Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

The Action Oriented Organization
Every organization likes to believe it is somehow different; that it is in some way totally unique from all others; and, that the issues it faces are special only to them or to their industry. The leaders of those same organizations focus a great deal of their personal time, energy and attention on identifying the core problems and challenges and on trying to get resolution to these issues. Having done so, they then work to implore and encourage the team to "buy in" to their analysis of the problem and "get aligned" with their vision for the future.

Interestingly enough, when you then take them aside privately and ask them to list their unique issues, challenges and problems they all tend to come back with the same frustratingly similar list.

So much for unique and different!

A Bucket Full of Problems

The list of issues ultimately presented tend to fall into two distinct buckets.

The "people" bucket - issues surrounding talent identification, performance management, leadership competency and succession planning; and,

The "operational" bucket - issues arising from a failure to execute, implement, innovate and maintain focus.

In today's environment, fixing these core issues is the key to ensuring the long-term, sustainable viability of your organization. More importantly, the real challenge is not to identify the issues themselves but to identify the common thread that runs through all of them.

When you stand back and look at the fabric, it shows you the answer.

Too much talk and not enough action!

Corporate Slavery

It has been said that fear is what serves to keep slaves slaves. In the corporate world, this speaks to employees who choose to not be fully "invested" in their employer. Invested with their passion, their zeal, their enthusiasm and, most importantly, their commitment.

In short, they act more like slaves than long-term investors. They don't take the personal risk that an investor would. In return, they expect only a small annual dividend, rather than a large capital gain.

The Leader as Investment Advisor

The modern leader is slowly coming to realize their fundamental mandate has changed. Sure, it still requires the Vision, Strategy and Measurement skills we associate with leadership. No doubt about it. But the times now also require the leader to show an ability to attract investment. To go out and actively solicit higher levels of investment from their current employees as well as brand new investors with new and incremental capital to spend.

The issue is how?

It begins with a better understanding of the current investment climate. A fresh look at the investment criteria and a new appreciation of what attracts the modern investors and stimulates them to put more of their capital at risk. Remember, we are not talking about a dollar and cents investment, we are talking about an investment of commitment. A commitment to get things done and a bias for action.

Walking out of the Swamp

Look around. What do things look like? What do they really look like? Are things getting done? Are they getting done well? Is their a zip in the step of your people? Are they facing into the wind, stiffening their spine and just hanging on or are they having fun, running with the wind and letting the "jib" fly?

Come on get out of the swamp. That slurping sound around your feet looks like molasses. It will eventually drag you down. The willing investors the ones you really want and really, really need - want to work in a place that gives them energy, pride and vitality. The willing investors want action. They like risk. They understand risk. They will take risks. They put a premium on risk. The problem is, those very same investors hate bureaucracy, delay, indecision and inertia.

Make a choice act!

Giddy up Nike

The 'new' role of the leader is to lubricate the wheels of action. To get the drum spinning faster and faster and faster. To create energy that attracts people who like energy. Who thrive on energy. Who create more energy. The first role is to think. The second role is - to do. Do something. Do anything. Do it as well as you can. Not necessarily perfectly, just do it.

As Tom Peters would say, "Don't plan, just do." The name of the game is motion. It's much easier to hit a static target, than it is to hit a moving one. You will eventually find that when this mentality creeps into your corporate culture your third role will be to reward effort just as much as success. Reward doing.

Steps for Moving to Action

The great organizations of yesterday, today and tomorrow all understand that speed is a competitive advantage. They accept that bold action has risk attached to it but not nearly as much as no action, or slow action. Here are some ideas on how to create a bias for action in your organization.

Drive our Fear Just like Edward Deming first said in the 1960's, start by getting the fear out. Free the slaves. Encourage experimentation. Learn from doing. Allow failure. For the first month - allow HUGE failure. Make the big mistakes sooner rather than later. Learn from them.

Limit Lead Time Great companies hate talk. They know how it zaps energy. They limit meeting times to minutes not hours 10, 15, 30 minutes but never more than an hour. They don't like to waste time playing. They like doing. We have all been to four-hour meetings where the 'meat' of the session is the last 15 minutes or so. So, cut out the preamble.

Set unrealistic time goals Knowing full well that you cannot accomplish what you need to on time, set out to anyway. Heck, you might even surprise yourself. Either way, the people around you will learn to move at pace. Everyone likes a challenge.

Do what you want People like to do what they want to do and what they are good at doing. It does not take a rocket scientist to discover that. Post projects somewhere so that EVERYONE can see them. You will have a team signed up in no time and one that is dedicated to the task, not the talk. If nobody signs up, assess whether or not the project is actually worth doing in the first place.

Celebrate Everyone likes a reward. Competitive swimmers are 'rewarded' during practice sessions with a single Smartie. Bottom line? It doesn't take much to make people feel good.

Our Monthly Rant...
What if you appointed a Court Jester?

Think about it. A jester, just like in the court of Henry VIII.

Someone who could freely invest in candor because they were given permission to speak openly. Think what might happen if the jester was given the opportunity to tell the truth; poke fun at things that don't make sense and deflate run away egos that get in the way of real solutions.

The issue is a simple one. If people were free to tell the truth they would tell their leaders to act more, talk less and enforce a bias for action in their organizations.
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