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Alternative Development Best Practice 2 – Organizationally Developed Options

It’s hard to find an executive who doesn’t believe that his or her people are significant assets and a competitive advantage for the company. Why then are so few employees involved in the strategic planning process? Engaging employees gains their ‘rubber meets the road’ customer and process experiences and earns buy-in it for the plan’s implementation. Therefore, employee involvement in strategic planning is a win-win proposition; the only question remaining is when and where in the process to involve them.


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Additional Information

For an illustrative model of an organization’s hierarchical roles and responsibilities, see StrategyDriven’s Strategic Organizational Alignment model.

For additional insights to the involvement of managers and employees in the alternative development process, listen to the StrategyDriven’s special edition podcast, An Interview with Nilofer Merchant, author of The New How.

Strategy Driven – A Reality Check

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | Strategic Planning | Strategy Driven – A Reality CheckMost modern organizations claim to be strategy-driven. But when you cut through the hyperbole, what do you find?

The Oxford dictionary defines strategy as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.” People tend to focus on the word “plan” in this sentence. We think about strategy as the highest-level, guiding plan for an organization, but if we want to objectively determine the strategy of an organization, this is where we’ll hit a problem.

A plan is an intention to do things in the future, but you can’t objectively study or observe an intention. An intention has no physical presence, we can only witness people talking about it. Walk into an organization and ask to see their strategy and you will likely be given a one-line “mission” statement and a document filled with words and diagrams. The document is real and can be observed. However, the intention that the document describes is not real. We should never confuse the two – having a physical document does not mean that you have a strategy.

But don’t give up hope yet! I cannot physically find gravity and yet I know that it is real because I can witness the impact of gravity on the real world. Newton observed a falling apple and was able to use this data to infer that gravity existed.

So what is the equivalent of Newton’s apple when it comes to strategy? Think about the dictionary definition. A strategy is a not just “a plan”, it is “a plan of action”. I cannot physically witness the plan, but I can certainly witness actions and use them to infer the strategy. If I walk into an organization and carefully examine the action, then I will be able to determine the strategy which is at play.

This might sound a bit backward. After all, the strategy is all about the big picture, about how we will conquer the world tomorrow, not about what is happening today. I disagree – the only way that you can witness a strategy is to carefully look at what is happening today and then infer the strategy from that data.

Let’s look at an example. Some years ago, I worked with a company that was on a sustained journey to improve safety in its operation. Their strategy document declared that “Safety comes first. There is nothing more important for us than the safety of our people and the community in which we operate.” As a strategy statement, it couldn’t be clearer. When I went looking for the action however, I found something different.

At their project portfolio meeting I found something interesting. As is frequently the case, this company had many more potential projects than it had budget. Because of this, the company had to choose which projects to progress and which projects to defer or cancel. Given their strategy of “safety comes first”, I should have witnessed that all the safety projects were approved first and then, only if there was remaining budget, would commercial projects be approved. What I witnessed instead was that a large number of safety projects had been deferred to make space for a more evenly balanced selection of commercial and safety projects. The individuals responsible for making these calls were under a great deal of stress.

“Safety first” was what we call the espoused strategy and it was clearly not real. By witnessing the company’s actions, we can see that the real strategy was to balance commercial and safety interests. They were very committed to their safety journey, but not in a way that put them out of business!

The most concerning thing that I observed was the stress placed on the decision makers. They were implementing the real strategy of the senior management. But they were then placed in a highly compromised position by the same senior management espousing a completely different “strategy”.

As a leader in your organization, I encourage you to constantly check that the actions in your organization match the strategy you espouse. Only then can you truly claim to be strategy-driven.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | Strategic Planning | Strategy Driven – A Reality CheckGraeme Findlay is an Associate Fellow at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School. He consults to industry as an executive coach and change management advisor. Prior to specializing in leadership development, Findlay held executive management roles and was accountable for delivering operational transformations and performance turnarounds on world-scale mega-projects. His passion for high performance teams led to academic research at Oxford University and HEC Paris. Findlay holds a Masters degree in Consulting and Coaching for Change. For more information, please visit www.graemefindlay.com

How to Think Like a Futurist

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article | Futurist | How to Think Like a FuturistBeing a futurist means paying attention to new patterns or trends that are slowly percolating up through the market and/or society that have the potential to catch on in a major way. It’s about coming up with possible scenarios for the future given these developments.

For me, the ideal timeframe for futurist thinking is 5-10 years, because although no one can successfully predict the future, in this window you are more likely to be able to clearly see where things are going according to current operating models. Now, in 2019, I think anything beyond 10-15 years is reasonably futile because we bump up against the technological singularity (the time when machine intelligence becomes so sophisticated that it causes currently unfathomable changes to human existence).

