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Principles – to forget or reinstate them in our modern world?

 

Who, the speaker asks, believe in principles? All hands are up!

Raise hands then, he continues, which of you seek to abide by principles in your everyday transactions and activities?

Silence ensues, no hands raised in a silent exhibition of some form of guilt and remorse!

Questions inescapably surface:

Why is it so difficult to apply our principles in real life?

Why do all of us, in spite good dispositions and intentions, end up calculating and valuing self-interest or self-convenience more than principles?

Why do we twist or sometimes even distort things to justify a self-interest choice, knowing very well that every time we do so, we distort together with our principles, our conscience and self-esteem?

But would it not be a utopia in our individualistic world where money and power rule, for someone to aspire to change the status quo and bring back the principles in our lives? or even a laughable act?

No matter how hard that would seem to be, there are good reasons for wanting to break the status quo.

Utopia would not be the act that aspires to a fairer system that aligns with conscience. Utopia is to think that you will always be on the winning side and never have to feel the unjust loss that the system engenders. But when fortune reverses its favors and you are no more the winner but the one that suffers the harm and injustice, then you will protest loudly about the unfairness of the system of a cynical world.

But your protests no matter how loud they may be, will not be heard. The status quo you yourself contributed to building has deafened the voices around you. Nobody can hear you, and even those that could, guilty themselves of the same, [...]

By |November 30th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

CSFs – Hitting targets that count

Who doesn’t want to know where to focus his attention and action so as to hit his targets? The Critical Success Factors, CSFs, is one great methodology to achieve that. But though most managers are enamored with the term, many admit having only a cursory experience with it and feel uncertain whether what they list as their CSFs are the right ones or even meaningful.

Some fine points from a recognized HBR article on CSFs to help readers grasp what CSFs are, are quoted below:

CSFs are the limited number of areas in which satisfactory results will ensure successful competitive performance for the individual, department, or organization. CSFs are the few key areas where “things must go right” for the business to flourish and for the manger’s goals to be attained.
CSFs are the areas in which good performance is necessary to ensure attainment of goals.
In most industries there are usually three to six factors that determine success; these key jobs must be done exceedingly well for a company to be successful.

(From John F. Rockart’s HBR article March-April 1979 entitled “The Chief Executives Define Their Own Data Needs”

Note: CSFs were first discussed in the management literature in 1961 by D. Ronald Daniel, Managing Director of McKinsey & Company).

In other words, CSFs are what a manager must selectively do each day in working to accomplish his goals. Thus, Goals very much influence CSFs. Having identified a manager’s goals, the CSFs underlying the goals will next be derived and discussed. Goals and CSFs are interrelated and can be thought together when working to determine them.

But from where should managers draw content to identify goals and CSFs? Of course, company strategy and objectives and strategy goals are very [...]

By |August 24th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

Post pandemic leadership – The leader’s new work

The inrush of the pandemic took away from the ties that fastened leaders to the status quo of thinking and doing. “Structures and Systems” that supported organizations before were left behind in the evacuated office, and organizations pivoted toward their people. Leaders, now forced by the WFH to operate without the complete suite of the traditional factors of organization, suddenly found themselves in uncharted territory.

And so, a chance, has arisen for leadership to rethink itself spurring renewed attention to what a leader should have and on a leader’s work.

Views like autocratic leadership or the belief that a leader is the enlightened one who treats the rest of his fellow people as machine elements with preset precise performance, awaiting to be switched on by his instructions or orders, have been exposed by the pandemic as rickety, impractical, and even dangerous.

Evidence of how companies tackled the crisis, on the other hand, suggests that the pandemic has tipped the scales in favor of the soft-side nature of organizations bringing to the fore the people approach to leadership. How then in this approach should we view leaders?

The leader should be viewed as an architect of purpose, an integrator of effort, a teacher of learning. He is one who works constantly to cultivate trust and humility by making himself a model example. His constant concern is to bring about the ingenious self of his people turning them into lovers of knowledge and self-actualization. More importantly, however, he identifies an overarching purpose for all stakeholders to share and sets himself in the front to serve it.

Such a leader is a catalyst in his people’s operations, a respecter of talent and the whole self, an enabler to make his people achievers, [...]

By |July 12th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

The need for ambidextrous leader

 

When considering the purpose of organization, we must not forget the circumstances that gave rise to its creation. It was society and its needs that called for the establishment of this entity we call organization. Its contemplated role: to provide what individuals couldn’t, to provide for new products and services efficiently.

This dual-purpose -innovation for new products and efficiency in performing the task of production-is an existential reason of leadership.

