Thank you...

This post, although short, is very special as it is dedicated to the 10 people who currently subscript to my bi-weekly blog. I wanted to take the time to thank you for subscribing; it's not just that though, I also want to thank you for your feedback, your editing, your interest, the "retweets", your ideas and your comments.

In the three months (as of today) that I have been blogging, I have discovered a number of things:

  1. I really, truly, like writing... wait... it's more like story telling I think.
  2. The process I go through is the same, blog after blog... I start off with an idea, then words on the page which lead to this emotional roller coaster: "I like this".... "I hate this"..."grammar is stupid (and so is spelling)", and ultimately "this is pretty good" - SEND.
  3. I don't know why people are afraid of punctuation? The semi colon is so much fun. Use as you see fit.
  4. It seems I have an opinion on many things.

I am not "pushing" this post out to any other social media, so in a practical sense you are currently the only ones who will read these words, and for that I am very grateful. I want to share this with you with great appreciation.

"I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness ad more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind."

Neil Gaiman wrote this, who if you do not know, is the husband of Amanda Palmer... and we all know the big crush I have on her.

As they say, "all writers start with zero readers". Thank you for being my first ten.



Execution.... the third in a series of thoughts

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I had promised I would talk about the fun you can have with process mapping and I think the best segue into this would be to start with "Meeting attendance auto-Pilot", or for those who love acronyms, MaaP*

A lifetime ago, in another world, I found myself in a meeting listening to a marketing manager review a promotional initiative that was in "pilot phase". It was here that I slipped into MaaP. I'll take a moment to define it for those not familiar with it - MaaP is the ability to be aware of everything happening in a meeting while mentally tending to the many other things you would be doing if not for the meeting. I should also point out this is not an aspect of disrespect but more a necessity for survival in some companies. I suspect it's comparable to an out of body experience. 

All of a sudden my MaaP drops out of warp drive and I find myself saying, "run that by me again?" It is here that I'm retold how the promotional fulfillment component of the "cool smartphone app promotion" is fulfilled automatically in one case, but in the other instance the fulfillment needs to be done through the sales force. There is some discussion with regard to using the sales force for promotional fulfillment and how it is a bad idea... it distracts the sales force and increases the exposure to having a disappointed customer. The marketing manager points out that it is a "very cool app" and there were few examples of the need for the sales force in the pilot. To that it was pointed out that the pilot would not scale in its current form. The meeting continued and I think I may have slipped back into MaaP.

Example of a simple process map (some get very complicated)

Example of a simple process map (some get very complicated)

Let's fast forward three months after my MaaP experience... by then, that "app promotion" had rolled out into the market and my role had changed where I was now much closer to the impending storm of "a pissed off sales force and disgruntled customers". As I got into the situation it became clear few people were aware of, or even understood the impending "problem". It was time to develop a process map as to how this promotion worked - Not a bad segue eh?**.

So what is a Process Map? -  A process map is essentially a breakdown of a process to determine how it flows and, ultimately, how effective it is. Those who complete process mapping look closely at elements such as the structure of a system and the flow of communication within the system. It consists of circles, boxes, diamonds and arrows representing the flow. (see diagram)

  • The circle (oval, or rounded box) represents the start or end of the process
  • The square represents a specific activity as part of the process
  • The diamond represents a decision making point (yes or no)
  • The arrow represents the flow and the connectors from activity to activity through the decision points.

Here is why I like the process map: 1) it forces you to understand your process and how you do what you do, 2) it is a visual representative, so you can literally see what you are working with and by extension makes communication easier, 3) it makes it much easier to identify problems and gaps in your process and 4) it helps determine optimization, correction and execution.

So now back to the process map of the promotion... well it was so complicated it looked like a "circuit board"; so much so when I was reviewing it with someone they simply looked at me and said, "you've got to be kidding". In the end, this process map made it easier to communicate the situation and illustrate it's impact on the customer, as well as internally. It ultimately led  to process improvement, that, although not perfect, alleviated the immediate issues.

As I look back at this situation and what came out of it, a few things resonate with me still - 

  • Development of a process map in the beginning, as well as a better understanding of the systems that you work with***, probably would have driven better execution.
  • Smartphone Apps are not a silver bullet.
  • No matter how much someone tries to convince themselves that there is not a problem, there is.

There is a great science to process mapping, as well as its close cousin functional excellence, and I have learned over the years that is it is an excellent tool to help you optimize all things involved with execution.

I hope you are finding this series informative, as well as maybe a little entertaining. Let me know.


* I will be the first to admit that this could just be me, as at the end of the day I have the attention span of a small insect.

** Remember I am Canadian.

*** Understanding the systems that you have available is imperative for optimized execution. It makes me nuts when people try to work outside the functionality of the system at their disposal and then blame the system for any shortcoming. I mean, I wish I had a "matter transfer device" to get around, but I don't so until then I will work with the airline industry. 

In search of creative problem solving - part one

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Have you ever been walking in the woods with someone and they look up and say, "Hey look... a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker".

You then look up and say, "Um, no... Can't see it".

They then come back to you with, "See where I'm pointing, just above that broken branch".

This is what a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker looks like

This is what a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker looks like

You then look a little more intently and say, "Nope, still can't see it".

Then, in a slightly frustrated voice they say, " You see the broken branch, right?"

You say, "Yes". You look a little harder.

They then say, "Ok, to the left and up slightly. See it?"

You reply," Still can't see it"

"Let's move over here", they suggest, and you do.

They then suggest you look up the trunk of the tree about twenty feet and then at the third branch; you shift your gaze about three feet and there it is, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

"Oh now I see it", you say with a bit of relief in your voice,  just as it flies away. (See picture if you missed it)

Creative problem solving, as well as situation analysis can be analogous to that search for the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It's all about being able to see the situation and/or the solution.

Let me take a short detour for a moment, but not to worry, we will meander back to the topic at hand. A while ago I wrote a post called "The Lemonade Stand... a way of thinking" (December 10, 2014) offering some thoughts on various frameworks for thinking, such as the 7S Model and The 4 P Marketing Model. Shortly after I posted it, Dave, an associate of mine, asked me "how can you think creatively if you are using  business models that were developed in the last century?" It was a very good question; one that I think the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has started to shed some light on - See, I told you I would bring it back.

 I believe these frameworks are proving the test of time as tools for thinking, particularly in a business setting; where the secret to "creative problem solving" lies is with how you look at the various components of the framework - "How you see". As an example... with "The Lemonade Stand Model", the broadest of the frameworks, we know that the customer is something of great importance. We look at the customer, spend time understanding them, determine ways to know them and ways to see them. We try to put ourselves into a position where we can say, "Oh, now I see it". It's all about how you see within the framework - "Seeing it" leads to understanding and creative solutions.

So now the obvious question is how do you see something that you can't quite see at the moment? Well, like that person in the woods you get someone to help you (either literally of figuratively). Some thoughts come to mind...

  • Put yourself in circumstances where you are outside "your bubble"* - Do something you don't know how to do, meet people you would never meet and literally go see things you normally don't see. This is why I will never travel to an all-inclusive resort again.
  • Read biographies, history and comic books. 
  • Search out experts in fields and disciplines that you have no interest in or would never have thought of. I personally like Chase Jarvis Live as he has guests I would never have exposure to or gain insight from. I have attached an interview with Jasmine Star a famous wedding photographer. Chase Jarvis Live is long format, which means it's lengthy and informative in a way that isn't "sound bites" or simplistic overviews. Sometimes seeing takes a little time.
  • Befriend people who don't think like you, live like you or vote the same way as you do.

As you can see from the title, this is something I am exploring and will continue to explore "in as many parts as it takes".

Let me know what you think, so I may see a little better.



* "Your bubble" in this context refers to your life... the more protected, controlled or isolated it is, the smaller your bubble.