Archive for category: Manager Motivation

User Centricity as Driver of Digital Transformation

10 Nov
10. November 2017

Based on the nine pillars of digital transformation and the product transformation framework that I developed a while ago, I thought how to make this more operative and applicable for companies and transformation managers.

Digital transformation is not a trend or a specific phase of a company’s evolution. Much more a clear understanding of the meaning and an implementation into the company’s DNA is an essential premise to make relevant business in the future.

Since 2005, I am working in environments of permanent and ongoing transformation: Transformation from offline software to online services, transformation of digital products to the next level, transformation of business models and complete industries.

In the last three years I had the luck to be active part of a huge transformation journey that is including products, organization and brand of a German media company called WELT. At the same time the whole media industry is facing massive challenges through changes in media consumption behavior driven by free online news content, instant access via mobile devices and domination of Facebook and Google in user’s time spent. That is accelerating a need for transformation especially for those media company that are still depending on a successful, but shrinking offline business. Ten years ago online business was somehow seen as a nice add-on for the classical offline business such as newspapers. Today the challenge is how to finance a whole media organization primary with digital revenues while the revenues from offline business are under pressure.

Axel Springer is a great example how to drive radical digital change successfully without leaving the core values of their brands and organization. In 2007, below 10% of Axel Springer’s revenues came from digital businesses, in 2013, the share of digital revenues exceeded 50% for the first time. In 2016, the share of digital revenues was 67%.

It is always helpful to take a look at some of the famous US success stories. How did Netflix and Amazon Prime successfully take over the business from classical video rental shops?

First of all, online video isn’t new. YouTube started in 2005. In May 2011, already 48 hours of videos were uploaded every minute to the platform. In February 2017, this increased to 400 hours and 1 billion hours were watched every day. YouTube started as free platform for user generated content, in 2010, they begun free streaming of certain premium content. In 2013, YouTube offered the ability to charge a $0,99 subscription fee/month for channel providers. But the most video content on YouTube was and is still free and there was only a very limited amount of premium movie content available. Netflix, founded in 1997 and Lovefilms, founded in 2003 (in 2011 acquired by Amazon and later merged into Amazon Prime Video) were both starting with an online DVD rental service. Building up a large online customer base it was more a technical challenge how and when to switch the business to a video-on-demand streaming service.

The key driver of their success was the changing user behavior and user preferences combined with high-speed internet availability and “cheap” devices with the technological abilities to play streaming content. So an online streaming service was addressing a need that conventional video rental shops couldn’t serve: Easy instant access to premium movie content with the freedom to decide when to watch what. And the offer had a reasonable pricing compared to the offline model including a monthly subscription fee.

When user behavior and preferences are changing, new competitors rise and might address the change better as established companies from that specific market. If this happens whole industries and businesses can be disrupted, e.g. the music industry (from CD to MP3 to streaming) or even the small butchery around the corner in the late 80s when the big supermarket chains rose.

So companies’ user centricity as a clear understanding how preferences of their customers evolve and change is core to drive any business transformation. Based on my experience I identified nine important tasks that help to implement a customer centric strategy as driver seat of a digital transformation process.

The nine tasks are related to three areas: (1) people, (2) organization and (3) tools. People means the employees and managers that are going through the transformation and are shaping the process. The organization is giving the evolving frame for the ongoing transformation process, the tools are supporting and accelerating the successful realization of each single transformation step.

Create a vision based JOINT MINDSET

Similar to what I have described as “mindset of change” in my article about digital evolution you need in all product related departments a similar understanding about vision, mission and goals of customer centricity. Without such a joint mindset there is no chance to establish a working process for a customer centric transformation. Many revolutions started at the base, but to get change fast implemented in the organization the top level management has to be committed from the beginning. Ideally the creation of a joint mindset for change is happening parallel at the top and the bottom of an organization. But the vision and mission statement need already to include a strong message that is signaling change. Anyway a clear understandable and trustable vision is the key to spread the joint mindset.

Add NEW SKILLS to the teams

Based on a joint mindset it is important to add new skills to the teams via trainings, coaching or even by getting new employees with complementary skills into the teams. Such additional skill investments are very positive signals for change and might stimulate employees’ motivation to support the change process.

Create an environment of TRUST

Trust is the key for a successful implementation of a change pipeline. You need trust from the management in the workforce and also trust from the employees in the management and the organization’s vision.

EMPOWER your teams and owners

Trust is also the premise to empower product owners and teams to make decisions. The top management is more taking the role of frame keepers and frame expanders: They provide the strategic objectives, information transparency and the analytical and organizational setup for the teams and owners to make reasonable decisions and prioritize with value.

Install an open and AGILE CULTURE

Scrum and Kanban are known as an agile framework for software development based on empirical process control by transparency, inspection and adaption. But the basic principles behind Scrum can be used also outside of software development in any other department. The idea of an agile culture is so much more than scrum. It is about how things get done and about human interaction in a working environment. Agile culture means that change is a part of the company’s DNA as an ongoing and repeating renewal. It is also a commitment for an open, transparent and honest communication from management to the teams and backwards. Also failing is an important part of an agile culture. The operative team should never be afraid to fail as it is part of a learning and improvement process to succeed in the end. But it is also important to fail fast and to have a lean setup making sure to waste as less money and time as possible. Fail fast and learn even faster!

Implement ANALYTIC PROCESSES for decision making

How to make product related decisions is also something that defines a part of the company culture. Those decisions should not be made by “gut feeling” of single persons, but are also not the result of a grass-roots democratic process. Product related decisions should be mainly based on data and an established analytic process. You will need tools e.g. for tracking, testing and segmentation (or market data), but also need to make the decision process transparent showing numbers that support the results. Of course there might be sometimes strategic decision (also product related ones) that you cannot verify directly with data, but that are based on the company’s vision, mission and core goals.

Use TESTING to prove and optimize

Testing is an important quantitative tool to support the analytic decision process. E.g. simple A/B tests can bring significant improvements in conversion and revenues. But also testing needs an elaborate setup, a transparent workflow process and experienced analytical professionals. A scruffy setup can easily generate wrong data and misinterpretation. The consequence are wrong decisions.

Create PERSONAS to visualize your target groups

Personas are fictitious individuals that are representing typical users of a specific target group. A persona should illustrate core attributes and attitudes of that target group and helps to get a visual perception of users and better understanding of their needs. The tool was developed “offline” in the 80s, but shave great benefit especially for online target groups as the relationship to users and customers is mostly virtual. To give a target group representative a name, age, education, salary and specific user behavior makes it easier to gain understanding for users’ needs and changing needs in the whole organization. Although personas are a qualitative tool, the creation of those is mostly based on deep analysis of existing data from users and customers.

Use COLLABORATION to distribute knowledge and to create joint responsibility

Collaboration between teams and departments is an important part of agile culture. Somehow it is the consequence of applied empowerment and lived trust in organizations with well-balanced digital maturity. All participants in the collaboration activities need to have a similar joint mindset.

These nine tasks do not claim to comprehensively address all important aspects of digital transformation or to be completed. More they hopefully can inspire managers with similar transformation challenges and support as checklist or orientation for user centricity.

Pillars of Product Transformation

07 Apr
7. April 2014

Product transformation means to make a disruptive move for the existing product portfolio into something new. For the music industry their product transformed from vinly to CD to download. While the first transformation went well for the industry, the second one killed half of the established record companies. They have not been prepared, did never understand the request for the transformation and resisted until a lot of those disappeared. Especially the digital product transformation is happening in very short circles today.

In definition transformation is the successful result of a change strategy and a transition plan based on the three elements product, people and process. In reality the three most important elements are people, people, people. Any change starts in the head of the people. Without the initial first move to get the “right stakeholders” on board nothing can change and there will never be a product transformation into anything new. It all starts with an idea and the understanding that change is something natural and part of the daily business. And this is independent from the economic situation of a company. In reality it is of course not as the most managers start thinking when they identified that they have a problem with the current product, service or business model. Anyway, when the CEO or the senior management understood that there is need for a transformation, the hardest work is to establish the idea through the organization. Product transformation means to change the whole company, the nature of the firm. It can be a market or user driven change and is in line with the over-all company vision. In some case product transformation can even modify or change the company vision.

The software culture of a company is deciding how fast and easy the transformation process can start. The CTO and his team should always ask: “Are we still using the most valuable technologies to serve our customers?” New technologies can change the way of working completely, not only in the product and tech department. But if the software culture supports such a process smooth and clean is again related to people. People build and live the software culture of a company.

The organization’s culture is the enabler to transfer change through all departments of the company. Mindset, believe systems, norms and values are influencing how successful change will be. And again it is related to the people that implemented that culture and how it is adopted and lived by all employees. The structure of the company determines the speed of change through the organization. Flat hierarchical levels would be ideal. But it is all about people. Change is often resisted as many people are afraid to change status quo and working environment. So again, it starts all in the head of the people and the start has to signal that change is something good and positive. That is at least the base to start product transformation.

Decoding the Manager DNA, Part 1: The Graves Value System.

