Tag Archives: Business

  • Strategic, Agile, People-Powered Change – The New Growth Imperative

    By Ellen R. Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand

    Now more than ever, businesses require Stragility: Strategic, Agile, People-Powered Change. And yet silos, hierarchies, and politics get in the way. Careers stagnate, growth stalls, and organizations fall short on delivering their mission. We know people need to be both empowered and agile but we don’t know how to skill up our organization to deliver it. From our book Stragility, here are three actions you can take and recent examples of firms that have put them into practice.

    Sense and Shift Instead of Lock and Load

    So often in today’s business world, we lock and load on the first feasible solution and sell it up the hierarchy. American Express' Chief Marketing Officer, Elizabeth Rutledge, is embracing a new model. Her team recognized the need to re-skill the organization and created an agility training and a certification program. They have developed agile methodologies and work processes and they are creating shared ownership enabling people to make decisions on the spot, without the need to send them up the hierarchy.

    Marketers are collaborating like never before and finding “human connection moments” with each other and customers. The changes are enabling AMEX’s 55,000 employees to deliver their new promise of “Don’t live life without it” and meet growth objectives. (Source: Keynote talk by Elizabeth Rutledge, Association of National Advertisers, October 26, 2018)

    Inspire and Engage Instead of Tell and Sell

    Telling and selling ideas is tempting but without strong purpose and compelling stories and programs, real change will never happen. Disney continues to create passionate “cast members” who delight their customers year after year by encouraging them to exemplify the Disney magic. Take for example a recent story of a deaf child who was able to sign with Mickey and Minnie Mouse cast members that was shared widely inspiring both cast members and customers.

    And their #Dream Big Princess campaign is inspiring girls everywhere to be brave and intelligent and to lead, instead of waiting for their prince to come.

    Change Fitness Instead of Change Fatigue

    Faced with a barrage of change, it’s easy for people to get overwhelmed. CIGNA decided to do something about it. They are tackling the three biggest causes of illness (and lost productivity): opioid addiction, loneliness, and stress. And they have begun each program with their employees. Already 96% of employees have gotten an annual health assessment. Here’s CIGNA’s opiod announcement from May.

    Lisa Bacus, their Chief Marketing Officer, explains the program at the ANA meeting in Orlando, October 25, 2018.

    For more ideas on how your organization can be more agile and more effective, pick up a copy of Stragility at Amazon.com or contact the authors at stragilitychangemanagement.com to request a customized workshop or consultation.

    BIOS

    Lisa Hillenbrand is the founder of Lisa Hillenbrand & Associates. She previously served as Global Marketing Director at Procter & Gamble. She specializes in marketing, strategy and organization change interventions that return brands to growth. She led the team that “re-engineered” Procter & Gamble’s company-wide brand building approach. Hillenbrand has delivered keynotes for the AMA, Marketing Science Institute, and Thomas Edison Foundation, and has consulted with and led top rated workshops for Google, Facebook, Estée Lauder, ConAgra, and many others.

    Ellen R. Auster is Professor of Strategic Management and Executive Director of York Change Leadership at the Schulich School of Business at York University. She has more than 25 years of experience as an academic and consultant specializing in shared leadership, stakeholder inclusive, value creating approaches to change that cultivate the capabilities needed for continuous reinvention and ongoing success. She has published widely in journals including The Academy of Management Review, Management Science, Sloan Management Review, The Journal of Business Ethics, Organization Studies, Human Resource Management, Research Policy, and written four books.

  • Why The Canadian Financial System Did Well During The 2008 Credit Crisis

    Written by guest blogger, Joe Martin.

    A decade ago much of the world suffered through a financial credit crisis. In North America, the United States and Canada –two countries with many similarities, not the least of which are physical location and similar legal roots based in the United Kingdom –had very different experiences. The US experienced a full-blown financial crisis, beginning in the subprime mortgage market and culminating in the failure of Lehman Bank. Many other financial institutions were bailed out or failed. North of the border, Canadian financial affairs were much calmer. Although there was an Asset Backed Commercial Paper (ABCP) problem, no financial institutions failed and the economic decline was not as severe as in the US.

    Why did the Canadian financial system perform so much better than that of the US financial system? Before answering the question it must be understood that a financial system begins with public policy. Governments set the rules in both countries. On the other side of the system are the private sector players who are governed by the rules set in the public sector.

