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Strategically hardy organizations: the Four “D’s”

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The process of formulating their strategy is one of the most important, challenging and invigorating projects an organization ever undertakes. It is the organization’s opportunity to seriously reflect on the evolving environment surrounding it, and the impact it wants to make in that environment. The environment is full of contradictions, incredible opportunities, and daunting threats. But the organization that carefully considers those contradictions, energetically envisions the future it truly wants for itself, and courageously makes difficult decisions about how to realize that future is a strategically hardy organization, ready, willing and able to succeed today and tomorrow.

Being strategically hardy isn’t easy. It requires some real effort and exercise. I’ve honestly lost count of the number of organizations we’ve worked with on strategic formulation. But each one realized & fully engaged in a process that engaged as many people as possible, & that acknowledged – up front – that not everyone was going to be happy with the strategies selected, but that everyone would buy in to the process by which those strategies were selected. That’s what strategic planning is. We call it strategic planning, but it really is about formulating strategy……it really is about deciding & forming & shaping & scaffolding what the organization is going to do over the coming months & years to make a difference — to make an impact — to be successful for its community, its students, its faculty, its staff, its stakeholders.

The strategic muscles an organization needs to build are its decision-making,

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Success & Visualizing Futures

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Rebecca and I have been doing a lot of work with clients recently in pIanning their future direction and mapping out their strategies for getting there. I think that’s why the words below from James Kobielus in Forresters blog for Information and knowledge professionals resonated with me. Here’s the first couple of paragraphs Kobielus’ post.

Business is all about placing bets and knowing if the odds are in your favor.

As I noted in my most recent Forrester report, business success depends on your company [or organization] being able to visualize likely futures and take appropriate actions as soon as possible. You must be able to predict future scenarios well enough to prepare plans and deploy resources so that you can seize opportunities, neutralize threats, and mitigate risks.

Clearly, predictive analytics can play a pivotal role in the day-to-day operation of your business. It can help you focus strategy and continually tweak plans based on actual performance and likely future scenarios. And, as I noted in a recent Forrester blog post, the technology can sit at the core of your service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy as you embed predictive logic deeply into …. business process management platforms …. and operational applications.

“Succession” is developing to succeed

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The HBR Management Tip of the Day today is from Marshall Goldsmith (author of What Got you Here Won’t Get You There — must reading) about succession planning – a hot topic in the information profession. I’ve always referred to the need for succession “management”, but Goldsmith refers to succession “development”, & he’s right. Managing an organization’s succession does have to be a whole process which must be managed, & the emphasis really is on people’s development to enable them to “succeed” in every sense of the word.

Here’s an inter-mingling of Goldsmith’s & our tips for succession development & management; much of our experience has been guided by Rothwell’s Effective Succession Planning.

1. Determine Future Requirements: Recognize that strategic planning, staff planning, & succession management are all inter-related & highly dependent; you can’t move forward (strategic plan) without the right capabilities, competencies (staff planning) & management (succession management). PLUS – how can you determine staffing & leadership needs Call it what it is: succession management or succession development – it doesn’t matter which, just don’t call it succession planning, since the focus shouldn’t be on the plan, it should be on how the organization is ensuring ongoing leadership, management, capabilities & success.

2. Commit: Senior management or the board must buy in to the overall process be supportive of it as on-going, not a one-time “here’s the slide deck” event.

3. Assess Current Requirements & Skills: As with anything, start with where you are – know what you have

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Emerging Tech & the Future of Biz

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“Adopting technologies without a strategy results in wasted time & effort”. How many times have you said this? Check out KMWorld 2009 keynote speaker Charlene Li‘s slides. Some great tips. Her theme, “the future of business requires a holistic approach to adopting and integrating emerging technologies” is the same message Rebecca and I use with our clients — Organizations have to have a big detailed picture of where they are going before the strategies to get there can be put in place. And that’s way before technology, people and other structures are put in place.

I love Charlene’s slide of 4 focus areas surrounding the client: enterprise strategy, customer strategy, leadership & management, innovation & practices. Her tips, which I think apply more broadly than just tech planning:

* Leaders must let go of control but not relinquish command, create sandbox convenants to allow risk taking, creat a culture of sharing & model it

* organizations must connect to customers on their own terms, develop internal processes to connect with customers in real time, integrate the customer voice across the whole enterprise

* enterprises must allow all units to pilot new technologies & processes, design process scenarios around user roles, invest in innovation

* to innovate, organizations must fail fast & fail smart, inject fresh external thinking, enable safe places where mistakes and learning is encouraged.

I am sure you will enjoy her presentation on Wednesday November 18 in San Jose at KMWorld 2009. In the meantime, on the KMWorld

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Dreams & visions are meant to change – honest

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Earlier this week Karen Huffman, (an incredible thinker, and even more importantly “doer” with National Geographic), mused on her Facebook status whether it was ok to “re-write dreams based on life changes.” Oh yeah. It’s not only ok, it’s necessary. I empathize with Karen’s wonderings, as do many of us. Our dream for our life at 40 sure isn’t the dream we had at 21 – nor should it be. As we move closer to anything — either physically or metaphorically — the details become clearer to us — we can see more pieces of the dream and perhaps the environment or terrain surrounding the dream have changed. That environment or terrain is life’s realities. As those realities change, we may adjust our dream. I say “may” because sometimes the dream is broad enough, that it is the details that change rather than the essence of the dream. Sometimes you just develop a whole new dream. Either of those scenarios is ok – and is quite understandable.

