Why Strategy and Strategic Leadership Should Never be Confused with Metrics!


I was asked recently to speak at a conference, when I ask about the topic to be discussed I was instructed ‘to discuss leadership’, I sat back and smiled, it was clear the person leading the content really did not understand the breadth of the subject in today’s business world, I asked if I could discuss leadership in the context of strategic leadership vs undermining metrics, I received a nod, so I took that as an acceptance.

The concept of strategy emerged more than 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece with a one-dimensional perspective that focused on how generals waged war. Under this concept, a general is responsible for multiple units, on multiple fronts, in multiple battles, over various spans of time. The general’s challenge is to provide the vision and preparation for orchestrating the subsequent comprehensive actions.

The general’s strategy, then, consists of an integrated set of choices designed to achieve specific goals. But it is important to remember that strategy is not an accurate term for every important choice that the general faced.

This is where organisations fail in the business world. Many executives have begun calling everything they do strategic. Too often, strategy becomes a catchall term, used to mean whatever the executive wants it to mean.

And all too often, the result is that the organisation undertakes a collection of business activities that create confusion and undermine credibility because they are not strategically aligned. Sometimes these executives confuse actions or tactics which are the means by which strategies are executed with strategies themselves. They are then left to wonder why they failed to achieve their desired goals.

Strategy addresses how the business intends to engage its environment in pursuit of its desired goals. Without strategy, time and resources will be wasted on piecemeal, disparate activities. Sometimes, senior managers will fill the void with their own interpretation of what the business should be doing. The result is usually unsuccessful initiatives that are incomplete, disjointed, and confusing.

Strategic leadership rises above this confusion. But it does not come easy. Studies show that fewer than one in 10 leaders exhibit strategic skills, a woefully inadequate number.


It would be a mistake to believe that strategic leadership is only needed in times of crisis. During the good times, strategic leadership is just as important as during the bad times, because it ensures valuable resources are focused on the right areas and in the right ways, long term planning of strategy to execution vs short-termism and no planning.

At its essence, strategic leadership is the ability to learn, anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, and align organisational capabilities and competing interests in ways that effectively engage the everyday opportunities and problems presented by the competitive environment. It is the ability to translate vision into reality by seeing the bigger picture and longer time horizons, then creating the strategies necessary to achieve goals that deliver valued results.

Tying performance metrics to strategy has become an accepted best practice over the past few decades. Strategy is abstract by definition, but metrics give strategy form, allowing our minds to grasp it more readily. With metrics, Ford Motor Company’s onetime strategy “Quality is job one” could be translated into Six Sigma performance standards. Apple’s “Think different” and Samsung’s “Create the future” could be linked to the number of sales from new products. If the strategy is the blueprint for building an organisation, metrics are the concrete, wood, drywall, and bricks.

But there’s a hidden trap in this organisational architecture. A company can easily lose sight of its strategy and instead focus strictly on the metrics that are meant to represent it. We all know that metrics are inherently imperfect at some levels. In business, the intent behind metrics is usually to capture some underlying goal and they almost always fail to do this as well as we would like.

Surrogation is especially harmful when the metrics and the strategy are poorly aligned. The greater the mismatch, the larger the potential damage.

Executives and senior managers who are charged with communicating strategy into this process are responsible for outcomes, strategy needs embedded execution and metrics on its success.

In addition to executives and senior managers losing sight of strategy over metrics, they often make the mistake of sticking with a failing strategy.

Why, and how do they avoid this trap?

Every company strategy whether good or bad has dissenters. But in some organisations, objectors are either suppressed or they understand that any constructive feedback isn’t welcome

Sticking with a once-successful strategy for too long can have repercussions. So how can companies avoid making a similar mistake when facing disruption?

The Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders

Executives and senior management must challenge mutually reinforcing biases that see people being influenced by a prior commitment to a particular course of action.

People who make investment decisions push ahead with a project even if things go badly because of the costs they have already incurred. Those costs will not be recovered if they walk away. This is called the ‘sunk cost fallacy’.

Decision-makers prefer to invest more in a course of action rather than withdraw and lose everything, believing that they can turn the situation around. In this scenario, people suffer from loss aversion.


The illusion of control takes hold. This bias, which is reinforced by the previous two, sees people overestimating their ability to control the future. They take credit for the outcomes of decisions and confuse forecasting the future with actually making it happen.

An inherent desire to complete tasks such as loading the dishwasher or finishing a project drives most people who have a preference for completion.

Those opposing a course of action often remain silent because they believe no one else shares their view. Meanwhile, colleagues interpret their silence as agreement. That can lead to everyone agreeing to a decision that nobody believes in. This is known as pluralistic ignorance.

Psychological and sociological studies show that someone’s identity and social status is often linked to their commitments. People can suffer a perceived loss of status or a threat to their identity when they withdraw from a commitment.

Understanding what drives people to push ahead with a project even if it’s failing is the first step to avoiding an escalation of commitment. The next is taking the following measures to prevent it from happening.

Spotting an escalation of commitment can be challenging, which is why things go wrong before executives and senior managers really see what’s happening.

Once invested in a course of action, they ignore the signs even when their company is on the verge of collapse. Prevention is possible, providing managers across the organisation are encouraged through the right processes and practices to consider different strategies and adopt a more objective approach to decision-making.


Final thought, the only certainty about the future is that it is uncertain, and past success does not guarantee future success.

Some of the factors driving this uncertainty include advances in technology and the quantity of information being produced; shifting customer needs; internal competition within companies for resources; struggles to maintain profitability as the economy changes and evolves; and the new normal of doing more with less for countless business operations.

But we also see markets offering greater opportunities to those able to adapt.

The ability to influence others to engage in efforts that enable organisational success, while acknowledging the constraints of time and resources, is at the heart of being strategic. It is why leaders must prove they are capable strategic leaders.

These leaders recognise situational constraints and adapt to their environment. By necessity and design, they are flexible and able to adjust their strategies to achieve the stated goals. What they do is measurably tied to goals.

Their attributes go beyond charisma, experience, and expertise. Aspirations are not enough; businesses want to see results. And results, more often than not, take strategic leadership.

As Jerome Powell – Chair of the US Federal Reserve, once said:

“Alignment of business strategy and risk appetite should minimize the firm’s exposure to large and unexpected losses. In addition, the firm’s risk management capabilities need to be commensurate with the risks it expects to take.”

Navigating the Data Experience Economy

I recently attended a Podcast in London called ‘Unleash your Product Data’, the description of the event caught my attention with speakers and experts in the field from Boden, Productsup and The Comma Group. I have recently been a judge for ‘The Experian Data Excellence Award for Lloyds Bank National Business Awards 2019’, so fresh off the mark, I was ready with my questions!

Here is a link to the PodCast: Podomatic Podcasts

After the questioning, Emile Bloemen from Productsup approached me and we had a very interesting discussion across the Product and Customer Experience in data, which I found fascinating, and which prompted me to write this blog.

Let’s have a look at the customer experience and why the need for product experience management.

Truly understanding customer needs may help companies improve not only the buying experience but also their bottom line. A company’s relationship with its customers is about much more than improving product ratings or decreasing wait times. Understanding the customer journey is about learning what customers experience from the moment they begin considering a purchase, and then working to make the journey toward buying a product or service as simple, clear, and efficient as possible.

Customer experience has become the centrepiece of most marketing strategies today. Marketers have begun to realise that it’s the biggest differentiator a brand or a retailer has in today’s overcrowded market. A great customer experience starts with a compelling product experience. Customers have their pick of channels, so standing out among the crowd with relevant product information is imperative.

The race to own customer experience is on. Companies are recognizing the importance of delivering an experience that makes them stand out from their competition. Some are learning the hard way.

In recent year’s United Airlines had a brand crisis, in which $1.4 billion in value was wiped out overnight when a passenger’s experience went viral on social media. And, you may not have heard about Juicero, but it fell victim to a brand crisis when it was discovered the proprietary juice packets needed for its $699 juicer weren’t so proprietary, resulting in the company dropping the price of the juicer to $200, and then ultimately going out of business.

