Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

Week In Review – Apr 18 – Apr 24, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on April 25, 2010

Webinar Strategy and Elephant Chunks

by Wayne Turmel, Apr 19, 2010

Most small companies and startups do not have the time and money to create marketing webinars, customer training and recordings for the website. The task may seem daunting, but not so if you break it up into small bite sized chunks. In this article Wayne provides a concise strategy to attack this problem. more…

In Sharing look for Caring

by Guy Ralfe, Apr 20, 2010

Great article! A must read. In your entrepreneurial endeavor, you will meet a variety of people. Guy has made it really simple to identify them into 4 distinct categories. Partners are those with high level of domain knowledge and have the inclination and capacity to assist you. Seek them. At any cost stay away from onions and decoys. But make sure your assessments of people are correct though. more…

Leadership Cancers #6: Leave your heart at home

by Gary Monti, Apr 21, 2010

Yet another deeply thought provoking article by Gary! Life is challenging and business is even more so. Every day you come across situations that require you to make tough decisions. When at a cross road, reach out to your inner compass. This reminds me of the great speech Al Pacino delivers in the movie Scent of a Woman. more…

Announcing – People discovery engine for Twitter

The Active Garage Team, Apr 22, 2010

This is a great day for us at Active Garage! We are proud to announce the launch of our newest project, 99Tribes – A People discovery engine for Twitter.

What distinguishes 99Tribes from all other people directories on Twitter? 99Tribes helps you find and DISCOVER twitter users who share their interests. Based on the patented Rawsugar technology, you can start discovering people by typing what you are interested in (popular examples being: marketing, sales, blogging etc.)

Don’t wait. Go ahead, check it out, add yourself to 99Tribes and have fun discovering others with like interests!

Author’s Journey #18: Evaluating your current online visibility

by Roger Parker, Apr 23, 2010

After going through the first two steps Planning and Writing, we are now at Step 3, Promoting. The first thing to do in this stage is to evaluate your online platform that determines your online visibility. In this article Roger provides some great tips and techniques to cultivate and enhance your online assets. more…

Week In Review – Apr 11 – Apr 17, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on April 18, 2010

Lifecycle Management: Knowing what your company owns, how it’s being used and where it lives

by Matthew Carmen, Apr 12, 2010

The key to managing a financially sound IT organization is to start with a sound planning and implementation process. You need to know what it is you are managing. They are software licenses, hardware assets, leased equipment and the list goes on and on. Knowing this is the first step to understanding how they are used and the details surrounding the total cost of ownership. more…

Leadership Cancers #5: Simplemindedness

by Gary Monti, Apr 13, 2010

The difference between simple and simplemindedness is a razors edge. When designing a solution for a customer, you need to understand the disciplines, principles and the balance between them that is required to go from customer requirements to functional specifications to design to production. Failing to recognize any one aspect will lead to a simpleminded solution that will introduce unintended complexity. more…

Customer is King

by Guy Ralfe, Apr 14, 2010

As Guy wades deeper into his new domain of business, he is able to understand with great clarity that the first order of business is to take care of customers. This cardinal notion spans across all industries without exception. If you do not take care of your customers, somebody else will and you don’t that to happen. more…

Business Valuation in divorce is different

by Steve Popell, Apr 15, 2010

In a divorce situation, the manager-spouse purchases the community property interest of the non-manager-spouse through the process of community property division. The standard “fair market value” method of evaluation is not valid here. Read this article to understand the fundamentals of this evaluation method. more…

Author’s Journey #17: Finishing your book on time and avoiding writer’s block

by Roger Parker, Apr 16, 2010

Finishing a book on time and avoiding writer’s block is a challenge to many authors. Better planning will help you finish your book on time. Start by creating a content plan and commit to a daily progress. more…

Business Intelligence or lack thereof?

by Brian Beedle on March 29, 2010

In these difficult economic times, companies are creating processes that are not consistent with the ways in which they have traditionally managed their business.  Whether you are the CFO or an entry-level analyst, everyone must actively learn how to re-engineer and strategically manage in this new economic environment.

The expectation of companies’ Board of Directors is simply to increase top and bottom-line revenue (and by extension, profitability), with little concern for everything in the middle. Before you can even consider instituting measures to contribute to the Board’s expectations by implementing cost savings initiatives, it is necessary to develop a well thought out and orchestrated operating plan.  There are many approaches to this. Some companies prefer the “top-down” method, where management dictates the spending of the operating units and it is then up to the operators to manage within their allocated budgets. On the other extreme, management may prefer to push down the responsibility of planning to the operators and ask for a “bottoms-up” approach.  This approach requires the operational managers to develop assumptions and create a detailed operating plan with very little finance intervention.  Typically, the results of the “bottoms-up” approach may not be what you expect, but merely a wish list that even Santa Claus cannot deliver!  Sure, these may very well be extreme cases – most likely the process your organization uses falls somewhere in the middle. In any case, it is imperative that the process be organized and well executed.


Q: “Why would a company be willing to invest the capital in a tool that provides little or no tangible Return on Investment (ROI)?”

A: This question is certainly justified, and the answer is surprisingly very simple: This perception is incorrect.  There is statistical proof which supports a direct correlation between implementing performance management tools and its downstream, positive impact to shareholder value.  Among this positive impact is increased accuracy of strategic capability.

Taking the leap to performance management is a major commitment for any organization and should not be made hastily or taken lightly.  Performance management initiatives do require careful planning, decisive action, and ongoing support from within the organization.  When it comes to performance management implementations, there is a fine line between success and failure.  A well planned-out and executed implementation will yield great success and gain acceptance.  However, a sub-par, marginal implementation with little or no added user benefit, will lead to frustration for the legacy users, leading to further resistance to the new technology and potentially the perception of a failed implementation.  The fine line between success and failure is extremely important to keep in mind.  Moreover, there are several factors that also need to be considered before beginning the journey to performance management, so that the end product delivers results not only in a positive ROI, but also in true business “intelligence”, and not a lack thereof.

A few of these factors are:

  • Before the decision is made to move forward, it is important that a thorough assessment is conducted of the current business planning and intelligence environment. One of the most common mistakes that many stakeholders encounter when implementing this type of a solution is poor design.  Take this opportunity to think outside of the box. Challenge the operational business managers who are responsible for preparing the physical operating plans and forecasts to research what is needed to successfully manage their business. Take a look at your current reporting – does it provide value?  You may be surprised to find out that the need of the finance team may differ greatly from the needs of the overall operation.
  • When preparing a proof of concept and statement of work, a best practice would be to set milestones and plan in phases. Establish reasonable expectations.  It is okay to under promise and over deliver.  Keep in mind, less may be more. Over complication of models and tools may only cause frustration and not be helpful in gaining user acceptance.
  • A successful implementation will require commitment by leadership within the organization. It is true that many of the leading enterprise planning and business intelligence solutions companies pride themselves in offering applications that are typically implemented and maintained by finance departments and require little or no IT support. This in many cases may be true, depending on the skill set of your administration team. However, for small to mid-size companies, these finance department resources may not be available as in larger organizations. Engaging network/server and database administrator resources up front will result in a far easier and more successful configuration of the environment. Before purchasing any hardware, it is advisable to discuss the requirements with your server team/consultants to ensure that your solution is being configured optimally, yet in the most economical fashion.
  • Provide training to users with relevant materials and be sure to seek feedback.  (Just because a solution is implemented, does not mean there is not room for continued development and improvement.)

Some of the points discussed in this article may sound quite elementary in concept,   however it is important to step back and not lose focus of these basic principles –  ultimately gaining a deep understanding of what it takes to successfully implement performance management initiatives.

Week In Review – Mar 21 – Mar – 27, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on March 28, 2010

Everything is so amazing and nobody is happy

by Vijay Peduru, Mar 22, 2010

Have you taken a moment to reflect how amazing it is to be living this time and age? There are so many gadgets and tools that increase our capacity phenomenally, but we often end up complaining about trivial things about them. Watch a short humorous video in this post and that will help you realize that we are very lucky indeed! more…

Leadership Cancers #2: The insanity of multitasking

by Gary Monti, Mar 23, 2010

The human brain is similar to a single core microprocessor. Multitasking in either case involves context switching which is expensive. But is it effective? Multitasking should not be confused with some tasks we can perform simultaneously, like chewing gum and walking. In this post, Gary argues that high value tasks or tasks that have high impact when something goes wrong, are not conducive to multitasking. Don’t agree? Well, have you read about the impact of texting and driving? Or next time you go to a meeting, try working on your laptop and listening to the conversation at the same time.

One of our readers Avi commented that multitasking is related to picking up tasks in a “wait” state. While it is true that this enables efficient use of time, it does not mean that you can do multiple tasks at the same time. If task A takes 40 hours, you cannot expect task B to be fit in at the same time. If task A hits a roadblock and cannot progress, task B gets worked on. Do read Gary’s response too. more…

Past is NO way to the Future

by Guy Ralfe, Mar 23, 2010

Ever dealt with a financial advisor or read an investment brochure? Their standard disclaimer is that past performance is not an indication of future performance. While knowledge of the past definitely is valuable, we should be aware that the future will not mimic the past. Now, apply this to your life and your actions; don’t let the past hinder your future performance. more…

CAPEX-Free IT: How to refresh your technology, deliver stellar IT, and keep your CFO happy

by Marc Watley, Mar 25, 2010

Money is tight everywhere. According to most surveys and reports, CAPEX spending in IT is going to increase slightly this year at best, if not remain flat. Resources are down to 2005 levels. So, how do you do more with less.  With the advent of virtualization and cloud computing, there are numerous options to pay as you go. When implementing this strategy, do it the Kaizen way. more…

Author’s Journey #14: How to get others to help you write your book

by Roger Parker, Mar 26, 2010

In this post Roger describes three basic approaches to getting others to help you write your book. They are:

1. Paying for Help
2. The Network Approach
3. Social Media Approach

Read the post to understand what they are and how to leverage existing tools. As always, your choice should be determined by your goals and your resources. more…

Ever wonder who is in charge when you repeatedly try to change business rules and nothing happens? It can be maddening! You call the meeting, everyone agrees to make the change and then nothing happens. It feels like Sisyphus rolling that huge rock up the organizational hill only to have it roll back down again and again and…

The solution has two components – what to do and how to do it. The “what to do” comprises integration of three sets of business principles. The “how to do it”  balances all the solutions from the previous five posts in this Change Management Series.

What To Do: Align Business Principles

Three sets of business principles are tiered and integrated. They include:

  • Business Modeling describing the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value in a holistic manner.
  • Business Process Management aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of clients. Specifically, integrating the business rulesets (see below) from the various disciplines.
  • Business Rules and Rulesets include the individual rules defining or constraining some aspect of the business and the rulesets that are a collection of individual business rules focusing on the same business activity across the organization.

For example, an outsourcing approach (business model) is chosen for a particular project. The management of vendors will involve both engineering and purchasing. The interplay between engineering, purchasing, and the vendor must be defined (business process management). Success lies in the detailed management of the situation.  Engineering and purchasing must combine their criteria (business rules) into a cohesive set (Business Ruleset) keeping the vendor consistently focused on providing value.

Notice how when we get to the most detailed level, Business Rules and Rulesets, they circle back to the most strategic level, Business Modeling. Let’s put that to use in determining “How To”.

How To Do It: Changing The Business Rules

Performance on this project is akin to mud wrestling! At one moment it feels like there’s a grasp on the situation and then the next moment – whoops – either stance, grip or both are lost.

The solution is learning how to referee and let the people in your organization produce the results. Specifically, take the recommendations in the previous 5 posts and perform them in the reverse order.

To produce a sustainable, stable set of business rules and processes focus on quality and risk as mentioned in the fifth post, “Projects: Three Tips to Avoid Creating Frankenstein”.

Is it easy? No. You are dealing with human nature. Use the solutions from the fourth post, “People: Building a Team with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” to gauge the limits of people and resources available, decide on trade-offs, and finalize goals.

If technology is part of the process implementation remember the remedies in the third post, “Technology: Too Good To Be True…Two Deadly Misconceptions and Their Remedies

Keeping the project from becoming a chaotic mess requires a balance between letting people “go at it” and settling down to build some results. Act as described in the second post, Morphing Organizations: The Executive Samurai and Complexity Theory

Finally, you must be unshakable Do this by knowing your goals, values and beliefs. It sets the context. Lead the way as described in the first post Leadership: Navigating With an Executive Map and Compass

All this is done for one simple reason: to present something of value to the customer. In the seventh and final post of this series we will look at the product.

If this has been beneficial, if you have any comments, or just find this as fascinating as I do then send me an e-mail at or visit

Your journey through change can have a great deal in common with the experiences of Dr. Jekyll’s friend, Mr. Utterson from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Mysterious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Like Utterson, you see strange behaviors emanate from areas managed by people whom you’ve come to know and trust. At first there is a wondering if some outside force is affecting the person. A concern, a desire to check in and offer help sets in. Eventually the awareness develops that the strange behavior is coming from the trusted person himself.

Your plate was already full with external challenges. Now the human terrain in your organization is changing as well! (For more on terrain changes see the Leadership blog ). Let’s briefly explore this human terrain and examine Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, their dilemma, and possible solutions.

Dr. Jekyll

Normally, we all want to do well and fit in socially. We are wired that way at birth. An interesting twist to that wiring is it varies from person to person. We each are whole and have free will but we have a neurological bias towards how we see the world and process information. This means some tasks we take to naturally and others are more challenging.

For example, one person may be great with big ideas while another person excels at running things on a day-to-day basis. If we are lucky the parts of our psyche where we excel are consistent with what our parents, teachers, etc., consider good and get emphasized. That is Dr. Jekyll. He feels complete.

We launch our career and settle down to a particular life style through which we move as Dr. Jekyll. But what about those other parts? Do they just lie around? Hmmm…let’s explore.

Mr. Hyde

While Dr. Jekyll is developing, the undesirable or more challenging parts get pushed into the shadows as if they never existed. That is the Mr. Hyde. The longer Mr. Hyde is pushed down the greater the fear associated with using those traits.  Remember, Dr. Jekyll feels complete and in control. To compound things, the developing Mr. Hyde takes extra effort since traits are weak from under-development. The stage is set for the dilemma.

The Dilemma

People tend to migrate to positions emphasizing their Dr. Jekyll. It can be very upsetting when the business demands complex changes requiring Mr. Hyde to be invited to join the team.

Take the Dr. Jekyll examples from before. A team member may simply want to know what the rules are and his eyes glaze over at the thought of a strategy meeting. A manager excellent at strategizing gets bored with details.  Neither cares much for how the other operates. This aggravates you because with complex terrain changes you need associates to understand and work with each other – to at least see things through the other person’s eyes.

The Solution

The solution lies in your leadership. You may recall the executive map, compass and navigation method from the previously-mentioned Leadership blog. Navigating changing business terrains require everyone’s eyes and ears to build a credible map and plan. There is no telling what will be the source of valuable information. Blind spots are the kiss of death. Cross-training will help immensely.

Using the magnetic north of your executive compass, values and beliefs, can help. If associates have the same magnetic north then tap the bond present. Use the positive stress of what they can achieve to encourage them to overcome the negative stress of bringing Mr. Hyde out of the shadows.

Timing is important. Decisions must be made. Similar to the samurai in Morphing Organizations post your best decisions flow from a detached, empathetic awareness of the overall picture.

Determine the limits of what you can risk. With limited resources the solution will probably comprise some combination of:

  • Supporting individuals in bringing more of the positive aspects of Mr. Hyde’s skills to the table;
  • Adjusting the timetable for achieving goals to match the rate of change people can sustain;
  • Bringing in outside resources to replace or augment current team members;
  • Deciding to cancel or delay achieving some goals because the terrain is shifting too fast or the opportunity will disappear by the time the team is ready to work;
  • What could be most harrowing and exciting, jumping to a new business terrain.

There are threats and opportunities associated with all these strategies. By sticking with your values and beliefs a plan will show itself.

In the next blog tips will be presented for creating a successful project.

I find this topic fascinating. If you do too and would care to comment or would like more information send me an e-mail at or go to

Week In Review – Feb 7 – Feb 13, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on February 14, 2010

Is using Social Media an impediment to your Organization?

by Himanshu Jhamb, Feb 8, 2010

Social media is still not widely utilized in the business world. Organizations are resistant to deploying them because they either don’t see a value for it or they feel their employees will be distracted by them. The reality, their opinions don’t matter. Social media is here to stay. The earlier they realize that it is simply a channel for having online conversation, the better it is for them. more…

Change Management #3 – Technology: Too Good To Be True… Two Deadly Misconceptions and Their Remedies

by Gary Monti, Feb 9, 2010

One of the biggest misconceptions of all time is that technology solves problems. Nothing can be further away from the truth. On the contrary, people solve problems and technology aids in building the solution – it is just a means to an end. The second and less visible but equally important misconception is that technology will somehow change people’s fundamental behavior like sense of responsibility, cooperation, etc. When implementing change we need to be cognizant of the networks and political structures in the organization. With change, the concern for self increases and even small changes can cause disproportional increase in stress and will cause unpredictable behavior. Technology is an amplifier. Applied properly, it can make a good situation better. Misapplied, it can make a bad situation worse. more…

Breakdowns in Social Media Conversations

by Guy Ralfe, Feb 10, 2010

The world is shrinking fast and the pace of communication is increasing proportionally. Even in the online world, it is easy to misunderstand or misconstrue what the other person means. You may be thinking about the same thing and expressing them differently or vice versa. Guy has brilliantly illustrated this through a few examples. This pitfall gets amplified in the online world. So, be extra cautious and make sure you don’t miss opportunities because of it. more…

Intimacy scores with Social Media

by Deepika Bajaj, Feb 11, 2010

Intimacy and Social Media? Hmm… What’s the connection? We don’t typically these words used in one sentence. But, think about it. This is what social media is. It brings us closer together with our friends and acquaintances. We are able to check on them every day, learn what’s happening in their world and provide support, guidance or empathy. Your online presence is an online YOU. It is just like seeing yourself in the mirror. This let’s you be more intimate with yourself! Online media is an amplifier of the social nature of human beings. more…

Author’s Journey #8 – How much of your book have you already written?

by Roger Parker, Feb 12, 2010

If you have been in your profession for a while, you will be surprised to know how much content you already have. Just dig into your hard drive and check your emails, memos, reports, blog posts, etc. After you have located existing content, consolidate them so that you can identify their usability and where they belong in your book. This will help you realize that book writing does not have to be an all consuming endeavor. more…

Executives leading change are in a situation much like Moses’ when leading the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land. There is the desire for relief from the constant complaining. The loss of resolve or simply being tired can create a yearning for a quick fix or a simple solution. One of the most common forms of giving in to this temptation is clinging to misconceptions regarding technology and its benefits.

Two of the deadliest misconceptions are the belief technology by itself solves problems and the belief human nature changes with new technology. Sales agents can play upon this by proposing something that has the phrase, “All you have to do is…”

So, before you part with your hard-earned money for the latest-and-greatest system let’s look closer at these sweet, deadly poisons and their remedies.

Misconception: Technology Solves Problems

The assumption with this misconception is the problem and the solution are external to the people and organization. Somehow the problem and solution are separate from individual ownership of risks and responsibilities associated with change. Problems will go away by signing a purchase order or contract. A false sense of confidence develops proportional to the blindness present. The situation is similar to the person speeding down the freeway without a map. They don’t know where they are going but they sure are making great time! Typically, in the end everyone is miserable and unhappy. The client scapegoats the vendor and the vendor says the client provided no direction and needs change orders.

Remedy: Solve the Problem First

Technology doesn’t solve problems, people solve problems. For a successful implementation of technology in a changing environment first focus on the principles discussed in the previous two blogs:

  1. Change Management #1: Leadership: Navigating with an executive map and compass
  2. Change Management #2: Morphing Organizations: The executive samurai and complexity theory

Work with your teams to know where you want to go, build a map of the business terrain, build a plan, and organize your people to move towards the goals.

This begs the question, “If it’s not the solution just what is technology?” The answer is in the word itself. The root for “technology” is the Greek word “techne,” which means, “to craft, to build, to put form to, to bring into existence.” In other words it’s a means to an end not an end in itself. It is a tool for building the solution.

Briefly, what you want to do is solve the problem first (functional specification) then pick the vehicle for expressing it (technical design specification).

Misconception: Technology Changes Human Nature

This misconception assumes providing an external something will improve people’s attitudes, sense of responsibility, and performance.  Cooperation will spontaneously increase with new technology.

Remedying: Resolve Political Problems First

The reality is most people resist change and want to hold on to their personal agendas. I discovered this in the first few years of operating my business. Networks were at its heart. Some clients were a dream and others were nightmares. These differences influenced my answer to an apparently simple question, “What is a network?” The best answer, the one that made the most sense and was immediately understood was, “A network is a hard-wired political system.” Laughter ensued.

With change the concern for self increases and people become stressed. Stress can lead to unpredictable behavior. Even small, unpredictable behaviors can be quite serious in complex, changing situations. Why? Small behaviors can have a disproportionately large impact on a complex system by pushing it past a tipping point. For example, in November, 2001, at the largest airport in the world, Atlanta Hartsfield, a Georgia college student passed through security then ran back through it and down an escalator to get a camera bag left in a coffee shop. September 11, 2001, was two, short months ago. Security reacted quickly, shutting down the terminal. The domino effect shut down almost all flying in the United States for the rest of the day.

This brings up a second answer to the question, “What is technology?” The answer is, “Technology is an amplifier. Applied properly it can make a good situation better. Misapplied, it can make a bad situation worse.” In the end, the more time spent getting everyone on board with the change management process and associated technology the better.

In the next blog we will look at team building and dealing with the challenges of human nature.

If you benefited from reading this, have any comments, would like more information or are simply as interested in change management as I am send an e-mail at or visit

Information: The Most Precious Thing Your Company Has

by Robert Driscoll on February 4, 2010

Every day our lives get more and more connected online which has made our lives easier, but at the same time, has put us more at risk as more of our sensitive information is stored online.  With IPv6 right around the corner, which will be able to support an almost infinite number of IP addresses, we will only be more connected, and therefore, more at risk.

On a personal basis, I’m the first to admit that online services such as banking, travel and email, to name a few, have made our lives easier.  On a professional basis, as businesses push more services online to expand their marketplace, conversely, they are also making themselves more susceptible to data breaches from hackers.  Hosting providers are pushing the envelope by trying to get their customers to accept cloud services: email, applications and storage to name a few.  Some of these providers such as Google and Amazon have been successful in selling their cloud based services to small business and have now started making headway in to the enterprise segment of the marketplace.  Their services also allow you to access your information anywhere you have web access.  Their services are great for non-core, non-critical applications that won’t impact your business in the event their service goes down and you are unable to access your applications or data. 

While every company is talking about cloud services, not many are acting on it.  According to a white paper published by Gartner called Hype Cycles of Emerging Technologies, 2009, the most hyped technology was cloud computing. 

Why is this technology “hyped” and not being accepted with open arms?  The hack against Googles intellectual property last month should give you a pretty good idea as to why cloud services are still vulnerable. 

If you decide to move in to cloud services, don’t push all of your applications online.  Start slow.  Test a non-critical application first, or store non-critical data in the cloud that will help off-load space on your storage platform.  If you lose the application or the data, you’ll probably be upset over this mishap, but your life and the business will move on.  From there, look at moving parts of your development environment online and start testing other applications to see how they perform online and how well you can secure the data.  When testing these applications in the cloud, always be skeptical of who will access your data and how.  Don’t move at the pace your providers want you to move at.  Move at the pace that you’re comfortable with and that will protect your intellectual property and your company’s (and customers) sensitive information.

In a Newsweek article recently published by Daniel Lyons called “Where Secrets Aren’t Safe”, he mentions, “Information is not at all like electricity.  Electricity is a cheap, dumb commodity.  Nobody wants to steal your electricity, and even if someone did, who cares?  Information, on the other hand, may be the most precious thing your company has.”

Taking your organization through change requires the skills of a samurai knowing when to make changes, when to leave things as they are, and staying centered through the entire process. Do this in an ever-changing environment with moving targets!

Like a samurai you can use the principles of martial arts and Zen, combine them with complexity theory, and develop an approach to changing your organization.

The Samurai

The word “samurai” has interesting roots. It means, “to serve.” More specifically, it means to serve something or someone higher than oneself. The samurai looks at the broader picture and chooses specific actions accordingly. To aid in this they practiced many arts with some samurai being great poets and artists. They worked to understand the principles of life beyond fighting. This led to even-tempered decision-making. This approach is critical when making organizational changes, some of which may be enjoyable and others painful.

Martial Arts

Martial Arts can teach us something about technique when changing an organization. Methods vary with circumstances but evolve from solid principles. In Aikido there is a proverb that goes something like this, “When you come upon a rock; be water and flow around it. When the ground is shifting; be a tree and establish roots.” This knowing when to flex and when to hold your ground is critical. In World War II Henry Kaiser revolutionized shipbuilding by restructuring the manner in which Liberty ships were designed and assembled. He turned naval construction on its head. Once new methods (flexing) were established and integrated they were pushed to the limit (holding ground). The time to build a ship was reduced from 245 days to 45 days with some being completed in less than a week. Some of those construction methods are still in use today.


So how do you pick from all different ways to organize? What order should they be used in? There are so many methods and types of advice one can get overwhelmed. The key is establishing and keeping an eye on your goals and values and choosing the appropriate method.

Zen offers some good advice: Be immovable. Now, this doesn’t mean be stubborn. It also doesn’t mean being stuck. What it does mean is be imperturbable. Have all decisions reflect movement towards desired goals while keeping values in sight. For more on this see a previous blog, Change Management – Leadership: An Executive Map, Compass and Navigation Method.

Complexity Theory

Now you can take a tip from complexity theory on how best to organize: let the people do it themselves. With everyone understanding the goals and values do something very interesting: take the organization back-and-forth between equilibrium and disequilibrium. When things are moving well – let them be (equilibrium). When a change is needed shake things up by pointing to the challenges and let the team decide how best to organize or reorganize (disequilibrium).

Andy Grove used a two-step process at Intel.

  1. He instilled the belief that change is needed and left the organization alone so the stress would build.
  2. When the stress was high enough he would then lead people through “The Valley of Death” to achieve the next chip design. (Adapted from “Surfing the Edge of Chaos,” Richard Pascale, et. al.)

In the next blog we will look at some deadly misconceptions regarding technology and change and how to remedy the situation. If you are as interested as I in these topics send me an e-mail at or visit