JP Morgan and A.I : Lawyers At The Cross Road?

For the aspiring and those entrenched in the legal profession, JP Morgan bank is moving in the direction of the Artificial Intelligence platform.

Below are my general thoughts on careers and the different “highly skilled” professions:

1) In the evolving phase of fast paced new knowledge, there will be opportunities; there will be losses.

One needs not mention the emerging list of winners and losers.

2) There will be unprecedented profit for some and bankruptcy for others. That’s the 21st century.

3) As an aside, young parents have to look again at the career plans/choice for their kids in this light. Expectations based on old fashioned assumptions may fail in 10+ years.

4) Professionals and CEOs must be more circumspect. What has worked till now may NOT continue to be. Yet your stakeholders wont want excuses!

5) Finally, nearly all industries will eventually meet their points of inflection. Changes in technology AND changes in social behavioral patterns would be the driving force

The 9 Proven Steps CEOs Can Take To Make Business Strategies Work!

In our private lives, we set out personal goals and objectives. Within a family, there are expectations — be it nuclear or extended (depending on the social mores of a place). Every head of the family or a single parent, wish for a certain outcome. And, Oh Yes, the wise ones know that things don’t go as expected.

Imagine a racing car on the track, no matter how well tuned or powerful it may be, without a conscientious driver behind the wheel, will not get to the finishing line. (I am aware there are now driverless vehicles in the offing, by the way).
Likewise plotted flight charts alone won’t carry aircraft passengers to their planned destination. There must be capable pilots in the cockpit whose job is to take them to their destination safely.

But how come many organizations don’t get to where they have planned, despite the best of strategies?

What makes them fail to achieve their strategic goals? I will not quote a specific figure of the failure rate here, as research findings differ widely. However a finding of the collective rates can be looked up at researchgate.net [1]

In my reckoning, there are two major reasons why strategic plans fail.

These are:

  • The bossy mindset of some CEOs, decision-makers and leaders and
  • a nonexistent system of execution or implementation to meet the set-goals.

The bigger the organization gets, the tendency that some top executives over-delegate and fail. They wait behind the big oak table, expecting the organizational structure to drive itself to its destination.
But leaders need to be more involved. Though this is not to support micro-managing.

If you send your kids to school, that is a responsible undertaking as a parent. But it is a smart thing for a wise parent to pay occasional visits to the school; to ask questions and get more information. The periodical result cards are not enough to make full and accurate judgement on the progress of that kid.

Some leaders would rather wait to react to an unfavorable outcome. Unfortunately this is a fatalistic mindset. And it is also an unprofitable way to get results, more so in our fast-changing world. And no organization is spared of failure, if it cannot institute a proper implementation system in agreement with its top executives and the rest of the workforce. It is better to be active rather than being reactive.

Having said that, then, one may ask: what then should be done to bring a strategic plan to reality?

Here are nine steps that must be instituted to achieve results in meeting strategic goals:

  1. Develop The Leadership Mindset
    The CEO and the top leaders must be more engaged with their subordinates, at their respectable levels, in pushing for results. Since you cannot do it all, you must nurture and raise leaders that would work with you. Their contribution would introduce more objectivity and accuracy in decision making.
    On a scheduled basis, you would need to walk down to the “factory floor” at the units or division level. Here you feel things and listen to their opinions and comments. Here most of your job would be; asking questions. No wonder, the highly revered and successful PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi took time out to visit divisions and even engaged business owners who retailed their products. To be a leader whose organization desires to generate good results, the Chief Executive and the leadership can no longer be aloof in their management style.
    Many bring into leadership positions some behavioral ineptitude, ignorance and naivety. A top I.Q. or technical prowess garnered over the years may not even be enough to make achieve good results. And topnotch result isn’t a bad idea either, for shareholders and other stakeholders in the organization.There is also a need to be objective and less sentimental when dealing with people’s issues. The result oriented leaders must be emotional balanced, having behind his or her mind the results expected of the organization.
    As a leader you must make things happen. Goal oriented Executives execute. No excuses… As such, they must stay less behind the big table to get the ship of enterprise to reach its planned destination.
  2. Build The Implementation System
    Your organization will design and document a set of activities, actions and processes geared towards making the strategic plan a reality. It will be a living system since various internal and external variables won’t be static over time, even with the time frame as planned.
    All activities must be well coordinated with the allocated resources and the workforce to accomplish the strategic goals.The system of purposeful action will be replicated across the different departments and divisions of the organization. These will be the sub-systems at various units or divisions. External factors must be considered first before the internal exigencies; and both built into the implementation framework. Areas of conflict will be eliminated through continuous communication and feedback loops.The system should be able to pinpoint issues that need to be addressed urgently.
    For example; are there issues about hiring and wrong staffing?
    Will you bring in needed skills to meet new objectives?
    How does a sub-system of implementation in various units or division read the marketplace and consumer’s trends? And other factors such as technology, suppliers, and regulations; name it…At every leverage point within the overall operational system, the CEO and his or her top team must be able to put a finger on such areas and understand what is going on, in a timely manner.
  3. Encourage Staff Participation
    There is a need to institute both a formal and informal set of events to get comments from the workforce. Specially designated leaders across units, departments or division will meet on a scheduled basis to discuss the strategic plans and what must be done to achieve them.The CEO hand-picks a top team of advisers which should include specialists at the lower rung of the ladder if need be. They help the CEO and the top executives spot each other’s blind-spot so that more informed decision can be made after these joint sessions.Informal meets such as executive and staff retreats is a good idea if it has cost-benefits. Powerful ideas do come up when everybody is allowed to express himself in a relaxed atmosphere. The CEO or his top team should be at such events. The Executives are to ask good questions and be more of silent listeners. Once agreed upon, the valid ideas are put into action by the CEO and leaders at various units and divisions.
    It now becomes a collective assignment for the success of the organization.
  4. Allocate Resources
    The staff must be supported with what they need towards the set goal. Support would come in difference shades. Where necessary additional skills will be brought from outside. Some staff may need further training or mentoring to implement new ideas. Within the workforce, resources should be allocated to develop innovative ideas for competitive edge.Consultants may be brought in to give an objective appraisal and proffer solution in many cases where time is of essence. This also helps for clarity where internal politics and doubts on feedback may slow down the CEO and the top leaders in coming to a decision.Ad-hoc arrangements or permanent alliance with technical partners in certain areas that the company lack expertise should also be effected, after due diligence. In extreme cases acquiring another firm may be the most effective decision rather than inventing the wheel in-house.
    In essence, where a specific outcome is feasible and profitable, resources must be deployed to make it a reality.
  5. Align Organizational Behavior And Culture
    Behavioral patterns that could stall the implementation process across board must be studied and where necessary adjusted. There must be an alignment of organizational culture that supports activities that ensure that the strategic goals are met. The inevitable internal politics must be tamed.The carrot and stick approach may be applied where necessary to induce collaboration as set targets must be met.
    At the individual and group levels, persuasion and continuous dialogue must be the tactic to be used. Change takes time but smart organization and resourceful leaders work with their people to carry them along to create a more successful business organization.Habits die hard and since human beings are not robots; but the leadership would provide the best solution to get their staff cooperation and commitment.
