‘Tis the Season to Thank Your Partners

partnersPrudent partnerships add significant value to your team and clients

 Last night was our annual holiday party and for the first time we expanded our party beyond our team. We didn’t bring in clients, but we brought in our close partners. Looking back now, I think this was long overdue because so much of our success has been directly attributable to our partners. Sure we have great people and I know that on our own we bring great value to our clients, but by having a rich partner ecosystem we are able to bring our clients unique value.   We are staffed to handle the majority of our clients needs and our staff reflects specific capabilities and expertise that drive results for those clients. For the rest of their needs we could either stretch our existing staff and hope we do a good enough job, tell the client to find someone else to handle this need, or like we have, find and partner with companies that make it their job to handle those specific niche areas. I know what I would prefer as a client and I know that my clients over the years have been extraordinarily happy with the results they’ve gotten from this type of arrangement. For us having close partners we can depend on, know, and trust, means seamless execution for the client and the ability to take on and execute on more comprehensive projects without having to move outside of our area of expertise. For our partners, this means having someone that they can count on to bring them in at the appropriate time to perform well and execute and finally, for the client they get a turn key solution that brings the highest level of expertise and execution to every aspect of their project.

 This is worthy of a post because I think that by leveraging a partner network to deliver for clients, you are essentially extending modular solution design back into sourcing and staffing. This isn’t anything new. In fact, if you look at supply chains for retailers and other global commerce, this concept is how we are able to deliver products that are designed, sourced, marketed, built, and delivered globally at what is an incredibly low cost if you look at the complexity of the delivery system. Individual components of this global supply chain have developed capability and executed in order to win their place in delivering end value that becomes the bikes and boxes under Christmas trees around this time of year. By delivering our management consulting and technology offerings in this manner we are simply leveraging that same concept of taking the best available partners in the market and developing unique value for the end client. I’m sure there are many cases where this means that we are leaving money on the table or not maximizing on the near term value we could gain for the client, but this approach ensures that we form and retain lasting relationships with our clients because they know that we are consistently finding the best possible solution for them.

In conclusion, I think the major take away from this should be to ensure that you are looking beyond the edges of your organization for value and opportunities to improve. So much of what organizations produce now is dependent on the value that others create, that it simply isn’t enough to find improvement opportunities within your own organization. If 70% of the value stream for your stakeholders is dependent on stakeholders that are external to your organization, you will never get maximum performance by simply focusing inward. We have always recognized that our partners bring value; but by bringing them in and thanking them at our Christmas party this year I think we took another step forward in driving client value.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Dale Meyerrose on Organizational Transformation, Part One

Today’s post is part of the MB&A Executive Series: On Organizational Transformation. We will be running this series on Thursdays through the holiday season starting with the Honorable Dale Meyerrose, Major General, U.S. Air Force retired. Dale Meyerrose is president of the MeyerRose Group, LLC, a company that consults with a wide range of business, government, and academic organizations on strategy, business planning, technology, education, and executive development issues. He is an associate professor at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University. He is also the President and Chairman of the Board for the Air Force Historical Foundation, Trustee for the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcon Foundation, advisor to the U.S. Air Force Heritage Program, and on the board of directors for the Wireless Grids Corporation.

In this first post we will provide a brief introduction to Dale’s experience with organizational transformation and insight into the breadth of his transformation experience. Please be on the lookout for next Thursday’s edition of the MB&A Executive Series: On Organizational Transformation when we ask Dale his feelings on leading transformation from a top down or bottom up effort.

MB&A Executive Series: On Organizational Transformation (Transcript)

Josh: I know that during your time in the Air Force, government, and working in the private sector, that you’ve had some experience with organizational transformation; that you’ve been involved with some organizations that needed to change, or wanted to change to meet evolving requirements.  Can you kind of give a broad brush on that and some of the outcomes you’ve experience over time?

