Forge A Business Ecosystem

The days of the self-sufficient and self-sustaining business are long gone. Business owners must recognize the need to join forces with other businesses in order to flourish.

Here is simple assumption for you to get your head around: Businesses will always seek to establish new types of partner relationships that clearly define mutual gain for the parties involved. Fairly straight-forward, right?

Of course it is! And, it’s because of this hypothesis that businesses of all sorts and sizes are forging new commercial arrangements with one another. As a result, immense networks of interdependent parties have emerged. In turn, each one of these forms unique ecosystems from which all of the member businesses benefit.

With the continual advancement of technology making inter-business bonding easier, you can be sure that the evolution of these New Economy Ecosystems will continue. That said, as a business owner you’ll need to see how and where you can fit. Here’s why:

Rationale for Ecosystem-Building

The game has changed. The days of the self-sufficient and self-sustaining businesses are long gone. The global marketplace requires businesses to establish highly integrated and cooperative relationships with one another. It rewards speed and flexibility.

Consequently, new inter-company relationships continue to be established in order to help firms respond to changes in their respective markets.

Businesses cannot afford to be an exception. Ecosystems seek to forge new types of relationships with their members that provide economies of scale and greater reach than can be achieved by any single entity on its own. Indeed, joining and contributing to larger ecosystems is essential to survival – especially for smaller businesses.

However, there are several implications that must be considered, including:

1. New strategies will need to be created that can leverage the opportunities that ecosystem participation offers.

2. Similarly, innovation will be a key driver for flourishing within one’s ecosystem. Thus, new ways of thinking and doing will need to be considered and implemented as opportunities to introduce new products and services emerge faster than ever before.

3. As a result, speed counts! Therefore, steps will need to be continually taken within every business to become more agile in order to keep up with the demands of ecosystem partners and their customers.

4. Businesses will have to work with a larger industry community, including competitors, in order to establish new kinds of business arrangements that work within the ecosystem. Exposure of one’s competitive strategies and protection of associated trade secrets will continue to be huge considerations when seeking advantages from ecosystem membership.

5. Existing contracts and agreements may need to be embellished and new rules created, in order to better support the re-definition of attendant business relationships.

6. Lower-level business managers must be on the “look-out” and be prepared to explore new ways of defining their firm’s relationships with the providers that they work with – continuing to be keenly aware of new opportunities to leverage existing partner relationships in novel ways to drive advantage.

7. Front-line staff will need to be trained in contract administration in order to better manage the business relationships that they are responsible for maintaining on behalf of their companies

There is no doubt that, as the new economy continues to evolve, it is imperative for business leaders, regardless of size, to actively seek-out opportunities to participate in broadening their reach and capabilities through participation in business ecosystems. They must recognize the need to join forces in a larger community of players to remain vital and prosperous in the years ahead.

To close, this article only touches the tip of the iceberg regarding business ecosystems. So, please feel free to continue to drive the discussion by offering your ideas and comments below or reach-out directly to me. It’s an important topic that deserves more attention.

C-Suite Tip Number 1 – Focus on Middle Management Leadership

Engage your middle management to secure your strategic success.

We all know about the pyramid structure. It’s a generic way to think about an enterprise and how most are organizationally design. Divided into three layers, the top layer of the pyramid is comprised of the senior-most leaders. These are the people responsible for setting strategic direction and guiding the enterprise towards its future. While certainly concerned with quarterly performance, the leaders at the top of the pyramid must also have a forward-thinking, “Where will we be in 5 years?” kind of mindset.

The middle layer of the pyramid is comprised of the middle management of the organization. These people must be able to interpret the strategic direction set forth by the senior leaders and translate it into actions that the units that report into them can understand and act upon. While these managers certainly care about strategy, their primary focus is this year. Can we do what we need to day this year to reach our goals and objectives?

The lower layer of the pyramid is comprised of supervisors and rank and file. This layer is responsible for execution. Their time frame is much different from the managers and senior leaders. Their point of reference is today. Can we do the work that must be done today, on-time and on-budget? And, they inherently understand, that they will suffer the consequences of poor performance, if they don’t.

So, when it comes time to roll-out your next key strategy, where do you begin? In the middle, of course!

The middle management team makes or breaks strategic execution! As mentioned, they’re the ones that must interpret the strategies and translate them into something that is actionable by the rank and file. If they fail to do this well, the organization falters, resources are squandered and, unfortunately, many times heads roll.

Here are 3 essential tips to get them on-board (and, by doing so, improve your chances for success in the launching your firm’s next strategic initiative):

  • Tell and Teach: Think about it, you’re asking your mid-tier managers to act as teachers. And, to teach well, they must first understand. So, commit to establishing the understanding that they’ll need to help the rest of your organization grasp and commit to your vision and strategic plan. Do all that you can to help them comprehend all of the content and nuances of those strategic elements so that they can do a bang up job of translating them for your people.
  • Jump-Start The Messaging: Don’t leave it up to your middle management to determine how they will go about the work of interpretation and translation for their teams. Instead, take the time to think about all of the implications and likely actions that you would want them and their people to tackle in helping the organization execute its strategies. Craft a template for them to use to deliver the message.
  • Orchestrate The Cascading: Once you equip your managers with the requisite know knowledge and messaging content they can begin to cascade the message throughout the rest of the organization. However, they may not do this in an disciplined and rigorous way. So, be sure to orchestrate cascading of the information by establishing a roll-out schedule that details when the managers will will do the work of strategic messaging.

After all, you want to make certain that all of your organization understands the company vision, strategies and, most importantly, their roles in the subsequent execution and achievement of your goals and objectives. If you can do this, you will have done your job.

To close, senior leaders need to focus on the middle of their organizations in order to achieve their strategic intentions. If you can engage the middle management, they will do the rest. If you don’t, your strategic execution will fall flat. It’s really as simple as that!

Note: If you like this article, which was published by Inc.com on October 31, 2016, please subscribe to my Inc. column.

Next Practices: How to Get to What Happens Next

Every organization flaunts their Best Practices. But, outstanding Companies define Next Practices – those things that set them apart in the short-term and define the standard of excellence for the long-term.

All of my strategy, culture and organizational design work over the years comes down to one thing – enabling my clients to differentiate themselves from their competitors so to dominate the markets that they serve. Consequently, the topic of industry best practices always comes up. Most leaders want to be sure that their organizations are remaining competitive within their industry. While the desire appears sound in principle, it’s flawed by design.

The fact is the adoption of industry best practices will only let you run with the pack. But, defining and adopting Next Practices will enable the breakthrough thinking needed to disrupt and redefine your markets. My firm has developed a framework for doing this. Let’s take a look at the 5 principles that makes up the framework needed to define your Next Practices.

1. Drop the de-facto culture and develop a Culture By Design: Don’t copy; create. Culture is a strategic imperative that must be created and transformed by design not by default. Be deliberate in creating a work environment that enables and empowers your team to achieve and exceed your firm’s vision.

2. Embrace your difference and focus more on offense than defense: Think opportunity management, not risk management. Think strategic investment, not cost containment. Know what you do better than the rest and use those leverage points to redefine the game.

3. Invigorate velocity by working past implementation concepts and focus on delivery strategies: Implementation is process, delivery is advantage. Establish a business mindset that believes in agility, velocity, and high impact delivery – impeccable product and service delivery has the power to differentiate your firm from all the rest.

4. Don’t just play the game, keep scoring: Move from long implementations to quick wins. Put points on the board and then look to score again. Velocity and momentum matter. Beat your competition on the future by setting the pace of play and exceeding your customer’s expectations.

5. Drive direction-setting and change through omnipresent leadership: Strategic success depends on critical mass commitment not forced compliance. Setting expectations is gamesmanship – aligning them is leadership. Be sure that your leaders understand your direction and are aligned with it. When leaders are aligned, they can be counted on to make the “right” decisions most of the time.

To close, this framework is only the beginning of doing the work that is needed to differentiate your firm from your competitors so you can dominate the markets that you serve. However, understanding and embracing this framework is essential to driving deep the changes that make a difference into your organization. Businesses that strive to do this are the ones that set the standard of excellence for everyone else. I hope that you consider leveraging this model when working to redefine how you do what you do.

