Success= Ability to Engage + Adapt

IMG_1924I was exchanging email with a friend recently and I’ve always been very impressed with his organization. They have just very consistently put out the same messaging and are really successful from the products its developing, services it provides, all the way through talking to the people that received those services.  I was asking him about what they do internally to support all that and his response kind of surprised me because of how much consistency there is. He said that one of the big things that they do is ensure that people have ownership of things. Whether it is a line of code, a territory that they manage, or some portion of the organization, they explicitly define what they are responsible for. They give you real ownership of it and responsibility for the good and the bad.

He also mentioned a phrase that I thought was really interesting and I’ve co-opted it a little bit for myself and our organization. He said that their CBO has this phrase that he uses all the time and its EA3. It stands for Engage, Adapt, Adapt, Adapt and I love that.  I think it applies to just about everything we do.  I think that one of the things that kills a lot of efforts is this huge prelude to engagement. Whether we do so much thinking and so much planning that when we get into the actual work and we have to adapt to a change, we’re not ready for it or we’ve already spent so many resources that we’re not able to support that adaptation, something like that spells the end for an effort. So this idea that you engage first and fast so you can get out there and fail quickly or fail, adapt, change, fail, adapt, change, as many times as it takes to be successful is a powerful one. It really resonates with me because I feel like so often some of the best work that we’ve done has been where we’ve jumped right in and started rowing and done course corrections along the way to ensure that we get to where we want to end up. By jumping right into the work you give yourself the time to take chances, make mistakes, and adapt until you find the right and best approach.  So I don’t want to do too deep of a dive into what is essentially a sort of high level slogan but at least for me it really resonated and really seemed like the right approach to a lot of things. So I’m curious what other people think of that idea and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

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 personal interactions in the digital age

Josh Blog

Have you ever gotten to the end of a twenty or thirty exchange email debate with somebody and really wish you had just made the phone call.  Living in this digital age has made it more important to know when it is crucial to have an in person conversation with somebody.  I know that I tend to get better results in person. Particularly in the following situations:

  • When it’s really important
  • When it’s something that you don’t want to leave to chance
  • When the nuance of what you’ve written or how you’ve written something could be open to different interpretations
  • Times when it’s important that you be able to read body language and be able to react

Email, instant message, and other communication medians are great for being able to pop something off quickly and get a response. They also are able to provide extensive details in some cases, supporting materials for something, and attachments, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for everything. Being able to recognize when it’s time to get personal interaction with somebody is incredibly important because there’s real power in personal interaction.  Part of that comes from factors I’ve mentioned before like the ability to read and react to a situation and the ability to read the nuances of somebody’s response in real time.

If you have a relationship with somebody or even if you don’t, it’s that personal warmth. It’s the ability to convey concern or real engagement on the topic that you’re having the discussion on by virtue of all the factors that you can bring to verify that really make personal interaction so effective that you just can’t recreate digitally.  The way that you sit, the way that your eyes are tracking, the way that you modulate the tone of your voice, really everything goes into it and you’re able to bring more things to bear.

Now you can discount how important it is to be sitting in the same room to some degree, but when it’s really important, when every little bit adds up to success or failure, I think that it’s critical that you be able to understand that here’s the circumstance that warrants my personal engagement. It’s worth driving to to see this person or flying out to see this person.  I’m a big believer in it and I’m curious to hear what other people think. I’d love to know if anyone has had experiences where being there in person really helped or if they have an experience where something was lost in translation in email or over the phone and it cost them.

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.

Context: Looking beyond the obvious

One of the things that is pretty interesting as you spend some time talking to people about how they look at information to make decisions and what are the things that are really important is you hear about the power of context.  So to give a great example we’re working with an organization to create comprehensive security assessments. We want a way for them to understand, across all of their facilities, what are the critical factors in ensuring they were as secure as thy could be. This means what are all things that were directly related to the security of the facilities themselves like:

  • Are the fences in good condition?
  • What kind of fences do you have?
  • Do you have closed circuit televisions and where do you have it?
  • What type of policies do you have for people entering the building, background checks, and security planning

All of these different factors and an immense number of other things go into securing a facility. While those things are all important and this particular organization had specific standards, policies, and all these different things it had to adhere that went into how the organization was supposed to secure these facilities, it wasn’t taking into account some critical factors in how secure those facilities really were. So it was the contextual data that as they looked to plan what they were going to do in terms of shoring up their security, it couldn’t just be did they meet all of the standards alone.

