Business Strategy For Challenging Times

Clear Direction
Clear Direction

The importance of strategy to steer organizations during uncertain times in unchartered territories could not be overemphasized and the current crisis proves it. The role of business leaders is fundamental in strategy development and execution and key contributor to a successful strategy implementation.

Whilst one of the main roles of business leaders is to set and communicate vision, mission and strategic objectives, many fail in the execution process as they get sucked into the details of day to day tactics. With the “big-picture” view, the leadership is able to view the ever changing environment and decide on how the organization needs to respond and to steer the organization towards the longer-term objectives. Whilst the strategic vision remains the same, the route to reach the destination might follow different tactics and game plans.

The word strategy is attributed to the military as its origin was originally derived from the Greek word for “army”. It describes a plan of action developed to realize a specific goal, bearing in mind the difference between strategy and tactics. Tactics is generally concerned with the manner an engagement is conducted, whilst strategy deals with how various engagements are interconnected.

Strategy is all about clarity, and if the strategy is not simple, clear and well-understood, it will not be accomplished. It represents the organization’s main direction and prime focus and defines the way to get there. It can only be executed if everyone involved knows what is expected of them and their purpose is totally aligned with its direction.

In business, the term strategy is frequently badly and inconsistently defined. Business people involved in formulating the strategy understand it well, whilst the majority others do not, particularly if they are not engaged in its development or strategy is not communicated down to them. Others mix strategy with vision and tactics.

Strategy is a real differentiator, often seen as the secret for long-term success and one of the leadership characteristics. It unites the whole workforce, nurtures and develops opportunities and ensures endurance during crises or tough times.

Although strategy represents a solid and firm direction, it should not be built into stone. Instead, it should be adaptable to reflect changes in the environment, whether it is politically, economically, socially, technologically or legally related. Business leaders must have clear business goals and be flexible and brave to continuously recalibrate their strategy. When times are tough and visibility is not so clear, leaders must have the buoyancy to be pragmatic and adaptable, as in the mist of chaos comes huge opportunities.

Unsuccessful companies are those which do not embrace new ideas, broaden their thinking or are totally unaware of changes in their environment. Changing circumstances may necessitate a change in direction and stubbornness and fixed ideas can frequently be the enemy of business leaders.

Business strategy is all about developing a viable plan for sustained business growth, possibly diversifying into new markets or cross selling to existing customers. Adequately qualified senior executives tend to have clear views of what their business strategy means. Good strategies are not glossy documents produced to be stacked on shelves to collect dust, but rather to be communicated, executed and monitored.

Leaders are expected to champion and drive the process of strategy execution by putting the strategy into action; after all the strategy does not mean anything unless it is fully communicated throughout the organization.

The strategy can be viewed as the story of how a business plans to develop in the next few years; investments to make, markets to address, products to develop, territories to compete in, partnerships and alliances, etc. A good strategy is simple, clear, credible, motivating and reflects the distinctive features of the business. Whilst strategies may end up looking the same, the brands and the culture of the organizations will be different.

The real test to establish whether a strategy is good or not can be seen during difficult times e.g. the current global credit crunch, as business leaders are tempted under such conditions to lose their sense of direction and seek ways to cut costs and maintain margins. The leadership’s thinking should be focused mainly on the strategy and nothing else. Companies are encouraged to continually health-check their strategy against various potential scenarios.

During changes in the working environment or tough times, the leadership should review their business strategy to assess whether it is still prudent and acceptable to adopt a more flexible approach to the execution process, for example accelerate making an investment or divesting an existing business segment. Business leaders should continuously be working on the company’s strategy, since the business environment is changing all the time with lots of threats and lots of emerging opportunities. Therefore, business leaders need to be regularly monitoring their business environment and taking a view of where the market is headed and to conduct fitness-check of their strategy.

