How to establish global presence, then achieve and sustain a competitive advantage
As Jeffrey Garten explains in the Foreword, this Second Edition offers “not only updates, not only new examples, and not only a more confident analysis. There are three entirely new chapters.” Given all that has happened since the first edition (2001), these are indeed welcome additions. Anil Gupta, Vijay Govindarajan, and Haiyan Wang focus on four tasks essential for any company to emerge and stay as the globally dominant player within its industry:
1. “One, people must ensure that their company leads the industry in identifying new marketing opportunities worldwide and in pursuing these opportunities by establishing the necessary presence in all key markets.”
2. “Two, people must work relentlessly to convert global presence into global competitive advantage.”
3. “Three, people must cultivate a global mindset.”
4. “Four, in developing global strategies, people must take full account of the rapid growth of emerging markets, in particular the rise of China and India.”
As the co-authors would be the first to acknowledge, it is quite easy to offer prescriptions such as these. Presumably they agree with Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” After briefly but precisely identifying the “what” of “transforming global presence into global competitive advantage,” the authors devote the bulk of their attention to explaining the “how.” They intended that their book be broad in its coverage of issues relating to the creating and exploiting of global presence, and, that each chapter would focus on a specific action-oriented issue such as building global presence, cultivating a global mindset, or the dynamics of global business teams.
While citing real-world initiatives by several dozen exemplary companies (e.g. Cisco Systems, FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Ikea, Marriott, Microsoft, Nucor, Procter & Gamble, and Wal-Mart), the authors address key questions, issues, and challenges such as these:
• Which five imperatives drive the pursuit of global expansion?
• Under which conditions is accelerated global expansion more appropriate?
• When location decisions are made, which criteria should be considered?
• Which four factors drive the speed with which to cultivate a global mindset?
• What are the most common barriers to effective and efficient knowledge transmission?
• What are the primary reasons for the failure of a global business team (GBT)?
• How to overcome communication barriers within a global organization?
• What is a “two-track strategy” and why should it be executed in both China and India?
Gupta, Govindarajan, and Wang are to be commended on the wealth of information they provide and, especially, on the rigor of their analysis of that information. All three are pragmatists. What has worked for other global companies that have transformed their global presence into global competitive advantage? What lessons can be learned from those initiatives? In this context, I am reminded of what Peter Drucker once observed: “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”
All of the observations and suggestions that Gupta, Govindarajan, and Wang include throughout their narrative share a single purpose: To guide and inform the process by which correct decisions can be made, decisions that will address what not to do as well as what to do. Although their book is a “must read” for C-level executives in companies that seek to transform their global presence into competitive advantage, I think it should also be read by C-level executives in other (non-global) organizations that are within the supply/value chain of those companies.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jon Katzenbach and Ashley Harshak for strategy+business magazine. To read the complete article, check out an abundance of valuable resources, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
* * *
Stop blaming your culture and start using it instead — to reinforce and build the new behaviors that will give you the high-performance company you want.
When Alfred M. (Al) Gray Jr. became commandant (the highest-ranking officer) of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1987, most knowledgeable observers believed that the Corps’s fabled “warrior spirit” culture was already damaged beyond repair. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Corps had grown from its historic level of 75,000 regulars to more than 200,000, and its values and discipline had eroded. It would have been easy for Gray to blame the damaged organizational culture for the problems he inherited, and to launch a formal, full-scale change initiative. But instead, he began to praise and seek out elements of the old Corps culture, such as its ethic of mutual respect. For example, he regularly slipped into the mess halls without insignia, so he would be served the same meals as the privates. To this day, Al Gray is the only Marine Corps commandant portrayed in battle fatigues in his formal portrait in the Pentagon. He is one of the most respected leaders in the Marines’ 250-year history.
Leaders like Gray understand the value of an organization’s culture. This can be defined as the set of deeply embedded, self-reinforcing behaviors, beliefs, and mind-sets that determine “how we do things around here.” People within an organizational culture share a tacit understanding of the way the world works, their place in it, the informal and formal dimensions of their workplace, and the value of their actions. Though it seems intangible, the culture has a substantial influence on everyday actions and on performance.
Organizational cultures don’t change very quickly. Therefore, if you are seeking change in your company or institution, you are most likely to succeed using your existing culture to help you change the behaviors that matter most. Bit by bit, as these new behaviors prove their value through business results, the culture you have can evolve into the culture you need.
Blame and Its Alternatives
When a new leader’s strategy puts the culture of a company at risk, the culture will trump the strategy, almost every time. There are good reasons for this. Every company’s identity — the body of capabilities and practices that distinguish it and make it effective — is grounded in the way people think and behave. Deeply embedded cultural influences tend to persist; they change far more slowly than marketplace factors, and cause significant morale problems when not addressed effectively. When your strategy and culture clash visibly, more likely than not, the culture is trying to tell you something about your own leadership philosophy.
But many leaders overlook this message. They blame the company’s culture for the resistance they encounter. In the most extreme cases, they assume an explicit mandate for wholesale cultural change. This leads them to remove key leaders and old practices, restructure operations, set in place new rewards and promotions, and announce other across-the-board programmatic changes. This approach is costly, disruptive, and risky. Moreover, it takes years to accomplish. Working in a culture that is under attack reduces employees’ energy and de-motivates them. It may require a major marketplace or economic disruption to get people to buy in. Clearly, this is not a game for the faint of heart. Worst of all, it is rarely successful; few major corporate transformations, especially those involving a wholesale change in the culture, achieve their intended performance goals.
Alternatively, leaders may try to ignore their culture and act as if it isn’t important. But when overlooked, the hidden power of a company’s culture can thwart any leader’s strategic aspirations. No matter how many top-down directives you issue, they will rarely be executed, at least not with the emotional commitment and consistency needed to make them successful.
This is not to say that your existing culture is sacrosanct. Indeed, many companies need some kind of culture change. There are passive-aggressive cultures where people routinely fail to follow through on their agreements, creative but undisciplined cultures where talented people pull in different directions, and highly politicized bureaucratic cultures that must bear the expense of their heavy-handed management style.
But when you fight your culture head-on or ignore it altogether during a change initiative, you lose the chance of reviving some of the attitudes and behaviors that once made your company powerful — and might do so again. Several studies (including one conducted by Booz & Company and the Bertelsmann Foundation in 2004) suggest a correlation between financial results and a strong, inspiring organizational culture. The correlation is hardly surprising; after all, cultures influence and energize the behaviors that matter most. Procter & Gamble, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Tata, Starbucks, and FedEx are among the household-name companies noted for unique cultures that contribute significantly to their competitive advantage.
Fortunately, there is an effective, accessible way to deal with cultural challenges. Don’t blame your culture; use it purposefully. View it as an asset: a source of energy, pride, and motivation. Learn to work with it and within it. Discern the elements of the culture that are congruent with your strategy. Figure out which of the old constructive behaviors embedded in your culture can be applied to accelerate the changes that you want. Find ways to counterbalance and diminish other elements of the culture that hinder you. In this way, you can initiate, accelerate, and sustain truly beneficial change — with far less effort, time, and expense, and with better results, than many executives expect.
Edgar H. Schein, author of The Corporate Culture Survival Guide (rev. ed., Jossey-Bass, 2009) and a leading authority on organizational culture, tells a story that illustrates the unexpected leverage this approach offers. (See “A Corporate Climate of Mutual Help,” by Art Kleiner and Rutger von Post, s+b, Spring 2011.) Three senior executives of a large manufacturing company — the CEO, chief operating officer (COO), and head of organizational development — visited him, seeking advice on building a more dynamic culture. “Just yesterday,” said the COO,
“I had my regular meeting with subordinates. We have a big circular room, and everybody sits in the same place each time. But get this — only four people were present this time, and they still sat at the far ends of this great big table. Do you see what I’m up against?”
“What did you do about it?” asked Schein.
The executives responded at first with blank stares. Then they realized they were part of the system they were blaming. The COO could have made a small but significant change simply by asking the four of them to move their chairs. Better yet, he could ask the full team to vary their seating at the next meeting. The executives spent the next several hours figuring out other minor actions of that sort, which they put in place the following week, with great success.
Myths of Culture Change
Why don’t corporate leaders naturally respond to culture in this productive way? Because of several myths about culture change that have become prevalent in the business world. Each of these assumptions leads to treacherous pitfalls.
