Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
Browse free personal development articles that will elevate your game in work and life. If you have a passion for personal development, then you’ll enjoy this knowledge base of personal development articles on Sources of Insight:
Personal Development Articles
There are more than a 1,000 personal development articles in the knowledge base. I’ve grouped them into meaningful buckets across mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun.
I’ve spend many, many, many $1,000s of dollars on books and training over the years.
For the past several years, I’ve made it a habit to share more of what I learn and what I use in the real world on Sources of Insight.
The singular goal is to empower you with skill and help you be as effective as possible in all that you do.
Or, as I like to say it with a phrase:
Skills to pay the bills and lead a better life.
If you don’t have time to read all the personal development articles, then just read this one:
There is No Shortage of Time
Lists are your friend when it comes to productivity, focus, and personal effectiveness. If you’re a Program Manager, you already know the value of lists, whether it’s a list of scenarios, a list of features, a list of bugs, a list of milestones, a list of open work, etc.
I use lists of all kinds to collect, organize, and simplify all sorts of information. Here is my newly renovated Lists page on Sources of Insight:
Lists at a Glance
I have lists of books, movies, quotes, and more. I also have checklists that you can use to improve things like focus or leadership in work and life.
Here are a few of my favorite lists from the page:
If you only read one list, read 101 of the Great Insights and Actions for Work and Life. It might seem long but it’s a super consolidated list of things you can use instantly to make the most of what you’ve got and to apply more science to the art of work and life.
Here are a few examples from 101 of the Greatest Insights and Actions for Work and Life:
Job satisfaction — Autonomy, identity, feedback significance, and variety. If you want to truly enjoy your job, focus on the following characteristics: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, feedback. See Social Psychology (p. 423)
“How does the story end?” – How the story ends, matters more than how it starts. A happy ending is a very powerful thing. The ending of the story is often more important than the beginning. Daniel Kahnenman says that a bad ending can ruin your overall experience or memory of the event.
“Doublethink” — Think twice to visualize more effectively. Think twice to succeed. Focus on the positive and the negative. You can visualize more effectively if you imagine both the positive side and the negative side. First, fantasize about reaching your goal, and the benefits. Next, imagine the barriers and obstacles you might face. Now for the “doublethink” … First, think about the first benefit and elaborate on how your life would be better. Next, immediately, think about the biggest hurdle to your success and what you would do if you encounter it. In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says that Gabriele Oettingen has demonstrated time and again that people who practice “doublethink” are more successful than those who just fantasize or those who just focus on the negatives.
Delphi Method — Use “Collective Intelligence” to find the best answers. The Delphi technique is a way to use experts to forecast and predict information. It’s a structured approach to getting consensus on expert answers. The way it works is a facilitator gets experts to answer questions anonymously. The facilitator then shares the summary of the anonymous results. The experts can then revise their answers based on the collective information. By sharing anonymous results, and then talking about the summary of the anonymous results, experts can more freely share information and explore ideas without being defensive of their opinions. See Delphi Method.
The Power of Regret — Reflect on your worst, to bring out your best. In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says, “research conducted by Charles Abraham and Paschal Sheeran has shown that just a few moments’ thinking about how much you will regret not going to the gym will help motivate you to climb off the couch and onto an exercise bike.”
10 Emotional Intelligence Articles for Improving Your Effectiveness in Work and Life
How Tos for Personal Effectiveness at a Glance
How To Use Monday Vision, Daily Wins, and Friday Reflection to Triple Your Productivity
"Information is not knowledge." -- Albert Einstein
We live in a super-competitive world. It’s also a super-collaborative world. How ironic. But, I guess, in that way, it’s kind of like Survivor.
We need to learn how to do things better, faster, and cheaper, and what you don’t know can hurt you.
How Tos are still my favorite way of learning how to get things done, and for sharing and scaling expertise in a simple way.
In the sprit of helping you get better, faster, and more capable, I’ve revamped my How Tos page on Sources of Insight (my blog on “proven practices for personal effectiveness.”) Here is my updated How Tos page (Index of How Tos organized by Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, etc.):
How Tos at a Glance
Here are a few of my favorites that I think you’ll enjoy:
I think you can use any of these to instantly get quick benefits and apply new skills or approaches. Or, if you have a better approach, then you can share it with me, and I can improve the How To
If you only have time to read one, read How To Think Like Bill Gates.
A common reaction people have when they read that one is at first they think it’s all common sense, but then when they read the part at the end that contrasts it with typical default thinking patterns, they realize the enormous gap between every day thinking and thinking like the big “G” man.
Sources of Insight Refresh: Insights and Actions for Work and Life at Your Fingertips
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important tools to add to your tool belt, whether you are a leader, a manager, a manager of managers, or an individual contributor that needs to influence without authority.
Emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.”
It’s powerful stuff.
Here are 10 of my past posts from this year that will help you learn some new emotional intelligence skills that you can apply immediately:
If you only have time to read one, then I recommend starting with the following:
How To Free Yourself from Negative Emotions
Best wishes for 2014!
As a tribute to Nelson Mandela, I put together a comprehensive collection of the best Nelson Mandela quotes:
Nelson Mandela Quotes
It’s a pretty extreme collection, organized by key themes like compassion, courage and conviction, and humility.
One of the things that surprised me is how much Mandela was about fulfillment and self-actualization. I knew the freedom and equality focus, as well as the leadership focus, but I hadn’t realized how many great words of wisdom and pithy prose he had about making the most of what you’ve got, as well as rising above your circumstances.
He really exemplified the idea of “follow your growth.”
So whether you’re building your building your knowledge base for personal development or leadership insights, Nelson Mandela’s quotes should be a great fit for your collection.
Here are a few of my favorite Nelson Mandela quotes:
Here is the my full set of Nelson Mandela quotes.
Please share them with anybody you think will benefit or needs a pick me up or some little lift for their day.
In Motley Fool Stock Advisor, David Gardner writes about a idea from 1970 that changed the business culture at large:
“In 1970, Noble Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrote a famous article for The New York Times Magazine, decrying the idea that businesses should have any sense of social responsibility. Their responsibility, he said, is to increase shareholder wealth to the greatest extent possible – pure and simple. It was an incredibly influential idea that became common wisdom and is in large part responsible for much of the business culture we see today. The problem is it was completely and transparently wrong.”
David then follows up with words of wisdom from Jack Welch, Former General Electric CEO.
Here’s what Jack said in an interview back in 2009:
“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy … Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers, and your products. Managers and investors should not set share price increase as their overarching goal.”
It’s a great reminder to set overarching goals that matter.
Then great results are a by-product.
I’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best personal development gifts:
The Greatest Personal Development Gifts Ever
I wanted to put together a profound catalog of the best personal development programs that the world has ever known. At Microsoft, I’ve been lucky enough to have amazing mentors over the years, and they have always shared with me the programs that they’ve used to really transform their lives.
Success often seems like magic until you find out behind the scenes the price that people pay.
I’ve used many personal development programs over the years. So many of them ended up being heavy on hype, but light on insight. I’ve learned to seek out the programs that have profound knowledge that you can use to grow your capabilities and really change your game. I’ve written about 3 personal development programs that give you an edge in work and life before, so this time, I wanted to go above and beyond, and really share the full scope of the most powerful personal development programs on the planet.
While I was putting together The Greatest Personal Development Gifts Ever, I was a little sad to see that some of “the great ones” are no longer with us. Even sadder was when I looked for personal development programs by people that I thought would have created some, it turned out, they didn’t actually create any. It reminded me of the value of information products that goes well beyond books. There is something to be said for a “program” of sorts where you give somebody a self-paced package to work through, to practice skills and turn insight into action.
It’s also a great reminder of how unique some people are, and how unique their gifts truly are.
And, it’s also a reminder how valuable “evergreen” life wisdom is.
The other thing I learned while trying to put together The Greatest Personal Development Gifts Ever is that it’s not always so easy to give somebody a boxed set of personal development multi-media gifts. In some cases, some things just weren’t available anymore, unless somebody on eBay wants to part with their old cassette tapes It’s a reminder that as our form factors change, it’s actually possible to “lose” some ancient or timeless wisdom. I didn’t realize how easy this is, until I was trying to put my hands on some old classics that I knew would help some people.
The other big thing I reflected on while putting together The Greatest Personal Development Gifts Ever is how important it is to have a system for personal transformation. And, while it’s true that all roads lead to the same town, some paths are way better than others. But, the real key, as always, is that you have to find the system that works for you. For me, I prefer hard-core or extreme insight and action. If I’m going to invest, then I want the most powerful lessons and the most rapid results presented in a way where I can quickly test my results, make progress, get feedback, and change accordingly.
For others, they need a softer approach. They need their journey to be more inspirational, or more emotional. I take this into account when I give personal development gifts for the holidays. I also took this into consideration while putting together The Greatest Personal Development Gifts Ever. For example, if the person you are getting the gift for would prefer a “harder” style of personal development, then Tony Robbins is a great choice. If, on the other hand, you know the person would prefer a “softer” style, then Brian Tracy or Jack Canfield would be great choices.
I also included a collection of self-hypnosis programs in my collection of The Greatest Personal Development Gifts Ever. Here’s why: It’s easy for people to get stuck. Super easy. It’s easy to fall into a trap of learned helplessness. It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair when you are down and out. It can be hard to bounce back. You can think of self-hypnosis as a guided relaxation, but the reason I included it is because sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Whether it’s our negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, or subconscious habits, we work against ourselves. Self-hypnosis can help you get unstock by helping you refocus on who you want to be and what experiences you want to create, and get the power of your mind back on your side.
I hope my catalog of The Greatest Personal Development Gifts Ever helps you save a lot of time, avoid wasting money, and find the personal development programs that actually work, whether you’re looking to find gifts for someone else, or to add to your own personal development collection.
This is a guest post by Stephen Kell on Value Realization and how it can help IT organizations stay relevant through changing times, as well as become a strategic partner within the organization. For background, Stephen is a Microsoft Enterprise Architect with extensive experience in Telecoms, Manufacturing, Financial Services and government sectors. Over the course of his career, he has played various roles including CTO, IT Director, Enterprise Architect, and Principal Consultant.
Without further ado, here’s Stephen on lessons learned in Value Realization …
During my time working within IT, I have found that business value is something that project teams worry about at the beginning of the project in order to justify initial investment but then is often forgotten as the project goes into the build and implementation phases. During these phases the emphasis is placed on the budget and timescales of the project. Scope changes are made to fit in with the budget and timescales without any thought as to the effect on the business value delivered. ‘On-time and on-budget’ is the project managers’ mantra whereas it should be ‘on-time, on-budget and business value delivered’.
This lack of emphasis on business value delivered gives the business the view that IT is a cost center which provides an essential service rather than seeing IT as a valued business partner. This view is reflected in the position of IT departments under the CFO rather than as a valued member of the board reporting into the CEO or even as part of a business strategy group. The way technical people tend to communicate does not help. Often there is a long explanation of the technical merits of a solution followed by ‘it will save the user 2 hours per day’. This is where value models come in which allow the conversation to have some structure in order to attract and hold the attention of the business community.
IT is so important to the business but they often get frustrated with the IT department’s perceived inability to deliver and thus set up their own Business Unit IT departments, side-lining the IT department to acting as the provider of infrastructure only. This trend was highlighted in the recent MIT CISR 2013 Annual Research Forum in Boston.
In order to be able to communicate the value of IT to the business, the CIO and his team need to know what the business values and how these are measured and reported:
How many people in the IT department know and understand the above value dimensions? Most of this information is readily available internally (and often externally). Taking time to understand what the organization values will mean that the IT department becomes much more relevant to the business and the business will start to listen and value the insights that the CIO and his team can bring, enabling them to be at the core of the decision making process and not side-lined.
By using value models the CIO can bring a level of maturity to the value discussion which might well be missing from the business. The CFO will have some financial models but these will not necessarily cover all of the dimensions of value. This can also be a challenge for the CIO; if there are not mature value models within the business then it is difficult to articulate the value of IT.
Having said that, it is difficult to model and measure value. Other blog entries on this subject have covered the Observable, Measurable, Quantifiable and Financial categorization of value so I won’t go into detail here but would point out that financial models do not cover all the goals and drivers of certain organizations. Public sector organizations and charities are about delivering social value to the countries/communities that they serve and therefore the Social Impact has to be taken into account as well as the financial aspects and indeed the Social Impact can be much more important than the financial measures. Even commercial companies are now putting emphasis on value other than pure financial such as environmental impact, or helping the unemployed back into work.
Whereas there are some fairly mature models for modeling the financial side of a business, there are very few models for modeling the Social Impact of an organization. I have discussed this in more detail in the following blog post:
Understanding How To Measure the Value of Public Sector Projects
So in conclusion, business value to the organization is a very important concept for IT leadership teams to get their head around if they want to play a strategic role within the organization. Without a good understanding of business value there is the risk that they will be relegated to the side-lines as the provider of the infrastructure whilst the business units set up their own IT departments. Researching the different value models and frameworks should be a priority for IT leaders who have not already done so. Understanding what the business values and delivering to increase that business value keeps the IT department at the heart of the organization as a valued partner.
Blessing Sibanyoni on Value Realization
Paul Lidbetter on Value Realization
Martin Sykes on Value Realization
Mark Bestauros on Value Realization
Graham Doig on Value Realization
“Until we’re educating every kid in a fantastic way, until every inner city is cleaned up, there is no shortage of things to do.” – Bill Gates
Bill Gates was my original inspiration for joining Microsoft. Here was a guy with all the money in the world that showed up everyday, and put in more hours than most people I know, to change the world.
He had ruthless focus on empowering people and building a better world.
Technology just happens to be his way.
Related to this, a funny thing happened a few weeks back. I was meeting a colleague I hadn’t seen in a while. While I was waiting, I noticed a poster on his wall.
It was a poster of lessons learned from Bill Gates. It was 25 lessons learned from Bill Gates.
Lesson #18 caught my eye:
You get better by listening to your toughest critics. Your greatest source of growth can come from the people that will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. Bill says, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill also says, “You’ve got to want to be in this incredible feedback loop where you get the world-class people to tell you what you’re doing wrong.”
I started to read a few more of the lessons. #25 also caught my eye:
Connect people, process, and technology. Create a digital landscape or a virtual world to reduce friction and to create new possibilities. Bill says, “One of the wonderful things about the information highway is that virtual equity is far easier to achieve than real-world equity…We are all created equal in the virtual world and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world.”
I had to ask my friend where he got the poster from. He told me from my site:
Lessons Learned from Bill Gates
How funny was that?
My friend had formatted the poster so well, I didn’t recognize my original post from long ago.
Anyway, I did a quick formatting sweep of my post, Lessons Learned from Bill Gates.
Hopefully, the lessons are easier to read now, and better emphasize the insight that Gates has shared with the world over his lifetime.
BTW –- if you have any favorite lessons from Bill Gates, feel free to share them.
Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story
Microsoft Secret Stuff
Steve Ballmer Quotes
The First 11 Employees of Microsoft
The Microsoft Story
Value Realization is hot. You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project.
Business leaders want to understand the benefits they’ll get from their technology solutions. They also want to see the value of their investment deliver benefits and deliver real results along the way. And, of course, they also want to accelerate adoption so that they can speed up their value realization, as well as help avoid “value leakage".”
But how do you actually do Value Realization in the real world? …
This is a guest post by Blessing Sibanyoni. Blessing delivers advisory, IT architecture, and planning services to Microsoft’s top enterprise customers within the financial services sector. He has more than 17 years of experience in the IT field. He is currently an Enterprise Architect and Strategy Advisor on behalf of Microsoft Corporation.
As an Enterprise Strategy Advisor, Blessing helps organizations achieve challenging business and organizational goals. He does so by helping them leverage value from their current and future investments, enabled by technology. Blessing has a solid record of delivering large and complex initiatives within organizations while always doing this in a mutually beneficial way. You can connect with Blessing Sibanyoni on LinkedIn.
Without further ado, here’s Blessing on Value Realization …
Often we grapple with the notion of value. At first it seems like a very simple thing but when you really take time to consider it, you realize how complicated and multi-dimensional it becomes. Take a simple example of a person who follows a methodology, based on best practices, who crosses all the t’s and dots the i’s but at the end of the day experiences a failed project or is unable to reach goals that his customers appreciate. Or perhaps, what about the notion of another who is highly intelligent but working for someone far less “intelligent” from a credentials or even IQ perspective.
