Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Long-term value: Improving your board’s strategy processes in 2019

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2019 at 2:40 pm

UK senior leaders with a genuine concern for long-term sustainable value will not be surprised to find boardroom discussion being dominated by strategy considerations in the next few weeks. Not just because access to European markets is uncertain but because globalisation offers interesting opportunities.

Boardrooms are often referent to their organisation’s concept of ‘the strategic’. Founding principles cast long shadows over senior practice and even the most mature company finds it difficult to adjust deeply persistent perspectives about value creation. Companies that collapse or lose touch with market changes can often trace the start of strategic drift to the board’s ability to give voice to early signs of consumers’ unfaithfulness. Directors wishing to signal more fundamental movements in markets will often be alert to their senior board’s ability to receive unpalatable news.

Creating a board culture that is not fragile is a matter of skilful leadership. Mature Chairpersons and CEOs will shape a strategy climate that enables early engagement with any faint signs of change. Of particular challenge is receiving signals that hint at possible changes to the structural make-up of the organisation. Again, senior figures are quite often adept at extrapolating the implications of external factors. If a closed communication culture persists it will limit important conversations and their ability to reach the board with sufficient speed for timely action.In practical terms this means boards should assess the ‘strategy processes’ that foster a high functioning board activity. Boards are often focused on ‘strategy creation’ from within the normal agenda of regular board meetings. With the challenge that strategy dialogue can be eclipsed by the operational demands of the trading cycle. Current events put pressure on the board’s capacity to explore creatively the more subtle elements of strategic conversation.

Whether boards separate ‘strategy creation’ from ‘the business agenda’ becomes a consideration. This is dependent on the needs of the organisation but increasingly creating an open space with a different texture for strategy conversation offers the potential for spotting and protecting long-term value. This may also include pulling in a wider pool of leaders from across the organisation, including middle-management. Middle managers are acutely aware of the organisation’s change pressures but can be either enabled or restricted by their chain of command and quality of departmental/divisional communications. Giving middle-management the opportunity to ‘speak up’ within a more broad-ranging strategy process offers early insights on both internal and external factors. The assumption that regular data gathering within the organisation will provide the board with an accurate picture should be regularly tested.

The Chair has an important if not critical role to enable the CEO to create dynamic strategy processes. If the CEO becomes too intimately involved with some elements of the cycle it may restrict the quality of engagement by the wider team. Allowing line management and support staff to influence the process has value given the interdependence of organisational functions. The possibility, say, for IT strategy to more closely align to the coming demands of future trading can only be of critical concern.

Creating and enabling the above requires patience and determination by Chair and CEO. Their relationship emerges as increasingly important as global markets shift in 2019. It is possible to foster effective Chair/CEO relations that then filter down into the strategy environment. The increasing need to be both sensitive and resilient to change signals grows as markets behave with greater discontinuity. The emphasis is thrown back onto ‘strategic leadership’ and its ability to nurture a senior board who share a sincere concern for the long-term in the face often of significant short-term pressures. But these pressures are also a catalyst to set-up good strategy processes (architecture) that gives real capacity to a busy senior team who need reassurance that their insights will feed into future direction.

If you are a senior director interested in talking further about strategy process then call me on 07544 581601

The changing nature of organisational purpose under globalisation

In Uncategorized on September 21, 2018 at 2:46 pm

I thought it worthwhile capturing the sensations leaders and managers are experiencing when considering purpose and direction. And express this outside of our normal functional language-set, drawing from the late and I believe great Zygmunt Bauman, the Leeds-based sociologist. Does this seem plausible to say that the modern purposeful nature of global management in late-modernity has retreated from “the idea of a ‘total’ order to be erected floor by floor in a protracted consistent, purpose-guided effort of labour” (Zygmunt Bauman)? The aesthetic sense of ‘moving towards’ that made men and women moral and serious about the work-space has transmogrified into an uneasy awareness of co-workers being “involuntary nomads” or journeymen, where fellow “brothers and sisters in humanity” are not taking part in the “bliss of [the] future”. What was an intuitive shared stride into a future that would come-of-age through combined effort has now moved from an Epic-Struggle to a “tinkering… stripped of its eschatological trappings and cut off from its metaphysical roots, work has lost the centrality which it was assigned in the galaxy of values dominant in the solid modernity and heavy capitalism” and it’s lost its “ethical foundation”. If brotherhood of humanity linked arms in solid modernity now the higher ranks might be found tinkering and ‘the many’ find they are “nomad[s]” invited to share the journey alongside the former Epic-Leader (the once sacred of solid modernity), causing bemusement and dysfunctions (sacrilege of disorder). Where modernity itself tied the hands of the charismatic heroic manager now liquid-modernity ties the hands of the technocratic leader whose authenticity was once assured through long-service or technical credibility but finds they inspire ambivalence amidst the ambiguity of change processes. The Epic or Great Technocrat might appear then as the nomad-leader moving through where workplaces are caravanserai, stopping points for a shifting community of travellers, until the next stopping point. In summary the modern-nomad is a “pilgrim through life” gathering unities and maintaining recognisable patterns within matching backdrops, whereas postmodern-nomads “wander between unconnected places”.

Global Manager as the-nomad-leader

Caravanserai: the early ‘motels’ of the desert are for grazing, before wandering further.

A message to Chairpersons/CEOs from history: the UK’s new global role post-BREXIT

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Micro-analysis on the BREXIT deal is obscuring the long-view of the UK’s eventual place in the new world-order. This podcast invites a very confident view from history. Past withdrawals from European power invited interesting equilibrium-seeking leadership. Via media, or the middle-way, became something of the English genius. The ability to please our European markets and hunt down high-seas markets will be played out again. Shaking free from EU oversight offers its own form of energy. Use this podcast to engage senior leaders in a wider conversation. Click here


Blue seas ahead: pointing ships into storms remains the only route for boardroom dialogue

The CEO and their language as leaders: developing new ways of speaking realistically into a changing world

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2018 at 6:24 am

Leadership in contemporary organisations is dominated by the language of function. Largely as organisations have evolved to privilege the functional behaviours of its members. Unsurprising given the globalising of modern society. And modern societies often prefer speech rooted in events and people over and above the apparent abstractness of ideas or imagining. That we are cultured in speaking primarily about the physical world is hardly surprising. ‘How are you?’ being a frequent and revealing opening remark for us, over ‘Who are you?’ or ‘What are you thinking?’. Social media reveals the focus on what people are doing, or haven’t done. Chief Executives’ language can often then tend to be orientated towards this form of speechness. Trapping them in a world of apparent ‘constant action’. Their journey through the very functional ranks of middle-management can create pressure to be the centre of successful doing. This podcast discusses our challenge as CEOs and Board members to consider our language as leaders in the coming complexities of future trading: Click here (early reference to the writer Mikhail Bakhtin and his ideas)


Pic: how well do boardroom spaces enable leaders to vary their speech?

Authenticity and change in the coming commercial flux (Podcast)

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Authenticity remains an appealing notion in that it suggests the presence of the good and true. It implies a centredness around a core self image. Leadership has tended at times to offer these characteristics as attractive to followers. Alignment to an authentic figure is reassuring in a modern non-traditional landscape. But for modern people, those who look to ‘freedom’ and ‘happiness’ as high points of existence, authenticity struggles. Modernity remains predicated on loosening strong unities around the self. It allows multiple selves dependent on self-construction. Thus modernity and even more so late-modernity (widespread globalisation ala Fourth Industrial Revolution) is at odds with many notions around authenticity. This podcast talks through implications for authenticity and change in the coming globalised trading landscape. Globalisation in this conversation infers the spread of modern flux. Click here


Naked Education: odd and ordinary learning

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2018 at 11:32 am

There is the argument that ordinary people enjoy life. They enjoy ordinary things. But odd people find ordinary life painful. How much ordinariness is being inflicted by education and business on contemporary life is an important concern. To Know seems rooted in oddness. Especially Socratic knowledge. And does ordinariness in learning affect ‘good knowledge’? Especially if ‘good knowledge’ has lost its humanity.



The Mad Shareholder: struggle of speaking into contemporary society

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2018 at 3:41 pm

How much does ‘speaking into’ the world as a ‘stakeholder’ effect change? The image of us as stakeholders with a voice is often undifferentiated. This podcast discusses this and other issues. Including the relationship between myth and reality, and the problems of privileging unquestioned rationalism.


Grenfell and the banality of modern power: and how very ordinary people diligently partake in evil

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm

The Grenfell tragedy reveals another possible horror and that is the absence of individual actors to bear, in a very modern moral sense, the culpability that our notions of ‘leadership’ require. We place great store on leaders as agents who have power to change our world, but when failure strikes it seems contemporary society is unable to idenfity the same power that we once placed so much hope in. Pic: Hannah Arendt

When the two great anti-philosophers of modernity, Karl Marx and Jesus Christ, see eye-to-eye (Podcast)

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2018 at 11:16 am

Peculiarly synonymous in their bent towards action Marx and Christ should be in bed together again. The poor stock action has recorded amongst the disinterested middle of society makes such a suggestion increasingly attractive. Both Christianity and Marxism have emasculated themselves by a loss of integrity towards ‘action’. Hence a return to Marx and Christ as their selves, and as anti-philosophers disfigured by their followers, appeals. Doing and Being seem to come to the fore when they are encountered individually and together. Marx has something to say to Christians. And vice versa. Both the cultural and fanatical adherents that is.

Shocking Britain: UK’s EU exit offers insights into power and change (Podcast)

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2018 at 11:06 am

After a long and messy partnership the UK’s exit from the EU represents a complex set of desires to renegotiate the Social Contract. Some of these might be to restore ‘charismatic power’ to a country used to ‘throwing its weight around in the world’. From Orwell’s common man to Debussy’s challenges to modern realities there are new currents of thought emerging on leadership, power and change in the not-so-united Kingdom that can easily be missed in the light of this huge transition. Not just for Europe but for the globe. Europe has been the centre of dialogue on political systems for hundreds of years. It is again. And it has tended  to drag the rest of the world into its backyard squabbles. So close and renewed attention is vital. This podcast explores some of these emerging observations: