Friday, January 30, 2009

What people are saying about innovation

I've been talking a bit this week about innovation, so let's end our week with a few quotes on the subject:
  • Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth. - Peter Drucker
  • In this time of budget cuts, we cannot forget that basic science is a building block for scientific innovation and economic growth in the information age. - Tim Bishop
  • Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse. - Winston Churchill
  • Innovation comes from the producer - not from the customer. - W. Edwards Deming
  • It would be a terrific innovation if you could get your mind to stretch a little further than the next wisecrack. - Katharine Hepburn
  • Whatever has happened in my quest for innovation has been part of my quest for immaculate reality. - George Lucas

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A great method to prioritize your improvement efforts


PRIORITIZE
Originally uploaded by dgray_xplane


Right now few companies can afford to run at less than optimal effectiveness and efficiency. Yet even leaders who know some things should be running differently get stymied when it comes to prioritizing improvement projects. It seems as though everything should be done right now, and yet time and resources are stretched enough to know that's not possible. As a result, some leaders have prioritized in these ways:

  • If it's not directly related to production output or capacity we don't do it.
  • If it's impacting a key customer we'll put it on the top of our list.
  • We're not doing anything until we have bigger cash reserves.

You get the idea. Sometimes, though, when several concerns are competing for attention it's helpful to have data to help make the decision. There's a diagnostic through Total Quality Institute (TQI) called D.I.AL.O.G. (Diagnostic Indicating Alignment of Organizational Goals) that does a nice job of identifying opportunities.

A web-based survey based upon the Baldrige Organizational Excellence Criteria, D.I.AL.O.G. is a 70-question survey given to employees. You can survey everyone, or you can choose a subset of your employee base. You can even create stratifications to see how differently management, for instance, sees the world from the perspective of employees. Or you can survey engineering and production. Or nurses and physicians. The instrument allows for up to 8 stratifications, but the volume of data generated leads me to believe that fewer slices are better.

You can go for statistical significance, but I've seen good results from a sample size that's simply large enough to be directionally accurate. That decision helps to keep your investment low. You also want to make sure that there are enough participants so they feel comfortable responding candidly.

An interview process with 8-16 people typically accompanies the survey. The idea here is to add qualitative information to give life to the data. No information is reported that wasn't shared by at least two interviewees - that helps the confidentiality issue, and prevents the company by going off on a wild goose chase based on one outlier's opinion.

If you'd like more information on the D.I.AL.O.G. instrument for your company, check out THIS LINK. TQI has affiliates across the United States, in Canada and the UK.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Innovation - Pluto thinkers


outer space star
Originally uploaded by downshift_dellema


Sometimes a tweak in product, marketing, or service can help your business capture market share. But sometimes a higher level of innovation is needed to break through the competitive clutter and transform a business - maybe even an industry. If you can find innovation that's disruptive you have the opportunity to dominate a market and make the rules, at least until someone else makes a cheaper or faster or smaller facsimile of your product or service.

There are many requirements for innovation, not the least of which is a process which takes you from concept to implementation. But how do you come up with a concept that nobody else has thought of?

At a conference last week I heard the term "Pluto thinking." The idea is that you need someone on your team who can come up with ideas that are so far out there that they might as well be on Pluto. They might not, at first blush, appear to be practical or implementable in any way. But ultimately the stretch provided by Pluto thinkers is the catalyst for other ideas that might go part of the way or even most of the way there.

Imagine if we never challenged the limitations we've got in our heads:

  • Back in the 1840s it was thought that anyone traveling thirty miles per hour would suffocate.
  • At the turn of the 20th century it was thought that no combination of materials could create a machine that would enable people to fly.
  • In the 1920's it was said that "the foolish idea of shooting at the moon is basically impossible."

The list goes on and on. We venerate those companies whose innovation changes the entire horizon for industries. Where would we be without our laptops, our notebooks, our smart phones, our mp3 players, or our digital television on large flat screens? Yet every day innovators whose ideas come from somewhere around Pluto are getting dismissed, pooh-poohed, considered wackos by their peers and/or managers.

What opportunities are you leaving on the table because you're ignoring or discounting your Pluto thinkers? How much is it costing you in customer loyalty, revenues and competitive advantage? Perhaps disruptive innovation is your company's potential strategic advantage. What can you do to unleash the power of Pluto thinking in your business?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Assumptions and chain reactions


Our assumptions create the lens through which we see the world - and nowhere is the impact more noticeable than in the chain reactions they cause in our interaction with other people. Notice the fans above - the first fan opens, which hits the lever on the second fan, the second fan opens and flips the lever opening the third fan.

When we receive a certain stimulus, whether it's something we see or something spoken to us, our assumptions (attitudes) kick in to help us interpret the stimulus. Our interpretation creates an emotional response, which then flavors our reaction to the stimulus. Depending upon whether our assumptions are a) correct or b) helpful we can find ourselves either generating positive, uplifting chains of interaction or ones that zap our energy and that of others with whom we relate.

Example One

I work in an office and am just completing work on a project when my boss comes in and looks over my shoulder. He makes a few suggestions for improvement. My assumption is that he never thinks I do anything right. So I feel angry and resentful. My response is a terse "Thanks for the input," and I go back to what I was doing. My reaction now causes the boss to think that I have a bad attitude. My assumptions have just created a negative chain reaction.

Example Two

It's the same scenario - I work in an office and am just completing work on a project when my boss comes in and looks over my shoulder. He makes a few suggestions for improvement. My assumption this time, however, is that he likes my work and wants to help me look good in the presentation. This time I feel recognized and encouraged, so I respond with, "Thank you for the input. Would you be willing to take a look at the rest of it and provide any other suggestions that might make it better?" This time my boss interprets my reaction as open and conscientious - I have just created a positive chain reaction.

Every participant in every transaction makes assumptions. So this means that good (or bad) feelings are multiplied and amplified as the string of interpretations, emotions and responses add fuel to the fire.

How to benefit from using this concept

Our assumptions are habits. They are also choices. If I choose to believe that people always have loving intentions toward me, I am going to be open to their input and less subject to the feelings of anger that create snippy retorts. When I respond to people in a less grumpy tone with open body language I reinforce a positive relationship with them. That creates a positive chain reaction in that they will interpret my actions and respond to me in kind.

This isn't a method that creates an instant change. When we're used to seeing people in a certain light our prior experiences with them color our interpretations of current interactions. But we can have a tremendous influence on the upward (or downward) trajectory of the relationship when we persist in choosing more productive assumptions.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Developing your superheroes


Do you have some performers who could very well be called everyday superheroes? They have high levels of competence AND high levels of commitment to your company and its goals. They are your potential replacements if you were to be promoted or were ready to take on a challenge of a whole new sort.

If you're giving your caped crusaders the bulk of your development attention, I have two things to say:

  • You're in the minority, and
  • Good for you, because investing time with them is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your company

It's quite easy to get distracted by the folks who aren't competent and/or who aren't committed to the company. Their mistakes or their "bad attitudes" are in your face, while your solid performers are continuing to move along without much care and feeding from you.

But if you continually ignore your highly competent, highly committed workers you'll eventually see their commitment flag. Without commitment their competence won't be at its peak. So you'll be unintentially contributing either to a fall in their performance, or to their departure for greener pastures.

Here are some ideas for keeping the superheroes flying:

  • Invest your time in talking with them about their goals and aspirations. Stay in touch with their victories by hearing about them first-hand.
  • Work with them on a development plan or career path exercise. They might not know that you have great ideas for their progression, and they might believe that they have to change ships in order to move to the next level.
  • Keep them informed. Even though they might be top performers they might feel as concerned as your average Joes are about current market conditions and their security.

You can't afford to have brain drain in your company right now. Although you can't control your superheroes' actions, you might just be the glue that holds their outstanding contributions inside your company.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ten reasons to teach your child music


musician and child
Originally uploaded by Vito Santoro


I'm very excited today because one of my brothers is playing at one of the Inaugural Balls - The Purple Ball. It got me thinking about the reasons why it's a good idea to teach your child to participate in music:

  1. When you sing a song to your child it's like teaching your young child a story. A song has a beginning, middle, and an end. This contributes to literacy, and it's a connection with you that will last a lifetime.
  2. Music contains patterns: octaves, thirds, keys, note values, etc. Learning to recognize patterns helps with math comprehension.
  3. Learning to read music is like learning a foreign language. Your child can translate all of those lines and dots into meaning. It's much easier to learn this language (like other languages) early in life than it is to wait for adulthood.
  4. Practicing an instrument builds responsibility. It also builds confidence that comes from seeing one's mastery grow.
  5. A good music teacher joins the village of people who will help your child grow and succeed. They are a mentor, sometimes a confidant, a cheerleader for your child.
  6. Playing music in a group builds teamwork and cooperation.
  7. Music is a link to our emotional selves, and your child will be able to express himself through music like no other medium. This can become especially helpful with the onset of the teenage years and there's a lot of emotional upheaval going on inside them.
  8. Participation in extracurricular music at school builds connection to school, which attracts your child to do well in their education.
  9. Groups like bands, orchestras, and choruses create a peer group of kids with shared interests and shared experiences. This helps your child feel like he or she fits in.
  10. Balancing homework, practice, and other activities teaches your child time management.

The rare few make millions with their music. But even if your child doesn't become the next Stevie Wonder, or Josh Groban, or Keith Richards (heaven forbid,) music is an avocation that can last them throughout their lives - into their eighties and beyond. And who knows? They might get a chance to play for a historic event and hobnob with celebrities!

(Look for my brother at the Purple Ball tonight. He'll be the trombone player with the clean tux and shiny shoes!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama week - thoughts and observations


This new chapter in U.S. History is fascinating to me on so many fronts:

  • Our new president will have been elected via a groundswell from the grassroots vs. a treasure chest from a collection of corporations.
  • American people have been able to look past their preconceptions about race to fulfill the dream that Martin Luther King dreamed about 40 years ago.
  • We are at a place in our economy and in our international affairs that faces in crowds of people shine with hopeful tears at the possibility of a leader who wants to listen (especially to those who disagree with him) and who knows what to do.
  • Obama is inspiring us, and we have been in desperate need of inspiration. We are thinking again about our higher ideals and the common good, rather than maintaining focus solely on our self-interest and immediate gratification.
  • We are looking at the lessons and the leaders from many points in our history and seeing how the issues are converging on our doorstep right now. We see that our new administration is taking these lessons seriously and intending to govern with the bigger context in mind.
  • We are rediscovering our own roles in making change rather than delegating it to the government.
  • We are remembering that we are, as Obama said, "The UNITED States of America," only this time it's not tragedy that's uniting us - it's possibility instead.

I join in hope with those shining faces I saw in the crowds in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. over the weekend. These next few days feel tremendously important and inspiring. Can it be that we are turning a corner into living out a higher form of ourselves, as individuals and as a nation?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Learners, vacationers and prisoners


prisoner
Originally uploaded by dubi feiner


A colleague of mine talks all the time about how he's worked with learners, vacationers, and prisoners - and he'd much rather work with the learners. Ditto. But we don't always have the opportunity to control the composition of the groups we develop. They come as they are, with hopes, drives, concerns, quirks and baggage in varying proportions. The key in being successful in developing people is to meet them where they are.

Learners

It would be great to be able to clone the learners. Some people are geared toward absorbing information and figuring out how to apply it. These folks are already in "drive." Application, of course, is the difference between training and developing. We can have a huge inventory of knowledge and skill, but it makes absolutely no difference if we can't take it out of our brains and move it to our hands and feet.

If the number of learners is small in proportion to the size of the total group you need to incorporate means by which they can stay motivated. Their pace of learning might be quicker (because they want to be there) and they may want or need some individualized attention to resist the downward pull of the prisoners.

Vacationers

Going to something sure beats being at your desk! Vacationers view participation in training and development as a respite from the daily grind (unless the trainer/facilitator is so boring that they move into the prisoner category.) I view vacationers as being in "neutral," with the potential to become strong contributors to the group. The key is to include fun in the process so you can

  • help it feel like a real vacation to keep them coming, and
  • more importantly, sneak up on them with some real learning

Prisoners

You can increase the likelihood that you'll create prisoners, folks in "reverse" going in, if you as a leader only provide training and development support for people who are messing up. Don't kid yourself. You can flavor it with honey, but they still know that you're singling them out for remedial attention.

Sometimes I wind up with prisoners because someone else made the decision for them to be there with me. Now it becomes my job to help get them out of reverse and at least into neutral. The means to do so is to focus on their personal goals and to provide tools for there to be a win-win scenario for the person and the company. Prisoners often aren't quick to open up. When I'm in a one-on-one situation I'll often call the question and say, "I get the impression that you don't really want to be here." I can't help them move forward as long as they're feeling pressure from my presence. I need to help them see me as their ally.

Wrap-up

No matter whether participants come into a process as learners, vacationers, or prisoners - they are coming to work with some sort of loving intention. It might be just a J.O.B. for some people, but they are still doing it for a reason. Relating to each participant as a whole person and not just as a corporate cog goes a long way toward building a successful process.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Real security by being your own boss


Information security
Originally uploaded by Micke-fi


On Maslow's hierarchy of needs safety and security are almost as basic as you can get. We aren't driven by much else if our fundamental needs aren't being met - social concerns don't pull us, we aren't trying to impress ourselves, and we're certainly not stretching ourselves for self-actualization when we're not feeling safe.

We can't control whether the market suddenly tanks and takes our 401K balance with it, or whether the employer we've served for 20 years decides that they can't afford to keep us any more. But what we can do is to work on building real security in our self-reliance and our value to others. I think one really good way to do it is to become your own boss.

Easy to say when you haven't just been jettisoned from the job you thought you'd have for the rest of your career. But think about it for a minute - you might have to learn some new skills, but you could be piloting your own boat. When you're running your own show nobody else but you decides how much money you'll make in the course of a year. Nobody else but you decides how heavy or light on operating expenses you'll be. And nobody else but you decides how far you'll go to satisfy a customer.

Being one's own boss might not be for everybody, but it might be for more of us than we think. I love working with owner operated businesses for a few reasons:

  • They're close to customers so they know what's going on with them
  • Among small businesses it's personal. That holds everyone to a higher standard of behavior.
  • Relationships with small businesses can be longstanding - there's less of a tendency toward the "flavor of the month."
  • Their rewards are in proportion to their results. Simple as that. And they have a great deal of influence over what their results are.
  • Small business owners have seen good times and not so good times that haven't been cushioned by a corporate cocoon of specialization. That makes them resilient, creative and well-rounded.

In my household we've seen what it's like to go through both fat and lean periods in working for ourselves. We've also experienced the vagaries of corporate life and the extent to which security there is a myth, even if it does mean that you get a regular paycheck while you're there. We decided years ago that we'll make our own security, thank you very much. Maybe that kind of real security is for you too....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Being open to the call


133 (+1) Ear Listen
Originally uploaded by century_boy_too


I was talking to a friend of mine last night who is getting ready for her second (or third, or fourth) act. (See yesterday's post for more on second acts.) One of the things she said intrigued me - she said she has some ideas but she's open to a call.

Those of us who embrace planning wholeheartedly might find this approach a bit uncomfortable. Wait and listen? To what?

My friend is a person who can do a lot of things. She has education, she has people skills, she has the kind of extroverted personality that can help her walk into a room and feel right at home. The challenge in being so multi-dimensional is that she doesn't have the benefit of focus by virtue of elimination. She doesn't have to stick to, for instance, brain jobs because she isn't good with her hands.

Right now she's releasing herself from the need to define, the need to control. She's listening. She's defined a general area of possibility and now she's letting it percolate for a while to see how the concept refines itself.

If you believe in the power of intuition you'll know that my friend has got internal criteria that will help her sort through her options without having to give them huge amounts of conscious thought. She probably won't use sheets of paper jotting down pros and cons of the different potential directions she can take. If she's being still and really listening to herself she'll discover her perfect next move.

One of the challenges in taking this approach is that your call might not shout, "Hey you!" over the din of your frantic pace. It might whisper in your ear instead. You need to allow time and space for the message to get through to you. So if you know it's time for a change but don't know what the change will be, give yourself some open time to just sit. Or do a repetitive activity that doesn't take a lot of thought if you can't keep still and let your mind wander.

You know more than you might realize about what's good for you. Take time to listen to yourself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What's your second act?


Clown 2
Originally uploaded by renewleeds


We all tend to get wrapped up in what is right now, and in who we have been. "I'm a lawyer," or "I'm an engineer," or "I'm a stay at home mom" are identities that we wear. You know that all of these are temporary. And they're not the sum of the person you are. They are just garments that you wear for a while.

You might be getting tired of your first act even as you're reading this post. But have you given thought to what your second act might be? According to the U.S. Department of Labor the average person changes careers 3-5 times. Some of us choose these changes voluntarily, but right now some of us are having change thrust upon us with downsizing and plant closings. Whether you're doing the choosing or someone else has chosen the end of act one for you, a second act can reinvigorate your life. You have a lot of options. So let's stimulate your thinking with a few questions:

  • What things do you do well? You can count tasks for which you've been trained, and also natural talents that you might not be using in your current line of work.
  • What things do you choose to do now for which you aren't being paid? Would you like to do them more and figure out how to get paid for doing them?
  • Are you willing and can you afford to get more schooling to prepare for your second act? If you can't afford it on your own do you have some other alternatives available to you?
  • Do you prefer to work with people, or do you like to be on your own?
  • Do you want a different job, where you can concentrate on a specific function? Or are you considering starting your own business, where you not only perform the work but you market the work, keep the records, etc. as well?
  • Where do you have strong contacts?
  • How important is predictability for you? Are you relying on a specific amount of cash flow per month to support your lifestyle?
  • Is it important to you to stay located where you are, or are you looking for a change of scenery?
  • What are your personal stakeholders saying to you? The interests and concerns of spouses, children, aging parents, etc. are all valid factors in a second act decision.

Consider a second act. This isn't the end - it's another beginning if you allow it to be.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Living without time pressure


I can't tell you how many times someone has said to me, "Well, you know I work best under pressure." That's code - they've actually procrastinated, but think that the adrenaline rush that comes from the fear of not being done on time is benefiting them. It might be helping them focus - that's what our fight or flight system is designed to do - but waiting until the last minute has some potential negative consequences:

  • Cortisol, the stress hormone, has multitudes of physiological impacts (from about.com,) including:
  1. Impaired cognitive performance
  2. Suppressed thyroid function
  3. Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
  4. Decreased bone density
  5. Decrease in muscle tissue
  6. Higher blood pressure
  7. Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
  8. Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of , higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!
  • Less opportunity for things to go less than perfectly without missing your deadline.
  • Less opportunity to collaborate with colleagues (investment of time to get their input now helps with implementation later)
  • Stretching of your work hours into your personal hours

Using goals instead of time pressure

You can enjoy the feeling of heightened awareness and of testing yourself - without putting yourself and your results at risk - by setting goals. These are targets that you create based upon thinking the project through ahead of time and estimating how much time is necessary for each action step, considering current and potential obstacles and creating solutions to them before you start.

When you focus your energies around goals you can quantify your achievement as you reach each of the milestones in your plan. If you're a person who really likes to stretch, do so by setting your targets that way. But keep the more conservative expectations for times when other people need your work product. Better to underpromise and overdeliver than to promise the moon and fall short.

Beware overscheduling

Some of our self-imposed time pressure comes from overscheduling. We seem to think that every group will cease to survive without our personal contribution of time and energy. We overschedule because we feel good by meeting other people's expectations of us. Or we're just generally enthusiastic and want to help. The fact is that we can't fit it all in - or we run the rat race until we get sick and are forced to lay down for a few days.

Know your purpose

When you don't know your purpose it's not too hard to be led hither and yon for externally driven commitments that bear no relationship to your reason for being. On the other hand, when you have an articulated personal purpose you can sort the opportunities by how closely they align with it. Keep the ones that help you fulfill your purpose and jettison (or say no in the first place) to the opportunities that aren't a match.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Looking for some inspiration?


Here are some great quotes on inspiration to get your day going:

  • Inspiration comes of working every day. Charles Baudelaire
  • Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind. Johannes Brahms
  • A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all. Rita Mae Brown
  • The inspiration to write? Perhaps it's not so much inspiration, as a NEED to write. I get itchy and guilty and dissatisfied when I haven't written for a while. Ideas come to me and need to be written down. Eric Brown
  • Method is much, technique is much, but inspiration is even more. Benjamin Cardozo
  • We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival. Winston Churchill
  • When inspiration does not come, I go for a walk, go to the movie, talk to a friend, let go... The muse is bound to return again, especially if I turn my back! Judy Collins
  • Inspiration is God making contact with itself. Ram Dass

Have a good one!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to handle slow payments


Phone call 144/365 (Year 2)
Originally uploaded by GeorgieR


When the going gets tougher we all have to manage cash more closely. That goes without saying. But money (especially shortage of money) can be such an emotional topic that it can create misunderstandings among customers and suppliers. Here are some ideas for you to consider no matter what side of the transaction you're on.

If you're the supplier -

  • Remember that your primary goal is to maintain customer loyalty, so the way in which you handle a payment situation is important to your ongoing relationship. Think longer term when deciding what to do.
  • Bill promptly so both you and your customer have the maximum time to resolve the cash transaction without hardship.
  • Provide alternative payment methods so they can access credit cards if they need to. Perhaps extended terms with several payments can also be an option. After all, some cash now is better than no cash.
  • Know what your accounts receivable are and review them regularly.
  • Implement a policy for following up on slow payments. Late notices might be called for after a certain timeframe and a follow-up phone call after a longer time frame.
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions about the reasons why you haven't received payment. It might have been sent, or there might be severe extenuating circumstances that you would willingly consider. Slow pay doesn't necessarily mean that your customer is a deadbeat.
  • Keep track of your last conversation with your customer and the extent to which they followed through on whatever commitments they made to you. Once a week or once a commitment is broken is the maximum frequency with which you want to contact them.
  • If you sell business to business and you think you need to be stronger in your overall customer qualification and collection efforts, you can participate with Dun & Bradstreet by sharing payment histories. Get more information at this site.
  • Maintain a conservative cash position (keep more bucks in the bank) so your business isn't at risk from several slower paying customers.

If you're the customer

  • Communication with your supplier is the key. Be proactive in contacting them if you have a known situation that is creating a cash crunch - don't wait until they contact you about your late payment.
  • Check into alternative payment methods. Even though credit is tight right now there might be a solution.
  • If you absolutely can't pay the whole amount you owe right now, ask whether you can pay under extended terms. If the supplier agrees to your request be sure to fulfill all promises you make.
  • Your supplier is one of your partners in your business. They have a vested interest in keeping you as a customer, and you stand to benefit if you maintain a relationship that's built on honesty and doing what you say you will do.

Overall, tough times are the test of your relationships with your customers and suppliers. If you handle them well you and your business will benefit over the long haul.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Balancing capacity and control


Remote-Controlled Robot
Originally uploaded by Jean Snow


When companies are working toward growth, there is a balance that needs to be struck between building capacity and maintaining control over quality. This is particularly the case with professional services, where clients are not buying a readily mass-produced widget. They're buying a skill set and/or a particular style that matches their preferences and meets their needs.

Some professional services folks are like musicians, actors or artists - they go from project to project, constantly auditioning and reinventing their client base. Yes, there is the opportunity for repeat business, but in some cases it's more residual than cumulative. So in the desire to avoid missing any opportunity (and to avoid the roller coaster of the sales-servicing cycle) it can be tempting to go gonzo and take everything that comes along.

Once overbooking occurs, there are two risks:

  • There's not adequate time to do the best quality job
  • There's not time for marketing, so you've pretty well ensured that you'll have a cash flow dip later while you're back in the sales mode when the projects are complete

Some professional services practitioners will even slow down their sales efforts out of concern that they won't be able to handle all of the projects should they all "hit." So if one or more don't ultimately pan out, they wind up billing less than they want and underperforming in their revenue.

There are several potential solutions to this problem, but only the practitioner can decide how far he or she wants to go with them:

  • Subcontract the work - With respect to the quality control concern, experience or references can help to reduce the risk of hiring someone that won't perform.
  • Develop strategic alliances - There might be other professionals nearby who operate in a slightly different niche, but with whom longer term mutually beneficial relationships can be built. Each can include the other in their marketing, and actually expand the profile of their own company while building capacity for performing services.
  • Refine your process - Oftentimes the variables in performance come from variation in process, or missing pieces of a process that require the person onsite to do his/her own creative thinking about how to handle the project. In the best case scenario you've brought in someone whose style is compatible with yours, but if your need for control is high or their development level is yet unproven, lay more of the project out in detail and follow up.
  • Join a professional association - Many of these groups abide by standards or codes of conduct that will allow you to identify potential temporary (or not so temporary) servicing partners that will perform within a satisfactory quality range. The association might also sponsor certification processes that will give you additional assurance about the quality and/or training level of the practitioner.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Your gift for today - the present


Holiday Gift Packaging
Originally uploaded by shopbub


So you think the holidays are over? Back to the grind and all that? If you're like my daughter you might already be looking forward to your birthday, because after all, the birthday is the gift-receiving occasion second only to Christmas for her. No more gifts for a while.

Now wait a minute. You did get a gift today, and so did I, and so did she. It's the gift of today, and you can do whatever you want with it - well, almost anything. You can't return it. Your day is yours to

  • Get re-engaged in your work
  • Return to your routine
  • Do something that you promised yourself you'd do
  • Do something for somebody else
  • Think positive thoughts
  • Change something, just for today
  • Clear the decks
  • Get one victory, large or small, under your belt

We approach our gifts in so many different ways, depending upon our assumptions about them. The gift of today is no different. You might be thinking:

  • That package doesn't look very big
  • I wonder what's inside?
  • I never get what I really want
  • Oh boy, I love surprises!

Sometimes we don't know just how great a gift is going to be unless we open it and try on whatever's inside. Sometimes it doesn't look all that great when we first see it, but once we have it we realize that it's just what we needed.

Fortunately for us, the gift of the present isn't finished when we open it. It's a gift that we help to create. So let's make today the kind of today that we always wanted. And then tomorrow we'll have another gift to create for ourselves, and the next day another, and another...

Imagine the bounty that we can give ourselves if we fully use the gift that everybody receives - the present.