Why should you care about how you lead and the people who follow you?

Jack Ma vs Kim

One of my friends wrote a very touching article about his recent failures and learnings about leadership. That inspired me to share some tips what I have learned. I keep failing all the time, so those stories I will save later as a comic reliefs for my presentations. This is not about how to be a good leader or a basic leadership lesson, it is about couple of tips for certain situations you will end up with when being a leader.

Need to do a big change which touches a lot of people? Just do it! 

Naturally you need all the necessary governance stuff, negotiations, change management etc, but when is the time for the execution, just do it. It does not hurt less or succeed better if you prolong it more than it should. Communicate very clearly and constantly why it needed to be done, how it will effect everyone and what is the end goal. Talk about people, about the numbers and the grand plan – your vision of why.

Everyone will not be happy. It is just how it always is. When you execute the change quick, the actual change will benefit more from the novelty effect and the people also have more time to retain and recover their motivation. If the big change takes a lot of time and happens bit-by-bit, there is no time for people to respite and regain their motivation. Future changes will come more difficult and expectations are negative. If the people have the time to adjust and they can trust some level of stability on their environment, they also become more receptive for change and trust them.

You genuinely have to care! 

The advice I got from one of my former managers is a good one, but it does not work for everyone. If you are typical Finnish engineering-oriented technology lover like me, it is sometimes difficult to care about everything and everyone you encounter – even I have learned that is possible too. 

If you do not care about things, that is easy, just delegate the responsibility to some-one who cares. You get way better results that messing the things up by yourself which you really do not care about.

If you do not genuinely care about the people, you are in trouble. You need to care or learn to care. Learn or do not lead. You can co-operate by “just concentrating on the business”, but you cannot lead or inspire that way. When people see you actually care about them, they start to trust you. When you have gained certain amount of trust, that endures over disagreements and upholds an additional level of motivation and mutual understanding. 

Don’t be a Ninja, be a Samurai! 

There is a famous advertisement saying that experience brings confidence. You need a lot of confidence to be a workplace Samurai. The Bushido code mentions the eight virtues of the Samurai and they form an ideal example of a modern leader. In this context, I would add one trait – transparency. If you can be transparent, honest and keep communicating constantly what and why you do things like you do, your life starts to get easier very fast. Again, not everyone will like that, but you need to spend a lot less time on explaining what you do and who does what on your organisation. People will also start to solve conflicts by themselves and not always seeking you as their referee.

Trust and respect! 

As the recent Harward research states, trust and respect are the first and strongest things that you are been evaluated from the start. They come together and they are also given and achieved in common. This is vital for building success and you cannot lead with out it. Giving out a lot of trust may feel like losing control, but it actually raises the results to totally different level and builds mutual respect. You cannot and should not work with the people you simply cannot trust.

Good example of a successful big change and trust is when former Cisco CEO John Chambers decided to turn his big boat around. He communicated the vision, plan and the goal transparently and honestly. He gave his top 1.500 managers a fiscal quarter time to decide if they were all in at the change. If not, they would have a significant resignation package and no hard feelings afterwards. If memory serves, more that 95% of the managers were all in and after two years, the big change was successfully completed.

Not everyone of us can make a that level of a decisions, but still the lesson is important. You cannot turn the direction if the people do not support you and if you need to force the change, you need to do it fast, honestly and you need to care and trust the people around you.

You cannot be BiModal

In short, no single person can be Bimodal. In contrast, many other entities can. Despite the hype and the mystery around the concept, Bimodal IT is actually something simple which actually gives you many tools for a better governance model.

CIO’s, IT departments and business leaders are all thrilled about the term and now every reputable organisation wants to master the one of the most popular hype words used by the Gartner. So what does it mean?

Gartner did not actually invent the concept of Bimodal. It was invented by Béla Bartók, one of the most important composers at 20th century. For him, the Bimodal meant simultaneous use of two distinct pitch collections, which do not need to be in traditional scales. So basically playing music in two different ways at the same time.

I do not know when the Gartner did adopt the term for Bimodal IT, but I guess it was around 2014. It started as a hype word, but it was quickly adopted to larger enterprises and by the most agile CIO’s as their favoured way of handling the new more quick-paced productivity requirements. 

Gartner has a nice glossary, which states the explanation for the term like this:

Mode 1 is optimized for areas that are more predictable and well-understood. It focuses on exploiting what is known, while renovating the legacy environment into a state that is fit for a digital world. Mode 2 is exploratory, experimenting to solve new problems and optimized for areas of uncertainty. These initiatives often begin with a hypothesis that is tested and adapted during a process involving short iterations, potentially adopting a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. Both modes are essential to create substantial value and drive significant organizational change, and neither is static. Marrying a more predictable evolution of products and technologies (Mode 1) with the new and innovative (Mode 2) is the essence of an enterprise bimodal capability. Both play an essential role in the digital transformation.

To me, this is just a part of the explanation. When I saw the presentation of the Bimodal IT at the first time, I thought that very agile organisation could actually just be fully on Mode 2 and the whole model is nonsence. Very soon I realised, that even the most agile startup would still require some more stable systems or services for the basic parts of the business. Why would you need to have very agile Mode 2 management on your email services, since you just basically want it to work? Using Mode 1 makes sense on more stabile, traditional or legacy parts of the information management. They do not need to be complex, just more stable.

When the use for Public Cloud started to come common in business applications, it came apparent that the new way of working with new services and platforms required a new approach for the governance and processes. Cloud architects adjust the enterprise architecture much faster than in the traditional infrastructure model. Business development is faster and whole business processes change in very fast pace. Managing all this cannot be done in traditional way, waterfall organisations react too slowly and old project models fail to their own complexity. Mode 2 is needed and this really is the sweet-spot for it. Services, professionals around them and the management model are all Mode 2. 

There is one additional aspect of Bimodal IT. The most important part of all business and management is the people. The people are also Bimodal. So you cannot personally be Bimodal, but you are either one, Mode 1 or Mode 2. If you think about the Gartner’s explanation, it states the characteristics of the modes as predictable, improving, renovating, exploratory and experimenting. These definitions suite to humans as well as IT. When listening to our employees feedback and wishes for the IT, there were clear split between two major groups how the people wanted to work and to use the tools in their preferred way. It is also very dependent of the individual role and the daily tasks. You should not point out who is Mode 1 or Mode 2, since it would not be correct, but you should be able to offer a Bimodal options for daily work and let everyone pick the ones they prefer.

As a summary, Bimodal IT is important and every organisation needs it. Everything can be split to Bimodal, but only governance models can handle both at the same time. The more future proof you want to be – in any aspect, the more Mode 2 you need to have.

How to handle a cold call with just one question?

Customer service

There has been a lot of discussion about the traditional sales work and cold calling customers in random. Is it useful or not?

Since I am certainly not the best professional on the topic, unlike my friend Sani Leino who really is, I will concentrate more on the person who answers the call.

My long background as a ICT-solution consumer and also as a CIO has made me an wanted target for cold calls. On the best (or worst) days, I receive more than 50 calls, originating from more than 20 different countries. Unfortunately, less than 1% of them are good or even average. Still, some of them are very good, like the one I got few years ago from Sani. His cold call definitely worked as planned and besides the actual business deal made, we eventually built strong mutual respect and even became friends.

So when you answer the call, remember always to be polite. The caller is doing his/her job and it is certainly not easy. If the call is bad, the fault is not the callers, you should blame the people who trained and instrucred the caller badly. If you are very busy at the time, just do not pick up the phone. You know when your colleagues, friends or family are calling and that is no excuse to answer unknown number when eating your lunch or in a important meeting.

You are a busy person. So how to handle the intrusive feeling calls politely? I have one simple thing I suggest you to try – and this is good to know for the callers too.

Answer the call only if you have one or two minutes to spare. Otherwise you will waste both your and the callers time just stating “you are too busy”.

After the elevator speech (what ever it is), I always start with a question: “What problem of mine do you solve?“.

If they just want to meet and you feel lonely, then your problem is solved. If they cannot solve any problems or you do not have a problem they can solve, the discussion is over and both parties should realise that. You can state that quite straightforward and again, save both parties time by doing that.

If they have a solution for your problem, then you should give them more time, even meet them.

Caller can of course start asking or even guessing about your problems, but that will not work. They have to have something what should fix problems and if you do not have that specific problem, it is useless to meet representative of the call originating company or even continue the discussion.

Sounds too simple? I challenge you to try, it works!

We need more digital skills

Progamming has now came to elementary school. As digitalization changes business models, even the everyday life of individuals are affected by the level of new skills they possess. 

Finland is in the best position in the world for creating business benefits from deepening digitalization, but when it comes to utilising the actual concepts, the country is ranked fifth. Last year we were among the last.

We certainly are not too prejudiced, but we do seem to lack the courage to make big decisions and effect real change. This a matter of generation and culture.

Finnish children have just started their first year with a syllabus that includes code writing, for example. This is a tangible example of the direction that we all are headed, an example of the skills that we are required to have from a very early point in our lives. We must start improving our digital skills and understanding today, not a day or a year later.

I do not event want to mention the IoT here. It is far beyond digitalization and consists from a lot more than just sensors and assortments of random expensive technology.

The goal of my empolyer Enfo is to make it as easy as possible to understand digitalization. Recently launched knowledge platform thedigitaldimension.com offers information and practical examples for everyone interested in utilising digitalization and being leaders in it.

The idea to create this platform emerged from discussions with a CEO. He admitted that he didn’t know what digitalization actually means or what it can create. This led us to conclude that there is a need to explain the phenomenon more efficiently. After all, digitalization is something that affects us all, people and businesses alike.

What all Finns should know about digitalization?

Digitalization is not a threat. It is a tool for further developing our welfare state. With it, we can both tackle the sustainability gap and build new services and products that generate jobs and revenue for Finland. 

The high level of education that Finns have, their positive attitude to technology and the high speed at which ideas spread, enabled by digitalisation, all provide an internationally significant competitive advantage. 

What all businesses should know about digitalization

Digitalization favours the bold and the brace. It is often difficult to predict success, and this is part of today’s business. New types of actors may emerge quickly and shake up the entire market. As this is the situation, it is well worth testing new ideas and ways without prejudice. 

If it looks as if a particular digital solution is not suitable to the needs of your business, it is good to try something else. What is important is to do something instead of watching others do it.

You are getting scammed

Scamming

My Dead Friends,

I write this to you, because you are being scammed and your identity is in immediate danger. This is not a joke and I am not selling you anything than just a friendly reminder.

Making your social media updates private or limiting them to your closest friends will not help anything. Internet is basically open – as it has always been. Nothing is 100% secure.

Because of social media every one knows what you like, what is your home town, what is your mother’s maiden name, your first pet and the web shops you use. Probably your ISP, bank and insurance company are also known by the “tweets” of your feedback and claims. Your pictures tell where you are where you have been and what is important to you. Now, because of the newest “circular letter” #myfirstsevenjobs, your first job is also known. There is only very little what is NOT known.

All this information defines your digital identity. It can be easily accessed and even more easily stolen. Your password can be reset and your account stolen – from every account you have. This can happen to all of us.

Please take care of your personal information and remember what you post to social media.

Best regards
Your friendly herald of cybersecurity

Why progress is so difficult?

Leadership

I had a very interesting discussion with a colleague today concerning  digitalization and corporate strategy.

My colleague has been doing a consulting work for a customer and I have recently been involved with a new solution development with totally new technology.

Surprisingly, we faced identical challenges in our so different projects – the difficulty of communication. Even both of us had a clear vision what must be done and how, the people around us understood differently. They had a totally different understanding, vision and plan to execute.

Additionally, it is natural that people like different things. This will add the motivation to go different way and create common goal even more difficult to achieve. When we talk about digitalization, this shows as longer projects and elevated costs.

Every-one talks and writes about the leadership and new better ways to lead. I agree, it is time for mesh-type management (guru follows guru) and project-based organisations, but this post is not about leadership, it is about communication.

Digitalization is difficult and IoT is even more challenging. Despite that, you must be part of them. If more than half of Fortune 500 companies have gone bankrupt since 2000, it is sure that disregarding digitalization and IoT will result as a end of business/operations.

What I did not realise, was that when ICT domains started siloing, so did the communications regarding them. That would seem like a obvious thing, but when dozen ICT-specialists talk about the same thing, it is sometimes difficult to see that they all actually mean different thing. The more difficult the topic, the more difficult the communication. 

Digitalization and IoT are the most difficult topics to understand, since they always involve people from totally different background, education and point of view. Achieving progress requires a lot of communication and repetition. You must have a clear vision and understand it well enough. Just like Albert Einstein stated:”If you can’t explain it simply enough, you don’t know it well enough”.

So my wisdom of the day is this:”You always work with teams and peers. Make absolutely sure, that every-one understands exactly what you are talking about”.