    No staff commitment, strategic failure is a matter of time. A good dose of continuous explanation and mutual understanding with the rank and file on the overall objective of an organization would help a great deal in execution.
  6. Manage The Workforce
    As humans, our idiosyncrasies, biases and beliefs must be taken into consideration. Since people would drive the system, then they ought to be well managed. And pruning of staff may be necessary of those unwilling or unconvinced about the new orientation. The latter with such disposition must be found out and excused from the company.Years back, I recall a new business I started which was brought down by some old staff whom I thought would pick new skills for higher pay. They scared away the efforts of my highly skilled professional I employed to head the outfit. After two days of throwing the doors open, the new manager simply put a call across to me about his departure and walked away. For other reasons I eventually closed down the outfit. Painful. It was a loss.While at this, the Human Resources Department must key-in into the implementation system. Some of their activities would need vital contributions from the top hierarchy and other relevant departments before certain decisions can be finalized. It is a very sensitive department since people are the ones that make strategic plans and goals become a reality.A good reward system must also be instituted. Those who meet set objectives are recognized and rewarded. Those who miss the mark or who seem to be amiss about what is happening, would be investigated to see how they can be helped to perform better. If they fail afterwards, they may have to be given a different task. If they can’t meet up here again, then they should be relieved of their appointment in an amicable manner.
  7. Install Good Communication System
    A thorough network of free-flow of information must be designed for the organization. It must be a well thought-out system. The organizational structure should support an efficient and effective flow of information that work in a timely manner.All tools and resources that will channel vital information between the CEO, top decision-makers and the workforce must be deployed and well managed.
    Channels that follow Up-down, across, and between the organization and outside must be well managed.
    The accuracy and authenticity of information must be verified for decision making. The nodal points of engagement along information channels must be well managed.The style of delivery of information must be amenable to all stakeholders for clear comprehension and understanding.
    Information is sacred — secondary to human beings – and as such it is very important in our lives and in business management. We must carefully engage with it. It must be clear and understood by the receiver in whatever vehicle or form it is deployed. And the purveyor must not be careless about what is broadcast.
    Either way information is channeled; from the CEOs, top executives or within the workforce, communication must be well protected with necessary tools and resources.Transparency should be entrenched to encourage a sense of belonging, conviction and commitment by employees and their unit leaders. However, in discretionary cases, some information may not be broadcast to everybody from top management.
  8. Understand The External Environment
    No business exists in isolation. So the implementation process should feed in from outside to achieve specific outcome. The horizon changes more rapidly than in the past years because of technology.
    Technology continuously causes so much change. In its wake, some industries have been subdued or became moribund while new ones have evolved.The externals would also include the general economy, consumers and social trends. We will also consider regulation, competition, global politics and threats and others. Various trends and players within an industry and outside of it will be monitored.Having a field tour by the CEOs and his top team across the value chain of the business would throw up some nuggets of useful ideas and unforeseen problems as well as opportunities.
    It’s good for management to have an open mind. Strategies may be forced to change, if what you planned won’t go far.Other top leaders should do the same as foot soldiers of the management in their own capacity. All data are fed into the implementation system which the top management and the CEO would work with.To achieve strategic goals, there must be a proper engagement with suppliers and other partners to make execution a reality.
    It is also a safer bet to engage in a diplomatic manner, influencers that play a major role in your industry. For big organizations, lobbying policy-makers — in an ethical manner — should be done in a timely manner as some policies may derail some strategic plans.
  9. Review Milestones and Feedback
    On a continuous basis, there must be a process to determine if milestones are being met and they must be measurable. A value should be put to specific outcome. The various sub-systems within the organization should be accorded relevant criteria of review and feedback.When all these are carried out, a larger and clearer picture can be seen; to know how specific outcomes and strategic plans have been met.
    Where success is achieved, you consolidate on that outcomes.
    When the feedback falls short of expected milestones, it is a waste of energy to bark like a General at war. Though engaging in business is a war of sorts – the Chief Executive and his or her top team will go back to review and push for the objectives to be met.

