Posts Tagged ‘Competitiveness’

How To See What’s Missing

With one eye open and the other closed, you have no depth perception. With two eyes open, you see in three dimensions.  This ability to see in three dimensions is possible because each eye sees from a unique perspective.  The brain knits together the two unique perspectives so you can see the world as it is. Or, as your brain thinks it is, at least.

And the same can be said for an organization.  When everyone sees things from a single perspective, the organization has no depth perception.  But with at least two perspectives, the organization can better see things as they are.  The problem is we’re not taught to see from unique perspectives.

With most presentations, the material is delivered from a single perspective with the intention of helping everyone see from that singular perspective.  Because there’s no depth to the presentation, it looks the same whether you look at it with one eye or two.  But with some training, you can learn how to see depth even when it has purposely been scraped away.

And it’s the same with reports, proposals, and plans. They are usually written from a single perspective with the objective of helping everyone reach a single conclusion.  But with some practice, you can learn to see what’s missing to better see things as they are.

When you see what’s missing, you see things in stereo vision.

Here are some tips to help you see what’s missing.  Try them out next time you watch a presentation or read a report, proposal, or plan.

When you see a WHAT, look for the missing WHY on the top and HOW on the bottom. Often, at least one slice of bread is missing from the why-what-how sandwich.

When you see a HOW, look for the missing WHO and WHEN.  Usually, the bread or meat is missing from the how-who-when sandwich.

Here’s a rule to live by: Without finishing there can be no starting.

When you see a long list of new projects, tasks, or initiatives that will start next year, look for the missing list of activities that would have to stop in order for the new ones to start.

When you see lots of starting, you’ll see a lot of missing finishing.

When you see a proposal to demonstrate something for the first time or an initial pilot, look for the missing resources for the “then what” work.  After the prototype is successful, then what?  After the pilot is successful, then what?  Look for the missing “then what” resources needed to scale the work.  It won’t be there.

When you see a plan that requires new capabilities, look for the missing training plan that must be completed before the new work can be done well. And look for the missing budget that won’t be used to pay for the training plan that won’t happen.

When you see an increased output from a system, look for the missing investment needed to make it happen, the missing lead time to get approval for the missing investment, and the missing lead time to put things in place in time to achieve the increased output that won’t be realized.

When you see a completion date, look for the missing breakdown of the work content that wasn’t used to arbitrarily set the completion date that won’t be met.

When you see a cost reduction goal, look for the missing resources that won’t be freed up from other projects to do the cost reduction work that won’t get done.

It’s difficult to see what’s missing.  I hope you find these tips helpful.

“missing pieces” by LeaESQUE is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

When your company looks in the mirror, what does it see?

There are many types of companies, and it can be difficult to categorize them.  And even within the company itself, there is disagreement about the company’s character.   And one of the main sources of disagreement is born from our desire to classify our company as the type we want it to be rather than as the type that it is.

Here’s a process that may bring consensus to your company.

For all the people on the payroll, assign a job type and tally them up for the various types.  If most of your people work in finance, you work for a finance company.  If most work in manufacturing, you work for a manufacturing company.  The same goes for sales, engineering, customer service, consulting.  Write your answer here __________.

For all the company’s profits, assign a type and roll up the totals.  If most of the profit is generated through the sale of services, you work for a service company. If most of the profit is generated by the sale of software, you work for a software company. If hardware generates profits, you work for a hardware company. If licensing of technology generates profits, you work at a technology company.  Which one fits your company best? Write your answer here _________.

For all the people on the payroll, decide if they work to extend and defend the core offerings (the things that you sell today) or create new offerings in new markets that are sold to new customers. If most of the people work on the core offerings, you work for a low-growth company.  If most of the people work to create new offerings (non-core), you work for a high-growth company.  Which fits you best – extend and defined the core / low-growth or new offerings / high growth? Write your answer here __________ / ___________.

Now, circle your answers below.

We are a (finance, manufacturing, sales, engineering, customer service, consulting) company that generates most of its profits through the sale of (services, hardware, software, technology). And because most of our people work to (extend and defend the core, create new offerings), we are a (low, high) growth company.

To learn what type of company you work for, read the sentences out loud.

“Grace – Mirror” by phil41dean is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Continuous Improvement Is Dead

Continuous Improvement – Do what you did last time, just three percent better, so none of your people can try new things.

Discontinuous Improvement – Make a radical step-change in performance at the expense of continuously improving it.