Be it customer service, product quality or just the way the customers feel about the companies they do business with, customer experience rises to the top of whether or not the customer will decide to keep doing business with a brand.

Everything a brand does – the way it does its marketing, research, advertising and more – all play a role in shaping the customer’s experience. Focusing on customer experience management (CXM) may be the single most important investment a brand can make in today’s competitive business climate.

Look around you. How many people are on their computer? Their cell phone? We’re surrounded by digital experiences, both at work and at home. Whether you’re a SaaS or cloud business, or if a digital experience is just one facet of your offerings, it’s imperative that you deliver an amazing product experience.

As a product leader, this weight of this responsibility falls on your shoulders and if you want to create competitive products, you need to develop a customer-centric mindset. Understanding product experiences inside and out will benefit your customers and your career. We’re no longer transitioning to a new era of business, we’re deep in it, and if you want to keep up, you need to be in tune with your customers and deliver continuous intrinsic value. Otherwise, you’ll be obsolete before you can say “Blockbuster.”

For this reason, Product Experience Management (PXM) tools are a necessity. You want to be able to compete on all the shopping channels and new marketplaces that arise. The ability to prepare a product catalogue to flow into every channel in the required format is no easy task.

The eCommerce space is changing. Customers demand a compelling and consistent brand experience wherever they shop. Product experience management allows brands and retailers to offer buyers these superior experiences, leading to increased conversions, reduced returns, improved customer satisfaction, and stronger brand loyalty.

‘Brands and retailers must deliver a compelling story across all digital touchpoints during the purchasing journey.’

That all sounds well and good – but how do you actually do that?

How can brands and retailers manage product experiences and provide compelling content in the proper context?

And where does product information management (PIM) fit into this picture?

What is Product Experience Management (PXM)?

Product Experience Management is a new profession. It’s the subtle science of delivering product information in context, adapted and scoped by channel and locale to match the buying experience at every touchpoint. Having the right data and insight into the type of product experience buyers expect is the foundation for any great customer experience.

‘According to Forrester, 85% of customers rate product information as the top feature they want from a website.’

Product experience management is how you make an emotional connection with your buyers. It’s the next stage beyond goods and services in the progression of economic value. PIM is the “what” you use to describe your commodities, goods, and services, while PXM is “how” you stage an experience. In 1999, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore wrote a book entitled ‘The Experience Economy’. The context is about how people trade money for time. This concept and the progression of economic value help us understand how we arrived at the place where customer experiences are the centrepiece of business models.

Pine and Gilmore say that in today’s economy people differentiate themselves from their competitors by moving up the economic value chain to provide excellent customer experiences. This value chain concept is shown below:

By using PIM as an engine for automating the boring, tedious, repetitive tasks involved in collecting, standardizing, and enriching product content, your marketing and eCommerce teams can turn their attention to contextualising product information, before distributing it to each channel.

Putting product data in context can mean several things: the right images, the right descriptions, the right attribute sets, and more. Each must be precisely tailored for the locale, cultural norms and standards, context for the channel, and the ways your buyer interacts with your brand. With the right tools, you can even leverage product data intelligence to further streamline your PXM practice.

These days, it’s all about speed. If you can’t get your products to market fast enough, then you’ll miss out on sales. It’s especially critical to get to market on time if your products are sold on a seasonal basis, or if you regularly add new products and models.

A good PXM solution enables your team to publish and update product catalogues in a timely way. It provides workflows to optimize and streamline processes, helping brands and retailers quickly add new products or channels. It uses business rules and automation to reduce manual work, freeing up time for marketers to write emotional product descriptions, while managing product images as well as text. With improved, streamlined processes, marketers can create complete and compelling product experiences across all channels.

This is the century of ‘smart devices’ which pushes the boundaries further and making the impossible possible. Organisations should analyse the gap across various markets in the technology field and innovate smart products and accessories catering to different requirements of their customers. The right product innovation can not only save an organisation from extinction but also help them sustain and grow by penetrating markets faster, connecting better with clients, seising big opportunities and having an edge in the business competition.

Profitable it seems for organisations to come up with innovative products, the groundwork to find a breakthrough idea is extremely complex. The complete cycle of inventing & innovating a product, after further developments and modifications, till it reaches maturity and leads to innovation of another new product is time-consuming and exceedingly complicated.

It needs immense precautions to implement an idea for product innovation and the development of the same. Tech experts should keep in mind its further implications, possible benefits, and disadvantages, if any, before the product is launched in the market. Balance is a very important aspect for an organization in product innovation.

The refinement of ideas, innovation of products and their public acceptance decides the future of an organisation and its success. The path is full of risks, nevertheless, organizations should step ahead cautiously by investing majorly in product innovation and deploying the best minds, in order to succeed and sustain today’s market

Final thought, in an age of constant, complex and disruptive technological innovation, knowing what, when, and how to structure regulatory interventions has become more difficult. Regulators find themselves in a situation where they believe they must opt for either reckless action (regulation without sufficient facts) or paralysis (doing nothing).

Inevitably in such a case, caution tends to imply risk. But such caution merely functions to reinforce the status quo and makes it harder for new technologies to reach the market in a timely or efficient manner.

Possibly the solution, is for lawmaking and regulatory design needs to become more proactive, dynamic, and responsive. So how can regulators actually achieve these goals? What can regulators do to promote innovation and offer better opportunities to people wanting to build a new business around a disruptive technology or simply enjoy the benefits of a disruptive new technology as a consumer?

As Mahatma Gandi once said:

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

The 4th industrial revolution debate across Autonomous Leadership

I recently had a very interesting conversation with a PhD in behaviour science – we were actually debating the issues and positives across micromanagement, after he had read my blog, ‘Is micromanagement delusional or can it be effective’, whilst I wrote this blog back in 2015, there currently appears to be much discussion around leadership and the 4th industrial creation of autonomous leadership, some genius believes autonomous leadership is the answer to ineffective leadership.

I thought it was time to refresh my thinking and look into the negatives and positives, and why autonomous leadership should be deployed across business.

Most leaders want employees who take the initiative, get involved, make decisions and generate ideas. In fact, because your team is likely made up of educated, competent, seasoned employees (some of whom you may have hand-selected), it’s natural to expect that they would need a little direction to take the proverbial ball and run with it. You have a vested interest in their success because, when your team performs well, everyone wins.

Likewise, employees of all generations share a desire to work autonomously toward the communicated vision. No one wants to feel as if they’re operating under someone else’s thumb, especially team members who are smart, ambitious and motivated.

If autonomy is an essential ingredient for promoting employee engagement and motivation, and given that both leaders and employees desire empowered environments, what keeps leaders from encouraging self-sufficiency in their employees? The short answer is a skewed perception of reality.

The breakdown often begins when leaders don’t see their employees making decisions and taking action quickly enough, or in the same way the leader would do it. In this situation, you understandably might question the motivation behind the employee’s lack of autonomy. Some executives I’ve coached have told me they wonder if their employees don’t care, if they’re not ambitious or competent enough to do the job. They often assume their employees need or want more direction because they seem to require help or feedback before moving forward. In other words, leaders often feel the problem is with their employees, not them.

Autonomy in the workplace is hard to implement and easy to abuse. It requires managers and employees to trust each other and communicate on projects, which can be challenging in their own rights. Too often, a communication breakdown leads to micromanaging or missed deadlines.

By tapping into information-sharing channels and mutual trust, it’s possible to increase team autonomy in the workplace. Here are a few examples of companies channelling information well and how employees become more autonomous because of it.

Many leaders instinctively want complete visibility of their team.

This is a recipe for micromanagement.

Interesting statement by Dr David Rock from The NeuroLeadership Institute, when he said: “Although we may not think about it often, everyone experiences the workplace as a social system. People who feel betrayed or unrecognized at work, experience it as a neural impulse, as powerful and painful as a blow to the head.”

He goes on to say that employees tend to limit their commitment and engagement if they feel undervalued. “They become purely transactional employees, reluctant to give more of themselves to the company, because the social context stands in their way.”

This type of situation can be the root cause of a low-performing team. Think about times that you have been part of such a team. It quickly demotivates everyone, plus rectifying the situation is very difficult once it takes hold. Your managerial challenge is to provide conditions where such a situation is less likely to happen, and giving the team a measure of autonomy in how to carry out their work is key.

