Hank Moore

The Big Picture of Business – Business Lessons to be Learned from the Enron Scandal

This is my own Big Picture full-scope analysis of the Enron debacle. It far transcends financial analysis made by other people.I have been carefully observing Enron with interest since 1984 and have seen the trouble coming for most of those years. The company cried ‘case study’ from the very beginning, when it segued from the former Houston Natural Gas moniker. I have been chagrined as to why people could not or would not see through the facade. But, human nature being what it is, people are more easily duped than they are taught to appreciate the attributes of quality and substance.

I once had a client who felt that he owed Ken Lay a favor. Thus, when Lay (CEO of Enron) was chairing a charity drive, Lay asked for 100% participation from the client’s firm, and the client reciprocated by edicting donations from his 200+ employees. This client was a prime example of a leading CEO who served his community, profession and firm well. Lay was the outsider who wanted status with the downtown CEO clique.

I thought that demanding participation in one person’s pet cause was too punitive to the company’s employees and told the client so. I further made recommendations that future charitable requests would go through committee and that the client’s partners and key executives were better suited by serving on community boards, thus polishing their own luster. The company’s emphasis shifted from making ad hoc contributions to chunks of time, whereby the firm got recognition, the partners became better leaders, and the community benefited from their expertise.

In the ensuing years, I saw Lay get lots of community credit, but his other executives and friends in different companies who aided the causes rarely got billing. For a period of time, Enron had an excellent foundation that steered it toward important community activities. Yet, when the company shifted from being an energy supplier to the hucksterish energy trader, the charitable activities were dispensed with. So were professional development programs, rewards for random acts of kindness and other empowerment initiatives.

Executives never stayed long. Enron routinely fired 10% of its top salaried people each year, fostering a lean-and-hungry spirit among producers of business.

The Enron scandals of 2001 and 2002 focused only upon cooked books audit committees and deal making. There was so much more to look at… from the perspective of learning from the trouble and inspiring other companies to more forward.

Enron’s debacle can serve all of us with lessons learned. Within that spirit and out of respect to many fine professionals who tried to save that company, I offer this analysis. These are my considered opinions, having conducted Performance Reviews, Strategic Planning and Visioning for other companies over 35+ years. I never worked for Enron… they never would have related to my Big Picture of business scope. I would have asked too many tough questions, and that was not what they wanted consultants for.

These observations are intended to contextualize the Enron case studies in broader terms than were reported in the news media:

  1. Conditions Which Allowed It to Occur. The pivotal event was the passage of the Securities Reform Act of 1995, also dubbed the ‘Securities Rip-off Act.’ Corporations lobbied for and got major loopholes and a relaxed posture on the part of the Securities & Exchange Commission. As a result of that act, the SEC is no longer a watchdog but is a sideline to brokerage houses and major financial institutions. In my opinion, deregulation, as a whole, has worked negatively upon business and society (banking, airlines, trucking, and broadcasting), and the SEC is no exception.
  2. Congressional Hearings. It was a public and media curiosity, though becoming a good opportunity for the public to understand business better. Many of those investigating Enron had received campaign contributions from the company, yet kept maximum objectivity. Several committees competed with each other for the spotlight. After the hearings, there was little follow-through. Granting immunity often sets dangerous precedents, making it hard to get the complete truth. While frying some fish, immunity lets other more culpable ones off the hook.
  3. Corporate Culture. At Enron, it was dictatorial and repressive to new ideas. It was very ‘old school’ (a management style that was 40 years obsolete), though it pretended to be ‘new school.’ It fostered a false sense of security for employees, paying higher salaries than the marketplace, thus keeping employees dependent upon the system via golden handcuffs. It demanded blind loyalty, hired ISTJ personality types for support and rewarded dogmatic sales types for trading deals. Employees were expected to live the same ways (even in the same neighborhoods) and have common outside interests, with little individuality.
  4. Core Business. Enron (like many other companies) got into areas beyond their core competencies. They got into business ventures on whims or for flashy reasons, utilizing concepts that were untried.
  5. The Deals. The company did more than 4,000 deals…most risky and without research, planning and benchmarking. Stock was transferred to partnerships simply to lock in gains on balance sheets. Many deals were put on the books in order to inflate the price of Enron stock, which the insiders sold at peak price levels. The audit committee of the board would not sign off on behalf of the deals, which just kept happening and developing secret lives of their own.
  6. Attitude with Suppliers and Vendors. They took posture that nobody could say ‘no’ to Enron and that suppliers and vendors work with Enron on their terms only. The attitude was non-collaborative, with business units acting as Lone Rangers and often in competition with each other. There were no checks and balances for members of the supply train. This archaic mindset flies in the face of progressive supply chain management, which successful companies now embrace.
  7. Communications. They were secretive and guarded from the beginning. The manner in which company and unit name changes were handled exemplified a non-communicative executive suite, with lack of media or public access to top management. Spokespersons were not media-trained, nor media-friendly. The company issued everything through written news releases. No on-camera interviews were sought or granted No pro-active corporate communications campaigns were ever waged. The Annual Reports carried and permeated this communications aloofness. The way the California energy crisis was handled speaks to Enron’s disdain for media openness.
  8. The News Media. Though it took a field day with the Enron story, the media itself had played a part in crowning Enron as the king in previous years. In absence of substantive business reporting and asking the tough questions, the media tends to pander to the hype and flash that the companies themselves dish out. Financial media indeed bought and published Enron’s version of the story without checking as far as journalists have recently.
  9. Concept of Examining the Company. Bean counters set the perimeters at Enron and ran the company. The term ‘audit’ is too micro-niche and limited. Companies should be doing full-scope Performance Reviews. Without Strategic Planning, there is no benchmarking of specific tactics. When goals are only in financial terms, the company is disproportionately lopsided.
  10. Accounting. Enron paid too much for outside auditing services. ($1 million per week) Every company should re-examine its major professional services relationships every five years, take competitive bids (especially from talented mid-sized firms) and look at options available from service providers. Enron did not demand enough accountability, fairness, ethics and operational autonomy from its outside auditor.
  11. The Auditing Firm Employed by Enron. In their marketing, accounting and auditing firms claim to be full-service business advisors, in order to get business. In reality, audit, tax and management consulting services rarely communicate and are, in fact, competing business profit centers within large firms. Enron’s auditor says its scope was limited, when, in fact, it should have been as full-scope as the company could have provided. The outside auditor took unfair advantage of not being watched. It charged too much money and got away with it (because mid-managers but brand names of firms). There was a conflict of interest in alliance with Enron…not objective enough. After the scandals hit, the auditor played the Blame Game, without admitting itself of wrong-doing. The CEO of the auditing firm tacitly dismissed the whole issue as, ‘A company failed because the economics did not work.’
  12. Lawyers. They too were privy to what was transpiring. Congressional investigations have so far avoided implicating lawyers.
  13. Executives. No executive development program was held at Enron. Ken Lay’s management style was that he sat in the tower and had people to filter the bad news out. Other executives were brash, exhibited poor management judgment and made windfall money by selling stock due to insider trading information, when employees could not cash-out. The roles of other executives were to keep quiet and look the other way.
  14. Bonuses. Doing deals was the mantra…quickly and with great flash. Exorbitant bonuses and side ‘consulting fees’ for executives were the goals…and what were most aggressively pursued.
  15. Employees, Morale, The Workforce. Employees pledged blind loyalty to Ken Lay, though few ever had access to him. They worshipped the emperor from a distance. Individuals blindly accepted the company’s 401k directives but could have managed their money alternately. Employees emulated corporate culturisms. Egos and working mannerisms did not produce the most productive workforce. Too many bought into the hype and lost objectivity. Employees were better paid than the marketplace, thus forcing many to stay or not question policies. They’ll find some rude awakenings in the outside job world. Training, empowerment and team-building programs were cut and never reinstated. Incentive and ‘random acts of kindness’ programs were deleted.
  16. Community Relations. The company was quite active in the Houston community for many of the right reasons…but took its controls and influence too far. The company pushed many of its own pet agendas upon an unsuspecting community. It made too many charities dependent upon the company…thus wielding more community control. By 2001, many charities that were still counting on pledged donations and found themselves left in a lurch (though it was also their fault for not casting other nets for funding and being too dependent upon Enron). This circumstance had occurred years before, when Enron diverted pledged charity and community funds into high-gloss events, such as the 1991 Economic Summit and the 1992 Republican convention.
  17. Customers. They could have asked more questions, could have demanded further accountability. The customers are being hurt the most by the collapse…and need to communicate their stories better to the public.
  18. Wall Street Analysts. They too could have asked more questions and could have demanded further accountability over the years of Enron’s growth and boom. Some analysts who asked the tough questions were scorned or scapegoated by Enron. One must question why one company could wield such control over the investment community and what powers Wall Street had acquiesced in order for such power to grow. One must also ask why weren’t regular reviews conducted by underwriters and why were not annual reports more properly screened.
  19. The SEC. The commission could have asked more questions, could have demanded further accountability. However, since deregulation, it has not been compelled to do so.
  20. The Government. Nobody knew or kept their eyes on Enron until the scandals hit the front pages. Bureaucratic agencies quickly distanced themselves from funding issues or responsibilities in letting such a catastrophe occur. The U.S. government had deregulated too many industries over the years…thus, having the effect of allowing loopholes and marketplace-unfriendly situations to occur. In my opinion, Congress should look at re-regulating certain industries (oil & gas, utilities, airlines, banking, trucking, broadcasting). Long before congressional hearings were held, the government could have asked more questions and could have demanded further accountability. – Roadblocks to growth, opportunities missed.

