How to sweat the small stuff without ending up stinky

how to sweat the small stuff without ending up stinky

Small steps can be just as important as the big ones

Business process re-engineering doesn’t have to be a boil the ocean approach to transforming your business. I don’t have any scientific evidence to support this but I believe that the most missed opportunities to improve are the little ones we have in front of us everyday. I’m not advocating against “Thinking Big,” I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be so focused on enterprise transformation that you miss the 1% improvements that add up over time. I believe that many managers miss out on maximizing their value proposition to the organization because they aren’t able to execute on small change initiatives in a meaningful way. These smaller 30, 60 or 90 day initiatives include re-engineering internal workflows, automating internal processes, and course corrections to major programs. The dollars are generally small and the rewards for any one won’t get you an award at the annual holiday party, but over time these are the types of improvements that move the needle for an organization as a whole. Here are 5 things to think about before you decide to move out on that small change effort you’ve been thinking about.

  1. Take the big picture or system view: I know this post is all about little improvements—just remember the big picture and try not to work against it. Thinking big picture helps you ensure you don’t miss the really important thing that happens just before the process you are focusing on.
  2. Think about the data: In most organizations, everything else changes faster than the data. People, technology, and processes—they all change fairly quickly. Understanding information requirements around a process improvement opportunity often gives you a chance to think about it without the confusion of technology and other factors. In the end, many of the improvement opportunities you will find in any organization center on more effectively moving, manipulating, or otherwise acting on information that has been used for years to support the business.
  3. Remember the human factor: Ever sat in a place and wondered how it was possible that nobody had fixed problem “x” yet? You’ve been on site for five minutes and you can tell right away what’s wrong. Most of the time there is a reason that obvious improvement opportunities go unexploited. Many times it’s a people issue. Many times an unwillingness to change comes from a fear or uncertainty about the effect of change. People are often the biggest obstacle to change and you often need to be prepared to sell people on why they should change, even when the existing process seems so obviously broken to you.
  4. Beware scope creep: Little improvements have a way of morphing into massive programs over the course of a cup of coffee. The temptation to keep pulling on the thread of an improvement opportunity until you have completely re-organized the company is hard to resist.
  5. Remember you still need to manage change: Little improvements can go a long way, but one of the downsides to smaller improvement efforts is the costs of change management isn’t anticipated and the effort falls short because there is no money to update the SOP, provide training, etc. The bells and whistles that get included with major transformation efforts often get left out. Informal or small programs still need planning to ensure that there is documentation, training, etc. Without these, the value of these small changes is severely limited.

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.

Look Good, Play Good

look good, play good

Sometimes all it takes to get in the successful mindset is the right suit

I was getting ready to go to the office this morning and was putting a tie on in my bedroom while my oldest daughter watched TV. She looked over at me fussing with my tie and asked a pretty normal question, “Daddy, why do you wear a tie?” Without even thinking I said, “It lets people know I’m in charge.” To which her response, which I’m sure her mother, has already put on Facebook was “I thought Mommy was in charge.” I of course replied, “At work—Cameron—so people at work know I’m in charge.” Besides realizing that my five year old has figured out who is in charge on the home front it got me thinking about why I do wear a tie. The fact is that I wear a suit and tie to work about 90% of the time with jeans and a sweater reserved for really sloppy days with no meetings. So why do I do it? Washington, DC is a bit more formal town than many and there is certainly some peer pressure to look “professional,” but I’m not doing it for external reasons. I do it because it makes me feel like I’m ready to go, kind of like when superman hits the phone booth and comes out wearing tight fitting jammies and a cape, I know that when I walk out my front steps in a suit and tie I’m ready to take on the world.

So, do the clothes make the man? I really don’t think so, but they do make you feel a certain way. I had a baseball coach in college that was adamant that we wear practice uniforms. We all wanted to shag flies in shorts and t-shorts and he had us just short of game ready every day. He would sit in the dugout with his too tight coaching shorts on and scream at us for “looking slack” or “not looking like a ball player.” “Look good, play good” was his mantra and he hammered away at it whenever he felt we hadn’t lived up to his standard—not just of play but of looking ready to play. Looking back on it, I think he wanted us to look like ball players because it made us feel like ball players, which hopefully translated into us playing like ball players. It didn’t always work but he was a pretty successful coach over a lot of years. I think he was on to something. How you look contributes to how you feel and gets you ready to be successful. I’ve talked a lot about mental preparation and the importance of visualization as a means of preparing yourself to be successful. For me, getting “dressed for success” is just a part of that process of getting in the mindset to be successful. Whether I have a big meeting or I’m just working in teams, I like to look ready to succeed.

