4 Dynamics of Strategic Enterprising


Strategic Enterprising is the practice of the entrepreneurial adventurer engaging in a new undertaking or enterprise. It is not a new concept by any means but the regular exercise of investing in big ideas by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 500 corporations endeavoring to endow the latest ideas and emerging trends in the marketplace. The word “enterprise” simply means, “to undertake or take in hand.” The abstract meaning of the same word is the “readiness to undertake challenges, or the “spirit of daring.”[i] When a person is referred to as “an enterprising young man,” it conveys a person’s resourcefulness or initiative to undertake a grand project. For example, contemporary enterprisers are people like Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter or Andrew Mason, the creator of Groupon. However, you don’t’ have to be world renown to become an enterprising person. It starts by taking a simple idea and turning it into a tangible product or service used and enjoyed by many. Anyone can become an enterprising individual; you just need to have a unique idea or talent that can be advanced with an effective strategy.

Strategy, for instance, was originally branded in the year 1810 as the “Art of a General.” Some background of the word “strategy” would help at this point. Before a General engaged an enemy in battle he would take a position on high ground overlooking the theater of battle to observe the arrangement of the opposing side and to dictate his stratagem to his Lieutenants. From his vantage point the General could see the opposing army’s tactics and maneuvers in real time so he could counter their whit with his own ingenuity. Viewing the battlefield and sourcing it from the high ground was a way to gather data, better known today as ‘intelligence gathering’, which enhanced decision-making and outcomes. These tactics, along with one’s knowledge from previous engagements, and taking calculated risks were some of the critical elements of the “art of a General”.

In today’s world, in the realm of business and commerce, strategic enterprisers are like the Generals on the battlefield, which require different strategic objectives and tactics more conducive to the marketplace. I refer to them as The Four Dynamics of Strategic Enterprising:

1. Strategic Thinking – Optimizing acumen while assessing your assets
Acumen and assessing your assets are the first two priorities of Strategic Thinking. Let’s start with acumen. Acumen is the intelligence shaped by three elements, your:
a. Hindsight – the knowledge, understanding and wisdom acquired through your past experiences.
b. Insight – attending to your intuition (promptings, feeling, spirit-sense, sixth-sense, hunch, instincts, inner-voice, etc.) at the present moment.
c. And, fostering skills in strategic foresight, or what you perceive in your immediate environment, and how you interpret this incoming stimuli in your environment to gain certain advantages.

Cultivating personal acumen is fundamental during the initial phases of strategic thinking. A better way to gain acumen is to tap into the accumulative intelligence of many advisors, a concept better known as collaboration. King Solomon, the wisest of all men, once quipped, “Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”[ii] Acumen is improved through the collective intelligence of a team, for the purpose of defining, honing and solidifying a winning strategy. A masterful leader exerts influence for the purpose of transformation through collaborative effort.

A second aspect of strategic thinking is assessing your assets. Your assets will consist of your talent pool and the available resources or ‘tools’ to get the job done. First, a strategist must consider their collective team’s talent, which is essential in this initial phase. In this phase you must assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and rearrange your team members in a way to acquire optimum results; perhaps sifting or shifting staff from one department to another. Second, you should procure the necessary resources to make your plan a success. Just before entering the Promised Land, Joshua commanded his people, “Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan.” Honing acumen through collaborative effort, assessing your talent pool and resources are fundamental practices of Strategic Thinkers.

2. Strategic Planning – Arranging your assets and considering your approach
If Strategic Thinking is devising strategy through the combined acumen of a team and how a person uses that information and their talent pool, then the second phase is simply designing the blueprints of the plan. Strategic Strategic-PlanningPlanning is the ability to arrange one’s assets to strengthen the plan then designing a strategic approach for winning. First and foremost, a leader must consider the arrangement of their assets. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud notes, “It’s about leading the ‘right people’, empowering them to find and do the ‘right things’ in the ‘right way’ at the ‘right times.’ This is what will bring a real plan to measured results.”[iii] In the classic book Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “…to build a successful organization and team you must get the right people on the bus.” His research shows that great companies and organizations do this. They get the right people and arrange them strategically in the right seats.[iv]

Another core item in Strategic Planning is considering your approach. The method is just as important as the timing of your launch. Your approach is simply creating a dynamic marketing strategy that shifts public opinion, and acquires a new consumer base, which manifests to an upswing in profit. In other words, communicate your optics effectively, and gather tangible metrics early on. Here’s an sample of what I mean:

Samsung has dethroned its California-based rival to become the world’s top Smartphone maker… Recent Smartphone launches have lost something of the glamour and excitement that surrounded the early (Apple) iPhone releases, in part because they are seen as offering incremental technology upgrades rather than breaking new ground… The S4s features include a high-definition, five-inch – 12.7-centimeter screen, enhanced picture-taking capabilities and the capacity to translate to and from nine languages… Its release has been preceded by a massive promotional campaign (a lunch strategy or approach) — from the glitzy launch in New York to lighting up the sails of Sydney’s iconic opera house on Tuesday night with images shot by ordinary Australians (Optics). Samsung — the world’s largest technology firm by value and also the top handset maker — has boasted stellar sales growth, setting new records for operating profit in every single quarter of last year (Metrics).[v] [italics mine]

Did you notice the marketing genius (the vision or optics) with tangible results in the marketplace (the metrics of Samsung’s Smart iPhone). Your approach, methods and timing, are a critical part of your launch strategy.

3. Strategic Execution – Taking action and being fully aware of oncoming stimuli
Strategic Execution is the implementation phase after you have had your strategic meetings in the ‘war room’ with your staff. In basic form, this phase of your plan is the ‘boots on the ground’, where your team members execute the plan or take action. The original meaning of the word “execution” was “an action of carrying something out.”[vi] This ‘carrying out’ brings about initial outcomes; desired or undesired. If desired outcomes are achieved you continue affirming these actions. If undesired ones emerge, you must take correction action early on to avoid mediocre results and shift toward better ones. 

Being ‘aware’ of oncoming stimuli and responding appropriately to its meaning is an art in itself but critical for capturing early momentum and strategic advantages. Where there is an action there is a reaction. Allow me to explain: Let’s take an analogy from the initial kick off of the Super Bowl to start the game. The defense is lined up ready to kick off the ball, the fans stand to their feet in great anticipation. As the kick is initiated the audience holds its breath momentarily as the ball glides in the air. The football is then caught and the offensive team engages its defensive rivals on the field. Simultaneously, the fans jeer and cheer depending on the dynamics on the field, as they respond to the clashing forces on the Gridiron. If you were to close your eyes for a moment, you can gage who is having the advantage on the field by what side of the field is getting more cheers. Is it the offensive team running the ball through a defensive wall capturing a strategic advantage, or has the runner been snubbed on the 10-yard line energizing the defensive team? Let’s continue my analogy in the next and final phase called Strategic Operations.

4. Strategic Operations – Managing awareness and making crucial adjustments
During the transition of players on the field, the special teams return to the sidelines while the regular players march onto the field to take their positions. The coaches on the sidelines are in deep communication with the coaching staff in the sky-booths above. Together they are receiving and calculating the data from the previous events on the field and adjusting their tactics. What they are doing is taking into consideration the momentum dynamics created by the initial play on the field. Momentum is crucial to have on one’s side; once lost it takes time to regain. In this phase one must manage one’s awareness then make critical adjustments to the initial strategy, which requires real time observation, quick intelligence gathering, and recalculating the next move. The objective is to stay on offense, and put points on the scoreboard; the goal is to win and win big. Strategic Operations happen in real time, which is why managing awareness and adjusting your plan are two critical elements of this phase.

A Strategic Enterpriser understands the four dynamics of Strategic Enterprising. Each phase provides a crucial element for the overall strategy to take hold and achieve its desired results. The first two phases are about weaving your thoughts into a winning plan. The final two phases are about executing and moving operations forward in real time. A Strategic Enterpriser has each phase in mind all the time, and makes the necessary adjustments to the plan to achieve his or her intended outcome.


[i] Etymology Online Dictionary: Enterprise.  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=enterprise&searchmode=none, accessed on 4-16-13.

[ii] Proverbs 24:6 (NIV)

[iii] Cloud, Dr. Henry (2013), Boundaries for Leaders. HarperCollins, New York, NY., pg. 3.

[iv] Get the Right People on the Bus by John Gordon; http://www.jongordon.com/article-gettherightpeople.html, accessed April 24, 2013.

[v] Samsungs Galaxy S4 to Bite Fresh Chunk from Apple Market Share. Mybroadband; Tech News. http://mybroadband.co.za/news/smartphones/76370-samsung-galaxy-s4-to-bite-fresh-chunk-from-apple-market-share.html , accessed on April 24, 2013.

[vi] Etymology Online Dictionary: Execution. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=enterprise&searchmode=none, accessed on 4-24-13.