What has happened here?
Why do these paradoxes occur and how do you ensure you are not ending up experiencing the same?
I would argue that at the heart of these conundrums is the notion of value. Value is the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged. Often it’s not about inputs but rather outcomes and many state that you cannot achieve it without effecting a transformation. The transformation itself can be virtual or manifested in the real world, but for true value to be derived, transformation in whatever form, must transpire.
For transformation to transpire a real pain must be felt.
After spending almost two decades in public and private enterprises, I’m still intrigued by why organizations decide to spend resources on some things and not others. Often it’s the thing that seem to make the least sense which these organizations decide to put all their resources into.
This curiosity is one that lingers on especially realizing that resources are often limited and logically, one would naturally be better positioned by focusing on projects or initiatives that offer more returns and deserve more attention. One could take the cynical view that common sense is not so common, or the perspective that organizations are made of people, and people are irrational and fallible beings that bring their own biases into every situation.
So the notion of value then or the expectation of what will bring value is often subjective and largely determined in the eye of the beholder.
I have met many stakeholders who are more interested in the qualitative rather than the quantitative. Surprisingly, this is true, even in financial services!
Giving such people a quantitative, seemingly logical justification is often destined to result in failure, and the converse is also true. So, knowing your stakeholders, what drives and resonates with them is more important that coming up with a definitive, objective, rational and quantitative hypothesis in order to convince them to take some action.
Recently I was fortunate to have worked with a senior executive who was very financially inclined with a major focus on bottom line impact. This stakeholder did so well in the organization that he was soon promoted. To my surprise the person who replaced him was much more people oriented and his biggest concerns were around how the changes proposed would impact people within the organization. The new stakeholder’s view was that people came first and happy employees result in a positive bottom line effect.
I believe both execs had a great view, even though it seemed that their perspectives were fundamentally different.
The key for me was to ensure that both qualitative and quantitative arguments were well prepared in advance so that we could tell compelling stories that drove the agenda regardless of the different concerns and viewpoints.
Knowing your industry and thinking ahead about what your stakeholders may not yet know that they need or desire, is also a very valuable thing to do.
Think about the world of tablet computers that nobody knew they needed just a few years ago, yet these things are now taking the world by storm...
At the beginning I spoke about blind implementation of a methodology being a less than great thing, I would argue that the following steps make great sense around realizing that value, in the eye of the beholder:
This is a guest post by Paul Lidbetter. Paul is a seasoned Enterprise Architect on the Microsoft Enterprise Architect and Strategy Practice in the UK. His specialty is business value, strategic alignment, and Cloud transformation opportunities with customers.
Paul is also an active member of the Innovation Value Institute Consortium, a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the BCS, and member of The Institution of Engineering and Technology (The IET).
Without further ado, here’s Paul on Value Realization …
Value realization is talked about, but is less frequently achieved because it is hard to deliver! Value realization tends to be thought of by many organizations as the magic that will happen at the end of a project/program.
Value Realization has evolved to become one of the most used phrases in project proposals, value propositions and investment discussions, but do we really know what the implications are or what we are promising by agreeing to Value Realization as part of a program of work?
Cost of ownership and business benefit measures have been and are still used as the focus for a business case, which is, at worst, simply a gate to justify a business investment, after which any focus on managing and delivering the expected business benefits, from the agreed investment, is long forgotten.
In my experience Value Realization is hard because it assumes some level of maturity for process, reporting, measures and decision making, as part of a value based culture, which supports long term ownership of change and value management over extended time lines. For example in the worst cases I have experienced;
As Value: = (Benefits - (Operational Costs & Investment-Capital Costs)) Realized Value is impacted by delivering more or less benefits and/or incurring more or less costs/investments needed to deliver such benefits over time. Indeed the investment is very much part of Value Realization. Value therefore needs to be measured over the life time of the change, for example some metrics may be evident early in the adoption cycle and others such as overall ROI may take years. Because of the time line, investment time/resources needed tend to increase and benefits fall/become less relevant with time, thereby leaking value from the business also impacting opportunity costs.
Realization means that the value defined by the business case (or agreed sub set) is actually delivered, is visible and has an agreed impact on business goals, KPIs, revenue and budgets. Until value is actually realized it is remains as potential value and no more. For example finding a cost saving and then not reducing budgets or reallocating the funds to drive new opportunities is not Value Realization, it is pretending that value has been delivered.
A more top down approach may increase accountability for delivering benefits, but the very same people may not want the benefits (e.g. they see dis-benefits based on cuts to their budgets, staff, maybe major personal and career change), or they may want the benefits, but are still dependent on another group, who may own the budgets/resources and have other priorities on time and resource, to enable solutions and deliver change.
So stakeholder management and alignment are key issues that can be a source of delay and indeed failure to optimize Value Realization.
Value Realization therefore demands a value culture or shift in an organization around value governance and increasing levels of maturity/capability to focus on qualifying decisions based on Realizable Value and managing value as part of delivery programs. Hence, successful Value Realization needs to be planned as part of any project/program from the start, not in panic at the end of the project based on smoke and mirrors. Of course if there are no defined measures to start with then smoke and mirrors can work every time.
Value Realization is/should become more critical to organizations as the ability to source new cloud services and capabilities accelerates and lowers the risk and costs for the design and deployment cycles, thereby throwing the internal focus on doing the right things and ensuring value is being created within shorter cycles. This is further driven by both business and accelerating technology trends which in some industries can be enabled to deliver value faster for competitive advantage. Being able to demonstrate that a program has delivered on time and on budget is no longer good enough, pretending that value just appears is no longer good enough to remain competitive.
Some organizations focus on realization in the short term, in order to mitigate this issues above and also to ensure that opportunity costs are maximized. Indeed some organizations I have worked with, both commercial and public sector, have banked the benefits at the start of the project. For example a CFO reduced the travel budgets at the start of a Unified Communication program to accelerate the program, business change and adoption. The final value delivered is still dependent on the overall level of investment, but this did drive behavior and accelerate change.
In a Telecommunications customer, although the initial discussion was with IT and around deployment, the focus for change was in fact the business (HR), which allowed both relevant measures and accountability to be established. Also the focus on delivering value was integrated into the PMO and associated change managers which enabled the Value Realization process to be part of the overall plan, as part of a Microsoft Enterprise Strategy Services engagement. In addition the number of measures where kept small and easy to verify. E.g. a cost saving metric, a productivity measure and a program acceleration measure (to demonstrate the value of the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy Services engagement)
A further example from a financial organization had some of the challenges, but the approach taken ensured that a culture and process change was slowly introduced with support from Microsoft Enterprise Strategy Services. Projects/Programs were delivered with measures that were more about cost and time, but in order to demonstrate the value of both Microsoft Enterprise Strategy Services and customer projects, some projects were evaluated for post Value Realization in which the benefits were signed off ( or not, by stakeholders) and accumulated with investments to provide a snap shot in time of value realized. Importantly this also allowed potential value, to be identified along with a portfolio based value management process and relevant accountabilities to be successfully introduced moving forwards.
Some of the key enablers are therefore;
Value Realization is a powerful tool when you use it as an approach to help connect business and IT, justify investments, accelerate business value, and drive adoption and change.
This is a guest blog post from Martin Sykes. Martin has been involved with Enterprise Architecture and IT Strategy for 15 years and is today a coach in Microsoft Service’s Enterprise Strategy Centre of Excellence. He’s also known for his use of visual storytelling techniques and is one of the authors of Stories That Move Mountains: Storytelling and Visual Design for Persuasive Presentations. (watch his top rated session on storytelling from TechEd New Zealand if you want to improve your own presentations)
Without further ado, here’s Martin on Value Realization …
This week I was teaching a class for our Enterprise Architects where we covered some of the most important topics for success as an EA, with one of the sections focused on the identification and delivery of value. If “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” then I think it’s fair to say “Value is in the eye of the customer”, although depending on your perspective you might replace customer with stakeholder or shareholder. In this posting I will cover some of the things we talked about that can make a big difference when creating business cases, and ensuring you realize the value promised in the business case.
What’s the first thing you do when creating a business case? Some may start by clarifying the scope, some by identifying the real drivers for change, some the budget.
I recommend you should first think about who will care about the opportunity proposed in the business case. Who will be reviewing it? Who will be approving it? What do they care about? Every business case must have good numbers, let’s take that as a given. Those numbers must be correct for the business case (and your reputation) to be credible. But while a business case must have the numbers it is more than the numbers. Even for purely internal teams the business case is a proposal for someone to make an investment decision, or more bluntly, to buy something.
Let’s turn that last statement around, when you create a business case you are selling something. So before you start work on that business case spend some time really understanding the consumer of the business case to work out why they will ‘buy’ your ideas now. This is important even if your customer is your own management, who have asked you to write the business case.
Use the insight into your customer to work out what narrative (or story) needs to go into the business case to support the numbers, to ensure you focus on the aspects that are important to the goals of the stakeholder. This is where so many standard templates fail to inspire. They take a business case to the point where it has all the logical argument and can totally miss, or at least hide, why the proposal is important and relevant to the customer today.
If value is the difference between cost and benefit then let’s look at all the different types of benefit that can come from making a change. I like to use a benefits structure developed from ideas first published by the Information Systems Research Centre of Cranfield University School of Management back in the late 1990s. The desire to make a change, or create a business case often comes initially from a belief that there will some form of improvement or financial return. In most organizations belief is not good enough - that’s why we ask people to work on a business case – so the team at Cranfield defined four levels of benefit that be used to build a business case:
Observable – these are the benefits we can see, but have not worked out how to measure. These could be improvements in morale or changes in the culture of an organization.
Measurable – one step up from observable and we now have identified some way to measure the benefit. For a cultural change program you could start to survey staff members to understand their attitudes to work and track this over time. Unfortunately you may not know what the current value for your measure is, and the first task may be to go out and do an initial survey to set a baseline.
Quantifiable – if you already have some data for the measures you might use then we call the benefit quantifiable. The best case here would be that you have a trail of historic data to show not only the current position but the existing trend. If you have a trend showing a slow but steady increase in staff turnover then you may be doing well simply to make a change that levels things off. If the trend was already improving then you have to do better than the trend.
Financial – finally, can you turn your measurement into financial value? If you know the costs of recruitment and training to bring in a new staff member you can define a financial benefit to balance against the costs of your proposed changes. There are two kinds of financial benefit though, the first is where you can recognize the value, but in reality you can do nothing with the money. This is typically the case where a proposal has identified savings in time because of a new process, but in reality the saving does not allow you to reduce staff numbers. All you can really do is re-purpose that time for more work. The second is where you can realize the value and actually have real money in the bank (or avoid spending some). If a new process allows you to achieve the current workload with 3 people instead of 4 then you have a choice to reduce staff costs and realize the benefit.
All of these benefits can be included in a business case and contribute to the value of a project, but in reality only realized financial benefits can be used to provide a return on investment calculation. If you want to learn more about this approach then watch my TechEd New Zealand recording from earlier this year.
Most of the business cases I see developed are used to secure funding, then used simply as a baseline for the project costs. As benefits usually cannot be realized until something is delivered this part of the business case is often quietly forgotten about. When an IT project team complete a delivery there is usually some form of celebration, the solution is handed to operations and a small group might be left providing some user training. The benefits drift away, someone else’s problem.
Here’s an idea I have only ever seen implemented a few times around the world, and that’s because it challenges a few basic assumptions about the role of a project manager and a PMO.
Change the definition of success for a project manager to be about the realization of value. Delivery is just another milestone. The PM should be required to stay on the project until the ROI stated in the business case is achieved. This makes the PM responsible for user adoption and achieving the benefits defined in the business case. Achieving the value becomes the goal of the project, resources are planned to ensure adoption happens, and measures are implemented to show progress. It also changes the types of business cases produced. Inflated expectations are pushed down by the PM to more realistic levels so the project can be reach the ROI as quickly as possible and the PM can move on to their next project. For such a little idea it can take a big change in mindset and culture to make it happen – but the result can be projects that have a much more demonstrable impact on the business.
Strategy Must Be Dynamic
As a strategist, I need to stay on top of how the world of business is changing, especially from an IT perspective.
The world of business is changing faster than ever.
Changes are happening in the ways we work, business models and processes are evolving, customers are changing what they value and how they buy, and technology is transforming and shaping the next generation Enterprise.
Likewise, the smart CIOs and IT organizations are significant shapers of the next generation Enterprise. They are doing so by rethinking business models, reinventing the organization, and rewiring operations.
In their whitepaper, Making the Shift to the Next-Generation Enterprise, Cognizant shares 8 future-of-work enablers you can evaluate against to help you build a strategy to future-proof your business.
According to Cognizant, the following are unprecedented, relentless and perplexing challenges that organizations of today face:
According to Cognizant, the following are the 3 R’s of corporate model transformation to future-proof your business:
According to Cognizant, the 8 future-of-work enablers are as follows:
According to Cognizant, you can map the 8 future-of-work enablers to the 3 R’s of corporate model transformation as follows:
According to Cognizant, you can evaluate against a specific set of KPIs within each area of corporate model transformation:
According to Cognizant, there is a prescription for outperforming the competition:
“Tomorrow’s corporate winners have already started to adapt their corporate operating models. Based on a survey of 25 Fortune 500 companies, we have found that, on average, organizations are aware of future-facing concepts and capabilities, and they have begun enabling these capabilities in pockets of the organization. However, the initiatives are inconsistent and not always focused on the strategic business agenda.”
According to Cognizant, CIOs and IT organizations are shapers of the next generation Enterprise:
“Woven into this trend, we are seeing that the most mature adoption is happening at the technology layer of the corporate operating model. This suggests that the IT organization, and perhaps the role of the CIO, are evolving as drivers and shapers of the next-generation enterprise. This is not all that surprising, given that a large aspect of this work is underpinned by technology that powers long overdue business process transformation. We believe the real opportunities will present themselves as the business models are rethought and the operations/ processes are reinvented, along with this trend to rewire the technology.”
6 Steps for Enterprise Architecture as Strategy
How To Turn IT into an Asset Rather than a Liability
I'm lucky to have an interview with Irv Rothman, CEO of HP Financial Services.
I’m always happy to learn from CEOs and I especially enjoy the way they look at the world. Edward de Bono has spent a lifetime teaching extraordinary executive thinking skills to ordinary people, and I’m a big believer in learning business skills for life.
Irv wrote a book called Out-Executing the Competition, where we he shares leadership lessons he's learned about surviving and thriving in any economy.
I asked Irv a handful of questions, some about work, some about life.
The most important question I asked him was what’s the most surprising insight you’ve learned about out-executing the competition. Here’s what Irv said:
“That it is not price. The creation of and execution on a genuine value proposition is the true source of sustainable competitive advantage and the best chance of retaining a customer for life…which should be an imperative.”
I think Irv’s right, and that makes perfect sense to me.
I’m a believer in customer-connected engineering. Your customer is a strategic decision. Once you know your customer, you need to know the pains, needs, and desired outcomes. If you have empathy for the pains and needs, and if you know what good looks like, then you have a great shot at taking the lead.
Then it comes down to your ability to execute.
The surprise here is that in order to execute well, you need to innovate in your processes, or you’ll be pushed out to market (too expensive, too slow, too irrelevant.)
The other surprise is how difficult it can be to truly generate new business value. As I’ve said before, business value generation is the new bottleneck. It takes a lot of customer insight, empathy, market awareness, innovation, and agility to know how to generate new business value on a consistent basis. In fact, this is where innovation and agility are crucial. You need an execution capability that supports exploration and new business development.
On a good note, the basics are timeless. As Peter Drucker taught us, "The purpose of business is to create a customer." So if you can get clarity on who you want to serve, figure out a profitable niche of the market where you can compete by playing to your strengths, capture the value in an elegant way, and master generating new value, then you are ahead of the game.
To truly master the game, though, you have to stay on top of trends, and master creating systems, ecosystems, and digitizing core processes.
If you can do these well, then you, too can be the Jedi Knight of strategy, out-execute the competition, and get the compound effect from spending the right time, on the right things, the right way, with the right energy.
That is the challenge.
Higher Profitability, Faster Time to Market, and More Value From Their IT
"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." -- Winston Churchill
Competitive advantage is a moving target. Static strategies fail in the long run. Strategy needs to be dynamic.
The challenge never ends.
Strategy is an ongoing game where the playing field changes over time.
In the book, The Strategist: Be the Leaders Your Business Needs, Cynthia A. Montgomery writes about how strategy competitive advantage is a changing thing and how strategy needs to be dynamic.
Montgomery uses the story of Apple to help illustrate how it could be easy to fall into the trap of complacency or get a false sense of security.
“Given the grand transformation, it's appropriate to ask: 'Is Apple there yet? Despite its late-century troubles, does it now have a sustainable advantage?' I often ask EOPers this question when teaching the Apple case. It is tempting to shout, "Yes!," as classes often do, or maybe even retort, 'Do you have to ask?' Apple has reinvented its innovative purpose and, taunting them for their lack of creativity. Case closed?
I think not.
In 2010, Apple's computer market share soared to about 11 percent, but that's hardly the mark of a dominant industry player. Otherwise normal people will camp outside an Apple store for the latest iPhone, but smartphones based on Google Inc.'s Android software substantially outsold the iPhone in 2010, according to NPD Group, a market research firm. Windows-based competitors to the iPad are coming fast and furiously. Such tablets might well become the fourth golden age, replacing the traditional personal computer as the center of the digital hub while becoming products sold largely on price. And there's no guarantee that the iPad, the iCloud ecosystem, or their successors will be the ones that head the pack a couple of years from now.”
Competitive advantage isn’t a durable thing, even though some exceptions might make it appear that way. The greatest advantages show up during the times of the greatest changes.
“Conventional wisdom would say that the goal of strategy is a long-term sustainable competitive advantage. I challenge that view. Such advantages are rare and for good reason. As Schumpeter showed, peaks in market growth and profitability often come from change, not stasis. Henry Ford dominated care sales with a single, affordable model until Alfred Sloan's General Motors beat him with a line of differentiated products. Polaroid owned instant photography until digital imaging shut it out; many broad-service hospitals were monopolies until low-cost focused providers started chipping away at their base; colleges with sprawling campuses owned higher education until community college, for-profit organizations, and distance learning challenged them with different economic models.”
You can’t count on one competitive advantage to win the ongoing game. Strategies aren’t “fire and forget” and they should not be set in concrete.
“Zeroing in on one competitive advantage and expecting it to be sustainable misrepresents the strategists challenge. It encourages managers to see their strategist's challenge. It encourages managers to see their strategies as set in concrete and, when spotting trouble ahead, go into defensive mode, hunkering down to protect the status quo, instead of rising to meet the needs of a new reality. To be sure, competitive advantage is essential to strategy, and the longer it lasts, the better. But any one advantage, even a company's underlying system of value creation, is only part of a bigger story, one frame in a motion picture. It is the need to manage across frames, day by day, year over year, that makes a leader's role in strategy so vital.”
Whatever is a competitive advantage will change over time. The need to add value will continue to shape it.
“This organic view of strategy recognizes that whatever constitutes strategic advantage will eventually change. It underscores the different between defending a firm's added value as established at any given moment and something far more important: ensuring that a firm continues to add value over time. This is what endures -- not a particular purpose, a particular advantage, or a particular strategy, but the ongoing need to add value, always. The ongoing need to guide and develop a company so that it continues to matter.“
Your products and services need to change with the times, to keep adding value in the changing environment.
“This is not to say that great resources and great advantages are not built by businesses that enhance their core differences over time. But the products and services that embody those differences must evolve and change, as Apple learned, the hard way, their value has to be measured by the present environment, not the one that once was.”
The challenge is building the plane while you’re flying it, or sailing the boat while you’re fixing it. It’s a balance of being in the thick of things, while at the same time, taking a look from the balcony.
“Quite painfully, that may mean that, like the shot of Theseus, the keel may need to be rebuilt or the ship may need to sail in a very different direction. As my executive students like to point out, this challenge rarely happens when you're sitting in a dock. It's a hard realization that the planks have to be changed while you're sailing, while you're also straining to navigate and working hard to keep the ship afloat.”
Staying in the game means the challenge continues.
“On his return to Apple, Jobs had to remake the computer company plank by plank while also keeping it from bankruptcy -- rebuilding not in a rainstorm, but in a hurricane on the high seas. He got it right for the most part, but as even its archrival -- the once undauntable Microsoft – has discovered, the challenge never ends.”
Personally, I’ve been a fan of strategy. After all, as Zig Ziglar said, "People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest."
But it’s the Agile strategist that helps a venture survive and thrive for the long haul.
And, a ruthless focus on the customer and flowing continuous value is the North star.
High-Leverage Strategies for Innovation
Models for Competitive Advantage
Simple Enterprise Strategy
What Am I Doing on the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy Team?
I now have a life hacks category on Sources of Insight. It includes strategies and tactics for hacking life and how to live a little better. It includes posts on life, life quotes, lessons learned in life, and what is the meaning of life.
My latest addition to my life hacks bucket is 37 Inspirational Quotes That Will Change Your Life (or at least your mind.)
There are more than 120 articles in the life hacks bucket as of today.
Where to start?
If you’re not sure where to start, start with That Moment Where the World Stops.
If you’re feeling ambitious then read 50 Life Hacks Your Future Self Will Thank You For.
If you want to dive deep, read Happy vs. Meaningful: Which Life Do You Want?
Enjoy and in the words of Bruce Lee, “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”, and “Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”
"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." -- Michael Jordan
I've been asked recently about competitive talent acquisition strategies. I'm not a recruiter and I don't play one on T.V., but I thought I would share what I've seen work in the real world.
People are the life-blood of any company. They generate new ideas and find new ways to create value. I’ve seen teams, orgs, and companies grow or die based on the people they acquire, and their talent management strategies. Brain drain, as we call it when top talent leaves, is a very real threat to any otherwise big, bold, goals and initiatives.
Here is my five-minute brain dump on what works when it comes to attracting top talent:
Note, I didn’t plan on 21, but I’m glad I landed there. How lucky.
This is a guest post by Graham Doig on Value Realization applied to Enterprise Social software projects. You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project.
Graham is a Business Strategy Consultant (BSC) at Microsoft. He helps Microsoft’s global customers to realize their investment in Microsoft products. He does that by working with them to align their business and technology strategies and achieve successful adoption. Graham works with both customer business and IT groups to help them develop a strategy to realize change and drive productivity within their organizations.
Graham holds an MBA and PhD from Loughborough University. He is a regular presenter at conferences and contributor to the academic press. He also regularly lectures on a range of information technology topics to MBA courses at leading UK universities.
I’ve asked Graham to share some of his key insights and lessons learned in the art and science of Value Realization from his adventures in the field, across real-world customer engagements.
Without further ado, here is Graham Doig on how to realize value from Enterprise Social software projects …
Today Value Realization is a critical element of any effective IT enabled business change. It consists of the set of activities that are required to ensure the delivery of the value that is expected from a business investment. But before value can be realized some important things have to happen:
Once all of these things have happened then Value Realization can start to take place. The essence of Value Realization is that over a period of time the value being attained from the change is monitored and measured by the benefit owner. The objective is to ensure that the full projected value is attained within the expected timescales.
Social computing has become commonplace in the range of personal communication tools that are available today. Almost everyone who has access to a computer and the internet is familiar with Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In to one degree or another. It is estimated that Facebook now has over a billion engaged users and Twitter has more than 350 million tweets per day. These applications now provide ordinary people with enormous power to communicate, to converse, to comment, and to criticize or praise. So can this capability be transferred to the enterprise and can it be done in a manner that delivers business value? Well the most recent statistics suggest that most businesses believe that it can. In a recent MIT Sloan report the response was that the importance of social business to the organization had increased significantly between 2011 and 2012. This increase was identified in all industry sectors and the increase in importance ranged mainly between 10 and 20 percent. The challenge for all enterprises now is to translate this recognized importance of social computing into uses that deliver business value.
The first challenge that is encountered when trying to identify how social computing can be used to deliver business value is that Enterprise Social does not take the form of a traditional app that supports the day to day operation of the business. Neither does it deliver the capabilities required for measuring the performance of the business. On the face of it you could conclude that there is no clear role for social computing to play that can directly deliver value to a business organization. This would be wrong! Although identifying the value that Enterprise Social can deliver might be harder that with more conventional IT apps, business value can still be identified if you look in the right places.
Today there are two major forms of Enterprise Social emerging. The internal view which focuses on Social Productivity and topics such as Employee Engagement and Team Collaboration, and the external view that is focused on Social Marketing such as Marketing Campaigns and Social Media Monitoring. Both Social Productivity and Social Marketing have the potential to deliver business value. Being linked more closely to more mature business activities such as marketing and CRM, Social Marketing provides clearer opportunities for generating business value. This can include increasing the speed of customer adoption of new products and delivering increases in customer satisfaction. Being less mature, the opportunities for Social Productivity to delivery business value are harder to identify but they do exist. Social Productivity can lead to value being realized such as reduced staff attrition rates, and improved speed to market with new products.
So if business value can be generated by the use of Enterprise Social how can this value be identified, quantified, measured and realized? This is arguably the biggest question of all. A key tool that is available for addressing this challenge is the ACME model:
By applying the four steps of the ACME model business value can be identified and Value Realization can then be used to track the attainment of this value. The first step in the ACME model is Activate; a social network must be activated before anything can be done to generate or realize value. Activation assumes identifying and defining a purposeful network i.e. the network has to support a recognizable community that share a common interest, pain or need. Effective activation means that the community adopt and use the social network and that they participate by engaging in quality interaction. It is the interaction that takes place in the social network that generates mineable information.
The second step, Cultivate is a critical activity that must be undertaken to ensure the growth and success of the social network. A poorly subscribed and underutilized social network is unlikely to produce very much mineable information and is not likely to deliver much business value. A network requires a critical mass and level of activity before it will attract and grow new members. Without sufficient activity so as to be useful, the network will wither and collapse. A social network that can deliver business value thus must be active and vibrant and this can only be achieved through active cultivation.
The next two steps in the ACME model are the two that are most crucial for value identification and Value Realization. Step three is Mine; the information that flows from the social network must be mined effectively. It is possible to mine all the information that is being generated by a social network in an attempt to generate insights and whilst this is an acceptable approach it is very dependent on luck. An enterprise that adopts this approach for mining information from a social network is hoping to get lucky! An arguably more effective approach for mining this information is to focus on information that is relevant to the enterprise. Relevant is all about measuring the right thing, not everything. The right thing for every enterprise will be different but there is a standard set of information categories that can usually be considered. These standard information categories typically include:
By being relevant and focusing on these types of information categories an enterprise is no longer hoping to get lucky; it knows what it is looking for. A critical enabler for effective mining is social analytics, undertaking appropriate analytics on the information flowing from social networks is a paramount activity required to unlock the potential value from Enterprise Social. It is the analytics that generate the insights that are the seed corn for value. These insights could include gaining a better understanding of customer needs, identifying what consumers think about our product compared to a competing product, or finding out what citizens really think about a government policy. However, gaining insights is not enough, the fourth activity of the ACME model, Execute, has to take place for the potential value to be realized. The action can be executed by an individual, a team, or the organization as a whole but without something changing, an action, the insight will be valueless. It is only by executing an action that value can be realized. Typical actions that insights from Enterprise Social can generate might include monitoring and responding to customer complaints faster, responding positively to dissatisfaction being expressed in employee social networks, identifying patterns of exceptions and developing new products from early identification of new trends.
Execution also brings us right back to Value Realization because execution means Change and it is change that delivers business value. The actions that are taken should have clearly defined measurable business benefits; the value of the benefits and how they will be measured needs to be defined; and someone must take ownership of the benefits and the value that will be realized. It is only through effective Value Realization that Enterprise Social will be successful within your customers’ organizations.
Mark Bestauros on Value Realization in MS IT
Business Scenarios for the Cloud
Business Value Generation is the New Bottleneck
This is my roundup of Steve Ballmer quotes.
I wanted to gain new insight into what Ballmer is really about. I find that quotes arranged in meaningful buckets can help tell a story and provide a new lens. In fact, I was actually surprised by what I ended up with. I anticipated a focus on Vision, Business, and Boldness. What surprised me was the themes around Agility, Empowerment, and Innovation.
Buckets aside, Ballmer behind the scenes is very different than Ballmer on stage, or in the media. I hope that this collection of quotes helps show more of that range.
“All of our major businesses can have a short-twitch capability every six to nine months to a long-twitch capability. We can't make customers wait three to four years for things they need every few months.”
“Our goal in making these changes is to enable Microsoft to achieve greater agility in managing the incredible growth ahead and executing our software-based services strategy.”
“These changes are designed to align our Business Groups in a way that will enhance decision-making and speed of execution, as well as help us continue to deliver the types of products and services our customers want most.”
“This is all about having great leaders who can drive agile innovation and agile decision-making.”
“This will be a place with some structure, but structure that aids teamwork, not politics and bureaucracy, ... Nothing solves big company' ills quite like a strong focus on accountability for results with customers and shareholders.”
“We need to improve agility.”
“All in, baby!. We are winning, winning, winning, winning.”
"I love what we’re doing with Windows 8, and it’s a bold bet. We’re reimagining our number one product. That’s cool. But it’s not for the fainthearted. It takes a certain boldness and a certain persistence."
“Our people, our shareholders, me, Bill Gates, we expect to change the world in every way, to succeed wildly at everything we touch, to have the broadest impact of any company in the world.”
"The one thing that I think separates Microsoft from a lot of other people is we make bold bets. We’re persistent about them, but we make them. A lot of people won’t make a bold bet. A bold bet doesn’t assure you of winning, but if you make no bold bets you can’t continue to succeed. Our industry doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels forever. I mean, you can milk any great idea. Any idea that turns out to be truly great can be harvested for tens of years. On the other hand, if you want to continue to be great, you’ve got to bet on new things, big, bold bets. It’s in our value statement; you go to our website."
“Throughout our history, Microsoft has won by making big, bold bets. I believe that now is not the time to scale back the scope of our ambition or the scale of our investment. While our opportunities are greater than ever, we also face new competitors, faster-moving markets and new customer demands.”
"But Microsoft’s founding was when somebody said, hey, software is a basis for business. That’s what Bill Gates and Paul Allen did. That turns out to have been an amazingly correct and important thing, correct and important for Microsoft and correct and important for many, many entrepreneurs who have come since."
“I do think that there is such a strong interest in demand for improvements in information technology that we will continue to see a pretty strong information technology sector, no matter what happens with some of these global economic factors.”
"I'd say [one of] the things that eat at me the most ... is new business models. Learning a new business model or developing a new business model is so hard."
"Sometimes you are lucky. Ask any CEO who might have bought something before the market crashed (in 2008) ... Hallelujah! Putting everything else aside, the market fell apart. ... Sometimes you’re lucky.”
“The small-business market is the biggest part of the computer market, ... We really need to get after that.”
“You have to cut out parts…react to what the market is telling you. You get into trouble if you assume that you’re going to reach critical mass too quickly—because it’s most likely that you won’t. Through all these trials you can’t lose patience.”
"Ultimately progress is measured sort of through the eyes of our users. More than our investors or our P&L or anything else, it’s through the eyes of our users. We have 1.3 billion people using PCs today. There was a time in the ’90s when we were sure there would never be 100 million PCs sold a year. Now there will be 375 million sold this year alone."
“We had too many products that we were trying to sell to too few customers in the mid-market.”
“Everyone likes to differentiate between business and consumers but I don't see the difference really. Most people are people. I get personal and business mail and I have one set of contacts from my life. I don't want to manage two sets. I want one view of my world.”
"In the year 2000, people were still saying Microsoft would never be an enterprise company. Now a lot of people wonder whether Microsoft is still a consumer company! I mean, really? But I’ve got to tell you we had no enterprise street cred in the year 2000. We were still trying to prove ourselves to enterprise IT managers."
“Accessible design is good design.”
"But if we were trying to write it the original way, I guess it would be a computer on every desk, every pocket, every watch, every data center, every everything. But in a sense technology is a tool of sort of individual choice, individual creativity, individual empowerment, individual access, and mobility sort of just brings that more to the fold."
“Getting the most out of their people is on the mind of every business leader I speak with. (We) are passionate about the idea that the right software can provide the tools to empower workers to become the drivers of business success.”
“IBM says we have a team of consultants and we can help you innovate. But at the end of the day, unlocking people potential is better. Having people collaborate to make the right decision is more productive.”
"It’s always great when you get a lot of people pushing themselves to do better, be better, invent better, better serve, better lead customers in new directions."
“Our company has to be a company that enables its people.”
“The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.”
“Look at the product pipeline, look at the fantastic financial results we've had for the last five years. You only get that kind of performance on the innovation side, on the financial side, if you're really listening and reacting to the best ideas of the people we have.”
“So, I think the output of our innovation is great. We have a culture of self-improvement. I know we can continue to improve. There is no issue. But at the same time, our absolute level of output is fantastic.”
“The lifeblood of our business is that R&D spend. There's nothing that flows through a pipe or down a wire or anything else. We have to continuously create new innovation that lets people do something they didn't think they could do the day before.”
"The truth of the matter is it’s hard to invent anything. It’s hard to invent a new thing, and it’s just as hard to invent another new thing. I think we’ve been pretty successful, but it’s hard. It is hard."
“We're about to kick-start a new growth engine for the mobile industry. To grow, the wireless industry needs to provide end-to-end solutions and innovative services. We're creating great new tools to do just that.”
“Eventually the Internet will be accessed by PC, television, and wireless devices.”
“More of what we do will live on the Internet, ... Nobody will have software products in 10 years. Everyone will have products and services. It will be hard to tell the difference between software products and services.”
“There will be this kind of quantum leap forward in the way people use the Internet over the next several years. There will be ushered in a next generation Internet user experience. That will be marked not only by the introduction of additional devices that take advantage of the Internet, but it will be marked by a whole new set of ways for programs to work together, for users to share data with one another and with programs, and basically, almost a whole new user interface model of the world.”
“We have an incredible opportunity...to revolutionize the Internet user experience. We need to deliver our next generation services platform in order to do that. And we need Bill Gates 100 percent focused on helping architect that.”
“We need to deliver a breakthrough version of Windows that allows PCs and servers to support these next-generation services and host them out there on the Internet."
“All companies of any size have to continue to push to make sure you get the right leaders, the right team, the right people to be fast acting, and fast moving in the marketplace. We've got great leaders, and we continue to attract and promote great new leaders.”
“Bill brings to the company the idea that conflict can be a good thing."
“Great companies have high cultures of accountability, it comes with this culture of criticism I was talking about before, and I think our culture is strong on that.”
"Leaders really do need to hit the exact right balance on what I'd call the optimism realism curve. If you're not realistic, you lose respect from customers, partners, shareholders, press, employees, if you're not realistic. But if a leader can't be optimistic, if a leader can't say, life is going to be better, we're going to take share, we're going to improve this situation, if you can't sort of handle being optimistic and realistic at the same time, I think it [will be hard for you] to be a great leader."
"The key isn't to quibble with the style that somebody uses or the approach. The key is to grade the results."
“We realized we needed to give our core leaders deeper control and accountability in the way they run their businesses, while at the same time ensuring strong communication and collaboration across business units.”
“And we learned an important lesson: Today's business software doesn't look enough like today's businesses."
“IBM is increasingly a services company ... and we are, at the end of the day, a software company.”
“We are still not getting in the manufacturing industry, ... We will provide the infrastructure that lets those in the manufacturing industry do their jobs.”
“We will make our products work out of the box.”
“At Microsoft, we're investing heavily in security because we want customers to be able to trust their computing experiences, so they can realize the full benefits of the interconnected world we live in.”
“By bringing together the software experience and the service experience, we will better address the changing needs of our customers' digital lifestyles and the new world of work.”
"My kids will never understand that it used to be kind of hard to access and find things, and know what the world knows and see what the world sees. Yet it becomes easier and easier every day."
“There are a variety of different things that fall under the social banner. We’re adding what I’d call ‘connectivity to people’ into our core products, The acquisition of Skype is big step down that path toward connecting with other people.”
“Under Ray's technical leadership and weaving together both software and software-based services, I see incredible opportunity to better address the changing needs of our customers' digital lifestyles and the new world of work.”
"With Windows 8 we think we usher in a new round, a round of mobility, a round of natural interface. The cloud makes computing in a sense more seamless, more transparent, kind of more every day, more every minute than ever before. I think that’s very powerful."
Steve Ballmer On a Big Vision: To Help People Realize Their Full Potential
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” — Bill Gates
Seasoned leaders focus on WHAT, and then HOW.
Smart leaders start with WHY.
So the obvious conclusion is that the right recipe is WHY, WHAT, HOW.
But that’s the surprise.
The most effective leaders know the recipe is WHY, HOW, WHAT.
HOW is the key to success for the long-haul.
HOW is often the difference that makes the difference.
HOW is where execution happens.
HOW is where you figure out sustainable ways.
HOW is where you figure out Operating Principles so you can take on big challenges and nail whatever WHAT that comes your way.
If you master Ability to Execute, you bridge Strategy + Execution.
HOW is especially interesting because it’s where people can shine. If you’ve read The Patterns of High Performance, you know that individuals produce their best results when they use their personal HOW.
It’s the journey and the destination.
WHY is the juice for the journey. HOW is your recipe for the journey. WHAT is the destination. If you master your HOW, you can enjoy the journey, and you’ll be better prepared for any destination you set your eyes on. Of course WHY will filter the destinations you choose.
It’s elegance in action.
The key is to treat HOW as a first-class citizen. Execution is often a differentiator. If you master and mature your HOW, you can move up the stack to take on bigger and better things.
Use your HOW to chop any challenge down to size.
Another way to think of it is, “Masterful HOW” trumps “Ad-hoc HOW” or “Heroic Efforts” time and again. There are exceptions, but it’s not sustainable.
Those that invest wisely in their HOW execute with confidence, can do product line engineering, and create sustainable work-life balance, and use “Ability to Execute” as a competitive differentiator, among the sea of failing and flailing.
For a great video on the power of WHY, HOW, WHAT, check out Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.
25 Books the Most Successful Microsoft Leaders Read and Do
The Power of Values
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” -- Henry David Thoreau
Values are the ultimate lightening-rod. They bring people together, or divide them apart.
If you don’t get how much values shape a company, from the people they hire to the people they fire, check out Video interview with Simon Sinek about the Golden Circle.
When you do great work that makes your soul sing, it’s usually because you have a strong values alignment. When you combine values with a clear vision, and a powerful mission, it’s the ultimate key to unlocking greatness, in yourself, others, and the company or arena you’re in.
Here is a sampling of values from some companies you’ve probably heard of. You’ll notice some patterns across, but you’ll also notice some distinctions. It’s the distinctions that can tell you things like whether a company is innovation-centric, or social-centric, or consumer-centric, or information-centric, etc.
Here are the Microsoft values:
As a company, and as individuals, we value integrity, honesty, openness, personal excellence, constructive self-criticism, continual self-improvement, and mutual respect. We are committed to our customers and partners and have a passion for technology. We take on big challenges, and pride ourselves on seeing them through. We hold ourselves accountable to our customers, shareholders, partners, and employees by honoring our commitments, providing results, and striving for the highest quality.
Here are the Amazon Leadership Principles:
Here are the Google Values:
Here are Apple’s Core Values according to CEO Tim Cook:
And here are the Apple Values in the Apple Employee Handbook, circa 1993:
Apple Values are the qualities, customs, standards, and principles that the company believes will help it and its employees succeed. They are the basis for what we do and how we do it. Taken together, they identify Apple as a unique company.
These are the values that govern our business conduct:
Here are the 5 Facebook Values:
Here are IBM’s Values (as determined by 319,000 IBMers around the world that engaged in an open "values jam" on IBM’s global intranet):
Keep in mind, the fastest way to know the values is to know the leader, since values flow down (and people tend to hire people like themselves.) Also, remember that values are not what you say, but what you do, since actions speak louder than words.
Tell Your Story and Build Your Brand
What are the most useful CIO Resources you turn to?
Here are a few I know of …
It’s time for another take. Here it is:
The Exponential Results Formula
I made a mistake when I first named it. I called it, The Way of Success (sort of Bruce Lee style.)
While it certainly is the way of success, it really is more of a specific technique for getting exponential results.
I grew up in a world where results talk and BS walks.
And, time is a limited resource.
While I like learning, I don’t like wasting time, unless it’s by design. (And, sometimes it is.)
As a patterns and practices kind of a guy, I’ve studied and tested many, many, … many ways to find the keys to getting better, faster, and cheaper results. Cheaper can mean all sorts of things, but in this case, I mean it to be less cost, more efficient, and less wasteful.
In other words, I want more from the time and energy I already spend.
Don’t we all.
I also want to know “the map” and where I am on the map. This is especially true if it’s a long journey. As Zig Ziglar said, “People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.” Similarly, they don’t wander around into being a doctor. Or wander around and write a book.
Making great things happen usually takes great effort. That’s why passion and purpose are important.
But passion and purpose only get you so far. There’s a saying here that’s pretty relevant:
If all you have is motivation, but you have no technique, or the wrong strategy, that’s a recipe for failure. Or, it’s at least a recipe for a lot of wasted time and energy, and lackluster results.
Strategies, techniques, and mentors are the short-cut.
They help you find more effective paths and avoid dead-ends.
And that’s where the The Exponential Results Formula comes in.
It frames out a way to model success and amplify your impact.
After all, if you’re going to go for it, then why not go big.
As they say, go big or go home.
I’ve updated my menu at Sources of Insight to make it easy to dive into hot topics including Innovation, Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity and more. (here is the full Topics pages.)
I made them front and center on the top menu bar:
I’ll be testing the effectiveness of this new menu for the next 30 days.
Here was my previous design:
There are pros and cons to both.
I’ve struggled with my menu, so I’ll share some of my learnings.
With my previous design of the top bar, Home | Archives | Explore | Topics | Resources | Store | About | Contact, it was easy to see the site navigation at a glance, and make sense of it. Another advantage is that the idea of Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, was simple and clear, and it was easy to see Special Guests, including Best-Selling authors. The challenge is that it buried some interesting topics, under Topics.
So it was simple, but relatively generic, and some of the most interesting topics were nested under Topics.
With my new menu, Innovation | Leadership | Productivity | Personal Development | Fun are right in your face. Better yet, when you click More …, you have additional interesting topics right there, including Emotional Intelligence, Happiness, Intellectual Horsepower, Motivation, Strengths, and Time Management. This has several advantages. The main thing is that it puts hot topics at your fingertips. It also helps you get an instant sense of the scope of the site, and variety of coverage. It also makes it easy to showcase some interesting topics. Related, I can easily shuffle some of the popular topics to see which ones readers are hungry for, as well as test new topics. But a big downside is, my sub-menu looks more complicated now. I didn’t want to give up the Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, or the Special Guests, since they are key features of Sources of Insight.
I’ve studied menus. Many menus. Many, many, many, too many menus. And, I’ve played around with my own menus for many years. Menus really are a living thing (or they die, and information starts to die.) That said, they are powerful when they are simple, intuitive, and help users achieve their goals, or explore and find interesting things (I’m a fan of supporting both River AND Goal people.)
I finally stumbled on a really good menu design article that clicked for me:
How To Design Effective Navigation Menus
What I liked was the simple flip through of many menu designs at a glance. This made it really easy to compare and contrast across multiple designs very quickly, as well as explore designs I hadn’t seen before.
What caught my attention though, was the following section on how the BBC has enormous information, but slices into a simple set of seven categories:
There’s more to the story than that, but I liked the idea of a “Hot Button Bar” at the top, where, without thinking, you could simply “Dive In.”
While my site might not qualify yet as an enormous amount of information, it is getting there. I have more than 1,000 blog posts, and many of them are significant in size.
Here’s the most interesting thing to me, though. As soon as I chose this particular set of categories, I found myself wanting to produce some highly-targeted articles to really create a compelling experience for somebody drilling into these categories. I also want to create “Getting Started” articles for these Hot Spots as well as some Overview types articles, and definitely more How Tos, and more Checklists.
I think my driving philosophy behind my design is:
Think less, explore more, and yet make sense of the site at a glance.
I’m a fan of simplicity. On one hand, I feel like a lost some simplicity on the sub-menu. In fact, specifically, I just don’t like having too many options visible. I also don’t like that some of my most significant pages feel a little buried on my Resources page. My Trends page feels really lost and yet it’s my trends posts that change lives and companies. On the other hand, even though it’s more categories at a glance than I like up front, it does make it easy to dive into some very different parts of the site.
While I may not have “nailed it”, at least I think I’m trending in the right direction, and most people I think will quickly find information they need or want.
I’m also hoping that I stumble on additional design moves for my menu that I don’t expect. I actually didn’t expect to put the current set of topics on the main menu. But, I like it. It’s effectively:
My open issue to solve is how to consolidate my sub-menu, while keeping the simple story of Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, and making it easy to dive into key resources that are buried under the Resources page, including Checklists, How Tos, Lists, etc.
Keep in mind, as much as I’m complaining, all you really need to do is just click on the Resources page and you have bunches of resources at your fingertips.
But, like I said, I’m a fan of simplicity, and yes, I want my cake and eat it, too.
If you get a chance, dive in, take a look around, and let me know your thoughts.
There are articles in there that have helped people do amazing things.
If you just want some quick inspiration, take a stroll through my inspirational quotes collection.
Here is a sampling to get you started:
Explore for more.
Is collaboration the new competitive advantage? Possibly. I do know that those at work that pair up on things, and combine their capabilities can outshine those that go it alone. And, I do see how people with better networks tend to have an easier time making their ideas happen.
I wrote a book review of The Collaboration Economy: How To Meet Business, Social, and Environmental Needs and Gain Competitive Advantage, by Eric Lowitt. Eric is an HBR.org columnist and the best-selling author of The Future of Value.
What happens when the world competes for water, food, and energy?
Take a guess.
What happens when the world finds new ways to collaborate and innovate around limited resources?
Sustainability is the new advantage, and collaboration is a key competitive advantage.
Visionary CEOs are embracing sustainability, not because it’s politically correct, but because their businesses depend on it for revenue, innovation, and competitive differentiation.
In a global market, hyper-competition, and increasingly connected world, your portfolio of partnerships can make or break you. If you have the right collaborative partnerships, you have a competitive advantage. Similarly, if you lack collaborative partnerships where it counts, you’ll be at a disadvantage.
Companies like Unilever, Coca-Cola, GE, and Nestle Waters North America are leading the way.
How’s that going?
That’s what The Collaboration Economy is all about.
Throughout the book, Lowitt shares stories and data, as well as actionable guidance on how you can help shape the future of the economy and of the sustainability of the world.
What I like is how Lowitt paints a big picture. He walks through the five primary natural resources used for power: coal, natural gas, nuclear, water, and renewable resources. He gives his take on the pros and cons of each, as well as some interesting stats.
It's not an easy read, but it is pragmatic at multiple levels, for leaders, and consumers, by showing how certain things can play out.
For example, as a leader of a business, you have to know when to compete and when to collaborate. As a consumer, you vote with your purchases. But there are also gate-keepers at various points in our system (such as those who gives you loans, etc.) that could very easily shift towards more eco-friendly ways and change consumer behavior.
Eco-friendly will vary.
I especially like that Lowitt addresses the topic from a business perspective, rather than just a “good intentions” or “greater good” perspective. He shows how “the great good” will make business sense for the long-haul. He is also clear that it’s not an easy road. There are very obvious choices and challenges along the way. But he also points out that this road can lead to very interesting innovations, new organizational designs, and will make or break some of the biggest companies that depends on global systems that sustain our daily life.
It’s both a thoughtful book and an actionable book. Lowitt provides a framework for action as well as guiding insights to help you challenge and change the status quo.
For a deep dive into the book and a sampling of the nuggets, check out my book review on The Collaboration Economy.
If changing the world is something you’ve always wanted to do, now might be a great time to do so.