Posts Tagged Alignment

Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction: Part 3

Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction:  Part 3

First, leadership is about “leading people, not managing things”.

In previous posts/discussions, I introduced this thought – ALL successful leaders, or leadership teams, provide the same four “leadership whats” for their organization(s) – just like riding a motorcycle.  The “whats” are as or ,more important than a leaders traits, “leadership hows”.  The four “leadership whats” include:  (1) pilot the organization in specific direction(s); (2) provide thrust/power to move the organization in the desired direction; (3) manage/mitigate risks of piloting the organization; and (4) make changes in the organization’s direction, thrust and risk based on current and anticipated situations/changes. 

Each of these four “whats” can be broken down into finer and finer specifics. The last post, Part 2, discussed the initial three “whats” in ‘piloting the motorcycle in a specific direction’.  Arguably, piloting the organization(s) in the proper direction(s) is the most important “whats” a leader, or leadership team, provides.  If an organization does not have direction, or is being piloted in the wrong direction, then success will be fleeting.  But what are some specifics that leaders provide to establish the proper direction(s) of an organization?

Leadership Cycle

Leadership Cycle

 

 

This post/discussion focuses on the last two “whats” – Strategy and Operational Plans

You might think that organization/business strategy is easily defined and well understood, but even a cursory look on the internet will prove you wrong.  Definitions are abundant, not always similar and sometimes vary vague.  So for purposes of this post/discussion, let’s define strategy as:

‘The art and science of determining or planning an organization’s overall (1) scope, road map, and goals, (2) branding, business and organization models,  (3) effective use of limited resources, and (4) performance measures to achieve its vision, mission and strategic goals.’

First and most important, an organization cannot be all things to all people.  So setting a strategy chooses the organization’s scope – focusing ‘where it will play and where it will not play’. This is a further refinement of the organization’s vision and mission to the point that the organization can produce strategic plans (road map) and goals.  Second, as a result of setting its scope, road map, and goals, strategy defines its business model (how it operates), organization model (how it is structured), branding (how it will be known).  Third, strategy provides direction, with some specificity, in how its limited resources will be acquired, retained and used.  And the last part of setting an organization’s strategy is determining the diverse measurements to use in evaluating its strategic performance.  This process of setting strategy is repeated by each business unit and major department to define and align their strategy with the organization.

The last set of “whats” that provide direction are operational plans (OP), also called annual plans, that are completed by every business unit and department.  Operational planning is the process of defining tactical plans and goals, objectives and performance measurements, and aligning them with strategic goals, objectives and performance measurements. OP describes operations, operation initiatives, capital projects, milestones, performance, and resource requirements during a given operational period, a calendar or fiscal year. An OP also includes a business unit’s and department’s annual operating budget and capital budget. The OP must be a collaborative effort between the business units and departments to insure the plans and budgets are in alignment with each other.

In the next post/discussion, we will introduce the second major “leadership whats” – the thrust/power to move the organization in the desired direction.

 



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Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction: Part I

Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction:  Part 1

First, leadership is about “leading people, not managing things”.

In the last post/discussion, I introduced this thought – ALL successful leaders, or leadership teams, provide the same four “leadership whats” for their organization(s) – just like riding a motorcycle.  The four “leadership whats” include:  (1) pilot the organization in specific direction(s); (2) provide thrust/power to move the organization in the desired direction; (3) manage/mitigate risks of piloting the organization; and (4) make changes in the organization’s direction, thrust and risk based on current and anticipated situations/changes. 

Each of these four “what’s” can be broken down into finer and finer specifics. This post/discussion focuses on some specifics of piloting the organization in specific direction(s) which is analogous to steering the front wheel of a motorcycle.  Arguably, piloting the organization(s) in the proper direction(s) is the most important “what” a leader, or leadership team, provides.  If an organization does not have direction(s), or is being piloted in the wrong direction(s), then success will be fleeting.  But what are some specifics that leaders provide to establish the proper direction of an organization?

 

Leadership Cycle

Leadership Cycle

 

This post/discussion focuses on the first, three “whats” – Vision/Mission, Values and Culture

Gertrude Stein states – “It is awfully important to know what is and is not your business.”  Vision and mission “whats” provide the cornerstones for any organization and are usually published as vision and/or mission statements.  For example, in Southwest Airlines early years their vision/mission was to “Give People the Freedom to Fly”. These “leadership whats” sets an organization’s purpose and direction that all other “leadership whats” will be based.    Each major business unit and department should have their vision and/or mission statements that support their organization’s top vision and mission.

The next “leadership whats” are an organization’s values that define and provide direction on how an organization’s people behave, think, act and make decisions, and are usually documented and published with the organization’s vision and mission statements.  Organization values can be grouped into sets of “core values” and “operational values”.  Core values, people focused, represent shared beliefs and expectations on how they behave and treat other people inside or outside of the organization, and build relationships.  Examples of core values focus on areas like integrity, treat others with respect, teamwork, have fun, celebrate success, be proactive, work hard, make excellence a habit, great attitude, etc.  Operational values, business focused, represent the shared convictions and expectations of what is important for the organization to be successful/profitable and must be aligned with the organization’s business model.  If the organization excels at these operational values, they can adapt to change, grow and be profitable.  Examples of operational values focus on customer service, innovation, reliability, safety, easy to do business with, low costs, low prices, profitability, etc.  Arguably more important than documented vision/mission and value statements is how an organization’s leadership communicates and lives these “whats” every day – do they “talk the talk, AND walk the walk”.

As the result of and closely related to an organization’s vision/mission, and core and operational values is the third “leadership what” – organization culture.  Culture has been defined by many as “a general term that outlines the collective attitudes, beliefs, common experiences, procedures, and values that are prevalent in an organization”.  Pretty nebulous.  I have found defining organization culture is like defining quality – “it’s hard to define, but I know it when I see it”.  Unlike an organization’s vision/mission, and values that are usually documented and published, an organization’s culture is not.  A positive culture, one in alignment with vision/mission and values, will have its people highly ‘aligned/invested’ in the organization, culture and success.  A positive culture results is an organization that exhibits traits like high trust, loyalty, productivity, performance, results, etc., and lower conflicts, turnover, setbacks, etc.  A dysfunctional culture and/or one not in alignment with vision/mission and values can be a toxic environment  exhibiting traits like trust issues, high level of conflicts and politics, CYA attitudes, ragged performance and results, high turnover, low or negative growth, etc.

These first, three “whats” must be in place before the fourth and fifth “whats” can be determined and effective.  We will cover these remaining “whats” in the next post/discussion.

 

 

 



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IT Organization Success

Keys to IT Success

 

 

 Keys to IT Organization Success

No secret, for decades many IT organizations have struggled to be successful – probably more so than any other.  When is the last time you saw a dozen articles on the struggling accounting, marketing or human resources organizations?

Martha Heller in a 2010 CIO Magazine article discusses IT struggles and suggests a few ‘paradoxes’ in IT organizations that may be barriers to a successful IT organization.

  • The Business wants IT to be strategic, but force them to spend most of their time on operational issues.
  • IT needs to be stewards of risk mitigation and cost containment, yet expected to innovate.
  • IT is seen as that of an enabler, yet is also expected to be a business driver.
  • IT can make or break a company, but its leaders are infrequently members of C-level executive groups.
  • IT is one of the most pervasive, critical functions, yet must prove its value constantly.
  • Many IT successes are invisible, yet its few mistakes are highly visible.
  • IT project teams are accountable for project success, even if the Business has ownership.
  • IT staff loves new technology, but must embrace/understand the Business to be successful.
  • Many IT teams/people are uncomfortable dealing with people, but to succeed must build relationships, influence others, and resolve conflicts.
  • IT infrastructure is a consistent, long-term investment, but the Business thinks in quarters.

And here are a few more paradoxes I have experienced:

  • The Business wholly adopted  ‘BPI’, but IT has poor processes and rarely has budget for improvement.
  • C-level executives believe IT costs too much and fails to provide comparable value, but have limited knowledge of IT project or operational successes.
  • C-level executives expect IT to deliver new, strategic capabilities to their Business unit, yet most of the project identification, priorities and governance is driven by Business users and managers.
  • IT needs/must align its goals/objectives to the Business, yet the Business units goals/objectives are not always aligned with each other.

Any of these barriers hinder IT leaders and organizations from being valued and successful.  They can be mitigated and/or knocked down, but requires a relevant, achievable Strategy, competent People, and consistent, repeatable Processes.  In addition it also takes the IT leaders and staff to embrace/develop these 7 Habits of Excellence.

  • Build  Trust and Credibility
  • Develop  a Proactive Culture
  • Understand  the Company, Business Model, and Industry
  • Align  with Company’s Goals and Objectives
  • Lead  People  -  Manage Things
  • Adapt  to Change
  • Embrace  a Passion for Learning and Improvement

 

Developing these 7 Habits of Excellence will mitigate or eliminate barriers and result in these IT organization benefits:

  • Faster Throughput (projects and processes)
  • Less Costly (unit costs)
  • Better  Quality (products, software, systems and processes)
  • More Agility  (change)
  • More Capacity  (w/o more resources)
  • Better Risk Management
  • Better Place to Work

What IT paradoxes is your group facing??



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Drivers and Barriers in Establishing Business Alignment?

 

Alignment

Alignment

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organizational Alignment 101

Before getting started with “how to” establish business alignment (BA), the champion of the effort needs to understand certain conditions exist inside organizations that are drivers or barriers for BA.  Think of drivers as conditions that make it easier, but not impossible if absent, for BA.  Barriers are conditions that may prevent BA or make it more difficult.  These evaluations will be helpful in determining a strategy for success. The most important are:

Drivers

  1. Business executives and leaders understand and support BA
  2. Executives and leaders understand all parts of the business – strategy/model, processes, etc.
  3. BA a priority for business executives and organizations not in alignment
  4. All executives participate in developing business strategy, model, goals, etc
  5. Individual business MBO incentives support BA
  6. Demonstrated leadership depth and breadth
  7. Executives have track record of delivering on commitments
  8. Active process to measure BA

Barriers

  1. Business units and departments are not well aligned
  2. Executives and leaders do not trust each other
  3. Business and/or  culture and decision making highly political
  4. Misaligned organization relegated to a ‘vendor’ instead of a business partner
  5. Lack of consistent and repeatable project portfolio management process
  6. Lack of consistent and repeatable project governance process
  7. Lack of consistent and repeatable service level agreement process
  8. Poor or no definition of IBA

It is imperative for executives and leaders to understand which drivers and barriers exist.  Periodically, they need to honestly evaluate drivers and barriers for each business unit, department, etc. that needs a high degree of BA.  They must take actions to create and continuously improve drivers.  For barriers, take actions to eliminate or continuously mitigate.



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IT Business Alignment – “Search for the Holy Grail”

Alignment

Alignment

Much has been written, but much less resolved, about this perennial top five IT issue reported by Gartner, Meta, Forrester, CSC, CIO Magazine, academia and others.  By the way, IT business alignment (ITBA) is not just an IT issue, it is a business issue.  Alignment is needed across all organizations in a business.  Every business wants to be successful as defined internally, and by its competitors, the market, its owners and its customers.  Highly successful companies can trace their success to being -  first, very effective, and  second, adequately efficient  -  “doing the right things – right”.  The better the alignment between organizations, the more effective  their execution, and successful their results.  While most agree the importance of alignment is undeniable, adequate attainment has been elusive.

 So why hasn’t this issue been resolved or relegated below the top twenty CIO issues?  Four reasons:

  1. ITBA has not been well defined in many organizations, therefore, expectations are not set correctly and results are difficult to measure. 
  2. ITBA is a dynamic, people  process that must resolve conflicts and adapt to priority changes.  Often the processes have not been developed to resolve these issues in a consistent and repeatable manner.
  3. Many times the company’s business units and departments are not well aligned, so ITBA is difficult or impossible.  Rather ITBA relies on the “squeaky wheel concept’ and/or politics.
  4. While ITBA is a perennial top five CIO issue, according to a 2006 Accenture survey of CEO’s, ITBA was not a top ten issue for CEOs.  So is IT’s effort in this area the real issue?

So let’s look at the first issue – the definition of ITBA.  A good definition needs:

  1. to be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic
  2. to answer “what” components are aligned
  3. to answer “who” must reach and own an alignment
  4. to recognize the agreement is based on current priorities, strategy, tactics and plans that can change
  5. to recognize limitations in resources
  6. not to include IT execution criteria

With these in mind, the definition could be:

 IT business alignment (ī t  -  biznəs  -  ə līnment)

nouns

  1. the cooperation and coordination between executives/leaders in business units, departments, etc, and executives/leaders in IT Solutions Development organizations to periodically determine/resolve business priorities and reach agreements as to which mix of projects to undertake that best supports business strategies/model, tactics and annual plans/objectives for a defined IT budget and resource level.
  2. the cooperation and coordination between executives/leaders in business units, departments, etc, and executives/leaders in IT Services Delivery organizations to periodically determine/resolve business priorities and reach agreements as to the appropriate service levels to provide that best supports business strategies/model, tactics and annual plans/objectives for a defined IT budget and resource level.

How does these definitions compare to our criteria for a good definition?



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