February 8, 2011

Linked Segments

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:31 am by lindaslongview

I have received some unflattering feedback that I made this post so succinct that I squeezed the life right out of it! (Thank you for gently letting me know.) Rather than rework it directly, I have attempted to reconstitute it at Protective Tribes, feel free to go there FIRST!

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Since my post Technical Complexity, I continue to deepen my thinking on subject of technology collaboration.  Recently,

  • I read Enterprise 2.0 (Andrew McAfee), a treatise on collaboration platforms (software) for organizations, and
  • I attended the Lab Automation 2011 conference in which a number of speakers addressed their experiences with collaboration platforms.

From these, I gained some new insights on the profound need to link organizational segments

Although segmentation and specialization are not new to industry (see Scientific Management), research and development activities have retained craftsman-like approaches because of the need for pattern recognition in problem solving and innovation.  Traditionally, within a narrowly defined research area, one or very few steward experimentation, analysis, and the accumulation of structured knowledge. However, more and more, segmentation and specialization are being deployed upstream of manufacturing changing the dynamics of pattern recognition and the accumulation of structured knowledge.  In fact, speakers at the conference described harnessing automation, outsourcing, and scheduling to fuel faster innovation across agri-business, pharmaceuticals, and disease research in ways that startled even me!

Having spent many years facilitating technology commercialization, I know firsthand the challenges of transitioning craft-sensitive loosely defined processes to robust segmented processes (research → development → manufacturing).  In my experience, the most critical factors for success are as follows:

  • Commitment to the transition – participants must understand deeply the constraints of the status quo and the benefits of change (the why)
  • Team collaboration – participants must be engaged and timely share process understanding to create new knowledge (the how)
  • Role valuation – participants must understand their responsibilities, feel valued for their contributions, and foresee continued opportunity (the human need for self-actualization)

With increasing scale and penetration of segmentation and specialization, the need for collaboration platforms such as dashboards, messaging, wikis, blogging, and tagging (described in Enterprise 2.0), is apparent – the proliferating segments need to be linked.  One of the pharma speakers at the conference provided an excellent primer on the demands and challenges of linking the segments.  He eloquently made the point that success requires a proactive creation of collaborative structure that encourages productive behaviors – “it’s about the conversations not the tools.” Concurring, McAfee describes common obstacles to implementing collaboration platforms:

  • Need to achieve 9x superiority (overcome status quo bias)
  • Reluctance to relinquish successful interpersonal behaviors of private communications (unilateral actions and defensiveness) that fail in public collaboration (due to mistrust and rigidity)
  • Impatience (adoption is slow and is thus a long haul effort).

Distilling the different observations and experiences, I conclude that the accelerating shift to a collaborative culture of linked segments requires a deliberate long-view transition with special attention to interpersonal behaviors. It is not enough to add the new collaborative tools into the organization along with automation and segmentation, but requires an integrated program that addresses commitment, valuation, and known obstacles for success.

Are you deliberately moving towards linked segments?

March 5, 2010

Karma

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:10 pm by lindaslongview

In early Feburary, I requested a cab for a 4:00 a.m. pickup from my home to get to the airport.  The fare is usually between $36 – $40 (I take the route frequently).  I admit that on that morning, I did not notice whether the meter was zeroed before we departed that early morning.

At arrival at the airport, the meter read $52.  I unsuccessfully disputed the fare with the cab driver (Chris).  When I told him that I wasn’t prepared with appropriate change (I usually paid $40), and that I would need $8 in return (from $60), he told me he only had $3 to provide change.  At this point, the driver held my bag (hostage) while I needed to catch a plane, so I accepted the $3 for a total fare of $57 just to be on my way.  I explained to Chris that I would be complaining when I returned and I requested that he prepare a detailed receipt including cab #, driver name, and total fare.

I called the cab company several days later (when I had returned), explained what happened and requested a refund.  The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me back that day.  Days passed, and I called again and explained that I wanted a refund.   The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me that day.  More and more days passed.

I called my local cab licensing/enforcement agency (an arm of the local police) and explained what happened and how I had tried to resolve the problem.  The first thing I was told is that the cab company did not have a driver named Chris, because he was not on their approved (background-checked, finger-printed, allowed to pick up fares) list.  I assured her that indeed his name was Chris and that I had paid him $57 for my local trip to the airport.

When the police called the cab company, they successfully achieved a $22 refund and an apology on my behalf.  However, it came at a cost — the police opened an investigation because the cab company had allowed an unapproved driver to pick up fares!  So even though the cab company had already fired Chris, all of a sudden they are now in the center of a certification investigation.  They could have made so many different choices along the way….Karma!

What I don’t understand is why anyone (or any business) freely chooses to be dishonest, deceitful, or exploitative, because it creates only a short-term gain — it is not sustainable over the long-term.  Even though it might be “easy” to get away with deceit occasionally in a culture of complacency, it’s a game of Russian roulette.  Eventually a strong emotional response to dishonesty (coupled with the energy to pursue remediation) will emerge.

For me, it was initially about my loyalty to a long-term taxi service to let them know about their problem and offer them a chance to remedy my experience.  Later, it was about warning others.

People have long memories for both exploitation and generosity.  In our crowdsourced world, with services like Yelp! amplifying both, misdeeds/deeds are more durable.  Why risk enduring unflattering amplification?  My Long View Advice:

  • Be honorable; do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
  • Skip the shortcut, especially if safety or credibility is involved.
  • Make your choices as if they will be your destiny, they will.
  • Eschew complacency and participate in feedback, create opportunity to correct honest mistakes, amplify generosity when deserved, and warn others if necessary.

I have been a long believer that everyone makes his or her own karma.   If you live honestly, with integrity, and are generous, you will be reap value and amplify positivity over the long view.  Conversely, if you live dishonestly, deceitfully, are exploitative, it will catch up with you.

What kind of karma are you creating and amplifying?

P.S.  The destiny poster (at right) is courtesy of my son’s middle school, it hangs on the wall.

P.P.S.  I received my $22 check today.

December 6, 2009

Size Disadvantage?

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:09 pm by lindaslongview

It’s easy to benchmark size when rating performance – it is visible and typically easy to measure.  Yet other less accessible attributes can contribute importantly to success:  agility, competence, experience, focus, knowledge, patience, skill, strategy, etc.  Because these other attributes are less visible and are harder to assess, we often choose to measure on the basis of a simple benchmark like size.

In June, I got agitated about “how much playing time?” my son received at a tournament (see Applied to Soccer).  Although my long view leadership advice in that post has merit, I now realize that on a systemic basis, I oversimplified my son’s soccer situation.  There was more to learn and assess…

In the case of sports, bigger players benefit from their size on two counts:  1) they are physically more powerful and 2) youth coaches often select larger players over their smaller teammates on the reasoning “you cannot coach size,” and give them more opportunity early (for example, more playing time on game day).

However, having more diligently watched the dynamics of my son’s development as a soccer player a few more months, I now realize that being small (for a longer duration) is only a near-term disadvantage in terms of opportunity (passed over for the boys who have grown bigger earlier).  In subtle ways, smaller boys, like my son, benefit from their size disadvantage over the long-term because they cultivate their game differently.  For example, my son has impressive knowledge of the tactics and strategy of the game.  His skill, agility, and speed are his primary tools for success (different emphasis than his larger teammates).  When he finally achieves improved size parity within the next few years (he has more growth left than those who have grown early), perhaps like Lionel Messi, he will still be reasonably competitive due to his quiet mastery of the less visible attributes of the game?!

Today’s observation is simply a personal reminder to engage in long-view thinking everywhere when learning:

  • Expand observations,
  • Increase knowledge, and
  • Cultivate more complex thinking for improved accuracy (include more attributes in mental models).

As a result of my agitation, I paid greater attention to the team dynamics, learned much, and now realize that it is all part of the beautiful game.

Nevertheless, I wish my son increased joy (and playing time) as he auditions for a different team in a slightly less competitive league. 🙂

Are you constantly expanding observations, increasing knowledge, and cultivating more complex thinking everywhere?

November 23, 2009

Avert Your Eyes

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:49 pm by lindaslongview

At what point is stuff on the net (public domain) none of our business?  When should we avert our eyes and not read a little more?  What is the threshold from curious to stalking?

Recently, I met an interesting fellow at an alumni-networking event.  After an engaging conversation of shared interests, we exchanged email addresses. Later, I wanted to suggest an appropriate meeting place but could not recall where he had said that he lived, so I turned to the Internet to do a quick address search.

In about 10 minutes of searching, I did not find his address, but I learned more than I expected.  I found his age, his faith, his cousin’s family tree, and his wife’s blog.

Intrigued by my new friend’s wife’s blog, I read on.  It turns out, the stories (blog posts) were every bit as interesting and engaging as his conversation had been.  However, immediately following this confirmation, I felt unsettled.  Just how would I let on what I knew and how I knew it?  Had I usurped his privilege of introducing me to his wife’s blog?  Had I devalued the connection by barging in myself? Is this part and parcel of 21st century networking that I am not yet used to?

My experience was confirmed in Wired Magazine’s headline article this month, Vanish: “…ordinary people – really can gather an incredible dossier of facts about you.”  It is because of the combination of powerful search engines and extensive amounts of publicly available information.  It behooves us be aware of what information is defining us and to be thoughtful about what is defining others.

In old cultures where privacy was hard to come by, people learned to avert their eyes to allow for privacy and were admonished to mind their own business.  In addition, we were encouraged to live an honorable life because of public scrutiny.  Those old (long view) rules are evolving to deal with the connectivity and information richness of our lives today, yet still apply:

  • Live your life impeccably.  Doing so, will mean never having to be ashamed, embarrassed, or held accountable for wrongdoing.
  • Out of respect and kindness, engage the positive and disregard the negative.

Embracing the new:

  • Take what you learn on the Internet with a grain of salt.
  • Be judicious in how you apply Internet “knowledge.”
  • Follow your instincts, yet pay attention to the evolution – norms are changing.

Bloggers expect that others will be informed, transformed, and educated through connection to our blogs.  Participating constructively is welcome and my new friend was fine with it. 🙂

Are you living life impeccably and engaging the positive?

July 9, 2009

I Can Do Better

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:26 pm by lindaslongview

My blog post of yesterday, Pace and Priority, did not meet my own standards.  It changed direction, ended abruptly, and did not provide a clear sense of navigating short view vs. long view.  Today I hope to improve…

In Pace and Priority, I describe a disconnect between “say” and “do” in the context of  “action items” for a guidance document in a community organization.  There is no doubt that all of the participating volunteers mean well in agreeing to perform certain tasks (action items), yet we have struggled to achieve traction.

I started yesterday’s post on the topic of lack of priority for the work, but the more I explored the idea, the more I realized that my thinking was too narrow.  First, I realized that there was no way for anyone to establish priority without knowing the full range of obligations and expectations each participant was juggling – only each participant can do that for him/herself.  As such, I changed direction and ended abruptly with the suggestion that people must be responsible for their own consistency with respect to “say” vs. “do.” Yet there was more to it, I just could not put my finger on it immediately…

Leadership plays an important role in defining priorities and motivating others. This is true in both market and social norms (for more detail, see Finishing School).  Specifically, in the context of market norms (PAID to do work), there is obligation to make progress against the priorities of the organization. Conversely, in the context of social norms (volunteers gain RECIPROCITY), there is no obligation.

Leadership expectations in a mixed market and social group, thus, have complex dynamics.  Add shared leadership and complexity increases.  Thus, setting priority and motivating participants in these environments requires long view thinking.

TruthTableANDI compare the shared leadership situation to the mathematical logical (Boolean) AND function, which operates on two logical propositions (true or false) and produces a value of true if and only if both of its operands are true.  If one leader demonstrates priority (true condition) and the other does not (false condition), then participants can conclude the efforts are not a priority (true AND false = false) and will not likely establish priority for their own.

The only condition when participants conclude that efforts are a priority is when both leaders demonstrate priority. In the case of paid and volunteer participants sharing leadership, the engagement of the paid leader is likely to create a higher level of influence on the participants than the volunteer.  I assert this based upon the observation that if it is a priority to the person that it impacts most (the paid leader), it is important.  Thus, my long view advice is to ensure that paid leadership be actively engaged, demonstrating by example that the effort is important.

Although yesterday’s advice was useful (create consistency between personal “say” and “do”), it was not sufficient.  Complex leadership situations require thoughtful understanding.  For the specific case of shared leadership within a mixed market and social group, leadership alignment and active participation by the paid leader is critical to achieving a consistent message of priority for participants. Once achieved, then personal consistency becomes important.

Whew!  I hope that made sense and was helpful.

