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volume 6

issue 6

november/december 2012

Bet Myers Betsy Founding Director, Center for Women in Business, Foun Bentley University Bent

EExpert x Viewpoint

The Times, They Are

a-Changing Over the last decade

there has been an undeniable shift in n, the workforce. It has continuously evolved from generation to generation, but now more than ever there are substantial differences. The workforcee has dramatically changed and only those organizations that not only e. understand this, but also embrace it, will remain competitive in the future. What got you here may not get you there. One of the most noticeable shifts relates to the role women play in the workforce. It has been a slow climb for women to reach the same levelss of unt the corporate ladder as their male counterparts. Women currently account es for 50 percent of the workforce and 50 percent of mid-management roles in corporate America according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor Bureau of Statistics. Please turn to page 2 Four Seasons Produce | Strategy Insights | The Accordion Chart

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Diversify Your People Portfolio

However, while there have been notable increases within corporate America, many places still lack significant female representation: the boardroom and the C-suite. Only four percent of the Fortune 500 currently has female CEOs and, on average, a mere 15 percent of boards and C-suite jobs are occupied by women.

Picture this: You have five people sitting around a table charged with examining an issue affecting their company and coming up with a solution. All five people are the same gender, roughly the same age, same race, same education level and basically grew up with very similar life experiences. How diverse are their opinions truly going to be?

Where Is the Needle and Is It Still Moving?

Now, when you sprinkle some diversity – some women – into that seating chart, that’s when you start to get some unique perspective. Adding people of different genders, races, and backgrounds will result in seeing the problem at hand in a new and different way and coming up with new and different solutions.

While the strides made by women have brought progress and increased opportunities, little has actually changed over the past 20 years in the numbers of women in the most senior jobs. The good news is that there is a noticeable shift in thinking across corporate America. For many years, companies that supported women in the workforce saw it as a “nice thing to do.” What’s most exciting now is that many companies today are singing a different tune. The conversation shifted from “nice thing to do” to “it’s actually a smart thing to do.” There is a business case that impacts the bottom line and companies can no longer afford to lose valuable talent in the women they have invested in to see them leave.

Think about why people invest in mutual funds. They do it because they want a diverse portfolio rather than a single fund manager making every decision. Without varying perspectives, you risk missing out on new opportunities and room for growth and evolution. The reality is that corporate America is very much an old model that will continue to lose valuable groups like women and millennials unless companies embrace a modern workforce, one that brings not only diversity but also diversity of thought and a willingness to help their employees live a more integrated life.

Studies also show that companies with this belief and that place women in higher-ranking leadership positions are more profitable on average by 14 percent according to McKinsey & Company October 2012 research. People are starting to see a true and quantifiable business imperative as a direct correlation to the women who help lead their companies. Organizations that embrace diverse thinking by not only employing women in higher roles, but also minorities, millennials and other groups, are actually able to solve problems differently. They are more agile and nimble in how they face and rectify issues.

Working women faced these old model stigmas for many years, which essentially hampered their professional growth and left them feeling undervalued and unsupported. They had to deal with challenges and questions about their priorities. The idea of work-life balance has generated buzz and debate over the last couple of decades and it frequently seemed to gravitate back to raising children


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while maintaining your professional presence. But it’s so much bigger than that. To think that all women have to juggle is their job and perhaps their children is an archaic mindset. There are a whole gamut of aspects that affect their work-life balance – health issues, aging parents, divorce, and other extenuating circumstances. In the modern workforce, these issues no longer just impact women in the workplace, they have become just as important for men as well as a key factor for engaging the millennial generation. Today’s workforce is younger, savvier, and more demanding. They know what they want and are willing to ask for it. They want to work in places where they feel valued, included, and appreciated, in places that are purpose and people driven. In the modern workforce this is the difference between productivity and disengagement. If this is not possible in their current positions and companies, employees will leave. You can’t put a price tag on quality of life, but you can advocate for changes within your own organization to inspire the change to support it. This is not just a nice thing to do; it is the key to staying competitive and profitable.

