Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
I’m always of fan of hearing about how Softies change the world, inside and outside of Microsoft.
I was reading Blind Ambition: How to Envision Your Limitless Potential and Achieve the Success You Want by Patricia Walsh. It’s an inspirational story, as well as an insightful read if you are looking for ways to up your game or get the edge in work and life.
I wrote a 10 Big Ideas from Blind Ambition to share some of the highlights from the book.
Walsh is a former Softie. More than that, she has raced in marathons, ultra-marathons and IRONMAN triathlons. In 2011, Walsh set a new world record for blind triathletes, shattering the previous male and female records by over 50 minutes.
She left Microsoft to start her own business, pursuit her speaking career, and train as a world-class athlete.
She set a high-bar.
But she also set a great example. Walsh wanted to help light the way for others to show them that they can be limitless if they set goals, put in the work, and don’t let fear or failures hold them back.
And most importantly, don’t put limits on yourself, and don’t fall into the trap of the limits that others put on you.
I was reading back through Satya Nadella’s email on Bold Ambition and Our Core, and a few things caught my eye.
One of them was the idea that if you want to thrive at Microsoft, you need to drive change.
“And if you want to thrive at Microsoft and make a world impact, you and your team must add numerous more changes to this list that you will be enthusiastic about driving.
Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy. Organizations will change. Mergers and acquisitions will occur. Job responsibilities will evolve. New partnerships will be formed. Tired traditions will be questioned. Our priorities will be adjusted. New skills will be built. New ideas will be heard. New hires will be made. Processes will be simplified. And if you want to thrive at Microsoft and make a world impact, you and your team must add numerous more changes to this list that you will be enthusiastic about driving.”
Change is in the air, and Satya has given everyone a license to thrive by re-imagining how to change the world, or at least their part of it.
For me, I’m focused on how to accelerate business transformation with Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data and the Internet of Things.
Together, these technology trends are enabling new end-to-end customer experiences, workforce transformation, and operations transformation.
It’s all about unleashing what individuals and businesses are capable of.
Let’s say you want to take your business to the Cloud -- How do you do it?
If you’re a small shop or a startup, it might be easy to just swipe your credit card and get going.
If, on the other hand, you’re a larger business that wants to start your journey to the Cloud, with a lot of investments and people that you need to bring along, you need a roadmap.
The roadmap will help you deal with setbacks, create confidence in the path, and help ensure that you can get from point A to point B (and that you know what point B actually is.) By building an implementable roadmap for your business transformation, you can also build a coalition of the willing to help you get their faster. And you can design your roadmap so that your journey flows continuous business value along the way.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how top leaders build better roadmaps for their digital business transformation.
If you had infinite time and resources, maybe you could just wing it, and hope for the best. A better approach is to have a roadmap as a baseline. Even if your roadmap changes, at least you can share the path with others in your organization and get them on board to help make it happen.
Via Leading Digital:
“In a perfect world, your digital transformation would deliver an unmatched customer experience, enjoy the industry's most effective operations, and spawn innovative, new business models. There are a myriad of opportunities for digital technology to improve your business and no company can entertain them all at once. The reality of limited resources, limited attention spans, and limited capacity for change with force focused choices. This is the aim of your roadmap.”
Your best starting point is a business capability that you want to exploit.
“Many companies have come to realize that before they can create a wholesale change within their organization, they have to find an entry point that will begin shifting the needle. How? They start by building a roadmap that leverages existing assets and capabilities. Burberry, for example, enjoyed a globally recognized brand and a fleet of flagship retail locations around the world. The company started by revitalizing its brand and customer experience in stores and online. Others, like Codelco, began with the core operational processes of their business. Caesars Entertainment combined strong capabilities in analytics with a culture of customer service to deliver a highly personalized guest experience. There is no single right way to start your digital transformation. What matters is that you find the existing capability--your sweet spot--that will get your company off the starting blocks.
Once your initial focus is clear, you can start designing your transformation roadmap. Which investments and activities are necessary to close the gap to your vision? What is predictable, and what isn't? What is the timing and scheduling of each initiative? What are the dependencies between them? What organizational resources, such as analytics skills, are required?”
If you involve others in your roadmap, you get their buy-in, and they will help you with your business transformation.
“Designing your roadmap will require input from a broad set of stakeholders. Rather than limit the discussion to the top team, engage the operational specialists who bring an on-the-ground perspective. This will minimize the traditional vision-to-execution gap. You can crowd-source the design. Or, you can use facilitated workshops, as as 'digital days,' as an effective way to capture and distill the priorities and information you will need to consider. We've seen several Digital Masters do both.
Make no mistake; designing your roadmap will take time, effort, and multiple iterations. But you will find it a valuable exercise. it forces agreement on priorities and helps align senior management and the people tasked to execute the program. Your roadmap will become more than just a document. If executed well, it can be the canvas of the transformation itself. Because your roadmap is a living document, it will evolve as your implementation progresses.”
When you create your roadmap, focus on the business outcomes. Think in terms of adding incremental business capabilities. Don’t make it a big bang thing. Instead, start small, but iterate on building business capabilities that take advantage of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data technologies.
“Technology for its own sake is a common trap. Don't build your roadmap as a series of technology projects. Technology is only part of the story in digital transformation and often the least challenging one. For example, the major hurdles for Enterprise 2.0 platforms are not technical. Deploying the platform is relatively straightforward, and today's solutions are mature. The challenge lies in changing user behavior--encouraging adoption and sustaining engagement in the activities the platform is meant to enable.
Express your transformation roadmap in terms of business outcomes. For example, 'Establish a 360-degree understanding of our customers.' Build into your roadmap the many facets of organizational change that your transformation will require customer experiences, operational processes, employee ways of working, organization, culture, communication--the list goes on. This is why contributions from a wide variety is so critical.”
There are lots of way to build a roadmap, but the best thing you can do is put something down on paper so that you can share the path with other people and start getting feedback and buy-in.
You’ll be surprised but when you show business and IT leaders a roadmap, it helps turn strategy into execution and make things real in people’s minds.
10 High-Value Activities in the Enterprise
Cloud Changes the Game from Deployment to Adoption
Drive Business Transformation by Reenvisioning Operations
Drive Business Transformation by Reenvisioning Your Customer Experience
Dual-Speed IT Drives Business Transformation and Improves IT-Business Relationships
How To Build a Better Business Case for Digital Initiatives
How To Improve the IT-Business Relationship
How Leaders are Building Digital Skills
Management Innovation is at the Top of the Innovation Stack
Cloud, mobile, social, and big data are changing the game of business.
But to play the game well, leaders need to grow new skills.
In order to create new customer experiences and market-leading operational capabilities, leaders need to invest in digital skills.
Our Cloud-First, Mobile-First world provides unprecedented possibilities in terms of connectivity and compute resources for changing customer experiences, transforming the workforce, and transforming operations, and creating new business models. Companies every day are building amazing solutions that integrate Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data capabilities as well as what the Internet of Things brings to the table. But to take advantage of these capabilities, you need leaders that grow and invest in a digital platform and in digital skills.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how top leaders grow their digital skills.
Whether you want to reimagine your customer experience, or reimagine your operations, it takes new skills, and new ways of working. Companies that don’t have the right digital skills struggle. Worse, everybody is competing for the same skills, including social media analysts, mobile marketers, cloud architects, and data scientists.
“Creating great customer experiences or market-leading operational capabilities is more than technology challenge. It's also an organizational challenge requiring new skills and new ways of working. Yet, 77 percent of companies in our first year of research cited missing digital skills as a major hurdle to their digital transformation success. To compound the problem, most companies are chasing after similar skills--social media analysts, mobile marketers, cloud architects, or data scientists, to name a few.”
If you want to help your company become a Digital Master, or, if you want to be a high-performing leader, you need to invest in digital skills.
“So what are Digital Masters doing differently when it comes to skills? First, they are investing. Of the Digital Masters we surveyed, 82 percent are building the digital skills they need to support transformation efforts. Only 40 perce3nt of nonmasters are doing so.
Second, Digital Masters are accelerating and creating a gap. Our survey research shows that the masters had greater digital skills than nonmasters, reporting 31 percent higher social media skills, 38 percent higher mobile skills, and 19 percent higher analytics skills.
But Digital Masters did not start with higher skills. Burberry did not become excellent at digital marketing. and channels overnight. CEO Ahrendts hired a new, dynamic marketing team whose members mirrored the behaviors of the millennial customer. Nor did Caesars excel at delivering personalized customer experience solely because its CEO, Gary Loveman, has a PhD in economics from MIT. Caesars' executives actively incorporated quantitative skills into the marketing area. In these companies, like other Digital Masters, top executives worked hard to build the digital skills they needed.”
The gap is huge but the lines blur fast. There is a huge demand for people that are both business savvy and technology savvy.
“The skills difference extends beyond technology. Digital Masters report 36 percent higher skills in digital leadership than nonmasters. Digital transformation requires changes to processes and thinking--changes that span your internal organizational silos. 'The clear delineation between technical skills and leadership skills in blurring fast.
The impact of digital technologies is now felt not only in the IT and technical departments, but also across the entire organization. Digital transformation's need for cross-functional collaboration creates a huge demand for hybrid digital skills-- technical people who need to be more business savvy and businesspeople who need to be more technology savvy. A retail executive explained: 'We are trying for the first time to work across the company. That implies going through a new level of complexity in the organization, and requires people to manage and network differently. That, I think, is the most important skills that needs to be developed.'”
True hybrid professionals will be the leaders of tomorrow.
“The need for new skills can also result from the need to bridge the communication gap between digital and business competences. One executive said, 'I need a charismatic quant--somebody who's an influencer and can carry his weight in a senior meeting, but at the same time, someone who can roll up his sleeves and look at data tables and build models and enjoy it.'
These bridging roles may soon become the responsibility of every manager. 'I believe,' said Markus Nordlin, CIO of Zurich Insurance, 'that the successful leaders of tomorrow, in any business or industry, are going to be true hybrid professionals who have spent some time in IT but have shifted to operations and vice-versa.'”
To keep up and get ahead, you need to master Digital Skills and be able to use them in a business savvy way.
“Aspiring Digital Masters are all chasing the same technical skills. The shortage of digital skills is unprecedented. In Europe alone, forecasts point to nearly a million vacancies for IT-related roles by 2015. And globally, out of the 4.4 million big-data jobs to be created by 2015, only a third will be filled.
But by the same token, business professionals will increasingly need to be comfortable with digital tools and technologies to perform their core roles. By 2015, research firm IDC expects that 90 percent of all jobs will require IT skills. Some business functions are already adding technology skills to their mix. Gartner reports that 70 percent of the companies they surveyed have a chief marketing technologist to support the digitization of the function.
This skills race won't slow down anytime soon. Having the right digital skills is an important source of competitive advantage and a key enabler of digital transformation. Companies that build skills faster will get ahead.
To win at the digital skills race, you will need to tap into multiple approaches--hiring, partnering, incubating, and the like. It's not easy, as one executive explained: 'Our recruiters don't know where to go to find these people, and people with the right skills don't look to our kind of company for opportunities.' HR organization will need to get up to speed quickly. A recent Capgemini Consulting survey found that only 30 percent of HR functions were actively involved in digital skills development. This needs to change. Many Digital Masters have a carefully crafted plan to fight and win the talent race.”
All of the capabilities of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data are right at your fingertips.
Using these capabilities in meaningful ways takes a combination of business and technical skills, as well as great organizational change leadership skills.
If you can master business skills and combine them with great technical skills, you can lead you, your team, your organization, and others to change the world.
Don’t try to turn all of your traditional IT into a digital unit.
You’ll break both, or do neither well.
Instead, add a Digital Unit. Meanwhile, continue to simplify and optimize your traditional IT, but, at the same time, add a Digital Unit that’s optimized to operate in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.
This is the Dual-Speed IT approach, and, with this way, you can choose the right approach for the job and get the best of both worlds.
Some projects involve more extensive planning because they are higher-risk and have more dependencies.
Other projects benefit from a loose learning-by-doing method, with rapid feedback loops, customer impact, and testing new business waters.
And, over time, you can shift the mix.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are Digital Masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.
You can grow one of your existing business units into a Digital Unit. For example, marketing is a pretty good bet, given the customer focus and the business impact.
“Changing the IT-business relationship is well worth the effort, but doing so takes time. Your company may not have the time to wait before starting your digital transformation. Rather than improving the IT unit, some companies try to build digital skills into another unit, such as marketing. They try to work around IT rather than with it.”
Don’t throw away your existing IT or break it by turning it into something it’s not, too quickly. Instead, leverage it for the projects where it makes sense, while also leveraging your new Digital IT unit.
“Although building digital skills is useful, trying to work around IT can be fraught with challenges, especially if people do not understand the reasons for IT's systematic, if sometimes ponderous, processes. This kind of flanking action can waste money, make the digital platform more complex, and even worse, open the company to security and regulatory risks.”
You can have the best of both worlds, while both evolving your traditional IT and growing your Digital Unit to thrive at Cloud speed.
“A better approach is to create a dual-speed IT structure, where one part of the IT unit continues to support traditional IT needs, while another takes on the challenge of operating at digital speed with the business. Digital activities--especially in customer engagement--move faster than many traditional IT ones. They look at design processes differently. Where IT projects have traditionally depended on clear designs and well-structured project plans, digital activities often engage in test-and-learn strategies, trying features in real-life experiments and quickly adding or dropping them based on what they find.”
Your Digital Unit needs to be very different from traditional IT in terms of the mindset and the approaches around the people, processes, and technology.
“In a dual-speed approach, the digital unit can develop processes and methods at clock-speeds more closely aligned with the digital world, without losing sight of the reasons that the old IT processes existed. IT leaders can draw on informal relationships within the IT department to get access to legacy systems or make other changes happen. Business leaders can use their networks to get input and resources. Business and IT leaders can even start to work together in the kind of two-in-a-box leadership method that LBG and other companies have adopted.”
To make it work and to make it work well, it takes partnerships on both sides. The business and IT both need skin in the game.
“Building dual-speed IT units requires choosing the right leadership on both sides of the relationship. Business executives need to be comfortable with technology and with being challenged by their IT counterparts. IT leaders need to have a mind-set that extends beyond technology to encompass the processes and drivers of business performance. Leaders from both sides need to be strong communicators who can slide easily between conversations with their business- or IT-focused people.”
With both options at your disposal, Great IT Leaders know how to choose the right approach for the job. Some programs and projects will take a more traditional life-cycle or require heavier planning or more extensive governance and risk management, while other projects can be driven in a more lightweight and agile way.
“Dual-speed IT also requires perspective about the value of speed. Not all digital efforts need the kind of fast-moving, constantly changing processes that digital customer-engagement processes can need. In fact, the underlying technology elements that powered LBG's new platform, Asian Paints' operational excellence, and Nike's digital supply chain enhancements required the careful, systematic thinking that underpins traditional IT practices. Doing these big implementations in a loose learning-by-doing method could be dangerous. It could increase rework, waste money, and introduce security risks. But once the strong digital platform is there, building new digital capabilities can be fast, agile, and innovative. The key is to understand what you need in each type of project and how much room any project has to be flexible and agile. Great IT leaders know how to do this. If teamed with the right business leaders, they can make progress quickly and safely.”
It takes a shift in processes to do Dual-Speed IT.
“Dual-speed IT also takes new processes inside IT. Few digital businesses have the luxury to wait for monthly software release cycles for all of their applications. Digital-image hosting business Flickr, for example, aims for up to ten deployments per day, while some businesses require even more. This continuous-deployment approach requires very tight discipline and collaboration between development, test, and operations people. A bug in software, missed step in testing, or configuration problem in deployment can bring down a web site or affect thousands of customers.”
DevOps blends development and operations into a more integrated approach that simplifies and streamlines processes to shorten cycle times and speed up fixes and feedback loops.
“A relatively new software-development method called DevOps aims to make this kind of disciplined speed possible. It breaks down silos between development, operations, and quality assurance groups, allowing them to collaborate more closely and be more agile. When done properly, DevOps improves the speed and reliability of application development and deployment by standardizing development environments. It uses strong methods and standards, including synchronizing the tools used by each group.”
DevOps is the name of the game when it comes to shipping better, faster, cheaper and more reliably in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.
“DevOps relies heavily on automated tools to do tasks in testing, configuration control, and deployment—tasks that are both slow and error-prone when done manually. Companies that use DevOps need to foster a culture where different IT groups can work together and where workers accept the rules and methods that make the process effective. The discipline, tools, and strong processes of DevOps can help IT release software more rapidly and with fewer errors, as well as monitor performance and resolve process issues more effectively, than before.”
In order for your Digital Transformation to thrive, it takes building better bridges between the business leaders and the IT leaders.
“Whether your CIO takes it upon himself or herself to improve the IT-business relationship, or you decide to help make it happen, forging a strong link between business and IT executives is an essential part of driving digital transformation. Strong IT-business relationships can transform the way IT works and the way the business works with it. Through trust and shared understanding, your technology and business experts can collaborate closely, like at LBG, to innovate your business at digital speeds. Without this kind of relationship, your company may become mired in endless requirements discussion, filing projects, and lackluster systems, while your competitors accelerate past you in the digital fast lane.”
If you want to thrive in the new digital economy while driving digital business transformation without breaking your existing business, consider adding Dual-Speed IT to your strategies and shift the mix from traditional IT to your Digital Unit over time.
Think in a Series of Sprints, Not Marathons
It’s possible to change IT from a poorly respected cost center to a high-functioning business partner.
Driving business transformation is a people, process, and technology thing.
Some people think they can change their business without IT. The challenge is that technology is the enabler of significant business change in today’s digital landscape. Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data all bring significant capabilities to the table, and IT can hold the keys.
But the business doesn’t want to hear that.
Business leaders don’t want to hear about the HOW of technology.
Business leaders want to hear about the impact on their business. They want to hear about how predictive analytics can help them build a better pipeline, or target more relevant offers. Business leaders want to hear about how they can create cross-sell/upsell opportunities in real-time. And, business leaders want to hear about the business benefits and the KPI that will be impacted by choosing a particular strategy.
The reality is that the new Digital Masters of the emerging Digital Economy bring their IT with them, and in many cases, their IT even helps lead the business into the new Digital Frontier.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are digital masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.
While it takes work on both sides, IT can change it’s game by creating transparency around performance, roles, and value. This includes helping employees think and talk differently about what they do. IT can show very clearly how it delivers value for the money. And IT can change the way IT and business leaders make investment decisions and assess the returns.
The CIO and everybody in IT, needs to speak the language of business.
“Poor relations between IT and business leaders can have many causes. Sometimes it's the personality of the IT leader. A common complaint among senior executives is that their CIO seems to speak a different language from the business. Another is that the CIO doesn't seem to understand what's really important. For example, a chemical company CIO we interviewed described how he communicates regularly with business executives about the innovative possibilities of digital technologies. Yet none of his business executive peers (whom we interviewed separately) seemed to find the discussions credible.”
It’s a competitive world and IT needs to continuously find ways to deliver solutions in a way that makes business sense.
“Sometimes the issue arises from IT's delivery capability. According to Bud Mathaisel, who has served as CIO in several large companies, 'It starts with competence in delivering services reliably, economically, and at very high quality. It is the absolute essential to be even invited into meaningful dialog about how you then build on that competence to do something very interesting with it.' Unfortunately, some IT units today do not have this competence. One business executive we interviewed said, 'IT is a mess. It's costs are not acceptable. It proposes things in nine or ten months, where external firms could do them in three to nine weeks. We started offshoring our IT, and now our IT guys are trying to change.' A legacy of poor communication, byzantine decision processes, and broken commitments is no foundation on which to build a strong IT-business relationship.”
In order to bet on IT, it needs to be high-performing. And in order for IT to be high-performing, it needs to have a good digital platform.
“However, the fault doesn't always rest only with IT leaders. In many cases, business executive share some of the blame ... high-performing IT requires a good digital platform, and good platforms require discipline. If your approach to working with IT can be characterized by impatience, unreasonable expectations, or insisting on doing things your way, then you'll need to think about how to change your side of the relationship.”
Key business transformation takes technology. CIOs can help lead the business transformation, whether it's through shared goals with the business, creating a new governance mechanism, or creating a new shared digital unit.
“Regardless of the case, if your IT-business relationships are poor, it's essential to fix the problem. A bank executive stated, 'IT has been brought closer to business during the last five years. It is very important to success because man of the important transformations in our business are enabled by technology.' With strong relationships, IT executives can help business executives meet their goals, and business executives listen when IT people suggest innovations. Executives on both sides are willing to be flexible in creating new governance mechanisms or shared digital units. At Codelco, Asian Paints, and P&G, the CIO even leads digital transformation for the company.”
CIOs can help drive the bus, but it takes more than senior sponsorship.
“So, how can you start to improve your IT-business relationship? Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, told her CIO he needed to help drive the bus with the executive team. However, leadership changes or top-down mandates are only the start of the change. Few CIOs can change the business by themselves, and not all business executives will climb on the bus with the CIO, even if the CEO demands it.”
Start by fixing how you communicate between the business and IT.
“Fixing the IT-business relationship can take time, as people learn how to trust each other and redefine the way they work together. As with any struggling relationship, the best starting point is to fix the way you communicate. Does IT really cost too much, or are costs reasonable, given what IT has to do? Is the IT unit really too bureaucratic, or do all of those procedures actually serve a useful purpose? Are you a good partner to IT or a difficult one? How can IT make it easier for you to get what you need, while still making sure things are done correctly? What investments can help IT improve its technology, internal processes, cost-effectiveness, quality, or speed?”
It’s possible to change IT from a low performing cost center to a high-performing business partner. Companies do it all the time, and MIT has the research.
“MIT research into IT turnarounds has identified a series of steps that can change IT from a poorly respected cost center to a high-functioning business partner. The key change mechanism is transparency--around performance, roles, and value. The first step is to help IT employees think, and talk, differently about what they do. The second step proceeds to showing very clearly how well (or how poorly) IT delivers value for money--the right services at the right quality and right price, and where problems still exist. And then the third step moves to changing the way IT and business leaders make investment decisions and assess the returns that projects deliver. Through transparency around roles, performance, and investments, both sides can make smoother decisions and work together to identify and deliver innovation.”
If you’re part of a business that wants to change the world, start by reimagining how IT can help you achieve the art of the possible.
Building Better Business Cases for Digital Initiatives
Drive Business Transformation by Reenvisioning Your Operations
How Digital is Changing Physical Experiences
The Future of IT Leaders
When you create your digital vision, you have a few places to start.
One place to start is by reenvisioning your customer experience. Another place to start is by reenvisioning your operations. And, a third place to start is by renvisioning your business model.
In this post, let’s take a look at reenvisioning your operations.
If your financial performance is closely connected to the performance of your core operations and supply chain, then reenvisioning your operations can be a great place to start.
“Organizations whose fortunes are closely tied to the performance of their core operations and supply chains often start with reenvisioning their operations.”
There are many great business reasons to focus on improving your operations. A few of the best include increasing process visibility, increasing speed of decision making, and improving collaboration across the board.
“The business drivers of operational visions include efficiency and the need to integrate disparate operations. Executives may want to increase process visibility and decision making speed or to collaborate across silos.”
Proctor and Gamble changed their game by focusing on operational excellence. The key was to be able to manage the business in real time so they could keep up with their ever-changing world.
“For instance, in 2011, Proctor & Gamble put operational excellence at the center of its digital vision: 'Digitizing P&G will enable us to manage the business in real time and on a very demand-driven basis. We'll be able to collaborate more effectively and efficiently, inside and outside the company.' Other companies in industries from banking to manufacturing, have transformed themselves through similar operationally focused visions.”
If your business is a provider of products or services to other businesses, then your operational vision is especially important as it can have a ripple effect on what your customers do.
“Operational visions are especially useful for businesses that sell largely to other businesses. When Codelco first launched its Codelco Digital initiative, the aim was to improve mining operations radically through automation and data integration. As we described in chapter 3, Codelco continued to extend this vision to include new mining automation and integration operations-control capability. Now, executives are envisioning radical new ways to redefine the mining process and possibly the industry itself.”
When you change your operations, you can change the industry.
“The operational visions of some companies go beyond an internal perspective to consider how the company might change operations in its industry or even with its customers.“
When you improve your operations, you can help others move up the solution stack.
“For example, aircraft manufacturer Boeing envisions how changes to its products may enable customers to change their own operations. 'Boeing believes the future of the aviation industry lie in 'the digital airline,' the company explained on its website. 'To succeed in the marketplace, airlines and their engineering and IT teams must take advantage of the increasing amount of data coming off of airplanes, using advanced analytics and airplane technology to take operational efficiency to the next level.' “
One of the best things you can do when you improve operations is to put the information in the hands of the people that need it most, when they need it most, where they need it most.
“The manufacturer goes on to paint a clear picture of what a digital airline means in practice: 'The key to to the digital airline is delivering secure, detailed operational and maintenance information to the people who need it most, when they need it most. That means that engineering will share data with IT, but also with the finance, accounting, operational and executive functions.' “
When you improve operations, you enable and empower business breakthroughs in all parts of the business.
“The vision will improve operations at Boeing's customers, but will also help Boeing's operations as the information from airplanes should help the company identify new ways to improve its product designs and services. The day may also lead to new business models as Boeing uses the information to provide new services to customers.”
When you create your digital vision, while there are lots of places you could start, the key is to take an end-to-end view.
If your financial performance is tied to your core operations and your supply chain, and/or you are a provider of products and services to others, then consider starting your business transformation by reenvisioning your operations.
The Future of Jobs
Reenvision Your Customer Experience
You probably hear a lot about the Mega-Trends (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data), or the Nexus of Forces (the convergence of social, mobility, cloud and data insights patterns that drive new business scenarios), or the Mega-Trend of Mega-Trends (Internet of Things).
And you are probably hearing a lot about digital transformation and maybe even about the rise of the CDO (Chief Digital Officer.)
All of this digital transformation is about creating business change, driving business outcomes, and driving better business results.
But how do you create your digital vision and strategy? And, where do you start?
When it comes to creating your digital vision, you can focus on reenvisioning the customer experience, the operational processes, or your business model.
“Where should you focus your digital vision? Digital visions usually take one of three perspectives: reenvisioning the customer experience, reenvisioning operational processes, or combining the previous two approaches to reenvision business models. The approach you take should reflect your organization’s capabilities, your customer’s needs, and the nature of competition in your industry.”
One of the best places to start is with your customer experience. After all, a business exists to create a customer. And the success of the business is how well it creates value and serves the needs of the customer.
“Many organizations start by reenvisioning the way they interact with customers. They want to make themselves easier to work with, and they want to be smarter in how they sell to (and serve) customers. Companies start from different places when reenvisioning the customer experience.”
You can use the waves of technologies (Cloud, Mobile, Social, Data Insights, and Internet of Things), to transform how you interact with your customers and how they experience your people, your products, and your services.
“Some companies aim to transform their relationships with their customers. Adam Bortman, chief digital officer of Starbucks, shared this vision: 'Digital has to help more partners and help the company be the way we can ... tell our story, build our brand, and have a relationship with our customers.' Burberry's CEO Angela Ahredts focused on multichannel coherence. 'We had a vision, and the vision was to be the first company who was fully digital end-to-end ... A customer will have total access to Burberry across any device, anywhere.' Mare Menesquen, managing director of strategic marketing at cosmetics gitan L'Oreal, said, 'The digital world multiples the way our brands can create an emotion-filled relationship with their customers.’”
You can use technology to personalize the experience for your customers, and create better interactions along the customer experience journey.
“Other companies envision how they can be smarter in serving (and selling to) their customers through analytics. Caesars started with a vision of using real-time customer information to deliver a personalized experience to each customer. The company was able to increase customer satisfaction and profits per customer using traditional technologies. Then, as new technologies arose, it extended the vision to include a mobile, location-based concierge in the palm of every customer's hand.”
One of the most powerful things you can now do with the combination of Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data and Internet of Things is gain better customer insights. For example, you can learn from the wealth of social media insights, or you can learn through better integration and analytics of your existing customer data.
“Another approach is to envision how digital tools might help the company to learn from customer behavior. Commonwealth Bank of Australia sees new technologies as a key way of integrating customer inputs in its co-creation efforts. According to CIO Ian Narev, 'We are progressively applying new technology to enable customers to play a greater part in product design. That helps us create more intuitive products and services, readily understandable to our customers and more tailored to their individual needs.”
If you focus on high-value activities, you can create breakthroughs in the daily lives of your customers.
“Finally, some companies are extending their visions beyond influencing customer experience to actually changing customers' lives. For instance, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez wrote of this potential: ‘The technologies we use in our daily lives, such as smart phones and tablet devices, could make a real difference in helping patients to manage their own health. We are exploring ways to use these tools to improve compliance rates and enable health-care professionals to monitor patient progress remotely.’”
If you want to change the world, one of the best places to start is right from wherever you are.
With a Cloud and a dream, what can you do to change the world?
McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data
Luis Goncalves has put together a list called the 100 Top Agile Blogs:
If you don't know Luis, he lives and breathes driving adoption of Agile practices.
Luis is also an Agile Coach, Co-Author, Speaker, and Blogger. He is also the co-founder of a MeetUp group called High Performing Teams, and he is a certified Scrum Master and Product Owner.
Here is a preview of the list of top 100 Agile Blogs:
For the rest of the list, check out 100 Top Agile Blogs.
Lists like these are a great way to discover blogs you may not be aware of.
While there will be a bunch of blogs you already know, chances are, with that many at a glance, there will be at least a few new ones you can add to your reading list.
I’ll need to elaborate on this at some point, to share what I’ve experienced across lots of businesses large and small, as well as some of the biggest businesses on the planet, as they transform themselves for the digital economy.
Meanwhile, here is an interesting read on CIO Straight Talk magazine.
In their words, "CIO Straight Talk is a series of "straight talking" articles from senior IT executives and leading companies and government and nonprofit organizations."
This first edition is focused on learning, failing and learning in the Second Machine Age, and features two non-practitioner experts on current topics:
“Andrew McAfee, co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Second Machine Age, cofounder of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and Principal Research Scientist at MIT Sloan School of Management, talks about ‘The CIO’s role in the enterprise of the future.’ Says McAfee: ‘The overall trend is that companies of all stripes will need, proportionately, many fewer people in IT. Those who remain will be very highly valued, very highly skilled, very important… Enterprises are going to need someone to help them navigate the second machine age… I think that if the CIO plays her cards right, this can absolutely be her role in the enterprise.’”
Michelle Gallen, the CEO of Shhmooze, a social networking start-up, talks about failure, not to be confused Failure Lite – ‘I failed. How nice. I learned so much’ – often hailed breezily by management experts as something everyone should experience and every company should encourage. Real failure, according to this serial entrepreneur, isn’t pretty. Says Gallen: ‘I don’t think you learn without failing… In the start-up world, innovation is the ability to take an idea and turn it into an invoice. Lots of larger business organizations also rely on cash flow to keep them alive, and therefore innovation has to be monetized. If you’re Apple or Microsoft, you’ve got a war chest, and you can actually allow failure. A lot of companies can’t actually afford it. It’s quite an expensive hobby, failing.’”
So there you have it -- failure is an expensive hobby and the few IT leaders left in organizations will be very highly valued, very highly skilled, and very important.
There’s more to the story and I’ll share what I’ve learned over the past few years helping companies cross the Cloud chasm and accelerating their digital transformation.
When you drive business change and digital initiatives with Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data (and Internet of Things), successful businesses think a series of sprints, not marathons.
Successful businesses go digital by transforming their customer experiences, their employee experiences, and their back-office experiences through rapid prototyping, building proofs-of-concept, testing pilots, and going to production. It’s a fast cycle of prototype –> pilot –> POC –> production.
These short cycles create rapid learning loops, build momentum, and help adapt for change.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned in driving digital initiatives and agile transformation.
Avoid Big Up Front Design. Whenever there is a big lag time between designing it, developing it, and using it, you’re introducing more risk. You’re breaking feedback loops. You’re falling into the pit of analysis paralysis. Focus on “just enough design” so that you can test what works and what doesn’t, and respond accordingly.
“The digital world moves quickly. The rapid pace of technology innovation today does not lend itself to multiyear planning and waterfall development methods common in the ERP era. Markets change, new technologies become mainstream, an disruptive entrants begin courting your customers. Your roadmap will need to be nimble enough to recognize these changes, adapt for them, and course-correct.”
