You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people

Posted May 2, 2010 by David Blumenthal
Categories: Hiring, Leadership, Sales, Strategic Plans, Strategy, Visioning

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I really love my clients…they are all so eclectic and so varied. They have a unique way of thinking and my role as their guide is always interesting, stimulating and challenging.

This past week presented an unusual opportunity and I wanted to share it with you. It reminded me of one of my favorite management aphorisms — “You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people.”

This particular CEO is remarkably gifted. He can see both the vision of where he wishes to go and he knows the steps he must take to get there. When someone is this gifted, he or she tends to move faster than those around him. This particular leader is busy – no make that very busy. He’s always onto the next plan and how to lead the team there. Fortunately, he builds his team with equally fast thinkers and implementers so he is very effective in producing results.

But when he does demos of his products, he speeds through them. You can almost sense a palpable catching of the breath on the other side of the web ex or go to meeting demo as his audience tries to keep up. And frankly they can’t…which brings us to today’s aphorism.

Efficiency is about time, effectiveness is about getting the result that you want.

You can speed up equipment, you can accelerate a process but no matter what you try, people will ALWAYS learn at their own pace. Understanding this human element is critical to being effective whether it be in presentation, motivation, education or just plain-old discussion…and it certainly applies to every relationship that is worth building.

“You can be efficient with things but you can only be effective with people.”

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Documenting Processes Create Opportunities

Posted March 11, 2010 by David Blumenthal
Categories: Hiring, Strategic Plans

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Documenting processes is typically a very good idea. Here are a couple of reasons.

(1) It clarifies what needs to be done in each process and allows you to eliminate unnecessary steps thereby increasing productivity and saving staff time and associated costs

(2) It is useful for training new staff; In fact the process flows can be part of an orientation program

(3) It allows the company to identify time consuming steps that would benefit from automation

(4) When selecting new software, it allows you to test the software in the context of what you actually do rather than the features of the software. In fact, the candidate software company can prove their mettle by showing where they add value by eliminating steps and improving workflow in addition to their features.

(5) If you are in a business that is heavily regulated, this documentation is typically prized and can be used as a sales tool to demonstrate the discipline in the business

As to how often they should be done and reviewed – and for the reasons noted above – I’d recommend that this be treated as living documentation and used regularly when making changes to the way work is performed, software created etc. This effort is only valuable if it becomes part of the company fabric and has a purpose.

I just completed a project where I managed the process flow analysis of a 300 person company and designed a software assessment process for them. I’d be happy to talk with anyone who wishes to discuss this further (david_blumenthal@msn.com)

Tonight May Be A Turning Point in Television History

Posted March 7, 2010 by David Blumenthal
Categories: Crisis Management, Sales, Strategic Plans, Strategy

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ABC-Disney followed through with its threat tonight by pulling the New York-area WABC-TV from Cablevision after it failed to reach a re-transmission agreement with the cable giant.  Some 3 million Cablevision customers in Long Island, Westchester, Brooklyn, and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey were affected.

The two corporate giants are playing a giant game of chicken on Oscar night. If no one blinks, several million people will not be able to see the Oscars tonight.

Regardless of who wins this battle, both companies may lose more than they ever considered. Let’s talk about the unintended consequences.

If people decide they really, really, really want to watch this very popular television event, they may turn to the web and seek the tens, perhaps hundreds of sites, who will be streaming the Oscars over the web. Several million people may learn tonight that they can watch their favorite shows just as easily over the Internet — without paying for it.

If that occurs, Cablevision and ABC-Disney may have educated millions that their companies are not required to deliver home entertainment. And if that happens, the two companies may learn about unintended consequences in a way that they have never intended.

I know I’ll be tuning in to see who is the real winner on Oscar night.

How NOT to Apologize

Posted January 14, 2010 by David Blumenthal
Categories: Crisis Management, Leadership

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Earlier this week, Mark McGwire “came clean” on his use of steroids. Among the analyses that I read, one noted how major league baseball was getting quite good at learning how to apologize. It’s even become somewhat of a formula.

First, you issue a press release. Then you arrange a sitdown interview with a favorably inclined organization such as MLB Network – although you should have an accomplish journalist interview you. After that, make yourself available to some media outlets to answer questions. When that is all complete, have a couple of interested parties laud you for stepping forwrad. Presto! You’re done and everyone will allow you to move on with your life.

Only problem — the public is not responding favorably at all — which leads us to thinking about why this is so.

A closer examination of McGwire’s apology statement offers some lessons for all of us in how to apologize.

  1. “Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.” Apologize because it is the right thing to do not because you are afraid of the consequences. Try not to make your apology self serving. Sincerity and motivation are important.
  2. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.” Got it…shame on the era for forcing me to take steroids. Take responsibility.
  3. “During the mid-90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years. Don’t load up your apology with statistics. It makes it look like the statement was written by a third party and not you.
  4. I experienced a lot of injuries, including a rib cage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries too.” Alot of other players were hurt and they chose to stay within the rules. Eliminate the rationalization. Don’t make excuses.
  5. I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn’t take any and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years when I took steroids.” Still, Mark, everyone seems to think that steroids makes players better hitters. Don’t minimize or ignore the impact of your transgression.
  6. “Baseball is really different now – it’s been cleaned up. The Commissioner and the Players Association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I’m glad they did.” Hard to tell if you are glad they cleaned it up or glad that they waited until you left the game. Don’t kiss up.

Here’s perhaps a more effective apology built on acknowledging, apologizing and doing something constructive about it.

I cheated. I let you down. I was wrong. I’m really sorry.

And here’s what I’m going to do about it. I’m going to speak to high school and college kids and pour my own money into getting kids to know cheating is wrong and steroids are dangerous.

It’s the least I can do…and I’m open to any other suggestions you might have as to how I can make amends for what I have done.

Now that would be an apology…


Trends that You Should Worry About…

Posted January 1, 2010 by David Blumenthal
Categories: Crisis Management, Leadership, Sales, Strategic Plans, Strategy, Visioning

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Lately, I have been “heads down” more than ever working with companies on redefining their strategies. In these conversations, I am often asked what surprises me the most. Here are a few observations.

The biggest surprise to me has been the pace at which whole industries have begun to disappear. As fast as one charts the list, another one needs to be added. The postal service, newspaper and magazine publishing, television, and retail stores are just a few.

Last week, I went into a high end department store to buy a present for a newly engaged couple. I went to the registry and met with the manager. She told me that 80% of the gifts for a couple is now purchased on line. This is good news for the retailer because it can pay less commission, as there is no sales rep involved in the purchasing transaction.

What was shocking to me was that manager told me that when an item is returned to the store, it gets applied as a negative sale to her commission. She is running harder just to stay in place. And the store is comfortable making her role obsolete.

Another recent trend that I find fascinating is the increasing need to create engines as opposed to creating businesses. Zappos is a great illustration of this process done well.

Zappos had become an Internet business legend, so to speak, for its ability to sell footwear. Its use of social media to promote and service its business is very well known.

In July, Amazon announced its intention to purchase Zappos. The deal closed in November.

Today, less than two months later, Zappos has transformed itself into a clothing site. The engine that it has designed and the practices that it has implemented are being used to allow it to enter a whole other segment of the clothing industry.

What does all this mean to you?

For starters, if you have been doing business in a traditional way, start rethinking your business model because your next competitor can come from anywhere.

Problems vs. Opportunities

Posted December 21, 2009 by David Blumenthal
Categories: Uncategorized

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The single greatest issue in addressing a client’s or colleague’s needs is understanding what we are trying to solve or manage in the first place. The reason this is so critical is because misunderstanding what the desired outcome is supposed to be typically results in the wrong solution.

Here’s a simple example. If we want to entertain ourselves and our friends on a Saturday night, we can ask what are the options? Once we add criteria or constraints, the choices narrow. For example, determining that we are on a budget of, say, less than $50 per person might eliminate tickets to a Broadway show. Deciding that we had to be back by 11 pm to relieve the babysitter might mean that we have to stay local.

What it all comes down to, in management speak, is clearly defining the problem. Solving the “right” problem usuall produces a subset of choices that will yield outcomes for which we would be happy.

Words, here though, are very important.

If one shifts from a problem definition to an opportunity definition, the options will become richer, the choices more exciting. And with that will come far greater and more robust ways of creating an outcome.

After all, wouldn’t it be more fun for you, your clients and colleagues to create an opportunity rather than solve a problem?


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