Strategy vs. execution

As some of you may know, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) recently announced fare hikes to ride the public transit system in Toronto. These fare hikes will come into effect at the end of January. What do you think the first thing people will do when they hear that there is a fare hike? That's right, they will buy as many tokens or tickets as they can at the existing price. It is called hoarding by some. I call it being smart.

Do you think that this is something reasonable that the TTC should have expected? Of course it is. How could someone overlook this as a possibility? But they did. So as a temporary solution, the TTC has now enforced a rule that people can only buy 5 tokens at once to prevent hoarding. They also came out with new temporary tickets that can only be used until the end of January when the fare hike takes effect. So what is the problem? Retailers and collectors have a shortage of the temporary tickets, so people riding public transit on a regular basis cannot buy them. See this article.

The TTC developed the ticket strategy to avoid hoarding, which they estimate would have cost them $5m over two months. They call this what would have been lost revenue, but why couldn't they have anticipated this? Why was the execution so poor? How could they not have discussed some of the scenarios that might take place when fares are raised? I have to imagine that the first thing that would come to most people's minds is that people will try and buy a lot now at the current price to save in the future. That is not a stretch, so why is the TTC having to be so reactive?

Many organizations spend so much time reacting to what is going on around them, and focusing on head-down operational decisions, that they forget about execution. Think about how many great ideas and initiatives have failed because of poor execution. Organizations need to focus just as much on the execution as the development of the initial strategy. Execution is what gets you results. Execution is what provides a competitive advantage. Execution is what differentiates a good idea from delivered results. We need to spend more time on execution and less time reacting to every new situation that comes up.

Charitable giving on the rise?

Not necessarily, but many people are more than willing to donate their time. A recent survey of moms in the US shows that when it comes to charity, 42% more respondents said they will be volunteering time to charities this year. Donations of clothing and food should also be up this year by 15% and 11% respectively over last year’s numbers. But the proportion who said they will be giving money to charity this year fell 9% from last year’s level.

So what does this all mean? Less money being given, but more people being active in fund-raising. Will that ultimately lead to more money being raised? Maybe. It certainly raises an interesting point because people are more willing to give their time but not their money. What is more valuable, time or money? I draw two conclusions from these findings:

1. People are hesitant to donate money until the economy is more stable, but still want to contribute something;

2. Those that are at home raising families or working part-time still have time to give back to causes they believe in.

These are both positive signs because sometimes the biggest contributions are not financial ones.

Some truths aboot Canadian healthcare

Yes, I spelled aboot that way on purpose as a play on a common joke around the way that Canadians pronounce the word 'about'. There has been a lot of talk lately about the US healthcare system as compared to the Canadian system. There are PSAs being played all over the US slamming the Canadian health care system trying to convince Americans that universal health care is not the way to go because it is failing miserably and people are dying in the streets in Canada. First of all, this argument is ridiculous, and second of all, I did not think that our neighbours to the south would sink so low. I thought it my duty to provide some truths about the Canadian health care system and clear up a few things:

1. People are not dying in the streets - to the contrary actually. If a homeless person is found on the street and they are unconscious or sick, they are brought the to nearest hospital and treated for free (yes, free);

2. Wait times are longer - this may be true for certain elective surgeries but is certainly not true for emergency rooms. Severe cases are treated almost immediately. If there are longer wait times for some procedures, we view this as the price we pay for giving access to the same level of care for everyone;

3. People are flowing across the border to the US for treatment - while there are some cases where Canadians go across the border for treatment, most Canadians cannot afford to do so, therefore they wait patiently for the free (yes, free) treatment they can receive at home;

4. We pay higher taxes - yes, that is true, but we also see a benefit for our tax dollars. Running a public health care system is not cheap, but there is no price you can put on the scenario where you have a child who is very sick and you can get a doctor's appointment the same day, receive treatment and have piece of mind….and all of this done for free (yes, free). This means you can focus on helping your child get better, not worrying about paying medical bills, and the doctor can focus on treating patients, not worrying about collecting money.

The Canadian system is based on the premise that everyone deserves access to healthcare and that the strong should help support the weak. Doctors and nurses should be able to focus on what they do best, treat patients. Of course our system is not perfect, we have many things we can learn from Europe and Scandanavia, but it certainly does not warrant the attacks being led by organizations in  the US looking to paint a negative picture to advance their own agenda. So much for friendship amongst neighbours, eh?

I welcome your thoughts.

Differentiating yourself

In this world of cloning and the internet and job losses and electronic media, how can one differentiate themselves? Differentiation comes with ideas and results, not catchy ads and flashy business cards. If you want to stand above the crowd….

Focus on what your customer wants, not what you want.

Focus on the results that your customers will achieve, not the money that you will be paid.

Focus on your customers desired outcome, not yours.

Focus on innovation and vision, not history and recycling of old ideas.

Focus on making the life of your client better, and the quality of your life will follow.

Sounds simple, but ask yourself, are you doing all of these things?

How to sell to the public sector

With all of the stimulus money that has been injected into the economy, many of the organizations that are spending the most money are those in the public sector. Since public sector organizations are spendng tax payers' money, there also happens to be a lot of scrutiny in the purchases that these organizations make. If you want to participate in the competitive process and win, there are three things that you need to do:

Know the guidelines that are being followed - most public sector organizations must follow documented procurement policies which guide the process that must be used to make purchasing decisions. These documents are usually posted on organization websites, so review them and get familiar with them;
Know the evaluation criteria and process - most public sector RFPs will lay out the process for evaluating bids and the weight of the different evaluation criteria. You also need to understand how the process works when the evaluation team is reviewing bids. Everyone has an equal say, so decisions are made by consensus, not by force;
Follow the rules - RFPs will contain proposal rules and guidelines to be followed. Ensure that you understand what are the grounds for rejection of your proposal and follow the rules as stated. As a result of  the public scrutiny for every purchasing decision, organizations will reject bids if they are not compliant with the rules laid out in the RFP document.

I would also advise you to use the debriefing process if you participated in a public RFP and were not awarded the business. Organizations are obliged to give you an opportunity to discuss your bid and their process if you request a debrief session.

Following the advice above will significantly increase your chances of winning contracts with public sector organizations. The game is different, so you just need to know the rules.