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.

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.

The Icarus Deception: The Good Fail

Icarus

Dare to fly high and give yourself the opportunity to soar

 Seth Godin’s new book “The Icarus Deception” will be available December 31st of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to receive an advance copy from a friend and have since been sucked in to what I believe is an exceptionally valuable addition to my library. The book isn’t comprised of long sections but is rather a series of short pieces grouped together, which should feel familiar to those who have read Seth’s blog. The book as a whole is great but in my read I hit on one particular piece that I felt had to be passed along because of its relevance to performance. On page 203, Seth has a piece called “The Good Fail: How does the Organization Get Boring” In it he puts forward a law credited to David Puttnam which states, “It is more acceptable to fail in conventional ways than in unconventional ways. And its corollary: The reward for succeeding in unconventional ways is a lot less than the risk of failing in unconventional ways. In short, you can screw up with impunity so long as you screw up like everyone else.” I absolutely love this piece and this quote because it dovetails so closely with my own thoughts about how organizations descend into mediocrity or worse.

The pressure of the herd to press onward despite mediocre or poor results on the basis of it being the generally accepted path or best practice is probably one of the single most frustrating things I am confronted with on client sites. There is often an unwillingness to plow new ground despite ample evidence that the current path is not going to provide great rewards. I have often said that one of the biggest failings in most bureaucracies is that the reward for failure so outweighs the punishment for failure, that ground breaking approaches are almost never carried forward. It’s also why so many innovative ideas get their start in a garage rather than in the billion dollar R&D budgets of big business.

I know that in the new year one of the things I plan on pushing forward with is a plan to better enable my folks to take the road less traveled and encourage experimentation, and by definition almost become more accepting of failure. We want to continue down the innovative path that we try to encourage within our workplace and I believe that we already do a pretty good job of encouraging people to think outside the box. I’d love to hear your thoughts/examples, etc of programs, projects, or people who have successfully encouraged original thinking in your workplace. How did they inspire original thinking and deal with failure?

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.

‘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.

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.

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.

CIO vs. CTO

Don’t wrestle over tasking, there is plenty of responsibility to go around

Count me among the many who have been confused at times by what it really means to be CIO vs. CTO. Both jobs are generally technology oriented, both include responsibility for the delivery of technology to the business, and both jobs require advanced leadership and communication skills. Let me say up front that there is no real agreement with regard to the specific responsibilities of each role. Some delineate the role with regard to the major challenges they attempt to solve, i.e. either inward facing or externally facing. This isn’t a valuable distinction because it doesn’t lend itself to the role clarity necessary to handle the problems that come with leading an IT organization. In fact, there are no hard and fast rules with regard to responsibilities, or even to who reports to whom. Some technology-focused organizations have CIOs reporting to CTOs, as opposed to CTOs reporting to CIOs; which is more common in traditional organizations. CTOs as the head of IT are “more common in technology-related organizations like computer manufacturers, value-added resellers, IT consultancies and financial services companies.”[1] In fact, the rise of the CTO position itself is a rather recent phenomenon that began to gain traction in the 1990s.  Having both roles is growing and my personal belief is that there is plenty of work to be shared at the top-tier of management within an IT organization. It makes sense to divide the work. I should be clear that what follows isn’t prescriptive. What works for one organization may not work for another and the needs of a large diversified conglomerate are going to be different from the needs of a tightly focused technology organization. I’m giving you my take on what the role should be, the skills required, and the impact they should have on the organization.

In organizations where the role of the CIO is that of the senior most Information Technology executive in the organization, the CIO often “serves as the company’s top technology infrastructure manager” [2] in contrast to the CTO, who “serves as the company’s top technology architect.”[3] Given the large role information technology has come to play in most organizations, technology infrastructure is business critical. The CIO therefore plays a primary role in supporting and in some cases driving the day-to-day business operations of the organization. This is by nature a risk averse and conservative role that is focused on ensuring that today’s work gets done, without necessarily an over emphasis on tomorrow. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be looking forward as a CIO; it simply recognizes that if you don’t make it through today you won’t be around to see the future. The criticality of IT and its importance to the organization means that CIOs will be less focused on specific technologies or the “bits and bytes of the technology.” This is often reflected in the fact that many organizations will fill this role with a more “business-oriented” executive; focused on delivering overall business value and running the business of IT, but who may be less technology savvy or have grown less so over time.

The overwhelming focus of the CIO is on ensuring ongoing operations, mission critical systems and security. With regard to ongoing operations, the CIO’s direct responsibilities should include the ongoing support and management of all enterprise systems, help desks, service delivery, and portfolio and program management. The last two responsibilities I mention, that of program and portfolio management oversight, is an area that should be closely coordinated with the CTO and one I will discuss in detail in my discussion of the CTOs role.  That this is where I see real value in the balance in viewpoints; between the CIOs focus on today and ongoing business operations, and the CTOs view into tomorrow and the transformation of the business into an organization capable of meeting tomorrow’s challenges. As the primary IT business manager, a major focus of the CIO should also include the overarching management of the organizations portfolio management including ensuring the strategic alignment of technology with the strategy of the business, as well as overall responsibility for maintaining organizational standards with regard to best practice and technologies.

