business strategy

May 2, 2019

The Power of a Digital Mindset

If you want to be a great leader, you absolutely have to develop a digital mindset. It’s the only way you can help your business leverage data and information technologies in the pursuit of growth and profitability.

Why, you ask?

Digital Mindset

Digital Mindset

Digital technology and media are omnipresent in business nowadays. We use it to perform tasks, communicate, collaborate, solve problems, share content and build knowledge. It’s the backbone of effective, efficient and flexible execution.

Every company needs leaders that understand and appreciate the potential of the internet of things, social media, big data, artificial intelligence and data analytics. Not only that, a solid leader must have a propensity to package together these digital technologies in order to drive desired outcomes and unlock hidden value within their companies.

Anything less from its leadership, and a business misses opportunities and risks losing ground in the marketplace. My firm actually developed a digital mindset assessment for that purpose, and I believe such a tool should be part of any hiring or promotion program.

An appropriate digital mindset doesn’t ensure success. However, it does position you to be a great contributor. Similarly, any deficiencies identified through the assessment enables the individual (and organization, if appropriate) to create a development plan that can address the weak spots.

1. Inquisitive

The digital mindset requires open mindedness. Today’s leaders need a thirst to understand all the capabilities that technology has to offer and get energized by the art of the possible.

When first entering the workforce, I had a mentor with an inquisitive mind who was always open to new ideas and nonjudgmental of a person that offered one. He always asked me, “How can technology be applied to make this better?” The technique informs my approach to this day.

2. Ambiguity Amenable

Digital technology is continuing to evolve. Consequently, there’s a lot of uncertainty and opacity that comes with the territory. Today’s leaders need to be comfortable operating in the grey area, constantly pioneering new ways to use technology to enhance employee engagement, drive customer satisfaction and unleash competitive advantage.

Steve Jobs was very at home in grey areas. How else could he have endeavored to create something as seemingly preposterous as a phone that could play music, take pictures and access the Internet–and make a go of it?

3. Technology Adept

There’s no need for leaders to be early adopters of technology, though that would be great. However, they must be practiced in the use of technology and not harbor any fear of it.

I get comments from my team about my fearlessness using technology that I’m not familiar with. They think it’s really something that I’ve designed websites and architected AI-based tools for use in our practice. I don’t consider that particularly pioneering, It’s an important part of leading in the digital age.

4. Digitally Informed

Today’s leaders are expected to be contributing architects to new digital solutions for their businesses, so they must be cognizant of what’s available, what it delivers and how it can be applied to drive business transformation. It’s the only way for leaders to proactively integrate the technology into the daily workflow.

I’m working with a client right now who may be the most digitally informed person that I’ve ever met. He has all the latest gadgets and apps at his fingertips, and knows how to use them in the most unobstructed way. It makes him a terrific leader for the digital age–always on the look-out for how technology can be tamed to drive value for the business.

Likewise, understanding the value of data and how it can be synthesized is key to unlocking additional business potential. It’s by combining digital technology and new information insights that create game changing solutions for companies. Today’s need to be information savvy to do the work needed tomorrow.

5. Future Fixated

A leader with a superior digital mindset possesses an unwavering focus on tomorrow. They keep delighting the customer top of mind and are always thinking of better ways to exceed all expectations through the proper use of technology.

Jeff Bezos is clearly fixated on the future. He’s always looking ahead and determining how technology can be used in new and interesting ways that delight. His startup Blue Origin has a vision of millions of people living and working in space. That’s future fixated!

All told, these six characteristics indicate the underpinnings of the “right” digital mindset to be effective to today’s ultra-competitive business world. You need to identify, develop and place innovative, entrepreneurial, critical thinking leaders who thirst to pull the future forward on behalf of their businesses.

They’ll define tomorrow by combining and harnessing digital technologies in new and exciting ways.

Note: Originally published by Inc. on April 1, 2019

Fun website: trikejournal.com
Feb 6, 2018

Will We Finally Have a Year of the Woman?

With all of the recent sexual harassment scandals coming to the fore, might 2018 be “the year of the woman” – so, they may finally establish an equal footing with men in the workplace?

Year of the Woman? Maybe. From big league entertainment personalities like O’Reilly, Lauer and Hoffman to Hollywood moguls and politicians like Weinstein, Franken and Roy Moore, purported sexual misconduct grabbed the headlines through much of last year.

Besides establishing a scandalous cloud that appears to stretch from coast-to-coast, these stories shined the brightest of spotlights on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. It made many wonder if we might well be on the cusp of fundamental change in the way men and women interact with one another at work. If so, 2018 may be the Year of the Woman.

But, much must change before that can happen. Here are some thoughts about what we have to do as leaders to end sexual harassment in the workplace:

Shift the Power Dynamics: Position power sits as a root cause of much of the sexual harassment that we have been reading and hearing about of late. An intern is harassed by her boss, an aspiring actress by a movie producer etc.

A person that is inclined to harass a subordinate because of their position power (i.e., sleep with me, and you’ll get the job) goes away in flatter, team-based workplaces because the power structures are less prominent and hiring and promotion decisions are spread across a team of people, rather than a single, all powerful decision-maker.

Engage Men in the Process of Change: This may be easier said than done, but, I’m hopeful! I think that there are enough men, like myself, who find these stories of the mistreatment of women repulsive and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop it. Of course, the real work is in identifying and instituting the steps needed to design a culture where harassment is no longer stomached.

Create Tougher Policies: Clearly, we can’t expect stiffer workplace policies to provide the entire solution to our sexual harassment problems. However, they can be an important foundation for instating the cultural changes that need to be made. And these policies have to cut both ways. There must be consequences for both perpetrators and those that falsely accuse.

Provide Better Training: There’s a difference between overhearing an off-color joke and the commission of an unwanted sexual advance. Helping people to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and teaching them techniques for managing those situations (and escalating them, as well), if they should emerge in the workplace can help establish a safer, more agreeable workplace.

Stop Tolerating It. Leadership is not about what you say; it’s about what you tolerate. If you tolerate harassment, of any kind, in the workplace then you probably have a company culture that unwittingly promotes sexual harassment. I’ve seen clients that refuse to discipline, and or, terminate repeat offenders because they believed that the perpetrators were so talented in what they did that they couldn’t be replaced. If that’s how you operate as a leader, you’ll eventually get what’s coming to you.

Are We In The Year of the Woman?

To close, I’m not sure that 2018 will be the Year of the Women. I hope so. But, it seems to me that some men harass women because they’re the type of person that seeks to take advantage of others whenever they can. I’m not sure that this will change much regardless of the coverage that the topic in the media. That said, I do think that there are some things that we can do to make our places of employment better places to work. I hope that these ideas will help you make your workplace better. Reach out if you’d like more information about how I can help you to create a company culture that everyone can respect and celebrate.

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NOTE: Originally published by Inc. on January 2, 2018

My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Dec 9, 2017

McDonald’s Black Friday Marketing: Epic Fail or Nifty Strategy?

The chain apparently neglects to include promo content in Black Friday tweet. Was it a marketing blunder or ingenious tactic? You decide.

Last Friday, McDonald’s tweeted from its @McDonaldsCorp account:

Black Friday **** Need copy and link****”

Interestingly, it seemingly failed to include any promo content in the tweet, leaving readers to wonder was this an epic fail in the marketing department or a deliberate action intended to drum up interest and buzz for the brand. I suppose, the mystery of it all could even inspire some to stop by a McDonald’s store to find out what the promo (if it existed) was all about.

A quick look at the twitter account over the weekend showed that the tweet was still up and that it was garnering quite a bit of attention with over 1.4K in comments and over 66K “likes,” which represents an exceptional response compared to McDonald’s other recent tweets that tend to garner responses in the hundreds, at best.

Deliberate or Opportunistic?

I don’t really want to get to the bottom of it. My guess is that it was a mistake made by some inattentive intern or recent college grad working deep in bowels of the social media unit of McDonald’s marketing department. And, when the error was detected (via the thousands of comments received right after the text hit the street), McDonald’s chose to keep it up because of the interest that it was generating – apparently applying the old adage: “Any publicity is good publicity.”

But, what does it matter? It worked. The tweet generated interest. People were reacting to McDonald’s. Whether the comments were positive or negative (and there were both), there was a buzz. So, regardless if the tweet was deliberate or a mistake that was handled in an opportunistic way, there are a few lessons to glean from McDonald’s Black Friday Marketing approach.

A Few Takeaways For All of Us

What can we take away from all of this? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Look to make lemonade out of lemons – let’s assume that my hunch is correct and McDonald’s made a mistake with this tweet, they didn’t panic. Instead, they rode the wave and made the best of it. As a consequence, guys like me are still writing about it today.
  2. Overreaction to an apparent mistake can be a mistake – had the Company deleted the tweet or, even worse, issued an apology and extended an offer as a means of compensating those confused and frustrated by the tweet (I am intentionally being melodramatic here), it would have probably ended the buzz right on the spot, and we wouldn’t be debating the mystery of it all days later.
  3. Taking calculated risks can pay dividends – let’s assume, I’m off beam with my guess and McDonald’s had deliberately tweeted a tweet with no promo content, it would mean that they were willing to take a risk (e.g., losing some customers because of an erroneous tweet) in the hope of generating some additional interest in the brand. The risk paid off, the tweet is still getting attention.
  4. Vulnerability can be used as a tool – if McDonald’s did tweet with intent, they showed that being a bit vulnerable (i.e., big companies can make a Twitter mistake) can be used as a tool to engender attention. So, showing some vulnerability is OK for your brand.
  5. Match your response to your brand – McDonald’s brand messaging connotes fun and a low-key dining experience. It’s response to this tweet mystery (there’s been no response from the Company at the time that this article was written) is low-key and the lack of a response just makes the whole thing more fun. I guess we can say, McDonald’s is just being McDonald’s, which is a good thing.

To close, McDonald’s is a solid company and a great brand. Whether their tweets are always spot on or recycled gibberish, doesn’t really matter. They still deliver a consistent experience at an unfailing value every time you visit one of their stores. Having an online presence in the fast food industry are table stakes. You best have one. If you can make the shopping / ordering experience even easier through the use of online tools and apps, even better. Accordingly, at the end of the day, a tweet (even one that harvests a lot of attention) isn’t going to make or break the company – it’s just good marketing. Drop me a line, if you’d like some help with your marketing strategies.

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NOTE: This article originally appeared in Inc. on November 27, 2017.

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Nov 21, 2017

Time for a Brand Overhaul at Harley-Davidson

With sales slumping at Harley-Davidson, this iconic American brand needs to recast itself and redefine what it will become in the years ahead

Harley-Davidson announced its third quarter results last month and the news wasn’t great. Harley’s worldwide sales was down nearly 7%, while American retail sales slumped by over 8%. This all translated into about a 40% drop in profits as compared to the year-ago quarter. Prompting its CEO to comment in its earnings press release:

“The continued weakness in the U.S. motorcycle industry only heightens our resolve and the intensity we are bringing to the quest to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders…As the motorcycle industry leader – with dealer strength and rider passion and loyalty like no other – we believe we are uniquely positioned to build ridership and strengthen the sport of motorcycling.”

Clearly, HD’s future rests with that “next generation of Harley-Davidson riders.” The company will not continue to dominate by simply to rely on its current aging customer demographic (of those 45 years and older) to bolster revenue. Many of those people have bought their last Harley.

So, what can Harley do to invigorate brand appeal among Millennials — who are choosing to put their motorcycling dollars into purchasing new Ducati’s, vintage Honda’s (because they are inexpensive and reliable) and other value-laden offerings from the big four Japanese manufacturers?

Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Stop putting heritage before innovation: Millennials don’t care about buying their grandfather’s bike. In fact, they would prefer to set their own trend with completely new designs and styles. Re-imagine what a motorcycle should look like. Think video games and futuristic action movies for inspiration.
  2. Offer safer, first-time rider designs: The lightest offering in the Harley fleet is a 500CC bike that weighs-in at about 500 pounds – that can be a bit intimidating for a first-time rider. Develop some lightweight bikes with smaller frames and engines that a Millennial can learn on and they just may give the brand a try. Like all other HOG enthusiasts, if you catch them while they’re young, they’ll remain loyal as they grow into more competent and confident riders that, in time, buy bigger bikes.
  3. Add more bang-for-the-buck: Yes, you can get into a base-level, stripped down, no bells or whistles Harley for under $10,000. But, that same $10,000 can goes a whole bunch further with any of the Japanese brands – leaving some room in the budget for a comfort seat upgrade or a new leather jacket.
  4. Earn their attention: There’s little a Millennial can’t do with a cell phone and two, good thumbs. Go where they are by establishing a stronger social media presence. BMW, for example, commissioned 60 Instagrammers to tout the brand by posting their BMW motorcycling adventures as a means to establish appeal to the next generation of rider.
  5. Hype the experience: The prospective Millennial buyer is all about collecting varied and stimulating experiences – that’s why they study abroad, seek temporary employment to travel and surf the Internet to learn more about the great big world and what is has to explore. Help Millennials to understand the rich experiential element that riding has to offer and they may be convinced to give it a try.

To close, Harley-Davidson has overcome adversity in the past. As a rider, I believe that they will overcome adversity again. But, it will take some deep reflection and a willingness to change with the times. If your company needs a brand overhaul, reach out! I bet I can help.

NOTE: This article originally was published by Inc. Magazine on 6 NOV 17

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Jun 2, 2017

How A Leadership Fable Makes You a Better Leader

Read a leadership fable if you don’t want to be overburdened with heavy business jargon and over-complicated management ideas

Can a leadership fable make you a better leader? The short answer is Yes! If you don’t want to be overburdened with heavy business jargon and advanced management concepts, a fable can make you a better leader. Consider these management fables:

The Servant

by James C. Hunter

Crafts a tale about a Monk and a businessman to help the reader learn how leadership is about serving those you lead.

Who Moved My Cheese

by Spencer Johnson with Kenneth Blanchard

Presents a story of mice in a maze to drive home the point that attitude matters most in times of great transition.

Our Iceberg Is Melting

by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

Employs penguins on an iceberg as a device to suggest an approach to manage change.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

by Patrick Lencioni

Uses a fictitious CEO to help the reader learn how to overcome obstacles to success.

Each of these books offers great advice through vivid storytelling and easy-to-read and easy-to-relate-to narrative.

Indeed, fables can simplify what textbooks make complex. This style of storytelling can be particularly valuable for young professionals who are early in their leadership careers as well as everyday people who just want to be better leaders in their personal life.

That’s why I wrote, It’s Good To Be King.

I wanted to simplify the message so that leaders of all kinds — whether in business or in the community — can learn and become exceptional leaders. In fact, the book contains over 60 leadership tips which summarized for easy consumption and quick reference at the end of each chapter.

Here is a small sample of the kinds of tips that you’ll find in It’s Good To Be King:

1. New Leaders need to create and share a vivid and compelling vision in order to engage and inspire their people.

2. An “outside-in perspective” can inform what the “new normal” can and should be. Seeing the world from the viewpoint of those that an organization (or the group) serves will enable breakthrough thinking and lead to the delivery of exceptional results.

3. Communication is the key to engagement. Your people need to know where you are, what you want and how you expect them to get there. Be sure to put the right kinds of communication mechanisms in place to keep your group properly informed.

4. It’s almost never too late to right the ship. Even when the situation looks dire and the challenges insurmountable, there may be a path to success that can be discovered through creative thought and perseverance.

5. Taskmasters will devastate self-starters and those with the aspiration to contribute within a collaborative work setting.

6. Being “in it together” is the only way to drive widespread change. People want to be part of something bigger than them. Make a “cause” out of your transformation effort by helping people understand what’s in it for them and they will pull together to make it happen.

To close, regardless of the context in which you lead – at work, in the community, where you volunteer–a fable can make you a better leader. Pick one up, read it and you’ll surely agree!

 Note: This piece was originally published by Inc. on May 8, 2017.
May 15, 2017

James Kerr Asks: So, You Want to Be a Disruptor?

Here are some key questions to answer that can enable the breakthrough thinking needed to re-imagine your products, services and industry

James Kerr asks: “Mesmerized by industry innovators like Google, Apple and Uber, do business leaders of all sorts want to become “disruptors” within their respective industries?” Easier said than done!

Interestingly, the key to unlocking the kind of breakthrough thinking needed to support an aggressive agenda of innovation lies with the leadership and culture of the organization. These are the only elements that can be leveraged to differentiate a firm from its competitors and enable the possibilities required to disrupt an industry.

Why does it come down to leadership and culture? The answer is simple, leadership drives behavior, behavior establishes culture. It’s that simple! So, here are some basic questions to begin to ask yourself about your organization. The answers to these questions will establish the platform from which to disrupt.