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.

Immodium for the Mouth: Three questions to ask before you speak

Immodium for the mouth

Blindly leading conversation can create awkward and sometimes painful blunders

There is nobody that loves to hear me talk more than me. I’d love to say it is the effect of years of working as a consultant, but the fact is that even as a kid I was a talker. In fact, one time I got off an airplane and when I met my mom at the gate the lady that had sat next to me came up to my mom and said, “I had a nice time speaking on the flight with your son, I think I know everything there is to know about your family.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to semi-control my tongue and listen and it has paid dividends. In fact, I now make a very conscious effort to let other people talk first whether it’s a chance meeting over coffee, casual conversation at a dinner party, or a business negotiation. In addition to being polite it also gives me a chance to gain situational awareness, understand the other person’s point of view, and gain the advantage of getting a bit better understanding of the person’s current emotional state before I start speaking. It turns out that a lot of people like to be the person doing the talking and by being a good listener you not only give yourself a chance to learn, you are also giving them a priceless gift—caring.

 It turns out that what many people want is to be listened to and to have their ideas valued. By listening to them you are showing that you respect them and their thoughts. This is an incredibly powerful thing that can really change the tenor of a relationship, particularly in the early stages. I think the following three things should be going through your mind before you rush to fill the next lull in a conversation:

  1. Is my foot headed for my mouth? I think most people have had the horrifying experience of sticking their foot directly into their mouth during a conversation. Whether it’s telling a the joke that really isn’t funny because their sister had that problem or just hitting a little too close to home, this can end a friendship before it begins or kill a business deal. Listening first gives you a chance to know what not to say.
  2. Do I fully understand the conversation? When you talk first, you are providing all of the information and feeding the other persons awareness at the expense of your own understanding. Sometimes there is an advantage to speaking first because it allows you to claim a particular position, but I have found more often then not that you get more from letting others speak first. It gives you a chance to add their understanding of the situation to your existing understanding of the situation, which hopefully puts you in the position of having an informational advantage.
  3. Am I missing a chance to learn? There is a great quote from the playwright Wilson Mizer who wrote The Deep Purple where he says “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.” The simple fact is that it is hard to learn while flapping your gums. By taking time to listen you have time to learn.

If you think of these before you speak you will learn more and have more successful conversations. Most people believe the most important thing that will be said in any conversation is whatever they are going to say next. Giving them the opportunity to say it will build your relationship at a minimum and most of the time it will ensure you are as well prepared as possible when it is your time to speak. I think it is pretty rare that the “First mover advantage” that is so sought after in business is a factor in conversation where going second often means having better information.

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.

Thinking in the Moment: Three things you should drop everything for and do right now

stopwatch-60204_640 (1)

Recognizing when and what to drop everything for and just do it is a valuable skill

In my blog post on “Getting Things Done: Three key takeaways that will change your performance,I mentioned that one of the biggest takeaways that I had from the book  Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen were his thoughts on getting anything you can get done in under two minutes done now. Months later, I think this may be the single biggest takeaway from the book. One of the things it has done over time is help me realize just how much waste there is in delaying most things. You almost never have the same sense of a matter hours later that you have when the thought struck and if your memory is starting to get dicey like mine, you may never get a second shot at what you thought of in the moment. I realize that you can’t do everything in a stream of conscious fashion and being structured yields real and tangible results. In fact, most people don’t realize just how much of their success is tied up in the slow grind of working on something a little bit at a time with fierce regularity. As Americans, we live a lot of our lives at a sprint, but it is incredibly difficult to really build a skill in a sprint. So I’m not advocating that you simply throw out your calendar or chuck your to-do list and live in the moment, however I do think it is important to recognize when you have something that might be best accomplished by doing it right now—in the moment.

