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.

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