Kotter16954_300dpiThis post is an excerpt from “John Kotter’s ACCELERATE: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2014), by John Kotter.

It seems like new management tools are proposed every week for finding a competitive advantage or dealing with twenty-first-century demands. How is a dual operating system any different?

The answer is twofold. First, a dual system is more about leading strategic initiatives to capitalize on big opportunities or dodge big threats than it is about management. Second, although the dual system is a new idea, it is a manner of operating that has been hiding in plain sight for years.

A duel system’s structure

The basic structure is self-explanatory: hierarchy on one side and network on the other. The network side mimics successful enterprises in their entrepreneurial phase, before there were organization charts showing reporting relationships, before there were formal job descriptions and status levels. That structure looks roughly like a constantly evolving solar system, with a guiding mechanism as the sun, strategic initiatives as planets, and sub-initiatives as moons or satellites. (read more…)

Companies have C-suites and they care about strategy. So it makes sense that many would have a chief strategy officer — someone devoted to such a key part of a company’s survival and success.

But chief strategy officers are not nearly talked about as much as chief operating officers or chief financial officers, much less CEOs. Here’s the Google Search trend for those three titles:

I mentioned this, and my general unfamiliarity with the position, when I talked with Patrick J. Stroh, author of “Business Strategy: Plan, Execute, Win!” His book is about much more than CSOs, but what I learned about that, in a nutshell, is:

  • CSOs are really a Fortune 500 position, but you’d better do it right: “If you put this role in place and you do it poorly, that person is either going to be a scapegoat or they’re not going to be effective at all, and let me explain that.
  • (read more…)

Where a business is headquartered can make a huge difference in the skill level of your employees, in raising capital and attracting customers — as well as have a significant impact on your bottom line. Depending on the type of business and its target market, some factors should hold more weight than others.

Corporate taxes

Corporate and personal taxes, for example, can vary greatly by state. As the Tax Foundation notes, for example, some states have no traditional corporate income tax (like Texas, Nevada and Colorado), while others collect hundreds of dollars per capita. New York — home to a thriving VC and financial community — also has one of the highest tax burdens in the country, though the state has made some efforts to address it.

And while taxes are not the only consideration a company should give when deciding where to locate, the significant variance can affect the bottom line. (read more…)

Alan Mulally’s plans to step down July 1 took Wall Street by surprise because they were anticipating his retirement at the end of the year. Ford rose out of the ashes because of Mulally’s leadership: he took bold steps, narrowed the company’s focus and rebuilt Ford’s culture.

Mulally restructured the company by defining a vision and then sticking with it. The organization’s culture foundation is fortified by three principles: One Team working together on One Plan for One Goal. Mulally likes to call this collaborative management style at Ford as the “One Ford Plan.”

The One Ford plan illustrates the culture of Ford. Mulally and his team meet every week, and he is proud to say his team knows each other extremely well: “You know you can’t fool anybody. Without leadership sharing the same vision and communicating about how they would execute, the One Ford plan would cease to exist.”

As with any plan, it must be executed properly to be effective, and Mulally leads through his example. (read more…)

Every leader, no matter how successful, has blind spots — about themselves, their teams and organizations and the markets in which they compete. These are unrecognized weaknesses or threats that have the potential to harm a leader and his or her firm.

For example, a leader may not see that his company is failing to do what is required to prepare for the launch of an important new product (appropriate forecasting of customer demand, necessary product supply, effective training of the field force, etc.). His team indicates that everything is under control while, in reality, it is not. The leader takes what he is told at face value and fails to take necessary corrective action to save the launch. When asked afterwards what went wrong, he indicated that he trusted his team and they let him down. His board, however, holds him accountable for the resulting loss in revenue and damage to the firm’s reputation. (read more…)