The Power of Purpose and the Balance of Goal, Value & Leadership

Intro: Two colleagues of mine started working on a model for the “power of purpose”. Purpose is one of the key subjects at the moment when it comes to change, leadership & management. One of the most famous talkers about the power of purpose might be Simon Sinek. You can see his TED Talk here. My colleagues point out the need that goal, value and leadership need to be in harmony in order to create an effective sense of purpose. I’ve fallen in love with the idea straight away so I capture my take & interpretation on the early stage of their model on my blog, you can find their publication here on LinkedIn.

The power of purpose.

“Why” is what you need to answer if you want to determine the purpose for “how” you are intending to do “what. From a leadership angle the “reason-why” might be the most important answer to give anyway. In particular in times of change, when the awareness for a need for change is charged with the urgency created by markets, competition or overall eco system. You need to move and you need to move fairly fast.

Commitment, dedication and intrinsic motivation is what leaders and managers should seek in their organisation. They are strong pillars for a stable environment in which trust can grow and distribution of accountability and responsibility is possible.

Goal. Value. Leadership.

In their model, Christian Heraty and Kevin Hansen, imply that a harmony or balance of the three core elements

  • Goal (What are we trying to achieve?)
  • Value (What benefit will derive from achieving the goal for whom?)
  • Leadership (How is a common understanding for the journey ahead created and sustained?)

are essential for an effective purpose. This is essential if you perceive “purpose” as a key resource to success and you required the maximum effect and impact of it on organisation and culture.

Read their description on the model here. The following text is my personal perspective on their angle:

Where we fall short in so many instances…

1. Setting Goals

If communication is only successful when sender and recipient are aligned, I believe the majority of goals – or better the way they are delivered to the affected audience – are far from “clear”. Yes, our goal can be to “increase net sales by 20 million”, but as long as your not the highest person in charge of sales, it’s not really “concrete”. Set aside the fact that motivation is definitely not driven by such a statement.

There are various ways of setting goals. SMART is probably one of my favourites:
<S> specific
<M> measurable
<A> achievable
<R> realistic
<T> timely

In our day to day work at Infocentric we for example use a structure called “PO3” to frame meetings, initiatives or projects.
<P> purpose (why)
<O> objective (what)
<O> outcome (result)
<O> output (deliverables)

I believe there are even more way of driving a common understanding and alignment across teams, departments of even companies. They all have one things in common: it requires time, thinking and recipient orientated communications to get it right…all three not necessarily the strongest pieces in goal setting processes.

2. Make value understood

One of my key learnings in my time at Tieto was “Industrial Buying Center Management (IBCM)”. As part of a development program obviously focussed on empowering us to drive business. Over time and in particular in my work as a consultant one concept of IBCM has proven to be extremely valuable: the resonating value proposition (read the original Harvard Business Review article here).

Essentially the concept is simple: the more a value proposition resonates with the actual recipient, the more powerful it is.

In practice it means that the value for e.g. digital transformation is substantially different for HR, CFO department, Sales or Engineering. If you want to make sure that your initiative or change program get broad acceptance you need to cater to all relevant (or affected) parties.

In the context of purpose it is essential to convey “value” in a way that people can understand it and thereby buy into it as a core element. And just for the sake of mentioning it: people ain’t stupid. Whatever companies do, has one some level a commercial or otherwise business orientated sense – even for an NGO. I can only urge leaders and managers to not beat around the bush and show how “this is your value – and this is how it connects to the value for our company” transparently.

3. Leading purpose

For this one I have a very, very tangible example. The past 8 years I’ve spent in the field of Advanced Intranets and the Digital Workplace. I had to learn the hard way that the C-Suite “we need to function as one tree hugging and super productive family” efficiency story sounds different when the board room doors are closed. Suddenly efficiency isn’t much of a topic anymore. If work gets done in 8 or 11 hours is…well…a working level issue. And unfortunately past experience proves that they are right. People get stuff done…no matter what obstacles you throw in their way. That’s what makes us human.

In the board room “effectiveness” is like magic: grown in additional regions without growing staff at the same ratio. Sell more without more sales staff. Ensure that the resource applied to achieve a goal has it’s maximum effect.

Why I am telling this story? Because if there is a dissonance between message and reality, then conveying purpose will be almost impossible. It disables operations to create tangible and resonating value propositions to the board room. Because, in the example above, they think efficiency (= value) to reach growth (= the goal). For the recipients, however, effectiveness is the real budget magnet. This immediately puts value & goal out of synch and a potential purpose is dead in the water.

Together it all makes sense…

If you think about it carefully: it actually makes sense. You cannot make purpose up. You have to mean it. In order to be able to mean it Goal, Value and the means of implementing both through authentic and coherent Leadership have to be in place. Otherwise “purpose” is another way of “marketing” whatever message you want to bring across.

