Tag Archives: change

Managers as Myriad Actors

One of the fundamental questions raised during the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna two years’ ago was what our actions will be, as managers, when facing the Great Transformation; in other words, when facing transformational changes that lie in the future for companies, governments and communities alike, what actions will we take today? Will we be one of what Richard Straub, President of the Drucker Society Europe, calls the “myriad actors” who shape the future and impact others or will we abstain from courageous and decisive action?

Peter Drucker talked about the role of managers as “the central resource, the generic distinctive, the constitutive organ of society…” and that managers’ actions are essentially a “public concern” because our survival as a society is “dependent on the performance, the competence, the earnestness and the values of their managers.” (Drucker: The Ecological Vision)

The conversation in Vienna re-examined management’s responsibility to society and humanity. One of the things that drew me to the work of Drucker over 15 years’ ago was his focus on human-centric organizations. And yet, today, we still see organizations more focused on short term profits for shareholders rather than a balance of long and short term value creation for all stakeholders including employees, community and society in general.

Are we doing enough to keep that balance? Many of the speakers did not think seem to think so. They cited studies showing that only 13% of employees around the world are engaged in their jobs (Gallup’s “State of The Global Workplace” report) and that 63% of 1000 corporate board members and C-suite executives surveyed by Mckinsey claim that pressure to generate strong short –term results has increased over the past five years. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do – to shape the future towards value creation for all stakeholders and unleashing the incredible creative and human potential of the people who work with us.

How might we do this? By being “myriad actors”; by looking for ways to shape the future, “see around corners” (as Forum speaker Nilofer Merchant said) and impact others in positive ways. Some organizations, for example, choose to connect leading edge technology and a commitment to improving the human condition (see HopeLab recipient of the Drucker Award for Non Profit Innovation). Others focus on improving employee engagement levels (see Telus, and Dan Pontefract’s work).

I don’t think management can be taught only in a management program; I think it’s a combination of art and edifice – and perhaps this is what Drucker was referring to when he defined management in The New Realities, as a liberal art: “’liberal’ because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; ‘art’ because it is practice and application.”

We might not know exactly how the future will turn out or how it will shape our industry or impact our livelihoods but we can certainly act – in a myriad of ways – to ensure that we keep humans at the center of decision making within our organizations.

As Richard Straub states in “The Great Transformation” (EFMD Global Focus 2014), “Management is a real world practice of dealing with people and organizations. Managers can make all the difference in the world with their knowledge, their creativity, their emotions and their values.” Managers are myriad actors.

Esther M Clark

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A version of this blog post was published in 2014; two weeks following the Drucker Forum in Vienna.

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An end is a new beginning

“What feels like the end is often the beginning” or “one door closes, another door opens” are useful phrases to think about when a project meets its natural, or unnatural, conclusion.

With international projects, these phrases are particularly relevant. Often times we are met by closed doors on the path to success. It does not mean that the project is done but that it might need to be re-envisioned or changes in someway.

Life is dynamic. Business is always changing. So should our projects. A closed door or “end” is just an invitation to a new beginning.

-EMC

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Savvy Saturday August 6th, 2016

The worst place to develop a new business model is from within your existing business model. – Clayton Christensen

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Savvy Sunday July 10, 2016

“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” – Peter Drucker

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Culture and Change

I finished reading Jay W Lorsch and Emily McTague’s article “Culture Is Not the Culprit” in the April issue of Harvard Business Review. I couldn’t agree more with their central thesis that culture isn’t something you “fix” but rather cultural change is what you get when you put new processes or structures in place to tackle business challenges.

 

As someone whose work involves connecting NEEDS with the WAY of implementing processes or structures, I can’t help but think that a great change management plan is not change then culture but rather one AND the other. Yes, one might come first as a natural first step but just as left and right brain thinking is the hallmark of great leadership, cultural change and organizational change go hand in hand.

I don’t agree with only focusing on CULTURE but if there is no CULTURE to support change than change management will lose its effectiveness. “CULTURE eats strategy for breakfast”…Peter Drucker used to say.

  • EMC
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Savvy Saturday April 2, 2016

“We are at a critical point where rapid change is forcing us to look not just to new ways of solving problems but to new problems to solve.” -Tim Brown

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Forgiveness

Recent events made me reflect on forgiveness; why can’t the word forgiveness have more presence in our world?

Our society was founded on great movements with visionary leaders that embraced the essence – and benefits – of forgiveness to build relevant communities, businesses and families.

There are many leaders that choose forgiveness over revenge, hate or indifference; the Civil Rights movements in the US, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and Gandhi’s peaceful revolution were all sparked by a shared belief in non-violent protest to change the status quo. Forgiveness can cross geographical, religious, racial, social, political, and economic barriers. It can even transcend time. Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King became incredibly powerful by choosing to forgive. They forgave to be at peace with the present. Whatever happened to them or to their ancestors, they did not believe that ignoring the problem or encouraging hate was the answer. The answer, for them, was forgiveness; it was an action they could take – and they encouraged others to take – that would have a positive influence on a better future. The profound act of forgiveness made them visionary leaders.

I live in South America and far removed geographically from recent events in Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, I know community and business leaders who are victims of crime, of discrimination and of corruption. Some of them live with the expectation that the same negative things will happen to them again and some believe that their future can be different. It could be described as the difference between the fixed and growth mindsets. Naturally, there are also those people that are on the fence about their future; like most human beings, they experience moments when they are positive about the future and others when they keep thinking about the immitigable risks. I believe the gap between the two groups of people (or different feelings within the same person) is bridged by a simple phrase: “I forgive.”

“I forgive” is about creating peace with the present so that we can be open to new experiences. Forgiveness is personal because it has an impact on our lives even if the event happened long before we were even born or only yesterday. Making peace with ourselves and with people around us means acknowledging these terrible things – directly or indirectly – and making the decision that while events like these define part of our lives, they are not all defining, all-encompassing and all being. Human beings are bigger than the terrible things that happen to us and we can make change happen. Things can be different. Just like the brave leaders mentioned before, we don’t have to accept the status quo.

Maybe, just maybe, it is cool, it is relevant, and it is positive to forgive.

My idea is simple – say “I forgive”, post it, share it, write stories about it, make videos, take photos, make music, create art. Get the word “forgive” out there.

If we restore the word forgive to our vocabulary and to our lives, we can use it as an opportunity to build healthier businesses, communities and families. If we talk about building a better future for our children or future generations, forgiveness must be part of it.

– EMC

 

 

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Savvy Saturday October 31, 2015

“If you had shown [companies] the iPhone 10 years ago and said, “This will be the future of how civilization works,” they would have said, “No, it won’t.” In fact, some companies looked at this space and elected not to pursue it.

This is because their innovation process doesn’t give their leadership a context for thinking about profound innovation. In a conventional company, an innovation process is often a substitution for creativity and thoughtfulness. Companies have come iStock_000014701722XSmall_610_300_s_c1_center_centerto us and asked for something like “disruptive innovation.” It is fashionable and they’ve read about it; they don’t know why they need it, but they hope it will help. However, they are seldom prepared to embrace what’s necessary to actually do this.”

Bran Ferren on the Art of Innovation interviewed by Art Kleiner in Strategy+Business magazine.

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Community is Viable

Now, more than ever, the power of collaboration is manifesting itself across space and time. Digital tools are helping us to create connections between seemingly disparate interests and to solve problems on a global scale. Nevertheless, in regions in development and, in particular, in Latin America, there exists a range of problems in the public and private sectors that could be solved through collaboration, innovation and excellence. Problems such as energy generation, response to natural disasters, and high school desertion to name just a few. Design thinkers say that collaboration is viable when there is a better understanding of users, a relevant place to prototype ideas and the built-in motivation to implement those ideas. If you turn this around, it holds true that if you don’t have these three elements, collaboration – and the viability of using “community” to solve problems – may just be impossible. What is happening in Latin America, then, to make “community” viable? Perhaps a closer look at these three elements can help us see why the region is falling short.

First, when we better understand users, we can better address needs and design a product or service that fits those needs. Seems simple, but implementation of this element is difficult in high context cultures such as those that exist in the majority of countries in Latin America. In cultures that encourage alignment with social status and formal social rules, understanding users – and users in multiple interest groups – is a challenge. It involves using interviewing techniques and empathy to gain a complete understanding of stakeholders and usage. Understanding what question to ask and being able to bring the answer from various areas into context, helps form an accurate picture of users and their needs. Striving for a better understanding of users – and using multiple research methods in order to overcome cultural characteristics – is key in solving users’ problems.

Second, designing solutions must be an interactive process. We will always need a place to work with stakeholders, test assumptions and take risks. This is why innovation centers sometimes fail: they need to work with community and not in isolation from them. Nevertheless, innovation centers in Latin America specifically are extremely useful in fostering more cross functional collaboration and mitigating some of the risks associated with large scale innovation investments in developing countries. Multinationals Dupont and BBVA as well as “multilatina” Stefanini have successfully gained insights and new products through their centers; illustrating that while innovation centers may have their drawbacks, they can be a relevant place to prototype ideas.

Finally, motivation must be present at the idea implementation phase. This means that while we may have a prototype or project, there is always more work to be done in implementing the idea. What can help with the successful implementation of the idea is community. As the old saying goes, people are more committed to that which they help build. If communities are collaborating on ideas that benefit them; they will have a higher successful implementation rate. There is also the possibility for the ideas that spread. Like a TED Talk, a good idea can spread and be implemented much faster when members of community that will benefit from the idea get involved and share their passion around a solution.

Is community viable? Yes it is. But seeing collaboration for what it is – working towards understanding users, engaging users and prototyping with users in the Prototype-Pilot-Product triad – makes community collaboration viable. In Latin America in particular, understanding these elements and their unique challenges in our region, is essential in community viability.

– EMC

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Legacy and Future – let’s not throw away the past!

Strategy + Business published an article about Adidas reconnecting with its past in order to inspire its future. It reminded me of a discussion we had this week while we were “ideating” for the future of one of our organization’s business units; I mentioned the unit’s “legacy” and how this presents challenges and opportunities for the organization going forward.

In the cited article, the authors talk about how Apple, Adidas, Lego, Burberry and others came to a point where each company:

…realized that it had a distinctive history rich with memories, experiences, and signature processes that could be used to design the future — not through a slavish adherence to tradition, but through thinking differently about strategy, innovation, and products.

People and organizations all go through moments when they fail. Sometimes organizations never recover and slowly become irrelevant to their stakeholders. Case in point: Netflix vs. Blockbuster.

Last year at the Peter Drucker Global Forum I heard Nilofer Merchant talk about “seeing around corners” in order to understand what we should expect as leaders of organizations. For those companies who have a legacy, a history, a track-record, a story, a “tribe” – sometimes it is a matter of looking at “signature” products/services/processes/experiences in a new way. Successful businesses (past, present and future) connect with stakeholders in a unique way: bringing out the best and brightest of the brand, its clients and the overall organization.

EMC

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