old and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours every day?” Casals replied: “Because I think I’m making progress.”

Intentional efforts to develop our own potential are important precursors to success. Capable, mature leaders are reflective, self aware and intentional about their own preparation. Consider what these five c-words mean for your growth:

Character. Over the long haul, people inevitably fail when integrity wavers. Ethics in leadership are an essential basic. For nearly 30 years, researchers have surveyed over 75,000 people on 6 continents to determine what they admire in leaders. The overwhelming attribute that always matters most? Honesty. Effective people are clear about principles. They’re integral to great potential. Character is ambition with internal guidance. Stand rock-strong on values.

Consistency. Choosing constructive routines requires self discipline. Good habits assure productive activity and are part of both efficiency and effectiveness. Small, smart choices are consistent bits of progress. In our office, we often say “DIN” and “Eat the frog.” DIN translates to “do it now.” And, “eat the frog” signals that we ought to tackle the least desirable work first. Once we get past the “hard part,” everything else feels easy. Both maxims support a habit of urgency which helps us accomplish lots each day. Build great habits.

Challenge. Rubber bands, like people, fulfill their potential when stretched. While choices to pursue challenges can be uncomfortable they are essential to growth. Renowned pastor Robert Schuller asked: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Discovering your capabilities requires risk and change. Choose stretch goals.

Curiosity. People who spend lots of energy learning – ask questions – both  direct and rhetorical. A passionate, abundant curiosity fuels growth and development. This means you are willing to be vulnerable. Be sure to welcome questions from others, too. Exploration, imagination and discovery all require curiosity. Ask “why?” often.

Contribution. John Maxwell, a leadership coach and author says, “Be a river.” He explains that a river flows…what it receives it gives away. This perspective means you must give time, expertise, and resources to others without expectation of anything in return. The attitudes and actions of a contributor are generous. Be other-centered; foster the development of people through creating opportunities, your example, coaching, and feedback. If you are a leader, your actions impact others. Helping others grow should be part of your plan. Live usefully.

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.

From the Playbook: Watch and Listen

April 8, 2012

 

 

 

 

If you made a list of people to learn from – who would you identify and why?

Besides formal education and experience, observing others can be a huge part of learning. Seasoned author and editor John Byrne (Business Week, Fast Company and Fortune) turned his list of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs into a fascinating book, WorldChangers. His criteria included social and economic impact, world-changing vision, inspirational power, innovation and enterprise performance.

Whether social or business outcomes are your aim, there are some terrific lessons in the profiles Byrne provides. From Byrne’s full list, I’ve picked a few people and their key contributions:

To innovate, Steve Jobs (at Apple) did not use focus groups and market research. He didn’t bother to ask consumers. Instead, he led a company that delivered what consumers wanted, “insanely great” products.

To usher in the personal computer revolution and tackle social challenges, Bill Gates (at Microsoft & his Foundation) is very careful about selecting his staff, business partners, and allies.

To extend logistics and customer reach, Fred Smith (at FedEx) applied his VietNam Marine Corp experiences to integrate operations and ensure proximal support in delivery systems.

To drive new ways for people to purchase goods, Jeff Bezos (at Amazon) quit a good job to launch an e-commerce effort that he is managing for growth and customer service instead of profit, intentionally.

To revive a failing brand, after an 8-year absence, Howard Schultz (at Starbucks) restored financial discipline and focus to a company that had become irrelevant to consumers.

My interpretation of these exemplars identifies important principles for success in managing and leading. In relative order, here’s what I learned:

(1) Deliver what’s needed, it assures  sustainability. (Jobs)

(2) Pick great people (and partners), they matter more than anything else. (Gates)

(3) Get close recon from trusted sources, precise knowledge of context before action is vital. Discard gossip. (Smith)

(4) Take risk and time for retreat, grounded and clear thinking is vital in a complex, highly dynamic workplace. (Bezos)

(5) Consistently challenge, pursue a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo. (Schultz)

I emphasized the Gates lesson  because if you don’t get that right –the others have far less influence. These potent messages have the promise to deliver great returns for organizations, big and small.

 –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

Safe & Sound At Work

February 5, 2012

This photo displays the  teamwork that’s essential  to complete a tough job.

Would you risk your life with people at work?

Perhaps more relevant: Is trust or fear most prevalent in your workplace? Are there non-stop “plays” about whose influence will prevail and who you will support?

Safety is a vital issue and key to culture in our organizations. The “safety” I reference has little to do with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. It has everything to do with integrity and accountability. About a year ago I read a great interview with Dominic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks. He talked about one management principle he relies on and its benefits. The principle is intellectual honesty.

