Friday, August 11, 2017

Thought Leadership and Business

Two of the four areas of Strategic Simplicitythat I help my clients with are market and decision simplicity. This means making it easy for customers to understand your business and decide whether to do business with you. 

This is important because we are no longer in the Information Age—we are in the Attention Scarcity Age.  Everyone is bombarded by messages and drowning in information. 

Nobody wants to sit through boring commercials or complicated spiels, but they will watch "infotainment"—non-promotional content that both entertains and informs. 

This is what thought leadership is all about. It means considering yourself as an expert, and creating content ( articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc.) that provokes, informs, educates, and entertains your audience—as opposed to simply creating advertising.

The content you produce and give away should have only one goal: adding value to the person consuming it.  It should never directly self-promote. Ideally, it should be so valuable that your audience would have gladly paid for it.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How Important is User Design and Simplicity in Software?

I am a management consultant who specializes in the four areas of strategic simplicity: market simplicity, decision simplicity, user simplicity, and operational simplicity.

How important is user simplicity / design, especially with software?  

It can change an entire corporate strategy.

I consulted and worked for a large multinational bank that developed an IT strategy to develop it's own web portal—which would eventually serve as the user interface for all of its legacy applications.  They even hired away some key executives from a prominent travel website, who were responsible for the travel site's state of the art portal design.

Around the same time, this bank entered the Chicago area and bought a local bank 1/10 its size. The larger bank expected to shut down the smaller bank's technology group and move customers to it's platform.

It turned out that the small local bank's software was rated much higher than the larger bank's in a survey conducted by a prominent banking magazine.  Their user interface was so good that the larger bank had to do an about-face with its strategy.

They ended up scrapping plans for its own portal, and they ended up shutting down the larger bank's software and switching to the smaller bank's platform.  The newly hired key portal executives ended up leaving, and the smaller bank's technology executives (who thought they would lose their jobs) ended up running the larger bank's tech operations.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Six Steps For Streamlining Business Success

1. Focus on results / outputs, not inputs or processes.

2. Treat co-workers / internal customers as well as external customers.

3. Focus on 80% success—not perfection.

4. Continually raise the bar on providing value to customers.

5. Focus your efforts on your best 20% of customers.

6. Use micro projects to continually test / fail / iterate new forms of value.

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Society for the Advancement of Consulting" August 2017 Press Release

August 1, 2017
The SAC® Release

Businesses Find Success Doesn’t Take a Vacation

EAST GREENWICH, RI—The summer months can be a great time to focus on business building activities if businesses stay focused, according to The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC).

Success is Always in Season
“As a global supply chain consultant, what is summer in the U.S. can be the opposite season for your customers, suppliers and supply chain partners,” points out Lisa Anderson, known as The Manufacturing Business TransformerSM and president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., Claremont, CA.  “We find that our clients often-times have more success by increasing focus when everyone else is taking a time out and vice-versa.

“Always be prepared for success. Better yet, plan for it. We find that those who are focused on business objectives will achieve them regardless of the season. With that said, also plan in time to recuperate and strategize about what’s next. Just don’t plan it around someone else’s notion of the appropriate season. Keep the global nature of the end-to-end supply chain in mind, and proactively plan for success and downtime,” said Anderson.

Make All Legs of the Relay Count
Sports enthusiast and manufacturing operations expert Rebecca Morgan, President of Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc. in Cleveland, OH, reminds us companies can learn from track relay teams when it comes to looking at the fiscal year. “A relay team puts their best starter—the one that will NOT false start—in the first position.  But too many businesses start the year slowly, not yet having strategies and priorities clearly defined.

 “In a relay, the 2nd runner is typically the fastest sprinter. Many businesses are picking up speed during the second stretch, but not operating at peak performance.  The relay team will have the most determined runner—the one that will NOT be defeated—run last. 

“None of us would invest in a company that starts slowly, begins to pick up speed, but then slows down again in the summer and in the 4th quarter. No business can accept the concept of a ‘summer slowdown’ any more than it should accept a slow start or a slow finish,” Morgan concluded.

Perfect Time to Work ON the Business
“The slow summer months are perfect for working on your business,” advises Praveen Puri, expert in Strategic Simplicity and president of Puri Consulting LLC. “Employees have the opportunity to take a step back from day-to-day activities, strip away unessential activity, and instead focus on achieving key objectives.

“The result could be entering the fall with a leaner business, unencumbered by the unnecessary processes and complexity that act as barriers to success and excellence, ” Puri said.

As Farmers Respect The Seasons, So Should Executives.
“It would be ridiculous for a farmer to ignore the change of seasons,” says Alan Willett, a leading expert in the business of technology and author of the book, Leading the Unleadable. “Employees and customers also do different things during different seasons.”

“This varies with the business and its location in the world. Exceptional executives have a good sense of those rhythms. For example, one executive puts together intense planning events, which are followed with outdoor fun for the families as well,” Willett said.

Maintain Engagement
"The best practice is to, at a minimum, hold a weekly 15-minute stand up meeting to remind the team of priorities and identify impediments to achieving previously identified objectives,” says Dave Gardner of, a firm focused on making the complex simple around people, process and technology.

“If the team doesn't believe the executive is engaged with their priorities, rest assured, the team will not be engaged," Gardner said.

Summertime Reflections for Mindful Leaders
Dr. Maynard Brusman, a consulting psychologist, executive coach, and emotional intelligence/mindful leadership expert, notes  “a variety of events occur during the summer months that make it difficult to continue the progress on objectives gained during the first half of the year. These events can result in company executives accomplishing less than they would like during the summer months.

 The slower summer months can provide an opportunity to focus on the health and well-being of both the business and its people. Everyone needs time for rest and renewal to reignite their energy.

Dr. Brusman advises his executive coaching clients to “reflect on how they are growing as a mindful leader inspiring their people with a compelling purpose. Mindful leaders know the ‘why’ of what they are passionate in achieving. They have a growth mindset whether the times are fast or slow.”

Use Vacation As a Time To Recharge
“Pack big questions in your mental suitcases when you vacation,” advises Karen Eber Davis, president of a Sarasota, Florida firm that helps businesses improve their income growth and author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams.

“What might we do to increase our footprint? What partners can launch our business to the next level? Where are our best growth opportunities? Let questions like these bubble on your backburner while you wait at airports, drive across the country, hike, rest, and swim. 

“Your answers will thrust you forward on your key objectives. Do more than maintaining focus this summer; leap ahead,” she concluded.

Plan Now for a Strong 2018
Summer is the time to focus on planning and executing the marketing activities that will lead to a strong start to the next fiscal year, according to Linda Popky, president of Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic marketing firm Leverage2Market Associates, and author of the book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing That Matters.

“This is a great time to review your current strategy, see what’s working and what needs to be tweaked, and then put together a strong plan to finish the year on a high note and launch a great 2018,” according to Popky.

“Momentum is critical in building brand and market buzz. The old practice of stop-and-start doesn’t allow marketing efforts to build the momentum that carries you forward in the future,” she said.

Know What’s Going on In Your Business
“Summer and vacations (yours and others) can be distracting, but only if we allow them to be,” said SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD. “If you want to truly enjoy your own ‘downtime,’ then make sure you’re confident and secure about what’s going on in your business. Otherwise, neither work nor pleasure will feel complete.”

About SAC
The Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) is an international association of consulting professionals who subscribe to an industry code of ethics and have provided evidence of significant consulting results among their clients. For more information, please go to, write to, or call 401/886-4097.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Zen, Simplicity, and Design

It doesn't matter what you want to design: software, hardware, furniture, or a business process.

You can benefit from a philosophy of zen and simplicity:

1. To achieve enlightenment and relief from suffering, Zen teaches detachment.  In design, we can apply detachment to escape the specifics of a situation, and design a better, more universal solutions that can be re-used.  Abstract. Simplify. Generalize.

2.  Zen teaches the concept of the Beginner's Mind—see things with fresh eyes.  In design, this means to start from 0, remove as many preconceptions as you can.

3. Zen value of emptiness.   Self-imposed restrictions and constraints increase elegance and economy.  Keep trying to make your design smaller, more minimal, with less parts—until you can't take anything away.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Six Causes of Productivity Loss at Large Corporations

1. Conference calls where too many callers are multi-tasking and not paying attention.  When they are asked a question, they need information to be repeated because they weren't listening the first time.

2. Internal applications which are slow and do not have well-designed interfaces.  IT departments tend to devote the best resources to customer-facing (external) applications, but give too little importance to internal ones.

3. Overkill on documentation.  Forced to create large, formal documents which are then filed away.  Where as, a less formal one page document or spreadsheet would actually be used and consulted more often.

4. Not enough up-to-date communication between important groups on a project.

5. Roles not clearly defined.

6. Gaps—important tasks not assigned to a specific team.