• “Our culture is the root of all our problems.” This becomes an all-purpose, convenient excuse for performance shortfalls. “Our process-oriented culture inhibits collaboration,” managers say. Or “our long-standing beliefs about nurturing people make us coddle weak performers.” Underlying this myth is a view that attitudes and beliefs shape people’s behavior. This view ignores the realities of organizational culture. As we’ll see, behavior can influence beliefs at least as much as the other way around.
• “We don’t really know how to change our culture, so let’s escape it.” There’s a long tradition, going back to Lockheed Aircraft’s Skunk Works in the 1940s, of creating pockets of entrepreneurial activity for high-performance results. These are explicitly intended to operate outside the prevailing culture. They may thrive for a few years, but they are typically treated as outliers by the rest of the company. Eventually, they are either spun off or absorbed back into the mainstream, succumbing to the company’s cultural malaise. “Our culture kills even our most innovative efforts” thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. One of the most famous of these efforts was General Motors’ ill-fated Saturn brand, modeled after the culture of Japanese automakers and set up to run separately and independently — but eventually overtaken by GM’s culture.
• “Leave culture to the people professionals.” Executives with an engineering, finance, or technology background often feel ill-equipped to deal with cultural issues. They delegate them to their human resources, organizational development, or communications teams. “It’s all about the ‘soft’ side,” say the executives. “We have to improve our employee engagement scores.” But the quality of the culture is as much a product of the “hard” side of the organization (strategies, structures, processes, and programs) as it is of the soft side (beliefs, opinions, feelings, networks, and communities of common interest). Although your internal professionals can measure and monitor behavior as well as advise line management on culture issues, they cannot motivate, execute, or implement strategic or performance imperatives. Ensuring behavior change that drives competitive advantage is the role of line leaders at multiple levels.
• “Culture is the job of the top leaders.” It is very powerful when the CEO and other top executives take explicit personal accountability for the company’s culture. But senior leaders cannot change cultures by themselves. They operate at such a large scale, and with such broad visibility, that they cannot directly motivate people to implement the specific practices and behaviors that are required. To succeed with a culture intervention, top leaders need the support of many leaders down the line — particularly those who have daily contact with the people whose behavior change is most critical.
Sometimes, this myth manifests itself at the board level. Directors assume that the only way to improve performance is to replace the current CEO with another top leader who can bring forth a new and better culture. Because they are looking for someone who promises major change, the company inevitably gets a full-scale culture overhaul — with all the expense, risk, disruption, and likely failure involved.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Reprint No. 11108
Jon Katzenbach is a senior partner with Booz & Company. Based in New York, he leads the Katzenbach Center, which focuses on innovative ideas in leadership, organization, culture, and human capital. He is the author or coauthor of nine books, including Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the (In)Formal Organization, Energize Your Team, and Get Better Results (with Zia Khan; Jossey-Bass, 2010).
Ashley Harshak is a London-based partner with Booz & Company. He is part of the firm’s organization, change, and leadership practice, with a focus on the public sector and financial services.
Stelzner is author of the popular book Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged and has written more than 100 white papers for corporations such as Microsoft, HP, SAP, Motorola, FedEx, Monster and Cardinal Health. He is also the executive editor of the 20,000-reader WhitePaperSource Newsletter. Click here to visit his website.
Note: The following interview was conducted two years ago.
Morris: What’s the background on white papers? Were they not originally government documents?
Stelzner: That is correct. They started in Parliament way back in the early 1900s. The most popular white paper was the Winston Churchill white paper. It addressed political conflict in Palestine. Here’s how the phrase “white paper” came about. When political figures needed to rush an argument to the floor, they had no time to bind it in a traditional hardcover. Rather, they simply wrapped these urgent documents in white paper. Today, most white papers still take a persuasive stance or position on a topic, idea or theory.
Morris: At what point did business applications of the white paper seem to begin? Why?
Stelzner: They became very popular with the advent of technical products. By the 1990s, most engineers would have been familiar with the term white paper. Analysts firms such as IDC and Gartner Group adopted the term to describe the reports they were publishing. More recently, say since 2000, many white papers were designed to describe the business advantages of adopting a new idea or product.
Morris: How do you explain their popularity in the business world?
