How does one infuse principles at every level of an organization? Merriam-Webster defines permeating: “to pass through the pores or interstices of.” To infuse a principle throughout a business, its interstices, or pores, must be known top to bottom. Change must be evident in the pores, not just one internal organ, to really take place.
Business in the twenty-first century must be approached holistically, not symptomatically, to achieve the moonshots, principles, or long-term capitalism. Otherwise a long-term business challenge is too much like Whack-a-Mole—whack one and up pops two more. It is time to treat a business holistically. It is time to know the pores of a business and then fill every interstice with principles.
What are the interstices of a business? This hack revises how we understand business socially so that diagnosing and treating for principled, patient, and social business can act within a sure framework. The framework maps an organization’s grey matter—the controlling forces, provides a dashboard to measure the ethical climate of a company, and highlights stakeholder interdependence. When used effectively, the 9Lenses Hack can enable social entrepreneurship.
What is the framework for all business knowledge ever? Is it more of an open knowledge-base with continually new contributions, or does it smell more like a conspiracy? Let us begin with an analogy and then demonstrate the disconnectedness of what has been rendered an oxymoron: management science.
Enterprise Resource Planning became a method of connecting financial, customer, product, supply, HR, project management, CRM, and payroll data. What ERP did for businesses is connect hard numbers to form a view. Unfortunately, reliance on “the machine” can become a form of disconnectedness from the humans in the business. “What’s our turnover rate?” becomes an indicator of success, instead of the quality of the employee–employer relationship. “Are we on budget?” can be disconnected from the reality that your people already know that next month you won’t be.
ERP is not the problem – simply an analogy. That the questions in the Long-Term Capitalism Challenge brief are even relevant, especially under the “Social” heading, illustrates the disconnectedness of business today. And is it any wonder that, in the Information Age where specialized individuals work as tiny pieces (pores, as it were) of monolithic corporations, it is a struggle to find connection in nearly every way possible?
To some extent, it’s a data problem—how do I collect, analyze, and connect my people across my organization? In what ways is my business connected such that an impact in one area causes ripples in every other? And so what do we do? We hire consultants and buy management books that are as disconnected as our business.
That’s right—management knowledge and consultant methodologies are disconnected. Not only disconnected, but time consuming, anti-social, and anti-empowering. Why? The books are disconnected because connecting with management knowledge to secure a distinct and unique place in the framework of how business is done would limit sales. It would make each book less of a universal cure-all than the publishers would like. The consultants are disconnected because they serve as a filter on the society of a business, take months of their own unique discovery processes, and use information collected from people in the organization to empower the consultant rather than the people.
Fundamentally, business science today is too little science and too much business. Twenty-first century long-term capitalism should aim for businesses to profit from management science’s fruits, not from the science itself. Allow a brief demonstration through other sciences:
- A biologist uses a framework (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, etc) and puts new discoveries into the framework, or even challenges the framework, but no one “owns” or sells the framework. The scientist is merely observing and mapping knowledge to the framework, enabling use of that knowledge in medicine, machines, and so on. Someone may be paid to teach or explain, through books or lectures or experiments, and justly so, but the framework is not a secret, trademark, or exclusive club.
- Political science in the Middle Ages was viewed as observation. When St. Thomas Aquinas observes Natural Law as a subset of Law, Human Law as an application of Natural/Divine Law, and so on, the political scientist is observing and codifying what is deemed to exist independently of the observer. When Vattel writes “The Law of Nations,” he fits his piece of observation into the previously established framework of Law. Hobbes and Locke debate the framework. Yet none of these sell or own the framework. Imagine if authors published countless volumes of books saying the same thing. Oh wait… in our short-term capitalism environment they do. Depth is not created when regurgitations of some part of a science is packaged as new knowledge.
- Even art works on a framework! I can watch a movie from the genre Performing Arts » Video and Television » Films » Comedy » Dark » Cerebral. What if I want to invent a genre? Fine, it goes somewhere into the framework under art. Not a problem. But no one owns or is selling the science of the framework—they are either working within the framework to develop its depth (by adding or observing content), or challenging the framework in a coherent way (it’s not X, it’s Y). Even Jack Black can unveil the History of Rock on a whiteboard, giving a topology of Rock, in the movie School of Rock. Righteous!
