I’m pretty sure I don’t necessarily believe in karma. If I did, I would have put down last week to a karmic episode, instead I’m now forced to find some other life lesson in what happened.
I had been really looking forward to last week, as much as it meant me leaving Dennis (the camper van) and Daisy (the camper trailer formally referred to as Goldie) for a few days it was going to be the most radical example of our Life Work Adventure. It involved me flying out from our trip to present at three events across three states within three days and then flying across the country to be back with the girls in time for a hot dinner on day four. But I was soon to find that sometimes things don’t quite go as planned.*
*Oh yes, I fully appreciate the irony that my last post was about how great preparation makes planning less necessary…but more on that later.
The expectation was that we would park up the van Tuesday, somewhere around Nelson Bay in NSW, then on Wednesday morning the girls would deliver me to Newcastle Airport (30 minutes away) where I would then catch a flight to Melbourne. Once in Melbourne, I would be picked up by a driver at the airport and driven to a client’s office to run a three hour workshop (on enabling technology adoption) before heading back into the Melbourne CBD for the night. Then on Thursday morning I would rise early and head to the Arts Centre to do a keynote on using technology to deliver more engaging tourism experiences before returning to the airport and continuing to Perth. I would run my final event, an all-day bootcamp for my Digital Champions Club, on Friday before an early Saturday morning flight back to Newcastle (via Melbourne) to catch up with the girls…and catch up on some sleep.
On paper it looked like everything would dovetail in nicely but almost immediately things started to unravel.
Firstly, my flight from Newcastle to Melbourne was cancelled with only a couple of hours’ notice (due to a lack of crew) and as there was no other flights leaving Newcastle I then bought a second ticket (on a different airline) to Sydney and a third ticket (on a different airline again) to take me through to Melbourne. Unfortunately, my second flight out of Newcastle departed late (also as a result of crew issues) which meant that I only made it to Sydney in time to watch my connecting flight back out of the gate and take off down the runway. And even though the client was incredibly accommodating (with all the participants volunteering to stay back until 6pm) the multiple delays meant we eventually had to pull the pin and postpone the workshop until a later date.
Thankfully the other events went far more smoothly, though Qantas put on a domestic leg of an international flight to Perth which has different security requirements that resulted in having a $100 bottle of my favourite wine…that I’d bought from the cellar door…in the Hunter Valley…as a gift for the guest speaker who was presenting at the Digital Champions Club the following day, confiscated at the airport.
If I was a believer in karma or fate I’d probably put it down as some form of retribution for my previous posts on how well prepared I felt for just about any eventuality, or as a good friend of mine in Perth pointed out, perhaps it was the necessary punishment for being so bold as to think I could just go and live and work on the road for three months with my family.
But as I am not a believer in karma I’ve now being forced to come up with a different explanation as to why all these things went wrong. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
- If you plan on doing anything, something will generally go wrong
- If you plan on doing something irregular or uncommon, then the chances of things going wrong escalates rapidly.
- When something does go wrong, you will always wish you built in some additional capacity
- If things are important ALWAYS build in some additional capacity
- Every time something goes wrong it’s an opportunity to learn
- The biggest risk is we don’t learn when we should, and we end up with the same problem at a later date
Oh, and the best thing is this. You don’t necessarily need to wait for the ‘something’ to happen to you. The power of the internet and open sharing means that you can just as quickly and easily learn from other’s mistakes…with far less downside.
So, if you’re ever travelling with your family, working from a van and need to fly out from a regional airport for an important gig, half a day of spare capacity is not enough. Always fly the night before.*
*You might think that this is incredibly niche advice but I guarantee that someday in the future I’m going to get an email to a long defunct email address saying ‘Oh my god Simon, your advice saved my life’.
We left Lake Macquarie on Friday and headed to the Hunter Valley for an impromptu birthday lunch and a spot of wine tasting. We camped for a couple of nights before heading back towards the coast. We stayed a couple of nights at Anna Bay before heading to Nelson Bay…which was the start of the adventures described above.
I stayed on in Perth a couple of extra days to catch up with friends and spent a magical day at Rotto on the Sunday before heading back towards the van and the girls on the Monday. After dealing with a couple of days of awkward rain in Nelson Bay (awkward because we haven’t really had to deal with much of that since leaving Melbourne) we packed up and headed north again. We are currently at a farm stay just near South West Rocks and Byron Bay is now clearly in our sights.
Back in around 2007, I spent a few a few years working for Rio Tinto. It was my first and only proper corporate job…and it came with a proper corporate IT team. When I started there the IT team was located just a couple of floors below me, but even then I only remember meeting one member of the IT team face to face. His name was George. Unlike the rest of the IT team that stayed at their desks, George use to walk each of 20 odd floors of Rio Tinto employees every couple of weeks. He would drop by each desk, identifying problems people were having, and showing them simple tips and tricks with their laptop or Blackberry (it was 2007 after all).
…That was until the Helpdesk function got outsourced to India and then I never saw George again, or anyone else from IT for that matter. Getting IT issues fixed ended up being a lot harder and often it was just seemed easier to leave them broken.
Many would find this a rather typical experience of corporate IT. The commoditisation of IT services and the pursuit of lower costs have seen many IT functions either outsourced or rationalised out of existence. But the impact of this is much bigger than the pain and frustration of end users not being able to get simple computer issues fixed. The big cost is in the unrealised potential of new technology solutions to be applied within an organisation.
There is little doubt that some of the biggest opportunities in modern business are being driven by innovations in technology. Yet if the people who understand the technology aren’t (or can’t) effectively engaging with people in the operational side of the organisation, many of these opportunities will never be identified, investigated, or ultimately implemented.
This physical separation between people in IT and operations is just a facet of the IT-Operational Divide. In addition to the physical divide, there is often also a language divide (people in IT and operations use different words, abbreviations and terms), a role divide (people in IT and operations work in fundamentally different ways and don’t understand how or why that is the case) and potentially even a respect divide (IT professionals are often seen as a roadblock and struggle to get the respect of their peers).
As long as this continues, the impact on the bottom line has got little to do with what the cost of the IT function and a lot to do with the improvement opportunities that are never identified.
To proactively realise these opportunities, we ultimately need to overcome the IT-Operational divide…and somewhat ironically the best way to overcome the divide would be to get IT and operational people working together to realise some of these opportunities. But left to their own devices this is unlikely to occur (like mixing oil and water this may initially require a bit of shaking, or for the nerds out there the addition of an emulsifier). Instead organisations need to provide a structured ‘learn by doing’ approach that facilitates direct engagement and breaks down the physical, language, role, and respect barriers that are currently holding the organisation back.
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Simon Waller is a author, speaker and trainer helping organisations get more out of their technology. He is also the founder of the Digital Champions Club, a program that develops internal digital experts who can identify, investigate, and implement the technology projects that matter.
The other week, I presented to the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia at Crown in Perth. One of the stories I shared was the frustration I experienced as a paperless person selling our family home in Perth five years ago. I had people asking for fax numbers, ridiculous amounts of forms and other pieces of paper being sent to me via snail mail and contracts that had been annotated, scanned and emailed so many times that they were illegible.
But that was all the way back in 2011, and oh how the technology has got better since then. According to Moore’s law, by the time it came to buying our new home in Melbourne five years later the technology should have been at least eight times better…and yet I struggled through the same inefficient paper driven processes I had previously.
The technology is getting better but many of the processes aren’t.
One of the most common reasons that I hear for organisations not investing more in technology is “our clients/suppliers/staff aren’t ready yet” but whether you think they are ready or not, your lack of investment in technology is probably holding both them, and you back.
Firstly, we need to acknowledge that any generalised statements about the characteristics of people are flawed. There will always be some people ahead of the curve and there will always be some behind it. This means that the portion of your clients/staff/suppliers who are early adopters (the ones who know what technology makes possible in terms of convenience, usability, time saving and quality) are currently feeling frustrated and perhaps just a little bit disappointed. This was very much my personal experience.
You could suggest that I’m an exception — that most people are generally comfortable with the status quo and they don’t feel disappointed at all, and I would suggest that this is only because you haven’t shown them what’s possible. Technology development is ultimately funded through developing solutions that improve customer experience and the speed and quality of outcomes. So we may not be disappointing our slow adopters yet but we are not necessarily serving them either.
And I would add that there are probably more people ahead and less people behind the curve than you think. The consumerisation of IT means that most of us have access to better technology at home than we do in the workplace which means the level of proficiency you see is far less than what people actually have. The number of people you’re already disappointing might be far greater than you think.
We are currently recruiting for the next intake of the Digital Champions Club. Join a 12 month program that is guaranteed to improve organisation performance and deliver measurable value. Check out the Program Structure.
Just as day follows night, the exponential growth in computing power is creating an exponential growth in digital opportunity.
There are more apps, platforms, devices and integrations than ever before (and there are many, many many more still to come) and each one might be an opportunity to do things faster, cheaper, and better.
in most organisations the responsibility for digital is limited to the IT department. Which means the number of people tasked with identifying and acting on these opportunities is growing linearly at best and is stagnant at worse.
If you don’t have hundreds of digital opportunities on your radar coming it doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means
the number of opportunities exceeds the number of eyes looking for them.
In the future (and when I say ‘future’ I mean ‘now’) everyone will need to start taking responsibility for digital.
MTV Unplugged is a TV series hosted by MTV in the United States. It was made famous by Eric Clapton’s classic performance in 1992 that was released as an album and went on to sell over 10 million copies. The program involves famous musicians playing their greatest hits without the use of electric instruments. Acoustic guitars replace electric guitars and pianos replace synthesisers.
Perhaps the most significant MTV Unplugged performance for me was Nirvana’s set in 1993, about five months before Kurt Cobain’s death. The reason for this is that it was so different from Nirvana’s normal electrified performances and showed a completely different side of the band.
The reality is though that playing unplugged is a novelty. None of the artists who went on the show made their name playing acoustic. They made their name playing electrified and amplified music, because this is the best way to maximise the impact. At the end of the day, you can’t play an 80,000 seat stadium without amplification.
[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1CuONfs”]Artists make their name playing electrified, amplified music because it’s the best way to maximise impact.[/tweetthis]
The same thing goes for organisational leadership. Many leaders are trying to play acoustic in an amplified world and as a result their messages are being drowned out by other influences. If leaders want to maximise their impact in a world of digital business then they need to use the right technology.
Ultimately, leadership is a relationship of influence (not authority) and a leader’s ability to influence depends on traits such as awareness, communication, organisation and their own action orientation. Leaders need to be employing digital tools that can amplify their performance in each of these areas.
This is not to say that an acoustic approach doesn’t have a place in the modern workplace. Acoustic performances, such as handwritten letters and face to face meetings, show another side to leadership, just like Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance showed another side to the band. But just like Nirvana didn’t build its following playing acoustic, a modern leader cannot build influence at scale without the right digital tools.
If you want to amplify the performance of your leadership team I have recently launched a new Leading with Technology program. If you would like to find out more about it please get in contact via email.
Image credit: J Ronald Lee via flickr
Following a well received presentation to the Law Society of WA as part of their 2013 Continuing Professional Development program, Simon will running another session in 2014. Scheduled for Wednesday, 18 June and sponsored by Lexis Nexis, the seminar will show how to align digital tools with work tasks to increase productivity and improve performance. To find out more you can download the program flyer or contact Carmen Maughan at email@example.com
The Australian Institute of Management (AIM) is hosting a Technology for Performance event in Melbourne on Wednesday 23 April where I will be talking about the impact of technology on business.
The talk will look at the changing nature of work as we shift away from an industrialised economy towards one driven by information and knowledge. We will consider what it means to be a professional in a digital age and the knowledge and skills we will need to be effective.
If you are interested in attending you can find out more information on the AIM website
Simon will be presenting a special workshop on the Business of Tourism as part of the Digital Futures series of events run by Business Foundations in WA. The event will run from 1pm to 4pm on Thursday 28 November and will be hosted at the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club in Mandurah.
The workshop will build on Simon’s presentation at the South Australian Tourism Industry Council’s annual conference and will feature a case study on Adventure Bay Charters, South Australia’s most awarded tourism business. If you are a tourism business based in the Peel region and want to understand practical ways of incorporating mobile technology into your operations visit the Digital Futures event page for more information.
It was with great pleasure that I presented a Samplify session in Sydney as part of AMP’s Amplify Festival last week. I have long admired the work of Annalie Killian and the Amplify Team in bringing amazing new ideas into both AMP and the broader community. It was a dream come true to be able to contribute my own ideas to such an great initiative.
The response from AMP staff was fantastic with the first session selling out and a second session almost reaching capacity. As much as I might like to think that this is all about me, the truth is that mobile technology users are crying out for someone to help them understand the why what and how of mobile technology use.