Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 6

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 6, Winning Strategies, Getting Unstuck and Sex

In this chapter, Seth discusses how a company can get stuck with its winning strategy and get unstuck if the strategy is no longer working. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • Every company, big or small, has a winning strategy. The winning strategy needs not to be perfect or market-dominating, but it does generate results that the people at the company want to execute repeatedly.
  • The organization thrives as long as the winning strategy and the corresponding environment that supports it stay the same. But, at some point, all winning strategies cease to last forever because the surrounding climate eventually changes. Today, because the environment and rules change often, winning systems do not stay for long.
  • When the winning strategy is no longer working, many companies have difficulty making the necessary changes shifting away from the old system. There are usually three reasons for the unwillingness to change.
  • The first reason is that following someone else’s path is often an excellent substitute for the perceived risk of original thinking. The second reason is that sticking with tried-and-true approaches helps justify past decisions. The third reason is that, until recently, feedback loops have been slow and unreliable. As a result, it took a while before the vivid and urgent proof showed that a company’s strategy is not working anymore.
  • Unfortunately for us, the ever-changing world will always allow someone to find a new winning strategy. For someone who has an open mind about the new winning design, the quick-changing, technology-rich environment will offer many angles that make their newly adopted system more robust and potent than our existing strategy.
  • In evolution, sexual selection and natural selection determine how a species evolve and thrive (or becomes extinct). Such a mechanism works similarly for organizations, too. Sending fitness signals efficiently can enable an organization to find better partners and lead to more product and service offerings.
  • To enable an organization’s ability to change and to zoom, the organization needs to send the signal that it is not just safe for people to change but unsafe for those who conduct discourage change.
  • Bullies in an organization make it hard to zoom. A bully-free company is faster, wiser, more profitable, and fun. Firing people is dramatically underrated as a management strategy. By firing people who slow our organization down, we substantially support everyone who remains. Sticking by one or two influential people who refuse to zoom can easily lead to the layoff of hundreds or thousands of people.
  • Our customers also do a lot to determine our company’s mDNA. They affect the work we do, the prices we charge, and the kind of people we hire. As a result, we choose our future when we choose our customers.

In summary:

“Organizations can respond to competition and environmental shifts by organizing to evolve their mDNA, making incremental evolution less painful for the people who work there.”

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 5

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 5, Your Company Has mDNA

In this chapter, Seth discusses a company’s meme DNA (mDNA) and how organizations can leverage the mDNA metaphor to embrace and adopt changes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • A company’s mDNA comprises the rules, processes, policies, market position, and people in the company. Without this mDNA, an organization would forget, from day to day, what it did and how it operated yesterday. What an organization did before today often plays a significant role in planning to do business tomorrow.
  • Unlike human DNA, the company mDNA can mutate as often as the business wants it to. The mDNA must change before the organization can change. Trying to change a business and its people without mutating the mDNA is not possible.
  • The business ecosystem is made up of many businesses. Each business in that environment is a smaller system, but all of them are in the same environment, entwined with each other. At each step along the way, a business, like organisms in nature, evolves along with its people and sub-organizations.
  • The job of the CEO is not to be right about the future as it is impossible to get everything bit right. The position of the CEO is to organize the company to execute a strategy that is winning for now, at the same time, to organize the company to evolve often enough to find the next strategy before today’s plan becomes useless.
  • Companies that can zoom are more likely to evolve, more likely to be launching innovative new products and services, and more likely to be successful. In addition, a company that knows how to zoom more than likely will attract employees who want to zoom. “When your company starts hiring zoomers, it’s going to zoom faster!”
  • Most of the fantastic big business ideas did not initially come from start-ups. Instead, they came from the research group inside big companies that were too rigid to do anything with them. “The challenge companies face is not in inventing new ideas. It’s in moving the old ideas out of the way so that they can implement the new ones.”

In summary:

“Organizations can put the proven tactics of evolution to use by embracing change, not fighting it. By incorporating adopting successful new memes into a company’s mDNA, organizations can defeat their slower competitors.”

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 4

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 4, Do You Zoom?

In this chapter, Seth discusses the concept of Zooming and why it is essential to start zooming before a crisis comes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • Seth stated that “Zooming is about stretching your limits without threatening your foundation. It’s about handing new ideas, new opportunities, and new challenges without triggering the change-avoidance reflex.”
  • With the constant changes, many companies are now stretched beyond their zoom-width. As a result, they see everything new as a threat instead of an opportunity. If we can learn how to zoom and then hire people who want to zoom with the organization, the organization can grow, adapt, and perhaps even transform itself.
  • Zooming is different from change management. Change management is about making adjustments for a significant change or an urgent change with a purpose. Change management is a one-time event, followed by a period of healing.
  • On the other hand, Zooming is about developing the flexibility for constant change. Zooming prepares us to deal with changes for no particular reason or specific goals. We do not have to heal from Zooming any more than we need to recover from breathing.
  • Although every company zooms, some zoom more than others. Increasing our zoom width is a challenge, but the practice can build an asset that pays off for the organization.
  • More importantly, the best time to start zooming is before our company looks at a significant, life-threatening change. We should get into the habit of making frequent, small changes first. Then work our way up to bigger things.
  • Zooming is not the same as traditional re-engineering. A zooming organization is not worried about making today’s machine work better. It is more concerned with being flexible enough to put its assets to work building tomorrow’s machine
  • Re-engineering is a fancy term for layoff and labor force reduction. Flexible organizations make better use of their assets, and the first asset they maximize is their people. Unfortunately, the reality is that we cannot always shrink our way to greatness.
  • Most organizations get attached to the winning strategy that has made the organization’s assets valuable. As the world changed, the assets grew much less helpful, but the organization still hopes to reclaim the former glory by sticking with the old strategy that offers certainty. Unfortunately, fear and inertia keep a company standing still.
  • However, if our new winning strategy is that nothing is certain with change inevitable and welcome, we will likely not be disappointed by the reality.

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 3

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 3, Fear and Zooming

In this chapter, Seth discusses the need to change our mindset on embracing changes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • There are usually four situations where people freeze in the face of making a change in organizations. They are:
    • Pressure from deadlines
    • Fatigue
    • Fear
    • Bosses who desire closure, not uncertainty
  • When organizations do want to enact changes, they often sabotage their effort by putting up two significant barriers:
    • Committees: Most organizations allow any committee member to say no to a change but require a unanimous yes for anything to move forward.
    • Critics: We are afraid of failing, and that mindset makes it easy for criticism, most of them ill-informed and unfair, to derail our effort most of the time.
  • It is not just the people. Most market-leading organizations are afraid of change. When an organization is mature and successful, it is harder for a needed change to gain traction because of the status quo and possible criticism.
  • For many people, change can feel like death. Species have evolved to avoid change or danger to survive. For a long time, we have grown to carry genes afraid of change. In the present age, one great idea is not going to kill us. We should not automatically associate change with danger.
  • Most change management approaches no longer work well. We have used change management to get ourselves out of emergencies. However, change is no longer an emergency. Change is now a regular occurrence in our daily environment.
  • To build an organization that can embrace change is to redefine change. We should create a “Zooming” practice that allows us to embrace change without causing the change-avoid gene to kick in with waves of fear and panic. If we can bypass that reflex, we can define “normal” as an environment in which new things appear regularly.

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 2

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 2, What Every CEO Needs to Know About Evolution

In this chapter, Seth discusses that evolutionary biology can provide an essential analogy to how business can not only survive but flourish in times of change. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • “Every time an organism mates, the genes from both parents are shuffled and combined. This reshuffling is the action that creates new organisms and allows evolution to proceed. This is the only time the genes get changed, but it happens every time. Try as the organism might, it can’t change its genes.”
  • “Genes cause offspring to resemble their parents.”
  • “Genes that are successful are more likely to spread through a population.”
  • “The choice of which genes are passed on to future generations is influenced by three factors: sexual selection, natural selection and mutation.”
  • “Evolution is a bottom-up phenomenon, with each gene and each organism driving the process. Elephants don’t need permission from the chief to mate.”
  • “Organisms that reproduce more often are more responsive to changes in the environment. Fruit flies survive change better than tigers.”
  • Present successful companies got to where they are by evolving and adapting better than their competitions. They changed and grew until they became successful.
  • Whether a company continues to succeed depends on whether it willfully stopped evolving. Those companies created roadblocks designed to slow their evolution process. They turn their attention to policies, committees, and investors. They also invest in attaining stable and repeatable operations while ignoring that change is constantly on the move.

In summary, Seth believes that change is unceasing and unyielding. Therefore, the best strategy is to embrace it and evolve.

