Category Archives: Efficiency

The Dark Side of Process Efficiency (Part 2)

New Orleans MintI’m an efficiency expert.  My raison d’etre is to make businesses run better, faster, cheaper.  I love the work, which is challenging and rewarding, in more ways than one.  But in recent years, I see a darker side to what I do.

Efficiency increases the divide between employees who are capable of innovation and those who merely follow instructions.  In an earlier post, I mentioned three examples of how automation is taking away jobs, faster than any of us ever imagined, and in a wider variety of professions and industries.

At the present time, the easiest tasks to automate are the ones that don’t require the ability to think on your feet, or reason out problems, or innovate.  We’ve heard before that the drive toward automation and efficiency is increasing the divide between the educated and uneducated workforce.  The thought is that there are going to be fewer jobs in the middle income strata. Continue reading

The Dark Side of Process Automation (Part 1)

Robot FactoryMy avocation is process efficiency.  I spend my time helping businesses come up with ways to do things smarter, faster, better.  My teams think it a big success to decrease the time it takes to do something by 50% or more.  Yet… I’m concerned about how all this efficiency, including automation and “right-sourcing”, are affecting the long-term prospects for human employment. Continue reading

How Process Simplicity Could Reinvent Late-Night Television

Netflix Late Night June 2014

Finally, the first woman has landed a late night comedy talk show on a major network.    So, is it CBS? ABC?   Comedy Central?  No, it’s Netflix.

On Thursday, Netflix announced that they would be “reimagining the late night talk show for the on-demand generation,” with an offering by Chelsea Handler.  The show won’t start until 2016, and some industry watchers have pondered the technical difficulty Netflix will face in broadcasting a same-day show.

Ridiculous… Netlfix has two years to solve a technical issue that has already been solved.  There are two technical processes in play here, both of which already exist.  For decades, traditional networks have been taping in the afternoon, to broadcast their late-night talk offerings in the evening.   For several years, Netlfix has been turning “canned” content into streaming content.

All they have to do now is stitch the two processes together… And speed up the resulting process so that it can take place in a few hours, instead of several days. Continue reading

Where’s the Value in E-Books?

Old Book Spines

There’s an interesting scuffle going on today between Hachette Book Group and Amazon.   In a nutshell, Hachette is trying to negotiate greater profits on sales of e-books.  Amazon is trying to keep more margin for themselves, and as part of their negotiating strategy, has supposedly limited distribution of some Hachette books through their warehouses.

There has been an outcry from the general public about Amazon’s tactics.  We don’t think it’s fair that they interfere with customer orders to provide a negotiating point.  (To be fair, I just took a look at Amazon and did not see evidence that they were holding up order flow on the bestsellers I checked.)  In the media, Hachette is spinning a tale of themselves as “David” (approximately $2.8B in revenue) to Amazon’s “Goliath” (approximately $78.1B in revenue).

The fight between Hachette and Amazon is not what this post is about…

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Conflicting Process Goals: Is it You or THEM?

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What’s the biggest problem affecting your business process?  I can tell you from vast experience that most people answer this question with a “they” statement.  Every time I help an organization with a business process, conflicting goals arise.

Consider the following:

  • We could have finished the code if THEY (the customer) had stopped changing the acceptance criteria.
  • The reason we’re behind on billing customers is that THEY (the sales team) don’t bother to send us the invoice details.
  • I could sell more product if THEY (the management team) could approve exceptions more quickly.
  • We could improve quality if THEY (customers, sales, managers) would stop asking us to “rush” something through the production line.

There is seldom just one goal for every process.   Let’s say we are creating a consumer product.  Our goals might include:  product features, secure shipping, timely payment, delivery speed, and/or quality.   Each of the stakeholders who work on the process – to design, source, produce, deliver and warranty a product – have different views of which goal is most important.  To manufacturing, product quality is the primary concern.  To sales, delivering the product in a timely fashion is key.

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The Key to Life? Know How to Catch Up

marathon yellow

Life is busy.  Twitter, email, online media, television, online social networking and face-to-face social networking.  I don’t know about you, but I have four email addresses and two Twitter accounts.  I have two phone numbers with voice mail and text.  I have accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.  I have dozens of actual friends and sometimes I spend actual time with them.

I do what I can to consolidate the streams, but it’s still a lot of information, flowing in each day.  Over time, I’ve learned a critical lesson:  “keeping up” is overrated.  We all step out if the information stream from time to time.  We go on vacation, we get on airplanes, we have the flu.  Sometimes we even just stop paying attention because we’re tired.  What successful people do better than the rest of us is to catch up more efficiently.

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Want to Make an Ad Compelling? Make it Disappear

Disappearing Billboard

I started my career as a journalist.  Even now, I love looking back over the articles I’ve written.  I like that people can still find that content and that it might be meaningful to them days or weeks or months or years later.  As a result, I’m not sure I get Snapchat.  Or maybe, I’m not sure I want to get Snapchat.

Earlier this week, Henry Blodget made a prediction that Snapchat’s revenue play is going to be…. wait for it… advertising.

Hmmm… that’s a bit anticlimactic… Continue reading

The Self-Motivating Power of Deadlines

Ever have a day when you don’t have any deadlines?  If it only happens occasionally, you’ll feel blessed to have a day to catch up on a few things.  But there’s a hidden lesson here:  without client- or boss-driven deadlines, it’s often hard to get started.

Deadlines make procrastination less likely.  Continue reading

The Sad Personal Truth of Big Data

We’ve been talking about big data for quite some time.  In conversations with sales and marketing professionals, I have spent more than a little effort discussing how “big data” is much more nuanced than just predicting sales.  (Although it’s really good for that.)

I read a piece on Wired today about the Netflix algorithm.  It’s a discussion about how Netflix uses data from your viewing history to predict what you will want to watch next.  In the article, Carlos Gomez-Uribe, VP of product innovation for Netflix says, “A lot of people tell us they often watch foreign movies or documentaries. But in practice, that doesn’t happen very much.”

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The Speed of Knowledge

Genetic Code June 2013In 1987, the US Department of Energy announced a 15-year project to map the human genome, with a projected start date of 1990.  By 2000, scientists working on the project submitted a draft of the human genome, and submitted the final fully-mapped genome by April of 2003.

Yesterday, Eric Lander spoke about the project at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival, illuminating the stunning progress that has been made in the decade that has passed since we completed the first map of a single human being’s genome.

That’s what I want to write about here.  Not just the progress of this particular scientific achievement, but the exponential speed of progress when a community is focused on a goal.  And the economics society experiences as products and services move from invention to mass production. Continue reading