My mother deserves the credit for inspiring my career path with her early words of wisdom, which encouraged me to think often. I can still remember the important lessons she gave me as a kid, which came during frequent scoldings—usually well deserved. She’d wave her index finger and sternly say, “If you think you can get away with that, mister, you’ve got another think coming!” Decades later, I’m grateful for all those extra thinks, because they taught me to become a strategic thinker.
Many different experiences during my 35-year career have contributed to my passion for strategic thinking, project management, and organizational excellence. These started in high school and continued beyond getting my MBA from Harvard, after which I worked in a program planning role in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation in Washington, D.C. I then switched careers to become an international development consultant, where I learned and taught a planning approach based on systems thinking that came to be a foundation for my life’s work.
After starting my own consulting company, my client base shifted to corporations, government agencies, and research institutions. These clients were very different from my previous clients in developing countries, but they faced similar issues—organizing across boundaries, sorting out complexity, and managing change. Surprisingly, I found that the same strategic management tools that worked well in developing countries were also suited for handling ...