Monthly Archives: May 2016

csuite podcast 21 – Strategic Decision Making

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Earlier this week I recorded a special edition of the csuite podcast, which focussed on a report called ‘Joining the Dots – Decision Making for a New Era’, that had been jointly published by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Institute Of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) as part of their joint venture, the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA).  My two guests were both from CIMA – Tony Manwaring, Executive Director, External Affairs, and Gillian Lees, Director of Governance and Risk Research.

The report was perfect material for this series as it consisted of research amongst 300 C-level executives at large organisations from 16 countries around the world, together with in-depth interviews for deeper insight with nine key individuals that included the CFOs of Yahoo, Royal Dutch Shell and Philips Africa’s and EY’s Global Chairman and CEO.

The findings were quite damning and we discussed them in turn.  They suggest that the large majority of senior leaders’ battle against:

  • bureaucratic decision making processes
  • siloed and short-term thinking
  • breakdowns in trust and collaboration inside the organisation
  • difficulties with translating ever-expanding volumes of informing into relevant knowledge

Some of the key stats from the report included:

29% of respondents cited that the single biggest barrier to more effective decision making was that organisational silos and bureaucracy are creating coordination problems.  Tony tried to put some context into this by explaining that 58,000 companies on 120 stock markets has a combined market value of 71 trillion dollars* in 2014 and that over half of that value came from intangibles, i.e., things that weren’t on the balance sheet and so relying on the traditional information isn’t enough anymore.  He added that, according to McKinsey, over 21 trillion dollars will depend on the robustness of cyber security arrangements and so he believes that you can’t tackle those kind of issues other than as one interconnected business.

43% of the c-suite felt the level of trust between them needed to be improved. Naturally, both Gillian and Tony found this statistic particularly worrying and Gillian said that if you can’t trust each other, then you can’t rely on the information they are giving you and the team just can’t work.  Tony added that trust, and how to build it and earn it, is right at the top of the business agenda.  He explained that CIMA is involved in some initiatives around this, one with the Finance Reporting Council, which is looking at updating the Corporate Governance Code to recognise the importance of culture, the result of which can be something that creates of diminishes trust.

25% of respondents can be defined as ‘Integrated Thinkers’. One interesting topic that came out of the report is that of ‘Integrated Thinkers’. Gillian explained that ‘Integrated Thinking’ is a term coined by the International Integrated Reporting Council, who have developed a framework for reporting that as well as the financials, brings in other different resources and capitals, such as value of human capital, relationships and environmental capital, and that therefore, to achieve that, businesses need to think in an integrated way.  She added that CIMA see they facets of integrated thinking as influence, relevance, trust and analysis, which are the four key principles that they have set out for their Global Management Accounting Principles.

For anyone interested in finding out more about this, Tony referred to a self-assessment tool that CIMA are piloting for those executives interested in seeing how their business stacks up against the report’s general findings, which can be found at

While 37% of organisations say big data has helped them to make better decisions, 32% say it has actually made things worse.  Tony’s view on this areas is that perhaps the question isn’t whether there too much data available, but that we don’t spend enough time thinking about what kind of data matters, which takes you back to the issue of collaboration and trust.

If you are interested in getting involved in this series, whether as a guest or as a sponsor, please do get in touch using the contact form on the show website.

You can also keep the conversation going on twitter around these podcasts using #csuitepodcast.

*[For anyone wanting to know what a trillion dollars looks like, I found this nice post!]

Understanding language & culture when managing International Crisis Communications – csuitepodcast 20

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Show 20 of the csuitepodcast discussed a new report that I actually helped write for translation and localisation agency, Conversis, on the importance of understanding language and culture when managing an international crisis.

I was joined in the studios of markettiers by Conversis CEO, Gary Muddyman and Francis Ingham, who is Director General of both the UK & MENA PRCA and Chief Executive of ICCO.  We also had Neil Chapman on the line – Neil is a partner at WPNT Communications, an agency that specialises in Crisis Communication Leadership, plus within the show, I included some audio content from an interview I carried out whilst I was at PR360 the previous week with former Editor of numerous BBC TV and Radio news programmes, Simon Waldman.

We began the show by discussing why we felt that almost half of the UK and US Communications executives who manage international crisis communications and had responded to the research survey admitted to having experienced a cultural faux pas due to a mistreated or wrong cultural reference in a campaign and the fact that, in over 68% of those cases, it had led to severe ramifications.

Gary felt that this all linked to the general lack of language and cultural awareness amongst executives in the US and UK.  He believes that one of the best ways to understand the culture of a country is to really understand their language and that whole attitude affects us, whereas a number of our competitor countries are real global citizens who understand the language, culture and what they are dealing with – we just don’t have that kind of education.

Francis agreed and picking up on the comment he made in the report that ‘the findings are a wakeup call to the industry on both sides of the Atlantic’, he added that too many people who think that, because English is our first language we have it covered and so there isn’t a need for planning, resources or trying to get inside the mind set of culture and the language of the people we are doing business with, this sometimes leads to us being a little bit arrogant.  His conclusion from having read the report is that we simply don’t invest enough time, effort and money in communicating in other languages and embracing other cultures and that is a risk to the continued growth of the PR industry in the UK and US.

As Neil was on the show, I obviously took the opportunity to ask him about his time at BP, where he was involved in the crisis communications during BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico back in April 2010.  This was actually an incident flagged in the report because, as well as people quite rightly taking offence to the comments made by the CEO at the time, Tony Hayward, when he used the phrase “I’d like my life back” at the end of a TV news interview, this after 11 workers lost their lives in the disaster, there was more reputational issues to deal with when the then BP Chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, followed that comment up with a cultural faux pas.

In another interview, Svanberg tried to translate a phrase from his native Swedish that was a figure of speech that means something along the lines of ‘the common person’, but ended up saying “We care about the small people”, which just came across highly patronising in English.

Neil said, in relation to that issue, that what he teaches executives is that it’s all about empathy, and that language plays into that.  You need to show you are human and that you realise they are hurting and it’s all about how you demonstrate that empathy.  He admitted that those two executives at BP didn’t do a good job in that respect and it was because they did it in a crass way.

Neil’s advice to anyone in a crisis situation is to ‘get some dirt on your hands’. In other words, if you can, speak to the people who have been impacted in a crisis, listen to them, really meet them and go eye to eye and see the impact of what has happened – then the tone of what you say will change and will become much more human and empathetic.

Other areas we covered that are featured in the report including monitoring of comments on social media and speed of response to both media and comments across social, in the right languages.

Another topic we covered was that of Language Migration, and it’s relevance in Crisis Communications.  Neil explained the importance of knowing information about the community around where you are based.  He used an example that he was involved in and how, after an explosion at a refinery, they discovered that, when meeting members of the community, over a period of about five years, it had gone from a dominant English speaking to a dominant Spanish speaking, but they only found this out at the time of the crisis.

If you are interested in getting involved in this series, whether as a guest or as a sponsor, please do get in touch using the contact form on the show website.

You can also keep the conversation going on twitter around these podcasts using #csuitepodcast.

Virtual Wake Up Call – Genning up on Virtual Reality Video

Earlier this week I attended PR360 and have come away truly inspired thanks to the team from Hotwire who were in the networking area showing off Virtual Reality technology.  They had a VR headset on their stand, and were giving delegates the opportunity to try it out by watching the Clouds Over Sidra film that was produced last year for the United Nations.

I grabbed the opportunity to try out the technology whilst John Brown, Hotwire’s Director, Head of Engagement talked me through it.

It was the first time I’d ever experienced VR and all I can say is ‘wow’!  It really is hard to describe what it’s like, but if you watch Mike Butcher’s reactions in the video of him trying it out whilst interviewing the producer of the film, Socrates Kakoulides, for Techcrunch, you’ll see how easy it is to get lost in the VR world and wrapped up in the emotion of that film in particular. [Download VRSE‘s app to view the film.]

Seeing this film and chatting to Emma Hazan, Hotwire’s Deputy UK MD (and previous guest on show 4 of my csuitepodcast series) has really inspired me to gen up on this area of video.  Embarrassingly, I don’t even refer to VR in the ‘Using Video in Social Media’ workshop I regularly run for the PRCA and other clients – this will now change by the time I host my next session!

I feel I have a bit of catching up to do on this topic, but have been truly inspired by what I’ve seen.

Emma talked to me about how VR is perfect for the travel industry – imagine being able to walk around your hotel, look at the bar area, the pool, and check out your room before you book.  We then chatted about other industries that could benefit, and of course, whilst agreeing that the Porn industry would no doubt lead the way, how about the Property market, especially high end sales for overseas investors.  No need to visit the £1m+ apartments, just look around with your VR headset and then send your deposit – deal done!

This is my new favourite topic and so if anyone has some good case studies they want to share with me to include in my future workshops, please do get in touch.