Showing posts with label Timeliness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Timeliness. Show all posts

May 4, 2019

Getting The Biggest Bang For The Buck

So I had the opportunity to sit in on a colleague teaching a class in Performance Improvement. 

One tool that I really liked from the class was the Impact-Effort Matrix. 

To determine project worth doing, the matrix has the:

Impacts (Vertical) - Improved customer satisfaction, quality, delivery time, etc.

Effort (Horizontal) - Money, Time, etc. 

The best bang for the buck are the projects in upper left ("Quick Wins") that have a high impact or return for not a lot of effort. 

In contract, the projects that are the least desirable are in the lower right ("Thankless Tasks") that have a low impact or return but come at a high cost or lot of effort. 

This is simple to do and understand and yet really helps to prioritize projects and find the best choices among them. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 14, 2013

Many For The Price Of One

We were at the movie theater over the weekend and something funny happened when we went up to the counter to get our tickets.

I ask my wife if she also wants anything to eat like popcorn etc.

She says yes, and I ask the lady behind the counter where the tickets and snacks are sold for some popcorn to ring up.

She points to the next register and says "You need to get the snacks over there" (pointing about one feet over to the left). 

I look at my wife like, okay and we pay for the tickets.

Then, we waddles over to the empty counter a foot over and wait for someone to help with the popcorn. 

Well the lady who just sold us the movie tickets waddles over as well and says, "Can I help you?"

We almost cracked up laughing. 

I said, "Yes, we would like some popcorn, please."

She says, "Sure," and proceeds to get the popcorn and we pay again.

What was hilarious was the lady selling the tickets redirected us to the counter over for the popcorn, where she in turn did the proverbial, changing of the hats, and then after selling us the tickets served us up the popcorn as well. 

It reminded me of a TV episode I saw a kid where some people visit a small town and stop at the Sheriff to ask where the local inn is. The Sheriff points them down the street. Then the people go into the inn and there is the Sheriff again, but this time wearing the innkeeper's visor. After checking in, the people ask where the town pub is and then stroll over across the way. They walk up to the bar, and the bartender turns around, and sure enough it's the Sheriff/innkeeper now with a servers smock on and asks what they would like to drink.

I may not be remembering the episode completely accurately, but you get the point. 

In a small town or an organization where people have to multitask, one person can play many different roles. 

That's why very often management in interested in good employees who can "walk and chew gum at the same time"--employees need to be able to perform under pressure to get many projects and tasks done, simultaneously, and they very often need to assume multiple roles and responsibilities to get that done. 

Pointing the finger at someone else saying not my job or the ball is in their court is no longer an excuse not to get things done. We have to shepherd the project all the way through the many leaps and hurdles that may stand in the way of progress. 

When people have to perform multiple roles and jobs--due to time constraints, cost cutting, or shortage of trained and talented people--then they may have to change hats many times over the course of their day and week. 

The Atlantic (5 July 2013) in an article about performing head transplants--yeah, an Italian surgeon believes this is now possible--retells an Indian folk tale called The Transposed Heads.

Two men behead themselves, and their heads are magically reattached, but to the other person's body. The clincher is that the wife of one of the men doesn't know which man to take as her husband--"the head or the heart."

It's a fascinating dilemma--what makes a person who they are--their thoughts (i.e. brain) or their feelings (i.e. heart).   

Similarly, when a person performs multiple roles at home, work, and in the community--who are they really? Which role is them--at the core?

We tend to like doing one or some things better than others, but does what we like doing mean that is who we are?  Maybe doing the things we don't like that challenge us to grow is what we need to be doing? 

Like the lady in the movie theater--one moment she was the ticket master and the next the concessions attendant--both were her jobs.

We too are made up of multiple and complex roles and identities--we are head and heart--and all the things they drive us to do in between. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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October 8, 2010

You’ve Got An Alert

You’re all probably familiar with the capability of signing up for alerts to your computer or mobile device (phone, blackberry, pager, PDA, etc.).

By signing up, you can get notifications about severe weather (such as tornados or earthquacks), transportation troubles (such as street closures or metro incidents), utility disruptions (water, telephone, or power), government and school closings, Amber alerts, or breaking news and information on major crisis (such as homeland security or other emergency situations).

Unfortunately, not everyone bothers to sign up for these. Perhaps, they don’t want to bother registering for another site, giving and maintaining their personal contact information, or maybe they just prefer to rely on major news sources like CNN or social networking sites like Twitter for getting the word out.

The problem is that in a real crisis situation where time is of the essence and every minute and second counts—envision that tornado swooping in or that ticking time bomb about to go off—we need to let people know no matter what they are doing—ASAP!

According to GovTech (October 2010), the California Emergency Management Agency is planning to deploy a new system called Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) to “deliver warnings and safety information via text alerts to wireless phones in specified areas without requiring individuals to subscribe to the service.”

A pilot is scheduled to begin in San Diego in the fall.

With CMAS, emergency information can be targeted to an area affected and transmitted to everyone in the receiving area without them having to do anything. Just like your televisions receiving the emerging alerts (which is great if you happen to be watching), now your mobile devices will get them too.

I remember hearing the stories from my father about World War II how the German Luftwaffe (air force) would blitz (i.e. carpet bomb) London and other Ally cities, and the sirens would go off, blaring to give the people the chance to take cover and save their lives.

Well, thank G-d, we don’t often hear any air raid sirens like that anymore, and with CMAS having the potential to someday grow into a full national network of wireless emergency alerts, we may never have to hear sirens like that again.

(Photo: Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory Emergency Management Center; http://communication.howstuffworks.com/how-emergency-notifications-work1.htm)


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June 12, 2010

Managing Change The Easy Way


We all know that change is not easy, even when it's necessary.

As human beings, we question change, fear change, and at times resist change.

Often, change is timely or even overdue, and is needed to remain fresh, competitive, and in sync with changes in the external and internal environment.

At other times, change could be conceived of for selfish, arbitrary, politically motivated, or poorly thought out reasons.

People often react to change negatively, saying things such as:

- “Everything is really fine, why are you rocking the boat?”

- “This will never work” or “We’ve already tried that and it didn’t work.”

- “This is just the pendulum swinging back the other way again.”

- “Thing are now going to be even worse than before.”

- “I’ll never do that!”

The key to dealing with change is not to dismiss people’s feelings, but to take the time to thoroughly understand them, to take input from them for change, and to explain what is changing (precisely), for whom, when, where, and why.

The more precise, timely and thorough the communications with people, the better people will be able to deal with change.

To successfully plan and implement change, we need people to be engaged and on-board rather than to ignore or subvert it.

Below is a nice “change model” From http://www.changecycle.com/changecycle.htm that helps explain the stages of change that people go through including loss, doubt, discomfort, discovery, understanding, and integration.

To me the keys to managing through these six stages of change are solid information, clear communications, and people working together.

The Change Cycle™ Model

(All of the text below is quoted)

Stage 1 – Loss to Safety

In Stage 1 you admit to yourself that regardless of whether or not you perceive the change to be good or 'bad" there will be a sense of loss of what "was."

Stage 2 – Doubt to Reality

In this stage, you doubt the facts, doubt your doubts and struggle to find information about the change that you believe is valid. Resentment, skepticism and blame cloud your thinking.

Stage 3 – Discomfort to Motivation

You will recognize Stage 3 by the discomfort it brings. The change and all it means has now become clear and starts to settle in. Frustration and lethargy rule until possibility takes over.

The Danger Zone

The Danger Zone represents the pivotal place where you make the choice either to move on to Stage 4 and discover the possibilities the change has presented or to choose fear and return to Stage 1.

Stage 4 – Discovery to Perspective

Stage 4 represents the "light at the end of the tunnel." Perspective, anticipation, and a willingness to make decisions give a new sense of control and hope. You are optimistic about a good outcome because you have choices.

Stage 5 - Understanding

In Stage 5, you understand the change and are more confident, think pragmatically, and your behavior is much more productive. Good thing.

Stage 6 - Integration

By this time, you have regained your ability and willingness to be flexible. You have insight into the ramifications, consequences and rewards of the change -- past, present, and future.


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November 27, 2009

Right In Front of Us, but We Are Blind to It

Last week, there was a 13-year-old boy, with Asperger’s syndrome, who ran away from home and rode away in the NYC subway system for 11 days undetected!!!

The boy went missing with $11 dollars in his pocket. “According to CNN, the boy's mother says he survived on fast food and candy he purchased in the subway system. He spent the majority of his time riding the trains. He wore the same clothes for the duration and lived underground, sleeping in subway cars and using underground restrooms.”

Many people were out looking for this boy, including the police, but neither the searchers nor the extensive surveillance apparatus in New York picked him out. Apparently, no one on the trains reported seeing this kid riding endlessly around 24x7, and the boy was invisible to the myriad of hardworking transit workers and officers who are all over the transit system, until day 11 when finally one officer recognized the boy from his missing picture.

How can a boy be there for almost two weeks, but be seemingly invisible to the thousands of riders and workers passing thru the subway system and what can this teach us about leadership and organizations?

