Tuesday, 8 November 2016

John Lewis and Marks & Spencer Executives working up from the ranks - "Lifers Benefit or Hindrance" ?

Linked had one of those congratulating posts last week in reference to the promotion of Nicholds Paula Nicholds to the position of first female MD in John Lewis. 

The theme of the post was "look a women has worked to the top isn't that great" and to be fair I suppose to some that's good. Mind you in some ways it degrades her achievement because if the appointment was to a male than the post wouldn't have been made. So "she got their despite being a women",  which really I'm sure isn't the message and is probably if you think about it a little insulting to her undoubtedly excellent achievement. Good on her or him whoever they are and whatever their gender. John Lewis is a great organisation and persists in a rapidly changing retail environment a bastion of historic retail business models some argue the only  remaining multi site department store in the UK "Are you being served" mold - " Bless you Young Mr. Grace".

One point I saw which I didn't comment on, because I didn't want to be seen to be diminishing the achievement, or to be negative, was the fact that she has worked in John Lewis 22 years working her way up from a lowly start in the haberdashery department, which incidentally is reported she has decided to close. I did start to consider whether having an MD, a strategic role no less, who had worked her way up women and girl to this latest role was such a good idea?

Today, I noticed the announcement of the closure of many Marks and Spencer stores and again saw a senior manager CEO I believe, a Steve Rowe who had worked in the business since he was 15 having spent a year break form M&S elsewhere (Top Shop) at the tender age of 18 before settling into a man and boy career at M&S ; if the maths are correct that means a service of 30-31 years. Some would argue that is great- it shows loyalty, inspires others that anything is possible. It demonstrates an organisation with a career path  and a future.

If you study business change and cultural aspects in particular, then some concerns start to come into play. Corporate change requires an understanding of culture and whether that culture is right for the strategy. The longer you work for an organisation the less culturally aware you become; you see little else and can assume that everywhere else is the same. Seeing what is wrong and challenging the status-quo is pretty difficult when you know little else than that your own organisation. 

I find in workshops in general, long service people have great difficulty in understanding their own corporate culture and whether it is positive or not positive. If an organisation  is set in its ways and cannot change in response to external drivers then there is a big issue. Topics such as strategic drift, death spirals and cultural gravity come to mind in this discussion.

If senior people have not worked anywhere else and have not experienced anything different - are they perhaps part of the problem? Are they going to come up with strategically exciting ideas or is it going to be more of the same. In retail which is in its biggest shake up in its history presently surely walking in the same old footsteps is not going to provide the innovation needed. 

Change leadership is going to be a real challenge for individuals with such introspective background unless they are really talented and have capacity for self-analysis and high levels of reflection.  Not commenting on these two names specifically, most senior people with egos and hubris that goes with the rank are not well known for those qualities!

The reverse we often see too, Executives jumping from one organisation to another, re-engineering slashing and burning, restructuring and leading change. Whatever their lowly status in their early careers the experience is not in the business using the operational processes of the business that they now lead. 

Many see these individuals as not knowing their business, inexperienced in the detail and the mechanics of the operating model. So, too much service or too little what is the answer. 

Probably a mix is the answer; neither too much service nor too little, or a mix at the senior level with some long service people and some newbies balanced in the organisational power structure. 

Some suggest you appoint a solid BAU (business as usual)  character in times of stability and a mover and shaker in times of transformation and hand back to a "Steady Eddie" career long timer after the change. Today though, are we now in continual change; the old Lewin theory of unfreeze - change - refreeze seems a bit "out of touch".

Is retail currently in BAU territory or transformational change? It has to be the latter.

I still think appointing someone to the most senior strategical role having worked virtually nowhere else, with no experience of any other industry too to give you different perspectives is a risky appointment in such a turbulent time in retail. 


Of course these two may well be the exception and I do sincerely wish them both luck and my respect; time will tell.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Operating Model Canvas New Book: Andrew Campbell

I have just a few hours reviewing a book on Operating Models for Andrew Campbell of Ashridge Business School, he runs courses on operating model development too; so we have a common interest in sharing ideas. I have been working with Andrew off and on over the last six months and we have had some interesting discussions which have had some influence on this new book.

We don't agree on everything, as I am sure you can imagine, but in essense there is a common thread there which makes sense.  He likes value chains. I prefer capability maps; he loves organisational charts, I am less keen! But if these methods work and get the results then that is all that is important.

The new book is going to be in the style of Business Model Generation. it is more a pick up and browse a few pages when you need them. rather than a cover to cover read. It is diagram heavy, text light and really colourful.

Looking forward to a publishing date,

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Business Architecture " Don't boil the Ocean"

Appropriate modelling to serve stakeholders and communicate particular things is becoming much more the preferred approach than modelling the whole enterprise at all levels of detail.

