Click here to read a short story about gratitude. To quote the author,
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I think of these mornings especially around Thanksgiving.
Thank you for your support to WE llc and for following me on this blog! Your comments and private emails encourage me to keep writing. I've been nose to the grindstone on a recent project and have let a few weeks of blogging slip by. I'll continue after the holidays.
I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
What in your job is really painful - paperwork or process wise?
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
- you effect,
- you change,
- you experience.
- If you volunteer, you directly effect the quality of someone’s life
- If you donate, you increase the security of someone’s life
- If you help your neighbor, your relationship is stronger, he’s encouraged to help someone else, your neighborhood is better, and it spreads.
- If you vote, your country will have leaders who represent its views
Please vote today.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Where do good ideas come from?
Check out this TED talk by Steven Johnson here:
Steven was also featured in the Wall Street Journal, September 25th, in the article, The Genius of the Tinkerer. In a similar tone to his TED talk, he speaks about how to use technology.
Innovation is not about implementing the latest technology, but the appropriate technology.
It's clearly about not keeping it to yourself, right? If you've ever wondered about the validity or complained about preparing for a design review, I hope this makes you think twice.
If brainstorm meetings, product development strategy sessions, or design reviews aren't quite what they used to be in your company, perhaps we should talk over coffee.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The goal of training is always to improve the performance of an individual. In your company, this means improving performance relative to their job goals defined relative to corporate goals. Tying training outcomes to performance improvement through application of new skills or tools accountable by a manager is critical in enforcing the embrace of new information and the formation of new habits (applying the new information and/or tools).
Training is basically knowledge and skill transfer. It would be wonderful if we could easily be enlightened by simply reading. Oh how easy college would have been and what a genius I'd be right now!
Training with performance goals is not easy. It involves at minimum three people: the trainer, the colleague trained, and their manager. It involves participation in the training, assignments afterward, and accountability with a manager. The purpose is to stretch and grow colleagues within your company to make them better contributors and to positively impact the bottom line.
Training that is active and involving all senses to force new ideas and skills to become habits through hands-on application, role-play, tests, and discussion maximizes how much information is retained and ultimately applied on the job.
What do you like least about training?
What do you like best?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
- Bad parts are getting to the customer
- A customer is angry, or too many customers are angry
- It takes too long for the team to solve problems
- Validation testing yields 40% first time failures
- Program targets aren’t being met in a timely manner
These are just a few examples of common business problems. These issues have root causes that are not always correctable through Training. Let’s take the first example of “Bad parts are getting to the customer”. A few of the root causes could be:
- Lack of manufacturing poke-yokes
- Lack of design poke-yokes
- Bad parts feeding manu- facturing from a supplier
- Operator instructions not correct or difficult
- Machine not operating as designed
Each of these root causes identify a different person as responsible for the failure, which in turn identifies specific training – or does it?
In addition to understanding what, where, and when, it is important to identify who is responsible and who will impact future outcomes. ‘Who’ is commonly defined in a process explaining the performance required. It should be noted that job performance is simply tied to job expectations, work experience, job knowledge, and workload. Everyone goes to work wanting to do a good job.
- I know what’s expected of me
- I have experience that helps me do my job better
- I know how to do my job, and
- I have enough time to accomplish all that is assigned to me.
Training is needed when an employee can’t do #3 well. Setting employees up for success can only make the company more successful.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
A co-worker bustled into my office holding a slim folder. "Could you take care of this as soon as possible and then bring it down to marketing?" she asked breathlessly. I grabbed it from her and reminded her that my manager needed to see it as well. Just then my phone rang. It was the administrative assistant from human resources, wanting to know if I had possession of the folder and what time I might be able to return it to her.
I looked around furtively to make sure no one was looming over my shoulder before I snuck it open, pen in hand. Stealth and secrecy were of the essence. No, this wasn't a legal contract for a new acquisition. It wasn't a patent application or a termination notice. It was a birthday card.
There's something primal about birthdays celebrated at work, in terms of how they bring out the jubilant little kid in all of us. These days, birthdays at home or among my friends tend to be relatively sedate affairs, now that we're all well into middle age; but somehow in the workplace, a birthday still sends everyone into a festive tizzy.
Of course, there's no question about the main reason people in offices love birthdays: Birthday cake. In general, the group at my workplace is a nutritionally restrained bunch, eating salads and fruit for lunch, yogurt or a cup of coffee for a late-afternoon snack. But for birthdays, everyone dives into the cake with abandon as the guest of honor chuckles politely over a card signed by 12 different people, each one staking out their own little territory on the page.
No one ever has anything meaningful to say on an office card. The fact that we can't think of anything clever to write is only part of it; there's also the awareness that 11 other people are going to read your message before they sign it themselves. So we just try to fill up our allotted three or four lines of scribble. "Wow - another year older!" or "Hope you celebrate in style!"
At my last workplace, I let it slip at some point that I loved to make birthday cakes. From then on, needless to say, I was crowned Department Birthday Baker. I still remember my boss asking me if I'd do the honors for Kelly, who had just joined our team from another department days earlier.
"I will, but what kind do you think I should make?" I asked him. "I have no idea what she'd like."
My boss was no baker; he was a sophisticated cosmopolitan bachelor whose kitchen inventory probably consisted of a bottle of vodka and a can of macadamia nuts. "Carrot cake," he said definitively.
"Carrot cake?" I wailed. "Do you know how long it will take me to grate all those carrots? I've only known Kelly for forty-eight hours. I'm not making her a carrot cake!"
I went with basic chocolate, which Kelly assured me she liked just fine as the party was wrapping up the next afternoon. But by the time her next birthday rolled around, when we'd had the chance to work together and develop a cordial friendship for a full year, I felt compelled to ask her what her favorite kind of cake was. "Carrot," she admitted. I left early that day so I'd have plenty of time to grate the carrots.
One reason I like making cakes so much is that I like eating cakes so much. And I thought this was readily obvious until my own birthday arrived. As is always the tradition, the conference room was dark when my manager summoned me in on the pretext of an emergency meeting.
"Surprise!" everyone yelled as the lights went on. In the center of the big glass table was a round plastic tray with Ritz crackers and a brick of orange cheese.
"Everyone always has cake for their birthday, so we decided for you we'd do something different!" my manager said proudly. "Who needs more sweets? Isn't this a nice change?"
I didn't stay at that workplace much longer. It might sound petty to say I quit over my birthday celebration, but it was akin to the heroine's disappointment in "Father of the Bride' when her fiancé gives her a blender.
It was heartbreaking to discover that my manager, and the rest of the department, knew me so little, after so many years. I mean, really: Supermarket-brand cheese and crackers? And much to my additional disappointment, "crappy birthday party" was not a line-item option on the exit interview form.
The reason we love celebrating birthdays at work, I've come to realize, is that the whole mindset of a birthday party is so completely the opposite of how we get accustomed to thinking at work. Workplace pleasures so often come with a price. If you get a promotion, there is always the strong possibility that some people are not particularly happy for you and don't necessarily think you deserve it.
If you take the afternoon off, there's always someone tripping over herself to tell you that she was in the office until 9 o'clock last night.
Birthdays, on the other hand, are about being celebrated merely for the literal fact of your existence - the one thing that no co-worker is likely to try to detract from. "Congratulations on your promotion" might be said with dubious sincerity, but when your officemate drops by the conference room to say happy birthday, you can be almost certain that she really means it.
Office birthdays are so frivolous, but that's exactly why we love them. A break in the workplace routine for a few minutes of festivity. A sugary, fattening snack we normally wouldn't allow ourselves. A few minutes to gab with co-workers about weekend plans or recent vacations or pet anecdotes. Office birthday parties always have the feel of a forbidden pleasure, kind of like the big yellow buttercream rose in the center of the cake.
That is, as long as your department doesn't decide to "surprise" you with cheese and crackers, in which case - as I discovered - it's time to resign, and do not tell your new colleagues that you love to make birthday cakes.
-story written by Nancy Shohet West and originally published with the Boston Globe in their on-line job forum here: http://www.boston.com/jobs/news/articles/2007/09/09/birthdays_offer_break_from_the_office_norm/?page=1
Published for you as a treat and hopefully a smile in celebration of my birthday this week!
You really wanted cake didn't you?
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Her words rang all too clear relative to a recent project I'm working on. If your company is bleeding, there are two things you can do:
- blame the lazy people who work for you - after all, the last time you pushed them, they came through for you. (so the problem must be with them)
- work really really hard so there isn't time to make decisions
There are really two theories Rebecca talks about and she's spot on:
The first one is: "There's a problem let's fix it"
The second says, "We have a problem, someone is screwing up, let's go beat them up"
The funny thing about the second theory is that (if it were even appropriate to use this option!) the wrong person is beat up.
If the problem is to be truly solved, we have to start looking at the first theory and make long lasting change.
I have two steps for you:
Spend a very worthwhile hour listening:
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Check out Otto Scharmer's talk here.
Otto speaks in open terms but lays the foundation for companies teaching the benefits of defining your strengths. For a good decade we've all been aware of how focusing on your strengths is far superior to focusing on what you're not good at.
What do you do next when you know your strengths?
Part of this question is answered once you know more about where your strengths pop - or reveal themselves. I'm talking about private thinking, social interactions, action, etc.
Improvement through coaching to performance goals using your hard wired strengths to identify the way forward is groundbreaking. Check out this website for more information - or email me.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
There are a lot of business books on discovering your strengths and learning your all encompassing traits.
I took the Strength's Finder's test five years ago. It told me this:
- I was: Strategic
Hmmm. Luckily for each identifier, it provided a paragraph of explanation. Pulling a collection of characteristics from the various pages, it told me this:
- I see patterns for solution or development
- I am intrigued when seeing disparate phenomena can be linked by an obsure or hidden connection
- I like learning new things and collecting information
- I like to stretch and challenge myself intellectually
- I seek people who draw on their strengths and am not satisfied with average
- I am dependable always striving to do what I say i will
It only seemed to scratch the surface however and didn't really offer more information how to put these strengths to use or market my ability. Many books and organizations can get close to the above information - and surprisingly so with their quick multiple choice questions - but they don't tell you what's next.
I have a feeling that's because for every person, the "what's next" is very different, right?
This is what got me more interested in partnering with Emotional Intelligence. Frank, creator of Pi3™, places your strengths within the context of where they exisit. Your strengths manifest in a few places: within the processing power of your brain (thinking), with (feeling), and in executing tasks (doing). These moments tie directly to when you're by yourself, with others, in large groups, and within the community and world at large.
Your strengths are anchored within a matrix that is very much your own where they are exhibted uniquely.
What should we do about it?
Here comes the fun part and how Frank and I work together. Remember from above where "I see patterns and am intrigued by disparate phenomena"?
Yeah, I solve problems.
I connect the dots and see gaps not apparent to others.
Through understanding of your goals and how you work now, I can outline a plan and identify the next steps needed for you to go forward successfully. Frank tunes my suggestions for your unique character to make how you'll work be better for you - easier, enjoyable, excelling.
You won't do something if it seems like a chore. You for sure won't do it right away. You want to work within your realm, withing your hardwired strengths. It's natural. Human. It's right.
Contact me to learn more.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
It’s easy to become protective of the work you do.
You made it.
The automotive industry created or adopted many checks and balances to ensure that work was not only done in the right way, but produced good results. These checks and balances are often called by names like: FMEAs, 8Ds, Design Reviews, Spider charts, and Control Plans. There are other names too.
Bringing these tools into your company can work like a charm in producing amazing high quality high output equipment and product. The charms work when the whole team is engaged in the process of using the tools and enforcing their use.
Let’s take one tool as an example.
Typically many people are involved with this: the developing engineer, a quality representative, a machine operator, the production engineer, and perhaps two other colleagues contributing to the diligence of the design. Three managers are also involved: the developing engineer’s manager, the program manager of the project, and the production manager.
Why so many people?
When you’re a part of creating something, it becomes yours. You get protective of change and defensive on function. Perhaps you’ll even let a few things slide. It’s human nature. As part of a team, you might let someone off the hook if they missed a few things or give them the ‘few extra days’ they’ve requested to make something right.
The check is the document as proof of the work.
(the machine if not designed in a thoughtful, risk-assessed, BEA way will break down though not always immediately!)
The balance is the pool of managers who make sure the work is done.
If the checks and balances are thrown off, it’s possible that all the work might not get completed. It’s possible that a machine run-off won’t occur, that needed fixes get put off indefinitely, that a machine could break down often, and people won’t get trained.
Sometimes the root cause of a problem goes deeper than its immediate ‘obvious’ fix.
How is the process of checks and balances working in your company?
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Defined simply by Wiktionary as “a moving or going forward; a proceeding onward; an advance”
Progress is something you can witness, effect, and feel. You know the days I’m talking about. It just feels good when you’ve completed a project, nailed the critical idea in the development of a product, solved the root cause of a big problem, or simply sold a new program.
It feels good when you make progress.
What about the other days you work? What about the people you work with? Can you tell when they make progress?
Can you tell when they’re not making progress?
It can be witnessed by individual or company – as in a culture of a company.
You know what I’m talking about. You witness:
- People walking really fast needing to get somewhere fast
- Someone walking in breathless to a meeting because they were rushing there
- A person who begins many sentences with, “I’m going to…” and “I’ve been really busy”
- People who choose to focus on the now with disregard for future work
- A person or group of persons busy but not getting done what they need to
There are a few top causes why this happens, let’s start a list:
- Lack of understanding
- Lack of planning
- Alternative agendas
- Conflicting directives
- Multiple ‘bosses’
- Lack of strategic direction
- Lack of leadership
Are you experiencing any of these?
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Looking at yourself whether under a magnifying glass or in a mirror rarely reveals results you want to find.
You may find flaws you thought didn't exist. It's hard to discover bad things about yourself. It's even harder if someone else knows (or tells you) about them. Discovering them however, is the first step in eliminating them.
Of course, I'm not talking about you physically now am I?!
I'm talking about your business.
What's wrong today?
Do you have quality problems? Did you miss ship -or another important customer date? Are your machines down frequently? Does your staff seem incredibly stupid or underperforming?
The good news is that these are only symptoms of (gulp) bigger problems and they can be fixed. The first step of course is understanding the root cause of these issues. Only in solving the root cause will you be able to forever-fix your woes. You may not like what gets uncovered, but facing issues head on is the right thing to do.
Finding things wrong you thought were perfect such as finding out that your processes aren't being followed as you thought they were, or finding out that your empathetic staff was not so respectful of others is hard to face. These problems didn't start overnight. Luckily with a little insight - perhaps unbiased by the fresh eyes of an outside consultant, you can start correcting quickly.
What is your company's culture like?
When was the last time they looked in the mirror?
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
For as long as I've been in manufacturing, I have been aware of the 'us verses them' phenomenon. I'm talking about the exchange between new product and equipment engineers who create stuff versus the manufacturing engineers who are handed this new stuff and expected to make product.
The 'us' is typically the manufacturing guys who are handed the short stick when the development guys (them) use up all the customer timing and may not finish their work.
The problem arises with expectations I suppose.
The (new product) engineers expect the manufacturing plant to know everything they know * VERSUS * while the manufacturing engineers expect product and equipment to be delivered in working order.
I can see both sides:
New engineers are pushed on timing, timing to their managers or timing to the customer.
Manufacturing engineers are often in charge of multiple pieces of equipment and have less time to work on an incomplete designs.
So, how do we fix?
Meeting expectations is really the solution.
How? (some basic solutions often missed)
FOR THE PRODUCT & EQUIPMENT ENGINEERS
- Finish your work
- Do the high volume product run-offs to uncover (less than complete) equipment
- Find variation and fix it
- Complete documentation (and all 'PSO' materials)
- Create operator instructions specific to your machine/product
- Train the manufacturing crowd on 'how' to run it and how to fix it (note: see above where it shouldn't really need to be fixed at all!)
- Hand off all your documentation to help manufacturing stand on their own
FOR THE RECEIVING MANUFACTURING ENGINEERS
- Hold the developers accountable for delivering complete designs
- Be available to learn how to use the new equipment
- Understand basic problem solving and use of basic tools for basic fixes
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Down in Mexico, people are genuinely interested in who you are. It's also good to know that while extremely hard working, time means much less than it does in the midwest.
What does this mean to you?
Your Mexican colleagues might not show up to the meeting at the same time as you, nor complete that project as you requested - at the same time, alternatives to your expectations might be caused by how you've communicated such timing and information.
Maybe it's you.
Cultural differences run both ways and it's important to understand how to say something as much as what to say.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I finally watched the latest Alice in Wonder land film this weekend. With all the special effects and quirky characters, what I remember most actually is a new word, “muchness” defined early in the movie when The Mad Hatter explained to Alice that she had lost her much-ness, as in she had been so much more.
I like this new word. Let’s consider the muchness of people, leaders we know.
Have you ever witnessed someone to lose their muchness? …Their moxy? …Their rapport? ..Their cover?
It’s amazing how quickly your trust, respect, and “follow-ship” of a leader can be annihilated. I recently witnessed just this phenomenon. In this situation, the leader felt compelled to give grandiose speeches via email paired with long spaces of time between communications and avoided questions from others.
Was the intent to be cryptic? Controlling? Passive aggressive? Persuasive? This could also have been someone incredibly busy, prone to thinking out-loud, and not considering the relationship with the team.
Then this leader avoided, as in didn’t show up to a critical meeting with her team.
Unfortunately, whether meaning to or not, her cover was blown, her “muchness” removed, and her “follow-ship” erased.
Any benefit of the doubt was removed due to blatant disrespect.
The trap can be easy to fall into. How you are perceived by others is their reality of you. Constant communication helps to correct misconceptions and to keep conversation going.
What opinions are you holding of someone that a conversation might clear up?
What has caused you to lose “follow-ship” of a leader?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Good products and great solutions don’t ‘just happen’. The process of product development is just as important as the results.
How is this possible, you might ask?
There is a phrase I use when praising slow food and when talking about product development; here it is: garbage in, garbage out.
It takes specific deliberation to overcome obstacles, create a product that your customer wants, to solve the problems your client didn’t even know existed, to delight your clients into sustained business, and to bring autonomy into your workforce.
I used to have a naysayer on every team I led. You probably have a few yourself... or maybe it's YOU!
I've learned over the years that there is always a solution and with structured deliberation combined with calculations, package studies and even a few prototype tests, one can overcome even the most difficult of challenges.
What are you facing?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
There is such a thing as being over-processed. You may be experiencing this right now: so many checks and balances that your hands are tied and your projects can’t move forward.
Aren’t checks and balances good?
In efforts to be lean and to minimize defects, some companies have worked very hard implementing special reports, long step by step processes, and multiple authorizations to find themselves spending a lot of time** doing work unrelated to design and producing product.
It is tempting to adopt ready made processes or to copy by benchmarking quality and development processes of sister companies. Supposedly these other companies have error proofed and sweated out the details of their process to be efficient, right?
This is akin to borrowing clothes or buying off the rack. To borrow clothes from an older sister or buy off the rack at the mall will result in pants that need hemming, a fit around the waist that isn’t quite right, perhaps a shirt that is too long or the sleeves too short.
Basically, the clothes don’t fit as they should.
It’s the same with processes in your organization. Buying on-line or one-size-fits-all development systems will likely cause you a lot more grief and aggravation in the long run verses carefully creating processes that work for your team and your product.
**time = money. How are you spending yours?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
What does your company make?
What do you make?
Taylor Mali talks about what teachers make as performed in this live poetry reading:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
There is a lot of focus on fixing what is wrong in our businesses.
I do this in my business. In fact, I get a lot of business to come in to ‘fix’ what is wrong.
As a kid I learned fast to make do with what I was given. I learned to make do with what was known. I learned how to fix what was broken. I learned that their is always a positive solution.
I still apply this thinking and these lessons today making something work or developing something new with known quantities and information. Even in development, we know a lot – and are simply leveraging the little bit we know to solve or create something unique.
I dare say in focusing on what is ‘safe’, to focus on what is ‘great’, we thereby focus on what makes us strong as well as the strengths of others.
By focusing on what is good and expanding on what makes you great now, we can move forward to an even better place.
A better place to work.
A better colleague to work with.
A better team to leverage.
A better product.
A bigger bank account.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
What’s Safe For Work?
I’m sure you get them, personal emails to your work address. It continually surprises me how many people still do not establish nor use their personal email for cutesy forwards. If you’re lucky, the sender will warn you not to open up in your workplace as the contents will be visually or audibly distasteful. This is typically abbreviated with, “NSFW”.
Seth counters with a marvelous idea to consider what is SFW. What is safe for your work?
What is great?
What are the good ideas to consider in the work place? I’m talking about the things to do when considering the great ideas and people you come across of course.
If I were to start a list, it might look like this:
- Considering where your colleagues are coming from when they express an idea or opinion.
- Honoring the devil’s advocate point of view so to improve upon your original idea.
- Giving the benefit of the doubt to everyone.
- Asking questions first before jumping to conclusions (before jumping down a colleague’s throat)
- Realizing that the people you’ve grown to dislike for one reason or another (perhaps because they don’t get what is SFW!) do not simply ‘go away’.
- Letting go of your colleague’s faults, accepting them as they are, utilizing and taking advantage of their strong suits.
- Focusing on your strengths to better yourself and move the company forward.
What more would you add that is SFW?