Archives For Digital Revolution

Preface*: The Data Leadership Nexus (Copyright 2013) connects Data, Information, Analytics, Executive Leadership and Organizational Culture to create strategic impact, differentiation and enterprise value within every organization striving to become a true Predictive Enterprise.

Body: As we all prepare to attend this May’s (Information Age) “Data Summit” (http://bit.ly/1sznhbV) and to celebrate those chosen as the (Information Age) “Data 50” for 2017” (http://bit.ly/2o6OjaP), I wanted to reflect on how far we have progressed (or not) on the notion of Data Leadership since I began to write about it in these pages (Information Age) in 2013.

The origins of the Data Leadership conversation go back several decades to my time in the supercomputer sector and the “Grand Challenge” problems that we had been tasked in solving. In those days, CPU speed (and cooling requirements) and Network bandwidth dominated the discussion, while Data drove the outcomes. During that time in history Leaders had deep backgrounds in Science, Engineering & Math and all understood first-hand the scope of these challenges, as well as the limited means to surmount them.

Fast forward to today and we find that much has changed since then in terms of the characteristics & competencies of Leaders, as well as Computing & Networking hardware. Today, Data is recognized as centric (in all respects) to solving all Challenges, Grand or not, but not very well understood by those who ultimately have leadership accountability for it.

During this span of time the Data Management Team (an IT function) remains for the most part in charge of all data within each and every Organization. Whether it is under the auspices of a CIO, or an anointed proxy leader such as a CDO, data is still managed by IT at the direction of technical leaders. This is not a measure of any progress whatsoever in respect to either treating data as a key Organizational asset or establishing accountability for its creation, use (via Analytics) and stewardship by the CEO and Board. How can this be one should ask?

I have boiled it down to one common theme; Does your CEO (and Board) have the Right Stuff to do the job (of Data Leadership)? The simple answer is (emphatically), “No, not yet!”

For those who are fans of the book/movie, “The Right Stuff”(1) you might have been persuaded to believe that it was a story about Astronauts and their early struggles & successes, but in reality, it is one about Leadership. NASA as a program was successful not by having better technology, but by leveraging competent & capable Leadership from the top-down. Each Leader in their hierarchy had” The Right Stuff” in respect to fostering the mission & vision of the Program from a position of strength in respect to their core knowledge, skills and acumen. These same strengths are the foundations of Data Leadership as well.

To fully realize the power of digital, data & analytics in any Organization, no matter the sector, the entire leadership team must be competent and capable in exploiting these capabilities in every activity they undertake. They cannot delegate these requirements to so-called Data Scientists, Proxy Leaders e.g. CDO’s, or those in the IT Department who provide service delivery to them. They alone must accept responsibility for the successful execution of your data-driven strategy and be accountable to their superiors (including the Board) if they fail to do so. A true Data Leader must be more than a cheerleader who demands that others provide fruitful outcomes from digital, data & analytics. He/She must lead by example and be “hands on” in terms of approach and delivering the goods. This is the essence of having The Right Stuff, not the Leadership Fluffery that I continue to see across all Sectors. Creating Competitive Advantage from your Digital, Data & Analytics investments and capabilities is a Leadership Accountability that every Data Leader must step up to in order to succeed.

In today’s world, bona fide Leaders are hard to find under the best of circumstances. True Data Leaders are an exceptional find for any Organization and most are an amalgam of many talents. They cannot educated for this role, but rather molded into it based on a variety of life experiences and inherent capabilities. True Data Leaders are well rounded, comfortable with their responsibilities and always have a bit of swagger associated with those who have The Right Stuff.

Please join us on May 18th for the Information Age “Data Summit” and learn more about “Data Leadership and The Right Stuff”.

(1) “The Right Stuff” (’79) – Tom Wolfe’s epic tale of the NASA’s early days and the Mercury 7 Astronaut Program”

*-This posting appears in edited for as an article in the April 2017 edition of Information Age (www.information-age.com) and can be accessed on the IA Hub (www.informationagehub.uk)

Preface: The UK Digital Strategy and the refreshed Government Transformation Strategy went from MIA (for more than a year) to DOA (as with all UK Gov strategies in recent months e.g. Brexit, Industrial, Digital Economy, etc.). Perhaps they should have stayed Missing in Action?

Body:* 

After interminable delays the UK Government finally unveiled both its “Government Transformation Strategy (2017-2020)” and its “UK Digital Strategy” (parts of the notion of  a Digital Economy). To say they landed with loud thuds would be far too kind in my viewpoint.

These strategies were delivered by the Cabinet Offices’ “Top Digital Emperors” (Ben, Matt & Karen) and have been positioned “as the means to restore trust in the way that Government works with people, much less Democracy itself” as well as “to Create a Digital Economy that works for everyone”. Those are pretty tall orders for a Brexit-rattled Government that cannot define what their Leave Strategy actually entails.

Strategies come and go, but few have been set up for failure so substantially as these two.  These strategies are a Dog’s Breakfast of vague promises & aspiration that are the result of folly & fantasy of feckless Digital Emperors in Government, all of whom are desperate to show some “Digital” progress (and justification for their profligate spending). They pander to rising Nationalism and employ the tired practice of wrapping up their plan in empty patriotic rhetoric and slogans such as “The Government wants to serve” & “We have a plan for Britain”.

As expected, the facile Tech Press, Gov’t Funded Institutions and recipients of Corporate Welfare have all rallied around the Governments’ plans (or in some cases have remained silent so as to not draw attention to themselves) and are doing their best to promote its value to the UK, much less mankind itself. I am not a member of either of these camps and would like to share my unvarnished opinions with our readers.

To convey my view on these strategies I have chosen ten key points to focus attention on. Each will have a short note about itself.

  1. Substance (something worth fighting for). [Rating: very little].
  2. Leadership (someone you believe it). [Rating: virtually non-existent].
  3. Value (is it worth it?). [Rating: unquantifiable].
  4. he Notion of Government as a Business including Corporate Functions (Governments are not Business’ and vice versa). [Rating: hard to fathom].
  5. The use of Repetition as a Filler Mechanism (See if you can count the number of times that the same platitudes are cut ‘n pasted throughout). [Rating: high marks for repetition rate, but low marks for the content used].
  6. The Notion of Digital People (not a Culture of Digital) (an absurd reference to the fact that digital is special). [Rating: Nonsensical at best].
  7. The use of Farcical Financials (a tribute to bogus projections & other similarly dubious metrics) [Rating: expected, but the use of extreme specificity exposes it farcicality].
  8. The referencing of favorable Reference Points & Case Studies (cheery picked for maximum alignment w/themes) [Rating: these are bad and belie the fact there is no measurable success or financial benefits so far].
  9. Finding a way to “Blame it on Brexit” (If it fails (and it will); who do we blame?). [Rating: rubber stamp completed].
  10. The Level of Incompetence & Risk in the entire plan (not just mere whimsy, but rank incompetence). [Rating: doomed to fail, but it will still be heralded as a success].

While these evaluation points might be seen as harsh (or perhaps inconsequential) measures by some, let’s be clear; Strategy is a point in time view of a plan to get where you want to be. If it is crafted by people with no vision whatsoever (other than the next election cycle), with a mission that consists only of attaining & maintaining political power, and goals that benefit only those in power, then it is of little value, because as we all know “Execution of the strategy is 99.5% of the effort and consumes all of the money”. I see little to persuade me that precision in execution of these strategies will be the norm as the NAO continues to point out.

Brexit, no matter how it ends, will require all the Gov’t strategies to be completely re-thought and re-vamped. To create a “Digital Government which supports a Digital Economy made up of Digital Citizens” is a great political slogan, but means very little to the Electorate as it stands today with the greatest crisis in generations facing it; “What will Britain be like after Brexit and how does it affect me?” These abominations of a Digital Strategy and Transformation Program will not help whatsoever in bringing comfort to any Citizen in the UK.

 

*This posting in an edited form appears in the March 2017 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)

Definition: Post-TruthA phenomena found “after the continuous use of facts & experts derived from “for hire” sources to bolster seemingly outrageous arguments where the public (Electorate) switches off its acceptance of any facts, figures or “truths” and now consciously wants to be deceived (its new comfort zone).

Definition: DecisioningThe art of decision making. A combination of Facts, Evidence, Decision Science, Gut & Instinct. How each is weighted greatly affects the accuracy of the decision.

*Body: For several decades now, Business, Government & Non-Profit Leaders have been pursuing the common goal of Fact (Evidence) based Decision Making. What started out as the notion of Decision Support in the early ‘80’s, soon moved to the emerging field of Decision Science in the ‘90’s & beyond. Decision Science (a widely recognized branch of science) is where Data, Analytics, Algorithms and Decision Theory coalesce into a formalized discipline for Decisioning*. It’s use can be found across many geographies, within all sectors in small & large Organizations. The “Data-driven Cultures” created in these Organizations are much more pervasive than those who simply embrace the marketing term “Data Science” which seems to be focused exclusively on “self-aggrandizement & data wrangling”.

In recent times however, as Decision Science has become much more mature and widely adopted, we find that it has run head-long into the buzz saw of Politics where Data, Facts, Evidence and ultimately the Truth are bent, twisted & broken to fit the needs of ideologies, platforms and agendas in respect to achieving outcomes which are “counter-factual”. One only needs to examine the three most recent Elections/Referendums in the UK, as well as the current US Election cycle, much less the current Brexit negotiations (or the EU Phony War if you rather) to appreciate just how much of a Post-Truth World we have now entered.

In today’s Post-Truth World, not only are stated facts meaningless i.e. lacking in veracity, but the pursuit of the Truth has become derided by many.  The arc of this effect has reached the point where the majority of the Electorate are now demanding that it be lied to by its figureheads so as to constantly reinforce its own particular ideology in spite of the reality around it. This is a clear threat to every democracy around the world where an informed, much less literate, Electorate is required to provide checks & balances to government overreach, much less holding them to account in respect to delivering the services & protections that society demands. For someone who has just arrived on Earth and is observing this effect first hand they might ask; “Are there any real differences between so-called Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes?” These effects are no less profound in the Commercial and Non-Profit Sectors where we constantly see “Dubious Data, Questionable Facts & Outright Lies proffered by Executives, spokespeople and PR hacks.

How should we cope with this challenge?

 First and foremost, wherever your role lies in the data, information & analytics supply chain you cannot abandon your mission to deliver the highest-quality information & insights in support of Decisioning at every level. You must insure that strong & independent Data Governance & Data Ethics bodies are in place and their guidance is employed by all practitioners and consumers of these deliverables and that regardless of the outcome, the Facts stand on their own merits (subject to peer review and A/B testing, etc.). Only by creating (if not already established) a bedrock data foundation for Decisioning, built on transparency, veracity, lineage, proven rigors & pristine quality can a platform for the “Truth” be achieved, much less maintained. It is critical that as the Post-Truth paradigm plays itself out that this foundation for the Truth be maintained and protected at all costs. The old adage that the “first victim in war is the truth” applies to everything in the Decisioning Supply Chain and those who support it, much less rely on it, must be ever-vigilant to protect its transparency.

Each of us will be challenged to maintain our individual (much less collective) sanity during the course of time that this Post-Truth era plays itself out. We may sound more barking mad at times than those who embrace the Lies and Deception, but this will pass as well. One day when the Light of Truth returns we will be rewarded for beings its stewards, but until then we must “keep buggering on” (KBO as Winston used to say).

