How to build a business – focus

January 9, 2014

POPA new year, that means resolutions, plans and budgets. This is a confusing process, both personally and professionally, since it has to do with choices. In business of course the first choice of course is: are we going to choose – and thus focus – or are we going to diversify – and thus have more opportunities and less risk? Then there is a multitude of related choices: Clients Satisfaction first, or Employee Engagement; Command and Control or Self Steering teams, Cash or Value?

 

 

Undecided, you read a book under the Christmas tree – thank you Santa – and you stumble across the immortal quote: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”. Admittedly it was not Seneca or Socrates who said that, and not even Jim Collins or Michael Porter. It was Harry Potter. He did not do too badly for himself, did he? So that is decided. We choose. We choose why we do things, and what we do. And on a personal level how we do them. Professionally we let others decide how they do the things they are supposed to do. Or we should, if we can resist the urge to manage, or at least: to micro-manage. There we go again. More choices: do we Strategize, do we Lead, or do we Manage? Zappos gets rid of managers this year  but not of all hierarchy, and it might work for them. We tried it at Qhuba, too, last year but were not too happy with the results. A lot of time got wasted on… making choices. Time that could have been spent on clients, or on communication, or on learning, or on employee engagement, building trust and celebrating successes.

 

The answer of course is: we need to do a lot, for different purposes, and at the same time we need to focus and filter out the distractions.

 

As a Business we will focus on what we do best and where we can make a real difference: Business Technology Management. If there is no Technology component we won’t do it. Better to build on an established reputation, network and organisation than trying to establish new ones. Saras Sarasvathy  would probably call this the Bird in Hand principle. A treat she recognized in expert entrepreneurs.

 

As Leaders we will focus our attention, too. That seems easy enough, but after some searching, researching and soul-searching, this is also a subject with several dimensions. Most things come in three’s (even airline crashes). In this case: focus on yourself, focus on others, and focus on the wider world.

 

The inward focus, usually associated with authenticity, self-awareness and self-control (or: willpower) is an important characteristic for leaders, if in balance with the focus on others.

 

The focus on others does not come natural to all. It is usually associated with the term Empathy, which is often misunderstood as “being overly sympathetic”, “soft” or “compassionate”. It is none of those, but has more to do with (of course) three things: how we can explain ourselves to others and understand how they perceive us (cognitive empathy), being able to understand how other people feel (emotional empathy) and being able to sense what other people need from you (empathic concern). Being able to do all that, and especially in emotional empathy some of us, including myself, could still learn a thing or two, enable us to decide if we want to meet the other person’s need. And hopefully that is a deliberate, and sometimes tough, decision.

 

The focus on the outside world – and this is where the distraction lurks in the shadows – is a balance between focus on the job at hand: taking advantage of what we have and what is working now (exploitation), and all the people, information and opportunities out there, that might be crucial for your future success (exploitation). The problem is that there is so much out there, and the minds of the curious easily wander off. Or maybe exploration is just much more fun than exploitation. Still, more is not always better, and more than forty years ago we have been warned that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”. The original text of Herbert Simon’s “Designing organizations for an information-rich world”   is fun and gives an interesting perspective on where we came from, if you can spare the time and attention.

 

 

And as a person? Well: get back to the my New Year’s resolution:

Focus your attention, pick your battles, plan your travels and pop your bottles.

Oh yes and I have just sent in my registration for a coaching course. Questioning, ok. Listening: to be improved. Emotional empathy: might need some work. Happy New Year.

 

POP with Power


How to build a business – Agility and Innovation

March 24, 2013

Recently someone drew my attention to the report NL2030, published by BCG. The authors believe that in the Netherlands, to enable further growth of our prosperity and wellbeing we need to adopt a radically new business model. That raises some interesting questions, such as “Does something like  Dutch business model even exist?”, “what would it be based on?”, and: “why does it need to change?”.

The premise of the argument of the authors seems to be that country specific advantages that we used to have in the past, such as geographical location, infrastructure, and the associated foreign language skills and commercial spirit, no longer give us a any benefits. Thus, we are dependent on business benefits.

The World is flat

Ok. What do companies have to deal with? They are faced with an accelerating speed of change, mostly through technological innovations, with customers who have more and more specific wishes, and with a world that becomes flatter. I assume the authors are referring to Friedman’s idea of a global marketplace and almost realtime access to data, information and ideas from virtually anywhere

At first sight it seems to me that those are circumstances in which good companies could flourish.

The final step in the reasoning of BCG: If changes take place faster and faster we need innovation talent and social adaptability. People that love change and a society that facilitates it. And unfortunately – says BCG – those are not qualities that The Netherlands excels in.

The World Economic Forum, by the way, does not agree. In their “Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013” they rank The Netherlands in the top ten, and they say: ”

The Netherlands continues to progress in the rankings, moving up to 5th place this year. The improvement reflects a continued strengthening of its innovative capacity as well as the heightened efficiency and stability of its financial markets. Overall, Dutch businesses are highly sophisticated (4th) and innovative (9th), and the country is rapidly and aggressively harnessing new technologies for productivity improvements (9th). Its excellent educational system (ranked 5th for health and primary education and 6th for its higher education and training) and efficient markets—especially its goods market (6th)—are highly supportive of business activity. And although the country has registered fiscal deficits in recent years (5.0 percent of GDP in 2011), its macroeconomic environment is more stable than that of a number of other advanced economies. Last but not least, the quality of its infrastructure is among the best in the world, reflecting excellent facilities for maritime, air, and railroad transport, ranked 1st, 4th, and 9th, respectively.”

WEF Framework

For this ranking the WEF not only considers the traditional country-specific conditions such as infrastructure and education, but also markets as well as “Business Sophistication and Innovation”.

True or not, BCG makes a number of recommendations that are valuable, such as: Find opportunities in international niches, instead of catering with a broad portfolio of products or services, exclusively for the domestic market. And another one that makes sense: Based on expertise, focus on process orchestration (from design to production to sales and distribution) and not on performing all the activities yourself.

Finally they sketch the agenda for the Dutch government, and frankly I got a little confused here. Of course, good education is important, and of course we must educate scientists to conduct fundamental research. And naturally talent should be encouraged, and for some students we need to accommodate more generic international courses such as those offered by University Colleges. But how is that different from what our education system offers already and why not leave those choices up to young people? They will choose what they want, and what the market needs.

The labor market will become more flexible much faster than the government can take measures to stimulate this. Professionals trade historic rights for autonomy, relevance and networks of peers. Unions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

The government should just step back. Buy-in from society, changing laws and regulating the labor market? No idea how that would help anyone. De-regulation would help, but if making laws is core business, what can we expect from a government.

Companies can orchestrate processes, but the government cannot orchestrate businesses. Entrepreneurs will.

The most useful recommendation is perhaps: to use more English as business language. The size of our own market is the limiting factor, but now the world becomes easily accessible; many markets are global, technologies enable shorter go-to-market times, and there is no reason why we should address these opportunities as a country, or why companies should be chauvinistic. And we don’t. In our company we have been communicating in English from day one. We have employed people from the US, South Africa, Australia and other countries.  Starting a business in The Netherlands is not difficult, and many of the best-educated and most innovative people are independent, or are willing to accept positions in those companies where their talents are appreciated and developed.

Business Sophistication and Innovation are the key enablers for success in a rapidly changing world: Agility as a strategy. Most large companies have been mainly striving for efficiencies, and cannot adapt or adopt change.

So, that brings us back to Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat) and John Kotter’s article in the Harvard Business Review (“Accelerate“).

This last article has received quite a bit of attention in the industry. Kotter explains why change is unnatural to large hierarchical organizations, and why a better approach, which he calls a dual operating system, is needed to be both agile and efficient.

He proposes the creation of a volunteer (self steering) tribe drawn from people from all corners of the organization, at all levels. These people will form a network that works in parallel with the existing hierarchical structures.

The two entities form a Dual Operating System, each contributing to the vitality and viability of the organization in a different and complementary way. The network’s task is to propose and co-creation the strategies of the future, while the hierarchy continues to operate as efficiently as possible. Exploration and exploitation as two sides to the same coin. Highly aligned, but loosely coupled.

The network strategy will involve no additional costs or overheads, as staff are invited to volunteer their time, knowledge and ideas to contribute to the future of the organization in a capacity that differs from the date-to-day work.

Good companies in the Netherlands and in other countries understand that besides Exploitation Exploration is crucial. That changes are opportunities and not always threats. For years we have been calling this the power of the Network, of Intrapreneurship and of Effectuation – and we have never needed the Government (or BCG) to help us with it.


How to build a business – the American Dream

October 29, 2012

The American Dream: it does not exist.

From rags to riches on the basis of an excess of ambition and talent is a nice story, but in practice there is more to it. Malcolm Gladwell, who previously wrote books like The Tipping Point and Blink published an entertaining book about why some people are much more likely to succeed than others. Outliers.

The summary: origins, environment, and coincidence are just as important as intelligence, talent, ambition and perseverance. It would like to add (Gladwell does not): the ability to recognize opportunities and to grab them with both hands. I have written a blog about this ability – Effectuation – earlier.

Therefore, contrary to the stories that usually circulate about highly successful people – a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition, Outliers argues that if we want to understand how some people succeed, we must study in detail things like their background, their generation, their family, their place of birth, and even their birth date. These usually drive the coincidences that make them who they are. There is also such a thing as “making enough hours”. This is the “10,000 hours theory”, developed and popularized by Dr. Anders Ericsson, who basically found out that spending massive amounts of practice hours on a specific subject will lead to expert mastery in that field, more than talent will. Or the other way around: virtually no one who did not spent ten thousand hours of something, became really good at it. Whether a person has the opportunity to make those hours depends on… coincidences and perseverance.

The story of success is much more complex and interesting than it appears to be at first.

The logic that Gladwell uses to explain the success of the Beatles, Bill Gates, Asians in Mathematics, Jewish takeover lawyers and others is peculiar and interesting. It is all about coincidences. For Gates: the availability of sufficient computer time at exactly the right time, for the lawyers: they were all born from garment makers around 1930, they do not have to fight in the war, were not eligible for the WASP Wall Street firms, and had, around 1970, sufficient experience with acquisitions, which until then were not fancy. Before 1970 Yankee law firms refused to do this inferior work, which after the ‘70s was considered to most prestigious legal work.

So it boils down to: talent, ambition, and ten thousand hours of experience. Character and competence. We should start asking our candidates whether they have ten thousand flying hours. For those who join us as Professional (sometimes call the “professor” role) this will not be a problem. For entrepreneurs (the pilots in the plain), the headhunters, the networkers and sales-people that might be a challenge.

 

Thousands of hours experience with a specific task, seems contradictory to what Ricardo Semler propagates in his book The Seven Day Weekend.

The title is misleading. Weekend does not mean doing nothing but: do things that you like and make you happy. Semler, then CEO of Semco, a company with roots in Sao Paolo,  introduced a style of leadership that took liberalism and democracy as a starting point. Why do most people in most countries agree that democracy is the best way of governing, but why are most businesses organized along dictatorial line? Companies and the Roman army have many similarities. Companies and kindergartens have many similarities. What are the similarities between armies and kindergartens? 1. Decisions are made for you. 2. Personal initiative is not really appreciated and 3. Hardly anyone really enjoys it.

Semler turns it around: If employees care first and foremost about their self-interest, if Management refuses to impose (or even take) decisions, if there is a culture of transparency and trust, intrinsic motivation and peer pressure will do the rest. This involves making employees responsible for a lot more than putting in the hours.

It has taken decades to turn his business around to a democratic, innovative and successful enterprise, where employees determine their own working hours, their own salary, their location and decide who will be their bosses and their colleagues.

How nice is that: A company where people may attend the meetings they want to attend and all business information is available for everyone.

Employees are no longer just a means of production, but adult people with talents and ambitions who are asking, as many times as possible, the question “why?”.

It would be quite something if this could work, and I am convinced that it can work. I am not so sure if we have the patience and time to make all the mistakes, and to accept everyone making all the mistakes that are part and parcel to such a process.

 

But then, why not? If we are able to select and interest only the most talented people, with the highest integrity, and if we can all be fully transparent about our intentions, we will get there. First we will be looking for people with 10,000 hours on the clock.


How to build a business – Ten Questions

October 16, 2012

We have been in business for several years, we have more than sixty world-class people working with us, worked for eighty-eight world-class clients, held one hundred and fifty-three management meetings and published numerous internal and external documents. At some point it seemed to make sense to bring it all back to ten basic questions. The answer to those questions should describe all the major aspects of our business. Answers that all of our people should be able to give, when the questions are asked.

 

Here are the questions:

1. Where do we come from?

2. Why do we exist?

3. What do we look for in our resources ?

4. How do we behave?

5. What do we do?

6. How will we succeed?

7. What is the one most important thing right now?

8. Who must do what?

9. How are we organized?

10. How we make decisions and deliver on them?

 

And here are the answers

 

1. Where do we come from?

Qhuba, founded in 2007, is a fast-growing network organisation with more than sixty Partners, Staff and Associates (‘Qhubans’). Qhuba means drive, the drive to work together, to learn, to grow and to succeed.

 

2. Why do we exist?

We exist because we believe running companies can be fun and strategies can be implemented successfully when people of character and competence work together.

Qhuba believes that strategies are best executed by a multi-disciplinary leadership team that takes collective responsibility.

 

 

3. What do we look for in Qhubans ?

Regardless of whether they are Clients, Candidates, Network Partners, Prospects, Associates, Staff, Associate Partners, Partners, Managing Partners, Equity Partners, Practice Directors, Shareholders, or Friends, we expect:

  • Character (Integrity and Intentions)
  • Competencies (Hard and soft skills)
  • Network
  • Track record
  • A drive for Autonomy, Mastery, Contribution and working with Peers.

 

4. How do we behave?

We are Independent, Reliable, Uncompromising, Connected

 

5. What do we do?

When organizations look for support in the successful execution of their strategies, we provide (introductions to) people with the right character and competence. We can do this based on Client Value Pricing, on temporary assignments, on the client’s payroll, for a success fee or without a fee.

 

6. How will we succeed?

Together Qhubans use conversations to build a network of world-class professionals to make clients successful by providing capable people and by arranging introductions, opportunities and exposure, meanwhile building a highly recognised organisation as a platform for professional and personal growth.

 

7. What is most important right now?

Increasing Reputation in our network

  • Increase NPS with clients by delivering results
  • Increase credibility with prospective clients through content-marketing, sales and references
  • Increase Trust within Qhubans through growth and success
  • Increase Reputation with candidates through marketing

 

 

8. Who must do what?

Strategy, Structure and Reputation:   Wouter Hasekamp

Network:                                              Tjibbe van der Zeeuw (Liesbeth Hans)

Knowledge and Research                   Liesbeth Hans

Publications:                                      Hotze Zijlstra

Marketing:                                           Wouter Hasekamp, Rachelle Nall

Enablement and Support:                  Dennis van Alphen (Tom Kisters, RikJan Kruithof)

Portfolio:                                             Partners and Practice Directors (Peter Rappange, Mohammed Chaaibi, Gerard Kok, Evert-Jan Tazelaar)

Sales:                                                 Mario School (Susanne van Kleef, Gerard Kok, Evert-Jan Tazelaar)

Delivery:                                             Tjibbe van der Zeeuw (Beatrice Friebel)

 

 

 

9. How are we organized?

Qhuba is organised in Practices that address specific areas of expertise, without losing sight of the collective goal: strategy implementation across disciplines. Practices in the portfolio of Qhuba are:

  • Interim Management
  • Recruitment & Executive Search
  • Programme and Portfolio Management
  • Lean and Transformation
  • Finance and Benefits Management
  • Sourcing Support
  • Lean IT
  • Cloud Consulting
  • The Qloud Company

 

 

10. How we make decisions and deliver on them?

We believe in Collective Leadership: given our values and despite different intentions and goals we want to be able to operate as a tribe of peers, each contributing as a person and as a professional, without giving up our autonomy. Starting points for this ‘Tribal Democracy’ are:

  • Freedom of Thought
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of Choice
  • Freedom of Dissent
  • Radical Transparency

 

 

Conditions for participation in decision-making are:

  • Trust, which consists of Character (Integrity & Intentions) and Competence (Capabilities & Results)
  • Transparency of Information and Opinion. Silence equals disagreement. This is our first rule of engagement.
  • Commitment, both active commitment and formal commitment. This is the second rule of engagement
  • Accountability; there is zero-tolerance for lack of Trust, lack of Integrity, lack of Transparency, lack of Commitment, but also for Passivity, broken promises, non-performance
  • A shared definition of success made measurable and a focus on results. One team, one goal.

 

Success is measured by:

  • Client Benefits Realized and Nett Promoter Score
  • Staff retention en recruitment
  • Revenue – Margin – Profit

How to build a business – Employees and Contracts

July 18, 2012

Building a business requires creating and activating a network of Partners, Associates and Employees. We are striving for a healthy mix of people who share a DNA and a sense of purpose, but who might have different needs and possibilites, depending on their personality, the stage in their career, the desire for short or long term reward (cash versus value) and the appetite for risk.

For capable people with skills and ambition who want to be surrounded by people they can work with and learn from and who prefer or require a monthly income, becoming an employee can be the most appropriate choice. We call them intrapreneurs. This relation needs to be formalized in an employment contract. Contracts are not pretty. Despite network organisations, work2.0 and despite all good intentions basically they arrange and exchange of time for money.

The good intentions are that we want all our people to be independent, that is: responsible for their own choices and their own success, we know they are reliable professionals, who do not compromise on quality, and who are connected to a network of peers they like to work with and work for. This is our DNA. The intention is also to make sure they have an adequate monthly income and that there is no limit to what they earn, based on how successful they are.

Now try to stick all that in an agreement. What we did is: we offer all our professionals on the payroll a basis salary, and then we make a budget available that is equal to 50% of what their personal turnover is. Out of this budget they can make choices on for instance education, a company car, laptop, et cetera. The difference between salary plus costs and their personal budget will be paid as a bonus, if a set of OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results) are met. A nice combination of security (for the employee), limited risk (for the employer), freedom of choices on personal development and reward and intrapreneurship. Or so we think.

Of course a contract describing this level of freedom and responsibilities within the boundaries of the labor laws results in quite an extensive document. You would think that the more experienced employees, with several previous employers, would be most critical, especially because in their case the base salary usually is lower than what they were used to – be then the upside is higher than anywhere else. The opposite is the case. Last week we lost a prospective employee, who seemed really talented and a perfect fit, due to this contract.

The base salary was higher than what she earned in her previous job, we explained the model, the role, the responsibilities, the budget, the holidays, the risk, the fiscal implications. All better than where she came from. She did not sign. I am confused. Either she was not what we thought she was, and she did not understand it, or it was too good to be true and she became suspicious that their might be a snag. Or maybe we are a more average company than we think we are, or than we want to be, and people just expect a salary in exchange for their time.

The last option a refuse to accept.

Researchers like David Marsden (Professor of Industrial Relations and a Senior member of the Centre for Economic Performance) at the London School of Economics will tell us that in the Network Economy their is not only the contract between employer and employee, but also the psychological contract and the economic or incentive contract. Maybe I should go to London and try to understand. Or better, let me go to Brazil and visit Ricardo Semler. He did it the other way around in his company Semco, letting his employees choose what they do, where and when they do it, and even how they get paid. He wrote a book about it called Maverick, the success story about the world’s most unusual workplace.

So that’s where I will go if only because the weather in Sao Paolo is more attractive than in London.


How to build a business – What’s Qooking

May 26, 2012

In our search for what is cooking in the Qhuba network and in the world of Strategy Execution we have organized What’s Qooking events: a combination of content and cooking in a workshop format. With small groups of twelve to fifteen people we have listened, cooked, discussed and eaten. To take this one level higher – and because cooking with a group involves quite a few concession in timing and results – we have decided to look for top chefs to do the cooking for us. Where to find the chefs?

The Michelin Guide seemed a logical starting point.

Since the weather was nice and I was in town anyway, I decided not to use Amazon for once, but to walk to the good old-fashioned bookstore. Not the most efficient way to buy a book as it turned out. The first bookstore did not stock Michelin Guides, but was kind enough to direct me to a colleague which they assured me would have them. So I walk further into town. On my way to the second store I passed my tailor. He called me in for an espresso, and enquired about the suits he had sold me earlier. As I explained why this was not a day to buy suits (too warm to try on anything, and besides the suits he makes last too long) and where I was going, we came to talk about three star restaurants. He warned me not to try to visit them all, because the last guy who tried – probably – did not survive.

In the summer of 2008 the Swiss gourmand Pascal Henry executed his plan to visit all sixty-eight top chefs in Europe in sixty-eight days. Everyday he ate at a different restaurant, drank a few glasses, and spoke at length with the chef. Henry kept a diary with notes, menus, and occasionally a note from a chef or sommelier. On the fortieth day of his journey he was in El Bulli. As usual he had ordered the Chef’s menu which here consisted of many small courses. His hat, his notebook and wallet where – this was also usual – on the table. Towards the end of the meal he walked out, never to be seen again. Maybe he jumped of the cliff, maybe the idea that he would for the rest of his life have to make the concession of having to eat less exquisite meals, maybe he was abducted by aliens who wanted to know how eartheners eat. We don’t know. This story is written down in a book by an author who has also written a book about etiquette together with my tailor.

intrigued, but not deterred, I continued to the next bookshop, and then to the next. A good time to reconsider the merits of e-commerce, with their long-tail strategies. Online you will find it all. But what you mostly find is transactions, less interaction. And that is exactly what you get with people, in shops.

The last shop I visited did stock the Michelin Guide. The guy behind the counter advised me to also have a look at a book called “In search of the Stars”, written by a Dutch chef, Paul van de Bunt, who undertook, with his wife Sandra, a similar journey as Mr. Henry. The differences are clear: they took a year to visit all fifty-four three star restaurants in Europe, and they lived to write a book about it. The book was not the goal by the way. Paul just wanted to learn, to see and taste the innovations, and to talk about them with his colleagues. Then for every restaurant he visited he created a dish, inspired by the chef he talked to. Obviously, he did not see them as the competition, but as people with a shared passion.

Cooking appeared to be a passion shared by the bookseller, too. When I told him about my “What Qooking” plans, he suggested that our first stop should be a new restaurant in Utrecht, called Podium. The chef Leon Mazairac worked for Alain Ducasse in Paris.His style he described as “no pretentious but lots of ambitions”. That sounds about right for us.

He just happened to have the chef’s business card in his pocket, and – talking about innovation – invited me to come to his bookshop next week where the chef would prepare insects, which are not only an answer to food shortage, the inefficiency of raising cattle for consumption, but are apparently quite tasty, too. I asked him if he would eat them, and of course the answer was yes.

 

To prove his point he produced a package of dried grasshoppers that he was going to prepare that night. Quite interesting. Probably coincidence. Wonder if he would have produced as double edged commando knife if I had asked him about the “SAS Survival Guide”. Quite a useful little book, by the way.

Anyway, I have all the information to plan our next What Qooking event, and however convenient e-commerce portals may be, they do not offer the Power of Conversations. As I said: the network enables interaction rather than the transaction.


How to build a business – Themes 2012

December 13, 2011

The year is almost finished. That makes it time to look forward. We had some discussions in our management team, in our network, and with external media partners to talk about what themes will be or should be on the agenda in 2012.

Below the result

Themes for Professionals

  • Intrapreneurship: Most professionals – capable talented people who are on the payroll of companies – we speak to are looking for opportunities to develop themselves and their careers, and believe the most important steps they have to take involve development from professional to entrepreneur (or intrapreneur). Wikipedia about intrapreneurship: In 1992, The American Heritage Dictionary acknowledged the popular use of a new word, intrapreneur, to mean “A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation”. Intrapreneurship is now known as the practice of a corporate management style that integrates risk-taking and innovation approaches, as well as the reward and motivational techniques, that are more traditionally thought of as being the province of entrepreneurship.

 

Independent Professionals: Once a professional has taken the step to become independent, and thus in a sense an entrepreneur, the themes highest on the agenda are

  • Growth: on the one hand there is growth as in; Personal Development, on the other hand the growth of their business through more professional services, such as acquisition or sales, personal marketing and risk mitigating services on the fiscal, legal, and pensions side.
  • The Shift: another theme we picked up is the interest of especially independent professionals, to make the move from ambition to Purpose & Mastery.

 

Entrepreneurs: among entrepreneurs the prevailing themes (next to “what the impact of the economic crisis, the credit crisis and the euro crisis really is”) are

 

 

CIO

  • Business Execution: IT is now beyond the first two phases (more efficiency through IT in the backoffice, and more efficiency in IT), and can now become in integral part of a business strategy. Technology and Information deployed to create value. IT needs to build better cases for business value, it needs to play a role in driving customer centricity (and track customer sentiment, usage, and profitability through analytics), and it needs to leverage business analytics to foster innovation.
  • Business Technology Integration: Making money with technology. CIO’s need to be much greater strategic partners for the businesses they support Business Model Transformation. CIO looses and business takes control.

And then there are the technology driven themes like:

  • Mobility: Bring your own device, Client/Consumer interaction, Mobile payment
  • Consumerization: the trend for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business organizations, resulting in the convergence of the IT and consumer electronics industries, and a shift in IT innovation from large businesses to the home. For example, many people now find that their home based IT equipment and services are both more capable and less expensive than what is provided in their workplace. The term, consumerization, was first popularized by Douglas Neal and John Taylor of CSC‘s Leading Edge Forum in 2001 and is one of the key drivers of the Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 movements
  • Social: Social Media, If you don’t have a strategy by now, you’re behind. Globalization and tech savvy millennials are forcing firms to rethink how relevant current and future customers will find their firms. Put together a social media panel or team, Think about how you can effectively manage the data you collect
  • Cloud: ‘nough said, but still a theme for years to come.
  • Big data: ‘Big Data’ is a term applied to the rapid growth of data that has resulted from more automated collection methods and greater capacity for storage and processing. This exponential rise is driven by the proliferation of sensors for gathering data automatically, including those in mobile phones, and more activity taking place online, which can be more easily recorded. Although the use of large data volumes for business is not new, some things have changed, creating new opportunities for innovation. There are three key changes that have brought the issue of data onto many more agendas. Firstly, data storage, processing power and cloud services continue to make large scale data analysis more and more accessible. You no longer need to build your own data centre to use this technique, expanding the pool of users. Secondly, there are many more opportunities to capture data, from sensors in phones and RFID tags in products, as well as a greater social acceptance of contributing manually entered data to social services. Thirdly, it is now possible to analyse unstructured data, so it is not necessary to run your business with detailed customer forms or electronic point of sale terminals to benefit from this form of analysis. Natural text in emails, photographs and sound can all be analysed and ‘mined’ for insights, rather than only structured, coded information that needed to be captured electronically or manually coded.

 

CFO

  • Cash: CFOs believe they should play lead roles in managing financial risks, designing the capital structure, optimizing working capital, and managing investor relations. They also think they should more frequently play lead roles in managing capital investments and revising the dividend policy
  • Growth: Growth remained the top priority for CFOs globally in the first quarter of 2011. With capital supply and efficiency gains largely accounted for, companies now appear focused on growth in a post-recession environment. New products and services, acquisitions and foreign market expansion are expected to be the key drivers behind this growth. Across EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)2, growth through product and market expansion tops the agenda for the majority of CFOs, with a focus on both raising capital expenditures, as well as making strategic acquisitions.
  • Refinancing
  • Acquisitions: With improved access to capital in most economic regions, and with the risk appetite of CFOs consistently increasing around the world, it is no surprise that strategic acquisitions top the priorities list for many CFOs globally. However, despite expectations of increased M&A activity in 2011, there is concern that activity will be constrained by several key factors. In North America, CFOs are wary of unleashing the more than USD 2 trillion in collective balance-sheet cash that has remained on the sidelines since the recession. This limited spending appears to be the result of concerns about the economy and consumer demand, industry regulation, and a shortage of attractive investment opportunities. In EMEA, CFOs continue to expect M&A activity to increase in 2011, with the improving economic outlook and availability of financing. However, the ability for companies to secure targets with the right strategic fit and at the right price is increasingly becoming the limiting factor for CFOs. A similar story is unfolding in Australia, where the majority of CFOs intend to pursue M&A opportunities in 2011 but cite that the greatest hindrance to undertaking an acquisition has been the inability to identify a suitable target.
  • Emerging Markets: Investing in emerging markets

 

 

 

CHRO

  • Performance Management: Move from administrative role (hire to retire), HR directors can play a boardroom role by identifying the decisive factors that play a role in strategy execution.
  • Commoditization of HR: HR services will turn into commodities. HR resources will be outsourced together with the payroll activities, or replaced by do-it-yourself tools from the cloud. Before the term “Chief HR Officer”  has become widely accepted, he or she will have the same fate as the CIO… early retirement. Recruitment can be done online, the Linkedin network will offer plenty opportunities to interact with candidates. References, assessments, salary benchmarks and training can be obtained online. So unless the CHRO becomes Chief Talent Officer, Chief People Officer or Chief Performance Officer, with a direct relation to the company’s strategy, he will be commoditized, or outsourced.
  • Workforce Analytics: Workforce Analytics and – Planning
  • Talent: Will there really be a war for Talent?

 

 

CEO

  • Growth: Growth in an uncertain economy
  • Customer retention: Customer retention: In a world of eroding customer loyalty, customer retention must be a top-down, high priority, company wide mission
  • Reputation: Guarding your reputation
  • Technology: Technology and Innovation
  • Talent:
  • Risk: Risk management and investments, Contingency
  • Strategy Execution: Strategy Execution (Strategy consulting is dead…)

 

 

ExComm

  • Steering Teams: ExComms as teams: cooperation/interaction between boardmembers
  • Value Creation: Strategy is not about power and money, but about Value Creation – and not only shareholder value. Strategy development and execution with value and purpose in mind will be a theme
  • Innovation. in order to survive, companies – especially those operating in an increasing dynamic and digitalized environment, with knowledge being the most indispensable and important resource for innovation – need to establish trusted relations to aligned communities, networks and stakeholders. The notion of “embeddedness” is introduced to mark the increasing challenge of substantially integrating firms into their surrounding communities so as to assure the absorption of their exploitable knowledge. Innovation 3.0 (social Innovation) goes beyond Technological innovation, or Open Innovation (defined as “Innovation 2.0”) and clearly beyond Closed Innovation (defined as “Innovation 1.0”).

Non-execs: Consultancy, Contingency and Contacts instead of control and advice.

We expect to read and write articles about these themes – especially those that are on the agenda of different stakeholders –  and we will no doubt see them pop up in conferences and seminars. And just maybe there will be some others, like “how to grow after the crisis”, or “the next Big Thing after Social Media”.