About Me

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Throughout my 20+ year career as leader in the enterprise software business, I have always had a unique style and approach. Over the years, I have accumulated a number of "Slickisms" (after my last name "Sliwkowski) which are a set of one-liners, stories, and ways of thinking that can help people improve their leadership, decision making, and ultimately keeping everyone's egos in check. I am also an avid fisherman so fishing stories and photos will incorporated into the blog.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Making the "important, exciting" versus making the "exciting, important"

In the original movie "Toy Story", the two main characters were Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Woody was the old established toy that the child stuck in the toy box. Buzz was the latest, most exciting new toy in the industry. Many time in a company, the "Buzz Lightyear" project/product represents new technology, the new innovation, the place to be. On the otherhand, the "Woody" products are the ones that is usually generate tons of revenue and profit, and have a bunch of customers. It is perceived from a technology point-of-view to be mature, boring, and "out of fashion".

In leading a "Buzz Lightyear" product effort, it is not hard to make those projects seem exciting and therefore, perceived as the important to success of the business.

In leading a "Woody" product effort, it is critical to communicate to the people working "why their efforts" are important. You need to constantly provide feedback about:

- Customer success

- The critical nature of their role in the product initiative

- The bigger picture of the business context....so that understand it is not just about the technology but about the business that makes their efforts important.

It is my experience that once people understand the importance of their efforts, it creates excitement for both the team and the individual.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Grab Their Hearts and Their Heads Will Follow

Many times when there is a lot of uncertainty or significant amount of change needed within an organization, leaders especially from an engineering background try to drive change by providing people a vast amount of analytical and intellectually factual data. I describe it as leaders are trying to “grab the head” of their employees. Think about the anatomy of humans, the head on represents approximately 5% of one’s body weight. If you are trying to “move someone” physically, and you grab them by their head, 95% of their body weight will be resisting where you are taking them. Now think about moving someone by grabbing them physically where there “heart is”, which is the upper torso area. You have much more leverage to overall body mass of an individual, and more importantly, if the person heart moves, his head will have to follow. The important concept here is that when there is a significant amount of change, it is critical to capture your people first emotionally, give them confidence not in the destination but the approach and the path to success. After that, you can then provide then them all of the intellectual context behind the strategy..

“Duh, Huh, and Uh” of a Strategy

Ever sit in a meeting where an executive is establishing the new corporate, product, or marketing strategy and you are trying to figure out whether it is an effective strategy. An approach to use is what I call the “Duh, Huh, and Uh” evaluation method.

If you and other people in the briefing have the reaction on what you are hearing of “well duh” then it is high probability that it is an effective strategy. At that point, the company needs to stop talking about strategy and focus on execution. If you have the reaction of “uh”, commonly known referred to as “You got to be f*in kidding me, that is our strategy”. A “uh” reaction is usually accompanied with some type of “eye roll” and/or head roll, then you probably have a flawed strategy.

If you have the reaction of “huh”, (a.k.a. “ I don’t understand what he is saying) then you either have a poorly explained “duh” or pending “uh”. When you have a “huh” explanation of strategy, I usually allow the presenter to have two more tries before I qualify as a “duh” or “uh”, which entails reducing complexity, acronym overloaded, and simplifying the message.

One of the most interesting situations is when the dynamics of an organization is such that they start over engineering, over thinking a strategy such that they turn a perfectly articulated “duh” strategy into a “huh”.

Strategies are Vectors

I don’t know how many times new leadership get injected into an organization and the first thing that they want to change the direction of the company, or the function that they are responsible for. One of the concepts that I tried to establish is that strategies are vectors, in that they have both a direction and magnitude ( or what I commonly call velocity). It is very importantly to determine if a particular strategy is directionally flawed or simply lacks enough velocity to make successful. I have often seen where a directional change is made where all it needed was an increase in velocity.
Moreover, one of the hardest situations for a leader is when you are going in the wrong direction with high velocity. This will bring another piece of physics which is the conservative of momentum, and when you have strategic vector that going in the wrong direction with high velocity, the violent nature of simply stopping quickly can often have dramatic affects on an organization.