Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5 Leadership Lessons from the Brazilian Meltdown

Germany 7: Brazil 1 (FIFA World Cup Semi Final 1)

1.The Game Is Not Over Till It Is Over: Play till the End.

While the Germans even after building an unassailable lead of 7-0 were playing as if the game was to last another 90 minutes; the Brazilians had essentially given up after the first few goals were scored against them.
Turnarounds are possible in any game.......and in business and life.
For a successful leader the zeal to recover from losses, regroup and fight till the end with an indomitable spirit needs to exist at all times.

2. All for One, One for All: No First Among Equals.

Over-hyping the contributions of some players like Neymar and Thiago Silva made the team mentally over-dependent on them resulting in a situation where the team was psychologically undermined when these players were not available to play in the final game.
A successful leader needs to acknowledge and recognize key contributors but not at the cost of undermining the efficiency and efficacy of the entire team. No one is indispensable and the game need to go on even if some key players are missing should be the mantra.

3. Manage Expectations.

The Brazilian Coach had done nothing to temper the unrealistic expectations that had been created for the home team. The weight of the nation’s expectations was like an albatross around the team-member’s necks. Contrast this with the approach taken by the US coach who had right at the outset of the tournament stated that there was no chance of his team winning (much to the chagrin of US sports-media pundits). However, as a result every win of the US team was a bonus for the fans.
A successful leader needs to manage the expectations of the stakeholders, ground them in reality and also shield the team from the unreasonableness.

4. Be Flexible, Creative and Responsive: You are only as good as your Plan B.

The Brazilian team failed to respond flexibly and creatively to the German onslaught. They seemed to be caught in a warped game-plan and were not able to modify it once they saw it unraveling.
Successful leaders war-game different scenarios and the options to switch between them. Even if the real life scenario may turn out to be different, the practiced ability to switch between scenarios will come in handy. Very rarely will a one trick pony come out on top.

5. Stay Calm, Stay Focused and Execute.

Unfortunately the game played out to the stereotypical “Emotional Brazilian” vs. “Methodical German”.
I am not sure wearing ones emotions on one’s sleeves is the best approach for high stress scenarios. One may ascribe the display of emotions to socio-cultural reasons but there is something to be said about staying focused and keeping the emotions bottled up till after the game when they can be all let out.
Successful leaders have the ability to channelize their teams emotions – anger, sadness, joy towards achieving the goal at hand rather than wasting that energy on unproductive displays.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cars, Car Dealers and Service

First published as a web-essay in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

One thing even a child would know about, even before they learn about U.S. presidents, is the names of the owners of car dealerships in the area. Their presence is ubiquitous on billboards, television advertisements, radio jingles, newspaper inserts. Name a media outlet and you'll find them there — the loud guy, the father-daughter duo, the family of color, the animal lover, etc., etc.
Their very presence is supposed to be an indication of their willingness to stand behind the product and their store, per se. A reassurance to the customer that they are not dealing with a faceless impersonal behemoth which a large auto company can be; but with the owners' smiling charm.
Is this for real? Or is this veneer of personal touch just there to lull us into a false sense of complacence? My car was in a dealership recently and I was appalled by the poor service. I thought I would reach out to the "friendly" owners whose names grace the dealership and whose faces smile at me from countless hoardings. A request for the email address or phone number of the owner was greeted by a surprised silence. The person on the phone reacted as if she had just come across an extraterrestrial. Well, the least I had expected was that a ghost email or phone would have been set up for the owners, so that requests such as this could be passed along to them or their minions for addressing. Looks like customer service, like beauty, is just skin deep.
For my next car I will look for the owner who is willing to place his direct email or phone number where his/her mugshot is. You may not answer in person but at least I will have the reassurance that you care enough to be reachable (if only through your staff).
If not, you're just a pretty face which has no bearing on where I buy my car or get it serviced. And I'll be another one joining the clamor to allow new cars to be sold on the Internet like almost everything else. A distant behemoth is as good as a near but unreachable owner.

Monday, June 30, 2014

O Enterprise Architecture Where Art Thou?

Does your Enterprise Architecture Organization have the ability to respond to disruptive forces?

Gartner defines Enterprise Architecture (EA) as “a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes”.
Key to this definition is the part related to “responses to disruptive forces”. However it is my experience that in most organizations EA focuses on establishing a long term end-state strategic vision and then directing Information Management/Information Technology teams establish and adhere to strategic roadmaps to realize that vision.
Somewhere in this process the “responses to disruptive processes” gets missed out.The miss is often due to the fact that the EA processes are geared to operate like a large Aircraft Carrier (very robust and reliable, but difficult to make course corrections) whereas the response to disruptive forces needs to be with the agility of a speedboat. Some of these disruptive processes if overlooked can have potential cataclysmic implications ("Big Bang Disruption" by Larry Downes and Paul F. Nunes, Harvard Business Review, March 2013)
I strongly recommend that EA organizations in addition to their regular mandate also assume the mantle of Technology/Trends Impact Forecasting and Assessment. Some may say that it would be a tall order. Sensitizing business and technology teams to the potential impacts of say Bitcoins as a payment medium , when the teams are still plodding through their roadmap to get their systems, processes and technologies aligned for handling regular bank or credit card transactions seems far-fetched indeed.
However if companies want to ensure that their Architecture is not rendered obsolete or anachronistic by the “disruptive forces” unleashed by a Big Bang Disrupter they need to prevent these forces from having a revolutionary effect and transform the impact into an evolutionary one by ensuring that the Technology/Trends Impact Forecasting and Assessment Framework focuses on
- early identification of emerging trends/technologies
- what-if /SWOT analysis to identify impact on existing business/strategic architecture/strategic roadmaps
- identify opportunities to leverage the emerging trend/technologies
- Modify long term EA/strategic roadmaps appropriately
- get "co-opted" into the evolution process
- ride the evolutionary wave and reap the benefits.-
If EA has to do justice to what Gartner describes as “steer decision making toward the evolution of the future state architecture” it would need to be in a position to predict and maneuver around or in alignment with disrupters.

Does your EA organization have that ability?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People..........spell guaranteed FAILURE

You may have read Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". It's time now to look at the 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People. Habits which spell guaranteed FAILURE! :

Fragmented thought processes: Lack of focus, inability to link disparate thoughts into coherent action plans, procrastination.
Argumentative behavior: needless arguments. may strive to win a "battle" even if that results in losing the "war".
Irascibility: easily provoked into anger. lack of self-control. Alienate stakeholders.
Losing attitude: lacking the "Can Do" spirit. Ready to give up even before starting or at the first sight of trouble.
Under utilizing resources: Unable to effectively utilize available resources- time, money, manpower. "Penny wise Pound foolish".
Risk averse: Do not move off the beaten track.
Egotistical: I, me, my, mine are their favorite words.
The word FAILURE! is written all over them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Musings : Of a Bridge and Enterprise/Solution Architecture

Musings : Of a Bridge and Enterprise/Solution Architecture!

Few days ago during the daily commute caught an NPR radio program ("A Big Bridge in the Wrong Place") where the radio-journalist was trying to find out the reason why the Tappan Zee Bridge in NYC is located at the broadest point on the river (despite higher cost of construction , more difficult build, extra fuel consumed etc.) when more narrower spots are available downstream. 

The reason it turns out is that any point downstream from where it is currently located would have taken it into Port Authority jurisdiction rather than NY State jurisdiction. That would have resulted in all the tolls going to the Port Authority. Something which NY State did not want.

Well, that's not the first or last time a sub-optimal decision has been taken due to extraneous reasons. But now, since all the infrastructure surrounding the bridge has come up at this current "broad" location any future enhancements would need to be made at current site despite the long length. Drives up costs considerably!

What's all this got to do with Enterprise/Solution Architecture? For me it was a reminder that a sub-optimal platform decision/solution design/tool choice now esp. if driven by extraneous factors will not only be sub-optimal now but will continue to drive sub-optimality down the years too as the cost of correcting a poor decision will become prohibitive. That's not counting the extra maintenance costs ("fuel charges"). 