The simplest way to imagine and prepare for the future is to devise intelligent strategies that will serve your company well. You can do this by reading a ton and consulting experts in your field about what they’re seeing. Futurists use tools that systematize these recommendations including scenario planning, environmental scanning, Delphi surveying, and individual software programs like Fibres, Futures Platform, and Athena.

Through your research, you will probably determine that financial markets and corporate structures are likely to change dramatically in the next few years. Blockchain will democratize, streamline, and improve the efficiency of ownership. Other potential developments in the financial sector include the increased use of algorithms to boost trading effectiveness, and the inclusion of machines and machine learning in individual and corporate financial planning.

Generally speaking, corporate structures will become flatter and more specialized, with fewer full-time employees and a network of virtual and contract workers who move in and out of the organization fluidly (including Boomers who work fewer hours but still contribute, unlike prior generations that were forced to fully retire at a certain age). The widespread use of flextime and remote work means that your success and productivity in a job will be judged by your results – not where or when you accomplished them.

In a general sense, employers will probably not “take care” of people the way they do today. Most employees will work in a contract capacity, meaning that they have to continually sell themselves and their value to organizations. One area of specialty won’t last very long and individuals will be responsible for continuously reskilling and upskilling to ensure they’re providing what the market needs. At the same time, geographic skills mismatches and demographic shifts mean that employers may not have the local talent they require and will have to become more flexible about building virtual teams so they can employ the best people for the job.

Organizations will also need to rethink their relationships with customers. The days of producing a product and expecting the customer to “just go with it” are over. Now, product development should be extensively informed by customer feedback, including analysis of that feedback via data analytics. Through iterative processes such as design thinking, companies can devise ideas, prototype and test them, and then adjust the offering based on changing conditions and received customer input. Organizations should also prepare for customer demand for increased customization, and believe it or not, a desire for the human element and traditional craftsmanship in products.

My final piece of advice in thinking like a futurist is to be proactive. Instead of insisting on a laser focus on your immediate business priorities tomorrow, keep your head up, your eyes open, and your mind curious. Take responsibility for identifying disruptions in your industry and training your workforce to cope with them. Remember that the future doesn’t just happen – we shape it every day.


About the Author

Alexandra Levit is the author of the new book Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future (Kogan Page). A business and workforce futurist and partner at People Results, she helps Fortune 500 and government organizations and their leaders prepare for the future of work through proprietary research, consulting, and program development.

The Big Picture of Business – Each Role Matters. The Value of Support Staff

StrategyDriven Big Picture of Business ArticleEvery person in the company matters to its success. Every job is important, as is filling them with the best people for each job. The art and skill of being great support staff is a cornerstone of business success.

From pop culture, think of the great role models that we grew up watching:

Della Street was the loyal secretary to Perry Mason. She knew what everyone was thinking and was the glue to the cases. She was the model for executive assistants and office managers everywhere.

The CEO is made stronger with a good C-suite team. Ed McMahon was TV’s premier second banana. He worked as assistant, announcer, commercial pitchman and sketch narrator to Johnny Carson throughout their 29-year run on NBC-TV’s “Tonight Show.” They had previously worked together on a game show, “Who Do You Trust” on ABC-TV. Bandleaders on the late-night are vital #3 characters on the show, including Doc Severinsen, Skitch Henderson, Paul Shaffer and The Roots band.

The movie star heroes had buddies to help them navigate the adventures. John Wayne and Roy Rogers had Gabby Hayes. Gene Autry had Pat Buttram.

TV show stars had great support casts. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had Vivian Vance and William Frawley as Ethel & Fred Mertz. This historic teaming became the formula for most other TV sitcoms. Shows like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “30 Rock,” “The Office” and others had expanded ensemble casts.

Some performers made careers as supporting players. Ann B. Davis was Schultzy on “The Bob Cummings Show” and Alice on “The Brady Bunch.”

Back characters on TV shows included restaurant and bar operators, where the stars went top relax. There were friendly, familiar places such as Cheers bar, Arnold’s Drive-In on “Happy Days,” the Krusty Krab on “SpongeBob Square Pants,” Dale’s Diner on “The Roy Rogers Show” and other homey places. In the business world are those staff people who make us feel more like family. Therefore, our loyalty to the company rises, and we are more productive.

Still other back characters bring cohesion to the enterprise. On “Gilligan’s Island,” those glue-adhesive characters were the Professor Roy Hinkley and Mary Ann Summers. Those vital employees in the business world might include the IT guy, the receptionist, the mailroom manager, the ethics adviser and the secretary to the Board of Directors.