Based on research and anecdotal evidence, there’s no denying workplace autonomy promotes employee happiness. A workplace survey by Gensler concluded that employees given more choices are more satisfied and higher performing than counterparts with fewer freedoms. Autonomy often inspires a culture of innovation, and allows employees an opportunity to become more self-sufficient. For executives, this means less time overseeing daily operations and more time focused on strategy and growth. But for a company that still hasn’t shifted to an autonomous environment, the idea of giving employees so much freedom can be a little unsettling.

Autonomy is quickly becoming the norm. Employees not only desire greater control over their work style and environment — they expect it. By exercising the above suggestions, you can help create a culture of freedom and choice without sacrificing efficiency, productivity and structure.

In order to make your team more autonomous, you need to establish communication and trust. Without communication, you’re leaving your employees without a safety net while your employees are working in isolation

Let’s look at some of the disadvantages of employee empowerment:

Lack of experience increases risk

While the handing down of responsibility promises to improve speed, agility and productivity, a concern is that decisions are now being made by less experienced and less expert personnel. This can increase the number of mistakes made and put reputation at risk.

The risk of work practices falling into chaos must be tackled by proper training, and by ensuring that supervisors maintain organizational standards. These standards must incorporate an organization’s values and beliefs: care must be taken that employees do not work in accordance with individual values that may be divergent to the corporate mission and vision.

Potential for decreased efficiency

When people are given the autonomy to make their own decisions, those decisions cease to be uniform. This lack of coordination can lead to problems down the line.
It is also the case that autonomous employees may decide to work slower on days when they feel distracted or lack the energy to forge ahead. Where some workers are performing more productively than others, without being rewarded for doing so, internal friction can increase. If not dealt with, this can cause confrontation or a spiral to the bottom as all workers decide to work at the pace of the slowest and least productive team member.

Failing relationships

Empowerment inevitably leads to a flatter, more streamlined management structure. The risk here is that professional relationships become blurred, and boundaries of authority become broken. This might require greater control over employees, not less.

Accountability issues may arise, leading to a blame culture that, if left unchecked, will lead to further discontent and an environment of mistrust. In such a situation, it is likely that employees will decide to take less responsibility for fear of repercussions should things go wrong.

Poor decision-making
If a team lacks the individuals with skills commensurate to the project, tasks, and work required, decision-making will be poorer. This will be to the detriment of the organization, as poor solutions lead to decreasing productivity and internal conflict.

Are you really a leader if nobody is following?

As a leader, you should have an element of magnetism to your style. What do I mean by that? I mean that people should be drawn to you; they should want to be around you – by choice, that is, not because it’s their job to take your direction. The greatest leaders have a natural following of people that are pointed in the same direction; people that want to accomplish the same goals; people that want to be on your journey!

These relational principals apply across the board. Just because you’re in a leadership position doesn’t mean that you’ve attained perfection. You’re human. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have questions, and people will respect you more for owning that. Your transparency and honesty open the doors for you to engage others and rely on their strengths and expertise. Your team will feel needed and valued by you, and they will likely jump into help compensate for your weaknesses.

In addition to being authentic about yourself, leaders should realise the importance of being open and honest about the state of their organization, current and future. Leaders should be clear and candid in their communication to give everyone an accurate assessment of what’s going on and what’s needed to improve. This openness and authenticity create understanding and direction, and it minimizes the chaos of uncertainty.

The truth of the matter is that we cannot all be the leader in charge.

The end result is that many people want to be led. They need someone who can be visionary and inspirational.

Perhaps there is some overlap with this and some of the other points already mentioned, but I thought it was important to say it in this particular way. The reason for that is because this puts the focus on understanding what your people need. To do this, you must get to know your people. You have to ask questions, listen and engage. This is a critical component to understanding people and meeting their needs.

Which brings me on to ‘we are a direct reflection of our experiences’ – the way we behave and not all organisational cultures are created equal. Your company’s behaviors and norms can be unhealthy and unsupportive. But take heart: your organisation has the power to build a high-performance culture. A high-performance culture has behaviors and norms that lead your organisation to achieve superior results by setting clear business goals, defining employees’ responsibilities, creating a trusting environment, and encouraging employees to continuously grow and reinvent themselves.

Employee engagement is a direct outcome of a high-performance company culture. Why? Because high-performance cultures clearly outline behaviors and norms that are healthy and supportive.

Employees clearly understand their culture and what is expected of them. They feel connected. They feel involved. They feel supported. And, therefore, they feel engaged. A company that takes its people seriously will have a business strategy, vision, mission and values.

It’s alarming to know that eighty-seven per cent of HR leaders state that company culture and engagement are their biggest challenges. It makes sense. There are several reasons culture and engagement are rising as relevant challenges for organisations. To start, employer branding has become more and more important. Employees are very much like customers. With the changes in the job market, employees have greater opportunities than they had in the past.

This puts employers in the position of having to actively attract employees, all while employees’ perceptions about work are changing. For the most part, employees no longer prioritise staying at a single job until retirement and instead are very uncommitted, they are more likely to choose a job that interests them and aligns with their own passion and values at a moment in time. Your organisation needs to regularly invest in culture to regularly see the resulting engaged employee base.

By providing training opportunities, the latest in technological advancements, managerial support, and an open mind about what makes a great workplace environment, companies can evolve to keep pace with employees’ expectations to really drive success. The key is that this is an ongoing process. Engagement doesn’t just happen – you have to focus employee needs over time and use that to drive a strong culture, a good way to achieve this is with an HR development plan, which has the engagement of senior leadership, management and the board of directors.

Final thought, by supporting people we employ or our family members to develop themselves so that we can each reach a state where we are conscious that the interior work is as important as our exterior communication skills.

By learning to deploy those skills to give individual context and insight to host other conversations, which would be vastly more helpful than the kind of conversation that happens in the superficial contextual layer.

We nominally share a language with others; sometimes not even that. Language isn’t helping us bridge the divide of ideological differences effectively any more. Embodied dialogue methods, like constellations and storytelling, can open new perspectives in people’s minds.

I am not convinced in my lifetime that an intuitive or compassionate AI, or robot will even come close to this objective, we need better leadership to drive home performance and growth outcomes, based around passionate, committed and determined humans.

A great quote by John Maxwell, where he states:

“If you are leading others and you’re lonely, then you’re not doing it right. Think about it. If you’re all alone, that means nobody is following you. And if nobody is following you, then you’re not really leading.”

Emotional Intelligence and Your Survival through the 4th Industrial Revolution!

Many experts now believe that a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) may be more important than their IQ and is certainly a better predictor of success, quality of relationships, Meaningful Conversations and overall happiness.

I have written many blogs on the subject, some of my readers may even recall the balance of IQ vs EQ is it really necessary?

Emotion has long been something of a taboo subject in the workplace. It’s widely seen as inherently negative – it clouds decision-making; allegedly it’s a source of weakness; it should be left somewhere but certainly not at the office. But recent changes in business and the wider world have caused a seismic shift in how people view emotion and appreciate its power when used intelligently.

One of the root causes is that the composition of the workforce has changed vastly over a relatively short period. It has become far more diverse in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion, gender and sexuality. And a gap has opened up, especially between members of the older generations who run most organisations and the millennials and gen Z-ers who work for them when it comes to personal values and expectations of employment.

The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 has found that millennials (defined by the researchers as those born between January 1983 and December 1994) and gen Z-ers (born January 1995 to December 1999) are mistrustful of businesses that prioritise their own agendas over their impact on society.

Many respondents to the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey said they would cut immediate ties with any company that didn’t share their values.
With the active rise of EQ, The World Economic Forum now considers EQ a crucial skill for the fourth industrial revolution, while research has always shown that EQ improves decision-making and morale in organisations.