Companies come and go. Not every startup is destined to make it. Yet, in this era of super-hype about tech and companies, unrealistic expectations precluded most of their successes from the beginning.

The hype now is that the bubble burst. Former owners are crying that they were stripped of their entitled riches. Employees who were promised stock options came away without still knowing what it takes to build a real business.

The e-commerce and wars have more than their share of casualties because their players never had the artillery and mindset to play seriously in the first place. Overt marketing hype led to an unwatchful marketplace…which always wakes up to the realities of business eventually.

Technology companies must now learn the lessons that steady-growth companies in other industries absorbed. Actually, most companies still have not truly learned the lessons. Thus, most businesses are at frequent ‘crossroads,’ where turns have deep implications and far-reaching.

I advised several technology companies during their gravy years. I tried to warn them about the things that would get them into trouble:

  • Focusing upon technology… not upon running a business.
  • Maintaining too much of an entrepreneur and family business mindset
  • Branding before being a real company
  • Their system’s inability to deal with any kind of disruption
  • Each side picks their favorite numbers for ‘success’ because they really do not know
  • Not comprehending the business you’re really in
  • Venturing too far from your areas of expertise
  • Thinking that the rules of corporate protocol did not apply to them
  • Misplaced priorities and timelines
  • Making financial yardsticks the only barometers
  • Wrong relationships with investors…letting angels call too many shots
  • Getting bad advice from the wrong people, mainly other tech professionals
  • Rationalizing excuses, ‘the rules have changed’
  • Feeling entitled to success and exemptions from business realities
  • Copycats of others’ perceived successes
  • Working long and hard, but not necessarily smart
  • Failure to contextualize the product, business, marketplace and bigger picture
  • Inability to plan
  • Refusal to change

Most of these pitfalls are common to so many industries. They simply were focused upon tech companies from 1994-2000 because they were the latest flavor. Some heeded the advice of myself and others… many did not avail themselves.

Reasons why some want to grow beyond their current boundaries:

  1. Prove to someone else that they can do it.
  2. Strong quest for revenue and profits.
  3. Corporate arrogance and ego, based upon power and influence (as well as money).
  4. Sincere desire to put expertise into new arena.
  5. Really have talents, resources and adaptabilities beyond what they’re known for.
  6. Diversifying as part of a plan of expansion, selling off and re-growing subsidiaries.
  7. The marketplace dictates change as part of the company’s global being.

Circumstances under which they expand include:

  1. Advantageous location became available.
  2. Someone wanted to sell out…a great deal was tough to pass up.
  3. Can’t sit still…must conquer new horizons.
  4. Think they can make more money, amass more power.
  5. Desire to edge out a competitor or dominate another industry.
  6. Create jobs for existing employees (new challenges, new opportunities).
  7. Part of their growth strategy to go public, offering stock as a diversified company.

This is what often happens as a result of unplanned growth:

  1. The original business gets shoved to the back burner.
  2. The new business thrust gets proportionately more than its share of attention.
  3. Capitalization is stretched beyond limits, and operations advance in a cash-poor mode.
  4. Morale wavers and becomes uneven, per operating unit and division.
  5. Attempts to bring consistency and uniformity drive further wedges into the operation.
  6. Something has to give: people, financial resources, competitive edge, company vision.
  7. The company expands and subsequently contracts without strategic planning.

7 Defeating Signs for Growth Companies:

  1. Systems are not in place to handle rapid growth…perhaps never were.
  2. Their only interest is in booking more new business, rather than taking care of what they’ve already got.
  3. Management is relying upon financial people as the primary source of advice, while ignoring the rest of the picture (90%).
  4. Team empowerment suffers. Morale is low or uneven. Commitment from workers drops because no corporate culture was created or sustained.
  5. Customer service suffers during fast-growth periods. They have to back-pedal and recover customer confidence by doing surveys. Even with results of deteriorating customer service, growth-track companies pay lip service to really fixing their own problems.
  6. People do not have the same Vision as the company founder…who has likely not taken enough time to fully develop a Vision and obtain buy-in from others.
  7. Company founder remains arrogant and complacent, losing touch with marketplace realities and changing conditions.

Everything we are in business stems from what we’ve been taught or not taught to date. A career is all about devoting resources to amplifying talents and abilities, with relevancy toward a viable end result.

Business evolution is an amalgamation of thoughts, technologies, approaches and commitment of the people, asking such tough questions as:

  1. What would you like for you and your organization to become?
  2. How important is it to build an organization well, rather than constantly spend time in managing conflict?
  3. Who are the customers?
  4. Do successful corporations operate without a strategy-vision?
  5. Do you and your organization presently have a strategy-vision?
  6. Are businesses really looking for creative ideas? Why?
  7. If no change occurs, is the research and self-reflection worth anything?

Failure to prepare for the future spells certain death for businesses and industries in which they function. The same analogies apply to personal lives, careers and Body of Work. Greater business awareness and heightened self-awareness are compatible and part of a holistic journey of growth.

About the Author

Hank Moore has advised 5,000+ client organizations worldwide (including 100 of the Fortune 500, public sector agencies, small businesses and non-profit organizations). He has advised two U.S. Presidents and spoke at five Economic Summits. He guides companies through growth strategies, visioning, strategic planning, executive leadership development, Futurism and Big Picture issues which profoundly affect the business climate. He conducts company evaluations, creates the big ideas and anchors the enterprise to its next tier. The Business Tree™ is his trademarked approach to growing, strengthening and evolving business, while mastering change. To read Hank’s complete biography, click here.

Richard Lepsinger

The 2010 Execution Round-Up: Six Companies That Couldn’t ‘Get It Done’ This Year (and Two That Did)

No doubt about it: 2010 saw its share of losers (and the occasional winner) in the business arena. Here are a few of this year’s headline makers and the lessons that can be learned from each of them.

It’s that time of year again: time for business owners and senior executives to take stock of the past twelve months. What did 2010 look like for you and your company? Did you struggle to regain your post-recession footing? Were employees engaged and focused? Are financials on track? The questions you could ask during your year-end assessment are endless. But there’s only one that really matters: Did your company effectively execute its plans and initiatives?

If an organization can’t get things done, nothing else matters – not the smartest strategy, not the most innovative business model, not even game-changing technology. And for many companies, there is a clear gap between intent and execution – we’ve seen plenty of evidence this year.

This assertion is backed by hard evidence. Recently, my company, OnPoint Consulting, conducted a study of over 400 companies. We found that 49 percent of the leaders surveyed in the study reported a gap between their organization’s ability to formulate and communicate a vision and strategy and its ability to deliver results.

This wasn’t the surprising part, though. What really shocked us was that only 36 percent of leaders who thought their company had an execution gap had confidence in their organization’s ability to close the gap between strategy and execution. That means a staggering 64 percent of leaders who saw an execution problem didn’t believe their company could fix it.

My research uncovered five characteristics and competencies, which I call ‘The Five Bridges,’ that enable people to traverse this execution gap. It is these bridges that differentiate the companies that are consistently able to get things done from those that aren’t. (I call the former ‘Gap Closers’ and the latter ‘Gap Makers.’)

Of course, time has marched on since the book was written, and plenty of other well-known companies have dropped the execution ball in the meantime (BP in the most spectacular fashion). To help the rest of us learn from the ‘living laboratory’ of real-world companies, I present the following lists – the first lamentably longer than the second!