Great executives know the value of crediting support figures for the business success. Lt. Columbo was always quoting his wife as basis for testing hypotheses, though the character was never shown. Newspaper publisher Perry White was always upstaged by his employees, notably Clark Kent/Superman. Al Roker does the weather on “The Today Show,” and he is also the motivating segment host as well. Nobody turns letters like Vanna White, making her essential to the legacy of “Wheel of Fortune.”

And then there were those mentors behind the scene who were responsible for lots of creativity. The Beatles had George Martin as their producer. Steven Spielberg had John Williams as music composer for his films.

A host of people make the CEO look good. Further, they transform the company to greater plateaus. Warmly recognize the contributions of executive assistants, trusted advisers, mentors, support staff, hier apparents, adjuncts, vendors and outside stakeholders.

Here are some characteristics of support personnel and rising stars who will make it as professionals and business leaders:

  • Act as though they will one day be management.
  • Think as a manager, not as a worker.
  • Learn and do the things it will take to assume management responsibility.
  • Be mentored by others.
  • Act as a mentor to still others.
  • Don’t expect status overnight.
  • Measure their output and expect to be measured as a profit center to the company.
  • Learn to pace and be in the chosen career for the long-run.
  • Don’t expect that someone else will be the rescuer or enable you to cut corners in the path toward artificial success.
  • Learn from failures, reframing them as opportunities.
  • Learn to expect, predict, understand and relish success.
  • Behave as a gracious winner.
  • Acquire visionary perception.
  • Study and utilize marketing and business development techniques.
  • Contribute to the bottom line, directly and indirectly.
  • Offer value-added service.
  • Never stop paying dues and see this continuum as “continuous quality improvement.”
  • Study and comprehend the subtleties of life.
  • Never stop learning, growing and doing. In short, never stop!

About the Author

Hank MoorePower Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame is now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.

The Big Picture of Business – Ethics… Good for Business

StrategyDriven Big Picture of Business ArticleIn order to succeed and thrive in modern society, all private and public sector entities must live by codes of ethics. In an era that encompasses mistrust of business, uncertainties about the economy and growing disillusionments within society’s structure, it is vital for every organization to determine, analyze, fine-tune and communicate their value systems.

Corporate Responsibility is more than just a statement that a committee whips together. It is more than a slogan or rehash of a Mission Statement. It is an ongoing dialog that companies have with themselves. It is important to teach business domestically and internationally that:

  1. We must understand how to use power and influence for positive change.
  2. How we meet corporate objectives is as important as the objectives themselves.
  3. Ethics and profits are not conflicting goals.
  4. Unethical dealings for short-term gain do not pay off in the long-run.
  5. Good judgment comes from experience, which, in turn comes from bad judgment.
  6. Business must be receptive–not combative–to differing opinions.
  7. Change is 90% beneficial. We must learn to benefit from change management, not to become victims of it.

Corporate Responsibility relates to every stage in the evolution of a business, leadership development, mentoring and creative ways of doing business. It is an understanding how and why any organization remains standing and growing…instead of continuing to look at micro-niche parts.

Integrity is personal and professional. It is about more than the contents of a financial report. It bespeaks to every aspect of the way in which we do business. Integrity requires consistency and the enlightened self-interest of doing a better job.

Financial statements by themselves cannot nor ever were intended to determine company value. The enlightened company must be structured, plan and benchmark according to all seven categories on my trademarked Business Tree™: core business, running the business, financial, people, business development, Body of Knowledge (interaction of each part to the other and to the whole) and The Big Picture (who the organization really is, where it is going and how it will successfully get there).

One need not fear business nor think ill of it because of the recent corporate scandals. One need not fear globalization and expansion of business because of economic recessions. It is during the downturns that strong, committed and ethical businesses renew their energies to move forward. The good apples polish their luster in such ways as to distance from the few bad apples.

Corporate Responsibility means operating a business in ways that meet or exceed the ethical, legal, commercial and public expectations that society has of business. This is a comprehensive set of strategies, methodologies, policies, practices and programs that are integrated throughout business operations, supported and rewarded by top management.

Corporate Sustainability aligns an organization’s products and services with stakeholder expectations, thereby adding economic, environmental and social value. This looks at how good companies become better.

Corporate Governance constitutes a balance between economic and social goals and between individual and community goals. The corporate governance framework is there to encourage the efficient use of resources and equally to require accountability for community stewardship of those resources.

As part of strategic planning, ethics helps the organization to adapt to rapid change, regulatory changes, mergers and global competition. It helps to manage relations with stakeholders. It enlightens partners and suppliers about a company’s own standards. It reassures other stakeholders as to the company’s intent.


About the Author

Hank MoorePower Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame is now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.