Showing posts with label corporate culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corporate culture. Show all posts

June 23, 2017

Uber Overconfidence

As everyone knows, Uber is essentially--for now--a high-tech taxi company.

And high-tech tends to command high price.

But they are IMHO very overconfident of their position. 

And while I generally like taking Ubers, I would go so far to say that in many respects they are potential dead cab meat!


- Not because their leadership is in disarray and their founder and CEO was just forced to resign.

- Not because they have a disastrous corporate culture.

- Not because of their uber low or not profitable margins.

- Not because of the threat of autonomous driverless vehicles.

- Not because of the (alleged) stolen documents from Google.

- Not because Uber is (potentially) overvalued at nearly $70 billion (more than GM, Ford, or Honda)!

- Not because of its numerous competitors coming up from behind, including Lyft.

But a major reason is because:

They just gave you a not-so-hidden increase in price by tacking on a new tipping mechanism that will result in many people paying as much as a 20% hike to their overall fares.

Uber is now losing a sizable portion of their price point competitive advantage!

With the risks involved here, who could be so overconfident?
Perhaps, it's time to take a cab or hovercraft somewhere else. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

(All represents my own opinions)

December 18, 2011

Beyond the Four Seasons

For anyone who has ever stayed at the Four Seasons, you know it is an incredible hotel.
Customer service reins supreme and that's not just good business, it's good corporate values.
But reading about the Indian version of the Four Seasons called the Taj--it seems like they have taken customer service to a whole new level.
The Taj which has been operating for more than 100 years (opened in 1903) has 108 hotels in 12 countries, including of course India, but also Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and even America (Boston, New York, and San Francisco).
Harvard Business Review (December 2011) describes not just the routine day-to-day service provided at the Taj, but rather how they behaved under one of the most trying events, a terrorist attack.
On November 26, 2008, there began a coordinated 10 attacks across India's largest city Mumbai than killed at least 159 and gravely wounded more than 200. The attack now referred to as 26/11 (i.e. 26th of November) included the luxury hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower (i.e. the Taj Mumbai).
The Taj Mumbai suffered at least 6 blasts and "stayed ablaze for two days and three nights" engulfing the beautiful domes and spires of this structure.
But while the hotel suffered significant damage resulting in months of rebuilding, the spirit of service by the workers at the Taj was tested to the extreme and thrived.
HBR describes how Taj staff, hearing the blasts and automatic weapons, safeguarded their guests during the attack going so far as "insisting that husbands and wives separate to reduce the risk to families, offering water and asking people if they needed anything,...[and] evacuating the guests first."
The Taj staff did not run out screaming--everyman and woman for themselves, but they not only stayed calm and helpful, but they actually put their guests lives above their own.
This is sort of reminiscent of the firefighters, police, and other emergency first responders on 9-11, who ran up the stairs on the burning World Trade Center to save people--but in this case at the Taj, these were not trained rescuers, they were hotel staff.
In another instance at the hotel, according to the article, hotel employees even "form[ed] a human cordon" around the guests.
This again sounds more like the Secret Service protecting the President of the United States, then waiters and waitresses serving guests.
This is not to say that culture is the driving factor here, for example just this December 9, ABC News reports on how a fire broke out in an Indian hospital and killed at least 89 residents, while the "staff flees" and 6 administrators are subsequently arrested.
So if national culture is not the difference in how organizations and its people treat customers--what is?
HBR explains that it's really a recipe for customer service and user-centricity.
Starting with a "values-driven recruitment system" where the hotel looks for employees with character traits such as respect for elders, cheerfulness, and neediness (this reminds me of a boss I had that used to say she likes to hire employees "who are hungry.").
The Taj follows up their recruitment with a commitment to training and mentoring and empowering employees fully to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of its customers at what it calls "moments of truth."
The values of the Taj go so far toward serving its customers, that they insist that employees actually put customer needs ahead of the company and this is reinforced with a recognition system for those who strive and act for making happy customers.
Is this user-centric orientation limited to just the Taj Mumbai?
Apparently not, when a Tsunami struck at 9:30 AM on December 26, 2004 and killed 185,000 people, the Taj on the Maldives Island affected "rushed to every room and escorted them [the guests] to high ground" and still managed to serve lunch to survivors by 1:00 PM.
Talking about setting the bar high for customer service--how can you beat that?
(Source Photo: here)


February 25, 2009

Security Architecture Q&A

Recently, I was interviewed on the subject of Security Architecture and was given permission to share the Q&A:

In general, what kinds of information security issues does an organization face?

The overarching information security issue in any organization is one of communication, collaboration and the need for transparency vs. the need to protect information from being compromised. Information security is about more than just "stopping leaks." It is also about making sure that people don't intercept, interject or otherwise manipulate agency information for their own ends.

A related issue has to do with protecting the agency's critical IT infrastructure from physical or cyber attack. It's the age-old conflict: If you lock it down completely, then you're protecting it, but you also can't use it. And if you open yourself up altogether, then obviously it won't be long before somebody takes aim.

Finally, the largest threat to an organization's information is clearly from insiders, who have the "keys to the kingdom." And so one must pay great attention to not only the qualifications, but also the background, of the employees and contractors entrusted with access to IT systems. Additionally we must institute checks and balances so that each person is accountable and is overseen.

How do leaders demonstrate security leadership?

Leadership in the area of security is demonstrated in a variety of ways. Obviously the primary method for demonstrating the importance of this function is to formalize it and establish a chief information security officer with the resources and tools at his or her disposal to get the job done.

But security leadership also means building an awareness of risk (and countermeasures) into everything we do: education, awareness, planning, designing, developing, testing, scanning and monitoring.

When new applications or services are being planned and rolled out, does security have a seat at the table?

I can't imagine any organization these days that doesn't consider security in planning and rolling out new applications or services. The real question is, does the organization have a formal process in place to provide certification and accreditation for IT systems? By law, federal agencies are required to do this.

Would you say that information security is generally tightly integrated into organizational culture?

I think that a security mindset and culture predominate in professions where security is paramount, such as law enforcement, defense and intelligence, for obvious reasons.

But the larger question is, how would other organizations make the transition to a culture of greater information security? And this is actually a really important question in today's age of transparency, social networking, Web 2.0, etc., where so much information is freely flowing in all directions. One approach that I have adopted as a culture-changing mechanism is to treat key initiatives as products to be marketed to a target audience. The IT security professional needs to be a master communicator as well as a technical expert, so that employees not only grudgingly comply with necessary measures, but are actively engaged with, and support, their implementation.

At the end of the day, the organization's information security is only as strong as its weakest link. So security has to be as deeply ingrained into the culture and day-to-day operations as possible.

Is information security an inhibitor to new initiatives?

Information security is one of many requirements that new initiatives must meet. And of course there will always be people who see compliance as an inhibitor. But the reality is that security compliance is an enabler for initiatives to achieve their goals. So the key for IT security professionals is to keep educating and supporting their stakeholders on what they need to do to achieve success and security at the same time.


September 7, 2008

Toyota and Enterprise Architecture

MSNBC on 24 April 2007 reported: through a shrewd combination of investing in environment-friendly vehicles, offering sharp new models and wooing drivers with brand power, Toyota has toppled GM from the top global sales spot for the first time ever.”

Harvard Business Review, June 2008, reports on “Contradictions that Drive Toyota’s Success.” (by Hirotaka Tekeuchi, Emi Osono, and Norihiko Shimizu) Toyota Motor Corporation has become one of the world’s greatest companies because of Toyota Production System (TPS)…enables the Japanese giant to make the planet’s best automobiles at the lowest cost and to develop new products quickly.”

What is Toyota’s secret?

Reaching for the stars—Toyota sets “near-unattainable goals.” For example, “consider the company’s strategy: Meet every customer need and provide a full line in every market.” This runs counter to Michael Porter’s strategy of “choosing what not to do.” Additionally, Toyota’s goals are “purposely vague” to force exploration, innovation, and collaboration to meet them.

Consider the goals stated by Toyota’s president, Katsuaki Watanabe:

“Build a car that makes the air clean [not just less dirty], prevents accidents [not just reduces accident’s], makes people healthier and happier when they drive it [not just a car that gets you from place to place], and gets you from coast to coast on one task of gas [not just incrementally improving gas mileage].”

Have you ever seen anything like these goals in your organization’s strategic plans?

I highly doubt it. But imagine how your enterprise would change culturally and competitively overnight if you did!

Of course, Toyota’s strategy of Kaizen—continuous improvement—is part of their unending desire to succeed and not be satisfied. They view improvement as not something you achieve, but as something you continuously strive for.

We can apply Toyota’s reach goals and Kaizen philosophy to making enterprise architecture planning more effective too. We need to stop conveniently “planning” on things we are working on now or for which we have a head-up that are just around the corner. Sure it’s easy to plan with 20-20 hindsight and it helps us to achieve our unit and individual performance plans and gets inappropriately recognized and rewarded, but this is really a short term outlook and not one that will drive organizational success. Instead, like Toyota, we need to set goals that are stretch goals for the organization, and which make us go beyond our comfort zones, so that we can truly work to break out of the box and differentiate ourselves and our organization from the status quo and the limits of our imagination. Setting the bar truly high and then not settling for anything less than continual improvement is a long term strategy for success and one that needs to be genuinely encouraged and rewarded.

Here’s another important aspect of Toyota’s success:

Employees are highly valued— “Toyota views employees not just as pairs of hands, but as knowledge workers.” Ideas are welcome from everyone up and down the organization. “Employees have to operate in a culture where they constantly grapple with challenges and problems and must come up with fresh ideas…when people grapple with opposing insights, they understand and come up with effective solutions.” In fact, at Toyota, “employees feel safe, even empowered to voice contrary opinions and contradict superiors.” There is a culture of open communications, and a tremendous value is placed on personal relationships and networking. Additionally, value is placed not on results, but for “how much trust and respect the manager has earned from others,” and “refusing to listen to others is a serious offense.”

This concept of valuing employees and listening to them can shed light on how we need to develop effective enterprise architecture and sound governance; whereby, we provide all major stakeholders a voice at the table--to participate in and influence planning, decision making, and innovation. This is the way to achieve higher returns and lower risks. We need to stop planning and making decisions on the whims of the few or based on gut, intuition, and politics. We must cultivate information sharing, collaboration, and elevate people as the quintessential element of our enterprise’s success.

“Toyota’s culture…places humans, not machines, at the center of the company. As such, the company will be imperfect, and there will always be room for improvement.”

People are flawed, but our endeavors make us great!


February 26, 2008

Pepsi and Enterprise Architecture

Pepsi knows and practices User-centric Enterprise Architecture. They plan, develop, and manage their business to meet end-user needs, and the CEO, India-born Indra Nooyi is the mastermind behind their approach.

In Fortune Magazine, 3 March 2008, the article “The Pepsi Challenge” describes how Ms. Nooyi has remade Pepsi into a totally user-driven, architecture astute, mega-food company that is firing on all cylinders.

  • Architecting with a global view—“her South Asian heritage gives her a wide-angle view on the world…Pepsi’s international business grew 22% last year, triple the rate of domestic sales, and now contributes 40% of total revenue ($39 billion last year).
  • Architecting wise acquisitions and divestitures—in 1997, seeing that “the fast-food market was saturated and the real estate a hard investment to maximize,” she spun off Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC. In 1998, she championed the acquisition of Tropicana, the largest branded-juice producer, and the 2001 acquisition of Quaker Oats, maker of Gatorade.
  • Architecting the corporate culture—Ms. Nooyi is an expert in the art of persuasion and rallying the troops to her cause. “She can rouse an audience and rally them around something as mind-numbing as a new companywide software installation.” “She has created the motto—‘Performance With Purpose’” as a means of ‘herding the organization’ towards her vision.
  • Architecting through good people and demanding performance excellence—Ms. Nooyi relies on the expertise of her staff and has “broadened the power structure by doubling her executive team to 29.” Moreover, “she expects everyone around her to measure up.”
  • Architecting a healthy diet, green environment, and care for her people—“she…puts a positive spin on how she wants PepsiCo to do business…balancing the profit motive with making healthier snacks, striving for a net-zero impact on the environment, and taking care of your workforce.” For example, Pepsi got into healthy foods (such as bottled water, sports drinks, and teas) earlier than Coke and now “commands half the U.S. market share—about twice Coke’s share, according to Beverage Digest. Ms. Nooyi’s plan is continue shifting to healthy snacks (currently at 30% to 50% of the product portfolio).

What I find inspiring about Ms. Nooyi is that she is not only a strategic, big picture minded leader, but that she performs with the eloquence of a master architect that knows her users and their needs, strives to fulfill them, and doing so with an apparent conscience that dictates ethical behavior toward her people, the environment, and the health of her customers.

That is an amazing EA legacy!


September 25, 2007

Corporate Culture and Enterprise Architecture

Organizational or corporate culture is “the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization. Organizational values are beliefs and ideas about what kinds of goals members of an organization should pursue and ideas about the appropriate kinds or standards of behavior organizational members should use to achieve these goals. From organizational values develop organizational norms, guidelines or expectations that prescribe appropriate kinds of behavior by employees in particular situations and control the behavior of organizational members towards one another” (Wikipedia).

The Wall Street Journal, 13 August 2007, states that “New leaders typically reshape their senior executive team and the company’s growth strategies. The most wrenching adjustment occurs when a CEO changes the corporate culture—the core values and ways of doing things that bind people to their jobs…yet few CEO’s take the time to learn about the culture they inherited. They need to understand both the traditional purpose of a company and it’s philosophy—or why, precisely, employees feel the work they do is important, and how they believe their approach distinguishes them from others.” If changing culture is necessary, then the CEO needs to explain this to the employees, so that work quality and productivity does not suffer.

As enterprise architects, we can learn from the mistakes of others (even CEOs) in not understanding or respecting the culture of the organizations they serve. User-centric EA needs to respect the organizational culture in developing the target, transition plan, and strategy. The chief enterprise architect needs to learn and understand the values, norms, guidelines, and expectation that prescribe behavior in the enterprise if they wish to stand any chance of successfully shaping the future of the organization. This can be done by the chief enterprise architect spending time with and talking to “the troops.”

Enterprise architecture can not be successful as an ivory-tower exercise. All too often, however, it is done like an academic or textbook endeavor rather than as a genuine
attempt to understand both internal and external drivers for change. (At the same time, the reality is that the function of enterprise architecture is usually short on resources and cannot achieve its potential as it would if it were fully funded and resourced.) It is imperative that organizations provide adequate resources, so the architects can go and visit frontline employees and leadership across the organization to learn the culture, the functions, requirements, and pain points. Translating this information into future plans and strategies for the organization will then be much more meaningful and effective.