Exploring your unknowns

I recently returned from an incredible adventure with my two girls sailing in the Kimberley region of the Western area. It is so remote that it took us nearly five days of sailing to get there and another five days to get home again. In between, we had some truly unique and special experiences that I have no doubt we will look back on for the rest of our lives.

We live in a world where genuine adventures seem to be harder and harder to come by. This is because a real sense of adventure requires certain elements to be present. First, there needs to be a sense of discovery, the ability to explore something unknown or experience something unfamiliar. Second, real adventure must contain an element of risk.

The challenge is that the unknown and the unfamiliar have become increasingly rare commodities in our world. Finding places that are truly off the beaten track has become harder as roads and transportation links have gotten better and information more freely available. We also live in an increasingly risk-averse society. Even if we go to visit a previously unexplored part of the world (or at least unexplored by us) we can pre-arrange accommodation and transfers, read reviews or book an all inclusive 10-day tour. Now I appreciate that there are a select few out there who shun such comforts but my feeling is that this has become very much the norm.

So in planning and preparing for this trip, and faced with this uncertainty, it was interesting to see how my girls responded. But perhaps what was most interesting was seeing an incredible parallel between how they responded and how people in business respond to the unfamiliar as well.

The first part of the response is an over-analysis and over-statement of risk. In our early family conversations there was a lot of concern about crocodiles, getting sea sick, falling over the side of the boat, getting sun burnt and even being bored on such a long trip. Some of these were genuine concerns and there was value in ensuring that high impact risks were adequately managed but it was also true that these risks were given significantly more air play that they ultimately warranted.

The second part of the response is to understate the benefits. Did we really need to go to such a remote and inhospitable place? Is it really THAT special? Wouldn’t they have just as much fun going camping? Again, some of these are reasonable questions to ask but the reality is without personal experience we generally struggle to imagine something dramatically different from what we already know.

The combination of these two responses is that by systematically overstating the risks and underestimating the benefits of doing things differently, we subtly reinforce the status quo. In fact ‘risk’ has increasingly become a rational for inaction even when the risks of inaction may in fact be higher than risks associated with well considered change.

I’ve written before about the trade off between execution risk and strategic risk. Change projects unavoidably carry with them a certain level of execution risk: the risk involved in moving from one way of doing things to another. But generally these types of risks can be contained and managed and as we do more change projects we get better at them and the risk reduces over time. On the other hand, the strategic risk associated with not changing –  the risk that our organisation becomes increasingly out of sync with its operating environment and no longer either provides the goods and services or operated in a way that the market values – is always going to be large and always going to be difficult to manage.

For me, this is the difference between improvement projects which involves small execution risks, and transformation project which involve large strategic risks. In fact research by McKinsey suggests that the strategic risks of transformation projects are so high that only 16% of them result in sustained change over the long term.

The truth is that although it might be more adventurous than most holidays, my sailing trip through the Kimberleys was not a trip into the complete unknown. I had been there once before myself, we were with my parents who had done the trip at least half a dozen times and while we were there we saw at least a dozen other boats go in and out of the King George River. In fact this reminds me of the quote by William Gibson ‘the future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed’. Although this was an adventure into the unknown for my two girls, it was something that many had already experienced (and survived) before them.

As I said, real adventure is hard to come by, but we don’t need to BASE jump into an active volcano to grow and learn as people and we don’t need to completely restructure our organisations to maintain our market relevance. We just need to be willing to continually push ourselves to take calculated risks and continue to explore our unknowns.

Whether you’re looking for one-off short courses or longer term support within a community of like-minded organisations, the Digital Champions Club is committed to helping its clients maximise the returns and avoid the risks of digital transformation.

I’ll be facilitating immersive two-day intensives on the dates listed below. In this insanely practical two-day program, you will not only learn the framework and a suite of simple tools for use back in your organisation, you will leave with a real world, value-adding project to complete over the next couple of months. 


