Friday, September 21, 2012

First Ever Strategic Execution Conference--Join Us!

IPS Learning and the Stanford Center for Professional Development will jointly present “The Strategic Execution Conference: Linking Strategy to Execution through Innovative Techniques” April 24 and 25 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, 1333 Bayshore Dr., Burlingame, CA. Ram Charan, highly acclaimed business advisor and author, will keynote the opening conference session. 
The two-day conference will bring together more than 1,000 executives, leaders and senior managers from major high-tech and innovative organizations worldwide to gain insight on current and future challenges surrounding strategic execution from the world’s preeminent thought leaders. Details at

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Scaling Large Projects and Programs

Stanford Professors, Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao, teach in our Stanford Advanced Project Management Program, and are completing research and a book on scaling-up excellence. In a recent post, Bob pointed to Ben Horowitz's thoughts on "Taking the Mystery out of Scaling a Company". Working with leaders of complex project-based work or PBW (programs and projects) in a variety of global companies, I have seen the challenges of scaling from a small, co-located program team to a globally-distributed team with hundreds of employees and myriad vendors and contractors. Horowitz suggests three scaling techniques:

  • Specialization: you can not do everything and know everything as you grow
  • Organizational design: communications architecture for your PBW but recognize there is no perfect one
  • Process: purpose of process is communication
Helping firms scale large PBW, I find Horowitz's critical steps around organizational design for scaling (my comments are in italics) to be especially insightful:

  1. Determine what needs to be communicated (Who needs to know what, why, and what is the smoothest way to provide it? We are talking not just technical but also management information; engineers with minimal leadership experience often overlook the importance of non-technical information.)
  2. Identify decisions that have to be made (Start that decision log, however small and own it. Be crystal clear about how your PBW leadership team needs to make decisions. De facto approaches cause Decide by design not default.)
  3. Prioritize the most important communication and decision paths (Especially critical for globally-distributed teams in multiple cultures and time zones. Focus on what makes it easiest to get the program's work actually done.)
  4. Decide who runs which groups (no multiple owners of work--one, single person is responsible for each group)
  5. Identify communication paths that you did not optimize and mitigate (You cannot give all paths the same weight; recognize which ones that have less attention and plan for addressing those issues that may surface.)

Horowitz's post is worth a serious read for application to designing and leading PBW.