In this unpredictable economic climate, leaders must be capable to lead their companies to quickly adapt to new market forces.

Business models are changing to catch up with the emerging drivers of competition.

Success hinges first andforemost on “Thinking-Ahead” strategy  and robust execution.

Because execution plays such a critical role in success or failure, especially during a crisis, many companies are turning to new technology solutions to ensure they can deliver on strategies and emerge even stronger.

Any company that fails to adapt quickly and efficiently to market changes can miss important opportunities or risk their very survival.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • A new strategy is not enough – executing under these extreme market conditions is not enough, meaning you need to make sure you touch every point of the strategy timeline and product offering.
  • Align your workforce with what you want to accomplish – workforce alignment and performance is critical.
  • Be prepared to change course or rethink your strategy monthly – it is difficult to get your strategy right the first time so review religiously.
  • Leverage performance and talent management solutions for business execution – this will help you attain the top and bottom line results.

20/20 Foresight: Crafting Strategy in an Uncertain World

McKinsey Quarterly has published an interview with Hugh Courtney who is the author of the book ‘20/20 Foresight: Crafting Strategy in an Uncertain World’. 

According to the author, risks and uncertainty always exists.  They don’t appear out of nowhere.  But our perception of risks and uncertainties changes or evolves over the period of time. 

This article documents Courtney’s four-part framework to help managers determine the level of uncertainty surrounding strategic decisions.

  • In level one, there is a clear, single view of the future;
  • in level two, a limited set of possible future outcomes, one of which will occur;
  • in level three, a range of possible future outcomes;  
  • in level four, a limitless range of possible future outcomes.  

During good times, we have a tendency to believe that we are in level one or two.  It’s easy to ignore or belittle level three or four as a rare event.

Courtney’s advice for the Chief Strategy Officer is that, this is a good time to rethink planning process to foster innovation.

In the months to come, decisions have to be made very quickly on fundamental opportunities that may drive earnings performance for the next decade or more, and organizations need to be prepared to make these decisions in real time.

That requires a continuous focus on market and competitive intelligence, and a structure to work through strategic decisions systematically.

The Last Word on Power

Executive Re-invention for Leaders Who Must Make the Impossible Happen, by Tracy Goss

  1. The power to make the impossible happen.
    1. As a leader your source of success in the past is probably preventing you from making the impossible happen now. You must re-invent yourself, put past success at risk to make the impossible happen.
    2. The ability to take something that you believe could never come to pass, declare it possible, and then move that possibility into a tangible reality.
    3. If you are going to re-invent your organization, then in order to succeed, you must first re-invent yourself. Reinventing yourself does not imply that something is wrong with you; it’s a process that takes you to a new place, to unfamiliar and unknown territory.
    4. Executive re-invention is primarily an ontological journey. Ontology is a branch of philosophy concerning the nature of reality and different ways of being.
    5.  Goss uses the analogy of a Navy SEAL and corporate leaders. The green recruit, despite being among the top 1% of officers in Navy, needs considerable training to take on the impossible missions assigned the SEALs. Similarly, the top 1% of leaders in organizations when they get to the top are not prepared to take on the impossible; they need training.
    6.  “Transformation” is a function of altering the way your being, to create something that is currently not possible in your reality.
    7. “Change” is a function of altering what you are doing, to improve something that is already possible in your reality.
      1. To transform yourself, you must transform your context, that is, the way you think, talk and act.
      2. “Language is the only leverage for changing the context of the world around you. This is because people apprehend and construct reality through the way they speak and listen.”
      3. “By learning to uncover the concealed aspects of your current conversations and learning to engage in different types of conversations, you can alter the way you are being, which, in turn, alters what’s possible.”
  2. The seven stages of leadership re-invention.
  3. The first four have to do with freeing yourself from the past; The last three, with building your capacity to make the impossible happen.
    1. Uncovering your winning strategy: learning to understand what has really created your current level of success.
    2. Experiencing the limits of the universal human paradigm at work in your actions. The universal human paradigm colors all choices, decisions and actions. Simply stated, it says: “There is a way that things should be, and when they are that way, things are right. When they’re not that way, there is something wrong with me, with them, or with it.” This paradigm is inherited simply by being brought into a group or culture.
    3. Willingness to risk: becoming willing to operate with no guarantee you will succeed, with your eyes wide open to the high odds of failure and the accompanying consequences.
    4. Inventing a new master paradigm that provides you with a new source of power: making a series of declarations that constitute a new master paradigm.
    5. Inventing an impossible game to play: making bold promises in a game you have chosen to play
    6. Breaking the addiction to interpretation: every problem and dilemma is seen through the way it contributes to your invented future, rather than through filters from the past.
    7. Operating beyond the limits of your winning strategy: building the capacity to bring about your “impossible future.”


The Reinvention Roller Coaster

Risking the Present for a Powerful Future, by Tracy Goss, Richard Pascale and Anthony Athos.

  1. Incremental change is not enough for many companies today. Companies need to re-invent themselves. Re-invention is not changing what is, but creating what isn’t. A butterfly is not more or a better caterpillar, it is a completely different animal.
  2. “When a company reinvents itself, it must alter the underlying assumptions and invisible premises on which its decisions and actions are based.” In other words, it must change its context.
    1. The first step is for a company to uncover its hidden context. A company is only going to do this when it is threatened, losing momentum or eager to break new ground.
    2. “The journey to reinvent yourself and your company is not as scary as they say it is; it’s worse,” says Mort Meyerson, chairman of Perot Systems. You do it only out of the conviction that the only way to compete in the future is to be a totally different company.
    3. Shifts in context can only occur when there is a shift in being. Nordstrom’s is used as an example. Their way of being is summarized as “Respond to Unreasonable Customer Requests.” Those that have tried to copy Nordstrom’s have not understood their fundamental way of being and have failed.
    4. A declaration from a leader, like Sir Colin Marshall’s pronouncement that British Airways would be “the world’s favorite airline” (when, at the time, it was one of the worst), does a couple of things:
        1. Creates possibility
        2. Stimulates interest and commitment
    5. A declaration is different from a vision statement, which provides a more elaborate description of the desired state and the criteria against which success will be measured.
    6. Key to re-invention is the re-invention of the leader (see Goss notes).
  3. Managing the present from the future
    1. Assemble a critical mass of key stakeholders.
      1. Many more than just the top 8 to 10 leaders.
      2. Should include key technologists and leading process engineers.
      3. Group should be sufficiently diverse to ensure conflict, which will get issues on the table so they can be resolved.
      4. Have to decide how it’s going to happen.
    2. Do an organizational audit to generate a complete picture of how the organization really works.
      1. Understand the competitive situation.
      2. Reveal barriers to moving from “as is” to the future.
      3. Core values.
      4. Key systems.
      5. Strategic assumptions.
      6. Core competencies, etc.
    3. Create urgency. Discuss the undiscussable.
      1. A threat that everyone perceives, but no one is willing to talk about, is most debilitating to an organization
      2. Book of Five Rings Japanese guide for samurai warriors. Written four centuries ago, directs the samurai to visualize his own death in the most graphic detail before going into battle. Idea being, once you have experienced death, there is not a lot left to fear: one can then fight with abandon.
      3. This helps explain the value of discussion about not changing and the dire consequences to a company in a difficult business situation.
    4. Harnessing contention.
      1. Conflict jump-starts the creative process.
      2. Most companies suppress contention.
      3. Control kills invention, learning and commitment.
      4. Emotions often accompany creative tension, and they are often unpleasant.
      5. Intel plays rugby; your ability at Intel to take direct, hard-hitting disagreement is a sign of fitness.
      6. Many excellent companies build conflict into their designs.
    5. Engineering organizational breakdowns.
      1. Breakdowns should happen by design, not accident.
      2. In trying to manage back from the future, concrete tasks will have to be undertaken; continuing on the current path will not get you there. Often you don’t know how to make these tasks occur. This will generate breakdowns, which can generate out-of-the-box thinking and solutions, if the situation is managed/lead correctly. Continuous open dialogue is key to working through breakdowns.
      3. Setting impossible deadlines is another way to encourage breakdowns and out-of-the-box thinking.

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