Leading your team to mediocrity

15 06 2007

“Too many chiefs and not enough indians ”

Slow Leadership has a post entitled Too Much Leadership that reminded me of a key concept required to effectively lead and manage people, and insure success in our organizations.

The willingness to pitch in and do the work along with the team.

There is no miracle formula to sustained success.

It’s about getting the work done.

It’s incredible important that we raise our hands to volunteer and roll up our sleeves, and not just point our fingers and give orders.

It creates a sense of camaraderie, provides an understanding of what are co-workers are dealing with, and shows a spirit of “doing what it takes” in order to make the business work.

The desire to “be the boss” somehow leads people to think that they are exempt from work, or entitled to give orders instead pitching in.

Being the leader involves identifying and eliminating the bottlenecks that affect your people in their work.

Supervision and coordination of work activities is part of that managerial responsibility.

Assuring that everyone gets their job done efficiently is what will make you a successful manager.

Best way to understand what that takes is to jump into the fray once in a while, listen, learn, work and think how to make it better or more efficient.

Do more and supervise less.

Start using your whole hand at work, and not just your index finger.

Related Links

Successful Managers should be breaking the rules

Slow Leadership:  Too Much Leadership

20 ways to guarantee failure as a manager 





Can we allow ourselves to work and enjoy it?

5 06 2007

 I’d like to work with Tim Smit.

I determined that halfway through an article in the BBC News article by Peter Day entitled  Tim Smit’s Monkey Business

I think it would be quite an experience.

A supportive and demanding environment, requiring the daily application of personal and professional skills.

Optimal results would be demanded, incompetence not tolerated and everyone would be focused on achieving positive and focused results.

Creativity and innovation are sought out and rewarded.

It might even be fun.  In fact I’m sure it would be.

Fun and rewarding in the sense that the people working with Tim are doing what they want do to, have the skills to do it, they work with people they like, and are focused on achieving something, together.

That’s a great definition of my ideal workplace.

Take a look at some of his management “rules” for his current project, The Eden Project

  •  Wants to work with people he likes, interviewers must provide a 10 minute performance of something entertaining
  •  Seeks extroverts with opinions, not seeking “yes men”
  •  Job interviews take two days and include potential subordinates
  •  Don’t make important decisions at work, do it over dinner or a glass of wine when you are relaxed and more “human”
  • Take responsibility for your job and actions, don’t pass it on to others
  • Once a year make dinner for your co-workers, read a book you don’t want to read and report on it, forced activity in order to broaden your horizons

We focus too much on specific business skill sets and abilities in business and management as a “guarantee for success”.

We forget that we are human beings, and work and interact with other human beings.

Business is all about participating in a community.

If you, your product or your service is wanted and desired by the community, they purchase it, a profit is probably generated.

We are successful.

Is there anyone who comes to work and doesn’t think they have to have the skills to do their job, to interact with others as a team, and be productive?

Do we need to hammer this into our people any more?

A little fresh air, creativity and innovation is in order.

Time to create a community and social organization, with the goal of creating a product or service.

Creating an active, open environment where ideas can be developed, forcing ourselves to learn new skills, having a relationship with those around us,  great ideas.

Keep on eye on Mr. Smit, his project and his ideas.

Some sort of financial, social or commercial success for his project will turn his ideas loose upon us and maybe change the world.

I can hardly wait.

Related Links

Tim Smit’s Monkey Business 

The Eden Project 

BBC Four Profile – Tim Smit

Successful Managers should be breaking the rules

Weird ideas that work 

Are you on the right team? 





Don’t find a solution, find a way to make it better

12 03 2007

We make a large error in our business and personal lives if we believe that every problem or situation can be solved immediately or in the short term through our decisions and application of resources.

Theoretically it’s possible, but our focus on solution instead of optimizing and making changes to make it better can blindfold us toward evolutionary processes that in the long term provide better, stronger and long lasting solutions.

I’m suggesting that every situation should be initially evaluated based on two basic criteria; can it be solved now, or can it be improved now.

The situations that can be solved now or in the short term, should be. The organization should dedicate the time and resources toward the solution.

An example would be a delivery service that has 3 trucks and cannot cover the current delivery area on-time due to an increase in customers and package volume. A possible swift solution would be the purchase of another vehicle and hiring of a new driver.

A situation that cannot be solved now or ever should be approached by identifying areas where improvement should be made. The time and resources of the company should be focused upon the improvement.

An example would be government’s attempt to eliminate poverty or disease from a population. A perfect solution is not possible or practical, but by focusing on specific areas one can find great opportunities for success or enormous impact (vaccinations for children against polio).

When we look at every situation as a problem that needs to be solved right now we may be missing the best solutions and strategies required to resolve the situation over the long term. Ask yourself:

  • Can we solve the problem quickly and efficiently with simply modification of variables or a shift in technology? If the answer is yes, then set the process and resources in motion.
  • What if the problem is not able to be solved quickly or has no practical or economically viable solution? This is where the approach of resolving and modifying parts of the problem comes into play.

This evolutionary approach to problem solving is not often requested or expected in business (the quick fix is always applauded and sought after), but often the best long term strategy is optimization and gradual modification.

This evolutionary problem solving process will provide new opportunities for change and solutions to be developed in the future.The identification of areas, processes or resources that are the bottlenecks in your organization become areas of opportunity.

