Change: It’s Crazy Out There

Change: It’s Crazy Out There

October 10, 2015

One of the largest forces that influences all business people today is change. In my lifetime, change started as something that was to be avoided if possible. Then, change initiatives came along but they had to be signed off by many people in the organization. Next came the urgency for vision and leadership to change through strategy and operational processes. About the time when the internet was introduced, change had become a constant, and some large existing organizations became “dinosaurs” and were being out-competed by nimble startup’s or more adaptable organizations. Today, however, the ever-present rapid change is accelerating all the time, and business must find ways to respond. Even the “expert” on change said in an interview that changing organizations is changing. John Kotter who wrote about change in large organizations, and is one of the world’s leaders in change management: “In the macro sense, the biggest thing happening today is that the rate of change continues to increase, […]

Factors that Allow for (Effective) Collective Intelligence

Factors that Allow for (Effective) Collective Intelligence

October 5, 2015

We recently had an opportunity to visit with our friends at The Barnabas Group, who is an organization devoted to helping pair up ministry organizations with the knowledge of local leaders. These organizations come to the organization with a need and local business community members brainstorm solutions and volunteer to help on the spot. We were amazed at how the business community quickly ideated innovative solutions to very difficult problems in this kind of forum. It got us thinking… If creating collective intelligence is so important, what then are the keys to success? What are common barriers? In another post, we wrote about the five core dimensions to collective intelligence. From our POV, these are the fundamentals that allow collective intelligence to emerge. But it’s more nuanced than that and it’s worth discussing additional factors that are critical to success. In our experience (and what we witnessed largely via The Barnabas Group event), here’s a list of factors that lead […]

Five Dimensions to Collective Intelligence

Five Dimensions to Collective Intelligence

October 2, 2015

We talk a lot about the “collective” here. In fact, we named ourselves after it. And it’s because we firmly believe that all of us are better than one of us. That being said, I think many of us have had experiences where we witnessed the opposite happening – more of us was actually worse than one of us. Why does that happen? That question has led me to understand the importance of five primary dimensions that allow collective intelligence to successfully emerge. Technology. These are the tools we use to store and share knowledge. Wikis, social nets, task management systems, are good examples. When people discuss collective intelligence, they are often talking about tools at this level. But tools alone won’t get it done. Rituals. These are the interactions between team members that allow knowledge to flow and transfer. Things like after-action reviews (“post-mortems”) and Knowledge Cafes are examples. Said another way, this is the “people working with people” […]

The Power of Networks in Business

The Power of Networks in Business

September 14, 2015

Not long ago, the only way that the word network was used pertained the four major television networks. Today, it undergirds so much that we do on a daily basis. The power of networks is growing exponentially, and is now considered critical to the operating of a business. One story will illustrate this reality. A well known law firm hired a number of rookie students straight out of law school, and gave them cubicles right next to each other. They were given the typical work that brand new lawyers were given, as they began earning their way into more prominent positions in the firm. They were expected to bill a target number of hours for the firm, and therefore were given that level of tasks and assignments to accomplish. They did this with excellence, but the CFO noticed that the billable hours were significantly lower than what the last set of rookie lawyers had billed, yet they were accomplishing all […]

Why are they not buying our stuff anymore?

Why are they not buying our stuff anymore?

August 15, 2014

A client I knew well began to see a pattern in sales that she had never seen before. Her brand was one of the top winners in her field because of the superior performance of her products over the competition for several years. Her sales team would use this advantage when approaching retail outlets about stocking their superior product lines. Then something began to fundamentally change, as her sales numbers went through a steep drop in orders coming from retail outlets. As she probed deeper with her sales force, a new insight became obvious. Although her brand still had superior performance in her field, other brands began to differentiate themselves by their image of being socially responsive in the market place. They had started using non-toxic substances in their products, and their commitment to reducing their footprint by recycling used product in productive ways had increased dramatically their market share. This is becoming a more familiar story in many circles […]

