August was a relatively slow month for articles on strategy execution. I think the U.S. summer vacation may be partly to blame! Yet – there are still some that may be worthy of your time (skim below to see).

The summer slowdown has also caused me to take stock of the value of the service. Our readers have dwindled over the last three months, and I am beginning to suspect that our curated lists may not be of real tangible value to you – our readers. I have some hypotheses for this.

  1. It could be that the scope of our curation is too broad, so many articles are not helpful.
  2. It could be that some of the articles are behind paywalls, so it’s frustrating when you don’t have the needed subscription(s).
  3. It could be that Linkedin has changed it’s algorithm in some way that limits our distribution (and very few people have signed up for the direct email newsletter).
  4. OTHER ___________

I’m not sure, but, whatever the reason, I am thinking that this just may be an unneeded service! With that said, I love doing the reading, but the rewards of publishing what I am finding are limited.

Please send me your reactions to my comments (george.veth@adaptablelabs.com). I’m pretty thick-skinned, so I’d welcome the honest truth.

Thanks,
George

PS. If you missed it, here are some fun business graphics that we produced last month!


New Illustrations

Taking Stock
A common problem that cross-functional teams face is finding a way to measure the actual “impact” of their initiative in addition to its progress.

Segment Profitability
It’s amazing how a few clients can provide the bulk of profits for a company. The “whale curve” plots your clients by their profits, so you can see this dynamic.

All hands on deck!
When a crisis occurs, or when you are simply facing a persistent challenge, it can be hard to reach a consensus on the best path forward. How can you bring people together around a common solution to the issue at hand?

Top 10 List – August 2021

Below is our curated list of for August. If you would like to read my comments on each article, please scroll below the Top 10 list!


Top Ten List


RankTitlePublisherCategory
1Agility as the Discovery of SlownessCalifornia Management ReviewManagement Innovation
2What Evolution Can Teach Us About InnovationHarvard Business ReviewManagement Innovation
3From Node to LinkNetwork Communities – MediumManagement Innovation
4Strategy as a Way of LifeMIT Sloan Management ReviewStrategic Clarity
5The Digital Twin OpportunityMIT Sloan Management ReviewEnabling Technology
6A new role for business leaders: Moral integratorstrategy+businessStrategic Clarity
7Horizon Workrooms: Facebook’s Metaverse Is a VR MeetaverseWiredEnabling Technology
8The CEO of UPS on Taking the Reins Amid Surging Pandemic DemandHarvard Business ReviewStrategic Clarity
9Managing project portfolios to unlock trapped capitalMcKinsey & CompanyResource Fluidity
10Five ways to avoid the pitfalls of binary decisionsstrategy+businessCultural Cohesion

Editor’s Top Ten


1.

Agility as the Discovery of Slowness (California Management Review)
by Christiane Prange

adaptable comment: This article is fascinating; possibly one of my favorites of the year so far. From research (with examples), the author constructs a two-sided definition of agility – the agility for “speed” AND the agility to go “slow”. The author explains why specific situations may warrant slowness for certain dimensions of their organization. For example, for some companies, they may want to preserve identity or to be known for a set of stable client offerings while other organizations are willing to quickly pivot their identity or reorient their offerings. Noting that I have only touched on the depth and breadth of this tantalizing article – and its accompanying frameworks, it is really a required read for curious management thinkers. I wish I could have applied these ideas to a failed merger to which I was an equally responsible party! It’s unfortunate that this scholarly article is behind a rather hefty paywall. I’ve linked to a video summary. In addition, the author, Christiane Prange, has a book called Agility.X: How Organizations Thrive in Unpredictable Times. The book may be a cheaper option even though I highly recommended a subscription to California Management Review!

2.

What Evolution Can Teach Us About Innovation (Harvard Business Review)
by Noubar Afeyan and Gary P. Pisano

adaptable comment: Appreciated this article on how Flagship Pioneering (venture firm behind Moderna) leverages “emergent discovery” to create variants of an idea and then seeks to evolve each idea by always trying to learn more and to ask what’s possible. As they say, the theme behind the firm’s innovation process is not a “shots-on-goal” approach where 1 in 10 ideas are expected to be succcessful, but, rather, a desire for every exploration to be a learning experience. This article reminded me of one of my all-time favorite books, Erik Beinhocker’s “The Origin of Wealth” which was my first introduction to evolutionary economics. Both the article and Beinhocker’s book are worth reading to gain a real understanding of emergent discovery.

3.

