In his 23 years of executive coaching, Ray Williams, president of Ray Williams Associates in Vancouver, B.C., has advised many executives on how to improve the performance of their teams. He took time out recently for an interview over Skype with CKGSB Knowledge to share his insights on how to make your team more productive, whether they work together in one room or are scattered all over the world.
Many—maybe even most—business teams are dysfunctional. Whether your teammates are co-founders of a startup or the C-suite of a Fortune 500 company, the evidence suggests you are probably not working together as productively as you might. Outsized egos and mis-sized groups are the most frequently cited cause of team dysfunction, but they aren’t the only problem.
Business has always been a team sport, but over the past two decades, teams have become a much more central concern for managers. Pushed by the automation of repetitive tasks and pulled by the need to innovate, many senior executives now believe that their future depends largely on the performance of their teams. But although technology is advancing, people are not. A recent survey among MBA students and degree holders shows that only 29% said that their teams were organized in a way that gave them a three-quarter shot at success.
Companies are dying fast these days. In the 1950s, the average age of a company on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was 60 years, now it is less than 20. But International Business Machines (IBM), known as “Big Blue”, seems to be an exception. Over the past few decades, it has managed to keep up as others were dying and has successfully transformed itself. Now it has become a provider of cognitive solutions and cloud services. How has such a giant company managed to transform? Gill Zhou, chief marketing officer of IBM China, offers an answer in this interview with CKGSB Knowledge.
For most of human history, integrating a new generation into society has been pretty straightforward: The youngsters were shown what needed to be done, they did it as well as they could (or faced serious consequences if they didn’t), and, over time, earned a place for themselves in society. But things are different now. Executives all over the world have reported that they have difficulty not only managing this new generation but even understanding them. These young employees, their managers say, are responding differently from prior generations to everything, from assignments to incentives. Can managers cope with a new generation?
While e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba continue to rise, many physical-store retailers are dying off. MINISO is a rare exception, however. Founded in 2013 by Chinese entrepreneur Ye Guofu and Japanese designer Miyake Junya, MINISO has exploded into an emerging business empire with 1,800 stores in 40 countries, delivering an eclectic collection of affordable, curated goods, challenging the physical retail naysayers. What is the key to MINISO’s success? Through careful consideration of the customer and a unique aesthetic, it manages to do what online stores cannot: Deliver an experience.
Management was never easy—“like herding cats,” as the old joke puts it—but in the old days, the cats were at least in the same alley. Today, management may be more challenging still, as executives must lead an ever-changing stream of employees and independent contractors—who may or may not be in the same building or even in the same city—as they navigate through an ever-changing technological landscape, and deliver on objectives that may also shift. So what are the positive and negative aspects of working remotely? How is the employee mindset and the management style of employers affected?
In our increasingly fast-paced world, there is no room for companies to be complacent. To survive in the competitive marketplace long term, constant product innovation is a basic necessity. However, nearly three-quarters of new products either fall far short of their targets, or fail entirely. Not only that, businesses have become tolerant of this high failure rate to the point where it is treated as a given risk. But Georg Tacke, CEO of the global management and consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners, disagrees with this assumption and thinks the failing might be the result of a homegrown issue—from the initial design to end marketing.
Telling and retelling stories is one of humanity’s most durable characteristics: Harvard linguist Michael Witzel has argued that most of the world’s mythologies grew out of a single set of stories first told in Africa 130,000 years ago. Yet what is the future of corporate storytelling? Although our penchant for storytelling may not change any time soon, the storytelling used inside the corporation does seem to be shifting in two ways. First, storytelling is becoming recognized as a trainable skill. Second, and possibly more importantly, the Internet is making it increasingly difficult for companies to control a single version of their own story.
Executives have long understood the business value of a ripping yarn. Different consultancy companies will have their own take on what makes a good story. Yet whatever the scale of your literary ambitions, there are some fundamental rules seem to apply. First you start with good material and you need to identify what is and isn’t a story. A story is something that begins with a time-marker and is also always visual. Don’t use the “S” word. Don’t say “I just want to share a story with you.” Well, in business, that’s like death. Instead, say: I’ve had a really interesting experience. And remember to be sincere.