I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Is this new music video a comedyÂ or a tragic cautionary tale to corporate leaders, strategists and consultants?
Music parody master, Weird “Al” Yankovic, has loosedÂ his incisive wit onÂ corporate-buzz-speak, in a video from his just-releasedÂ album, Mandatory Fun.
Mission Statement, is composed in the style of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, playingÂ againstÂ an RSA-like whiteboard animation (which apparently took 10 months to produce!). The production quality is brilliant, and I found myself smiling and wincing in equal parts.
WARNING: This video is NOT recommended for anyone who has writtenÂ a mission statementÂ in the past decade. Showing this to yourÂ CEO or board chair may shorten your career.
But seriously, Ann and IÂ are notÂ fans of mission and purpose statements, even though we’ve had a hand in creating more than one in our day.
Our friend, colleague and mentor, Robert Fritz, writes:
“Which would we rather work for, a company that had a purpose statement but didnâ€™t have a purpose, or a company that had a purpose but didnâ€™t have a purpose statement?
Of course we would all choose the real thing over the propaganda. But even an organization that has a true purpose can rob that purpose of its power by reducing it to a slogan.” *
So please, enjoy the video, and then commit yourselves to eradicating corporate-buzz-speak wherever you can – we promise to do the same!
â€“ Gary Ralston
Â© 2014 Ralston Consulting Inc.
Â A special thanks to Jerry Marselle at our client, SMBH, for turning us on to this gem!
*Â Fritz, Robert (2011-01-04). The Path of Least Resistance for Managers. Newfane Press. Kindle Edition.
More Weird “Al”:
- Great background info in thisÂ post on the Wall Street JournalÂ
- Video: Word Crimes – a cry against bad spelling and grammar.Â (I liked this video even more, but then, my mom is an english teacher and editor -G)
‘Brewing Up a Business‘ by Sam Calagione, the owner of DogFish Head Brewery, was recommended by one of my sons, so I downloaded the audiobook. HeÂ brews his ownÂ beer as a hobby, and I thought – at best – I was getting into a book about craft beerÂ counter-cultureÂ and start ups.
- about dedication and belief in what you are creating,
- of commitment to your people,
- of how the personality of an individual can shape a culture ofÂ innovation.
The company was built on creating innovative (and sometimes bizarre) products – which with craft beer means a combination of distinctive taste and ingredients, an evocative name, and a great story. (Liquid Breadfruit Ale, anyone?).
They maintain aÂ constant awareness (and openness to) ideas that may be the germ of a new offering – and in some cases, rescue offerings in trouble.Â Â Sales for the then-failingÂ DFH Beer Shampoo BarÂ only turned aroundÂ afterÂ they discovered thatÂ professional dog groomers loved it, and so repositioned it as a pet care product!
I think the thing that most struck me was theirÂ connection to and understanding of theirÂ customers. We all talk about knowing our customer, but how does that translate to action throughout a company? Calagione sets a great example, and I could see and feel hisÂ commitment to this principle, woven through every story he tells.
If you are looking for a down-to-earthÂ and delightfully “off-centered” point of view on leadership, you are in for a greatÂ read (or listen!)!
– Ann Ralston
Â© 2014Â Ralston Consulting Inc.
A TEDx video featuring Simon Sinek, author of the book: Start with Why, came to my attention as we were scanning for engaging pre-session material for a client project. From TED.com:
Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers …
In essence, he observed that while most will tell you first WHAT they do, HOW they do it, and then WHY, great leaders reverse the order. He asserts this works because our brains evolved that way. While I’m not all the way on board with that part of his theory, Simon is a great storyteller â€“ upbeat, interesting and thought-provoking. Really, really thought-provoking.
After taking the video in, Ann and I set out to re-draft the story of our company, starting with Why, and were surprised at the result. We hope you enjoy the video, and then invite you to part two, where we share our latest draft message and ask you for candid feedback!
At a recent strategy update retreat with one of our clients, we introduced scenario planning as a front-end to their strategy process. The improvement was dramatic! One of the partners even queried us if we had been actively using scenario planning at the time we’d done their original strategy session. (We assured him that we hadn’t, that it was a new offering, and we had NOT been holding out on him!) He thought it added tremendous value and insight, and maintained that it should be part of their strategy process from here on out.
Much credit for the tremendous improvement between the two sessions goes to our associate, Nicole-Anne Boyer, founder of Adaptive Edge LLC. Since 2009, Ann, Charles and I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Nicole. From the start of our association, our strategic planning offering has been turbo-charged with the addition of robust scenario planning, strategic foresight and futures thinking. While I had thought I knew something of scenario planning before, I have been learning at a furious pace to come up-to-speed on the state of the art in scenario planning.
Scenario planning has been around for a very long time, but took significant strides forward, notably in the planning department at Royal Dutch Shell, and at the Global Business Network. It is now used widely in planning processes in business.
â€śAccording to Bain & Companyâ€™s annual survey of management tools, fewer than 40% of companies used scenario planning in 1999. But by 2006 its usage had risen to 70%.â€ť
â€“ The Economist, September 1st, 2008
I have been learning that there are as many forms and methods of scenario planning as there are practitioners, but there has been a clear evolution in the purpose and motive for scenario planning.
- Inform Planning: Use the output of a scenario planning exercise to inform a conventional â€śout-think the futureâ€ť strategy session.
- Adapt to Future: Scenario planning becomes part of 1) a way of thought for leadership, and 2) an early warning system to help a company to adapt to future changes. One of the funders of modern scenario planning framed it so:
â€śThe test of a good scenario is not whether it portrays the future accurately but whether it enables an organization to learn and adapt.”
â€“ Peter Schwartz, The Art of the Long View
- Shape the Future: The scenario planning process might be taken beyond the walls of the organization and involve the wider system we are trying to influence. The scenario planning process is then a catalyst in a broader, generative effort to shape our desired future. Put another way:
â€śThe best way to predict the future is to invent it.â€ť
â€“ Alan Kay, Scientist and Apple Fellow
In our work at Ralston Consulting Inc., we have always focused on helping our clients develop the orientation and capacity for generative change to create their desired future. Our collaboration with Nicole has given our mission a tremendous boost!
In Profiting from Uncertainty: Strategies for Succeeding No Matter What the Future Brings, authors Paul J. H. Schoemaker and Robert E. Gunther make a point about the discrepancy between the forces shaping a sectorâ€™s future, and where management tends to focus. Their claim is that about half the forces shaping the future value of a business – developments in the industry, and in the larger global environment – Â are not monitored by management, and thus, â€śleft to fateâ€ť.
Instead, management is compiling backward-looking internal and industry trend data to forecast future conditions. This is backed up by informal surveys by Gary Hamel & C. K. Prahalad, suggesting that senior management devote less than 3 % of their time and energy to building a collective vision of the future. (Competing for the Future, Harvard Business Press, April 1, 1996, p 4)
We need a working understanding of our external environment and the many possible futures that may emerge, as making plans based on a single notion of the future can increase risk even as, paradoxically, it reduces our sense of conflict about an unknown future. The world is simply too uncertain and complex for such single-point predictions; and they give a false, sometimes dangerous, confidence that we are in control more than we really are.Â At the other extreme, we cannot become paralyzed by what we perceive as too much uncertainty, as we become obsessed with avoiding risk.Â We must plot a course between prediction and paralysis, thinking about the future in terms of multiple possibilities in order to better create our desired future.
Action Plan: Make a practice of ‘learning from the future’. To kick off your 2011 strategic planning cycle, take your leadership team through a facilitated scenario-planning process. In the course of co-exploring 3-4 possible futures, defining a ‘desired future’ and gleaning strategic insights, your team will develop a much deeper capacity to mine profit in areas of high uncertainty – an area your competitor is likelyÂ spending 3% of their focus on!