Month: August 2013

Cycle of Happiness

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English: Erik Pevernagie, painting. Representi...
English: Erik Pevernagie, painting. Representing the quest of the definition of happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happiness is cyclical!

Being happy makes you want to be a better person, being a better person makes you happy.

 

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Business as usual, a bit more war for Syria

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English: The General Establishment of Post in ...
English: The General Establishment of Post in Damascus, Syria with images of presidents Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar al-Assad, and the Syrian flag draped on the building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

British and European investors are having a bad case of the jitters since it has become clear (well not explicit but I think clear nonetheless) that the US, UK & possibly France are going to get themselves involved in another Mid-East conflict. The FTSE100 fell 51 points on Tuesday 27th Aug. & a further 38 points on Wednesday 28th Aug. European markets also took a dip at the same time and the Dow fell 0.9%. All because the politicians just love a war.

The escalating tensions between those countries who want a military strike against the Assad regime and those opposed is being blamed for the stock markets unrest. Traders are concerned about the international free flow of goods and services and how any conflict might interrupt the flow. But spare a thought for the Mid-East markets, the Dubai general index fell 7% on the back of conflict fears.

All those pensions!

And anyone who thinks conflict offers an opportunity, think again. Oil production in Libya has fallen by over 60% since liberation! And the reason, continuing tensions and rivalries in country, strikes and increase security issues. Yup that was a worthwhile conflict. No peace, massively reduced economic activity, a generation lost to education, and the rest of the world will end up propping up a fallen nation.

So the lesson to be learnt surely is avoid the conflict. At least from an economic perspective.

So what might the other effects might be?

Well I suppose a military strike made without firm evidence of who might be responsible for any chemical attack within Syria could just confirm the view held in certain areas of the world that the West are without principal or resolve to do the right thing. They just don’t follow their own rules, yes that’s right the ones they expect everyone else to follow, the very same.

The real worry is the driving force behind this latest rattling of sabers is one David Cameron, UK PM. Yes, leader of the conservatives, that political party who are pro-business? Not only that but he does seem to dragging US President Obama along with him on the ‘need to do something’ train.

And the military strategy; surprise perhaps? No, press release after press release telling the world at large what they are thinking (planning) on doing. The military logic is astonishing. And what might happen, maybe the targets might move away from the targeted areas? I’ll leave you to figure it out.

So do I think that these threats might make Mr. Assad step down from office? No.

I’ve no doubt that the atrocities taking place daily in Syria will horrify most but, the duty to take action to stop such atrocities is qualified by the duty to ensure that any such action does not make matters even worse, that there is a clear strategic goal in mind and that such action is most likely to be in the best interests of those undertaking it. But this proposed strike at Syria meets not one of these conditions for responsible military action.

And who will take over from Mr. Assad? That business friendly, open and progressive organisation al Qaeda who seem to have infiltrated the FSA.

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I wonder, are we to honestly believe that the proposed action is in any way to the benefit of the Syrian people, to the benefit of the Mid-East generally and to the benefit of international trade?

The Third Metric & Balance of Life

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Success is funny kind of thing, we all want it but I have to ask do we actually know what it actually is?

Is it money? a big house? a holiday home? a fast car?… It could be any of these things but it can equally be centered on quality of life.

The horse has probably bolted but it is perhaps important to realize that 1 in 6 employees in the UK suffers from stress, anxiety or depression  at some point in their working lives. And what does this mean to the workplace? Well, disengaged employees is what it means and lots of time away from the workplace, or worse still lots of people in work under-performing is what it means.

The Third Metric is a term dreamt-up by the Huffington Post and it looks to be the next big topic of discussion. The term is related to how we measure success which previously has been power and money of variations thereof.

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But if you think beyond money then the Third Metric is a valid metric. Its concerned with those factors of success beyond power and money, business leaders are encouraged to make smarter decisions aimed at making employees feel more valued and that they have a sustainable career nonetheless.

So how to define the Third Metric success factors:

  1. Health
  2. Rest
  3. Family/Friends
  4. Mindfulness

The list gives an indication of those things that are affected either positively or negatively by work.  They are affected by the consequences of work and feed-back into the quality of life of the employee.

Health is by no mistake the most important, #1 factor on the list.  Good health is the platform on which power and income generation is based. Prolonged poor health invariably leads to time off work in treatment and recovery so success will almost with exception be affected, and often badly.

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Businesses through the Third Metric may seek to address this by, for example giving discounted or even free gym membership or private medical insurance so that when the worst does happen that the employee is treated in better then state provided surroundings and consequently will feel valued. The pay-back should seem obvious albeit not measured in power and money terms.

The Future, The Third Metric

The workplace will change, that is an inevitability regardless of the macro economic situation. Innovations in treatments & therapies will mean quicker recovery times. Those businesses that address the issue of success and how it is measured through the lens of the Third Metric may well find that when the economics change that they are among those best placed to take best advantage.

No Authority

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English: Interior The No. 2857 bus which Rosa ...
English: Interior The No. 2857 bus which Rosa Parks was riding on before she was arrested (a GM transit bus, serial number 1132).She was sitting in the 2nd row from the front, all the way to the right window (looking from the back). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A long time ago I counted myself as an Anarchist.  I marched under the banner of the black flag, considered myself to be a member of ClassWar and participated in Animal Liberation activities.  Of course I was young and idealistic but nonetheless I still hold dear the idea that;

There is no authority other than my own.

Modern anarchist’s differ little to my understanding of what anarchy actually means to those who genuinely believe it is an alternative.  Albeit I have modified my previous views to take account of the 62 million+ people presently living in Britain and how they might best live together in harmony (well at least without too much harm being done to one-another at any rate).

Anarchy is almost always incorrectly framed in the mass media.  News broadcasts of rioters (could be anywhere on the planet) are frequently referenced as anarchists. This is simply a falsehood. Some may be anarchists but many are there just for trouble and have no particular political leaning, I’d probably call them nihilists.

Anarchy simply put is about bringing about social order without the imposition of rules. A high minded ideal, yes but nonetheless achievable in small like minded groups.

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However, it is my honest view that employees and business can learn;

Employees should be encouraged to think for themselves. We are all conditioned from birth that there is an authority which must be obeyed. Well those who abandon this pattern can be the source of great innovation and improvements. Encourage it!

Look around, history is littered with examples; Henry Ford, Luis Pasteur, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates and the man who invented the walkman to name just a few.

People who wish to change their world (the bit they can actually affect that is) have got to understand that they have to change themselves, change the way they think.

I’m quite certain that the loss of illusion will in some cases be quite terrifying, their minds will have to adapt, to learn to trust in their own thoughts. Never mourn the loss of chains, the only power that your boss has is the power you allow them to have. He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior (Confucius – and he knew a thing or two).

So… I say have authority over yourself, encourage others to have authority over themselves and work together for the good of all.

Inspirational Women

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The Huffington Post has published a list of Inspirational Women. I’m a big, big, fan of women and I honestly believe that more women in the workplace would be a great thing, but probably just as importantly more women in the top jobs too.

Tina Fey:  HuffPost UK Comedy Editor Andrea Mann picks the brilliant Tina Fey, adding: “She’s proof that women are just as funny and smart – and can be just as powerful – as men.”

Maya Angelou:  One of my favorites, read her biography; she really is amazing!
Hillary Clinton:  I don’t need to say any more really.  HC is the first name to come to mind when thinking about inspirational women. It’s got nothing to do with her politics but her courage in the face of great scrutiny, whether that be her marriage, her looks, her policies or political competition. She is just an inspiration to to both women and men alike.
Maryam al Khawaja:  At just 26 years old, she has been the face of the Bahrain democracy movement in exile, working tirelessly in public and private to bring media attention to her cause, while her father and sister are imprisoned on trumped-up charges.

Pussy Riot:  Pussy Riot, not just the 3 members who were put on trial last year and imprisoned (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich) — but all of them. They are young, determined and are a demonstration of courage (although I doubt you would say fearless).

The above are taken from HuffPost listing but I also add:
Golda Meir
My #1 choice actually.  She was one of the first leaders of the fledgling state of Israel negotiating with the Soviets and the darling of New York. Strong willed and inspirational.
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Others from History
Boudicca
Leader of 1st Century Britons. She led several tribes in revolt against the Roman occupation. Initially successful her army of 100,000 sacked Colchester and then London. Her army was later defeated.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
The first Queen of France. Two of her sons Richard and John went on to become Kings of England. Educated, beautiful and highly articulate, Eleanor influenced the politics of western Europe through her alliances and influence over her sons.
Margret Fuller
American women’s rights advocate. Her book Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845) was influential in changing perceptions about men and women, and was one of the most important early feminist works. She argued for equality and women being more self-dependent and less dependent on men.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
A life long anti slavery campaigner. Her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a best seller and helped to popularize the anti slavery campaign. Abraham Lincoln remarked her books were a major factor behind the American civil war.
Emily Pankhurst
A British suffragette, dedicated her life to the promotion of women’s rights. She explored all avenues of protest including violence, public demonstrations and hunger strikes.
Helena Rubinstein
Founder one of the world’s first cosmetic companies. Her business enterprise proved immensely successful and later in life she used her enormous wealth to support charitable enterprises in the field of education, art and health.
Helen Keller
At the age of 19 months Helen became deaf and blind. Overcoming the frustration of losing both sight and hearing she campaigned tirelessly on behalf of deaf and blind people.
Coco Chanel
One of the most innovative fashion designers, Coco Chanel was instrumental in defining feminine style and dress during the 20th Century. Her ideas were revolutionary; in particular she often took traditionally male clothes and redesigned them for the benefit of women.
Rosa Parks
An absolute must on any such list like this!  Her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man indirectly led to some of the most significant civil rights legislation of American history. She sought to play down her role in the civil rights struggle but for her peaceful and dignified campaigning she became one of the most well respected figures in the civil rights movements.
Wangari Maathai
Kenyan born environmentalist, pro-democracy activist and women’s rights campaigner. Awarded Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to prevent conflict through protection of scarce resources.
Tegla Laroupe
She held the women’s marathon world record and won many prestigious marathons. Since retiring from running, she has devoted herself to various initiatives promoting peace, education and women’s rights. In her native Kenya, her Peace Race and Peace Foundation have been widely praised for helping to end tribal conflict.

