Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a World of Disruption

Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a World of Disruption

by Leo M. Tilman and Gen. Charles Jacoby (Ret.)

“The need for agility in business, government and warfare arises precisely from the uncertainty and complexity of the competitive environment.”

I imagine both co-authors of Agility have some battle scars—Tilman from Bear Stearns during the 2008 financial industry crisis and Jacoby from his career in the U.S. Army where he achieved the rank of 4-star general. Kidding aside, this book goes beyond military metaphors and presents a fusion of military and business thinking about risk intelligence and uncertainty as well as a leadership approach that emphasizes truth (as opposed to assumptions), trust, clear communication, and executional dexterity throughout the organization.

Complex adaptive systems “are constantly changing and evolving. They lack centralized control. They are inhabited by a multitude of stakeholders driven by distinct objectives, risk tolerances and modes of operation. These players interact in dynamic tension with one another, alternating between the urge to recoil from and engage in risk-taking and aggression. Their actions and adaptations lead to entirely unpredictable patterns and outcomes.” Continue reading “Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a World of Disruption”

Turn the Ship Around

turn-the-ship-around

Turn the Ship Around: How to Create Leadership at Every Level

by L. David Marquet , Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Capt. Marquet writes about implementing a profoundly different management approach when he took command of the worst performing submarine in the U.S. Navy. “Within a year, the situation was totally turned around. We went from worst to first in most measures of performance, including the one I valued the most—our ability to retain our sailors and officers.”

“Disengaged, dissatisfied, uncommitted employees erode an organization’s [productivity] while breaking the spirits of their colleagues.” Marquet found the root cause of the problem to be the leader-follower structure, in which subordinates “have limited decision-making authority and little incentive to give the utmost of their intellect, energy, and passion… We had 135 men on board and only 5 of them fully engaged their capacity to observe, analyze, and problem solve.” Continue reading “Turn the Ship Around”

Team of Teams

team-of-teams

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

by General Stanley McChrystal with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell

When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2003, he was fighting a 21st-century war with a 20th-century military. This engaging book is about the reconfiguration which  led to faster decisions and greater results. McChrystal’s mission was to defeat Al Quaeda in Iraq (AQI), but his leadership insights are applicable to business as well. Continue reading “Team of Teams”

Managing the Unexpected

managing-the-unexpected

Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity

by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe

University of Michigan business school professors Weick and Sutcliffe studied common management attributes of “high reliability organizations” (HROs) such as aircraft carriers and nuclear power plants, where glitches can have deadly consequences. “The key difference between HROs and other organizations in managing the unexpected often occurs in the earliest stages, when the unexpected may give off only weak signals of trouble… Managing the unexpected is about alertness, sensemaking, updating, and staying in motion.” Continue reading “Managing the Unexpected”

The Powell Principles

The Powell Principles: 24 Lessons From Battle-Proven Leader Colin Powell

by Oren Harari

Business professor Oren Harari (1949-2010) encapsulated Colin Powell’s lessons of leadership in 24 three-page chapters. “The Powell Principles constitute a clear, strategic, philosophical, value-based, and ethical blueprint. The blueprint guides Powell, but the blueprint has enormous flexibility and opportunism built into it.” The 24 lessons are:

Continue reading “The Powell Principles”

It Worked For Me In Life and Leadership

it-worked-for-me

It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership
by Colin Powell with Tony Koltz

Few people have the range of experiences of Colin Powell: from janitor of a Pepsi bottler to National Security Advisor, from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to Secretary of State. In It Worked For Me he shares stories in a conversational style, many of which include a leadership lesson. And yes, he also includes a chapter on his infamous United Nation presentation, arguably the low point of his career.

It was interesting to hear what it was like to work with Ronald Reagan. In the chapter called Squirrels, Reagan seemed detached from the dilemma Powell was explaining to him (he seemed more interested in the squirrels outside his window), but upon reflection Powell figured out that Reagan wanted his subordinates to make their own decisions. In a separate incident involving a confrontation between U.S. and Iranian naval forces, Reagan was very decisive in his presidential decision when the matter required his approval. Continue reading “It Worked For Me In Life and Leadership”