RIP ROI: Time-To-Market is the New Indicator of Success

http://www.continuingedcourses.net/active/courses/course001.php

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“Management is a real-time activity. It happens now”: Part 2 of 2

This post addresses the remaining three skills needed for strategic advising (or collaboration) according to Al Krueger’s article, “Developing a Strategic Mindset.” (Yes, It has been 1 ½ years since Part 1. An overwhelmingly busy schedule forced the hiatus. But I am looking forward to catching up.)

In my previous post I gave examples of the first three skills using a fictitious Web designer, Bob. Bob demonstrated 1) Believing in the benefits of strategic collaboration, 2) Knowing your domain, and 3) Comprehending others’ goals. The remaining three skills are 4.) Volunteering your interests, 5) Solving problems collaboratively, and 6) Driving toward alignment.

4. Volunteering your interests

After listening to one of the company’s eCommerce strategists, Bob realizes that a non-technical solution might optimize API catalog searching better than a re-architecture of the database. In order to get equal exposure for his idea, of course he must volunteer his interests. Do you think this is obvious? Then why have I seen some professionals not dare upset their managers’ solution ideas by suggesting their alternative ideas?

I believe that what inhibits one from volunteering one’s interests is the lack of courage. I am not talking here about unfounded courage. Perhaps the advisor knows her advice is weak. Therefore, she should fortify her courage by making sure her interests and positions are soundly reasoned and have the support of one or two respected coworkers.

5. Solving problems collaboratively

There are three reasons you should solve problems collaboratively. First, it level loads the work across several specialists. Second, it shares responsibility for success or failure across leadership. Third, it provides checks and balances throughout efforts to strategize.

The first reason, level-loading, suggests that you will receive inputs from the various specialties that a sound solution would require. But it is more than that. You also prevent individuals from relinquishing tasks to another person (usually you) who has less time and expertise to do them.

The second reason, shared responsibility, is the core of all successful consulting and advising. For any strategy to endure both the executives and advisor(s) must contribute to the definitions of problems, solutions (aka., strategy), and tactics. Furthermore, the executives must be named as authors of the strategy, and demonstrate their involvement in executing the strategy.

Occasionally level-loading and shared responsibility devolved into a one-sided engagement. The third reason for collaboration, checks and balances, provides a way to correct this. The concept suggests a relationship among peers rather than a typical top-down, manager-employee relationship. In fact a peer relationship is at the heart of collaboration. And exercising checks and balances along the way ensures that a peer relationship is developed and maintained.

Collaborating must be arranged. It does not happen automatically. Moreover, arranging for and maintaining collaboration requires an amount of effort by the strategic advisor that is second only to his technical or business analysis. Thankfully almost every interaction with executives is an opportunity to re-establish and model correct collaborative behavior.

What is correct collaborative behavior? The three reasons above give a preview. Let’s walk through a couple examples from Bob. We pick up from the earlier example where Bob was volunteering his interest:

Bob: “Mary, I did some analysis of the API catalog, and have a proposed re-structuring that would make API searches less arduous.”
Mary: “Improving searches would be nice but the business has a pressing need to integrate the XYZ music provider’s database into ours.”
Bob: “It sounds like we need to first unify the data sets between the two companies. Because the database designs are driven by the logical structure of the catalog, let me include XYZ’s catalog in my analysis. Would you set up a meeting with XYZ to coordinate?”

In every interaction with an executive, be alert to indicators that she (or he) is either relinquishing tasks, managing top-down, or identifying the wrong problem or solution. Then negotiate peer-to-peer for whatever you think will achieve a successful outcome. This is the essence of collaboration.

In addition to the above, do not be content with someone saying that they share responsibility for the outcomes. Document a list of success criteria and assign different individuals as the responsible party for each. If you are an external consultant, make sure the Statement of Work includes both a success criteria with assigned individuals, and a task list.

6. Driving toward alignment

Strategic alignment is the goal of strategic advising. Alignment means that the entire organization has the same answer to the question, “What is the purpose of this project?” In addition, each person should be able to explain how their individual goals align to that overall purpose. In addition, each person in the organization needs to commit to achieving a common set of metrics both for specific success criteria and for the strategy as a whole.

The strategic advisor must document the list of success criteria and metrics. And each executive should sign off as being accountable for each measured outcome. If you are an external consultant, make sure the Statement of Work includes both a success criteria and metric list. In addition, an SOW task assignment list will strengthen collaboration toward strategic goals.

Before alignment is really over, executives and managers need to agree on using a set of analytics tools to measure, predict, and communicate progress. Plus, processes should be implemented to maintain the tools, and executive(s) need to formally communication the strategy and processes to the organization.

Hopefully Lukaszewski’s skills are now handy for you to use in a strategic advising capacity, whether you are an employee or consultant, and dealing with C-level executives or departmental strategists.

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“Management is a real-time activity. It happens now”: Part 1 of 2

This headline is a partial quote from James Lukaszewski’s “Developing a Strategic Mindset” session at the 2009 International PRSA Conference. Continuing he said, “so leaving a meeting and offering recommendations later in the day isn’t valuable to them.” (Krueger, 2009) Lukaszewski is an internationally-recognized author, corporate counselor, and speaker on crisis management, ethics, media relations, public affairs, and reputation preservation and restoration.

The point of this post is to follow Lukaszewski’s line of thinking with some definitions of strategic advising. These definitions are within reach of any employee or consultant. And I have even broken them down into their rudimentary skills, making them handy goals for anyone who has contact with executives, and an interest in their company’s or clients’ success.

