Wayne Clarke, Interviewed by Fortune, Greece

June 30, 2022by Rose Leach0

Wayne Clarke, a founding partner of GGI and a strategic partner of Crowe Global in The Art of Smart, has spent over 20 years helping to boost the performance of organizations through improved human participation.

During the last years, the continuous crises that Greece was faced with, pushed the Greek companies to carry out radical transformations of the processes that govern their basic functions. What is the best strategy for growth and prosperity? What is the role of managers in the uncertain business environment, but also the responsibility towards all employees and in particular towards the teams that are under their roof?

Wayne Clarke, a founding partner of GGI and a strategic partner of Crowe Global in The Art of Smart, has spent over 20 years helping to boost the performance of organizations through improved human participation. He works around the world designing and implementing programs focusing on strategic development in the private and public sectors. To date he has worked with more than 700 CEOs / boards and thousands of directors in more than 30 countries. Mr. Clarke, who has been recognized by HR Magazine for the past 4 years as one of the top 25 “Most Influential Thinkers” in the world, explains to Fortune why prudence and strategic thinking are hallmarks of the so-called “great management” , while revealing the four factors that play a key role in making smarter decisions.

One of the most common challenges facing business leaders today is how to ensure that decision-making is efficient, effective, and promotes growth in a largely uncertain environment. Crowe aims to enable its customers to make smart decisions that will offer consistent value to their organizations.

We understand that organizational decisions can take many forms and that each business may have a different meaning to the word “value”. Through “The Art of Smart”, we share the opinions of experts inside and outside Crowe so that we can provide vital and useful knowledge to business leaders, wherever they are active. We sought to do this by looking at more than 600 organizations operating in a variety of industries and regions around the world, and discovering which of them are at the forefront of the four pillars of smart decision-making: their attitudes and actions around the agenda for their diversity, their approach to development, their willingness to dare, and, finally, how and where they demonstrated innovation. It has long been widely recognized that these four factors contribute significantly to smarter decision making.

To date, you have worked with more than 700 CEOs / Boards and thousands of executives in more than 30 countries. What are the most common “mistakes” you have made when it comes to making decisions by executives? Do you know in which areas they are more reluctant to make changes?

Management seeks to make the right decisions for the good of the company, its teams, customers and shareholders. Making smart decisions requires both a combination of good data / information / knowledge as well as experience and intuition. This is where the opportunities and possible “mistakes” usually arise. In retrospect, it is often assumed that most mistakes could have been avoided if management had taken the time to take into account the correct data / information / knowledge. For various reasons these were either ignored or not fully considered and therefore the decisions were not ideal. This shows us why prudence and strategic thinking are hallmarks of so-called “great management” in a rapidly changing knowledge-based economy.

Can you give us some examples of how “The Art of Smart” has helped executives in the decision-making process?

One of our customers is a large and quite complex food distribution company. Senior management focused on both innovation and diversity in order to harness the intelligence of its people. Each month, the team of executives meets with a small number of employees to learn in real time “what really” is happening, not “what they think” is happening. This is a very smart mechanism, as it means that not a month goes by without executives evaluating the reality. Many groups of leaders make decisions based on extremely outdated knowledge, but this organization (with tens of thousands of employees) was able to “hack” this process, and even at no cost.

Given that we have been living in a state of constant change over the last decade (economic recession, pandemic, energy crisis), what are the biggest challenges we will face in the future? How should businesses be organized in order to be more resilient to the changes taking place in the global economic landscape?

It is a delusion to think that there was a time when things were not fluid or that there would come a time when they would be less fluid. As the saying goes, “change is the only constant.” Of course, there are some challenges that our customers are trying to meet, such as:

Inflation, which has and will continue to have a huge impact, as we already see, on the economy and wages the lack of talent in the whole range of activity of a company, from the junior to the senior executives, and which is due to a number of factors the changing attitude towards work, given what we went through collectively and what people now demand from “work“ the rapid reversal of conditions, again with the help of technological developments that are transforming entire industries / sectors and the pace of which is still growing adaptation to local data, in contrast to the era of globalization that many of us have experienced over the last 30-40 years. Some say that the world is now getting bigger again, not smaller, as the Greek Prime Minister characteristically stated in his speech at the recent Delphi Forum.

The word “flexibility” has been used too much in this context, but it is indeed what is needed from an organizational point of view and should characterize the mentality of the leadership team. In essence, this means increasing the frequency and quality of communication between all, especially leaders. In the modern uncertain world, the speed of knowledge transfer is now the key to creating value. How fast can the body “learn” something new? How quickly can he then take advantage of it, act on it? How do we ensure that we can transfer information / content / knowledge from A to B effectively? “Art of Smart” is about exactly that, that is how we achieve this goal.

The crisis is a two-sided currency as, in addition to the damage it causes, it also creates opportunities. What kind of opportunities do you expect to have in the near future?

This is an exciting field, especially in terms of talent. Many organizations are faced with a very significant shortage of talent and are eagerly looking for those executives they deem necessary. At the same time, research on employee loyalty shows that employees feel underused, that their talent is lost. I believe that there is an opportunity to redefine our relationship with the existing talent base, given that the world has indeed changed. I have not seen any organization approach the goal of maximizing the potential of its talents, although many organizations claim that they aim to do so. The answer; The managers! The key to achieving this goal is held by managers, not leaders at the executive level. But in what way?

  • With quality personalized meetings.
  • With a clearer picture of the organization’s strategy and what it means for him.
  • With good communication at team level.
  • With a sense that the value of the employee is recognized.
  • With a clear personal direction, which is discussed with someone who is really interested.When these conditions are met (long enough to be the rule, not the exception), there is a chance of making the most of the potential. This is the immediate opportunity that almost every organization should take advantage of as we all struggle with the new regularity. This is an extremely low cost strategy, for the utilization of the “capital” that most organizations declare to be important. Now is the time for leaders to be tested in it. Those who will implement it correctly, will have very good results.The forecasts for the Greek economy and growth are very positive. Based on your experience at the international level, what would you advise Greek companies to take into account when making decisions? Have you noticed differences in the decision-making process followed by Greek companies in relation to companies abroad? Do you think that corporate governance would help them?What seems to have changed compared to the past is how the decision-making process is perceived; it is no longer a personal matter; on the contrary, it seems to follow specific, well-defined procedures and models.The overall development of the Greek economy and, consequently, the Greek market, the strong interest of foreign companies and capital for investments in Greece, as well as the upgrading of the human capital skills of the Greek companies themselves – a fact that offers the country valuable experience from international environments – have also played an important role in this direction.

    In addition, it is very important for Greek companies to utilize the available data, which will make it easier for them to look at the decision-making process from a different perspective. Corporate governance has helped and will continue to help businesses, as it introduces specific rules and procedures that ultimately ensure their best operation.

    There are always other steps to be taken but, in any case, Greek companies have created a more stable operating environment in recent years.

Rose Leach

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