Real Power and Influence


One of my Intel colleagues, a Harvard MBA told me a story of HBS students eager to take John Kotter‘s leadership class, at the time called “Power & Influence.” The students thought that Kotter’s course would teach them how to become calculating and ruthless. He amusingly remembered that Kotter’s course taught them the exact opposite: managers must first learn to be humble, connect and gain the respect of their colleagues and subordinates, before attempting to lead, or they would be doomed. Kotter’s book of the same name is filled with case studies of “ruthless” people who failed and those with humility who succeeded.

Strategic Inflection Points


I want to more fully explain the concept of Strategic Inflection Points. I have referred to this topic in my Week 5 and Week 11 update videos. Former Intel CEO Andy Grove first described a strategic inflection point as a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end. An inflection point can be the result of an action taken by a company or an action taken by another entity. An excellent recent example may be Facebook’s announced intention to enter the cryptocurrency market. The markets have already reacted sharply to Facebook’s move. Analysts have suggested that it may significantly alter the forecasts for cryptocurrencies. Change is inevitable and change is happening more rapidly than ever. Adaptation to change is imperative for corporate survival.

Managing The Accelerated Corporate Lifecycle


Anyone starting a new company should understand the concept of the “corporate life cycle”, and use it as a guide for understanding where the company is in that cycle, to understand the risks at each stage, and to recognize the need for action to change course. This graphic shows a typical corporate life cycle and different possible paths as the company matures. Management of the corporate life cycle also dovetails with the concept of a “strategic inflection point,” which I briefly discussed in my Week 5 Report, The Internet of Things. John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco Systems has pointed out that the rapid acceleration in market changes has also accelerated the corporate life cycle, emphasizing the importance of understanding it. Companies abound that were initially very successful and yet eventually closed their doors, or were acquired because the company did not anticipate market changes and the need to adapt to the new situation.

Strategic Focus versus Nimbleness


This week I want to discuss the importance of strategic focus, while still being open to possible opportunities, sometimes called corporate “nimbleness,” which may seem like a contradiction. I am a strong believer in strategic focus, however I have also personally experienced a case where an “openness” to opportunity transformed the enterprise from a pedestrian company into a Silicon Valley legend. Ascend Communications was “focused” on ISDN based video conferencing with a modest and profitable OEM agreement with AT&T. However, AT&T came to Ascend and asked if it could solve a much bigger problem…