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SSA Notebook | March 2015

What Everyone Gets Wrong about Strategy Execution

A recent HBR article dispels rumours about strategy execution, based on research conducted with nearly 8,000 managers in over 250 companies. For example, the study reveals that execution does not equate to vertical strategy alignment. Rather, most businesses struggle to coordinate between functions and units. Managers who cannot rely on colleagues in other units “compensate with a host of dysfunctional behaviors that undermine execution,” the authors note. Another myth: “successful execution means sticking to the plan.” Lack of agility is actually the major obstacle to effective execution. “Most organizations either react so slowly that they can’t seize fleeting opportunities or mitigate emerging threats, or react quickly but lose sight of company strategy,” the authors explain. Companies need better ways of fluidly reallocating funds, people, and attention to support strategic priorities.

The C-Suite Verdict on Big Data: Unprecedented Opportunities but Management Faces Learning Curve

The Economist recently published results from a survey of nearly 400 C-suite executives about their beliefs, priorities and opinions on big data analytics. The study revealed that senior executives feel optimistic about the capabilities of big data, but the majority would like to achieve deeper knowledge. For management, a “lack of understanding about how to use big data stands in the way of implementation.” Closing this gap is crucial for making use of the insights big data can deliver. In addition, big data tends to be siloed within organizational departments, but executives realize that it should be a shared responsibility across the enterprise. To realize big data’s potential, companies must close the knowledge gap between management and their IT/Data teams and align organizational capabilities. You can read the full PDF here.

Supply Chain Lessons from the West Coast Port Shutdown

Today’s global supply chains must be agile to compete. The recent West Coast port standoff ended, but Yossi Sheffi, Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT, reminds us that most businesses forgot the 2002 West Coast shutdown that cost the U.S. economy billions. “Too many companies failed to take precautionary measures and response strategies well ahead of the stoppages,” says Sheffi. Robust supply chain risk mitigation involves developing alternate operating plans to keep business flowing during disruptions. Looking forward, business must “become adept at reconfiguring their supply and distribution networks in response to changing market conditions,” says Sheffi. He notes that companies can adapt by: 1.) taking advantage of shipping options that will become available via the Panama Canal expansion project and port capacity expansions in Mexico and on the East Coast and 2.) ‘re-shoring’ production to North America.

Facial Recognition Software: The Future of Retail?

Could facial recognition become a novel way for brick-and-mortar stores to use data to compete with online shopping? This BBC article describes how facial recognition software can change how retailers approach customer experiences. Using this setup, retailers can send customers targeted coupons when they enter the store, inform sales staff of what kinds of products they buy, or even recognize known shoplifters and alert security. FaceFirst CEO Joel Rosenkrantz says his firm’s technology can reduce stock shrinkage by 25% or more. Facial recognition software also enables targeted promotions based on demographic data. “If the system identifies a teenage girl picking up a diet soft drink, it could then display a message that the drink only contains one calorie, while for a middle-aged man it could offer a discount voucher in the form of a QR code,” the author describes.

Building Capability in Your Managers: SSA Partners with InfomatiX to Develop Advanced Analytics Training

Most companies don’t know how to benefit from the explosion of big data and advanced analytics tools. Even firms that have hired data scientists are ill-equipped to exploit big data because business managers don’t understand how to leverage this new capability. Building on 20 years of expertise in enabling data-driven organizations, SSA & Company has partnered with InfomatiX, which is one of the fastest growing Business Intelligence firms in the world and has worked with companies like P&G, Nestlé, EY and General Mills, to develop a new training program, Advanced Analytics I. The training is designed to help managers understand how to use data science and advanced analytics to drive greater and faster insights to move the business towards better decisions, and close the gap between managers and their IT/data teams. Read more in this announcement.

Exclusive Content on Modern Leadership from Stephen Miles, CEO of The Miles Group

Stephen Miles, CEO of our sister firm, The Miles Group (TMG), offers frank, pertinent insights on modern leadership. TMG develops talent strategies through CEO successions, executive transition, board succession, and Chairman/Lead Director transitions.

Eight Reasons Why Being CEO in 2015 Will Be Tougher Than Ever Before

The top of every CEO’s agenda this year is topped with new threats and opportunities. In this piece, Stephen Miles highlights why the CEO’s job has never been tougher. Cybersecurity has become a bigger priority after a slew of high profile attacks last year, while boards are ousting underperforming CEOs faster and more aggressively than in recent years. Harnessing the potential for U.S. growth as we become a petro economy is both an opportunity and a challenge while at the same time there is a need to develop truly global executive talent.

You Get the Culture You Deserve [Video]

Watch this video from Stephen Miles about the challenges for a CEO in maintaining a strong corporate culture. “A company’s values are more than slogans on posters and mouse-pads. Culture is the output of a set of behaviors, actions and decisions,” says Miles, “this is what the CEO represents.” No matter how well people perform they have to follow the values of the company, and the CEO has opportunities to affirm and strengthen these values. CEOs who can’t establish themselves as leaders who will make the right decisions risk getting the culture they deserve, not the culture they want.


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