Book – Great At Work

great-at-work-book.pngThe book is interesting not only from the individual perspective but also from an organizational one.  If an individual is more likely to be effective using one approach rather than the other, an organization would be wise to encourage the right approach through its structure and culture.

The research behind the recommendations suggests that many of our typical assumptions are wrong.  Though some of these inconsistencies have been highlighted before (in my observation), some are new and eye-opening.

Very often, if something is not quite “right” at work, our typical answer is to invest more resources – time, from the individual perspective.  The research suggests it is not the answer.  Based on the analysis of successful employees, the author identified seven principles of “working smarter,” which would be helpful for both employees and organizations.

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1. Do less, than obsess

A focus in general has been encouraged by the industry for a long time.  Now, we have data.  The interesting part is that the focus itself is just part of the answer – investing enough energy into the few selected priorities is needed to succeed.

Interesting: the myth of long hours – research also shows that work beyond 50 hours a week does not make economic sense – productivity decreases.  One more data point in the long line of calls for considering human nature (as the fact that multitasking is not theoretically possible 🙂 ).  The book was encouraging overly enthusiastic employees to cut their work to 50 hours a week…  we would be better of (and more productive) if it would be closer to 40 😉

This approach also helps with managing work-life balance and improves overall well-being.

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2.  Redesign your work

What can an individual do to bring more value to the organization in his current role?  A person can identify and emphasize more valuable activities and automate or minimize less valuable ones.  The individual can also tailor the role to his strengths and interests to feel happier at work, what will encourage engagement.

3. Don’t just learn, loop

My guess, this principle can apply to any form of focussed learning suitable for a position.  Following the industry news or learning new technical aspects of the job could be very helpful.  However, the author concentrates on the behaviors rather than technical skills.

To start improving a skill, effective learners in the workplace break it into manageable chunks, what I call micro-behaviors. A micro-behavior is a small, concrete action you take on a daily basis to improve a skill.  The action shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to perform and review, and it should have a clear impact on skill development.

An interesting example was the journey of a new manager of the food service in a hospital.  The manager worked with a coach to learn how to encourage her team to bring up new ideas.  Though first attempts were not as productive as desired, in time, the manager was able to encourage her team to bring up dozens of suggestions and make a significant impact to the business by implementing many of them.

4. Passion and purpose

The author is one of few brave and confident voices who suggest not to “follow your passion” blindly, which can lead to financial ruins (excellent examples in the book!), but to find a passion in a current or adjacent area of work.

A great example is a story of a sales executive, tired from his role in a large company, but not quite willing to take a risk of leaving a respected and well-compensated position.  After a year or reflection, the executive proposed to take his company in a new market.  This move created a “startup” within an established business and was highly beneficial both for the employee and the organization.

Interesting, this approach has a negative effect on work-life balance, as the person is willing (often happily) to spend more energy on work projects and continues thinking about them during his personal time.

5. Forceful champions

Top performers master working with others in three discrete areas: advocacy, teamwork, and collaboration.

Finding supporters of your ideas within the organization is very helpful.

6. Fight and unite

This recommendation might be more useful on an organizational level rather than an individual one.  However, it is possible to implement in a team setting.

The meetings should allow and encourage “fighting” over the topic – lively debate with controversial suggestions and immediate criticism of proposed approaches.  This type of discussion encourages innovative solutions to appear and evolve through the discussion.  However, when the decision is made, the entire team should unite behind it and implement agreed-upon solution without “re-negotiation” attempts.

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7. The two sins of collaboration

This principle was the most surprising for me.  Th author clearly showed that the collaboration might not be always effective.  In some cases, it may not increase the success of an effort but just increase time.  In other cases, the collaborative project may not have enough of “unifying goal” and resources to be successful and doomed to fail.  The author suggests selecting carefully when to get involved in collaborative projects and when do not.

An interesting example: a firm drastically encouraged collaboration.  Some teams benefited (based on the number of successful deals) and some did not.  The reason was unexpected: less experienced teams benefited from a more experienced advice, though experienced teams did not, and just wasted time on soliciting less knowledgeable opinions.

This is an interesting topic: collaboration might be beneficial for company’s less experienced members, but not as much for more experienced ones.  From the perspective of the individuals who would less likely benefit from the effort – the participation in a collaborative project might encroach on “do less, then obsess” principle. 🙂   How to encourage the right type of collaboration on the organizational level?  We will probably see an interesting debate in the industry for years to come 🙂

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BMA – GDPR

GDPR.PNGMost marketers in the room knew exactly when GDPR will take effect, but was not exactly sure what will it mean for the industry.

GDPR concerns the entire industry, not only companies selling product and services to the European Union (“…if you have a form on your website, somebody from EU can fill it out…”).  Though most marketers in the audience were marketing to EU and, sometimes, were operating under stricter guidelines in US also.

Some of the actions marketers took in preparation for GDPR:

  • Legal re-wrote privacy policy “… if you give us your information, this is what we will do…”
  • Removed inactive contacts from the database
  • Formed data quality cross-functional task force (demand, ops, sales ops)
  • Verified subscription management (option: add a “snooze” button to stop receiving communications for a specified period of time)

Questions discussed:

  • What to do with the data entered by sales?  All data has the same requirements.
  • What to do with database contacts, which do not have explicit permission?  You can ask for the permission now.
  • Meeting attendees thought that a part of GDPR was pushed to 2019
  • How to handle the requirement to keep data on European soil in the age of Cloud?
  • Can you rely on IP for “Country” form filed?  No.

Concerns and speculations:

  • Is the regulation “more bark than bite?”
  • “I am a demand gen guy; the regulation is not after me – they are after spammers…”
  • There are two aspects:
    • GDPR: legality of collecting the data
    • ePrivacy: how do I use the data
  • BRIC countries might follow GDPR…
  • Are the same rules coming to US?  The public is concerned about the recent Facebook issue…  Would California be the first state to entertain stricter rules?
    • Europe is traditionally more concerned about privacy, and US is more lenient.  Most likely US won’t follow GDPR quickly, if ever.
  • “We are a global company, we are following stricter guidelines across the board already…”
  • Some known companies are following double opt-in even in US
    • Double opt-in would generate more engagement…
    • Google (business accounts) is more likely to deliver emails to inbox if engagement is better
  • Legitimate Interests Assessment (LIA) was also a concern
  • Marketers need to have “consent,” but how often do you need to get consent?  We probably have a couple of years…
  • EU US Privacy Shield is a related regulation

“Now you can not receive a concent in exchange for an eBook..”  European community now is inundated with opt-in emails… What to do?  We need to have compelling, interesting materials… and possibly combined concent seeking online effort with a phone-based approach.

“We need to just play by the rules…”

“It could be a blessing – conversion rates will go up!”

Check any third-party vendor to make sure they are GDPR compliant

Event sponsors were also interesting:

hh.PNGHushly is able to “reclaim” a portion of site visitors who typically abandon the site with an innovative approach.  Leads generated are “human-verified” and GDPR/CASL compliant.  Hushly website has an interesting comparison of different vendors from the compliance perspective.

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Activate specializes in demand generation.  Activate site features a useful infographic indicating that opportunities and SQLs seem to be the measure of marketing success (replacing MQLs), what was already common in the industry.

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Direction #1: Lead quality: The target gets even smaller
While lead quality will continue to grow in priority for sales and marketing leadership (the days of lead quantity are officially dead), the threshold for meeting lead-quality expectations will go ever higher and include ALL of the following:

  • Interaction across multiple channels (at least 2 among web, social, telephone)
  • Engagement with various forms of content
  • Clear visibility into BANT criteria, especially buying timeframe, as well as willingness to get on the phone with sales in the near term

Book – The Startup Way

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I enjoyed the previous Eric Ries book, Lean Startup (listened to it at least twice), though I waited a couple of years to start.  The book was recommended a few times based on my reading interests, but I did not think it was relevant to me.  At that time I typically worked for large sleepy companies.  I thought my “skunk works” navigation of political and operational networks within a large organization was dramatically different from a startup approach.  “Startup” concept felt frightening.  When I finally picked up the book, it felt very relevant and had a following within slowly moving enterprises on high levels.  Though…  nothing seemed to happen.

The Startup Way is the inspiration (and an instruction) to everybody on the inside of an average enterprise.  This volume explains how to take the ideas of Lean Startup and make them work within a large company.   The approach makes sense even it the company has been organized in the most inhospitable way for anybody with a slightest entrepreneurial thought.

But – times are changing, and changing fast.  Companies need to innovate their way to a continuous existence and find a reliable methodology to do it consistently.

I guess the most challenging task in a multi-billion established business, sometimes, is to actually articulate (or understand?) basic concepts from these books.  You might hear an MVP term, while people who discuss their “MVP” might have an idea of what it means (though rarely read the book), and an entire project team happily describes a “Phase 1” of a defined and impossible to change multi-million project as an “MVP.”

The Startup Way has many interesting examples showing how internal teams avoided similar misunderstanding.

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One of the critical approaches is metered funding.  The idea should not receive an additional funding unless it has not proven itself in customer tests.

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A concise summary of the book is available at Your Exec.  This resource also has interesting examples of PPT templates.

Interesting book!

Yummly

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Though I do not cook and typically avoid trying exotic foods as much as I can do it politely, a friend invited me to an industry event at Yummly.  Wow – meeting a friend was a pleasure, but learning about a popular food app at the edge of IoT and a blend of potential b-to-c and b-to-b marketing was a treat.  The food was also fantastic!  Even for picky eaters 🙂

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Interesting: Yummly is piloting an app, which can recognize food items available and potentially recommend recipes including these items.  The ultimate objective is the connection of a refrigerator content, stove operation, and a desire to prepare a meal as easy as possible.  A scan of the foods available can generate a recommended recipe (based on highly customizable preferences), a selection of the recipe can potentially pre-heat an oven… and a text message can remind a novice “cook” that a forgotten dish is ready.

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As Yummly’s audience is wide and geographically diverse, the company has a fantastic source of data based on the usage of its apps: what is the most common meal to cook for Valentine’s day?  Or, what is the most popular side dish in the fall in South Dakota?  Yummy has not shared the data with potential partners yet, but it might be an interesting opportunity in the future.  Yummly already has partnerships in food delivery areas.

Future of cooking seems to be wonderful!  Leaving an event, the attendees were delighted with a very useful shopping bag – my husband loved it.  He is the cook in the family 🙂

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Book – Team of Teams

team.pngThe book is an excellent explanation of changes in our environment and why organizations will be more successful with a new approach to management.

The most interesting point is the parallel between business and military organizations.  The current change is not limited to a specific industry or military branch; it is a societal change every organization will face.  We have to choose between efficiency and adaptability.  Adaptability we need to succeed in our complex environment reduces efficiency, what is difficult to accept.

“High-level success depends on low-level inefficiency.”

Silo-based organizations with internal competition have been successful in the past.  However, as our environment shifted to the high level of complexity (and high level of unpredictability), silos-based efficiency is insufficient.  This type of organizations have limited access to information and internal resources to solve problems spanning across different work groups.

Example: GMs separate ignition and airbag teams could not solve an ignition issue affecting airbags for several years.  Nobody in the organization had access to all needed information and incentive to take any actions interfering with the organizational objective of cost reduction.

To become more effective (at the expense of efficiency), the organization need to encourage the free flow of information and introduce “system thinking” across levels and departments.   “A person can not understand a part of the system without an at least rudimentary understanding of the whole.”

The solution is to share the information and empower people on all levels to make decisions based on this information.  In complex and unpredictable environments leadership role changes from “chess” to “gardening.” Instead of attempting to orchestrate and control every organizational move, the leader needs to concentrate on the high-level picture and provide an environment for fast decision making across the organization in the context or each situation.

However, information without empowerment would be frustrating, and empowerment without information would not generate success – both components need to be present in the organization to generate results.

To prevent natural mistrust beyond members of an immediate team, a military organization started to “embed” representatives of other functions into the team’s environment.  Team members learned to trust a person representing different function and become more open to cooperation with the same function in the future.  This approach created a “team of teams” ready to work together on overarching organizational goals.

Book – The Ultimate Question 2.0

question.PNGI thought I knew what NPS was.  A few years ago I worked for a company, which had a survey with one NPS question on its website.  Other companies discussed NPS, and I also read an extensive article criticizing the approach for generating the score, but not explaining the “why” behind it.  In the reality, I had no idea what NPS was, how it should be used, and why it makes business sense.  Most likely, I was not alone 🙂

The general calculation of NPS is simple to understand and it is a well-known concept.

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The rest of the book became a wonderful discovery for me.

Interestingly, the specific question was selected based on rigorous research, and it was not the question researchers themselves expected to “win.”  This was the question, which correlated the most with business success of the company.

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“In certain business-to-business settings, a question such as “How likely is it that you will continue to purchase products or services from Company X?” or “How likely is it that you would recommend that we do more of our business with Company X?” may work better.”

Calculating NPS (% of promoters – % of detractors) rather than just concentrating on the % of promoters “… worth the trouble, because it ensures that a company will pay attention to both groups and because NPS correlates with growth rates more closely than does the number of promoters alone.” 

The question generating the score should be “called penultimate question since it always needs to be followed up by one additional question: why?”

Companies with higher scores enjoy clear business benefits compared to their counterparts in the same market.  Interesting: average scores in different markets can vary widely; it is important for the company to become a loyalty leader in its particular industry and geographical location rather than reach a particular score.

Multinational businesses with multiple product lines won’t be able to compare their absolute scores across the company.  “To manage their business portfolios, these companies allocate resources toward growth opportunities in business units that enjoy NPS leadership [in their markets], and then to unit managers who develop compelling business cases that should enable them to drive NPS past the current leaders [in their markets].”

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Concepts and points from the book:

  • “NPS merely measures the quality of a company’s relationships with its current customers, and high-quality relationships are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for profitable growth.”
  • Does it make sense to worry about NPS in regulated monopoly markets?  “…No monopoly lasts forever.  New technologies emerge.  Regulations change.  Building good customer relationships prepares a company for the possibility of increased competition.  What’s more, superior NPS boosts a company’s growth potential by enabling it to expand into adjacent service areas.
  • An inability of the accounting system to distinguish between “good profits” based on the creation of value for customers and “bad profits” can be overcome by NPS.  “Did that $10 million in incremental profits come from new hidden surcharges, or did it come from loyal customers’ repeat purchases?”
  • Should companies measure NPS in all customer segments and categories?  This question can be addressed by “…two distinct processes that are best managed separately.  Companies that must serve a wide variety of customers in addition to their targeted core – retailers, banks, airlines, and so on – need to minimize detractors among noncore customers, since these customers’ negative word of mouth is just as destructive as anybody’s.  But investing to delight customers other than those in the core may yield little economic return.”
  • NPS-1.pngOverall: “The more metrics you track, the less relevant each one becomes.  Each manager will choose to focus on the number that makes his decision look good.”
  • Additional potential question: “What is the most important improvement that would make you more likely to recommend us?”
  • Product management team at Logitech is expected to project the release date, the retail price, and the target NPS for every new product they propose.
  • TurboTax ads another question based on the initial NPS answer.  Detractors are asked for the reasons for their score, passives are asked what would take for them to rate TurboTax a ten, promoters are asked what, specifically, they would tell someone to get them to try TurboTax.  Promoters responses could be incorporated into future marketing messages. “One final benefit of asking promoters to express what they would tell a friend is that once they articulate the answer, they are more likely to relay it to a friend just because it’s on the tip of their tongue and the top of their mind.”
  • The amount of work, planning, and follow-up required to achieve the full benefits of NPS came as a surprise to many of the companies.”
  • The authors encourage companies implementing NPS to be careful about linking the score to compensation.
    • It creates the focus on the score itself, rather than an improvement of customer satisfaction
    • It creates pressure on the team responsible for the measurement process
    • It encourages gaming and manipulation
  • A lesson from companies who implemented NPS: “I wish we had known to budget more support from our IT department up front.”

Another interesting aspect of Net Promoter System is a measurement of employee advocacy and the emphasis on employee satisfaction as a starting point for the creation of happy customers.

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  • The question: “On a scale of zero to ten, how likely is it you would recommend this company as a place to work?”
  • “With anonymous employee surveys, it makes sense to gather a little more information about possible root causes on the survey itself.”
  • “Apple Retail began its Net Promoter for People process using quarterly surveys.  But it found that store teams didn’t have sufficient time to diagnose root causes, implement solutions, and achieve measurable improvements before the subsequent survey.  So Apple shifter to a four-month cycle.”

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