The importance of vision (McKinsey article)

Again from the McKinsey Quarterly comes a useful article about the challenges faced by new entrants to C-level positions. Of note was the reference to the difficulty of creating a shared vision:

When asked about different aspects of their transitions, executives rank business-related activities among the most important to the transitionโ€™s overall outcome. The largest share say it was very or extremely important to create a shared vision and alignment around their strategic direction across the organization (Exhibit 2). This is also among the most difficult aspects to carry out: just 30 percent of all respondents say it was easy to create a shared vision in their new role.

This has been an extremely important piece of the work that I have assisted the Canterbury DHB with over the last seven years, and has been one of the keys to the successful transformation programme (for more detail see here).

Visions are not created by black and white typing on a Powerpoint slide, neither are they broadcast down from a stage.ย  The best visions are co-created with the people that work in an organisation in such a way that they share ownership, and feel like they are part of something bigger.

This directly links to some previous work – also from Mckinsey – about strategy co-creation which you can read about here.


Source: Ascending to the C-suite | McKinsey & Company

John Oliver reframes complex narrative with ‘Dick Pics’

I watched the John Oliver show about the renewal of the Patriot Act upcoming in June.ย  His central argument is that the American people donโ€™t care about NSA mass surveillance programmes as itโ€™s too complicated.

He goes to Moscow and interviews Ed Snowden, and you can watch Snowden struggle to understand how to frame his story.ย  Then John Oliver reframes the massive complexity of NSA surveillanceย  around, errrr…Dick Pics sent online.

He shows Snowden interviews with people in Times Square before and after the reframing, and the results are absolutely clear when it comes to the formation of great narrative.

The full clip is 30min but you need to watch it in itโ€™s entirety to see the beauty of the formation of the story.ย  Before the reframing people aren’t particularly worried about the powers of the NSA.ย  After the reframing they are passionately against it.

It’s a virtual masterclass in how to reframe complexity in such a way that it can trigger a narrative to be re-told.ย  It’s also an extremely topical and relevant story in itself.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance (HBO) – YouTube.

Global changes – a view from a CIA veteran

This is a fascinating view of macro scale changes from a very unlikely source – an ex-senior official in the CIA Clandestine Service.ย  His comments echo some of my recent thinking about the potential impact when social movements meet social media, and the impact upon modern-day governance structures.ย  Here’s the view of Henry Crumpton (with my emphasis in bold):

The most important change on the global security and business stage is the empowerment of the individual and their ability to have inexpensive, exponential impact through technology and collaboration. This revolutionary development has led to an unprecedented shift in relationships, with a degree of asymmetric power never seen in the history of human conflict or commerce. There are micro actors with macro impact operating on a global landscape and they constantly challenge the status quo, and this trend is accelerating.

via A CIA veteran’s lessons for CEOs – Fortune Management.

McKinsey Quarterly – developing strategy en masse

Over at McKinsey there is a fascinating article about engaging an entire workforce in the development of organisational strategy:

…executives at organizations that are experimenting with more participatory modes of strategy development cite two major benefits. One is improving the quality of strategy by pulling in diverse and detailed frontline perspectives that are typically overlooked but can make the resulting plans more insightful and actionable. The second is building enthusiasm and alignment behind a companyโ€™s strategic directionโ€”a critical component of long-term organizational health, effective execution, and strong financial performance that is all too rare, according to research we and our colleagues in McKinseyโ€™s organization practice have conducted.

This is similar to some very successful work I’ve done with one client over the last five years. Initially we involved eighty thought leaders and influencers (along with a handful of hierarchical leaders) in a process to develop a vision.ย  Later in the process we spread that out to thousands of people using word of mouth.ย  It was extremely powerful, but you need to take great care to ensure the process does not go astray, and the McKinsey article touches on this.

via The social side of strategy – McKinsey Quarterly – Strategy – Strategy in Practice.

Govt policy – faith, new ideas and paradigms

A quick link to David Skilling’s excellent post today about the tensions in introducing new ideas to Governments, and the importance of doing so:

After years of observing governments, I have come to the view that one of the most costly features of policy-making is โ€˜faith-based policyโ€™ in which certain policies become articles of faith and are not subject to serious scrutiny. This can lead to poor outcomes at any time, but particularly in times of disruptive change when new ideas are needed to enable governments to adapt to a changing world. It is the governments that respond flexibly to a changing world that are more likely to sustain strong performance.

via Landfall ย โœงย  On faith-based policy.

Movements and change – watch Russia

There’s something to watch here: a young, rich and glamourus woman spurns her roots and becomes a poster child for change.ย  She knows how to cross both the digital and real worlds for impact, and clearly understands the system she exists within.

The pampered โ€œit girlโ€ of Putinโ€™s Russia, author of โ€œPhilosophy in the Boudoirโ€ and โ€œHow to Marry a Millionaire,โ€ has restyled herself as a leader of the opposition. Last week, Ms. Sobchak hosted protest leaders on her new political talk show, which was canceled by Russiaโ€™s MTV after just one episode and is now broadcast on a Web site.

(via Kseniya Sobchak, Russiaโ€™s โ€˜It Girl,โ€™ Dons Opposition Cloak –

I’m increasingly interested in how social movements and social media will intersect, and the implications for power brokers (both government and non-government).ย  I think there’s something here in social movements getting digital smarts and becoming digital movements (think rapid scale, emergence ‘from nowhere” and clear actions). Watch this space…

The psychology of change

This is a fascinating and highly relevant study about the psychological constructs that people use when engaging with complex and urgent issues.ย  The paper has just been published in the American Psychological Association’sย  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

A summary extract of the paper states:

The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed.

And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware,

Through a series of five studies conducted in 2010 and 2011 with 511 adults in the United States and Canada, the researchers described โ€œa chain reaction from ignorance about a subject to dependence on and trust in the government to deal with the issue.โ€

In one study, participants who felt most affected by the economic recession avoided information challenging the governmentโ€™s ability to manage the economy. However, they did not avoid positive information, the study said. This study comprised 197 Americans with a mean age of 35 (111 women and 89 men), who had received complex information about the economy and had answered a question about how the economy is affecting them directly.

To test the links among dependence, trust and avoidance, researchers provided either a complex or simple description of the economy to a group of 58 Canadians, mean age 42, composed of 20 men and 38 women. The participants who received the complex description indicated higher levels of perceived helplessness in getting through the economic downturn, more dependence on and trust in the government to manage the economy, and less desire to learn more about the issue.


via Ignorance is Bliss When it Comes to Challenging Social Issues.