Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ken Iverson’s Plain Talk

strategy+business, January 7, 2019

by Theodore Kinni

Twenty years ago, in 1998, my agent called and asked if I’d be interested in coauthoring a business book aimed at identifying 21 companies that would lead the way in the 21st century. If you know anything about the vagaries of prediction, you can imagine what a lesson in humiliation that gig turned out to be. (Oh, 3Com; oh, Nokia.) But on the plus side, the project introduced me to F. Kenneth Iverson, a highly successful corporate leader who isn’t nearly as well remembered today as he should be — and whose simple and clear directives from the late 20th century resonate clearly in the 21st century.

At the time, Iverson’s memoir/management exposition, Plain Talk: Lessons from a Business Maverick, was newly published. And he was chairman of Nucor Corporation, which, under his leadership, had come from nowhere to run circles around Big Steel and compete head-to-head with heavily subsidized foreign steelmakers.

Iverson, born in 1925, revolutionized the steel industry. But that wasn’t his initial intent. In 1965, he was a vice president at Nuclear Corporation of America, a profitless company in which he headed a unit making steel joists. As bankruptcy loomed, the board fired the company’s president and offered Iverson the position. “Apparently, managing the only profitable division in the company made me presidential material,” he recalled in Plain Talk. “Although I was just 39 years old, I wasn’t too flattered. No one else wanted the job. It was mine by default.”

Iverson didn’t waste time formulating a grand or complex strategy. He returned the company to profitability by doubling down on what worked: He focused on steel joists and sold off everything else that was losing money. Neither did he have the luxury of pursuing disruptive innovation. He was too busy trying to make money in a commodity business the old-fashioned way: by reducing costs and driving up productivity.

He also invested, somewhat counterintuitively, in vertical integration. In 1968, when the rising cost of bar steel (the main ingredient in steel joists) started squeezing profits, Iverson decided to make it instead of buy it. Unable to come up with the couple hundred million dollars needed to finance a traditional smelting mill, he latched onto the then-emerging minimill concept, in which electric arc furnaces melt scrap iron to make low-cost steel. By 1970, the minimill, which Iverson built with a US$6 million bank loan, was producing more steel than the steel joist business required and became a profit center in and of itself. In the years that followed, Nuclear Corporation of America was renamed Nucor, and it built more minimills and expanded into steel decking, bolts, and sheet steel. Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Unlocking growth in the B2B telecom segment

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

PwC, January 2019

by Wilson Chow, Rolf Meakin, Mike Lawley, and Joseph Tagliaferro  


In the past five years, telecom operators have recorded an average compound annual growth rate of -0.4% for their B2B activity. The industry’s cash cows are in decline. These include legacy wireline offerings, such as multiprotocol label switching, plain old telephone service and digital subscriber line services. The catch rates on newer internet-based products have not been high enough to pick up the slack. Moreover, the complexity of the industry’s legacy technology, business and operations support systems has stymied efforts to both reduce costs and bring innovations to market. 

Buyers of B2B telecom services are also frustrated with what they perceive as a lack of responsiveness within the industry — a condition that has resulted in a high level of customer churn. Their dissatisfaction is exacerbated by a demographic changing of the guard: more and more buyers have service expectations set by a lifetime of dealing with digitally native consumer companies such as Amazon and Netflix. They expect service requests and delivery to be fulfilled on demand, and they don’t want to do business with telcos that can’t meet their expectations.

The new competitors, attracted by this combination of industry sluggishness and customer unrest, fall into two broad categories. The first includes companies such as Cisco, Juniper and Brocade; they seek to establish direct relationships with enterprise customers. They expect to do this by building a broad base of customers in the B2B market and selling services that overlap with telcos’ offerings, such as software-based VPNs and firewalls. The second group of competitors, which includes companies such as Amazon and Masergy, is seeking to disrupt the industry in a more fundamental way, less bound to established offerings. These companies are leveraging their agility and digital savvy to create new kinds of customer-centric solutions, test them with early adopters and bring them to market at an unprecedented pace — a pace that telcos struggle to match.

Telecom operators know they have advantages, particularly in their networks and long-established relationships with enterprise customers. They know that to better serve existing customers, win over new ones, reverse declining revenues and stymie competitors, they will need a major shift in their capabilities and outward-facing identity. This requires transformation. But knowing the effort and investment involved in transformations, and the high rates of failure, how can telecom leaders improve the odds for success? Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What are the 3 capabilities of highly effective HR leadership in the future?

