Corporate Culture and False Assumptions

Jordan on failure

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.  ~Henry Ford

One of my greatest insights about culture change came early in my career from an assignment with AVCO Everett Research Labs. Basically this was a defence technology think tank filled with pure research scientists and scientists ‘masquerading a managers’. The issue to be addressed was serious infighting over research budgets, poor conversion of research into saleable ideas and products, plus a culture of mistrust and blaming. Seen it many times before in a dozen other companies, including other AVCO companies.

To make a long story short, the culture change was a complete failure. Dick Millman, the then CEO of the parent company and I laugh about it now, but it was painful then. The only thing that changed was the calendar date. Basically, my assumptions about culture change, and this culture in particular, were all wrong and I limped away with a deeper understanding that culture change is not a rational or logical process and doesn’t neatly follow a flow chart or programmatic, step-by-step approach.

Over the years I have rarely been tripped up by the ‘hidden assumptions’ behind culture change. Once bitten, twice smart?

 8 Culture Change Assumptions that are Wrong

The following are some of the assumptions that nearly everyone makes as they begin planning a culture change process. And we all know what happens when you ASSUME: “You make an ass out of u and me.

And many of these assumptions are just plain wrong.

  • There is a clear relationship between culture and performance. While this is often assumed to be the case, and we all intuitively believe that culture impacts performance, most of the academic studies are based on correlations, not direct cause and effect. A lot more work needs to be done here. Don’t always assume that improving culture is the best way to improve performance.
  • Culture is the problem to be fixed. How do you know the problem is culture? It could by bad pricing strategy, wrong sales incentives, or a dozen other business issues. The problem may not be one of the cultural characteristics measured, but an entirely different or related issue.
  • Culture can be changed. There is a large body of evidence that says culture change is extremely difficult, risky and doesn’t really work. You should think about smaller and focused changes that might have a higher probability of success.
  • The benefits outweigh the cost. Very few (almost none) of the culture change consulting firms are willing to work on a ‘no gain, no fee’ basis. Identifying and measuring the actual financial and organizational benefits expected must be done early on and takes considerable skill and attention. There are very few examples of tangible ROI gains from culture change programs.
  • Culture change does more good than harm. All change efforts, but especially culture change programs, produce collateral damage of one kind or another that is often not anticipated and may create additional problems.
  • Culture change is a logical decision. The big assumption here is that employees will change their working habits if it makes logical sense. Human change is emotionally driven and you are messing with social dynamics, not reprogramming machines.
  • Culture change is another business project. “Culture is not an initiative, it is the foundation that powers all initiatives.” If anything, culture change is a major leadership activity, not a management project and the CEO and senior team must be prepared to spend 40-60% of their time on leading, imbedding and sustaining the new culture.
  • Culture change is about values. People don’t change their values when they come to work, but they can and do change their behaviour. All experience points to the fact that internal policies and procedures drive work behaviour as much, or more, than personal values. “I want to serve the customer, but I am too busy filling out forms and preparing reports for management!” Be ready to rethink, lean and streamline everything you do so that new internal processes will drive new behaviors.

My advice:  Think long and hard before embarking on a culture change effort. And if  you are not prepared to “go the distance”, don’t start!

And if you are prepared, find an advisor who has done twenty or more culture change projects, not just read twenty books about culture change!

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

 

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, John's Novels, leadership, Life Skills, Organization Behavior, Self-improvement, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Focus of Culture Change is not Culture

M magnifying glass fire (1)

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus. ~Alexander Graham Bell

When I was a young boy I got great delight from playing with a magnifying glass. Not only did it make tiny things easier to see and study (I was a budding naturalist), but it could also be used to concentrate the sun’s rays to burn paper. One day I spent several hours burning my name onto a piece of pine wood.  It hung on my bedroom door for years.

In life and in business, focus is one of the key ingredients for achievement. Whether Malcolm Gladwell’s statement in his popular book, Outliers, of taking 10,000 hours to achieve a high level of proficiency (mastery?) is accurate or not, I do know from watching my daughter excel playing classical music on the violin that a high level of proficiency only comes from “practice, practice, practice”. In a phrase my grandmother used to say, “Doing is achieving!”

But the issue of Focus comes with one big drawback: What to focus on? It is important to focus on the right thing if you wish to get sustainable results. And that’s where the difficulty with most change programs comes in. Just what to focus on to produce a sustainable change?

