2012 Year-end Favorites- An Overview

Once again, we thought you might like to see some of what has influenced our thinking this year, and how we think these concepts will impact business improvement efforts as we move forward.

The following are our favorite thought provoking articles, books and web-based tidbits from this past year.  Six topics span a wide range of perspectives: the underlying drivers of business and economic uncertainty, evolving demands on management and leadership, and our own points of view on the business improvement that supports enterprise/employee transformation.

Note: This is an abridged version of our client and colleague 2012 Year-end favorites email.  If you have trouble reading the following table in RSS or feedblitz please click here

Business + Economics
US Competitiveness

Click here for a 4½ minute video sampler of an a-list of b-school academics, politicians, et al.

Harvard Business School is several years into a project to study US Competitiveness. Here are their recommendations…
Professors Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin have used an internet survey of 10K HBS alumni as a sample for initial  worldwide  sentiment about the state of our Country and of what needs to improve going forward.  They have labeled this effort The US Competitiveness Project.

In case you missed it, the March 2012 edition of Harvard Business Review was dedicated to findings and recommendations along multiple dimensions- click here for executive summaries
Managing Uncertainty

On  12.28.2012 The New York Times noted the 5% drop in consumer confidence in most recent The Conference Board index; NBC is reporting possible 8 USD milk prices.  Both of these are attributed to gridlock in Washington.

We have used an approach for more than 15 years to assist leadership teams get there arms around uncertainty.  Here is a thumbnail summary…
For example, what impact will government gridlock, emerging social technology and shifts in customer preferences have on your business?

We continue to advocate the use a scenario development methodology which pits highly impactful andhighly uncertain dimensions against each other in pairs. Each pair of dimensions in a 2×2 matrix creates four potential scenarios.  There is some art is in choosing the right dimensions and the right pairs.

Also consider how social technologies, like SharePoint, allow broader involvement and earlier initial engagement.  Business impact is achieved by successively driving through to implications and building necessary capability.

Click here to see our point of view on the role of scenario analysis in the context of planning.
Change Leadership
More validation…

This time from the recognized thought leader of change leadership- John Kotter

Click here for our published POV
This year Professor Kotter published several updates to his thinking on change leadership incorporating two key beliefs we have long held critical to transformation efforts:

  • The networked organization- A separate, formalized organization structure focused on critical strategic/transformational efforts
  • The 8 accelerators of change- Kotter has softened the stage-gate rhetoric of his previous writings.  We have also used a simpler framework- The change formula- with overlapping, sequenced elements of change.  The change formula is mapped against Kotter’s  frame in the following graphic.

Favorite Book
A potential basis for helping craft the next-generation management

Click here to see Pink’s 18 M TED talk
Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us, 2011 (paperback). Daniel Pink presents a compelling case for what motivates us, including three key elements:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

Full of practical examples, and a few overused examples highlighted in most business publications these days, the book provides a basis for what is required to engage individuals in the work of the enterprise.  A good frame, we think, for “What makes us and our employees tick”.

Business Improvement:
Favorite Engagement
Our favorite engagement of the year

We do not often get the opportunity to start a strategy project with a blank sheet…
“Strategy is how to create and enhance relevant and durable competitive advantage.”  

We have been using this definition to guide our strategic projects for more than 15 years, and, believe it or not, there are companies still out there making their way without a working definition of strategy, without executive alignment, and without change-leadership basics as part of their DNA.  Some, based on the great recession, are under pressure and may not remain autonomous.  I had the great privilege this year to help one such company’s leadership team.

We were able to fill management concept gaps with traditional frameworks like scenario planning, key performance indicators tied to business drivers, and program management.  For the leadership team, we were able to use emerging social technology to share and to archive for easy access key strategy and communication documents on a single secure intranet page.  We captured the essential elements of strategy in an 5-part series of posts starting with Unpacking Strategy.  Time will tell if they can maintain the course to strength and self-reliance, but they are off to a solid start for 2013
Business Improvement:
Favorite Post
Unpacking strategy

Click here for published POV
 In Unpacking Strategy, we present our point of view on  the critical elements of a strategic architecture we call the strategy-paksm.

  • Definition of strategy
  • Strategy stack
    –  Mission stack (statement, business drivers, values)
    –  Vision
    –  Value proposition
    –  Themes
    –  Initiatives
    –  Key performance indicators
  • Enterprise analysis framework
  • Communication of Key Messages

As a side note, communication options continue to expand.  For example, working with a client, we included internet-based feeds to large television screens located in break rooms throughout the company to feature talking heads of the executive and leadership teams explaining various elements of their strategy.

You may also enjoy our follow-on post What to do with the strategy-pak: A starter list 

At NextForge, we are in the business of advancing the business improvement process.  We do this in part by sharing our thinking and tools with our clients and our fellow consultants through, for example, our Points of View and Library of tools.

We have captured the essence of more than two decades of business improvement experience in the constantly expanding Help Yourself section of our website.  Should you need additional support achieving your business improvement outcomes, we would be honored to work with you and talk about the appropriate blend of traditional and emerging management practices we can help you realize.

We hope you find these year-end favorite materials as interesting as we have in unearthing and developing them.

Best wishes for 2013!


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