For me, there are three things I’ve found it’s useful to drop everything for and do right now:

  1. Big Ideas: I’m the type of person that gets big ideas in weird places and strange times. It is almost a given that if I’ve been trying to figure something out all day, I’ll get my great idea right after I’ve laid down to go to sleep at night. I’ve taken to keeping a notepad next to my bed so that I can write the idea down now. Too often if I sleep on it, the idea just isn’t there in the morning. If I’m in the car, I’ll dictate a voice memo and on the rare occasions when an idea comes and I’m at the office, I go sit down and write it down right way. Big ideas are important; don’t let them slip away.
  2. Stuff I don’t want to do: As a reformed procrastinator (with the exception of doing dishes), I have really pushed to do the things I don’t want to do as quickly as I can. Making a painful phone call, having a difficult meeting, or doing whatever horrible thing it is that you are avoiding on your to-do list won’t get better—but it may get worse.
  3. Anything I keep thinking about: This one is a little more difficult, but I know that there are certain things that just nag at me. Even if I’ve followed GTD best practice and written them down they still keep following me. I’ve decided to take this as a sign and just get them done.

Basically if I can do it and I’m thinking of it I try to do it now, even if it breaks my regularly scheduled routine a little bit. I’ve found that I’m usually more excited about doing something I’m thinking about now and who knows, maybe my sub-conscious is better at prioritizing activities than my conscious self.

 

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.

Webinar of the Week Recap: Operating Models

As I mentioned in my last Webinar Recap, at my company, Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates we consider continuing education and training to be a non-negotiable necessity, both within our company, and as a service to our clients. So our training division; MB&A Academy, was born. One of my favorite offering through MB&A Academy is our free Webinar of the Week. Every week we feature industry leaders and experts giving a peek into the full length courses we offer to leading government officials and corporate executives.  I gave our last Webinar in 2012 on a topic I consider to be essential to success in any organization. Defining and communicating your Operating Model. While we specifically offer these Webinar over the lunch hour on a Friday to make it easier for our audience of busy executives to attend, I know it’s not always possible to pull yourself away from work for an hour a week. So I’ve decided to make the Webinar Recaps a regular thing on my blog. While you won’t get all the benefits of attending live, you can get an idea of what you missed. And as always, if these discussions spark a question in your mind feel free to contact me.

For companies to succeed, they must understand their operating model: in other words, the degree to which they must standardize business processes and/or integrate data to produce optimized business outcomes. I feature real world examples from both the public and private sector of how to understand your operating model, allowing business and technology to support each other in meeting the mission and vision of the company by embracing a shared vision for how they should operate the company. In my Webinar, I spoke about the four basic Operating Models, as designated by Ross, Weill, and Robertson in their excellent book, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy (If you’ve not read it I recommend picking it up).   These are the Diversification model, the Coordination model, the Replication model and the Unification model. To hear a bit more about these models, check out the clip from my Webinar below.

We finished off 2012 with an overview of choosing your Operating Model, for our first Webinar of 2013, MB&A Academy guest Instructor Bob Daniel’s course Here Comes the Next Big Thing: Adopting new technologies is inevitable. Doing so successfully isn’t.  He will discuss the motivations driving the adoption of new technologies, the factors that disrupt adoption, and what you really need to do to be successful.  You’ll leave with a framework and set of tools you can use to build success into your technology adoption programs. The Webinar will be January 11that 12:00 pm EST. To register, click here.

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.

Is that tile crooked? How to decide when its time to hire a pro

how to decide when its time to hire a pro

Part of being a leader is knowing when to ask for help

I wish everything could be solved in house. There is something satisfying about getting the job done inside the team. If you can pull it off, it’s cheaper too. At work here at MB&A, we have over time pulled creative design work and some other things we originally outsourced, simply because we needed to have the skill in house. At home, I’ve gone the other direction with a few things including hanging up my tool belt for projects I just can’t do as well as the pros. Knowing when you have moved into an area where you need outside help to succeed is a skill that both individuals and organizations should learn if they want to be successful. I’ve come up with five questions I ask myself about projects I undertake at work or at home to help ensure I get the outside help I need, when I need it.