While the standards are good and they help you get an understanding of how prepared you might be in a bad situation or if your existence is in a perennial troublesome state, it didn’t really give you a complete picture. To get a complete picture you had to understand the contextual data. You had to understand crime statistics. So if a facility that is in an area where, compared to the national average, there are an extraordinarily high number of homicides, violent crimes, assaults, thefts, and things like that, well all the sudden those physical security assessment characteristics take on a whole new meaning. It becomes a much more critical thing to have fences when those fences are the only thing separating you from an outside world that is very scary. So as the organization looked to prioritize where it was going to spend its physical security resources, the most critical factor wasn’t just the status of the assessment itself but it was the context at which that status existed.

Similarly it’s not just about the facilities themselves but also about what the value of the things in those facilities is. It’s hard to say that a facility with four people requires less security infrastructure than one with a hundred because everybody is important. On the other hand I think that for most people if you look at a facility that’s got 300 people, a daycare facility, a bunch of other high value assets, or just a mass of people, those are places where you might want look to secure them earlier. Other factors might be things like the age of the facilities themselves, the age and time of the last security assessment, or the last building upgrade. These area all factors that go into helping you understand just what the real status is as opposed to simply looking at do they meet the criteria or not. It just doesn’t give you enough information to make decisions.

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.

Why we built ExAM (our Salesforce.com based Facilities Operations & Security application)

This is the story of how we got involved in developing the ExAM application for Salesforce and the problems it solves for facilities managers, security personnel and executives. Below is a transcription of the above video:

Yesterday’s Salesforce event at the Mandarin in DC got me excited to talk about Salesforce but I also wanted to talk a little bit what got us engaged in working with Salesforce. A few years back we were faced with a really difficult problem to solve. We had a client that had facilities all over the United States that had to be maintained, managed, and assessed for security. Unfortunately, the cost to fly to all those places, put staff on the ground, and get it all done in the time that was allocated was just not going to be feasible in the long term. So we started working with them and the first thing that we did was help them do a better job of capturing the data. We then helped them standardize it, looked at best practices around facilities management and security assessments, looked at the various guidelines that were out there within federal and commercial best practice, and began to develop an assessment that would enable them to understand how each of those facilities was being protected ad secured.

The next step was to figure out how to get the information to the right people. We had already figured out how we want to get the data in and we understand the information that we need to make decisions about physical security across these 200 facilities nationwide. Now we need to figure out how do we get it out to these people? How do we ensure that everyone has the access that they need, that they are able to do reporting across all of the facilities but yet still be able to understand their security posture on a facility by facility basis? So what we did was go out to the marketplace and we found Salesforce and salesforece.com. We realized this was really an incredible solution for the problem that we had. It enabled us, through a secure web interface, to deliver all over the United States. It allowed us to rapidly build value for the client because we were able to, in 90 days develop an enterprise application. Something that previously with the similar requirements had taken almost a year to develop. So it was just a very exciting discovery and we didn’t have to give up anything.

We were still able provide it to them in the exact look and feel that they wanted. It looked like the rest of their organization’s user interface. There wasn’t anything that they really had sacrificed to get there. Now they had this really incredible ability to understand their facilities nationwide in a way that they never had before whether it was looking at a map and understanding scoring at any particular school or just being able to glance at a map and see regular green and ask how am I doing and focus in there. It’s just a very easy way to accomplish that.

We were also able to tie in all that best practices and manage all the documentation that goes into one of these types of engagements. There’s always the why and not just why but how do I work with other people, so collaboration and understanding what other people are doing was also important. This tool gave us the ability to have teams be able to follow each other and understand that even if they weren’t geographically connected, you could understand what somebody else was working on. If they made a change to their assessment of a facility, added pictures, documents, or anything changed in their report, we were able to know about it. It was really groundbreaking when you think about it.

It wasn’t just us delivering a solution, it was us empowering those users to build reports for themselves and for them to be able to do their own mining of the data. You come in and you begin to understand this platform and yea, there’s some effort that goes into getting the information in and understanding what information you want to look at, but there really is an opportunity rapidly create value. You create this value not just at an enterprise level with analytics that mean something to the one group at the top that came in and helped work with us at the beginning of the project but for people to come in on their own. They can create their own analytics and make something that works for the way that they want to do their work. That’s the part that came out of the box with the Salesforce platform and we just leveraged it. So we were able to drop in all this expertise and subject matter expertise around facilities management, security, and BI but it was all enabled by the platform. So we were able to take what we knew and get there very rapidly and it’s an ongoing process.

The nice thing about this is it allows us to continue to tailor really rapidly. So when it becomes about more than just security assessments and you want to track visitors or you want to do something that is operational you can do that. You can have people come in, register through a kiosk, and then report out. You’re talking about something that was developed in three hours after a client conversation. Again it’s just a very simple way to get access to this so if you want to learn more about this go to exam4schools.com. That is exam, 4 the number, schools .com and take a look at some of the work we’re doing. This is specific in this case to the school environment but this is something that is applicable across all facilities. You could do this if you’re a large retail organization or a large federal organization. A lot of this is drawn directly on federal security standards. It’s all best practice so I hope you’ll get out and take a look at it and please share back what you think.

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.

3 Reasons to get excited about Salesforce

Salesforce

Today’s Salesforce event in DC got me thinking a little bit about the reasons why people should be interested in Salesforce. Whether they’re public sector or private sector there are a lot of reasons why people are moving to the cloud. I know that I am certainly not at the front of the hype cycle with regard to moving things to the cloud but I think there are 3 really basic reasons that people should be interested and excited about using Salesforce for their organizations.

  1. Save money-The scale that Salesforce purchases equipment on and everything that they’re doing enables them to have massive economies of scale and pass those savings on to customers.  There’s just no way that most organizations can achieve the kind of buying power that Salesforce has with their vendors.
  2. Time to value -One of the amazing things about Salesforce is it’s hardware infrastructure, the application infrastructure, the security model and all the things that they’ve put in place that enable you to focus on just writing the code that you need to do the piece that you need.  It’s a little different from the standard collaborations tools, document management, workflows. All these pieces that come standard in Salesforce allow you to quickly knit together capabilities that allows you to drive value for your organization really quickly.
  3.  Path to value-One of the things that’s amazing about the Salesforce community is their momentum.  When you look at platforms like Apple and you see how many apps are out there, there’s literally an app for everything.  Well Salesforce is sort of the enterprise version of that and they’re getting to a point where they have an app for everything as well with more than 100,00 apps available and they have more than 70% of the Fortune 500 engaged. There’s so much that’s being done on top of the platform that you can acquire it to meet a particular need that you have right now, but understand that that acquisition is probably going to enable you to do other things over time. So you’re able to come in, transform the organization a little bit, then you can incrementally continue to change on the basis of being able to add functionality. You can do this either by acquiring additional applications that sit on top of the Salesforce platform or customize the platform itself to meet your requirements.

So it’s a really cool way for organizations to manage transformation across a broad area of capability. Again those are just three basic reasons to be excited about Salesforce for your organization. I know I’m excited to go to the event today and I’ll probably post some type of wrap up in the next few days.  Hope to see some of you there!

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.

6 potholes on the path to value

6 potholeso n the path to value

I spend a lot of time talking about all the things you should do as part of a team, part of an organization, as an executive, or as a leader and almost all deal with the idea that there’s a path to value. The idea that you’re trying to get somewhere and that you want to get there as quickly as possible with the most value possible. So today what I wanted to do was talk about 6 potholes people hit on the path to value.

