Volume 2   |   Number 6   |   October 2014

san francisco Hey it's great to be back - where did the summer go? I'll tell you where mine went - San Francisco!

Yes, friends, when last I left you, I accepted a consulting engagement (love that term!) in the City by the Bay, satisfying a long held interest to work bi-coastal and experience the sunshine, scenery and high tech joie de vivre that so many Californians enjoy here (albeit punctuated by an earthquake every so often).

While working in San Francisco, I've been staying with family in Marin County. Usually being far from home can be a drag, but living in the guest house has been quite enjoyable, providing me with the niceties of home without many of those side
effects (yard work, teenagers asking for money,
Trick-or-Treaters, snow etc.).house with pool

You could say that commuting over the Golden Gate Bridge every morning has clouded a bit of my Bay Area romanticism. Maneuvering through the fog at highway speeds while looking over sheer drops can be daunting, commuting begets a question for me often faced by executives - how to be effective when faced with a difficult and unclear business environment?

Facts? What are facts? I only know imagination!"
- C. Joybell C.
The Merrimack Valley Sandbox in Lowell recently changed its name to "Entrepreneurship for All" and is recruiting its next class of entrepreneurs "pitch-ers". Come tryout - Oct. 30 deadline.

P.S. On the subject of pitching, although I've been a long time LA Dodger and Red Sox fan, located 2 blocks from the ATT Park and their passionate Giants fans during their recent World Series run, has been a experience to behold. Go Giants!

Having started my career as an engineer, I understand a bit about engineering psychology. However, running a company like Google with tens of thousands of them, well that's just crazy. Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rotenberg explain how it gets done in "How Google Works"

articleOneCutting through the fog
Speaking of fog, combatants often talk about the "fog of war" which Wikipedia defines as "the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants." While used most commonly by military operations, many executives (and consultants) are similarly afflicted, especially faced with new or challenging business situations.

A natural response to these conditions is often to act (or more likely, react) quickly, making organization changes or setting unrealistic expectations without regard to their implications. However, acting without assessing how much change the organization and culture can absorb, especially under the pressure to act, often creates mistakes and errors in judgment. A better way to "pierce the fog" is to proceed at the right cadence and through improving communications, gain a better sense for things happening "on the ground."

Alan Mulally, recently retired CEO of the Ford Motor Company, took over the company in 2006 when Ford was on the brink of bankruptcy. To get organizational alignment, Mr Mulally established a worldwide Business Plan Review process, similar to one he used successfully at Boeing. 

By breaking down Ford's tops down organizational dynamics and giving it a new direction, he engaged the management team toward finding solutions rather than just finding blame.

Contrast that to General Motors, still reeling today from a lack of organizational openness about serious product problems it faced back during its financial crisis (and before).

Executives are paid to create a vision for their businesses; the way they can achieve that vision is through effective and open communication.

During times of great change and uncertainty (or any time, for that matter), to "improve visibility" an executive needs to:
  1. Clearly and simply articulate their vision (or goal)
  1. Promote honesty and openness when laying out the course of action
  1. Be visible themselves and lead from the front
  1. Go for quick wins and build on these accomplishments
  1. Seek alternative points of view (but don't shoot the messengers) and
  1. Similarly, encourage initiative and risk taking.
While these actions may seem less than commanding and self-evident, these days when empowered team members are seeking leadership but want the freedom to express their own creativity, it's best to create the conditions that welcome an open exchange of ideas and options.

It's no joke that one should inspire their team to be regarded as "in da house" rather than "bringing down the house". Then, as the old song goes, your "California dreaming" will become a reality.

About Us: With our unique insights and expertise, F.A.C.T.S. provides practical, cost-effective solutions to clarify and execute your business vision and objectives. We specialize in creating and implementing financial, operational and performance management solutions for your toughest business problems.
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