Dale: Sure. I think it’s important to realize that organizational change comes in many forms.  Whether you want to start a new organization, deactivating an old organization is also part of change management; in addition to either rejuvenating an existing organization or changing the mission of an existing organization.  And I’ve had experience with all 4 scenarios. The ones that are probably most dramatic probably have to do with when I was in the Air Force. I was one of the senior officers responsible for deactivating the United States Space Command and transferring that mission to a completely different organization.  At the same time I was the first general officer assigned to creating a new organization called US Northern Command which had the responsibility after 9-11 of providing Homeland Defense support to the country.  The other element that goes along with this is companion element of transformation change, was as I stated earlier, I was the first chief information officer for the intelligence community which entailed creating a new bureaucracy as at work a new organization within the United States government to oversee intelligence organizations.  Additionally when I hired out to the corporate sector I was given the opportunity to build a brand new business from scratch.  All the way from creating a mission, hiring people, organizing the processes setting up the profit and loss situation as it were in a corporation.  Additionally in the academic arena I have had the pleasure and the honor of creating new courses, new lines of study and just recently been given the opportunity to create a professional certificate awarding program for cyber and cyber security.  So when you’re looking at transformation which I think is very very important given that range of experience to realize that transformation comes in many sizes and shapes and forms.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Bad news: It’s not fine wine

Bad news doesn’t get better with time, fine wine it is not

Nobody likes to hear bad news, myself included. What really gets me though is when I find out the bad news hours or days after the event occurred. I’ve yet to encounter a bad situation made better with time. Within a large organization I can understand the temptation to hold on to the bad news and delay, or avoid, being the bearer of bad news. If this is a chronic situation within your organization, leadership needs to really examine how it supports or addresses bad news, mistakes, and other business issues. There is a fine line between maintaining organizational discipline and a culture of accountability, and inviting people to sit on bad news because they know that being the messenger may be a high-risk proposition with on the job repercussions.

 Organizations should provide very clear guidance on this matter and ensure that there is a clear understanding of the repercussions of not delivering bad news promptly. Bad news, critical business problems, and egregious mistakes are exactly the types of issues that need to get in front of senior leadership as quickly as possible. By getting the issue to leadership promptly there is a chance to either correct the issue before it mushrooms into something larger, begin addressing the inevitable fallout of the issue before it hits the press, or begin understanding the lessons learned associated with the issue so that it doesn’t occur again. Delaying recognition of the problem only ensures that it will get worse.

 Reaching above your pay grade and making decisions in the hope that your corrective action will avert bad news coming to light is also an issue. I am a big believer in ensuring that a proper level of delegation occurs and that to the degree possible, employees across an organization feel empowered to make decisions. However, I think anytime the thought goes through your head, “I wonder what the boss would say about X,” it is probably a good time to go talk to the boss. The first clue that you needed to talk to them should be that you aren’t 100% sure that you want to go do it. That is a key indicator that should almost always result in walking down the hall and having that difficult discussion. Going out on a limb to make a decision based more on your desire not to have senior management discover the issue than on your being the appropriate decision maker is going to get you in trouble eventually and should be avoided at all costs.

 The right way to handle an issue once you’ve identified it as deserving of senior managements attention is to get the issue in front of management immediately. Depending on the type of issue this may be addressed in many different ways; my focus in this post is on the timing. The only caveat I will provide to the advice above is if the bad news involves illegality or other criminal issues. Here you may want to be a bit more cautious, but know that in the US legal protection is available. Consult a lawyer to better understand the implications of your actions. For the rest of the issues I am a believer in providing bad news in person if possible, by phone if its not, and only as a last resort via e-mail. It is perfectly acceptable to follow up with an e-mail after an in person visit or phone call if you feel you need a record of the situation. In conclusion remember—bad news isn’t like fine wine—it doesn’t get better with age.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Specifications for Decisions Support

Identifying the business value of your portfolio is critical to overcoming hurdles

 I was talking with one of our Enterprise Architecture and IT Strategy partners the other day and he brought up an interesting request from a client. The client was in the midst of deploying a large enterprise portfolio management solution and the client said that his real concern was in developing the specifications for the solution. If you look in Webster’s Dictionary, the term specification is defined as “a detailed precise presentation of something or of a plan or proposal for something.[1]” It took me a few moments but I think it is one of the more insightful requests I’ve had from a client in a long time. They were in the midst of developing a solution that would provide them with a great deal of insight into their existing portfolios and enable them to identify opportunities to rationalize their application portfolio, identify redundancy and generally increase efficiency and effectiveness; but this particular stakeholder was already looking forward to developing the plan to maximize the effectiveness of the new insights that would be gained from the tool. I’ve touched on this in the past in “The Value Landscape” and “Living in a Post Troux Transformation World,” but I want to get a bit more into the types of things that forward thinking clients will need to address as they implement Enterprise Portfolio Management solutions as a part of the decision support and analytics available to senior executives and decision makers.

 During the planning and initial deployment of an Enterprise Portfolio Management solution, much of the focus and excitement is on the value “pop” that will come after the initial load of the system. No matter where that initial focus lies, whether it is the application portfolio or some other area, it is likely that the organization will see a big initial opportunity for savings or cost avoidance. This focus, anticipation, and excitement is warranted and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade when I say that this initial step is just that—an initial step. Getting to real and lasting value only comes when you fix the problems that made the one time “pop” possible. This requires developing a real set of specifications and plans for the post implementation world AND this effort should begin before you finish the implementation. If you are like most large organizations your decision-making processes have evolved over a long period of time—simply pulling up a new system with fancy dashboards and analytics isn’t going to change the way you operate over night. One of the great things Enterprise Portfolio Management and Enterprise Architecture are supposed to do is change your decision making by providing specific informational support to specific decisions that result in a return on investment or value for the customer. In order to make this happen the organization has to develop the list of decisions that need to be made, identify the stakeholders involved in those decisions, identify the specific informational input and format required, as well as the appropriate flow through the organization. This is THE critical step required in order to ensure that your organization takes its investment in better information and analytics, and maximizes the value that it can bring to the organization.

I also believe that it is worth every organizations’ time to take the specific decisions I mention above and define not only their value to the organization but to define a value framework that enables the organization to understand the specific value in answering these organizational questions; both to the specific stakeholder and to the organization as a whole. This is critical not simply as a mechanism for ensuring ongoing funding, although it plays a critical role in that activity as well, but as one of the huge failings that technology organizations make in working with the business is a failure to speak their language, something I address in “Can you talk to the business in business terms?.” Being able to talk about the decisions you make and their relationship to outcomes is the critical first step in developing an ongoing partnership with the business. That is why it is critical that you define the business value your Enterprise Portfolio Management solution will have on ongoing decision making as part of your lead into the deployment of the solution to your organization. It also addresses many of the hurdles you will overcome in deploying and gaining the type of buy-in required to deliver a solution that delivers long term value. By developing the complete stakeholder landscape, decision support landscape, value proposition, RACI, and associated decision process flows, the organization ensures maximum value from its investment.


[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specifications

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Getting a jump start on your New Year’s Resolutions

new years resolutions

Setting precise and researched goals leads to success and fulfillment

 It’s that time of year again.  The holidays are coming one after another and people are starting to think about how next year will be a little different from this year. I like to begin work on my New Year’s resolutions a little early so that I have time to do any research or preparation required to carry them off before the New Year begins. This is based mostly on my own experience with failing to achieve my goals due to getting out of the gate slowly with my New Year’s resolutions. I’ve found that if I’m truly ready to go on Jan 1st with my resolution, I have a much better chance of sticking to it and achieving my goals. This blog is “Focused on Performance” and I like to think of that as coming in at least three flavors for me: personal performance, team performance and organizational performance. Most of us work on those three levels and in true “Getting Things Done” fashion, I try to coordinate my resolutions across all three areas.  Doing this helps to maximize effect and ensure both synergy and the ability to allocate my resources (myself) across all three areas. I make no distinction from a calendaring or planning perspective between the things I will be doing for my work teams vs. my family life teams. I do however take all of the individual items that are related to each into account, given that I only have one of myself to satisfy those requirements. For each tier I try to have three specific resolutions and set three specific goals. I set the goal so that it is measurable and I am happy if I can hit 75% of the target value. Given that set up, let me give you a brief description of how to delineate between these three types of resolutions:

 Personal Performance

This is how most people are familiar with New Year’s resolutions. We decide to eat better, go to the gym more often, and get more organized. In fact, the three above have played a starring role in my own New Year’s resolutions for many years. I have finally begun to make progress in these areas by being a bit more specific about what I meant with regard to these resolutions and then tracking to see if I was succeeding. I also did a bit more research in these areas to try to find approaches that would help me address these rather than simply hoping that they would happen because I wrote them on a 3×5 index card and taped them to my closet door. By tracking my performance against my goals, I know that I lost 38 pounds over the last year which wasn’t quite to my goal of 50. I made it to the gym 168 times, which wasn’t quite my goal of 196. My “Getting Things Done” list was the poorest performer on my personal list as I failed to maintain a daily synchronization of this list on more than half of the weeks. All of this leaves me with plenty of room for improvement next year and a pretty good sense of accomplishment over this past year.