Walk the Talk So how does a company in today’s corporate landscape perpetuate an environment and culture that embraces women and other groups that can be instrumental to their success? It must start from the top. The CEO needs to walk the talk and facilitate real, tangible change. Do you want your people energized and committed? Then show them that you care and will do what it takes to value them as individuals, helping them to successfully integrate their professional responsibilities into their lives in a real and positive way. The CEOs who drive these kinds of changes are smart -they know it doesn’t just affect the women they are hiring, but everyone, including them. A male CEO could have a working spouse, or a working daughter. He knows that the only way he is going to spend more time with his family is to encourage a culture that accommodates the needs of all employees, not just the overwhelming majority.


Betsy Myers is a leadership expert and author of “Take the Lead, Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You.” She served as chief operating officer and senior advisor to Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, and in the Clinton administration, she was the first director of the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Currently serving as the founding director of Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, she lives with her family near Boston. Visit her online at


Nel Nelson Longenecker Vice President, Business Innovation Four Seasons Produce, Inc.

Case Study C

Educating and Engaging Your Employees to Create Clarity and Purpose Around Your Vision

Founded more than 36 years ago, Four Seasons Produce, Inc. prides itself on providing a high level of service and top-quality produce to meet the varied and large volume demands of our customers. We are committed to growing ideas and producing excellence. A deeply ingrained dedication to innovation and excellence is what makes us one of the top independent produce distributors in the United States.


Insights on Strategy Development

Four Seasons regularly checks in with our

pleased with the results, but we We realized that we had not yet identified ways needed to help our to build on these strengths workforce better understand or communicate this valuable our separate businesses information to our people. That, combined with the desire where the company to better articulate the company was going, and how vision, led us to create a SWOT it would get there. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. After taking a long hard look at the end result of that analysis, we decided on a two-pronged approach to engage and align our associates.

employees – who we consider to be “associates” – to ensure the company’s core values and mission are top of mind. We have deployed surveys on a consistent basis, every two years, to gain feedback directly from our associates. The last several surveys provided some interesting insight, showing us that we needed to make some changes.

Trust? Yes! Understanding? No! Confidence and trust in our senior leadership has never been an issue. It is clear from our surveys that our associates respect our executives and believe in their ability to lead the organization. However, when we dug a little deeper, we realized that our associates did not, in fact, have a solid understanding of our vision and strategies for the future. Without this understanding, we knew they could not truly engage in their work or in our collective pursuit of that vision. Our associates’ general lack of understanding was further complicated by the fact that the organization has grown to have many different facets. There are multiple companies operating within the family of companies, with many associates having a limited grasp of what the other companies do. We realized that we needed to help our workforce better understand our separate businesses, where the company was going, and how it would get there. Most importantly, they needed to see how they impacted each other and the overall success of the company.

1. We brought in a strategy consultant to help our executive team lay out a clear vision and strategies for future success. 2. We brought in Root Inc. to help us fully engage our people in the vision. We wanted to communicate with our associates but didn’t have a clear picture of their understanding and perceptions. We engaged Root to conduct qualitative interviews that would produce information such as: ·

How our associates interpret the business strategy and the gaps in perception that may exist between leaders, managers, and individual contributors about the strategic direction and the execution imperatives within the business today.


Specific anecdotes behind the 3-5 engagement survey scores that are of primary concern.

Two Prongs Are Better Than One Right around the same time we had this insight on associate engagement, we did a customer study. The result was a good competitive look at why people choose us over others in the market. It showed that we were meeting or beating our competition on every important measure. We were very

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If You Map It, They Will Come

Understanding Breeds Passion

We think of ourselves as an innovative company, so we needed an innovative way to engage our associates. We needed a solution that would not only educate and inform our associates, but also instill passion and camaraderie. When we saw Root’s Strategic Learning Map® module, we were sold. It was just the vehicle we needed to speak to the hearts and minds of our associates.

Our associates gave rave reviews about the Learning Map® process. While they initially struggled to see how other arms of the company were important to what they did, Root dramatically altered that perception by visually showing growth in different parts of the company. Once people saw and understood how their own success was tied to the family of companies, they were instantly more understanding and supportive of what had to happen to be successful. Beyond revealing the biggest gaps in understanding, interviews also revealed that the organization could better leverage their managers to work across the organization and deliver the messages of strategy without having to rely on the very most senior leadership. The Learning Map® experience provided success in many forms and resulted in a renewed energy and passion. Here’s what we saw:

We wanted to understand our associates at every level, including hourly employees from packing and the warehouse who were not used to being interviewed and some who did not speak English. Root created a set of tools that helped all interviewees effectively explain their perceptions and opinions. With Root’s help and the feedback from two associate focus groups, we finalized a visual that illustrated our vision of “Driving Healthy Distribution.” We provided facilitated Learning Map® experiences to more than 400 associates at a variety of levels. The materials were also translated into Spanish, and we facilitated groups in Spanish, Creole, Russian, and Hmong in an effort to reach as many associates as possible.


