Friday, December 28, 2007

How to Think Strategically

The last few days have been quiet and slow. Many less calls, emails, meetings etc.

At first, I was frustrated and feeling my efficiency was lower. What triggered me to notice this low efficiency was waiting for 3 minutes at the microwave for my lunch to warm. Normally I would have been emailing on my Blackberry or talking on the phone but I was just watching the microwave.

I was even going to post that having less things on can lead to lower efficiency. I was going to give some of my tips on how you can create a list of lower priority tasks, set goals to get through things, etc. even when there are not external pressures. And of course I was charged up to lead by example and get lots "done".

Then I started to notice I was thinking more strategically. I was thinking "Bigger Picture/Longer Term". The creative ideas were flowing.

There can be power in not always "doing". And I think my normal busy nature might be impeding my creativity.

The challenge I normally have in being creative is I cannot just sit down and say "for the next hour I will be creative". I normally have to set myself with the challenge or problem I want to solve (asking the right question is the most important part). I normally surround myself with lots of reading, data, background, research etc. to inspire thought.

Perhaps stillness also works.

I wish all my readers a great and safe New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

7 Ways to Handle Email Efficiently

I was mentioned in the Globe and Mail today. Harvey Schachter writes about E-overload and handling email volume:

"Julie Morgenstern suggested in The Wall Street Journal that people's workloads are so intimidating now that they use e-mail as an escape: "It gives you a false sense of accomplishment."

This is a scary thought.

Jim Estill's 7 ways to Handle Email Efficiently

We all deal with the challenges of email volume. The key is to handle it efficiently.

1 - Have a great filtering system. Many of my emails are automatically filtered to go to a certain subfolder. I subscribe to a number of email publications and newsletters. These automatically go to a folder that I can then read at my leisure.

2 - Use a spam filter. Despite having a good spam filter, I still get spam. Although the volume of spam can seem daunting, it is actually very easy and fast to delete. Unlike real email that can take real time to respond to, spam can be easily deleted in less than 2-3 seconds.

3 - Have a slush file. Some emails, I think I might need to reference at a later date. I simply put these in a Nov07 or Dec07 subfolder. If I do end up referring to it, I move it forward to the current subfolder. If not, I can delete my slush folders after a few months. If I have not looked at it in a few months, it cannot be that important.

4 - Have a To Do folder and a Pending folder. This is where I put the emails that need to be done or the ones waiting on action from others or that just need checking. By having the slush folder and these 2 folders, I end up with a clean inbox.

5 - If I can deal with an email in 2 minutes, I deal with it when it arrives. When I am rushed, this time might compress to 30 seconds or even might become "emergency scanning" in 5 seconds. If I am more relaxed, I might expand the time to 5 minutes. It is easier and faster to just deal with the email than to file it and look at it again.

6 - Send less email. Not positive I agree with this tip although it is true that sending email causes email to be sent to you. The reason I am not positive I agree with this is sending email often is the way to get action and I am very big on action and sense of urgency.

7 - Have a Blackberry. Even if I was not on the RIM board, I would totally advocate this tip. It allows you to use small snips of downtime to keep on top of email. It reduces email stress by allowing it to be dealt with quickly and instantly.

Despite the pressure email puts on us, it is still preferable to the slower alternatives. Imagine trying to handle all your workload on the telephone, fax or by mail. I know we did it once but it was just not as effective and efficient.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Value of Youth

I am thinking about my 2008 goals.

In 2007, I ran 3 marathons (although one was a training run for another one - we can still count it) but only did one Triathlon. Thinking for 2008, I might not do a marathon. I was interested to see the Globe and Mail ran an article on how there are less deaths on the road during a marathon. Excerpt:

"PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTER December 21, 2007 While the death of a runner during a marathon attracts widespread media attention, in reality fatalities fall in a community hosting a mass-participation distance race, according to provocative new Canadian research.
That is because the road closings associated with a major marathon result in fewer motor-vehicle fatalities, which more than offset the rare running-related death.

"There are fewer tombstones the day after a marathon," Donald Redelmeier, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said in an interview.

"From a societal perspective, we're better off having people running than driving." The research, published in today's edition of the British Medical Journal, found that over a 30-year period, there were 26 marathon deaths.

But because of road closings during the races, an estimated 46 motor-vehicle fatalities were prevented, the researchers found."

I think I work out to the extent I do to fight aging and to give me the energy and vitality I need to do what I do. Jon Rohr from Exchange Magazine had a great quote in the Jan edition by Mistral:

"The young have never been old and so do not know the true value of youth - if people could wait to be young, they might make better use of time"

Jon is an excellent writer (which I guess would be expected since he does publish a magazine) and a feisty business person. He competes in the publishing world against the giants of publishing.

Enough rambling. Off to set goals.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Seduced by Success

The winter weather has been beautiful. Reminds me of my youth.

I have been busy. Lots of book summaries to post but not enough time to write them.

One book I read recently is "Seduced by Success" by Robert Herbold. I love the central theme of the book - Successful companies and people need to be careful of constantly learning and re-inventing themselves in order to stay competitive. Past glory can work against future success especially if you let it go to your head. "Success is a huge business vulnerability".

One thing I do not like about many self help books is they start with the assumption that you are a loser. I like this one that assumes you are a success so need to deal with that handicap.

The book plays to the expression "If you do what you always have done, you get what you always have got" which I modify to "If you do what you have always done, you will go bankrupt".

The book talks about the 9 traps of Success. There is a good review on Amazon by Robert Morrison here so i will not type all 9 traps.

One of the traps (#4) is Complexity. As business become successful and grow, often they add complexity and bureaucracy. I have always felt one of the goals of a big company is to act small. Or put in this context - be simple.

It ties with Trap #5 Bloat and rationalizing loss of agility.

The book is well organized and easy/fast to read. Highly recommended for the successful.

Of course the proper response to all of the traps is constant learning and evaluation combined with the humility to recognize that past success can take our edge off.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Psychology of Misjudgement

One thing I like about blogging is the discussion and feedback I get(yes - even the negative). It provokes thought. A friend forwarded me a book and article as a result of my December 3rd post on Learn from Everyone.

The famous article by Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett's partner) is "The Psychology of Misjudgement". He is a business philosopher and has written a lot of interesting articles. He admits he is not a psychologist and comments on trying to figure out human behavior. I like the way he has a natural curiosity and tries to figure things out.

Of course the article speaks to me since it applies to all human interaction; especially sales and marketing.

In the article he cites 24 or 25 human tendencies (depending on which version you read) and explains them all in some detail. One of them is Reciprocity Tendency that I wrote about earlier. Others include things like "Social Proof (everyone else is doing it so it must be right", "Overoptimism Tendency", "Twaddle Tendency (The tendency to explain that which cannot be explained or is not understood)", "Curiosity Tendency" etc.

My observation on his 25 tendencies is each of us has each of them to varying degrees and at different times and under different circumstance, they kick in. For example, some people might have a very high curiosity Tendency but be lower than someone else on the Reciprocity Tendency.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Value/Time - Choosing the Right Projects

Busy weekend. I went to a "Dinner with Stanley" fundraiser Friday night in Stratford. Stanley Cup that is. Stayed the night with friends, Alex and Tim McDonald in Stratford. Tim runs Ideal Supply, a 25 branch auto parts/electrical distributor. Although he distributes different products, we still have lots in common and I can learn a lot from him.

Then Saturday, prepared for meetings in California. Saturday night was the SYNNEX Christmas party. It was a great party. Weather was good. I think people had a good time. What I like about the party is the informal time to speak to so many people. I rarely get that even though I work with these people all the time.

And now I am already at the airport catching a flight to my meetings. Slow customs line this morning.

This week will be a blur. I tend to get a bit behind while I am on the road. California meetings also inspire lots of ideas that I then feel a great sense of urgency to implement. Usually ending up with a hugely long list that is impossible to get done. So the key then is prioritization. Pick those things that have the greatest impact. Although sometimes I pick little things that have only small impacts but are easy to do.

I think of it as a "value/time" continuum that I work through in this order:

High value/low time
Medium value/low time
High value/high time
Medium value/high time

The decisions though are actually way more complex than that though since many can be done in parallel. Some need the same resources. Some have differing probabilities of success.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Learn from Everyone

I was in Paris, France for an extended weekend this weekend.

I was walking through a park and an older woman stooped in front of me and picked up a mans ring and and said "look what I found". "This is a lucky day". She then handed it to me ostensibly to look at. The conversation continued - somewhat hampered by language barriers. She claimed to be from Yugoslavia with her son. Her son could not find work. She was hungry and asked for money for food. I responded by giving her an orange (I had a bag of them just for the purpose of giving to street people since I generally do not give money). Then she would not take the ring back saying she does not wear jewelry and it is a man's ring and I should keep it etc. Then she again asked for money and I gave her some change. She asked for more - then I knew I had been had. I gave her the ring back and this time she took it.

She was using classic marketing/sales. First the surprise - getting attention step by finding the ring. Then use the few minutes to develop rapport and make me comfortable. She also was using psychological reciprocity - make me feel indebted by giving me a gift (a ring I did not want). Then the sales pitch which was slightly successful for her - she got an orange and a bit of change.

I like psychology and sales psychology. She was a master at it.

One thing I try to do is to be able to learn some things from all people - even if much of what they have to offer I reject. Part of me says this is true wisdom.