Seth Godin is a prolific author and blogger. His works include Permission Marketing, Purple Cow (my favourite) and The Dip – all books worth reading on marketing, ideas and creating a buzz on what you do. Seth has an interesting and challenging post on ideas. Good ideas bring change and people fear this. Bad ideas bring risk – people fear this even more. But you cannot have good ideas without the risk of bad ideas. If you are willing to take the risk of failure, you will open yourself (or your business) up to the possibility of success.
The best graphical representation that I have come across for an organisation is that of an iceberg. Above the surface is the visible part of the organisation – including the strategy, the organisation chart and the processes and procedures. Below the water (the larger part of the organisation) lies the intangibles – the culture, the people, the relationships. These elements cannot be easily written down but they have the potential to destabilise the organisation.
Culture will eat strategy for breakfast; a famous statement with a high degree of truth. Organisations can develop the most sophisticated strategy but without an attempt to understand the implications of culture will invariably lead to the failure of that strategy. Culture is made up of the beliefs and values of the members of an organisation; it shapes the behaviours, norms and actions that govern what gets done and, more importantly, what does not get done. Leaders that fail to understand this – and fail to take it into account – are dooming their strategy from the start.
Harvard Business Review have been celebrating the centenary of the birth of Peter Drucker, one of the fathers of modern management. HBR publish some of his classic contributions, as well as perspectives on Drucker’s influence from key contributors including Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Ellen Peebles.
Classic Drucker articles for the HBR include Managing Oneself and What Makes an Executive Successful (Registration with HBR required to read the full articles). In What Makes an Executive Successful (Note 1), Drucker outlines the 8 steps all successful executives follow – whether they are dull or charismatic, easygoing or controlling, generous or parsimonious. They all asked the followed these practices:
- What needs to be done?
- What is right for the enterprise?
- They developed action plans
- They took responsibility for decisions.
- They took responsibility for communicating.
- They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
- They run productive meetings.
- They think and say “We,” not “I.”
In Managing Oneself (Note 2), Drucker discusses how we must take responsibility for managing ourselves over the course of our working lives. “To do this, you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself. What are your most valuable strengths and most dangerous weaknesses? Equally important, how do you learn and work with others? What are your most deeply held values? And in what type of work environment can you make the greatest contribution?” Drucker outlines simple questions (if hard in practice) that we must ask ourselves to begin the journey of self-awareness.
- What are my strengths?
- What are my values?
- Where do I belong?
- What do I contribute?
Note 1: What makes an Executive Effective, Peter Drucker, Harvard Business Review, June 2004
Note 2: Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker, Harvard Business Review, January 2005
Interesting post from Change Guru Rosabeth Moss Kanter on her Harvard Business Blog on Tools for Defeating Denial. Whenever a change agent is involved in bringing about that change, confronting denial is essential. Some tools suggested in dealing with that denial.
- Unassailable facts. Change advocates must make sure the evidence they marshall is beyond reproach, which often means from multiple sources. Small flaws discredit the case for change.
- Counter-arguments. Supporters watch how leaders handle skeptics and critics. Each counter-attack must be answered. Change advocates must know the other side as well as their own.
- Big Picture. Significant change rests on beliefs, not just facts; the future is inherently uncertain, facts only a starting point. Change leaders must cultivate fired-up stakeholders by identifying long-term benefits valuable to many. Leaders must inspire belief that they stand with and for stakeholders’ values and goals.
- Pressure and repetition. When pressure for change is in deniers’ faces every day, they often succumb. Staying on message and communicating often can sometimes defeat denial.
A recent McKinsey Global Survey (Note 1) has interesting, if predictable, findings as to the capabilities that organisations views as the most important for managing companies through the crisis. Leadership and Direction. Of the 763 companies surveyed, 49% believe that Leadership is the most important capability that organisations require, with 42% believing it necessary after the current crisis. The corresponding figures for Direction are 46% and 39%. The most important capability required by organisations after the current crisis is Innovation (46%). Interestingly only 33%of respondents believe that innovation is important during the crisis.
Of the most important leadership behaviors for managing corporate performance, Inspiring Others is rated as most important (46% of respondents) followed closely by Defining Expectations and Offering Rewards (47% of respondents).
Note 1: Leadership through the crisis and after, McKinsey Global Survey Results, September 2009.