How Organizational Culture Can Change

How Organizational Culture Can Change –

I have read and seen a lot of change management, business transformation, and executive leadership materials refer to the GM-Toyota partnership and the article above provides a nice summary.

This case suggests that driving cultural change is all about modifying behavior through the management system, motivation, and leadership. Further, I concur that trying to change how people think, is a dead end. In support of this assertion, I refer you to The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge for a discussion on mental models.

Culture can change. You can move the needle “one tick at a time”. It is not easy, and the successful ones, are done many times, without anyone even realizing that it is happening.

SOA: Think Business Transformation, Not Code Reuse

SOA: Think Business Transformation, Not Code Reuse – – 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

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.

Leadership Beyond Bounds –

Leadership Beyond Bounds –

Another quick link to an article with a good perspective regarding leading across organizational boundaries.

The Shrinking Gap of the Back Office and Front Office

CIOs: Put Business Technology Leadership Maturity In Your 2010 Strategic Plan | CIO – Blogs and Discussion

The back office and front office of business is collapsing. Businesses everywhere are experiencing tremendous shifts in their IT usage. 40 years ago, IT was a pure back office function buried in the bowels of corporations under the head of finance and used almost exclusively for accounting and book keeping.

Now, thanks to technology revolutions including but not limited to Web 2.0, the businesses ability to engage IT services has broadened. External service providers are selling their capabilities into the business at an increasing pace. The business is purchasing simple services from external “no name” providers in order to bring speed to their operations. The “land grab” aka “gold rush” is picking up speed, popularity, and credibility.

However, it is still early. These disparate services and the increasing ability to buy into a “cloud” of computing are in their infancy stages. If you are a small company (e.g. $500M or less in annual revenue), you are most likely buying into a cloud of some form to address your economic pressures and maintain your quality of service. If you are a mid-sized company (e.g. $500 – $1B in revenue), you need to start  experimenting and probably will, soon. If you are a large company (e.g. >$1B in annual revenue), you should start experimenting, and probably need to start winding up the corporate engines to warm up to this “experiment”. Your business customer is probably already doing it, so “resistance is futile”.

I expect that concepts like enterprise architecture, standards, governance, security, privacy, and integration will remain important and only increase in significance as more and more companies buy into the cloud.

IT needs to be a better partner to the business, but that message is not new. However, the compelling reason to do so, is more real now than ever. One of the best aspects about working in technology, is the requirement for eternal learning. Those who focus on learning, thrive. Pay attention, learn, embrace the change and increase your value to the business. Business technology will help you achieve these goals, should you choose so.

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How important is alignment in executing your business strategy?

“Execution represents a disciplined process or a logical set of connected activities that enables an organization to take a strategy and make it work.” – Lawrence Hrebniak

It is hard to argue that alignment is not critical or is irrelevant with executing a business strategy. Without alignment all you have is “ivory tower” thinking that may be documented and even communicated but not embraced or adopted in execution / operations. This leaves an organization rudderless, with a vision of the destination and no means to get there. How to achieve alignment and how aligned a strategy is aligned with operations can be difficult to measure. Achieving a high degree of alignment is part science and part art.

The science part involved commonly well understood patterns of alignment including topics like a well-defined business strategy, IT governance, CobIT, ValIT, business cases, ROI, NPV, etc. Delivering on these types of capabilities is more of an execution challenge. The models exist and are shared and commonly available amongst a wide range of organizations in your industry. The competitive differentiator for the science of business alignment is in the execution. It’s all about metrics, KPIs, and measurements.

The art portion of alignment addresses multiple items including but not limited to:

  1. Tailoring specific frameworks like CobIT to the particular organization,
  2. Determining which metrics/KPIs are most appropriate to measure the degree of implementation of the business strategy,
  3. Determining which organizational capabilities are most important to implement in phase 1, 2, etc.,
  4. Recognizing which elements of the strategy are most critical to competitive differentiation,
  5. Sequencing the strategy into a series of phases that incrementally build customer value, and
  6. Addressing the human-centric impacts of a business strategy to ensure that cultural barriers are minimized.

Depending on the degree of change represented in the business strategy, there may be more or less emphasis on the art vs the science. The more significant the change, the more critical the art of alignment. Minor “course corrections” in business strategy can be facilitated via the science of alignment, presuming the execution elements are already in place.