On Leadership

1. What are the leader attributes required to drive transformation to achieve your Vision?

2. Which of the attributes do you believe are strengths among your mid-tier management?

3. Which of the attributes do you believe are weaknesses among your Leaders? How would you begin to transform the weaknesses into strengths?

On Culture

1. How is the current culture (beliefs, behaviors, assumptions) facilitating or hindering movement of your teams towards achieving transformation objectives?

2. How are definitions of responsibility, decision-making, and structure facilitating or hindering movement of your teams towards your Vision?

3. How do you navigate competing internal priorities and drive innovation?

On Transformation and Change

1. Do you feel your organization is agile enough to be competitive? Can you move at the speed required to drive change with velocity? If not what needs to be done to increase agility?

2. What is your approach to drive transformation for enhancing the customer experience?

3. What is your strategy to move your team to optimize its interactions with its internal customers?

On Talent and Development

1. Do you think that attracting, inspiring, retaining and deploying top talent is a priority for the firm? What are you doing to facilitate that?

2. How do you develop your team, engage and develop junior levels, show you care?

3. How do you mentor staff to build high performing and diverse teams?

On Client Relationship, Opportunities and Innovation

1. How do you innovate at the firm?

2. How does the firm influence its industry? What more should be done?

3. How do you inspire entrepreneurial thinking and behavior?

On Breaking the Current Paradigm

1. What 3 things should the firm stop doing to enable to achieve your vision?

2. What 3 things should firm do to enable its leaders to accomplish transformation objectives?

3. What keeps you up at night when thinking about the state of your organization? What are you doing about addressing those concerns?

To close, it is important to recognize that these questions are only the beginning for your journey towards creating a culture that can innovate and disrupt. The “fun” begins when an organization commences the hard work to transform. As always, please reach out to me directly if you would like a sounding board to assist you in your efforts.

NOTE: This piece was published by Inc. on March 27, 2017.

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Mar 2, 2017

How to Manage Business Transformation and Keep Your Sanity

Transformation work should be managed as a portfolio of projects and programs

Transforming a business is a lot like changing the tires on a truck while it is slamming down the highway at 90 miles an hour. The business world doesn’t stop just because you need to optimize your operations. No, your business still needs to be able to quickly respond to customer demands with high quality service delivery even when it’s in the midst of great transformation.

In fact, your business must be positioned to implement new capabilities and modify operations on a dime, regardless of what is going on behind the scenes. But, during times of significant change, it is not unusual for work (particularly that which crosses organizational boundaries) to get “hung-up” by resource constraints and political red tape. After all, no one wants to be the one that winds up with the short end of the stick!

How to Manage Business Transformation and Keep Your Sanity?

Clearly, organizing work into a portfolio of projects and programs reduces the obstacles to quick response by offering a different perspective on the way transformation results are achieved. Resource issues and ownership challenges are resolved during the project planning stage, when the executive leadership is present and involved in priority-setting and project sourcing. Done right, transformation project teams will be cross-functional in structure and share common “team-based” goals.

Of course, there are implications for driving change in this way, including:

1. An awareness program will be necessary to expose all of the firm’s personnel to this new way of organizing and performing transformation work within the business. Indeed, the approach will need to be demystified in order to eliminate any possibility of misinterpretations or perception of threat.

2. Portfolio-Based Project Management “Next Practices” must be selected and put into place in order to ensure the smooth implementation of this concept. You will want to be sure that the best approaches to transformation are being adopted to ensure the best possible results.

3. Staff must be properly trained in project management (and their role in project team participation). Like any new skill, your team will need to be taught the basics before you can expect them to perform.

4. The business should be deliberate in establishing a common project management language. In this way, your people won’t miss a beat as the concepts are being institutionalized.

5. Once in place, project management skills must be further developed and nurtured in order to fully realize the potential of this transformation management approach. Indeed, it just the beginning of this new philosophy. So, be prepared to continue to educate and coach.

To close, this new transformation model represents a dramatic departure for most businesses in the way in which the work environment is optimized (i.e., most businesses are organized by function and it is those functional boundaries that dictate the way that work is partitioned, assigned and adjusted over time). But, managing your transformation as a portfolio of projects may be the best way to drive change, while maintaining your sanity.

As always, please feel free to continue to drive the discussion by offering your ideas and comments below or reach-out to me directly. It’s an important topic that deserves more attention.

