Browsing articles tagged with " HBR"

As the consulting industry changes will you be the disrupter, not the disrupted?

Sep 30, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Will you be the disrupter, not the disrupted? This is the question that came to mind as I read Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption, by Clayton M. Christensen, Dina Wang, and Derek van Bever, in the October 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR). With an online subscription, you can read it here. Disruption means industry leaders are responding to the changes in customer demands and global economics by making fundamental changes in their approach to services, service delivery, engagement models, and the economic model on which their industry is based. EvolutionAs an example of disruption, the HBR authors open by discussing the McKinsey & Company move to develop McKinsey Solutions, an offering that is not “human-capital based”, but instead focuses on technology and analytics embedded at their client. This is a significant departure for a firm known for hiring the best and the brightest, to be tasked with delivering key insights and judgement. Especially when the judgment business was doing well. The authors make the point that the consulting industry has evolved over time.

Generalists have become Functional Specialists Local Structures developed into Global Structures Tightly Structured Teams morphed into spider webs of Remote Specialists
the disrupter, not the disruptedHowever, McKinsey Solutions was not evolutionary. In its way, it was a revolutionary breakthrough for McKinsey. While McKinsey Solutions’ success meant additional revenue for the firm, and offered another means of remaining “Top of Mind” for the McKinsey Solutions’ client, the move was really a first line of defense against disruption in the consulting industry. By enjoying “first mover advantage” McKinsey protected their already strong market position, and became the disrupter, not the disrupted.

What is the classic pattern of disruption?

According to Christensen, et al,
New competitors with new business models arrive; incumbents choose to ignore the new players or flee to higher-margin activities; a disrupter whose product was once barely good enough achieves a level of quality acceptable to the broad middle of the market, undermining the position of longtime leaders and often causing the “flip” to a new basis of competition.
Cal Braunstein, CEO of The Robert Frances Group, believes that IT needs a disruptive agenda. In his research note, Cal references the US auto industry back in the happy days when the Model “T” completely disrupted non-production line operations of competitors. But when disruption results in a workable model with entrenched incumbents, the market once again becomes ripe for disruption. That is exactly what happened to the “Big 3” US automakers when Honda and Toyota entered the US market with better quality and service at a dramatically lower price point. Disruption struck again. Detroit never recovered. The City of Detroit itself is now bankrupt. Disruption has significant consequences.

Industry leaders may suffer most from disruption

In his work “The Innovator’s Solution” HBR author Clayton M. Christensen addressed the problem of incumbents becoming vulnerable to disruption, writing

An organization’s capabilities become its disabilities when disruption is afoot.

The disruption problem is worse for market leaders, according to Christensen.
No challenge is more difficult for a market leader facing disruption than to turn and fight back – to disrupt itself before a competitor does… Success in self-disruption requires at least the following six elements: An autonomous business unit… Leaders who come from relevant “schools of experience”… A separate resource allocation process… Independent sales channels… A new profit model… Unwavering commitment by the CEO…
  So, it will be tough to disrupt yourself if you are big, set in your ways, and don’t have the right CEO.

Being the disrupter, not the disrupted

The HBR authors characterized three forms of offering consulting, ranging from the traditional “Solution Shop” to “Value-added Process Businesses” and then to “Facilitated Networks”. The spectrum ranges from delivering pronouncements from gifted but opaque expert practitioners charging by the hour through repeatable process delivery charging for delivered results to dynamic and configurable collections of experts linked by a business network layer. In my experience, the expert network form is the most flexible, least constrained, and most likely to deliver value at an exceptional price. It is at once the most disruptive, and presently the least likely form to be destabilized by other disruptive initiatives.

The Bottom Line

Sir-William-Osler If you are in the consulting industry and you don’t recognize that disruptive forces are changing the industry and your market’s expectations as you read this, you will surely be the disrupted, not the disrupter. On the other hand, disrupters can be expected to provide a consulting service that will deliver much more value for a much lower price point. We are talking here of more than a simple process improvement 10% gain. It will be a quantum jump. Like McKinsey, that may come from embedding in some new solution that accelerates the consulting process and cuts costs. Now is the time to develop situation awareness. What are the small independent competitors doing? Yes, the little firms that you don’t really think will invade your market and displace you. Watch them carefully, and learn before it is too late. Those readers who man those small, agile, and disruptive firms should ensure they understand their prospect’s pain points and dissatisfaction with the status quo. As physician Sir William Olser famously said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you his diagnosis”. Do it now!    > – reprinted by permission of Stu Selip and Principal Consulting LLC.

Decision-Making Bias – What, Me Worry?

Sep 3, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

RFG POV: The results of decision-making bias can come back to bite you. Decision-making bias exists and is challenging to eliminate! In my last post, I discussed the thesis put forward by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and co-authors Dan Lovallo, and Olivier Sibony in their June 2011 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article entitled “Before You Make That Big Decision…”. With the right HBR subscription you can read the original article here. Executives must find and neutralize decision-making bias.

The authors discuss the impossibility of identifying and eliminating decision-making bias in ourselves, but leave open the door to finding decision-making bias in our processes and in our organization. Even better, beyond detecting bias you may be able to compensate for it and make sounder decisions as a result. Kahneman and his McKinsey and Co. co-authors state:
We may not be able to control our own intuition, but we can apply rational thought to detect others’ faulty intuition and improve their judgment.

Take a systematic approach to decision-making bias detection and correction

The authors suggest a systematic approach to detecting decision-making bias. They distill their thinking into a dozen rules to apply when taking important decisions based on recommendations of others. The authors are not alone in their thinking!

In an earlier post on critical thinking, I mentioned the Baloney Detection Kit. You can find the “Baloney Detection Kit” for grown-ups from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and Skeptic Magazine editor Dr. Michael Shermer on the website, along with a great video on the subject.

Decision-making Bias Detection and Baloney Detection

How similar are Decision-bias Detection and Baloney Detection? You can judge for yourself by looking at the table following. I’ve put each list in the order that it was originally presented, and made no attempt to cross-reference the entries. Yet it is easy to see the common threads of skepticism and inquiry. It is all about asking good questions, and anticipating familiar patterns of biased thought. Of course, basing the analysis on good quality data is critical!


Decision-Bias Detection and Baloney Detection Side by Side

Decision-Bias Detection
Baloney Detection
Is there any reason to suspect errors driven by your team’s self-interest? How reliable is the source of the claim
Have the people making the decision fallen in love with it? Does the source of the claim make similar claims?
Were there any dissenting opinions on the team? Have the claims been verified by someone else (other than the claimant?)
Could the diagnosis of the situation be overly influenced by salient analogies? Does this claim fit with the way the world works?
Have credible alternatives been considered? Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
If you had to make this decision again in a year, what information would you want, and can you get more of it now? Where does the preponderance of the evidence point?
Do you know where the numbers came from Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
Can you see the “Halo” effect? (the story seems simpler and more emotional than it really is.” Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
Are the people making the recommendation overly attached to past decisions? Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
Is the base case overly optimistic? Are personal beliefs driving the claim?
Is the worst case bad enough? —————————-
Is the recommending team overly cautious? —————————-


While I have blogged about the negative business outcomes due to poor data quality, good quality data alone will not save you from the decision-making bias of your recommendations team. When good-quality data is miss-applied or miss-interpreted, absent from the decision-making process, or ignored due to personal “gut” feelings, decision-making bias is right there, ready to bite you Stay alert, and stay skeptical!

reprinted by permission of Stu Selip, Principal Consulting LLC

System Dynamics is now for the rest of us!

Aug 26, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

by Stu Selip, Principal Consulting

That’s great, but what is it? According to the System Dynamics Society

System dynamics is a computer-aided approach to policy analysis and design. It applies to dynamic problems arising in complex social, managerial, economic, or ecological systems — literally any dynamic systems characterized by interdependence, mutual interaction, information feedback, and circular causality
So, System Dynamics (SD) uses computers to simulate dynamic systems that are familiar to us in the realms of business and technology. OK that sounds great, but why am I writing about SD? A presentation by ViaSim Solution’s (ViaSim) president J. Chris White and his ViaSim colleague Robert Sholtes at last Friday’s InfoGov Community call piqued my interest, and I think SD will pique your interest too.

What do the big guys do with SD?

System DynamicsChris and Robert mentioned the long-time application of SD in the Department of Defense (DOD). A quick Google search revealed widespread use ranging from scholarly articles about simulating the control behavior of fighter planes to pragmatic approaches to re-architecting the acquisition process of the DOD itself. It looks like the DOD appreciates System Dynamics. Here is a clip from that search. Large enterprises can make good use of SD too. In a 2008 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article entitled Mastering the Management System by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, the authors identify the concept of closed loop management systems in linking strategy with operations, informed by feedback from operational results.
Various studies done in the past 25 years indicate that 60% to 80% of companies fall short of the success predicted from their new strategies. By creating a closed-loop management system, companies can avoid such shortfalls.
Their article, which you can see here with the right HBR subscription, discusses how this might be done, without explicitly mentioning System Dynamics.

What about the rest of us?

Most of the rest of us are involved in more mundane tasks than articulating corporate strategy. Many of us work on planning IT projects, with plans defined in Microsoft Project (MSP). How many MSP users have solid training in the tool? I’ll wager that many practitioners have learned MSP by the “seat of their pants”, never quite understanding why a small change to the options of a project plan has produced dramatically different timelines, or why subtle changes cause plans to oscillate between wildly optimistic, and depressingly pessimistic. System Dynamics in PMBlox The ViaSim team spoke directly to these points by introducing us to pmBLOX, an SD-empowered MSP-like project planning tool that addresses MSP issues that cause us to lose confidence and lose heart. In this graphic, developed by ViaSim, the black arrows indicate inputs normally available to MSP users. The key differences are shown in the green and red arrows. With pmBLOX, project planners may specify corrective actions like adding workers to projects that are challenged. In addition, project planners can account for project delivery inefficiencies resulting from fatigue, or excessive staffing. You can watch Chris explain this himself, right here. At last, we will be able to respect Brook’s Law, the central thesis of which is “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”. Dr. Fred Brooks expanded on this at length in The Mythical Man-Month, published by Addison Wesley in 1975. When I asked Chris about his experience with the challenges of mythical man-month project planning and non-SD project planning solutions he told me
As we often see in the real world, sometimes “throwing people” at the problem puts the project further behind schedule. With these real-world corrective actions and productivity impacts, pmBLOX provides a framework for creating realistic and achievable plans. The biggest risk for any project is to start with an unrealistic baseline, which is often the case with many of today’s simple (yet popular) project planning tools.
  System Dynamics and pmBLOXHere is an example of the output of MSP and the output of pmBLOX for an actual DOD project. You can see how a minor change in an MSP setting (leveling) made some dramatic and scary changes in the project plan. Notice that the output of pmBLOX looks much more realistic and stable with respect to project plan changes.

What about the learning curve for pmBLOX?

There is good news here. pmBLOX designers adopted the MSP paradigm and allow for direct importing of existing MSP-based plans. Here is an example of how pmBLOX looks,System Dynamics pmBLOX interface and how it depicts the difference between its plan and the one suggested by MSP. To my eye, the interface is familiar, so adopting and transitioning to pmBLOX should not be very difficult.  


System Dynamics (SD) is a powerful simulation approach for dynamic systems and pmBLOX puts some of that SD-power into the hands of project planners. While the ViaSim presenters talked about much more than pmBLOX, I thought the project management paradigm would make a good introduction point for discussing this interesting technology. In September, the ViaSim team will present again at an InfoGov Community call. At that meeting they will, among other topics, address how SD simulations are tested to give SD developers and users confidence in the results of their simulations. If you are an InfoGov member, you will want to attend. If you are not yet an InfoGov member, consider joining. –

CEOs CIOs not in Sync

May 7, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Cal Braunstein

According to a post on the Harvard Business Review blog CEOs and CIOs are not in sync when it comes to the new challenges and issues CEOs are facing. Study findings point to the fact that CIOs do not understand where the business needs to go, and CIOs do not have a strategy to address business challenges or opportunities.

Focal Points:

  • Key findings from their research are almost half of the CEOs feel IT should be a commodity service purchased as needed. Almost half of the CEOs rate their CIOs negatively in terms of understanding the business and how to apply IT in new ways to the business. Only 25 percent of executives felt their CIOs were performing above their peers. Moreover, 57 percent of CEOs expect their IT function to change significantly over the next three years, while 12 percent predict a “complete overhaul” of IT.
  • The above findings are attributed to four trends that are changing the CIOs role. Many CEOs are moving away from ownership and return on assets or investment (ROA or ROI) analyses and are thinking about renting IT equipment for items not directly tied to value creation. The shift from efficiency and scalability to agility and efficacy translates into a movement away from transactional systems to new systems that provide agility, collaboration, and transparency. Thirdly, the boundaries between contractors, channels, customers, partners, staff, suppliers, and even competitors are diminishing and in some cases disappearing, creating a whole new user community for enterprise IT systems. All of this changes how companies manage and organize work and resources, which suggests the need for more unique, niche applications with integration of information and systems across organizational and agent boundaries.
  • In summary it states there new systems, business and delivery models, types of information, technologies, and whole new roles for IT in the enterprise’s ecosystem. These new business insights, tied to the emergence of new technologies, are creating an opportunity for IT to lead business transformational efforts, creating new business models, initiating new business processes and making the enterprise agile in this challenging economic environment, the report concludes.

RFG POV: Business executives that think IT should be a commodity service purchased as needed do not perceive IT as a business differentiator. That is problematic for their businesses and for IT executives that work for them. IT executives in those organizations need to enlighten the business executives on the flaws in their thinking. As to the four trends identified, RFG and other studies have also found these to be true, which is why RFG has been pushing for IT executives to transform their operations. Business and IT always exist in a state of change, including disruptive innovation, and the next decade will be no different. IT executives must work with business executives to help transform the business and expose them to new process possibilities that are available due to the emerging technologies. IT executives must believe (and pursue) their role is to sell the business – e.g., sell cereal if they work for Kellogg’s – and not be a “tech head” if they want a seat at the business table.