Great leaders also know where their organizations are not capable

June 5, 2014

One of the most exciting times in a company’s history is when it begins to grow, grow, grow. One of the most stressful times is when you begin stabilize, slowdown, or stop growing. I have worked with a number of organizations in the area of moving into growth again, after being stalled. One of them was a successful manufacturer in the Twin Cities area that had a long, very successful run in growth because they were excellent at what clients needed. It was the envious position as a business that could raise their prices when revenue seemed to be lagging to make up the loss in sales. However, there came a change in the management of the organization, and I was asked to help analyze the vital signs of the company. It turned out, although successful, they had become over 75% dependent on one organization as their customer, and this customer had begun to use reverse auctions to lower prices […]

I am looking for a solution to my problem, not a department

I am looking for a solution to my problem, not a department

May 5, 2014

In Malcolm Gladwell’s new bestselling book, David and Goliath, he reinterprets our understanding of this classic story. He challenges our common narrative of David, who is the weak, undertrained. inexperienced ‘Shepard boy defeating the strong, clearly better trained and experienced Goliath view of this classic story. A Gladwell point out that David was as well trained in his weapon of choice as was Goliath, and he was much more flexible and adaptable to different battle conditions. Goliath, on the other hand, expected the rules of the game to be the conventional, toe to toe, which is stronger and tougher, battle to the death match with the biggest and strongest in the Israeli army. David, by choosing to change the basic structure of the encounter, running not face to face, long distance sling vs. short distance sword and shield, accuracy and speed vs. strength and force, turned what looked like disadvantages into advantages.  Like David’s defeat of Goliath, many of the […]

Culture is not a soft issue

Culture is not a soft issue

April 5, 2014

One of the issues that comes up time and time again, as I a cultural analysis on organizations, is the question of whether this area of the organization is important to consider, and if we do consider it, how can we change it anyway? My answer to the first question is definitive yes! Change initiatives, mergers and acquisitions, implementing strategic plans, to name just a few, rise and fall based on how the leaders have understood and prepared the organization(s) culture for the new direction. One example illustrates how crucial this part of the organization is to change. I was working with a very successful non-profit a few years ago, who were considering an acquisition of another organization to help widen their impact in the vertical market they were pursuing being the market leader. Many rationales were given for the strategic fit of this organization under the umbrella of the expanded, corporate presence of the organization. To name a few; […]

They’re not stocking cheese any more!

They’re not stocking cheese any more!

February 12, 2014

In Ken Favro’s December’s strategy and business post, he pointed to the rapid expansion of the word’s “business strategy” since 1980 on Google’s analysis of word usage – it has increased 900%! Business leaders are experiencing ever more rapid change in their particular area, and realize that strategic thinking is no longer captured in 5 year projections, or depending on competitive advantage lasting even a full business cycle. A few stories from the field will help. I was working with a person who recently was hired as CEO of a successful software firm. They had a big success in one area of software, and had invested 12 million in creating a parallel product, which they have asked this new leader to ramp out. The problem he wanted me to address was the reality that he could find no opening set of buyers who wanted to buy the solution they had created. Talking with potential customers revealed that they didn’t want […]

What if the problem you face is nobody’s fault?

What if the problem you face is nobody’s fault?

February 5, 2014

The most unlikely consulting contract I have ever embarked on started with nearly a shouting match between me and the Board of Directors. They had asked me to review the situation, and make a proposal to work with them to solve their crises. Essentially, half the Board had decided they had enough grievances against the CEO that they were ready to firm him tomorrow. The other half felt long term loyalty to him because he had built the organization from scratch and almost single handily had made it into the large successful institution it was today. After reviewing many parts of the situation, I suggested to them that the root of the problems they were facing had very little to do with the CEO, and much more to do with the system and processes they created to lead the organization. I pointed to a stage of organizational life where the systems and processes of operating the company must go through […]