The Ripple Effect
A Strategy &
Leadership Thought-Starter from Trium
Further Dialogues on Leading in
Uncertainty: Commit & Figure It Out
The recession is over. Unless, of course, it isn't.
Signs of growth are good, but not that good. Consumer spending is up,
but employment is still weak. Markets are up today... and down
How are we supposed to make good business decisions and
thoughtful strategic plans in this kind of an environment?
In an ongoing discussion with our clients on how to
execute strategy effectively, we thought it might be worth returning to
the question of how best to lead when the future remains uncertain and
the facts that you'd like to have simply aren't available.
At such times, extended analysis is often not the way to
go--it takes too long and yields conclusions that can become outdated
(or drawn by competitors too) by the time they're reached... and before
they can be effectively acted upon.
We instead advocate what we call the "Commit &
Figure It Out" approach to strategic planning and execution: first
committing to do what you know is fundamentally sound, and then
figuring out how best to do it via rapid simulations, pilots or
micro-executions that will help refine your understanding and inform
how to proceed on a more global scale. And don't be mistaken: this
approach is not about embracing "test markets"--it's
about adopting a mindset of action vs. inaction even in the face of
ambiguity, and then of deploying limited resources and low
risk approaches to help find your way.
So whether you're considering a new service launch, a
different approach to channel management, or an organization
approach can help you and your team to manage past the natural tendency
towards inaction or analysis paralysis in the face of uncertainty...
and ultimately advance your organization and its priorities.
Here are 5 thoughts that might help, based on what we've found
effective and practical across organizations in a range of geographies
1. Commit yourself to action. Decide where
you want to go, generally speaking, and that you're going to get there.
This mindset sets you up for action. What's more, being confidently and
publicly intentional forces you to crystallize your own thinking, to
spark the dialogues that often need to take place, and to generate
necessary support for your ideas. Doing this also helps everyone in
your organization start thinking about how best to achieve the intended
end goal... including thinking about individual roles and
responsibilities along the way.
2. Accept the inevitable ambiguity. Often,
inaction is driven by fear--fear of change, fear of failure, fear of
being wrong, or fear of not being 100% right. But it's very rare that
inaction will get you farther than action. You have the ability and
responsibility to rise above this fear barrier. You also have the
ability and responsibility to help others do so, via priorities,
resources, and reassurances. It's also critically important to assure
your people that some messy exploration, iteration, and limited
"failures" are okay--and likely necessary--as a part of the
A Recession Buffer
Don't believe an innovative culture can serve as a
buffer from financial decline during economic downturn?
An in-progress research study by Dr. Jennifer Chatman, a
Trium Academic Partner and the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor
of Management and Chair of the Management of Organizations Group at the
University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, is
showing strong evidence that a
thoughtfully-crafted, innovation-oriented culture can
significantly mitigate the negative impact of economic recession on
Among the early patterns evident in data collected from
the top 50 publicly traded U.S. technology companies and a sample of
their employees, Jenny tells us:
1. She sees a high correlation between organizations
in which employees' assess their culture as emphasizing innovation in
particular--in other words, the innovation is rooted much deeper than
just the strategy and priorities--and financial performance during the
latest global recession. Specifically, those that have effectively made
innovation a part of the organizational fabric were more stable--even
more profitable--than other technology firms on a variety of financial
metrics including revenues, profits, and investment ROIs.
Nohria Takes Helm at Harvard Business School
Congratulations to former Trium Academic Partner Nitin
Nohria--the long-time Harvard Business School (HBS) professor of
leadership and organizational change became the school's newest dean,
effective July 1.
Nitin joined the HBS faculty in 1988, and has gone on to
teach a generation of future business leaders. He's also co-written or
co-edited 16 books and authored more than 50 articles and dozens of cases
for use by b-school students around the world. Much of his recent work
has focused on the strategic and organizational challenges posed by
today's globalized yet fragmented business environments.
For more information on Harvard's newest leader, you can click here for the Harvard Gazette's
The summer reading list
The summer reading season is upon us. If you're looking
for a few books to pick up before heading off to the beach, lake or
wherever, look no further--here are three of the latest books we've been discussing
over lunch... and with clients--with hopes that you'll also derive
significant value from one or more of them:
\B7 SWITCH: How to Change
Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The brothers
who generated acclaim for Made to Stick are back
with a new book arguing that successful change requires behavior
change--with a balance of logic, emotion, and environmental or
situational awareness. While the book doesn't offer any silver bullet
template (as if there were one for major change), it does put forth solid
examples and practical "clinics" to help you apply the learning
\B7 Iconoclast: A
Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently by Gregory Berns.
Studying what's unique in those people who do things that others say
cannot be done, this book identifies three primary barriers to innovating
or otherwise accomplishing big, audacious goals--fear, flawed perceptions
or understanding, and inability to influence--and then explains the
science of these barriers so that you can put mind of matter and
ultimately unlock more value and potential in yourself and your teams.
\B7 The Big Short: Inside
the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. More narrative than business
tome, Lewis explains the recent U.S. market crash in simple,
straight-forward, highly engaging prose. And while it pains us to read
some of what he's written, we enjoyed reading it nonetheless. Of note,
Lewis studies the qualities in those who saw the crashing coming and
acting accordingly when others derided them... and profited handsomely as
a result--offering learning for the rest of us who's businesses and
portfolios didn't peak in the 2007-2008 window.
By the way, if you've recently come across or thought
about a book that's had a profound impact on you, please let us
About Us & The Ripple Effect
The Trium Group is an elite strategy consultancy that helps
leaders align, equip, and mobilize their organizations to solve
complex business problems and execute multi-dimensional strategies. We
work at the intersection of strategy, leadership, and culture--in
areas like corporate transformation and restructuring, post-merger
integration, and leadership-driven change management. Trium's
clients span a broad range of industries and geographies.
We welcome the opportunity to be your thought-partner or
sounding board. To learn more about us or to discuss how we can help you
with your latest challenges, please e-mail ManagingPartner@triumgroup.com.
We call this newsletter The
Ripple Effect because our logo features a single pebble
causing ripples of water in a pond. The pebble is symbolic of how a
single, well-executed action can have a very significant impact. The
ripples also remind us of the collateral effects of every business
action--effects we strive to proactively create in collaborating with our
clients to develop and execute strategic agendas for purpose-driven
change and improved business performance.