17 Okt
17. Oktober 2013

Graves: Steps to explain the behavior of managers.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often used to explain the motivation and thus essential behavior patterns of employees. Maslow’s theory assumes that human beings do not only respond to outside stimulation, but quest for self-realization. According to this theory human can evolve only if specific needs are satisfied. Motives are divided into five classes that build on one another and represent groups of needs. Only when the motive below is satisfied the next higher one can be activated. Often Maslow’s model is criticized as a too general approach in consideration of multiple different needs. The end point of Maslow’s pyramid is also the end of human development, which is rated as too narrow and inflexible.
Claire W. Graves follows the existing criticism on Maslow’s model and develops a much more sophisticated model. It is referred to as „Emergent Cyclic Levels of Existence Theory“ or simply as Graves‘ value system. Graves came to the conclusion that the top three needs are satisfied in different ways, depending on the value system of a person and his social environment. According to Graves‘ development model of organizations and individuals certain value ​​systems have evolved in response to the human conditions of existence. His value system is divided into eight levels that build evolutionary on each other and are non-hierarchical: The development to the next level is not linear, but due to many different influences in a way spiral. Graves’ model provides insights into the motivational structure of individuals. It creates a view on the influence of changing situational factors on the development of people organizations.

In every single evolutionary level of the model there is one specific type within the community that represents a specific need or motive associated with a value proposition. The needs are divided into eight value systems, alternating individual- oriented and group-oriented values ​​classes.
The model provides a good base to explain the motivation of managers and thus a substantial part of their behavior in organizations. It is a helpful starting point to create hypotheses why some managers are successful and others fail.

Die Entschlüsselung der Manager DNA, Teil 1: Das Graves-Value-System.

13 Okt
13. Oktober 2013

Graves: Stufen zur Erklärung der Motivation von Managern.

Die Bedürfnispyramide von Maslow wird oftmals herangezogen, um die Motivation und damit wesentliche Verhaltensmuster von Mitarbeitern zu erklären. Maslows Theorie geht davon aus, dass der Mensch nicht nur auf äußere Anreize reagiert, sondern nach Selbstverwirklichung strebt. Die Theorie unterstellt, der Mensch könne sich nur weiterentwickeln, wenn bestimmte Bedürfnisse befriedigt sind. Motive werden in fünf Klassen eingeteilt, die hierarchisch aufeinander aufbauen und für Gruppen von Bedürfnissen stehen. Das nächste höhere Motiv kann nur aktiviert werden, wenn das darunter liegende befriedigt ist. Oftmals wird der generalistische Ansatz von Maslows Modell bemängelt, der aufgrund der vielen differenzierten Bedürfnisse fraglich erscheint. Der Endpunkt der Pyramide ist nach Maslow auch das Ende der Entwicklung des Menschen, was als zu eng und unflexibel eingestuft wird

Claire W. Graves setzt an der bestehenden Kritik am Maslow-Modell an und entwickelt dabei ein wesentlich differenzierteres Modell. Dieses wird als „zyklisch auftauchende Ebenen der Existenztheorie“ oder auch kurz als Graves-Value-System bezeichnet. Graves kam zu dem Schluss, dass die obersten drei Bedürfnisse, je nach dem Wertesystem eines Menschen und seiner sozialen Umgebung, unterschiedlich befriedigt werden. Das Entwicklungsmodell von Organisationen und Personen nach Graves besagt, dass sich bestimmte Wertesysteme als Reaktion auf die menschlichen Existenzbedingungen entwickelt haben. Es wird in acht Entwicklungsstufen unterteilt, die evolutionär und nicht hierarchisch aufeinander aufbauen: Dabei erfolgt die Entwicklung zur nächsten Stufe nicht linear, sondern aufgrund der vielen unterschiedlichen Einflüsse quasi spiralförmig. Das Modell von Graves gibt Aufschlüsse zur Motivationsstruktur von Individuen und wie die Entwicklung von Menschen und Gemeinschaften unter sich verändernden situativen Einflüssen verlaufen kann.

In Graves einzelnen Evolutionsstufen repräsentiert jeweils ein Typus innerhalb der Gemeinschaft ein ganz bestimmtes Bedürfnis bzw. Motiv, das in Verbindung mit einer Wertvorstellung steht. Die Bedürfnisse werden durch acht Wertesysteme dargestellt, wobei sich individuumsorientierte und gruppenorientierte Werteklassen abwechseln.

Das Modell bietet eine gute Grundlage, um die Motivation von Managern (im Sinne von Führungskräften) und damit einen wesentlichen Teil deren Verhaltens in Organisationen zu erklären und Hypothesen aufzuzeigen, warum manche erfolgreicher sind und andere scheitern.

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