Tagged: influence model

Fifty seven (i)

Models are models. Reality is reality. This is an important distinction. Confusing economic models for the real thing appears to have been a significant contributory factor to the recent global financial crash.

John and Georgio transcribed photos of our various white board diagrams and notes into some graphical software Georgio’s team uses. Doing so lent the work more visual structure and allows the viewer to zoom in for more detail and zoom out for the 30,000ft view so to speak. Like so many aspects of this initiative, investing too little or too much time, too little or too much detail, detracts from the value of a happy medium. Finding the balance isn’t always straight forward, and this part took the guys much of their ‘spare’ time over a month.

And now that we have our model we can pursue the real thing, improving our abilities to develop, harvest, digest and respond to influences in real-time. We recognize that we’ll never compile perfect information but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for continuous improvement. You can draw some parallels here with weather forecasting – we’ll never be able to predict the precise weather conditions four weeks from noon next Tuesday, but we do want to have greater confidence in planning a family picnic at the weekend and in pricing crop yield futures.

With model in hand, John embarked on an extensive series of exploratory discussions with our various technology providers across the full gamut of IT – databases, customer relationship management, social analytics, business intelligence, unified messaging, ERP, collaboration, enterprise social networks, content / digital asset management, enterprise mobility, etc.

John enjoyed pushing the boundaries with these technologists and relayed to me that more than one of them now categorized Attenzi as, in the words of one, sophisticated. Saying that, he had wondered at some moments during early conversations whether we’d been tagged ‘nuts’.

Many of these aspects of IT qualify, partially or wholly, in IT lexicon as knowledge management.

John likes to say knowledge management is not an end of itself but rather a means to an end, and one of many means. Our work is a complementary means, a cooperating means. Knowledge and influence are related but different, and for a while there he’d begun to label our work ‘influence management’; it had a nice complementary ring to it. Now however he considers the word ‘management’ to have inappropriate connotations of controlling, when if anything we’re recognizing that many influences are beyond our control.

I agree.

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.

Fifty six (i)

As we went through our list of influences we talked about flows, and when you talk about flows it’s impossible not to draw arrows. I set to work drawing arrows on the white board. Lots of them.

“What on Earth is that?!”

Georgio was being less than flattering about my artistic abilities. His follow-on exclamation drew some crude comparison between my diagram and a spaghetti dish his three-year old had thrown on the floor the past weekend.

“Is that a meatball?!”

“No, that’s a reseller.”

We found we made better progress with Georgio wielding the pens and with the rest of us flapping our arms about.

It was a view of the organization unlike any we’d seen. No, it wasn’t a view – it was Attenzi expressed as a system of influences. And by that I mean devoid of the normal departmental labels. Add the dimensions of time, money and materials and you have the whole. (Our people, indeed all stakeholders, are critical nodes or ‘agents’ in the flows lest you think I’d forgotten them!)

It was exciting. I could see where our work was taking us – well, if only because Saket had nodded in this direction.

“OK, here’s a challenge,” I exclaimed. “If you try and forget everything you know about the way our company is structured, about our roles and responsibilities and job titles, how would you put a team of people together to bring this influence system to life to best pursue our goals?”

It’s such a tough question, and with hindsight I posed it too early.

Dom tells me the brain has evolved in ways that makes it difficult to tear down established mental frameworks and rebuild anew – such facility has had insufficient evolutionary advantage he says.

My earliest experience of this mental challenge came at school. I could just about reconcile that French speakers consider a car to be female – each to their own I thought – but finding out French has two different words for “to know” was a jolt. It was down right confusing for a mono-linguistic 12-year old. Even though I’m now a mono-linguistic adult I am left less than certain about the strengths and weaknesses of my own language.

But I digress.

Fifty three

Building an influence model is mentally taxing. Marcus lifted our spirits: “I’ve been in manufacturing my whole life and often think what a buzz it must have been to have worked alongside Deming or Juran, or to have helped develop the Toyota Production System. Now I know this thing we’re doing here may only have a fraction of the impact, but it feels important. It feels new. It feels right.”

Deming and Juran were quality management pioneers whose work revolutionized manufacturing during the 20th Century, and Marcus’ reference prompted me to brush up on their contributions that evening. I stumbled upon a great quote and emailed Marcus.

Hi Marcus,

Another Attenztastic day!

You mentioned Deming, and I just found this quote by him:

“To successfully respond to the myriad of changes that shake the world, transformation into a new style of management is required. The route to take is what I call profound knowledge – knowledge for leadership of transformation.”

You may not have been able to work with him, but it appears you’re pursuing his enduring vision. Pushing it in fact. We’re at the cutting edge of building that profound knowledge in ways he possibly never imagined.

See you at the eleven o’clock.


Marcus sent back a smiley with a postscript: “How are you getting on with moving away from email and on to the enterprise social network?”