Image © 6seconds.org/coaching

The Fourth Industrial Revolution introduces integrated adjustments to the way we interact with the world around us, including new advancements like the Internet of Things, the Internet of Systems, artificial intelligence, and more. We’re looking at not just technological assistance, but a flourishing form of technological assimilation

Move over, IQ; it’s not just about increased academia anymore. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will change how we interact with one another in conjunction with our technology, and it requires that we reconnect with our EQ (emotional quotient). As AI begins to make its way into the decision-making processes of modern business, emotional and social intelligence become two capabilities that can’t be automated yet – so more Meaningful and Purposeful Discussions…….?

In fewer than five years, more than a third (35%) of skills considered important today will have changed, according to this REPORT by The World Economic Forum. Amongst cognitive abilities such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, emotional intelligence – often referred to as ‘street smarts’ – has been identified as a crucial social skill that will be needed by all.

The report, based on the opinions of chief HR and strategy officers from leading global organisations, suggests that seismic advances in technology including artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and machine learning will revolutionise the way we live and work. As a result, organisations and employees will be under growing pressure to upgrade and fine-tune their skillsets to thrive, or even survive, in what is being termed The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

It’s one thing to have complex thinkers with lightning-fast computational skills and incomparable technical abilities, but it’s quite another to have an intercommunicating workforce that’s situationally aware and adaptive.

Consider the example of FedEx, which took EQ to heart when designing its leadership program. By focusing on building emotional intelligence into its management team, the company has yielded an 8-11 percent increase in core leadership competencies. Employees also made vast improvements in their decision-making and influencing abilities and experienced a marked improvement in their quality of life.

According to The World Economic report, by 2020 there will be a greater bidding war for employees with social abilities including persuasion and emotional intelligence compared to more limited technical skills like programming or equipment operation and control. Furthermore, professions previously seen as purely technical will see new demand for interpersonal skills, such as being able to communicate data effectively. Emotional intelligence is likely to be a major deciding factor in who will be able to adapt and flourish in these new roles.

In his books, ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ and Working With Emotional Intelligence’, Daniel Goleman presents five categories of emotional intelligence. To hire candidates who will thrive in your workplace, look for those who have a handle on these five pillars:

1. Self-awareness: If a person has a healthy sense of self-awareness, he understands his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how his actions affect others. A person who is self-aware is usually better able to handle and learn from constructive criticism than one who is not.

2. Self-regulation: A person with a high EQ can maturely reveal her emotions and exercise restraint when needed. Instead of squelching her feelings, she expresses them with restraint and control.

3. Motivation: Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They’re not motivated simply by money or a title. They are usually resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment and driven by an inner ambition.

4. Empathy: A person who has empathy has compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows him to connect with other people on an emotional level. The ability to empathize allows a person to provide great service and respond genuinely to others’ concerns.

5. People skills: People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build rapport and trust quickly with others on their teams. They avoid power struggles and backstabbing. They usually enjoy other people and have the respect of others around them.

Daniel Goleman on the importance of emotional intelligence

Effective leadership requires mastering and blending both left- and right-brain thinking.

Accenture recently conducted a research study across 200 C-suite executives from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States which indicated that pushing the C-suite to find new ways to lead, grow and sustain their organisations, demands a new type of leader to engage passion, principles and capabilities. Their expectation? Leaders who have a strong balance across analytics-led and human-centred skills.

This approach blends what’s traditionally been considered “left-brain” (scientific) skills that draw on data analysis and critical reasoning with “right-brain” (creative) skills that draw on areas like intuition and empathy. Bringing the two together intentionally to drive deeper levels of problem-solving and value creation is critical.

But the majority (89%) of today’s C-suite leaders hold business school, science, or technology degrees and have honed “left brain” skills—like critical reasoning, decision-making and results-orientation. Numbers. Data. Stats. The science of management, rooted in reasoning and proof points. This has served them well, and these capabilities will always be vital. But they are no longer sufficient.

Final thought. As the pace of change continues to accelerate and we head towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, being able to identify and anticipate future skills requirements will be crucial. Those organisations and employees who embrace and prepare for the changes will be the biggest winners.

Look around you: Tech is being transfused into the veins of every industry. You need to make an educated guess as to how — and which — new technologies could impact your business and then act.

Rapid disruptive change is inevitable, and the assimilation of technology into every aspect of modern business is unavoidable.

The question is whether today’s business leaders can remain competitive in a technological world that’s rapidly and exponentially evolving. The tide is rising on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Guest-blog: Patrick Bailey – Diversification vs. focus-driven

Patrick Bailey

Adversity of any magnitude should make us stronger and fill us with life’s wisdom, however, strength in any form is born from adversity – I wrote ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ from adversity and set up a business in the double-dip of 2008 and 2009, many people have done the same and it is almost a universal theme in the lives of many of the world’s most eminent minds.

As Michelle Obama once said:
‘You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.’

Determination, resilience, and persistence are the enabler for people to push past their adversities and prevail.
Overcoming adversity is one of our main challenges in life.
When we resolve to confront and overcome it, we become expert at dealing with it and consequently triumph over our day-to-day struggles.

Have you ever felt that your world is starting to fall apart because of how life tends to bombard you with seemingly impossible challenges?
Have you ever felt helpless and would rather spend your days feeling like a solitary zombie while the rest of the world doesn’t even care that you’re this close to almost losing your sanity?
Well, you’re not alone and the good news is, there are ways to properly deal with and overcome these obstacles.

Reality has a way of reminding us that no matter how hard you try and how good you treat people, you will always have those days, those times when you think the world is against you. During these moments, you often have the urge to either shut down or finally give up and think of the most foolish remedies available to you – both can have long-term damaging effects on you, emotionally and physically.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Patrick Bailey, who is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery.

He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. His website is: www.patrickbaileys.com

Patrick is going to discuss with us today “Diversification vs. Focus-Driven”

When the Tough gets going, remember this motto: ‘Hibernation is not Survival’

There’s a prevailing rule in a bear market, and that is to play dead when the stock prices are plunging.

After all, the market almost always corrects itself. Stocks operate on a cycle — sometimes up, sometimes down — except, of course, in cases when the economy is undergoing a recession.

Hibernation is different from inactivity, however. You just park your money in treasury bills or certificates of deposits for the moment.

But is hibernation a good tactic for your business during an economic slowdown?

Diversification vs. Focus-Driven

This has been the subject of debate.

Startups that manage to grow will often hit a fork in the road where they can no longer grow with their current set up.

Now, they have to make a choice: diversify their portfolio or bolster their product while they take a more focus-driven approach.

Instead of diversifying, they just ensure that their processes and workflow are more efficient, they automate to limit disruption and enhance the customer experience to guarantee client loyalty.

However, while you may see your bottom-line increase, it could just be temporary. That’s because you are not adding products or service value to your business.

Diversification doesn’t immediately produce results either. There’s no guarantee it will ever deliver the outcome you anticipate.

When the economy is in transition, you will find many competitors fighting over the scraps. This is a high-stakes game that could spell success or the end of your business. However, the alternative is no less disastrous.

The other option is not doing anything. When you pin the future of your company entirely on the hope that the economy will get better, you have the wrong strategy.

If you do decide to diversify, here are some quick tips to cut your risks:

  1. Don’t veer away too much from your core competency. Diversification doesn’t always mean being different. That’s oversimplifying its definition. Knowing your core competence will give you insight into how other capabilities tie together. Your main goal should be to create a new product or service that is still tied to your core competency in order to bring in new customers.
  2. Don’t forget your loyal customers. In fact, you need to align your strategies by boosting the value of your core business. You then retain the same customers and offer them another product that matches another — but still related — need.
  3. Put money into your marketing efforts. Ads and promotions are typically the first things to be sacrificed by companies that are scrimping on the budget. However, you need to make people aware that you have a new product. Even in an economic slowdown, people still buy. That’s consumer resiliency. You need to funnel these customers to your company by showing them that you are the answer to their most nagging questions.
  4. Timing is everything. Still aligning your diversification with your core competencies, you need to know when to change tack and when to sit it out. Before deciding to diversify, you need to bolster your core business to make sure you don’t lose focus. When the revenues have plateaued, then it’s time to shore up your business and add value by creating another product or service.
  5. Watch out for your cash flow. Revisit your inventory and your credit policies. When the times are tough, you may need to borrow in order to infuse new capital into your endeavors. However, no bank will offer you a lifeline when you have a shot credit and lousy financial prospects.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

There’s a saying in sports and even in war: The best defense is a good offense.