Business strategies succeed only when they are well-developed and formulated, well communicated to the whole workforce, business functions are aligned to the corporate strategic objectives, incentives are aligned with individuals’ performance, and most importantly when the leadership is involved in the strategy formulation and execution process.

Dr Yahya Shakweh is a Vice President at Advanced Electronics Company, Saudi Arabia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s personal opinion.

Author: Yahya Shakweh

Five Steps to Effectively Managing Organizational Change

Knowing Change
Knowing Change

An organization is, quite simply, any group of individuals who come together to try to achieve mutual goals by means of a division of labor. This is done by means of setting goals that will further the organization’s growth and viability within the existing social and economic milieu as well as developing agreements among the people comprising the organization as to who will do what and when and under whose supervision and guidance.

When contemplating changing anything about these arrangements, it is well to be advised to start at the beginning of why and how this existing arrangement came to be and why it exists at the current time. After all, what has come to be accepted and observed as the standard operating procedures of an organization came about for good reasons and have been effective at achieving beneficial results for a period of time (perhaps a very long period of time). Altering an accepted, comfortable and heretofore useful way of doing things is challenging. The initial challenge that presents itself is fully comprehending and appreciating the foundational narrative of the organization and the collective experiences that members have shared since its inception. In other words, what of its past makes the organization tick today?

After coming to a thorough understanding of what makes the current organization tick, there are five steps that need to be taken sequentially in order to effect effective change.

1. The first step to take in initiating change within any type of organization is to create acute awareness of how things are now and how this state of affairs falls short of accomplishing stated goals and objectives. This can be done by disseminating occasional “state of the organization” reports as well as holding brief, but frequent, “progress report” meetings within each department and/or subgroup.

2. The second step is to nurture understanding that something must be done to change the current situation. Solicitation of input from coworkers regarding what can be done to change things follows logically from the understanding that something should be done. “Input equals buy-in” and those who contribute their ideas on how their organization should change have a strong investment in making that change happen.

3. Next, although people may provide suggestions as to how to change, unless there is a sense of urgency to do so, change will be perceived merely as a concept rather than a process that needs to be started immediately. Once change is understood as needing to be accomplished, a positive perception of what it will look like, both in terms of the transition process and the “finished product,” needs to be fostered and fed by constant communication about the shared vision of the future and the specific ways everyone will individually benefit in that new reality.

4. On the way to making the changed environment and operating procedures “stick” and stay feasible throughout the organization, there needs to be a well-thought-out program to ensure the actual adoption of the changes in the way things are done. Rewarding those who perform in the new ways and telling the stories of how their results better meet the current needs and accomplish the goals of the organization will go a long way to moving all members toward behaving in the “new and better” way.

5. Once adopted as “the way things are done around here” change can be seen as having been institutionalized within the organization and established as the new standard for performance and measurement of success, recognition and reward. Continue to solicit feedback on the new ways and request still other ways members can improve their respective job tasks to achieve even greater levels of efficiency. The idea is to leverage the experience and ideas of those who do the job to improve the job on a continuous basis. Institutionalizing new and improved ways of doing things in an organization is an ongoing process. In other words, managing organizational change means to continually insist on change for the better.

Knowing the roots of the organization, where and when it arose and how it’s progressed over time, and then engaging in the five steps to initiating and managing organizational change, you will successfully guide your organization through its transition from where it is now to where it needs to be for greater effectiveness and better results.

Ken Wallace, M. Div., CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders. A professional member of the National Speakers Association since 1989, he is also a member of the International Federation for Professional Speaking and holds the Certified Seminar Leader (CSL) professional designation awarded by the American Seminar Leaders Association.

Ken is one of only eight certified Business Systems and Process Coaches worldwide for General Motors.

His topics include ethics, leadership, change, communication & his unique Optimal Process Design program.

