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Re-engineering the wheel of businesses beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Re-engineering the wheel of businesses beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Companies and large organizations are still grappling and trying to come to terms with the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. They are dusting off old books and implementing every trick their exhausted minds and strained sight can conceive despite the odds. The economic waters are still choppy and most companies have been sucked into the whirlwind of closure, but there’s still some fighting chance for others as they are steering the ship of innovation on relatively ‘old’ phenomenon which have enough bearing on their survival and dictates their mission to the North Star of dominance once the wind of the pandemic blows over.

One fascinating implication of the pandemic on businesses is that, there has been a shakeup in the organizational structure of most companies as they have had to adopt online strategy in remaining a top priority amongst their client who have the windows of the internet to move, view and make transactions. Technology, which seemed but a luxury and a convenient accessory you brace on the sophistication runway has become a handy tool in chipping off redundant policies, strategies and bureaucracies within the corporate landscape which isn’t needed in the current dispensation.

Interestingly, organizations who were previously semi-inclined to online machinations are now ‘tinkering’ their businesses with digital transformation and are adapting quite well in the crisis than their peers who are averse. For these companies, their business models and working processes mean that they are able to pivot more rapidly or accelerate changes already in motion. Conversely, businesses which are digitally weak or averse find themselves in a dilemma as they are caught between evolving by making drastic changes to entrenched business ideals or become fossils which are only referenced as failed enterprises. Albeit the former seem a much better prospect, their resistance is shrouded in conventions of hierarchy which calcifies any change and stumps any engineered business continuity plans. Software companies who are providing collaboration tools are rather expectantly experiencing high level of demands to meet the evolving behavioral patterns of customers. Technology however, isn’t the only determining factor altering the face of businesses.

 As COVID-19 smokes out innovations from the burrows of organizations, there’s an astounding exposure of the deep seated and often latent power in a swivel chair waiting for an economic shock to be nudged into action. A survey conducted by McKinsey and Company found that companies globally are finding ways to serve their communities and customers. It said, “Many are rising to the occasion. Almost every leader we speak with has an inspiring story of radical, positive change in how work gets done and what it can accomplish”. It chronicled the journey of some businesses who wanted to have their cake and eat. For instance, “a fast-food chain that had to shutter its operations avoided layoffs by partnering with a health and wellness retailer, thus helping the retailer meet spiking demand in a newly designated “essential business.”

Also, “One large retailer dusted off a pre-pandemic initiative to launch a curbside-delivery business. The work plan said 18 months. When the lockdowns hit, it went operational in two days”. Another financial-services company transitioned more than 1,000 of its global operations staff to work-from-home arrangements, equipping them with new technology within 72 hours to ensure business continuity and finally, retail conglomerate in the Middle East retrained 1,000 people in two days, redeploying them from a suddenly stagnant business (movie theaters) to a booming, critical one (grocery retailing)”.

 The assertion from the survey conducted was that, organizations which are on a treadmill of staying in business and on demand may very well be hunkered down by exhaustion as their venture may be largely unsustainable. Amid the fear and uncertainty, people are still energized as “companies make good on purpose statements, eliminate bureaucracy, empower previously untested leaders with big responsibilities and turbocharge decision making. One executive McKinsey interacted with said, “our senior team meets every morning for 30 minutes. It’s incredibly productive. We make decisions and go. We don’t have full information, but that’s OK—we can’t afford not to move.” It observed that the pandemic is revealing certain dissatisfaction in the organizational workspace which is being reformed as the ‘sovereignty’ and ‘invincible’ tags associated with bureaucratic organizations, are gradually shedding of. In lieu of this, the mere fact of their persistence in denting and flattening the curveball is commendable.

The three tenets which McKinsey and Company proposes to alter the face of the ‘new’ organization when the phase of the pandemic remains a nightmarish memory are premised on: who we are, how do we operate and how do we grow? For any organizational structure, the purpose, value and decisions become the fulcrum which gravitates it to the victory lap.

 

WHO WE ARE (Corporate Identity)

Identity has always been the currency for transacting business within the bank of humanity and business sector. We make deposits of ideas by investing in brands, garnering a formidable team who understand the innate corporate spirit and value and also make withdrawal on profits and competitive upper hand across board.  Under the current circumstance, many companies ironically stand the risk of being complacent because in as much as they want their businesses to outlive them, stay relevant and solvent, their corporate purpose cries wolf of betrayal as most plans and projections are definitively in the now. In other words, purpose means profits regardless of how unsustainable they are. Undoubtedly the crux of any human venture is trapped within the vault of profit, but corporate purpose acts as the surveillance system which ensure optimum security on its protection. McKinsey identified that, “What makes purpose real is following through on its implications and letting it guide the choices you make”. Organizations need to be intentional with their culture as “successful, high-performing culture has its own unique behavioral recipe for how it runs the place”.

It indicated that, Rodney O. Martin Jr., chairman and CEO of Voya Financial, describes seeing the benefits of a performance culture firsthand during the earliest, most bewildering days of the current crisis. He recounts how middle managers at the company announced its new work-from-home guidelines and encouraged their teams to feel comfortable making the shift—right away, if they chose. The decision came from people who would normally never make it, and it arrived without hand-wringing. But it wasn’t a surprise to Martin. It was in keeping with a cultural value the company had intentionally prioritized: caring for one another. “People here do the right thing,” Martin says. “The message has very much been ‘we care about you”.

OPERATIONAL APPROACHES

Evolution and innovation are the vanguard of the operational element and success of organizations. Ordinarily, companies which would have smirked at the thought of having to overhaul operations within their environment have presently taken keen measures to safeguard employees and ease financial and operational coverage. Most reputable organizations have had to reduce output and suspend operations in affected regions to cut back losses. Companies are inducing the free flow of their creative juices to refresh the norm of transacting business. McKinsey highlights this by saying, “As companies adopt new ways of working at speed and at scale, three lessons are emerging: a vindication for flatter, faster, nonhierarchical structures and approaches; the need to turbocharge decision making; and a reminder of the role of talent in making everything go. By focusing on three thematic areas such as “a vindication for flatter, faster, nonhierarchical structures and approaches; the need to turbocharge decision making; and a reminder of the role of talent in making everything go”, organizations are likely to remain robust and forge a more dominant face in the corporate environment.

“Talent should underpin every strategic choice and other business decision you’re making right now. Companies that overlook the importance of their people will always miss the upside potential of what their colleagues might have been capable of. They will fail to capitalize on the opportunities that inevitably arise from this or any other economic shock”.

 

HOW WILL WE GROW?

Assuredly, the phase of the transient crisis will regress and things will once again ‘normalize. Things which normally would have happened in businesses will be considered anachronistic as ideas and models being implemented currently will hopefully become the norm. Recovery may move painstakingly slow but the impression on organizational structure will become indelible. Most organization will likely retain ideas which are currently being implemented. In order to fully mature in operations and profits, McKinsey advised “three organizational characteristics which are proven sources of resilience and are worth noting”.

It highlighted companies should adopt an ecosystem mindset where all companies rely on the support of an extensive network of external people, vendors and partners. Secondly, they should embrace data-rich technology platforms where the ability to gather, organize, interpret and act on data and analytics as this will be the defining competitive differentiator of our lifetime and finally, companies should learn how to learn. By this, organizations that equips their employees with the ‘metaskill’ of learning how to learn, adapt, and change quickly will be better able to thrive and succeed.

The bane of every organization is reliving the trivialities of the same culture despite going through a life-altering occurrence as this pandemic. Hopefully as this pandemic runs its full course, the positive impact will be the running order for most companies.

DEVELOPING THE BUSINESS MINDSET & PRACTICES OF OUTSTANDING CEOs

DEVELOPING THE BUSINESS MINDSET & PRACTICES OF OUTSTANDING CEOs

“In business, what’s dangerous is not to evolve.”Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

The Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO) job is as difficult as it is important. The CEO is responsible for the overall success of a business entity and for making top-level managerial decisions. Although they may ask for input on major decisions, the ultimate and final decisions lie on their authority. Name the top CEOs in the world and one will find a few things they have in common that distinguish them from the rest; It starts with their mind-set and what they do differently that set them apart. 

Understanding the Peerless Role of a CEO

Little is solidly understood about what CEOs really do to excel. For all the scrutiny of the CEO’s role, McKinsey’s long-time leader, Marvin Bower, considers the CEO’s job so specialized that he felt executives could prepare for the post only by holding it. Many CEOs today express similar views in their experience, even asking other CEOs how to approach the job doesn’t help, because suggestions vary greatly once they go beyond high-level advice such as “set the strategy,” “shape the culture,” and “get the right team.” 

The incomparable role of a CEO is the most powerful and sought-after title in business, more exciting, rewarding, and influential than any other.  Talk of the biggest moves of a company and that is what the CEO controls, accounting for 45 percent of an organisation’s performance. Despite the dazzle of the role, serving as a CEO can be all-consuming, lonely, and stressful. Just three in five newly appointed CEOs live up to performance expectations in their first 18 months on the job. The high standards and broad expectations of directors, shareholders, customers, and employees create an environment of relentless scrutiny in which one move can dramatically make or derail an accomplished career.

A Paradigm for CEO Excellence 

A leader is bound to set the direction for the company and have a plan in the face of uncertainty. One way that CEOs try to reduce strategic uncertainty is to focus on options with the firmest business cases. Research shows, however, that this approach delivers another sort of outcome: the dreaded “hockey stick” effect, consisting of a projected dip in next year’s budget, followed by a promise of success, which never occurs. The CEO decides ultimately (where do we want to be in five, ten, or 15 years?). Good CEOs do this by considering their mandate and expectations (from the board, investors, employees, and other stakeholders), the relative strengths and purpose of their company, a clear understanding of what enables the business to generate value, opportunities and trends in the marketplace, and their personal aspirations and values.

Strategy: Make bold moves early. 

To move “boldly” is to shift at least 30 percent more than the industry median. Making one or two bold moves more than doubles the likelihood of rising from the middle quintiles of economic profit to the top quintile, and making three or more bold moves makes such a rise six times more likely. CEOs who make these moves earlier in their tenure outperform those who move later and those who do so multiple times in their tenure avoid an otherwise common decline in performance. A good move is matching talent with value. The best CEOs take a methodical approach to matching talent with roles that create the most value. 

Learn the art of effective resource reallocation

Resource reallocation isn’t just a bold strategic move on its own; it’s also an essential enabler of the other strategic moves. Companies that re-allocate more than 50 percent of their capital expenditures among business units over ten years create 50 percent more value than companies that re-allocate more slowly. To ensure that resources are swiftly reallocated to where they will deliver the most value rather than spread thinly across businesses and operations, excellent CEOs institute an ongoing (not annual) stage-gate process. Such a process takes a granular view, makes comparisons using quantitative metrics, prompts when to stop funding and when to continue it, and is backed by the CEO’s personal resolve to continually optimize the company’s allocation of resources.

Give Equal Attention to Performance and Health

Ask successful investors what they look for in portfolio companies and many will tell you they’d rather put money on an average strategy in the hands of great talent than on a great strategy in the hands of average talent. The best CEOs put equal rigor and discipline into achieving greatness on both strategy and talent. When it comes to putting great talent in place, almost half of senior leaders say that their biggest regret is taking too long to move lesser performers out of important roles, or out of the organization altogether. Many CEOs also say they regret leaving adequate performers in key positions and failing to realize the full potential of their roles. The best CEOs think systematically about their people: which roles they play, what they can achieve, and how the company should operate to increase people’s impact.

Combine speed with stability

“Agility” is one of the most widely used and misunderstood management buzzwords of the past decade. For many leaders, agility evokes speed in decision making and execution, as opposed to the deliberate pace dictated by the stable, standardized routines of large organizations. The facts show that agility requires no such trade-off. On the contrary, companies that are both fast and stable are nearly three times more likely to rank in the top quartile of organizational health than companies that are fast but lack stable operating disciplines. Excellent CEOs increase their companies’ agility by determining which features of their organizational design will be stable and unchanging (such features might include a primary axis of organization, a few signature processes, and shared values) and by creating dynamic elements that adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities (such elements might include temporary performance cells, flow-to-work staffing models, and minimum-viable-product iterations).

Pursue Teamwork: Put dynamics ahead of mechanics

The dynamics of a top team can strongly influence a company’s success. The best CEOs take special care to ensure their management team performs strongly as a unit. The reward for doing so is real; top teams that work together toward a common vision are 1.9 times more likely to deliver above-median financial performance. In practice, CEOs swiftly adjust the team’s composition (size, diversity, and capability), which can involve hard calls on removing likable low performers and disagreeable high performers and on elevating people with high potential. CEOs should also calibrate individual relationships, maintaining distance to be objective but enough closeness to gain trust and loyalty.

Decision making: Defence against biases.

Cognitive and organizational biases worsen everyone’s judgment. Such biases contribute to many common performance shortfalls, such as the significant cost overruns that affect 90 percent of capital projects. Behavioural economist Dan Ariely, one of the foremost authorities on cognitive biases, admits, “I was just as bad myself at making decisions as everyone else I write about.” Nevertheless, CEOs sometimes feel as though they’re immune to bias (after all, they might ask, hasn’t good judgment gotten them where they are?). Excellent CEOs endeavour to minimize the effect of biases by instituting such processes as pre-emptively solving for failure modes (premortems), formally appointing a contrarian (red team), disregarding past information (clean sheet), and taking plan A off the table (vanishing options).

Social purpose: Be part of the bigger community

Many corporate social responsibility programs are little more than public-relations exercises; collections of charitable initiatives that generate good feelings but have minimal lasting influence on society’s well-being. Excellent CEOs spend time thinking about, articulating, and championing the purpose of their company as it relates to the big-picture impact of day-to-day business practices. They push for meaningful efforts to create jobs, abide by ethical labour practices, improve customers’ lives, and lessen the environmental harm caused by operations. Remember, visible results matter to stakeholders.

Personal working norms: Do what only you can do

CEOs can easily become overwhelmed, which is understandable given the sheer breadth of their role. As the dean of Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohria has said, “CEOs are accountable for all the work of their organizations. Their life is endless meetings and a barrage of email. Plenty of research also suggests that many CEOs are beset by loneliness, frustration, disappointment, irritation, and exhaustion. While no CEO can escape these emotions completely, excellent CEOs know that they will serve the company better by taking command of their well-being

Becoming an exemplary CEO requires authenticity. Remarkable CEOs indulge in merging the reality of what they ought to do in the role with who they are as human beings. They deliberately choose how to behave in the role, based on such questions as: What legacy do I want to leave? What do I want others to say about me as a leader? What do I stand for? What won’t I tolerate? The world’s best CEOs answer these questions according to their strengths and motivations, as well as the company’s needs, and create mechanisms to track how they are doing. By expressing these intentions as part of the rationale for their decisions and actions, CEOs can minimize the risk of failure.

Growth-leadership mind-set needed to capture growth

Growth-leadership mind-set needed to capture growth

Everyone may be born a winner, but only a few (if not none) are born leaders. Hence Leadership, like cooking,

THE INCREASING NEED FOR EXCEPTIONAL PROBLEM-SOLVERS

THE INCREASING NEED FOR EXCEPTIONAL PROBLEM-SOLVERS

In an era of accelerating social, economic, and technological changes, organizations are continuously challenged to make increasingly complex decisions in the face of an uncertain future. This is why the value of creative and strategic thinkers capable of solving complex problems has never been higher.

Problems are often opportunities in disguise and are almost always portals for learning. A methodical approach based on business problem-solving steps increases the odds of developing long-term solutions that can satisfy management, employees, and customers. A comprehensive approach to problem-solving can be applied to almost every kind of problem— from personal decisions through to business strategies and on to some of the most complex challenges facing society today.

Following a set of clearly delineated problem-solving strategies are essential to avoiding the temptation of acting rashly and making decisions that aren't in the best interests of the organization, customers, and investors. Taking a systematic approach to business management problems and solutions are not ultimate solutions to eliminate problems in the future, but remain long-standing important tools to keep future situations from turning chaotic.

The Skill of Problem Solving Becoming an Industrial Skill in Demand

In a world more complex and uncertain, The World Economic Forum has made an outstanding revelation that lists complex problem solving as the number-one skill for 2020. Work by McKinsey's leadership group also shows that organizations that have the problem-solving capability in the top quartile earn about 3.5 times higher total return to shareholders than those in the bottom quartile. Thus, underpinning the fact that problem solving is not just an individual skill but also becoming an accelerating institutional skill in demand.

Good problem solvers are made and not born! An effective method of understanding problem solving is realizing that problem-solving does not require necessarily dealing with problems that only involve good knowledge of accounting or business.  Becoming an outstanding problem solver is within an individual’s grasp of a range of problems that are typically addressable in day-to-day living; including the factors that underpin individual, business, and societal problems.

Establishing the Essentials of Clever Problem-Solving

Rob McLean, director emeritus of McKinsey’s Strategy and Corporate Finance Practice, eluded in an interview with Chris Bradley on his new book; Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything that, “Bulletproof problem solving is an expression we used at McKinsey that meant that what you came up with to present to the client was ironclad. It really was a test of just how rigorously you’d gone about defining the problem, breaking it down, and doing the analysis”.

A careful investigation of the aforementioned statement by Rob McLean reveals three unparalleled factors that encompass the elements of substantial problem-solving. These are, with emphasis on the word “rigor” as hammered in his submission, defining the problem; breaking down the problem and doing the analysis.

 The Systematic Processes of Dealing with a Relatively Unstructured Problem

Defining and Breaking Down the Problem

Throughout a number of problem-solving techniques or strategies found in books and other reliable sources, one important yet overlooked feature is evident; That is, a lack of systematic approach in dealing with a relatively unstructured problem, which results, in another problem of failing to ascertain the full length of the unpleasant situation. A real gap in the world’s educational system, Ghana inclusive, is a growing trend of churning out into the job market graduates who are undeniably clueless about the efficacious processes of solving complex organizational problems and; are not challenged to identify new and innovative ways of resolving emerging difficulties in the workplace. A good step taken by Google in recent times is prioritizing to hire creative problem-solving talents above all else; a phenomenon that is progressively gaining attention from more and more organizations worldwide.

The ability to define the problem, particularly in terms of what decision-makers are looking for or the ability to disaggregate the problem are missing ingredients in even the most preached about resolution game plan.

Recognizing that very few problems can ever be solved at the highest level, cutting edge resolution methods appreciate: the ability to define the challenges faced in organizations that demand a successful break down into addressable parts, an incorruptible outline of priorities, a well-thought-out and cautiously drawn work plan analysis and recommendations that lead to action. For instance, defining a business problem on competitive strategy goes beyond stating just the problem– What are the Competitive weaknesses? It encapsulates a break down into the difficulties of cost leadership that targets a broad market that offers the lowest possible price, inability to differentiate the high demand for the features that sets a product or service apart and; lack of direction to the factors that accentuate targeting a clear niche market and understanding the dynamics of the market.

Undertaking Careful Analysis of the Named Issues

Examining the problem is the process of investigating the causes of the incident, issue or failure which is done to uncover the improvements to systems, processes, procedures, design, and culture. Some problems are considered “wicked problems” because they often are unintended consequences of initial resolution procedures that rather aggravate matters. In effect, grasping the full knowledge of the problem is championed by investigating the cause and effect analysis of the error.

Though popularly seen as a difficult approach, it looks at for instance, whether the mistake emerged from merely an unintended human error or from the poor performance of a task due to negligence. Root-cause analysis is the sub-analysis that highlights failures that can be traced back to the very beginning of a project. An example is the loss of data that is overlooked at the initial stages of a project but builds a rippling effect over time, leading to an embarrassing failure of the project that hitherto would have been successful. The root-cause concept is the mother of the final step known as the fishbone, where a problem can be visualized into multiple root-causes that are further categorized. This process leads to the making of recommendations that fix the various aspects of a problem.

Making Recommendations and Setting Priorities

The last but not the least step that paves the way for implementation in exceptional problem solving is making the necessary recommendations. This starts with transforming the hypothesis into clearly worded suggestions that incorporate the core analysis required to prove a case. A well-defined recommendation puts into a story-line the methods of correcting the errors and how they ease the situation. Instances where there are uncertainties, strategic problem-solvers try to calibrate what the level of uncertainty is and whether that is going to impact the range of choices available. This is what is referred to as “higher levels of uncertainty.” The solution to this is to build capability by considering low-cost options that can be pursued. A good trick is to allow team structures that have diversity and allow different viewpoints to be brought together.

Instances Where Problem Solving Can Go Wrong

Rob McLean, once again in the interview with Chris Bradley on “Want better strategies? become a Bulletproof problem solver”, connects instances where problem-solving goes wrong to what he calls “missed opportunity”. He cites an example in his book where in the 1980s, IBM paid 20 percent to buy Intel, and it had another 10 percent of warrants in the company. It sold it for $625 million in 1986–87, and that was worth $25 billion a decade later. Similarly, it had the opportunity to buy 30 percent of Microsoft for $300 million in 1986. Ten years later, that was worth $33 billion. With IBM being a significant player in the business at the time, their understanding of the rules and depth of the market led to the creation of a staggering amount of wealth for the company.

The measures that can be taken to prevent problem resolution from taking the wrong path are: understanding the market dynamics and its evolving nature, identifying social and environmental factors that can pose as potential threats, and the need to encourage leaders who are prepared to look at quite-radical choices and real alternatives.

The Impact of Today’s Blend of Mental Muscle & Machine Muscle in Problem Solving

Strategists today have more analytical tools at their disposal than ever before. Without an attempt to replace the human way of doing problem-solving, these new analytical techniques allow for deeper and faster ways to effectively subdue problems from reaching the point of escalation. Machine learning or major regression analysis pushes for attention to be paid to the; mean, median, and mode to facilitate the setting of the hypothesis for the major piece of regression analysis or machine learning.

In an increasingly technological world, society can boast of a functional combination of mental muscle, which is the cognitive problem solving, and machine muscle that distinguishes between advantageous and less advantageous strategies.

From the extensive discussion on result-oriented problem solving, there is a course to appreciate the unique characteristics that adequately define and differentiate calculated problem solvers from the rest of the world. Their preeminent ability to anatomize a complication into bits that can be practically addressed in all aspects, thereby giving varying angles for step-by-step investigation and; a coherent plan of action towards firm-grounded resolution and constructive implementation. These are the qualities that persons seeking to become exceptional problem-solvers should aspire to possess.

Born agile or journey to an agile organization

Born agile or journey to an agile organization

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A CEO’s journey to digital transformation

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Are we long—or short—on talent?

Are we long—or short—on talent?

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The Government of Ghana is set to hold a three-day cabinet retreat led by the president to examine the data gathered on COVID-19 impact across all sectors of the economy and proffer solutions.

This was announced by the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah at the usual COVID-19 press briefing in Accra today. The meeting is expected to start later today.