Human Capital

Physics, Psychology and Business

Physics  Psychology & Business 123rf.com_97637392_sNewton’s 3rd Law of Physics. You might not remember it is as that but you almost certainly know it or have heard of it:  “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Even if you are familiar with it, you are unlikely to think about it very much or very often. And certainly not in a business context.

This isn’t your fault. It is perhaps simply the inevitable consequence of our natural human need to label things. By categorising this as a “physical law” you inevitably compartmentalise it as “scientific” and so fail to consider its applicability to business. But perhaps you ought to.

After all science pertains to all life. It is only convention (that need to label things) that causes us to break science into different fields. We tend to treat these as discrete and distinct when in reality they are not. The boundaries – like any – are subjective and artificial. As a result we may be short-changing ourselves, as I suggest we are in this instance.

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How’s Your Customer Service?


Satisfaction scale 123rf_10337420_sI bet you are doing more to monitor customer experience than ever before. That’s a pretty safe bet because technology has simply made it so much easier to interact with your customers and ascertain how they feel about dealing with you. But, are you achieving the results you expect?

Your answer, naturally, depends on what you expect. But it also depends on whether your expectations are reasonable. Are you sure they are? That requires a much deeper dive into the customer experience you are looking to provide. Let me explain.

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Meeting The Need For Transforming Leadership

Transforming leadership 123rf.com_8192829_sIn his book, “Leadership” the Pulitzer Prize winning author, James MacGregor Burns defines leadership as, “The reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers.” When you distil this, you can identify two primary elements:

  • Two parties - leaders and followers;
  • Goals - each party wants to achieve a specific purpose.

You cannot have leadership without both these essential elements. Burns, however, expands on this and avers that there are basically two types of leadership: transactional leadership and transforming leadership.

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Transformation or Reformation

Reformation 64815722_s Copyright_www_123rf_com_profile_iqoncepWhat’s the difference anyway?

That is the question I found myself asking. I was reading the Pulitzer Prize winning author, James MacGregor Burns’ book “Leadership” when I came across this statement; “… leadership of reform movements must be among the most exacting.”  (Interestingly, reform leadership would appear to be even more demanding than revolutionary leadership – but that is a whole different topic!) However, it was as I read on and came across the statement, “… reform leaders must deal with endless divisions within their own ranks” that my brain kicked into overdrive.

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How Silo-thinking Spreads, Smothers Synergy and Suffocates Strategy

Silo-thinking: even if unfamiliar with the term, you are likely familiar with its effects. That’s because the root of silo-thinking is differentiation and distinction. And this has consequences – conscious and unconscious.

You define any activity, role or responsibility according to predefined criteria, which may be shaped by the person, their applied skills and training or the way in which they create, use or adapt a system to carry out their assigned tasks. This is all well and good; only all too often we tend to identify ourselves by our roles and what we do. Even Aristotle (384-322 BCE) recognised this, as he is reputed to have said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” As result we, personally or collectively, tend to become:

  • Protective and – clinging to the adage that “knowledge is power” – erect barriers to ensure that we maximise the perceived value of what we offer, and thereby our status; and/or
  • Self-absorbed or unduly focused and single-minded, and thus uncooperative.  

Silo 65112347_s Copyright_a href_https_www_123rf_com_profile_eugenesergeevCollectively this may be at the individual business unit, functional or even divisional business unit rather than at the enterprise level. But when it occurs at the collective level – and is recognised – it is identified it as ‘silo-thinking.’ That’s when you start to take steps to remedy it.  Unfortunately, even when you do, you may not realise how pervasive and pernicious it is.

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How to ‘Bazooka VUCA’

VUCA 77215276_s Copyright www.123rf.com_profile_alphaspirit_alphaspirit

VUCA is an acronym increasingly widely used to describe the operating climate you, like most organizations, face today: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. This environment makes much of what you have learned about management obsolete and demands a new operating paradigm. A bazooka, as you may know, is a portable, electrically fired, rocket launcher for launching a projectile against tank armour.

Bazooka 43769439_s 123rf.comThe headline is a parody of a UK television advertisement for a brand of medical gel used to treat warts that calls for you to “Bazuka™ that Verruca!” By making a pun out of their brand name, the advertisers are attempting to convince you that their product will quickly and effectively exterminate your problem. VUCA is not so one-dimensional. Yet, while retaining the onomatopoeia and, hopefully, some sense of that imperative, my headline aims, rather, to alert you to the fact that you can still ‘blow up’ VUCA. 

An article from Chief Executive magazine Can you do VUCA? 5 Key Strategies for Success offers a good starting point. It not only explains VUCA and its ramifications but also clearly spells out proven, useful strategies for “doing” it.  These, however, will only take you so far. They are only strategies and, as you know only too well, there is a big difference between developing a strategy and implementing it. I am offering you something that will significantly strengthen your implementation arsenal.

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Organizational Synergy through Empowerment and Teamwork

Synergy 2 70506596_s Copyright_123rf.com_profile_mike107'Synergy. That is a word that may not seem to be as popular or prolific as it once was. Yet that doesn’t make it any less relevant. Like any leader, you are likely facing the imperative to improve productivity and performance and do more with less. (It may be a new year but that does not mean your challenges are all new!) And, what is performance improvement but a quest for greater synergy?

Empowerment is another widely used term. One that hasn’t lost its popularity to the same extent, perhaps because of its promise. The difference is that synergy is an outcome – something you have to work hard to achieve – while empowerment is held up to be the magic formula for creating synergy. So, how successful have your empowerment initiatives been?

If they have not delivered, or even come close to delivering, the results you were expecting or had hoped for, let me share a few ideas that might resurrect your hopes, re-inspire your efforts and reinvigorate your results.

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Strategy Gaps and Change Management Failure: An Insight

Mind the gap 123rf com_39898905_sDo you have a strategy-execution gap? This may not be something you would readily admit, even to yourself. But, please pause for a moment and consider the question deeply, seriously and honestly.

I suspect that if you were to do so, you will find the question more difficult than it seems. The term “strategy-execution” implies that:

  • Strategy has two distinct parts – planning and execution; and
  • Execution can be more difficult than planning.

This makes strategy a journey and not a destination. More significantly, though, it is not a journey you control.  And that is why you will find a continuing focus on controls counter-productive. Just as insisting on adherence to a particular, pre-planned route can result in reaching your destination long after you needed to be there, when finding alternative routes would have enabled you to by-pass problems and delays and arrive in time.

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From Change Management to Change Mastery

Mastery 1 123rf.com_50144423_sChange is a fact of life. It is also a major factor in it. Increasingly so. Both the amount of change and the faster pace of change are widely acknowledged. No doubt you feel it yourself. Just imagine what somebody who died only 40-50 years ago would think if they were to come back today (as I sometimes do with my father.) And, in his book “Leading Change”, John Kotter claims that this is not going to slow down soon, but rather speed up! This makes the future daunting. 

Change is supposed to make life easier. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, especially initially. It takes time to familiarise yourself with, and adapt to, the new; let alone master it.  So when change comes fast and furious, proficiency becomes elusive and mastery next to impossible.  This is discouraging, demotivating and stressful. It is no wonder so many change initiatives are unsuccessful.

More frightening, however, is that the sheer volume of change makes it seem highly unlikely the proportion of successful change will improve. (The fact that this sad statistic hasn’t changed in decades, despite greater focus on change management, seems to support this prognosis.) Yet there is a way you can beat the odds. The answer is actually implied in “Leading Change,” but – ironically – has not been fully understood or applied.

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Driving Enhanced Customer Experience

Customer Experience 123rf_32845934_sThere has been a quiet revolution over the past decade or two. I am referring to the shift from “Customer Service” to “Customer Experience.”  This shift has been so subtle and unheralded that it has been more evolution than revolution. Yet you cannot doubt that it has taken place.

Only today, I received an invitation to attend “Customer Experience World”, the national customer experience conference. Here, apparently, I can join CXO’s (Customer Experience Officers) and others to listen to a keynote speaker talk about “The importance of customer experience design in an ever-changing Omnichannel world, and the common pitfalls businesses make.”   

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