Friday, November 16, 2018

Building in organisational adaptability

The way in which most businesses organise for value has a fundamental 20th century mass production design flaw. It constrains them from reaching both the capacity and capability to respond to the market at the speed our digital world demands.

It is specialisation.

Specialisation made a great deal of sense in a mass production world - enshrined in Adam Smith's pin factory, through Henry Ford's Model T and beyond.
But it presents a problem of friction for the modern, responsive organisation.

For example - if you have wonderful developers in one silo, and wonderful business leaders in another, you introduce a brake on responsiveness.
While you may have optimised your tech teams to develop, and your business teams to come up with ideas to value, in order to accelerate the generation of value these 'roles' should be more closely connected (as we see in Agile, Design Thinking, Lean Start-up, Holocracy and combinations thereof).
Specialisation made sense when neither party could easily access the skills of the other.

That has changed. Technology now enables business ideation. Technologies that enable one-to-one marketing, for example, can inspire businesses to ideate on the new models this supports. But the friction comes when tech delivery capacity and capability remain a bottleneck.

Those choke-points all too often force businesses back to 'as usual' when striving for new.
What is required is a way of giving business people technology skills and technology people business skills. In this way the organisation becomes more responsive to upturns and dips in  the requirement for both. It becomes built to adapt.

Pipe dream? Hardly - there are already many no-to-low code platforms and technologies which enable pretty much anyone with a laptop to develop their own applications and business process automation with nothing more than the lightest layer of additional coding*.
Business folk can be technology folk, too. At low cost. Minimum Viable Products can be crafted by the people with the vision and the insight - closing the strategy gap through direct and hands-on involvement.

And this cuts both ways. By applying managed innovation as a way of working (Agile, Design Thinking et al) Technology folk can become as enabled to access insight, set vision
and focus on value as their business colleagues.

Bringing both no-to-low code platforms and insight-led, human-centred managed innovation into your org, is a huge leap toward becoming a truly responsive organisation.

*I do not dismiss the importance of technologists. Even the best of these platforms 1. Had to be coded in the first place 2. Create their biggest bang for buck when some customisation is applied.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Coding the economy to cut the high price of low cost

Photo by Ray Hennessey on Unsplash

The allocation of resources - and the cost of optimising that allocation - has always been humanity's most profound challenge. Artificial Intelligence may offer our best solution - but only if we are prepared to think globally.

Capital and the market model it sustains has been held up as our best bet for resource allocation for centutres. Yet capitalism and its governance are not necessary states by any means. They are emergent properties of the complex adaptive system we describe as the economy.

One transaction allocating value does not capitalism make. Multiple ones at scale can. Just as a molecule of water is not a wave, let alone a tidal force. These are emergent properties of complex adaptive systems.

The interactions within the system are what creates those emerging properties. Change those interactions and the properties change.

The best modifier we have had to date has been Government intervention - taxes, laws, welfare etc. But complex aqdaptive systems are notoriously difficult to tinker with. Think of the butterfly effect as applied to weather (another complex adaptive system).

So a Trump here or a Brexit there is going to have some impacts, but predicting exactly who, where and what feels the chill wind is a somewhat more exacting science than knowing that change will come.

As our economy has become more connected (and decentralised) it is becoming more anti-fragile. Make no mistake the economy will keep on functioning no matter what governments do. The question is can it be controlled somehow to ensure the emergent properties are desirable for humanity?

As we head towards quantum computing and ever more intelligent automation the point looms at which decisions to allocate resource will patently be better handled by machines.

Our machines will be better able to calculate the global economic costs of each transaction. They will factor for the environment as much as for human need. If we code that in.

But this is going to be a greater race for power than military applications of AI. Those who choose not to take part will be at significant compertitive disadvantage to rivals.

So the pressures to allocate to meet immediate human gratification will be huge. Only through global agreement on total costs will we give our children a chance.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The strategic importance of managed innovation in digital transformation

A couple of thoughts in visual form on the strategic importance of managed innovation in digital transformation - and the behaviours required of the people involved:

First - the strategic importance:

Second - the behaviours

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Enabling achievement vs hitting your KPIs

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash
GCSE exam results filled the UK media today, telling its once-a-year story of joy and heartbreak. The arguments over the KPIs have been more intense this year amid changes in the way exam results are calculated.
Which prompted
me to return to a regular question when faced with how to measure something.
I asked a teenager what she thought education was for?
'To help you pass exams,' she said.
But it's not, is it?
Education is a lifelong thing. We acquire new skills and capabilities to be able to achieve things. Education is to enable us to achieve the things we seek to achieve.
The exam result is not the thing we are seeking to achieve.
The same is true of so much poor wisdom applied to the selection of our business KPIs. Too often they provide a distraction from the thing we are seeking to achieve and become an end in themselves.
Next time you are tasked with designing or setting kpis, remember how exams can so easily fail the goals of education.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Crushed by scale

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash
What if your process is simply scaling up doing the wrong thing?
What if your improved technology enables you to do that wrong thing even faster?

We often talk about the economies large organisations gain through scaling. But doing more of the wrong thing, that's the diseconomy of scale - and the crippling drag on the value of change.
So while we marvel at the new things, we must never be distracted from the need for new ways.

Digital Transformation is little more than a new thing to marvel at (an expensive tech upgrade) - unless it is accompanied by a shift to insight-led, value focused innovation as the organisation’s default way of working.
And while ideas are great, value is better. And continuous value creation is best.
To get to best requires tested frameworks, the right expertise, accelerators and approaches,. And they must be delivered in a repeatable, human-centred and transferable way.

And only once you are proving value... then you scale.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?