The Radically Helpful Blog

  • As a follow up to my last blog post, I thought I’d mention another of the four areas where valuable projects hang out: decreasing something. That’s right, not only can you achieve the pinnacles of success by making more, you can be equally effective in helping your company by making less. What a country! How can you add value by taking something away? Below are a few examples:

    • Costs – Belt tightening is very popular when times get tough. The irony is that the best companies trim waste when times are good then focus on customers during down markets. Is that your strategy? If not, you have room to take a giant step forward.
    • Time – Speed trumps perfection. An excellent solution now beats a superlative solution later. For instance, in the pharmaceutical market carving one month off the time to can mean tens of millions of extra dollars. Where can you reduce time to increase performance?
    • Effort – Wouldn’t it be nice to earn twice as much in half the time? Sometimes reducing cost isn’t as effective as reducing effort – a subtlety that escapes many executives. In fact, imagine what you could do if you spent 10% extra to reduce effort by 30% then used that extra time or energy to better effect.
    • Complaints – Customers, employees, and even contractors’ complaints are a sign that people care enough about what you are doing to want you to improve. Reducing complaints is a sure fire way to have those same people love you more. As the old saying goes, there is not zealot like the converted. Address your complainers’ concerns and you will have evangelists supporting you.
    • Attrition – It’s a truism that hiring an employee is far more expensive than retaining one. When an employee walks out the door, she takes experience, knowledge, familiarity with your processes and the confidence of others along with her. The same holds true for acquiring customers versus retaining those you have. Losing employees and customers is an expensive way to do business. Can you reduce that negative trend?
    • Risk – Reducing outcome risks, cost risks, opportunity risks, and other risks is a seldom trodden path to immense value. As followers of my blogs and articles know, managing and reallocating risk is a hidden treasure trove and one way you can elevate yourself head and shoulders above the competition.
    • Conflict – Some people believe a certain amount of conflict is healthy and helpful. I’m not so sure. Conflict redirects productive, creative energy to self-preservation and destruction. Reduce conflict and enjoy a sudden flourishing of ideas, solutions and business.
    • Administrative Burden – Did you know that most sales people in a corporate sales force spend 40% or more of their time on administrative work of one sort or another. That is often three to four times as many hours as they spend in front of a customer. The same craziness applies to internal positions too, and the numbers get worse, not better, in very small companies. Reducing administrative requirements is an easy, fast way to boost value.
    • Infrastructure – Similarly, many companies, departments and processes are overbuilt. As problems and issues arise, structural solutions are put in place (e.g., “We had bad result on one product, so let’s install another step of quality checking”). Those systemic solutions calcify over time, making your company slower and less responsive. Slashing infrastructure can remove the shackles holding you back from achieving your true potential.
  • One of the four categories of creating valuable projects in your company is increasing something. Here are the most common increases which will garner you fame and fortune. Or at least a solid pat on the back:

    • Profit – Obvious, but not always correct. Any project which increases revenue or decreases costs should increase profit; however, it doesn’t always work that way because 1) project value is overestimated, 2) project risk is underestimated, 3) system-wide impact has not been through through. You’re better off increasing Net Preference
    • Revenue – Bring in more top-line dollars (or Euros or Yen or Rubles) by increasing your customer base, increasing frequency of purchase, increasing volume of purchase, or increasing price.
    • Growth – You’re growing fast, but are you growing as fast as you could? Increasing growth is like pouring rocket fuel on a bonfire.
    • Value of Offerings – This is the starting point for customer-focused organizations. It’s also tied closely to Net Preference, which is why I recommend you increase NP rather than just Value of Offerings. Nevertheless, if your customers see increasing value from you, they’re more likely to stick with you.
    • Retention – Keeping your customers and/or your employees. Is there anything you can do right now which will build retention? What about retaining your business know-how? Important information walks out the door at the end of every day. A project to institutionalize that knowledge usually pays out in spades.
    • Return on Investment – Increasing the dollars you get back for the dollars you put in is, of course, always a win. This is half of what I do with consulting projects – increase the return you get on them. (The other half is reduce risk, but you knew that already.)
    • Return on Assets – Similar to return on investment; however, some companies prefer to look at the money they’re making on their asset base. When you make your assets more productive you don’t end up like steel and paper companies, with huge piles of expensive machinery churning out tiny amounts of profit.
    • Efficiency – Enabling people, processes, equipment and other assets to produce more with less resources. What I’ve found amazing is that projects which increase efficiency are often great at increasing the value of your offering. A double whammy!
    • Visibility – What’s the first rule of selling your products and services? Someone has to know you exist! Build awareness, credibility, and interest.
    • Equity – This could be brand equity (the value of your name) or financial equity. Either one is a win and a worthwhile endeavor.
    • Net Preference – Profitably and sustainably induce more customers to choose you versus the competition. I’ve written extensively about Net Preference elsewhere. Increasing NP is the surest way to quickly create a valuable project.
  • When you hire a consultant, you only know if you’re paying a fair fee if you have some idea of what the project is worth to you. Unfortunately, you overestimate the contribution of your project to whatever your larger goal is and therefore you risk overestimating the value of your project.

    By the way, this same principal applies to the projects and initiatives you do in-house: you overestimate their value. Why? Let’s go back to 1979 for a moment, when Michael Ross and Fiore Sicoly at the University of Waterloo, Canada wrote about egocentricity biases. Really, you need to know about these.

    In a nutshell, Ross and Fiore showed that each individual on a team thinks they add more to the team’s results than is logically possible. Let’s say you and four buddies take on another five-some in a game of pickup basketball. After you win the game and you’re all collapsing from exhaustion, you privately ask each member of your team how much they contributed to the win. When you add up the numbers you’ll come up with much higher than 100%.

    In fact, even if there are only two people in a conversation and you ask each person how much they contributed to the conversation, they’ll each say they contributed around 70%. Of course, that’s not possible since the total can only be 100%.

    I’ve seen the exact same thinking bias happen with consulting projects because a project is virtually always just one part of achieving a larger goal. When clients consider the consulting project, they invariably overestimate how much it will contribute to the ultimate goal. In fact, if they individually consider every element that contributes to the goal, they will add up to far more than 100%. This is partially because more than one item is critical. And it’s partially due to the underlying cause of egocentricity biases, which are also present when you’re thinking about one project.

    So, what do you do? The hard answer is you think through all the major contributors and you assign a percentage to each which adds to 100%. Even a project which is critical to achieving your ultimate goal, may be contributing only 10% to the total value, when nine other factors are also critical to success. The easy answer is you estimate the way you always would, then factor down your estimate by about 35%. My experience is that 35% will put most projects in the right range.

    © 2011, Ascendant Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

  • When you hire a business consultant, coach or some other expert, don’t you wish that they would produce outstanding work every time? As a consultant (and, often, a consultant’s consultant), I know that consultants want to exceed your expectations on every project. Unfortunately for them and for you, they didn’t have the professor that taught Carnegie Mellon’s Pascal Mastery class.

    Pity, or they would have learned the amazing lesson in this blog post.

    (This blog post contains a story. If you want to skip to the punchline, start reading at “The Last-Second Tip that Saved the Day.” Reading the story’s more fun though.)

    College for Geeks, Circa 1983

    Before every American had even heard of an iPad, or even a laptop, or, for that matter, even a PC, the penultimate computer school in the nation (Carnegie Mellon) suspected the world of the future would belong to programmers. So, back then the administration required every first year student, whether their major was engineering or English, astrophysics or architecture, to learn a programming language called Pascal and pass a 5-hour “mastery” exam.

    The Overconfident Student’s Plan

    I have to reveal my ultra-geeky roots here: I bought an Apple II computer back in 1980. This was the first commercially available Apple and was one step up from a DIY computer kit. It boasted a whopping 48k of memory. (The computer you’re on probably has 50,000 times as much internal memory.) The point is, I was an early adopter of computers and started writing programs long before entering CMU.

    I also figured programming excellence must be in my genes since my dad was a highly-regarded programmer. One more factor helped create the perfect stage for overconfident stupidity: to pass the Pascal mastery exam you had to solve a programming problem randomly assigned to you from a group of ten problems distributed at the beginning of the year. That’s right, you knew ahead of time every possible question on the final exam.

    If I was so good at programming already and I already knew the questions for the final exam why bother going to class? Sure, I had never programmed in any language other than BASIC, but how hard could Pascal be?  I would pick it up a few days before the exam, quickly solve the ten problems then pocket my easy A. Big mistake.

    Comeuppance for the Cocky

    Fast forward to finals week. I finally crack open the Pascal book and was happy to see that, indeed, it was an easy programming language to learn. The syntax and expressions were different from what I was used to, but the concepts were basically the same. A few hours of study was all I needed before getting to work on the ten problems. Of course, in those days no one had their own computer and you had to go to a computer center to do the actual work. I plunked myself down in front of one of the terminals, flipped to the first problem and typed away.

    Frankly, writing the programming code didn’t take all that long. The logic to solving the problem was pretty straightforward and translating that logic into computer language took a couple of hours. Since the final exam was scheduled to last five hours, I was in like Flynn. I leaned back, smugly typed the Run command and waited for my first masterpiece to yield the A+ results at the one printer shared by everyone in the center. Only, it didn’t yield A+ results. In fact, the program didn’t yield anything. It didn’t run.

    For two full days leading up to the exam I tried solving the ten final exam problems and not a single program would run. There must have been bugs somewhere in the code, but I couldn’t find them. A single, misplaced period, a forgotten semi-colon or misspelled word was all it took to prevent a program from running and each program contained hundreds of lines of obscure coding language. Rut roh!

    The Last-Second Tip that Saved the Day

    I slunk into the computer center nonplussed and nervous on the day of the final. What was supposed to be an easy A was looking more like a certain F. This was no joke since the failure rate on the Pascal exam was notoriously high. At least forty percent of students had to try two times in order to pass; many tried three or more times. The professor handed out sealed packets to each student as we sat, tense, like young soldiers in a foxhole.

    As the seconds until we started slipped by, the professor gave banal, last minute encouraging statements like, “Take your time; five hours is enough solve whatever problem you get.” Then, out of the blue he gave one tip which changed forever how I would work.

    “Don’t try to write your program to get an A on the exam or it won’t run and there will be so much code you’ll never find the mistakes. Just write the program well enough to get a C – that’s easy. If you have time once that’s done, write the module which is required to get a B and if the program doesn’t work at that point you’ll know exactly where the programming mistake is. Only try to get an A if you still have time after your program works at the B level.” Oh. Ohhhh! That process had never occurred to me. I’m an A student and on all my practice attempts I went for the A. Why would I ever even bother to try programming a mere C? Now I knew why.

    The Magic Protocol: C to a B to an A

    Two hours after the final exam commenced, I pranced out of the computer center with an A. The professor’s sage advice stayed with me through college and throughout my career, transforming how I approached problem solving. His magic protocol ensures success where others fail and is mandatory to most consulting projects. Unfortunately it’s also anathema to most consultants.

    A typical consulting project looks like this: First, they assess your situation. Then, using that assessment they will determine the gaps between where you are and where you want to be. Next they will carefully design a plan to close the gaps, after which they will leave you to implement the plan and reap the rewards. Sometimes the consultant also works with you to implement the plan, but in almost all cases they are gone long before the results are supposed to materialize.

    That is traditional consulting and it has an alarmingly high failure rate. The only reason most projects don’t get Fs is because the standards are lowered afterwards or there were no good metrics for success set up in the first place. Even so, think about how many times you’ve hired an outside expert and weren’t overjoyed with what you got for the money. Pretty often, I’d guess.

    Next time, insist that they work their solutions to a C then a B then an A, proving along the way that each solution actually works. To do this, they won’t spend much time conducting an assessment or designing a solution before they deliver the first round of solutions. Consultants don’t like this for three reasons: 1) it’s harder to predict how long it will take to do their job; 2) they have to show you work that looks incomplete and like it won’t meet all your goals; 3) they have to demonstrate success rather than assume it. Tough luck. Tell them to get over their issues. If you or they are worried about the uncertainty around fees, read some of my articles on better contract structures.

