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  • Kill that strategic plan and build a framework instead

    Right in the middle of the current economic downturnThe Wall Street Journal ran a story that said the recession wasn’t just hurting businesses, it was killing strategic plans. The Journal reported that executives were increasingly finding that, in these turbulent times, the forecasts that underpinned their long-term plans were faulty, thus turning their plans into useless pieces of paper. A consultant from another firm even told the Journal, “Strategy, as we knew it, is dead.”

    Two years have passed since then, but, the way we see it, strategy is not dead — but it is different. That’s because, predicting the future, as traditional strategic planning has required, is a pipe dream.

    A Pliable Business Strategy Framework

    Indeed, the ultimate failure of traditional planning — one that charts a course from Point A to a Point B many years in the future — is that it doesn’t account for how individuals, firms, governments, and institutions interact, react, and adapt to each other and to the changing environment.

    Our advice: Don’t create a strategic plan. Rather, build a strategic frame; A ship of business, if you will. One that can adapt to constantly shifting seas, overcoming threats, and charting a quicker, more innovative course whenever possible. This ship’s frame will be aligned around your company’s purpose and ambition, its stakeholder commitments, strategic assets, and guiding beliefs.

    Within that flexible frame, you can set out on long journeys from Point A to Point B, but you can make course corrections when needed without having to abandon ship and start all over with a new, rigid strategic plan.

    Need to talk strategy? Contact an Insigniam breakthrough consultant to talk about strategic frames and your enterprise.

    To build that ship, your business should be able to answer the following questions:

    1. Corporate direction

    What is our collective ambition? What are our objectives over the next year, five years, ten years, or beyond?

    2. Definition of success

    How will we measure the achievement of our ambition? By sales growth? By brand reputation? By global reach? By improving our infrastructure? By all that and more?

    3. Enterprise stakeholders

    Besides our customers, who are our stakeholders, and what does our strategic plan promise them? What promises are so core to our enterprise that we would be willing retreat from our ambitions in order to keep the promise?

    4. Corporate values

    What promises to our stakeholders are we unwilling to compromise?

    5. The competitive environment

    Who do we compete with? What do we assume it will take to get ahead of the competition? What’s the mainsail of our ship of business — the primary competitive advantage we will leverage to achieve long-term advantage in the marketplace?

    6. Our guiding beliefs

    Which beliefs that we hold about our market conditions are the most crucial to our enterprise purpose and ambition? And, how much risk and opportunity is associated with betting our future on any of our beliefs? Which beliefs are we placing our bets on?

    7. Strategic Assets

    What are our assets from intellectual property, capital to the “secret sauce”? Which one of these assets is unique to us and has high value to the customer and therefore forms our competitive weapons?

    Connect with Shideh and other executives through the Insigniam Executive Forum on LinkedIn.

  • High-Performance Leadership in a Hurry?: Michael Jensen’s Four Foundations of Great Leadership

    HONG KONG — Can high-performance leaders really be created in a matter of months? The U.S. Air Force is doing it. And so are a growing number of business schools and organizations around the world. The life work of Emeritus Harvard Professor Michael Jensen is reversing the adage that leaders are born, not made with the four foundations of great leadership.

    High-performance leadership isn’t just about virtues and right vs. wrong. Instead, Jensen says his four principles are absolutely essential to a leader’s own self-interest as well as the organization because all four bring joy, personal and professional value, trust, and workability.

    Jensen recently shared the four-tiered approach, “The Four Foundations of a Great Personal Life, Great Leadership, and a Great Organization” developed by Jensen and his co-author Werner Erhard, during interactive leadership seminars to executive audiences in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

    Lest you think Jensen’s approach is ambitious, consider this: Years of research proves his premise that it’s not enough to be knowledgeable about leadership or innovation; today’s business requirements demand 24/7 leadership as a natural state of being.

    It’s an observation that Insigniam management consultants see again and again with clients around the world: Successful leadership requires these four principles. (And if you have followers, you’re leading wrong.)

    Four foundations of great leadership

    During the seminars, Jensen shared the four foundations of great leadership — personally and professionally:

    1. Authenticity
    Be and act consistent with who you really are. But before you can get there, you have to be authentic about your “inauthenticities” to yourself and others.

