Top Articles on Strategy Execution – January 2021

Top Ten List

1Even overs: The prioritization tool that brings your strategy to lifeThe ReadyStrategic Clarity
2How Leaders Can Optimize Teams’ Emotional LandscapeMIT Sloan Management ReviewCultural Cohesion
3Are you building employee capabilities across these four critical areas?McKinsey & CompanyStrategic Clarity
4Practicing Strategy in an Uncertain Worldstrategy+businessManagement Innovation
5Picking the Right Approach to Digital CollaborationMIT Sloan Management ReviewEnabling Technology
6The Engine 2 Imperative: New Business Innovation and Profitable Growth under TurbulenceBain & CompanyManagement Innovation
7It’s time to debunk the ‘pipeline problem’ once and for allFast Company (Kathleen Davis with Porter Braswell)Cultural Cohesion
8To see the future more clearly, find your blind spotsstrategy+businessCultural Cohesion
9How Do You Manage a Business Ecosystem?BCGManagement Innovation
10Good Leadership Is About Asking Good (John Hagel III)Cultural Cohesion

Management Innovation

Creating novel principles, processes, and practices that alter both the system and the way that organizations perform work

The need to maintain business as usual while simultaneously exploring new business opportunities and/or business models continues to be at the front and center of this month’s business publications. The focus understandably stems from the turbulence of dynamic marketplaces, the need for businesses to satisfy a growing number of “dimensions of value” (not simply shareholder capitalism), and the acute disruption of COVID-19. This general sentiment is captured well in Practicing Strategy in an Uncertain World, and an approach to identifying the type of change can be found in The Essence of Strategy is Now How to Change. This second article caught our eye, because it highlights dimensions of public value as a core driver of increased complexity!

Taking us beyond these general overviews and into the details is one of our favorite articles this month, The Engine 2 Imperative: New Business Innovation and Profitable Growth under Turbulence. This article, targeted at established businesses, extends the Chris Zook books on Profit from the Core and talks about how to build a second core business beyond the core. We plan to come back to this article in a blog post later this month.

In January, we had numerous mentions of business ecosystems. These ecosystems are presented as the new entity to deliver value, as well as the new entity to be managed! The idea of business ecosystems is simply presented in the article The Future of Work Is Through Workforce Ecosystems and the capability to manage ecosystems is highlighted as the basis for competitive advantage in How Do You Manage a Business Ecosystem?

Also this month, Harvard Business Review profiled two articles on the purpose of the Public Corporation. This debate is kicked off by business guru Roger Martin in his latest appeal to greater purpose and/or stakeholder involvement, It’s Time to Replace the Public Corporation, and, then, Martin’s comments are refuted in the article, Don’t Let the Short-Termism Bogeyman Scare You. This topic, of the role of corporations, deserves more than what can be found in just two articles. We should all be reading the plethora of books that have recently been released and/or that will be released in the coming month on this topic.

Lastly, we’d like to highlight The ‘Thou Shalt Nots’ of Systems Change. This article shares a perspective of the dos and don’ts of system change and invites the readers to jump into the dialog with their own thoughts on the topic.

Strategic Alignment

Articulating long term priorities as well as current strategies throughout the company.

The ability to build understanding and alignment in our organizations was brought to the fore in Are you building employee capabilities across these four critical areas? Though titled under the guise of building employee capabilities, this article is a great challenge for organizations as they consider how to empower their employees to develop a shared understanding of their role within the broader context of the purpose of the organization. To complement this stance, a simple article, What is Driving Today’s OKR Renaissance? recounts how employees are further empowered and aligned by establishing objectives.

The next article on strategic priorities and tradeoffs, Even overs: The prioritization tool that brings your strategy to life, may be simple, but it is also novel. It lays out a positive approach to helping organizations (and may I single out organizational leaders) to state the relative importance of somewhat competing strategies. No more “both ands” when talking about strategic intent! The article even outlines a simple workshop to do so.

Lastly, in Compensation Packages That Actually Drive Performance, we have an article that logically lays out approaches to structuring financial incentives for executives in differing scenarios.

Prepared Minds

Ensuring that information and context are provided to employees, so they are equipped to take initiative in their roles

Data abounds in most large companies, and the article, The data gambit: How large B2B companies can outmaneuver start-ups, makes clear the opportunity that large, established companies have to build a data-driven culture equal to any startup. We love the brief comment at the end about data “translators”! Another article, Smart Simplicity in Global Business Services goes on to outline a maturity model for shared services and how these business services can bring leverage to their internal customers.

Cultural Cohesion

Creating a foundation of values, norms, and behaviors that bind together your team and your decision-making

The topic of leadership and how a leader can make or break a team’s ability to work well together will probably always be on our monthly list. This month showcased four articles worth skimming on the topic: What Makes a Good Leader outlines the general character of a good leader, How Leaders Can Focus on the Big Picture encourages leaders to focus on the macro picture so they don’t micromanage staff, Good Leadership Is About Asking Good Questions discusses how to leverage questions to engage and inspire staff, and To see the future more clearly, find your blind spots runs through a series of reasons that we have blind spots, the risks inherent in blind spots, and what we can do to reduce them.

Another fascinating article called How Leaders Can Optimize Teams’ Emotional Landscapes explores how to recognize and regulate your team’s emotional state, in an effort to alter meetings real-time to gain their full engagement. Who knows if we, as leaders, can be present enough to do so…but I think it’s worth trying – especially with the Zoom stupor within which we find ourselves! Similarly, Why the first five minutes of a meeting shape its outcome reiterates the importance of setting up meetings to perform real work, and The “dozen-bagel” secret to preserving startup spirit as your company grows recounts how Amazon maintains importance and urgency in its work even with the company’s exponential growth. Then, in the podcast, Goodbye Bureaucracy, Hello Common Sense, business expert Martin Lindstrom talks about how to combat what he calls the “global business pandemic” of bureaucracy by using simple common sense.

Lastly, a timely interview with Porter Braswell, CEO and cofounder of Jopwell, introduces listeners to a practical take on hiring and maintaining diverse staff. The podcast is titled, It’s time to debunk the ‘pipeline problem’ once and for all.

Resource Fluidity

Mobilizing people and dollars across a portfolio of ongoing and emergent initiatives

To combat the fast-paced dynamics of our global marketplace, the article Why now may be the time to start a corporate venture fund considers why now may be a great time for corporations to deploy mounting cash reserves to a corporate venture fund, so they can begin to make minority investments in a portfolio of future business opportunities.

Another article, Building a digital bridge across the supply chain with nerve centers, suggests a new Integrative Business-Planning process to bring increased transparency to cross-functional activities by the introduction of supply-chain nerve centers. These nerve centers monitor and coordinate key activities so collaborative solutions can be applied to the supply chain.

Lastly, Support and Control Functions Go Agile reviews how finance and other support functions can be aligned with or embedded in organizational teams to enhance service quality and speed.

Enabling Technology

Leveraging the latest apps and devices to support the themes of management innovation

Recognizing how technology can be used to enhance meetings is highlighted in Tech that aims to improve meetings and, likewise, how apps can be used to bolster collaboration and connections in Picking the Right Approach to Digital Collaboration. This latter article differentiates tools, and it walks through the ways that threads of transparent conversation create value for everyone.

Several cutting-edge technologies and their associated benefits are then featured. How Companies Are Using VR to Develop Employees’ Soft Skills demonstrates how virtual reality training has evolved and This CEO believes it’s time to embrace ideological diversity and AI can help shows how artificial intelligence can remove bias and bring equity to hiring considerations.

Lastly, an article titled Software Bots Multiply to Cope With ‘Stretched’ Resources explores how bots are being deployed to handle many administrative tasks while When Machine Learning Goes Off the Rails pulls back the reigns just a bit!

About George Veth

George Veth is a consultant in the areas of strategy execution and initiative management. Most recently, he has been leading a cross-boundary collaboration program with teams from cities across North America and Europe. He lives in Cambridge, MA, and runs a nonprofit SME Impact Fund in East Africa. His subject matter interests are organizational culture, management [system] innovation, and public value management.