I came across an article the other day, ‘Thumbs up, given Thumbs down by Gen Z,’ and as someone who is not quite a boomer but still of a ‘mature’ vintage, I began to wonder how often I have inadvertently and unintentionally offended Gen Zers.
My daughters (Gen Z’s) are quick to call my partner and me out when we slip up at home, but this idea of cancelling the thumbs-up spills over into the business area, and I’m keen to know how others feel about it. After all, we use a thumbs-up icon on Linkedin to demonstrate our approval – should it be changed to something else?
I’ve just read a fascinating book ‘The Culture Map’ by Erin Meyer, in which she explores and expands on the skills necessary to navigate the cultural differences in our increasingly globalised world (review on this website)
Cultural differences can cause miscommunication and misunderstanding in global business dealings, but so too, it would appear, can generational differences! I think there’s a book to be written here!
I heard this old banger ‘Murder on the Dance floor’’ the other day, and it reminded me of the excellent metaphor that Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky coined in their book ‘The Practice of Adaptive Leadership.’
They say: ‘When on the dance floor, the observation may be very different from when on the balcony: when on the balcony, leaders take a step back and gain a clear view of what is really happening and can look at the bigger picture ‘.
As a leader, when developing the strategy for your business, you must spend time on the dance floor and the balcony.
Using ‘murder on the dancefloor ‘as an analogy: – the first step you need to take when solving the mystery (i.e., when developing your strategy ) is to interview all the witnesses (your stakeholders and your strategic population)— those on the dance floor (working at the coal face) and those on the balcony (management), will all have a different perspective, insight, views, and suggestions.
If you restrict your viewpoint to only management and exclude those at the coal face, you will set your strategy up for failure. Without everybody aligned, looking at the same picture, engaged and invested in taking action to implement it, you are assigning your strategy a one-way ticket to the morgue!
Working together, you will uncover the truth and get to the root cause of your business challenges and not waste time merely addressing the symptoms. In Strategisation, one of our golden rules is ‘Don’t develop your strategy in isolation from the key stakeholders you will rely on to implement it.’ aka ‘Interview key witnesses’ 🤣 🤣
In our book ‘Strategisation – The Art of Mobilising people to implement a winning strategy ‘, I reference the author and academic Richard Rumelt several times, as he is somewhat of a guru in my eyes when it comes to most things strategy related.
I just read the article ‘Why Bad Strategy is a Social Contagion’, which is a partial transcript from a podcast featuring Rumelt and McKinsey senior partner Yuval Atsmon; there were several points Rumelt makes that particularly resonated with me:
Business leaders often misunderstand the actual meaning of strategy. Strategy is problem-solving. It is how you overcome the obstacles that stand between where you are and what you want to achieve.’
Bad strategy is almost a literary form that uses PowerPoint slides to say, ‘Here is how we will look as a company in three years.’ That’s interesting, but it’s not a strategy.’
When it comes to getting the entire organisation involved in strategy development and execution, Rumelt says, ‘there are two types of errors made. One is where you don’t involve the front lines, and the other is where the front lines don’t understand the strategy ‘.
This point aligns with one of my key philosophies: to implement your strategy effectively, you MUST mobilise a critical mass of people within your organisation. I call this critical mass of people your ‘strategic population’, who should be involved in the development process as early as possible.
A strategic population is a group that can block the change required to implement the strategy if not engaged and mobilised; they are critical to breaking the current paradigm and allowing the change to happen. 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 ‘.
Involve a broadly representative group from the strategic population in developing the strategy and its implementation: this is a crucial step in mobilising your troops. Consider this as mobilising your army for change.
These people can be instrumental in breaking paradigms while influencing others within the business. Assemble your platoon from across all levels of the organisation. Don’t just think about senior people or mid-level managers. Think right across the organisation. You may also need to include external parties such as suppliers, agencies, or distributors. Who can influence behaviours and thinking in a positive way across the organisation? Identify them and get them on board, pronto!
In the attention economy, your brand has two seconds to get noticed. The wrong name can cost you. The right name will do the heavy lifting for you day after day after day.
– Louise Karch
Word Glue had me captivated from the opening page
‘Hi. Your brand name has two seconds to stick.
The right brand name can be worth a fortune, and Word Glue gives you the stories, strategies and steps to generate brand names in 10 minutes or less.
Written in a short, concise format, this book provides a practical and easy-to-follow workbook that guides you through the process, with plenty of space to record your outputs.
The author, Louise Karch, is an award-winning marketer who has successfully named businesses, books, charities, colleges, radio shows, podcasts, products and even a church. Louise breaks Word Glue into 3 Parts:
* Pow! Naming Principles
* Pop! Naming Practices
* Pro Naming for Prosperity
In Part 1 (Pow!) Knowing & understanding the 7 principles of naming will ensure your brand breaks out, not blends in. I particularly like the concept of Principles 4, 6, and 7 – Sound Good, Name Bravely and Choose Wisely.
Part 2 (Pop!) explores the name-storming practices of breakout brands, including Rolex, JetBlue, iMac, Google, Starbucks, and Mcdonald’s, with excellent and relatable examples of the different tools used in each case.
By the time you arrive at Part 3 (Pro), if you have followed the process through Parts 1 and 2, you will have done all the leg work required and hopefully arrived at your final name choice. Louise insists that at this point, when seeking feedback, we should not ask, “Do you like this name?’, instead ‘Does this name grab your attention?”. After all, this matters most, it’s not a popularity contest but about capturing your customers’ attention!
I highly recommend Word Glue, even if you’re not a wordsmith.
This book is very accessible, full of great examples, and the process is quick.
Decoding how people think, lead, and get things done in business across cultures.
– Erin Meyer
I wish this book had been written 30 years ago when I worked in businesses in The UK, France and Spain. As a naïve young kiwi, it would have saved me a few red-faced moments (but robbed my partner of great moments of hilarity – at my expense!). The cultural nuances between Kiwis and Aussies get a mention: it turns out there are more differences than just jandals vs thongs and eskies vs chilly bins 😊 😊
Whether you work from a home office or abroad, business success in our increasingly globalised world requires the skills to navigate through cultural differences. I have experienced first-hand some of the pitfalls you can innocently stumble upon when working in a team comprised of people from various countries and cultures.
Mobilising people to implement strategy successfully requires a leader to ensure that communication and dialogue are well understood, meaning that cultural differences must be addressed upfront. In Australia, 27% of the population is born overseas, and for many, English is a second language, so this doesn’t just apply to international business.
The Culture map is written by Erin Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, based in France, one of the world’s leading business schools. In this book, she demonstrates a field-tested model for decoding how cultural differences impact international business.
What I found most helpful was the framework Erin provides, segmented into eight scales, each of which makes up the different elements that determine the culture of a business.
The eight elements are:
Communicating: Low context to high context
Evaluating: Direct negative feedback to indirect negative feedback
Persuading: Principles-first to Applications–first
Leading: Egalitarian to Hierarchical
Deciding: Consensual to Top-down
Trusting: Task-based to Relationship-based
Disagreeing: Confrontational to Avoid confrontation
Scheduling: Linear-time to Flexible-time
As you can imagine, in some cases, when these elements are graphed, the results show polar opposites. It’s no wonder that sometimes business dealings are doomed to fail before they even start if there is no conscious effort to address these potential barriers at the outset!
The book brings the cultures to life by using great examples from Erin’s many consulting and research activities worldwide. She illustrates how the differing cultures’ behaviours/ beliefs manifest, particularly in a work environment. In parallel with the book, there is a fantastic website where you can view and map various countries and their cultures across the eight scales.
‘The Culture Map’ doesn’t just offer a thought-provoking read and highlight the cultural idiosyncracies and differences; it includes easy-to-follow guidelines showing how to manage the challenges of working in multicultural teams.
This book is essential for anybody who works cross-culturally or is interested in what makes people from different countries tick. If you have to lead the implementation of a strategy and mobilise people from across cultures, it will make your job much easier.
“If you can’t measure it you can’t improve it.” – Peter Drucker.
If you don’t know how good your strategy is and which areas to focus on to make it better, how can you improve it and make it great?
Our free Strategisation self-diagnostic survey takes approximately 7 minutes to complete and asks you to rate your strategy against the following 4 critical success factors:
Strategic Theme: CONSISTENCY
Effective strategy must provide coherence to organisational action. A clear and explicit strategy can promote a climate of easily understood coordination and alignment across different departments.
Strategic Theme: CONSONANCE
Effective strategy must both match and be adapted to its environment while at the same time allow the organisation to compete with other businesses. Therefore strategy needs to be evaluated at two levels; the basic scope or mission of the business and its competitive edge.
Strategic Theme: ADVANTAGE
Effective strategy must create competitive advantages that are relevant, enduring and difficult to duplicate. This focuses on how we can perform better than or instead of our rivals.
Strategic Theme: FEASIBILITY
The ability of the organisation to implement the strategy given the physical, human and financial constraints on the business and likely competitor response.
Once you have completed the survey we will send you a short report designed to help you identify areas of strength in your current strategy and highlight areas for improvement. (We don’t ask for any confidential material to be divulged).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!