Ima von Wenden (MCIPR) interviews Geoff Hudson-Searle on The Trust Paradigm and Strategy

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ima von Wenden (MCIPR) for a glass of champagne at one of London’s most prodigious clubs, The Savile Club.

The club was established in 1868 by a group of the most distinguished writers and artists of the time, a perfect venue to be discussing my latest book.

Ima is an experienced global communications professional with a successful track record in PR, strategy and media relations.

Ima wanted to discuss the recent publication of “The Trust Paradigm”, she went on to say ‘’I found this book interesting, well-researched and well-structured, published at the right time and offering real solutions to serious C-suite readers on both sides of the Atlantic.’’

‘’Despite daily headlines questioning the public trust to the Government and post-pandemic media coverage of distrust of the bosses towards employees working from home, there’s too little talked about the growing distrust of the employees towards bosses. And this book addresses this issue, giving practical tools and steps for today’s business and thought leaders to prevent crisis in corporate communications.’’

‘’Trust is the most valuable asset of any business and losing it spells the beginning of the end. The book explains how to spot a problem with trust and take the needed actions to prevent it escalating into a crisis.’’

‘’I found particularly invaluable the second part of the book outlining a clear strategy for dealing with diminishing trust, something which is too often too difficult to develop on your own. I am certain that this book will be a great reference source for me and my clients when advising them on crisis comms related to their internal corporate affairs.’’

‘’I think this book should be read by the business owners/managers of every level and the communication experts like myself. Thank you for your great work!’’

Ima was interested to continue the conversation across my views on strategy, here are a list of the questions and my answers:

1) Can you please explain the difference between ‘strategy’ and ‘strategic management?
 The essence of strategy is about the courses of action necessary, or approach taken, for achieving the organization’s core objectives and ultimately the overall purpose.
 Strategic management concerns the management of the organization’s overall purpose, to ensure all the needs of the present are considered with those of the future. These may relate to all the six specific tasks of purpose, objectives, strategy, implementation, execution, and strategic control

2) Explain the levels of involvement in strategic management and the role of staff at each level. How does the strategy hierarchy facilitate this?
 The main responsibility of strategic management is predominantly at the top level. This is because senior management is most knowledgeable of the purpose of the organization and can therefore direct the whole organization to accomplish it.

3) Explain the controversial debate in strategic management regarding how strategy can be formed or formulated, ie – how emergent strategy is different from deliberate strategy.
 Despite the more sophisticated contributions to the subject field on what makes up the strategy, one of the key debates is if strategy should be formed over time or be formulated by senior management.
 With formulation, the main premise is that senior management has the best knowledge of the overall strategy and is most appropriate for deciding on a strategy that the rest of the organization should follow. This view suggests that strategy should be consistent and specific to the organization, which is what gives it competitive advantage.

4) Discuss the importance of purpose to an organization, and how that purpose may be regarded as synonymous to the purpose that underpins human existence.
 The starting point to anything is its purpose, which is the same whether it is an organization or a human being. While there are numerous theories behind the existence of human beings on Earth, every individual has his/her own belief, and it is that belief that determines how s/he lives his/her life. An organization exists for a long-term purpose, and making money is only one activity that facilitates the achievement of that long-term purpose, and does not constitute that purpose per se (otherwise it will have accomplished it already!).
 To make a ‘purpose’ comprehensible to the organization, three distinct components are available to assist: vision, mission and values. The role of each of these is different, and quite often companies get it wrong. Even if these are not explicit, every organization still has them in the sense that they are implicit in the way it manages. Explicit statements also have the advantage of promoting to the public the strength of the company and further acts as a marketing tool.

5) Is there always a perfect alignment between an organization’s purpose and culture?
 There may be a mismatch between the true intention of the organization’s purpose and its culture mainly due to the lack of clarity of the former.
 The purpose normally influences the culture of the organization as the purpose exists first and then people who are appointed to the position are then nurtured to the needs of that purpose. However, for reformed organizations, such as those which have become the outcome of non-organic growth (merger and acquisition activity), then the cultures may have existed first through a legacy of the merged companies and the newly established purpose may not be consistently or well aligned with them.
 There are three levels of culture (artifacts, espoused values, and basic underlying assumptions) which must be managed differently by the manager concerned, and if these are not managed properly there is likely to be misalignment to the organizational purpose.

