Interim Talent: “Test and Learn” Comes to Your Talent Mix

We’re building Fahren to be a leadership solutions company. We want to become a key partner for organizations that are differentiating themselves by investing in  and – yes – innovating in the ways they deploy their leadership talent.

One of the planks of our business plan is to focus on Interim roles in key leadership positions: Director/VP of Marketing, Product Leadership, Analytics, and User Experience.

We think “Interim Leader of X” is a tool that most organizations haven’t fully embraced yet. We’re advocates for the idea of using interim roles as a way to test & learn with your talent. You’re already using a test & learn approach in your marketing, your technology, and your product development efforts, why not approach your leadership team with the same model?

It Can’t Be Business as Usual

When most organizations are faced with an opening, they move quickly to refill the same seat with a standard leadership profile. It’s the “business as usual” approach, because everyone is busy and there are plans to deliver, right? So, they default to standard roles, generic job descriptions, templated profiles.

But, we believe most organizations are missing an opportunity to evolve either the “seat” (i.e. the role that’s being played in the organization) or the player profile (i.e. the mix of skills/experience/potential that the person brings to the seat). Most organizations would benefit a lot from taking the time to ask themselves: Is this still the right “seat”? And, do we still want to fill it with the same kind of player?

Why the rethink? Without a doubt, the business context will have changed in the months or years since the seat was designed. We believe organizations need to be as responsive, fluid and adaptive as their products these days, so it’s wise to rethink aspects of the role:

  • Responsibilities: What objectives are we pursuing with this role? Are we pointing the role at the right business problems? Are we being aggressive enough?
  • Level: Is it still a Director level role? Should it be a VP role? Could it be a manager?
  • Commitment: Is it really full-time?
  • Span of Control: Do we have the right teams reporting to this role? Could we expand the span of control?

And, at the same time, it’s wise to rethink the player profile:

  • Skill mix – What leadership competencies are they bringing to the role?
  • Developmental Experiences – What kinds of experiences should the player have? Startup experience? Big company? Turnaround? “Good to Great”?
  • Culture Impact – How will you use the role to add to the culture (vs merely being a “fit”)

The Interim Opportunity: Test and Learn for Talent

As the pace of business accelerates, we’re seeing a lot of organizations embrace an agile (and Agile), iterative, test/learn approach to driving better results. We’re seeing it marketing, in product development, in technology teams, etc. But, we’re not yet seeing it on the talent side.

We see “interim” roles as being the way organizations can take a test & learn approach to their organizational efforts. An interim role that last 6-12 months gives organizations a chance to explore how key roles can evolve and how teams can work differently. The cycle looks similar to a market-test:

  • Develop a hypothesis – How either the seat can evolve or the different leadership mix you need from the player
  • Define a test – Redefine the seat or the player and create the test period (usually 6-12 months)
  • Run the test – Put the new player into the role for 6-12 months
  • Analyze the results – Review in-market results and team performance. Talk with the team, the leader, the rest of the leadership team, customers, vendors, partners, etc.
  • Apply – Use the learnings to finalize the new role or the new leadership profile and then fill the role permanently

At Fahren, we expect to see more and more organizations using Interim roles as a way to test and learn their way to a more effective leadership mix. We’re setting up our business to help our partners get there via:

  • Strategy & Advisory services – We’ll help you map out a new strategy and define the roles you need to get there
  • Interim Talent – We’ll help you find and onboard the Interim leadership you need to keep driving results while learning about the talent mix that can take you to the next level
  • Executive Search – When you know what you need and you want to fill the role permanently, we can help you conduct an efficient, effective search

Beliefs into Action: Fähren Events & The Community

tl;dr: Leaders should lead by supporting the communities they work in

When Joe and I started Fähren, one of our foundational beliefs was we needed to be good supporters of the Twin Cities business community. More specifically, we wanted to put our beliefs into action by creating the events, ideas and connections that spark the insights that innovators need to keep growing.

We can help spark those ideas through our words, our writings, and the conversations we have with our clients and partners. And, we can do it by bringing together other exceptional thinkers to share their work and experiences and ideas.

Tonight, Fähren is hosting a unique group of strategists who are on the front edge of the next wave of consumer, digital experiences. Our event is called Voice is the Interface: UX Lessons Learned Designing for Voice and the speakers will include folks i know and trust to share some hard-won insights from the early days of figuring out what happens we stop clicking and swiping, and start talking to our computers.

The move to voice-only or voice+screen is going to be seismic, a transformational change. But it will take years to generate best practices and trusted design patterns. The work to figure out which practices are “best” vs “good” will take lots of conversations, collaboration, trial and error and sharing between practitioners. It will take a community effort.

Why are we putting on an event about leading edge UX stuff?

Reason #1: Fahren is a talent company focused on business leadership. We’re in business to help leaders drive change, faster. So, we see it as our responsibility to support the leaders and the thinkers who will invent, test and advocate for those design patterns, methods and best practices so we can get to the future faster, together.  One of my favorite business leaders helped me understand the truth in the saying, “All of us are smarter than any one of us.”  Sure, its good business, but it’s also just good.

Reason #2: We see innovation opportunities and we want to help figure those out. As long-time digital nerds, we’re really interested in how the computing environment will change our behaviors as consumers (and how fast businesses will have to move to keep up) when voice becomes the primary interface. It’s going to be as fascinating and fun as the move from desktop “programs” to web “pages” to mobile “apps”. Creative destruction is on the horizon, which means creative opportunities for innovators.

We’re excited about our role in the business community and we’re looking forward to the conversations ahead. We’re working on our 2019 event plans now.  Let us know what you’re interested in and if you’d like to join us as we put our event and community plan together!

 

Data Leaks: Doc Searls, Facebook data and what’s about to come

Are you you one of the folks in the digital/ad tech world trying to answer your friends questions about the “what’s going on with Facebook and all that data” situation? It’s going to get worse when everyone understands how thoroughly widespread the data-leaking problem is. Give this article a read. It’s from OG/Cluetrain guy Doc Searls, one of the best thinkers about the open web and what advertising has done to it. It’s a little over the top, but the underlying story is one we (“we” being humans on the internet and perhaps also in the digital business) should understand.

 

Why I’m Starting My Own Company

Every entrepreneur who starts their own venture better have a clear idea of why they’re doing it. With a clear “why”, it will be easier to navigate when the inevitable obstacles pile up.  If for no other reason than to get my own thoughts straight, here goes:

I’ve got Some Personal Motivation

I’m a small business guy by birth – I grew up the son of a second generation entrepreneur. My grandfather took a huge risk in 1916 and started a car business. He never made it to college, but i benefitted because he had the right combination of courage, vision, perseverance and a super supportive wife. He sent his two boys (my dad and uncle) to college, gave a ton back to his church and community, and sold the boys a successful business. They managed it well and grew it so that their combined 11 kids could go to college and grad school. I can’t count how many of their employees sent their own kids to college, or bought their first homes or a cottage on a lake or were able to retire because they were paid well by dad’s small business. It’s in the hundreds. So, i’m a believer in main street. I think the world needs more successful small businesses. We probably have enough Facebooks, Googles, and Twitters.

I want to build a great culture – I was having coffee with Amol Dixit, the brains behind Hot Indian Foods and he told me that his goal wasn’t to get into the restaurant business. His goal was to build a great company and a great brand, first. The restaurant business was just the fastest way in. When he wakes up in the morning, he’s thinking about how to keep the business growing so the people that work there can get where they’re trying to go, professionally. I hope that, in my small way, the little company i create can be a place where others can get their start on a new career or at least a new phase in their career.

Create More, Consume Less – I try, everyday, to focus on creating. Whether it’s words on a page, music, or even a dumb sketch, it’s critical to me to put something good out into the world to balance out all the consumption i’m doing. Business is the medium where i think i can be the most creative (should have practiced my guitar more) and this is a time where creativity in business will be rewarded. I hope when i’m done working someday, i’ll be able to look back and feel proud of what we all created together at my little company.

Put it into Practice – I’ve been blessed to have worked with some amazing leaders. Whether it was learning how to manage through rapid change at Ameriprise, or learning how to build excellent brands at General Mills, or how to build an amazing professional services business like Ciceron or GoKart, i’ve been around inspirational folks my whole career. I owe it to those leaders to try to do something special. I want to see if i can put it into practice.

It’s time – I started out as a small business guy, but then found my way – through luck and being in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge –  into corporate America. My whole rationale for going corporate was to learn enough to sell some digital marketing into big companies. My longterm plan was to go start my own business; i just needed a little corporate experience first. As i look ahead and make my plan for the next 10 years, this is the best way to get where i want to end up.

Why this Particular Business?

We’re starting a company that will make it easier for companies to find the talent they need to innovate and change. It’s a professional services business, but not an agency. We’re going to have a pool of talented consultants who can provide interim leadership and support for your most strategic digital initiatives. They’ll have experience at the senior levels inside big corporations and agencies and could step into your VP and Director level roles.  I’ll save the particulars for another post, but the general reasons for this business are going to be pretty familiar:

  • The market size is huge
  • There’s a gap in the marketplace
  • There is long term opportunity
  • I’ve got a unique way to help address some market needs

More on that later…

But, beyond the financial and business rationale, there’s a deeper reason. The transformational change that most companies are pursuing will come about through hard work and courageous leadership. That change will be driven by technology, but it will ultimately be a cultural change, where the company vision, mission, values, incentives, ways of work, tools, leadership behaviors, communications and customer experience will all be challenged.

It’s going to come down to great leadership.  It’s going to take vision, courage, resilience and persistence. And – we think –  partners that work like we do.

The Middle is Where the Change Gets Real –  This kind of change will have to be supported at the “top of the house”, the C-Level folks. And, the execution has to happen everywhere, from the entry level folks on up. But, the leaders in the middle – the Directors, the VP’s – are where the real change happens. Or, I should say, where the change gets real. Those people are in the tough spot of trying to influence up (to the C-Level), across (to their peers) and around, to their teams, their vendors, their functional partners. They’ve got to bend and dismantle the old ways of working to create the space for the new ways.

While we will probably be hired by “senior management”, we think we can make the most impact by helping to lead from the middle. So, we are building this organization to to help at the Director and VP level, the ones who have to make the change actually happen. The ones taking the risks to innovate where their peers are playing the game, the ones who are trying to create something new or pioneer new techniques instead of following the path laid out by their boss.

This might be one of the best times in American history to start a new business. It’s also the best time for existing business reinvent themselves. And, it’s an amazingly interesting time to be a business leader. If we work our plan and this business evolves the way we want it to, we’ll be doing our little part to help those great companies – and the leaders inside – reinvest in their futures and reinvent themselves.

 

A Couple Resources for ID on Blockchain Apps

The more i’ve learned about blockchain-based apps, the more i’m curious how ID will be managed across apps, platforms, and technologies (e.g Etherium, Corda, etc. ). One of the key design decisions of blockchain approach is that ID doesn’t really matter. Anonymity was the design intent. But, as the concept gets applied beyond currency/assets, ID will have to get figured out. Worst case, we end up with a bunch of accounts across new centralized platforms (e.g. Coinbase et. al). But, i have to believe we’ll have a platform that will enable us to manage our various identities in one place , something like Civic but one that will enable me to manage my various  online identities:  a public, professional, private, friends, financial, creative, hobby, etc.

Here’s a list of  some places to start:

I’m sure there a tons more, let me know which i should look at.

How Four Agency Holding Companies Are Upping Their Consulting Skills | AdExchanger

Decent overview/update on how agencies are trying to become consultancies and consultancies are trying to become agencies. Brands just want to grow.

Note: Notice the snark in the analysis of Publicis’ own challenges integrating Sapient. A little of the shoemaker’s children, i guess.

Source: How Four Agency Holding Companies Are Upping Their Consulting Skills | AdExchanger

Innovation Framework From Doblin

It seems like there are just as many ways to talk and think about innovation as there are reasons to innovate. To get the conversations started with clients, i’ve always liked to use a framework to jumpstart the thinking.

I’ve mostly relied on simple 2×2’s or some variant of the incremental/disruptive comparison. Mainly because they’re simple to understand and most leaders can immediately apply the framework to their situation.

But, after reading a bunch of thinking from Doblin Group, i’ve come to really like their framework. It takes some work to fully understand all the dimensions, but that depth makes it versatile and forces the conversation beyond the obvious topics. Especially for folks like me who are deep in “digital”, a framework like this gets the conversation away from the basic stuff – technology, digital advertising, content – and should force a conversation about more potentially transformative options: business models, partnerships, etc.