Ambiguity / Business Model Design / Culture / Customer Engagement / CX / Design Thinking / innovation / Mindset / Outcomes / Portfolio Management / Process / strategy / Transformation / Value

Realize the Aspirations of your Work

AspirationsSimple methods to get you across the line, every time


The Grind

We’re all familiar with the grind. You’re busy leading your team and program, grafting to meet deadlines and negotiating for resources. You know your team does good work – people tell you so all the time – but it can be difficult to measure your impact and validate it. What if there was a simple suite of methods that could help you state easily how you create and capture value? What advantage might that give you?


What is your Strategy and how do you make it actionable?

Strategy is not just the domain of company leaders. If you run a program, project or team at any scale, you should have a strategy. Strategy is equal parts: aspiration, market positioning, competitive differentiation, capability and operational systems.

Strategy isn’t just the domain of company leaders.

In Playing to Win, Roger Martin and AG Lafley present a neat tool called the Strategy Cascade to show how these five components fit together. There shouldn’t be a gap in your understanding at any level or between levels if your strategy is to be both water tight and be able to present your value to your stakeholders.

From AG Lafley & Roger Martin, Playing to Win

Business design methods – and there are plenty (Business Models Inc., Territory and Luma Workplace are among my go-to sources) – provide tools to help discover, define and develop your strategy.


Who are you doing this for and why?

While smaller organizations and entrepreneurs need to have a finely honed sense of the value they provide, this can sometimes get lost in a large organization. Projects and programs can often emerge to address a single aspect of a large scale output, without a direct link to the end consumer. When these programs evolve over time, they can morph and lose the connection to the stakeholder value they were originally envisioned to deliver.

programs that evolve can lose the connection to the stakeholder values they were originally envisioned to deliver.

Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman wrote a great book called The Runaway Species in which they theorize that people are helpless innovators – we just can’t stop having ideas! Fortunately, there is a tendency for us to innovate in a particular order and the book explores expressions of our tendency to bend, break and blend with fascinating examples from the worlds of business, art and science. As engaging and rewarding as this exploration can be, it’s essential to remain focused on who it is for and why.

An engineering team we supported, was struggling with a complex project only to discover that while a request had been made directly to them, it was actually a marketing issue. Because the request had come straight down the hierarchical line, the team tried to solve it and were floundering – because they are not marketers. We asked them, who are you doing this for and why do they need it? When they considered this question, they were quickly able to divert the request over to the marketing team where the skills – and the responsibility – exist to provide a solution. Our stakeholders won’t always know where to direct a request. Understanding who you are providing a service to – and why – is the best way of making strategy actionable while clearly defining the type of work you do and qualifying whom it is you support.

(And – as a useful aside – anything that can be defined and qualified, is measurable.)

Who is it for and why do they need it?

One of my keenest observations of large organizations is that functional teams can lose sight of who their work is ultimately for and instead focus too much on the shiny object they have created. Outside In (Manning and Bodine ) or Customer Success (Mehta, Steinman and Murphy) illustrate how to really create and remain focused on customer-centric value. If you want to jump into the process of creating and capturing value as an industrial process, at scale and leveraging the power of data science and design, read some (or all) of Bill Schmarzo’s blogs on Digital Value Creation.


Your program has a Business Model – do you know what it is?

A business model describes how an organization creates, delivers and captures value. While we might tend to think of large organizations and companies as having business models, every functional entity at every scale – as long as it has responsibility to deliver some type of outcome – has a business model.

A business model describes how an organization creates, delivers and captures value.

Here’s what to do to understand what your business model is:

1. List the functional areas of your team. In the case of our team in the Hitachi Vantara CTO Office for IoT & Analytics, the functional areas include:

a.    Customer Engagement

b.    Product Innovation

c.    Innovation Infrastructure

2. Consider how these functional areas integrate:

a.    Are they tightly bound in a progressive workflow?

b.    Are they a loose bundle – different expressions but with a shared purpose?

c.    Do they combine to act as a platform – a broker between providers and users?

d.    How would you describe the interactive model of your functional areas?

3.    What is the strategic logic that binds the functional areas of your team together?

a.    Do you have a portfolio of projects that represent the logic of your team’s structure?

b.    If there is no logical connection, you should consider what value each functional area provides and where they might better reside in the organization, if at all.


Don’t try to convince anyone, innovate!

Greg Satell has written two of the best books I have read on innovation: Mapping Innovation and Cascades. Three particular concepts stand out for me from the many Greg makes:

i)   Don’t try to convince people. It’s brutally hard and it means you will try to grow by influence rather than leveraging economies of learning and scale;

ii)   You can map out how innovation works and will work in your organization!

iii)   Start a movement that ‘cascades’ through the organization much as political or social movements do.

My favorite definition of the term ‘innovation’ comes from Luma Institute’s Chris Pacione. Chris says that Innovation means ‘to re-generate’. He talks of evolution rather than revolution and highlights the process of renewing value and promise. It places innovation in a frame of logical development, rather than some kind of outlying magic. It ties well with innovation models like the Three Horizons model or Geoffrey Moore’s Zone to Win – both of which can be readily applied to your business program or scenario immediately.


Call to Action: Be Resilient! Show the value of your strategy and get what you need

On the first page of his book, Resilient, Rick Hansen shares the idea that “the path your life takes depends on just three causes:

a)    How you manage your challenges

b)   How you protect your vulnerabilities

c)    How you increase your resources

That’s powerful. It’s why I open every project initiative with these questions from Playing to Win:

·     What is our aspiration?

·     Where will we play?

·     How will we win?

·     What capabilities do we need?

·     What management systems do we need?

A clear strategy, a solid business model and an innovation framework for how you propel yourself, your partners and your customers along the journey: these are the critical ingredients of value creation and value capture – the engine that converts aspiration to action.

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