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We’ve been told one of the major reasons people want to work with us – they want our culture in their culture. We work hard as individuals and as a team to live our values and help each other work within our boundaries. We came across...

I was recently chatting with a colleague about one of my favorite topics, Organizational Culture; what it is? How does it form? What elements make some stand out against others? How does it bring out the best in people? Or how might it limit people’s potential? To me,...

Eight years ago, before I came to work at ViRTUS, I fell into an exciting job. The head office is in Waterloo, Ontario and I live in Vancouver. They needed a facilitator on the West Coast and so I had the much coveted clause in...

This is the continuation of my unconventional approach to reviewing Flat Army by Dan Pontefract. As in my first post (Chapters 1-4 1/2), here are my favourite excerpts and quotes from Chapter 4 1/2-12. So you may be asking yourself, "why did Mike stop in the middle of Chapter 4 last time?" The simple answer is that I was typing each quote in by hand and I felt the post was getting a bit too long. The author, Dan Pontefract, was nice enough to send me a copy that allows me to cut and paste.

So here they are, my favourite excerpts and quotes from the rest of the book:

Chapter 4

  • Things don't always go perfectly: Embrace mistakes and invest time relating with those who have difficulty.
  • Your way or vision will not be understood by all: Ask for opinions or feedback and determine whether the team understands what is really going on
  • Dev Patnaik, author of Wired to Care, believes that
    [a]s sophisticated as our neurological systems for detecting the feelings of others might be, we've created a corporate world that strives to eliminate the most human elements of business. Companies systematically dull the natural power that each of us has to connect with other people. And by dulling our impulse to care, corporations make decisions that look good on paper but do real harm when put into practice in the real world.
  • ...empathy is positively related to job performance.
  • In a study conducted by IBM in 2010 with 700 global chief human resource officers (CHROs) entitled Working beyond Borders: Insights from the Global Chief Human Resource Officer Study, researchers find the single most critical issue facing organizations in the future is their ability to develop future leaders.
  • It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure employees understand they have an equal responsibility to participate in the developing process.
  • “Organizational Career Development Is Not Dead: A Case Study on Managing the New Career During Organizational Change” in the Journal of Organizational Behavior provides three key points about the attribute of developing:HR is not unilaterally in charge of developing employees, but the responsibility should be moving down the organizational structure, while supported by HR or the corporate learning team itself.
    Immediate supervisors or leaders don't always have the skills to provide such development support to employees.
    Employees are therefore confused and often struggle to find the right level of support to address their development needs. They too don't know where ownership lies.

Every year, PROFIT Magazine turns successful entrepreneurs into the heroes of Canadian business through its Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies program. Now, to mark its 25th year, the ranking is expanding to celebrate 500 of Canada’s best and brightest companies. Once again, ViRTUS is proud to be a sponsor.

If your business has grown by just 50% or more in the past five years, apply now at PROFIT500.com.

MikeOne of the things CEOs ask consistently is how they can foster more strategic thinking in their organizations.

Simply saying “I want to see you thinking more strategically” isn’t direct or specific enough to help guide people in the right direction. Thinking strategically is essentially a way of being – a mindset, a way of looking at things and linking them together.

Here are eight things you can do to improve strategic thinking.

Understand value creation and differentiation. Leaders understand the business and industry they are in, but it’s more than that. You need to understand how the industry adds value to customers and how your business differentiates that value equation from your competitors.

Connect “me to we” to “they to us” (operations to strategy). As a leader you need to be able to understand the overall corporate direction and strategy in the context of your team and your own personal areas of responsibility. Think of it like this: the strategic moves we make today are setting up the operational successes we have in the future. So the better understanding you and your team have of the connection between corporate goals and the work they do day-to-day, the more likely they and you are to focus on longer-term priorities versus staying mired in operations and shiny objects.

An enormous amount of time and energy gets devoted to solving problems within organizations, all under the pretence that solving those problems is the best way to achieve success, superiority, a competitive advantage and greatness. The challenge is that growing organizations are constantly changing, which inevitably leads to new and more interesting problems to solve. It’s an endless cycle of focusing on problems that means it’s impossible to solve our way to greatness.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the traditional problem-solving approach. Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Copperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University in the mid ’80s. It focuses on doing more of what does work: uncovering the high moments in an organization’s history and using the commonalities of those experiences to build a plan to replicate those wins for the future. Sounds like more fun than constantly problem solving, doesn’t it? Here’s how it works and how it can be applied to your business.

In the past month, I have had two unique opportunities: the first was to spend a few days in Boston with one of my clients and Frances Frei from Harvard; the second was a fireside chat with some fellow CEOs and author Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Outliers, What the Dog Saw). There were some great strategic nuggets interwoven into both conversations, and I want to share with you what I learned.

Frei is a professor in Harvard Business School’s technology and operations management unit and the chairwoman of the MBA required curriculum. Because Frei’s work focuses on how organizations can more effectively design service excellence, I was eager to hear her thoughts on organizational strategy. I was not disappointed.

Here are some key points I took away from the conversation.

Choose great over average. When you’re considering your points of differentiation as an organization the key is not to try to become five out of five on all aspects of your client value proposition; by diffusing your efforts as an organization among so many things you end up becoming three out of five (average) on everything.

Really great, standout companies figure out what they can sacrifice (areas where they are at about a one out of five), so they can truly be five out of five on the areas that count most to their customers.

Choose differentiation versus “me-too.” For true differentiation you need to do something that the competition can’t properly replicate. Consider the example of the Heavenly Bed Wars. Once Westin hotels rolled

out its heavenly beds campaign, all their competitors had to do was provide a similar quality of bed – a simple yet costly undertaking, the net result being that consumers now get better beds from all competing hotels. But each is still in the same price-competitive space: higher cost, lower margin and no differentiation. The trick is to focus on providing something to your customer that is difficult for your competitors to replicate.

More and more, CEOs, Executives, and Entrepreneurs ask me about our virtual office and how it works. For the first 10 1/2 years of our business we had three different offices. For the past year and a half we've been virtual. It has been one...