 

Continuous Improvement – Do what you did last time so you can say “no” to projects that are magical.

No-To-Yes – Make the product do something it cannot.  That way you can sell a new value proposition to new customers and new markets.  And you can threaten those that are clinging to your tired value proposition.

 

Continuous Improvement – Do what you did last time so no one will be threatened by meaningful change.

Less With Far Less – Reduce the goodness of today’s offering to free up design space and create an entirely new offering that provides 80% of the goodness at 20% of the price. That way, you can sell a whole new family of offerings to customers that cannot buy today’s offering.

 

Continuous Improvement – Do what you did last time so we can rest on our laurels.

Obsolete Your Best Work – Design and commercialize new offerings that purposefully make obsolete your most profitable offering.  This requires level 5 courage.

 

And how do you do all this? Mobilize the Trust Network.

 

“fear — may 9 (day 9)” by theogeo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How To Grow Leaders

If you want to grow leaders, meet with them daily.

If you want to grow leaders, demand that they disagree with you.

If you want to grow leaders, help them with all facets of their lives.

If you want to grow leaders, there is no failure, there is only learning.

If you want to grow leaders, give them the best work.

If you want to grow leaders, protect them.

If you want to grow leaders, spend at least two years with them.

If you want to grow leaders, push them.

If you want to grow leaders, praise them.

If you want to grow leaders, get them comfortable with discomfort.

If you want to grow leaders, show them who you are.

If you want to grow leaders, demand that they use their judgment.

If you want to grow leaders, give them just a bit more than they can handle and help them handle it.

If you want to grow leaders, show emotion.

If you want to grow leaders, tell them the truth, even when it creates anxiety.

If you want to grow leaders, always be there for them.

If you want to grow leaders, pull a hamstring and make them present in your place.

If you want to grow leaders, be willing to compromise your career so their careers can blossom.

If you want to grow leaders, when you are on vacation tell everyone they are in charge.

If you want to grow leaders, let them chose between to two good options.

If you want to grow leaders, pay attention to them.

If you want to grow leaders, be consistent.

If you want to grow leaders, help them with their anxiety.

If you want to grow leaders, trust them.

If you want to grow leaders, demonstrate leadership.

“Mother duck and ducklings” by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

How to Know if Your Idea is Novel

When your idea is novel, no one will steal it. No NDA required.

If your idea is truly novel, no one will value it. And that’s how you’ll know it’s novel.

When your idea is novel, no one will adopt it. This isn’t much of a stretch as, due to not-invented-here (NIH), no one will adopt anyone else’s idea – novel or not.

When your idea is novel, it will be misunderstood, even by you.

When your idea is novel, it will evolve into something else and then something else. And then it might be ready for Prime Time.

Novel ideas are like orchids – they need love beyond the worth of their blossom.

If your idea hasn’t failed three times, it’s not worth a damn.

The gestation period for novel ideas is long; if it comes together quickly, it’s not novel.

The best way to understand your novel idea is to make a prototype. And then another one.

Your first novel idea won’t work, but it will inform the next iteration. And that one won’t work either, and the cycle continues. But that’s how it goes with novel ideas.

If everyone likes your novel idea, it isn’t novel.

If no one likes your novel idea, you may be on to something.

If you’re not misunderstood, you’re doing it wrong.

If your dog likes your idea, you can’t say much because he loves you unconditionally and will always tell you what you want to hear.

If you think your novel idea will create a whole new product line in two years, your timeline is off by a factor of three, or five.

If your most successful business unit tries to squash your novel idea it’s because it threatens them. Stomp on the accelerator.

When you are known to give air cover to novel ideas, the best people want to work for you.

 

“it seemed like a good idea at the time” by woodleywonderworks is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Technical Risk, Market Risk, and Emotional Risk

Technical risk – Will it work?

Market risk – Will they buy it?

Emotional risk – Will people laugh at your crazy idea?

 

Technical risk – Test it in the lab.

Market risk – Test it with the customer.

Emotional risk – Try it with a friend.

 

Technical risk – Define the right test.

Market risk – Define the right customer.

Emotional risk – Define the right friend.

 

Technical risk – Define the minimum acceptable performance criteria.

Market risk – Define the minimum acceptable response from the customer.

Emotional risk – Define the minimum acceptable criticism from your friend.

 

Technical risk – Can you manufacture it?

Market risk – Can you sell it?

Emotional risk – Can you act on your crazy idea?

 

Technical risk – How sure are you that you can manufacture it?

