Featured post

What will academia look like in 100 years?

By Riaan Steenberg May 2019 As we are discussing the characteristics of the emerging fourth industrial revolution, it seems that the futur...

Popular posts

31 October 2022

Better change

New ventures and even existing businesses are not immune to the powers of change. Change also happens when it is least expected and the interaction between changes definitely can lead to drastic and dramatic shifts in a business. So how do we become better at change? Is it possible to become a change master? How can entrepreneurs better utilise change to their advantage?

A business is often as good as the manager or leader in the organisation. This leadership theory extends further to say that the person is as good a leader as they are a person. So a good leader will be a good person and will run a good organisation. While the empirical evidence for the two-way relationship between goodness and leadership is not perfectly correlated there seems to a natural link between the sustainability of leadership and the inherent qualities of the leader. This forms the basis of integral management theory as proposed by Shewart and Deming (1939) and further developed by others in literature (Avilo, Galindo, Mendez, 2012; Walton, 1986) and it starts giving us some new ways to look at change.

It basically states that the leader needs to be an expert at managing change. This means both responding to change and also creating change.

Very few leaders that are worth their salt does not ask what they need to change to make the business work. But it is not always responding to change that is the challenge but also how to initiate and sustain it.

Organisations need to change constantly. It seems that we all want “out of the box” perfect businesses and that planning and constant backwards and forwards engineering of processes consume most businesses and entrepreneurs. What most businesses often ignore is the market forces that necessitate us to look at change differently. We cannot however manage every required change as the business grows – so the question becomes how we maintain our culture and perspective that made the initial business successful.

As the social and business environment is constantly evolving, new entrants are entering markets, consumer preferences change, trends come up and the very people that you employ also change. Each person also changes and this change has an effect on the world around that person. There is a constant ebb and flow between seeking growth and accelerated performance while balancing with the realities of people that are expected to deliver on this.

To become a change master one has to start asking what is the changes that if you make them today will have a meaningful and long term positive impact on the organisation and to actively work towards that. This change needs to be embodied in the organisational vision or dream and needs to re-inforced at every turn possible.

To make a change based approach to entrepreneurship work it requires a long hard look at the facts of the business and to act on these premises to build a conclusion that is in line with your vision. If you see that the facts that are in front of you will lead to a result that is different from you vision – you have to start asking – what needs to change?

Once you find the change that is required – arguably the rest of the process is much easier.

It may be tempting to look at change as something that is delivered by consultants. Change is not easily something that is bought for a fee, however it may be useful if dramatic and incisive change is required in an organisation to employ these change experts and it is often useful to have to someone around to blame if it does not work. However – we may have moved beyond a more structured approach to change management as proposed by Kotter (1995) and can say that purpose driven change management presents a new paradigm in which real and systemic change in organisations are facilitated through a clear understanding of the purpose of the business to its customers and the subsequent operations that are required to support this customer driven focus through the purpose of the internal stakeholder.

Linking the customer purpose to the purpose of the individuals in the organisations is a powerful approach to massive success. We all like working for companies that make us happy and that makes their customers happy.

To this effect many propose that the correct process is to

  • Dream;
  • Execute; and
  • Review.

This model assumes the following methodology:

  • The company started with a dream and goals that generally arise from the entrepreneur’s personal or business philosophy.
  • The entrepreneur’s business philosophy founded a group of policies that govern each of the strategic activities of the company, by a group of procedures for each of the links in the chain of success.
  • The entrepreneurship proceeds to design and to enforce the activities proposed by the policies designed.
  • The established procedures produce results that must be reviewed by a battery of diagnostics and must be compared with the original dream goals.
  • The review could imply, if difficulties in achieving the goals appear, the introduction of decisions to correct the situation, trying to obtain continuous improvement and the achievement of the dream goals.

The strength of the dream and the skills of the entrepreneur or their management to drive the correction towards the dream will determine the progressive realisation of the vision as outlined.

This approach to managing change is supported by an action learning methodology which is based on the premise that you

  • Learn;
  • Correct;
  • Redefine; and
  • Execute.

The principles underlying action learning are:

  • learn from personal experience and from the experience of others;
  • consider the challenges posed by other entrepreneurships and listen to the suggestions of others;
  • listen carefully to others in an environment with no prejudice;
  • develop several possible courses of action that facilitate the entrepreneurships to develop their business and problem solve; and
  • review the results of actions, taking into account the opinion of other members of the group and share the lessons learned.

We have to decide what to change today to make the business move closer to a dream and a future reality that is desirable to our customers and other stakeholders. We have to be decisive about these actions and execute on the changes – making sure that they are anchored in the organisation and that they continue to contribute to the on-going success of the organisation. We also need to let go of our fear to change things.

To really get better and to stop our business from getting stuck into a pattern that makes it resistant to change – we have to be open and inviting to change and also be the creators and masters of change or else things will change around us and we will be the victim of change.


Change is real. We have a choice to determine if we will change the world or if the world will change us. This choice is made by the millions of little actions that we do everyday to move closer to our dreams. If we start ignoring the sense that we are moving further away from where we want to be – then we are being led by change. To get back to our true purpose, dream and vision we have to make decisive steps to learn from the environment and share and grow with others to bring us closer to that vision. This is the call – you better change and you have to be better at change.

Kotter, J.P. (1995) Why Transformation Efforts Fail, Harvard Business Review, Mar 1995.

Shewhart, W.A. and Deming, W.E. (1939), Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control, The Graduate School, The Department of Agriculture.

Edgar Muñiz Avila, Miguel-Ángel Galindo, María Teresa Mendez, (2012) “SERCREA+ model: a business tool for change management in Mexican organizations”, Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 25 Iss: 5, pp.736 – 747

Walton, M. (1986), The Deming Management Method, The Putnam Publishing Group, New York, NY.

Adding economic value

When you study economics, you are taught that the price of a good or commodity is determined where there is a balance between the supply and demand for that good. If more people demand it, then the price is higher and when less is supplied then the price is also higher. The challenge in an open market is that if you limit supply, the next guy will supply more and you would have lost out. This is the power of competition. While that explains why monopolies limit supply to increase prices – it does not give a clear guideline on how to create value.

Value added in economic terms is the difference between the price of the finished product/service and the cost of the inputs involved in making it. So measurement of value added shows the enhancement a company gives its product or service before offering the product to customers. Value added is used to describe instances where a firm takes a product that may be considered a homogeneous product, with few differences (if any) from that of a competitor, and provides potential customers with a feature or add-on that gives it a greater sense of value. This increases the demand for the product and so increases the price that can be asked for it.

A value-add can either increase the product’s price or value. In marketing one gets taught that customers are weighing different features and benefits of options to find the correct price. For example, offering one year of free support would be a value-added feature and would be compared by the customer to other products without such a feature. Additionally, individuals can bring value add to services that they perform, such as bringing advanced skills to a position in which the company may not have foreseen the need for such skills. The combination of what makes your organisation different defines the value that is added to the end consumer. Bad choices in terms of adding value may cost more than it generates.

This is where management comes in. Managers also add value. Their primary stakeholder for adding value is the shareholder. The basic cost of doing business is defined as capital expenditure and through the management process, economic value is added to shareholders. This basic insight led to the formation of the theory of economic value added and provides a measure of a company’s financial performance based on the residual wealth calculated by deducting cost of capital from its operating profit (adjusted for taxes on a cash basis). This is also referred to as the “economic profit” and is a measure of how well management created operating profit. The formula for calculating EVA is:

EVA = Net Operating Profit After Taxes (NOPAT) – (Capital * Cost of Capital)

If the EVA is positive then the company created more value than expected by shareholders. If the EVA is negative – then the company performed lower than expected by the shareholders. Cost of capital is a measure of the return in excess of market that is expected by the shareholder.

Another similar measure is Shareholder Value Added, which follows the same type of idea and is expressed as

SVA = Net Operating Profit After Taxes (NOPAT) – Cost of Capital

This gives a value based performance measure of the worth of the company to shareholders as it measures the value that is added, considering the profit that is generated in excess of what is required to outperform the requirements of the issue of debt and equity considering the weighted average cost of capital. (This may sound daunting – but read more on the MBA Finance Module to find out more).

So it should be easy. As long as management creates value, shareholders should be happy. The separation of ownership from the control of capital by managers creates a conflict of interest. Managers who run the business need not necessarily be guided by the same principles as owners in terms of enhancing shareholders’ wealth – but act in their own best interest. This is called the agency problem. While more complex, some companies use the incremental increase of EVA as a management performance measure in order to maximize shareholders’ wealth. This includes some of the world’s largest corporations.

