Friday, February 23, 2018
Thursday, February 22, 2018
As a consultant, I find these three areas as the biggest cause of business waste:
1. Meetings - Inevitably, meetings in organizations become inefficient, dragging on affairs. Why?
a. Managers focus on inputs (bureaucracy) vs. outputs (customer value). They equate meetings with accomplishment.
b. Over-scheduled Managers send subordinates who can't make decisions.
c. Risk adverse employees continually rehash discussions rather than commit to taking action.
2. Documentation - While documenting procedures are important, companies fail in this area because:
a. Over-documenting—even trivial procedures are formally documented.
b. Over-complicated formats—resulting in the actual task being easier than its documentation. This causes project delays.
c. Documents tend to be officially stored on overcrowded servers, making it difficult for employees to retrieve.
3. Failure Work - Work is not done right the first time and needs to be redone because:
a. The outcome and/or process wasn't originally communicated properly.
b. The proper resources (people, time, budget) weren't originally sufficiently allocated.
c. Subordinates did not understand, but were afraid to ask questions.
I wrote this month's column on Grubhub's deal with Taco Bell and KFC is evidence of two new trends in restaurant technology.
Last week, I received one of the biggest honors in the field of consulting. I was one of several outstanding global consultants from diverse disciplines who was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame on February 15 at a ceremony at The Bernardus Inn, Carmel, California conducted by Alan Weiss, PhD, the globally-acclaimed “consultant’s consultant.” Criteria for membership in this elite group include: • Serving as an exemplar to others in the profession. • Manifesting the highest levels of integrity, ethics, and accountability. • Contributing intellectual capital to the consulting profession. • Engaging in continuing, challenging, personal and professional development.
Monday, February 12, 2018
As a business consultant and specialist in simplicity/productivity, I've worked with many fast-growing clients to create SOPs.
1. Why SOPs:
If operations and knowledge aren't written down, then they will live in the heads of a few, key employees. This results in those employees being overworked while other employees are underutilized due to lack of knowledge.
SOPs should first be used to create those processes which are used 80% of the time during the workday. After that, the less common (usually more complex) tasks can be written down as they occur.
3. How To Get Started:
Have the person who is currently knowledgable of the task write down the steps as they are actually performing the task. This way, they are less likely to leave out any steps. Then, the next time the same task needs to be done, a new person should do the task while following the SOP, with the expert observing. This will help them streamline the process and discover any missing steps.
One important thing about SOPs, that I have learned from some of my clients, is that the SOP should be written simply, and be easily accessible to all necessary employees.
I once had a bank as a client who recorded SOPs in a formal, wordy format (with unnecessary details) and stored it on a crowded internal network. People didn't use it because it was much easier to ask people informally than to locate and read through the entire document.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Serving as an innovation consultant for a recent large client, I met a lot of resistance. The product/sales side was very interested in innovative new products/services that they could offer their customers, to be more competitive within their industry. The IT division, on the other hand, put up a lot of resistance. They prided themselves on stability, and were afraid of making changes to the system. They also wanted to focus their resources on upgrading existing systems. On the other hand, they also considered themselves to be the "innovation leaders" of the company, and didn't want outside consultants or groups talking or promoting innovation. We finally reduced their resistance by reminding them that they are critical partners, and would always have an important role in innovation. We also told them that they need to see themselves as "facilitators of innovation", rather than having to innovate themselves. They should think of themselves as an "internal cloud services" start-up that enables the rest of the company to create solutions for their customers.
As a business/technology consultant, I'm seeing these 3 trends among my clients:
1. More portable workspaces, where units within companies use their own cloud-based tools, rather than what IT provides them. IT simply provides a secure interface for them to access company systems/data.
2. More adoption of AR (augmented reality) through glasses and phone apps, to allow employees to work in hybrid physical/digital spaces.
3. More exploration of using blockchain technology to track financial transactions and to track products through the supply chain. This will especially be used more for tracing food recalls back to their sources and for proving eco-friendly and ethical sourcing.
Productivity tips I learned from Alan Weiss (@BentleyGTCSpeed):
1. Get a paper calendar planner that shows each month at a glance.
2. Forget work-life balance,use calendar to track both work/personal.
3. Don't make to-do list—treat tasks as appointments & schedule on calendar.
Friday, February 2, 2018
I contributed to this "Society for the Advancement of Consulting" Press Release:
People today are thirsty for ease, a slower pace, and less chaos. I think it's a reaction to our times, which I called the "Attention Scarcity Age". We have left the Information Age. Now, we are drowning in information and big data. We tweet in sound bites and rush around, always on call. This is one of the reasons that Strategic Simplicity℠ is so important for businesses today. Your customers, employees, and suppliers are all overworked and overwhelmed. You are fighting to attract their attention and loyalty. One of the best ways is through incorporating simplicity throughout your business. I help my clients with 4 types of simplicity: market simplicity, decision simplicity, user simplicity, and operational simplicity.
As the owner of a solo consulting firm, I'm an entrepreneur myself and also work with other small businesses. As I learned from my mentor Alan Weiss, the hard truth about being an entrepreneur is that, no matter what product or service you provide, your main business is marketing (not sales).
Especially for services, cold calling doesn't really work, since we are in the Attention Scarcity Age. People are bombarded with pitches, emails, social media posts, etc.
Somehow, entrepreneurs need to break out of the noise and attract prospects to come to them. The insidious thing is that this issue doesn't manifest itself right away. Most entrepreneurs have enough connections that they can attract customers for a year or two. But, then business starts to dry up and they find that they need to attract people outside their circle.
This is the hard truth of entrepreneurship: either build a pipeline to keep providing prospects, or else suffer feast or famine.
What I love best about being an entrepreneur is that I control the training budget, and can pay for any training I feel will increase my value to my clients and give me a great ROI.
When I was in the corporate world, even in management, training was one of the first things that were cut to reduce expenses and I felt that, rather than invest in keeping employee's skills updated, corporations were willing to simply replace them when new skills were needed.
So, even if you are an employee, in this case it pays to think of yourself as an entrepreneur. Be willing to invest in yourself, and keep your skills relevant.
Don't let your career stagnate. Look for opportunities to reinvent what you do.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
My Strategic Simplicity℠ framework helps leaders to dramatically improve their businesses.
Here are the components:
1. Market Simplicity - What big idea or theme do you want your business known for? Even if you can do more, what one thing do you want to focus your marketing on?
2. Decision Simplicity - How easy is it for prospects to decide and evaluate among your offerings? Is it easy for them to see the value of your products compared to those of competitors? Does your product portfolio overlap and cause confusion?
3. User Simplicity - Once a prospect decides to become a customer, how easy is it for them to buy, use your product, and take advantage of sales and servicing?
4. Operational Simplicity - How simple and streamlined are your internal processes? Consider your employees to be (internal) customers: do you provide them with user simplicity to do their jobs?
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
I found the link to this article on Fox Business, that I contributed to, from 7 years ago:
Friday, January 26, 2018
I have now written 16 monthly columns for the Chicago Business Journal, going back to the fall of 2016:
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Monday, January 15, 2018
The Wall Street Journal recently had an excerpt from a new book called "Good at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More" by management professor Morten Hansen.
Hansen's work overlaps my own work as a consultant specializing in Strategic Simplicity℠ and business simplification.
He discussed how most office super stars don't work longer hours than their co-workers—in fact, it's the opposite. They focus on, and prioritize, a smaller number of tasks, which they excel at.
If their manager tries to pile more tasks on them, they don't meekly accept them. Instead, they ask their manager what they should prioritize on.
Hansen gives some examples of how simplicity and focus can help an organization:
1. A manager at a Maersk terminal focused his attention on one activity—how crews moved containers on and off ships. He ended up noticing that the drivers would unload a container, drive it from the pier to the container lot, then would drive back empty. The process would then repeat with another container.
Instead, he asked the drivers that, before driving back from the lot, they find an outbound container destined for a nearby ship and drive back with it to the pier. They ended up adopting a motto "Never drive empty", and their productivity increased substantially.
2. A business analyst at an insurance company noticed that one type of product was growing in popularity, but the online application process for this particular product was buried under several layers of menus. She asked the software people to change the process for this product to allow it to be filled out with only a few clicks.
Friday, January 5, 2018
It's now been 13 years since I've invested my portfolio according to the system in my book Stock Trading Riches.
In 2017, My "Stock Trading Riches" account beat the S&P 500 again (26% vs. 21.83%).
Here is the cumulative 13-year return (Source for S&P500 returns):
Year, Me, S&P 500
2005, 13%, 4.91%
2006, 14%, 15.79%
2007, 22%, 5.49%
2008, (40%), (37%)
2009, 44%, 26.46%
2010, 22%, 15.06%
2011, (5%), 2.11%
2012, 13.3%, 16%
2013, 23%, 32.39%
2014, 13%, 13.69%
2015, 1.49%, 1.38%
2016, 20.88%, 11.96%
2017, 26%, 21.83%
My portfolio had a cumulative 13 year return of +281% vs. +187% for the S&P 500.
That translates into a 13 year average annual return of 10.84% vs. 8.45%