Archive for the “Business Strategy” Category

A long-time WM Users member and webMethods expert emailed about my “hedgehog” post saying, in essence, that because the world of Integration required such a diverse set of skills and because technology changes so quickly it would be very difficult for a hedgehog concept or company to survive.

I think this question raises a key distinction about hedgehog concepts in general or, more specifically, about a company or individual finding the one thing that it can be the best in the world at and focusing exclusively on that one thing.

I don’t think a hedgehog concept (one developed over time through a deep understanding of the overlapping of the three circles) requires being blind to the pace of technology change or the need for diverse skill sets. In fact, according to Collins, companies must arrive at their hedgehog concept by balancing faith in their ability to prevail against all odds with confronting the brutal facts of their present reality. He calls this balancing act the Stockdale Paradox after Vietnam veteran and P.O.W. Jim Stockdale.

A company (or individual) who narrowed things down to a simple idea, but refused to confront the brutal facts or who indulged in unfounded optimism would not have found its hedgehog.

I very much enjoy staying on the leading edge of technology and working with a very broad set of tools, applications and approaches. It’s one of the reasons I have spent 12 years in consulting and another 8 years as an IT executive in fast-paced companies. I don’t just tolerate change; I’m addicted to it (at times too much so, but that’s another post).

So as I think about hedgehog concepts for my professional and personal life, my passion for leading edge technology has to be part of the equation. However, I am passionate about a few other things as well and its the overlapping of what I’m good at, what I can do profitably and what I’m passionate about that will ultimately define my “hedgehog”.

So what do you think? How can a company define a hedgehog concept that addresses the fast pace of technological change while requiring diverse areas of expertise?

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As I near the end of my second year as the owner of a consulting firm specializing in webMethods integration projects, I find myself wondering what I really want to be when I grow up.

My business is going very well and prospects for the future look quite bright. But is it time to add employees, time to diversify into another technology besides webMethods or to narrow my focus even further?

One of the authors who has challenged my thinking in this area is Jim Collins, author of “Good To Great” and “Built To Last”. Collins defines a “Hedgehog Concept” as

“… not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely critical.”

Collins describes the process of finding your hedgehog concept as exploring three overlapping circles. Circle One represents “What you can be the best in the world at (and, equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at).” Circle Two represents “What drives your economic engine.” and Circle Three represents “What you are deeply passionate about”.

Next week, I’m having lunch with a former employer and mentor who is a deep thinker and owner of his own strategic consulting company. We’ve kept in touch through the years because he is one of the greatest leaders for whom I have ever worked. I found out today that he’s a big Collins fan and I look forward to chatting about hedgehogs, foxes, overlapping circles and flywheels.

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