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.
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.
In the Google Community, The Next 7 Tools, I started a discussion on FMEA thinking it will be tool that will re-surface in popularity. It has been used quite extensively in manufacturing but I think it can be pushed into the fields of service and software. It will need some refinement more towards Innovation and Design Thinking Concepts.
FMEA: Failure Mode & Effects Analysis
Innovation, Lean Startup, Design Thinking and Disruptive Innovation are very much becoming ingrained as one of the ways we must conduct business. All of us claim to be Agile and Innovative. So it must be true, it is in every company’s mission and vision statement. Or, maybe we should call it their value proposition or their “Why”.
However, Risk Management is on everyone’s mind, even when managing your career path. When companies make choices they often take the path of least risk. I can relate this easily to HR Managers. Seldom do they hire the best person for the job, they normally hire the safest person. It goes back to that old saying that ‘No One Ever got fired for buying an IBM.”
When you view how decisions are being made, they are often involve committees or a better way of saying might be with many participants input. In this scenario, seldom will be risk be managed correctly. The safest choice even from the most innovative companies is likely to be chosen.
New technologies bring about new failures. Therefore the advancement of FMEA’s have to be as innovative as the innovations. Assessing risk then has to take on a multidisciplinary approach to address these challenges.
The traditional FMEA is a systematic approach that:
Prioritize risks associated with specific causes of failures.
Identifies the ways a process can fail to meet critical customer requirements.
Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of existing practices to prevent identified failures.
Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of existing practices managing identified failures.
Identify ways of eliminating or reducing the specific failures
Document a plan to prevent the failures
In simple terms, it allows you to anticipate problems so you can take steps to reduce the risks. It is just not about product. There are several types of FMEA to include, product, process, application and service.
What about a non-traditional FMEA approach that?
Prioritize risks associated with scenario-based causes of failures.
Identifies the ways a process will add complexity to a customer use.
Evaluate competencies of existing practices to carry out likely scenarios.
Evaluate competencies of existing practices to manage un-likely scenarios.
Identify ways of adjusting to the different outcomes.
Document a plan to deliver support to customer when un-likely scenarios occur.
Should FMEAs be restructured? Or, is there an alternative tool?
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Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. A passionate teacher, he is committed to helping people find clarity in their thinking and ideas – and then delivering them with panache. He has been commissioned by Fortune 50 companies to write for many CEOs and presidents. He has coached people to give Congressional testimony, to appear on the Today Show, and to take on the investment community. He has worked widely with political and educational leaders.
Dr. Nick Morgan: Good stories reveal their structure and they tell you where they’re headed and yet, still provide surprises, so you’re interested. When we go to a Hollywood movie, we have certain expectations. We know things are going to start with a bang. We know that the hero is going to off on a long journey and things are going to happen to him and it’s going to be tough. We know that he’s going to win in the end if it’s a happy ending.
We have certain generic expectations. What surprises us then, is the detail along the way. We care about detail. We care about the story only when we know what the overall structure is and we sense that there’s a good story going to happen. When somebody tells an anecdote, there’s no story there and so, we don’t know where it’s headed and we don’t care about it.
Joe Dager: In a business story, should I be making sure people understand how the story is going to unfold in the beginning?
Dr. Morgan: Yes, but you have to do it in artful way. You can’t say, “So now, I’m going to tell you a story and it’s going to have a beginning, a middle and an end.” You have to tie it into one of the great basic stories that I talk about in How to Tell Great Business Stories, and is the book that you referenced. There are five of them. There’s the quest. That’s the one that Hollywood tells most often, by far. There’s a stranger in a strange land, there’s revenge, there’s a love story and there’s rags to riches. If you tell one of those five basic stories, then people get it.
If you say, to your business audience, “We’re about to head out on a journey and it’s going to be a long journey. It’s going to be tough and we’re going to have to work late nights and we’re going to have to eat a lot of junk food and drink a lot of Pepsi. We’re going to have to work harder and pull together as a team better than we ever have before.”
If we do that, we’re going to come out with this product, which is going to reinvent the paper clip industry in a way that’s so astounding. We will be heroes. They’ll stand up and cheer for this paper clip that’s like no other paper clip. It’s going to be incredible.
What I’ve done there is I’ve made the audience the hero. I told them that the journey is going to be long and hard. I’ve told them there’s a cool goal that’s worth striving for at the end: that amazing paper clip. That’s the beginning. That’s sketching out a quest story. If you do that, people know where you’re going because they understand the demands, the aspects of the genre. Then, they’ll want to hear the details of what the journey is going to be like.
Joe Dager: I hear “stories, stories, and stories.” Is it just a catch phrase? Do wWe need to describe everything in stories? Is it practical? People want information, not stories, don’t they? We’re in this Sound bite, Twitter world and we want to get in and out as quickly as we can. Do we want to sit back and hear a story?
Dr. Nick Morgan: Well, it’s amazing. Even at the same time Twitter is succeeding beyond its founder’s wildest dreams, yes, people do want it short and sweet, they don’t want the detail and so on and so forth. At the same time, people are binge-watching House of Cards on Netflix and they’re binge-watching Game of Thrones. They get into the detail of these kinds of things because those are well-crafted stories. I would say people still love stories. When it’s told well, then they want to get involved. Most of the time, we just want the quick version because it’s not interesting. That’s the mistake that businesses make.
If it keeps it at that uninteresting and superficial level, then, sure, give it to me short because it’s not going to reward me for hanging in there for a long time. But when you tell a good story, a rich one, an interesting one, then we want to hear more. Some businesses are very good at this. Most of them are not. It’s the few that do it well.
This is an excerpt from tomorrow’s Business901 Podcast with Dr. Nick Morgan, who is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. A passionate teacher, he is committed to helping people find clarity in their thinking and ideas – and then delivering them with panache. He has been commissioned by Fortune 50 companies to write for many CEOs and presidents. He has coached people to give Congressional testimony, to appear on the Today Show, and to take on the investment community. He has worked widely with political and educational leaders. And he has himself spoken, led conferences, and moderated panels at venues around the world.
I believe an organization should evolve into Hoshin Kanri versus implementing it. As a result, I purposely left this section with the least amount of content. most Hoshin Kanri books are filled with literature about the tools such as SWOT, SOAR and the previous Lean Tools mentioned. They will also fill the pages with understanding strategy, vision, benchmarking and other management tools. My thoughts are that you should take The Path of Least Resistance. Most often your existing process is not all that broken and if you want to introduce change, you need to tweak around with it rather than jump headfirst. The success of the practice of SDCA and PDCA throughout the organization will ultimately determine your success in Hoshin Kanri. Few things can be done on a Macro level that were unsuccessful at the micro level.
David takes an evolutionary approach to change. An excerpt from a podcast with David:
The whole Kanban thing really came about from the challenge of people resisting change. I was looking for ways of pinpointing root causes of problems. I found that introducing a full system where we’re limiting the work in progress, was a way of addressing quite commonly occurring problems. Problems with committing on something too early, making commitments where there was a great deal of uncertainty.
So under conditions of uncertainty, people were committing too early, and a Kanban system was a way of deferring commitment until much later, Lean people might say, “the last responsible moment.” And also controlling a lot of the variability in the flow of work through the limiting of work in progress, the understanding of different types of work and different classes of service and setting capacity allocations for those, controlling interruptions and disruption.
Eliminating the uncertainty and delaying commitment until later, the net result is much more predictable delivery. Those problems were commonly occurring, so implementing a Kanban system was like a point solution for an incremental improvement. And then, from that, we discovered that Kanban systems catalyze further changes. They provoke conversations about other problems, and we get this evolutionary change emerging.
Kanban has been a lot about perhaps not managing change but trying to avoid biting off too much change. And, in general, I’ve felt that there’s been a problem with organizations, executives particularly, the corporate magpies, they get excited about shiny objects, like new process solutions that promise a nirvana of projects, correctly prioritized and delivered on time, within a very reasonable budget and perhaps ever shrinking budgets.
They go after these exciting sounding results, often trying to achieve too much too soon, and their organization just doesn’t have a capability to absorb and manage all the change that they desire. They really want the outcome, but getting there is beyond their capability.
An orchestra tuning is a self-organizing system; in other words, it is a complex created by incalculable numbers of occurrences that arc self-gene rated and self-arranged. There is no plan to the multitude of event! that occur, but they form predictable and consistent sound patterns.
What can we say about this organization? In many ways, a tuning orchestra fulfills many of the important criteria often described as essential to organizational success:
It has a common purpose (to tune each instrument to a common pitch).
Each individual takes personal responsibility for fulfilling that purpose.
Each member is a highly trained professional, fully capable of performing any task required.
However, this organization—the orchestra—is predictably limited in its ability to produce music within the self-organizing system that tuning produces. When we listen to an orchestra tuning up. we can recognize it for what it is. We do not confuse the tuning with the music about to be performed. If the evening consisted of hours of musicians tuning, we would are want our money back.
But after a short lime, the musicians become quiet. The conductor comes to the podium. The baton is raised, and with the first down-beat the musicians produce music that is far more interesting, structurally and emotionally complex, dramatic, and moving than any sounds that came I from the orchestra when they were tuning.
We have witnessed a transformation from unharnessed potential that reached a status quo to focused potential fulfilling its promise. What made the difference? Not talent, dedication, skill, professionalism, resources, energy, and attention to detail, for there was no change in these characteristics.
In business, we often hear the call for more of these very qualities. “Our organization needs more dedication, attention to detail, a higher skill level, more professionalism, more resources, more energy.” These certainly are useful and important qualities to have in an organization. But, as we can see from our orchestral example, by themselves, these factors are not enough. The composer and the conductor provide vision, leadership and a profound understanding of structure that enables the resources of the orchestra to be put to good use.
The musical score is the most dominant factor. An orchestra with a conductor but without a score would hardly be more productive than the tuning-up exercise. In fact, an orchestra can play a score without a conductor, although usually not as well. So the composer’s role is supreme. Rut the best score, unperformed, does not reach its height of fulfillment either. The composer, the conductor, and each musician performs a unique function within the music-making process. The separation of function allows each individual to serve the performance of the music. At its best, the orchestra is one of the finest examples of organizational control—the ability of a group of people to join together and accomplish their collective purpose through their shared efforts. Control is multiplied throughout the organization by combining clarity of a unifying principle (score) with competence of personnel (musicians) and leadership skills (conductor).
An organization can be as highly professional as the world’s best orchestras once it becomes well-structured, with a thematic unifying principle that is consistently reinforced throughout its various activities, To learn the lesson of the orchestra, we must move away from self-organizing systems that produce limited status-quo results and into a highly composed system that is capable of superior performance.
In the podcast featuring Ari Weinzweig, CEO and co-founding partner of Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) has annual sales of over $40 million. ZingTrain, a consulting and training company shares Zingerman’s approach to business with like-minded organizations from around the world, and offers a variety of management training seminars in Ann Arbor, as well as customized workshops and presentations at client sites.
Joe: A big part of your organization has become Zing Training. What started that? Did you just wake up one day and say, “Gee, we need to bottle this up?”
Ari: ‘Well, we opened in ’82, and then in ’93, Paul and I spent about a year writing a new vision for the business. When we opened, we were very clear about our vision. And actually the first natural law of business, I think, is organizations that have a clear vision of greatness are going to have a better shot at succeeding. So when we opened in ’82, we were very clear in our minds and what we wrote down that we only wanted one deli. We didn’t want a chain or replicas. We knew that we wanted something that was unique to us and not a copy of something from New York, or Chicago, or LA.
We knew that we wanted really great food and service but in a very accessible setting, and that we wanted a really great place for people to work, and to be bonded into the community. By ’93, so 10, 11 years in, I mean, we kind of had done that. In that, we had filled in, expanded twice on the site that we’re on.
We’re in the historic district, so it’s not easy to do that. We kind of had, I guess in hindsight what would be the equivalent of an organizational “midlife struggle.”
I don’t think it was a crisis, because we weren’t crashing, but we weren’t really clear on where we were going. We had achieved what we had set out to do despite going against the odds. So we spent about a year coming up with our next vision, which we wrote out.
It was called Zingerman’s 2009, so it was for 15 years into the future. That vision outlined that we would have a community of businesses all here in the Ann Arbor area, because we like to be connected to what we’re doing.
Each building should be a Zingerman’s business, but each would have its own unique specialty. So that way, we could grow but keep the deli unique, and do other things. And we would only do a business when we had a managing partner or partners in it that would own part of that business and have a passion for whatever that business did, and be connected to it every day going for greatness.
And after we wrote that vision and rolled it out, then Maggie Bayless??who we had known at the restaurant?? she had been, I mentioned a waitress there. But she had gone back to school and gotten her MBA at Michigan, and wasn’t that thrilled with the corporate world, but loved training.
She read that vision. She came to us and said, “Well, what about doing a Zingerman’s training business?” That’s how it started, then we worked on it for a while and opened it up in 1994.”
Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite authors. One of his books, Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business (J-B Lencioni Series)advocates the structure of a daily check in. He says the keys to make it successful are don’t sit down, keep it administrative and don’t cancel when someone can’t be there. It is important to share the news. I highly recommend the book and the outline of the four different types of meetings he discusses: Daily, Weekly Tactical, Monthly Strategic, and Quarterly Review. Having frequent short meetings simply keeps everyone on track. Sharing daily activities and schedules allows you to not operate in a vacuum and the knowledge of a team is always more powerful than the knowledge of an individual.
Listen to a tip from Patrick about improving team communication: