How important do you consider the mobilisation of the people in your organisation to be?
We consider it the most critical aspect of the entire change management process, which is why it sits at the heart of our strategisation model – pumping blood into the system and bringing your strategy to life!
If you fail to mobilise your people, i.e., you do not capture their hearts and minds from early in the development process, you have a 70% less chance of implementing your strategy successfully. No amount of CPR will revive it if people aren’t emotionally and intellectually engaged!

MOBILISE: The ongoing process of effectively engaging people to develop and implement the strategy

STRATEGY: The vision for the future, strategic elements, and high-level plans

CAPABILITY: The activities and competencies needed to implement the strategy effectively

PEOPLE: The culture, values, skills and organisational structure needed for people to implement the strategy effectively

PERFORMANCE: The measurement and systems to assess implementation effectiveness and support addressing issues and opportunities as they arise.

Are people an asset or a resource in your business? 

people as resource in business

Gurus talk about ‘ Human Capital ‘ or refer to people as being an asset. The Oxford online dictionary definition of an asset as ‘an item of property owned by a person or company regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies.’

If you treat the people who work in your business as an asset, isn’t it the same thing as a farmer who has a flock of sheep, which are undeniably an asset: i.e. he owns them, and they can be bought and sold at his discretion? 

As a business, you can own your culture (which could sit as equity, brand value, or goodwill on your balance sheet). But you can’t own the people in your organisation. These people can collectively make or break your business as they define the culture, which ultimately determines if what you own is an asset or liability. 
How valued do the people in your business feel? Do they feel expendable? Superfluous to requirement? Insecure about whether their skills are valued highly enough to be kept ‘on the books’ through hard times?
When times are tough, training budgets, along with advertising, are one of the first things cut. When companies ‘downsize’, invariably, they let go of people (in my view, their most valuable resource.) Sadly, the company’s valuation increases as its workforce shrinks: what does this say to people about their value?

At XPotential, we believe that your brand/company’s reputation is the most important thing you own and that your people are the most crucial resource in creating brand and company value. An organisation owns its culture, but people make or break it.

I would recommend reframing your perspective on the people as a resource in business and treasuring them as the most valuable aspect of your business.

Mike’s Monthly Book Review

Book Review


– Adam Morgan & Mark Barden

Recommendation: HIGH – A practical, enjoyable read that provides simple & useful tools to help almost anyone use constraints as a source of inspiration rather than asphyxiation.

Key Comment:

How to turn your limitations into opportunities.

This book describes how to transition from viewing constraints in a negative light (barriers) into considering them as a platform for creativity and change — using case studies from companies such as Nike & Unilever and referencing a broad range of anecdotes from people like Dr Seuss and Mick Jagger.

An easily digestible guidebook with clearly signalled chapter summaries allowing the time-constrained reader to grasp the whole book in 21 minutes!

By making a constraint beautiful, the authors encourage us to reframe our thinking, suggesting that we look at a constraint as an opportunity, not a punitive restriction, and see it as a new or better way of achieving our ambitions.

The approach of turning a challenge into an opportunity resonates with me and my approach to strategy development. When working with clients, it’s essential to identify and acknowledge the root cause of challenges upfront and then, where possible find a way to turn them into an opportunity.

One of my favourite examples of how to channel constraint into a positive, creative outcome is the story the authors use to illustrate how the famously flamboyant style of Mick Jagger’s dancing came about. According to Keith Richards: when the Stones first started, they played little venues, so small that once all the equipment was set up and the audience in place, there was only a tiny space (the size of a table) for Jagger to perform in. Jagger could have chosen to restrict his movements, to become static, hemmed in – but instead, consciously or subconsciously, he responded to the space constraint and used the stimulus to become more dramatic, engaging, compelling and unique.

I love a chart or a diagram, and ‘A Beautiful Constraint’ makes good use of both. I particularly like the chart that illustrates the attitudinal stages we go through when responding to constraints – Victim, Neutralising, Responsive Transformer and Proactive Transformer. There is an outline of each stage’s underlying premise and the strategies used to address each one to evolve our mindset and approach towards constraints.

There is also a fantastic chart entitled ‘We Can’t Because’ vs. ‘We Can If’. This is the true nugget of gold in this book – learning to transform our limitations – from limited, negative thinking into advantageous positive outcomes is what it’s all about.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in people, how to work with limiting beliefs and support people to change their mindsets – turning lemons into lemonade!

Thanks to Karl Winther for recommending the book to me!

Available from:



Do You Have A Healthy, Robust Strategy Fit For Purpose Today?

Check here – Is your strategy good, bad, ugly or GREAT?

As a business leader responsible for developing a strategy for your business, how do you rate your strategy against the four critical success factors that must be adhered to, to achieve a successful outcome?

Do you know what the four critical success factors for creating a GREAT strategy are?

Here’s a cheat sheet:

CONSISTENCY: Strategy provides coherence to organisational action.

  • Do problems in coordination and planning continue to exist despite changes in people?
  • Does the objective structure in your organisation mean success, for one department but mean failure for another?
  • Do operating problems continue to be brought to top management for the resolution of policy issues despite attempts to delegate authority?

CONSONANCE: Strategy matches or is adapted to its environment.

  • Does your business have a clear understanding of the market it’s in as a whole and why it generally exists?
  • Will the value created by your organisation’s strategy be disrupted in the current or forecasted changes in economic, social, environmental or societal conditions?
  • Will new technologies or changes to supply chains disrupt the current strategy and create risks to the growth and value creation objectives of your organisation?

ADVANTAGE: A relevant, enduring competitive advantage is created.

Does your business:

  • Have relevant and superior RESOURCES for your industry that allow you to do more or do things better than your competitors?
  • Have relevant and superior SKILLS for your industry that allow you to do more or do things better than your rivals?
  • Would it be so costly for rivals to capture that it deters them from attacking this business?

FEASIBILITY:  The organisation has the capability to implement the strategy.

  Has your organisation:

  • Got the physical, human, and ­financial resources available?
  • Demonstrated it possesses the problem-solving abilities and/or special competencies required by the strategy?
  • Demonstrated the degree of coordination and integrative skill required to carry out the strategy?
  • Does your strategy challenge and motivate key personnel and is it acceptable to those who must lend their support?

Take our Free Strategistaion self-diagnostic survey to see how your strategy stacks up – please call us if you would like more info!

How does your strategy stack up?

Resilience – How to Bounce Back and Move Forward

I’m sure that most Business Leaders would agree that over the last few years, due to all of the uncertainty we have experienced, we have all had to dig deep into our reserves of ‘resilience’ to forge ahead.

Now with the threat of inflation, interest rate increases, and labour shortages coupled with all that is happening beyond our borders, we need to develop further resilience within ourselves and our businesses.  
Aprais, our partners and global leaders in team performance evaluation say that ‘Resilience’ behaviours will become increasingly important to measure & develop to ensure team preparedness for future crises.

Resilience: The power or ability to return to the original form. Position after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.

Admittedly, I sometimes feel a little punch drunk and jaded by world events. The following six tips for building resilience, which I found in an article from the Mayo Clinic, seem both relatable and doable:

Get Connected

Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide you with needed support, guidance and acceptance in good and bad times. Establish other important connections e.g.; volunteering.

Make every day meaningful

Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set clear, achievable goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.

Learn from the experience

Think of how you’ve coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through difficult times.

Remain hopeful

You can’t change the past, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.

Take care of yourself

Tend to your own needs and feelings. Participate in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Get plenty of sleep and create consistent bedtime rituals. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery or deep breathing.

Be proactive

Don’t ignore your problems. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action. Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your situation can improve if you work at it.

How Do You React To Change – Fight, Flight, Freeze or Flow?

If you are a leader who is in the early stages of mobilising the people within your business to implement change, it’s important that you understand that all human beings are hardwired to resist change. We have five times more negative neural networks than positive ones, so we have an inbuilt ‘negativity bias’. It means that we are more likely to focus on the negative aspects of change that drive our fear in the first instance.

Isabel Briggs Myers, the developer of the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, concluded that only 5.5% of the human population innately embrace change. The rest of us seek the psychological safety of our ‘cave’ as a first instinct. Our reptilian brains trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response.

While the change we’re talking about may not mean life or death, 94.5% of us will not always rush out and embrace the emotional discomfort.
Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman proved that humans make decisions emotionally first. Attempting to overcome emotional barriers with a logical, rational argument is futile when emotions run the show 😠😀😢😫🤯😊

Mobilisation can help address these barriers by creating a richness of dialogue across the organisation at an emotional and rational level.

Fostering an environment for two-way communication between functions and different groups while also recognising the emotional turmoil that change creates will provide a more collaborative and supportive environment. With greater transparency comes greater trust, and internal resistance to change is reduced.

During periods of change, outstanding leadership is critical – many people crave trustworthy, courageous, transparent, unwavering, authentic guidance. As a leader, understanding that people respond in differing ways when faced with change is imperative.

As people process the changes, each stage has natural psychological barriers with basic needs to address. As a leader, understanding these behaviours and creating a collaborative and safe environment to collectively work through accepting the change will result in far better ‘buy in’ across the organisation which will mean greater mobilisation and much more effective implementation.

Stage 1 : DENIAL – Information 

Individuals go through withdrawal and focus on the past. There is activity but not much work gets done. Address this stage with information. Let people know change will happen and why the change is needed. Wherever possible deliver in person not via email.

Stage 2 : RESISTANCE – Actively listen

In this stage, you will see anger, blame, anxiety and depression. Use active listening to effectively deal with resistance. Encourage people to express their feelings without judgement. Be open and authentic about your own feelings about the changes.

Stage 3 : EXPLORATION – Short term goals 

There will be confusion, over-preparation, chaos, energy and potentially a lack of focus. To help people focus, set short term goals to channel their energy and achieve quick wins. 

Stage 4 : COMMITMENT – Long term goals

In this final phase of change, the staff will start working together. You will see better cooperation and improved focus. Once you’ve reached this stage, you can start setting long term goals and looking ahead to the benefits that will occur as a result of the changes. 

Mike’s Monthly Book Review

Book Review


– Colin Gordon

Recommendation: HIGH – a fascinating look into where it’s all gone wrong for Marketing and ten practical steps to address the issues.

Key Comment: How we got here and ten steps to get us out

Marketing – it’s meant to be at the core of every business. Bridging the gap between product and customer and transforming that into sales. But somehow, marketing today is in crisis – how did it get here, and how can we fix it?

Colin Gordon has over 35 years of experience leading some of Ireland’s and the world’s best-known businesses and brands. Through a series of unique research case studies and personal anecdotes, he explores the world of marketing and how it lost its way, ultimately boiling it down to its one core purpose: to make selling easier.

Colin likens the role of Marketing within an organisation to a shepherd – marketing minds the sheep (the company’s revenue stream, its brands and so on), while the pastures (commercial conditions) are right, but it will lead the company to newer, better pastures (new market sectors, new products, new geographies) if needs be.

The burning question Colin seeks to address is – what happens when the shepherd loses his way?

After providing context through exploring some of the histories of marketing and where and why the problems have arisen, we arrive at Page 110 and a neat summary of ten recommendations to help address them. (Colin, I hope you don’t mind, they are word for word from the book.)

DEFINITION: Get to a simple understanding of what you’re about.

Marketing doesn’t necessarily have to be a separate function or a specialism, but it is about MAKING SELLING EASIER – today, tomorrow and all the tomorrow after that.

STRUCTURES: Keep it tight, and don’t get sucked in.

If Marketing is at the core of the company’s strategy and is there to make selling easier, it’s important to ensure its location within the organisational structure. It is important for marketing to be represented at the senior table – not merely in a discrete role or function.

RANGE: Diversity is core to delivery.

All the evidence points to the benefit of a broad range of skills as a marketer. Develop a range of experiences & exposures, not of expertise. Marketers must be able to work across the organisation on the full value (or supply) chain. Marketing departments should not be populated solely by marketers.

MEASUREMENT: Align is to define.

Once you have an agreed definition of what you’re trying to do, you will find it much easier to measure effectiveness. With all the talk of likes, followers, retweets, opening rates, and so on, it remains that at the end of the day – it’s all about sales and measuring them. Be it by volume or revenue – this is the ultimate measure that matters.

BRANDS: Get to really know what you’re managing.

Marketing parents the organisation’s commercial programme. As parents of our brands, we must love them all equally – even if not in the same way. They deserve attention & must not be ignored. Everyone in the organisation must know the role each brand plays as part of the overall strategy.

RESEARCH AND LEARNING: It can be as informal as you like, so long as you keep doing it.

Be inquisitive of things inside and outside the organisation – don’t be afraid to keep learning & challenging yourself & others based on new insights.

DEVELOP MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS: Partners bring everyone to one position.

Marketing cannot be a separate, distant group if you want the organisation to be wholly customer focused. Marketers must work with cross-functional colleagues to hear what they are saying and likewise make sure they can listen to the marketer. Relationships take time, so give it to them – both internal and external to the organisation.

ONE BIG NUMBER (OBN): A sense of focus and common purpose.

What’s your OBN (or OBT, One Big Thing)? What would it take for you to achieve it? What’s stopping you from achieving it? Often a good understanding of the touch points will help answer these questions.

ACTIVITY DOES NOT EQUAL PROGRESS: Don’t just do something, stand there!

How much activity in your marketing is really worthwhile? Do your team know what the real contribution(positive & negative) is from each of their marketing activities? Does anyone know what the purpose of the activity was in the first place? Leaders are often unwilling to say STOP!

LET THE PROCESS BEGIN: It’s all about a mix of the 4P’s.

Why does marketing rush to change the principle of where product, place, price & promotion combine to act as a catalyst for the whole company, keeping both the customer in focus and the long term on the planning horizon?

The point that most resonated with me is number 3: Range. I may be biased but coming to marketing via a degree in chemistry, followed by time in QA, R&D and then procurement within a consumer goods business, gave me a lot more insight into what makes a brand and business tick than if I had come straight to marketing. It highlighted the importance of all 4 P’s, not just the promotion and how to drive better advertising.

Point 7: Developing meaningful relationships also stuck a chord as it aligns closely with the philosophies in our book, Strategisation. The case study we share from National Foods illustrates how when I joined, marketing was isolated from the rest of the business and brand values had declined.

In ‘Marketing is in trouble’, Colin uses his wealth of experience to identify and unpack the journey that has led to Marketing’s current state, offering anecdotes, case studies and personal experiences to demonstrate his point of view. Then, in conclusion, he provides ten achievable solutions to address the issues.

His final sentence in the book (before the case studies section) completely resonates and neatly encapsulates the key takeaway message, to me at least, that it’s time that ‘marketing gets back to basics and puts the process and discipline of the 4 P’s back into its way of working.’

I would strongly recommend reading this book to any CEO who wants to get more from marketing and any marketer who wants to understand more about what marketing should and could look like and how it can be at the core of a business’s strategy.

I had the pleasure of working with Colin while he led the Glanbia consumer goods business in Ireland, and not only does he practice what he preaches, but he’s also a great bloke!

Orpen Press



7 Lessons That Business Can Learn From The All Blacks


When it comes to teamwork, in business and in life, we can all take lessons from arguably, one of the best teams of all-time – the New Zealand All Blacks.

Although they were at the top of their game and winning every major international rugby competition, they just couldn’t get a hold of the Rugby World Cup. They won it in 1987, and then it eluded them till 2011.

After a particularly humbling defeat to France in 2007, realising that too much reliance had been placed on coaches and the captain for on-field, strategic decision making, the whole organisation went through enormous change.

Including establishing a leadership team of experienced players, with the coaching staff engaged in instilling the ‘Everyone’s a leader’ ethos’. The players had to make the decisions on the field, take risks, play to their style, and back each other.

We can take these lessons and apply them in the corporate world to encourage alignment, collaboration, and success.

According to the New York Times, in his article ‘7 Lessons for the Corporate World from the Greatest Team in the World’. Mark Thomas, from the PPI Network, highlights reasons for their winning record:

  1. Forge a powerful sense of purpose and identity
  2. Use symbols to guide behaviours
  3. Always subordinate ego to the team
  4. Build an atmosphere of trust and cohesion
  5. Create a team where everyone is the leader
  6. Focus on the ‘tenths’ to create a culture of success, i.e. leave no stone unturned to improve performance and harness conflict as a force for learning and growth
  7. Change or lose – consistently learn and evolve

The All Blacks learned from their string of world cup losses and implemented the lessons above, going on to win again in 2011 and 2015.

The Last 3 Stages of Mobilisation


No leader can implement a strategy by themselves. You need supporters to make it happen. You need a movement, a critical mass of people who will champion the change on the frontline. We use a mobilisation process that is broken into 6 stages.

Here are the last 3 stages:

4/ Building Commitment

Some leaders don’t understand the importance of engaging with their strategic population, and as a consequence, they fail to garner support and end up with their strategy sidelined.

I define a strategic population as the group of people critical in breaking the current paradigm and allowing the change to happen. Conversely, if they are not engaged and mobilised, they can block the change required.

These are the people who will have a high impact on the success of your strategy. This population can be at any level and across any function in the organisation. The strategic population will change over time as you move from the status quo As-Is’to the desired future state ‘To-Be’.

You can build commitment by identifying who your strategic population is and involving them as early as possible in the strategy development. Doing this will maximise the chances of implementing a winning strategy.

We use the KUBA process to initiate change and help people get on board.

KNOW: People need to KNOW what they are supposed to do, what you are trying to achieve, what they need to do and what’s in it for them.

UNDERSTAND: Make sure people UNDERSTAND what you expect from them.

BELIEVE: Help them BELIEVE they can do it and that their input is important.

ACT: Only when you have these in place will people take ACTION! Now your strategic population will be proactive, engaged, collaborative, and willing to provide the discretionary effort needed to get change happening.

5/ Stay on Track

How to Keep your Strategy Implementation from Derailing

It’s easy to set and forget a strategy. Monitoring financial results is not always an adequate indicator of the success of your strategy implementation. This is a lag performance indicator that doesn’t measure the effectiveness of a strategy. Many other factors impact financial results, like a competitor going out of business or changes in government regulations.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” – Lord Kelvin

You need to understand how things are tracking and be alert to factors that may derail the strategy and impact the change. Establish formal and informal monitoring of progress and the key measures of success up front.

Stay abreast of how people feel, paying particular attention to your strategic population. Keep checking the temperature – this isn’t just about performance management but learning and supporting. Everybody’s on the same train; everyone’s going through the change, and everyone will respond differently.

Consider measurement as setting up an early warning system. Just like radar, invented to provide an early warning to fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain, so they could get into the sky and be waiting for the enemy before they arrived. Forewarned is forearmed!

6/ Manage the Squeaky Wheels

Don’t let them side-track you!

Ever wondered where the term ‘squeaky wheel’ comes from? It refers to horse and buggy days when wagon wheels needed to be greased so they would turn more smoothly. If they weren’t, they would start to squeak or squeal = annoying!!

Similarly, squawking or complaining people tend to get more attention than the non-complainers. They are like a squeaky wheel! They get the “grease,” i.e., attention.

When mobilising people within your business to implement the strategy, it is critical to deal with the ‘squeaky wheels’ as soon as possible.

It’s best to have a clear understanding of what their objections and barriers are and find out what is required to motivate people to change their behaviours. Find a benefit to them and get them onside to become an ally, or better still, a cheerleader who helps bring your strategy to fruition.

Three key questions to ask:

  • Do they understand why change is necessary?
  • Do they know what their role will be?
  • Do they have the capability to carry the role out?

Some will refuse to change behaviours or support the strategy despite your best attempts to address their concerns and get them on board. Tackling this head-on and upfront as you develop the strategy provides the opportunity to either help them adjust or make it clear they may need to look for a job elsewhere.

You can’t afford to continue down the road with squeaky wheels; they cause wear and tear on the rest of the vehicle and slow the journey down.

Mike’s Monthly Book Review

Book Review

PLAYING TO WIN – How Strategy Really Works

– A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin

Recommendation: HIGH – a practical guide through the five strategic choices you need to make to get ahead of your competitors.

Key Comment: “Are you just playing – or Playing to Win?”

“Don’t Let Strategy Become Planning” is a poignant point that captured my eye when reading this book for the first time. Developing a strategy can be challenging because it forces people and organisations to make specific choices about their future.

A.G Lafley is the former Chairman, President and CEO of Proctor & Gamble (P&G), the powerhouse global consumer goods company with brands like Tide, Pampers, Olay, and Gillette. Roger L. Martin is a Professor Emeritus at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and, in 2017, was named the world’s #1 management thinker by Thinkers50.

This book takes you through the Strategy Choice Cascade (pictured below), five essential and integrated strategic choices that Lafley and Martin recommend will move you ahead of your competition – when implemented effectively (I added the last bit).

A plethora of case studies and examples from P&G demonstrate the strategic choices which need to be made at a corporate and brand level as you move through the decision-making model. I particularly like the case study referenced throughout the book that follows the revitalisation of Olay. It shows the strategic choices made which tool the old-fashioned, low priced ‘Oil of Olay’ brand and transformed it across mass and prestige markets into a global powerhouse. It involved changing consumer perceptions across a multitude of different touchpoints from product to sales channel, pricing, product innovation and more.

Play to Win also provides some tools to help you make those decisions. The Strategic Logic Flow is a great one to help choose where to play and how to win.

  1. INDUSTRY: What is the structure of your industry and the attractiveness of its segment?
  2. CUSTOMERS: What do your channel and end-customer value? Channel customers for P&G refer to retailers; you may have different channel customers. If you don’t provide value to your channel customers, you may not have a channel to reach your end customer (or consumer).
  3. RELATIVE POSITION: How does your company’s capabilities stack up against your competition? How do you leverage strengths and address gaps?
  4. COMPETITION: What will your competition do in reaction to your chosen course of action?

Chapter Eight – ‘Shorten Your Odds’ is my favourite because it’s all about increasing the chances of implementation success. Anyone who’s followed me or read our book, Strategisation, will know I’m a big fan of mobilising people for success. This chapter provides an approach that generates buy-in by asking the right question when making strategic choices.

The book is well written, with DO’s and DON’T’S at the end of each chapter. I originally read the digital version but then invested in a hardcover which I use as a reference book, bookmarking pages to help me find key points quickly.

I’d thoroughly recommend ‘Playing to Win’ to any leader at any level in an organisation who is responsible for developing strategy or contributing to it.

You can buy it at Amazon or any good bookstore. Link below:

Amazon Australia: Playing to Win