Archive for category management
More than 35,000 companies and organizations have pledged to participate in the event. According to the official Telework Week Website, this would save an estimated $2,451,069 and more than 1,600 tons of pollutants from entering the atmosphere. Where these numbers come from is not entirely clear, but it stands to reason that fewer people commuting would help save money and reduce pollution to some extent.
National Telework Week is sponsored by Telework Exchange and Cisco, which makes telepresence and communication products, as well as other tools to facilate remote working.
I would suggest you spend some time understanding what it would take to perform your work outside the office. As I would explain to past staffs, just because a weather day or some unplanned disaster occurred, project deadlines remain the same. If you and your manager, or if you are the manager, haven’t spent enough time creating a work force that is flexible enough to handle the unique demands of performing all department requirements outside of the normal office space, you will find yourself in the awkward situation of losing value to the company.
Disaster Recovery Planning
OK, maybe it’s because my first job in a large IT organization was helping implement the annual remote disaster recovery test plans that I seem to gravitate to this fact. I ask all my clients, if your office burned down this weekend, what you do on Monday. Close shop? Declare bankruptcy? Put everything on hold until you get a new office leased? What about your paper records? How about your leads? How about your contracts in progress? Are you’re files stored off-site, and if so how long would it take to get them back and running at the new location?
These are all questions that should bring a leader or manager to the point of understanding how important teleworking can be to this scenario and their organization.
An important factor in improving your productivity is to design a work environment that helps you accomplish your work faster and smarter then your competition. Well how about all the time you are not in the office? Are you tied to a paper filing system … how could you change that? (Evernote.com) Can your assistant and team members update file and get them to your quickly? (DropBox.com) Can your team, partners, and client see your calendar and plan accordingly? (Google Calendar) Can you conduct training sessions without having to be on-prem at the client’s location? (WebEx) Can you brainstorm with your team, partners, and clients regardless of their geographical location? (MindMeister.com) Can you manage your To-Do list, or better yet, can your assistant manage your list for you? (Remember the Milk).
My guess the most difficult thing to change in your work space is the paper trails you live with. You probably have become so accustomed to getting something in paper, working on it, then passing it on. Reguardless, it is possible to go paperless. It’s worth the time to implement also.
Over the past 10 years I have moved to a paperless process. That is how I had to look at it. I focused on the process, not the piece of paper or some other physical object. Many of the web based applications I mentioned above I use today. It allows me to complete my client requests while knowing that all the items I need are right at my fingertips.
So what have you done to make it possible to telework or telecomute? I’d love to compare notes some time.
In “Success” magazine (Success.com February 2011) I found a great article on Jacky Chan. In this articles they list Jacky Chan’s 7 Traits for Success. I found his thoughts fit nicely into internet marketing as well. So I’m going to take his traits but add my own thoughts to each of his traits.
1) A willingness to crash and burn
I can’t stress enough that each internet marketer should try to fail, often, and big. Two phrases come to mind “Go Big, or Go Home!” and “Failure is an event, not a title!” Your embrace of risk might be the deciding factor that helps you find your niche.
2) A discipline for fitness
The key word being discipline. Fitness is needed for everyone, but in marketing, we need focus, intentional creative disruption. We often try many tactics for our clients. We need to perform our duties in such a way that our measurements tell us which tactic produced the results and then build on them.
3) A disdain for wasted time
As Zig Ziglar wrote in his “See You at the Top” recording your activities and understanding what it takes to create positive results in critical. Equally important is understanding what is not helping you create success. Avoiding time wasters are equally important then improving skills.
4) A need for alternative opinions
It’s important we seek out and study other disciplines and build on the lessons of those. Reading materials from other continents, or cultures. Subscribe to blogs from other marketers on other countries. Spend time discussing ideas on twitter or in blog comments. It will improve your ability to communicate your positions to clients and prospects.
5) A set of high expectations
Never be afraid to say “That’s not good enough” and demand more of the outcomes of your tasks and tactics. With internet marketing it often a series of “shoot, ready, aim” moments, but that doesn’t mean we can expect some impressive marksmanship!
6) An accurate moral compass
A marketer with no moral compass is simply a politician. Enough said.
