culture

Walk A Mile In Their Journey

March 13, 2016

I recently had a chance to get a business contract with a non-profit that has teamed up with USAID and the American Refugee Committee to build sustainable businesses in the Eastern Congo area of Bukavu. I was there to do a situational analysis of the project. I knew in advance that they had hired an organization called IDEO, who has popularized the idea of customer journey, all over the world. Before I tell the rest of the story, let me give you one definition of customer journey I like: customer journey is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just a snapshot on time, but through the entire arc of being a customer. It actually had its start in the product design world where one way of saying it simply is this – if you are going to design a chair, design it with an understanding of how the person who is going to sit […]

Business Strategy before Digital Strategy

March 5, 2016

Do you have a digital strategy? It’s a loaded question that gets asked frequently these days. Before we can jump into this question, we have to ask the question before the question. What does “digital strategy” mean? If you ask 10 professionals this basic and fundamental question you’ll likely get 11 different answers. What do some of those answers sound like? Here are some examples: It’s a way to find more leads using paid search advertising It’s selling products and services online It’s banner ads desperately trying to get people to click on them It’s an digital CRM system that allows my sales team to track prospects and turn them into clients It’s developing a website that naturally draws traffic through organic search and quality content It’s mobile technology that allows users to find restaurants and quickly read reviews and ratings It’s equipping a salesforce with tablets and personalized presentation content so they can better conduct face to face selling […]

Core Values are Critical in an Interconnected World

Core Values are Critical in an Interconnected World

February 27, 2016

I was recently working with a church in Minneapolis with their strategies to reach out to their communities. I showed up early to the meeting and talked with the host of the meeting who is an engineer who now was responsible for bringing in major clients for the organization. He was telling me the story where he was about to bring over a million dollars to his organization, which I congratulated him for. His expression dropped and said there is a big problem – “even though our CEO promises great things, I know for a fact we cannot possibly deliver on this promise”. He said he cannot, with integrity, bring these accounts to the table, so he is going to confront the CEO, and probably need to leave the organization. Which brings us to the important business question for today: What does our organization stand for, and what is it against? A great book that is used by many business […]

Winning is Different in a Connected World

February 20, 2016

A question on the mind of all business leaders on an ongoing basis is how will we win? In turns out that winning is changing a lot in this interconnecting world. The most recent Harvard Business Review article entitled: “The biology of Corporate Survival – natural selection ecosystems hold surprising lessons for business” details that companies are losing much faster than they were forty years ago. One in three public traded companies will be de-listed in the next five years, which is six times as fast as it was forty short years ago. From a large study of many organizations, they have concluded that companies are identical to the way complex adaptive organizations in nature in how they act in an ecosystem. Secondly, system thinking matters and those companies that fail to adapt to the complexity of the changing environment cease to exist quickly. The reality of thinking of business through the lenses of living systems, specifically the human body, […]

Purpose drives business

Purpose drives business

January 23, 2016

When the Business Journal indicates that the top five companies of the year have something in common, it is important to take notice. This past year, the top five Minnesota companies had this in common – they have defined why they exist. Defining a purpose for a business is not just happy talk anymore – it is critical for many reasons. First, it is how we are wired as humans. In his bestselling book, Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek uses the latest in brain research that inspiration, purpose, and meaning actually trigger a multitude of chemicals in our brains that motivate us to want to work. If you are not tapping into that part of your employees as leaders, or you are working for a company that has not defined its purpose, you are missing out on a lot of energy that can be brought to work. But most companies have not taken the time to do this, or are […]

Leaders ask Great Questions

January 13, 2016

In my leadership consulting practice over the past couple of decades I have found that helping leaders ask the right question gives them more powerful insight, direction, and clarity than providing what I think is the  appropriate solution for their issues. Why is this so? Asking a great question, many times, focuses leaders on the right information, right analysis, or the needed decision-making framework to move their organization forward, or bring clarity to a lot of what seem to be random or disconnected issues they face at any one moment in time. When I wrote my book, Christ-Based Leadership, I found that the organizing structure of some of the best business thinkers of our day centered on great, revealing questions. Here are a few examples: What is the truth of your ambition? Jim Collins asks this in Good To Great to separate level 4 leaders from level 5 leaders in organizations that want to be great, and not just good. […]

Planning in a VUCA World (wait, what?)

Planning in a VUCA World (wait, what?)

December 23, 2015

Planning. To some it’s a four letter word. To others, it’s an activity that never happens in their organization. No matter how you think about planning, you’ve probably noticed that to be effective, it needs to be done in a much different way than it used to. Why is that? Well. In a word. VUCA. Actually, that’s an acronym. And it stands for the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous environment we find ourselves and our businesses in. In a world changing so fast, we can’t rely on the rigid and financial-only-centric methods of our past. So what does the planning organization of the future (and the present, if they’re good) look like? It looks agile. Here are five key dimensions to an agile planning organization. Begin with purpose. Farmers have a 20 year vision but react to today’s weather. They begin with the purpose of their farm and all decisions are viewed through that lens. It should be no different […]

We Plan Better Together

December 23, 2015

If I had a nickel for every time people groaned when I used the words “Strategic Planning” with company leaders, I would be a rich man. To begin with, I want to separate the word “Strategy” from the word “Planning”. Strategy was defined well by Roger Martin in his article “The big lie of Strategic Planning” that appeared in the Harvard Business review earlier in 2014. He says: “Good Strategy makes leaders uncomfortable and apprehensive because it is about strategic decision making where they are placing bets and making hard choices. The objective of strategy is not to eliminate risk but to increase the odds of success. Planning, on the other hand, is also necessary, and requires hours of careful research to identify which initiatives are affordable with our existing resources. It involves cost control and maximization of investment as well as development of core competencies and strategic capabilities.” We will focus on planning in this post, and tackle strategy […]

We Solve Problems Better Together

We Solve Problems Better Together

December 4, 2015

I brought up the subject “we solve problems better together” with a few Vice Presidents and other members of various executive teams, and it felt like a rocket shot out the roof. It clearly was a very important topic to these very successful group of business leaders. They had lived both sides of this issue a few times. One member spoke of how the CEO and other top leaders had a great track record of including feedback and engagement of the others in the company for many years, and this was part of what helped make this organization successful. Then, about a year ago, the CEO decided to install a new software program that worked in other parallel companies, without any input from the organization – a departure from usual protocol. You can guess what happened next. Although there was training of people on this new software, nobody knew why this product was chosen, and the vendor of this software […]

Performance and the Body Metaphor

Performance and the Body Metaphor

December 2, 2015

I have had a chance to work with nonprofit organizations, especially churches. Recently, I was interviewing a lay couple who were deeply invested in the volunteering and other engagements at this particular church. They were passionate about their faith, but were extremely frustrated with the way the staff of the church were handling volunteers. As they opened up about all the struggle, being blocked or controlled by staff, and not allowed to vary from the directions from these well-meaning leaders, I could not help thinking how many times I have been here before. Performance in volunteer roles was not only made extremely difficult, but the potential of these highly talented people was wasted on frustration, apathy, or even worse, simply withdrawing of any support for their church all together. What is the problem? As we look at the history of organizations in the 20th century, they have gone through many transitions, each interestingly enough, resourcing different capabilities of the human […]

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