Communicating 360

Communicating 360

My daughter, Michelle, is taking a university class in public relations and as part of the class she was asked to interview 3 people about their perceptions of this field.

So she posed some questions to me and here is how the interview went:

1. In your own opinion, what is public relations? Why do you think of public relations this way?

Public relations is simple, it’s about relations with the public–communicating and connecting with people about what you do, why you do it, how you do it, for whom you do it, when you do it, and where you do it. It is includes marketing and sales, customer relations, investor relations, government relations, relations with partners, as well as crisis communications, and maybe even recruiting talent to the organization.

2. What do you think of when you think of public relations? Why do you think of this/these?

When I think of public relations, I tend to think of many of the big, well-known brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Allstate, and so on–they do a lot of advertising and communicating with the public. They invest in this and it has a pay-off in terms of organization, product, and brand recognition.

3. What do you think the skills are that are needed to work in public relations?

Creativity, visual thinking, messaging, branding, marketing, sales, and psychology.

4. Would you distinguish public relations from marketing? If so, how?

Public relations, to me, is broader than marketing. Marketing has to do with getting product awareness out there and selling, but public relations involves not only connecting with customers, but also investors, suppliers, partners, even the government, and international players.

5. Can you give examples of what you think public relations is today?

Public relations is how an organization interfaces and communicates with all its stakeholders. It is mainly external or outward facing and differs from internal communications which is inward facing, like talking with employees. Public relations uses advertising, media, commercials, messaging, branding, logos, newsletters, mailings, to get the word out from the organization’s perspective–good news and also countering bad news.

So how did this “IT guy” do with answering questions about public relations?

Not my field, but maybe the MBA and private-sector experience helped, a little. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Hard On Issues, Soft on People

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There is a classic article in Harvard Business Review entitled “The Hard Work of Being A Soft Manager” (1991) by William H. Peace, which sums up “soft leadership” this way: “the stereotypical leader is a solitary tough guy, never in doubt and immune to criticism. Real leaders break that mold. They invite candid feedback and even admit they don’t have all the answers.”

The author recalls his mentor whom he says “taught me how important it is to be a flesh-and-blood human being as well as a manager. He taught me that soft qualities like openness, sensitivity, and thoughtful intelligence are at least as critical to management success as harder qualities like charisma, aggressiveness, and always being right.”

To me, there is a time and place for hard and soft leadership qualities. Leaders must be firm when it comes to driving organizational results and performing with the highest ethical conduct and integrity, but they should act with greater flexibility when it comes to open communications and collaboration with people.

I believe that leaders would be wise to follow the leadership adage of “be hard on issues and soft on people”. This means that great leaders stand up and fight for what they believe is best for their organization and they team and collaborate with their people to make results happen. In this way, leaders and their staffs are working in unity of purpose and as a genuine team, with leaders seen as human, credible and worthy of people’s dedication and hard work. To me the perfect example of this leadership style is Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks who is relentless in his pursuit of a successful global coffee retailing company, but is also passionate about taking care of his diverse stakeholders from employees to coffee growers and even the environment.

In contrast dysfunctional managers are hard on people and soft on issues. They are indecisive, waiver, or are seen as subjective on business issues and this is hard on their people. Moreover, these managers let out their professional and personal frustrations on the very people that are there to support them in the enterprise. Here, leaders alienate and disenfranchise their people, fragment any semblance of teams and fail at their projects. The leaders are viewed as powerful figures that rule but do so with injustice and without meaning. An example of this failed leadership style is “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap who relentlessly cut people to cut costs, but as Slate put it (31 August 1997) “built his ‘turnarounds’ on cosmetic measures designed to prop up stock prices.”

By being unyielding in doing what is right for the mission, and acting with restraint with people, leaders can bring the best of hard and soft leadership qualities to bear in their positions.

Of course, these leadership traits must be used appropriately in day-to-day situations. Leaders should be hard on issues, but know when to throttle back so business issues can be worked through with stakeholders and change can evolve along with organizational readiness. Similarly, leaders should be soft on people, but know when to throttle up to manage performance or conduct issues, as necessary. In this way, hard and soft qualities are guidelines and not rules for effective leadership, and leaders will act appropriately in every situation.

>Are Feds Less Creative?

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Contrary to the stereotype, in my observation government employees are just as creative as those in the private sector. The reason they may not seem this way is that they typically think very long and hard about the consequences of any proposed change.

Once an agency has tentatively decided on a course of action, it still takes some time to “go to market” with new ideas, for a few (to my mind) solid reasons:

  • We are motivated by public service. One of the key elements of that is our national security and so we must balance change with maintaining stability, order, and safety for our citizens. In contrast, the motivation in the private sector is financial, and that is why companies are willing to take greater risks and move more quickly. If they don’t they will be out of business, period.
  • We have many diverse stakeholders and we encourage them to provide their perspectives with us. We engage in significant deliberation based on their input to balance their needs against each other. In the private sector, that kind of deliberation is not always required or even necessarily even desired because the marketplace demands speed.

The fact that process is so critical in government explains why IT disciplines such as enterprise architecture planning and governance are so important to enabling innovation. These frameworks enable a process-driven bureaucracy to actually look at what’s possible and come up with ways to get there, versus just resting on our laurels and maintaining the “perpetual status quo.”

Aside from individual employees, there are a number of organizational factors to consider in terms of government innovation:

  • Sheer size—you’re not turning around a canoe, you’re turning around an aircraft carrier.
  • Culture—a preference for being “safe rather than sorry” because if you make a mistake, it can be disastrous to millions of people—in terms of life, liberty, and property. The risk equation is vastly different.

Although it may sometimes seem like government is moving slowly, in reality we are moving forward all the time in terms of ideation, innovation, and modernization. As an example, the role of the CTO in government is all about discovering innovative ways to perform the mission.

Some other prominent examples of this forward momentum are currently underway—social media, cloud computing, mobility solutions, green computing, and more.

Here are three things we can do to be more innovative:

  • From the people perspective, we need to move from being silo based to enterprise based (or what some people called Enterprise 2.0). We need to change a culture from where information is power and currency and where people hoard it, to where we share information freely and openly. And this is what the Open Government Directive is all about. The idea is that when we share, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • In terms of process, we need to move from a culture of day-to-day tactical firefighting, to more strategic formulation and execution. Instead of short-term results, we need to focus on intermediate and long-term outcomes for the organization. If we’re so caught up in the issue of the day, then we’ll never get there.
  • And from a technology perspective, we need to continue to move increasingly toward digital-based solutions versus paper. That means that we embrace technologies to get our information online, shared, and accessible.

Innovation is something that we all must embrace—particularly in the public sector, where the implications of positive change are so vast. Thankfully, we have a system of checks and balances in our government that can help to guide us along the way.

Note: I’ll be talking about innovation this week in D.C. at Meritalk’s “Innovation Nation 2010” – the “Edge Warriors” panel.

>Executives, One Foot In and One Foot Out

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The last thing any executive should be doing is getting caught up in the weeds of management. The executive needs to lead and define the organizational strategy and the management team needs to execute. The executive is the link between what needs to get done (stakeholders’ needs) for the stakeholders and getting it done (management execution) through the organization’s people, process, and technology.

How does the executive perform this linking role?

Not by looking myopically inside the organization, and not by jetting around the globe shaking hands and kissing babies. Peter Drucker said “ The chief executive officer (CEO) is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers. “

In Harvard Business Review, May 2009, A. G. Lafley the CEO of Proctor & Gamble see’s that the CEO’s job is to “link the external world with the internal organization.”

The executive is the bridge between inside and outside the organization. And by having one foot in each, he/she is able to cross the artificial boundaries and bring vital stakeholder requirements in and carry organizational value back out.

Lafley breaks down the CEO’s role into four key areas, which I would summarize as follows:

  • BUSINESS SCOPE: Determining “the business we are in” and not in.  No organization can be everything to everybody. We need to determine where we will compete and where we will withdraw. GE’s Jack Welsh used to insist on working only in those markets where GE could be either #1 or #2. Drucker’s view is that “performing people are allocated to opportunities rather than only to problems.”
  • STAKEHOLDER PRIORITIZATION: “Defining and interpreting the meaningful outside”–this is really about identifying who are our stakeholders and how do we prioritize them?
  • SETTING THE STRATEGY: Balancing “yield in the present with necessary investment in the future.” Genuine leaders don’t just milk the organization in the short term, but seek to deliver reasonable results immediately while investing for future performance. Lafley states “We deliver in the short term, we invest in and plan for the midterm, and we place experimental bets for the long term.”
  • ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: “Shaping values and standards.” Lafley argues that “the CEO is uniquely positioned to ensure that a company’s purpose, values, and standards are relevant for the present and the future.” Of course, the culture and values need to guide the organization towards what matters most to it, to meeting its purpose, and satisfying its stakeholders.

To me, the Drucker-Lafley view on the CEO as a bridge between boundaries inside and outside the organization, can be extended a step down in the organization to other “chief” roles. The CEO’s vision and strategy to deliver value to the stakeholder to the role is fulfilled in part by the chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO). Together, the CIO and CTO marry needs of the business with the technology to bring them to fruition. Within the organization, the CIO is “outward” facing toward the needs of the business and the CTO is “inward” facing to technology enablement. Together, like two sides of the same coin, they execute from the IT perspective for the CEO.

Similarly, the chief enterprise architect (CEA), at the next rung—supporting the CIO/CTO, is also working to span boundaries—in this case, it is to technically interoperate the organization internally and with external partners The chief enterprise architect works to realize the vision of the CEO and the execution strategy of the CIO/CTO.

The bridge the CEO builds links the internal and external boundaries of the organization by defining stakeholders, scope, business strategy, and organizational culture. The CIO/CTO build on this and create the strategy to align business and technology The CEA takes that decomposes it into business, information, and technological components, defining and linking business functions, information flows, and system enablers to architect technology to the business imperative.

Three levels of executives—CIO, CIO/CTO, and CEA, three bridges—inside/outside the organization, business/technology sides of the organization, and business process/information flows/technologies within. Three delivery mechanisms to stakeholders—one vision and organizational strategy, one technical strategy and execution, one architecture plan to deliver through technology.

>Vision and The Total CIO

>Vision is often the telltale demarcation between a leader and a manager. A manager knows how to climb a ladder, but a leader knows where the ladder needs to go—leaders have the vision to point the organization in the right direction!

Harvard Business Review, January 2009, asks “what does it mean to have vision?”

First of all, HBR states that vision is the “central component in charismatic leadership.” They offer three components of vision, and here are my thoughts on these:

  1. Sensing opportunities and threats in the environment”—(recognizing future impacts) this entails “foreseeing events” and technologies that will affect the organization and one’s stakeholders. This means not only constantly scanning the environment for potential impacts, but also making the mental connections between, internal and external factors, the risks and opportunities they pose, and the probabilities that they will occur.
  2. Setting strategic direction”—(determining plans to respond) this means identifying the best strategies to get out ahead of emerging threats and opportunities and determining how to mitigate risks or leverage opportunities (for example, to increase mission effectiveness, revenue, profitability, market share, and customer satisfaction).
  3. Inspiring constituents”—(executing on a way ahead) this involves assessing change readiness, “challenging the status quo” (being a change agent), articulating the need and “new ways of doing things”, and motivating constituent to take necessary actions.

The CIO/CTO is in a unique position to provide the vision and lead in the organization, since they can bring alignment between the business needs and the technologies that can transform it.

The IT leader cannot afford to get bogged down in firefighting the day-to-day operations to the exclusion of planning for the future of the enterprise. Firefighting is mandatory when there is a fire, but he fire must eventually be extinguished and the true IT leader must provide a vision that goes beyond tomorrow’s network availability and application up-time. Sure the computers and phones need to keep working, but the real value of the IT leader is in providing a vision of the future and not just more status quo.

The challenge for the CIO/CTO is to master the business and the technical, the present and the future—to truly understand the mission and the stakeholders as they are today as well as the various technologies and management best practices available and emerging to modernize and reengineer. Armed with business and technical intelligence and a talent to convert the as-is to the to-be, the IT leader can increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness, help the enterprise better compete in the marketplace and more fully satisfy customers now and in the future.

>Requirements Management and Enterprise Architecture

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Requirements management is critical to developing enterprise architecture. Without identifying, understanding, and rationalizing the organization’s requirements, no meaningful enterprise architecture planning can occur.

“The purpose of Requirements management is to manage the requirements of a project and to identify inconsistencies between those requirements and the project’s plans and work products. Requirements management practices include change management and traceability.”

Traceability is the identification of all requirements back to the originator, whether it be a person, group, or legal requirement, or mandate. Traceability is important to ensure alignment of end products with the origination of the requirements, prioritization of requirements, and determining requirements’ value to specific users. Traceability should ensure that requirements align to the organization’s mission (intended purpose) and its strategic plan. (Wikipedia)

How is requirements management done?

  1. Stakeholders—identify program/project stakeholders.
  2. Requirements—capture, validate and prioritize stakeholder requirements.
  3. Capabilities—analyze alternatives and plan for capabilities to fulfill requirements.
  4. Resources—ascertain resource needs for capability development
  5. Activities—perform activities to develop the capabilities to meet the requirements.
  6. Measures—establish measures to demonstrate requirements have been met.

How does EA bridge requirements and capabilities?

Enterprise architecture captures strategic requirements—high-level mandates or needs. It uses this to establish an integrated set of functional requirements areas or cross-cutting categories of requirements. These drive strategic capability development to meet mission needs and achieve results of operation. Strategic capabilities are reflected in the enterprise architecture in the target and transition plan. This is used to evaluate proposed new IT projects, products, and standards to ensure that they align to and comply with the EA.

EA is the glue that binds sound IT investment decision making to strategic requirements and technical alignment.

>Branding and Enterprise Architecture

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User-centric EA is concerned with establishing a baseline and target architecture and transition plan for the organization. This endeavor includes everything from performance results, business function and processes, information requirements, systems and technologies, and how we secure it all. But how about including the organization’s brand and reputation in defining the architecture, especially in targeting and planning for a stronger reputation with customers and stakeholders?

The Wall Street Journal, 9 January 2008, has an article titled, “As Economy Slows, Reputation Takes on Added Meaning.”

Organization’s brands can be an asset or liability, based on how well it has been planned and managed and “cared for and fed.”

‘‘Mending reputations can’t be done overnight’ says Kasper Nielson, the Reputation Institute’s managing partner.” As we do in EA, comparing the current to the target architecture and developing a transition plan, Mr. Nielson “takes companies through a seven-step analysis of what’s causing their reputations to suffer, followed by a close look at which constituencies—employees, customers or investors—are affected and what they are seeking. Then it’s time for the hard work of figuring out what aspects of company conduct are helpful and what needs to be fixed.”

Many organizations only care about their technology and business alignment after they run into problems with poor IT investment decisions or programs that are failing or falling behind because of inadequate automation and technological sophistication. Then the organization wants a quick fix for an enterprise architecture and IT governance, yesterday! Similarly Mr. Neilson states about reputation, “A lot of companies care about reputation only after a crisis hits. Then they want to know, can you fix things? They don’t integrate reputation into their everyday processes. That’s dangerous. You have to do a lot of things right to build up a reputation platform.”

“‘Reputation is invisible, but it’s an enormously powerful force,” says Alan Towers, a New York advisor to companies concerned about reputation issues. He encourages CEO’s themselves to assume the role of chief reputation officer.” If brand and reputation is important enough for the CEO to take the lead role, it is certainly important enough to be considered a factor in building an viable enterprise architecture that will consider not only a company’s technology, but also how it is perceived to customers and stakeholders.

Some examples come to mind in terms of applying EA to organizational branding:

  1. Do we want to organization to be perceived as a technological leader or laggard?
  2. Is the organization viewed as having strong governance, including IT governance?
  3. Do stakeholders perceive that the organizations is spending its resources prudently and controlling its investment in new IT?
  4. Do stakeholders see the company as customer-centric, providing the latest in customer service systems, sales ordering and tracking, payment processing, website information and transaction processing, online help and other IT enabled user tools?
  5. Is technology seen as integral to the future of the organization or a sidebar or worse yet a distraction?

I once heard someone say that “perception is reality”. So, even if the organization is managing their technology and business alignment, if its stakeholders don’t perceive that to be the case, then the enterprise is not being effective with its constituents. The organization must factor stakeholder perceptions and its organizational reputation into the development of its target architecture and transition plan. Brand and reputation does not just materialize, but rather needs to be planned and managed to. EA can help to perform this role.