Friday, February 27, 2004

Innovation: Fire in the belly, heart and mind

Business Times p. B8
Friday, February 27, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Innovation: Fire in the belly, heart and mind

WHEN I was preparing for my church wedding many moons ago, I was advised to have in my trousseau something old, something blue, something borrowed and something new.

Something old was underwear I was comfy with. Something blue were a tiny blue-and-white trinket for good luck and for my mood that day because I just couldn’t wear make-up without itching all over and they put a dollop on my face including false eyelashes. Something borrowed was a set of jewelry from my mom which eventually became mine. Something new were everything else and the whole new life in front of me--a married life, a life outside the apron of my mother and the comfort of the old home, albeit, an exciting one.

Since then every time I do something for the first time, I remember this advice.

The first time I became an entrepreneur, I had the same feelings and experience. Something old were my experiences, competencies, references, database and other materials to start my management consulting business. In many cases, entrepreneurs entering the food business bring with them secret family recipes to start with. Max’s and Aristocrat, for example.

In his book Beyond Teams, Dr. R. Meredith Belbin describes “blue” as the language of tradition that could be associated with the formal means of dispensing instructions. Dr. Belbin further reminds us that the color of the sea is blue and when sailing all things need to be “shipshape.” So also an enterprise, in order to be in shipshape condition, need to be formally organized and registered with the proper government regulatory bodies like the Department of Trade and Industry, Securities & Exchange Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Social Security System, Philhealth, Pag-ibig and others. It is also becoming accredited with ISO or other international standardizing bodies.

Something borrowed means that an entrepreneur need not reinvent the wheel. There are so many successful business models and practices ready for benchmarking. So borrow or buy. We’ll discuss this at length in future columns.

Finally, something new is the fresh new presence you bring into the business scene and in the life of your customers. Something new is not simply new, but being different.

Michael Porter, author and Harvard professor, observed that strategy is about making choices. It is about deliberately choosing to be different.

One very important Key Result Area (KRA) which all business should pursue is “Innovation.” And your Strategic Goal (SG) is to inject something new into your business at every opportunity throughout your entrepreneurial life. Your past successes do not guarantee future success. Otherwise, as Morrie Schwartz warned Mitch Albom, “When in bed, you’re dead.”

Robert J. Kriegel in his book, If It Ain’t Broke—Break It!, wrote: “Today’s skills, knowledge, and products live fast, get old before their time, and die young. We are all being asked to learn, do the produce more with less money, fewer resources, and no time to spare.”

Author and former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca had this to say: “I have to take risks everyday. I’d rather not, but the world doesn’t give me that option.”

In the film Apollo 13, the spacecraft had life-threatening problems on its way to the moon. Actually the problem was there for years, undetected under reams and reams of procedures. What did NASA Control Center and astronauts Ken Mattingly, James Lovell Jr., John Swigert Jr., and Fred Haise Jr., do? They abandoned procedures, enlisted everybody’s assistance and came up with very innovative solutions such as the CO2 suction thingy. The crew came back alive, though unable to step on the moon.

Don’t wait for a crisis to be innovative. As entrepreneurs, that is your edge over them oldies-not-necessarily-goldies business people. You have fresh eyes, ears, nose, smell and feel for learning. That’s the only way you could compete and excel. To compete in terms of capital and price is trying to beat them at their own game and rules.

Entrepreneurial companies continuously push the envelope, celebrate mistakes and are open to learning. They don’t strive to do things right for the first time. They devote time and resources to creative, analytical, strategic and transformative thinking. They are dynamic, living companies. One of their KRAs is “innovation” and they put their money where their mouth is.

Choosing “Innovation” as your KRA is akin to putting fire in the belly, heart and mind of your employees. It is giving them permission to interact with their peripheral and remote environment and to pursue possibilities. It is giving your business extra power to maneuver in the fast lane.

Jim Collins says they make the leap and go from good to great and cites Abbott, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Walgreens and Fannie Mae as examples.

The caveat is that you don’t tamper with your business driver. Learn from the experience of Coke—a definite product-driven company—when they changed the classic formula of their cola drink.

ASTD 2004. The ASTD International Conference this May 23-27 in Washington D.C. presents a program that will guide, challenge and expand your horizons in a variety of tracks: Careers—Guiding Yours, Guiding Others; E-Learning; Leadership and Management Development; Learning as a Business Strategy; Measurement and Evaluation; Organizational Culture and Change; Performance Improvement; Personal and Professional Effectiveness and Training and Specialized Training Programs.

In each of these nine tracks, sessions will address global issues, leading-edge information, emerging trends and innovative approaches. Go to for details. Use our Delegation Code (10429860) to register and avail of discounted delegation rate. Grace Victoriano will be happy to assist you at telephone 715-9332.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., consults on Strategic Thinking and Planning and Innovation initiatives. Her email address is

Friday, February 20, 2004

Learn to read business signs to achieve results, reach goals

Business Times p.
Friday, February 20, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Learn to read business signs to achieve results, reach goals

WHERE do business ideas come from? How do you know what Key Result Areas (KRA) and Strategic Goals (SG) to set within your planning horizon? I do believe that there is a great plan for every one of us, entrepreneurs and ordinary mortals. Now you need to discover that plan. Where to look?

First, your vision, mission and values. These are your inspired thoughts and prayers for your future. They give you directions and guidance intuitively.

Second, the signs you can perceive. You know just like when you ask for a white rose to affirm your choice for Mr. or Miss Right. Same here. Signs are all around your business. Some are random signs, as in they appear only sporadically with no pattern. Like all of a sudden you receive one long stemmed rose from somebody you don’t know from Adam or Eve. Some are chaotic signs, as in they appear here there and everywhere but still you could not make heads or tails of them. Similar to the many long and short stemmed roses you receive from various friends. Nakakalito. And some signs form decipherable patterns or trends. Like you receive one white long stemmed rose in the morning, then in the afternoon and finally in the evening when he fetches you for your date. Hmmmmm

As Susan Spicer, chef and proprietor of Spice Inc. puts it, “In my first restaurant job, I had to prep a case of artichokes every morning. Somehow, artichokes know what shape they want to be. Pay attention, and you’ll know too.”

Never mind the random and chaotic signs. What is important for you to consider in charting the future of your business are the definite patterns or trends signs. Innovation Guru and author Elaine Dundon has identified 99 such trends that can serve as stimuli to increase your awareness of the big picture and to look to the future. In her book, Seeds of Innovation, Elaine exhorts you to review each trend and determine how it is applicable to your particular project or business.

Her list is unbelievably exhaustive and current. Here is a part of the list:

• Acceptance and pursuit of global brands
• An increased need to define “seniors” by division into groups: younger seniors (50 and 60) versus older seniors (70, 80 and 90)
• Biotechnology
• Branding of everything
• Breaking point for environmental shifts—more people are noticing excessive snow, rain, heat and earthquakes
• Consumer desire for low prices with online bargain shopping and interest in manufacturer / factory-direct-to-consumer shopping
• Crisis in availability of natural resources, water crisis and energy crisis
• Crisis in purpose in life after retirement with retirement age being at age 55 and average life expectancy of 80, leaves 25 years of low productivity
• Desire for instant gratification
• Desire for more privacy
• Desire to look young forever, interest in anti-aging therapy for both men and women
• Employees wanting and demanding more participation
• Entertainment in every-thing—marrying entertainment with education, entertainment with sports, and here in the Philippines, entertainment with politics
• Genetic screening for all ages, testing for disease
• Growing interest in experiences as a replacement for materialism
• Street-smart children

The whole world is leading you to your accomplishing your mission along the path of your vision. There are signs in your business environment that says “opportunities” or “threats.” Pick them up and use them to determine your KRAs and SGs. Remember what author Richard T. Pascale said that when the world around you changes, maintaining your equilibrium is a threat to your future existence.

ASTD 2004. The American Society for Training & Development will hold its annual International Conference this May 23-27 in Washington D.C. For details and to register, please visit . You may use our delegation code (#10429860) to enable you to pay only the special delegation conference fee.

Guess who will be speaking at ASTD 2004? Dr. Henry Mintzberg (planning guru, author, professor of management at McGill University, Canada) Richard Teerlink (former chairman and CEO, Harley-Davidson Inc.), Candice Carpenter (founder, and business visionary), Peter Senge (a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL), and author of The Fifth Discipline), Arie de Geus (a global statesman of business change and author of Living Company), Gloria Gery (internationally recognized pioneer in the introduction of performance concepts in the e-learning field) and Geary Rummler (author, led the way in the application of instructional and performance technologies to organizations and brings this experience to the issue of organization effectiveness).

They are the keynote speakers. There are 200 other speakers in this power-packed conference and an exposition with 600 exhibitors of human resource and organization development products and services. Call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332 for assistance.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation, consults on strategic planning and other HROD initiatives. Her email address is

Friday, February 13, 2004

The most powerful force in business

Business Times p.B8
Friday, February 13, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
The most powerful force in business

Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer of Yahoo, boldly declares that the most powerful force in business is love! Where will you and I be without love? Whether you are celebrating today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, depending on your circumstances, remember to have a happy valentine’s day.

Business is borne out of love. You are in business because of your love for money or profit, customers, your product and service and/or your talents. Some, though, go beyond the boundaries of love of profit and become obsessed or greedy.

There are also stories about office romance that bloom into marriage and family. There are also romantic stories that can only be celebrated the day before or after valentines. These are different stories all together.

Let’s go back to our subject of Key Result Areas (KRA) and Strategic Goals (SG) and love, pristine love. There is no greater love in business than that between company (owner and management) and employees. After all, it is your employees who are your immediate customers, they produce your products, they deliver your services, they blow life into your processes and technology, and most important of all, they can make or break your business.

One company’s KRA and SG is “Organizational Excellence: Leadership, Human Capital, Facilities, Information Technology, and Administrative Products and Services.” It calls its people “leadership” and “human capital,” resources to be used, perchance, when needed. Do you think there is love between company and employees here? People here, maybe, just work for the employment opportunity and salary.

Same with this organization whose KRA and SG #6 is Development of Necessary Resources: Develop the human, financial, and physical resources needed to realize is vision of becoming the best school of environmental science, management and policy in the world. They haven’t heard of St. Valentine. No wonder they are unheard of in this industry.

This organization, on the other hand, has a semblance of management-employee caring. It’s KRA and SG #6 is “Emphasize performance and results through excellent management. Develop and retain independent mission-critical expertise and align the organization with the dynamic communications market. Parang pagmamahal ng pastol sa kanyang mga alagang kambing.

The most important aspect of love in the business setting is the one between employer-employees or management-employees+—human-to-human. This affection is manifest in the KRAs and SGs that companies set. One school stated its strategic goal as “increase student achievement.” Another school is set “to employ a professional, skilled, motivated and diverse workforce.” I smell romance.

The National Science Foundation intends to invest in people, ideas and tools to meet its mission of promoting the progress of science. For people, it will endeavor to develop a diverse, internationally competitive and globally engaged workforce of scientists, engineers and well-prepared citizens as one of its three strategic goals. True love.

These strategic plans of a police department are built on values intrinsic to their organization. Sigurado hindi nangongotong ang mga pulis doon.

Ethical and Professional Excellence

• We are proud of the Police Department and treat all people with dignity, fairness and respect.
• We display admirable behavior both on and off duty.
• We value all employees, striving to develop mutual respect and trust.
• We demonstrate the highest standards of honesty and integrity.
• We believe in and practice teamwork.
• We strive to be the best at what we do.

