C-Suite Intelligence 28th April 2020

Winmark's C-Suite Intelligence service providing news, content and research to help leaders across all C-Suite functions address the exceptional business planning and management challenges they are facing.

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Three recommendations for chairs and their boards to consider based on conversations with leading chairs around the world
McKinsey & Company
Uncertainty is high for most sectors and businesses, with boards and management teams struggling to find solid ground, which makes it all the more vital that boards are deliberate about where they focus their attention.
Based on conversations with leading chairs around the world, here are three recommendations for chairs and their boards to consider.

  1. Don’t increase management’s burden: What management needs most from the board right now is a strong mandate to handle short-term actions and directors’ support as it makes difficult decisions. But we see many boards heading in the opposite direction, requesting weekly updates - even though some chairs find these meetings of limited value.
  2. Augment management capacity: Boards could take on the task of interacting with shareholders, governments, regulators, debt holders, employees, or major customers. For example, many boards have directors with experience in serving in government or regulatory agencies. Those directors could pair up with senior managers to meet regulators for discussions of the organization’s pandemic response, giving the CEO much needed flexibility.
  3. Frame the post crisis strategy: While management teams focus on immediate survival or planning for the reconstruction phase, board directors should leverage their experience, professional networks, and industry understanding to outline how their organizations’ future vision, strategy, and corresponding operating model may need to change in the post pandemic era.  

Read here for full details.



How to talk to your team when the future is uncertain
Harvard Business Review
What information should you share with your reports about the health of your organisation? How can you be candid without demoralising your team? How can you offer assurance without giving people false hope? Here are recommendations for communicating with your employees during this uncertain time:
  • Understand the leadership challenge you face - you’re teaching people how to succeed in a crisis.
  • Consider your employees’ perspective and think about what you would want to hear if you were in their shoes.
  • Encourage your team through rousing, inspiring language. Your message is, “We can do this together.”  
  • Trade in speculation. Be honest and truthful about the facts on the ground.
  • Sugar-coat the situation. Otherwise, you’ll come across as a liar or someone who’s out of touch.
  • Ignore the personal touch. Meet with your team members one-to-one and in small groups and offer support.  
For full details and detailed case studies read here.

Skills and behaviours for effective remote working from a virtual leadership expert
Wall Street Journal
Alex (Sandy) Pentland, faculty director and founder of MIT Connection Science, has spent decades studying virtual leadership and virtual teams.

Over his career, he has built technologies, companies, and practices to help executives to lead and their teams to work effectively online.

As many companies adapt to new social distancing and shelter-at-home mandates, executives might be finding that their way of leading in the physical workplace isn’t always effective in the virtual environment.

According to Pentland, leading in a virtual world may require new skills and behaviors to make up for the difficulty in seeing the nuances and contexts underlying online communications.

He shares his perspectives on virtualization and what executives can do to manage effectively in a world of remote working.
Read here for full details.  

Seven successful battle strategies to beat COVID-19
Harvard Business School
Drawing on lessons from the battlefield is common practice for business leaders. To aid the fight against COVID-19, here are seven key frameworks and approaches with roots in military strategy:
  1. Pierce the fog of war: Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist, coined the term "fog of war." To remove the fog, Clausewitz believed in light decision-making frameworks that allow adaptability.
  2. Focus on quick wins balanced with long-term goals: Miyamoto Musashi was known as one of the greatest of all samurai. Musashi's insight was to create a style using two swords simultaneously: a long sword and a short sword together based on the principle of short, quick strokes with the short sword, balanced with simultaneous utilization of the long sword. Likewise, a focus on quick wins and success in small increments needs to be balanced with long-term planning and achievement.
  3. Practice the OODA Loop: The OODA loop emerged from military warfare: O: Observe, O: Orientate, D: Decide, A: Act. This approach came from the need to develop a strategic approach - simple in nature, easy to execute and communicate - that made up for the fact that the enemy at the time was using more advanced aircraft and weaponry.
  4. Develop cross-functional teams able to make decisions in the field: A lengthy analysis process often dilutes information gathered in the field. A ‘team of teams’ approach creates a cross-functional unit whose members have the skills necessary to make quick decisions based on operating principles.
  5. Create the right glide path to land a project: A short runway approach allows a team to quickly adjust the glide path toward delivery of the overall project versus waiting for more extended periods when a blown deadline or budget can't be overcome quickly. This reduction in uncertainty and increase in rapid iterative feedback between teams, customers, and stakeholders is vital in times of rapid change.
  6. Balance realism with optimism: The challenge needs to be acknowledged but never downplayed. Focusing realistically on the path forward helps teams come together to deliver on the vision.
  7. Confront unknown unknowns: The term VUCA originated in the US War College to describe situations that are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.   
Read here for full details.

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