Dr. Scott Elliott
Scott Elliott is well known globally for his experience in high-tech and electronics design, manufacturing and supply chain management. With over 35 years of engineering, management and consulting experience, Scott brings unique, practical insight to all aspects of technology business, including business strategy alignment, supply chain management, world-class manufacturing and R&D management. He has the technical breadth and depth to understand any technology, and the business and management experience to make it a commercial success. Scott founded TechZecs LLC in 2001. learn more
As business leaders, we need clear policies and incentives on how employees and partners should access and use these digital media in away that reflects well on our brand. Coming from our TechZecs position of maximizing employee/partner empowerment and trust, here are some ideas indeveloping those policies:
Forget trying to withhold access - it doesn't work for Middle-East despots and it won't work for you. With smart phones and similar devices, anyone can get anywhere on the internet at any time. So let's use a more common sense approach.
Dr. Scott S. Elliott, Principal and Founder
Every technology business is different. There is no prescribed strategy that works for all businesses - not even for similar businesses within a narrow class. Every one has a different set of Value Propositions, opportunities and constraints. How can we design and analyze the best strategy?
One set of tools that works very well to brainstorm and develop a strategy is mind-mapping software. There are robust, commercial packages such as Mind Manager from MindJet, and a lot of open-source packages such as FreeMind and XMind. you can find a nice listing on Wikipedia here
These packages make it easy to start from a central node or idea, then add branches around the node to fill-out related ideas, causes and effects, etc. Of course you can do this by hand on a white board or on paper, but the software reformats the chart on-the-fly and makes room for more branches. Also you can edit, move and order branches at will, as shown in this simple cause-effect example using XMind.
by Linda Thompson, Principal
Many organizations exhibit:
A broad-based, defocused sales and marketing effort that never says "no" to a prospective deal, and
A development effort that continually whipsaws from one “top” priority to another, with resources spread across numerous unrelated efforts and subject to constant reallocation based on the top sales opportunity du jour.
Management may defend the fecklessness, believing that breadth will grow revenues. But the resulting confusion and inefficiency in the development effort destroys any hope of profit or of building long-term differentiation. Counter-intuitively, failing to achieve a sharp focus actually impedes sales and marketing, making it hard to
- Create a brand identity and perception of leadership, or
- Field an informed sales team that can clearly articulate the organization's value proposition and differentiation for any one segment.
Although I have seen some quite profitable ventures mired in this practice of chasing every deal that moves, I have come to think of it as a corporate form of hand-to-mouth behavior—a scramble for revenue irrespective of cost. Tight times may exacerbate this tendency in the name of survival.
One problem seen by many growing technology companies is that managers are involved in decision making at all levels. This phenomenon is sometimes called “micromanagement”. It creates stress on both managers and workers and leads to a lack of agility as an organization. Micromanagement is a symptom of a lack of empowerment. Such a lack limits the ability of a company to make full use of the talent and energy of its workers.
Empowerment is a management and organizational style that enables people to practice autonomy, control their own jobs, and use the full sets of their skills and abilities to benefit the organization. Empowering people allows leaders to spend more of their time on important, higher-priority tasks, and facilitates faster and better decision making throughout the company.
To be empowered, a worker must have four attributes: the authority, the responsibility, the capability and the resources to control and execute his/her job.
[Note: This blog is for technology companies who have matured beyond the first phase of start-up chaos.]
Every excellent company has a systematic way of driving business planning and execution cycles. Usually, the time element of the planning process is controlled by a calendar. Most businesses have annual cycles dictated by required financial reporting, seasonal sales, etc. In addition, the business may have multi-year programs or initiatives. These time-cycles amount to a "heartbeat" rhythm that can be used to control and improve your business.
If you don't yet have a robust planning system, start by synchronizing your company’s planning and execution calendar with the timing of companywide business processes such as fiscal year reporting. For example, the annual planning and execution process starts on the first day of the fiscal year. Quarterly reviews of the plan and course adjustment activities are tied to end of each quarter. A companywide planning and execution calendar, well publicized within the organization, gives time for people to prepare data for planning and review activities. Asynchronous, event driven elements of the planning process are triggered by changes in external events impacting your company’s business focus. Ongoing continuous scanning of the external environment helps to prepare people for these event-driven planning activities. However, major unplanned events can seriously disrupt the rhythm and profitability of the business.
Knowing the core competencies of your organization helps you to focus on your strengths and to create significant competitive advantages.
Core competencies are a combination of unique skills, pooled knowledge, technical capabilities, company and personal connections, intellectual property, and cultural values that have accrued in the organization that allow it to develop and deliver value.
A start-up or growing company may first try to identify, and then focus on, its core competencies. Over time, the company may develop key areas of expertise which are distinctive and critical to the company’s long term growth, allowing it to establish a footprint while gaining a solid reputation and brand recognition.
The criteria for identifying a core competency are:
- It is something we know or do as well as or better than anyone else in the world,
- It provides clear customer benefits,
- It is not easy for competitors to imitate, and
- It can be leveraged to variety of products and markets.
by Scott S. Elliott, CEO, TechZecs LLC
The first and major ongoing job of any company leader is to define and articulate the Vocation of that company. Vocation is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. In other words, a self-imposed calling to serve a certain set of customers or provide a certain set of solutions. What is the company about, and how will it serve its customers and stakeholders? A well-articulated Vocation statement helps to elicit drive and passion from its employees and loyalty from its customers, and keeps the company focused for success. We have chosen the word Vocation because it implies more than a Mission. Frankly, the Mission of most companies is mainly to make money for their owners and investors. A company's Vocation is a shared compulsion to serve a certain market using a set of innate skills, passions and competencies within its workforce.
A start-up or small company can usually operate effectively with few structured policies or business processes. The employees all meet frequently and informally and fill multiple roles to develop and deliver value to their customers. However, as a company grows in size and complexity and workers specialize, a set ofdefined work procedures (processes) is needed to coordinate efforts and organize the results. In developing and implementing these processes, many companies try to implement too many rigid processes, hindering their ability to serve their customer flexibly. So, how do you define the right level of process to serve customer’s need efficiently?