Versalytics - Lean Execution - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Leadership – Get Thirsty …

July 7, 2013 Leave a comment
Horses drinking from a fountain in Central Park

Horses drinking from a fountain in Central Park (Photo credit: tiseb)

We are likely to find as many definitions for leadership as there are leaders. I recently downloaded an excellent app titled “Leadership Development” from Apple’s App Store and this definition of leadership was presented in one of the many videos:

“Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”

ADP 6-22

While the expression, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” may be true for some, true leaders recognize and understand the value of making the horse thirsty enough to want to drink on his own.

Your feedback matters

If you have any questions, comments, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to contact us by using the comment space below or by sending an email to LeanExecution@Gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

Leadership is NOT an Event

February 12, 2013 Leave a comment
Leadership

Leadership (Photo credit: glennharper)

We’ve all been to the employee “town hall” meetings where a senior executive attempts to motivate the team and clarify the vision just one more time. A captive audience, donuts, and free coffee are all it takes to reignite the passion and synergy that once was – or so they like to think.

Leadership is not an event, it’s a lifestyle.

~ Redge.

Today’s leaders are present and involved in all facets of the business, tangible to every one, and their leadership traits are uniquely woven through the fabric of the operation that is equally reflected in their lifestyle.

To be a leader is to be yourself.

~ Redge

Leadership is not a play where actors pose as leaders who are “in character”. We can think of many examples where certain people who have assumed leadership roles (no pun intended) have seemingly been “caught off guard”. Real leaders who are true to themselves and those whom they serve seldom find themselves in such circumstances.

If you really want to motivate your team, be the leader that people can expect to see at any time, all the time, 365/24/7. Although actions may speak louder than words, leaders understand that the key to building trust and respect is ensuring that both are sending the same message! Earning the trust and respect of your team begins by being true to yourself – trusting and respecting yourself – first.

Character is who you are when no one is looking

H. Jackson Brown Jr.

While this may seem to be somewhat of an anomaly, fostering a culture of change requires constancy in leadership in what we do, how we think, and who we are at the very core of our being.

Your feedback matters

If you have any questions, comments, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to contact us by using the comment space below or by sending an email to LeanExecution@Gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

Collaboration …

February 4, 2013 1 comment
The Collaboration Experiment

The Collaboration Experiment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great minds don’t necessarily think alike, they think together.

~ Redge

How many times have you heard someone say you should just set aside your differences and move on? I suggest that bringing our differences to the table is an opportunity to create something that is new and better than we ever imagined.

We tend to be quite content when someone shares our vision,thoughts, and ideas. While it’s a great feeling to be “on the same page” as everyone else in the room, it does little to expand our thinking beyond our immediate comfort zone.

Embracing our differences creates the opportunity to step outside the box and to create something that is greater than ourselves. I continue to be amazed by people outside of a given discipline who present ideas that are uninhibited by preconceived notions or specific expertise that would cause them to be suppressed.

Even more intriguing is the synergy that is created when great minds come together and create something that neither could have conceived as individuals. A lean culture is one where creativity is continually stimulated and permitted to flourish, all the while remaining focused on that ever elusive vision.

Often times resistance to change serves to improve and reinforce its necessity.

Your feedback matters

If you have any questions, comments, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to contact us by using the comment space below or by sending an email to LeanExecution@Gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

When Giants Rise … Again

January 21, 2013 1 comment
Blackberry 10 SDK

Blackberry 10 SDK (Photo credit: Dirk Songür)

Research In Motion (RIM) is making news for all the right reasons as of late – a sharp contrast from a short year ago. All of the reviews I’ve been reading thus far suggest that RIM’s new BlackBerry 10 is above and beyond expectations. The software technology has even been described by some as disruptive. Though the stakes remain high for both RIM and investors alike, strong prospects of a successful product launch are definitely encouraging.

Success will certainly help to re-establish RIM as a leader in a highly competitive smart phone market that they themselves created and at one time dominated. The competitive aspects of smart phones tend to focus as much, if not more, on technology than price. RIM’s BlackBerry 10 is poised to introduce radical changes to both hardware and software as depicted in the many “leaked” pictures and videos.

The number of available “apps” always seems to be a point of contention and a measure of “acceptance” by tablet and smart phone developers and users alike. Although the number of apps for the new BlackBerry 10 continues to grow at a rather astounding rate, I was even more encouraged to learn that RIM is more interested in quality not quantity.

Success will also give cause for many to reflect on RIM’s rebirth along the way. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Apple was once in a very similar position. Unlike Apple, however, there is no “Microsoft” to help RIM to get back on their feet. Perhaps, through all of this, RIM has already re-affirmed that some of life’s lessons we were taught growing up bear a greater significance on our future successes than we would have thought otherwise.

  • Focus – Strategy, vision, goals and objectives
  • Patience is a virtue – You can’t rush success
  • You have to believe it to see it – Stick to your vision
  • Don’t give up – Persistence to succeed, resistance to failure
  • No Noise – Eliminate distractions (real or perceived)

Lean execution is not a term I would use to describe RIM’s journey leading up to the launch of the BlackBerry 10, especially after missing several launch dates already and stumbling for what seemed to be months to even commit to the new launch date of January 30, 2013. However, that they even survived this past year of turmoil does say something about the culture of the company and the people who work there. The vision for the BlackBerry 10 remained as the focal point for hardware and software development despite a significant management shakeup, a substantial decrease in market share, loss of shareholder confidence, and rapidly declining stock prices.

A shift in marketing strategy and providing incentives for software developers around the globe has certainly helped RIM to promote and create what is touted to be the “next big thing” to hit the smart phone market. I think the vision, drive, and spirit to survive are the real underlying factors that sustained the company through the worst of times by focusing on what will bring the best of times. If the launch of the BlackBerry 10 is as successful as hoped, I’m sure many others will also look beyond the product and delve into the culture at RIM that brought the BlackBerry and the company back to life.

Your feedback matters

If you have any questions, comments, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to contact us by using the comment space below or by sending an email to LeanExecution@Gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

Learning From Mistakes

January 10, 2013 3 comments
always make new mistakes

Always make new mistakes (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

An event occurred this afternoon that required an immediate resolution. When asked whether we were going to pursue the root cause, I could only respond with this question:

What’s the point of making mistakes if we’re not going to learn from them?

This is likely the shortest post I ever published here, however, I think the simplicity of the message makes the point very clear.

If you do wish to delve deeper into the topic of mistakes, I encourage you to read some of the related articles featured below.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

Apple-opoly: It’s Not a Game

January 8, 2013 1 comment
money

money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)

Some people can hardly contain their excitement when a company like Apple is thriving with sky high profits in the midst of a dismal global economy. Yet, this same excitement is seldom shared when banks or oil companies report similar results. Wouldn’t we all prefer reduced fees or lower gas prices over excessive profits from the very companies that portend to serve our best interests?

This past week a colleague forwarded an article from cultofmac.com titled Apple’s Astonishing Profit in Context. My colleague’s opinion of Apple’s incredible performance is also echoed in the article itself. Of course, I would be hard pressed to disagree with them as I’ve written many times before that “The proof of wisdom is in the results.” The following quote from the article puts Apple’s “wisdom” in perspective:

From October 2011 to September 2012 Apple made more money than Microsoft, Ebay, Google, Yahoo! Facebook and Amazon combined. In that same period, Dell, Asus, Intel, Acer, IBM, Lenovo, and HP (basically the entire PC industry) only made $19.3 billion in profit, which is less than half of Apple’s profit.

Who can argue?

Apple has effectively advanced available technologies into unique devices that have dominated several market segments including: Computers (Mac), Smart Phones (iPhone), Tablets (iPad), and Media Players (iPod). Although Apple did not necessarily “invent” the core technologies that define their devices, they did find innovative ways to integrate them to provide an extremely user friendly experience.

Hardware is not Apple’s only source of revenue as the “App Store” is yet another venue that continues to feed Apple’s bottom line. If I understand the terms correctly, Apple receives at least 30% of every App Store purchase and as Apple is quick to mention more times than not, the number of available apps is in the hundreds of thousands and continues to grow every day. That in and of itself is an incredible feat.

I contend that the level of success enjoyed by Apple has peaked. This article, “Apple Losing Lustre On Wall Street: 3 Theories Why” is one of many that have surfaced recently as Apple’s stock has plummeted over the past few days. As stated in my recent post, Apple’s Best Kept Secrets … May Be Their Worst Enemy, Apple’s products are expensive and are subject to higher rates of planned obsolescence giving people cause to “wait” before buying.

Waking Up The Competition

Many would suggest that there is no competition when it comes to Apple’s products and, to some extent, there may be some truth to that. The question is, “What really sets Apple apart from it’s competitors?” I contend that a key component of Apple’s success is driven by their exclusive integration of the iOS operating system into virtually all of their devices. When compared to the number of competing companies selling electronic devices based on the Windows and Android operating systems, we quickly learn that Apple is the sole proprietor of it’s core hardware / software environment and the current court battles with Samsung strongly suggest that Apple wants to keep it that way.

In other words, while there are a number of competitors in any given segment, Apple has no direct competitors that manufacture computers using their operating system thus allowing them to command the price at which their devices are sold. In this context, Apple can determine it’s own price points, void of any threat from a competing manufacturer. From a financial perspective, Apple’s strategy to stay the course is a huge success – at least it was until now.

Image representing Windows as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

The wisdom of Apple’s strategy to integrate hardware and software is perhaps a lesson learned by Microsoft as they too have joined the tablet race with the introduction of the Surface RT and soon to be launched Surface Pro. There is, however, a very stark difference. Whether Microsoft intended to become a tablet manufacturer is open to debate but Microsoft did not exclude or attempt to prevent their competitors from developing devices based on the Windows operating system. Microsoft certainly intentioned to develop a hardware environment that will best reflect the capabilities and performance of the Windows 8 operating system.

Competition inspires innovation as manufacturers attempt to earn a bigger share of the market with more differentiating features and ultimately lower prices. As a result, margins are strained on Windows 8 devices and competing products using Google’s Linux based Android operating system among others. Unlike the exclusive Apple-opoly market, consumers continue to reap the greater benefit of an open competitive market in the “non-Apple” world.

There is indeed a price to be paid to sustain a company that attempts to maintain an exclusive monopoly in the market place. I contend that Apple has more to lose and very little to gain as competitors continue to define and differentiate themselves in their applicable market segments.

The “App” Store – Remember Your Roots

Chart showing downloads and available apps on ...

Chart showing downloads and available apps on the app store over time, since the App Store was opened in 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Apple’s devices are the cash cow, then the App Store is the cash calf. As mentioned above, Apple’s take is 30% of every App Store purchase. For a developer, losing 30% for the opportunity to sell an “app may be a great deal but … to a company like Microsoft, nothing could be further from the truth. Presently, Microsoft is subject to the same “App Store” rules of engagement as any other developer and this has now become a major point of contention between the two companies.

When it comes to Microsoft, Apple’s memory seems to be lapsing. In 1997 Apple (very much like RIM) was struggling to stay afloat and Microsoft’s Bill Gates stepped in to bail them out. It seems this gesture of goodwill has waned as Apple has subsequently grown to become a monopoly of it’s own making. In the world of Windows, Microsoft’s Office suite is unparalleled and I suggest the same can only be true in the world of Apple.

It appears that relationships between people still matter in the world of business and we can only wonder if Steve Jobs would feel differently about giving Microsoft a break in the App Store. Clearly, Apple would be a different company – or not exist at all – without the injection of Microsoft’s support as announced on August 6, 1997 at Mac World Boston. As Steve Jobs himself said during the conference:

“We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs encouraged the audience in this video to “think differently”. Perhaps those who have succeeded Steve Jobs have forgotten (or never had the opportunity to remember) what it was like all those years ago when they were struggling to just to stay afloat. If there was ever a move to burn bridges with a once “rival turned ally”, the app store’s rules of engagement is one of them.

The Extremes

Remember RIM and the BlackBerry? They too have an exclusive operating system and hardware platform that at one time lead the smart phone segment by storm. The BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) service between BlackBerry devices is second to none and now includes BBM voice calls. Apple’s iPhone was a major disruption to both hardware and software as we knew it, offering users a substantially improved experience with available technologies. RIM’s market share and stock prices decreased dramatically for failing to introduce fresh, innovative technologies in a timely manner. Whether RIM’s OS10 can reignite the passion for their products and the profits in kind remains to be seen.

So hopefully what you’ve seen here today are some beginning steps that give you some confidence that we too are going to think differently and serve the people that have been buying our products since the beginning. Because a lot of times people think their crazy, but in that craziness we see genius and those are the people we’re making tools for. – Steve Jobs

Today, RIM is in a place where Apple once stood. Unfortunately for RIM, there is no rival stepping up to bail them out. In today’s world, rivals simply wait for their competitors to fold or file for bankruptcy before swooping in to reap what’s left behind. It is unfortunate, but as time will tell, consumers who are left with empty pockets will soon part ways with companies that choose to monopolize a market that serves the best interests of their shareholders and the bottom line.

Lessons Learned

Value is Not Market Share - In the delicate ecosystem of finance and business, the underlying theme is the perception of “value” for the consumer, the company, and it’s shareholders. I commend and praise Apple for the design and quality of their hardware with few exceptions although I have expressed my dissatisfaction with the frequency at which these devices change. As for their software offerings, I am also somewhat underwhelmed, at least from a business perspective. As for connectivity, Apple provides a seamless bridge between devices with unparalleled ease.

