Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Preparing for war

Following on from my post on ecosystem wars, I thought I'd discuss some techniques and tactics to use. However, before I do, I need to first describe the organisation that I hope you work for. If this doesn't describe you and your organisation then the techniques and tactics probably won't make sense and I can save you the trouble of reading the next post.

Once again, my apologies to regular followers or attendees of my presentations, this post is just scene setting and so it runs the danger of teaching grandma to suck eggs.

I'm going to assume you're battle hardened, you realise that business is all about warfare and you've got a keen eye for competition. You've probably done a stint in the typical organisation, scratched your head over some of the practices and ultimately found yourself in a new sort of company (possibly created by you).

You understand what an organisation is. Rather than making the mistakes of the past and simply grouping people, activities and methodologies into generic structures such as IT, Finance, Marketing - you've taken the time to look. You may well have profiled your organisation (see figure 1) and identified those activities you consume, those activities you sell and those activities which act as barriers to entry into your industry.

Figure 1 - Profile (click on image for higher resolution)

You know the importance of ecosystem and how this can both accelerate innovation and reduce your risks. You might be using a model akin to ILC (innovate, leverage and commoditise) to grow and keep a vibrant ecosystem around your products and services (see figure 2).

Figure 2 - ILC model (click on image for higher resolution)

You know full well that methodologies have to change with lifecycle because characteristics do and how activities are interconnected (see figure 3 & 4). One size never fits all isn't effective hence you don't engage in the typical debates of this vs that, agile vs six sigma, push vs pull - you know you need both.

Figure 3 - How Characteristics Change (click on image for higher resolution)

Figure 4 - How Methodologies Change (click on image for higher resolution)

You also recognise that not everyone is the same, you have different types of people :-

  • Your pioneers are feverishly imaginative, often chaotic in nature, constantly exploring and they create the crazy stuff. They work on a cadence of weeks, maybe months and they fail often and miserably but they're never afraid to experiment. They want to push things out there, they're infectious, they can even be hazardous. They're not a "safe" pair of hands but you don't want them to be. Every now and then they create your future source of competitive advantage, though you don't know it until it starts to be adopted by the wider ecosystem. They are your Da Vinci's.

  • Your town planners build the core of your company and the components which your pioneers develop upon. They build the solid, useful and beautiful and they're obsessed with getting things better, faster, more efficient and more reliable. They're meticulous, methodological and geniuses who hide worlds of complexity behind standard interfaces. They're ultra reliable, your "safe" hands and they work on a cadence of months, even years. They provide the operational efficiency which you can use to bury your competitors. They are your rock, they are your Vitruvius'

  • In between, you've got your settlers. They watch the landscape, your competitors and spot the patterns which are going to either disrupt an existing revenue stream or reduce some barrier to entry. They constantly take innovations away from the pioneers and force them to move onto the next thing. They'll drive that innovation into the wider ecosystem, spin it out or fail it fast where necessary. They adapt to the changing environment and adopt what's growing. They've always got their eye on pushing a growing trend towards the town planners. They listen to the ecosystem and whilst they don't create the future or build the cities, they play the games of tactical warfare which are so essential to survival. They are ruthless to your competitors, nurturing to your own ecosystem and you're just glad they work with you. They are your Machiavelli's.

You probably identify yourself with one group and you could probably have read down the list of your employees naming which group they belong to. You didn't have to, they told you.

You've long given up on trying to create departments with a mix of Da Vinci's, Machiavelli's and Vitruvius' and listening to the constant arguments within those departments about how to best run IT or whatever they're assigned to do. You understand they won't agree, they never will.

You understand that outsourcing a department may get rid of the arguments but you'll end up removing sources of competitive advantage. It's better to let the town planners outsource those activities that can be removed.

You've given up making speeches about the need for innovation or efficiency, you know you need both. You've also realised that you need to nurture both pioneers and town planners to do this and you have to let them use the tools they need to get the job done. You understand those tools are different. One size fits all seems a long distant and best forgotten memory.

Hence you've probably decided to structure yourself around change and have groups like pioneers, settlers and town planners - though you'll call them something else. You've probably discovered the alignment issues between your old groups was an artificial construct of how you organised yourself. You've probably also realised the importance of the settlers in managing change and wondered why you didn't do this before.

You've almost certainly realised you want the best Da Vinci's, Machiavelli's and Vitruvius' to compete and hence focus almost religiously on high levels of talent and acquiring the best, no matter where they are in the world. You remove any and all unnecessary vestiges of the old world - expenses, timesheets, standard company laptops and so forth and instead have instilled a culture of respect.

You're going into a war. You want your people fighting and you want them to have the tools they need. if you can't trust your people to fight on your side then you don't want them. Your management reflects this, your organisation reflects this, your people reflect this. It feels vastly different from the old ways you remember.

If this is you, then the next post on tactics will make sense and we can go on to explore some of the actions being taking by the big players in our ecosystems.