It’s the same with organizations. It’s ok for an organization to “re-focus” or adjust the lens on their vision of where they were headed. Maybe the environment has shifted and that destination ain’t what they thought it was going to be. C’est la vie. What’s important is that they keep looking forward, they keep scanning the horizon and sending scouts out to explore what’s ahead. In otherwords, when the realities for organizations are shifting, they tend to hunker down and focus on operations

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“To Master Change, First Dread It” Moss Kanter

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter has such a fabulous way of saying things. Her definition of insanity, “doing the same things over & over expecting different results,” is timeless and one that even our teenage daughter recites. Her Change Master blog encouraging organizations to “dread” change is, again, bang on. As she so rightly advises, “Get in touch with every negative aspect, all the things that could go wrong. Then figure out a way to get that negative force on your side. In short, “Dream your worst nightmare and invest in it.” In fact, identifying all the things that can go wrong allows you to build a practical implementation plan.

There’s a very old yet very useful tool for this that guides a group through the nightmare – or the potential barriers – to developing a plan that acknowledges & navigates potential landmines:

Vision: specify the changes you want in place – what’s going to be different in the future, whether that future is 3 months or 3 years away.

Barriers: ask everyone what hurdles & headaches they see preventing those changes from happening — “what’s giving you a pain in your stomach?” often gets very meaningful & honest responses

Influencing Factors: then have what may be a difficult but absolutely essential dialogue about which of those barriers you can actually do something about; which hurdles do you have some influence over? no influence over? or total influence over? For example, how can you engage employees to help them see “what’s

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Smithsonian Web & New Media Strategy

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Further to my recent post on Transparency, Strategy & Success where I linked to Michael Edson‘s talk on the Smithsonian’s transparency strategy process, the Smithsonian Institution has relased its web and new media strategy.

“The strategy talks about an updated digital experience, a new learning model that helps people with their “lifelong learning journeys,” and the creation of a Smithsonian Commons—a new part of our digital presence dedicated to stimulating learning, creation, and innovation through open access to Smithsonian research, collections and communities.” Check out Edson’s post for more about the transparent process and to see more details of SI’s web & new media strategy.

Transparency, Strategy & Success

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Change is not easy and it’s definitely not a fast process. It requires a lot of communication and transparency. Transparency first came on my radar in 2003 with Don Tapscott and his book, The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business. We have been talking to our clients about transparency a fair bit lately, and so has Michael Edson, Director of Web & New Media Strategy, Office of the CIO, Smithsonian Institution SI). Michael was a keynote speaker in April at Computers in Libraries 2009 and just spoke to the Potomoc Forum about the transparency strategy process. The first number of slides are similar to those he used for CIL2009, but this new presentation has a lot more about the actually process that the Smithsonian is using. The SI has now developed three themes in their strategy: update the Smithsonian digital experience, update the Smithsonian learning model, balance autonomy & contrl at SI. Interesting and probably something that many libraries should be thinking about. They have eight goals: mission, brand, learning, experience, interpretation, business model, technology & governance. And, they have 54 tactical recommendations with 5 “do next” items: post doc to wiki, synchronize with other strategy efforts, appoint a leader, develop a tactical road map, & embrace the Smithsonian Commons, the centerpiece of the strategy, “facilitate learning, creativity, innovation through open access to Smithsonian collections, resources & communities.” Libraries have a lot to learn from Michael. I first heard him speak in Dec 08 and he

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Think Strategically Not Tactically

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Although this article was about enterprise infrastructure, the title “Slashed Budgets? Think Strategically, not Tactically” resonated with me. Rebecca and I work with many clients who have organizational and financial challenges. We have found that it definitely makes a difference to think strategically about what you want to have in terms of a service or product. Once you have a firm view of what you want to achieve, you can use that picture to make decisions on how to proceed. From the big picture, strategic view to the tactical.

Future of the Internet

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Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project, was kind enough to send me a copy of a new book that he and Associate Director Susannah Fox put together with Janna Quitney Anderson, Associate Professor, Elon University’s School of Communications & Director of the Imagining the Internet Center. The book is called Up for Grabs: The Future of the Internet, Volume I. It covers a range of topics including: social networks, digital products, civit engagement, formal education, families, extreme communities, politics, health system change, personal entertainment, creativity, and lots more. The authors surveyed many technology experts and found much agreement about where digital hardware and software are heading and that technologies will become even more important in users’ everyday lives. Lots of interesting disagreement and discussion around: the likelihood of an attack on the Internet, the “internet of things”, the changing of the formal education processes, the flourishing of individual creativity, social groups of all kinds, and other topics. There is no question, however, that Pew’s premise holds true: the Internet, as a tool, influences human endeavors and there is a need to produce research testing the power and degree of those influences.

Also note, Lee Rainie is the opening keynote speaker at Computer in Libraries 2009, March 30th, Hyatt Regency Crystal City. His talk — Friending Libraries: The Nodes in People’s Social Networks.