Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Amazing article about looking successful people/organizations thru a new lens. Clarity Pradox. Read to find out more…

Why don't successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call "the clarity paradox," which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.

We can see this in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street, but later collapsed. In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explored this phenomenon and found that one of the key reasons for these failures was that companies fell into "the undisciplined pursuit of more." It is true for companies and it is true for careers.

Here's a more personal example: For years, Enric Sala was a professor at the prestigious Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. But he couldn't kick the feeling that the career path he was on was just a close counterfeit for the path he should really be on. So, he left academia and went to work for National Geographic. With that success came new and intriguing opportunities in Washington D.C. that again left him feeling he was close to the right career path, but not quite there yet. His success had distracted him. After a couple of years, he changed gears again in order to be what he really wanted: an explorer-in-residence with National Geographic, spending a significant portion of his time diving in the most remote locations, using his strengths in science and communications to influence policy on a global scale. (Watch Enric Sala speak about his important work at TED). The price of his dream job was saying no to the many good, parallel paths he encountered.
What can we do to avoid the clarity paradox and continue our upward momentum? Here are three suggestions:

First, use more extreme criteria. Think of what happens to our closets when we use the broad criteria: "Is there a chance that I will wear this someday in the future?" The closet becomes cluttered with clothes we rarely wear. If we ask, "Do I absolutely love this?" then we will be able to eliminate the clutter and have space for something better. We can do the same with our career choices.

By applying tougher criteria we can tap into our brain's sophisticated search engine. If we search for "a good opportunity," then we will find scores of pages for us to think about and work through. Instead, we can conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: "What am I deeply passionate about?" and "What taps my talent?" and "What meets a significant need in the world?" Naturally there won't be as many pages to view, but that is the point of the exercise. We aren't looking for a plethora of good things to do. We are looking for our absolute highest point of contribution.



Enric is one of those relatively rare examples of someone who is doing work that he loves, that taps his talent, and that serves an important need in the world. His main objective is to help create the equivalent of National Parks to protect the last pristine places in the ocean — a significant contribution.

Second, ask "What is essential?" and eliminate the rest. Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to eliminate the nonessentials. At once, we have the key to unlock the next level of our lives. Get started by:

  • Conducting a life audit. All human systems tilt towards messiness. In the same way that our desks get cluttered without us ever trying to make them cluttered, so our lives get cluttered as well-intended ideas from the past pile up. Most of these efforts didn't come with an expiration date. Once adopted, they live on in perpetuity. Figure out which ideas from the past are important and pursue those. Throw out the rest.
  • Eliminating an old activity before you add a new one. This simple rule ensures that you don't add an activity that is less valuable than something you are already doing.

Third, beware of the endowment effect. Also known as the divestiture aversion, the endowment effect refers to our tendency to value an item more once we own it. One particularly interesting study was conducted by Kahneman, Knetsch and Thaler (published here) where consumption objects (e.g. coffee mugs) were randomly given to half the subjects in an experiment, while the other half were given pens of equal value. According to traditional economic theory (the Coase Theorem), about half of the people with mugs and half of the people with pens will trade. But they found that significantly fewer than this actually traded. The mere fact of ownership made them less willing to part with their own objects. As a simple illustration in your own life, think of how a book on your shelf that you haven't used in years seems to increase in value the moment you think about giving it away.
Tom Stafford describes a cure for this that we can apply to career clarity: Instead of asking, "How much do I value this item?" we should ask "If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?" And the same goes for career opportunities. We shouldn't ask, "How much do I value this opportunity?" but "If I did not have this opportunity, how much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?"

If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the "undisciplined pursuit of more," then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.

By Greg McKeown is the CEO of THIS Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency headquartered in Silicon Valley. He was recently named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Greg did his graduate work at Stanford. Connect with him on Twitter @GregoryMcKeown.

The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make


I recently reviewed a resume for a friend. She has terrific experience. And yet, as I looked through it there was a problem: she had done so many good things in so many different fields it was hard to know what was distinctive about her.

As we talked it became clear the resume was a symptom of a deeper problem of being pulled into projects and opportunities she doesn't feel make the best use of her talents. She ends up being overworked and underutilized. It is easy to see how people end up in this situation:

Step 1: Capable people are driven to achieve.

Step 2: Other people see they are capable and give them assignments.

Step 3: Capable people gain a reputation as "go to" people. They become "good old [insert name] who is always there when you need him." There is lots right with this, unless or until...

Step 4: We end up doing lots of projects well but are distracted from what would otherwise be our highest point of contribution (see more on this in the Harvard Business Review article The Disciplined Pursuit of Less). Then, both the company and the employee lose out.

Some of the responsibility for this lies with out-of-touch managers but I also think we need to be more deliberate and discerning in navigating our own careers. In the conversation I mentioned above, we took the time to develop a strategy based more closely with my colleague's Highest Point of Contribution.

Using a camping metaphor, there is sometimes a tendency for capable people to add additional poles of the same height to the tent. We end up with 10, 20 or 30 poles of the same height, somehow hoping the tent will go higher. I don't just mean higher on the career ladder either. I mean higher in terms of our ability to contribute.

The slightly painful truth is, at any one time there is only one piece of real estate we can "own" in another person’s mind. People can't think of us as a project manager, professor, attorney, insurance agent, editor and entrepreneur all at exactly the same time. They may all be true about us but people can only think of us as one thing first. At any one time there is only one phrase that can follow our name. Might we be better served by asking, at least occasionally, whether the various commitments and projects we have add up to a longer pole?

I saw this illustrated recently in one of the more distinctive resumes I had seen in a while. It belonged to a Stanford Law School Professor [there it is: the single phrase that follows his name, the longest pole in his career tent]. His resume was clean and concise. For each entry there was one, impressive title/role/company and a single line description of what he had achieved. Each one sentence said more than ten bullet points in many resumes I have seen. When he was at university his single line described how he had been the student body president, under "teaching" he was teacher of the year and so on.

The point here is not primarily about resumes. The point is we can benefit from evaluating career opportunities through the lens of the question, "Will this become the longest pole in the tent?" If the answer is ‘no’ we may well still choose to do it. But at least we do it with greater awareness.

Being able to do many things is important in many jobs today. Broad understanding also is amust. But developing greater discernment about what is distinctive about us can be a great advantage. Instead of simply doing more things we need to find ourhighest point of contribution. Failure to be conscientious about this represents the #1 mistake, in frequency, I see capable people make in their careers.

How do we know when too many good things are getting in the way of achieving something truly great in our careers? I look forward to a lively discussion/debate below.

And @gregorymckeown.

A few recent pieces I have written for Harvard Business Review are here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Strategy execution challenges

I read an interesting article in Dailymirror Lankan edition on 5Ps of Strategy. Here it is for you

Surviving in times of crisis Challenges in developing, implementing business strategy

MONDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2012 00:00

The term ‘business strategy’ has many definitions but my favourite is by Johnson and Scholes in Exploring Corporate Strategy. They said, “Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long term, which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations.”
According to this definition, business strategy is about:

  • Where is the business trying to get to in the long term? (direction)
  • What external, environmental factors affect the businesses’ ability to compete? (environment)
  • How can the business perform better than the competition in those markets? (advantage)
  • Which markets should a business compete in and what kind of activities is involved in such markets? (markets, scope)
  • What resources (skills, assets, finance, relationships, technical competence and facilities) are required in order to be able to compete? (resources)
  • What are the values and expectations of those who have power in and around the business? (stakeholders)

Entrepreneurs and business managers are often so preoccupied with immediate issues that they lose sight of their ultimate objectives. That’s why preparation of a strategic plan is a virtual necessity. This may not be a recipe for success, but without it, a business is much more likely to fail.
A sound plan should:

  • Assist benchmarking and performance monitoring.
  • Provide a basis for more detailed planning.
  • Serve as a framework for decisions or for securing support/approval.
  • Explain the business to others in order to inform, motivate and involve.
  • Stimulate change and become a building block for the next plan.