Less Politics

Orr has intentionally built a culture which yields a competitive advantage for his organization. This CEO stomps on politics at work. Politics are practically about who gets what. A classic definition is “the acquisition of power.”

Orr considers politics  a distraction that requires great energy to perpetuate and manage. He is very aware of human nature and says politics precludes focus. Without accountability, the challenges of any enterprise can easily be translated to ego that involves defending roles, “territory,” statements or actions.

He insists on (and models) behavior which supports  far more vital concerns. Simply put and publicly stated: “less politics.” Politics, according to Orr, are about ego and defending positions – when humility and exploration that ensures learning serves both relationships and results far better. He “breaks up potential blocks of ice that may become icebergs” in his organization.  Instead, pressure is on clear, crisp expectations and measureable milestones.

Banished Inhibitions

So, what’s his action recipe?  Orr encourages plenty of feedback to preclude any inhibitions about sharing perspective and authentic contributions . He seeks unfiltered and active comment about how he (and others) manage. It is safe for employees to speak up, to contribute and to challenge.

He also freely provides candid, private guidance to employees.  So that staff know energy and attention is on the issue – not the person – emails may include sections that indicate: “start of intellectual honesty moment” and close with “end moment.” Orr tells people to avoid “digging in” on their perspective.

Although individuals are held accountable, far better decisions get made when multiple views get aired and rational criterion applied. An environment that prizes intellectual honesty allows this to happen. It feels safe. It also enables reflection as a routine habit so that both learning and progress occurs. Without the discipline of candor, parallel drama about who’s up and who’s down is fostered and the real work can’t get much attention.

People Trip Sometimes

Recently, the news carried a big story about a cruise ship running aground. “I tripped and fell in the lifeboat,” said the Italian captain who departed a sinking ship prematurely. Obviously, fear and chaos can influence judgment. In this case, the captain probably thought an honest response was too risky. But, his manufactured retort simply garnered more scorn.

All of us are momentarily “stupid” – sometimes. Judgment lapses and in time we feel foolish about a bad choice. The critical issue is how we act next. Disclosure that acknowledges the error, whether caused by emotion, pressure or some other factor, shows humanity. It can endear you to others and build strong bonds.

Seek Mind-Share

Creating a safe culture means there is authentic trust, interdependence and accountability. It is an indicator of a sound organization. The world and our work is so complex we must engage mind-share and commitment at work – not simply time. Leaders who manage well set the example of intellectual honesty. This provides the conditions for people, organizations and communities to soar.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect 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 : www.pwkinc.com

Looking at Leadership

November 13, 2011

 

It’s not always easy to quickly and clearly distinguish managing from leading. They are different, but talented people can do both. A conscious commitment to work on specific competencies can yield growth.

While there’s some overlap, there are unique factors, too. Management nearly always references a supervising role with organizational accountabilities. Leadership is far broader in its application and is independent of a job title.

Leadership is the ability to influence others. It can reflect multiple dimensions. Someone holding a management position should, but may not exhibit leadership. In many organizations, this is often the case. When leadership is absent the opportunity cost is large for several reasons: lackluster results and a poor example that gets imitated. Organizations perform better when key staff can both manage and lead.

INSEAD’s 12 Factors

If you’re intentional about leadership development, here’s just one valid way to think about skills and knowledge. INSEAD, a highly regarded and leading educator, created the GELI (Global Executive Leadership Inventory). GELI relies on a 360-degree assessment from others. It has twelve factors:

 1. Envisioning. Articulates a compelling vision, mission, strategy.

2. Empowering. Enables others via delegation and sharing the right information well.

3. Energizing. Supports and motivates others.

4. Design & Aligning. Can “see” parameters and points of intersection for action.

5. Feedback. Can advise in the development of others.

6.Team Building. Guides others, shows courage, offers counsel to cooperative efforts.

7. Outside Orientation. Reads and interprets external data for internal application.

8. Global Mindset. Liaisons across cultures, assists parts with the whole.

9. Tenacity. Takes risks and shows consistent courage.

10. Emotional Intelligence. Fosters trust through example. Demonstrates self-awareness, respect, understanding.

11. Life Balance. Pursues multiple interests and passions beyond work.

12. Resilience. Seeks challenge and accountability, handles stress and pressure.

If your colleagues and “customers” completed a survey instrument – How would you rate? Where are your strengths and weaknesses? We can often learn a great deal by looking in the mirror, first.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

The Size and Speed of Change

May 24, 2011

 

Recently, a professor and a marketing consultant, suggested creating a $300 house. They punted it up publicly. The response has been overwhelming. Their target could transform the lives of millions of desperately poor children and families across the globe. If it happens – it is a breakthrough innovation.