My predictions for 2017 (*wink)

It’s the time of year again. All experts are gathering around the crystal ball to predict what we will be doing in the next 12 months. Of course I need to chime in because if you operate under the “Digital Sherpa” metaphor the “Shaman” isn’t that far off…

So here we go with my 5 best shots:

  1. All technology driven initiatives to digitally transform the mechanics of relationship management, business development or productivity will fail.
  2. “On premises” is dead. If someone tries to tell you, it’s not: there some personal stake in maintaining the legacy involved.
  3. We will see less Chief Digital Officers and more digitally empowered, mature and passionate people in leading and executing roles. It will become a very tough environment for consultancies.
  4. The artificial separation of “intranet” and “internet” will be torn down because it literally makes no sense.
  5. We will reflect on 2017 in December and make similar predictions again because corporate politics, power struggles and lack of disruptive thinking will keep things at a slow pace…no matter how quickly the field evolves.

Opinions?

Merry Xmas. Happy New Year. Make life count.

phil

Social Chicken Network – The Need to Change the Foundation for a Collaborative Future

Summary: Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk on “Forget the pecking order at work” inspired me to write this post. I’ve talked and published a lot about why Enterprise Social Network by itself don’t seem to really deliver the success people expect. Listening to Margaret’s talk I was quite baffled that research on chickens was actually able to draw some parallels to business life. So this article is about the need for a new kind of leadership – in particular around motivation & reward models – when you want to lay the foundation for a more “WE” driven attitude in companies.

I’ve now worked from almost 8 years in the field of the Digital Workplace and Advanced Intranets. Over the years my job has evolved from “making people desire IT” to “establishing a successful foundation for cultural change”. One of the most striking things in my line of work is the fact that the attempt to establish Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) sustainably seems to be so challenging. I am, however, not implying that there hasn’t been a company succeeding in the attempt to establish an ESN. Unfortunately the real (like in: substantial impact & cultural change) success stories are rare and in a lot of cases limited to distinct use cases such as R&D, Sales or Marketing/Communications.

We’re conditioning future leaders the wrong way

In her TED Talk Margaret Heffernan talks about an experiment with chickens. To cut a long story short: Creating an average chickens flock delivered a happy camper group of hens that after six generations even showed an increase in (egg laying) productivity. Putting only the most productive “power hens” in one superflock delivered…oh well…only three chicken still alive after they started pecking each other to death at some point.

Then Heffernan says “(…) But for the past 50 years, we’ve run most organisations and some societies along the superchicken model. We’ve thought that success is achieved by picking the superstars, the brightest men, or occasionally women, in the room, and giving them all the resources and all the power. And the result has been just the same as in William Muir’s experiment: aggression, dysfunction and waste. If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live. (Applause) (…)”. (Source: Talk Transcript on Ted.com).

This goes hand in hand with my experience from requirements engineering & needs analysis. What people are looking for is enablement and empowerment for their own work. They want to be put in a place in which they are able “to get sh** done” with reasonable effort.

A new way: focus on productive work that you cannot deliver by yourself!

We need to change two fundamental things:

  • Empower people to focus on productive work and take everything away that consumes time for unnecessary tasks and actions.
  • Lead people towards collaborative success and create an environment (incl. incentive and compensation models) in which “WE” behaviour is rewarded.

It’s important to emphasise that neither improvement works without the other if you’re really looking for a proper leap in results and productivity. It’s a little like it is with technology: digital transformation is built on organisational, managerial and leadership change…but without a proper piece of software in the background, there is no “digital” transformation.

We need to introduce ways to “synchronise coffee breaks” all day long. Then we will be able to end up in a place Heffernan reports on on the TED stage: “(…) When Alex Pentland suggested to one company that they synchronize coffee breaks so that people would have time to talk to each other, profits went up 15 million dollars, and employee satisfaction went up 10 percent. Not a bad return on social capital, which compounds even as you spend it. (…)” (Source: Talk Transcript on Ted.com).

If you empower people without a change of the reward system…

… what you get is people with a lot of time at their hand. 20% of those will spend the time on figuring out ways on how to be the next VP and gain more organisational power. The remaining 80% will…well…do their job with less effort and find ways of “burning” the time until it’s time to go home.

If you lead people towards collaboration but don’t take away the productivity road blocks…

… you might drive people insane – in particular the good ones. There is nothing more frustrating than the right perspective, the right purpose and a feeling that the right behaviours is rewarded, but you cannot behave that way. Coffee breaks, personal networks and meetings can only deliver limited impact. We need the support of modern technology to take the pieces out of our day that keep us from delivering results and enrich it with new opportunities to reach out and combine our talent with the talent of others for the “next big thing”.

The power of purpose…

Just to wrap this up I would like to reference Simon Sinek as well. Basically it’s a must if you talk about #change and #leadership.

I strongly believe that leadership towards a more collaborative work and corporate culture will not be driven by the classic corporate goals. In an interview in the npr TED Radio Hour Heffernan talks about her witnessing a corporate meeting in which the joint objective of 60 mUSD. “Who get’s motivated by trying to achieve a 60 million Dollar profit?” she asks.