 Team Performance

Teams include boards we are a part of, small working groups, our families and other small groups where many of us spend most of our time. Even if we are a part of a functional organization or grouped by skill set, most of us work in small teams every day to get our work done. Team dynamics are big drivers of the productivity of those teams. Figuring out how you can work together more effectively will ensure success and make the time spent together not just more effective but often times it will make it more pleasurable as well. I often find that team performance isn’t given the same emphasis as either personal or organizational performance because it is awkwardly in between personal performance requirements, which are often driven on a very personal level by the desire to further career, or specific individual desires and organizational performance issues, which may be driven by executives and top management within an organization. Improving your team performance likely has enormous impact on both of these despite its lack of emphasis because so much of our time is spent dedicated to these smaller groups. Making specific team oriented goals may help you meet your personal or organizational goals. I have two really important teams I play a role on; one is my family and one is a product development team at MB&A.

On my family team my resolution is to do a better job of keeping track of events and organizing in order to reduce the time and effort required by the managing member of that team (my wife) to manage event planning. My measure will be the number of Friday evenings where I enter all action items and calendar items for the weekend and week ahead. My goal is to do it on 45 Fridays in the coming year.

For my MB&A product team I am the lead. One of the big areas where we are failing is around milestone management. This team has very few dedicated players so we often set milestones only to miss them. I would like to find a way to better meet these milestones. I am setting the goal of achieving 85% of this years product related milestones and hope to achieve it by doing a better job of time boxing our milestones and working together to keep product progress rolling as team members roll on and off of consulting assignments.

Organizational Performance

How you are able to drive organizational performance varies dramatically by your position in the organization.  However, it is a mistake to think that you are too low in an organization to drive change. In fact, if you truly feel you can’t drive change from below in your organization you probably should be looking for new opportunities elsewhere. Organizations that don’t leverage the insights that come from within usually aren’t very high performing over time. Personally, I like to think of organizational performance opportunities in terms of people, processes, and technology. These are the core areas where you can effect change. Maybe this is the year your organization really gets focused on using technology to become more efficient. Maybe there is a way to change your organization’s performance by developing new collaborative skills across the organization, or perhaps it is collaboration across these areas. Whatever it is, if you want to ensure that you aren’t hampered by the same problems next year that you are having this year, you should start thinking about the to-be world now.

For MB&A, I am focusing on two really big resolutions for the company.  The first is to do a better job of setting and maintaining organizational processes. For a company that spends a decent amount of time consulting to large organizations on how to manage processes, we could use some work in that regard around our own. We are pretty good with regard to development process and other customer facing processes; where we fall down, is in administration. To that end, I am resolving to tackle two very important areas where processes and technology need to be changed in order to improve performance. The first is our on-boarding process, which has been a very loose apprentice model up until now. To this point, we have largely brought people in and set them next to their soon to be boss and team members and hoped for the best. This has actually worked pretty well from a results standpoint, but I really don’t see it as scalable. We’ve been able to get by to this point in large degree because we have great people helping out. I want to have a formal 30-day process where we step through our core methods, tools and processes so that anybody we onboard can be shifted across project teams within 30 days without causing productivity issues. Once the process is defined (Jan 1st target date) I want 100% of new hires to go through the process.

The other area where our organization could really use some help is in collaboration. We are a knowledge business to large degree and sharing information across project teams makes our clients more effective and ourselves more valuable. As we’ve grown, we have started to lose some of the ability to rapidly share best practice and emerging approaches across our teams in order to maximize client side benefit. We are going to address this by transitioning our internal knowledge management approach to be more process driven. We will also be harnessing some of the new capability we have developed for our clients in order to maximize the ability to share information across teams. The goal will be to have every presentation and deliverable available within our security model and tagged/sortable by subject area by the close of 2013.