Market risk – How sure are you that you can sell it?

Emotional risk – How sure are you that you can act on your crazy idea?

 

Technical risk – When the VP says it can’t be manufactured, what do you do?

Market risk – When the VP says it can’t be sold, what do you do?

Emotional risk – When the VP says your idea is too crazy, what do you do?

 

Technical risk – When you knew the technical risk was too high, what did you do?

Market risk – When you knew the market risk was too high, what did you do?

Emotional risk – When you knew someone’s emotional risk was going to be too high, what did you do?

 

Technical risk – Can you teach others to reduce technical risk? How about increasing it?

Market risk – Can you teach others to reduce technical risk? How about increasing it?

Emotional risk – Can you teach others to reduce emotional risk? How about increasing it?

 

Technical risk – What does it look like when technical risk is too low? And the consequences?

Market risk – What does it look like when technical risk is too low? And the consequences?

Emotional risk – What does it look like when emotional risk is too low? And the consequences?

 

We are most aware of technical risk and spend most of our time trying to reduce it.  We have the mindset and toolset to reduce it.  We know how to do it.  But we were not taught to recognize when technical risk is too low.  And if we do recognize it’s too low, we don’t know how to articulate the negative consequences. With all this said, market risk is far more dangerous.

We’re unfamiliar with the toolset and mindset to reduce market risk. Where we can change the design, run the test, and reduce technical risk, market risk is not like that.  It’s difficult to understand what drives the customers’ buying decision and it’s difficult to directly (and quickly) change their buying decision. In short, it’s difficult to know what to change so they make a different buying decision.  And if they don’t buy, you don’t sell. And that’s a big problem.  With that said, emotional risk is far more debilitating.

When a culture creates high emotional risk, people keep their best ideas to themselves. They don’t want to be laughed at or ridiculed, so their best ideas don’t see the light of day. The result is a collection of wonderful ideas known only to the underground Trust Network. A culture that creates high emotional risk has insufficient technical and market risk because everyone is afraid of the consequences of doing something new and different.  The result – the company with high emotional risk follows the same old script and does what it did last time.  And this works well, right up until it doesn’t.

Here’s a three-pronged approach that may help.

  1. Continue to reduce technical risk.
  2. Learn to reduce market risk early in a project.
  3. And behave in a way that reduces emotional risk so you’ll have the opportunity to reduce technical and market risk.

Image credit — Shan Sheehan

It’s time to start starting.

What do we do next? I don’t know

What has been done before?

What does it do now?

What does it want to do next?

If it does that, who cares?

 

Why should we do it? I don’t know.

Will it increase the top line?  If not, do something else.

Will it increase the bottom line?  If so, let someone else do it.

What’s the business objective?

 

Who will buy it? I don’t know.

How will you find out?

What does it look like when you know they’ll buy it?

Why do you think it’s okay to do the work before you know they’ll buy it?

 

What problem must be solved? I don’t know.

How will you define the problem?

Why do you think it’s okay to solve the problem before defining it?

Why do you insist on solving the wrong problem? Don’t you know that ready, fire, aim is bad for your career?

Where’s the functional coupling? When will you learn about Axiomatic Design?

Where is the problem? Between which two system elements?

When does the problem happen? Before what? During what? After what?

Will you separate in time or space?

When will you learn about TRIZ?

 

Who wants you to do it? I don’t know.

How will you find out?

When will you read all the operating plans?

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

 

Who doesn’t want you to do it? I don’t know.

How will you find out?

Who looks bad if this works?

Who is threatened by the work?

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

 

What does it look like when it’s done? I don’t know.

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

 

What do you need to be successful? I don’t know.

Why do you think it’s okay to start the work before knowing this?

 

Starting is essential, but getting ready to start is even more so.

 

Image credit — Jon Marshall

The Next Prime Directive – Software-Based Recurring Revenue

If you know how what the system wants to be when it grows up, you can work in this line of evolution with 100% impunity.  In that way, the key to success is learning how to see what the system wants to be when it grows up; learning to see where it wants to go; learning to see what it likes to do; learning to see what it wants to achieve; learning its disposition.

What do systems want?  Well, for business systems, here’s a hint: Business systems seek top-line growth (increased sales revenue).

When you align your work with what the system seeks (top-line growth) roadblocks mysteriously remove themselves out of the way. No one will know why, but the right things will happen. Don’t believe me that roadblocks will disappear? For your next proposal, build it around top-line growth and use “top-line growth” in the title, and see what happens.  I bet I know what will happen and I bet you will get approval.

