Friday, December 24, 2010
a) Ubiquitous applicability. From a Kantian principle, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will, that it should become a universal law." Your ideas can be applied in many scenarios, business, relationship etc. If it’s too narrow, requiring highly specialized and perfect conditions like -> “You must require top down and management approach to succeed”, then yes - It’s a joke.
b) Paradigm Shifting
It’s truly a viewpoint that is better/faster/ possessing WoW; from Tom Peters. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Kinda like love at first sight. A diary used to be private, but now we have blogs. Corporate strategies used to be private, but now it’s in Annual Reports...
c) Being able to relay the “obvious” in a non-obvious way – Reframe-ReEvaluate-Synthesize-Relate.
Being able to “relate” is amazing. We tend to use big words like “Configuration Management”, “Value Chain” and “Business Process Reengineering” but seriously, what’s in it for the audience? How can you revolutionize your ideas into a “meme” -> a mental virus.
d) MECE – Mutually Exclusive, Completely Exhaustive (Mckinsey)
Very simple concept, yet exhaustingly difficult to exercise. Too many ideas garbled into a contradictory and even dissonant in voicing, it’s MESSY instead of MECE. Ram Charan was talking about organizational focus, but I find the words he used hit me right in the nuts -> Laser Sharp Focus.
e) It defines your 'brand'
Folks know that it's "you/your co." Walk the talk.
f) It’s simple...
The names are dropped on purpose; these gentlemen & ideas are game changers, true thought leaders. And humbly, you can’t do a Napolean and label yourself as one; it comes resoundingly from industry recognition.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
You’d think that it’s pretty obvious; most people just love the sound of their voices. But here’s the challenge - how do you circumvent this tendency to zombify the audience?
Insight 1 – Answer your audience’s question, not yours:-
Honestly, this is kinda hard to explain; but I’ve observed this propensity to imagine that you are the one asking the question and answering it to yourself.
What do I mean by that?
Well, the manager goes through this mental journey of how he has come to the conclusion with a big assumption – He assumes that the question is formed and understood like how he has formed it. So a windy explanation of fundamentals ensues with lessons learned, factors and other points of views and such gets verbally vomited ad infinitum (well, it feels like it). Academics and Consultants fall easily into this trap.
Recommendations:- Clarify the question. Ask “Why” the question was posed in the first place; then answer that question. Not only will it show that as a manager/leader you are concerned with the person’s challenges, you’ll get better quality acceptance of your answer and alignment.
Insight 2- Questions don’t seek Answers; they unravel intents (To Give, to Take or to Avoid)
The Dale Carnegie courses talk about “What’s in it for Me” radio station (WII.FM), i.e. when you’re talking to someone, you have to frame it such that the audience knows how they will be impacted in a positive manner. I like to call it, the “To Take” mind set.
So here’s my attempt at improving this point of view, it’s not only about WII.FM, people can be contributors by nature; they ask because they really want to know how they can contribute to the goals and objectives of the manager’s vision.
The team sincerely wants to know how best they can coordinate such that the goals are met; and people need to know how fast or how slow change efforts progress based on their contributions. Amabile and Kramer (2010) have shown that progress is a powerful motivational tool; and a motivated team is an ‘engaged’ team.
As a manager/leader you are responsible to ensure that the team is ‘engaged’ throughout the journey. There’s the 3rd intention which is pretty negative so let’s not dwell there, hopefully the “to avoid” description speaks for itself.
Here’s a quick run through of potential unspoken questions that needs to be answered instead:-
1. How can I contribute?
2. How does what I’m doing now, fit the big picture; is it still relevant?
3. Why am I doing what I’m doing now?
4. How can I ‘affect’ the required ‘change’? Or rather; is what I’m doing really useful versus airy fairy fluff.
Communicating is hard, communicating and listening are even harder; and effective change hinges on affective and effective communication.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Let’s take queuing for example. There are several constraints to optimizing a queue, for example;
- The number of channels or service personnel available
- The speed in which each personnel is able to service the customer
- The time in which these personnel are ‘operational’ (i.e. 7 days a week, 8 hours a day etc)
So companies place service personnel into training, create reams of documentation and process charts that ‘robotizes’ their capabilities on top of automation tools to supposedly hyper speed all those back end processing.
Appointments help somewhat but they’re not too efficient for mass services type of operation and customers themselves tend to be undisciplined in keeping to the appointment leading to backlogs.
So the problem statements are:-
- Customers wait for too long and they balk or renege
- They choose an off peak hour to go to a branch only to discover that the services that they require are prioritized to only 1 booth and that booth also has an annoying queue.
But what are we abstracting?
Let’s think about the constraints a bit, the extensive queuing occurs because people tend to converge on commonly known and accessible landmarks. They wait because there’s only X amount of people available to service the potentially hundreds of people waiting to be served. This also happens because:-
- Customers have to be physically at the branch or retail service centres to take a number
- Customers can’t know for certain how long it will take before their number is called.
- Customers still need to be physically present to be called.
Level 1 Abstraction
What if we can eliminate the need for physical presence, what if queue numbers can be taken online anywhere, over the mobile phone for example; this would allow the customer to pre-plan his trip and roughly estimate when he should start the journey to your office, making the experience less taxing.
Level 2 Abstraction – It’s really about time, not the queue
Now what if the service provider is able to tell the customer exactly how long it will take before we reach his queue number; so now the customer can pre-plan his journey, queue while he’s not physically there and time his entrance precisely (well almost).
You’ve just eliminated the concept of queuing from the customer and replaced it with ‘time’. Remember the earlier principle ->
Beyond guaranteeing time, you are now able to guarantee service to the customer; when the moment he walks into the branch, he shall wait for no more than 5-10 minutes. And that margin can be further reduced with the old school optimization methods that we mentioned earlier.
Level 3 Abstraction – The head shake moment (mashing things up)
So now imagine this, all the queuing system from all your branches are made available on line to the customers and aggregated into a database and updated real time. Customers just need to recommend the time that he wishes to conduct a business at the branch; the solution recommends a branch closest to him through the GPS system, with the shortest queuing time for the time slot that he wants. There’s no such thing as waiting number, and the customer is notified should there be an earlier slot or whether he’ll be running late because the GPS works both ways.
What we’ve just done is abstracting a queuing problem to a focus on time, availability and location. More importantly; bringing customer centricity to the fore.
NOW GO DO IT!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The idea of abstracting ideas seems to be haunting me off late. The journey was triggered by the team member's difficulty to reconcile new ideas. The words and perception seemed alien, you and I go through it when we visit an alien culture that is a tangent to our taboos or read a book from an avant garde author.
We’ve seen Intelligence Quotient quantifying one’s ability to see patterns, to predict the eventuality of sequences, word associations and such, crucial elements in problem solving.
We’ve also learned about the adaptive nature of humanity in paraphrasing and mirroring emotions through Emotional Quotient, a yard stick if I may simplify for empathy.
So what if there’s another form of intelligence, beyond numbers, beyond untying a knot, and beyond looking at problem solving at a linear or emotional level but a 3 dimensional creative level.
Hence the idea of ‘Abstraction Quotient’ the ability to aggregate and conceptualize ideas and reframe it contextually and seeing the idea through to its eventual application.
Perhaps ‘Abstraction Quotient’ already exists because of its close association to creativity, as the product of abstraction can be creative in nature. But I need to emphasize the other element, “reframing” the abstraction and the “application” of the thinking as you’ve brought the problem to a different contextual reference point.
What do I mean by that?
The news of China’s growth fuelled by domestic demand is currently lauded by financial analysts. Within a standard economic context of supply and demand, the creation of goods, the consumption of it, and through that, monetary transactions that propagate into a seemingly perpetual cascading chain of creation and consumption. The doubling of money as this happens adds to GDP figures and everyone is happy.
Reframing happen when you see that one cannot create out of thin air; raw materials and energy is required in order for transformation to happen.
Both requires genesis, thus it begets the question of whether this cycle is sustainable. When framed, then the answer is a resounding no. Put it simply, China is harnessing resources from nature and turning it into a ‘virtual’ concept; i.e. money, which allows the industry to turn even more raw materials into products – ad infinitum. Sadly, resources are finite.
To me, that’s scary, as I’m abstracting further that China has turned solid, tangible objects into virtual concepts that only exists in our head -> the value of money (ok, a bit of a stretch).
To extend the example; do you know the “flow” of your business i.e. the flow of “value” from raw materials to product and services? This idea by Shingeo and Toyada from the famed “Toyota Production System” (some may balk at reading this with their latest foobar) is supremely elegant.
Shingeo was looking at how he could take raw materials to finish products within the shortest time and with as little waste as possible. The smoother the flow, the faster and more efficient the organization becomes. He looked at continuously improving processes, skills, personnel, and ergonomics in an unending task of optimization. Fundamentally, Shingeo was a master at abstraction. He saw the relationship, between “flow” and “waste” as well as the need to eliminate waste. His paradigm was game changing – inventory was waste; can you reduce inventory and yet still meet the variable demand of customers was his problem statement. He saw that if the company can achieve sublime, supreme efficiency, the production system can be expediently ramped up and thus inventory as a buffer can be kept to a minimum. Better yet, interruptions in supply when inventory is low are not an issue or a problem; it is merely an indication/symptoms that there are inefficiencies to be ironed out throughout the organization.
So try to take that into the context of your organization, your business.
Do you sufficiently understand the ‘flow’ of value through your business? Can you harness it, dam it, control its direction, unleash a torrent or even uncover new spring wells of value.
Abstract your answer.
Can you see the abstraction...?
p/s: To the well read or googled, you will find that Abstraction Quotient was coined by Shipley (1941) as a measure of cognitive impairment of shell shocked war veterans as well as psychotics. Cute.
Source: “A Convenient Self-Administering Scale for Measuring Intellectual Impairment in Psychotics”, Shipley and Burlingame, American Journal of Psychiatry .1941; 97: 1313-1325
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Could you think of examples of human touches in IT services? The rustling felt like wind was going through foliage...
“Saying good morning?”So why then do help desk services; still to this very day forces you, the customer; all mighty holy deity of business to remember a cryptic “incident no.”
“Saying thank you?”, I smiled at the participant.
“Knowing your name!”, someone shouted.
“Not putting you on hold”, the crowd snickers in agreement.
“Thank you for your call sir, please remember your incident no. ABB2231-XYZQEE29. Have a nice day...”
This to me my friends are classic examples of IT Service firms who no longer understand what it means to be human, or even offering glimpses of humanity.
We talked about forms in the previous post; and services that mechanize human engagements into bits and bytes, ids and numbers are one manifestation of being obsessed with forms. Manifestations of being lost in the world of automation, but not harnessing the power of innovation that automation provides.
We speak to each other in terms of names, places, time and actual events. Sincerely; I despise anything in IT that ends in “Numbers/Id” Come on, share some more experiences.
“Identification No?”I held my hand up surrendering to the torrent.
“Login Id? “, Good; some more please
“Account Classification Code”
“Lotus Notes Id.”
“Active Directory Id.”
If there’s one manifestation of Principle Centered Processes that I want to introduce and challenge Help Desk Services – is this:-
“Can’t you recognize me when I call?”Think about it; when your wife, friends, colleagues, boss, girl friends (smiles), calls you – I bet you know EXACTLY who they are, and probably sometimes, why they’re calling.
Why is that so?
Come on, this is easy...! I challenged.
“Called Id”, a lady in the 2nd row whispered sheepishly.EUREKA! Yes, YES, YES! I yelled and jumped and signaled the assistant to give her a small gift for sharing.
Caller Id has been around for as long as I can remember mobile phones, so the question is, WHY hasn’t it been implemented. It can’t be cost, it’s a ubiquitous technology; and so the only reason that I can think of is again... human touches.
When anyone that you care about calls, at the back of your head; you will vaguely remember when they called and why they called...
“This cannot be executed, help desk personnel takes HUNDREDS of calls a day...” a dissenter yelled and was clearly irate.
“EXACTLY”, I yelled back. And that’s why a simple implementation of caller Id, is so important. With the hundreds and thousands of calls, you cannot afford any delays searching for customer information. It needs to be up in front of the Help Desk Personnel’s face or the customer will be supremely incensed having to explain what happened again because your staff can’t identify the details of the previous call.
Take a moment to think about the “WHYs” in implementation failures; and think about all your own experiences in calling up Help desk services.
There’s also a 2nd piece to the puzzle, the discipline of tagging each phone call back to the customer and keeping track of the customer engagements centrally. My vision is, when I call any help or service desk personnel, I'll get this:-
“Hello Dr. Kervokian, we haven’t talked since last Thursday, I hope the incident was resolved amicably, how may I help you today?”
Finally, for the love of “God/Customer”, please do not shove the incident no. down the customer’s throat. It is your internal tracking number, not the customer’s.
Because the whole point of the Principle of Human Touch is
DO NOT MAKE THE SERVICE PROVIDER’S PROBLEM – THE CUSTOMER’SAs a service provider, you make their life simpler, not yours. I cannot stress this enough... and yes, keep forms away from your customer.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The audience looks on like I'm a wild man from the mountains.
"He's talking nonsense...", the crowd slowly rumbles, and the built up tension turned into yells of
But surely the world has changed, and an organization that is built for change, needs to move with the change.
I thus challenge the reader to see what I see.
- How long have you worked with the organization? 5, 10, 20, 30 years?
- How many times were you compelled to write your name on a form? Don't your friends and colleague for that many years know you by now?
- How many times were you coerced into scrummaging for an archaic label that says - please enter your charge code? (Image below is an actual form from a global USD16bil a year outsourcing firm)
- How many of you actually know your charge code?
- Do you actually know how many forms and which forms do you require?
- Do you know where to get the form?
- Do you know whom to ask for the form?
- How many times were you told that you've filled up the wrong form?
- How long did you take to fill up the form?
- How long did it take to actually get what you wanted?
The following technologies are available and able to permanently replace all manner of forms, electronic or otherwise:
- Directory Services
To identify who you are, where you are in the hierarchy and the policies that governs you.
- Identity and Access Management
To enable and disable access to systems that you need access to or rights which can be accorded to you.
- Work flow/Rules Engine
To route the requests to the relevant party and prioritize the requests.
- Messaging System(email) + Unified Communications (a bonus)
To notify the approver, wherever the person is!
- A simple dashboard
to flag and identify approving authorities that take forever to authorize a request. Also to tell where you are in the approving chain.
That's the thing with Principle Centered Processes - it seeks Godlike perfection.
More importantly, it brings humanity into technology
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I multiply your projects by words I can’t pronounce,
And weigh your published papers to the nearest half an ounce;
I add a year-end bonus for research that’s really pure,
(And if it’s also useful, your job will be secure).
I integrate your patent-rate upon a monthly basis;
Compute just what your place in the race to conquer space is;
Your scientific stature I assay upon some scales
Whose final calibration is the Company net-to-sales.
And thus I create numbers where there were none before;
I have lots of facts and figures – and formulae galore –
And these quantitative studies make the whole thing crystal clear.
Our research should cost exactly what we’ve budgeted this year.
Source: R. Landon, cited by Dr A. Bueche (Vice-President for Research and Development of the US General Electric Company) in ‘From laboratory to commercial application: some critical issues’. Paper presented at the 17th International Meeting of the Institute of Management Sciences, London, 2 July 1970.
But think deeper, what if it's not all "nonsense"; what if it unleashes a whole new arena of "alternative lending" mechanism driven by rabid virtual consumerism within the Facebook ecosphere, wouldn't that jeopardizes traditional banking?
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Startup companies are always hunting for ways to accomplish as much as possible with what they have available. Last December we realized that we had a growing queue of important engineering projects outside of our core technology that our team didn’t have the time to finish anytime soon. To make matters worse, we wanted the projects completed right away, in time for our planned product launch in early February.
So what did we do? The logical solution, of course. We quadrupled the size of our company’s engineering team for one month using paid student interns.Now, if you happen to know Fred Brooks, please don’t tell him what we did. He managed the Windows Vista of the 1960s—IBM’s OS/360, a software project of unprecedented size, complexity, and lateness—and wrote up the resulting hard-earned lessons in The Mythical Man-Month, which everyone managing software projects should read. The big one is Brooks’s Law: “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”. Oops.
Click here for the full post.
But here's the thing, (note: real architects may disagree) buildings are "built to last" while IT systems undergo constant evolution and sometimes even revolutions. Although the same physical constraints of space and loading applies, IT systems are far more advantaged as the underlying code can continuously be tuned and by scaling the hardware outwards; you could always increase the total system loading by further increments.
Hence more appropriately, Enterprise Architecture should adopt the Town Planning & Urbanization principles. Buildings stand by itself (well, other than tapping on the grid, water supply, transport system and waste disposal) while a single IT system may depend and provide data/information to various other systems.
A township requires various amenities in order to flourish, e.g. schools, religious centres, community hall, roads, car park, commercial and housing areas and each of these facilities are constantly remodeled. A vibrant township is one that is constantly growing where new buildings are added and old buildings either refurbished or demolished. And while all of these are happening the people are able to live and go about their daily routines with relative comfort. The same goes with IT systems; there's a great number of interdependence between one system and another, between human and machine; as well as culture and environmental forces - The same requirements for complementary benefits, apply.
The danger that I see with over emphasizing the word "Architecture" in EA are fascinations with framework, order, certainty and a result that is as unchanging as the great pyramids.
Unfortunately; that is exactly what you'll get, grandiose constructions driven by ego maniacal pharaohs that serve no other purpose than encasing a dried up dead body.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
When the organization is ruled by “Failure Induced Change”, the situation perpetuates like a bad case of dermatitis. For example, during a failure; catastrophic or otherwise the organization will be hard pressed for system up time. The solution will more than likely be a hack job/workaround versus a well designed and tested solution.
However, there’s just insufficient time, too much stress and too many customers to keep happy – excuses that deafens the voice of logic.
Hence we wait and pray that the duck tape and glue-ons last long enough until the actual solution comes in. Now comes the moment of truth; this is where THE BUSINESS should have no hesitation in putting in place the intended solution scheduled 3-4 weeks prior. The question is – Do you have the guts to go through with it?
Imagine that you have to make this decision when another highly sensitive production system now tethers at oblivion but IT comes to you and requests, “We seriously need some if not all of the parts in flight to solve this new disaster because the previous system is already “stabilized”.
What’s the solution to this?
With all sincerity – BITE THE BULLET! There’s really no two ways about it.
Without which the subsequent downtime ricochets like aftershocks of the recent Chilean quake creating just as much damage if not more than the first outage. The organization just cannot afford another hack job.
I am not purporting that the team takes its own sweet time designing and carving out reams of architectural documentation and philosophical debates between options 1 through 13. There’s really:-
- Option A) - The best solution that’ll last 3 years at least (barring more sticky situations like an impending upgrade – usually politically motivated)
- Option B) - The second best option; what are the business compromising on and can we afford these compromises.
Work around the clock if you have to, because the sleep time invested here will be well worth it. I like to end with a quote from Dean Smith, a consultant that I had the privilege to work with despite his hard ass approach to implementation ~ paraphrased.
“When I do build a system, I want to make sure that I am not phoned in the middle of my sleep for the next 3 years at least...”
p/s: The quote may sound contradictory, but I’ll explain next time. Cheers.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Is you're company heading the same direction?
Watch CBS News Videos Online
In case you're wondering how fuel cells work. Look here
Friday, February 19, 2010
When applied to business and IT management, I can't help but to wonder whether it is one of the factors why certifications and processes like CMMI, OPM3, PMI etc doesn't quite get the level of adoption and benefits as purported. Enjoy.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Then it struck me that a lot of these rules and regulations are NOT built for change. (The bulk of the griping have already been covered in the dark arts of management) So we’re going to answer the question of HOW organizations can excel in achieving all these process standards as well as ensuring that we will not be RULED by the rules.
To do that, organizations require – Principle Centered Processes. Without which, we would be doing nothing more than APPROVING deviations.
What are Principle Centred Processes? These are processes put in place NOT for CYA’ing
(CYA = Cover Your Ass), but rather for:-
- The customer’s benefit (speed! And quality of service)
- The organization’s benefit (reduce the amount of process systems to support the system!)
- The system’s benefit (to maintain up time – change management)
- The staff’s benefit – to reduce the amount of painstaking work required.
Strategy+Business from Booz&Co has a good article on bureaucracy titled: Getting a Return on Judgment. Do read
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. We’ve heard that before, supposedly some 1950s Russian manufacturing principle; most people in IT even swear by it. Ever experienced 72 hours of sleep deprivation just to undo a “simple patch” that’s suppose to take 30 minutes to install? We’ve all been there before.
So this “programmed” behaviour leads to stoic, “NO First” attitude when it comes to system enhancements. “NO First”, even happens for any critical patches, operations folk shudder and think up workarounds like “Great Walling” the IT systems with 3 different brands of Firewalls on top of the 2 Intrusion Protection Systems with the false belief that if nothing can get in, everything will be fine.
IT systems go through “revolutions” as system resources, users, business functionalities and complexities skyrocket on a daily basis. A system that is not built for change goes bonkers the moment anyone does anything on it.
What does that tell you? Well, it tells me that the system is FRAGILE by design, and built atop a deck of cards. Inter-dependencies abound and patching or system upgrades are more like deft manoeuvrings on Jenga blocks. Admit it; we behave like children, and upgrades only happen through irrecoverable failures!
Take a second to mull, are your IT people ruled by “Failure Induced Change” or is it “Built for Change”.
Built for Change is a methodology to eliminate old school architectural principles of plunking behemoth systems with quadruple redundancy that's CEMENTED IN SITU, requiring a whole IT department to sustain and nurture before it can sputter menial reports.
It’s also about “de-programming” – “If It ain’t broken don’t fix it” mindset.
Built for Change means thinking about how the system can still run at 10,000 rpm while undergoing daily upgrades and code fixes as customers point out better ways in using your software.
Are your Technology Investments Built for Change?