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Inside HR, December 14, 2018

by Jeff Mike




It’s an exciting and challenging time to be in HR leadership. Elemental forces are driving HR out of its long-established functional orbit around the business and pulling it into the core value drivers. Leaders who can effectively navigate this positional shift will have an unprecedented opportunity to bolster business outcomes and worker productivity as well as their own careers.

The forces behind this opportunity include a fundamental shift in the character of companies and a related shift in the nature of work itself. Changing demographics, particularly the attitudes of Millennials and Gen Xers, are pushing companies to embrace and act on purposes that are broader and more fulfilling than profit alone. Witness the rising incidence of employee activism in Silicon Valley and the emergence of the social enterprise.

Digital technologies are not only amplifying the demands of employees (and indeed, all corporate stakeholders), but they also hold out the tantalising promise of a more collaborative and productive workplace. As the tools of data-driven decision-making become more available to employees at all levels, work itself can be reimagined and the role of management fundamentally reshaped.

Instead of command-and-control hierarchies, companies can perform more like symphonies. We are already seeing this trend manifesting in the emergence of what we call the symphonic C-suite, in which siloes are torn down and top leaders play together as a team while also leading their own functional teams, all in harmony.

The above developments are people-centered, and that’s why HR is being pulled into the core of the business. To be able to successfully occupy that space, HR leadership will need three important capabilities that have been revealed and confirmed by Bersin’s high-impact HR research. Read the rest here

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Are You Paying Lip Service to Work-Life Balance?

Impakter.com, December 13, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

The statistics on paid time off in the U.S. are bewildering. In 2017, American workers didn’t take 704 million paid vacation days, according to Project: Time Off. That’s $62.2 billion in unpaid benefits, and a lot of neglected families.

You might think these data points would have CEOs everywhere chortling with glee. But it seems like they are chained to their desks, too. Witness the standard CEO memoir, which pays lip service to any semblance of a life outside of work.

In the 365 or so pages of Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?, his chronicle of his years at the helm of IBM in the 1990s, Lou Gerstner, Jr. devoted a mere couple of sentences to his family. Apparently, they were aware he had been asked to take on the massive IBM turnaround. But he says he agreed to take the job during a recruiting meeting and then, went home to announce his decision. “My wife, who had been quite wary of the idea originally, supported my decision and was excited about it,” Gerstner writes, almost as an afterthought at the end of Chapter 1. If the rest of the book is any indication, he disappeared into the corporate maw immediately thereafter and didn’t pop back up in the living room until a decade later.

The similarly-lengthy memoir of Harold Burson, the co-founder of the one of the world’s largest PR agencies, is another case in point. Burson wrote a 10-page postscript titled “The Role of Family” in The Business of Persuasion, the memoir he published last year. “As I reflect on the sixty-plus years since the formation of Burson-Marsteller,” he says, “I have come to realize that, for more than fifty of those years, I deprived my family of my companionship almost half the time.” I can’t help but think this is a conservative estimate, because Burson notes that he invariably traveled during 45 or more weeks each year, including over 100 trips to Europe for 10-14 days at a clip, as well as trips to Asia for a minimum of two weeks each. Sadder yet, Burson devotes less space in the memoir to his wife, whom he admits contributed much to his career and the success of his company, than he does to his love for West Highland white terriers.

Of course, CEOs such as Gerstner and Burson are of an older generation whose standard version of work-life balance looked like Leave It to Beaver (which is the version on which I cut my teeth). But I suspect that Gen X and Millennial CEOs may not be any better...Read the rest here

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Grow Faster by Changing Your Innovation Narrative

Learned a lot editing this one:

MIT Sloan Management Review, December 10, 2018

by George S. Day and Gregory P. Shea

Business people jumping on growth diagram bars with the leading center bar topped by a lightbulb indicating innovation
Managers have no shortage of advice on how to achieve organic sales growth through innovation. Prescriptions range from emulating the best practices of innovative companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and 3M to adopting popular concepts such as design thinking, lean startup principles, innovation boot camps, and cocreation with customers. While this well-meant advice has merit, following it without first understanding your company’s innovation narrative is tantamount to going from symptoms to surgery without a diagnosis.

An innovation narrative is an oft-overlooked facet of organizational culture that encapsulates employees’ beliefs about a company’s ability to innovate. It serves as a powerful motivator of action or inaction. We find innovation narratives in two basic flavors: growth-affirming and growth-denying, or some combination thereof.

