J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

March, 2013

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Operating Model as Company Vision


    The operating model is the level of business process integration and business process standardization for delivering goods and services.  The operating model is one of the three keys to building a strong foundation for execution (The three keys are: operating model, enterprise architecture, and IT engagement model.)

    The key benefits for building a strong foundation for execution include better profits, faster time to market, and cheaper IT costs, as well as more business agility.

    By choosing an operating model, you enable IT to play a proactive role in identifying future strategic initiatives, and you define the role of business process standardization and integration that guide daily decisions and tasks.

    In the book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson explain why it’s worth choosing an operating model, how it enables IT to become proactive, and how your operating model becomes a driver of business strategy. 

    Debate Your Company's Operating Model

    Debating your operating model creates clarity and helps drive a foundation for execution.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    "We encourage senior managers to debate their company's operating model.  This debate can force managers to articulate a vision for how the company will operate and how those operations will distinguish the company in the marketplace.  In clarifying this vision, management provides critical direction for building a foundation for execution."

    4 Types of Operating Models

    According to Ross, Weill, and Robertson there are four operating models for how a company addresses business process integration and business process standardization.

    1. Diversification (low standardization, low integration)
    2. Coordination (low standardization, high integration)
    3. Replication (high standardization, low integration)
    4. Unification (high standardization, high integration)

    See Diversification, Coordination, Replication, and Unification.

    The Operating Model Becomes a Driver of Business Strategy

    Choosing an operating model puts a stake in the ground, and your operating model becomes a driver for business strategy.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “Because the choice of an operating model guides development of business and IT capabilities, it determines which strategic opportunities the company should -- and should not -- seize.  In other words, the operating model, once in place, becomes a driver of business strategy.  In addition, the required architecture -- as well as the management thinking, practices, policies, and processes characteristics of each operating model -- is different from one operating model to another.  As a result, the operating model could be a key driver of the design of separate organizational units.”

    IT Becomes Proactive

    By choosing an operating model, you enable IT to become proactive, and you define the role of business process standardization and integration that impact daily decisions and tasks.  Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “Focusing on the operating model rather than on individual business strategies gives a company better guidance for developing IT and business process capabilities.  This stable foundation enables IT to become a proactive -- rather than reactive -- force in identifying future strategic initiatives.  In selecting an operating model, management defines the role of business process standardization and integration in the company's daily decisions and tasks.”

    Not Choosing an Operating Model is as Risky as Choosing One

    Without a clear operating model, you can’t leverage reusable capabilities, and you’ll lack a strong foundation for execution.   Ross, Weill, and Robertson write:

    “The operating model concept requires that management put a stake in the ground and declare which business processes will distinguish a company from its competitors.  A poor choice of operating model -- one that is not viable in a given market -- will have dire consequences.  But not choosing an operating model is just as risky.  Without a clear operating model, management careens from one market opportunity to the next, unable to leverage reusable capabilities.  With a declared operating model, management builds capabilities that can drive profitable growth.”

    You can clarify, debate, and define your operating model (the level of process integration and process standardization) across your business units using the four operating models: diversification, coordination, replication, and unification.  By doing so, you set the stage to build a strong foundation for execution, empower IT in a more proactive way, and use your operating model as a driver for business strategy.

    For a deeper dive into each of the operating models as well as case studies and examples, check out Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson. 

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Advice is for Winners


    One of the best books I've read recently is Advice is for Winners, by Raul Valdes-Perez.   It's all about how to get advice for better decisions in work and life.  I’ve written a deep review on it:

    Book Review: Advice is for Winners

    It's a great book whether you are an advice seeker, or serve in a trusted advisor role.   It helps you with either role, because the author shares an in-depth look at what holds back people from taking advice, as well as the qualities that make an advisor more effective.

    On a personal note, I've had to learn how to seek advice with skill, back when I first joined Microsoft.  I started out in Developer Support and it really was a team sport.  It was rare for any individual to have all the knowledge to address the complex issues that came our way.  Instead, the key was to be very good at finding the answers and expertise around the world.   It’s true that two-heads are better than one, and there is a lot of power in the collective perspective – if you know how to use it.

    When I joined the Microsoft patterns & practices team, I had to learn how to be good at both seeking out experts as well as giving deep advice about how to put our platform together and make the most of it.   One of the biggest challenges I faced on a daily basis was conflicting advice from qualified experts.

    At the end of the day, I learned how to use test cases to find and validate the answers and solutions.   To do this well, I need to use scenarios and context both to weed out generic or irrelevant advice, and to be able to test advice.  Interestingly, the key to finding a solution often involved being able to "repro" (reproduce) the problem or challenge.

    Once you could "repro" the problem, you could share it with others and get their heads in the game.  Also, often while trying to create a repro, you would find out what the real problem was, or at least, get clarity in the decisions and assumptions.

    Sometimes, trying to reproduce the problem wasn't practical, so instead, the goal would be to understand the context or scenario as best you could, and construct a skeletal solution in incremental steps.   This way, when somebody tries to duplicate the solution, if something doesn't work along the way, you can usually backtrack to the basic steps.  Effectively, you can gradually build up from a working foundation, and when a part of it, doesn't work, you can isolate it, and troubleshoot what's different about the particular context (such as security context, or configuration, etc.)

    Back to the book … in Advice is for Winners, Raul provides a great distillation and synthesis on the art of getting advice with skill.  What I especially like about the book is that it very much matches what I’ve learned the hard way about giving and getting advice.   Raul does a fantastic job of helping you get over any limiting beliefs or mindset that might hold you back from seeking advice.   He also does a great job of articulating what holds us back from getting the advice we need.  

    The backbone of the book is an actionable framework for getting advice that’s principle-based and easy to personalize.  If you aren’t sure how to approach people to ask for help, this framework will help you get over that.  If you aren’t sure how to deal with conflicting advice, the guidance will help you get over that, too.  If you aren’t sure what scenarios to even seek out advice, Raul provides very specific examples and stories.  To bottom line it, what you don’t know, can hurt you, and building your advice seeking skills can be a powerful investment that pays you back for the rest of your life in exponential ways that you can’t yet predict.

    For a "movie-trailer” style book review of Advice is for Winners, see Book Review: Advice is for Winners.

    Becoming a skilled advice seeker might be one of the best capabilities you can build to improve your personal effectiveness.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Write Down Your Three Wins


    When you write your Three Wins for today, you set the stage for better results. This simple habit gives you a rapid way to focus, prioritize, and master your time management.

    You can do this anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

    Here are some examples:
    I'm on top of my day.
    I have a draft plan in place for completing the project.
    I have a great demo to showcase my results.

    If you’re having a bad day, maybe your win will simply be “have a great lunch” (we all have those days.)

    Those are just a some examples.  You have to write the wins that make sense for you.  They should be simple, sticky, and easy to say.  Your test is whether you can say them without looking them up, and that you believe in them, and they inspire you for the day.

    You can identify your Three Wins for the day, by simply asking yourself a question:

    What are three wins you want for today?

    In other words, if today were over, what are Three Wins that you would want under your belt?

    Writing down your Three Wins is the easiest way to get started using Agile Results.  Simply write down your three wins for the day, and you're using Agile Results.   (I explain this in much more detail and with examples in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.)

    It’s simple.  It’s effective.  It works.  It works because you engage your brain, and breathe life into your day, by holding a few vital wins in your mind, to guide you throughout your day.

    We have a ton of things coming our way every day.  We can be overwhelmed, or run over by requests for our time, meetings galore, waves of email, or simply too much to do, and too little time.

    That's one lens.

    And that lens shapes our mindset.  It's easy to get overloaded, and overwhelmed.  It's easy to give up on doing the things that make the difference.  In Stephen Covey terms, it's easy to spend too much time on "urgent" things like distractions and interruptions, and not enough time on important things, like our critical activities and important longer term goals, or "sharpening our saw."

    But, you can flip this around. 

    You can use your tools to change your day.  When you ask yourself, what are the Three Wins that you want for today, you create a brand new lens.  You drive your day.  Rather than react to the things coming your way, you can respond.  You know if you're trading up or just getting randomized.  It's a conscious choice now.

    If you want better results each day and for the long haul, you need a simple habit you can use on a daily basis that gives you the edge.

    Use your Three Wins to win more in work and life.

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