EVA makes people accountable not just for the results but also for resources utilized in achieving the results. For example, without an EVA-based incentive system, marketing people generally want more resources to sell more and earn larger sales-based compensation even when the marginal benefit to the organization is less than the marginal cost of increased sale. This would also apply to the marginal cost vs. benefit of an employee and many other measures within the business. An EVA based decision-making and incentive system would determine if there is an economic value that will be created by this decision. To motivate managers to act in shareholders’ interests, one option is to link their compensation to increases in EVA they produce. Managerial objectives based on increasing income or market share, increasing return on assets or equity or other traditional measures can provide incentives that are not consistent with maximizing the shareholders’ wealth. Maximizing EVA will in most cases produce incentives to maximize shareholders’ wealth.

Organisations are a complex variety of explicit and implicit contracts involving several stakeholders, including, employees, customers, suppliers, lenders, the community and shareholders. Each of these contracts or relationships is a decision that must add economic value. You may say that this is great – as our company provides services without a lot of capital. Both tangible and intangible capital represents a choice managers make daily and the cost of that capital determines if the business adds value to shareholders or not. So, through managing these complex contracts you add value to the brand and to the operations and this adds value to the shareholders.

Most companies estimate the marginal profitability of their product without regard to opportunity cost of equity capital. So often it happens that companies are willing to accept business at a margin that is profitable, without considering if we have other choices in terms of using the same operating capital.

To be practical – think of it this way. Every day you earn a salary. If you take this salary and divide it by 21 workdays you get a number of how much you earned today. If you take this number and multiply it by 10 it gives you a sense of how much value you should create daily. If you further take this daily value add number and you multiple it by the number of people in your section or division – you need to ask yourself if your business unit created that much value today through the work that you have done. If you did not – then there is better ways in which the tasks or objectives of your section or division can be structured to add more value. The value may not be for today – but you must have worked on items that created that much value today for it to be profitable for shareholders to pay you to do it tomorrow. You may argue that you are an employee of a non-for profit – the same logic applies. You may also argue that you work for the government – the same logic applies.

In summary

Value added is a vital part of the operations of any organisation and has direct links to marketing, sales and the operations of any organisation. If more organisations focused on the value addition process it would direct the use of capital into increasingly relevant areas and build long-term choices that add maximal value to shareholders and build more sustainable organisations.

Economic value added (EVA) is an important measure to determine if there is value added to shareholders and can form the basis of incentive and decision making systems.

As an individual it is important to measure my own value added daily to find ways to ensure that the efficiency of an organisation improves.

Adapting business models for emerging markets

Increasingly companies are looking for their future growth in emerging markets. Up to now the recommendation has been that only way that companies can prosper in these markets is to cut costs relentlessly and accept profit margins close to zero.

The companies that are cracking these markets realise that opportunities in these markets don’t require companies to forgo profits, but it is not simply transplanting their existing business model and products into a new marketplace. This requires a new operational reality to make it work.

The key realisation should be that things like transferring money through cell phones, running hand-wash laundry services and improved distribution of traditional produce is typical of innovation that drives a new economy that requires a business unusual approach that makes commerce work in emerging markets.

That may sound overly simplistic; given the difficulty Western companies have had entering emerging markets to date. But we believe they’ve struggled not because they can’t create viable offerings but because they get their business models wrong.

Importing foreign business models.

Many multinationals simply import their domestic models into emerging markets. Through reduced functionality and branding changes, lowering prices and perhaps selling smaller sizes or by using lower-cost labour, materials, or other resources – these companies believe that they can take marginal profits and take market share. Sometimes they even design and manufacture their products locally and hire local country managers. The fundamental financial and operating models remain unchanged, limiting these companies to selling largely in the highest income tiers, which in most emerging markets aren’t big enough to generate sufficient returns. What they do not realise is that these upper tiers are spoilt for choice in most emerging markets where there is typically two economies and while they inch away at market share in these markets that typically represent at most 10% of the market, the remaining 90% does not have access to these products.

Many companies have already been lured by the promise of profits from selling low-end products and services in high volume to the very poor in emerging markets. And high-end products and services are widely available in these markets for the very few that can afford them: You can buy a Mercedes or a washing machine, or stay at a nice hotel, almost anywhere in the world. Our experience suggests a far more promising place to begin: between these two extremes, in the vast middle market. Consumers there are defined not so much by any particular income band as by a common circumstance: Their needs are being met very poorly by existing low-end solutions, because they cannot afford even the cheapest of the high-end alternatives. Companies that devise new business models and offerings to better meet those consumers’ needs affordably will discover enormous opportunities for growth.

Supply chains

To supply products in new markets requires both the supply chain as well as the customers. When you do not have the suppliers to can give you the raw products, then it is very expensive as it needs to transported or manufactured in that market. Many organisations move the product to a new market without the supply chain being in place. This is another key reason why local innovation is a key strategy.

Innovating for success

Leading scholars suggest that the best strategy in these markets is to find an idea where there are people that need a service in line with your core business, prototype and execute it. The aim is to build a new business model and to make it work. If you want to link this in time to your existing product range – this is great – but innovation requires local relevance as much as it requires the bells and whistles.

Back to the business model

So to move into these markets requires a lot of situational awareness and back to basics thinking. The very basic of any business model is to answer how plan to make money.

Behind that question is a line-up of other questions:

  • Who’s your target customer?
  • What customer problem or challenge do you solve?
  • What value do you deliver?
  • How will you reach, acquire, and keep customers?
  • How will you define and differentiate your offering?
  • How will you generate revenue?
  • What resourcing (HR, Finance, Operations) supports this model?
  • What’s your cost structure?
  • What’s your profit margin?
  • How will your customers pay?

These fundamental business questions need to be rethought when entering new markets.

Sophisticated business models can follow later and a lot of innovation may go into making this work but it must be back to the basics of the business model.

Understanding the basics of costs

For most large organisations the idea of fixed cost recovery and variable cost is already in place due to economies of scale. For smaller operations it is important to consider that start-up thinking is required.

Expansion into a new market means that there is a growing fixed cost base and also a variable cost to each new product that is produced, that initially is very high and later becomes lower. The refine a localised business model requires a clear understanding of this and to keep on linking the price to the cost and quantity being sold.

Some definitions that may assist for those unfamiliar with this include:

  • Marginal cost is defined as (Fixed Cost + Variable Costs) / Number of products
  • The marginal revenue is the additional revenue a firm gains by selling an additional unit of a good or service.
  • Fixed costs: Your business will have plenty of costs — from renting an office and buying equipment to paying salaries and buying supplies. Some of these costs — office rental or salaries, for example — don’t change often and must be paid on a regular basis. These are fixed costs or overhead.
  • Variable costs: Other costs, called variable costs, fluctuate with your sales volume. They include the materials that go into producing your product or service.

When marginal revenue is greater than the additional costs associated with producing an additional unit, known as the marginal cost, revenues will increase. Profit-maximizing firms seek to produce the quantity at which marginal revenue is equal to marginal cost.

Your sales must also cover your fixed and variable costs as well as your profit expectations and to know which is which. In start-up situations fixed costs increase and variable costs goes up initially and later decreases as production processes become more efficient.

On the ground, remote management or partnerships

When deciding to expand it is critical to decide if you are committing to a market. Without commitment you are setting up to fail. Emerging markets require commitment and a lot of initiatives fail because people seek local partners, do not commit to get their own staff and believe that they can manage the market the same as their domestic market. It is critical to think through the skill sets required, the people to do it, complex arrangements such as taxation, currency transfers and supervision and to do this while accepting that your business model will have to adapt to local conditions.


Most organisations are looking at to build their international presence and a lot of companies are betting on the fact that growth will come from the 5 billion people in emerging markets and the developing world. This market requires careful study and deliberate strategy in order to succeed. While there is money to be made – it requires an innovation mind-set and not simply the transplanting of what you do at home to a new place. If you are not thinking about your international strategy yet – maybe it is time to consider it.


Action marketing

Marketing is one of the most misunderstood areas of business, and so it often becomes an area that is neglected. What good marketers know is that marketing is more about putting ideas into action than it is about having good ideas. Recent thinking about innovation also equates innovation to one idea and tons of commercialisation.

This gives rise to the concept of action marketing. Action marketing is aimed at creating a marketing architecture that enables a practical and customer driven marketing approach. Strangely, action marketing is not about having better brochures but about understand why and how your customer expresses their desires and having the brand to accelerate your impact into these markets. This leads to better brochures and a whole range of other elements in the business.

The action marketing process proposes that you take some very deliberate steps to reshape your market impact.

Scan the competitive landscape

All marketers are interested in their competitors. Knowing what competitors are doing is important – but we need to look at the market differently and ask who are creating what value in the market and answer how can we target this value? There are companies that cater for different target markets, at different price points and with different unique selling propositions. This allows them to extract value from the customer. The question the action marketer must answer is how market shifts will shift the value equation in the market place. Peteraf and Bergen (2003) argue that while companies may look the same on face value, that typically they have different capabilities and resources and that this differentiates them more than their image. Abebe (2012) highlights that companies that focus on scanning the market and adapting to customers, competitors and technology (market competencies) are more successful than organisations focusing on internal competencies such as process optimisation, debtors and finding better suppliers. Action marketing asks what capabilities we should develop to change the value equation in the marketplace.

Drill for insights and create experiences.

What makes it difficult for your customers to buy your services? Moving initially from intuition to data and then from data to insights is challenging for most marketers.

The objective of moving to data based reasoning is to find out what you can do better for your customers and what is creating pain for them. Initially the focus should be on eliminating the pain with your service and later to take away the pain experience from your competitors. Internet based market research allows for a much more targeted understanding of who is interested in you and who you can and should be talking to. Modern interactive marketing demands deeper understanding of customers and their behaviour and how they like to interact with the company and the ability to deliver personalised experiences, which they find useful and engaging.

There are few marketing, sales and service situations where an organisation is not able to gather the logistic, operational, marketing, sales and service data which tells the corporation whether the customer has been served well or not, and the number of situations where it cannot are diminishing (Stone and Woodcock, 2014). Stone and Woodcock (2014) further state that there is still significant work required to link business intelligence to customer insights. The action marketer takes customer insights and turns them into target markets with specific products and services.

Create brilliant customer journeys


It is not only about the product or service but also about the experience that gets created and for that experience to be relevant and memorable for your customer. This is often referred to as the customer journey.


This customer journey is different for different market segments. Do you know what the journey is for your main segments? Many marketers think they should create the journey, while action marketers realise that the customer is taking a journey and it is your task to discover it and optimise the experience.

Building the brand

Brands are not all about logos or brand statements. It is about the vision and values of the organisation and how you convince yourself, the organisation and the world that this set of values is worth buying into. There is something that you like or admire about most of the big brands. This story is one that got told and action marketers know it is about the story being told around a brand.

Win with social media

The mobile revolution is here to stay and is simply the most pervasive platform that gets used by the most people. 86 of every 100 people have a cell phone according to the UN telecom agency. That is more people than have cars, houses or any other utility. Social media and messaging platforms are critical to positioning your organisation correctly as it has such a wide reach. It allows you to transform both B2B and B2C marketing and new strategies for both must have a mobile component. An emerging idea is also that internal and external marketing is converging and more people want to be able to peer into your organisation and “live your brand”. Social media and messaging allows companies to become more transparent and the most transparent companies will have the best brands in years to come.

Execute your strategy

Action marketers know that to execute an effective strategy in marketing requires you to give all your employees the tools to execute the brand. Every employee and not just the marketing department execute a customer-focused culture. So marketing starts with recruitment and goes all the way through to every phone call and touch point with the organisation. The action marketer understands what happens at every touch point in the organisation and makes sure the brand “lives” at this point.

Capture more value

Tactical action marketing requires careful consideration of pricing and applying price psychology at every turn. The challenge is always to stay out of low-price competition and to create value and capture value.

Accelerate your impact

Action marketing is the start of change in an organisation. Markets shape organisations and action marketers are experts at change management. The action marketer understands that the business case for marketing is to accelerate change and that marketing has a direct contribution to the bottom line.


This article looks at the concept of action marketing and asks if marketing is driving change in your organisation or if it is simply the department that is asked to come up with ideas when you need to push something out. Action marketing requires organisations to use an external focus, get in touch with customers and optimise their journeys. It is also a highly iterative and interactive process that requires marketing to breathe and accelerate change in the organisation and to help every employee to refresh the product, pricing and positioning of the brand, its products and its brand identity.

© Riaan Steenberg – all rights reserved. www.riaansteenberg.com


Michael A. Abebe, (2012) “Executive attention patterns, environmental dynamism and corporate turnaround performance”, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 33 Iss: 7, pp.684 – 701

Margaret A. Peteraf and Mark E. Bergen, (2003) “Scanning Dynamic Competitive Landscapes: A Market-Based And Resource-Based Framework”, Strategic Management Journal, Vol 24, pp 1027–1041

Merlin David Stone, Neil David Woodcock, (2014) “Interactive, direct and digital marketing: A future that depends on better use of business intelligence”, Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 8 Iss: 1, pp.4 – 17

Achieving financial freedom

For all of us financial freedom seems an insurmountable challenge. How can I ever become free of the things that I need that I have to fund with large loans – such as a home, a car and an education. Add to this the high general cost of living and it seems that financial freedom will never be possible. A few practical steps will possibly assist with this journey.

It seems like a cliché but you must save.

The general recommendation is that a minimum of 10% of your take home pay must end up in a place where you cannot spend it. This is even if you owe other people money. A study has shown that people that save 30% of their income are more likely to become multi-millionaires. If we take the simple case of someone that earns R 7000 and 10% of their incomes gets saved at 5% annually. This leads to a nice R 47,000 after 5 years. What has been found however is that people that have this discipline tends to save more and in time get higher returns as they become more aware of expenditure and investment options.

Once you start putting money towards a goal then you start to build up capital. An important principle here is that capital should never be its own master – it must always have a purpose. If you are clear on the purpose that you need money for – it becomes a lot easier to justify the sacrifices that you are making towards that purpose.

As your money starts accumulating you will be able to start investing.

There is a model that says that you need to diversify your risk and start building a portfolio of investments.

Please always speak to a financial advisor as the below is not financial advice – but rather serves as a guideline for having a conversation with your financial advisor. A financial advisor may have the necessary training to analyse your needs – but information is provided to outline some directions for your thinking.


Cash is a good investment but the problem is inflation and tax. Make sure that if you invest in cash through e.g. money market accounts that you get good interest rates, low fees and that your investment is protected.


Usually the contribution that you make – i.e. the capital is guaranteed.
Cash is very easy to draw. If you lose your job and need some food or rent, your cash reserves can quickly be converted to satisfy whatever need is at hand. Savings can be converted to cash in hand fairly easy.

Cash becomes less valuable over time. So you interest rate needs to be higher than the inflation rate.
Historically, cash has earned the lowest returns of the major asset classes.

Risk/Reward trade-off
Risk = Low
Reward = Low

How to invest
Open a savings account
Overpay on your credit card (build a positive balance)
Open a money market account (usually requires a minimum balance)
Time horizon

Cash is useful over any time frame, but you are likely to get poor slowly if you hold excessive amounts over the long term. You need more interesting investment options to achieve most financial goals.


Government retail bonds are tools that pay you a regular income according to a coupon rate. By investing your money with the government through bonds you create the opportunity to earn a stable income as the conventional wisdom is that governments do not default on their bonds.


Government bonds are much less volatile than equities.
Historically, they’ve provided a better return than cash.
A lack of correlation with equities makes government bonds a useful way to protect yourself against stock market crashes.

Bond returns historically lag equities.
They are vulnerable to inflation (unless you choose index-linked varieties) and changes in interest rates.
Many investors struggle to understand bonds.

Risk/Reward trade-off
Risk = Lower than equities, higher than cash
Reward = Lower than equities, higher than cash

Time horizon
You can match your bond holdings to any time horizon and know exactly what your return will be, if you hold the bonds until maturity. You may have to lock up your money for 1, 2 or 3 years to get good returns.

How to invest
In South Africa you can visit www.rsaretailbonds.gov.za or speak to a financial advisor on options to invest in bonds.
Most banks also have information on investing in bonds.


Shares (commonly known as equity or shares) are historically the riskiest and best rewarded of our main asset classes.

Because equities can go up and down, investors demand high potential rewards to play the game. Note that word: potential. There is no guarantee that equities will deliver; they do not provide a guarantee of income or capital. Instead, they offer part-ownership of a company and thus a claim on its future earnings.


Equities have traditionally outperformed every other asset class when it comes to long-term returns. They are the most powerful asset class in your diversified portfolio.
Equities are capable of outstripping inflation.
The longer you hold equities, the better your chance of achieving your financial goals.

Severe losses can occur at any time and frequently do. You could easily lose 30% of your capital in a single year.
Losses can be very long-lasting.
The highs and lows of equity ownership can feed all kinds of irrational behaviour, from panic-selling in the face of loss to piling into a bubble market. Fear and greed rule.

Risk/Reward trade-off
Risk = Higher than bonds, property or cash
Reward = Higher than bonds, property or cash

Time horizon

The longer you can hold the better. Five years is the bare minimum, 20 years is a more comfortable stretch.

How to invest
Get a stock broker
Buy some stocks and sell them later – until you get an understanding of how this all works

Your own business

Even riskier than shares, but far more rewarding is starting your own business. Investing in yourself and your ability to take an idea and turn it into a mega empire is not for everyone – but those that do it will testify that there is no better way to make money.


You are in control of your financial destiny
Your dreams and passion can be expressed
You create employment, financial freedom and growth

There is significant personal and emotional risk attached to starting a business
Risk/Reward trade-off
Risk = Higher than any other investment
Reward = Higher than any other investment

Time horizon

Most businesses that survive reach initial maturity after 10 years and start yielding exceptional returns only after 20 years.