7) A relentless sense of humor
By all means, have some fun. If you can’t laugh and laugh hard at your work, you will often find yourself ‘chasing rabbits’. I know we call it work, but push the limits, always create a version of your latest project that is an exaggeration of the client requirements. By creating this outlier, you will find your other ideas less risky and at the same time take some risks.
So which one of these traits caught your eye? Which of these traits are you doing well at? Which one of these traits do you need to work on? I’d love to get your feedback.
Enjoy! Good Hunting!
When I hear in meetings that people don’t know why they are doing something or why a certain policy is in place I begin to wonder how much time is wasted on things we are just doing because we’ve always done them that way. This post was triggered after reading “I can’t believe we’re still doing that” which brought back a lot of memories about team meetings that I facilitated and the frustration I had because there was such a resistance to change when confronting obsolete work. Now I want to admit that I thought I had posted on this exercise in the past but after searching my archive I didn’t find it referenced. Sorry about that.
Setting the Stage
This exercise is great when change occurs naturally in the workplace. It does not need to be forced. But I must admit, when I am called in as an outsider to facilitate change meetings it is very natural for me to use this tool. If you are managing a team or organizations, there are still may opportunities to use this tool:
- New Leadership – often a great time to realign your department or team when a new leader is ready to add a new twist or their own perspective to the role of the organization.
- New Management – this is a great time to review ‘why’ we do things. There are times when the past choices are allowed to be questioned as to why we are doing something.
- Direction Change – often with new management or leadership comes a direction change and a time to evaluate past traditional work and possibly make changes.
- New Team Member – sometimes a new set of eyes brings a new perspective. And remember, those new team members have past experiences for you to gain from as well.
- New Competitor – nothing can be more jarring than a new threat in the vicinity. This change is ideal to reevaluate what the team is doing and make some needed changes.
- New Capability – learning something new is a great time to make changes. Sometimes it’s as simple as learning a new lens or gaining new tools or skills that allow you to reevaluate past norms.
- Measurement Changes – remember always “you are what you measure” and at times those measurements tell you that something is wrong or something unexpectedly went well. This is a great time to pull the team together and analyze the outlier.
Pick your change. For the most part any change that occurs in your normal business cycle becomes an opportunity to evaluate your norms and possibly make some changes. My only word of advice is that you don’t use “Start, Stop, Continue” too much.
You will need three surfaces, I tend to use three large tear off sheets taped to a wall, with each one title with one of there topics: START, STOP, and CONTINUE. You will need sticky notes and writing materials, and sticky dots handed out to each person attending the meeting.
You will provide the participants a problem to solve in which they must come up with ideas on how to improve something by stating things they would START, STOP, or CONTINUE doing. Here are some suggestions for problems to solve:
- How can we make this department better?
- How can we reduced the total elapsed time of a specific process?
- How can we reduce the duration of a specific task?
- How can we improve the customer experience?
- How can we reduce the returned product / restocking percentages?
- How can we decrease the Account Receivable averages and improve cash flow?
Have the team write their ideas on the sticky notes and place it on the correct START, STOP, or CONTINUE sheet.
Facilitation Tip: This brainstorming session is sometimes best SILENT. As a general rule if there is a superior in rank or position in the room and someone may try to “impress the boss” by controlling the session, or an (opinionated) person who naturally commands all the discussions, then make this part of the exercise “SILENT ONLY” and limit the damage.
If the STOP page seems sparse after the activity is underway, then stop the team and force them to evaluate that specific area alone.
Facilitation Tip: If you have a process map already created for a specific process you are asking the team to improve then make sure the process is visible somewhere in the meeting room. If you don’t have the process thoroughly mapped out then begin first by mapping the process into a swim-lane chart so everyone can understand what they are being asked to improve.
Group and Rank Suggestions
Have the team go through a nominal grouping exercise where they attached similar ideas together. Allow the tam to challenge each other. If an idea seems to fall into two groups then create a second sticky note and have the team move on with other groupings. Then identify any associations between the grouped items (i.e. Item 2 can’t be started or completed without Item 1 having been accomplished first).
Then have the team vote on which items they think are best. Give each person 5 or 10 sticky dots. They can place dots on any of the grouped items. They can place multiple dots on any one group if they feel strongly that a specific items needs more attention. (Don’t let them place all their dots on one item though).
This will produce a list of items the group either believes are low hanging fruit or very important and need to be addressed.
We are looking for
- Obsolete Steps
- Eliminate Points of Failure
- Reduce Inter-Departmental Hand-offs
- Reduce Elapsed Times
- New tasks in an existing process
- New processes
- Purchase new software / tools
- New classes to educate staff
- New Hire orientation updated lists
- All existing items not found on the STOP / START sheets that the team is already performing.
I hope you enjoy this exercise. Let me know how it went.
One of my favorite tools for team collaboration and idea collection is MindMeister. I use it for organizing my thoughts on large blog posts (see Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle and Mind Map: The iPad Battle), helping my boys organize their thoughts for their school writing assignments, and many more instances. Because it can update the mind map in real time with many users signed into the map simultaneously, I have found it to be valuable when working on conference calls while trying to keep the team focused and not hindering the collection of tangent ideas in the middle of a thought stream that is being debated.
MindMeister 4.7 has been announced with some improved features:
- drag and drop attachments and images directly from their desktop to a selected node
- Google API used to view attached files rather then requiring you to download them
- a new social sidebar
- Auto Condensing of maps
- iCalendar task feed has been updated
- Team Edition will now find custom branding options
Check out MindMeister, I think it will help you organize your thoughts and projects.
- Mindmapping for Medical Students (slideshare.net)
- MindMeister for iPad Now Available (magicaltablet.com)
- 15 Creative Brainstorming Tools For Free (madrasgeek.com)
- Mind Mapping is a Great Way to Brainstorm (gcsagents.com)
As a consultant I am asked to facilitate critical meetings and/or evaluate meeting or facilitator performances. I have yet run across an organization that lives for meetings. No company believes if they could only have one more meeting then they would reach the pinnacle of their business existence. It reminds me of a common story a life-coach might offer his client reminding the client of the concept of work-life balance. A man is on his deathbed and wishes for one last day at work so he will be satisfied and complete.
I do run across organizations that hold mandatory and regularly scheduled meetings because … well … because that is what they think all organizations are suppose to do. (They should but not for that reason.) The meetings are scheduled and placed on everyone’s calendars. Some even go so far as to create performance review metrics concerning attendance, timeliness, and participation for the above mentioned meetings. Literally, the same agenda is passed around at each meeting, with the same ground rules clearly identified somewhere on the page. I’m not anti-meeting when I say this, but, what a waste. A waste of time and resources for the company.
Meetings Must Accomplish Something
A meeting must have value and that value is determined by the behavioral change your department or organization sees based on the content and outcomes of the meeting. Leadership or management should set goals and objects for these meetings in the same way they w0uld for any other element in their domain that is responsible for adding value to the organization.
Here are some ideas you may wish to consider:
- Set an annual budget for meeting costs (including time/resources)
- Set a scheduled begin and end – start on time and end on time or end early
- Create a unique agenda for each meeting
- Have your team understand what it costs to run or go over on time
- Measure performance against that budget
- Use the meeting to set team objectives
- Avoid one-way meetings – delegate assignments – track results
- Rotate (delegate) who runs the meeting – teach your staff meeting prep & management
- Document success / accomplishments from meeting assignments
- Report accomplishments up!
Understanding Meeting Costs
Often a hidden cost within business that is overlooked or poorly managed is the time spent in meetings. In today’s post, I am specifically referring to the mandatory staff meeting, often weekly. A department or team rarely understands just how expensive the meeting is, let alone how much it costs the company to go past the scheduled time.
When I tell a client that a 20 person half-day weekly department meeting costs the company $220,000 annually, they just about drop out of their seats. They begin to understand that the cost demands value to the organization. I show them this simple equation:
Staff x Rate x Hours x 50 weeks = Annual Cost of meetings
20 x $55.00 x 4 x 50 = $220,000
- Staff would be the number of employees attending the meeting. I used 20 in this example.
- Rate is the fully burdened hourly rate that you would get from HR or your Accountant. I used $55.00 per hour for staff averaging 70K salaries in this example.
- Hours are the scheduled time each week of your meeting. I used 4 for this example
So going over schedule in this example would be:
20 x $55.00 or $1100 an hour to the company. (2x for the opportunity cost if you want to be picky or $2200 per hour)
Some immediate benefits
When you begin to hold your meetings accountable for more then update sessions and keep track of your costs you will begin to see some startling changes in your teams performance.
