What have horses got to do with business value?

You have probably heard the famous phrase: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: faster horses”. This sentence has been put into Henry Ford’s mouth since the 2000s. It probably didn’t originate from him, but it fits perfectly with his Ford Model T, which triggered a revolution in transport and the manufacturing industry from 1908. This phrase is often used to emphasise that it is better to ask an expert.

I disagree with this for a number of reasons, see more on this later. In this article, I would like to use this example to illustrate the difference between output and outcome. These terms are often used in Lean-Agile courses. Output is the scope of services that, for example, an IT service provider provides according to the contract. Outcome is the proof of effectiveness that the customer must provide in the traditional service view based on the output: the value created.

If you ask people who have no experience with the agile culture after a training course what the difference is between output and outcome, they usually say that it is almost the same thing. Output is the basis, so to speak, and outcome is a kind of stardust on top of it. Yet the two terms are very different in essence.

Back to the year 1908: A traditional service provider asks the customer what he wants as a means of transport (output) and receives the answer “a fast, enduring horse”. The customer’s consultant tries to avoid grinning and then explains what is in his portfolio.

When a consultant for adaptive services asks what outcome the customer wants to achieve with the means of transport and the answer is: “I dream of a fast and enduring horse”. This horse vision is not perfect, but it is an alternative whose value can be determined. With the “fast and enduring horse”, value potentials can be identified. For example, the farmer can offer his products on more distant markets. With the value potential, alternatives can be put together and developed; whether the matter goes in the direction of the T-model is decided by further development.

This is precisely the difference when you traditionally ask for an output and do not encourage a discussion about the outcome. The reasons for this are manifold and can also be internal to the organisation if IT is only seen as a support function and people think they know enough about solutions from other sources. This means you have to live with fast horses.

I know ideas of “fast horses” well. It’s great when people dare to do this. If this turns into a discussion about values and proof of effectiveness, it brings to light a lot more suitable alternatives. This is where innovation can arise.

Kein T-Modell
Not a  T-Modell

On connection

Thanks to our “Kneipenlesung” podcast, I have learnt to actively discover new perspectives by reading books. I was on this very track in search of new reading nourishment. Whilst doing this search, I read a book by a young author that I couldn’t get into, that for me was hyper-individualised and painted the world in black and white. This prompted me to look further.

The result of my quest is a wonderful statement against hyper-individuality, which is why I would like to recommend it: Kae Tempest is a musician, does spoken word performances and talks about her experiences in her book “On connection”. Kae talks about the difficulty of connecting and resonating with the audience. Her concept of creativity goes far beyond the artistic aspect.

There are several things I have learnt from this book, one of them being that I should make it my responsibility to strive for connection. For example, connection in a virtual team. In situations where someone is disrupting the group’s collaboration, I can try to get creative and involve that person again.

This approach extends far beyond resonance and moderation. This is inspiring to me and a very good antidote to the narcissism that is often found today. I hope that you too can take something from reading this small book and that it connects you. It is not a great literary work, nor is it a manual of methods, but it is a beautiful little essay by a stage artist about being connected.

Verbundensein
Kae Tempest On Connection (German Edition)

The difference with Generation Z

Recently, a young IT entrepreneurtalked about the three biggest challenges for young professionals, i.e. GenZ. They were lifelong learning, the insufficient public pension and a company with a strong purpose.

In my cohort, Generation X, these were lifelong learning, the state pension is not secure and never working for a company, which is dishonest. Depending on your opinion, these were mostly large corporations with corruption problems, defence companies or nuclear companies.

Lifelong learning was a challenge that seemed normal and cool just before graduating from university. I still enjoy learning new things today. Whether you like it or not, in technical professions one or two training courses with certificate exams per year are now normal. Something that surprises the non-technical people in my group of friends, but is becoming increasingly common in more and more professions.

The German Federal Minister for Social Affairs Dr. Norbert Blüm said “Pensions are safe” in 1997 and corporate pensions almost completely disappeared. And there were some scams with private investment schemes that were sold as supplementary pensions. In fact, the state pension has proved to be quite safe. Nevertheless, there is always good reason to build up additional savings.