A college-owned retail cooperative pursues this long-term goal: Relationships

We are enhancing the relationships as owner stores, between stores and vendors, and with other organizations. We are discovering cooperative activities with other industry organizations that have independent stores as members. This love is made stronger by employees’ loyalty, high productivity and high quality of outputs.

Unfortunately many organizations neglect to set their KRA and strategic goal for their people. They are set to develop and profit from their markets, products, technology, networks, processes, distribution channels, raw materials and other resources; but not their people. They consider February 14 and every business day of the year as ordinary day for people to toil and sweat for their keep. These are companies that are ripe for radical employees’ actions. Can’t blame them. Anyway, there is no love lost between company and employees.

Let us heed the wise advise of Carlton Jackson, co-creator of Humanisphere, Inc., “In vain do we build the company, if we do not first build the people.” It will help to put it in writing as a KRA and SG lest you forget what David Rockwell, president of Rockwell Group, said, “It helps everyone if you really say what’s on your mind, as opposed to trying to couch it through a series of niceties.”

Where do we get KRAs and SGs? Not from the stork or from the air. Let’s discuss that in the next leg of our Journey on Entrepreneurship.

Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, facilitates Planning programs and other people retention initiatives. Her email address is

Friday, February 6, 2004

Prioritizing key result areas helps achieve vision, mission

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Prioritizing key result areas helps achieve vision, mission

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving."

After you have determined and affirmed your strategic drivers and core competencies and wrote them in the form of your Vision, Mission and Values (VMV), it is time to move on in that direction.

Now, don't act in a rush. Hold that excitement!

I am reminded of this email I got from my friend Ethel Bondoc of the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo. The story from an unknown Harvard student goes this way:

At Harvard I had a professor who taught us in one lecture the subject of management. One day this professor spoke to us-a group of business students-and, to drive home a point, used an illustration we will never forget.

As this man stood in front of us he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class said, "Yes." Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"

"No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" One student raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!"

"No," the professor replied, "that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all." What are the 'big rocks' in your life? A project that YOU want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in FIRST or you'll never get them in at all.

That's the Planning Process in a nutshell. The jar is our VMV. The big rocks are your Key Result Area (KRA) and Big Goal. The gravel and sand are your critical and specific objectives and the water are your action plans.

The important thing to remember is that you put in your big rocks first. If you put your water and sand and gravel first, it will be difficult to squeeze in the big ones. And that is what we do in real life. We concentrate on filling our jar with water and sand and gravel. In our business, we concentrate on our day-to-day activities. We strive to be busy. We are looking down at our busy hands instead of looking up to our VMVG.

KRAs are the areas in your organizational life in which you must achieve significant results for you to accomplish your Mission toward the path of your Vision within your planning horizon. These are areas where the efficient and effective use your resources will be concentrated. They will guide your company's priorities in the next five, 10, 20 years.

For each KRA, you need to determine success indicators. This is where you need to put on your analytical thinking cap. When you have done this, then you put them together and write them out as your Big Goals.

Let me give you a few examples I gathered from the Internet for an educational organization.

KRA 1 Research
Goal 1 To develop world class research and researchers

KRA2 Learning & Teaching
Goal 2 To move toward a flexible higher education

KRA3 The global perspective
Goal 3 To develop international perspectives and global operations

KRA 4 People
Goal 4 To invest in our own people

KRA 5 Quality Assurance
Goal 5 To continuously search for quality in everything we do

You can actually have about three to six KRAs and three to 10 Big Goals. The other use of your KRAs is as a guide to your organizing of structuring reporting and working relationships among your employees. Your KRA would be the best basis for your organizational structure.

We'll specify some more in the next leg of this your Journey in Entrepreneurship.

(Moje Ramos Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, facilitates Strategic, Operation and Action Planning initiatives. Her email address is moje@mydes­