Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast — or Does it?

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” famously attributed to the late business guru Peter Drucker, perfectly states the need for an organization’s culture to be aligned with its strategic objectives for there to be any hope of fully realizing them. Culture is tribal and pervasive. And, it can vary depending on the group, environment, or objectives. But, this powerful and often unconscious set of forces that influences both individual and collective behavior can be harnessed to drive culture change and reinforce shared values within an organization or project team. Speakers explore examples of “epic culture fails” resulting from strategy that neglected the cultural component, then impart seven tips to drive outcomes that leverage culture to support organizational- or project-based strategy. These tactics can be used to support a company or project team’s core values and culture while creating synergies with strategic initiatives and shortening the time to adoption. Aligning the strategy of whatever it is you are trying to do with the culture of whoever it is you are working with is paramount. It can mean the difference between success and failure. Culture doesn’t have to eat strategy for breakfast; they can be harnessed together to create organizational strength and a better overall customer outcome.

Speakers:

  • Kim Glover, Global Manager of Knowledge Management, TechnipFMC
  • Tamara Viles, Manager of Knowledge Architecture, TechnipFMC

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2017 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

Session Slides: 

Viles & Glover – C202_Viles.pptx
Glover & Viles – C202_Glover(1).pptx

NOTES:

  • Value Moment.
    • A Value Moment =
    • Today’s Value Moment: Knowledge Mangement needs to be just in time, just for me, and just what I need.
  • Culture.
    • Culture is critical if you want to execute your strategy.
    • Culture = how we do things around here
    • It is an unconscious set of forces that influence individual and group actions
    • Ed Schein is the considered the father of culture. He wrote Organizational Culture and Leadership, and the Corporate Culture Survival Guide.
      • What is Culture?
        • Structures and Process: the visible layer of culture, the observable artifacts
        • Espoused Values: the stated mission, how the organization talks about itself internally and externally.
        • Real Culture: the basic assumptions of an organization — what the group has learned over time from its successes and failures. These assumptions, ideas, even pictures need to be challenged and replaced if you want to change the culture. These are the unwritten rules.
    • Examples of strong organizational culture
      • Starbucks
        • Structures & Process: their observable artifacts (the way they look, they way they work) are strong and consistent
        • Espoused Values: they buy fair trade coffee, they recycle, they hire veterans
    • Culture reinforces itself by promoting people who live by the organization’s unwritten assumptions and beliefs.
  • Epic Culture Fails.
    • Wells Fargo is currently suffering an enormous gap between the organization’s stated mission and their culture.
    • AT&T/AOL Time Warner merger — early reports indicate that the two companies have radically different cultures. And they have fairly negative assumptions/beliefs about each other.
    • Hollywood is suffering a huge gap between stated values and actual culture/behaviors.
  • Components of Great Culture.
    • Clear Vision and Strategy: Volvo has an unambiguous commitment to safety that they have built on over decades.
    • Shared Values: Your actions must align with your words. (Walking the talk.)
    • Common Practices: Your processes must align with your strategy and values.
    • Engaged People: According to Monster.com, departments with healthy culture have 30% less turnover in staff.
    • Common Narratives: Positive stories that celebrate and strengthen an organization’s unique culture.
    • Reinforcing Physical Environment: Physical surroundings that align with and support the culture.
  • Tips and Tricks for Healthy Culture.
    • Seize every opportunity to reinforce your culture.
    • Assess your culture before creating your strategy. Will they be mutually supportive?
    • What you reward is what you will get.
    • Collect and share stories that support your culture.
    • Identify your champions and evangelists
    • Keep people engaged by making work fun.
    • Build on the familiar by integrating new things with existing practices.
    • Make the invisible visible: provide help and support — connect the dots so people can find what they need and share what they know.
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Your New Robot Colleague

robot-1241845-1600x1600Inside the legal industry we often complain about the glacial pace of change. However, sometimes change can sneak up on you unaware — even in the legal industry.

The topic of artificial intelligence (“AI”) in the practice of law is one many of us had considered long before the advent of IBM’s Watson. However, while we could imagine the usefulness of AI in a legal practice, we were not sure where, how or when we might see it in reality.

Well we now have an answer to the question of when. A September 22 press release made this announcement:

RAVN Systems, experts in Enterprise Search, Unstructured Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Knowledge Management solutions, announced today that international law firm, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), is implementing the company’s Artificial Intelligence platform, known as the RAVN Applied Cognitive Engine (RAVN ACE).

But that’s not all. Not only do we have AI in action, but it is now in the form of a new member of the team: a contract robot. This contract robot works in BLP’s real estate practice. Its job is “to extract data from standard legal documents, cross-check the data internally, check it against external sources, and write the output into a spreadsheet, ready for the next stage of the process.” Sounds like a terrific junior associate.

Here’s how Matthew Whalley, Head of Legal Risk Consultancy at BLP, describes that new team member:

The robot has fast become a key member of the team. It delivers perfect results every time we use it. Team morale and productivity has benefited hugely, and I expect us to create a cadre of contract robots throughout the firm. If the reaction to our first application is any indication, we will be leading the implementation of AI in the Law for some time to come.

So here we are. The robot is real. The next question is: how will your life change with the arrival of your new robot colleague? If you believe there will be no change at all, watch out. Your new colleague is about to prove you wrong.

[Photo Credit: Cecile Graat]

 

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Seeing is Understanding

2014-11-09 19.46.06 What is 9? To some it is a large number, to others insignificant. In some circumstances, it means a great deal. In others, it may be virtually irrelevant.

What do I mean? Consider the following, quite different uses of the number:

  • 9 grains of sand
  • 9 miles
  • 9 lives (relevant primarily for cats, of course)
  • 9 on the Richter scale

Once I provide a little context, then you begin to understand the true meaning of the number.

In our numbers-obsessed world, it is easy to forget that a number is an abstract idea. It rarely is as exact as we would like to believe. Further this abstract nature means that what I understand when I see a particular number may not be exactly what you understand. Our understanding of numbers can be shaped by our own context and experience. For example, a healthy profit for one company may be a rounding error for another. Because of this, we need to go the extra mile to ensure that the numbers we use and the way we present them convey the intended meaning.

This is where data visualization steps in.

I was very fortunate to be in London last November. There I experienced first-hand the power of data visualization done right.  It was on November 9, 2014. I emerged from the Tower Hill tube station into the dark Sunday evening to find hundreds of people silently looking at the floodlit Tower of London. Or, more precisely, looking at the moat around the Tower.  In that moat were 888,246 bright red poppies.  The flow of poppies began at a Tower window, spilled down the outer wall and then filled the moat entirely.

At one level, it was really quite simple: the people were looking at a public art installation conceived by Paul Cummins and Tim Piper entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. The artists created it by planting in the moat one red ceramic poppy for every British or colonial life lost during the First World War. It was an incredible way to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War.

The effect of so many poppies was to create a vibrant river of red (or of blood?) in the moat.  When I saw the magnitude of this river, I experienced almost physically the impact of that much blood and that many lives lost. The number 888,246 was now much less abstract for me. And the experience of that loss of abstraction was unforgettable.

This is the power of effective data visualization. Its impact can be profound.

With the recent hype regarding Big Data, it is easy to forget that the point of collecting and analyzing large quantities of data is to give birth to insight and, ultimately, impact. Even the analysis and presentation of smaller sets of data should be done with the goal of provoking insight and impact.

Whether you are making a report, designing a financial dashboard or creating a public art installation, the way you present your numbers can be either obfuscating or enlightening. It can result in confusion or in greater clarity. Data visualization done right can help you get your core message across in a way that simply typing a number on a page cannot.

Seeing is understanding. Do not underestimate the value and sheer power of data visualization. Thankfully, the creators of the poppies at the Tower of London did not and I, for one, am truly grateful.

[Photo Credit: V. Mary Abraham]

This post also appeared on LinkedIn.com.

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Do the Impossible

Apple_gray_logoToday I had the good fortune to speak with George Blankenship at Fund Forum International 2015. In his long and storied career he has been a key customer experience architect at Gap, Apple, Microsoft and, most recently, Tesla Motors. During his presentations today, he took his audience inside Apple and Tesla to look at the ways of working and, more importantly, the ways of thinking that have made both of these companies such groundbreakers.

Blankenship was recruited from Gap by Steve Jobs to help Apple launch its retail stores. Until that time, Apple products were sold by people who were not Apple employees in places that were not owned or managed by Apple.  Before designing what became the phenomenally successful Apple retail approach, Blankenship went out into the field to observe their potential customer in the wild.  He discovered that most customers came into computer shops knowing that they wanted to buy any computer except an Apple computer.  To their mind, Apple computers were for oddballs, not for regular people. So the first challenge was to help customers actually get to know the real Apple and, along the way, develop an understanding of how an Apple computer might in reality be a good choice for them. To do this, Blankenship and his team decided to “ambush” potential customers in their natural habitat at times when they were not thinking about buying computers.  This meant creating stores in malls that might catch their attention as they walked by on their intended errand to another store.

As they came to know their potential customers, Apple came to understand better than the customer what would delight the customer. As a result, they were able to create products and services that customers did not even know they wanted.

How did they create this want? According to Blankenship, it was because of Apple’s strict fidelity to four key principles:

  • innovation
  • design
  • simplicity
  • the ownership experience

Having designed great products, the next challenge was to actually reach the customer.  For Blankenship, reaching the retail customer is easy if you do four things:

  • design great space
  • hire great people
  • treat them well
  • turn them loose on the public

Even if you do not aspire to overturn Apple’s dominant position in retail, you can learn lessons from Apple about how it rigorously develops its products and services, cultivates its staff and delights its customers.  You can also learn from Apple’s incredible focus and resolve. In Blankenship’s words, “Don’t let anyone get in your way when you know that the thing you are doing is the right thing to do.”