A satisfactory strategic plan must be realistic and attainable so as to allow managers and entrepreneurs to think strategically and act operationally.
Starting point
The starting point must be to determine a company’s existing vision, mission, objectives and strategies. Then judge these against actual performance along the following lines:

  • How has the company sought to increase sales and market share?
  • How has the company been managed?
  • Describe the actual strategies followed over the past few years in respect of products/services, operations, finance, marketing, technology, management, etc.
  • Is the current vision being realized?
  • How has the company’s mission and objectives changed over the past say, three years? Why have the changes occurred or why have no changes occurred? Identify primary reasons and categorize them as either internal or external.
  • Critically examine each strategy statement by reference to activities and actions in key functional areas covering such matters as:
  • How has the company been funded?
  • How have productivity/costs moved?

We must take each element and quantify by reference to actual performance. Ask of each ‘why not?’ ‘why only?’ or ‘why so?’ and locate the reasons for differences between the actual and desired performance.
Best approach
In most companies, devising the business strategy takes the form of managers brainstorming opportunities and then planning how they will take advantage of them. Unfortunately, while this type of approach is important, much more than this must be done if they want to be successful.
After all, there’s no point in developing a strategy that ignores competitors’ reactions, or doesn’t consider the culture and capabilities of the organisation. And it would be wasteful not to make full use of the company’s strengths - whether these are obvious or not.
Management expert, Henry Mintzberg argued that it’s really hard to get strategy right. To help us think about it in more depth, he developed his 5 Ps of Strategy – five different approaches to developing strategy.

  • Position
  • Ploy
  • Plan
  • Pattern
  • Perspective

By understanding each P, we can develop a robust business strategy that takes full advantage of the organisation’s strengths and capabilities.
Strategy as a Plan
Planning is something that many managers are happy with, and it’s something that comes naturally to us. As such, this is the default, automatic approach that we adopt – brainstorming options and planning how to deliver them.
Concepts like PEST Analysis, SWOT Analysis and Brainstorming help managers to think about and identify opportunities. The problem with planning, however, is that it’s not enough on its own. This is where the other four Ps come into play.
Strategy as Ploy
Mintzberg says that getting the better of competitors, by plotting to disrupt, dissuade, discourage, or otherwise influence them, can be part of a strategy. This is where strategy can be a ploy, as well as a plan.
For example, a grocery chain might threaten to expand a store, so that a competitor doesn’t move into the same area; or a telecommunications company might buy up patents that a competitor could potentially use to launch a rival product.
Here, techniques and tools such as the Futures Wheel, Impact Analysis, Game Theory and Scenario Analysis can help you explore the possible future scenarios in which competition will occur.
Strategy as Pattern
Strategic plans and ploys are both deliberate exercises. Sometimes, however, strategy emerges from past organisational behaviour. Rather than being an intentional choice, a consistent and successful way of doing business can develop into a strategy.
To use this element of the 5 Ps, take note of the patterns you see in your team and organisation. Then, ask yourself whether these patterns have become an implicit part of your strategy and think about the impact these patterns should have on how you approach strategic planning.
Tools such as USP Analysis and Core Competence Analysis can help you with this. A related tool, VRIO Analysis, can help you explore resources and assets (rather than patterns) that you should focus on when thinking about strategy.
Strategy as Position
‘Position’ is another way to define strategy - that is, how you decide to position yourself in the marketplace. In this way, strategy helps you explore the fit between your organisation and your environment and it helps you develop a sustainable competitive advantage.
For example, your strategy might include developing a niche product to avoid competition, or choosing to position yourself amongst a variety of competitors, while looking for ways to differentiate your services.
When you think about your strategic position, it helps to understand your organisation’s ‘bigger picture’ in relation to external factors. To do this, use PEST Analysis, Porter’s Diamond, and Porter’s Five Forces to analyse your environment - these tools will show where you have a strong position and where you may have issues. You can also use SWOT Analysis to identify what you do well and to uncover opportunities.
Strategy as Perspective
The choices an organisation makes about its strategy rely heavily on its culture – just as patterns of behaviour can emerge as strategy, patterns of thinking will shape an organisation’s perspective and the things that it is able to do well.
For instance, an organisation that encourages risk-taking and innovation from employees might focus on coming up with innovative products as the main thrust behind its strategy. By contrast, an organisation that emphasizes the reliable processing of data may follow a strategy of offering these services to other organisations under outsourcing arrangements.
To get an insight into your organisation’s perspective, use cultural analysis tools like the Cultural Web and the Congruence Model.
Using 5 Ps
Instead of trying to use the 5 Ps as a process to follow while developing strategy, think of them as a variety of viewpoints that you should consider while developing a robust and successful strategy.
A word of advice! There are three points in the strategic planning process where it’s particularly helpful to use the 5 Ps: (1) When you’re gathering information and conducting the analysis needed for strategy development, as a way of ensuring that you’ve considered everything relevant,  (2) When you’ve come up with initial ideas, as a way of testing that that they’re realistic, practical and robust,  (3) As a final check on the strategy that you’ve developed, to flush out inconsistencies and things that may not have been fully considered.
(The writer is a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience. He can be contacted at

Monday, August 20, 2012

Change Readiness the new Change Management


Author Torben Rick - Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement and development, change management and turn-around.

Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement and development, change management and turn-around. View full profile

Why can some companies take advantage of any change the market brings, while others struggle with the even the smallest internal or market-necessitated modification? The reasons why will differ for each organization, but the question is definitely worth asking – especially in light of the fact that the pace of change is accelerating at the fastest rate in recorded history.

Companies most likely to be successful in making change work to their advantage are the ones that no longer view change as a discrete event to be managed, but as a constant opportunity to evolve the business. So is change readiness is the new change management? Change readiness is the ability to continuously initiate and respond to change in ways that create advantage, minimize risk, and sustain performance.

Sustaining success depends on an organization’s ability to adapt to a changing environment – whether it’s an external change, such as a transformative technology or a changing economy, or an internal one, such as a restructuring or key process overhaul. Unfortunately, 60-70% of organizational transformations fail – a dismal statistic validated by study after study. Failure rates this high demand a new mindset and new actions:

Change readiness – Change awareness

Change Awareness is a company’s ability to redefine itself as necessary. This contextual focus is critical to innovation – the right product at the right time. Good change awareness practices include scanning the environment for opportunities, focusing on emerging trends and planning for the future. Does your company have people responsible for regularly assessing the market for new opportunities and market changes? Does your company proactively search for opportunities for brand renewal and product innovation?

Change readiness – Change agility

Change agility represents your company’s ability to engage people in pending changes. This is an internal focus that is critical to the company’s ability to effectively implement identified innovations. A great idea won’t matter if you can’t muster the capacity and commitment to carry it through. An organization with good change agility has the capacity to stretch when necessary and quickly shift resources to the place they will make the most difference.

Leadership should inspire confidence and trust, and consistently. How agile is your company? How effective are your managers at engaging and delivering the changes envisioned by your decision makers? How well does your company actually facilitate and execute on change when it is needed?