6) Discuss the dangers of mismatch between corporate image and corporate identity. What strategies are possible for closing this difference gap?
 Corporate image and corporate identity are different things: the former refers to what the organization is understood as to the stakeholders (as receivers), and the latter refers to the organization’s self-image.
 It is common for a mismatch between the two, particularly when the marketing efforts of the organization are not effective; in this case it is important that the organization is not prone to bad public impression.

7) How can the emergence of the importance of corporate social responsibility be seen as a threat to the purpose of an organization?
 If the organization is an old one, there may be explicit mission statements that do not accord with the present expectation of corporate social responsibility.
 Compliance with corporate social responsibility matters may often be expensive, and therefore the incurrence of these costs may mean cut-backs on other organizational objectives.

8) How can objectives be used as a filter system through which the organizational purpose is transferred into comprehensive outcomes against which to measure performance?
 The primary role of objectives is to break down the organizational purpose into an understandable definition, often offered by a set of objectives that relate to different people in different parts of the organization.
 This can be done through a number of ways, and tools have been developed over the years to deal with this role, for example the balanced scorecard is probably the most prominent, but there are other ‘performance management tools’, such as the performance pyramid, tableau de bord, etc.
 There are different kinds and types of objectives, all serving different purposes. The way organizations use and categorise objectives (into those which are strategic vis-à-vis operational) is a way of identifying what needs to be done to drive performance and what monitors performance.
 Employees need to be clear about their objectives and what they mean, in order for them to be effective.

9) How can objectives be problematic, and in what way can the use of objectives be considered as ‘bad’ management?
 Bad management of objectives is when organizations do not understand what kind of objectives they are in the first place. For example, some are strategic and some are operational, and the tools employed for them may be problematic if they are not understood properly.

10) How can a SWOT analysis be useful for both internal and external organizational environmental analysis?
 A SWOT analysis recognises the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats confronting an organization. These relate to both the internal as well as external environments, and are often used as a quick framework to provide an overview of an organization.
 The SWOT list should not be static; these items should be updated as continuing areas to monitor for them to be useful to an organization.

11) Explain the meaning of ‘the world is flat’ in the context of globalization.
 In practice, this means that nations must find new sources of competitive advantage, new strategies must be found for local companies, and strategic approaches for global level business must be championed.
 Globalization does not just mean that trade barriers have been opened and companies can source internationally; anything that helps to provide a platform for seeking cross border advantages, such as the emergence of the internet over the last 15 years, may be used as a strategic platform.

12) If the benefits of globalization concern the expansion of operations across international borders, why then is it necessary to consider a strong home base?
 The foundation of a strong home base helps to support global strategies (and is not contradictory to globalization!). Porter argued that industrial sectors are clustered in geographical regions, which need nurturing to ensure a sufficient concentration of suppliers and specialised resources, so that a balance of home-based and dispersed foreign activities are pursued.

Ima asked me what is next in my writing, at which point I recited the words of Winston Churchill: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Geoff Hudson-Searle is an independent digital non-executive director across regulation, technology and internet security, a C-Suite executive on private and listed companies, and a serial business advisor for growth-phase tech companies.

With more than 30 years of experience in international business and management. He is the author of six books and lectures at business forums, conferences, and universities. He has been the focus of London Live TV, Talk TV, TEDx and RT Europe’s business documentaries across various thought leadership topics and his authorisms.

Geoff is a member and fellow of the Institute of Directors; an associate of The International Business Institute of Management; a co-founder and board member of the Neustar International Security Council (NISC); and a distinguished member of the Advisory Council for The Global Cyber Academy.

He holds a master’s degree in business administration. Rated by Agilence as a Top 250 Harvard Business School thought leader authority covering blogs and writing across; ‘Strategic Management’ and ‘Management Consulting’, Geoff has worked on strategic growth, strategy, operations, finance, international development, growth, and scale-up advisory programmes for the British Government, Citibank, Kaspersky, BT and Barclays among others.

The trust Paradigm
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