Eliminating waste from the bottom up

eliminating waste

One of the things that gets lost in the complexity of getting a job done or doing the next task, is a focus on group work.  You need to be able to take a step back from the pieces of the system that you’re involved in and:

  • understand what’s supposed to come out the other end of the organization

  • what’s the value of what you are doing

  • understand your role in the organization

  • understand how the process within your organization help support that value

Over time, whether you’re management or somebody that is working as a component of that system, it’s important to be able to understand when what you’re doing needs to change. Things you should be asking yourself are:

  • How do I get rid of extraneous actions

  • How do I slim down what we’re doing as an organization so there’s less waste

  • How do we more effectively meet our goals

One of the things that people often don’t think about but it’s of critical importance, is that the things that you do in your day to day job that don’t drive value are things that are making the organization less competitive.  They are the things that are taking you farther away from the goals of your organization.  Waste to the organization aren’t just the big 100, 000 million dollar line items they are the time wasters such as the forms that have no point and the meetings that bring no value. Those things add up and if they are pervasive enough in an organization they can significantly change the competitive landscape. The world is moving towards a higher performing environment  and these time wasters will breed bad consequences for the organizations that don’t eliminate them.

People don’t think of that at Monday morning status meetings that go nowhere as the thing that is going to put the company out of business. While that may not be the one thing that ends an organization; it’s emblematic of things that are happening within the organization on a grander scale that could put you on the brink of going out of business. So I can’t stress how critical it is to focus on the big picture but sweat the details a little bit too. If there are things that you’re doing that don’t add to the bottom line then you really need to question whether you should continue doing them. Those things are by definition luxuries and if you’ve got time wasting meetings that add no value, maybe you’d get more value just by giving people that hour off. Maybe you could get some sort of benefit for being a kinder gentler organization, but certainly  no value status meetings are something to be avoided.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Leadership: the dangers of “yes-men”

Leadership and diversity

Spock – Not a “yes-man”

One thing I have learned unequivocally over the course of my career is the importance of diversity in achieving success. Leaders should be skeptical of too much agreement and actively work to bring in people that complement rather than duplicate their own viewpoints, backgrounds and beliefs. This diversity leads to an organization that is better prepared to handle complex challenges and more likely to develop a diverse set of innovative solutions to challenges. Innovation cannot truly flourish when you are surrounded by “yes-men.”

Of course with this diversity also often comes differences of opinion with regard to decisions making and other aspects of organizational leadership. I have learned over time that in order to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce you must be able to work within your team and organization to ensure that the inevitable conflicts are resolved in a manner that lends itself to the ability to achieve success as an organization.

This can often mean working within your organization and teams to develop the capability to handle this type of tension. The ability to develop others and to mentor and improve those in a manner that enables them to provide better leadership to their own teams and peers is a core building block of developing a high performing organization. It is also a key component of team building as a whole. The ability to develop others and the openness to enable others to facilitate your own development is a core component enabling the team as a whole to accomplish its objectives.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Remember to think about what may happen if your governance works

 

Governance things to keep in mindGovernance has always been sort of a hot button issue. Now more than ever organizations are really trying to figure out how to get the right mix of governance that enables them to have repeatable processes to understand what’s working, what’s not, and drive repeatable performance.  I’ve always believed that good governance starts with an alignment of interests; it’s really important to have not just the stick but a carrot as well.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the appropriate incentives in place to encourage people to do what they’re supposed to do but when you do, it’s really powerful. If you can show people the benefit that’s in it for them, you’ll get much better results than simply telling people, “Thou shalt do x.”  Sometimes even just putting the governance process in the context of the big picture of what you’re trying to achieve can be enough.

Oftentimes you’ll find that governance applied at the lower levels of the organization may make exquisite sense to management but not so much to the folks that are charged with the executing of the environment. There may seemingly be no rhyme or reason why they’re performing these actions in the sequence that they are. So just providing that context, that touchstone to organizational value can be something that drives better data quality, greater willingness to participate in the process, and ultimately lead to a more successful government system as a whole.

As a side note to that, if after explaining the big picture to the folks who are going to be operating in the governance environment there is still pushback, you should immediately explore that pushback. It may be that the executive view of what the governance process is supposed to achieve, and the actual value that is being achieved, or the effort required to achieve the value has been mischaracterized or misunderstood by management.

I think that that final piece is ensuring that there’s an appropriate feedback loop on the governance process. It is something that occasionally gets left off but it’s incredibly important. One of the things that I’ve seen time and time again is as organizations bring in outside executives, consultants and other third parties that are not directly engaged in the value stream, you end up with layers upon layers of governance process and information gathering that is either duplicative or wasteful. So if just a little bit more attention was paid to the people that were required to execute a governance environment and deliver the business value, there would be a more lightweight process in place.

The other thing to be aware of is that governance often works. So you need to be careful not to stifle innovation or agility by virtue of implementing something that does not provide the organization with enough flexibility to respond to evolving requirements.  We all know that the world is changing at a greater rate than it ever has in the past and you can certainly govern yourself to the point of poor performance.  So I think those are some things to be on the alert for with regard to how you set up governance around your processes and around your organization. I’m very curious to know what other folks have thought of or have been using.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 things to keep in mind during negotiations

Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States

One thing the government shutdown has made me think about is the need for some better core negotiating skills. I know there’s lots of different opinions and many different ways to make things work but I just speak for myself and say that anytime I’m trying to get something accomplished with somebody else and we’re working through how this is going to play out; there needs to be a little give and take. I have three big things that I try to be conscious of. They are as follows:

  1. Big picture.  You need to be able to take a step back from the minutiae of all that you’re working through and understand how those details affect the big picture. That way you can understand if those details are worth scuttling the big picture progress.
  2. You have to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. First of all, this helps you to understand how they can make such wildly outrageous demands. If you take a step into their shoes, you can oftentimes understand why they’re asking for such outrageous things and they begin to see just a little less outrageous. It can also help you do some creative deal making. If you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you can sometimes come up with something that is maybe not quite so wild and outrageous from your standpoint and something that you can live with that maybe they hadn’t considered before.  It oftentimes opens the door for a creative solution.
  3. The third thing is that you have to be focused on the outcomes.  One of the things that you see all the time when you’re trying to get through a deal or negotiate something out is that as the tenure of the deal making gets to be a little bit more competitive or there gets to be more posturing on the other side, the focus strays from what you’re trying to accomplish into becoming focused on the individual actions that have occurred during the negotiations. That really should have no bearing on the actual negotiating of an outcome. The deal making process itself shouldn’t become a hindrance to the outcome of the negotiation. Unfortunately, a lot of times people let the competitive nature of it carry them away. They become less concerned with am I getting what I need to out of this and more with am I going to win.

So that’s the last piece and the real killer of so many negotiations that could be successfully concluded; the fact that people get carried away in the wind and less focused on the outcome.  I’m curious what other folks think.  I’m sure there are many more things that could be added to this list but those are just my big three.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The dos and don’ts of delegating distasteful tasks

distasteful tasks

I like people to get things done. One of the most frustrating things that I’ve run across in the course of doing work with lots of different people on lots of different teams is the idea that a particular job or a particular part of a project is beneath somebody, even if that person could get it done with just a little bit of elbow grease and some proactive leanings. So whenever I see something like that I think about my mom. She has a college degree and spent a lot of time as a teacher but also spent a lot of time when we were growing up working at a health club cleaning toilets and folding towels. This job allowed us to have access to a health club that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to go to where we got to go swimming all the time, play basketball, and do a lot of other things. It was important to her that we had access to those things and so she did something that a lot of folks would have felt was beneath them.

I’m sure that as she was working her way through college her thought wasn’t, “Can’t wait to get done with this so I can be able to spend 15 years cleaning toilets.”  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t high on the list of things that she thought she was going to spend her career doing but it was stuff that had to get done in order to get something else that was important to her accomplished. I think about that every time that I sit down to something that I’m like, “Ugh, I wish I didn’t have to do that” or I get the urge to delegate something just because it’s unpleasant.

Things like making calls to folks that don’t necessarily want to hear what you have to say are easy to delegate but you have to think about why you are doing those things and the example it sets.  If you are constantly looking to delegate things down, that’s going to be something that catches on with other folks. Eventually you run out of people you can delegate to and the things that have to get done don’t get done.  Now I’m not saying there’s a line here where there are certain things that you probably shouldn’t spend your time doing because they’re a poor use of your time. I think it’s very appropriate to delegate in those circumstances but as a team leader or even just a member of a team you have to be careful about what you ask other people to do. Be honest with yourself about the reason that you’re asking them to do this task.  Are you asking them because:

  1. This is something you don’t want or do?
  2. Are they better suited to do this particular job?
  3. Is this something that you really shouldn’t be spending your time on?

If you have the right answers to those question great, delegate it. If you don’t or even if you have some extra time and it’s something that is distasteful but it sets a good example that you’re doing it, you should consider going ahead and doing it.  A lot of times if there’s something I’m about to ask somebody to do something that I know is going to be pretty terrible, I’ll try to sit down and at least do the beginning part of it with them. Hopefully this will:

  1. Share the misery
  2. Show that it can be done, it should be done and nobody’s above doing it

So with that said, enjoy your weekend and do something distasteful on Monday.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

You can’t fix apathy

You can't Fix Apathy

One of the most frustrating things that you’ll ever find when you’re working with your team or with people from your organization is apathy or a lack of work ethic.  There’s nothing more frustrating then watching somebody perform at a subpar level. Actually it doesn’t even matter if they’re performing up to standard but if they’re operating beneath where you believe they can perform its incredibly frustrating; particularly when that apathy is sort of written all over their faces.  When someone is less than engaged when you’re sitting in a meeting, they’re checking their phone, or clearly have other things that are of greater interest to them; that to me is the quickest ticket out of the organization.

I feel that an apathetic attitude is the sort of thing that catches. It only takes a few of those types of folks to ruin the spirit and fight of the team. You can cure a lack of training. You can address that. There are many other failings on a team that you can have that you can address in a fairly straight forward fashion either through training, educational opportunities, or helping someone through an area where they’re having difficulty, but it’s hard to cure a lack of desire, broken work ethic, or just a lack of caring.

I’ve found turn for turn that you can address just about anything else on a team. If you care and you’re willing to put in a little bit of work, you can overcome just about anything and I think that is true in your work a day world and just about every aspect of your life.  There are very few things that can’t be cured through training, education, and effort.  When the problem is someone doesn’t care or they exhibit a lack of effort, that’s the type of thing that as an employer or a team leader you have to identify that and root it out immediately. Whether that means getting that person off of your team or out of your organization, I think it’s something that if you don’t address it; it catches.  People see that and they go, “Well why do I care, why am I trying so hard when this person is not.” It’s unfair when you’ve got people that are pushing as hard as they can possibly push to achieve something.

There’s nothing that drives me over the edge faster than a lack of effort. I think, as with many things, you have to address it with the person directly first. I think, as with many things in the office place, you owe it to the people that work for you and with you to address things head on and ask. Maybe there is something that is correctible that’s causing it or maybe you’re misinterpreting something. Either way I think that once you’ve addressed it on that level, if there’s not a change then you have to find a way to move that person out of your organization or off your team. Otherwise they will absolutely cripple your ability over time to achieve things. Eventually they’ll end up poisoning the rest of your team and the rest of your organization.

I’m not sure how other people feel about this but it’s something that I feel incredibly strongly about. When I see this happening, it’s almost painful to watch. I try to address it immediately and it’s something where I’ve don’t have a lot of tolerance. I’ll take a lot more time trying to help somebody through an issue on delivery then I will on apathy.  You can hand me things that have mistakes in them a lot more times if I feel like you’re really trying, you’re pushing, you’re just maybe not getting it, or maybe you’re struggling with how to put the pieces together. I’m ok with that if you’re working hard or if I can see that you’re working hard and you’re trying to take advantage of what you’ve got around you. I am willing to accept that and work with that, but you can’t fix not caring.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 Questions to ask before you make a big decision

Riddler_Wallpaper_by_Darthkoolguy

Oftentimes l will have somebody come into my office and sketch something out pretty quickly and then look for a decision on the spot. Now if you don’t make the decision quickly you’re holding up progress but there’s always the risk that by making the decisions without the right information, you leave yourself open to down the road having a whole bunch of problems. So I think there are three big questions I like to ask myself before making a big decision. Some of them may seem obvious but it’s worth taking the time to ask just in case the person that is asking for the decision either a) hasn’t thought of it or b) hasn’t thought to share it.

  1. What’s the risk? – I put that question broadly and vaguely in hopes that the person on the other side will take a second and think about what are all the things that could wrong with this before they just move forwards. It’s surprising how regularly they’ll say something that makes me change the answer that I was going to give.
  2. What’s the cost? – This should almost always be followed up by: did you think about how much it’s going to cost? Too often people don’t think about internal resources having a cost. When you’re trying to make these decisions you have to take into account that there’s almost always some level of effort involved in it and you have to weigh that against what we’re going to get out of it.  This is where I get to the next question.
  3. What do we get out of it in the near term and what do we get out of it in the long term? – So maybe that is two questions but I normally ask as what will we get out of it? From there I will break down it down further into those two parts. Again it doesn’t have to be all about near term benefit but it’s awfully nice to know that all the benefits aren’t all far out. The problem with benefits that are a ways out are that if it takes that long to get to where you’re going, sometimes the benefit is not enough to make that decision worthwhile.  The other part of it is weighing the value of the dollar and the resources of what you have now vs. the benefit that is so far out in the future.

You don’t want to become somebody who manages everything in the near term of this quarter, this quarter, and this quarter. Although one of the nice things with managing with an eye towards the near future is that oftentimes things that build value now are things that will build proven value. They result in long term value on the basis of accruing things at a faster rate than the things that are 6 months, 8 months, a year, 2 years, 5years down the road. Certainly it’s important to build towards a larger strategic value as well, but I will say be careful of the allure of things that are only going to benefit you months and years down the road.

So those are my big three questions.

  • What’s the risk?
  • What’s the cost?
  • What’s the benefit?

Those are pretty basic things that you should ask yourself before you ask for a management decision or make a big decision yourself.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.