I’ve published another podcast. Despite the many dystopian views of technology, automation, and robots in the future, it is human decision making and leadership that determines what will happen. Gaurav Bhalla’s “Awakening a Leader’s Soul” teaches a different perspective on leadership.
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Turning a giant organization that has the great inertia can be likened to turning a large ship at sea. It takes great force and a lot of space. Such is the task of remaking Microsoft.
Satya Nadella has been CEO of Microsoft replacing the combative Steve Ballmer more than three years ago. I’ve seen him speak at conferences at least three times. I’ve talked to many Microsoft people. He truly has turned that big mass toward the future.
Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone tells Nadella’s personal story, as well as his business and leadership.
He begins personally. The key takeaway is his discovery of empathy. I imagine that that value was in short supply in Redmond during Ballmer’s tenure. Nadella talks about a mentor, but also the birth of a handicapped child and what the family learned while caring for him introducing him to the emotion and value of empathy.
Like most people with an MBA, he was steeped in strategy theories. As he thought about his task as the new leader of Microsoft, naturally he thought about strategy.
His early three-pronged message was
1. Reinvent productivity and business processes
2. Build an intelligent cloud platform
3. Move people needing Windows to wanting Windows
Remembering Peter Drucker’s dictum, “Culture eats strategy,” he also move quickly to change the corporate culture. He includes a few stories revealing how he went about that gigantic task.
His view of what leaders tasks are:
1. Bring clarity
2. Generate energy
3. Find a way to deliver success
He has given much thought to values. These are similar thoughts to what we hear at National Instruments’ gatherings—engineers solving the world’s biggest problems. He urges policy makers, mayors, and others not to try to replicate Silicon Valley but instead to develop plans to make the best technologies available to local entrepreneurs so that they can organically grow more jobs at home—not just in high tech industries but in every economic sector.
I learned a leadership lesson about collaboration and design this morning.
The store where I buy birdseed is on a corner. Think small streets, not like a busy city intersection. The primary street has been dug down to dirt, and the contractor is in the process of laying cement pavement, walks, and gutters. The little store built from an old grain elevator has a drive built from pavers.
As Bruce was watching work progress, he noticed that they had raised a manhole three inches. Sure enough, they raised the sidewalk three inches. That meant that if they laid the pavers back where they were, there would be a three-inch drop from the traffic entrance/sidewalk to his drive.
When the engineer came one morning to look at progress, Bruce went out and asked him about that. The contractor said, no problem, I can build that up, make a grade and replace the pavers.
So Bruce asked, what about my neighbor’s drive?
Hmmm. They had built themselves a problem that snowballed as they looked down the street.
Who designed this? Bruce asked. I did, the city engineer replied. Well, guess you messed up, Bruce replied.
If only the engineer had gotten up from the CAD station, walked the one block to the site and asked people about the design, he would have avoided what might be a costly mistake.
The same concept applies to mechanical design, hardware design, and software design. Oh, and to leadership.
Get away from your desk. Wander around. Ask people for ideas and feedback.
Manufacturing in America—an event bringing together vendors, academia, end users of controls and automation. Siemens Industry, collaborating with its local distributor Electro-Matic, held a trade show/seminar series/thought leadership summit at the Marriott Renaissance Center Detroit March 22-23. The show has a distinct automotive industry feel, as you might expect, even though Detroit, and indeed all of Michigan, is reforming itself along high tech lines with less reliance on traditional automotive.
There was certainly a lot of thought leadership opportunity at the event. There was the Siemens Industry President of Digital Factory. There was the Governor of the State of Michigan.
And then, there was the group of high school students competing in the FIRST Robotics competition known as the ThunderChickens—Engineering A Better Way To Cross The Road. The picture shows a model of their robot. Such passion. Such creativity. The mechanical guy pointed to the control module. “It limits me to 6 motors,” he said. “Last year we only had one, but this year I could have used many more.”
Six motors!! What I’d have given as a kid building stuff to have one! Oh well, they were great.
