Thursday, June 03, 2010

Operations for Innovation

The final seminar for InnovationACT program for 2010 was last night with Mark Ryan, Operations Director, OgilvyOne & Ogilvy & Mather (Sydney), on "Operations, Management & Execution". Mark's background is in operations, and he said he did not know how he ended up in advertising. Previously he worked for a company which bought "late stage" entrepreneurial businesses, which had a good idea but needed operational insight. This involved doing due diligence. This involved difficult
decisions where the founder of the company had to be removed t make the business grow.

Mark showed us a "wordal" of his resume, which seems another name for a tag cloud. He commented that this showed he had a boring CV, which did not seem to be the case.

Mark defined "operations" as not just about running the business but also knowing when to call in experts.

Mark is a COO of a $55M He needs to worry about budgets and business. He commented on how much text could be fitter on one Powerpoint slide. He said his role was not to be creative or clever, but to keep the creative people out trouble. He commented that not everything works and he needed to allow for that.

The key points to be prepared to actually execute an idea, manage
expectations, get beyond the idea and increase the value of the idea.

Mark argued for being brilliant at the basics. The theory of constraints suggests looking at what can impede the business and dealing that when required. While awareness of risks is needed, it is necessary to address these, rather then letting this impede action.

Mark argued for key operational documents. What worried me was that spreadsheets were the key (most spreadsheets have errors in them). Sales, revenue, production are the key.

Mark argued for "traffic light" reporting: I was exposed to this at the Defence Department, where we used it for managing a complex $100M Y2K project, where it worked very well. It concentrated the mind to attend a briefing on a flag ship where
as the report was presented by video conference, there was another
screen showing carrier "shots" with people risking their lives for the operation we were discussing.

Interesting cultural differences can place project at risk. As an
example, even the different of "traffic lights" differs between
different transport modes. Railways for example, do not use the same "red, amber, green" traffic lights as used for road transport.

Mark argued that in looking at time, budget, scope and quality, binary decisions are needed: is the project fine or not? does it work or not? have extra functions not planned for been added?

Mark commented that CEOs are hopeless at managing issues by exception. There is a natural human temptation to avoid the difficult problem issues and making oneself feel better for discussing what is working. He argues starting with red issues, then amber and then discuss green if there is time (but their never is).

Next was the issue of how to Attract, Recruit, Retail and Motivate
staff. Mark commented this was a topic deserving a four hour talk in itself. First he said that staff need to be fit for purpose and division of labour. Do not hire people who cannot do the job, or people who are overqualified. Rather than using psychometric testing Mark argued you will know who is smart. Rather than fitting staff to specific jobs, get good people and work out where to put them elsewhere. Sharing the vision so that input can be provided at all levels.

Mark argued against a "beery culture" where everyone gets drunk after work. Recognition of staff is important, but need not an overly formalised system.

Amusingly Mark said that he would trust the "gut instinct" of a second hand car salesperson over a team of hundreds of computer programmers. I would agree with this, but because technical specialists tend to be trained to deal with very specific technical problems. With my Green ICT students I try to get them to look at the larger picture and see if the figures they are calculating look reasonable.

At question time the first question was about timing. I was not sure what the question was, but Mark answered that prioritisation was the key: creative people have difficulty working out what to do next.

A question asked about market research. Mark described this as the "Great Satan". He argued for piloting an idea to see what will work.

What I found interesting was that Mark mentioned iPhones and Android several times. Telstra is a client and I got the impression that Android is an issue which Olgivy is considering at present. In a recent phone company brochure appeared to reposition the Google Android operating as the "Android Marketplace". This was a interesting twist, as it was not about the benefits of the Android operating system versus Windows Mobile or the iPhone operating system, but about what applications were available. A recent twist on this is the popularity of the Apple iPad, which would seem to legitimise the use of Android as an alternative on a class of larger devices.

ps: I tried looking at the OgilvyOne & Ogilvy & Mather web site, to see what they do, but could find no useful content on it, so I assume they are in advertising. ;-)

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