Jul 26, 2015

My list of desert island books

Recently a friend asked me to list a set of management books I would want to read again and again. It is probably the influence of these books that it did not take me much time to make up this list. Here is a list of  must read and reread' books..in no particular order. Do note that my work as a consultant and business leader probably influenced these choices a lot

Name of Book Author Publisher Year
THE PROFIT ZONE Adrian J. Slywotzky & David J. Morrison Crown Business  1997
MICROSOFT SECRETS Michael A. Cusumano & Richard W. Selby HarperColins 1998
HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY Rick Page McGraw-Hill Companies 2003
LEAN THINKING James P. Womack & Daniel T. Jones Free Press 2003
POWERFUL PROPOSALS David G. Pugh & Terry R. Bacon AMACOM Books 2005
THINKING FOR A LIVING Thomas H. Davenport Harvard Business Review Press  2005
STRATEGY SAFARI Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand & Joseph Lampel Free Press 2005
INFLUENCE WITHOUT AUTHORITY Allan R. Cohen & David L. Bradford John Wiley & Sons  2005
ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE AS STRATEGY Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill & David C. Robertson Harvard Business Review Press 2006
BUILDING AGREEMENT Roger Fisher & Daniel Shapiro Random House Business  2007
THE OPPOSABLE MIND Roger Martin Harvard Business Review Press  2007
THE LORDS OF STRATEGY Walter Kiechel Harvard Business Press 2010
BUY*IN John P. Kotter & Lorne A. Whitehead Harvard Business Review Press  2010
BE EXCELLENT AT ANYTHING Tony Schwartz Simon & Schuster UK 2010
ESCAPE VELOCITY Geoffrey A. Moore Harper Business 2011
SLIDE:OLOGY Nancy Duarte O'Reilly Media 2011
PLAYING TO WIN A.G. Lafley & Roger L. Martin Harvard Business Review Press  2013
SIDETRACKED Francesca Gino Harvard Business Review Press  2013
THE HARD THING ABOUT HARD THINGS Ben Horowitz Harper Business 2014
THE INNOVATORS  Walter Isaacson  Simon and Schuster  2014

Oct 16, 2013

Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption

My key take away: Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption (Christensen, Wong, & Bever, 2013)

It is rare to find an article on ‘Consulting’ and that too in a widely respected magazine like Harvard Business Review. When it written by one of the living guru’s in management, Christensen; time to start taking notes

Here are my key takeaways and TO DO list based on the article.

In this article, the authors look at the consulting world from the lens of theory; especially around disruption, to see how consulting is changing and why. And their prognosis: the same forces that disrupted many businesses are starting to change the world of consulting. The author’s base this prognosis based on various leading indicators; the ever decreasing share of classic strategy work in traditional firms and the increased use of value based pricing being the top two. The authors argue that the two factors that made consulting immune to disruption – opacity and agility are quickly becoming irrelevant and hence leading to the coming disruption. Opacity refers to the client’s inability to judge the quality of a consultant’s work and agility is the ability of top consulting companies to move smoothly from one idea to another. The article then uses the example of the legal industry to support this argument.

The article goes on to recommends that traditional consulting teams significantly rethink their service models and experiment with new. The short list of changes that a consulting firm should act on include

·         The disaggregation of the ‘one stop solution shop’ into modularized services that clients can procure

·         The democratization of knowledge : the explosion of analytics and big data leading to ‘almost’ real time analysis and actionable insights

·         The growth of ‘asset based’ consulting : This is the packaging of ideas, frameworks, and analytics through a technology platform; many a time billed on a license based fee model

The article then identifies two alternate models to the traditional solution shops of consulting: Value added process business and facilitated network. The key differences between the three are summarized below

Solution Shop
Value- added process business
Facilitated network
·     Structured to diagnose and solve problems whose scope is undefined
·     Delivers value primarily through consultant’s judgment rather than through repeatable process
·     Customers pay high prices in the form of fee- for-service
· Structured to address problems of defines scope with standard processes
· Processes are usually repeatable and controllable
· Customers pay for output only
· Structured to enable the exchange of products and services
· Customers pay fees to the network, which in turn pays the service provider
( Examples provided are Open IDEO, CEB, Gerson Lehrman Group, BTG, Eden McCallum)

[Table is reproduced from the article]

The author’s list of implications to industry, as they provide the dire warning ‘Disruption is inevitable’, include

·         A consolidation will happen in the industry over time

·         It will be in the smaller clients that some of the new models will get proven

·         The traditional boundaries between professional services is blurring

·         Technology will play a key role in supporting consulting services

Interestingly the article also provides some insights into what needs to be done to make a change like this successful

·         An autonomous business unit (with all the functional skills to be successful)

·         Leaders with relevant ‘school of experience’

·         A separate resource allocation process

·         Independent sales channels

·         A new profit model

·         Unwavering commitment from the senior leadership.

Now, these are definitely elements that we need to work on. Else, as the authors point out; we may become victims of our entrenched success. The leadership team and I very interested in hearing your perspectives on the changes happening in ‘our’ world. Please look around your client environment to see how they are using consulting and advisory services. What services are being consumed by our (current) primary client; the chief information officer? What are our competitors offering that makes them more attractive to our clients. What more do we need to do internally to get ready to take advantage of the coming disruption?

Work Cited

Christensen, C. M., Wong, D., & Bever, D. v. (2013). Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption. Harvard Business Review, 2-10.

Aug 5, 2012

Strengthening leadership capabilities

There is this interesting HBR article [How to make yourself Indispensible –John H. Zenger & Scott K. Edinger HBR October 2011] which talks about leadership competencies.

Key conclusions

• 16 key leadership competencies correlate strongly with positive business outcomes.

• Each have a dozen ‘competency companions’ whose development will strengthen the core skill

Actions required to improve leadership capabilities

• Self analysis on the 16 competencies  described above

• Attempt an informal 360 degree feedback

o What leadership skills do you think are strengths for me?

o Is there anything that I do that might be considered a fatal flaw –that could derail my career or lead me to fail in my current job if not addressed?

o What leadership ability, if outstanding, would have the most significant impact on the productivity or effectiveness of the organization?

o What leadership abilities of mine have the most significant impact on you?

• Based on analysis of above

• Identify a strength to focus on by asking the following questions regarding the 16 leadership competencies

o Do I look for ways to enhance this skill?

o Do I look for new ways to use it

o Am I energized, not exhausted when I use it?

o Do I pursue projects in which I can apply the strength?

o Can I imagine devoting time to improving it?

o Would I enjoy getting better at this skill?

• From table below pick the complementary competencies that will help you strengthen the key strengths.

• Find ways to improve on them

Jun 10, 2012

Business Model Generation

First of all, a big sorry for the slumber..Trying to get back into some of the GOOD habits of the past !!

I recently came across the book , Business Model Generation, ( Wiley, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur). The book provides a different perspective of  'what' an organization can potentially change.

The 100 Billion USD valuation on a 3.7 Billion USD revenue  of Facebook is a clear demonstration of what business model innovation can achieve.

After defining a business model as the rationale of how an organization creates,delivers and captures value the book describes the components of a business model
    The Business model canvas (http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas) provides a handy tool for describing an organization's business model
  • Customer relationships
  • Customer segments
  • Value propositions
  • Channels
  • Revenue streams
  • Cost structure
  • Key resources
  • Key partners
  • Key activities

Using these components the book identifies various patterns of business model innovation. The models that the authors have identified include
  • Unbundling business models
  • The long tail
  • Multisided platforms
  • Free as a business model and
  • Open business models
Some variants and examples of each of these are also described. The book also provides a set of tools that can be used to design a business model.These include customer insights,ideation,visual thinking, prototyping,Story telling and Scenarios.

Change agents looking for 'what to change' will find the concept of business model and how it generates value and how the interplay of factors affect an  enterprise valuable.. as they identify what to chaneg

Jun 19, 2011

The DuPont Analysis

I realise that a lot of my focus in recent times has been on personal skills. Here is a post on a related topic , what to change

Dupont analysis is used to illustrate how different factors impact important indicators of financial performance. As such, this can be used to compare companies in a specific industry.This can also be used to conduct 'what-if' analysis.

A change agent starting of analysis on what to change can enter basic information in the model (e.g. sales,liabilities,costs,equity etc) and then get a basic view of current profitability.

This can then be used to identify where possible improvements can be made and their effects.

Jun 13, 2011

Celebrating 1000 visitors

A personal milestone. onimprovementmatters has finally seen 1000 hits. Not sure how many unique readers that made up the 1000 hits. Took me two years (!) with many gaps in between .Interestingly most visitors come based on web searches .. and seem to come from all parts of the world. Most read area is benefit-dependency model.

May 9, 2011

Another set of 'characteristics' for change agents

There is this fairly old book, by Robert E. Kelly "Star performers" (1998, Orion). Here is a list of characteristics (which are very relevant in a change agent context too)
  • Initiative : Blazing trails in the organization's white spaces
  • Networking:Knowing who knows by plugging into the knowledge network
  • Self management: Managing your whole life at work
  • Perspective: Getting the big picture
  • Followership : Checking your ego at the door to lead in assists
  • Leadership : Doing small-L leadership in a big L world
  • Team work:Getting real about teams
  • Organizational savy :Using street smarts in the corporate power zone
  • Show and tell :Persauding the right audience with the right message
I am hoping to dig deeper into each of them in subsequent posts..

May 8, 2011

Buy In .. Kotter strikes again

Had this wonderful idea.. which never got implemented ? Got shot down by colleagues and friends whom you thought were allies ? Sure you don't want the experience to repeat?

John P. Kotter, in his latest book 'Buy in'( HBR 2010) gives some practical advice on obtaining buy in. Like one of his previous books ,' The ice berg is melting' this is also written partially in the form a story. The focus is on meetings and how good proposals get derailed.The author(s) hopes the book would enable a proposer to get people to buy into a new idea

Based on the ways people tend to behave Kotter has identified 8 'typical' characters and their approach in meetings
  • Pompus Meani [ Self importance above being good-wants to show power]
  • Heidi agenda [Has an undisclosed personal agenda for opposing]
  • Avoidus riski
  • Spaci Cadetus
  • Allis Wellis
  • Lookus Smarti
  • Divertus Attenti
  • Bendi Wendi [Blows with the wind]
According to the author these people kill ideas using one of the following tactics
  • Fear mongering (raise anxiety)
  • Delay
  • Confusion
  • Ridicule (or character assassination)
Kotter has characterised these attacks into 24 types and also suggested a response. See attached table

The authors suggest the following
  • Don't be afraid of distracters.Handled correctly,they can actually help you!
    • Don't scheme to keep potential opponents,even the sneakiest attackers,out of the discussion.Let them in.Let them shoot at you.Even encourage them to shoot at you
  • Always respon in ways that are simple,straight forward, and honest
    • Don't try to overcome attacks with tons of data;logic and yet more logic;or lists of reasons why unfair,uninformed,or sneaky attacks are wrong,wrong,wrong.Instead do what might seem to be the oppoiste
  • Show respect for everyone
    • Do not try to crush attackers with ridicule,counterattacks or condescension,eben when it seems as though people deserve it,even when a part of you really want to do just that,and you have the skills to do so
  • Watch the audience(not just the people shooting at you)
  • Anticipate and prepare for attacks in advance

Feb 27, 2011

On taking decisions

In the past I have provided links to how great leaders arrive at solutions to problems that apparently had no apparent solutions. Being able to make sense of and take the most appropriate decision is an key change agent skill.

In his book ;"Why Great Leaders don't take Yes for an answer", Michael A Roberto talks about how leaders can enhance the quality of their decision making processes. According to him, leaders ( and in our context;change agents) must cultivate constructive conflict so as to enhance the level of critical and divergent thinking,while simultaneously building consensus so as to facilitate the timely and efficient implementation of choices that they make.

The author distinguishes between cognitive conflict     ( Constructive debate that can enhance the decision to be made) and effective conflict(when personality clashes emerge).Similarly consensus in more about every one understanding the rationale of the decision than uniformly agreeing to it. The author then build the following picture on decision success..
For a decision to be a success, it seems what is needed is a process.. a process that effectively balances conflict and consensus. The key elements to be considered in establishing a process of taking a decision include

  • Composition: Who should be involved
  • Communication:What are the means of dialogue among the participants
  • Context: In what types of environment does the decision take place
  • Control : How will the leader control the process and the content of the decision?
Many approaches ( e.g. Edward Debono's Thinking hats) have been recommended and practiced to enable organizations find the right balance.

Dec 12, 2010

Winning with integrative thinking

As people responsible to bring in change, we are sometimes faced with problems that seem unsurmountable.I have rarely come across directions on what could be called 'good' problem solving.

Roger Martin in his book 'The Opposable Mind' consolidates research he has done on how some of the most outstanding men and women of our century think (and solve problems). That the research included K V Kamath and (our own) Ramalinga Raju probably makes the book more interesting.

This is what Martin says

Most of us think and decide in almost a sequential manner: To quote the author "We arrive at our choice by considering a set of features we deem salient;creating a mental model of the causal relationships among these features;arranging those causal relationships into an architecture intended to produce a specific outcome;thereby reaching a resolution of the problem at hand". This approach is many cases lead to 'sub optimal' results.

The author then goes on to provide examples like how A.G. Lafley reinvented innovation at P&G to introduce the concept of integrative thinking. Integrative thinking is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in their mind at once , and then reach a synthesis that contains elements of both but actually improves on each.By refusing to accept unpleasent trade-offs and conventional options,integrative thinkers are able to find creative solutions to difficult problems.

Here is a list of take aways regarding integrative thinking that would be useful to us as we attempt to find solutions to problems
  • Seperate (mental) models and reality
    • The author talks about the 'factory setting' each of us have, which in turn means we think in a certain manner
  • Dancing through complexity
        • The need NOT to over simplify
  • Mapping the mind
The author then goes about to talk of how 'integrative thinkers ' connect the dots or the leap of mind.,
The skills required include

  •  Generative reasoning ( a form of reasoning that inquires into what might be rather than what is)
  • Causal modeling and
  • Assertive inquiry ( an ability to explore opposing models)

The author then goes on to talk about the personal knowledge system of an individual as what makes a difference.Time all of us build one, clear in the understanding that ; may be out there; there is an innovative solution to THE problem , that we just have not thought about..

P.S. I attempted to put some of this theory into practice .. end result I started car pooling with some of my colleagues. While saving on fuel was defenitely a goal, what led us to this was too things : Pooling meant that we got out of our offices atleast two days a week on time and we got time to talk together