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As you look forward, it is always helpful to look back and gain perspective. Today’s supply chain is more global, aligned and proactive than it was even just five years ago. Post COVID, we see even more supply chain challenges – yet from challenge comes opportunity. As developing strategies for mitigating the risk of supply chain interruption overtakes economizing, organizations will increasingly need to leverage strong supply chains while stringently considering the bottom line. That balance will drive the success (or failure) of SCM companies moving forward. Although technology and the digital supply chain is on the rise, without the comprehensive knowledge and collaboration of people across the supply chain, we will continue to struggle to find that critical balance.

Typically, even though organizations may be consolidating for cost management and scalability purposes, the walls of the individual functions, channels and regions have become even thicker. As a direct result, it is harder for you, as a leader, to build end-to-end supply chain functionality in an ever-changing global marketplace. It has become increasingly difficult to gain agreement on specific, customer focused initiatives or broader organizational change.

This is not a technology, process or policy problem – it is a people problem:

People control systems…

People make purchasing decisions…

People change processes…

People establish policies…

People decide to build and maintain organizational walls…

People make or break relationships with suppliers, partners and customers…

Although we tend to observe and react to events (or the fires they cause), it is critically important to really look at and assess the root cause of our problems and how people impact outcomes. Go ahead, rip that band-aid off and look at what is really causing the infection –

Your “Core System” Is Flawed

Recently I was speaking with a client in the SCM space. He was trying to understand why he could not consistently get the global business results he was looking for and needed to understand how he could change the organization to drive consistent results. What did we find?

The Organization Was Not Designed For Effective Interaction And Optimization – The “System” Was Broken.

The bottom line – his organization was not designed to function as a unit… a single system. His division was not performing at optimal levels because of suboptimal organizational design. Instead of deploying aligned processes, policies and technologies to leverage various forms of optimization across the spectrum, his organization consistently tried to implement old practices with new tools and technologies – without the support of the people and other organizations that were affected.

They didn’t take the time or make the effort to understand why the old practices were failing in the first place. They repeatedly made the poor assumption that a new process or technology would fix the problem instead of understanding that no policy, process or technology change can be successful without recognizing the people component… and the system as a whole. As a result, my client was not understanding the inherent value in meaningful organizational change – nor the lack of value in neglecting the structural and behavioral changes that needed to happen to drive effective, efficient supply chain operations.

We were able to work together to create a plan around “systems thinking” that incorporated not just his division, but the organization as a whole. He was able to leverage his new knowledge of “the system” to work across functions, channels and regions to get the very best from supply chain operations as a whole. As a result, he is now seeing strong, consistent results on a global basis and the business is growing quarter on quarter. 

Interacting With The System As A Whole Provides A Distinct Advantage.

My client is not unique in his challenge – the lack of a systems approach is pervasive in most organizations – just as sub-optimal business results are. However, in the SCM space the lack of visibility and collaborative endeavor inevitably results in not only poorly run operations, but ultimately causes declining supplier, partner and client relationships that lead to declining business outcomes. Many leaders implement policies, procedures or technologies without ever looking at them in terms of the effects on the “system” and its people… and then wonder why they have not gotten the results they anticipated. Millions of dollars are wasted each year on failed projects for this very reason.

The reality is that today the average company has variant policies, procedures and technologies across the different functions and channels that preclude them from realizing exceptional results. Leaders typically focus only on their area of responsibility. Critically important, to be sure. However, the challenge in this methodology is that the organization may have channels or functions that operate well in and of themselves, but they don’t integrate well with the wider system. Consequently, the organization suffers as a whole.

Progressive Leaders Are Recognizing How Important Aligning The Various Parts Of The Organization, And The Interrelations Of Those Parts, Is To Their Success.

As those leaders, we need to ensure our focus is on matters of ongoing organization and feedback across the supply chain. We need to diagnose problems, not by examining just our pieces of the puzzle, but by recognizing the larger patterns of interaction between different parts of the integrated whole:

  • Focus on the outcomes needed from the wider supply chain in terms of the customer and overall business results
  • Work backwards from the ultimate goal to determine what is needed from the system to succeed
  • Understand that we are not an island and in order to be successful, we need to consider and integrate all the moving parts

While most of us like to consider our business as unique and different, the reality is that the more congruency we can build into our organizational systems, the more we increase efficiency, visibility, innovation and knowledge management across the supply chain – the more potential we have to maximize business results.

While there may be functional or cultural differences across the spectrum, the more we can partner to translate and align, the more likely we are to succeed on a grand scale. It is important that we work hard to understand our counterparts and build consistent policies, procedures and technologies together. Each and every disparate instance adds to the challenge of building effective supply chain solutions that support holistic planning and deployment.

What do we have to gain in addition to the obvious? How about:

  • An Innovation Incubator
  • Connectivity That Breeds Efficiency
  • Cross-functional/Vertical Leverage
  • Improved Business Results Across The Board
  • Competitive Advantage Fueled By Solving Customer Issues Efficiently & Effectively

How Can You Contribute To Creating An Effective “System”?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how systems thinking can help you to exceed your potential. Need A Trusted Advisor to help you become the very best leader you can be while maximizing your supply chain results? Contact me at SheriMackey@gmail.com.

I wrote recently of how it had occurred to me that it was absolutely critical for academia and business to come together for the greater good of global business and inter-culturism. Oddly enough, as I spoke recently on a global stage, my views were reinforced ten-fold.  As, on this particular occasion, I addressed a global audience of primarily academic and administrative attendees, it rapidly became apparent that they were not too accustomed to hearing from the business sector.  As I made my points and finished by commenting on the need for global business and academia to partner for the betterment of us all, I was greeted with applause and standing ovations. I thought to myself, “How remarkable – we all know we need to work together, yet the mention of actually doing so is a revelation.”

The idea that business and academia would partner to create stronger graduates and leaders seems to be quite novel. Until recently, I had not given it a lot of thought, but I was challenged by a respected colleague  to provide some ideas as to how this could effectively work. Experience has shown me that business struggles to transform leadership and management theory into reality, and academia seems to struggle in the areas of really understanding how to develop, at an experiential level, anything new or innovative that can actually be leveraged to impact business. Here are some of the things I have done personally, and with clients, in the past that could be effective for others moving forward:

  • I have, from a corporate and coaching perspective,  partnered with universities to come on site and teach courses that incorporate solid global management principles and theories, but that are backed up with real-time global client business cases. These cases are pertinent to current business issues the company is facing and current employees are responsible for managing. Employees actually talk to the clients about the cases and potential solutions – this has repeatedly been wonderful for relating theory to experiential practices.
  • Sandwich learning is highly effective  –  I encourage clients to support employees alternating relevant periods of education with professional application.
  • Training in conjunction with Coaching always has a stronger outcome due to the repeated reinforcement and targeted approach. Extended, reinforced methods of educating both leaders and employees facilitates true growth and development in both the individual and teams.
  • At conferences that attempt to bridge the gap between academia and business, I tend to see two types of presentations: 1) purely academic that seem out of touch with business and 2) purely business with no real interest in what academics have to say. Wouldn’t it be interesting to pair an academic professional and a business professional and ask them to partner for a joint session presenting a multifaceted problem with potential for a joint solution? Could we derive some unique, joint perspectives?
  • Create and deploy joint think-tanks with membership split between academia and global business – with the express purpose of deriving joint solutions to move both camps forward. I have in the past run both Technical and Strategic Advisory Councils that had similar, but not expressly the same, missions – they were both based on corporate/client think-tanks instead of academic/business think-tanks…

If we are to evolve meaningfully, we will need to look to Translational Science – we have it in medicine and we need to bring it to global business. Translational science is scientific research that is motivated by the need for practical application. The term is used mainly in the health sciences and refers to things like the discovery of new drugs that directly help improve human health through alternative uses. Thus, translating bench or “lab” science to clinical practice and real people. In essence, the same principle applies to business. We need to translate the research that is done on management and leadership into practical applications that can be effectively deployed. It seems an easy concept, but experience tells me that today, most executives out there can not translate theory into application. As such, they do not apply potentially impactful research findings to their business environment – thus making the valuable research that is done essentially useless in real-world business application.

So you may ask, “how we can apply Translational Science to global business?” While certainly not the all-inclusive answer, I do believe that the five points made above could be a valid start to the process. We have got to find ways to bring academia and business together to leverage the best in both for the betterment of the whole. If we don’t, we will never actually move forward.

You can contact me at Sherilmackey@gmail.com with your thoughts or comments. Check back soon for the next installation of Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.

Last week we discussed working across boundaries and implementing a systems approach. This week, I am continuing the theme with an expansion of what it means to work across boundaries and some suggestions to help you do so successfully.

Working across boundaries means many things to many people… It can mean:

… working across organizational lines

… working across supervisory or leadership levels

… working across functions

… working across corporate entities (partners, resellers, etc.)

…working across customer lines

… working across physical confines

… working across cultural differences

Continue Reading…

Let’s talk about what it means to work Across Boundaries…. because the reality is that it can mean many things to many people.  In my world, working across boundaries is about lateral thinking… really comprehending that you are a single piece of a much larger puzzle and that your piece has a significant impact on the larger whole. It also means having the capacity to move across those boundaries to absorb knowledge from one context or discipline and apply it back into your area of expertise to create a free-flow of information – increasing your knowledge and the potential to “create a better mousetrap”. Think Leonardo DaVinci:

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Working across boundaries, more than anything else, means working together to solve problems that cannot be solved ~ or easily solved ~ by a single person, department or business unit.  It is critical that you, as a leader, consider (and learn from) the overall system and expect every person across every department to work together to figure out how to improve the overall experience for customers both internally and externally – the rest will naturally follow. The reality (whether you want to acknowledge it or not) is that you are part of a system… a network… an interconnected structure involving many people and multiple linkages.  Without each component part of the whole, there is little to offer the customer… or the market.

Despite the necessity of collaboration,  organizations are complex – engaging across boundaries can present several challenges. Because Networks are inter-organizational, cross-departmental and interpersonal, different stakeholders across that network have differing:

  • Points of view (by default)
  • objectives and missions
  • micro-cultures and perspectives
  • methods of operation – purpose, policies, procedures and systems.
  • financial models (i.e. cost centers versus profit centers)
  • degrees of power
  • challenges/opportunities
  • decision-making capacities
  • Sources of conflict within network and with the customer

Despite the challenges, continually improving organizational performance is what matters and that can only happen with collaboration across both horizontal and vertical boundaries. It is critical for your company to get everyone working together in order to “build that better mousetrap”. We all know how important it is to work effectively across organizational boundaries, however multi-functional, multi-cultural, multi-level teamwork is unnatural. The innate tendency of organizations is to optimize within a business unit or department rather than understanding that every aspect of the company is part of a living system and optimizing for the global customer experience or enterprise acceleration. Too often, the sum of the parts doesn’t create a high-performing whole. Getting people to collaborate and learn from one another across boundaries typically requires a crisis… or aggressive edicts from organizational leadership (which can also backfire if not delivered appropriately).

Suppose for a moment you are the Chief Operations Officer of a multinational company and you want to improve the experience of customers worldwide, while also reducing the cost of overall operations. Who do you need to involve in improving the process?

Product Development creates the product…

Operations produces it…

Sales sells it…

Legal reviews it and creates the contracts…

Implementation Management implements it…

Customer Relations maintains the relationship after the sale…

Finance invoices and tracks financial progress…

BUT the customer will ultimately pay for the product and decide if you are a good partner overall.

In a typical scenario, each department is a separate business with its own objectives, business practices, culture, and information systems.  However, without all the component parts coming together to deliver the product or service, there is nothing to offer the market.  As a leader facilitating people working effectively across boundaries you need to understand, accommodate and help people understand that:

  • Departments and their people have ongoing, critical inter-dependencies that require cross-boundary interactions on a regular basis
  • It is natural that every department or business unit will have both common and competing goals – they must find common ground and “third best ways” of operating for organizational and customer benefit
  • As part of an integrated workplace, your people work in an elastic environment – groups will expand and contract as needed
  • Members need to be both participative and authoritative, depending on the circumstance
  • People need to see both the forest and the trees – understanding the system as a whole is critical, but they also must consider the people and components within the system in order to be successful
  • They must balance advocacy and inquiry, again depending on circumstance

If your organization truly wants to maximize shareholder value (and be around in another 10 years), continually working across boundaries to improve organizational results and the customer experience is the answer – which will drive competitive advantage, revenue and contract viability.

With the inherent challenges  (and opportunities) that come with working across boundaries:

How can you, as a leader,  leverage a multi-functional, multi-level, multi-cultural network of people to optimize overall operations… rather than optimizing each business units objectives?

How can you create an environment that embraces  the objective of cost reduction, while at the same time “thrilling” the customer?

And how do you do this when changes to the system may create winners and losers – internally and externally?

Leonardo da Vinci once said:

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

He was right. Taking action is critical to enhancing operations and elevating the customer experience. Every single BU has the capacity to see through “new eyes” and gain new perspective by working within the system, as opposed to working only within its own boundaries. Remember – Arms, Wings, Flying Machines… the possibilities are endless!

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you view working across boundaries.

Stay tuned – we will discuss the answers to these questions!

Have questions or need an expert to help you in your global organization? Contact me at SheriLMackey@gmail.com.

Slide1Hello All.

I realize I have not written much over the past year due to increasing business demands, as well as making the recent decision to sell our business, Luminosity Global Consulting Group. Given my incredible expedition so far, I am so excited to see and experience what comes next…

Over eight years ago, we launched Luminosity Global with the idea that we would enable executives to move toward their impossible future, while optimizing their people, process and programs on a global scale. Approximately one year ago, we were fortunate enough to have a corporate entity approach us and offer to acquire The Global LABB, our proprietary leadership platform built for Luminosity clients. Now, another year has passed and once again, we have had an amazing offer to purchase our consulting group.

As a result, I am excited to explore new opportunities and potentially move back into corporate life. While I have absolutely loved conceptualizing and seeing Luminosity grow into an incredible entity of its own, this is an amazing opportunity to pursue a new path in my career – one that will enable me to make a lasting impact on people, process and programs from a very targeted perspective. I am so incredibly excited to move into the next phase of my professional life… to see what adventure lies ahead. I feel so fortunate to have had the remarkable experiences I have had, yet I can feel the pull to move toward my own impossible future!

To each of you – never be afraid to change direction in unexpected way and go forward in the expectation that you can always become an even better version of yourself – if you give yourself the opportunity to do so!

I will continue to blog, as time permits, as I truly enjoy sharing my thoughts and insights with each of you – as well as receiving your questions and comments. Please continue to reach out with any questions or comments you may have. You can always contact me through Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders, as well as at sheri@sherimackey.com and I will always respond in kind.

Best Regards,

Sheri

Successful Strategy

November 9, 2017 — Leave a comment

GlobalSolutions

I was in a meeting with a senior executive recently, when he shared his concern that the processes and approaches the company is using to develop the corporate strategy may not take the business forward as planned, but backward. As we discussed his challenges, there were some key gaps that the organization was likely to fall into that could easily be avoided with a strong planning process. So, here are a few of the more prominent reasons organizations fall into the strategic planning gap…How many of these are evident in your business?

Reason Number 1: Lack of leadership engagement

One important reason behind a company’s inability to create a visible and viable strategy is that, frequently, key senior leaders are not appropriately engaged in the development process. This frequently means that critical success factors are not considered, priorities are unclear, and incomplete strategies are developed. Leaders must immerse themselves in the process to understand how the gears of the business engage – how their domain aligns to and fits with the other critical pieces within the corporation.  Critical insights and knowledgeable contributions regarding all aspects of the business will provide the pivot point for the strategic planning process – key decisions emerge from a compilation and understanding of leader’s perspectives. Companies often believe that strategic plans can be developed in one or two day strategic planning sessions – this is simply not true. Strategic planning is a dedicated process that is developed over a period of time with all senior leaders engaged and participating – not to mention, an ongoing process that drives the ability to stay ahead of the competition.  Without a strong process for engaging leaders and formulating strategic plans as a unit, companies often end up with plans that are meaningless from a strategic point of view.

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