Talent vs Production by Herm Edwards

YouTube – Herm’s Message To Rookies.

In the United States, the NFL season is upon us, or not. I hope the owners and players come to a settlement, but that is not what I want to share today.

In preparation for the upcoming NFL season, the league held its rookie seminar to welcome the newest players into the league, a fantastic ritual to incorporate into any organization. At this year’s session (and apparently others), ex-NFL player and coach,, Herm Edwards addressed the players. The video is linked above. Herm Edwards happened to play for my hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles. While I recognize, I might be biased in my appreciation for him, he hits the nail on the head with this excerpted speech above. I hope the NFL / ESPN posts more of this comments.

Paraphrasing…”You were born with talent. You didn’t learn it. You didn’t go to the store to get it. It was given to you.” Very true words, in my humble opinion. While I am big believer in effort, and hard work, talent is hard to overcome, particularly at the NFL level of sports. Don’t misunderstand me, effort can make up for some lack of talent. I personally believe the harder you work, the luckier you get. However, this is not the point of this discussion.

Herm hits the nail on the head by differentiating talent from production. In the NFL, this is very apparent. There are many players who were drafted in the first round including even Heisman trophy winners who never lived up to their talent. They failed to produce. In the business world, you might say “they didn’t deliver” or “they failed to execute.”

Inspired by Herm’s comments towards the end of this video, don’t let your talent under-perform. If you consider yourself talented, make sure that you are delivering results. No one ever wants these things to happen, and as leaders it your challenge to make sure this doesn’t happen. At the same time, on the flip side, don’t let talent replace performance. Talent is important. We all want to surround ourselves with talented people, but managing a highly talented team, leading them to victory takes a different leadership style than managing a team with minimal talent.

Finally, as an individual, if you find yourself “basking in the glow” of your talent, but cannot explain your results, check yourself. As a leader of teams, hire for talent and pay for results. And remember, “you play to win the game”.


So, what have YOU transformed?

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City
Image via Wikipedia

At a recent networking event, a colleague of mine challenged me with a question that seems very appropriate to share at this time of year. “So tell me, what you have transformed?” Truthfully, it is a great question that makes one stop and think for a minute.

As we head into 2011, the employment headlines, American automobile sales results, and just about every other alert I get is telling me that 2011 is already going to be a better year than 2010. But let’s not leave anything up to chance.

If 2011 is going to be better than 2010, it will be because of what we do to make it that way. For those of us who are engaged in change management endeavors, business transformation activities, or just making things better in the future than they are in the past, ask yourself “What have you transformed?” And might I suggest that you be critical of yourself in the past and aim high in 2011.

Collaborating – Do you want to be happy or be right?

Have you ever found yourself in the place where you are debating one side of an issue and gaining no ground whatsoever? Have you ever asked yourself what matters more, being happy or being right?

In my change efforts, I frequently look for and, more importantly, listen for these two points. The next time you find yourself in a debate or a slight disagreement, try to determine if the other person is really worried about being right (e.g. I know the best way to do this and there is only one way, my way) or if they are willing to be happy and accept an answer that might be somewhat different than their current view. Its not always easy to hear the differences. A lot of time it comes down to emotions. If you can gain a perspective on their emotions, you will do yourself a favor. Here are a couple of my favorite questions to assess the situation:

  • What is the emotional state of the person debating me? Are they frustrated and driving to a point to prove themselves correct?
  • Ask “So what?” in a very genuinely curious fashion. Without being curious, you will sound (and be) arrogant. Asking this question is the best way to cut through the “noise” and distill the real underlying issues. HINT – you many need to ask the “so what” question multiple times until you get to the real root cause. Being genuine is the key here. NOTE – This cannot be taught. You are either genuine or not, and people can figure that out.
  • Is this person interested in my perspective? When I share my view is the person really listening to me? Or, are they just waiting until I pause so they can insert additional supporting reasons for why they are right? Ever heard of “active listening”? Do you use it? Do they?
  • Last, ask them the question of this entry, “do you want to be happy or be right?”. Be prepared for the “what do you mean, response?”. It may stop someone in their tracks, the first time. Then everytime thereafter, they will ask themselves the question and possibly preempt the debate in the first place.

In closing, being right usually feels really good to the individual “being right”. It helps the self-confidence. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, its nice to be right, isn’t it? It definitely beats being wrong! Happy, on the other hand, creates room in a team for others to be right, and it allows you to provide input without focusing on being right.

Integrating Project and Change Management

On April 27, 2010 project & change management leaders came together in Las Vegas to discuss how and why project management and change management are integrated.

Prosci Global Change Management Conference

I recently had the great honor of speaking as a part of a panel at the 2010 Global Change Management conference hosted by Prosci (www.prosci.com) and the Association of Change Management Professionals (www.acmp.info). My esteemed fellow panelists were from Oracle, the Brighton Leadership Group, & the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and in spite of our varied industry backgrounds, we shared several perspectives on this subject. Whether you are a project manager or a change manager at heart, I think this quick excerpt from our perspective will resonate with your experiences:

  • Know your environment and begin your integration building on core competency. Where is your organizational maturity: Are you stronger in project management or change management? Build on what is already working well; learn lessons from what is not successful
  • Everyone must understand why the integration is happening and what it will accomplish. Answer the question, “What does success look like?”
  • Don’t disband the change team when the project “goes live” some resources need to support the change and manage resistance
  • Integration is not meant to be a tug-of-war
  • Project success depends more on stakeholder perception than on meeting project goals
  • Project completion doesn’t mean everything was accepted
  • Never, never, never stop learning
  • Stay 5 steps ahead of the change
  • Get all stakeholders involved; both supporters and resisters

We had a lively discussion with great participation from the audience including many Global and Fortune 500 companies. In the end, I would assert to you

  • While all surgeons are doctors, not all doctors are surgeons; While all change managers are project managers, not all project managers are change managers, and
  • Like the London tube: “Mind the Gap” – the gap in knowledge and skills. Knowledge of project or change management does not mean you are skilled at either, AND knowledge is a great start.

My thanks and appreciation goes out to my fellow panelists and the 350+ conference attendees for your participation and engagement at the conference.

Stay tuned for more discussion on this topic. In the meantime, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Why? Leave a Comment.

IT Governance Rule #1 of 3 – Make sure you are doing the right things

In part 1 of a 3 part series, this article describes an approach with applying IT governance concepts. You can find a quick and relevant global survey on IT governance that provides additional views here http://www.cio.co.uk/debate/116479/now-is-the-time-to-invest-in-it-governance-say-it-leaders/

How do you know you are delivering the processes & systems that the business wants and needs? At one end of the spectrum you may rely on your intuition or the “squeaky wheel with the corner office” and at the other end you may have a mature balanced scorecard capability. How well you answer this question may mean the difference between your company’s arrival at their destination of choice or perhaps being “out in left field”.

How do you chart the waters in front of you? Having a keen line of sight for your market combined with a business model to turn a profit within it, is a good start. Some decisions will be easy. Some decisions will be hard. How do you make the decisions to ensure that you are doing the right things. In a series of bullets, make sure that you have some degree of capability to address the following:

  • Define your business strategy. The back of a napkin is on OK place to start.
  • Establish one or more roadmaps to deliver the strategy. Allow flexibility and agility within your delivery models to change your roadmap.
  • Evaluate and manage the risk associated with delivering your roadmaps.
  • Establish financial traceability of your project approval process and the ensuing delivery of your roadmaps.
  • Win fast and fail fast. Don’t be afraid to make fast decisions or change decisions.

Making sure that you are doing the right things is more important now than ever. Resources, including funds and people, are more precious now than a year ago. Building a system where “no” or “not now” is an acceptable answer requires all the bullets above at a minimum.

SOA: Think Business Transformation, Not Code Reuse

SOA: Think Business Transformation, Not Code Reuse – CIO.com – Business Technology Leadership.

This article gets an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from me on the topic of leveraging technology for business transformation.

Defining Agile Change Management

UPDATE – Please be sure to check out the Change Management Manifesto as well.

How much process is too much process? How can you implement enough process so that you get the benefits (e.g. efficiency, repeatability, scale, etc.) but not too much so as to slow down your agility? The Change Management discipline / industry would be wise to reflect on the concept of “agile” from the software development industry to address these questions.

If you are a change leader, I encourage you to learn more about “agile” concepts in software development. You can easily search on the term “agile” and get a plethora of sites with information. In summary, the agile approach embraces

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Don’t take my word for it. These bullets originated in “The Agile Manifesto” at http://agilemanifesto.org/

Personally, I find agile principles serve as a helpful guideline when trying to balance the need for process. However, many people incorrectly define agile as “without process”. This is not true, and in some ways, agile techniques require more personal discipline than a classic SDLC approach (e.g. waterfall). Agile processes exist, but they live within the context of the four bullets listed above.

Processes are definitely needed, in particular for companies that have reached a certain scale. I have come to experience that “with complexity comes a need for increased discipline.” Processes are proven and worthy tools to deal with complexity in scale, speed to delivery, geographic distance, business risk (e.g. SOX), language barriers, technical barriers, human resource management (e.g. hiring & firing), financial planning (e.g. establishing and managing budgets), software development, etc.

So, in our current environment of a shrinking economy, is complexity going up or down? I say, up. Companies are forced to deal with challenges that they previously may have avoided due to success. Said another way, “success covers up many ills”. To deal with these new complexities, companies may look to leverage processes for increased productivity, efficiency, and most importantly transparency into their business. It is my assertion that, with process comes the law of diminishing returns. There comes a point where process gets in the way, and inhibits a business if process is not actively managed. How do most large entities (companies, governments, institutions) deal with the complexities listed above? They implement processes to manage risk and maintain a level of homogeneous execution across a diverse operations model. This will work, and many companies are proving their success with large scale process deployments today (e.g. look to the Business Process Outsourcing models of any big consulting firm and the existence of ERP software).

The challenge I want to address here is the need to balance process with innovation, delivery, and growth as a change leader. I am not sure there is an answer to “how much process is enough process?” but I am certain that the agile manifesto and the principles it aspires to are helpful to begin addressing the question.