People + Strategy Journal

Winter 2021

The Takeaway

How does one plan for, and lead through, the fog? Readiness, trust, redundancy and relentless iteration must all be baked into the organization’s processes, decision-making and culture.

By David Reimer
The Takeaway

​Piercing the Fog

Each quarter in The Takeaway, we will suggest some of the most useful discussion prompts arising from each issue’s articles. Think of these as the starting points for whiteboard discussions with your team or C-suite or for your own reflection as a leader. 

How does one plan for, and lead through, the fog? The headline is that readiness, trust, redundancy and relentless iteration must all, at some level, be baked into the organization’s processes, decision-making and culture. Easy to say, harder to do—especially in organizations that have been maximally streamlined over the decades to prize efficiency above all else as the key to unlocking value. 

As you and your leaders assess your own readiness, consider the following questions. 

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Planning for a Complex FuturePlanning for a Complex Future

“Prepare for Surprises” by Margaret Heffernan 
  • What assumptions are baked into our planning models that should be revisited, given the possibility of disruption?
  • How much of our organization’s leadership focus is on making today’s business model more efficient vs. creating a new one? 
  • What are the most critical different scenarios for how the future will unfold for our business, and what are we doing to prepare for each?
  • How does our culture encourage people to speak up if they see weaknesses in the strategic plan

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Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

“Applying Artificial Intelligence in Fluid Environments” by Matthew Beers
  • What problem are we attempting to solve for: outcome prediction; optimizing an outcome; identifying clusters in our data; or a reduction in the complexity of our incoming data?
  • How would the answer to our question be clearly measurable?
  • What loops have we built into our use of AI or ML for iterations between deep subject-matter expertise from within the business and the engineering team?
  • If systems can learn biases, where are the safeguards we have built in to ensure that we’re not reinforcing our own blind spots?

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Thinking Like a Video Game Developer

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
“Designing the Game of Work” by Alexander L. Fernandez
  • Does our organization bring together different disciplines for team projects, or does work still flow from silo to silo? 
  • Are we clear on the different challenges or and interdependencies faced by different functions, geographies or business units?
  • What were our company’s best decisions during the pandemic, and what were the bad ones? How well did those decisions match up against our mission, values and vision?

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Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Engaging Employees in Strategy 
“How to Make Strategic Choices in Uncertain Conditions” by Elsbeth Johnson
  • How is our leadership team balancing comfort and discomfort in setting ambitious strategies?
  • How does our messaging to employees around planning and strategy distinguishing between clarity and certainty? 
  • Is the culture of our organization oriented to seeing problems as learning exercises or failures of execution? 

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The Future of Work Planning for a Complex Future

In First Person with Sandra Ozola, Global Head of Human Capital at KKR
  • What explicit conversations is our organization having about how the nature of our work will change long-term and the optimal use of our offices once it ends?
  • Has our organization pulled together teams of internal employees to imagine that future, rather than relying on outside experts?
  • How do we ensure colleagues continue learning from each other in an environment where people are not always together in person?

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Planning for a Complex Future
Making Diversity Matter

“A Case Study of How to Accelerate Progress in Leadership Diversity” by Rita McGrath
  • Should dedicated programs be designed especially for our diverse employees to accelerate their development?
  • If so, how will top leadership navigate potential challenges of perception—that people in the programs are somehow being stigmatized, or that others are being left out? 
  • How will we measure the success of such leadership development programs? Reduction of turnover? Expansion of succession pools?

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Designing Flat, Agile OrganizationsLeveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

In First Person with Jos de Blok, founder and CEO of Buurtzorg
  • Does the shared language of our organization revolve around delivering products and services and growing revenue, or does it emphasize understanding and solving our customers’ needs?
  • How much autonomy and ownership do our teams have to solve customers’ challenges and problems on their own?
  • Jos de Blok said he wanted managers (he called them coaches) “who were focused on helping the teams, rather than being focused on themselves.” How are the managers in our company perceived by the teams they oversee? 
  • Conflicts within teams are inevitable. Do we have a structured system and approach to help teams resolve them?

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Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Lessons from Silicon Valley

Executive Roundtable by Adam Bryant
  • How comfortable are we personally with uncertainty, and operating in an environment where change is the only constant?
  • When the path ahead is unclear, does our organization focus internally or on how the needs of our marketplace are evolving, and how we can adapt to best meet them?
  • If I and my leadership team members were to mentally fire ourselves and then rehire ourselves the next week and come in without any emotional attachments to the work we’ve done previously, how would we rethink the way the organization works?

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Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
The Art of Strategic Planning 

In First Person with Barry Salzberg, former Global CEO of Deloitte
  • Is our leadership team comfortable discussing what-if scenarios, even if many of them might point to the risk of failure rather than success?
  • Are we refreshing our talent strategy to match the corporate strategy as it evolves?
  • What systems does our company have in place to explore different future scenarios and their impact on our strategy, as well as contingency plans to respond to them if they materialize?
  • How flexible are we to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace?

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Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Involving Employees in Setting Strategy 

“Trust Is the New Leadership Test” by Veronica Hope Hailey
  • How does our leadership team think about trust—with employees, customers, and other stakeholders?
  • What is our framework and approach for building and measuring it? 
  • How will organizations think about trust beyond this crisis, when work returns to a semblance of normalcy?