OnPoint Consulting’s 2010 Execution Gap Maker Round-Up…

Execution Gap Maker #1: BP (Need I say more?)

It’s obvious from recent events that BP experienced an enormous execution gap. (More like a chasm, really.) Had the company focused on recognizing and closing that gap, it would have prevented this year’s unprecedented disaster. While the oil spill is a complex and tragic event, the cause can be traced back to BP’s failure to build the critical bridges.

Leading up to and after the oil spill BP violated almost all the guidelines of effective execution, including lacking an effective structure and lacking clear accountability. These gaps created another problem for them: In the critical stages following the spill, BP was unable to get input from those who had the knowledge and experience to make the best decisions about how to handle it.

What’s more, BP failed to empower people to use their best judgment and take appropriate action. Consider that hours before the explosion the rig crew was arguing about the best way to finish the oil well and move the rig to the next site. A Transocean mechanic testified that he overheard a ‘company man’ telling rig workers ‘how it’s going to be,’ and that although the rig workers felt the plan was too risky, they reluctantly agreed. And just after the explosion, as workers were scrambling for safety, a worker was yelled at by the captain (who worked for the rig’s owner, Transocean) for pressing the distress button without authorization, and when another worker was asked if he had called to shore for help, he said he had not because he did not have permission to do so.

The BRIDGE that failed: Employee Involvement in Decision Making… among others.

The LESSON: In order for any company to execute successfully, the right people have to be involved with the right decisions. BP provides a devastating example of what can happen when this isn’t the case.

Obviously, this lesson is even more critical when there is as much at stake as there was in the BP disaster. But really for any company trying to gain footing in a constantly changing business environment and tough economy, empowering the right people to make the right decisions can be the difference between landing that next great customer or account or not.

Execution Gap Maker #2: Nokia

Nokia’s share of the worldwide market for mobile phones continued to slip in 2010. It may surprise you to learn that about five years before Apple introduced the iPhone and three years before it launched an online applications store, Nokia was ready to introduce its own Internet-ready touch screen handset with a large display and had an early design of an online applications store. So what happened? Why was this once-dominant player unable to execute and maintain its market position?

It appears Nokia was not able to coordinate decisions and activities across departments or levels of management. Many innovative ideas became the victims of in-fighting among managers who had competing objectives. Plus, as a result of a lack of cross-organizational coordination and cooperation, Nokia wasn’t able to improve its proprietary operating system, Symbian, which would have allowed it to support a more sophisticated smartphone.

Execution Gap Makers #s 3 and 4: The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the Agriculture Department

In August of this year, thousands of consumers became ill after eating eggs that were contaminated with salmonella. The discovery of the contamination resulted in over half a billion eggs being pulled from store shelves. How could something like this, and on this scale, have happened?

Much of the blame has been attributed to poor federal oversight. And the cause appears to be a significant lack of coordination across federal agencies. You see, the responsibility for food safety is split between two agencies: The Agriculture Department is responsible for chickens, the grading of eggs for quality, and regulating liquid eggs that are used in industrial food production. But the FDA oversees the safety of eggs still in their shells.

So who inspected the Iowa farms to make sure the eggs were safe for human consumption? It turns out that no one did. It just fell through the cracks. The lack of coordination between these two agencies is one reason why so many consumer advocates believe we suffer from a dysfunctional food safety system.

The BRIDGE that failed for Gap Makers #2, 3, and 4: Company-Wide Coordination and Cooperation.

The LESSON: It’s critical that organizations learn to coordinate and collaborate decisions across organizational boundaries. But doing so requires more than faith and words alone.

Shared goals and clearly defined roles provide the foundation upon which cooperation and coordination can be built. In addition, people must be held accountable for results. This requires a combination of direct leader behavior and systems that encourage and reinforce the appropriate behavior among employees.

Execution Gap Maker #5: Johnson & Johnson

It’s been a bad year for J&J. Since 2009 McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the J&J division that makes over-the-counter drugs, has had eight recalls, including popular children’s versions of Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, and Zyrtec. Most disturbingly was what has been called the ‘phantom recall,’ in which contractors hired by J&J carried out a scheme to buy every package of Motrin by going store to store without informing the FDA.

Poor execution doesn’t happen overnight. It can often be traced back to a pattern of behavior that gradually erodes a company’s ability to deliver consistent high-quality results. At J&J it may go back to 2005 when employees reported a lack of alignment between manager behavior and company values and policies. When one million bottles of St. Joseph aspirin failed a quality test after a sample did not dissolve properly, quality workers who blocked the distribution of the bottles claimed their supervisor ordered them to retest the drugs and then average the scores to get a passing grade.

Fortunately, there was not a problem with the batch that was released, but it appears that the misalignment of leader behavior with company values in this situation laid the foundation for poor execution, and a potentially dangerous situation, in the future.

The BRIDGE that failed: Alignment Between Leader Actions and Company Values and Priorities.

The LESSON: Leader behavior must be aligned with company objectives and values. While this phrase has been said so often that it’s become a cliché, companies can’t afford to ignore it.

You don’t really understand how important value alignment is or the impact it has on effective execution until you see what happens when it’s not there. That’s why stories like the Johnson & Johnson one are so important. They remind us not to take it for granted or assume it’s a ‘no-brainer.’

Execution Gap Maker #6: Toyota

During 2010 Toyota recalled millions of cars due to a variety of defects. This was an extraordinary number for a company once recognized for the quality of its vehicles. What went wrong? It appears Toyota’s decentralized structure, which served it well for many years, turned into a liability as the company continued to grow and dominate worldwide markets.

For example, some of Toyota’s former U.S. senior executives believe that keeping the U.S. operations separated in a functional structure – rather than reporting to a single headquarters – forced each to report back to Japan. This required customer complaints to first make their way through the U.S. operation and then over to Japan where they were reviewed by a special committee – which would then have to communicate back to the U.S. All this had to happen before a recall could be issued.

The BRIDGE that failed: A Structure That Supports Execution.

The LESSON: Make sure you have a structure that supports execution. A good structure enhances accountability, coordination, and communication. Plus, it ensures that decisions are being made as close to the action as possible. Toyota’s structure slowed down decision making and the company’s ability to effectively respond to the recall crisis.

The Toyota breakdown also illustrates that the five execution bridges are not permanent. In fact, they are quite fragile. Once you’ve built them, you must keep vigilant watch over them and work hard to maintain them over time. It’s quite possible for a company to have a bridge in place one year, only to discover that over time it has weakened or even crumbled and is no longer able to help your people traverse the gap.

…And Its Execution Gap Closer Round-Up

Execution Gap Closer #1: Netflix

Netflix received considerable media attention this year as it demonstrated its ability to successfully execute its strategy to provide video over the Internet. The company began streaming movies to TV-connected devices such as the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360, and a new Blu-ray Disc player, and the strategy is already showing signs of paying off. Although the ability to deliver streaming video has just recently become a reality, Netflix has been preparing to replace its original business model of delivering DVDs through the mail since the company was formed in 1997.

The company’s readiness for change is incredible. A decade before the technology was even a commercial reality, it recognized that the delivery of movies over the Internet would eventually replace mail. Even the name they chose for the company reflected this awareness. They named the company ‘Netflix’ and not ‘Mailflix,’ which would have been an easier concept to understand more than a decade ago.

Execution Gap Closer (Well…Maybe) #2: Barnes & Noble

I would like to classify Barnes & Noble as a success, but it’s just not clear yet whether the company really fits in that category. The move to electronic books has caused booksellers to take a close look at how they do business, but the jury is still out on whether Barnes & Noble’s response to the dramatic changes in the publishing industry will be successful.

Barnes & Noble appears to be doing a lot of the right things. It developed the NOOK and has devoted significant space in its retail stores to display and promote it, and it has a broad online library. The big question is whether the company is fully committed to this change. Will it turn out like Netflix and successfully make the transition to a new method of delivery? Or will it end up more like Blockbuster, which has struggled to adapt to new technology and shift from bricks-and-mortar stores to an online-based business model?

The BRIDGE that held for Gap Closers #1 and 2: The Ability to Manage Change.

The LESSON: The ability to manage change is critical. Yet, despite all the effort and resources that have been devoted to helping them achieve this, managers and organizations still often get poor marks in this area. That said, yet another change management process or program is not the solution.

Change is made one person at a time. And our research, as well as the research of others, indicates that successful change is connected more to the individual and collective mindsets of employees than any process. People change when they are ready – not just when they understand the need for change. The most successful companies facilitate change-readiness and don’t just rely on making the business case to drive people’s motivation to change.