I am emphatically not saying that nothing has changed in general. But I believe that the demands of Generation Z are primarily the demands of young people, which are not that unusual. I have always found a mixture of young and experienced people to be beneficial. For example, if a status quo has been challenged by motivated employees for 10 years, then it may only take another year and a young woman who is committed to working against it and it will fall.

There are amazing employees in Generation Z and, not to forget, also amazing employees in Generation X (Y, etc.) who are constantly shaking up the status quo and pushing things forward. Just talk to people and listen to whether they fit into the team.

Brunnen

42 and personality profiles

You’re probably thinking that this is the answer to the “ultimate question about life, the universe and the rest”, although the answer will be different.

In sales – no offence to sales, the above also applies anywhere else – I very often experience an astonishing use of personality profiles based on four colours, for example. After the first meeting with a customer who is still quite unknown, he or she is categorised in one of the categories and treated as a “blue” person from then on.

When preparing for an appointment, I am sometimes introduced to people with these stereotypes and the appointment is arranged on this basis. In practice, this often leads to surprises – it’s just a shame if you’ve missed the mark at a crucial point.

On the other hand, personality profiles – even those with few dimensions – are very well suited as analytical generalisations for strategic and tactical purposes, e.g. used as personas in sales training sessions in which pitches for “reds”, “blues” etc. are developed and practised. In this context, stereotypes simplify the training, as I can work with just a few categories.

Persona in sales training and person as customer should fit somehow, right? But they don’t, because:
– A single person has no definite statistical dependency
– Aggregated personality dimensions provide an aggregated (wrong) focus
– This is an unnecessary source of cognitive bias such as attribution error

The 42 makes it clear. When a shoe retailer buys a new men’s shoe model, he will have most shoes in stock in size 42, as this is the most common shoe size for men. Structuring the stock according to shoe size is certainly very clever. When a customer enters the shop and asks for advice in front of the counter, a good salesperson will certainly not say go to the size 42 shelf.

Please distinguish statistics and groupings very carefully from individuals. When in doubt, the analogy of shoe size helps me to separate the two. If you don’t know anything, sometimes a shoe in 42 has to fit, at least the felt slipper is not fussy when it comes to the castle tour.

Pantoffel

No circular wait

Sometimes you find a very unorganised tool landscape at the customer’s that costs the organisation enormous resources on a daily basis and makes proactive work impossible. In particularly financially weak IT organisations, old tools are often held on to for too long; in relatively wealthy IT organisations, tools are purchased first and integration can then take place later.

Often, even essential information is missing in the processes, which would have to be entered twice between the tools or manually reconciled. In particular, things like manual tracking or monitoring are still manageable when there are only a few open tickets, but virtually explode when many incidents have to be processed.

The stories of how exactly these obstacles came about, why adaptation and integration failed, are often different. But what I see in common is that these organisations have learned to wait for each other. For example, an improvement campaign ends with the conclusion that manual processes cannot be replaced at the moment because another division will soon be introducing a new tool.

Or because the service provider will probably be replaced in a year and a half. Then you can still switch off the manual processes. Often there is a wonderful cycle of constant variation in which there are always new reasons to wait.

However, there are always possibilities to mitigate existing shortcomings. Especially if you know your organisation well, you can easily assess what is worth doing. The new HR tool will certainly take months to decide. But modernising the old leave process (on paper) and trying out the new process can be worthwhile.

I can only recommend introducing “No circular wait” as a rule or checkpoint. Nothing should be omitted just because you are waiting for others. In such a case, alternative solutions must be identified. You can always find a small sustainable improvement.

Primarily, small continuous improvements also help immediately. Secondly, they also increase the pressure to gradually get to grips with the big solution, e.g. the permanent and comprehensive replacement of a tool. In my experience, thinking in alternative solutions also changes the culture of becoming more innovative and creative. Let’s make it happen.

Impact Effort Matrix

P.S.: The circular wait solutions often reside in the blue quadrant, the transformation into manageable green solutions is difficult, but can usually be mastered iteratively.