Search This Blog


Friday, September 30, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #4--Bad Strategy

Bad Strategy. Rumelt uses the Iraq invasion under the leadership of George W. Bush as an example of bad strategy. Note that Rumelt could have just as easily used Lyndon Johnson’s entrance into Vietnam as an example. Thus, this is not a disease of any one political party. But having followed faulty, under-vetted intelligence in both cases (Iraq and Vietnam), the U.S. ran headlong into two wars without a coherent policy. The results of such a lack of coherence cost both physical and psychological wounds, as well as a king’s fortune to wage two unnecessary wars. The costs of both wars in terms of death, pain, suffering, loss of national stature and economics have been staggering. Rumelt discusses a number of factors that can lead to such short sightedness and misdirection: Fluff, using indefinite language and strategic buzzwords; failure to face the challenge by not properly identifying real obstacles; mistaking goals for strategy by focusing on numbers, not real challenges; bad strategic objectives based on a disconnect between goals and strategies. On the other hand, a good strategy leverages a company’s strengths to overcome an obstacle to get to its vision.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #3--Power

Discovering Power: I have always loved the story about David and Goliath, which Rumelt uses to make his point. David, a Jewish boy and a shepherd, took on the menacing Philistine giant, Goliath—much to the skepticism of everyone, including King Saul. It was a foregone conclusion that David would be crushed by the massive warrior. However, David’s rock, hurled from his shepherd’s slingshot, hit the only weakness unprotected by armor—Goliath’s forehead. Thus, the little shepherd boy defeated the colossus by applying his power to an opponent’s vulnerability. Wal-Mart did the same sort of thing when it went against convention. Retail wisdom says that a full discount store needs a surrounding population of about 100,000 to succeed. To get into smaller communities, Sam Walton decided to change the definition of store to that of “network” of stores—therefore enlarging his “local” market. Using a coherent, integrated design, he employed bar codes, integrated logistics, just-in-time deliveries, and much more to convert to a strategy that changed the equation. Thus, he created a responsive network, and effectively changed the definition of “store” to “network.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #2: Unexpected

Good Strategy is Unexpected: “A good strategy has coherence, coordinating actions, policies, and resources so as to accomplish an important end.” Rumelt explains how companies like Apple did the unexpected by developing a coherent strategy to cut complexity back to compete better in the future. Thus, Steve Jobs unexpectedly cut developers, designers, and distributors. U.S. Army General Petraeus unexpectedly moved his strategy toward protecting citizens in Iraq rather than attacking Hussein’s troops. Being deft and unpredictable in the moment and being analytical, great leaders put the right emphasis on the right problem and succeed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #1: Overview

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard P. Rumelt (Crown Business, 2011)—reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., September 2011
Overview: A CEO’s primary job is to create value for stakeholders of a company—stockholders, employees, and customers. To do that, a CEO has to develop a vision of where s/he wants to take a company and then get everyone on board, focused on that possible future. Such a direction or path only becomes evident with a clear strategy—a way of getting from here to there—despite obstacles, barriers, and missteps along the way. Unfortunately, many companies and organizations either don’t have a comprehensible strategy or have one so full of air, puff, and buzzwords that there is no “there” there. Often, CEOs and other leaders will place a stake in the ground that’s purely a financial marker or hold up a sign that says “we want to be best in class,” whatever that means.
There are rafts of strategy templates to be found on the Web; however, Richard Rumelt—an engineer by training, a savvy academic from UCLA’s School of Management, and a management consultant with solid credentials—pooh-poohs such quick fix, surface treatments. Rather, he provides clear-eyed, practical insights into creating a solid strategic approach: “Good strategy is coherent action backed by argument, an effective mixture of thought and action with a basic understanding of what I call the kernel.” For Rumelt, the kernel consists of three key elements: 1) A diagnosis—a simplified explanation of the issue or challenge being faced; 2) a guiding policy—an overall approach to face the obstacles identified; and 3) a set of coherent actions—focused actions to implement the guiding policy. Achieving success through good strategy requires applying sources of power toward the challenge at hand. Rumelt offers a series of these sources of power in the later chapters, including leverage, dynamics, focus, design and advantage, among others. And, in the final chapters, he takes time to teach us all how to think more strategically, using the power of scientific and independent thinking—despite the powerful sway of the crowd. In all, Rumelt helps us take a new, clear, and intelligent look at strategy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Crossing the Divide #9 FINAL Post

Final Words: Research in intergroup relations is not just about not disliking or decreasing negative feelings toward out-groups; it’s about fostering positive relations with all groups to become productive. Finally, this author quotes Todd Pittinsky, the editor of this edition, in a brilliant metaphor that sums up the entire book: “‘To transform an overgrown lot into a garden, you not only need to pull the weeds. You also need to plant flowers.’”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Crossing the Divide #8--Reaching Across the Aisle

Cases in Context
--The final chapters of the book offer stories and cautionary tales about the applications of intergroup leadership. From case studies in Africa, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US, the authors give us example after example of how important and complex intergroup leadership is and thus worthy of research and practice investigation into the future.

