Business Planning

Hard Targets; Limp Performance

Top 5 Ways to Come Up Short


Setting effective targets for your enterprise is difficult to do well. Targets that can incorporate and respect your culture, align and motivate resources and successfully support your strategy don't come without a great deal of thought and effort. And implementing the wrong targets can lead you in directions that can be harmful to your business and your people.

Sure, we all know about the guidelines for SMART goals, but you can meet all those criteria and still end up with unsatisfying results.

Here are our Top 5:

1. Missing The Point

Targets need to be created to support specific Objectives, and are not in themselves the point. Without an Objective or Desired Outcome that you're striving to make reality, targets are potentially harmful.


2. Rushing In

"You can't rush art!" One of my favourite lines from Toy Story 1. My kids still quote it years later. And while target setting may be part science, it is also definitely part art. You've got to put in the time to get the critical number or few critical numbers that really drive performance.


3. Making It All About You

Leaders sometimes get confused about how to balance the short-term needs of the business and it's stakeholders and the long-term health of the company. Targets need to look beyond this year's bonus for leadership.


4. Neglecting Your Zones

Where are you strong and where are you weak? If you've reviewed your SWOT recently, you need to pick targets that help build on your strengths and diminish your weaknesses.


5. Quantity Over Quality

The old saw that "What gets measured gets done," is true up to a point. A limited number of targets is best. You can't continue to add target after target and expect all of them to be met.


There are innumerable ways to bungle target-setting. These are but five that spring to mind for us. What about you? What do you think are the most deadly pitfalls? Please give us your comments below.

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Our (Short) Story


I'm often asked what mercanix does and why we started the company. As usual, I flip the question around and answer the second part first. Because we think it's more important that people know "why" rather than the "what." The what part may change over time, but the why never will. And we also don't believe people buy products or companies as much as they support ideas and other people who share their values. Some call this buying "meaning." We certainly don't come to work every day because we're building a product. We spend our working hours trying to create value for others and making lives a little better.

We started mercanix because we're not satisfied with how "work" gets done today. So much of an organization's potential - and the people who work there - is squandered each and every day because of very avoidable, sub-optimal practices. If you've ever had the good fortune to feel the magical flow of high-performance teamwork, at work or at play, you'll know how things can be. Most of the time though, we don't experience how it can be at work, but rather how it is. We'd like to be able to help tip the balance toward what can be instead.

So, how do we know so much about the right way to do things? We don't. We rely on what we consider to be the best, evidence-based management science that is properly peer-reviewed and tested in the real world. That doesn't guarantee the generalized practices we've built into our tools are perfect; far from it. We keep refining, iterating, learning and adapting to what we and our customers experience. And we do our best not to include practices or approaches in a prescriptive way, but rather in a way that supports good practices without forcing you to do things one particular way. This requires ongoing attention, research, innovation and creativity.

We consider ourselves primarily Software Tool and Die Makers. Yes, we invent and design software tools, but we spend the majority of our time building and refining our original ideas and designs to create better and better tools.

What's a Tool and Die Maker? (excerpt from Wikipedia)

"Tool and die makers are a class of machinists who work primarily in toolroom environments—sometimes literally in one room but more often in an environment with flexible, semipermeable boundaries from production work. They are skilled artisans (craftspeople) who typically learn their trade through a combination of academic coursework and hands-on instruction, with a substantial period of on-the-job training that is functionally an apprenticeship (although usually not nominally today). Art and science (specifically, applied science) are thoroughly intermixed in their work, as they also are in engineering. Mechanical engineers and tool and die makers often work in close consultation. There is often turnover between the careers, as one person may end up working in both at different times of their life, depending on the turns of their particular educational and career path.

What we do is to build software tools that help people and their organizations realize their potential while getting them where they want to go. We recognize we won't be able to help enterprises that have no interest in adopting high performance work practices. Hopefully, we can help organization's that are committed to giving and getting the best from their people and crowd-out competitors that are not as respectful.

If we can help increase the effectiveness of organization's that are mindful, respectful and people-centric we will have added value. That may strike some as corny, unrealistic, or unreasonable but there it is.





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Why I Love Henry Mintzberg


I don't know Henry Mintzberg. I wish I did.

But I've read a bunch of his work and it resonates with me at a deep level for a host of reasons, but primarily because he sees enterprises as a collection of humans, not cogs of production. And secondly, he calls 'em as he sees 'em. He seems fearless in this regard.

If you've never read any of his work, and you want to get a sense of exactly what I'm talking about, just read this one short article in the Economist. This guy throws with serious heat.


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The Enterprise Software Sh*t Show


Happy New Year.

I'm getting all the same "really excited it's 2011" tweets, blog posts and emails you are. I'm really pleased that so many people are looking forward to the new year. It's also cool to see others being zen and thankful as well for what 2010 brought them...we all have a lot to be thankful for.

I'm an optimist at heart...really...I don't think you can be a true entrepreneur if you're not an optimist. Sometimes, you have to smoke your own rope just to keep going. But after 20+ years of doing this, I have also developed a fair degree of "cautious optimism" and a healthy degree of paranoia (see Andy Grove). My personality definitely consists of large doses of both Grumpy Old Men and the Dude (minus the drug abuse, "man").

So, it strikes me as somewhat lighthearted, and perhaps a bit foolish that I see signs of bubble-like frothiness in the software business again. I'm no Noriel Roubini, but things feel a little wonky to me.

Here's why my knickers are bunching-up:

The Consumerization of Enterprise Software
It used to be that the software we employed for work was dictated by our organization, and the procurement process was somewhat orderly (read slow and cumbersome) and predictable. Selling into these organizations required skill, patience and experience (and the resulting bag-carrying, highly-commissioned salesperson).

Just like other industries that are being upended (music, publishing, television, advertising, etc.), enterprise software is changing due to software now being pulled into the organization by end-users and adopted at work because of the ease of acquisition/adoption/use and the low (if any) cost.

This represents a complete 180 from the "olden days" (as my 9 year-old likes to say). Or, as I've heard a little too much in the past year a "total 360." [Never quite understood how people miss the fact that a doing a 360 represents landing where you started...oh well, another blog post perhaps.]

Generational Differences within the Enterprise
The web has been around long enough now that you can see clear differences between people in their 40's and 50's and the next youngest cohorts. Growing up with the personal computer (Jesus, does anyone call it that anymore?), the web, mobile phones, Skype, and the like have created different expectations of autonomy, privacy, engagement, name it. And settling for the previous era's enterprise software tools doesn't sit very well.

Minimum Viable Products for the Enterprise
While there is a huge opportunity to revisit mature enterprise software segments to gut them of their feature-fat and value-lacking complexities, there still needs to be enough thought and base-level of feature functionality so as to actually deliver meaningful value for the organization. I love the simplicity of many of the mobile and web apps I'm seeing out there today, but if I have to cobble 10 of them together to actually get something useful done at work, then I think we might be trending a little too far toward the Minimum part of Minimum Viable Products.

Importance and Influence of Mobile and Tablet Software
I think I read somewhere that 50% of Fortune 500 companies had purchased iPads for piloting enterprise implementations in 2010. Not sure of the source, or even if that's true. But if it is remotely correct...holy flying pails of cow dung.

Regardless of the veracity of those figures, there's no doubt the take-up of mobile applications has been huge, and the influence and importance of that movement has huge implications for enterprise developers like us.

The Insignificant (and continuously falling) Barriers to Market Entry
Given the global level of connectivity and the (seemingly) zero cost of the tools of production it doesn't take much for someone to launch themselves into the software business. Any barrier to entry that used to exist 10 years ago (other than market knowledge/subject matter expertise) should probably be seen as zero.

The Instability of the Global Economic Recovery
Okay, I'll admit it. Sheepishly. I have some post secondary education in Economics. Fairly useless mind you, but some theoretical understanding (hence useless) of how economic systems are supposed to work. And this makes me very nervous about our current global situation. I just don't see how societies around the world can amass such huge levels of personal and government debt without long-term implications. I guess I skipped that part of my undergrad classes.

Despite the above, there are many reasons to be optimistic about opportunities in the Enterprise Software market. But I think you'd be equally daft to ignore the signs that it isn't all rosy and there are significant challenges to succeeding in these turbulent times.

So, a cautiously optimistic Happy New Year to my Enterprise Software brethren.

(Wow, that was a crazy stream of consciousness post....I'll have to elaborate on each of these items in future posts as I've just skimmed the surface).



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