Today in Kickstart: Military-style management, colleagues with cancer

According to this U.S. Air Force fighter pilot–turned–management consultant, most companies aren’t planning ahead nearly enough

This is Kickstart—the daily morning management briefing on innovation, leadership, technology and the economy from the editors of Canadian BusinessSign up to get it directly to your inbox each weekday at 6 AM Eastern.

Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:

Managing like the military

Military metaphors are common in business: we talk about campaigns and chains of command and rallying the troops. The similarities tend to end there, but there’s a lot the average manager could learn from how actual military organizations work. Jim Murphy is a former F-15 pilot with the U.S. Air Force and the founder of Afterburner, a training and consulting firm, that teaches exactly that. He says civilian leaders often get two things wrong when planning projects: they don’t go over the details enough, and they don’t ensure total buy-in from the team:

[T]here’s a common misconception of elite military teams that you get a set of orders and charge at the hill regardless. In real high performance teams, to get your team to buy into a mission, they need to be included in the planning process. We call this “a common mental model.” […] The next thing companies should do is brief the plans on a regular consistent basis, because most people need to hear the plan up to seven times. As leaders, we like to think we can tell someone once or twice and they’ll understand. That’s not enough. Briefing is the last stage of alignment, but more importantly, [it builds] accountability. This is when right before we walk out the door to fly our jets, we give an eyeball check with each other to make sure there are no questions.

Link: Canadian Business

Coping with cancer in the workplace

Undergoing cancer treatment is stressful enough without adding work worries to the mix, and with 200,000 diagnoses a year in Canada, managers need to think about a support plan for employees. Executive coach Anne Sugar found this out the hard way when she received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2011, and since then she’s studied how workplaces and leaders can best assist colleagues fighting cancer:

Develop a work plan. We often think of work plans as a bureaucratic necessity. But when it comes to cancer diagnoses, developing specific plans and processes can be powerful forms of support. Given how emotional it is to receive a cancer diagnosis, many employees are understandingly too stressed to think about putting a process in place for achieving work deliverables. That’s why, as a manager, you should gently take the lead on helping them to create one. It can be useful to ask the employee to collaborate with a team member or team members on the initial draft work plan, so they can collectively identify the responsibilities that need to be transferred, and ensure the delegation doesn’t unfairly impact just one person.

Link: Harvard Business Review

Crunching the numbers on the pot business

Statistics Canada yesterday came out with a report trying to benchmark some of the economics of Canada’s marijuana industry ahead of legalization in July. What it finds is a robust domestic-facing enterprise with a sizeable export market: the vast majority of pot consumed by Canadians is grown here, while the country exports about $1.2 billion worth (illegally) each year. On the production side, that makes marijuana comparable in scale to domestic tobacco and alcohol producers:

[StatsCan] estimated the pot-producing industry was worth about $3.4 billion in 2014, while domestic tobacco production that year was $1 billion and alcohol production was $2.9 billion. In all, the agency estimated that 4.9 million Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 years old spent $5.7 billion on cannabis last year. The number was smaller than what households spent in 2016 on tobacco ($16 billion) and on beer, wine and spirits ($22.3 billion).

Link: Canadian Business

VR makes headlines at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival ends on Sunday. Last year, all the buzz was about competition between Netflix and Amazon to outbid each other for the festival’s hottest movies; this year the unexpected splash is a seven-figure deal for a virtual reality series. It’s a vote of confidence in a medium that’s still struggling to figure out its place in consumers’ lives and in the creative economy, and perhaps a sign of things to come:

In an unprecedented move, VR financing and distribution venture CityLights announced today that it is acquiring Spheres—a three-part series that lets viewers explore the depths of space in VR—in a massive seven-figure deal. Neither side is revealing the exact figure, but for a medium that’s never sold at Sundance, it’s still a very big deal, and one that demonstrates VR filmmaking has the clout and buzz of its traditional film predecessors. It might even show that 360-degree immersive films will one day be as big a part of festivals as movies themselves.

Link: Wired

Earnings reports today

Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:

Anaconda Mining (ANX), A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund (AW.UN)


Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.