Posts Tagged ‘risk’

Provoking Progress

March 7, 2013

ninja

Goal success relies on some critical attributes and practices. Research suggests discipline, strategy, adaptation, decisiveness, and will matters. To deliver breakthroughs and be “out front,” leaders need to be agile, creative risk-takers. All of these factors can contribute to progress or innovation.

Innovation can be understood in three types: evolutionary, revolutionary and disruptive.

Evolutionary refers to improvement in a current market that can be expected. For example, in health care more nurse-delivered care is evolutionary.

Revolutionary refers to improvement that’s not expected. For example in dentistry, dental therapists may be certified and licensed to replace dentists in some care settings.

Disruptive refers to improvement that is unexpected and lots more. It can create new customers, competitors, value and a marketplace previously unidentified. For example, the application of networking and information technology to healthcare has (and will) generate new enterprise. Sensors or robotics that assist patients in specific ways can prevent new costs and complications.

Some change can be replication with “tweaks” or evolutionary. But, there’s lots of room for both revolution and disruption as you (with others) imagine, plan and deliver results. Generating innovation requires new attitudes, thinking and processes.

Gary Shapiro’s latest book, “Ninja Innovation” calls out some important qualities associated with success. Ninjas were spies for the Japanese noble class and valued for skills and training. They were smart and adept professionals. A contemporary US counterpart might be Special Forces personnel.

A few of Shapiro’s ninja innovation characteristics are:
• A ruthless dedication to secure the goal.
• Building the right, great team.
• A disciplined attitude with unwavering focus on the goal.
• Environmental sensing and adjustments to plan.
• Both risk-taking and rule breaking with ethics.

As an agent for change, your choices and actions catalyze others. The factors that can influence individual and organization success are intertwined. We each have direct control of our own attitudes, knowledge, skill and behavior. Where’s the ninja in you?

-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.

Lessons From The Bread Guy

August 12, 2012

Whole grain or white ?

If you don’t eat there – it’s likely you’ve seen the Panera Bread name. Ron Shaich is the founder, chairman and co-CEO. He’s running an immensely popular chain of bakery-cafes. It’s a growing business and trend-setter in “quick casual” dining. I think he’s a fascinating manager-leader with lessons to share.

Why?

People: The Weighted Factor

While his first and early interest was profit — his primary one, now, is people. He believes how they are organized and work together mean everything to organization performance. This guy tells applicants in interviews they have a shared objective: value.  How can the individual and the employer provide mutual value to each other? He considers the interview an important chance to relax traditional exchanges and identify the intersection of an individual’s skills with their potential to make a contribution.

Key to the Panera Bread culture is a rule: no jerks.  Shaich says that his “no jerk” rule started out as a more precise anatomical reference but has been sanitized. As important, he focuses his team on  tangled, tough work with optimism and mastery. He welcomes complex challenges because tackling them yields a competitive advantage. He reasons:  if the work is simple, then any other organization can do it well, too.

Delivery & Discovery Muscles

In a recent New York Times interview, Shaich offers insights on an effective organization.  He says how work gets done is the “delivery muscle.’” Shaich calls improvement and innovation efforts the “discovery muscle.” While the delivery muscle is feels safe, analytic and rational, he believes it frequently overwhelms strategies and related decisions. He thinks this muscle can encourage disconnected roles and functions internally.

He believes companies and other organizations often err because the discovery muscle is under-developed . The discovery muscle sees new patterns and approaches. It represents getting ahead of current thinking and leaps of faith that trust instinct and pursue risk. The discovery muscle forces focus on the whole organization and responsive action with a forward view.

Learning Requires Inquiry

Shaich considers his style a combination of both directed and adaptive. He is consistently reflective. In his own words: “I am constantly asking about everything – what works and what doesn’t.”  The Panera recipe is successful. In short, it looks like this: great talent, mastery, lots of questions, and balanced muscles.

This leader is a learner who discovers and delivers.

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

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

Understanding & Influencing Choices

July 18, 2011

The Social Animal, a new book by David Brooks, asks: “Who are we? We are like spiritual Grand Central Stations. We are junctures where millions of sensations, emotions and signals interpenetrate every second. We are communications centers, and through some process we are not close to understanding, we have the ability to partially govern this traffic …We become fully ourselves only through the ever-richening interplay of our networks.”