 What about you?

I’d love to hear what you are planning for New Year’s resolutions for yourself, your team and your organization. Let me know what you are tackling next year and I’ll provide my feedback if any on approaches and metrics.

 

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Say the magic word “Sorry”

Use the magic words

After writing about Accountability & the Blame Game yesterday I started to think about an important aspect of being accountable which is the apology. I know that there is mixed research out there with regard to the effect a leaders apology has on the organization and the perception of the leader. Research aside it is my belief that when you are wrong in your personal or public life you should apologize—Immediately. My experience on the personal relationship side is that apologizing even if you aren’t sure if it is your fault is often worth doing. In fact I’ve often felt that taking the initiative to be the person who starts the healing process will drive the other person to see where they may have played a role in the issue. If you have an interest in saving the relationship be the person that starts the healing otherwise it may not happen.

I know this isn’t an easy thing as a person with a healthy ego and plenty of pride it can be very hard to be the person who reaches out first and says “I’m sorry.” I ruined a few relationships that I wish I’d held on to when I was younger because I was simply to stubborn to apologize. Whether it was because it was “mostly” the other person’s fault, or because I simply couldn’t bring myself to say those two simple words I chose my pride over my relationship. In the process I know that I sacrificed things, many of which I’ll never know because I lost all of the potential results that could have come from those relationships.

I’ve heard people say leaders should be very careful about apologies because they can be seen as a form of weakness. I couldn’t disagree more and there is a trend across recent popular business writing and research supporting the idea that apologies are good business. For a look at the role of the apology from the top leader of an organization read “Should Business Leaders Apologize? Why, When And How An Apology Matters by Linda Stamato. In fact the overall the trend towards apology is on the rise. Barbara Kellerman makes the statement that “The rise in the number of leaders publicly apologizing has been especially remarkable. Apologies are a tactic leaders now frequently use in an attempt to put behind them, at minimal cost, the errors of their ways.” From When Should a Leader Apologize—and When Not? on HBR.

 I think the best reason of all to apologize is still the same as it was when you were in kindergarten—because it’s the right thing to do. I think almost everyone has been told at one point or another when they were young to “Say the magic word” and saying “Please” is important too, but I have to say that as I’ve focused on trying to do a better job of saying sorry when I’m in the wrong that “I’m sorry” is pretty magical as well. Don’t let your pride get in the way of progress or personal relationships.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Accountability & the Blame Game

The buck stops here-the value of taking responsibility

Every manager at some point in their career will be faced with the repercussions of the failure of someone who works for them. Whether it is an oversight that made your team miss a reporting deadline or a horrific blunder with terrible fall out written all over it—think twice before you start playing the blame game.  The first thing you get as a manager, before anything else, is responsibility for those who work for you. This means that whatever the mistake, be it large or small, you and only you have final responsibility. “The buck stops here” popularized by its position on President Harry S. Truman’s desk in the oval office should be a standard accessory for managers everywhere. As a manager your job is to build a team that can execute.  When they don’t, the fault isn’t with the team it’s with the person responsible for their execution. Even when it’s the most ridiculous stupid mistake that couldn’t possibly be your fault. A team member on travel misses the big meeting because he/she was out too late socializing with the locals—it’s your problem. A team member hits reply all and sends a scathing e-mail about the client to the client—it’s your fault. Why?  Because it never pays to make it their problem. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make it a point to talk to the person involved. I’m just saying that hammering a team member for a mistake on your watch isn’t productive. To your upper management it will sound like an excuse, to your peers it will show a lack of strength and it will not inspire improved performance by the team member in question.

On the other hand, taking responsibility even for things you couldn’t possibly have anticipated can help avoid the situation the next time it happens. If the team member(s) responsible is worth keeping they will remember the issue and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. For you, there is an opportunity to teach from and avoid potholes further down the road. For your upper management, they will either know it was beyond your control or see it as an acceptance of the accountability that comes with your role. This doesn’t mean that you won’t face consequences, but if those in charge are worth anything they will at least respect your character. If the mistake is such that it has on the job consequences, taking accountability may actually help you get to a resolution quickly and on to a new job with a clean slate faster. Don’t think that by playing the blame game you will be able to get out of the consequences of a mistake. Saving your skin by blaming a subordinate will not get you ahead in the long run. The world is a very small place and the quicker you learn that the better off you will be over time.