Final Thoughts

Your well-crafted strategic plan is not enough. Your shareholders and other stakeholders hunger for results. You can drive the operational process with your workforce, to bring the strategic goals to a reality.
That is what is expected of you as a leader and Chief Executive, despite the shifting business horizon. It won’t be easy. But being disciplined and focused with your carefully selected team, you can do it.
And your well instituted execution plans would bring the well-crafted strategic plans on paper to reality.
And as Warren Buffet has been quoted, a little bit of the luck could help also. And that’s being pragmatic.

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  1. *Cândido, C.J.F. and S.P. Santos (2015) Strategy implementation: What is the failure rate? Journal of Management & Organization, 21(2), 237-262. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/jmo.2014.77
    Strategy implementation: What is the failure rate? (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264004530_Strategy_implementation_What_is_the_failure_rate

For The Anxious CEO: Business Planning Tips for Any New Year

Just before a new financial year, many CEO or business owners may start becoming restless and apprehensive. You want to make effective business decisions for the New Year. You are not alone.

This is irrespective of whether your organization has posted good financials in the outgoing year or not. The bulk stops at your table for the next cycle of things. You should desire a more successful outcome of the expectant year.

I am going to take you through some basic steps you can take; to remove the cobweb of anxiety from your mind.
Of course, here, I am not talking about the “new year resolutions” yearly fad. Serious minded and realistic executives don’t have anything to do with that.
Spelling out new business goals must be close to being realizable and practical; that is what you want to achieve. And to a large extent acceptable to all stakeholders.

As a business leader or the Chief Executive Officer, you know that you must put in place an effective strategy for the coming – financial year. (January of a new year is the most popular starting month but not necessarily so for some companies.)

Yours could be a multinational or a localized business. Or you could be the owner and manager of a solo effort of an enterprise – established to serve within your community. Decision making still boils down to clear insight of leadership into the future.

One of the many things that will be coming to your mind is how to do better than in the previous year. All shareholders, your team, workforce and the board look up to you for leadership, direction and execution.

And if yours is a big company, after all the dreary crisscrossing meetings, the buck still stops at your table. And you must come up with a fresh and an effective decision plan – at the twilight period of the outgoing year.

And plans must be executed, once the new financial year starts to unfold.

So what are you thinking of now?
What are you going to do differently and better than the past?
How are you to make a further positive impact on your organizations?

These following thoughts may cross your mind:

  • You might be contemplating looking around for some “business decisions models”. The ones you can copy. Of course that won’t give you a unique solution.
  • You might also be looking around to see how other executives in your situation have done well for their corporation. But you will not be privy of the little details, as those are the secrets buried in such organizations.
  • And sadly, if you are quite egocentric you might be looking around for information for your own selfish sake but not for the improved fortunes of your organization. Here you could be daydreaming of the beaming smiles and applause you could get from your board and other stakeholders. That might become an illusion if your organization miss the mark of success ultimately.
    At this crucial time: think about your organization first! That would be the way to go.

Here I simply want you to open your mind to the power you have…residing inside of you.

You know your organization better and therefore you need to excuse your self-doubt if any. Suggestions from “guru” may not take you far. There is much more to your organization – those little nuances that you and no other person can know unless they are aware of these details.

Now, the question is: what is your mind telling you?

Agreed we must learn from others but if you suffuse yourself with so much available information out there, you will most likely be overwhelmed. In effect your strategic plans might be seriously flawed within the short time frame you have.

You simply need to be confident that you have most of the resources you need. The intellectual contribution from your smart senior executives including some junior ones can help.

Your vast experience would give you the confidence to make better business decisions yet again.

Accept that you can make things work and meet the expectations of the various stakeholders – within the organization and outside of it. And of course you must not lose focus on your shifting consumers’ needs, as the years rolled by.
You will know.
Why?
Because, being a dynamic soul and a hands-on Chief Executive; you have over the years learned the ropes. You have keenly observed both consciously – and otherwise – as you went through the ranks.
You have studied the past and gained relevant knowledge of your industry. All these varied experiences in play have coached your subconscious.

Your past failures, mistakes, ingenuity and successes are available to be tapped into. Only if you ask your inner-self.

I will admit; it is a painstaking exercise that needs a timeout; to sieve out and put things together properly. That’s what successful leaders are doing. That is the secret. There is no Superhuman CEO.

And remember your gut feeling which can override notions and researched outcomes.
Having cleared out your inner doubts, you can now proceed as follows.

Be ready to put pen to paper.

  • Before you do this; if your schedule could allow it as you prepare for another year, set aside a week or less to think through all issues in front of you.
    Paint a total picture of varied influencing factors that must be addressed and utilized so that your organization and you can make a headway.At this phase, you may jot down some points. Or leave the thoughts playing out in your mind for a while. Nothing elaborate at this time. But they must eventually be written down when you are ready to come up with your own “business decision making” template.
  • You may give a shout-out to a few but trusty subordinates or whoever you safely think will give you an input to make a few adjustments. But remember the buck stops with you as the Chief Executive Officer or Managing Director. The final decision is your responsibility.
  • When the time is right and you are ready for the first draft, these thoughts will come back in torrents. Your mind is already turgid and so you write them down. Thereafter, you will smoothen all the rough edges. It will never be perfect. But let your plan be an informed decision and timely.
  • If this exercise is applicable to you, you will call up a meeting with your team or board to explain your direction for the New Year. If you don’t have anybody to report to, you’ll take the plunge yourself.
    I can assure you, you will have ample confidence and sense of purpose displayed when you marshal your plans to your team.
  • Be mindful of the fact that there will be some advice from some board members. They could disagree on some issues but do take such into consideration. You may learn from them. And some inputs may not be useful since a few would speak, based on the spur of the moment.You will have to convince them otherwise as you had ample time to think through these issues prior to the meeting.

    I advise you to envisage many of such objections or additions when preparing your template.
    Give room for the rabble-rousers. You may not ignore them all the time. Their contributions may be providential. Note their suggestions; but verify their submissions.

  • Be on your guard not to disregard everything in your earlier well thought-out plan while hearing out submissions from your team or board. Realize all business decisions are risks including these external suggestions.So after the meeting, the buck stops at your table. Follow your notions and instinct and execute your adjusted decision making template. Then you are good to go for the New Year or the new financial period of your company, as the case may be.
  • Muster a heavy dose of courage and fine-tune your plans when necessary during the implementation phase. There is nothing to be ashamed about in adjusting your template in due course of the year. Circumstances do crop up beyond any man’s wildest imagination.However this is not to make you become too rigid or egocentric.

    A smart Chief Executive should ascribe a feeling to himself or herself that he or she does not know it all. But be equally firm about your vision while still being a team player.
    There will be situations where you can never see the back of your head. Someone will need to help you out, at these times.

  • Above all, let your decision making have a room for Plan B.

A contingency of sorts to minimize risks.
This aspect might not be too detailed. The truth is; it is mentally exhaustive enough to come up with an original well thought-out plan, yet to be bothered about a second option.

But try to give a thought to what might not work. And put up contingency plans to ameliorate this IF they do occur. That would readily eliminate the apprehension and procrastination in your mind to act on your first template of decisions for the New Year.

Finally

Eliminate your fears and doubts. Take solace in that; no decision making is ever perfect. Modifications will still be made during months of execution.

Determine your expectations. Give cognizance to the usual, namely: resources, challenges and opportunities within and outside your organization. You will be looking out for all the attributes of the local, national and global factors as they affect your manpower, your company and your industry.

Highlight your objectives and goals. Determine the time frame you must finish with your robust plan. After all the turkeys, chickens and sumptuous end-of-the-year dishes, you must find a place to carry out this meditative planning.

Put flesh to your highlights within a day or two after writing them out. Determine the date when you must finish it. Then you can come back and write and adjust the final thoughts you have penciled down.

All the past resources you have read; books, experts and successful business leaders, the multiple opinions at board and staff meetings would have worked on your thoughts to complete your action plan.

Having done that. You now have your own unique but effective business decision template for the New Year.
Mistakes would be made: successes would also be recorded.

Go for it…

Happy Deliberation.

Happy New Financial Year!