Our associates achieved a greater understanding of the reasons behind the formation of additional companies, and quickly became committed to all our customers.


Our associates came out of group sessions with a much better understanding of the needs of our different companies. Mixing the groups across the entire organization exposed people to different perspectives.


People looked across the table at associates from sister companies and recognized the same commitment to excellence that they possessed. The passion was contagious and has begun to build better teamwork throughout the organization.


People walked out of these meetings with their heads high because the experience reaffirmed the great job they do for our customers, and clarified our vision and core strategies.

The experience provided Four Seasons with: ·

Imaginative and custom visual metaphors to drive in-depth discussion using data and provocative, open-ended questions.


A method for small groups of six to ten people to discuss important issues, while informal facilitation helped keep the conversation on track and productive.


A way for associates to align on priorities and share a unique experience all in about 90 minutes.


Insights on Strategy Development

Following the Learning MapŽ experience, Four Seasons now has a newly energized workforce. Our people are more fully engaged and invested in the company’s success. We cannot think of a more effective way of engaging people around our vision, and we are committed to maintaining that momentum. Four Seasons came out of the process as an organization that is more skilled at engaging our people in what our vision and strategy is all about.


In his present role, Nelson oversees strategic projects, information technology, and facilities and energy. Nelson gives leadership to sustainable business efforts and champions other key initiatives. He leads efforts to use information and analysis to improve organizational decision-making, and also supports the organization’s efforts to create a winning culture. For more information on Four Seasons Produce, go to


Bridget Stallkamp, Managing Director and Jim Haudan, CEO, Root Inc.

SStrategy t Insights

Making It Work at

Companies spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to understand more about their customers’ needs. But rarely is this rigor applied to understanding what their employees need. Root Inc. has undertaken an effort to identify the practices and routines of those high performers who have figured out how to engage employees as customers of strategy; listen to their needs; and provide the support required to deliver results.


Comparing organizations varying widely in size and business model, our Insights group has been able to isolate six emerging practices of high performers. When fully utilized, these practices become accelerants of strategy and engagement.

1. Nurture a Strategy, Don’t Launch it While words like “launch,” “deploy,” and “communicate” are often used in rolling out new strategies, they actually do not portray what it takes to successfully execute. New strategies are like young children in the sense that they require nurturing to see their full potential. Just as you would teach a child to ride a bike, employees facing strategic change need to learn as they go and celebrate small wins along the way. They need to feel comfortable and confident so that when it’s time to remove the training wheels, they can handle the path ahead. Organizations have a very real responsibility to help develop their employees’ capabilities so the strategy can survive and thrive.


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2. Hardwiring the Last 100 Yards For people on the front lines, there is often a disconnect between a new strategy and the work that they do every day. Employees need to have clarity and purpose if they are going to drive your strategy. They need to understand and be aligned with your goals and know how they, in particular, can impact the bottom line. Your employees should be a part of the conversation, not just sitting on the sidelines waiting for direction. Think of strategy execution as a utility. Strategy is power generation and managers are the transmission power lines. But the final step, the last 100 yards, is when the power must be delivered to the homes that need it. The last step of the circuit is completed by allowing those responsible for executing strategy to make the final connection. Your people should have the tools and confidence to take that strategy and turn it on – making it a functioning part of your company’s practices.