From Node to Link (Network Communities – Medium)
by Joshua Emig

adaptable comment: As the world continues to explore more distributed models for business (ecosystems, virtual workspaces, factional workers, etc…), the domain of network graphs seem critical to the way that we approach and understand our organizations. The VIDEO at the bottom of this short, summary post is worth watching and studying. Pay special attention to the idea of trust and how it influences our need to convene, as well as the two concepts of “bonding” and “bridging” which inform who and how often our organizations will need to convene physically. With the move to more virtual models of doing business, much reflection is needed to rethink how best to create a corporate identity and a set of value-creating information flows that increase our value to both our customers and our employees.

4.

Strategy as a Way of Life (MIT Sloan Management Review)
by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi

adaptable comment: Love this article and the authors focus on the “soul” of the organization – as strategy! The authors state “organizations are living beings with souls — invested in improving everyone’s prospects, not just their own…CEOs must start formulating strategy with their souls and then execute it with their brains”. To sum it up, don’t miss the mention of Tadashi Yanai (CEO of Fast Retailing, which operates the Uniqlo stores) who took a day and a half of his management team’s time to talk through the 23 management principles that he espouses in his leadership.

5.

The Digital Twin Opportunity (MIT Sloan Management Review)
by Pushkar P. Apte and Costas J. Spanos

adaptable comment: I’m on the bandwagon of “digital twins”. A digital twin is “a [digital] model describing the behavior of its physical twin, and sensors that provide the real-time “coupling” to the model.” As this article mentions, we witnessed the use of a digital twin in the movie, Apollo 13, when we watched astronauts working in a simulator trying to construct a sequence to safely land the ailing spacecraft of their colleagues. Though the idea of digital twins is far from being a new concept, the reality of its use has only recently begun to be realized – due to the now ubiquitous data, cheap storage, and fast CPU speeds. This idea of digital twins is only going to gain prevalence within our companies.

6.

A new role for business leaders: Moral integrator (strategy+business)
by Liz Sweigart

adaptable comment: Important article on the need for “ethical leadership” and a leader’s role in doing so. Ethical leadership is the need to engage with and “navigate a world in which accountability is defined in different ways by different audiences”. Hence, it can be terribly disorienting. The challenge of engaging such multistakeholder environments is pertinent to all corporate leaders. The article recounts two different stories of poor ethical conduct and how each corporation responded. One company used a traditional playbook to respond while the other walked into the issue with humility and a growth mindset – focused on being a different organization in the future. The different responses are informative.

7.

Horizon Workrooms: Facebook’s Metaverse Is a VR Meetaverse (Wired)
by Peter Rubin

adaptable comment: This is a follow on to Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement that Facebook will become a metaverse company – moving from 2D to a 3D “embodied [online] world”. In this article, the author explores what currently exists in the beta release of Facebook’s Workrooms – a product that, in name, seems to be focused on 3D work meetings. I am late to this game, so I will refrain from saying more! However, I think it may be time for fast followers to dive in! Read on to gain a quick understanding.

8.

The CEO of UPS on Taking the Reins Amid Surging Pandemic Demand (Harvard Business Review)
by Carol B. Tomé

adaptable comment: Great case study of UPS from the eyes of their new CEO, Carol Tomé. I really enjoyed her vivid description of the process she took the company through after inheriting the top role amidst the pandemic. The article outlines a very thoughtful approach to reorienting around purpose and values, integrating the voice of employees, and devolving some decision-making. This may seem basic, but, at the same time, it is so healthy. Love it.

9.

Managing project portfolios to unlock trapped capital (McKinsey & Company)
by Katy Bartlett, Steffen Fuchs, Mark Kuvshinikov, Peter Trueman, Simon Webb, and Dick Westney

adaptable comment: This is a decently deep discussion of project specific risk versus portfolio level risk AND how to manage these risks such that capital is not being held captive as contingency funds/reserves in hundreds of different projects or initiative programs across an organization. I like the way the article puts the burden on executives to look across the portfolio and to create “robust process or consistency between projects”. Great overview of the challenges and opportunities to free up funds as companies begin to invest capital in the post pandemic period (hopefully).

10.

Five ways to avoid the pitfalls of binary decisions (strategy+business)
by Eric J. McNulty

adaptable comment: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about problem definiton, problem framing, and problem reframing. This article pushes us to recast our thinking from being binary – Yes or No, This or That, etc… Instead, can we reframe our thinking to consider Both And or a Win-Win situation? I think that reframing is one of the most important skills of leaders. It shows empathy (to understand the other), curiosity, and flexibility. But, for some reason, it’s not easy!

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.