Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Let your staff know that you value them -- a story.

     I just recently resigned from a really GREAT job.  I didn’t want to, but I had to, due to life circumstances.   Nothing life or death, but there was no other option.  I was able to leave the company on very positive terms.   It was very sad for me to have to leave a job that I truly enjoyed.

     The very day that I sent out my group email resignation to my co-workers, within minutes, my email inbox was pinging with return emails.   Some people were shocked, some were saddened, some told me how I would be missed, some told me how they enjoyed working with me, how they enjoyed my sense of humor, how I had done such a great job, etc.    I was surprising by the number of emails. 

     It was like a movie script where the lead character, who everyone thought had died in a mysterious plane crash over the ocean but somehow survived,  was now able to attend his own funeral—without being noticed, sitting disguised in the back row of the chapel, listening to his friends and family eulogize him.   People said things in those emails that truly surprised me.  I was not aware of the impact that I had on some of my co-workers.   People made comments after I had resigned, that they never would have personally made to me while I was still at work.  Not to mention the hugs that I received over the following week.     I probably could have worked for years and never really known how my co-workers felt about me.  A simple resignation opened the doors for emotions to enter the workplace.   It’s similar to the regret we all have had at one time or another when you first hear of the death of a friend or relative.    “ I wish I would have told him/her how much I  …………. “

     It was a great reminder for me, as a manager, to “pretend as if your staff just resigned” and give them feedback, praise, emotional support, and help them to feel appreciated – in the moment.   Don’t wait until it is too late.   In my case, this ultimately would not have had any impact on my need to resign, but I wonder how my career might have felt, had I witnessed my own eulogy on a daily basis.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pan Flash Mobs --- a thing of the future?

What do Criminal Flash Robs, Bank Transfer Day, Occupy Wall Street, revolution in the Middle East, and Pandemic Flu all have in common?? They are all random events that have the potential of reaching a disastrous tipping point--all made much more likely by faster and faster communications.

“Average after-tax income for the top 1% of U.S. households almost quadrupled, up 275%, from 1979 to 2007, the Congressional Budget Office found. For people in the middle of the economic scale, after-tax income grew by just 40%. Those at the bottom experienced an 18%” according to the Oct. 27, 2011  USA Today.  In other words, the rich continue to get richer.    The world has taken notice and people are starting to react.

  • "A new kind of shoplifting has hit stores in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. "Flash robs" occur when a group of people organized over social media steal by mobbing a store." reported by WHYY radio on November 25, 2011.  The article quoted Joseph LaRocca with the National Retail Foundation. "In July, we polled retailers across the country, and about one in 10 companies have experienced a criminal flash-mob incident in their stores."
  • "Kristen Christian was feeling more than a little fed up with the county’s big banks when a month ago today she logged on to Facebook to share an idea with friends:  withdraw your money from the likes of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, and instead open an account with a credit union.  She even chose a deadline for taking action: this Saturday, Nov. 5." as reported in the Daily Beast.    Kristin is given credit for single handily initiating Bank Transfer Day.
  • Go to Occupy Wall Street's web page  and you only need to  read their tag line “The revolution continues world wide” to understand where they are headed.
  • The revolution in Syria, Egypt, Libya have recently demonstrated the power of the web, twitter, texting, smart phone video, skype --  all powerful communication tools that are now available to the entire world.

Dissatisfaction + Communication = Rapid Response Teams from the world's disenfranchised on a level the world has never seen before. 
These isolated events, although each extremely serious in their own right, will be dwarfed by a concerted world wide event--imagine what would happen if we escalated each one of these individual events and then  add to the mix Greece, Italy, Spain, etc.  What if unions had the ability to join forces across national borders?    What if utility operators could join forces across borders?  The old term of Power to the People now has new implications.   My concern is that the more people use this new power of communication, the more powerful it will become--Medcalfe's Law.     I think this new communication power is inevitable, and should not be taken lightly.  This is only the beginning.

Seasonal Flu comes and goes, and about a few times a century, the proper random circumstances occur that launch a worldwide pandemic.  This occurs because of an interaction and communication between various variations of the flu virus--lethality, communicability, resistance, etc.     I look at these current social outbreaks as a seasonal flu, that are currently running their course, and will eventually burn themselves out.  However, given the proper set of circumstances, what if these current isolated social events could some how interact and become connected and amplified, launching the first worldwide "Pan Flash Mob" ? --- all made possible by instantaneous world wide communication to EVERYONE.   I think we all need to pay close attention to the social changes that are under the radar of most people.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What’s More Important? Your Job or Your Impact?

Business and government both spend millions of dollars, and huge amounts of human workforce hours, performing “impact studies”.   Whether it’s environmental impacts with highway construction, community impacts with light rail systems, human health impacts with cell phone use -- we study the human impact of almost everything -- except for how we impact each other on a day to day -- personal level.   Let me share two examples.

I practiced as an Emergency Room physician for over 20 years.  Medicine is a service industry, and customer satisfaction is just as important in medicine as it is in the restaurant business, the plumbing business, or a retail store like Home Depot.  Your satisfied customers are your best, and cheapest, source of advertising.  They generate your reputation.

In the ER, patients can be superficially divided into “horizontal” and “vertical”.    “Vertical” patients walk in, usually have a non life threatening problem, and sit in the waiting room the longest, watching the television that is suspended from the ceiling.  They have been triaged to wait because their needs were deemed to be less serious than other patients.    “Horizontal” patients, on the other hand, are frequently brought in by an ambulance on a stretcher, or walk in the ER and are immediately whisked back into the ER and instructed to lay down horizontally on an Emergency Room cart.  They are the true emergencies.

Probably 9 out of 10 ER patients fall into the category of the not-so-sick  “vertical”.  The remaining 10% of ER patients, that are “horizontal”, are frequently so sick that they rarely remember the entire ER experience—sometimes not regaining full consciousness until well after the ER visit.  The “vertical” patients usually remember everything about their visit – how long they waited, how much time they actually spent with the doctor, how painful were the blood tests, etc.  “Horizontal” patients rarely remember any of those things.

Doing your job well, is only a small part of the overall
you have on your customers.

In the ER my job was to treat the “horizontal” –the sickest of the sick, but my impact was on the true majority of patients – the “vertical” walk-in patients.  The “vertical” patients were much better advertising for our ER than the critically ill, “horizontal” patient.  The “vertical” patient majority remembered if they were treated kindly, and how long they had to wait to see the doctor. They remembered if the doctor was compassionate, and they remembered how quickly their pain was treated—and because they remember, they tell their friends and family about their ER experience.   They were our best advertising!   The ER team could easily see their main impact as taking care of the critical “horizontal” patients—but the ER team had to consciously realize that the “vertical” patients were, by far, the greatest number of patients they impacted –-  and it is that impact that the “vertical” patients tell their friends and family about.  The vertical patients generate the reputation of the ER.   

Our job was to care for the “horizontal” sick, but the impact and 
marketing was to the less sick, “vertical” group.

My second example of impact is one from the world of business that I hear at least a couple of times a week.   In this time of economic downturn, jobs are scarce and jobs postings frequently flood the Human Resource departments with applications.  Most applicants that I talk to complain that they NEVER get a response from the companies that they have applied to!   I am sure in this environment that it would be common to get 50 applications for one position.   So, the job of the HR department is to select from that pool of 50 applicants, the one person that is best suited for the position.  However, I doubt if they consider their impact on the remaining 49 applicants.    

The HR department has a great opportunity to present their company in a positive light, by responding to each applicant with a timely and appreciative response.  This might be the applicant’s first interaction with this company.   No response from the HR department might make the applicant think—“If this is how they treat people before they are hired, how will they treat people after they are hired?”   This economy will eventually shift, and in the future there might be a shortage of talented staff.   Has this HR department left a favorable impact on future applicants?   In this example, the HR department has successfully hired one person, but they have negatively impacted 49.   Have they considered that these 49 applicants could be potential future applicants, or even future customers?  The HR department has done their job, but are they aware of their impact?

Do your job well –-  but remember to be aware of your impacts!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Sell Your Boss on Social Networking

 I find myself giving this mini talk frequently lately, so I thought I would just formalize the talk:   "How to sell your boss on the value of social networking for your company."  It’s a 10 step “elevator pitch”

  • We used to get our news and information in manageable amounts from sources we trusted – the newspaper or the evening news on television.
  • Around 1985 the internet appeared and ever since we have had ever increasing amounts of information, to the point now, where most of us feel overwhelmed just trying to “keep up”.
  • The internet, with all of its options, created the “Me” generation – we want everything customized to our specific needs – Starbucks coffee, iPods with “our music”, designer everything – and most importantly for work, we want our information filtered to give us the most important news that relates to us.   RSS feeds initially allowed us to created custom web pages in our attempt to get the news that WE needed.
  • We are now so overwhelmed with information options that we don’t know what sources to trust—for example, you can go online to find a validation of almost any concept --  Elvis sightings on steroids. 
  • The paradigm shift:  We moved from having manageable amounts of trusted information in newspapers and television, to trying to find information we can TRUST in the mass of information on the web.   Trust is now the main commodity.
  • Social Networks provide the layer of trust to information.  Our online “friends”, people that we either know, trust, or feel that we share common values with, provide that trust.
  • In the distant past information was “pushed” to us from newspapers or television. In the recent past we “pulled” information from the web as we frantically tried to check emails, read blogs, follow our favorite web sites, and read multiple online newspapers. 
  • Social Networking is not a Push or Pull; it is a Sharing of information from trusted “friends”.  People that know us send us information based on their knowledge of us.   It’s like having hundreds or thousands of human search bots scanning the web for information that is pertinent to US—It arrives to us as links in tweets, facebook posts, etc.
  • Facebook vs. Google.    When you do a search on Google, a computer algorithm provides the same search results to everyone who posed the same query.   There is no specific knowledge of YOU, like a social network would have.  Now imagine that you posed a query to Facebook:  “Where is a good Chinese restaurant in Spokane?”  The responses from a social network would be far more customized to you—your "friends" would know -- do you value price, ambiance, quality, quantity of food?  PLUS you would trust your network’s opinion more than an algorithm—you could be more confident that it was not a search result that someone either paid for or manipulated with search engine optimization.
  • Social networks help you solve the information overload dilemma with manageable amounts of information from sources that you trust.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why is the 380 million egg recall important to your business model?

I went to China about 10 years ago, just to explore what this huge country was up to -- from a business perspective.  It turned out to be a real cultural eye opener -- on many levels.   I was on a tour of a small village with a group of Americans, when we came upon an open air market.  Lots of fish, fruits, vegetables, and a small amount of beef.  I remember that the side of beef was hanging in the open air, on a large metal hook.   On that 70 degree day, some flies were buzzing around it.  You simply told the owner how much beef you wanted and he would shave it off with a knife, wrap it in paper, and you were on your way.   The Americans in the tour group were appalled with the "unsanitary" conditions, and said they would never eat that beef!   

In today's news is the story about the 380 million eggs that are being recalled for possible Salmonella contamination.   32 million cartons of eggs being recalled from only ONE company--Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa.   I am waiting for someone to do the math an tell me how big a pile of 32 million cartons eggs is:  I will guess that it would fill up a football stadium--but that's only a wild guess.  These eggs were packaged under at least 10 different brand names, and distributed to multiple states.  There are multiple suspect illness cases related to these eggs, and fortunately so far there have been no deaths.

Back to China.    I recall responding to the Americans that were so upset with the open air beef--"I feel safer eating beef in this market than I would eating hamburger in the States".   This one side of beef was slaughtered in the morning, and will be completely sold within a matter of hours.  No cross contamination of thousands of other beef parts.  The beef could be easily traced back to the ranch it came from.    Most importantly, even if the beef in China had been contaminated, it would only impact less that a hundred people, all of whom probably have been dealing with the same butcher for years. 

In the States we have a limited number of beef, pork, chicken and egg producers.  As this egg example demonstrates, these contamination events now impact MILLIONS of Americans at a time, compared to the "unsafe" China market, that could only contaminate less than a hundred people at a time. 

What does this have to do with your business?    

Complexity Creates Vulnerability

Whether it is a down computer system at your bank, a malfunctioning satellite that shuts down Blackberry phones for part of a day, our electric grid, just in time inventory, or a computer virus--we have created a system where our complexity makes us more vulnerable to interruptions and malfunctions than we have ever been in the past.  Will the "efficiencies" of our food producers start creating more problems than they solve?   Will the vulnerabilities created by our technologies reach a tipping point where the risks are outweighed by the benefits.  What streamlining efficiencies have you initiated in your business?  Is there a risk associated with these new shortcuts? 

What vulnerabilities have you created for your business model?    Would you be able to operate without computers, the internet, the power grid, and just in time delivery?

This unprecedented egg recall is a great example of how our businesses should routinely re-evaluate our models for new vulnerabilities that we are creating daily by our ever growing complex systems. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

How much of our Critical Thinking is Hardwired?

I have always believed that many of our critical decision making styles are hardwired into our brains, passed down from our very distant human predecessors. One example, is our use of pattern recognition for quick decision making in survival situations--this impacts the way we make decisions to this day---we try to fit new situations into old patterns that we understand, trying to employ the old pattern responses that have successfully worked for us in the past.

This video is a fascinating look into Monkeynomics -- the hardwired decision making that exists in our primate ancestors--decision making that is amazingly the same decision making hardwire that we have -- passed down from our ancestry. 

If we accept that some of our decision making skills are hardwired, then it might be easier to explain why very smart people continue to make bad decisions.  Our challenge is to understand and appreciate the "humaness" of our decision making process. Once it is understood, we can be "on guard" during a critical decision event--on guard for our hardwired human decision making pitfalls.

Please take the time to watch this video ( 19 min )   I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Critical Thinking: Connecting the dots and the end of the Personal Computer

A big part of critical thinking is just watching the world around you, and then trying to “connect the dots”.   For example:  Why did Hewlett Packard (HP) buy Palm??  Why does a computer/printer company want to expand it's phone business?  Yes, HP was already in the phone business, but hardly anyone new it.

Have you noticed that the price of a PC and the price of a smartphone are at the cross point on a graph?  The low end PCs and the high end smartphones are almost the same price.   

Conclusion:  PCs will soon become as extinct as your land line—for a few reasons.

I stopped using a land line 5 years ago – why pay for an extra phone line when your cell coverage is ubiquitous?  Well, to be honest, I didn’t really totally dump it, I still keep the number on the most basic, cheapest plan, which I think is around $16/month.  The first reason for keeping it, is that my land line number is listed in 411 Directory Assistance. Amazingly, 411 for cell phones (example: www.cellpages.com)  hasn’t really caught on .  Anyone know why??    When you call my land line my answering machine message says: “Call my cell at xxx-xxxx”.  The second anachronistic use for my land line is that it is an integral part of my home alarm system, but that too is becoming web based.  My point is-- we are slowly letting go of the landline, and soon it will go the way of Film, Watches, and CD’s.   What is the next big piece of technology to disappear?   Answer:  your PC, laptop, netbook – they will all be history in a couple of years!

First clue:  Hewlett Packard just bought Palm smartphones.   Apple computer owns the iphone, and Google has the Android.  Second clue:  Cloud computing means you no longer need a hard drive to store your data because your storage is on the web, and storage costs are practically free.   Third clue:  Computers are getting so cheap that they will be giving them away in cereal boxes pretty soon.  The profit margin is going, going, gone.  The PC will die, but the keyboard and monitor will live on!!!

Imagine a world where your only connection to the internet was your cell phone, all of your passwords were stored on your phone, and all of your data was stored for free in the cloud.  It would be a perfect world if the keyboard and the screen on your smartphone were more PC sized--more user friendly.   How about if your smartphone was just your conduit to the internet, but yet it had the ability to wirelessly connect with a dumb keyboard/monitor?  What if you were simply able to place your smartphone next to a dumb keyboard/monitor, the phone and keyboard/monitor connect ( wireless and encrypted ) allowing your internet access on your phone to be conveniently managed with a full size keyboard and monitor?  Once you are done at the keyboard/monitor, you walk away, the connection is terminated, and no data is stored on the keyboard/monitor.  Bye, bye PC!    I think Hewlett Packard got it right.   Keyboard/monitors would be cheap and ubiquitous--they would be free perks, just as wifi is free almost about everywhere.

Where does this leave Microsoft?  Will cloud computing, smartphones, and the death of the PC be the end of Microsoft?    Maybe your smart phone will use your large screen tv as a monitor, with a wireless keyboard.    How about the benefit of just having all of your data in the cloud rather that spread out over multiple computers--work, home, ipad, etc?   How will this paradigm shift affect the way that you do business?