Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Riding the Innovation Wave

In a world where information is freely floating from East to West, back and then South, only to build up a cobweb of personal connections.

Haven't you gone through an overwhelming information wave that felt like you were going right through a big crashing wave on the beaches of Hawaii or the Italian Adria in a storm? Of course one get dizzy, when one tries to swim through the wave with normal breast stroke.  A few meters and you probably would struggle and stop.

This overboarding sea of information, especially fueled by social networks like Facebook, XING, LinkedIn and alike seems like crashing on us where we used to swim in calm waters of life and business.

JohnHagel and JohnSeelyBrown (both to be found on Facebook as well) tell the story of the surfers on Hawaii in their new book "The Power of PULL - How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion".  Crazy guys on the waves and yet being pulled by their passion to learn more to cope the "perfect wave".

What seems like a brain-overloading for some, is enjoyable fun for others. Quite different as the surfers on the surfs of Hawaii, the "web surfers" however are among the others in a sea that is called "Internet".

So let's not blame them to be different or crazy, even though we maybe don't understand what they are up to. Perhaps they are inventing just the new social innovation for the good of society, corporations or their community.

Let's them explore the waves we don't dare to ride - let their passion drive you as well.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Wise and the Heretic

Ralf Lippold
September 8, 2008
Dear Otto,
Quite a similar special moment happened to me when I met Jay W. Forrester last summer at MIT (while I was attending a workshop on system dynamics). During a coffee break I had a chance to chat with him for a few minutes and asked him, how to get forward with system dynamics in the work field if nobody is really taking it serious. His answer was, “If they don’t listen yet, don’t worry. Work it out yourself and you will learn a lot! By the way, I am still learning.”

Having said that -at the age of almost 90 years of age- I felt quite the same as you did and thought, “Wow, I got some of his time and thoughts even as a total newcomer to the field! That can’t be really true, or?”. Despite his age his eyes had still the spark of fire that someone with a vision has -regardless of circumstances or age.
This episode has inspired me to take the step forward and move on on the road to the future I see, not an easy path as “The road to success is under constant construction” (chinese proverb).

As my ancestors come from Eastern Germany (even though nobody of the family really knows from where exactly) I have the strong feeling that there is the place for me to be (despite the economic low level that it still has). In many talks to people I always sense that the pride of not taken the easy route (going to more prosperous areas) and the spark of doing it a different -if there would be a joice (for them). Actually there is another event in a region where there almost no major economics prosperity and just larger plants. Shutting down a plant with around 600 workers depend on it (directly in the plant and indirectly at several service providers mainly doing business with the plant). In a small town with merely 16.000 inhabitants that will have a big impact (not in the best case, I guess;-().

How to make the change happen before all the mobile workers have moved away for better work?
I wonder, whether there would be a change possible? I have heard that the situation is not so uncommon especially in areas where economic growth depends just on a single resource (such as a mine) or product (washing liquid – as in the mentioned example).
Best regards

... follow the whole story and the initial spark for my above comment.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Surprise of the Unexpected

"Tales of the Unexpected" by RoaldDahl has been the inspiration to the following. Reading "The Power of PULL" for the last couple of days, it makes me go back in time to some emotions connected with my past work experience. Back in 1998 I started my first job. I was so to say invited to join an international team to build -which was back then the first privately operated and publicly financed- rail-road-intermodal terminal, KTL Kombiterminal Ludwigshafen. I had to do a lot with IT, was the guy in charge to make the operation system for handling the trains get ready and in place.

After we had the terminal in operation a new challenge was awaiting: getting a almost slowed to a standstill tracking & tracing program, CESAR, to make it from the funding stage into the customer paid stage. Early in the beginning the data was not always as 100% sober and so customers complained.

Seeing the potential of that program (also in monitoring the data flowing between the operators and different customers) I just couldn't give up. I found a handful of dedicated supporters in some customer service departments of forwarding agents with whom to check data and find correct ways. Every error that occurred in the system worked as a small prototype to improve. Either it was the program itself that produced the error or some new procedures that had not yet "mirrored" into the program lines.

We hadn't much to loose: not getting the program forward to broad use by customer was not an option! Every small improvement (KAIZEN) was leading us to the goal to providing outstanding customer service with online real-time information service on container movements across the train networks of Europe.

So errors were "allowed" in order to make the program a success!

Almost 10 years into the program now 460 customers are using frequently the service, 55.000 daily requests in 2009 (which represents a 30% increase compared to the year before).

Thinking back to the early times in 2001 (I only had run the quality management for CESAR and "bring it into the world" for six months (!)) I remember the key success factors very well:

  • acting on the periphery of the day-to-day operation
  • having on single goal in mind (get the program running on its own)
  • internationally diverse project team
  • direct personal contact with the programmers
  • open-minded customers willing to get on the service first and commit to it with own ideas
  • (last but least) no interfering higher management, meaning no fixed plan and so enabling the serendipity that was necessary to find new ways through interactions with other people on the periphery and outside the system
When has the serendipity in your work field occurred? What has driven it?

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Language - the bottom line to understand each other

    Hello everybody,

    Today while having a meeting at IBM, a colleague asked me about a cup of coffee. I said, "Sure! Please with lots of milks". Two minutes later he has come back with a cup filled up to the edge and a pot of milk. In my mind I thought, "Shoot, that was a mixup of two different mental models that were outspoken and understood despite the same words crossed the air".

    So even though you name the same thing or process others not necessarily see or understand exactly the same.

    The same is true the other way round. I got "The Power of PULL" just two days ago, reading heavily into it.  It doesn't really talk about Lean Thinking, and yet I feel it in every single line while reading it.

    Wouldn't be the ultimate Lean Thinking approach to connect all the approaches that are in practice that focus on similar (or same) principles of Lean Thinking? In general it's about people, knowledge sharing and growing, transparency in order to improve the whole (a holistic view).

    What comes to your mind?

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Thoughts overcoming the speechless owner

    About two years ago I commented on OttoScharmer's blog entry that was dealing with Attentional Violence. Now after reconnecting with a friend via Skype while he is currently on Cape Cod attending a workshop on group facilitation my memories brought me back to my blog comment (which you may read in completeness).

    1. Don’t force change
    2. Get into a relationship with people where they can feel safe to express their ideas and assumptions (without fearing to be turned down)
    3. Let the process decide, whether the agenda is useful or the dialog is more useful
    4. Step back in your role as “teacher” even though that his sometimes hard (as in a sense to give up power to the group)
    5. Open up time constraints, if the process needs more time!

    What would have been your tactics in a similar situation?

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Questions or Answers - that's the QUESTION

    Imagine you are faced with a tough problem at hand, new and complex. Imagine further that is a situation where you are asked to give advice or your expertise. The client is seeking a solution to the problem he can't solve with his own resources.

    What to do?

    Doing the analysis on what the problem might be and already been addressed by the client, provide a solution presentation to client. There will be a presentation in front of client management team. Then implementation of the recommendation.

    STOP • Rewind the story • RESET

    There is perhaps another way, or?


    • What is it that is really pressing or hurting the client?

    • What is the right question to find out (also for the client to find out himself)?