And it’s true, if you want to get people engaged and committed you need to provide more than just SMART goals in a financial sense. For that it’s worth to (again) check out Sinek’s talk on “purpose” on the TED stage.

DWP: The Single Entry Point to the Truth

Summary: Even though the field has agreed (and I’m on board here) that there is no such thing as a “Digital Workplace”, we’re still trying to find a tangible description for it. Based on my most recent gig at Social Business Collaboration and a little new business pitch I am involved in I’d like to add an (not revolutionary but maybe helpful) angle to the subject. Let’s call it the “Single Entry Point to the Truth”, in particular acknowledging the fact, that there is no such thing as a “Single Source of Truth” either. So this article is about what the DWP could actually be…whatever it’s built on.

Learning from my work in the field

I’ve used the following illustration in my most recent presentation at the Social Business Collaboration in Berlin. And maybe it’s me or the stuff I am getting involved in…but no matter how high the ambition is around collaboration, social or innovative things…we always end up at the same thing: I just need my stuff…easy…personalised…please!!

whattheymean

I was just working on a summary of a business case development project and the outcome was exactly that. What the majority of people in business functions wish for, is one single place in which they will find all their reference and work material…no matter where it lives or who’s created/published it.

Now… Let’s accept a few basic conditions:

  • The Digital Workplace is no “thing” – it’s a metaphor to describe what we need in information and knowledge work to drive effectiveness, foster working out loud and make it easy for people to reach their goals.
  • There is no “Single Source of Truth”. Period. Depending on what the truth is, it might be web content, a document, a post, an email…name it. So that all of this can reside in ONE huuuuuge container…come on.
  • There will never be one single digital communications or information management channel. No matter how many “one intranet” or “one company” or “MyXYZ” initiatives we run, there will be other channels that pop up in parallel, after it or were there to stay in the first place.

If that’s the reality, what we need is the:

Single Entry Point to the Truth

It would be the…how did one of my clients phrase it: everybody’s good morning.

The first touch point that guides you through the day. It show’s what’s going on, where people are dependent on input or things that need immediate attention. It would be the place that is directly connected to the user’s work day and business context and allows functions like Corporate Communications to sneak (relevant) messages into that context.

entrypoint

It could be called an aggregation layer, a wrapper or a portal. The name doesn’t matter – as long as it hasn’t been burned by previous initiatives and is better never mentioned in public anymore (Boogie Man…Boogie Man…Boo…….).

What we create is something that contributes to effectiveness (happy executives) and efficiency (happy employees). It would take away the digging, searching and crossing fingers that I got everything I need to “do things right the first time”.

digitalchannels

And it would be the place that would pick up from the business logic, the co-creation, the projects, the iterative work and turn the final items into corporate reference material.

So…does anyone got any thoughts on this? 🙂

Digital Transformation: Key Challenge & Winning Coalition (playing with relation & distance)

Summary: I got invited to give a little talk on Digital Transformation at a Swiss business school. As part of the preparation the guys provided me with a quadrant they use to locate initiatives around digital within organisations. Looking at the quadrant something struck me: I want to talk about “relational distance” of the digital roots from business operations for a moment…and maybe the root cause for where a lot of companies stand with the subject…so here we go:

A lot of my work and passion is connected to change management and leadership in the context of digitally transforming the more classic business models. I believe that companies that produce heavy machinery, furniture or chemical components won’t suddenly turn into the next Google, Facebook or Uber. In a lot if instances the vulnerability to disruption (unlike to Finance, Insurance, Trade & Services) looks different. However, I am not saying that they aren’t vulnerable but that it’s less coming from the re-invention of their source of business but from a change in the digital maturity of their competitive and market eco system.

AAAAANYWAY…

Because I am dealing with classic business models a lot I am frequently being asked the question: what’s the set-up that we need to make this digital thing a success? While preparing for my little gig at a Swiss business school I was confronted with the following quadrant:

quadrant_only

It’s a model the students use to locate initiatives for digital transformation or organisational development. Looking at it I realised something weird…and it’s weird because it has literally NO academical angle. It’s imply the position of where digital (no matter if externally or internally facing) has it’s roots:

quadrant

If you were interpreting the model from a pure “relations” and “distance” perspective, one could say: Marketing & (Brand) Communications has the least direct impact on the key factors (grey). In between “talking about it” are always

  • come up with new stuff (light blue)
  • get stuff done (green)
  • make sure stuff works well (dark blue).

If you now carefully look from where a lot (if not the majority) of digital initiatives are created, driven, led and maintained you could say: digital happens TO FAR AWAY from the actual business logic.

Even the role of “Chief Digital Officers” (or similar functions) have a strong, if not implicit or organisational connection to Marketing, Communications, Branding & Co. in a lot of instances. Not saying everywhere…but it’s not really far fetched, is it?

The Winning Coalition of “Digital”

Changing the perspective on the quadrant (aka tipping it) you could actually put the group of functions on top of it that would be critical to make digital a real success.

winning-coalition

Doing this, however, would require that all those representatives have understood what “digital” means for their building block of the business model (useful as well: business model canvas). Automatically the need for anything like a “Chief Digital Officer” would vanish because together they will be able to judge the digital potential along their value chain and act on it accordingly.

