Do You Have A Flight Plan?

This has to be one of the most beautifully written posts I've ever read - Lt. Col. Fritz's consistent winsome wisdom astounds me - so read this - please - and reread it and share it.... 

"Its 9:45am at Chicago’s O’Hare International Terminal as American Airlines Flight 1693 hums patiently at Gate K18 on the snow-covered ramp as passengers take their seats.  In seat 27E of the Boeing 737-800 sits 8-year old Jim Nelson—excited and eager for his first airplane flight.  His parents have done a great job keeping the destination a secret as they place their bags in the overhead compartment and smile knowingly to one another while buckling up on either side of him"... Read the rest here....

 

Communication Is Not A Fairy-Tale

"Once upon a time, NYFM (Not-Your-Father’s-Manufacturer), a very old,
established company, decided they needed to drastically change in order to grow and be around many more decades.  So, they created a highly disruptive ‘bet-your-career’ strategic plan.  And they lived happily ever after." Believe that? Maybe Fairy Tales do come true.... 
Communication is Not A Fairy Tale is part of the series “Communication,” a weeklong effort co-hosted by Switch & Shift and the good people at SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership.  

 

Strangulation Of The Status Quo - Lessons from the 19th Century

In light of the recent unrest in Turkey, Brasil and the ongoing effects of the Arab Spring, I thought this was worth reposting...

If you haven’t seen the [new] Les Misérables movie you should. It powerfully portrays many of today’s issues: poverty, inequality and inequity, the struggle of self-organized groups versus command-and-control and liberty to name a few. Most profoundly, it speaks to the overwhelming and dangerous hold of the status quo on our minds and souls.

The battle between the new and the status quo is epitomized in the relationship between Javert, a policeman ingrained the life of Law and Order, and Valjean, a reformed ex-con who through grace and freedom has become a just and caring businessman in the community. Javert, unable to receive Valjean’s grace and freedom, actually kills himself instead of accepting a world where compassion and understanding counterbalance the rule of Law, a world most of us prefer.

So what does this have to do with business? A lot. On first blush, the lesson is the stranglehold of the status quo binding us to the present, and past, so we are unable to see the benefits of anything different. The present may not even be great, but we know it and how to deal with it.

Change is scary, threatening. We will have to learn new things and maybe we won’t be able to. Then what? It also means risk, risk means failure and failure is punished. None of these options are good.

So what do we, our people, our organizations do? We shut down. We show up, do our jobs, follow policies and procedures and check our hearts, souls and even minds at ‘the door’. We know what that does to growth, profitability and purpose!

On a deeper level, it highlights the death throws of a binary world so many of us cling to: yes and no, either or, good and evil, America vs. the USSR.

The new world is grey. It requires integrating disparate ideas, accepting paradoxes, looking for the And Both instead of Either Or, combining things in new ways. . . which leads to freedom, to innovation and growth and solutions to real customer needs and wicked problems.

It leads to loosening some of the harsh, unjust shackles of the Law through Compassion. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to live in a black and white world where we know the rules, we know what’s expected, the probability of failure is much lower.

That binary world doesn’t exist anymore and actually, never did. It was an illusion that lasted a century. Increasingly, we define our jobs, blur lines of responsibility, integrate once discrete disciplines (e.g., design and engineering), and experiment and iterate instead of perfect. While a grey world may be scary to some, it unleashes innovation and new ways to realize profits that can create meaningful outcomes.

Javert’s Suicide Soliloquy shows the glaring self-destruction inherent in status quo’s black and white world – a world so stark that Javert views freedom as another chain (“hold dominion”) and chooses death:

What sort of devil is he [Valjean] to have me caught in a trap and choose to let me go free…

Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life!

Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief! Damned if I’ll yield at the end of a chase…

How can I now allow this man to hold dominion over me…

He gave me my life. He gave me my freedom…

And must I now being to doubt, who never doubted all these years?

The world I have known is lost in shadow

So what does this mean to us? Hopefully, none of us will hold so desperately to the status quo that’d we’d rather literally die than adapt. Make sure your organization's culture doesn't either.

This originally appeared in Tanveer Naseer's Blog

Why Is It So Hard to Execute?

Why is it so hard to Execute?

Ok, we all know that, compared to execution, creating the strategic plan is cake.  So why is executing so darn hard?  This a huge issue and given our economic situation, it's even more critical (remember the adage, I'd rather have a B plan with A execution than an A plan with B execution?)

So why is this so hard - well, not sure how wired our brains are for execution in the first place.  As humans, we tend to focus on the here and now - the present - the crisis du jour, what's in front of us, the day to day.  It's harder to focus on the longer-term that is a bit less ‘tangible' and more ‘abstract'.  Let's face it, how many of us keep New Year's resolutions?  Perhaps it's just how we are.  But, that's no excuse, is it!

