Book – Winning Them Over

Winning.pngThe book compares management style of the past with current, more collaborative approach.  As we live (and work) in the era of persuasion, the book introduces persuasion techniques and gives insightful examples of the time (published 1998).

Interesting: the same techniques could be very helpful now as persuasion is the only technique available in cross-functional team environment.

Examples in the book are similar in spirit to other examples in business literature: very simple and clear messages, emotional appeal, and direct connection to “what is in it for me.”  Pictures (verbal and literal) and analogies are more effective than data in persuasion, though data is also needed for support.

 

Book – Think Simple: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity

simple.pngMany people think that they have a more complex business than they have.  More times than not, they actually create complexity in their mind.

JCPenney: though we remember the outcry of disappointed customers when discounts and coupons were cut, this story is not quite complete.  The company planned to re-create stores and provide a different, simplified and more engaging experience.  This experience would replace existing stores and coupons.  Unfortunately, the “old” value was removed before the “new” value became available.  JCPenney’s customers might have reacted differently if the entire plan was rolled out as designed.  This was, definitely, not that simple…

blue-men.PNG

Blue Men Group: understanding the need for  simplification (and communication).  The group conducted an interesting research: what do people new to Blue Men expect from the show?  The results were baffling: guesses were very inaccurate, and often strange.  After the first show the same audience claimed that they were surprised by the experience, as the show was significantly different from expectations.   Blue Men Group realized that show promotions need to be clarified.

DirectTV Latin America: simplification of brand and simplification of reporting structure.

Reporting structure: functional heads in each country reported to a manager based in Florida. For example, heads of marketing of Peru, Chile, and Colombia were reporting to a head of marketing in Florida. It created significant overhead in Florida and constant flow of communication.

To tell you how messed up this arrangement could be, I visited Florida shortly after I started this job.  Everyone of those functional heads swore to me that their part of the company was making money.  But when you added it up, they were actually in bankruptcy.  It became convoluted and financial reporting was designed to reflect convoluted structure.  Somehow, they all convinced themselves that they were making money.

Solution: eliminate the entire organization in Florida and empower management in each country to be responsible for its own business.  Each country became its own PNL, and the entire organization became more entrepreneurial and less complicated.

What causes this complexity?  Mostly ego and a desire to control.

Employees in big companies are typically eager to change and quick to embrace the idea of simplification.  It is complexity that sets people running in the opposite direction.

jobs.png

Book – Reinvention

reinvention.pngJust before our professional association meeting at the company office, we realized that the previous group was still occupying the room.  As a representative of both professional association and the company, I found myself encouraging previous group to leave and cleaning the tables.  A couple of books were left in the auditorium…

A free book on business reinvention?  Absolutely irresistible!

The book has quite interesting approach: a combination of organizational and personal (professional) change in one process, as authors thought that personal and organizational change processes were so similar, that two separate books were not needed.

change.PNG

The most profound statement of the book is the comparison of the degree of change – external and internal for both an organization and an individual.

To be successful, you and your organization must have the ability to reinvent, pivot, and morph faster than the speed of the external environment that you operate within.  Possessing the ability to not only survive disruption but also accelerate results during turbulent and challenging times is a skill that must be mastered.

A cute video explains “six deadly blindfolds” and an approach to handle inevitable disruptions.

Do you or your organization have “buoys” in place so that you are rarely surprised when powerful shock-waves begin pounding on your shore?  Great organizations and highly adaptive professionals seem to be better at predicting and understanding incoming changes than others.

Elements needed for the reinvention effort to be successful:

  • Dissatisfaction (feeling a need for change)
  • Focus (well-articulated future state)
  • Alignment (available infrastructure, including tools, processes, finances, etc.)
  • Execution (comprehensive game plan with clear milestones)
  • Leadership 
  • Cost of Change (reinvention costs: financial, social, physical, mental, etc.)

(D x F x A x E)L > C

A general manager of a major division announced a plan of the division redesign, while the division was still producing better results than other parts of the company.  A push-back from the executive team was overcome by the requirement to conduct an environmental scan.  60 days later, humbled executives reported that they were actually #5 in market share, down from #2 and dropping fast. “They discovered new strategies of the competition.  And customers gave them an earful.  The executive team was now ready for a redesign.”

SweetmanCragun Group offers a collection of templates related to the reinvention steps mentioned in the book.

