Friday 23 September 2011

Notes from book: Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

I have started reading this book titled "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" written by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld. From initial chapters, I made my notes in form of following mind maps. I am yet to finish the book so more mind maps would come!


Tuesday 13 September 2011

Notes from book: Business the amazon.com way

I happened to glance through first edition of book titled "Business the amazon.com way". It is published in year 1999 so no wonder it looked like an outdated book to me. It's second edition is published in year 2002, which I guess would have covered the dot-com-burst phenomenon. Nevertheless reading a pre-dot-com-boom book in year 2011 was an interesting experience.

In this book, the author Rebecca Saunders has shared following 10 secrets of the world's most astonishing web business:
  1. Live and breathe e-commerce
  2. Fill the place with entrepreneurs (hire entrepreneurial talent for key positions)
  3. Focus (to be the world's biggest store on the net)
  4. Brand the site
  5. Get and keep customers by offering great value
  6. Develop unbeatable logistics
  7. Stay lean (practice frugality as value)
  8. Practice technoleverage
  9. Constantly reinvent the business
  10. Grow with the best (alliances, acquisitions and partnerships)
As such, they are not so much secrets as of now. Still I found this list worth noting!

Monday 12 September 2011

Notes from book: Coaching People

Following are my takeaways from reading a book titled Coaching People. The book is authored by Patty McManus and is published by HBS Press as part of Pocket Mentor series.
  • Coaching is a means for learning and development. It is guiding someone toward her or his goals. It it also the mutual sharing of experiences and opinions to create agreed-upon outcomes.
  • Coaching is NOT an opportunity to correct someone's behaviors or actions. It is NOT directing someone to take actions to meet goals. It is also NOT being the expert or supervisor with all the answers.
  • Effective coaching is ongoing.
  • Coaching Skills
    • Active listening
    • Asking right questions (both open-ended and closed-ended)
    • Advocate opinions (to balance question-asking mode)
    • Give feedback as coach
    • Receive feedback as coach
    • Build agreement
  • While giving feedback, focus on behavior - not character, attitude or personality; be specific; be sincere; be realistic. Give feedback early and often.
  • Coaching style could be directive, which is useful for developing skills and for providing answers. On the other hand, supportive coaching style is useful for facilitating problem solving, for building self-confidence, for encouraging employees learn on their own and for serving as a resource for others.

Book Review: Coaching People

If you are pressed for time and want to get quick information capsule about coaching then this book is for you. In less than 70 pages, this "pocket mentor" from HBS Press tells what is coaching, describes key coaching skills and provides tools in terms of forms, checklists and worksheets. A small test near the end of the book not only assesses readers' understanding of concepts but also reinforces them. An annotated list of learning resources concludes this book. Along with structured information, this book also provides few anecdotes to illustrate concepts. Overall it is worth reading for every practicing and aspiring manager. 

Thursday 1 September 2011

SARAL methodology

Last week while traveIing in a bus, I thought of a methodology for delivering business technology solutions. I struggled a bit to capture its steps in specific words so as to get an easy-to-remember acronym name for the methodology. The result was SARAL methodology  having following steps:
  1. Study client's business context and IT landscape.
  2. Analyze gap between current and desired state.
  3. Recommend solution options.
  4. Activate client-chosen solution option on a pilot basis for early feedback.
  5. Launch full-fledged solution.
Yes, I agree it's old wine in new bottle! Hope new bottle is more elegant though!!

Jokes apart, there are couple of differentiators that I have tried to capture in this methodology:
  • Instead of studying just business requirements, study the business context as there could be some hidden requirements that we would otherwise miss.
  • Don't recommend "the" solution but few solution options for client to choose. Ideally we would propose three solution options which could resemble like fast-food, square-meal and seven-course-meal options!
  • A beta version needs to made available to users before launch to seek their early feedback.
That's for now, more later.

Shaping Customer Agenda

On 23rd and 24th August, I attended training program on the topic of "Shaping Customer Agenda". It was conducted by Rhea D'Souza and Siddharth Singh from Paradigms Unlimited. The focus of this training program was to learn about approach for Customer Enchantment. Like any other behavioral training program, this program was full of activities that made me think harder and reflect deeper.

Quite a few thoughts and topics were discussed in this program. I have noted following thoughts that touched me the most and can be considered as my takeaways from this program:
  • Context is decisive. It decides our thoughts, feelings and action.
  • It is easy to miss something you are not looking for.
  • We carry many unexamined assumptions (e.g. I cannot draw, I am not good at talking to strangers etc.). It is needed to examine them time and again.
  • Only interested people are interesting.Are we interested in others?
  • Simplify to amplify - can we write about our business in less than 8 words?
  • Enchantment is defined as creating voluntary change in hearts, minds and therefore actions of customers.
  • Become aware of listening filters that include:
    • It is not possible
    • Judging
    • Looking Good
    • Taking it personally
    • I already know
  • Observable patterns of behavior can help us understand interaction styles of people around us. The interaction styles are:
    • Relater: Introvert with emotion orientation - expect trust
    • Analyzer: Introvert with action orientation - expect accurate and valid data
    • Expresser: Extravert with emotion orientation - expect something new/big
    • Director: Extravert with action orientation - expect competency
  • How to manage client expectations? Set clear expectations, stay aligned to expectations and make your progress known.
  • Conduct pre-mortem analysis before starting out with new project/initiative; assume the project has failed and discuss reasons for the same and then plan out ways to prevent these reasons to happen.
  • Actions for enchantment:
    • Likeability - listening, language, smile and handshake
    • Trustworthiness
    • Listening - facts, feelings, intention and filter
    • Become Mensch, a person of integrity and honor
    • Reciprocity - transactional, pay-it-forward and goodwill
    • Appreciate - say it when you see it
  • Personal Branding Statement should explain what you do and why you exists. It must be Authentic, Believable and Coherent.
BTW, I must thank both Rhea and Siddharth for two days of wonderful learning experience! It seems they delivered such training program for the first time and delivered it the best for sure.