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Accountability: Raising the Bar of Personal #Integrity


Business woman with a group

Accountability is first and foremost one’s responsibility to measure personal standards of living by evaluating behaviors through a Biblical filter, then realigning oneself to expected standards of righteousness. This is accomplished in many ways. Too many people would rather forego accountability and live independent lives; this was not God’s intention from the beginning (Genesis 3:7-11 & 4:5-13). We are to live in community with God and others, affecting and challenging each other’s lives. The purpose of Christian accountability is to walk before God in holiness. There are many methods available to secure credibility and restore integrity, the following five cornerstones of Christian accountability do just that.

1. Conscience (Self-Awareness)

A speaker once asked the audience in a seminar I attended, “Where did you get your conscience?” Silence filled the room. When no brave soul responded, the speaker answered his own question, “You acquire your conscience from your parents?” He then explained himself, “Parents are the primary source of moral teaching.” Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition, or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong.[i] Do you remember being corrected for certain things you said or did as a child? You bet you can. We carry these moral bearings introduced first by our parents throughout life; they are very much part of what shapes our conscience. When we attempt something outside these moral teachings an internal code embedded within brings awareness to our poor decision-making.

2. Conviction (Spirit Awareness)

Another method of Christian accountability is the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit. Conviction is the quickening of your mind and spirit that something you are about to undertake is inappropriate. An interesting aspect of conviction is that you feel a strong impression within to do the right thing. The Spirit presents or reveals an exit sign directing you to do the right thing. Sometime ago I purchased one of my favorite High School albums (this is 30 years after High School). I just wanted to hear some music from the good ‘ol days. At the time of purchase I didn’t think much of it. When I heard a certain song lyric I felt a strong conviction override me. I was stricken and grieved within my spirit. As soon as I arrived to my house I threw the c.d. away, and asked God to forgive me. I came to understand this album represented my old life; the one I walked away from to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit was not pleased with a certain lyric, and made me aware of His sentiments.

3. Community (Saintly Love)

We cannot avoid a conversation about accountability without discussing community. You and I belong to many communities; family, ethnic group, the workplace, neighborhood, and other associations. The most important community, in my opinion, is the faith community; the house of worship you and I attend on a weekly basis. The loving and caring relationships within this community bring accountability to our lives.

One day as I shared this insight with a friend at church. At mid-stream he stopped me and shared a story with me. On the previous Sunday, for some reason, he decided to attend an earlier service, missing his usual service time at 11 a.m. The people he would usually connect with on a Sunday morning noticed his absence. So later on that afternoon he received a few phone calls from those church members asking about his whereabouts. The people he had come to know and love where simply concerned about him. Community is crucial for your wellbeing. In a community you have people who love and care about you and are willing to ask about your life, most importantly to align your life.

4. Communion (Sacramental Grace)

The Sacrament of communion is a personal confrontation of one’s life in the presence of Christ Himself; a sacred act of introspection, evaluation and confession. No one else is involved in this spiritual practice but you and God. According to Scripture, prior to receiving communion:

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

This is a powerful and dreadful statement. The writer goes on to say,

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [a metaphor for passing away]. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.”[ii]

Communion, therefore, starts by confronting self, by going into the private recesses of our mind and inner spirit, inviting Christ to probe deep inside for the purpose of revealing shortcomings in my personal walk with Him. Also in this process, we take a look back to remind ourselves of His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection; the price he paid for our sins to remind ourselves that we now belong to Him. We are also reminded of His return, which means that between His death and His second coming you and I must live holy lives, pleasing to Him.

5. Correction (Sages and Seers)

Correction is the final component of Christian accountability. This is where your pastors, the sages and seers, in your faith community come into play. The writer of Hebrews notes,

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account,” [iii]

Pastors, mentors and ministry leaders are “sages and seers” who are part of your spiritual development. You must allow them access to your pesonal life from time to time, because they impart wisdom and insights into your life bringing you to another level of spiritual order and operation. After all, faithful are the wounds of a friend, right?

These five tools to bring accountability to our lives are meant to realign us to right living. One thing is for sure, we will have no excuse when we stand before our Maker. He has provided you and I with at least five accountability mechanisms so we can walk uprightly before Him each and every day.

Is there another form of Christian accountability? Are any of these five new to you?

Endnotes:

[i] Wikipedia: Conscience, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscience, accessed 1.11.11.
[ii] 1 Corinthians 11:28-31 (NIV).
[iii] Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)
[iv] Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

#Leading a Thriving #Organization


tree

Organizational executives, managers and leaders have good intentions to create thriving organizations that reflect their vision and mission for successful outcomes in the marketplace. Over the years, I have had the privilege to work for many organizations in various capacities; as an employee, a middle manager, a pastor, an executive, as a coach and marketing consultant. In other words, I have seen the internal dynamics of how organizations are managed and led; some thrive whiles others struggle to survive. To accomplish this monumental task of building a thriving organization it will take an organization to understand and embrace the four pillars of a thriving organization, which are simply strategy, synergy, structure and systems. Let’s start with the first critical layer of strategy.