Companies that lead — or aspire to lead — their industries in organic growth need to have a coherent, growth-affirming innovation narrative in place, and we will discuss why that’s important and what it can look like. But what actions support the development and maintenance of such a narrative? To answer that question, we tested 18 possible innovation levers and identified the four that are most relied upon by organic growth leaders to stay ahead of their competitors: (1) invest in innovation talent, (2) encourage prudent risk-taking, (3) adopt a customer-centric innovation process, and (4) align metrics and incentives with innovation activity. We will look at each one in turn.

These four levers will be familiar to innovation practitioners, but their effects intensify with managerial focus. They serve as so-called simple rules. That is, they avoid the confusion and dilution of effort that result from trying to pull too many levers at once or in an uncoordinated manner, and they channel and prioritize leaders’ efforts to embed a growth-affirming innovation narrative in their companies. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Predictions for 2019: People analytics will augment the workforce and the workplace

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Deloitte Capital H Blog, December 4, 2018

by Kathi Enderes


Ninety percent of the data in the world has been created within the last two years alone, and the continued emergence of new technologies will likely increase that rate even more. HR leaders have been attempting for years to use people analytics to turn this vast amount of data into actionable insights, but many still struggle with how and where to apply people analytics to maximize the return on investment. In the coming year, more and more organizations will start to apply people analytics in a new way, with a direct focus on the individual, rather than through HR or leaders—a bottom-up approach, as opposed to just top-down.

Going forward, we predict people analytics will become a principal supporting factor in the growing autonomy (and productivity) of the individual, empowering each person with the insights to help them do their best work. Last year, Bersin’s High-Impact People Analytics research revealed that only 2 percent of surveyed organizations are highly mature in people analytics. That tiny percentage has granted us an advance look at how to put people analytics to work. The most mature functions not only integrate it throughout their enterprises but also focus it on addressing business problems, enhancing the quality of day-to-day decision-making, and expanding its accessibility and use through robust insight delivery systems. The purpose of people analytics in these few high-performing companies? Enhanced workforce productivity and performance. Read the rest here.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Are You Paying Lip Service to Work-Life Balance?

LinkedIn, Nov. 30, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

The statistics on paid time off in the U.S. are bewildering. In 2017, American workers didn’ttake 704 million paid vacation days, according to Project: Time Off. That’s $62.2 billion in unpaid benefits, and a lot of neglected families.

You might think these data points would have CEOs everywhere chortling with glee. But it seems like they are chained to their desks, too. Witness the standard CEO memoir, which pays lip service to any semblance of a life outside of work.

In the 365 or so pages of Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?, his chronicle of his years at the helm of IBM in the 1990s, Lou Gerstner, Jr. devoted a mere couple of sentences to his family. Apparently, they were aware he had been asked to take on the massive IBM turnaround. But he says he agreed to take the job during a recruiting meeting and then, went home to announce his decision. “My wife, who had been quite wary of the idea originally, supported my decision and was excited about it,” Gerstner writes, almost as an afterthought at the end of Chapter 1. If the rest of the book is any indication, he disappeared into the corporate maw immediately thereafter and didn’t pop back up in the living room until a decade later.

The similarly-lengthy memoir of Harold Burson, the co-founder of the one of the world’s largest PR agencies, is another case in point. Burson wrote a 10-page postscript titled “The Role of Family” in The Business of Persuasion, the memoir he published last year. “As I reflect on the sixty-plus years since the formation of Burson-Marsteller,” he says, “I have come to realize that, for more than fifty of those years, I deprived my family of my companionship almost half the time.” I can’t help but think this is a conservative estimate, because Burson notes that he invariably traveled during 45 or more weeks each year, including over 100 trips to Europe for 10-14 days at a clip, as well as trips to Asia for a minimum of two weeks each. Sadder yet, Burson devotes less space in the memoir to his wife, whom he admits contributed much to his career and the success of his company, than he does to his love for West Highland white terriers.

Of course, CEOs such as Gerstner and Burson are of an older generation whose standard version of work-life balance looked like Leave It to Beaver (which is the version on which I cut my teeth). But I suspect that Gen X and Millennial CEOs may not be any better. Read the rest here.

