Sorry, But Media Coverage of Pope Francis is Papal Bull

Health and Fitness

5 Things You Can Get to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Work

John Walter Bay

It is January 5, 2015 8:30 AM. The first full working week in the New Year 2014 and the gym is brimming with “resolutionist” from all over town. All the treadmills are humming along at a 7-minute pace, all other cardio machines are occupied and the aerobic class is fully booked. Zumba is pumping in the background. All the machinery is humming and clinking at a frenetic pace. Fast forward 30 days later and 50% of these resolutionists will be gone. Many of the treadmills would be unplugged to save energy and what would be left are the typical gym rats shaking their protein shakes at the sidelines giving unsolicited advice to anyone who makes eye contact.

According to a recent article 60% of gym memberships remain unused after the 1st month of purchase and with all this reading and talk about fitness, a majority of people simply quit from…

View original post 756 more words


The People versus Strategy Disconnect

John Walter Baybay
Originally Published in The Star Malaysia – Leaderonomics 10.20.14

Now is that time of the year when companies are going back to the drawing boards for Strategic Planning. C-Level executives are busy these coming days retreating into their war-rooms with their reports and scrambling about the figures from last year only to realise that much of their strategies have failed to work. What is it about strategic planning that we tend to get wrong?

The practice of Strategic development is as old as civilisation itself. The earliest evidence have been seen etched on the walls of Egypt as early as 1303 BC when Ramses II immortalised his conquest of lower Egypt. Sun Tzu came out with many of his treatise regrading the “Art of War” back in 772-481 BC and Machiavelli wrote The Prince supposedly around 1513. There has been much strategy and conquest since those times. Michael Porter wrote the bible of corporate strategy in “Competitive Advantage” while Kim & Mauborgne later wrote “Value Innovation” in what was later popularised as “Blue Ocean Strategy” in 2005. Battlefields have transitioned to boardrooms after the industrial revolution and yet we still have much to learn about how strategy is executed into reality.

The problem with strategy is really not about the strategy itself but rather Its failure in “execution”. “Execution” is the item for reckoning and the fact that many C-Suite executives are scrambling at this point is due to the fact that they have failed many aspects. In a research conducted by The Economist, they found that around 80% of C-Suite executives are cognisant of their roles in developing strategy and building execution but the same research also reveals that only around 56% of strategic initiatives have been successfully implemented. What are the reasons for this disconnection?

The solution seems to be rooted in people’s perception of what strategy is:

Strategy is a Statement: It is that set of VMOGs (Vision, Mission, Objectives and Goals) written on a big plaque just as you enter the office. Everyone has this memorised but not everyone one knows what it means when they get into their cubicles!
Strategy is an Event: For C-Suite executives this is when all the numbers are reviewed and you are expected to give an excuse as to “why” things went wrong and present “how” you plan to get somewhere next year. You will use a number of strategic development frameworks. You defend your numbers and after everything is done, you say: “Whew! I’m glad I got away with that without losing my job!”
Strategy is an Action: In this best scenario, everyone knows and acts according to where the ship is meant to sail. They have a clear understanding of direction and how to get there. Strategy permeates every single task that they do and they are aware of their contribution to it.

I have spent many years working with executives in developing their corporate strategies. Much of the challenge I encounter is in cascading strategy into actionable initiatives and results. The journey towards creating a strategy cannot be confined in boardrooms and planning frameworks. What is often lacking is a clear transition between what is conceptual or abstract into something that everyone can grasp and translate into action in their daily working lives. For the most part, strategies tend to be cascaded from the top-down. I developed this illustration to explain this cascade:

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 7.40.34 PM

In the best cases of a typical “top-down” scenario, there is smooth transition between the strategic and tactical domains and everyone knows what to do. They have a clear understanding and commitment to their contribution to the overall strategy.

In an alternate approach strategic development could also be driven from an inverted pyramid where people down the line are recruited to developing top-level strategies. In this way, strategic planning turns into democratised process that ensures collaboration at every stage; from development to execution planning. The process tends to be inductive rather than deductive.

By engaging people who primarily work within the operational domain, strategy is better understood to include the strategic and the operational perspectives. Cross functional collaboration also ensures that strategy is understood down the line by making sure that everyone is looking at the same thing. Everyone knows where they are amidst competition, where they need to be, what they need to do and how to get there.

The key to jumping the execution hurdle is never going to be about answering the “whats, where” and the “hows” but rather the “WHOS”.The most often overlooked partner to strategic effectiveness within the organisation is usually the HR Department. Organisations have a wellspring of talent who can move up from the tactical domains to the strategic domains. There is huge catchment of talent waiting to be developed. HR could also facilitate and create the processes for inclusion and collaboration between levels to develop and execute an effective strategy. Perhaps the “people championing” role has relegated HR into a supportive rather than a hard strategic role over the years but that also needs to change to deliver the numbers.


Leadership in the Time of Crisis

John Baybay 09.10.14 (As Published in the Star of Malaysia)

In a previous article where I spoke about courage, I briefly described the situation of having to be driven into the deep forests of Mindanao passing at least three military checkpoints in a vehicle escorted by heavily armed men. While being in an area of prevalent insurgency and where kidnapping was good business especially with the presence of international mining companies having frequent visits from well-paid expats, there is a static presence of risk and threats to security. While the threat looms over employees on site, this on occasion would sometime escalate to unimaginable speeds and urgency that differentiates an already tense situation to an actual crisis.

A few hours before my actual departure from site, transportation was running late, coordinating communication suddenly became scarce, and I was advised simply to be prepared for an unannounced pick-up. They specifically advised that my things must already be packed tightly (no loose articles) and to be ready at any time to jump into the vehicle and leave post-haste. I asked around what time the vehicle would arrive and they simply answered: “I cannot tell you, just be ready to jump into the vehicle once it arrives!” The phone was put down and a chilling tension came upon me in anticipation of the vehicle’s arrival. Within a few minutes, the pick-up arrives escorted fore and aft with armed men also in the back of pick-ups. They come to skidding stop on the dirt road fronting our camp. An armed man jumps out of the back of our pick-up reaching for my bags and hurrying me by saying: “Let’s Go! Let’s Go!” I jumped into the back seat where I sat next to the Chief Mining engineer and an Expat. We got up to speed in haste, careening at the sides of the mountains at full speed. There was a tense silence in the car with only the sound of my heart thumping in primal fear. The silence was then broken when the engineer says: “We apologise but there has been a threat of ambush advised by our intelligence!” He then casually started his story of being kidnapped once in Indonesia as if “It happens all the time”. The sick mitigating assurance for me is that they at least knew what to do with an impending security crisis. I am here after all writing this article some four years later.

Boardroom planners need to have a deep understanding of the differences between risk management/planning and actual “crisis management”. I have often done strategic lectures covering frameworks for scenario analysis using Causal Loop Diagrams and PESTEL (Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Environmental, Legal). While these frameworks are useful in giving us an appraisal of risks, it also tends to abstract the realism and urgency of an actual crisis when it is presented. This tends to differentiate boardroom strategists from war-room strategists. While in a boardroom a leader would ideally facilitate, steer, elicit and seek consensus to issues, a crisis manager might see it best instead to direct action. People sometimes must be “told” what to do instead of being asked.

Crisis is often defined by its urgency. There is no luxury of time for consensus gathering. According to S.J. Venette in “Risk Communication”, Crisis is defined by the following common elements: (a) Threat to the organisation (and its people), (b) The Element of Time and (c) Short Decision Time.
The consequence of having a crisis unmitigated and controlled are usually severe. The urgency and the crisis’ rate of escalation is what makes a crisis unique from other problems. A bad situation could take a sudden turn for the worst if not acted upon immediately. Surely it takes a different kind of leader when faced with a crisis situation. In this case, a leader is also expected to signal a crisis when it is impending or immediately upon its onset. It usually takes a certain amount of experience for leader to recognise when a threat could escalate into an actual crisis. At the onset of an eminent or actual crisis, a leader must be also be able to communicate effectively in order for the organisation to suddenly switch from prevailing a “businesses as usual” mindset into a “crisis mindset”. In the latter sense, a consent to direct immediate instruction and marshal resources at hand are temporarily given into the hands of a situational leader. These crisis leaders either rise up to the occasion at the onset or appointed immediately during the recognition or the signalling of an impending crisis.

In my experience in working with the exploration and mining industries, I found that these organisations are always vacillating in the frays of risk and crisis. They are usually subjected to natural and environmental risks, regulatory and social risks, security and insurgency / terrorist risk as well as confrontation and violence. The environment is volatile. I have found that the best crisis leaders are those that immediately take to the field to get a firm handle on the situation. It takes a certain amount of field command. An experienced crisis leader exhibits a certain “grace under pressure” while still acting urgently upon the situations presented to him.

The paradigms of planning still remain although these are taken up in faster cycles during a crisis. Intelligence / information and communication are paramount in importance. These three steps are usually taken up in constant and dynamic cycles: (a) situational appraisal and intelligence reporting (b) marshalling of resources (c) execution and monitoring. Strategic and tactical interventions are taken in very quick cycles until situations are controlled. I have seen crisis situations where round the clock (hour by hour) monitoring is required. War-room activity is hectic. When action and monitoring cycles are getting spaced apart, it usually signals the containment of crisis situations. This eventually stabilises and once announced as “under control” work resumes and activity then goes back to the usual pace.

The principles of Engagement also apply to Crisis Leadership. During a crisis situation, the most precious commodity that a leader should marshal is Trust. When leaders are trusted, it is easier for them to get a consensual control over direction and the marshalling of common resources. According to various sources there is usually a progression as to how trust is developed.

Confidence: The leader must be experienced and knowledgeable of the current situation
Integrity: The leader has a track-record of delivering on expectations and commitments
Trust: The leader can be trusted enough to direct people and resources in a way that is beneficial to the team and the organisation with utmost responsibility.

Modern business is now subjected to greater accountabilities under the public eye where corporate reputation is sometimes subjected to certain risks and probable crises. There are lessons to be learned across various industries and it’s always useful to look back and take examples of cases of crisis leadership and management as you can never tell when these skills are needed.

Health and Fitness

5 Things You Can Get to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Work

It is January 5, 2015 8:30 AM. The first full working week in the New Year 2014 and the gym is brimming with “resolutionist” from all over town. All the treadmills are humming along at a 7-minute pace, all other cardio machines are occupied and the aerobic class is fully booked. Zumba is pumping in the background. All the machinery is humming and clinking at a frenetic pace. Fast forward 30 days later and 50% of these resolutionists will be gone. Many of the treadmills would be unplugged to save energy and what would be left are the typical gym rats shaking their protein shakes at the sidelines giving unsolicited advice to anyone who makes eye contact.

According to a recent article 60% of gym memberships remain unused after the 1st month of purchase and with all this reading and talk about fitness, a majority of people simply quit from their resolutions in less than a month! While many of us are quick to condemn the failure to lack of commitment and discipline, integrating your fitness goals into your regular habits is more often easier said than done. The fact of the matter is that 9 out of 10 resolutionists will quit on their fitness and weight goals by March without getting any results from the effort.
While your goal is to reduce your intake of calories and burn more through exercise, many of us don’t have system to track progress. Worse, after a hard session at the gym, we often over compensate by eating the equivalent number of calories suitable for Sumo wrestler. The average gym session (1 hour) could burn off 500 calories but most of us have the tendency to eat more than 1000 the minute after you leave the gym. The key is to make some tangible investments that keep you “moving” and monitor your progress. Some of the best investments I have made that had me losing 10 pounds and keeping it off during the holidays were the following:

  1. A Fitness Tracker. You can get a pedometer and calorie counter from the app store for free; this helps you monitor the amount of steps you take. The challenge is take at least 10,000 steps a day as described in this site. Getting a fitness tracker (device) as described in our earlier article could help you track your progress in walking and running, it comes with a calorie counting app and even helps you monitor your sleep patterns. iHealth comes with a full dashboard which works with other devices that monitor your blood pressure and glucose. The suite is very useful for those who are just starting a fitness program especially for those who have hypertension and diabetes. Email us at if you’re interested.
  2. Some Running Shoes. If you’re reading this article in early January, chances are, you can get a pair of “decent” running shoes as described in this article for 50% off. Not only do you lose some weight from running, but you also get a bit of “street-cred” if you decide to run your first short race. Packing a pair of running shoes the next time you travel also helps you keep in shape while you’re out on a business trip. Not to mention that most hotels also have their own health clubs.
  3. A Bicycle. One of the best investments I’ve made in fitness was a mountain bike. Not only could you commute with it, you also have a chance to see the best of the country by being outdoors, not to mention that a vigorous off-road adventure could burn up to 700 calories per hour. Cycling is also gentler on the joints than running and could be your 1st step in getting into more competitive sports by building your cardiovascular health.
  4. Friends. Getting a fitness buddy or joining a club motivates you to stick with your program. Being part of a team also ensures you receive motivational as well as technical support for you to take it up a notch. If you’re looking at joining a mountain biking club get in touch with EXO (Executive Off-Road Cycling Association)
  5. Sleep. Don’t forget to recover! As you push yourself to higher levels of fitness, do remember that you only get stronger as you rest. Make sure you add in an hour of sleep for every workout session. Try to go for both quantity and quality by getting at least 6 hours of sleep at 80% efficiency. You’ll be surprised that a power-nap could get up to as much as 100% efficiency and could boost your performance and alertness for the rest of your day. Making sure you recover could prevent your from burning out before reaching your goal.

As it is with any effective planning, the secret is in “breaking-down” your goals into smaller objectives. Quantify your targets and manage your time more effectively. Try to put in at least 2 hours of cardio vascular exercise per week. While 2 hours might sound like too much, you will find that “breaking-down” your sessions into 30 minute intervals spread across your week could give you some very effective results to start. Combining this with other habits such as walking around the office more, parking a bit further and doing a 7 Minute Workout. Walking to the store might not be as convenient as driving, but it is usually simpler and comes with the benefit of burning off some extra calories.