Assess the system to learn what is missing. Then, create a proposal to fill the vacuum. Or, better yet, fill the vacuum.  Do you need to ask for permission? No. Do you need formal approval? No. Is it okay to work outside your formal domain of responsibility? Yes. Is it okay if you encroach on other teams’ areas of responsibility? Yes.  Is it okay if people disagree? Yes. And why is that? Because the vacuum is blocking the path to top-line growth. And why is that a big deal? Well, because the Leadership Team is measured on top-line growth and they think it’s skillful to unblock the path to Nirvana.  And why is that?  Well, because they are judged on and compensated for top-line growth. And, because they told the Board of Directors they’d deliver top-line growth. And if there’s one thing a Leadership Team doesn’t want to do is to break a commitment to the Board of Directors.

Here’s a rule: When your work creates top-line growth, you don’t need to ask for approval.  You just need to go faster.

Here’s another rule: When you help the Leadership Team deliver on its commitment to the Board of Directors to deliver top-line growth, your career will thank you.

There are different flavors of top-line growth, but the best flavor is called “recurring revenue”. This is when customers commit to a monthly payment. Regardless of what happens, they make the monthly payment.  Think Netflix and Amazon Prime. Month in and month out, customers pay every.  And you can plan on it. And the revenue you can count on is much more valuable than the revenue that may come or may not.  And though they don’t know how, this is why companies want to do software as a service (SaaS). And for those that don’t can’t figure out how to do SaaS, the next megatrend will be hardware as a service (HaaS). It won’t be called HaaS, rather it will be called RaaS (Robotics as a Service), machines as a service (Maas), and AaaS (Automation as a Service).  But, since AaaS sounds a lot like ASS, they’ll figure out a different name.  But you get the idea.

And the new metric of choice will be Time to Recurring Revenue (TtFRR). It won’t be enough to create recurring revenue. Projects will be judged by the time to create the first dollar of recurring revenue.  And this will make software only projects more attractive than projects that require hardware and far more attractive than projects that require new hardware.  Hardware becomes a necessary evil that companies do only to create recurring software revenue.

All this comes down to Situation Analysis or Situational Analysis (SA). On a topographic map, SA is like knowing the location of the hills so you can march around them and knowing where the valleys are so you can funnel your competitors toward them to limit their ability to maneuver.  It’s a lot more nuanced than that, but you get the idea.  It’s about understanding the fitness landscape so you can speculate on dispositional or preferential paths that the system wants to follow in its quest for top-line growth.

If you don’t know how the system wants to generate top-line growth, figure it out. And, next, if you don’t know what the system needs to achieve to fulfill its desire for top-line growth, figure that out.  And once you identify the vacuum created by the missing elements, fill it and fill it fast.

Don’t ask for permission; just do the work that makes it possible for the system to achieve its Prime Directive – software-based recurring revenue to create top-line growth.

Image credit — JD Hancock

Great companies are great because of the people that work there.

You can look at people’s salaries as a cost that must be reduced. Or, you can look at their salaries as a way for them to provide for their families. With one, you cut, cut, cut.  With the other, you pay the fairest wage possible and are thankful your people are happy.

You can look at healthcare costs the same way – as a cost that must be slashed or an important ingredient that helps the workers and their families stay healthy.  Sure, you should get what you pay for, but do you cut costs or do all you can to help people be healthy? I know which one makes for a productive workforce and which one is a race to the bottom. How does your company think about providing good healthcare benefits? And how do you feel about that?

You can look at training and development of your people as a cost or an investment. And this distinction makes all the difference.  With one, training and development is minimized. And with the other, it’s maximized to grow people into their best selves.  How does your company think about this? And how do you feel about that?

You can look at new tools as a cost or as an investment. Sure, tools can be expensive, but they can also help people do more than they thought possible. Does your company think of them as a cost or an investment? And how do you feel about that?

Would you take a slight pay cut so that others in the company could be paid a living wage? Would you pay a little more for healthcare so that younger people could pay less? Would you be willing to make a little less money so the company can invest in the people? Would your company be willing to use some of the profit generated by cost reduction work to secure the long-term success of the company?

If your company’s cost structure is higher than the norm because it invests in the people, are you happy about that? Or, does that kick off a project to reduce the company’s cost structure?

Over what time frame does your company want to make money?

When jobs are eliminated at your company, does that feel more like a birthday party or a funeral?