Stelzner: Most businesses use white papers to cut through the marketing noise. White papers are often sought after to help people make decisions. Because they are typically used in the research stage of a sale, they are excellent lead generation tools. The need to establish credibility and trust is also accomplished with a white paper. The latest research about white papers and how businesses use them can be found on my blog by clicking here.
Morris: What are the most common business uses of white papers?
Stelzner: There are really three primary uses. To establish thought leadership (positioning a company or product as the lead dog), to generate leads (providing quality prospects for salespeople) or to help close a sale (by describing how a product or technology works).
Morris: Now let’s focus on your brilliant book, Writing White Papers. In your opinion, what are the essentials of an effective white paper?
Stelzner: The standard business benefits white paper starts with a quick introduction of the problem and solution faced by the ideal reader. A market driven discussion typically follows and examines trends in the market that reveal a need. A problems section should address the challenges faced by the ideal reader when he or she does not have a solution similar to yours in place. When introducing a solution, it is best to use generic concepts. Rather than mentioning a product name, introduce the category it falls in. For example, rather than “Motorola’s Bluetooth Car Kit,” lead with something like “wireless automotive solutions.”
A “what to look for” list could be used to focus on key considerations when seeking a solution. The specific solution should only touch on the high-level advantages of your solution, rather than hitting the reader over the head with excessive details that belong in a different document. The conclusion should include a clear call to action, such as a web address that readers can visit for additional information.
Morris: Here’s a related question. What qualifications are required of those who write white papers?
Stelzner: A white paper usually persuades AND informs. It is a cross between an article and a brochure. This means the ideal writer has mastered the art of persuasion AND informing. On the dichotomy of writers, the white paper writer sits between the ad copywriter and the manual writer. This is an art that can be learned. My book, Writing White Papers, spends a lot of time educating folks on how to master this form of writing, regardless of their background.
Morris: In recent years, much has been written about the business narrative that utilizes various elements of “storytelling.” To what extent (if any) are these same elements relevant to white papers?
Stelzner: Honestly, white papers are really not close to stories. They differ from the case study. Rather they are documents that are typically skimmed. This means the reader need not read the entire document to get the essence of its message. For writers that are used to verbose styles of writing, they will need to work on making their messages crisp and relevant.
Morris: How do white papers differ from other forms of communication such as newsletters and so-called “e-zines”?
Stelzner: White papers share very little in common with any other forms of writing. They are the longest document in the marketing arsenal and they are the least understood when it comes to crafting them well.
Morris: To what extent (if any) should white papers that appear only in print differ from those that appear only online? Are there situations in which the same white paper is featured both in print and online?
Stelzner: The same theory applies to white papers regardless of the medium. Today, white papers are predominately distributed as electronic documents. The value here is fast delivery and the ability to be quickly passed around. Because readers have a few seconds to decide to read a white paper, a compelling title and opening paragraphs are critical.
Morris: Please share your thoughts about the use of white papers as a marketing resource.
Stelzner: Often a white paper will work its way across the desks of an organization in a way that no other document could ever hope to achieve. White papers are able to fly under the radar and penetrate most organizations’ anti-marketing defenses because they are sought after and brought into the organization by decision-makers. If they are well-written, white papers will not only reach their target, they will influence them. White papers can be very persuasive marketing tools. When a good white paper lands in front of the right person, it is a highly effective lead generation and sales instrument. Research indicates that IT executives examine an average of 30 white papers each year, that nearly 90 percent of executives find white papers helpful or extremely helpful and more than half claim white papers influence their buying decisions.
Morris: You have carefully explained what a white paper is. What is it not…or at least what should it not be expected to be?
Stelzner: A white paper is not an ad. A white paper is not a manual. White papers do not fully substitute for direct human contact. While many businesses produce white papers to create virtual salespeople, it is important to remember that a good white paper must be combined with a well-planned marketing plan. White papers are super-weapons for marketing. However, if they are simply posted on your website, they will have no value. Be sure to get your white papers in front of prospects.
Morris: One final question. Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, do you think the popularity of white papers will increase, decrease, or remain about the same? Why?
Stelzner: The use of white papers is exploding. In 2001, a Google™ search on the phrase white papers returned a mere 1 million responses. By 2006, that number was a whopping 329 million! I expect as it becomes harder to persuade people, white papers will become even more popular.