Modifying and improving these bottlenecks will automatically create new bottlenecks, in new areas. The focus on identifying and solving these “new” situations leads to a process of continual improvement and a better, stronger organization.

This is one of the fundamental ideas behind the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

Common sense tells us that in a complex world not all solutions are simple, quick or painless. The “quick fix” is a great idea, but not often found in everyday life.

Observation of science, technology, philosophy and business ideas and strategies show us that change occurs through the rare revolution (paradigm shifts and new discoveries) and through the more common evolution (gradual modifications leading to continual change.

What can be changed, fixed or modified today to make the organization, process, product or service incrementally better?

Related Links

Why don’t they?

Starting over

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

AGI Institute – Theory of Constraints

Evolution (Disambiguation)





Why don’t they

15 01 2007

How many times have you heard, or said, “why don’t they…….”

In the office it seems that everyone not directly involved with the decision making has the answers.

How many times have you heard:

  • Why don’t they just change or modify the process.
  • Why don’t they just lower the price.
  • Why don’t they give the supplier an ultimatum or find new suppliers.
  • Why don’t they give us the power to make decisions.
  • Why don’t they simplify the procedure.
  • Why don’t they hire an expert.
  • Why don’t they fire them.
  • Why don’t they do the right thing.
  • Why don’t they listen to us.

The next time you start with “why don’t they” stop and do the following.

  • Ask yourself what can YOU do to implement or bring your solution to the attention of the decision-makers.
  • Do you really understand the problem, it’s causes, consequence and secondary effects?
  • Do you have enough information to make an informed decision?
  • Have you mapped out the chronological actions (and costs) required to implement the solution?
  • What are the risks involved? There are risks associated with failure and with success, how can the organization prepare for those changes?
  • Have you told, written or explained your solution to the decision-makers?
  • Take action and do something about it.

An organization is strongest when everyone participates, and not necessarily when everyone participates in a linear and orderly manner. Your idea may have been missed in the analysis.

Good ideas and possible solutions are welcome (or should be welcome) at all times.

If your comments, solutions and ideas are limited to informal gripe sessions around the water cooler, it’s time to start writing them down and pushing them forward.

 

Stop waiting for someone else to do it, step up and let your voice be heard.

Related Links

Starting over

Analyze and plan using 7 simple questions

Why do we fail

Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia

The Power of Something Extra





Why do we fail

22 12 2006

No one likes to fail.

We can feel foolish, outmaneuvered, incompetent, insecure, unlucky, silly, angry, overwhelmed, frustrated and in some cases afraid to try again. after suffering a defeat.

Failure is an integral part of the learning process.

Failure is required in order to become successful.

Rare is the successful individual, product or organization that has not met adversity, failure, defeat and loss.

One of the keys to success is the ability to accept failure, learn from the experience and try again.

The fear of failure is so great in some organizations that it freezes innovation, thwarts change and stifles growth.

Organizations try to reduce or limit failure by passing on historically successful methods and accumulated knowledge to new members.

Many times this information is not useful and out of date because the elements, players and dynamics of today’s challenges are quite different from those of the past.

Use the following list to analyze your current projects (and possibly prevent or limit failure), or use the list after a setback or defeat to identify where you can improve.

Reasons for business failure can be broken into 4 main groups:

Planning

  • No plan
  • Incomplete plan
  • Wrong calculations
  • Poor or incomplete interpretation of data and research
  • Failure to take into account all factors
  • Lack of experience
  • Failure to evaluate competitor reactions correctly
  • Failure to anticipate consumer response
  • Significant difference between planned and actual costs
  • Poor cash flow calculations
  • Unrealistic goals and expected outcomes
  • Underestimate risks

Information

  • Didn’t collect all the pertinent information for planning
  • Product or service was not wanted or needed by customer
  • Lack of knowledge of market
  • Lack of knowledge of customers
  • Lack of experience in the industry
  • Lack of experience in manufacturing
  • Lack of experience in sales and marketing
  • Lack of experience in administration

Operations and Follow-through

  • Lazy, didn’t do the work required
  • Undisciplined
  • Unorganized
  • No control of suppliers
  • Did not stop in time and take corrective actions
  • Did not recognize warning signs
  • Ignored warning signs
  • Did not seek professional assistance
  • Lack of attention to logistics details
  • Failure to focus on customers needs, desires and wants
  • Poorly trained personnel
  • Lack of initial capital
  • Not enough capital to maintain operations for first years

Factors outside of our control

  • Important changes in technology
  • Environmental factors
  • International, Federal, State or local government laws, regulations and legislation
  • Aggressive competitor(s)
  • Act of God
  • Change in fashion and trends
  • Theft and fraud

Related Links

Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia

How to systematically analyze any decision for better decision making

10 things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

9 steps to better decisions





Motivation – heroic moments

26 10 2006

Determine which actions during the day, are your “heroic moments“.

Heroic moments might be viewed as simple required actions, obligations by others, but deep inside us, we understand that these actions require us to make a yes or no decision. We have to commit ourselves.

Heroic moments consist of an internal decision to do something for the greater good, to contribute to an idea or organization, to participate in a selfless act. The decision to start, follow-through and finish a project or activity that will benefit others.

It’s a moment when we say to ourselves “I will do this, no matter what”.

Heroic moments occur when we decide and commit to actions that that we know are required, expected or desired by others.

