Simon Sinek & the Golden Circle

11 07 2011

The RIM letter to BGR referenced a video from Simon Sinek on TED.  While I think he makes an incredibly difficult task seem a little too easy, I think he certainly raises some interesting questions.  He talks about the Gold Circle, how we market the what instead of the why.

Execution is far more difficult than transforming the marketing message from the “What we do” to the “why we do it”, it is more about leadership and a unique focus on the customer that is not easily replicated.

Anyway, here is the video….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4&feature=youtu.be





Research in Motion’s public battle

5 07 2011

When executives feel they have to go outside of a chain of command in order to voice concerns, we see perfect examples of the need for Operational Performance Management (OPM).  The current Research in Motion public battle is a great place to start.  An anonymous executive sent an open letter to Jonathan Geller, of The Boy Genius (BGR.com), to call out the current RIM culture.  What is more entertaining about this is the fact that RIM responds publicly, which only makes this sound like a bigger problem.

Highlights of the RIM letter:

  • You have many smart employees, many that have great ideas for the future, but unfortunately the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects.
  • We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work.
  • Teams still aren’t talking together properly, no one is making or can make critical decisions, all the while everyone is working crazy hours and still far behind. We are demotivated.
  • Strategy is often in the things you decide not to do.
  • We simply must stop shipping incomplete products that aren’t ready for the end user. It is hurting our brand tremendously. It takes guts to not allow a product to launch that may be 90% ready with a quarter end in sight, but it will pay off in the long term.
  • The truth is, no one in RIM dares to tell management how bad our tools still are. Even our closest dev partners do their best to say it politely, but they will never bite the hand that feeds them.
  • 25 million iPad users don’t care that it doesn’t have Flash or true multitasking, so why make that a focus in our campaigns? I’ll answer that for you: it’s because that’s all that differentiates our products and its lazy marketing. I’ve never seen someone buy product B because it has something product A doesn’t have. People buy product B because they want and lust after product B.
  • RIM has a lot of people who underperform but still stay in their roles. No one is accountable. Where is the guy responsible for the 9530 software? Still with us, still running some important software initiative. We will never achieve excellence with this culture. Just because someone may have been a loyal RIM employee for 7 years, it doesn’t mean they are the best Manager / Director / VP for that role.
  • However, overconfidence clouds good decision-making. We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago. We laughed and said they are trying to put a computer on a phone, that it won’t work.
  • Reach out to all employees asking them on how we can make RIM better. Encourage input from ground-level teams—without repercussions—to seek out honest feedback and really absorb it.

All of these are examples of what happens in almost every business culture I have witnessed.  It is certainly not unique to RIM. If you think this is not happening within your business you are sorely mistaken.

What can you do….

  • Foster honest discussions.  Stop punishing those who do not follow the company line. Reward critical thought.  Ask people to do their homework prior to the meetings.
  • Listen.  Tap into the collective intelligence of the organization.  1,000 eyes see a lot.
  • Act out.  Stress your opinion if you have a dissenting idea.If you love your company and passionate about what you do, chances are your opinions probably do matter.




Obesity in the US

29 04 2011

This is again perhaps a little off topic for me, but it does pose some really interesting strategic points for consideration…

The cigarette of today’s generation is fast food, sodas, and poor eating habits in general.  Obesity in the US is projected to be about 20% of our annual health spending – or roughly $350 billion (USA Today) by 2018.  This means the number will double from 10% of the spending to 20% by 2018.  Food related deaths account for more than half of our causes of death (CDC) and we focus very little attention to it.  And for the first time in decades the US life expectancy is projected to decline by 5 years (National Institute of Health) with this generation.

So from the viewpoint of Strategy, this poses a wild number of potentials.  Depending upon your industry this either opens you to a tremendous opportunity, or a concerning level of risk.

Opportunities:

  • Food industry – being an early mover to healthier versions of your food may attract more customers
  • Education – providing content for school, churches, communities, etc may open more doors for you
  • Healthcare – with increasing costs, providers that can target care to show health gains with children, or keep their clients healthier may see improved demand for their products while at the same time controller their costs.
  • Marketing – Branding your self as a healthy alternative
  • HR – being seen as a healthier employer may improve your retainment and attraction to new employees.  You may also see a reduction in your health care costs over time.