* * *
Those who wish to obtain a free booklet from Stelzner about writing white papers are invited to click here.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Chad Storlie for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
* * *
This post is part of an HBR Spotlight examining leadership lessons from the military.
How does your team respond when a plan changes?
Does everyone seem to know what to do or is there confusion, a lack of meaningful activity, or people standing around waiting to be told what to do next? Planning is difficult whether in business or the military.
Military planners use Commander’s Intent, a key element to help a plan maintain relevancy and applicability in a chaotic, dynamic, and resource-constrained environment.
Commander’s Intent is the description and definition of what a successful mission will look like. Military planning begins with the Mission Statement that describes the who, what, when, where, and why (the 5 W’s) of how a mission will be executed. Commander’s Intent describes how the Commander (read: CEO) envisions the battlefield at the conclusion of the mission. It shows what success looks like.
Commander’s Intent fully recognizes the chaos, lack of a complete information picture, changes in enemy situation, and other relevant factors that may make a plan either completely or partially obsolete when it is executed. The role of Commander’s Intent is to empower subordinates and guide their initiative and improvisation as they adapt the plan to the changed battlefield environment. Commander’s Intent empowers initiative, improvisation, and adaptation by providing guidance of what a successful conclusion looks like. Commander’s Intent is vital in chaotic, demanding, and dynamic environments.
Battlefield Example of Commander’s Intent: During World War II, the sea and airborne invasion of France on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) had been planned for years. British, Canadian, and American airborne forces planned and rehearsed for months a precise series of glider and parachute landings that were designed to secure bridges, road junctions, and other key terrain that would enable the ground invasion forces to advance rapidly inland. The airborne invasion forces took off from England and months of planning appeared to vanish instantly. Parachute forces dropped into unmarked landing zones, gliders landed in the wrong areas, and thousands of soldiers from different units were mixed together in the night.
It appeared that a military disaster had occurred. Yet, only hours later, the original military objectives were bring accomplished by ad-hoc units that faced much fiercer German resistance. Commander’s Intent had saved the day. Leaders and soldiers at all levels understood that no matter where they landed, they had to form into units and seize the bridges and key terrain. The plan was a failure, but good Commander’s Intent and superior training allowed improvisation and initiative to save the mission.
Hypothetical Business Example of CEO Intent: At FedEx, led by Fred Smith (a former U.S. Marine officer), planning is of vital importance. FedEx operations start at package pickup at customer origins, then move to the packages entering a large consolidation facility for transport to their destination. Once at destination, packages are unloaded, enter the destination sort facility and are assigned to a driver to go to the final delivery address. This seemingly simple process is extraordinarily complex when you add traffic, weather, customer preferences, cost elements, safety, customs clearance, and package handling requirements. So, when a snow storm closes the roads between Denver and Kansas City, the FedEx plan must adapt. The FedEx CEO Intent is to get all packages to destination in a safe, damage free, cost effective manner within the shipment period specified by the customer. Therefore, FedEx managers start re-routing drivers from Denver to Oklahoma City, scheduling extra planes in Memphis, getting extra truck trailers at Saint Louis and adapting sort schedules in Kansas City. FedEx uses initiative and improvisation to adapt the plan to meet the CEO Intent of an on time delivery despite the snow storm. CEO Intent, like military Commander’s Intent, ensures a successful end state as business conditions change.
The key to successful Commander’s/CEO Intent is trained, confident, and engaged military personnel/employees. Employees must understand the plan and when they have to deviate to ensure the Commander’s Intent is accomplished. Military personnel have to employ a “Spectrum of Improvisation” when they execute Commander’s Intent. As they adapt the plan to meet Commander’s Intent, they do not want to change proven processes and other common work techniques that are part of the plan and strengthen operational outcomes. Many times the plan is a source of strength; business leaders need to adapt only the portions of a plan that require adjustment. The Spectrum of Improvisation is to retain processes and systems that support mission excellence and adapt only necessary elements.
Steps to grow initiative and improvisation are essential to have an employee base that can execute Commander’s Intent. The following are training ideas and concepts to grow an employee capability for Commander’s Intent:
Simulation Training and After-Action Reviews. Organizations need to find a way to allow employees to simulate new product introductions, competitive analysis, and store openings. These simulations can incorporate dynamic changes in the base business situation that will force employee’s to adapt themselves and their teams to new changes to meet the existing business objectives.
Small Projects. Empowering a subordinate or a team to enter a small, untested market or attempt a new project has little risk to the core business and is an excellent testing ground to build confidence, improvisation, and a strong employee base with nominal risk.
Business History, Military History, and Current Events. A strong understanding of past events provides context, ideas, and a perspective on the value of improvisation in history and business.
Commander’s Intent is the definition and description of what a successful operation will yield. Good Commander’s Intent allows employees and teams to adapt the plan using improvisation, initiative, and adaptation to reach the original plan objectives.
* * *
Chad Storlie is a Senior Business Director at Union Pacific Railroad and the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader: 20 Lessons to Advance Your Civilian Career.
What Adrian C. Ott characterizes as a Customer Time-Value (CTV) mindset takes into full account the fact that consumers are investing less time and less attention in purchase decisions. They are better informed now than ever before. (Reviews such as this one offer an excellent example of how Amazon accommodates a reader’s need for information about a given book.) Experts on time management offer suggestions as to how to achieve more and better results in less time within a finite timeframe that has remained constant throughout human history 168-hours in a week) since Egyptians first divided the day (and night) into 24 temporal hours.
Today, consumers seem to have a form of ADD. They have the same amount of time as their ancestors did but much less patience. Efforts to capture their attention have created an ever-increasing “clutter” of sensory messages and even then, the attention span resembles a strobe light blink.
What to do?
Ott offers a wealth of information, insights, and recommendations to survive (and hopefully thrive) in a “time-starved, always-connected economy.” She highlights a number of companies that have applied a customer time-centric and attention-centric lens to their business, such as Amazon, Cisco, Costco, Disney, FedEx, Google, John & Johnson, Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Southwest Airlines. As she notes, “the company case studies that I highlight may not have used my terms to describe their approach (or used any names at all, for that matter), but they are applying a Customer Time-Value mindset and many of the new rules that became apparent to me as I looked across companies for commonalities.
Time Out: Although Ott offers a number of the largest global corporations as exemplars of the principles (if not the specifics) of Customer Time-Value (CTV), she also examines a number of start-up and fledgling companies because what she affirms and recommends is relevant to all organization s, whatever their size and nature may be.
For example, in the first two chapters alone, she provides a wealth of practical material that explains how to
• Understand the differences between the “Old Rules” and “New Rules”
• Conduct a time-ographics analysis to determine time allocation
• Turn customer time-value into market traction
• Trigger events that drive purchasing behavior
• Capture time and attention opportunities
• Map customer activity
• Deliver value by shifting boundaries of time and attention
• Increase time value
• Formulate time boundary strategies
• Provide instant gratification
• Deliver time-critical value
• Influence time and attention by targeting the senses
• Leverage “captive time”
Mind you, all this in just the first two chapters. Better yet, Ott provides a “Two-Minute Takeaway” section at the conclusion of each of the first six chapters. This reader-friendly device will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of most of Ott’s key points. Those who read the book make frequent purchases in-person and/or online. When considering and making a purchase decision (one of the options is not to buy), presumably they assign great value to their time and energy as well as to the ease and convenience in combination with the selection and quality of what the seller offers.
This is a “must read” for anyone who needs to understand what are indeed the “new rules” of what is indeed “a time-starved, always-connected economy.”
Note: I recently re-read several books that were published a while ago. Here is my review of Leadership Brand.
In the Preface, Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood make this affirmation: “We believe that leaders matter, but leadership matters more. We have all experienced a gifted leader who engaged all of us — our hearts, minds, and feet. Dynamic leaders enlist us in a cause, and we willingly follow their counsel. But leadership exists when an organization produces more than one to two individual leaders. Leadership matters more because it is tied not to a person but to the process of building leaders.” By no means do Ulrich and Smallwood question the importance of individual leaders. On the contrary, they assert (and I agree) that one of the most important obligations of being a leader is to strengthen or at least sustain a process by which to identify, hire, develop, and then retain high-impact leaders at all levels and in all areas throughout her or his organization.
With regard to this book’s title, Ulrich and Smallwood offer another affirmation: “We believe that all organizations have a leadership brand, either explicitly crafted and deployed or implicitly perceived and randomly perpetuated…[Therefore] leadership brand is the identity of the leaders throughout an organization that bridges customer expectations and employee and organizational behavior.” I’ve noticed that in recent years, several of the same companies (e.g. Berkshire Hathaway, FedEx, GE, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Toyota Motor) appear on the annual lists of those Most Valuable as well as those Most Highly Admired. These exemplary companies all have high-impact leadership that consistently produces superior results. I’ve also noticed that the U.S. military services and their academies are also renowned for the high quality of their leadership development programs. However different these organizations are in most respects, they do share this in common: Each has devised a high-impact leadership program that is appropriate to their specific needs and objectives.
As Ulrich and Smallwood correctly point out, a brand combines an identity with a reputation among various constituencies. “Leadership brand is the identity of the firm in the mind of the customers, made real to employees because of customercentric leadership behaviors. In other words, leadership brand occurs when leaders’ knowledge, skills, and values focus employee behavior on the factors that target the issues that customers care about.” The challenge for any organization (whatever its size or nature) is to formulate a program ensuring that everyone in that organization embraces the values, gains the knowledge, and strengthens the skills needed to drive performance and build lasting value.
After briefly explaining the “what” in Chapters 1 & 2 (i.e. what leadership brand is and why it is important), Ulrich and Smallwood devote the remaining chapters to “how,” answering questions such as these:
What is a “brand statement”?
How to prepare one?
How to assess leaders against the brand?
How to invest in the leadership brand?
How to measure its ROI?
How to create and then increase awareness of it?
Note: My own opinion is that creating and then increasing awareness of the leadership brand should precede measuring its ROI. That is, I would reverse the order of what are now Chapters 6 & 7.
How to preserve it?
What are the implications of a leadership brand for a personal brand?
Then in two appendices, Ulrich and Smallwood review the criteria for a firm brand and include the last of several self-diagnostics, “Diagnosis for leadership brand”). Then in the second appendix, they briefly discuss their research on the top firms for managing quality, suggesting that some function as “feeder firms” because they “feed the demands for next-generation leaders in other firms.” For example, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson Controls, and Kraft. Non-profits include the Drucker Foundation, UNICEF, and the U.S. Marine Corps.
With regard to the U.S.M.C., Jon Katzenbach is quoted in a footnote to Appendix B: “Their mantra is simple and compelling and I first heard it articulated by Brig. General John Ryan (ret.) as follows: `We want all of our leaders – at every level -to focus on only two things: First, mission accomplishment; you will accomplish your mission no matter what…Second, and of equal importance, you will take care of each and every one of your Marines – let me repeat that that, you will take care of each and every Marine in your unit.’ I have often thought that if all aspiring young leaders focused on these two things they could go a long way down their journey to becoming admirable leaders at whatever level they gravitate to.”
Credit Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood with providing in a single volume just about as much information and counsel as most organizations will need to devise and implement or strengthen a process by which to produce the high-impact leaders it needs. In my opinion, becoming a “leadership brand” is only one result of that process. Moreover, everyone should be involved both as a student and as a mentor. Exemplary companies are proud of their current, hard-earned reputation as a “leadership brand” while keeping in mind that the high quality of their leaders will continue only if they constantly nourish and strengthen the process by which they are developed. For that reason, I strongly recommend that all decision-makers in a given organization read this book, then discuss it with other members of senior management. It would be a serious mistake to try to apply everything that Ulrich and Smallwood recommend but equally irresponsible to have no development process whatsoever. As they suggest when concluding their book, “the journey to leadership brand begins with the self.” Bon voyage!
Do not be misled by the reference to “corporation” in the title. What Barbara Bund provides in this book can be of substantial value to decision-makers in any organization (regardless of size or nature) which has an urgent need to achieve “breakthrough results” by gaining a much better understanding of — and then becoming much closer to — those of greatest importance to its success. Thus, healthcare providers would think in terms of becoming patient-centric, trade and professional associations (e.g. chambers of commerce) would think in terms of becoming member-centric, etc.
