813RE: [ona-prac] Re: End of Value Networks
- May 16, 2011
Thanks, good, consistent AAR observations.
First, the current Value Network offering is dead. (No one was using it anyway.) Remember, winding down and the Certificate of Termination mean it is not legal to continue operations. At this stage, debtors, tax authorities and owners have priority.
My preference and recommendation was to do more what Patti suggested, a modest financial reconfiguration to a C-corp. This would have attracted capital and allowed the software offerings to be further developed.
Rather, Value Networks management opted for the ‘nuclear option’ of LLC Termination. (I had no role in the decision, despite owning 25% of the firm.) This rather sudden, bizarre and capricious move represents another in a long line of poor decisions by VNLLC management.
My AAR is specifically concerning the execution of the software startup. In 2006, in Toronto, I initiated the discussions to create and found a venture-back software startup for network analysis. The result was Value Networks, LLC which debuted in early 2008.
Building the software startup proceeded well for a few months. Then serious problems arose. Management fundamentally rejected the basic principles and business logic of software startups.
It quickly became apparent, crystal clear that VNLLC really wanted to be a complicated method boutique. My letter of resignation was submitted and accepted in October 2008.
My 2008 prediction was that Value Networks would absolutely fail with 100% confidence. I have reserved public comment for 2.5 years. With the dissolution of Value Networks it is time to share some observations.
Startups are propelled by talent and customers. 99.99% of successful startups start with one idea. Then they actually deliver something completely, radically different. Often, it is something the founders would have never imagined or even recognize. There are often many mutations. It is because startups must be led by customers. No exceptions. Customers alone determine startup products and success.
Value Networks suffers a monstrous incuriosity. Veering from some phony, arrogant canon of VN/VNA is not tolerated. Look, customers want impact and outcome. They could care less about lofty papers, talks, dopey PowerPoints, and all the other trappings of dubious consulting boutiques like Value Networks.
Look around, customers want to achieve productive outcomes through software and a certain functional banality, e.g., Google. The do want not murky didactics or overweight, pedantic theory consulting. <gag!> In short, KISS – keep it short and simple.
At every turn, Value Networks rejected fresh talent and effective people that could advance the startup, develop social media, drive pipeline activities, conduct customer development, deploy business metrics and other BASIC activities central to create a prosperous business. Rather, they were most comfortable with part-time seniors, sycophants, relatives and docile administrators. Not exactly a talent plan for startup success in the 21st Century…
Laurie, the take-away from both AARs is obvious. To achieve pull-thru, the VNA method needs to be trimmed back about 90-95%. Today, from a customer perspective, VN/VNA is an obese, turgid mess. Don’t get exercised, this is what customers tell me, first hand, as primary sources. They simply reject VN/VNA as you observed.
C’mon, folks, the market has spoken. What more proof is needed?
Finally, rather than measuring success by the degree of VN/VNA deployment and adoption, only focus on the (apparently novel) concept of customer’s goals, impact and outcomes (gasp!).
Maybe briefly use VN/VNA as a conceptual model, to help shift mindset, in client interactions. That’s what I do. Then focus 1000% on customers, their aspirations and goals. Remember, you will always have ONA/VNA/SNA in your tool box.
The purpose of business create wealth by delighting customers. It is not to deploy method. As Value Networks found out, leading with method is the fast track to failure, debt and oblivion.
John...I'm not clear on the facts in terms of the software product. Whether it is dead or not or just hanging in there, no doubt we can say that software products coming from the 'analytical' end of networks have been less successful than the social networking software. I would like to think that its still a maturity thing. I see that many of the social networking vendors are only now starting to look at the wealth of data they have available to them to analyse e.g. Linkedin with their personal maps etc... they have had the data for years.
So in the spirit of an AAR ... what was planned, what actually happened, why the difference, what did we learn. I can only comment on our own product efforts around VNA (our partnership scorecard)
1. Planned ... we planned for our Partnership Scorecard to become the new 'Balanced Scorecard' of business
2. What happened. ... it hasn't. (not yet anyway). They like the visualisation and diagnosis. They were in general not comfortable with the remedy. We found that while the process drove people to articulate and take accountability for the value deliverables they identified for their role, they are less comfortable about taking the next step...and that is institutionalising it within their performance management systems.
3. Why the difference? I think we are experiencing something akin to those that are uncomfortable with the 360deg review processes. It all looks good on paper, but when the time comes to commit, any excuse under the sun can arise. I would speculate that an 'engineered' solution to relationship issues does not address some of the deeper seated social and psychological issues present in many organisational contexts.
4. What are we going to do that is different.
We have virtually dropped the idea of roles assessing the performance of other roles that deliver to them. Our initial thinking was that b! ecause every role in a network has both "suppliers and customers", people would be happy to provide honest feedback in the same way that they would be seeking feedback from their 'customers'. This hasn't proven the case. We are now suggesting that the vale deliverables that you in your role identify to deliver to others will simply be 'self assessed'. Sometimes you can be harder on yourself that even your customers.
Will keep you posted with invariably another round of AAR.
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