The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
Here are four techniques can lessen the emotional and cultural challenges of achieving strategic transformations in organisations.
So many market dynamics affect the way businesses operate today. To survive and thrive, companies not only must identify the right new strategy, but also must employ it quickly so it reaches all levels of the organisation.
This week’s sad news about Steve Jobs has made me realise what a massive impact his genius has had on my life. His inventions are littered around my desk and home. His legacy will last long into a future he personally has shaped.
Think back on what accomplished. In the three years up to 2005, he assembled and owned all the components he’d need to take advantage of the new broadband market: WebObjects, Safari, iTunes, QuickTime and the MacOS itself. He also threw a vast proportion of the company’s cash at a retail strategy that experts said was extravagant and out of date. When market analysts derided him – as they did, relentlessly, every single quarter – because the company was losing market share, he ignored them. And when broadband took off, so did Apple.
I got to thinking what I could take from Jobs’ legacy and what it means to all of us. As a leader, he taught us to:
Identify external events that will change customer behaviour: Your customers will be affected by what happens from outside influences, like economic forces. Your proactive drive towards creating the future will determine the behaviour your customers and prospects will choose.
Align product development to take advantage of that event before it occurs: Jobs knew that he and his engineers had the thought capacity to develop strategies and products that would create new markets. Thinking through where we want the market to go is a great sign of forward development.
Build distinctive brand positioning: Whether you love or hate Apple, there is no doubting the positioning that Jobs drove the company towards. The brand is the essence and feeling that the product evokes, and Jobs knew what he wanted to accomplish before he even started working on a product. Your product is just one component of your offering. Like Jobs, you can build a brand through constant attention to advancement and complete determination to improve quality.
Deal with pressure: Under pressure many times from even within his own company, Jobs never bowed to the concerns expressed. He knew in his own mind what would work and how to do it. And most times he was proved exactly right. As leaders, we need to build the solidity that deals with the eternal pressure that can make weaker persons buckle.
So, Steve Jobs has been an inspiration to many millions, me included. If we can learn from his legacy, we can look forward to many advancements in business and the consequential results we will harvest.
I’ve been asked to talk at a conference about how business has changed in the last ten years. Boy oh boy, where do I start?
It made me think about the changes in how businesses run today. But it also made me think about some consistencies. What are those things that have actually NOT changed? Where are the foundations of solidity in the way we work? Well, I was thinking about the way we behave in business and how businesss etiquette teaches us a set of ways on how to behave and how to present ourselves.
So here are some ideas of how business, in many ways, stays the same:
With so many people working around you, you have to understand one thing – these are the elements you need to care for. Never underestimate, bad mouth or insult anyone.
Be respectful and courteous and ready to apologize for any mistake that you make.
Be diplomatic where required and try not to let personal biases influence your decisions.
Be respectful of your boss and make sure that you always inform him/her of any changes in your project. Never surprise your boss.
You don’t have to make friends with people and invite them for drinks, but building a cordial relation goes a long way in the business world. Make it a point to interact and ask about them and their families.
Talk with your teammates about how you can all make the workplace easier to cope with. That way, you share ideas and make plans for working together in harmony.
As far as the language is concerned, don’t use language that is considered crass, abusive, coarse or insulting. If you view yourself as professionals, you need to ensure that you use formal language that does not insult or cross the territory into being too personal.
Always be on time for appointments, never late. Etiquette states that time is a major issue. Being late makes for a very bad impression and can affect the image that colleagues and bosses might have about you.
Show the right level of balance when it comes to social media use. Etiquette states that we are at work for business, but 9 or 10 hours a day of hard grind can be demotivating. Have a specific guideline for social media use, but ensure people understand it.
So, although I am talking about the changes in business at the conference, there are still some stabilities that exist, still some areas where consistencies matter, and we musn’t lose sight of the fact that these act as good solid foundations for businesses, which actually support the changes that take place.
There are few situations that cause more angst and frustration than having to deal with another person’s anger. Whatever the reason, when another person is angry, they rarely think straight, as emotions are running strong and can have an over-bearing control over the things said and done.
Absenteeism is a real bugbear in business today.UK workers have an average 10 days unscheduled absence from their jobs each year, around twice that of their counterparts in the US (5.5 days) and Asia-Pacific (4.5 days), but on a par with Western Europe (9.7 days).
Sickness accounts for around 80% of absence, which also covers jury service and compassionate leave.
I’ve found recently many of the enquiries I’ve received revolve around strategic thinking and the way strategy should be driven within the organisation. Whether it’s the economic situation we’re all facing, or the changes we are experiencing in business, it is obvious that management thought patterns are changing along with it, and many managers recognise the need to think strategically is a natural addition to their leadership portfolio. Here’s some thoughts from management expert, Henry Mintzberg.
Mintzberg argued that it’s really hard to get strategy right. To help us think about it in more depth, he developed his 5 Ps of Strategy – five different definitions of (or approaches to) developing strategy.
Each of the 5 Ps is a different approach to strategy. They are:
1. Strategy as a Plan
Planning is something that many managers are happy with, and it’s something that comes naturally to us. As such, this is the default, automatic approach that we adopt – brainstorming options and planning how to deliver them.
This is fine, and planning is an essential part of the strategy formulation process. The problem with planning, however, is that it’s not enough on its own. This is where the other four Ps come into play.
2. Strategy as a Ploy
Mintzberg says that getting the better of competitors, by plotting to disrupt, dissuade, discourage, or otherwise influence them, can be part of a strategy. This is where strategy can be a ploy, as well as a plan.
For example, a grocery chain might threaten to expand a store, so that a competitor doesn’t move into the same area; or a telecommunications company might buy up patents that a competitor could potentially use to launch a rival product.
3. Strategy as a Pattern
Strategic plans and ploys are both deliberate exercises, and a consistent and successful way of doing business can develop into a strategy.
For instance, imagine a manager who makes decisions that further enhance an already highly responsive customer support process. Despite not deliberately choosing to build a strategic advantage, his pattern of actions nevertheless creates one.
4. Strategy as Position
“Position” is another way to define strategy – that is, how you decide to position yourself in the marketplace. In this way, strategy helps you explore the fit between your organisation and your environment, and it helps you develop an advantage over the competition
For example, your strategy might include developing a niche product to avoid competition, or choosing to position yourself amongst a variety of competitors, while looking for ways to differentiate your services.
5. Strategy as Perspective
The choices an organization makes about its strategy rely heavily on its culture – just as patterns of behavior can emerge as strategy, patterns of thinking will shape an organisation’s perspective, and the things that it is able to do well.
For instance, an organisation that encourages risk-taking and innovation from employees might focus on coming up with innovative products as the main thrust behind its strategy. By contrast, an organization that emphasizes the reliable processing of data may follow a strategy of offering these services to other organisations under outsourcing arrangements.
Using the 5 Ps
Instead of trying to use the 5 Ps as a process to follow while developing strategy, think of them as a variety of viewpoints that you should consider while developing a robust and successful strategy.
As such, there are three points in the strategic planning process where it’s particularly helpful to use the 5 Ps:
Using Mintzberg’s 5 Ps at these points will highlight problems that would otherwise undermine the implementation of your strategy.
After all, it’s much better to identify these problems at the planning stage than it is to find out about them after you’ve spent time and money implementing a plan that was flawed from the start.
In Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay, Beverly Kay and Sharon Jordan-Evans write about creating commitment cultures.
After 20 years of research and 60,000 exit interviews, the Saratoga Institute reports that 80% of turnover is related to unsatisfactory relationships with the boss. Talent retention and engagement will remain one of management’s highest priorities over the coming years. In fact, in the current global economic situation with its ever-increasing reliance on talent and technology, retention and engagement are critical to an organization’s survival.
Organisations therefore need to focus on three areas to retain and engage their talented people:
Employee development – Support learning and growth.
Find ways to continuously develop and grow workers’ talents. Enrich and enliven employees’ work, making every effort to increase the time they spend on desirable and innovative work. Help workers identify opportunities for moving laterally as well as vertically. Link workers to mentors, coaches, leaders, or colleagues who can offer guidance and support.
Management style – Inspire loyalty.
Ask employees what they want from their work and what it takes to keep them motivated. Provide constant feedback – clearly, truthfully, and respectfully – and, in return, listen closely and carefully. Look for creative, meaningful ways to recognise and reward workers. Create a culture of inclusion – valuing not only differences of race and gender, but thoughts, experiences, and attitudes as well. Hold managers accountable for retention and then give them the training and the tools to do it.
Work environment – Create one that people love.
Let fun happen. Share information freely and regularly. Give people space – providing the freedom to get the job done in ways that work best for them, from their schedule and attire to their approach and process.
There are many complex reasons why some organisations are more successful than others in attracting and retaining the best people. However, studies reveal some common patterns. The most significant of these clearly boil down to questions of leadership.
Learning new things is often seen as the vital ingredient to improving your management style. Here, we discuss how you can pick new things up quicker and easier, through a process called Accelerated Learning.
Accelerated Learning is a unique way of presenting information to gain powerful learning experiences. It is not a theory, methodology or a philosophy, neither is it the result of one person’s research. It’s a combination of many studies from leading psychological researchers who estimate it can achieve at least a 300% improvement in both the speed and effectiveness of learning.
The following is a summary of the key concepts behind Accelerated Learning adapted from Colin Rose’s book, Accelerated Learning, How memory’s secrets unlocked the way to relaxed, easy learning:
Get yourself more knowledge of Accelerated Learning, and identify how you can learn new things quicker and easier.