The Language of Business and Executive Mindset

Authored By: Mikel J. Harry, Ph.D.

The Language of Business

The language used by business executives is illustrated by way of the following statement: “Expand SKU’s per existing customer while driving revenue growth at a 10% CAGR (minimum) through 2015; EBITDA at a 15% CAGR through 2019.”

As should be apparent, the terms and understandings that underpin this statement are far different from those used by an operations manager. This also holds true for the language of process owners and workers as well.  Thus, we have the three (3) primary tiers of an enterprise – Business, Operations and Process.

As should be expected, each tier of an enterprise speaks a different but interrelated language. For example, if a Lean Six Sigma professional seeks to introduce a beneficial change (or sell an idea) to a C-Suite executive, then the native language of that professional must be translated into the language of business.

Remember, a business executive’s language has two primary words – Money and Time. If you cannot speak the language of money and time, chances are your efforts to introduce and sell a proposed beneficial change (at the business tier of an organization) will be ineffective and short lived.

The later point is especially true in today’s corporate environment where a Lean and/or Six Sigma implementation must be “sold” from the bottom up. This is a skill I often refer to as “360 Speak,” which means that if you seek to influence an organization, you must be multilingual – horizontally and vertically.

The Executive Mindset

The “executive mind” is obsessively wrapped around the vertical, horizontal, temporal and economic dynamics of business. The concurrent use of these four primary mindsets allows an executive to continually envision and reason holistically as compared to thinking about things in an isolated or compartmentalized way.

A business executive sees the company as an economic ecosystem versus an organization chart of people and products. In this sense, they strive to connect the “biology of business” to the “mechanics of operations,” but done so in an integrated, interactive, dynamic and seamless way.

Just as a mathematician views algebra as a universal tool that always holds true (regardless of application), the executive mind sees the fundamentals of business in much the same way — certain principles and relationships apply no matter what the product is or how its produced. This is often why senior executives seem to have little passion for their company’s products or services. In their world, a product is just a product. In this sense, the product is merely a means to an end – achieving highly positive business results.

An executive’s passion for the business (as compared to its products and services) is framed in the context of ensuring the proper blend of economics, scale and resources to ensure an effective and efficient “cash machine.”

From a farmer’s perspective, the executive mind doesn’t see corn stalks or bean stalks, they see money stalks being harvested along the rows of time using their four-wheel-drive cash harvester to pluck and bundle the green-backs, so to speak.


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About Mikel Harry

Dr. Harry has been widely recognized in many of today's notable publications as the Co-Creator of Six Sigma and the world's leading authority within this field. His book entitled Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations has been on the best seller list of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, and He has been a consultant to many of the world’s top senior executives, such as Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric Corporation. Dr. Harry has also been a featured guest on popular television programs, such as the premier NBC show "Power Lunch." He is often quoted in newspapers like USA Today and interviewed by the media, such as The Economic Times. In addition, Dr. Harry has received many distinguished awards in recognition of his contributions to industry and society. At the present time, Dr. Harry is Chairman of the Six Sigma Management Institute and CEO of The Great Discovery, LLC.
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One Response to The Language of Business and Executive Mindset

  1. Mikel Harry says:

    An expansion of this discussion should be required reading for anyone that has been certified as a “Six Sigma Black Belt.” Like it or not, most Black Belts cannot speak the language of business, nor do they understand the executive mindset. However, its amazing what a little education can do to rectify this situation.

    There is no excuse for not acquiring some knowledge about how a business works. There are tons of Internet content that provide simple understanding of things like a balance sheet and the role that analysts play in the determination of a company’s stock value and status (Sell, Hold and Buy). If Black Belts (as a community) knew these things, the common excuse that “management is only short-term sighted” would be cited far less often.

    Like it or not, today’s understanding of capitalism is a virtual synonym for the phrase: “short-term expectations.” The entire business ecosystem is constructed around getting maximum returns to the shareholders each quarter. So, if you complain about management’s shortsightedness, then you might want to go directly to the source — Wall Street. However, you will get little sympathy there, as analysts also live and die on their short-term performance. Of course, this is true for all markets around the world.

    The last thing on the minds of analysts are long-term strategic improvement initiatives. In essence, they work by the motto; “show me the money or go home.” For a CEO this motto translates to: “Meet this quarters expectations or start looking for another job.” This is especially true in today’s depressed economy.

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