The Ambient Future of HR

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss Magazine, December 2018

by David Mallon


HR has come a long way from its functional roots in control and compliance. Nowadays, HR is a business partner — aligning and integrating its services with the business to help employees achieve corporate goals. That sounds great, but it isn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

HR’s current paradigm of alignment and integration is going to fall short in the coming years. Anything that distracts employees from their work and reduces their productivity will fall short. And that includes far too many HR processes, including performance management, learning and development, rewards, etc., that currently run separately from or even, in parallel with work.

Tomorrow, HR processes will need to be like the electricity that runs through your office and the online networks that connect your employees to each other and the rest of the world. No matter how complex the process and no matter where your people are, HR needs to be relocated to the point of work. In short, HR must become ambient.

The fundamental premise of ambient HR is that it’s intrinsic to work and employee performance. (If it isn’t, why are you bothering?) The ideal guiding principle of ambient HR is that anything being done to support performance, whether at the organizational, team, or individual levels, should be within a few keystrokes’ reach of the people that need it. Ambient HR goes to employees, not vice versa. It doesn’t distract or divert people; it doesn’t require them to step away from their work or learn systems and vocabularies that are not part and parcel of their jobs.

For the first time, the technology needed to embed HR in work at scale is available. The digital transformation of our companies — indeed, our world — is solving that problem. What’s needed now is an ambitious and prodigious design effort; an employee-centric, data-driven rethinking of HR processes and service delivery.

Where might the application of design thinking to the challenge of ambient HR yield the greatest returns? Here are some of the HR processes that are ready for a thorough rethinking. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Leaders Should Focus on Human Dignity at Work

strategy+business, November 28, 2018   

by Theodore Kinni


With bankruptcy looming, management appealed to employees to accept pay cuts and “pull together and win.” The workers did. After the company limped along for five long years, the turnaround came. The company’s leaders marked the occasion by giving themselves hefty bonuses, but didn’t bother to restore worker pay. A complete breakdown in the relationship between management and employees ensued, and Donna Hicks got a call.

Hicks is a conflict resolution expert. During her long association with Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, she has worked with governments, corporations, and other organizations to reconcile seemingly unreconcilable differences between groups of people. In the mid-2000s, the BBC enlisted her to co-facilitate, with Desmond Tutu, first-time encounters between victims and perpetrators in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Hicks found a thread connecting all of these experiences: Conflict is exacerbated by violations of dignity.

“The common denominator is the human reaction to the way people are being treated,” she writes in Leading with Dignity, her second, sometimes redundant, book on the topic, which tightens its focus to business. When people’s dignity is violated in the workplace, she writes, “they feel some of the same instinctive reactions that parties in international conflicts experience — a desire for revenge against those who have violated them. People want their grievances listened to, heard, and acknowledged. When this doesn’t happen, the original conflicts escalate, which only deepens the divide.”

Moreover, leaders play a major role in dignity violations and the outcomes that they produce. “The extent to which leaders pay attention to, recognize, and understand the dignity concerns underlying people’s grievances makes an enormous difference as to whether these conflicts can be resolved,” Hicks writes.

If you’ve been watching the leadership spectacle currently playing on the world stage, you might not be surprised to learn that most leaders, and the rest of us, too, have a woefully underdeveloped understanding of dignity. “Most people do not have a working knowledge of dignity,” Hicks writes. “I have found that most people are unaware of their own inherent value and worth, and are usually at a loss for how to recognize it in others.” Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Predictions for 2019: The productivity imperative

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Deloitte Capital H Blog, November 27, 2018

by David Mallon

If there is one line that sums up the outlook for HR in 2019, it might be that backhanded blessing, “May you live in interesting times.” These are interesting times, indeed. The increasingly influential role of social capital in organizational success is compelling companies to reimagine their purpose and redefine what it means to be a good citizen, internally and externally. In this new social enterprise, more collaborative and productive relationships with employees, customers, and communities go hand in hand with the quest for revenue and profit.

The need to support the emerging social enterprise and address the lack of enthusiasm with HR’s core services should give us all pause. When the demands on HR are greater than ever and the complexity and range of solutions are multiplying exponentially, HR professionals need to home in on the signal. We all need to tune into the core mission of HR and then make sure that every effort and investment serves it.

Addressing HR’s true value
The rise of the social enterprise is a global trend that positions HR at the center and gives greater weight and urgency to Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for core HR services. My colleagues have calculated these scores in the course of our High-Impact research and discovered that the NPS for performance management is negative-60 and the NPS for rewards is negative-15. If these were customer scores, many company leaders would declare a state of emergency. The scores for L&D and talent acquisition are positive (19 and 15, respectively), but neither would be cause for celebration in the C-suite if they were in customer realm.

