Knowledge Management

The First Step In Being Brief Is Preparation 0

Joe McCormack is an experienced marketing executive, successful entrepreneur and author, Joe is recognized for his work in narrative messaging and corporate storytelling. His new book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less (Wiley & Sons, 2014) tackles the timeliness of the “less is more” mandate.

Related Transcript and Podcast: Be Effective, Be Brief

Joe: Can I just sum that up saying that the first step in being brief is preparation?

Joseph: Preparation is huge. I know in talking to people about this topic three consistent tendencies that people have that many people are not aware of. The first is the tendency to over explain. The second tendency is the tendency to under prepare; not taking more time. There’s a famous quote that says “I would have written you a short letter if I had more time,” attributed to Mark Twain, which is a great quote because it takes time to prepare. And then the third thing is missing the point completely; not knowing what the essential point is. But preparation is an absolute key element that people just don’t spend nearly enough time doing.

Joe: I think Winston Churchill has a great quote along that same line where he says, “If you want me to write or speak for twenty minutes,” – I forgot how the quote goes – “I can do it right now. But if you want me to say it in a paragraph, it will take me a fortnight,” or something to that line.

Joseph: Exactly. What happens is it makes sense but people think about a short communication as being easy. Like “Oh I’m just going to talk to my boss for five minutes. I’m going to leave a quick voice mail. This is going to be a short part of the agenda.” And the truth is the shorter you speak the harder it is to do it well. People need to spend more time upfront preparing it. They get lured into the false sense of “Oh because this is short I’ll just wing it,” and it gets people into a lot of trouble.

Joe: A second part of what you go into in the Discipline part is the foundation of a story. You want to tell people in a story form but most stories seem to run on. How do I prevent that?

Joseph: Make the distinction between a short story and a long story. So I think we’re talking about the short story format which is perfectly suited for people’s attention spans. People’s attentions spans a decade ago were twelve seconds and now they’re eight. So we need to put it into a smaller package. Stories are beautiful, people love them but you can’t fall in love with them and tell the long version. You have to be gifted at cutting out the excess detail and giving people a nice concise narrative that hits the mark.

Joe: But how do I keep discussions brief and to the point? Am I manipulating it? Is that what I’m doing? I’m trying to have a conversation, a dialogue?

Joseph: Yes, I think that first of all nobody is nearly as interesting as they think they are. So part of it is –you’re right – you want brevity to be “I’m saying a little. I want to invite a conversation.” So brevity omits monologues. That’s one of the benefits of being brief is it’s not just you talking, you’re having a conversation with somebody else. When you’re in a conversation with somebody once you’ve made a point, stop talking and then have a person ask you a question and respond. And people fail to do that and then they ramble. It should just be brief interludes of a balanced conversation or two people are talking about the same thing, not waiting for their turn to talk.


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The Origin of Customer Think 0

Bob Thompson is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation which includes being editor-in-chief of, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. In a short podcast, edited out of last weeks podcast (either Bob or I talked to long) What It Really Means To Be Customer Centric, we discussed the origin of Customer Think. Bob started this community before we were calling them communities.bob_thompson

Bob’s new book, Hooked On Customers: The Five Habits of Legendary Customer-Centric Companies takes a fresh look at customer-centric business management, exploring what Bob Thompson has identified as the five key organizational habits that enable any company to execute its business strategy more effectively and, ultimately, to outperform its competitors.


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Intro to Leader Standard Work for Knowledge Workers 0

Leader standard work is a concept in Lean Management, popularized by David Mann in his book “Creating a Lean Culture”, that creates standard work for managers. For many in the Agile community, the notion of “standard work” brings a repellent idea of standardization and work standards, and the oppressive boot-jack command culture that comes with that. And yet, the way that Toyota implements standard work, it is much more akin to coding standards or working agreements, where you record the current best agreed upon way of the workers in the system for doing something, than an oppressive regime of McQuality Checks.

David describes the principle nicely in his presentation on Creating a Lean Culture Process Focus and Leader Standard Work. The purpose of Leader Standard Work is to create behavioral change that drives Lean Leaders to visit the place where work is being done. This, along with Visual Management and a Daily Accountability process helps ensure the technical improvements in the Lean Transformation aren’t lost to the culture of firefighting and backsliding into what he calls the “pit of instability and despair” or what I like to call, “business as usual.” So, there are many organizational benefits to Leader Standard Work. And the good news is, it’s also a great way to drive some sanity into your day as a manager.