NOTE: This piece was originally published by INC. on August 15, 2016.

Hurry! 10 New Inc. Magazine Playbook Video Shorts About Visionary Leadership

Here are 10 New Inc. Magazine Playbook Video Shorts Based on My Column about Visionary Leadership:

How to Avoid Mediocrity and Build a Winning Business
3 Easy Ways to Boost Productivity at Work
3 Secrets Your IT Department Is Hiding From You
3 Things You Need to Know to Manage a Team of Superstars
3 Steps You Can Take Today to Be a Visionary Leader
3 Simple Ways to Make the Most of Your Best Workers
3 Ways to Save Your Business From the ‘Fog of War’
3 Ways to Inspire Your Employees to Greatness
3 Ways Leaders Can Set the Right Tone
3 Ways to Create a Transparent Work Setting

Be sure to reach out to me, if I can help your business with any of these concepts!

Why Doing Good Is Actually Good for Business

This “Doing Good” Program shows that high integrity and strong corporate values drive terrific business outcomes.

There is a growing awareness that human capital and positive organizational dynamics are key to long-term business success. Happy employees drive harder than disgruntled ones and they proceed cautiously when trust is low and doubt is in the equation. For this reason, the clients that I work have found that staff engagement and employee satisfaction can only be built on a solid foundation based on impeccable values and high performance standards.

Knowing that great business solutions go with values, Arison Investments conducted a massive-scale implementation of its “Doing Good Model,” for 27,000 employees across more than 40 countries in its diversified portfolio of finance, real estate, infrastructure, renewable energy, water, and salt industries.

Chairman and CEO of Arison Investments, Efrat Peled, has this to say about the Doing Good Model program:

“Today, in order to manage and drive forward a flourishing business, you must place values and integrity at the core of the corporate DNA.”

“Business leaders that create the most impact empower champions on the ground, from mid-management top down and employees bottom-up. It’s all about connecting to meaning, rather than execution. For example, at Arison Investments employees on all levels voluntarily participate in cross-organizational forums that serve as incubators for values-based entrepreneurship.”

“Success should be driven by people identifying with the company’s backbone of values. This will give employees on all levels the opportunity and go-ahead to innovate, which is an intrinsic compensation built into doing something you are passionate about.”

“Ethical business conduct and peak performance go hand in hand. Economic stability can only be reached through investments in the business that bring positive impact on all levels of the organizations.”

“Committing to a long-term strategy inspires unexpected solutions that are unique and practical. Bank Hapoalim, Arison’s financial services group, focused its vision on the value of Financial Freedom, and leveraged its leadership to set into motion transformative processes in the entire market, including its Small Businesses Initiative that resulted in increased nation-wide growth for small and medium-sized businesses — which, in turn, drove growth opportunities for the business.”

Here are some of the early results from the effort:

  • At Bank Hapoaim, the share price appreciated +63% with a compounded annual growth rate of 13.5%. Further, it has been ranked #1 in peer group among the most actively traded stocks on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange
  • At Shikun & Binui, the share price appreciated +28% in the last 5 years, with a net profit of 8.5%, revenue growth of 6% and a cumulative cash dividend of $454 million.

As these examples show, business leaders that drive high values and integrity into their company culture will perform better than ones that choose not to. There is no magic here, though! Cultural transformation requires deliberate effort and constant nurturing. However, dividends on the investment can be worth the effort.

This article was originally published by inc.com on November 2, 2015.

Leadership or Management? 10 Important Distinctions That Can Help You Out

There’s a difference between leadership and management. Understanding these 10 key differences can improve your abilities to lead and to manage.

Last week’s article The Leadership Checklist: 10 Principles That Make Leading Easier, generated some interesting thoughts as shared through various social media outlets. Many readers tended to hone in on the point made in the piece about the difference between leadership and management.

As you may recall, I had noted:

“There’s a difference between leadership and management. Leaders look forward and imagine the possibilities that the future may bring in order to set direction. Managers monitor and adjust today’s work, regularly looking backward to ensure that current goals and objectives are being met. The best leaders lead and let their management teams manage the work at hand.”

