The Monday Morning Quote #439

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Peter Drucker

Read more here and here

The Monday Morning Quote #420

“If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right.”

Jeff Bezos

 

The Cost of Doing Nothing – in IT

From LRB comes Paul Taylor’s take on what has led up to the problems with NHS IT systems – the malware attack last Friday was a symptom of a far more complex and concerning issue.

Successive governments have spent billions without success. 

“There are no good news stories about computers and the NHS. The reporting of Friday’s malware attack may, however, be usefully different from the typical bad news story, in which hubristic politicians or nameless bureaucrats waste millions, if not billions, of public funds on projects which go over budget, fail to deliver, prove to be unusable or collapse under pressure. In this instance it seems that, for once, inaction and underinvestment have led to something sufficiently focused to be newsworthy, showing that there can be a political as well as a human cost to doing nothing.

For most of the 21st century, the story of NHS IT has been the slow unravelling of New Labour’s ambitions for the transformation of public services. In February 2002, Tony Blair committed his government to a programme that was supposed to take the NHS, in two years, from being largely paper-based to having a seamless IT architecture, enabling a new generation of consumer-friendly digital health services. The mistakes that were made in the pursuit of this vision, which became known as the National Programme for IT, have had devastating consequences for those whose care was supported by NHS IT systems over the last 15 years.

The government entered into huge contracts with large corporations that promised to supply systems they couldn’t engineer, and for which the NHS couldn’t specify the requirements…..”

Full article at LRB

Obsess Over Your Customers, Not Your Rivals

From HBR, worth a read and then asking yourself some questions….

The starting point of most competitive analysis is a question: Who is your competition? That’s because most companies view their competition as another brand, product, or service. But smart leaders and organizations go broader.

The question is not who your competition is but what it is. And the answer is this: Your competition is any and every obstacle your customers encounter along their journeys to solving the human, high-level problems your company exists to solve…..

….Sure, someone in your company needs to understand the marketplace: who your competition is, what other products are on the market, and how they are doing, at a basic level. But there’s a point at which paying attention to other companies and what they’re doing interferes with your team’s ability to immerse itself in the world of your consumer. Focusing on competitive products and companies often leads to “me-too” products, which purport to compete with or iterate on something that customers might not have liked much in the first place.

Conclusion:

  • First, rethink what you sell.
  • Next, rethink your customers.
  • Now, focus on their problems.

Read full article HERE

 

 

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

Another post via the essential Benedict Evans’ Newsletter. This is from Jeff Bezos‘ (Amazon founder & CEO) annual shareholder letter: “managing Amazon and change in a large company”. Well worth a read.

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.

I’m interested in the question, how do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organization?

Such a question can’t have a simple answer. There will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps. I don’t know the whole answer, but I may know bits of it. Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making.

True Customer Obsession

There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.

Why? There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.

Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight. A customer-obsessed culture best creates the conditions where all of that can happen.

Resist Proxies

As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2.

A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, “Well, we followed the process.” A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. The process is not the thing. It’s always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us? In a Day 2 company, you might find it’s the second.

Another example: market research and customer surveys can become proxies for customers – something that’s especially dangerous when you’re inventing and designing products. “Fifty-five percent of beta testers report being satisfied with this feature. That is up from 47% in the first survey.” That’s hard to interpret and could unintentionally mislead…….

……..Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design.

I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.

In full HERE take the time and read the 1997 letter which follows it – makes interesting reading.

The Weekend Read – Deep Work by Cal Newport

This is a “must read” for anyone who feels they are getting overwhelmed or even too distracted by 21st century life. Subtitled, “Rules for focus success in a distracted world” it does exactly what it says on the cover. I regularly hear complaints from my clients that they are having problems focussing on the most important things in their life, that their surgery or office door is opened too often, that they feel the need to deal with emails, phone calls and social media as soon as they are aware of them. If your appointment book is ruling your life and you are having problems finding space & time in your life then do yourself a favour and read this.

Newport defines Deep Work as “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. Their efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

He contrasts Shallow Work as, “Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much value in the world and are easy to replicate.”

In the first half of the book the writer explains his hypothesis, which is, “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” He then describes examples of Deep Work from a variety of walks of life and how it has helped individuals to success.

In the second half of the book he lays down The Rules for Deep Work, which are:

  • Work Deeply – Remove distractions.
  • Embrace Boredom – Schedule the occasional break from focus for distraction.
  • Quit Social Media – Initially off putting but his argument is cogent and correct.
  • Drain The Shallows – To eliminate the amount of time for shallow work aggressively schedule your entire day and quantify every activity.

Essential.

Available from The Book Depository HERE

 

 

Now that’s one way to ask for feedback

 

I love reading reviews on Amazon, the 4 & 5 stars tell me something but the 1 star reviews sometimes make me fear for the survival of the human species, “couldn’t get the lid off, “arrived without batteries”, etc. I often wonder where the gap between expectations and reality started as they are so far apart and how there can be such diverse opinions on the same things.

The coffee shop on the ground floor of the House of Fraser store in Princes Street, Edinburgh is a regular stop for a pot of green tea. During a recent visit I was forced to think about why so many of us are happy to give feedback either via Trip Adviser, Amazon, Goodreads, or the dreadful NHS “Friends & Family” or less formally, but more usefully, by sharing opinions with friends, family, colleagues and so on and how much use that feedback really is.

The one thing that we rarely do is to make our case directly with the person, business or system with which we have dealt. That may well be due to our reluctance to face up to another human being and deliver both positive and  negative feedback, and to both commend and recommend. More likely is that very few of us welcome feedback, interpreting it as direct criticism, nor do we have systems in our business where we encourage direct, honest but non-confrontational, sharing of how someone’s experience was for them. 

In most face to face professional situations – especially dentistry – we ought to be able feel how the experience is for someone so that it can modified and dealt with as you are progressing so that the right support can be given. Whilst that is true, or sadly, not true for clinicians are our support staff wired in the same way, are they taught to seek and expect responses? Do we take the time to fine tune their antennae? Do we select for empathy or efficiency? Or both? Or as I all too often find, neither?

Just thinking.

 

 

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