Risks:

  • Fast food – This entire industry may be about to come under ever increasing levels of attack.  The attacks will likely be on menu, ingredients, nutritional labeling, and potentially lawsuits.
  • Sports drinks – As parents become more aware of the level of sugar in these drinks, demand is certainly at risk.  As one of their core segments is children, it is also possible that even the marketing placement will be called into question.
  • Education – As Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has clearly pointed out, he is certainly targeting the school system menu.  Once the parents get involved school district lunch menus will likely need to change dramatically.
  • Healthcare – spiraling costs will force most healthcare companies to make very difficult decisions to remain profitable.

Here is Jamie Oliver’s presentation on TED.

Here you can see the growing obesity problem in the us (CDC).





Changing Market Place

7 04 2011

Yesterday in the NYTimes was a story about the speed of the changing U.S. race demographic.  As our demographic changes, so will tastes and demand.  Many companies have sat atop their markets feeling they are invincible, yet with these changes many of the companies will find out much too late that they were not as solid as they once felt.

Have you asked yourself any of the following:

  • What percent of our clients come from the majority?
  • Do we have products that meet demands from all sectors?
  • Are we at risk if the legislature, or governing boards, can their ethnicity over time?
  • Where are our biggest threats in this new market?
  • Where are our greatest advantages?
  • What else can we do to capture more in this changing market?
  • Where might new competitors come after our market?

If you are not strategically discussing questions like these, then you elevate your risk of something happening to undermine your position within your market.

 





Pink Bat

9 03 2011

I know I have not published much here lately, but I have been writing a fair bit.  Some of these I have just been a little timid about sharing as they are a little inconsistent with the goal of this blog.

Anyway, while I was doing a little research about my current project I stumbled across this and thought the video was well worth sharing. In a nutshell, train yourself to see solutions to problems.  Train your business to be more aware, to take risks, but more importantly to always be thinking about solutions.

The following video is from Michael McMillian and while the book does not get the wildest of reviews, the concept is and short video is worthwhile.

 

pinkbatmovie.com





Flakes…not just for breakfast anymore

5 10 2010

Carbon Flakes (aka graphene) just earned a pair of University of Manchester students $1.4 million, oh and the Nobel prize.  Think nanometer material that is unbelievably strong (Wikipedia).

While we might be a few years off, there is certainly some potential to see new paradigm shifts in certain markets:

  • What could a light weight, strong coating do to the car market where weight and MPG are inversely related?
  • What could it mean to the military in terms of personnel and vehicle armor?
  • What could it do to clothing?
  • How about kitchen materials?
  • How about computer components?
  • Plastics?

If you believe this could impact your products, your market, what would you do?  When would you need to start thinking about it?  How do you discuss items that might change your space?





The end of Blockbusters…

23 09 2010

OK, well it is potentially the end of Blockbuster Inc.  This morning Blockbuster filed for chapter 11 protection.  It is a great example of the Risk of being the market leader.  They owned the market, they were on top of the world.  I am sure during their heyday money was being thrown all over the place.

I would love to hear these questions answered:

The trap of leadership is that you often have to wait and see the result.  You are often not allowed to change your business model until it is too late.  If you change it when you probably need to and a loss occurs, then everyone loses their jobs.  The analysts would quickly call out leadership saying that they lost market share because of the business model shift.  Even it is was a great move that would ultimately save the company, our short term focus is entirely too great.

It is also difficult to understand the nature of the perceived threat.  I am sure there were a couple of times when Management said “what do we do about NetFlix and the changes in the market?”  I would guess that 10% market share did not scare anyone, nor 20%.  Yet, at this point there was too much momentum.

As leaders, when do we act?

If we react too soon, we risk looking prone to panic.  We can always explain it easier after the fact.  Our egos, politics in general, and concern about saving face probably drive more decisions than anyone would ever want to admit.

All to often we push harder on marketing and sales to cover shortfalls in market share.  I would be willing to bet that the company spent more time creating sales spiffs and getting creative in terms of finances, than investing in new business models.  What this leads to is a further entrenchment into the business model, a “we can weather this storm” mentality.

I wonder what would have happened if they would have set hard targets in terms of driving action.  What if they would have said “once our market share slips by 10%, I want a meeting where we come up with 5 new business models”.  We are just not trained to think about creating very specific action.

We ponder and delay (then get out and let someone else handle the mess).





Can we learn from Mite Hockey?

30 12 2009

In youth hockey, the youngest  group (6-8 year olds) is called mites.  Watching a mite hockey game, especially with the players in their first games, is a unique experience.  Watching a kid on a breakaway is everything, an amalgam of excitement, anticipation, worry, dread.  You feel like you can chew off all your fingernails from the time the play starts to when the play ends.

Why? Purely the speed in which the play happens.  It takes too long.

Think about the speed of change within an organization.  If it takes too long, it probably doesn’t happen.  We talk about burning platforms, or Machiavellian-like beheadings.  Employees don’t like change, but what they really don’t like is the not knowing what the other side will look like.  So why do we draw this stage out?

  • Why do we take forever to move some projects?
  • Why do we announce reorganizations, and then take months to make it happen?
  • How much artificial time do we add to a number of the things we do, and what is the value of that time?
  • What is the impact if act twice as quickly as the day before?

If you need to get something done, get the right minds on it, have a discussion and be done with it.





Predictive Analytics, Business Intelligence, and Strategy Management

9 12 2009

I was having a discussion with one of my clients this week and I thought he did a nice job summing up Predicative Analytics.

So in the World According to Reed (WOTR) – “queries answer questions, analytics creates questions.” My response was “and Strategy Management helps us to focus on which questions to answer.”

Reed Blalock is exactly right, traditional BI is about answering the questions we know. Analytics is really what we create with data mining – we look for nuances, things that might give us new insight into old problems. We use human intellect to explore and test. And yes, there is a little overlap. But what is really happening is that we have a different level of human interaction with the data.

BI is about history, analytics attempts to get us to think, to change, and idealistically to act.

The danger with both of these is that they can be resource intensive. Neither tool, or mindset should be left to their own devices. What is needed is a filter to identify the priority and purpose. This is where strategy management and scorecarding comes into play. We have built out massive informational assets without understanding where, when, and how to use it. We have pushed out enormous reporting structures and said “it’s all there, you can find anything you need” yet we scratch our heads when we see adoptions levels are low.

What we have typically not done all that well is build out that informational asset by how it helps us be more productive along product lines, divisions, sales region, etc. We have treated all dimensionality the same. Why, because it was easy. The BI tools are tremendous in how quickly you can add any and all dimensions.

“But because you can, doesn’t mean you should”

As we built out these data assets, we did not align them to performance themes.  We have gotten better with some key themes, like supply chain management, and human resource management, but what about customer performance?  We might look at sales performance, but that is a completely different lens than customer performance.

How do we determine which assets to start with…what assets do we need to be successful 3-5 years from now, or what are our biggest gaps to close today.  Think about customer value, or employee satisfaction (and that doesn’t mean more HR assets).  Think about your gaps in Strategy.

How often do we discuss…

  • Are our customers buying more or less frequently?
  • What are our best, and better customers doing?
  • What are the costs associated with serving our least profitable customers?
  • Where are our biggest holes in understanding?




People will…

25 11 2009

People will do what they like, or what is easy if they do not understand priority or value.  The hard stuff is messy.  There is too much risk in the hard stuff…





Analytics Process

23 11 2009

Over the last couple of months I have been writing about a handful of US Economic Indicators.  While I have reviewed these over the last few years of my life, I had not done so on a regular basis.  This inconsistent and let’s call it a casual curiosity lead to never really understanding the implications behind the numbers.  Sure I could talk about them, but I could not leverage them.  While not an expert by any means, I can see a lot more now than I did when I started this blog series.

This is similar to ad-hoc analysis without purpose.  We do something once and create a little hype.  When we don’t have any vehicle to take advantage of the newly found ideas, the idea dies as does the learning.

Think about the process of how you handle ad-hoc analytics within your organization:

  • Do you have the right minds constantly looking for new issues?
  • Or, do you put the right minds on solving issues when they arise?
  • Can you name your best analytical minds?  Are they assigned to thought leadership and problem solving?
  • Do you use your analytical minds to challenge the knowledge levels of others?
  • How do you foster new thinking?

 

Consistency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds knowledge





The Death of the Dissenting Opinion

16 11 2009

Typically, the person with the shortest shelf life within an organization (either in terms of politics or employment) is the team member willing to pose the question, “Is this the right thing?”

  • Why do we demand everyone line up and support management philosophy?

I know organizations don’t set this as a mandate, and it is probably more an example of personal politics, but it is amazing how destructive this mentality becomes. Why are we so worried about having someone in our business ask critical questions?

The are obvious examples when we need someone to play the role of the Devil’s advocate.

  • Would tobacco products have been created with such strong addictives?
  • Would Nasa have launched the shuttle Challenger?
  • Had the US intelligence agencies worked together, might we have stopped at least one of the fateful 9/11 planes?
  • Would Enron still be an energy giant today if we listened to employee concerns?

We love good debates, so why not embrace the power of dissenting opinion?  Collect all the feedback and you probably have a stronger argument for moving forward.  In the end, you can still continue an initiative or program.  When we politically assassinate the people with a strong voice, we send a message to agree or be rendered ineffective.  This evolves into a “yes” culture and we risk leading lemmings.





The Cost of Infrastructure – Environmental Scanning (Blockbuster vs. NetFlix)

12 11 2009

Last week in a workshop I was asked the question about Environmental Scans and Strategy Management.  The challenge was probably long overdue.  When I was first drawing up my framework on Performance Management, I specifically wanted to call out questions about how we look at the market.  I felt I had seen too much insular thinking within companies with the risk being much too high.  We need to be looking at the market on a regular basis, perhaps not with high frequency.

Let’s roll back the clock on the movie rental business to 1990.  In almost every suburban strip mall was a mom and pop, or small chain movie rental store.  We were able to rent a movies and watch them in the comfort of our on home.  There was no DVR (though if we could figure out the VCR we could have taped movies), there were not 427 premium movie channels, and cable was still in its infancy.  Over the next decade, Blockbuster moved in and wiped out almost everyone else in the industry – “opening one store every seventeen hours” (Wikipedia – no reference).  We loved the new model, and the fact that our membership card worked even when we were on vacation.  If we went back and looked at the analyst reviews, I am sure they had glowing views of how this was the model for the future.  Viacom jumped in and bought the business for $8.4 billion in 1994.

Oh, how internet time flies.  NetFlix with no brick and mortar costs jumps into the game (not to mention DVR, Pay-for-View, TiVO, etc) and what was once valued as a $8.4 billion dollar business was spun back off for a fraction of its original purchase price.  Today Blockbusters market cap is ~$160 million (compared to NetFlix $3.2 billion) and it continues to loose money.

What happened…you can spin this a number of ways:

  • They were too tied to their infrastructure
  • They were slow to react, or never really understood the threat before it was too late
  • They thought they were too big to fail

They were a great business model, let’s take a cottage industry and scale it.  And it worked great for a decade.  How do you think they would answer the question about the relevance to a more rigorous environmental scanning process?

Just think, perhaps even one conversation about “what would happen if someone figures out how to deliver movies via the internet” might have saved Blockbuster.  I know, I know, this could never happen to you as this was an isolated incident.  Think of the travel industry, General Motors, Enron, Compaq, CompUSA, TWA – and I am sure you could add 20 more…

Companies, like the products they often make, have shelf lives.  If we are not thinking of new ways to reinvent ourselves, it is highly likely someday we will become a “where are they now” business case.

  • What do you specifically do to challenge status quo?
  • When was the last time you had your best minds come up with the next generation business models?
  • When was the last time you identified the 3 largest threats to your business?
  • When was the last time you had a 3rd party provide a critique of the market you are in?




Survival and Adaptability – Hot Arple Pie

20 09 2009

I noticed an ad today absolutely worth noting…it simply and succinctly said:  “Does your marketing suck?”