This strategy will allow you to take back control of the situation. Rather than wait for the next hammer to fall, you change your approach and bring the fight to the enemy.

This is a scary part, especially when the economic landscape is very fluid. However, there are numerous success stories of businesses that found some opportunities when they decided to go on the offensive rather than wait the economy out.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that this result in a better outcome, but it’s a lot better than playing dead while you wait for the economy to turn.

Here are some quick tips on how to go on offense from defense:

  1. Diversify. If you are putting all your eggs in one basket, chances are you will lose money if most of them crack. Businesses that rely only on one product will be badly hit during a slowdown.
  2. Think outside the box. It doesn’t even matter if you are earning less with your new business than you were with the old one. Expanding your network is the only way to learn and earn. Step out of your comfort zone and attend some industry trade shows.
  3. Reinforce relationships. This is a good way to let your clients know that you can be trusted even when the times are bleak. Don’t cut corners on the quality of your work, and don’t use the economy as an excuse for missing deliveries. In the same vein, get in touch with your suppliers to reassure them that work will continue (although the volume likely will be down).
  4. Cut fat. Sometimes the only way to take flight is if your business isn’t as heavy. This is a good opportunity to revisit your operations and trim the fat. You will find that your employees won’t be inflexible when you institute changes. They know that the market is very challenging, and they will be more apt to help.
  5. Form an advisory board. It seems paradoxical to suggest this when the item above tells you to cut fat. But if done correctly, the board can become a rich repository of ideas with which you can follow-through as you go about diversifying your products and services.
  6. Automation and analytics. Automating your workflow can boost your efficiency. Big data analytics are already being used by companies in order to improve customer experience. Analytics will give you insight into the minds and behaviors of your clients. This, in turn, will help you come up with a product that truly addresses their needs.
  7. Ask for help. If you are a member of any industry associations, this is the right time to touch base. The government also has some assistance to offer — in terms of technology transfer or financial assistance — to help you keep your head above water.

Lastly, you need to understand that there’s life beyond your business. Too often, you see CEOs with failed marriages and broken families because they prioritized their careers at the expense of spouses and children.

You hear of executives becoming addicted to the drug fentanyl, heroin, or alcohol to help them cope. They equate the failure of the business to their value as an individual.

However, there are more important things in life than being a successful CEO.

Life is all about challenges. Life will push you down if you refuse to push back. It doesn’t matter how many times you stumble. What’s important is how many times you get back up.

Take advantage of the economic slowdown to take stock of what’s important to you.
Bond with the kids, rekindle the romance with your spouse, visit your parents and siblings.
You just might realize that it doesn’t matter if you see yourself as a failure; you will be a hero in your kids’ eyes.

You can contact Patrick Bailey:

Email: bailey patrick780 @gmail.com (remove spaces)
Blog: http://patrickbaileys.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pat_Bailey80
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-bailey-writer

Not-for-Profit Directorships – It’s not a charity!

Roger Phare

Today, non-profit organisations in the United States control upward of $1.5 trillion in assets and are increasingly relied upon to help address society’s ills.

Corporations are not alone in focusing on governance; rigorous oversight of management and performance is increasingly important for non-profits too.

The corporate-governance debate globally is spreading from the for-profit to the non-profit world.

To improve the governance of non-profits, boards must venture beyond the traditional focus on raising funds, selecting CEOs, and setting high-level policy.

The litmus test of the chief executive’s leadership is not the ability to solve problems alone but the capacity to articulate key questions and guide a collaborative effort to formulate answers.

Theory and law dictate that the board of directors is responsible to govern your organization. Typically, new boards of directors in a new organization work hands-on, almost as partners — or as a “working board” — with the chief executive. A wise CEO will see Board members almost as strategic partners, rather than as a necessary evil that corporations must have.

It is important if you are building a board with the right set of tasks in mind. Boards have multiple roles, from fundraising to caretaking, governance, and oversight. Just like any company or corporation, it is important to do an assessment. Understand the skills that your particular non-profit needs to fulfil your mission.

Putting together an outstanding non-profit board is easier said than done, and it takes a lot of precision. Not everyone makes a great board member, so it’s acceptable to be picky when it comes to putting together a non-profit board.

Board challenges are something that many non-profits struggle with, and there’s no easy solution. We often hear horror stories of board takeovers—when the non-profit leadership is “overthrown” by its board of directors.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 38 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’.

Roger has been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Not-for-Profit Directorships – It’s not a charity!’

Thank you Geoff, the blog heading might seem like an oxymoron (or perhaps even a paradox for those of the literary-minded fraternity). After all, surely Not-for- Profit (NFP) organisations are charities; a fact that very few would dispute. At board level, however, the leadership, governance and compliance responsibilities are on at least an equal footing with commercial businesses of equivalent size and complexity.

I mentioned in a previous blog that that the term “Not-for-Profit” is a misnomer; in reality the correct term would be more likely “Not-for-Dividend”. In other words there is nothing at all wrong with, in fact commendable that, a charitable organisation makes an operational monetary surplus. The major difference is that the surplus is not distributed to external shareholders but channelled back into the organisation for ongoing initiatives. The governance and risk at board level is substantial and yet directors are often voluntary – pro-bono if you like.

The issue is not just one of payment but the value and importance placed upon such roles. At a recent business event I overheard a young professional discussing board opportunities. The individual was alluding to a recent application they had made to become a voluntary director on a NFP board. They went on to say that they hoped it would give them experience to apply for “proper” board positions in the future and – wait for it – if they made mistakes along it didn’t really matter because it was only voluntary! The concept of “free” having little or no “value” is the problem.

Now I am not proposing that Not-for-Profit Directors are necessarily paid at the highest commercial rates; there does need to be a good amount of desire and passion to be involved with the sector which means there is in-effect, a subsidised participation. I have long held the view that the NFP sector should consider the concept of “paid volunteers” (there’s that oxymoron thing again) for all roles within the organisation. What does this mean? Well – currently NFP’s have two types of staffing – paid and voluntary. Voluntary means no payment (other than direct expenses) and this leads to issues such as talent pool availability plus difficulties in selection of one candidate over another.

If, union rules permitting, all staff were paid volunteers i.e all paid but at say, 50% of market rates then this overcome a good number of the issues currently faced. At board level an experienced director could value the 50% subsidy as their pro-bono contribution, yet still be able to justify the time, effort and corporate responsibility required within their portfolio.

With this approach, charity could well begin at home….

We hope you enjoyed this blog!

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn: Roger Phare on LinkedIn
or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Do we need AI, if humans can grow in development?

It seems like every day there is a new article or story about artificial intelligence (AI). AI is going to take over all of the jobs. AI is going to do all of the repetitive, menial tasks carried out by admins on a daily basis. AI is going to rise up and take over. AI is not going to take over but instead be natively baked into all systems to produce more human interactions.

For all the things AI is allegedly going to do, it can already do a lot right now, such as automation, custom searches, security interventions, analysis and prediction on data, serve as a digital assistant, perform algorithm-based machine learning and more.

It will be a good number of years before we get AI doing everything for us, the real question is can humans survive without AI?

Does anyone recall the Trachtenberg speed system of basic mathematics?

The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is a system of mental mathematics which in part did not require the use of multiplication tables to be able to multiply. The method was created over seventy years ago. The main idea behind the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is that there must be an easier way to do multiplication, division, squaring numbers and finding square roots, especially if you want to do it mentally.

Jakow Trachtenberg spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and to escape the horrors he found refuge in his mind developing these methods. Some of the methods are not new and have been used for thousands of years. This is why there is some similarity between the Trachtenberg System and Vedic math for instance. However, Jackow felt that even these methods could be simplified further. Unlike Vedic math and other systems like Bill Handley’s excellent Speed Math where the method you choose to calculate the answer depends on the numbers you are using, the Trachtenberg System scales up from single digit multiplication to multiplying with massive numbers with no change in the method.

Multiplication is done without multiplication tables “Can you multiply 5132437201 times 4522736502785 in seventy seconds? One young boy (grammar school-no calculator) did successfully by using the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics.

So, with human intelligence why do we need AI, AGI, deep learning or machine learning?

Faster than a calculator, Arthur Benjamin discusses the speed of mathematics TEDxOxford

Albert Einstein is widely regarded as a genius, but how did he get that way? Many researchers have assumed that it took a very special brain to come up with the theory of relativity and other stunning insights that form the foundation of modern physics. A study of 14 newly discovered photographs of Einstein’s brain, which was preserved for study after his death, concludes that the brain was indeed highly unusual in many ways. But researchers still don’t know exactly how the brain’s extra folds and convolutions translated into Einstein’s amazing abilities.

Experts say Einstein programmed his own brain, that he had a special brain when the field of physics was ripe for new insights, that he had the right brain in the right place at the right time.

Can we all program our brains for advancement, does our civilisation really need our brains rely on AI/AGI?

Artificial intelligence is incredibly advanced, at least, at certain tasks. AI has defeated world champions in chess, Go, and now poker. But can artificial intelligence actually think?

The answer is complicated, largely because intelligence is complicated. One can be book-smart, street-smart, emotionally gifted, wise, rational, or experienced; it’s rare and difficult to be intelligent in all of these ways. Intelligence has many sources and our brains don’t respond to them all the same way. Thus, the quest to develop artificial intelligence begets numerous challenges, not the least of which is what we don’t understand about human intelligence.

Still, the human brain is our best lead when it comes to creating AI. Human brains consist of billions of connected neurons that transmit information to one another and areas designated to functions such as memory, language, and thought. The human brain is dynamic, and just as we build muscle, we can enhance our cognitive abilities we can learn. So can AI, thanks to the development of artificial neural networks (ANN), a type of machine learning algorithm in which nodes simulate neurons that compute and distribute information. AI such as AlphaGo, the program that beat the world champion at Go last year, uses ANNs not only to compute statistical probabilities and outcomes of various moves, but to adjust strategy based on what the other player does.

Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, and Google all employ deep learning, which expands on traditional ANNs by adding layers to the information input/output. More layers allow for more representations of and links between data. This resembles human thinking when we process input, we do so in something akin to layers. For example, when we watch a football game on television, we take in the basic information about what’s happening in a given moment, but we also take in a lot more: who’s on the field (and who’s not), what plays are being run and why, individual match-ups, how the game fits into existing data or history (does one team frequently beat the other? Is the centre forward passing the ball or scoring?), how the refs are calling the game, and other details. In processing this information we employ memory, pattern recognition, statistical and strategic analysis, comparison, prediction, and other cognitive capabilities. Deep learning attempts to capture those layers.

You’re probably already familiar with deep learning algorithms. Have you ever wondered how Facebook knows to place on your page an ad for rain boots after you got caught in a downpour? Or how it manages to recommend a page immediately after you’ve liked a related page? Facebook’s DeepText algorithm can process thousands of posts, in dozens of different languages, each second. It can also distinguish between Purple Rain and the reason you need galoshes.

Deep learning can be used with faces, identifying family members who attended an anniversary or employees who thought they attended that rave on the down-low. These algorithms can also recognise objects in context such a program that could identify the alphabet blocks on the living room floor, as well as the pile of kids’ books and the bouncy seat. Think about the conclusions that could be drawn from that snapshot, and then used for targeted advertising, among other things.
Google uses Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) to facilitate image recognition and language translation. This enables Google Translate to go beyond a typical one-to-one conversion by allowing the program to make connections between languages it wasn’t specifically programmed to understand. Even if Google Translate isn’t specifically coded for translating Icelandic into Vietnamese, it can do so by finding commonalities in the two tongues and then developing its own language which functions as an interlingua, enabling the translation.

Machine thinking has been tied to language ever since Alan Turing’s seminal 1950 publication “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” This paper described the Turing Test—a measure of whether a machine can think. In the Turing Test, a human engages in a text-based chat with an entity it can’t see. If that entity is a computer program and it can make the human believe he’s talking to another human, it has passed the test.

But what about IBM’s Watson, which thrashed the top two human contestants in Jeopardy?

Watson’s dominance relies on access to massive and instantly accessible amounts of information, as well as its computation of answers’ probable correctness.

Why humans will always be smarter than AI…..

This concept of context is one that is central to Hofstadter’s lifetime of work to figure out AI. In a seminal 1995 essay he examines an earlier treatise on pattern recognition by Russian researcher Mikhail Bongard, a Russian researcher, and comes to the conclusion that perception goes beyond simply matching known patterns:

… in strong contrast to the usual tacit assumption that the quintessence of visual perception is the activity of dividing a complex scene into its separate constituent objects followed by the activity of attaching standard labels to the now-separated objects (ie, the identification of the component objects as members of various pre-established categories, such as ‘car’, ‘dog’, ‘house’, ‘hammer’, ‘airplane’, etc)

… perception is far more than the recognition of members of already-established categories — it involves the spontaneous manufacture of new categories at arbitrary levels of abstraction.
For Booking.com, those new categories could be defined in advance, but a more general-purpose AI would have to be capable of defining its own categories. That’s a goal Hofstadter has spent six decades working towards, and is still not even close.

In her BuzzFeed article, Katie Notopoulos goes on to explain that this is not the first time that Facebook’s recallbration of the algorithms driving its newsfeeds has resulted in anomalous behavior. Today, it’s commenting on posts that leads to content being overpromoted. Back in the summer of 2016 it was people posting simple text posts. What’s interesting is that the solution was not a new tweak to the algorithm. It was Facebook users who adjusted — people learned to post text posts and that made them less rare.

And that’s always going to be the case. People will always be faster to adjust than computers, because that’s what humans are optimized to do. Maybe sometime many years in the future, computers will catch up with humanity’s ability to define new categories — but in the meantime, humans will have learned how to harness computing to augment their own native capabilities. That’s why we will always stay smarter than AI.

Final thought, perhaps the major limitation of AI can be captured by a single letter: G. While we have AI, we don’t have AGI—artificial general intelligence (sometimes referred to as “strong” or “full” AI). The difference is that AI can excel at a single task or game, but it can’t extrapolate strategies or techniques and apply them to other scenarios or domains you could probably beat AlphaGo at Tic Tac Toe. This limitation parallels human skills of critical thinking or synthesis—we can apply knowledge about a specific historical movement to a new fashion trend or use effective marketing techniques in a conversation with a boss about a raise because we can see the overlaps. AI has restrictions, for now.

Some believe we’ll never truly have AGI; others believe it’s simply a matter of time (and money). Last year, Kimera unveiled Nigel, a program it bills as the first AGI. Since the beta hasn’t been released to the public, it’s impossible to assess those claims, but we’ll be watching closely. In the meantime, AI will keep learning just as we do: by watching YouTube videos and by reading books. Whether that’s comforting or frightening is another question.

Stephen Hawking on AI replacing humans:

‘The genie is out of the bottle. We need to move forward on artificial intelligence development but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that will outperform humans.’

From an interview with Wired, November 2017

Disruptive change is inevitable – Change is constant

Change is inevitable.

More and more organisations today face a dynamic and changing environment. The oft-heard rallying cry in today’s organisations is “Change or die.” Survival in today’s global economy requires organisations to be flexible and adapt readily to the ever-changing marketplace. Change has become the norm. It is as necessary for organisations to pay as much attention to the psychological and social aspects of change as they do to the technological aspects.

We live in an era of risk and instability. Globalisation, new technologies, and greater transparency have combined to upend the business environment and give many CEOs a deep sense of unease. Just look at the numbers. Since 1980 the volatility of business operating margins, largely static since the 1950s, has more than doubled, as has the size of the gap between winners (companies with high operating margins) and losers (those with low ones).

Change is the one true constant in business, especially when it comes to operating a business. Having defined processes in place to effectively manage change can help companies sustain success.

In today’s business environment, knowing how to successfully navigate these changes and develop appropriate and effective processes to properly manage such change is a must. It’s virtually impossible for organisations to make sound strategic decisions and completely accomplish objectives when deprived of strong change management strategies. This is especially true in the world of project, program and portfolio management, where obstacles and ambiguity are inevitable at every juncture.

