Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our Crystal Ball for Planning & Risk Management

Business leaders and risk managers take note!  This report, released last month by Lloyd's, provides the most comprehensive outlook of the most significant challenge facing business in the past century: Energy Security.

In these uncertain and volatile times, we're given a clear picture of the road ahead with regard to one of our most important resources: energy.  As business leaders we must plan now for a 20-year transformation in business energy usage, within the next 10 years.  Due to the dual threats of Climate Change and Fossil Fuel Scarcity and Volatility, a dramatic re-engineering of business is required if we want our organization to continue to trade beyond 2025.  Lloyd's concludes that "Energy scarcity is now inseparable from the transition to a low-carbon economy and businesses plans should prepare for this new reality".

"A supply crunch appears likely around 2013...given recent price experience, a spike in excess of $200 per barrel is no infeasible".  Professor Paul Stevens, Chatham House

One example of the implications of carbon-based fuel scarcity is the need to reassess supply chains and just-in-time models in order to increase resilience against energy supply disruptions (in the short term) and prohibitively-rising energy prices (in the long term).

From our vantage point, there are a number of steps that businesses can take in order to increase resilience and the capacity to bounce back from the inevitable sudden shocks in the market:

1. Conduct an energy assessment and develop a 20-yr energy transition plan, including emissions reductions, renewable energy sourcing and/or investing, and new technologies  (Integra offers consulting on funding available for CO2 emissions reductions and renewable energy investment)
2. Form a new role (Chief Energy Officer) and if possible a new team, responsible for leading this major change management initiative for the long term
3. Invest in your other important resource: your people.  Transitioning to a low-carbon economy requires a completely new mindset for business strategy and risk management, and building a resilient culture is crucial to navigate the turbulent road ahead (Give us a call to find out how you can deliberately manage your organization's cultural values to prepare for the future and enhance performance today)

"Businesses which prepare for and take advantage of the new energy reality will prosper - failure to do so could be catastrophic".  Lloyd's Sustainable Energy Security Report

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Now more than ever...managing culture

Now more than ever, it's crucial to be deliberately managing your business' culture.  There has never been such an accelerated pace of change in our world.  Steady states and status quo's are a thing of the past.  We are now seeing the effects of humanity's existence on the planet reach an alarming state.  We're pushing the limits of  technology by forcing high-risk unconventional means of oil extraction, we're experiencing extreme weather patterns across the globe (we had an earthquake in Toronto last week!), and we're at the mercy of the volatility and interconnectedness of the global economic landscape.

What will your business rely on when resources reach their limits, when the degraded environment kills off species and causes extreme weather patterns that we can no longer tolerate, and the interdependence of our global economies threatens the equity, revenue and profit of your business?  Your employees and the culture you're developed will be your strongest asset to weather the stormy seas of a future we've collectively created.  Building a resilient culture in your organization is your best defense against the unexpected shocks that our future holds.  Start today.  Conduct a benchmarking and roadmapping cultural values assessment for under CAD $15,000, and start paving the way to a resilient and thriving highway for your organization.

Apologies if this sounds like a commercial but at Integra we're passionate about building resilient cultures and time is of the essence.  Call us today for more information.

Change. It's inevitable. Engage it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

5 Ways to celebrate Earth Day

Yesterday I heard on the radio that it was Earth Day. Naturally, all kinds of things were said about the environment - we got tips how to be more eco-friendly and a general invitation to be mindful about our stewardship of the resources be have at our disposal (pardon the pun!).

After the radio show was over, somehow I was not done with the topic of Earth Day. All day I had this nagging feeling that there was another significance to Earth Day, other than the ecological side. It felt that there was another elusive truth hidden here, and a significant perspective that wanted to be uncovered. Then, late at night, I picked up the book I am currently re-reading - Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. And there it was. Right in front of me. It was like the page had been screaming at me quietly, all day long. It reads "Unhappiness or negativity is a disease on our planet. What pollution is on the outer level is negativity on the inner." It is no wonder the world is not ecologically responsible - we have a hard time managing own inner messes, so we are not going to be brilliant at managing the outer ones.

The interesting thing is that while listening to that morning radio program I was on my way to Private Information Court here in Toronto, where I preview cases and assess them for suitability for mediation. Private Information Court (PIC) deals with private citizen prosecutions that involve a criminal charge, usually a "light" charge, as most cases involve domestic disputes, neighborhood or workplace conflicts. One of the crown attorneys at this court is a huge believer in mediation as a conflict resolution tool, and she addresses her audience every time pointing to the need for each party to be willing to speak to one another and communicate, especially when there is an ongoing relationship. She points out that proper communication, where each sides gets to really understand the other, will in most cases lead to a resolution that both parties are willing to abide by. She makes it clear that the courts' time is designated to address serious charges and serious victims - lighter issues should be resolved by communication between parties themselves until a resolution is found.

Tragically, I am finding that most people are ill equipped to have these difficult conversations without help from a facilitator. As soon as conflict arises, there is a helplessness that sets in. This helplessness can translate into anger and possibly violence, withdrawal, frustration or long-term bitterness. All of this of course contributes to the overall unhappiness and negativity that Tolle talks about. We simply do not learn to use conflict resolution tools, either at home or in school. Apart from the communication skill set, which anyone can learn, I find that what is lacking is a mindset that is truly curious as to why the other party insists on their position. I find that there is almost a glee with which individuals will figuratively stomp their feet, insisting on the "rightness" of their position, and then literally insist on their day in court.

What is it that has us be so negative and stubborn? What is it that we can clean up inside, so that we are more open to hear another person's truth? Truth is, we literally carry that "garbage" around with us, we dish it out to others, and we nurture it with our thinking - so at best, we end up harping on disasters and negative topics all day long, and at worst all this negativity (our own and that of others) can make our bodies sick.

So, What might we do between now and the next Earth Day to clean our internal "house?" Here are some thoughts:
- Who are you in conflict with currently? Given that their position makes perfect sense to them, can you figure out how might that be? Try on their shoes and perspective for a moment. You don't have to agree with it!
- Notice your thoughts when they turn negative. As soon as you notice, focus on your breathing for 2 or 3 breaths. Notice how this breaks the thinking pattern. Then decide consciously whether you wish to return to that thinking or head somewhere better.
- Decide one day that you will have a good day and that you are only expecting good things from everyone you meet. Naive? Test the theory and see for yourself!

Happy and peaceful belated Earth Day to all!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Business should care about Resilience

I'm a firm believer that worrying is pointless.  If I'm worried about something, I need to ask myself what I can do about it, then do it and forget about it.  Worry is useful in so much as it points us to things that need our attention.  Beyond that worry is a waste of effort and thinking time.

So when I began looking into the heavily debated concept of Peak Oil, and many of the other serious challenges facing our planet today, I began to realize that I had a choice.  If in fact we're facing the end of cheap oil and prices are going to climb to crippling levels in the not too distant future, this was probably something worth worrying about.  The fact that our nations and the entire world consists of an intricately interconnected web of systems that all depend heavily on oil as an abundant and cheap resource, is something we need to pay attention to, do something about, so that we can ease up on the worrying.  The other option is to remain in denial that business as usual will continue for the rest of our lifetimes and beyond...Not really an option.

So as a business, what plans are being put in place for a  5-, 10-, or 20- year time frame to wean your organization off of fossil fuels?  What are we doing to ensure that our organization is sustainable?  Now before you say, "Oh, but I won't be here in 10 years!" let me remind you that we will be forced to transition from oil dependency in our lifetime.  ... on our watch.  If we don't start thinking about how we will transition now, there will be no businesses for our children to work in.

Resilience is the capacity to adapt, rebound and thrive in the face of unexpected threat or shock.  Building business resilience requires addressing all areas of business and creating or re-engineering new ways of operating as well as having contingency plans in place.  What will your business do if there is a blackout and machinery, lighting, and electronic financial transactions are inoperable?  What is your means of surviving through the next great recession?  How will your business function when oil reaches $200 / barrel?  What is the emotional preparedness of your leaders? your employees?  How cohesive will your organization be in the face of crisis?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Overestimating our Understanding

Generally I like to keep an open mind.... a beginner's mind as they say, and have never been accused of being a 'know-it-all' but I realized recently how I have fooled myself into thinking that I understand when really I only grasped the very tinyest tip of the iceberg!! 

It can happen so innocently, with the simplest of everyday, common language.

About a year and half ago I came across a phrase, "values-based leadership" and given that I was a 7-year trained and certified coach, who places a fundamental importance on values in coaching any executive leader, I presumed that I knew what that phrase meant.  However I didn't.  I thought it meant making choices for your actions based on your values.  But I didn't grasp the full depth of implications and opportunities with this concept.

Now that I have studied this model, as a framework for building high performing, sustainably successful organizations, I see what I missed all those years... the power of the entire people system, sharing a common understanding of their shared values and behaving in alignment with those values; the courage it takes for one leader to stop allowing outside influences to push them to behave against their values; the strength in values-based decisions; the cohesion when values-based performance management takes place; and the wildly successful financial performance that's attainable in a values-driven organization.

Don't assume you understand.  Probe deeper.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Resistance is Futile

Why is it that as humans we tend to resist change?  For the most part our species prefers the status quo.  The only time we actively create a change is when the pain of the status quo becomes unbearable or the benefit associated with the change becomes greater than the cost to change. Here's what I know. Change is inevitable.  It's part of evolution.  And challenging life conditions like economic, environmental and social crises serve as pain points that inevitably become unbearable and force us to change.  And, we always have a choice.  We can resist, deny or complain about the transition that is taking place or we can accept and embrace it.  We can fight it or join the game.  Resisting what is happening creates stress.  Accepting it and then choosing your next move in the game is far more peaceful...and fun.

Right now is a time of great change in our world. Choose to engage or react, but don't push against it.  Resistance is futile.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Problem with Coaching

The problem with coaching is that there are many problems with coaching.  I'm referring here to the word "coaching".  This relatively new use of the word, (for an industry that is only about 20 years old) quickly became a buzz word and hot button in many organizations.  "Have you got a coach?" became a popular question around the water cooler.  However, the results have been mixed, with many organizations wary of coaching initiatives because previous efforts failed to hit the mark or were not result-focused enough.

Unfortunately, the word coaching has many connotations and is easily misunderstood by the mass public.  Few truly understand the coaching process much less the power of it.  Some liken a coach to a personal trainer for your career, others refer to them as a shrink, and still others discount the potential of working with a coach since coaches are known not to give advice... "well what good are they then?".

To add to the confusion is that coaching is a self-regulated industry and one does not require a license or certificate to call themselves a coach.  Buyer beware: ask about training and credentials before hiring a coach!

A coach may have expertise in other areas but when they are coaching they are usually not consulting, counseling or mentoring.  Coaches are usually very clear about what role they've been asked to play and are intentional about switching hats.  The challenge for those of us who do offer several services, such as coaching, consulting, and facilitation is that labeling ourselves as a coach is a hindrance.  We run the risk of being stereotyped into others' interpretations of what a coach is, and the full breadth of what we have to offer is missed.

For these reasons, Sabine and I at Integra are presenting ourselves as People Dynamics Specialists, as we focus on culture, conflict, teams and organizational relationship dynamics.  Have you got a PDS?!?