Friday, February 27, 2009

Adding Value

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Quebec Technology Association. They are a great group of people.

One of my fellow speakers was Paul Barter, a Professor of Technology, Strategy and eCommerce at the Schulich School of Business at York University. My sense is he will become a great author, thinker or speaker that I can say I knew him when...

Barter gave a great talk including a lot of the normal basics of technology and marketing like the five forces (look it up on the Internet if you don't know what that is about).

He spoke of the importance of being able to summarize your strategy in 35 words, S-curves, the technology adopter cycle from innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards, crossing the chasm, etc.

There is power in getting back to the basics.

The one slide he had that I thought really summed it was – how can we create value? How can we deliver value? How can we capture value?

Often I see people who add value but they are not able to capture it. And sometimes I see companies that add value in their minds but no one is willing to pay them for it.

The ideal is to find a unique value that is actually valued and people are willing to pay you for. Think about the unique value you or your company can add.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Laws of Simplicity

Simplicity and Time Managemant/Time Savings are connected.

I recently read, "The Laws of Simplicity Design Technology Business Life" by John Maeda. The book is not what I expected. I thought the book would have a lot of ideas on how to make your life simpler; however, it was largely in praise of simplicity in technology products - also a laudable goal.

He did have ten laws of simplicity and three keys.

The first law was to reduce. This one is an obvious one for me, clearly reducing does create simplicity. Much of what he talked about was reducing it in design around devices in computer products; however the same thing clearly applies to life and time management.

The second law was organize, again this is obvious. His point was organization makes a system of many appear fewer. I have long been an advocate that organizational systems are what it is mostly about and the gist of my time leadership book is an organization system that works.

The third law was time, savings and time feel like simplicity. I have spent a lot of time of course on this one.

The fourth law was to learn, knowledge makes everything simpler. I had not thought that this was the reason to learn but there is sense to it. I am a life long learner so appreciate this law.

So far I am completely in sync with the author and the laws continue through differences (simplicity and complexity need each other).

Contexts: what lies of the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.

Emotion: more emotions are better than less.

Trust: in simplicity we trust.

Failure: some things can never be made simple.

And finally - subtract the obvious and add the meaningful.

This is a short and simple book with an abvious message for technology designers. "Just because you can add a funtion does not mean you should" or "keep it simple - it increases usefulness".

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Make Time Management a Game Tip

One of the time management tricks I use is to make a game out of getting my tasks done.

I list all of my tasks and how much time I think it will take to complete them, then as I go through the tasks, I cross them off and keep a log as to where I am relative to the time. It is a game to try to complete them faster than the alloted time.

This system allows me to be realistic about what I can accomplish and in what time period because over time, I have managed to hone my skill and ability to have realistic expectations (although I am still not as realistic as I could be).

I do not advocate this as a primary time management system because this tends to be very task focused and much of your greatest contribution will come by working on your most important priority and many times your most important priorities are not tasks.

And a Quote

Each morning see some task begun, Each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, February 16, 2009

Autofocus Time Management System

A friend emailed me a link to Mark Forster's web site. Forster is a fellow author on time management. He proposes a unique system of time management.

When I first read it, I was skeptical since his system does not include the prioritization which I am used to. But I tried it for a couple of days (but honestly, only for about 4 hours per day since I like my prioritized todo system) and I found that it does work well.

It would be a great system to beat procrastination.

A summary of how it work is below and more details are on his web site.

From his site:

Quick Start
The system consists of one long list of everything that you have to do, written in a ruled notebook (25-35 lines to a page ideal). As you think of new items, add them to the end of the list. You work through the list one page at a time in the following manner:

Read quickly through all the items on the page without taking action on any of them.

Go through the page more slowly looking at the items in order until one stands out for you.

Work on that item for as long as you feel like doing so

Cross the item off the list, and re-enter it at the end of the list if you haven't finished it

Continue going round the same page in the same way.

Don't move onto the next page until you complete a pass of the page without any item standing out

Move onto the next page and repeat the process

If you go to a page and no item stands out for you on your first pass through it, then all the outstanding items on that page are dismissed without re-entering them.

Once you've finished with the final page, re-start at the first page that is still active.

Each of these steps is explained in more detail on his site, but I suggest you get going now and read the rest of the instructions later. Don't forget to put "Read the rest of the instructions" as one of your tasks. You don't need a huge number of tasks to start with, just add tasks as you think of them or they come up.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Vision and Goals and Action = Success

One of my friends sent me the quote below that started me thinking about vision and goals. The whole thesis of my Time Leadership system is that goals are more important than just being efficient with time.

There is surely no point in being a person of vision unless we have the will to act. Daydreams and inklings about taking our personal mission seriously must be translated into action or be lost in the dust of "could have but didn't."

Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, Psy.D. from The Gifted Adult

In my book, I quote "goals are dreams with action".

But the question is: Is a person with goals a person with vision?

I suggest not necessarily.

Vision requires looking into the future. Trying to predict what will happen not only to the things you influence but to the world and what changes will occur. Then figuring out your part.

Part of the role of a good CEO is to have vision.

