The Importance of Team Structures

Team Structure

If you’ve discovered the secret that’s going to completely differentiate your business, that’s going to set you apart over all others and make you the dominant player in your industry then you will not being doing this on your own. You will need partners, you will need a team, people that you will have to manage and lead and trust to realise your vision.

Depending on the type of industry and the product or service you’re going to sell you’ll need a team structure that relates to what you’re doing.

Many will start with a spoke or star type structure where you, the founder is at the centre. All decisions go through you and all actions are as a result of what you decide. You are the single point of failure but this is very often the starting point for organisations. It’s not inevitable but very likely.

You may eventually become tempted by a strict hierarchy. Perhaps your organisation has experienced some failures or perhaps you just don’t have the capacity either mentally or time to keep the volume level of good decisions going. Hierarchy then becomes a very tempting proposition where command and control remains yours but accountabilities are spread, normally in a downward structure. Blame can be apportioned.

What this type of style cannot avoid is the mistakes, failures will still happen it’s just that they won’t necessarily be yours but the organisations, your organisation that is, will still suffer. In fact more mistakes may be made in this case.

In any new organisation, even if it’s a new team within a large existing organisation delivering the new secret formula for success that’s going to dominate your business area teams should be kept small and tight. Expertise is best shared among the team so that each team member knows their role, responsibility and those roles and responsibilities of each and every member of the team.

Each team member should be an expert in their own right for the role that they fulfil. Each team member will have a contribution, an important contribution to make to achieve the overall goal, realising the vision. And so specialisation is the order of the day for each team member.

So.. What Team Structure to Adopt?

I’ve been a keen cyclist from pre-teenage years when I first fell-off and eventually learnt to ride a bike, right from the off I was a cycling addict and have remained so ever since. I am also a very keen follower of road cycling as a spectator sport and the typical pro-cycling team structure is how I’d suggest setting up any team.

The Race Team Leader; this would be the manager/supervisor/responsible person. This person is the focus of the team effort. They will not necessarily be the best performer in any of the practical tasks but what they will have is an appreciation of the strategic plan and how it’s going to be achieved. They will be able to lead people into the unknown with confidence and ability.

The Grande Domestique; this is the person who provides the most help to the team leader and may even be a team leader in waiting. This person will generally be talented in one of the role disciplines within the team and be a dedicated follower of the team leader, standing firm with them in moments of team disruption or conflict.

The Domestiques; these are the talented team members, the doers, the workers, those who deliver the product or service, the experts in their role. Within this group there may be a further split where some prove to be more vital to delivering the process than others and this is to be expected.

Soigners; these are almost external people and their role is to make sure from an external perspective that the team leader achieves. Suppliers who supply significant inputs to the process may fall into this group and you should be prepared to share at least some (but not all) of the details of your secret with these people.

Team Manager; in a pro-cycling team this is the person in the team car directing operations as the race develops. In a similar role in your team this is the person, who may in fact be you, who is keeping an eye on the external market environment. This is the person who sets short term strategy matching the micro-changes to the business environment to what is being delivered. This person may have been a team member in the past but this is not a necessity but they are very strategic in approach and will never be involved in the delivery process as a rule.

Team Owner; this is the person who owns the team, in a business sense this may also be you but if you are part of a larger organisation it could easily be your employer organisation.

The most important thing to understand is that each has a specialised role and running through this team is an understanding by ALL of what is to be achieved. Nobody is kept in the dark, everybody buy’s in to the goal. In cycling this may be winning the race stage or the overall classification, or the king of the mountains or the point’s race… Each and every team member knows their place and what is expected of them. In your business environment this could mean winning a significant order, signing the long-term agreement to supply, being recognised as the market leader to beat.

The other thing to understand is that you will have to be totally focused on your secret product/service/process meaning that underperformers must be dealt with at the first sign of failure. In this case training is one of the most important tasks you will undertake. Practice, Practice and then Practice again. Armed Forces train incessantly, World Class stage performers train incessantly, Sports Stars train incessantly.

When you’re not producing train at producing. And if you’re not training to produce you should be planning to produce or planning to train to produce.

Team Structure is one if not the most important things you will determine at the beginning of your new venture. Pick people you are positive you can work with and develop with. Try them out but don’t allow them to know your secret up front. If you don’t know the people you are going to be working with you’ll have as much chance of winning the Lottery Jackpot as being a success at achieving your goals.

I hope you have taken something from this post and thank you for reading.

Philip

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Ignore the Haters

Don’t try to convert the haters, ignore them they ain’t worth the effort!

As a phrase its self explanatory really but I saw it on the @marketing Twitter feed and just thought how brilliant it was to read something so plain and obvious in our days of complexity.

Of course where ever you may be on your journey of change, at the very beginning trying to figure out where you are or some place between there and your dream state I can guarantee that you will meet some people who will want nothing more than to see you fail. And not just fail a little bit but the more spectacular the better for them. These people are the haters and as the phrase so eloquently puts it ignore them, they mean nothing to you and if you do give them time they will bring you down with their negativity.

Haters will do whatever they can to destroy and diminish what you have and are trying to achieve. They will see you as an enemy, an adversary even (if they’re clever enough to think like that which in most case they’re not). They will try to use the language of small, mostly because they have small minds, small imaginations and live in very small worlds. You on the other hand will represent big, big dreams, big horizons and big change. The polarised opposite of everything they want to be. Its a threat to their very being but don’t be deterred from your aims and objectives by these people.

Big Thinking

If you’re thinking about your business and you’re thinking big then how big should this be?

Answer; as big as possible!

Most business models are based on improving what the business is already doing. There’s nothing wrong with doing what you do well and being efficient in production and service methods. I encourage Lean Management at every opportunity, its just good sense to keep waste to a minimum and productivity at a maximum. But this still falls into the small thinking bracket for me, there’s nothing new about this way of thinking.

Some businesses try to develop what they’re doing by stretching their services and products into associated fields of business. Again nothing wrong with this way of thinking, this is building on capacities and capabilities so that the overall business risk is spread. Still though, I still see this in the small thinking bracket. There’s still nothing new. Of course there will be new to the business and teams of people there-in but in the wider picture still nothing new going on.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the problem of what is big thinking.

In this case FINNA Project says that big thinking for a business is about making a business that’s a success in business terms that presently doesn’t exist. Now that is big.

Elon Musk has been involved in several major new businesses. Space-X is just one of his businesses and he dared to dream that he could have a company that provides commercial space travel. He did it. Space-X has a contract to supply the ISS and NASA pays them to deliver.

Right, so why not just copy him, copy Space-X only do it better. Well yes that would be a pretty tough challenge but its already been done. The true big thinker will dream of businesses that will be of value in the future not copy what is already happening.

Okay, so you haven’t a clue where to start. Ask yourself if Elon Musk knew what he wanted to do when he was a young man leaving South Africa to avoid being called-up to the SA Army. I don’t think he did but he did dare to dream. All you have to do is start from the premise that your future self, your future team and your future business must be able to provide products and services that are of value and will be wanted.

But, and I add you will come up against many who will think that you are mad at best and will be destructive against you and your plans at worst. You must be ready for them and be very prepared to actively ignore the haters.

Your plans, your team, your business, all important. The future and how you add value is big stuff to think about. But if you want a monopoly on you and your business then you are going to have to meet this very tough challenge and dream big.

Thank you very much for reading this blog post and if you have any comments please feel free.

Philip

Vision to Implementation

Vision to Implementation

A vision of the future state is important because if you can’t see yourself living in the future, can’t see a world where your product, your service, your idea is necessary then you don’t know where you’re headed. It’s a bit like setting out on a journey without a map, you’ll get some place and you might even like to where you’ve got but you won’t know how you got there, you won’t know what tell others who might want to join you and you’ll probably struggle with a return journey.

What to do to Implement Your Vision

  1. Start by creating a vision for the future by first of all knowing where you are now and answering the question; why am I here at the present place and position in life, how did I arrive at this present place?
  2. Create your strategy; make it simple and clear by saying where you’re going and by when you will arrive
  3. Develop the (business) plan; describe just how you are going to go about it, again clarity is the order of the day
  4. Develop the teams and individuals; don’t forget about your own development either, this can be overlooked
  5. Go ahead and do it!

STRATEGY;          from STRATOS meaning an army & AGEIN meaning to lead

What is Poor Leadership

Believing that you can make the world fit your needs is a big mistake, the world is larger, much, much larger than you or your dreams will ever be.

Work life balance is totally skewed to work and you don’t exercise clear boundaries between the two. If you work from home, create an office space that can be closed for the time you’re not working and keep it that way.

If you believe your answers to life’s problems are the best then you are in danger of believing your own hype.

Being intolerant to dissent will lead to isolation, your isolation that is not everybody else’s.

Even if you have great charisma but provide little in the way of substance will be a recipe for disaster in the long term. Nobody will believe you are able to do things you say you can.

The biggest contributor to poor leadership is underestimating the nature and size of obstacles to success and then to use those tested and proved tactics from the past.

How do you get it right?

Be passionate, you’ll see plenty of people on the any number of reality business themed programs all saying how they are passionate about their business. This cannot be overstated enough, be passionate about what you do.

Convey convictions, and be positive. These are two traits of true leaders and those engaged in the pursuit of success.

Engage individuals by tailoring your style to each person. Everyone is unique and wants to be treated as special and nothing says you’re special more than treating people with respect and individuality.

Be inclusive and draw-in the outsiders. It’s the outsiders who will contribute ideas of a different nature who will through light onto those unseen places that you haven’t even thought about looking at.

Excite others by being excited and living your vision.

Be fully aware of the size and nature of the task ahead, of the obstacles, of the better tactics you will need and the improved approaches you will need to achieve your goals.

Strategic Planning

“The nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by a prolonged period of worry!” John Preston; Boston College

Thank you for reading this post, if you want to comment please do so.

Philip

The Purpose of a Business

The Purpose of a Business

I’m sure that most people would think the purpose of a business is to make money and I suppose to a large degree this is true in most people’s minds.

At FINNA Project we try to look at things through the perspective of deeper analysis and so I don’t think the above answer is sufficient or complete. We try to shine a light into those dark corners of organisations in an effort to reach the truth and uncover the reasons why we can lead a more successful organisation.

From the Economist’s Point of View;

Economists are peculiar creatures of analysis (and actually contribute greatly to government thinking and therefore policy, but that’s another post not this one) and they see the world as binary in nature. Either organisations are engaged in a market this is in perfect competition or engaged in a market that is a monopoly.

A market in perfect competition is a market where supply = demand. In other words this is a market that actually serves nobody well. Demand rises, therefore prices rise to reflect the demand and profit is made. Companies enter the market that’s now attractive and prices fall as supply meets demand.  No profit is made and therefore companies exit the market either by choice or they go out of business.

A market in perfect competition therefore is not a market I suggest companies enter into or try to stay in. It’s a market that will drive your company, any company out of business.

Example of a market close to perfect competition;

There’s an area in Manchester, UK called the Curry Mile. It’s a stretch of road where almost all of the commercial outlets are restaurants or fast food outlets based on cuisine from the Indian Sub-Continent. For anybody that visit’s frequently you’ll notice two things; firstly the prices for what you are served are very similar in each establishment (and they are on the low side as well) and secondly from time-to-time businesses change name.

Essentially what’s happening is that the businesses are not making sufficient profit and are probably making losses because of the high level of competition. Staff are probably paid at or very close to minimum wage and either very young or quite old. Investment in the business is non-existent, investment in the staff is non-existent, and the customer is served a low-cost product aimed at making marginal profits.

Nobody is a winner where a perfect or close to perfect competitive market exists, everyone loses.

A monopoly on the other hand is where a market is so completely dominated by just one supplier that they can probably charge what they want for their product or service. But this is not always the case, take Google for example who dominate the search engine market providing the search for free but sell the advertising that goes with it for a fee. They give a little to get a lot in their case and so have excluded most competition.

However, it’s not impossible to conceive that a monopoly can be seen as intrinsically anti-competition and is so viewed as bad for the customer. This may or may not be the case in truth but the reality is nearly always some place in the middle between perfect competition and monopoly.

So how does all this affect you and your company?

The answer is actually one of great importance and you should by now be asking yourself how can I have a monopoly for my business? Or to restate the question;

Do you want a business that copy’s what the competition is doing, improving on what the competition is doing or doing something completely different?

Those who attempt to choose to copy the best in class may achieve this standard but by its very nature this is self-limiting. It’s also a strategy destined to make you a failure, you can only be best in class and then someone else will take your crown.

Those who believe they can improve on the best in class will have a slightly longer business life but again destined to fail. But again the lack of creative thinking is the limiting factor. All you are aiming to do is do what everyone else does only better, or quicker or to a higher quality or for less money. The dinosaurs continued to improve but when a significant event occurred … well we know how that one ended and so will your business.

The final option of creating a changed environment, a new product, this is the route to success. Those companies that can harness the creativity of small teams will be the successors. Ocean going liners were the way to cross the Atlantic and now we fly for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time.

As a rule of thumb, any new, radically improved way of doing something should be about 10x better than the incumbent method of delivery. If not it’s probably not radical enough.

As always I’d like to thank you for reading this post.

Philip

Compelling

Far more than just positive thinking all leaders have a common trait of being compelling, not just compelling they are positive in thought and certain of their opinions.

We are preprogrammed to seek out all of the evidence we need to confirm and support the view that we are a failure as soon as the project or process we are responsible for fails. This is just how most of us are made, or so we are told. We automatically ask our subconscious mind why we failed and then it answers with all the justifications you could possible need to recognize yourself as complicit in the failure or worse still that you are the cause of the failure.

Of course it doesn’t have to be this way, we could take a more positive view and instead ask ourselves what we learnt from the process and how the lessons might help in moving us towards our ultimate goals, achieving our dreams? A different approach, a much more positive approach and perhaps a more helpful approach.

As mere mortals we are encouraged from a very early age to set limits on our achievements normally so that we aren’t disappointed so much if we fail and probably done with the most honorable and best intentions. This process of mental self imposed limits is not natural, it doesn’t have to be that way. Our beliefs inform how we see the world around us and what level of control we can exercise over it and ultimately how we view failure and how great our dreams are.

We can if we choose believe in an alternative to what we’ve been taught and if you’re reading this blog post then you are at the very least interested in changing your beliefs and perspectives. We can alter our belief systems by understanding that it is not what happens that is important, its what we do about it that really counts. Beliefs are self-fulfilling so as leaders we must choose our beliefs carefully, they will determine your future and the future of those who you can influence.

A True Story

W Mitchell is a motivational speaker and speaks to audiences all over the globe.  He suffered massive burns from a motorcycle accident and was paralyzed in a plane crash but he non-the-less took responsibility for his life and the changes that were forced upon him. Mitchell has overcome his obvious difficulties to become a public motivational speaker having built a $65M company, been a 2-term town mayor, a radio host, published author and a TV personality.

Mitchell’s attitude is illustrative and informative at the same time; Mitchell has said of his experiences ‘before I was paralyzed, there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9000. I can either dwell on the 1000 lost or focus on the 9000 I have left’.

So we have the very real choice of accepting those imposed limits, of justifying them to ourselves and going thought our lives wondering ‘but why me?’ when things go wrong or we can take responsibility for our lives and choose what we believe to be true because its not what happens to us but how we deal with it that really makes the difference.

Thank you for reading this blog post, I hope you all enjoy your weekend and I’ll be back next week with more post’s I hope.

Philip

A Return Ticket to the Future Please

A Return Ticket to the Future

After the last blog post which I have to admit was very dry in nature I thought I’d just step back a little bit. The first post was about the overall ethos of FINNA and the second post was about strategic thinking; complexity. This post is about what FINNA really means.

Unlike books this blog can only be followed as a linear read, start at the beginning and read up-dates as they are posted, that’s the nature and shortcomings of blogs. This is not my first blog but I’d still say I’m still fresh to the process of sharing thoughts and ideas via a blog.

FINNA is about being content with outcomes, indeed FINNA is a Swedish word meaning find. But it also means so much more than find, it means being content and is associated with other words like;

Come upon, discover, think, feel, meet with…

So FINNA is really about finding that place that you are most contended with, which is a very long way of saying success. Not my success but your success.

I may be naïve but I wanted to make this blog as different as everyone who may read it, as exciting as I can make a blog and most of all personal to you. After all success is a very personal and unique experience.

FINNA therefore is a project, a project about development. When I first began to think about development I only ever thought about myself, my thinking not unreasonably was centric to me. But after some time I came to realise that success is about much more than just my experiences it’s about;

  1. People – these are others who define themselves as self in their own right
  2. Teams – these could be your work team or a team of people in your chosen charity work
  3. Company – a bit more obvious this one, it’s the organisation you work for
  4. Culture – this is a very wide aspect of your life, it’s the way you think and do the things you do
  5. Skills – yours, people and teams
  6. Career – again yours, people and teams
  7. Self – you, who you are, what you are, how you see yourself

Each post is stand-alone and can be used to view any of the above 7 aspects of life and development. FINNA seeks to illuminate with the light of simplicity that which is inherently complex. And so far as possible be pragmatic and clear in approach.

So why the blog title?

A Return Ticket to the Future

As I’ve just written, FINNA is about completing and being satisfied with your efforts and where you’ve arrived at. I alluded to it in the very first post, all you have to do is imagine where you want to be in the future, understand where you are now relative to this imagined future state and then quantify how you are going to get there.

It’s a system, a system that sounds like a simple formula for guaranteed success and reading this I’d possibly think you’d agree. But it’s not simple in practice, the first and last bits are, it’s the stuff in the middle, the actually making the changes stuff and sticking to them or deciding that they’re not working for you or they are, that’s the really difficult stuff.

So… the system;

  1. Know your starting point, be honest with yourself on where you are in your life; this is owning yourself, owning your past successes and your past failures both of which there will be many
  2. Decide on your desired end point, this is really about your dreams for you choose to be success, the only thing about these is they should be big, ambitious and challenging but not unachievable
  3. What are you going to do to make your dreams come true? This is fundamentally about your choices and closing down the options so that you take the right path to your chosen dream state
  4. The last bit of course is the doing, this is the difficult bit but be persistent, it’s impossible to say how important persistence is, by being persistent in your search for success you will be successful

I’m not claiming this idea as my own, far from it. This is a formula that was developed in The Naked Leader, Author David Taylor and he too does not claim it as his own but I read the book in 2003 (I still have the copy) and have used it as reference and learning material ever since.

So go ahead, buy your return ticket to the future, decide on your dreams and begin to set about working out what your starting point is.

One final thing before I sign-off for this post; If not now, then when?

Thank you very much for reading this far and I hope this post was a help.

Philip

Strategic Fit

What types of issues can be described as strategic and what distinguishes them from other types of issues in an organisation (such as those as would be regarded as operational)?

The characteristics of strategy is that it is concerned with the long-term direction of an organisation. Strategic decisions are normally about trying to achieve some sort of long-term advantage for the organisation over competing organisations. Some of these strategic decisions are conceived of as the search for effective positioning in relation to the market competitors so as to achieve advantage.

Strategic decisions are certainly concerned with the overall scope of the organisations activities. Scope is very important because its concerned with the way in which an organisation manages itself and recognizes the business environment boundaries. By broadening the business activity boundaries the organisation can find itself in uncertain and unfamiliar waters and so a level of caution is to be exercised. So the organisation should be looking at the strategic fit with the business.

Strategic fit is about developing strategy by identifying opportunities in the business environment and adapting existing resources and competencies so as to take best advantage of these opportunities. As an example, this might take the form of a small business trying to find a particular niche in the market or larger organisations investing in businesses which have found successful market positions.

In a different light strategy can be viewed as building on or stretching an organisations capabilities to create further opportunities on which to capitalize. Strategic Stretch therefore is about leveraging the existing resources and competencies to provide competitive advantage for the business. Small businesses might make an attempt to change the perceived rules of the market to better match their competencies. Of course in reality most organisations develop strategy on the basis of both Fit & Stretch;

To summarize so far…

Strategic Fit;

The underlying basis for strategy development is matching market opportunities to the existing resources, the correct positioning and therefore differentiation of products and services to match market need in the context of being a niche supplier.

Resource Stretch;

Leveraging of resources to improve value for money, differentiation based on competencies suited to market need or to creating a market need and services based on changing the rules of engagement with the market.

The Vocabulary of Strategy

Mission; the purpose of the organisation, in-line with the values and expectations of the main stakeholders

Vision; the desired future state, aspiration of and for the organisation

Goal; a general aim or purpose

Objective; a quantifiable goal

Unique Competencies; resources and skills which provide the competitive advantage

Strategy; long-term direction of the organisation

Control; the monitoring process of the steps to assess effectiveness of strategy and actions

Strategic Management

Its not enough to say that you have a strategy, you have to manage the implementation of the strategy. Strategic Management is different than all other areas of management in that it is greater than any one area of an organisations activities. Strategic management is concerned with complexity, is ambiguous, and deals with non-routine situations with organisation-wide rather than operationally specific implications. This is a major challenge for managers who are principally concerned with routines aimed at specific task goals and normally delivered on a day-to-day basis. Managers have normally been trained through experience as much as anything else over many years to undertake operational tasks and take operational responsibility. Accountants see things in financial terms, IT Managers see things in tech terms, Marketing Managers see things in terms of marketing materials and activities…

The manager who aspires to manage strategy will find that they have to develop within themselves the capability to take an overview, to conceive of the whole, to conceptualize difficult issues.

Once again thank you for reading this far.

Philip

FINNA Project Ethos

FINNA is about leadership, about being content with outcomes, about completing which means success.  Your success as a business leader, as a partner, as a parent, as a person.

Your Choices are;

Take your future and lead it to be what you want it to be.

You will recognize that you require, absolutely require a plan, some place to start from. You need to know where this place is now, for you to decide where you want to lead yourself to you have got to know where you’re starting from.  And then when you know where you are, the place that you’re at financially, personally, the skills you have, the characteristics that make you who you are, your competencies, your experiences to date, you understand your own values, the people that will help you, the people that will be affected by your actions, when you know these things only then can you make your plan.

FINNA is about this process of finding yourself and working out where you want to go, what you want to do, what you want to be and how you’d like to be seen and remembered.  And then how you are going to go about getting from your starting point to your ending point.

Of course along this journey of self, of making and controlling your choices of making the changes you must make to move to this place of destiny you will encounter obstacles, distractions, blind-alley’s and dud ideas.  These are set-backs, challenges and you may indeed discover that your destiny is not what you thought it would be, that over time you’ve changed your destiny, perhaps without knowing.  Its only natural that in the beginning you’ll see and perhaps consider the changes you plan to make as improvements, you may see them as aims, objectives and treat them as you would a competition, you want to be a winner, you want to be better than all the others.  Well this could change, by the measures of others you may find that you are not in fact better.

So… Be Better and if not Be Different.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts and ideas with you.

For now, thank you for reading this far.

Philip