Companies all over the world find that they have to continually make changes to the way they work in order to stay ahead of the game, be profitable, and be relevant. Oftentimes, the changes could be externally mandated, internally conceived, or both, but the reality is that companies do have to evolve, change, or die. The global landscape is changing: businesses are moving to take advantage of new markets; organisations are restructuring to operate better, given the current market dynamic; competition is causing companies to radically change the way they do business.

The old business is not coming back – this is not just a statistic, it is a fact.

Companies operate in an increasingly complex world: Business environments are more diverse, dynamic, and interconnected than ever – and far less predictable. A study I read recently suggests that 75% of the S&P 500 will turn over in the next 15 years.

Many businesses that “have done things the same way for years” are affected by disruptive change: the economy changes, the competition changes, products change, technology changes, customers change, employees change, vendors change, buying methods change, delivery methods change.

Disruptive change is coming, and the only question is whether companies are going to cause it or fall victim to it. Disruption is not easy, to create or to confront it.

Businesses need to grow continuously in one way or another to achieve and maintain success. Growth comes by making positive changes that promote growth and by responding correctly to external changes.

Organisations throughout the world and across the global markets also recognise the need to embrace ‘nimbleness’ and ‘agility’ if they are to survive in the long run. The ever-changing landscape, globalisation, global dynamics, make it inevitable that companies have to evolve fast, repeatedly, and in a continuously improving manner in order to comply with regulations, collaborate with customers, and stay ahead of competition.

Whilst awareness of the challenges associated with change is prevalent, there is also compelling evidence of the long-term benefit of being great at driving organisational change. Therefore, it is expedient to look at some of the reasons why change is difficult, so that we can deliberately tackle the reasons for change complexity.

Sustaining success depends on an organisation’s ability to adapt

Why can some companies take advantage of any change the market brings, while others struggle with market-necessitated modification? The reasons why will differ for each organisation, but the question is definitely worth asking especially in light of the fact that the pace of change is accelerating at the fastest rate in recorded history.

Most companies find it hard to transform themselves in difficult circumstances. Corporate transformation under pressure.

Leadership needs to have a mindset that although change ability (agility, resilience) is essential for the survival and growth of many companies, there needs to be a concerted effort to build capacity to lead change effectively, and to purposefully build a change friendly culture in a systemic manner. This means that change leadership or sponsorship becomes a leadership competency that is recruited for and developed in leaders in the same way that it is done for other competencies such as decision-making.
Companies most likely to be successful in making change work to their advantage are the ones that no longer view change as a discrete event to be managed, but as a constant opportunity to evolve the business.

Change readiness is the new change management: change readiness is the ability to continuously initiate and respond to change in ways that create advantage, minimise risk, and sustain performance.

Organisations, and the people within them, must constantly re-invent themselves to remain competitive. Sustaining success depends on an organization’s ability to adapt to a changing environment.

Senior executives recognise that in order to compete optimally in the current and future landscapes, their companies will be expected to do more for less in a more dynamic landscape with issues of globalisation, new market opportunities, and new ways of doing business. There is a recognition that the changes are going to increase and the demands for business benefits realisation will also increase. It is therefore no longer optional for leaders to increase their ability to successfully implement strategies by increasing their ability to manage change and in fact leveraging this change management skill to become a competitive advantage.

If you’re struggling or your market is down, change management is especially critical because growing companies are not afforded the time to weather the storm of down markets or decreased demand. Offensive change when the company is doing well is a whole lot easier to manage than defensive change.
With this sentiment, I am not suggesting that you overhaul your business entirely change your mission, vision, and values or abandon your product strategy with every minor bump in the road. I am suggesting, however, that the best companies the ones that experience exceptional long-term success are able to quickly recognise the need to change and make the tweaks necessary to help their business continue its growth trajectory.

Here are three tips that can help the journey of change easier:

  • Top down support from the CEO level down to the senior executives below the CEO is what ultimately drives successful change. When the changes are major, you need to create a burning platform scenario that will encourage a sense of urgency.
  • Clear, consistent, and transparent communication by all executives is critical to explain why the change is necessary. Throughout the change process, it’s important to regularly and clearly communicate the reasons for change and reinforce that message to your team so they understand why you’re taking the hill in front of you.
  • Quickly identify the senior team members who don’t buy in and encourage and support them to leave the company if they refuse to embrace change. This means you may lose some very good people who helped you get to where you are, but those people won’t be as valuable going forward if they aren’t willing to help you get to where you need to be.

Final thought on the subject – business is a little like the growth rings on a tree. Every year, something changes it could be your product, your top competitors, your customers’ preferences, or any number of things. The best companies adapt to those changes, reinvent themselves when change requires it, and find a way to grow – in good times and bad.

Successful organisations foster a positive attitude toward change by anticipating it and purposefully planning for change. Change must be addressed in an intentional, goal-oriented manner. Change is something that people should do, not something that is done to them. People are more comfortable with change when they participate in planning for or implementing it because they gain some sense of control which reduces their fears.

As George Soros once said:

‘Market fundamentalists recognize that the role of the state in the economy is always disruptive, inefficient, and generally has negative connotations. This leads them to believe that the market mechanism can take care of all the problems.’

Why Leadership Matters

As all leaders experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, you will know you have been tested in ways that you never expected. And yet, somehow, we all prevail. Despite the frustrations, anger and fear, you will have learned a lot about yourself. You will be be forced to recognise your own weaknesses and eccentricities, and discover reserves of strength that you had not known existed. In the process, you will become less judgmental and more accepting of yourself and of others.

Leadership forces you to stay true to yourself and to recognise when you are at your best and when you are at your worst; the important thing is to stay focused and keep moving forward. You will learn that overcoming adversity is what brings the most satisfaction, and that achievements are made more meaningful by the struggle it took to achieve them.
Leadership will conquer, the most profound truth of your individual journey’s. Courage, drive, determination, resilience, imagination, energy and the right team, you will find success.
Winston Churchill once said:

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

A single brain sometimes cannot take decisions alone. One needs the assistance and guidance of others as well to accomplish the tasks within the desired time frame. In a team, every member contributes to his level best to achieve the assigned targets. The team members must be compatible with each other to avoid unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings.

Every team should have a team leader who can hold their team together and extract the best out of the team members. The team leader should be such that every individual draw inspiration from them and seek their advice and guidance whenever required. A leader should be a role model for his team members and a great mentor.

I had the pleasure of meeting Brendan Hall for lunch recently – he led the Spirit of Australia crew to overall victory in the Clipper 2009-10 Race, when aged 28. It was the second of three times the trophy has gone to an Australian team.

Recruiter 360 TV – Brendan Hall, Author of “Team Spirit” and winning Clipper round the world captain

Following the win, Brendan wrote the book “Team Spirit”, based on his race insights into the teamwork, leadership, skill, courage and focus required for performance.

Talking to Brendan he discussed how his team had just faced the ultimate challenge and one that they could never have been prepared for but circumstances dictated that they sail across the world’s largest ocean at a particularly fearsome time of year, on their own.

‘They had pulled together in the true sense of teamwork, and kept each other safe.’ ‘I feel it was their greatest achievement, and it was mine by association as I had got them to the point where they could take on that challenge. Ultimately that experience and those qualities led to our overall result.’

His crew were the same raw materials that every other boat had. They had characters and influential people and its leaders, together they made a great leadership team. The approach Brendan took was to empower everybody throughout the race and the goal was to get to a point where Brendan was redundant on deck and he could concentrate on everything else, the weather routing and the navigation.

A true team leader plays an important role in guiding the team members and motivating them to stay focused. One who sets a goal and objective for the team. Every team is formed for a purpose.
The leader alone should not set the goal, suggestions should be invited from one and all and issues must be discussed on an open forum. He must make his team members well aware of their roles and responsibilities. He must understand his team members well. The duties and responsibilities must be assigned as per their interest and specialization for them to accept the challenge willingly.

