Managing inherent uncertainty with Lean Startup and social business

Managing inherent uncertainty with Lean Startup and social businessWe live in a world full of uncertainty. If there was no uncertainty, waterfall would be an infallible project management method and a well-written business plan would be the key to success for any startup.

So, given that uncertainty exists, we face the question what to do about it. The traditional answer has been to reduce uncertainty and thus make things manageable, and there are still many advances that can be achieved in that field.

However, the more uncomfortable question is what do we do about things that remain uncertain? What if some of this uncertainty is inherent, something we are never able to remove? In such cases, we need to build systems to manage this uncertainty, even harness it, instead of merely attempting to reduce it.

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Leaders grow their own replacements, managers don’t

Leaders grow their own replacements, managers do notIn recent weeks, Raph Koster has been writing interesting post-mortem articles about Star Wars Galaxies. One point in particular caught my attention from a leadership point of view: the state in which the team was left in after Koster’s departure and his regret over his failure to train a replacement before he left.

Koster’s story is not a rare one. I have been through similar experiences myself. It is the difference between managing a team and leading a team, and it is a difficult lessons to learn. In this post, I want to dig a little deeper into management and leadership, and how it affects the growth of the team members.

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Guarding against complacency in the enterprise

Guarding against complacency in the enterpriseComplacency is a natural, almost inevitable feature of human behavior. It really is very difficult to recognize the need for change, especially as companies that experience hard times have almost always had a very successful past.

Motorola experienced sliding market share for five years before they recognized that maybe they should do something about it. Harley-Davidson almost went bankrupt and saw their domestic market share fall from over 80% to below 5% before their turnaround began. A similar story could be told of many other companies. Complacency is not rare, it is, in fact, systemic. So is there something we can do about it?

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Reaching for enterprise agility with a dual operating system

Reaching for enterprise agility with a dual operating systemThe world is changing at an ever increasing pace. This is the mantra that we are relentlessly exposed to, and there is a fair bit of data to back up that claim as well, so clearly there are some challenges for businesses that need to be met.

One of the latest attempts to address these challenges comes from John Kotter, famous for his 8-step process for leading change, who has adapted his change leadership process into a more agile version that he calls the “dual operating system” of the firm in his book Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World.

In this post, I will look into what the dual operating system is all about and how it compares to other paradigms that also attempt to meet the same challenges.

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Having a large order backlog is actually not a good thing

Having a large order backlog is actually not a good thingOne of my favorite brain teasers when giving Lean training is the question of whether having a large order backlog is a good thing or not. It is rare for anyone to immediately say that it is a bad thing, and this is why it is such an illuminating example of how to think Lean.

Many companies that are doing well like to tell how their order backlog has increased and is at a high level. This is commonly seen as a sign of success, but it is not necessarily so. To see why this is so, we need to look at the issue from the point of view of both the company and the customer.

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Have to and cannot, the most misused phrases in business?

Have to and cannot the most misused phrases in businessSimplification is often useful in life, but taking a very straightforward approach can also prevent us from seeing and discussing many of the options that are available. In practice, this often boils down to the ease with which we succumb to using the words “have to” and “cannot” in our daily lives.

I do not claim that there are never situations where people have to do something or cannot do something. However, especially in the domain of business operations, these situations are nowhere near as prevalent as the common use of these terms implies.

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Lean is more than continuous improvement of existing process

Lean is more than continuous improvement of existing processThere are probably quite a few misconceptions regarding Lean, and this state is not made any easier by the fact that there are many ways to apply Lean nor by the fact that many ideologies have borrowed the name and some tools from Lean (such as Lean Six Sigma).

One of my pet peeves is the misconception that Lean is about improvement, but not about innovation. I see how this misconception is easy to arrive at, as the most common tools people borrow from Lean focus on waste elimination or value stream mapping and are often associated with iterative improvement of the process in small steps.

However, Lean itself has innovation at its very core, and in this post I aim to elaborate on that a little bit more with the help of an analogy.

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How to change corporate culture to be more open to change

Technology adoption strategiesChange management is hard. As a general rule, change adoption rarely, if ever, happens overnight by simply adding a new process or technology and holding a few training sessions.

In a recent blog post (in Finnish only, sorry), Marko Suomi argued that people in organizations in general act according to the technology adoption lifecycle: some are very enthusiastic about new changes whereas others are much slower to adopt them. It is important to note that the enthusiasm of individuals varies between changes too: even a person who is generally an innovator usually does not adopt all changes first.

In this post, I wish to delve a bit deeper into how changes are adopted in organizations and what the management can do about it.

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Times change, can your company change with them?

Times change, can your company change with them?The world is changing at an increasing pace. There is even some evidence pointing to that, such as the 2012 Innosight study that discovered that the lifespans of top companies have shrunk considerably over the years.

What has been most alarming for many managers is that plenty of companies have not been able to rebound after the Great Recession. With the Great Recession as a convenient cover story for years, it has been easy to miss that some companies are able to succeed regardless, and all poor performance does not result from the recession. Yet, companies can suffer from poor performance even if they have not become any worse. How is that possible?

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