AMI Consultancy Blog



Microsoft and the Innovator's Paradox by Scott Anthony

"The Odds Are Increasing That Microsoft's Business Will Collapse"

That's a pretty good title if you (like Henry Blodget from Silicon Alley Insider, the writer of the article) are trying to grab eyeballs. It also provides a useful introduction to what I call the "Innovator's Paradox."
Blodget's article was provocative. He argued that Microsoft is in a no-win situation. It isn't sitting on any idea that is on the cusp of turning into a multi-billion dollar business. The personal computer is losing its dominance to mobile devices and tablets. The company's core profit drivers (Windows and Office) are under disruptive assault from Google's freely available applications and operating system. At best, Microsoft will respond with its own free products and erode its profit margin.
The most telling thing in Blodget's post was a chart that showed the sources of Microsoft's profits over the past few years. Microsoft's core business has continued — despite continued proclamations of the company's coming demise — to throw off cash and to grow. But new growth businesses that were specks in 2006 (entertainment and devices and online services) remain tiny, and Microsoft hasn't created any material new businesses over the past few years.

Failure as a "great experience'! Michael Wolff 's lesson in entrepreneurship


On entrepreneurship and focus: three Questions for Entrepreneurs by Scot Anthony

The other day I was meeting with the leadership team of a startup company brimming with transformational potential. The team had made tremendous progress in a year, going from an idea on a piece of paper to a fully functioning business earning real revenue.
Of course, any new venture is fragile. While revenues are growing, the company hasn't yet hit breakeven. Its current projections suggest that point is still at least six months away. The company has some cash in the bank, but recently began looking for further external investment to help ensure it remains solvent.
Our discussion went something like this:


How to Translate Training into Results by Ron Ashkenas

Most everyone would agree that the training and development of managers is a critical component of success for organizations — especially if you believe that a stronger leadership team makes a competitive difference. Yet despite its importance, when times are tough management training and development budgets are among the first to be cut. More often than not the reason behind this apparent contradiction is the lack of a clear connection between such training and results. Without this connection, cost-conscious executives at best view management development as a "nice" but discretionary expense and at worst as unnecessary time off.
Let's look at a quick example: The leadership development staff of a large pharmaceutical company worked with a well-known business school to create a five-day residential program on "becoming a senior leader" for their top 400 managers (just below the executive ranks). Over the course of two years, the company ran the program four times, with twenty-five managers attending each session. Each of the programs included visits from the CEO and other executives to talk about the company's strategy; case studies of other companies taught by world-class business school professors; and time for the participants to network and get to know each other. Postsession feedback was extremely positive, with participants saying that they enjoyed the program and "learned a great deal." However, six months later none of the participants could say that their business or function was any better off as a result of the program; and few could cite anything that they were personally doing differently. Based on this assessment combined with the multimillion dollar cost of the program and a budget squeeze, the program was cancelled and most of the leadership development staff was let go.


Fresh fish

The Japanese have always loved fresh fish. But the waters close to Japan have not held many fish for decades. So to feed the Japanese population, fishing boats got bigger and went farther than ever.

The farther the fishermen went, the longer it took to bring in the fish. If the return trip took more than a few days, the fish were not fresh.
The Japanese did not like the taste.

To solve this problem, fishing companies installed freezers on their boats.

They would catch the fish and freeze them at sea. Freezers allowed the boats to go farther and stay longer. However, the Japanese could taste the difference between fresh and frozen and they did not like frozen fish.

The frozen fish brought a lower price. So fishing companies installed fish tanks. They would catch the fish and stuff them in the tanks, fin to fin. After a little thrashing around, the fish stopped moving. They were tired and dull, but alive. Unfortunately, the Japanese could still taste the difference. Because the fish did not move for days, they lost their fresh-fish taste. The Japanese preferred the lively taste of fresh fish, not sluggish fish.

So how did Japanese fishing companies solve this problem? How do they get fresh-tasting fish to Japan? If you were consulting the fish industry, what would you recommend?

How Japanese Fish Stay Fresh:

To keep the fish tasting fresh, the Japanese fishing companies still put the fish in the tanks. But now they add a small shark to each tank. The shark eats a few fish, but most of the fish arrive in a very lively state. The fish are challenged.

Have you realized that some of us are also living in a pond but most of the time tired & dull, so we need a Shark in our life to keep us awake and moving? Basically in our lives Sharks are new challenges to keep us active and taste better...

The more intelligent, persistent and competent you are, the more you enjoy a challenge.

If your challenges are the correct size, and if you are steadily conquering those challenges, you are Conqueror. You think of your challenges and get energized. You are excited to try new solutions.

Source: one of our blog followers shared this story with us. Thank you Erik!


On big goals (enought with that!) and small steps by Robert I. Sutton

Hey Boss — Enough with the Big, Hairy Goals

Managers often think their job is to inspire their people with "stretch goals" — clear objectives that will be hard to meet, but that would have a dramatic impact on the organization's success. That this kind of ambitious goal-setting is a hallmark of effective leaders, and of high-performance organizations, is an old theme in behavioral science. Edwin Locke and Gary Latham in particular have produced a brilliant and compelling stream of research over the past 35 years demonstrating that difficult, specific goals lead to better task performance. In a more popular mode, Jim Collins has convinced thousands of managers of the value of "BHAG's" — big, hairy, audacious goals.

There's no denying that ambitious goals are essential to motivation. But my view is that the best bosses don't spend much time thinking or talking about them. There are a few reasons for this:


Het managementmodel als moderne gevangenis

Om organisaties of teams beter te laten draaien, maken managers plannen. Vaak maken ze gebruik van managementmodellen om niet zelf het wiel uit te hoeven vinden. Dat is goed te begrijpen. Wanneer een verandering of verbetering grootschalig is, laten ze zich bijstaan door een adviseur om zich wat zekerder te voelen. Ook dat is goed te begrijpen.

Ik wil daarom geen kwaad spreken over welke adviseur dan ook. Waar het mij wel om gaat is dat modellen de realiteit vervormen waarin de manager zijn weg moet zien te vinden. Modellen sluiten delen van die realiteit uit, negeren delen en houden delen uit het zicht en over-accentueren juist weer andere delen van de realiteit. Naud van der Ven wijst er  in zijn boek “Schaamte en verandering” op dat een model zijn eigen werkelijkheid schept waaruit het vervolgens moeilijk ontsnappen is.
Door fusie na fusie ontstond  er een grote onderwijsinstelling (een veel voorkomend verschijnsel). In aantal nauwelijks te tellen scholen verspreid over een grote regio mochten bij hun ingang dezelfde vlag uithangen. Een adviesbureau hielp het management de onderwijsinstelling tot een eenheid te smeden. Op elke school een directeur plaatsen met ruime bevoegdheden was voor het management ondenkbaar. Vandaar dat “een procesgestuurde organisatie”waar het bureau voor stond onmiddellijk in goede aarde viel. Elke manager kreeg een proces dat over alle scholen liep (personeels zaken, onderwijsontwikkeling, marketing, samenwerkingsverbanden met bedrijven, etc). Elke manager ging beschikken over stafmedewerkers die de taak kregen beleid te ontwikkelen. Hen werd gevraagd zijn of haar manager te ondersteunen en vooral voor die manager te zijn. Docenten zaten in teams, aangestuurd door een teamleider.
Wilde een teamleider wat, had hij een veelbelovend idee, had hij een verzoek of een prangend probleem, dan moest hij in veel gevallen vijf directeuren benaderen. Een idee, probleem, verzoek past namelijk vaak niet in één proces. Teamleiders knapten af en zij die zich staande hielden, benaderden de directeuren niet meer en trokken zich terug..Na vijf jaar ploeteren en ellende kwam het management tot de uitspraak: “We denken dat het misschien toch niet zo goed werkt, die procesgestuurde organisatie.”
Het gaat mij in dit voorbeeld niet om het concept ‘procesgestuurde organisatie’ op de korrel te nemen. Waar het mij omgaat, is hoe het komt dat een concept/model zolang stand houdt. In dit voorbeeld speelt macht en politiek zeker een rol. Maar toch ook zeker iets anders. Om dat goed onder woorden te brengen, kom ik eerst nog met een tweede case.


Are You Prepared for Your Next Defining Moment? by Tsun-yan Hsieh.

If I asked you to name the important meetings you have coming up, it probably wouldn't be a problem: things like the annual shareholders' meeting, the final pitch for a major contract, the one-on-one performance review with your boss and so on. But if I ask you to point to the two or three moments in each of these meetings that will define the outcomes, many of you may look at me with less certainty. We don't have a problem identifying critical moments from our past, but predicting — and preparing for — those moments in the future is quite a bit more difficult, but no less essential than those past moments prove.
These critical moments are often characterized as "moments of truth," but in real-time, they're usually a moment of uncertainty, not clarity. So how do we make the most of the defining moments coming at us in the near future?


The power of story telling


The surprising science of motivation by Dan Pink


15 Steps for Successful Strategic Alliances (and Marriages)

Wedding bells fill the Northern Hemisphere air for this season's happy couples. Among the newlyweds armed with pre-nuptial agreements are numerous companies starting strategic alliances, joint ventures, and focused collaboratives.
Unlike full-blown mergers, in which two really do become one because one company disappears, alliances and partnerships resemble modern marriages: separate careers, individual checkbooks, sometimes different names, but the need to work out the operational overlap around household and offspring.
For many years, I've helped major companies and other organizations extract value from their strategic alliances or watch them disappear. I've developed a 15-step guide to ensuring success as every stage of the relationship, from courtship to ongoing success (first reported in my book World Class).
So here is my business marriage counseling advice. Any resemblances to personal marriages or advice for June newlyweds are strictly intentional.
1. Be open to romance, but court carefully. At the beginning of new relationships, selective perceptions reinforce dreams, not dangers. Potential partners see in the other what they want to see, believing what they want to believe. Hopes, dreams, and visions should be balanced by reality checks.
2. Know yourself. Build your strengths. An organization seeking partners should identify assets that have value to partners and strengthen them. Networks of the weak do not survive. The best alliances join strength to strength.


Interesting change management principles by an Ad man.

 Not all problems need an engineering solution as Rory Sutherland states in this great Ted talk.


Leadership is a teamsport (and so is leadership development)

It's Time to Focus Executive Development on Real Business Issues by Trina Soske and Jay A. Conger

Over the last three decades, the resources and energy devoted to leadership development in corporations has skyrocketed. You would be hard pressed to find a major corporation that has not spent millions and millions of dollars on leadership initiatives for its executive and general management ranks. But has the investment in these efforts paid off, however the return is measured? Perhaps more important, if any one of us was a CEO evaluating the various levers to improve organizational performance, would we select leadership development versus the alternatives?

From our vantage point, the return on these investments has fallen seriously short of its potential. We also suspect that many CEOs would not turn to leadership development as the first choice lever to improve their organization's performance.


Moral Leadership as Shaped by Human Evolution by Paul R. Lawrence

All animals survive guided by two innate drives, or ultimate motives. These are the drive to acquire essential resources and offspring, and the drive to defend themselves, and their property. Humans, as a species, have evolved to require two additional drives that are emerging in some other mammals but fully expressed only in humans — the drive to bond in trusting, long-term relationships and the drive to comprehend — that is, to learn and create.

These two uniquely human drives have evolved by the Darwinian mechanisms of sex selection and social group selection, as well as the better-known mechanism of natural selection. (Sex selection occurs when mates are selected that enhance survival at the individual level; and group selection occurs to enhance survival at the group level.)


Little voices in your mind, do you recognise them?

Interesting post by Seth Godin. Makes you think...

Not just my head, but your customer's head and yes... yours.
Everyone has multiple conversations and priorities going on, competing agendas that come into play every time we make a choice about doing, buying, creating or interacting. I think these voices (and a few I missed) determine which career we choose, how good a job we do, where we shop and what we watch. Here are a few:
  • The ego--seeks applause and recognition.
  • The lizard--seeks safety, wants to fit in and not be rejected or criticized.
  • The artist--wants to be generous, creative and make positive change with impact.
  • The boxer--wants to poke and be poked, seeks revenge and ultimately victory.
  • The zombie--wants to turn off and be entertained.
  • The carpenter--seeks to do useful work, and finish it well.
  • The philanthropist--wants to help, anonymously.
  • The evangelist--wants to spread an idea.
  • And the hunter--wants to successfully track and bring down a target.
There's a lot of overlap here, no doubt about it. Who's winning?




By Adi Ignatius, the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Business Review Group in his blog ‘A Dying Father’s Lessons on Life for His Teenaged Daughter‘. John’s lessons remind one that having a few simple guidelines can help yield a life of worthwhile accomplishments.

1. Seek out a mentor — possibly someone who was involved in your hiring process. Learn what to expect two or three years ahead and prepare for it.

2. Assume the behavior and habits of the people at the next level, and you will demonstrate that you can get there.

3. Whatever you do, be sure your involvement and actions’ ethics and results will look honorable and wise if they appear in the right hand column of the Wall Street Journal’s front page. They just might.

4. ”Try to find out what you’re good at, and have a passion for, and get someone to pay you for doing it” — advice I was given early on, and it has always proved to be the path for success and, just as importantly, happiness.

5. The first job is rarely anything but a start. Do the best you can, try to work with people you like and admire, and hope for the best. In your lifetime, you may change jobs, if not your career path, many times.

6. Avoid bosses who promise promotions and advancement but who take credit for your work. They won’t fulfill their promises to you.

7. Save for a rainy day and always be able to support yourself. You can lose everything in a flash, and scenarios of financial adversity do present themselves in life, even to the best prepared.

8. Avoid speculative ventures. If making money were easy, everyone would be wealthy. If someone can’t answer all your questions and ”what ifs,” there’s something wrong.”