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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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.

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.

September 21, 2011

Distinctive approaches bring value inside and outside companies


-Introduction-

Large and successful companies are often recognized for their distinctive characteristics, services, and products.  Those elements set the company apart due to the unique or unusual corporate actions taken and results achieved.  My previous topics of sustainable competitive advantages and blue ocean strategy speak to activities and frameworks that enable a company to realize the many benefits of distinction and focus from a market share and competition standpoint.   There are other benefits that can be realized via an organization’s evolution to become powerful and distinctive.

-Organizational Benefits from Distinction-

Blue ocean strategy covers how having unique or highly unusual offerings helps create lasting market share and protection from competitors (new and old).  This is a very impactful and helpful outcome for an organization’s long term customer prospects.  Beyond those benefits, striving towards and gradually becoming distinctive offers benefits internal to an organization as well.

The devotion to a cause or admirable pursuit of something special is a potent motivating factor.  Employees who feel that they are a part of something special, unusual, unique or otherwise extraordinary have significantly increased engagement, energy, dedication, and better results.  If an organization is distinct, that can lead to such increased engagement in the employees.  Furthering that, finding the right kind of organizational fit with applicants becomes much easier for hiring managers and for the applicants themselves to know if there is a clear match or not.  This kind of focus and draw helps bring together people that will reinforce and further the distinguishing elements of an organization. 

Having distinction also provides clarity and focus to decision making.  Options and recommendations can be weighed against supporting or hindering the differences an organization has created.  This check and balance makes decision making and supporting measures easier to understand and act upon.  The simple reduction of options speeds up and helps qualify decisions.  This becomes especially important for marketing and decisions that impact outward facing functions.  Brand recognition for differentiated products or services makes an organization much more memorable and impactful to consumers.  As such, organizations that are distinct have tremendous potential with consumer awareness initiatives. 

-Building Organizational Distinction-

With the benefits of distinction and differentiation being many, the case for change is compelling.  The devising, aligning and adhering to a plan is a substantial undertaking and effort.  Many of my other articles speak to the implementation and acting on strategy so I will leave that out this time.  That leaves the origin and devising where and how to build an organization’s distinction.  To discover ideas, approaches, and strategies, try the following activities:

  • Observe the market to look for gaps, areas of need, or simply where offerings can be accessed
  • Learn trends in consumer habits, spot opportunities, or create avenues to make new inroads to reach customers and deliver value
  • Study companies and competitors in the relevant industries to see what is most helpful, valuable or otherwise good for customers, employees, large scale results, etc.
  • Prepare and orient the capabilities and resources in your organization around the areas to build distinction to capture those observed or discovered opportunities
  • Place barriers against competitors for existing market share and/or to prevent new entrants to come in
  • Enact sustaining measures for the existing market share so it maintains, if not grows over time

-Conclusion-

The organizational appeal to become distinct is strong and potentially very rewarding.  Entrepreneurial pursuits are vital in discovering the opportunities to be found.  Dedication, guidance, and ongoing management are needed to carefully cultivate the distinction opportunities.  The results can leave competitors in the dust, reach new impact and benefit levels and make profound changes on how business is conducted.  What are the opportunities you see for your organization?  How might your organization take on that potential?

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.

February 27, 2011

Focus on core strategy to create new venture success


-Introduction-

New ventures are absolutely captivating.  When people are involved they have stars in their eyes and can image all sorts of amazing outcomes.  When undertaking such a new venture, it is helpful to have the end goal in mind so that you work toward it.  However, building capability and resources to gradually reach the end goal is what needs to be done initially.  Enduring strategy is very hard to create and it takes time, investment, and, perhaps most of all, a whole lot of effort.

-Evolving strategy-

To begin, the core of the strategy should be developed and the focus.  The core of the strategic will be the central area that the organization is founded on and is likely created from the founder’s big idea to kick it off.  This should be the primary priority for the founders and initial stakeholders.  I say primary because everything will seem to be of high importance.  Building an organization from scratch is a sizeable undertaking and many aspects need to be in place in order for a new venture to be successful.  All of the components, from idea creation through implementation and going to market, are needed.  The enormity of such an effort can be mindboggling and overwhelming. 

Do not despair!  The first large phase is to create the core strategy’s foundation.  From there, the following steps become clearer and, hopefully, can build upon successes along the way.  The reason for focusing on the core strategy is because that area of the organization will derive the short and long term payoff that can make an organization successful.  Without the core strategy, all the resources and capabilities will not have direction and alignment to achieve.  It may survive through small acts of heroic employees, but it would not be sustainable because of burnout of people and resources.  Taking on everything at once should only be reserved for those that already have the auxiliary components of the organization.  Even then, it must be a balance of what can be build and the pressure of going to market.

To make it so that you can focus on the core strategy, find ways to get through the overhead and administration of a new venture in an effective manner.  That will likely mean partnering with other organizations, hiring auxiliary service providers (HR, Accounting, Marketing, whatever is not central to your organization, etc.), and/or simply outsourcing aspects of the business (infrastructure, call centers, logistics handlers, etc.) to ensure that you can deliver on whatever product or service your venture creates or augments. 

-Summary-

This is a short term focus to make it so that the venture is supported and enabled as it evolves.  It is important to be patient and make certain the organization is ready to evolve and grow before moving ahead.  If an organization grows too quickly, it might cave in from overextending itself.  Over time, taking back these non-core elements will become more appealing so that the core strategy can expand and touch more facets of the organization.  It’s generally more efficient and effective to have such aspects in-house as well.  As milestones are reached and success grows, organizational inertia helps propel organizations forward.  Those first few big occasions pave the path forward to fulfilling all those starry eyed dreams.

February 20, 2011

Setting up a new venture for success


-Introduction-

It is an energizing and inspiring thought to consider leading your own company or venture.  The possibilities seem limitless as you know you can shape where and how the ideas come to reality.  As the leader, CEO/President, founder, etc. you can shape all of the key organizational elements of strategy, structure, workflow, reinforcement and policies.  However, having the intended design implemented can be a considerable initial and ongoing challenge.   That is why finding the right people to support and enable your ideas is absolutely critical.

-The critical people-

The smaller the size of your organization, the more impact every individual will have upon strategic implementation, normal operations and the future opportunities.  With that in mind, the people you initially bring along with you or bring into your new organization will have a huge impact in ways you can imagine and many that you will not. 

With the importance of those partners or supporters in mind, what should the aspiring inventors, leaders, and founders look for?  The most important element would be if they can enable the key strategic aims of the venture.  The recruits should have resources and/or capabilities to complement or augment you abilities and resources, as the person in charge.  It is important to know where you, as the strategic powerhouse, need to apply your ideas, skills, resources, and abilities.  It may be equally as important to know where you should not be investing your time.  This part may be due to lack of experience, ability, resources, or simply interest. 

Another important aspect is regarding the structure and workflow of the organization you want to create.  The key players involved in carrying out the core strategy will have large impacts into the company culture.  Since the key players will be tied to the vital activities, they will be relied upon and their actions will carry weight into how things are done then and into the future.  The people you bring into your company or venture should be people you like, want to work with, and know that would work well with you and others.  It is important to make the distinction between simply hiring friends and hiring colleagues who are friends.  Much like a friend that really should not or just cannot be a good roommate, there are friends that you should not bring into your organization.  Those friends may not like to function at the same hours as you (they might be morning people while you’re a night person).  They might like a home where laundry is always on display over the couch and bed, while you like home clean and orderly at all times.  Styles and approaches may or may not complement each other.  It is good to have diversity of approach as long as it adds value instead of stands in the way.  There are many more examples where you can find parallels between the way you know them as friends and what is important for your other roles.  Ultimately, you and others will need to rely upon them for getting both the strategic and non-strategic work done in a productive and hopefully fun manner.  

-Closing-

First know what it will take to achieve your strategic aims and where/how you want to be involved.  Second, understand that your new organization will require a certain mix of talent, resources, and intangible attributes to succeed.  For those that are dreaming of new horizons, think on whom you know or you should get to know that will help create the future you envision.  A new venture requires a lot of hard work, but the rewards can become amazing.  Good luck!

December 28, 2010

The problem with problems


There have been many times I’ve encountered client ‘pain points’, corporate problems that need fixing, organizational symptoms that need cures, and other various difficulties or challenges that need to be overcome.  Consulting and professional advancement often takes on an approach that aims to remedy the bad parts of an organization.  There, it takes empathy, listening, and observation to grasp where having a quick impact can be accomplished.  It is often easy to see what needs to change in these situations and find the right mitigation can lead to strong results. 

However, focusing around fixing a problem is inherently limiting.  I call this a “deficit-based” approach or focus.  It is deficit-based because it is looking at something that is underperforming, worse than the norm, or otherwise below the accepted operational standard.  With this kind of deficit-based focus, the optimal solution is to return things to the status quo.  It’s the patch that returns the flow of work back to the expected pace or output.  With a deficit-based approach, the outcome of the consulting initiative will result in returning the flow of business to the accepted status quo.  By defining the status quo as the planned end result, it prevents growth, acceleration, or otherwise improvement beyond the current thinking. 

Our business society is an ever-evolving environment.   It can be really difficult to take time away from delivering or working on an output to revisit the design or original intention.  We are forced to make decisions without knowing all of the information.  Our efforts need to change along with the environment and that means making the most of our efforts. 

When uncovering an area that needs to be changed, approach it as an opportunity.  In any time where a planned change is to occur, take the time to understand the implications of the decisions and actions.  Simply “fixing” the problem will leave the organization as it was in the past before whatever change caused a problem in the first place.  This may mean the organization is obsolete, even with the problem being fixed.  When a computer starts to slow down and eventually whirrs its last hard disk spin, a consumer would not replace the machine with the same model as the original.  The consumer would go out and buy a new computer with improved technical specifications!  Understanding the design, underlying thinking, and assumptions can do much to clarify what should be done for the future.  Additionally, new information, ideas, and possibilities are ripe for the picking.  These are where the opportunities are for the next level to be achieved.  By incorporating new information and design elements, the resulting organization can become much better than what was the “status quo.”  This different approach can take the simple fix into a revolutionary advancement!

October 4, 2010

Motivating your organization to advance strategically


-Introduction-

Many of the posts made on this blog are about devising, understanding, and setting the right strategy. Crafting the right strategy is absolutely essential to make your organization win. Taking the strategy and implementing it can be an entirely different challenge. With the larger the number of people involved and the more complex the strategy is, the harder it can be to align the resources and capabilities. Organizational development makes that alignment occur. The means to enact organizational development requires motivation of the people involved. That motivation can take three different forms, each with their own approach.

-The three ways to motivate-

The three ways to motivate are faith, fact, and fear. Faith is the belief that something good will happen. Fact is grounded in using historic information to predict future occurrences. Fear is the belief that something bad will happen.  

Fear is the easiest to enact. I am reminded that this tactic is prevalent throughout our society when I see political campaigns, the evening news, or read newspapers. Simply by creating doubt, fear is enabled. Fear that something bad will happen is a strong pull. When used throughout an organization, it makes building trust harder, saps the energy of the people involved, and can lead to differing and opposing factions.

Fact is a methodical and time intensive approach to utilize. Data can be collected throughout an organization’s operations or brought in via market research, intelligence or data gathering services. Having a factual understanding of what has happened can be a strong indicator of what will happen in the future. The difficulty of relying too much on previous data is that new or changing environments with new or different variables may mean that the data is not available, or worse, deceiving and misdirecting.

Faith is likely the hardest to perform effectively. The belief that something will go well in the future must be built on trust. Trust can be difficult to build and is easy to break down. Blind faith can lead to poor decision making and action, just like the other over-uses of fear and fact. Yet, the belief and hope of positive notions is freeing and enabling. This is where visionary or inspirational motivation shines as it brings out the best in people and energizes those involved.

-Conclusion-

There is a right fitting time and place for each of the three motivational approaches. Motivation is what spurs on change. That change in the organization can make the strategy effective and realize its aims. The combination of the grounded nature of fact and uplifting character of faith is the best approach to take with guiding an organization. Having a factual, data driven environment ensures that the change is made and tracked in an informed manner. Having an inspired view of the future allows for creativity and openness.  Environments that utilize the best of fact and faith are both effective and enabling. That is where the most powerful strategies can be realized.

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