If you now put leaders on top that have the same level of understanding and believe for digital, you’d be in a very very good and promising place. You’d have the foundation for leading, implementing and evolving digital transformation directly connected to business model and operations: the Winning Coalition of Digital.

Maybe I will use this as an answer the next time I’m asked the question 🙂

 

My digest of the 2016 Social Business Collaboration (Berlin)

Summary: This year’s SBC was primarily about change. Once in a while you actually got the feeling of being at a Human Resources conference. But as fairy dust there were a couple of presentations that stood out because they provided a new angle on a couple of things. Telenor reported on their experience with Facebook@Work. Jen Regruth Crites (@jen_k_crites) talked about actually “branding” a new IT solution. Laurence Fourcade from Kelios gave a striking presentation on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace. Europa-Park shared the insight how social connects the “unconnected” bees with a new software called “BeeKeeper”. And I am only mentioning a product here, because I really like a few aspects of their approach because of my work for the industrial manufacturing industry…and without further ado, here we go:

We knew it for some time. Finally everyone is acting on it.

Let me keep this short and crisp: “social” finally got its emphasis in real life. The days of IT-driven initiatives seem to be over for good. Literally everyone on stage made it clear that without properly orchestrating the symphony of change management, SBC (or business IT in general) initiatives simply are destined to fail.

  • Leadership needs to believe in and sponsor the efforts
  • Senior and middle management has to play an active role in the process
  • People have to be guided and taken on the journey in order to allow the new ways of working to really take effect

And the journey of change isn’t one of “campaigns” and “visionary promises” anymore. It’s about tangible value and a close connection to what people need help with. It’s about empowerment and allowing talent to really contribute its value to what the organisation wants to achieve.

All success stories that were presented this year showed, how essential the three bullets above were. Henry Haijes from ABM AMRO even added a slight twist to the culture/strategy quote from Peter Drucker:

Same goes for driving change throughout the entire organisation. Paul from the European Commission actually have a really compelling presentation on what it means to make sure that everyone is on board.

To use trainings as an opportunity for dialogue is really really smart.

Now let’s move on to the fairy dust…

  1. Facebook@Work at Telenor
  2. The P&G heritage: branding as a success driver for IT tool roll-outs
  3. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace
  4. Keeping the bees involved…

1. Facebook@Work at Telenor

John Alphonse gave a pretty compelling presentation about their “roll-out” of Facebook@Work. For me the story was particularly exciting because it was literally the first company to report on their experience. Essence: it seems to work really well after some serious ramp-up efforts.

After Facebook worked very(!) closely with Telenor to get all set-up for enterprise readiness and prepare of an official data security audit, an audit Telenor & FB passed in attempt #1, which is probably one of the most impressive things I took home from Berlin. Not though, that FB passed the test impressed me here, but actually the fact that FB actively worked with Telenor and used their help and advise to gear up for the requirements of the enterprise world.

The 2nd interesting angle John reported on was, that FB@Work actually started in the world of Telenor’s Shadow IT. You know Shadow IT: it’s what the official IT department cannot keep up with on people’s laptops, tablets and smartphones (…long live the cloud). Telenor, however, has decided that they want to be inspired by their Shadow IT and that they will keep investigating new options for business solutions that have been “tried” by voluntary guinea pigs.

As part of my World Café Hans Dekker (@hansdekker) from IKEA even suggested that it makes total sense to actually actively encourage Shadow IT. He believes that allocating accountability to people and putting them in charge of finding new and better options outside the standard governance is rather an opportunity than a threat. Quite frankly: I think he’s spot on. With a certain set of reasonable rules this might actually be the solution to one of the key challenges of IT organisations: herding cats.

Thirdly John added a little detail: communication, exchange & networking (formal, informal, project) happens in FB@Work – Documents are managed in SharePoint. Literally all vendors that were mentioned had their short coming in document handling. So Telenor employees were simply encouraged to post links to SP in the FB conversations:

In Facebook@Work the main part of conversations happens in (open & closed) groups – in contrary to the private version, in which the majority of posts are in the public/main feed.

I wonder if Microsoft ever considers the fact that they seem to stay (very) dominant in the “enterprise information management” part and that they should leave the field of “social glue” to the ones that know the real deal. However, after still not 100% delivering on a Yammer vision, maybe the acquisition of LinkedIn could add some momentum here. Who knows. Time will tell…

2. The P&G heritage: branding as a success driver for IT tool roll-outs

Jen Regruth Crites (@jen_k_crites) reported on how her Procter & Gamble learnings helped to support the roll out of a new IT tool. She simply asked the question: if a brand helps commercial organisations to differentiate and emphasise value, why shouldn’t IT departments apply this to delivering their “product” to employees. Jen answered that question with a striking presentation on how a well branded IT tool roll-out can make an impact: 6 months in the following KPI pretty much speak for itself:

  • 54% of users recall the brand (starting from 3%)
  • 375k EUR savings
  • 83% Net Promotor Score
  • Active requests for MORE to the IT department

So FrieslandCampina (her gig at the time of the project) actually applied the Marketing 101 by the text book and even came up with a claim for the new UCC service:

Digital Meetings. Be there without going there.

3. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace

Laurence Fourcade’s (Keolis Group) presentation touched my inner beliefs when it comes to the value drivers of the future Digital Workplace:

Driving content quality will deliver search experience.

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Keolis really approached the submission of documents to the intranet from a SEO driven angle and they tried to drive awareness for content IMPACT. For each item readers (online consumption) and downloads are displayed. Doing this actually can help editors or content owners to understand if the information provided has any reach (or relevance) within the organisation. You could even go as far as “x readers, no downloads” could stand for “na, this isn’t what I was looking for” from a searching point of view. Combined with the search query we’d enter a complete new game of content relevance and quality management.

Laurence made it clear as well that the UX for the upload interface is essential to the success of the approach. Thereby she made clear, that AGAIN the people are in the centre of all thinking, because an easy and intuitive upload mechanism that enforces SEO relevant aspects has to be user centric. Thereby the user (here the editor) is clearly the success factor that needs to be catered to.

The fact that I had at least 3 other in-depth conversations on Enterprise Search and search in general at the conference shows that it’s still one of THE subjects companies are struggling with. And I am still flabbergasted by Estée Lauder’s guts to actually run a “re-work” of their search index…from scratch. It’s one of the presentations that will stick to my mind for quite some time.

4. Keeping the bees involved…

I’ve always enjoyed working for industrial manufacturing clients. To guide organisations that usually perceive digital transformation as the next SAP roll-out into the world and value of information and knowledge work is very rewarding… However, there is one key challenge that still hasn’t been addressed properly: how do we keep the blue collar work force involved? They don’t have a PC or a user account. They often don’ even have an e-mail address. Two things the majority of current solution require (as an either or) to actually get someone on-boarded to the party.

Anselm Müller from the Europa Park theme parks presented their approach to keeping the bees connected with a new software called “Beekeeper“. Authentication does not go through AD or similar services. It’s rather a “sign up” service, which gives full control over content and access to the maintaining organisation. In it’s core it’s a social network with streams, groups and all.

The adoption of employees at Europa Park confirms the expectations and now the organisation even considers to gradually say “goodbye” to its conventional intranet. I cannot wait for that success story to hit a stage…

***

So far for my little digest. The summary of my World Café session on driving people and corporate value with the Digital Workplace” will follow soon. So, stay tuned…

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The DWP Audience

If you need a Chief Digital Officer, you’re probably doomed…

Summary: I’ve deliberately chosen the title to be a little *smile provocative. Of course I don’t mean it literally but where’s smoke there’s fire. So this article is about my very personal angle on the role of a CDO…more or less.

Maybe I need to say that McKinsey Quarterly isn’t my only inspirational source. However, I’ve learnt to appreciate their triggers to summarise some of my experience and complement it with their almost academical angle on my little digital world.

Unfortunately we have to make you our Chief Digital Officer

One of my colleagues at Infocentric just recently forwarded me a McKinsey article on “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”. Reading the article I actually reflected a little on my perception of organisations that decided to install a CDO as part of their Digital Transformation strategy.

Let me make a brutal statement: Digital, Social, Transformation, Web… whatever Officer. Whoever decided to invent those titles gave in to two things:

  • Our DNA is not able to embrace the digitalising world and we need someone with an (compared to us) attitude and unorthodox behaviour
  • Our Shareholders need to believe that we do something about the danger of disruption – we need a change on board level without changing anything

Again, provocative…maybe it’s the core of my article and therefore its real purpose: I want to provoke!

McKinsey put’s the famous quote

If you digitalise a shit process, you end up with a shit digital process

(Thorsten Dirks, CEO Telefonica Germany)

into a different frame: “(…) Many companies are focused on developing a digital strategy when they should instead focus on integrating digital into all aspects of the business, from channels and processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture. (…)” (Source: “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”, McKinsey, September 2015).

Digital Transformation means to embrace digital in all its, sometimes even disruptive opportunities. Disruption is nothing but the merciless elimination of something that was pushed into “outdated” by a new eco system anyway. Sometimes it happens to entire business models. Sometimes “only” an IT, communications or customer interaction strategy will be affected by it.

If you need some bearded guy with thick rimmed glasses that wears suit and trainers to tell you that you need to address the new requirements to your business model or strategy, you might have not done your home work…per se. Like in: the people that are in charge have somewhat left touch with the outside world and how things are moving forward. That’s a pretty rough sign in general.

Learn to fail

Looking at my past years in Digital Transformation I can say with confidence that very rarely companies allow themselves to really (really!) learn from mistakes. Try, fail, try again, fail harder and then succeed, however, is something that some companies have used to re-invent entire industries. We know them as the “new economy”. And the old economy is traveling to them from all over the world to learn on how to do things differently.

Now, for doing things differently a lot of paradigms and “measures of success” have to change in the first place. “Doing things right the first time” is something that companies should strive for…when it’s about the core of their business logic. When it comes to change, transformation and evolution, well, you might need a couple of iterations. No matter if you’ve been in charge of process design for 34 years, if you hold three PhDs in science or if you have been a sales over performer in three consecutive years. Sometimes you just don’t know straight away.

The way out: “Leading” a learning culture

I suggest that leaders and top managers start to use the phrase “I don’t know, I need to find someone who does.” more often. Because in an organisation with more than 50 people it’s pretty likely that there is someone who at least knows someone how knows. If you run a multi divisional, multi regional company…well, you do the math.

If leaders allow for bottom up change (not only preaching it, but actually nurturing it) then the phrase “I don’t know” can be magical. Suddenly you get the bits and pieces of your own DNA that could be the starting point of your change if you let it. Sometimes this is called “incubation”…but even that is more of a fig leave in too many cases.

For me “I don’t know” stands hand in hand with one of Franklin Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people:

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

It does not stand for weakness, disinterest or lack of competence. It’s merely the acknowledgement that real organisational power is built from a combination of many perspectives on the same subject. Like with a tribe…

Advisors are a sign that you actually care to learn

Alright, this might sound a little like a sales pitch for my profession. Nevertheless, if I look at people that have told me: “I didn’t know, so I brought someone to our conversation that actually does know”, I immediately developed a lot of respect for them. And I am not talking about external advisors anyway. Imagine if board & strategy meetings would (at least partly) be open for the digital or digitally savvy portion of the company. If the own digital DNA (no matter how small in numbers or young in age) would complement the decades of business and industry experience to take the next leap. Complement, not replace or push out or compete with.

I have seen companies like Swisscom go on stage in a combination of HR leadership, experienced digital transformers and  trainees. They showed how they, united as a team, take a stand for the transformation of organisation and business model. It was impressive and motivating at the same time.

I strongly believe that the winners of today’s competition for digital dominance will be the companies that don’t extend the board but transform the board.

You don’t need a CDO. You need a “C-Suite that is infected by and passionate about digital“.

My thoughts on boxes, construction sets & custom solutions.

Summary: As part of my work in the field of the Digital Workplace I get asked one question a lot (even though I am not really a technology expert): “It’s 2016. Can’t we just buy this as a box somewhere?”. My answer to that is always: “Depending on how flexible you are as an organisation and what you mean by ‘box’.” So, this article is my personal(!) angle on the three main options to deliver modern digital services (probably as blurry as communication & collaboration in its scope). Personal angle, because I am not an analyst and because I don’t have the ambition to come across as one. My point of view is primarily driven by my experience in projects when I represent the business side of things.

I sincerely believe that we are moving out of the age of proprietary and specification driven development. Two factors seem to influence this with tremendous momentum:

  1. The substantial change of quality SaaS (that’s what we used to call the cloud in the old days) provides on almost all levels: scope, easy-of-use, governance, performance, availability, evolution/roadmap, mobility etc.
  2. The lack of effectiveness in allocating OPEX and CAPEX to infrastructure and systems that aren’t remotely core to the source of business

A third seems to emerge as well: compliance. In various projects (and it feels like a trend already) business owners have made sure that data touched by the project is business critical but not regulated! This means that there is very little legal leverage to argue “cloud security” by principle. For non-regulated content it’s almost a guarantee that cloud vendors have a better angle on data security than the heavy metal t-shirted guys in your basement.

The most significant change in this new playground: requirements engineering.

To play with boxes or modular systems requires new rules. The best way to determine, if you play by these new rules, is to never need a specification. In the new world, requirements and processes have to adapt to the capabilities of the target infrastructure and solutions (or the combination of modules/solutions therein). There simply isn’t the option to ask for the button on the upper right instead of a text link on the lower left anymore. The designers of the box want it up there, and if you don’t like it: get another box!

Organisations have to even learn a different way of determining requirements. They have to leave wiggle room to ready-to-use services in order to address the requirements properly. That requires intellectual flexibility on all sides: business stakeholders as well as (internal) solution experts. Therefore new methods of requirements engineering and documentation are needed.

Let’s talk about the scenarios

The following part of this article will only refer to three scenarios but not solutions or platforms that might fall into those. Primarily because I don’t want this article to be perceived as “analyst material” but more importantly because the “modular” scenario can be built from more than one solution/platform/service.

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In order to provide the core content of this article in a somehow re-usable format I will use a structure: my take on each option divided by

  • non-DWP analogy
  • benefit
  • consequences
  • key questions in the business context

Firstly this structure will help to align my point of view with yours, the reader (most likely not always 100% matching). Secondly I want to provide inspiration for readers that are confronted with the decision between the scenarios and seek for additional input for the decision process.

Option1: Boxed

Analogy
You buy a space ship in a toy store. It’s called “space ship” and it comes in one piece – as a space ship.

Benefit
You know what you get. You know what to expect and so does everyone who’s going to play with you. If your play requires space travel, interstellar transport and artificial gravity, you’re all set.

Consequences
The play is limited to the context in which a space ship makes sense. To play “summer camp 2014” will require a lot of creativity in

  • framing (change management)
  • execution (user experience & add value)
  • adaption (requirements re-engineering)

Questions in a business context

  • Are your business requirements clear enough so that you can determine a (reasonable) match with a technology? Do you need a space ship?
  • Can everyone use the new box? (e.g.: do you infinite bandwidth everywhere?)
  • Have you made sure that “out of the box” doesn’t mean “out of the boxISH” in the vendor’s sale pitch? In German you say “Auslegungssache” ;o)
  • Do you know all the other boxes in your company? Do you know the boxes that will be brought in in the near future? Do you understand how things will play together or create redundancy?
  • Are your functional requirements flexible enough so that they can adapt to how things are done within the new box?
  • Is your organisational willing to change the current standards (processes, ways of working, guidelines etc.) so that YOU will be compliant with the new box (not the other way around)?

Option 2: Modular

Analogy
You buy a construction set to build a space ship. The set it build from some common standards and some space ship specific pieces. *

Benefit
You are way more flexible in your play. You can adapt the space ship depending on space ship play relevant factors. You don’t even have to use all pieces and still build a space ship. Some standards in the set will help you to address needs that aren’t specific to space ship plays.

Consequences
If you don’t follow the exact (child proof) plan on how to build the space ship you need the experience (not just the vision) on how to build a space ship. Not everything you can build from a space ship construction set will be a space ship, which might be confusing to others.

You need a solid understanding for the priorities in your space ship play, so that you can cater to them. If you leave pieces out you need a reason-why. If you leave out all the space ship specific pieces, there was no need to buy the set in the first place.

Questions in business context

  • Do you have a plan? (literally)
  • Do you have internal competence to work with and maintain construction sets? It is a different ball game compared to standard solution operations…
  • Have you matched your plan to the construction set?
  • If you leaves pieces out, do you have a reason-why for the ones that “always wanted something like that”?
  • If you start small, do you have a roadmap for adding the other pieces?
  • Does your construction set play well with other sets and boxes in your organisation? Does it have to?

Option 3: Custom

The following statements will make you feel that I am not necessarily a “custom” fan anymore. However, there can be good reasons to go fully customised. It’s all a matter of requirements engineering and cost/benefit analysis.

Analogy
You get some raw material and you build a space ship.

Benefit
It’s the space ship that fits a specification, which was built on known requirements. It’s yours. You are in charge, if you don’t sell and lease it back…

Consequences

  • Your requirements have to be spot on (correct and complete)
  • Your specification has to be spot on (correct and complete…and ideally tested)
  • Prioritised requirements automatically lead to a roadmap and release management. It’s good to have the future 1.5 releases in mind to avoid “cul-de-sacs”.
  • You better test your space ship before you fly off because it’s a brand new space ship

(Pragmatic) questions in business context

  • There is really no box out there that would fit your requirements? Really, really?
  • Is “custom” connected to the people in charge? (that’s always how we’ve done it)
  • Could you adjust your requirements to fit a box or a construction set?
  • Could you change (like in: processes, ways of working, etc.) to become more box or construction set compatible?
  • Could you win your CFO over to your team by creating a business case that sets out
    • benefits of generally changing “ways of working” (aka organisational evolution)
    • freed up CAPEX and OPEX for more core business focussed actions

 


“Modular” can stand for “built from multiple specialised/best of breed solutions” as well. The available eco system of services simply becomes the construction set.

IntraNET Reloaded 2016 – My key take away & the summary of my World Cafe session

Summary: I guess it’s fair to say “we did it again”. The European Digital Workplace and Intranet community had their annual “class reunion” in Berlin’s Kosmos Cinema to exchange honest experience, practice insight and progress at the 2016 IntraNET Reloaded. Reflecting on the conversations I had and the presentation I was able to attend there wasn’t a “next big thing” or obvious trend into a certain direction this year. However, things are getting more serious. The digital maturity in organisation has increased a lot and practitioners have left the age of try-out & guess work. It’s now about putting the past year’s experience to work and make the next evolution of the inside facing digital channels really count. Change is present everywhere. Change Management is not just a “need” anymore but has become a key element for the successful initiatives with a meaningful footprint. The conversation at my world cafe session on “Creating user and corporate value with the Digital Workplace”  was very insightful. It sparked a lot of exchange and inspiration amongst the participants on how to motivate the various stakeholder levels to join the alliance on the way forward.

For detailed “Twitter Minutes” of the sessions (yes, the tweets are more or less up to that standard) check out #intrelEU as the conference’s hashtag. The following is my little summary of the event. I’ve split the post in two sections

  1. My key take away from the two days of sharing and exchange
  2. The summary of my World Café Session on the DWP Value Proposition(s)

My presentation on Effectiveness can be found on SlideShare:

My Key Take Away from Two Days of Sharing and Exchange

After this year’s conference the separation of (internal) communication and collaboration seems more artificial than ever. To enrich top down, bottom up or cross border information flow with communication, interaction and social engagement has become almost a standard. When it comes to governance it’s amazing to see how “control” has changed to “sustainability” for internal assets. What has been the need to control every bit of information provided to the organisation is now the ambition to make sure that the right people get the right information at the right time (aka relevance) and that we keep building a strong foundation for enterprise search.

