Category Archives: partnering

The Pace of Interactions

A long time ago, I worked in a law firm. BTW, that was before the fax machine was introduced into the office as a standard piece of equipment. When I look back on how we worked back then, one thing  was very, very different. That was the pace of interactions.

The pace back then was much slower. Interactions with persons and entities outside the firm was largely by mail (now called snail mail) and meetings. Inside the firm, we wrote memos and had meetings.

There was a luxury to this. One could take one’s time in making decisions. Indeed, slowing down the pace of decision making was at least part of the value added we gave to our clients.

Now consider whatJeff Immelt says about GE in an interview he gave to McKinsey

My notion is we’re in a permanently complex world. And this historical organization chart with lots of processes is a thing of the past. We’ve basically unplugged anything that was annual. The notion is that, in the digital age, sitting down once a year to do anything is weird, it’s just bizarre. So whether it’s doing business reviews or strategic planning, it’s in a much more continuous way. We still give a lot of feedback. We still do a lot of analysis of how you’re performing. But we make it much more contemporary and much more 360-degree. So somebody can get interactions with their boss on a monthly basis or a quarterly basis. And the data you get is being collected by your peers, the people who work for you, in a much more accurate and fluid way.

The key words are “more accurate and more fluid”. In other words, things have sped up and the stress is on improving the efficiency of communication in this more complex and changing environment.

These are important factors to consider if you wish to develop strategic competence.

Tony Robbins and Leverage

Why is it that delegating responsibilities tends not to work very well? Why managing employees is a bit like herding cats? Indeed, why is it that managing ourselves sometimes has the same feeling?

The problem, according to Tony Robbins, is in the idea of delegation itself.

When you delegate a task to employees, you tell them what you want and when you want it by. You check in with them once, on the due date, and if it’s not finished or done properly, you become frustrated with both them and yourself. With delegation, “you’re always going to be disappointed,” Robbins said.

In other words, a “command and control” system will always have to spend heavily on the “control” part in order to get any results at all.

Is there another way? There is. If a person is engaged in what he or she does, he will tend to do it better. Engagement arises when we act upon our own interests -. when we see how what we do will benefit us. According to Robbins, building engagement is a matter of aligning the interests of the manger and the staff member

With leverage, you inspire employees to do something rather than order them to. “When I leverage something, I help people understand exactly what I want and why I want it, and then I let them come up with many ways to get it done,” he said. “I check with them multiple times before it’s due to make sure they’re supported.” This way he’s not surprised about how a particular task or project turned out.

In other words, leveraged employees need support rather than controls.

How good are you at building leverage in your relationships?

good question. Tony Robbins answers it this way

Robbins said that he wouldn’t have gone from nothing to the head of a coaching empire “if I was doing it all myself or if I was delegating. There’s no way in hell that would happen. But I know how to leverage effectively.”

Just how Good Are you?

If we were standing on a tennis court, rackets in hand, the meaning of the question would be obvious. But in life, we are not standing on a tennis court. So what does this question mean?

Hmm … it is a question that would have different meanings in different times and contexts. Being good in the 17th century might immediately trigger religious thoughts. Are you good in the eyes of the Lord? In the 20th century, it might refer to a personal skill level (more like the tennis idea). And in the 21st century?

Consider one of the more controversial collaboration issues of the day. Which collaboration system works better – an “open” system or a “closed” system? We come from a closed system era. Business secrets were and still are jealously protected. But some argue that open systems innovate more quickly.

So if you are a network architect, which do you build? Consider this thought

you can “innovate” and win without an open ecosystem, if you are good enough at design. If you are really good, you can even beat the “open” crowd most of the time. You just have to understand the fundamental principles of great design. Fight for simplicity and elegance. Value both form and function and understand their essential synthesis. Build a team that “gets it” for all the above and delivers it every day with every product and service. Apply these principles to everything you do, not just the products you make. Drive endlessly for perfection, even though you probably won’t ever get there. Learn from your mistakes, but never apologize for trying. Rinse and repeat.

Notice that the above is talking about design within a closed system. Teams in a closed system can perform at high levels of efficiency. Apple under Jobs has proved that. But notice as well that we have not yet given much thought about open system design. That is something new. We might revisit the above idea in 50 years.

Thinking about Master Minds

We know intuitively what a “master mind” is. It is the “brains of the operation”. This comic about Bertrand Russell gives the flavor

In fact, the “master mind” is more than just a smart person who gives orders. The real master mind is the person who finds incredibly smart people to carry out his or her orders. For example, Robert E. Lee had Stonewall Jackson for a time.

As Carnegie pointed out, this requires just two things. First, a common vision of what the group wants. Second, harmony that promotes sharing learning among those doing things in the group.

This is what Steve Jobs achieved at Apple and it is what Elon Musk appears to be achieving at SpaceX and Tesla. The culture of smartness starts with the master mind.

Building an Ecology

One of the strategic ideas coming to the surface these days relates to a business model called “venture building”.

The idea here is not to build a single product for a single market. Instead, it is to nurture people who are loosely connected (networked) who have various ideas and connect them into project groups as needed. The goal is to become more flexible and fast moving.

Does it work? First, we should keep in mind that this is not really a new business model. PARC has been using it for a while. ´Whether it produces stuff of value depends a lot on the ability of the folks in the system to produce what I call “modular learning”. They need to be free enough to create, but have a clear enough vision of how their work connects to other creations in process.

I will be looking for the world’s best examples of venture building to talk about the skills sets that make it work in this blog. Stay tuned!

Strategy is at least in part Relationships

This idea is nothing new. But in the past, many of our relationships in life were preordained.  For example, by where we lived or by where we worked. These days, we are less restricted in who we may connect with. But freedom does not automatically bring inspired use of freedom. So we hear exhortations to build “strategic relationships”!

Just what is a strategic relationship? Join me in exploring this fascinating topic! Follow the blog!

What Needs to be Said?

this is a quick update on the structure of creative dialogue.

When we connect with people, we usually do so with an agenda in mind. For example, a friend might be needed for companionship or inspiration or fun. The friend may have a totally different agenda, but that may be ok as long as the friendship fits the agenda.

But creative partnering is a bit different. We can still use the vocabulary of an agenda that meets needs – but the needs are different. They are not just for pleasure. They are to open our eyes to see new things. And that can be unpleasant.

So it is that creative partners often don’t like each other all that much. But they need each other and the smarter ones understand that different kind of need.  The dialogue often goes like this. A makes a creative expression. Let’s call it X. B looks at X and thinks, how do I translate X into my vocabulary. And B then produces Y. A sees Y and thinks – that opens the door to W. And on and on.

It is a game that you don’t want to end and it starts from what needs to be expressed to open the doors to perception.

Structuring Cretaive Dialogue

There is an important new book out called “Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs” by Joshua Wolf Shenk. Salon gives a nice excerpt. and I will be posting about this over the next several weeks.

But why is it important. There are two reasons at least. We know now that exchanges are at the core of acquiring new knowledge.  And the internet offers us a new way to expand our capacity to do these exchanges. But we lack a clear model about how these exchanges make us more creative. And Shenk offers insights here.

Consider this — if the internet is the key technolgocial advance of the 21st century learning how to use the internet is the key skill set that we need to develop. Tuning into cretivity through exchanges is the path forward.

Joi Ito: Being a Now-ist

Joi Ito makes a very good point about how society has changed. In the old days, it was very, very expensive to try out new things. The costs of doing this have fallen tremendously and are likely to keep on falling.  There are two take aways from this. First, as Joi says, it is chaotic. that puts more pressure on individuals to have a strategic sense of their own direction (rather than rely on big institutions to figure things out for them). Second, cycles of change will get shorter. Meaning we have to be more into the flow – leading change is the better strategic idea.

Steve Pinker: How to Write

The “how to …” genre of story telling is exploding, and no surprise. Everyone wants to live better and we all can use advice on how to do it. But one “how to …” area is not well developed. – how to write more effectively.  I am not talking about how to  use grammar or how to become more stylish. I am much more interested in how to build connection. Steve Pinker (via Oliver Burkeman at the Guardian) has a great suggestion. Follow the link and find out!