24 February 2012

Grand Pictorial Strategies But Executable?

Grand Strategies are impressive but not sufficient. Know how to make them clearer and be executable that the grand dreams may be realized.
A friend shared the following Grand Strategies of Geisinger Healthcare System on transforming the healthcare delivery system in USA on Facebook.

Most people will be impressed by such a drawing and grand strategies.

Which Ones you like better?
While I am for a visual mapping, I am not a strong supporter for freehand mind-maps unless they are well drawn. Many freehand mind-maps are meant for the author only (only him alone understands the pictures and mess) and not for sharing.  It is much easier and better to mind-map with a computer software (even though the drawing capability of mind-map software still have much rooms for improvement). The above Healthcare Strategy Map is in fact very good and clear. However, I still prefer a software drawn one to be clearer. So I remap it using a software mind-map (Mindjet's mind-manager software) as show below:

The above software drawn mind-map while not as impressive looking as the hand drawn one is at least clearer and much easier when additional information are added.

Are the Strategies Executable?

Grand strategies like above seems to tell us a lot and yet at the same time tell us very little. It is good to have right care, right workflow etc. But what does right care look like? What flow is right and what is wrong? What are right resources and what are wrong? Facing the right elephant in the room is a powerful and motivating thought, but how can we tell if there is an elephant in the room? How to think outside the box when we don't know what the box is? Any outcome is the result of multiple interacting factors. Will the raising of one bar of one factor such as speed, comes at the expense of say quality? You can see quickly that asking a few more in-depth questions, you will not be too impressed because of the lack of clarity and potential conflicting objectives.

Making Strategies Executable - Measure & Target Setting
The way to make strategies executable is to have greater clarity. One easy is to define a measure. How to you measure 'rightness'? Measurement needs not always be a exact real number. Measurement could be in integer, a real number, a rank of position, a ration, a rate etc. It could be fussy as well. Someone even you different cartoon pictures to show the 'friendliness of smiles"! Measurement is best without complex instrumentation and calculation and be as obvious to notice as possible. For example, if you go into a food court, how can you tell which station food is most tasty? You can just observe the queue length. Measure can also be the completion of an event. Asking for a measure helps us to refine our thoughts.

Next is to set targets. Targets tell us how expectation and whether we have achieved them.  JFK's famous statement on "landing a man on moon by the end of decade" is a clear target. (Implied in the statement is a safe return of a living person).

Watch-out for Conflicting Targets
Real life system works on interaction of multiple factors. Hence, just measuring alone does not fully solve our execution problem. Do we go for speed at the sacrifice of quality? Project Managers are clear about the interplay of factors like time, functions, costs and quality. Unless there is an innovation ( a new way of doing things, or new types of materials etc), increasing one factor will take place at the expense of others.

Watch-out for Increasing or Decreasing Returns of Factors.
The real world does not work linearly as well. There are laws of diminishing and at times increasing returns. Hence, just raising the bar may not work after awhile. e.g. salary alone as an incentive. (Not convinced? Read Dan Pink's Drive Book or E W Deming work on intrinsic and extrinsic motivations).

So, Do we still need Grand Strategies?
Yes. You need to consolidate and integrate the thoughts of many people. But my main point is not to stop there but refine further and make them clearer so that people can execute them and achieve their dreams that the Grand Strategies are designed to do.

Grand Strategies are a good start but continue on to get clarity and executability if there be such a word!

Lim Liat (C) 24 Feb 2012

18 February 2012

How the Great Falls - Learning from i-Ching Hexagram 12 Stagnation - Don't Give Up

The Great does fall.

As we get older, we live to see the fall of some great companies and stars. During their hay days, it is difficult to see how could they be beaten.

Some fall because of unethical and illegal practices (e.g. Enron), and many falls because of complacency and wrong strategies. They are trapped by their own success. The most recent case was the story of Kodak chapter 11 filing.

Many have written about lessons from Kodak. I think the best answers were already given by Clay Christensen's Disruptive Innovation and RVP Theories. Kodak was first to invent digital photography but they entered it at the wrong end. Instead of pitting new technology at the low end, they used the immature digital technology to compete with the high end of the film camera resulting in digital camera costing $20K to $25K and yet still not as good as the analogue film camera costing 10 times less. This keep them stuck their own film technology and be half hearted pushing for the newer digital technology.

But many other great companies of the past suffered worse fate than Kodak. Such concurrences were predicted 5000 years ago in the Book of Change (i-Ching) of the Ancient Chinese.

There is a Pattern to the Fall
Great Empire, Companies and People do not just fall suddenly. There are patterns and tell tale signs that we can find them. If only they have taken heed, they could have saved their pains. The most obvious tell tale sign is stagnation. The progress has stopped. The decline shall begins soon.

We shall look at the wisdom from a particular hexagram, hexagram 12 Stagnation. For details of i-Ching and the hexagram, please refer to Manage Change with I-Ching and 12 否 Stagnation – Don’t Give Up (Registration required). I will just reproduce the summary here:

Summary of #12 否 Stagnation – Don’t Give Up:
Success brings creeping corruption to cause stagnation and decline.  The reverse, to revile a stagnation needs initiative orders from the top and support from the righteous people.  There is hope but there must be great effort put in to changing stagnation.

The six stages teachings are summarized as:
  1. Pull out the bad and/or outdated practices or people.
  2. Watch out for flattery rather than real performance
  3. Don’t be shameless. Reveal the bad practices as such – bad practices.
  4. The Top must awake and take actions and gather good people to clear the mess.
  5. Be careful in executing transformation and get cascaded and aligned support.
  6. Beginning is hard, but pursue to the end brings joy. Watch out for the law of degradation.
The 3 Signs and Stages for Decline.
The first 3 line of wisdom above show us the progressive stages of decline. Firstly, there are bad practices, or outdated practices that are not noticed or taken out. Then, people pay more attention to butter up their bosses rather than really care about performance and customers. Then worse things happen. Good or bad is determined by those bosses, those in power and not by any legal or moral standards. Unless there is a big awakening, the empire, company or the big star, will end in death.

The Transformation
Wisdom line 4, also represent stage 4, tells us the big awakening. The top must be changed or be awakened, and to take steps to transform the company. (I-Ching teaches us much about transformation and break-through in other hexagrams). In a big organization, the CEO cannot do it alone. He must bring in the good and talented people into the organization. Do the reverse of earlier stages, namely, replace bad practices with the up-to-date and good ones. Go on real performance rather than flattery. Restore back the righteous and fair standards. 

Line 5 tells the new CEO to continue to cascade the transformation throughout the organization. To link up everything together like a tree (the picture used by i-Ching). Line 6 encourages the CEO that it beginning maybe hard but eventual success will bring great joy and celebration. He that sows in tear will harvest in joy.

Are you in a job that is involved in turning around a company? Then I encourage you to study i-Ching and learn from it.

Are you working in Google, FaceBook, Apple or other present successful companies, take heed from the teaching of i-Ching and ensure your success is sustainable through time. Build the culture of continued innovation and righteousness within in the organization that you are working for.

Lim Liat (c) 18 Feb 2012

13 February 2012

Jeremy Lin, Lessons and Reflections with Mind-Mapping

The best way to learn when we read any article is to reflect on it using a mind-mapping technique. Using the popular Forbes' article on "10 Lessons Jeremy Lin can teach us" as example, let me show you how.
Quite a number of people shared the following 10 Lessons Jeremy Lin Can Teach Us Before We Go To Work with me on FaceBook.

Those are excellent lessons. But 10 are just too many to remember. If we just read through, we also forget them quickly.

The best way to remember them is to reflect on them and re-organize them in some way. One way is to pick the top, or if not, the top 3 lessons. But how can pick the top if we don't go through all in some depth. So the best way of reflection and learning is to draw a mind-map.

I find quite a number of lessons are related. So I can group them together. I also think about related matter when going through the lessons, and so I added in my own thoughts.

Here is my first attempt:

I can beautify it and add more comments as I do the 2nd version.

The best way to reflect is to rephrase with my own words and even better is to give short titles. So here is the version 3. I keep the original lesson number for tractability. I could have simplify the whole map with my own shorter wording and it became a piece of work that I can remember.

So, you can leave with "Be your unique self", "Get Support", "Prepare to Seize the Opportunity", "Work Hard", "Find the Right Org that meet your Uniqueness", "Stay Humble & Grateful to Others" etc.

May be the word for you today is one of the purple box ..."You time will come, don't give up", "treat others like family", "it takes a team & the right culture".

The last step is to integrate these lessons into an existing map of "Secrets of Success". I have done just that with the famous quotes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates etc.

See Mind Value: The Integrated Success Principles Version 6.
See also: Mind Value: Brain Storming with Mind Mapping - Illustrated with Future of Singapore for more mind-mapping techniques.

Hope you are convinced with the usefulness of mind-mapping as a tools for reflection, learning and accumulate of knowledge.

Lim Liat (c) 13 Feb 2012

Learning Life from Great Painter Vincent van Gogh

Someone shared a quote from Vincent van Gogh with me. I was surprised because it did not fit the depressive image of what I heard about him. So, I do some additional digging and found that his quotes were wonderful and worth sharing.

I did put my favorites together in a mind-map and add in my comments. I hope you like it.

Let me summarized his quotes into one, which is:
to live is to love and to express it through our work passionately with giving of our all.
We are all aware that life is not about just living long but about how much good we have bring to others.