Posts Tagged consulting
How many times do you find yourself in a slump. We need to shake off the old and create a new way of generating new ideas. We need to make some magic, create some sparks, razzle and dazzle, have some fun! When I read this post from Seth Godin it got me to thinking:
An end of magic
Arthur C. Clarke told us, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Head back to the 1800s with a Taser or a Prius or an iPad and the townsfolk will no doubt either burn you at the stake or worship you.
So many doors have been opened by technology in the last twenty years that the word “sufficiently” is being stretched. If it happens on a screen (Google automatically guessing what I want next, a social network knowing who my friends are before I tell them) we just assume it’s technology at work. Hard to even imagine magic here.
How to Make the Magic
This is a fun exercise to take your team or department through. You can read about the process in one my previous posts “Exceptionalism: Focus on the Never“. But basically, take several idea lists you’ve created and follow the “Innovation Bonus Exercise” in the above post. Then take some of those ideas and create you own little science fiction episode of “Stargete”, “Sanctuary”, or “Startrek” in which your team runs accross a civilazation with advanced technology like some of the crazy items on your list and they now have to revewrse engenere it to gain the benefits of the new found technology.
You might be surprised how many of the way-out-there crazy ideas turn into actionable realistic projects for your team to investigate further.
It’s a fun off-site day, especially if you have a bunch of techie scifi geeks on your team!
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!
Sorry, with WordPress.com at this time it can’t be done.
WordPress.com Is Great
Firstly let me say that I love WordPress.com. It is now my platform of choice for introducing web sites with web content capabilities to small companies. Many of my clients are Mom & Pop shops, small non-profits, or small for-profits with less then 50 employees and no IT staff to speak of. They might already have a site, but haven’t updated it in years. They don’t have the discipline in place to update their own sites on a regular basis, let alone a web development package to update their legacy site.
WordPress.com becomes a great inexpensive proof of concept tool. I can show the staff how a web site should be updated, by the staff, as frequently as needed. I can remain an admin to their site so I can fix any minor problems that occur or answer any questions on capabilities or limitations. If the client sees results that prove valuable, I can then walk them through the analysis of moving to a hosted WordPress.org site or a custom built site from scratch. (You can guess which one usually wins.)
I like WordPress so much I’m in discussions with the college I teach at to use WordPress.com and a WordPress.org installation for a CSS and Advance CSS class I want to teach.
Marketing Shortcoming – Stats
If there is one area that vexes me while I am navigating my clients through the proof of concept is the lack of decent stats. WordPress.com provides the basics: Page Views, Referrers, Top Posts & Pages, Search Engine Terms, Clicks.
Items I would love to see:
- Geo specific information – to help identify where geo targeted PPC advertising might be most effective.
- Path Analysis – I want to understand if they stay for more then one page then where are they going.
- Entry / Exit Stats – which pages are the stickiest, which exit pages do I need to work on.
- Time Spent Stats – I love to understand what’s working and what’s not. Outliers are the most fun!
- Time of Day Stats – When is my site being visited the most, this might affect my PPC spending habits.
Possible Statistic Solutions
I’m sure WordPress staff have heard all this before but I want to add my two cents. For anyone that uses some of the different log analyzing tools out there this is nothing new. The following seem reasonable to me:
- Upgrade Existing Default Package – maybe there is a add-on which could be implemented for WordPress.com that would bring it up to modern marketing times
- Google Analytic Tool – possibly some hitch in ‘Tools’ or ‘Settings’ that allow someone to put their unique site id in a field and WordPress would fill in the blanks behind the scenes.
- Log Export Utility – either on demand or on a timed event the site logs would be sent to the admins so they can manually run the logs against their own log analyzer (webalizer, etc.)
Even with the stats shortcoming I still would use WordPress.com as a starter web site for smaller clients. The ease of use and the fast indexing of content by Google make it a very strong tool to begin the processing of understanding exactly what your company needs.
PS. I’ve gone round and round on changing the title of this post to be more gracious to WordPress.com but I got the idea from the DailyPost.WordPress.com so I wanted to keep the “List three countries you’d like to visit, and why you want to go.” question theme alive in my post by focusing on the 3 top countries that visit my blog. Since I could not answer that question, this post was created.
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.
I can’t remember if I have ever posted anything about hardware. I often find myself contemplating process improvements, marketing tactics, and internet tools which I assume will help small businesses improve their market share.
I know a version of this affordable video phone was on Donald Trump’s show “The Apprentice” and this launched the phone to new heights, but I can’t help but think that the video phone would be a great tool for a small business to improve it’s image.
This phone in the hands of families across the US and world will enjoy video conversations with each other. As more house holds have the phone the more fun each family will have in hold video calls with each other. I can’t wait until all my family in Germany have these phones either.
ACN’s newest revolutionary video phone gives you enhanced features that you can only get here!
- See the person you’re talking to
- Unlimited calling to the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico
- Send and receive video mail messages
- Project your conversations onto a larger screen
- Bonus Feature: Display photos with the Digital Photo Frame
- Automatic Network Detection: easier for customers to set up their Video Phone
- Enhanced Video Clarity: images/colors are sharper
- Automatic Bandwidth Adjustment: automatically adjusts bandwidth setting to match available bandwidth speed
- Enhanced Light Sensor Camera: camera offers higher pixels for improved A/V sync plus more clarity in the video
- Dual Speakers: audio speakers offer stereo sound quality
- New, Sleek Interface: user-friendly options for exceptional customer experience
- Softkeys: allows user to make selections from the specific screen for easy navigation
- Large 7″ screen: for face-to-face conversations
Plus traditional calling features you expect:
Caller ID • Call Forwarding • Call Waiting • Do Not Disturb • Speed Calling • Three-Way Calling
Call Return • Auto Redial • Voice/Video Mail
$11.99 /month/ line
$159.99 per Video Phone
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Virtual Phone Numbers
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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!