The Organizational Strategist

January 3, 2014

Make Your New Year A Success

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Whit @ 7:28 pm

-Introduction-

The New Year is upon us! This is the exiting time when we can refresh and restart as we look forward into the coming year. It is a good time to rejoice on your accomplishments, celebrate your achievements, and bask in the tales of your adventures. At the same time, honor your relationships and partnerships, the struggles and challenges you’ve endured and experienced, and the losses you sustained. Essentially, use this time to come to terms with what happened in the ups and downs of the year’s activities. This helps set the stage for the New Year.

-Review, Reflect, Dream, Define, Plan-

As with personal or corporate strategy, it is good to take a pause to ensure your new objectives, plans, and goals are well aligned and properly set up for execution. What is important to avoid would be the latest technology or business fads that have no real substance. That can be tough to gauge without investing some time and experimentation, but be sure to balance the efforts. We do not want to be simply joining the crowd of people who join a new gym as a part of a New Year’s goal that has no real traction. Here’s a set of steps to pull together your approach:

Review – Take stock of your past goals and see how well you did or did not progress toward achievement.

Reflect – What went well? What did not go well? If you repeat a goal, what would you do differently?

Dream – Ponder and discover what new activities and adventures you could and should undertake for this coming year.

Define – Of those dreams, what makes sense to focus on and start undertaking? It may be that some dreams are perpetual or may take a long, dedicated effort to achieve.

Plan – Set out the details to realize your goals in all of the manners that make sense (noting what people involvement is needed, articulating what the goal is and means, breaking goals down into tasks/activities, etc.).

In pulling together your goals, I’ve long been a fan of SMART goals. While the acronym can have many variations, I use the definitions of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound. By using that structure it makes ambiguous aspirations into concrete goals that others can grasp. Beyond that, I often add the ER at the end making them SMARTER goals. This ER stands for Engaging and Rewarding. Why I add those in is because the goals that suit yourself, your needs/interests, and your style for motivation and energizing make them much more likely to be successful.

The ideal goals are ones that have mutually beneficial outcomes with other efforts (be they organizational, familial, personal, and so on) so that any support, resources, or other progress made pays off in multiple ways. Of course, these steps are iterative and may need to involve discussions, revisions, reviews, and so on to finalize and set the more intricate plans in motion. The more others are involved and the more challenging they may be, the more it helps to articulate the best path forward.

 -Summary-

New Year’s resolutions are a form of a professional and/or personal check point and course correction to shaping your future. Like other strategic approaches, using a disciplined, thorough, and engaging approach makes it all the more successful in the future. Good luck with your 2014 and may it be a very successful and happy one!

October 12, 2013

Pathways to success: Anders Westby’s take on personal strategy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Whit @ 12:26 am

Introduction

Every now and again, I come across someone who has an unusual, yet interesting take to their own personal strategy.  At times, I’m fortunate enough to be able to interview them and get a chance to share what I learn from that person.  Here is another interview that takes ahold of personal choices in management and leadership styles. The content below is an edited and summarized version of an oral interview done in a similar style to the earlier interviews with Fred Collopy and Robert M. Mason.

Anders Westby (Professional Profile) and I met at Logic20/20, Inc. I was fortunate enough to be able to choose him as my career counselor.  His take comes with a very refreshing strong personal conviction and intentional positive orientation.  I’m happy to be able to share a sample of what Anders brings with him at all times.

Interviewing Anders Westby, Senior Consulting Manager

1) How do you define yourself?

“I’m generally optimistic. I’m almost always in a good mood, which is normally good, but can sometimes be to my detriment.  I’m always on the lookout for the good things in a person or project and in my role, I often need to be critical.  I’ve found that while I can get specific results from someone if I’m really focused and in front of that person all the time.  It will work for that day, but longer term results become much harder. I’d rather see the positive in what they were able to accomplish and talk through the remaining tasks and help them figure out what it will take to deliver.

I believe a part of [my view] is due to my Midwestern work ethic and Scandinavian heritage [regarding the conscious choice to have a happy outlook].  I’ve tried various approach as different times in my career, ranging from complete hardass to accommodating. Part of what I had to figure out is when to make the shift in approach and how far I need to shift in this situation.  There are stressful times and moments in everything you do, and you need to be careful that that stress doesn’t become part of your life.  You have to minimize the risk and basically project manage.  I plan a lot and try to think through the dangers of the project at hand. 

An example of this is how I love working with my hands.  One of my habits is working on old vehicles.  I was rewiring an old truck where the wires were like a rat’s nest.  When I went through to replace things, I thought through it carefully before starting the first step.  By being very deliberate, I knew exactly how things were going to work out in the end.  The result was that every new circuit worked the first time I tried it.   The problem there is that can take a long time to do anything.  What I do by being an optimist is to plan things out and that leads to results.”

2) What do you do? Feel free to answer this question from a professional and/or personal view.

“In my role, I try to empower others.  With my kids it’s all about learning, figuring out how to be productive, and doing well at academics, sports, and socialization.  With work, it’s about empowering the teams.  My work is thru other people.  I’m always checking to see that they know what they need to do, what they want to learn, what they need help with in order to be successful I try to find creative ways to make everyone happy about it.

Early in my career, it was about being the most skilled, fastest, etc.  As I took on more responsibility, I had less time to do the work myself.  I had to figure out how to leverage others and it’s a continual process of learning.  There are still too many times when I could’ve done things differently to empower my team, give people tools, information, etc. to make them more successful.”

What else needs to happen to make it even better?

“One of the things I’ve learned is that my vision may not be the only vision to meet the objectives.  I ask lots of questions, poking, prodding, and so forth to see if alternative approaches meet the objectives.  Depending on the person or engagement, I might need to give more or less guidance.”

3) What has been your strategy that has led to your success?

“I think it comes down to three things:

Persistence: My Midwest spirit of never going to give up.

Optimism: I know it’s possible and I’m smart enough to figure it out.

Ability to Pivot: Being able to turn on the spot and tackle the next approach.

You take the various assumptions of the objectives, resources, time, etc. for a problem. From there it takes the ability to pivot to understand the implications and all the while thinking through the different possibilities for ongoing efforts and the future.  Understand the implications of today and what the future may be.”

4) Please describe an occasion where you had to change or course-correct your strategy.

“There was a project that had changing project management, client requirements, architecture, developer staffing, timeline, and scope.  It wasn’t doing well when I came onto the project.  No matter how dark the tunnel, I could still see the light at the end of it.  I just had to buckle down and do it.”

5) What advice would you offer to others so that they may achieve their own success?

“Find work you’re good at, passionate about, and find a way to do that well.  Don’t try to be everything to all people.  Find something that makes you happy and do it better/faster than others.  If you can find a way to make a great living at it, that’s great.

One thing I heard from a mentor long ago was that every job has a dirty 30.  That is that 30% of the job is doing things you don’t want to do.  It might be administrative stuff, interacting with an person, or being in a role that isn’t interesting.  However, the other 70% can be really cool.  Figuring out what that 70% is allows you to find something interesting in every role and opportunity.  It takes time to find that and find something that’s in your wheelhouse that’s fun.”

Thanks Anders!

July 7, 2013

Planning Your Product and Service Roadmap Transformation


-Introduction-

As a part of every organization, there is an ongoing need for innovation in their products and services. It can be very challenging to keep up with the market changes, competition, technological advancement, and other factors that shape the business landscape. To keep up and on top of the business landscape, each company must go through its own cycles of products and services roadmap planning. This roadmap includes understanding the current and future environments (what’s going well, what isn’t going well, what should change over time, etc.) and alignment initiatives (molding the organization to best advance the most important products/services) for long term success. To find out the right approach to take, there are phases of planning the change.

-Research & Analysis-

The first phase is to do a series of tasks to research and analyze the current performance and anticipated trends. Here is a list of tasks to dive into:

  • Find best performers and the worst of the product/service portfolio. This can be done via examining the financial performance of the past few years.
  • Examine market trends and intelligence to gain long term perspective. Looking at industry newsletters, market intelligence organizations (e.g. Forester, Gartner, or IDC), or attending speaker sessions on similar topics can likely help accomplish this.
  • Examine which areas are most strategic by comparing the competitive landscape, long term potential, defensible positioning, new market share, etc.
  • Find the balance of which customers are the most helpful/easiest to work with to understand what can help make the most profitable mix. (check out the strategic divestment article)
  • Examine which products and services can be sold/packaged together (e.g. selling a standard product and then adding consulting services on top of it to help maximize its usage and benefits).
  • Assess which products/services are most interesting/engaging/cool inside the company. Having more or less energy behind a given product or service line can help influence which areas will then have the most passion behind it or them.

At the conclusion of these investigation areas, conclude and rank which products and services have the most potential for short and long term success. By doing most, if not all, of these areas, you can arrive at a lot of strategic and tactical information to draw upon for a number of decision areas.

-Finding out what to accelerate/decelerate-

Noting how performance has been and what it is anticipated to be in the future is very helpful. However, it can also be very important to note what is already going for the company. First, examine current plans and any promises (legal or not) to customers, partners, and competitors to see what flexibility is possible. The areas that can shift can be opportunities for upsells, better terms, more effective agreements, and/or simply discontinuation (in the instance of it not being profitable enough). Then see what areas can be decelerated (phased out, reduction of investment) or retired (removal from active selling and positioning or just replaced), and what can be accelerated (invested in, supported more, amplified, etc.). From combining both the research indicating data driven possibility for current and future attainment as well as the business commitments in motion, you should have the long term plan on how to approach the product and service roadmap, including which changes should take place.

-Planning for the change-

Now, after that sizeable research, analysis, and current commitment plan of record you can finalize your product and service transformation roadmap. This roadmap can make large waves internally with your employees, the market competition, coordination with partners, and certainly in regards to working with current and future customer segments. In kicking this off, there are several important areas to initially attend as you plan and coordinate the roll out of these changes:

  • Give everyone internally a heads up on what changes are coming, particularly those that are in advanced or long term planning (sales, marketing, internal R&D, etc.). In so doing this, it’s very important to state the process that was conducted, the business reasons for it happening, and the important parts about it in regards to the employees. In messaging to the employees be sure to tie it into what motivates them. Perhaps this could be new opportunities ahead, better company profitability implying bigger bonuses to shareholders and employees, removal of pain points, and so on.
  • The existing commitments, if changing, should be discussed with as much lead time as possible. It’s just good customer service to give them that heads up as soon as possible. It will be important to have that messaging prepared in regards the approach taken, the options for adjustment, and long term fulfillment conditions all to allow for the sales cycle and customer relationships to adjust. This can mean having upselling options presentable, different terms and conditions on hand, substitute product or services available, and the handoff to partners queued up if needed. In a similar messaging fashion from the internal front, it is important to let your customers know the business reasons, particularly what is beneficial for the customers through this arrangement. The business reasons could be as simply stated as a regular cadence to the business and a best practice effort. The customer benefits part should be aspects like newer, better, faster, stronger, etc. products and/or services that are relate to better cost or quality for the customer.

-Next Steps-

In this article I’ve only covered planning the change and elements of the initial communications. There is much more to following through with the roadmap than simply that. Effectively implementing a product and service roadmap transformation can be very difficult, complex, and time consuming. It is easy to underestimate what all should fuel this kind of an effort when implementing it. That implementation would likely include positioning and planning, communication planning & drafting, hands on coordination (calls, meetings, presentations, etc.), and the follow through to meet what was articulated in the plans. The devil can be in the details and it is clear there are many details to be discovered in the further design and implementation of a product and service roadmap.

March 28, 2013

Mobilizing a data driven organization: Big Data and you


-Introduction-

Big data is a newer, exciting topic. It can mean so many things as it is data driven and that data can come from so many sources. A volume of information is captured all of the time via smartphones, traffic sensors, retail checkouts, and more. In my experience discussing and dealing with it, it can be overwhelming and downright unproductive without focus and alignment.  With focus, it can lead to a lot of targeted benefits.  With alignment to that focus, your org can take effective action.

-What can I do with ‘big data’?-

Big data comes down to a lot of complicated and even complex information mining. You might be able to discover which areas in the city have the worst stop signs (by analyzing police and insurance claims), where candy bars should be placed in relation to where and what different children’s toys are sold, or predictive and forecasting fleet tire maintenance. There are numerous possible information points that you can learn about, but it all depends on the data you’re gathering. The more that you have available, which can be traced, linked, analyzed, and then rationalized the more you have to work on. Of course, you need to know what you are seeking to learn and act on first (decrease cost, improve quality, share brand recognition, streamline operations, etc.).

-How to prepare your organization for immediate action-

First and foremost, it is very important to have curious people lead the data diving and hypothesizing. Big data involves a lot of critical thinking and hypothesizing to uncover the gold mine of information. To do that one needs to pull together strategic needs and desires (cost savings, higher sales, brand turnaround, etc.). For implementation of a big data initiative a staged process can be followed:

Stage 1 – Build pilots to prove the key concepts and potential within your organization.

Choose the hottest topics with the best (most comprehensive, highest quality/consistency, most thorough, etc.) data and that have people itching to learn more. Some of those topics might be around:

  • Specific geographic trends
  • Customer behaviors
  • Product line(s)
  • Service line(s)

As the data is pulled together and analyzed, document the process and procedure for future uses. Take an inventory of all the actionable areas that are discovered. Here you should be able to see the array of possibilities and potential. Brainstorm what will be the most effective initial (quick wins) and longer term (strategic) areas to act upon. Then measure the relevant baseline(s) to gauge how things are currently doing (product/service cost, timing, throughput, efficiency, customer quality/satisfaction, maturity level, etc.) so that as actions are taken, they can be evaluated properly. Move ahead and take selected action(s) based off of the prioritized inventory. This is where it gets the most exciting as you see that after the actions are fulfilled, you can measure improvements by comparing to the baseline.

Stage 2 – Expand and scale the operation.

After the initial results are back, you can make case studies and other results publicly known to inspire others and cascade the change momentum. This is important for helping ensure the case for changing how work is done and fueling the big data initiatives. Use lessons learned, process tips/flow, team structure, etc. from pilots to expand into other areas that can benefit from usage of big data. Spread and enact the big data coverage to any/all areas that make sense. The scaling up and out should be a gradual pace, not all at once, to ensure that the growth in the function is sustainable and practical. It may be that the data diving is very helpful all the time in some organizations and only periodically in others. A shared service of business intelligence operatives may be a helpful set up in an organization.

Stage 3 – Mature and operationalize the change.

As an organization embraces and utilizes big data initiatives it can make sense to have big data teams pulled into a greater program and/or PMO for governance, quality approaches, best practices, proper mobilization, templates, and so on. With repeatable approaches and optimization, the big data initiatives will become more and more successful. Start standardizing on the common areas while allowing flexibility for the unique approaches (some groups will need to make their own way as the normal approach of gathering/measuring data could be radically different). Build the data-driven and inspired change into common culture. Experimenting, testing, and learning should become standard.

-Summary-

Big data is a sophisticated approach to business and technical analysis. It involves more complicated technical approaches and vastly larger data to draw upon. As the appropriate skill sets are pulled together, an organization starts finding new and exciting ways of gaining significantly better insights about their market environment, customers, and other important information. To truly get the best of these information gathering sources, an organization needs to take the risk of trying it out and becoming comfortable with ongoing information that fuels changed and improved approaches. The more an organization can learn and take in, the better its efforts will become.

November 2, 2012

Sticking to your values: Strategy to the very core


-Introduction-

Values comprise the genesis of vision and strategy.  These values can be at a corporate level down through an individual level.  From clearly identifying one’s values you establish your baseline on orientation, objectives, and interests.  This baseline can help gauge market fit, potential alignment with a company (if you’re interviewing or investigating partnership), seek the right or wrong short and long term choices, and provide optimal best business environmental conditions for  productivity.  These elements all help show what level of fit a company’s or individual’s values will be with the surrounding environment.  The fit with the environment will enable one to be set up for success or ultimate failure.

-Navigating your Path-

The first component to understand is oneself.  Through that awareness you can set boundaries, enact optimal operating environments, and clearly define decision making frameworks.  This awareness can lead to desired change and/or alignment with others.  Here are some simple examples: sales groups can find the right fit with delivery groups, professional services align to product sales and integration phases, introverted individuals match with extraverted individuals for diversity purposes, and so on. By combining the awareness of oneself with what is needed to execute your strategy, you have a clear gap analysis and actionable areas.

As people and organizations continue market environments, organizational dynamics, and other changes can evolve.  Staying true to your core values is very important, even if making difficult choices has to be done.  By not evolving one’s values or making those choices to stay consistent, that can signal the start of a cascading decline in effectiveness and overall success.

I’ve seen many companies and individuals struggle when they do not have a strong sense of their own values.  Leadership visions, decision making, execution and follow through can all falter if there is not enough clarity and reinforcement behind the driving force.  The early signs can show via culture changes, unexpected behaviors, friction among business units, and a decline in what had been strong.  Values should always represent a strong driving force in vision, strategy, and organizational culture.  As mentioned above, having sufficient awareness can make the action areas clear for strategic implementation.

-Closing-

Know what matters most and least to you.  Make decisions based off of that.  This can lead to your personal success (in whatever way you choose to define it).  These activities of knowing self and organization can dramatically help with understanding what to bring in and what to push out.  From doing that, you can cultivate your organization’s culture and personal fit with perspective partners, employers, suppliers, and definitely customers.  Ultimately, this knowledge can help you and your efforts are more successful when applied to personal or corporate enduring strategy.

August 13, 2012

An approach to maintaining strategic course over time – strategic divestment


-Introduction-

Businesses grow, markets mature, corporate directions change, product/service portfolio evolves, or other broad ranging factors change rapidly or over time.  Encompassing changes like these can have cascading effects and influences in how a business should approach, compete, and operate in their surrounding market environments.  During times like that, it is vitally important to keep up with the market space updates by adding new products, services, partnerships, or other offerings to stay relevant.  What is sometimes overlooked is that as a business moves forward, there can be products, services, customers, operational processes and other ways of doing business may be obsolete or no longer as helpful.

Updating your corporate strategy to streamline operations, profitability, effectiveness, strategic return on investment, product/service mix, and other factors in your approach can make your organization thrive.  The results of these updates can mean altering course, adding new pursuits, or even removing previously undertaken initiatives.  The removal of previous initiatives whether they are projects, services lines, products, acquired companies, etc. is called strategic divestment.

-Optimizing Current and Future Strategy-

Taking on these practices emerges from analysis of your planned future strategy and current strategy to how the resources and capabilities are performing.  It may be that certain customers, even if they are sizeable in nature, require far more attention and input for their size, than other customers.  Having a smaller set of higher quality (increased return/profitability, brand recognition, long term potential, etc.) customers can be the best bet.  It is not always the case that simply having high volume means high profitability.  By having fewer customers that bring increased profitability with less customer attention, which can free up the time needed to work on strategic projects or finding new customers that are also highly profitable.

It can be difficult to move forward with strategic divestment initiatives.  The previous investment of money, time, resources, and energy can make one reticent to move on. It is important to think rationally and to know when the efforts of the past are truly sunk costs.  However, the long term thinking and understanding of the costs (not just money) versus the revenue potential can make those choices clearer and easier to make.

The act of divesting can take many formats as well.  It may be a simple discontinuation of an ongoing program.  It could be selling off a product or set of patents.  Another example might be spinning off a division as a new company.  In this last case, severing or loosening the ties to the organization can make it more effective in the long run.  As was written in earlier articles, innovative new ideas need room to take shape.  A company may want to set up a particular division as a separate entity entirely to allow it to decide on the unique approach, organize, and implement with an approach which would be inhibited (oppressive culture, not moving fast enough, hesitant to take risks, etc.) by being a part of the greater company.

-Moving Forward-

The decision to take on a strategic divestment, as already mentioned, can be tough to work through.  It can also be very challenging to enact.  If you were to tell a long term customer that you’ve opted to longer work with them, which will probably be a shock.  It is important to foresee these challenges and plan your tactics.  Think about the most graceful way to deliver these actions.  It can be important to honor the arrangement (say to the close of a contract), remember and celebrate the progress made, and work to find the best time to move along and help support the transition.  Supporting the transition may mean sending a customer to one or your partner organizations, setting up the child organization (in the case of having the parent company intentionally separate the organizational boundaries), or aligning other helpful services to coordinate the transition.  That type of support can go a long way to continuing the goodwill derived from a company’s engagement and style.  Know that the tough short term decisions may be the right ones for the long term health of a company.

March 14, 2012

Strategy eats culture for breakfast, lunch, and dinner


-Introduction-

I have often heard the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  I flat out disagree with that statement as it assumes strategy has a very limited view and definition.  When I hear that I immediately think that whoever says that has strategy poorly defined.

-Strategy and Culture-

Strategy, as I described it in an earlier article, is the alignment of resources and capabilities to win in the market.  The more important and bigger the strategy in a company means that this encompasses more and more of the resources and capabilities.  Strategy, by its very nature, is meant to encompass as much as possible about the company and particularly all of the factors that influence, empower, and enact it.

Culture is a much discussed organizational topic.  As I see it, all other facets of organization design speak to the intended structure (people alignment, reporting, function), workflow (horizontal, vertical, lateral connections), reinforcement (valuation/benefits, metrics/tracking), and people/policy (who actually fits into the structure, talent management, rules).  Culture is the glue that binds the organizational makeup together because it consists of the behavior, demeanor, and style that the individuals and groups exhibit.  Culture is all about the people and how they work together to enable or disable the organization’s intents.  That then means strategy should include culture in its definition because that speaks to the org’s resources (the people themselves as the most important piece) and capability (how effectively the intentions are carried out).

The Fast Company article of Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch left me wanting to read more as it did not speak to the conflict or overlap that strategy and culture can have.   The article speaks about many of the benefits of culture, but falls short on the linkage of culture to strategy.  When strategy does not take into account the enabling or perhaps disabling elements of culture, then the strategy either does not build on a key strength (where culture enables) or mitigate a primary challenge (where culture disables).   Strategy should always account for culture to help ensure the strategy’s success.  The bigger the change the strategy aims to create, the more impactful culture can be in regards to the adoption of the change, the impact the strategy has on the intangibles (brand, communication, values, etc.), and the overall success because most everything about strategy hinges on people.

-Summary-

Strategy in its definition, planning, and implementation is meant to be encompassing to create a holistic approach.  This means culture should always be a consideration.  When you cook your meals, you want to have all the right ingredients in place.  Without the proper ingredients, your whole meal can be less than desirable if not cause havoc in the kitchen. If you forget an ingredient, disaster can strike in all sorts of ways.  If my own culinary adventures are any indication, Strategy needs to include and address culture whenever culture is an ingredient in the mix.  Where and how have you seen an organizational culture enable strategy’s success?

-Links-

My early strategy article: http://blog.seattlepi.com/organizationalstrategist/2009/10/17/market-leadership-requires-enduring-strategy/

Fast Company article: http://www.fastcompany.com/1810674/culture-eats-strategy-for-lunch

January 30, 2012

Gauging Strategic Need and Action


-Introduction-

There are many challenges that managers and leaders face when devising and implementing their strategies.  There can be a vast array of information present that overwhelms the senses or close to no information at all which can cause hesitation.  Knowing what is the right information to act on and then finding it is an ongoing challenge.  This is due to the myriad of factors that go into creating a strategic vision, rolling it out to the organization(s) involved, and the intricate process of managing the change as it is enacted.

-Utilizing Cynefin Model for Strategic Approach-

With all of these challenges that strategists face, it is hard to understand and know where and how to best proceed.  Along with that, leaders may not always know what they even need because of how the situation might evolve.  A while back I was fortunate enough to be invited to a seminar with Dave Snowden.  He presented his Cynefin model during the seminar.  I found it to be an interesting way of conceptualizing the types of situations that strategists face and recommended activities to pursue.

What the Cynefin model does is to breakdown the various types of situations, problems, and challenges into helpful and manageable segments.  The model has multiple situational domains to fit the kind(s) of information that may be present.  It also describes the level of difficulty to best act upon the domain. Below is a picture of Snowden’s that shows the domains, activities, and kind of practice that can be derived.

Cynefin Framework by Dave Snowden

Thinking about and classifying your current situation can only get you so far.  Knowing how to respond to your situation and what activities to engage in is the crucial juncture to show how effective a strategic implementation can be for a leader.   I’ve built upon Snowden’s work with my interpretations and experiences below to help guide those actions:

Domain

Description

Recommendations

Simple

As the name says, this is the easiest to understand.  The responses here can be laid down into concrete rules to optimize operations and articulate the fine-tuned best practices involved. In this domain, documenting and observing what works well, what works poorly, and the overall impact from activity.  This should be tracked in detail to then fuel continuous improvement initiatives to evolve and optimize an organization’s activities.

Complicated

In this domain, the amount and various types of information make it more challenging to act upon.  Here the breakdown of information into relevant groups and types leads to easier analysis and helping lead the information patterns into the simple domain. A big drive for this domain is to find the right tools to move groups or types of information into the simple domain.  To do this, seek out patterns and analyze the information for any or all of the following aspects:

  • Easiest to act on
  • Highest impact to enable the strategic intent
  • Short term applicability
  • Long term applicability
  • Buy-in from stakeholders
  • Stakeholder input (pain-points, brand recognition, value for stakeholders, etc.)
  • Return on investment
  • Leverage for future opportunities

This is a foundational element of business intelligence and so pulling together the right stakeholder alignment, formal engagement and action process, and communications to enable others to act and scale this approach out en masse. In this and following domains, it can help out tremendously to bring in consultants and experts to help navigate the difficulties of the domain.

Complex

This domain is where having clarity of thought becomes outright difficult.  There are many tougher aspects to tackle and analysis can only go so far.  The probing activity is the start or piloting of ideas, concepts, and efforts to gauge effectiveness and then expand.  As pilots progress, they can create enough clarity to progress a situation into being a complicated one. Using experience, observation, knowledge, resource and any other means to come up with pilot initiatives to see where and how the environment responds.  The rationale for piloting is that it gives clarity into what does and does not work while minimizing the risks involved.  Once an understanding of what works well is known, scaling out that and similar initiatives can be done more effectively and with lower risk overall.  When prioritizing pilot initiatives to undertake consider the following factors to help grasp which option is most promising:

  • Likelihood of user/environment adoption
  • Ease of implementation and experimentation
  • Predicted ROI over short and long duration
  • Influence an impact of stakeholders
  • Effectiveness of stakeholder engagement in a given pilot activity
  • Ability to create a ripple effect or chain reaction of positive inertia
  • Implications for branding purposes (for both the potential positive and negative aspects)
  • Alignment with other strategies and key objectives
  • Transparency into the most important variables
  • Ability to prevent others from entering/competing (blue ocean strategy)

Chaotic

This domain is beyond complex by being without clear order or understanding.  Knowing what is happening is difficult because the influences and moving parts are not clear in themselves.  This area must go on more abstract heuristics of what has worked in the past, like leadership principles, that give clarity into a kind of action but are not prescriptive.  As these are employed, given best judgment, it can help move a situation into a complex one. Here visionary ideas come into question as they may be utilized in full or discrete circumstances.  A leader may have values that are central to her or his teachings and actions.  By imparting those values and how they influence strategy, that can create leadership principles or operating heuristics. In this domain a best guess or try is called upon because there is no clear or definitive approach that can be ascertained.  As with the complex domain, minimizing the risk is an important factor and the risks are even larger here with so many unknowns. 

Perhaps here more than others, it is important to very closely observe, track progress and activity, and learn what happens to then derive patterns and preferred approaches.

-Summary-

As a strategist is immersed in different domains and circumstances, the needs for more thoughtful and thorough organizational development and effectiveness activities grows significantly.  Particularly in complex and chaotic domains, devoting significant time and resources to maximizing the brain power, dedication, and diligence around the strategic activity and implementation becomes chiefly important.  The more challenging a domain may be the bigger the potential risks and the rewards.  Will you be one to take on the biggest challenges or simply watch others? 

-References-

The Wikipedia article and image were both taken from the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin site.

October 24, 2011

McKinsey 7S Model – Progressive Change


-Introduction-

In an earlier article, I introduced the strategic and alignment 7S model from McKinsey.  Assessments, like the 7S or the well-known SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), help establish a snapshot of the status and progress of an organization, product, or service.  These assessments alone do not give lasting value and information as market forces change quickly and often with little notice. As such, an assessment is best utilized as a change catalyst to move the organization forward.

-Applying McKinsey 7S Model Assessments-

With planned change, the destination or future state should be understood first.  This knowledge gives perspective.  Having a future state vision allows one to gauge progress, set targets, and milestones to achieve.  Once the future state is known, the current state can be documented to show a comparison.  This makes it clear what can be leveraged, where the current strengths are, and where there are areas to build or holes to fill.  The gap analysis leads to steps to build upon.

 As covered in the previous article, the McKinsey 7S Model covers multiple facets of an organization.  In order to most effectively change an organization, the foundational characteristics (Shared Values) and broad ranging direction (Strategy) should be addressed first.  Following that, the internal coordination (Structure) and setup (System) should be determined to align to the direction.  Lastly, the more people-centric areas fulfill an organization’s goals and objectives.  That is done via updates to its capability (Skills), individual placement (Staff) and the manners that people interact and work (Style).

 

-Conclusion-

The McKinsey 7S Model is helpful in delivering a comprehensive organizational analysis.  Using that information can lead to a new vision, through internal operation updates, and down to individual abilities and placement.  Mapping out change in its entirety is very helpful in its planning.  The successful execution and management of that change then requires a comprehensive, dedicated, business impact-focused, and sustained effort.

October 2, 2011

A competitive evaluation of Google+

Filed under: Strategy, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Whit @ 3:56 pm

Every once in a while a new technology comes around that takes the spotlight.  In that attempt, Google+ has recently been released and has been gaining traction.  However, will it become a passing fad that does not go anywhere?

The features of Google+, or G+ as I’ve abbreviated it, are very appealing yet much the same as its major competitor, Facebook.  There are differences of course in the future planned areas, such as the video chat that has been advertised.  While the core of means of sharing information remains much the same.  A big usability advantage is that G+ has “circles,” which makes specialized information distribution significantly easier.  There lies a compelling difference between Facebook and G+.

Right now, G+ is steadily growing and has a high utilization rate.  I anticipate this is principally due to the early adopters who are tech enthusiasts and love playing with and sharing techie tools and stories. 

What Google+ can do to make people switch over from Facebook:

  • New, engaging features that will distinguish G+
  • Make the transition easy (port over other social network content like profile information, friends, images, etc.)
  • Link with specialized social networks (LinkedIn as an example) to span across sites for sharing and/or pulling in information

What G+ can do to retain its new users:

  • Continue to make the user experience positive (features, updates, etc.)
  • Maintain the distinctive appeals of G+ and Google’s brand image (simplicity, search/sharing information, links with other Google services)
  • Balance new services with the user acceptance and adoption (The auto-upload of pictures on my phone is an example that makes me hesitant to install G+ there)

Facebook has rolled out many updates in recent years that were very negatively perceived by its users.  What was popular and effective was replaced by convoluted, poor interfaces that confused people and took away what was appreciated.  Facebook has adjusted and evolved over time though.  However, activity like that will lessen the loyalty a user has to the service.  This leads to an opportunity for substitute services, like G+.  However, if G+ were to take the same approach of losing touch with its users, then the same loyalty loss may occur.

Time will tell as to whether G+ wins out on the dominant social network service.  What are your thoughts how it will turn out?

-Facebook’s recent timeline update-

As I was amid the drafting and editing process for this article, I saw on the news that Facebook was going to roll out a large timeline feature to its site.  This was seen as both a means to compete against Google+ and a new feature for Facebook.  This would be a compelling advancement for Facebook if users were to involve themselves and take the time to intimately personalize their information.   It would be a strong point for people to stay with Facebook if their information and interactions are unique.  This also helps if other users are involved, make the connections stronger, and share/connect information together.  That network externality could bring immense benefits.

To brand new social network/navigation users though, Google+ will still likely be an easy entrance point if its general sharing and reading functionality continues to be better.  Facebook would then become the offering for those that have more time and energy to put into their profiles. 

 

Some nice links from Mashable.com that describe Google+:

http://mashable.com/2011/07/16/google-plus-resources/

http://mashable.com/2011/07/16/google-plus-guide/

http://mashable.com/2011/07/01/google-the-pros-cons/

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