Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weekly Fearful Roundup

This week we feature two excellent examples of how fear can and has been used both in the public domain and in business.

1. The first example is the tussle between startup Benefits and ADP. By way of background, Zenefits is attempting to shake-up a sleepy industry for HR, Payroll & Benefits software. While most think of ADP as being a payroll company they have become a dominant force in HR and benefits as a result of the relationships they have in corporations big and small.

Zenefits relies on ADP for Payroll to provide a full service technology suite to HR organizations and recently ADP turned off access to ADP technology that is publicly available to other accounting and small technology providers.

Zenefits was not content to sit back and let this happen and after trying to resolve the issue they went on the offensive which is documented in this blog post. The campaign was complete with a hashtag, a account and targeted media coverage.

One of the statements that stood out to me in the blog post includes this quote that is all to familiar to us at Corporate Bravery:
"we believe ADP is using a tried and true tactic in enterprise software: whenever a new, innovative company enters a market, the incumbent tries to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the new market entrant. This tactic is so common it even has an acronym—FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt)."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Weekly Roundup - Auditors, Regulation & Disney

This week's roundup doesn't really include any brave examples, rather some recent stories that represent some common themes from my upcoming book on Corporate Bravery.

1. The May 2015 issue of Fast Company profile's Disney's attempt to completely reinvent the guest experience at their theme parks. The initiative was 'green lit' in February 2011 and was centered around the use of technology, specifically the park wristbands as a part of the MyMagic+ project.

The project started out as a grand vision of using the wrist band to not only get a fast pass to the best rides but create a digital infrastructure that allowed all park employees to create a tailored experience for each individual guest. However after many setbacks along the way it has found only limited usage and primarily as to buy things at the park.

The article chronicles the political struggles inside Disney that challenged the project's original vision and has ultimately prevented the project team from getting the types of ROI that were possible. Some of the quotes from the article that highlight these political struggles include:
"Franklin managed to get some teams to collaborate well on the project, but most describe the internal politics as fierce."
"Other divisions expressed themselves passive-aggressively. "They might see a problem coming, but they don't do anything about it, like, 'Let them figure it out!' says a former Disney manager. 'Then, late in the game, these folks came in going. We knew this was going to be a problem.' We were like Really? Where have you been for the last three and a half years?!?"
"The endless finger pointing and glory hogging slowed the ambitious project. "Almost half the work was to support a political situation," says one executive at an NGE partner company. "At the beginning, we could move really rapidly, but when it got public within Disney, it changed the way we worked. It became more about fighting to survive another day."
Reading these quotes bring to mind my experiences as a business sponsor for a large multi-year, multi-million $ project that I lead a few years ago. I am sure my experiences and Disney's are not isolated examples and the role that politics plays in creating an organization that is driven by fear is universal.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Weekly Brave Update - Chip Kelly, Campbell's Soup Edition

This week I am focused on examples of brave leadership in two industries that nearly all of us have experiences with - food and football.

First lets start with Chip Kelly & the Philadelphia Eagles. There was a great story this past week in Sports Illustrated about Chip's overhaul of the Eagles. While the jury is still out on the effectiveness of his complete overhaul of the team - one thing that is confirmed is Chip's bravery. In fact the title of the article is "Chip Kelly's fearless coaching mind."

Despite presiding over arguably two successful seasons that culminated in 10-6 records, he went 'all in' on his vision for success this past offseason. He let walk or traded his top 3 offensive weapons, including his starting quarterback, and made some big name free agent signings. Listening to sports talk radio during the free agency period you would think that everyone was bi-polar based on the daily reactions to Chip's moves.

You might be thinking 'why are we talking about sports on a business blog?' but coaching an organization like the Eagles is as complicated as being the CEO of any Fortune 500 company and we can find some strong lessons in Chip's mindset toward fearless management.
"Either Kelly is a forward-thinking genius, in the mold of Bill Walsh, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Belichick—or he’s just another coach who never should have left the college ranks. Whichever it is, the word bold doesn’t begin to define the transformation that Kelly has put his team through this off-season, his second since jumping from Oregon to the NFL."
Part of what makes his moves so bold is the fact that he has a very clear vision for his team and is confident in knowing the types of personnel he needs in that system to be successful.
“Certainly he has his strategy and the way he wants to build his team,” says Stephen Jones, executive vice president of the Cowboys. “You’ve got to respect him for that. He seems very convicted in how he wants to do his roster.” At every position he knows exactly what type of player he wants, from physical description to mental makeup."
This vision and understanding of who the organization is and complementing that with the right personnel is the hallmark of a truly brave organization. Another key aspect of corporate cultures that operate in a brave way instead of out of fear is that they are not easily influenced by the media. Despite a preponderance of critics of these moves Chip has been undaunted. Not in a way that is stubborn but in a way the conveys confidence in his strategy and what he wants to accomplish. According to the article,
"It’s impossible to say whether Kelly’s method will thrive long-term in the NFL, but he’s made all the right moves at every level of his career while naysayers shook their heads and said, That’s not the way things are done. He sets his own course and, so far, it’s been one that everyone else ends up following."

Secondly, there was a great in-depth look at the rapidly evolving US food industry in Fortune Magazine. The article provides a great summary of the wrenching changes that are accelerating in the way Americans buy food that is having massive implications on how food is grown, processed, marketed and sold.