If I remember right there was almost no mention of “social” being the driver of relevance this year. The aspects of meta data management and taxonomy seemed more present than ever. “Rubbish in, rubbish out” has moved from a statement to an accepted reality to drive search quality and experience. Also the need to provide dashboards with tiny little boxes that users can drag around seems to have vanished. No more portals. No more internal MyYahoo!’s anymore.

Mobility…

…is definitely a requirement for many and even creates business cases for award winning new applications like Orchard. There is an increased awareness for the case and value add behind mobile communication and collaboration and which service to which extend has to be fully optimised for mobile usage. Looking at this from my experience I couldn’t agree more. “Everything mobile” (aka mobile first) in the enterprise context simply is an investment that probably won’t pay off quickly.

It will be interesting to see how the mobile DWP will develop balancing “responsive design” of web based elements with dedicated Apps for specific services and interaction. In particular when components/modules in the PC based DWP are already delivered through an App based model.

The Cloud…

…has left it’s “something for when we don’t have to worry about legal and compliance any more” stage for good. The adaption or even migration to the cloud is present in many cases. What comes with this change of “infrastructure” is a recognisable move away from customisation. Whoever is dealing with e.g. Office 365/SharePoint has learned from the past. On premise services still show the ambition to “hide” as much of the native software as possible. The cloud solutions however don’t try to hide but rather take advantage of the new richness in functionality, mobility and OOB apps.

Change & Change Management…

…is a key topic for the ones that are in for real impact. Some outstanding cases on change management:

Merck moved the ambassador and change manager role to a “job enrichment” level and claimed the folks taking care of guiding others to be “rock stars”.

They used the reference of living in a “smart city” when it comes to using a Digital Workplace (which kind of reminded my of my 2015 analogy to “City Planning” (at the end of the post)).

Holcim Lafarge pointed out how a merger could drive the need behind a new Digital Workplace.

KBC’s Geert Vandezande from Belgium gave an impressive presentation on how to establish awareness for change, implement the right alliances and use the power of the crowd to implement it.

Work Out Loud

@CallewaertFilip ran an extensive session on the subject. Across the entire conference “working out loud” was a theme in one way or another. Digital Workplaces or modern intranets have a clear job to do: connect people, make knowledge accessible, get experience and best practice back into the daily business. Just the “daily routine” cannot be the “loud” in working. We have to surface our assets from below the line and make it accessible to the right audience.

But: is there a too loud? I personally don’t believe there is… There is only a lack of relevance steering and information management, if people cannot tune in and out of their favourite or most critical channels and/or subjects with ease.

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My Summary of the World Café on “Value Propositions”

worldcafeintro

My little intro to the session stands for the three general layers that value propositions have to be created for. On each layer value can be created for the individual(s) as well as for the area of responsibility of that individual. E.g. you can make the CFO’s life easier in two ways. Firstly, by supporting the CFO’s individual daily work and responsibilities with services that make it easer for his/her to reach personal objectives, secondly, by making sure that existing knowledge is re-used and put into force as often as possible in order to avoid redundant efforts (aka effectiveness).

Two aspects were particularly important:

  • Middle Managers need support for their own work day as well. The DWP’s value proposition cannot just lie in the enablement of the organisation they are responsible for. A lot of them have a tough job with more work than the day has hours. Let’s help them out…
  • The difference between a value proposition (e.g. feedback & best practice culture) and a resonating value proposition (e.g. the ability for retail front line staff to report on the effectiveness of new in-store marketing campaigns) lies in how well they land with the audience. The better we listen to our target groups and stakeholders the more likely we will deliver something meaningful and relevant to their actual work.

The following image is the (enriched) transcript of our session board. The top row contains four inspirational statements, the bottom part contains the collected essence from our conversation. I’ve tried to create four clusters in order to provide a little structure to the content. A PDF version of the mind map can be downloaded here.

My favourite statements were the following:

  • Be honest. Never promise “perfect”, “100%” or “everything”. We have to learn to openly talk about continuous improvement, iterative development and the “learning organisation” (incl. the DWP)
  • The Digital Workplace can act like a suspension between people and business process whenever work reality deviates from the set standard
  • Make sure that you decide on the right messenger for the right value proposition to specific people or groups…not everyone can talk to everyone. And this is not meant in terms of hierarchy.
  • People need to feel change, it has to be tangible. And they need to feel that they’ve been really listened to in the first place. Maybe try some “active listening” techniques in the requirements engineering phase…

And at the end of the day: think about your customers. The more effective, productive and content people are at work the more time they will have to deal with the really important thing: customer satisfaction.

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