Thursday, January 31, 2008

More on How Do I learn Time Management

My brother Glen stopped in late last night on his way home from travel. He has a book contract with the same publisher that did my other brother Lyle's book. His book is going to be on energy policy. An hour chat with Glen keeps me scared on the impact we are having on the environment - he know all the stats.

Looks like I need to pull up my authoring to keep up. The problem is the SYNNEX Canada CEO job is fairly full as it is.

The Simple To Do List

The basis of virtually all time management systems that I have studied is the simple to do list. Do not let the simplicity fool you. There is power in the basics.

Why the To do List? It reduces the stress of rememberng what to do. It helps you to know how much you have to do so you can tactfully decline tasks or know they will not be done until next week. And most important, it keeps you working on the right things.

More important though is prioritizing the list. The priority should be based on your goals so before prioritizing, look at your goals.

Some Tricks:

One trick that helps me get through tasks on the to do list is to put the first action item I need to do to accomplish the task. Often this causes me to just do it. Often this causes me to be able to do it more easily later.

Another trick is to have a short version of the list so I do not become overwhelmed. If my to do list has 80 things on it, even if they are prioritized, just looking at it will cause stress and often a lower priority task calls out to be done. What I do is simply put the 3-5 most important things to do on a blank sheet on top of my list.

I only have one list. Having multiple scraps of paper with lists can be counterproductive.

I like to spend 5-10 minutes at the end of the day organizing my list. When I miss this time, I find I am less efficient the next day than when I do it.

Time Management is simple. Have a To Do List.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Future of Management

I read a great book called, The Future of Management by Gary Hamel.

I found the book to be very well written. I read a lot of business books and many of them are not that well written; however, I still like the books if they are well laid out and organized so often report favourably on them. Gary Hamel is a good writer in addition to having good thoughts.

Part One of the book is where Gary challenges us to think. I was contemplating writing an article before I read the book on, "The Power of Excess Resources", or "Is It Possible to be Too Efficient?"

Here is what Gary Hamel has to say:

Contrary to popular mythology, the thing that most impedes innovation in large companies is not a lack of risk taking. Big companies take big, and often imprudent, risks every day. The real brake on innovation is the drag of old mental models. Long-serving executives often have a big chunk of their emotional capital invested in the existing strategy.

In the pursuit of efficiency, companies have wrung a lot of slack out of their operations. That’s a good thing. No one can argue with the goal of cutting inventory levels, reducing working capital, and slashing overhead. The problem, though, is that if you wring all the slack out of a company, you’ll wring out all of the innovation as well. Innovation takes time – time to dream, time to reflect, time to learn, time to invent, and time to experiment. And it takes uninterrupted time - time when you can put your feet up and stare off into space.

In section one he also explains what a huge percentage of people are not fully engaged in their work at all levels of the company. As English novelist, Ian Forster said, "A person with passion is better than 40 people merely interested."

He also talked about too much management with too little freedom. The gist of that message is that often managers are over-managed.

Part Two moves into a series of stories about real businesses and real people including: Whole Foods, Goretex, and Google.

One thing that I don’t like about many authors is when they talk about company success stories, they tend to attribute success to some characteristic they point out when I think they may have pointed out the wrong characteristic so there might not be a link with success. I also note that every circumstance is different at any different time so it is very difficult to take one solution and apply it to another circumstance. Unfortunately, we all still need to think.

Part Three talks about our beliefs. Sometimes our past success can lead to future failure. It is all about change.

One thing I particularly like about this part is a chapter on Learning from the Fringe which basically points out that many of the better ideas and innovations might not come from the existing business or even the existing managers. They often come from the fringes of the organization or the fringe of the business they do.

In Part Four – The Building of the Future of Management, talks about management 2.0 and what will the new management look like and how to become effective.

This book was thoroughly enjoyable and I would highly recommend it to any leader.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

KISS Theory Goodbye

Bob Prosen wrote a great book called Kiss Theory Good Bye – Five Proven Ways to Get Extraordinary Results in Any Company.

The goal of the book is to provide a definitive how-to-book on business execution. It is a first person account of how Bob Prosen has helped lead major companies.

I like the simplicity of the book and the rules. I particularly like the chapter summaries that make it an easy read.

Chapter one talks about one of my favourite topics, habits. Although the focus of the chapter has a lot of bad habits and I prefer to focus on good habits. Clearly habits are the first step in any good company.

Chapter two talks about leadership. It talks about having no politics. I would modify this to say any company is going to have politics so can they be positive politics. This ties into culture which is one of the main topics that any leader should involve themselves in.

Chapter three talks about sales effectiveness and how to manage a sales force as well as what the difference is between a good and bad sale.

Chapter four talks about operational excellence. Clearly operational excellence is where it all begins and has to do with such things as cost structure, accounting, and just good old fashion execution. It also talks about processes.

Chapter five talks about financial management where information is power. One of SYNNEX’s top values is visibility and this chapter talks all about visibility so you know your costs and where the profit is and where you are making money and where you are not.

Chapter six jumps back to the customer and talks about customer loyalty the one that keeps on giving. This is tied closely to sales but potentially talks more about branding and execution.

Chapter seven starts with a great quote, "At the beginning of the day it is all about possibilities; at the end of the end of day it is all about results." This chapter talks about getting results and are you really doing it.

Chapter eight is titled Be Your Competitors’ Worse Fear. It starts with, "Your competitors’ biggest fear is not so much your bright ideas but your ability to turn those ideas into bottom line results." That requires an accountability based culture relentlessly focused on achieving clear goals.

Daily Checklist

End indecision, increase your productivity, kiss theory good bye and get the results you need.


Give clear directives. Be short, be definitive, and get to the point.

Require accountability. Focus on results, not activity.

Never rationalize poor performance.

Avoid overplanning. When a plan is in place, execute.

Embrace change. Search out opportunities to improve your organization and your results.

Help every member on the team win.

At the end of every day, ask yourself, Did my actions today help move the organization closer to meeting its objectives?


Clearly define everyone’s objectives, establish quantifiable metrics, and measure performance.

Have each person identify the top three barriers to achieving his or her objectives.

Agree on specific actions, responsibilities, and time frames to remove or minimize the barriers.

Hold everyone accountable for results and disproportionately reward those who achieve their objectives.

Remember, you win when everyone on the team wins!

Chapter nine, The Critical Path: this talks a lot about communication. Clearly nothing happens without proper communication.

Chapter ten, Measure What Matters Most: This not only goes to the accounting and financial measurements which were discussed earlier, but gets into counting what is right. I have always been a big believer of every business having a dashboard and believe each business is dashboard and what should be measuring and looking at differs.

Chapter eleven talks about how you continue with the execution and keep it going.

The Epilogue Beyond Profitability: Doing Good and Doing Well

The old adage is true: You can do good and do well. With the attributes I’ve outlined, you don’t have to cheat to become highly profitable. There’s no need to color your reporting or cook the books to achieve great success.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Juicing the Orange

I read a book recently called, Juicing the Orange, How to Turn Creativity into Powerful Business Advantage, by Fallon Senn. Of course it is about marketing.

This is a book by people for ad agencies and engages in a lot of self-congratulations about the brilliant marketing they have done. (although I have to admit, some of it is brilliant)

One suggestion they make that is totally valid is hit the road with customers. That is not only to visit customers but to look how customers use your specific products.

Senn tells the story of how BMW put on a mini-Utube type video on the internet that ended up with thousands of downloads and had huge impact.

From Michael P. Maslanka's Amazon review:

The Big Ideas: don't steal a competitor's emotion, find your own; ads must bear an A to B connection in more revenue generation; take risks to survive because incremental change will kill you.

The chapter on Lee Jeans is one of the best: trust the focus groups when they have passion(here, teenagers want to feel indestructible in their jeans); don't ape the competition(the strong desire to be sexy like levi's); don't be afraid to go to your roots(here, bring back a doll icon from the compnay's past); and know, above all else, that emotions drive decisions---the reason is tacked on later.

If you are interested in marketing, it is a good, interesting read.

And a great failure quote that one of my good friends forwarded to me:

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, January 18, 2008

Lunch with Tony Blair and Time Vs Energy

I had lunch with Tony Blair yesterday courtesy of the TD bank..