Leader Standard Work is becoming more commonplace and the standard for the development of a Lean Culture. It is extremely adaptable and found both in trade and professional services. It excels in experienced based professions but it may struggle in what I would call knowledge-based services. The problem is there are more knowledge-based jobs being created every day. The experience based jobs either get automated or outsourced. For more information on that subject, read Dan Pink’s, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.

Since Lean is so intrinsically tied to standard work, many believe Lean cannot apply to their “Knowledge Based” occupation. In fact, it is often resisted in these circles. When met with resistance, I have found that typically there is a good reason why. As I review most Leader Standard Work for knowledge workers, I still find them heavily laden with specific instructions and very results based focus. In Sales and Marketing (I am considering Sales and Marketing to be knowledge work) , you will see instructions such as make 25 calls, send out 15 e-mails, 3 blog posts a week, etc. On the other hand, I do see slack time allowed under the disguise of daily or weekly Kaizen. So Leader Standard Work can apply to Sales and Marketing 9Knowledge Workers), or can it?

Leader Standard Work will fizzle out quickly if you simply try to practice Leader Standard Work through Lean Training, coupled with your experience and try to become more proficient through iteration after iteration. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, it may take years, certainly months, to acquire the skills needed. What stops you is that you not only have to learn new skills but these skills and learning are not stagnant. They are in constant turmoil; developing, adapting and evolving while obsoleting the existing structure.

Many companies may fall short as a result of not creating the internal collaboration structure needed for learning. The organization must develop as a whole and this can only be accomplished by developing their personnel by providing the necessary resources and opportunities. We also need to promote individual differences. Instead of teaching the way to do some things, we may need to step back and determine the key points that are required, as Simon Sinek says the “Why” while leaving the how alone (Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action).

What will drive Leader Standard Work is the “Why” more so than the “How”. The “Why” provides the clear strategic intent which will provide the fuel for Leader Standard Work. This analogy is wonderfully described in David Mann’s Book Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, Second Edition where he uses the automotive analogy to describe the four principles of the Lean Management System:

  1. Leader Standard Work – Engine
  2. Daily Accountability Process – Gas Pedal and Steering Wheel
  3. Visual Controls – Transmission
  4. Discipline – Fuel

When developing your Leader Standard work for Lean Sales and Marketing address these three items;

  1. Clarification – Minimum standard is explicit
  2. Commitment – Level of commitment is expected from the individual
  3. Connection – A path for support through conversation is provided.

Can your Leader Standard Work pass the 3 C Test?

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Can Numbers be Creative, Can Numbers be Imaginative? 0

Author, ERIC SIEGEL, PhD, is the founder of Predictive Analytics World and Executive Editor of the Predictive Analytics Times. Eric makes the how and why of predictive analytics understandable and captivating.

Joe: When we look at this, data certainly plays a part but people would refute the fact that data can tell the future. I always use this Einstein quote "Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.” Can numbers be creative, can numbers be imaginative?

Related Podcast and Transcription: Predicting with Analytics

Eric Siegel: That’s a great question; I would say yes because as I’ve mentioned earlier – the core method here is predictive modeling, academically known as machine learning. It is literally looking at data, the history of many transactions of how things turn out in the past in order to learn how to predict under new circumstances for a consumer who has a new profile and new history of behavior that’s never been seen before and to robustly be able to apply what’s been learned. That is you’ve actually not just discovered a pattern that shows up in this particular data set, but that actually holds in general. There is an art to that; it is amazing kinds of things that come out of it; it can’t be visualized ultimately by human thought process because computers can do things in a multidimensional way. It’s all about finding that model that looks at all the different factors about an individual, both demographic and behavioral, and consider them together in concert to come up with the best prediction for that individual. The means; the mechanism to do that is the model is the thing that predicts is the thing that’s learned or output from the predictive modeling process.

I would say yes, there’s definitely creativity, I devoted a chapter to how amazing the results ended up being as far as the IBM Watson computer that learns from Jeopardy, the TV quiz show Jeopardy, questions and how to answer new ones – that’s an amazing story. However, unlike that story, usually it’s not about accuracy, so you premise your question just now by saying, “some people say you can’t really predict very well,” the fact is in general, especially with human behavior and the weather for that matter; there’s a real limit to how far ahead and in what way we can accurately predict. It turns out that the use of this technology on all of these different operations and getting value from it does not hinge on the accuracy. Predicting better than guessing, often significantly better than guessing, is what makes the difference and what provides value in running mass operations more effective.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Predicting with Analytics

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Standard Work at Starbucks 0

Joseph Michelli’s  Leading the Starbucks Way: 5 Principles for Connecting with Your Customers, Your Products and Your People, is a lesson in strategic marketing that few books meant for that purpose can even come close. .

Related Podcast and Transcription: The Starbucks Way of Connecting to Customers

Joe: Do they have standards that they take the employees through. For example, every barista has to get out from behind the counter and walk among the people or anything like that?

Joseph Michelli: Absolutely! Not only sweep the cafe kind of thing for all the environmental factors, but they have these values walk that happens once a shift, and it rotates across the baristas and that values walk actually starts outside. It’s not just kind of doing the sweep inside the cafe, and it’s not that you immediately go and fix anything you just don’t remediate what you see. It’s a real ethnocentric look, Kind of a look that you might have if you’re a cultural anthropologist, and you’re walking into the environment and you’re just scanning for everything you see. You’re going to be looking at the nature of the interaction. You’ll be looking for dust on the top of something. It’s an attempt to walk from the customer’s view through the experience and then documents those things. The beauty of it is; you’re not tasked to actually fix everything yourself, you’re more likely to acknowledge that there are things. Whereas if your job is if you see it fix it, this is just kind of see it, observe it, identify it and then we’ll know to fix it when we have our first opportunity.

Joe: What comes to mind is… and I don’t know how Starbucks teaches it, so I have to ask the question? It is the ability to be able to see like an artist. How do you instill that in an employee?

Joseph Michelli: Well I mean first you have to have them want to see it. I mean car renters don’t care if their car is dirty. That’s why nobody washes their rent a car. I mean you have an ownership stake in something to want to see something. I think it starts long before you giving them tools to see and it goes back to the way you treat them early on and whether or not they want to follow you, if they want to join you in looking for things that will transform a customer experience. It starts there but beyond all those cultural foundational, orientation on boarding things I think that it gets down to putting them in a position where they’re expected to look. By putting them out there and say "Every shift, somebody’s going to look." Looking must be important, right? I mean in business where nobody seems to be looking at that kind of stuff, where there is dust and mold and mildew and grime and growing in corners and crannies. I walk in there and realize "Hey, we’re not supposed to be looking at that stuff; I have blinders to it just like the management does." I think by creating processes that cause you to be vigilant it sets a priority that is important. That’s what Lean’s all about in many ways I think it sets the priority for us to look for efficiencies and look for value, and we live by that. We dedicate ourselves to those systems so guess- what, efficiency and values are important to our business, "Hello".

Joe: I agree with you and to me I would think Starbucks has a very precise on boarding program when they bring someone on.

Joseph Michelli: Absolutely do! Some of it is the operational checklist, some of it specific OJTs skills developments, and certification that you’ve achieved those skill levels. Some of it is corporate rituals. If you come in and I just hired you Joe. You come in, and I just hired you to research Starbucks I’m going to sit down a cup of coffee with you before we do anything else. I’m going to ingrain the culture, so that you realize that before anything else it’s coffee. That what it’s about, it’s about sitting down and savoring a conversation over a cup of coffee that’s what we do. Before I can even get into all of how we do it, how we make that coffee, I need to make it really clear to you by my own actions that this is important. Then while you’re on-board in addition in teaching you skills, I have to make the perfect espresso shot. I’m also going to teach you about all the different growing regions where the origins of coffees come from, and you’re going to go through a coffee passport where you’re going to taste coffees from all over the world. You’re going to write your own notes and observations about their flavour profile, and that is bringing you up to speed to understand that is not enough to shove a cup in someone’s face. You best understand where the coffee came from, the nuances of that coffee and what that flavour indicates about that customer’s life. I think that’s how you bring people on; you get them excited, you get them inside of the fold. They’re no longer coffee preparers; they’re creating experiences that uplift to the coffee, to the conversation, to the physical environment which they bring customers.

Related Podcast and Transcription: The Starbucks Way of Connecting to Customers

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Your Internal Collaborative Structure 0

As the pace and complexity of business has grown traditional organization structures have been flattened through near constant reorganizations. The need for specialization within certain functions seems to prevent further reconciliation. Empowerment within business units and departments to make decisions within their scope of activities has increased, however, we often bump into "sub-optimizing the whole" if healthy interactions between units are not encouraged.

The latest thinking in business improvements has unleashed a new dictum for Clarity, Focus, Discipline and Engagement. These are all valiant efforts, but the continued focus is on process improvements through a typical hierarchal approach can limit growth. What seems to be missing is the requisite training and techniques for improvements to be implemented across functional silos versus up and down the leadership chain.

Organizations are often structured in a hierarchy, but do people actually work that way? Most people dare not work across departmental boundaries and silos, but where do most breakdowns occur? Reorganizations can help by creating a more generalist skill set which reduces the need for specialists. This paradoxically inhibits the growth of an organization because growth still requires specialized skills. How do you get the best of both worlds (a flat organization with sustained growth)?

It takes a unique approach when there is no existing hierarchy or understanding of each other’s specialization. Specialists are not often accustomed to working with others outside of their functional silo. In fact, the more specialization, the more siloed the department. This takes a unique method that mixes cross-functional problems into collaborative training efforts. This situation is better suited to a "learning by doing approach" and is best driven from a strength-based learning perspective that reduces or eliminates the typical buy-in and finger pointing issues associated with cross functional efforts.

When most people think of change, they think of something that directly affects them, or something that affects those around them. In both cases, change is perceived as a negative! It turns out that change itself is seldom addressed from a positive or strength based approach. Developing a positive skills framework through active participation will address change through the growth of soft skills for both individuals and teams.

"Collaboration" is an expression being tossed around the corporate environment just as "Agile" was a decade ago. There are few companies that have taken the step to develop a collaborative structure internally. Seeking collaborative efforts with customers brings additional cross-functional deficiencies to the surface. As the saying goes, a customer experience mimics an employee experience.

This blog post was co-authored by Bob Petruska, author of Gemba Walks for Service Excellence and Joe Dager  It was from a discussion on how to harness the knowledge and the involvement of the people working in different departments on existing topics. It is “On-The-Job-Collaboration”. Contact Bob at or me to find out more about this unique approach and how it could strengthen your organization.

You can also find Bob at the upcoming ASQ Charlotte Conference on April 8th, 2014. It will be held at the Harris Conference Center. Bob’s track is called Keep Your Organization’s Chain Straight.

Can Lean Accounting help Drive Market Share? 0

One of the true experts in the Lean Accounting world is Jim Huntzinger. He has over twenty years experience developing Lean enterprises through system design and development, implementation, and guiding organizations both strategically and tactically through the transformation process. He is Founder and President of Lean Frontiers.

Entire Transcription and Podcast: Leading with Lean Accounting

Joe:  Does the Lean accounting process empower the company to help to drive market share or increase revenues?

Jim Huntzinger:  Absolutely. I think again; it comes back down to a couple of things. One is again, understanding what your real costs are so, again, understanding what the value proposition is, understanding what the market will bear from a price standpoint, then trying to align yourself. I mean you’re trying to align yourself to what that is, you know it’s, you’re not going to have much luck trying to align the market to what you would like it to be, aligning yourself to that. So when you know that, and you know what your internal costs are or if you’re developing a new product, you know what your internal costs need to be, then that could give you much better information that again internally from your accounting people to your marketing people on, “This is where we need to be at.”

Again, information flowing both ways. Hopefully marketing people are understanding what the market wants, what the market desires in price, in features, in product and are giving that feedback into you know the developing engineers, the accountants, the operational people, so they’re; they have good information; they can align the organization to present out a good value proposition to the customer.

That’s a loop that needs to work both ways and again, both those people in the organization give; I don’t say they have to be intimate with what each other’s doing, but have an understanding of what each other’s doing and what each other needs and then you just get a much better flow of information from an accuracy standpoint as well as with just from a need standpoint. What information, as marketing people, what information do we need to be supplying back into operations, into product development, into accounting.

They have the information they can use to develop what they need to and then vice versa. You know accounting, working with product development, working with operations. What information do we have at this point that we can feed back to marketing so they can take that information back out on the market and get some reasonable feedback from it?

Entire Transcription and Podcast: Leading with Lean Accounting

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