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Category Archives: Technology, Operations, and Value Chain Management

EmTech 2013 day three: Climates of yes

Guest Blogger: Doña Keating is President and CEO of Professional Options, a prominent innovator in the leadership, policy and management consulting industry which provides solutions for businesses, organizations and governmental agencies.

I am officially addicted to EmTechMIT. Since returning to the left coast from last week’s event, every neuron in my body is firing from a reconnection to one of the ultimate “Climates of Yes.”

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The new competitive advantage: not leaning in, but leaning forward

Microsoft recently announced a significant restructuring in hopes of reclaiming its lost market share and the trust of its customers. In response, many are asking, “Is restructuring the answer? What changes will Microsoft need to make to regain its competitive edge?”

The Lean Forward Approach

According to Steven Spear, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan and recognized expert on high velocity organizations, the most successful organizations are the ones creating high value with their products, in less time, using less effort. These organizations, says Spear, use the lean forward approach: they consistently seek immediate clarification and amplification of their customer’s voice by leaning into their users’ domain to discover the problems as well as delights of their experience.

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Mapping collective intelligence to design winning organizations

It’s likely you’ve heard of collective intelligence, the term used broadly to refer to groups of individuals doing things collectively that seem intelligent. The most well-known examples of collective intelligence in action are Google and Wikipedia—large, loosely organized groups of people working together in a rapid transfer information stream.

What many organizations don’t know—but could benefit from—is the use of mapping collective intelligence to dissect and better understand their people, processes, and sources of inefficiency and, in some cases, to create a structure to improve business innovation.

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Is innovation sustainable?

One could argue that innovation is not sustainable. Just take a look at the many market leaders who ultimately failed because they did not continue to innovate—the latest of which is BlackBerry® (formerly RIM).

What was once innovative and disruptive technology is now simply an email gadget— one that has no mindshare in the innovation culture and little hope of resurgence, despite its recent sale to Fairfax Financial. While BlackBerry still has 80 million subscribers (including two million added in the last three months), industry analyst firm IDC reported that BlackBerry’s market share in the second quarter was 2.9%, the lowest it has been since IDC began measuring that market.

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IT should embrace performance measures

This is the third in a series of four posts on bringing transparency into the IT/Business leader discussion.

Performance grades are a strange thing. We get graded regularly from the time we enter kindergarten until we earn our college and graduate school degrees. Yet once we enter the workforce, grading pretty much disappears.

Or, the idea of “grading” in the workplace takes the form of the often-dreaded annual performance review. But annual performance reviews don’t help an organization address how a department is doing. And “how IT is doing” can be a significant source of friction between IT and business leaders.

The earlier posts in this series (“ending the reign of the C-I-No“ and “fixing the divide between IT and business executives“) introduced research by George Westerman, Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business, on the importance of transparency in the relationship between IT and business. In these posts, we detailed two of the four key value areas to this transparency: risk management and prioritization. The third value area is IT cost and performance. This touches upon the importance of measuring outcomes and how when both sides understand the reality of the performance of the IT department.

The discussion between IT cost and performance usually results in IT claiming they are doing really well, considering the level of investment in IT. The business side often disagrees, and feels IT costs too much and doesn’t deliver the level of service required. But without any measurement, the conversation is really just about emotions and “gut feelings.” And while IT may initially reject the idea of measuring performance, the outcome can be very positive for both parties (or both sides).

Take the case of Intel Corporation. The short version of the story is that the IT department had a very bad reputation—so much so that it was the butt of a 1998 company-wide April Fool’s joke. (The full story is detailed in Chapter One of The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value” by Westerman and Richard Hunter.) This embarrassment led to a series of initiatives that changed not only how Intel’s IT department delivered services, but also how it communicated with business leaders.

Fast forward to 2003. As Westerman writes in his book, “Satisfaction with IT’s performance had improved dramatically, with more than 80 percent of Intel employees surveyed rating the IT function as a strategic business partner.”

In the end, isn’t that what every organization wants—business leaders and employees valuing IT’s contribution? Measuring IT’s performance is vital to bringing transparency into the relationship between IT and business. And transparency makes for a much happier organization.

Check back soon for our final post in this series on transparency between IT and business leaders.

George Westerman is Faculty Director for MIT Sloan Executive Education’s Essential IT for Non-IT Executives program and author of two award-winning books on IT management. He was the featured speaker for the webinar, “IT is from Venus, Non-IT is From Mars: Bridging the IT and Business Leader Divide to Improve the Value of IT.”