You will find literature recommendations regularly on relevant topics regarding strategy and management.
Princeton University Press, 2015
Two nobel prize winners as authors of a book published by the Princeton University Press raises expectations toward the reading. Akerlof and Shiller herein make the attempt of a new perspective on the free play of market forces.
In numerous examples, they point out how markets can render unwanted effects. The invisible hand described by Adam Smith is also based on the exploitation of psychological weaknesses of the other, on manipulation and deception in the free game of the market forces. “Phishing for Phools” is an immanent element of our economic system consequently. Phising means – derived from the Internet – to make people do things, which are in the interest of the fisherman (phisherman) and not in their own interest. Phishing, however, is not illegal, but renders negative effects for the one, who got “phished”. He or she is becoming the “phool” (fool) finally.
Such a perspective on the economic theory is new and disillusioning at the same time. Akerlof and Shiller are successful in explaining such unwanted phenomenona in simple language. They describe the evolution of the subprime-crisis in a very illustrative way, such as the junk bond-bubble around Michael Milken. They also provide a perspective on politics and lobbying and present examples of phishing in the pharma and tobacco industry. While reading the reader gets a vivid picture, on how prone oneself can be to such kinds of deceptions. Die stories, which we tell ourselves or which we are told, do influence our own decisions only all too often. Those decisions are often far from the ones of a rational “homo oeconomicus”. Akerlof and Shiller do assume a much more fundamental and far-reaching approach compared to the traditional Behavioral Economics.
The conclusions and recommendations for potential counter-measures are sobering simple. During the reading one can get the insecure feeling that many of such phishing-mechanisms are still flourishing in obscurity and, consequently, that the next pus blister in our economic and social system could soon burst.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Profile Books; Main edition (31 July 2014)
This book is another example of a business classic. First published in 1984, it became a long seller over the years. Mark McCormack was the founder of IMG (International Management Group), the first sports management company, representing some of the world’s most famous sports athletes, such as Jack Nicklaus, Jean-Claude Killy or Jackie Stewart.
In this book, Mark McCormack not only provides illustrative insights into the world of sports and major deals, but gives very practical and methodical advice for diverse management situations. He himself taught at Business Schools. However, the title of the book is more than a catchy phrase. In the preface, he writes: “In fairness to Harvard Business School, what they don’t teach you is what they can’t teach you, which is how to read people…” And, it is exactly his quality to read people and use these insights in business, which is absolutely striking. There are numerous examples throughout the book. The chapter on this is a “must read”.
Mark McCormack was particularly known for his negotiation skills, therefore the chapters on sales and negotiations can be recommended to everybody, who would like to improve on these qualities. His ideas and viewpoints in the part “Running a Business” were especially positively surprising to me. There, he shows a very systemic approach to building and managing a business and provides very practical and methodical advice, which has not lost any of its validity up to our days. A business book really worth reading!
Jossey-Bass. A Wiley Imprint, 2007
Also real classics in business literature will be presented here.
Though Robert Townsend died long ago, his work is still exerting its effects. With Townsend as CEO of the eternal Number 2 in the car rental market, the campaign “We try harder” was designed. This slogan is known still in our days. His book “Up the Organization” reached a huge popularity when launched and has developed into a long seller.
The simplicity and, also on top, accuracy of the thoughts, tips and observations in the form of short vignettes are impressive and make one intuit the richness of the treasure of experience Townsend accumulated throughout his life as a manager and consultant. His own anecdotal stories and the contributions by a few fellows of his time make the book a diverting and inspiring reading experience.
HarperCollins Publishers, New York
Like each year Edge, a platform, which deals with forward-looking scientific and socio-political topics, defines one central question. In 2013 one ventured on the collective search of topics, about which one should think carefully or be worried about. 150 scientists, journalists and thought leaders dealt with this question and found each a very personal answer. Well-known names, such as Steven Pinker, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, Daniel Goleman, Anton Zeilinger, Nassim Nicholas Taleb or Lisa Randall are among them.
It is about these topics, which are currently not talked about, however which we should put in the center of our societal and scientific discussions. The titles of specific contributions voice a clear message, e.g.: "Incompetent systems", "Data Disenfranchisement", "Are we becoming too connected?", "Illusions of Understanding and the Loss of Intellectual Humility", "The Complex, Consequential, Not-so-Easy Decisions about our Water Resources" or "Worrying about Children".
Scenarios of a substantial underpopulation, a "Global Greying" or of a world without growth are discussed. Naturally, specific solutions are often missing, nevertheless the often new approaches to the diverse themes are refreshing, sometimes, however, also shocking. In this regard please refer to the article of Susan Blackmore with the title "Losing our Hands", Noga Arikhas "Present-ism" or Anton Zeilingers "Losing Completeness".
This book offers a broad array of answers out of different scientific domains and philosophies of thinking. Specifically these different perspectives encourage a personal reflection on part of the reader. A reflection, which continues even after finishing this book and which seems to be intensifying over time.