With all of the above being said it is important for leadership in every organization to enable the type of accountability I am talking about. This means enabling managers to drive accountability within their own teams. Even the world’s greatest chef can’t make great soup with poor ingredients. I believe it is management’s job to take responsibility—no matter what. However, for management to do that you need to allow them to have input into their staff resourcing. A manager without the ability to incentivize behaviors or play a role in selecting their staff will be hard pressed to assume accountability for their actions. There is a reason that you see so many managers in professional sports press hard for a voice in team composition once they have the clout to do so—nobody wants to be held responsible for people but have no role in choosing who those people are.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Want something? Ask for it.

Stop wishing and start asking for what you want

It happens to everyone eventually. You don’t get what you want. Maybe it was the pony you really wanted at Christmas or the job promotion that went to a colleague. It really doesn’t matter because it always hurts, not getting what you want. I think most of us were pretty open about what we wanted as kids. We wrote a list to Santa, asked our parents to buy us things we saw on TV, and generally weren’t shy about making our desires known. As we get older we learn that it isn’t polite to shout to the person nearest to us “Can I have it?!,” when we pass something we really want in the store. I broke this rule once in an electronics store and I got the same look from my wife that I got from my mom as a kid, sort of a mix of disappointed and embarrassed that I couldn’t contain myself. For the most part though, as an adult, I’ve learned to be a little cagier about asking for things. After years of trying, I finally can make it through the TV showroom floor at Best Buy without embarrassing my wife. This is great for her and I’m sure my mom is proud I am finally able to keep my “I want it!” voice on the inside, but this isn’t always the best way to get things done in business.

One thing I’ve seen over and over as an executive and manager is the look of disappointment on someone’s face as someone else receives tasking or a plum assignment. To anybody else in the room it becomes immediately obvious that they were passed over. Sometimes this leads to problems in the workplace as one team member sulks over the loss at the opportunity. When this has happened to me it has often been the case that I never knew nor would I have expected the person to be interested in the assignment, but I end up fully engaged in the aftermath. One thing I’ve done to prevent this is try to more widely vet assignments and opportunities to gauge interest in the workplace. After all, I’d rather have someone who wants a particular task than someone who has been assigned a task. Secondly, I’ve tried to express to my people that it is ok to want things and to ask me for things directly. I fully believe in trying to be out in front of employee needs and desires. We are in a competitive marketplace; where even in a down economy the competition for the best people is fierce. We try to identify employee wants and needs and meet them earlier rather than later, but I believe that most people need to take a lesson from themselves at five years old and do a better job of simply asking for the things they want. You may be disappointed in the answer but at least you’ve given yourself the best possible chance at getting it because the other person now knows what you want.

I’m not suggesting that every time you have a thought about something that might be nice to have you run to your boss and I’m certainly not suggesting that you will get everything you want. All I’m saying is that if there is something you really want in this world and you need the cooperation, help, or buy in of others to get it, the first step is to ensure they know of your interest. If you think about what you are asking a bit and spend some time on your approach, I think that even on the occasions where you don’t get what you are asking for you will increase your standing with the person you’ve asked by your openness and who knows, maybe they’ll think of you down the line. I’ve told myself I can’t be disappointed if I don’t receive something I haven’t asked for and more often than not, I’ve gotten some benefit from the asking.

Anyone out there have stories about things they’ve asked for and received or not received? I’m very interested in your feedback on this topic.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The Morning Meeting

7 tips for a speedy and productive morning meeting

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on my post about getting the most out of your meetings “The 3 P’s to Meeting Success.” For those that have asked me to be more specific, I’m dedicating this post to the anatomy of a successful stand up meeting. For those familiar with Agile development, this is where I originally got started holding these short meetings. Over time I have found the format is invaluable for keeping everyone on the same page across our organization without becoming a huge time suck where people essentially just listen to others report out.  The primary value is really only there for the one or two senior managers responsible for coordinating across projects.   I am a big believer in regular meetings that are very short for keeping groups engaged and collaborating on a regular basis. In the post below I’ve outlined the formula I believe will lead to successful stand up meetings.

  1. Be regular. Our team meets every morning at 9:15 for 15 minutes to do a company scrum that includes all of our key project participants. We never over run the 15-minute mark which ensures that we don’t become a time suck for people trying to execute.
  2. 2.    Have the right people. Given that stand up meetings are supposed to be short and ours is a 15-minute meeting, there simply cannot be more than 15 participants if there is to be any value conveyed in a collaborative fashion.
  3. 3.    Know what you are going to say. You should have a formula or template for responses in the meeting. I accomplished this [yesterday]. I am working on [today’s action item]. We have [any obstacle] and need to work with [team X]. We are [on/behind/ahead] of schedule.
  4. 4.    Hold to the time requirement. I stick to the format and the time no matter what. The temptation to get into more depth is always there. It is critical not to give in to the temptation to extend the meeting. The right response is to get the associated parties together after the scrum. Don’t waste other people’s time.
  5. 5.    Don’t waste other people’s time. This should probably be the first sentence in every one of these rules. Stand up meetings are not generally for reporting out. They are focused on discovering collaboration opportunities and overcoming hurdles. Everybody in the meeting should be focused on saying things that will inform the group about opportunities to leverage your activities or identify needs you have that others may be able to satisfy. Everything else is extraneous and should be done in a follow on meeting.
  6. 6.    Assign a note taker. This can be one person’s job or performed on a rotating basis. The recap should be sent to the group within 15 minutes of the meeting close with a focus on content not formatting. The template can be as simple as a list of the regular attendees with pre-existing points after them. Then simply fill in the blank. The only extra information should be listing the follow up meetings to be held.
  7. 7.    Focus on improvement. I try to end the scrum with enough time on the board to ask one very important question everyday. Are their any ideas for improvement? The focus here is general, across projects, and across the organization. Good ideas come from all over, but they may not make it to me if I don’t explicitly ask.

That is my lucky seven ideas for driving great stand up meetings. I’d be very interested in your comments and feedback on the topic.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The Power of a Platform

Creating a platform that works for you

There is a lot of buzz around the word platform recently. From the source of all knowledge (Wikipedia): “Platform technology is a term for technology that enables the creation of products and processes that support present or future development.” The key word in here is enables. For companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, building open but proprietary platforms that enable innovation while maintaining control of the platform itself has led to enormous value generations for their shareholders and created real sustainable advantage. There is a particular mindset at work here that deserves particular attention because I think there is a lesson that can be applied more broadly by entrepreneurs, managers and executives in every organization.

1. Be humble. This may not be the first term you think of when you think of the heads of company’s like Facebook and Apple. However, one of the first things that should be recognized is the humbleness required in order to embrace the platform approach. Developing a platform requires recognition that you are not the smartest person in the room. You are essentially inviting the invention of others to ensure the value of your own creation.

2. Play well with others. Succeeding at the platform game means you need to be mindful of the success of others. Your success after all is now tied to theirs. Cannibalizing the success of those working to develop your platform is bad manners and eventually bad business. I don’t mean to imply the big four mentioned above haven’t broken this rule. I’m just suggesting it is bad form and ultimately undermines the power of your platform.

3. Incentivize participation. One of the biggest hurdles for platforms is getting to the level of community that enables the network effect necessary to succeed. Platforms are often about scale and so getting people in the door is a necessary first step towards any platform. How easy is it to use? How hard is it to learn about? How can you hear about it? These are all critical factors in determining if your platform will be able to scale.

So why should I care? The companies I mentioned are all giants. If platforms are about scale—how can this apply to me? The answer to this is simple. A platform doesn’t have to span the world in its breadth; it may span just your company or your business unit. The term platform should scale to inform strategic decisions by the largest companies in the world, but also be an important concept for those that are simply trying to develop better mechanisms for collaboration within their office, or engage their customers more directly. The concepts above are just as applicable. Thinking in platform terms is about mindset. The openness to innovation, willingness to work with others and incentivize people to join you in your endeavors is what drives results.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.