Is strategic planning dead? Or maybe a better question is, should it die? How many leaders have read a strategic plan, fallen asleep, woken up hoping you didn’t snore too loud, and then tried to get through it and fill your part of the boxes in?Continue Reading...
Archives For May 2011
Tim Harford was the May guest on the LDRLB podcast. His new book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, is quickly becoming one of my favorite reads of the entire year. Harford’s new tome covers the role of experimentation and failure in success by looking at a variety of disciplines.
He begins by making the case for why experimentation, not new leadership, was the real cause for the turnaround in the Iraq War. Harford continues on by looking across the disciplines to show how successful organizations, countries and even nuclear power plants utilize failures (their own and others) to learn and adapt their organization. He ends by outlining how organizations can prepare themselves to learn from failure by becoming adaptable and what lessons adaptations have for individuals (who generally have less tolerance for large scale failures than companies or industries).
Better known as the undercover economist, Harford book’s is new technically a leadership book. However, it contains fantastic lessons for leaders based on a level of research and analysis we’d expect from an economist. My favorite passage is his description of how Google, Whole Foods and UK repair chain Timpson all organized themselves to encourage experimentation and failure by their employees.
If you’re looking to discover how to create a true learning organization, or your trying to sell your senior leadership on the benefits of failure, read Adapt and learn Why Success Always Starts with Failure.
Last week LDRLB released its new paper, The Portable Guide to Strategy, which (among other things) outlined Michael Porter’s positioning school of strategy. In this video, Porter explains his theory of the five forces that shape much of business strategy.
Throughout the study of global leadership, one encounters many differences that seem to separate and distinguish cultures. Differences in traditions, barriers, language, perspectives and on and on. Ironically it begins to feel as if the study of global leadership is the study of people’s differences (despite my being taught since elementary school to ignore differences). If everyone speaks a different language, and even the medium of that language is different, then what hope do we have to effectively communicate across cultures?
There is one language and one medium that doesn’t change from culture to culture: the face.
Paul Ekman is a researcher who has dedicated his life to the study of the human face. Ekman (1974) discovered that, regardless of culture, all humans express emotions through their face using the same combinations of muscles. For example, a smile uses the same muscles in every world culture (muscles in the check expand the lips and muscles around the eyes contract). Ekman’s life work involved discovering and cataloguing the thousands of human facial expressions and validating the theory that they are ubiquitous.
The implications for cross-cultural communication are still being discussed, but Ekman’s work brings one to the forefront: there’s no substitute for a face-to-face conversation.
You can’t look an email in the eye.
Ekman, P. (1974). Darwin and Facial Expression. Burlington, MA: Academic Press.
A key component of global leadership is complexity. When you begin to cross-cultures, your business becomes more complex. Galbraith (2000, p. 2) says it bluntly: “Serious students of cross-border organization have arrived at the position that keeping it simple is stupid; the world is complex, and simple organization in a complex world becomes less and less viable.” McCall and Hollenbeck cite this quote and add to it, continuing to argue about the complexity of cross-cultural business. The tendency, when dealing with complexity, is to segment it – reduce it so it is easier to understand. Consider traditional medical education, which reduces the complexity of the human body down to smaller components (circulatory system, respiratory system, etc).
I propose the opposite.
I propose that dealing with cultures in the future will involve what Senge (1990) calls systems thinking. Systems thinking involves understanding how things influence each other inside a larger whole. Within globalization, it involves understanding how countries work to influence each other. It’s easy to study cultural trends in Indian – easy but incomplete. In order to truly understand the business culture of India, one needs to understand how it was influence by colonization by England and how it’s current relationships with Western countries such as the United States are evolving.
When understanding cultures, don’t divide – think of the global as a complex system.
McCall, M. & Hollenbeck, G. Developing global executives. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.
Galbraith, J (2000). Designing the global corporation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, p. 2.
Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency.