Friday, October 8, 2010

Vision Statement: Why Mumbai at 1 PM Is the Center of the Business World - Harvard Business Review

Vision Statement: Why Mumbai at 1 PM Is the Center of the Business World - Harvard Business Review.

Super article for anyone managing globally distributed teams--looks at time zone and global holidays to find times for best meetings.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Do strategy, execution, and culture matter?

Harvard Business School Professor Jim Haskett has posed a thoughtful set of questions on his blog relevant to how we view strategy execution in the Stanford Advanced Project Management (SAPM) program:
  1. If your organization's performance (operating income) = 100%, roughly what percentage is accounted for by the quality of the organization's strategy (clients we target; products, services and results we offer; the way we organize and compensate people, etc.) vs. the quality of the organization's execution of its strategy (the quality of our people, work, processes, decisions, etc.)?
  2. If your organization's strategy = 100%, roughly what proportion of its effectiveness is dependent upon and accounted for by the organization's culture (widely-shared values, beliefs, behaviors, rites and rituals, etc.)?
  3. If the execution of your organization's strategy = 100%, roughly what proportion of its effectiveness is dependent upon and accounted for by the organization's culture?
His columns inspire a spirited and educational set of responses join in and share your perspectives.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

10 Questions To Ask About Complex Global Programs

We have recently completed working with a wide variety of large global firms on designing & planning unique complex global programs. Though each is uniquely different, there are patterns and threads that are the same. These ten questions provide a quick way of assessing how well such programs are being designed , planned, and managed:
  1. Who's in charge and serves as the overall executive leader of the program?
  2. Is she 100% dedicated fully to the program? Anything less is a recipe for disaster.
  3. Does the leader have full responsibility and authority to deliver the desired results of the program?
  4. Who is the sponsor? Who has the money and provides a clear escalation path for the program executive?
  5. Are the boundaries (scope) of the program well-developed and understood by ALL on the team?
  6. Are key program parameters in writing and actually known by all team members?
  7. Are meetings designed and managed to reflect differences in culture, time zones, and work styles across the globe?
  8. Do schedules and timelines reflect reality of what is achievable given available resources and market conditions?
  9. Do you routinely assess the risks to successfully delivering the program and make adjustments for prevention and contingency measures as needed?
  10. Are you learning--do you conduct pre-mortems, lessons learned sessions, or after-action reviews periodically rather than only at the end of the program?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mission Blue: A collaboration experiment to learn from

TED Blog: Ocean hope at Mission Blue: A collaboration experiment comes good.

Read about this fascinating organizing for the global ocean-Mission Blue. The long post is worth the time for the subject but also for an inner view of how to structure people for actions--applicable in many realms, not just the ocean. TED continues to evolve and grow in its impact--any leader and manager will benefit from using their wide variety of downloadable presentations. See the spreadsheet of over 600 talks here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Today's Wall Street Journal has insightful article comparing two airlines experience with installing the same new software--read and learn.

How Two Airlines Switched to New Software -
Few things in the airline business are more daunting than upgrading to a new reservations system. Do it well and customers are none the wiser; mess it up and a carrier risks losing customers and tarnishing its brand.

Discount carriers JetBlue Airways Corp. and WestJet Airlines Ltd. both switched reservations systems in the past few months. The differing outcomes are a reminder of how the implementation of new technology can be just as crucial as the technology itself.

Despite months of planning, when WestJet flipped the switch on its new system its Web site crashed repeatedly and its call center was overwhelmed. It took months to resolve all the issues. JetBlue, which later upgraded to the same software, smoothed its transition by building a backup Web site and hiring 500 temporary call-center workers....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meetings Done Right–Great guide here!

McKinsey Quarterly provides an excellent set of tips to ensure decision-making meetings are done well with minimal bias. Read the full story here. Examples of tips include:
Make sure the right people are involved
  • Ensure diversity.
  • Invite contributions based on expertise, not rank..
Assign homework
  • Make sure predecision due diligence is based on accurate, sufficient, and independent facts and on appropriate analytical techniques.
  • Request alternatives and “out of the box” plans—for instance, by soliciting input from outsiders to the decision-making process.
Create the right atmosphere
  • As the final decision maker, ask others to speak up (starting with the most junior person); show you can change your mind based on their input; strive to create a “peerlike” atmosphere.
  • Encourage admissions of individual experiences and interests that create possible biases.
Manage the debate
  • Before you get going, make sure everyone knows the meeting’s purpose (making a decision) and the criteria you will be using to make that decision.
  • Take the pulse of the room: ask participants to write down their initial positions, use voting devices, or ask participants for their “balance sheets” of pros and cons.
Follow up
  • Commit yourself to the decision. Debate should stop when the decision is made. Connect individually with initial dissenters and make sure implementation plans address their concerns to the extent possible.
  • Monitor pre–agreed upon criteria and milestones to correct your course or move on to backup plans.

  • Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Lead teams in India – read this book!

    Today's Financial Times has useful review of this.