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"Success the other way round - Backward planning brings more motivation and success" - Article by Caroline Cerar
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Article by Caroline Cerar
It is quickly agreed upon that a well-planned approach will produce better results. But how exactly should you plan the implementation of personal projects? Backward planning, i.e. planning from the end, has proven successful, especially for complex tasks.
There are a multitude of planning methods for project procedures in an operational context. Many of them promote backward planning in one way or another - that is, backward planning based on the desired end result. With regard to planning for the implementation of personal goals, however, science has dealt with the subject less extensively. How should one plan and what are the consequences?
A study with students in 2017 shows that backward planning – i.e. planning backwards based on the desired end result – produces better results, especially for complex tasks, than if one defined the steps into the future starting from today. For simple topics, both types of planning promise equally good results.
When planning backwards, the thinking and planning process begins at the end. One then defines the immediately preceding steps, which are necessary to achieve the goal. So one goes backwards step by step and plans the tasks that have to be done beforehand.
This special planning procedure of backward planning has several clear advantages:
Better and more precise planning: Backward planning defines the necessary steps more precisely. "Proximity to the goal" in planning means that tasks can be defined more concretely and precisely.
Greater conviction that you have the right plan: Through intensive work on the goal and the important tasks before it, one is "psychologically" closer to one’s goal. Thinking through and defining the steps immediately before the end result also leads to a stronger conviction that they are also the right ones for successful achievement of the goal.
Greater confidence: This goes hand in hand with a higher subjective certainty that one can actually achieve one’s own goal.
Greater commitment: Backward planners tend to be characterized by greater effort and more commitment – a result of greater conviction and greater confidence.
Less pressed for time: Backward planners feel less pressed for time.
The next time you have big and small personal projects, you should start planning more consciously and not give in to an automatic mechanism from “now” towards the “goal”. "The art of the beginning" should not be underestimated and, at the same time, more intensive "thinking and planning from the end" can result in higher motivation and better results.
MMag. Caroline Cerar MSc.
Executive Coach &
Managing Director of Management Counterparts
Jooyoung, P., Lu, F., Hedgcock, W. (2017). Forward and Backward Planning and Goal Pursuit. Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/0956797617715510
February 24, 2018 / © Management Counterparts - Executive Counseling - Perveno GmbH
A study by the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in the UK has identified three groups within the working population that differ significantly in how they deal with and use new technologies for learning. The central question of the study speaks from its title itself, namely “The new digital learning age: How we can enable social mobility through technology”.
The first group are the "confident creators" (11% of the working population). These are characterized by a special tendency to further develop knowledge, skills and creativity through new technologies and thus also to increase social capital.
The “held backs” (20% of the working population) see the advantages of new technologies and also use them for learning. However, this group feels that they need more support.
"Safety firsters" are the third group. These do use modern technologies, but their employment is rather moderate. For these people, who represent 30% of the working population, there is a risk of being left behind in general further development.
The RSA study “The new digital learning age: How we can enable social mobility through technology” pursues a socio-political purpose of knowledge and proposes a comprehensive support system. As a template, the “confident creators”, the “held backs” and the “safety firsters” can also be applied very well to the corporate context.
Here are a few questions to reflect on:
How much can the “confident creators” use newly acquired skills and knowledge in a creative and beneficial manner for everyone? What hurdles do the “confident creators” have to deal with and how can you overcome them?
Are you even aware of the need for development in the case of the “held backs”? What exactly do the “held backs” need in order to increase knowledge and skills with the help of new technologies and make them really useful? What is the bottleneck that is currently preventing a significant leap in ability and performance?
Which skill levels should the “safety firsters” gradually achieve? How can one specifically increase the learning commitment in this group so that they use new technologies to learn more actively and intensively?
This small selection of questions alone shows that both the problems and the starting points are diverse. There are numerous predictions that describe an even more important and broader use of modern technologies for learning in schools and organizations. Therefore, learning skills using new technologies will be of eminent importance for every employee in the future. It is therefore important for companies to specifically strengthen this learning competence and to guarantee different support offers and framework conditions for defined need groups.
Link to video:
Link to study:
Erik Brynrolfsson, co-founder and director of the MIT initiative for digital economy, presents three key dimensions with regard to the application of new technologies:
Mind - Machine
Product - Platform
Core - Crowd
We know numerous examples of platform offers. Numerous articles currently tell us that machines are learning faster and better. However, what happens when they are put to the test? Companies that use learning machines in practice have been able to increase productivity and profitability.
The results of crowd innovation are also impressive, where innovation can be produced faster and with a higher degree of accuracy with the involvement of non-specialist professionals and students. Core competencies, which for decades have been a much-discussed field of professors and consultants, should by no means be denied. Rather, it is about complementing core competencies with perspectives from other areas. That is, welcoming diversity in order to achieve better performance faster.
Erik Brynrolfsson's core message: Mind-Machine, Product-Platform, Core-Crowd. A new balance will arise in all three dimensions - towards the machine, platform and crowd.
From a company perspective, the particular challenge seems to me to be that, wherever possible, these dimensions are not to be seen as mutually exclusive pairs of opposites, but as modalities that complement each other depending on the company or their application.
Link to the video:
Article by Caroline Cerar
According to a study by the Advanced Institute of Management Research, strategic workshops are part of the standard repertoire of 76% of British companies. This was confirmed by a study in the German-speaking world in 2012. At 45% of the companies interviewed, such workshops were taking place annually. For the most part, the participating executives are satisfied with the immediate results of the workshops. However, if one takes a look afterwards at the workshop’s effect on the company’s everyday routines, the picture is often quite different.
The implementation of the measures agreed upon moves forward reluctantly. The things that were discussed and decided in the workshop appear to not have been correctly understood or at least not especially enthusiastically promoted in the organization. Actual or supposed contradictions and impediments become the focus of internal discussions. Sometimes the chosen strategic direction is questioned more or less openly. In the end, results don’t materialize.
Deeper Understanding of Strategic Workshops for Successful Implementation
For workshops intended to review or redefine strategy, a smaller group of executives get together for an average of one-half to two days. During this time, hierarchical and functional relationships between the participants are suspended, at least in part. The idea is an open strategic exchange during which it does not matter who can issue instructions to whom and who can’t. Specific rules of the workshop are intended precisely to steer the thinking and procedures of the managers beyond the customary patterns in order to enable new insights and discussions. Relaxed dress codes, a change in surroundings and a special dramaturgy also contribute to this altered setting.
In other words, such workshops invite the participants to step consciously outside of their normal corporate context. This applies also with regard to established management processes, regular meetings and committee structure. Strategic workshops are, in the terminology of the management research team of Hendry and Seidl, “strategic episodes” in which important strategic decisions are taken outside of the accustomed frame of reference. But these decisions have to flow back into that frame of reference to be implemented. That defines the obstacle that must be overcome throughout the organization in order to get from the strategic episode of the workshop to successful implementation in the organization.
Strategic workshops require targeted re-coupling: So that strategic workshops do not remain at the end of the day just mere episodes with an anecdotal character, it is important to dock again with the implementation design and integrate the results into the organization in a focused way. By docking, we mean entering into communication with the organization as a whole and the individual units and to use actively the processes and instruments for implementation that have already been established. But re-coupling must also take place on a content-related level. The new insights and decisions must be related to the previous understanding of strategy. The meaning and impact of the newly defined measures for ongoing initiatives should likewise be discussed. The connectivity must be ensured in those areas where continuity is key.
Strategic workshops are more than the sum of strategic decisions: Workshop results are not just a series of decisions on direction and methods. They also embody a common gain in insight, unified perspectives and commitment. Often, a very “special spirit” has developed in the workshop. In order to guarantee, in the final analysis, an effective implementation in the organization, there needs to be more than information about the measures to be implemented. The executives must also succeed in transferring the process by which insight was attained and the spirit of the workshop so that a true understanding of the chosen strategy can exist and with it, a robust commitment even among those who did not participate in the workshop.
Implement Workshop Results More Effectively - Avoid Typical Cases
This understanding is helpful when it comes to a quick and effective implementation of the strategic decisions made in the workshop. This is how otherwise typical mistakes can be avoided.
1. Principles of Implementation
Often workshops do indeed define measures but there is too little discussion on how to implement them. Examples include responsibilities, questions of project management, guidelines on the philosophy and quality and such measures as important Must-Have’s and absolute No-Go’s. Similarly, one should concern oneself primarily with the re-coupling. Which established systems or processes can be used in the implementation? What do the decisions mean for ongoing initiatives or the current understanding of the business? How does one handle a strategic change of direction? There needs to be enough time left over at the end of a workshop so that one can agree amongst the executives on the most important principles.
2. Commitment Workshop and Implementation Workshop
With complex strategic issues, it often makes sense to get together moren often with the Workshop team to deal with decision-making and implementation rather than having a discussion. The time between workshop sessions can be used to review the results of the work done on the topic and to carry out further analyses and critical reviews. In addition, the participating executives also need some time to themselves in order to be able to deal with difficult decisions over a longer period of time.
Taking a break to reflect on prior results and different trains of thought for a follow-up workshop can bring important new impulses to light and make other perspectives open up. Arguments that in the prior workshop did not gain the traction they deserved can now perhaps be examined anew. New insights may come up.
It can also be very useful to write down the details of a chosen strategy in a follow-up workshop. In this way, misunderstandings, different perspectives of the participants and apparent gaps regularly become apparent. Having to write it down forces clarity of thought and balance. The unity and commitment that result will therefore be much more robust and viable because it was possible to grapple in this fashion much more intensively with the questions of strategy.
In addition, one has the opportunity in a follow-up workshop to examine the implications of the chosen strategy in much more detail. This will show which requirements and boundary conditions will be decisive for implementing the strategy. In the implementation program, measures will have to be taken up that will deliver to these requirements and boundary conditions. A somewhat expanded circle of participants can be very helpful in a workshop of this kind in order to be able to think through these questions together from different points of view and functional perspectives.
On this basis, important forward-looking decisions for implementation can easily be derived. Still too often, strategic implementations ignore these approaches and then run into difficulties reaching their goals, even though the strategic measures were well defined per se and the employees were willing to implement the new initiatives.
3. Principles of Communication
The Workshop Team should still agree within the strategic session which value propositions and guidelines are to apply to further communications and how the executives should deal with the questions expected to come from the organization. If a workshop with especially critical content is involved or if it is a workshop taking place during an especially critical time period for the company, this will also have to be recognized in the organization and reinforced during the preliminary stages. In such situations, it is recommended that brief information be sent out on the day following the workshop. As part of this information, it will not yet be possible to envision the strategy but surely one can announce when and in what sequence the organization will be informed about the new strategy. Such clear information about the process and further procedures will reorient the employees and promote trust.
4. Implementation as a Complete Process
As long as relatively independent measures are involved, implementation will be feasible without a lot of coordination. However, to the extent that it involves a multitude of interconnected implementation subjects, the approach and philosophy of the implementation become more relevant. The implementation must then be understood as a total process and configured in such a way that overall responsibility is established.
Unfortunately, the idea is too prevalent in practice today that it is enough to communicate the defined measures – following the motto: The line and function managers will work out the implementation by themselves. The typical losses from friction in organizations are often a symptom of this approach. The force of implementation on the responsible line in the organization and the prudence and intention of its managers in achieving the necessary coordination will often be overestimated here while the necessary need for overarching planning and control will often be underestimated.
There is also another recurrent phenomenon that takes place when the entire process is handled with overarching responsibility. With implementation, there is a change of responsibility. The respective line and function managers now come under obligation. There is a transfer of the focus from the larger context to the lower functional levels. Partial loss of the overall picture can also accompany this. While the strategic workshop has mostly been very carefully prepared by sponsors and external or internal moderators, this clamping function of overall management is often missing when it comes to implementation after the workshop. This is also a reason why, because of inadequate overarching coordination, well intentioned implementation work after workshops unfortunately does not often achieve the desired effect or releases unnecessary friction in the organization.
5. Integration into Systems
Studies show that strategic workshops that are integrated into the defined strategic planning process deliver distinctly better results than stand-alone events. One reason for that is their integration into standard operating procedures which makes better docking and feedback possible after the workshop. In two-thirds of companies that conduct strategic workshops, this is already handled in this way. The workshops are part of the strategic planning process that is internal to the firm. Toward this end, the workshops are scheduled in a suitable timeframe. Their results flow into the strategic planning process.
But integration also means that questions which result out of the customary planning process or other standard routines in the company’s everyday activities are appropriately collected and prepared so that these can then be dealt with calmly in a subsequent strategy workshop.
Implementation Rate – Potential for Improvement
The not entirely unknown phenomenon that, after the euphoria of a workshop, there is the disillusionment of reality finds no exception at strategy workshops. It is believed that clear strategic decisions have been made, the measures have been formulated precisely and these things have also been communicated well only to find that snags occurred in implementation. As varied as the initial situation can be for different companies, one finds that all too often, the implementation after workshops is subject to the same typical issues. At least one can, with a little foresight and caution, largely avoid these.
MMag. Caroline Cerar MSc.
Managing Director – Management Counterparts
van Aaken, D. et al.: „Ausgestaltung und Erfolg von Strategieworkshops: Eine empirische Analyse”. UZH Business Working Paper Series; No. 311; August 2012
Hendry, J. und Seidl, D.: „The structure and significance of strategic episodes: social systems theory and the routine practices of strategic change.”. Journal of Management Studies, 40 (1): 3-22, 2003
Hodgkinson, G.P. et al.: „The Role and Importance of Strategy Workshops”. Advanced Institute of Management Research, 2005
Schwarz, M.; Balogun, J.: “Strategy Workshops for Strategic Reviews: A case of semi-structured emergent dialogues”. Advanced Institute of Management Research, AIM Research Paper Series 054-February 2007
October 13, 2016 / © Management Counterparts – Perveno GmbH
Putting good teams together requires tact. The next time you team up with project teams, the following may help.
Studies show that it is not enough to gather as many intelligent people as possible in a team. A higher cumulative intelligence quotient of the group does not automatically ensure higher team performance. Rather, it is social skills that bring with them a higher group intelligence and are more likely to produce very good team performance.
The best teams have shown great empathy. The ability to recognize the feelings and emotions of others apparently leads to more effective communication behavior. There was more communication in these teams. Communication was not dominated by individuals, but instead, allowed everyone to get involved. Overall, it seemed that it was easier for these teams to use the individual talents and resources of their individual members.
Teams with high group intelligence also showed a continuous increase in performance over time. One apparently learns more effectively in these groups and can then better implement these findings.
Link to the article:
Woolley, A. W., Aggarwal, I., & Malone, T. W. (2015). Collective Intelligence and Group Performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(6), 420-424. doi: 10.1177/0963721415599543
Robert A. Burgelman is Professor of Management at the Stanford University and has dealt with the question on how to build companies for the long run. In this video, he presents central factors to achieve this.
Basis for corporate longevity is the strategic leadership. What he understands is that all managers of an organization are characterized by a strategic mentality and – on this basis – tailor all their decisions in light of the defined strategy and the long term viability of the company.
Burgelman developed a framework of strategic leadership and defined its central factors, which contribute in their totality to the long term stability of the company. These are:
The strategic leadership regime: This describes the relation between top-down and bottom-up leadership. Ideally, both forces are equally strong and go into the same direction.
The interplay between culture and strategy: This is the question inasfar the cultural traits do support the strategy. At the time of the formation of a company, there usually is a strong accord between those two factors. In the course of time, this fit could get looser. The stronger the fit between culture and strategy in the long run however, the higher the likelihood for corporate longevity.
The poles of fit versus evolvability: Fit means that the company has the right capabilities to exploit the current markets and success potentials. Evolvability, however, means being capable to develop adequately in order to be able to exploit new niches and revenue and profit potentials.
The interaction between top management and board of directors: Also in this respect, the art lies in the managing this interaction effectively over the different phases of the dynamic development of a company.
There is a dynamic perspective in this approach. The factors are helpful, but the challenge lies in getting the balance right as the company evolves dynamically further. Herein lies the real added value of this approach in my point-of-view.
Article by Caroline Cerar
Career advancements often are not only a source of pure pleasure, but also can cause anxiety. What sounds counterintuitive at first is a well-known phenomenon. Taking over a new position can cause dormant self-worth topics to arise and can lead to self-defeating behaviour. Such mechanisms function at a sub-conscious level most of the time. The resort for the affected person lies in confronting one’s own fears early.
‘But I have not been doing anything special. I have done my work as usual.’, said Richard M.*, a successful manager in his early forties. My client was searching for an explanation of why he had been chosen to head the new country legal entity. ‘I have not aspired to get there.’ Sure, he felt happy about it and accepted the promotion, but anxieties arose at the same time.
The Fear of Success
It seems counterintuitive at first glance. Finally, one has taken the long aspired career step, but, instead of a feeling of acknowledgement, feelings of unrest, a nagging emptiness, a lack of courage or even anxiety grab oneself after the first delirium of joy. Over the years, one has climbed rung after rung up the career ladder and fulfilled challenging tasks—and all of a sudden, the pure thought of the new job is causing more than discomfort.
Kets de Vries, psychotherapist and management professor at INSEAD, talks about the fear of success. It may seem illogical that such anxieties arise, specifically, when one achieves the management level one has been working towards for a long time. The new position may be proof of success, but it can cause doubts to arise. ‘How long will success last?’ ‘Can one be successful, specifically, in this new and important position?’
The Self-Image in Question
The image a manager has of himself or herself, as well as the image one thinks others have of oneself, comes under scrutiny. It is a fearsome and stressful situation. Someone, with a rather weak self-image, can feel like an impostor who needs to fear being discovered at any minute.
My client expressed himself in a similar way. His work would not be extraordinary. He would not be the ‘tough manager’ one should be. In the mutual dialogue, Richard M. learned to estimate his performance and strengths in the right relation and appreciate them for himself. It took some time until he could abandon the presumed ideal of a tough manager and acknowledge that he was successful in his own way. Richard M. was a highly sympathetic man, who could form and lead teams with ingenuity and a great deal of sensitivity very successfully.
People with an excessive self-image also can be emotionally burdened when promoted. Subconsciously, they try to maintain a positive image of themselves. Such leaders often tend to a very aggressive target setting. They then tend to pursue them, even when the futility is already obvious under a somewhat realistic view. Relationships and information networks start to change. Subordinates, who do not share the same overly optimistic view, are being exchanged by ‘Yes-Sayers’. Over time, an illusory constriction and alleged confirmation of one’s own opinion comes forth, which makes the input of realistic perspectives even more difficult and unlikely. Excessive demands on themselves are a further, typical phenomenon: excessive demands on themselves to the point where the manager brings himself or herself under so much pressure that he or she fails miserably at simple routine tasks (‘choking under pressure’) or that he or she loses himself or herself in over-engagement or by running empty.
‘Am I allowed to be successful at all?’