Here is what business scholars say are the skills needed for strategic advising (Grover, 2012):

  1. Believing in the benefits of strategic collaboration
  2. Knowing your domain
  3. Comprehending others’ goals
  4. Volunteering your interests
  5. Solving problems collaboratively
  6. Driving toward alignment

In this post we will examine the first three of these skills. Note that my examples come from eCommerce systems development. However, this content applies across industries.

1. Believing in the benefits of strategic collaboration

Whether you call it collaborating, negotiating, or bargaining, you need to believe that strategy is maximized through partnering rather than competing with others. Believing this is particularly significant because the win-lose metaphor, as found in sports and the military, is prevalent in strategic thinking.

Consider the partnering attitude of a Web designer named Bob. Bob realizes that the API manufacturer he works for has a confusing network of landing pages and search engines for different departments’ API catalogs. Furthermore, he believes he has some insights that could meld these competing departments’ Web interfaces into a more unified and streamlined customer experience.

2. Knowing your domain

This constitutes knowledge of 1) general industry trends, 2) how the business makes money, and 3) your functional expertise. For example, Bob, the Web designer, knows about trends in airline entertainment provisioning that could speed the adoption of Internet radio APIs by music app providers, one of the marketing channels of his company. In addition, he knows enough about the complexities of API integration across several channels to contribute pragmatic strategic advice.

3. Comprehending others’ goals

Comprehending others’ goals has a prerequisite skill of Empathizing with the other person. This requires you to both 1) care about the other person and 2) express that you understand their feelings, while not sounding like you agree with their position.

Bob: “I get that you want a re-structuring of the companies catalogs, so API searches are less arduous.”

To comprehend their goals you have to listen to the other person’s points, not just their feelings as in empathizing. Listening is comprised of the following behaviors. These are adapted from Harvard Business Essentials article, “Negotiation” (2003) in their tips on “active listening”: 1) Eye contact, 2) Think only about the other person’s points, 3) Note their points and significant body language, 4) Ask reflective questions (example below), 5) Ask open-ended questions (example below)

Reflective question: “I hear you saying that you want cube-based search for API’s and related collateral. Am I right?”

Open-ended question — “Given that the cube architecture makes a user’s searching easier, what scenarios come to mind where he still could be missing the content he really needs?”

I have introduced the first three skills. I hope to post the last three soon. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Note: The factual parts of this post were taken from the following three sources:

Carrell, Michael R., and Christina Heavrin J.D. “Integrative Bargaining.” Negotiating Essentials : Theory, Skills, and Practices. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. N. pag. Print. <http://www.prenhall.com/behindthebook/0131868667/pdf/CarrellCh04final.pdf>

Grover, Richard A., and Lynn Dahlia. “Impact of Collaborative Leadership Training on Negotiation Skill Development.” Competition Forum. Academic OneFile, 1 June 2012. Web. 6 Dec. 2014. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA313344722&v=2.1&u=kcls&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=27a9611dca1764e437e275ed395d1cce>.

Krueger, Al. “Developing a Strategic Mindset: How to Become a Trusted, Strategic Adviser.” ComPRehension. N.p., 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 06 Dec. 2014. <http://comprehension.prsa.org/?p=1212>

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The Human Side of Rapid Data Warehouse Development: Part 1 of 2

Walking from the meeting room to the microwave, I replay the last few comments from business intelligence users: “This product launch has IT under tight scrutiny…Precise reports are needed; we are re-prioritizing [again] what and for whom…We need working reports in eight weeks (even though noone knows how).”
Okay, this scenario is fictional, but common. It is probably goes without saying that decision-makers want new data accurately and rapidly. Moreover, a blog title that suggests a human side of this topic is an understatement, almost like suggesting a “human factor in online retail.” Afterall, humans making decisions is what data warehousing is all about.
So, what are the human factors? Here is a list for starters. I will try to keep them specific to data warehouse development:

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The Human Side of Rapid Data Warehouse Development: Part 1 of 2

Walking from the meeting room to the microwave, I replay the last few comments from business intelligence users: “This product launch has IT under tight scrutiny…Precise reports are needed; we are re-prioritizing [again] what and for whom…We need working reports in eight weeks (even though noone knows how).”
Okay, this scenario is fictional, but common. It is probably goes without saying that decision-makers want new data accurately and rapidly. Moreover, a blog title that suggests a human side of this topic is an understatement, almost like suggesting a “human factor in online retail.” Afterall, humans making decisions is what data warehousing is all about.
So, what are the human factors? Here is a list for starters. I will try to keep them specific to data warehouse development:

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Knowledge Worker Productivity Constrains Business Alignment

Peter Drucker stated that the most important contribution made by management in the 20th century was achieving a fiftyfold productivity increase among the manual workforce, but that the most important contribution in the 21st century would be achieving the same productivity increase among knowledge workers. Any approaches or management techniques that are based on logic and man-as-machine behavior are denying the human condition. Human beings are emotional, social and group-oriented – individual behavior is susceptible to stress and fatigue. Software development takes place in an arena that is largely unpredictable and is characterized by fluctuations whose peaks and troughs cannot always be eliminated. The way in which people work together should ensure that teams can respond adequately to unforeseen circumstances. If the means are acceptable, then individuals will commit themselves to team objectives whenever their prospects financial or otherwise are commensurate with their individual contribution. This may be in terms of their professionalism, as well as innovation, creativity and opportunities for continuous improvement. Actual motivation lies in achieving a balance between autonomy in performing tasks, sense of purpose, and the opportunity to grow and excel. Furthermore, this balance is different for each individual.

via The Lean IT Organization.

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Technical Debt and the Cultural Gap

Technical Debt and the Cultural Gap.

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