* A version of this posting appears in the October 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)

Preface: Enlightened self-interest  n. the principle or practice of furthering one’s own interests while simultaneously benefiting others

Body: The recriminations of the recent Brexit Vote continue to reverberate throughout the world with many in both camps lamenting; “How did this happen?”. One could clearly argue that an informed Electorate, by sufficient margin chose to leave the EU of their own free will. Others (including myself) will argue that the use of Dubious Data, Questionable Facts and Hyperbolic Rhetoric duped the majority of the Electorate into believing they had no other choice in the matter because their futures were being threatened by the Bogy Men (and Women) of the EU and other imagined threats to UK sovereignty. How could this come to be?

The UK has for some time been at the forefront of promoting the notion of Data-driven Government as the solution to many societal and governmental challenges. It has invested heavily in Digital, Data & Analytics initiatives, along with promoting educational & research-based endeavors which are designed to “raise all boats” in respect to competencies and acumen in the use of digital, data & analytics for insights & decision making. It has done nothing however to change the tone or tenor of politics in respect to using Data & Facts inappropriately to support their positions and to refute arguments by the Opposition. In the Scottish Separation Referendum of 2014, the General Election of 2015 and most recently in the Brexit Referendum (2016), politicians of all stripes abused & corrupted data & facts to fit their particular agendas; all with little or no oversight nor any real repercussions. This behavior cannot continue if any Government wants to call itself either Data-driven or Fact-based in its Decision making, much less claim the high ground in any debate or formal findings. The erosion of Trust in Government is directly correlated to this behavior and many now question any Data or Facts originating inside (or outside) of Government. Factual reporting or fundamental analysis of key issues & options for consideration.

The notion of enlightened self-interest has been a foundation of politics for many, many years. It is the grand bargain that Political Parties make with their members and those who financially support them. In the recent examples that I have cited there has been none of this. It has become a “winner takes all” battle of ideologies with collateral damage on both sides of the arguments. As one might suspect the first casualty of these battles is always the Truth, but now it has begun to erode basic Trust in Government and not just Politicians. The Electorate is now manipulated by Dubious Data and Questionable Facts at every turn and are voting against their own future well-being in an irrational manner.

How to reverse this course seems clear to me? There must be a rebuilding of the firewall between Government and Politics to such a level that a true “air gap” exists. Arm’s length will no longer suffice if Trust is to be re-established and maintained. In the Brexit run-up both Politician’s (Remain and Leave) and Civil Service Officials were complicit in creating Dubious Data and Questionable Facts (if not outright lies) for consumption by the Electorate without any real Arbiter of the Truth having a voice in the process. The Press, Special Interest Groups, Lobbyists and Self-promoters were all guilty of regurgitating this bogus & misleading information in wholesale fashion. All with no consequences. My recommendation is to put a stop to these behaviors immediately and to create an official body within Government who is the only source of the Truth when it comes to data, facts & reference information. This body must not only be non-partisan, but above reproach and influence. Those bodies that exist today such as ONS have been corrupted beyond redemption and must be not only held to account for their behaviors as “enablers” but stripped of their power by this new “Department of Truth”. Politicians, Detractors and Advocates will all have to use the same “blessed data” and “straight-forward facts” to support their rhetoric. Going forward the Electorate will only hear “the unvarnished truth” regardless of their appetite or appreciation of its implications.

The approach that I advocate is neither naive, nor uninformed by the reality of Government & Politics. It is simply the most straight-forward solution to the challenge. In the end, the Truth must prevail and it should not take an Act of God to get to it.

  • – An edited version of this posting appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)

Preface:

Governments cannot embrace, much less promote Big Data, Open Data, Analytics, Machine Learning & Ubiquitous Algorithms without protecting the Citizens’ whom they work for. Social Engineering must be by choice, not by default through illiterate political leaders.

Body:

The UK Government as part of its “Digital Economy” initiative has just released with great fanfare the “Data Science Ethical Framework”. Its ministerial champion has characterized it as “harnessing the Progressive power of Data Science while protecting the Public”. It does neither, but clearly illuminates the lengths to which the UK Government (along with others) will go in trying to influence/dictate behavior in areas where they have no literacy at all in respect to understanding the underlying capabilities (Data, Analytics & Algorithms), nor the consequences of the harm (or actual good) that can come if left to their own devices. Not to be left to a footnote however, is the fact that these attempts at behavioral influence do not apply to the Intelligence community or Police services, both of whom want unlimited powers to surveil, gather data on everyone’s daily lives (and perhaps thoughts) and to then use these to ultimately predict behaviors i.e. The Snoopers Charter.

Ever since the notion of Big Data has come onto the scene, many have extolled its virtues in changing the world as we know and understand it. They have hyped with a zeal not previously seen the notions of Data Science, Data Scientists, Algorithms & Machine Learning, etc. Virtually all of them have advocated for its wide-scale use to analyze and predict citizens’ behavior in order to gain deeper insights, without any controls as to “just how creepy” this activity could get in terms of interacting with the public at large. Any attempt to limit the “how and where” Big Data & Analytics should be applied was met by the fury of these same advocates who characterized it as “stifling economic growth and wealth creation”. Not surprisingly, most advocates have been highly influential in getting Governments to go along with their thinking and to take a “hands off” approach. This has not worked out well for consumers who now see their daily lives dissected, analyzed and ultimately manipulated by the algorithms & machine learning associated with the deep behavioral insights now available to almost every organization who invests in Data & Analytics capabilities.

The backlash that now arisen from this lack of control is significant enough that many Governments have created Ethics Councils and other bodies who have gone on to generate reports & recommendations on the issue of  “Ethics in the age of the Algorithm”. Additionally, these same governments (US, UK, EU, etc.) are also major advocates of Digital and have undertaken major Digital Strategy & Transformation efforts within their countries[1]. These efforts have served to further exacerbate the Ethics Problem that we are now experiencing. A common thread found amongst all of this is the seemingly cluelessness that Government Leaders, Ministers & Civil Servants exhibit each and every time they make an address or pronouncement on the topic of Privacy, Ethics, Governance, etc. associated with Big Data, Analytics, Algorithms, Digital, etc.  Clearly, they don’t understand the underpinnings of the issues, nor the reasons why this topic has become so paramount in the public’s mind and their stated demands that it be resolved to their satisfaction.

Data (Big or Small), Analytics (Creepy or Helpful) & Algorithms (Evil or Good) are major influences in how the Digital World around us evolves, much less serves us. Beyond the well-rehearsed platitudes, there needs to be a fundamental mastery of the details associated with these domains by Leaders & Policy Makers who are ultimately accountable for making Citizen’s lives better, much less protecting them from threats. Without strong & competent Leadership, and controls (governance) , these same citizens will be victimized rather than benefited by Data, Analytics, Algorithms & Digital. The requirement for competent leadership is not a political platform for campaigning on, but a focal point for Government action in order to uphold basic human rights, no matter what pace of transformational change the country is experiencing.

An Ethics Framework that relies on self-governance, best efforts and serendipity to insure that consumer Privacy is protected and that Citizens are not victimized by their own data is a recipe for disaster. Government Leaders must commit themselves to leading at all levels and across all domains. They must be literate and competent in the areas that they promote as catalysts for change and not leave Citizens to the vagaries of Data Science, and all that portends to be.

[1] The UK Government has gone so far as to make the “Digital Economy” a centerpiece of the Queens’ Speech in spite of not being able to come up with a companion “Digital Strategy” that was promised quite some time ago.

  • An edited version of this posting appeared in the June 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)

Preface: 

Let’s face it folks; there are a lot of #Digital phonies & posers out there. Each one has an agenda and it isn’t Digital Transformation; it’s more like Glory Seeking, Self-aggrandizement, Resume building, etc. Buyer Beware!

 Body: In today’s world of Digital Transformation (whatever that actually is) we have seen the rise of what I refer to as “Digital Emperors” who are now setting the tone and demeanor for every digital conversation out there. By definition, Digital Emperors are those in the public & private sectors who are exploiting the digital wave for all its worth in spite of having no real domain knowledge, leadership capabilities or strategic vision. They are politicians, cabinet members, Cabinet Office ministers, civil servants, corporate execs, trade show promoters, digital startups, venture capitalists, etc.  In reality, most are complete phonies or “digital posers” in the parlance of my UK audience, and all suffer from a common challenge; They are Digital Emperors without any clothes!

Genuine (much less competent) Digital Leadership is hard to find these days in any sector, but those who believe that either by title or remit that they are true leaders can be found either at every tradeshow or digital event (TED, SXSW, etc.) espousing their well-rehearsed opinions on “all things Digital”, much less competing for one of the numerous “Digital Leader” awards that are part of the media landscape these days. Few (and I mean very few), actually have anything of substance to say or to herald in respect to actual accomplishments (other than spending billions on transformation projects and getting little in return), but nonetheless all seem to have a cult-like following of sycophants and others who fawn over everything they promise, say or do.  I myself find it all quite nauseating and feel compelled to call out these Digital Emperors.

Across the globe there are major programs in virtually every government to digitally transform services and capabilities provided internally and to their citizens. Many of these programs portend to transform governments themselves using what I refer to as “Digital Transformation by Magic”, a common thought process where a Digital Emperor can simply undo the past and armed with a great PowerPoint and some funding they can create a new “digital future” for everyone overnight. In reality it turns out to be more of a digital “love fest” where everyone spends their time in endless self-promotion and glory seeking while the “group et al” squanders countless fortunes on technology that no one (aka Users) wants anything to do with at the end of the journey.  We have started to see this in the UK already, with the US, Australia, the EU and others no doubt to follow. One of the key critical success factors that all of these programs miss is “engagement” aka Cultural Adoption with those who ultimately use the digital outcomes that they have foretold. An appropriate adage for this is “Culture eats Strategy (and hype) for lunch”.

These programs all seem to feature high visibility in regards to the governments who sponsor them, with numerous photo ops, hackathons & coding weekends, hiring events & meetings (lots and lots of meetings) to discuss their latest accomplishments, but have little self-examination or transparency when things go pear shaped and the finger pointing begins. Much of this is further obfuscated by numerous re-organizations and the rotation of senior players to other agencies. All are plagued by acute attrition, churn and lack of both raw and seasoned talent. In my own experience, everyone wants to be part of a highly visible transformation program (especially Digital), but no one actually knows how to get the job done. We see this in the post-failure analysis that accompanies the crashing & burning of large transformational efforts everywhere.

As I have said before many times; “Transformation is hard and not for the weak of heart”. Successful Digital Transformation is yet to be realized anywhere and having these high risk (high reward if successful) left to the fatuous behavior of Digital Emperors is clearly a formula for disaster.

The Four keys to Digital Transformation success are;

  1. Create a relevant Digital Strategy that serves everyone
  2. Fund it appropriately (with plenty of Contingency for the unknown)
  3. Hire (not appoint) & empower Transformational Leaders & Doers to get the job done
  4. Lock all the Digital Emperors in the palace until the wrap party when the transformation program is successfully completed.
  • An edited version of this blog appears in the May 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)

Preface: There are many UK Government Strategies, Manifestos, Advisory Boards, etc. and the list keeps growing each day. Here are just a few of the ones being touted by the UK Government at the moment; UK Digital Strategy, Mayor of London’s Data Strategy, GDS Vision for Gov.uk, GDS Principles for Government as a Platform, CO Government Data Programme, GDS Digital Advisory Board, CO Data Steering Group, UK Data Sharing Consultation, GDS Registry Advisory Board, Royal Statistics Society “Data Manifesto”, ONS Strategy post-Bean Review, etc.  You have to ask “what do all of these accomplish in respect to replacing/augmenting authentic leadership?”

Intro: The much ballyhooed UK Digital Strategy is apparently now in tatters. It has now been pushed out until after the BREXIT vote in the Summer, but is an indicator of the greater challenges in Government; A complete lack of competent leadership by the Cabinet Office and the Ministers who have been assigned responsibility for Digital, GDS and Other “transformational” investments. It also bodes disaster for Civil Service mandarins who must manage “the vision” and the budget simultaneously with no top-down leadership or direction.

As I proffer to all my clients whom I coach on Leadership: “You can’t Lead what you don’t Understand”.

Body: A common thread found today in every pronouncement by the UK Government and its Proxies is the role of the Strategy that they have developed, either independently (via consultants) or in consultation with a group of contributors/advisors (all of whom have an agenda seeking fulfillment). Each strategy is heralded as the means to achieve what has previously been unachievable e.g. Transformation; or disruptive in terms of changing the status quo e.g. Digital. According to these pronouncements, “All have been designed for maximum impact with little risk” i.e. Revolutionary. However, most will fail to achieve the desired outcomes which have been promoted to justify the investment or will be terminated altogether due to cost & time overruns, etc. (only to be resurrected later under a different name in many cases) at significant cost to the Treasury (and the taxpayers). Why is this always the case one should ask?

Having been a student of strategy (and its execution) for all of my long career, I find this phenomenon both exhilarating and nauseating at the same time. As you cannot see, I still have the scars of many failed strategies on my back; all of which were a result of bad leadership by my superiors who owned the outcome of the strategy, but were not invested enough to make it a success. In principle, Strategy is only 1% of the overall endeavor, with execution being the remaining 99%. This is the core challenge and the most troubling aspect of what I see so often in Government-Lead Strategies, Manifestos, Advisory Boards, etc. They are big on bluster & hype, but low on energy & commitment by their Leaders to achieving the outcome. One only needs to look at some of the pitchmen aka Leaders who are touting some of these strategies today to see real examples of this first hand.

Strategic Change must be part of every true Leaders portfolio of accountabilities in order for any Organization to grow (at inordinate rates), much less counter competitive threats. However, in politics/government where you have a partnership of the ruling party and the civil service there is always a disconnect, if not outright gulf between what is said and what ultimately is accomplished. To mitigate this risk many governments will engage Consultancies/Systems Integrators to deliver on their promises while they cheerlead from the sidelines and designate Civil Servants to “manage the program” as their proxies. This rarely works out and given the UK Government’s long history of large (and small) programme disasters it seems that few ever learn from these mistakes.

It is worth repeating what I have written many times before in this column; “Leadership must be top-down, hands-on and from those ultimately accountable for both the strategy and its success”. Appointing proxies or hiring contractors as surrogate leaders has never succeeded in the past, and will not in the future. The most important component of Strategic Change is that of the Organization’s Culture itself. An Organization’s Culture is the shadow of its Leaders. It mirrors their Leaders behavior and will support its strategic goals if trust has been sufficiently fostered and they feel engaged (not commanded.

Strategic Leaders must take ownership of all aspects of their strategies and drive their execution to success through both actions and deeds. These Leaders must rise to this challenge no matter what it brings and provide a steady hand through all phases of a Strategy Program, all the while keeping the lights on and wheels turning in the current operating environment. These traits are why I believe that “The mantle of Leadership cannot be learned, it must be earned through blood, sweat, toil & tears”. Most of today’s political leaders (so to speak) have reached their pinnacle of power by dodging accountability while taking glory for the hard work & ideas of others, and are ill equipped to be what I refer to as a Strategic Leader. Their partners in Civil Service, while independent of politics to some degree, are not particularly seasoned Leaders either as the system does not promote risk takers (who might fail) and continues to reward bureaucrats who duck for cover at the first sign of trouble. This creates a true Leadership Conundrum which must be reckoned with in order to succeed.

Leadership is more than a forward-looking vision and a grandiose strategy; it is about delivering on them. Without a crisis to focus on, most Politicians and Civil Servants cannot find it in themselves to rise to be real Leaders. Perhaps that is what many of these strategies need at the moment.

Notes:

1.- This article appeared in an edited form in the April 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.uk)

2.- The featured image was taken at IBM’s IOD conference in 2012, but is being used in this context to denote how many so-called Leaders appear in public as they hype their strategic leadership capabilities.