Aligning Your Organization To A Faster Future

Bruce Hecht


Learning Objectives

The progress of change is accelerating technology advancements, shifting business conditions, and responding to the COVID-19 crisis. To successfully navigate this turbulent world requires alignment of your organization's strategies and practices. Apply these 3 systems approaches to your challenges: Identify the Mission Profile, Create the Value Model, Design for Success.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the dynamics of change

  • Build alignment for success

  • Apply systems tools to your challenges

"This will give you superpowers to go forward into your faster future."

Bruce Hecht



Welcome to the Cambridge Innovation Center. My name is Bruce Hecht. I’m here to describe today some adventures in the future—journey with me to the future. The topic is aligning your organization to a faster future. This is something that we all face, whether you’ve seen the change coming, or whether you’re immersed in the change. But these times, as we’re seeing many types of organizations changed all over the world, this has become more true than ever.

Let’s go on a journey today, to this present, and to the future that’s coming at us more faster than. We take the point of view of physics, acceleration is a change in velocity. This can be a good thing, if we’re trying to step on the gas and move our car or move organizations in direction. That’s a way of accelerating and seeing a velocity of change. Of course, the opposite can be dangerous—a deceleration, that’s a collision. Generally, we’d like to avoid that because it can be unsafe conditions. What can we do to address this?

There are three things that I’d like to share today. The first is to consider our business models. Of course, this is going to make sense if we’re considering the business itself. But what about our own business model? What does this mean for ourselves as leaders, and for the organizations that we organize, that we lead, that we have responsibilities for? We want to consider the value proposition. What is it that we’re bringing to bear? What is the value that we’re doing? And how can we avoid waste? What’s detracting from that, in order to see the success?

The third question is problems and opportunities. We’re all familiar, of course, with the problems that we have today. We may be asking ourselves, “How did we end up in this situation?” Well, at this time or in the situation, it may be important to act right away, We may need to contain a problem or take immediate action if it’s an emergency. But we also want to give some thought, as we’re reconciling with those issues. How did we get here? Can we learn from this? If we fail to learn, that is making a waste of the experience. But when we’re presented with opportunity to learn, it can be the way that we get set up for success in the future.

Opportunities. Opportunities and challenges are two sides of the same coin. When we anticipate what the opportunity may be, we may be wanting to consider what types of challenges will we face. Also, what will others around the world face? How can we provide better value for ourselves, our organizations, and our customers at these times?

To begin this journey, I’d suggest we begin with the approach put forward by Howard Gregerson, that questions are the answer. What he means by this is often the most important questions of leadership come about by taking that curious stance by wondering how things are, how they came to be, and how they can be improved.

We may want to ask ourselves these times about resilience. What is the difference between resilience and robustness? If we’re designing house, we want it to be robust, we want it to withstand elements. But resilience is something else. That, as the property, when something happens, some posing forces, we may have degradation. Can we come back from that? Can we recover quickly? Those are the properties of resilience. Why is this important to design? This can be important for both our products or services. Can we provide the performance that needed? What happens under stressful situation? Are there important qualities that we need to be able to preserve for either being able to come back at a fast response or to be able to operate while the stress is still occurring? How does this differ between resilience and robustness? This can be a confusing property.

We try to design our systems to be able to be robust no matter what the circumstances we may be compromising the very power that we have to be fast and effective at what we do. So, resilience is a different property. It’s what do we need to withstand under conditions of duress or under or surprising conditions. We may not need the full performance of the full capability that we would have at our peak time, but we may need instead to be able to provide for that resilience to be able to operate under pressure to respond to specific demanding situations. Also, how are we going to recover once that stress is removed? Often, this is the test that proves those who are really in a position to succeed. Overall then, how do we prepare for future opportunities? How do we benefit from what we’re learning today? How do we position ourselves for that future?

To accomplish this, let’s consider the recent work and the book that came out from Peter Diamandis and his co-author Steven Kotler. This is the follow up to their work of abundance and bold. What they conjecture is let’s not only consider the past economics of scarcity. Let’s not only think about what are the things that we have that others don’t have. Let’s also consider change, particularly exponential change and other types of systems change. We’re seeing all around us is not only changed, but the acceleration of change, or sometimes, Peter likes to call this the acceleration of acceleration, which is another way of thinking about velocity, speed of performance, and how that speed changes over time.

In addition to this model, we want to consider our mindset. With exponential mindset, we want to think about how are things that change and exponentials giving us threats? What do we need to be concerned about? Of course, the virus spread around the world as an example of that kind of exponential that creates emergencies. But also, how can we use it to our advantage? Think of the idea of going viral when we talk about a marketing campaign, or adoption of our technologies, or our products or services.

We want to think about converging technologies. There are many examples of this, that you may see in your everyday life or in your work life. We read about them all the time. What are the impacts of new technologies, like the Internet of Things? How will new cellular technologies like 5G affect our ability to expand to respond? What about putting satellites into low Earth orbit? There’s expected to be over several 1000 new satellites added to orbit just this year. What about the rebirth of everything?

At the end of the day, our businesses or organizations are working in many different sectors and segments. These can be shopping, advertising, entertainment, education, health care, longevity, insurance, finance, real estate, our food, which is we depend on course to survive. How are each of these changing? What about the intersections between them? What can we learn from each other? These are the important questions to consider.

What I’d like to put forward is that we use the approach that’s been gained from the lean and lean startup methodology. It’s an interesting area, because it had it start, lean from Lean Enterprise Institute, the lean aerospace initiative at MIT, or the Toyota Production System, as made famous in Japan. All these ideas came from Manufacturing. How can you organize the work of Manufacturing in order to be able to have smooth flow, eliminate waste, and achieve your results? But these ideas have now also been involved in organizations. How do you create a business to provide new products and new services? How can we remove the waste of failing to provide those events and pull some of that risk upfront, so that we fail faster at a time when it matters less when we’re in the concept phase, when we’re in testing, when we’re considering simulations, or evaluations or design concepts? We can now take those ideas that have been used in a Manufacturing environment, we could take them as they’ve been used in the product environment. We can also apply them to our organization. How do we provide the innovation to ourselves and our organizations?

To take that further, we can dig in a little bit to the models of and methods of the Lean Startup, as was put forward in a visual format by Alex Osterwalder and his colleague, Keith Pina, in their book, the Business Model Generation. They also took it further. He just depicts of value, the value proposition design. So, we’ll take a look at this and how we can apply it. I will also get an example, that was a story colleague that’s been using this in a medical.

The business model canvas, it’s a straightforward process to capture in visual thinking in one space, several aspects of how the business works together. At the left hand side of the diagram, you have the inputs, suppliers, what are we drawing on in terms of resources? At the right hand side, where’s the value being provided? Who are the customers? What are the business model segments? How are we getting those products or services to the customer? The center is really where the value the magic happens. What is the value that is going to tie the resources that we’re gathering, the form of the system that we’re building in order to provide the function that our customers need at the end of the day? At the bottom of this chart, the financial. What are the resources in terms of time and money and effort that are going to be involved? How are we then going to capture that value when we provide it to our customers in terms of revenues, subscriptions or other ways that we’re getting return on investment?

Here’s an example that comes from the Strategizer, which is organization formed by Alex Osterwalder. He uses Uber or ride sharing companies like Uber, as an example. You can go through this in some detail. We’ll just give a high level view for this in order to situate ourselves with the business model canvas. In the case of a ride sharing system, of course, we’ve got the suppliers in terms of the cars, the resources, the drivers. We’ve also got then the customers. Who’s gonna need access to this model? At the root of that then is the value proposition. The purpose here then is to match up for those in market segments for the customers for the jobs to be done to use the language of Clay Christensen? What are those things? Map them out, and then consider what are the value that’s being proposed.

Here they’re being termed in terms of pains or gains. So, pains. What are some things that are standing in the way of the customer achieving the jobs that they need to get done? Or gains. What are some opportunities? What are some elements for growth that could be enhanced by the provision of this product or service? We fill that in for that model of autonomous car service. So, if we were to take that idea of a rideshare, and put that then into a fully robotic platform, we could envision what would be the needs that such a platform might fill, and how would it remove the pains that exist today as we try to have transportation around our cities, for example. And what are the gains? What are the future opportunities that could be empowered by these platforms?

I’ve got one additional case study I’ll share with you from a colleague of mine in IEEE, Electrical Engineering Society, Dr. Vina Meister, she’s a Researcher and Director at the North Carolina State University, and also with the Assist Center, which is a National Science Foundation Research Center for natural systems, engineering, and research.

Here’s a picture of some [inaudible] work. She, like myself, works in the electrical engineering field, and is looking at how to provide new types of chips that can enhance services. She works also closely with clinicians with people in the medical elite, who are faced with unsolved problems and unmet needs. She tries to understand how can engineering at the nanoscale be applied in order to make breakthrough change for patients that are out in the real world, and how to reduce those medical needs and reduce costs at the same time. She used the business model canvas and the value proposition canvas at a talk that she gave last year at the IEEE Sensors Conference in Montreal. So, I’ll give you just a taste of that. But I’d encourage you to watch her full talk, which is available at the Sensors Council Channel on YouTube.

Here’s an example of how her team filled it in. What you can notice about this is she’s thinking about the concepts. What can her team do in terms of thinking about the end need? What are the needs of patients, of their families, and of the clinicians that are working to treat them, of the doctors and the nurses and the frontline medical workers? What are their needs? What are the pains? What is the challenge for the patient in terms of what they’re not getting in terms of the treatment? What are the challenges for nurses and physicians and clinical workers in trying to meet the needs of those patients? What are the gains? What might be changed? Should new technology come about? Where to invest best in the research and development of those new technologies in order to bridge those need?

I would encourage you to do this as your own exercise to exercise your vision. To use the approach as put forward by the lean movement. To think first not about who are your suppliers, you can start this in any direction, but to start first by going to the shipping dock. Where is the value being shipped out to your customers, and to walk through your path from that value producing end all the way back to the origin.

I have this one example that comes from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That’s maybe not a conventional factory, but research discoveries are the value that’s being produced. How are they going to do that? Well, the shipping dock has to do with where are the spacecraft going to be launched. We are shipping out from our planning, this capability, which is then going to take us to the places where that value of discovery can be gained. If we want to understand where we can improve it, where the pains and the gains, where this can be changed, we can also do this by walking through those places where we’ve got the intersection of our planning, meaning the rest of our universe.

Here, if you’re going to do that on a business model canvas, begin with the right hand side, start at the shipping dock. Where is the value being supplied? Who are the customers? What are their needs? What are their jobs to be done? The more you can understand what that is, if you’re creating something new, what might be the opportunities or if you have an existing operation, how well do you know it? How often is this value being provided? When is it not being provided? All of those will give you clues for how you can improve your organization today.

Finally, what about the future? Don’t sit still thinking about the problems that you have now. Use this as your best learning opportunity to consider what are the challenges you want to of course deal with the present. As you’re dealing with that, reflect on that operation. This will give you superpowers to go forward into your faster future.

I look forward to hearing about your journey. Please reach out to our community. Let’s help each other, and let’s stick with that mindset of the faster future. Thank you.

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