June 30, 2009

Community Evolution

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , at 11:12 pm by lindaslongview

I said in an earlier post (One Book, Two Months), I continue to be interested in the evolution of communities and organizations – how to increase collaboration and to reduce feelings of isolation.  Today’s post was sparked by connections among:

  • A whispered negative comment at a community meeting, “Did you hear that the Smith’s are leaving?”
  • An uplifting positive email from a former colleague mentioning that a mutual colleague, who had worked for me, was a panelist at a recent career seminar and had said very complimentary things about how I explained the details of his position during recruitment, how I had piqued his interest enough to accept the job, and how I had been a good coach/mentor later after he was hired.
  • And, continued thinking on my last post, Applied to Soccer.

What these three things have in common are the ebb and flow that exists in every community and organization, which occurs like the ebb and flow of the flock of birds in this estuary photo.  EstuaryEbbandFlowMy three examples differ in tone and timing:  negative, positive, arriving (hiring), participating, and departing.   Organizations and communities evolve (grow and adapt to external change) as people depart and others arrive, so it is important to prevent stagnation, but there is no need to be negative.

Arrivals are recruited to perform specific functions (in organizations) and are assessed to ensure fit to the organization or community through shared goals, values, and vision.  With each arrival the community/organization is infused with the new, the fresh, and dreams.   Arrivals generate hope for the future.

Departures, on the other hand, are subdued, because there is loss.  The losses come in many flavors:  a valued contributor choosing to go elsewhere, a respected contributor departing under organizational contraction, and/or the loss of an aspiration because goodness-of-fit was not achieved (or outgrown).

Managing arrivals is easy because they are naturally positive – hope is good.  Conversely, managing departure can be hard.  The key to success in managing departure is to ensure shared goals during participation and dignity in departure.

Dignity is infused when leadership conversations are respectful and there is a history of communication around expectations and goals (positives are reinforced and negatives are identified and corrected early). Although it takes more effort to stay positive and to over-communicate, that extra effort nurtures joy, enthusiasm, and loyalty.  Thus, the long view advice is to lead with dignity upon arrival, during participation, and upon departure.

Are you infusing your community/organization with dignity?

May 8, 2009

Sealing Moment

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , at 10:35 pm by lindaslongview

CelebrateGivingOne of the best pieces of coaching advice that I received from one of my mentors is “find the teachable moment.”  My mentor taught me that we could amplify learning by delivering education just in time.  As leaders and mentors, if we pay attention, we can often observe the moment of realization and then amplify the learning by reinforcement.

Today, as I participated in “A Celebration of Giving” by my son’s 7th grade class, I realized that there is one better – create a sealing moment.   Let me explain…

Over the past many months, the 7th graders embarked on an integrated curriculum project to raise awareness for justice in and repair of the world.  Students each selected a charitable organization that was meaningful to them.  They learned about their organization through research, interviews, and discussion.   Once engaged, they advocated and raised funds for their respective organizations.  These 7th graders collectively raised >$29,000 to support 25 different worthy organizations – amazing!  Since they raised the money together, they divided the money among their many organizations. They prioritized allocation funding to the different organizations.  None received the same amount.

As I listened to the students speak today, I reflected on the comments that my own son made over the final few weeks during the allocation process (“it was hard…”), I realized that the allocation process was in fact the sealing opportunity for them.  Although they learned much through the preparation of research papers and demonstrated commitment to their organizations through formal oral presentations, it was not until they had to lobby each other for allocation support that their passion and advocacy truly kicked in. Although it would have been “easier” – less painful, less acrimonious, less divisive – to simply divide the money equally, it would have lessened the learning.  Sealing came from the harder process of truly engaging, participating, and negotiating.

Their sense of fairness and justice required each of them to listen objectively to the others and to regard their own project as one among many.  They had to decide the minimum level of funding for every project and the maximum funding for the highest priority project.  Although their compassion, commitment, and ability to be proactive was excellent before allocations, it was very clear that those attributes increased 10-fold by having to negotiate.  They had to both advocate for their own organization and be objective toward the others.  Their compassion, commitment, and ability to be proactive were sealed through the negotiation process of allocations.

As leaders, we know that it is imperative to achieve “buy-in” because it creates commitment and loyalty. This point was clearly demonstrated by these 7th graders. Their learning was amplified 10-fold by being part of the decision-making.

As leaders, if we truly desire commitment and loyalty, we must take the long view to ensure that we create sealing moments.  We must ensure that the hard work of active participation, engagement, and negotiation is not short-circuited by the need for expediency or ease.

What are you doing to ensure active participation, engagement, and negotiation?