Information Overload—This is truly the information age. We have morphed from not having enough information to being flooded with it and not being able to process it. With the missing boy on the NYC MTA subway system, he was literally lost amidst the more than 5 million riders a day and 468 stations. This is a common situation these days where we have access to stores of information, on databases and through the Internet, yet we frequently struggle to find the golden nuggets of information that really mean something. Post 9-11, our military and intelligence communities are being flooded by sensor information from a vast network of resources, and the challenge now is to find innovative ways to process it quickly and effectively—to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack” and to stop the next potential attack. Our organizations in the public and private sectors need faster, more accurate, and finely tuned systems to find the dots, connect the dots, and see the picture.

Process Matters—According to Digital Journal, “the disappearance was reported to police immediately, who treated it as a runaway. After five days had passed, it was being treated as a missing persons case.” The police were following their processes in handling this little boy, but it resulted in five days passing without the assumed more intense search that occurs with a missing persons case. Lesson to note is that having standardized, documented business processes are important in efficiently managing operations, but we should not get so caught up in the process that we become rigid and inflexible in handling cases according to the specific situation. While I am not an expert in this, the question does come to mind, whether the search for a child with a known disability may have been escalated/elevated sooner? And the point, I am really trying to make is that we need to keep our organizations and processes agile and responsive so that we can act meaningfully and in time.

Break through the Apathy—Having been a former New Yorker (and I suppose, it never truly leaves your blood), I am well aware of the accusations and jokes made about rudeness and apathy from people in the “city that never sleeps.” NY is a tough town, no doubt. The people are quick and sharp. They work and play hard. They are good, productive people. But living in a city with 8.3 million people in one of the most dense urban centers of the world can take a toll. Even with major clean-up efforts in recent years, NYC still has its fair share of crowding, pollution, and crime and this can take a toll on even the best people. I remember daily sights of panhandling, poor and ill people, aggressiveness not limited to the yellow cabbies. I suppose, one disabled boy could get lost amidst the city chaos, but the challenge is to break through the apathy or callousness that can easily overtake people and continue to care for each and every person that needs our help. This is no small challenge in a city with a 21.2% poverty rate (US Census Bureau 1999), let along in a world where 1 in 4 (or 1.3 billion persons) live on less than $1 a day. As leaders, we need to push for caring over apathy and for seeing and acting versus blinding ourselves to the pain and misfortune of others.

Could we have found this little boy sooner? Maybe. Could it have ended a lot worse? For sure.

While this missing persons situation is now over, we need to prepare ourselves for future events and contingencies. We can do this by continuing to create better systems and mechanisms to process information better, faster, and cheaper—it’s not longer just the quantity of information, but the quality and it’s timeliness and relevance; by reengineering our business processes so that we are alert, nimble and responsive—rigid processes lead to hard and fast rules that serve no one; and building camaraderie with one another—seeing that we are more the same, than we are different—and that everyone matters—even a kid underground in a subway system spanning 656 long and winding miles.

And lest anybody think I’m giving New Yorkers a hard time, believe me when I say – it is “the city” that has given me the street smarts to navigate the Beltway and challenge anyone who says that something can’t be done!


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October 24, 2009

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

To believe or not to believe that is the question.

Very frequently in life, we are confronted with incomplete information, yet by necessity, we must make a decision and act—one way of the other.

Sure, we can opt to wait for more information to trickle in, but delay in action can mean lost opportunity or more painful consequences.

The turmoil over the last couple of years in the financial markets is one example. Many people I talk with tell me they felt something was going to happen – that the stock market was heading off a cliff. Those who acted on what they perceived, and moved their financial assets to safety (out of the stock market), are certainly glad they did. Those who hesitated and waited for the painstaking days of 500 point drops wish they had acted sooner.

In relationships, sometimes those who fear commitment and don’t make a move to “tie the knot” may end up losing the ones they love to the arms of another. On the other hand, making serious commitments before really knowing another person can end up in painful heartache and divorce.

Similarly, with technology, we often hear about the “first-mover advantage.” Those who recognize the potential of new technology early and learn how to capitalize on it, can gain market share and profitability. Those who jump aboard only once the train in moving may end up just trying to keep up with the Joneses.

These days, not only must we make decisions based on incomplete information, but sometimes we don’t even know if the situations we face are actually real!

Daniel Henninger, writing in last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal (22 October 2009) wrote: “The ‘balloon boy’ floating over Colorado last week got me thinking of…[Air Force One] photo-op airliner flying around lower Manhattan last April at 9/11 altitude…it’s getting harder to know what’s real and unreal in a world that always seems to be slipping slightly out of focus.”

He reminds us of the “sensation” that Orson Welles caused in 1938 when he announced, on a “‘reality’ radio broadcast,” a Martian invasion. The response was widespread panic.

With all the chicanery and half-baked ideas and products and services being marketed and sold—whether to get on reality shows or for salespeople to “hit their numbers”—people have become cynical about everything and everybody. Mistrust is not longer for New Yorkers anymore.