-- Reaching Across the Aisle: Innovations for Cross-Party Collaboration by Mark Gerzon particularly captured my interest because of the current divisiveness in Congress and its ill effects on the country. Here’s a great quote by U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT): “All of us are here for a common purpose, to make the United States a better place. There is and must be room for all our voices to be heard to achieve our common purpose.” Indeed, the authors warn that to compete globally we need to free Congress from the straightjacket of two-party polarization. Following a variety of offsite retreats to address the issue of Congressional intergroup leadership, the author reports these five solutions toward a more productive governing body: 1) Catalyzing cross-boundary leadership from the inside; 2) Creating incentives for co-leadership that build trust; 3) Adopting ground rules that promote genuine dialogue; 4) Fostering systematic rather than partisan thinking; 5) Inspiring learning and decreasing stereotyping. Finally, could you imagine—if Congress could get its act together—the kind of country we could be?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crossing the Divide #7--Operating Across Boundaries

Operating Across Boundaries: Leading Adaptive Change by Ronald Heifetz. Intergroup relationships occur everywhere in our history from one clan marrying into another, to mergers and acquisitions, to Congress operating. The complex relationships between groups (intergroup) and among groups (intragroup) create a level of complexity and nuance that is required for adaptation/survival in a new and ever changing world. Heifetz is a world-class mind at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who has studied power, adaptation and survival. He notes that, like DNA that’s evolving, social adaptability works best when occurring gradually and constantly. Nonetheless, such change can create a sense of loss—and emotions of resistance that come with those emotions associated with loss. In this piece he discusses three aspects of adaptive work. 1) The commonality of loss. People can accept change, but not loss. Loss of power, status, influence and the like create an emotional wake too big to overcome. Thus, affected people put up decoys to avoid tackling the truly tough issues. And avoiding such tough issues often results in bigger eruptions down the road. 2) The politics of inclusion. Part of adaptive work is defining the problem and the inconsistencies presented and then identifying and bringing together the right parties to solve the problem. Ignoring critical social issues led to the Civil War…where we sidestepped addressing the economic issue of slavery only to turn around and pay an enormous price. 3) Refashioning loyalties across boundaries. Adaptive work requires convincing people to refashion their in-group loyalties to work across boundaries and forge coalitions. They must then, even after reaching intergroup decisions, sell their “new” position to their own constituents—which can be both difficult and treacherous. The author’s examples of the assassinations of Rabin, Sadat and Arafat were stunning cases of just how treacherous constituencies can be. Strategies among diverse interworking groups about how to introduce change to their various subgroup constituencies are often neglected and often fail.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crossing the Divide #6--Boundary-Spanning Leadership

Boundary-Spanning Leadership: Tactics to Bridge Social Identity Groups in Organizations by Chris Ernst and Jeffrey Yip. The authors argue that it’s important to span boundaries across diverse groups in any organization or culture to ensure positive change in the future. They offer four boundary-spanning leadership tactics. 1) Suspend (create a third place): Develop a neutral place for people to bump up against each other, such as at organizational events, sports teams, etc. 2) Reframe (activate a shared identity): Develop a vision that includes every group. Craft an organization mission/goal. Or, provide a “larger calling” or social value that binds people. 3) Nest (embed groups in a larger whole): Develop affinity groups, communities of practice, groups that cut across boundaries. 4) Weave (cross-cut roles and identity): Offer opportunities for job rotations, cross cutting mentoring, etc. Using these tactics, “….boundary-spanning leaders can generate effective intergroup contact in service of a larger organizational mission, vision, or goal.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Crossing the Divide #5--Creating Common Ground

