Focus on value

How many times have you had to perform an activity and said "why am I doing this?" We have all done this. So why do we continue to do these things? Why do we continue to spend time on activities that are providing no value to our organization and at the same time complain that we do not have enough resources? This is the classic dilemma. Organizations should be focusing their processes and activities on the value-added activities. What are value-added activities, how do we know what activities we should be working on? Simple. Any activity that improves your company's financial performance, improves your employee morale and retention or improves your customer satisfaction would be value-added. Any other activity should be closely scrutinized and likely eliminated. Why would you be spending time on activities that do not achieve one of those three things?

I welcome your comments.

Focus our efforts

As I sit in my hotel room in Ottawa doing some work before going to the gym, I think about how important it is that we focus our efforts on something. I want to do about 45 minutes of work, but I need to pick something to work on. My to do list seems like it is a mile long and that is sometimes overwhelming, so I need to pick one thing and one thing only to work on. That way I know I will get at least one thing accomplished.

My guess is that I am not the only one who has this problem. With out lives being so busy it is easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of life and not move anything forward. People call this spinning your wheels. How can you avoid this? Pick one thing and do it. Pick one task and move it forward. If you pick one thing every day and move it forward, think about how productive you will be. Our lives are filled with email, phone calls, PDAs, social media, instant messaging…..all ways to distract us from focusing our efforts. There are more distractions than ever. How do we avoid the distractions? Turn down the volume, move above all of the noise and focus on one task or activity. Only one at a time, and move it forward.

What recession?

As I was sitting on the plane back from New York City on Monday afternoon, I was reflecting back to our visit to the city where companies may have been hardest hit due to the current financial crisis. I realized that there was only minimal indication that there was anything wrong. People were not desperately panicking in the streets, there were not signs everywhere about businesses going out of business. In fact, there were lots of people shopping and going to shows and spending money. Of course there were lower prices and it was a little bit easier to get a hotel room at a reasonable price, but if I did not know any better, I would have asked 'what recession?'

On Sunday night, my wife and I met some friends at a restaurant called Kefi on the upper West side. The place was packed. And I mean packed. Both floors of the restaurant were full with patrons and the bar was crawling with people waiting for a table. This was at 9:00pm on a Sunday night. Again, it made me think 'what recession?' People are still going to go out, people are still going to spend money and people are still going to want a distraction from what they read in newspapers and magazines and what they see on the TV news. It all reminded me how resilient we can be and gave me optimism that we are going to be stronger and more innovative coming out of these tough times. Whenever you doubt that this will end, think of Kefi and how things can surprise you, even in the toughest of times.

People are worried, and that is a good thing

As I was speaking at a conference last week, I looked around the room and realized that people were there for different reasons. Some wanted to network, others wanted to skip out of work, but most wanted to learn more about the topic. It came to my attention that people need help these days and lots of it. Everyone is worried about where the economy is going to go so they are taking steps to improve themselves and their abilities. I believe that the next few years will be very interesting for us because people are going to come out of this downturn more creative and more intelligent about their businesses.

In any economic struggle, more innovation is created. Companies need to develop new ways to gain access to their customers. They need to find new products to sell and services to provide. They need to provide new and creative ways of marketing themselves. I think this is a very exciting time to be in the business world and I look forward to seeing in what direction we progress.

I welcome your comments….

Don't be late

As I wait for a conference call to begin and I listen to the peaceful classical music that they always play, it made me realize how I never, ever want to be late for a meeting, appointment, event, etc. What is it that makes some people late and others not? How does it make you feel when you show up on time (or early in my case) and the other person is late? It does not make you feel very good, does it? I realize that things happen…..there are car accidents and road closures and public transit stoppages….there is a world of things outside of our control, but there should never be excuses.

I think being on time is only a common courtesy. Everyone is busy and has taken the time out to allocate time for the meeting, etc….To me it is a sign of the way that you treat people. By being late, it shows that there are more important people than me and that is not something anyone wants to feel. Think about how you are treating people when you constantly arrive late to meetings and make people wait for you. It implies that your time is more valuable than theirs. Think about that the next time you want to do "one more thing" before leaving for a meeting. That "one more thing" will always be there, but so will the impression that you are leaving on the person that is waiting for you.

5 things great leaders do

This may be a repeat of some advice I gave a few months ago, but it is worth repeating. I do not envy the situation of some of our leaders right now. Companies are being scrutinized down to the penny and governments are making tough financial decisions. Shareholders are angry and people are losing their homes. So how do you lead during times like these? There are five things leaders need to do: 

- Communicate openly with staff, investors and other stakeholders; 

- Be accountable and take responsibility for your actions (ie. admit when you make a mistake); 

- Solicit input from those around you - employees, suppliers, customers, advisors; 

- Surround yourself with people that challenge your views; 

- Trust your gut and move on, then learn from your mistakes. 

 Leadership is always tough, so I believe the principles above are the foundation of any good leader, regardless of the economic climate. If you want to be a good leader, follow these five principles.

Transforming organizations

How much profit is your organization losing as a result of poor alignment? Probably a lot. But what do I mean by alignment? I break organizations up into three areas: processes; people; and technology. I did not develop this division of strategy, but I do subscribe to it. Effective organizations make it their mission to ensure that these three areas are aligned and consistent. Here are some characteristics of a well-aligned organization:

-minimal duplication of work effort amongst employees;

- business processes that focus on value-added activities;

- technology that supports the organizations' business processes and automates repetitive activities;

- an organizational structure that supports the desired culture and clearly communicates responsibilities and accountabilities;

- centralized documentation and templates accessible for the entire organization.

Does your organization have these characteristics? Most do not, which means that you need to go through a transformation in order to get there. Each area that is not aligned leads to additional costs for the organization. These costs come on the form of additional resource costs to complete duplicate work and work on non-value added activities, expensive technology investments that do not benefit the organization's ability to better satisfy customers or replace manual work and an organizational structure where employees are unsure of accountabilities so decision-making processes are long and labour-intensive. If this sounds more like your organization then you are losing profit unnecessarily. The good news is there are steps you can take to remedy the situation. For some of those steps, you will need to wait until my next post.