Posts Tagged management
The Pareto Rule is an awesome tool and can be used in many situations. Here Paul Coles shares his insights with how companies focus on the wrong side of the equation at times.
When I left university I joined the British retailing institution that is Marks and Spencer, and of the many things that I learned about business, the most precious of all was that you set your business up for the 99% not the other 1%.
I know you are thinking what the hell is this guy talking about? So I will explain. Back in those heady days of the mid ’80s I queried why we were merchandising some of the most expensive product that was prone to shop lifting right next to the doorway. The answer was simple, 99% of our customers don’t steal, so make it easy for them to buy what they want, and don’t ever lose sight of this, setting yourself up for the 1% you will be destined to fail. This lesson is beautifully illustrated in a great book “Sway: The irresistible pull of irrational behaviour” by…
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Push Back: No Time
Recently I was coaching a new client on how to create new habbits associated with updating their web sites and other digital properties. To my surprise, this brought out a little push back about not having enough time to do some of the things this small business owner was being requested to do. All I was asking from the client was to put some 30 minute a day items on his Google calendar to remind him to do certain things each day.
So this got me to thinking about how to create more time in our day. As I was studying this problem, one of my old coaching sayings popped in my head. I would explain to the soccer players I coached, the game is “1% Ball – 99% Everything Else”. When we first start out learning we tend to focus on the ball, not the “99% everything else” we should be. The 1% is important, but if that’s all we focus on, then we miss all the rest.
Give me a few moments to explain how this works in business as I use this sports analogy.
Sports Analogy: Youth Soccer
I suggest if you want more time, you need to work on your fundamentals until they take up less time thus freeing up new time to do the more valuable things. Let me explain how.
When we are training youth to play soccer we focus on the basics: trapping, passing, and dribbling. These skills are not the most productive, but rather, because we need these to feel natural, almost second nature. What we want to focus on are the advanced topics: Space, Positioning, Movement, Awareness, Placement, Possession, Finishing, and Defending. In any given practice session, the more time we must spend on the basics, the less time we have to spend on the advanced, dare I say, more productive skills.
We can easily spot players who have mastered their fundamentals. “Head-on-a Swivel” is a term coaches use when selecting new youth teams each season. If we see a person who has their head up and focusing on the 99% of the game, we know they’ve mastered the 1% (at their level of play).
So we train on the fundamentals until they become so natural that we spend less and less time on them and more on the advanced topics I listed above. Each season we expect growth in the advanced areas, and it is very noticeable when a player still challenged with the fundamentals is placed in a game with those that have mastered it.
Master your fundamentals. This is what I am recommending you do in your business and private life!
Business Example: Calendar Management
Again, I suggest if you want more time, you need to work on your fundamentals until they take up less time thus freeing up new time to do the more valuable things. Since I’m talking about time, let me explain buy using a time management tool you should be using, your calendar.
Let’s just imaging a person who spends 75% of their work hours making sure that the remaining 25% of their work hours are fine tuned to perfection. I know this is hyperbole. No sane person would do this. But it brings up a valuable point. The more time we spend on administrative tasks the less time we spend on value added tasks.
In this example, if we can improve the administrative process and thus cut the 75% time spent in half, we gain 100% of productive time back. Let’s say this person takes 30 minutes to figure out the best way to deal with a 30 minute meeting request, we would then focus on setting up a system that allows new meeting requests to flow more naturally and not take up as much administrative time to set and approve.
In the up-coming posts, we will break this down further for you.
More to Come
Part 2 – Technology Tools
Part 3 – Action Items
In part three we talk about action items for you. These will be broken down into two parts:
- Short Term Assignments
- Routines and Goals
Leave some comments and tell me what you think.
- How to Let Go of ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ in Content Marketing: Conversation with Melissa Harrison (contentmarketinginstitute.com)
- Time management tips that’ll work for your life (penelopetrunk.com)
- Boost Your Time Management Skills with These 9 Techniques (lifehack.org)
So if you are anything like me, you are in submission to the fact that there is more to learn in this world then you currently know. The truly wise among us acknowledge that our current knowledge placed on the scale of all the knowledge will always find us wanting for the remainder of our days.