The most important heroic moments happens daily, when we make the decision to leave the comfort of our warm bed, wake our sleeping body and mind, and start the day.

A heroic moment occurs when you make the decision to face the angry customer, and resolve the problem.

A heroic moment occurs when you dig into the pile of paperwork on your desk.

A heroic moment occurs when we pick up the phone and start “cold- calling”.

A heroic moment occurs when we’re having a miserable day and keep smiling and don’t take it out on others.

A heroic moment occurs when we decide to motivate or lead others through inspiration and not fear.

A heroic moment occurs when we start an exercise program.

A heroic moment occurs when we decide not to involve ourselves in an personal argument or conflict.

A heroic moment occurs when we DO involve ourselves in an argument or conflict in order to solve a organization or family problem.

As employees, leaders, managers, parents, children, siblings, co-workers, or even as strangers, we are confronted with many opportunities to make “heroic” decisions.

We don’t do these things because we’ll be recognized. We don’t do them because someone will build a statue. They may not be monumental actions. It’s not the type of heroism that makes it on to the front page of the newspaper.

The only person who might know about it is you.

Finding and identifying the heroic moments in our lives is a simple way to motivate ourselves and feel good about our decisions and how we are interacting with the world around us.

(Thanks to Jesus Sotomayor for the phrase and idea)

Related Links

The power of something extra

What defines an exceptional leader





Great International Business Trip Results

16 10 2006

In any international relationship communication and understanding are critical for success.

Problems created by; language, stereotypes, misinformation, lack of information, and cultural misunderstandings combine with normal business problems to create a complicated scenario for anyone involved in international relationships and global business.

Prepare your international meetings and business presentations using the following questions as a guide to organize your ideas and focus on actions that will produce positive results for everyone involved.

6 Questions – Create Great International Business Trip Results

  1. What does this organization know about me, my company and my country?
  2. What do they think they know about me?
  3. What can I tell them that they do not know?
  4. What do I know about my international partner, culture and country?
  5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country?
  6. What can they tell me that I do not know?

1. What does this organization know about me and my company. When you walk in the room an opinion has already been formed about you, your organization, and your ability to perform in the future. These ideas are based upon facts, information and past experience.

  • What has been the history of our relationship in their country?
  • Who has been involved in our mutual business, and why?
  • What promises have been made and kept by both?
  • What promises have been made and not delivered upon?
  • What have the major problems and success been in the past?
  • Press and media, our organizations promotional material.

2. What do they think they know about me. Clarifying the unknowns or presumed realities in a relationship is crucial to success. These ideas may be very damaging and limit your ability to trust one another. What stereotypical behaviour can you avoid or prevent? What can you clarify or refute through information or actions?

  • Behaviour and reacts based upon past experience with your organization.
  • Rumour and innuendo, press and media reports.
  • Negotiation styles.
  • Business objectives.
  • Behaviour, goals and methods of doing business based upon country and cultural stereotypes.

3. What can I tell them that they do not know. Today’s business world requires trust, information and solutions. Reinforcing your need to work with your international partner, providing important information or solutions, and clarifying misunderstandings can only help the relationship.

  • Clarify or destroy cultural stereotypes.
  • Clarify business objectives and why they are important in order to reach these objectives.
  • Provide solutions and alternatives to existing situations and challenges.
  • Provide information of value for their business and strategy.
  • Clearly identify current or potential business problems.
  • Predict and have answers ready for their questions.

4. What do I know about my International partner, culture and country? What do I know is true and not innuendo or interpretation? The numbers, facts, information, agreements and past performance history of the business. Information about the country and the business culture.

5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country? What preconceived ideas and stereotypes are you working with? What are you assuming and what has been proven?

6. What can they tell me that I do not know? What questions do you need to ask in order to verify information or create plans. What pieces of your information puzzle are missing? This is the time to get your questions answered, what are they?

Related Links

Cultural misunderstanding it can happen to you

Stereotypes and global business

Create great international business relationships

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz

Lessons in international business





The New Mercenaries – Outsourcing

13 10 2006

Mercenary, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: Motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain. One who serves or works merely for monetary gain; a hireling.”

Using this definition, and forgetting the military connotations of the word (warrior for hire). The term mercenaries can be used to describe outsourcing suppliers and organizations.

Our outsourcing mercenaries are individuals or organizations that are motivated solely by monetary gain and do not share our organizations philosophies, ideals and interests.

We are hiring mercenaries to manufacture our goods, “do the dirty work”, buy time and help us compete better (and win) against the competition.

Are we weighing the long term risks of this outsourcing strategy?

Beyond the current short term cost benefits, have we identified the long-term strategic and control risks to our organizations by embracing outsourcing?

There are inherent dangers and advantages to using mercenaries. What can history tell us of mercenaries and the long term results of depending upon them?

Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince (a book about the strategy of power and control), wrote that mercenaries were not loyal, dangerous and even useless: “He who holds his State by means of mercenary troops can never be solidly or securely seated. For such troops are disunited, ambitious, insubordinate, treacherous, insolent among friends, cowardly before foes, and without fear of God or faith with man. Whenever they are attacked defeat follows; so that in peace you are plundered by them, in war by your enemies. And this because they have no tie or motive to keep them in the field beyond their paltry pay.”

The decline of the Roman Empire has been linked to the use and dependence upon mercenaries. The failure to control them, and their infiltration into positions of command and control inside the government.

Mercenaries

  • Historically tend to overthrow the power or control they do not like.
  • Adopt strategies to protect themselves from danger and risk.
  • If talented, will seek to increase their power, and if incompetent will ruin their employer.
  • Have no loyalty to the employers ideals, goals or objectives.
  • Are marked by their materialism.
  • Create their own agendas and goals
  • Their first priority is to themselves and self preservation.

Using (outsourcing) mercenaries can be positive when:

  • There is total control and agreement regarding training, quality, standards, and continual improvement.
  • The competition has access to equal or reduced resources in order to hire mercenaries.
  • There are clear short term objectives and goals, at which point the contract is finished and/or renegotiated.
  • There is clear recognition that their intervention is specialized, unique and required to create an advantage for swift campaigns or to solve specific problems.

Mercenaries and outsourcing become a risk or hazard to your organization when:

  • Mercenaries reach a level of importance and power, where their absence will provoke or contribute directly to your failure.
  • They understand your entire process or have access to your “secrets”.
  • When the competition can pay more for their services than you can.
  • Objectives are not clear, and contracts are not specific.
  • Quality standards fall, or the organization accepts below standard levels of work or products.
  • Mercenaries are relied upon to provide long term stability or to reach long term goals for your organization.
  • You forget that mercenaries respond to power and money, and not on providing quality “soldiering”.
  • You believe that by hiring mercenaries you have eliminated risk from your operations.

What risk factors and changes occur in our organization when we relinquish control over the entire process by using outsourcing mercenaries?

What happens when our outsourcing “partner” says no or begins to work for the competion?

Are we outsourcing because everyone else is, or are there fundamental long term strategic and economic reasons that support the decision?

Related Links

The Dangers of Outsourcing and What You Can Do About It

Reining in Outsourcing Risk





What can we learn from the piracy business model

10 10 2006

Here is a interesting way to view, prepare for and compete against businesses copying and pirating your content or products.

Piracy is a business model. Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, announced during a keynote address at MIPCOM. While her focus was on the pirating of media content, the same message applies for manufactured goods.

“It exists to serve a need in the market….. Pirates compete the same way we do – through quality, price and availability. We don’t like the model but we realize it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.

What’s so amazing about this?

Taking the piracy is a business model approach allows us to analyze the business model and how it is acting or reacting to the economic fundamentals in the market.

Instead of locking up our company secrets and seeking punishments for the pirates, we can analyze why and where our “competition” is taking advantage of us in order to strengthen and modify our business model.

None of this changes the actual situation. But it might change business strategies and planning when you realize they are competitors and they are here to stay.

What are the advantages of being a pirate, and the disadvantages?

Why are there opportunities for them? What should I be doing that I’m not?

How can I change my organization to take back the market from the pirates?

Once weaknesses in the piracy business model are identified they can be exploited. When strengths are discovered, they can be integrated into our own business model.

The fight against piracy should begin with a focused analysis of the market environment, existing business models and new strategies on how to adapt to the changing market conditions and exploit them to your advantage.

We can stop focusing on the individual “pirates” and their control or capture, and move toward competing intelligently against them.

Related Links

The easy way

The power of something extra

Netribution – Disney Co-Chair recognizes ‘piracy is a business model’

Boing Boing – Disney exec: Piracy is just a business model

@MIPCOM Piracy is a business model


 





The easy way

9 10 2006

Despite all the attention on the power of marketing in order to create and maintain a successful product and business, there are still many organizations and people who don’t want to, or don’t know how to market their products.

They want others to buy their product because they are less expensive than the competition.

It’s the easiest way to sell, requires no planning, no marketing, no effort on the part of the salespeople or the organization. Quick short term results.

Everyone is in the market with the same goods, all screaming and shouting for the customers attention. The customer finds the seller by accident or luck, and proceeds to bargain and negotiate for the lowest price in the market. Very colorful.

It shows a lack of responsibility, lack of marketing, and lack of imagination on the part of the seller.

The owners say: “We need more profit, cut costs and sell more”.

The sales managers say: “We can sell more, but the product is a commodity, what can we do, cut the costs and we can corner the market”.

Production says: “We’ll cut costs, get cheaper raw materials and tweak the design”.

Buyers tell suppliers: “We can try your raw materials or products and see if the market accepts that price, but you have to give me a better price if you want me to buy more”.

Salespeople tell the sales manager: “I don’t know if I can meet that sales quota, it’s not up to me, it’s up to the market to decide”.

Salespeople tell the customer: “We’re cheaper than the competition, buy now”.

The competition is doing the same thing you are.

The customer faced with similar products and lack of information says: “Give me the one that costs less”.

Where was the marketer during all this?

What should they have been doing and saying to the organization and the customer?

If your product isn’t distinct, different or better than the competition. If you are not educating your customer about the advantages of your products and services. You will never have to the chance to market your products.

You will only be able to offer them for sale.

Related Links

Seth’s Blog: Cheaper

The power of something extra

Sales and marketing terrorism





Customer driven or customer ignorant

5 10 2006

“When people talk about successful retailers and those that are not so successful, the customer determines at the end of the day who is successful and for what reason.” – Gerry Harvey

Talking about it or Doing it.

  • There are organizations that talk about serving the customer.
  • There are organizations that do what customers want.

