The Organizational Strategist

October 29, 2014

Leading and Influencing Change Across Organizations


-Introduction-

Companies have many different alignment and operating models. Some are small, dynamic, and nimble, often sharing major activities with multiple parties, using a flatter organizational structure. Others are large, structured, and consistent, often centrally controlled and structured, and using a clear upward and downward hierarchy. Beyond that, there are companies that blend the two extremes. Networks, partnerships, franchises, and other types allow for specialization by product, cause, service, customer type, geography, or other focus area.

There is no one best approach. With increased central control, it becomes easier and simpler to act on top strategic priorities as all areas need to snap to it. Yet, it becomes much more difficult to adapt. With more distributed authority, many more activities can be done in an adaptive, emerging manner. Yet, having a systemic method of operating or repeatability is challenging. How can a company balance the benefits and style of being nimble and adaptable with repeatability and consistency? Let’s dive in!

-Taking the plunge-

Let’s take the example of franchises since they are a well-known blend of central elements, yet customize their approach by region. They are often independently owned and operated with support and shared benefits from the parent organization. The franchises localize their approach to their established region, which can make them very competitive and compelling to customers. This gives the franchise leadership the ability to innovate and find the best manner to meet market needs. At the same time, the franchise can leverage the parent company’s support, branding, marketing, operating models, standard products and services, and potentially other benefits. This helps the franchise organization to focus its efforts on its market (customer segments, product and service selection or refinement, adaptation to suit customer needs and wants, and so forth).

Often franchise businesses have some discretion to pick and choose what they use and how they operate. This then puts the parent company in more of an enablement position, instead of a directly leading role. That then means that if the parent company wants to change how something is done in the child organizations, it needs to be a blend of both exerting formal power and, likely more importantly, influencing that change.

That blend of formal power and informal influence is where the art of designing and implementing change comes into play, as opposed to a disciplined scientific method to change. It is less of a scientific effort because each region that a franchise operates in may have unique needs and approaches to success. That means that the central change to be rolled out, perhaps changing how to interact with customers, would need to have its core principles articulated and allow for region-specific adaptations for fit and market interest. Putting together assets such as vision materials, operating principles, guidelines, recommended best practices, and templates all provide lift while allowing for the innovative adaptation to the local region.

To pull together the overall change throughout the organization, it can help to break down the components of change. I’ll use the Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement (ADKAR®) model here:

Awareness – How aware are the franchises of the upcoming change?

The franchises would need to be clearly told what the upcoming change is, how it is going to happen, when it will be in place, and other details to simply understand the planned change.

Desire – How much desire or motivation do the franchises have for the upcoming change?

The franchises should be bought into this change. They should understand why it is important and helpful for both them as well as the parent company. The importance could be in any number of avenues (improve customer satisfaction, promote new market products that have sold really well elsewhere, and so forth).

Knowledge – How much knowledge do the franchises have around the upcoming change?

The franchises should be able to articulate the change in their own words and how it applies to them. As an example, if they are to sell a new product, they would need to understand the product details.

Ability – How able are the franchises to handle and adapt to the upcoming change?

The franchises must have the right skills, proficiency, time, resources, and so forth to enact this change.

Reinforcement – How well reinforced is the upcoming change to ensure it will last over time?

In order to ensure the change will persist and not revert back to the previous approach, the change would need to be rolled out in such a way that the new approach is adopted, tracked, and sustained.

-Summary-

Every organizational model has its own strengths and best fit uses. Along with that, each type has its own best fit approaches for evolving and leading change in and across the organization. Understanding where and how to strategically and tactically make changes in an organization is crucial for a transformative leader. For those would-be leaders, strive to find that right blend of art and science to lead and manage change. Good luck!

 

Please note that the ADKAR Model® and the Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement phrase are copyrights of Prosci, all rights reserved.

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May 5, 2014

Driving Big Data Insights


-Introduction-
We’ve heard many things about big data. It is a hot topic in many businesses and has the IT industry scrambling for these capabilities. In my earlier post (Mobilizing a Data Driven Organization), I outlined how to ensure your organization is ready, able to scale/extend the benefits, and mature the overall approach. A specific area that organizations have difficulty is finding the right avenue to make adjustments to their business to ensure the benefits of big data are realized.

-Let’s Make Big Data Real-
Big data comes into play when there is often a large amount of data, multiple different types of data, and changing/evolving/updating data. Without those elements, more traditional data analysis can be done and the new sophisticated BI approaches are not as necessary. Once you have your Big Data solution up and running, there are a handful of key questions and action areas to dive into:

What sort of data should I look for most? – Big data allows for all sorts of intriguing information, but you should ground it on key patterns and predictable trend forecasts. Having multiple sources of information, each with potentially different data quality, data types (qualitative, quantitative, derived, etc.), and applicability means that there will be varying levels of trust and actionable insight you can derive. That’s why focusing on what is most reliable, repeatable, and assured is a good start. As you find the quick wins, low hanging fruit, and so on you can start to expand your sense making into the more experimental areas.

What should I prioritize? – There may be many aspects that are simply to focus on initially like potential highest return on investment for your actions, easiest to implement, minimal impact to your valued stakeholders/customers, areas that should touch on the key pain points (e.g. customer satisfaction, market share expansion, product quality, service bundling opportunities, etc.) and so on. All that being said, it is very important to align to the long term strategy and organization objectives since those should signal short and long term viability of the actions you want to take. This includes a focus on the key performance indicators, target metrics, needs for your business, and tactical advantages it may provide your organization in the marketplace.

How should I take the Big Data initiative into action across my organization? – Now that your big data solution has pulled in the right information sources and you’ve got your focus areas and priorities set, you want to help your organization make the potential benefits your BI insights highlight. It’s important to realize that the bigger your BI solution is and has potential for multiple organizational improvements; the more it will need a concerted effort to build the capacity for changes for short and long term.

For each insight and improvement you see from mining the BI solution do the following-
• Share the finding with all the right stakeholders (it helps to think of stakeholders who are Interested, Informed, Impacted, or Involved in the area to be changed) and the proposed change to take place. This should include the rationale for the adjustment (e.g. impact on the bottom line, increased profits, better quality results, and so on) as said by the key leader and/or manager so it can relate to the stakeholder audiences.
• Pull together the right team to implement the intended change (project managers, analysts, engineers, etc.) to build out or refine the solution area. You want to make certain that you have capable and well aligned people involved so that the intended business results can be seen.
• Standardize the new/improved solution. While there may be straightforward updates or positioning changes in many BI insights, there may be contextual information that needs to be shared, revised process, and/or an adjustment to how to act in the targeted area (different behaviors or skills needed). Additionally, it is important to plan for and check in later on to ensure that the changed area really sticks (e.g. is the process being followed as planned? Were the key messages truly heard and understood?)
You can imagine that for each of the insight and improvements, it can be a lot of work. At a programmatic level, this means building out the long term resources and capabilities to execute those actions. They can be generalized in this way:
• Build a robust steering and sponsoring committee to inform the communication approach. Having the right people who have formal/informal power and influence included in the program is vitally important in carrying the changes to fruition. There should be a regular cadence of meeting to address the potential pick list and ongoing prioritization of changes to invest in. The more often the BI source data changes, the more frequent the cadence should be.
• Pull together a standard communication plan and approach (mapping the right channels, standard types of communications, and cadence to see the changes to fruition). The larger this BI implementation fueled program is, the more you may want to invest in centralized communication vehicles like a company intranet portal (SharePoint or otherwise), a customer/partner facing blog, or other common landing place for information sharing.
• Build up your capacity/resources as needed to bolster and fulfill the plan. Having an incubation team in place will be important. This can become a PMO if there are many different incubation team projects to ensure standardization, effectiveness, and efficiency in the fulfillment of the BI insights. Having standards in place also helps make it easier to gauge the relative success and longer term maturation of the incubation efforts.
• Build and evolve a training curriculum (including relevant infrastructure). The BI insights may be anything from how to straightforward education of consumers to use your products in a different manner to instill a long term behavior change of service delivery. This includes both the content creation as well as having the right people in place to update/maintain and deliver the content.
• Set up a long term governance approach. A good BI solution can likely give short and long term guidance as well as feedback to see where/how the updates are landing. In many cases, the BI analysis will give a whole series of areas to improve upon so this can form a pick list of areas to invest in and see to fruition. To make it so the programmatic, not just one off, changes are instilled there should be a devoted effort to continually evaluate the approaches, experiments, and end results.

-Moving Forward-
The promise of big data has drawn many innovators and companies to devise and start BI solutions. Big data solutions will not lead the intended powerful impact if it does not have the plan and capability to land effectively. Pulling together not only the BI solution, but the support and organizational capacity to fully act on the insights is vital. Be sure to build up the BI and big data resources along with the capability to drive change throughout the organization’s inner and external workings.

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.

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.

July 31, 2011

Strategic Wisdom: An informed action is the impactful one


Wisdom is defined by dictionary.com as the following:

1. the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.

2. scholarly knowledge or learning: the wisdom of the schools.

3. wise sayings or teachings; precepts.

There are many things I appreciate or learn from others that I find to be wisdom.  What may be wisdom to me may not be the same to others.  That is because what is insightful varies based on perspective and experience.  If I were to receive the same advice as I heard recently during a radically different phase of my life, I may not find it interesting or valuable.  In recollection though, I have found that old wisdom still rings true when I place myself back in the mindset and position I was in. 

I’ve compiled a short list of phrases or sayings that I have found to be astute and helpful that applies to the context of the Organizational Strategist.  These may be from famous sources, but they are currently unknown to me.  I hope you find them to be valuable in your own way. 

 

Words create worlds – I heard this saying in regards to appreciative inquiry designs and dialogues.  The words that are chosen to create inquiry, start and intervention, or bring about new thought signal what is to come.  The core design of a question is the harbinger of what will come from the response.  Choose your words with care and thought to bring about new ideas and actions.

Distinction in strategy is powerful – Strategy is the alignment of capabilities and resources to win in a market.  If the mix of capabilities and resources create a unique approach, it becomes more difficult to duplicate or substitute.  This makes them more appealing, interesting, and sustainable over time.  This differentiation is often a core element of many of the most influential strategies.

