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The Clarity Principle: How Great Leaders Make the Most Important Decision in Business (and What Happens When They Don't) Hardcover – Illustrated, May 13, 2013
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Q & A with Author Chatham SullivanWhat is the clarity principle?
The clarity principle is a deceptively simple but profound concept. It has two parts: that clarity about your business creates value, while confusion destroys it; and that clarity can only be achieved through a deliberate choice. It's a choice leaders must make about the ultimate purpose, or identity, of the business--one typically fraught with anxiety, politics, and conflict--so much so, in fact, that many leaders unwittingly duck the decision altogether.Why is it so hard for leaders to make the defining decision about their business's purpose?
A central idea of this book is that deriving business strategy is a deeply social and human process. We want to believe otherwise--that defining a business is about reading the market, running the numbers, and making rational decisions. That's not how it really works. In reality there's also anguish, fear, and tension in these decisions, and the process involves a lot of hard conversations. This is not something we talk about much, but it's the place where leadership and strategy meet.What do leaders need to do to get clear on the purpose of their business?
First, leaders need to realize that there are competing visions about what the company is and should be. Organizations are incredibly complex places. It's natural that people have different views and competing interests. Good leaders will address these head on.
Second, leaders have to recognize how suppressing conflicting views of the business wreaks havoc on the organization. Unresolved debates flow downstream and erupt in seemingly unrelated ways. Most of us can't see how the dysfunction around us--turf wars, failed execution, sagging morale--stems from fundamental strategic problems that have gone unresolved at higher levels.
Third, and this is the hardest part, leaders have to be able to accept the risks of taking a stand on the business. In strategy, some people win and others lose. The leader's job is to recognize the inflection point where tough decisions are necessary--an organizational identity crisis, really--and to accept and work through the anxiety and loss that accompany those decisions.What's the ROI of The Clarity Principle?
Thoughtful leaders taking this book to heart will gain a more acute feeling for their responsibility to make the tough calls. They'll come to understand what happens when they dodge that responsibility and discover the considerable achievements that can be won by embracing it.
From the Inside Flap
Turf wars, low morale, bad politics, and misguided strategies: these kinds of dysfunctions and messy "people" problems consume much of a leader's time. But strategy and leadership expert Chatham Sullivan shows us that when these issues become chronic and pervasive, it's a tell-tale sign that something more fundamental is broken. The organization has lost sight of its purpose.
Beyond making money, every company has a purpose; it exists to solve a particular kind of problem in the world. Whether you are a pharmaceutical company carving out a unique way to treat patients or a global retailer satisfying a particular consumer desire, your market, your customers, and the people in your organization need to know clearly what the business is about. Just like individuals, companies must know "who" they??are, what they're up to, and why it matters.
When leaders find their organization steeped in dysfunction and mired in an identity crisis, their most important responsibilitythe vital choice they must makeis to restore clarity. But in the face of conflicting visions and tough decisions that will have profound political, personal, and cultural consequences for the organization, leaders often flinch. As a result, their most carefully crafted strategies misfire, morale sags, and competitive advantage melts away.
Featuring compelling stories of leaders who have successfully resolved their organization's identity crisesand some who have succumbedThe Clarity Principle bridges the divide between leadership and strategy, demonstrating the tremendous gains to be achieved by leaders willing to clearly define their organization's core purpose.
- ASIN : 1118434668
- Publisher : Jossey-Bass; 1st edition (May 13, 2013)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781118434666
- ISBN-13 : 978-1118434666
- Item Weight : 1.06 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
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Drawing on anecdotes and personal experience, Sullivan describes how "an institutional identity crisis is, at heart, an ordeal centered around the denial of responsibility. It occurs when leaders disavow their responsibility for choosing." Moreover, "competing ideas and inconsistencies about identity can permeate the very fabric of your business. Over time, these clashing threads become woven into patterns of enterprise behavior through incentive systems, reporting structures, the dynamics of the culture, and the relationships among individual employees and groups."
As Bertrand Russell once wrote, "In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." Sullivan offers similar advice, noting that signs of a corporate identity crisis often hide in undiscussable questions: "If you are a leader and you sense there is an issue that seems to lie outside the bounds of rigorous, rational debate, take that as a clue. Recognize that something is happening. Think about why it may be difficult to address. What are the differences in views on this subject? Why can't they be discussed? What's the uncomfortable truth from which people are running away?"
So what is a leader to do? For one, confront strategic choices head-on. As Sullivan asserts, "agility--that most sought-after capability these days--comes not from opportunism, expediency, or being everything to everyone, but by being grounded in a sense of purpose that allows a company to develop a point of view about the world. We need a North Star when the ground on which we tread is uncertain and changing." He wisely observes that "people have much more confidence in leaders who are clear-eyed and able to admit that there are limits on what can be reliably known or predicted. Too many leaders haven't gotten that memo."
As a friend told me after reading The Clarity Principle, "This is actually the first book that I've read that has acknowledged the duality of the experience when a company goes through a rudderless existence." The Clarity Principle should be required reading for all executives and boards.
I am neutral about recommending this book to others.