Saturday, May 31, 2008

Learning by Doing

I just can’t help quoting Josh Kaufman the editor of Personal MBA:

“The Personal MBA is a DIY approach to business education - it's taking responsibility for learning into your own hands. The best way to learn about business is to spend time gathering the most useful concepts you can, then putting them to use in the real world. Experience teaches better than any professor can.

Sure, you'll make a few mistakes along the way - everyone does. The important distinction is that, instead of doing meaningless homework, you're actively building your own business or improving your career.

When it comes down to it, formal coursework is overrated. You can learn more (and have more fun) by doing it yourself.”

That is exactly what I started doing long before I learned about PMBA - gathering the most useful concepts to this blog in order to be able to use them.

This week I spent two days in a strategy meeting. I was asked to make a summary of a discussion based on balanced scorecard viewpoints (which I happen to know inside out, having just prepared a presentation of them).

I also had two days of leadership training this week and we discussed among other things the 7 habits, which I had blogged last week.

Manager’s Toolbox really proved to be useful during strategy and leadership workshops and is serving its purpose in improving my management and leadership skills.

Now I will to return to my office and start using the new skills in real life – learning by doing. Nobody ever learned to play piano by listening to others or reading notes. They have learned by practicing. The same way I have to start doing what I heard from other people and what I read from several books. Start the real learning by doing.

Is there any skill you have learned without practicing it? Without learning by doing?

ps. During the four days I spent in workshops, over 4000 people around the world watched my BSC presentation and almost 500 of them downloaded it, causing my customer satisfaction to reach high levels!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Really Simple Balanced Scorecard

My original idea for this blog was to document here “the best practices I have collected trough the years”. In order to “have 5 pages of text and examples of every tool and”

Enough material for 1-2 hours training and 2-3 hours workshop on each topic.

While I was writing my previous posts, I realized that I in deed enough text about Balanced Scorecard as a management system and about building a Balanced Scorecard. But I was missing the presentation.

So I created a really simple presentation about Balanced Scorecard “in order to simplify and remember it - to make them stick.” quoted from the below my logo on the right And in order to exercise presentations according to the 7th Effective Habit.

If you want to download the presentation, you need to go to my SlideShare page. ;-)

As a hand out, you can print out these posts My Management System and Building a Balanced Scorecard.

I am referring to these books in the presentation:

Made to Stick by Chip Heat and Dan Heat

Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds (whom I’ve met)

Balanced Scorecard Step-by-Step by Paul R. Niven (whom I’ve also met. And this is not the complex textbook I refer to!)

Brain Rules by John Medina

And to The Blues Brothers DVD

Now you should ask yourself:

“To achieve your vision, how will you
sustain your ability to change and improve?”

Friday, May 23, 2008

Effective Habits

Another book I have been reading lately is a classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Yesterday Marina had posted this great visual summary of the book to SlideShare.

I especially like these habits

Habit 1: Be proactive “You are respons-able: able to choose your respons!"
Proactive people focus their efforts in their circle of influence, causing the circle of influence to increase Reactive people focus their effort in the circle of concern. The negative energy generated by that focus causes the circle of influence to shrink.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood
We have such a tendency to fix things up with good advice, but often we fail to take the time to diagnose, to really deeply understand another human being first.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Read, write, relax, exercise, play, love, get involved, meditate …

But all of the Habits are good and necessary.

There's a lot of good stuff out there at SlideShare. It seems to be a haven for people like me, who have seen too many bullet points (and used plenty of them also).

After understanding the problem (habit 5),
I read, view and exercsce new kind of presentations (habit 7)
to start a change within my expanding cicle of influence (habit 1).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brain Thinks Visual

Garr Reynolds published another great post at his blog. This time about

Delivering a presentation in a way
that will ensure internalization
by the receiving brain

Not surprisingly, he created a presentation around the topic. It is based on the book Brain Rules by John Medina, a down to earth brain scientist. Garr’s presentation is embedded below and can be downloaded at SlideShare.

There is just one thing I would like to add. Being visual helps you not only on your presentation. Being visual greatly improves your own ability to internalize what you read (before you can create the presentation).

Do you take advantage of your brains ability to absorb visual information?

Do you make notes that are visual?

Do your presentations include visuals?

Do your colleagues’ presentations include visuals?

Are you able to capture your audience’s attention?

Or does the audience resemble the skeletons on Garr’s presentation?

When was the last time you stayed sharp trough a 131 page presentation? Normally you would be feared of death by bullet points before the presentation even starts and you see the total number of slides – wouldn’t you?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Personal MBA

Post graduate studies have tempted me ever since I graduated from the university. I have had an urge to combine theory and practice. Earlier I did not have sufficient time for that (and was too busy with the practice), but now I have found a way

This blog is my personal MBA
- one page at a time.

There is a whole community of like-minded people out there. The Personal MBA (PMBA) is a project designed to help you educate yourself about advanced business concepts. It is easy to substantially increase your knowledge of business on your own time and with little cost, all without setting foot inside a classroom.

I am not actually following them literally, nor reading all the books they recommend. But I share their ideology. And that's what matters.

And yes, I read a lot on my own time, just take a look on how my bedside table looked yesterday. OK, I cleaned up a little bit, but all those books and magazines where actually there.

What unifies us is the inbuilt need for Life Long Learning, which is also my personal Mission. I truly believe that learning must start within yourself. Only by first developing yourself, you can start to develop and improve bigger entities – your team, your unit, your company, our planet.

It's all up to you. And who could say it better than Peter F Drucker

“Knowledge can’t be taught, but it can be learned”

Here’s a list of the books on my bed side table at the moment.

Zen Lessons - The Art of Leadership by Thomas Cleary

Meaning, Inc - The Blueprint for Business Success in the 21st Century by Gurnek Bains

Made to Stick - Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heat & Dan Heat

Execution - The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck

The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning by Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen

Latest Harvard Business Review and one earlier issue

A small book of Sudoku to reboot my brain after too much reading...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Made to Stick

My previous blog post and especially the presentation in it has been an unexpected success.

The presentation was featured on SlideShare front page by the editorial team, has been viewed for over 1200 times in three and half days (that's 15 times an hour, 24 hours a day), and is among the most viewed shows this week. If you read this later, see how it has managed within a month from publishing or even if it made it to all time favourites – which would be another unexpected success.

SlideShare was something I learned from Garr Reynolds' blog some weeks ago and I just wanted to give it a try. His Presentation Zen blog and book have had a great impact on my presentation and visuals since I saw him live in February. Another book, Made to Stick , by Heat brothers has thought me how to clarify the message.

A big thank you belongs to John Spence, who published the text last week. I just added the visuals. He instantly liked my visuals and later blogged the whole presentation. We are both in search of simplicity, his motto is “Making the Very Complex...Awesomely Simple!”

Somehow I managed to put all the pieces together last Saturday - on my first try.

The presentation is Made to Stick

It seems to have all the ingredients of SUCCESsful presentation – it’s Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and is told with Stories.

Actually, the presentation in live would be even more simple – you only need the pictures, the rest is spoken. The actual outline is shown here, SlideShare stand alone had extra slides because it is "mute".

But there was one slide missing - the most important one. The presentation should just be an introduction for discussion and group works. And only that would lead to improvement of the elements and help Achieving Business Excellence.

The missing question at the end is:

How to improve each element at your company?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Achieving Business Excellence

John Spence, whose mission is “Making the very complex ... awesomely simple” has posted a great manifesto on ChangeThis. ChangeThis spreads important ideas and change minds by giving people access to relevant, thoughtful and constructive information through the vehicle of ”Manifestos.”
(Click the picture to go to the original 0,6 Mb pdf manifesto)

John has

Uncovered the pattern
of business excellence

in an 18 page manifesto.

He has been able to summarize many of the same issues highlighted in two good books I read last year: Winning by Jack Welch, and Good to Great by Jim Collins. I was about to summarize them anytime soon. Thanks John for making my task easier!

Here are the topics of his Manifesto:

A few key elements that form the foundation of any successful business.
  1. you must produce a high-quality product or service
    All sustainable business success is built on delivering real value to the customer—period
  2. you need to have a solid handle on your financials
    if you aren’t managing cash flow, you won’t be managing much for long!
  3. change is inevitable
    Markets shift, consumer preferences change, new competitors appear, technology advances—and so must you
With all of these foundations, following are the six strategies on which all the great companies John studied were relentlessly focused.
  1. vivid vision:
    A clear and well-thought-out vision of what you are trying to create that is exceptionally well communicated to everyone involved.
  2. best people:
    Superior talents who are also masters of collaboration.
  3. a performance-oriented culture:
    One that demands flawless operational execution, encourages constant improvement and innovation, and completely refuses to tolerate mediocrity or lack of accountability.
  4. robust communication:
    Open, honest, frank and courageous, both internally and externally.
  5. a sense of urgency:
    The strong desire to get the important things done while never wasting time on the trivial.
  6. extreme customer focus:
    Owning the voice of the customer and delivering what customers consider truly valuable.
I have discussed a couple of these earlier and will definitely discuss all of them in my future posts. In the mean while, you could read the original manifesto and check what else John Spence has to say at his site.