  1. Over-planned an under-implemented– I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been part of an exercise where the planning has so dominated the total implementation that by the time It got around to actually doing the doing, there wasn’t enough resources left to really get it done. So much time and effort had been spent planning things, developing an incredible level of detail, or simply tracking around between different ideas that there wasn’t time left to actually do what you had set out to do.
  2. Bought but not sold– A lot of times as an organization you spend a lot of effort to make complicated decisions, weigh a bunch of different tradeoffs, and finally choose a technology or approach that a small group within the organization believes is the right approach. Oftentimes they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and it probably is the right approach. The problem is that they don’t ever spend any time marketing that approach to the rest of the organization. So the effort fails not because it wasn’t a good idea but because they didn’t sell it.
  3. Right idea, wrong people– Oftentimes you find yourself with a group  of people who have a really good idea but, especially when you’re talking transformational sorts of projects, you are lacking depth in previous experiences which can prove to a major roadblock. If you don’t have people that maybe have experience in what you’re trying to do or have a lot of insight in to it, you set yourself up to go down this path to failure because you’re having to reinvent the wheel all the time. You don’t have anyone that you can lean on, that’s been through this type of project or process and can draw on past experience to lead you toward the future. So I think it’s important to a project’s success to have the right people engaged.
  4. If some of this is a good thing then a lot of it is even better– This is a problem when you have one of these great projects going and you start to be successful. You then decide to scale it up on the basis of that success prematurely. This is where you run into problems because you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, maybe you weren’t resourced to scale it as quickly as you are, and you run into those types of problems.
  5. Forgetting or never defining what success looks like– Too many times you get engaged in a project and you’re pushing really hard and as you get closer and closer to the end of your resources, you’re not sure how well you did. A lot of times that’s because you didn’t figure out at the very beginning what success was going to look like so you knew when you had achieved all that you wanted to achieve. Defining that in advance gives you some rails to guide your journey and lets you know when you’ve arrived.
  6. Failure to capitalize on your success— This is one that people forget all the time because it’s not necessarily intuitive. When you’ve got a great project and you’ve put in a lot of hard work to achieve something, one of the things that organizations, executives, and mangers fail to do all the time is to take that success and use it to build forward into something else. You need to take the momentum that you’ve achieved and use it to go even further.  It’s something that I’m a huge believer in because it’s oftentimes so hard to get things going.  This could be for many reasons such as maybe you don’t have the credibility or the organization just doesn’t have a record of succeeding and executing on transformational projects. Whatever it is, once you get a success use it to build forward so that you can continue to achieve and perform.

Those are my six potholes on the path to value.  I’m sure there are things out there that I’ve missed. Hopefully next year when I do this it’ll be the 12 potholes due to people having chimed in with things that absolutely have to be on 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.

Following through:The difference between a pop fly and a home run

Following through blog

I think everyone’s been there. Where you get off the phone, you’ve just run through a big meeting, or a long conversation and after going through a bunch of different issues you get to an agreement. Once you get resolution or you’ve figured out how to move forward, the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders because you’ve sorted through all these things. Then you go back, you do the rest of your work and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Then a day goes by or maybe a few days go by and the things that were resolved on the call or meeting don’t get done. Then, if it was a big issue before it’s even worse now because now time passed. You have finished whatever you needed to get done and now you’re in a really bad spot because the other person isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. So for me, one of the things that I really try to focus in on is following through.

I’ve written blogs in here with regard to having better meetings, about making sure you take notes of action items, and things like that but if you focus in on it from just a general perspective on life, following through is invaluable in moving you forward. I think it’s because it provides a lot of insight into who people are or insight into how you are perceived. Following through is critical because almost everyone knows the right things to say.  So saying the right thing doesn’t hold that much value because everyone can do that, it doesn’t mean anything without the actions to back it up.

I feel like you get on a call, or you’re in a meeting, or you’re talking to someone, and they’re quick to agree. They say things like, “We can do that. No problem. We’ll get that done tomorrow,” and if it doesn’t get done it’s a huge factor in shaping your impression of that person. It’s huge especially if it happens to be someone you’re in business with or you’re going into business with them; it shapes that relationship. If it’s a client, it can be an enormous roadblock to moving forward. If your client is paying you to engage in a certain fashion and you don’t follow through, if I were that client I’d be prone to move onto something else. To me, that lack of follow through would be indicative of everything else. If I can’t get you to do the things that I directly tell you to do, why would I expect that you’re going to do things that maybe we haven’t discussed but are just the right thing to do? So I think it’s a critically important thing and it’s something that I think a lot of people fail at. I don’t think they fail because they don’t want to do what they said they’re going to do, but because they don’t keep track of the things they said they want to do or the things they said they were going to do.