The trick is to stay on the cutting edge of information that helps us achieve our goals. One of the ways I have tried to stay sharp on specific topics is by using podcasts. I currently use iTunes (most convenient at this time) and my Android phone, with the help of iSync. There are a host of podcasts, mostly free but some cost nominal amounts, on iTunes that cover a wide range of topics.
New Updates on my Listening List
So here are latest additions to my listening list:
- BeanCast – deep dive into marketing topics
- EntreLeadership – Dave Ramsey‘s leadership and business podcast
- Let’s Make Mistakes – design but irreverent with some foul language.
- Marketing Over Coffee – quick ‘on they way to work drive’ worth of internet marketing news
- Social Triggers Insiders – on of the authors I follow on Google+
- This Is Your Life – leadership podcast
Dropped from my Listening List
- No More Weak Days – Daily prayer and Bible reading. Great concept but had a hard time struggling with the KJ and Message format in their reading plan. “1 Year Daily Audio Bible” is still my preferred choice for daily scripture reading (listening).
The important thing is to keep learning! Don’t stop. If you are starting a new project, search out a podcast and listen to it while driving or exercising.
I would love to hear about podcasts you have found helpful in your daily routine. Share them in the comments.
- Import iTunes Music Playlists to Android, Sync iTunes with Android over WiFi (ravidhavlesha.wordpress.com)
- Need help subscribing to podcast in Android (ask.metafilter.com)
- Subscribe to my award winning Marketing Podcast series. It is free! (garybembridge.com)
- DoubleTwist Adds Podcast Catalogue (geeky-gadgets.com)
- Import iTunes Music Playlists to Android, Sync iTunes with Android over WiFi (madrasgeek.com)
- Evernote Podcast #33 – Heavy Breathing Episode (evernote.com)
Have you ever just stopped and thought, “OK, exactly, what am I doing here?” Have you ever been asked to explain something and found yourself ramblings and your thoughts came out incoherent and and your thoughts are without any cohesion and almost on the verge of being labeled ‘verbal diarrhea’? (run on sentence intended for effect folks!!)
Force Some Discipline
There is a way you can attack this problem. This idea comes from a book I’ve recently read call “Drive” by Daniel Pink. (Good Read! Recommend it!) It’s one of the suggestions in the back of the book which you could easily overlook and just skiip by if you are not careful.
The concept is simple. Use a tool, like Twitter, to force you to craft a message in 140 characters. Twitter will only publish 140 characters of a person’s tweet. It provides a nice clean interface with a gentile reminder of how many characters you have remaining. It also provides you a negative number if you go over 140 characters, thus showing you how much you have to trim to have your entire message included in the twitter stream. Twitter simply provides us a clean and straightforward page with the needed feedback to accomplish this task.
Twitter is not the focus
You could use any tool that gives you the feedback to understand how close you are to 140 characters. Even the 140 characters are arbitrary and simply based on the fact that Twitter has this limitation. I could also use any word processor that provide the basic functionality of ‘word count‘ . You could write a simple Visual Basic program in minutes to perform the same task. The tool is not the important factor here. It is your ability to boil down your message to 140 charaters.
In the past we’ve talked about using elevator speeches, but this is more intense and to the point. Only using 140 characters to create focus.
Twitter Summary Application
- Front Office Staff – image the value you would bring if your responses were pithy and to the point. How many of us have wished we met some of these staff in our travels. Only to find out 2 minutes into a question answer session you picked the wrong person to ask ‘where the bathroom was?’ (exaggeration intended)
- Meeting Prep – Wouldn’t we all like to come into a meeting and with a short burst from the moderator / facilitator know how much I need to pay attention? In fact, I could then text my assistent to pull me out of the meeting in let’s say 10 minutes. (Note to self: I bet I could write a quick program so that when I text mesage a certain code to it, it would then rendomly generate a ’emergency text message‘ to my department member’s phones so I can get them all the hell out of there before they waste another minute not doing their jobs!) (exaggeration intended)
- Event Planning – When I plan out an event, each hour has something it needs to accomplish. I would suggest having a twitter summary for each hour so that each hour can be easily reviewed by the facilitation staff and the owner / sponsor of the event.
- Calendar Management – wouldn’t we all like to look at a calendar event and not ask the question – what in the world is this here for and who authorized it to be on my calendar? Well a twitter summary would help there also.
- Instructions to Staff – I’ve also heard this one called ‘commander’s intent‘ as well. It would be a short burst stating what is the ultimate outcome or goal is for an activity. Sometimes these are needed so that if something goes wrong, the team, using autonomy, can make adjustments to still hit the mark by the end of the assignment.
- Classroom Setting – excellent use of a few seconds to start out the class. Let everyone know what’s going to happen in the class for the next hour to three hours. (Also see Meeting Prep above – for you resourceful students – but don’t try it in my class – I have you turn off your phones)
Taken to an Extreme
Would love to hear how you could apply Twitter Summaries. Leave a post and let me know.
- The art of complaining in 140 characters or less (swiss-miss.com)
- On the benefits of #macroblogging, observing a #Twitter stupidity, and the return of #stopshortening (dropsafe.crypticide.com)
- Don’t spend hours tweeting, says Twitter co-founder (telegraph.co.uk)
- How Twitter Can Improve Your Management In 140 Characters Or Less (businessinsider.com)
- Tell us about ‘the moment’ in 140 characters or fewer (timesunion.com)
In my posts “Start, Stop, Continue” and “Exceptionalism: Focus on the Never” I talk about brainstorming techniques that help organizations choose new ideas to improve on their environment. In the above post, the author fivewhys, gives us some other ways of selecting ideas.
- Brainstorming – Increasing Creativity and the Quantity and Usefulness of Ideas (nextstepconsult.wordpress.com)
- How We Brainstorm (markpeterdavis.com)
- First, Stop that Brainstorming? (laf.ee)
- Why The New Yorker’s Claim That Brainstorming “Doesn’t Work” Is An Overstatement And Possibly Wrong (bobsutton.typepad.com)
- Eight Tips for Fixing Your Brainstorming (leadershipforgood.org)
This is part 5 in my series on brainstorming techniques
We’ve covered a lot of ground in helping your groups create a lot of ideas. But what do you do with them all? And how do you make sure that the ones you leave behind really are dud ideas? There seem to be two main camps here
- choose your favourite, based on gut feel
- evaluate all ideas according to some fairly simple criteria
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With all the ‘Steve Jobs‘ posts flooding the internet, this one caught my eye. It is not a Apple bash piece but rather a great object lesson for those that get caught up in the “Aim, Aim, Aim, Ready, Aim, Aim, Fire” mode.
6 of Apples Greatest Mistakes
By Scott M. Fulton, III / October 6, 2011 2:03 PM
This is not an Apple-bashing piece. It is also not an attempt to cut an American icon down to size at a time when were remembering the magnificent contributions of its fallen founder. This is about how failure makes us better.Ive lost count of the number of times Ive heard, seen, or read comparisons of Steve Jobs to Thomas Edison since early yesterday evening. Jobs did not invent anything – not the personal computer, not the MP3 player, not the tablet. But besides that fact, there are certain other stark similarities. One: Jobs, like Edison, was a fierce competitor who sought to control not only the delivery channel for his products, but the market surrounding those products. Two: Like the finest scientist, Jobs studied his failures and Apples very carefully, and unlike Microsoft, built his next success upon the smoking ruins of his failures.More Steve Jobs Stories6 of Apples Greatest MistakesSteve Jobs Legacy In the Pantheon of Great American InnovatorsFrom Silicon Valley to Bahrain, the Web Mourns Steve JobsA Great User Experience: The Web Legacy of Steve JobsWhat Steve Meant Back ThenReaders will likely remind me that certain of the
Marathon Not Sprint
As I mention in my “Failure is not a Title” post, we need to look at things as a long process that we learn from, a Marathon if you will, not a 100 yard dash. Yes, the above mentioned items are on the bottom of some outhouse of ideas, but the industry learned from then and evolved into what we have today.
- Think Different – The Legacy of Steve Jobs (legallyeasy.rocketlawyer.com)
- Steve Jobs Reinvented What It Means to be Human (forbes.com)
- An Analogy of Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs (nytimes.com)
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.
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.