Change readiness – Change reaction

Change reaction is the ability to appropriately analyze problems, assess risks, and manage the reactions of employees. This internal focus ensures your company can sustain the day-to-day business while reacting in a timely and appropriate manner to self-initiated and market-dictated change. How effectively do you and other leaders at your company assess risk and manage unplanned change? How well does your organization react and respond to crisis?

Change readiness – Change mechanisms

Change Mechanisms should encourage clear goal alignment across functions, the ability to integrate a change into existing systems, accountability for results, and reward systems that reinforce desired change behaviors. This contextual focus is critical to the ability to implement desired change with no interruption to daily operation. Are your structures and systems flexible enough to adapt and support the implementation of change? Does your organization have the structures and systems in place to support the successful implementation of change?

Source: Dilbert

Short URL & Title:
Change readiness the new change management —

Monday, August 6, 2012

Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything

I've been playing tennis for nearly five decades. I love the game and I hit the ball well, but I'm far from the player I wish I were.

I've been thinking about this a lot the past couple of weeks, because I've taken the opportunity, for the first time in many years, to play tennis nearly every day. My game has gotten progressively stronger. I've had a number of rapturous moments during which I've played like the player I long to be.

And almost certainly could be, even though I'm 58 years old. Until recently, I never believed that was possible. For most of my adult life, I've accepted the incredibly durable myth that some people are born with special talents and gifts, and that the potential to truly excel in any given pursuit is largely determined by our genetic inheritance.

During the past year, I've read no fewer than five books — and a raft of scientific research — which powerfully challenge that assumption (see below for a list). I've also written one, The Way We're Working Isn't Working, which lays out a guide, grounded in the science of high performance, to systematically building your capacity physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

We've found, in our work with executives at dozens of organizations, that it's possible to build any given skill or capacity in the same systematic way we do a muscle: push past your comfort zone, and then rest. Aristotle Will Durant*, commenting on Aristotle, pointed out that the philosopher had it exactly right 2000 years ago: "We are what we repeatedly do." By relying on highly specific practices, we've seen our clients dramatically improve skills ranging from empathy, to focus, to creativity, to summoning positive emotions, to deeply relaxing.

Like everyone who studies performance, I'm indebted to the extraordinary Anders Ericsson, arguably the world's leading researcher into high performance. For more than two decades, Ericsson has been making the case that it's not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we're willing to work — something he calls "deliberate practice." Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice is the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.

That notion is wonderfully empowering. It suggests we have remarkable capacity to influence our own outcomes. But that's also daunting. One of Ericsson's central findings is that practice is not only the most important ingredient in achieving excellence, but also the most difficult and the least intrinsically enjoyable.

If you want to be really good at something, it's going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, as well as frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures. That's true as long as you want to continue to improve, or even maintain a high level of excellence. The reward is that being really good at something you've earned through your own hard work can be immensely satisfying.

Here, then, are the six keys to achieving excellence we've found are most effective for our clients:

  1. Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.
  2. Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That's when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.
  3. Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day.
  4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too continuously can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, and interfere with learning.
  5. Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning. It's also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.
  6. Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you'll take on difficult tasks is to build rituals — specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.

I have practiced tennis deliberately over the years, but never for the several hours a day required to achieve a truly high level of excellence. What's changed is that I don't berate myself any longer for falling short. I know exactly what it would take to get to that level.

I've got too many other higher priorities to give tennis that attention right now. But I find it incredibly exciting to know that I'm still capable of getting far better at tennis — or at anything else — and so are you.

Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning



I was late for my meeting with the CEO of a technology company and I was emailing him from my iPhone as I walked onto the elevator in his company's office building. I stayed focused on the screen as I rode to the sixth floor. I was still typing with my thumbs when the elevator doors opened and I walked out without looking up. Then I heard a voice behind me, "Wrong floor." I looked back at the man who was holding the door open for me to get back in; it was the CEO, a big smile on his face. He had been in the elevator with me the whole time. "Busted," he said.

The world is moving fast and it's only getting faster. So much technology. So much information. So much to understand, to think about, to react to. A friend of mine recently took a new job as the head of learning and development at a mid-sized investment bank. When she came to work her first day on the job she turned on her computer, logged in with the password they had given her, and found 385 messages already waiting for her.

So we try to speed up to match the pace of the action around us. We stay up until 3 am trying to answer all our emails. We twitter, we facebook, and we link-in. We scan news websites wanting to make sure we stay up to date on the latest updates. And we salivate each time we hear the beep or vibration of a new text message.

But that's a mistake. The speed with which information hurtles towards us is unavoidable (and it's getting worse). But trying to catch it all is counterproductive. The faster the waves come, the more deliberately we need to navigate. Otherwise we'll get tossed around like so many particles of sand, scattered to oblivion. Never before has it been so important to be grounded and intentional and to know what's important.

Never before has it been so important to say "No." No, I'm not going to read that article. No, I'm not going to read that email. No, I'm not going to take that phone call. No, I'm not going to sit through that meeting.

It's hard to do because maybe, just maybe, that next piece of information will be the key to our success. But our success actually hinges on the opposite: on our willingness to risk missing some information. Because trying to focus on it all is a risk in itself. We'll exhaust ourselves. We'll get confused, nervous, and irritable. And we'll miss the CEO standing next to us in the elevator.

A study of car accidents by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute put cameras in cars to see what happens right before an accident. They found that in 80% of crashes the driver was distracted during the three seconds preceding the incident. In other words, they lost focus — dialed their cell phones, changed the station on the radio, took a bite of a sandwich, maybe checked a text — and didn't notice that something changed in the world around them. Then they crashed.

The world is changing fast and if we don't stay focused on the road ahead, resisting the distractions that, while tempting, are, well, distracting, then we increase the chances of a crash.

Now is a good time to pause, prioritize, and focus. Make two lists:

List 1: Your Focus List (the road ahead)

What are you trying to achieve? What makes you happy? What's important to you? Design your time around those things. Because time is your one limited resource and no matter how hard you try you can't work 25/8.

List 2: Your Ignore List (the distractions)

To succeed in using your time wisely, you have to ask the equally important but often avoided complementary questions: what are you willing not to achieve? What doesn't make you happy? What's not important to you? What gets in the way?

Some people already have the first list. Very few have the second. But given how easily we get distracted and how many distractions we have these days, the second is more important than ever. The leaders who will continue to thrive in the future know the answers to these questions and each time there's a demand on their attention they ask whether it will further their focus or dilute it.

Which means you shouldn't create these lists once and then put them in a drawer. These two lists are your map for each day. Review them each morning, along with your calendar, and ask: what's the plan for today? Where will I spend my time? How will it further my focus? How might I get distracted? Then find the courage to follow through, make choices, and maybe disappoint a few people.

After the CEO busted me in the elevator, he told me about the meeting he had just come from. It was a gathering of all the finalists, of which he was one, for the title of Entrepreneur of the Year. This was an important meeting for him — as it was for everyone who aspired to the title (the judges were all in attendance) — and before he entered he had made two explicit decisions: 1. To focus on the meeting itself and 2. Not to check his BlackBerry.

What amazed him was that he was the only one not glued to a mobile device. Were all the other CEOs not interested in the title? Were their businesses so dependent on them that they couldn't be away for one hour? Is either of those a smart thing to communicate to the judges?

There was only one thing that was most important in that hour and there was only one CEO whose behavior reflected that importance, who knew where to focus and what to ignore. Whether or not he eventually wins the title, he's already winning the game.

Big Technology Change Without Big Risk


Companies can reduce risk and allow organizational learning by breaking major process improvements into a series of small, reversible experiments. But when the change involves a new information technology, it's harder to make incremental updates. This approach reduces risks and allows people to learn from each, and make adjustments as they go. But when the change involves a new information technology, it's harder to make incremental updates. Computer systems often don't come in a multitude of small parts; they generally come in huge packages.

The conventional wisdom when implementing such software packages is to identify all the stakeholders and include representatives of each group on the implementation team. Executives are supposed to communicate the expected benefits of the new software, and the front line workers are shown how the new software will allow them to execute their work. Typically large software packages are rolled out without modification to take advantage of embedded "best practices" in either a "big bang" or a "rolling implementation" across multiple geographies. The software is driven from the top and often imposed on the organization with little upfront process analysis. The focus is on achieving the delivery date, with little front line engagement.

So is there a way to implement big process and system changes while engaging workers and enabling organizational learning? There are certainly ways to make it easier.

1. Jointly map the work flows before you implement the technology.
Consider the approach to front line engagement taken at Martin Health System, a community healthcare system in Stuart, Florida, which implemented a new enterprise-wide system for managing patient records and core operations. As Roger Chen, director of performance excellence, and Lisa Cannata, director of learning and organizational development, told me, it's vital to iron out the people and process issues before introducing the technology. "You want to standardize your practices first." Chen and Cannata assigned three process improvement facilitators to work with staff to create 60 current-state value stream maps — that is, a representation of how work flowed through departments — and 50 future-state value stream maps before going live. "We were able to identify workarounds that were supported by the old system but could be withdrawn, and we uncovered the medical staff relationships and how they would change. For example, the new system replaced a manual process for order entry. The physicians needed lots of handholding to use the automated process." By surfacing and addressing training and support needs related to the new system, they gave people a sense of control over their destiny.

2. Break the new system into chunks for implementation wherever possible.
Zack Lemelle, a former divisional CIO at Johnson & Johnson, told me that he got around IT big bangs by using "joint application design / rapid application development" sessions. These would engage front line workers, data modelers, programmers, analysts, and technical designers in designing a mockup. "We would take a new process design and translate it into mockups of computer screens. Together the users and the IT team defined user requirements and managed expectations for both custom development and package configuration. We were able to quickly define what the finished product would look like before it was finished. This approach helped us reduce time to delivery and increase the benefits. Rather than follow the traditional 'waterfall' approach of defining big chunks of requirements upfront — which always proved problematic — we would do it in smaller, bite-sized chunks. And we replaced quarterly releases with biweekly or monthly ones."

In addition to chunking for gradual rollout of functional capabilities, some choose to chunk geographically and run in small test markets — a kind of experiment for learning and "proof of concept" before rolling out more broadly. It's important to schedule sufficient time between rollouts for reflection and redesign of the next implementation.

3. Create boards to share plans and progress.
Solar Group, a €1.4 billion wholesaler of technical products in northern Europe, has created boards that display performance on the implementation of an enterprise-wide system (SAP) and new processes. They show key measures, plans and dependencies, and change management in each of the seven countries involved. According to Klaus Petersen, global process manager, each of four major process teams has a room with a map on the wall showing the process, performance indicators, and plans. These cross-functional process teams — order-to-cash, for instance — meet every morning to review progress and align on actions. They have a "board walk" every week where they visit other teams' rooms to make sure the work is aligned. Every other week there is also a management meeting that starts at one of the boards. And there is a program management office at headquarters that has daily and weekly meetings at their boards, which show overall performance, priorities and interdependencies between teams.

Solar has turned over control of the rollout to the business (rather than driving it from IT as an IT project). Before going live with each implementation, business managers monitor performance to get a baseline. Then they measure performance again after the system is implemented. When problems arise, these same business managers tell IT the order that problems need to be solved.

There should be plenty of time for business and front line ownership when implementing large software packages. These are big decisions that take a while to make, and which are rolled out over a number of years. Are there ways you can enable front line workers to influence the design of their work? Are there ways to break up the "big bang" into reversible experiments? If there are, people will develop a sense of ownership and many will become ambassadors of change.

Question: Have you seen ways to implement big process and system changes that reduce risk, engage workers, and enable organizational learning?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Changing Organization Silos


This is an interesting article published on how breaking organizational silo’s and cracking the indifference caused due to silo’s … this is a problem faced by most organizations due to the inherent challenges posed by the structure, management style and leadership… interesting read with lot of good examples


About the Author - Jonathan L.S. Byrnes, Senior Lecturer at MIT, is an acknowledged authority on profitability management. His extensive experience spans virtually every industry, including healthcare, transportation, software, retail, financial services, distribution, and others.

What do you do when you have a great idea, and it hits the wall of “silo indifference?”

Silo indifference – my term – is the difficulty of engaging your company’s functional or regional groups in new business initiatives that offer the prospect of significant gain but disrupt their traditional operations. Here’s an illustration.

Several years ago, my group at MIT held a workshop on customer service for executives of our affiliated companies – companies that support our activities and host thesis research. About thirty top managers gathered in Cambridge for a full-day session.

We shared our latest research findings, and invited top managers from Ritz Carlton Hotels, Disney, and a few other customer service leaders to share their insights. At the end of the day, I led a session in which the executives discussed their thoughts and experiences in turbocharging customer service.

Turbocharging customer service

I started the session by asking “What is customer service?” My straightforward question drew a variety of more-or-less expected responses: line fill, case fill, answering the phone in 30 seconds, no telephone tag, fast order cycles, and others. The thread that linked these responses was that they all were operating measures.

More importantly, they all were internal operating measures. After all, what good does it do to have high fill rates if the customer has too much of the wrong inventory? Or if the customer is ordering twice as often as is economical? Or if the customer has a quickly answered phone call about a very disruptive service problem that should not have arisen?

The customer service measures that really count are those that reflect what the customer is actually experiencing, not what you are experiencing in your operations. It is a very common false assumption to simply equate the two. Not only that, but what counts even more is the customer’s perception of service, which again managers often simply, but falsely, assume reflects actual service.

In fact, customers’ perceptions of service are strongly determined by their worst experiences. Even if a customer’s really bad experiences are very rare, those will be the most memorable. Just think about the one time you had a really bad meal at a restaurant – did you go back? (For more on this see my blogs, Stumbling on Customer Service, and Demand Management Disney Style.)

Your worst nightmare

After the MIT workshop executives had developed a long list of internal operational measures, I asked a very different question: “What could your competitor do that would be your worst nightmare?”

At first the group was silent. After a few minutes, the discussion gathered steam and moved in a very different direction. The answers varied in form and content, but they all had the same underlying message: “If my competitor could coordinate internally to really improve my customers’ profitability, business processes, and strategic positioning, I would be in deep trouble. If my competitor really could do this, my customers would abandon our relationship and run to the competition without looking back.”

This was the customer service prospect that really concerned and worried everyone in the group.

So I asked the logical next question, “If this is the ultimate win strategy, and we now know the secret to competitive success, why don’t we do it first? It seems we have a golden opportunity to secure our best customers and take away our competitors’ prime business.”

The answer to this query still echoes in my mind. In essence, everyone in the group said in so many words, “We can’t. We just can’t.”

Why not? “Because,” the conversation continued in essence, “we can’t get our functional departments to coordinate around really innovative customer initiatives. They are too focused on their own departmental objectives and metrics [like the internal operational measures the group focused on initially].” Certainly, managers can get limited cooperation, but all too often this is overshadowed by the momentum of the mainstream business.

Here we had a textbook definition of “silo indifference.” Not a malicious lack of cooperation – just counterpart managers in other departments naturally focusing on their traditional “mainstream” activities and measures.

And, in most cases, these counterpart managers in other silos are appropriately focusing on the objectives they were given by top management. They are responding to the measures top management has told them are most important, and for which they are being held responsible.

What’s at stake? Massive competitive success.

The Apple problem

I thought about this customer service workshop when I had an opportunity to work with a group of top marketing executives of major financial institutions a few months ago.

I led a session on market innovation, in which I showed how a number of very innovative companies, ranging from Southwest Airlines to Apple, had entered tradition-bound industries, and revolutionized them with powerful new value propositions and compelling new go-to-market strategies. In their wake, numerous strong incumbents wound up reeling and a surprising number simply went bankrupt.

As I discussed the innovators, and explained how the industry incumbents had failed to respond effectively, I heard a familiar frustration. The marketing executives saw the need for fundamentally new, innovative approaches to take advantage of the massive changes beginning to sweep through the financial services industry, but they felt an almost insurmountable roadblock in engaging their counterpart managers, who were too busy operating and improving their “traditional” business activities.

These managers hit the wall of silo indifference. Just like the MIT workshop executives.

But the financial services managers faced a problem much more pressing and troubling: the impending presence of world-class innovators like Apple, Google, and others – all with massive resources, far-reaching creativity, and powerful go-to-market machines – and all taking aim directly at the sweet spots in their industry.

If the incumbents failed to act quickly and decisively, they would be in severe danger of failing to use their natural first mover advantage to secure the most profitable portions of their market – their islands of profit – and being left with the unprofitable portions. Just like the incumbent firms in industry after industry that failed to act.

Yet, there was an almost irresistible temptation for some participants to shift the conversation to comfortable topics like how to tune up the on-premise customer experience.

Nevertheless, a number of participants continued to drill into the core question of how to be an effective innovator, how to overcome the roadblock of silo indifference. And this led to a very productive discussion.

Accelerating change

All companies face the problem of accelerating change, overcoming silo indifference. Most fail to act decisively and effectively, putting themselves in danger of being overtaken by more capable, focused competitors.

How do the most successful innovators do it?

Consider this recent New York Times article (July 26, 2012).

News Summary: Google’s Fast Internet for $70/mo.

FAST SERVICE: Google says it will charge $70 a month for its long-awaited, ultra-fast Internet service in Kansas City.

THE SIGNIFICANCE: The service is intended as a showcase for what’s technically possible and as a testbed for the development of new ways to use the Internet. Bypassing the local cable and phone companies, Google has spent months pulling its own optical fiber through the two-state Kansas City region.

OPTIONS: For another $50 per month, Google will provide cable-TV-like service, too. There’s also a free, slower option, though households have to pay a $300 installation fee.

What is Google doing?

Two things.

First, Google is learning by doing.

The project is framed specifically as a “showcase” and as a “testbed for the development of new ways to use the Internet.” Since this involves changes in consumer behavior, Google couldn’t just survey the public. The cardinal rule in market research is that you can’t do market research for a product that doesn’t exist because the customers have no experience of it. The services driving Internet usage today weren’t even conceived in the early days of the internet. The only way to find out what will happen when Google offers service speeds that are 100 times faster than today’s service at comparable prices is to prime the pump and learn by doing.

Second, and very importantly, Google is wisely laying the foundation for a frontal attack on silo indifference. The best way to overcome this pervasive roadblock is to develop a showcase project that demonstrates clear, compelling value. With a clear, practical pathway to clearly superior new value, the counterpart managers throughout the company will migrate to the new value proposition. The wonderful thing about a successful showcase is that the managers throughout the company can actually come see it. They can “kick the tires,” and actually talk to the customers.

This is the fastest and surest way to accelerate change, to overcome silo indifference.

Why the phone company failed

Contrast this with the case of a regional Bell phone company about twenty years ago. This very strong, successful company was a regional powerhouse with ample resources. It was deciding whether to deploy broadband/video capabilities, and if so, how to deploy them.

The obvious path was to conduct a study, which naturally showed that the customers were generally interested, but not enough to pay a compensatory price.

At the same time, however, an alternative proposal was offered to conduct a limited showcase project by wiring a small upscale community of about 30,000 with video, and linking the community’s “communities of interest” (i.e. schools, sports, clubs, etc.) through the network. This would give the customers an opportunity to forge new communications pathways and to develop first-hand a sense of the potential value.

In essence, this could have been a forerunner for many of the Internet-based services we now take for granted, and would have catapulted this company far in front of its competitors.

The company had ample resources. But the innovators in the company failed to gather support from their counterpart managers. In the end, the Finance Department killed the project, noting that it could not convince them that it offered returns comparable to those that flowed from the existing operational program of replacing old switches. Silo indifference in action.

What happened to the company, at the time a very well-respected industry giant? It languished and ultimately disappeared, merged into another regional Bell, then both into another.

Effective Showcases

How can an innovative management team create effective showcase projects that overcome silo indifference? Here is an old family recipe that really works.

  • Just do it. The cost will be very low, often trivial – frequently involving a few well-selected customers or suppliers – and the results can be transformative. There is no downside.
  • Do it all the time. Set up showcase projects in all areas of your company, especially those that are involved in customer and supplier relationships. What do you have to lose? A minute fraction of your revenues and resources are involved, and the upside is enormous.

  • Keep doing it. Very often the most important findings only emerge after the showcase evolves over time (perhaps a year or so). The second- and third-order changes are the most powerful. Remember that very few successful business ventures wind up pursuing their original business plans, but rather the key to success is to learn from experience and to evolve rapidly. The most successful venture investors understand this well.

  • Select the most favorable conditions for innovation. Many companies select important customers or suppliers for showcases. Big mistake. There is too much at stake and the innovations necessarily will be incremental and tactical. Instead, look for a relatively small customer or supplier that is very innovative, where the CEO has “fire in the belly” to do new things, the company knows how to partner, and the operational match is great.

  • Involve your counterparts early. Get your functional counterparts from the other silos involved from the beginning. Let them help shape the project, and in the process they will become champions. The project will almost certainly benefit from their perspective and capability, and the outcome will have the highest likelihood of being adopted.

Compelling results

Showcase projects offer the shortest distance between you and effective change. They are limited in scope, so you often don’t even have to ask permission, but the results are compelling. They are the ultimate change accelerators.

Why not try it?

Friday, July 6, 2012

10 insights from Creative People in Business

This is an extract of an interesting article I read in based on the article Fast Company on most creative people.


Why is creativity so important in business? Because it is the idea, and not the money that drives entrepreneurship. This month’s Fast Company names the 100 Most Creative People in Business, with an emphasis on global leaders in technology, design, media, music, movies, marketing, television and sports. To be honest, I’d never heard of the vast majority on these people. That’s not important; their interesting and inspirational stories are what matters to those of us who value the power of creativity. Rather than file the list’s creative wisdom in the back of my mind, I’ve taken 10 quotes that provide insight into the creative thought process.

#2 Rebecca Van Dyck – CMO Facebook
“If someone gives me a statistic or data point, I take the other point of view or angle. I will surround it and see if it still holds true.” Van Dyck says this is a habit from her college days when she studied in Cairo and read three newspapers to get multiple perspectives.

#4 Ron Johnson – CEO JCPenney
The former head of Apple’s retail operations believes the ability to change is the key to success. “Our number one competitor is ourselves. The way you unlock potential is to find a new way to compete, ideally in a way that’s never been done before, so it’s seen as new. Our number two competitor is everyone else.”

#14 Steven Zeitel – Massachusetts General Hospital
Zeitel, the Director of Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation offers a quote that continues to motivate. During his doctoral resident days, one of his teachers said, “You’re not one of the brightest residents.” Thirty seconds passed before the teacher added, “But you may be the most creative we’ve ever had.”  

#22 Matthew Schmidt – Professor Political Science School of Military Studies
“The tendency in any organization is to look for the 5 steps to do anything and make a system. That’s not how to look at a competitive world. We need to inculcate strategic thinking – the mindset to approach an ill-structured problem throughout the ranks.”

#27 Andrew Yang – Founder, Venture for America  
Yang connects grads with startups, aiming to foster a generation of value-generating entrepreneurs. “The greatest problem in American business goes like this: We have brilliant people doing nonsense.”

#39 Tim Schafer – Founder, Double Fine Productions
Schafer, the celebrated video game maker of Full Throttle, finds inspiration in folklore and legends. “Every day we think of crazy ideas and then we laugh and say, ‘People might be offended by that.’ But I have found that everything worth doing is hiding behind a big, scary monster.”

#46 Ross Martin – Executive VP, MTV Scratch
“So much of what we strive for in creativity is disruption that creates an experience that drives you to action – an experience you’ll never forget, an experience that you’ll need to share with others – the audacity to try and disturb the universe.” This takes me (John Bell) back to my days in advertising at Leo Burnett. It was Leo who said, “When you reach for the stars, you might not get them, but you won’t come up with a handful of mudeither.”

#79 Rachel Shechtman – Founder, Story
Schectman’s new boutique in Manhattan’s Chelsea district is linked to storytelling. “70% of an experience should be what consumers know and 30% should be surprise and delight. Take a pretzel, for example. Everyone knows what it is, and there’s not much product differentiation. But you put it in a bag with black and white stripes that look like the Empire State Building, and suddenly consumers think, Oh my God, this is so cool.”

#84 Elvis Chau – Creative Director, JWT Shanghai
We expect all advertising Creative Directors to be creative. Here is but one of Chau’s creative catalysts. “I like to go to exhibitions, museums. I encourage my people; they need to see more. Don’t just sit there and think. Ideas will not just jump out.”

#90 Marcus Samuelsson – Owner, Red Rooster
Located in Harlem, Red Rooster serves American comfort food that honors the diverse culinary traditions of the community. Samuelsson finds gastronomic inspiration within the neighborhood. “I bike and I walk every corner of Harlem, and see so much diversity that’s unexpected.” His menu is built around his encounters.  

#95 Carrie Brownstein – Writer & Actor, Portlandia TV Series
“Costar, Fred Armisen and I are obsessed with the minutiae of a situation. What is fomenting the most discomfort in a relationship? It’s usually where someone’s belief system goes off the rails. That’s where we want to start exploring because that moment is where you feel almost your worst. You become aware of all the inherent contradictions, all the ways you’re in conflict with your environment.”

Fast Company’s complete list can be found at

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to Get Senior Leaders to Change

Source: by Scott Keller  |   8:00 AM June 14, 2012

Most senior executives understand and generally buy into the famous aphorism, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Prompted by HR professionals or consultants, they often commit themselves to "being the change" by personally role-modeling the desired behaviors. And then, in practice, nothing significant changes.

In the research for our book, Beyond Performance, we found that the reason for this is that most executives don't see themselves as "part of the problem." Therefore, deep down, they do not believe that it is they who need to change, even though in principle they agree that leaders must model the desired changes. Take, for example, a team that reports that, as a group and as an organization, they are low in trust, not customer-focused and bureaucratic. How many executives when asked privately will say "no" to the questions "Do you consider yourself to be trustworthy?" and "Are you customer-focused?" and "yes" to the question "Are you a bureaucrat?" None, of course.

The fact is that most well-intentioned and hard-working people believe they are doing the right thing, or they wouldn't be doing it. However, most people also have an unwarranted optimism in relation to their own behavior. Consider that when around one million students were asked how good they were at getting along with others, 85% rated themselves above the median and 25% rated themselves in the top 1%. Of course this is mathematically impossible. This isn't only true for students getting along with one another — far more than 50% of people rank themselves in the top half of driving ability, although it is a statistical impossibility. When couples are asked to estimate theircontribution to household work, the combined total routinely exceeds 100%. (And most men rank themselves in the top half of male athletic ability, even though that's statistically impossible.) In many behavior-related areas, human beings consistently think they are better than they are — a phenomenon referred to in psychology as a "self-serving bias." Whereas conventional change management approaches surmise that top team role modeling is a matter of will ("wanting to change") or skill ("knowing how to change"), the inconvenient truth is that the real bottleneck to role modeling is knowing what to change at a personal level.

Typically, insight into what to change can be created by concrete 360-degree feedback techniques, either via surveys, conversations or both. This 360-degree feedback should not be against generic HR leadership competency models, but should instead be against the specific behaviors related to the desired changes that will drive business performance. This style of feedback can be augmented by fact gathering such as third-party observation of senior executives going about their day-to-day work (e.g., "You say you are not bureaucratic, but every meeting you are in creates three additional meetings and no decisions are made.") and calendar analyses (e.g., "You say you are customer-focused but have spent 5% of your time reviewing customer-related data and no time meeting with customers or customer-facing employees.").

Consider Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer's approach of asking each of his top 75, "What should I do differently?" and sharing his development needs and commitment publicly with them. Consider the top team of a national insurance company who routinely employed what they called the "circle of feedback" during their change program: Every participant receives feedback live in the room, directly from their colleagues on "What are your strengths?" in relation to "being the change" as well as "Where can you improve?" Consider the leadership coalition (top 25) of a multi-regional bank who, after each major event in their change program, conducted a short, targeted 360-degree feedback survey regarding how well their behaviors role-modeled the desired behaviors during the event, ensuring that feedback was timely, relevant and practical.

While seemingly inconvenient, these types of techniques help break through the "self-serving bias" that inhibits well-meaning leaders from making a profound difference.

Note that some readers may be thinking, "But surely there are a few people who are fully role-modeling the desired behaviors — what does this mean for them?" If the purpose of senior executive role-modeling is to exhibit the behaviors required to ensure the success and sustainability of the company (e.g., collaboration, agility in decision making, empowerment), then the answer is "keep up the good work!" If the answer, however, is expanded to include role-modeling the process of personal behavioral change itself, there is more to do. Recall another famous aphorism: "For things to change, first I must change."

Scott Keller is a director at McKinsey & Company and co-author, with Colin Price, of the 2011 book Beyond Performance: How great organizations build ultimate competitive advantage.

How Learning and Talent Development Need to Change for the 2020 Workplace

by Jeanne Meister and Steve Dahlberg on June 15, 2012 · 1 Comment · in Beyond X & Y


We often hear senior learning executives say: “If millennials continue to be a large percentage of our workforce, how must our learning department change?” What they are really asking is how can their learning department incorporate the same features that make engaging in social sites so much fun, like commenting, rating, tagging, using rich media, building and editing your profile, reading the activity streams of your friends and being a part of relevant online communities that you care about.

When we think about the changes we have experienced in our personal lives, the statistics are daunting:

  • By the year 2020, millennials will be at least 50 percent of the workplace and bringing their digital expectations with them.
  • At the end of 2011, the number of smartphones sold exceeded the number of PCs sold (Business Insider).
  • By 2016, there will be 375 million tablets purchased globally — a 46 percent compound annual growth rate (Forrester).
  • As of today, 29 percent of all U.S. households have either a tablet or an e-reader (Morgan Stanley Research).
  • 40 percent of learning and development executives plan to incorporate tablets into their learning and development offerings by 2015 (Future Workplace as profiled in ASTD Magazine).

