How strategists lead

30. July 2012

Unfortunately, she refers still to the outdated Harvard concept of strategy (Michael Porter & Co. 30 years ago!) hfk

 

A Harvard Business School professor reflects on what she has learned from senior executives about the unique value that strategic leaders can bring to their companies.

July 2012 • Cynthia A. Montgomery

Seven years ago, I changed the focus of my strategy teaching at the Harvard Business School. After instructing MBAs for most of the previous quarter-century, I began teaching the accomplished executives and entrepreneurs who participate in Harvard’s flagship programs for business owners and leaders.

Shifting the center of my teaching to executive education changed the way I teach and write about strategy. I’ve been struck by how often executives, even experienced ones, get tripped up: they become so interested in the potential of new ventures, for example, that they underestimate harsh competitive realities or overlook how interrelated strategy and execution are. I’ve also learned, in conversations between class sessions (as well as in my work as a board director and corporate adviser) about the limits of analysis, the importance of being ready to reinvent a business, and the ongoing responsibility of leading strategy.

All of this learning speaks to the role of the strategist—as a meaning maker for companies, as a voice of reason, and as an operator. The richness of these roles, and their deep interconnections, underscore the fact that strategy is much more than a detached analytical exercise. Analysis has merit, to be sure, but it will never make strategy the vibrant core that animates everything a company is and does. Read the rest of this entry »


Consumer Data, but Not for Consumers

22. July 2012

Date: 22-07-2012
Source: The New York Times

BUPKIS. Zilch. Zip. Niente. Zero. Nada.

I recently asked to see the information held about me by the Acxiom Corporation, a database marketing company that collects and sells details about consumers’ financial status, shopping and recreational activities to banks, retailers, automakers and other businesses. In investor presentations and interviews, Acxiom executives have said that the company — the subject of a Sunday Business article last month — has information on about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. Acxiom also promotes a program for consumers who wish to see the information the company has on them.

As a former pharmaceuticals industry reporter who has researched all kinds of diseases, drugs and quack cures online, I wanted to learn, for one, whether Acxiom had pegged me as concerned about arthritis, diabetes or allergies. Acxiom also has a proprietary household classification system that places people in one of 70 socioeconomic categories, like “Downtown Dwellers” or “Flush Families,” and I hoped to discover the caste to which it had assigned me.

But after I filled out an online request form and sent a personal check for $5 to cover the processing fee, the company simply sent me a list of some of my previous residential addresses. In other words, rather than learning the details about myself that marketers might use to profile and judge me, I received information I knew already. Read the rest of this entry »


The Customer as a God

22. July 2012

Date: 22-07-2012
Source: The Wall Street Journal
 Businesses today tend to herd customers as if they were cattle, but a revolution in personal empowerment is under way—and buying will never be the same again. .

Businesses today tend to herd customers as if they were cattle, but a revolution in personal empowerment is under way-and buying will never be the same again, says author Doc Searls. He discusses his new book, “The Intention Economy,” with WSJ’s Gary Rosen.

It’s a Saturday morning in 2022, and you’re trying to decide what to wear to the dinner party you’re throwing that evening. All the clothes hanging in your closet are “smart”—that is, they can tell you when you last wore them, what else you wore them with, and where and when they were last cleaned. Some do this with microchips. Others have tiny printed tags that you can scan on your hand-held device.

As you prepare for your guests, you discover that your espresso machine isn’t working and you need another one. So you pull the same hand-held device from your pocket, scan the little square code on the back of the machine, and tell your hand-held, by voice, that this one is broken and you need another one, to rent or buy. An “intentcast” goes out to the marketplace, revealing only what’s required to attract offers. No personal information is revealed, except to vendors with whom you already have a trusted relationship.

Within a minute offers come in, displayed on your device. You compare the offers and pick an espresso machine to rent from a reputable vendor who also can fix your old one. When the replacement arrives, the delivery service scans and picks up the broken machine and transports it to the vendor, who has agreed to your service conditions by committing not to share any of your data with other parties and not to put you on a list for promotional messages. The agreement happened automatically when your intentcast went out and your terms matched up with the vendor’s. Read the rest of this entry »


The Future of Work: When Machines Do Your Job

11. July 2012

Date: 11-07-2012
Source: Technology Review
 Researcher Andrew McAfee says advances in computing and artificial intelligence could create a more unequal society.

Future work: Andrew McAfee says machines are replacing human workers in more types of occupations.

Are American workers losing their jobs to machines?

That was the question posed by Race Against the Machine, an influential e-book published last October by MIT business school researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. The pair looked at troubling U.S. employment numbers—which have declined since the recession of 2008-2009 even as economic output has risen—and concluded that computer technology was partly to blame.

Advances in hardware and software mean it’s possible to automate more white-collar jobs, and to do so more quickly than in the past. Think of the airline staffers whose job checking in passengers has been taken by self-service kiosks. While more productivity is a positive, wealth is becoming more concentrated, and more middle-class workers are getting left behind. Read the rest of this entry »


Why HR Still Isn’t a Strategic Partner

9. July 2012

by J. Craig Mundy | 9:22 AM July 5, 2012, HBR Blog

For two decades we have been hearing that HR must become a strategic partner to the business. And the fact that we’re still hearing it suggests that in many organizations it hasn’t happened.

The need to align HR with the business has become more urgent than ever. Financial markets exert relentless pressure for growth, especially in emerging markets. Customers demand more and better service at lower cost. And cost-efficiency, resource conservation and regulatory compliance have become issues for almost every organization. Turnover among top talent is expected to increase in 2012; globalization is requiring stronger regional HR capabilities; and demographic shifts across the world are dramatically affecting availability of qualified people.

Yet, all too often, business leaders still wonder aloud why their organizations even have HR departments. For their part, many HR leaders are willing to partner with the business, but given the unique situation of each individual company, they have little in the way of concrete guidance about how to fulfill that role. Read the rest of this entry »


The Future of Work: Automate or Perish

5. July 2012

Date: 05-07-2012
Source: Technology Review

Successful businesses will be those that optimize the mix of humans, robots, and algorithms.

In Automate This, a book due out next month, author and entrepreneur Christopher Steiner tells the story of stockbroker Thomas Peterffy, the creator of the first automated Wall Street trading system. Using a computer to execute trades, without humans entering them manually on a keyboard, was controversial in 1987—so controversial that Nasdaq pressured him to unplug from its network. Then, with a wink, Peterffy built an automated machine that could tap out the trades on a traditional keyboard—technically obeying Nasdaq rules. Peterffy made $25 million in 1987 and is now a billionaire.

Today, automated trading bots account for nearly three-quarters of U.S. equity trading by volume. Trading houses plow millions into fiber optics and microwave dishes so their algorithms can send trades a millisecond faster than the next guys’. And although the first trading robot was built 25 years ago, most of the change on Wall Street has occurred during just the last few years. When it comes to automation, we may be in the elbow of an exponential curve. Read the rest of this entry »