Kets de Vries offers a further explanation of why some managers seem to mutate into losers all of a sudden when promoted. ‘Promotion’ means that someone takes over a position and, thereby, replaces another or wins over someone. ‘Success’ means stepping forward and standing out from others. For some people, this may be connected with a deep-rooted feeling of conflict or guilt, depending on the specific family history. Unsolved topics of acknowledgement and rivalry in the family of origin can be actualised when promoted. ‘Am I allowed to earn more than my father does?’ ‘Am I allowed to achieve more in life than my siblings do?’
When left untreated, such deep-rooted conflict can exert a far-reaching, negative influence on the manager. Unconsciously, the manager could develop a self-hampering behaviour and thereby defeat himself or herself step-by-step. Being one among many at the foregone promotions, the promotion to the top-position, however, can constitute the final trigger. Now that there is no one else, who can be deemed to share the same position sibling-like.
A similar topic of guilt came forth in my client’s story. Richard M. had been raised in a Catholic home, where social engagement took centre stage. Outside success, money or status in the community were of low importance for his parents. Engagement for a good cause was what counted. Despite the fact that his parents have never mentioned anything Richard Helmut M. nevertheless silently felt guilty for not fulfilling his parents’ values and alleged expectations. What is ‘disdainfully earning money’ as opposed to engagement for others in the Christian sense?! Richard M. needed to realise this conflict first. The more he could say ‘Yes’ to his own life path and appreciate his own performance and strengths, the more his feeling of guilt evaporated. He realised that he also applied the values of an appreciative partnership in his work life—simply in his own way.
Be Aware of Self-Defeating Mechanisms
These examples demonstrate that when emotionally stressed, people unconsciously tend to seek resort in diverse coping strategies. When underlying anxieties and conflicts are not handled, the leader can be caught in such mechanisms, which can have self-hampering effects. Out of pure anxiety, people tend to a behaviour of avoidance. Decisions are more and more delayed. Critical topics are left untouched to avoid discussions with employees, colleagues, or superiors. This indeed keeps the harmony and stabilises the psychological well-being; however, it is not very favourable for effective leadership.
Self-handicapping is used as a further means to deal with the fear of failure. Thereby, hindrances and difficulties are put to the forefront. If some undertaking is not successful, one can say, ‘One knew it anyways already upfront life’; the own self-worth is untouched. The individual is often not aware that the stabilisation of self-worth comes at the expense of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the opposite case—the case of success—the calculation pays off fully. Success, despite such negative pre-announcements, seems even bigger. This is good for the ego. Misuse of alcohol and other stimulating substances are further attempts of escapism, which render short-lived relief, but at a long-term cost.
It is important to note that all people use coping strategies of varying intensity. Permanently, such coping strategies prove to be dysfunctional most of the time and detrimental to the individual, his or her career, or to the whole organisation. What feels like a good solution at first can prove to be counterproductive in perpetuity.
There Is a Resort
It is not unusual that anxieties and self-doubt (re-)emerge upon promotion. Topics, anxieties, and beliefs come to the forefront, with which the individual could deal well up to that point in time or which had been simply suppressed. To face one’s own fears requires courage as a first step—and, it is the better strategy in the end. It is indeed possible to change dysfunctional beliefs and correct inadequate self-images. One can free oneself of self-defeating coping strategies again.
Thereby, one should take into account three simple tips. First, do not suppress fears. Second, take action early enough so that dysfunctional behaviour cannot establish itself at all. Third, do not rely on experience and routine in such a situation. This brings along the danger that one takes resort to mechanisms of suppression and past routine behaviour, which seems to help in the short-term, but actually could have damaging effects for the own person, the career and the whole organisation.
Confronting fears when promoted could turn be a catalyst for a further step in one’s own development. Someone who succeeded in overcoming personal hindrances gains in personality, personal maturity, and effectiveness—as a person and as a manager.
MMag. Caroline Cerar MSc.
Executive Counselor &
Managing Director – Management Counterparts
* Name and characteristics changed
de Vries, Kets: „Leaders who Self-Destruct: The Causes and Cures”, 1989
Baumeister, Roy F.: “Esteem Threat, Self-Regulatory Breakdown, and Emotional Distress as Factors in Self-Defeating Behavior”, 1997
August 30, 2016 / © Management Counterparts – Executive Counseling – Perveno GmbH
English excerpt of the article “Digitalisierung als strategische Herausforderung: Worum es wirklich geht“ by Caroline Cerar
Digital business transformation is a topic currently widely discussed. Several studies were published over the last months. Most of these studies deal with the economic effects or focus solely on the technical aspects. The picture they provide is rather abstract.
What will be the implications of digitalization for corporations? How should companies deal with the digitalization from a strategic point-of-view? There has always been change in the environment. Insofar digitalization can be understood as another strategic challenge. This challenge is not new. Companies are already on the way of the digital transformation.
In order to get a better understanding, it is helpful to look at the differences of digitalization compared to previous transformations:
New ways of working – New business models – Blurring of market definitions: New technologies facilitate the evolution of new business models in a big way shaking up traditional industry branches.
Increasing integration of customers and suppliers: This results in a higher transparency of processes and, thus, leads to increased requirements of excellence in execution.
Coining of expectations: Employees, suppliers and customers are experienced in the digital interaction. They largely know the state-of-the art. Companies will be asked to match these standards of expectations.
Every company needs to confront itself with these new technological developments and distill the specific opportunities and risks for its business. Each of them needs to come up with its very specific strategic answer.
In the strategic work, it is helpful to analyze the above mentioned areas of distinction to other transformations. This can already provide interesting and helpful insights. It is important that leaders are very critical with „old answers“ – the old way of thinking, the typical explanations of the own strategic advantage, the good, old way of doing things. A new, fresh and critical view is required in the strategic process.
Experimenting with another approach in moderating the thinking process could help overcome usual thinking patterns:
„Evolutionary Thinking“: Develop a shared view on how the business will develop in the grand scheme of things.
“Deliberate counter-thinking”: Challenging one’s own business model, scrutinizing one’s own evolutionary thinking in light of the general opportunities and risks of the digitalization
Identifying the strategic challenge(s) of the business, which need to be answered
Well defined strategic challenges summarize the specific problem(s) companies need to solve exactly. They can be phrased in the form of a question, which is particularly effective. These questions focus the following strategic process and ensure that a strategy is developed, which hits the hot topics.
There are a couple of critical points, which should be considered as well in the transformation process:
„Technology takes over“: This is an implicit danger in all technology oriented projects. Leaders need to ensure that the digital business models and projects still make strategic and economic sense.
Developing a data culture: It is not only about big data. Companies are also asked to develop a new approach how to get more value out of all the data collected, but also how to use data effectively in strategic and operational decision making.
Promoting a philosophy of „sharing & contributing“: Enabling an atmosphere of openness, collaboration and of sharing knowledge will be key in the future. Digital natives are already closer to the sharing culture. Companies need to react respectively capitalize on this social development.
New form of leadership - from being a „time teller“ to being a „designer“: Leaders should understand themselves as designers of transformation processes. Moreover, leadership needs to be understood differently in the future. Designing the right processes and frameworks, in which people can work effectively, will be key.
Attention! Strategy implementation: The implementation of strategies is a vastly undervalued topic. Given the complexity of the digital transformation for companies, this topic deserves much more attention by top management.
Digitalization, big data und automation bring along opportunities and risks for companies. It is important to identify the specific strategic challenges for one’s own business. Based on these, leadership teams need to develop the specific answers – a company-specific answer in the sense of a consistent strategy and a newly considered, adequate leadership and transformation approach.
MMag. Caroline Cerar MSc.
Managing Director – Management Counterparts
March 22, 2016 / © Management Counterparts – Perveno GmbH
Link to the original article by Caroline Cerar
Excerpt of the article „Wenn Führungskräfte scheitern: Wie Stärken und Erfolge zum Hemmschuh werden können" by Caroline Cerar
Orientation on strengths is a widely used concept in management. However, there is also a dark side of personal strengths, which can bring along negative effects in the leadership context. A very visionary, imaginative and excitable person can have a strongly motivating and mobilizing effect on the people in the organization. However, when under pressure, the same executive could react with emotional outbursts, if things do not go the way he or she wants. This can hamper his or her leadership success long term.
Capitalizing on strengths and learning from success makes sense. However, the same strength can render short term positive effects in leadership, however, hamper the executive’s effectiveness long term. Executives can however counteract such effects early enough by:
Broadening self-awareness: Get to know oneself better
Strengthening the competence for change: Learn how to change yourself
Broadening the behavior set: Flexible use of one’s own strengths
Optimal leadership is not in the extreme, but in the use of a larger set of behaviors and their selective use according to the situation. This is why it is important to enrich one’s own behavior set.
There are 3 tips for managers who would like to change one or the other element in their leadership behavior:
Postponement of the immediate reaction: Learn to postpone answers or reactions for a short period of time. In this way, it will be more likely that one will apply the new behavior instead of reactively falling into an old behavior pattern.
Experimenting with the larger behavior set: Learn to make situational use of a larger set of behaviors.
Do not give up – Continue!
MMag. Caroline Cerar MSc.
Psychological Counselor and Coach for Executives &
Managing Director – Management Counterparts
A lacking or wrong strategy is the main reason for the failure of top managers. 40% of interviewed managers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland came to this conclusion in a study by Odgers Berndtson (www.odgersberndtson.com). Further factors of failure are deficits in the leadership and development of employees (35.1%) and in the judgement and the ability to make decisions (32.9%).
In sum, this research study speaks a very clear language. Strategic leadership competences, which encompass apart from the strategy definition also the discernment and decision as well as the strategic leadership, are seen as essential qualities for top executives, but also as their main stumbling blocks.
These insights should trigger considerations in multiple directions. Organizational and personal development approaches need to undergo a fundamental revision, but also the strategic planning processes and tools. Last but not least, one should deal with the question of how to motivate executives at the upper end of the ladder to reflect and further develop their strategic leadership capabilities and consequent performance results.
Sir Lawrence Freedman provides an overview of the understanding and the use of strategy in this speech – beginning from its sources in the military history to the corporate strategy of companies. He skillfully explains how different circumstances in politics, the war or in the economy had an impact on the “need for strategy” or for a different kind of strategy. In the second part of his speech 3 thoughts stand out:
“Most good strategy is focused not on a specific end-point, but on a problem at hand.” This means, that there is a specific strategic challenge, which needs to be addressed.
I know those kinds of strategies often nearly solely focused on future targets out of my own consulting practice all too well. They are usually too high-level in the end. The way from here to there, from today to tomorrow often lacks clarity. Die supposedly visionary power of such strategies evolves rather mediocre impact unfortunately.The focus on a few, very specific strategic challenges however, which need to be addressed right away or timely in the near future, focusses the thinking process in the strategic work. This enables the definition of targeted, clear and feasible strategies, also allowing for an easy and convincing communication of the strategy within the organization.
Strategy is similar to a soap opera: One is never really done. There is always a new strategic challenge, even then, when the original strategy worked out perfectly.
Strategy is usually connected with an orientation on strengths. However, it should not be underestimated that strategy also needs to be developed out of a position of weakness or hardship. This is rather an art, then.
If you would like to skip the part on the military history of strategy, please start the video at 10:20 minutes. There, the part dedicated primarily to general strategy or the strategy of corporations begins.
What can managers learn from gourmet chefs? In this case, a lot. Davide Oldani is owner of a gourmet restaurant close to Milan, where he offers gourmet-quality food at an incredible cost-quality ratio. To be able to do this, he re-modeled the typical business model of gourmet restaurants.
The restaurant is located outside of Milan and has only 35 seats. This results in less rent. It is fully booked each evening with an 18-months waiting list.
The focus is strict on seasonal products. In this way, the best quality at an acceptable price can be ensured.
There are no waiters. The cooks themselves serve the dishes. Thus, they can explain how they prepared the food. A special relationship with the guests evolves consequently.
These are a couple of examples how Davide Oldani re-invented the business model. This video from a Harvard Business School case deals with a different type of business one usually does not discuss often in the management arena. Yet it is an inspiring and catchy example of winning through business model innovation.
Link: Youtube - Harvard Business School Playlist - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_RwG1MGz0Q&list=PLPndSdqaaC1YEWG5-KHrryqydjoLkkUmq&index=1
“Great entrepreneurs must have the curiosity to kind of metaphorically see around the corner: What’s coming?” – In this short interview sequence, Howard Schultz, Chairman of Starbucks, offers an insight into his approach to strategy and execution.
He seems to have a remarkable ability to identify the trigger points decisive for success or failure of a strategy and then to ensure that these vital points are being brilliantly executed. Courage, consistency and firmness – these are the words, which come to mind, when Howard Schultz talks about strategy implementation. “You must have the courage of your convictions to execute the strategy.
He is well aware of the discipline that it takes to stick to the strategy and execute it brilliantly. The example of the product development and launch of Starbucks’ instant coffee stands for this unconditional strategic precision. Years of development went into the product. One could have launched earlier with a good offer. However, Starbucks’ benchmark was clear and non-negotiable: Offering the same excellent coffee quality Starbucks stands for also on instant coffee! This was the success formula, which allowed the company to enter a nearly monopolistic market so far unrivalled dominated by one brand.
Howard Schultz comes across not only as the successful entrepreneur and strategist, who made Starbucks to a worldwide phenomenon, but also as someone who can learn his lessons. He openly talks about failures and how to correct them with the same conviction and unconditional approach needed to implement great strategies.
Rita McGrath is American business professor and author. Her book "The End of Competitive Advantage" provokes discussion and a change in thinking. There is nearly a common
understanding in the strategy literature, that companies need to build up competitive advantages and to hold on to them as long as possible. Now, McGrath starts with a shift
in this thinking. It is not about building invulnerable castles, but to react flexibly to chances arising. Herewith, she propagates a rather short term thinking.
One can argue at length how long a competitive advantage should last and about the difference between non-strategic short term thinking and flexibly taking advantage of opportunities. Her
points on implementation seem much more interesting, where she writes about how to build up needed capabilities fast. It is also a needed capability how to withdraw from
evaporating business areas again. An art often overlooked.
"On this platform you can find comments and tips to strategy and management relevant topics, interesting details as 'good to know' and further ideas as 'food for thought'."
Caroline Cerar - Expert in Strategic Effectiveness