The business case for a central architecture team is a difficult one to write and to get approved in a changing world. Tool vendors in the majority provide a: holistic model, modle everything approach in their provided databases (meta modals)  and this doesn't help AGILE architecture.

Selling the top down centralised way for doing business architecture is becoming less and less successful as many of these centralised teams are being disbanded in cost cutting programmes. Architecture teams employ expensive people and they need to demonstrate real visible value in pound and dollar terms.

Embedding architecting skills within individuals, who then operate in different roles across the organisation, rather than training specialists and placing them in vunerable teams is growing as the alternative way forward.

Business architecture is evolving and training needs to adapt in response. Through teaching AGILE architecting to support faster and more dynamic responses we can assist. No longer can we justify the cost and time in large centralised modelling teams except in certain strategic situations; such as cost leadership in high volume repeatable activity where controlled repitition is the strategy.

We need to diversify the people across the organisation to maintain and protect the ability to shape and design.

So bin the holistic metamodels! Ask the stakeholder what they what to see and now and model that and stop.



Friday, 16 September 2016

Agile Training

The title suggests some training in Agile approaches, bit of DSDM maybe, SCRUM or Xtreme Programming but what we are talking about is being Agile in training delivery!

Applying lean or Agile principles to training is a little new. Most courses have an agenda, some set slides and a fixed timetable; is this a learner focused approach? If we are not careful this becomes a teacher focused learning experience where we deliver a set programme whatever to a set of delegates. Death by PowerPoint can be the result and how much really gets learnt?

Agile training sets a framework of learning outcomes and a "backlog" of material and resources which are drawn down in response to learner demand. In other words the trainer responds to delegate engagement and delivers what the delegates are interested in; going off the plan is part of the plan.

Of course this type of approach requires a much higher teaching skill set than following a set of PowerPoint's. Many commercial trainers will have difficulty moving away from their serial, step by step, approach. On reflection it is easy to see why this might happen in a world of  content  driven by accreditation and badge collecting.

Accreditation bodies inadvertently create a fixed and rigid approach to training as the content has to be signed off, and to be frank, amendment is bureaucratically fraught and requires more fees to be paid. Accreditation is mostly about fees. So sticking to an unchanging course plan; delivering  time and time again without any reflection and change is the norm. This goes against the theories of teaching CPD big time, yet most commercial training is set in this model.

Training course that change and adapt on each and every delivery in response to learner need are quite rare in reality, but provide a much more flexible and adaptive response to learning requirements. Applying lean principals to learning is an interesting and valuable approach that needs some consideration.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Business Analysis Front of House or Back Stage

When you go to a show you want to see the production. In fact the mystery of how things are done is part of the experience. Knowing the trade secrets often spoils the show. A stage show, or film for that matter, is about receiving the communication. 
Quite often these days a DVD or a streaming site has "how the film was made", or extra features. On Amazon Prime for example this "secrets first” is at the beginning of the list to see, if you don't watch it you can't use the next episode feature on returning because you haven't watched the spoiler - most frustrating.
The "how we did it" is about showing how clever we are in making the film and seeing it in advance to my mind spoils the communication experience. It takes away the magic and spoils the excitement.
I like to use this analogy when training analysts because what stakeholders want to hear or see is the messages and outputs not about how clever or more educated the analyst is.
Why is it then that a large proportion of time is spent selling method and notation to business stakeholders, when it is the outcome that is the interesting bit? The business stakeholder is pretty cynical about this methodology or that methodology, especially us older folks who have seen the latest panacea fall into obscurity time and time again. I’m not suggesting that the excitement and magic is the aim here or “smoke and mirrors” either. In a business sense that is going too far, but the avoiding obscurity of the clarity of the communication is not going too far.
There is a place for the back stage and a place for front of house. Keep the methodologies and lectures on notations behind the scenes.
Nobody likes a “clever clogs” who reminds a business person that they are intellectually deficient and that “we in I.T. or change know better”. As the years have gone by, many operations people have learned to ignore technical types as this cultural faux pas has embedded a sense of frustration and to be frank total dis-engagement. IDEF0 , UML, Prince2, TOGAF and many others do I need to say more?
So many times we lead with method based training and force everyone to conform and adhere to the latest mantra. “They have had the training so now they will perform; job done!” Invariably they don’t perform because it is a case of “here we go again”; last decades business process engineering becomes six sigma, then lean and now agile this and that. So, many times we lead with method based training and force everyone to conform and adhere
Outputs and outcomes are what the show is about, not trying to overtly, or even unintentionally, showing how knowledgeable or superior you are.
So, focus on the outcomes present the method driven results; if the outcomes hit the spot than the methodology can follow if really necessary.  Forget the business training on the latest approach; lead by example and produce successful outcomes then business people will ask you: “how is that done then”, that is the opportunity to provide the education. The sale has already been made.