Blankenship left us with the following challenge:  “Things always seem impossible…until someone does it.”  Apple has redefined the retail experience, the mobile experience, the music experience, the babysitting experience.  Someday someone will redefine the funds industry or the legal industry. Will that someone be Apple or you?

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Happy Year of the Ruminant

Lundy_sheep_(head_detail)East Asians have just celebrated the lunar new year. While all of them use the Chinese character “yang” to name the animal symbol of the year, some translate yang differently. In Chinese, yang could mean goat, sheep or ram. We’re told that it’s likely that the ancient meaning in China was goat. The Vietnamese also translate it as goat. Meanwhile, the Tibetans call this the year of the female wood sheep. (This one was new to me — I’d never heard of wood sheep before.)

While there may be controversy regarding the specific translation of yang, there is no dispute that sheep, goats and rams are all ruminants:

ru·mi·nant
noun
  1. an even-toed ungulate mammal that chews the cud regurgitated from its rumen. The ruminants comprise the cattle, sheep, antelopes, deer, giraffes, and their relatives.
  2. a contemplative person; a person given to meditation.
adjective
  1. of or belonging to ruminants.

As I read the definition, I wondered if yang should be the symbol of knowledge management? We KMers are neither even-toed nor ungulate. However, there is a measure of cud chewing and regurgitation that we encourage in the interest of  knowledge sharing and reuse. Even more importantly, we should be contemplative people. As much as we need to be action-oriented, we also provide an enormous service to our organizations by regularly taking a step back to think deeply about what is going on and how it could be better.

A recent working paper published by the Harvard Business School reported that there was markedly increased productivity in organizations that adopted one simple daily practice: at the end of each day employees asked themselves “what worked well today and why did it work so well?” They then took a few minutes to journal their findings. The results were impressive:

The researchers put new employees into groups where people either reflected on their days or didn’t. In the reflection group, employees were given a paper journal and asked to spend 15 minutes at the end of their workdays writing about what went well that day, which they did for 10 days.

The result: The journaling employees had 22.8% higher performance than the control group.

 

I mentioned this study earlier in the year because it made a big impression while driving home the following points to me:

  1. Although it is sensible to have a to-do list that keeps us on track, we must not get so busy doing that we no longer have a clear understanding of what we do, how we do it and why we do it.
  2. Keeping ourselves oriented towards improvement and innovation requires consistent work. The work of daily reflection helps us to see where innovation is possible and where improvement has been achieved.
  3. Daily accountability is the secret to making each day count and making the next day better.
  4. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive to work less and think more, the ruminant approach ultimately yields more rewarding work and superior results.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been experimenting with various reflection/journaling approaches to try to find the one that allows me to build on this daily practice. In this brief period I have already seen some remarkable improvement in my productivity.

In this year of the sheep/goat/ram, take a leaf from their book and spend a bit more time chewing the cud. And, once you’ve done that, write down the results of your reflection. As you reflect and write, you will find yourself incorporating your learning into your daily work. According to the HBS study, this will improve your processes and productivity. That’s not a bad outcome for 15 brief minutes of reflection and writing each day.

May you have a wonderfully happy AND productive year of the ruminant!

 

[Photo Credit: Wikipedia]

 

 

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When Technologists are Challenged by Technology #ILTA13

ILTA13 It’s my good fortune to be attending the International Legal Technology Association’s 2013 Conference. The conference takes place this year at the Caesar’s Palace resort in Las Vegas. For a relative Las Vegas novice like me, everything here is a little larger than life — including the prices of food and drink. However, today’s main challenge was not expensive coffee. Rather, it was the WiFi.

Clay Gibney, ILTA’s unfailingly helpful IT Director, just sent a note to all attendees letting them know that his team and the hotel’s engineers are hard at work to improve the WiFi available in the conference areas. Since the ILTA conference focus is on education, I should not have been surprised by the fact that his email was itself highly educational as far as I was concerned. For example, I learned that the Hotspot/ MiFi devices of the few can disrupt the WiFi of the many. I also learned that, even in 2013, the best safety net is arriving to conference with a personal data account courtesy of AT&T, Verizon or one of the other telecommunications providers.

In my case, I had data accounts on my iPhone and on my iPad, but my thumbs just weren’t up to the task of rapid data entry. I had been planning to be super efficient by using the excellent keyboard that is part of my laptop. Unfortunately, my laptop could not reliably connect to the WiFi. For someone who spends most of her time at conferences tweeting up a storm, this day has been challenging. That said, there were several people who had more productive thumbs and were able to tweet a fair amount today. You can find their tweets under the hashtag #ILTA13. I hope to be among them tomorrow.

 

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