Digital Champions Two-Day Intensive

4 – 5 SEPTEMBER | MELBOURNE
15 – 16 OCTOBER | SYDNEY

Click here for information and tickets

How to predict the future (and almost always get it right)

Understanding the future is the ultimate competitive advantage. Defining strategies and making decisions become a whole lot easier if you already know where the future is taking us. Unfortunately, knowing the future is incredibly difficult…but that doesn’t seem to stop us trying.

  • People buy lotto tickets hoping they’ve predicted the winning numbers.
  • Property investors buy property expecting to make a capital gain.
  • Executives create annual budgets that determine spending priorities for the next 12 months.

Now perhaps this feels like an unfair comparison, and in some ways you’d be right (but perhaps not for the reasons that you’d expect). But if I was being unfair to anyone in this comparison it would be property investors. Well, perhaps not all property investors, but at least long-term property investors. Long-term property investors aren’t too concerned about whether they are right in the short-term. They believe, and the evidence is there to support them, that over the long-term property values go up. So although there is a bonus in buying property at the bottom of a property cycle, over the long-term it won’t make that much of a difference.

Buying lotto tickets and creating budgets (along with any other form of strategic decision making) is, like property investment, a bet on the future. But unlike property investing, the odds of getting it right over the short-term, or even the long-term are not stacked in your favour. The odds of winning lotto are something like 8,000,000:1 which means that if you were to play the same set of numbers for both the Wednesday and Saturday draw for approximately 78,000 years you should expect to win the jackpot once.

And yet I would tell you these are better odds than you creating an accurate 12 month budget.

“Heresy!” you say? Yet, this is the truth. Even though the odds of winning lotto aren’t great at least they are calculable and finite. At the end of the day, there are only 8 million or so different combinations of numbers and we know that one of them has to win. When it comes to budgeting we are making a prediction about not just the organisation’s priorities, but also its operating conditions and countless other factors outside an executive’s direct control. Unlike lotto where the options are finite, for organisations the number of possible permutations of the future they could face are infinite.

And yet, although the odds of getting our budget right are infinitely lower, most people put more faith in their budget than their lotto numbers. People are generally aware that their chance of winning lotto is low and don’t go and spend their winnings until they’ve won. But in business, people will happily start spending their budget well before they know if their predicted future will come to pass.*

*Those of you who are regular readers of my blog would know that I have a general dislike of budgeting. Although this isn’t the focus of this particular article, I can’t help myself but to reiterate that an overt focus on working to budget encourages people to justify decisions based on the cost rather than their value generation. This leads to some perverse outcomes where people spend their budget on just about anything at the end of the financial year. This is rarely strategic, and has little consideration for value generation. Instead it’s done to ‘protect’ their budget so as to justify similar levels of spending in the next budget period. But perhaps the most perverse part of this is that by spending the organisation’s money on things it may not actually need they are likely to get praise from their manager for their ability to ‘work to budget’.

The problem with budgeting, along with many other planning activities undertaken in organisations are reflected in this quote by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

I would argue that in the way in which many organisations approach their planning activities is that they a) put too little thinking into the planning, and b) put too much faith in the plan.

The starting point for any meaningful planning or budgeting activity needs to be ‘we don’t actually know what’s going to happen’. We cannot predict the future accurately and circumstances WILL change. It naturally follows then that any plan that emerges from the planning process has to have the flexibility to change and adapt as new information comes to light.*

*And this is where I’d argue that budgets are particularly insidious. The data and numbers are often presented (and interpreted) as facts rather than as representations and guesses. This is a growing problem with data-driven decision making more broadly. We forget that the data is often just a representation of something else (ie the amount of time someone spends on your website is meant to represent their level of engagement or interest in your products…as opposed to their level of boredom).


An approach to strategic decision making where only one future is considered (normally the one we prefer the most) and one plan developed is more than just naive, it is Reckless, especially in a world where technology is driving rapid and unpredictable change.

A better proposition, and an approach I see a number of organisations attempt, is to acknowledge that their future is unpredictable and to maintain multiple options that can be enacted if the right conditions emerge. The only issue with this approach is that it’s Reactive and relies on the organisations to be able to identify environmental changes in real time.