    An Example

    You may think the C2B2A protocol applies to complex projects. For instance, when you want to upgrade the capabilities of your sales force. The consultant wants to do a full assessment of your current situation, including the sales team’s skills, the support systems, the demands from headquarters, the onboarding and training programs, and the sales collateral. This is a perfect time to break the whole project into small pieces and get success on each one.

    However, using the C2B2A approach will help you even on simple, seemingly straightforward projects. For instance, let’s say you have decided to bring in a sales trainer to teach your sales team “emotional intelligence” (since that’s all the rage these days). The trainer wants to do a half-day or full day or two-day workshop. You think C2B2A and say, “No. Rather than teaching my sales team everything about emotional intelligence then walking out the door, you need to teach them just the bare bones and prove that it works for them. Then, if you can show that works, you can move on to raising their emotional intelligence skills another notch and, finally, once that works you can teach them the rest of the stuff you wanted to show in the full workshop.”

    While this might seem like a more drawn out process, the fact is it has two benefits: You are far, far more likely to get A-level results from the training this way and you will at least get C-level results for a lower fee. In comparison, the traditional model shoots for the A out of the gate and fails over 85% of the time. Research confirms that most training sessions have no lasting effect.

    That’s just one example. The C2B2A protocol will help you on virtually every type of project as long as you are willing to be flexible, accept “half-baked” solutions, and move forward with initial ideas before the entire plan is designed. With this new approach in your arsenal, you can hire outside experts with much more confidence that you’ll get your money’s worth.

  • Every Project Has Risks

    The work may take too long and miss an important deadline, or use more of your people’s time than you originally thought, or become irrelevant because your needs change, just to name a few.

    Usually those risks are given a passing thought, at most, then dismissed prior to bringing in a consultant. Sometimes you voice a concern internally or to the outside expert.

    Risk is Actually an Opportunity

    Let’s say you ask the consultant, “How much of our people’s time will this project take?” The eager expert, sensing your worry, will give a vague, comforting reply: “Because we have highly experienced people staffing the project, we can minimize the time required of your personnel.”

    Sound familiar? If you ask the right questions, you can actually lower your risk and increase the value of a project. Already, most companies will have an outsider sign a confidentiality agreement before revealing any sensitive information, with the hope that it will prevent that information from being leaked.

    Other Risks are Embedded in Your Contracts

    Whether you address the risks explicitly or never even think of them, one way or another they are embedded in your contract with the outside expert. Usually they are tied into your agreement through omission, rather than commission. In other words, they aren’t mentioned or discussed at all.

    To a large degree, that’s fine. Negotiating and drawing up contracts would become totally unwieldy if you strived to address every possible risk explicitly. However, huge amounts of value are left on the table because important risks are not appropriately managed.

    To Reduce Your Risk, Answer These Five Questions:

    1. What risks are important to consider on this project?
    2. What are the sources of those risks?
    3. How can those risks be mitigated?
      1. How can the likelihood be reduced?
      2. How can the impact be reduced?
    4. What is the value of increasing or decreasing the risk?
    5. How can we allocate the risks between us and the outside expert to create the most value?

    I’ll discuss how to answer these questions in future posts.

  • The cover of this month’s Inc. magazine is graced by the smiling visage of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Why is Tony’s cute dimple on display and why do we care whether or not another youthful, high-tech zillionaire is feeling chipper? Because this executive’s sunny disposition, Zappos’ ascension to $1 billion in online sales, and the company’s place among Fortune’s top 25 companies to work for are all inextricably linked. Is a similar dynamic shaping your company?

    Our Take 

    “How do I create a culture that supports our mission?” This ranks among the most frequent issues posed to me by C-level executives. The question stems from the very idea of corporate culture, which was neatly summed up for me by the COO of one of the largest employers in the U.S.: “I need our culture to consistently inform our employees’ values and decisions; if I do this right, then when one of our employees is facing any situation they will act like I would were I in their shoes.”

    Notice he didn’t say “I need a process in place” to direct employees’ actions. With over 150,000 employees spread across 1,400 locations, he would need a process manual the size of the IRS tax code to capture all the linkages and handoffs across the company’s myriad activities. Even so, we all know it wouldn’t work – corporate culture trumps corporate cookbooks.

    As an aside, an egalitarian, empathetic ethos informs the most lauded, culturally driven companies. Zappos requires every employee to sit through two weeks of classroom training on company history then devote two weeks learning how to answer customer calls. At an extraordinarily successful steel company, executive salaries were equalized across functions so that managers could be easily rotated around the company. In contrast, the breathtakingly hierarchical, distrustful and self-centered cultures that pervade the U.S. auto and airline industries (excepting Southwest) have dragged once-healthy companies into bankruptcy. Where does your company stand on that spectrum?

    Regardless of where you are now, in short, practical terms, what actions should you be taking to create a corporate culture which supports your mission? Here’s a start:

      1. Assess your current culture.Most executives have a woefully incomplete sense of their current corporate culture. Of the 75 or so CEOs I’ve interviewed recently, only three were as culturally aware and sophisticated as Hsieh. One proudly let me know that the most important thing he does as the company’s ultimate leader is hire happy people.Unfortunately, a company survey isn’t going to clue you in on your own corporate culture if you haven’t been paying attention for a few years. Instead, you need a more anthropological approach, observing your leadership team in action, your on-boarding processes, your cross-functional interactions, your customer interactions and, importantly, your customers reactions.
      2. Determine what you need your culture to be.Most corporate leaders spend more time futzing with a new brochure than they spend creating a uniformly embraced culture which will boost business. Hsieh determined that for Zappos to succeed, they needed to make customers happy; hence, their culture is all about happiness. But that’s not the only culture that works. One of my clients realized his company’s road from bankruptcy to market-leader was becoming the low cost producer, and he has built his culture entirely around that – the employees demonstrate a zeal for cost cutting which comes through in every conversation, every decision and every action.
      3. Make a plan to close the gap. One of my colleagues accelerates culture change using stories and this has proven to be extraordinarily effective. Stories, along with senior management’s actions, are the firmament upon which a company’s values rest. After telling the Inc. journalist a touching anecdote, Hsieh commented, “Stories like these are being created [at Zappos] every single day, thousands and thousands of times.” Finding, codifying and disseminating stories needs to be a central piece of your change effort.

    Ironically, every powerful culture has an equally powerful blind spot and one of the most powerful steps you could take today is to suspend your culture for ten weeks. For instance, I’d wager Hsieh’s new car that there are countless efficiency ideas inside his company which never see the light of day because the happiness culture shuts them down. Similarly, there are customer satisfaction breakthroughs which never surface at the low-cost manufacturer I mentioned earlier where everyone is implicitly taught to only support cost-saving ideas.

    Every corporate culture, without exception, suppresses major money-saving ideas which are politically inexpedient to bring forward. Learn how to temporarily suspend your corporate culture, so that you can address the blind spots; the process is surprisingly quick and rewarding. For instance, at a major power company we were able to generate $300 million in annual cost reductions in ten weeks by keeping the normal operating conditions at bay.

    At Zappos, Tony Hsieh has constructed an impressive reflection of his dedication to happiness. Is your passion mirrored in the everyday decisions and actions across your organization? To make that happen, or to learn how to quickly find huge savings by suspending your corporate culture, point your happy face here:

    David A. Fields
    Managing Director
    Ascendant Consulting, LLC

    P.O. Box 341
    Ridgefield, CT 06877-2822
    1-88-88-2 Ascend


    Regular Insight readers will recognize David’s latest article in IndustryWeek: “Winning Big During Economic Downturns”


    The Best Thinking In Today’s Business Press®
    free newsletter highlighting an intriguing article from current business
    press, and offering commentary which is thought provoking, actionable
    and valuable to businesses. Past copies are archived on our website:

    Copyright 2008 David A. Fields. All rights reserved


  • Today a headhunter sent me the specs for a position he is trying to fill. One quick glance through raised more red flags than you’d see at a Chinese parade. The offending job description included these choice phrases:

    “…looking for a process improvement professional… newly created position leading effort to streamline Sales and Marketing processes.”

    Below, the company listed the must-have attributes for the new hire. The very first skill they are looking for? “Some kind of Six Sigma certification. BLACK BELTS WILL BE GIVEN PREFERENCE.”

    In good conscience I could not recommend anyone in my network even consider a job like this, because the hiring company was making a huge, costly mistake:

    Hiring a full time employee when an outside expert was the better solution.

    1. Process expertise in streamlining sales and marketing is not a core competency for this company. It is not something they must be expert in and would need over and over again to create value for their own customers. As a pharmaceutical research firm, they should be hiring expertise in drug development.
    2. What is that marketing process expert going to do once she’s finished streamlining the sales and marketing efforts? The quicker and more efficiently she does her job, the quicker she will have worked her way into a superfluous role.
    3. Similarly, once an outside expert leaves, the return on your investment continues to grow for year after year. A full-time employee must continually deliver an incremental $6 in revenue for every $1 in compensation for as long as they are employed just to maintain a steady ROI on their employment.
    4. The hiring company understandably wants a person who has industry knowledge and experience; however, what will serve them best is a person who has spent their career developing extraordinary skills in streamlining sales and marketing processes, not a person who has spent their career focusing on one industry.
    5. The specifications insisted on a particular approach to streamlining: six sigma, which presumes they know more than experts in the practice of improving sales and marketing practices. They have bought into a single methodology hook, line and sinker and thereby are barring entry to innovative thinkers and breakthrough practitioners who could suggest an approach that would yield faster results, better returns and lower risk.

    Companies often turn to the outside for help with problems they could easily solve in house. Unfortunately, as in this case, they also commit a cardinal hiring sin: bringing on a full time employee who, 99 times out of 100, won’t deliver results comparable to an outside expert.

  • Are You in Action?

    The most admired management sage today is without a doubt Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great, and interviewee in this month’s Inc. While revealing an idea-rich landscape Collins mentions three important concepts, which I am taking the liberty of linking together: Corporate success – regardless of the size of the company – rests on entrepreneurship; Entrepreneurship is a life concept reflecting the choices we make; Successful entrepreneurs choose to take action.

    Our Take

    Today, many companies are frozen. Stuck. Incapable of moving forward or lacking the fortitude to do so. Or, worse yet, they are freezing budgets, laying off workers and canceling growth projects. In other words, moving backwards and using the economy as an excuse. My conclusion is that executives are not clear on what positive action to take while they are vigilantly protecting cash reserves amidst a hailstorm of bad news.

    Here, therefore, are five actions you can take immediately which require little-to-no cash outlay and which will deliver virtually immediate positive impact on your business:

    1. Temporarily Suspend Your Corporate Culture – The world around you has changed dramatically and your corporate culture – the organization’s every day behavior – needs a wakeup call. We have found that suspending corporate culture for 10 weeks opens the door for savings of 10% of your SG&A. For AEP, as an example, that translated into  $300 million annual saving. Not a bad haul for a 10 week effort.
    2. Change Your Concept and Management of Risk – FDR’s inaugural words need to become your mantra: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The real issue facing businesses today is how to deal with unprecedented uncertainty. If you view risk as downside exposure and are beefing up your contracts to squeeze out as much risk as possible, you are missing the boat. We are actually paying some of our clients for the opportunity to do projects (in exchange for a bigger share of the gains we give them) because companies have become afraid of ambiguity and will pay dollars to eliminate pennies worth of uncertainty. You too can capitalize on the fear paralyzing your competition, your vendors and your customers.
    3. Improve Your Customers’ Experience – Customers are still buying. They may be buying less in many markets, but that simply means you need to grab a bigger share of the shrinking pie by relentlessly improving your Net Preference (the attributes which, collectively, drive choice) and Customer Experience. Net Preference is covered many other places (see this podcast, this article, and this booklet ). Two ways you can quickly improve your customer’s experience are by humanizing your web-presence and by codifying then implementing the ideal customer experience. On the web-front, we have found that adding human-centered video to the otherwise sterile online environment conveys superior, stickier message. More broadly, it takes only six weeks to precisely define the customer experience which will lead to action and the standards you must have in place across the company to make that experience a reality.
    4. Upgrade Your Sales Managers – First line and second line sales managers – those in charge of areas, districts, divisions and so forth – are the weak link in every sales force. This level has the least interaction with customers despite being promoted because of their selling prowess, and they devote the most time to administrivia and ineffective time with subordinates. Here’s a counterintuitive reality: the deviation in your sales reps’ performance is not, primarily, a function of their ability. It is a function of their manager’s competency. In other words, it is your middle managers’ directions which are causing the largest disparity in your salespeople’s performance. If you want a quick improvement in your results, take action with the neglected middle ranks. (For more information on how to do this, please click here to “pre-order” an upcoming, free whitepaper on Mastering Sales Management)
    5. Jump on Social Media – You can either stand there, scratching your head in puzzlement at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other new social media or you can jump in and reap rewards while your competition is doing the scalp massage. The market is wide open for innovators.  iPhone applications are expanding at a rate which would put the most reproductive of rabbits to shame. Yet how many of the top iPhone apps are put out by the bastions of consumer products whose hallowed halls presumably house the best and brightest marketers? Zero! The best example pointed out to me recently of a big company jumping on the new technology wave is J&J’s impressive diabetes management app. Opportunities are abundant for those willing to take action on the new frontier. We know from experience there are ways to run effective promotions via social media and the returns are nothing short of extraordinary.

    No matter what title is printed on your business card, you are an entrepreneur and your actions (or lack thereof) determine your success and your company’s future. Be bold. Move. Better yet, take the one action which will get the other five started:

    Contact David A. Fields
    Managing Director
    Ascendant Consulting, LLC

    128 Haviland Rd.
    Ridgefield, CT 06877-2822
    1-88-88-2 Ascend


    Regular Insight readers will recognize David’s latest article in IndustryWeek: “Winning Big During Economic Downturns”


    Insight: The Best Thinking In Today’s Business Press® A free newsletter highlighting an intriguing article from current business press, and offering commentary which is thought provoking, actionable and valuable to businesses. Past copies are archived on our website:

  • I discovered something called OLE when IndustryWeek asked me to deliver a webcast to their audience and Kronos decided to be the sponsor. Read on to see why I am intrigued by OLE. (Kronos is not a client and I do not receive any compensation from them for talking about their concepts and products.)

    My clients and long-timer readers know I believe companies need to focus on Net Preference (NP), which is customers’ choice between you and the competition, taking everything into account. One of the challenges with NP is connecting all the activities inside the company to customers’ preferences outside the company. Behavior on the shop floor seems too far removed from the sale and internal processes are intricately interdependent.

    Kronos has apparently developed tools to measure and analyze what they have named Overall Labor Effectiveness (OLE). After a cursory look, I think it is an excellent start for companies which realize success requires a stronger connection between employees’ behavior and corporate goals than mission statements tacked on a wall and individual performance objectives. OLE provides the depth of analytics necessary to uncover the why behind employees ‘ behavior and performance. And that engenders more creative and effective solutions than are ever achieved by traditional approaches to people management.

    A phenomenal solution should address a specific problem, so here’s the problem: Right now you have no way of concretely, accurately measuring employees contribution to customers’ Net Preference. Without that measurement, your management of human resources is based on experience, management maxims and educated guesses. A phenomenal solution would be HR analytics which free you to be much more creative and effective in how you direct your people. Is OLE that phenomenal solution? I don’t know enough to say for sure, but it’s worth checking out Kronos’ information to find out more.

  • Got to love it when someone looks at a system everyone takes for granted then changes one assumption to create an excellent new idea. In this case, Bikestations goes to a core dynamic of American society – the automobile – and asks, “what system is in place to support the automobile that must be in place for bicycles to be used in a similar fashion?” See this Fast Company article: