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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.

Reason Number 2: Leaders lose sight of the difference between strategy and planning

Very often I come across companies that confuse strategy with planning.  The annual financial and operating planning process drives many corporate strategy exercises – which is a backward premise. They are different activities and should be treated as such: strategy is about developing a framework that drives future actions and decisions; planning is about resource allocation. Critical strategic decisions don’t fit within the annual planning timetable and neither should the strategy development process. When strategy and planning overlap, the plans thrust upon the organization are anything but strategic in nature. Upon closer examination one may find that these plans are (at best) a collection of tactical plans targeting operational efficiency – operational efficiency IS NOT by it’s nature strategic.

Reason Number 3: Too much data, too little insight vs. too much insight, too little data

Few companies have a structured process for scanning the environment and observing emerging trends. There is either an information drought or an overload of information – generally, there is no middle ground. When there is information, often companies do not know how to draw any strategic meaning from it. In the absence (or lack of usability) of relevant data, assumptions are made that may not reflect the reality of the environment, which means a rapid decline in credibility and relevance of the strategic plan. While it is definitely not advisable to engage in paralysis  by analysis – it is important to gather as many facts as you can, within a limited amount of time, apply what you know, and move forward with a decision.  It is key insights based on the information you have (depending on risk factors, often 80% is good enough), not excessive data, that will drive a successful strategy.

Reason Number 4: Insufficient alignment, commitment and communication.

When the process is structured correctly, the leadership team has invested significant time creating the strategy together. A common result is that they come to believe that the strategic intent is clear to everyone across the organization. In most companies this is far from reality, and the strategy is left to interpretation. This creates organizational misalignment, with group or divisional strategies not fitting comfortably within the whole.  The strategy process should include ensuring that executive alignment and commitment is strong, but also that sufficient time and effort is spent on communicating the strategy throughout the entire organization to ensure there is understanding, buy-in, and integration across the company. Problems often surface when there is a lack of alignment and integration – strategically, operationally, and interpersonally.

As an organization continues to deliberate strategy as an abstract concept or simply a mandated process, the typical result is that strategic plans are not living documents and do not deliver the desired results.  Any one of a million reasons can derail the strategic planning process. As this repeatedly occurs,  the concept of strategic planning is eroded to such an extent that the exercise is taken up just as another routine, isolated from the business of the company. The strategy process should bring rigor and challenge to the leadership team’s thinking – it should result in a strategic plan that is alive in everyone’s mind, engages community ownership, and provides a driving force that guides the company steadily toward competitive advantage.

Is your strategic planning process is on track?  Here are some potential indicators:

  • Are all of the organizational, divisional and team leaders engaged (at the appropriate levels)?
  • Is there a clear understanding, and separation, of strategy and planning? Is strategic planning a dedicated, ongoing process?
  • Is there good balance and perspective between data collection and business insight?
  • Do all the key players understand their place in the strategy and how it all fits together as a complete puzzle?
  • Is every leader, at every level, committed to the strategy? Is it a cohesive group effort?
  • Is there a strong communication component within the strategic plan?
  • Is the strategic plan a living, breathing document that everyone is working toward achieving?

There is only one way to a great strategic plan –  a dedicated, integrated strategic planning process that ensures a climate of trust and the innovative business ideas of leaders.

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you mind the strategic planning gaps in your organization. Please feel free to contact me at  Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back soon for the next installation of Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.

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Building and maintaining a strong, resilient organizational culture is one of the few phenomena that is truly all inclusive. Creating a successful company ethos depends on the positive collision of the right people (at all levels) and the right context. But what does it actually take to create a sustainable, remarkable company culture? The answer is complex, so over the next two weeks, we will look at culture first from a larger organizational perspective… and then again at ground level.

“It’s complicated” … A common response to developing organizational culture.

The lack of a clear, simple response as to how to build and sustain organizational culture is the reason most companies don’t have a great culture. All leaders theoretically want a great culture… and believe, if they repeat it enough, it will magically happen. However, wanting an amazing corporate culture and being willing (and committed) to creating one are two vastly different things.

Why? It’s just not obvious how to create a great organizational culture. After helping many clients through this exact same challenge, we know that there are some critical components in developing and maintaining an exceptional company culture.

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Of all the amazing experiences I have been so fortunate to have, across many different boundaries and borders, one of my very favorites is the unique opportunity I had to walk with lions in Zimbabwe.  While canoeing down the river Sabi (avoiding the hippos) was exciting, going on an elephant safari proved adventurous, swimming in The Devil’s Pool at the top of Victoria Falls was amazing and staying in the historic, luxurious Victoria Falls Hotel was, well… historic and luxurious, nothing compares to walking with lions. Many of you probably think I must be crazy – who wants to walk with wild lions? But this was a fascinating opportunity that offered many insights – and besides, how many chances do you get to walk with lions?

As I watched the lions approach, with only a walking stick in my hand and a pre-brief on lion behavior in my head, I wondered how I would engage these powerful creatures and what I could learn from them…

Here is just a bit of what I was reminded of through my encounter with the lions:

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People in companies around the world think, act, work, learn and lead differently, based for the most part on their culture. Culture both consciously and unconsciously shapes values, perceptions and behaviors, as well as setting systematic guidelines for how we should conduct business.

Last week we took a look at how we can combine different components of culture to move virtual teams forward. This week we will explore how you can effectively manage cultural differences from a practical viewpoint that will allow everyone to benefit from cultural diversity.

By its very nature, the make-up of virtual teams is diverse. This is good – it allows you to maximize different perspectives and, hopefully, leverage the differences to gain new insights and fresh perspectives. However, there are factors that need to be managed if a virtual team is to not only survive, but thrive, within the complexities of a virtual team environment. Here are some common challenges you may have as a leader in creating synergy within your virtual team:

  • Leveraging the differences in cultural norms of team members
  • Understanding how different people manifest their cultural norms
  • Influencing the different functional, professional and alternative subcultures
  • Being empathetic to the functional and geographic dispersion of team members
  • Managing the the perception of status differences within the team
  • Leveraging culturally different leadership styles
  • Controlling differing expectations regarding key processes and procedures

These challenges need to be managed throughout the lifecycle of the team. The sooner they are acknowledged and worked on, the more efficiently the team will be able to deliver results.

Despite these challenges, there are also unifying factors that can connect a virtual team with their diverse team members. Virtual integration can occur based on common agreement as to accepted principles and processes and mechanisms such as shared vision and values.

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As those of you who read my posts frequently know, I travel internationally a lot and I truly love experiencing other cultures and different ways of life! This past summer I had the opportunity to return to Turkey to speak at a conference and meet with clients in Istanbul. I returned to a city with an ever-evolving modern character that is still, at its core, bound by tradition. As I was observing the frenzy of activity going on around me in the only city in the world that resides on two continents,  I began to think (once again) about how there are unique leadership lessons inherent in every environment. If  we pay close attention, there is also learning inherent in each of these environments. It is easy to overlook the reminders that abound and think to yourself, “what can I learn from a country that has been riddled with unrest, struggles with human rights issues and is in a constant state of flux?” Yes, these things are true… but it does not negate the fact that there are some important reminders (lessons) that impact how we interact with people as leaders and how our views, as leaders, affect those around us. I have found that often, a change in scenery offers a valuable change in perspective.  Here are just a few of the things that came to my mind as I experienced, once again, one of the most amazing cities in the world:

  1. Business and personal relationships do not have to be mutually exclusive…

Living and visiting countries all over the world on a regular basis throughout most of my life, I remain very aware of how unique one location is from another. However, it also reminds me that despite the differences, there are some core foundations that we should all observe and deploy. In our western culture, we tend to believe that work and life are separate. However in Istanbul, where East meets West, business and personal relationships are heavily intertwined.  The diversity and complexity of individuals is shaped not only by their culture, but through relationships that are consistently valued and continually evolve throughout a lifetime. As I attended client meetings that were focused solely on getting know one another better, I was reminded how Turkish people usually only do business with people they know, like and respect.  In Turkey, business will only materialize if effective personal relationships are built. This is not only important in the moment, but throughout a lifetime. Later, as I made a visit to the world famous Spice Bazaar, I was reminded once again how relationships can thread through our lives –  both as people and leaders – as I stopped to chat with a shopkeeper and was invited in… not just for a sale, but to build a relationship. We chatted for twenty minutes, shared some delicious apple tea (a hospitality must in Turkey), and exchanged contact information. On my next visit will I stop in and purchase from Iskandar? Of course, but I will also recommend this particular shopkeeper to anyone I know visiting Istanbul!  As leaders, it seems to me that we could be infinitely more effective if we slowed down (both in our personal and professional lives), borrowed a page from the Turkish playbook, and took the time to get to know our colleagues on a more personal level – facilitating an extensive and priceless network of not only colleagues, but friends, that will benefit us for a lifetime.

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Globalization and rapidly changing technology continue to sweep the world. Organizations working across international and cultural boundaries face significant challenges as they seek to reach and maintain market leadership – however, inherent in those challenges are often unrealized opportunities. One such opportunity, Multicultural teams, offers a wealth of leverage to the discerning global leader. Our research repeatedly identifies the following advantages when multicultural teams are leveraged effectively:

–       Global economies of scale and scope are realized

–       Effective global learning & knowledge transfer takes place

–       Global strategic capabilities are enhanced

–       More innovative products and services are developed

–       Better understanding of customers across multiple geographies is achieved

–       Strong cultural intelligence fostering competitive advantage is accomplished

In today’s complex global marketplace, success depends on a company’s ability to work effectively across different geographical locations and cultures in order to drive innovation and capture market share. Leaders must go beyond motivating people from very different cultural backgrounds, experiences and leadership styles – they must create an environment that facilitates multicultural teams to collaborate effectively across boundaries and borders. There is simply no better better way to understand and strategically exploit the global marketplace.

The truth is that most organizations under-utilize their multicultural teams as strategic assets. When properly developed, such teams contribute significantly to the growth and success of the organization and to its bottom line. In fact, multicultural teams are one of the most consistent sources of competitive advantage for any organization who deploys them – they are effectively the bridge between the workplace and the marketplace.

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