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A New Leaf

April 2014: In This Issue

Welcome to the April issue of A New Leaf!  With the 2014 first quarter just finished, leaders are now confronting how well their organization has been executing. This edition highlights insights from two bestselling books by Larry Bossidy, former Chairman of Honeywell, and Ram Charam, leading business advisor.

“Confronting Reality" and "Execution" each address critical leadership shortfalls that plague many organizations today. Each book serves as a helpful tool to assess how you are addressing these critical success components, neither of which can be delegated from the corner office. 

Best of luck in the upcoming quarter as you celebrate your execution successes and confront the reality that you, and your organization, need to continue to change to build your organizational sustainability. 

- Mike


Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters To Get Things RightBook Review: “Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters To Get Things Right”

 “Reality” begins its introduction stating that “It is time to radically change the way you think about your business”. The need for this change arises from a world moving faster than ever combined with the following three questions rarely being asked, or adequately addressed, by most organizations:

  • What’s the nature of the game you’re in?
  • Where is your business going?
  • How do you make money?

The authors believe the reason these questions go unanswered is “that established methodologies for defining the purpose of the business and planning have steadily drifted away from realism”.  More than ever, leaders fail to address the “dysfunctional practices and habits that more often than not obscure reality rather than expose it”. The habits of “unrealistic leaders” include:

  • Filtered Information
  • Selective Hearing
  • Wishful Thinking
  • Fear
  • Emotional Overinvestment
  • Unrealistic Expectations of Capital Markets

 As a means of implementing this radical change, Reality sets forth an integrated “business model” approach to looking at the health and profitability of your business.  The three key components of the model include an ongoing assessment and linkage of the environment your business is in (the “external realities”) with your financial targets and the activities of your business (including strategy, operations, people and structure).

Continuous examination of the relationships between these three components is required. This is accomplished through a process of “iteration” which Reality defines as the harmonizing of the three components by repeatedly reviewing and assessing the changes in their relationships as new information becomes available.   

Reality provides numerous examples of the application of its business model approach as it assesses the challenges and actions of companies such as EMC, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, 3M, Home Depot and Thompson Corporation.

In all cases, leadership is ultimately responsible for the process of iteration and organizational responses to the changing environment. The following two qualities are considered absolutely necessary for successful leaders today:

      Business savvy - the knowledge and ability to make money.  Leaders with
      business savvy are constantly evaluating and assessing new business models
      and understand the importance and relationships of the model components

     A need to know - the relentless pursuit of critical information that can
    make all the difference in arriving at the best business decisions. Absent this
    quality, risk associated with not making the “best” decisions is significantly

In addition to leading, the book addresses how to condition your culture for reality. This is necessary for any successful transformation as the authors note that “the usual reason for a failure of an initiative is that it was launched halfheartedly or was beyond the ability of the organization”.

Reality concludes with a personal note from the authors to an entrepreneur on successfully confronting reality for growth and opportunity. The letter concludes “Move quickly, be positive, sensitive and unrelenting. The time is now!”

This advice applies to many of us today. How successful have you been in confronting reality? The clock is ticking.


Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things DoneComplementary Book Review: “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done”

The challenges faced by organizations are greater than ever.  In addition, greater gaps exist between strategic planning and favorable outcomes. The authors pinpoint “execution” as the missing element giving rise to these gaps. They note  “no company can deliver on its commitments or adapt well to changes unless all leaders practice the discipline of execution at all levels. Execution has to be a part of a company’s strategy and its goals. It is the missing link between aspirations and results”.

Bossidy and Charam identify the following three characteristics of successful execution:

  • It is a discipline, and integral to strategy
  • It is the major job of the business leader
  • It must be a core element of an organization’s culture

Elaborating on these core characteristics, the authors document marketplace examples detailing the following three necessary building blocks to success:

  • The seven essential behaviors of the leader
  • Creating the framework for cultural change
  • The job no leader can delegate-having the right people in the right place 

In addressing the third building block-why people are seldom in the right place, Execution suggests that “leaders are rarely personally committed to the people process and deeply engaged in it”. As a result, they often rely on staff appraisals that focus on the wrong criteria, lack the courage to confront poor performers or make the tough personnel decisions, develop a false sense of comfort being surrounding by those that aren’t challenging to them and lack the personal commitment to deal with the emotional wear and tear of the feedback and evaluation process.

This leadership limitation severely  hampers the ability of the organization to succeed as the authors affirm that the assessment of talent needs to be integral to execution. This important aspect of the “people process” is directly related to and impacted by the organization’s:

  • Linkage to its strategic plan
  • Its ability to develop a leadership pipeline
  • Deciding what to do with non performers
  • Transforming the mission and operations of HR

In discussing the linkage to the Company’s strategic plan, Execution identifies the following questions central to a strong planning process:

  • What is the assessment of the external environment?
  • How well do we understand the existing customers and markets?
  • What is the best way to grow the business profitability and what are the obstacles?
  • Who is the competition?
  • Can the business executive the strategy?
  • Are the short term and long term balanced?
  • What are the milestones for executing the plan?
  • How will the company ensure its sustainability?

Execution concludes with a personal letter to a recently promoted leader. The authors note that “getting the strategy process right is crucial to your longer term success and that of your organization”.

How comfortable are you that your strategy is “right”? What are your next steps to make sure it is?
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