The question is this: how would you choose between the 6,074 books on Amazon.com in the category “Books » Business & Investing » Small Business & Entrepreneurship”? Answers to this problem will range from reading the best to going to business school to paying consultants after frustration (who will of course use their own framework). Of course there is more than one way to tackle the same issue, and it will vary by type of culture, industry, size, and so on—but shouldn’t the knowledge be tagged in this way? (Yes!)
And so we see the problem: disconnectedness. A business’s people, the filter consultants provide, and the books of management “science” are not connected. Long-term capitalism will not happen in disconnectedness. While the 9Lenses Hack will not solve every challenges facing long-term capitalism, it provides the connections necessary to start. It provides the framework for Management Science to be a science so more time can be spent leveraging and contributing to the science instead of reinventing it.
Much like what Billy Beane did for baseball at the Okland A’s, a framework can take a major chunk out of the guesswork of management. It is certainly demystifying, which often is the root of empowerment. But operating by data in a framework will meet a similar resistance, if not mockery, as Billy Beane faced.
The Big What-If
What if every element of a business (or non-profit, Government agency, etc) can be placed on a map? Not just every element that exists today, but every conceivable element. If they can be mapped, there are profound implications for long-term capitalism. Enter the 9Lenses.
The 9Lenses framework posits that every issue, process, asset—every pore—of a business can be placed inside one of the 9Lenses: Market, People, Finance, Strategy, Operations, Execution, Expectation, Governance, and Entity. Further, these lenses can be subdivided into sub-lenses, then themes, and so on. People Lens has Culture, Employee Characteristics, Leadership, and Organizational Design. Then Culture can be measured by Culture of Execution, Employee Accountability, Transparency, Elephants in the Room, and so on.
Let’s look at their order, their basis, and how knowledge fits into the framework.
Order: Market » People » Assets » Strategy » Operations, Execution » Expectation » Governance » Entity
Market Lens comes first because without a space for an organization to deploy its strategy and people, having the best people and strategy will do no good. The characteristics of the market (its size, tipping points, timing, customer pain, competitive landscape) will necessitate certain decisions that flow downstream, in every other lens—People, Finance, Strategy, Operations, and so on. Do I have the right culture and leadership team to execute this strategy tailored to this market (People and Strategy Lens decisions)? Does my Intellectual Property prohibit my entry to this type of market (Entity Lens decision)?
So how do you know there are nine, not eight or ten, lenses? Careful observation. Edwin Miller, four time CEO and turnaround artist, developed the 9Lenses framework to help discover what people know and don’t know at every level of his business. In partnership with George Mason University’s Executive MBA program, the 9Lenses framework was tested and refined. . 9Lenses are being used by small and large businesses in financial services, life sciences, manufacturing, construction, and even government contracting, which helps drive and refine the framework at the theme level.
While the observation that there are Nine Lenses did not change—through successful testing on businesses from Turkey to Egypt to the USA, from two million dollars to two billion dollars—the composition of the now 37 sub-lenses did change. The debate goes on as to which, of thousands of possible themes, fit where, but the lens and sub-lens framework has been observed and is now well documented.
For example, see the five sub-lenses of Market Lens. The themes observed so far fit into one of these buckets.
Mapping Knowledge to the Framework
Now consider the utility of the framework. Say the top challenges of your business can be mapped to a sore spot in the People Lens—Leadership and Culture sub-lenses, Trust, Accountability, Elephants in the Room (artificial harmony), and Results-Focus “themes.” Would it not be great if, instead of wading through 6,074 books on management, you could see that Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team exactly diagnoses and treats Culture and Leadership themes? Yes, it would be great.
Every piece of business content in the world can be mapped to a Lens, Sub-Lens, and Theme—or a combination of them. Now we are starting to forge connections in a new and powerful way that socializes the approach to business optimization.
The 9Lenses framework is only half the hack. It certainly attacks part of the problem. The rest of the hack is actually harnessing the power of the 9Lenses through crowdsourcing analytics platform that forges the connections in the brain of the organization. Such would provide, as CEO of Knowledge Consulting Group put it, “not just bottom-up, but outside in” insight into an organization—connecting synapses to understand the grey matter of an organization, through and through. The 9Lenses exist, but implementing their power is an open field. And that is what we set out to do: reorient management science so that money is made from using the science to make organizations better, rather than from continually reinventing the wheel to maintain a closed monopoly on knowledge.