Tools and Pathways
Creating Common Ground: Propositions About Effective Intergroup Leadership by Rosabeth Moss Kanter. A much vaunted professor at the Harvard Business School, Kanter says that “…effective intergroup leadership promotes productive uses of differences, whatever their origin and nature.” She notes that fragmented in-group/out-group organizations are characterized by enmity, distrust, hoarding, defensiveness and ultimately low performance. On the other hand, high-group (intergroup) performance is associated with collaboration across groups. She notes six effective intergroup “propositions” (strategies). 1) Convening Power: creating opportunities and places where people across boundaries and interests can talk to each other. One CEO said, “The only thing I do is lead conversations.” Indeed. 2) Transcendent Values: Intergroup leaders define what success will look like and provide a motivational framework that opens its arms to all groups. 3) Future Orientation—Building a New Identity: Intergroup leaders create a future vision that all groups can aspire to without giving up their own identities. 4) Important Interdependent Tasks: Intergroup leaders force groups to take on large, critical tasks with milestones and deadlines as a way of facilitating positive relationships. 5) Interpersonal Norms and Emotional Integration: Intergroup leaders invest in activities that foster emotional bonds—retreats, cocktail parties, chit-chat time, social events, golf, etc. Such events foster emotional connection so critical to intergroup leadership. 6) Inclusiveness and Evenhandedness: Intergroup leaders take risks to be inclusive, even at the risk of being scorned by their own former subgroup. Kanter warns that inclusiveness and intergroup leadership get much harder in difficult times when people are tempted to blame others for business or political misfortunes. However, she offers that taking the long view of a meaning-making future far outweighs the short term gain achieved by finger pointing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Crossing the Divide #4--Social Psychology & Intergroup Leadership

On the Social Psychology of Intergroup Leadership: The Importance of Social Identity and Self-Categorization Processes by Michael Platow, et al. Great leadership is rooted in the ability to employ social influence, not just with in-group members but also with intergroup membership as well. A shared sense of social identity must exist for intergroups to flourish and for leaders to lead. The equation is stark and simple: No followers = no leadership. Put another way, a leader moving forward without followers is just out for a walk! There must be a strong sense of “us” between leader and all the followers for social identity and resulting success to happen. Thus, intergroup leaders are influencers, persuaders if you will, who help groups develop meaning and purpose—the whole of which is greater than the parts—any subgroup.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Crossing the Divide #3--Conflict to Harmony

From Group Conflict to Social Harmony: Leading Across Diverse and Conflicting Social Identities by Michael Hogg. Identity issues cause most of the obstacles to good intergroup leadership. People look toward their leaders to help define the group’s benefit/value to society. Social identity theory suggests that to be successful as emerging leaders, they must be seen as prototypes of the group—have experiences and backgrounds similar to their potential constituents. However, there is often more than one intergroup identity competing for dominance. Moreover, leaders usually emerge from the subgroups and thus have a potential bias, which can erode trust from significant segments of the entire group. The excellent leader helps develop a super ordinate identity—a larger tent that can embrace all the other identities and not threaten subgroups.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Crossing the Divide #2--Across Group Divides

Leadership Across Group Divides: The Challenges and Potential of Common Group Identity by John Dovidio, et al. “Creating and reinforcing a common in-group identity often promote cohesiveness and positive relations among group members, facilitate their commitment to the group, and strengthen a leader’s position of authority (p.13).” This quote articulates the key issue of this book. In-group loyalty, which benefits a leader, can be developed quickly—often at the risk of creating out-groups. Assimilating all subgroups into a larger picture requires deft handling and ultimately integration into the larger whole. The authors suggest instrumental cooperation—allowing minority groups to contribute their unique strengths and maintain their own distinctiveness.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Crossing the Divide #1--Overview

Crossing the Divide: Intergroup Leadership in a World of Difference (Harvard Business Press, 2009) edited by Todd L. Pittinsky and reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., September 2011.
Overview: If you’ve ever attended high school or worked with any group of people in your life, you’ve experienced intergroup leadership or the lack thereof. Most of us know what it’s like to be on the A-Team (the in-group) or the B-Team (the out-group) at work; in fact, some of us have experienced both in the same year, especially during a transition. Harvard Kennedy School professor and researcher Todd Pittinsky has edited an important set of articles to coalesce the best minds on what he calls the in-group/out-group trade-off—the dilemma that leaders have who want internal team devotion but risk losing big-picture cohesion by doing so. He notes that in a world of rapid change and uncertainty, power shifts create in- and out-groups. Just as presidents and world leaders have used the occurrence of war to coalesce countries against a common enemy, leaders within organizations both unwittingly and consciously do the same thing. They build strong loyalty out of a sense of survival by pitting their “team” against the rest of the organization, thus creating fractures that often become the organization’s demise. Pittinsky calls for intergroup leadership as an alternative to in-group/out-group trade-off. Such intergroup leadership brings different groups together “by lessening the ill will between them and by creating good will—two separate tasks….”(Introduction, p. xiv). Indeed, merely reducing negative relations between two groups is insufficient to have strong intergroup allegiance and collaboration. Rather, it also takes a strong increase in positive interactions and attitudes. The book is not for the faint of heart. It’s an academic research product, but so important that it should be taken seriously by CEOs and the senior corporate leaders. Pittinsky has grouped the articles into three sections: ‘Insights and Concepts’ is a theoretical/research perspective establishing the in-group/out-group phenomenon as worthy of leadership study. ‘Tools and Pathways’ offers leaders guidance toward crossing the divide in their own organizations. ‘Cases in Context’ provides case examples in politics, women’s movements, corporate America, and even interfaith issues. I must admit that HB Press sent this book to me several years ago to review, but I just recently read it because a client was facing this important issue. I only wish I had read it when it was published.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why We Make Mistakes: Post #15--Final Thouhgts

Final Thoughts: Small things can have a big impact…watch the skimming. We often mistake gut reaction for rational thought. Think negatively, think what might go wrong; this helps you become more realistic, not necessarily pessimistic. Get someone new to review your work…a fresh set of eyes catches mistakes. Get sleep…fatigue causes errors all the time. Studies on medical residents prove this point with alarming statistics. Happy people seem to make good decisions easier and more effortlessly. Don’t worry, be happy…and make fewer mistakes along the way.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why We Make Mistakes: Post #14--Greener Grass

The Grass Does Look Greener: We project poorly. For example, only 40% of redeemable coupons are ever cashed in. People who moved out of California for whatever reason moved back at over a 50% rate, finding out that things elsewhere didn’t give them what they had expected. Here’s a reverse prediction that got my attention: Among extreme quadriplegics, 93% were glad to be alive and 84% considered their lives average or above average. Finally, we tend to give too much credence to things easily observed…especially in complex situations.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why We Make Mistakes: Post #13--Constraints

We Don’t Constrain Ourselves: Simple color coding, checklists, and the like could save us from making frequent and sometimes dangerous, life-threatening mistakes. Pilots adhere to strict checklist regimens for that exact reason. Turns out that keeping it simple (stripping away complexity) is the way to go to reduce errors. One example of a constraint was how bartenders remember complicated bar orders—they line up the glasses as people order…as a memory jogger. No way a pilsner beer glass would contain a whiskey sour. About 20% of the time in autopsies, it was revealed that doctors had misdiagnosed the fatal illness. When questioned about whether doctors wanted their judgment que
We Don’t Constrain Ourselves: Simple color coding, checklists, and the like could save us from making frequent and sometimes dangerous, life-threatening mistakes. Pilots adhere to strict checklist regimens for that exact reason. Turns out that keeping it simple (stripping away complexity) is the way to go to reduce errors. One example of a constraint was how bartenders remember complicated bar orders—they line up the glasses as people order…as a memory jogger. No way a pilsner beer glass would contain a whiskey sour. About 20% of the time in autopsies, it was revealed that doctors had misdiagnosed the fatal illness. When questioned about whether doctors wanted their judgment que

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why We Make Mistakes: Post #12--Winging It

We’d Rather Wing It: Contrary to what many experts might have you believe, they’re not nearly as good as they claim. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State, has experimentally determined that to become an expert people must practice their skill for 10,000 hours. In many cases, that means 10 years of regular practice. For evidence, look at great musicians, professional athletes, doctors, dentists, teachers, and successful CEO’s.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why We Make Mistakes: Post #11--Above Average?

We All Think We’re Above Average: To quote Garrison Keillor, “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” We tend to overestimate our own value and are almost always wrong. According to one psychologist/researcher Stephano DellaVigna at Berkeley, “Almost everyone is overconfident—except the people who are depressed, and they tend to be realists.” And in situations where confidence is overly high, there tend to be poor feedback systems. Such blatant overconfidence leads to all sorts of errors, not the least of which is thinking we’re matched to any problem that comes our way.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why We Make Mistakes: Post #10--Men Shoot First

Men Shoot First: Men trade stocks a LOT more than women (45% more if men are married and 67% more if they’re single, as compared to single women). AND the more you trade, typically the less you make! Men also tend to overestimate how smart and handsome they are…. Men are more prone to take risks than women, and men are involved in three times as many fatal accidents. And the research points out something we all know: Men are less likely to ask for directions (mainly because they don’t think they’re really lost).

Google Analytics