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 […]

Marketing is a Social Animal

Marketing is a Social Animal

December 18, 2015

I recently conducted a focus group for a non-profit organization and I had divided the various groups by age. This particular group was made up of people between 28- 38 years old, which is the top end of the millennial generation. I asked many questions about various impressions of this particular organization, and gained a lot of insight about how this organization could better meet the needs of the community. I then asked about marketing ideas that they would suggest for the organization, and an explosion of energy like a geyser erupted all over the group. It is like I had mentioned the bad word that no one wanted to hear. They talked about “being marketed to” everyday, all week, and they do not want to be marketed to in their off time. They spoke of the cheesy give away or free refreshments that nonprofits use to bring people to their locations. “Allergic to marketing” is not an understatement for […]

We’re Better Together with Big Data

We’re Better Together with Big Data

December 11, 2015

How they do that, you may ask. Now when I get on Facebook, I have ads from my favorite sporting goods store talking about promotions or sales going on. All of us know that databases are here to say, and they have become very smart about who we are and what we might buy, how we might vote, when our birthday is, and much more. Welcome to the world of “Big Data”. At its core, it involves a lot of information about people and things, and mathematical equations that can make all kinds of correlations, predictions, and observations about buying patterns. The unique thing about using data for patterns is not the practice itself. The new thing is the ability for software, sensors, and data to see things no person would see at all, with more data than any single group of people could possibly digest. It has been one of the advantages of big companies, but is finally becoming […]

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 […]

Six factors toward innovation

Six factors toward innovation

November 20, 2015

Innovation isn’t just a buzzword…it’s an imperative of survival in our rapidly changing world. In fact, our friend Peter Drucker had this to say on the importance of innovation: “Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.” Because we see the body as the most appropriate metaphor for leadership and management, it’s led us to create a list of six important factors that bring organizations toward (or away) a culture of innovation. Purpose. Organizations that involve change and innovation in their “why” are naturally set up to pursue innovation. Values and cultural norms. If your organization values diversity of opinion as well as taking risk, you’re more likely to innovate. Flow of information. Is your business’s knowledge easily collected and shared to others? To the degree it is, it’ll be easier for you to innovate. Diversity of thought and experience.Tough problems call for unique solutions and unique solutions come from diverse backgrounds. Financial model. This is rarely discussed, but […]

Innovation: it’s better when it’s done together

November 20, 2015

Every month that we are preparing for blog posts and podcasts, Justin and I meet with a group of executives and leaders who are currently in organizations of various sizes. We bring a topic to the table, and open up a discussion about whatever we are working on that month. This month we brought up the topic of “we are better when we innovate together”. One of the members of our group immediately chimed in: “You seem to have the uncanny ability of bringing up whatever our company is working on right now.” Another female executive agreed, and they began to talk about how their companies each have different innovation systems to bring new products and services online, and she, too, spent many hours virtually and face to face working with cross-functional teams innovating together through various phases of the process. These two women are representative of the pressure on companies in the “innovate or be disrupted” environment. It reminds […]

Sharing Together

Sharing Together

November 18, 2015

I had a big “Aha” moment early on that motivated much of what I am now doing in connecting the early church, and its model as the body of Christ, and the activity of younger generations today around me. The early church’s model of “sharing everything together” was exactly what I saw the younger generation doing as they moved into the workplace. What especially grabbed me was the fact that the young people outside the church were much more involved with this behavior than I was, or other people around my group of Christians. Let me explain. In Acts 4 we read this about the early experience of the church as it begins to grow together: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s […]

Religious kids don’t share

Religious kids don’t share

November 15, 2015

Dave and I recently did a podcast on sharing where Dave opened the topic with an observation that people outside the church seemed to be sharing more than those inside the church. Recent research seems to point in this direction as well. Here’s an excerpt from a recent study referenced by the LA Times. Children who grow up in nonreligious homes are more generous and altruistic than children from observant families. A series of experiments involving 1,170 kids from a variety of religious backgrounds found that the non-believers were more likely to share stickers with their classmates and less likely to endorse harsh punishments for people who pushed or bumped into others.The results “contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others,” according to a study published this week in the journal Current Biology. The study essentially says that children brought up in “religious” households are less likely to share than those […]