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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why Strategies fail

Have you ever been in a situation where everyone seemingly agrees on a particular strategy, but somehow it never happens?

See if you identify with this example: A technology firm — with a number of different product areas, geographic units, and service functions — was figuring out how to integrate services for their largest global customers. After extensive planning, the senior management team decided to assign experienced executives to a dozen of these customers, and give them the authority to manage the accounts end-to-end. What they failed to address was that many of the best sales executives couldn't be released to take on these roles; the financial systems couldn't provide the right information on a customer-by-customer basis; compensation plans didn't support integrated selling; and research programs remained geared towards new technologies instead of integrated solutions. So while everyone agreed that an integrated approach was needed, very little change actually occurred.
The fascinating thing about this case, and many others like it, is that nobody took accountability for the lack of strategic execution. In other words, everyone felt individually successful, even though the company experienced a collective failure.
I recently saw this dynamic play out at a meeting of a large consumer products firm, where the top 100 managers were anonymously surveyed with two questions: How aligned are you with the company's ambitious change strategy; and how aligned do you think your peers are with the strategy? Over 90% of the managers said that they, personally, were aligned with the strategy — but 50% felt that their peers had doubts. In other words they were saying, "I'm fully on board, but many of the other people here are not."
Obviously something about these answers does not make sense. So to understand them, let me suggest three underlying psychological factors that often cause strategies to derail:
Passive aggressive disagreement: It's unlikely that everyone in an organization will agree with all of the nuances of a major strategic shift. Disagreement can be based on logic, experience, or (perhaps unconsciously) discomfort with change or loss of power. In any case, if the culture of the company does not encourage dissent, the resistance will go underground. People will voice their support but not actively do anything to make it happen. For example in our technology case above, the newly appointed account executives found that the finance function, while not standing in the way of the integrated customer approach, also was not doing anything to help.
Fear of confrontation: In most nice organizations where teamwork is encouraged, managers hesitate to confront colleagues who are not fully engaging in the strategic shift. They may not want to make waves or fear harming the relationship. So instead they try to work around it and end up sub-optimizing the strategy. Again, in our case, the account executives and their sales leaders didn't want to push too hard on finance for fear that it could make things worse for them later by damaging relationships.
Lack of persistent top-down demands: If the successful implementation of a strategy requires change across a number of functions, then a senior leader needs to get everyone on board. Without this explicit expectation — reinforced again and again — people will avoid taking action even though they will continue to smile, nod, and profess support. Many senior leaders are hesitant to push too hard for fear that they will have to take drastic action, like firing someone. So instead they just assume that the pieces will fall into place.
Obviously it's not easy to change these dynamics, especially when they are often invisible and rooted in long-standing cultural patterns. A good place to start is to point them out and provoke some dialogue, which was the purpose of that survey used at the consumer products meeting. Most people do not want to be part of a collective failure — so holding up a mirror can be a powerful way of helping managers realize when they are headed in the wrong direction.

Reprint from HBR by Ron Ashkenas

Monday, December 26, 2011

Project management software- comparison analysis between Binfire & Basecamphq


Basecamhq is well established as leading online project management software in the market today. It is easy to uses and it is not very expensive.  The conventional wisdom says when shopping for online project management you need to compare the available options. I have evaluated basecamphq against another service which I use offered by binfire.
Basecamphq provides simple to-do list, a text based whiteboard and a chat service called Campfire. The app is easy to use and the interface is simple and basic. For large projects, the tools are too simplified. For example there is not relationship between tasks like which one should finish before others can start etc.  Also there is no way to use top down task design methodology. This is especially important in larger projects when you want to break down a project to high level tasks and then break down each task to smaller tasks and so.
Binfire on the other hand is a more robust project management application and delivers more value for the money. It provides complete task management including WBS and the ability to tie tasks together (task dependency), plus supporting top down design for breaking tasks to smaller tasks. It has built in status reporting mechanism which basecamp does not, plus a host of other features like interactive whiteboard supporting text, drawing and images, group chat with chat history, content  management  to enable collaboration, collaborative markup tools and more. But what really sets Binfire apart is the use of social features throughout the application. These features make managing and collaborating on a project much simpler. As an example if you are interested in the status of a file or a task, by one click you can “star” it. When you do so, you will get notification every time the status of the object you starred is changed. For example if you are waiting for the latest version of a document which is being worked on by you colleague, just star that document. Every time your colleague updates the file, you get notified. The collaborative features enhanced by social media set Binfire apart from other project management applications. Binfire covers the 3C’s of project management applications namely to coordinate, communicate and collaborate.
In terms of pricing, for $99 / month you get 100 projects and 30GB storage in Basecamphq. For the same Dollar amount, you get 100 projects with more advanced features and 100GB storage in Binfire.
Conclusion- Binfire is a better value when compared to basecamphq when it comes to project management software. It is more sophisticated and provides tools needs for managing a project. The use of social tools in the application makes it an even more attractive option.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Collaboration: The Evolution

The word ‘collaborate’ originates from the Latin word collabōrāt, which translates to ‘work together’. A fairly simple and broad concept, the norms of collaboration are ever-evolving and have taken great leaps in the wake of the twenty-first century. As globalization emanates and communication migrates ever more to the web, web collaboration becomes increasingly crucial. In this post, we will track some of the milestones in the evolution of collaboration and assess the impact these developments have on business.
The introduction of basic emailing services changed the landscape of collaboration by bridging the physical gap and transforming the norms of communication in the workplace. At the click of a button, information could be shared with colleagues across the world almost instantaneously. This capability effectively shrunk the world and directly catalyzed collaboration on a more international level.
But as communication evolved, the need for real-time solutions became a priority. Thus, consumer-based instant messaging was born and ushered into the international workplace. This tool enabled coworkers to communicate in real-time, increasing productivity and exposure. As the web developed, along with server capabilities, VoIP became an integral part of countless company platforms (introduction of Skype and its permeation throughout small businesses). The evolution of communication consequently led to video conferencing, file transferring platforms, etc. 
These advances in technology and communication have fundamentally changed the way that we work, share and socialize. These tools have become industry norms and operating without them proves to be a huge disadvantage. An immense portion of the global economy today is essentially a ‘collaboration economy’; one in which the main commodity is communicated information and ideas. As the global mobile worker population heads towards 1.19 billion by 2013, the tools with which we collaborate will advance at an incredible pace. In the following posts, we will outline what the growing demand for collaboration means for the tools we use and what needs to change.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Attache files to tasks and more

I have been talking with folks at  my favorite online project management software and they are coming out with a few really good features which I have been asking for. In the new version coming soon they have added the following:
  • Attaching files to tasks
  • Attaching files to comments
  • Attaching files to status tweets (report)
  • Shout box, which lets you contact them from with application real easy
  • Adding tags to files
  • Free form search in the file folder using file name and tags.
  • Imports from Basecamp and other PM programs
You can check  collaboration Corner blog here.
Happy collaboration
PM Coach

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The latest version of binfire is released!

Binfire.com just released its most sophisticated Project Management Program . This new version is packed with great social software features. All pages are live and updated in real time, Object starring and commenting has also improved. In addition to social features, the task management got even better in binfire.com.
Visit binfire.com or their blog collaboration corner
Happy Collaboration
PM Coach