Raj Batra, President of Digital Factory for Siemens, said the focus is on digitalization. Digital Twin is a piece of digitalization. This is the digital representation of a physical thing—product, machine, or component. Siemens brought all this together through the 2007 investment in acquiring UGS to form Siemens PLM. “Companies thought it was hype back then, now we know it drives value,” said Batra. “If you are a pure automation company how do you accomplish all this without a design component? You can’t have the digital twin. Meanwhile, a CAE company that doesn’t have automation and control do manufacturing—what do you get?” Batra added challenging the competition.
Batra continued, “We are close to a new era of autonomous manufacturing. And there is the growth of IIoT, we call Mindsphere. This all means manufacturing is no longer a black box to the enterprise. Indeed, it is strategic to the enterprise.”
Paul Maloche, vp sales and marketing Fori Automation, manufacturers of automated guided vehicles, discussed the methods by which collaboration with suppliers (in this case with Siemens) leads to innovation. Fori was diversifying from reliance on building machines for automotive applications, and evaluated the aerospace industry. The Siemens rep came in and said they could help get them into that market. But Fori would have to convert to Siemens control. The Fori team replied, “OK.” This led to development of automated guided vehicle technology and products. The partnership opened doors. Fori won several orders in aerospace market for the new AGVs with Siemens control.
Alistair Orchard, Siemens PLM, riffing off a space movie, began his talk, “Detroit, we have a problem.” All the old business models of trying to ship jobs overseas has not worked. We need to make stuff to be successful as a society. “So much of what we do has not changed in 50 years in manufacturing,” he noted, “but digitalization can change everything. Additive manufacturing can lead to mass customization due to 3D printing using the digital twin. You can try things out, find problems in design or manufacturing. You can use predictive analytics at design stage. Digital enterprise is about manufacturing close to the customer.”
Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan, touted his manufacturing background as former operations head at Gateway Computers. “As governor,” he said, “it’s about how you can build an ecosystem and platform for success. Long term, success needs talent. His philosophy contains the idea that we shouldn’t tell students what they should study, but let them know where opportunities are and how to prepare for them. The private sector needs to tell government what they need in the way of talent.”
Michigan has grown more manufacturing jobs than anywhere else in the country. Not only manufacturing, though, Michigan is also a center of industrial design. But the economy not only needs designers and engineers, but also people in skilled trades. “We need to promote that as a profession. We must break the silos that said your opportunities are limited to your initial career choice.”
Michigan has invested a lot in students, especially in FIRST Robotics, where Michigan teams have risen to the top. The state has also started a computer science competition in cyber security.
How are you innovating and making the world better?
Josh Linkner, CEO Detroit Venture Partners, gave the keynote address on innovation. I’ll leave you with his Five Obsessions of Innovators.
1. Curiosity—ask open ended questions
2. Crave what’s next—future orientation
3. Defy tradition—use Judo flip to turn idea on its head
4. Get scrappy—grit, determination, tenacity
5. Adapt fast
Ah, the warmth. It feels so good. Is it getting warmer? I’m not sure, but the warmth eases muscle stress. Frees the joints. And it gets warmer.Then, it’s too hot.
It could be the proverbial frog being slowly boiled. Or it could be me in the steam room.
Or it could be any of us in our organization.
How easily we don’t notice we’re not growing anymore. We’re not developing new services for our customer.
We just sort of gently slid into the routine.
Same people. We’re comfortable with them. No one around to upset things with new ideas.
We’re comfortable with the same surroundings. We enter and everything is familiar. We feel like we belong. We don’t notice the things that would turn off an outsider–or our customer.
What was our mission again? I sort of forget. I know it’s printed somewhere. Probably posted on a wall that has just become part of the environment.
It feels so good to be comfortable.
Is that what we are placed here on Earth to experience? Is that what our stockholders or owners expect? Is that what our customers expect?
Or are we supposed to push through comfort? Find that place of discomfort that impels us toward fulfilling a mission.
What was that valuable service to people that gave passion to the founders?
Was it designing and making a product that will bring joy, relief, health to others?
Where are the big ideas that our technology can use to contribute to the growth and development of society?
“There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.”
Which are you? Are you a change agent? Or are you a frog in the pot of boiling water?