1. Strategy

The original meaning of the world strategy reveals the “art of the General”, which implies the General’s broad grasp of the craft of warfare based upon years of acquired acumen and intuition from experiences on the battlefield. We can break down this art form into to three layers: hindsight, insight and foresight. Likewise, those in positions of mid to higher management in an organization have years of accumulated knowledge and wisdom derived through their education, exposure to people and events within an organization, and past experiences on the job. The accumulated wisdom of these employees is critical for tapping into new strategic methods for success.

Strategy is the sum of two parts: it’s your acumen and your approach. Strategy is melding what you already know and how you will go about executing what you know. Strategy, however, fails on many accounts. The most critical one is the lack of collaborative imagination that keeps many organizations operating in the dark at mediocre levels. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, understood the power of collaborative imagination. His wisdom was and is today second to none; the biblical narrative notes a person like Solomon will never be matched again, so listen carefully! King Solomon provides our culture today with a great Tweet tucked away in Proverbs 24:6:

Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”

Can you imagine tapping into the combined acumen, intuition and experience of many advisors? So why don’t you take an assessment of the creative members on your team and begin to tap into their combined wisdom for strategic advantages and advances in the marketplace. The wisdom is all around you… are you listening?

2. Synergy

One lazy afternoon, on my day off, I went to the afternoon matinee to see the movie Pitch Perfect. It simply amazed me on many levels! It wasn’t the humor, although I had a load of laughs. It wasn’t the brilliant singing that caught my attention although it was American Idol on Steroids. The main message for me was how a singing team formed and fermented into greatness. Let me see if I can sum up the important snippets of the movie that helped me see how teams form to create dynamic energy and synergy:

1. Pride was present at first since the old guard did not want to give up their place or stature on the team. So they resist anyone trying to introduce new ideas, which will improve the team’s performance.

2. Then there is friction between the old guard and the newcomers since the new ideas being offered are better than the old ones. It’s takes some time for the old guard to realize their methods have become obsolete.

3. Thirdly, the old guard finally accepts reality and realizes it needs to adapt and change. They are now willing to make some accommodations to make the team better.

4. And finally, the team comes together to implement the new ideas. There’s a dynamic shift in team culture and performance.

Synergy is hard to create but when it is present it is dynamic and energizing. When a team creates synergy it begins to release that corporate magic many organizations long for. How do we know when synergy is present? It is evident when optimum energy is released and dynamic synergy is increased.

3. Structure

Every organization is structured in a unique way. Some structures are more rigid than others, such as the military and Law Enforcement agencies, while other organizations tend to adopt a more fluid and flexible approach. “By structure, we mean the framework around which the group is organized, the underpinnings which keep the coalition functioning. It’s the operating manual that tells members how the organization is put together and how it works. More specifically, structure describes how members are accepted, how leadership is chosen, and how decisions are made.”[i]

The structure solely depends on what your organization wants to accomplish. For instance, let’s take two examples from nature to make my point. An eagle and a duck are structured quite differently from one another since they have different purposes to perform. One is meant to fly in high altitudes, and to dive at fast speeds to catch unsuspecting prey by surprise. Eagles like to be alone most of the time; they are the kings of the air. While a duck is given webbed feet to navigate through the water, and tightly knit feathers to keep them warm in cold climates. Ducks like to fly in teams, and work together to fly long distances.

Each bird has a particular function to play and purpose to fulfill. These distinguishing features provide you and I insight into the roles they perform in their respected environments.

Let’s take another example from nature. What about a tree? An Oak tree has a firm base extending to the general body. It is immovable and strong. Then as the branches move out they thin out and become more flexible, bending by the wind, even with the subtle breeze. Structures in organizations should have a stabilizing structure but should also allow flexibility is some areas of the organization to accommodate quick changes.

4. Systems

Systems are like highways that connect motorists to interchanges, intersections and bridges, which provide a proper flow of traffic so that people can get to places in an efficient manner within a specified time frame. Let me provide you a personal example:

I remember a time when our church fed thousands of inner city people on a Saturday afternoon. At the time, our church had an extraordinary cook on staff that was once Donald Trump’s private Chef (and you know Mr. Trump is a pretty picky guy). Anyway, when it came time to feed the multitudes, I just happened to walk into the kitchen area where I overheard the Chef say, “This is how we are going to take the food out to feed the folks.” To shorten my story, he had adopted a system with six steps before the people could even receive their food on the table. I thought to myself, “This process or system is going to take forever. We can do better?” So immediately, I took the Chef aside and advised him of a more efficient way. After I made it sound like it was his idea, he adopted the new system. The result of this simple change in the flow of food delivery was that everyone was happy, from the volunteers who had to serve the food, to the Chef himself, and the multitudes receiving our compassionate services for the day. All it took was a simple change to the “system”, which provided more efficient outcomes.

Systems should be made simple, but most people make them more complicated than they should be. The Chef in this situation had extraordinary skills but he lacked the basic skills of how to deliver his product efficiently.

What area above is the weakest in your organization? Which one is the strength of your organization?


[i] An Organizational Structure: An Overview. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1092.aspx, accessed on 4/7/2013.

Default Leadership: The Presumptuous Leader


 presumption

The “presumptuous leader” sounds like an oxymoron. Well, it actually is one! Leaders who are presumptions think of themselves a little higher than they actually are and think they know more than others. Allow me a short illustration:

I was recently promoted to a new position and took hold of my new branch which had a lot of potential for growth and profit. However, after a quick appraisal of the store’s metrics I soon discovered the store also had some areas that required immediate attention and improvement – most noticeably its leadership presence. This particular branch had been on the decline for some months with the present management who was feeling the pressure from top brass concerning some alarming numbers. During my first few days in the office, my objective was to get to know my team members by simply interacting with them and observing how they worked with each other, but most importantly how they perceived me as their new leader. On the onset I detected some resistance from the store manager, the second in command. At first he was a little distant, cold and “short” with me. One time, during a brief interview, he must have presumed we were done with the conversation, so he got up and walked away. I sat on my seat stunned thinking, “Does this guy have any social skills?” Over a period of two weeks, I knew I had a lot more to work on than getting the store to operate at peak performance. I needed to groom my store manager with the right leadership skills for personal, team and corporate success. Throughout my interactions with the store manager I soon found three default characteristics of a presumptuous leader:

1. Previous work experience does not add up to competent leadership

After spending some time with my store manager, I noticed how he would keep bringing up his previous employment experience, “In my previous job I supervised fifty employees.” And the time I asked him to do the schedule he made a point to say, “It’s easy, doing a schedule for four people is nothing compared to what I used to do.” My first thought, “Wow, I have a great leader working with me. We are going to turn this store around quicker than I first anticipated.” Soon enough, within a matter of days, I noticed the incompetence surface. He lacked the basic skills of supervision, delegating responsibility and holding his direct reports accountable for their work performance. My initial thought was, “Now, how did this guy get to a position where he supervised fifty people?” It just didn’t add up.

2. Layered expectations is a form of controlling others not leading them

There’s nothing more I dislike than someone saying, “They are not allowed to do that!”, or something similar, “The previous boss would only let me do that.” After a few comments like these I had to put a stop to that kind of managerial thinking. In a learning environment managers must relinquish some control and trust others to learn and do the job. After all, we must advance not only the agenda of the organization but also employees to their next level of operation. So I asked myself, “Where did he get this learning?” After some brief dialogue, it was the previous General Manager who would not allow certain people to do some basic things, such as count the cash drawer upon opening or closing the store. My style of training is a “cross-trainer” approach where everyone gets to participate and learn a new aspect of the operation. This happens gradually when someone is willing and ready to learn the next new thing. A working environment must be empowering not controlling others based upon one’s position or title.

3. Leading from behind is not authentic leadership

After a week or so I noticed the store manager was not leading his direct reports properly. So I asked him, “How do you lead your team?” He responded, “Oh, they already know what to do. I just let them do it.” I then asked, “How do you know they are accomplishing tasks on time and being effective in their jobs?” He just stared at me. His style of leadership was laissez-faire, from a French term meaning laid-back leadership. When I questioned his style of leadership he simply replied, “I’ve always done it that way.” Presumption – yes or no? As a leader, you have to engage your direct reports with vision and responsibility, and responsibility with accountability, and timed tasks that are measured by effective performance and results.

What did I learn in the first two weeks of this encounter? First, I learned that the more someone is “experienced” the harder they are to train, because “they just seem to know so much” more than you. Employees who brag about their previous work experience must embrace new learning experiences. Second, bringing correction to a leader who seems to “know it all” is difficult to do but it’s a must. A leader must have the courage to have transparent and regular discussions. What kind of discussions? The one’s where you tell your direct report to “push the refresh button” and to start all over by learning how to lead effectively.