So I think it’s critical to make a note of what your commitments are. You verbal commitments and the things that you’ve written down in an email to somebody are just as important as financial obligations that you’ve incurred. While people normally keep really good track of how they spend their money and where they’ve obligated their money, they don’t keep very good track of how they obligated their time, their promises, and the things that they’re signed up to do. I think it’s critical to how you’re perceived out in the world. The importance of honoring your commitments is why I’m a big believer in the “Getting things done” methods and part of that is keeping track of all the things that you’re committed to. I just think there’s such a huge cost to making mistakes in this area that I think everyone should consider taking the time to manage their commitments. So I’m curious what other people think, what their experiences have been, and if there are great examples of this out there I’d love to hear them.

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.

Are incentives the great motivator we think they are?

Are incentives the motivator we think they are

I spent the Easter weekend down at the Jersey shore in Manasquan with my in-laws. We drive up from DC on Friday then we drive back down Sunday evening. Usually after about the first half hour on the way home I’m the only awake in the car and I’ll throw on a book on tape/mps3. Anyways I decided on the way back last night that I would pick up Daniel H. Pink’s book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”  I mentioned in my blog post about “To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others,” that it changed the way I thought about a lot of things and “Drive” is the same way.  It’s a really incredible book and it just makes you rethink a lot of things.

In my case, almost everything he said seemed to be obvious but I just never thought of it that way because my whole life I’ve been trained to think and frame things in what he calls Motivation 2.0. This is essentially carrots and sticks. You go to business school and they talk about management and control functions, incentivization techniques, and aligning goals, objectives, and performance structures so you can get people to achieve the types of things that you want them to. He sort of takes that and turns it on its head.

He goes back and talks about some studies that were done in the 40s, 50s, and 60s and have been worked on continuously then where science is used to back up that people are more complex than just being motivated by incentives. Essentially, for a long time up until very recent history we’ve sort of thought about people like you would your dog.  For example, if you want your dog to roll over and do tricks you teach them that they get a treat afterwards and if they do something bad they get punished so they stop doing that. Not surprisingly it turns out, people are a little more complicated than that.

So one of the great studies he talks about is one that was conducted by a gentlemen that was doing some studies with monkeys. He had a simple locking mechanism and he put it in their cages to get them acclimated and before he got to the test he was going to be run (he was going to incentivize them to open the locks) something surprising happened. It turns out that once he put the mechanisms in their cages, they started solving them without any incentive. It started to make him think and over the next 30-40 years up until today the same gentleman has been working to follow up on that with studies with people.

It turns out that sometimes incentivizing people to do things, providing cash rewards for things actually lowers their propensity to do those things.  People, by virtue of linking monetary value to a task, turns it into work instead of fun or something that has its own intrinsic value. He talks about people being extrinsically motivated i.e. cash rewards and that’s a very hard model to sustain. He likens it almost to cigarettes or drugs, where people do it and it then triggers receptors in their brains. Eventually it takes more and more to trigger those receptors and to get that same feeling.

With the intrinsic motivation, people want to solve the problem because they want to solve a problem and that that doesn’t go away and it doesn’t change. So he talks about being very careful about how you incentivize people because once you head down the extrinsic path, you’re going to have to reward more and more frequently and with things of greater and greater value in order to sustain the type of effort that you want. The effort that you probably could have had, if it’s a particular type of task, simply by providing a good work environment.

He talks about how important autonomy is in many of today’s tasks. That by providing people with an environment where they’re able to think about their own approach and they’re given latitude in how to solve problems, they’ll often perform at a much higher level than if you incentive them.  One of the things that incentivizing people does is it pulls other options off the table. So instead of them thinking big picture and solving it in a unique way, they begin to narrow down their focus to simply achieve that goal.  He shows this by pointing out the short view of executives and publicly traded companies. You know so much time and effort is spent to meet quarterly numbers and you see people very rarely surpass those numbers. This is because they are incentivized and their performance bonuses are to meet the numbers. It’s just a really really interesting book, at least to the point that I’m at and when I finish I’ll follow up with another post.  I’m curious to know what other people think about this research on incentives.  We have a performance and incentive program at our organization and it makes me want to revisit that in light of some of the things that I’ve read about and try to make our work structure a little more progressive and align more to the science that’s out there 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.