I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Is this new music video a comedy¬†or a tragic cautionary tale to corporate leaders, strategists and consultants?
Music parody master, Weird “Al” Yankovic, has loosed¬†his incisive wit on¬†corporate-buzz-speak, in a video from his just-released¬†album, Mandatory Fun.
Mission Statement, is composed in the style of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, playing¬†against¬†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 written¬†a mission statement¬†in the past decade. Showing this to your¬†CEO or board chair may shorten your career.
But seriously, Ann and I¬†are not¬†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 didn‚Äôt have a purpose, or a company that had a purpose but didn‚Äôt 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!
‚Äď Gary Ralston
¬© 2014 Ralston Consulting Inc.
¬†A special thanks to Jerry Marselle at our client, SMBH, for turning us on to this gem!
*¬†Fritz, Robert (2011-01-04). The Path of Least Resistance for Managers. Newfane Press. Kindle Edition.
More Weird “Al”:
- Great background info in this¬†post on the Wall Street Journal¬†
- Video: Word Crimes – a cry against bad spelling and grammar.¬†(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. He¬†brews his own¬†beer as a hobby, and I thought – at best – I was getting into a book about craft beer¬†counter-culture¬†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 of¬†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 a¬†constant awareness (and openness to) ideas that may be the germ of a new offering – and in some cases, rescue offerings in trouble.¬†¬†Sales for the then-failing¬†DFH Beer Shampoo Bar¬†only turned around¬†after¬†they discovered that¬†professional dog groomers loved it, and so repositioned it as a pet care product!
I think the thing that most struck me was their¬†connection to and understanding of their¬†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 his¬†commitment to this principle, woven through every story he tells.
If you are looking for a down-to-earth¬†and delightfully “off-centered” point of view on leadership, you are in for a great¬†read (or listen!)!
- Ann Ralston
¬© 2014¬†Ralston Consulting Inc.
‚ÄúAll executives know that strategy is important. But almost all also find it scary, because it forces them to confront a future they can only guess at. Worse, actually choosing a strategy entails making decisions that explicitly cut off possibilities and options.‚ÄĚ
‚Äď Roger L. Martin
For those of you in the business of shaping and steering your ventures, but haven’t come across Roger Martin and his work on strategy, you may be well-served to check it out.¬†Martin is the former dean of the prestigious University of Toronto‚Äôs Rotman School of Management and an adviser to CEOs on strategy, design, innovation, and integrative thinking. He is a coauthor (with A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter and Gamble) of Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). We’ll have a post on the book, itself, coming up.
This month, Roger Martin’s article,¬†The Big Lie of Strategic Planning, is posted free on HBR’s blog. It touches on common traps leadership fall into as they attempt to develop effective strategy for their organizations, and what to do, instead.
One of the key distinctions Martin makes is that creating a strategy is different – messier, and far less reassuring – than detailed strategic¬†planning. The detailed plan provides the executive with the illusion of control over multiple unknown futures. The downside, as Martin sees it, is that¬†‚Äúplanning typically isn’t explicit about what the organization chooses not to do, and why. It does not question assumptions.‚ÄĚ He continues: ‚ÄúYou need to be uncomfortable and apprehensive: True strategy is about placing bets and making hard choices. The objective is not to eliminate risk but to increase the odds of success.‚ÄĚ
I would qualify that while some of the symptoms described are specific to middle-market and large organizations (smaller ventures rarely have the resources to over-plan to the degree described), the essence of his advice cuts across all sectors and scale of business.
Idea in Brief
In an effort to get a handle on strategy, managers spend thousands of hours drawing up detailed plans that project revenue far into the future. These plans may make managers feel good, but all too often they matter very little to performance.
WHY IT HAPPENS
Strategy making is uncomfortable; it’s about taking risks and facing the unknown. Unsurprisingly, managers try to turn it into a comfortable set of activities. But reassurance won’t deliver performance.
Reconcile yourself to feeling uncomfortable, and follow¬†three rules:
Keep it simple. Capture your strategy in a one-pager that addresses where you will play and how you will win.
Don’t look for perfection. Strategy isn’t about finding answers. It’s about placing bets and shortening odds.
Make the logic explicit. Be clear about what must change for you to achieve your strategic goal.
Source: published both in the¬†January-February 2014 edition of Harvard Business Review pp 78-84, and on the HBR blog,¬†here.
- Gary Ralston
¬© 2014 Ralston Consulting Inc.
We believe this message is bigger than a single faith.
It speaks across cultures and creeds and diverse communities everywhere.
We are filled with gratitude for all of you in our circle – that you are in our lives.
May this fervent wish be realized for you, your family and your caring community.
In warmth and love and peace,
Ann and Gary
December 24, 2013
photo: Ann Ralston.
Last week a group of my dear friends and fellow students gathered in Newfane, Vermont to celebrate the 70th birthday of our teacher, mentor and friend, Robert Fritz.
Many of my clients and friends have only an inkling of the impact Robert’s work has had on my life *. But a few hold a deeper appreciation because of their own study of the Creative Process with Robert. As with writing a poem, composing a song or designing a garden, they are intentionally creating their own businesses, and their own lives.
I first met Robert at a Fundamentals of Structural Thinking workshop. (My exposure to his work was a happy accident. One of my coworkers was not able to attend, so I went to the workshop in her place!) During that first workshop, Robert introduced us to the creative orientation and structure through poetry and art, and through conversations with people about their lives and their businesses. He helped us begin to see the world in a different light.
Many people travel this life seeing only what they want to see, or standing in their values only when it is convenient for them. We all know people like this.¬†It‚Äôs the person who pretends everything is fine, so they don’t have to make a decision or take action. Maybe it‚Äôs the manager who ‚Äúlets‚ÄĚ a chronically late employee get by for one more day, because they don‚Äôt want to deal with the conflict. Or perhaps it’s the person who fears they will lose funding and fudges a glowing progress report when the reality is quite different.
It is avoiding, rather than creating, that shapes their lives.
That first workshop started me down a lifelong path of learning. It was the starting point for a profound journey of seeing the world, myself, and obligations, biases and assumptions (of myself and others) as they are. Believe you me, at times I’d like to have jumped off and taken an easier path.¬†Over the next 20 years, I traveled to many workshops to learn from Robert. Each time I experienced a deeper understanding of ‘structure’ – the forces in play, the underlying patterns and behaviors that drive people, processes, relationships, businesses, and ideologies. I learned how to better see these structures that play out in our organizations and in our lives. And each time, I found I could immediately apply what I had learned with our clients.
One of the ways we honed our skills was to consult our clients at the front of a room full of our peers. Robert was a demanding teacher, expecting more discipline and rigor of thinking than we thought possible! But he was always there at our elbow, asking questions that helped us see the implications and discrepancies in the story (and in our own thinking) that helped to deepen our understanding of the structure.
While I don‚Äôt have many photos from the workshops over the years, I have mental images of the people, the sessions and the learning. Images of:
- Dissecting movies, plays and poems to learn about story, contrast and composition. Then, making movies! Movie sets in the woods behind the house, our scavenger hunts for props, and Robert peering through the camera lens framing just the right shot.
- Robert cooking dinner for and with our Advanced Students in the love and warmth of the Fritz‚Äôs kitchen in Newfane.
- The celebrations of birthdays, and of many successful creations, in Robert and Rosalind’s garden overlooking the Vermont countryside.
- Robert in the living room of the old house in Williamsburg, on a snowy morning, sharing ‘the reciprocal equilibrium cycle‚Äô for the first time. (While this is jargon to many readers, it was truly profound learning). We heard excerpts of new books and saw rough cuts of new movies. We have been witness to and a part of the creation of a wonderful body of work that will continue to impact our lives and our world.
When I stand with my children in the face of very challenging choices, we can objectively explore our thinking and better understand real relationships, real choice, and freedom. Underneath those conversations is the guidance of Robert’s hand at my elbow‚Ä¶
When I stand in relationships with mates, friends and colleagues co-creating our futures, projects, organizations and communities, I know that Robert’s hand is again at my elbow, guiding, reminding me to think‚Ä¶ and rethink‚Ä¶ and to picture.
Throw a stone in a still pond and watch the ripples flow out and out. That‚Äôs the impact of Roberts work touching one person‚Äôs life. As each of my fellow students and I pass that touch through our clients, friends, families and beyond, the multitude of subtle shifts is creating a better world. A world based on values, based on personal integrity, and most importantly, where we are each the generative force in our own lives.
- Ann Ralston
¬† August 26, 2013
* Rosalind Fritz, Robert’s lovely wife, is also a dear friend, teacher and mentor. Rosalind is a master structural consultant and director of the Structural Consulting Certification Program. Together with Robert she leads workshops throughout North America and Europe.¬†She has had an amazing impact on my life as well, and I‚Äôd be remiss at this moment if I didn‚Äôt acknowledge her, too. (Thank you, Rosalind!)
¬© 2013 Ralston Consulting Inc.