What’s your Net Productivity Score?
We at BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP are convinced that HR’s core mission is productivity. When you strip away the noise, HR’s job is to enable and enhance the productivity of people. This goal serves all of HR’s stakeholders—the enterprise, the individual employee, and the community at large. Thus, the most important metric on the HR dashboard isn’t the net promoter score (even though it is a useful indicator), it’s the net productivity score. The question that determines the real value of HR is simply this:

“Has what we’ve done today, this week, this month, and this year—the programs, the processes, the initiatives—resulted in a net addition or subtraction from individual and team productivity?”

In the days to come, look out for seven new articles from Bersin in which our analysts will share their viewpoints on the most relevant and interesting developments to watch in 2019, including their outlook on HR’s role around the productivity imperative. Read the rest here

Sunday, November 25, 2018

How to embed data-driven decision-making into your organisational culture

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

InsideHR, November 20, 2018

by Jeff Mike



Thanks to the increasing sophistication of analytics, data and algorithms can inform and improve management, business, and HR decision-making throughout companies. But, the tools of data collection and decision-support algorithms are only one element in the quest to attain the full potential of analytics.

Another is the ability of employees at all levels to use these tools, a challenge that will require a broad-based upskilling of the workforce. And, there’s an additional element – the willingness to employ analytics to make decisions. Compounding all of this is the fact that organisations today are becoming social enterprises, where the ability to manage social, environmental and governance concerns are as important as financial returns. In this environment, workers have more influence than ever. Their voices are amplified through social media and other means, meaning errors made by an organisation can have far-reaching consequences.

So, what does all of this mean? To create a willingness to use more data and unbiased decision-support algorithms, a mindset of data-driven decision-making should be embedded in the organisational culture in a way that benefits employees in their work as well as other stakeholders. The need for a data-driven culture is important and shouldn’t be underestimated.

In fact, this need is one of the top findings in Bersin’s High-Impact People Analytics research, which revealed that a company can fully utilise people analytics only if – and when – using data to make decisions becomes part of the culture, or “how we do things around here.” In fact, the research determined that organisations that have achieved the highest levels of people analytics maturity are three times more likely to have such a culture than organisations at lower maturity levels.

However, just making the decision to implement a mindset of data-driven decision-making into an organisation’s culture won’t work. In an analytics-friendly culture, data-driven decision-making isn’t an afterthought, an add-on, or a justification; rather, it is a shared mindset in which:

  • Everyone recognises that data and analytics are essential to sound decision-making;
  • They use data and analytics in their decision processes for all aspects of the enterprise including financial, social and environmental well-being;
  • They use data and analytics to monitor – and adjust – decision outcomes to ensure desired results and to prevent bias.
Read the rest here...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Truth About Behavioral Change

Learned a lot editing this one:

MIT Sloan Management Review, Nov. 7, 2018 

by Damon Centola

When Twitter launched in March 2006, the earth did not move. Its founders and a few early funders were excited about the technology, but the microblogging site was not the immediate blockbuster you might imagine it was, given that it now has more than 300 million users and has become a wildly influential marketing tool for businesses, nonprofits, and even politicians. Rather, Twitter crept along in its early months, growing slowly.

So, what happened to transform it from another also-ran into one of the largest communication platforms in the world?

Twitter seems on the surface to be the kind of technology that journalist Malcolm Gladwell and Wharton School marketing professor Jonah Berger refer to as “contagious.” To jump-start Twitter’s growth, its founders decided to promote it at a South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference in 2007, where it was a big hit. From there, people assume it rapidly spread across the United States through the internet, thanks to social contacts connected by what network researchers call “weak ties” and “long bridges.” Two years later, in 2009, Twitter adoptions were catapulted into a global orbit when a major opinion leader, Oprah Winfrey, sent her first tweet on her talk show.

That narrative is easy to grasp and compelling. It gives startups, and the people who invest in them, a road map for success. Unfortunately, it is also inaccurate, and the road map leads to a dead end.

In a very interesting study, Twitter’s actual growth pattern was revealed to be surprisingly geographic. Friends and neighbors adopted the technology from one another in much the same way people join a PTA fund-raiser or get excited about a candidate for town office. Twitter didn’t spread virally across the internet; it spread locally, like a grassroots social movement.

Although that explanation of Twitter’s success is less sensational than the usual “going viral” story, it is far more useful for understanding how social networks promote behavioral change. And it corresponds with a growing body of research that describes behavioral change as a complex contagion, which needs reinforcing ties and wide bridges to spread. We’ll explore those concepts here. They are key elements in a diffusion playbook for companies attempting to launch innovations and facilitate both customer and employee adoption. Read the rest here.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Best Business Books 2018: Management

strategy+business, November 5, 2018

by Theodore Kinni



Illustration by Martin León Barreto

Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein, Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust (Berrett-Koehler, 2018)


Heidi Grant, Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You (Harvard Business Review Press, 2018)

Yesterday, managers were the wizards of business. They learned profitability and productivity incantations at various branches of the Hogwarts School of Business. They were privy to arcane corporate knowledge that was withheld from the mere mortals in the rank and file. They pointed their wands, and the workforce did their bidding.

Tomorrow, it’s likely that employees will manage themselves. The incantations and knowledge that were once the manager’s stock-in-trade will be at their fingertips, perhaps on their smartphones. With the help of computers imbued with artificial intelligence, they will decide their own direction.

But what should managers be doing today? The authors of this year’s best business books on management offer conflicting answers. MIT professor emeritus Edgar Schein and his son Peter, now colleagues at the Organizational Culture and Leadership Institute, see a new, relationship-based managerial culture emerging. University of California at Berkeley management professor Morten Hansen identifies practices that defined high performance in the recent past and urges contemporaries to copy them. And social psychologist Heidi Grant of the NeuroLeadership Institute offers managers a way to develop a skill that they will surely need at some point — no matter what their future holds. Read the rest here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Leading a Bionic Transformation

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

strategy+business, October 29, 2018

by Miles Everson, John Sviokla, and Kelly Barnes




Illustration by Mark Matcho

What is it about companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Alibaba? No matter where they turn their attention — cars, banking, groceries, healthcare, media, retail, trucking — industries quail before them. Company leaders start wondering if their moats are deep enough. Investors flee before the drawbridges rise. These companies are among the largest and richest in the world, and they use this leverage to become larger and richer still — in 2018, Apple and Amazon became the world’s first trillion-dollar companies. These powerhouses attract huge numbers of extremely talented people to work for them, and they generate one innovation after another. But none of that explains the source of their industry-disrupting power.

There are probably 100 companies around the world — including at least 40 “unicorns,” startups with a market capitalization of US$1 billion or more — with similar qualities. They are known for rapid, exponential success. Most are in the U.S. and China right now, but they will probably become more common elsewhere soon. We think of them as bionic enterprises: a name that evokes the fusion of technological and biological systems for extraordinary performance and growth. These companies compete in unprecedented ways by combining digital prowess, human ingenuity, and strategic purpose, as if they were the corporate equivalent of superhuman cyborgs such as Marvel Comics’ Iron Man.

Over the past year, as we’ve been researching and writing about the nature of bionic companies (see “The Bionic Company,” by Miles Everson and John Sviokla, s+b, Feb. 22, 2018), it’s become apparent that no company has a monopoly on this way of doing business. A few companies are out in front, but many others will follow. Some will be part of consortia; some will take advantage of highly capable platforms. You can lead your own company toward a bionic transformation if you think about changing your business in the following ways.

• From a business model based on managing the supply of your product or service to one based on providing whatever customers demand, using any means possible

• From an operational approach based on stocks of information that you hold and capture, to one based on flows of knowledge that you collaborate on and share

• From a competitive position based on a stable landscape of rivals to one based on platforms where a single winner dominates the system

Underlying these three shifts of mind is a quiet revolution in the sources of wealth that businesses deploy and create — the first such major shift since the Industrial Revolution. These new intangible (but very powerful) assets are behavior capital, the awareness and insight developed by tracking ongoing activity; cognitive capital, knowledge codified into digitally managed routines; and network capital, the human and technological connection points available to an enterprise (see “Wealth in the 21st Century”). When you deploy these three forms of capital effectively, you transform your enterprise...read the rest here

Friday, October 26, 2018

Why It Doesn’t Always Pay to Be Decisive about Making Decisions

strategy+business, October 26, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

Banal bromides are my pet peeve. They all sound like the wisdom of the ages, until you think about them for a few seconds and discover they don’t make any sense at all. Consider this one, which popped up in my LinkedIn feed the other day: “The best time to make a decision is before you have to.”

This is nonsensical, if not downright dangerous. Why would you make a decision before you have to?

