Newsletter – January, 2021

On My Mind
I’m sensing a lot of optimism about the future in my network of organizations in part due to the approval of several vaccines that are now being administered throughout the world. However, there are some strategic issues (“risks”) in the short-term which might create difficult challenges for organizations: the widespread detection of multiple COVID-19 variants, vaccine rollout issues, cyberattacks, the two senate seat elections in Georgia, and the potential for political protests and civil unrest during the presidential transition. I’ll be conducting scenario analyses in January and February with some of my clients to prepare for those and other strategic issues. Best wishes as you identify and address your strategic issues in 2021.

Interesting Stories
How much influence should the employees of a publicly traded U.S. company have in the strategic direction and operations of the company? This is the question the leaders of Google are trying to answer. There is no “right answer.” According to an article by Sarah E. Needleman in The Wall Street Journal (Pages B1 and B4; January 5, 2021): “A group of Google employees has formed a union to organize workers across the technology company’s sprawling global operations . . .” What I find interesting is that the purpose of the union is quite unique: “. . . the union’s immediate goal isn’t collective bargaining or formal recognition by Alphabet [Google’s parent company]. The push instead reflects a need for employees to be able to speak out about the company without facing career repercussions, they said.” Some Google employees in the past have voiced concern about the company’s handling of sexual harassment complaints, Google’s work on a censored Chinese search engine, and Google’s work with the U.S. Department of Defense. This case study underscores the importance of the senior leaders of a company to clarify and communicate the decision rights and the various decision-making processes at all levels of the company. Who should be involved in making important decisions? You decide.

Company News
The Minnesota Federation of Engineering, Science and Technology Societies (MFESTS) awarded me the 2020 Richard S. Alberg Distinguished Science and Technology Professional Award for outstanding lifetime achievements in and service to the practice of science and technology. The Master Black Belt Networking Session was conducted December 11, 2020 and the Executive Roundtable on Organizational Culture was conducted on December 14, 2020. There are several upcoming public SIS events: Value Stream Leadership webinar on January 7, 2021; Network Analysis webinar on January 15, 2021; Strategic Improvement Black Belt course starts January 20, 2021; and the Exploratory Data Analysis webinar on January 29, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
One of the classic books on strategy is “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. I recently re-read “The Art of War Illustrated” which is a beautifully-bound version of the book supplemented with thirteen case studies – one for each chapter of the book. Here are the thirteen chapters: Planning, Waging War, Strategic Offence, Deployment, Momentum, The Substantial and the Insubstantial, Maneuvers Against the Enemy, The Nine Variables, On the March, Terrain, The Nine Types of Ground, Attacking with Fire, and Using Spies. Many leaders of organizations have studied this book and have applied the lessons therein in the context of competitive strategy. This book has become a must read for anyone interested in organizational strategy.