    In order to answer the question of why Canada performed better it is necessary to go back to the late eighteenth century – NOT the late twentieth century. While the Government of Canada’s decision to block the big bank mergers in the late twentieth century was a useful decision, it was not a transformative one. Four of the five key reasons the Canadian system did better than the American system in 2008 reach back to the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are:

    1. Canada has a Hamiltonian financial system. Yes, the same Hamilton, Alexander from the Tony award-winning musical Hamilton, with limited joint stock liability and branch banking. The US has a Jacksonian system, or at least did have, which limited US banks within states – indeed in some states no bank could have a branch other than the main office.
    2. The Fathers of Confederation ensured that both banking and currency were federal responsibilities when they defined Canada’s form of federalism at the 1860s Conferences. This was in marked contrast to the US where “banking” is not mentioned in their Constitution.
    3. Canada had the good fortune of having John A. Macdonald as our first Prime Minister with his capability in “cabinet making.” While his first two Ministers of Finance did not pass the test, the third one did.
    4. Sir Francis Hincks was John A’s third and best choice for Finance Minister. Hincks not only knew finances, he knew politics and how to work with the media, and he was not from Montreal. Hincks brought in compromise on the issue of currency and had the wisdom to ensure all banks were equal. In addition, he introduced the far-sighted policy of providing for decennial Legislative reviews, which resulted in more continuity in Canada than almost all other countries, especially the United States.
    5. Our financial system more or less behaved itself from the 1870s to the 1980s, but in the 1980s misbehaved. The consequence was failure – both bank and trust company, and the appointment of the Estey Enquiry. The report of the Estey Enquiry, plus Minister Hockin’s Blue Paper, resulted in the creation of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI).

     

    The OSFI – plus nearly two centuries of a Hamiltonian financial system in which banking was a federal responsibility from day one, the right choice for Minister of Finance in 1869, and in 1871 the foresight to provide for regular reviews of the Bank Act – led to Canada to doing much better than the United States in the 2008 financial crisis. In addition, there have been basic and fundamental differences between the way the two countries finance the housing market which were also a big factor. But those are the subject of a future blog post…

     

     

    Joe Martin is the Director of the Canadian Business and Financial History Initiative at the Rotman School of Management as well as President Emeritus of Canada’s History Society. He is the co-author of From Wall Street to Bay Street. Want to learn more? Check out the trailer for Stability and Crisis: The History of the Canadian Financial System, a new documentary from Kevin Feraday based on the book.

  • Unlocking Redesigning Work

    LoweGraves_RedesigningWorkGraham Lowe and Frank Graves discuss why they wrote Redesigning Work: A Blueprint for Canada’s Future Well-being and Prosperity.

    This book is about the future of work. We wrote Redesigning Work to meet what we see as an urgent need for a clear path to a better working future for all Canadians – a future that meets their aspirations and needs.

    Our public opinion research has identified a disturbing trend in the Great Recession’s aftermath: Canadians increasingly believe that opportunities for middle class progress are rapidly disappearing. Individual effort, skill and innovation no longer assure economic security or upward mobility. What’s more, our parallel tracking of work trends before and after the recession also reveals arrested progress, accompanied by declining quality of work life.

    Redesigning Work counters these negative trends, showing how it is possible to create a more positive future. We outline how improvements in peoples’ jobs and workplaces can raise the quality of life by unlocking previously untapped potential to strengthen the Canadian economy. That’s how we link wellbeing and prosperity.

    We intend Redesigning Work to be a catalyst for the actions needed to build a better future for Canada’s economy and society. Canadians view their future with considerable pessimism. Large majorities of Canadians see on the horizon declining living standards, a besieged middle-class, an anemic economy, a widening divide between haves and have-nots, and a reduced quality of life. We counter this bleak scenario with a blueprint for creating better jobs and workplaces. This blueprint is grounded on a worker-defined vision for the future will lead to not only higher levels of wellbeing but also will stimulate the creativity and productivity Canada needs from its workforce in order to have a thriving economy.

    Prosperity and wellbeing go hand in glove; you can’t have one without the other. Most commentators and experts would agree with this point. Yet surprisingly, what’s been missing from the post-recession media commentary and expert analysis of how to kick-start the economy and restore opportunities to achieve a comfortable middle-class living standard is a focus on people’s daily work.

    Redesigning Work aims to fill this gap, offering constructive insights on how jobs and workplaces hold some of the keys to a robust recovery. Based on the extensive feedback we received from thousands of Canadian workers, we identify numerous practical ways that existing jobs can be made more motivating, rewarding and productive. Our evidence paints an optimistic picture of the future of work, especially if employers and policy makers have the will to implement small changes in work that have the potential to make a big difference.

    And there may be more will to act now than at any time in the previous decade. Restoring middle class progress was a core issue in the October 2015 federal election. EKOS polls after the Trudeau Liberals’ election victory show a spike in public optimism: people believe that the economic outlook can be improved. To be sure, the Canadian public laid a bold wager on a new approach to the economy, eschewing a neo-liberal model which seemed oblivious to eroding living standards and rising inequality. These bigger concerns are the backdrop for the book. Our focus is on people’s daily work, arguing that more rewarding and engaging jobs are an essential component of any plan to restore prosperity.

    As sociologists, each of us has spent our career (Lowe as a university professor and workplace consultant; Graves as a pollster and public opinion researcher) analyzing how people’s work experiences influence their thinking and behaviour. We’ve interpreted these work experiences on the wider canvas of social, demographic and economic change. We believe that it is possible to design a better future using solid evidence about how individuals respond to the bigger forces affecting their working lives today.

    Redesigning Work provides that evidence, using workforce surveys and public opinion polls conducted by EKOS Research Associates. The book’s foundation is the most extensive data bank currently available of Canadians’ work experiences, reactions to social change and concerns about the economy and labour market. In every chapter, we build our analysis and arguments on the rich and previously unpublished EKOS data from hundreds of surveys since the mid-1990s. These surveys describe through the eyes of individual Canadians the relentless forces shaping the world of work. And it’s from this vantage point of Canadian workers that we have designed a blueprint for a better future of work.

    The topics we address in the book – public attitudes to economic change, workers’ wellbeing, work motivations and values, workforce demographics, job skills and training, and how to design higher-quality work – have been of keen interest to us for over 25 years.  Redesigning Work is the result of a long partnership that has evolved around these future-of-work issues.

    EKOS’s polls started tracking Canadian’s reactions to massive shocks to the economy and the labour market in the early 1990s, during a deep recession and subsequent ‘jobless’ recovery. In 2004, we co-designed and conducted a survey of the Canadian workforce, Rethinking Work, to document early 21st century workforce and workplace trends. This was a syndicated project sponsored by government and corporate clients, so the project’s results had limited circulation – until now.

    Then along came the global financial crisis and the Great Recession of 2008 - 2009. EKOS polls tracked Canadians’ reactions to the recession, but missing was a detailed picture of how all this economic turbulence had transformed people’s work. Using the 2004 Rethinking Work project as a pre-recession base-line, we repeated most of the same measures in a 2012 survey of the Canadian workforce. We then had pre- and post-recession measures of key job and labour market indicators. Yet we remained concerned that the 2012 survey findings may be transitory. So EKOS conducted a shortened version of the Rethinking Work survey in early 2015. Essentially it confirmed that what we documented in 2012 was, unfortunately, the new normal. We make extensive use of all these surveys in Redesigning Work.

    There’s one EKOS poll finding that, for us, signals a readiness for the changes proposed in Redesigning Work. For the past several years, 80% or more of Canadians polled by EKOS have agreed that “Canada needs a clearer plan or blueprint to restore a growing and optimistic middle class.” That’s where our idea for a “blueprint for wellbeing and prosperity” comes from: the many thousands of citizens responding to this question in EKOS polls. Indeed, we believe that all of the ingredients for a return to shared prosperity are in place. It is our sincere hope that the lessons we have learned from the evolution of Canadians’ working lives can help point the way to greater wellbeing and prosperity in the future.

    You can learn more about the authors and Redesigning Work on their website.

  • Unlocking The American Retail Value Proposition

    Murray_TheAmericanRetailValueProp
    Kyle Murray, author of The American Retail Value Proposition, discusses working in his father's drugstore, researching customer behaviour, and other things that went into writing his book. 

    How did you become involved in your area of research? What inspired you to write this book?

    This book began when Professor Michael Pearce walked into my office at the Richard Ivey School of Business and asked me if I would be interested in taking over his highly acclaimed and very popular undergraduate and MBA courses in retail management. I was both honored and intimidated by the opportunity, but Michael made it easy for me and I was hooked. Teaching that course eventually led to my current role as a professor of marketing and the director of the School of Retailing at the University of Alberta’s School of Business – and, ultimately, to writing this book.

    There are a lot of business books out there, but for retailers who want to get an overview of everything that you need to know to own or manage a retail business, there is surprisingly little available. While books exist on individual topics of branding or selling or merchandizing or customer management, no one was explaining how they fit together to create a complete and compelling value proposition.

    How did you become interested in the subject?

    The roots of this book go back to mopping floors and facing shelves in my father’s drug store – it was there that I fell in love with retailing. For that, and so much more, I have my family to thank.

    How long did it take you to write your latest book?

    About a year.

    What do you find most interesting about your area of research?

    The individual stories of retail businesses and, especially, the people who work in and build those businesses. I also like the rise of retail analytics and the application of a more scientific approach to running a retail business.

    What do you wish other people knew about your area of research?

    That it is a very rigorous scientific area of research. Studying consumers, for example, has gone from small sub-area in psychology and economics to a major field of research with thousands of scholars around the world trying to understand how we make decisions. And consumer research is only a part of retail research.

    What’s the most surprising thing you discovered during the course of your research?

    The enormous impact of atmospherics on shopper decision making and how little we understand about it and how little it is used strategically by retailers. This is an emerging field that I am increasingly interested in and it has become a focus of my research lab. It may be the topic of my next book …

    Do you have to travel much concerning the research/writing of your book?

    I don’t have to, but I do and I think it does help inform my writing. For this book in particular I spent more time outside of my home country to focus on retailing in the United States. I was also able to incorporate observations of and conversations with retailers in other English-speaking countries that I have spent time in recently. Most notably Ireland and Australia. There are many similarities between the countries, but as the old saying goes “Retail is in the details!” and there are clearly important differences as well (which companies like Target have learned the hard way).

    What was the hardest part of writing your book?

    Hmmm … that’s a tough question. I really enjoyed writing the book, but I think the most difficult part is balancing the time I spent on it with the many other demands on my time – from teaching to administration to basic research. I am lucky to have a supportive family that understands the lost evenings and weekends during the writing process.

    What did you learn from writing your book?

    As I was pulling all of my research, and the work of others, together to try and tell a clear story, I realized just how active a field retailing really is. Things change so quickly that it is difficult to capture generalizations, especially in areas like e-commerce and omnichannel shopping. My goal was to produce a framework that will stand the test of time and changes that have yet to be anticipated, based on more than a century of experience in the American marketplace.

    What are your current/future projects?

    Right now my focus is on basic research in atmospherics and repetitive decision making. My research team is studying how scent, sound, color and lighting affect consumer choice. We are also looking at the role of habitual decisions in retail shopper behavior.

    What do you like to read for pleasure?  What are you currently reading?

    I like to read and my tastes are pretty eclectic. Right now, for pleasure, I am reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I am also reading a Chronicle of Commerce, which is a history of the business school at the University of Alberta. It is surprising how much changes and yet how much really stays the same.

    What is your favourite book?

    That is a tough question. A few that I have really enjoyed and consider classics are The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Sun Also Rise by Ernest Hemingway and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

    If you weren’t working in academia, what would you be doing instead?

    I have no idea …

  • Unlocking The Thoughtful Leader

    Fisher_TheThoughtfulLeader

    Jim Fisher shares the details of his successful career, spanning three different fields, that influenced his writing of The Thoughtful Leader

    How did you become involved in your area of research?

    I have had the good fortune of enjoying three careers. My first career was nearly 20 years as a strategy consultant; the second, about 15 years as an executive in the food industry. In my third career I was asked to teach a course on Human Resource Management at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. At the same time, I became Vice Dean of Programs responsible for the Masters and Executive programs of the School.

    I decided to teach the course as one on “how to manage people so that they become a resource” rather than as one on the mechanics of the Human Resource function. That decision led me dig deeper into the mystery of leadership – what it is and how it works. In that pursuit I was able to test the various theories against my own life experience observing leaders as a strategy consultant and trying to be one as an executive.

    What inspired you to write this book?