A new trend seen across large, small and mid-sized firms is facilitating this shift in the corporate world – “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD. According to a global survey by Accenture of more than 5,000 millennials (born between 1977 and 2000), one out of two are requesting to bring their own device to the workplace. They cite the following reasons:

  • Blurring of lines between work and personal lives.
  • The ability to work on an extended schedule , when and where they want.
  • The desire to use their own tablet device to increase personal productivity.

These trends translate to a new agenda for corporate learning – one that will increasingly focus on the following principles:

SOCIAL: Insist on creating ways for learning to be part of a social experience.

MOBILE: Integrate mobile devices into formal and informal learning.

COLLABORATIVE: Create opportunities for learning to happen naturally in groups.

PEER-GENERATED: Use social tools to enable learners to easily share their own content, videos and more.

OPEN: Leverage open source content found on Khan Academy, MIT Open Courseware, andOpen Culture offering free online courses from leading universities.

But the question for many learning leaders is how to do this. Future Workplace has created an eight-step model on “Implementing Social Learning,” shown here in Prezi.

What changes are you making in learning in your organization to prepare NOW for the 2020 workplace?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Collaboration: your path to Sustainable Competitive Advantage?

Posted on June 14, 2012 @

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”Helen Keller

Web apps and the internet have changed the way we work and live. Today we live in a world where the creative quality of work improves as we move along the “Hierarchy of Communication” fromConnect to Communicate to Collaborate to Co-create.

Where would you place your organization on the following 4Cs Hierarchy of Communication?

1) Connect: is all about connecting and being able to connect with others. Connecting with those that you know and those you don’t yet know. Today this has never been easier, simply click to connect, without leaving your office and often without leaving your application. A ‘presence’ indicator lets you know who is there on-line and in your virtual neighbourhood right now.

2) Communicate: Once you have connected you want to communicate. Speaking with the other person now includes speaking with many other people through online virtual meetings. Communicating now includes: chatting, speaking, texting, sharing documents and sharing screens to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas.

3) Collaborate: you communicate so that you can collaborate. There are lots of different collaboration tools, applications and platforms available today that enable us to collaborate effectively across multiple boundaries: organisational, geographical and time zones. Examples vary widely: Skype, TeamViewer, Lync, Office365, Google Apps and Webex to name a few. All allowing you to share, review and contribute to a common project and collaborate together with others.

4) Co-create: you collaborate so that you can create. The desired outcome of collaboration is to create new ways to solve old problems and invent new ways to capture future opportunities. We brainstorm using rich media to engage the collective brain of the virtual community. We build ideas based on human interaction. We invent, create, develop new or better ideas and ways to achieve specific goals and objectives. And we build virtual teams that can deliver continuous creativity which will ultimately lead to sustainable competitive advantage.

Sustainable Competitive Advantage: The ultimate goal of co-creating (and therefore collaborating, communicating and connecting) is to maximise the quality and quantity of your business goals. Sustainable competitive advantage is the sum total of your organisation’s current abilities and future capabilities. By enabling your people to connect, communicate, collaborate and co-create they will produce exceptional solutions to today’s problems and create wonderfully innovative ways to develop future opportunities.


People, Processes or Platform? The challenge isn’t the technology it’s you and your people. The challenge is moving your people along the 4Cs Hierarchy of Communication. So they become more collaborative and adopt and use collaborative applications and tools in their everyday work. You need to set an example by demonstrating an ‘inclusive mindset’ and a bias towards working collaboratively. The cultural change required of your company will be far more difficult than the technological changes.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”General Eric Shineseki, Retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

Are you ready for the new reality?

View: Collaborating in the Cloud: Opportunity or Threat? by David Ednie, posted on slideshare.

The Pitfalls of Culture Change


Cul­tural change is a pop­u­lar past-time among con­tem­por­ary man­agers. The prom­ise that many man­age­ment books make is that chan­ging your organisation’s cul­ture will lead to organ­isa­tional success.

Man­agers eager to impress their dir­ect­ors will invari­ably imple­ment a cul­tural change pro­gram with the anti­cip­a­tion that it will increase pro­ductiv­ity, prof­it­ab­il­ity or any other noun end­ing in –ty. This prom­ise is made on the premise that suc­cess­ful organ­isa­tions all have a ‘good’ culture.

The idea that a good or strong cul­ture will improve busi­ness res­ults is also logic­ally non­sensical. The claim that a strong organ­isa­tional cul­ture will improve per­form­ance is tau­to­lo­gical. Any qual­i­fier of the word cul­ture will inev­it­ably be self-referential.

Inter­est­ingly enough, most cul­ture change pro­grams fail!

The reason most cul­tural change pro­grams fail is because cul­ture is an epi­phen­omenon of human inter­ac­tion. This means that cul­ture as such does not exist., it is a men­tal con­struct. Cul­ture is the effect of some­thing and can not be the cause of any­thing. The only place where cul­ture changes are always suc­cess­ful is in micro­bi­o­lo­gical labor­at­or­ies, where nerdy sci­ent­ists in lab coats poke around in pet­rid­ishes  and con­ical flasks to develop medi­cine, bio­lo­gical war­fare or just because they need a job. Back to human cultures.

Cul­ture is the res­ult of a whole range of phe­nomen­ons, such as people’s val­ues and beliefs. Man­agers more often than not focus on these aspects of cul­ture. They try to change the val­ues and beliefs of their staff by pout­ing ‘inspir­ing’ rhet­oric and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment pro­grams. See our post on con­sult­ants for a view on this.

Cul­ture is an epiphenomenon

Cor­por­a­tions are gen­er­ally not demo­cratic organ­isa­tions and rely on a hier­arch­ical struc­tures. Cul­ture is thus driven from the top to the bot­tom and can there­fore only change to the limit of the val­ues and beliefs of the man­agers in charge. It is because of this that most text books on cul­tural change fail. In order to change cul­ture, man­agers need to first change themselves!

Because cul­ture is the effect of phe­nomen­ons it can not be the cause of any­thing — includ­ing cor­por­ate suc­cess. What can, how­ever, be the cause of cor­por­ate suc­cess are the aspects that under­pin a cor­por­ate culture.

How­ever, not all is lost. There are aspects of cul­ture that can be changed quite eas­ily. Other phe­nom­ena that cause cul­ture are rituals and cere­mon­ies, stor­ies and legends and mater­ial objects. This might sound like things that you only find in tri­bal soci­et­ies, but all cor­por­a­tions have them. Rituals and cere­mon­ies are expressed in the way meet­ings are con­duc­ted, birth­days are cel­eb­rated and everything in between. Stor­ies and legends relate to the his­tory of the cor­por­a­tion and mater­ial objects are the tools we use and the office we work in.

If a man­ager wants to change a ‘cul­ture’, then these phe­nom­ena are the start­ing point. Change these and the cul­ture will fol­low. Best example to illus­trate this are the often dis­cussed Google offices. By pla­cing people in the right envir­on­ment they will dis­play the right beha­viour. Super­mar­ket design­ers use these prin­ciples very suc­cess­fully. Telling the right stor­ies will cre­ate a sense of col­lect­ive and con­duct­ing the cor­por­ate rituals in the right way will act as an example of the desired behaviour.

The simple mes­sage is: don’t try to change a cul­ture, try to change the phe­nomen­ons that cause the culture.

Jesus and Organizational Change Part I: Get Off Your Throne & Serve!

Posted by Todd VanNest on Tue, Jun 19, 2012

In last week’s post “Don’t be Nice..”, I commented on how to truly serve others in Leading Change by doing more than being supportive and a good listener (reactive).  You have to create the cognitive tension and self-assessment that engages both hearts and minds—allowing others to critically evaluate status quo as part of committing to the future (new mindsets and new practices).  By citing Servant Leadership, I prompted the following question in my mind:  What would Jesus do?