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Author: Kenneth Wallace

A Woman Leader’s Self-Esteem – 7 Self-Esteem Issues Faced by Women in Leadership

Women in Business
Women in Business

If you are a woman leader, others look up to you for advise, wisdom, and action. Just being a woman in leadership doesn’t mean you don’t face self-esteem issues at times. Here are 7 self-esteem issues faced by many women in leadership positions.

1. Doubt. It’s not unusual to doubt yourself as a leader. Doubt comes from feeling that you’re not up to the task of being the one in charge. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to know everything. You just have to know enough to find the information you need to deal with the tasks in front of you at any moment.

2. Unfinished Projects. It is detrimental to your self-esteem to feel that your rarely get things finished. Leadership means needing to multitask but working on several projects at once can mean having a lot of loose ends at the same time too. It’s important to know when you have actually reached the end of what you are required to accomplish with any project. Sometimes, you have finished but don’t realize it because you delegated the final touches to someone else. You have to know what being finished means for any task. Make a list of your projects to see what’s really finished and what’s not. Do what you can and then move on.

3. Incomplete Ideas. Leaders are expected to come up with ideas. Others look for you to tell them what to do and to know how to solve problems. You might feel that you’re jumping from one idea to the next. In reality, you might be using several of your ideas but maybe not the complete idea as you originally thought of it. Leadership can move fast. Write down your ideas. Use the portions that fit with the issues at hand and save other portion of your good ideas fro another time, or let them go. Your creative mind will come up with new ideas when you need them.

4. Feel Like a Fake. Did leadership come very quickly to you? Maybe you made a statement that was inspiring or took the reigns on an important issue at just the right time and the rest of the people designated you the leader. If leadership came to you quickly you might not feel up to the task or even feel that you are a fake. You don’t have to remain in a leadership role forever. Complete the issue you were put in charge of and then move on. If you remain as the leader, build your leadership skills so you feel comfortable in the position.

5. Need a Mentor. Women in leadership often lack the support and mentoring that is given to men in leadership. This can cause you to feel alone and lonely when you’re making decisions that affect the lives of others. Seek your own mentors. It might start with reading a biography of another leader and gleaning leadership ideas. Look for leaders in your area and see if you can take her to lunch to discuss issues. There are ways to approach others to be your mentor or you can find an executive coach to help you along in a confidential manner.

6. Need Support. Being in a leadership role can be a time consuming task. It’s important to have support to do tasks and to take some of the load off your plate. Being overworked and worn out is bad for your self-esteem so do take the leadership initiative to do something about it. If you don’t already have help, be pro-active to select someone to work with you even if it’s in a volunteer position. The benefit to you will be relief from some tasks. The benefit to the other person is to get grooming for a future leadership role.

7. Stressed out. Being stressed for sustained periods of time affected your levels of confidence and self-esteem. Leadership can be a stressful position. The need to constantly make a decision, be in the spot light and have the right answers is stressful. As a leader you will need to take control of your schedule and find ways to manage your time to leave space for adequate self-care. If you don’t take care of you, no one else will. Step up the plate, know when to say no, and keep your health in tack to have a high self-self-esteem.

Being in the role of leadership means needing to solid self-esteem. Not all women in leadership have the self-esteem required to be a strong leader. But knowing some of the trouble areas can help you build your self-esteem. You will know how to make decisions that let you get the support and mentoring needed to have a good self-esteem for leadership success.

Consuelo Meux, PhD. owns the Confident Business Women programs for women who are determined to succeed in life and business. Women learn to embrace levels of confidence needed to maximize success and to live an authentic life on purpose. Find out about the upcoming Embracing Confidence Program or join the monthly Confident Women Cafe. Go to the website to find out how at http://www.confidentbusinesswomen.com

Author: Consuelo Meux

Virtual Assistants – Top Ten Reasons Why A Business Should Have One

Virtural Assistant

Working with a Virtual Assistant is fast becoming a necessity for the busy entrepreneur, small business owner and large organisation. Below are the top ten reasons why a Virtual Assistant is the answer to your outsourcing needs.

1. Allows you to focus on your business.

Having a Virtual Assistant allows you to concentrate on the core needs of your business, and not the time consuming admin chores which are essential but don’t add value. Being forced to concentrate on the tedious task of running your business stops you from thinking about new and exciting ways to expand. Your VA will take away as much of this burden as you need.

2. Saves you money.

A VA offers businesses a full range of office support services at a fraction of the true cost of a temp or employee. There will be no millstone of extra expenses around the neck of your business. VAs are self employed professionals who are responsible for their own office overheads. Compare that with the full hidden cost of an employee with all the responsibilities you have for salary, tax, national insurance, holiday pay, pension benefits, maternity or paternity leave, sick pay, and training. A Virtual Assistant can ensure that any small business has access to the same office support system as a large company – without adding to the payroll.

3. You don’t pay for ‘downtime’.

Businesses only pay for the hours worked or service provided, as and when required. Why pay for unproductive and unnecessary downtime? VAs will not charge you for coffee and lunch breaks, or time taken for their admin. When you hire a VA, you only pay for the time spent actually working for you.

4. Availability outside ‘normal’ office hours.

Virtual Assistants don’t start work only at 9.00am and go home at 5.00pm. Being self employed professionals themselves, they understand the need to be flexible and to provide an out of hours service when necessary, and that includes weekends and Bank Holiday periods. VAs are there for your business needs, not their convenience.

5. Tailored to suit your requirements.

Virtual Assistants can tailor their services to provide assistance for one-off projects or long-term support. You don’t need to ‘fill’ their time on the quiet periods. Whether the service you require is as simple as correspondence or as complicated as project management, a VA can be there as and when required – no more, no less.

6. Commuting? What commuting?!

Location is no longer an issue when using a VA. Through the use of Internet, email or good old fashioned phone and fax, VAs can communicate with their clients wherever they happen to be. Most virtual workers face a commute lasting minutes, or even seconds to their home-based offices. Even if they work in their own offices outside of their home, it’s usually nearby and not dictated by the location of their clients. This means that VAs don’t get disheartened by a demoralising struggle with traffic or public transport, nor do they lose any valuable time which could be better spent on their clients’ work.

7. No need for constant retraining.

With a high turnover of permanent staff in some businesses, the ongoing training involved can add a significant burden to your budget, both in time and money. The same applies if you employ a succession of temps. You will have to train each one to follow your own working methods. Whereas a temp is employed by an agency, the VA works with you. VAs are responsible for their own training in whatever equipment or software is necessary to provide the support your business needs. Your VA will be the one groaning when yet another software upgrade is issued, not you!

8. An offshore office.

VAs can provide a presence in a foreign country for international companies. Use a VA in the UK and you have a mailing address and phone number without the overheads involved in setting up an office. A Virtual Assistant can be your offshore office – from address to accent.

9. Parting is painless.

And when the contract comes to an end, for either side, there are none of the legal responsibilities associated with an employee, nor the personality conflicts which can sometimes taint such situations. Either the VA or the client can decide to end the business relationship, given the statutory minimum period agreed at the beginning. It is merely a business transaction like any other, with no need for tricky and sensitive ’employee handling’.

10. Providing a range of services.

A VA can become your partner in business, offering more than just excellent secretarial back-up. Most have experience in a wide range of business fields, including marketing, PR, editing, event management and website design, to name but a few. VAs can offer services ranging from word processing, invoicing, desktop publishing, book-keeping, travel arrangements, mailshots to more specialised services such as website design, editorial copywriting or event management.

 

Author: Irene Boston

Leadership Team Building in Business

Team Commitment
Team Commitment

Many times in business a project must be completed by a group of qualified individuals. As the head of this group, you may have problems making them pull together. Leadership team building is what you may need. You will have to find a way to rally the troops. This may be harder than expected.

