Andrew Latham’s ‘S’ curve…

The ‘S’ Curve in Business – definition borrowed from Andrew Latham, Demand Media:

Businesses, or the products of businesses, that follow an S curve are characterized by a shallow start, where only early adopters and niche markets buy the product or invest in the company. Then they experience a rapid growth, and the product or business has a dominant position in the market. After the rapid growth, these businesses maintain a high performance level but with little growth, which often signals a mature but saturated market.
We see similar ‘S’ curve examples in cellphone/smart phone penetration in 3rd world markets, in Moore’s law where we are able to predict that the number of transistors we will be able to pack on a square inch of IC board will double every two years…and most recently we have…Uber!

Your first 100 days in the leadership seat…

I believe there is a meta-decision before the decision you took to join the new Organization. Are you moving from an Organization that has constantly kept you stretched intellectually, spiritually, physically and mentally…or are you jumping on board to be the big fish in a small pond.

That is the ‘to be or not to be’ decision you need to wrangle with.
I recommend choosing in favour of joining an Organization where you are likely to be the ‘worst’ player – that is the only way to ensure that you are in a constant growth and self – value building trajectory.

Do not allow any ‘Holy cows’ to shape the way you feel and behave toward the new organization’s culture. Be willing to slaughter the holy cows.

Don’t be afraid to come with the answer. If you come in without a clearly defined vision that you are willing to evangelize…you may be perceived as a prophet promising to lead them to the promised land…without a map.

On the Queen’s English…is our North American prose too abrupt?

There is a subtle context of ‘foreplay’ I feel when it comes right down to it. The typical British English user is more than likely to seek words that best articulate a fully formed thought or even a passing idea not yet fully crystallized.
The speech therefore comes out much more finessed than a typical American English user is able to deliver.

I am not saying either one is wrong – just that they (the Brits) utilize a somewhat different set of objectives in their choice of words. The one (Brit user) is predisposed to consider all the niceties that the language can bring to bear on the conversation, where the other (Yank user) would tend to parse it down to the bare-bones, unconcerned with niceties or embellishments – so long as the point gets across.

I do not believe there is any overt or covert belief that American’s come across as abrupt…just that their use of the ‘Queen’s English’ is somewhat…’improvised.’

What I find really neat about the American prose/conversation style is that the focus is on getting the key points across always. It is not too concerned with proper spelling, or grammar or enunciation, etc. If the text or the spoken word is clearly understood and can be acted upon, that is satisfaction enough. This makes for communication that is economical, crisp and readily understood. Many of us who come from backgrounds where the Britain ruled, and espoused the Queen’s English, may tend to be critical of this lack of attention to grammatical finesse and detail on the part of the our American brethren, so to speak. But this easy style kinda’ grows on you…and you soon begin to love it’s unpretentiousness and realness!

Change – Evolution or Disruption?

We need to differentiate between what is  ongoing Organization Evolution, triggered by changes in the market environment, buyer needs and behaviours, changes in Technology and Organization growth.  The Organization structure and management system needs to be capable of addressing such evolutionary change (No Change Management or Transformation Initiative required here). It is when we are seeking to make a quantum leap in order to overcome a sudden, discontinuous reality (or technology disruption as an example) that a strategic disruptive change Initiative, Organization-wide, becomes the need of the hour – and perhaps, the optimum vehicle for success.

Why are salesmen reluctant to make that call…

A proper sales approach needs to educate sales teams in both aspects of the Sales process. The Tactical skills required when face to face with a customer, and the strategic planning that goes into being well prepared when one is in front of the customer. Strategy is all the ground work that goes into creating relationships with the correct influencers in the customer organization, knowing what keeps the customer up at nights, and confidence in recommending the correct solution for their needs.  If these bases are covered well in the Strategic phase, everything falls into place in the tactical phase when we are face to face with the customer. One cannot succeed without both phases being covered. The underscored, tacit, need, is for the salesperson to constantly think ‘Win/Win’ for both organizations.

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Sales call reluctance typically occurs when the salesperson is ill prepared for the role of selling in general – especially for the deeper stages of ‘Qualify, Approach, Negotiate and Close.’ These stages assume that there is a strong relationship with the key buyers as well as that there is a “Sponsor’ relationship in place with the client organization (someone who is the Salesperson’s   ‘Coach’). In addition we need to have covered the Technical, Financial and User Buyers within the organization hierarchy, and have a good understanding of their needs and wants. Without these key bases covered we are bound to experience sales call reluctance – fix them and watch the problem disappear…in most cases.

The use of intuition in your decision making process…is it safe?

In the absence of endless time and/or access to empirical data to support past behaviour and trending, when forced to perform routine activities (which include quick decision making), we are often left with no option but to rely on Intuition or…that elusive 6th sense.

Valerie Beim (Austrian Grandmaster) wrote a fascinating book on the subject entitled :”The Enigma of Chess Intuition.” That is where I first learned that Intuition, like the other weapons in every chess players arsenal (tactical and strategic vision, the ability to mentally resolve countless permutations and combinations, opening, middle and end game techniques), enjoys a unique place of it’s own.

I am acutely aware how polarized this thread has gotten with extreme positions taken up in defense for or against the idea that intuition should ever be considered as a safe, functional option to be considered in our routine decision making.

I have no other argument to offer than to say that this sort of skepticism should then be leveled against the behavioral science of psychology that (begin quote) “focuses on understanding behavior and the mind in both human and nonhuman animals through research called cognitive-behavioral research. According to Psychology Today,“The study of animal behavior is a cornerstone of experimental psychology, shedding light on complex human emotions.” Thus, in psychology animals are commonly used as models for the human mind and behavior, particularly for human conditions involving psychiatric disorders and neurological diseases. In his review of animal models in psychology, Dr. Kenneth Shapiro stated, “… psychologists have attempted to develop an animal model for virtually every known problem in the human condition that has even a remotely psychological cast.” (end Quote).

The Irony is palpable. We humans therefore are investing all our trust, faith and hard money, on studying how rats, mice, hamsters and monkeys et al behave, react, manifest/articulate emotions or the lack thereof, in our journey to better understand ‘Human Behaviour’ and how the human mind/body will react in a given environment….an eerily ‘Pavlovian’ pursuit indeed!

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There must be a sensible balance in all actions or decisions that we take. As tested through the Strength Deployment Inventory (Instrument to assist in measuring aspects of the Relationship awareness theory, founded by Dr. Elias H. Porter).
Relationship Awareness Theory helps to effectively and accurately understanding the motivation behind behaviour. Relationship Awareness facilitates organizations and individuals to recognize the skills they need to build better/more effective personal/professional relationships. It helps them to develop and sustain relationships through understanding the underlying, motivations of themselves and others, under two environments or conditions:
a.  when things are going well and,
b.  during conflict.

The theory is based on the following four premises::
01.Behaviour is driven by motivation to achieve self-worth – Our behaviour is driven by our desire to do the “right” thing. Our beliefs regarding what is “right” may differ.
02.Motivation changes in conflict – Our motivation (what we need) changes when we experience conflict or stress.
03.Strengths, when overdone or misapplied, can be perceived as weaknesses – Weaknesses are no more than strengths that are perceived to be overdone or applied in the wrong context.
04.Personal filters influence perceptions of self and others – We each have filters (how we see the world) that influence how we judge others.

The theory facilitates in aiding people to recognize that they have the freedom to select a behaviour that accommodates their underlying values, while recognizing and being respectful of  values of others. It is a changing/powerful way analyzing interpersonal communication that facilitates in building effective communication and productive work relationships.
But what has this got to do with the current debate on When It’s Safe to Rely on Intuition (and When It’s Not) for your decision making process?

I would suggest that every decision we take  impacts people and relationships in one way or other.
In the organizational context, we work with ever changing tasks, roles, teams and geographical challenges of Outsourcing, Global deployment of Processes and teams, Language and Cultural differences.
Therefore we always need to rely (to a balanced extent of course), on the value and indeed appropriateness of Intuition. This idea is congruent with the with the theory of Emotional Intelligence model:

Wikipedia: Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.
The previously described environment is heavily dependent on one’s ability to recognize their own underlying in the two potential situations (when things are going and when they are not) – and then apply the same awareness with the others they are working with/depend upon.
Our environment, requires greater awareness of what makes us… and other people tick? Therefore we may find ourselves in situations where need to develop a greater awareness and dependency on Intuiveness and Emotional intelligence (by design) just because it is one of those easily applied and understood behaviours that we are able to deploy naturally…and without the need for any significant, external effort.

However as mentioned before (and as a key criteria in the SDI model)…any strength , if overused…rapidly morphs into a liability or weakness.
He who treats everything like a nail is generally good with a hammer. He who is exceptionally skeptical of making quick decisions, could soon become the cause for delaying every project or initiative requiring his approval. She who is good with numbers may end up checking, double checking and then some…until the reason for the decision becomes redundant because it is so deeply buried in a morass of paralysis by analysis!

Organizational Efficiency…

I totally agree that organizations get obsessed with certifications for the utterly wrong reasons – as an example (albeit exaggerated for dramatic effect), if you were in the business of manufacturing PFDs (Personal Flotation device – or Lifejackets) out of Concrete, you could apply for an ISO9001 or similar certification and get this -you could actually get certified – Why?
Because you need to demonstrate and prove that your process is capable of producing an output that meets the technical specifications you have established. So while I only intended this to be a humorous take on the value of certifications – it does have a rather unsettling connotation when you really think about it in the broader construct of how we typically put our faith (blind faith) in partnering with vendors who have such certifications – Certifications that are typically proffered as a non – negotiable requirement in many Organizations.
Therefore there can be no doubt in my mind that the reverse is true – we can no longer treat Operational efficiency and compliance as distractions – but instead give them the respect and Organizational investment that is their due.
An Organizations operational efficiency and compliance maturity have always been key indicators that have been and continue to be held in the highest esteem. The Organizations that treat these two indicators as moving targets are the most like to see consistent growth and share of mind/market in the long term.
Compliance should be treated as an ‘Early Warning System’ when applied for the right reason.
Compliance needs to be treated as the Key Control Indicators that must be consistently met or exceeded – and most importantly, that tell you sufficiently in advance that failure is about to occur. This sort of approach allows the Organization to develop a predictable process path that always alerts for incoming danger in advance such that the dangers can be anticipated and workarounds implemented to mitigate the danger at very least, mitigate the impact to a tolerable level.
Add to this the environment we are currently required to operate within: Cloud, Big Data, Analytics, All things Internet, I/T Security and of course Commerce.
There has never been a more opportune opportunity for Organizations who have a track record for Operational efficiency and Compliance.