And, as always, some questions to think about:

How many of these 3 elements of foundation + 6 elements of excellence are in place at your company?

Have you reached business excellence?

Can you see the link between these 3 + 6 elements and your company achieving or not achieving business excellence?

Oops... That was my summary of the Manifesto. But during my morning run I realized, I had not internalized it and could not remember the 3 + 6 elements.

So I created this visual presentation to better internalize and remember the Manifesto - to make it stick.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ideas Come from Everywhere

Matthew E. May begins his book The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation with a chapter telling that

The Toyota organization implements a million ideas a year.

That’s a fact, he says. It is their greatest source of competitive advantage. It’s their engine of innovation. But more than that, Toyota has created a culture where every idea counts. It’s an environment of everyday innovation as a result of fanatical focus on getting little better, daily.

Harvard Business Review recently published an article about Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine. In the article there was a short, but interesting referral to suggestion box. “Google also employs an idea management system whereby employees can e-mail ideas for new products, processes, and company improvements to a companywide suggestion box. Every employee can then comment on and rate the ideas.”

HBR did not go further on linking this to Google’s culture. I am convinced that the secret is in the culture!
Photo of Suggestion box by hashir

I googled a little bit and found an article on Business Week about Managing Google's Idea Factory. (Apparently from this book, which I have not read).

The article is about Marissa Mayer, who was Google’s twentieth employee in 1999. Now she is Google's Vice President of Search Products & User Experience with the power and influence as a champion of innovation. One of the key reasons for Google's success is a belief that good ideas can, and should, come from anywhere. An ideas mailing list is open to anyone at Google who wants to post a proposal. What Mayer does is help figure out how to make sure that good ideas bubble to the surface and get the attention they need.

Or rather, let her explain the same with her own words at Stanford University Educators Corner. The video is just 3 minutes long, and there is more material from her lecture at Stanford site.

The stories of Toyota's and Google's culture of innovation sound similar, don't they? You can gain competitive advantage with a culture that supports everyday innovation coming from anywhere. Without the culture you don't find the ideas, you can't get them in use and you will not benefit from them.

Do you have a system for collecting and using ideas?

Does your corporate culture support ideas?

Would you like to have a culture like that?

What should you do as a manager to build the culture?

If big companies like Toyota and Google can build the culture, smaller companies should be able to do the same.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

In Search of Simplicity

Simplicity seems to be becoming a trend. Lately it has been a topic touched in many books and articles. In fact

Manager’s Toolbox exists
in order to simplify and remember
management and leadership best practices
– to make them stick.

In this post I will simply tell you what other people say about simplicity.

Presentation Zen

In February I was listening to Garr Reynolds’ presentation about good presentation. In that event Manager’s Toolbox came to life from the ideas that I had been working on for years. I bought his book, checked his presentation tips and follow his blog. He awaked my creativity and I try to use his ideas in my work and my blog. The pictures you see in my blog are actually my PowerPoint slides.

Garr really emphasizes the idea of simplicity. If there is one important precept worth following, he says, it is the idea of simplicity. The best visuals are often ones designed with an eye toward simplicity. Simplicity is used as a means to greater clarity.

He talks about visual simplicity. Simple slides will be virtually meaningless without the presenter's narration. But the slides never should have all the text the presenter presents – slides used to be high resolution projected pictures. Slides are only part of the story. The rest is up to you – the presenter!

Made to Stick

The Heath brothers, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, talk about presenting your idea and making it stick.

Being Simple is the first element of presenting an idea in a sticky way. In their book they define “simple” as finding the core of the idea, stripping the idea down to its most critical essence. That’s the easy part, the hard part is leaving out ideas that may be really important but just are not the most important idea.

The other five elements are Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and Stories. Together these six elements can be compacted into the acronym SUCCESs, where the last S could stand for an idea that Sticks SUCCESSfully!

If Presentation Zen was mainly about the visuals, Made to Stick is about how to present the idea. (And this blog post is merely a hand out of my presentation of an idea I hope to make stick!)

The Elegant Solution – Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation

Matthew E. May stresses the importance of simplicity in his book and blog.

When it comes to innovation and designing solutions, whatever you do, keep it lean, he says. Scale it back, make it simple and let it flow. That’s what elegance is all about. It’s simplicity on a higher level, and regardless of whether the perspective is professional or personal, the aim of elegance is to make room for more of what matters by eliminating what doesn’t.

The first step is to start a war on complexity, which can be identified by inconsistency, overload, and waste – all of which unnecessarily consume the resources of time, effort, space, and money without adding value.

His ideas are universally valid and can be easily transferred to knowledge work in the office. If the earlier books were about how to formulate and present the idea in a simple way, this is more about how to make it real.

Simplicity-Minded Management
Harvard Business Review, December 2007

If you work in a big company, this is likely to be relevant for you. Check if your organization is too complex?

Ron Ashkenas asks if you are ready to cut out complexity out of your company. These are some advice he gives in the article.
  • Make simplification a goal, not a virtue. Include simplicity as a theme of the organization’s strategy, set targets for reducing complexity and reward simplicity
  • Simplify the organizational structure by reducing layers and consolidating similar functions
  • Simplify products and services
  • Discipline business and operating processes. Not only production and logistics, but also budgeting, planning, sales forecasting, etc. operating processes
  • Simplify your own personal patterns. Effectively manage meetings, emails, presentations, etc. and avoid micromanaging others

Sounds difficult? Yes it sounds, because the article is lacking simplicity. HBR is often suffering from what the Heath brothers call the Curse of Knowledge. HBR does not deliver simple, sticky ideas. They try to tell you everything about the idea, with perfect accuracy, in one article. And that does not stick.

But there are companies who seem to be able to pull it all together. Having the idea, presenting it, creating the elegant solution and making it BIG.

Inside Steve’s Brain

I found this book today while shopping with my family.

Leander Kahney takes a look inside the brain of Steve Jobs, CEO, chairman and co-founder of Apple. And he sees there, among other things, a lot of simplicity. Simplicity in the organization and strategy “The organization is clean and simple to understand, and very accountable. Everything just got simpler. That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs said already in 1998.

Apple has simplicity in almost everything they do - in their products, product portfolio, iProduct names, stores, logo, presentations

I will not be surprised if Apple will soon do to Microsoft, Dell and Sony the same as Toyota did to GM. And just by focusing on simplicity!

Simple, isn’t it?

A designer knows he has achieved perfection
not when there is nothing left to add,

but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Photo of iPod by ricardoalvarez

Friday, May 2, 2008

Building Balanced Scorecard

A management system must be handled carefully. Kaplan and Norton warn about risks right at the beginning, with companies formulating grand strategies that they then fail to translate into goals and targets that their middle and lower managers understand and strive to achieve. You should understand that

Building a Balanced Scorecard is a great test of project management

It all starts with well understood reason for starting the project – a reason for building, having and using the Balanced Scorecard. And as you are building a management system, you need 100% management support. Otherwise you should not even start the project. Paul R. Niven gives a checklist for the essentials of a successful Balanced Scorecard. My advice is that you buy his book and follow his step by step guide.

For the Manager’s Toolbox I can, as always, simplify things a little bit. I already have the reasons and management support in place as I am my own manager and a true believer in Balanced Scorecard as my management system. I am also the whole project team and have received enough training and communication.

So let’s continue to Strategy map development. The strategy map explains my strategy in one page by connecting the strategic objectives. It also enables easy strategic communication. As you remember, I turned the perspectives upside down, so everything starts from Learning and floats downwards effortlessly.

But beware or you might end up with something like this and fail to communicate the strategy!

One thing worth mentioning on Manager’s Toolbox strategy map is the customer perspective. You might remember that I am my only customer. Nevertheless my strategic objective is Customer satisfaction. And this leads us to the next step, selecting the measures.

To ensure customer satisfaction I need to be able to communicate my ideas to others. This is where this blog plays an important role. This blog enables me to communicate and test my ideas. Thus customer satisfaction can be measured by Number of visitors to Manager’s Toolbox – the greater the number of visitors, the better my ideas are, and the more satisfied I will be.

All the other measures as well as the link to management process is shown on the picture below. Everything
  • starts with Mission, Vision and Strategy, which are
  • summarized in the Strategy map and
  • monitored by selected measures and finally
  • controlled by follow-up, target setting and continuous improvement actions
and the Balanced Scorecard becomes a real management system.

Send me an email and I'll send you the template in Excel.

Does your organization use Balanced Scorecard or other management system?

Has it been successfully built and used?

Does your strategy map explain and communicate your strategy in one page?

Is it a real management system with follow-up, target setting and continuous improvement actions?

Or is your Balanced Scorecard just a collection of measures?

Do you have a balance between the perspectives, or do you have more financial measures than all the others together?