Monthly Archives: August 2015




One aspect of change management involves the use of brainstorming .

In Kevin and Shawn Coyne’s book : BRAINSTEERING: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas  some new ideas are provided for more effective brainstorming  based on the proposition that many attempts at brainstorming are doomed . The flow of ideas may be fast and furious with traditional brainstorming but they can be ultimately shallow

The authors propose seven main principles that  inform a ” brainsteering” approach . A more structured but not constraining approach.

1. Know your organisations decision making criteria : this considers the  company will use to make decisions about any ideas generated. There is a need to understand existing strategic and tactical aims.For example ideas used may need to be practical, affordable and profitable within a year .

2, Ask the right questions : Academic research implies that  loosely structured sessions are inferior to approaches that use structure as the best way is to use questions as the platform for ideas generation. /for example the authors suggest that 15 -20 questions are appropriate for a workshop attended by about 20 people.Typical questions might be around trying to understand the customer experience , how to reduce complexity, what existing policies and procedures should be challenged.

3. Choose the right people :  Pick the people who can answer the questions you are posing and have regard for their special knowledge.

4. Divide and Conquer :  Don’t hold on rambling discussion – break into sub groups of 3-5 people ( no fewer and no more based on the idea that the social norm is to  speak up in smaller rather than larger groups) and let them focus on one question for 30 minutes . So overall take the 15 -20 questions and split them between the subgroups ( about 5 questions each) .Furthermore where possible assign questions to groups that are best able to handle them.

5. On your marks ,get set,go ! : Orient the full group by clarifying expectations . Prepare participants for the possibility that they might only generate 2-3 worthy ideas and that this is balanced by the fact that by the need of the day all of the sub groups will have generated a wealth of ideas.

6.Wrap it up : By the end of a typical day each subgroup tends to produce about 15 interesting ideas for further exploration so there could be 60 ideas generated by a 20 person team . Have each subgroup narrow its list of ideas to a top few and then share all of the top ideas with the whole group to motivate and inspire all participants. the group should not pick winners or a winner. Close the day on a high note and describe exactly what steps will be taken to choose winning ideas and how they will learn about final decisions.

7. Follow up quickly : Decisions and other follow up activities should be rapid, well managed and thorough. Concrete action generated from brainstorm sessions can decline quickly as time passes and the momentum is lost. This part of the process must be clearly in place and agreed before any brainsteering session. There should be excellent communication to all participants covering all of the ideas and the rationale for selection and rejection at this stage.

The overall thinking behind this approach is that whilst traditional brainstorming is fast and furious it can be ultimately shallow. By using a more focused,question based approach their is an opportunity to capture better ideas from participants



See the book on Amazon here



STRATEGY – 8 Key elements


Eight elements that strategists must consider


1. Business definition

This is the classic Drucker question: “What is my business and how is it positioned in the competitive market?” For non-profits and governments, the question might be, “What is our mandate?”

2. Financial management

This focuses on the sourcing, allocation and management of the financial capital the organization has at its disposal. The strategists must consider performance and controls as they develop a financial management strategy.

3. Growth

This concentrates on the type and rate of the organization’s growth. This can involve not only growing but also deciding to get smaller, perhaps by leaving certain markets. “Some companies want to stay the same size, which is the toughest,” Alan Kennedy noted.

4. Marketing

This involves identifying and capturing customers, through value that will appeal to them. Developing marketing strategy usually requires thinking through the balance between new and old products, and between current products and new products. (In non-profits and governments, where the term “marketing” might chafe, “communications” could substitute.)

5. Organizational management

This requires thinking through the sourcing, allocation, and management of the human resources of the enterprise – the HR strategy.

6. R&D/technology

This is the development and management of technology and intellectual property. You could use it for competitive advantage (as in pharmaceuticals, for example), or for productivity (as when introducing a new computer system). Research might be needed to develop the technology, or it might be purchased.

7. Risk

This illuminates the possible occurrence of the unacceptable, which could include lost opportunities as well as threats. Strategists can assemble the risks on a grid that indicates the likelihood of it occurring (from high to low) and the severity of impact (again, high to low).

8. Service delivery

The organization must take its marketing promise and deliver to the intended audience (through manufacturing, production or service). Key issues to consider are operational excellence,  effectiveness and efficiency.

The authors note that each of these eight elements is actually a strategy in itself, and that companies usually have a senior manager charged with each one (chief financial officer, chief marketing officer, chief risk officer).

Their most intriguing insight, however, is that organizations must arrange their strategies into the following array: One strategy, which they call the Alpha, will be the ultimate driving force and focus for the organization; two or three strategies are the Influencers, because they provide the most guidance and constraint on that Alpha; and the other strategies are Enablers, helping it all to work.

At a bank, for example, financial management is the Alpha, with risk management, service delivery, and technology usually the main supporting elements, or Influencers. Some bankers might argue that customer service is their prime goal, but Thomas Kennedy notes that when a customer says he can’t pay back a loan, bankers don’t typically say, “Oh that’s fine,” as they might if customer service were the real driver. Instead, they operate from financial management perspective of securing the funds.

The eight strategies, and the separation into categories of Alpha, Influencers and Enablers, are powerful for clarifying strategy in the boardroom and communicating it beyond. An organization can crystallize its plans on a single page, listing the eight strategies in a few words, and mapping out the Alpha, Influencers and Enablers.


See the free  STRATEGY COSMOS magazine on FLIPBOARD

and the free Making Decisions magazine



View Peter Cobbe's profile on LinkedIn

Some insights on making impact in the first 100 days and thereafter in a new role

  1. PROMOTE YOURSELF.Make a mental break from your old job. Prepare to take charge in the new one. Don’t assume that what has made you successful so far will in all situations continue to do so. The dangers of sticking with what you know, working hard at doing it, and missing new insights very real.
  1. ACCELERATE YOUR LEARNING.Climb the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organization. Understand drivers, markets, products, technologies, systems, and structures, as well as its culture and politics. It is a lot to absorb so be systematic and focused about deciding what you need to learn.
  1. CAREFULLY MATCH STRATEGY TO THE SITUATION. There are no universal rules for success in transitions. You need to diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities. Consider four very different situations: launching a start-up, leading a turnaround, devising realignment, and sustaining a high-performing unit. You need to know what your unique situation looks like before you develop your action plan.
  1. SECURE EARLY WINS.Early victories build your credibility and create momentum. They create virtuous cycles that leverage organizational energy. In the first few weeks, you need to identify opportunities to build personal credibility. In the first 100 days, you need to identify ways to create value and improve business results. Take care to ensure any quick wins are part of the overall strategic intent and aim.
  1. NEGOTIATE SUCCESS.You need to figure out how to build a productive working relationship with your new boss and manage their expectations. No other relationship is more important. This means having a series of critical talks about the situation, expectations, style, resources, and your personal development. Crucially, it means developing and gaining consensus on your 100-day plan.
  1. ACHIEVE ALIGNMENT. The higher you rise in an organization, the more you have to play the role of organizational architect. This means working out whether the organization’s strategy is sound, bringing its structure into alignment with its strategy, and developing the systems and skills bases necessary to deliver strategic intent.
  1. BUILD YOUR TEAM.If you are inheriting a team, you will need to evaluate its members. Perhaps you need to restructure it to better meet demands of the situation. Your willingness to make tough early personnel calls and your capacity to select the right people for the right positions are among the most important drivers of success during your transition.
  1. CREATE COALITIONS.Your success will depend on your ability to influence people outside your direct line of control. Supportive alliances, both internal and external, will be necessary to achieve your goals.
  1. KEEP YOUR BALANCE.The risks of losing perspective, getting isolated, and making bad calls are ever present during transitions. The right advice-and-counsel network is an indispensable resource
  1. EXPEDITE EVERYONE. Finally, you need to help everyone else – direct reports, bosses, and peers – accelerate their own transitions. The quicker you can get your new direct reports up to speed, the more you will help your own performance.