For starters, if you wait, you may find that you don’t need to make the decision at all. I once worked closely with a leader whom I admired and respected, except for what I thought was a bad habit of dithering with decision requests. He wouldn’t offer rulings on even simple matters. It took me a while to realize that the decisions he sidestepped resolved themselves — either something changed that eliminated the need for the decision or it was made in a collegial way by the people directly involved. It was less a bad habit than a refusal to micromanage.




Photograph by Westend61

Let’s assume that eventually you will have to make an important decision, though. If you make it before you have to, you’re betting that nothing is going to change before the time comes to act on it. Given the speed of change these days, what are the odds of collecting on that bet?

If, as is likely, conditions do evolve, you’ll need to reconsider your decision. That means at least some wasted work. But worse, it opens you up to a cognitive heuristic that psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky named “anchoring-and-adjustment.” They found that when people have an anchor in mind — a numerical estimate, for instance — and then receive new information that requires rethinking it, the adjusted estimate tends to hew too closely to the anchor. In other words, if you make a decision before you have to, and then the conditions on which it was based change, you probably will not make the proper adjustments. The result: a suboptimal decision.

What should you do instead? Read the rest here

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Changing the Way Your Company Thinks About Change

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss Magazine, November 2018

by David Mallon



In 2003, when General Stanley McChrystal assumed leadership of the covert Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Iraq, his first order of business wasn’t tracking down dictator Saddam Hussein or jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, it was creating an organization capable of responding effectively to constant change.

A self-admitted “control freak” as a young officer, McChrystal quickly discovered that the complex conditions and enemy capabilities in Iraq were unique. “We realized pretty quickly that raids were not our product. People kept thinking it was the operators going through the [enemy’s] door, but, no, it was knowing where the enemy was and constantly adapting,” he explained in Deloitte Review.

The missions of most companies are not as dramatic—or dangerous—as JSOC’s mission. Nonetheless, many companies are facing disruptions and competitive challenges that require an unprecedented degree of agility and adaptability.

Every business leader knows that the ability to manage change is an organizational imperative. They also know that there can be significant people barriers to achieving change: employees don’t like change, so they resist it; and when they are forced to deal with too much change, they become fatigued.

But what if those barriers aren’t always as imposing as they seem? After all, change resistance and fatigue are psychological states, not immutable conditions. There is no reason why change can’t trigger enthusiasm and energy, instead of resistance and fatigue. In fact, such a transformation can be achieved with three shifts in your company’s change mindset...read the rest here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Four Building Blocks of Transformation

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

strategy+business, October 22, 2018

by Al Kent, David Lancefield, and Kevin Reilly




Illustration by Miguel Montaner

If you are a business leader, you are probably thinking about radical change. New industrial platforms, geopolitical shifts, global competition, and changing consumer demand are reshaping your world. You face upstart competitors with high valuations encroaching on your business, and activist investors looking for targets. Meanwhile, you have your own aspirations for your company: to be a profitable innovator, to seize opportunities, to lead and dominate your industry, to attract highly committed talent, and to carve out a socially responsible role in which your organization makes a difference. You also probably want to clear away the deadwood in your legacy system: practices, structures, technologies, and cultural habits that hold your company back.

The conventional response is a transformation initiative — a top-down restructuring, accompanied by across-the-board cost cutting, a technological reboot, and some reengineering. Maybe you’ve been through a few such initiatives. If so, you know firsthand how difficult it is for them to succeed. These efforts tend to come in late and over budget, leaving the organization fatigued, demoralized, and not much changed. They don’t take into account the fundamentally new kinds of leverage available to businesses that have emerged in the last 10 years: new networks, new data gathering and analysis resources, and new ways of codifying knowledge.

Successful transformations may be relatively rare, but they do exist — and yours can succeed as well. A transformation, in this context, is a major shift in an organization’s capabilities and identity so that it can deliver valuable results, relevant to its purpose, that it couldn’t master before. It doesn’t necessarily involve a single major initiative (though it could); but the company develops an ongoing mastery of change, in which adaptability feels natural to leaders and employees.

An effort of this sort can take place on a large or small scale; it can involve the front, middle, or back office; it can be conducted by any type of enterprise, from a startup to a global enterprise; and it will affect every aspect of the organization’s structure, including such functions as innovation, finance, marketing, sales, human resources, and operations. At any scale, it requires a cultural shift and highly engaged leaders, who take control of the organization’s future in these four ways... read the rest here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Best fit vs best practice: 3 keys to developing a compelling rewards offering

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

InsideHR, October 8, 2018

by Pete DeBellis



It’s a good time to think about your company’s rewards offering – not just because it’s essential to stand out in tight talent markets. But also, because you may be missing out on a valuable opportunity to attract candidates who are more in sync with your company, more likely to perform well, and more likely to stick around.

You can tell if you are missing this opportunity by answering a simple question: What information does your company use to design its rewards offerings?

If the answer is simply “best practices,” you’re not alone. It’s common practice to set rewards based on competitive benchmarks: just figure out what your competitors are offering and match or beat it. The problem is that a best-practices approach to rewards can be a prescription for mediocrity and anonymity in recruitment and retention.

Bersin’s High-Impact Total Rewards research reveals that high-performing organisations aren’t following the best-practices pack. Rather they are unapologetically different when it comes to rewards, and what makes them different is their approach to rewards design. They give a nod to best practices and benchmark data to make sure they understand what’s being offered by other companies. But they follow a best-fit approach to rewards that is tailored to their organisation.

The primary focus of the best-fit approach is finding candidates and keeping employees who are already aligned with your company. These are the people who like to do things the same way things get done in your company. And they are predisposed to go where your company is going.

Bringing a best-fit rewards offering to market

A properly designed rewards offering should represent a differentiated brand in and of itself. It entices the candidates you want to come to you. There are three principal steps to designing and bringing such an offering to market...read the rest here

Sunday, September 30, 2018

“A Blinding Flash of the Obvious”

Insights by Stanford Business, September 28, 2018

by Theodore Kinni



Tom Peters earned his MBA and PhD at Stanford Graduate School of Business in the 1970s, under the unconventional tutelage of organizational psychologists Eugene Webb and James March. But he pegs the beginning of his management studies to 1966 and his two tours of duty as a young naval officer and combat engineer with the Seabees in Vietnam during the war.

“That left an indelible impression,” Peters says of his first leadership role. “Cut the BS. Can the excuses. Forget the fancy reports. Get moving now. Get the job done. On this score nothing has changed in 50 years, including the maddening fact that all too often a business strategy is inspiring, but the execution mania is largely AWOL.”

A lot of other things have changed in the past half-century, but a lot of what Peters learned about management — in the Navy, at Stanford, while researching and writing In Search of Excellence with Bob Waterman at McKinsey in the early ’80s, and in the decades after — remains as relevant today as it was then. All of it and more is collected in Peters’ new book, The Excellence Dividend.

The fat, red exclamation mark that Peters chose as his logo a quarter-century ago is an apt symbol for The Excellence Dividend, which Financial Times management editor Andrew Hill called “shouty.” It’s a sobriquet that Peters embraces. “I give speeches that are noisy and I write like I speak,” he laughs.

Management Isn’t Complicated

Noisy helps when you’re saying things that most leaders already know, but that far too few act upon in a consistent way. In The Excellence Dividend, Peters pinpoints the most common infractions...read the rest here

Friday, September 28, 2018

Three Principles for Managing Technology's Productivity Paradox

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss Magazine, October 2018

by David Mallon

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Big data and advanced analytics. Collaboration platforms and instant messaging. The workplace is becoming a technological wonderland, in which a company can place virtually every resource that its employees need to work more effectively and efficiently at their fingertips. Nevertheless, growth in workforce productivity is hovering around its lowest rate in almost two decades.

We saw this paradoxical situation echoed across the findings of Deloitte’s 2108 Human Capital Trends survey. For example, 71 percent of the respondents to our survey said they are already using personal productivity technologies like collaboration platforms, work-based social media, and instant messaging, and 60 to 70 percent of them said that they believe workers will soon be using these technologies more frequently. Yet, nearly half (47 percent) of the respondents are also worried that these tools will notenhance workforce productivity.

Are their worries justified? Is it possible that, for all their promise and potential, new and emerging workforce technologies could actually drive down productivity?

It can happen. After all, technology is not a productivity panacea in and of itself. Surely, by now, we all know that the next text that pops up on our smartphones could interrupt us and distract us from our work just as readily as it could focus and facilitate our efforts.

The fundamental difference between the two outcomes lies in how you put productivity technologies to work in your company. Here are three principles that can go a long way to ensuring that technology enhances the productivity and well-being of your company’s employees and avoids becoming one of the greatest sources of cognitive overload in their work and lives. Read the rest here.