3. The Great Paradox of Accountability In many organizations, there is a paradox between collaboration and accountability. At one end of the spectrum, companies believe “it’s your responsibility or it’s mine.” At the other end, collaboration impedes progress due to lack of ownership. The solution is to make co-ownership and accountability complementary, rather than contradictory. Cross-functional collaboration creates a spirit of peer-to-peer accountability that allows companies to respond to new market conditions and problem-solve with higher quality results, requiring less topdown intervention. It all comes together and creates a cadence, enabling people to work at their full potential. Please turn to page 10



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4. Return Receipt Required Many of us request a return receipt when someone opens the email we sent, however, most strategies are passed onto people with minimal interest in whether or not the receiver is getting it. This lack of a feedback loop from the employee to the leader is interpreted in two very powerful ways: the sender doesn’t really care if we get it; and the sender is not interested in hearing if it is clear, understandable, and actionable. This can send the dangerous message to employees that their role is not important and that they are not significant to your success. Organizations need to complete the loop to ensure there is understanding, embracing of, and passionate execution behind your strategy.

5. Not Lost in Translation If senior leaders spend six months toiling over a strategy, immersed in the data and surrounded by a unique context, how can they expect their people to view the final presentation and understand what they have to do in a matter of minutes? Great strategists take the time to translate the strategy from the language of the expert to the language of the user. Ensure there is an active feedback loop that can be used to make necessary changes along the way. If your people can’t understand what you are asking of them, how can they successfully deliver?


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6. “Why� Matters More Than You Think You cannot make every decision for your employees. There must come a point where you arm them with as much knowledge as possible so that they have a strong foundation to make decisions on their own. They need to understand why they are doing something and why it is important to the company. Lack of competitive knowledge allows employees to become myopic in their daily tasks, potentially prioritizing things of little importance or de-prioritizing things that make a large contribution. Your employees should understand what your brand is about, what your competitors are doing, and why certain decisions are being made. Empowering your employees to make their own decisions drives their value and that of your entire organization. If you want a sustainable and meaningful strategy, you need a workforce that is truly on board every step of the way. Strategy without execution is meaningless and execution without engagement is impossible.



Gab George Burt Gabor Strat Strategist & Author

SStrategy t Perspective

Turning Unconventional Thinking into Smart Strategy

The Accordion Chart Your surroundings can change in the blink of an eye. It can be unexpected, overwhelming and leave you with little or no time to react. A symbolic example would be the eruption of Mount Vesuvius near the city of Pompeii, Italy, in the first century AD. While there was ample time to flee, those living in the area did not recognize the warning signs provided by the mountain. Had they paid closer attention, they could have avoided tragedy and devastation.

Your business is not immune to change.

Often companies lose sight of their own relevance because they are too focused on competitors. Meanwhile, they put themselves in danger of losing out on substantial new market opportunities and becoming inconsequential to consumers.

Pompeii reminds us how unexpectedly your environment can be altered and how quickly you can be blindsided by seemingly inescapable dangers. One of the biggest dangers for organizations everywhere is the danger of misjudging trends that can render their business obsolete. Similar to how the residents of Pompeii could have been more aware of their surroundings, businesses need to know what is happening all around them – in the market, with their competitors, with their customers and non-customers.

Are you unconventional? Conventional thinking has its merit, but it is crucial to systematically challenge the conventional boundaries of your business and industry and actively drive its lifestyle-enriching relevance. One thing companies need to be better at is challenging employees to overstep perceived boundaries so they can uncover new possibilities and achieve alignment around the best strategy to move forward. It all starts with two important questions.

Are you relevant? Many companies focus more on being the best rather than being the most relevant. It’s a dangerous obsession that prevents many from recognizing new opportunities. Nothing is more important than being relevant to your consumers and evolving your offerings to provide them with continuous meaning.


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new areas of profitable growth that would make up for the loss of its core business. Not surprisingly, Kodak declared bankruptcy in January of this year. The moral of the story is that without continuous innovation and a vision to be market driving, your business can quickly become irrelevant.

ANYONE CAN LOSE RELEVANCE: Kodak, an iconic American company, completely missed the significance of the world’s transition from film to digital photography. It misjudged the speed and impact this movement would have and in turn lost its relevance to the market. The company suddenly had to churn gears to find

1. How do you define your business, and how should you define it to unlock greater lifestyle or workstyle enrichment for consumers?

What is it? ·

One-page chart showing the current strategic landscape of a company’s offering

2. Who are your most relevant, not just your most direct, competitors?


Allows for visual exploration and understanding of strategic possibilities across market layers

As simple as these questions may seem, they are quite challenging for executives to answer and are best served by using an Accordion Chart – a visual tool that enables the flexible exploration of market spaces that an organization’s offering occupies.