    ... innovative management practice from India's leading companies and what companies everywhere can learn from it. For much of the last century, the practice of management was dominated by Western, particularly U.S., models. Even economies emerging in the latter part of the century evolved toward the Western paradigm. But today, we see a distinct model of management developing in India and, so far, it has been remarkably successful. India's top companies are growing at staggering rates and doing so with an innovative and vibrant set of management practices - especially in strategy, leadership, governance, talent and organizational culture. Not bound to Western thinking or practice, Indian leaders are creating a new model for leading and running companies.
    The India Way How India’s Top Business Leaders are Revolutionizing Management By Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh, Jitendra Singh and Michael Useem
    Harvard Business Press, $29.95

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Culture Matters – compare Apple and Microsoft Design Guides for Phone Apps

    Microsoft Immediately Stumbles in Quest for Well-Designed Phone Apps | Design & Innovation | Fast Company.

    Culture and its impact on how an organization can best execute its strategy are a key element of our Stanford SAPM program. This article provides fascinating insights on how culture(How we do things here) affects design.
    The newly released app-design guide reveals a lot more about Microsoft than they probably intended.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Dangerous Words...

    IPS has a powerful platform for planning complex global programs, FastPLAN. Having conducted many of these, I worry whenever someone uses any of the following "Dangerous Words". They are dangerous because they are words we use and assume that others have the same understanding we do about them.

    STOP: Whenever you hear these in your meetings and workshops...make sure everyone defines them in a common way.

    Have words to add, leave us a comment.
    Done, All, Never, Not, No, Yes, Support, System, Systems, Deliverable, Management, Project Manager, Program Manager, Product Manager, Project Leader, Core Team Leader, PMO, Project Office, Metrics, Horizontal, Lateral, Training, Vendor, Contractor, Consultant, Change Management, Never, Always, Sort of, Maybe, Okay, Behavior change, Services, Internal, "They", External, Communications, Sponsor, Stakeholder, Customer, Owner, Complete, Process, "That’s interesting", I get it (i.e. no need to repeat it), Requirements

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Project Zone Map: A Tale of Two Views

    Thanks to Larry O'Brien at for this next project zone map from darkgreyindustries. Those working in new product development will immediately recognize your world. Our goal is finding the balance--all of the zones are needed for a world-class business.

    Making better decisions

    McKinsey Quarterly's March 2010 study on the case for behvaioral strategy for making strategic decisions notes:
    ...very few corporate strategists making important decisions consciously take into account the cognitive biases—systematic tendencies to deviate from rational calculations—revealed by behavioral economics. It’s easy to see why: unlike in fields such as finance and marketing, where executives can use psychology to make the most of the biases residing in others, in strategic decision making leaders need to recognize their own biases. So despite growing awareness of behavioral economics and numerous efforts by management writers, including ourselves, to make the case for its application, most executives have a justifiably difficult time knowing how to harness its power.
    Suggestions for making better decisions, detailed in the article, include:

    • Decide which decisions warrant the effort
    • Identify the biases most likely to affect critical decisions 
    • Select practices and tools to counter the most relevant biases
    • Embed practices in formal processes
        Bob Sutton, part of the faculty of the Stanford Advanced Project Management program), has many insightful posts about this. See Intution vs Data-driven Decision-making: Some Rough Ideas

        Saturday, February 20, 2010

        YouTube – Imagine Leadership | By XPLANE & Nitin Nohria

        YouTube - Imagine Leadership | By XPLANE & Nitin Nohria.

        Nitin Nohria and Amanda Pepper of Harvard Business School's Leadership Initiative collaborated with XPLANE to create this video in order to generate a discussion of the value and importance of leadership to address critical problems--useful for program leaders and leaders of leaders.

        Tuesday, February 9, 2010

        IT-Driven Innovation – MIT Sloan Management Review

        IT-Driven Innovation - Special Report - MIT Sloan Management Review.

        If you lead project-based work in IT this is an excellent set of resources for looking at IT and innovation. Notice the variety of ways that IT enables the exceution of an organization's strategy. Enjoy and grow!

        Monday, January 4, 2010

        Best of HBS Working Knowledge in 2009

        Best of HBS Working Knowledge 2009 — HBS Working Knowledge. This is an excellent overview of top 10 articles and working papers from the Harvard Business Review.

        TOP 10 ARTICLES OF 2009

        1. Understanding Users of Social Networks
          Many business leaders are mystified about how to reach potential customers on social networks such as Facebook. HBS professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski provides a fresh look into the interpersonal dynamics of these sites and offers guidance for approaching these tantalizing markets.
        2. Social Network Marketing: What Works?
          Purchase decisions are influenced differently in social networks than in the brick-and-mortar world, says Harvard Business School professor Sunil Gupta. The key: Marketers should tap into the networking aspect of sites such as Facebook.
        3. Uncompromising Leadership in Tough Times
          As companies batten down the hatches, we need leaders who don't compromise on standards and values that are essential in flush times. Fortunately, such leaders do exist. Their insights can help other organizations weather the current crisis, says HBS professor emeritus Michael Beer. Q&A.
        4. Sharpening Your Skills: Managing Teams
          The ability to lead teams is fast becoming a critical skill for all managers in the 21st century. Here are four HBS Working Knowledge stories from the archives that address everything from how teams learn to turning individual performers into team players. Questions asked include: How does a team leader win the confidence of the group? What's the best method for developing team goals? How can individual performers be developed into team players? How do teams learn?