Strategic Options

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Business strategy moves, changes, develops over time, more quickly than ever in some industries.  But what are the options?

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Directions

Consolidation

This is about maintaining market share or maintaining profitability.  Companies may consider withdrawing from some market sectors or downsizing to meet changing demands.  Consolidation builds on existing strengths normally through continued investment and innovation (limited).  As a strategy its low risk because its works by exploiting existing strategies.

Market Penetration

I’m not sure I need say more but… this is about gaining market share, exploiting current products/services and existing resources.  Again a low risk strategy.

Product Development

This works by leveraging knowledge of customer needs, so by implication you need to know what the customer considers is a need.  This strategy is about research and then development of products and services.  This is a medium risk strategy reliant on exploiting current strengths and market knowledge.

Market Development

This strategy is often adopted when current markets are saturated.  The opportunities are usually centered on geographical spread, entering new segments or new uses for existing products and services.  Again this works on exploiting current products and services.  The strategy offers better returns potentially but carries a medium risk.

Diversification

This is a strategy for when current markets are saturated or declining.  Out with the old and in with the new.  But , this strategy will often mean developing new core competencies in new areas.  There is potential for much better returns but the risk is also higher.  Nonetheless ‘assets will sweat’ and managing this process can be disheartening.

Methods

Internal Development

Be the first in the field, there are no potential partners or acquisitions.  This will mean development of competencies but because of the relatively slow process cost is spread.  This method presents cultural ease.

Mergers and Acquisitions

This offers speed to market, supply and demand already being established. Competencies and economies of scale are quickly reached.  Growth and market share will very quickly increase but there is the issue of cultural clash to overcome.

Joint Development

Again speed to market is an advantage but you also get a very quick handle on industry norms.  Competencies can be seen as complementary and partners see the process as an opportunity to learn from each-other.  Risk is diluted through this method but work on trust is essential.

Human Capital is the #1 Priority!

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Mid and Long term growth is not something that will happen by simply taking an opportunistic approach to business.  The profitability axiom applies: If you want to serve the customer with uniform Excellence, then you must FIRST effectively and faithfully serve those who serve the customer—i.e., our employees, via maximizing tools and professional development.

Simply put; regardless of the economic environment and cycle you find yourself in the #1 priority has got to be development of human capital!  The only plausible strategy for higher wage businesses (those based in Europe and the USA I’m willing to speculate) is CHANGE, IMAGINATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP that will to stay ahead through product, service and process development and change rather than simply under-cutting through employment of low (nil) cost workforce’s.  Somebody once said that necessity is the mother of invention.

Ask any of your cohorts, especially the CEO or CFO and I speculate that they see IT and equipment investment as a strategic necessity but training as a necessary evil.  This as a strategic standpoint is simply unsustainable in the mid/long-term.  All you have to understand is that military generals, sports coaches, symphony conductors…. well they obsess about training.

Its probably true that its much more satisfying and ego buffing to have your picture taken stood next to a shiny new machine but the attitude and ability of the operator is what drives profitability.

I’m not for one moment suggesting that the new machine isn’t important but the budget should address the human element, the cost and therefore benefit of training.  And when they are trained, they should have a growth strategy in place. Every single person should be developed with the aim of leadership in mind, this after all is how the military, police, fire service and sports organisations function, so why not yours?

And while we’re at it, given that we ceaselessly lament the “leadership deficit,” it is an imperative, and just plain common sense, that we maximize the rate of development of women leaders at every level—little if anything has a higher priority. It is quite simply an outrage that this has not been the case until now—and is still not the case in far too many institutions.

The rapidly aging population additionally offers fantastic potential for development. The pool of skills, abilities and knowledge is almost immeasurable.

Sergeants run the army is a common enough phrase used in many management schools and training events, and so taking the logic of crowds it becomes obvious that development of the 1st-line manager or supervisor should be the de-facto starting point. The #1 priority for human capital development.

Over the coming years the nature of work which is already changing at a pace will nonetheless change even more rapidly and in ways previously un-thought. The vagueness of the near-present is almost upon us if not here already.  So creativity of the innovative response is the only way to deal with the unknown.

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