Think Fast Service and Operations Leadership

Leadership 2.0

I’m not sure when we started putting revisions on everything.  Web 2.0 is certainly one of the main culprits, and now every time someone tries to indicate that something is in a new generation they use the “2.0” extension.  I saw an article on “Web 3.0” this week as well, and just when I was starting to understand the basics of 2.0.  I’m also working on a Bryan 2.0, revision 1.0 was a little buggy.


business 2.0

So it naturally follows that an industry like management consulting, noted power users of catch phrases and shorthand, will use a term like “Leadership 2.0” to describe a trend in management and leadership methods.  Several books and blog postings this week indicated this change in direction.  The concepts seem to draw from one of my favorite authors, Daniel H. Pink, and his fascinating book “A Whole New Mind” from a few years ago.  Daniel summarizes the characteristics into 6 “senses:”

  • Design
  • Story
  • Symphony
  • Empathy
  • Play
  • Meaning

There was also a fleeting re-tweet I caught from my friend Jason Averbook, @jasonaverbook on Twitter, “RT @simonlauzier: Knowledge Infusion presentation: leadership is changing and new leader competency are needed.”  I haven’t seen the details yet but I assume that concern is right along the same lines.

Another clear, concise listing was in a blog last week entitled Leadership 2.0 by Michael Hyatt.  Michael boiled it down nicely into the following 7 attributes:

  • embraces change
  • demonstrates transparency
  • celebrates dialogue
  • employs collaboration
  • practices sharing
  • welcomes engagement
  • builds community

The words are different, but the tone is almost identical.

So is “Leadership 2.o” the end of command and control, hierarchical, information hoarding management?  Are you a 2.0 leader?  How about your boss?  I would imagine there are a few bosses that are still working out issues in rev 1.0.



May 29, 2009 Posted by | Leadership | 4 Comments

Focus on the Sweet Spot

Where is your team’s sweet spot?  Is it in providing exceptional, customized services to clients who see the business value in you meeting their specific needs?  Is it in an extremely efficient, productive means for providing output at consistent quality and lower cost than your competitors?

There can be a lot of unproductive noise at times within our operational goals and metrics that prevents us from stepping back and ensuring that we are measuring the right things and maintaining our commitment to our core value to our customers.  I have thoughts on some activities we can practice to improve.sweetspotbat

I saw a great ad for a baseball training bat that gets batters to focus on the sweet spot.  The end of the barrel of the bat provides the optimal hitting surface and power generation and some ingenious baseball trainers developed the SKLZ Sweet Spot Training Bat.  This mental and physical tool trains you to hit on the sweet spot by practically eliminating the rest of the bat.

To improve your team’s focus on your sweet spot try eliminating everything else, at least for a test period.   Stop measuring things that customers don’t care about, or simply stop reporting on them.  Spend all your time on the sweet spot to dramatically improve your overall performance in the minds of the customers who are at the center of your value proposition (sorry for the marketing-speak).

Please share a comment if you have other suggestions, or if you think this is theoretical nonsense with no practical application.  And what would you do to improve your focus on the sweet spot?


May 26, 2009 Posted by | Service and Operations | , , , , | 7 Comments

Zombie Operations

zombies2yp4Disengaged employees and customers slog through the day completing their related, rote tasks within the required timeframes and quality levels.  Productivity experts review metrics to make process modifications within the operation as evidently suggested by reviewing relative performance, and the process of continuous improvement makes for glacial progress and comfortable status reports.  This describes a zombie operation to me and it seems especially prevalent in challenging economic and employment times.

My friend Tony Morse wrote a poignant blog yesterday on companies failing to effectively differentiate themselves, and I think it is a related problem in that people may be more reluctant to take what is perceived as a risk when the overall health of their company and the economy is uncertain.

So how do you break the spell of a zombie operation and infuse a new sense of urgency?  It isn’t complicated, but it isn’t easy either.  These things have to be done very publicly and transparently with every one of the stakeholder zombies.

  • Engage people at the highest levels of the organization to ensure support
  • Make an honest assessment of where you are, gathering supporting data and information
  • Put together the imperative and vision on where you need to be
  • Experiment with small projects that demonstrate how you will get there (discard failures)

Today I had a sidebar Q&A on a Webinar with Jim Champy, co-author of “Reengineering” and author of the current book “Inspire.”  Jim made a point that I really liked when he responded to me that whether you can infuse the urgency to change in an organization is driven by fear and vision.

Perhaps the fear of staying the same simply has to be greater than the fear of change, and a thorough understanding of the reason for the change and the scope of the change will reduce concerns and make it an easy and urgent decision.


May 21, 2009 Posted by | Leadership | 8 Comments

Visibility, Transparency, Whatever You Call It

transparent_spreadsheet_largeIn September of 2008, Aberdeen surveyed 167 organizations to examine best practices for improving visibility into network and application performance.  The firms that performed best shared the following common characteristics.

  • Twice as likely to have a real-time view
  • Six times more likely to have tools that establish and learn from thresholds
  • Four times more likely to have tools for anomaly detection
  • Twice as likely have have tools to filter traffic

The same is true of service teams or general business operations.  Visibility and transparency of objectives, tools, and metrics clarify and accelerate improved performance.  I’ve spoken with several organizations in the last month that are still not using a CRM, business analytics, or a real-time operational dashboard.  In today’s Web world with easy to use tools like SharePoint it is absurd to ignore these applications of information systems regardless of how large or small your organization might be.

Last fall we elected a President who ran a substantial portion of his campaign on a promise of more transparency in the government.  There are far too many business operations that are missing this essential method of enhancing their team’s buy-in and dedication, as well as the performance improvement that comes when everyone knows what the objectives are and where they are at in achieving them.

What are you doing to improve transparency in your organization?

For service and operations teams the parallels to network visibility and transparency are

  • Real-time view = operational dashboard on customer calls, survey scores, revenue objectives, etc.
  • Establish threasholds = including bars on the dashboard with team and individual objectives
  • Anomaly detection = alerts for major issues, customers or situations outside of operating norms
  • Tools to filter traffic = CRM, telephony integrated phone system, integrated Web service sites

Every aspect of a business operation can create similar views to improve their transparency, can’t they?  I would love to hear your feedback on this because I find it to be an imperative for any organization that is not following similar methods.


May 19, 2009 Posted by | Leadership | 10 Comments

Insight and Action

While leafing through an IDC brief this morning I noticed a couple of references to an “insight team” and an “action team.”  The insight is gathered from analyzing information on trends or other interesting points, such as profitability by customer, profitability by product, revenue retention, etc.  The action team executes on projects and activities prioritized to attack issues and opportunities identified with the “insight.”  It struck me as a useful way of organizing a team or a quick collaboration along the lines of first getting the factual data together, agreeing on the call to action, and then putting a plan together for practical and constructive application.

 There is a great new book by Ric Merrifield entitled Rethink:  A Business Manifesto for Cutting Costs and Boosting Innovation where he makes a similar breakdown in business process analysis that he simply refers to the “what” and the “how.”  Ric has also authored or co-authored articles in the Harvard Business Review on this and similar topics.

It seems apparent to me that this breakdown of what and how naturally occurs because there is a distinctly different skillset required for each activity.  The analytical data miner may not be the best get-it-done person, and the action oriented doer is lost without fact-based priorities.  I can think of people I know of each type and it is difficult for me to come up with a person who can do both really well.

Is it reasonable to structure a team this way?  Is this just over thinking it?

If you have used this approach or if you think it is silly I would love to hear from you.



May 14, 2009 Posted by | Service and Operations | 4 Comments

How Do You Collaborate?

I thought this sounded like an interview question, and I don’t usually care for interview questions.  I was in the middle of being interviewed for a position after all, and this was a question my interviewer had on a printed page in front of him with intentionally open spaces for his note-taking.

With a poor attitude like this I did not fare well on this portion of the discussion, stammered a bit, and blurted out something about superior inter-personal skills and team blah blah blah.  My interviewer politely smiled and moved to the next question, but I tried to re-engage, knowing that I had been very clumsy with this non-answer.  We both basically laughed it off and I assumed it was one of those unanswerable points that can be used in an interview to discern thought processes and verbal skills as opposed to a right or wrong answer.

On the plane home it was still bothering me and with some time to relax and put some thought into it I realized that it is not an inane interview “gotcha,” it is an excellent question to determine thought process or, more importantly, to gain insight into a person’s ability to take an abstract concept like “collaboration” and move it into tangible business actions.

It seems to me there is one overriding requirement for successful collaboration, and everything else falls into place from there in successively more detailed and tactical steps.  The requirement is that all parties involved in the collaboration understand and share the common objective and business purpose that has brought them together.  I would think the progressive tactical steps would be something like:

  • Agree on common objective for collaboration
  • Method(s) of communication, frequency
  • Method(s) for achieving end result
  • Measurements, milestones, timeframes

What am I missing here?  This was the start of a brainstorm, there must be many more issues to consider…


May 11, 2009 Posted by | Service and Operations | 12 Comments