An interesting (and very relevant quote) from Catherine Fake, a co-founder of Flickr:

work.PNGSo often people are working hard at the wrong thing.  Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.

 

Book – HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across

HBR.pngThe guide is a collection of helpful tips on how to include remote colleagues into projects more effectively, navigate complicated matrix organization, and build helpful networks.  A fantastic resource with very relevant questions to ponder and ideas to explore, which might remind about an issues from a last week meeting or a phone call planned for tomorrow afternoon.

One of the most interesting perspectives of the book is a network analysis.

…high performers have strong ties to

1. network.PNGpeople who offer them new information or expertise, including internal or external clients, who increase their market awareness; peers in other functions, divisions, or geographies, who share best practices; and contacts in other industries, who inspire innovation;

2. formally powerful people, who provide mentoring, sense-making, political support, and resources; and informally powerful people, who offer influence, help coordinating projects, and support among the rank and file; and

3. people who give them developmental feedback, challenge their decisions, and push them to be better. At an early career stage, an employee might get this from a boss or customers; later, it tends to come from coaches, trusted colleagues, or a spouse.

A network can be imbalanced and have unexpected redundancies; active approach to building a network is the most beneficial:

Write down three business results you hope to achieve in the next year, and then list people who could help you with them.

A thought provoking article Make Your Enemies Your Allies, recommends three steps to handle unfortunate situations in the office: redirection, reciprocity, and rationality.  The article provides a couple of successful examples of the approach, including an example of initially unpopular idea, which was eventually supported by an organization.

The book also suggested an interesting approach to relationship with management: your boss can be considered as a brand, and your boss’s boss the ultimate customer.

Book – Under New Management

new-management.pngAn insightful book encouraging us to challenge established management practices and traditional conventions.  The analogy at the end of the book was particularly interesting: an efficiency of a typical internal combustion engine is about 30%.  We know that the engine is reliable and widely used, but finding a method to increase the efficiency above 30% would create a significant benefit.  As our organizations are a combination of resources and people, increasing engagement of the people with non-traditional management approaches might make significant difference in success of these organizations.

The book mentions several already popular approaches, including sabbaticals and careful hiring, and some of new approaches are better analyzed to question conventional wisdom.

The author  references Service-Profit Chain, which is gaining more attention in recent publications.chain.png

The author also refers to “Employees First, Customers Second,” a book that would seem revolutionary a decade or two ago.  It is a pleasure to see how this approach becoming more main stream.

Interesting concept of “pre-hiring” vacation: an arrangement when the company gives two weeks of paid vacation to a new hire before the start day to assure that the new person enters the company well-rested and eager to learn.

A perspective where “sunk costs” can actually be beneficial: as companies offer “quitting bonuses” to encourage unsatisfied employees to leave, the idea of not taking the offer has an additional benefit.  As people who did not leave the company “lost” the money, they consider the amount an investment into current job and “sunk costs” that are psychologically difficult to ignore.  “If I did not take these money…  I must really like that job…”

Research in office email and productivity – Some Companiess Are Banning Email and Getting More Done.

email.png

The company has reduced overall email by 60 percent, going from an average of 100 email messages per week per employee to less than 40. Atos’s operating margin increased from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent in 2013, earnings per share rose by more than 50 percent, and administrative costs declined from 13 percent to 10 percent. Obviously, not all of these improvements were the result of banning email, but the correlation is certainly strong. So is a growing body of research on the effects of email.

Research suggests that just limiting checking of email to certain time during the day would be helpful.

Another new point of view on a popular approach was a chapter on open office.  Based on research, the main benefit of the open office is real estate cost saving.  That is it.  Open office has its own shortcomings, including noise, what may actually reduce creativity and productivity rather than encourage it.  Open office can be as effective as a traditional one if employees have enough control (and enough space) to use the environment.  Interestingly enough, information of success of open office experiments is more widely known than failures, resulting in return of the company to a more traditional office environment.

Excellent book to ponder “rules of business” that might not be as effective as we believe they are.

Book – The Analytical Marketer

Analytical-marketer.pngAn insightful book describes the process many companies in the industry undertake in some form – marketing transformation.  The book illustrates some aspects that many marketers observed in their organizations and some other changes that marketers expect to see in the future.

It was the first publication that discussed relationship between marketing and IT before discussing an infamous challenge of relationship between marketing and sales.  Our industry truly changed 🙂

The book suggests that modern business requires ‘fundamental shifts in the marketing organization itself: specifically, changes in the marketing mind-set, marketing structure, marketing telnet, and marketing leadership.”

An interesting aspect: customer journey includes acquisition and retention as equal parts.  Very often marketing view on buyer’s journey does not even include retention, or includes it as a little “box” on the right – an afterthought.  Another aspect of the journey – it is relatively simple.  Hopefully, we, as an industry, are moving away from a dozen of steps buyer’s journey that might contribute to over-complication of marketing initiatives.

journey.png

SAS had a traditional marketing organization – by channel.  The organization encouraged silos and channel-specific efforts, what was not effective. “There are even times when you can draw the wrong conclusions when you look at the performance of a channel independently.”

SAS reorganized to encourage collaboration between channels and created a new function of “orchestrator” who is “orchestrating” campaigns across all channels – digital, traditional, and emerging.

org-structure.png

New positions were created to help formalize partnership between marketing and IT, and also to strengthen the connection between marketing ans sales.

SAS is hiring more analytically-minded marketers in general.  By doing it, “you are not killing creativity or innovation, just seeking naturally curious employees with updated skills.”

An HBR interview and book overview – webinar.

webinar.png

A few insights from the book:

  • Segmentation insight: SAS discovered that SMB targets responded better to general messages, rather than specific message for the segment.  Results improved when the SMB-specific campaign was closed and SMB segment added to the enterprise campaign.
  • Based on data (conversion and sales) one of long-standing PPC campaigns targeting expensive keywords was discontinued.
  • “Too often, organizations start chasing the next shiny object like social media before they have optimized everything they already have..”
  • “Data without use is overhead.”
  • “Make data quality everybody’s job.”
  • CXA – customer experience analytics (new for me term)
  • Interesting: in SAS shared services Nurturing is included into “Data Strategy” together with segmentation.

Sometimes our team needs to engage in shameless self-promotion.  We need to tell stories about the interesting things and projects the team is involved in to ensure that the rest of the organization understands our value.  We have to deliberately build credibility for marketing.

Book – Big Data

big-data.pngThe book gives a good general introduction into the concept of Big Data and illustrates it with very interesting examples.  The examples show new business approaches possible in the world of Big Data, and how they are different from the traditional strategies.

Example 1: car manufacturer found an improperly working fuel gauge.  Normally, this discovery would start from a request to the gauge producer to solve the problem, what could affect new production.  car.pngHowever, the car manufacturer armed with data did not immediately informed the gauge producer, but created a software patch to correct the problem and sold it to the gauge producer.

Example 2: organizations use data tools to evaluate potential employees.  One organization discovered that graduates from top schools do not perform better than graduates from less prestigious educational institutions, as a result, personnel costs could be reduced with expectation of increased performance. In some jobs, employees with prior criminal record actually outperformed coworkers without criminal record.  Employees who used a non-standard browser were found more likely to take independent initiatives.

Important point: all data activities need to start from the strategy based on business need.  An average company won’t be able to understand and analyze all existing data – and it is not needed to run a successful business.  Only data relevant to a specific goal is required.

The SMART model — start with strategy, measure metrics and data, apply analytics, report results, transform your business — allows you to cut through the chaos.

Instead of starting with the data, start with your business objectives and what you are specifically trying to achieve. This will automatically point you towards questions that you need to answer, which will narrow data requirements into manageable areas.

Once you know what you are trying to achieve and you are clear on what SMART questions need to be answered, then work out how you can access that information so you can measure metrics and data.

The next step is to apply analytics, extracting useful insights from the data that can help you answer strategic questions. The data themselves are meaningless unless they help you to execute your strategy and improve performance.

Example 3: fashion retailer needed to understand who were its best customers.  The retailer measured foot traffic passing the store (mobile phone sensor), then combined this information with number of people coming into the store (the same sensor), and then combined it with actual purchases.  Result: window display could be optimized more effectively and one store was closed due to insufficient traffic.

Example 4: data aggregated from wearable devices became more valuable than the device itself.  Wearable device manufacturer re-imagined its business and became a data company, while still producing the device to collect data.

Important point: analytics and data visualization are part of the same task.  An idea that first data is analyzed, then visualized by a different group, and then presented to a decision maker would not provide the most value.  Analysis and visualization need to work together and the decision maker should not be expected to use visualization tools – but to receive the insight generated by the analysis.

information.png

An interesting site mentioned in the book Information is Beautiful – the site highlights data visualization examples.