Yes, as these stories illustrate, execution is the real bottom line and my constant battle cry. It’s what I push my clients to focus on as they seek to improve organizational performance – and it’s the lens I urge all leaders to look through as they review 2010 and make their ‘business resolutions’ for 2011.

Execution is not a single-point event. It’s an ongoing process. But since your ability to execute well and consistently is the very fabric of success, I can think of no better place to focus your time and energy.

About the Author

Richard LepsingerRichard Lepsinger, author of Closing the Execution Gap: How Great Leaders and Their Companies Get Results, is president of OnPoint Consulting, a management advisory firm specializing in helping clients close the gap between strategy and execution and create a culture of getting things done. His client list includes Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Citibank, Coca-Cola Company, ConocoPhillips, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, NYSE Euronext, PeopleSoft, Prudential, and Subaru of America, among many others. In addition to writing Closing the Execution Gap, he has co-authored four books on leadership including Flexible Leadership: Creating Value by Balancing Multiple Challenges and Choices, The Art and Science of 360 Degree Feedback, The Art and Science of Competency Models: Pinpointing Critical Success Factors in Organizations, and Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance.

StrategyDriven Tactical Execution Best Practice Article

Tactical Execution Best Practice 5 – No Co-, Only Vice

StrategyDriven Tactical Execution Best Practice ArticleNo two people are exactly alike; they will always have at least a slightly different interpretation as to what the organization’s ultimate goals are and how to be achieve them regardless of the amount of painstaking detail put into describing each objective. For this reason, actions that are highly acceptable to or desired by one individual will cause some to pause and appear entirely counterproductive to others.

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Samy Liechti

How to Lead An Online Business

First and foremost, find an idea you love.

Whether it’s ice cream, bean bags, or shirts with funny slogans, find a product or service you’re passionate about selling. I started my career as a marketing executive. One day, I was invited to dinner with Japanese business associates. The dinner was a great success, and afterwards we moved to a Japanese tea house where, following tradition, everyone removed their shoes. I looked down, and I had two different socks on – one with a hole in the big toe. I sat cross-legged for an entire evening, trying to hide my foot. I’m passionate about helping executives avoid such embarrassments by allowing them to buy fine-quality essentials in one convenient place online, and have them delivered to their doorstep. Because wouldn’t it be wonderful if your sock drawer could replenish itself?

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About the Author

Samy LiechtiFollowing his studies of economics and business administration at the University of St. Gallen, Paris and Toronto (earning the title of lic. oec. HSG in 1993) Samy Liechti was a marketing and communications consultant for various agencies in Switzerland and abroad, working with numerous prominent brands. Samy Liechti has been Blacksock’s managing director ever since its foundation in the summer of 1999.

StrategyDriven Podcast Special Edition 32 – An Interview with Nilofer Merchant, author of The New How

StrategyDriven Podcasts focus on the tools and techniques executives and managers can use to improve their organization’s alignment and accountability to ultimately achieve superior results. These podcasts elaborate on the best practice and warning flag articles on the StrategyDriven website.

Special Edition 32 – An Interview with Nilofer Merchant, author of The New How explores the transformation of the traditional, top-down approach to strategy planning and execution into a collaborative process proven to be significantly more effective. During our discussion, Nilofer Merchant, author of The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy and Chief Executive Officer of Rubicon Consulting, shares with us her insights and illustrative examples regarding:

  • the definition of business strategy
  • why input from those lower in the organization is needed when formulating the organization’s strategy
  • why being the ‘Chief of Answers’ is harmful to the planning process and what can be done to avoid assuming this role
  • why it’s important for everyone within an organization to understand its strategy
  • the ‘First Principles of the New How‘ and why they are important to strategy development and execution

Additional Information

In addition to the invaluable insights Nilofer shares in The New How and this special edition podcast are the resources accessible from her websites, and   Nilofer’s book, The New How, can be purchased by clicking here.

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About the Author

Nilofer Merchant, author of The New How, is Chief Executive Officer of Rubicon Consulting, a strategy and marketing consultancy designed specifically to serve the needs of technology companies. Nilofer has honed her unique collaborative approach to solving tough business problems while working with and for companies such as Adobe, Apple, Nokia, and HP. To read Nilofer’s complete biography, click here.