Category: Thought of the day (Page 2 of 4)

Customer centricity – solved

I just found a nice overview diagram (nice in content, not in style) where I thought I’d solved the problem of creating a customer-centric organisation just by breaking the challenge into its components.

It’s a year or so old but to be honest it still looks about right:


PDF:  The Problem of Customer Orientation is Largely Solved – if you have the will to implement


10 linchpin business performance improvement initiatives you should be running right now

It’s often difficult to understand how your portfolio of projects is actually helping your organisation deliver to its strategic goals. The problem is that the projects in the portfolio often don’t play a part in ensuring the overall portfolio is easy to navigate and cohesive. You need linchpin projects in your portfolio to hold the others together.



Linchpin projects are different to other projects in the portfolio. Linchpin projects don’t have a business case in the traditional sense – because they are strategically placed into the portfolio to hold it together, identify risks across the portfolio, and steer cross-project decision-making.
Linchpin projects are value-seeking initiatives that raise the value of the entire portfolio. In fact, linchpin projects represent the new normal for combining operations and program management in the digital economy.

Your current portfolio 

Your current project portfolio is probably made up of three types of projects:

  • That subset of projects that had a strong enough business case to make the cut at the expense of other projects
  • Projects that your organisation almost left too late, so are now critical – or projects that unanticipated changes in your operating environment have recently made critical, urgent, or “must haves”
  • Big, chunky, game-changing programs that have been initiated following a strategic analysis & planning process. These are often more of a top-down prioritisation of investment rather than a fully formed project, until a more comprehensive analysis of the full impacts is performed

The decisions that initiated each of these projects aren’t always perfect. But you have no choice but to plunge ahead with the projects. However, each of these types of projects presents challenges to the management of your portfolio as a whole:

  • You selected some projects at the expensive of others – but when and which of those forgone projects will become your next critical projects?
  • Critical projects that have now become urgent will need to take shortcuts – but what ensures these projects understand the shortcuts that are available, or to plan the follow-on work required when the projects are complete?
  • Strategic projects represent investment priorities which will have the greatest impact on your customers, asset utilisation, and business performance – but how do you incorporate the best knowledge you have of what influences these into the strategic project’s planning and execution? (Without putting all other projects on hold!)

Major projects versus linchpin projects

It’s a mistake to think of your major projects, or your strategic projects, as your linchpin projects. Major projects are often run as exceptions, so the transformational impact of these projects is often limited or followed by organisational fatigue or regression. Linchpin projects on the other hand inject specialised disciplines into the portfolio and in many cases don’t need to be large investments.
However, there is an opportunity for your major strategic programs to host a number of linchpin projects to get them started. The trick is knowing which linchpin projects you need…

Which linchpin projects do you need?

Regardless of your organisation, the following linchpin projects should be in your portfolio. The characteristics of your organisation and current strategic direction will only impact the size and approach for each of these initiatives.

Project 1. Business capability based governance
Our organisations shouldn’t have a primary governance model that divides the organisation into functions and then constantly proliferates the need for cross-functional teams. Social enterprises don’t require this approach – so your organisation’s primary governance should be mapped to business capabilities, not functions. This is also the first step in ensuring “business/IT alignment” – by stripping back the historic and arbitrary separation that is the root cause of misalignment.

Project 2. Customer journey design & customer experience campaigns
If you can’t point to artefacts which describe an idealised view of how your customers experience your organisation, then you haven’t done enough thinking about your customers – and you have nothing to orient your organisation towards customer outcomes. Equally, if you can’t point to specific customer-facing processes, technologies, and metrics that continuously direct the resources of your organisation towards reenforcing positive customer experience and recovering bad customer experience – then your customer journey design is just sitting on a shelf!

Project 3. Asset life-cycle, utilisation, yield, and pricing
Airlines, hotel chains, mining companies, and farmers understand yield. They understand that large expensive assets must be effectively carved up to service the right customers, at the right time, and for the right price. In the digital economy this same process must be applied to every organisation’s assets. If you don’t understand the utilisation on your major assets, and how projects can impact this, then you are running a business that provides a higher cost product – or your are running a unsustainable business.

Project 4. Core shared data strategy, information asset governance, and decommissioning
Unmanaged, the information in your organisation can get out of control. We have access to so much technology – information technology – that is supposed to help us manage information. So why are there so many copies of the same documents? Why can’t we rely on information we receive from other departments? And what is cut-and-paste if not investment in the problem instead of the solution? The solution is to systematically discover and invest in information assets across their end-to-end lifecycle – focusing in particular on the “core shared data” that is key to coordination across business units. Oh, and don’t forget you can’t ever throw data away unless you know what it’s worth (i.e. Business value) – but some data you can’t afford to keep (i.e. Privacy Act).

Project 5. Combined process, information, and user forums – fit-for-purpose scorecards
Your employees know what is wrong. But there are few mechanisms for feeding that learning into operational improvement initiatives. Lean and Six Sigma ™ come to mind – but that’s just details. Whenever your process team talks to people who should be following processes – capture the reasons why they’re not! Whenever you find yourself questioning a decision an employee has made – capture the missing information that caused the wrong decision to be made! Whenever somebody throws their keyboard across the room – ask them why! Better still – combine all of this into a single session which uncovers what is wrong around this place.

Project 6. Innovation funnel, lean business case, and start-up support
Innovation, or rather an entrepreneurial culture, starts with hiring entrepreneurs. But what if you can’t keep them? There are three reasons you can’t keep them: 1. You don’t recognise the good ones – because you don’t have an innovation funnel. 2. You frustrate them – because there are too many barriers to implementing business cases for change. 3. They can get better, cheaper start-up support in the market. These things are easy to fix and can be funded to the extent that you value innovation.

Project 7. Voice-of-the-customer operational alignment – Customer Return on Operations
It’s pretty easy to gather basic voice-of-the-customer data. For example, you can just asked the simple “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends? And why?” questions at the heart of Net Promotor Score (NPS). The hard part is doing something about it. You need to systematically determine what parts of your operations have the most impact on your customers. Management of “customer return on assets” will tell you most of what you need to know about how your projects are impacting your performance – from your customer’s perspective.

Project 8. Competency centres and change levers – The Machinery of Business Transformation
There are two ways to transform your organisation: you could run a heavy transformation program, and then an even heavier organisational change management initiative – and hope you get both right. Alternatively, you can manage to a transformation agenda – vision – and a portfolio of integrated competency centres – collaboration and continuous improvement towards that vision. If you know your own organisation’s portfolio of competency centres, their service catalogs, their customers, and the most effective channels and levers of change for your particular organisation, then implementing your whole project portfolio, and avoiding unintended consequences, becomes much easier.

Project 9. IT federation: shrinking corporate IT and embracing shadow IT
Even with your primary governance now focused on business capabilities (see Project 1) you still need to manage IT. But the difference is you need to manage all IT, in the only way you can in a post-Cloud, outsourced, and BYO world – federated IT. Learn to manage IT without ignoring what is out of your control and you’ll revolutionise productivity within your organisation while spending less than you did on IT services, architecture compliance, and generally inconveniencing your stakeholders by trying to be the cost and standardisation tzar.

Project 10. Who are we: purpose, culture, communications, and performance
Engage, decide, communicate. There is always another opportunity to reinforce what makes your organisation unique. There are ways of doing this that improve performance. Try them.


“Perhaps the flight of a single bird”

This is a fascinating read.  It isn’t as “unexpected” to me as the quote below suggests it might be.  It might seem obvious that “we gain our sense of self from our interaction with other people” but I don’t think it’s intuitive that isolation reduces a sense of self rather than causing introspection.  People who fear solitude fear disappearing.  And conversely people who crave solitude must want to disappear.  

Neil Ansell: My life as a hermit | Environment | The Observer: “What I found was not what you might expect. You might think that such protracted solitude would lead to introspection, to self-examination, to a growing self-awareness. But not for me. What happened to me was that I began to forget myself, my focus shifted almost entirely outwards to the natural world outside my window. It was as if we gain our sense of self from our interaction with other people; from the reflection of ourselves we see in the eyes of another. Alone, there was no need for identity, for self-definition.

The process was a gradual one. During my years in the hills I kept a journal. For the first year it is a conventional diary; places I had gone, things I had done. By the second year it is little more than a nature journal; what birds I had seen that day, perhaps some notes on the weather. By the third year it is no more than an almanac, marking the turn of the seasons by the comings and goings of migrant birds and their nesting dates, interspersed by the occasional detailed depiction of a moment, perhaps the flight of a single bird. I am an absence, a void, I have disappeared from my own story.”

Buy the book, Deep Country, here .

Blast from the past: “Organisational Usability”

I’ve had to delve into the Internet Archive Wayback Machine – to about 2005/6 it looks like to find an old article I wrote on “Organisational Usability”.  I thought this was going to be big at the time.  In fact I think it is starting to be big:

See here for original article: 

…and the MWT Archive here:


Organisational Usability I

Related Articles

The Internet:
Anti-Capitalism or Hyper-Capitalism?

MWT Systems Framework
Managing At, Managing Within, Managing Out…!


In the hyper-capitalism of the Internet your web site’s usability can make or break it. A bunch of competitor web sites are only a click away; so if your site is too hard to use, ‘click away’ your visitors will. If the effectiveness of your web site depends on its usability, why not use that model for your entire company? 