You’ve seen books on “Jesus as CEO” and the WWJD acronym stitched or etched into everything from wristbands to stone outcroppings in national parks.  My question here is not about preachin’ a Christian way or meant as blasphemy (by making the teachings of Christ mundane and of-this-world).  I do think that there are some practical lessons in thinking about how Jesus led change (whether to you He is your savior, an interesting person of history, or the product of a great novel).  I am certain that by selectively highlighting the things I’m speaking of in this 2-part post I am doing His leadership a great injustice, but I do regard even these small things as great gifts.

Today, in Part 1, I am highlighting the role of service in change leadership.

  • “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – (Mark 10:42-45)

Wow!...Leading change, and being appointed as a leader for guiding an organization through complex change is heady work…just don’t let it go to your head!

Out of this perspective, I offer two reflections for Change Leaders:

  • What tools and processes prescribed in modern approaches to organizational change have become the “trappings of the office” that might potentially distract me from fully, genuinely, and in-the-moment engaging the stakeholders of this change process? And
  • I’m sure that almost every Change Leader has, at some point, felt like a slave.  The question is, are you a slave to others or are you a slave to the process, politics, and promotion that defines “change management?”

At times, we feel like a slave to others—typically because our own approach to driving change is actually fueling or sustaining the resistance that we blame for making us a slave.  In reality, we have often sold-out others, forsaking them and authentic engagement with them in favor of serving a “program” or getting to some almighty “result.” When working with Change Teams to help them recover a stalled or failing change initiative, I often find that they start to recover the change effort when they realize that a bit more engagement early in the process would have actually saved them time and accelerated the realization of results—relative to where they find themselves at the moment (behind schedule and struggling to produce the promised results, having forsaken timely and genuine engagement).

  • WWJD?...Now THAT’s a heady challenge!  Look for more powerful reflections in Part 2 of this post in the coming days.

One way to serve others through change is to help them find meaning in change and make it more simple.

Last Word on Change

More on leading change simply:

Identify your "Consultant Type"



Consulting as a profession has been growing steadily with more and more firms setting their base in India. Consulting landscape has also been helped by maturing of Indian business set-up as well as growing popularity of professional courses like MBA. But joining a particular industry, sector or a profession, is just the beginning. After all, our professional career could well span over 35 years. Similarly for consulting, while problem-solving skills, analytical capability and a consistent academic record may help you join a good consulting firm but it doesn't ensure that you would enjoy your stay as well.

As I complete my first year in consulting, I have tried to come up with a framework, based on one's interest areas, to suggest what lies in consulting for him/her. I have tried to simplify it by using two major focus areas and I would once again reiterate that it doesn't talk about the capabilities that you need to excel as a consultant.

A role of a consultant can be broadly divided into two parts; business development and business delivery. Business development is related to bringing in projects i.e. selling or pitching your offerings to the prospective clients. Business delivery, on the other hand, is related to preparing the client deliverables. At a junior level, the delivery part accounts for major share of your efforts but as you move up, business development becomes more important. One interest area that I would focus on concerns business development while the other one largely focuses on business delivery. While it’s impossible to isolate the two areas but one does come across people who prefer one over the other.

So, breaking the suspense, the two areas of interest that I have identified are “research” and “interactions”:

Research: Some people simply love to dig into data be it research reports, news articles, information hidden in excel sheets, interview notes etc. Those with a bent towards research can be a great influence as far as quality of deliverable is concerned. While another section may consider it the "back-end" part of consulting and end up avoiding or even hating it.

Interactions: Many individuals are attracted by the so called “front-end” part i.e. the client-facing role. Undoubtedly, consulting is about managing people be it the client, the team members, the experts etc. Those with a penchant for meeting and interacting people can help in lead generation or unearthing opportunities from nowhere. But there is a segment in consulting that considers such people as “globers”. After all, to each his own.

So based on the above two interest-areas we can segregate consultants into four types:

Type I: These types of species are perpetually excited about meeting their clients, even more that meeting their girlfriends. They would say, “Research is for the faint-hearted. Consulting is all about client-facing activities.” While their interactions can be fruitful but without proper research it can backfire or cause embarrassment. Sometimes it can lead to mis-selling or inadequately defined scope. We can call them YAC A. YAC stands for “Yet another Consultant”.

Type II: This variety loves the research part but isn’t too excited by the interaction part. They would say, “I think too much is made of this front-end thing in consulting. Yaar, even the traders and bankers create value but they don’t hype about these client interactions.” While research undoubtedly is critical to consulting but neglecting the other aspect doesn’t help as many consulting firms don’t have a separate team for sales. We can call this variety YAC B.

Type III: Another type like what they hear but don’t like what they see. Some of my colleagues had joined consulting but soon realize that they are too selective or find a very limited aspect of their job exciting. In better words, they aren’t excited adequately by either of the areas. The only term that comes to my mind right now for these consultants is “Disillusioned”.

Type IV: The disillusioned gets a competition. This type is largely responsible for keeping the consulting flag flying high. The ones, who are likely to become experts in near future. They love the interactions but are particular about research as well. This type deserves only one tag- “Rockstar”.

So what's your type?

The 5 stages of leadership development

By Steve Tobak


Everyone goes through the same stages of human development on the road to adulthood and maturity. Unfortunately, some of us get stuck in one stage or another, stunting our growth and rendering us dysfunctional.

We look just like ordinary adults, but we actually behave a lot more like children, acting out, throwing tantrums, and generally making life miserable for everyone around us.

It's pretty much the same thing with executives and business leaders. The only difference is that, instead of just messing up their own lives like ordinary people, dysfunctional leaders influence the lives, livelihoods, and investment portfolios of hordes of employees, customers, and investors.

If I took a virtual snapshot of all the boardrooms I've been in over the years, I'd estimate that maybe a quarter of the executives and directors I've worked with have gotten themselves prematurely stuck in one of the following stages of leadership development:

Stage 1: Sponge. You listen and learn from everyone and every situation as you try to figure out how things work in the real business world. Just like a baby learning to walk, you look really cute stumbling around like the clueless neophyte you are. The good news is you have no real responsibility, so you're not in a position to cause any real damage. You just fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again until you get it right.

Stage 2: Proof-of-concept. Believing you're actually capable of accomplishing something besides making a complete fool of yourself by promising the world and delivering next to nothing, you set out to prove yourself worthy of the management title that, in all likelihood, you've already been granted.

Stage 3: Delivery. Congratulations, you've somehow managed to deliver the goods and succeed in doing something that can credibly be viewed as a business success. In other words, you made money for somebody and got rewarded with a nice fat bonus. You think you've finally arrived. Won't your spouse be thrilled?

Stage 4: Reset. A little full of yourself, you try a repeat performance using the same tricks that worked the first time and realize--too late--that you're going to need a bigger playbook to consistently make it in the big leagues. Failure doesn't sit well with you. In fact, it's downright depressing. So you set out to make sure that never happens again.

Stage 5: Maturity. After a few iterations of the third and fourth stages, you finally begin to get how the real world works. You realize you're just like everybody else, meaning you succeed at some things, fail at others, and learn from everything. It slowly dawns on you that being a mature leader isn't that much different from the first stage, except experience has given you confidence and, with any luck, a sense of humor and humility. Win or lose, you look good doing it -- and deserve that bonus, right?

So, think it over. Are you stuck in one of the stages or know somebody who is? Fill us in.