Monthly Archives: September 2011

Are senior managers managing or just going through the motions?

When I roam the halls of the executive suites where I consult, what I often discover is that many senior managers, V.P.s (and even CEOs in some cases) are more focused on the monitoring and maintenance of the reports, scorecards and dashboards that are meant to help them make strategic decisions, rather than standing back and understanding what the report is trying to tell them.

If a poor technician responds to a blinking red indicator light on a piece of equipment by taping over it or removing the bulb, the poor manager will respond similarly to an indicator on a performance report.

The strategic manager will instead see this as an improvement opportunity and look for root cause rather than simply addressing the symptom.

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Does Hydro add value?

September 21s, Ontario Hydro requested a rate increase to cover the cost of operating and maintain smart meters. As a consumer, I am outraged!

When technology is implemented as a means of making services more cost effective, and that same technology results in a rate increase, that is not progress!

If you are not familiar with smart meters, Hydro introduced them recently as a way to influence consumer demand and shift more of the load to off-peak hours. Presumably this allows the hydro company to service that demand using existing capacity, rather than build more generating stations.

For this to work, consumers must buy in to the benefits of “off-peak pricing.” The carrot is that you can reduce your own Hydro bill.

hydro meter
hydro meter

In my household that meant buying a programmable dishwasher that could be set to start at 2am when rates are low. The Return on investment calculation around buying a new dishwasher was based on newer models being more efficient, but also being able to easily take advantage of off peak pricing since the dishwasher could be automatically scheduled to take advantage of cheaper rates.

Now, Hydro has to raise the rates in order to maintain the smart meters, and as a result, charge me more. That’s not progress, that’s just technology for technology sake!

Of course, Hydro will also argue that there is another benefit of smart meters to consumers. Hydro can turn down your air conditioning during the day when no one is home, thus saving the consumer even more money.

Isn’t that nice. My own inexpensive programmable thermostat that turns down my air conditioner when I want it to, becomes redundant; Hydro will do it for me…IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY WHEN I AM WORKING AT MY HOME OFFICE! It makes me chuckle.

Like a drummer who gets irritated when a natural rhythm in the environment is off beat, or a musician that is sensitive to tones that are out of key, I become hypersensitive to service changes that are not well thought out.

Ah the joys of being a consultant who advises companies of how to plan and deliver services in an efficient and effective way that maximizes value and reduces cost. I become buried in the millions of improvement opportunities that I see around me every day, and this is just one more glaring example.

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

Should your workers be magicians?

magicians hat

 This weekend we were out visiting shops and interesting locations when I came across this top hat.

I’ve never actually seen a real top hot other than in Fred Astaire movies or at the hands of some magician, and since I can’t dance, the first thing I did was check the lining.

Out of necessity, as I rose up through my career I became very talented at pulling rabbits out of these things.

If your people continually have to act as magicians in order to satisfy your customers, something is wrong with the inner workings of your organization.

I think this particular hat was all used up.

The inner lining contained no rabbits, although I did find the receipt for a can of smoke, a claim ticket from a mirror repair shop, and the address of a tap dancing studio (should you need that sort of assistance in place of other more suitable tactics).

Use the comment feature to write me about what improvements you would make to improve service delivery in your environment.

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

What everyone is missing in the Steve Jobs Story:


When the head of Apple made his announcement to step down, the markets reacted and the media commentaries began.

The talk has focused on how pivotal Mr. Jobs has been in the creation of revolutionary products, and the predictions that the Apple innovating machine will grind to a halt. What no one is talking about is why the consumer holds Apple products in such high regard. INNOVATIVE products have a sex appeal that attract the consumer, but that’s not what makes them loyal. Apple’s loyalty comes from the USE of these products.

Here are the three things that in my opinion, have made Apple a threat to its competitors:

1. Innovative product ideas

2. Ease of use

3. Perfection in execution

Perfection in execution is THE thing that I fear will erode without Steven Jobs.

In the current Apple world, it is rare that a product is released with significant flaws that sour the user experience. When it was discovered that the IPhone 4 would not work if the user held it in their left hand, I would imagine Mr. Jobs would find this incredible that his team neglected to test in both hands. In Apple’s world, the phrase “just ship” does not seem to exist the way it does in other companies when developing a product to a deadline. In Apple’s world, they get it right or it doesn’t ship. You might disagree and someone reading this will point out some flaw somewhere, but I think we can all agree that compared to the industry norm, Apple gets high marks in this area.

When I consult with organizations that seek to reduce costs, increase quality or change their culture, this is the one common area that my clients all appear weak in. The time, money and loss of confidence that results are staggering when you look at any company that produces not just external products for its customers, but internal products used to support their customer services.

This applies to virtually every organization, not just consumer oriented electronics companies.

Mac pad

In many organizations, the product development team often hangs the operations folks out to dry when supporting the customer. The product team has no choice since their leaders hang them out to dry by allocating budgets and time that fail to take into account the full scale of not just building or user testing, but other less obvious aspects as well. Apple under Steve Jobs simply does not tolerate the level of mistakes, oversights or lack of perfectionism that Mr. Jobs demanded.

Somehow Jobs has been able to strike the delicate balance between getting it right, and getting it out the door without “hanging people out to dry.”

What I commonly see as I roam the halls of organizations is either a stringent adherence to perfectionism to the point where red tape and controls prevent anything from being released in a timely fashion, or, rapid development and release of what can only be called garbage? In the corporate world, this garbage may include business processes.

Here are my concerns as Apple finds its way:

• Will the internal working of Apple get bogged down trying to emulate the perfectionist ways of Mr. Jobs to the point that it grinds to a halt?

• Will Apple allow too many imperfections to slip by in order to meet their launch schedules, and lose their loyal followers?

• Or, is there an “Apple Way” that will eternally live on and continue to drive Apple forward as the legacy of Mr. Jobs?

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

A service delivery classic

The waitress is just the pointy end of a poorly designed service. Meanwhile, Jack is an innovator.

Search youtube for ""Five Easy Pieces Diner Scene"

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Career advancement vs. personal constraints

Are you receiving buy-in on the home front?

Typical constraints in managing a project are Cheap/Fast/Good, pick any two.

Dr. Martin Barnes is credited with creating this simple model almost 45 years ago.
Today there are many variations that recognize that there are more than 3 constraints (Cost, risk, benefits, quality, scope…etc.) and a variety of shapes (diamonds, crosses and so on).

The beauty of his model still stands as a way of demonstrating that determining options is most likely a negotiation of trade offs and balancing priorities.

Constraints triangle
Constraints triangle

As you move to work of higher value, I’d also like you to consider this next model that I have created, which I believe to be at the root of many performance issues within organizations, even though this triangle focuses on issues outside the work environment.

Commitment triangle
Commitment triangle

Projects go off the rails when we fail to negotiate outcomes around project constraints. Similarly, careers and relationships can suffer as a result of failing to achieve buy-in on the home front. Workers that are focused on personal issues throughout the day are no more productive and happy than those who are being burnt out on a poorly planned project.


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