However, knowing that up to 40% of the purchase price is gross margin, the question for Apple devices still remains, “Does the price reflect the true market value?” Fundamental economics would suggest that the value of a product or service is determined by the price the consumer is willing to pay. I contend that in a society based on capitalism, competition will yield a price that better approximates the true value of a product or service.

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” — Andrew Grove, co-founder Intel

Competition = Innovation – The Windows 8 and Android operating systems give us a greater appreciation for how real competition can lead to innovative hardware and software technologies at lower prices that benefit consumers versus those that ultimately aim to benefit shareholders. RIM’s new BlackBerry 10 reaffirms the inertia that exists within a company where only two options exist – to survive or die. With that inertia, we now see momentum building for the unveiling and launch of another new and innovative solution in hand held devices from BlackBerry.

Hansei / Reflection – Success can be both a blessing and a curse. Too few companies take the time to reflect on their history to appreciate their current state of affairs. Very few companies like Apple can claim to have risen from the ashes to become a self sufficient world renowned icon. However, in their wake, Apple’s success has also led to a certain “ego” or culture of arrogance that suggests “nothing can stop us now.” As we consider the current court battles with both rivals and allies, it’s difficult to discern which is which.

Collaboration = Mutual Successes – Success is seldom the result of one person’s effort and typically the result is greater than the sum of its parts.

We can choose to fight for the current state to preserve “what is now” or we can – in the words of Steve Jobs – “think differently”.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

Goals Without Means Are Meaningless

January 8, 2013 7 comments

English: Everything starts from needs or desir...

The new year is upon us and, as is typical for this time of year, resolutions are one of the primary topics of conversation. With just over a week into the new year, it is very likely that the discussions of resolutions and goals have already begun to subside.

Unfortunately, for the many who do make resolutions, very few ever manage to achieve them. The reasons for failure are many but, more often than not, we either set the wrong goals or we fail to identify intermediate performance goals for the range of activities required to reach the final goal.

Where do you stand?

Setting the Right Goals

The diagram suggests that goals are determined by reviewing our needs and desires. However, what we desire most is often what we need least. For business leaders, strategy, goals, and objectives stem from a vision statement that reflects our purpose for being, our WHY. We are, in essence, Driven by Dreams and Powered by Goals.

What do the “right goals” look like? The John Whitmore model offers the following three (3) acronyms to help us discern the value and sustainability of our goals:

  1. SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Phased.
  2. PURE: Positively Stated, Understood, Relevant, and Ethical.
  3. CLEAR: Challenging, Legal, Environmentally Sound, Agreed, and Recorded.

To be successful, resolutions, much like goals and objectives, require more than a simple statement of intent. We need a plan that describes how we’re actually going to achieve them. In other words, we need to define “the means to an end.” As suggested by the Whitmore model, the expression, “Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail”, is only partially true when we consider that our success also requires us to be sufficiently motivated and challenged to embark on, and endure, the journey.

What if …

Clearly, not everything goes as planned. There are risks and obstacles that must be considered and, where possible, addressed as part of the planning process. Contingency plans are as much a part of planning as the “master” plan itself.

While it seems impossible to “expect the unexpected”, black swan events do occur. How we respond to these events is often the “make or break” point of our journey. During this time, our commitment to our goals and perhaps even our vision will be tested. For this reason, our core purpose or “why” must be of sufficient value to sustain our efforts and give cause to overcome the distractions and setbacks that are sure to occur.

The Plan

Goals without dates are merely dreams and, likewise, goals without a means to achieve them are meaningless. Motivate your team by instilling a vested interest through the development of a detailed plan that will be sure to inspire the team to not only follow up but to follow through on their commitments.

The scope and scale of a plan is dependent on the goals we are striving to achieve. We tend to underestimate the resources and effort required to accomplish the tasks at hand. The ability to identify detailed actions or tasks, required resources, responsibilities, and realistic timing will help to create a plan that leads to a successful conclusion, avoiding much of the confusion and frustration that poor planning can bring.

Execution

After all is said and written – it must be done. Execution of the plan – putting words into action – is how our goals become a reality. A variety of tools are at our disposal to manage our activities and progress ranging from simple white boards to professional project management software. However these activities are managed, we must ensure that we don’t get caught up in the management “process” itself and focus on the immediate tasks or actions at hand.

Additional learning occurs with every change or transformation process. As such, I prefer to use an “agile” approach that offers flexibility to change or evolve our “means” or “methods” without compromising the goal we originally set out to achieve.

Practice proves theory every time and the real proof of wisdom is in the results. We wish you all the best of successes to achieve the goals that you may have set for yourself and your team in 2013.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

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