Newsletter – October, 2021

On My Mind
My paper on Visions & Visioning is now available on the RESEARCH page of this website. Here is an excerpt from the Abstract: “An effective organizational vision can direct, guide, and inspire the members of the organization as they attempt to improve organizational performance from a strategic perspective. A vision is defined here as a conception of the desired distant future state of the organization. In effect, the organizational members are saying, “We want our organization to be different than it is now.” A vision can also be created for other entities such as a business unit, division, department, team, geographic region, performance category, product, service, or project. An organizational vision statement—consisting of text—is one example of a vision, but a vision can also be in the form of an image, a video, or a sound. A vision is neither necessary nor sufficient for organizational success. However, many organizations have found it useful to have some form of a vision. Visioning is defined here as the carrying out of intentional organizational activities for creating and communicating an organizational vision.” Visit the RESEARCH page to see more.

Interesting Stories
The writing process has varied significantly for me from paper-to-paper. One thing is for certain—I never know how a paper will turn out in the end and there are always periods of time during the writing process when the creative ideas are not flowing. My last paper—Visions & Visioning—was especially interesting because of my visit to Mato Paha (Bear Butte) for a vision quest. It added a personal dimension to my research. I’m reminded of a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche from his book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”: “I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.” For those who are inexperienced at writing, you should know that you might feel some chaos during the writing process. However, it just might lead to the birth of a dancing star. Best wishes in your writing endeavors.

Company News
September was a busy month. I was one of the exhibitors at the annual PENworks event sponsored by the Performance Excellence Network (PEN) on September 24. It was a virtual event during which I facilitated three sessions. I also published my research report on Visions & Visioning and conducted my annual conference – the 13th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference. There were ten great presentations this year. Here were the other presenters in addition to me: Veronica Jaralambides from the MN Department of Natural Resources; Dr. Any Van de Ven from the Carlson School of Management; Peggy Boyd & Marcus Maier from MacDon; Lance Haugen from MNIT; Charlie Lawler from MN DHS Direct Care & Treatment; Kirk Burcar from New Flyer; Jeff Ziegler from Mayo Clinic; Colleen Krohn from MN DEED; and Vern Campbell from Process Management & University of Manitoba. There are a number of SIS events on the horizon: the Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt course which starts October 7, 2021; the Introduction to Statistical Control webinar on October 29, 2021; the Visions & Visioning short course on November 16, 2021; and the Strategic Improvement Green Belt course which starts December 13, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Change & Innovation (2nd Edition) was recently published by the Oxford University Press. The editors are Dr. Marshall Scott Poole and Dr. Andrew H. Van de Ven. This is a must have reference book on organizational change and innovation. The book has numerous great chapters. One of the most interesting was Chapter 8: Eastern Yin-Yang Model of Change by Runtian Jing. Best wishes in your change and innovation efforts.

Newsletter – September, 2021

On My Mind
My research report on Visions & Visioning will be published on this website on September 28, 2021 in conjunction with the 13th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference. My research approach consisted of a literature review; an in-depth analysis of three organizational visions (case studies); an analysis of one hundred (100) organizational vision statements; and experiential research in the form of a vision quest on Maho Pata (“Bear Butte”). My research has generated many insights including the many roles an organizational vision can perform: direct the members of an organization; guide the members of an organization; focus the members of an organization; help the members of an organization prioritize; help the members of an organization allocate resources; help align all of the organizational units in the organization; inspire the members of an organization; and serve as a standard for evaluating organizational performance. If you want to learn more about Visions & Visioning, then feel free to access my research report on the RESEARCH page of this website on September 28.

Interesting Stories
I once heard Warren Buffett say the following statement which he ascribed to the philosopher Bertrand Russell: “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Some of my personal and business habits have changed over the past sixteen months and I’ve also formed new habits. Sometimes the little things—like our unnoticed habits and routines—have a significant cumulative effect on our lives including our health and state of mind. My habit changes have been sleeping more; exercising more; reading more; and listening to more documentary broadcasts. I’m hoping these habits are now too heavy to be broken!

Company News
September will be a busy month. I’ll be attending the virtual Strategic Management Society’s Annual Conference from September 18-21. I’ll also be one of the exhibitors at the annual PENworks event sponsored by the Performance Excellence Network (PEN) on September 24 which will be a virtual event again this year. There are several upcoming public SIS events: the 13th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference on September 28, 2021; the Fundamentals of Quality webinar on September 30, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt course starting October 7, 2021; the Visions & Visioning short course on October 14, 2021; and the Advances in Hoshin Kanri short course on October 19, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. The SIS Fall/Winter Public Event Schedule will be available on September 15. My new research report on Visions & Visioning will be available on the RESEARCH page of this website on September 28, 2021.

Intriguing Reads
The Harvard Business Review is still an excellent source for leading-edge management content. The September-October 2021 issue has an excellent article titled Future-Proofing Your Organization (Pages 42-48) which was authored by Michael Mankins, Eric Garton, & Dan Schwartz. They offered six practices “. . . for companies to follow as they regroup and reorganize for the inevitable recovery”: Think Ahead When Defining Business-Critical Roles; Redefine What Great Looks Like; Don’t Cut Back on Management Development; Tech Up the HR Function; Get People to Engage with Tech; and Figure Out What Tomorrow’s Stars Want from You. Best wishes as you regroup and reorganize!

Newsletter – August, 2021

On My Mind
Performance expectations matter! It was a difficult decision for the leaders of Japan to go ahead with the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 especially given the emergence of the Delta variant and widespread public opposition. Every Olympic event I viewed seemed organized and well-run—sans spectators. Performance expectations are a powerful phenomenon. The Olympic athletes who expected to win a gold medal—but instead earned a silver or bronze medal—seemed noticeably disappointed during the post-event interviews. Their performance didn’t meet their expectations. However, most of the athletes who did not expect to win a medal were elated upon winning a gold medal—or a silver or a bronze medal for that matter. What are your performance expectations? I’m a believer in aiming high (“gold medal”), but the risk is that you could end up being disappointed. I’m just happy to be able to wake up every day and do work that I love. The means have become more important to me than the ends over the years.

Interesting Stories
Diplomatic intrigue, mental health, surprise victories, disappointing losses, world records, come-from-behind finishes, personal best performances, career-ending performances . . . there were so many interesting stories associated with the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Competing for your country is quite different than competing for some other team for many athletes. There is a sense of national pride and representation. The athletes for these games sacrificed much and had to train an additional year. The country-by-country medal counts are always interesting to me: The United States earned 113 medals (39 Gold/41 Silver/33 Bronze) followed by China at 88 medals (38/32/18). I also find interesting the nations at the bottom of the list. For example, Finland earned two medals and Saudi Arabia earned one medal. If you enjoy watching the Olympics, then you don’t have to wait long. The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China begins in February. I’ve no doubt Finland will perform better!

Company News
There are several upcoming public SIS events: the Strategic Improvement Green Belt virtual course starting August 9, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Black Belt virtual course starting August 25, 2021; the Regression Analysis webinar on August 31, 2021; the 13th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference on September 28, 2021; the Fundamentals of Quality webinar on September 30, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt course starting October 7, 2021; and the Visions & Visioning short course on October 14, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
One of the most useful “how to” books for creating an organizational vision is titled, Visual Leaders: New Tools for Visioning, Management, & Organization Change by David Sibbet. If you are visually oriented, then this is the book for you. The section of the book I really liked was Part Three: Power Tools for Visual Leaders which contained seven chapters: Metaphors & Models; Visual Meetings; Graphic Templates; Decision Rooms; Roadmaps & Visual Plans; Graphic Storymaps; and Video & Virtual Visuals. This is a useful reference book whether you are involved in creating an organizational vision statement or leading a project team. Best wishes as you visualize your future!

Newsletter – July, 2021

On My Mind
Many senior executives today are in the process of creating a new or revised organizational vision statement as their organizations emerge from the pandemic. What are some of the most common types of vision statements? What are some effective approaches for creating a vision statement? My current research project is attempting to answer those and other questions. I’m in the process of analyzing 100+ vision statements which has so far revealed numerous new insights and surprises. There are several different types of vision statements with the most common type so far being what I call “B#1.” For example, “We want to become the best financial services company in the world.” The other common vision statement types seemed more creative and original. The vision quest was an important ritual in many Native American tribes including the Lakota (a.k.a. Teton Sioux). That ritual is explained in detail by Black Elk in the book “The Sacred Pipe” by Joseph Epes Brown. Give Chapter 4 a read if you are interested in studying the details of that ritual.

Interesting Stories
Went up on the mountain . . . To see what I could see.” Those are some of the lyrics in the song “Dreams” by The Allman Brothers Band. I recently experienced my own version of a vision quest on top of Mato Paha (a.k.a. Bear Butte) in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. Some sources say Crazy Horse was born near Mato Paha and that he received many visions on top of Mato Paha during his life. Other famous Sioux including Red Cloud and Sitting Bull were also reported to have visited Mato Paha. My time on the mountaintop turned out to be a surreal experience and I now know why humans have vision quested there over the millennia. The mountain is now in Bear Butte State Park. There is a well-marked trail leading to a viewing platform at the top. The views are spectacular and all five of my senses were heightened – especially because of the ever-present sun, the gale force wind from the North on the first day, and the weaker yet steady wind from the South on the second day. Two primary themes emerged during the two days: Foundation and Synchronization. If you ever need a place to contemplate and imagine your future, then give Mato Paha a try.

Company News
There are several upcoming public SIS events: the Leaning Operations virtual short course on July 7-8, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt virtual short course on July 12 & 19, 2021; the 60-minute webinar on Visioning on July 30, 2021; the Lean Applications in Hospitals & Clinics virtual short course on August 2-3, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Green Belt virtual course starting August 9, 2021; and the Strategic Improvement Black Belt virtual course starting August 25, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
The article titled “Why Do So Many Strategies Fail?” by David J. Collis in the July-August 2021 Harvard Business Review shed some modern light on this important phenomenon. Most organizations have a clearly-defined and well-articulated strategy. However, many strategies fail for a variety of reasons. Collis identified some common mistakes including The Incumbent’s Mistake and The Entrepreneur’s Mistake. The author also discussed the importance of Implementation and Integration. This is an excellent article for anyone responsible for the success of their organization’s strategy process. As Warren Buffett once said: “I’d rather learn from the mistakes of others.”

Newsletter – June, 2021

On My Mind
Is your organization “getting the band back together”? Many organizations are bringing their employees back into offices and facilities after a prolonged period of time working remotely. Some employees can’t wait to get back to the office whereas others grew to enjoy the work from home lifestyle. The re-socialization process will be awkward for some and long past due for others. Do we shake hands? Do we hug? Who had COVID-19? Who has been vaccinated? What is new in your life? Acting as if nothing happened is probably not a good idea and yet revisiting the past might be painful for those who lost a loved one. Best wishes as you get your band back together.

Interesting Stories
The vision quest (“lamenting”) is one of the seven sacred rituals of the Oglala Sioux according to Black Elk in the book “The Sacred Pipe” by Joseph Epes Brown. Black Elk stated (in Brown’s book, 1953): “Every man can cry for a vision, or ‘lament’; and in the old days we all—men and women—’lamented’ all the time. What is received through the ‘lamenting’ is determined in part by the character of the person who does this, for it is only those people who are very qualified who receive the great visions, which are interpreted by our holy man, and which give strength and health to our nation.” Black Elk explained that this rite consisted of a sequence of specific ritualistic activities (my paraphrasing): decide to lament, visit a holy man, experience the rite of purification, ascend to the top of the chosen mountain, lament on the mountaintop, descend from the mountaintop, return to the holy man for another rite of purification and describe in detail your experiences, the holy man then interprets your experiences and offers instructions, and then you strive to live your life guided by your vision. I’ll be experiencing my own vision quest on top of Bear Butte in the Black Hills region of South Dakota in mid-June. Crazy Horse received many visions on top of Bear Butte during his life. What will I see?

Company News
There are several upcoming public SIS events: the Statistical Methods for Performance Improvement virtual short course on June 15, 2021; the 60-minute webinar on Visioning on June 21, 2021; the Leaning Operations virtual short course on July 7-8, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt virtual short course on July 12 & 19, 2021; the Lean Applications in Hospitals & Clinics virtual short course on August 2-3, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Green Belt virtual course starting August 9, 2021; and the Strategic Improvement Black Belt virtual course starting August 25, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
Jeff Bezos is best known as the CEO of Amazon, but he is also the founder of the space company Blue Origin. Elon Musk is best known as the CEO of Tesla, but he is also the founder and CEO of SpaceX. Both Bezos and Musk have a passion for space and share the vision of colonizing space. They are both featured in the book “The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos” by Christian Davenport. Bezos and Musk both developed an interest and passion for space at a young age and now they are able to make their “humans in space” vision become a reality as billionaires. Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, and one other passenger will experience space for roughly 11 minutes on July 20 – let’s hope it is a safe and successful journey! If you want to learn more about the modern space visionaries, then give Davenport’s book a try.

Newsletter – May, 2021

On My Mind
President John F. Kennedy addressed a Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961 where he laid out his vision for placing humans on the moon: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieve the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” This was an almost unbelievable vision at the time, but it became a reality in 1969 during the Apollo 11 Mission. The Apollo 11 spacecraft was launched on July 16, 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center in Houston with three crew members: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 after which he announced: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin shortly followed. Collins was the spacecraft pilot who orbited the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon’s surface. The three astronauts returned to Earth on July 24, 1969 after a successful mission. This historic human achievement represents a classic example of someone having a bold—and almost unbelievable—vision which was eventually achieved. I’ll feature this vision example and others in my Visioning paper which will be published in September.

Interesting Stories
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger held court on May 1, 2021 during the 2021 Annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting which was livestreamed on Yahoo Finance from Los Angeles, CA. Buffett is the 90-year-old CEO and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and Munger is the 97-year-old Vice Chairman of the company. The two were in top form – they answered a multitude of questions on diverse topics for several hours interspersing serious answers with words of wisdom, humor, and admissions of mistakes. I hope that I’m functioning that well—both physically and cognitively—when I’m in my 90s. If you haven’t heard or seen Warren and Charlie before, then I suggest you invest some of your time. They are truly amazing. You can now watch a replay of the annual meeting on YouTube.

Company News
There are several upcoming public SIS events: the Strategic Improvement Green Belt course which starts May 4, 2021; the 60-minute webinar on Managing a Project Portfolio on May 6, 2021; the virtual Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt course on May 17, 2021 and May 24, 2021; the virtual Statistical Methods for Performance Improvement short course on June 15, 2021; and the 60-minute webinar on Visioning on June 21, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. I’ll soon finalize the schedules for the next Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt courses.

Intriguing Reads
Chess has long been considered one of the world’s greatest strategy games and it is well-known that it develops a player’s critical thinking skills. One of the most highly-respected chess periodicals is called Chess Informant which is published four times a year. I recently received a copy of Chess Informant 147 Awakening and am now deep into studying it. There are two sections in every issue that I especially like: (1) The best game of the preceding volume which in the last issue was Levon Aronian vs. Fabiano Caruana at Stavanger 2020 and (2) The most important theoretical novelty of the preceding volume which in the last issue was Leinier Dominguez-Perez vs. Magnus Carlsen at Internet-Rapid, 2020. If you want to improve your critical thinking skills, then give the game of chess a try and order the latest issue of Chess Informant.

Newsletter – April, 2021

On My Mind
I’ve set aside more time recently for formal one-hour deep think sessions. These involve ear plugs and a clear desk except for a note pad and pen—with no phone or computer in sight. These sessions allow me to reflect and focus my attention on things that matter. These sessions were inspired by my experience in a sensory deprivation tank in Palo Alto, CA in the 1980s. It was a profound experience which I’ll never forget. I’m reminded of a timeless passage written by Vine Deloria, Jr. in an introduction to Black Elk Speaks in the book Masterpieces of American Indian Literature: “The twentieth century has produced a world of conflicting visions, intense emotions, and unpredictable events, and the opportunities for grasping the substance of life have faded as the pace of activity has increased. Electronic media shuffle us through a myriad of experiences which would have baffled earlier generations and seem to produce in us a strange isolation from the reality of human history. Our heroes fade into mere personality, are consumed and forgotten, and we avidly seek more avenues to express our humanity. Reflection is the most difficult of all our activities because we are no longer able to establish relative priorities from the multitude of sensations that engulf us. Times such as these seem to illuminate the classic expressions of eternal truths and great wisdom comes to stand out in the crowd of ordinary maxims.”

Interesting Stories
You never know . . . Petr Kellner, age 56, died in a helicopter crash in Alaska which also claimed four other lives. Kellner, was the co-founder and majority shareholder in PPF Group, a Czechoslovakia-based investment company headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Kellner was reportedly the Czech Republic’s “richest man” at the time of his death. The cause of the crash is still being investigated. His sudden and tragic death reminds me of the drowning death of Edouard Michelin in 2006. He at one time was appointed CEO of Michelin North America under the leadership of Carlos Ghosn, the future Renault Nissan CEO. Edouard Michelin was appointed Michelin Group CEO in 1999.

Company News
There are several upcoming public SIS events: the virtual Strategic Improvement Black Belt course which starts April 13, 2021; the Developing an Enterprise Information Strategy 60-minute webinar on April 12, 2021; the Shaping Organizational Culture 60-minute webinar on April 16, 2021; the virtual Multivariate Data Analysis 3-hour short course on April 27, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Green Belt course which starts May 4, 2021; and the Managing a Project Portfolio 60-minute webinar on May 6, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
The pandemic has had a profound affect on the beliefs and attitudes of people in organizations today—both for good and for bad. There does seem to be more empathy and interest in health and safety which is good. However, there is still—understandably—a lot of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety which is manifesting itself in many negative ways. I’ve recently reread the book Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfil Your Potential by Dr. Carol S. Dweck to better understand the current situation. There are a number of concepts mentioned in the book that leaders of organizations can use to help people grow and develop beyond their current mindsets.

Newsletter – March, 2021

On My Mind
NASA’s newest rover named Perseverance landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. It is the fifth rover in NASA’s Mars Program. The four goals of the current Perseverance mission are the following: (1) Goal 1: Determine whether life ever existed on Mars, (2) Goal 2: Characterize the Climate of Mars, (3) Goal 3: Characterize the Geology of Mars, and (4) Goal 4: Prepare for Human Exploration. Perseverance will perform complex work on Mars and collect and send back to earth tons of data using extremely advanced instruments. If you want to be inspired and learn about the current science and exploration activities on Mars, then check out the NASA Mars website: https://mars.nasa.gov/.

Interesting Stories
The Sage of Omaha – also know as Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway – published his famous Annual Stakeholder Letter on February 27, 2021. Mr. Buffett is 90 years old and still leading one of the largest companies in the world in terms of market capitalization. Once asked how he wanted to be remembered, Buffett replied: “Here lies the oldest man who ever lived.” He continues to partner with legendary investor Charlie Munger who is 97 years old and the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. The 2021 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting will be held on May 1, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. It will be live streamed on Yahoo Finance at 12:00 p.m. CST. If you want to learn from one of the greatest investors of all time, then read Buffett’s Annual Stakeholder Letter and watch the live stream on May 1, 2021. Happy investing!

Company News
I presented on Big Data Techniques & Tools at the MN ASQ session the evening of February 9, 2021. There are several upcoming public SIS events: the virtual Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt course on March 8 & 12, 2021; the virtual Strategic Improvement Black Belt course which starts April 13, 2021; the Shaping Organizational Culture webinar on April 16, 2021; the virtual Multivariate Data Analysis short course on April 27, 2021; the Strategic Improvement Green Belt course which starts May 4, 2021; and the Managing a Project Portfolio webinar on May 6, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
I’ve been wanting to read the book titled, The Mars Project by Wernher von Braun for a long time and the recent landing of NASA’s rover named Perseverance inspired me to purchase and read the book. What is amazing about the book is that it was first published in German in 1952 and then in English in 1953. I especially liked the section on Interplanetary Radio Communication. Wernher von Braun was a German rocket scientist and visionary who migrated to the United States. He was instrumental in developing the rockets for NASA’s Apollo program which eventually placed the first humans on the moon in 1969. If you want to learn about contemporary human Mars activities, then visit NASA’s excellent Mars website. In addition, if you want to learn what a visionary in 1952 imagined regarding Mars exploration, then read von Braun’s book.

Newsletter – February, 2021

On My Mind
Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO of Amazon later this year and become the Executive Chair of Amazon. Andy Jassy—who now runs the very successful Amazon Web Services business for Amazon—will become the next CEO. It has been reported that Bezos will continue to play an important role in the company. Perhaps he will spend more time with his space company Blue Origin. It can’t be easy for a company to replace a legendary CEO. However, Apple in the post-Steve Jobs era and Microsoft in the post-Bill Gates era have done exceptionally well. GE in the post-Jack Welch era initially did well, but then faltered badly. GE appears to be making a comeback as of late.

Interesting Stories
There was a Yellow Pages book containing Business and Government listings delivered to my home recently and for some reason it made me pause and reflect. The book used to be such an invaluable resource for me and yet I probably hadn’t held one in my hands for several years. I asked myself the question: Is my business listed in the book? After a quick search of the book – No! I recall that my business used to be listed, but I’ve no idea when it disappeared from the book. I’m not even sure how to get a business listed in the book and—strangely—I don’t care. It will be interesting to see how long the book continues to be published. Apparently, enough people still derive value from it. Maybe I’m missing a marketing opportunity. Anyhow, I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

Company News
I recently became a member of the SouthWest Metro Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. My work with the Chamber has been very rewarding. I’ll be presenting on Big Data Techniques & Tools at the MN ASQ session the evening of February 9, 2021. You can visit the MN ASQ website to register. There are several upcoming public SIS events: the Advances in Strategic Planning webinar on February 26, 2021; the virtual Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt course on March 8 & 12, 2021; the Shaping Organizational Culture webinar on March 11, 2021; the virtual Multivariate Data Analysis short course on March 19, 2021; the Strategic Quality Management webinar on March 26, 2021; and the virtual Strategic Improvement Black Belt course which starts April 13, 2021. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
I’ve been reading a lot of Artificial Intelligence (AI) material lately and the book Competing in the Age of AI: Strategy and Leadership When Algorithms and Networks Run the World by Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani is worth reading if you are interested in the subject. The two authors are from the Harvard Business School. I especially liked the following chapters: Chapter 3. The AI Factory; Chapter 6. Strategy for a New Age; Chapter 9. The New Meta; and Chapter 10. A Leadership Mandate. This is not the book for you if you want technical details on AI. However, if you want to learn about AI from a strategic (C-suite) perspective, then this is the book for you.

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.