Health comes before strategy – While devising and implementing strategy are vitally important to the success of an organization, health can be more important.  If an organization is very unhealthy, it will not matter if the strategy is magnificently planned because people are what make strategy effective.  Having a healthy and productive organization is the foundation that long term strategy needs to build on.

Strategy wins over culture – Strategy is mean to be the alignment of ALL the applicable capabilities and resources in an organization to win in its market. That would include the behavior and activity that happens among the people within the organization.  The culture of an organization is often an important element in victory or defeat.  Due to that, successful strategies should pay heed to the importance of culture and how it enables or disables the effectiveness of strategy.

Culture change starts via stories and examples – The culture of an organization is grown and cultivated over time.  It is not a simple level to switch or dial to spin.  What initiates culture change is vision, storytelling, leadership, and guiding principles for others to take ahold of and build upon.

People act on what is measured and tracked – Aspirational statements and visions do not have direct impact to people unless it falls within their power and ability to act upon.  People may be well intentioned and give extra effort, but if they are not contributing to the core metrics of an organization, they will not be as effective.  As a result of that, key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking form the basis of what is most important in an organization.  If it is measured and tracked where people are held accountable to those qualitative or quantitative results, it will be more important for those people to act upon.

Innovation should be protected and incubated – Innovation by its core nature involves ideas and trying something new or different.  The more a company has a drive for delivery, the further detached the innovation should become.  That enables more freedom in thinking and the ability to experiment.

Do not try to apply lean principles to innovation – Like the above point, innovation involves creativity. Lean, Six Sigma, CMMI and other mechanisms for process improvement do very well for maturing processes.  However, they should not be imposed on new processes and ideas as they can stifle the possibilities that can emerge.

Every change is an opportunity – Whether change is occurring because something good or bad is expected to happen, treat the approach as a new opportunity.  By thinking openly, the solutions to challenges, problems, or goals can lead to far better results than the anticipated return to a status quo.

People do not inherently resist change, but they do resist being changed – Much like taxes, change is a constant force in everyone’s lives.  It may be slower or faster, dramatic or gradual, positive or negative or other elements.  Change is something we all exposed to and happens whether or not we are ready for it.  Yet, when we plan, understand, and welcome change it can be embraced and boosting.  If we fight it, then it becomes a battle or a war.  The important point is that inspiring others to buy-in to change makes it so they accept it.

If you have thoughts to share on these sayings or other ones that have been valuable to you, share them here!  I am sure to not be the only one who would enjoy the conversation and learning.

June 8, 2011

Celebrate Success to Build Momentum


 I have been on many projects individually and as a part of a team where I felt I did great work and the results had a very strong, positive impact. Unfortunately, some of those projects led immediately into another project without honoring the work done, which helps in understanding and learning from the experience.  It also allows for “taking a breather” to regain faculties and energy. It is even more draining leaving a difficult or intense project and launching immediately into another.   I’ve seen very efficient and effective teams change their working dynamic and devolve into a challenging work environment.

On other occasions, an acknowledged break or departure from business as usual takes place after a major milestone to step back from the next step in line.  Activities like lessons learned, honoring commitments made and realized, acknowledging achievements and taking a break to relax are done to celebrate the great strides made and success of the project.  After such activities, I have seen low morale transform into high hopes and positive outlooks, a renewal of effort and commitments, performance improvement decisions for individuals and teamwork, and increased energy going into the next project. 

No one and no team can sustain high output and performance indefinitely.  Similar to how everyone needs to sleep, despite what some might say, everyone needs an occasional break.  It does not take much and simply having a team dinner, commemorative meeting or other special occasion can go a long ways to renewal.

When you have the occasion to celebrate success, make the time to look into the following areas:

  • Acknowledge strengths and accomplishments of your team and colleagues: This feedback reinforces continuity, performance, confidence, and morale.  Strengths based change is very powerful, energizing, and renewing in itself.  If there are people that have natural strengths that help out the team, go to the extra effort to praise them and enable those strengths to be drawn upon.
  • Learn from experience and past results: Understand what went well and what has not gone well.  Knowing these areas and making plans to extend the good parts and mitigate the bad parts leads to increased likelihood of success in the future.  Too often we are learning on the job through trial and error or by having to make snap judgments on how best to proceed.  Taking time to reflect, understand what happened, and understand how the strengths and/or accomplishments can be expanded, reused, or heightened in the future can be a very impactful and fruitful activity.
  • Build team and individual confidence, reliance, and overall effectiveness:  A well-functioning team is more than just the sum of its individual contributions together.  First a discussion on the accomplishments and achievements made by individuals should be done.  After that, the team should examine where and how those work products can be leveraged or built upon at the team level.  That leads to making the skills, strengths, and cooperation of a team complementary and generative.  The end results are that the work products make a lead ahead in their impact.

As an individual contributor, team member, manager, and/or leader take the time to celebrate the successes that you and others on your team have created.  You may be surprised to see how that can help you, your team and your organization in the future.

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