Skate Where The Puck Is Going

Skate Where The Puck Is Going

Unless you are just starting our in your business and have a completely clean slate you carry some baggage into each decision in the form of the outcomes of your previous decisions.  That baggage sets the foundation for your future decisions and can take the form of organizational structure, staffing decisions, technology investments, brand image and positioning, and many others.  This baggage is very real and does create very real constraints on the decision process, but if you allow it to control the decision making process you are doomed to mediocre decisions and moderate growth at best over the long haul. Let's consider the baggage of technology investments, something that I have the most experience dealing with.  There is a concept called "technology debt" which is made up of all of the gaps between the tactical or not quite strategic investment or architecture decisions you have made to the ideal solution, added over time.  In many older organizations this debt level...
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These Truths We Hold Self Evident

At one time or another we all suffer from a form of blindness. We are not blind in a physical visual way, but rather in our ability to step back and see the bigger picture. We are comfortable and confident in our own perception of things based on what we have experienced or heard that we struggle to believe that there could be another way to look at a situation or problem. There is an old fable that originated in India of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant. There are numerous versions of this parable, but I think my favourite is the poem version by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) below: It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind. The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: "God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a WALL!" The Second,...
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Who Are The Leaders?

Who Are The Leaders?

More and more often we are seeing organizations distance themselves from traditional title-based (VP, Director, etc) positions within their organizational structure and instead moving to a role-based structure.  Companies are looking carefully at each layer of the organization in order to create consistency in the activities performed at each level and drive efficiency and productivity from the management layers. This change has a couple of distinct impacts: Titles Don't Matter If you're a person who is attached to the traditional view of career growth and put a lot of weight in your title or the "rung" of the organization you fit into it's time to rethink your priorities.  It is now very common to see a single organizational layer that has VP, Director, and Manager titles all working together as peers.  If you're hung up on your title in that mix then you'll be a less effective team member and likely will severely limit your future career growth. Leadership Can Come From Anyone There is...
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(In)effective (Mis)communication

(In)effective (Mis)communication

The age of electronic communication has brought with it some incredible advances.  Email, text messaging, BBM, instant messaging, Tweets, Likes, and +1's are firmly embedded as mechanisms we use every day to communicate with each other both one on one and socially to an audience. With each of these advances though we see a progression toward disintermediation of the message and the communication as the "bits" of information we communicate become shorter and shorter. It is hard enough to try to capture the essence of a message in written form without artificial limits like the 140 character SMS or Twitter limit (and even harder to understand the reasons someone "Likes" or "+1s" something). While much has been written on the limitations of understanding of email or text communication and the power of voice to voice or face to face communications, I've had a couple of experiences in the past couple of months that make it obvious to me that not everyone has...
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How Tired Is Your Metaphor?

How Tired Is Your Metaphor?

Stop me if you've heard this one before... Many great joke tellers know to preface their jokes with this old saying, to prevent themselves from losing their audience with a joke or anecdote that their audience has heard before.  So why is it so rare for corporate storytellers to give their audience that same common courtesy? The power of storytelling and metaphors as a way of communicating to our teams is indisputable.  People connect personally to the stories and can identify patterns quickly from metaphors.  When one is trying to communicate a new idea a metaphor can be an incredibly powerful storytelling technique, connecting a familiar idea or pattern to something new and foreign to the audience. But what too often happens once a leader has found a metaphor that resonates with their audience is that the metaphor becomes a "standard" in their repertoire, becoming the go-to story to communicate new ideas. Unfortunately this reuse has exactly the opposite effect that the speaker...
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Commit to making Errors of Commission

Commit to making Errors of Commission

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, when it comes to innovation the big mistakes are “generally not errors of commission”.  Put another way a former boss used to say “if you’re not failing you’re not trying”.   Ultimately they both mean that it’s actually the lack of innovation that is the most risky approach to doing business. So if the riskier approach is to do nothing and avoid innovation, then why are so many leaders and companies sitting on the side lines waiting for someone to invite them into the game? I believe that the answer lies in two primary factors.  First, many business owners and leaders perceive innovation as the act of taking big chances, risking on big projects with big financial costs that have low odds of success in hopes of eventually hitting one home run that will compensate for the costs of all the losers.  Second, most people are not typically programmed for a high tolerance for differences or change so...
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The Slipping Point

The Slipping Point

At some point in the evolution of even the most successful companies, an interesting thing happens – growth stalls.  Even the brightest and most experienced Entrepreneurs and managers are perplexed as the things they did to create the initial growth in the company no longer drive new revenues.  In fact if they stick with old methods and ideas things go from bad to worse as revenues and profits start to fall.  I call this moment of change a ‘slipping point’, and no business is immune to them. The reason that slipping points happen is that as companies grow their needs and markets change, but due to the slow and incremental nature of these changes they are hard to recognize until things have stalled out. The leadership skills that take a company from inception to $5 million in revenue are different than the leadership skills that are required to take a company from $5 million to $15 million.  The process of creating...
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