Monday, January 14, 2019

Digital Transformation - the Critical Questions

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Digital is eating the world, as they say, and every industry is feeling it.

How do you steer a digital transformation? How do you decide on a purpose and strategy, and deploy a course of action?

We need to translate the eternal questions of strategy to suit our new terrain:

  1. What’s our Purpose?
  2. Where will we play?
  3. How will we win?
    1. What’s preventing us?
    2. What are our critical gaps in Technology, Customer Experience, People, Culture?
    3. What’s our overall approach?
  4. What capabilities are needed?
  5. What management systems are needed?

Job One, as ever, is defining our aspiration – not a trivial task in a world of tumultuous technological change!

Our best hope is to get close to our customer, and develop empathy thereby. What are her jobs, pain and gain points?

Proctor and Gamble and the great A.G. Lafley famously defined the critical ‘Moments of Truth’ as 1) Seeing the product on the shelf, and 2) Using the product at home.

These are correct, of course, and especially so for consumer goods. But even in this industry, as we digitize our offering, other meaningful pain and gain points arise, no?

How else to explain the explosive growth that some commodity products experience – even in the face of the incumbent’s overwhelming marketing might?

Such products can develop loyal social media followers who unite, communicate and promote the product for no outwardly apparent gain.

Clearly, there are ‘invisible’ and satisfying gains at work.

In my view, these invisible gains and satisfactions entail some form of ‘this product/service makes me better/smarter/cooler than I am’.

Seen in this light, our critical questions take on new meaning, no?

And this is a big reason why digital transformations are proving much more difficult – it’s not just about coding.

Here’s to a safe, healthy, big-hearted and prosperous 2019,


Monday, December 31, 2018

The Trouble with Corporate Clichés

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

"Think outside the box"

"Ducks in a row"

"Low-hanging fruit"

"Let's take this off-line"

Why do these and other corporate clichés make us cringe so?

Well, they're often used by lazy people to express stale, tired thinking.

If we haven't thought about something deeply, why burden people with inanities?

If we can't express an idea in a fresh way, why should anybody listen?

Secondly, clichés are often used by clueless people who want to sound intelligent, which can be unsettling.

(One wonders, "Why are there so many bozos around here?")

Thirdly, strategy & problem solving begin with a mature acceptance of reality. Clichés just get in the way.

Holy cow, that's a rhinoceros and it just did something nasty on the carpet!

A clear concise description of the problem. Effective countermeasures will eventually follow.

Now consider how a cliché-ridden mind might respond:

"We need to think outside the box, lean in and ask clarifying questions! There is some low hanging fruit here, and perception is reality.

Let's consider our scalable options, get our ducks in a row and create synergy between our silos!"

Want to bet the rhino will still be there in an hour?

Here's one last reason:

Leadership is about language.

Best regards,


Monday, December 10, 2018

Is Five Why Analysis Too Simplistic for Complex Problems?

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

A common question, especially in industries that are just now learning the Lean Business System.

Problem solving is a kata - a set of core forms that we practice over & over, hopefully under the guidance of a capable sensei.

When practicing the problem solving kata, we pull in the tools we need including, Five Why, Ishikawa, Process Flow Diagrams, SIPOC etc.

It's a mistake to structure any problem solving discussion in either/or terms.

It's not Five Why OR Ishikawa OR Process Flow Diagram OR FMEA.

To paraphrase Hemingway, "it's all true." We pull in what we need.

Another common mistake is underestimating Five Why.

"Five Why is too simple for me. I want a more complex tool, because this is a complex problem. (And I am a very complex guy!)"

In consulting practice we've used Five Why to get to the root cause of complex design, supply chain and organizational problems.

Five Why is especially helpful when we've clearly defined a Direct Cause.

Often there are multiple causes, and we need to apply Five Why sequentially to get to the root cause of each.

A common failure mode is not understanding the three types of Root Causes - Inadequate Standard, Inadequate Adherence to Standard, Inadequate System.

These are derived from the splendid NASA and Loss Control literature & are invaluable because they point to actionable root causes.

In summary, problem solving is a kata and not unlike trying to hit a curve ball, shoot hoops, or hit a golf ball.

(All of which baffle me...)

You practice, practice, practice the core skills & movements.

Then, if you're very lucky, the day comes you can do it unconsciously.

Best regards,