One of the Core Concepts of ManageWithoutThem is Organisational Usability. Organisational Usability is a broad term, created specifically for the ManageWithoutThem model. We will be revisiting Organisational Usability in future articles.

Organisational Usability uses the analogy of an Internet web site for your entire organisation. It is the advent of the Internet (and other personal communication technologies) that has made apparent the need for organisational redesign – so the analogy is a good fit.

Your organisation exists as a resource to be used by your customers and your employees. That is not to say that your organisation should be left to the whim of your employees and customers. What we mean is that as your employees are serving customers or creating new value through projects, they are leveraging the resources of your company. In this sense, your customers and employees are ‘using’ your organisation.

The effectiveness and efficiency in which the resources of the organisation can be leveraged is the Organisational Usability of the organisation.

And now some examples of the Web Site analogy in action… 

Link to Homepage

One of the first lessons you learn in any web site usability course is that each page should have a link to the home page. This is because users of your web site might not enter the site from your homepage. Users need a way of exploring other pages of your site and other information or services you might offer.

As you gain experience with web site development you start to realise that the ‘link to homepage’ approach is an inadequate solution to the problem of mid-site entry into a web site. In Organisational Usability this is the equivalent of having to call the CEO to get something done!

Links to Related Services

Your organisational will have high Organisational Usability if it has a more sophisticated strategy than ‘ask the CEO’ whenever somebody finds itself lost within it.

Departments, particularly shared service providers, should be aware of any services that are related to their offerings. This will include relationships up and down the value chain, as well as peer relationships. This will also include relationships outside your company. Your IT department should know about the IT industry. Your Accounting department should know about the Accounting industry. Your Procurement department should know about the Procurement industry. (etc)

Pre-emptive Processes

When somebody visits your web site you have no idea how much of their purchase they have already completed. The web site user might need background information on how to start looking for products in your industry. Alternatively, the web site user might already have a part number and their credit card ready.

The importance of this to Organisational Usability is that the customers and employees of your organisation may wish to enter your processes from a point other than the beginning.

Equally as important, your employees and customers will be of varying levels of sophistication. Some may want you to manage things for them; but others (probably the best ones) will want to manage things themselves.

Still more sophisticated, might be those that want to ‘outsource’ the activity you provide for them – with very high expectations of service and quality. It is also likely that users have entered your site through a Portal of some kind.

For these reasons your customers (or employees from other departments) may not always want your Project Management services. Your customers may want to define their relationship with your process themselves.

Process in context

Your web site might have the most easy-to-use ordering system ever created, but it is not very helpful if your customers can’t get to it from the product they wish to buy. For this reason, the practice of placing ‘Buy Me’ and ‘Go to Checkout’ buttons beside each item is well established.

As far as Organisational Usability is concerned it should be understood that the context of day-to-day business will never be your companies business management system (which lists all of your organisation’s processes) – and you don’t want it to be.

If you want employees and customers to use particular processes you should think very carefully aboutwhen they will need to use those processes. Process owners should ask themselves: What would an employee be doing at the time that they should use my process? Then, every effort should be made to make the process visible from that context.


For those that don’t know, ‘frames’ (or ‘framesets’) is the term used when building web sites to describe a page made up of multiple sub pages viewed together. Frames are often seen as poor web site design because you don’t know if you are viewing a page as a stand-along page or if you are viewing the page in the context of the rest of the frameset.

In terms of Organisational Usability frames represent the other things that your employee or customer knows when they use your processes. The fact is they may know more or less than you expect.

Markets: Employees and Customers Converge

There is constant reference to Employees and Customers within this article. The traditional view of organisations requires you to view these as fundamentally different groups. Once you start viewing your organisation from the perspective of it’s Organisational Usability your will see these two groups converge.

After all if your company’s web site really does provide useful information about your organisation your employees will also visit it regularly.


Thought of the day: English Breakfast

Sometimes, where we are trying to sell technology, we fall into the trap of looking at one of the varieties of tea we have and asking “So, customer, what type of breakfast would you like in your tea?” These questions are trying to be helpful; but they don't make any sense to anybody and they reveal that you've already got an answer in mind that you don't fully understand.


Thought of the day: Stand-up Meetings

One of the original tenants of MWT was that management itself would have to change if everybody was already managing themselves.  I was responding to much of the discussion 10-15 years ago that was about “empowering” the workforce and I wanted to think ahead to the situation where everybody really was empowered and really was managing themselves.  This is, of course, actually happening all around us…

I think the same thing goes for “agile”(*).  I’m often surrounded by people adopting somewhat “agile”  practices.  Simple things like “stand up” meetings.  