Because of the interest, I thought I would explore the point a bit more in this article.

Clearly, there is a symbiotic relationship between those responsible for leading a business and those responsible for managing the work within it. While managers can certainly lead and leaders can certainly manage, the skills required to be good at either one are separate and distinct.

What follows are ten of the most important distinctions to note. Regardless of which role you currently play, understanding these key differences between leading and managing may help you become better at your job:

1. Leadership inspires change, management manages transformation.

A leader must set direction and inspire people to follow them. The process of following often requires great change. This is where strong management comes in. It’s the manager’s job to oversee the work needed to implement the necessary changes and realize the organizational transformation set forth by the leadership.

2. Leadership requires vision, management requires tenacity.

A leader needs to envision what the business is to become. A great manager must have the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve the goals set forth by the leader.

3. Leadership requires imagination, management requires specifics.

A great leader can cultivate their imagination to inform their vision. It helps them to “see” what can be. Managers must understand that vision and drive their teams to do the specific work necessary to accomplish what has been expressed.

4. Leadership requires abstract thinking, management requires concrete data.

By definition, abstract thinking enables a person to make connections among, and see patterns within, seemingly unrelated information. The ability to think abstractly comes in very handy when reimaging what an organization can become. Conversely, a manager must be able to work with, and analyze, concrete data in order to ensure optimal results.

5. Leadership requires ability to articulate, management requires ability to interpret.

A good leader can describe their vision in vivid detail so to engage and inspire their organization to pursue it. A good manager must interpret that stated vision and recast it in terms that their teams can understand and embrace it.

6. Leadership requires an aptitude to sell, management requires an aptitude to teach.

A leader must sell their vision to their organization and its stakeholders. They must convince all concerned parties that what is envisioned is achievable and provides greater value than what is created by the business today. In keeping, a manager must be able to teach their teams what must be learned and adapted to attain the stated vision.

7. Leadership requires understanding of the external environment, management requires understanding of how work gets done inside the organization.

A leader must understand the business environment in which the enterprise operates so to better anticipate opportunities and evade misfortune, while a manager is relied on to figure out how to get things done using the resources available to the business.

8. Leadership requires risk-taking, management requires self-discipline.

A leader will take educated risks when setting a strategic direction for a business. Managers must have the self-discipline to stick to the plan for realizing that strategic direction so to ensure that the strategy comes together as planned.

9. Leadership requires confidence in the face of uncertainty, management requires blind commitment to completing the task at hand.

A leader’s life is filled with uncertainty. They’re setting a course for their company in unchartered waters. Once the course is set, managers are duty-bound to follow the stated direction and commit to delivering the results expected.

10. Leadership is accountable to the entire organization, management is accountable to the team.

Finally, leaders must consider the impact of their decisions on the whole organization. A misstep can bring an entire business to its knees. It’s a huge responsibility. Accordingly, managers are responsible for their teams. They must ensure that their teams are prepared to deliver and that each member is equipped to do what is required for success.

Indeed, there are important differences between leading and managing. The best leaders lead and let others manage; the best managers understand their leader’s vision and work with their teams to achieve it. Your business needs people with both kinds of skills and aptitudes to secure enduring success. Take the time to understand these differences so to build an organization that leverages each to the fullest.

This article was originally published by inc.com on August 10, 2015.

Tune-In to the Rebroadcast of SiriusXM’s Innovation Navigation

If you missed me on today’s segment of Innovation Navigation on SiriusXM’s , no worries.Innonavi Logo

You can tune-in to the Rebroadcast of SiriusXM’s Innovation Navigation on SiriusXM’s Channel 111 as follows:

  • Wednesday @ 2PM ET
  • Thursday @ 12PM ET
  • Saturday @ 2AM ET
  • Sunday @ 7PM ET

On the show, I discuss key points from my book with host Dave Robertson.  We explored how a business leader works to foster continued innovation in the company. We contrasted JCPenny and DreamWorks as an example of differing cultures as drawn from The Executive Checklist. We examined differences in management structures – hierarchical versus new flat models at W.L. Gore and Valve Software – and freelancer-rich operational models.

You won’t want to miss it!