How do you create it? ·

Behold the Accordion Chart An Accordion Chart illuminates the full spectrum of an offering’s positioning from its core utility to its most general application. Just like the musical instrument, it’s collapsible and can be used to flexibly look across, combine and integrate various gradations of market detail.


The chart contains five to seven vertical columns. Start by filling out right-most column by answering following questions. –

Market definition – How would you define most narrowly the core utility of your offering to consumers? What do you provide for them at the most basic level? What specific need or desire do you fulfill?

Competitors – What competitors also provide the same core utility? Who are your direct competitors in this narrow market segment?

Market size and share – What is the total size of this market segment expressed in annual sales volume? What is your market share and your competitors’ market share?

Growth potential – What is the market segment’s growth potential?

Going up market – Repeat steps two through five by going progressively broader in your market definition. Each time, think about what is the one larger market definition of which the previous is a subset, and fill out each column from right to left until you reach the broadest definition possible: your offering’s most general utility. Please turn to page 14



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Sample Accordion Chart

One-broader market segment definition: “Branded quick-service pizza”

Think about a fictitious pizza chain called Shazam, looking to expand its business. This is how it would work.

Even broader market segment definition: “Branded fast food”

Core definition: “Locally branded quick-service pizza” (market segment title at far right of chart)

Yet even broader market segment definition: “Informal eating out”

Key competitors: Pop, Sparkle, Zing and others

Broadest utility: “Entertainment destination”


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ANYONE CAN BE UNCONVENTIONAL: The bus system of Colombia’s capital Bogota was a picture of chaos with old dilapidated buses and uncoordinated bus operators. Former mayor Enrique Penalosa, abandoned conventional thinking and created fixed bus routes and exclusive bus lanes. His overhaul of the transit system was bold, modern and unconventional. It transformed the whole passenger experience and swiftly changed people’s perceptions of Bogota’s bus system, and the entire public mobility of the city.

Key takeaways of the Accordion Chart: Your relative size in the marketplace becomes smaller as you systematically continue left. You are moving further out of your comfort zone, which means aggregated market share, total market segment size and growth rate figures become more difficult to define. The Accordion Chart will help highlight market spaces you did not deem relevant to your business but which actually have a significant bearing on your broader strategic frontiers. It’s an eye-opening exercise that will help expand your vision. When you complete the chart you will be able to zoom in and out of your utility’s definition, allowing you to see all of the market layers as well as your competitive landscape. You want to keep your eyes peeled for new insights on broader consumer relevance, lifestyle enrichment and market opportunities.

How should you define the most basic utility of your offering?


By moving up one level at a time, what is the most general utility of your offering?


Which segmentation level has the most growth potential and what are the implications for your business?


Who are your most relevant competitors?


What key variations can you think of for defining your offering’s utility and what new insights does each definition generate?


What seemingly unrelated dimensions should you incorporate into your offering?


How can you move from right to left on the chart?

In terms of strategy and direction, you need to keep your fingers on the pulse of your offerings without pause. Accordion Charts can serve as your platform for the application of unconventional thinking and your guide for continuously broadening your business’s relevance.

You will then be poised to answer some key questions: ·


Gabor George Burt is an internationally recognized expert on innovation, creativity and strategy development. His spheres of expertise help organizations to overstep perceived limitations and to carve out successful growth strategies. Gabor’s book, Slingshot, presents a framework for connecting systematic creativity with smart strategy. See


Events & Information Watch Jim Haudan present Strategic Insights,

Senior Corporate Communication Management Conference, December 12 & 13, NYC, find out more at

2013 Continuity Insights Management Conference, April 22 – 24, San Diego, go to for more information.

The 2013 Yale Customer Insights Conference, May 10 & 11, New Haven, CT, go to to register.

Watercooler Sketches Need an insightful, interactive experience for your team, department meeting, or annual conference? Check out our Watercooler Kits! We use the WatercoolerÂŽ sketches from previous newsletters to create a kit that includes a large version of the sketch, dialogue for conversation, and a guide to help you facilitate the experience.

The next issue of the Watercooler newsletter is January/February. 16

Insights on Strategy Development

Insights Into Successful Organizations  
Insights Into Successful Organizations  

There are a variety of barriers organizations may encounter during change. Many of them are “human factors” such as employee emotions, organ...