Monday, April 29, 2013

TNT: Today Not Tomorrow


Nothing happens until something (action) happens.


Excellent managers create a sense of urgency and strive to create an environment of acting today and not tomorrow. “Even large opportunities, problems, and issues can be broken down into smaller steps (actions) that can be acted upon incrementally so as to deal with issues in a TNT manner. TNT is an enormously simplifying tactic.

In my software company I had a sign in the accounting and shipping areas that read “Bill it today/Ship it today.” Without that performance standard, we would have had to have systems in place to keep up with what had not been billed and what had not been shipped. TNT reduced work.

In addition to reducing work,  TNT is the right innovation method—small, fast, and simple. Break the effort into “quick turn-around projects”—build a model, jerry-rig it, test it with clients. Act-test-act!

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Check out "Who is Reading" my latest novel The Claret Murders!



Monday, April 22, 2013

Acres of Diamonds


Russell Conwell, a minister and the founder of Temple University, may be most famous for this “Acres of Diamonds” story—the retelling of an old fable similar to the American folk saying, “The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.”

Conwell tells of a man who wanted to find diamonds so badly that he
sold his property and went off in futile search for them. The new owner of his home discovered that a rich diamond mine was located right there on the property. The moral of the story is “dig in your own backyard” for opportunities.

Until you have learned the hard way, the things you have to do to succeed in your current endeavor always look harder than something else you might do. If you are in the hamburger business, the pizza business looks easier and more profitable. If you are in the home cleaning business, someone in your group is going to tell you you should change to commercial because it’s easier and the money is better. If you sell to lawyers, you know the problems and difficulties of doing so. It is hard to get passed the gatekeeper, and once you do, getting a decision is a challenge of monumental proportions. “Surely, it would be easier to modify our product or service for the CPA market. Lawyers are hard to please; CPAs would be easier. It’s easier to get an appointment, and they make decisions.”—You think? Wherever you are, where you aren’t looks better. At least it looks better to those who haven’t learned the lesson “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Don’t go looking for diamonds elsewhere until you first dig in your own backyard. As for grass looking greener on the other side of the fence, don’t fall for it. The grass may look greener, but it usually isn’t—it is riskier!

Igor Ansoff (1918-2002), considered by some as the father of modern strategic thinking, developed a graphic matrix that visually explains the basic strategies for business growth which at the same time provides an easy explanation as to why the grass is seldom greener. Rather than greener, it is riskier!
 The matrix illustrates the four basic strategies for business growth:

  1. Market Penetration – selling more existing products into existing markets, usually by increased sales staff, promotion, pricing changes, or new routes to market, e.g., online 
  2. Product Development – developing new products or services for the existing markets 
  3. Market Development – taking existing products or services to new markets. 
  4. Diversification – developing new products and putting them into new markets 

Risk increases as you move from 1 to 2 to 3 and then to Diversification, considered the riskiest.

Market penetration is digging in your own backyard. You have to avoid taking on the weakness inherent in becoming a market leader—as illustrated by Management Judo. Risk increases when you embark on developing new products to sell to your existing market, but the risk of failure really shoots up when you begin digging in someone else’s backyard, attempting to transition your existing products to new markets, or to diversify with new markets and new products. Success in doing so depends largely on the organization possessing a Core Competency upon which its strategy is based.

One of the important tasks in strategic planning is to identify your organization’s (or segment’s) strengths. Opportunities are derived from capitalizing on one’s strengths. Core Competency is a special kind of strength. If you have one, it can provide you with growth opportunities far greater than that of an organization without it.

Most enterprises will not have a Core Competency, and it isn’t a requirement for success. Businesses with one simply have avenues of growth that are not available to others. Examples of Core Competency include 3M for adhesives and coating and Black & Decker for small electric motors. Core Competencies enable an organization to launch a variety of end products often appealing to different markets with different needs to be satisfied.

Prahalad and Gary Hamel coined the term “Core Competencies” in the 1990s and set out the following test for identifying a core competency:

  1. It must provide access to a wide variety of markets, and 
  2. Contribute significantly to the end-product benefits, and 
  3. Be difficult for competitors to imitate. 


Core Competencies are rare, and, in their absence, growth through exploiting new markets and developing new product markets are high-risk ventures. Capitalizing on the organization’s strengths to expand penetration of its existing market—digging in your own backyard—offers the high value-to-risk ratio.

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Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New CareerMark Rollins and the RainmakerMark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies go to http://store.markrollinsadventures.com. Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.

Friday, April 12, 2013

No Return Policy for Problems


I started my career as a CPA and transitioned to business after three years with Price Waterhouse. I envisioned myself as a problem solver. The difficulty with that was that there is always another problem right behind the previous one. I wish I had understood that success comes from pursuing opportunities, not problems. I discovered that most problems work themselves out. They are solved in the course of opportunity pursuits. After years of on-the-job training, my motto has become “Not all problems deserve to be solved; of those that do, not all of them need to be solved by me.”  When you do tackle a problem,  you should have a "No Return Policy."

Don't be an aspirin doctor--do not just treat the symptoms.  Find out why the problem exists. Get to the root cause. Your watch word should be that people do not fail, processes do.  Ask "5 Whys" Empirical observation indicates that five it typical number of iterations of questions required to resolve the problem--to get to the root cause. What guiding frame work for questions comes from the newspaper world--what, when, where, why and how. 

WHAT: What happen?
WHEN: Why did it happen when it did?
WHERE: Why did it happen where it did?
How: How did it happen?
WHY: Why did it happen?

Wikipedia gives the following different example of the "5 Whys":
The vehicle will not start. (the problem).
  1. Why? - The battery is dead. (first why)
  2. Why? - The alternator is not functioning. (second why)
  3. Why? - The alternator belt has broken. (third why
  4. Why? - The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (fourth why 
  5. Why? - The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (fifth why, a root cause)

(possible 5th Why solution:
Start maintaining the vehicle according to the recommended service schedule.

To illustrate that there is no magic that indicates five whys are adequate, consider a possible sixth why: Why? - Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of the vehicle. (sixth why) 

Possible 6th Why Solution: Purchase a different vehicle that is maintainable.

The "5 Whys" technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. 

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Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New CareerMark Rollins and the RainmakerMark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies go to http://store.markrollinsadventures.com. Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A's Love A's


Excellent managers don’t motivate people. They hire motivated people—people who are goal-driven consistent with the goals of the organization. While leaders cannot motivate, they can extinguish motivation. The leader sells a vision of how individual goals are achieved through the organization’s goals. People want to belong—and belong to something that recognizes their own value. If you want the right people on the bus, you start with the right people. Steve Jobs but it this way:  “A”-level people want to be part of an organization of “A”-level people.

The organization wants people who want to travel north on I65 North. Sunday drivers need not apply. People who want to travel south, east, or west should look elsewhere.

Motivation is not externally created. What excellent managers learn is that they can’t change the individual, but they can change people. Excellent managers do just that. They understand that keeping the wrong person extinguishes motivation in others. A’s demand A-level performance from their peers. When you allow less than A-level performance, you degrade everyone.


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For a beautiful evening join me on April 9th 2013 at the Belmond Mansion in Nashville Tennessee for High Tea.  Click here for more information