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After publishing my recent post on the four drivers of value creation in collaboration, I chatted with Anna Chu about how these concept is applied. The conversation highlighted to me that there was value in further explaining how to use these drivers to connect senior leaders and employees to the value of collaboration. This post will explore that topic further.
Drivers as a Link
As I noted in the initial post the four drivers are a simple tool to find value creation opportunities. Their power is that they act as a link between organisational strategic value whether in economic or non-economic value and the features and benefits of technology solutions and their use cases.
Let’s look at two examples:
Top Down Start – From Strategy to Use Case:
- The CEO approaches you to improve Innovation in line with the new corporate strategy. The strategy is a little unclear on how innovation works in your organisation so this responsibility is a little daunting.
- You have a conversation with the CEO and ask some questions to explore the drivers:
- Growth: What outcomes do you hope will grow through Innovation?
- Effectiveness: How do you see Innovation enable us to do things better?
- Velocity: What do you want us to do faster through innovation?
- Protection: How do you see innovation help us to avoid risks?
- The discussion is long and involves a lot more back and forth but together you clarify that the CEO is interested in how the organisation can more quickly bring products to market based on insights from customers. She is worried about being disrupted by a new competitor.
- You develop a strategy for the innovation initiative that is based around a series of new use steps that demand different ways of working:
- Growth: Increase Sales and Retain Customers by Delivering New Products
- Effectiveness: Better Convert Insights to new Product Features with higher value for Customers
- Velocity: Deliver Products to market Faster using better interactions in product team and the rest of the organisation
- Protection: Reduce competitive threat of disruption
- With these tangible steps you can now approach users to discuss how they might achieve these steps by changing the way they work:
- Growth: Better train sales people on new products and help them to better pass on customer feedback and insights directly to the product team. Allow them to collaboratively work together to develop new sales strategies for the new products
- Effectiveness: Enable the product team to work to a product backlog with more customer insights and involving more interaction with the customers and the rest of the organisation
- Velocity: Reduce the number of meetings and approval steps to bring a product to market. Shift from exhaustive approval to transparent experiments that are monitored by all stakeholders
- Protection: Alert the whole organisation to the disruptive threat. Engage all employees in the search for customer insights and competitive intelligence. They can come from anywhere.
Bottom Up – From Use Case to Strategy
- You notice an employee using a collaboration platform in an unusal way and you go engage them in conversation. She is posting daily tips and tricks on password security.
- The employee explains that she has decided to work out loud on her challenge of improving employee passwords. She knows that passwords impact everyone and her role in IT security doesn’t give her contact with everyone. There aren’t many resources for this initiative.
- You help the employee to connect this activity to the strategic goals of the organisation:
- Effectiveness: How can we better secure organisational data and systems to ensure legal compliance and also to maintain a secure environment?
- Protection: How do we avoid the risks of intrusion or breach of legal compliance?
- You work with the employee to get some additional funding given the strategic importance of this work and you develop a much wider range of initiatives that leverage collaboration to address the key work challenges using different collaboration opportunities:
- Effectiveness: In addition to better passwords, you are able to improve single sign-on, deliver better document management, etc
- Protection: You are able to engage a much wider group of employees in working together to improve information security more generally. In particular, you let employees know the many risks and legal requirements through discussion and action together.
A Bridge Between
Organisational goals and strategies are unique and highly contextual. So are the goals and strategies of users. The power of the four drivers is that they sit at a middle level of abstraction which helps connect high level strategic concepts and outcomes from the strategy process with specific individual user actions. Using the drivers to guide conversation and to guide questions helps anyone leading adoption to build a much stronger connection between activity and value in both directions.
For over five years, I have been talking about the potential for organisations to create value everyday using collaboration. Through the Value Maturity Model, and its application in the Collaboration Value Canvas, I have discussed repeatedly the importance of an understanding of value to users and to the organisation.
Until now, I have left the definition of value entirely to the imaginations of readers. One reason for resisting defining value was to avoid an immediate reduction of value to an ROI calculation, which is both notoriously ambiguous and beside the point. The role of value in this discussion is not to justify investment accounting. The role of value is to shape the adoption actions, the use cases and the norms of the community that an organisation is seeking to create. The second reason for my reluctance is that value means something different to almost every organisation at every time. How an organisation and its people need to create additional value is highly dependent on their context.
In this post, I want to share my key drivers of value creation, which I find useful tools for anyone seeking to guide collaboration adoption in a wide range of contexts. Ability to leverage the drivers of collaboration will help you to identify the opportunities for value creation from collaboration, shape use cases and communicate to individual users about value in a simple way. To explain the path to these drivers, we must talk about what value and break it down to everyday topics of business conversation.
Understanding What We Mean by Value
Value is in economics is a measure of the benefit to be gained from any activity. Vibrant and sustainable organisations create a surplus of value, using their resources in a strategic way to create more benefits than the value of their intial resources. Value add is the difference between the benefits generated and the resources consumed. The goal of most strategy is to sustain and increase the value added by an organisation.
At an individual level employees also want to experience purpose and meaning in their work. They want to deliver greater benefits to themselves and others than simply the time value of their work.
Value can be monetary but it can also come in wider non-economic forms. Therefore as we think about value for individuals and organisations we need to keep in mind:
- Economic value add – the dollars and cents; and
- Non-Economic Value – any other meaningful sources of value (i.e. meaningful in the eye of the beholder)
If we break down how both economic value add is created and non-economic value we will find some common drivers. If you are short of time or not interested in the background to my approach, you can skip to the answer in the section entitled Four Drivers of Value Creation below.
Economic Value Added
Economic value add can be defined for an organisation as the excess of the net operating profit after tax of an organisation over its cost of capital. An organisation deploys financial capital in its operating activities, that capital has a cost and the activities need to generate more operating profit to be sustaining.
A value driver tree enables us to break these concepts down to more everyday topics of business strategy, activity and conversation in green in the table below. Sales, Cost of Sales, Other Organisational Costs, investment in assets and working capital are key elements of how much economic value added a business creates. If the adoption activities in your organisation are not changing these sources of value in some way, then they are unlikely to be creating economic value, especially after the cost of adoption is taken into account.
Non Economic Value
We can similarly breakdown some major categories of non-economic value, such as Social, Environmental, Governance and Generational value considerations. Because non-economic value is ‘in the eye of the beholder’ to some extent, this list is inevitably a partial one. There are likely more categories that are omitted, such is the richness of human life as expressed by individuals in organisational communities.
Economists will argue that some or all of these can be captured in or flow through to economic value, but the average person sees many of these sources of value as richer for lacking a direct monetary equation. Many of the sources of value in green are key elements of creating an organisation or living a life that is rich in human potential.
The green categories of non-economic value listed below are those most commonly discussed in any project of adoption of collaboration. These may be the starting points for any project. Non-economic value add is usually critical in the ultimate user and organisation success of any collaboration project. There is however a danger if this value is defined only in terms of these Capitalised nouns and they are not translated into specific measures of success and intiatives that users and the organisation can embrace. Projects that set out after the mystery of ‘Culture’ or ‘Engagement’ without further support or without considering other categories of value, especially economic value, will likely fail because users rightly question their point.
The Four Sources of Collaboration Value
At the beginning of my career in financial services we had a simple mental model, derived from the Cohen Brown Sales framework, of how we delivered value to customers from the vast array of products and services that a large diversified financial services organisation offered in banking and wealth management. That model was “Save Money, Make Money, Save Time or Protect Money”. Reducing the complexity to these four options guided bankers and other advisors through a great deal of complexity.
As similar guiding structure can be used for value creation generally. When we look at how collaboration can deliver value to each of the green elements of value in both economic and non-economic value we find that value is created by four key drivers. In simplest terms those drivers are:
- More: Growth – how can we have a bigger impact? how can we help more people? Many organisations want to grow in customer relationships, in scale of operations or in other ways.
- Better: Effectiveness – how can we ensure we do the most we can do? how do we do more of the right things? The literature of Lean has enriched our understanding of the value of effectiveness in economic value but effectiveness is also a concept that works for non-economic values too.
- Faster: Velocity – how can we take less time to do our work and to get to our goals? Time is a valuable and expiring resource. Let’s use it as well as we can and remove the traditional work frustrations of delay and waiting.
- Safer: Protect – how can we avoid risks and better manage consequences? Risk is a part of any life or organisation. We can however improve our management of risk.
As you can see in the tables above, I have highlighted in amber, how each of these drivers commonly creates value for the elements of value in driver. For example costs and working capital can create value if they are used more effectively or with greater velocity.
Here’s a little more detail on what these drivers each mean in organisational terms:
One of the advantages of framing adoption conversations in these terms, is that it helps make the value of activities clear to users and senior leaders in simple terms. The key benefits that they are likely to see are:
- Individual and Organisational Growth
- Increased Individual and Organisational Effectiveness
- Improved Velocity in activity, opportunity and leverage of potential, both in an employee and organisational view
- An environment where individuals and the organisation have better Protection against risks
We Create Value Because We Are Human
If we are to make work more human and more rewarding through shared leverage of human potential in collaboration, then these key drivers should guide our projects and guide our value conversations with stakeholders. We should set our metrics and our use cases around these drivers so that we have the widest impact on value creation. If we need to increase value creation we can come back to these drivers to search for a way forward for users and the organisation.
Every organisation and every user needs to define the value of collaboration to see effective adoption. Understanding value is critical for anyone seeking to accelerate adoption of collaboration in organisations. The four drivers of value can help us to keep conversations and the actions focused on how collaboration can have its greatest impact on value.
Appendix: Recapping All Value Creation Together
The end of the calendar year is a time for reflection. As 2018 slides into 2019, here is a short reflection on what I’ve learned from 2018 and what I want to carry forward into 2019. To keep this light among the cavalcade of reflections, here is a list of what I want to see More, Better, Different and Less in the New Year with each list capped at three things
- Compassion: I have found this year that first judgements can be poor and that I benefit from having greater compassion for the circumstances of others. Part of this is also having greater compassion for myself. Compassion seems wanting in our world.
- Courage: I need to keep taking risks, saying what needs to be said and pushing myself to do what needs to be done
- Fun: Remember to enjoy each day.
- Conversations: I want to have more of the fierce, critical and constructive conversations that found great relationships.
- Relationships: I am the sum of my closest relationships. I will focus on making them better.
- Creativity: Creativity is something that we can experience in every moment. I’m looking forward to bringing that to life better in 2019.
- Focus: I always have a lot on the go. In 2019, I am keen to try a little focus.
- Mindsets: I am worrying less about the expectations of others. I am also going to focus on my confidence in my own course of action. I will recognise that setbacks are just part of the learning. I will continue to trust others first, but 2018 taught me yet again to trust and verify. ‘Given a choice between incompetence and malice always choose incompetence’.
- Routines: Late in 2018, I started shaking up a few routines to give fresh perspectives. I want to continue that into 2019.
- Tiredness: In 2019 I will be tired less and find better ways to rest and recuperate
- Doubt: In 2019 I will doubt myself less (and devote less time to its cousin worry). All this time is spent better talking or doing.
- Waiting: It feels like I spent a lot of 2018 waiting for things. In 2019, I will keep getting on with it while I wait for others.
Of course, if I could choose three things from the world I want to see less of in 2019, it would be:
- Hatred: the Other is just a poor mirror and society is not a zero-sum game.
- Lies & Deceptions: Separating ourselves from reality is no solution.
- Thought leadership (especially of the Linkedin marketing kind): We have enough platitudes and silver bullets. Lets deal with the real complex and hard work we need to do together.
It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting. – Jerry Sternin, The Power of Positive Deviance
Thinking Gets in the Way of Change
A common barrier to social adoption in organisations is when we let our traditional management patterns of thought get in the way of employee adoption of the technology. Because social technology in the workplace demands new actions and new interactions that don’t fit with our mechanical metaphor of employee performance we find our traditional thinking is a barrier.
Adoption is commonly held up as senior executives and even the employees themselves debate issues like:
- What if I don’t trust the employees in this organisation?
- What if they waste time?
- What if they don’t value my contributions?
- What if nothing valuable comes of all the effort and investment?
- What if they don’t collaborate?
- What if I lose power or influence?
We struggle with these challenges because social adoption is ultimately a sense-making exercise. The platforms are neutral. The networks that gather on them have no defined purpose. We need to come together as a community to individually and jointly make sense of the potential, the value and how to realise it.
This sense-making exercise is why you can’t order collaboration. It is also another reason to be sceptical of those who will guarantee collaboration with technology or fancy adoption practices. The same scepticism should apply to any claims to deliver fast adoption. The best way for each community to realise the value of social adoption is for them to practice it and make sense of the change.
Acting Creates New Sense, New Potential and Accelerates Change
The Collaboration Value Maturity Model is based in a series of simple actions that individuals and communities can take. The power of these actions is that they are generic enough to be universally valuable in organisations. Every organisation and indvidual can benefit from connecting, sharing, solving and innovating. We can get started on these actions now in and for themselves:
- Want to know people in the organisation better? Connect
- Want to learn more about what’s going on? Share
- Want to make work easier and better? Solve
- Want to deliver more value? Innovate
These four steps enable the individuals and the organisation to benefit from a set of near universal use cases that deliver the basic value case for collaboration in any organisation. Starting a community with a clear sense of the value to be created by the action helps justify user’s time and efforts and also shapes the future growth of the community by providing a north star.
Acting As If Culture Has Changed
The secondary power of these four steps is that as people act on each of them, they effectively act as if a new paradigm of organisational culture is true:
- Connect as if the organisation is full of humans
- Share as if the organisation can be trusted
- Solve as if the organisation is enabling, generous and collaborative
- Innovate as if the organisation is empowering, agile and responsive
As people act through each of these four stages they surprise themselves with the potential that is realised, reinforcing their practice and fostering new beliefs as to the culture of the organisational community. There will be scepticism, doubts and recalcitrant sub-communities in the organisation. The goal is never 100% adoption. You only need enough people acting as if to create the value that justifies the organisational investment in collaboration and helps realise your strategy through collaboration.
Because culture is just a series of expectations of how we behave in an organisation. This pattern of ‘acting as if’ creates change in the culture of the organisation. Others see the practice and the benefits and are encouraged to copy the practice and reinforce it. Over time this consistent practice and the community it builds does more to change the organisation than posters, videos and CEO speeches.
Those who have been through the endless debates at the beginning of a social adoption journey know that issues like trust, safety and value are quickly resolved in properly managed adoption journeys. Often they are never discussed again after the program of adoption support is approved.
Some truths are so obvious as to be lost. In our desire for technical mastery and our love of the shiny things, we can lose sight of a fundamental and universal truth.
Every organisation is comprised of people, exists for people and is run by people.
There is no power in an organisation outside of those three groups of people: workers, customers and governance. There is no they. Everyone falls in these groups and some fall more than one, even in all three. All the policies, process, technology and structure is subservient to these three group’s needs. All the purpose, community, and culture comes from the interplay of people in and between each of these groups.
There is nothing that these three groups of people working in alignment can’t change. The power of an individual or a small group to influence change in these humans begins with the power of conversation.
Our organisations are fundamentally human and first and foremost exist for human purposes. Our organisations should be to enable the realisation of human potential for customers and for workers. We need to remember that all the complication and shiny things we build around our organisations must not distract us from why we collectively are there, our potential and our power to have impact in the world.
We cannot escape the human in our organisations – customers and governance will always remain. Without a focus on real people, our organisations have no meaning. If we embrace the human connections and human potential, what might we achieve?
Careers are daunting things. We look at other people’s careers and they look like daunting processions of accolades. We look at our own and see the challenges in the past and ahead. A simple step to help others is to help them to understand that almost no career goes to plan.
Don’t Worry About the Showreel
In this age of social media promotion, we can be easily lured into confusing our lives with the carefully curated and often fabricated confections of others. As the great quoted goes:
Never confuse someone else’s showreel with your cutting room floor.
Fiona Tribe, who appears on Twitter as @White_Owly, shared this wonderful Medium piece on why you shouldn’t be harsh on your own career.
When I worked solely as a consultant I used to be envious of the people I admired as consultants who seemed to be always at conferences and always speaking. It took a while for it to dawn on me that to be always at conferences left little time for consulting with clients and that I spent a lot of time turning down speaking engagements for ‘no pay but lots of exposure’. Some of the most successful people are so busy working that they have no profile at all.
Year’s ago explaining someone who claimed a fabulous stock forecasting results, I came across the idea of punter’s memory. You remember only your wins and forget your losses. Most media discussion of people’s careers are constructed on this basis. Unless they are looking to share one heart tugging moment in a TED Talk, most career stories are of unending success piled on success all achieved because of relentless determination and 5am starts.
The determination is always valuable. The 5am starts are optional.
Share the Cutting Room Floor
Most careers are built on a string of failures. It is more like Snakes and Ladders than a Staircase. Nobody goes straight to the top. Nobody gets every job they want and keeps until the next perfect job comes along. Careers are full of inconvenient changes. None of them are irreversible or permanent barriers to the next step. The next step is always your choice.
I’ve lost the job I loved because of lies, deceptions and corporate politics. I’ve had two redundancies in one year and then been faced eighteen months later with the choice of being redundant again or moving interstate to a job I didn’t want. I’ve turned down promotions and high profile roles because they didn’t work for one life reason or another. I have experienced the usual famine and rare feast of consulting. I have been underqualified and over qualified. I have been just perfect but the timing was wrong or the politics were wrong. I have created roles for myself only for them to go to others who liked the look of my work. I have won roles in processes only to see them given to others because I was needed elsewhere.
As I explained to Fiona Tribe, in my reply to her post above I have given up on my career goals multiple times. Things just didn’t seem like they were going to work out. However, I get bored easily so I needed to work and I kept working. That persistence and a willingness to learn and adapt to opportunities before me meant that many of the goals I set have been achieved. My achievements were just not in the way I ever intended and certainly not in a timeframe that I expected. Remember the only thing that is final is abandoning your purpose.
Career stories make goals and paths seem predestined. That’s usually a lie constructed to explain an inconvenient past. We stumble, experiment and fail our way into a path that eventually matches our strengths and enables us to build on our relationships. No CV is a source of truth. They are all carefully crafted narratives to demonstrate strategy and explain continuity where none exists. Most real careers are a mess version of the ‘Lean Startup of Me‘
My CV is a mess by any measure. I have had too many careers, industries, roles and levels of status for simple formula driven recruiters or headhunters. If you are looking for the perfect candidate, I know I am not it. However, I have always prospered with people who want someone who has demonstrated the potential to learn, grow and adapt. My best jobs have been flawed compromises where both sides are getting something from the other and we spend most of the role fighting to make that deal work. My career depends entirely on my tenacity, foolhardiness and the brave decisions of too many hiring managers to take a chance on the dark horse. My CV may be a mess but my career continues to grow and develop because of it.
Nobody is perfect. Everybody needs to grow. We learn a few things that help improve our performance but we are stuck with a few personal traits that won’t go away no matter how hard we wish for more. I owe so much to the bosses, peers, coaches and mentors who have helped me learn. Somethings though don’t change. I’ve tried being the person who gets in at 7am everyday. It isn’t me and only worked when I was young and needed to get in at 7am to talk to my boss. The last time I enjoyed a 7am start was to resign that manager’s great job and get on with my life.
A big thing we can all do to help others is to share our real career stories with their challenges, their uncertainties and their frustrations. We need to make careers less daunting to those who are starting out. Working out loud on how careers happen is a great way to help others to get started on theirs and share the practical lessons of experience.
I recently did a talk on career advice and hope to be sharing it soon. It is full of the kinds of messages I have shared on this blog about the value of solving problems, being curious, collaborating, learning and having fun. However, the biggest, most obvious, but least discussed lesson of any career is ‘Keep going’. Just keep going. Keep finding problems that you love to solve. Keep finding other people who share these passions. Keep helping others with no thought of reward. Keep working. Keep working and things will happen. Opportunity only comes to those who are still trying. All we can hope for in life is opportunity. What you choices you make next is then up to you.
We are surrounded by inspiration for our work, for projects and for the development of new ideas. Every interaction, every conversation and every project is a potential source of inspiration. Working out loud is a vehicle to make more of potential inspiration.
There are two challenges converting our potential inspiration to action:
- lack of attention and
- a high standard of action
Lack of Attention
We are really busy. We roll from one challenge to the next. It is very easy to be task focused without time for reflection. However, we only notice the opportunities for inspiration if we are looking for them. We need to be alert and we need to create reflection time to consider how we can use the inspiration.
Working out loud is a way to bring more attention to our work. Working out loud asks us to think as we work about how our work can be shared purposefully and narrated to benefit others. That reflection on the nature of work helps us find additional moments of inspiration in and around our work.
We are to busy to make a new idea perfect. We wait. The idea is usually lost because there is no time to make it perfect later.
Work in progress is never perfect. Work in progress is an invitation to a collaboration and a invitation to improve and develop the idea. Sharing inspirations as they happen pulls people in and can help advance the idea towards a more workable perfection.
We often worry about our ideas being better developed or leveraged by others if they are shared too early. However, every inspiration that is never captured, never converted to an idea or never executed is lost entirely. There is a big world out there and lots of ideas. Executing well and attracting partners to work with you is far more important to the success of your inspiration.
If you want to make more of your daily inspirations, work out loud by purposefully sharing your work in progress with relevant audiences.