The Tools of Startup Organizations -- How Do They Benefit Performers, Artists, Entertainers, and Creatives?

In June, Paula Landry published a unique book entitled Applying Entrepreneurship to the Arts: How Artists, Creatives, and Performers Can Use Startup Principles to Build Careers and Generate Income. This practical book puts successful startup tools in the hands of creators: performers, artists, entertainers, creatives, and media makers seeking to launch like a business and generate more income.

When I recently spoke with Paula, I asked her: “Why are the tools of startup organizations important to performers, artists, entertainers, and creatives?” Here is her complete answer:

The tools of startup organizations are important to performers, artists, entertainers, and creatives who often battle feelings of overwhelm and self-doubt in addition to limited resources. Like all entrepreneurs, creative people must stay lean, move quickly, and keep DOING while learning. This avoids analysis paralysis and generates results. Creative people who want to generate more income and success now have a path to entrepreneurship specifically adapted to their unique skillset.   

Entrepreneurship for artists is a process of discovery that includes: 

Planning – defining a goal.

Time to build and test – figuring out what works for you. 

The process of creating with constraints – to stay fast, focused, and frugal. 

Bravery to share with awareness – customer feedback helps you improve.  

Committing to generating results with your launch – gathering data to learn from. 

Time allocated to manage your venture and analyze results – to understand your customers and improve your offering!  

Applying Entrepreneurship to the Arts: How Artists, Creatives, and Performers Can Use Start-up Principles to Build Careers and Generate Income translates startup processes – ideation, testing, marketing, prototyping, as well as legal and financial management – shaped into a creative approach. This work is not exclusive to artistic talents; it’s inclusive, building upon the artistic skillsets. Why are there so many new, Lean tech companies that startup, launch and generate revenue quickly? The path and workflow have been clearly defined, articulated, and demonstrated. Creative ventures are similar to startups and it’s possible to utilize those tools, now adapted for the creative community.  

If you’d like to learn more about the startup concepts and frameworks in Applying Entrepreneurship to the Arts, visit StartupTools4Artists.com and buy the book today. 

What do you think of Paula's ideas? As a creative, do you think startup tools used by organizations are applicable to you and your business?


Career Success -- What Are the Basic Factors?

At the beginning of May, Barry A. Franklin published a very interesting book -- entitled GPS for Success: Skills, Strategies, and Secrets of Superachievers -- which analyzes and highlights the foundational factors underlying future career success. Throughout the book, Barry provides specific examples and inspirational stories highlighting 10 critical behavioral skills for success. 

When I spoke with Barry just this past week, I asked him: “What are the basic factors that underly career success? Why do most people miss them?” Here is his complete answer:

After 10 years of undergraduate and graduate education, ultimately culminating in a Ph.D., it seemed somewhat paradoxical to me that virtually no college course had prepared me for the world of work. Accordingly, I began reading everything I could find on achieving career success and learned how ill-prepared I really was!

The critical knowledge and experiential perspectives I lacked included: understanding the power of relationships, positive associations, and collaboration; essential people skills; goal setting; the “boomerang effect” of serving others; dealing with setbacks; the virtues of patience and persistence; the potency of preparedness; writing and speaking expertise; understanding the laws of attraction and sow and reap; the dividends of organizational membership; and, the #1 success strategy -- taking action.

My research identified four foundational factors underlying overwhelming career success. These included: love what you do; realize that to a large extent, you make your own luck; take 100 percent responsibility for your setbacks and achievements in life; and admirably serve others.

Finally, why do most people miss them? Unfortunately, these underappreciated “soft skills” are seldom even touched on in college curricula that equip students with broad life and career proficiencies that empower them to contribute meaningfully to their communities and the workplace.

Perhaps the late professor Randy Pausch, author of  The Last Lecture, summed it up best when he said, “It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, and the dreams will come to you.” In so many ways, GPS for Success was written to fulfill this objective, to enable the dreams of others and provide guidance about how to live your life.

What do you think of Barry's perspective? Did you his recommendations for future career success accurate and inspiring? Are there any factors missing? What would you add?


How Should Your Company Pursue and Achieve Innovation?

This past April, Michael Parent published a book entitled The Lean Innovation Cycle: A Multi-Disciplinary Framework for Designing Value with Lean and Human-Centered Design, which addresses what many companies are facing regarding pursuing innovation. His book addresses these concerns by introducing a new multidisciplinary framework for both thinking about and pursuing innovation. By taking key concepts from the quality management practices of Lean and Six Sigma, the framework augments these tools and disciplines by incorporating other problem-solving and design techniques, including Human-Centered Design. The result is a view of innovation that many business leaders will find fits nicely into their existing paradigm of strategy and operational discipline.

When I recently spoke with Michael, I asked him: “How should companies pursue and achieve innovation now?” Here is his complete answer:

Innovation seems to be on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Search social media and you’ll find an ethos of innovation behind every post. But the popularity of innovation and entrepreneurial thinking on social media has done damage to how businesses and industry incumbents should think about and pursue innovation. Especially in a world buffeted by global disruptions – chip shortages, inflation, supply chain issues, pandemics – just to name a few, companies need to have a greater understanding of what role innovation plays in their business and the different ways they adapt to a dynamic organizational landscape.

Regarding innovation, the biggest opportunities for businesses are to pursue an innovative approach styled after the principles of Quality Management. Organizations can mitigate their risks of disruption by holistically evaluating their existing processes, and shoring up gaps that put them in jeopardy. It might not be sexy, but improving supply chain reliability, capability, and in-process quality has enumerable benefits for most businesses, from increasing profit margin, to reducing expenses, to driving towards operational consistency across their entire value chain.

Equally important is how businesses should avoid pursuing innovation. Generally speaking, if you’re anything but a new start-up business, you should stay away from grandiose ideas of disruptive innovation and industry-altering advancements. These promise exceedingly high profits and growth but fail to materialize due to excruciatingly low chances of success, high resource demands, and even internal organizational disruption to the existing business.

A business incumbent has already been successful in their industry. Rather than abandoning the history and tradition of the firm through radical, disruptive innovation, a business ought to re-evaluate its existing value propositions through the lens of a fresh perspective. Amidst global disruptions that have mainly affected business operations (and left the products and marketing themselves untouched) the principles of quality management, Lean, and Six Sigma is an excellent framework to begin this endeavor.

What do you think of Michael’s perspective? What role does innovation play in your company? How is your company pursuing innovation? What have been the pitfalls?


Why is the Failure Rate of IT and Change Management Projects So High?

 A few weeks ago, I had the chance to me with Scott R. Coplan in New York City and discuss the release of his new book, The Integrator: A Change Management Framework for Achieving Agile IT Project Success. This book defines change management as the single overarching methodology integrating Agile IT and project management. It does this because all projects are about change – significant organizational and personal change. The people involved – their participation in and understanding and support of these changes – ultimately determine IT projects success or failure. In fact, while all IT projects are about change, successful projects change human behavior.

During our conversation, I ask Scott, "Why is the failure rate of IT and change management projects so high?" Here is his complete answer:

There’s only one reason projects fail — leadership. You know who I’m talking about. Most of us have worked for that problematic project leader. 

Everything stems from a project’s leadership. They are the principal players or sponsors responsible for guiding each participant in completing the project successfully or failing miserably. 

A successful project requires a chain of sponsorship, including authorizing and reinforcing leaders. Authorizing sponsors have the power to approve, fund, and allocate resources to achieve a project supporting the organization’s clearly defined purpose. Reinforcing sponsors uphold, strengthen, and execute the project on behalf of the authorizing sponsor. 

The pervasiveness of project sponsorship problems stems from one fact. Just because an individual holds a leadership position doesn’t mean they know how to lead. They need guidance. 

In these instances, the problematic sponsor’s boss or a change agent must start by working with that struggling project leader. While having a meeting about their inadequacies is never easy, it is necessary. 

Most problematic leaders feel inhibited in a sponsorship evaluation meeting with their boss. As a change agent of 45+ years, I’ve conducted hundreds of meetings as the boss’s proxy.

This requires preparation before the meeting, including clarity about what the problematic sponsor must do, described in safe language. It’s typical for a sponsor to have little idea of what sponsorship means. I always start by taking time to listen and understand the problematic sponsor’s viewpoint, particularly about their role and what fulfills them in performing it. That sponsor’s input and my response may help them grasp the importance of their role and improve their performance. 

I’ve encountered sponsors that still don’t understand their role, requiring other options, like routinely assessing the sponsor’s performance and providing feedback. At times, I’ve recommended guidance from an effective peer in the problematic sponsor’s development process.

In severe cases, I’ve recommended replacing the sponsor. Their departure offers an opportunity for me to help the organization’s leadership find a suitable replacement. This is an individual who starts by engaging with their direct reports, establishing a shared purpose defined by enterprise-wide collaboration, followed by aligning their beliefs and abilities with that purpose. 

What do you think of Scott's perspective? Have your IT and change management projects been successful? Have there been leadership issues?


The Six Fears that Impede Corporate Innovation

New business innovation isn’t working in most large corporations. This is true even though we have made great progress over the past two decades in understanding the mechanics and dynamics of radical innovation. We have got the methodologies for creating the businesses right, but our organizations still seem to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Why is this? New business creation is thriving in the startup sector, often disrupting incumbents, so the problem is not a lack of opportunity. What is going on? 

I recently spoke with James Euchner, whose recently published book -- Lean Startup in Large Organizations: Overcoming Resistance to Innovation -- addresses such questions. During our conversation, I asked him about the sources of resistance and their connection to Lean Startup. Here is his complete answer:

Any new venture confronts uncertainty: uncertainty in customer demand, uncertainty in the timing of the market, uncertainty about new channels or new business models or emerging technologies. Corporations have gotten better and better at managing these types of risk. The Lean Startup movement has done much to help with this.

It is ironic, but the very methods that have led to success in creating product/market fit have interfered with venture/corporate fit. There are, in fact, six fears that Lean Startup awakens inside the corporation that impede innovation.

The first is the fear of chaos: the concern that the iterative and experimental approaches of the Lean Startup will lead to an unmanaged innovation process. An Innovation Stage-Gate helps to contain the chaos. 

The second is the fear that the innovation process will lead to disruption of ongoing operations. Every corporation has established norms that define “how we do things around here.” New business innovation naturally challenges some of these norms. This disruption needs to be acknowledged and explicitly managed for a new venture to succeed.

The third fear is the fear that the lean innovation process will lead the company into opportunities that the company just can’t exploit. Worse, the new directions may even undermine the identity of the firm. A company needs to innovate within clearly defined opportunity spaces to counter this fear.

The fourth fear is that the new business will succeed by cannibalizing the core: the new business will appear to drive revenue and profit, but only at the expense of the financials of the ongoing business. To counter this fear, companies need to explicitly model not only the economics of the business but the impact of the new company on the core business. Sometimes, cannibalization is necessary to the ultimate growth of the firm.

I believe that the fifth fear is the cause of the failure of more new ventures in corporate settings than any other. This is the fear that the investment in the new business will drain resources from the core. It causes the core business to react in ways that smother the new business. Countering this fear often requires separating the new company from the mother ship, at least during incubation. 

Finally, executives often fear making a career-limiting blunder when investing in a new venture. After all, the new venture, by definition, moves into spaces that are less well-understood by executives in the company. To counter this fear, companies need to develop ambidextrous leaders – those who can both execute and innovate. A key requirement is for the executives to spend time in the new ecosystems. 

What has your experience been with new business innovation? What are your thoughts on Jim Euchner’s suggestions for inoculating companies against these corporate antibodies? 


Can Six Sigma Help Improve HR Processes?

In 2021, prolific author Daniel T. Bloom published the second edition of his book entitled Achieving HR Excellence through Six Sigma, which describes exactly what excellence in human resources (HR) means and outlines dozens of proven approaches as well as a hierarchy of the exact steps required to achieve it. It illustrates the Six Sigma methodology from the creation of a project to its successful completion. At each stage, it describes the specific tools currently available and provides examples of organizations that have used Six Sigma within HR to improve their organizations. 

When I spoke with Daniel this past month, I asked him: "How does Six Sigma actually help improve HR processes?" Here is his complete answer:

The Human Capital Management field today is faced with a dilemma. It is a dilemma that will determine whether there is a human Capital Management field going forward. 

Too many of my colleagues are stuck in a transactional field which means that they see their role as that of the organizational fireman. There to purely put out fires. However, there is another view that Six Sigma encourages and that is the role of being the organizational thinker.

Consider the reactions from two HR professionals who have seen the Six-Sigma approach and have had phenomenal results. The HR Manager of an electronics organization stated that Six Sigma made her rethink the way she viewed HR -- it empowers you to want to make immediate and sustainable improvements to your organization. Using the strategies discussed in the book, she was able to reduce the average time to fill an open position by 58 percent and the cost of hire by 81 percent. The other view is from the VP of HR for a major trade association who told us that the material in the book (and the accompanying course) inspired her to think about additional training and professional practice of these concepts. She had already put some of the key concepts behind the DMAIC method to work.

The ultimate goal of Six Sigma and its associated tools is to enable you to see and feel the problem through the use of logical thinking processes and then to create a new normal by changing the corporate culture accordingly.

What do you think of Daniel's perspective regarding Six Sigma and the HR department? Have you incorporated Six Sigma techniques in your HR departments? If so, have the results been positive?


Just What is a "Meaningful Partnership"?

Recently, Seth R. Silver and Timothy M. Franz published a book entitled Meaningful Partnership at Work: How The Workplace Covenant Ensures Mutual Accountability and Success between Leaders and Teams -- It tackles some tough questions, such as: Why are some work partnerships exceptional while most are not? How can we establish and sustain an enhanced level of cohesion, connection, and collaboration in the most important work relationship, the one between a manager and team? What could remedy the high levels of isolation and anxiety so many feel at work these days?

When I spoke with Seth and Tim this past week, I asked them, "What is 'Meaningful Partnership' and how does it benefit organizations? Here is their complete answer:

In our book, we explore the concept of ‘meaningful partnership’ in the workplace.  We present meaningful partnership as a mindset where both leaders and their teams are fully committed to ensuring the support and success of the other.  Next, we describe a model called ‘ERTAP’, which stands for Empathy, Respect, Trust, Alignment, and Partnership, which are the key elements required for meaningful partnership.  Finally, we detail a practical yet transformative relationship-building process referred to as a workplace covenant.  This process enables leaders and teams to create mutual commitments with obligatory weight that help them to feel equally accountable for the success of the working relationship. These covenants, when reviewed routinely and used as the basis of mutual appreciation, helpful feedback, and adjustment, enhance ERTAP and create meaningful partnership. 

We define meaningful partnership as an elevated state of connection, cohesion, coordination, and collaboration.  It requires that all partners in a professional relationship feel fully supported, able to achieve, and accountable for the key goals and health of that relationship. 

Why is all this a big deal?  Because over time, workplace covenants have a way of improving mutual empathy, respect, trust, alignment, and partnership.  When these factors get stronger, the partnership becomes more satisfying and successful.  Further, managers become better leaders for their team because they are better attuned to the needs and feedback of their team. Teams become more self-correcting because they are frequently assessing themselves relative to their covenant/relationship with their manager. And the work culture improves because people are routinely exchanging helpful feedback, praise, and encouragement, and are focused on how to concretely support colleagues and help them achieve. When all of this is happening, partnerships will indeed become meaningful and the results to the organization will be extraordinary.

What do you think of Seth and Tim's view of a "meaningful partnership"? How do you define "meaningful partnership" in your organization? 


Women Leaders in Manufacturing and Performance-Improvement Initiatives

Just this past week, Shannon Karels and Kathy Miller published a very important book that describes the transformation they led to converting operations from traditional manufacturing to a Lean enterprise. It is entitled Steel Toes and Stilettos: A True Story of Women Manufacturing Leaders and Lean Transformation Success, and their story provides a powerful case study of women supporting each other in the workplace to drive positive culture and significantly improve business results by leading with authenticity and inclusivity.

When I recently spoke with Shannon and Kathy, I asked them: "What is the best advice you could give future female leaders in manufacturing overseeing performance-improvement initiatives?" Here is their complete answer:

Stay true to yourself and have confidence in your ability to get results.  You have stepped into this world of manufacturing, and you are up for the challenge.  Manufacturing, at the end of the day, is about people and processes.  While you are focused on improving those processes through the well-documented improvement tools, it is advisable that you make your personal assessment of the realities of the situation.  Do not rely solely on what other people are telling you – use the data and your instincts to help guide the organization toward a better future state.  

The relationships you make along the way are invaluable, particularly with those whose daily lives are spent doing the work you seek to improve.  Each and every person you meet matters and has important contributions to make.  If you develop relationships based on trust and respect, others will work with you and not against you, particularly if you have a vision that you believe in and can articulate, especially to those who have not experienced such a future state.

Do not get discouraged if record-breaking results are not immediate.  Creating sustainable improvements requires many infrastructure and cultural changes.  However, if you are dedicated to making the lives of those with whom you interact better through improved ways of working, you will find that over time the improvement initiatives will start to build upon earlier successes and the business will experience an accelerated rate of positive change.  

Celebrate successes along the way – it makes the journey enjoyable and meaningful.   

Face challenges, no matter where they come from with tenacity, determination, and a little grit.  Be willing to learn continuously and use your unique talents and strengths in solving problems and overcoming obstacles.  

But all in all, stay true to yourself through the process.  And while you will regularly wear those steel toes proudly, you can still show off those fancy heels anytime you want (as long as it’s safe to do so!).

What do you think of Shannon and Kathy's advice? We would surely like to hear perspectives from other high-performing female leaders out there who are leading transformative performance initiatives and thriving in fast-paced business environments. 


What are the Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make Regarding Relationship Building?

At the beginning of this month, Diana Jones published an insightful book entitled Leadership Levers Releasing the Power of Relationships for Exceptional Participation, Alignment, and Team Results, which contends that leadership and collaboration are primarily a matter of principles and process and not personality and content alone.  Her book reveals the leadership levers to release the power of relationships for exceptional participation, alignment, and results in organizations. It enables leaders to mine the brilliance that often lies dormant and untapped within their organizations. If leaders master the process, they achieve consistent results.

When I spoke with Diana a few weeks ago, I asked her: "What are the biggest mistakes leaders make regarding relationship building?" Here is her complete answer:

There are three. 

The first mistake leaders make is that they think it is the relationship between themselves and their executives is paramount. What they fail to recognize is that the quality relationships among their leaders, and among leaders and staff are crucial to releasing the brilliance that lies in their organizations -- when these relationships are based on high-quality informal connections, based on shared life experiences and values, and not people’s professional identities, formal structure, or job function. 

The second mistake is that leaders think their information and content are more important than creating meeting environments where people want to give their best. Volumes of papers that are habitually delivered at short notice remain the modus operandi of many business and government organizations. This has to stop.

Leaders who shift from preparing screeds of content to attending to the first four minutes of every meeting engender vitality and stellar contributions. They do this with six steps. They begin with an inclusive welcome, by being appreciative, making an anticipatory ‘I’ statement, acknowledging the experience and expertise in the room. They focus ruthlessly on the outcome they want for their organization and go backward from there, and they craft a question that mines their audiences’ experience and expertise. In essence, they create a process for participation. These six steps enable participants to ‘arrive’, and bring their best selves to the table. The leader can relax as participants do the work through their experience and expertise. 

The third mistake is that leaders underestimate the power of moments where new people enter groups or new groups form. These are crucial moments. Leaders can learn how people get to know one another and work well together rapidly. Gone are the days where people take years to get to know one another from working together, or via dinners, or overnight team development sessions. Every leader today needs to have this capacity in their mindset and toolkit. 

Overall there is a mindset shift for leaders, that they cease being meeting leaders and become guardians of group development. 

What do you think of Diana's perspective on leadership engagement? Do these types of problems exist in your organization? If so, what steps were taken to overcome them?


Developing Lean Processes -- What are the Common Mistakes?

Just this month, Matthew J. Zayko and Eric M. Ethington published about Lean process development entitled The Power of Process: A Story of Innovative Lean Process Development, which explores Lean Process Creation and teaches the specific frames -- the 6CON model -- to look through to properly design any new process while optimizing the value-creating resources. The framing is applicable to create any process that involves people, technology, or equipment—whether the application is in manufacturing, healthcare, services, retail, or other industries.  The result is 30% to 50% improvement in first-time quality, customer lead time, capital efficiency, labor productivity, and floorspace that could add up to millions of dollars saved per year. 

When I spoke with both authors earlier in the month, I asked them: "What are the common mistakes made when developing Lean processes?" Here is their full response:

Although every situation is unique, the three lean process development mistakes we see most often are:

Confusing Tools with Goals -- This is often rooted in not understanding the true purpose of the many Lean tools at one’s disposal, coupled with a poor grasp of the current state of the existing processes.  This results in a patchwork of “Lean stuff” stitched together – a veritable Frankenstein of a process.  First, understand your situation (CONtext) and then apply the right tools at the right time to learn what you need to know.

Losing Sight of Targets -- New projects most likely have a business case.  Done properly, this business case is based on assumptions that have been documented.  These might include a particular margin level, production rates, volumes – and the list goes on.  Likewise, these assumptions are calculated from a variety of other expectations such as cycle times, process uptime, projected yields, and material costs.  Once the money is approved, progress towards some of the high-level metrics is sometimes tracked, but often the more basic expectations that fed the calculations get lost.  Additionally, these assumptions are rarely translated into metrics that make sense to the project teams earlier and earlier in the development process.  End-state targets need to be translated backward to meaningful targets at key points, earlier and earlier, in the development process.  What does a final target of 15% margin look like to someone who is developing early process concepts?

Treating Development as an Event instead of a Process --  It is amazing what a properly selected and inspired team can accomplish.  Just think about the impact a 3-day kaizen event can have.  Yet, the organizations that really excel with lean have figured out how to make improvement part of everyone’s daily work.  The same thinking applies to process development.  It is okay to start your journey to better process development with a great, focused team.  But make certain to capture lessons learned along the way to incorporate into your “process of process development.” 

What do you think of Matt and Eric's perspective on mistakes regarding Lean process development? Have you experienced the same problems in your company during your Lean initiative and process creation? 

For more information about the 6Con Model and Mat and Eric's book, please visit: https://www.thepowerofprocess.solutions/