My Story...

Problems intrigue me. I like to keep digging until I get to the heart of an issue – the real issue – the one thing that’s often hidden (or ignored) but responsible for driving the visible chaos. It’s not always easy to do.

 

Just one problem can have a myriad of contributing causes and determining which one is the lynchpin of dysfunction can be skewed by lack of information, limited understanding, and personal bias. But that has never stopped me. I like to say that seeing what others cannot, is my superpower (no cape required).

 

The satisfaction of making a difference – solving issues that made the work easier and the results better – was inspiring. It became a passion. When I could no longer find big problems to solve in the position I held, or those efforts were thwarted for whatever reason, I moved on to the next big mess I could find.

 

Here is a bit of the journey that led me to start my practice and devoting so much energy to creating Essential Strategy.

In the beginning...

I graduated high school not really knowing what I wanted to do. At 19, I was the youngest TCBY Yogurt store manager in Alaska, and that my first exposure to management. Looking for better pay and benefits, I took a job as a ward clerk in a local hospital, but that didn’t feel like much of a career. I then went to school, spending two years to become a professionally certified paralegal while working as a policy typist at a title company. But, after eight years in that field left me with no desire to become an attorney, I moved into the larger managerial realm where my career really took off.

I spent ten years at a telecommunications company where I moved through every function I thought I needed to be proficient in management. I worked in accounting, contracts, and risk management, picking up staff and learning how to lead as I went. I moved slowly but steadily up the ladder, gaining experience and investing in my education. I went back to college for degrees in managerial finance and organizational management before I moved into the highly complicated world of Alaska Native Corporations – it was there that I finished an MBA with an operational risk specialty. I spent the next six years managing risk, legal, quality assurance, and strategic planning, ultimately finding my sweet spot at the top as the VP of Risk & Strategy with a short stint as CAO.

As my knowledge and experience grew, solving complex problems became at once both easier and more challenging: easier because I had gained a broad foundation of knowledge that allowed me to see and connect issues across all functions of an organization; more challenging because unwinding complex problems typically revealed additional issues that also had to be addressed. It’s kind of like pulling the proverbial loose thread at the bottom of a sweater, keep pulling and eventually, the entire sweater disappears, and now you’ve got to deal with the mess on the floor!

I also began to realize that organizations are simply organisms, entities with interdependent parts, consisting of both tangible and intangible bits, that together make up a living, learning and often contrary whole. I saw time and again that when problem-solving stops at the symptoms and not the cause, those disconnects will – without a doubt –come up again and again, usually at the worst possible time. To really move past it and improve, we not only have to understand the root of the dysfunction, but we must also create systems to feed that learning back in, building organizational intelligence and durability. These systems must be holistic and embedded, intended to outlast any single, or group, of individuals.

These systems ultimately drive efficient operations, effective governance, and robust decision-making capabilities of the organization. It is this interconnected framework that ultimately manages risks, leverages opportunities, and builds forward-looking strategies. It’s good stuff, right? Important stuff. But it’s hard. So hard that even massive organizations with tremendous resources fail to get it right, and often smaller organizations don’t even try.

There are a lot of ways to design and implement the overarching systems that drive strategy, risk and resilience inside an entity, so many in fact that you can spend years (I did) trying to get your head around all the theories, frameworks, and methods out there. They all have merit. But, what I will share with you is this – the devil is in the one detail that doesn’t get much attention and that is integration.

We can’t design strategy without understanding (truly) where our risks are, and we can’t properly prioritize the management of risk without understanding strategic intent and outcomes. Integration means that strategy and risk programming are intricately woven in a way that allows information to flow intelligently between these two crucial disciplines, reaching those who need to make decisions in a timely manner. I have, in my corporate career, built several hybrid systems to blend these competencies to better support and sustain an organization. But it was complicated, time-consuming, and not easy to replicate.

 

The world needs a simple and straightforward system for accomplishing better risk and strategy integration. If it is simple, it will be easier to understand. If it is easier to understand, it will be easier to implement. If it works for everyone – regardless of size, type, industry, or purpose – then it will be right model.

This is the problem I now choose to solve – and it is getting easier and more challenging by the day. This is what launched Black Fox Strategy and the development of Essential Strategy.  

Breaking the Mold with Essential Strategy

As I moved out of the corporate world and began working with clients, I saw the same issues with disconnected systems, haphazard execution, blind spots to risk, and gaping holes in resilience planning – often with no recognition of the potential impact any of it had on successfully achieving business objectives.

 

These blind spots were never the same, they were as unique as the entities themselves, but interestingly enough, not driven by industry sector, organization type, or business model. It had more to do with a lack of integration, information flow and alignment that was preventing the right information getting to the right people at the right time to make solid, well-informed decisions.   

There were two problems to work out.

 

The first was to find a simplified approach that would work for every organization every time, from billion-dollar multi-line companies, to small non-profit tribal organizations, to solo entrepreneurs. Large, complex entities need sophistication without operational burden – small entities need a system that makes sense. The second problem to address was scalability. Stacking and integrating strategy, risk, and resilience programs – programs mostly designed to function independently – would require thinking outside the box.

Solving these two problems was crucial.

 

I kept returning to the same fundamental question – what was it that every organization had in common? What were the foundational components that drive performance excellence? Those essential competencies that drive success and sustainability?

 

What I discovered was this – every entity needs a purpose, they must grow, and they must survive, and to do that, they had to evolve.

From this, Essential Strategy was born and today, continues to grow and evolve to fulfill its own purpose – to simplify the path to organizational excellence for all kinds of entities. 

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Poppy Flower

A Passion for Sharing

One thing I knew when I started my practice was that had three core lines: consulting, research/design, and education. I had set out on a path to redefine how the business world thought about strategy, risk and resilience, and more specifically how these competencies could be simplified and integrated to improve goal execution. Research and real-life consulting work led to ideas and insights worth sharing. I found incredible satisfaction in helping others find that ‘one thing’ that helped them move forward. This feels very elemental and is a rhythm that works for me.

Creation requires work.  A lot of work.

 

There are so many amazing thought leaders in the world, each with a valuable message – it is a veritable feast for the mind! Understanding how my own message adds to the compendium of world knowledge is something I explore daily and work to share regularly. As I grow, my clients benefit, and as they grow, I benefit – the output is knowledge to be shared to all who are interested and want to take it in. This is the cycle.

This life is about contribution. Abundance (in whatever form you attribute to that word) is a reward for the contributions made. We all must make a living and we all want to prosper but thinking of our lives and businesses in terms of financial outputs instead of contributions made I believe is short-sided. It took me some time to understand this, but it has reshaped my world.

Everyone has a contribution to offer. No matter how great or how small, each contribution is irreplaceable and invaluable.

 

There is no limit to creativity – no shortage of good things to be had! If you strive to create something new, design something beautiful, advance innovations, or simply make life a little easier, be fearless in forging that new path!

 

Take a step forward, you are now part of the Tall Poppy Tribe! We are here to create. We are here to teach. We are here to share. And everyone is invited!

Bio...

Erin Sedor is a risk and strategy expert supporting clients in a variety of industries in the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors. She is the architect of the Essential Strategy Foundation, Design Path, and Performance Blueprint. Erin has long been a thought leader in the area of integrated strategy, risk, and resilience programming, having nearly three decades of experience as a paralegal/risk professional, C-suite officer, non-profit board chair, and now executive consultant and board advisor.

Fueled by the need to create hybrid programs to better identify and mitigate strategic risk and improve goal execution during her corporate career, Erin developed a uniquely effective Essential Strategy approach that lays the foundation for more meaningful strategy design and execution, creating greater risk visibility and improving operational efficiency without reinventing the process.

Erin holds an MBA in Operational Risk, as well as bachelor’s degrees in both Finance and Organizational Development and a Professional Certification in Paralegal Studies. She is a writer, instructor, and speaker with a passion for helping both people and organizations realize their greatest potential. She calls the beautiful State of Alaska home where she lives with her best friend and husband whom she met in high school. Together they have raised three incredible children who are now off on their own adventures and growing their own families.

 

You can find Erin on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

What People Say

"It's not that you don't know the business, but you find disconnects between operational and strategic priorities that you didn't even know were there. No one else is teaching strategy this way."

—  Jen Jarvis, Jen Jarvis Associates

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You Know Your Business.

We Know Risk.