Tagged: influence flows


How is Attenzi doing?

We’ve revised our mission and vision and tweaked the statement of our values. We’ve reworked our game plan, our strategy. We’re down the track in terms of redesigning our operations around influence flows, aligning the organization structure and process design to our strategy. There’s a good vibe about the business and people generally appear to be up for it. I credit this important dimension to the care with which we’ve approached internal communications, training and development, and performance management. And of course to the caliber and attitude of Attenzi people.

Have we got everything right first time? No, of course not. Are we maestros today? Not quite. And here’s what appears to be a kick in the teeth – we have more red flags in our scorecards today than we ever did when I joined. But is it really a kick in the teeth, or is it simply representative of the many fine and not so fine changes we’re demanding of ourselves?

And what about the money?

Well previously we were growing a little faster than industry average and now we’re growing a little faster than that. That’s good enough for me this year, what with all the upheaval, and next year is the moment I really believe we’ll begin to reap the dividends of our transformation. It looks like we’re on track to more than double our historic growth rate.

Our profit margin dipped slightly but distinctly for three unnerving quarters, and with hindsight I could have been better at managing investor expectations, but the three since have been our best in recent years. We can attribute this, at least substantially, to our social business endeavors, but that alone doesn’t mean we can yet proclaim social business the new thing. We need hundreds of organizations to embrace social business before we’ll have the stats to know for sure.

Tomorrow I’m hosting a contingent from a company where William is a board member. It’s the fourth such company he’s brought round to talk social business. I’m watching eagerly for progress at these other companies. The team at Lorenz Capital is keeping up to date too as you might imagine and knowledge sharing among the companies in its portfolio.

Sixty nine (i)

So, what are our (leading) non-financial metrics telling us, and have we seen an uptick in our (lagging) financial metrics? Let me first get you up to speed on our deliberations about one particular set of non-financial metrics.

Our intent to understand and harness influence flows demands considerable attention to the measurement of communication, and therefore to media, and this is an area that has consumed more time and effort than we’d originally estimated. It’s trickier than it at first appears.

Performance measurement of communication is dominated by so-called output metrics relating to the content or communication itself, and attempts to determine outcome metrics relating to business success are thin on the ground. A strategic assessment of outputs is impossible however without correlation to outcomes, and even then correlation isn’t proof of cause-and-effect.

Typical output metrics in the public analogue domain include column inches, audience, readership, and ‘opportunities to see’. In the public digital domain the focus is on impressions, number of friends and followers, number of ‘likes’, retweets, clicks, comments etc. You may recall my referring to this sort of thing when describing my meeting with the Goorooz, at least when outputs are considered without reference to outcomes.

And of course there are numerous quantities associated with private digital communications too – for example, who do I contact the most and who contacts me the most? (Personally, for the last three months in a row, it’s been Marcus and Marcus!)

Outputs are relatively easy to gauge, yet measurement-because-you-can-not-because-you-should is a common pitfall when it comes to business performance management. We’ve worked hard to deploy the Influence Scorecard and related guidance (search the web for “measurement and evaluation of communication”) to inform metric design in this regard, and whole books have been written on metrics that might suit your needs.

We wrestled with one particular question – is there a universal measure of communication performance effectiveness?

We’ve concluded there isn’t, as much as it would have been convenient otherwise.

Sixty one

It’s nine months since that lunch with William and chat with Saket, and nearly a year since the pivotal away day. Of course, a large part of events has been change management. I won’t dwell on change management here but suffice to say our biggest challenges and opportunities in that respect have been people, people and people. And tech. As my old plant manager would say, we’re all in change management.

I’m wondering whether an organization designed around influence flows might find change management easier. It’s too early for me to conclude with certainty but it looks like it could.

Marcus, John, Georgio, Michelle, Yvonne, Tom and I form the steering team. We invite Saket in once a month to challenge our analyses, assumptions, conclusions and plans. He’s rather good at that, as you’ve seen.

We outlined a project plan to execute the influence strategy. We qualified the investments required in people, process and technology courtesy of our strategy maps. And we identified the dependencies and the timeline.

We developed a role and person specification for an individual to lead the transition, and it rapidly became clear that it had Marcus’ name all over it. We promoted two of his operations team to take up much of his existing mantle, leaving him with the majority of his time to crack on with social business. He has a team of four working with him in The Nerve Center, as it’s been named, and they obviously lean heavily on the steering team for our respective disciplinary expertise.

Note that I don’t write ‘functional expertise’. It has become increasingly clear that the typical functions in organizations really are a manifestation of the 20th Century perspective of business, a result of the tectonic forces of that period, and not necessarily the organs demanded of a 21st Century entity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s a radical departure necessarily, just that the norms we associate with today’s functional labels narrow our view of how the business might operate.

Interestingly, Marcus’ team had been seconded to The Nerve Centre as if they would return to their previous departments at some point. It took a week to put ourselves right about that.

Marcus owns the Influence Scorecard. He maps influence flows on to our strategy map and, to paraphrase the Balanced Scorecard creators, helps us define the marching orders we need to become a social business.

Fifty six (iii)

You may well be thinking that you have these aspects licked at your organization so what the hell is this amateur lot up to exactly. But I can retort with almost complete confidence that you’ll find equally glaring if different omissions in your influence flows, and likely a shocking poverty of coordination, and you can’t deny that until you’ve been through this process.

I’ve concluded that Attenzi is simply typical, and that beyond normal operating procedure – ie, playing the same every day tune with today’s structure, culture, policies and processes – the typical organization relies too often on serendipitous influence for breakthrough insight and understanding, and that this can only be a prosperous state of affairs when everyone else relies on serendipity too.

John and I came up with an alternative definition for serendipity. The dictionary says: “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

We say: “all you have to rely on if you can’t identify and interpret patterns systematically.” I guess you could say we’re attempting to substitute a bit more science for serendipity.

It was all good stuff, and at the end of the day I wanted to remind everyone of the fundamental questions. I grabbed a pen from Georgio and listed them:

  • If we are going to transform our view of the business in terms of influence flows, how are we to consider its structure, culture, policies and processes?
  • What new demands are placed on the skills and behaviors of our people?
  • Where should we invest and how will we know if it’s working?

We hadn’t addressed these questions at all but at least we now had a better understanding of the goals and strategies our structure, culture, policies and processes are meant to serve.

Fifty six (ii)

To avoid the cognitive load of my challenge, we cracked on making other discoveries.

We developed our own icons for efficiency and consistency. For example, we used a square with “2020” written inside it to indicate where we thought emergent innovations would or could reveal new and useful influence flows: our rudimentary plans to embed sensors in all equipment to enable constant communication in the field; ideas for the development of our nascent enterprise social network; the potential of new database and knowledge management technologies. Another icon had two faces facing each other to represent ‘full gesture communication’ in ‘unaugmented reality’ – opportunities to get our employees and suppliers and customers interacting more productively for example.

Almost without thinking we began to highlight those influence processes where the gap between their potential importance given our strategic priorities, and the corresponding diligence awarded them historically felt too uncomfortable going forward. We needed to up our game.

We double-highlighted influence flows where important arrows were visible by their absence – influences that should be working for us but weren’t.

For example, it had been an embarrassment for us all to consider that we had no process for dealing with Vincenzo’s easier-to-clean-cooker idea; I mean had he not been a friend of mine. None. Apparently we just didn’t get many ideas thrown at us by customers. Apparently, we didn’t encourage them either, I mean beyond insight / marketing research.

Actually, on that note, Yvonne told us that there is a B2B online community forum dedicated to Attenzi products. Steve helped start it, yet no one else in the room knew about it, or had forgotten about it. One of Yvonne’s team members keeps an eye on it and provides links and answers occasionally. We all felt a bit sheepish about our ignorance, and this was compounded when Yvonne told us it hosts over seven thousands posts. (I’ve posted to it now and make sure to drop in regularly.)

We didn’t conduct so-called exit interviews to learn when and why our people decide to move on. We didn’t know when or why customers change allegiance. Nor did we have any way to quantify the effectiveness of internal communications, or external communications come to that. Nor did we feel our design language was sufficiently sophisticated to support consistency across the product development team. Nor did we know how our modular cooktops are actually configured in the commercial kitchen. Nor did we know who exactly last spoke with the likes of Alice B (the celebrity chef we work with) or the editor of catering magazine Big Mouth for example. Nor did we know, beyond the normal talk of margin, what our resellers liked or disliked about our range with systematic precision.

Nor did we have any idea how we might connect a prospective customer in store with their interactions on our website – to mutual advantage. Nor did we know how often or to what extent our suppliers affected product development. Nor did we capture ideas in a way that made them a resource rather than an easily forgotten static record. Nor did we analyze competitors’ digital campaigns and dialogue with their customers and stakeholders. Nor did we know why three of our newest sales engineers had all come from the same competitor. Nor did anyone in product development appreciate or take advantage of the fact that our three newest sales engineers had all come from the same competitor.

Etc. etc.

Forty four (i)

We got back down to it for the last part of the day.

Social business

Several of us have heard two related phrases bandied around at conferences – ‘social business’ and ‘socialize the enterprise’ – and it had come up in conversation during the break. How does this idea relate to the discussions so far? And what does it mean exactly?

We agreed it means so much more than establishing the organization’s presence on the big social networks, maintaining a blog or two and procuring an enterprise social network, but it seemed there was no real definition. So we constructed one based on all the discussion so far.

Social business is about adapting the way in which an organization delivers its mission and pursues its vision by designing the organization around influence flows, connecting:
its people, partners, customers and other stakeholders;
data, information and knowledge in and all around it;
more openly, productively and profitably with the application of social web, big data and related information technologies.

We tried to shorten the definition but felt our efforts then lacked the full impact.

We are keen to convey that social business doesn’t just mean using social media. Rather, social media are just the eggs in the social business cake!

Yvonne, Georgio and I all went to make much the same observation at the same time…

On considering whose responsibility this is, it appears not to fall into the domain of a particular organization function or department. Nor does it appear irrelevant to any function or department, quite the opposite. William suggested that this wasn’t a surprise as the flows of time, money and materials have influenced today’s business structure, but not the systematic understanding of the flow of influence.

Everyone’s in the business of influence – influencing and being influenced in order to play their role valuably.