Feb 2, 2017

Forge A Business Ecosystem

The days of the self-sufficient and self-sustaining business are long gone. Business owners must recognize the need to join forces with other businesses in order to flourish.

Here is simple assumption for you to get your head around: Businesses will always seek to establish new types of partner relationships that clearly define mutual gain for the parties involved. Fairly straight-forward, right?

Of course it is! And, it’s because of this hypothesis that businesses of all sorts and sizes are forging new commercial arrangements with one another. As a result, immense networks of interdependent parties have emerged. In turn, each one of these forms unique ecosystems from which all of the member businesses benefit.

With the continual advancement of technology making inter-business bonding easier, you can be sure that the evolution of these New Economy Ecosystems will continue. That said, as a business owner you’ll need to see how and where you can fit. Here’s why:

Rationale for Ecosystem-Building

The game has changed. The days of the self-sufficient and self-sustaining businesses are long gone. The global marketplace requires businesses to establish highly integrated and cooperative relationships with one another. It rewards speed and flexibility.

Consequently, new inter-company relationships continue to be established in order to help firms respond to changes in their respective markets.

Businesses cannot afford to be an exception. Ecosystems seek to forge new types of relationships with their members that provide economies of scale and greater reach than can be achieved by any single entity on its own. Indeed, joining and contributing to larger ecosystems is essential to survival – especially for smaller businesses.

However, there are several implications that must be considered, including:

1. New strategies will need to be created that can leverage the opportunities that ecosystem participation offers.

2. Similarly, innovation will be a key driver for flourishing within one’s ecosystem. Thus, new ways of thinking and doing will need to be considered and implemented as opportunities to introduce new products and services emerge faster than ever before.

3. As a result, speed counts! Therefore, steps will need to be continually taken within every business to become more agile in order to keep up with the demands of ecosystem partners and their customers.

4. Businesses will have to work with a larger industry community, including competitors, in order to establish new kinds of business arrangements that work within the ecosystem. Exposure of one’s competitive strategies and protection of associated trade secrets will continue to be huge considerations when seeking advantages from ecosystem membership.

5. Existing contracts and agreements may need to be embellished and new rules created, in order to better support the re-definition of attendant business relationships.

6. Lower-level business managers must be on the “look-out” and be prepared to explore new ways of defining their firm’s relationships with the providers that they work with – continuing to be keenly aware of new opportunities to leverage existing partner relationships in novel ways to drive advantage.

7. Front-line staff will need to be trained in contract administration in order to better manage the business relationships that they are responsible for maintaining on behalf of their companies

There is no doubt that, as the new economy continues to evolve, it is imperative for business leaders, regardless of size, to actively seek-out opportunities to participate in broadening their reach and capabilities through participation in business ecosystems. They must recognize the need to join forces in a larger community of players to remain vital and prosperous in the years ahead.

To close, this article only touches the tip of the iceberg regarding business ecosystems. So, please feel free to continue to drive the discussion by offering your ideas and comments below or reach-out directly to me. It’s an important topic that deserves more attention.

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Dec 15, 2016

C-Suite Tip Number 1 – Focus on Your Clay Layer of Leadership

Engage your middle management (a.k.a the clay layer) to secure your strategic success.

We all know about the pyramid structure. It’s a generic way to think about an enterprise and how most are organizationally design. Divided into three layers, the top layer of the pyramid is comprised of the senior-most leaders. These are the people responsible for setting strategic direction and guiding the enterprise towards its future. While certainly concerned with quarterly performance, the leaders at the top of the pyramid must also have a forward-thinking, “Where will we be in 5 years?” kind of mindset.

The middle layer of the pyramid is comprised of the middle management of the organization. These people must be able to interpret the strategic direction set forth by the senior leaders and translate it into actions that the units that report into them can understand and act upon. While these managers certainly care about strategy, their primary focus is this year. Can we do what we need to day this year to reach our goals and objectives?

The lower layer of the pyramid is comprised of supervisors and rank and file. This layer is responsible for execution. Their time frame is much different from the managers and senior leaders. Their point of reference is today. Can we do the work that must be done today, on-time and on-budget? And, they inherently understand, that they will suffer the consequences of poor performance, if they don’t.

So, when it comes time to roll-out your next key strategy, where do you begin? In the middle, of course!