Are you proud of how your company treats their people, or are you embarrassed?

I’ve heard that people are the company’s most important asset, but if that’s the case, why is there so much interest in reducing the number of people that work at the company?

In the company’s strategic plan, five years from now are there more people on the payroll or fewer? And how do you feel about that?

Image credit — Gk Hart/vikki Hart/G

Wrong Questions to Ask When Doing Technology Development

I know you’re trying to do something that has never been done before, but when will you be done? I don’t know.  We’ll run the next experiment then decide what to do next.  If it works, we’ll do more of that.  And if it doesn’t, we’ll do less of that. That’s all we know right now.

I know you’re trying to create something that is new to our industry, but how many will we sell? I don’t know. Initial interviews with customers made it clear that this is an important customer problem. So, we’re trying to figure out if the technology can provide a viable solution.  That’s all we know right now.

No one is asking for that obscure technology. Why are you wasting time working on that?  Well, the voice of the technology and the S-curve analyses suggest the technology wants to move in this direction, so we’re investing this solution space.  It might work and it might not.  That’s all we know right now.

Why aren’t you using best practices? If it hasn’t been done before, there can be no best practice.  We prefer to use good practice or emergent practice.

There doesn’t seem like there’s been much progress.  Why aren’t you running more experiments? We don’t know which experiments to run, so we’re taking some time to think about what to do next.

Will it work?  I don’t know.

That new technology may obsolete our most profitable product line.  Shouldn’t you stop work on that? No. If we don’t obsolete our best work, someone else will. Wouldn’t it be better if we did the obsoleting?

How many more people do you need to accelerate the technology development work? None.  Small teams are better.

Sure, it’s a cool technology, but how much will it cost?  We haven’t earned the right to think about the cost.  We’re still trying to make it work.

So, what’s your solution? We don’t know yet.  We’re still trying to formulate the customer problem.

You said you’d be done two months ago.  Why aren’t you done yet? I never said we’d be done two months ago. You asked me for a completion date and I could not tell you when we’d be done.  You didn’t like that answer so I suggested that you choose your favorite date and put that into your spreadsheet. We were never going to hit that date, and we didn’t.

We’ve got a tight timeline.  Why are you going home at 5:00? We’ve been working on this technology for the last two years.  This is a marathon.  We’re mentally exhausted.  See you tomorrow.

If you don’t work harder, we’ll get someone else to do the technology development work.  What do you think about that? You are confusing activity with progress.  We are doing the right analyses and the right thinking and we’re working hard.  But if you’d rather have someone else lead this work, so would I.

We need a patented solution.  Will your solution be patentable? I don’t know because we don’t yet have a solution. And when we do have a solution, we still won’t know because it takes a year or three for the Patent Office to make that decision.

So, you’re telling me this might not work?  Yes. That’s what I’m telling you.

So, you don’t know when you’ll be done with the technology work, you don’t know how much the technology will cost, you don’t know if it will be patentable, or who will buy it? That’s about right.

Image credit — Virtual EyeSee

Two Sides of the Equation

If you want new behavior, you must embrace conflict.

If you can’t tolerate the conflict, you’ll do what you did last time.

If your point of view angers half and empowers everyone else, you made a difference.

If your point of view meets with 100% agreement, you wasted everyone’s time.

If your role is to create something from nothing, you’ve got to let others do the standard work.

If your role is to do standard work, you’ve got to let others create things from scratch.

If you want to get more done in the long term, you’ve got to make time to grow people.

If you want to get more done in the short term, you can’t spend time growing people.

If you do novel work, you can’t know when you’ll be done.

If you are asked for a completion date, I hope you’re not expected to do novel work.

If you’re in business, you’re in the people business.

If you’re not in the people business, you’ll soon be out of business.

If you call someone on their behavior and they thank you, you were thanked by a pro.

If you call someone on their behavior and they call you out for doing it, you were gaslit.

If you can’t justify doing the right project, reduce the scope, and do it under the radar.

If you can’t prevent the start of an unjust project, find a way to work on something else.

If you are given a fixed timeline and fixed resources, flex the schedule.

If you are given a fixed timeline, resources, and schedule, you’ll be late.

If you get into trouble, ask your Trust Network for help.

If you have no Trust Network, you’re in trouble.

If you have a problem, tell the truth and call it a problem.

If you can’t tell the truth, you have a big problem.

If you are called on your behavior, own it.

If you own your behavior, no one can call you on it.

Image credit – Mary Trebilco

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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