Closing Loops

I hate open loops… no connection. Here are a couple that I have left open too long, now closing. In my last post, About Average, I talked about average people having substantial capabilities without each having to achieve rock star status. So how do you get average people to outperform the rock stars? Through the system, silly. It starts with enrolling them in the core context of the enterprise, the mission, vision, values, and goals. It continues with having them participate in the development of the strategy, not just the deployment. It goes on with providing a deep understanding of customers and the resources available for delivering value. When it comes to forming a new team (projects are the unit of work), help them get off to a great start. Make sure the cross-functional team has a veteran or two (don’t forget military vets, too), some newbies, and a bunch of solid citizens. See to it that they decide and are committed to roles and responsibilities, team ground rules, and explicit commitments from each team member for what they can be counted on. This is the essence of accountability. I take it for granted that you have defined processes to perform the work; if not, better get busy. Finally, make sure you have the ability to provide quantifiable results as feedback to the team. Evidence-based management is table stakes.

In my Open Letter to CEOs, I referred to using IT for playing offense, or in this context, growing the business, not just in support of delivering the goods. I could write at length and command too much of your attention on this topic, so here are the highlights. In this era, information about products and services is as important as the goods themselves. Remember this formula: Value Added = Information ÷ Mass. To add value, you can increase the information or reduce the mass. Information can transform a product into a solution, making it more valuable to customers and giving you competitiveness, and in some cases, pricing power. If you want me expand beyond that, let me know in your feedback (always welcome).

I wrote about how important it is to understand how the future occurs to people. One of my trusted colleagues taught me that in a 25-year career, she proceeds from the belief that people’s actions are perfectly correlated with the way they see the future coming at them. This is not about expectations, or hopes, or even facts. We treat the future as a certainty (how often have you heard this example: ‘nothing ever changes around here’?), when in fact, it’s just a story we told ourselves. This is a primary driver of performance. For deeper, excellent insight, I recommend The Three Laws of Performance. If you prefer that I provide just the takeaways, let me know.

In Xenophilia, questions were suggested to be more important than answers. This is sometimes cynically seen as the refuge of people who don’t know the answer. Answers are indeed important, as they form the basis for action. But without questioning and inquiry into a universe of possibilities, the easy answers aren’t always the best. Per A. Einstein: ‘To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance…’.

Let me know if I have left other open loops… it’s my commitment to close them.