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 Discussion Partner Collaborative Blog

 

  
 

Inflection Point - Tenure Without Age

Posted on October 24, 2017
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

As Baby Boomers ponder retirement there is the inevitable associated question “what do I do next”?

A CNBC segment once referred to retirement planning as the “no huddle offense”.  Essentially there is a need to accelerate not only the economic preparation for retirement: but also the determinants as to how one will spend their time.

Tammy Erickson’s multiple books on shifting demographics particularly What’s Next Generation X?, and Dr. Lynda Gratton’s recent book The 100 Year Life forcefully remind us that traditional perspectives regarding retirement and career management are outmoded.  

The need to reflect and plan is now being “down-aged” (late 40’s to early 50’s) to encompass long serving incumbents whom began working with their present employers at an early age.

If you put yourself in the position of one of these incumbents a thought process encompasses the following:

  • I started with this company right out of school
  • I am 48 years old
  •  like the company they have been good to me
  • I like my role and feel I am making a contribution BUT!!!!
  • I wonder what it would be like to work somewhere else AND!!!!
  • I need to decide new before it is too late

For those of us in our 60’s 48 is young.  However I would assert that none of us felt that way when we were 48!

The inherent problems with the above reflections are a. the employee may leave a good situation, just for the sake of leaving and b. the company is at risk of a brain drain at the nexus point of identification of future leaders and sustainability.

Engagement surveys, while informative, do not drill down sufficiently beyond are “are you happy now”?  In addition those whom are struggling with this dilemma are most likely reflecting privately.

Discussion Partner’s in researching our recent book Inflection Points-Risk Readiness Failure Fearless on career decision points began to become aware this phenomenon.

DPC perceived the issue to be a serious risk to our client population whom have longer serving employees.  Consequently using the mantra of “it is better to be supportive than short-sighted” we have been piloting a Coaching interdiction with several companies whom fit the above profile.

The offering Trajectory Advisory Service focuses on asking and answering the question for those in their late 40’s with approximately 20 years enterprise tenure, “is this company and role sufficiently challenging and engaging that you want to stay”?

DPC began piloting this offering in mid 2016 and have worked with 90 clients to date.

The findings are 10-fold based upon the admittedly modest sample:

  1. 100% of those with whom we worked admitted to having given “serious thought” to making a change
  2. 100% of those with whom we worked although initially skeptical appreciated the proactivity of their company providing resources to assist in their decision making
  3. 90+% were applying loose criteria to their thought process focused more on “now” vs. “where or why”
  4. Approximately the same % felt the restraint on making an informed decision was due more to “what if I don't like it” vs. the transition being a sensible career move
  5.  81 of the 90 clients decided to stay with their present employer
  6. The 9 clients with whom DPC worked on a “soft landing” whereby the company was able to secure a replacement in advance of separation and the departing member was supported in their search (search firms, references, time to interview etc.)
  7. For those 81 whom have chosen to remain each was provided an enterprise supported Engagement Driver as a “safety valve” to reinforce the prudence of their decision making
  8. The range of “Drivers” encompassed new role, new location, NGO participation, Commercial Board sponsorship, paid sabbatical, education, reconfigured work hours as well as some innovative solutions
  9. None of the 81 clients received additional nor special compensation for what I would invoke as the obvious reasons

The #10 Finding from the Pilot is that 65% of those with whom DPC worked indicated they would have left in large part due to curiosity and feelings of intellectual stagnation.

The overarching conclusion DPC derived from this effort to date as that organizations that have the above profile are best served by being proactive, supportive, and sincere in working their incumbents or run the risk of being controlled by vs. controlling their Talent Readiness posture due to unanticipated and undesired departures.

 

2017 Update Beware of Executive Coaches

Posted on September 26, 2017
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

In 2011 Discussion Partners posted a blog on our web page www.discussionpartners.com on the topic of Executive Coaching.  The impetus for the first blog was the feedback we had been receiving from our C-Suite clients on their level of satisfaction with the discipline and its value added to their enterprise.  

The headline was “it depends more on the coach than the circumstance”.

The earlier blog captured the detailed sentiments expressed and was featured in our 2013 book Executive Transition-Plotting The Opportunity!, our rationale being many “transitioning” executives identified “coaching or advising” as a likely career option.

In our recently completed study of over 400 Global C-Suite executives we found that not much had changed in the 6 years since the initial posting.  

The original with 2017 updates is offered for your information.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the spirit of truth in advertising the notification of “Beware of Dog” should also apply to Executive Coaching.

The domain of Executive Coaching is growing rapidly for 2 incongruent reasons.  Foremost it has been well researched and documented that the use of external coaches is the most impactful leadership development vehicle.  Secondly, with the displacement of so many executives, during the global recession concomitant to the retirement of “Boomer executives” there has been a proliferation of those who now carry the business card of Executive Coach.

The more cynical of us remember the late 90’s when a transitioning executive was going to “start a dot.com”, that aspiration has now been supplanted by well intentioned; but unprepared advisors whom are now “Coaches”.

This is of concern as it is doubtful one would feel comfortable being represented by a Lawyer who hadn’t been to law school, or treated by a Doctor who didn’t attend Medical school...essentially the base line criteria, so what about Coaches?  

The above is further complicated by the “industry” lacking any regulatory oversight.  

So why do client sponsors feel more sanguine

when someone whose experience as a Coach is primarily self-nominated is advising them or their managers?

This dilemma prompted Discussion Partners to conduct a number of Pulse Survey’s.  The first was in 2011, repeated in 2013 and updated this month.  The 2017 edition encompassed over 400 C-Suite incumbents.

In all three surveys DPC reformatted the standard question, “to be an effective leader, what skills do you need to possess”, alternatively asking “to be impactful what are the top 5 critical skills needed by an Executive Coach”?

Top 5 Responses

  • Strong Business Fundamentals – There is a need to be clear.  Many coaches focus on advising on strategy and operations as well there are those who focus on leadership effectiveness.  The response had more to do with the third area in that even when advising on the quality of a leadership bench, or correcting some less then attractive behaviors there is a need for the coach to know enough about business to be credible with their client.

    The update for 2017 is that now more than ever knowledge of global business and economics is a “must”.
  • Sensei Tendencies – The ability of the coach to weave in “war stories” or “lessons learned” from the coach’s experience.  At Discussion Partners we refer to this as Illustration Advisory an intervention whereby we can share an example.  There is of course the need to resist the temptation to pontificate, “when I was a young manager”.  

    The 2017 Update is CEO’s are asking for an advanced “script” from the coach on how they intend to manage their “client” that moves beyond the coaches personal experience migrating towards more of an education, lessons learned, historical example, and other client experience foundations.
  • Willingness to Confront – The desire to avoid offending to preserve economic security can be taken too far in a relationship.  There can be diplomatic ways to articulate, “what the hell were you thinking”?

    2017 Update-CEO’s want to see more assertiveness embedded in discourse with executives.
  • Intellectual Curiosity – This attribute initially surprised those of us at DPC, and as it continues with the 2017 update, shame on us!  It is only logical that a client is entitled to expect that their advisor is staying current.  Although the John Boudreau’s, Noel Tichy’s, David Ulrich’s, Jim Collins’s and Michael Porter’s are in a class by themselves, the reputation of the coach can be enhanced if they share insights from others, and their own documented point of view.  

    The 2017 update is CEO’s expect Coaches to have an organized fact based “point of view” preferably demonstrated through thought leadership via speeches, op-ed pieces, blogs and publications.
  • Willingness to Admit Failure – Staying in a bad marriage is counterproductive if not counterintuitive.  The same logic applies to a coaching relationship.  If it isn’t working the coach should be the initiator of the relationship separation.  Anything less is suboptimal for the client and candidly an unfair position for an enterprise sponsor.

    The 2017 update indicates the time horizon for tolerating non- performance and/or bad behaviors are shortening consequently the coach needs to show results early and on going.

You will note that there is a presumption of a methodology and highly attuned interactive skills!  Both are considered, and continue to be based upon the 2017 update Threshold Attributes by CEO’s.

Given the continued proliferation of those calling themselves an Executive Coach the above is offered as a point of view to assist you in what DPC refers to as QQ (Qualification/Quality) decisions and utilization.

 

No Shortcuts Allowed-Bench Building #1 Priority!

Posted on July 10, 2017
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

It's hard to believe that 2017 is more than halfway over! Given the geo-political dynamics before us, we can expect that, for better or for worse, the rest of the year will be just as turbulent as the first half.

It's been a roller coaster, and unfortunately there's not much the average though engaged executive can do but exert influence where one can.

Perhaps it's the feeling of lacking control that has made succession planning—the continuity and transitional aspects of this effort in particular— such a hot topic these days. After all, it's human nature to want to contain the uncertainties in life while maximizing the opportunities—as contradictory as that may seem!

Urgency” would be a fair characterization of the feeling our clients have expressed towards the holistic succession planning process recently, and in response to that, today we’re sharing a slightly revised version of a blog we posted in January. We have made updates to reflect the latest data from DPC Research and client experience. The data continues to support our original thesis that, your organization's future will benefit from a deep-dive review of its Succession and Continuity planning processes!

Notwithstanding pre-existing protocols, we are suggesting this review encompass the most generous interpretation of processes concomitant with experimental and disruptive solution sets.  

Our recommendation is driven by results of a recent study DPC conducted with as of June over 2000 C-Suite participants.  The survey was on the topic of envisioned enterprise challenges. 94% of those surveyed indicated “the ability to attract, motivate, and retain top talent” as their #1 concern in January and now 95%!

Discussion Partner’s has been conducting this ongoing Pulse survey since our founding in 2007.  The intensity of the above concern while always “on the list” was never #1.  In addition the rationales expressed in the anecdotal justifications were compelling inclusive of envisioned shifting demographics, new worker expectations, disruption of organization models, competitive pressures, globalization, and ineffective human capital practices.

Our recommendation is further reinforced by a review of the recent literature on this topic.

  1. The strategic imperative for Talent depth to be an asset vs. liability referenced in consolidated research on Leadership Succession/Continuity most recently 2016 and 2017 series of articles in HBR, McKinsey Insights and Sloan Management Review
  2. The Point of View that has emerged from our Advisory work that 2017 represents an opportunity to use a “Disruptive Organization Model” for Talent processes overall and Leadership matters in particular

As further justification for this Recommendation the following foundation is provided.

  • Dr. Noel Tichy in his recent book Succession asserts that without proactive planning on how to fill, and inventory of talent well in advance of leadership, and/or key role “vacancies”, the chance of success is below 50% for replacement personnel
  • Ram Charan in his book The Attackers Advantage and December 2016 HBR articles offers the following (paraphrased) –Leaders (Directors, Owners, CEO’s) who excel at selection are willing to expand the lens in how they look at the capabilities of reporting levels beyond performance track record to the 2 to 3 interwoven predictive behaviors that will be necessary for success
  • The following compelling data points are from various sources (Booz Allen, McKinsey, Hedrick & Struggles, Korn Ferry and Saratoga Institute)
    • Team Building and Empathy are as important as Performance for promoting enterprise success (often stated infrequently realized)
    • 55% of the Fortune 500 Boards of Directors have expressed dissatisfaction with the Succession Planning processes of their enterprises including the CEO replacement approach
    • A study of the 2500 largest companies on the planet indicate that inefficient Succession Planning on average results in $1.8B losses during transition
    • Underperformance does not incent change 45% below peer group by sector correlates to only 5.7% probability in change of leadership
    • 39% of the Fortune 1000 Boards indicate “no viable candidate” to replace the CEO compelling a similar % undertaking external hires which Charan stipulates as “highly unlikely to be successful”

In the context of the recent HBR assertion “Succession Planning takes years not months” DPC would recommend the following steps:

  1. Senior level stakeholder interviews focused on “beyond task proficiency” what are the essential differentiating qualities that will be needed for success
  2. Comparative Inventory of Leaders (broad based) and high potentials in relationship to these attributes
  3. Embed into developmental and hiring strategies the lessons learned from this exercise
  4. Creation of a Critical Constituency Depth Chart whereby the following is highlighted
    1. a. Identification of 1 ready now replacement
      b. Identification of 2 possible replacements
      c. Identification of external Search capabilities to be deployed in
          emergencies and/or lack of “ready now” sense of urgency
      d. Assignment of non-senior leaders a “personal growth and
          development task” similar to the GE “popcorn stand” to provide
          additional evaluative foundation

The New England Patriots have a mantra of “do your job” five Superbowls (including the most recent heart stopper) indicates the validity of this philosophy.  However, DPC would argue in the commercial sector this would be limiting for the medium to long term for any existing organization.  Our impetus is that the above suggestions represent process steps that should be presently underway and if not, a sense of urgency should exist.  DPC would substitute the words “do the job you should have been doing all along”!

Additionally we would embed the following questions:

I.      What skills sets will we need beyond domain proficiency to have a sustainable growth oriented
        enterprise?
II.     How does our current population of Leaders and Future Leaders compare to these desired
        attributes?
III.    How can we develop and/or hire sufficient numbers of people to address deficiencies in the above?
IV.    What is the true nature of our Leadership bench in respect to Readiness?
V.     What is our contingency plan to be deployed if necessary?

From whatever vantage point you situate, this year will continue to be dynamic.  As a suggestion, borrowing a title from a previous book by Dr. Tichy on the topic of leadership Control Your Destiny-Or Somebody Else Will!

                                                      

 

Discussion Partner Research and Client Experience on Executive Transitions

Posted on June 1, 2017
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

2017 is a transition year for many Boomer Executives whom will be reaching the milestone age of 65!

Granted Charley Watts of the Stones and Ringo Starr are 75 and still touring and Mick Jagger is about to become a father again! Yet there is something magical about 65 as it was the age when most of our parents left the work force.  

At the time however, after they got their gold watch, took a cruise, there was not much life left based upon actuarial tables and cultural norms.

Discussion Partner’s launched a Transition Advisory Service offering in 2013 after the publication of our book Executive Transitions-Plotting The Opportunity!

Since that time we have worked with several hundred executives in a variety of sectors.

We have organized our Transition Advisory support to executives in four phases.

Phase 1-Preserving The Legacy-succinctly put taking proactive steps to insure that the efforts you undertook, and the success you engendered are recalled in the most positive terms.

In Discussion Partner’s experience regardless of age and psychographic profile it is prudent to substitute the question of “How will I focus my energies for the next 3 to 5 years” vs. “What will I do with the rest of my life”.  This is the principle of Inflection Point we utilize in our discussions with executives whom have an extensive work history often with one to two employers.

Transition Principles
The below represents a baseline from which we develop tactics for executives whom are departing from a “continuing concern”.

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Control the Communication Process-avoid relying only on the formal elements of communication.  There is a need to augment this effort with an informal communication process to personalize, and engage in conversations with selected managers

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Confirm the Legacy-there is a need to define “how I want to be remembered”, with “how I am perceived”.  The most effective way to do this is to have a dialogue with trusted advisors where you point blank ask the question, “what will you remember about me”

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Networking-Classify your internal and external networks capturing the contact information for managers whom would provide insight/access for you in the future, what we refer to as the “Nifty 50”. This is the minimum! There is a need to commit to interact with these folks at least on a quarterly basis, recognizing that the interactions will be sustainable provided the dialogue has mutual value.

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Relationship Sustainability-The first order of business is to prepare and send subsequent to the formal announcement an e-mail to at least these 50 executives internal and external embedded with a. preliminary thoughts as to career focus, and b. contact information

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Accessibility- independent of the networking activity above there is a need to utilize multiple vehicles e-mails, social media, and the lost art of letter writing to maintain contact with a broader number of executives

Phase 2-Ensuring Enterprise Continuity - making sure that care and thought are given to the preservation of momentum as manifested in the Succession Plan….through constructive access, advice, and prescriptive documentation.

Interim Period Issues-Post Successor Selection
Be mindful there is oftentimes a “rock in the middle of the river” attitude to be avoided in a post announcement environment.  Be advised we usually find it well intentioned and focused on the executives “best interests” so as to “not bother them”.

Still however it is difficult to be working in an environment that seems to have forgotten one has a pulse.  

We use the sequence of John Wayne to reinforce the point in terms of reinforcement of a visible career.

Career Segment  Description

Early On    

Who IS John Wayne

Traction    

Get me John Wayne

Popular    

I need more John Wayne’s

Waning    

Get me someone who was like John Wayne

Exit    

Who WAS John Wayne

  1. The key here is two-fold:
    Don’t take it personal….it is the normal cycle
  2. Consider acceleration of your departure from the office in favor of working remotely at some point….

Regardless of timing there is a “Snagglepuss” phenomenon, the appropriate time to “exit stage left”!  The time frame is accompanied with the likely outcome of SARA even though it is your decision.

    • Shock
    • Anger
    • Rejection
    • Acceptance

There WILL be a feeling of emotional disorientation associated with departure.  It is most advisable to recognize that Retirement is a platform to other areas of personal and creative expression.

Playbook
I can presume the suggestion of this exercise may seem odd; however our experience is that it is very useful when a Successor may not be up to the task immediately.  It is also non-trivial in reaffirmation of legacy.

The value of having a brief treatise on your experience with a limited distribution is it a) helps others see “your role through your eyes” and b) it reduces “blowback” in that after you leave, it reduces the possibility that you would be blamed for others mistakes.

Our concept is a 1 to 2-page memorandum that focuses on the following:
• The initiatives you feel were executed well
• Those that are in process and/or you feel were deficient
• Two to 3 top of mind suggestions for securing progress in your previous role

Phase 3-Rejuvination Break-taking a break to recharge and reflect on next steps in career trajectory.   DPC perceives as inevitable regardless of means, age etc. as those whom are Type A don’t change their DNA.

The Concept of the Commercial Sabbatical
The foundation for the “Commercial Sabbatical” concept we promote derives from our research and client experience. Based upon Executive Demographics and Aspirations, it is embedded into our hypothesis that successful executives after a period of rest, are desirous to reengage in commercial activates

  1. Older Executives (65 plus)-focus on 2 to 3 activities part time post-employment
  2. Bridge Executives (55 to 65)-focus on 2 to 3 activities part time post-employment for a period of approximately 2 years then return to “work” in an Advisory and/or Employee capacity at a level of at approximately 50% of the time until age 65 or older
  3. Off-Ramp/On-Ramp Executives- (55 and below) If not focused on replication of a full time setting immediately the executive focuses on 2 to 3 activities for a period of approximately 1 year and then return to work as Advisors and/or Employees until age 65 at a level in excess of 50%

Phase 4-Cyclical Planning- conceptualization, deliberation, and implementation of the plan developed prior to departure and refined subsequent to departure.

Transitioning Executive Research
The below represents our current thinking on the question. “Where are Executives likely to spend their time post-employment”?  Our assumptions are derived from a research project of over 2,000 executives and our Transition Advisory work with clients

DPC Theoretical Framework-Creation of a scenario strategy for 3 to 5 years embedding the context of Commercial Sabbatical.  

Discussion Partner Transition Focus Assumptions if not full time alternative, 2 to 3 Part-Time endeavors:

    •       New Role/Alternative Employer
    •       Consulting Advisory
    •       Academic Pursuit as Adjunct Professor
    •       Author/Blogger
    •       Personal Investor
    •       Commercial Board Membership
    •       Political Involvement
    •       Philanthropy
     •       Social Responsibility (including NGO Boards)
    •       Higher Education-Student
    •       Arts
    •       Entrepreneur-non Commercial
    •       Start Up Initiator
    •       Sports-Recreational
    •       Other-Rock Star?

Board Memberships
As this is likely an area of “pursuit” we wanted to provide some additional detail.  DPC has a matrix approach for thinking of Board positions.  Our mental model is that the maximum be three Boards to avoid becoming a “professional” member.  Essentially, if you are on more than three, you are working close to full time.

Board   Primary Role        
1  Chairperson              
2  Committee Chair 
3  Key Committee Participation

As you can see from the above 3 Boards could be very time consuming.

Tammy Ericson, Ken Dychtwald and Bob Morrison in their seminal HBR article It’s Time To Retire Retirement asserted in an elegant way that Retirement is not a phase down from relevance.  Moreover it is a platform for one to pursue alternative interests and avenues for personal satisfaction.

Discussion Partner’s research and advisory interdictions would reinforce their hypothesis.  Moreover, given the stabilization of the economy and emerging career opportunities, it is optimum to be mindful of how to channel personal and enterprise Executive energies.

 

 

Venezuela…When Does Regret Compel Action?

Posted on May 8, 2017
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

The May 1st morning BBC segment on the tribulations in Venezuela was extremely disheartening.  

Having worked and lived in Venezuela as an expatriate I have never encountered a smarter more family dedicated and cause committed citizenry.  

The street protests have cost 28 people(as of this date)  their lives, and the present run rate for inflation is 2000%.

The recent interaction between the Venezuelan government and the Organization of American States does not offer hope and in fact contributes to the problem.

Given the US media preoccupation on terrorism, Brexit, the French election and what will the President say next and after stated mean, there has been minimal media awareness paid to the Venezuelan situation.

While there appears to be no imminent solution to their problems the status quo is untenable.

One element that comes to mind when the above is considered is the nature of regrets.

The most appropriate question governments, influencers, and people can ask at times like this is “should I do more, and if so what”?

When conducting the interviews contained in our most recent book, Executive Advice To The Young-Don’t Repeat My Mistakes! the most compelling lesson learned by the authors was that regrets are insidious.  They color self-respect, and if not translated into lessons learned, with a bias for constructive action, mistakes can possibly be repeated.

It is difficult to listen to the BBC about the travails in Venezuela having been associated with the society and it’s people.  While thoughts and prayers have their place, the question before me, to avoid regret, what else can I do?

Doing nothing for me is no longer an option, and I have some modest thoughts as to next steps leveraging relationships I am fortunate enough to enjoy.  

So, the point is, I don’t choose to ignore any longer the situation and let it evolve.  

We all have our points of view on things that need to be changed.  Whatever they are, and however you respond, it best to think proactively to avoid the regrets similar to those we interviewed for our book, and the ones I experienced May 1st, as they will never go away.

 

  

Inflection Point-Yogi Meets The 5th Dimension

Posted on March 15, 2017
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

One of the famous utterances of Yogi Berra was “when you come to the fork in the road take it”. 

Although somewhat mystifying the wisdom is emerging as relevant in our client work with C-Suite Executives promoted from within, as they achieve their 3rd year anniversary.

During a review of the performance trajectory of Discussion Partner clients, we realized that there is an inherent Inflection Point associated with this milestone anniversary.

17 of our current C-Suite clients fit the following profile:

  • Tenure with existing companies at least 5 years prior to promotion.
  • Member of Executive Committee where they enjoyed peer level collaborative endeavors.
  • Primarily (although not exclusively) elevation to leadership position based upon strategic circumstances vs. pre-planned continuity progression

To assist in gaining maximum insights DPC created the model we refer to as The Fifth Dimension (not to be confused with the Age of Aquarius Music Group).

Post Appointment Outcomes

Determined- during the three year period the executive has met or exceeded economic, quantitative, and qualitative metrics

Driven-the enjoyed success in addition to contributing to self-confidence has fostered an achievement oriented mind-set

Tenure Driven Influencers

Distraction- during this period the executive has eliminated or mitigated the distractions or ambivalence associated with managing a cadre of former colleagues in favor of commercial focus

Distance- during the time-frame, the common refrain from direct reports is “he/she has changed”, or “they don’t interact as before” while inherently true, it is usually articulated as a criticism 

Directive- the pace of decision-making and execution only accelerates as the executive gains self-confidence to the chagrin of former colleagues whom feel if not left out, that “they are deciding in a vacuum”

Conclusion

Relationships do change, they are not the same for a confluence of reasons the most unlikely being the promoted executive has become an egomaniac.

Also an unlikely outcome is that the level of collegiality with those whom were peers will return. 

Inflection Point

During the initial period of leadership, the executive’s style is evolving somewhat in a trial and error progression.

DPC’s suggestion is independent of the gray areas of discomfort, Distraction, Distance, and Directive it is best to avoid the 6th Dimension-Distortion avoid second guessing oneself and as the New England Patriot’s have recently reinforced good things happen when you “just do your job”!

 

 

 

It Takes Years to Build the BenchGet Serious!

Posted on January 7, 2017
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Welcome to 2017!  Given the geo-political dynamics before us, this year portends to be a roller coaster ride!

As we enter the New Year and update our “resolutions” from new to carry forward, my colleagues at Discussion Partners and I would strongly urge an elevation of, and renewed attentiveness to, Succession and Continuity planning as a priority!

Notwithstanding pre-existing protocols we are suggesting this review encompass the most generous interpretation of processes concomitant with experimental and disruptive solution sets.

Our recommendation is driven by results of a December 2016 study DPC conducted with 1700 C-Suite participants.  The survey was on the topic of envisioned 2017 challenges. 94% of those surveyed indicated “the ability to attract, motivate, and retain top talent” as their #1 concern.

Discussion Partner’s has been conducting this annual Pulse survey since our founding in 2007.  The intensity of the above concern while always “on the list” was never #1.  In addition the rationales expressed in the anecdotal justifications were compelling inclusive of envisioned shifting demographics, new worker expectations, disruption of organization models, competitive pressures, globalization, and ineffective human capital practices.

Our recommendation is further reinforced by a review of the recent literature on this topic.

  1. The strategic imperative for Talent depth to be an asset vs. liability referenced in consolidated research on Leadership Succession/Continuity most recently December 2016 series of articles in HBR and previewed upcoming articles in Sloan Management Review
  2. The Point of View that has emerged from our 2016 Advisory work that 2017 represents an opportunity to use a “Disruptive Organization Model” for Talent processes overall and Leadership matters in particular

As further justification for this Recommendation the following foundation is provided.

  • Dr. Noel Tichy in his recent book Succession asserts that without proactive planning on how to fill, and inventory of talent well in advance of leadership, and/or key role “vacancies”, the chance of success is below 50% for replacement personnel
  • Ram Charan in his book The Attackers Advantage and December 2016 HBR articles offers the following (paraphrased) – Leaders (Directors, Owners, CEO’s) who excel at selection are willing to expand the lens in how they look at the capabilities of reporting levels beyond performance track record to the 2 to 3 interwoven predictive behaviors that will be necessary for success
  • The following compelling data points are from various sources (Booz Allen, McKinsey, Hedrick & Struggles, Korn Ferry and Saratoga Institute)
    • Team Building and Empathy are as important as Performance for promoting enterprise success (often stated infrequently realized)
    •  55% of the Fortune 500 Boards of Directors have expressed dissatisfaction with the Succession Planning processes of their enterprises including the CEO replacement approach
    • A study of the 2500 largest companies on the planet indicate that inefficient Succession Planning on average results in $1.8B losses during transition
    • Underperformance does not incent change 45% below peer group by sector correlates to only 5.7% probability in change of leadership
    • 39% of the Fortune 1000 Boards indicate “no viable candidate” to replace the CEO compelling a similar % undertaking external hires which Charan stipulates as “highly unlikely to be successful”

In the context of the recent HBR assertion “Succession Planning takes years not months” DPC would recommend the following steps:

  1. Senior level stakeholder interviews focused on “beyond task proficiency” what are the essential differentiating qualities that will be needed for success
  2. Comparative Inventory of Leaders (broad based) and high potentials in relationship to these attributes
  3. Embed into developmental and hiring strategies the lessons learned from this exercise
  4. Creation of a Critical Constituency Depth Chart whereby the following is highlighted
    1. Identification of 1 ready now replacement
    2. Identification of 2 possible replacements
    3. Identification of external Search capabilities to be deployed in emergencies and/or lack of “ready now” sense of urgency
    4. Assignment of non-senior leaders a “personal growth and development task” similar to the GE “popcorn stand” to provide additional evaluative foundation

The New England Patriots have a mantra of “do your job” four Superbowls and #1 seed for 2016 indicates the validity of this philosophy.  However, DPC would argue in the commercial sector this would be limiting for the medium to long term for any existing organization.  Our impetus is that the above suggestions represent process steps that should be presently underway and if not, a sense of urgency should exist.  DPC would substitute the words “do the job you should have been doing all along”!

Additionally we would embed the following questions:

  1.  What skills sets will we need beyond domain proficiency to have a sustainable growth oriented enterprise?
  2.  How does our current population of Leaders and Future Leaders compare to these desired attributes?
  3. How can we develop and/or hire sufficient numbers of people to address deficiencies in the above?
  4. What is the true nature of our Leadership bench in respect to Readiness?
  5. What is our contingency plan to be deployed if necessary?

From whatever vantage point you situate, this year will be dynamic.  As a suggestion, borrowing a title from a previous book by Dr. Tichy on the topic of leadership Control Your Destiny-Or Somebody Else Will!

 

 

 

Pushing The Envelope To Confetti!

Posted on September 23, 2016
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Among the most painful words in a meeting making it feel like Dante’s Inferno encompass at least the following:

  • I still don’t understand
  • I don’t agree because I don’t like
  • I don’t think we have all of the information
  • My gut tells me we need more
  • I don’t think we have discussed this enough
  • How come you are so quiet
  • That’s not how X, Y, Z would have done it
  • How will we know if it will work
  • I don’t see the point

I can’t decide

Deming was quoted as saying  “without data you are just another person with an opinion”.  The question that arises even when you see the wisdom of this quote is at what point do you call a halt to the pursuit and analysis of data and make a considered judgment.

The term “Hyper Logical” also can be a change barrier for if you accept the definition at face value “One who carries out logic to the extremes”.  Same problem, resulting in a bias for inaction.

In our Advisory work Discussion Partner’s often invokes the adage “speed now elegance later” when the conversations, research, and decision postponement “in search of more” seems to have exhausted both time and patience.  

We apply two questions to encourage a pivot to a decision.

  1. Can you reasonably assume that any more data will change your perspective and lead to a better decision?
  2. Isn’t it just as logical to assume that paralysis due to the exhaustive application of logic is in of itself illogical?

Socrates nor Aristotle, and unlikely Deming would embrace our point of view…. which without hesitation is as follows:

Never enough means just that, with the implications of a postponed decision being just as dangerous as the wrong decision.

Our point of view is a strategic asset is speed, plan accordingly by either calling the question, or reframing  endlessly debating options to a time-bound decision platform.

 

 

 

Leadership Awareness - Avoiding Einstein's Definition of Insanity!

Posted on September 12, 2016
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Einstein’s definition of commercial insanity is “continuing to repeatedly do the same things anticipating a different result.”

My Discussion Partner colleagues and I recently felt the need to regroup to insure as Advisors we were not getting intellectually lazy and out of touch with the Essential elements of both enterprise sustainability and the differentiating profile of the “new worker”.  Our catalyst was awareness that we were giving almost verbatim answers to these questions and felt the need to reality check ourselves on the wisdom of our advice.

To that end, we conducted an internal pulsed survey which was later tested with key relationships on three questions:

    1. Are we doing the right things to remain edgy and how do we know?
    2. Are we assuming correctly our insights are relevant and actionable?
    3. Are we focused on those Leadership challenges that if not addressed by clients will act as Strategic Restraints?

Validating that we are at least attempting to focus on the right topics, at the right time, and embedding intellectual curiosity and rigor into our protocols, DPC as is our practice refined our similar points of view into Discussion Points on elements of “Core” as defined as the platform for growth or potential for meltdown on two topics:

    1. Differentiated Enterprise Success Factors
    2. Differentiated Behaviors for New Worker Success

Differentiated Enterprise Success Factors
In respect to Enterprise Success factors, we have an emerging level of comfort that there are three Core Components as follows:

Enterprise Core Success Drivers
The three Core elements DPC have identified are what tongue in cheek refer to as “Triple A” positioning.

    1. Anticipation - being able to identify trends real time in advance of competitors that if pursued enhance the potential for enterprise success - for example an organized process for R&D investment vs. gravitation  towards the loudest advocate for their idea
    2. Agility - the ability to pursue multiple tracks in tandem proficiently, embedding flexibility, ongoing incorporation of lessons learned, and deployment of a Null Hypothesis contingency if corrections are required - for example when to exit a business line
    3. Alignment - consolidation of initiatives purpose built for customers that promote their interests in a sustainable measurable manner vs. a “one off” success decision that ultimately is short lived or possibly even worse, results in disenfranchisement of enterprise wide success - for example a product that may enjoy success as a “fad” but whose success horizon is truncated

For Baseball aficionados the reference to Triple A is not accidental, as is the case in the Sport, the modus operandi of “trial and error” is encouraged.

Differentiated Behaviors for New Worker Success
Core Elements Incumbent Profile
There is no enterprise on the Planet that is not being challenged by the dynamics of the “new worker”.  During our deliberations we asked ourselves the following questions:

    1. Do Boomers and Generation X have attitudes or behaviors that Millennial don’t possess or care to secure?
    2. Are the differences between and among the cohorts the result of leadership deficiencies vs. gaps in attitude or proficiency?
    3. Is it advisable to manage incumbents differently by cohort vs. self-awareness that career progression and aspirations are fluid?
    4. Should managers manifest sensitivity to, vs. modification of various leadership style dynamics?

After much deliberation and arguing, sometimes cordially, DPC has identified 3 Core elements we perceive as the Contributory Differentiators regardless of workforce demographic (Boomer, GenX, or Millennial).

The three Core elements are as follows:

    1. Self Sufficiency - the incumbents ability to function independently, with low managerial maintenance, concomitant with willingness to take acceptable risks while always being prepared to defend decisions
    2. Accountability Obsessive - takes assignment of tasks, and acceptance of same, as personal promises, never deferring to “the other guys fault” or “dog ate my homework” defense for inadequacy
    3. Achievement Oriented - career focused and driven to succeed through collaborative means, eradicating from their personal identity, “for me to win someone has to lose” while recognizing the definition of success in of itself is different by person vs. universal by age

Transitioning Organizations Bifurcation Concept
A call out to the above is that in organizations transitioning, independent of impetus there are always incumbents whom for the moment are essential: but in the medium to long term are unlikely to be aligned with the aspired to proficiency and/or attitudinal model.  The key is to keep these “legacies” productive until such time as they are displaced.  Be advised that how this process is handled is of critical importance as it sends messages throughout the universe these days and to avoid apologies, it is best the incumbent is aware, feels supported and most importantly treated with dignity.

Discussion Partner’s finished this exercise with an awareness that it should be embedded into our on-going methodology review or we will revert from Triple A to Sandlot players very quickly.

 

 

 

Brexit-Unanticipated Outcome?

Posted on September 12, 2016
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Coincidentally I was in London the day after the surprise vote in the UK to leave the Economic Union (EEU).   

Beyond the shock I observed reminiscent of the Bridge Over The River Kwai-“my God what have I done”, and the rush to exploit the advantages of the Dollar vs. Pound currency valuation, it provided a personal opportunity to observe how folks reassessed their citizenship affiliations.

Clearly the vote to leave the EU represented a societal desire to maximize control of destiny.  However for those people who remain in the EU, it also possibly triggered a reflection as to national affiliation.

To put this observation in context I would offer two personal experiences.

Being a US citizen of Irish heritage I like many of my countrymen referred to myself historically as “Irish American” that is until on Dublin’s Grafton street decades ago I was corrected by a client “no you are American Irish, I am Irish.”

Living and traveling as I and many do, in the ensuing decades I noticed a lack of ambiguity in terms of country loyalty independent of the European Union and the number of passports one held, when queried as to “were are you from” there was a crisp answer, “I am-Canadian, Mexican, British, Scottish, Japanese, French, Italian etc.”

Post Brexit in London, I immediately noticed a difference in how non-UK citizens respond to the question of nationality.

On no less than 7 occasions when I was asking or overhearing others posing the question “where are you from”, the response was “I am European from X.”

Clearly a sample size of 7 responses could represent an anomaly and hardly representative of a new way of thinking regarding societal affiliation. However given the dream of Churchill of a “United States of Europe”, and the objective of Roosevelt and later Truman of a platform for United Nations the Brexit vote could have an unintended outcome in that while we are dealing with the consequences of the vote it may have compelled EU member citizens to think of themselves in a dual manner.

If so….maybe the Brexit outcome has a silver lining…buried in the current dark clouds of confusion.

 

 

 

I Don't Want to be Arrested

Posted on February 3, 2016
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

I recently spoke to an Executive asking, “did you ever give a piece of advice that had unintended consequences?”

 I recently spoke to an Executive asking, “did you ever give a piece of advice that had unintended consequences?”

Absolutely, a while ago I was leaving a movie with my two grandsons, 12 and 9.  On the way into the film you buy everything in sight including, popcorn, candy for emergency purposes and of course a “big gulp” soda.

On the way out the 9 year old refilled his cup.  I said to him “your not supposed to do that we have to pay”.  He felt a little bad and I told him not to worry about it.  He kept saying “I didn’t know”.

In the car, he kept apologizing  I told them about how I once was embarrassed for doing the same thing.  “I was in the M&M store in Times Square and I thought these big vat’s of candy were samples.  Of course I just ate and ate.  I then noticed that people were loading bags and going to the check out”.  I realized my mistake and went to the counter with a bag and told them, I think I owe you double”.  Of course there was chocolate on my fact making their job easier!

The boys were laughing of course….stupid Grandfather!

A couple of weeks later my son called me saying “you’re never going to believe what your grandson did,” of course the imagination runs wild.

“He was at the movie and as he was leaving his friends started filling their big cups”.  He said “we are supposed to pay for those”.  At that point their ride aka one of the boys mother’s arrived a little late saying “we’ve got to go boys we’re late”.

“My grandson said we have to pay for these” and apparently she didn’t hear him.  He then said “can you call my mother to come get me I don’t want to be arrested”!  That she heard!

She then said “huh” he said “we have to pay for these sodas”.  Meanwhile Dillinger and Capone were slurping away.  

The mother did the right thing stating “thank you, of course we have to pay.”

Executive Suggestions:

  • Paying when you should is the best approach no matter how much, or how distracted you can be
  • Adults telling children about embarrassing moments is very helpful as you are admitting being human, they don’t feel as “bad”
  • Young or old watch your sugar intake!

 

 

Billy Got Big

I trust you and your families had a great holiday season!

Discussion Partner’s is in the final stages of our next book Executive Advice to Children-Don’t Make The Same Mistakes I Did!

The e-book will be out in the Spring of 2016.

The e-book which is anticipated to be obtained by Executives is targeted for storytelling to or readership of 11 to 16 year olds.   The impetus is our collective frustration and candidly rage with the condition of the world and the negative role models we adults continue to manifest for our children and grandchildren.

The book will focus on issues such is diversity, honesty, suicide, respect, and bullying among others.  The intent is to recount a negative event, share outcomes and reinforce that even though bad choices were made, that there were lessons learned.

Obviously our intent is to suggest that when children are faced with choices it is best to make the appropriate ones to prevent or at least forestall damage to themselves or others.

Our first vignette, and shared for the obvious reason that as adults and executives there are commercial insights,  is focused on Bullying, an atrophy in society that is alive and well.  Unfortunately bullying is in no small part promoted by social media, leading to devastating results.

Thus the chapter BILLY GOT BIG!!!!

I was having dinner recently with my son, his wife, and two sons.  We were discussing the DPC effort to develop a Children’s book and our reasoning.

Both my son and his wife are teachers and we began discussing the topic of bullying and its effects on children. My son said:

"OK, I have to come clean….when I was in second grade I really teased other kids a lot….and one of the kids I teased the most was Billy B.”

“I never thought of it as cruel and bullying is not how I remember it but I  should have realized I was hurting his feelings.”

“He did get payback though when we got to Middle School”.  “I hadn’t seen him in a while.”

A few days after we started school a friend came to me and said ”Bill B. is looking for you….and he got big!”

“I didn’t think anything of it….until one day I closed my locker and there stood Billy B. and he was huge! He started beating on me.  I don’t know if I cried, I just wanted to live to First Period.”

When I asked “so what did that teach you…and what do you say to your students or your  own kids (whom are rather big for their ages)?”

His response was “well I tell them it is wrong…but I also tell them eventually teasers and bully’s run into a Billy B. and they will pay”.  “I tell my 5th Grader’s the same story when they lay hands on each other.”

There are obviously some lessons learned for us “older kids” whom through good fortunate are in the position to act like “bullies.”

 

 

 

I Was Ashamed...Now I Am Again

As part of an upcoming book on Executives advice to children based upon difficult experiences I interviewed a Boston based gentleman whom had an extensive career in the US military as a senior reserve officer in tandem with his commercial role.

The executive was commenting on the post-Paris terror reactions in the US  where candidates were debating the wisdom of registration by religious affiliation….a position that he found “embarrassing as an American and moreover a human being”. Below is the interview.

September 11th changed much for us in the States.  We no longer felt safe, and for the most part unclear who was the enem as in decades past it was a country vs. a country not a society vs. a religious belief kidnapped by extremists for their own purposes.

I have to say though that in the aftermath I behaved very badly on one specific occasion for which I am still ashamed. About a week after 9/11 I boarded a plane from Boston to Dallas. I was upgraded to First Class as the plane was somewhat empty. Shortly after I boarded another passenger came on whom looked of    Arabic descent.  I gave him a look that at best could be described as rage if not overtly threatening.

Immediately after he took his seat, also in First Class I took off my belt, rolled it up into a garrote, and covered it with my jacket.  Candidly I don't know what I would have done if he had moved towards the cockpit…likely something stupid.

Fortunately he did not get out of his seat.  When we landed, I felt awful and guilty.

I waited for him in the terminal and apologized for the look I gave him with the words.  I am sorry, that was inappropriate, and I thought I was better then that.

The man was startled that I took the time, he was Iranian and had come to the States as a student in the 80’s and never went back due to the change in leadership and society culture.

He did say I guess I have to get used to people being suspicious and focusing their anger on me-I am angry too for what has been done to us!

When asked for his thoughts on the above he stipulated: "I remember most he used the word "us!"  This man felt the same way I did about the terrorist attack."

It is dangerous to blame a society, religion, or philosophy for the actions of a few who interpret by self indulgence.

Other than Native Americans all in the US have immigrant origins….the only question is how many generations between our ancestors and us….ignoring this or forgetting is self serving at best.

 

 


 

Interpolation Noun Or Mathematics?

It is not often that a word in English when generously interpreted can have multiple meanings.

The word Interpolation however does qualify for this phenomenon.

When used as a Noun, the word means “the act or process of being interpolated (analyzed, interpreted)”.

When used in a Mathematical context it means “the process of determining value between two points having prescribed values”.

The word is a great platform for Career Progression in that if you want predictability you rely on Mathematical: but if you favor the words, “it depends” as we consultants do often, you adopt the Noun.

As leaders enter the age of Millennial-Mania where the only managerial rule is there is no rule for managing this cohort, the safest position to take is not to take one!

Discussion Partner’s has begun promoting a concept we have labeled Interpolation Career Progression. Whereby there is predictability in respect to title and/or level of the next step.  Beyond that however, it is situational compelling a Social Covenant between the enterprise and the employee.

The elements of this Social Covenant encompass the following:

  1. Time-bound - you can go fast, you can go slow, or may not go!  Essentially there are no guarantees as to when and if you will move to the next level.
  2. Performance Expectations - these are fluid based upon enterprise need at the time and subject to change which can accelerate or decelerate “promotion”.  
  3.  Achievement Feedback - DPC is heavily influenced by the trend whereby the uses of formal and therefore implied complex processes are being sacrificed in favor of more dynamic real-time systems. We would actively encourage you to monitor the studies being conducted by Dr. John Boudreau and his colleagues at the Marshall School at USC on Performance Management.)
  4. Discretionary Rewards - If you embrace the Social Covenant concept you have to presume enterprise commitment, objectivity and fairness.  This pre-supposition therefore has to extend to Total Compensation.  DPC’s perspective is that the shift in demographics, and the challenge to how one is paid (for example Incentive Stock Options), their needs to be a concomitant review of when and for what the platform of which is trust!
  5. Transparency - it is an oxymoron to say that an evolutionary process based upon trust is transparent.  Yet we feel that if you accept the given of end state direction (title/level), and tolerate the ambiguity of “it depends” on the means and avenue of the journey in of and itself, this constitutes transparency.

One of the endearing qualities of the Millennial or Generation Y is their patience.  Yes I am being sarcastic!!!!!  

Discussion Partners takes the view in our promotion of Interpolation is that for it to be successful there needs to be an on-going dialogue characterized by objectivity and frankness.

At the risk of being manipulative in promoting the concept of Interpolation, DPC perceives the above assertion as the real benefit of the idea. Our perspective is anything less; the leader is toast in attempting to manage the expectations productively of the “new worker”.  

 

 


 

The Rule of Four

As the summers in the US and Europe have officially ended, and the South American Spring has begun, there will be a renewed effort focused on Corporate Governance inclusive of replenishment of Boards and Advisory entities.  

In 2013 Discussion Partner’s conducted a survey on post-employment aspirations for a then upcoming book (see survey results and Chapter below).

The Chapter was focused on the implications of post-employment prioritization of activities.

As one would imagine the focus on participation on Boards of Directors was often mentioned.

Over the last 2 years Discussion Partner’s has been conducting Pulse Surveys and interviewing key executive clients, whom are already sitting on Boards posing the question, “what is the optimum set of circumstances that motivate you to want to continue as a membe?"

At present we have approximately 700 executives in our sample base.

There has been significant convergence in the responses we have received.  DPC has labeled the most frequently mentioned responses as The Rule Of Four!

  1. Scale - there is a strong preference for participation on smaller governance bodies.  The most frequently mentioned was 9 maximum for the full Board with Advisory committee’s membership 3.
  2. Substantive - matters discussed are material engaging the intellectual curiosity of members….there is an abhorrence for “rubber stamping” decisions taken by line executives without or minimal consultation
  3. Select - there is a desire to serve with Directors whom have also achieved a peer level of commercial reputation and success, this is not self-selection or “old boy” but more an issue of agility and effectiveness of decision making.
  4. Solo - the platform to avoid being the “only or lonely vote” on governance matters.  There is no reluctance to disagree but “isolation can become disagreeable”

One of the irony’s noted by Discussion Partner advisors is that while the improving economy has compelled a replenishment in leadership staff for a confluence of reasons, we believe there is an unhealthy reluctance on the part of long serving Board/Advisory members to ask the questions “are we the right people moreover, am I the right person”?

Enjoy the next wave of weather!

 

 


 

The Celebration Without The Party!

Ask yourself the question what if I invited my family to my birthday party…and no one came?

The obvious feelings would be confusion, rejection, hurt, and if a member of my family, a vow of “I’ll make them pay”!

Now ask yourself the question….”what if I or my parent founded a company, I spent my whole career growing the business with the thought that my children would run it, and they have no interest in doing so”?

Your reactions would likely be similar…extended to encompass the parental utterance of “where did I go wrong”?

Fortunately or unfortunately this situation is evolving into a trend that cannot be ignored.

The undeniable facts that surround the reality are as follows:

  • The children of owner/founders are oftentimes the beneficiaries of a terrific education
  • The children have likely had the opportunity to travel extensively both domestically and internationally
  • The children of Boomers have benefitted from the parental conditioning that results in feelings of confidence, experimentation, and encouragement to express oneself
  • The children of Boomers are not disposed to think of career decisions in the context of extended tenure…more 3 years vs. lifetime in tone and substance
  • The children of owner founders are not ungrateful, nor dis-respectful, they are looking for different challenges in career progression

There are of course exceptions to this emerging trend.  However, the fact that there is an evolving narrative suggests the need to move beyond sentiment towards strategic frameworks.

Over the past the last three years in Discussion Partner’s Transition Advisory work in the Privately Held/Family Owned business sector(167 clients), we have found in 67% of circumstances there has not been a passing along of the business to the next generation of family members.

Notwithstanding the disappointment that is unavoidable, quickly the parent realizes in fact it is a tribute as their children are manifesting a “mind of their own”.

The “top 5” considerations as the owner transitions to the next steps encompass:

  1. Estate Planning-development of a comprehensive plan that provides reassurance that wealth creation for the family has been secured
  2. Timing Determination-the senior leader then has to determine how long they choose to stay involved.  In our experience unless there are detracting circumstances, this is likely to be approximately 3 years
  3. Growth Acceleration-we oftentimes the executive has a new found energy and concomitant with their now extended tenure, focus on innovative strategic intents inclusive of new processes, products, and geographies.
  4. Transaction Contemplation-independent of potential buyer, employee, strategic, or investor driven, the executive focuses on a troika of refined initiatives inclusive of a) cleaning up of the balance sheet, b) raising the bar on performance, and c) replenishment of leadership population, as all are transaction enhancers.

The “now what” is understandable, the “where did I go wrong” assumption, is not appropriate as you are by no means alone AND the fact that you raised independent children is a tribute.

What is necessary is a purpose-built framework that predicts an alternative future for the company concomitant with an attitude of “enjoy the ride”!

 

 

 
 

Suspending The Belief In Unicorns!

Leaders of newly founded professional services firms are likely to encounter an invisible shield on the journey to success that inhibits growth and assaults confidence.

To have assumed that a plan, any plan, would be pursued sans turbulence, is as likely that Unicorn’s truly exist!

This inflection point is oftentimes when an organization hovers around 100 client/customer facing incumbents, or when geographic expansion removes line of sight to early hires.

Regardless of when this phenomenon becomes visible, adeptness and agility are required to overcome obstacles.

Discussion Partner’s recently embarked on a study of 22 firms whom are poised to grow: but struggle with the elements required to exploit their respective marketplace opportunities.

Our client experience and research suggests that there are four separate and distinct phases that have to be navigated to promote success and if not overcome, the net/net is disappointment or in extreme circumstances, extinction.

Stage 1-Trial and Error
When a firm is founded, there is unbridled optimism in support of the “big idea”.

The concept in search of a context is to address the questions, “how big, how fast, how many, how much”?

Essentially, unless the business model is a planned smallness, there is a hope that a growth trajectory can be promoted.  

Assuming there is a market for the big idea, the “now what” question arises.

Unless an owner/founder or initial population has a crystal ball, regardless of leadership sophistication, there are four areas that have to be incorporated into the business model.

  1. How to manage the numbers, or more importantly how do the founders gain an understanding of the undeniable truths represented in the “financials”
  2. How to create the infrastructure balancing need vs. cost, vs. an understanding of implication whether it is IT, Real Estate, Finance, Marketing, Logistics, Human Capital, or alternative foundations, the need is to manage the platform or run the risk of funding Chateau Briand on a Cheeseburger  budget
  3. How to manage population control how many, doing what, measured by, and consequent engagement outcomes….the successful prosecution of this element is the secret sauce for growth.
  4. How to avoid self-delusion confronting vs. ignoring the inevitable dislocations on the journey regarding leadership style and dealing with disappointments.

 Stage 2-Aspiration Plateau
Assuming the founder or founders survive Stage 1 without accepting the job at Pottery Barn or becoming a recluse on a mountain, the joy and rapture only continues.