An even better approach is to acknowledge the inherent uncertainty that organisations face and take the time to consider multiple futures (or scenarios) during the planning process. Not only will this result in a better plan, it will provide decision makers with the foresight (or memories of things to come) to know if/when the plan is no longer suitable.

But the most Robust approach of all would be to consider multiple futures during the planning process and then have a suite of options you could draw on as conditions evolve and opportunities emerge. This approach not only gives decision makers foresight, it provides them with ready-made plans that can be put into action as required.

Another failed attempt at predicting the future

These are the foundational ideas of scenario planning, a strategic planning approach pioneered by Royal Dutch Shell back in the 1960s. It was famously used to predict and prepare for the formation of OPEC and assisted South Africa through its post Apartheid transition.

Interestingly enough scenario planning was my last ‘real job’ before moving to Melbourne back in 2010. For close to two years before leaving Perth I worked in Rio Tinto’s scenario planning and strategy team, helping the various business units develop robust plans and strategies for the future. And although a lot of my work since has had a futurist slant to it, it was only in the last couple of months that I’ve had the opportunity to work in the scenario planning space again.

Over the last two months I have been working with a state government agency to develop four 10-year scenarios of their future. These were finally delivered at their leadership team’s strategic offsite last week. Using the same video and sound driven approach I use for my keynotes, each of the scenarios was presented as mini movie with customised soundscape that transported participants into four very unique stories of how the future might unfold. We then provided participants the opportunity to ask questions about the future and work on tables to understand what each of the futures might mean for them.

Now this whole article has made my headline look a lot like clickbait. On one hand I’m suggesting that you can predict the future and on the other I’m telling you the future’s unpredictable. It turns out that the secret to predicting the future is to not fall into the trap of picking just one future. Instead of picking one future, scenario planning seeks to define the boundaries around the future, and then help you prepare for a future that will inevitably fall somewhere in-between.

What this means is I can’t tell you specifically what the lotto numbers will be on Saturday but I can tell you that each of the six winning numbers will be between 1 and 45, and no two of them will be the same.

Let’s check back next week and see if I was right.

The challenge of explaining what you do

I had an awkward moment with a close friend recently. I’ve known Harsha for more than a decade and she’s someone I’ve leaned on every now and then for marketing advice around the various programs I offer. The awkward moment arose because, after five years of telling Harsha about the Digital Champions Club, she still had to ask me what it was exactly that I do.

At the time I found it quite disheartening, that someone who is clearly switched on, someone who genuinely cares about me and what I do, someone who I’ve spent hours talking to about my work still didn’t have any real clarity about what the Digital Champions Club is or why it exists.

My initial response was a sense of frustration — initially directed outwards at Harsha’s failure to listen, and then directed inwards at my own inability to clearly articulate my proposition. So why is it that we struggle to convey things clearly?

I think firstly it’s because it’s hard to get out of our own heads. What I mean by this is it’s hard to explain things without the context of a whole bunch of other stuff that may also need explaining but that you aren’t aware enough to realise. As a result, the explanations which sound whole and well rounded to us are hollow and incomplete to others.

Second, I think the packaging can get in the way of the product. Our desire to create things that are unique, memorable and exciting brings us to use language that is unnecessarily complex and difficult to follow. Unless it’s meant to be a genuine surprise, perhaps it’s best that we dispense with some of the gift wrapping.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I feel like a bit of a dick talking about myself. Which means I generally don’t do it, and therefore when I do it’s all a little off the cuff and just kind of sounds a bit awkward, which in turn makes me feel like a bit of a dick…and the cycle continues.

So Harsha set me a challenge: articulate the Digital Champions Club in a way that people could actually understand and then share it with all the other people who, like her, are currently unsure of what it is I do.

I’ve been procrastinating on this for a couple of weeks because, apart from the dislike of talking about myself, it feels a little awkward to be openly broadcasting my inherent uncertainty and lack of clarity in a world where ‘experts’ are meant to have endless reserves of both.

Yet perhaps in a small way this is a form of therapy, so Harsha, after hours of struggle and refinement here it goes….

I support small and medium-sized organisations who are struggling to build momentum in the delivery of their technology projects (sometimes referred to as digital transformation). I do this through a combination of monthly coaching (to provide support and accountability), one day workshops (for deep learning) and peer-to-peer sharing (to reduce risk). Collectively, these are delivered as a technology-focused, continuous improvement program called the Digital Champions Club.

So how did I do? No, honestly, I’d genuinely like to know…and it really does still sound hollow and incomplete (or even if it doesn’t) feel free to download it my latest white paper “When Technology Fails to Deliver” which explains a whole bunch of the other stuff that goes around in my head.

P.S. I’ve already been back into LinkedIn to edit this…twice.

Should we be doing nothing?

Atlassian describes itself as a do-ocracy. Google spends huge amounts of time and money working on projects with no clear commercial application.

The way forward_600x400

Why is it that the most successful tech start ups spend so much time doing new things (often without clear direction) rather than perfecting the old things that they are already doing?

Let’s take a moment to compare three things we could do, nothing, one thing andlots of things

Doing nothing is really a commitment to doing the same things that you’re already doing. Doing the same things is a great approach when

you’re 100% sure of the thing you need to do…

….and you’re already doing it

If you’re not already doing the thing you need to be doing, then doing that one thing would be better than doing nothing.

But neither of these are good approaches if you don’t know what you need to be doing. If you’re not 100% sure of what you need to do, then doing nothing is not a great approach and the false sense of security that comes with doing one thing is potentially worse.

What successful technology companies realise is that the direction is clear, even if the destination is not.

There is no progress made by doing nothing

A much better approach is to do some things, lots of things. Not all of these will be the right things but some of them just might.


  1. What the hell is a do-ocracy?
  2. A book on doing something (actually 50 things)
  3. Google X: How doing the wrong thing is often the right thing

News from the Digital Champions Club

Normally I’m not one for much self promotion but I’ve mentioned the Digital Champions Club a few times recently and want to give you a peek behind the curtain so you can see what’s being going down.

Curious? Read on!

Damn it, I have some other pressing spam messages to delete but what the heck

We held our first Digital Champions Club Boot camp for seven enterprising digital champions at the beginning of March. The event included the extraordinary Mykel Dixon hosting a conversation about culture and purpose, the enigmatic Paul Gaudion discussing digital projects at John Holland and the wonderful Kate Fuelling helping mentor and support members. Thankfully, we also had Dave Dixon there to capture the event on film and he’s pulled together a short video which brilliantly captures the intent of the Digital Champions Club…in under 1 minute. Take a look.

And everything now looks shinier

Whilst this has all being going on behind closed doors we have also been working on changing things out the front. To make it easier for SMEs to connect the dots between their people, work and technology, we’ve just launched a new website (you can check it out at digitalchampionsclub.com) and added some great new events…and the first of these is completely free.

Yes, some things are free…

Every few weeks I will be hosting a virtual conversation with small business owners on how to identify the next generation of digital opportunities for their organisation.

You can find out more by visiting the website and clicking on ‘Join in the Conversation’. Each virtual conversation is limited to just 20 participants to give space for interaction and questions so it would be wise to book early to get your preferred date and time.

…but others are not

Apart from the free virtual conversations, I will be hosting a series of breakfasts at the end of May for organisations who want to take the next step in identifying and developing their digital champions. The ‘Breakfast of Champions’ will be held in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and will cost $79 for a double ticket including breakfast and a copy of my new book The Digital Champion: Connecting the dots between people, work and technology.

We will have the dates finalised shortly, but if you are interested please email me so you are at the top of the list once the events are launched.

Did you say a new book?

Yes I did. Almost a year to the day after publishing Analogosaurus: Avoiding Extinction in a World of Digital Business I am just finishing the final draft of The Digital Champion: Connecting the dots between people, work and technology. In a way the first book was a book for the managers and executives who needed a gentle shove towards embracing a digital future, the second one is a practical guide that shows organisations how to do it.

If you would like to make a small contribution to the book, you could help by giving your feedback on the cover design. I’m currently running a design contest on 99 Designs and you can have your say here.

The crowd’s not that wise…but there is still a lot you can learn

The other day I was talking to a potential member of the Digital Champions Club. He loved the concept but was concerned that his organisations (which worked in software development) might not get a lot of value out of his membership. One of the really cool aspects of the Digital Champions Club is a quarterly peer learning bootcamp where member organisations get together and share information about the digital projects they are working on. Given that he worked for a software development company that was already fairly tech savvy, he wasn’t sure there was a lot he could learn from other organisations in the program.

Crowd

In one sense he was perfectly correct. His organisation would have been right near the top when it came to technology use and if he was to engage one on one with any other member of the program he would probably have more to give than to get out of the conversation. But if he was to compare his organisation to the collective knowledge of ALL the members of the program then it would be a quite different story.

The idea that the collective can determine a better outcome than the individual dates back to 1907 when Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton discovered  that the average of all entries in a ‘guess the weight of an ox’ competition (yes really) was more accurate than any individual guess. We explicitly rely on this concept for a whole bunch of things such as determining the price of shares on the stock market, and determining the odds when you bet on a sporting contest.

Except it turns out that the crowd is not that wise. Firstly we know that stock markets fluctuate and the underdog in sporting contests sometimes wins. In fact recent research has shown that unless very specific conditions are met, such as having a large, diverse and unbiased crowd then their predictions are not that great. Given that the number of organisations participating in the Digital Champions Club is relatively small and not really that diverse* this seems to undermine the value proposition that the program offers. After all, if the crowd isn’t really that wise, wouldn’t you just be better off going it alone?

Just because the crowd isn’t that wise doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot to learn. The difference between the Digital Champions Club and say the stock market is that we are not using the crowd to predict the future. We are just using the crowd to test it. By having a whole bunch of different organisations identifying, investigating and implementing digital projects and then sharing what they have learnt with the group, the whole group is going to learn faster.

I consistently hear that one of the biggest challenges for small and medium sized businesses (and even big ones) is getting good advice on which digital tools to test and deploy. Ultimately, being a part of the Digital Champions Club allows organisations to tap into the collective knowledge of the crowd, rather than the wisdom of it.

*They come from a variety of industries but are mostly small and medium sized businesses
There are still a handful of places left in the first intake of the Digital Champions Club. If you or your organisations want to find out how to tap into the collective knowledge of the Club please get in touch.

When the drought turned to flood

I read an article recently that said that following the Afghanistan war, the US Army completely changed their information sharing policies. It turns out that the Army had important information that could have saved lives and assisted their own troops but the ‘need to know’ approach to information management meant that the right information didn’t get to the right people fast enough. The new approach is to share information on a ‘need not to know’ basis. Rather than ‘is there anything I should tell you?’ It is now, ‘Is there anything that I should hold back?’

armed-forces-600x400

Over the last couple of decades, we have moved from a world of information drought to a world of information flood. When you are in drought, you hoard the things that are scarce and the ownership of this resource is a source of power.  The problem is the same hoarding mentality doesn’t serve you well in an information flood. Hoarding information just means you are more likely to drown in it.

[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1PRgA0X”]In an information flood, value is created by diverting the resource to where it is most needed.[/tweetthis]

In an information flood, value is created by diverting the resource to where it is most needed. In the US Army’s case, this was the troops on the ground. Think about which of your mindsets and approaches to information management are based in a scarcity or drought mindset rather and an abundance or flood mindset. Are they still serving you or is it time to update your tools and techniques to a world of information overload?

Will you be your Champion’s champion?

What to do about digital disruption

As a speaker for The Executive Connection I have spoken to over 400 SME executives about the impact of digital technology on business over the last two years. Almost without fail, these CEOs have acknowledged the pressing need to take a more proactive approach to digital technology and identify opportunities to disrupt their own business (before someone else does). Yet for all the urgency around digital disruption, theirs has generally been a large amount of inaction and the biggest frustration for many of these CEOs has been in knowing what to do next.

SW_HiRes_600x400

The reason for this is that the ‘what to do next’ is different for each organisation. Every one of the CEOs I spoke to was dealing with a unique organisational problem based on available skills and experience, legacy systems,  and industry requirements that shaped their opportunities and defined their needs. As such any cookie cutter solution imposed from the outside would be unlikely to have any meaningful long term impact. As a result, one of my great frustrations has been in knowing how to support these organisations in a way that was both effective and cost effective.*

What is missing is a Digital Champion

What I now realise is that these organisations don’t need someone from the outside telling them what to do. They need someone on the inside making things happen. They need an internal resource that was tasked with helping the organisation identify, prioritise, and implement against digital opportunities as they occur This is the role of a Digital Champion.

In larger organisations, the Digital Champion might otherwise be called the Chief Digital Officer. According to McKinsey, the number of CDOs in the world is growing at 200% per year (with Melbourne City Council being the latest organisation to add one) and this extraordinary growth is a direct reflection of the growing need for organisations to take a proactive rather than ad-hoc approach to digital technology. In smaller organisations, budgetary and resourcing constraints mean a full time CDO is unrealistic. Instead SMEs need a Digital Champion that can provide a similar set of skills on a part time basis.

Given the extraordinary (and growing demand) for digital skills, there is little chance that SMEs will be able to hire the Digital Champion they need. Instead, they are going to have to develop them.** Although there is a good chance that a potential Digital Champion already has a passion for technology, they will need help and support to channel this passion into relevant (and valuable) business projects. They will need help identifying and prioritising opportunities, leading and influencing others, and implementing the projects that matter.

Welcome to the Digital Champion’s Club

The Digital Champion’s Club is my answer to what SMEs need to do next in an age of digital disruption. In essence, it is a support group for Digital Champions, giving them all the resources they need to identify and launch successful digital projects. A member of the Digital Champions Club will get

  • A tailored development plan and development goals
  • Expert one on one mentoring on a monthly basis
  • Lightning email/phone support as required
  • Access to a resource library of templates, models and other useful stuff

Best of all, they will get to participate in the quarterly Club Days with their peers. Club Days will provide a unique learning experience where a group of between ten to 20 Digital Champions from different organisations get together. During the day there will be a combination of expert tuition, peer learning sessions, and the opportunity to work on their digital project in a supportive environment.

Through this model it is expected that Digital Champions (working on a part time basis) should deliver between $100,000 and $500,000 in benefit to their organisation per year.

Will you be your Champion’s Champion?

Through the Club I see my role as being the champion of Digital Champion’s, but this is not something I can do alone. I can provide external support and the ‘push’ to help your Digital Champion develop but they will also need an internal champion to provide the ‘pull’, someone who can provide the resourcing, internal support, and influence to help them deliver the projects that disrupt your business for the better. The question is, will you also champion your Champion?

Applications are now open for the Digital Champions Club. If you see the opportunity in developing a digital champion and think this might be your ‘what to do next’ about digital disruption, I would love to talk to you – champion to champion.

 

*Coming from a small business background I am incredibly conscious of the challenges that these organisations face, especially when it comes to ensuring that limited financial resources are channeled into the types of projects that have a high return on investment and a good chance of success.

**It is unlikely that this is a role that you will recruit for, primarily because the person you need would be either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Instead, your digital champion is probably someone already in your employ. It is likely to be the person that you or your other staff turn to when you’re looking for advice about new technology.

Is your leadership team drinking from the firehose?

The time we seem to spend managing information rather than doing our work always amazes me. Research by Google a couple of years ago suggested that information workers (people who do thinking work, rather than doing work) spend over 30% of their time looking for stuff…and not always successfully.

fire-hose

The hashtag #TMI is used on social media to refer to someone who shares just a little too much about their personal lives. #TMI stands for Too Much Information and the truth is, this is not just a problem in our personal lives, it is just as much a problem in our professional lives as well. People cc us in on conversations we don’t really care about, and we sit through meetings to get the smallest of status updates that are actually relevant to our roles and we scan endless documents to try and find the bit that’s important.