- Reducing meetings to an hour each week can be used to report savings to the company.
- Delegation and the results from those assignments can be used to promote tangible benefits against the costs
- Rewarding your team for completing meetings before the scheduled end time. This can be assigned as savings
- Teach the team when to use the entire staff or a subset to save the costs to the company
- Monthly reporting to your manager will help them understand the value of this large expanse.
Who knows, you may be asked to run your bosses meetings or be asked to train other managers because your department will be doing so well.
Firstly, I need to apologize up front that I don’t remember where I got this idea from. It is not my idea, I have used variations of this exercise in my consulting practice, but I wanted to pass it along. One of the problems I have when listening to a host of podcast products is that at times I am not in a good position to stop and take notes. This idea I found on either Phil McKinney’s “Killer Innovation” or on a “Venture Voice” interview, but that is a guess at best.
We all need tools to help us think of new ways to solve old problems. We have a lens that we use to evaluate data as it comes in. Every so often we find a new lens which helps us provide a breakthrough in performance or understanding. In this case I wanted to share with you a new way of looking at things with a hope that it produces exceptional results.
Always / Never Brainstorming
This is an excellent team exercise. I would expect at least two large hanging paper sheets and a pile of sticky notes and some felt tip markers would work nicely. Here are the steps:
- Define the topic or focal point. Try to be specific. I prefer these questions NOT be open-ended if possible to make sure you are focused as possible. Here are some example:
- “What are the first impressions of our company/organization/church?”
- “What’s the last thing people remember about ?????”
- “What do people expect when they ????”
- “What happens when a person doesn’t ????”
- Have the team brainstorm things that ALWAYS happen (Time limit 10 minutes or until the ideas dry up)
- Now, have the team identify things that NEVER happen for this topic (Same time limit, and keep the answers relevant)
- Take a break – you just spent 20 minutes hurting your brains! (5 minutes)
- Nominal Grouping next – spend 5 to 10 minutes moving the stickies together that are talking about the same thing (duplicate stickies if the idea is relevant to two groupings)
- Focus on the Never – now ask the team to come up with ideas that would make the never become a reality and be considered exceptional. (20 minutes)
Innovation Bonus Exercise
Now I did get this great idea from a Phil McKinney podcast as I was driving back from a State Cup soccer tournament. This is the first time I heard this exercise described this way and should provide you some great ideas and insights.
Our brains are programmed to stop thinking once we think we found the right answer and often we leave ideas in our head and never share them because of this reason. You as the leader or facilitator need to force your team past this creative barrier. Here is the bonus exercise:
- Have all your nominally grouped ideas placed on a grid.
- Each idea group should run across the top of the grid
- Each idea group should run down the left side creating a matrix.
- In each matrix box, FORCE the team to come up with a new idea.
- Use this Hybrid list of ideas for innovative ways to move forward.
The ALWAYS List
This list represents the performance bar that all expect from any organization in the specific category examined. This list becomes the managers performance list. The manager will use this list to help identify talents and skills needed by the staff to accomplish these objectives. Mentoring, training, feedback and possibly team reconfiguration (fire/hire) might be needed to help the team reach the Always Base Level, if they are not already there. It is imperative that the manager get his team to this level and make sure they stay there.
The NEVER List
The Never list (and Innovation Hybrid List) is used by leadership to determine what the group will take on next. An assessment needs to be performed first. Do we have the right talents? Do the correct skills exist at the right level to take on the new item? What do we gain by taking on the new item as it relates to our competitors? How long can we have an advantage before the competitors catch up to us? And let’s not forget, how much will this cost us?
Marketing Warfare Correlations
Now before I get emails asking me how this relates to Marketing Warfare let me break this down quickly. This exercise will work for three of the four areas of the strategic squares. I’ll try and break this down by market position:
Market Leader – you are using this exercise to create a Defensive Marketing Plan. The goal is to create a moving target for the competitors in your space. The ultimate object of these repetitive successes would be to discourage your competitors from attempting direct attacks on your position.
Market Non-Leaders – since you are not using this exercise to attack the leaders weakness within their strength, this exercise should be used in creating a flanking attack and would work best if you focused on an area in which the leader is currently not focusing on.