The middle management team makes or breaks strategic execution! As mentioned, they’re the ones that must interpret the strategies and translate them into something that is actionable by the rank and file. If they fail to do this well, the organization falters, resources are squandered and, unfortunately, many times heads roll.

Here are 3 essential tips to get them on-board (and, by doing so, improve your chances for success in the launching your firm’s next strategic initiative):

  • Tell and Teach: Think about it, you’re asking your mid-tier managers to act as teachers. And, to teach well, they must first understand. So, commit to establishing the understanding that they’ll need to help the rest of your organization grasp and commit to your vision and strategic plan. Do all that you can to help them comprehend all of the content and nuances of those strategic elements so that they can do a bang up job of translating them for your people.
  • Jump-Start The Messaging: Don’t leave it up to your middle management to determine how they will go about the work of interpretation and translation for their teams. Instead, take the time to think about all of the implications and likely actions that you would want them and their people to tackle in helping the organization execute its strategies. Craft a template for them to use to deliver the message.
  • Orchestrate The Cascading: Once you equip your managers with the requisite know knowledge and messaging content they can begin to cascade the message throughout the rest of the organization. However, they may not do this in an disciplined and rigorous way. So, be sure to orchestrate cascading of the information by establishing a roll-out schedule that details when the managers will will do the work of strategic messaging.

After all, you want to make certain that all of your organization understands the company vision, strategies and, most importantly, their roles in the subsequent execution and achievement of your goals and objectives. If you can do this, you will have done your job.

To close, senior leaders need to focus on the middle of their organizations in order to achieve their strategic intentions. If you can engage the middle management, they will do the rest. If you don’t, your strategic execution will fall flat. It’s really as simple as that!

Note: If you like this article, which was published by Inc.com on October 31, 2016, please subscribe to my Inc. column.

 

My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

 

Sep 6, 2016

Next Practices: How to Get to What Happens Next

Every organization flaunts their Best Practices. But, outstanding Companies define Next Practices – those things that set them apart in the short-term and define the standard of excellence for the long-term.

All of my strategy, culture and organizational design work over the years comes down to one thing – enabling my clients to differentiate themselves from their competitors so to dominate the markets that they serve. Consequently, the topic of industry best practices always comes up. Most leaders want to be sure that their organizations are remaining competitive within their industry. While the desire appears sound in principle, it’s flawed by design.

The fact is the adoption of industry best practices will only let you run with the pack. But, defining and adopting Next Practices will enable the breakthrough thinking needed to disrupt and redefine your markets. My firm has developed a framework for doing this. Let’s take a look at the 5 principles that makes up the framework needed to define your Next Practices.

1. Drop the de-facto culture and develop a Culture By Design: Don’t copy; create. Culture is a strategic imperative that must be created and transformed by design not by default. Be deliberate in creating a work environment that enables and empowers your team to achieve and exceed your firm’s vision.

2. Embrace your difference and focus more on offense than defense: Think opportunity management, not risk management. Think strategic investment, not cost containment. Know what you do better than the rest and use those leverage points to redefine the game.

3. Invigorate velocity by working past implementation concepts and focus on delivery strategies: Implementation is process, delivery is advantage. Establish a business mindset that believes in agility, velocity, and high impact delivery – impeccable product and service delivery has the power to differentiate your firm from all the rest.

4. Don’t just play the game, keep scoring: Move from long implementations to quick wins. Put points on the board and then look to score again. Velocity and momentum matter. Beat your competition on the future by setting the pace of play and exceeding your customer’s expectations.

5. Drive direction-setting and change through omnipresent leadership: Strategic success depends on critical mass commitment not forced compliance. Setting expectations is gamesmanship – aligning them is leadership. Be sure that your leaders understand your direction and are aligned with it. When leaders are aligned, they can be counted on to make the “right” decisions most of the time.

To close, this framework is only the beginning of doing the work that is needed to differentiate your firm from your competitors so you can dominate the markets that you serve. However, understanding and embracing this framework is essential to driving deep the changes that make a difference into your organization. Businesses that strive to do this are the ones that set the standard of excellence for everyone else. I hope that you consider leveraging this model when working to redefine how you do what you do.

NOTE: This piece was originally published by INC. on August 15, 2016.

Copyright 2019 James M. Kerr       info@executive‑checklist.com       800‑944‑4662