The realization has hit us that most things we confront are not simple fact or fiction, but rather shades of gray, and so we shy away from taking a definitive stand, preferring instead perpetual limbo or “analysis paralysis.”

This cynicism is embodied in a CFO that I used to work for that was mistrustful of everyone—almost habitually, he called people inside and outside the organization, “snake oil salesman.”

In corporate America, we often call the art of shaping people’s perceptions “marketing” or “branding”. In politics, we typically call it “spin”. And a good marketer, or “spinmaster,” can overcome people’s skepticism and actually influence their perception of the truth.

As an IT leader, though, we can deal with incomplete information as well as “spinmasters” effectively. And that is by treading carefully, gathering the facts and testing reality. This is what market and competitive analysis, pilots, and prototypes are all about. Test the waters, before making a full forward commitment.

We can’t be swayed by emotion, but rather must vet and validate—do due diligence, before we either duck out of the fray or leap into action.

Leadership lesson: Act too harried, and you risk making serious mistakes. React too slowly or with too much skepticism, and you will not be leading but following, and your legacy will be truly unimpressive. Listen to what others have to say, but make your own call. That is what true leadership, in an IT context or anywhere, is all about.


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May 25, 2009

When Shall We Call For Change?

We see change coming. We hear change coming. We feel change coming. But what happens? It does not come. Why?

1.     Fear—people are afraid of changing or of not being able to adapt (for example, some may be afraid of changing jobs for fear of failing or of not being able to make the transition well to a different organization).

2.     Money—someone(s) is invested in the status quo (for example, could it be that oil companies stand to lose if we go with hybrid engines or alternative energy sources like solar, wind.).

3.     Politics—perhaps, those in power have constituents that will “yell and scream” or lobby if others seek a change that they are for one reason or another are opposed to (for example, those who are pro-choice will lobby vehemently when pro-lifers attempt to limit or regulate abortion).

Note: I am NOT advocating for or against any of these positions, just providing a contextual explanation.

However, as a CIO or other leader (and this can be an official leadership position or one that is taken on by strategic thinkers, enthusiasts, and so on), I am convinced that we must call for change and help change along when “its time has come”—that is when the following conditions exist:

1)    Time is ripe

2)    Support to the people affected can be adequately provided for

3)     It is unequivocal that society will universally benefit and the change is fair and ethical. (Yes, the last one is hard to demonstrate and may be considered somewhat objective, but the concept of having “justifiable” change is important.)

Here is an example of an interesting change being called for by David Wolman in Wired Magazine, June 2009 that clearly demonstrates how these three criteria for leaders to evoke change works:

Wolman address the cost and by inference the benefits of change (#3 above): We “create hundreds of billions of dollars worth of new bills and coins every year…the cost to the taxpayers in 2008 alone was $848 million, more than two-thirds of which was spent minting coins that many people regards as a nuisance. (The process alone used u more than 14,823 tons of zinc, 23,879 tons of copper, and 2,514 tons of nickel.) In an era when books, movies, music, and newsprint are transmuting from atoms to bits, money remains irritatingly analog, carbon-intensive, expensive medium of exchange. Let’s dump it.”

Then Wolman demonstrates that  time for change is ripe   (#1 above): We have all sorts of digital money these days, such as credit cards, debit cards, e-checks, automatic bank deposits/payments, electronic transfers, and online payments. “Markets are already moving that way. Between 2003 and 2006, noncash payment in the US increased 4.6 percent annually, while the percentage of payment made using checks dropped 13.2 percent. Two years ago, card based payment exceeded paper-based ones—case checks, food stamps—for the first time. Nearly 15 percent of all US online commerce goes through PayPal. Smartcard technologies like EagleCash and FreedomPay allow military personnel and college students to ignore paper money….the infrastructure didn’t exist back then. But today that network is in place. In fact, it’s already in your pocket. ‘The cell phone is the best point of sale terminal ever’ Says Mark Pickens.”

Finally, Wolman shows that we can support people through this change (#2 above): “Opponents used to argue that killing cash would hurt low-income workers—for instance, by eliminating cash tips. But a modest increase in the minimum wage would offset that loss; government savings from not printing money could go toward lower taxes for employers. And let’s not forget the transaction costs of paper currency, especially for the poor. If you’re less well off, check cashing fees and 10-mile bus rides to make payments or purchases are not trivial…”

Whether or not it is “Time to Cash Out” of paper money as Wolman calls for (i.e. this is just an example to show how the criteria for change can be used), the need for leaders to move us towards and guide us through change is at the essence of leadership itself. Change should not be taken lightly, but should be evaluated for timeliness, supportability, and justifiability.


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