In my experience at AT&T, a few startups I was involved in, and of course my terrific clients, lack of execution boils down to, yup, CULTURE! In looking back, there usually wasn't an Execution-Oriented Culture.  Why? There are lots of reasons but one I see a lot, as strange as this may sound, is a underlying lack of confidence that they can really execute - the rationale includes the lack of certain skills, lack of more information, lack of confidence the plan is right in the first place - second-guessing - mostly themselves vs. the outside world.  The "We don't have what it takes to make this happen" is usually based on no history or habit of execution.  Senior management doesn't have a good track record; there's no budget, money, resources (by the way, budget follows the strategy; now economic situations may change, and if so, then you need to revisit the strategies and tactics and change them for the changed world)

So how does this cultural ‘deficit' happen? The usual ways.  There isn't clear ownership for execution overall and pieces and parts - and I'd bet that there isn't a clear sense of accountability in lots of areas in the organization, so why should this be different? Also, let's face it, people's natural tendency is to resist change (lots of research in this area).  In order to overcome this, get people involved, get their buy in - by participating in the planning, by management communicating (over and over and over) the need for the strategic direction and showing employees how they can help and support the plan and what it means for them.

What happens if you don't execute? Well, you know the rest.  The point is, while execution is hard, it's not impossible, it's not insurmountable and in fact it can become a habit that creates collaboration, increases teamwork, and in fact, increases innovation (no, that's not an oxymoron).

What have you seen as the biggest obstacles to execution?

 

175 Years of Innovation Lessons

Suffice it to say I was honored my friend Chris Thoen would agree to talk about P&G’s Open Innovation history at the 3rd Open Innovation (OI) Summit at BW’s Center for Innovation & GrowthPractical Challenges of Global Open Innovation.  Chris has been interviewed, quoted, written about extensively as a leader in OI, and for good reason.

He opened with P&G’s 175yr old history OI.  Two brother-in-laws, William Procter (candle maker) and James Gamble (soap maker), using the same raw material, fats, were encouraged by their father-in-law to collaborate to get better ‘fat’ pricing! This was the start of P&G in 1837.  They grew the company with their own innovations and through (un-named at the time) open innovation with other technology makers and companies.  These partnerships were the foundation of P&G’s growth into 300 brands in over 180 countries, 24 billion dollar brands and most importantly, one of the most trusted names in the world.

About 10 years ago, CEO A. G. Lafley transformed P&G’s open innovation heritage into a key cultural component of the company –Connect+Develop (C+D).   This wasn’t just a way to come up with new products, but a fundamentally new way to do business.  Lafley challenged P&G to source at least 50% of their innovation from outside its hallowed R&D halls.

Chris clearly described OI as an ongoing journey requiring recognition and investment in top talent and external synergies.  When done well, OI is all about value creation for both partners, with both sets of interests in mind.  It’s about sharing your expertise and strategic needs of your brands, businesses, even corporately.  To do this, P&G has developed and put 70+ C+D leaders around the globe with 11 regional hubs (e.g., NA, LA, Europe, Israel, China, India, Japan), 100s of networks and academic partnerships.

Several products you may know are a result of OI: Swiffer, Tide, Mr. Clean eraser (1 of my faves).   Clorox’s Glad ForceFlexproduct is based on a P&G licensed technology.  Sometimes, you can even collaborate with your competitors! P&G’s technology and IP have created $3B in sales for their OI partners.

So what has P&G learned on this 10+ year journey?

  1. Drive from the Top:  Without Lafley’s challenge, commitment and leadership as CEO, it couldn’t have taken hold corporate-wide.
  2. Build an OI culture: You have to support and learn from failure, communicate openly (and often) to build trust, help your people understand the innovation process and consistently reward partnerships and results, not just patents.
  3. Focus the Hunt: Keep your eyes on the strategy at all times!  It’s what guides you; build internal relationships by sharing needs and goals; manage leadership’s expectations for reality, not for fantasy; create and communicate clear innovation selection and filtering criteria.
  4. Be Where the Action Is: get out of Cincinnati (or wherever)! You need to be where the innovation is happening and the markets exist – like developing markets, areas of VC activity, Social Media, SMEs, Academia/Universities and places with diverse expertise, cultures, ideas.
  5. Build Efficient and Effective Knowledge Management Systems: Track connections among your own people, capturing their knowledge and experience partnership nuances, deals so they are not repeated, saving time and money.  Include your partners, networks, and competitors while protecting your IP and create a way to visualize and analyze these intertwined relationships.
  6. Obey the Law of the Land: Take what you need, only what you need, and leave the rest.  Share what you’re not using because it may find a great application in another home
  7. Staff for Success: Hire and train a unique blend of Hunter-Gatherer.  This is not a typical person, but you may already have them – people who have expertise in a technology with business acumen with the ability to develop relationships, influence people, inside and outside your company.  Deliberately hire for this.  And, keep investing in R&D – doing OI doesn’t mean closing down your own R&D.
  8. Be the Partner You’re Looking For: The Golden Rule!  Celebrate your partners, look beyond the first deal with them, facilitate more connections for you and them, keep that Win:Win mindset front and center and be transparent because a second (third, fourth…) deal with the same partner takes about half the time while creating twice the value.  Remember, strong partners make you stronger as well.

Bottom line? P&G has created more value together with their OI partners than they ever could have alone.  It is a real ecosystem that creates value on a global scale to accomplish P&G’s mission: “…improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come.”

Ok, so maybe you’re not P&G, but you can still start the journey.   What do you need? What do you have to offer? Who could you partner with? Just start small, doesn’t have to be huge, just a step.  Give it a try.