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 1

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 1, Change

In this chapter, Seth discusses why change is no longer something we can control with absolute certainty and the better strategies to deal with changes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • Many companies are not organized for change because they have never needed to be. Growing and profiting from stable times was a terrific strategy.
  • Unfortunately, change is now constant. The fundamental ideas we have used to build our companies and careers are quickly going out of style. The world is changing on our watch, and it is not fun.
  • Seth outlines the four structural changes in the business that have taken place in the last several decades:
    • “The speed at which we make decisions is now the factor that limits the speed of business.” Our decisions are on the critical path of getting things done, and the lead time for many things we do has shrunk dramatically.
    • “The Net has made information close to free and close to ubiquitous, further fueling the need for speed.”
    • Our worldview of having islands of stability is disappearing. “There’s only one market, and it’s the whole world.”
    • “Metcalfe’s law (networks get more powerful when they connect more people) has reached infinity.” As a result, we are all virtually connected.
  • For a long time, owning physical plants and factories has been the best way to get rich. However, with rich connectivity and cheap shipping, the factory-centric model is dying. Being factory-centric does not increase our profits but decreases them. The Factory-centric model also does not lessen our time to market; it now likely increases it.
  • Surviving change is a noble goal, but we need to find ways to embrace changes and get better results. We need to turn working with changes into a positive feedback loop.
  • When people start interacting in a positive feedback loop, the loop can get amplified and enter a stage called runaway. Even though runaway cannot last forever, it is fun while it lasts. So our job should be to figure out how to trigger a runaway, do it again later, and create a never-ending series of positive feedback loops and runaway successes.
  • Our fear of changing a used-to-be successful winning strategy combined with our reliance on command-and-control tactics makes it hard for us to embrace change. Evolution (inheritable modifications over many generations) is the most potent tactic for dealing with change. We should apply this proven, organic technique to embrace change, not fight it.

In summary, Seth suggests that we take an active role in embracing change. “Change is out of our control, and the way we deal with change is outmoded and ineffective. Our organizations assume that we live with a different, slower time cycle.”

Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 7

In the book, There’s No Such Thing as an IT Project: A Handbook for Intentional Business Change, Bob Lewis and co-author Dave Kaiser analyzed and discussed the new ways of thinking about IT and business management.

These are some of my takeaways from reading the book.

In the “The Seven Change Disciplines” chapter, Bob and Dave discuss the seven disciplines organizations need to master to make the intentional change both real and sustained.

Leadership: Leadership is the art of getting others to follow the leader’s vision.

Business Design: Business design is about creating a concrete answer that can realize the leader’s vision. The design should be complete enough to articulate the vision in the terms where everyone involved can understand both the change itself and their role in it.

Technical Architecture Management: Technical architecture establishes the design and engineering guidelines needed so that the collection of applications, data repositories, and underlying infrastructure assemble logically and efficiently. The goal of technical architecture is to support the organization’s processes and practices.

Application Development / Application Integration and Configuration: The key point to remember is this. When it comes to achieving intentional business changes, the goal of IT is to avoid being the bottleneck.

Organizational Change Management: It would be wrong to assume people naturally resist change – people naturally resist change they expect will be bad for them. As a leader of the organization and to the extent possible, the leader should design every business change, so it leaves employees better off than they were before the change happened.

Implementation Logistics: Start every business change implementation with a well-chosen pilot. The pilot affects relatively few people but otherwise includes most of the complexity of the actual rollout.

Project Management: Projects are how change happens, so a solid project management discipline must be part of any effort that manages an intentional business change.

To make it all work, Bob and Dave believed that mastery in isolation is not enough. The seven disciplines must come together as an integrated whole, whose practitioners actively collaborate to make intentional change happen.

So, what can be done to address “The Seven Change Disciplines” opportunities and challenges? Fortunately, Bob and Dave have some solid suggestions laid out at the end of Chapter Seven. I highly recommend the book.

Bob Lewis on IT Projects, Part 6

In the book, There’s No Such Thing as an IT Project: A Handbook for Intentional Business Change, Bob Lewis and co-author Dave Kaiser analyzed and discussed the new ways of thinking about IT and business management.

These are some of my takeaways from reading the book.

In the “IT in the Lead” chapter, Bob and Dave discuss why it is important for IT to resume its leadership role and how it can contribute.

Before IT can play a strategic, leadership role in the enterprise, it must have earned the confidence from the business units. IT earns the confidence of its business unit partners by consistently delivering its promises.

The SWOT analysis—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—is a useful strategic planning framework, but we should be doing it backward. Until the organizational leaders recognize the external threats and opportunities facing the business, they have no context for evaluating the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

Most external threats and opportunities are the result of innovations in information technology. As a result, IT is the logical home for analyzing those SWOT issues and planning what to do about them.

By playing the customer-supplier relationship, it makes it difficult for IT to be a collaborator in designing and achieving business change. It is time for IT to drive business changes because information technology has become a mandatory element of many digitization and transformation strategies.

Strategic implementation projects should be incorporated into the project master schedule and managed through the business-change governance process. As the CIO, it is critically important to know how to answer the CEO’s questions regarding IT-driven business threats and opportunities.

So, what can be done to address “IT in the Lead” opportunities and challenges? Fortunately, Bob and Dave have some solid suggestions laid out at the end of Chapter Six. I highly recommend the book.