Top Articles on Strategy Execution – July 2021

July had some good articles on Strategy Execution!

Out of the several hundred [articles and podcasts] that we reviewed, much of the content was focused on the “now normal” of work – especially as companies begin to think through the merit of physical workplaces. Three of the Top 10 directly speak to this new work environment.

Two others were selected because they are excellent articles (very well-written and sufficiently deep) on scenario planning and culture change.

And, several others relate to new ideas, around “job sharing” and the “strategy stick”, and often neglected ideas, around “intrinsic motivation” and gleaning information from your frontline employees.

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

And, if you would like our Weekly Top Picks in your email every Friday afternoon, you can register here for the e-newsletter. Enjoy!

Top Ten List

1How to Achieve Sustainable Remote WorkThe New YorkerManagement Innovation
2Unsuck your next work meeting w/ Sam SpurlinBrave New WorkManagement Innovation
3Centered leadership creates connection in turbulent timesMcKinsey & CompanyCultural Cohesion
4Better, Simpler Strategy with Felix Oberholzer-GeeThe Innovation ShowStrategic Clarity
5A Strategy for Embracing UncertaintyBain & CompanyResource Fluidity
6Overcoming Obstacles to Successful Culture ChangeMIT Sloan Management ReviewCultural Cohesion
7Is job sharing the solution to our flexible work problems?Fast CompanyManagement Innovation
8Sheep, Wolves, and Employee MotivationManagement Matters – MediumCultural Cohesion
9Reconstructing the workplaceDeloitteEnabling Technology
10Gain Competitive Advantage by Transcending the Front-Line ParadoxMIT Sloan Management ReviewPrepared Minds

Editor’s Top Ten


How to Achieve Sustainable Remote Work (The New Yorker)
by Cal Newport

adaptable comment: Here is another article this week referencing an aspect of the decade long re-creation of Best Buy. Using remote work to grab our attention, this article describes the move toward ROWE (a results-only work environment) where worker autonomy is optimized by leveraging fully flexible work arrangements and structured negotiations between requestors and providers of work product (“both parties had to agree on a plan that balanced the urgency of the task and the reality of its executor’s workload”). The outcome was a shift from in-person surveillance to outcomes that reduced staff turnover. Unfortunately, the cultural experiment has since been reversed. We’ll see what happens. It’s a must-read for management aficionados!


Unsuck your next work meeting w/ Sam Spurlin (Brave New Work podcast)
by Aaron Dignan, Rodney Evans, and Sam Spurlin

adaptable comment: “Unsuck”, as in “not suck” the life out of everyone involved, is the term that this post uses as the podcasters dissect the critical elements of any group meeting. I found the honest dialog around each of the individual meeting elements to be on point and compelling. However, the time allotments provided at the end of the podcast are simply not possible – without a careful picking and choosing of what elements to include (which is my suggestion). Worth listening to for anyone who runs lots of meetings each day.


Centered leadership creates connection in turbulent times (McKinsey & Company podcast)
by Joanna Barsh and Diane Brady

adaptable comment: Great podcast with transcript on centered leadership. The author describes centered leadership as – having the presence “to be self-aware of what’s driving you and to be self-aware of how your behaviors are affecting others”. The assumption being that, stemming from this understanding, subsequent action would be taken as appropriate! Loved the ideas (several others beyond what I highlight here), the dialog, and the few examples to bring the ideas to life.


Better, Simpler Strategy with Felix Oberholzer-Gee (The Innovation Show podcast)
by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Aidan McCullen

adaptable comment: This book, “Better, Simpler Strategy”, and its big idea of the Strategy Stick has really grown on me. In this weekly podcast, one of my favorites – The Innovation Show, the author talks through the concept and offers several examples of companies that have harnessed its power. These companies have built a culture on their customer’s Willingness-to-Pay (over the Price to own) and their employee’s Willingness-to-Sell (under their offered compensation) in order to drive customer delight and build employee satisfaction. I can’t do justice to it in my comment, so I must encourage you to listen here, grab the book, or read a book review.


A Strategy for Embracing Uncertainty (Bain & Company)
by Nikhil Prasad Ojha, Miguel Simoes de Melo, and Rajiv Karna

adaptable comment: This is an extremely well-written summary of scenario planning. Having just written a joint post on the same topic, I appreciated the clarity of thought as well as the methods that are outlined. Especially significant were both the lenses for identifying the uncertainties at the beginning of the process and the “signposts” to detect early evidence of marketplace shifts at the end of the process. I would suggest bookmarking this post, so it is ready to be shared with your colleagues.


Overcoming Obstacles to Successful Culture Change (MIT Sloan Management Review)
by John Kotter, Vanessa Akhtar, and Gaurav Gupta

adaptable comment: Two claps for this article! I totally agree that organizational culture is built on a set of behaviors/values that are applauded and rewarded over time. The reinforcing mechanism of celebration turns these actions taken by individuals into actions that everyone is copying and owning. The leader has the opportunity to identify and celebrate those activities that support the purpose and strategy of the organization and, thereby, influence what becomes the culture of the organization.


Is job sharing the solution to our flexible work problems? (Fast Company)
by Danna Lorch

adaptable comment: I’m intrigued by the concept of “job sharing” – the idea of two part-time, but overlapping, employees doing one job. Seems like a great way to combine complementary on-the-job skills and/or personalities(!) while also providing flexibility to staff. This article discusses how Swiss companies have made a common practice out of what the author says was an idea that originated in the US!? As a leader, it is worth understanding job sharing. It seems to hold merit as employees look for balance in their work and non-work lives.


Sheep, Wolves, and Employee Motivation (Management Matters – Medium)
by George Bohan

adaptable comment: I really enjoyed this tantalizing post on the “sheep and wolves”. The post references a computer simulation that provides extrinsic rewards and penalties for wolves trying to eat sheep – leading to perverse behavior. The author then walks through how intrinsic motivation is sufficient to build a healthy culture that supports employees who already want to do good work! Love it. Great post.


Reconstructing the workplace (Deloitte)
by Peter Evans-Greenwood, Sue Solly, and Robbie Robertson

adaptable comment: I love how this post addresses the ‘now normal’ of remote teams not as a threat but as an opportunity to “construct a workplace digitally, around a problem or issue that needs to be managed, and pull in the workers and resources required in virtual space”. There is no equivocating around the idea of remote work. Instead, the authors share how technology enables virtual workspaces if we are willing to bring a positive attitude and proactive mindset to the table. Again, another well-written article.


Gain Competitive Advantage by Transcending the Front-Line Paradox (MIT Sloan Management Review)
by Carsten Lund Pedersen

adaptable comment: I appreciate the need to learn from the edges or boundaries of the organization. These are the places where the organization is sensing and interacting with the marketplace environment. So often, our leadership gets lost in our own construction of reality. This article explores just that. It mixes the idea of the types of data analytics with the sources of knowledge (top management versus front line team). Ultimately, it explores how top companies should leverage the realtime insights of the front line team into organizational decision making. It is worth the read.

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.