Bookmarked! – January

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Photo courtesy of this lyre lark

Strong processes, weak culture 

  • Processes present a limitation in that they encourage what Jim Collins (in Built to Last), or Harvard Business Review’s Leading by Leveraging Culture , call a weak culture. The assumption is that teams are not aligned enough with business strategy, so it is necessary to put prescriptive processes in place to ensure for teams alignment. 
  • Operational units, i.e the team that will be using these processes on a daily basis eventually are hardly ever consulted. This way, the processes acquire a Top-Downcharacteristic and the organisation enter into what Thierry de Baillon calls the Taylorist Knowledge : everything is in place to feed the weak culture.
  • strong culture organisation does not need that much strong processes.
  • The processes are then bottom-up, operational units validate processes that have proven successful
  • From my experience in managing IT projects, I notice that the more prescriptive a method is and the more it embodies a self-powered weak culture.
  • The less prescriptive the method is the more it encourages initiative, successful participation and a strong culture.
  • My 2 cents is that the 21st century organisation needs more a strong culture than it needs strong processes.

 

How IBM’s Sam Palmisano Redefined the Global Corporation 

  • The real story behind IBM’s success is the course Palmisano set for 21st century global enterprises. 
  • Recognizing that the company’s command-and-control culture wouldn’t work in the 21st century, he defined leadership as leading by values and created a unique collaborative organizational structure.
  • This meant abandoning IBM’s existing organization, in which product silos and geographic entities operated independently and frequently were more competitive than collaborative. Palmisano reorganized IBM into a “globally integrated enterprise” focused on worldwide collaboration. He cajoled, pushed, and pulled the company into a client-centric, agile structure able to customize delivery of IBM’s software assets, hardware assets, and intellectual property.
  • His ingenious first step toward creating a collaborative culture was a massive, global collaboration. In 2003 he launched an online, interactive “values jam” involving all employees for 72 hours to determine what IBM’s values should be. The three principles that emerged from that event guided decision-making throughout the organization, giving IBM’s huge, globally dispersed workforce the discipline necessary to execute the company’s new strategy.

 

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption 

  • Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption — an intelligent manifesto for optimizing the 11 hours we spend consuming information on any given day in a way that serves our intellectual, creative, and psychological well-being.
  • Johnson draws a parallel between the industrialization of food, which at once allowed for ever-greater efficiency and reined in an obesity epidemic, and the industrialization of information, arguing that blaming the abundance of information itself is as absurd as blaming the abundance of food for obesity. Instead, he proposes a solution that lies in engineering a healthy relationship with information by adopting smarter habits and becoming as selective about the information we consume as we are about the food we eat.
  • Johnson argues that instead of the lens of productivity and efficiency, which have become a false holy grail for our inbox-zero-obsessed culture, we should consider this through the lens with which we assess what we consume biologically: health. Because the problem is now larger than a mere matter of getting things done.
  • Like any good diet, the information diet works best if you think about it not as denying yourself information, but as consuming more of the right stuff and developing healthy habits

 

Do Great Things 

  • Whether you’re a programming prodigy or the office manager holding it all together, technology empowers small groups of passionate people with an astonishing degree of leverage to make the world a better place. Yet I fear that our industry is squandering its opportunity and its talent. In companies large and small, great minds are devoting their lives to endeavors that, even if wildly successful, fail to do great things.
  • When did beating the competition or protecting your existing business become more important than serving users?
  • An abundance of angel capital and increasing fetishization of entrepreneurship has led more people to start companies for the sake of starting a company.
  • The result is a massive talent dilution
  • It’s good that starting a business is easier than ever, but the pendulum has swung too far from Silicon Valley’s hey-day when a handful of great companies were able to gather a critical mass of great people to do great things.
  • No one knows whether you and your teammates will realize your audacious visions, but in order to do great things, we must attempt great things.

 

This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business 

  • And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos.
  • Some people will thrive. They are the members of Generation Flux…What defines GenFlux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates–and even enjoys–recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions
  • “In an increasingly turbulent and interconnected world, ambiguity is rising to unprecedented levels. That’s something our current systems can’t handle.”
  • You do not have to be a jack-of-all-trades to flourish in the age of flux, but you do need to be open-minded.
  • If ambiguity is high and adaptability is required, then you simply can’t afford to be sentimental about the past. Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. It is also an imperative for businesses: Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you vulnerable.
  • Our institutions are out of date; the long career is dead; any quest for solid rules is pointless, since we will be constantly rethinking them; you can’t rely on an established business model or a corporate ladder to point your way; silos between industries are breaking down; anything settled is vulnerable
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