Harvard Business Review articles on Aligning Technology with Strategy

HBR has published a special on Aligning Technology with Strategy. Here are eight articles included in the bundle.

Six IT Decisions Your IT People Shouldn't Make
Are your company's hefty IT investments generating weak returns? Your IT managers may be making decisions that clash with your corporate strategy.

Getting IT Right
Most top executives leave IT unsupervised, creating an expensive mess. Three organizing principles can set the situation right when orders are lost, help desks aren't helpful, or tracking systems don't track: Develop a long-term strategic plan, build a unifying technology platform, and foster an IT culture of accountability.

IT Doesn't Matter
IT has become a commodity with diminished strategic importance. It's time to focus on reducing risks and managing costs.

Bold Retreat: A New Strategy for Old Technologies
When a new innovation threatens your business, the tendency is to fight it or transition to it. Instead, try retreating boldly to a niche of the traditional market or relocating to a new market. Either way, the old technology remains the superior offering.

Information Technology and the Board of Directors
Most boards remain in the dark when it comes to IT spending and strategy. Here's how to change that.

Competing on Analytics
Some companies dominate rivals by amassing and analyzing mountains of data. There's much to learn from organizations that live and breathe the numbers.

Investing in IT That Makes a Competitive Difference
Companies using enterprise IT to breed innovative business processes are winning customers and gaining competitive advantage. By mastering the technology, rivals can not only match their moves but beat them.

Empowered
One angry tweet can torpedo a brand. Empower employees to fight back through 
social media.


Enjoy
Øystein

Must-Read articles on CHANGE from HBR

As previously admitted: I am a devoted reader of the Harvard Business Review… I recently published the a link to the articles included in the “10 must-reads on LEADERSHIP”. Here’s the follow up on “10 must-reads on CHANGE”.  You will of course need an online subscription, or if you want, you can buy the set here.

Enjoy

Øystein

Three tips for team leadership

Are you one of those people who steal your team’s energy?
Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown, authors of the HBR blog-post “Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People”, provide three tips for making your team shine.
Here are the bullet points:
  • Don’t play “the hero”
You don’t always need an answer. Give your people the opportunity to think things through themselves. Too much dependence of you will ultimately jam them down.
  • Don’t make hasty decisions
If possible and appropriate – allow people to participate in deciding – or at least allow for a debate BEFORE the decision is made. On a personal note, I would like to add: Let them know HOW you’re going to decide beforehand. Are YOU going to call the shots (are you just consulting them?), is it a decision that needs, will there be voting… or whatever other way you make up your mind… clarity rules
  • Don’t talk too much
Energy and initiative on your part is necessary, but not in all situations. From time to you should try to say nothing, so that your employees are allowed to exchange ideas. Free flow of ideas and oppnion is of course a complex issue in and of itself, but from time to time you need to remind yourself to just shut up.
Øystein

3 Ways to Motivate Your Board of Directors

[This text is from HBR]

When serving on a board of directors is voluntary, sometimes members can lose focus or doubt that their participation is essential. At your next board meeting, try these three tips for reinvigorating and encouraging board members to devote more time and energy to growing your company:

  1. Pose provocative questions. Spend a significant part of each board meeting wrestling with critical issues and asking your board to think through the toughest challenges facing your company.
  2. Share the stage. Minimize time spent listening to prepared presentations. Be sure the conversation isn’t dominated by one or two members.
  3. Spend time one-on-one. Find out about members’ individual interests and how they might translate to helping your company in a unique way — for example, by coaching an executive or attending a critical in-house meeting.
Enjoy
Oystein

How to avoid 5 common traps for mentors

MENTOR, OH - OCTOBER 30:  A young supprter lis...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

According to Wikipedia the first recorded modern usage of the term can be traced to a book published in 1699 entitled “Les Aventures de Telemaque”, by the French writer François Fénelon. The book was very popular during the 18th century and the modern application of the term can be traced to this publication.

The modern use of the word mentor: a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person is sometimes implemented in “mentoring programs” in which newcomers often are paired with more experienced people, who advise them, help them advance their careers and build their networks in addition to serving as good examples of course. The “student” of the mentor is often referred to as the protege og mentee.

The practice of mentoring has become very popular in the workplace, especially among leaders and fast-trackers. However, there are some mistakes that can lead to unintended consequences, according to the Swedish management magazine Chef:
The parent trap
You should not take the role of a mother or father. Respect the mentees  ability tomake their own assessments. This is a relationship for learning, not obedience.

The driving force trap
The mentor’s ambitions on behalf of the mentee is larger than the mentees own ambitions.

The close friend trap
To agree and have a nice time is not the goal. You are not in the mentoring game in order to be  liked. Your task is to challenge the mentee, this includes asking some uncomfortable questions – in a

The manager trap
Unlike you do in your leadership role, it is not the responsibility of the mentor to solve the problems or make decisions for the mentee. Hold back on your zeal. Let the mentees develop the solutions themselves, but be there to support, suggest and challenge.

The love trap
Although this is a situation that is not too usual, if the mentor and the mentee are of different genders, it may cause speculation in the workplace. Be clear to your surroundings as to what the mentorship is and what it is not. If warm feelings start to surface; end the mentorship immediately.

Best regards,
Oystein

What I learned – “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Book Cover

Image via Wikipedia

The tremendously popular self-help book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, was first published in 1989.It was written by Stephen R. Covey and has sold over 15 million copies in 38 languages since its first publication. The book was enormously popular, and catapulted Covey into lucrative public-speaking appearances and workshops.

In his book Covey lists seven principles that, if established as habits, are supposed to help a person achieve true personal effectiveness. He argues this is achieved by aligning oneself to what he calls “true north” – the principles of a character ethic (how I am) that he believes to be universal and timeless.

Although I’m a BIG sceptic when it comes to universal, prescriptive methods, i.e. methods that tell you “do this and this will happen” and thus totally taking context into account, this book has provided me with a good  frame of reference to which I have come to assess my personal development and progress against.

The following constitutes a very brief introduction of the seven habits. The habits are placed in two main groups: personal (habits 1-3) and interpersonal (habits 4-6). The last principle is a principle of relentlessly striving for continous improvement.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Choice
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Vision
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Integrity & Execution
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Mutual Benefit
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: Principles of Mutual Understanding
  • Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

Each habit is argued for and described in a dedicated chapter, which are represented by the following imperatives:

  1. Be Proactive – Principles of Personal Choice: Covey emphasizes the original sense of the term “proactive” as coined by Victor Frankl. You can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to how you respond to certain things. When you are reactive, you blame other people and circumstances for obstacles or problems. Being proactive means taking responsibility for every aspect of your life. Initiative and taking action will then follow. Covey also argues that man is different from other animals in that he has self-consciousness. He has the ability to detach himself and observe his own self; think about his thoughts. He goes on to say how this attribute enables him: It gives him the power not to be affected by his circumstances. Covey talks about stimulus and response. Between stimulus and response, we have the power of free will to choose our response. One of his best tips is a “model” of two concentric circles – a big and a  small one. The inner circle is called the “circle of influence” and represents what  you have the power to change – more or less directly. The other one represents what “concerns you”. Case-in-point – concentrate on the “circle of influence”.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind – Principles of Personal Vision: This chapter is about setting long-term goals based on “true north” principles. Covey recommends formulating a “Personal Mission Statement” to document one’s perception of one’s own vision in life. He sees visualization as an important tool to develop this. He also deals with organizational mission statements, which he claims to be more effective if developed and supported by all members of an organization rather than prescribed.
  3. Put First Things First – Principles of Integrity & Execution: Covey describes a framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at long-term goals, at the expense of tasks that appear to be urgent, but are in fact less important. Delegation is presented as an important part of timemanagement. Successful delegation, according to Covey, focuses on results and benchmarks that are to be agreed in advance, rather than on prescribing detailed work plans. Habit three is greatly expanded on in the follow on book First Things First.
  4. Think Win/Win – Principles of Mutual Benefit: An attitude whereby mutually beneficial solutions are sought that satisfy the needs of oneself as well as others, or, in the case of a conflict, both parties involved.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood – Principles of Mutual Understanding: Covey warns that giving out advice before having empathetically understood a person and their situation will likely result in that advice being rejected. Thoroughly listening to another person’s concerns instead of reading out your own autobiography is purported to increase the chance of establishing a working communication.
  6. Synergize – Principles of Creative Cooperation: A way of working in teams. Apply effective problem solving. Apply collaborative decision making. Value differences. Build on divergent strengths. Leverage creative collaboration. Embrace and leverage innovation. It is put forth that when synergy is pursued as a habit, the result of the teamwork will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved on their own. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
  7. Sharpen the Saw – Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal: Focuses on balanced self-renewal: Regain what Covey calls “production capability” by engaging in carefully selected recreational activities. Covey also emphasizes the need to sharpen the mind.

Covey’s  writing  leans heavily on a concept he has coined  “abundance mentality” or “abundance mindset”, meaning a state of mind in which a person believes there are enough resources and success to go around. This It is commonly contrasted with a “scarcity mindset”, which is founded on the idea that, given a finite amount of resources, a person must hoard his belongings and protect them from others. Individuals with an abundance mentality are supposed to be able to celebrate the success of others rather than be threatened by it.

According to Wikipedia, a number of books appearing in the business press after “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” have discussed the idea of “abundance mentality” and some have propose there is a connection between this frame of mind and a high degree of self worth and security.

7 keys to stress relief

Just before Christmas i picked up some reducing tips from from Dr. Randall Hansen which featured on the Swedish website Shortcut.nu. Here are a few of them:

1. Keep things in perspective.
What does work mean to you  in relation to friends, family and health? If the job requires too much from you it may be the right time to look for something new.

2. Take breaks.
Taking a break where you do something completely different IS good for you once in a while – go for a walk around the block, exercise, or perhaps sit at a quiet cafe  and listen to some music. Anything that can get you to relieve your mind from work-related thoughts if only for a little while.

3. Be organized – even if you’re not.
Clean Desk. It can provide you with a sense of control. To-do lists and making clear agreements and appointments may also be of help to get you organized.

4. Talk with someone.
Tell someone about the stress you feel on the job, it can reduce some pressure.

5. Have good relations with your employees.
If you know you have staff who will be there when push comes to shove, this can also reduce the  perceived levels of stress. Just remember to stick up for them, too.

6. Set realistic goals.
Even if you want to achieve more, there are still only 24-hours a day. Setting unrealistically high goals, will only increases the stress and lead to failyre.

7. Try to stay positive.
Try to stay away from people with negative attitudes, it drains your energy and motivation. Reward yourself when you succeed, even if nobody else does it or even sees it.

Regards,

Austin