How to do it
Get a product
Get a market
Sell !
Start employing others to do aspects of your business
Market !
Expand slowly according to what your customers want while sticking to your core business at all times.


As an investment asset class, property (or real estate) refers to commercial property that delivers returns in the shape of rent and the appreciation of building values. It doesn’t refer to your house.

Exposure to commercial property is generally achieved through real-estate investment trusts (REITS) or ETFs. Sticking all your money in a ‘buy-to-let’ concentrates rather than diversifies your holdings.


Historically, the risk and rewards of property have been a halfway house between equities and bonds.
It can be a useful diversifier, as global property returns have demonstrated a moderately low correlation to UK equity.
Property is also likely to keep pace with the rate of inflation.

Property bubbles can pop and inflict large losses on funds.
Property is illiquid, which can lead to funds imposing exit restrictions on investors during periods of market stress. In other words, they can’t sell their buildings quickly if everyone wants their money back at the double.
Investors tend to have a rose-tinted view of property due to the strength of the home market over the last 20 years. However the asset class has historically lagged equities.

Risk/Reward trade-off
Risk = Higher than bonds or cash, but lower than equities
Reward = Higher than bonds or cash, but lower than equities

Time horizon: 20 to 30 years.

For most of us these are some of the options. There is also a potential to invest in

  • Commodities
  • Exchange Traded Funds
  • Derivatives
  • Foreign exchange
  • And a million other financial products.
Please always work through the schemes that are proposed to you and make sure that you are satisfied in your mind that you understand

  • The cost of entering the investment
  • The costs you incur while being part of the investment
  • The cost of exiting the investment
  • The return that is promised and the risk attached to that
  • The return after costs
  • The ability to exit an investment

Always negotiate the rates

Be careful not to borrow money at higher rates that you receive returns
There is no get rich quick scheme. You need to start by putting money to work to make you more money. Hard work, focus and purpose will still determine the winners and the people that will make the most of money in the long term. To make investments work you need to spend time to understand the different options that you have and take small steps to a bigger picture. If you start working towards your financial freedom you will achieve it.

Getting started with brilliant thinking

There is a genius in every person – but it is not always easy to get him or her to come out.

Gerald Sindell (2009) in The Genius Machine recommends starting with some key questions.

  1. Distinctions

What do I see? New ideas are the result of perceiving new distinctions.

It sometimes works just to look at the problem from a different perspective. Try it – next time you a problem challenges you, just remind yourself to look at it differently and notice one difference.

  1. Identity

Who am I? Why are these ideas important to me and why am I driven to share them with the world? Have I made my identity clear to the audience so they know where I am coming from?

All good things start with knowing who you are.

  1. Implications

Where do my ideas lead? If what I am saying is true, then what are all the consequences I can imagine?

By investigating implications, you start looking at interrelationships and start building ways to deal with the problem in multiple ways.

  1. Testing

What am I blind to? Have I imagined how my ideas might influence a variety of situations, places, and people? Have I questioned everything about my assumptions? What would prove me wrong? Can I create a model of my work, and find precise analogues.

So try building a model of how it works. It may not be perfect but will get better with more testing.

  1. Precedent

Who else has seen something like this? By asserting that I have something to say, I am entering into the great conversation of ideas that stretches back through the centuries. We cannot have knowledge of everything that was said before we got around to thinking, but we must try to know important precedent thought in our area.

If this type of problem was solved before, it may be interesting to look at the solution. It may also be important to not do what was done before.

  1. Need

Who needs this knowledge? If what I am saying is so, who would this knowledge be valuable for? This question forces us out of focusing solely in our own area and may lead us to find the universals in our thinking. Understanding who needs us most will also help us in crafting what we say, because we will want to be useful to those who will give what we have to say highest priority.

Understanding the user may also be the key to solving the problem and create a market.

  1. Foundation

Are there underlying principles? What is the world I’m working in? What are the underlying values expressed here? What are the applicable rules or structure that obtain here? Can I pull these together into a coherent group or body of law?

Existing research may apply and give some perspective. Building up some statistical approaches and models may also help.

  1. Completion

Is everything here? If this is valuable for someone, am I giving my audience everything they need for this to be useful? If everything they need is not here, am I including referrals for the other information they will need in order to know enough to take action or teach others?

A solution that does not solve the problem is not a solution. All aspects have to be considered.

  1. Connection

Who am I addressing? Do we understand the frame of reference of our audience?

Are we writing for our reader, speaking to our listener, carefully guiding the experience of our user?

Even when the solution exists – it is important to work out the social dynamic of putting the solution to the end user. This may take longer than expected by is the difference between success and failure.

  1. Impact

Where do I want to go? In creating this work I have launched an alter ego of myself, which will eventually take on a life of its own. If this development or body of knowledge succeeds in the marketplace of ideas, will it help me fulfil my goals for my life? Are the identities of the creators, the creation, and the users, aligned?

Solutions always have an impact. Is this the impact that you want? Will another solution have a different impact?

  1. Advocacy

Am I supporting the adoption of my ideas? My thinking stands for me. Now, I must stand for what I have created.

Brilliant thinking starts with a problem and ends with a new way to do things. Some of the ideas in this article may help with this thinking process.

Have fun!

Is policy dead?

If we look at the early nineties it seemed to be a vibrant time in which people came up with new ideas and policies and procedures were used actively as tools in business to streamline and standardise the way things needed to get done.

The science of business process engineering looked at how policies can be used to effectively streamline businesses and flows in an organisation to get the best out of people.

The dark world of business process re-engineering looked at how to get rid of policies that became too much in themselves.

It seems that too much policy possibly killed the idea to the extent that organisations often feel that they need to throw out the rulebook and go bravely into a territory in which policy is loosely defined.

Somehow it seems that the gentle art of making balanced policy had died. And it will be sorely missed as more and more people are getting stuck on delivering consistently with a thin framework on which to fall back to find out how things should get done. Often the missing link between execution and strategy is found in well-designed business models that are linked to the relevant areas of business through well-defined policy.

It is as if we got rid of policy – only to discover that without it, the organisation is exposed to the poor management of ever faster changing staff. The tendency to be agile has isolated the few managers that know at the top and has disempowered workforces and the policy making process gets relegated into the field of signing new service level agreements with new suppliers – without enabling existing staff to effectively manage the business requirements.

To get a business to grow, or a public organisation to deliver service, it needs stable and predictable policies that allow for the linking of desired end results to financial requirements and people resources. A business also needs to understand a policy as a set of choices and put in place the necessary means to support it, execute and maintain it. Policy is not a purpose in itself, but a tool in ensuring that an organisation remains well run.

Policy is what drives the definition of service and serves as a contract between management, the organisation and its other stakeholders, both internal and external. This definition is something that becomes enforceable and tangible, has financial and cost implication and should reviewed for efficacy from time to time.

By having clear policy we protect the organisation. When somebody says that this is what happened, we can go back to policy and say but that is what is supposed to happen and use this as a pro-active tool in responding to this and future issues.

Yet – organisations do not have policy experts, and where they exist, they tend to be legal minds that operate behind closed doors – not understanding the nuts and bolts of the business.

We need to take policy out of the cupboard and wear it as a standard that defines what can be achieved here. The linking of policy to vision and action in the business makes it an effective tool to break down silo’s and to systematise organisational improvement. Effective policies shape the behaviours and attitudes of staff and will create the effective framework to shape how people view the organisation.

To make policy effective is not an easy task. There are many factors and variables that need to go into it. There are also critical processes that need to be considered in ensuring that a policy is an effective tool. While you can learn a lot more about this in the Regenesys course on policy development. To evaluate your policy making today you may be able to use this short guideline to see where your organisation ranks on a participation scale

  1. Contribution: voluntary or other forms of input to predetermined programmes and projects.
  2. Information sharing: stakeholders are informed about their rights, responsibilities and options.
  3. Consultation: stakeholders are given the opportunity to interact and provide feedback, and may express suggestions and concerns. However, outsiders usually make analysis and decisions, and stakeholders have no assurance that their input will be used.
  4. Cooperation and consensus building: stakeholders negotiate positions and help determine priorities, but outsiders direct the process.
  5. Decision-making: stakeholders have a role in making decisions on policy, project design and implementation.
  6. Partnership: stakeholders work together as equals towards mutual goals.
  7. Empowerment: transfer of control over decision-making and resources to stakeholders.

By making this simply analysis you can evaluate if your policy environment is healthy. Anything less than 3 both means that you are distressed or that your policy is ad-hoc and needs a serious looking at.

You need to do this evaluation every six months to ensure that your policy environment remains relevant and that you keep track of how external changes are affecting your organisation.

Sometimes the answer is not more policy – but less. But this is still policy making. Often we assume that we have all solved the policy question, or maybe we have all gotten so tired of ill formed policies that we are happy to look at bureaucracy as the way to go. We accept ill crafted ideas and policies and do not look at how to make this an agreement that is the best interest of organisations.


As businesses grow and become more focused on its customers and innovation, the policy environment creates a language by which different parts of the organisation can agree on how things are done.

Too often these processes get buried so deeply that it is tempting to think that there is no value in policy. Policy is a vibrant and active tool that can be used to shape organisations and institutionalise desired behaviours and create links between strategy and execution.

30 October 2022

Building a relevant board

If you are an entrepreneur – you will usually become a director of your company and the first director of your board. Also, if you are a manager and you stick around long enough – you tend to get to the director level within your organisation. Building a board is complex and the question is how to build a better board that matters?

Why do organisations have boards? The basic idea is that the owners or shareholders are basically investors seeing a return and they appoint directors to act on their behalf. Boards also have a role to add value without meddling and to play a role in making CEO’s more effective but not all powerful. In the non-profit context, a board is a mechanism that ensures that the public trust that is put in a specific mission is protected.

Boards must ensure that the shareholders achieve their objectives. To achieve this requires a well-designed board with clear intentions and goals. With an increased set of regulation around boards the fiduciary duties alone often require a lot of focus and effort by directors. Boards are also only as good as the information that they receive from management.

To build a better board must, we must answer how can have a board that provides effective oversight of the company’s strategic direction and progress within the limits of time and knowledge.

The board is also there to provide advice, industry insight and experience and to promote the objectives of the company.

Advisory boards are also becoming more popular as there is a growing distinction between people that give advice and people that are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the business. As governance is sometimes very specialists – the legal liability is less palatable for people and organisations.

So now that we know what Boards are for – the question is what does the Board of Directors do?

The laundry list of key responsibilities for the Board is outlined below:

  • Providing oversight on the general and specific actions in relation to the mission and vision of the business;
  • Being effective through establishing relevant structures, processes and membership criteria for the board;
  • Planning the functioning of the board;
  • Planning for key areas in the business;
  • Establishing relevant working groups or committees for dealing with areas related to the mission of the organisation;
  • Living effective culture and behaviours both as a board and monitoring the same in the organisation;
  • Succession planning for the board, CEO and where applicable senior management;
  • Providing strategic advice and direction as well as set and get involved in the execution of strategy;
  • Approval and agreement on general compensation practice as well as specifically executive compensation of the CEO, board and senior management;
  • Ensuring the production of accurate management information including audited financial statements including agreement on specific application of financial policies;
  • Delineating the matters of strategy that is to be addressed by the board and by management;
  • Addressing the matters of strategy that is within the ambit of the board.

Some jurisdictions and countries as well as specific companies have different expectations from boards – so always please check these requirements.

David Nadler (Nadler, 2004) outlines that the role of the board is critical and that is likely that you board is either one of the following:

Passive Board: The Board’s activity is minimal and at the CEO’s discretion. The main job is ratifying management’s decisions.

Certifying Board: This type of board focuses on credibility to shareholders and typically has a significant outside director presence. The board certifies that the business is managed properly and the CEO meets the Board’s requirements.

Engaged Board: The board serve’s as the partner of the CEO and provides insight, advice and support on key decisions. It effectively oversees the CEO and company performance. The board conducts substantive discussions of key issues and actively defines it roles and boundaries.

Intervening Board: This model is common in crisis. The board is deeply involved in key decisions about the company and holds frequent intense meetings.

Operating Board: The board makes key decisions and management implements them.

A Management Board: This is a board in which there is no distinction between senior management and directors. This is typical of growth companies where board and management roles have not been crystalized.

So to become more effective it is important to ask what kind of board you are putting together and what roles and expertise is required to make this work. This is the role of the board.

Once the board has the right role, the next task is to ensure that they do the right work. Through clear definition of the tasks of the board this should be relatively easy. Active discussions need to clarify the roles and duties of the board as opposed to management and this must be captured in action plans and authority matrices.

Moving on it should go without saying that no board will be functional without the right people. The real issue is competence and maturity in the industry that you are in. The correct way is to analyse the business and recruit the best directors to fulfil those requirements that will unlock value in the business. Industry knowledge, understanding of key aspects thereof, independence, business credibility, education, financial expertise, confidence and teamwork are key criteria in assembling most boards. On-going board development is a critical aspect of making such a team effective.

The next aspect of an effective board is an effective agenda. The agenda must focus on serious questions, troublesome concerns and authentic debate. Too many times the board meeting is “stage managed” to achieve specific outcomes. The hallmark of an effective board is one in which the board requests management to prepare specific items and where the agenda is influenced or set by the board.

The last, and arguably the most important, is to ensure effective follow-through and delivery of agreements. When the board agrees this is binding on the organisation and building this sense of authenticity and delivery is critical for a board to be effective.

So why do you want to become a board member?

As a director you will find yourself loved, hated, admired, scorned, accused of all kinds of things and even sometimes ignored. It’s part of the job. You will need to set aside personal interest and priorities to make decisions that are best for the organisation. You will learn how fiduciary duties can weigh heavily on you and how seemingly small problems can be the indicators of much larger problems and how action is more important that words.

The benefit is that you will guide and strengthen an organisation and ensure that the full potential of a meaningful goal is achieved.


Taking on a board responsibility is not a light task – but one that can be very fulfilling. In order to do it right it is important to design the board to function well and to encourage and develop a cadre of people that can tackle the most complex business issues and guide the organisation to unlock value.


Nadler, D.A (2004) Building Better Boards, Harvard Business Review, May 2004, p102-p111

Embracing the energy of judgement

Judgement is creative energy. It splits the elements of dreams into action and potential and creates progress.

We think of judgement as something that is done to others to determine if they are guilty or innocent, but it is essential to distinguish between justice and judgement.

The energy of judgement is a powerful but uncomfortable energy that cleaves apart and serves as the razor that splits the mud into the water and the sand to leave the ocean and the desert. If we understand this energy, it is a powerfully creative force that can lead to very creative power. This energy allows us to split the elements of dreams into action and potential and create progress.

Justice is more typically a situation in what is inevitable is played out — i.e. karma has taken its turn, and now a guilty party faces what was coming to them, or an innocent are set free. The two elements that we typically see being judged is innocence or guilt. But we get judged every day on other energies such as: love vs rejection; potential vs achievement; compassion vs selfishness; unity vs division; creation vs destruction; openness vs concealment; efficiency vs waste; power vs dominance; truth vs deception; beauty vs low self-esteem; rejoicing vs groaning; purpose vs desolation; success vs failed creation; progress vs failure; engaging vs isolating; performance vs mediocrity. Judgement is the dynamic force that shifts the energy from the one side to the other. Let’s call the two sides of energy the poles of judgement in this conversation.

The prelude to the state of judgement is often a higher-order or seemingly better state. The change that you are going through is because of something different before. Maybe there was supposed to be better than it is now, or there was an illusion that is coming to the fore, based on a change of assumptions, the non-realisation of premises or a fundamental change in the reality of the world. Something happens, and the state changes. This something could happen due to action, inaction, discovery or imposition of will.

Judgement typically happens because of previous actions. These actions could have been voluntary or involuntary. The objective of the judgement may be to determine if you were cause or victim and if there is a sense in maintaining the energy that goes you where you are now or if there is some cause for the energy to change. As such judgement is the process of evaluating the extent to which the energy needs or is changing. This is an important aspect as it shows that whatever the consequence of the judgement, that the energy must and will change.

When judgement is an action that you go into prepared, and it is not foisted on you, you are inviting scrutiny and the process, and its consequence will invariably change you.

Judgement based or inaction or discovery is a potent catalyst of change. This type of almost accidental state change is where the unexpected happens, and you are somehow benefitted or even potentially harmed and or it changes your potential. The real judgement, in this case, is based on what you have done with the opportunity. If you work it, then you are judged as victorious, and when you ignore it, you tend to move to a lot lower state of being. History is littered with the carcasses of those that have failed to act, and paintings and library walls are decked with the stories of those that have turned discoveries into catalysts for change.

The change that caused there to be the necessity for judgement was not necessarily positive else we would have declared a victory. So, judgement inherently has some sense of perceived failure associated with it. The perception of failure is not in the judgement, but the judgement itself is to mediate the perception of failure to a new normal. This sense of perceived inadequacy or failure comes from a standard that was set inside or outside of ourselves. Inside it may be motivated by experience or peer pressure, and externally it is by a common or shared value system such as a state of laws, prevailing norms or imposed rules in a group. Rules then is a permanent type of judgement that is only made stronger by judgement and then creates a new ongoing set of judgements going forward. As it is judgement can also not be an outright failure — else it would automatically have been defeat or loss — so there is still some element of uncertainty — either in time or substance, which will cause the separation of the poles of judgement. In this duality of not being quite a victory or quite a failure, there is an energetic motion that allows the creative energy of your actions being spliced at every turn and either moving you forward or backwards.

The forward and backward part is hard because as you believe you are going forward, you may be going backwards and because of the fine line of balance implied in the energy of balance, every single small step may be the point that tips the scales of justice. As you are typically quite focused on every level, the inevitable causality of the complex set of variables are brought into balance — a set of actions or non-actions can develop into a potent force that comes to bear on the present situation. The challenge is that every action of this nature needs to be met with a corresponding force to maintain balance and if this spirals out of control — you may find yourself outside of the energy of justice in the heart of chaos. Chaos is a world in which there is no judgement but also no order. It is a dark and volatile space in which no happiness can reign, and creativity is senseless as it is only consumed. The only way out of chaos is to establish the pattern of order that eventually forms a beautiful change that is both ordered, self-repeating and wholesome. Chaos only disappears when it is destroyed through dreams, judgement and action.

Living in the energy of judgement is when you are heading towards a state of judgement, and your actions need to stand up to the scrutiny that is to follow. These actions need to motivate and aspirate high ideals and support real vision else these actions will enter the maelstrom of judgement and just come out as more dreams. Remember that judgement parses the action state and separates that which changes the world from that which does not. Dreams cannot stand on their own — they need substance to be delivered.

This means doing the right thing in the face of extreme odds to ensure that you live to fight another day. The only way to overcome and to survive while in the energy of judgement is to use vision and action to translate the inevitable into the seemingly impossible. Inevitable and impossible are the two poles can only be separated by the power of action that supports judgement. This will only happen if you apply yourself more than 100% and step way beyond the energy that brought you to this path in the first place. It is when you rise above your situation by subjecting yourself to the rigour of the required change and changing what needs to be changed. It is being rigorous, disciplined and painfully diligent about moving ahead millimetre by millimetre, even if sometimes there are setbacks that take you further back.

This eeking out of existence seems like the lowest form of happiness at the time and often is very painful. It is the hard yards, the real pain of transformation, but if you add joy, happiness and an open spirit to this and do the work — you start to take massive strides forward. The clear vision, desire to break free and step by step actions that you took start slowly gaining momentum and starts to blend into a transformation that bends the energy away from utter hopelessness to green shoots that grow slowly into some nice-looking shrubbery. It is not a great grand oak yet, but through many cycles, it may become one, once again.

The energy of judgement is one where there is a something that now has to be acknowledged to create a new reality, or more accurately an adjustment to the reality that is now. It may be as simple as an official acknowledging that there has been a change and a collective or for there to be a seminal event that ushers in a new dawn. Any change can usher in a new

For the energy of judgement to work, there must be someone or something that can judge you. This is a superior or somehow powerful entity that has sway or dominion over the subject of your judgement. It could be yourself, or a perception of some aspect of yourself, most notably your past and unfulfilled expectations of someone that you want to please. The judge could be active, passive, aggressive or docile and administrative, punitive or compassionate. Depending on how you understand the judge, you may alter your approach to the energy of judgement.

The process of judgement is not fun as all that came before is measured, weighed and burnt away. New layers may be added, but it will always be more constrained than it was previously and to break free may require a whole new reality that may be limited differently. The challenge is that somehow, the energy of judgement travels with the judged as the past is a natural constraint in breaking free from judgement.

Judgement is an essential part of a type of wheel that moves from judgement to reality, subjugation, dream, action, glory/victory/ partial victory / partial failure/failure, judgement again.

Judgement is also letting external parties into our existence. You cannot be part of something if you are not willing to be judged in that existence. It is almost that where there are two or three people, there will be judgement. It is our natural state to judge, have a sense of justice and to insist on fairness in the procedure, application of justice and attention. It then follows that the elements of procedure, consistent justice and attention are key components of any group of people. Invariably some entity controls or patrols these rules and that define membership and ensure that members conform in some way or form to the group basis.

To understand the energy of judgement, arguably, the most important aspect is to evaluate the potential of breaking free from that energy. It may be the best option in some cases, especially when there is mindless oppression or a reality that is not useful. In many cases, however, we must make ourselves fit to be judged. By constantly getting better at the things we will be judged on, we get better and better and challenge ourselves to be the best by a definition that only we will understand in time. There is a reason why some of the most challenging sports have petty rules, and some of the most beautiful artistic expressions require significant work. It is because of the rules that we can learn to innovate within the bounds of a judged world. We instantly know the best chess player — because it is someone that uses the same rules as the weak chess player and redefines what it means to be judged. This is, in fact, the hallmark of genius. It is the people that do not change the rules but understand them, combine them and ultimately transcend them that achieve the real victory.

That victory may seem empty to people that stand outside of the circle of judgement, but it fills the circle and resets the boundaries for those that achieve it within the circle. By breaking free, it is possible to stand outside of the circle of judgement, but it may be hard to fight your way back into the circle and shift the boundaries. There is an old story of an Indian brave that fought with the elders to change the rules. The elders expelled him from the tribe, and for some time, he shouted at the borders of the tribal lands. Nobody heard him, and no one took him seriously. In time he returned to the tribe and worked from within to change it. In time he became an elder and eventually the chief of a prosperous tribe that grew under his vision and caring and compassion for those around him. This is the consequence of the energy of judgement — it puts you in a circle to be judged and through prevailing, pushing to get better and achieving more; eventually, it helps you change the rules.

Judgement is complex energy that is a precondition for creative expression and ultimately acknowledges the purity of the service that we express to one another. By both judging and being judged, we set norms, standards and expectations that allow us to regulate and mediate our shared existence to higher ideals. Without it, we invite chaos into our lives and or we expand our view too narrowly into a world of complacency.

Stand and be judged… Stand and succeed… Invite the energy of judgement and build in yourself the confidence to make judgement your ally in a world where few are willing to embrace it.

Time to get real

Kotter (2012) states that less than 10% of time is spent on developing strategy and more than 90% on executing it. According to Kotter’s research approximately 5% of all organizational strategies are implemented successfully, and 70% of strategic initiatives fail to meet their objectives. The remaining 25% have some level of success but do not meet the full potential of the strategy devised.

Strategy implementation is where competitive advantage is won or lost. The statistics on organizational ability to execute new strategies are very poor, whether the strategy involves acquisitions, new geographic markets, new product innovation, or supply chain improvements. Various studies support this conclusion.

To some this is the indictment of modern management – basically taking the argument that managers do not manage and when they do – they should not manage.

The slow process of strategic drift sets in and competitors move in a take over your markets, customers and profits. Neilson, Martin and Powers (2008) noted that 3 out of 5 respondents said that their organisations did not quickly translate important strategic and operational issues into action. A specific phenomenon that came up in their study is that companies that promoted people too quickly – tended to not through on strategic initiatives as the initiatives were abandoned when people became more senior.

Is this due to a lack of skill, or are we missing the point of strategy? A better question is what would be the elements to effectively execute on so that strategies are successful more often.

The top six items in strategy execution noted is the following

Transfer decision-making power

In organisations where execution is effective, everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions they are responsible for. An example is when business lines are given responsibility for revenue, costs and profit targets – its tends to lead to higher performance than in organisations where there is a blurring of responsibilities and high definition of functional or task related objectives. When task oriented objectives are pursued – this leads to overspecialisation and decreased unit profitability.

In your own life – it is also important to give yourself power. Understand what you need to make decision about and make them. You must care about the things that affect your daily existence and seek to improve them.

Understand and act on your external environment

Execution-oriented firms have a strong grasp on competitors and information is acted on swiftly. Information about what competitors are doing is centralised and used actively in decision-making. This “external focus” defines successful organisations. Competitive environment is relevant in terms of customers, products, and talent and sets the non-performers apart from the performers. A key observation is that pricing should be based on what the market can support and a keen understanding of who is attracted, rather than on cost or purely what your competitors are doing. Companies that are internally focused miss the market, the opportunity and only spend time creating inertia.

As an individual it is also important to look at what is going on around you. Read the news, listen to opinion and have opinions on different aspects of what is going on around us. By being aware, active and optimistic you take forward new perspectives and add value to people around you.

Stick to decisions

Organisations that are noted for strong execution ability, rarely – if ever second-guess themselves. Linked to this, there is generally a consensus that the organisation will back-up the decisions of their employees that were made within the limits of decision-making powers. This also speaks to the strength of boards, governance and strategy alignment. If people understand what needs to get done, they have a tendency to do it. If they need to figure out if what they have done is okay, and constantly look to cover themselves – then it leads to stifled potential and cynicism.

On a personal level – if you decided to quit smoking, or drink less coffee, study a course or read a new book every month – don’t second-guess yourself. Stick to your decisions – else you are basically saying that you don’t trust yourself. If something is important enough to make a decision about it – keep focused and get to done!

Information is shared openly and honestly

In organisations that are effective, there is an open sharing of information and no “organisational boundaries”. Open sharing of information leads to a diffusion of best practices, a more concerted response to the external environment, skills development of managers and staff in order to deal with issues and situations and generally aids in making people happier and more content with their work situation. A company where people can contribute freely and their contribution is correctly placed has higher level of staff productivity and retention. Goals are clear, common and where they are at risk, everyone pulls in and shares in pulling the organisation up.

As an individual – this observation translates into honesty. If you are honest with yourself and those around you – in time you will be a more effective communicator, build strong trust and relationships. Honesty and truth is a way of life that people with effective execution skills value more than most. When an effective manager detects even the smallest bit of deceit – they know that their execution is at risk. The second aspect is communication – always communicate where you are in a process and give honest feedback to others. Then at least everyone knows where he or she stands.

Directors don’t execute strategy – employees do

Organisations that are good at strategy execution do not only rely on directors and top managers to execute strategy and actively seeks to find strategy execution in all aspects of the organisation. These organisations often described as flat, leaderless or octopus companies have a strong central ethos that is enforced constantly and that motivates capable employees to execute. Neilson, Martin and Powers (2008) noted that employees need the information at their fingertips to determine how their actions will impact the bottom line. It goes further than that with Jim Stengel in Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies (2012) stating that people without ideals that are linked to the values and culture of an organisation will only ever perform at mediocre levels and that organisations that effectively tap into the ideals of people have effectively outperformed organisations with any other measure. Managers (and directors) should thus look at the organisation and promote the zeal, passion and commitment required to link individual performance to the organisational outcome. Only in invoking the ideals of people, do organisations thrive.

As an individual, it reminds us to never give up on our ideals and to work for organisations in which our ideals are served. Do not tolerate people that stand in the way of your ideals and be clear on what you want. As long as you can see that the environment you are in is moving you closer to your ideal – you are moving forward. Your spiritual power is stronger than your emotions and your strength. Work on enabling yourself to understand who you really are and being all that you can be.

Managing for execution

Managers must thus focus on the decision rights, information, structure and the correct motivators to ensure that strategy execution is improved. Without this, decision-making is paralyzed, rewards and performance become meaningless and formal reporting lines are avoided. Decisions become blocked and organisations start slowing down. People defend their silos and tomorrow is another day.

It requires energy to execute – and energy gets consumed when managers do not focus on the right actions. Managers must enable others, support the organisation in execution challenges and create and manager structures with appropriate performance and rewards to ensure that desirable outcomes are achieved. The actions recommended above create energy and fuels the fires of organisational success.

Is this not maybe what is happening, or needs to happen to your new years resolutions and your plans to study this year. Through focusing on getting it done, keeping the end in mind and rising above the situation – you become excellent. As you focus on enhancing your ability to execute ideas and actions, you elevate yourself and your organisation to the next level. It is time to get real.


Kotter, J. (2012) Failed Strategy Execution Oversight by Corporate Boards, Forbes.com

Neilson, G., Martin, K. and Powers, E. (2008), The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution, Harvard Business Review

Stengel, J. (2012) Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies, Crown Business

Vistas to opportunity

An open mind gives you a vista to a world of opportunity. A vista, being a narrow path through which you can see something that would otherwise be hidden, is also easy to miss. It is like a dark path in which there is a small light and as you move towards it you realise that you were in a forest all along and you were looking at the sun which only presented itself as a small ray but that is full of blazing glory.

Many obstacles block us from fully exploring the inner recesses of our own being – and the last thing that we expect to find in there is a blazing sun. Mostly we are afraid of what we may find if we lift the hood and stare ourselves in the face and realise that we have regrets, unfulfilled desires and hopes and dreams that never grew up. We may have blockages, fears, physical limitations and shadows that chase us.

If we can get past this point – we find in ourselves the inner being that although slightly uglier than the outer being, has an amazing power to direct itself on the conscious and subconscious level to great heights and powerful fulfilment of ideals and hope. Getting to know this entity is both interesting and challenging but as we get closer to the core of our inner being we see brightness and shining and we start to glow on the inside and outside.

Going to the next level in the meandering journey of self-exploration is more interesting. As we start finding what is outside and bringing it inside and taking that which is inside and expressing it on the outside then all of a sudden a lot of opportunity opens up. The path that was dark becomes scintillating and moves the spirit forward, onward to a place yet undiscovered.

We find that we are capable of much more than anticipated. The vistas open up and the journey becomes one step after the other. We not only see the light – but we are starting to walk towards it. As we walk, we are encouraged and start to run.

But opportunity does not stop there. Much like the journey of a thousand miles – this is only the first step. Opportunity becomes art when practiced.

The race is long and there are many side paths. Still not sure where it takes us – we can only keep moving forward. We break our fears – step forward and discover more about ourselves and others. Digging deep, persevering and persisting makes both the journey worthwhile and the companionship of our inner being more rewarding.

Everything that we see is an opportunity to create a masterpiece – but only in creating the masterpiece does the now get captured and evokes the emotions and perception that the artist wants us to experience. The vista opens a world that has never before been explored and changes all that is around and within us.

The laws of opportunity

Now, opportunity is a strange and to understand this strangeness there are some aspects of it that is useful to get to know better. Some very basic and immutable laws guide opportunity. There are at least four laws of opportunity that have to be understood. These are outlined here.

Law 1: Opportunity is everywhere

The first thing to become conscious of is that there is so much of it. Opportunity is everywhere and in every thing. Some people call this abundance. So people call this creativity and some are just totally ignorant of this fact. After you become aware of opportunity – the next step is to understand some of the laws that guide it.

It is everywhere – much like quantum states – once you start observing an opportunity – then only does it become real.

So as you are where you are right now – there is a million choices and options in front of you. When you see and act on one of them – it moves from the possibility to opportunity status and shapes your destiny from that point onward.

Law 2: Opportunity is on every level

The second aspect is that the opportunity exists at many levels. There is a physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspect to opportunity. For an idea to manifest and get real it however has to start being manifested on every level.

You may believe (spiritual), think how to achieve (intellectual), get a strong feeling (emotional) and then do something about it (physical).

Something may happen to you (physical), you may have strong feelings about it (emotional), you may want to rectify this (spiritual) and become passionate about this cause (emotional).

The best ideas manifest on all the different levels and play out on each level. Opportunity happens on the inside of your being and you need to manifest it on the outside of your being.

Law 3: Opportunity takes any form

Opportunity can be both good and bad. The basic idea is that the universe does not create good and evil – it is only the expression of that which happens to the raw material that the universe provides that manifests as good and evil.

This is an important law as there is always more than one way to achieve the same objective. This is the way of war and the way of peace. It is the path of creation and the path of destruction. Balancing both sides is challenging and this creates opportunities in themselves.

Law 4: Opportunity opens or closes other opportunities

The fourth law is that some opportunity excludes other opportunities, while some open them up. So deciding to work in one industry may exclude you from another – while at the same time opening up a range of options within that specific field.

These laws allow us to learn something about how to approach opportunities in our life.

Life as a sequence of opportunities

So if we look at where we are in life today as a sequence of opportunities we see a different picture emerge. You are most likely exactly where you needed to be right now, doing exactly what you were meant to do and you are exactly who you are. This state of being acknowledges that you have taken the opportunities around you and that they have brought you to where you are right now. It means that to change the environment you are in – you need to change your opportunity set.

An interest challenge to the world of opportunity is that there is too much to take advantage of each and every opportunity and to shape the outcomes that you desire there is a cardinal rule that has to be observed.

If you want to get somewhere – go there. Opportunity will present itself, sometimes unexpectedly but always.

The corollary to this law is that if you are not where you want to be – then go where you want to be.

Stop waiting for opportunity to happen to you – when mostly we ignore the fact that opportunity is in fact around each one of us all the time.

This brings to the fore the role of patience. Somehow we are often very patient with the things that are required from us. The art of strategy is sometimes portrayed as getting a sequence of events just right to have that “perfect storm” or great idea. This is a farce.

Most people that have what they want will tell you how they relentlessly pursued the thing they wanted and how they manifested the great ideas by visualisation, determination and constantly progressing towards their goal. Current literature seems to suggest that breakthroughs are not incremental, but radical. So why do we then spend such a lot of time in organisations and in life seeking incremental change, hoping to achieve ideals towards which we should just leap.

To get what we want and to seize the opportunity we have to go there. Move closer to your goals and opportunities will open up to take you there.

This is much easier and much more difficult than it sounds. For to be able to envisage the end state, requires a clear view of what you really are and to take this to a full conclusion.

The science of opportunity

To think of it in scientific terms – opportunities, like everything else exist in time and space. Physics makes the statement that if we observe a particle we can observe it either in time or in space. And to see the change in a particle we can decide if we want to see it in time or in space but not both. It does not change the path of the particle but we cannot observe the path of the particle if we do not respect the time-space phenomena. To translate this into opportunity – we can decide if we want to see change in terms of time or space to see opportunities realise. If we choose time – then it will require us to observe the changes over time. If we choose space – then we observe the changes in space. For us to observe changes over time – we need to sit still in the same place at different intervals and evaluate what has changed. To observe the changes over space – we need to sit down at different times and reflect on the space that we now occupy.

