Monthly Archives: January 2010

Too close to the task at hand

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One of the challenges that I often see people struggle with as they move up in their careers, is the dificulty they have developing skills that enable them to share their knowledge with someone else. People who are very good at something often have difficulty explaining it. Providing guidance and helping someone is a separate skill from actually doing the job, and a good mentor is good at both.

© Wayne McKinnon 2010. All rights reserved.

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Are you thinking strategically, or are you jumping on and off the train?

© Wayne McKinnon 2010. All rights reserved.

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If you want to maximize value, is it really best to design a service from the ground up?

If you want to maximize value is it really best to design a service from the ground up

The movie Field of Dreams seems to have set the tone for business over the last 20 years.

“If you build it they will come” has become the mantra of many service providers, but are the successful ones really beginning with technology and technical design, or do they actually have a service strategy in place that is simply supported by technology?

In the movie, Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella is portrayed as a novice farmer, which I believe gives him a distinct advantage in this story because he didn’t know squat about dirt.

If Costner’s character, Ray had been a farming specialist, he would have spent his time measuring the composite makeup of the soil and analyzing the amounts of sand, clay and potassium. He would have gotten bogged down in discussions about the technical merits of broadcast seeding versus seed drilling. If he was a technology type, he might have spent all his money on aquiring the best GPS.

What Ray did focus on was the strategic decision to either produce corn or fulfill dreams. Decision made, Ray invested his time and money into ensuring that he had the necessary service assets – namely bleachers and a ball diamond – in place to fulfill dreams. He didn’t start by enriching the soil or buying equipment in hopes that he could find a business use for it.

© Wayne McKinnon 2010. All rights reserved.

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What added value does the modern union provide?

In the past, unions performed two important roles: 1) Organize workers in solidarity against poor wages and working conditions; 2) Lobby the government in support of issues important to the union and its members.

Unions have been so effective in their lobbying efforts that there are now significant health and safety laws in place in most developed countries, so lobbying has achieved many of the union’s goals and their work here is nearly complete.

If we can set aside for a moment, the hotly debated issue of preserve jobs in a declining market, then the way I see it, the primary value that a union provides to its members in the modern world is not the same value as when unions began. The higher value is the same value that industry associations provide to their members:

  • Personal/professional development
  • Business intelligence
  • Promotional activities to strengthen the brand
  • Repositioning the value of the brand in the eyes of the consumer.
  • Identifying trends, new opportunities and growth potential

The Certified Management Accountants (CMA) is one example that unions can learn from.  By placing billboard ads and running radio spots depicting a management team huddled around a fortune cookie, they have clearly positioned a certified management accountant as a better alternative when it comes time to make decisions. As a result, the association has broadened the number of opportunities available to its members.  Combined with learning opportunities and neworking with peers, this is part of the value of a modern union. I suppose the alternate approach they could have taken is to attempt to mandate that anyone wanting to use a spreadsheet must be certified…

© Wayne McKinnon 2010. All rights reserved.

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

Is there value in preserving silos?

Is there value in preserving silos

Silos are dangerous. There is no early warning system to let you know something is about to be flung over the wall at you, and the walls keep the teams in isolation, which creates us against them attitudes and forms barriers to working together.

One wall that is typically very high in many organizations is the one between the teams of development and Operations. 

These teams cannot understand why there is so much conflict, and often come to the conclusion that it must be specific people that are at the root of the problem. If management is listening, then the knee jerk reaction is to dismiss the offending people and replace them with someone more suitable. This approach only provides a temporary fix. If nothing else changes, it won't be long before the same conflicts emerge and new people begin to look and act like their predecessors.

Some times ways of the past no longer serve the purpose they once did and the time comes to tear them down before they do significant damage.

© Wayne McKinnon 2010. All rights reserved.

Posted in Demolishing silos and building teams | 2 Comments