Observations From Southeast Asia

I’ve been immersed in different cultures for the past couple weeks in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Yangon, Myanmar.  Some observations germane to leaders:

  • These cultures are distinctly different, and based on values and beliefs that inform both large group and individual behaviors.  If you want to change the culture in your organization, you have to work on the values and beliefs and ingrain them.  There are proven approaches and tools to do it successfully.
  • As little as seven years ago, Myanmar (Burma) had one of the lowest Internet penetrations of any country.  They skipped cable and went right to cell phones and now have one of the highest percent of the population using the Internet of any country. Want to connect with your employees in real time? Rethink your communication strategy.
  • Side note:  Despite the above, and the lifting of U.S. sanctions in October, Myanmar has enormous challenges with multiple sites of armed conflict – they have 136 ethnic groups speaking over 300 languages.
  • In every culture, the safest way to travel is to go with the flow.  Drive like the locals, etc.  Good advice for anyone wanting to fit in with a corporate culture.
  • There are very few signs in English, especially in Bangkok and Yangon.  The exception:  Large signs at a construction site and treacherous mountain road that read, “Safety First,” in areas where the population cannot read English.  Communication anyone?

Finally, a study of elephants in the 2014 book, Elephant Company, notes that which elephant is the natural leader of the herd has nothing to do with dominance, and everything to do with cooperation.  Elephants are exceptionally intelligent animals.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

 

On Reactions to Change (and the Election)

I often work with organizations on leading and managing change — sometimes major change in very large companies affecting hundreds or thousands of employees.  In response to change, people tend to follow fairly predictable stages, depending on whether it is change they want or change they don’t want, and whether the change is gradual or sudden.

The protests, demonstrations, and occasional violence of those who do not like the election result are an order of magnitude greater than I would expect, except that the election results signal a change from a deeply ingrained mindset, reinforced by the media, and by the tendency of us humans to seek information that confirms our thoughts and biases.  [Here, I make no judgment on that mindset; only the observation that the election result was not what was expected by nearly anyone, and that it was an especially unpleasant shock to those who supported the status quo.]

This is true in organizations as well.  Downsizings and mergers, for example, can be a devastating shock for individuals and groups.  How they deal with it matters both to the organization and to themselves.  Those who are in denial and angry may well act out, or seethe internally.  Those who are resilient will resolve to make things better.

William Bridges has written about the need to avoid obsessing about the things that are changing, but rather to focus on the path forward through the change.  He suggests coming to grips with the inner connections one has to the way things were before the change, and asking the question, “What is it time for me to let go of?”  He points out that the loss one may feel can be in many ways a timely one.  The answer will often provide guidance about the path forward.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Building Competitive Advantage

An important focus for any business strategy is to establish a competitive advantage for the firm.   The two primary ways to do this are to be the low-cost producer and to be significantly different from your competitors in a way that customers value.  The problem with being the low-cost producer is that eventually your competitors will match your prices.  It’s a very difficult advantage to retain.  When you compete on price, you’ve become a commodity — clearly not a competitive advantage.

Differentiating yourself from competitors isn’t always easy, but it can provide much better profits and be much longer-lasting.  There are many ways to differentiate, from technological and marketing innovation to product configuration, customer experience, and even organization culture.   Additionally, differentiation can be extremely difficult for a competitor to replicate.

What is your competitive advantage?

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Turning Culture Into Competitive Advantage

Oops!  In last Monday’s email, I wrote that a 1000-foot runway (implementation plan) would be insufficient for a beautiful jet (corporate strategy) that requires a runway of 10,000 feet.  At least that is what I meant to write.  The typo was reported to me numerous times: First by a perceptive reader in Estonia, then another in Hong Kong, and then an onslaught of readers from the U.S. and Canada.  Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

Turning Culture into Competitive Advantage

Sooner or later theories need to become practical actions that drive results — one of the hallmarks of my consulting work.

Last week I read an excellent article about how one law firm is using culture as a competitive advantage, and most importantly, the specific actions that make it work.

If corporate culture has always seemed to be a fuzzy notion to you, and you want to understand how culture can be used to drive measurable results, read Ed Hourihan’s excellent article from the New York Law Journal about how Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC,  is doing just that.  It should trigger some good ideas for you.

Here’s the link:  http://bit.ly/2e2wSDd

Do You Have Enough Runway for Your Strategy?

My client called me to help improve company performance.  The strategy they had developed was beautiful, like a new 747, capable of taking them where they wanted to go.  The problem was with how they were implementing and executing the strategy — they had built an equally-beautiful 5000-foot runway, but their 747 required 1000 feet to take-off.

Strategies never fail in the boardroom or strategy retreat.  It’s in how it is implemented.  Ask yourself:

  • Do we have the right message and ability to communicate this strategy to our people?
  • Do we have the organization structure we need to carry-out this strategy?
  • Do we have the right people in all the key positions?
  • Do we have the quality of management processes to translate this strategy down through the organization?
  • And do we have the right reward systems to drive performance?

In the end, we launched that strategy and achieved the levels of profitable growth they had targeted.  Make sure you build the right runway for your strategy to succeed.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

When Culture and Strategy Conflict

This one is simple:  If strategy and culture go head-to-head, bet on the culture.

Here’s why:  Too many leaders, especially those who are out to change a company’s strategy, think that putting together values statements, a vision, and a strategic plan with projects, timelines and accountabilities, will successfully alter the success of a business that needs to change.  What they come to find out is that even the smartest strategy will fail if it cannot be implemented, and you cannot successfully implement a strategy if it goes against the culture in any significant way.

Kodak was a prime example.  For decades their core business was film.  All the key investments, all the new products, all the marketing, everything was focused on the film business.  So when new leaders, even those from successful businesses elsewhere were brought in with new strategies to turn around Kodak, they hit a brick wall called the Kodak culture which was all about the ingrained film-based culture.

In smaller companies, the culture is normally a reflection of the founder.  If the company needs to change to succeed, it’s often the case that either the founder needs to champion culture change, or be replaced.

Having been a key part of turnarounds at dozens of companies including Fortune 500, Inc 5000 and market leaders in numerous industries, I can attest to the fact that success requires attention to the culture.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

I Don’t Want to Hear “Hopefully”

The foundation of accountability is commitment.

When one is committed to accomplishing something, the hesitation and fear are replaced by resolve and energy.   When one is not committed, they tend to produce long stories and excuses.

During one of my senior executive stints, a manager who reported to me had a standard reply when I asked when a task or result would be completed.  She would say, “Hopefully….”   She was not committed, nor was she accountable.

Sometimes a person will say, “I cannot be accountable for that because I don’t have full control over it.”  He or she is confusing being accountable with being in control.  Hardly anyone is fully in control:  A sales person does not have full control over buyers buying, but they are still accountable for the result.  A manufacturing manager does not have full control over efficiencies or safety, but is still accountable for both.  The challenge of accountability is to take whatever actions are necessary (within the values of the organization) to get the result.

Accountability is being answerable for results.  Responsibility is being answerable for actions and behaviors.  Both rest on commitment.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com