When a “Casual Comment” is Anything But

Stacked WoodLet’s say you’ve recently become a manager.  No doubt, you’re happy with your achievement.  You have a lot more authority to make decisions and to influence others.  Has it occurred to you yet that there could be a downside to your authority?

Kerry Patterson, in the VitalSmarts newsletter, has written an excellent cautionary tale he calls “the captain’s fireplace”.  You can read the original story for yourself, but here’s a quick summary…  The captain of a military base notices some scrap wood in a dumpster and calls to make sure no one else wants it before he grabs some for his fireplace.

The ensign he talks to offers to find out about the scrap wood and calls the chief of supply to make sure it’s okay.  The warrant officer makes a call, and so on, until the captain’s wife eventually calls to thank them for the wood.   Outside in the supply yard, people are grumbling about how they had to cut brand new boards to fit the captain’s fireplace, when they couldn’t afford other vital supplies.

What happened? Continue reading

Are We Forgetting How to Discover?

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Have we become a society that doesn’t know how to discover anymore?  When I go online, Google serves up what I’m looking for before I really understand that I’m looking for it.  It’s creepy, and thrilling.

I just watched “Her” the other day.  (I know I’m running behind, but I have a boyfriend who only uses the cool dark confines of a movie theater to catch a nap.  As a result, I often fall prey to the beckoning Redbox kiosk that sits patiently at the end of the checkout inside my local Safeway.)  In the movie, the Siri-like voice on the cell phone anticipates needs – a richer experience than Google offers in my search results, but similar.
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Want People to Help You? Learn to Respond Well…

Gratitude SignWe all need a little help sometimes.  There are moments where all it takes is a small assist.  Other times, you need lots of resources to get you out of a dark, deep hole.  Sometimes, it feels like help is hard to find.

On the other hand, have you ever noticed that there are some people who always have a long line of people willing to help?  They don’t need help very often, but when they do, lots of assistance shows up.  There’s a reason for that… It’s all in the way they respond.

You might need professional support, money, a borrowed item, a hide-out, or advice.  Maybe you asked for help, maybe you didn’t.  Regardless of the type of help you need, there are only a few basic responses for colleagues, friends, family and even total strangers.

Let’s take these one at a time… 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

Bully Me Not: A Second Take on Amazon, Hachette & The Rest of Us

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Today’s blog at The New York Times mentions that Stephen Colbert has joined the dog pile of voices condemning Amazon.  The dispute started when – during negotiations to give Hachette Book Group a bigger percentage of ebook revenue – Amazon started to intentionally limit the availability and sale of books published by Hachette.

The other day, I posted about this, remarking that the bigger problem isn’t how Amazon is addressing Hachette, but how book publishers in general take too big a slice of the profits from ebooks, much of which I believe should go to authors.

I’ll admit, I have an overdeveloped sense of fairness.  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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“Bee” The Change You Want to See

Bee with Clover

My grandfather kept bees.  By the time I was a child, they had sold the farm and moved to a 2-acre parcel where my grandmother kept a kitchen garden and my grandfather kept bees.

A few years ago, when we started hearing about colony collapse disorder, I couldn’t help but think about my grandfather’s bees.  I wondered vaguely if the problem might be coming from the industrialization of beekeeping operations.  Maybe the variety of backyard beekeeping made for happier bees.  There is a remarkable small company in Oregon – Bee Thinking – whose owners must have wondered the same thing.

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Creating Great Telecommuting

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Have you ever fantasized about telecommuting?  Imagine it…  Email from your laptop on the beach…  Conference calls in your pajamas…  Writing code all night in the south of France, to be able to sightsee during the day…  Of course you have.

Now, let’s ask another question:  Have you ever fantasized about managing a group of telecommuters?  Barking dogs in the background… Sleep-choked voices on early morning calls…  Suspicious absences when deadlines are looming…  No replies to your email… No, of course you haven’t.

While nearly everyone has dreamt of telecommuting, almost no one relishes the idea of managing remote workers.  Not long after Melissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo!, she banned the practice.  Ford, by trying to reduce remote management issues, became party to a lawsuit  when a worker claimed that a medical condition requires her to telecommute.

“Telecommuting” is a modern management problem. Continue reading

What I Believe…

Sun and CloudsSomething is coming together these days.  Last year, we got a new pope, one who is shocking the world with simple messages of tolerance and compassion.  Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that it is okay for town meetings to include prayer.  I’m feeling the rumblings of something, breezing through the social fabric.  It’s like a gathering storm of faith, after a long drought where intellectuals disdained religion.  So I think it’s time to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a long time… What I believe.

This is not the most personal thing I’ve ever written.  But it is (so far) the most personal thing I’ve ever posted here. Continue reading

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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