Though both innovation and efficiency are critically important, there are stages in an organization’s life that make one more needed than the other. See diagram below:

Efficiency

Innovation

Neglecting either one could have serious consequences. Focusing only on innovation will in the longer term open the door to other efficiency focused companies to take away from the innovative company the gains, whereas focusing only on efficiency will deprive the company from deploying the resources necessary for innovation.

If both, during an organization’s life, are necessary, how to go about them, is a question vexing many companies. Our suggestion is depicted by the diagram: innovate first, but after, be prepared to do the task efficiently, a sequence that in the life of the company repeats itself and leads to the fulfillment of the vision and mission.

For a sustainable company it is necessary to be good at both processes. Efficiency follows a more logical path, and it is easier understood how to apply methodologies like lean and six sigma to enhance it. Innovation, on the other hand, is rather an untamed process that has no real recipes as to how to apply it. Following the doctrine that a leader makes the company, it would follow that to do both should be a prime concern of a leader.

Furthermore, since the time when either [...]

By |June 29th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

What do you call yourself, a manager, or a leader?

Is leadership different from management? To this perennial question we would like to put forward some thoughts and at the same time ask for your thoughts to help bring more clarity to the matter discussed.

A friend the other day pondered “I am a practising manager at this big company; Am I not a leader?” It depends, I answered. Some distinguishing differences between the manager’s work and the leader’s work, we make an effort to draw in the diagram below.

The top row of boxes and arrows shows a company as it moves strategically over the long term towards its mission and vision doing so by an exchange of stages between stable situations (rectangles) and motions (arrows) that entail its efforts to change. For each of the two types of stages, the characteristics of the needed work are analysed and grouped into two distinct boxes, one under the heading “leader’s work”, and the other under the heading “manager’s work”.

It is evident that what we grouped as manager’s and leader’s works have a different set of attributes and focus.

For example, one critical difference between them is the way they appeal to their people. Leaders appeal to people’s higher needs whereas managers like to interpret their world in terms of the more specific needs. So, self-actualization, prestige, love, and loyalty are a leader’s purview while rewards and remuneration, order and risk avoidance are the more mundane control area of the manager.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

NOTE: Leaders must themselves first possess the higher needs if they will be effective in invoking them when appealing to their employees.

To help a little further the discussion, we draw on earlier questions and statements on the subject by some recognized world authorities:

HBS professor Abraham [...]

By |June 14th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

Critical mass in business

Who wouldn’t want a tool that identifies problems early avoiding the inaction or complacency that comes from not knowing and not pinning down where the trouble is?

To respond to this, we introduce here the “business critical mass framework”.

Critical mass is that quantity of something that makes the desired process sustainable.

The term “critical mass” was first used in nuclear physics where it meant the smallest amount of fissile material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction (Wikipedia).

In business “critical mass” is the point at which a growing company becomes self-sustaining and no longer needs additional investment to remain economically viable (Investopedia).

Note, however, that the critical mass concept applies to two areas of business, the overall business and the individual processes that comprise it.

Business critical mass (overall): It relates to the customer revenues determined largely by the number of customers. They provide the income to back feed, to the necessary degree, all business processes.
Individual process critical mass: The individual business processes have also their own critical mass that is the quantity needed to make them efficient. Below that quantity, resources are not fully utilized, and processes underperform consuming more funds and thereby increasing the magnitude of business critical mass. This process critical mass, though important, is secondary.

Customer revenue

Customer revenue is the main determinant of the business critical mass and in its terms the business critical mass is expressed. A company should strive to raise the customer revenue above a threshold, the critical mass, to provide adequate feeds for all the business needs.

Business needs

A business cannot be sustained without covering its production system costs, nor can it survive without keeping current its machinery and other infrastructure, nor without advertising campaigns to attract and maintain customers nor can it survive without new [...]

The supply chain as a tool for developing strategy

We have been doing some work for a restaurant chain that, under the severe COVID restrictions, has been forced to consider alternatives among them the possibility of adding delivery services.

The question we have been called to answer was “Can it be done” in other words can the restaurant operate as a classic dine-in restaurant and at the same time accept delivery orders?

That, in our managerial terminology, meant that we had to identify the strategic positions that the two uses represent so as to assess the degree of their overlap or distinctiveness.

So, we first proceeded to derive the positionings by the traditional methodology of ranking by traits. The results, depicted in the diagram below, show that delivery and dine-in operations define two quite different spaces. Therefore, for a single food premises to try to be both would be straddling which is, as it is well known, unsustainable.

Then, in another way to verify results, we turned to the use of the supply network and supply chains. A supply network was roughly sketched for what could be an all-types food business. Next, we identified the several supply chains, separated them, and marked them accordingly. See the diagram below.

This second methodology brought to light the differences in the nature and number of stages in the supply chains between dine-in restaurants and delivery services. Critical activities in the two operations are different. To try to do them in the same premises with the same staff, with the same way of managing would give rise to inconsistencies and redundancies.

The distinct supply chains shown in the diagram demonstrate different possibilities for specialization, in other words different strategic positions. Doing both types of food business under the same roof will cause the [...]

By |January 7th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

What’s wrong with our ethics?

Wrong is wrong, even if everyone does it, even if nobody dares speak against it.

Right is right, even if no one is doing it, even if nobody dares support it, even if naysayers say yes, but ….

But this is not what current ethics are preaching.

Modern ethics dislike the firmness and inconvenience of principles, what is right or wrong, and instead they call for a more flexible and convenient way, the “practical” way of settling things. Say in a two-party conflict, they seek outcomes that, irrespective of who is right or wrong, can accommodate both sides so that both will appear to come out of the dispute with some kind of benefits euphemistically called ‘’winning’’.

At the level of national disputes, for example, if an aggressor invades another country (usually a weaker), the so-called ethical solution will be sought not by demanding that the invader be expelled out of the other country’s territory, but by allowing the invader to retain his gains upon agreeing not to expand further. The afflicted side must, of course, accept the new forced status quo and will receive assurances of avoidance of further escalation and losses. Both parties, declare the ethics, “have won”: Gains for the invader, and no further losses for the afflicted.

The problems:

The laws of the jungle: The stronger takes it all, or rather not quite all; arrangements are made to permit the beleaguered victim to retain more than what its power could protect by forsaking part of its lawful rights.

The silence of the herd: Those not attacked or out of the conflict consider their selves as outsiders and become silent bystanders. They argue that by their silence, they are preserving the bridges of communication and by their appeasements [...]

By |December 28th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

Managing by Appreciative Inquiry

When we focus to correct an organization for deficiencies, what we are trying to do is to make that organization better. But better in relation to what? In relation to what it was in the past as it was the past situations that revealed those areas of need for correction.  In other words, we are guided by the past.

But so much is happening in our times, pandemics like Coronavirus or Global policy changes by Governments, or huge jumps in technology. These and similar drastic-changing events make the past, even when at its best, a very poor guide. Thus, by managing this way, the possibilities are high that our corrective efforts may be found wanting or even wasted on the wrong target.

Now let us try another way that of managing by ‘Appreciative Inquiry’. Instead of adopting a past orientation, let us focus on the future and the possibilities. Get our people to assess their strengths and imagine what these strengths can create, share that vision with all, multiply capacity by allowing our people to cocreate, and get everybody energised and motivated by a shared perspective so that all could bring to the fore their best whole self.

A series of advantages can be recognized in this latter approach. It energizes the human ingenuity by showing trust. It is people inclusive drawing on the strengths of everyone. Vision and cocreation becomes everyone’s concern for the company’s brighter future. The creative tension between what we are and what we should be becomes a strong operational driving force toward the envisioned future of the company.

Managing by ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ with emphasis on strengths and trust seems in many ways to be more effective than any traditional way of managing by [...]

By |December 2nd, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

A two-stage framework for crafting strategy

When crafting a business strategy, don’t focus on competitors only.

Business Strategy aims to achieve and maintain a favourable posture for the company by influencing the equilibrium between the elements that shape the competing market landscape.

There are four pivotal elements and these are: (a) the company (us), (b) the targeted customer, (c) the competitors, and (d) the environment

All four elements should receive our attention, and not just a single one, something many strategy writings don’t do by their single focus on competitors. Competitors play a big role especially in large volume-advantage industries where market share and leadership are critically important. But we can cite many other cases where the customer, and not the competitor, is central.

Many DTCs (Direct To Consumer) start by creating communities building trust and listening to consumers’ concerns and ideas. In other words, they focus on what is needed by the consumers and subsequently, they work to turn these consumers into customers.

In fragmented markets, it makes no sense to imply that you will watch the numerous competitors. There is no single competitor to watch and start-ups come in the market offering the best they can in terms of consumer wants.

In specialized or blue ocean markets where the game is won by thought innovators, the emphasis is on what different is needed by consumers and less on specific competitors.

In the course of time, competitors make moves, which not only should not escape our attention, but should be made part of the strategy formulation picture. By lowering prices, for example, a competitor could be implementing his strategy to gain market share and subsequently reduce costs. A competitor who starts building capacity should not fall outside the company’s radar and his actions be examined as [...]

By |September 2nd, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments|