Tag Archives: transformation

Savvy Saturday March 25, 2017

If you always do what you‘ve always done, you will always get what you‘ve always got.

(Quote attributed to H Ford, Einstein etc.)

Tagged , , ,

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

******

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Failure…yet again

Earlier this year I opened an article with an interpretation of a line from Arthur Ransome’s book Swallows and Amazons: “Better dead than duffers.” I have studied the cult of failure as part of my consulting practice and to help my clients understand how and if “fail fast, fail often” makes for a higher overall result.

I have spent the last week on vacation and continue to see this topic pop up in business articles, TED talks, presentation and discussions within my social networks. If you have the opportunity, pick up the December issue of Harvard Business Review where research around the “80% of companies that existed before 1980 are no longer around” idea is well diagnosed and ties into the discussion of creative destruction and “fail fast fail often”.

The purpose of this post today is a short reminder that mistakes are the “necessary evil” (as PIXAR’s Ed Catmull says) of companies who innovate, transform and disrupt. The evil or pain from the failure becomes less when value is extracted from the experience. Think about it.

Do you remember having skinned knees as a child while trying to ride your bike or learn to rollerskate? Did the pain lessen when you first took the freeing ride on your own?

Failure in business is exactly like that. If you extract maximum value from failure than although you might not have “failed fast” or don’t want to “fail often” you will have maximized the overall result of the project or the innovation bringing benefits to your organization.

All the best in 2017! May this coming year be filled with health, wealth and happiness.

-EMC

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Savvy Saturday March 21, 2015

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
― Albert Einstein

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Why I Love Transformation (and Sailing Ships!)

Transformation is about profound change. Peter Drucker predicted that by 2020 a new world – completely different form our grandparents’ reality – would exist. Drucker, father of modern management, explained in a 1992 essay for Harvard Business Review, that “every few hundred years throughout Western history, a sharp transformation has occurred. In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions.”

It is a privilege to live through transformation; to be given the opportunity to see how society rearranges itself over the course of the years; to experience our grandparents’ reality along with our children’s triumphs and challenges. But no privilege comes without responsibility and I feel extremely responsible having been given the opportunity at a young age to take a step back and experience a bygone era; in my case, an era of sailing ships, leisure travel, unchartered waters and traditional navigational tools like compass and sextant.

Pacific Swift First Offshore

Last year I wrote about what I had learnt about leadership on a 111 foot topsail schooner. This year I am grappling with how to be leaders in an age of transformation. The 2014 Global Drucker Forum focused on Transformation: Managing Our Way to Prosperity and it got me thinking about how we are given gifts through our experience and upbringing and how these gifts – when aligned correctly – can help us be able to “see around corners” and build a future in a transforming world; a world, as Drucker says, completely different from the one our grandparents and even parents grew up in.

I grew up on sailing ships; traditional wooden sailing ships that had very few comforts beyond a bunk, a well-stocked galley kitchen, and solidly built hull and rigging. How did this prepare me for thinking about transformation? I think living simply helps us to see something right in front of all of us: humanity. I think that with a human focus and finding those things that connect us all – the shining Southern Cross constellation, dolphins playing at the bow, lava rolling into a frothy sea off the Hawaiian Islands or voices joined in chorus to accompany raising sails – we are more prepared to see how we can keep continuity, stay relevant and move towards bettering our organizational practices even in a completely transformed (and transforming) society.

Transformation is about profound change so we must dig deep to find the simple things that connect us all. We must align ourselves with human interest and a larger purpose in order to survive and be relevant as the world changes around us.

Aristotle said that society is something that precedes the individual. If society undergoes change we cannot look to further individual or even organizational goals but rather have those goals connected to something larger.

EMC

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

2014 Drucker Forum: Have we reached a turning point?

There was so much discussion at the 6th Annual Global Peter Drucker Forum last week that it is difficult to find a place to start. In fact, this could be said also about the theme of this year’s forum: The Great Transformation.

Where do we start in a world that is constantly changing, where markets are in flux and industries can be redefined in a matter of a couple of years? Are companies like Apple, Google, Uber, Zappos, Amazon, the new norm? What about the role of Government and Education?

The answers to these questions cannot be tightly organized into a bullet list or an action plan. The reason being is that leadership in times of transformation is dynamic and there is a need to balance the fact that challenges/competition/disruptions exist while embracing a sense of optimism and belief in what managers (who Drucker called “society’s leadership group”) can help create and deliver.

Who said leadership was easy?

Perhaps one place to start is with Clayton Christensen’s talk. He spoke about growth and the fact that we need to explore new ideas of growth – not the ideas that economists would have us believe or what investment bankers use to measure growth. No, Christensen talked about growth in terms of innovation. At the Forum he described three types of innovations:

  • Market Creating Innovations

These innovations make products or services more affordable or accessible. A computer, for example, has moved from mainframe, PC, to smartphone.

  • Sustaining Innovations

These innovations help margins improve and help make good products even better. They don’t necessarily create growth because they are replacing in nature.

  • Efficiency Innovations

These innovation “do more with less” – sometimes eliminating jobs in order to free up cash flow.

One takeaway from the Forum is that these innovations must be in balance in order for an economy to work well. One action is that free cash should be used in market creating innovations in order to truly create worthwhile value for the organization, stakeholders and communities. This is a challenge because, as Christensen pointed out, our current metrics that we use to base investment decisions (like Internal Rate of Return) will tell us to keep being more efficient.

If we are living in a time of great transformation, efficiencies alone will not help us. Efficiency must be balanced with market creating and sustaining innovations. We need more people to have access to innovations, more people employed to deliver on those innovations and for our economies to grow.

It comes back to the leadership question: how do we build an organization that can change as fast as change itself? How can we embrace change while knowing that we still can do better and that change is continuous? Perhaps it is in balance (economists and nutritionists will tell us this!) or perhaps it is simply shifting our focus towards building a self-renewing organization – one that is always renewing how it connects, engages, and provides purpose to people – rather than building organizations that only deliver value to shareholders.

EMC

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,