Culture is Key?

 

 

I have found it extremely difficult to elicit a straightforward definition of Culture from most people; even Management Consultants. It is essentially three simple words:

Culture = Values, Beliefs & Assumptions

The above video is a 90 second abstract of the 2013 Culture & Change Management Survey conducted by Booz & Co. Their key findings are:

  1. Out of the 2200 business leaders interviewed all over the world, 84% aver that Culture is critical to business success and over 60% believe that Culture is more important than Corporate Strategy and Operating Model.
  2. Half of them believe that culture is badly mis-managed and under valued in their companies and the other half believe that Culture is not even on their agenda.

You can read the report and its findings using the following URL:

http://www.booz.com/global/home/what-we-think/reports-white-papers/article-display/cultures-role-organizational-change

I have yet to read the report but here are some perspectives from a Transformation & Change Management perspective:

  1. Culture doesn’t seem to figure prominently on organizational agenda because they are Performance Obsessed. The view taken by most people in enterprises is that, there is only time to churn the numbers.  There is no place for Values there. I won’t have a job if I am not the part of the club. As a consequence your beliefs and assumptions whatever they might be at the core, become irrelevant to one’s current existing set of circumstances. This is not weakness but mere survival instinct.
  2. There is a poor narrative in most companies on how Values, Beliefs and Assumptions should be embedded in the processes of the enterprise; because processes in the best of enterprises is disjointed. So when a process is not shared that manifests a process, how can culture be?
  3. Culture is not cool. If anyone starts discussing it, he is the nerd of the office. Or he is the theorist. Until some aspect of culture doesn’t hurt me, I am not going to be the one donning the Santa Cap is the dominant attitude.

Social NetworkThere is only one way of bringing back Culture to the table in enterprises. One needs to start focusing on Potential rather than on Performance. The enterprise design must look at the Promise of design that can shape how an enterprise continuously strives to discover its Potential in all the five dimensions of its enterprise architecture;

  1. The desire for Leadership rather than Competition therefore leading to renewed Business Models that is facilitated by a Strategic Enterprise Program.
  2. Product, Process and Services designed to the Aspirations of Consumer and Consumer Experience.
  3. Enterprise Transactional Business Processes that are globally agile from the perspective distribution and reach with medium, channel and device independence.

In essence, one needs to rewind the enterprise clock to go back to the basic of bridging the Potential with Performance with a New Promise. An enterprise that will find renewal a joyous participative exercise and a permanent one as opposed to the periodic projects where management consultants tinker and tape the organization and bruise people more than the balm they supposedly are required to apply.

Bottom line is that, today we operate in an environment of great Trust Deficit; be it in Enterprises or Societies and even Families. We need to create a Trusting environment to make Culture an item on the agenda of  not only enterprises but also families and societies. Everything else is poppycock.

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Who Coined this term Big Data?

Big DataThis question about who coined the term Big Data has intrigued me for quite sometime. Especially when it doesn’t make much sense in the context of a whole new economy it seems to spawn around it. Data has always been there in one form or the other and of course, the spark of the digital revolution in the last 5 years has changed the nature of data being recognized as not only text but also audio, video and graphics as well. The evolution of the nature of data has also made progress with respect to how it is stored, retrieved and renewed; moving from structured (hierarchical and relational) to unstructured methods and we know Google has made a business out of just searching the data that is now created across the world in terabyte loads by the second; responsibly and irresponsibly. My question on Google that has evolved from a Boolean search to a context based search yielded several relevant results of which I was able to pick only one well-researched article on the subject for those who might be interested. (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/the-origins-of-big-data-an-etymological-detective-story/?_r=0) However, my curiosity about the relevance of the term Big Data and the Big Hoopla around it remains an enigma.

It is very evident that the Nature, Form and Scope of Data have dramatically evolved to this point of arrival in the digital revolution age. But what I don’t understand is how it suddenly became Big? Is it a reflection of Volume or the Complexity associated with the management of data?  Big data is the term defined in Wikipedia for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis, and visualization. The trend to larger data sets is due to the additional information derivable from analysis of a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, allowing correlations to be found to “spot business trends, determine quality of research, prevent diseases, link legal citations, combat crime, and determine real-time roadway traffic conditions. But my question is, isn’t technology required to reduce the complexity as opposed to increase it?  There may be some agencies like the defense and space and government that may have to deal with this complexity as a part of its professional hazard. But is there a need for businesses even in a global economy with the B2B, B2C, C2C and P2P concurrent business models in operation to the conventional brick and mortar model?

Data Hierarchy

Please refer to the above illustration. Even when the sub-processes of an enterprise is integrated with its Customer Universe, it is possible to process data no matter how complex and voluminous, in smaller manageable chunks locally and aggregating it to a global level. In fact, a federated structure such as the locally autonomous global business model is what would probably succeed in the future. Why then the frantic frenzy to spend money in a direction that is of no immediate consequence in terms of strategic outcomes? Inversely, is there an explicit understanding that concurrently businesses will be scaled to global models and operating with multiple strategic and tactical models with respect to Product, Process and Services offered by the business enterprise taking into consideration the Demographic and Psychographic insights of Customers and Consumers in Real- Time?

There is an underlying assumption here that the mechanism of Big Data would be driven by algorithmic fuzzy logic that would scale vertical industry based data on top of the logic and rules that already support enterprise business processes to drive out transaction data. The algorithmic fuzzy logic would replace human experience with artificial intelligence in being able to raise questions off a transacted data and provide insights that would contribute to a quick re-alignment of Product, Process and / or Services to serve existing and New Customers in New Markets and New Segments to generate New Revenue. I don’t think non-proprietary data is in scope here as Google and Apple are learning to their consternation.

Data CenterTherefore when data is drawn and inferred to the context and relevance of a business enterprise in the local markets and to the specific cultural alignment and aspirations of the customers in real-time, this whole exercise of Big Data seems to one in futility. For examples:

  1. An R&D Manager on realization that the packaging he created for a product is not accepted by a certain demography of customers and therefore can reverse to other designs and order production while other functions such as Trade and Marketing  can shift the design to a market that can accept the design and its related costs of production in real-time.
  2. A Service Provider is able to engage customers in real-time to not only provide services virtually because most of the service is data and information based anyway; but is actually blending in as an extended arm of the business and forms an integrated support process such as shared service.
  3. Customers in any part of the world can co-create car designs with a car manufacturer and supply chain teams will find sources for material locally and make the cars available for release in the same year across the globe; again in real-time.

As a society and responsible business enterprise, aren’t we putting the cart before the horse? Business Processes derive data but so far enterprises have been force-fitting data onto processes in the explicit belief that there is integrity of data at an enterprise level. There are very few corporations in the world who have successfully undertaken an exercise at Master Data Management (MDM) and are therefore capable of having a unified view of their Customers across all Products, Processes and Services that their enterprise have to offer. It would probably make sense for this small minority to embark on the next threshold of data maturity but what about the vast majority?

We have seen consistently in the last two decades that Business Technology Solutions have really not matured with associate concepts of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Cloud Computing not able to cross the Proof Of Concept stage. More critically, legacy applications are still managed and maintained in corporations, not because they lend themselves to the Transactional Processing environment but rather they provide the data required for the day-to-day operations. It is a very unfortunate world we live where we create and propagate expensive technologies for the problems we have willingly conspired to create and try to solve them; while the core of Transformation and Innovation remains unaddressed due to lack of resources; be it money, talent or time. Isn’t it time to investigate the motivations and the competency of the analysts and others who allow such propaganda to seep into our system and distract us from the real purpose with their hype and hyperbole?

Here is my summary on how this phenomenon called “Big Data” needs to be addressed with respect to qualifying for implementation in an enterprise:

  1. Enterprises that have implemented Master Data Management (MDM) that is consistent with Globally Unified Enterprise Business Process.

  2. Enterprises would check themselves in for the above if they have implemented globally unified systems with Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Cloud Computing as methods of a seamless global infrastructure.

  3. These enterprises have created a Learning Organization where people correlate Cognitive Intelligence with Business Intelligence to drive mature market decisions in real-time.

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Harmony & Orchestration

My last edition of the blog was on Leadership and the strain continues here in our Social and Enterprise Context. I would request you to first view the Video I have embedded with this edition before you continue to read the rest of this edition.

HK Venkatram is one of the most accomplished and sought after violinists in the Carnatic Music field.  HKV also works for Intel Corporation as Director of Intel Architecture Group in India. He belongs to the rare creed in which he pursues two careers in parallel seeking excellence in both chosen fields. I am privileged to be both his student and friend.

Once you have watched this video, you will be amazed at how just a note can affect an emotional attribute. It is very important to understand the subtlety between a plain note and its interpretation, though. A note in itself is incapable of evoking an emotion but its interpretation and combination with another note is what causes the emotional impact. We will park this here for a few minutes and look at music from another perspective.

Orchestra 3

In the western world most of the music is written and is performed in symphony by an orchestrator. What you see in front of the musicians are the notes that each one is required to play. But the interpretation of that music is dependent on how the orchestrator waves his wand and expresses a connection with his musicians to connect the notes to form music which is evocative emotionally. It is not as though these individual musicians who form the orchestra are not capable of interpreting and evoking you emotionally. It is just a system and practice. Of course we are all familiar how jazz ensemble came to be an improvisation of the orchestra music.

This is where my discussion on music ends and the Leadership – Enterprise inference begins. Every individual is capable of being a leader depending on his / her mastery and maturity in music. The orchestrator is by no means the only leader. Yet, it is important to understand that if the orchestrator weren’t there to lead the orchestra, it might actually be a very terrible experience to go to a concert because hearing the plain notes being repeated is no fun. Leaders whether in a group or individually have to learn to master their craft for that expression to touch their audience.

In the modern context of a democratic and social world, when people are able to perform orchestras over the internet, with musicians being in different parts of the world, why do organizations struggle to orchestrate business processes and connect people to make an emotional impact on their audience? The reason is very simple. In the first case, the practitioner continues to hone his fine art as an individual performer and constantly looks at new influences to improve his skills. In the latter, many slump into the rigmarole of just doing the job in an orchestra and earning a living. This is what happens to people and their jobs in organizations.

People in enterprises need to be energized in the context of the modern connected world. People have to not only find mastery of their craft but also find that deep insight to interpret that in the context of their enterprise and make an impact on the desired audience. When this happens, the individual musician is comfortable expressing individually as well as collectively in an orchestra. The vice-versa unfortunately fails in most cases for a lack of motivation and incentive. The modern enterprise must transform for the individual to be able to find the subtlety between Data, Information and Intelligence.

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Leadership Litany

Mandela

The world today has lost Nelson Mandela and I write this edition of my blog as a homage to the great departed leader who embodied everything that is required of leadership and more. If there is one overarching lesson to learn from his life and other leaders in the same league such as Mahatma Gandhi, Leadership didn’t make them but they made Leadership. They evolved in their human qualities raising the bar on every dimension of life and constantly pursuing the path of Innocence to Excellence.

Leadership Can be Taught only by Nature

I find the question whether Leadership can be taught as ridiculous. Leadership is not some alien characteristic that descends from outside and sits on a person as a halo. It is in fact a combination of a person’s emotional and personal response to stimuli that stems from deep within to situations and circumstances. The teacher here is nature that helps every human to be one with its five elements (Air, Ether, Water, Fire and Earth) as it sustains life, urging the human being to learn and emulate those principles through the five senses (Feel, Smell, Taste, Hear and Sound).  It also teaches that Leadership is not uni-dimensional and that it is manifested in every action of a human being; not just in any one field of specialization. So we have to be respectfully tuned to nature and be willing to receive the teachings that no university or professor can ever impart.

A Leader is always at the Center

Contrary to popular imagery, a leader is never in the front or in the corner or anywhere else. A leader is always in the center. They are constantly mobilizing and rallying themselves around the cause of what is impeding the progress of the people around them. They don’t demand following and they don’t dictate the course of any path. They essentially form a discourse that becomes a guiding point for people to seek a direction. They are great at asking questions more than giving answers. In that they are child like in their enthusiasm of having discovered a new way to play with any resource that is available to them at hand. They don’t think that only a branded toy from Toys ‘R’ US will make them happy. But at the same time, they don’t discard a nice branded toy that is given to them either.

Growing from within

They seek growth from within and what this means is that their actions are born out of conviction. They are not easily led by trends and fashions. They don’t compete. They create competition. They are innovators. They passionately believe in what they do. They don’t pretend. They admit their mistakes openly and seek alternate paths. They never stop for they don’t have a destination. Life is a continuous journey for them. They are prepared to adapt to the different scenarios that come along the way of the journey. Their inner belief is their strength and risk assurance. Their equanimity sees them through success and failures and their resilience helps them wake up to every sunrise and see the potential in life.

Leaders see diverse points of view from a common lens

One doesn’t know whether it is a curse or a boon. But leaders without exception lead a very miserable personal life. Firstly, because they do not distinguish between the private and the public as they evolve. Their focus and their decision making doesn’t allow them the conventional wisdom of self preservation and therefore the choices they make hurts them and their families emotionally and financially. Their time cannot be divided and therefore it becomes very difficult to manage personal expectations; not just with family but also public who seek to get closer and have all their attention. Rather than seeing this as a negative, one needs to learn from this that leadership is at once a selfless penance or discipline that merges the private and the public. Leaders are usually unflustered by how events are shaped in their lives because they develop compassion and empathy and are able to see diverse points of view from the same lens.

Leaders are never confuse others.  Their communication bears absolute clarity.

frogLet me conclude by sharing an Aesop’s Fable of the Frog and the Centipede which probably many of you have heard. The centipede was on his morning walk one day when the frog spotted him. The frog was this philosopher who began wondering how the centipede managed to walk elegantly without tripping on any of his hundred legs while he had only four and thought that was the optimal. He couldn’t contain his curiosity and so stopped the centipede and asked him about it. Now the centipede had never thought about it because managing with those hundred feet that nature bestowed upon him came naturally. But having the curiosity raised, he looked at his feet and then started to work around them as he attempted to walk figuring which came first and which the next. And as you can imagine, he tripped and could not proceed with his usual gait. Now the centipede was very upset with the frog. He said I had been doing this walk naturally and so have my entire fraternity with all the hundred legs all our lives and we never tripped. Now you ask me this question and I am a wreck. So please solve this problem and tell me how am I supposed to manage my gait with my hundred legs? Which feet comes first and which the next?  The frog said, he didn’t have an answer. All he did was become curious and therefore raise the question. What the frog did not tell the centipede was that, he was limited is his understanding of how a walk can happen only with the four legs that he had as opposed to the hundred legs that the centipede had. centipede 2

Leaders experience life and allow other to experience it as well. They learn from their and others collective experience and that becomes their point of their discourse. They are able to intelligently interpret the message that nature and life has to provide them for the explicit as well as implicit manifestations; enabling them to learn and Serve continuously to emerging contexts and challenges. 

Posted in Business Strategy, Business Strategy & Innovation, Change Management, Customer Management, Innovation, Society, Transformation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Thinking Defines US

Dear Varun

I am writing this as an open communication because I not only intend to address you but also the great number of people you have managed to inspire with your ingenuity and enterprise. It is very evident that you have managed to attract the attention of business professionals who approach PR and Marketing as a means of sustaining their business at your expense. I feel it is extremely important that you are mentored and guided to take the right course of action and realize the enormous potential that you seem to manifest. Success has a thousand fathers and today many or most would like to bask in that success you have created. But as the best have discovered, not all good things last forever. More importantly, businesses and life don’t survive on slogans; they thrive on Creativity, Collaboration and Contribution. You deserve the success you have created today and it would be pitiful if you stopped here. You need to scale higher thresholds of Capability and Contribution to Society and your Success will soar further and farther.

At the very outset, let me state the obvious. You are Creatively Passionate, Visionary in identifying and / or Trending Opportunities, Pragmatic in Capitalizing those Opportunities and a Wonderful Optimist who sees a glass half full rather than half empty. In summary, you are extremely blessed and talented. It is also easy to infer that you come from a family that is supportive and resourceful with the added advantage of affording you the freedom of articulation and expression. Here is where your responsibility starts.

Just look at the number of young people who have been influenced by you and the comments that they have posted in response to your video. Your slogan “Dont Think” is well packaged for the purpose of the presentation that you made under the aegis of InkTalks with the interest sustained through the light hearted digs at our educational system across your allotted time. But the fact of the matter is that, there are hundreds of thousands of talented youngsters like you in India who cannot afford to take the philosophy advocated by you even as a marketing spiel; simply because of they are not blessed with your environmental background and resources. Leaving that aside, you need to realize that it is your Thinking that has brought you success; contrary to what you state or believe in. Please refer to the recent blog I’ve written titled “Are you goofing off at Work?” (  http://wp.me/psMXu-cD). It is very clear that you represent the abstract thinking which few people around you have the ability to exercise and / or are willing to let you know. If you want to succeed further, this is what you need to sustain. Everything else is incidental!!!

I cannot blame you for believing that great business ideas are born when you are drunk. Most people believe that Innovation is born when you are naked in your bath tub like Archimedes did when he made a major scientific discovery that allowed the world to be connected for the first time physically through ships. But I am sorry to burst your bubble, ideas really don’t go a long way without Innovation as a continuous processes. Don’t stop going to the bar or anywhere else you mind find it convenient including the toilet to find your inspiration; but don’t mislead yourself and the others that you need the sweaty, grimy and smelly environment (depending on the place you choose to visit) for your inspiration. Even to be lucky, you need inspiration from a mind that is litter free!

It is great that you recognize your success in your moment of epiphany; when you saw a Cottonian walk past you in a bar (again!) wearing the hoody you designed. But you seriously need to stop romanticizing things like your failed education and success at business. People like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates romanticized about their dropout status and business success much later in their lives. Yo have just begun and there is a lot of way to go before you can get there. There is no doubt about the fact that communication is your strong point and you must leverage this. However, any communication that is bereft of sincerity, will show up sooner or later, despite the best media blitz; social or otherwise.

You have actually managed to demonstrate from your success that ingenuity will always succeed. School / College merchandize is not a new discovery. It has been a major business in developed countries such as US, UK and even UAE for the past 40years. With your background, it is possible that you have been able to travel overseas and managed to buy or be gifted these kind of merchandize. However, you did succeed in taking that lead and bringing it to India. It is a huge multi-billion dollar industry that goes way beyond just clothing. The business enterprise in this industry is morphing itself into becoming a central part of a student’s life; edging in from the periphery. Your business model must aim to be a leader here. But that will happen only when you seek the right people to collaborate and help the growth of the foundation you have laid. This growth is not going to happen without thinking. And you will realize with growth that you need to employ all the three levels of thinking; Abstract, Lateral and Smart Thinking.

What you have managed so far is to think abstract and act smart. Don’t stop here. Go and conquer the world. Build a Mission and Vision of Alexander the Great. Create wealth in society. Dhirubhai Ambani could have been a lot greater than he is made out to be if he did not use the loopholes in the system to promote only his business. He could perhaps have been greater than Mahatma Gandhi if he did not stop at manipulating the Stock Exchange for the benefit of Reliance Shareholders alone and worked his ideas to create wealth in the Indian economy through a reformed stock exchange. In his defense, he was at a time in the Indian Society, where monopoly was so rampant that what he did was herculean in itself. Yet, history cannot be an excuse for what you have the potential to create. Be inspired by Jamshedji Tata who had the courage of conviction of founding the aviation industry in India and yet staying away from the entity that he created when it was nationalized. Ethics and Character can never be after thoughts and an epilogue in your business story.

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Distinguishing between Customer & Consumer is foundational to Innovation

Male Model ShoppingIf you are a practitioner or a serious student of Innovation especially in these modern times, the important distinction you have to make is between Customer and Consumer. They may or may not be the same entity in all cases and even if they are the same, there is a need for understanding them distinctly and differently.

The traditional economic definition of a customer is “one who pays in exchange for an offering that your business has to make”. In a simple world without the complexities of globalization and intense competition and the added twists of multiple medium, channel, and devices / methods of distribution and reach, that definition takes a beating. Everyone in that Value Chain who has contributed to a Product, Process and / or Service Revenue (Business offering) is therefore a Customer. This includes the Employee, Client, Business Partner, Vendor, Stakeholder, Shareholder and Society in which the business operates.

A Customer’s interaction starts with his / her need and ends with the expectations being fulfilled when they buy the product.  If any of the dimensions that govern the transaction of business change, it is likely that the Customer will find alternatives. But this is where the Consumer steps in. The Consumer is perhaps not the direct Customer but is the key influencer to the verdict on the business offering and its sustained support by the Customer. While the transaction business processes must focus to meet the Customer Expectations and fulfill them to the absolute satisfaction, the Innovation Process must focus on fulfilling the Aspirations of the Consumer; who has a more telling impact on experiencing the Product / Process and / or Service offered by a business enterprise. And who also consequently influences the Customer.

CUSTOMERCONSUMER MAPPING

Please observe the above Illustration. If you were to plot a graph to find Strategic Value represented on the Y-Axis against Time on the X-Axis, it will not take an Einstien to discover the following:

  • When Aspirations are covered, the automatically address the Expectations, Needs and Wants.
  • Unfulfilled Needs become more urgent over a period of Time and represent themselves as Wants.
  • A series of fulfilled Needs results in fulfilling of Expectations.
  • However, if you equate an enterprise growth to the Strategic Value it creates in the marketplace, you will recognize that the only way an enterprise can experience exponential growth is to respond to aspirations.

To further validate this point, the attributes for understanding a data driven approach to the Customer and Consumer may be the same but the dimensions are different as represented in the following two tables.

CONSUMER FOCUSED MODELING

Geography Market Segment Customer Customer Maturity
VERSION
RELEASE
Functionality
Features
Rate of Use
Ease of Use
Points of Use

CUSTOMER FOCUSED MODELING

Geography Market Segment Customer Customer Maturity
Quality
Cost
Delivery
Service
Flexibility (Ease of Interaction)

No further evidence is required to understand that Consumer Focused Modeling is different from Customer Focused Modeling. While the former can lead to Industry Leadership, the latter at best can lead to Competitive Advantage. And we all know from experience that Competitive Advantage cannot last forever and its practice has a very debilitating and demoralizing effect on an enterprise; especially in a weak economic environment.

Incidentally, leadership and enterprise management and the plethora of business gurus, consultants and business authors, know everything that is mentioned here. The question then is, why do enterprises not follow the path that is more risk assured? Well, that is where the discipline of processes comes in. Instead of building processes that connect and collaborate across the value chain, enterprises are spending money on populating date and making everything more complex than viewing the business in as simple a form as the above two tables. It would be extremely effective if enterprises established a way of intersecting their Product Life Cycle with their Consumer Life Cycle and then established their Distribution & Reach that enables Customers to Transact & Interact with the enterprise seamlessly assuring both Loyalty and Satisfaction equating to Customer Life Cycle Management.

Post Script:

Retailers across North America are trying to increase the Black Friday sales volume by opening sales outlets and malls on the evening of Thanksgiving. Is it a wise choice and which big data provides clues to this answer? We will probably find out once the sales figures are announced at the end of the quarter. However, one this is certain – that it has managed to disrupt those who serve and those who will be served from a holiday that was supposed to be spent in cherishing family values with loved ones; one day in a year.

Happy Thanksgiving. There is more to life than just buying and selling. Female Model

Posted in Business Process Management, Business Strategy, Business Strategy & Innovation, Change Management, Customer Management, Innovation, Management, Society, Transformation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are you goofing off at work?

goofingIf you are asked the question, “are you goofing off at work?” what would your answer be? Most or all of us might reply to it as, “no, of course not!” with a certain amount of righteous vehemence. That answer by the way is the wrong one at two levels to say the least. The first one is that, we are trying to be politically correct. And let me challenge us to find any significant innovation in any walk of life when being politically correct. The second level at which the answer is not right is that, Innovation demands thinking and we cannot think while we are focused on our current job duties that consume our entire day and often nights and even challenge us from spending quality time with our family. So if our organization claims that they are innovative and we are also not goofing off and spending “I time” that will allow us to smell the coffee, then something doesn’t add up in this equation.

Did you read the line “we are not thinking” in the previous paragraph and pause before reading further? It might have helped understanding the context of the rest of this article. Nevertheless, let me quickly cover the ground about thinking itself. We all think and perhaps too much and there lies the main problem; we are perhaps not doing the right kind of thinking enough. May be, this article can set that anomaly right.

MonkeyHave you heard the fable of “The Monkey and the Crocodile” from the Panchatantra? Well, the Monkey perched on a blue berry tree and a crocodile in the river that flowed by the tree became friends. Conversations between the friends happened everyday and the monkey shook the tree to drop some fruit that the crocodile would eat during those sessions. One day, the conversation came up about families and the crocodile announced that he had a wife at home on the other side of the riverbank. The monkey responded with surprise and from that day shook more of the tree to send a generous package of the blueberry home for his friend’s wife. The wife after enjoying the blueberries for a few days scolded her husband for being foolish. She said we should eat the monkey. They plotted and the crocodile invited the monkey at the instance of his wife; home for lunch. The monkey went with the crocodile but halfway down the river found out to his dismay that he was going to be the lunch for his friend’s family. Quickly, the thought of saving himself gave him an idea and he said that he was happy to offer himself but the best part of his offering would be his heart, which was left behind on the tree. The foolish crocodile thought that he would take advantage of this situation. So he ferried his monkey friend back to the shore to fetch his heart. The crocodile’s thinking was that he would impress his wife with his cleverness for once. And so the monkey saved his life by clambering back on top of the tree to safety and the crocodile was left with nothing; neither the friendship, nor the sweet berries he had come to love or the anticipated reward and gratitude from his wife.Croc 2

If we were to draw meaning of just the perspective on thinking of these two creatures, we will find similarities with our thinking in everyday life as follows:

  • The monkey’s thinking was reactionary and responded to a danger.
  • The crocodile’s thinking was proactive and responded to an opportunity but with poor intelligence.

Thinking essentially falls into three distinct categories and each has a specific characteristic and outcome. The aim here is not to advocate any one thinking against the other or as mutually exclusive. Rather, it is important to be aware of the distinction of the three levels and practice them depending upon the context, mutually inclusively. Please refer to the illustration below:

Levels of ThinkingAbstract Thinking: This is the thinking that Leaders should adapt to most often. This is often confused with the next level of thinking, which is Lateral Thinking. Abstract Thinking should relate to the mission of an enterprise (in the case of a business enterprise) or the purpose of life (in the case of an individual) and the origins of a nation state (in the case of society). Abstract Thinking is about unfettered thinking keeping the context of the current relevant without being affected by practices that have come into being consciously or unconsciously; blocking transformation and change in the name of traditions rather than just being recognized for the behavioral habits they really are. This thinking will lead individuals / organizations / Societies to New Markets, Segments and Customers creating New Offerings and New Capabilities. The emphasis here is Creativity and Design interplaying the development of renewal that makes Individuals, Enterprises and Societies relevant to their current contexts. This type of thinking responds to the call of a Transforming Outlier.

Lateral Thinking: This is the thinking that Leaders and Managers must often engage in to stretch imagination out of the box for solutions that can extend returns without a significant addition of assets and investments. Here the emphasis is to do more with less and find effective ways of extending offerings that have already been created. Even though this demands creativity, it is not on the creation of something new out of nothing but how to extend what is already available on offer with a better process of distribution and reach. It could be features and functionality in a product or a new skill / degree in an individual or a new arsenal of weaponry in the case of a nation.  This thinking demands intelligence and Knowledge to develop Competitive Advantage Continuously.

Smart Thinking: This is the thinking that is adopted by associates most of the time in an enterprise and by all of us at most times.  This thinking is more reactive and is formed from the presentation of facts and data or unforeseen events. In other words, we also call this ‘Thinking on the feet’. This thinking is most useful to deal with exceptions rather than the rule. It is very transactional in nature and the gains are also minimal but it is critical that this thinking is never forsaken. Because planning can always go wrong and for situations and circumstances that could not be anticipated. Therefore, the response that comes from this thinking is more reactionary and averts a catastrophe on the ground and also alerts the above two levels of thinking to reflect on the potential of such occurrence in the future.

The most relevant part on thinking is to understand that abstract thinking includes lateral and smart thinking but not vice-versa. If individuals, enterprises and nations were to engage more in abstract thinking, then the conditions where lateral and smart thinking need to be employed would be dramatically reduced. However that being an ideal state and as we all have grown to believe that idealism doesn’t work, the next best thing to do would be to at least increase the numbers upwards from Smart to Lateral to Abstract Thinking. This would dramatically improve the chances of an Innovative Enterprise and Society utilizing the available resources with wisdom. The adage that the “Future is Now” should be understood from the relevance of design and predicating the future from the present rather than taking the onerous responsibility of predicting it without accountability and responsibility.

Understanding the three levels of thinking and connecting them to the everyday existence can bridge Potential with Performance. As human beings, we are blessed with the ability to interpret; what in other words is essentially intelligence. Such interpretation should be at the level of sensing rather than at the level of reacting. In today’s technology terms, in the absence of the ability to interpret data and information continuously in a coherent and cohesive manner, Information Technology tools are stepping in. But these tools will never be able to mimic the human experience that will drive cognitive intelligence, which is foundational for renewal of Individuals, Enterprises and Societies. It is therefore critical to understand how we find our energy for sensing that was naturally gifted by nature to us and we successfully managed to lose it from our lives and struggle with the complexity of Information Security in the process.

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Driving Innovation

ImageWait! Don’t turn away from this page….at least not yet, there is something you need to know on this topic that no one really talks about despite the fact that the “I” word is everybody’s favorite whipping cream these days. What drives Innovation really is Intent. Intent equates to the Mission of an enterprise; where Mission is defined as the Fundamental Economic Purpose for the existence of the enterprise. And Innovation cannot just happen; no matter what color shape or slogan you give it in the form of Crowd, Open and other dumbing jargons. For Innovation to happen, Transformation must happen first. Not your process or systems transformation but the transformation in Thinking of the people involved. This transformation in thinking is what renewal of intent and therefore purpose and consequently mission is. This transformation in thinking is the first step towards preparing an enterprise for Innovation. There can never be a doubt about the fact that Innovation in an enterprise happens when the entire enterprise and its ecosystem is energized to commercialize and realize the benefits of the innovation. This also demands a change in thinking from the way an enterprise operates. In essence, there are two levels at which an enterprise needs to first transform and prepare for Innovation to be successful. The first is at the level of Potential and the second level is at operation. Scientifically every reader here must understand the definition of the two energies; Potential energy is stored energy, ready to be used when needed. Kinetic energy on the other hand is the energy generated and consumed in the movement. The focal point of a Third World War could rather be the Potential Energy for Innovation rather than any of the other touted causes such as Oil, Religion, Water or even the good old Human Greed! Think Again…

What is so difficult about energizing intent? The answer is embedded in the often used flippant quote “the path to hell is paved with good intentions”! Each one of us should ask ourselves that question every now and then as a means of renewal and then voila; we will start becoming successful at increasing the rate of success with our New Year resolutions. Yes, we know the things in life that we need to do to be aligned with a higher purpose and yet we find it difficult to take the baby steps at an individual level because it demands a lot of discipline from the individual. And then the same individual goes to the enterprise and suddenly he / she becomes a magician and waves a wand and weaves every single goal and target set? Don’t you think there is something wrong with this picture?

ImageTransforming mindsets and getting leadership and management aligned with the rest of the enterprise to a higher threshold of capability and performance is a lot easier said than done. In my 27 years of experience and at least 20 of it spent in running major transformation programs, I have found that the most difficult challenge is to transform Intent that guides the mindsets. Especially when your sponsor has awarded you an engagement and you go back to them and throw a challenge on their face that they are not living up to their own brief. Let me share three examples from my experience that might be relevant here:

  1. My first Business Process Reengineering (BPR) engagement for Coopers & Lybrand in India was with SRF Limited. This engagement was won against great odds against the then Andersen Consulting. After a month of being on the engagement, during the first steering committee meeting, , I presented to the authorizing sponsors of the organization that they were not living up to the intent established in engaging us for the reengineering engagement. This was hampering the progress coursed for the desired outcomes to be achieved. To a shocked audience, I said we were withdrawing temporarily and will provide a month’s time for the leadership to re-group and think about their actions and if they are ready to action as per the demands of the original brief, we will come back and re-start the engagement. Else, if they want us to continue they would have to re-establish the brief. This was perhaps the first time ever they had faced someone who told them directly when they were paying to get a job done that that Intent should match actions which in turn would match expected outcomes. Of course, there was denial, anger and despondence but this leadership team had a remarkable man (their VP of Quality who believed in the organization achieving TQM with Deming Principles and Malcolm Baldrige assessment capabilities) who was able to rally around everyone in the leadership to see the light and take the responsibility to re-work on their intent. Least to say, we returned back to the engagement after a month’s hiatus and still completed the re-engineering within the original scheduled time in order to commission their new greenfield plant in Jabel Ali Dubai; almost a year ahead of schedule. The best part of this engagement outcome was that, the customer published the processes we had authored in their brochure informing their potential Customers what their process capabilities were. Nothing could be farther rewarding than that!
  2. When I headed the Enterprise Transformation Group (ETG) at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) I used to occupy an office on the 12th floor of the famous Air India building in Nariman Point; which is a famous downtown landmark in Mumbai, India. The building itself had historic significance for the Tatas as Jamshedji Tata is the Father of Indian aviation and the founder of Air India having commissioned this building. Air India became a nationalized corporation and the Tatas after several years had ended up occupying just two floors in a 22 storied building at that time. I built up all this background to zoom you in to the floor and its furniture that had never been renovated since its original construction and through its historic milieu. My role at TCS was not only to lead a division that offered integrated strategic services to customers but also to mirror that in the internal transformation of the enterprise. And my observation was, despite its history, how could we modernize the floor without taking away the grandeur of the legacy? The thinking I wanted to set in where the highest power and authority of the enterprise was seated was modernizing the thinking and keeping its strategy and therefore its environment relevant to its enterprise ecosystem. A couple of years later, TCS moved from a Privately held company to a Publicly owned one after years of resistance and one of the first steps it took in the process of change was to change the décor and distribution of floor space on the 12th floor of Air India. Subsequently, the CEO’s office was even moved out of the building to a more modern setting. But the process of transformation had thus begun with the current CEO probably being one of the youngest in the history of Tata Enterprise. He was the Executive Assistant to the then CEO when I was running the ETG. In a tangential reference to this example, the question arises whether a company such as TCS which was in the business of Services and had huge cash reserves of its own, really needed to be a public corporation. Well, my perspective then and now is that, an organization such as TCS needs funds only to transform itself into a more modern and relevant organization when it becomes a unified Product / Process / Services / Platform driven Solutions organization. There can be no other reason for companies such as Wipro, Infosys, and TCS who are among the top listed companies in India sustaining shareholder interest without transforming themselves into a more relevant global corporation that invents the most effective method to drive Enterprise Growth through Information Technology. The question again is of intent and how such intent gets implemented in the enterprise.
  3. My third example steers you to the transformation program I led at South African Revenue Services (SARS). I then reported as the Program Director into the Revenue Commissioner Mr. Pravin Gordhan who is currently the Finance Minister in the President Jacob Zuma’s government since May 2009. When I took charge, the program was already underway and floundering with the context of improving the information systems that would allow the increase of tax base. It might be relevant to understand here that SARS is the Revenue Generating agency for the Treasury Department that is directly overseen by the Finance Minister. Mr. Gordhan is a freedom fighter who suffered torture and incarceration for the cause of the state and a born leader; shrewd and decisive in what he does. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he were to become the President of South Africa one day soon. It was easy to convince him that Transformation Program before me had floundered because it lacked a narrative and therefore a cohesive direction. Rather than policing to collect taxes, how about changing the perspective of the program to “Create Wealth”? The question that appealed to him most was how to make the tax collection centers in South Africa similar to the environment that privatized banks offer. In order to attract your hard earned money, don’ privatized banks provide you the courtesy of access that demonstrate sensibility and respect to your individuality and accomplishments? Don’t they make it their business to create efficiencies that provide you the personalized benefit of Quality, Cost, Delivery (time), Service and Flexibility? How different are the South African citizen who are asked to contribute taxes from their earnings? It is pertinent to know here that South Africa collects all its taxes; be it personal, excise, business and customs as a single agency. In essence, the questioning led to the creation of a design center that would continuously renew transformation and a Program Office that would oversee the Transformation Program and a Logistics division that would drive all initiatives and projects emerging from the Program and Design Centers. Thus a changed intent completely changed the Context and Implementation of a Program from a discrete event to a continuous process; completely staffed and run by people who were transformed from within the enterprise to lead the organization to a new horizon of promise.