Combine Good Vision with Effective Goals with Action and you have Success.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ray Kroc and McDonald's Secret Sauce

I know for time management reasons, I decided a couple of months ago to blog less frequently. But I find I am getting way ahead on my reading (or behind on posting my book reviews).

There was an interesting article in the Financial Post that quotes Machiavelli:

"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things"

I recently read a book called, "Everything I know about Business, I learned at McDonald's: The 7 Leadership Principles that Drive Break Out Success" by Paul Facella.

I found the book to be outstanding, easy to read, simple, and right on target. What seems funny to me is that I have not eaten in McDonald's in over ten years and I am not an advocate of the products that they sell. That said, they have been incredibly successful as a business and the book explains what the author thinks are the key reasons.

There are seven chapters that sum of the seven reasons for McDonald's success.

The first one is honesty and integrity, all in a handshake.

It is not what you do, it is the way you do it -- Ray Crock.

I have often said that having a legal agreement is much less important than doing business with people of high integrity and I have long been an advocate of the handshake over anything else.

Second, the rule is relationships, he speaks glowingly of the great relationships amongst the MacDonald's staff and talks about the three legged stool. This refers to the relationship among the three partners as operators/owners, suppliers, and corporate staff. Each is dependant on each other to support the group as a whole.

The next point was, standards will never be satisfied.

The quality of the leader is reflected in the standards that they set for themselves
-- Ray Crock.

MacDonald's is the ultimate e-myth company. They set process and standards and expect everyone to religiously follow them. They have done a great job of communicating what those standards are and I love the never be satisfied philosophy.

One of the great lines that is totally simple is if you have time to lean, you have time to clean.

Lead by example: clearly this one is obvious and many people try to do this; however, actions speak louder than words. Never underestimate ones actions.

One of the things that I particularly liked in this chapter was in the lessons learned -- "achievers never stop learning" (this is one of the things that I always ascribed to).

The fifth point was courage -- telling it like it is. The gist of the message is, regardless of what the message is, positive or negative, people need to know what it is and the larger the organization, the tougher it is to get the get the truth. People tend to avoid the risk in telling people the truth.

Communications: It is not how often you communicate, it is how well -- Ray Crock.

There is an entire section on decentralization -- try to get the decision making as close to the customer as possible, of course all within a frame work and a philosophy. I am a big believer in decentralization as I believe this is the way to be the most efficient. It is also the way to get the little things to matter.

Recognition: there is no better way to inspire a team then with recognition. Deep down we create that recognition. I think I could use a little work on this one.

Its a good book. Good words of wisdom.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Hot, Flat and Crowded

One of my new favourite books is "Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution --and How it can Renew America" by Thomas L. Friedman. I loved his first book - "The World is Flat" but like this one even more.

Friedman is a first rate researcher, futurist and writer. This book is a classic. A must read for anyone who wants to be informed about the world.

The Hot part is the environment. He used the term "global weirding" as opposed to "global warming". Using that term brings it into focus better for most people. In Guelph, we have had more snow and cold than anytime in recent memory this year. Katrina, storms, etc. He issues dire warnings.

The Flat part is what he spoke about in his first book - The World is Flat. Basically, technology allows jobs to be shifted anywhere in the world.

The Crowded is the population growth which adds to the stress on the environment and also encourages the "flat" part.

As the title implies, much of the book is about the environment. He points out that this has become a political issue but green really should not be. It is a common goal.

Friedman is a studied academic and very knowledgeable about the middle east. Part of his frame of reference comes from that background. Dependence on middle east oil is much of the problem in his view.

The book nicely ties together economics and the green movement. To be perfectly crass, if people can save money, they will be green and this is the main way to make a difference. So he fights for policies which support this.

The thesis of the book is we can thrive economically if we focus on getting green. This is an encouraging message despite the doom he cites in the statistics at the start of the book.

My enviro brothers, Glen and Lyle should love this one. I know my son, David, did - he loaned it to me.

And after reading it, I feel guilty for not walking to work today (and the weather was beautiful)- doing my part for the environment.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

When all You Have is Hope

I read a great book by Frank O'Dea called When all You Have is Hope.

Frank is the founder of Second Cup. That's impressive. But more impressive, is he started that business after being homeless and living on the streets of Toronto. He overcame a serious alcohol addiction problem and sexual abuse.

His seed money to start the business came from savings he invested in a manual coin sorter. He sold the coin sorter the old fashioned way. Good marketing. Figuring out who would want it (It turned out churches loved it).

His book shares his simple truths. His perceptions. It is well written. I certainly found it interesting and even inspirational.

From the book:

"Forget about the mistakes you made yesterday; yesterday is gone. Don't dwell on tomorrow; nobody knows what it will bring. Focus exclusively on today. When you wallow in remorse over yesterday, or quake in fear about tomorrow, you lose hope."

Much of the book draws on advice given by his self help group. I am not sure if it was AA but it sounds like it.

Everyone likes rags to riches stories. That said, I am not suggesting you become homeless to make your story more impressive (although that is part of the appeal). His story certainly makes me think that almost anything is possible in business.