The Focus of Culture Change is Not Culture!

focus

Most culture change programmes and culture gurus focus try to focus on the culture.  They do a culture assessment, current and desired, then locate the gaps.  When the gaps turn out to be things like “lack of accountability”, “poor top-down communications”, and “need for improved cross-departmental teamwork”, they prescribe team alignment workshops, accountability seminars and design new competency frameworks. Lots of energy is released, some of the workshops are engaging and inspiring even, and the internal communication department gets a renewed focus.  The CEO even writes a monthly blog!

When the activity is over, a few transformed individuals become role models for the new culture, but the vast majority slip right back into former culture habits and old ways of working. Then comes the cynicism and the finger-pointing and it will be a several years before any large-scale change programme is attempted again.

One of the lessons I have learned over the years of seeing hundreds of different assessments on everything from corporate culture to employee engagement to customer satisfaction is one of the fundamental truths from my first year statistics course in college:

Correlation is not always cause!

Just because there is a consistently low score on a behaviour such as “lack of accountability” doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t understand the value of accountability in the culture. The more useful question (and inquiry) is: What are the “levers” driving or sustaining this company-wide behaviour pattern of lack of accountability?

If you don’t understand your corporate culture, you don’t understand your business.

I have used the above quote over the years in keynote speeches and whenever I am talking to a CEO or senior leadership team about strategy execution and business performance. The real meaning of this quote can be explained as follows:

If you don’t understand the major levers driving or sustaining your corporate culture, you don’t understand how to improve business performance!

When a serious and thoughtful root cause analysis is conducted on the cultural behaviours that block high-performance (using either a Fish-bone assessment or the 5-Whys), it is quickly possible to separate the causal factors from the correlative.

Over the years this approach has repeatedly shown that there exist three major levers that drive and sustain corporate culture (ie, habitual work attitudes and behaviours):

  1. Top-Down levers, such as individual and collective behaviours of the leadership team and middle management, how meetings are conducted and the groundrules of those meetings, the level of transparency of information passing between departments, who gets promoted, the collective focus of senior leadership on one or two P&L line items (such as strict adherence to budgets or cost control or profit margin focus),
  2. Bottom-Up levers, such as key social influencers, subculture groups with strong behavioural norms, informal leaders with large number of followers, strong national culture behaviours by employees, etc.
  3. Sustaining Levers, such as internal policies, established work practices, compensation formulas, hiring profiles, performance review practices, internal communications pathways, etc.

3 LeversBy focusing the change efforts on causal factors and not just a culture gap analysis or correlative factors, real shifts in behaviour and business performance will take place in a relatively short time. The well used statement that it takes 3-5 years to change culture is based on the old methods of top-down training cascades and other ineffective activities.

The real key is understanding that corporate culture is the end product of many interrelated elements, a few causal, many correlative. Culture is not one of the elements itself, it’s the end result.  Just like improved profit or better customer service is the end product of doing certain things right. If you want to improve profitability, don’t focus on profit, focus on the things that drive profit.  The same is true for changing corporate culture.

For every effect there is a root cause. Find and address the root cause rather than try to fix the effect, as there is no end to the latter.

For related posts, see:

What Drives Corporate Culture?

Culture Change: the objective or the by-product?

Leadership, Friction and Culture Change

 

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

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Too Young To Lead?

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2007 file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg smiles in this office in Palo Alto, Calif. Zuckerberg turns 28 on Monday, May 14, 2012. He's considerably younger than the average FORTUNE 500 CEO, of course. But while some investors worry that Zuckerberg is too young to lead Facebook as a public company, experts point out that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell were in their 20s when their companies had IPOs. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook when he was just 20 and became the youngest CEO of a multibillion dollar public company at 28. He has since been named one of the most influential CEOs in the world. Many other CEOs and business leaders are in their twenties or early thirties: Spencer Rascoff founded online real-estate site Zillow Inc. at 35, Michael Reger co-founded Northern Oil & Gas Inc. in 2006 at the age of 30, at 32, Matthew McCauley became the youngest-ever CEO at Gymboree Corp. Drew Houston founded storage giant Dropbox at age 24, and Evan Spiegel is the CEO of Snapchat, which he cofounded at age 21.

And the list just keeps growing. And of course there is the late Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple at just 23 in 1978, now the largest market cap company in the world.

Over the past several decades a seismic shift has occurred in businesses and Boardrooms around the world.  CEOs and company founders are getting younger and younger! James W. Breyer, a director of Facebook who works closely with Mark Zuckerberg, said age matters less and less. “Skills, passion, intense curiosity and extremely high IQ are more important,” he added.

classical music old conductorHowever, there are many in highly established institutions, like business and classical music conducting, who firmly believe that age, and the accompanying experience and maturity, are required for sustainable success.

Too Young To Lead?

Age and experience without passion and curiosity is just old news!

After working with CEOs and business leaders for the past 30+ years, and also being the father of a highly talented young violinist (and future conductor), I have come to the conclusion that all this back and forth about age, experience, youthful passion, the benefits of life’s “hard knocks” and the argument that one, youth or aged experience, is better than the other, is mostly nonsense!

Consider these observations (or shall we say my own conclusions?):

  • I have seen many older and experienced CEOs who are still crap at many important elements of leadership.
  • The CEO doesn’t produce anything, it’s the employees, so all CEO success is gained through being able to get the best out of others.
  • The Conductor doesn’t produce one musical note, it’s the orchestra that makes the music.
  • With age doesn’t always come wisdom or the ability to motivate and inspire others
  • Some young people have an incredible ability to inspire and motivate others to give their best.
  • The essential basics of leadership, business and conducting are relatively few, and are not necessarily age dependent.

A really talented conductor can get an extraordinary performance from an ordinary orchestra, even from a youth orchestra, as was demonstrated this past week at the BBC Proms in London when Sir Mark Elder conducted the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (ages 13-19) in Gustav Mahler’s 9th Symphony (a 70 minute long epic). Click here to view this stunning performance: http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e8r2mb#p02wwbnp

Mark Elder NYOAnd the young Venezuelan classical music conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, won the Gustav Mahler Conducting Prize in Germany at age 23 and conducted at the BBC Proms at age 24, later becoming conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at age 28.

dudamel

And if you watched the BBC Proms on August 8th the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain played a new modern piece by young composer Tansy Davies called Re-Greening, with the 165 member orchestra being conducted by the first violin and orchestra leader, Stephanie Childress, age 16. Who says age is required to lead? If you are curious about what 165 young people can deliver, watch here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e8r2mb#p02wwbnm

BBC SEC conducting

A Point of View:

I tend to ignore these discussions about age vs experience and one being better than the other. My take on the whole debate can be summed up in a single sentence:

Just be so good they can’t ignore you.

 

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

 

Posted in Classical Music, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, Organization Behavior, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Drives Corporate Culture?

As you grow older, you learn a few things. One of them is to actually take the time you’ve allotted for vacation.  ~John Battelle

Summer time is vacation time. Yippee! A time to recharge the batteries, break a few non-healthy habits and reconnect with your family, friends and dreams. And it’s amazing how effective at “attitude adjustment” a holiday can be. In my experience one week is not quite enough; two full weeks and even three are required to get the job done. At the end of a good holiday we return refreshed and revitalized. And even if your holiday was physically taxing and your body is tired, we still return to work with a refreshed attitude and outlook.

So what is it about a holiday that is so refreshing?

One of the big reasons is that we “change our scenery”.  That is, we go someplace where many things are different from our normal environment. The air is different, routines are different, the food is different, clothes are different, our day-to-day activities are different.

And herein lies a key principle in understanding what creates and drives corporate culture!

The “work environment” has a greater impact on creating, driving and sustaining corporate culture than the academics and psychologists realise. These day-to-day external influences are what I call the “driving and sustaining” factors of corporate culture.

If we define corporate culture as

“the unique combination of behaviours, beliefs, assumptions and business processes (formal and informal) that over time have become the “habitual” approach management and employees use in solving business problems and interacting with each other, customers, clients and suppliers”,

it becomes easier to understand the powerful role the “internal work environment” has on shaping and sustaining corporate culture.

Here’s an example. For nearly 10 years from 1984 to 1994 Continental Airlines went steadily down hill in all airline performance indicators, finally winding up at the bottom in on-time arrivals, lost luggage and customer satisfaction. With two bankruptcies along the way. Employees hated the company so much that they would remove their logo badges when walking through the airport terminals or going to the grocery store. Anything to avoid being seen as a part of the “worst airline in the world”.

Why? The internal work environment was oppressive and negative, which was a result of a maniacal focus on cost control and spending by senior management. The manual telling check-in staff all the rules about charging for ticket changes and putting the company finances before customer service was 4 inches thick!  Every management meeting was focused on costs and how to control costs and reduce spending.

220px-GordonBethuneFromWorstToFirstBookThen Gordon Bethune took over as CEO and changed the work environment. He had a ceremonial burning of the rule book in the headquarters parking lot in Houston so that all employees could see that the new game was “trust employees to do the right thing for customers and the company”. With the onerous rules and policies changed, employee behaviour and attitudes changed! Other policy and work environment changes helped bring back pride and personal accountability.  A new policy of monthly cash bonuses for all employees when the company improved its on-time arrivals, lost luggage and customer satisfaction scores rejuvenated employee attitudes and performance.  Bethune even opened up the executive offices where once locked doors symbolised a barrier between employees and management.

Alan-MulallyWhen Alan Mulally and the senior team of Ford Motor Company engineered a stunning turnaround, they did it not with motivational training or culture workshops, but by revising old internal work policies that had been created by the finance function to control costs and reduce risk. In the old Ford culture finance ruled the business and cost control was seen as the way to success.

Mulally shifted the internal work policies to enhance the importance of design and the “voice of the customer” in producing cars that people “wanter to buy” instead of cars that were inexpensive to manufacture. The new policies of One Ford also helped to break down the internal competition that earlier existed between divisions and regions. He even went so far as to change the senior compensation policy to focus totally on company performance instead of department or division performance.

Learn What Really Drives Your Corporate Culture

Instead of listening to the “culture gurus” about behaviour and attitudes and the need to define a new set of culture behaviours and competencies, take a hard look at the internal work policies that are really driving employee behaviour. You will quickly learn which company policies are driving behaviours that are counter to the culture you need to deliver your business strategies.

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in corporate culture, ecosystems, Human Psychology, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Impact of Company Policies on Culture and Performance

 

criticism

Tell people they’re inadequate long enough and they’ll believe it. Undermine their confidence with constant correction, tweaking, and complaints and they’ll pull back. Fill people with confidence and they’ll act with boldness.

I’ve been working for the past couple of weeks with the senior management team of a $1 billion industrial company on alignment and performance improvement.  It is always insightful to get out from behind a desk and into the real world of business and day-to-day challenges.  And here in this situation the challenges of a slow economy, aggressive competition and mature market saturation make performance improvement especially difficult.

But the challenges of the marketplace sometimes pale alongside the challenges inside a company. It is a powerful revelation to see just how great an impact internal policies and processes have on the behaviour of leadership and management, which in turn forms much of the current corporate culture.

While most culture “gurus” and academics focus on vision, values and leadership behaviour as the key elements of corporate culture, they routinely miss an even more powerful driver of culture: internal policies and business practices.

Case in point.  Consider a company in a mature market competing with other well established brands for sales of large industrial products. The overall view of both dealers and customers is that this particular company has about the same products as everyone else.  Their quality is about the same.  Their prices are about the same. But doing business with them is a nightmare!

big machineIn a saturated market of similar brands and high cost products, the customer experience is one of the key competitive differentiators!  So what makes a company fail at the customer experience?

One of the key reasons has to do with the internal company policies and business practices.

Internal Policies Drive Corporate Culture

Internal policies are either an enabler or a barrier to how effectively managers can engineer the customer experience. Let’s suppose a company has internal policies and business practices that can be classified as micro-management. Such as: all expenditures above $1,000 by an executive having to be approved by corporate finance, who are over 8 time zones away! Or all hiring at the local level having to be approved by corporate HR. All raises, compensation and benefits, and performance reviews having to fit into a global corporate-wide bell-shaped curve.  Sound extreme?  It’s not uncommon in large global organisations to have such micro-management policies established to protect the company from local abuse or inadvertently doing things that may put the company at undue risk. At corporate level this is reasonable for risk mitigation.  For the local organisation trying to improve performance, such delays due to checking with corporate and other barriers to local decision-making slow down response time and impact competitive ability.

And it’s not only the slowness of decision-making. Lack of trust in local leadership and constant second guessing tends to eat away at team motivation and feelings of empowerment and accountability. Corporate leaders often wonder why local management teams lack accountability and commitment when they don’t realize their own policies are often one of the reasons.  Second-guess someone often enough and restrict their authority and before long they just wait to be told what they can and cannot do.

Many of the so-called culture consultants would diagnose this a culture of “lack of accountability” and prescribe accountability training workshops. If they looked at root cause analysis the real culprit would be internal policies combined with micro-management from corporate.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. ~John le Carre

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Team Chemistry

3-titration-experiment-

I didn’t do well in high school chemistry class and even worse in college chemistry.  But I always marvelled at how a chemical reaction required just the right amount of ingredients in order to occur.  Take titration, for example.  Add too few drops of one
solution into another and nothing happens. Add too much and the reaction goes overboard.  But just the right amount and a unique situation occurs.

Lately I have been working with several senior leadership teams in emerging and developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Within this global industrial company, the APAC region holds the greatest promise for growth and market development and much leadership time, attention and money is being invested in capitalising on these emerging opportunities.

And in order to deliver on the business opportunities, the company is putting some of its brightest and most capable senior executives into General Manager and Brand Leader roles.  In addition they are recruiting top talent from peer companies.

The products and brands are world-class, the markets are ripe for development, customers value their products and services, and the world-wide agriculture business is rapidly developing. A great scenario for success, especially with talented and experienced senior leadership.

But something seems to be missing! The desired reaction of business performance is not taking place.

And in such a situation, excuses are everywhere. “The economy has yet to rebound. There’s nothing we can do till the economy picks up. Customers are delaying purchases because of the global uncertainties. We can’t get the investment we need because the corporation is clamping down on costs.”  

It’s a funny thing about excuses: the more they increase the more performance decreases.

no-excuse-inspiration (1)

One of the excuses I often hear in such business situations is: we don’t have time for team building, we need all our time and energy focused on making the numbers.

Team Chemistry

Navy Seal BUD/S selection and training is an excellent example of the value of team building. Those who finish the 24 week training course are not only physically and mentally fit, but have an ingrained set of teamwork principles that allows them to work together effectively to deliver results.

If Seal teams were put together based on just physical abilities and operational skills, without having the benefits of team building and team principles, their effectiveness would be dramatically reduced. It’s the principles of trust, team, respect and mission that make these teams so effective.

Several years ago, the NBA and other professional sports organisations got the idea that all they needed to do to produce league winners was to recruit the best players. Thus they went searching for and acquiring, often for huge money contracts, the best players. Team salaries soared. But after several decades, it became evident that there is little correlation between team salary and league performance. Here is a chart from the 2014 NBA season.

NBA stats

Today, NBA teams are beginning to focus on team chemistry as opposed to teams of superstars. Team Chemistry can be defined as not the best players, but the right players with the right skills and the right attitudes who play together as a single unit.

I don’t play my eleven best players, I play my best eleven. ~Vince Lombardi

One of my roles in the business scenario I described earlier is to help the country General Managers to build the capabilities of their leadership teams in order to reduce the focus on excuses and to effectively use the talents of the entire team to deliver performance in spite of a difficult global economy. In as little as two or three days you would be amazed at how a team can shift from feeling a “victim” of the economy to feeling empowered and confident about developing new solutions to grow their businesses. Same people, different behaviours. Working together.

There is no excuse for not taking the time to do team building when facing challenging business conditions, when reorganising the business model, when merging two organisations, when implementing a new business strategy, when new senior members come on board.

Talent is important, but teamwork is imperative for results.

No Excuses!

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does Water Have More Determination Than Your Leadership Team?

upper_yosemite_falls_2_o

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.       ~Calvin Coolidge

The power and force of water is one of the most creative and destructive forces in nature. While it may seem soft and inert when in a glass, a flowing stream or a waterfall can easily carve out deep valleys and erode cliffs. Water has an inherent and unstoppable determination to move to ever lower levels, following whatever path will take it steadily downwards. And water moving downwards is relentless. It just keeps moving and in the face of an obstacle simply seeks a way around or through.

A great example is the Grand Canyon in the southwestern United States which was created by the force of flowing water over thousands of years. Huge cliffs and valleys were formed by the simple force of flowing water.

Toroweap Point

 

How about your leadership team?

Does your leadership team have the stay power and dogged determination of water? Or do they seek the easy way out and then give up when faced with marketplace obstacles or new competitors?  I have watched many business leadership teams get all fired up over a new strategy or an infusion of capital from investors, only to wither and start complaining at the first sign of difficulty.

“We didn’t plan for this severe a market downturn!  Our strategic assessment didn’t take into consideration these economic sanctions. These aren’t the same competitors we built our business plans around.”  

Few leadership teams believe so much in their products, their purpose and each other’s skills that they, like a flowing stream, never give up. Most collapse at the first difficulty.

But teams that believe in each other and their fundamental purpose that, like a stream facing a rock wall, they simply keep searching for a way through. They find the crack that becomes a seam that with the pressure of determination becomes a rift and then a passage. They don’t wait for the market to change, they find a way through the obstacles and barriers. They have determination and commitment and they either find or make a way through the barriers. They never give up.

Never give up; for even rivers someday wash dams away. ~Arthur Golden

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

 

Posted in Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, Personal Development, Psychology, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment