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Are You Maximizing Your Investment in Your Experts?

 

In the ever-evolving business world in which technology enables rapid changes and evolution providing more robust tools, paving the way for better and more effective business management, it is hard to argue with the impact of prospective. Be it the burning the desire to be more data driven or the ability to have near complete operational awareness; the access and subsequent analysis of such data is likely to result in even more questions and potentially more doubt about the validity of such analysis. Without going into intrigues of data analysis and bias i.e. information bias, selection bias, and confounding, let’s have a look how it can be reasonably mitigated in a startup setting.

The basics

Let’s start with a realistic assumption: startups have some inherit limitations, mainly around resources i.e. funding and attraction of high quality talent. Both of those are equally relevant to decision making at macro and micro level, hence it stands to reason that decision making at both levels are limited. This particular conclusion, though semi subjective has a real impact on the explicit and/or implicit expectations of virtually all stakeholders.

Mitigations

Once the realization of those limitations are taken into account, the next step would be seeking a method to mitigate those perceived shortcomings. The usual reaction tends to be an increase in resource allocation to either tools or human capital; and frankly there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that approach. However, it raises the questions about feasibility, effectiveness and efficiency.

Human capital vs tools

It is no secret that previously mentioned advancements in business related technology has resulted in an amazing array of advanced and sophisticated tools that allow even non experts to compile, visualize and interpret a wide range of data points. The real question is however the utility and impact: can such tools replace expertise? The answer is not straight forward: generally speaking, even amazing tools that democratize availability of complex data cannot be expected to provide appropriate strategy within the context of individual organizations. Sure, the data sets and factual conclusions that are not a matter of “opinion” are a great start; but how the decision makers can use that business intelligent in the context of specific setting are a point of contention.

Tools, no matter how sophisticated are truly at the mercy of the user. We all have heard the expression – tools are only as good as the user; and there is a lot of truth to that. Simple factor such as the breadth and depth of the tool its elves can have an immense impact on the output; which brings us back to the human capital i.e. expertise. But does that imply that human capital re: expertise trumps tools? Again the answer is not that “black and white”: essentially those two function symbiotically. In an optimal setting the end user has an expert level knowledge of the tool combined with matching expertise to use the conclusions both tactically and strategically in context of the field and said organization.


External vs. Internal

Now that we logically concluded that the said expertise has to be in context in order to maximize the output of the tool, it is important to explore the human capital strategic impact.

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How Women Bring More Value to the Boardroom

 

Diversity in the boardroom: it's a critical factor in the growth, ingenuity and success of today's businesses. But what is it? How exactly do women in authoritative positions add value to the bottom line? Gender diversity invokes a multitude of perspectives on how companies can solve problems more efficiently. It makes sense, then, that companies with more women on their boards are setting the tone for a much more inclusive workplace culture through all levels of the organization.

The Numbers

It used to be that this "boys' club" mentality viewed women in the boardroom only as a way to appease and placate. This viewpoint is an archaic one that hasn't just evolved over the decades because women have worked hard to prove their worth (although this is certainly true) -- it has evolved to become the status quo because women in the boardroom get results. Quantifiable results. The numbers don't lie.

  • Companies with at least three female board members enjoy a median productivity of 1.2 percent above competitors, says Forbes.

  • Gender diversity on management boards has a significant impact on productivity growth and on returns to investors.

  • One recent study of more than 1,000 leading firms across several countries and industries revealed that gender diversity resulted in more productive companies, as measured by revenue and market value, according to the Harvard Business Review.

  • The Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI) detected a link between firms with more female leaders and stronger share price performance over time. The report revealed that companies with more than 20 percent female managers had out-performed those with less than 15 percent female managers by five percent.

These numbers all look good. And yet, not even 17 percent of women worldwide fill board seats and not even five percent fill CEO roles, suggesting that females still have a long road to walk to achieve parity with men in the boardroom. Women have been soaring to the top in established professions such as medicine, banking and law, taking top spots at GM and IBM. But there's still a big gap when it comes to women on corporate boards. In fact, men hold about 80 percent of all board seats for companies in the S&P 500 stock index, according to Bloomberg. Even more concerning is that growth in female representation on such boards has slowed.

The Female Value: Productivity

It seems females are in the driver's seat when it comes to getting the job done. Studies have shown that companies that strive to incorporate a greater gender balance enjoy stronger corporate results. A report from MSCI revealed that having women on boards boosts corporate productivity. And a McKinsey report showed that organizations with the most gender-diverse teams at the executive level are 21 percent more likely to do better in regards to profitability.

Research from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also shows a link between productivity and gender diversity, whereby women and men complement each other throughout the production process. The Peterson Institute for International Economics performed a study that says employing women at C-Suite levels significantly increases net margins.

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part V Final Thoughts

In the last few posts we touched on Growth and Scaling preparations in terms Human Capital Management, Financial Resource Management, Strategy Management and Project Evaluation Management. In the last post in the series we will touch on additional practical considerations.

Limitations

All said and done, there are many limitations that are outside the control of any organizations including market and competitor behavior, consumer perceptions, external stakeholder objectives as well as rapid innovations. Those and many other factors that shape the overall perceived and real “business environment” that will inherently have an influence on the outcome of any business related project. Hence it is vital to account and plan for certain margin of error that will dictate changes, adjustments and pivots.

Expectations Management

Though a stable tool of business management, expectations management is one of THE most important yet clearly underutilized component of scaling and growth projects. Drawing on the idea that there are inherently many more unknowns in those projects that can lead to limitations, it is extremely vital to utilize both the theoretical and practical aspects of expectations management theory.

Diminishing Returns

Growth is NOT unlimited nor is Scaling. Contrary to the belief that there is no ceiling to expand and grow, the reality is much different. As mentioned previously, the sheer fact that are many components outside the influence of an organization, it is rather logical to see why there are real life limitations. Hence it is extremely important to start off those growths and scaling projects with reasonable outlook and goals.

Business Process Engineering (Reengineering)

When limitations and expectations management are accepted and implemented, process engineering and reengineering become indispensable. In line with other component, business process management, engineering and reengineering have an even more outsized role when it comes to scaling and growth in order to address and accommodate both the limitations and expectations management.

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part IV

 

In the previous post “Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part III” we discussed strategy aspects of a scaling project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is measuring success and failure.

Scaling and growth both depend a great deal on experimentation: be it at tactical level deciding who will do what to strategic level defining success or failure. That being said that kind of decision making naturally requires a great deal of analysis; qualitative or quantitative.

Quantitative

Data driven quantitative analysis is or should be the basis of virtually all business decisions. Though an established field, the quantity of data that has been previously inaccessible or impractical for usage has changed the field. The same quantity of the data sets that are now available have also created several other side effects for small and mid-size organizations; ranging from increased cost for proper analysis to “analysis paralysis”. Hence, the usage has to be defined in terms of practicality: both the collection and analysis of data have to be defined within the context of cost and impact.

Qualitative

In a previous discussion about decision making we discussed the usage of qualitative decision making. Those parameters previously discussed i.e. strong pattern recognition as part of the qualitative decision making are particularly applicable when it comes to growth and scaling. In practical terms it translates to a combination of using practical experiences both industry related as well as general business experiences to decide on both tactical and strategic level: the industry know-how combined with generic business experience will provide the sort of “umbrella” coverage that will leave little room for “guessing”.

On the front line

Interestingly enough there are some unique aspects to data usage when it comes to scale and growth: though the basic methodology of collection and analysis is the same, the decision making direction should entail a more dynamic version of “bottom to top” or “top to bottom”: Micro decisions vs. Macro decisions: 

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part III

 

In the previous post “Growth and scaling downfalls-Part 2” we discussed human capital aspects of a scaling project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is strategy.

Though strategy is understood to be a vital part of any business project, when it comes to scaling and growth, it takes an entirely more fluid role: both macro and micro strategy have to be substantially more adaptive and flexible.

Macro strategy

Though the term is more widely used in financial industry, it similarly applies to the concept of business strategy at large. For this discussion “Macro Strategy” is to be understood as the “general strategy” that defines the overall approach based on organizational philosophy, culture, goals and methodology. In context of growth and scaling, “Macro Strategy” similarly refers to general organizational approach both in theory and practices as how to approach any given project.

So, why does it matter?

Essentially, the macro strategy will dictate the overall approach through the lens of organizational mindset; which includes factors such as cultural, social, structure and flexibility. It can also be shaped by outside factor such as target market, brand perception as well as industry specific norms and standards.                                                                        

For instance, an organization that is dead set on market domination is less likely to be deterred by its competitor’s abilities, approach or resources. Hence, the Macro strategy may have an oversized impact on the initial planning of growth and scaling.

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part II

 

In the previous post “Growth and scaling downfalls” we discussed human capital aspects of a growth project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is financial resources.

It goes without saying that pre-planning for financial resources needed to meet scaling goals is not only essential for obvious reasons, but it also important in contributing to both tactical as well strategic decision making.

Who?

So, who should be involved? Granted that there many different methods, it stands to reason that such determination should be a “top down” approach, as in starting with the project manager. Additional team members should include project sponsor, member of operations management as well as finance. Of course, it is understood that the CFO (used here generically to refer to the leadership of the financial division) had to be involved in the initial SOP creation for such projects.

How?

The mechanics of a budget creation are certainly widely known and not a subject of this discussion, however there are couple of points worth mentioning:

• Realistic budgeting: one of the rather common issues in budgeting for growth is the ability to understand the nature of such project. It is extremely vital to understand that unlike other projects, the uncertainties in growth and scaling dictate building a larger margin of errors into the budget.

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Why CIOs Need to Prioritize Their Resources for the Business

 

Priority alignment: this should be a focus of any CIO looking to grow a business. Indeed, the adaptive CIO must set clearly-defined roles for each branch of the department, especially important as it pertains to the role of CIO vs. IT manager. In essence, CIOs need to be focused on helping the CEO with the company's strategy and let their IT managers handle the back-office work.   As CIO puts it, the IT department has to help the business make more money; as CIO, you must remained focused on the business rather than concerning yourself with providing the computer, the network or the server. This is what the IT Manager's role is, and you're paying him/her handsomely to do that. By clearly defining those roles and sticking to them: this is the only effective way to grow a business. Otherwise, resources are wasted, not to mention time and money.

The Path to Alignment

Sure, digital transformation has begun placing more and more demands on the CIO position -- a role that has undergone am impactful shift over the years from maintaining a stable portfolio of back-office technology to crafting ways that technology can bring in more money for the company's bottom line. But progress has been slow.   For many years, CIOs worked toward a goal of closely coordinating IT projects and overall strategy with business processes, with a recent Public CIO survey saying that executives still report IT-business alignment as their #1 IT management concern.   A shift is afoot. Another survey -- Deloitte's 2019 Global CIO Survey -- revealed that the two top expectations for CIOs are, in this order, to:

  • Align with the business
  • Transform business processes
  • Achieve IT operational excellence

Based on these findings, experts say the two kinds of CIOs needed in the future include a “business co-creator” CIO who devotes a majority of his or her time to driving business strategy or encouraging change, and a "change instigator" who acts as a leader in technology-enabled business transformation.

Still, the CIO is always at a perpetual inflection point, spinning plates in the air, as they face opposing functional and strategic priorities. On one hand, CIOs are called upon to be more active in all business decisions, as competition demands more transformative, innovative solutions for clients and customers. On the other hand, IT is responsible for maintaining most of the functional yet essential aspects of tech strategy, such as security and data management. Just one wrong step, like a data breach, and it's game over.

The plates the CIOs are spinning are getting greater in number yet faster and smaller in size. How can CIOs and IT manager stay in their respective lanes in order to properly grow the business?

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part I

Many of us have either been part of a “growth and scaling” project or have led such efforts. We all have some battle stories of what worked and what didn’t; yet we hardly ever hear about the preparation that goes into a successful “growth and scaling” project. In this series, I will address several of more important considerations and factors.

The Beginning

Scaling and growth both as principal as well as in practice are simply a function of evolution: a given organization reaches some specific benchmark that leads to a need to grow the business. Those benchmark can be as objective as following a road-map that specifies steps or as subjective as the executive team deciding it is time. Without exploring the details of the decision making, let’s look at one of the most fundamental factors: The Team.

The Evolution

Even without extensive business experience, logic simply dictates that growing or scaling a business can only be successful when the said business has the resources, i.e. human capital and financial means. To keep the discussion on point, I will forgo discussing the bootstrap version of this topic. 

Human capital or the team that is going to be in the front line of those growth/scaling efforts needs to be able to execute the directives that are designed to stimulate and augment the overall growth path. In order to do so some basics, have to be in place:

• Quantity: the team size has to be realistically feasible in relations to the workload

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Best Decision Making - Experience Versus Data-based?

 

The daily life of any executive entails an endless amount of decisions: those decisions are made based on factors such as experience, data, organizational needs and goals. Those decisions are likely to be additionally impacted by the ever increasing demand for speed. Hence creating a tempting environment to excessively rely on decision making based on experience. This begs the question: does relying on experience as sole point of reference for decision making viable? And if it is, how do we maximize the odds of better outcome for those decisions?

Variety of experience

It is a fair to stay that we all perceive reality differently: people can be in the same situation or conversation yet have an entirely different take away. The same applies to “experience”; one single instance of “experience” can be sufficient to deter or encourage a particular action based on the perceived “lesson learned”; it is even entirely possible to classify the same instance of “experience” as good or bad solely based on the perception of the experience and/or its outcome. This leads us to the question: if the said experience is the basis of one or more decisions, how can potential errors or bias be minimized?

Single or multiple experiences

It goes without saying that a single instance of an experience is rather a debatable proposition when it comes to decision making. It should be rather obvious that a single instance of “data point” be it qualitative or quantitative can’t possibly be considered as reliable basis for fundamental decisions. That being said when can experience be reasonably viable? Is it a functional of quantity? Quality? The answer is not that one dimensional. 

A single instance of virtually anything can signal flawed results and conclusions because there are many variables that can change the actual and or perceived outcome. Some of those factors include stakeholder’s behavior and actions, circumstantial organizational resource limitations and or allocation as well as interpretation biased by multiple level of internal and external actors. Hence, logic dictates that one, two or any quantity of an experience is susceptible to flawed conclusion analysis.

Patterns

So, if even multiple instances of a given experience can’t be relied upon, what is the solution? One possible solution is reliance of patterns; this method would strip away a lot of the shortcoming of utilizing the experience or experiences as a data point by looking at common denominator’s as opposed to evaluating the experience in its entirety. Additionally, it would allow for larger set of qualitative data points because it eliminates the necessity of using only personal experience as opposed to being able to include external and/or third party input even unrelated to specific projects and/or industries.

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How The Executive Team Can Help Transform Company Culture

 

Company culture: you hear this term a lot these days. But what does it mean exactly? Is it fluffy and abstract or quantifiable and measurable? Turns out, a little bit of both. Company culture forms the core of any business, large or small. It's what everything else is built around, forming the foundation of success. But while integral to each company's staying power, culture can't result from a top-down mandate that demands compliance; rather it has to be cultivated organically and reside in the collective hearts and habits of the people who work for you, points out Harvard Business Review. This shared perception of "it's just the way we do things here" has to be instilled from day one. You just can't teach optimism, conviction, creativity and trust. However, you can foster, grow, cultivate and encourage change.

It's up to the executive team to carry this through. It's the team's job to plant the company with culture, water it and watch it grow.

Turning the Ship Around

So, what happens when the company culture has gotten a bit off track and needs to be steered anew? Transformation is in order, and the executive team is the one to lead the charge. As someone who holds the valuable position of leadership, it’s your job to effectively facilitate a workplace culture that encourages each employee to flourish, says Business.com. Be prepared, any change you propose will likely be met with skepticism. After all, people as a whole tend to get into routines and become resistant and even hostile when challenged with sudden calls for change. That's why you must facilitate sustainable change that gives each employee a reason and a chance to flourish and succeed.

Changing company culture doesn't happen overnight. It's not like you can trade in your old culture for a new one like you would a car. It takes time, dedication, patience and a lot of tenaciousness. Attempting to push through a big change isn't as easy as it looks, especially when you know that cultural habits are well ingrained, for better or worse. Drawing on the positive aspects of the culture and turning the tide toward your advantage can offset many of the growing pains you'll experience along the way.

Tips for Fostering Sustainable Change

So let's get right down to the nitty gritty. Infusing change in company culture isn't a one-and-done proposition. It needs to be sustainable to effectively meet the challenges of longevity. Here are some helpful tips you as the member of your company's executive team can try to ease the burden of transition.

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Why High Performing Organizations Always Win

 

Winning. It's a place everyone wants to be, but few can actually claim. From sports to politics to school: high performing individuals make things happen. It's no different in business. You may already be an Executive of a high-performing company. Or you may be a competitor of one, always striving to hit that mark. So, what makes an organization a winner in terms of performance? From engagement of employees to leadership through all levels, there are certain qualities that define a high performance organization (HPO) from top to bottom. Let's take a further look.

Areas of Focus

Companies who hit the nail on the head in terms of top performance tend to focus on:

  • Performance goals
  • Employee engagement
  • Philosophy about why and how people work
  • Values-driven work culture
  • Teamwork approach
  • Efficient, effective processes that garner results
  • Strategic organizational vision and execution
  • Leadership throughout all levels

High performance organizations have been a subject of study for many years. In fact, the HPO Center has created an entire strategy to achieve it. They define a High Performance Organization as one that achieves financial and non-financial results that are far better than those of its peer group over five years or more through the focused discipline that truly impacts the organization. Research shows that there is a direct and positive correlation between certain factors and organizational results, despite which sector, industry or country you are in. They point out the five strands of success as being:

  • Management quality
  • Openness and action orientation
  • Long-term orientation
  • Continuous improvement and renewal
  • Employee quality

By following these factors, organizations can vastly improve anything from revenue growth and profitability to Return on Investment (ROI) and Total Shareholder Return.

The Why's of Winning

In order to understand why high performing organizations are successful, it's important to take a look at the foundation of the whole concept of the organization and how it's run. It takes a holistic approach to bring a healthy foundation of knowledge and experience to complex systems, organizational culture and performance improvement. It also becomes necessary to challenge existing beliefs as to what truly makes a winning company, working from the inside out to build and sustain powerful change capabilities. Interaction within all levels of organizations must take place, as each level shares experiences and resources to stimulate further success. Examples of foundational principles that define this approach include:

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What Do Boards Really Want From CEOs?

 

Designating the right person to lead a company in the CEO position is perhaps one of the most critical roles of a board of directors. Second most important is monitoring that leader's performance on an ongoing basis to ensure consistency. The right CEO, says Forbes, is someone who can assist the board in developing and implementing strategic and business objectives while driving performance to achieve those objectives in a sustainable way. At the heart of it all is collaboration. No board wants to hire a CEO that goes his or her own way, with little input from others as to which direction to take the company. Rather, the ideal situation is when both parties work in conjunction to stay the course.

This doesn't mean there aren't clear roles between the two. By nature, a CEO's role is to manage, while the board's role is to govern. Board members also known as directors, are elected by the corporation's shareholders. Their role is to provide guidance and strategic planning to the company’s top officers, who are often busy running the daily operations of the business. Another main role is to hire, oversee and, if necessary, fire the company’s top officers, including the CEO.

The CEO's role is to determine and communicate the organization’s strategic direction, balance resources (capital and people), foster the corporate culture consistently, make the final call on all decisions, and oversee and deliver the company's performance, points out Entrepreneur.

What's the connection between the two entities?

Built on a foundation of trust and honesty, boards expect their CEOs to achieve two things: apply skills, industry knowledge and experience to fulfill company objectives; and commit to an open yet constructive relationship with the board. These objectives are all well and good, but how can they be quantified? What happens during the scouting, recruiting and hiring process whereby a board decides on the ideal candidate?

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