Are you taking value for granted?

 I frequently state that people don’t need technology, they need the results that technology provides. Here is a great example where the value of the efforts of esighteyewear engineers is difficult to measure, but you'll know it when you see it.

Posted in Moving to Work of Higher Value, Service Improvement Hall of Fame Nominees | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

Higher Value in Manufacturing. The Bertone story

 Yet one more example of how a life’s work may only last a single lifetime.

I’ve been a fan of exotic sports cars since I was a kid. One of the most famous names around was Bertone. The badge appeared on many cars of different brands, and growing up it took me a while to figure out who actually made the car. Most commonly seen on Fiats and Alfa Romeos, it also appeared on or was associated with and Lamborghinis and Ferraris. To my mind their last great design was the Lamborghini Diablo.

In 2014, I was surprised to learn through the pages of road and track magazine that Bertone is no more. Some blame mismanagement or the fact that the company simply lost its way after the death of 82-year-old Nuccio Bertone, however to my eye it appears that the company ultimately failed to evolve.

Bertone was a design studio for automotive art. At least that is what I think of when I see the beautiful designs that Bertone created for various manufacturers. Bertone was also a coach builder, a term that harkens back to the earliest days of the automobile when manufacturers produced engines and rolling chassis for coachbuilders to attach their car bodies to. In modern times Bertone had become a full assembly line and outsourced production facility, working under contract to various automakers.

In recent years technology and an abundance of skills have flooded the market place, enabling manufacturers to bring more of the design and production of their cars in-house. What was once a specialty area is now more of a commodity service in the automotive world.

In the case of Bertone, it appears that the company simply failed to evolve and therefore was forced into extinction. I mourn the passing of another automotive icon.

What are the skills abilities and services that are becoming commodity in your industry?

Posted in Moving to Work of Higher Value | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

Are You an Amateur or a Professional?

 Much of my work over the last many years has been helping senior management reshape their workforce and methods in order to be better positioned to achieve the goals of the business.

Many of the people with whom I have worked are senior management’s middle management and the teams of front line employees whose work methods must change in order to meet the new demands of the business.

In doing so my clients have found it beneficial when I expose their workforce in one business unit to the services that the various other lines of business provide to their external customers. Since many times one internal business unit is a customer of another unit of the same organization, this technique helps add relevance to the types of requests that the workers receive. It helps them understand urgency, and most importantly helps them understand the true value of performing their tasks that so often have become routine and perhaps even appearing somewhat meaningless when so far removed from the event that triggered the request.

In other case though we discover a worker who can never be satisfied and will never feel that they know enough for their duties to be relevant, so they continue to question. Much like the proverbial actor asking “what is my motivation,” an employee of this sort appears unwilling to recognize that in the work of an amateur perusing a hobby, a quest for deeper understanding of the forces at work can be allowed to continue for a long time without penalty since a hobby is a way of occupying ones mind. In the work of a professional however, the intangibles are never allowed to derail their work.

A professional produces his or her own requisite output on demand, regardless of the motivation. Unlike the amateur, the professional recognizes that because there is demand, someone somewhere unseen, perhaps many levels away from their customer’s customer, is in need of their value and are willing to pay a professional for that value.

Posted in Moving to Work of Higher Value | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

Wayne McKinnon gets punked in ALS ice bucket challenge, and calls out RONA CEO Robert Sawyer

Please donate to help find a cure

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Career Advancement and Moving to Work of Higher Value


In my first real job out of school I earned a whopping $13,000.00 per year, at least I think it was per year. I only stayed in that job for a little over a year before doubling my salary by taking a different job in another organization, and then doubling it again with my next move a little over a year after that. It wasn’t the last time.

The rapid increases in salary in my early days had more to do with where the market was for the sorts of skills that that I had acquired by that time rather than the dwindling demand for the skills that my formal education had given me. Soon people began hiring me more for my track record of successful projects, and my attitude and willingness to learn new things, (or rather, to figure out what the customer needs and deliver on that.) I never recall stating that the work was not in my job description as some of my colleagues had done. I was happy to work above my pay grade.

Those meagre beginnings were a lifetime ago. Like many of you, in the early 1980s I was part of a new breed of worker in a world where union jobs and lifetime employment was still the norm. Including those modest first steps, every significant step in my career has been the direct result of my willingness to do the things outside of my formal job description that enabled me to stretch my competencies (I’m not talking about also being willing to wash the toilettes, but instead willing to perform some of the duties of my boss, or those of a vacant more senior position when the opportunities arose).

My willingness was one of the keys to career growth that gave me the exposure to new skills and new ways of thinking that I would never have learned if not for my attitude. Meanwhile many of my colleagues who preferred to stick to work within a smaller comfort zone found that their jobs eventually disappeared as they not only failed to progress, but also to adapt to changes in demand for their skills. Some went back to school again in order to change direction. Others took safe jobs in other positions or industries where their low salary reflected the poor fit of their past experience and the relative commodity of workers in those areas. The ones that took risks and stretched their comfort zone excelled beyond the norm.

I’m not recommending that you leave your employer or go back to school, but what I am recommending is that you recognize that work evolves and so should you.

Posted in Moving to Work of Higher Value | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

Taking Care of Business in a Flash

I was in the area so on a recent business trip I stopped in at Elvis Presley’s estate.
Contrary to the verse in Marc Cohn’s song, I did not see "a pretty little thing waiting for the king down in the jungle room." The room was vacant.

What I did see of course was the rows and rows of gold and platinum albums and singles that Elvis produced throughout his career. How is such a prodigious body of work even possible?

gold records
Gold records
platinum records
More gold and platinum records
Elvis in a flash

In one of the rooms in the basement, the wall is adorned with his personal logo that he designed. It is TCB with a lightning bolt – taking care of business in a flash.

This motto would go a long way in many organizations today where over analysis, red tape and indecision stifle both productivity and innovation.

In my experience the part of any business or support process that takes the longest time is the time between the steps. If a decision is so important that it requires careful consideration, make as many of those decisions once, in advance, and apply the results to the process, rather than repeatedly revisiting the decision.

For the decisions that cannot be made in advance and are left within the process, realize that business depends more on results than it does on indecision.

Follow Elvis Presley’s advice and take care of business in a flash.

Would you rather be flying high with success or wandering around lost in the jungle room?

tcb tail 1
TCB in a flash
Lisa Marie
Lisa Marie
Elvis board room
Elvis board room
jungle room
Jungle room

Posted in Moving to Work of Higher Value | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

Perspective, and How Sunspots Block Business Communication

 I've worked in different parts of the arctic over the last few years and it has given me new perspective. Being situated above the Arctic Circle poses challenges that most organizations do not have to contend with when it comes to delivering services.

Electronic communication is one example. They rely on satellites. On one visit, whenever I asked someone his or her opinion on why that is so challenging, I was consistently given a concise answer. Sunspots!

Twice a year there are major interruptions due to interference sent to earth from the sun. These interruptions can be lengthy and get in the way of good communication. 

Top of the earth
Top of the earth

In addition to that, one of the peculiar things that I have noticed in my travels to top of the earth is that the sky, as we know it is not above our heads. Sure you will see a sky if you look up, but it is not the same sky that we see from most other places in North America. Satellites that orbit closer to the equator can barely “see” over the curve of the earth. The sky as we know it is not above the arctic, instead, it is “over there” just behind the mountains.

Our sky is at their feet.

Some people that you attempt to communicate with may have problems easily accepting perspectives from the field. I am surprised that we so easily fall back to thinking the earth is flat...or that beyond head office, branch offices may not actually exist and operate differently.

When I returned home, this observation about the angle of satellite dishes and the unique perspective that I had gained from my travels beyond the home base lead to what I thought with be an interesting discussion with some of my educated colleagues, but when they chimed in I lost interest pretty quickly as their egos took over.

One of the things that I have learned over the years is that I do not have to have an opinion on everything, nor do I need to be the expert on something that I know little about. My opinions are based on my experiences and observations, intended to help, not on conjecture and a need to feel important.

When I stated that I found it interesting that television satellite dishes in the north appear comical since they seem to point at the ground since the signals must follow the curve of the earth, all sorts of experts in the room piped up proclaiming that that satellite signals are line-of-sight and that what I saw was impossible.

I have so many issues with this line of reasoning.

1) The fact that a satellite communicates using electrons, photons or Jell-O is neither here nor there. The conversation was about different perspective and my colleagues lead with their own agendas.

2) My comment about “curve of the earth” was accurate in the context that I intended it (the earth gets in the way.) Rather than question my intent (which would be a valid approach) the group each applied their own meaning without questioning for understanding.

3) Their response caused me to shut down, to remove myself from the conversation. Apparently sun spots are not the only thing that can shut down communication.

In my consulting business I help organizations improve service delivery and assists their teams in identifying and moving towards work of higher value. Too many times I witness this behaviour within the halls of my client’s organizations as service providers shut down the conversations that their clients would like to have with them. Ego driven conversations become a game of one-upmanship, and no value can come of it.

What I find even more comical than the angle of the satellite dishes is the experience base that the self-proclaimed experts lead the conversation from. They each asserted that their extreme technical knowledge gained from having had a service person out to their houses to install satellite dishes made them eminently qualified to prove me wrong.

Even though my early career formal education in the early 1980s in designing microwave transmitters or telecommunications purposes would have made it easy to do so, I chose not to dispute their technical assertions. Why bother, it was not germane to the intended discussion. I'm a management consultant.

Don't let yourself be blinded by sunspots. Good communication can be difficult enough. Take what you will from the example that I have written here. What have you learned that you can apply to your own conversations, behaviour and certainty of perspective?

So that I don't get mail attempting to drag this example into yet another technical conversation, satellites communicate using microwave signals. These signals travel in a straight line unless they bounce off something that changes their direction (a wave-guide, a satellite, or I suppose even a rock, but not a lump of Jell-O. Lumps of Jell-O are penetrated, their molecules excited and the cooking process begins). Microwave signals from the south can be interrupted by the curve of the earth. The ones that do make it north are not very high off the horizon since the north pole is on top of the earth and not beside the equator.

Low angle of dishes
The sky is over there, to the south, beyond those mountains

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Happy Nunavut Day! – July 9th.

My calendar popped up reminding me that today is Nunavut day. Nunavut is one of Canada’s northern territories to the east, and its capitol city is Iqaluit (pronounced Ikaluit).

Iqaluit sits on Baffin Island and is closer to the country of Greenland than it is to the US border. Nunavut sometimes needs consultants. When I was working there in March I joked (in my best Sarah Palin voice) that I could see Greenland from my office.

Iqaluit is situated on the shores of Frobisher Bay. Early explorers looking for a northwest passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic Ocean discovered the bay. To the south is Hudson’s Bay. 

One of the earliest Hudson Bay company trading posts is located here. (The crowd behind me is a Hollywood movie crew shooting on location. I'm sworn to secrecy until it hits the big screen).

Happy Nunavut Day!

pack ice
pack ice
The bay
The Bay

Posted in Adapting To Your Surroundings | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

Connecting The Dots – Finding Higher Value on Civvy Street

Airports are boring places to spend much time in. When I was working in London England I was told that if you stay in Leicester Square long enough, eventually you would meet every person that you have ever known. In old England apparently everyone passes through the square eventually.

My own interpretation of that story is that the modern version of the square is terminal two at Heathrow airport. Having spent time there on many business trips to Europe, I now believe that terminal two is the biggest bedroom in the world, with more travellers from every continent overnighting on the benches or curled up in a corner, than anywhere else in the world. Affluent perhaps, but temporarily, homeless people none the less. Spend time in terminal two and you will meet everyone that you have ever known, and many that you haven’t.

Where am I going with this story? Well, it begins with me sitting on a bench in an airport terminal on my way back from Norfolk Virginia. I’ve flipping through the latest copy of Road and Track magazine just to kill time, and I stumble across an advertisement for It is a sight for military veterans and is sponsored by the US chamber of commerce. The sight includes this video

This discovery takes my mind down one of the many wormholes in time that I frequently find myself pulled in to.

Wormhole stop number 1
On this trip I am returning from an engagement with a group of very bright military guys at NATO. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, made up of 28 member countries. I’m addressing a small group of decision makers from Norway, France, Italy, Turkey, and the United States. My liaison officer is German and I’m Canadian.

As a consultant I visit a lot of different organizations, military, government and private industry. They all claim to be different. Among this diverse group we all agree that the issues are all the same.

Wormhole stop number 2
I discover that this tangent that my mind has taken has a military theme. I think back to the time that I was invited to the top office of Canada’s military, the Canadian Minister of National Defence. Someone in his office had read one of my publications on personal productivity and he sought my assistance.

As I think about this I realize that the Minister’s Office is not really the top office of the Canadian military. That office is held by the Queen of England in the role of The Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Queen’s representative in Canada is the Governor General of Canada, and, just to show you how strange things can be in my world sometimes, as I think this, I glance across the isle from where I am sitting at the airport and there sits a woman bearing a striking resemblance to Madam Jean, Canada’s 27th Governor General. Madam Jean no longer holds that post. If it is she I assume that she is returning to Canada to prepare for the upcoming Canada Day celebrations. Sure enough, later that evening when our flight arrives in Canada, her entourage is there to greet her. I should have asked for a picture together.

Wormhole stop number 3
My mind drifts to its next stop at which point I find myself recalling that the Queen’s son, Prince Andrew went to the Military College in Canada. I have presented at the same college. I have also consulted at the nearby armed forces base, invited in by a Lieutenant Colonel (in Canada pronounced Leftenant.) He treated me as a respected peer.

Why is it I wonder, that I as a civilian can skip rank and engage a military leader as a peer at their level (whatever the level), while military staff have more difficulty entering private industry in positions appropriate to the experience and level of responsibility that they have held in their military career?

I have met many talented retired military captains working below the level of line manager in industry. What a waste of talent and leadership abilities, yet many of the civilian managers and directors in private industry play internal turf wars driven by ego, fear and lack of decision making abilities.

Wormhole stop number 4
I think back to my previous business trip, sitting at another airport terminal where I met a person who is part of a team tasked with solving these sorts of problems. The Director is with the US Department of Labour turning veterans, Reservists and National Guard Members into strong productive members of America’s civilian work force. We had a conversation about this and she enquired about my work in helping teams and individuals move to work of higher value. I make note to send her an excerpt from the book that I am working on. Perhaps it can help someone make the transition to the civilian workforce.

Wormhole stop number 5
As a kid I remember the adults talking about Civvy Street. This apparently is where the civilians lived. When I was very young I wasn’t really sure what a civilian looked like, and I always wondered where Civvy Street was. According to the adults the money was better there. I wondered if it was the street with the big houses just a few blocks away from where my dad’s friend Hugh lived.

Hugh grew up with my dad and together they joined the forces and saw the world. I’ve known Hugh all my life, and when I grew up I learned that Hugh made it to Civvy Street. Hugh essentially ran the air force for a mining company.

Hugh assembled a fleet of aircraft to deliver parts, materials and personnel to the Canadian north, as well as overseeing the aircraft maintenance program. As a V.P. in the company he was not only operationally focussed, ensuring that weekly supply flights and crew were delivered to the mines on time, but also innovative in his approach, eventually pioneering the use of ice roads across the frozen lakes to create supply lines to the mines. It was easier to create a road across a frozen lake than it was to build and maintain roads on the frozen tundra. Hugh surveyed the lakes from above and using a helicopter, simply connected the dots by hovering over the next spot while a snow mobile broke the trail. People told him it couldn't be done. To get it done, Hugh essentially served as a beacon and set direction as any good leader would.

When I met with Hugh a few years ago on my way back from Yellowknife, in Canada’s North West Territories, the T.V. show ice road truckers was sensationalizing the notion that these roads were somehow unsafe. This agitated Hugh. His military experiences lead him to making good decisions about risk and reward. His road building techniques and the roads that he originally mapped out by helicopter and snow mobile twenty years ago are safe. His efforts eliminated the need for so many aircraft and flights, and in the process he was able to reduce the company’s operating costs significantly.

We talked about Ice Pilots, another T.V. show chronicling the goings on at Buffalo airways. It turns out that Hugh and Buffalo Joe knew each other well.

Wormhole stop number 6
I’m reminded of one of my days working with the Territorial government in Yellowknife. On this day an old air force transport plane from World War II thundered past my window setting off car alarms. As a vintage aircraft buff, I loved it and that that it was hysterical. In its Buffalo Airlines colours it was now doing civilian duty.

On that same trip I had been given a tour of the town by snow mobile before riding along the ice road on our way to the middle of the lake where we could sip scotch, watch the northern lights, and ponder the value provided by those experience men and women who not only possess skills, but higher value abilities to make good decisions and provide excellent leadership. A thought crossed my mind. The same thought that had occurred to me back at Norfolk Virginia where I had been working with NATO. Perhaps the ice road represents Civvy Street?

Just like in this story, "Moving to Work of Higher Value" often involves rubbing shoulders with adjacent opportunities and connecting the dots along the way. I've done it and It is an interesting way to build a career. It isn't always about arriving at a predetermined destination.


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I Demand That You Have The Capacity…

Ensuring that there is enough operational capacity to deliver their services is a challenge that many organizations face. Operational capacity includes the need for facilities, people, products, licenses, computers, telephones, network bandwidth, parking spots or anything else that you might not have enough during periods of high demand. Some organizations struggle to maintain enough capacity during times of normal demand.

In my consulting work, people ask me all the time questions about how to “right size” their capacity needs, or, how much excess capacity should they plan to have?

Capacity is important but they are asking the wrong question. Rather than ask how to guess how much will be enough, or how much extra to have on hand just in case and then fight for a budget without knowing how to justify more, the focus should be on how the capacity is being used, and why the capacity is needed in the first place. A better question is “how do we predict demand?”

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Does The Customer Really Know Best?

I have written and presented extensively that you cannot guess about value. You have to ask. You also can’t be satisfied with the easy answers. It is also commonly recognized that what the customer wants may be different than what the customer needs.

The flip side of this equation is the customer’s unwillingness to allow you to determine the value with their assistance. The phrase “customer knows best” might apply to knowing what they value, but not necessarily how to get it. When I go to my massage therapist to take care of old sports injuries, what I WANT is for her to go to work on the sore muscles. What she as a trained professional knows that my body NEEDS is for her to diagnose why that muscle is sore in the first place, and apply the proper therapeutic techniques. This often means working on the opposing muscles so that the tense muscles can finally relax.

I may be the customer and believe that I know what I need, but I now know better than to prescribe to her how to do her job. She is the expert and knows far more about how this complex system of muscles and tissue actually work than I ever will. As an expert in your field, you likely know more about what is required to deliver value to your customer, once you understand the desired value. The key element in what you do or what the therapist does is determining what the customer values in terms of results, before beginning to identifying how you will provide those results.

In my example as a customer, what I do need to do is articulate the end result that I am seeking. Do I simply want to be relaxed in which case an overall spa type massage may be appropriate, or do I want to have an injury repaired (in which case deep and sometimes painful techniques are used involving thumbs and elbows digging in to sensitive areas of my shoulders and back). Similarly your customer needs to articulate the results that they seek, and then you determine how best to deliver those results. Equally similar is the fact that sometimes arriving at the desired state can often be a painful process, particularly if the patient or customer resists or insists on skipping steps.

I sometimes imagine what it would be like if I referred an unsuspecting spa-going type client to my massage therapist with the instructions to ask for “a good massage like Wayne gets.” If the therapist was not skilled in understanding value, she might be reported to the police for brutality! Likewise if an aging weekend warrior like myself received a milder relaxation massage, they would likely feel that they wasted their time and money as they hobbled back to their car, not one-step closer to recovery.

If I were to insist on prescribing the activities of the therapist, then this scenario would not be much different than the business units that waste their money on written reports or generic training sessions that they thought they needed, when perhaps they could benefit much more from the assistance of someone skilled in integrating the lessons from the business unit’s own past projects and experiences. Maybe there are other techniques that are more appropriate. Begin by diagnosing the situation, not by jumping to solutions.

Posted in Moving to Work of Higher Value | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts

Are You Delivering a Service or Simply Focusing on Systems?

Mid summer and I was sitting in a sweltering downtown office space. The organization that I was visiting has a policy that in order to save money and conserve energy they will not run the air conditioning systems on the weekend. The policy makes good sense. Conserve energy by not providing climate control during unneeded times, but the implementation of that policy lacks a few considerations:

1. Are the hours for use of the environments known?
2. Is the implementation focused on the systems or the outcomes?

Availability system vs service faulty
Availability system vs service faulty

At end of day Friday this organization shuts down the air conditioning for the weekend, and then brings the air conditioning systems back on line Monday mornings. The problem is that workers arrive to an unbearably hot work environment Monday morning, and it doesn't cool down until later afternoon.

Good policy
Conserve energy by not providing climate control during periods whe it is not needed.

Bad interpretation of policy
Conserve energy by not running the air conditioning system on weekends.

The differences in the two statements above are very subtle but important when put in practice. In the figure above, the bad interpretation results in lost worker productivity. I'm sure that it was never the intent to create a sweat shop.

Focus on customer service. If you are going to move to work of higher value, you really do need to identify what the resultant value is in terms of services received not simply systems operated.


Posted in Leadership, Where is the value? | Click Here to Share Your Thoughts