    2. 100% Responsibility
    Take a stand and be responsive. However, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hold others accountable.

    3. Purpose
    Purpose gives drive and passion required to lead. It’s also why a leader is persistent, even when the path becomes tough.

    4. Integrity
    Honor your word, and when you don’t, resolve the matter honestly and quickly.

    The power of commitment

    These four foundations fuel perseverance. There will be many days when objectives aren’t met, when everything seems wrong, and help is not on the way.

    Jensen argues that a leader’s passion to be committed to something bigger than himself or herself provides the endurance to get through anything, and inspires others to adopt that quest as their own as well.

    Without that passion or realization of the future, organizations and people experience a profound lack of fulfillment, resulting in an “is this all there is?” crisis, leaving companies and employees disoriented, confused, unhappy, and uninspired. All the knowledge about leadership can’t turn that around. The leader committed to the future, however, is already addressing matters. Which one are you?

    Sponsored by Insigniam, an international management consulting company, Jensen’s presentations were hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce Thailand, the Thai Institute of Directors, and the American Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong.

    Are you a Breakthrough Leader? Evaluate your strengths with this assessment.

    The full Erhard-Jensen paper can be downloaded here.

  • Enterprise Transformation

    Today more than ever, there is a need to significantly alter the very fabric of their enterprise. Enterprise transformation.

  • 3 Levels of enterprise integrity your company can’t survive without

    Inside one company cafeteria, a handwritten sign above the stack of Styrofoam cups warns hot tea drinkers: “Adding Lemon May Damage The Integrity of This Cup.” Sounds formal, doesn’t it? The sign could simply say that acidic lemon juice may eat a hole in the cup, leaving readers to infer that hot tea could leak and seriously scald them.

    But the formal-sounding sign uses the word integrity the way that an engineer would define it: The state of being whole, lacking no component part. When applied to a business, corporation or global operation, that kind of integrity is essential.

    Sometimes, the slow erosion of enterprise integrity can start in small ways as seemingly harmless as that squeeze of lemon into a Styrofoam cup. One leak can lead to others. And before the business leaders know it, the enterprise isn’t functioning properly anymore.

    Enterprise Integrity

    With so much on the line, executives feel compelled to diligently guard the integrity of their enterprises. Such firm intent toward preserving integrity in all aspects of its enterprise can be contagious among an organization’s leadership.

    We encourage managers and executives to consider three levels of enterprise integrity:

    1. Maintaining basic organizational hygiene. Sounds clinical, but this idea gets at the notion of diligence about basic care — the daily to-dos essential to the health of the enterprise. They include:

    • Monitoring ethical behavior of leaders and employees alike in all dealings and interactions.
    • Staying true to promises or pledges to fellow leaders, employees, business partners, and customers.
    • Applying the standard of integrity to all written communications, standard operating procedures, promises for performance and results, and the like.

    2. Aligning operations with the enterprise intent. In this aspect of integrity, systems and processes are consistent with and support the business vision, strategy, principles, and values. And they should actually work. Too many times, processes seemingly work on paper and look fine in black and white. But ask employees about work-arounds and pain points, and they’ll often confess that what’s written doesn’t match reality. Getting real about what works and what doesn’t and having honest conversations about processes and systems can preserve or improve enterprise integrity.

    3. Watching conversations at the leadership level. Executives and managers can strive to keep their conversations — in the boardroom and in the break room — aligned with the enterprise values, principles, and vision. No game playing, finger pointing, or manipulation. Those tactics have a way of trickling down, and that’s how erosion can begin. It is “walk the talk” in its full meaning.

    In fact, this third level of integrity serves as the primary platform that allows an organization to achieve Breakthrough Performance rather than operating under a status-quo mentality. We define breakthroughs as unprecedented outcomes that lead to new possibilities for future results. An organization that generates breakthroughs in a reliable and consistent manner is an organization that has integrity in the truest sense — complete in form and function, as well as completely incorruptible.

    Keep the integrity conversation going; join the Insigniam Executive Forum LinkedIn group for insights and discussion from other executives and expert management consultants.