Moral of the story: Build your bridges where the river is narrow (aka make the correct architectural decisions or be prepared to spend extra down the road)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Satya Nadella, New Microsoft CEO's take on Innovation

Interesting insights into where Microsoft is headed with Innovation from the new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's first message to employees:

  •  Our industry does not respect tradition - it only respects innovation.
  •  We need to prioritize innovation that is centered on our core value of empowering users and organizations to "do more."
  • ...with every service and device launch going forward we need to bring more innovation to bear around these scenarios.

Some of this may resonate in other organizations too in context of breeding a culture of innovation. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Frugal Innovation/Jugaad #6: The World's Best Designed Pizza Box

The World's Best Designed Pizza Box
(Excerpted from Quartz. Follow link above)
most pizza boxes are ineffective because they have holes on the side to release steam—but the heat is actually released from the top and bottom of the piesMehta’s solution is simple.
Cardboard, he explained consists of three layers: two flat surfaces and one ridged corrugated sheet in between. VENTiT boxes have holes in the two flat surfaces, but not in the middle layer. This permits steam to travel through the grooves in the middle corrugated layer, without getting trapped inside the box. More importantly, no additional material is required to manufacture the box. 

Now this is what I call a real "Jugaadoo" based on Jugaad (Frugal Innovation), repurposing something with minimal resources and making it significantly better while addressing a "steaming" need! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

R.I.P. Content, Long Live Apps! : The next BIG disruption

Couple of days ago I came across Pratik Dholakiya's blogpost "Why Apps Will Dethrone Content as King of Digital Marketing" which had couple of interesting graphics:

Pratik makes a strong evidence based case for bidding farewell to the static web:

The sites with the best tools have almost always dominated the web, but this is changing from something we expect from elites to something we expect from every corner of the net. As we move away from the PC and onto our mobile devices, we increasingly find web browsers dull and boring compared to the immersive experience of apps.
Apps are the future of marketing. Don't say I didn't warn you.
And today I came across another interesting blog post with corraborating evidence. This time it is Philip Elmer-DeWitt's blog post : Apple's App Store: 'The insidious march of a disruptor". Here's a graphic from his piece which says it better than words:

He says:

To state the obvious: iTunes music downloads are down while downloads of apps are up sharply: 35% year over year and 50% in December alone.
He extensively quotes from Horace Dediu's : Of Bits and Big Bucks

Is this enough evidence?

Is the writing on the wall?

Are apps ready to be the disruptors dislodging other digital content for our entertainment time share. If yes, are marketers, content creators and others ready for it?

Who are going to be the big gainers or losers when the big shake out driven by this disruption happens?  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Social Media 101: When Social Media meets a Burger

Twitter: I am eating a Burger.
facebook: I like Burgers.
YouTube: This is how I eat my Burger.
LinkedIn: My skills include Burger eating.
Instagram: Here's a classic picture of my Burger.
Blog: Here's my Burger eating experience.
Pinterest: Here's a Burger recipe.
Four Square: This is where I eat Burgers.
Snapchat: What Burger? you're too late.

Adapted from a comment I saw on LinkedIn. Can you think of any more to add?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Customer focused Information Architecture/Enterprise Architecture - A Commonsense Approach

I was in a conversation recently with a Fortune 500 manager handling Voice of the Customer (VOC) initiatives. I think she just needed  to vent steam. 

The gist of her story was that she felt her company was not treating customers right, making them run through hoops to get even basic information to help them understand their invoices and on and on. 

The processes and systems were not structured to deal effectively and efficiently with customer requests for information. 

“I would not want to be my own customer” is what she said as she described how on the personal front she had switched a vendor for providing the type of service her company was providing its customers.  

My question to her was how does the company treat its own employees? Do they have to run through hoops to get information, get claims reimbursed etc.? The answer was a resounding “Yes”.  I was not surprised. 

My premise is that customer service like charity “begins at home”. The reason is not just semantics or platitudes but more nuts and bolts. Organizational DNA has an information architecture strand. It remains same whether it is dealing with external customers or with internal employees. 

It is very unlikely that a company with excellent  internal processes would have lousy customer facing ones and vice-versa.

How can organizations get their Information Architecture right? My answer is “with some COMMONSENSE”, by building an architecture, systems and processes which focus on :

·                     Collaboration – “Can we all work together ?”
Are people, systems, processes, technologies working in a collaborative way? Does the architecture support that? Has it emerged from that?
Ownership and Oversight - “Who is minding the candy store? ”
Governance, Stewards
Mediation – “ Can we get a referee ? ”
Who breaks the tie of conflicting information needs? How?
Maintain  - “Houston! We’ve got a problem”
Does the architecture facilitate trouble shooting, problem solving?
Open- “Help yourself”
Does the architecture facilitate users/customers helping themselves? Does it help in monetizing new value streams?
New – “ What have you done for me lately”
Does the architecture showcase new and emerging trends? Does it have the flexibility to leverage them?
Strategic – “ Boldly go where no man has gone before”
How effective is the architecture in enabling the future state vision for the organization
Enterprise wide- “ whole kit and caboodle”
Can the architecture be scaled for the entire organization?
Necessary – “Keep the lights on”
Does it ensure that  legacy systems stay operational and can be leveraged to the extent possible
Scout, Speed, Scalable, Selective - “We are the Special Forces”
Does it allow innovation : a small "Special Forces" contingent which can quickly scout new options , build prototypes, execute limited precision deployments for a selected target audience. Focus is on 4 S's : Scout, Speed, Scaleable and Selective.
Evolutionary: Parameters, Process, Performance – “Go with the flow”
Plan, Build, Run: The larger "Infantry" component focuses on scaling up some of the early wins of the Special Forces component , establishes a process framework around it and launches them for mass deployment. Focus is on 3 P's: Parameters, Process, Performance.

And if organizations do not get these right, they end up with:

Conflicting priorities and resource allocations
Rapid growth of unorganized data and inability to deal with emergence of newer technologies
Arbitrary decision making focused on the short-term/tactical rather than the strategic
Political jockeying amongst departmental heads in the organization and within IT departments resulting in sub-optimal decision making.

Needless to add, this results in crappy service for both external customers and internal employees.

But as they say “Commonsense is very uncommon”

Rochester, not 2 cities but Rochester: One City. For All.

I was one of the two guest essayists for op-ed pieces in the Sunday (Jan 5, 2014) issue of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (highlighting the inauguration of the new mayor - Lovely Warren's term).

The other guest essayist was Joe Seligman (President, Univ. of Rochester). His essay "A new way forward" focused on the need to further strengthen the symbiotic relationship between the University of Rochester and the City of Rochester.

My own piece "No more two cities"  focuses on the need to move beyond the divisiveness of the electoral campaign ("two cities") to a new paradigm (Rochester: One City. For All.). A message which can resonate well with other cities too (esp. New York City where the contest also saw the "two cities" theme play out.)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year Musings : "small data"- Is it the next BIG thing?

Every Yin has a Yang, Destruction has creation, BIG DATA should have small data, right?

 Lol, leaving metaphysics aside there indeed is "small data" and it could very well indeed be on the way to being the next BIG thing (am I stretching the pun too far?)

Researchers at Cornell NYC Tech describe it as "Small data are derived from our individual digital traces. We generate these data because most of us mediate or at least accompany our lives with mobile technologies." and have already figured out some uses for it esp. in the medical realm. They also talk about the need of this "trail of breadcrumbs" to be shared back with the users who create them rather than it being the preserve of the service providers only.

Think of a patient suffering from a debilitating disease who starts a new medication. An app based on the small data generated by his/her cellphone usage can detect that s/he is up and about at 7 am now instead of 10 am and notify the patient as well as the doctor about efficacy of the medication.Cool indeed.

Relevance to say a Printer/copier company? I would think that the clicks from meters on the printers which flow back to the company could be considered "small data" - bread crumbs generated during the process of usage of the printer. Right now they are primarily used to determine billing and replenishment of supplies etc. by the company. Stored up history of meter data could be viewed as "Big Data" - available to be mined for trends etc.

But could the "small data" itself be wrapped up and provided back to the customer as a monetized service? Copiers/printers proactively telling the users - " You are going to exceed your color print limit on this printer, better pick printer XYZ to minimize your monthly bill". I would think. yes. But then I may be getting ahead of myself. Lol, that's why I call these "musings".

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