Wear Khaki… join the resistance (lead from the middle)

There are those in organizations who have the opportunity, vision and passion to drive advancement and change. Those who don’t wait until they have been given the title and clear mandate to do so. Those who do it for the right reasons. If you’re one of those people, I salute you. I call these people the resistance.

They are the people who fight for stronger corporate performance because they believe is the right thing to do, regardless of whether they get paid more to do it. They fix things that others complain about, they take recommendations forward, they see opportunities that others don’t see, they educate and maintain transparency so that others can join in the success, they integrate with other teams and don’t turf protect because they know that the concept of ONE TEAM is the only way it can happen. Credibility is their key to success.

This isn’t to be confused by people who are out to make a mark on the company for personal gain, those who leverage other people’s work for their own benefit and don’t share the spotlight.

The most long-time mentor I’ve had in my career was a member of the resistance. She was someone who always fought to make things better, because her strong personal values and work ethic demanded it. I continue to be surrounded by brave, intelligent folks who are willing to go the distance. These are the people who make the world a better place.

How are you making the world a better place? What are you fighting for?

Performance planning time: Do it right!

It’s performance planning season again in many organizations. What is the purpose of your performance plan? How do you write it?

Some people write to the level they can get away with in terms of minimal action, while others write to the maximum amount of change their organization will let them lead in a single year (so they don’t lose everyone else). What kind of plan do you write? Assuming that you maintain a consistent focus on the plan all year long, this is a highly important step in the success of your career.

As a base assumption behind your plan… there’s one principle that always guarantees success: make your clients look like rock stars. Do it in a way that allows them to get the glory for it too. If your client base is the executive team, your job is to make them look like rock stars in front of the board, and the organization. If your client base is a series of middle management, make them look like rock stars in front of the exec team. When the strategy behind the tactics is set with this kind of focus in mind, it really takes your behaviors to the next level.

There is plenty of opportunity to go around when success abounds, and this is how you make yourself valuable.

The importance of managing intangible assets / emergent properties in planning

Emergent properties is the theoretical position that often times complex phenomena have features that can’t be explained by the individual components or simple interactions. The sum is more than that of the parts. I love this theory, because it reminds me of organizations that literally take an idea in someone’s head and do what no one around them seems to be able to do in the market, sometimes with fewer resources. Sometimes out of nowhere they come along and change the world, and nowhere is this more recently evident than in the field of technology.

Back to the theory, take for example the human brain, and the concept of consciousness. Does a complete understanding of neural functionality explain the concept and resulting outputs of consciousness? It certainly seems like there is something going on at a different level. My belief is that you can’t explain everything based on just what is tangibly evident. In some ways this is like explaining the success Apple computers has with a 70%+ Net Promoter Score and disciples the world over with just financial statements and operational reports. The statements you make may well be true, but don’t speak to the whole picture. And now to the first point I’d like to make: Intangible assets have as much of an effect on causality as the tangible, usually more.

Opposing the theory of emergent properties are those who ascribe to reductionism. Reductionism asserts that understanding of all complex systems can be completely understood in terms of the individual components. The world needs these people too, because what is learned through this type of research is often invaluable. It’s like a debate between scientific and a religious perspective… I think we need both. I believe that intangible assets demand the same level of attention as do the tangible, and yet most often the dimensions of a business that can’t easily be measured doesn’t receive a fraction of the attention that the financials do.

Another phenomenon that most reminds me of the emergent property theory is the groundswell of energy and motivation that occurs in employees and customers in companies with great strategy, vision, communication and resolve. Everyone works the same number of hours per day and yet you can feel the environment shifting and the energy building. Conversations naturally change, and the anticipation of success builds.

Leading indicators like customer perspectives on the importance and performance of various aspects of your brand may require more work to gain, but the decision making power that results is no less important than your projected income statement.

Insatiable desire for stronger business performance

There is a natural tension within organizations between those who relentlessly want to push ahead to achieve greater levels of performance, those who proceed more cautiously and those who want to maintain status quo (revel in old success).

Those who constantly push ahead often need get frustrated with those who move more methodically, and vice versa. Those who fight to maintain status quo are often frustrated with everyone else (who feel they are being pushed).

Planning comes most easily to those who engage the future, and bend it to their will. Relentlessly future focused management see planning as the only way to accomplish their goals, and strategy is their primary tool for making this happen. Planning is second nature, because they constantly see opportunity, and use planning primarily to organize and prioritize all of the ideas that come to them. Regular reviews of strategy are the obvious course and they constantly reinvent their lines of business.

Status quo managers struggle with planning. They often need to experience a degree of fear of lost relevance or have it forced on them from upper management before they will undertake this activity. It’s tough slugging because opportunity doesn’t occur to them in the same way. These people generally are rooted in the present operations. Their plans tend to focus on operational improvements, and are less opportunity based.

Organizations need balance, so those in the middle of the spectrum often balance those who are relentlessly engaging the future. The value they bring to the table is often a methodical voice of reason that reminds the organization to not lose the people that work in that organization.