The Organizational Strategist

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.

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November 2, 2012

Sticking to your values: Strategy to the very core


-Introduction-

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

-Navigating your Path-

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

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

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

-Closing-

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

August 13, 2012

An approach to maintaining strategic course over time – strategic divestment


-Introduction-

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

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

-Optimizing Current and Future Strategy-

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

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

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

-Moving Forward-

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

March 14, 2012

Strategy eats culture for breakfast, lunch, and dinner


-Introduction-

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

-Strategy and Culture-

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

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

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

-Summary-

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

-Links-

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

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

January 30, 2012

Gauging Strategic Need and Action


-Introduction-

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

-Utilizing Cynefin Model for Strategic Approach-

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

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

Cynefin Framework by Dave Snowden

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

Domain

Description

Recommendations

Simple

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

Complicated

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

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

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

Complex

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

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

Chaotic

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

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

-Summary-

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

-References-

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

October 24, 2011

McKinsey 7S Model – Progressive Change


-Introduction-

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

-Applying McKinsey 7S Model Assessments-

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

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

 

-Conclusion-

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

June 29, 2011

Establish your foundational tool set to seed success


Earlier this year I was reading the book Change Making by Richard Bevan and I got to thinking about how it is important to have “tools” ready ahead of time for your work.  Much like a blacksmith has an anvil, a forge, sets of tongs, and other items that are needed for the craft, a strategist should have important materials on hand.  In the corporate world, these often take the form of templates and process documents for repeated use.  In more thought based scenarios conceptual frameworks can be generated to allow for the needed customization of each objective. 

There is some foundational infrastructure and planning that an organization must do to have at the ready.  These are areas in which having a plan can really benefit or secure an organization’s efforts for the long term.  As a short sample, here are tools an organization needs before their intended use:

–          Marketing materials, specifically company branding

  • All office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Project, etc.)
  • Letterhead for formal communications
  • Website
  • Other branding documents (ex: hand-outs, product/service pamphlets)

–          Legal documentation

  • Purchase Orders/Invoices
  • Accounting/HR materials
  • Personnel  materials
  • Company agreements and deals

–          Thought leadership

  • Organizational mission, vision, strategy, and objectives
  • Trademarks, patents and other proprietary idea information
  • Product and service delivery plans

In addition to the special purpose materials above, there are many efforts that can be built in such a way that they can create operational efficiency gains later on.  Here is a sample, and definitely non-exhaustive, list of reusable tools that can be created and later repurposed:

–          Structured meeting notes (it helps to have a guide and flow to record discussions)

–          Project Communications

  • Kick-off announcement
  • Progress update
  • Feedback request
  • Request for action
  • Go-live announcement
  • Close out announcement

–          Deliverables

  • Visually appealing or structured slides
  • Reports (assessments, progress, recommended actions, etc.)
  • Approach summaries
  • Designs
  • Processes
  • Requirements/Objectives
  • QA/Test/Audit materials
  • Question sets (surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.)
  • Workshop and offsite materials (timing, structure, ground rules, agenda, etc.)

The challenge is to find the right thresholds in standardizing and formalizing.  If too much policy is dictated or documentation is required, it can become burdensome and counterproductive.  The higher security or sensitivity that needs to be incorporated, the more thought needs to be put into its preparation.  As services are delivered, the iterative improvement process can lead to fantastic results. Often times, the guiding principle is to create a foundational process and have best practices brought in, but not mandated, to allow for ingenuity and innovation. 

Is your organization equipped with the right tools for success?

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.

May 24, 2011

The Evergreen Model: The gateway strategy model as an assessment


-Introduction-

In my previous blog article, I introduced the Evergreen Model, which is also known as the 4 + 2 Model.  This article will dive into how to use the model as an assessment for internal or external consulting purposes.   There are sets of questions should be expanded upon during an assessment’s data gathering. 

-Assessing the Core Elements-

Strategy Questions-

  1. What is the organization’s strategy aiming to achieve?
  2. Describe how it is organized, aligned, and implemented.
  3. How does the organization grow?  What is the track record?  What are the future plans?
  4. What is the value proposition to customers?

 

Execution Questions-

  1. Rate and describe the organization’s product and/or service delivery.
  2. What is done to continually improve delivery? How does that compare to the industry?
  3. How does the organization respond to changing market conditions?
  4. How satisfied are customers?

 

Culture Questions-

  1. Describe the organizational culture.  What is valued and sought after?
  2. How are the desired behaviors reinforced (reward/punishment)?
  3. What were the founding principles of the organization?
  4. Where and how do the founding principles show through?

 

Structure Questions-

  1. How are employees organized? What are the accountability relationships?
  2. What is the information flow like? 
  3. How are decisions made and carried out?
  4. Does the structure enable work to be done at higher quality, faster, and/or with fewer resources?

 

-Assessing the Auxiliary Elements-

Talent Questions-

  1. What is done to develop and cultivate the employees?
  2. How happy are the employees?  What is the attrition and retention like?
  3. How engaged are the employees?  Do they enjoy the work, find it interesting and thrive in the challenges?
  4. What are the selection and promotion processes?  What is leadership’s involvement there?

 

Innovation Questions-

  1. How are new ideas incorporated into new and existing products, services, and operations?
  2. How does the organization stay on top of industry developments?
  3. What does the organization do to innovate?  How successful is the organization at innovating?

 

Leadership Questions-

  1. How does leadership interact with employees?  How is the leadership committed to execution?
  2. What is the vision and mission that employees hear from leadership?
  3. What is the relationship between employees and leadership like (trusting, inspirational, proud, etc.)?
  4. How invested is leadership to the success of the organization?

 

Mergers & Partnerships Questions-

  1. How does the organization work with other organizations?  Are there M&As or partnerships?
  2. What is the size and scope of these deals and partnerships?
  3. How effectively do the M&A deals go through (before and after)?
  4. How effectively do the organizations and partners work together?

 

With the Auxiliary Elements, it may be necessary to first determine which the two selections are or what should be the two selections.  Each element can lead to substantial organizational efforts, so finding where to focus efforts can help ensure an organization is not spreading itself too thin.  The Auxiliary Elements can form sustainable competitive advantages as well. 

-Analyzing Results and Next Steps-

The analysis should look for themes and patterns in the following aspects:

  • Consistency
  • Alignment
  • Conflicts
  • Gaps
  • Support

 

A traditional SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis could be done as well.  Other questions that should be examined include:

  • What is the core like in relation to the auxiliary areas?
  • What are the best and worst auxiliary areas?
  • What are the chosen two auxiliary areas, if it’s not already known?
    • What should they be?
    • What needs to change?

 

The exact next steps would be dependent on the question results.  Each element, both in the core and the auxiliary sets, could result in further investigation and targeted initiatives.  Here are some general guidelines to act upon:

  • The core 4 are absolutely vital.  These form the basis of a successful organization so those would have prioritized action.
  • Choose the 2 auxiliary options, if it is not already clear.  Then focus and refine those to make them core competencies of the organization. 
  • The SWOT analysis should lend itself to combinations of Strengths (S), Strengths and Opportunities (SO) and Strengths and Threats (ST) to overcome the Weakness (W) areas.

 

These questions and analysis points can give you a great start into determining how effective the 4 core and 2 selected elements are in an organization.  Share how your assessments go and what other tools and techniques are useful complements!

May 21, 2011

The Evergreen Model: The gateway strategy model


-Introduction-

Like other strategic models, the Evergreen Model has its best case uses and poor fits.  The Evergreen Model, also known as the 4 + 2 Model, is a good for a general organizational framework.  The Evergreen Model looks into core organizational aspects that need to be well aligned to lead toward marketplace success.

-The 4+2 Elements-

This model comes from a comprehensive 10 year study of 160 companies, across 40 industries, which were all performing at an equal level.  The study was named “The Evergreen Project.”  Over time, there were clear companies that excelled while others floundered.  The results of tracking and examining these companies can be boiled down to a set of 4 core pursuits common to the successful companies and a selection of 2 auxiliary pursuits. This is why it is sometimes known as the 4 + 2 Model instead of the Evergreen Model.  The authors of the study and model are:

  • Nithin Nora, Dean of the Harvard Business School
  • William Joyce, Strategy and Organizational Theory from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business
  • Bruce Roberson, Executive Vice President of marketing and sales at Safety-Kleen

 

The model can be used as an organizational assessment that covers common organizational elements.  I will later get into the assessment or consulting take on the model.  That will include question sets to examine the health and orientation of the 4 core pursuits as well as the 2 selected auxiliary pursuits.  Each of the examined pursuits could lead to many initiatives, which is why it is a more general framework.

The distilled essence of the core four elements are as follows:

Strategy

  • Focus and stay the course
  • Continually grow

Execution

  • Strive for excellence
  • Prioritize operational changes to ensure solid delivery

Culture

  • Drive performance and behavior
  • Reinforce and reward good performance

Structure

  • Create a simple, flat, and non-bureaucratic organization
  • Instill collaboration and empowerment

 

All 4 core elements are crucial for success.  These drive the organization forward and sustain it over time.  It is also nice to have visuals.  Here are the 4 core elements and the selection of the 2 auxiliary elements on the right. 

 

The selection of the 2 auxiliary strategic pursuits should be determined by a combination of what would be most appealing or helpful to the organization and what the organization has already been striving towards. 

For example, not all market spaces would require innovation if the organization delivers products or services that do not need to be new to the industry or environment.  Another example might be that talent is not crucial for the organization if the primary execution does not require advanced experience or knowledge.

It is likely that most organizations have been working toward one or more of these pursuits, but may not have clearly focused on just two.

-Next Steps-

I call the Evergreen Model the gateway model as it sets up high level of organizational guidance.  Once it is employed, it can lead to many other avenues of inquiry and effort.  Other strategic models might complement the approach an organization takes.  Try it out and see how it can take your organization to its next level.

-Resources-

This Harvard Business School article formed the basis of this article.  My education, research, and experience supplemented and shaped the content in this blog post.

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