The First 100 days – useful books

Career Development Books


Some other  insights –  to consider your transition if  you are promoted into or take up a larger leadership role :

1.Reflect on the context of your transition from both your perspective and that of your key stakeholders.

2. Establish your initial set of priorities aligned with a full understanding of what others expect of you . Test your ideas,plans.thinking and straw models with others as part of achieving buy in.

3. Be clear about how you will control your agenda and allocate time and energy.

4. Build excellent relationships with your boss ,peers and key influencers. See this as developing an effective coalition to enable your agenda.

5.Consider how you will develop your direct reports and make any team changes.

6. Think through your communication plan including internal and external needs.

7.Seek and value feedback.

8. Establish personal ground rules to balance work and out of work time.

9.Make sure you have good external and internal intelligence sources to inform your thinking,strategy and implementation


A Small Example of part of a comprehensive approach:

Category Importance to success in role  :

 Low –Med –High

My objective for my 100 day plan
Strategy development/implementation
Project management
Programme management
Business case development
Effective Analysis/ synthesis/generating options
Operational Excellence
Planning/workflow management
Project management
Administration excellence
Data management/production
External relationship building/management
Sales and Revenue growth
Cost control /Reduction
Budget management
Business case delivery
Customer /client service excellence
Team work
Team leadership
Multi- team leadership
Influencing senior managers/executives
Internal  influence: networking and coalition building
External  influence:networking/coalition building
Report writing /writing skills
Speaking/presenting skills
Specific technical skills :
Personal development aim
OTHER requirement:



  •   Use the checklist to consider the key features and required achievements/deliverables for you role .Add any features missing specific to the role.

  • Rate each feature in terms of importance – LOW /MEDIUM /HIGH

  •  Produce a clear objective for each medium and high scoring category

  • Agree the objectives with your manager/leader

  • Track progress



Cherie Carter-Scott’s rules of life – an interesting perspective

Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott achieved her PhD in human and organisational development and for the nearly 30 years has been an international lecturer, consultant and author.

Carter-Scott’sook ‘If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules’ is essential reading if you are interested in behaviour, relationships, communications, and human personality.

Cherie Carter-Scott’s rules for life – also known as ‘The Ten Rules For Being Human’ and referenced in her book  with Jack Canfield: ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’ – are a map for understanding and pursuing personal development, and for helping others to understand and develop too.

‘If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules’ is also commonly referenced book in the life-coaching industry.

Here is a brief summary and explanation of Cherie Carter-Scott’s ‘rules of life’.

(Carter Scott references this quotation:) 

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” (Helen Keller)

Rule One – You will receive a body.

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what’s inside.

Rule Two – You will be presented with lessons.

Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons specific to you, and learning them ‘is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life’.

Rule Three – There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it’s inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you’d want. Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgement – of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not only divine – it’s also ‘the act of erasing an emotional debt’. Behaving ethically, with integrity, and with humour – especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps – are central to the perspective that ‘mistakes’ are simply lessons we must learn.

Rule Four – The lesson is repeated until learned

Lessons repeat until learned. What manifest as problems and challenges, irritations and frustrations are more lessons – they will repeat until you see them as such and learn from them. Your own awareness and your ability to change are requisites of executing this rule. Also fundamental is the acceptance that you are not a victim of fate or circumstance – ‘causality’ must be acknowledged;that is to say: things happen to you because of how you are and what you do.

To blame anyone or anything else for your misfortunes is an escape and a denial;you yourself are responsible for you, and what happens to you. Patience is required – change doesn’t happen overnight, so give change time to happen.

Rule Five – Learning does not end.

While you are alive there are always lessons to be learned. Surrender to the ‘rhythm of life’, don’t struggle against it. Commit to the process of constant learning and change – be humble enough to always acknowledge your own weaknesses, and be flexible enough to adapt from what you may be accustomed to, because rigidity will deny you the freedom of new possibilities.

Rule Six – “There” is no better than “here”.

The other side of the hill may be greener than your own,but being there is not the key to endless happiness. Be grateful for and enjoy what you have, and where you are on your journey. Appreciate the abundance of what’s good in your life,rather than measure and amass things that do not actually lead to happiness. Living in the present helps you attain peace.

Rule Seven – Others are only mirrors of you.

You love or hate something about another person according to what love or hate about yourself. Be tolerant; accept others as they are, and strive for clarity of self-awareness;strive to truly understand and have an objective perception of your own self, your thoughts and feelings.Negative experiences are opportunities to heal the wounds that you carry. Support others, and by doing so you support yourself. Where you are unable to support others it is a sign that you are not adequately attending to your own needs.

Rule Eight – What you make of your life is up to you.

You have all the tools and resources you need.

What you do with them is up to you. Take responsibility for yourself. Learn to let go when you cannot change things.

Don’t get angry about things – bitter memories clutter your mind. Courage resides in all of us – use it when you need to do what’s right for you. We all possess a strong natural power and adventurous spirit, which you should draw on to embrace what lies ahead.

Rule Nine – Your answers lie inside of you.

Trust your instincts and your innermost feelings, whether you hear them as a little voice or a flash of inspiration. Listen to feelings as well as sounds. Look, listen, and trust. Draw on your natural inspiration.

Rule Ten – You will forget all this at birth.

We are all born with all of these capabilities – our early experiences lead us into a physical world, away from our spiritual selves, so that we become doubtful, cynical and lacking belief and confidence.

The Ten Rules are not meant to be commandments; they are universal truths that apply to us all. 

Aspire to be wise – wisdom the ultimate path of your life, and it knows no limits other than those you impose on yourself.





 The GROW Model 

The GROW acronym suggests that a coach using the GROW model is likely to start by asking the client to set goals, both for what they want to get out of the coaching sessions as a whole and for each individual session.

It is described in a number of coaching books, including John Whitmore’s excellent
book “Performance Coaching”.

Using the GROW Model, the coach will begin the discussion by asking the client to define the topic in order to understand what specifically the client wants to talk about, the scale of the challenges they face, the importance and emotional significance of the topic to the client and the client’s long-term vision or goal.

Most coaches will encourage clients to set goals which are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-framed) the idea being that this will assist the client in focusing their thoughts and will also enable them to measure whether they achieve what they are aiming for in the long-term.

In the ‘Reality’ stage of the GROW Model the coach will assist the client in assessing objectively where they currently are in relation to their goal and how they feel about their current situation. This process of discovery is designed to allow the help the client clarify their goals better and as they begin to understand them more deeply what is driving them and what their sources of dissatisfaction are. In summary both coach and client encourage self-assessment and offer explicit examples to demonstrate their points and paint the most accurate picture of the topic as possible.

In the ‘Options’ stage of the GROW Model the idea is not to find a solution immediately, but to generate as many alternative courses of action as possible. Once a number of options have been identified the next stage will be to decide which one the client wants to put into action to help move them towards their goals. In this final ‘Will’ stage of the GROW Model the coach/client relationship is moving from discussion to conclusion and achievement.

The coach’s ultimate aim is assist the client identify goals, options and actions for themselves, including:

* What the client is going to do
* When the client will do it
* Whether it will help them meet their goals
* What difficulties might be faced and how they may be dealt with
* Who the client will tell and what support they may try to get to help in their actions
* Overall the GROW Model provides a helpful practical framework to assist clients set goals and move towards them.

The GROW Model is deservedly one of the best known and widely used coaching

It provides a simple yet powerful framework for navigating a route through
a coaching session, as well as providing a means of finding your way when lost.

See John Whitmore’s excellent
book “Performance Coaching”.


STRATEGY BY SECTOR and free report


A recent Strategy and Business report considers Winning Moves for 12 Industries.The focus is on internal factors that make a difference whilst recognising that a wide range of external factors have significant impact

From the internal perspective success is determined by different mixes of capabilities that organisations deploy such as knowledge,processes,tools,skills,people and organisational design.

Two types of overall capability are mentioned:

1.Competitive necessities ( such as a reliable network for Telecom operators and environmental/safety requirements for oil companies)

2. Distinctive capabilities –  that are unique to the company’s identity, linked to its strategy and hard for competitors to copy. Furthermore a company’s operating model,investment decisions and product/ services mix enable distinctive capabilities.

The Booz and Company team reviewed 12 industries and identified one or two distinctive capabilities that are sources of strength. The full report provides in depth examples

1. Chemicals – deploying natural supply chains using all functions such as customer service,marketing,logistics and storage effectiveness to serve customers in a differentiated way. This includes implementing rigorous production and distribution strategies tailored to customer needs
2. Industrials – improved and holistic product management ensuring product managers have accountability and a cross functional role giving them authority for timing of innovations,pricing,channel strategy and overall success of product portfolios and life cycles
3. Aerospace – whilst the industry is poised for intense growth it also is becoming increasingly competitive. Faster and more intense innovation is a major capability involving shorter product launch cycles and increased RandD investment
4. Technology – the combined trends of cloud computing,connectivity and big data analytics are forcing a rethink on ways of doing business. This represents an opportunity for technology companies to become active partners of industry verticals ( the value chains of interrelated companies in particular sectors) as they embark on digital transformations. The capability required is one of designing new customised operating models for new types of customer travelling down the digital road
5. Automotive – a key capability is optimising operations for greater profitability by getting the fundamentals right : creating new vehicles that the market wants,aligning supply with demand and investing in smart technology. Furthermore developing agile response systems deep in the supply chain is essential – for example relying on component production in one geographical area can be high risk as evidenced by the impact of floods in Thailand and the horrific tsunami in Japan
6. Pharmaceuticals – the industry can no longer rely on prescription drug blockbusters.distinctive new capabilities systems will need to be built to take products to market with focus on emerging markets. The report details new approaches such as value enhancing patient services,multi stakeholder marketing,closer coordination among teams ( medical,sales,marketing,market access and pricing), improved stakeholder engagement in the distribution chain ( wholesalers,pharmacists,patients)
7. Consumer Packaged Goods – shopper marketing is one capability that represents an area for growth . The aim is to influence consumers at time of purchase and includes components such as in store shelf displays,digital kiosks,smartphone apps and e coupons – all of which generate digital data that marketers cause to refine their approach . One trend is that those companies that are critically aware of and making best use of this approach are outpacing their competitors.
8. Healthcare – a key capability will be to ensure system level coherence with shared incentives and seamless interactivity between providers,payers and patients
9. Telecom – the key capability requirements are development of new applications and services, creation of excellent user interfaces and delivery of excellent customer service
10. Retail – the report mentions that retailers will need to upgrade their merchandising capabilities holistically by integrating people, IT systems, analytical engines,price elasticity,promotion returns, store clustering,processes ( including promotions,campaign tracking,performance measurement), organisation design ( positioning roles,responsibilities and decision making around the ” centre of gravity” of the enterprise)
11. Retail Banking – the banking sector is hyper competitive and there is a strong need to differentiate with capabilities that set organisations apart. In general there is a need to develop customer oriented systems . Furthermore companies such as Amazon,American Express, UPS have converted capabilities built for internal use into new revenue sources and every bank should do the same
12. Wealth and Asset Management – a capability opportunity can be gained by implementing vibrant systems that solve real customer problems and transform the client- advisor relationship. New information technologies such as tablet computers, 4 G networks, cloud computing have reached a tipping point allowing firms to run their operations and engage with clients in innovative and more efficient ways.

This useful analysis prompts consideration of other sectors and the distinctive capabilities that they will need

Strategy books 

Useful strategy websites

Strategy and Business

McKinsey Quarterly

Harvard Business Review

MIT Sloan Management

12 Manage