Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fact: The world focuses on Strategy and not Execution!

It goes without saying that I am huge proponent of the execution of strategy and not simply strategy per se. As Morris Chang (CEO of TSMC)  said, “Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.”

I have noted previously, that there is a continual focus on strategy in management and academic literature and very little in the way of execution. Well now thanks to the wonders of technology and in particular Google's Ngram Viewer we can now see the facts behind this claim.

Below is a chart of a comparison of the words Strategy and Execution that occurred in English books published between the years 1800 and 2008 (I was unable to produce a chart up to 2011).

Click chart for a detailed view

A picture tells a thousand words!

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's time to ban 'Blackberry Behavior'!

'Blackberry Behavior' definition: A manner in which a user responds to an email with a one word reply.

People listen..."Just because you send it from a blackberry (or other device - even your pc) a one word email is not acceptable!".

I have had enough of one word emails. And I am delighted to say that it turns out I am not the only one.

I have noticed a correlation between the more senior a manger becomes (particularly in their own mind) the shorter their emails become. This seems to be corroborated in an article from Online The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) titled Five Signs You're a Bad Boss, where the first sign listed was "Most of your emails are one word long".

Interestingly enough I have also noticed that managers who are particularly respected by their employees have a tendency not to write the one word emails.

For whatever reason there seems to be some sort of acceptance that sending an email from a mobile device in particular - Blackberry being the Godfather of email from the mobile device - that one word emails are OK. No, wrong etc etc... again "Just because you send it from a blackberry (or other device - even your pc) a one word email is not acceptable!"

If you search "email etiquette" in Google you are provided a plethora of content that points to the demise of basic communication standards. I think the example given in the WSJ article provides an excellent example of the pathetic standard set by even more pathetic managers:

"When Christina Marcus emailed an idea for a project to a former boss, he responded "Y." Thinking he was questioning her idea, she spent 20 minutes crafting a response. Turns out, the "Y" meant "yes," not "why." " Ms. Marcus eventually left the firm."

So what can we do to improve this blight on society. Simple:
  1. companies could create email etiquette policies that ban one word emails
  2. mobile device makers and the email software providers could make sending one word emails impossible
  3. anyone typing an email could use common sense (and heaven forbid, some manners)!!!
For those reading this and thinking no one could misinterpret one word emails, I would like to point you to a great blog article and suggest you to try a little reflection: 

Friday, September 16, 2011

How do you define success?

It is interesting how people define success. Here are two poems that give a slightly different view of defining success in one's life.

Poem 1:
Inaccurately attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson*

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Poem 2:
Author Unknown

                         At age 4, success is...not peeing in your pants.
                            At age 12, success is...having friends.
                               At age 16, success is...having a driver's license.
                                 At age 20, success is...having sex.
                                  At age 35, success is...having money.
                                   At age 40, success is...finding meaning & purpose to life.
                                   At age 45, success is...finding meaning & purpose to life.
                                At age 50, success is...having money.
                             At age 60, success is...having sex.
                          At age 70, success is...having a driver's license.
                       At age 75, success is...having friends.
                    At age 80, success is...not peeing in your pants.

Isn't life a funny thing :)

*If you are interested in reading further about the origins of the Poem titled "Success" and the original author Bessie Anderson Stanley see: link

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You cannot cut yourself to growth!

I recently attended a Turnaround Management Association (TMA) conference that whilst many would find uninspiring (i.e. my wife), I found very interesting. As with so many conversations and presentations related to discussing a Turnaround, you will often hear the phrase "stop the bleeding". Typically this refers to stopping a cash hemorrhage on a business that is putting the company in financial distress. And, again, typically, this will lead to considerable cost cuts in the business to reduce the cash outflow.

Whilst I firmly support the need to cut costs where necessary, should a company be in financial distress, this is only a short term solution. Quite simply:

"You cannot cut yourself to growth!"

Underpinning any Turnaround effort is the need for a growth strategy. Simply cutting costs when competitors are actively trying to capture market share is a recipe for disaster. Don't get me wrong I have no issue with a smaller, leaner organisation coming out of a cost reduction program however this in itself does not create a sustainable advantage.

From a timing perspective, "stopping the bleeding", needs to be undertaken as quickly as possible where a company is in financial distress. In part, the benefit of stabilizing the cash flow situation is to allow the organisation breathing space to develop a growth strategy. This is particularly relevant where companies are in  a critical and often sudden state of financial distress.

Remember at the end of the day it is called a Turnaround and not a Standstill. At the forefront of any Turnaround professionals' mind must be a focus on reducing costs and setting the business on a path for growth. Simply cutting costs does not grow the business. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Are you a Bad Leader?

Leadership is a contentious issue. As journalists all over the world poured praise on Steve Jobs after his decision to retire as CEO of Apple, the question of his leadership style also generated its fair degree of scrutiny (Forbes article).

A quick check at Harvard Business Review shows that searching using the word "Leadership" generates 7404 results, including:
HBR's 10 Must Reads on Leadership
Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership
Leadership That Gets Results
and so on and so on and so on.....

However what fascinates me is that the majority of the materials written all suggest ways and means for one to become a great leader. However very little appears to be dedicated to the opposite i.e. Bad Leadership.

Of the very little that has been written on this subject Barbara Kellerman's book Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters is a standout (for me anyway). Kellerman outlines seven types of Bad Leadership:
  1. Incompetent: lacks the will or skill (or both) to sustain effective action with regard to at least one important leadership challenge 
  2. Rigid: stiff and unyielding; unable or unwilling to adapt to new ideas, new information, or a changing of the landscape 
  3. Intemperate: lacks self-control 
  4. Callous: uncaring or unkind; ignores or disregards the needs, wants, and wishes of others, especially subordinates 
  5. Corrupt: lies, cheats, or steals; puts self above any other interest 
  6. Insular: minimizes or disregards the health and welfare of anyone outside the group or organization for which they are directly responsible 
  7. Evil: outright disregard for even the human worth of others; egregious inhumanity. 
So why is it that so little is written about the subject of Bad Leadership. Is it because by nature we humans are naturally optimistic and hence are not interested in understanding a negative view of a positive subject? Or is it because we see Bad Leadership everyday whether it be at work or watching the daily dose of political madness and hence have little interest in understanding what we see everyday? In other words we crave a positive understanding of leadership because we simply do not see enough of it in our daily lives.

I have a big problem with the lack of focus on Bad Leadership and the continual focus on 'how to become a great leader'. I liken it to going to the doctor. Imagine telling the doctor you want to get better but you don't want to know what is wrong. By ignoring the traits of Bad Leadership we ignore what needs to improve. By focusing only on the notion of improving our leadership abilities we do not focus on negative areas that may need addressing.

So now for a little soul searching. Are you a Bad Leader?