ImageThe science of management is being more and more referred to in the craft of running business enterprises. And the most important fallacy that needs to be corrected not from a perspective of syntax but from the understanding of the connection is the relationship between Mission and Vision. It must be understood clearly that Mission is not just a statement that sounds nice. It is a statement of Intent and there must be a constant transformation and renewal in the enterprise to enable the same to the changing contexts of the society and ecosystem that the enterprise lives in. This in turn, must drive the Vision or the direction in which an enterprise is headed and the means it needs to employ to achieve the desired outcomes. Just go to the sites of the top 100 companies in the world and examine their Mission, Values, Vision, Goals & Objectives and Key Performance Indicators; for the order of connecting the flow from Potential to Performance. You will be disappointed that there are very few who consciously establish this connection.

The design of enterprises should be based on the cognition of these 3 keys to driving Transformation and therefore Innovation in our modern context:

  1. Businesses need to be global today because Technology & Applications provide seamless distribution and reach for market offerings and hence access must be Profiled, Personalized and Preferentiated. This is the promise of a world that is replacing fire with renewable technology to sustain life.

  2. Oligopoly is passé. There will always be competition and that is not a negative condition. On the contrary, it must help define your business for the long term than the short burn; promoting both a culture of Intrapreneurship and Entrepreneurship. This is the premise of unifying a business ecosystem with enterprise processes.

  3. Transformation must be a continuous exercise that aims at a higher average of the enterprise to act in the direction of the desired outcomes as opposed to the romantic notion of everybody will be transformed and will sing and march merrily in the direction of the pied piper. Here in lies the secret sauce for bridging Potential with Performance.

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Remembering Gandhi for Democracy’s Sake

 

MahatmaDr. Joseph Kumarappa was an eminent economist who travelled to the United States to obtain degrees in economics and business administration at Syracuse University and Columbia University, studying under Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman. Kumarappa worked to combine Christian and Gandhian values of trusteeship, non-violence and a focus on human dignity and development in place of materialism as the basis of his economic theories. His article ‘British Rule and Indian Poverty’ brought him in touch with Gandhi on May 09, 1929 in Sabarmati Ashram. Becoming a partner with Gandhi in the struggle for freedom, he helped set up and run the All India Village Industries Association at Maganwadi, Wardha.

 

This story has to do with Dr. Kumarappa, who had decided to live in a hut in Kallupatti in Madurai District of Tamil Nadu. It was a hut he had built himself. On the wall of his hut hung a remarkable photograph that would attract every visitor’s attention. It was a picture that showed a common farmer, with a turban on his head. What was this photograph doing here, in the house of a man such as Dr. Kumarappa? Many an important visitors would ask Dr. Kumarappa about this mysteriously unimportant looking man.

 

“Oh, he’s my master’s master.” Dr. Kumarappa would say. “Master’s master?”
“You see,” Dr. Kumarappa would explain to the puzzled visitor, “my master is Gandhi, and this villager, indeed every poor person in the land, is his master.”

On the occasion of the 145th Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, I believe it is important to revisit his perspectives on economics globally. In the United States, President Barack Obama faces a government shut-down for trying to include the most disengaged citizens into the healthcare of a nation that is fabled to live up to the dreams of everyone and anyone that stepped on its soil. At the other end of the spectrum, Gandhi gave birth to a nation freeing a geography from British Imperialism founded on the principle of democracy where every individual being able to find expression and take advantage of the collective resources the nation of India had to offer and create a better life. India is floundering from a senseless dereliction of duty by people in power and their officers. North America has recently seen a polarization among its political class never seen before in its history. Both smack of the distance the powers that be have created from the real citizen and their true aspirations and character. Somebody joked that while a government shut-down in the US is a rare occurrence, it is an everyday reality in India. It would be the biggest misfortune if these two economies were to set such behavior as an example for democracy. Obama

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Key Performance Indicator

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For a long time this topic has been a ticking time bomb within me and I now need to explode. The immediate provocation is the blog published by Bernard Marr on September 25, 2013 (http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130925053608-64875646-the-4-kpis-every-manager-has-to-use Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is … Continue reading

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