Influences on Choice

Rodin’s thinker represents humanity. We consider ourselves thinking individuals separated from other animals by the power of reason. Choices are a big part of the reasoning we accomplish  each day – all day long. Brooks’ book provides some interesting features of our unconscious abilities.  He posits that our failure to cultivate moral and emotional faculties, our individual character, emotions and intuitions have huge opportunity cost.

Underneath any choice is architecture comprised of a set of structures  that defines  options. Logic consists of “if, then” sequences. For example, if we exercise often and eat well, then we’ll have good health. Your leadership can influence critical elements in choice architecture which will, ultimately, influence team and organization performance. “Priming” is one point of intervention  and “anchoring” is another.

Priming & Anchoring

Research shows that perceptions can influence people and then alters their  actions. This is priming. So, if you tell your staff to about a team that delivered results (“nimble,” innovative” and “successful”) they will perform better than they would without hearing the story. Likewise negative references oppress achievement. There is power in setting a positive tone and pointing out positive examples.

Anchoring is another helpful technique with teams. Because humans process information in context, it is important to be aware of mental patterns of relativity. Defining a commonly held understanding or “anchoring” is vital to integrated processes because it assures everyone has a shared idea of the intended goals or vision. For example, a “rich life” could be understood as holding substantial financial assets. However, some might consider it reflects good health or many intimate relationships (or both). Without an anchor or shared understanding, collective progress may be at great risk. Do you specify ideas, goals or practices in ways that ensure success? Do you intentionally minimize the potential for  multiple interpretations, assumptions and perspectives that interfere?

Other important factors that influence choices include: framing, expectations, inertia, arousal and loss aversion. They are all present and in dynamic play when working with others. These unconscious biases come to work every day.

 –Lisa Wyatt, 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

Making Progress: Costs and Risks

April 17, 2011

 

Before effective treatments were known for pneumonia and whooping cough, children died frequently in hospital wards. Every morning, hospitalized children would wake and ask about missing  friends: “Where did Charlie go?” The nurses’ common refrain was “He went home.” It was understood that home meant they’d died. The only way to preserve hope was to deny reality.

This poignant story is in Margaret Heffernan’s book, Willful Blindness. Across multiple sectors, cultures, and over time, she provides some thoughtful insights.   

 Shortcuts Are Costly

The Holocaust, Enron and MCI meltdowns, Madoff’s rip-off, Wall Street malfeasance, slavery and the Catholic Church’s sidestep of abusive priests  were all  man-made disasters. Why? Each reflected huge moral shortcuts. Harm was known but many preferred to ignore it. Daring to question an institution or a person can mean a loss of security. It is risk-taking.

 While denial can be a great coping strategy, it ought to be stricken from the quiver of accountable managers and leaders. It makes people and organizations “sick.” It has big costs. If your aim is creating change, there are many “uncomfortable truths” that require attention. To improve organizational performance and support growth, acknowledgement and action are essential.

 Big Progress

Big change can happen. The Marshall Plan is a historical example. It recast a large multi-country region and it’s future through the right work by and with important allies. George Kennan, a diplomat and architect of the Plan wrote about his agony and frustration in this change work. The effort to birth a great and bold plan was very, very difficult.

 More recent examples of important and intentional development efforts are creation of the European Union and reconciliation in South Africa . Step one is a close look at reality —  to understand and define  the current status. Sighting a feasible way forward depends on it. Heffernan writes that “unanimous decisions are incomplete…there is too much power…obedience…and conformity.” She counsels , if just one solution is visible, look again.

 The New Normal & Best Tactics

The high stress created by information overload, an excruciating fast pace, tremendous competition and/or an urgent mission does not excuse distance from moral reflection.  The preceding description of context is the new normal. And, it is present in any workplace or community. An analysis of the perilous implications from past ignorances can inform better tactics. Consider these :

  •  Look for what you cannot see. Many have said we didn’t foresee the catastrophe of 9/11 happening because were  weren’t looking for it. The information about it was present but we didn’t pay attention to it. Intentionally work to distinguish the trivial from the serious.
  •  Trust your intuition. It is well known that one indicator of useful critical thinking is discomfort. Your intuition provides inklings and suspicions – give it credit.
  •  Act sooner rather than later.  Before the stakes get big and stakeholders are deeply invested is the best time to raise questions. A failure to intervene early can feed the momentum of bad choices.

 Look, test, then act. People , organizations, communities  are desperate for leadership. Demonstrating integrity, the courage to meet the demands of reality, is directly connected to effectiveness.  Securing progress and sustainable results means you see both the risks of denial and the power of the truth.

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


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