And that’s what capitalism is supposed to be about: effective competition that makes things better. Competing on an open framework of what management science is makes things better in several major ways:
- New executives immediately up to speed—without 6 months of interviews and consulting, using ones own experience or a consultant’s framework, a new executive can in three hours see her organization inside-out and know more about that business immediately than she would through any filtered or stale results from forever discovery.
- Offsites socially focused rather than conjecture based—business leaders can go to an offsite armed with hard data, mapped to a useable framework, that shows exactly where their organization’s top challenges, opportunities, and communication gaps exist.
- Timely prediction—9Lenses are predictive of the hard numbers. In ERP we got used to numbers telling us what happened. But your people know if you will lose a contract five months before your numbers will tell you. Sentiment is the true key performance indicator and 9Lenses goes straight to the grey matter of what is going on, instead of being satisfied with measurements of the impact of what is going on. We want to know “why”, not “what,” because if we know it soon enough, the “what” can be avoided.
Some astute observer will say, “Hey! You’re trying to make money off a framework and you said that was the problem!” Au contraire, the 9Lenses of a business exist and are merely observed here. The observation that they exist is documented in a book by the same title, but no one “sells” an observation as property (merely the explanation of the observation), just as no one sells that there are Kingdoms, Phylum, Classes, and so on.
It is our job to map content to the framework, and create applications to crowd-source data population of the framework for executives to make better decisions. Whoever does this more effectively than anyone else will be on top of the market of using the 9Lenses—but anyone is free to make discoveries, observations, innovations, and new content in the framework. This is a much better use of our time, as each new observation, innovation, and discovery can be documented, mapped to the framework, learned, and applied. Just like biology, each step forward in discovery allows a new step to be made in application, which helps everyone.
When flying blind, one stays in as tight control as possible. That’s why MIX notes that “current management practices emphasize control, discipline, and efficiency above all else.” To be adaptable, innovative, and inspiring, business leaders must feel comfortable loosening the reins. An ERP-driven business can never do this. However, a business that knows itself bottom-to-top and is entirely interconnected can. This business spends much of its time on ensuring the connection is good, that it is holistically healthy. 9Lenses provides the framework to understand the business, and social technology platforms can enable constant communication and insight across the grey matter of the organization.
Let us now see how many of the tough questions posed in the Challenge Brief are to some measure answered by the 9Lenses Hack.
9Lenses Q&A: Principled
Principled: How do we measure the ethical or moral climate of a company, and what is the dashboard?
The 9Lenses framework allows measurement at every level of an organization, where current measurements are often seeing only part of the picture. The social analytics platform allows independent sentiment analysis across the framework, which makes the dashboard. For example, we created a Corporate-Social Responsibility (CSR) baseline that queries all stakeholders on an organization’s CSR across all 9Lenses. Of the 50 possible themes we generated, a typical baseline would include the following illustrative themes:
- Market (Lens): CSR of the Industry as a Whole
- Market: Market’s Perception of Organization’s CSR
- People: Champion Promoting CSR
- People: Transparent Directors/Executive Actions
- People: Champions Promote Responsibility
- Strategy: Responsibility Dialogue
- Strategy: Pricing Practices
- Operations: Layoff Policies
- Operations: Recycling
- Execution: Supply Chain Pressure
- Expectation: Privacy/Consumer Information
- Governance: Corruption
- Entity: Ethical Conflicts of Interest
Here we took three published frameworks for CSR and translated them into diagnostics within the 9Lenses framework. Thus, one can measure the ethical climate at a company on every level, and see both qualitative and quantitative results, including training gaps. The answer to all your questions about how the system works and what data is sorted and collected is “yes,” it’s designed like a modern social media application. Think Salesforce.com.
9Lenses Q&A: Patient
How do we stretch management timeframes and perspectives?
Rather than consultants interviewing people for months and providing you their perspective on your people’s perspective, or hearing the loudest voices in a boardroom, 9Lenses organizes individualized input across the entire organization’s framework in hours, not months. That’s stretching the timeframes!
What tactics or capabilities might we develop to earn some slack from investors?
Benchmarking. What do you think the 9Lenses look like at Google, Apple, NetApp, and other top companies in an industry? Too often investors want the “hard” stuff that seems to quickly attack the problem, but the best companies understand that their entire organization must be aligned at every level to really achieve a mission. Investors can look at a 9Lenses output and see that while Finance Lens is yellow (the median, less desirable rank), Market, People, and Strategy are green (the top, most desirable rank). The right ingredients are close enough to industry benchmarks to warrant some patience for the Strategy and People to tackle the Market and turn that Finance Lens to green. Investors can look at a bottom line beyond the Finance Lens. We realize this is not a novel idea, but we have really put it into action so that more can “see” what other bottom lines are relevant.
What kind of incentives and measurement systems could we devise to encourage internal entrepreneurs and nurture a varied portfolio of opportunities?
Deep dive. 9Lenses does not have to work across all 9Lenses at once. For example, a deep-dive in the Finance Lens can come up with a theme-by-theme analysis, produced by internal entrepreneurs, for reducing a business’s touch, targeting the right volume, and increasing margin. Individuals can provide ideas across the framework to drive Finance Lens green, by adding, removing, streamlining, and expanding ideas on every sub-lens of the business. So three systems in Operations working together could reduce Touch, and Eliminate Pressure on People, which was driving costs in Finance. All these opportunities for improvement can be tracked over time and one can evaluate participants in their ability to make recommendations and decisions that worked. Imagine the power to see who was right and who was close on bid/no-bid decisions on a beautiful graph for the past three years!
9Lenses Q&A: Social
How do we eradicate the pervasive zero-sum mentality in business and embed the positive-sum view of stakeholder interdependence into operations at every level?
Here the 9Lenses are an enabler. What does it really mean to embed something “at every level” in a business? The 9Lenses framework provides exact meaning, lens by lens, sub-lens by sub-lens. If the Board in Entity Lens is not on board, then a view has not been embedded. If a system in Operations Lens drives a zero-sum mentality, then the view has not been embedded.
How do we build the consideration of social return into every conversation and every decision at every level in the organization?
See the example of measuring CSR at every level of the organization (Principled answer above). See above statement on what every level even means. You can know for a fact whether every level of the organization considers social return. Now we’re getting product-specific, but a “theme of the week” by Lens can invigorate the conversation around the various levels of an organization.
How could we embed social goals into an organization’s innovation agenda and processes? In other words, how might we encourage not just social responsibility, but social entrepreneurship?
Put in 9Lenses targets at every level, measure them, and watch them grow. Measurement of everyone’s perspectives on social goals at every level will show who and where champions exist and are effective in the organization, will identify barriers to social goals, and can provide a framework for embedding these into agendas and processes.
What kind of measurement and reward systems would give significant weight to social impact created by individuals and the wider organization?
A 9Lenses output for each program in an organization, for example, could be stacked against other programs or against the same program over time. Here one could measure the social impact created by both units and the wider organization and establish a framework of targets for rewards. So if “cause-based marketing” does improved in a program’s Strategy Lens, then a recognition or reward can be granted.
1. Get comfortable with the framework. Think of your favorite management books, ideas, innovations, and plans in terms of the 9Lenses and you will start to see their power! Using the 9Lenses develops one’s ability to really see the 9Lenses. Maybe plan a fictional club or fantasy business if it helps to think in the theoretical.
2. Read the book or listen to the audiobook, 9Lenses: Insight to Action. Thousands have been printed and are working their way through business schools and companies across the world. The audiobook version has a nice New Zealand accent to it!
Imagine coaching a sports team where you don’t know if the players know the plays, believe the team can win, or even know which way to the goal. Data shows that more people than not at most businesses do not know the equivalents: what are we doing, how do we succeed, and what’s the strategy? The 9Lenses framework maps the parts of a business and classifies all management science. The platform connects the society of a business in ways that will be more rewarding to all involved while also improving the competitiveness of the team. And that’s a long-term hack worth having.
Edwin Miller, author of 9Lenses: Insight to Action, 2011.