This goal challenges what’s feasible, alters expectations and prompts innovation. These are vital levers for big, fast change. Name the intended result, assemble the case, articulate the implications. Then, gather the knowledge, skills, insights, experience, enthusiasm and possibilities for strategy and execution.

 Progress & Pace

Reflect for a moment on two dimensions of change – scale and time. A continuum of scale could cover polar ends: from none (simply preserving  the status quo) to boldly disruptive. A range for time can span from instant to perpetuity. What’s a “fair” expectation for progress and pace?

An insulated and isolated organization (or community) may not make much progress year after year. The adjacent possible is severely oppressed and any change comes grudgingly.  Even incremental, minor movement may be difficult. Although essential to growth and vitality, substantial change won’t happen until there are new people with different training, experience, expectations and habits. Moreover, disruptive change doesn’t occur until there’s a sudden tip point, often the result of a power shift.

 The Best Attitude

“Let’s go slow to go fast” is commonly said in organizations that must improve. This can translate to “I’m risk averse” or let’s quietly move the goal posts. Alternatively, it  may mean there needs to be more knowledge, skills and trust to do the work ahead. Sometimes it is appropriate – sometimes not. If for-profit organizations don’t change fast – it’s certain they will fail. Current and emerging marketplace competitors ensure that. Although far less sensitive to market forces, non-profits must adapt to perform, too.

Many organizations affect internal culture by clearly describing expected attitudes. For example, a “humility and a hunger to learn” is one of several Kellogg Company leadership values.  The San Diego Food Bank operates with an “acute sense of urgency.” ConAgra identifies simplicity, accountability and collaboration as key internal principles. Nestle wants a “willingness to learn” commitment among their employees. All of these declarations signal an environment which supports change.

 Target & Timing

If nearly anything is possible: What’s your stretch goal? What’s the deadline? Perhaps a 28% return on investment or no domestic violence for one month. Maybe, in six months, it’s a $25 toilet or no drunk driving in your county. By 2014, what about a 60% reduction in teen pregnancy, creating a $1,000 car, or every high school graduate in your town will be college-ready.

Thought leadership can be an essential prompt for the size and speed of change. We know most people are deeply motivated by satisfaction and results. By specifying an audacious goal and deadline, expectations for scale and pace are set. Why not start with these?

 –Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Intrigued? Tap this link for more information on a $300 house.

Visual Thinking: Draw Your Challenge

November 30, 2010

Public education reform, global warming, civic engagement and water quality are all critical and complex problems. They aren’t solved easily, in part, because they represent systems. Each includes many features that interact. These big challenges and others are tough to tackle in long, complex narrative. Simply the time required for an adequate description, let alone new or different concepts, are obstacles.

Visual-thinking guru Dan Roam agrees. He says our culture relies too heavily on words. Roam has gained notoriety for his “napkin pictures” depicting players, benefits and burdens of the US healthcare system.

We know from our own experience that “visual thinking” – essentially, drawing problems can help solve them. It is also an efficient process to create shared understanding.

Drawing Mental Maps
Logic models are just one kind of picture that show a mental map. In these drawings, theories of change which articulate strategies and results are displayed. Imagine a two-part graphic with these words separated by an arrow in a picture: better nutrition, more exercise and frequent meditation on one side (the “do”) and weight loss (the “get”) opposite those words at the end of the arrow. This picture conveys a simple relationship clearly.

In more precise drawings, program logic models use a recipe of elements that can be tested for plausibility, feasibility and strategy. These models are both a tool and a process for “testing” ideas before financial resources, plans, partnerships and other capital are committed.

Last year, Cynthia Phillips and I wrote The Logic Model Guidebook: Better Strategies for Great Results (Sage,2009). It is used by highly effective organizations like the World Bank, Harvard University, Centers for Disease Control and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation which employ logic models as a standard operating process. This book is also used to train undergraduates and graduate students in design, planning, management and evaluation.

Powerful Pictures

Although formal education, politics and text promotes verbal skills, positioning and linear thinking – they may be inadequate for the knotty social, organizational, political and economic challenges we face. Pictures, with and without words, offer a powerful antidote for grasping what’s not easily digested in paragraph after paragraph of copy.

Cartoonists have long known the power of images to convey humor. Architects and builders have used blueprints with great success. Increasingly, new visual formats are options to display problems and create remedies. Wordles, Google Map mashups and online animations are emerging examples of visual thinking.

We listen and talk a lot in our work… Dialogue is critical to understanding and posing improvements. We also draw – nearly every day. When’s the last time you drew a picture at work?

-Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also a W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. For more, see : http://www.pwkinc.com


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