Monthly Archives: November 2011

RIM, where is the value?

This week Research In Motion (RIM) announced that it will focus on its server technology as a way of creating more revenue.

In my opinion, any discussion of servers or smartphones is a prime example of low value thinking. The Blackberry handsets or the servers do not represent the higher value. The value exists within the services that those technology components support.

While RIM’s competitors relegate the blackberry device to status of a commodity item as far as smart phones go, this ignores the true value that RIM provides. Unlike the Google Android, or the Apple IPhone that simply allow cel phone users to make calls and send email, RIM also provides a secure message transfer service, enabled by its handsets, BES servers and subscriber services.

In my opinion, RIM should be trumpeting the utility of their secure messaging service, rather than focusing on promoting products (even servers) that are being viewed as commodity items. After all, many corporate clients buy blackberries, BES servers, and Blackberry service subscriptions for this specific reason, rather than relying on internet email which was never designed to be secure, or even provide authentication that the sender is who they say they are.

Posted in Moving to Work of Higher Value | 1 Comment

Black Rapids to Manotick – Proposed No Wake Zone

Over ten years ago we moved from the crowded suburbs to a dream location on the Rideau waterway just outside of Ottawa. Between 1826 and 1832, our particular stretch of river became part of the Rideau Canal system that links the Ottawa to Kingston. (In fact you could travel all the way to Florida from our back yard without ever going in the ocean).

Kingston, located on Lake Ontario where it meets the mighty Saint Laurence River, was the capital of Canada at the time. The route from By-Town (now Ottawa) was constructed as a supply route to Kingston. (The route was identified as a good idea during the war of 1812 between Canada and the United States).

Cargo could travel from Montreal, up the Ottawa River, down the canal systems of lakes and rivers, and in to Kingston. This was to be a much safer route than taking the Saint Lawrence River, with American shooting at the steam vessels during the war.

The Canal system was not finished (in fact, not even begun) until after the war.

Our stretch of river has been the home of a water ski club since the 1970s or earlier. It was a perfect place to move to and raise our kids.

This year we found out that our enjoyment of the waterway is threatened. Parks Canada is proposing a no-wake zone for our stretch of the river. No more skiing off of our dock.

The majority of the homeowners that I have spoken to in this area have commented that they enjoy seeing the boats and kids enjoying themselves on the river. There are also a few who do not. This issue has pitted the swimmers, the canoers, the boaters the kayakers and the fishermen against each other. People who have never been in a kayak complain that the boats are disturbing the kayakers. We have canoed and kayaked here for years. In a canoe boat waves are a nuisance. In a kayak the waves are a non-issue.

Kids tubing

There is a lot of mis-information around this issue, and my fear is that we will see another law in place as yet another example of a knee jerk reaction to a perceived situation that could be resolved other ways. There are already laws. There is also common sense that could be applied.

While many boaters are responsible and alert, a simple swim buoy anchored by a home owner at a reasonable distance from shore is a simple way to protect swimmers from the few careless boaters, just like swim areas have been using for years.

People also complain about big off shore style race boats. In my experience, they come by once a year, usually around Canada Day on their way back from the down town festivities. Some find this troublesome, while others find this once a year event exiting.

One of my roles in my consulting business is to advise senior management on how to assess risk. Let's be clear, this is a separate discussion from personal likes and dislikes.

The two primary factors in risk management are likelihood and impact.

Risk Quadrants
Risk Quadrants

So what can be done?

The two primary options for dealing with risk are not just elimination, but also simply risk reduction. In other words reducing the likelihood or the impact to an acceptable level. Too many times total elimination is seen as the only way, and one person’s personal preference is often regarded as more important than tolerance for each other.

As for the tools, enforcement is often seen as the only way, when awareness could be used as a tool to provide positive results.

One example

In order to reduce the risk of a canoe being disturbed by a boat, here are some potential ways of mitigating that risk:


  • Eliminate the boats
  • Eliminate the canoes
  • Force people with green canoes to paint them safety orange for better visibility
  • Educate the boaters and the people with canoes of existing regulations, common sense and courtesy 

This is just one example, but the same approach can be applied to any issue, weather those issues are on the river, the shop floor, or the executive suite.

Kids getting along and working together

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Winter Don’t Own Me – Jazzing up the winter blues

The geese in our back yard are getting ready to leave for the season. The first snowfall of the year hit today and it reminded me of a song in my Itunes collection that I haven't listened to in a long time.

It is performed by Laura Baron, the wife of my good friend Seth Kahn. (BTW, Seth and Laura became new parents this year, congratulations!)

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

Instantly Productive.

 If you have attended an event that I have been speaking at, you'll be familiar with this term that I frequently use.  

Apple has embodied the philosophy of "instantly productive" in their products, designed with their intuitive interfaces.

Siemens also embraced this almost 15 years ago by designing their new employee process in such a way that from The H.R. meeting, to the employee’s desk, each step triggered the next. By the time the employee sat down to work, their employment records were filed, the payroll tracking had begun, their building pass was issued and their network and email accounts had been provisioned.

That’s what I mean by instantly productive!

What are you doing to contribute to the removal of productivity roadblocks in your organization?

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Really? Free smartphone training?

Is a 1hour user session really necessary in order to use a cel phone?

learning session
learning session

I saw this sign on a recent trip to the Eaton shopping centre in Toronto.

Behind me, the Apple store was overflowing with Iphone enthusiasts who didn’t feel the need for any sort of training. 

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

No problem, just fire Bob and buy a tool!

If only the resolution to any problem was as easy as this simple knee-jerk reaction.

Do we know the reason that Bob is underperforming? Could it be that we ourselves have set Bob up to fail by giving Bob a bad process to follow, or a weak link in Bob’s supply chain?

And what of this magic tool? While it might be clear that we could benefit from the output that such a tool might provide, will we get that output from this tool in this environment used in this way?

When faced with a problem, the knee jerk reaction used by many is to solve it by treating the symptom and jumping to solutions.

Working on the assembly line, Bob trips and bumps into a car, causing a dent or scratch. Bob has done this more than once, so the natural conclusion is that our fictitious Bob is a clumsy oaf who is not careful enough. Bob gets replaced without first considering the cause of Bob’s apparent clumsiness. Did we check to see if Bob has a habit of going out for a liquid lunch and returning to work inebriated, and what about that loose cable that lays about the floor haphazardly? Then there is the assembly line process set up in such a way that Bob has to remember to duck each time a part moves along the conveyor system. No, the problem is Bob. He is the one denting cars, so he needs to be removed.

In another instance we have an organization that has implemented a change management system for assessing risks before approving a change within the environment. Any functional group that wants to make a change has to submit their plans for approval, so that other functional groups are aware that the change is coming and can asses its impact on their area. Some groups are not following the process, but the solution is obvious. We must need a software tool that we can all use to enter change requests for all to see.

That certainly will solve the problem….or will it? Never mind those who are supposed to be seeking approval for their changes that view the requirement to seek approval as an unnecessary waste of time. Too much red tape to bother with. Then there are the people reviewing the changes for approval who see themselves as enforcers rather than trusted advisors, able to so no, and unwilling to say yes.

So, while my colleagues may advise buying new tools, and avoiding the hiring of a person named Bob, Robert, William or Bill, when I am asked what to do about the situation I will lead with my typical consultant answer – refined by me over many years of working with Bob’s and Tom’s and Sally’s – "It depends. Lets begin by looking at the process."

© Wayne McKinnon, 2011

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You Can’t Think With Your Tool Belt On® – 11/01/11

artwork toolbelt

November 1, 2011

This month I have compiled a list of ten things that I consistently see as examples of people being satisfied with focusing on low value activities:

1. Stuck in minutia
2. Can’t see the forest for the trees
3. Busywork vs. strategic work
4. Labor intensive
5. Commodity
6. Language that only your peers can understand
7. One-upmanship vs. business results
8. Ego vs. making others look good
9. Enforcement vs. assessment and prudent risk taking
10. Prescriptive solutions vs. discovering and meeting objectives

What are you doing to maximize your value?

© Wayne McKinnon 2011. All rights reserved.

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