CEO ADVENTURE: Creating Authentic Solutions for Stubborn Systemic Problems is the only book written specifically for CEOs for the express purpose of discussing, by far, the biggest threat to CEO Effectiveness TM. Chief executives admit being baffled by confrontations with conspicuous problems that appear to be without solution, such as the following frequently cited examples as to how to:
- Deal with complexity
- Grow revenue
- Deal with uncertainty of events
- Increase profit margins
- Deal with information overload
- Be more creative and innovative
- Increase employee engagement
- Win the ‘War-for- Talent’
- Improve strategic thinking
- Adapt to government rules and regulation
These problems, and their elusive ability to persist, fester and recur, threaten business performance, and thus, a CEO’s career. And so, year after year, these problems make the top ten lists of a chief executive’s toughest challenges.
Unfortunately, the all too common practice of prescribing more best-practice solutions will only result in more unintended and unwanted results. These solutions are typically intended to increase operational efficiency, empower employees, change organizational culture/climate, enhance decision making processes, implement new management methodologies, and improve strategic planning.
However, once executive decision makers understand the root of the dysfunction, they no longer need to explore its countless manifestations. Nonetheless, prescription of the latest and greatest solution to the countless manifestations of the same systemic problem is the hallmark of conventional thinking, leadership literature and executive development programs.
CEO Adventure, on the other hand, is the only leadership book to describe the root cause analyses of systemic problems. These problems are ‘systemic’ because they are inherent to that business system’s design, organization/structure, implementation/operation, maintenance, and management. Their symptoms manifest themselves as disruptions within the work-flow of multiple processes, departments, and hierarchical levels throughout the entire business system. Addressing a business system’s root dysfunction(s) is thus a significant departure from conventional leadership practices.
Although every problem has a solution, decision makers make those
solutions unattainable by making the achievement of impossible results a condition for every solution. For example, it is impossible for anybody and anything to out-perform a business system’s capability and capacity. It is impossible for anyone to be creative―doing something that has never been done before―when forgiving mistakes is not company policy. It is simply unrealistic to believe that business performance can be maximized by reducing costs to zero. Consequently, any cost-saving measure that undermines the business system’s capability to realize its intended purpose is undermining business performance!
Both developing a business system’s capability, and solving systemic problems require decision makers to change the system’s design, organization/structure, implementation/operation, maintenance, and management. These are unique, and exclusive executive responsibilities. No other business leader has more authority to work across all processes, business functions, and all departments. This simple fact distinguishes the CEO from all other hierarchical business leaders and is generally ignored by conventional leadership education.
It has been proven that, whenever a systemic problem defies a solution, there is almost always an unbending level of conventional thinking at the heart of the difficulty. Therefore, because no executive decision maker can follow convention and solve that problem, s/he must change the ideas, theories, principles, values, beliefs, dogma, and ideologies that s/he holds to be valid and true. This is also the core message in Albert Einstein’s often cited quote: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them”. Only a level of thinking that is different from the one that created the present situation can solve systemic problems.
Changing one’s level of thinking is, indeed, an adventure. And readers may ask: Why would any current or future CEO chose to embark on this adventure? Because systemic problems are not just another annoyance for which other leaders must be held accountable; they are very up-close and personal responsibilities of CEOs themselves, since their careers depend on their individual unique ability to solve systemic problems adequately and in a timely manner, or better still, with agility―i.e. with flexibility and speed.
Conventional thinking is also the root cause of many unintended and unwanted results, such as: waste, mistakes, warranty claims, human error, safety violations, accidents, cost overruns, eroding profit margins, breakdowns in ethics and trust, dissatisfied consumers and vendors, dwindling brand loyalty, negative brand identity, high CEO turn-over rates, the war for talent, low success rate of Merger and Acquisition transactions, etc.
Executive leaders struggle to solve these unintended and unwanted results because, as per their own admittance, they are befuddled and bewildered by system complexity―the intricately interdependent nature of business processes―and the disruptive effects of new and unforeseen circumstances that threaten the integrity of those complex business systems for which they are responsible.
Complexity and events are the top challenges to CEO Effectiveness. CEO Adventure presents the only effective solution for combating CEO bewilderment, regardless of the situation.
Five chapters within CEO Adventure are dedicated to Business Mechanics TM; explaining dynamics that cause a business system’s key component parts to function as a singular, unique, integrated, and open system. CEO’s will discover how to create keen insights and achieve thorough understanding regarding the design, organization/structure, implementation/operation, maintenance, and management of business systems in entirely new ways.
CEO Adventure explores relationships between means and ends, and cause and effect―in particular the ideas, theories, principles, values, beliefs, morality, ethics, dogma, ideologies, and other assumptions that make these relationships possible.
Moreover, CEO Adventure encourages decision makers to rethink the validity and veracity of these ideas, theories, principles, values, beliefs, morality, ethics, dogma, ideologies, and other assumptions, because it may well make the difference between success and failure.
In short, CEO Adventure prioritizes thinking over doing, chooses the creation of Authentic Solutions over a quest for silver bullet, one-size- fits-all best practices, and advises leading with wisdom over following prescribed solutions.
Current and future CEOs will learn to:
- Develop a mindset that is beneficial to CEO Effectiveness, because the
development of the right kind of mindset differentiates chief executives from other CEOs or candidates vying for a CEO position.
- Compete by offering a consistently high-quality value proposition through the continual development of the business system’s capability and capacity because the act of trying to make competitors fail is wasted effort; competitors will create their own vulnerability.
- Treasure a business system―Value Chain―as a vehicle to success, because it deters decisions that destroy a business system’s integrity, and thus, its profitability.
- Understand that a business system must function as an organic whole, because its capability and capacity determines the business’s performance.
- Understand that neither people nor technology can outperform a business system’s capability and capacity, because optimal performance depends on quality interactions among all employees, component parts, processes, functions, and departments.
- Distinguish between symptoms, problems, and root causes, because doing so
will make all the difference in the successful outcome of change management initiatives, including adapting complex systems to new and unforeseen circumstances as they unfold.
- Recognize behavioral patterns, such as human error, because behavioral
patterns can cause unnecessary friction and conflict, which erode business performance.
- Identify relationships between means and ends, because the confusion between means and ends will result in unintended and unwanted outcomes.
- Identify relationships between cause and effect, because the relationship between cause and effect determines the executive decision making process,
including strategies and problem solving capabilities.
CEO Adventure represents Norden’s own unique, field tested approach towards understanding a business system as an organic whole, diagnosing systemic problems, and creating Authentic Solutions. It reflects his professional training and how he has consulted for business leaders in Europe and in the United States on leading mission-critical change initiatives. It is guaranteed to work when adopted correctly.