We are trying to drink from a firehose and all we are doing is getting wet.

It used to be that being at the centre of communication channels in an organisation was a benefit. Now it is just a burden. We have more and more information to get through and our main strategy to date has been to just spend more and more time doing it. The truth is, every hour managing our information is an hour that we don’t spend doing what matters.

I’m not suggesting that we don’t check our email (as appealing as that sounds). What I am suggesting is that we can do it better. What if we could use a combination of technique and technology to improve the way we manage our information. A program I recently ran for the leadership team of one of Victoria’s local councils is a great case study of this. It showed that giving people the right techniques and the right technology to manage their information (and then showing them how to use it) reduced the time burden of #TMI by more than 2 hours a week per participant with one director citing a saving of 5 hours per week. Across the whole leadership team the total time saving was about 90 hours per week, or the equivalent of two full time employees.

But this is not just about time saving (if you have read some of my previous blogs you would know that this is an incredibly poor measure of productivity), this is really about freeing up your leadership team to focus on what really matters. Apart from the time saving the training also gave the leadership team the tools they needed to collaborate better, to work with greater flexibility and to make more informed decisions.

To stretch the analogy just a little too far, we need to teach our leaders how to get cup full of water when they need a drink and save the firehose for when we need to fight fires.

If you live in a world of too much information and can’t afford to keep throwing more time at the problem, get in touch to find out more about the leadership programs I run.

Do you think your orgnisation could manage it’s information better?

Why digital will change the way boards operate

In life we are used to dealing with trade-offs: work back late or spend time with the family, buy a new car or pay down the mortgage, go to the gym or sleep in for an extra hour. And when it comes to trade offs, we have been led to believe that it always involves an opportunity cost. But is that entirely true?

1966-Toyota-Corolla

Perhaps the most classic example of trade-offs in business is the Project Management Triangle. The triangle depicts the three preferred outcomes of a project: Time, Cost, and Features. And the saying goes that you can pick two out of three. If you want a project on time and low cost, then you will get less features. If you want more features and it delivered on time, be prepared to pay for it.

img_1072_720

But the one thing this model doesn’t account for is changes in technology. Take for example the car production line. Improvements in technology mean that we now get a higher quality car, with more features, for the same cost. The original Toyota Corolla cost 360,000 Yen when it was launched in 1966 – about 1.5 times the average monthly salary. And for that you got little more than a box with an engine and four wheels attached. The current cheapest Corolla is the Yaris (both longer and wider than the original Corolla) which costs about 2x the average salary in Australia. By comparison, it comes standard with rear reversing camera, air conditioning, touch screen audio, and voice controls.

So we are getting much better cars for the same price as we paid 50 years ago. So according to the Project Management triangle, the rate of production must have slowed to a crawl, yet labour productivity at Toyota has doubled over the same time period.

So what is the difference between the way Toyota operates in 2015 vs 1966?

Technology

What if we were to apply this same approach to our work as organisational leaders and decision makers? What if we could make better decisions in less time and with lower cost? What if, just like Toyota, we could reduce the waste out of our work and spend more time on the things that matter.

[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1h4n1yX”]To have a world class board, we must have a commitment to technology and continuous improvement.[/tweetthis]

Digital technology is providing this opportunity, yet the take up of digital tools by key decision makers has been slow (and slower in Australia than in most parts of the world) and scarily, the higher you in the organisation, the worse it gets with Board members generally showing a lower understanding and being less supportive of digital technology than their CEOs.

Toyota became the number one car company in the world because of a commitment to technology and a focus on continuous improvement. It goes without saying that if we want to operate as a world class boards or world class executive teams we need to start taking a similar approach.

Image credit: “Toyota Corolla First-generation 001” by D.Bellwood