At first I was shocked and appalled, but the more I looked at it I found myself compelled to click on the ad.  Who in there right mind would start an ad that way – probably someone willing to try something different.

It also jostled an old memory from one of marketing professors about a similar incident.  As he was driving to a client one day he passed a sign that said “Hot Arple Pie.”  He knew it was an apple pie, and was not really all that interested in apple pie, yet the sign got him thinking enough that he turned around to actually see if it was “apple” or “arple.”  And as you guessed it, 30 miles and one sale later and it was confirmed “Hot Apple Pie.”  And 20 years later, I am still thinking about “Arple Pie”

So back to “Does your marketing suck?”  It was catchy, adversarial, and in the end it moved me from unknowing to slightly informed. Perhaps in this case, the ends certainly justified the means.

Take a look at your marketing material:

  • Does it intrigue?
  • Does it invite action?
  • Is it any different than your competition’s?
  • When was the last time you changed up your marketing campaings, slogans, taglines, etc?
  • Can you afford for your programs to perform at the rate they are performing?
  • Would you consider your company competitive in terms of adaptability?

Interestingly enough, once I clicked on the ad I was taken to the company’s home page where I found a great quote:

“It is not the strongest species that survives,

nor the most intelligent;

but rather the most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin





Perceived Value

2 09 2009

As leaders and managers we are trained to think of employees in terms of financial value.  We give financial rewards based ideally on merit and performance.  Unfortunately, we don’t use often enough other types of rewards for motivation and morale.

I have two young children who do not yet demonstrate much grasp of financial matters.  We offered them an allowance in an attempt to motivate routine and good behavior. While we understand the value, neither kid  asked for their allowance in the last year since it was initiated.  Clearly, it is not a motivational tool for our children right now.

Both kids, however, love hockey. My youngest often lets me know she does not have as many hockey cards as her “brudder” and her brother often defaults to creating quiet games with those same cards.  It seems only natural to use the cards as a motivational device.  We will have to see how it plays out, but a couple of days in I can already see a marked difference.  What are the financial tradeoffs – the hockey card budget is about 50% of what I would spend on allowance.

  • When was the last time you created a “pat on the back” program?
  • Could you do something different to motivate project completion?
  • When was the last time you walked around the organization with $100 bills and randomly rewarded people doing the right thing?




Snowblowers and investing in tools

24 08 2009

How often do parents buy snowblowers right after their kids leave the nest?

Good employees often understand the tools they need to best do their jobs.  Good analytical minds usually look for different ways to extract new information out of large data sets.  This requires access to new tools, frameworks, and methodologies.  If we are not reinvesting in improving our analyical capabilities, we risk losing our best people as they quest other ways to challenge themselves.  We are then required to invest in the tools we declined to compensate for a loss of analytical brain power.

Instead of purchasing tools after a star analyst leaves, we need to find fresh ways to challenge analytical minds.  We can do a much better job of pointing people in new directions, or finding new ways to derive value.  Otherwise, we’re left investing in expensive equipment to do necessary tasks.





People, Process, and Technology

12 08 2009

In every BI vendor’s marketing material is the traditional People, Process, Technology venn diagram.  The promise is that leveraging the combination of the three will unlock enhanced results.

Traditional Venn

In order to use this for performance management, we need to rethink the original deisgn.  First we need a vision on how to bring these together and communicate what matters and how it will be done.  We also need to bring a focus on getting only the right things done and specifically not doing the wrong things.  Words (and diagrams) do little in terms of actions.  For us to achieve sustained performance, we need to understand and communicate which processes can create value (and which do not), what technology it will require, and a focused management process to ensure they get done in a timely manner.

Venn New

As you design your game plans, you need to make sure you are developing not only a plan but how success will be defined:

  • What is the desired outcome?
  • Who gets to define it?
  • How will it be managed?
  • What happens if it goes wrong?
  • Who would provide the best rational for the disenting opinion?




Perfection to Value

16 07 2009

One of the areas where performance takes a giant hit is in the area of project initiaition or closure.  And this is further complicated by personal preferences, politicing, and portfolio management.