Is leadership a choice?

Saying leadership is a Choice to me sounds rather like saying Courage is a choice. I cannot separate the two qualities regardless which way I look at it. if I am able to make the choice to be a leader, it stands to reason that I am also able to make a choice to be courageous.
Now that seems to be quite a leap for me.
The thing to remember about leadership is that it cannot survive without ‘Follower-ship.’ Let’s imagine there is a fire alarm in your office building and that quiet, reserved individual suddenly becomes galvanized into action and proceeds to lead a dangerous path onto the building roof. Now, faced with the certainly burning to death, or leaping off the roof to the pavement 4 floors below, the quiet individual asks everyone to follow him…and leaps!

Would you?

You see a leader would be able to make that leap and get me to follow him/her!

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Leadership is a behaviour…and we l know that any behaviour can be learned – or indeed imbibed through force of habit or consistent use.
Behaviours are constantly under the gun to be changed, altered, improved, re-set or plain, outright ordered into conformity – consider the impact a stop sign has on us while driving.
In that context, Leadership can be a learned behaviour – but that still is a far cry from it being a simple choice that allows anyone  to take the leadership mantle.
Why?
Because woven into this complex mesh of behaviours, skills, knowledge and experience is an interesting  little thing called Charisma. This quality is not something that can be taught…neither can it be learned…either you have it or you don’t.
Sure anyone can make it a choice to lead…the question do we feel motivated enough to follow…

Implementing Change in the context of the Organzational model…

I haven’t heard a more ludicrous proposition in a while. If change comes naturally to people why don’t we alternate right/left hands when we shake hands. Why don’t we swop feet to hit the gas or the brake pedals from time to time? Why don’t we walk backwards rather than walk forward all the time. Why don’t we get in and out of bed from totally different directions every night. This nonsensical diatribe can go on and on – but all it really does is establish that humans are hard-wired to practice perfection within a specific comfort zone and than resist (with their very life) the need to change to any other comfort zone (even if it is supposed to be better). I am not saying this predilection for a constant is right…but that’s just how we are.

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The Change Juggernaut marches on. Today our workplace is plagued with disappearing  low skilled jobs – thanks to the I/T revolution that is happening with Big Data and Analytics, Cognitive computing, Deep Learning systems, The Cloud and next generation Robotics (consider the dramatic breakthrus made by companies like Boston Dynamics). All facets of business and industry are being impacted, and it is only a matter of time when the last few bastions of human endeavor like education and medicine will also be threatened with job loss (as will white collar Mgt).  So we are right to want to resist these great upheavals, but it is inevitable. There are no simple answers…such as re-tool your skill set, or get a better education…this Change is Disruptive. Try as we may, there is no resisting this terrifying yet promising technology wave poised to inundate us all!

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We need to recognize that the reason Change Management initiatives do not work as well as we would like them to is because we often  attempt implementing a Change design point that is better suited to a stable, ‘Command & Control’ type structure rather than the more dynamic Organic structures of today..
The Organic Organizational model of today best represents the current need.

In their book ” The Management of Innovation,” Burns and Stalker point out that organic structures are appropriate in unstable, turbulent, unpredictable environments and for non-routine tasks and technologies.

Here are some of the conditions that best support an Organic Organizational model: Decentralization, Flexible, Broad job descriptions, Interdependence, Complex/ Multi-directional communication, Employee directed initiative, fewer and more broadly defined rules, Regulations, Procedures, and Processes, Employee  engagement/involvement  in problem solving and decision making.
You can see just how easy it is to falter in our Change endeavors, if we fail to recognize the context of the Organization model we are working within.

Imagine a world with excess of 10 billion people within the next 50 years…

Imagine a world with excess of 10 billion people within the next 50 years. China and India already have populations of  1.3 Billion people each (roughly). If you assume 40% of those populations form a highly skilled/highly educated workforce you are talking about in excess of 560 Million people – or roughly just under two times the entire population of the U.S.A.
These are highly skilled, qualified individuals with Math, Sciences, Engineering type qualifications. Where do you think we are going to harvest these skills from?
Deep learning, machine learning, Nano Technology, Robotics are already here and either beta testing or in production. Check out advanced Robots that Boston Dynamics has already been demonstrating. Yes indeed…the writing is on the wall.Unfortunately most of the population growth will happen in the less developed regions. We in the  Western world needs to realize that ‘American Idol’ and  ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ does nothing for our competitive edge!