Enemy or Friend

  • There are organizations that perceive and react to the customer as an adversary.
  • There are organizations that listen to, seek out and embrace the customer and the customers ideas.

Products or Solutions

  • There are organizations that create products and services because they can, and hope that the customer will find them.
  • There are organizations that innovate and create better products and solutions for the customer.

Now take the word “organizations” and replace it with “governments”.

“This may seem simple, but you need to give customers what they want, not what you think they want. And, if you do this, people will keep coming back.” – John Ilhan

Related Links

There are no new management and leadership ideas

 





Individuality and chaos in the workspace

4 10 2006

Is your workspace unique? Should it be?

Does your company project the image of sameness, order and uniformity by having cubicles and work-spaces coordinated and equal to one another? Why? Because it looks good, gives the impression of order, control and discipline?

Is this sameness and order a good thing for sparking employee creativity, innovation, happiness and positive results ?

Alexander Kjerulf offers up ideas about workspace, sameness and creativity and roadwitching at The Chief Happiness Officer.

If we want to have a creative, enthusiastic workforce why do we want them to work in ordinary, uninspired surroundings?

Does it just look better when the office layout is coordinated and everything has a mathematical formality about it? Is it a fashion statement or is it about control, and the desire to reduce chaos and “environmental noise”?

Is there a study that shows that working in neutral sameness and coordinated surroundings makes us more productive or efficient?

The industrial world used assembly lines and standardization to increase time efficiency and mass production. Are we applying the assembly line system to today’s information workers without questioning the efficiency and effect on innovation and happiness?

Alex writes “…..so many workplaces have lost their human touch to a desire for sameness, efficiency and professionalism. It’s a shame, because it makes people less efficient.”

The same goes for meetings. Why are they always in the same conference or meeting room? You know the drill, everyone files, in, sits in the chair they always sit in, and the meeting drones on. How much innovation, creativity and enthusiasm will people bring to the meeting if you change the location?

Distracting, perhaps. Maybe, just maybe, people will focus on the task at hand and not the structure, hierarchy and safety of a routine. Perhaps being outside what is “comfortable” is what is needed to provoke new ideas or new ways of analyzing the same situation.

Move a meeting to the cafeteria, to the sales floor, under a tree, to the park, to the library, to another unfamiliar location and see what happens.

Ted Dewan (Link): “One thing that might be fun is renegade meeting rooms. I once heard of a group that set a meeting table up in a parking spot (they were meeting to plan Roadwitch-like activities) and they found the experience envigorating and it helped their thinking as a result. It might be a bit distracting, but depending on the sort of meeting, it’s worth a try I suppose. I’d test it first before offering it as paid-for advice, of course.”

You choose:

Choice # 1 – Chaos – Energy – Random Opportunities – Innovation

Choice # 2 – Order and Control – Suppression of Energy – Routine – Lack of Innovation

Related Links

5 ways to stimulate creative thinking and idea generation

Weird ideas that work

Successful managers should be breaking the rules

With nothing, anything is possible





Analyze and Plan using 7 simple questions

3 10 2006

Who – What – When – Where – Why – How – How much

Project management, organizing a team, writing a business plan, creating strategies, planning meetings, running day to day operations, general analysis and problem solving can be facilitated and improved by using a simple application of 7 basic questions.

The application of the standard reporters’ questions of who, what, when, where, how and how much to a specific situation will help organize the process of analysis and planning.

In order for this system to work, all the questions and answers should be written down. You’ll be building a visual map while defining the objectives, tools, resources, bottlenecks, time limits and chronologies of the problem. It will become clear what the real goals are, what is required, what is missing, who should be involved and when the tasks should be accomplished.

Who – Who is or will be affected by the decision or process? Who are the participants? Who will be involved or affected in some way by the project?

What – What are the objectives and desired results? What is the problem or challenge? What are the options available? What tools are required?

When – When is this supposed to happen? Define the deadlines, time limits and chronologies.

Where – Where is it going to happen? The physical place or space should be defined and examined.

Why – Why are we doing this? Why are we doing it this way or by this procedure? Why is it occurring?

How – How are we going to do it? The mechanisms, requirements, and processes needed in order to achieve the goal.

How much – How much is it going to cost?

Example – You are asked to give a speech on the sales results in Mexico for the last quarter for the upcoming Board of Directors meeting on January 10.

Who – The audience is the Board of Directors. The sales department, marketing, logistics and finance departments have the numbers and explanations of the results. Who is responsible for the agenda, audiovisual set up, room reservations? Are any other members of the company required to attend the presentation? You are the project leader and responsible party for the presentation.

What – The presentation is directed at the Board of Directors, they want to hear about results, expectations and strategies of the sales in Mexico. What questions will they ask, what aspects of the business will be of interest or concern? What information is important?

When – The meeting is January 10. You’ll need all the pertinent sales information by what date? It has be polished into a concise presentation by what date?

Where – The meeting will be held where? How big is the room, what equipment will be required for the presentation.

Why – Why do they want to review this information, is there a problem, is it routine? Why me?

How – Will you give a visual media presentation along with documents? What graphics will you show? Will you be the only speaker? Will the presentation style be serious, upbeat, creative or different from other presentations?

How much – Do you have a budget for the presentation and required materials? Do you have to fly in the Mexican sales representative to be present at the meeting? Do you have to rent equipment, hire caterers or provide refreshments or coffee service?

Related Links

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

9 steps to better decisions





Leadership, do you want the job or just the title and benefits?

2 10 2006

Everyone wants to be in charge. Being the leader seems to be a universal goal of most people working today.

Do you really want the job, or just the title and benefits?

A leadership position requires the use of many abilities and skills which most of us do not have, or do not have fully developed. It requires sacrifice and discipline. A leaders life is filled with decisions that are not black and white.

It’s all about people, motivating, directing, and evaluating, listening and learning with them.

A leader is often lonely, but never alone. Highly criticized and analyzed by their own team and by outsiders. Must be flexible and adaptable, and at the same time firm and unwilling to compromise.

Are you ready for the job?

Guide vs. Signpost. Do you enjoying pointing people in the right direction, telling them where to go? This is not leadership. A signpost points the way, offers no resources or plan and no strategies on how to get there.

Leading others is far different from pointing the way. Leaders take responsibility for everything that happens during the journey, they prepare strategic and contingency plans, provide resources, and keep their people motivated and on the right road.

Teaching vs. Criticism. Able to see the flaws in others, their work and their results? The ability to find flaws is important only if you use these opportunities to teach others how to prevent or improve their performance or results. Pointing out flaws and errors for any other reason is not part of the leadership function.

Coaching vs. supervision. Telling others exactly what to do, and how to do it, is part of a supervisory role, not a leadership position. Leaders are coaches, they convince others to create and embrace goals and objectives, and to use approved systems and methods in order to achieve them.

Fair compensation vs. jackpot rewards. Do you think leaders and managers make a lot of money for doing nothing? Leadership demands personal responsibility and acceptance of risk. No one gets into a leadership position without sacrifice of some sort. These qualities are paid for and compensated with higher salaries and often perks and privileges different from the other members of the organization. It is compensation well earned, and the entire organization should understand this. It should never be looked upon as a jackpot, or undeserved compensation. If the organization does not view it this way, it’s time to modify the compensation packages or get a leader in place that leads and earns the respect and support of the others organization members.

Related Links

Leadership – who do you want to lead

What defines an exceptional leader

Leadership by default





How to motivate yourself on Monday

2 10 2006

Here we go again, Monday morning, back to work. Need some ideas on how to get pumped up for the week ahead?

1. The survivor approach. Challenge yourself to attack the most difficult work problems first thing today. Admit that it has to be done and might be the most uncomfortable or unpleasant activity you will encounter during the week. Once this is out of the way you’ll be surprised how much easier the rest of the week will be.

2. Send out positive energy. Be cheerful, upbeat and responsive to customers and coworkers. Say hello to everyone, acknowledge their presence. If you encounter grumpy, sad or depressed individuals smile at them and move on. Leave everyone you meet with the impression that you’re happy, full of enthusiasm and motivated today. Sound completely out of character for you? Good.

3. Monday is list execution day. List makers should prepare their weekly to-do lists on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening. When you walk into the office on Monday the plan is waiting for you to dig in and execute it.

4. You are working for you. Remember that you are working in order to achieve your personal goals. The work is part of that process. You are not working for XYZ corporation, you truly are working for yourself. It’s your decision to stay or to leave the company, your future is in your hands. Try that attitude on and see what happens.

5. Make someone proud of you. Everyone has a person or persons in their lives that they love and respect. Who are these people in your life? What could you do today at work to make them proud of you? Do it.

6. Act like an invincible leader. Feeling miserable and trying to spread that misery, gloom, doom and depression to others is a pretty pathetic way to live. Do you like to be around people with this attitude? Why would others want to be around you if you are a walking “cloud of misery and darkness”? You are a victim if you agree to be one.

7. Give yourself prizes. Set some work goals and create rewards for their completion that can be enjoyed on the weekend.

8. Motivation through memories. On the way to work think about the times in your life when you were the most enthusiastic, excited, motivated and happy. Remember the way you felt, identify why you felt so good, relive those experiences.

9. Go to work with a specific mission and deadlines. Make specific commitments for goal completion to others.

10. Decide to take a vacation. Burned out, stressed out, unable to focus, unable to get excited? Take time off, disconnect from work (that means no email, no telephone calls). Recharge your batteries. Figure out when you are going, for how long, with who and where.

11. Let cosmic forces and your subconscious decide. Sit down in a quiet spot, turn off the cellular phone, lock the door and try to clear your mind. In a matter of minutes you will begin to be bombarded with ideas or things you should be doing, and their priorities. Open your eyes, and get started.

12.  Music.  You know the tunes that start your feet tapping or set your soul soaring.  Record them, put them in your I-pod, burn a disk for the car.

13.  Change.  Setting a routine is quite normal, and comforting, but not motivating.  Change something.  Maybe it’s breakfast, the way to work, your clothes…who knows.  Fiddle around with your patterns and routines.

14.  Altruism.  Do something for someone else, without seeking anything in return.  Random acts of kindness.

R elated Links

Showtime – how do you want to live your life

Motivation, what gets you out of bed

10 things you should do on a Friday afternoon





20 ideas – how to avoid major problems with your export business

29 09 2006

Exporting is an extremely difficult process as compared to selling in the local or national market. Exporting is not easy, and it’s not inexpensive. It takes planning and requires people that are open, flexible, problem-solvers, and quick at adapting to new situations.

A smart organization that desires to export their products will invest time and money building the proper administrative and sales structure before they begin operations.

20 ideas – how to avoid major problems with your export business

1. Say no to customers. When you can’t do it, say no upfront, before you make an agreement.

2. Create an export strategy before you begin to export. Don’t get sucked into exporting by “accident”.

3. Samples should be equal in quality to the actual production that will be shipped.

4. Make everything perfectly clear with customers. Don’t assume anything, don’t work with suppositions.

5. Learn and understand the business culture of your export market and customers before you begin.

6. Provide detailed price lists and price quotations to the customer. Understand your Incoterms (if you don’t know what these are, stop know and click here)

7. Contemplate what problems might possibly arise (internal and external) that could affect shipment or delivery. Prepare alternatives or take preventive action.

8. Understand that there is a learning curve that affects the organizations ability and performance when exporting to new markets. Calculate the time this will require, and it’s cost.

9. Write down and sign all agreements with the customer (dates, specifications, changes, time, everything). Verify everything with an email or fax if unable to physically sign the agreements and changes.

10. Use caution about exclusivity agreements. Everyone wants exclusivity, will that exclusivity support your entire export production? Will it limit your ability to grow?

11. Develop a quality control system throughout the company.

12. Never send poor quality products, especially in order to meet a shipping deadline.

13. Research the transportation, temperature and climatic conditions that the product will be subject to prior to arrival at the export destination.

14. Create an export price strategy. Know where you are going, and how you want to get there, your costs and required profit margins before you begin to quote prices.

15. Clearly define the costs of production and separate them from the costs of the sales required for exports. Give the sales department a base price to build upon, and make sure they clearly identify the costs related to sales and promotion in the export markets.

16. Always have at least 2 customers in the export market. This will provide protection and stability for your production and for the customers in the export market.

17. Customers who provide the research, development and design for the product may bring samples to you. Assist in the development and manufacture of the samples. Your production know-how (turning ideas into product) is fundamental and important for all involved.

18. Research and investigate fashion, trends and tendencies. In order to survive, you have to create, not pirate and copy.

19. Quality complaints and suggestions must be addressed and implemented immediately. This has to be part of the understanding of every worker, from production to sales to executive suite.

20. Discipline, planning and order. Production planning, raw material purchasing decisions, financing, infrastructure investment, human resources, sales and marketing all must be planned and coordinated, at all times.

Added Oct. 1, 2006 – Bonus legal reminder:  Know the law of the country to which you are exporting concerning:  retention of documents for litigation, product quality and manufacturing and product safety before you begin sales and shipping.  Understand your responsibility and liability for recalls, retrofitting, refunds or destruction of the product.  Learn about your legal responsibility and relationship with brokers, agents and distributors and your products.

Related Links

7 tips for doing business internationally

Maquila and Maquiladoras in Mexico

Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

Mexico and international free trade treaties





Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

27 09 2006

Globalization, transnational companies, global sourcing and outsourcing, free trade, do any of these terms sound familiar?

Obtaining products and raw materials for the lowest price possible is a fundamental concept in business. Today organizations are looking for manufacturers and locations worldwide where they can find lower costs of production in order to remain competitive.

Combine the factors of: quality control, low cost production, logistics costs, and the time involved to get the product to market from the factory, and you understand the challenge of doing business and sourcing products in today’s global economy.

To truly determine the final cost of the product, all these factors must be calculated. This will determine which country offers the best competitive advantage. Make sure you are analyzing any existing free trade agreements when you are seeking suppliers globally.

Free trade treaties between countries have a significant impact upon the final cost of goods. These free trade agreements eliminate the tariffs and taxes on imported and exported goods between the countries involved, depending upon their concentration or percentage of “local” or national raw materials (including labor), as specified in the free trade agreement.

Free trade agreements between countries are of great importance and value only if are exclusive and not accepted by all trading countries. The more free trade is embraced by the international community (through treaties or elimination of import and export tariffs) the less impact the current free trade agreements have in determining competitive advantages for a single country.

Here is a simple example of how the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) free trade treaty between Mexico and the USA, would favor the US supplier over a Chinese supplier.

Example of free trade agreeement competitive advantage:

US supplier to Mexico. If I want to purchase paint made by a US paint manufacturer and have it shipped to my warehouse in Mexico, my total cost to bring the goods to my warehouse in Mexico would be the cost of the paint, plus freight and customs clearing costs. There is no import tariff on this product due to the NAFTA free trade treaty. It would take 4 – 6 days to arrive in my warehouse in Mexico once the product has been shipped from the USA.

US paint $ 20.00 + Freight $ 4.00 + Customs $ 1.00 = $ 25.00 total cost of the US product in my warehouse in Mexico

Chinese supplier to Mexico. If I purchase the same product, from the same transnational company, but it is manufactured in China. Transportation time is 40 days from date product is shipped from China.

Chinese paint $14.00 + Freight $ 8.00 + Customs $ 1.00 + Import tariff (13% of CIF value) $ 2.86 = USD $ 25.86, total cost of the Chinese product in my warehouse in Mexico.

In this example the final cost of the product is $ .86 lower from the US supplier as compared to the Chinese supplier, despite a lower initial product cost. Factor in the financial cost and time required to move the product from the factory to my warehouse, and the lowest final cost in this case would clearly come from purchasing product from the US supplier.

Mexico’s aggressive free trade strategy

Since the 1990’s Mexico has bet heavily on international free trade agreements as a method to improve their competitive advantage and increase their manufacturing base and attract foreign investment.

Mexico has signed 11 existing free trade treaties and 2 complementary economic agreements with 42 countries. It is the only country in the world to have standing free trade agreements with North American and the European community.
The free trade agreements have greatly increased international competition (imports) in Mexico (good for the consumer).

Free trade agreements have allowed Mexican exports to increase and reach destinations and markets that were closed before due to tariffs and costs. There has been increased foreign investment from countries that desired to use Mexico’s free trade competitive advantage for international manufacturing and export projects.

The Mexican manufacturers and suppliers of the national Mexican market were given a “sink or swim” option. Virtually overnight (many of the treaties were phased in over a period of 3 – 10 years), their previous protected market was filled with imported goods (more competition, lower cost, higher quality).

Those that have survived the “invasion”, have had to improve their efficiency, quality and costs. Making them much more competitive in todays global economy.

Britannica’s Definition of free trade:

“Policy in which a government does not discriminate against imports or interfere with exports. A free-trade policy does not necessarily imply that the government abandons all control and taxation of imports and exports, but rather that it refrains from actions specifically designed to hinder international trade, such as tariff barriers, currency restrictions, and import quotas. The theoretical case for free trade is based on Adam Smith’s argument that the division of labour among countries leads to specialization, greater efficiency, and higher aggregate production. The way to foster such a division of labour, Smith believed, is to allow nations to make and sell whatever products can compete successfully in an international market.”

Related Links

Mexico and international free trade agreements





Leadership – who do you want to lead?

27 09 2006

One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you. ~Dennis A. Peer

The semi-mystical mix of qualities, attitudes and behaviours that make or define a leader will provide plenty of material for business writers for years to come. The focus is often on what makes the person a leader or what actions define a leader.

How about looking at the situation from another point of view.

What kind of followers or team do you want to lead?

Are you seeking a group that can be easily manipulated and accept your commands without questioning your authority?

Do you want to lead a team of highly independent people who might question the goals and direction of the group at any time?

Do your followers believe you are the smartest, toughest or most courageous in the group?

What kind of people, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours would your “ideal” followers have, and why?

Determining the qualities of the group you desire to lead, can provide insights into your leadership style and goals. It will give some definition of what leadership qualities you expect to project to others, and what qualities or responses you expect to see reflected in your team, and their behaviours.

Not many of us will be leaders; and even those who are leaders must also be followers much of the time. This is the crucial role. Followers judge leaders. Only if the leaders pass that test do they have any impact. The potential followers, if their judgment is poor, have judged themselves. If the leader takes his or her followers to the goal, to great achievements, it is because the followers were capable of that kind of response.” –Garry Wills in Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership

Related Links

What Defines an Exceptional Leader

Leadership by default

There are no new management and leadership ideas





Managers choice, rules or limits?

22 09 2006

I found myself in strong disagreement to this post on Lifehack.org, Reining in the Rule Breakers.

I understand the need for policies and rules to insure employee safety. This post might be appropriate for those situations. It also might be justified when attempting to standardize jobs and activities that require no creativity or individual decision making in order to function correctly. I sense the post was geared to managers dealing with these type of positions.

This approach toward strict adherence to the “rules”, just smacks of a 1930’s factory or grade school, and is the exact opposite of what I feel a workplace in 2006 requires to remain creative, enthusiastic and productive.

I do think it’s important to define limits. Very different from rules. Limits give maximum or minimum boundaries, but do not bind individuals into procedures and don’t stifle creativity.

It is important to define goals and objectives, basic coordinated procedures and time limits. Allow the team, organization or individual to find the best path to the goal. Before you scream chaos and anarchy, understand that standard operating procedures and existing policies will normally be the jumping off point for most of the organization. Any changes that occur to those procedures will often be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Focus your energy and your people on objectives and not on blindly following the rules.

Related Links

Successful managers should be breaking the rules

What are the rules? Hopefully, none.

5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

Is your boss a prison warden or party host?





Successful managers should be breaking the rules

14 09 2006

Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something. Thomas A. Edison

I’ve found the most successful and exciting environments to work, study or play in are those with “no rules”. Environments that are open and flexible and not strictly controlled with things you can’t do. It’s exciting to be in these situations, inspiring, sometimes a bit scary, but always memorable.

Rosa Say has a brilliant read for all managers about how the use (or abuse) of rules often limits our creativity and enthusiasm. What are the Rules? Hopefully, none.

  • “No rules” requires clear objectives and goals.
  • “No rules” requires planning.
  • “No rules” requires discipline and commitment.
  • “No rules” demands responsibility for actions and outcomes.
  • “No rules” is about inventing process. Creating and forming the process required, or desired, in order to get the job done and reach the objective.
  • “No rules” is about allowing creativity and innovation into every decision that brings us closer to our objectives.
  • “No rules” is about questioning the status quo in order to explore new and different solutions and methods.
  • “No rules” is about accepting and integrating new ideas.
  • “No rules” is about tolerance and examination of new concepts.
  • “No rules” is about getting excited and energized by every life or work experience.

If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. George S. Patton

It is good to obey all the rules when you’re young, so you’ll have the strength to break them when you’re old. Mark Twain

Related Links

What are the rules? Hopefully, none.

5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

Is your boss a prison warden or party host?