Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Notes on organisation

This is something I'll return to but I'll put this up as a starting point. It relates to the use of pioneers, settlers and town planners within an organisation.

When looking at a new line of business, I tend to prefer to describe the entire line of business as a Unit. Normally, I'd expect to see a well defined fitness function (describing rules of engagement, what it does, how it is to be measured, measures against user needs etc) and some form of cell based structure (e.g. Amazon two pizza rule) which each cell described by its own fitness function. 

Each cell is autonomous (within the fitness function) and the fitness function is defined, measured and evaluated by the executive in charge of the unit. If there are too many cells in one unit, I'd normally expect to see this broken down into multiple units each containing cells with autonomy & separation between both cells and different units.

General rules are :-
  • All work is defined by fitness functions (rules of engagement, mechanism of measurement etc)
  • All work is done by small cells (i.e. teams of less than 12) providing services / products etc to others. Each cell is covered by its own fitness function and has autonomy over how it does things.
  • A unit is a logical grouping of one or more cells. It has an executive responsible and autonomy over how it does things.
  • The executive in charge of a unit is responsible for measuring, defining and refining fitness functions of all cells within their unit. They are also responsible for delivering against their unit's fitness function.
  • As cells become too big (i.e. greater than 12), they are subdivided into new cells within the unit. Each cell will have their own fitness functions.
  • As a unit becomes too big it is subdivided into new units, each with their own executive and fitness function.  

In figure 1, I'll apply these principles to a map of a new business. I'll assume you're familiar with mapping, if not then start here.

Figure 1 - Basic structure, derived from a map.

Now obviously each cell is going to require different skills (i.e. aptitudes or capabilities if you wish). It's the cells responsibility to ensure it has the right skills.

However, there's another factor in here. Attitude. When we look at a map, we know that activities evolve from uncharted to industrialised and the methods, techniques, type of people and even culture changes. The type of engineering you need to build a highly novel act (i.e. genesis) requires experimentation and agile techniques. The type of engineering you need to build a highly industrialised act requires a focus on volume operations and six sigma. As with aptitude, attitude also matters.

Figure 2 - Importance of Attitude.

To resolve this problem then you populate the cells with different types of people - pioneers, settlers and town planners. All are important. It's not realistic to think that everyone has the same attitude, some are much more capable of living in a world of chaos, experimentation and failure whilst others are much more capable of dealing with intensive modelling, the rigours of volume operations and measurement.

Figure 3 - Populate by Attitude.

One of the things that populating by attitude enables is a process of theft in order to mimic evolution and the natural effects of competition i.e. settlers steal from pioneers, town planners steal from settlers and pioneers build on the service that town planners create.

Figure 4 - Mimicking evolution through theft.

The net effect of this is you end up with two branches of an organisation, both defined by fitness function but one focused on preparation and the other work.

The work is divided into units and cells, defined by fitness functions (as above) with each cell having autonomy and separated from others through services or products produced or delivered.

The preparation side has different responsibilities. First, it is subdivided into the three structures necessary to enable three culture covering the different types of attitude. I know everyone says an organisation needs one culture, I fundamentally disagree. It needs three.

Each of those structures (Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners) have multiple aptitudes (finance, HR, engineering etc) and an executive in charge. The responsibility of the executive is threefold 

1) developing the necessary culture and skill required for that particular attitude i.e. for pioneer engineers a focus on agile and experimentation whilst for town planner engineers a focus on extensive mathematical modelling and six sigma.

2) ensuring that required skills (of the right attitude and aptitude) are available to cells & units.

3) identifying opportunities for theft i.e. the job of the chief settler is to identify all those 'pioneer' cells whose work is becoming suitable for productisation and hence to steal from them by creating a new cell to meet the fitness function and replace the existing cell, forcing its pioneers to move on to more 'pioneering'. Ditto the chief town planner whose role includes industrialising all the 'settler' cells to more utility services.

Figure 5 - Overall structure.

The matrix structure of aptitude and attitude is used in preparation (i.e. creating the right culture & training in order to create effective cells). The executives are responsible for ensuring this preparation and that a process of theft occurs within the working environment forcing cells to evolve. This enforces adaptation in terms of evolution.

The working environment consists of cells (grouped into units) delivering against defined fitness functions and growing (as per a starfish model) to occupy the required space. As they create new cells, they steal from the preparation side any people they need. The cells control their work themselves (within the confines of a fitness function) and the only time they lose control is when a more appropriate cell (as in attitude) comes along and steals their work from them.

The role of the executive function is in creating, monitoring and refining those fitness function for both the preparation and work side. This requires an extensive understanding of the environment and the ability to adapt fitness functions according to any outside threat. 

Now this model also complements the whole ILC technique for development and exploitation of ecosystems with town planners building the core services, pioneers developing new concepts on this and settlers exploiting both internal and external work (through the use of consumption data) to identify successful changes to be introduced.

Parts of the structure are or have been implemented in different places. No single organisation seems to have covered both elements of aptitude & attitude combined with the needs of cell based structure. This is simply an area I'm exploring because I don't agree that our existing organisational structures (even Amazon's) represent the pinnacle of organisation. They are simply just a lot better than what most companies use.

Playing chess with companies

From my OSCON tutorial, I've added some basic slides on what we covered.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

IBM ... a cunning fox?

In the battle between companies, ecosystems are force multipliers. Correctly used, they can increase rates of innovation, customer focus and efficiency simultaneously. The trick to doing this is a focus on consumption data.

Now, IBM has initially played a poor game in cloud and the battle for IaaS was lost. My eyebrows were raised however when it announced bluemix. This was a good move which enables them to to build a platform (ideally over several infrastructure providers) or even a market of platform providers and later on play substitution games in the IaaS space. However, this move could just be luck.

Next up is the deal with Apple. At first glance, this would seem to be in the long term favour of Apple as the applications provided in the store would feed consumption data into Apple. Admittedly Apple is not the best ecosystem player out there but the advantage would be to Cook. In order to swing the game in IBM's favour then you'd have to ensure that IBM collected the consumption data and Apple only had a generalised view. I will admit that when I first read an article on the deal, I discounted the possibility of IBM doing this and thought that IBM should push for a merge. I didn't think IBM was canny enough to play the game.
To create such a swing in IBM's favour then you would need to have all the applications provided on a bluemix service provided by IBM. Turns out I was wrong to discount IBM. This seems to be the plan. This is smart. Very smart. The advantage long term seems to be with IBM and not Apple.

As the old adage goes "Lightning doesn't strike the same place twice". You don't make good moves like this through luck. I don't know what has changed in IBM or who they've hired but somehow they seem to be making the right moves. The question is whether in the heart of IBM is a extremely dangerous and cunning strategist? Has IBM found its own Themistocles?

I'm certainly not going to underestimate their moves again. IBM is definitely one to watch and with such play, then anything is possible. The future for IBM has just got a lot brighter in my opinion.

--- Update 17th July

I was just asked a rather interesting question of the form that this is only two events and since any two points make a line then you can't extrapolate. Alas, this isn't a measurement of physical properties and correlation between but a question of probabilities. If someone wins the lottery one week and then wins the lottery the next week, the probability of such is extremely low and it is perfectly reasonable to ask questions. You don't need them to win the lottery fifteen weeks in a row in order to draw a line. The probability of making a good move by random is relatively low in business due to the wide variety of permutations of choice and action. Two good moves are unlikely to be purely by chance, not impossible just unlikely.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Micro Services - the necessity of memes

In 2002, Fotango (the subsidiary that I was CEO of) embarked on a program to introduce component web services throughout the organisation. By 2005, we had component web services, our own private infrastructure service combined with configuration management and deployment systems (known as Borg), we had BYOD, continuous deployment & automated testing systems. We were agile, we extensively used and contributed to open source, we had started mapping, and we were launching our own platform as a service etc. Of course, we then had the usual big name consultants persuade the parent company that the stuff we were doing - 3D printing, mobile phones as cameras, utility computing - was not the future and the future was 3D Television ... duh. 

Anyhow, this is what I don't get. Micro services has become a big thing - good. But micro services has also become a 'new' thing. Why? These concepts aren't new. Building organisations with small components provided through services is circa 2002 and the concepts existed well before this. So, why do we have to continuously create 'new' terms to describe what is already happening.

I've seen this so many times - Enterprise 2.0, Cloud, DevOps - that I assume there is a necessity in creating a new meme for pre-existing and often fairly well established practices or concepts. It's a though we need the meme to crystallise action around a concept but of course that concept has to be spread before the meme can establish.

I would be interested in knowing if anyone is working on the necessity of memes?

Friday, July 11, 2014

A quick route to building a strategy ...

Need a strategy? Can't be bothered to understand your landscape? Don't care about situational awareness or gameplay? Need it fast? Minimal effort? No problem!

Take all the following words ...

digital first, agile, open, innovative, efficiency, competitive advantage, ecosystem, networked, collaborative,  learning organisation, social media, revolution, cloud based, big data, secure, internet of things, growth, value, customer focused, digital business, disruptive, data leaders, big data, insight from data, platform, sustainable, revolution, culture.

... then add some other words in-between and you're done! 

Sounds too hard?  Ok, just add the words here.

Our strategy is [..]. We will lead a [..] effort of the market through our use of [..] and [..]  to build a [..]. By being both [..] and [..], our [..] approach will drive [..] throughout the organisation. Synergies between our [..] and [..] will enable us to capture the upside by becoming [..] in a [..] world. These transformations combined with [..] due to our [..] will create a [..] through [..] and [..].

Still too hard? Ok, these are some I made earlier. Pick one.

Strategy 1
Our strategy is customer focused. We will lead a disruptive effort of the market through our use of innovative social media and big data to build a collaborative cloud based ecosystem. By being both digital first and agile, our open approach will drive efficiency throughout the organisation. Synergies between our culture revolution and networked learning organisation will enable us to capture the upside by becoming data leaders in a digital business world. These transformations combined with insight from data due to our internet of things platform will create a sustainable competitive advantage through growth and value.


Strategy 2
Our strategy is collaborative growth. We will lead a customer focused effort of the market through our use of digital business and internet of things ecosystem to build a cloud based revolution. By being both innovative and open, our social media approach will drive competitive advantage throughout the organisation. Synergies between our data leaders and agile culture will enable us to capture the upside by becoming networked in a big data world. These transformations combined with disruptive insight from data due to our digital first platform will create a learning organisation through  value  and efficiency.


Strategy 3
Our strategy is innovative revolution. We will lead a growth effort of the market through our use of customer focused competitive advantage and disruptive social media to build a collaborative digital business. By being both data leaders and cloud based, our ecosystem approach will drive insight from data  throughout the organisation. Synergies between our platform and open culture will enable us to capture the upside by becoming digital first in a networked world. These transformations combined with value due to our efficiency will create a sustainable learning organisation through agile and big data.

Worried it's not big enough? Print some random posts, reports and graphs from the internet, add a couple of pages from the Art of War, call it background material.

Worried it has no value? Send a random person a gargantuan cheque with a note on which strategy you liked. As soon as they cash it, record it as 'consultancy fees' and assume whatever you want. As we all know, the bigger the cheque the more value ... right?

... my work is done.

Or alternatively, try and understand your landscape BEFORE building a strategy.

--- Saturday 12th July

What started as a joke has struck a bit of a nerve with a couple of people. I've already received some examples of real company strategy that seem painfully close. If you're aware of a real company strategy that mimics the above then please let me know. You can DM me on twitter. No need to reveal the company name, I'm interested in the content and how pervasive the duplication of memes / phrases and other terms are. I'll publish any conclusions I find here.

Also, thanks to Benoit I've been made aware of this HBR article on 'How to Execute a 15-Word Strategy Statement'. Now, there's nothing wrong with brevity, in fact brief and specific statements with clear understanding of the landscape are good - "Hold the Persians at the hot gates and cut off retreat with a naval assault".

However, brief and vague statements without an understanding of the landscape, where to attack and why one space over another are not helpful even if they are fifteen words long  - "Let us be agile, fight more efficiently and use innovation to disrupt the Persian army"

--- Tuesday 22nd July

This is brilliant, an auto strategy generator guaranteed to mimic most others.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Prime ... to be or not to be?

I happen to use Ocado for my weekly shop.

I happen to use Netflix for video streaming.

I happen to use O2 for my mobile.

I'm avid fan of all of these services but they have a cost for provision. When I combine all those costs together it adds up to quite a monthly sum. I recently looked at the use of Amazon Prime. It has some aspects of a free kindle book rental, videos and free next day delivery but as an addition the total cost becomes too pricey for me. 

For me, it's more a question of substitution and my loyalty can be bought by meeting my needs. Amazon is apparently going to be launching Fresh in the UK.  Amazon is launching Fire though in the UK we have to 'stay turned' for the moment. At that point, Prime might become very attractive indeed. 

But will competitors combine in some form to make an attractive counter offer? A Netflix / Ocado  / O2 bundle has appeal (for me) - should the price be reasonable and should it be easy to manage. This begs a question - where are the consumer brokers providing a bundle of services between multiple companies at a single affordable price?

From banking to power to video streaming to my weekly shop, there seems to be ample scope for consolidation. Maybe it's too complex. However, as with our electricity grid where we have a separation between utility companies and generators ... does an opportunity for such bundles and brokers exist or will I just end up eventually choosing Prime?

On Pseudo science

I read a post today by Dave Snowden on the followers of Elliott Jacques and the Requisite Organisation. The post talked about pseudoscience, acolyte syndrome and cultism and the language seemed pretty strong to me.

One of the comments to this post was 'I get accused of this (Acolyte Syndrome) by my wife, all the time, in reference to Cynefin' which made me think, as useful as Cynefin might be - is it falsifiable? Does it predict? Is it not pseudo science itself?

The demarcation between science and pseudo science is a long fraught affair with numerous luminaries from Karl Popper to Paul Thagard. Now this boundary is permeable. Activities often move from science to pseudo science and vice versa over time. It's not a question of what is right or what is more useful but instead what is science.

Falsifiability is an important part of that question both for Popper and Thagard. It's fair enough to say it is central to Popper but even Thagard asks whether the supporters of a concept 'actively attempt confirmation or disconfirmation?' 

Now, I'm not aware of any predictive capabilities of Cynefin. It's a sense making framework, a classification system to understand an environment. Without any predictive capabilities, how can you test it? How can you measure it? For me, it falls on the pseudo science line but then so do many useful management concepts and theories.

Hence, I thought the original post was a bit rich and called it out.
What followed was an interesting conversation which covered some statements on predictability
and some personal views
Now, this is interesting for two reasons. First, pseudoscience is simply a classification and many useful things are pseudoscience (e.g. a lot of economic debate is in this camp). In my experience, whether something is viewed as derogatory depends mainly upon the perspective of the viewer.

The second interesting point is that though Snowden claims Cynefin has no predictive capability (which means it is not falsifiable) other supporters of Cynefin claim it is scientific.
So, I asked Dave

To which, I received the response
To be honest, I found it difficult to get a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer and Dave has kindly agreed to write a post to explain this and why I'm wrong.

So what is Cynefin? Well, I happen to view it as useful way of examining an environment but given it's not predictive then it's not falsifiable nor scientific. Now whilst Snowden makes no claim to it being scientific, his supporters do.  Hence, I'm going to put this into my pseudo science classification.  I don't see this as a negative but instead what something is. There's a lot of useful and often subjective concepts in that classification e.g. Gartner Hype Cycle.

--- Update 7th July

I just came across this excellent post by Tom Graves on whether 'Cynefin is a cult'. It describes how Cyenfin fails the 'science' test which is a paradox because 'most of us find that Cynefin is a very useful tool'. It provides a pretty hefty set of questions to be asked from isolation to non-falsifiability.

Overall the post is a fascinating read which concludes with 'Is Cynefin a pseudoscience, a cult? Short answer, as we’ve seen above, is “probably not” – but you’ll probably need a little bit of magic to help you prove it!'

For me, this is personally interesting because I have that same paradox. I find Cynefin useful but not scientific despite any claims made by supporters. In the same way I find the Hype Cycle useful despite knowing it's not based upon any physical measurement but instead aggregated opinion. The reason why I find them both useful is that they help encourage discussion.

I do understand Dave Snowden's view that 'pseudoscience' is uniformly derogatory, though I don't share that opinion and I certainly don't express this for that reason. His original post raised some questions in my mind over what is and isn't science. There maybe a missing 'useful but not quite scientific' category out there e.g. a proto-science.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Tower and Moat

I've just read this VentureBeat article on 'Why old-school tech giants need M&A to stay relevant' in which it talks about the importance of mergers and acquisition to companies like SAP. I don't know much about VentureBeat or whether this article is try to drum up business but there's a big warning here.

Before going on an M&A spree then you better know your competitors, especially if you're up against someone with a tower and moat play (which I suspect Salesforce is using). To summarise the tower and moat, I'll use the map from an earlier post on epic fails of sensible executives.

Figure 1 - Map

Notes on map.
  • A[1] to A[2] represents the change of an activity from product to utility. Let us suppose our business has established around selling a product A[1]  whilst the new entrant has introduced the more industrialised form A[2]. As per normal there is inertia to the change caused by changing practices, business models and capital (knowledge, social etc).
  • The competitor is running an ILC model around A[2] and hence it is building an ecosystem. Along with efficiency benefits this will enable them to accurately identify (through consumption data) future successful changes such as C[1] and then industrialise such changes to additional components (e.g. C[2]). An ILC model will cause the competitor's innovation rate, efficiency and customer focus to increase simultaneously with the size of the ecosystem.
  • There is an emerging market which is less advanced in terms of provision of the activity, hence we could sell A[1] to the emerging market. However, this won't deal with the issue that A[1] is going to be replaced with the more evolved form of A[2]. Concentrating on the emerging market will simply lay the groundwork for the competitor to enter that emerging market.
  • We could try to recreate past profitability around A[1] through cost cutting but again this doesn't deal with the issue that A[1] is going to be replaced with the more evolved form of A[2]. All that cost cutting is likely to do is create a spiral of death for us.   
  • We could attempt to 'innovate' by trying to create a high risk and uncertain differential B[1] or by  acquiring a company that provides this. However the competitor can simply copy us and then aim to provide it in a more industrialised form B[2]. This is particularly dangerous as part of a tower and moat play.  
  • So what is the tower and moat? A cunning competitor will try to build a tower of revenue around A[2] and build a moat devoid of any and all potential differentials (e.g. B[2] and C[2]) that surrounds it.  Every time we try to 'innovate' (e.g. B[1]) whether through acquisition or our own efforts, then the competitor will industrialise the act and provide it for free.  The danger to us of this play is that as their ecosystem grows they exploit both it and our own efforts to bolster their moat. Once we eventually realise that the future is not A[1] or trying to sell A[1] to emerging markets but instead it's about competing around A[2] then our problem becomes that the competitor has a large ecosystem around its core revenue and there is little to no room left to differentiate. It's basically game over for us.

So, now back to the VentureBeat article. M&A can be important in a counter play against someone running a tower and moat but you have to know what you're doing. It's extremely easy to spend hundreds of millions on buying up so called 'differentials' (e.g. B[1]) and find yourself still in a worsening position as the competitor copies you, growing their moat whilst their tower (and related ecosystem) expands.

The article talks about SAP 'augmenting its offerings' and buildings its 'competitive advantage' through acquisitions.  From my perspective, I'm not sure SAP realises how much trouble it is in. As far as I can see, its future positioning is poor, it's up against a tower and moat and random acquisitions aren't going to help it.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

After the machines take-over

In twenty years, other things being equal, most of the routine blue-collar and white-collar tasks that can be done by automated intelligent systems will be. Our schools will probably be turning out a larger proportion of the population better educated than they are today, but most of our citizens will be unable to understand the 'thinking machine' world in which they live. Perhaps they will understand the rudiments of calculus, biology, nuclear physics, and the humanities. But the research realm of scientists, the problems of government, and the interplay between them will be beyond the ken even of our college graduates. Besides, most people will have had to recognize that, when it comes to logic, the machines by and large can think better than they, for in that time reasonably good thinking computers should be operating on a large scale.

There will be a small, almost separate, society of people in rapport with the advanced computers. These 'cyberneticians' will have established a relationship with their machines that cannot be shared with the average man any more than the average man today can understand the problems of molecular biology, nuclear physics, or neuropsychiatry. Indeed, many scholars will not have the capacity to share their knowledge or feeling about this new man-machine relationship. Those with the talent for the work probably will have to develop it from childhood and will be trained as intensively as the classical ballerina.

Some of the remaining population will be productively engaged in human-to-human or human-to-machine activities requiring judgment and a high level of intelligence and training. But the rest, whose innate intelligence or training is not of the highest, what will they do?

We can foresee a nation with a large portion of its people doing, directly or indirectly, the endless public tasks that the welfare state needs and that the government will not allow to be automated because of the serious unemployment that would result. These people will work short hours, with much time for the pursuit of leisure activities.

Even with a college education, what will they do all their long lives, day after day, four-day week-end after week-end, vacation after vacation, in a more and more crowded world? (There is a population explosion to face in another ten to thirty years.) What will they believe in and aspire to as they work their shorter hours and, on the outside, pursue their "self-fulfilling" activities, whatever they may be? 

No one has ever seriously envisioned what characteristics these activities might have in order to be able to engross most men and women most of their adult lives. What will be the relationship of these people to government, to the "upper intellectuals," to the rest of the world, to themselves?

Donald Michael, Cybernation : The Silent Conquest, 1962 (with a few minor edits).

Friday, July 04, 2014

Manipulation and the Robert Peston story

The news media is all a flutter with the news that they're being 'censored' by Google. More specifically, that the European 'right to be forgotten' has led to Robert Peston's article on Stan O'Neal (ex Merrill CEO) being 'removed' [from searches on google.co.uk].  Stan has said he has 'no knowledge' of this. What's going on?

Well, first there's a big assumption that it's Stan who asked for the removal. It turns out, that this may well not be the case and that someone called Peter Dragomer (who wrote a comment on the original post) might have asked for this. 

Interestingly when you search for the name 'Peter Dragomer' and compare .com to .co.uk search then another NPR article also seems to 'disappear'. However search for Stan O'Neal and a mass of negative articles can still be found in the .co.uk search (NB 'right to forget' only applies to google.co.uk and not google.com).

So, could it be Peter Dragomer who asked for this and not Stan (who denies doing so)? Also, who is Peter Dragomer? Well, we don't know. There's very little detail. There's a chap called @PDragomer (who doesn't tweet) and who happens to be involved in a new beta site all about Politician reputations - The Politician - but that's about all. There's no linkedin, no facebook, no photo album to speak of and ... well, I'm doing this while having a coffee break, so I don't have time. I'll expect some reporter will find out whether Peter Dragomer asked for this and also whether he actually exists.

Actually exists? Ok, why do I care? Well, this all seems a bit fishy to me.

A Google 'right to forget' notice on a high profile reporter on a high profile ex CEO which is bound to cause angst / outrage. An ex CEO who knows 'nothing' about it. A mysterious person, a political reputation web site in beta? It all feels cloak and dagger but that's just my natural cynicism. There's actually nothing to go on.

My guess (and this is just a guess) is that it's either as @cpswan said
Or an even more machiavellian stunt designed to highlight the issue of manipulation through the media.

Who could do this? Well, you'd be looking for someone smart enough to play such a game and who might be interested in shifting the recent dialog on manipulation. I'm sure we will find out soon enough.

As it currently stands, due to a lack of transparency (well, people want to be forgotten) then all that can be said is 'no-one knows'. As for the future, expect more of this.

Oh, and of course the irony is that most of us had forgotten about Stan O'Neal, one of the worst CEOs  of all time according to CNBC. Now, it's all new again and likely to remain news for sometime.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Agile, Agile ... everywhere.

I'm a huge fan of agile techniques (particularly XP & Scrum). They're very specific methods designed to deal with uncertainty and change whilst maximising the benefit to the customer in terms of achieving their needs. However, it's not a universal method i.e. certain classes of problems are not ideally suited to agile techniques.

I'm also a huge fan of six sigma, it's a specific technique designed to deal with reducing deviation and waste in a mass repeated process. However, it's not a universal method i.e. certain classes of problem are not ideally suited to six sigma.

I'm also a huge fan of lean, it's a specific technique designed to reduce waste and maximise customer value. However, it's not a universal method i.e. certain classes of problem are better dealt with by agile or by six sigma.

I do enjoy listening to agile, six sigma and lean fanatics rip shreds out of each other on why their technique is the right one, especially when it comes to large complex projects. I usually jump in with the statement "you're all right and you're all wrong" which at least paints a target on my back for all of them to shoot me down with cries of "you're wrong". It's one of the rare moments they do tend to agree with each other before they get back to infighting about why their approach is better.

I've said the same for the best part of a decade, I see no reason to change. I always start with a map.

Figure 1 provides a hypothetical map (it is based upon an existing large project map within UK Gov).

Figure 1 - a hypothetical map.

There are several things to note with the map.

1) The map starts with user need i.e. the customer. It doesn't start with shareholder value or how you want to make profit but instead the visible user need that you wish to provide. It assumes that meeting user need is the route to creating value.

2) The map consists of chains of needs i.e. Customer needs B, B needs C, C needs D and so on. The further you get away from the customer the more invisible the components becomes to the customer. In other words, a customer for a tea shop needs a cup of tea. Now obviously power (for the kettle) is an essential part of meeting that need but it is an invisible component to the customer. As the supplier you however care about power. Hence the map has one axis of value chain from visible to invisible with a specific focus on the user needs.

3) Value chains alone are fairly useless for strategic planning, gameplay, risk mitigation and management because they have no concept of change.

4) The second axis of the map therefore reflects change and the process of how things evolve due to competition. In the above I've added the classifications for activities (genesis, custom built etc) but I can equally add data, practice and knowledge as they evolve through an identical pattern.

5) The map can be as coarse or fine grain as you need it. The components shown can be broken down into subcomponents. 

6) The accuracy of the map improves as you involve more people with experience of the business / system etc. This reaches a plateau normally around 5-10 people. Effective mapping requires people with direct experience which means that only people within a business can map it. Consultants don't help you.

7) The map is not static as everything is shifting from left to right due to supply and demand competition. This can be manipulated and such manipulation is an important aspect of gameplay.

8) As a component evolves, its characteristics change from the uncharted space (the left hand side) where it has properties of chaotic, uncertain & unpredictable to the industrialised space (the right hand side) where the same component now has properties of order, known, measurable etc.

9) The uncharted space is where we're focused on differentiation & experimentation. The industrialised space is where we're focused on repetition and operational efficiency.

10) The techniques needed to manage these two extremes of uncharted and industrialised which have polar opposite characteristics are different. Agile is strong in the uncharted space but weak in the industrialised compared to six sigma (see figure 2).

Figure 2 - Which method?

11) If you have a map (as per figure 1) you can then apply the right methods and techniques to components (see the legend in figure 1).  It turns out that understanding the landscape (i.e. good situational awareness) through the use of maps is essential for avoiding one size fits all and the risks associated with it (e.g. cost overruns through outsourcing activities which will change)

It is important to break systems down into components (see USAF FIST - Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny), to apply the right methods (Agile, Six Sigma and Lean) and to understand that components will evolve causing a change in applicable methods. It also turns out that mapping is useful for comparison between competitors, strategic planning and organisational learning but that we can leave for now.

This approach is brought to you courtesy of 2005.

For the fanatics, well ... they'll probably continue their arguments for another decade with various attempts to combine methods to make the perfect method. Good luck in combining opposites into a single technique.

Wagile etc - waste of time. Oh, I can see I'm going to get shot down for that as well. Must go and find my albatross costume.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Facebook, the Select Committee and one in a million.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you probably know about Facebook's cavalier disregard of informed consent when experimenting on people. Now this alone should be enough for Governments to investigate and I'm glad to see that this is being raised to the Commons media select committee by Jim Sheridan MP.

What we already know :-

1) Facebook has the means to target individuals through numerous dimensions. 

2) It has passively examined moods. All Facebook users in the 100 most populous US cities were examined between January 2009 and March 2012.  Now, this is perfectly normal market research.

BUT ...

3) It has actively attempted to alter 700,000 users moods without informed consent. I understand Facebook claims that the one line in the Data Use Policy is informed consent but I doubt any reasonable person reading those T&Cs would. That the result was relatively minor does not excuse experimenting on people without informed consent. Oh, and by minor the 'test induced negative emotions in tens of thousands of people'.

4) The experiment was claimed to have been approved by the local institutional review board on the grounds that "Facebook apparently manipulates people's News Feeds all the time". So far, no-one has quite yet explained what this other manipulation includes and what other experiments have been conducted. Is this other manipulation simply A/B testing (providing two different versions of the same page) to improve interaction with the site? Or have they've been trying to deliberately alter the state of mind of other users in other experiments?

5) It has undertaken political experiments. In November, 2010 demonstrated it could get people to cast a vote. Now, that the experiment was encouraging people to vote is something that many would see as positive. But, it should be noted that the experiment shows that Facebook can, if it so chooses, have an impact.

So now we have to ask ourselves whether it is conceptually possible for Facebook to target supporters of one party, encouraging them to vote whilst targeting supporters and friends of another party and using 'mood contagion' to spread feelings of sadness or hopelessness and discouraging a tendency to vote? Certainly, it appears to have the capability but is this really likely to happen?

If you ask me, I'd put the probability of this happening at about one in a million. But then again, if you asked me last week what is the likelihood of Facebook conducting psychological experiments to alter mood on nearly 700,000 people without any clear informed consent then I'd have put this at one in million as well.

Facebook needs to answer some really hard questions not just on informed consent but also what it is capable of doing, what it has done and what it is doing.  Given the response of an investor sarcastically dismissing this experiment as some sort of joke and the dismal excuses that consent was given in the T&Cs then I'm not convinced that Facebook can be trusted to police itself. 

In this instance then either legislation or in the worst case a freedom's forge effort to replace Facebook with a European service might be needed. I hope the Commons media select committee takes up the call and digs deep. Facebook has form here and do we really want to allow this to get out of control again until we need to have another Leveson inquiry? Just imagine if the news media were pulling stunts like this and realise this form of personalised control of news is more invidious.

Of course, they'll probably say 'sorry' for now and how they'll never, ever do it again ... well, of course they won't ... not until the next time.