Never impose things on them.
Encourage the team members to help each other. Create a positive ambience at the workplace. Avoid playing politics or provoking individuals to fight. Make sure that the team members do not fight among themselves. In case of a conflict, don’t add fuel to the fire, rather try to resolve the fight immediately. Listen to both the parties before coming to any conclusion. Try to come to an alternative feasible for all.

The following 5 reasons summarise the importance of teamwork and why it matters:

Teamwork motivates unity in the workplace
A teamwork environment promotes an atmosphere that fosters friendship and loyalty. These close-knit relationships motivate employees in parallel and align them to work harder, cooperate and be supportive of one another.

Individuals possess diverse talents, weaknesses, communication skills, strengths, and habits. Therefore, when a teamwork environment is not encouraged this can pose many challenges towards achieving the overall goals and objectives. This creates an environment where employees become focused on promoting their own achievements and competing against their fellow colleagues. Ultimately, this can lead to an unhealthy and inefficient working environment.
When teamwork is working the whole team would be motivated and working toward the same goal in harmony.

Teamwork offers differing perspectives and feedback
Good teamwork structures provide your organization with a diversity of thought, creativity, perspectives, opportunities, and problem-solving approaches. A proper team environment allows individuals to brainstorm collectively, which in turn increases their success to problem solve and arrive at solutions more efficiently and effectively.

Effective teams also allow the initiative to innovate, in turn creating a competitive edge to accomplish goals and objectives. Sharing differing opinions and experiences strengthens accountability and can help make effective decisions faster, than when done alone.

Team effort increases output by having quick feedback and multiple sets of skills come into play to support your work. You can do the stages of designing, planning, and implementation much more efficiently when a team is functioning well.

Teamwork provides improved efficiency and productivity
When incorporating teamwork strategies, you become more efficient and productive. This is because it allows the workload to be shared, reducing the pressure on individuals, and ensure tasks are completed within a set time frame. It also allows goals to be more attainable, enhances the optimization of performance, improves job satisfaction and increases work pace.

Ultimately, when a group of individuals works together, compared to one person working alone, they promote a more efficient work output and are able to complete tasks faster due to many minds intertwined on the same goals and objectives of the business.

Teamwork provides great learning opportunities
Working in a team enables us to learn from one another’s mistakes. You are able to avoid future errors, gain insight from differing perspectives, and learn new concepts from more experienced colleagues.

In addition, individuals can expand their skill sets, discover fresh ideas from newer colleagues and therefore ascertain more effective approaches and solutions towards the tasks at hand. This active engagement generates the future articulation, encouragement and innovative capacity to problem solve and generate ideas more effectively and efficiently.

Teamwork promotes workplace synergy
Mutual support shared goals, cooperation and encouragement provide workplace synergy. With this, team members are able to feel a greater sense of accomplishment, are collectively responsible for outcomes achieved and feed individuals with the incentive to perform at higher levels.

When team members are aware of their own responsibilities and roles, as well as the significance of their output being relied upon by the rest of their team, team members will be driven to share the same vision, values, and goals. The result creates a workplace environment based on fellowship, trust, support, respect, and cooperation.

Final thoughts
Leadership is a necessary element to promoting teamwork in an organisation. When leaders are great, there is a lot of positive teamwork and many benefits. However, when leaders are poor there can be negative consequences that are completely opposite to the benefits of teamwork.

In business, leaders have the responsibility to do what they reasonably can to promote a good team environment. Practicing team-oriented leadership strategies can do a lot to usher in a sense of teamwork among professional team members. It is up to the leaders to make sure teams are functioning to their highest capacity. Although it sounds like a large responsibility, the benefits of promoting teamwork are incredible!

Henry Ford once said:

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right. Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”

Have we forgotten leadership and the foundation of business planning?

One of the questions I hear frequently from emerging and current leaders is this one: “How has leadership changed from 10 years ago and what do I need to understand about running a successful enterprise that I don’t know today?”

Well the reason is simple: only 14 Percent of CEOs Have the Leadership Talent to Execute Their Strategy.

The data in Global Leadership Forecast 2018 shows that organisations with effective leadership talent outperform their peers. Yet very few organizations manage this high-value asset in an integrated, cohesive way.
Even after spending more than $50 billion annually* on developing their leaders, many companies still don’t have the bench strength to meet their future business goals. And despite the spending, investments are often fragmented and see a lack of returns.
Leadership models and development programs abound; few ties to business goals. Worse yet, there’s scant evidence that they actually work. What’s needed is a coherent, integrated leadership strategy.
A well-crafted blueprint ensures that companies have the right talent, at the right cost, and with the right capabilities to deliver today and into the future. Yet, this report found less than one-third of the HR professionals surveyed feel their organisations have an effective leadership strategy. Companies that do have such strategies in place report better returns on their investment in talent. They consistently feature deeper leader bench strength and stronger leaders at all levels.

Many leaders are living under an identity crisis. They are uncertain about how to lead in a more diverse, transient, multigenerational environment that requires them to embrace diversity of thought – and they fail to see the potential opportunities this represents to both workplace and marketplace success.

When leaders become too comfortable with a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership, they conversely become uncomfortable with the uncertainty and change that more successful leaders embrace as part of the job. Complacent leaders are at risk of becoming irrelevant because they are unable or unwilling to course correct their style, approach and attitude to the environment of change they must lead through.

Leaders fail in their primary role and responsibility of enabling the full potential in people and the business they serve because they don’t know the difference between substitution and evolution. Instead of leading the organization and its people to continually evolve, they get stuck in a cycle of complacency and the substitution of activities associated with it. As a result, the company cannot grow or its growth cannot be sustained.

The result is a major shortfall in competent, clued up global leaders.

According to a 2017 report by Price Waterhouse Coopers, 75 percent of hiring managers believe leadership skills are hard to find in new recruits. And a Deloitte study found a whopping 87 percent of companies aren’t effective at building global leaders.

What could be more vital to a company’s long-term health than the choice and cultivation of its future leaders? And yet, while companies maintain meticulous lists of candidates who could at a moment’s notice step into the shoes of a key executive, an alarming number of newly minted leaders fail spectacularly, ill prepared to do the jobs for which they supposedly have been groomed.

Look at Coca-Cola’s M. Douglas Ivester, longtime CFO and Robert Goizueta’s second in command, who became CEO after Goizueta’s death. Ivester was forced to resign in two and a half years, thanks to a serious slide in the company’s share price, some bad public-relations moves, and the poor handling of a product contamination scare in Europe.

Or consider Mattel’s Jill Barad, whose winning track record in marketing catapulted her into the top job—but didn’t give her insight into the financial and strategic aspects of running a large corporation.

Ivester and Barad failed, in part, because although each was accomplished in at least one area of management, neither had mastered more general competencies such as public relations, designing and managing acquisitions, building consensus, and supporting multiple constituencies. They’re not alone. The problem is not just that the shoes of the departed are too big; it’s that succession planning, as traditionally conceived and executed, is too narrow and hidebound to uncover and correct skill gaps that can derail even the most promising young executives.

However, Harvard Business School released some research into the factors that contribute to a leader’s success or failure, the findings found that certain companies do succeed in developing deep and enduring bench strength by approaching succession planning as more than the mechanical process of updating a list. Indeed, they’ve combined two practices: succession planning and leadership development, to create a long-term process for managing the talent roster across their organisations. In most companies, the two practices reside in separate functional silos, but they are natural allies because they share a vital and fundamental goal: getting the right skills in the right place.

A final thought: to succeed in the 21st century workplace and marketplace, leaders must come out from under their identity crisis and embrace diversity of thought so that those they lead can overcome their own identity crises and reach their full potential. They must embrace risk and change as opportunities that others may fail to see as such. And they especially must understand the difference between substitution and evolution: one leads to the trap of complacency, the other leads to a path of growth and continued success. In the end, the wise leader knows their subject matter expertise and specifically what their leadership (identity) solves for – in support of the organisation’s evolution.

Perhaps the underlying lesson is that good succession management is possible only in an organisational culture that encourages candor and risk taking at the executive level. It depends on a willingness to differentiate individual performance and a corporate culture in which the truth is valued more than politeness.

A.P. J. Abdul Kalam once said:

“When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realise that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives.”