In the diagram below there are three lines.  Line A is Corporate or Organization expectation of the trade off between speed and perfection.  Projects or tasks with little value (lower left corner) should require lower expectations of research, analytical thought, and discussion.  While projects that are higher in value (farther up to the right) should have higher expectations on quality of thought and preparation.

Perfection to Value Trends2

What happens all too often is we see line C where people don’t have the capacity or time to do the right job and throw something together.  We see that in the end we deliver far less than desired while wasting resources.  The small blue box is the value received, the red box is the wasted resources, and the green box was the original expected value of the project.  The arc is the value frontier, which demonstrates the trade off value between speed and quantity – or what we expect in terms value created from a combination of speed and quality.

Quality vs Speed - Speed

Or we have line B where we basically have a failure to launch because we spend all of our time debating how to be perfect.  Very similar to the situation with line C where we deliver far less than originally desired while wasting similar resources.

Quality vs Speed - Quality

Portfolio Management

Is this an individual issue, or a management issue?  If we were to plot out the results of the individual projects how would your organization look?

Perfection to Value Management2

If we were to see trends like the circles above, this would indicate a management problem.  As management either did not get the individual(s) to move back to the expected line, or management places to high a premium on either speed or perfection thus artificially altering expecations.

What I have witnessed is that line B is more often the norm.  Line C typically causes painful exposure, which causes people to be more fearful, thus needing more inputs and more support.  This creates more meetings, more approvals, more time, more people, which again causes more information, more analysis, more debate.  It is a vicious circle.

Failure to Act is a companion blog.





Pretty Words

15 07 2009

Listening to Sonia Sotomayor retrack her “wise Latina” comments made me think about an old Vince Gill song – Pretty Words.  “They’re just pretty words” seemed about right.  This is often the role of the politician, to say things that make people feel better.  We have limited manner in which to hold them to their words, so we often judge the words based on if we believed what they were saying.  Think of how we now perceive Roger Clemens, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, and the steroid gang.

One of the problems we have as leaders is an overuse of pretty words.  We are often asked questions that can not be answered at that time, thus forcing us to spin a response:

  • Are we having layoffs?
  • Are we selling the company?

While these hurt credibility with the front line, they are necessary to keep some level of sanity and productivity.  Yet, what happens when executive communication seems to be only about spin and pretty words.  If the rank and file feel “pretty words is all he is giving you” then we have a problem with communication and trust.  If these are broken, you can bet productivity is no where near optimal levels.

As executives and leaders we can know, or we can think we know if people are listening.  What I have often seen is that the good ones assume they don’t know and find out – thus reinforcing positive communication.

  • When was the last time you had an outside, independent team assess “trust” in the organization?
  • What would be the value to the organization?
  • What if you hear something you don’t like?




Going Green

17 06 2009

There are a number of ways companies are “greening.”

  • Some are creating green initiatives and tasks
  • Some are creating green strategic objectives
  • Some are merely applying green make up

In all likelihood, the success will be based upon the level of seriousness and commitment the organization applies.  This is a fad, and leaders will emerge.  Those leaders will reap enormous benefits, the others will be average.

Traditionally, we have talked about 3 business focuses:  Product Leadership, Customer Intimacy, and Operational Excellence.  In each of these cases, you could link “green” strategic objectives, initiatives, and policies into each of these categories.  You could also create a 4th category to trigger discussions about priority and focus of the organization.  A great example here is Patagonia.  They live their commitment to evnironmental stewardship as they understand their clients playground is the environment.

Patagonia Strategy Map

Sample Strategy Map - designed from public documents

During the 2008 Presidential race, Sarah Palin created a great amount of buzz for a number of products.  Patagonia bucked the trend in support of their beliefs:

“Patagonia’s environmental mission greatly differs from Sarah Palin’s,” Patagonia rep Jen Rapp told the WSJ. “Just wearing the clothing of an environmental company does not necessarily make someone an environmentalist.”

  • How committed are you to the success of your green programs?
  • Are you ready to forgo revenue today, for sustainable benefits?
  • Is green an executive agenda, a marketing initiative, or grass roots initiative?







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