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.

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.

On Leadership: 10 Principles That Make Leading Easier

Here are 10 ideas that today’s busy leaders can embrace to enhance their ability to set direction and manage change.

How did you come up with 10 Principles That Make Leading Easier?  I have dedicated my career to working with senior leadership teams and helping them to devise the strategies, organizational designs and operating models needed to better set direction and manage change. From all of this work, regardless of industry, staff size or revenue, these 10 leadership principles have proven to be the common denominators that can separate winning organizations from the “also ran’s” with whom they compete:

  1. The best leaders lead and let others manage: 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.
  2. The best leaders inspire: Once the direction is set, the best leaders socialize their visions for tomorrow and work to inspire their colleagues to work with them to achieve it. This is done by both words and action–inspiring confidence and commitment among the people of whom they are entrusted to lead.
  3. The best leaders promote “In it together” as way of life: They understand that us versus them” can be a powerful motivator. The best leaders leverage this by promoting the concept that they and their staff members are “all in it together” in defeating the competition and delighting our customers.
  4. The best leaders never work alone: Instead, camaraderie and trust is purposely forged by working with others on their management team to drive change and deliver outcomes. Stated another way, they’re not above getting their hands dirty to get the job done.
  5. The best leaders build and leverage leaders from within: Regardless of reporting lines,the best leaders are constantly in search of other leaders from within their organizations to develop and cultivate. They want to establish network of that they can collaborate with and engage in active direction-setting.
  6. The best leaders tackle the “tough” stuff: They’re not afraid to address the least pleasant aspects of setting direction and managing change. They inherently understand that there is a possibility that not everyone is prepared to make the journey to wherever they are leading, and consequently, they are willing to address the implications that come with that reality–whatever they may be.
  7. The best leaders take educated risks: Risk-taking is an often overlooked part of leading. But, with it comes immense responsibility. Take the wrong risks and it could mean lost jobs and livelihoods. So, “educated” risk-taking (ones based on experiences and training) becomes an art form among the best leaders among us.
  8. The best leaders enable success: They knock-down roadblocks and empower people to do whatever it takes to deliver results–paving the way for success and accomplishment among the people of whom they lead.
  9. The best leaders shift their cultures from ones of Entitlement to ones of Mutual Accountability: The “buck stops here” for among the best leaders. They are accountable and expect the same among their people. Gone are the days where seniority and title are rewarded. Rather, a commitment to upholding commitments is what the best leaders seek in their team members.
  10. The best leaders reward success, not effort: Working diligently without achievement is worth little when compared to any level of effort that yields demonstrative results. Thus, the best leaders pursue and reward results–paying little attention to effort or aspiration.

To close, it is my hope that you use this checklist, referring to it often over time, as you go about your personal leadership journey. It can serve to ensure you that you’re doing all that you can to be the kind of leader that inspires the best effort in your people, while driving the desired results that consistently keeps your organization in the winner’s circle.

This piece was originally published in inc.com on August 3, 2015.

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!

3 Strategic Planning Elements That Make Businesses Successful

Re-imagining the city of the future

A century ago, as one immigrant population after another made its way to America in search of a better life, their destinations were our country’s burgeoning cities. This was where they could build their desired quality of life — they would make friends, educate their children in nearby schools and find good jobs there. Everything they needed to make their lives whole was there, beneath the steeples and spires and growing skylines…Read more:

Re-imagining the city of the future

Published in the Hartford Business Journal earlier in the week.  If you live, work or play in a city you just may get something out of this one!

Be sure to share it on Twitter, if you like it…Thanks.

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!