The second stage is true channel management, how does the company and it’s leaders make the “great leap forward” into the realization that all successful lessons learned, have to be challenged with the operating mentality of “slash and burn”.

This is a provocative way of having to address the question of  “what no longer works”?

This is true pain as it encompasses:

  • Culture-degree of formality vs. informality
  • People-the rack and stack of folks in terms of alliance with growth vs. achievement against more modest expectations while appearing to disregard loyalty
  • Access-how to prioritize where and with whom do senior leaders spend their time
  • Keeping Score-raising the bar in respect to goals, expectations and accountability

All of the above require decisiveness.  Moving slowly or even worse ignoring the need to address, has unfortunate outcomes.

Stage 3-Replenishment
The replenishment question requires the embryonic but seemingly stable enterprise to address the following:

  • The need to raise the average IQ by saying goodbye to “originator” staff, and hiring newer folks whom have a commercial mentality
  • The need to have an on-going economic, psychic, or material cost vs. benefit mentality whereby  necessary vs. nice is the criteria for adjudication of moving forward or disposal
  • The need to hold people accountable where the “dog ate my homework” excuse is substituted with the metaphor of “I am the dog and although cute, can bite”  
  • The need to think of client experience, infrastructure, innovation and new product/service offerings as  interdependent “projects” with time-lines, resources, and success metrics that need to be taken as serious as marriage vows, as if not addressed results in a depletion of resources similar to divorce attorneys
  • The need to recognize it is better to move fast and make mistakes vs. be overly deliberative applies ….the metaphor of speed now elegance later is the desired attribute
  • To address all of the above in the context of a framework or “plan” where there is prediction, milestones, and clear definitions of success

Stage 4-Momentry Sustainability
Presuming your survival at least for the time being, you need to conduct a realistic assessment reminiscent of the French Resistance workers in World War ll, “am I a boy, playing a soldier, whom can cause damage” or “am I a pretender in hopes that I will survive with a glorious reputation” or “an unselfish contributor to the war effort.”   

All answers are negotiable, the lack of introspection however is not! Regardless of conclusions, there is a need to embed the lessons learned on the journey into a leadership style that promotes ambitious strategy supported by an aligned organizational model.

As important is a need to a) promote collaboration, b) be the poster child or children for unselfish behavior, and c) think of yourself from now on as the surfer whom is relentlessly outpacing the wave.

Firefighters do not sit around waiting for the fire, they train as if the fire will take place in the next 15 minutes….Special Forces, do not just bulk up, they develop and train against possible scenarios to stay edgy.

In the commercial sector, self-satisfaction, complacency, and forgetfulness of how hard it is to become successful and even harder to sustain this achievement, are self-destructive.

Some interesting statistics combining multiple sources:

  • Since 1980 84% of “new” consultancies have lasted less than 5 years
  • n the same time frame, 63% have not achieved 100 client facing incumbents
  • In the same time frame 71% of those entities which did not achieve the 5 year time frame disaggregated into a firm of less than 10

Putting one’s faith in the continuance of a successful platform as the status quo is risky!

 

Failure like Clint Eastwood is constantly in the background saying “go ahead make my day!”

 

 

 

Running Out of Tomorrows!

Consultants have a healthy respect for coincidences.  In the past week I have experienced two separate discussions on leadership that suggest there are limitations to the definition of Talent Readiness, when “ready now” should be ignored in favor of taking calculated risks.

The discussions were focused on a company in crisis where retired executives were asked to return as the current leaders were deemed not up to the task.

My working hypothesis before being challenged was “good... the company is taking advantage of an expanded talent pool to resolve their issues”.  The alternative point of view assertively expressed was “that is so wrong on so many cultural levels, why are the current leaders not ready, and how can they not feel insulted by these decisions?”

One of Gandhi’s more meaningful quotes was “the mark of a true leader is not their number of followers, it is the number of leaders they themselves create”.  Easy to articulate, but difficult to execute given the historical and current state of enterprise focus on “the numbers”.

The most recent edition of Harvard Business Review (July/August 2015) features an article promoting the need to “Blow Up HR”. Not coincidentally this is the 10th anniversary of Why We Hate HR! this appeared in Fast Company.

The article presents a sensible case for this being a strategic need as the current processes are un-responsive and dated as was my working hypothesis!

Recalibrating a point of view first requires an acknowledgement of error….never easy….what is also necessary is an alternative.

The alternative, after consultation with other Discussion Partners is three-fold:

  1. Elevation of Leadership Development to a strategic intent at least if not more important as the more traditional measurements of success
  2. Public sanctioning including displacement of executives whom do not take this objective seriously.
  3. Retiring the managerial well intentioned mantra of “I will spend time on staff development matters tomorrow” as no longer acceptable…..as leaders we have run out of tomorrows!

In the context of a starting point for Leadership Development the following capability shortfalls surfaced in the prosecution of our work with executives assessing the “readiness” of their Successors.

Early in our work when we posed the question “are your successors up for the challenge”, we frequently heard the response “no”, “not yet”, “not sure”, or “hard to tell”.  

Initially advisors were somewhat cynical about the response as Type A personalities have healthy ego’s.  However, when we dug deeper into the comments number in-common concerns were articulated by our clients.

Essentially they see the “deficiencies” or “shortfalls” in the following areas:

Global Preparation-given that most of the new wave of leadership began their careers during the recession of the late 80’s and early 90’s, the ability to secure an expatriate assignment, or participate in extensive international travel, was sufficiently curtailed.  Moreover, the cost constraint mentality that existed unintentionally discouraged pan-organizational initiatives in favor of “home grown” strategic intents.  Thus the ability to learn more about global challenges were bereft of opportunity.

Collaboration-the above also has to be put into the context of “how we now collaborate”.  Since the late 90’s collaboration has devolved to a state of electronic touch points.  The days where mission focused teams were created, and participants entered a room prepared to persuade others to their point of view are waning.  The use of electronic communication is now the norm.  A compelling example of course is Facebook as a principal communication vehicle.  This type of interface can be extrapolated easily to implications for collaborative efforts

Written Communication-as a rapidly aging baby boomer I still remember the Palmer Method, the nuns obsession with good grammar, and living in dread fear that my mother a Masters prepared English teacher would want to review my homework.

Having survived the above, I do look askance at the quality of writing that is offered today.

We have become executives who believe that well presented PowerPoint decks, are the bastion of good communication, and the more graphics the more forceful the argument.

The art of creating a persuasive paragraph, to be incorporated into a White Paper, or Education treatise has suffered according to our clients.

Intellectual Curiosity-most Boomer CEO’s are voracious readers of Biographies.  In addition to reading books about or written by, Jack Welch, they focus on Geopolitics and Political Biographies.

To reinforce the point the acceptance of books by Ian Bremmer Superpower,  Roosevelt and Stalin, Susan Butler,  Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln (Team of Rivals), and Roosevelt/Taft (The Bloody Pulpit) as well as biographies of Churchill and Wilson are offered.

Twice a year Discussion Partners creates a Reading List for our C-Suite clients based upon what we are being told are the books they are focused on at the time. What we learned through this initiative was that the C-Suite, wants to understand, “how they dealt with adversity”.  

Our clients concern is that this lack of “wanting to understand” is of secondary importance to domain expertise.

The above “concerns” do not detract from the comprehensive work being done on Succession Planning efforts.  Moreover, our clients would also stipulate that the above has to be put into the context of the “world and work” are changing as well.  

The observations of our clients do however suggest, that there is a need to be aware that if the lack of opportunity and/or focus of the incoming wave of leaders is perceived as problematic, an organized response for this constituency and likely the next generation coming behind them.

The adage Running Out Of Tomorrows is Discussion Partners'  point of view that Leadership Effectiveness should go to the front of the line in terms of enterprise priority and no longer be a when “time allows” managerial afterthought.

A strategic intent when an enterprise is challenged of “un-retiring” executives because the incumbent leaders are unprepared should be characterized as it is….an embarrassment and unacceptable.

 

 


 

The Pirate Paradox

Consultants love acronyms. It helps us organize our thinking, reinforce points to clients in stark terms, and in the realm of self indulgence…sometimes makes us think we are smart!

Of course it can have a down side!

To correct a deficiency in my leadership style I coined the term VAR to promote self-awareness encompassing:

  • Visibility-representation to the enterprise through presence…not symbolic: but tactical inclusive of decision making real time, and as importantly “in person”
  • Access-promotion of an image whereby peers and subordinates are encouraged to approach with requests (supervisors usually are not made to wait)!
  • Responsiveness-aggressiveness in closing the loop on requests clearly avoiding having to be asked twice!

The personally embarrassing episode was when in the office on a Friday I was confronted by an employee whom was “introducing himself”.

The discourse went something like this…

  1. “Hi Tom I’m Brian”
  2. “Hi Brian, how are you doing”
  3. “Good it has been interesting”
  4. “That is good to hear…. how long have you been here”
  5. “About 4 months”
  6. “So who do you report to”
  7. “Actually you Tom”

I created the VAR tool initially for myself and have over the years used it with clients as well.

This led to the Pirate Paradox as If you say “VAR” real fast as one of my Partner’s ventured….”you sound like you’re Long John Silver”, “all that is missing is the Parrot on your shoulder.”

Allusions to Treasure Island aside, for myself and clients with whom I have referenced the acronym it is a not so gentle reminder that the Woody Allen comment “80% of success is showing up” has merit.

I would suggest if you find yourself in the situation of feeling that you are not sufficiently visible with those with whom you should be, think of VAR.

Be advised that if you find yourself sharing VAR, say it slow to avoid being called “Matey.”

 

 


 

Successful Executive Transitions

2015 is a transition year for many Boomer Executives whom will be reaching the milestone age of 65!

Granted Charley Watt’s of the Stones and Ringo Starr are 74 and still touring….yet there is something magical about this age as It was the age when most of our parents left the work force.

At the time however, after they got their gold watch, took a cruise, there was not much life left based upon actuarial tables and cultural norms.

All of that has changed now…..just ask Ringo, a new album, book, and summer tour!

Discussion Partner's launched a Transition Advisory Service offering in 2013 after the publication of our book Executive Transitions-Plotting The Opportunity!

Since that time we have worked with several hundred executives in a variety of sectors.

We have organized our Transition Advisory support to executives in four phases.

Phase 1-Preserving The Legacy-succinctly put taking proactive steps to insure that the efforts you undertook, and the success you engendered are recalled in the most positive terms.

In Discussion Partner’s experience regardless of age and psychographic profile it is prudent to substitute the question of “How will I focus my energies for the next 3 to 5 years” vs. “What will I do with the rest of my life.” This is the principle of Inflection Point we utilize in our discussions with executives whom have an extensive work history often with one to two employers.

Transition Principles
The below represents a baseline from which we develop tactics for executives whom are departing from a “continuing concern”.

check.gif Control the Communication Process - avoid relying only on the formal elements of
     communication. There is a need to augment this effort with an informal communication
     process to personalize, and engage in conversations with selected managers
check.gif Confirm the Legacy - there is a need to define “how I want to be remembered.”
     with “how I am perceived." The most effective way to do this is to have a dialogue with
     trusted advisors where you point blank ask the question, “what will you remember about
     me”
check.gif Networking - Classify your internal and external networks capturing the contact
     information for managers whom would provide insight/access for you in the future, what
     we refer to as the “Nifty 50”. This is the minimum! There is a need to commit to interact
     with these folks at least on a quarterly basis, recognizing that the interactions will be
     sustainable provided the dialogue has mutual value.
check.gif Relationship Sustainability - The first order of business is to prepare and send
     subsequent to the formal announcement an e-mail to at least these 50 executives
     internal and external embedded with a) preliminary thoughts as to career focus, and b)
     contact information
check.gif Accessibility - independent of the networking activity above there is a need to utilize
     multiple vehicles e-mails, social media, and the lost art of letter writing to maintain
     contact with a broader number of executives

Phase 2-Ensuring Enterprise Continuity- making sure that care and thought are given to the preservation of momentum as manifested in the Succession Plan….through constructive access, advice, and prescriptive documentation.

Interim Period Issues-Post Successor Selection
Be mindful there is oftentimes a “rock in the middle of the river” attitude to be avoided in a post announcement environment. Be advised we usually find it well intentioned and focused on the executives “best interests” so as to “not bother them.”

Still however it is difficult to be working in an environment that seems to have forgotten one has a pulse.

We use the sequence of John Wayne to reinforce the point in terms of reinforcement of a visible career.

    Career Segment                                     Description
    Early On                                          Who IS John Wayne
    Traction                                           Get me John Wayne
    Popular                                       I need more John Wayne’s
    Waning                        Get me someone who was like John Wayne
    Exit                                                Who WAS John Wayne

The key here is two-fold:

  1. Don’t take it personal….it is the normal cycle
  2. Consider acceleration of your departure from the office in favor of working remotely at some point…

Regardless of timing there is a “Snagglepuss” phenomenon, the appropriate time to “exit stage left”! The time frame is accompanied with the likely outcome of SARA even though it is your decision.

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Rejection
  • Acceptance

There WILL be a feeling of emotional disorientation associated with departure. It is most advisable to recognize that Retirement is a platform to other areas of personal and creative expression.

Playbook
I can presume the suggestion of this exercise may seem odd; however our experience is that it is very useful when a Successor may not be up to the task immediately. It is also non-trivial in reaffirmation of legacy.

The value of having a brief treatise on your experience with a limited distribution is it a) helps others see “your role through your eyes” and b) it reduces “blowback” in that after you leave, it reduces the possibility that you would be blamed for others mistakes.

Our concept is a 1 to 2 page memorandum that focuses on the following:

  • The initiatives you feel were executed well
  • Those that are in process and/or you feel were deficient
  • Two to 3 top of mind suggestions for securing progress in your previous role

 

Phase 3-Rejuvination Break-taking a break to recharge and reflect on next steps in career trajectory. DPC perceives as inevitable regardless of means, age etc. as those whom are Type A….don’t change their DNA.

The Concept of the Commercial Sabbatical
The foundation for the “Commercial Sabbatical” concept we promote derives from our research and client experience. Based upon Executive Demographics and Aspirations, it is embedded into our hypothesis that successful executives after a period of rest, are desirous to reengage in commercial activates

  • Older Executives (65 plus)-focus on 2 to 3 activities part time post-employment
  • Bridge Executives (55 to 65)-focus on 2 to 3 activities part time post-employment for a period of approximately 2 years then return to “work” in an Advisory and/or Employee capacity at a level of at approximately 50% of the time until age 65 or older
  • Off-Ramp/On-Ramp Executives-(55 and below) focus on 2 to 3 activities for a period of approximately 1 year and then return to work as Advisors and/or Employees until age 65 at a level in excess of 50%

Phase 4-Cyclical Planning - conceptualization, deliberation, and implementation of the plan developed prior to departure and refined subsequent to departure.

Transitioning Executive Research
The below represents our current thinking on the question. “Where are Executives likely to spend their time post-employment”? Our assumptions are derived from a research project of over 2,000 executives and our Transition Advisory work with clients.

DPC Theoretical Framework-Creation of a scenario strategy for 3 to 5 years embedding the context of Commercial Sabbatical.

Discussion Partner Transition Focus Assumptions (2 to 3 Part-Time is our experience)

  • New Role/Alternative Employer
  • Consulting Advisory
  • Academic Pursuit as Adjunct Professor
  • Author/Blogger
  • Personal Investor
  • Commercial Board Membership
  • Political Involvement
  • Philanthropy
  • Social Responsibility(including NGA Boards)
  • Higher Education-Student
  • Arts
  • Entrepreneur-non Commercial
  • Start Up Initiator
  • Sports-Recreational
  • Other-Rock Star?

Board Memberships
As this is likely an area of “pursuit” we wanted to provide some additional detail. DPC has a matrix approach for thinking of Board positions. Our mental model is that the maximum be three Boards to avoid becoming a “professional” member. Essentially, if you are on more than three, you are working close to full time.

Board        Primary Role
1                 Chairperson
2                 Committee Chair
3                 Key Committee Participation

As you can see from the above 3 Boards could be very time consuming.

Tammy Ericson, Ken Dychtwald and Bob Morrison in their seminal HBR article It’s Time To Retire Retirement asserted in an elegant way that Retirement is not a phase down from relevance. Moreover it is a platform for one to pursue alternative interests and avenues for personal satisfaction.

Discussion Partner's research and advisory interdictions, would reinforce their hypothesis. Moreover, given the stabilization of the economy and emerging career opportunities, it is optimum to be mindful of how to channel personal and enterprise Executive energies.

 

 


 

Unfulfilled Promise - The Fault Line!

Just as frequently as we hear the words “they are terrific” and “I am so happy with their performance” we encounter the words “they are a disappointment” or “we expected more”.

In business when we assess the disparity in achievement outcomes we usually blame the employee without a modicum of enterprise self-introspection.

The forceful question of…..”Was it our fault”? Is rarely if ever asked.

The Pygmalion effect whereby we broadcast our faith in success to an incumbent still has merit.  If we show doubt in the remotest way, the end result is likely to be a disappointment.

There is a great scene in The Hoosiers where Gene Hackman says to at best a marginal player whose free throw could win the game “after you sink the ball etc.” He obviously tried to hide the fact that his nose was growing: but he did inspire the requisite confidence.

It is highly unlikely that the raw talent necessary to execute a task is not resident within or can develop in an employee IF the hiring process is rigorous.  

While there are of course hiring, promotion, and performance errors do occur….however the rush to judgment the root cause of deficiency resides with the employee should not be an automatic response.

As important to remember is that employee “failure” is not time-bound.  One can be a Prince or Princess one day and a Frog the next.

DPC would submit the least likely excuse for failure is a lack of talent.  The most likely is the failure of the organization to successfully on-board, develop, lead, and measure the proficiencies of the employee.

On-Boarding
For most companies this process can best be judged as informal beyond the traditional administrative tasks of logistics, benefits enrollment, etc.

DPC would suggest that the assignment of a longer tenured employee to a new role, geography, and/or circumstance should ALSO be perceived as an On-Boarding event.

To be the most impactful the process needs to be “leader driven” whereby clarity around role architecture, impact measurement, development opportunities, and senior level access form a covenant of mutual obligation vs. a “let me know if you are having any problems “approach.

Development
There is no professional attribute of “perfection on demand”.  Proficiency attainment and sustainability is an arduous exercise that is never ending.  

To increase the chances of success it is necessary to engage in a serious Trilogy dialogue encompassing the following:

  • This is what we know you know
  • This is what we know you don’t know
  • This is what the company is prepared to do to bridge the gap0

The true professional regardless of career stage is constantly looking to raise their “IQ”.  It is incumbent on their company to be a partner vs. spectator in this quest.

Clarity of Expectations
In the movie Animal House a fraternity was informed after the fact that they were on “double secret probation”.  

Unfortunately for many employees regardless of tenure there is a moving target on which they are being assessed.

Beyond the fairness of this, it is south of sensational as a leadership strategic behavior.

Employees crave clarity along the lines of President Regan’s assertion of his public policy goal with the then Soviet Union, “we win, they lose”.

The psyche of an employee whom is committed is not abstract…..they want to understand what they have to do to be successful…..and they don’t’ think in terms of disappointment.

The two most critical elements to embed the above into an organization’s human capital posture include Feedback and Reward.

Reward is simple…..if you get superior performance recognize the energy and outcome in a generous way!  Sanctions should be utilized if and only if the achievement level is not at standard AND it is adjudicated to be the consequence of incumbent proficiency.  

Feedback is not….it requires leaders to step outside their comfort zone and confront problems, deficiencies, and disappointing behaviors.  None if which is easy!  However it is essential!

People fail to meet expectations….such is professional life….what should not be automatic in the leadership mentality however is the pre-supposition that the enterprise is blameless and the outcomes were pre-ordained.

Publication Announcement-Discussion Partner Collaborative is pleased to announce that our upcoming book "Inflection Points-Risk Readiness & Failure Fearless!" will be available in mid-June in the States and Globally July 1st.

The focus of this book addresses the question “are their common denominators to consider between and among senior executives, career focused South American women, and returning military veterans as they assess and plan their career options”?

 


 

In Praise of the Youngest OR Count Yourself Lucky

Welcome to 2015!

Over the holidays my wife and I enjoyed a long overdue dinner with family members.  We had just finished a cruise, and candidly during the dinner I realized this was not my “first” as I  had erroneously been communicating.

In point of fact I had been on a family cruise 50 years ago!  I had forgotten!  This was not an issue of repressed memory or trauma.  Well maybe a little trauma!

The catalyst for recollection was the dinner discussion regarding family sequence, oldest child, middle child, and youngest child.

Two of us at the table were the “oldest” and our spouses “middle”.  So we thought it only fair to be hypercritical of the benefits derived from being the youngest.  

So what does this have to do with a cruise 50 years ago?

During the cruise we had a respite in a Canadian resort which the young staff referred to the guests as “the newlywed, the nearly dead, and the overfed”.

Being invaded by an American Irish family of 7 children, with a particularly gregarious and loud father, concomitant with a tolerant mother, one would think would be disruptive.

And it was for the guests: but the wait staff and others went out of their way to be assigned to us because we were fun!  

Granted based on observation their definition of “fun” may be described as us having a pulse….

But back to the topic of this opus…..the benefits accrued to being the youngest.

During out stay our four year old sister thought it would be a brilliant idea to pretend to disappear.  This prompted a search of the hotel, the waterline, etc. by family members, hotel staff, etc. We eventually found our Princess hiding under the bed.  All the while thinking this attention was just fantastic!

What struck me at the time beyond universal relief was the lack of recrimination ventured in her direction by our parents. Notwithstanding some minor “don’t you ever” sentiments, I  thought if it had not been her the associated punishment would have bordered on Capital!

Years later as I was entering the military I asked my father who was the youngest in his family why the difference??

His response was “I can speak from experience the younger you are in most if not all families the more tolerating are the parents”.  

Of course in his family he was the youngest!  The oldest in his family, once admonished her daughter, “you were born into the #1 slot in the family-your siblings will spend the rest of their lives trying to get there”.  

I have always appreciated the wisdom of my Aunt and Cousin!

So my conclusion remains….”timing IS everything”.

For those of you who are the oldest, I feel your pain!

For the middle child I would concur that you are often overlooked however …..Suck it up……if you are looking for adoration download Paul Simon’s Slip Sliding Away!  As often you also are pardoned as well!

For those of you who are the youngest…..don’t venture too far out on the ice when it is sunny!  You also can be surprised by Timing!  Cute isn’t everything!

In closing I want to revert back to my youngest sister.  She was always quiet to the point we had to make sure she was not left behind in restaurants, hotels etc., given the numerical disadvantage she suffered having 6 older siblings.

At given times each of us was assigned the task of “not forgetting your sister” by our parents.  

On one occasion she did however slip away and was later found sitting in the dressing room of the Four Seasons, sitting in Frankie Valli’s lap explaining how he should comb his hair.

As one of my brother’s once said…..”often forgotten…..but never lost”.

I and my Partners want to wish you an outstanding and prosperous 2015!

 

 


 

They Lost Us At Paperclip

On behalf on myself and my colleagues at Discussion Partners and Next Generation Advisory Services we would like to wish you and your families a terrific Holiday Season!

As we exit Black Monday and scramble for the perfect gift for the holidays, it is helpful to reinforce the issue that an outstanding customer experience is sometimes less about the product: but the level of service that supports the transaction.

There is an oft repeated line from the Jerry McGuire movie...”you had me at hello”!

Unfortunately I have an alternative less glowing rejoinder based upon an experience with a former cable company “they lost me at Paperclip”!

Several months ago on a Sunday night our TV started acting up in a manner that clearly indicated a problem with the provider.

Unfortunately this episode was in addition to diminished capability at predictable hours, and the fact that the wireless capacity seemed to run out of steam if it had to climb stairs!

On the above two issues we had the “Tech” out several times with no discernible improvements.

The problem with the TV however was new!  

We called our provider and asked for some assistance.  They told us to for them to help “first you will have to put a paperclip into the Cable box!”

We were stunned on two levels a.  in these days of high technology why should the effectiveness of a machine rely on a paperclip and b. in the world of e-files did we even have a paperclip?

Turns out we did….and got the TV back…..eventually, but the ridiculousness of the situation was dormant in memory.

It resurfaced when to avoid looking ridiculous to grandchildren we bought a larger TV.  The Retailer and Installers both indicated that the Cable Box was “old style” and our provider had a new model recently available.

Ever hopeful we went to get this new model with the objectives that not only would the picture be better…..but other deficiencies would be mitigated.

You have to envision going to a provider in a strip mall, whose offices look like they were created when Leave it to Beaver was a hit!   

When we asked the service rep for particulars on the capability of the new machine she was clueless…..her response was “the new one is more high tech”.

I resisted asking “so now we don’t need paperclips”, but instead we focused on the capabilities of the new machine in the context of our problems…..again we heard “high tech”!  We probed again “what does that mean” and got mostly a befuddled stare…..to the point where we walked out.

Within 2 hours out of frustration and hopefulness, we switched providers……

At the moment, we are not certain if that was the correct move…..we only know that continuing with a “high tech” machine that apparently does not require us to have a paperclip handy, seems the wiser course.

Most importantly in our decision making process was that uninformed and unsupportive people ostensibly there to be of assistance should NEVER be subsidized when their services are found wanting!

I hope you find the above useful n some capacity if for no other reason than paperclips do in fact retain a purpose in life.

 

 


 

Pilobolus...A Collaborative Shining Example

The term Pilobolus refers to a fungus whose spores propel with extraordinary speed, accuracy, and strength…..it is also a creative Dance company founded by Dartmouth College students in 1971!

The Dance Company has survived and prospered on a global scale for 45 years incorporating innovation, education, and creativity!

My wife and I attend many Dance company presentations from Ballet through Modern platforms.  Yet the recent performance of this troupe in Boston was unlike any we have ever seen.

The degree of collaborative precision and feats of strength were magnificent to behold.

The 6 dancers are incredibly strong, and flexible. Your emotions range from envious wondering how come you’re 3 times a month visit to the gym for 30 minutes does not have a similar outcome.  In addition, but certainly not least you sit in wonder questioning whether or not their skeletal frameworks are calcium or silly putty based.

Unusual for us, we decided to stay to participate in the cast post performance Q&A.

The conclusion we drew, and the derived lessons learned for commercial enterprises were three-fold.

  1. Each member of the company was encouraged to contribute to the choreography process regardless of tenure, or role….it is not a “leader led” organization
  2. Each member of the company felt a degree of ownership due to this approach therefore raising their already high level of accountability for and proficiency in the performance
  3. The mutuality of respect and encouragement raises the level of creative input, excitement and innovation

This feedback from the Company was unambiguous in respect to the above creating a “community” or “family” feeling.

How they approach their craft has many lessons learned for commercial enterprise leaders! The scary truth based upon Discussion Partners advisory experience is for the most part global leaders are slow learners.  

The five principles that we often see in tutorials on Collaboration were present in the experience and are not surprising in their substance:

  • Clarity Regarding Roles
  • Exhaustive Preparation
  • Mutual Trust
  • Creative Input Encouraged Regardless of Tenure
  • Shared Mindset for Success Delineation

What the experience did underscore based upon Discussion Partner’s work in global companies, is that in collaborative processes, EGO IS THE ENEMY!!

If not why are we so challenged in the commercial sector to achieve collaboration beyond lip service and generous self-serving interpretations of the word!

What was most compelling in the Pilobolus experience that for Collaboration to be achieved their shared mindset is, egos must be minimized, engagement maximized, respect optimized, and mutual trust achieved.

Among many of life’s mysteries, one that hopefully we can resolve soon, and Pilobolus has, is how to translate the abstract thinking as to how Collaboration can be achieved….. moving it to reality from aspiration.

 

 

To Plan or Not to Plan

Decades ago I went to a movie where one of the character’s made the statement “we Indians have a saying…..no matter where you go, there you are”.

Over the years I thought this statement was philosophically reassuring but strategically idiotic!  I  validated this with my son in law Neil whom is of Sioux descent…..who responded “Custer would have won if that was the belief”.

One of my former colleagues from Arthur D. Little Peter Ellis  is an expert in Strategic Planning.  After working at McKinsey, and ADL, Peter went on to a distinguished career in multiple enterprises.  

Peter over his career has collected a series of planning principles that I thought you may find of interest.

  • Your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my part (Anon)
  • All plans are firm until changed (Steve Key)
  • Miracles performed immediately…the impossible takes a little longer (Anon)
  • If you don’t know where you are going….any road will take you there (Lewis Carroll)
  • Plan the work and work the plan (Anon)
  • Where there is no vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18)
  • I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can’t possibly foresee
  • now (Harry Truman)
  • Those who plan do better than those who do not plan even though they rarely stick to their
  • plan (Winston Churchill)
  • Plans are worthless.  Planning is essential (Dwight Eisenhower)
  • A goal not written is a wish (Anon)
  • Goals are dreams we convert to meet plans and take actions to fulfill (Ziglar)
  • By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail (Benjamin Franklin)

I hope you find the above insightful….

Thank you Peter!

 

 



Let's Get Serious About The Organization of Human Resources

The July/August edition of The Harvard Business Review featured and article by Ram Charan entitled It’s Time To Split HR.

I embrace the sentiments contained in the article that a. the C-Suite is becoming more hyper-critical as to the value of HR due to its perceived weakness of embedding function outcomes with the business case, b. that C-Suite incumbents are desirous of having a consultative advice giving relationship with senior HR executives, and c. that there is tremendous value in having had “line experience” as a foundation for career progression as an HR executive.

Mr. Charan’s assertions are on target with Discussion Partner Collaborative research and client experience regarding the need for dramatic change for how the function is organized and populated.

We do take issue with his recommendation that for the most part that Leadership Effectiveness be populated by executives coming from the line.

DPC experience suggests where C-Suite executives want to have meaningful dialogue and be the recipients of innovative advice are in two areas which in our opinion require outstanding content knowledge, and a consultant style:

  1.  What is our approach and effectiveness thereto of our Compensation Strategy?  We believe the key effectiveness metrics are a. ability to attract terrific candidates in the external market, b. insurance that those whom are performing the best are rewarded above their peers, and c. retention particularly of HiPo’s is enhanced by the competitiveness of the strategy.
     
  2. What is the status of our Leadership Effectiveness approach?  We believe the key metrics are the ability to deploy and redeploy talented assets on an as needed basis and moreover have an approach that links this essential need with a posture of “replenishment” by always recruiting while selectively hiring.

Approximately three years ago as a result of our research for an upcoming book and client work we began advising organizations to disaggregate the Human Resources Function into two separate and distinct entities both of which would report to the CEO!

The two entities we recommend are similar to those contained in the HBR article, one for administration and the second for leadership.

At the time we wrote a blog on this topic focused on the management of the “Leadership” function: "The Emerging Role of Human Capital".

 

 

Counting the Months to Medicare OR Why I Miss Spiderman

This morning I was up at 4AM for a flight I take weekly from Boston to JFK in to meet with clients.  This project has been on-going for about 10 months….

For those of you who fly to Kennedy via American Airlines you know once you have landed your assaulted by advertisements for Broadway shows…..one of which is or was Spiderman!

This ad holds special significance for me as my youngest nephew, Pierro thinks he is Spiderman!  This perspective is reinforced constantly by his Peruvian and US family whom are shameless in buying every conceivable accessory to reinforce his image as the sticky savior of NYC.

This morning as I was readying myself to wish Pierro a Buenos Dias, I realized the sign was removed and replaced with a Mutual Fund ad with the caption “in 1960 your life expectancy was 67…..now it is 78”!  

Being 64 and being facile in simple though not complex math, I thought “oh !@#* I only have 14 years!

Not the way to for an early morning and long day to kick off!

The rudeness of the reminder of my imminent demise did however prompt me to spend some time on-line at the Social Security web-site.

The good news is that according to the web site I “have” until 84 and a statistical shot at 92 if I put down the cheeseburger and pick up the salad fork…..I hope the Retirement Advisors are better at investing than demographics…..

In my perusal I did learn that I am categorically eligible for Medicare when I turn 65.

I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but 65 doesn’t feel that old to me.  I look at Paul McCartney, Elton John and the Stones and think maybe the fact that they don’t get Medicare is the reason they keep touring!

Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t reject the Senior discounts at movies nor when in Peru due to my age get to the front of lines (I guess in the States this would be the longest line!): but the aging process does require some adjustments in thinking.

We can’t reject aging and when you consider the alternative it is preferable.

We can however reject feeling old like a watch that is winding down slowly….

I have had the personal philosophy of looking forward not back with the assumption that whatever decisions I made then were considered….and I have already incorporated lessons learned into how I behave….

I would rather look forward to the minutes, days, and years ahead thinking positively and enjoying the ride!

However, I do miss Spiderman!!!!!

 



Continuity Planning Myth - Ready Now Means Readiness

ET.gif

As we enter 2014 my Discussion Partner and Next Generation Advisory colleagues want to wish you and your families an outstanding New Year!

We also want to share with you some findings from the research that contributed to our recently published book (above) supported by our Transition Advisory work with now over 100 executives during 2013.

In the prosecution of our work with executives working on their post employment plans, one area for dialogue is the “readiness” of their successors.

Early in our work when we posed the question “are your successors up for the challenge”, we frequently heard the response “no”, “not yet”, “not sure”, or “hard to tell”.  

Initially NGAS advisors were somewhat cynical about the response as Type A personalities have healthy ego’s.  However, when we dug deeper into the comments number in-common concerns were articulated by our clients.

Essentially they see the “deficiencies” or “shortfalls” in the following areas:

Global Preparation-given that most of the new wave of leadership began their careers during the recession of the late 80’s and early 90’s, the ability to secure an expatriate assignment, or participate in extensive international travel, was sufficiently curtailed.  Moreover, the cost constraint mentality that existed unintentionally discouraged pan-organizational initiatives in favor of “home grown” strategic intents.  Thus the ability to learn more about global challenges was bereft of opportunity.

Collaboration-the above also has to be put into the context of “how we now collaborate”.  Since the late 90’s collaboration has devolved to a state of electronic touch points.  

The days where mission focused teams were created, and participants entered a room prepared to persuade others to their point of view are waning.  The use of electronic communication is now the norm.  A compelling example of course is Facebook as a principal communication vehicle.  This type of interface can be extrapolated easily to implications for collaborative efforts

Written Communication-as a rapidly aging baby boomer I still remember the Palmer Method, the nuns obsession with good grammar, and living in dread fear that my mother a Masters prepared English teacher would want to review my homework.

Having survived the above, I do look askance at the quality of writing that is offered today.

We have become executives who believe that well presented PowerPoint decks, are the bastion of good communication, and the more graphics the more forceful the argument.

The art of creating a persuasive paragraph, to be incorporated into a White Paper, or Education treatise has suffered according to our clients.

Intellectual Curiosity-most Boomer CEO’s are voracious readers of Biographies.  In addition to reading books about or written by, Jack Welch, they focus on Political Biographies.

To reinforce the point the acceptance of books by Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln (Team of Rivals), and Roosevelt/Taft (The Bloody Pulpit) are offered.

Twice a year Discussion Partners creates a Reading List for our C-Suite clients based upon what we are being told are the books they are focused on at the time.

What we learned through this initiative was that the C-Suite, wants to understand, “how they dealt with adversity”.  

Our clients concern is that this lack of “wanting to understand” is of secondary importance to domain expertise.

The above “concerns” do not detract from the comprehensive work being done on Succession Planning efforts.  Moreover, our clients would also stipulate that the above has to be put into the context of the “world and work” are changing as well.  

The observations of our clients do however suggest that there is a need to be aware that if the lack of opportunity and/or focus of the incoming wave of leaders are perceived as problematic, an organized response for this constituency and likely the next generation coming behind them is warranted.

 



Staying Connected While Disconnecting

I recently attended a seminar sponsored by a potential alliance partner for our firm.  The objective was to hear their   “thought leader” present their enterprise point of view on “The Implications of the Aging Workforce on Employee Engagement”.

As is the wont of air travel these days I arrived at the session late and to avoid being rude or conspicuous I slipped into the back of the room.

The presenter although polished in style, and aggressive in expressing “my point of view”, was bereft of any recent data to support their conclusions.

In point of fact their data would have been more aligned with the times if their attire had been a lime green leisure suit.

As I was sittling in thinking, “well this was a brilliant idea” and wondering “can I get an earlier return flight”, I had an epiphany.

I realized many in the audience were entranced with the “facts” being put forward…..they were lacking in context and had no clue that the data was no longer even useful in the context of a) a global workforce, b) engagement levels that were declining even before the recession, c) the challenges of managing a workforce with four cohorts all of which desire different levels of support from an employer, and d) the emerging complexities of managing the digital tribes promoted by the emergence of social media.

How did I know, psychic that I am not, it was the “tell” from watching people nodding their level of interest and agreement.  MANY of the HR professionals in this particular audience were learning of the aforementioned human capital challenges for what appeared to be the first time (look for the nodding of yes and neck leaning forward).

Be reassured that there were those like me who had the glaze of boredom and were also unobtrusively looking at their watches (look for the head dropping straight down or to the left to look at the wrist).

The torture ended eventually and insincere as I am I was gracious in my thanks and compliments…..yet I was struck by a line from Michael Douglas in the American President (don’t go there), “serious problems require serious people to create serious solutions”.

Like a lot of Consultants I have been on the platform and candidly live in dread fear that my audience is in possession of more relevant or timely data than I therefore making my effort pedestrian.  It is the intellectual curiosity of the audience I rely upon to keep me honest.

My conclusion from this unscientific polling technique is that those of us in leadership positions, particularly in Human Resources have to have higher standards for what constitutes “thought leadership”.   The alternative is we will be treated to a steady stream of presentations by those who really have nothing to contribute in pushing us to address some very serious issues.

 


 

The Commercial Sabbatical

The Rolling Stones are touring to celebrate their 50th anniversary!  Beyond the planet waiting with bated breath to see if Mick Jagger at 69  can still do a 3 hour concert at a dead run, there are lessons learned for Boomer executives.

Age 65 is no longer the inflection point whereby we “retire” get a watch, take a cruise, play some golf, and periodically look out the window to see if the Grim Reaper has found our address.

The increase in life expectancy and promotion of the active lifestyle are prompting Boomer executives to more seriously contemplate, “what will I do with my post retirement time”?

Next Generation Advisory Services (NGAS), a Discussion Partner Collaborative (DPC) subsidiary provides Transition Advisory Coaching to executives in advance of “retirement”.

Presently, we are working with 50 executives in the US on these matters and among our lessons learned isthe word “retirement” is outdated.

Two former colleagues, Tammy Erickson and Bob Morrison a decade ago authored a McKinsey award winning Harvard Business Review article entitled It Is Time to Retire Retirement in which they stipulated that the traditional views on Retirement were fast becoming obsolete.

Their prediction in this article and later writings is now a reality.

Based upon NGAS client experience we have observed an emerging mental model executivesemploy in determining how they will spend their time, after a 6 month period of “disengagement” not limited to hobbies, family time, nor travel.

Alternatively in working with our Boomer executive clientele there is and will remain a desire to stay engaged in commercial activities not for economic reasons primarily: but to remain as one client put it “relevant”.

Within Next Generation Advisory Services we refer to the time it takes for an executive to depart their employer and return to the workforce in some capacity as a Commercial Sabbatical.

 Our client experience suggests that beyond Board membership, Boomer executives will return to the workforce in a part or full time capacity within 12 months if they “retire” between the ages of 58 and 62 and 18 months if above the age of 62 for the following reasons:

  1. Type A Does Not Go Away. The motivation that drives an executive to success does not disappear or decline appreciably when they leave the enterprise.  Paul McCartney still tours at age 70, the Beach Boys and Stones have embarked on their 50th year reunion with new albums as well as tours, Dan Rather started a new Broadcast role in his 70’s, and executives such as Jack Welch are still going strong.
  2. 62 is the Catalyst Year. Executives perceive that this is the age that “If I ever wanted to do something else approximate to full time this age is an important milestone”.  Obviously this calls into question the wisdom of using 65 as the core year for most Succession Plans.
  3. Part Time Desire Above 62(and possibly below) commercial involvement is usually part time in nature.  The May 2012 edition of the Harvard Business Review article entitled ‘Supertemps’ focuses on this phenomenon.

The alignment of corporate resources at our client companies to assist executives in their planning process is emerging as an enterprise imperative.  Anything less has potentially negative outcomes a) the executive “surprising” the company by leaving in advance of the contemplated date, b) enterprise disruption as the executive becomes more distracted the closer they get to their departure date, c) the lost opportunity to be recognized as a “proactive” employer, one which recognizes the disparate demands of the multi-generational workforce and plans accordingly.

The concept of the Commercial Sabbatical is the largest finding from the Transition Advisory work of Next Generation Advisory Services.When our coaches are speaking to executivesdeliveringthe message “it is only a matter of time before you are back in the game” frames key elements of the planning process and confronts head-on the conscious or subconscious concern of executives regarding “relevance”.

The final blog in our series will focus on executive engagement and will be forthcoming in January of 2013.

 

 

 

Where Are Executives Likely To Be Spending Their Time Post Employment?

The most recent research conducted by Discussion Partner Collaborative supported by the Transition Advisory work of Next Generation Advisory Services (NGAS) has concluded that post-employment Executives will focus their time on 14 areas of involvement.

However, it should be noted that to a person the NGAS clients have indicated “I am going to take at least 6 months off before I even think about it”!

We will spare you the sentiments expressed regarding the impending trauma due to be visited on enterprise supported Blackberry’s and iPhones during their post-employment hiatus.

14 Areas Post-Employment Involvement
As you peruse the below list of 14 areas,  PLEASE keep in mind that the most likely strategy will be  a portfolio of 2 to 3 initiatives each with a part time commitment focus. The Executive will “rebalance the portfolio” on a regular basis in three areas:

      Commercial Catalyst

  • New Role/Alternative Employer-The role architecture is most likely an interim managerial slot for a predetermined period of time.  A recent HBR article, The Rise of the Supertemp provides an excellent foundation for appreciating this strategy
  • Consultant-This role would be to act as external advisor on a project basis either through affiliation with a firm and/or at the request of those in the Executives network
  • Entrepreneur-A number of Executives want to experience a creative process by “starting a venture” either aligned with previous career interests or “entirely different”
  • Board Member-This is the most popular pursuit, however it is also the one where those Executives whom are not already on Boards, acknowledge that they need a sensible strategy to “get out there to be in demand”
  • Personal Investor-These Executives want to be “Angel Investors” in start-up companies where they would also provide expertise and take a proactive role in governance
  • Start Up Initiator-This is differentiated from Angel Investor and/or Entrepreneur in that they want to transform into a role that is more like a Venture Capitalist

      Intellectual Pursuits and Physical Fitness

  • Academics-This pursuit is most likely as an Adjunct faculty member however a number of our clients do plan on accepting “Emeritus” positions
  • Author-A small number of clients do have ideas for Articles, White Papers, and Blogs.  To a person however they appear to want to focus on “the future of” issues and/or present their thoughts on impending trends in their domain
  • Higher Education-Some Executives want to complete suspended academic pursuits or “remain edgy” by attending Executive programs
  • Arts-One surprising finding from NGAS Advisory work are the number of Executives whom have truncated their artistic abilities in Music, Theater, Interior Design or Artistic expression they want to resurface….a case in point is the client who wanted to be a “Rock Star” who is now doing session work in Tennessee
  • Sports-A common refrain we here from Executives is the need they feel to “get back in shape”.  Their focus is to intensify the time they now feel they do not have and focus on their exercise regimen

      Community Involvement

  • Political Involvement-Executives for the most part would say their political aspirations have been channeled into fundraising and superficial domain related advice to date while acknowledging they would make “terrible candidates”.  Where they do want to “get in the game” it is either in pursuit of local or statewide office.
  • Philanthropy-Many Executives manifest a desire to subsidize and or raise monies for “worthy” NGO’s that are in the area of personal experience or interest
  • Social Responsibility-Executives have the most generous interpretation of this area inclusive of a) volunteerism, b) advisory, c) governance or in many cases creating an NGO that focuses on a personal area of interest

What is clear from Discussion Partner research and Next Generation Advisory client experience is that today’s executive has no intention of rocking away the day waiting for Happy Hour!

 

 

 

Who is More Ethical Boomers or Millenials?

There are many philosophical quandaries that are challenging to understand:

  • What is the sound of one hand clapping?
  • If a tree falls in the woods is there sound?
  • How can Mick Jagger keep going at 70?
  • Why in early Catholic Catechisms was the Holy Ghost depicted as a bird in a cage?
  • Many more!

In the recent past, the overwhelming evidence that greed is good is passé and do whatever you need to do, however you need to do it, is the new normal!

Just in the last weeks, Standard Charter has been accused of money laundering for the Iranian Government, Barclay’s Bank cratered ethically when traders manipulated interest rates and in doing so, the prize was champagne!  God forbid they should consider the dilemma they were creating for those with too much month left at the end of their money!

The Global recession was created or being kind exacerbated by the Too Big To Fail phenomenon or as some with an insight say, Too Important to Be Held Accountable!

How could the Enron energy traders, who were manipulating the grid system, not realize that uttering the words “burn baby burn” during wild fires would not be deemed reprehensible?

One of the standard “Integrity” simulation questions used in leadership effectiveness interviews goes something like this”

“You are flying to Chicago to give a presentation to a key client.  You are wearing the suit you will be wearing the next day.  During the flight you spill coffee on the suit causing a stain.”

“At the hotel you learn that the stain can be removed at a cost or $100.00.  You get it cleaned with the full knowledge your company will not reimburse this expenditure”.

Which of the following would you do?

  1. Submit the expense with an explanation
  2. Not submit the expense as it “was my fault”
  3. Cover the expense by exaggerating an  item in an accepted category such as meal or mileage

Clearly when queried by a consultant the manager will state 1 or 2.  Yet if you pay close attention to the “tell” or change in body language, you can reasonably assume an uneaten meal with desert will make its way on to the expense account!

The above represents Boomer behavior….gross generalizations aside, our ethical example has been somewhat lacking!

Is there any hope for the Millenials?  Are they any better equipped or conditioned to do the right things right?

Tammy Erickson, the recognized Thought Leader on Generational matters, has consistently stipulated that Gen X and the Millenials hold their parents and those in authority in high esteem.  They are more respectful of their parents than Boomers ever were, and when being mentored prefer to avail themselves of someone in this cohort.

What do they think then when they read the news of Ponzi schemes, see HBO docudramas like Too Big To Fail, or watch shows on CNBC on American Greed?  One would hope they would think to themselves “what turkeys”!

Tammy’s work would suggest while respectful they follow their own conscience.

There is no question the Millennial cohort is more socially aware, environmentally committed, and possibly more curious than their elders.

My hope is they can be more discerning of what constitutes good behavior and despite what they observe, don’t betray these values

One would hate to think of their grandson being led from Federal court with a raincoat over their head.

Yet…..bad ethical choices are as old as mankind….MAYBE this new group of young men and women will stem the tide of stupidity.

But for just a moment…..let’s postpone judgment on the Boomer cohort and ask ourselves…..”what if the executive is affiliated with something special”?  Let’s define special as a) an environment where they knew they would never “get rich”, b) one where their work if done well, contributes to humankind, and c) one where the environment is supportive and sustaining.

What happens then?

To gain a balanced perspective, I reached out to Deb Hicks the CHRO for Dana Farber Cancer Institute for her opinion.  I did so for three reasons:

  1. The important work done by Dana Farber
  2. Deb’s reputation within the HR community as an innovator and
  3. During our 15 year relationship I have used her as a sounding board on multiple Human Capital topics

Her response to the query, beyond commenting I have become very cynical in my dotage,  was as follows:

“Let’s not lose hope and view Boomers as a lost generation to ethics.  In fact there are organizations such as Dana Farber where since its founding has attracted and retained faculty and staff who want to be part of the “secret sauce” where they are so driven by their mission and commitment to patients, requiring them every day to stand out!”

“DFCI is an organization where “wealth” is defined differently.  Yes competitive pay and benefits matter: but being part of the next discovery or being there in that moment of need and fear with a patient makes a different kind of deposit in the bank of legacy to the mission and humankind”.

“Don’t get me wrong we suffer the challenges of generational changes, organizational alignment and at times misalignment, and bad behavior, but in the end we are aligned and committed to the mission”.

“The mission allows us to ignore the generational influence or who is more or less and alternatively focus on the secret sauce”.

The above was well stated….it does put the issue of ethics the context of leadership and environment and not generational in perspective.

Maybe I am getting too cynical in my dotage!

 

 

 

The Emerging Mental Model of the Boomer Executive

Paul McCartney turned 70 last week.   Although his birthday was not celebrated as a National Holiday, for those of us old enough to remember The Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan; it does prompt memories as well as self-reflection.

The increase in life expectancy and promotion of the active lifestyle are prompting Boomer executives to more seriously contemplate, “what will I do with my post retirement time”?

Next Generation Advisory Services (NGAS), a Discussion Partner Collaborative (DPC) subsidiary provides Transition Coaching to executives assisting our clients in pre and post-employment planning.

Based upon our client experience we have observed an emerging mental model executivesemploy in determining “how I will spend my time”.

Lessons Learned

  1. Type A Does Not Go Away. The motivation that drives an executive to success does not disappear or decline appreciably when they leave the enterprise.  Paul McCartney still tours, the Beach Boys and Stones have embarked on their 50th year reunion ventures, Dan Rather started a new Broadcast role in his 70’s, and executives such as Jack Welch are still going strong.
  2. 62 is the Catalyst Year. Executives perceive that this is the age that “If I ever wanted to do something else, now is the time”.  Obviously this calls into question the wisdom of using 65 as the core year for most Succession Plans.
  3. Part Time Desire. Where there is commercial involvement it is usually part time in nature.  The May edition of the Harvard Business Review article entitled ‘Supertemps’focuses on this phenomenon.
  4. Different Does Not Mean A Job. The sentiment of executives as they plan is not to join another company in a similar role.  Alternatively there is a focus on non-commercial ventures such as hobbies, philanthropy, and education.
  5.  The Portfolio Approach. DPC research and NGAS client experience align with the conclusion that executives identify a combination of 1) Commercial 2) Board Membership and 3) Self Awareness (Improvement) PART TIME initiatives in their planning model.

The days of executives turning 55, getting their gold watch, taking a cruise, and then ????? are way over.

The question that arises as we help executives plan….is what are the implications for the companies when Boomer executives are planning their retirement?

The alignment of corporate resources to assist executives in this planning process is emerging as an enterprise imperative.  Anything less has potentially negative outcomes a) the executive “surprising” the company by leaving in advance of the contemplated date, b) enterprise disruption as the executive becomes more distracted the closer they get to their departure date, c) the lost opportunity to be recognized as a “proactive” employer, one which recognizes the disparate demands of the multi-generational workforce and plans accordingly.

 

 

 

Global Office Deployment – Outline for a Facilities /IT Partnership

 

OVERVIEW

Global companies are increasing recognizing the need to maintainand improve offices globally on an ongoing basis. Successful global office deployment programs exhibit consistent business management features – central authorization and design, consistent engagement of “in-country” associates while emphasizing ongoing communication to resolve execution issues. With this program in place, office spaces are chosen, designed, deployed and maintained to meet a company’s requirements. They provide for staff needs and promote a consistentcompany image.

While providers are engaged for turnkey solutions for smaller locales, global organizations – more and more – are taking responsibility to promote an internal program that extends a consistent self-image throughout their global offices. The language on the walls at the receptionist area may be different. But country to country the corporate image is standardized and reinforced.  Staff may be moved within an existing facility or moved to another. Facilities Management (“Facilities”) and Global Infrastructure (“IT”) interact to ensure that needs are continually reviewed and prioritized. Success is realized through communication with global sponsors as well as local facilities and technology contacts.

As companies adopt this program approach, Facilities managers communicate with global and local business interests to determine the direction and the requirements of a selected deployment project. Facilities designs office space to promote a high quality work environment by demanding:

  • Comfort: Assuring that work areas and computing environment are suited to the task, whether sitting, standing, spending hours online or on the phone
  • Efficiency:  Locating work teams in convenient proximity, placing shared equipment near workers who use it the most.
  • Communication: Organizing departments for the most effective means to converse internally and externally with co-workers and customers
  • Productivity: Maintaining a logical flow throughout the office
  • Effectiveness – Establishing clear goals and objectives for the work environment

IT, treating Facilities as sponsors of the program, ensures effective qualification of office deployment projectsby continually reinforcing:

  • Capacity: Assuring that the provision of network, telecommunications and infrastructure (e.g., file/print servers, end user computers) addresses business requirements.
  • Reliability: Guaranteeing user needs are addressed in an initial and ongoing manner to meet the needs of the users.
  • Flexibility:Facilitate delivery of services with initial deployment and provide for ongoing changes to user requirements.

The relationship between Facilities and IT is pivotal to a global office deployment program as well as individual. Facilities managers deal with the companies “general management” – executives who decide which prospective offices to upgrade and / or move and local business management who recognize the particular needs of their staff and offices.

IT assesses the technology requirements of the office, based on Facilities and local site input. IT provides for the Network, Telecommunications and site-specific computing needs by delivering data closets and IT end user services, such as work area phones, computers and wireless computing.With each office deployment project designated by the program, IT works with Facilities and local IT contacts to resolve capacity and design questions.

PROGRAM APPROACH

Roles and Responsibilities

Roles

General Manager(s) Business person who authorizes Facilities investment in a new or modified Company location
Global Facilities Manager Person accountable for commercial decisions on physical office design, construction and move activity. Provides technology requirements to Global IT Manager
Global IT Manager Reviews requirements from Facilities. Identifies, approves and prioritizes plans, including IT budget, tasks and assignments to support deployments
Local Business Manager Site contact to address Facilities questions, concerns. Communicates decisions locally
Local IT Manager Site contact to address IT questions, concerns. Communicates decisions locally.
Project Manager Manages and tracks decisions on Companies site deployment projects or approved site-specific deployment tasks
Budget Analyst Develops and maintains budget to support planned deployment activity through approval by Global IT Manager
Operations Manager Reviews requirements for site environment. Manages process for data closet design and capacity planning.
Network Manager Reviews requirements for data,designs data network, manages 3rd party delivery of new or modified circuits, deploys network data closet equipment as required, manages end user network services through deployment.
Telecommunications Manager Reviews requirements for voice,designs voice network, manages 3rd party delivery of new or modified circuits, deploys voice data closet equipment as required, as well end user voice services as required.
Infrastructure  Manager Reviews requirements for site-specific servers and end user support, manages 3rd party delivery of new or modified servers and end user equipment, deploys infrastructure data closet equipment as required, and deploys end user computing services as required.

 Responsibilities

Responsible (R) The individual(s) who completes the Activity.  Responsibility can be shared across roles.
Accountable (A) The person who answers for the completion of the activity or decision.  This includes “Yes” or “No” authority and veto power.
Consult (C) This role provides required, expert input prior to a final decision or action.
Inform (I) This role needs to be informed after a decision or action is taken.  They may be required to take action as a result of the outcome.

Mapping Roles to Activities

Project Selection

IT staff reviews the status of existing and proposed Office Deployments at a weekly, global meeting. IT Operations, Network, Telecommunications and Infrastructure managers review site by site office deployment needs primarily[1] within North America (NA), Europe (EU) and Asia Pacific (APAC) areas. IT works with Facilities representatives to qualify and prioritize requests for new or modified IT office deployment activity.

At this weekly meeting, the IT Manager (VP of Global Operations) relays Facilities requirements, priorities and status to the global IT management team. IT managers identify gaps in profiling a site.

Site Profiling

In evaluating readiness to work on a site, the team determines if a separate deployment project is required, based on the required deliverables and complexity. For activity that does not require a project, local site contacts are referred to local means for service delivery, which are identified and tracked by the global team at the weekly meeting.

Site Tracking

The team tracks deliverables in the weekly meetings on sites as they are assessed and qualified.

[1] Areas may expand scope of responsibility to different geographies as required. (e.g., NA IT may support SA deployment projects due to global contractual relationships with network carriers.)

Requirements Gathering / Solution Design

Design of a site solution flows from iterative requirements gathering presented by Facilities and IT.

IT groups refine checklists which allow for the translation from requirements to design.

Requirements Gathering

This process initiates upon completion of Site Assessment and Facilities Determination. For deployment projects, the deliverables are the same – completed requirements, budget and schedule.

IT Requirements Gathering Responsibilities

Once the deployment to a given site is approved, IT groups interact in pursuing answers needed to commit to the target date for Facilities. This involves meetings and communications within IT as well as site IT contacts. IT groups, however, have distinct responsibilities towards to provide necessary input for solution design.

Operations

  • Collect Network, Telecom, Infrastructure requirements for data closet and floor layout
  • Communicate site IT power requirements for data closets and floor layout to Facilities
  • Communicate IT AC requirement(s) for data closet to Facilities
  • Communicate IT rack requirements for data closet to Facilities

Network

  • Evaluate computer networking needs for target site
  • Communicate current network gear inventory for Operations
  • Communicate network gear requirements for Operations
  • Provide input to rack elevation diagram to Operations
  • Request and receive quotes from data circuit vendors

Telecommunications

  • Evaluate computer networking needs for target site
  • Communicate current network gear inventory for Operations
  • Communicate network gear requirements for Operations
  • Provide input to rack elevation diagram to Operations
  • Request and receive quotes from data circuit vendors

Infrastructure

  • Evaluate computer networking needs for target site
  • Communicate current telecommunicationsgear inventory for Operations
  • Communicate telecommunicationsgear requirements for Operations
  • Provide input to rack elevation diagram to Operations
  • Request and receive quotes from data circuit vendors

Solution Design

This process starts withRequirements Gathering, as details are provided through the team and agreed to by management. Completion of requirements gathering is not a prerequisite for all aspects of design, depending on the target site deployment date. For example, with sufficient information on the site MDF data closet and management approval, Network will execute circuit orders while other requirements gathering activities are proceeding. The start of this task is necessary as provider delivery cycles may be prohibitive. For deployment projects, the design deliverables are the same – data closet(s) design and floor layout.

IT Solution Design Responsibilities

Operations

  • Collect Network, Telecom, Infrastructure requirements for data closet and floor layout
  • Communicate site IT power requirements for data closets and floor layout to Facilities
  • Communicate IT AC requirement(s) for data closet to Facilities
  • Communicate IT rack requirements for data closet to Facilities

Network

  • Evaluate computer networking needs for target site
  • Communicate current network gear inventory for Operations
  • Communicate network gear site requirements to Operations
  • Provide input to rack elevation diagram to Operations
  • Request and receive quotes from data circuit vendors

Telecommunications

  • Evaluate computer  telecommunications needs for target site
  • Communicate current telecommunications inventory to Operations
  • Communicate telecommunications site requirements to Operations
  • Provide input to rack elevation diagram to Operations
  • Request and receive quotes from voice circuit vendors

Infrastructure

  • Evaluate computer telecommunications needs for target site
  • Communicate current telecommunications inventory for Operations
  • Communicate network gear requirements for Operations
  • Provide input to rack elevation diagram to Operations
  • Request and receive quotes from data circuit vendors

Project Commitment

PROJECT PROCESSES

 Map

Requirements Gathering

Process is based on completion of initial Site Assessment and Facilities determination:

 

 

 

Are Leaders Smarter Than Dogs?

Anyone who is from the US has heard the adage “the dog is barking up the wrong tree”?

The luckless dog is presuming that there is a cat in the tree, deserving of their attention.  Yet we humans in our infinite wisdom realize the cat is either long gone, or is quite happy mocking the dog from a different tree?

We could take the view that the dog is stupid, yet as it relates to Succession Planning are we leaders not representative of this hapless dog?

If we look at the numbers from various sources it is not a leap of logic to believe so:

  • 35% of companies have a Succession Plan with “integrity”(SHRM)
  • 78% of companies have some form of Succession Planning “strategy”(Corporate Leadership Council)
  • 50%+ of the Fortune 500 Board Directors for the Fortune 500 are “unhappy” with their companies Succession Plan(HBR November2011)
  • Average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is approximately 3.5 years(HBR November 2011)
  • Age 65 is usual and customary age for “executive retirement” directly contradicted by DPC research that indicates the age is more likely to be 62 “after a phase down period”(December 2012 Study The Art of Executive Boomer Management)

At a recent Discussion Partner’s strategy session like the dog who wanders away from the tree feeling embarrassment, we felt that we as consultants  needed to acknowledge “Succession Planning is a dysfunctional process the outcome of which is to provide little to no value to the enterprise”.

Yet metaphorically the cat was not imaginary and enterprises do need a replenishment process to promote sustainability.

Discussion Partners conducted an internal audit of our client experience on Leadership Succession since the firm was founded in 2007.

Our overarchingconclusion was the fatal flaw is Succession Plans are too internally focused by limiting  the question to “who do we have and when will they be ready”?

DPC suggests a modification of a Null Hypothesis (the process for challenging assumptions/strongly held beliefs by attempting to disprove) is more appropriate.

For example in the movie Moneyball the focus on On- Base Percentage vs. Individual Statistics was the null hypothesis theme expanding the analysis of proficiency beyond batting average.

This approach led the Boston Red Sox to 2 World Series Championships in the past decade after approximately 90 years of frustration (yes a number of DPC Principals live in Greater Boston).

DPC has begun promoting a new approach,Continuity Planning loosely defined as promoting enterprise growththrough ongoing replenishment for critical roles accessing both internal and external labor market candidates.

The key words in the above  are on-going, internal, external and critical!

Essentially our modality has the following steps:

  1. Identification of Mission Essential roles beyond those traditionally embodied in a Succession plan(for example Actuaries in and Insurance Company, Internal Controls in a Finance function)
  2. Identification of no more than 4 Critical Success factors for theaggressive development of high potential managers
  3. On-going “rack and stack” of managers for role suitability or ascension….focused initially on the question“are they the best the internal and external marketplace has to offer”
  4. Identification of external applicant sources inclusive of gathering competitive intelligence identifying suitable external candidates to “raid” if needed
  5. Creation of a Dashboard for quarterly updating regarding role identification, internal candidate status, and external labor market opportunities

Discussion Partners perceives the benefits of this approach as having the following key elements:

  1. Broadening the discussion about internal readiness to encompass a broader dialogue on internal/external marketplace availability
  2. Ongoing vs. episodic review of leadership alignment with a broader number of roles essential to the enterprise
  3. Increasing the ability of the organization to be innovative in terms of role architecture, organization design, phase down of executives, through a broader definition of work to be accomplished and resources to accomplish same

Our client experience to date using this new approach has been encouraging.  There is a possible added benefit according to one of my colleagues, “reduction of eye strain  reading Succession Plans with the foreknowledge they are likely more fiction than fact”.

Our client experience to date using this new approach has been encouraging.  There is a possible added benefit according to one of my colleagues, “reduction of eye strain  reading Succession Plans with the foreknowledge they are likely more fiction than fact”.

 

 

 

Avoid Having to State “It Could be Me”

One pundit stated recently that blogs are “drivel with punctuation”.

As many blogs are written by consultants it is often our sector that struggles with making salient points in a compelling way.

The rule of thumb is to make your points as if they were “sound bytes”.

In the recent past there has been an intersection of Discussion Partner research with a phenomenon that lends itself to these iterations.

During a recent survey of over 2000 senior executives regarding level of non-financial planning in advance of retirement:

Over 70% of the executives indicated they have some overall ideas: but lack a concrete plan.

When DPC research indicates an interesting finding we test it with selected clients.

Suffice it to say that the findings were supported by the input from clients replete with anecdotes:

  • “One executive did not realize he was retired…he kept coming to work to socialize”
  • “An executive told me that the implementation of his plans only took him to 10:30 AM every day”
  • “One executive became a serial board member to the point he forgot which meeting he was attending”
  • “The concentration on lowering his golf handicap led him to AA”
  • “His wife got so sick of feeding him she boycotted the kitchen”
  • “Her husband was pleasantly surprised to realize how in shape she could be in post retirement and joined a gym himself”
  • “The female executive became much more aware of her husbands fascination with Big Screen TV’s”

When we met with executives whom were still working we identified three escalating levels of sentiment when dealing with retired colleagues:

  • Poor Guy-I hope he finds something meaningful
  • I don’t have time-seeing the guy repeatedly is now a distraction
  • Self-Awareness-uttering the words “it could be me”

Now that I have your attention another sound byte from the research-82% stipulated that if they neared retirement without a disciplined plan, their engagement level would go down and their distraction level would go up.

Punctuation aside, the intent of this blog is straightforward, whether you are the executive or enterprise you should assiduously avoid the mantra “it could be X”!

 

 

 

Board or Bored?

As Baby Boomers contemplate retirement there is the inevitable question being contemplated-“what do I do next”?

A recent CNBC segment referred to 2012 retirement planning as the “no huddle offense”.  Essentially there is a need to accelerate not only the economic preparation for retirement: but also the determinants as to how one would spend their time.

Tammy Erickson’s books on Shifting Demographics forcefully remind us that traditional perspectives regarding retirement are outmoded.  In point of fact Boomers are likely to remain active by engaging in multiple activities.

A recent Pulse Survey of over 2000 executives conducted by Discussion Partner Collaborative  posed2 questions. “how far evolved are your retirement plans” and   “how will you spend your retirement time”?

The overall answer on preparation was of concern as it indicated that while there had been some time spent “thinking” there was an absence of “planning”.

The top 4 answers on “time commitment” were as follows:

  1. Generate income through part time employment
  2. Spend time with the family
  3. Focus on physical well-being primarily by playing golf
  4. Seek Board opportunities

The focus while clear was not supported by disciplined thinking regarding the “how” other than playing sufficient “golf” in the pursuit of lowering ones handicap.

This was particularly true regarding affiliation as a Board member.  The survey participants while clear on what they could offer as a Board member were less clear as to how to go about securing positions.

The good news is that Boards are valuing the talents of Boomers as an example the October 2011 edition of HBR suggests the rules are being broken in respect to the age of Board Members whereas in 1987 only 3% were age 60, now 30% are 64 or above indicative of both the shifting demographics and enterprise desire for the preservation of institutional memory.

However, for those whom have never been a Board member, it is not analogous to a Field of Dreams “if they know I am available they will come”!

Based upon our experience we would recommend for both NGO and/or Commercial Board opportunities the following steps:

  • Proactive networking with all in your “Rolodex”
  • Establishment of relationships with entities which match Board needs with aspirants capabilities
  • Explore Social Networking sites on NGO’s with the “assumption” that a need exists for advisory support
  • Play a lot of Golf while you are securing the opportunity!

  

 

 

The Contradiction between Aging and Clueless

As the recession dissipates and the need for experienced talent resumes, there are two demographic issues that will need to be addressed.

The Need to Embrace the Contribution of the Older Worker

A recent Wall Street Journal article spoke of the challenges the legal profession has in maintaining as Partners, those over a certain age.  The article spoke of a Partner who still practices at 79, who was challenging in court the position of his firm that he was “too old’’ to fulfill the obligations of being a Partner.

The article went on to speak about his actual productivity (among the highest billing), scholarship (a regular contributor to Legal Journals and Opinion pieces), and reputation as a mentor (younger Partners revere him as a mentor).

So, beyond age… why this dilemma?  His legacy firm stipulates that it was being prudent and needs to have a “mandatory retirement age” to make way for “younger Partners”.

So in the legal profession, as is the case in other sectors such as accounting, contribution is not a consideration……the main one is age! Hmmm

Vitality is not a function of years…..it is preparation, outlook, health, and intellectual curiosity…..

Speaking of which……

The Need to Understand the Mental Model of the Younger Worker

A recent survey at Beloit College of incoming freshman had some interesting results.   When asked for example, “Who was Michelangelo”? The response was “a computer virus”.  I thought this was obtuse until it was explained to me that in fact there was a computer virus called Michelangelo.

As a Boomer I thought it would be interesting to create my own quiz and of course answered my own questions as if I was a Freshman (I Wish!)

  1. What was The Cold War?               One fought in the Arctic
  2. What was The Long March?          The first Marathon
  3. Who was Beethoven?                      A Dog who starred in a couple of movies
  4. What was the Kitchen Debate?     An argument my parents had in the Kitchen
  5. What is the Palmer Method?         The swing of an old golfer
  6. What is a Fountain Pen?                 A fountain in the shape of a Pen
  7. What is a Pop art?                           OK this one would be timeless

So which is more compelling, the answers of the incoming Freshman or the fact as a Boomer I did not know there were “2 Michelangelo’s”?

And more importantly is this an issue of age, intellect, or exposure?

Reconciliation of the Apparent Contradiction

As I was drafting this blog, I consulted others by Tammy Erickson (www.tammyerickson.com) and my nephew Sean a former Army Captain currently in Grad School in Germany (http://seanmaybeheard.wordpress.com).

In reviewing their writings, the WSJ article, the Beloit study, and most importantly my pro Sistine Chapel response, I was thinking…..maybe this “you lose it with age thing has some merit”!

NAAAHHHH!

There are too many aspirations all who work have in common:

  1. The desire to be respected
  2. The desire to be recognized
  3. The desire to be mentored
  4. The desire to be challenged
  5. The desire to be provided opportunity regardless of age!

The disconnections we note and laugh about to the point of cohort mutual mocking, are not a function of age…. there are more accurate explanations.

Having given this apparent contradiction some recent thought I have concluded it is an issue of understanding and tolerance.

Moreover as we will need the energies of all who wish to work to be effective whether we speak of societies or enterprises, we had best table the ridicule and focus on more understanding and tolerance.

  

 

 

You Can Assess Competency From Staring At The Back of An Audience’s Head

I recently attended a seminar sponsored by a potential alliance partner for our firm.  The objective was to hear their   “thought leader” present their enterprise point of view on “The Implications of the Aging Workforce on Employee Engagement”.

As is the wont of air travel these days I arrived at the session late and to avoid being rude or conspicuous I slipped into the back of the room.

The presenter although polished in style, and aggressive in expressing “my point of view”, was bereft of any recent data to support their conclusions.

In point of fact their data would have been more aligned with the times if their attire had been a lime green leisure suit.

As I was sittling in thinking, “well this was a brilliant idea” and wondering “can I get an earlier return flight”, I had an epiphany.

I realized many in the audience were entranced with the “facts” being put forward…..they were lacking in context and had no clue that the data was no longer even useful in the context of a) a global workforce, b) engagement levels that were declining even before the recession, c) the challenges of managing a workforce with four cohorts all of which desire different levels of support from an employer, and d) the emerging complexities of managing the digital tribes promoted by the emergence of social media.

How did I know, psychic that I am not, it was the “tell” from watching people nodding their level of interest and agreement.  MANY of the HR professionals in this particular audience were learning of the aforementioned human capital challenges for what appeared to be the first time(look for the nodding of yes and neck leaning forward)

Be reassured that there were those like me who had the glaze of boredom and were also unobtrusively looking at their watches (look for the head dropping straight down or to the left to look at the wrist).

The torture ended eventually and insincere as I am I was gracious in my thanks and compliments…..yet I was struck by a line from Michael Douglas in the American President (don’t go there), “serious problems require serious people to create serious solutions”.

Like a lot of Consultants I have been on the platform and candidly live in dread fear that my audience is in possession of more relevant or timely data than I therefore making my effort pedestrian.  It is the intellectual curiosity of the audience I rely upon to keep me honest.

My conclusion from this unscientific polling technique is that those of us in leadership positions, particularly in Human Resources have to have higher standards for what constitutes “thought leadership”.   The alternative is we will be treated to a steady stream of presentations by those who really have nothing to contribute in pushing us to address some very serious issues.

 

 

 

The Lack of Success In Succession Planning

The most recent edition of the Harvard Business Review was devoted to Talent.

Several data points were contained in the article on CEO Succession are forcefully aligned with Discussion Partner Collaborative client experience:

  • The median tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is now 3.5 years
  • 50% of Fortune 500 Board Members are dissatisfied with the their companies Succession Planning process
  • Succession Planning is an insular process usually achieving a level of “seriousness” approximately 18 months before transition

The above focuses on CEO’s….one can speculate without likelihood of contradiction that the comprehensiveness of the process is even more deficient below the level of CEO.

Recently a client called and said “can you come to Florida I think I have a problem”?

This executive had recently assumed their role as Director of Strategy for a very large organization and as part of their on boarding had reviewed the organizations Succession Plan.  He was struck, as was I when I reviewed the oppressively large document that every key executive and/or those in critical roles were planning on retiring at 65!

The good news was that the enterprise had an approach….as research would indicate that only about 36% of companies actually create a Succession Plan.

The bad news was that it was mathematically driven not only by the anticipated retirement age: but also determination of readiness based upon Performance and Competency “scores”.

This awareness led us to ask an important question….has anyone asked the executive about their retirement plans?

The answer was “no, not as part of this process”?

My colleagues and I were asked to do some interviews with key executives and incumbents in essential positions, and we learned the following:

Age 65 is arbitrary….some folks were planning on leaving sooner, some later based on circumstances

  1. They were reluctant to be specific as to retirement age as a) they did not want to be a “lame duck” and/or b) “what happens if I change my mind”
  2. Their ideas as to position replenishment were filled with words such as “maybe this person”, “I think they are the most likely”, or most frequently articulated “we will have to go outside to find the replacement”
  3. All executives were open to phasing down over a period of years…..and extending their tenure with the organization in the current or alternative capacity
  4. Most had a Financial Plan yet seemed to be a little vague on the details
  5. Few had a clear idea as to their life plan beyond a) playing golf, b) spending time with the family, c) sitting on Boards, d) traveling, e) getting involved with Church or Charity
  6. Most felt unprepared and desirous of the enterprise to assist more in the Life Planning

Our conclusion with this company, and later otherclients was although there was a “plan” its usefulness as an accurate characterization of options and opportunities was suspect.

There were additional observations on the above client which were borne out in subsequent assignments with other companies.

The existing Life Planning resources that can be accessed are somewhat limited first and foremost as they are offered as an employee benefit vs. integrated with the enterprise Succession Plan.

  1. For the most part Vendor services are Outplacement methodologies reverse engineered for potential retirees.  Although not a condemnation of the approaches our research has found that the more seasoned or specialized the executive they feel the effort is an attempt to put them out to pasture and in some cases appears premature
  2. The other modality of Life Coach using a military metaphor is similar to the Army slogan, “isbe all you can be”.  Or back in the 80’s “what color is my parachute”.  Extending the military metaphor to executive sentimentthere is more concern that the parachute opens than its color.
  3. Executives want to plan their “life” like they would their business endeavors with options, risk assessments, tactics, and success metrics

Augmentation of Lessons Learned

Based upon our involvement with the above client and later others, Discussion Partner Collaborative expanded our Leadership Effectiveness and Human Capital Strategy advisory to work on a service we refer to as Enterprise Transitions.

 Through our subsidiary Next Generation Advisory Services LLC which focuses on Enterprise Sustainability we have derived the following principles reinforced by the research by Tammy Erickson and Bob Morrison in their HBR article, It is Time to Retire Retirement:

  • Succession Planning cannot be realistic unless those whom are deemed “inclusions” (executives and those in key roles) are consulted in respect to their contemplated retirement timing “without prejudice”.
  • A foundational element for Executives is the efficacy of their Financial Planning….has sufficiency been ascertained
  • Life Planning support is highly desired and appreciated by this constituency provided the service is delivered well in advance of retirement and executed in “business” terms
  • The principle of flexibility is a Succession Planning “must have” to maximize leverage and create the most options for the enterprise, executive, and potential replacements

The biggest obstacle we have found to date is the reluctance of the enterprise to redefine work to embed flexibility.  The strongest example is the willingness to incorporate gradual phase down into career stage management.

One case in point is a CFO where the a) Succession Plan had them leaving at 65 with no “ready now” replacement on the depth chart,  b) the incumbents unexpressed desire was to leave at 63, BUT c) she would be willing to stay until 67 provided she could phase down to 50% of time during the four year period.

In this case we were told by HR that the CEO and Board would never agree to a Phase down yet when we met with the CEO and ventured the company would have the services of the CFO for an additional 4 years and have a more likely successor, they were all for it.

Given the fastest growing segment of the domestic workforce is over the age of 55 it is incumbent upon all of us to challenge our assumptions regarding the nature of work to be done, time spent doing it and by who…..

Our position is that without this point of view Succession Plans will be more fictional than a powerful leadership effectiveness tool.

The principle of Retiring Retirement as espoused by Erickson and Morrison has to be a key Workforce Planning strategy moving forward.

 

 

 

The Challenges of Human Asset Un-Sustainability

As Executives who are focused on Enterprise Growth and Differentiated Sustainability, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How can the Enterprise replenish its leadership population if it’s Succession Plan is based upon incorrect assumptions?
  2. How can an Enterprise exploit the talents of, and secure the institutional memory from, Boomers if Human Capital programs are not tailored to balance their unique situations in the context strategic intents?
  3. How can an executive maximize their contribution if as they approach retirement they are distracted by the reality that they are bereft of a comprehensive a personal non-financial Transition plan?

 The exercise is likely to promote, appropriately, significant concerns?

 The two most recent editions of the Harvard Business Review are wake up calls for managers in respect to the emerging challenges in addressing the aspirations of the Baby Boomer age “cohort”.

 Several data points contained in the articles are consistent with recent Discussion Partner Collaborative research and client experience:

  • 50% of Fortune 500 Board Members are dissatisfied with the their companies Succession Planning process
  • Succession Planning is an insular process usually achieving a level of “seriousness” approximately 18 months before transition
  • The rules are being broken in respect to the age of Board Members whereas in 1987 only 3% were age 60, now 30% are 64 or above indicative of both the shifting demographics and enterprise desire for the preservation of institutional memory
  • The median tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is 3.5 years some roles such as CIO’s even less reinforcing the need for disciplined Succession Planning scenario’s

 As reinforcement, DPC research conducted in the Third Quarter of 2011 encompassing  150 Global CEO’s and over 2,000 Executives over the age of 55 concluded the following:

  • Succession Plans, if they exist at all assume, without executive consultation, that all will retire at age 65!
  • The reality is that Executives have a “range” from “62 to I don’t know but later than 65”
  • Over 90% of the Executives in our study would prefer to have a gradual “phase down in time commitment” beginning at age 62 and ending at 66
  • Over 80% of the Executives indicated that the existing Human Capital practices did not allow for a “phase down”
  • Over 50% of CEO’s stated that they would embrace a phase down strategy if “I could keep a key Executive longer” while an additional 9% stated…..”not sure but should be explored”
  • Over 70% of Executives stipulated that the comprehensiveness of their Transition Planning was  predominantly if not exclusively Financial

Research Conclusions

Our research, led us to a working hypothesis focused on the integration of Enterprise and Human Asset Sustainability. We refer to as Human Asset Sustainability.

 Our Conclusions are that to be achieved, Human Asset Sustainability, must embody the following Principles:

  • Succession Planning cannot be realistic unless those whom are deemed “inclusions” (executives and those in key roles) are consulted in respect to their contemplated retirement timing “without prejudice”, in other words they can change their minds
  • The principle of flexibility is a Succession Planning “must have” to maximize leverage and create the most options for the enterprise, executive, and potential replacements
  • Human Capital processes must embrace the concept of Phase Down and other manifestations of flexibility to optimize Human Asset Sustainability
  • There is a disciplined approach for Institutional Memory preservation leveraging the stated desire of Generation X and Millenials to be mentored by Boomers therefore becoming the repository of their knowledge
  • Transition planning support is highly desired and should be provided to key executives and those in critical roles beginning at age 58…..provided the above Principles are embraced!

 There is no question that those of us in the Human Capital domain whether we are researchers, consultants, or practitioners need to challenge our assumptions and be more innovative if we are to influence vs. be influenced by, the rapidly shifting demographics.

 We see four major assumptions that require a “re-think”.

  1. There is a “set age” when people plan to retire
  2. Organizations to be effective require full time commitment
  3. Executives have a well thought out Transition plan
  4. Human Capital programs currently possess the flexibility to meet the challenges of the Baby Boomer age cohort

 The truth that is self-evident is that Enterprise Sustainability will be disenfranchised if Human Asset Sustainability is not an embedded strategic priority.

 

 

 

The New Year “New” Resolution for 2012

As we all recover from a holiday weekend and bemoan the excesses of extreme socialization, the thoughts of many now are focusing on the “New Year”.

A tradition many executives have is to make their “resolution list”.  The promises they make to themselves to be adhered to “absolutely”.

I was with a CEO recently who was showing me his list.  I noted that it was dated 1999 and with multiple write over…when the obvious question was asked, the response was “still haven’t finished”.

As the intensity of the global recession recedes, and a collective cautious breath is taken in the hopes that the worst may be over, DPC thought it would be helpful to do a quick “Pulse Survey” of CEO’s regarding their commercial resolutions for 2012.

We had over 20 responses and there are emerging trends the top 5 of which are herein listed.

  1. Understand Social Media-Many CEO’s acknowledge they do not understand nor appreciate this phenomenon.  This lack of awareness prompted expressions ranging from, “it makes me feel out of touch” to “old”
  2. Increase External Awareness-Many CEO’s have felt that during the recession they were “too heads down”, and “unaware of what’s new”.  One CEO stated regarding external trends  “unless it was on CNBC I missed it”.  The desire to end the information hibernation was expressed
  3. Global Mindset-The refrain communicated most was “It is hard to keep track of the dynamics”.  There were specific references to the Euro crisis by domestic CEO’s and the “political crisis” in the US by rest of world executives.  The objective of those sampled was to “understand better” to be “less reactive”
  4. Accountability-CEO’s indicated that “shared accountability” has suffered during the recession due to “competitiveness” and “paranoia”.  One CEO stated the desire “I want to put a stop to the mentality of “for someone to win, someone has to lose”
  5. Pace-This observation was DPC’s biggest surprise.   The focus on pace of life and work, and the desire for more balance were credited to the “new worker”.  “They have the right idea”!  A number of CEO’s communicated that the need for enterprise flexibility in dealing with Succession and Continuity Planning is “high on the list”

Our expectation is that the 2012 list will not be the 2022 list!
The above list is symptomatic of the reflection we have seen in our clients during the year promoting the mentality of “not only do I need to do things well, I need to think about life beyond my office” as well as “a different way of working inside”.

On behalf of Discussion Partner Collaborative and our Affiliates, our best wishes for a prosperous 2012!

 

 

 

The Emerging Role in Human Capital

During our research for the book Talent Readiness-The Future is Now, our findings indicated that those in the CSuite want to see a fundamental change in how the most senior leaders are developed at the enterprise level.

What became abundantly clear during our research was that the current model for the HR function where Talent Management is at least 2 if not 3 levels down from the CSuite and with enterprise wide role architecture is suboptimal.

This has led the Discussion Partner consultants to the conclusion that the current organization model in Human Resources impairs innovation, accountability, and sustainability for Leadership Effectiveness at the highest level of an organization.

To have a dedicated HR function for the most senior levels of an organization is not new.  General Electric and many other organizations have dedicated resources for the “Top 200”.  Essentially this approach focuses mostly on the high potentials possibly to the exclusion of B players, in critical roles or assigned mission essential projects.

Our point of view is there needs to be a more generous interpretation of this effort, one that requires a new title, reporting relationship, role architecture, and competency.

Our model for consideration aligns in the following way.

Title Chief Leadership Effectiveness Officer (CLEO)
Reporting Relationship(s)
  • Direct Line-Board of Directors
  • Dotted Line-CEO
Role Architecture
  • Succession Planning Top 3 Levels
  • Recruitment/Replenishment  Top 3 Levels
  • Development Strategy Top 3 Levels
  • Executive Compensation Strategy and Administration Top 3 Levels
  • Workforce/Continuity Planning Enterprise Wide
  • Thought Leadership Facilitated Access-Board, CEO and CEO Direct Reports(facilitate access to thought leaders for education/edification purposes
Desired Competencies 1. Strategic Planning Expertise2. Executive Coaching/Facilitation Experience

3. Leadership Assessment Orientation(not necessarily Practitioner)

4. Working Knowledge of Executive Compensation Strategy and Programs

5. Thought Leadership Credentials(writing, academia, other)

One could reasonable assert the following two viewpoints:

  1. These Positions Exist in HR Already-True….but our point of view as to focus the importance of this effort it should be out of HR for practical reasons
  2. The credentials of this role exist: but among various incumbents-True again….but our point is that having this body of expertise and outlook resident in one senior position optimizes effectiveness

The hypothesis of the Discussion Partner consultancy is the time to debate the upgrading of heretofore sub processes into one role is timely.

 

 

 

 

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