Category: Guest Blogger

Scarecrow finally has a brain

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 days ago

Contributed by Jeffrey Ton, as originally published on his blog, Rivers of Thought, on July 15. Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana.

I have a confession. I do not have a Master's Degree ... I don't even have a Bachelor's Degree. There I said it. I feel better! I am glad to get that off my chest! While it has never really been a secret, it is something that I have kept close to the vest for ages. It's amazing to me how often it comes up in conversation. "I graduated from IU" or "I graduated from Purdue," or "I graduated from Notre Dame," or UCLA, UK, BSU, Wisconsin, THE Ohio State University, or countless others…and then…"Where is your Alma Mater?" How do I answer THAT? I usually reply, rather self-consciously, "I went to Indiana State," or "I went to Judson," (which is true, I attended both), being very careful NOT to say I graduated from ...

You see, I was going to be a rock star! Hey, it was the 70's, it's all I ever wanted to do from my the age of 10 or 11. I left for college at Indiana State to major in Music Theory and Composition. I discovered very quickly ... you have to have talent! I did not. Over the next couple of years, I got married, transferred schools, and my first son was born. To provide for my family, I put my college studies on hold and began to work one, two and sometimes three jobs.

Honestly, the hold was never removed. By the time my wife finished her degree and we were in a position for me to go back to school, I was teaching college level computer classes. Say what? Yep, I was teaching night classes at a local university in computer programming, word processing and data processing. How that happened is really the story of how I have achieved all that I have achieved in my professional life. It's really a story of lifelong learning.

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Lessons in negotiation

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 16 days ago

Contributed by Jeff Ton, as originally published on May 26th on the author's blog.

If MIT Sloan Professor Jared Curhan were a pirate, he would be the lovable, friendly kind like Johnny Depp or Keith Richards. Of all the classes, seminars, and workshops I have ever attended, I have to rank Professor Curhan near the top when it comes to educators who can captivate, entertain, and educate, even a very difficult subject like Negotiation for Executives.  In his closing remarks for the MIT Sloan Executive Education course, Professor Curhan confessed he struggled to summarize such an intense couple of days; he wanted the class to have a take-away with all the salient points, but it was too big to put into a single page, even a large page, even a poster-sized page. With that confession, he unfurled a beach towel … a huge beach towel. The beach towel was printed with a very detailed drawing of a pirate ship, buried treasure, mermaids, and other sea creatures, each one depicting a point from the class. We really did have Lessons in Negotiations from a Pirate! But, I am ahead of myself…

As in my previous posts about the classes I have attend at MIT Sloan Executive Education, I don't want give away the content of the course (you should attend one…or two…or three), but I do want to talk about the experience. I have to admit, of all the courses I have taken, I was most nervous about this one. I was not sure what to expect. Were we going to learn how to be cutthroat negotiators? Were we going to learn tricks and tactics to help us win at all costs? Was I going to learn my entire approach to negotiations was wrong?

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Architecture: Amplify your value by thinking beyond IT!

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 30 days ago

Contributed by Jeffrey Ton, as originally published on May 4th on the Intel IT Peer NetworkTon is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana.


"Wait, wait, wait ... before we talk about all these projects, shouldn't we talk about our operating model? Are we really as diversified as we think?"

I couldn't believe my ears! I looked across the table at the EVP who had just spoken. He was the newest member of our IT steering team and he was talking about business operating models. I nearly jumped out of my seat! "ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE AS STRATEGY!!!! You’ve read the book!??!" To say I was stunned was an understatement. This EVP had barely shown an interest in anything to do with technology or IT. The only reason he was even added to the steering team was because the partners wanted him to take a more active role in other areas of the business, obviously grooming him for bigger and better things. He, almost sheepishly, replied, "I saw it in the airport bookstore coming back from Phoenix yesterday and bought a copy. I'm not done reading it yet, but the first few chapters sure made a lot of sense."

I know I was stammering all over myself as I explained we had used that book as the foundation for building our IT Strategic Plan two years earlier. We HAD discussed and defined our operating model, we had designed core diagram, we were progressing across the stages of Enterprise Architecture Maturity. I excitedly whipped out the core diagram and began to explain the projects we were discussing in context of the diagram. You could literally see the lights going on for him.

The book we were discussing, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, by Jeanne RossPeter Weill and David Robinson, has become my "bible" for guiding IT. While that discussion took place at a previous stop in my career, we used the same framework for developing the strategic plan here at Goodwill. In fact, it is the next step in our story. Last month, we discussed having a vision. Just like building a building, to turn that vision into reality you need an architect.

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Leadership lessons from a flock of geese

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 17 days ago

Contributed by Jeff Ton, as originally published on April 8th on the author's blog

No, this post is not about a 2015 version of the 80's band, Flock of Seagulls. Nor, is it really about a flock of geese (lovingly referred to as Sky Carp by my friend Lance). This post is really about the lessons I learned while attending Transforming Your Leadership Strategy conducted by MIT Sloan Executive Education. I often joke that I feel smarter just by stepping on campus here in Cambridge. But, it really is no joke, I really do gain new insights each and every time I attend one of the classes here.

flock of geese

I believe what makes these courses unique and extremely valuable are the students themselves. The diversity of the participants is incredible. The countries and therefore the cultures represented included Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Kingdom, Greece, Spain, Ghana, France, Nigeria, Canada, Denmark, Brazil, and, of course, the United States. The industries represented ranged from NGO's, government agencies, banking, retail, financial, Army, and education (and many others). To be able to gather with these 60 professionals and discuss leadership was indeed a privilege.

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A career move strengthened by MIT Sloan courses

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 29 days ago

I never planned on a career in education. In fact, I left the film industry and came to Ball State University primarily for family reasons. Neither my boss nor I thought I’d stay long. However, what I found was a forward-thinking institution in a sector full of challenges and opportunities. I found my passion at the intersection of innovation, learning, and technology. Now with the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to explain how everything came together over the past five years.

I earned my Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation from MIT Sloan School of Management at just the right time. In 2009, I was tasked with forming a new administrative unit within IT at Ball State named "Emerging Technologies and Media Development." With this unit, I was able to immediately implement many of the lessons learned in my MIT courses at my daily job. From administrative structure to office layout, my goal was to follow best practices.

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You can't eat a strategy

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 6 months and 19 days ago

Contributed by Executive Certificate holder Charles Compo

In Developing and Managing a Successful Technology and Product Strategy at MIT Sloan School of Executive Education, Professor Rebecca Henderson asked the question, “Why even have a strategy?” The answer was surprisingly simple—to help us make choices. Effective strategies answer three key questions: How will we create value? How will we deliver value? How will we capture value?

Over the last twenty years I've had the unique experience of having interviewed and met with more than a thousand CEOs of privately-held middle market companies. These are companies spanning a variety of industries, from industrial manufacturing to food distribution to software and services, earning between $10 million—$500 million in annual revenue.  Most of these companies are founder owned, or multi-generational family owned businesses.

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Ideal problem solvers are both specialists and generalists

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 months and 21 days ago

Contributed by guest blogger Arnaud Chevallier

There is wide agreement among researchers that effective problem solvers—or problem-solving teams—are not just good specialists in their fields, they also are good generalists. In other words, T-shaped professionals.

Reading employer surveys, executives seem to agree. For instance, a 2014 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers lists the top skills sought by employers as "ability to work in a team structure; make decisions and solve problems; plan, organize, and prioritize work; and communicate." Analyses by other organizations—including the Council of Graduate Schools, the Conference Board, and the Association of American Colleges & Universities—concur. All make the same observation: in addition to having specialized knowledge, new hires must be able communicate effectively, work in teams, think analytically, be innovative, and solve complex problems. Succinctly said, executives want their employees to be good strategic thinkers.


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Six steps for creating a winning business strategy with the Delta Model

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 4 months and 28 days ago

Contributed by guest blogger and MIT Sloan Executive Certificate holder Juan Ignacio Genovese

Strategy can be defined as thinking about and establishing new ways to reach company goals, and although many examples exist, few models of winning business strategy provide the diversity of tools necessary for actualizing that strategy.

Most readers are aware of the important influence of Michael Porter, author of Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and CompetitorsHowever, his model does not necessarily make us take action; rather, it determines what we should be aware of to protect and increment our market share. Another example is The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy Into Action, written by Robert Kaplan and David Norton. However, this book is not a tool for modeling strategy but for measuring the strategic impact of our actions. Although there are many other books about the subject, most do not successfully present a complete strategic model.

While searching for a powerful strategic model to use in my position as a marketing consultant, I discovered MIT Sloan Professor Arnoldo Hax’s The Delta Model: Reinventing Your Business Strategy. The strength of this model is that it puts the customer at the center of the strategy, with the goal of achieving customer bonding. The model is based on application of the eight competencies of the firm—specific strategies developed by Professor Hax that help us accomplish our final goal of customer bonding. Each of these strategies will work for a particular market segment.

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