Enlightened Conflict

angry strategizing

August 11th, 2016

if you are not angry you are not paying attention

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“It’s time we stop worrying, and get angry you know?

But not angry and pick up a gun, but angry and open our minds.”

 

————————-

 

Tupac Shakur

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This is hardly worth fighting for

But it’s the little petty shit that I can’t ignore

When my fist hits your face and your face hits the floor

 

It’ll be a long time coming

But you got the message now

‘Cause I was never going

You’re the one that’s going down

 

One of us is going down

I’m not running,

It’s a little different now

‘Cause one of us is going

One of us is going down

 

—————-

Sick Puppies

<You’re Going Down>

===============

 

Well.

 

The Olympics is reminding us of a topic which is not discussed often enough in business … angry competition. I call it angry strategizing.

angry strategy yell think business

 

 

Yeah.

 

The Olympics has reminded me about competing angry.

 

While the Olympics are supposed to be about the love of competition and a better world through sports competition … it is actually about determining the best in the world. And that, my friends, is not about love it is about the rage of competition.

And while I will surely give a nod to respect shown to other great competitors and the aftermath camaraderie that can only be had among the best in the world who have competed the hardest and recognize greatness around them at the Olympics, and how they do so even in loss, I must point out that the Olympic best carry a certain rage into their competitiveness.

 

It may not be the traditional version of anger but it is most certainly a version of anger.

 

And it drives them to compete with the intent to beat the shit out of whomever they are competing against and be the best they can be so they can actually be the best.

 

I say all that because I don’t believe enough business people strategize with some anger. Anger that … well … there are some stupid ideas out there …

 

some stupid opinions

 

some stupid attitudes

 

competitors say and do stupid things

 

and certainly there is a stupid acceptance of mediocrity.

 

I know that I have sat in a meeting room with some business partners and looked around at the competition and what they were doing and saying and … angry sign window republicanwell … got angry.

 

And got angry enough t want and do something about it.

 

 

Being angry in business. and, no, I am not talking about being some anger management candidate but I mean planning angry … developing a strategy thinking with some anger about the status quo … maybe even having some anger toward conventional thinking and certainly some anger against whomever you are competing <but you can still respect the ones who deserve the respect while doing so> is effective and leads to effective business strategy to create real distinction in the marketplace.

 

To be clear.

 

Anger, to me, is much more useful than disdain.

 

Disdain breeds some arrogance and certainly diminishes the capabilities of the competition as you think about competing against them. In your scoffing at them it suggests that it is … is … well … just not worth even thinking about.

 

Anger, on the other hand, suggests you are facing what is straight on … in its face … and taking it head on. Anger guides you not toward some flimsy white space but directly into the fray …  directly toward the space you want in a market <whether it is already occupied or not> and take it.

 

Or, as Admiral Nelson once said, “you can do no wrong by putting yourself as close to the enemy as possible.”

 

 

And you know what?

 

In business strategy that is smart.

 

So that is why I call this the angry business strategy.

 

Certainly … there is only one real way to win … and that is without cheating.

Anger almost forces you to not only recognize that there is no virtue to be found in taking a shortcut <although shortcuts never really exist anyway> … but that there is no long cut or shortcut but rather simply getting up and going … and competing to win.

 

I am sure someone will point out that it may simply be you look around and get aggravated by what you see and decide to do something about it.

 

But I think if you have the team, and you have the product or service and you actually have the means to make your mark in the business world … then … well … it is okay if you look around at the competition and the competitive business world and get a little pissed … not just aggravated.

 

You get a little angry …

This is stupid … there is a better way.

 

This is crazy … I have a better product.

 

This is nuts … I can’t believe people believe that shit.

 

Your anger puts an edge on what you decide to say and do.

 

Far too often we sit around and have pot after pot of strong coffee and have intellectual discussions on how to smartly effectively compete. We worry through some fairly random details, talk about being the best and then go ahead and be anything but the best.

 

So … you know what?

 

If you are better and have a better offering and are truly worth a shit and want people to know you are worth a shit … well then … there is no real intellectual challenge.

 

You get on with getting on.

 

You just get competitively angry and stand in the middle of the field and say “here I am, and I am not going down.”

 

strategy think anger angry business ideas filterI am not suggesting being stupid about competing.

 

Nor am I suggesting bludgeoning the industry and competitors with some dull edged hammer.

 

But I am suggesting the anger puts some attitude into your strategy and tactics.

 

It puts a sharper edge into your sense of competitive purpose.

 

And here is what I know.

 

If it isn’t blind anger but rather competitive anger … you won’t tiptoe into your messaging and go to market strategy. You will stride in with some swagger, some confidence and clearly some strong purposeful messaging.

 

I think … no … I know more businesses would do better to attack their business meeting angry business strategystrategy with some anger.

 

Get a little pissed about perceptions, attitudes and mediocrity.

 

Get pissed that people are accepting less than the best and less than real truth.

 

Get pissed at yourself if you are in a position where you don’t believe enough in yourself and your offering to be able to get pissed.

 

Yeah.

 

I do believe more businesses should strategize with some anger.

As Tupac said … not angry and pick up a gun, but angry and open our minds.

our strategy: try things and follow what works

May 2nd, 2016

dilbert on nimble strategy business adapt

 

“Sustained success is largely a matter of focusing regularly on the right things and making a lot of uncelebrated little improvements every day.”

 

Theodore Levitt

 

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People don’t want quarter-inch drills.

They want quarter inch holes.”

 

Theodore Levitt

 

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“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

 

Michael Porter

 

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Well.

 

As I was picking my way through an old Economist <May 2015> magazine on a wow excited astonish noplane flight I came across an article where The Boston Consulting Group <a smart business consulting firm most known for its “stars, cash cows, dogs & question mark” business matrix> had published something suggesting that a single overarching business strategy, in today’s business world, is a recipe for failure.

 

Uhm.

 

That made me sit up a little. That is something I have believed … well … ever since I was experienced enough to understand what I was learning in the business strategy world.

 

That is also something, my belief, which sometimes made my business career slightly miserable. Because this thought is not the norm, nor the most acceptable, in the typical management office in business <then & now>.

 

Let’s be clear.

This whole business strategy discussion is important … really important.  Strategy makes or breaks a business. In fact … strategy is more important than great leadership and perseverance and hard work and even luck <although all those things are quite helpful>.

 

Strategy is always challenging. More often than not you have some business vision and hunker down with some strategy to attain it.

 

It is during the hunkering down period that some challenges start raising their heads.

 

There will always be characteristics of a good solid strategy that imbue an organization with confidence that it is a guide towards what is needed to succeed. And, yet, there are some other characteristics of this elusive, but probably well thought out strategy, which do not necessarily burst with confidence but rather they represent the greyish areas of the strategy. These are actually the parts of the strategy which are built to adapt and morph into something solid when the time & place occurs.

 

That said.

 

All that grayish stuff does not imbue confidence.

 

Inevitably most companies pursue a variety of diverse thoughts and will end up expect actual wow ughchoosing maybe not a completely new strategy but certainly pursue somewhat different paths.

 

Those ‘different paths’ is actually all about trying things, following the good ones and eliminating the bad ones. well … that can sure sound a lot like chaos.

 

It surely could be … if it were not closely attached to self-interest <and not survival>. Trying strategies on like a new suit for a formal occasion is about reforming and adapting skipping nimbly from one strategy to another to assume your place in the context of the situation.

 

And it can also take on some characteristics f chaos if you do not shed some things, strategies included, as you adapt.

 

As I noted in something I wrote in June 2014 that as an organization naturally grows in fits & starts it will certainly … uhm … no … absolutely … gather up some bad characteristics. Well. Ok. Maybe some characteristics which are like barnacles on the ship.

 

They slow you down.

 

Eliminating those barnacles is hard. And the hard truth in is they must go if the business wants to be successful.

 

Old less than effective strategies are included I this barnacle discussion.

 

They must go as the organization adapts if you accept the multi strategy thinking.

 

The whole adapting and adding and discarding discussion is easy when talking about tactics. Businesses do it all the time and pat themselves on the back for ‘being nimble and adapting to the market needs.’

 

They ignore the fact that tactics are simply window dressing and that these changes are simply a new paint job on a slowly sinking ship.

 

While it may sound too simplistic to suggest businesses would be better off thinking of strategies as easy to change as tactics … it may actually be some sound advice. Well. Sound advice for non-amateurs. Advice like that taken in hand by someone who didn’t really understand strategy and vision would most likely be a disaster.

 

 

Look.

 

In my heart of hearts I have always balked at one overarching unchanging business strategy. It made no sense to me <okay … it made sense I just didn’t think it was particularly effective in an ever changing business environment>. I just never was smart enough to articulate why what I believed made more sense.

 

While I loved that part of business, strategic positioning businesses in the marketplace, I often found myself being forced to apply square peg strategy solutions into what I saw as businesses’ ever evolving round, trapezoid, hexagonal, triangular and, yes, sometimes, square strategy opportunity holes. I often felt like I was being asked to place a stripped screw into a nail hole.

 

I wanted a tighter fit.

 

I always wanted to switch and blend and, as we often suggest a business is unique & distinct, I always felt a business deserved a distinct strategy and not one we simply pulled off the shelf.

 

Frankly, one overarching strategy in today’s fast moving & amazing competitive diverse business environment is a formula for eventual obsoletion. The marketplace naturally cycles and it seems slightly outdated thinking to believe if your organization doesn’t cycle it can ride out the marketplace cycle successfully.

 

And obsoletion can happen even if the business is well run, running well and providing a high level of service and satisfaction. Because as I noted in one of my ‘creative destruction’ articles there is always some scrappy entrepreneurial business out there thinking about how to rewrite the rules of doing business in that category and industry.

 

strategy aim adapt stephen boye

 

I am not suggesting you have to create your own strategy <although I am a fan of a hybrid strategy> but you can certainly select one of the commonly accepted strategies from a menu and switch back & forth as the situation dictates.

 

This means you can use accepted strategy platforms but by constantly adapting the strategy a business can avoid the undesirable situation of:

 

 

<a>deciding to having to leap into the unknown and stop leading and instead emulating the businesses infringing upon an industry they used to know so well … or,

 

<b> simply exist as an ever limiting cash cow, or a business solely relying on operations, in other words … destined to becoming a marginal player in a new world.

 

 

By the way.

This is not about disruption <which has become an overused and ill-used word> but rather managing a business to take advantage of a diverse range of opportunities which inevitably arise in any industry and category.

 

Anyway.

This may sound slightly chaotic and certainly difficult to manage and keep everything, and everyone, in line.

 

I do not believe it is chaotic but I do know 100% for sure, it is difficult to do.

But as someone smarter than I has said in the past … “nothing worth doing is easy.”

 

But it is worth doing.

I have always felt, sometimes balking at what I was being taught, that strategic change is almost a must for long term survival. I say ‘almost’ because if you are big enough, strong enough and savvy enough … like a huge nose tackle in football … you can bull your way through almost anything in your way <for awhile .. until your legs get tired or you get triple teamed>.

 

Now.

Leaders, businesses who do lead, may suggest that this strategy shifting thing is not for them..crazy ivan business strategy adapt

 

But part of leading is recognizing not only that someone is chasing you but that they may be getting a little close to you … and you should pull a ‘crazy Ivan.’

 

I always called this shaking the etch a sketch.

This is not disruption per se … this is more like simply changing the context, the game and the rules. Make the others adapt.

 

So.

 

 

The how. How to do this.

 

strategy think adapt braid focus businessThe article in The Economist whined a little bit about how the authors of the Boston Consulting Group didn’t share ‘ways to implement so that managers didn’t go crazy or astray.’

 

Most likely because they didn’t have to.

Most good businesses do not stray from their core competence and skill. Functionally what they do well. And they combine this with an attitudinal/character compass.

 

Note I say “good businesses.’

Because I will also note, as I have in the past, for some reason defining these two things is oddly more difficult than one would think. And agreement even if you define it? Yikes. Even tougher.

 

In the end.

 

I would suggest pursuing an inconsistent consistent strategy shift is very much like simply pursing self-interest <not survival interest>.

 

The distinction I make here is that survival suggests ‘do anything to survive’ and this more often than not can lead you down some paths that permit you to survive short term but long term can put you in some untenable position.

 

Self interest suggests more ego-ism centered therefore naturally imbibes aspects of self-vision, character and embodiment of who and what you are.

 

This self interest permits you to navigate the natural tension in business of maintaining a stable business model that produces consistent results and the embracing of some reinvention. I say this because a healthy self, a person, navigates this same tension in Life therefore if you view business as … well … not just a business seeking to survive & thrive but rather a personal self-interest modality you can embrace both the rewarding stability and the rewarding reinvention.

 

I will note many of the high falutin’ books on strategy avoid this topic.

Their core premise is staying the course to maximize return and simplify overarching decision making.

And, I admit, the path I am recommending is a rockier road <but far more interesting>.

 

Sure.

Some aspects of strategy, such as pricing the value proposition, portfolio mix, messaging, etc. can be revised relatively quickly and some of these things can change as often as you want. but other elements, such as infrastructure capabilities or existing customer profiles cannot be adapted as quickly.

 

Anyway.

 

Maybe about a dozen years ago or so in my attempt to address this I developed inner truth brand position - Copya philosophy based on staking out a business compass based on something I called “the inner truth.”  <see image to the right>.

 

I believed if a business could understand and embrace their inner truth than day to day business could have some flexibility & autonomy. In some cases I would even suggest strategy could adapt … as long as they stayed true to their inner truth.

 

The concept of strategic agility and flexibility is extremely appealing. It is challenging but has a tendency to combine what almost every business desires — the nimbleness of the start-up/entrepreneurial years and the solid consistency knowledge gained from experience offers.

 

What I do know … and feel slightly vindicated that the Boston consulting group has finally jumped on the ‘adaptable strategy train’ … is that the combination of a solid consistent vision core being enabled by an adapting semi-autonomous strategic construct around it creates a higher likelihood of success in the marketplace.

 

Our strategy.

 

Be smart. Be thoughtful. Try things. Follow those that work. Adapt. Never lose sight of the core no matter what you explore.

what the American presidential campaigns remind us about business leadership

February 9th, 2016

leading young direction

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“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels.

 

For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”

 

 

H. L. Mencken

 

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Ok.

 
Presidential elections most often remind me about one thing with regard to business – amateurs.

 

 

Amateurs are the kiss of death, more often than not, in business. From the outside in … many people <amateurs> mistakenly believe they can do, sometimes as well as, what another person is doing. Therefore “outsiders” end up making their play to be involved with some misguided thinking, perilous rhetoric any intelligent fooland, ultimately, some glaring leadership gaps they gloss over with generalities.

 

Amateurs are the scoundrels of business.

 

This never becomes more obvious as when leadership of a business is at play.

 

 

Mostly because an amateur can only play the game while a professional understands it isn’t a game. It isn’t superficial theoretical programs and soundbites but rather a complex, nuanced, intertwined actions of push, pull, adapting & consistency.

 

 

Suffice it to say Amateurs create acid indigestion.

 

 

And while the presidential election reminds me of this <senators & representatives & no political governmental leadership experience> I could also throw into this group a lot of young people with minimal business experience, 1st <and sometimes 2nd> time start up entrepreneurs, 50% of consultants <who deal in theoretical mumbo jumbo> and untrained marketing & advertising people.

 

 

They are amateurs who, at their worst, believe they are as good as the best of the professionals in the industry, or responsibility level, they want to compete with despite having no real training or practical experience.

 

 

Let me tell you four business aspects in which amateurs are not only a huge pain in the ass but create acid indigestion:

 

 

– rhetoric

 

– rules of engagement

 

– leadership

 

 

– results focus

 

 

Here you go.

 

 

– rhetoric.

 

lies we tell unraveling

I was tempted to call this pandering but that is just one aspect.

 

 

All leaders recognize that what they say matters. They also recognize that there are certain “phrases that pay.”

 

You say something and an uninterested audience all of a sudden locks in. but almost all good leaders understand that while vision is what permits people to be inspired and think big thoughts they also understand that pragmatism maintains belief in the vision. It is always a balancing act of which the leader has to inspire enough tangible near term activity in order to maintain the future vision appeal.

 

 

Amateurs inherently get the balance wrong. And while I personally feel the burning in my stomach when I hear the obviously misguided rhetoric the real acid indigestion occurs when some amateur actually gets into the business. the business either gets ground down on uninspired ‘results based actions’ initiatives or flounders behind some grandiose vision which becomes obviously a futuristic ideal – seemingly out of reach for many people/employees who don’t want to think beyond a couple of years because they are already planning their own personal next steps.

 

 

Idealistic rhetoric is the scoundrel’s tool. The amateur’s tool. It feels and often even sounds great. It does so because it most likely taps into the hearts of the audience but inevitably leads the employees on a fool’s errand … and no one likes feeling like a fool.

 

 

The amateur’s rhetoric most often simplistically taps into some emotion – fear, anger, frustration, disappointment

 

The professional’s rhetoric first and foremost taps into behavior … and THEN provides affirmation it is attitudinally and emotionally the right thing to do <but the best can leave that unsaid and let people arrive at that conclusion all on their own>.

 

 

That is why I often like governors in a presidential race <or a cabinet member>.

 

There is a pragmatic aspect of their experience that tempers their rhetoric in reality. Amateurs can only conceptually dip into the pragmatism which often means they float on the superficial surface of reality. Professionals realize you cannot float … you have to swim.

 

 

– Rules of engagement.

 

 

This can actually come to life in mainly one of two ways.

 

The first one is because they have no, or little, experience they define how a business should do business. This is more often than not theoretical management put in practice <because they do not have the practical experience>. Think of the “this seems like common sense” type leadership style.

 

It’s kind of like the amateur suggests you have been doing it all wrong and now here is the right way <and it is common sense from the outside looking in>.

 

 

Well.

 

They are wrong.

 

 

Simplistically there are ideas and then there is infrastructure <or the institution in which the idea is implemented>. No idea is worth a shit if the infrastructure cannot accommodate the idea.

 

That is the practical truth of any business.

 

An infrastructure, whether you like it or not, can dictate an idea. And that is where an amateur absolutely can kill you. They do not understand how difficult it is to change infrastructure. It is rarely as easy as they make it sound or wish it could be.

 

 

I can’t eliminate a department tomorrow.

 

I can’t change my whole distribution system next week.

 

I can’t … well … suffice it to say an amateur always neglects to consider time it takes to do shit. And even worse … they neglect to consider the effect that time to change shit has on employees and perceptions and attitudes.

 

 

The second one is because they have no, or little, experience they define how a business should do business by competitors’ rules of engagement. In other words … if they behead their customers than, by golly, we can too.

 

This may be the most dangerous amateur.

 

To them moral and ethical behavior is dictated by what the other guys are doing.

 

 

This simply becomes a race to the bottom. This amateur simplistically suggests that to effectively compete you need to play by the rules established by the competition.

 

 

This is scoundrel logic.

 

 

 

 

– Leadership and leading

thin line professional

 

 

In general, freedom to lead is an under discussed topic.

 

This isn’t about getting elected … this is about having the freedom to implement what you want done in your business.

 

Yup.

 

You have to have freedom.

 

Having been a leader of an organization I can clearly state that acquiring a title does not guarantee a freedom to lead.

 

Amateurs don’t see it that way. An amateur sees a title as an entitlement to … well … everything … but mostly leadership.

 

 

And this title entitlement undercuts what research suggests is the most important leader attribute – character.

 

A social scientist, James Q. Wilson, stressed the central importance of character and virtue in a culture. When he wrote about character and virtue, he focused on the basics—decency, cooperation and that action always have long-term consequences. Wilson once wrote that, “It is as if it were a mark of sophistication for us to shun the language of morality in discussing the problems of mankind.”

 

 

Simplistically he suggested that virtue for people becomes a habit when they practice good manners, are dependable, punctual and responsible every day.

 

In The Moral Sense he wrote, “Order exists because a system of beliefs and sentiments held by members of a society sets limits to what those members can do.”

 

 

 

Amateurs completely underestimate the concept of freedom to lead.

 

 

 

– results <and money>.

 

While amateurs can absolutely veer into the intangible ‘feel good’ aspects of a business, more often than not in today’s business world they dive into the results, money & short term milestones pond headfirst.

 

 

Amateurs are more likely to not recognize results, and money, is a double edged motivation sword. It can motivate ambition & focus but it can also motivate ‘cutting corners’ to get to what you want.

 

Amateurs have a tendency to either unhealthily focus on sheer results <winning is all that matters> or conversely focus solely on money <ROI>.

 

 

Amateurs not only ignore the phenomenon of “putting profits before people” but actually suggest simplistically that “if we gain profits everything else will be taken care of.”

 

Amateurs take on the most simplistic view of capitalism and job growth and economy.

 

Capitalism is good and therefore if we simply encourage entrepreneurship and enable businesses to prosper everyone will benefit.

 

 

Even the penultimate capitalism professional Adam Smith understood the link between markets and morality. Contrary to his common portrayal, he did not believe that a successful economy could arise from the raw, unbridled pursuit of self-interest. He maintained that self-interest could fuel a successful economy only if it were narrowed by the constraints of traditional morality.

 

Amateurs ignore that.

 

 

Lastly.

enlightened conflict sand less

 

Amateurs are more difficult to debate than you would think. Their simplistic views with regard to what should be done or how to think about things maintains an aura of simplistic common sense which seemingly deflect professional smarts by suggesting they are complicating things.

 

 

Yes.

 

Professionals can overthink. There is no doubt about that. The main danger of that are missed opportunities … but not complete failure.

 

And it can be managed.

 

 

Amateurs consistently under think. And that is difficult to manage because the core knowledge doesn’t exist. To ‘manage up’ actually increases the odds of indecision, or worse, bad decision.

 

 

Amateurs absolutely can play a role in new ideation and fresh thinking … just not in the most important leadership roles. Basically … amateurs are unenlightened business people. We do not want to have them become enlightened on the job.

 

inner truth seeking in business

June 26th, 2014

 

inner fire hugh

“Life, too, is like that.

You live it forward, but understand it backward.”

Abraham Verghese

———-

So.

I fully recognize that thinking about how to build a successful business has been discussed and pontificated through maybe a zillion books.

 

Ah.

 

 

But … the one thing they have on common?

 

 

There is no one agreed way to do it.

 

No matter how sincere and steadfast and strident someone is when stating ‘here is what you should do’ … they are simply stating how they believe it should be done.

 

 

Sure.

 

They could be drawing off of good personal experience or they could be drawing off of experiences of others and they could be drawing off of a combination … but in the end they are simply drawing up what they ‘believe’ is the best way to approach it and not what they ‘know’ is the best way.

 

 

That is a truth.

 

 

That may not be an inner truth <albeit I wish more ‘experts’ would explore their own inner truth a little more often> but it is certainly a business truth.

 

Now.

 

About inner truth and inner driven business thinking.

 

Some people argue … start with ‘outer truths’ … like what consumers want or meeting some need and working inside from there in building an appropriate relevant business model.

 

 

Some people argue … start inside the company and the culture and the passion and build your business <seeking appropriate customers> from there.

 

<please note that, despite your belief, any business thinker worth a shit will not ignore the inner or the outer no matter where they begin>

 

 

Anyway.

 

Me?

 

 

inspire leadershipI definitely believe in the inside out philosophy … but maybe do with a ‘spin.’

I believe every business has a core inner cultural truth <sometimes they lose sight of it under the flash & dazzle of a variety of things … including a desire for money>.

 

Yup.

Believe me … it is there … somewhere … even in the most seemingly soulless business.

 

 

Ah.

 

But I also believe a business has a core inner functional truth. This is something they are really really good at which gets embodied within the products & services they offer and bring to market. And, no, this isn’t some tripe like ‘customer service’ or ‘making everyone count.’

 

This functional truth is always interesting to uncover. I have found it is most likely discovered in one of two ways.

 

 

The first is often found buried somewhere in the ‘day one’ of the company.

 

 

What do I mean?

 

If you sit a founder down … almost always … you will find a short list of ‘here is what I was thinking when I decided to begin the business.’

 

Yes.

 

Most of the list is simply just a fun listen … but … within that list there is almost always a gem.

 

And by a gem I mean … whether on purpose or simply thru power of personality something on that list has threaded its way throughout what the organization does … and I mean actual behavior not a word or a thought.

 

Sometimes it is something small … but big in that everyone does it <consciously or subconsciously>.

 

 

By the way … just to share … these are absolutely the most fun to uncover.
It is like uncovering something that has always been in plain sight.Print

 

 

It makes the founder/owner feel good <and rightfully so> and it makes an organization/employee feel good <and it should>.

 

For me … these are the most rewarding to uncover.

 

 

Anyway.

 

Next.

The second is found by doing a deep audit of ‘what is.’

 

 

Good companies typically align themselves in useful ways over time.

 

For example … companies which have a widget-gwonk as a founder begin based around some fantastic widget. The business is not created around any well articulated mission or culture.

 

The founder certainly has the idea of some mission or vision or even some aspects of a ‘desired working culture’ but just sucks at articulating them because … well … he/she is a widget gwonk.

 

But over time as the company has grown and adapted to meet challenges they have inevitably coalesced into a living breathing organism.

 

Well.

 

The organism is often flawed in some form or fashion but at its core it has some inner functional truth hardened thru experience & trial/error.

 

But remember … it is a TRUTH … functional … but still a truth.

 

Not something made up in a smoke & mirrors way.

 

 

I say that last point because these types of truths are really difficult to isolate.

They are most typically buried under the bullshit standard ‘here is our company manifesto’ type thoughts that all employees must exhibit.

 

In addition … this one is a hard truth.

 

Hard in that as an organization naturally grows in fits & starts it will certainly … uhm … no … absolutely … gather up some bad characteristics.

 

 

Well.

Ok.

 

Maybe not really ‘bad’ … but certainly some less than desirable characteristics which are like barnacles on the ship.
They slow you down.

 

Eliminating those barnacles is hard.

And the hard truth in this exercise is they must go.

 

An example?

 

The most obvious is a product.

 

With all the right intentions your business is now selling a product which makes someone very happy.

 

It’s customized. And you do make some money from it.

But it just doesn’t fit into the rest of the portfolio and it … well … takes your eye off the ball.

 

If it makes anyone feel better about what I just shared … I would say that in most cases you show the ship … all the barnacles … and then suggest eliminating some – not all … if they like some of them – of the barnacles. It isn’t optimal but it will still make the ship faster and more agile.

 

The point at the initial stage is simply to have the organization recognize they have barnacles … that all these things on the list are actually barnacles <whether they actually want to get rid of them or not> and get rid of at least some of them.

 

Oh.inside ourselves

 

But there will also be people within the organization … some successful financially … who are actually doing something, which in finding this inner truth, you do not really want them to do anymore.

 

Its hard.

 

But they have to go <also>.

 

 

Anyway.

 

Just because I was thinking about it … I will share something we used to use at one of the past companies I worked at.

 

<note: I believe they no longer use this once I left – he says hopefully or will get his ass sued>

 

Enjoy and use whatever you want if you think it will help you.

 

———

UNCOVERING THE BRAND INSIGHT

Key to business success is uncovering the Brand Insight – of what we call The Inner Truth.

 

We have a process we use to uncover the truth. While we read all the articles and hear all the rhetoric on how the “consumer is king,” we believe it is a marriage of brand and consumer. Yes, the consumer is important, but our process and belief system, hearkens back to Shakespeare, “to thine ownself be true.” True of any happy marriage, one needs to understand himself before he can find or be the perfect mate. This is what we believe and that is how our process is built. We seek the soul of the brand and the consumer, and to create a dialogue between them.

inner truth brand position

 

inner truth discovery

 

holding the universe together

March 6th, 2014

 

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, Two hands preserve a green tree against a thunder-stormleaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” – J.D. Salinger

 

 

Well.

In today’s world if it doesn’t appear like you are doing something … then … well … damn it … you aren’t doing something <even if you are holding the universe together>.

 

You have to be doing something that can be seen.

 

Because if you don’t … everyone is convinced you are doing nothing.

I call this issue … being challenged by the ‘outcome mentality.’

 

In that outcome, or output, is everything.

Well.

I have an entire rant coming up soon on that topic. So I won’t debate it here.

 

Let’s assume for here that output is truly all that matters <note: that was extremely painful for me to type>.

 

That said.

 

So what if your output is … well … holding the universe together.

C’mon.

That’s a metaphor.

I’m not truly suggesting the actual universe … lets go to business. Sometimes you run across that leader … or sometimes a manager … or a young employee <with the potential to do so> who holds the business or the organization together … but sometimes when you look … you cannot see what they are actually doing. They may be often seen doing nothing but standing there leaning on the balcony rail.

 

Uh oh.

 

In today’s business world that person is screwed.

 

Look.

I’m not suggesting you want people who do nothing … but sometimes people who look like they are doing nothing are actually doing a lot of something.

 

And sometimes it is difficult to measure these people up against ‘outcome focused generators.’

holding universe together ballWhat I mean by that is I have had people in my teams where during review time I have had to stack employees and justify their salary, job status, existence within the organization, whatever review line item you want to call it … based on ‘what have they done.’

Tangible outcome crap.

 

And … well … sometimes your most valuable employee doesn’t look so hot based on sheer tangible outcome. It is only when you build in intangibles that they rise above the tangible outputters <not sure that is a word>.

 

Ok.

Any experienced business person reading this will be shaking their head going … “whew … been there” because you have a clear visual of a scrunched up face across the table from you saying things like “well … can’t we get them to do more? … I am struggling to see the comparable value to <insert some outputter name here>.”

 

You want to reach across the table and wring their neck shouting “they are frickin’ holding the universe together for god’s sake.’

 

Holding the universe together is a talent. It is a unique talent to make those around you better and more efficient and … well … happier <or maybe just more realistically positive>. And sometimes that talent is embodied by ‘not doing anything but standing there.’

 

I have run across several business people who had the incredible ability to ‘hold the universe together.’ And I have had the incredibly ludicrous experience of having to encourage them to waste time to ‘tangibilize’ <once again … not sure that is a word> what they are doing so people can ‘see’ their value.

 

As a manager, or leader, I imagine one of your responsibilities is to protect these valuable unique people from the challenges of the typical business world view and foster their abilities and opportunities.

 

It has always been that an ‘outputter’ has never understood this person or value. Never have and never will. That’s okay … because organizations, just as in Life, need a variety of personalities and talents to be successful.

 

However.

 

I do get a little concerned that the business world pendulum has swung so far over to outcome & output that those who ‘hold the universe together’ is becoming a dying breed. Maybe I am less concerned for the immediate … but over time. Because the young people with this talent and ability simply cannot protect themselves from an output world without help. And if all we do in business is to promote outputters … well … enough said. You get it.

 

I am sure throughout my career I have missed people who ‘could hold the universe together.’ And I rue those mistakes. I take solace in that I have holding universe together lennonrecognized others and tried to herd them through the business gauntlet of ‘all that matters is results <or output>’.

 

All I can say is that while as a leader you take pride in every employee you have … the ones who have the ability to hold the universe together hold a special place in your ‘list of things done’ <or list of things ‘I didn’t fuck up’>.

 

I imagine that is a reminder that in the end … end of your business career or Life … the intangible often  measures up more so than the tangible in reviewing ‘what I have done.’

Enlightened Conflict