Fracking, Scary Movies & Rocket Ships

Fracking, Scary Movies & Rocket Ships

If you presented an idea to invest $4.5 million with a 25X return, the clear majority of company executives would say yes—regardless of industry sector.   This was precisely the case with the recently released movie, Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele from the duo of Key & Peele of Comedy Central fame.  Similarly, oil and gas companies are experiencing dramatic returns on investments due to the economics and repeatable process of fracking.  Instead of taking decades to bring oil and natural gas to market and then operating for decades, fracking is something that can be started up in a few months and which runs for a year or two only.  

Let’s look at the success of SpaceX rocket ships, which are costing one-third less than what the cost is for NASA.   A SpaceX launch costs approximately $440 million while NASA costs three times this amount.  The secret sauce for SpaceX is their approach to designing reusable components of the rockets when they return to earth.  As you can imagine, this represents massive savings and of course speed; SpaceX recently had successful launches in January and a month later in February of this year. 

Speed, innovation and being unafraid to fail is the name of the game for global corporations, public sector, NGOs, and non-profits.   Get Out was cast and shot in approximately six months and debuted in January 2017 has grossed $100 million already and still going strong.  By contrast, Cat Woman cost $100 million to make and took in only $82 million. Elon Musk and the SpaceX program have had a few launch failures, to say the least, but more successes to be sure.  Moreover, with fracking, it takes mere months to get a crew up and running rather than years compared to large exploration projects.  The economics, investor patience, technology capabilities and human imagination have indeed changed the landscape for all industry sectors.  The good ole days in business are gone—and for those who believe they will soon return, let us all know when they do.  In the meantime, keep innovating, and continue to be bold and brave!

Handling the Pressure to Deliver Value in 2017

My post is about accelerating your personal growth, self-confidence and courage to execute at higher levels of performance in 2017, and is intended for my colleagues and friends across the globe who are taking on new roles or trying to figure out things dangling from last year. 

Here's my story: I was faced with the prospect of losing $40 to my golf playing partner or winning $20.  While not much money, I was ahead by three strokes on a challenging par five finishing hole.  I messed up my fairway bunker shot because of my poor drive and was forced to lay up from a bad spot.  

Now, facing my 4th shot, which was 180 yards, with the ball above my feet into a stiff breeze with a bunker guarding the green against an elevated view (Wildcat on Lakes Course #18).  At this point, my playing partner could reach the green in regulation on his third shot.  I began to calculate all the scenarios and potential adverse outcomes.  My heart started to race even more.  I then stepped back and recalled my practice and said to myself, "make a full turn and release the club."  While choking down slightly on my 4-iron, I began my take away; I felt comfortable in my mechanics despite the awkward stance and I watched the club contact the ball.  As I raised up, the ball pierced through the brisk wind with a favorable right to left draw landing 12 feet from the hole.  I pulled it off under pressure!

I sealed the victory and bragging rights in a clutch moment.  I went on to two-putt for bogey and a two-stroke win.  My buddy is from Philadelphia and headed back this morning (Sunday).  We have a ritual in which the loser must sign and date the money.

How daring will you be in 2017?  How much time do you spend preparing and being ready for unforeseen hiccups with your digital transformation and cyber programs?  Are you acquiring new capabilities and applying to real-life events at work?  Alternatively, are you only using the same tactics and thinking that were successful 20-25 years ago, in your new role by relying on your "years of experience" or trying new ways of working?  Are you playing offense or are you playing defense?  It is okay not to know where to start, but it is not good to stay in place by avoiding uncomfortable situations and try--whatever that looks like for you.  I have had the opportunity to face extreme discomfort and try new approaches that accelerate outcomes with clients, achieve crisper executive alignment and apply new tools that bring together and organize cross-functional stakeholders.  We all have great stories to tell, and it would be great hear yours!  Follow me on Twitter @uberconsultant


Why Digital Disruption is So Difficult

Taken from WSJ, June 3, 2016.

An incumbent’s guide to digital disruption. If the ability of a legacy company to identify in time the digital harbingers of its doom does not sound hard enough, try the years (and possibly millions of dollars) spent experimenting with new initiatives when, for all purposes, the core business appears solid. “Not only are there strong, short-term financial incentives to protect the core, but it’s also often painful to shift focus from core businesses in which one has, understandably enough, an emotional as well as a financial investment,” McKinsey & Co.’s Chris Bradley and Clayton O’Toole write.  And for those legacy companies that do succeed in establishing new digital business models there’s still the challenge of adapting to the new normal. “The challenge is to adapt and structurally realign cost bases to the new reality of profit pools, and accept that the ‘new normal’ likely includes far fewer ‘rivers of gold.’”


The Case for Alignment in Digital Projects

This week, I am focusing on the word, alignment.  Alignment is a term people discuss and use in virtually every context of life.  Alignment is also a term that is overused in my opinion because it is often a dismissive term when pressing issues or strategic differences remain outstanding.   This is what it sounds and looks like after an intense discussion about the direction of handling a given situation: “let’s align after the meeting”.  In organizations, alignment seldom happens; what typically occurs is “compromise” but the two parties do not align. 

The value of alignment is huge!  Alignment equals momentum, and people are accepting their roles as well as being confident the team is marching in unison towards the same outcomes.  For example, you might have a CIO, who makes a proclamation that states in two years we will be 100 percent in the cloud with all administrative applications.   Even better, the CIO rules we will provide complete visibility to all IT operating costs to help business units make more informed purchasing decisions and establish better controls with a goal of reducing IT costs by 30 percent.

What’s Next: The Reality

Stakeholders are brought together with everyone brimming with excitement about the prospects of reducing costs by 30 percent.  Then the meetings start to galvanize the team with the goal of reaching alignment.  The CIO asks you, “how long will it take to get aligned with the business?”  You reply, about 2-3 weeks depending on everyone’s schedule.  What happens next is the stuff that contributes to the downfall of the vast majority of efforts; momentum slows, people become less engaged and lose interest as they move onto the next thing.

Momentum Drives Results

Why is it so difficult to align stakeholders on a common goal?  Countless reasons get in the way of people aligning, and I will share the most cancerous reasons that often go “unchecked”. 

1.      Need more of whatever.

2.      Don’t see the value for me.

3.      Personality clashes

Need more of whatever.  This behavior most often comes off as a friendly request with a smiley face.  The requester may require a more compelling business case to gain the confidence they need.  The requester needs more data or more time to compile the data.  Here’s what makes this difficult, this is the person who will not advance something unless their request is 100% complete.

Don’t see the value for me.  I like this one because it forces IT professionals to demonstrate empathy with the individual who does not get it.  Also, this is a terrific opportunity to refine your story to show the value by learning what is not being said by stepping in the shoes of the person who is simply not seeing the value.  By using some therapy based techniques from Imago dialogue therapy, you can slow down the conversation by paraphrasing, validating, showing empathy and making a commitment to give the requester what they seek.

Personality clashes.  People issues and technology are typically not mentioned in the same sentence.  However, as companies undertake digital transformation, higher levels of engagement, evolving roles, governance, and changes in business and operating models, will all rear their collective heads.  This is where leadership comes in—and not the HR kind to help “work through things”.  Rather, this is about business and technology leaders modeling, coaching others and making it safe to address topics albeit in the right settings.  Personality clashes often yield more robust and trusting relationships as people accept they need each other and their respective strengths.  By checking titles at the door, creating healthy rituals (e.g. put cell phones in a box when meetings start) and creating an atmosphere of genuine support and discouraging duplicitous talk “offline” will let everyone know the team can competently address personality issues in a productive way. 

From my experience, these are just a few of the prevalent themes that interfere with alignment amongst teams and thus gaining momentum that will demonstrate solid progress.  When you compound the idea of making digital investments and doing in short cycles, alignment of stakeholders becomes essential to establishing a unifying purpose making substantive progress.

Challenges That Prevent Companies from Realizing the Value of IT Investments

Periodically I will identify a term or phrase that conveys a problem confronting both business and IT leaders.  This week, we are focusing on congruency or more accurately incongruence. Congruence means “in agreement or harmony; identical in form; coinciding exactly when superimposed.  Incongruence between IT units and business leaders can result in devastating impacts both financially and operationally.

For businesses on which technology is the primary driver of value and innovation, it is essential for business executives and IT leaders to design a path that is congruent, easy to follow and communicate.  A critical component of sound IT Financial Management (ITFM) is precise communications; communications should emanate from joint planning, and collaborative discourse to achieve a deeper understanding of business objectives and how technology can help reach these goals.

Here are some examples of what I call “passive behavioral incongruencies” in which executives are often uncomfortable voicing and manifest themselves in the following ways:

1.      Our technology investments are not keeping pace with our business.  What this means is, “folks in IT are spending money on things that don’t matter to us.”  Typically, stakeholders grumble that results in additional requests by budget approvers to explain the business case which often results in wasted cycles of effort by consultants and internal staff.

2.      The business is making decisions without IT involvement.  This perception is a symptom of the inability to understand what is driving demand; thus, the capabilities the company is looking for often go wanting for something the IT group is not providing.  The symptoms we typically see include financial waste because of duplicate efforts, incomplete decision making and its potential downstream implications and myriad of symptoms.

3.      We don’t know for what we are paying.  When the bills from service providers or internal approval requests for expenses are due, there is often a sense of mystery and surprise—, especially in larger companies.  Businesses can follow different pathways to address: 1) approval documentation that is explained up-front as supporting proof for purchases; 2) zero-based budgeting to drive clarity of need, fiscal transparency and efficient use of capital.

Achieving congruence or eliminating incongruence packs a powerful punch for organizations operating within tight financial constraints.  ITFM sets the stage to driving more value from IT investments by charting a course that is more sustainable to support both running day-to-day operations while supporting innovation and growing new opportunities.