The only problem is – and this bugs me more than it probably should – I don’t know what a “stand up meeting” actually is?  I don’t mean I don’t understand the concept, I just mean it doesn’t make sense to call it a “stand up meeting” anymore when everybody is doing it.

In a typical week I might be aware of or participate in 5-10 “stand up” meetings.  And every time one of these is on I hear people calling out “hey everyone time for the stand up meeting”.  This isn’t helpful at all.  Which one?  What will be discussed?  Should I be there?

The other interesting part is that I often see people walk out of the stand up meeting and discuss their actions with other people who weren’t in the stand up meeting.  This isn’t helpful either.  The purpose of the stand up meeting is to get everybody prepared for their day.  If the people whose day you are preparing aren’t in the meeting than it’s not really helpful.  

A stand up meeting that doesn’t involve the people who will be impacted today with significant effort driven from the stand up meeting is simply a management meeting, standing up, which doesn’t have a sufficient planning horizon to add value, make a strategic impact, or give other resources sufficient lead time to plan their own activities. 

(*) Note: I’m by no means an “agile” expert.  Nor do I think it’s the answer for many problems to which it is applied.  I like it though.

12 years later

Twelve years is a long time.  But I found this on my laptop last night – although it’s 12 years old it’s still a pretty good representation of how I think about what I do.


iCloud and the death of document-centric computing

It’s disturbs me a little that everything in the Apple ecosystem, from App Stores, to App icons on iPhone home screens and on Launcher for Mac, to application specific file systems, is stepping backwards from a document centric view of computing back to an application centric view. The iCloud experience appears to confirm this direction. I’m not sure what I think about this.  
iCloud isn’t just an Apple branded Dropbox.  The difference between iCloud and Dropbox based sync is application versus document-centricity.  Earlier in the history of computing there was a push away from application based computing, where the focus was on which application you were using to the idea of using multiple micro applications to edit documents. Microsoft’s object linking and embedded was an example  of this.  The old Microsoft Binder was in a way also a step towards this idea. Most explicitly, the Apple lead consortium developing the OpenDoc initiate had this idea at its core. 
All of these products are now dead.  More recently the dream of document-centric computing itself has died.   Perhaps to be replaced by synchronisation and mobility.  
The difference between Dropbox and iCloud synchronization is that Dropbox is theoretically just a file system. Multiple applications could easily edit the same files – as long as they pointed to the same file in Dropbox.  This was also true across platforms. If you have a document that you edit on your iPad and sync with Dropbox you can edit that same file, using a different application, on your PC. 
The iCloud experience is completely different.  The only way to edit a document across platforms or devices is to use a version of the application for each device. Not a compatible application. Not a micro application that uses the same file format. But the equivalent application from the same vendor.  Usually this additional application is purchased at an additional cost. 
This is the most interesting part of the iOS5 experience. Not because it’s any easier than Dropbox based synchronization but because it may actually make me change the desktop application that I use purely based on iCloud support.  It may also make me buy one application purely for synchronisation while I might use another for specific editing on a particular platform (after manually “syncing” on the platform). 

Corporations – thought of the day

I think it’s time I made clear something I’ve honestly believed for a long time.

I think capitalism is a really good system. I think “freedom” is the only moral political system. I think the Austrian Economists at are right.

But I think capitalism and corporatism are different.

As one of my favorite intellectuals I’ve never met (Peter Klein) would probably agree, it’s all about entrepreneurship.

I think the anti-capitalism interpretations of Naomi Klein’s work, and the anti-capitalist interpretations of the whole “occupy Wall Street” movement, are flawed.

And finally – and this is the point of this post – I believe that all corporations exist for only four reasons:

1. To provide a mechanism for fascinating and productive individuals who are too scared to start their own business to be “successful”

2. To provide a mechanism for economically, socially, or future-trendy savvy people to be successful through investment and non-participatory involvement

3. To allow people like me, who are fascinated by the way organisations work, to make them better. Just for our own personal satisfaction.

4. To either make individuals happier by the products and services they provide – or to fail

This is what I believe. It’s also why I think Alan Joyce is cool.

Thought of the day: Information management is management

This thought has kept occurring over the last few years:

“Information management is management”

This is true in a number of ways:

  • traditional styles of management maintain their power by withholding information
  • market-based management increases transparency through information
  • there is now to much information – and managing it sometimes feels like the whole deal
  • market-based management ensures integration of feedback – usually in the form of information
  • market-based management ensures the manipulation of the right information has appropriate impact on the performance of the organisation (i.e. manage the information and you manage the organisation)
  • The Hayek “The Use of Knowledge in Society” sense




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