Local or Regional Leaders – this exercise will produce great ideas for guerrilla marketing warfare plans. Many of these ideas will place you in a strong competitive advantage to the national companies that cannot respond to the dominance you hold in your local or regional spaces.
Please let me know what you think of this post. I hope it helps you and your organization. Your feedback is most welcome!
Good Luck and Good Hunting!
Recently, I reorganized and reprioritized my podcast library and listening preferences. It’s been about a year and some of the material wasn’t doing it for me any more. I won’t get into the reasons or the methods right now. Just know, I started poking around iTunes, my podcast subscription tool of choice. and began sampling several different podcasts.
There is a lot of free podcast content out there and most of it is worth the price you pay for. But occasionally, you can run across some work that is truly valuable and insightful. I wanted to share just such a find.
This is taken from their about page at Venture Voice:
What does it take to start a successful business? We’re working the phone to find the answers by calling on entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and their friends and foes. This podcast (or, for the uninitiated, Internet radio show on demand) features our conversations. Listen to the voices of those living the entrepreneurial life. The excitement, trepidation and ambition heard in their tones gives us a feel for what they’re going through.
We’re interested in people in all types of industries — those who’ve already made it big and those who will soon. We want to hear about failures as well as successes. Start-ups have effects on personal lives in addition to professional lives; we explore both. If you would like to suggest someone to be interviewed, or have feedback for the show, please contact us.
Host and Executive Producer: Gregory Galant
Associate Producer: Eddie LeBreton
Founding Designer: Aaron Quint
My Time is Valuable …..
So why do I think spending time listening to 1 hour interview so worthy that I would want to pass it along to you. Just in a short time I have gained valuable insights that I believe will help even the most modest of achievers among us.
Here are some of the insights I’ve gain:
- All these people in the success stories we hear about are people just like us!
- All had mentors that helped them in the process of moving forward
- All failed … some more often then others … but all did.
- Some were visionary, Some were leaders, Some were lucky …. all tried and refused to give up.
- Some had great answers to difficult questions.
- Some seemed clueless and you end up wondering how they made it so far.
Generally speaking that if you want to become better at something then the time you spend must complement this. After all:
- If you want to become thin … don’t do what fat people do.
- If you want to become rich … don’t do what poor people do.
- If you want to become better … don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
Here’s a Sample of Titles:
I wanted to share with you some of the episodes that I recently listened to. Now keep in mind, I don’t agree with every point of view these people claim to be important. Rather I listen to their thought process and try and understand how did they end up making the right choice and what created sustainable success.
- VV Show #56 – Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software
- VV Show #55 – Graham Hill of TreeHugger
- VV Show #54 – Tim Westergren of PandoraVV Show #53 – David Cohen of TechStars
- VV Show #52 – Sam Wyly of Maverick Capital, Green Mountain Energy, Michaels Stores and Sterling Software
- VV Show #48 – Frank Addante of The Rubicon Project
- VV Show #46 – Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp
I’d be interested in knowing what your thoughts are of some of the interviews. Please drop by again and leave a comment. If there are other podcasts that you think are also valuable then please leave a comment here as well.
Well we survived another year. I hope that 2009 will be better then the last for all that read this post. I hope that you will take to heart some of these thoughts:
- You become better when you become focused!
- Improve your brand, after all, it is the only thing you truly have!
- Be authentic, faking it takes way to much energy and destroys momentum!
- Think Global, Execute Local!
Here are some quotes from my favorite General – Karl von Clausewitz taken from “Marketing Warfare” by Al Reis and Jack Trout:
“Some statesman and generals try to avoid the decisive battle. History has destroyed this illusion.”
“The statesman who, seeing war inevitable, hesitates to strike first is guilty of a crime against his country”
“Pursuit is a second act of the victory, in many cases more important then the first.”
“Many assume that half efforts can be effective. A small jump is easier then a large one, but no one wishing to cross a wide ditch would cross half of it first.”
“Out of a thousand men who are remarkable, some for mind, others for boldness or strength of will, perhaps not one will combine in himself all those qualities which are required to raise a man above mediocrity in the career of a general.”
So let me leave you with this thought for 2009, taken from the book “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell.
“No economic system can depend on the continuing wisdom of its current leaders.” p72
Dare I add to this, it holds equally true to ourselves, our family, our vocations or businesses!
Happy New Year!