Is a failed action the same as a failure to act?

27 04 2009

Over the weekend, Seth Godin blogged about making timely decisions.  It brought to mind a number of items worth additional discussion.  One of my favorite sayings is “we should do something” when managers are shown a potential issue.  It is usually followed up with a flurry of meetings, too much information, and less than a clear path forward.  While frustrating, it became clear over time that we often lack a process to consider, debate, and ultimately put ad-hoc course corrrections into action.  It was also appearant that we suffer from a culture that uses information overload to decline action based on the need for additional information.

To make a little more sense of it, here is a two by two grid that shows the risk and rewards of whether action was created and whether it was correct or not.  The goal of this was to highlight perhaps the personal motivations behind action or lack thereof.

the-risk-of-action2

Creating action is more likely to cause the extremes in risk versus reward, while delaying or taking no action is often the safer route.  While companies need to take risks to lead within the market, employees may not have the same motivations.  Is the potential for a promotion, worth the risk of falling out of favor?  Do we, as company policy, reward action financially?  Is a failed action the same as a failure to act?





Business Intelligence vs Business Analytics

14 04 2009

There is a growing debate over Business Intelligence vs. Business Analytics and what the future holds.  Clearly the Business Intelligence world has been shaken with Hyperion, Business Objects, and Cognos all now smaller parts of bigger companies.  This has created a number of marketing opportunities for the likes of Microstrategy and SAS.  The obvious marketing play was independence.  Now it is clear that SAS is taking a slightly different tact by claiming that Business Intelligence is dead and the future is Analytics.

Marketing messages aside, what we need to be focusing upon how we use information and the management process.  Call it data, information, intelligence, analytics, or whatever we come up with next, it is all irrelevant if we don’t understand how to use it.  A basement full of great tools doesn’t mean the house remains maintained.  
  • Do you have rules on when to use the specific tools in the BI suite?
  • Do your people have the analytical skills required?
  • Do you have a process where the information can be discussed and actions agreed upon?
We all agree that organizations need to make fact based decisions.  The other thing we should all be working upon is creating a common vernacular for each of the tools.  As analysts, consultants, pundits, bloggers, we do little good if we don’t teach the value of how to use each of the tools.  You don’t need predictive analytics for an exemption report.  You don’t need a sexy looking reports that do little to explain the goal.  Organizations don’t need real time scorecards.  

What organizations do need are ways to make people comfortable to take decisive action.  We also need these actions to align to company goals and strategy.  The tools we use need to be consistent enough for us to trust them, and the minds that analyze them need to be able to use the tools well enough to communicate only what matters in a digestible presentation.





Because you can…doesn’t mean you should

14 04 2009

We do a number of things in the name of business intelligence.  We say we have to have real time information.  We have to have hundreds of reports.  We have to be able to look at everything in every direction.

Business Intelligence software promises us this and make this seem like an achievable goal.  And yes it would be great to know everything about everything and get a perfect 360 degree view of the organization.

Yet it is not really achievable, actually not even close.  Instead ask what are the goals & objectives of the organization, and how does this support that end.  We are very quick to say “we can do that” but we need to temper that with “why should we do that?”  Think of the goal of a dashboard – to providereal-time information on a specific subject.  I have known many managers that constantly stare at the screen to see if anything moved.  

What we really need is to understand how to use the function of time and integrate that into a analytical management process.  What would you get more out of, a tactical dial that shows us one KPI, or a meeting at the end of the day to review a number of KPIs?





The Continuous Improvement Meeting – CIM

2 04 2009

Including on this blog, much has been written about meeting management: how to run a more effective meeting, improving meeting outcomes, etc. All concepts in which I am in complete support. I’ve found, however, that it is very difficult to implement wholesale change into an organization’s meeting culture. And there are several characteristic profiles of meeting culture within organizations.

Meetings typically occur for the purpose of communicating information, yet most meetings I’ve witnessed over my career consistently end with no action or accountability to do something. So, what I’m going to suggest here is not a change in your existing meeting culture. Continue to hold the meetings that your organization routinely conducts, for whatever the purpose. But, if your organization is serious about driving operational performance improvement, you need to add a meeting to your schedule. Yes, that’s right. I’m advocating yet another meeting. This meeting is specific in purpose. It never deviates its agenda. And it is a critical management tool for driving performance improvement.

The continuous improvement meeting or “CIM” has five objectives.

1. Review progress against KPIs
2. Identify barriers to performance
3. Share best practices
4. Develop action plans for next period
5. Recognize superior performance

The CIM is 45 minutes in length, maximum. It is conducted at every level of the organization. This is critical to insure all levels of the operation are aligning their efforts with the strategy. Typically, the meeting should occur weekly at the front line to monthly and/or quarterly at the executive level.

The keys to successful implementation of the CIM are:

  •  It is a separate, distinct meeting. Not part of another meeting agenda.
  •  45 minutes maximum
  •  It is held at the same time & day every period
  •  It must be group meeting

One of the biggest gaps in operational performance management is the area of management effectiveness. We tend to focus on effectiveness and efficience of front line contributors. But how exactly does management improve its effectiveness at managing? Try implementing the Continuous Improvement Meeting into your management process and see how much more focus you create around the metrics that are important to your organization’s strategy.





Meeting Management & Agendas

26 03 2009
  • How much money do you spend annually on meetings?
  • Do people show up on time, follow an agenda, and end the meetings on time?
  • Do meetings regularly create and review actions?

Meetings need structure and process, yet most meetings happen because of momentum. “We always meet on Fridays as a team.” We meet to discuss and communicate. Yet this discussion is typically around individual status updates, and less about what needs to happen, or hurdles that need to be cleared.

Shouldn’t every meeting have a well defined purpose to specifically create an action. Change “meet to review project status” to “meet to analyze project performance, understand risks, and make recommendations.” Now we go from asking people to attend the meeting TO preparing the team for the meeting. Roles and tasks should be assigned and materials need to be reviewed prior to the meeting.

Here is a link to Seth Godin’s blog on the same subject – Getting Serious about your Meeting Problem