Hold on to the vision and use that to guide you as you test your ideas and implement them, without getting bogged down.
“To design an agile transformation, borrow an approach that has become common among today's leading software companies. Keep people committed to the end goal, but pace your initiatives as short sprints of effort. Create prototype solutions, and experiment with new technologies or approaches. Evaluate the results, and incorporate the results into your evolving roadmap. Adam Brotman, Starbucks CDO, explained the iterative process: 'We didn't have all the answers, but we started thinking about other things we could do ... I think it worked not to go too far, too fast, but to keep a vision in mind and keep building on success along the way.”
Short cycle times help you respond to market change and adapt as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
“The test-and-learn approach will require some new ways of working in its own right, but it enjoys some distinct advantages. By marketing ideas quickly before they go to scale, this approach saves time and money. It's short cycle times also make it more adaptive to external changes. Finally, it enables your transformation to sustain momentum through small, incremental successes, rather than the big-bang approach of long-term programs.”
When it comes to your digital strategy and driving business transformation, drive your business change the agile way.
10 Ways to Make Agile Design More Effective
McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data Analytics
It’s hard to drive digital initiatives and business transformation if you can’t create the business case. Stakeholder want to know what their investment is supposed to get them
One of the simplest ways to think about business cases is to think in terms of stakeholders, benefits, KPIs, costs, and risks over time frames.
While that’s the basic frame, there’s a bit of art and science when it comes to building effective business cases, especially when it involves transformational change.
Lucky for us, in the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned in building better business cases for digital initiatives.
What I like about their guidance is that it matches my experience
The more you can link your roadmap to benefits that people care about and can measure, the better off you are.
“You need initiative-based business cases that establish a clear link from the operational changes in your roadmap to tangible business benefits. You will need to involve employees on the front lines to help validate how operational changes will contribute to strategic goals.”
On a good note, the same building blocks that apply to any business case, apply to digital initiatives.
“The basic building blocks of a business case for digital initiatives are the same as for any business case. Your team needs to work out the costs, the benefits, and the timing of the return. But digital transformation is still uncharted territory. The cost side of the equation is easier, but benefits can be difficult to quantify, even when, intuitively, they seem crystal clear.”
Building a business case is an art and a science. To avoid getting lost in analysis paralysis, start with what you know.
“Building a business case for digital initiatives is both an art an a science. With so many unknowns, you'll need to take a pragmatic approach to investments in light of what you know and what you don't know.
Start with what you know, where you have most of the information you need to support a robust cost-benefit analysis. A few lessons learned from our Digital Masters can be useful.”
If you only consider the technology part of the story, you’ll miss the bigger picture. Digital initiatives involves organizational change management as well as process change. A digital initiative is really a change in terms of people, process, and technology, and adoption is a big deal.
“Don't build your business case as a series of technology investments. You will miss a big part of the costs. Cost the adoption efforts--digital skill building, organizational change, communication, and training--as well as the deployment of the technology. You won't realize the full benefits--or possibly any benefits--without them.”
If you don’t work backwards from the end-in-mind, you might not get there. You need clarity on the business outcomes so that you can chunk up the right path to get there, while flowing continuous value along the way.
“Frame the benefits in terms of the business outcomes you want to reach. These outcomes can be the achievement of goals or the fixing of problems--that is, outcomes that drive more customer value, higher revenue, or a better cost position. Then define the tangible business impact and work backward into the levers and metrics that will indicate what 'good' looks like. For instance, if one of your investments is supposed to increase digital customer engagement, your outcome might be increasing engagement-to-sales conversation. Then work back into the main metrics that drive this outcome, for example, visits, like inquiries, ratings, reorders, and the like.
When the business impact5 of an initiative is not totally clear, look at companies that have already made similar investments. Your technology vendors can also be a rich, if somewhat biased, source of business cases for some digital investments.”
To reduce risk, start with pilots to live and learn. This will help you make informed decisions as part of your business case development.
“But, whatever you do, some digital investment cases will be trickier to justify, be they investments in emerging technologies or cutting-edge practices. For example, what is the value of gamifying your brand's social communities? For these types of investment opportunities, experiment with a test-and-learn approach. State your measures of success, run small pilots, evaluate results, and refine your approach. Several useful tools and methods exist, such as hypothesis-driven experiments with control groups, or A/B testing. The successes (and failures) of small experiments can then become the benefits rationale to invest at greater scale. Whatever the method, use an analytical approach; the quality of your estimated return depends on it.
Translating your vision into strategic goals and building an actionable roadmap is the firs step in focusing your investment. It will galvanize the organization into action. But if you needed to be an architect to develop your vision, you need to be a plumber to develop your roadmap. Be prepared to get your hands dirty.”
While practice makes perfect, business cases aren’t about perfect. Their job is to help you get the right investment from stakeholders so you can work on the right things, at the right time, to make the right impact.
The business economy is going through massive change, as the old world meets the new world.
The convergence of mobility, analytics, social media, cloud computing, and embedded devices is driving the next wave of digital business transformation, where the physical world meets new online possibilities.
And it’s not limited to high-tech and media companies.
Businesses that master the digital landscape are able to gain strategic, competitive advantage. They are able to create new customer experiences, they are able to gain better insights into customers, and they are able to respond to new opportunities and changing demands in a seamless and agile way.
In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation: Turning Technology Into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of the ways that businesses are meshing the physical experience with the digital experience to generate new business value.
Businesses that win find new ways to blend the physical world with the digital world. To serve customers better, businesses are integrating the experience across physical, phone, mail, social, and mobile channels for their customers.
Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:
“Companies with multiple channels to customers--physical, phone, mail, social, mobile, and so on--are experiencing pressure to provide an integrated experience. Delivering these omni-channel experiences requires envisioning and implementing change across both front-end and operational processes. Innovation does not come from opposing the old and the new. But as Burberry has shown, innovation comes from creatively meshing the digital and the physical to reinvent new and compelling customer experiences and to foster continuous innovation.”
Starbucks is a simple example of blending digital experiences with their physical store. To serve customers better, they deliver premium content to their in-store customers.
“Similarly, the unique Starbucks experience is rooted in connecting with customers in engaging ways. But Starbucks does not stop with the physical store. It has digitally enriched the customer experience by bridging its local, in-store experience with attractive new online possibilities. Delivered via a free Wi-Fi connection, the Starbucks Digital Network offers in-store customers premium digital content, such as the New York Times or The Economist, to enjoy alongside their coffee. The network also offers access to local content, from free local restaurant reviews from Zagat to check-in via Foursquare.”
Museums can create new possibilities by turning walls into digital displays. With a digital display, the museum can showcase all of their collections and provide rich information, as well as create new backdrops, or tailor information and tours for their customers.
“Combining physical and digital to enhance customer experiences is not limited to just commercial enterprises. Public services are getting on the act. The Cleveland Museum of Art is using technology to enhance the experience and the management of visitors. 'EVERY museum is searching for this holy grail, this blending of technology and art,' said David Franklin, the director of the museum.
Fort-foot-wide touch screens display greeting-card sized images of all three thousand objects, and offers information like the location of the actual piece. By touching an icon on the image, visitors can transfer it from the wall to an iPad (their own, or rented from the museum for $5 a day), creating a personal list of favorites. From this list, visitors can design a personalized tour, which they can share with others.
'There is only so much information you can put on a wall, and no one walks around with catalogs anymore,' Franklin said. The app can produce a photo of the artwork's original setting--seeing a tapestry in a room filled with tapestries, rather than in a white-walled gallery, is more interesting. Another feature lets you take the elements of a large tapestry and rearrange them in either comic-book or movie-trailer format. The experience becomes fun, educational, and engaging. This reinvention has lured new technology-savvy visitors, but has also made seasoned museum-goers come more often.”
As you figure out the future capability vision for your business, and re-imagine what’s possible, consider how the Nexus of Forces (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data), along with the mega mega-trend (Internet-of-Things), can help you shape your digital business transformation.
You probably already know that emotional intelligence, or “EQ”, is a key to success in work and life.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of yourself, others, and groups.
It’s the key to helping you respond vs. react. When we react, it’s our lizard brain in action. When we respond, we are aware of our emotions, but they are input, and they don’t rule our actions. Instead, emotions inform our actions.
Emotional intelligence is how you avoid letting other people push your buttons. And, at the same time, you can push your own buttons, because of your self-awareness.
Emotional intelligence takes empathy. Empathy, simply put, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
When somebody is intelligent, and has a high IQ, you would think that they would be successful.
But, if there is a lack of EQ (emotional intelligence), then their relationships suffer.
As a result, their effectiveness, their influence, and their impact are marginalized.
That’s what makes emotional intelligence such an important and powerful leadership skill.
And, it’s emotional intelligence that often sets leaders apart.
Truly exceptional leaders, not only demonstrate emotional intelligence, but within emotional intelligence, they stand out.
Outstanding leaders shine in the following 7 emotional intelligence competencies: Self-reliance, Assertiveness, Optimism, Self-Actualization, Self-Confidence, Relationship Skills, and Empathy.
I’ve summarized 10 Big Ideas from Emotional Capitalists: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders. It’s an insightful book by Martyn Newman, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read on the art and science of emotional intelligence. What sets this book apart is that Newman focused on turning emotional intelligence into a skill you can practice, with measurable results (he has a scoring system.)
If there’s one take away, it’s really this. The leaders that get the best results know how to get employees and customers emotionally invested in the business.
Without emotional investment, people don’t bring out their best and you end up with a brand that’s blah.
10 Emotional Intelligence Articles for Effectiveness in Work and Life
Emotional Intelligence Quotes
Positive Intelligence at Microsoft
Will you have a job in the future?
What will that job look like and how will the nature of work change?
Will automation take over your job in the near future?
These are the kinds of questions that Ruth Fisher, author of Winning the Hardware-Software Game, has tackled in a series of posts.
I wrote a summary post to distill her big ideas and insights about the future of jobs in my post:
Fisher has done an outstanding job of framing out the landscape and walking the various arguments and perspectives on how automation will change the nature of work and shape the future of jobs.
One of the first things you might be wondering is, what jobs will automation take away?
Fisher addresses that.
Another question is, what new types jobs will be created?
While that’s an exercise for the reader, Fisher provides clues based on what industry luminaries have seen in terms of how jobs are changing.
The key is to know what automation can and can’t do, and to look at the pattern of work in terms of what’s better suited for humans, and what’s better suited for machines.
As one of my mentors puts it, “If the work can be automated, it’s not human.”
He’s a fan of people doing creative, non-routine work, where they can thrive and shine.
As I take on work, or push back on work, I look through a pretty simple lens:
I find that by using this simple lens, I tend to take on high-value work that creates high-impact, that cannot be easily automated. At the same time, while I perform the work, I look for way to turn things into repetitive activities that can be outsources or automated so that I can keep moving up the stack, and producing higher-value work … that’s more human.
Big Data Analytics and Insights are changing the game, as more businesses introduce automated systems to support human judgment.
Add to this, advanced visualizations of Big Data, and throw in some power tools for motivated users and you have a powerful way to empower the front-line to better analyze, predict, and serve their customers.
McKinsey shares a framework and their insights on how advanced analytics can create and unleash new business value from Big Data, in their article: Unleashing the value of advanced analytics in insurance
The exciting part is how you can create a new world-class capability, as you bake Big Data Analytics and Insights into your business.
Via Unleashing the value of advanced analytics in insurance:
“Weaving analytics into the fabric of an organization is a journey. Every organization will progress at its own pace, from fragmented beginnings to emerging influence to world-class corporate capability.”
McKinsey's transformation involves five components. The five components include the source of business value, the data ecosystem, modeling the insights, workflow integration, and adoption.
Big Data Analytics and Insights is a hot trend for good reason. If you saw the movie Moneyball you know why.
Businesses are using analytics to identify their most profitable customers and offer them the right price, accelerate product innovation, optimize supply chains, and identify the true drivers of financial performance.
In the book, Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris share examples of how organizations like Amazon, Barclay’s, Capital One, Harrah’s, Procter & Gamble, Wachovia, and the Boston Red Sox, are using the power of Big Data Analytics and Insights to achieve new levels of performance and compete in the digital economy.
You can read it pretty quickly to get a good sense of how analytics can be used to change the business and the more you expose yourself to the patterns, the more you can apply analytics to your work and life.
Management Innovation is at the top of the Innovation Stack.
The Innovation Stack includes the following layers:
While there is value in all of the layers, some layers of the Innovation Stack are more valuable than others in terms of overall impact. I wrote a post that walks through each of the layers in the Innovation Stack.
I think it’s often a surprise for people that Product or Service Innovation is not at the top of the stack. Many people assume that if you figure out the ultimate product, then victory is yours.
History shows that’s not the case, and that Management Innovation is actually where you create a breeding ground for ideas and people to flourish.
Management Innovation is all about new ways of mobilizing talent, allocating resources, and building strategies.
If you want to build an extremely competitive advantage, then build a Management Innovation advantage. Management Innovation advantages are tough to copy or replicate.
If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I’m a fan of extreme effectiveness. When it comes to innovation, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of playing a role in lots of types of innovation over the years at Microsoft. If I look back, the most significant impact has always been in the area of Management Innovation.
It’s the trump card.
One of the things I do, as a patterns and practices kind of guy, is research and share success patterns.
One of my more interesting bodies of work is my set of patterns and practices for successful executive thinking.
A while back, I interviewed several Microsoft executives to get their take on how to think like an effective executive.
While the styles vary, what I enjoyed is the different mindset that each executive uses as they approach the challenge of how to change the world in a meaningful way.
My approach was pretty simple. I tried to think of a simple way to capture and distill the essence. I originally went the path of identifying key thinking scenarios (changing perspective, creating ideas, evaluating ideas, making decisions, making meaning, prioritizing ideas, and solving problems) ... and the path of identifying key thinking techniques (blue ocean/strategic profile, PMI, Six Thinking Hats, PQ/PA, BusinessThink, Five Whys, ... etc.) -- but I think just a simple set of 5 key questions was more effective.
These are the five questions I ended up using:
The insights and lessons learned could fill books, but I thought I would share three of the responses that I tend to use and draw from on a regular basis …
1) The dominant framework I like to use for decisions is: how can we best help the customer? Prioritizing the customer is nearly always the right way to make good decisions for the long term. While one has to have awareness of the competition and the like, it usually fails to “follow taillights” excessively. The best lens through which to view the competition is, “how are they helping their customers, and is there anything we can learn from them about how to help our own customers?”
2) I don’t think that there is anything magical about executive thinking. The one thing we hopefully have is a greater breadth and depth of experience on key decisions. We use this experience to discern patterns, and those patterns often help us make good decisions on relatively little data.
3) Same answer as #2.
4) How can we help our customers more? Are we being realistic in our assessments of ourselves, our offerings and the needs of our customers? How can we best execute on delivering customer value?
5) It is key to keep some discretionary time for connecting with customers, studying the competition and the marketplace and “white space thinking.” It is too easy to get caught up on being reactionary to lots of short-term details and therefore lose the time to think about the long term.
There are three things that I think about as it relates to leading organizations: Vision, People and Results. Some of the principles in each of these components will apply to any organization, whether the organization's goal is to make profit, achieve strategic objectives, or make non-profit social impact.
In setting the vision and top level objectives, it is very important to pick the right priorities. I like to focus on the big rocks instead of small rocks at the vision-setting stage. In today's world of information overload, it is really easy to get bombarded with too many things needing attention. This can dilute your focus across too many objectives. The negative effect of not having a clear concentrated focus multiplies rapidly across many people when you are running a large organization. So, you need to first ask yourself what are the few ultimate results that are the objectives of your organization and then stay disciplined to focus on those objectives. The ultimate goal might be a single objective or a few, but should not be a laundry list. It is alright to have multiple metrics that are aligned to drive each objective, but the overall objectives themselves should be crisp and focused.
The next step in running an organization is to make sure you have the right people in the right jobs. This starts with first identifying the needs of the business to achieve the vision set out above. Then, I try to figure out what types of roles are needed to meet those needs. What will the organization structure look like? What kind of competencies, that is, attributes, skills, and behaviors, are needed in those roles to meet expected results? If there is a mismatch between the role and the person, it can set up both the employee and the business for failure. So, this is a crucial step in making sure you've a well running organization.
Once you have the right people in the right jobs, I try to make sure that the work environment encourages people to do their best. Selfless leadership, where the leaders have a sense of humility and are committed to the success of the business over their own self, is essential. An inclusive environment where everyone is encouraged to contribute is also a must. People's experience with the organization is for the most part shaped by their interaction with their immediate manager. Therefore, it is very important that a lot of care goes into selecting, encouraging and rewarding people managers who can create a positive environment for their employees.
Finally, the organization needs to produce results towards achieving the vision and the objectives you set out. Do not confuse results with actions. You need to make sure you reward people based on performance towards producing results instead of actions. When setting commitments for people, you need to be thoughtful about what metrics you choose so that you incent the right behavior. This again helps build an environment that encourages people to do their best. Producing results also requires that you've a compelling strategy for the organization. Thus, you need to stay on top of where the market and customers are. This will help you focus your organization's efforts on anticipating customer needs, and proactively taking steps to delight customers. This is necessary to ensure that organization's resources are prioritized towards those efforts that will produce the highest return on investment.
The big things that really stand out for me are using the customer as the North Star, balancing with multi-disciplinary perspectives, evaluating multiple, cascading ramifications, and leading with vision.
100 Articles to Sharpen Your Mind
Rituals for Results
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Early on in my Program Management career, I ran into challenges around cutting scope.
The schedule said the project was done by next week, but scope said the project would be done a few months from now.
On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we optimized around “fix time, flex scope.” This ensured we were on time, on budget. This helped constrain risk. Plus, as soon as you start chasing scope, you become a victim of scope creep, and create a runaway train. It’s better to get smart people shipping on a cadence, and focus on creating incremental value. If the trains leave the station on time, then if you miss a train, you know you can count on the next train. Plus, this builds a reputation for shipping and execution excellence.
And so I would have to cut scope, and feel the pains of impact ripple across multiple dependencies.
Without a simple chunking mechanism, it was a game of trying to cut features and trying to figure out which requirements could be completed and still be useful within a given time frame.
This is where User Stories and System Stories helped.
Stories created a simple way to chunk up value. Stories help us put requirements into a context and a testable outcome, share what good looks like, and estimate our work. So paring stories down is fine, and a good thing, as long as we can still achieve those basic goals.
Stories help us create Cuttable Scope.
They make it easier to deliver value in incremental chunks.
A healthy project start includes a baseline set of stories that help define a Minimum Credible Release, and additional stories that would add additional, incremental value.
It helps create a lot of confidence in your project when there is a clear vision for what your solution will do, along with a healthy path of execution that includes a baseline release, along with a healthy pipeline of additional value, chunked up in the form of user stories that your stakeholders and user community can relate to.
Continuous Value Delivery the Agile Way
Kanban: The Secret of High-Performing Teams at Microsoft
Minimum Credible Release (MCR) and Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Portfolios, Programs, and Projects
Ten at Ten are a very simple tool for helping teams stay focused, connected, and collaborate more effectively, the Agile way.
I’ve been leading distributed teams and v-teams for years. I needed a simple way to keep everybody on the same page, expose issues, and help everybody on the team increase their awareness of results and progress, as well as unblock and breakthrough blocking issues.
When people are remote, it’s easy to feel disconnected, and it’s easy to start to feel like different people are just a “black box” or “go dark.”
Ten at Ten Meetings have been my friend and have helped me help everybody on the team stay in sync and appreciate each other’s work, while finding better ways to team up on things, and drive to results, in a collaborative way. I believe I started Ten at Ten Meetings back in 2003 (before that, I wasn’t as consistent … I think 2003 is where I realized a quick sync each day, keeps the “black box” away.)
I’ve written about Ten at Ten Meetings before in my posts on How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams, How I Use Agile Results, Interview on Timeboxing for HBR (Harvard Business Review), Agile Results Works for Teams and Leaders Too, and 10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life, but I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of the key information at a glance.
Here is an overview of Ten at Ten Meetings:
This is one of my favorite tools for reducing email and administration overhead and getting everybody on the same page fast. It's simply a stand-up meeting. I tend to have them at 10:00, and I set a limit of 10 minutes. This way people look forward to the meeting as a way to very quickly catch up with each other, and to stay on top of what's going on, and what's important. The way it works is I go around the (virtual) room, and each person identifies what they got done yesterday, what they're getting done today, and any help they need. It's a fast process, although it can take practice in the beginning. When I first started, I had to get in the habit of hanging up on people if it went past 10 minutes. People very quickly realized that the ten minute meeting was serious. Also, as issues came up, if they weren't fast to solve on the fly and felt like a distraction, then we had to learn to take them offline. Eventually, this helped build a case for a recurring team meeting where we could drill deeper into recurring issues or patterns, and focus on improving overall team effectiveness.
Here is more of a step-by-step approach:
You’d be surprised at how quickly people start to pay attention to what they’re working on and on what’s worth working on. It also helps team members very quickly see each other’s impact and results. It also helps people raise their bar, especially when they get to hear and experience what good looks like from their peers.
Most importantly, it shines the light on little, incremental progress, and, if you didn’t already know, progress is the key to happiness in work and life.
10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life
How I Use Agile Results
How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams
Before the Cloud, there was a lot of focus on deployment, as if deployment was success.
Once you shipped the project, it was time to move on to the next project. And project success was measured in terms of “on time” and “on budget.” If you could deploy things quickly, you were a super shipper.
Of course, what we learned was that if you simply throw things over the wall and hope they stick, it’s not very successful.
"If you build it" ... users don't always come.
It was easy to confuse shipping projects on time and on budget with business impact.
But let's compound the problem.
The big hump of software development was the hump in the middle—A big development hump. And that hump was followed by a big deployment hump (installing software, fixing issues, dealing with deployment hassles, etc.)
So not only were development cycles long, but deployment was tough, too.
Because development cycles were long, and deployment was so tough, it was easy to confuse effort for value.
Now, let's turn it around.
With the Cloud, deployment is simplified. You can reach more users, and it's easier to scale. And it's easier to be available 24x7.
Add Agile to the mix, and people ship smaller, more frequent releases.
So with smaller, more-frequent releases, and simpler deployment, some software teams have turned into shipping machines.
The Cloud shrinks the development and deployment humps.
So now the game is a lot more obvious.
Deployment doesn't mark the finish. It starts the game.
The real game of software success is adoption.
If you picture the old IT project hump, where there is a long development cycle in the middle, now it's shorter humps in the middle.
The big hump is now user adoption.
It’s not new. It was always there. But the adoption hump was hidden beyond the development and deployment humps, and simply written off as “Value Leakage.”
And if you made it over the first two humps, since most projects did not plan or design for adoption, or allocate any resources or time, adoption was mostly an afterthought.
And so the value leaked.
But the adoption hump is where the business benefits are. The ROI is sitting there, gathering dust, in our "pay-for-play" world. The value is simply waiting to be released and unleashed.
Software solutions are sitting idle waiting for somebody to realize the value.
All of the benefits to the business are locked up in that adoption hump. All of the benefits around how users will work better, faster, or cheaper, or how you will change the customer interaction experience, or how back-office systems will be better, faster, cheaper ... they are all locked up in that adoption hump.
As I said before, the key to Value Realization is adoption.
So if you want to realize more value, drive more user adoption.
And if you want to accelerate value, then accelerate user adoption.
In a Cloud world, the original humps of design, development, and deployment shrink. But it’s not just time and effort that shrink. Costs shrink, too. With online platforms to build on (Infrastructure as a Service, Platforms as a Service, and Software as a Service), you don’t have to start from scratch or roll your own. And if you adopt a configure before customize mindset, you can further reduce your costs of design and development.
Architecture moves up the stack from basic building blocks to composition.
And adoption is where the action is.
What was the afterthought in the last generation of solutions, is now front and center.
In the new world, adoption is a planned spend, and it’s core to the success of the planned value delivery.
If you want to win the game, think “Adoption-First.”
How Can Enterprise Architects Drive Business Value the Agile Way?
How To Use Personas and Scenarios to Drive Adoption and Realize Value
So, if you have a bunch of smart people, a bunch of bright ideas, and everybody wants to talk at the same time ... what do you do?
Or, you have a bunch of smart people, but they are quiet and nobody is sharing their bright ideas, and the squeaky wheel gets the oil ... what do you do?
Whenever you get a bunch of smart people together to change the world it helps to have some proven practices for better results.
One of the techniques a colleague shared with me recently is Method 635. It stands for six participants, three ideas, and five rounds of supplements.
He's used Method 635 successfully to get a large room of smart people to brainstorm ideas and put their top three ideas forward.
Here's how he uses Method 635 in practice.
The outcome is that each person will see the original three solutions and contribute to the overall set of ideas.
By using this method, if each of the 5 rounds is 5 minutes, and if you take 10 minutes to start by explaining the issue, and you give teams 5 minutes to write down their initial set of 3 ideas, and then another 5 minutes at the end to vote, and another 5 minutes to present, you’ve accomplished a lot within an hour. Voices were heard. Smart people contributed their ideas and got their fingerprints on the solutions. And you’ve driven to consensus by first elaborating on ideas, while at the same time, driving to convergence and allowing refinement along the way.
All in a good day’s work, and another great example of how structuring an activity, even loosely structuring an activity, can help people bring out their best.
How To Use Six Thinking Hats
Idea to Done: How to Use a Personal Kanban for Getting Results
Workshop Planning Framework
I was flipping back over the past year and reflecting on the high-value activities that I’ve seen across various Enterprise customers. I think the high-value activities tend to be some variation of the following:
At first I was thinking of Porter’s Value Chain (Inbound Logistics, Operations, Outbound Logistics, Marketing & Sales, Services), which do help identify where the action is. Next, I was reviewing how when we drive big changes with a customer, it tends to be around changing the customer experience, or changing the employee experiences, or changing the back-office and systems experiences.
You can probably recognize how the mega-trends (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data) influence the activities above, as well as some popular trends like Consumerization of IT.
I also found it helpful to review the original memo from July 11, 2013 titled Transforming Our Company. Below are some of my favorite sections from the memo:
Via Transforming Our Company:
“We will engage enterprise on all sides — investing in more high-value activities for enterprise users to do their jobs; empowering people to be productive independent of their enterprise; and building new and innovative solutions for IT professionals and developers. We will also invest in ways to provide value to businesses for their interactions with their customers, building on our strong Dynamics foundation.
Specifically, we will aim to do the following:
Facilitate adoption of our devices and end-user services in enterprise settings. This means embracing consumerization of IT with the vigor we pursued in the initial adoption of PCs by end users and business in the ’90s. Our family of devices must allow people to be more productive, and for them to easily use our devices for work.
Extend our family of devices and services for enterprise high-value activities. We have unique expertise and capacity in this space.
Information assurance. Going forward this will be an area of critical importance to enterprises. We are their trusted partners in this space, and we must continue to innovate for them against a changing security and compliance landscape.
IT management. With more IT delivered as services from the cloud, the function of IT itself will be reimagined. We are best positioned to build the tools and training for that new breed of IT professional.
Big data insight. Businesses have new and expanded needs and opportunities to generate, store and use their own data and the data of the Web to better serve customers, make better decisions and design better products. As our customers’ online interactions with their customers accelerate, they generate massive amounts of data, with the cloud now offering the processing power to make sense of it. We are well-positioned to reimagine data platforms for the cloud, and help unlock insight from the data.
Customer interaction. Organizations today value most those activities that help them fully understand their customers’ needs and help them interact and communicate with them in more responsive and personalized ways. We are well-positioned to deliver services that will enable our customers to interact as never before — to help them match their prospects to the right products and services, derive the insights so they can successfully engage with them, and even help them find and create brand evangelists.
Software development. Finally, developers will continue to write the apps and sites that power the world, and integrate to solve individual problems and challenges. We will support them with the simplest turnkey way to build apps, sites and cloud services, easy integration with our products, and innovation for projects of every size.”
If you can’t imagine what high-value activities look like, or what business transformation would look like, then have a look at this video:
Nedbank: Video Banking with Lync
Nedbank was a brick-and-mortar bank that wanted to go digital and, not just catch up to the Cloud world, but leap frog into the future. According to the video description, “Nedbank initiated a program called the Integrated Channel Strategy, focusing on client centered banking experiences using Microsoft Lync. The client experience is integrated and aligned across all channels and seeks to bring about efficiencies for the bank. Video banking with Microsoft Lync gives Nedbank a competitive advantage.”
The most interesting thing about the video is not just what’s possible, but that’s it’s real and happening.
They set a new bar for the future of digital banking.
It’s long over-do, but I finally wrote up my 10 Big Ideas from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
What can I say … the book is a classic.
I remember when my Dad first recommended that I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People long ago. In his experience, while Tony Robbins was more focused on Personality Ethic, Stephen Covey at the time was more focused on Character Ethic. At the end of the day, they are both complimentary, and one without the other is a failed strategy.
While writing 10 Big Ideas from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I was a little torn on what to keep in and what to leave out. The book is jam packed with insights, powerful patterns, and proven practices for personal change. I remembered reading about the Law of the Harvest, where you reap what you sow. I remembered reading about how to think Win/Win, and how that helps you change the game from a scarcity mentality to a mindset of abundance. I remembered reading about how we can move up the stack in terms of time management if we focus less on To Dos and more on relationships and results. I remembered reading about how if we want to be heard, we need to first seek to understand.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is probably one of the most profound books on the planet when it comes to personal change and empowerment.
It’s full of mental models and big ideas.
What I really like about Covey’s approach is that he bridged work and life. Rather than splinter our lives, Covey found a way to integrate our lives more holistically, to combine our personal and professional lives through principles that empower us, and help us lead a more balanced life.
Here is a summary list of 10 Big Ideas from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
In my post, I’ve summarized each one and provided one of my favorite highlights from the book that brings each idea to life.
A Minimum Credible Release, or MCR, is simply the minimal set of user stories that need to be implemented in order for the product increment to be worth releasing.
I don’t know exactly when Minimum Credible Release became an established practice, but I do know that we were using Minimum Credible Release as a concept back in the early 2000’s on the Microsoft patterns & practices team. It’s how we defined the minimum scope for our project releases.
The value of the Minimum Credible Release is that it provides a baseline for the team to focus on so they can ship. It’s a metaphorical “finish line.” This is especially important when the team gets into the thick of things, and you start to face scope creep.
The Minimum Credible Release is also a powerful tool when it comes to communicating to stakeholders what to expect. If you want people to invest, they need to know what to expect in terms of the minimum bar that they will get for their investment.
The Minimum Credible Release is also the hallmark of great user experience in action. It takes great judgment to define a compelling minimal release.
A sample is worth a thousand words, so here is a visual way to think about this.
Let’s say you had a pile of prioritized user stories, like this:
You would establish a cut line for your minimum release:
Note that this is an over-simplified example to keep the focus on the idea of a list of user stories with a cut line.
And the art part is in where and how you draw the line for the release.
While you would think this is such a simple, obvious, and high-value practice, not everybody does it.
All too often there are projects that run for a period of time without a defined Minimum Credible Release. They often turn into never-ending projects or somebody’s bitter disappointment. If you get agreement with users about what the Minimum Credible Release will be, you have a much better chance of making your users happy. This goes for stakeholders, too.
There is another concept that, while related, I don’t think it’s the same thing.
It’s Minimum Viable Product, or MVP.
Here is what Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, says about the Minimum Viable Product:
“The idea of minimum viable product is useful because you can basically say: our vision is to build a product that solves this core problem for customers and we think that for the people who are early adopters for this kind of solution, they will be the most forgiving. And they will fill in their minds the features that aren’t quite there if we give them the core, tent-pole features that point the direction of where we’re trying to go.
So, the minimum viable product is that product which has just those features (and no more) that allows you to ship a product that resonates with early adopters; some of whom will pay you money or give you feedback.”
And, here is what Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, has to say about the Minimum Viable Product:
“The Lean Startup provides many strategies for validating the worth of a business idea. One core strategy is to develop a minimum viable product – the smallest offer you can create that someone will actually buy, then offer it to real customers. If they buy, you’re in good shape. If your original idea doesn’t work, you simply ‘pivot’ and try another idea.”
So if you want happier users, better products, reduced risk, and more reliable releases, look to Minimum Credible Releases and Minimum Viable Products.