  1. Have I done this before? This is probably the toughest one because it’s not so much about asking the question. Most of us are aware that we are trying something new. The skill is in ensuring that when you are about to attempt something new, that you take the time to ask yourself the rest of these questions. Just jumping in can have disastrous consequences. I learned to ask the rest of these questions because I lived the results of not asking. Take the time to think things through.
  2. How good does it have to be? What are the consequences of failure? I think the easiest example here is legal. I’ve had some fairly dire consequences from playing amateur lawyer and not understanding how to protect my interests. If its important enough that you think you might need a lawyer, you probably do. I’ve also destroyed a MacBook Pro trying to swap out a hard drive. The point is that not getting outside help can cost money too. I’ve probably saved more money by being honest about how hard something is to do and how bad the consequences are than from any other single thing.
  3. Are there people who do this for a living? Most people have done some home improvement in their lives. I’ve painted and tiled a lot of places in my time. I don’t do it anymore. Not because I can’t. I now have a few of the skills and all of the tools (Home Depot is my friend). I don’t do it because as a weekend warrior home improvement guy, I’ve never been able to get it as good as the pros. This was fine before I knew just how good and fast they are at doing it. I’m still proud of some of the work I’ve done, but I know it simply isn’t as good as someone who does it for a living.
  4. Is this something I will do again? How often? If its something I’m going to have to do regularly it may be worth learning how to do. If it’s something I only do a few times a year or every few years, it may be worth leaving to the experts. My Dad used to always say about plumbing that it is pretty simple—basically water runs downhill, but you usually had just about forgotten everything else you knew about it by the next time you needed to know it.
  5. Can I learn this? Do I have time? Even simple things take time to learn. I’m sure I could over time develop into a pretty good painter or tile guy. Unfortunately, at the rate of one bathroom every five years I’m not likely to get the time invested that I need to get to a high level of skill. See my post “5 keys to mastering anything,” for more on why repetition plays a role. For the purpose of this post I would say that anything you don’t do pretty regularly is a candidate for outsourcing. There is only so much you can be good at.

How do you make the decisions to do it yourself or hire outside help?

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.

Optimizing your personal IT portfolio: iPhone Edition

I’m sure I have a lot of company as a member of the group of people whose iPhone has at one time or another spanned 7 or more panes with 50+ applications vying for your attention. My app sprawl was magnificent, spanning everything from YouTube to a WolframAlpha. There were patches of order where I’d made a half-hearted attempt to group things during a spurt of motivation on a metro trip or other brief spasm of organizational instinct. After spending a year flipping four screens deep to open Facebook, I knew I had a problem. I was losing time. 10 seconds here and there add up for today’s over caffeinated, multi-tasking modern worker.

So before I get into how I get things organized here are a few apps that I think every knowledge worker should have at their fingertips:

  •  Voice memo- The Voice memo app is a classic for good reason. It enables you to take clear voice notes on the go, play them back, and send/share them easily, Its simplicity and usefulness will never go out of style.
  • RowmotePro- This app is great for giving presentations among other things.  It is the ultimate controller for home stereo, mobile presentation, or casual video viewing with all the simplicity of the Mac’s remote control but with the added bonus of wireless mouse and keyboard capabilities.
  • Hootsuite- Hootsuite is a social media necessity.  It is a one stop shop for you to manage all your social media accounts from Facebook to Foursquare.  You can schedule messages for most impact, update profiles, and analyze data analytics of traffic through your profiles. This app is an invaluable asset in today’s social media driven world.
  • TurboScan- This app allows the on the go executive to turn his phone into a multi-page scanner and take pictures of documents, receipts, notes, whiteboards, and other text. This app then allows you to  store or email them as multi-page PDF or JPEG files.
  • OmniFocus- This app is designed to keep in line with the Getting Things Done system.  It takes your goals and tasks and puts them in an easy to access system and creates start and due dates along with time estimates that it keeps track of for you.  It is easy to operate and can simply filter and sort actions with the click of a button.  Nothing organizes a busy life better or faster than OmniFocus.  So check out these apps if you are looking for answers to streamlining your handheld tech folders.

In a fit of organizational anxiety spurred by the departure of the holidays and the onset of the New Year I decided to stop turning the screens to my apps. I also swore off buying another app that would provide the silver bullet and organize them for me. I was determined to do it myself—and I did. In a little over 45 minutes I was able to get everything I use daily onto the first screen with the really important ones sitting proudly one click from usage and the rest settled neatly into the iPhone’s built in folders.

I was actually a little surprised about how much thought I eventually put into it, but I thought it was a decent example of how portfolio thinking and system thinking can help make the world a better place. I started with the Dock and the four things I need access to no matter what screen I’m viewing. On the first screen I kept the entire first screen folder free with the idea of maximizing one click-ability  My thinking is that over time I’ll promote apps to and from screen 1 to in folders on screen 2.

screen 1

Screen 1 is all buttons

On Screen 2 its folder city, including Photography, Utilities, Business, Transportation, Productivity, Info, News, iPhone (yep, it has its own apps folder), Shopping, Social 1 & Social 2 (sadly they could not all be contained one folder), Arcade 1 & Arcade 2 (3 kids means I have every edition of Angry Birds and all the spin-offs).

Screen 2

Screen 2 is folder central

Screen 3 is the junk food of my phone. It should probably get deleted, never gets opened but for some reason I just can’t bring myself to get rid of it.

Screen 3

Screen 3 is everything else.

It will take a long time to “earn back the 45 minutes or so that it took me to conquer my phone, but I’m glad I took the time. I deleted quite a few apps that I never use anymore and it was fun to go through my iPhone portfolio as my personal IT portfolio management effort. When was the last time you took a hard look at the tools you are using to manage your life on the go? With more and more of our work being done while mobile looking at the types of work you do while on the move and finding great tools can really change your personal productivity. I think of little tools like Omnifocus that I use every day to stay organized and I wonder how I did it before.

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.

Nothing succeeds like success

Nothing succeds like success

Winning breeds winning

I admit it, I like to win. There is something about success that just makes me feel good. Maybe it’s just the endorphins talking, but sometimes that win or success seems to feed into the next. It turns out I’m not the only one. “The winner effect” describes a biochemical change that occurs after someone “gets a win.” This is explored in Ian H. Robertson’s The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failurewhere he states, “Success changes the chemistry of the brain, making you more focused, smarter, more confident, and more aggressive.” I’m not sure that I’ve gotten smarter, but I do know that I’ve gotten on the types of rolls he describes in the book where I’ve been able to do the right thing at the right time and it seems like the sky is the limit.  This effect is real and worth paying attention to as you set goals and develop milestones for yourself and your organization.

 I was often told as a kid to be careful about setting my sights too low because by aiming too low, I might miss my ultimate potential. I’m not sure now how helpful this was in helping me build towards success. I’m all for having a grand vision, but I try to separate aspirational states for myself and organizational transformations from near term goals and milestones. In fact, this is one of the reasons in “The Path to Value” that I am so focused on near term goals. I believe that attaining these has a spillover effect that enables the larger success of the effort over time.

I certainly don’t have the same credentials that Dr. Robertson does with regard to neuroscience but I think the winner effect is broader than just each person’s individual experience. When project teams are hitting milestones and succeeding, there is a perception of success that I believe makes others in the organization more willing to help, buy in, and engage. This in turn helps the project become more successful in its own right. In essence, you can help build the overall success of your project by setting and meeting milestones; as well as ensuring that those outside the project see the value of those successes.

Have you experienced the winner’s effect? Have you ever run a project that seemed to snowball on the basis of early success? Do you try to set attainable goals early in order to build confidence to make stretch goals later?

 

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 Thin Layer: Why Less is more…

Lego-train

More complicated doesn’t necessarily mean better

Today we have more data than yesterday. This is simple fact and the trend is only accelerating. Facebook alone adds more than 500TB of data every day, including more than 300 million new photos. Many Fortune 500 hundred companies employ thousands of servers with technology companies like Akamai, which is reputed to have more than 100,000 servers. As executives, the world has also become more data intensive with a distinct trend towards data oriented decision-making. I am a big believer in this trend and absolutely applaud the move towards a data centric approach to decision making. However, somewhere along the way a few important things got missed and most executives became overwhelmed by data rather than aided by it. The mad rush to back decisions with data led to the implementation of reports, dashboards, and other analytics without much thought as to what went into them. Where the data came from, its quality, and value became afterthoughts. In the end, many executives were not much better off then when they started.

 

This is exactly why I believe in the power of “The Thin Layer.” Whether it is architecture, engineering or business data—there is only so much we as humans can process. Gathering more than that is simply not worthwhile and worse, it can lead to poor decision-making because of a lack of focus on the components that are truly important. For most executives, there is a thin layer of information that truly makes a difference in their decision-making and that it is worth taking the time to distill this information into analytic components that can be routinely re-built and help you to standardize your decision making process. There are a lot of factors that may be involved in developing The Thin Layer required to support your decision-making including data quality, refresh times, authoritative sources, etc. However, at the end of the day a successful decision support system should not be just by the number of data sources, reports, or size of the source database. It should be judged on the value it provides in supporting decision-making.  If you absolutely must think of it as a metric or ratio, try the following equation:

Value to business/Cost to Develop & Maintain

As someone who loves developing analytics and reports, I know the temptation to show something because you can or because you have the data. Why use a table when you can have a spider chart? It takes all of my self control sometimes to reduce things down to just what I need for the decision. I’ve found from years of experience that in the long run, more data often will simply cloud the picture and increase the size of the haystack. You may need to go back and pull more data for specific decisions, or revisit the minimalist approach and add data over time; but by starting with less, I think you’ll find over time that you are able to make better decisions faster. It is also much cheaper to maintain.

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 Path to Value: How to stay focused on results

the path to value

How to navigate the “Path to Value” without getting derailed by trivialities

I frequently use the phrase “Path to Value” to describe the approach organizations need to take in order to ensure they maximize the value they get from their transformational efforts. Large scale modernizations, enterprise architecture efforts, and enterprise projects all have a tendency to get derailed in the minutia and details of execution. Getting where you want to go means staying laser focused on the big picture while carefully navigating the line between responsible deviation and unreasonable scope creep. The Path to Value for me embodies an approach to project and organizational thinking that begins and ends with a focus on value. Methodologies are great, best practices are helpful, but the most important thing you can focus on is your own organizational value. One of the great things that has come from the proliferation and acceptance of best practices has been that there is a broad market of patterns and methodologies available for executing on almost any type of transformational effort. The down side is that none are tailored for your organization and while many have a host of highly competent, exceptionally intelligent, and dedicated folks maintaining them, they are often overly complete. By this I mean that most of these are developed over time to address broader and broader problem sets and subtract more and more detail away in an attempt to fit the broader pattern. I say all of this because while I believe in best practice and the judicious use of methodologies and standards, I also believe these are guides, templates, and starting points and that they should always be bound by a common sense approach that puts value first.

Following “The Path to Value” means always looking for the value of the intended activity for the organization. One of the reasons I’m such a big fan of organizations focusing on their Operating Model as a starting point for implementing a decisions support structure is that it enables organizations to significantly reduce the amount of unnecessary and duplicative governance they have in place, while enabling the same at the appropriate level for the organization. The same can be said for my belief in a “Thin Layer” of information that provides just enough to facilitate decision-making and reduces unnecessary burden and cost to maintain the information necessary to make decisions. All of these are born out of my belief that the “Path to Value” is about maintaining the simplest possible process and informational structure necessary to support your efforts. If you apply this approach to enterprise projects and transformation efforts I think that you can better stay on the Path to Value by following three simple rules:

  1. Think big, start small, and scale fast: This is General Meyerrose’s maxim for organizational value and I believe it is a core principle that will help you stay on the path to value. The idea of thinking on an enterprise scale but proving your point via proofs of concept that can then be scaled rapidly is a powerful one that draws on practical experience but also has roots in current research into organizational innovation.
  2. Move in Sprints, Measure in sprints: I am a big believer in managing performance via metrics and I think there is a place for high level performance metrics. However, transformation efforts need short-term goals and objectives to stay on course. Setting goals farther than six months out creates targets that are perhaps too far away to be meaningful and often have to be abstracted to the point where attainment can be gamed. Metrics that are inside of 90 days provide real insight and make better targets for teams. I know that for myself as a semi-reformed procrastinator, that a goal that is six months away can often be put off until tomorrow.
  3. The Path to Value needs light: The more open to the outside world a project is, the more likely it is to succeed. Producing or attempting to produce value in shorter increments and exposing them to stakeholders outside the project team leads to higher quality finished products that are better received. Getting feedback as you move through a projects’s execution ensures that stakeholders are not surprised by the final delivery and enables them to shape it as it moves through the project life cycle. Obviously, this path can lead to scope creep if not properly managed, but I think the chance to engage and get buy-in along the way coupled with the chance to make minor course corrections in flight is well worth the risk to your scope.

Those are my three keys to staying on The Path to Value. How do you keep your teams working on the things that are really important? How have you tailored a methodology to meet your requirements?

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