Nine Degrees of Freedom

A Degree of Freedom is defined as, "one of the minimum number of parameters needed to describe the state of a system." I believe there are nine (9) Degrees of Freedom that describe all business and technology challenges. To develop and maintain a healthy business, each must be monitored and controlled.

Enabling Evolution: Any change to an organization will result in a behavioral response. The time lag, duration and impact of the response are dependent on many factors. Changes that stop a particular action are more common because they are often easy to implement, but are limited to discouraging an existing behavior (too late). Changes that develop a new and better behavior are more difficult to implement, but creation of new behaviors is what will sustain positive evolution. Nimble organizations need to thrive on change to continuously evolve.

Creativity / Innovation: From resource optimization to finances to technical solutions, it is important to creatively overcome challenges by objective assessment, accurate estimation, evaluation of contributing factors, separation of needs and wants, learning to inventively work with what you have, and taking ownership in the solution. There is no formula for the generation of creative thought, but there are manageable enablers and disablers. Effective lean practices and outside-the-box thinking are innovation byproducts of the culture and must be evolved from within.

Leadership: Developing and leveraging the skills of each person requires a unique blend of trust, empowerment, accountability, ownership, structure, flexibility, cooperation, challenge, reward, decisiveness... delivered in a clear, consistent, direct and honest manner. The power of an organization (a team) will be much more than the sum of the individuals. A coach knows how to select the right people for the team (seldom the perfect people), knows how to develop each person and the team to their full potential, and knows when it becomes necessary to remove a person from the team (for the benefit of both). Top performance is contingent on aligning individual and team ambition with business goals. For people to share your vision, optimism should be the rule, realism should be the foundation, and pessimism should be the exception. It is critically important to lead by example.

Strategic Alignment: Everyone needs to be aligned with the mission and understand what is and is not core to the business. It is necessary to continually assess and plan the development of core competencies and resources to maximize competitive advantages and minimize disadvantages. Every act in the organization should be aligned with the strategic direction of the company. When not, a root cause should be identified and corrective action should be taken.

Tactical Alignment: Success results from effectively executing a coordinated tactical approach to the business. Tactics need to be aligned with objectives that naturally and consistently cascade from the business strategy to each line operation. Tactical motivation is a balance of selling and telling, requiring constant assessment and decisiveness. Top performance requires individuals and teams to be in control of their destiny, not in control of every decision.

Company Knowledge: Like all other important assets, Company Knowledge needs to be protected and managed. Even though protection may not be afforded through the courts, methods and procedures that institutionalize best practices and standardize information should be provided similar diligence as patents, copyrights and trademarks.

Communication: Throughout an organization communication will flow through a formal path or and an informal path. A breakdown of communication has occurred when employees value and trust the informal communication more than the formal. The need-to-know strategy employed by most government agencies works pretty well in industry as well. Employees need to be afforded the trust and confidence given by allowing access to all information they need for their activities. Formal communication network "leaks" are not acceptable and need to be plugged.

Customer: A cookie-cutter solution for connecting with the customer does not exist. Selling and marketing activities require unique people skills and demand keeping a constant ear to the ground to recognize and appreciate the uniqueness and diversity of a dynamic market. Pricing and market models are typically the result of many assumptions and little hard data. It is not a matter of if they are incorrect; it is a matter of how incorrect. These models need to be dynamic and updated continuously with new and changing data. It is important to continually assess what you are doing right (your customers) and not-so-right (competitor's customers).

Planning: Confidence in planning is critical for everything from Financial Forecasts to Requirement Plans. Good plans help communicate and confirm the direction of an organization. Successful planning requires the ability to assess risk and contingencies, therefore requiring the knowledge and wisdom that is the product of experience (success and failure) and repetition. An accurate multi-year plan cannot be developed by people incapable of planning the events of the next month. Development of planning skills requires the ability to accurately predict the next day, then the next week, then the next month, then the next quarter before multi-year planning is meaningful. Accurate metrics must be readily accessible before plan implementation can occur.

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