Monthly Archives: April 2013

Rework

rework

I picked up a couple of books the other day and this was one of them. Its authors, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are the founders of a company called 37 signals. These guys are perhaps best known for their immensely popular web based Project Management tool, Basecamp. I’m only about 40 pages into the book so far but I felt like a quick post about it was in order.

It’s Fantastic!

Of the few topics they’ve touched on so far, it’s almost as though they’ve been able to channel some of my own thoughts. Topics like ‘Planning is guessing’, notes how plans are really, as the title denotes, just a series of guesses – strategic guesses, financial guesses etc. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t plan. You should. However, your plans should be flexible enough to allow you to embrace current opportunities and allow you to pivot if and when a change may be needed.

They also touch on topics such as ‘growth’ in a section titled, ‘Why grow?’, where they make a case – citing their own experience at 37 signals – where sometimes a company’s ‘perfect size’ might not be big number and why growing to gargantuan proportions is often the default goal of many companies, and how this approach is often at the company’s own peril, or at least at the peril of their employees and culture.

Another interesting topic is something they refer to as ‘Workaholism’, how throwing sheer hours at problems, rather than applying innovative thinking to find efficiencies to get the work done smarter is too often the approach; and how this approach is not only accepted, its often commended and even revered.

Anyway, great stuff so far. I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of it, at which point I will likely create a follow up post on how it turned out.

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Sh*t Project Managers Say

I realize that the whole ‘Sh*t [insert title here] say’ video crazy is over, but this one is just as funny (to me at least) as it was in 2012 so I thought I would post it here for anyone who hasn’t seen it, or wants to enjoy it one more time. These guys really nail it, don’t they?

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April 11, 2013 · 9:52 pm

Any Road Will Get You There

chesirecat

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. This is of course the famous quote by Lewis Carol from Alice in Wonderland that has been used a metaphor for business strategy (and likely other things as well) for the last 150 some odd years. (Actually, based on a couple of quick Google searches, it seems that there’s some debate around whether this was the exact quote, but this is how I’ve heard it used so I’m just going with it for the purposes of this post).

Historical accuracy aside, it does set up the strategy discussion quite nicely since strategic management is largely about asking questions like – ‘Who are we?’, ‘What do we do?’, ‘Where are we going?’ ‘How will we get there?’ Once defined, the organization can then develop its mission, vision, as well as its supporting goals and strategies for ensuring that the answers to these questions are woven into everything the organization does, cascading down from top management to all its teams and employees.

In terms of how an organization (or an individual – from a personal development perspective – for that matter) can go about defining this strategic blueprint is to perform an “environmental analysis”. This is a process whereby an organization (or a person, though let’s go with an organization so I don’t have to continue pointing out how this can be used for personal development also) performs a thorough analysis of both its external environment as well as its internal environment. Ideally this process will include involvement from the organization’s employees – not just management – both from the perspective of increasing of ‘buy-in’, as well as from the perspective of soliciting input from the employees on the ‘front lines’, as nobody understands the business as well as they do.

Integrated into this environmental analysis is a technique called a SWOT analysis. Most people with a background in business will have heard of, if not spent a fair bit of time performing, this type of analysis because – though basic – it does provide a simple framework for evaluating factors, both internal and external.

Internally, you are looking for ‘S’s and ‘W’s (strengths and weaknesses). These could include things like your organizational structure, culture, processes or technologies.

Externally you are looking for ‘O’s and ‘T’s. These could include things like economic factors, supplier relationships, customer or tech trends, or perhaps most importantly, what your competition is doing.

The next step is to then perform a “gap analysis”. (More analysis, you say? Yes, but…please read on). This is where you take your findings from the external and internal analysis and compare them in relation to each other to determine where they fit within these 4 categories, in ascending order of most competitive.

  • Opportunity + Strength = Leverage
  • Opportunity + Weakness = Constraint
  • Threat + Strength = Vulnerability
  • Threat + Weakness = Problem

Once completed (at least an iteration, as this should be an ongoing process) the next step is important: Do something about it!

Though, as the analysis leads to action something to consider will be how – potentially – different what you thought you were and where you thought you were going may not be the same as when you had started. The rest is up to you.

Reference notes:

In addition to the Wikipedia links above, combined with ten or so years in the biz, my own worldly knowledge of business strategy from previous courses, a keen eye for detail and the occasional episode of The Lang & O’Leary Exchange, the Performance Management text from my current MBA course was referenced in the creation of this post.

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