Much of what he talked about was terrorism but what made me think the most was his comments on China. In China, 60% of the workforce is involved in agriculture compared to 3-4% in Europe and North America. As this evolves to an industrial country, there will be huge changes. THis will creat huge demand for consumer goods.

Where there is change, there is opportunity. The key is to figure out the right ones.

One disturbing fact is China builds one coal fired generating plant every three days. Scary.

Although one of my time management techniques is to not do politics, I do like being challenged to think. And Tony Blair is an ex-politician so I do not think that counts.

I have found myself thinking a lot about energy lately. Yes the coal fired kind but also personal energy. Nate Collier had a good post on this:

I have always thought that time management is as much energy management as anything else. You are managing/allocating your energy (you also can think of it as self management).

I do not know about you, but I’ve got more time than energy. While I’m always looking for ways to work harder/smarter and to increase and expand my energy levels, I’ve observed there are certain times when I’m at my peak. ...

Managing my energy levels, keeping them high and focused, staying aware of what events, words, and people energize or drain me, has always served me in good stead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude

Tough day today. Difficult meetings, traffic and tight schedule. Still I know I lead a very charmed life.

One of my friends Nate Collier had a great post on gratitude. Nathan and I share similar views and interests on many things. Part of his post is:

In whatever situation you find yourself, an “attitude of gratitude” and the “habit of happiness” will serve you in good stead. You would be worse off without them! Your energy levels would be lower, fewer opportunities would open up, and those around you would wish they weren’t.
We are NOT talking about walking around with your head in the clouds, totally divorced from reality. We are NOT talking about forgetting to do the hard work of preparation. We ARE talking about being open, flexible, and adaptable (”when one door closes, another door opens …”).

Your subconscious hears every word you say, attempts to conform to every belief you have. When you attempt “to pretend that you have abundance when you know you don’t,” your mind knows you are pretending and so…I’ve found it helps to start with whatever belief or visualization you are comfortable with, that you CAN believe (stretch it as far as you can but keep it reasonably real to you), and then move on from there.

I know that if I work out HARD for the next 6 months I will be able to lift at least 50% more than I can now. I also know that no amount of positive thinking will enable me to me to lift 50% more tomorrow. And I know that 6 months of hard workouts will probably go much better with a lot of positive visualization of successfully doing the last rep of each set, of focusing my thoughts on the benefits I’m working toward (and believing I will receive them). Putting a lot of emotional energy into “believing I will receive” the benefits I’m working toward helps me stay on track, disciplined, and focused.

Monday, January 14, 2008

How Customers Think

I had a quiet and lazy weekend. Accomplished little. May have been jet lagged from last week. Of course the doer in me beats me up for not pushing harder and getting more done. And I am off to a good start this week today.

I read a book called "How Customers Think, Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market" by Gerald Zaltman. It is a cross between a psychology book and a marketing book.

I was interested in this book because it talks a lot about understanding how and why customers buy. Clearly no business is successful without customers.

One challenge SYNNEX has is addressing needs of many different customers, many of which have different needs. What might be seen as essential for one customer is not even valued by another. I believe all companies are best for specific types of customer and the more within the target range a customer fits, the happier they are. And the opposite is true. Where I see dissatisfied customers, they normally do not fit the specific ideal customer type. We cannot be everything to everybody.

He uses many examples of optical illusion and how perception in some cases is more important than reality in the mind of the customer.

A more detailed review from David B. Wolfe follows (note what he says in the last paragraph):

Consumer research is a $6 billion business. But the ROI on research expenditures is being questioned as never before. This is ironic given that advances in information technology has vastly expanded analytic capabilities and increased customer data by an order of magnitude.

Jerry Zaltman s How Customers Think offers fresh insights into why companies are increasingly frustrated by consumer research. Drawing on contemporary brain research, he exposes fatal flaws in the hallowed premise in traditional consumer research that asking customers about their motivations is the best way to get clues about their future behavior.
Zaltman points out that surveys, questionnaires and focus groups fail to get behind the curtains of consciousness. This can prove fatal for a marketing program because at least 90% of mental activity that leads to perceptions, thinking and decisions takes place outside the conscious mind.
However, traditional research and marketing largely ignores the contents of the unconscious mind.

Why is this so, when contemporary brain research has learned that this is where motivations as well as perceptions and decisions originate? Because lacking an understanding of how minds work, researchers and marketers must depend by default on consumers conscious rational responses. However, disconnects between what consumers consciously think and what they feel at deeper levels often lead to marketplace failure.

Zaltman reconnects the emotional, feeling dimension of consumers minds (right brain as it were) with the perceiving, thinking (left brain) dimension of their minds to yield a holistic picture of customers minds.

Marketing often fails expectations because undue attention is given the contents of the rational left brain that respondents disgorge in traditional consumer research. Zaltman observes that researchers and marketers widely ignore the deep shadowy realm of motivating emotions because it is easier to record, process and analyze what consumers say directly about their needs and motivations.

Zaltman observes that recent brain research shows that emotional arousal is essential to the generation of sustained interest in a matter. Brain patients whose emotional capabilities have been destroyed while still having normal reasoning powers cannot determine whether one brand or another is best for them. Brand loyalty, it seems, is determined more by emotional responses than by rational analysis.

Zaltman shows how to get better guidance than direct questioning of them yields about what will stir consumers emotions. In doing this he addresses one of the most curious defects in traditional research and marketing: decisions are more often determined by the rules of statistical math than by tenets of behavior science. However, this should not be surprising because few marketers have grounding in how minds work. After all, a person can earn an MBA in marketing, even from online MBA programs, without a single course in behavior.

If the primary functional purpose of marketing is getting the attention of minds and influencing them to action, then it should follow that a deeper understanding of how minds work will make marketers more effective in doing that. However, with Zaltman s book in hand, one needs not go back to school for a degree in psychology to gain a practical understanding of how customers minds work.

A word of caution, however: This book is to be studied, not scanned. It does not offer the simple, sound bite-sized solutions that are so commonplace in marketing books and that make them quickly forgettable. Zaltman s book will not be forgettable to any person who makes a study of his book because he/she will experience a quantum leap in understanding how customers think.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How Do I Learn Time Management

It has been a busy week. I was in Fremont, California for a board meeting (SYNNEX quarterly release was great) followed by Vegas for the the CES show.

Although I have not blogged in a week, perhaps I do not feel the stress that I should. The New York Times had an article entitled "Some Brand-Name Bloggers Say Stress of Posting Is a Hazard to Their Health". Perhaps there are bigger things to stress about in life.

We allow our minds to cause our own stress. Of course this is easy for me to say and not as easy to do. I often let the world cause me stress. One of my New Years Resolutions is to be more Zen; in the moment and less stressed.

One of my friends asked me "How do I learn Time Management?". For starters, I would say it is not learning it that you want it is practising it. And furthermore, it is a skill that will never be perfect.

Some tips for those who want to practise time management:

1 - Study it. Read every book (including my eBook of course). Listen to every CD (including mine of course). Take every course.

2 - Set clear goals. Proper time use has more to do with working on the right things than anything else. How will you know what the right things are if you do not have goals.

3 - Set Time Management Goals. From the studying you have done, what are the time management tips you want to start. Then start them now.

4 - We are the product of what we repeatedly do so what you really want to do is implement success habits. Choose a few success habits you can do today.

5 - Be persistent. No one is perfect all the time. If you did not practise what you want to yesterday, no problem, today is the first day of the rest of your life. You always have a choice now.

Good luck with it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Years Resolutions

I am sore from 3 1/2 hours of cross country skiing. Not just my legs (mostly the front of my thighs) but my triceps. I prefer to muscle up hills rather than herring bone. Not sure if that is just lazy or what.

This is resolution time for many. I prefer to just use New Years as one more excuse. I actually like setting resolutions.

The tough part for me is coming up with the larger goals first. Once I have that, the subgoals (resolutions) come quickly into focus. The most important part is knowing where you want to be. Once you know that, everything flows.

I tend to have more subgoals than I can possibly do so part of good discipline is to choose just the top 4 or 5. I keep the others but they are just in the "not now" bucket.

Resolutions for me mostly revolve around success habits. I find results come easily if I have the right habits. We are a product of what we do repeatedly. We are going to have habits - might as well make them good ones.

Happy New Years to all.