One of the problems with leadership team building is communication. In order for things to run smoothly people must know what each part of the group is doing. Effective communication is a key element for making a team run smoothly. When people are talking they are sharing. This means ideas are flowing. Brainstorming with each other is an effective tool in getting teams to work together.

Recognizing the assets of your group is another motivational tool you can use in leadership. Team building can be greatly enhanced when the group knows what they are capable of. Pointing out individual attributes helps with this. People try harder to get the job done when they know it will be appreciated.

Another key element in getting the team to work together making sure the people want to be there. You will find when someone does not want to participate, they probably won’t. To ensure proper leadership, team building means getting the right people. When someone enjoys what they are doing, the job gets done so much better. This means commitment.

In leadership, team building means making and getting a commitment. You must dedicate yourself to the project and ensure it follows the project plan. You must also determine if your team is committed in following this plan. The project plan must be implemented correctly. A dedicated team will make sure each step is followed so the project can reach it’s goal.

Setting goals is a big part of the leadership in team building. You must have a goal the team can work towards. With no set plan or goal, the team may be working on the same things for months. Chaos accomplishes nothing. Directing the team towards a common goal or setting vision will enable everyone to complete the task.

As part of the leadership team, building trust is crucial. When someone is working in an environment where no one trusts each other, there can be strife. Very little work will get done when the team is bickering with each other. You are to act as the liaison between the group members to build trust and confidence.

You will also have to act as a motivator. Part of the leadership, team building will mean motivating the group to accomplish the tasks which they are given. This can come in the form of recognizing a job well done. It can be simply telling someone what their key assets to the team are. Pointing out why they are important to the group can make all the difference in the world. You may have the best programmer in the world, but unless he or she has confidence the work might be sub-par.

There are many things which come into play when in the position of leadership. Team building is not difficult. It just takes a few people skills. These skills can help build the team and get the job done.

 

Author: Hal Lewis

10 Time Management Tips For Small Businesses

Time Management?
Time Management?

“Just as a well-run business follows a budget in spending money, an effective business person should also follow a budget (or schedule) in spending time.”

Being a business owner myself, I wish I had more hours in my day. But time is always getting away from me, you know how it goes. Come into the office around 9 o’ clock and you check your email, voicemail, start looking over your planner to see what needs to be accomplished today and BOOM before you know it, it’s time for lunch. I have found these 10 tips to put time back into my day and I hope these will work for you as well.

1. Recognize you can do it all
We are only given 24 hours in a day. Time doesn’t change. Realize we can only manage ourselves and what we do with that time.

2. Figure out your time- wasters
We all fall victim to time wasters- Do you spend too much time surfing the net, reading email, making calls? By tracking these you can get a picture of what you REALLY do during your day.

3. Set time limits for all tasks
Once you have figured out what your time wasters are then set a limit to complete them and stick to it.

4. Develop routines and stick to them
You will be much more productive if you can follow these routines as much as possible.

5. Learn to Delegate
Delegation is hard for most business owners, but this skill is critical for businesses to succeed. You have to make this a priority if you’re going to do what you want to do and stay sane and happy.

6. Take advantage of “down-time”
Allow yourself some “down-time” between busy periods to look over your planner and reevaluate your priorities.

7. Stay Organized
Take time at the end of each day to organize your desk, inbox and emails. By doing so when you coming in the morning your desk will be clean. You will know what tasks need to be completed first and what emails to respond to.

8. Use the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is “80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts.” So as a small business owner you will want to figure out where YOUR most profitable 20% is and spend the majority of your time there.

9. Keep your “to-do” list short
Have no more that eight items on your list. Remember this is a “daily” to – do list, as you complete tasks check them off and you will have a feeling of accomplishment.

10. Have you hired a Virtual Assistant?
My number one tip for small business owners is to partner with a Virtual Assistant. There are a number of administrative tasks that a VA can take care of for you on an ongoing basis so you, the business owner can spend more time with clients.

 

Author: Danielle Kubus