In contrast, the CTO should play a visionary role.   They should be looking for opportunities to transform the organization, be active in the management of the process of evaluating new technologies, and identifying ways to leverage technology to support the business. The CTO should maintain an active understanding of the most innovative solutions and best practices, and recommend implementation of those that will ensure the organization is prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow. As a function of the role the CTO plays in monitoring best practices and technology, the CTO should also play a role in examining current business processes and evaluating them for opportunities for improvement, making recommendations, and influencing ongoing operational support. As the business evaluates new opportunities, requirements, or as the new systems are contemplated, the CTO should have responsibility for the development and implementation of solution architecture ensuring it meets business goals and objectives as well as certifying the technical merit of the deployed solution. The CTO may also have overall responsibility for engineering and be responsible for the development of business facing solutions including the R&D portfolio and the development through initial deployment of all engineering systems prior to O&M.

In contrast to the CIO, the role of the CTO is as the name suggests technology focused.  The moniker could just as easily be Chief Transformation Officer because of the critical role this executive should play in ensuring the organization is able to meet the challenges of tomorrow. However, in order to truly deliver a high performing organization, it is critical that these two executives collaborate in many areas. Two of the most critical of these areas are the project and investment portfolio. It is within these two specific portfolios that the fortunes of the organization will largely depend and only by working to balance the needs of the organization, now and in the future, will they be able to deliver a high level of performance over time. As the lead architect for the organization, it is the CTOs responsibility to make compelling arguments for change and illustrate opportunities to re-engineer business processes, leverage data on behalf of the organization, or identify systems for replacement. The CIO must then work with the CTO to balance the forces these transformational efforts will present to the ongoing business of the organization including: decisions on build vs. buy, operational risk, security, continuity of operations, and maintenance of financial responsibility. The degree to which these two executives can work together and rely on each other to both deliver within their swim lane and collaborate across these areas of responsibility, the better the end result for the organization as a whole. As I have said before there is certainly no lack of responsibility or work available at the top-tier of the IT organization. High performing organizations will have executives that leverage each others skills and talents in order to ensure their own efforts are successful and the objectives of the organization as a whole are met.


[1] http://www.cio.com/article/31246/Whatever_Happened_to_the_CTO_Role_

[2] http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/sanity-check-whats-the-difference-between-cio-and-cto/742

[3] http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/sanity-check-whats-the-difference-between-cio-and-cto/742

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.

5 skill areas needed to transform your organization

Don’t miss the mark, develop the right skills

Change happens every day both inside the organization and outside the organization. I’ve talked quite a bit about the fact that I believe this change is happening at a faster pace than we have ever seen and that this is driving high performing organizations to look for ways to develop organizational transformation capabilities. As someone who has spent a lot of time talking to the stakeholders within organizations, I have seen a lot of soul searching around what it really takes to pull off organizational transformation. Enabling an organization to regularly be able to move from a current state to some future state that is better suited to meet evolving stakeholder requirements, changing compliance criteria, disruptive technologies and other forces that drive the need for organizational change is tough stuff.

I believe that there are really five key areas that organizations should be focused on developing in order to deliver a truly world class ability to enable change:

Leadership: I fall firmly in the camp of folks that believe leadership skills can be developed and that focusing on this area of development can pay real dividends for organizations that are willing to invest in it. I also do not believe that leadership skills are something that an organization should only focus on at the executive level. The fact is that as organizations become flatter and more agile leadership skills have become more important than ever even at much lower levels of the organization than have previously been focused on. This also ensures that people who are thrust into leadership roles have some skills when that occurs and aren’t learning on the fly (and failing) until they figure it out.

Transformational methodology: If you buy into the fact that understanding and executing on change within the organization should be a primary capability, then you will need to find something that can function as a repeatable process focused on helping you identify areas that require change and then execute that change. Properly executed enterprise architecture should fulfill this role. Focused on understanding the strategic direction, resources, processes, assets and operating environment of the organization this function should rightly be the focus of managing the information driving change and providing real input into both planning for change and executing on it.

Risk: More change means more risk. Organizations are almost always focused on the simple execution of change and not on the implications with regard to risk for the business. Rapidly implementing an online application may help you shave costs, meet customer requirements, or improve productivity. It may also introduce risks that need to be mitigated. Risk management skills need to be embedded within your transformation team in order to ensure that someone is thinking about the dark side of transformation.

Security: See risk. Change always has security implications. The downside of your new found agility means having more discussions around the security implications of that change and so having skills in this area are critical for transformation teams. Leaving security out as an afterthought means inviting last minute changes of the worst kind. Find out up front what the implications of your actions are for security and you may be able to tailor your solution more easily in the early stages or even alter the scope to ensure your solution is viable.

Personal Productivity: You may be surprised to see this on the list, but I think it is a major oversight to think that everyone is functioning at the same high level with regard to organizational, presentation, speaking, writing, negotiation and other critical core skills. None of the rest of your transformation team’s domain expertise matters if their insights cannot be communicated to the outside world. I have often heard the counter argument that “we” don’t hire people without those core skills. I’m sure that is the intent but usually when someone is being recruited as a java developer, accountant, or other functional area specialist at the beginning of their career the focus is on their domain expertise. This stays the same through much of an individual’s career with advancement mostly tied to domain expertise – not these skills. When thrust into senior roles where these skills are required because getting the job done requires the ability to get others to see their point of view, etc. they fail. Do not make this mistake when you begin working to develop your transformation team.

Conclusion

In this I have tried to lay out some core areas of focus as you work to develop your transformational capabilities. I’ve tried to stay at a fairly high level, while still providing some insight into the types of backgrounds you may want for folks on your team as well as areas where you may want to focus on as you pursue your organizational development objectives. The above is not meant to be an all-inclusive list and in fact I invite your feedback. What have you done to prepare your organization for change?

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 ways to ensure your transformation ends with a ROI

As an executive that is looking to transform his organization, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a particular methodology, technology or performance improvement initiative. There is often a sense of exhilaration as the possibility of applying the methodology you’ve been reading about, hearing about, or training on to transform your organization. I know, having been at the beginning of this journey a few times, that the excitement of doing something different and the possibility of what the future can hold can be strong stuff, to the point where the focus on the effort is all consuming. This enthusiasm can be the source of energy that helps drive a transformation program through to completion, or it can also result in over engineering, excessive devotion to a particular approach or methodology and push the program into failure. This can be a major obstacle in getting to the return on investment that a particular methodology or approach promises. One thing the wide spread availability of best practice information and process improvement methodologies has done is whet the appetite of executives that want to reap the rewards of these best practices and transformational methodologies. This has triggered an explosion of growth within the training, conference and speaking industries, that has not necessarily been accompanied with a commensurate improvement in the performance of the organizations following these approaches. I follow three rules for getting the most of any transformational activity:
1. Be honest about readiness

Whether it’s a book you read, speaker you listened to, or a conference you attended, what you took away is generally based on one person or group’s experience or success applying a particular method or technique. Before diving into a transformation effort or making estimates about what your ROI might be, make sure you take into account your own unique circumstances. Do you have executive buy in? Do you have staff with experience in this area? Will you be able to provide the resourcing required to see the effort through while maintaining your existing service levels? Will you be able to source the training, consulting staff, etc. necessary to get you to value? What is your organization’s history with regard to implementing changes of this scale? Be honest at the beginning.
2. Be thin and incremental

Most transformational activities that I have seen fail in the implementation of the approach or best practice, don’t fail because the best practice or approach itself was flawed. Often this has to do with a failure to scope the activities or anticipate the real level of effort. I think most organizations would benefit from drawing their to-be view of the world and then focusing on incrementing the path to it, in a way that there are no huge leaps of faith in those increments. It is much easier to do this if you keep your initial vision as small as possible. Remember that what you are undertaking involves changing the way your organization works and thinks, and that this takes time and effort. Keep your increments small in order to provide yourself with checkpoints along the way. Getting to small wins will help you achieve your larger goals. Choosing to implement the smallest vision of the transformation effort that ends in value will ensure that you actually get to value.
3. Stay focused on value

One of the greatest temptations as you enter into a transformation program, is becoming consumed with process to the detriment of enterprise value. Transformational activities often involve the building of new skills and learning new things. It is easy to get carried away and lose the original focus of the project, which probably included a return on investment. It takes real discipline not to become consumed with an approach and the rigid implementation of every aspect of that approach. Every time you begin to add scope, develop further granularity, or add another level of decomposition or analysis, make sure you ask yourself the value question. Remember that the success of the effort will not be graded by how complete the implementation was, but rather on the value gained by the organization.If you follow the three simple rules above you may not win any awards for how complete your implementation is for a specific methodology or approach, but you can be assured that you will gain some value for your organization. This approach doesn’t just work for large transformation efforts. I try to ask myself these questions about my individual tasking and calendar items every day. Do I really need to completely re-organize my filing system or will I get more value by just filing the one thing I need. Sometimes you do need to allocate the resources to complete a major transformation, but I have found that more often than not I can get more real value much quicker by focusing on smaller increments and smaller goals.


Joshua Millsapps
Senior Partner, Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates
Twitter: @jmillsapps

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.