4/6/14: Leadership Reading to Start Your Week

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Here are choice articles on hot leadership topics culled from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms, to start off your work week. I’m pointing you to articles about leadership, strategy, industries, innovation, women and work, and work and learning now and in the future. Highlights include “Stop Trying to Control People or Make Them Happy,” “Big Pharma is hurt,” “The Thin Red Line of Success,” “How One Company Put Women in Charge,” and “Seven Things Great Employers Do (that Others Don’t).”

Be sure to look for dots that you can connect.

Note: Some links require you to register or are to publications that have some form of limited paywall.

Thinking about Leadership and Strategy

From Strategy + Business: Cut Your Company’s Fat but Keep Some Slack

“Why excess capacity leads to greater efficiency.”

From Daniel Markovitz: Go to Where the Actual Work Is Being Done

“Do you often feel reactive instead of proactive? Do people complain that decisions at the top take too long to percolate down to the frontlines? If so, you probably manage your organization and your direct reports through weekly meetings and email. You should instead consider ‘leader standard work.'”

From Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman: Stop Trying to Control People or Make Them Happy

“Whether you’ve heard of them or not, two gurus from the early 20th century still dominate management thinking and practice — to our detriment.  It has been more than 100 years since Frederick Taylor, an American engineer working in the steel business, published his seminal work on the principles of scientific management.  And it has been more than 80 years ago since Elton Mayo, an Australian-born Harvard academic, produced his pioneering studies on human relations in the workplace.  Yet managers continue to follow Taylor’s ‘hard’ approach — creating new structures, processes, and systems — when they need to address a management challenge.  Hence, the introduction of, say, a risk management team or a compliance unit or an innovation czar. And when managers need to boost morale and get people to work better together, they still follow Mayo’s ‘soft’ approach — launching people initiatives such as off-site retreats, affiliation events or even lunchtime yoga classes.  If these approaches made sense in the first half of the twentieth century (and that’s open to question), they make no sense today. Indeed, if anything, their continued use is making things worse.”

Industries and Analysis

From Singapore Management University: Big Pharma is hurt

“Cutting down R&D inefficiency and restoring the trust of investors and consumers are key to curing the industry’s ills.”

From Roxana Hegeman: American farmers confront ‘big data’ revolution

“The involvement of the American Farm Bureau, the nation’s largest and most prominent farming organization, illustrates how agriculture is cautiously entering a new era in which raw planting data holds both the promise of higher yields and the peril that the information could be hacked or exploited by corporations or government agencies.”

From The Economist: Flower power

“The forces reshaping one of Africa’s most successful industries.”

Innovations and Technology

From Wharton: Taming Big Data

“Following a period of disillusionment over the unrealized promise of big data, companies are starting to make it work, says Gary Survis, a Wharton lecturer and senior fellow at Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership. At the same time, since 90% of all data ever created has appeared in just the last two years, big data is also breaking the systems that hold and measure it. From seeds that can divulge how well they are growing to jet engines that collect megadata for fuel saving, some returns are coming in.”

From Henrich Greve: The Thin Red Line of Success

“Why do some innovative products come to dominate an industry while superior products fail?”

From Debra Curtis-Magley: How Smart is your Business Network?

“When it comes to business networks, there can be a number of mistaken assumptions. Among them, many companies believe that an EDI connection or outsourced scanning solution is equivalent. Not so, says James Marland, Ariba’s Vice President of Network Strategy. James is a passionate advocate for business networks who seeks to set the record straight.”

Women and the Workplace

From Sara Murray: How One Company Put Women in Charge

“Kimberly-Clark Corp., the maker of Huggies diapers and Kotex feminine products, has a customer base that is 83% female. But a few years ago, amid a push to boost sales and earnings through new product innovation, bosses realized the company’s leadership did not reflect that base.”

From Catherine Rampell: Hiring women can boost the bottom line because they’re cheaper

“There are many feel-good, fairness-based reasons to hire and invest in women. You’re probably familiar with at least a few of them: Women have historically had fewer opportunities in the workplace. They don’t get promoted as frequently. They are increasingly the sole or primary breadwinner for their families. Also, women’s lib and girl power and something about Half the Sky. There’s an even better reason that is less frequently cited. Women, you see, will make you money.”

From Sharon Poczter: Lean In 2.0: Getting What you Want, Sheryl Sandberg Style

“In her 2011 commencement speech at  Barnard College,  Sheryl Sandberg expresses a sad yet true fact. Communicated almost as an apology, she acknowledges that her generation has failed at closing the leadership gap. And with this admission, she poses a  specific call to arms for college graduates, providing them with the Sandbergian mandate to ‘Lean In!’ to their careers, and putting the hones for inciting change squarely on their gown-covered shoulders. Following up on this mandate, Sandberg will release her next installment of Lean In on April 8th, specifically addressing college graduates.”

Work and Learning Now and in the Future

From Peter Flade, James Harter, and Jim Asplund: Seven Things Great Employers Do (that Others Don’t)

“For most people, paid work is unsettling and energy-sapping. Despite employee engagement racing up the priority list of CEOs (see, for example, The Conference Board’s CEO Challenge 2014), our research into workplaces all over the world reveals a sorry state of affairs: workers who are actively disengaged outnumber their engaged colleagues by an overwhelming factor of 2:1. The good news is that there are companies out there bucking the trend, and we’ve discovered how.”

From Strategy + Business: Looking Outward with Big Data: A Q&A with Tom Davenport

“The management scholar provides an incisive look at the true potential of big data and the many challenges to unleashing it.”

From Erik Sherman: Execs to B-Schools: Your M.B.A.’s Don’t Have What It Takes to Succeed

“It takes a combination of strong backbone and bravery to ask people what they think of what you do. Particularly if they’re going to be candid and blunt. That’s exactly what happened with a recent study by the Hult International Business School. The survey asked 90 globally diverse business leaders about the state of business education–a big source of professional managers. The results were harsh: 44 percent had a negative view, 23 percent were mixed or neutral, and only a third were positive. Mind you, many of these leaders were probably the partial product of business schools.”

Selections from Three Star Leadership Last Week

If you liked these selections, you should check out my other curated posts. Here are the ones from last week.

4/1/14: By and About Leaders

Pointers to posts by and about Harry Rosen, Christopher W. Cabrera, Ramona Pierson, Navin Nagiah, and Satya Nadella.

4/2/14: From the Independent Business Blogs

Pointers to posts on critical leadership battles, making enemies, your genuine leadership portrait, honoring questioners, and emergent leadership.

4/4/14: Stories and Strategies from Real Life

Pointers to stories about Are You a Human, Apple, Andrew Roby, Chick-fil-A, and Petplan.

More and Better Ideas” and “It would be nice” were popular posts on my blog last week.

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