Appraise Strategy: Opportunity

When we're talking about the need to appraise from a strategic perspective, one of the most important components is understanding opportunity. What are the opportunities, are they good are they not so good?

I love this quote from Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Unfortunately, it is very true. If we are to look at opportunities, there is usually hard work involved. We often must try and fail, to learn where those opportunities are. Whilst occasionally they do drop into our laps, it is a very rare phenomenon, unfortunately.

A frustration I often hear from business leaders is that there's a lack of opportunity, but what is more common is when they say there is so much opportunity. What we want is to identify the best opportunities. Good can be the enemy of great, just as perfect is the enemy of done. If we constantly chase new opportunities we never land the existing ones and fail to move...

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Growth Drivers: Scalability

In the last two videos we talked about Productivity and Clarity, two of our drivers of growth. Our third driver is Scalability; the ability to grow fast. You can have clarity of direction and a productive workplace, but if you are constrained in other ways, if you don't understand your pressure points, or resources are not allocated correctly, we will still fail to grow. This can be very frustrating, with growth restricted and constrained, and your organisation limited and impeded. But if you have Clarity and Productivity and you add in the pragmatic Scalability to the mix, hold on, you'll have the proverbial tiger by the tail. Leadership in this area is often forgotten but as Martin L Abbott quite rightly observed, “If you can’t lead, you can’t scale.”

Healthy things grow, it should come naturally; plants animals and companies. A small acorn can grow into a massive Oak tree. But if constrained by lack of light, space, nutrients or water, it won’t...

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Growth Drivers: Productivity

Today I wanted to continue our series on growth drivers. In the last video I spoke about the importance of Clarity. The other two are Productivity and Scalability.

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize [winner] in economics, once wrote: "Productivity is not everything, but in the long run, it is almost everything”. There has been a lot of talk about productivity, perhaps the lack of it. Despite technological advances productivity growth is declining, almost static.

You know when you have productivity as things just get done. Momentum is a wonderful thing, productivity drives momentum. When you don't have productivity, your organisation is disorganised and ineffective. Lots of busy people, but not much progress ,is a sign of a lack of productivity. It may not always feel like that, but when you've experienced pure productivity, nothing else will suffice.

Productivity doesn't just magically materialise. It needs to be created. "Productivity is never an accident. It is always the...

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Growth Drivers: Clarity

If you want growth on scale, and who doesn't, then you only need three things. Clarity, Productivity and Scalability. The starting point for this transformation is Clarity.

Robin Sharma said that "Clarity precedes success." There's a lot of insight in that simple sentence. Without Clarity there is confusion and complication. Organisations that lack clarity have competing priorities; are focusing sometimes on good things, but not on the great things that really drive success. Without Clarity, there is an increase in complexity; people are confused with what they should focus on, priorities are clouded, and teams become inefficient and ineffective. Bobb Biehl said it best when he said:

"Without focusing and getting to Clarity you cannot lead. You cannot motivate. You cannot plan. You cannot communicate."

But when you get this right, just wow! There is something that changes in an organisation when it has absolute Clarity on what is important, on what to truly focus on. All the...

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Productivity is a Fruit of Environment

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize [winner] in economics, once wrote: "Productivity is not everything, but in the long run, it is almost everything."

Are you frustrated by how long it takes to get things done? Why is that? What would it take to get higher productivity? We do have a major problem with productivity levels of below 1%, despite all our technological advances. Something is fundamentally wrong, not at the fringes but at the core of how we do leadership, business and run organisations.

Productivity is not an outcome driven by stopwatches and clipboards. If it were, we would see gains. It’s a product of an engaged environment, created by a leader as its catalyst. The leader encourages and protects the environment, the environment delivers engagement, and engagement produces productivity. Authentic leadership creates an engaging environment that leads to increased productivity.

In today’s business environment, trust in leaders is at an all time low according to the...

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People own what they help to create

Is it hard to implement strategies and get alignment in your organisation? Are your team not engaged in your strategic direction and lack passion? Perhaps they lack ownership; and there may be a reason for that.

How inclusive are you when you plan, create ideas and establish direction? I have found that almost universally in our Stragile planning sessions, we have high involvement and engagement, and subsequently implementation is a breeze in comparison to traditional strategic planning. Check out Stragile.co if you want to know more.

Suffice it to say that if you put a large group in the planning room, you unlock the latent potential of your people and leverage their collective experience and diversity.

The turnarounds at Gloria Jean’s Coffees and at the Charles Parsons Group were done by people already in the organisation, when it wasn’t going well. The ideas were already in the building as were the resources. Good leaders are just catalysts creating an environment...

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Being Busy is Not Good

I want to challenge a cultural phenomenon; when asked how we are, especially in a work or business context, our positive response is that we’re busy. Now whilst the complete opposite of that is a problem, being busy may not be our most effective state. Being busy is not necessarily good.

Recently the World Health Organisation added burnout to its official list of diseases. The term was first applied as a psychological diagnosis in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger. Which is a splendid name.

According to the W.H.O, “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; feelings of distance, negativity or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy. If you’re too busy for too long, this is you!

So how can we get out of our busy cycle and create an environment around us that is more effective...

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Slow Down To Speed Up

Do you feel like you are always working working working, with little or underwhelming fruit? Does your workday leave you feeling tired, ineffective and unfulfilled? This is actually very common in leaders and their teams.

Sometimes we have to slow down to speed up; and build some white space into our hectic schedules. We are not wired for a sprint; we’re built for a marathon. Like all good runners we have to pace ourselves if we want to win. As the great piece of racing advice says, “to finish first, first you have to finish”.

There is a very good physical reason for this. Our physiology is built so that under stress we operate closer to the ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain, further done the brain stem. We stop operating effectively in the frontal cortex, where our ideas, creativity and higher thoughts are active. This is why we have great ideas and an almost constant stream of schemes and dreams, once we’ve relaxed on holiday. Or that good...

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Hindsight Series: Embrace Uncertainty

 Here’s a 2020 hindsight; a lockdown leadership lesson I've learned during this ‘interesting’ year. Embrace uncertainty. Danish Physicist Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.” I do like a physicist with a sense of humour. But it's very true, we do like to think that we are in control, that our futures are certain. We are the most insured, some would argue, over-insured people in history. We try and reduce risk, increase certainty and think that we can control our future's. Once again, there's nothing wrong with those things, but if we do not learn to embrace uncertainty, we can be left disappointed, resentful and cynical. It can also lead to a lack of resilience. Yet if we embrace uncertainty, recognise that the environment and life in general, cannot always be shaped into our desired state, we can be both realistic and resilient. This year taught me that embracing uncertainty is essential to...

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Mindful Leaders See Alternatives

Mindful Leaders see Alternatives. Often when disruption comes, we are blindsided because it comes from industries, sectors or competitors that are outside our experience. If we don’t look far and wide for possible alternatives to our products and services we get disrupted, replaced or at least commoditised. If we are mindful of alternatives, then we can recognise new opportunities, lower our risk, embrace changes we need to make early and adapt. 

Alternatives like car-sharing rather than ownership, or Airbnb as an alternative to hotels can sideswipe an entire industry. The choices then become very difficult to make, especially if you see it early. These pivots are extremely challenging for the established players because as Kenneth Eade points out, “Most people, faced with two difficult choices, prefer not to choose at all.” This probably explains why incumbents loose to new disruptors especially if it is due to...

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