Don't Let Your Organization Become a Lumpy Snowball

Don’t Let Your Organization Become a Lumpy Snowball

This article was inspired by a recent article in Wired. Dell. EMC. HP. Cisco. These Tech Giants Are the Walking Dead. The author raises interesting points and provoked me to write this article. I hope I similarly provoke others to think, write, and discuss. My comments are not so much about these companies in particular though much of what I say may ring true for them.

More Makers Please and Less Takers
For too long now, many companies have been fixated on the short run. A short-term focus cripples a company, little by little. It is exacerbated when the company’s leadership has an overall attitude of “taking” as opposed to “making”. You witness this mentality in various actions of the corporate playbook including stock buybacks, excessive executive compensation, layoffs timed near earnings reports, tax avoidance, austerity measures, and poorly thought out mergers and acquisitions. Much of the M&A activity we see is intended to prop up financials as opposed to fundamentally making a stronger innovation culture that can propel the creation of innovative products and services. Value is combined, rearranged, and extracted as opposed to created. Executives and their backers can do extremely well under this scheme, especially in the short run. Employees and society, not so much.

Creating a Culture of Care Within the Organization
Organizations are a bit like human bodies in that you can focus on satisfying short-term cravings, but those decisions often don’t lead to healthy systems or longevity. Companies large and small need to continue to shape and shift their strategies as the business landscape changes,  technology evolves, and customer ecosystems shift. To survive, they need a longer term focus with short-term actions that don’t harm the organization. To accomplish this, they need engaged employees. They also need customers and communities that care about the company as well as its products and services. When companies are takers and solely focused on the short run, this would-be loyalty can evaporate, if it existed at all.

Size Matters Less than the Ability to Respond
Size alone doesn’t cripple a company. It’s true that being too small you’ll have insufficient resources to make a large impact. But, being too large is not a problem onto itself. The problem is one of responsiveness no matter the size of the organization.

How Would Your Organization Perform in the Logrolling Competition?
Companies wedded to the past lack agility to change their footing quickly. And, that’s bad news since the world outside the organization isn’t static. Imagine a logrolling competition. On one end of the log is a company fixated on the past. On the other side, a more nimble organization, lighter on its feet. The race begins. As the log spins in the water, both organizations are rolling with it, together. But, then a sudden stop and reversal of direction. The agile opponent responds by shifting their weight, focus, and movement accordingly, whereas the wedded-to-the-past opponent ends up in the water. The equivalent soaking happens in healthcare, technology, automotive, insurance, financial services, software, food, hospitality, and nearly every industry and sector you can imagine as more nimble startups or even restarts outmaneuver their opponents.

Protecting Yesterday as Though it is Tomorrow
It’s also why you see organizations engage in extreme chest thumping and massive lobbying to protect the enterprise of yesterday. Can you say fossil fuel, cable monopoly, giant food, consumer goods, etc. The giants of industries that become outdated and displaced often have the financial resources to reinvent themselves, if only they had the will. Unfortunately, their blinders hinder this action. See related post, Don’t Let Your Ideology Blind You to the Facts. The funny thing about the future is that it eventually arrives, whether you’ve prepared for it, or not.

The funny thing about the future is that it eventually arrives, whether you’ve prepared for it, or not.

Building a More Responsive and Increasingly Relevant Organization
A responsive organization that can shape and shift its course, as the world outside changes, is the best insurance against joining the ranks of companies that have lost their mojo or worse. If you want to avoid the lumbering and desperate “Hail Mary” attempts that will eventually exhaust and break the will of your people, then you’ll need to be more mindful of your audiences, inside and outside the organization. You’ll also need to balance the promises you make and keep across these various stakeholders. One mental model to use in accomplishing this is the Promise Delivery System™ from Chapter 8 of my book, The Experience Design Blueprint. Every organization has a Promise Delivery System by which they make and keep promises (or don’t) to their various stakeholders. Make your Promise Delivery System visible for each stakeholder and you’re on track to building a more responsive and increasingly relevant organization.

The Dreaded Lumpy Snowball
Ignore your Promise Delivery System and you may be unknowingly and unwittingly building a progressively lumpier snowball of an organization. And, we all know how that ends. Sadly, the large lumpy snowball melts in place or breaks under its own weight as people eventually attempt to move it.

about the author

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.

5 Lessons: Picking Up Passengers on the Train of Progress

Here is the situation. You’ve got some place you’d like to be; a destination yet to be realized. Progress, a big change initiative, the launch of a product or service. Whether you’re the chair, the chief, the executive director, product manager, board member, or some other concerned change maker, you acknowledge you’re not going to get everybody to the destination all by yourself. You’ll need other people to get on board and participate.

Here are 5 lessons to master so that you can all reach the desired destination together.

  1. high speed train in germany - gregory olson - delightabilityOnboarding is Essential

Assuming you all know the destination (that is another article) you’ll be picking up passengers (employees, vendors, partners, members, volunteers, etc.) at various stops. Be mindful that not everyone will be at the same level of awareness. Slow down and help people get on board. The recently boarded are not as familiar. Take time to show them around. You want to avoid cognitive overload, the proverbial drinking from the firehouse, where little is retained. Provide people with communication tools that allow them to slowly get immersed. See the related blog post about transfer and absorption value as key to better storytelling.

be smooth like a washing machine spin cycle - gregory olson - delightability

  1. Maintain Smooth

As you journey together toward your destination, pace and rhythm are key. You don’t want passengers to get thrown off as you approach a corner too fast. You also don’t want a sputtering, inefficient engine. Emulate the smoothness of your washing machine’s spin cycle. In your organization you can establish operating mechanisms to keep things running more smoothly. Like the garbage service or doing laundry at home, operating mechanisms create a regular cycle to keep things from piling up or from being neglected. You’ll retain more passengers on your journey if you avoid abrupt changes, extremes, and neglect. Even a comprehensive strategy pivot can be smooth when thoughtfully handled.

  1. the playground is where ideas live - gregory olson - delightabilityKeep Synchronized

Some people will want to go faster. Others will think the journey is far too slow. Listen to both concerns. Consider ideas can come from anywhere, even the newest passenger. Inviting others to share ideas could shift your perspective for the better. Create a space for that conversation to happen. I call this the playground and it represents the idea zone. Read more about the 3 psychological zones in Ch 12. Remember, ideas are not judged in the playground and not all ideas will advance. But, it is still important for people to have a voice, be respected, listened to, and for their ideas to be considered at an appropriate time. Establish an operating mechanism to screen and advance ideas.

  1. tornadoDon’t Ignore Conditions

There may be cattle on the tracks, a bridge out ahead or another hazard. Trains encounter changing conditions and hazards; so does your organization. Establishing “sensors in the ground” (see Ch 8) can serve as your early warning system, like seismometers that detect shifts in the earth’s tectonic plates. The journey will be smoother for all aboard if you confront reality and don’t pretend your passengers will be unaffected.

  1. diversity as seen through shoes - gregory olson - delightabilityBe Mindful of the Audience

All passengers are not created equally. And, not all of the stakeholders to your organization are either. The women in car number 27 might need a little extra assistance. Same with employee X or customer Y or supplier Z. When we create average experiences for everybody we are destined to be supplanted by somebody more thoughtful to individuals needs and context. Case in point, would you like to wait for a yellow cab or message Uber?

Whether your train of progress is literal or figurative you can go further and reach your destination if you pay attention to these 5 lessons for implementing change. Ignore them and you may might find yourself navigating the journey alone or more likely stuck in a train that never leaves the station.

about the author

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

Chapters in The Experience Design Blueprint that especially pertain to this post include:

  • Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery Systems
  • Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones

See a book summary. Read the book reviews on Amazon. Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full color print edition.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.

Grocery Clerks Help You Become a Better Storyteller

Move over elevator pitch. Make room for 10 items or less.

elevator pitch - the experience design blueprint - gregory olson - delightabilityIn business and in life, most people don’t have time to listen to your elevator pitch. We’ve all experienced the following situation. We responded to the question “How is it going?” At the most extreme, the person had already passed us by. Our response was in the wind. It might be ok for an uncaring question like how is it going. But, what about when the subject is far more important?

Most people are running some version of the “busy” program. It is a sad testament to life in the 21st century.

running the busy program - the experience design blueprint - gregory olson - delightabilitySo, the next time you are pitching an idea or telling a story, I want you to try something different. Sure, go ahead and practice your elevator pitch, but have an even shorter version on hand. One that you could tell the grocery clerk in the 10 items or less line, while they are distracted and half paying attention. Have it be so memorable that the next time you appear in that person’s line, they want to continue the conversation.

Here is how to do it. Make sure your 10 items or less pitch has “transfer” and “absorption” value.

Transfer and Absorption Value

  • Transfer Value – is it so simple that it can be retold without you in the room? Like the idea of telling a story within 10 items or less.
  • Absorption Value – can somebody dive into the subject without you? Headlines and soundbites have absorption value as people recall something they’ve heard, then later explore it when they have access to a phone, computer, or person.

You might have plenty to say and much of it good. There are times and formats when you can share more. But, most people will not take the time to walk and talk with you. You miss the opportunity for your message be heard and shared if you can’t be brief. Grocery clerks everywhere are standing by to unwittingly help you perfect your story. And, while it might be tempting to take a cart full of items into the express checkout, to be most effective, keep your initial story short, 10 items or less.

About the Author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINT

Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. His latest book project is l’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

Learn more and connect with Greg on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Chapters in The Experience Design Blueprint that especially pertain to this post are those chapters in Section 2 – Making  a Bigger Imprint:

  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 10: Bees and Raccoons
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
  • Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones
  • Chapter 13: Taking Flight
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed
  • Chapter 15: From Argh to Aha!

See a book summary. Read the book reviews on Amazon. Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full color print edition.  Already read it? Please connect and let me know.