    My students inspired me to write the book.  Over the years, many have asked for a write-up on the concept. Several were particularly persistent long after they had graduated.

    I was also inspired by the number of people who I would run into long after they had been in my classroom who would report on how useful the concepts were and how often they used them. They urged me to share these ideas with a larger audience.

    How did you become interested in the subject?

    Over the past 20 years, leadership has gone from being a topic for the history books to a topic that dominates the public conversation. It is hard not to be interested and to have an opinion.

    My personal interest in leadership started with a year-long consulting assignment with the Canadian military. I assumed that military leadership was based on the idea that officers gave orders and the lesser ranks obeyed – or were court martialed. In fact, in over a year of visiting bases in Canada and Europe I found that the military thought very deeply about leadership and that the model of leadership in the army was very different from that of the navy and different again from that of the Air Force.

    From that year I began to see leadership as a great puzzle. How does one get someone else to do what you want them to do when it may be something that they do not want to do? How do you get them to do it with energy and enthusiasm and creativity? When I found myself in an executive position responsible for an operation employing 8000 people spread across the continent, I was preoccupied with that same puzzle. How can I influence the behavior and attitudes of people that I would never see.

    Leadership is magic; leadership is hard; leadership is a great human puzzle.

    How long did it take you to write your latest book?

    One answer to this question is that it has taken a lifetime. Another answer is that it started in 1998 when I taught my first leadership course and was still puzzling about just what leadership is that can be taught. A more specific answer is that it took about 4 years and 3 complete rewrites to get the finished product.

    What do you find most interesting about your area of research?

    Leadership is the news every day. Where we used to talk about senior managers or executives or Presidents, we now talk about leaders. There is always a point of view and always someone to consider.

    In addition I find the concepts of leadership can be found in everyday life and can be used to explain why someone is a great teacher or great salesperson or great fundraiser or great teammate.

    What do you wish other people knew about your area of research?

    I wish people would pay more attention to what people do and puzzle about why those actions are able to influence people and spend less time trying to generalize the attributes or skills of leaders.

    What’s the most surprising thing you discovered during the course of your research?

    I was surprised that I had to write this book. I was surprised that there was not another comprehensive framework out there that captured what  a leader needs to do today to induce voluntary, energized leadership.

    Do you have to travel much concerning the research/writing of your book?

    In my working life I have spent a lot of time in the air. And, in the time leading up to the publication of the book, I did teach in China, India and Europe. One of the great things about teaching at the Rotman School is that the students come from around the world. I was always curious about how the ideas resonated with different cultures and different environments. The framework that emerges seems to be generally applicable. As a result I have learned more about the global applicability of leadership concepts in the classrooms at the University of Toronto than I did when I physically travelled.

    What was the hardest part of writing your book?

    It was hard to get the ideas to stand still. Over the years that I wrote the book I taught my full course close to ten times and taught abbreviated versions many times. I teach to learn; each class is an opportunity to learn. Anything that I had committed to paper might have been improved from something I had learned in the class. After many classes I would rush back to my office to start revising some part of the manuscript.

    What did you learn from writing your book?

    I think I came to a deeper appreciation of the nuance of the framework and how it interrelates and connects. I am a better teacher for having written the book.

    What are your current/future projects?

    I do have an idea for a book on designing workable organizations but hope the idea fades before I go through the hard work of getting it into book form.

    I also have an idea for building an interactive website that will allow people to work through the leadership framework in a way that enables them to use it to accomplish something in their own lives.

    What do you like to read for pleasure?  What are you currently reading?

    I usually have several books on the go. At the moment my bedtime reading is book three of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante:  Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. To stay current with my topic I am reading Jeffrey Pfeffer Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time.

    What is your favourite book?

    My all-time, read-many-times work of fiction favourite is War and Peace by Tolstoy.

    My all-time favourite, this-will-change-the-way-you-look-at-the-world book is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

    If you weren’t working in academia, what would you be doing instead?

    Academia is my third career so I have already done a lot of interesting things. One answer would be that I would finally retire, learn to play golf, play the piano and another language while focusing on a particular area of literature. Another is that, if I could drag myself away from my grandchildren, I would like to think I could find some way to make a difference to people in the many parts of the world that have not had the advantages of those who live in Canada.

    However, since I have signed on for another year of teaching and can't drag myself away from my grandchildren, the real answer is “more of the same”.

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