I recently witnessed a wonderful aha moment in a board meeting where the focus had been so targeted to certain areas that the other possibilities were left in the dark, until I, an external board member, asked about them. Once the options become visible to us, we wonder how we did not see them before.
That's what happens to all of us, we see only what we focus on. When we widen the horizon, we see other possibilities instead of the one or two options that our minds have been working on. Easier to be said than done when we are all stressed and trying very hard to know what to do next.
Change to something new or different requires confidence in our ability to take the necessary steps and to utilise the resources we have. Having a conversation with someone can help us see not only other possibilities but also our abilities to reach them.
I myself thought for years that the only thing I could do was to continue to do what I had already been doing for years. I finally made that one a big jump towards something new. It was not an easy decision. I have been very lucky to have a confidant to whom I can speak out my thoughts, doubts and fears and who in return has given his everlasting support and confidence in me.
I see my role as a solution provider, whether I work as a coach, mentor, consultant or a board member; helping my customers to clarify their goals and taking them from where they are now to where they want to be. The value of it is the value of reaching that goal. The journey is a great adventure for both but here unlike in my traveling, the goal is what matters.
It's been a busy week of networking and learning on strategy and board's role in it. Among others, I had the privilege of listening and discussing with speakers such as professor Knut Haanæs from the IMD Business School on Strategy of winning businesses and Mr Fons Trompenaars on organisation success in disruptive world, impact of culture, strategy and execution. The Boston Consulting Group shared some interesting data on the successful strategy implementation and most common factors in failing, according to surveys. These two events were organised by the Directors' Institute of Finland and KPMG for a full houses of Board professionals and leaders.
What I'd like to highlight from these presentations for you is the need for dialogue, welcoming different views, having an external view and challenging the views and ideas of your managers while keeping the strategy discussion active.
A successful company balances the short term exploitation (incl. e.g. efficiency, clarity of directions and productivity focus) and long term exploration (incl. e.g. innovation, flexible adaptation, empowerment, external focus and growth focus) but very few companies master being great in both, like Toyota, according to the studies by IMD. What I've often seen in the board room is the eagerness of the management to explore and grow the business without first fixing the business. This would easily result in spending the limited resources in too many ideas and not gaining solid results. Innovation requires patience and persistence. At the same time we should not take our industry for granted. The businesses develop faster and faster and the strategies need to be reexamined and adjusted to keep up the shifts in the environment that is unpredictable.
I've written in my earlier blog on globalisation, cultural differences and need for clear communication. The same requirement for success was seen in by the studies by the Boston Consulting Group. I liked the fact that they emphasised not only communication and its clarity but also the need to communicate the strategy so that it moves the organisation in their environment.
When defining the strategy, or any decisions, Mr. Trompenaars stressed the importance to move from bi-polar views to combining the opposite views for innovative solutions. The fact remains that people do value a bit different things coming from different cultures, such as the level of prioritising and protecting your family or friends over obeying the rules. Instead of denying this or trying to force the other to accept your views and values, try and see what comes out when you aim to combine the two to reach a solution.
In their book Your Strategy Needs a Strategy, the authors Martin Reeves, Knut Haanæs and Janmejaya Sinha offer a great table of tips and traps to success and failure for leaders. I think it touches upon nicely many of the items highlighted above so here's my short and improvised summary of its highlights for you:
I hope this raised positive ideas and comments with you. You are welcome to share them here. If you'd like to discuss with me, please send a message and I'll be happy to get back to you.