As she explains in the Preface, “The primary objective of this book is to help business managers use [her various] insights effectively in practice. It is to share the outside-in discipline — to provide a road map for managers to follow in creating and leading outside-in corporations, even in organizations where the unfortunate inside-out perspective has prevailed in the past.” (page xviii)
Bund carefully organizes her material within 13 chapters which begin with a probing analysis of “the bad habit of inside-out thinking” and conclude with a summation of “the bad news and the good news” followed by provision of four additional “outside-in tools” and then a recommended process to establish and then sustain an “outside-in discipline.” I especially appreciate the fact that Bund provides recommended “Outside-In Actions” at the end of each chapter. These sections reiterate key points, of course, but they can also serve as invaluable self-audits if completed with appropriate rigor and (yes) candor.
“The most important thing about this definition [of strategy based on a marketing mix of product, price, communication, and distribution] is that it requires that the strategic tools must be chosen to address the needs of one or more market segments. There must be a clear customer foundation, based on customer needs and behavior. In addition, the components of the strategy must fit with one another and work together; they must be consistent and coordinated.” In this volume, Bund cites a number of exemplary organizations (e.g. Costco, Dell, eBay, FedEx, and GE) that “have an explicit customer-based reason for everything [they] do in the marketplace.” Guided and informed by the outside-in discipline, they have better strategy design, better communication of strategy to others, and better ability to adapt when there are changes in the competitive marketplace. They have achieved breakthrough results because they understand, really understand why their customers are “the key.”
To repeat, I think this book can be of almost incalculable value to decision-makers in almost any organization (regardless of size or nature) if — huge “if” — they make and then sustain a total commitment to becoming and then remaining customer-centric. Of course that won’t be easy. Barriers must be overcome. One of the worst is what Jim O’Toole once characterized as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Hence the importance of Bund’s counsel. The game plan she recommends is cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective. Certain modifications of that plan will be necessary, of course, but the outside-in discipline must never be compromised. At least some organizations will achieve breakthrough results this year. Why not yours?
Here is an excerpt from article written by Jon R. Katzenbach and Zia Khan for the Harvard Business blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit email@example.com.
* * *
Webster tells us that a peer is “one of equal standing with another” or “one belonging to the same societal group (that is, based on age, grade or status).” On the job, most of us have peers that we enjoy, respect and cultivate. We also have peers that we abhor, ignore, and avoid. Most peer interaction takes place “informally,” as there are no lines on an org chart that connect peers together
You might well ask, So what?
Peer to peer interactions may be the single most neglected lever of change. When enlisted, they are change’s most powerful ally; when resisted, they are its most stubborn foe. Peers in large organizations are invaluable in spreading behavior change across an enterprise. In that respect, they constitute a woefully underused set of resources, mostly accessible within the “informal elements” of our organizations.
Whenever significant numbers of peers interact formally or informally, they constitute a force to be reckoned with. When they share mutual respect, they will listen to, learn from, and secretly support one another in ways that can shape opinions, create resistance, or generate energy. Left unattended, their interactions may or may not be supportive of important enterprise priorities.
Look at high performing organizations like Southwest Airlines, Apple, FedEx or the U.S. Marine Corps, all of which rely heavily on natural, informal networks to keep peer pressures positive. The Marine Corps Gazette receives dozens of “letters to the editor” every month from ardent Marines who want to emphasize what it means to “live our values” versus display them. The Marines take their simple values (honor, courage, commitment) extremely seriously, and when violations occur, the Gazette hears about it — informally but compellingly. Similarly, any regular SWA passenger can attest to the informal networks that flourish among stewards, gate people and baggage handlers — it’s very clear that they take seriously their intent to make passengers feel good.
This is easier said than done — though elite military units, for example, and peak performing enterprises around the world have been at it for decades. In the U.S. Navy, for example, the informal camaraderie among Chief Petty Officers transcends oceans, continents and other geopolitical barriers; most of the time it is a force for wisdom, character and courage. In fact, it is interesting that some of the most powerful “informal” peer networks are found in command and control institutions. Sometimes, a peer network is the best way to work around a formal structure that gets in the way of getting stuff done.
Jon R. Katzenbach is a senior partner at Booz & Co. and founder of the Katzenbach Center at Booz & Company. Zia Khan is vice president of strategy and evaluation at the Rockefeller Foundation and a senior fellow at the Katzenbach Center. The two have collaborated on a new book, Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization, Energize Your Team, and Get Better Results, published by Jossey-Bass in April 2010. This is the first in a series of blog posts related to the book about the ways managers can lead outside a company’s formal boundaries.