Leaping at opportunities

Leaping is scary – but you cover more ground. Achieving you full potential is scary but somehow it is a better state than being afraid in a deep and dark corner.

Innovation and growth will increasingly depend on radical shifts towards the ideal state and less on incremental increases and releases. This idea is captured in the image of leaping towards a goal – but while this takes you in the right direction – it only starts to affect the end picture.

To get to an ideal state requires us to have the skill of getting the end state in mind. If you can build a picture in your mind of what something needs to look like – you are 80% there. The remaining 20 percent is just going there.

For us in the modern civilisation we must ask ourselves if we think enough. We must take enough time to visualise the necessary state of being, mental attitudes, situations and scenarios and end state of where we need to be. We do not spend enough time understanding who we are and what we really, really want.

Why do we leap? Is it because of instinct or because of contemplation. Both are equally valid reasons. The reality is that until we leap – we do not get closer and the path remains obscured.

After the leap – the breakthrough

There is also the idea of breakthroughs. We all start in school trying out as athletes. You take your first race and as you get half way you realise that others are in front of you and others are behind you. If you are in front – you may be lucky and push harder. If you are in the back you may start giving up already. The person in the middle has a choice. Either they can decide to push harder and go forward or to decide to lose. This is a tough choice as they may not even know what victory is like. It is also a tough choice because the consequences are not understood yet. Being more or less open to that choice at that time is a solitary decision that may be influenced by so many factors but still the choice then will determine the habit of the person from that point onwards. If you choose then to keep on pushing through – you will always push through. If you choose to fail then you may always fail. The important aspect to realise that while not each one us is a natural athlete – that if you choose to become something and push through that this becomes a very powerful tool in opportunity.

Breaking through our fears through hope, courage and inspiration is key. We must try and try harder. We must try again and keep on trying. Moving forward is the key to getting ahead. Pushing onward is necessary to not getting stuck and remaining behind.

Somehow the image of breaking through and pushing onward gives the right sense that it requires repetition, honing and perfection of an art.

Repetition – A necessary precondition?

If at first you don’t succeed – then try and try again. The idea is not new. A good question is to ask if you can succeed at all without trying and trying again. There are very few real world stories in which the successful character did not try many times or try in many ways before getting the initial breakthrough. Once you succeed you get into a routine of discipline that requires you to continue working at the same thing over and over until you have perfection in every action. Keeping at it seems to be a way to get closer to an ideal and chipping away at a big picture.

Brazilian soccer players that play futsal are apparently more successful at soccer than the millions of other people in the world. The reason is that futsal is a soccer type game that is played with a ball that is harder to manipulate and subsequently each player has more kicking time and effort on the ball. When a good futsal player gets behind a soccer ball then they have so much more freedom and can kick harder, do more to manipulate the ball and they have spend more time learning how to play.

To get better at something we need to be immersed in in. Reading Chinese, Arabic or Finnish is hard – but not if you are a six year old Chinese, Arabic or Finnish boy or girl – because you are surrounded by it and open to what is happening around you. The same is true for all the other languages in the world. By breaking it down and surrounding yourself with ideas from a discipline or language you will master it.

Obstacles and Unlearning

Einstein described trying to achieve something different by the same result as insanity. This is true in the space of opportunity as well. Trying to take an opportunity from idea to reality without changing direction, approaches and methods – will result in a massive price to learning. While conviction keeps one on a path, it is only through adaptation that we correct course.

Some people are quite stubborn and believe that there is only one path that leads to an outcome. There is always at least two. In mathematics you are taught that there are three outcomes to an equation. This could be that there is no answer, that there is one answer or that there are many answers. To get to this point there is always two ways to prove it. You can show that it has an answer (existence) or you can provide the answer.

This is why prototyping is so important in innovation and opportunity. Creating a prototype creates a proof that the concept can exist and highlights what can co wrong and as we scale up the prototype – so we can correct for issues of scale. But not only that – by studying what is out there we can use these as prototypes for our own ideas. What has worked before serves to inform the art of the possible.

But – somehow to innovate and to really act on opportunity – we have to unlearn the things that we know now. We have to embrace that which we do not know, but also challenge what we do know. We may also have to do things that others have thought impossible and revisit the so-called lessons that we took earlier.

There are many experiments that was done in terms of behavioural conditioning where e.g. a elephant is tied up as a small baby with a tiny rope and they get so used to this rope constraining them that they end up being large animals that get tied by the same rope – without ever realising that they can break the rope without even exerting any effort if they were only aware of the possibility that this was possible.

So we let ourselves be convinced that there are absolutes in this world, which will never be different. Beyond every constant – there is a vista. What if there was something beyond the smallest number, more infinite than the largest thought and deeper than inside our dreams. We have proven that time is not constant, that there is something faster than the speed of light, that there are galaxies that are smaller than a pinprick. So what does this mean for opportunity? It tells us that opportunity exists both inside of our current perception of reality and beyond that. Opportunity comes from connecting ideas that were unconnected previously and stretching that which already exist to be different.

Detachment and letting it go

Often you find that you achieve most results when you let an idea go. Just after you give up – there is a breakthrough but your energy is lost. Experimenting with this idea some people have come up with a strategy of letting it go before then. Releasing on ideas until you do not care if you achieve it – allow you to have considered all angles and letting it go. You may think it is alchemy or magic – but it is just your inner being opening up to a world of possibility by not worrying. Emotions are funny – they warn you that you may be of things that you already have. By letting your emotions go – you see that the world in in front of you.

From breakthrough to artistry

Being successful and being good at something is an art. The first time is unfamiliar. The next time may be easier because of reflection. After that there is a long journey of perfecting a craft. Many people believe that opportunity itself, once it is presented, will just allow them to take it and it will be easy from there on. We need to push past this early break-through point and perfect the art of delivering on this opportunity.

Habits and the unconscious mind form a large part of defining how we look at ideas and issues. You see the investment banker read a headline and make a trade that yields a massive profit. Reflecting on how he got there is not a simple journey. The person may have been encouraged in early school to be good math. His parents supported him in this passion. In high school he was not good enough at one area and decided that this area gave him more opportunity. He went to study and had a first job where he did not do this. He may have had various career experiences and have had many opportunities to both succeed and fail at trading. His employer may have supported him through promotion and other training and development. His clients built trust in him, all the while he was reading about markets, the companies, trends and getting information from all the diverse sources in the world.

His mind was creating a predictive capability that combines mathematical calculations, with information from the world together with attitudes, perceptions and harsh lessons learnt into an evaluative ability that at the point of getting the right information, and conditions be right, leads to a trade being executed and being successful. The mastery in the trader’s ability goes a level deeper. He knows what to do when the trade is not successful and how to this again for more and more stocks in different markets. His habits, attitudes and skills all feed into making him a trading engine that can achieve profits from different scenarios. He may become curious when a certain stock does not behave the way he expected and do some further investigation and because of the links in his brain he can then start to understand what happened here. It will alert him when he sees a stock with similar information attached to it in future and he may modify ever so slightly the information that he collects before making a trade – or alternatively he may see a massive opportunity and find a way to exploit this type of information going forward.

Yet we sometimes think by putting money on a stock, we will become rich overnight.

Everything is nothing and a blazing sun

The artist does a brush stroke without thinking. The sage knows what is missing after all has been considered. A child knows the world of opportunity because there is no filter and everything is nothing.

By transcending our daily existence we liberate and free ourselves to look at the world in a different way. The path may be one less travelled – but it is a path in which we get closer to a new world in which each one of us is liberated and can see each other in the light.

Inside there is a blazing sun – that not only shines but can make others shine. We have to discover it first and unleash its power. It is a not an easy journey – but one that is worth it.

Living on another level

You can decide to survive or you can decide to prosper. Survival is much easier and harder at the same time. To prosper or to live your life on a level where you make a real and significant impact on everything around you is as much work as surviving but it creates its own wind and supports its own results.

There is a quote that is often attributed to Mandela and Mariam Williamson that says that our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light and not our darkness that most frightens us.

The interest aspect of this is that it starts with a choice. You choose to express yourself on the level of survival or prosperity and you can change your space over time – you just have to start moving towards your goals. You choice – changes your attitude. A changed attitude affects your actions and your relationships. When these factors combine your society changes and you change your society. You become what you always wanted to be.


Opportunity is a start – a place to begin. We can be opportunity collectors or delivery agents for opportunities that are out there. There is a world of possibility and it starts with getting to know the self and persisting to achieve great things.

It is not a simple path to find and right now you may only see a pin-prick in a hidden universe. Move towards the light of opportunity daily and you will be liberated from your own limitations soon.

Even the easiest or most complex requirements can be delivered on. Nothing is impossible but we may have to look at how to approach this on many levels.