Meetings structured around a 6 page memo

Quoting from Jeff Bezos:

“The traditional kind of corporate meeting starts with a presentation. Somebody gets up in front of the room and presents with a PowerPoint presentation, some type of slide show.  In our view you get very little information, you get bullet points.  This is easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience.  And so instead, all of our meetings are structured around a 6 page narrative memo…. If you have a traditional ppt presentation, executives interrupt.  If you read the whole 6 page memo, on page 2 you have a question but on on page 4 that question is answered.”

I’m going to use this technique as soon as possible.

Memorandums

A memorandum is a note, document or other communication that helps the memory by recording events or observations on a topic, such as may be used in a business office.

In the matrix organization where I work is an useful tool for communication, everybody work in their own silos, and sometimes they do not understand what the others are doing.

A short document explaining area by area what they have done on during last 6 last months and what are the main goals for next 6 months is very useful and enable the teams to understand each other. Remove frictions is key on these organizations.

100 days plan for strategic alignment

I was recently asked about how to plan an strategic alignment between business and IT initiatives, where there should be a focus on the:

  • Follow-up and efficiency of projects initiatives.
  • Track of benefits realization.
  • Portfolio plan where we all can understand the dependencies of the IT projects and impacts on business.
  • Improve the level of knowledge of project managers.

My approach for this situation to define a set of actions at different levels:

  • Strategic level: define vision, values, methods, objective and measures.
  • Tactic level: define specific actions by area.
  • Operational level: work on existing processes, put in place changes to them, increase the efficiency.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • The methodology I would apply: Lean Six Sigma.

The summary of activities for the 100 days is:

  • Day 1 – Let us be Honest
  • Day 2 to Day 20  – Map it!
  • Day 21 to Day 40 – Analyse & challenge
  • Day 41 to Day 60 – Doctrine
  • Day 61 to Day 80 – Flow
  • Day 81 to Day 100 – Keep it steady

Let’s explain a little bit these steps:

Day 1 – Let us be Honest

  • Describe the main pain points of the organization, areas where the communications are not good…
  • Imagine the organization you would like to have: how the behavior should be, how the communications should be, what is the way IT should behave to satisfy the goals of the business, how business should behave to explain what they need to IT…
  • Define KPIs  and targets to these KPIs, so we can see how we evolve.
  • Prepare a specific speech for each set of stakeholders about goals and benefits of your plan. The benefits of this speech have to be linked to the needs of the audience.
  • Then communicate, communicate, communicate…

100-days-strategy-plan-1Day 2 to Day 20  – Map it!

  • Draw the current situation you have on your systems.
  • Discover with the different business units, how they are organized,
  • Discover with IT what are the main IT assets, what are the projects on-going, and
  • Capture a snapshot of the projects under execution and forecasted initiatives.
  • Define a list of stakeholders.
  • Start to draw a RACI chart with the main areas of work.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate…

Value-chain-mapping-ecosystems-CIODay 21 to Day 40 – Analyze & challenge

  • It’s time to take the maps and draw more specific maps or diagrams about how the things are done.
  • The diagrams have to be shared with the others, so people understand how things work (they are so useful, I have seen so much difference between how thinks work and how people believe that it works).
  • Challenge to the people who owns a process to change/improve it: let’s run to simplicity!!!
  • Identify duplication: they are there. Then remove it.
  • Generate a common nomenclature that improve communications.
  • Identify the hurdles and specific pain points the organization have. Analyze the impact on the organization.
  • Deliver specific presentations to the different business departments and units with the specific actions to be done (action oriented & focus on their scope).
  • For a business unit of a country, it should include the actions, the list of projects and the targets we have.
  • For a global stakeholders, the report should include data at its level. It also should include the conflicts identified
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Day 41 to Day 60 – Doctrine

  • You already have improved the situational awareness of the organization.
  • Remove identified duplication of whatever you found.
  • Work on the 20% more important pain points you have identified.
  • Refine the ITIL processes, refine the RACI,
  • Review the main IT projects.
  • Launch with HR a training plan for PMs, so they can improve their skills.
  • Mentor the PMs.
  • Update with PMs the portfolio schedule: analyze the delays and their impacts, get the commitment of the delivery.
  • And communicate, communicate, communicate: different stakeholders, different presentations.

Day 61 to Day 80 – Flow

  • IT have their own flow: work on the existing projects, services…
  • Business have their own intertia too.
  • Push that this inertia goes where we all want to go.
  • Understand that from IT we have a clear map about where we want to go technologically.
  • Understand what are the future business challenges that business unit has. Force them to define it, help them to do it through business cases, impact analysis, proof of concepts…
  • The reports needs to link the capabilities provided by the projects with the business capabilities the BU requires or needs to improve. Define in a measurable way the benefits. Typically the BPO owns the responsibility to measure the benefit.

Day 81 to Day 100 – Keep it steady

  • You’re now ready to start examining structure, mechanisms of learning and the principles of strategic play.
  • The maps will also help you identify where to attack along with where to gamble with respect competition.
  • You have a list of pain points you have to work on.
  • You have a list of KPIs and data about how it was done during these first 100 days.
  • You have a portfolio schedule with linked initiatives.
  • You have a detailed RACI with actions and new responsibilities for the organization.
  • Follow-up the benefits realization of the projects.
  • You have a more or less defined road-map of the business unit needs.
  • You are discussing all the specific aspects with the specific stakeholders: action oriented, please, focus on actions.

Process-improvement-Dashboard-calendarWhat happens after the 100 days?

Ideally, you can do all this in a quarter, and after that repeat in the next quarter, so you are aligned with business changes, and you can also stop and gain perspective every 3 months. Do not lose perspective: the strategy needs to be review and aligned with the changes.

The approach during the second and other coming quarters have to be different. You can define:

  • Weekly calls for operational aspects: issues, actions…
  • Monthly calls: for project reviews, business unit reviews and tactic actions.
  • quarterly calls: for business review at high level.

Communications curve

Attending a Program Executive course where communications with customer and with internal teams was discussed. So many concepts were reviewed about efficient communication and how to plan and execute it.

This complex discipline that you need to practice everyday, independently of the talent you have. Set a clear goal, understanding of the audience, measure the momentum of the organization, and evaluate the real impact of your actions….

Communication-curveAbout feedback and impact of communications, we reviewed this survey that generated a good discussion with the people attending the course.

Communications-surveyYou can find other interesting information here: http://leaderchat.org/

 

 

 

Remote work, relationships

Since almost a year ago I work from home and travel to visit customers, this makes me be close to the customers, but for the some of the delivery teams I have lost the capacity to have face to face interaction, that now is limited to a couple of times a year.

I found this interesting analysis of the Dumbar’s number in this article. This basically confirms what I already know and feel (you need to invest more time in communications, be patient and focus more on the relationships), it just create the concept of Dumbar’s number that tries to standardize the behavior.

DunbarsNumberLooking more about the concept, I found this interesting picture done by Joe Glynn, that really contributes to visualize some more real examples with some of the communications channels almost all people use.

robin-dunbar_01

 

 

Playing with argument on a discussion

Everyday I face issues and people arguing about problems and invesitng time and effort on personal issues more than on resolve the issue itself.

Some people forget how to identify the arguments mentioned by the other party, analysis it and put on context of the situation or the organization.

When you want to defend a position you have to provide arguments clearly, spot it, construct your argument in the context of the situation and then defend it.

I face situations where the person talking to me build his/her own story to defend a position, but the arguments are weak or the story behind it cannot be taken in a serious way. One of the things I found it was that s/he even cannot differentiate the difference between deductive arguments and inductive arguments.

  • On a deductive argument the premises provide a guarantee of the truth of the conclusion. Here, the premises are intended to provide support for the conclusion that is so strong that, if the premises are true.
  • On an inductive argument the premises provide reasons supporting the probable truth of the conclusion. Here, the premises are intended only to be so strong that, if they are true, then it is unlikely that the conclusion is false.

The point I want to highlight here is the fact that some people defend inductive arguments as if they would be deductive arguments, provoking a weird situation where you do not trust the arguments and hence you start to hesitate about the person defending the arguments.

I found a good picture to visualize it,

The use of answering machine

The answering machine is a very powerful tool, you can exert different types of influence with it, or you can commit errors on the communication.

You can give a short call with your information and mention the purpose of your call.

If there is an issue where you had some e-mails going and coming back, you probably want to stop ping-pong messages that provokes a negative loop. You call, but you find the answering machine: give a large message with the strong approach you want to transmit and finish the message requesting to have a call as soon as possible.

There is people who prioritize the answering machine before the e-mail, there is people who do not take care about it (few people),so sometimes you will need to repeat the message via e-mail.

Take care giving so many messages, you will look like a jealous girlfriend.

Finally you can just hang up the telephone, and you will have nothing.

It’s easter, we’re closed

Our Application services are very simple in the way they are organized: critical services and key services. The first category are covered 24×7 and 365 days. The second ones are just 8×5 on working days.

The rule is simple: what service do you want to pay? just pick one.

This year the finance closing period coincides with Easter season and the people supporting key services are at home. I have received an interesting escalation asking why the support is not available Today for the closing period. Funny, isn’t it?

I’m so sorry for the problems that it could generate to you, but we are closed Today. We can have a meeting next week to review if the extra availability requirements you have for these services.

You can make a customer aware that something is important, but they sometimes do no take care. But these senior escalations in the client, where they do not take care about why nobody is available, are really good compelling events.

A good example of a letter

I have read and re-read this letter a couple of times. For sure to understand it you should have some knowlede about NBA.

By the way, 2 days later NBA commisioner denied the trade because “sport reasons”

“Commissioner,

It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed.
This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard. (They would also get a large trade exception that would help them improve their team and/or eventually trade for Howard.) When the Lakers got Pau Gasol (at the time considered an extremely lopsided trade) they took on tens of millions in additional salary and luxury tax and they gave up a number of prospects (one in Marc Gasol who may become a max-salary player).

I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen.

I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do.

When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?

Please advise….
Dan G.”

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in an email to NBA Commissioner David Stern regarding the proposed trade that would send PG Chris Paul to the LA Lakers.