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Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog
This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Weakness as Strength If I say "value-adding core competency," what comes to mind? Whatever it is for your organization, you probably think of it as one of your key strengths, a source of competitive advantage, or maybe even the reason your business exists. What if I said that you should take that strength and turn it into your weakness?

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Thursday, August 29, 2002

Expert Warns of Dangers of the Corporate Psychopath -- Canadian researcher Robert Hare says that...
"Corporate executives should be screened for psychopathic behaviour disorders, just as teachers and police are...The arrogant, manipulative behaviour of psychopaths often makes them prime candidates for promotion within large corporations built on ruthless competition...

"They have to make decisions very quickly, and they can't worry too much about the potential impact on individuals," he said. More important, their utter lack of empathy makes them perfect for carrying out budget cuts and layoffs.

"That's when the psychopath moves in: rightsizing, downsizing, upsizing. When there's chaos, when the rules no longer apply -- enter, stage right, the psychopath. A psychopath flourishes in that atmosphere."
I usually have a comment to add to these links, but all I can say with regard to this one is that I guess my quixotic preference for focusing on the top line capabilities rather than on cost cutting is simply a sign of good mental health.

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(Bench)Marking Time -- Two things come to mind when I hear the phrase "marking time." One is a marching band marching in place, lifting legs in impressive high-stepping motion, but moving not one yard down the field. The other is a prisoner stuck in his cell, marking his wasted days on the wall. Neither of them accomplishes much.
Some sit on a bench -
marking time. I would rather
grow trees to the sky.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Some morning thoughts on yesterday's late night posting on nurturing creativity. I do buy into the Einstein quote that says "The mind can proceed only so far upon what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap." The nurturing of which I speak involves making it safe to leap, or even consider leaping. Creativity can certainly be stifled through fear, uncertainty, and doubt about reactions to one's creative offerings. There's no reason I can see that, by driving out those responses, creativity is not supported or nurtured.

My favorite path to creative solutions for problems is to immerse myself in the dilemma/conflict of the situation through the TOC Thinking Processes, particularly with the "desert island" tool known as the Evarporating Cloud. Understanding the rational, logical underpinnings of "rock and hard place" circumstances and then digging deeper and deeper for assumptions that can be questioned is my common process for "creative" solutions. It's not a matter of living outside the rational system, but rather digging into it until it can be broken down at deep causes that prove to be ambiguous or erroneous. But back to the nurturing -- the process only works if someone is comfortable enough to undertake it, and it yields something truly creative if the analyst is willing to kill and eat some sacred cows of previous thoughtware.

At some point, once an environment has proven to be receptive to "questioning creativity," and people become practiced with a process of questioning, "creative," "out-of-the-box" solutions to dilemmas should be able to become commonplace.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Someone in the Pure Content Street Team suggested that "There are many who think that innovation can be nurtured or cultivated within the individual or organization...snip...There is just something about the creative process that defies rational thinking. I am suspect of any company that consciously makes an effort to incorporate "creativity" into their strategy for growth."

I'm not so sure that creativity can't be cultivated or nurtured, as, IMHO, creativity is a matter of questioning assumptions. Rational thinking, based on assumptions, perceptions, and their logical outgrowth is a fertile playing field to a mind willing to ask "Why?" or "Why not?" Asking those two questions over and over can eventually result in a chink in logical cause-and-effect armor.

If you have both processes and a culture that encourage those questions, along with people who have some sort of life beyond the daily grind and therefore have diverse perspectives and stimuli, there should be no reason that creativity will not result.

Consciously counting on creativity for a particular strategy may be questionable, but consciously creating an environment in which it can take hold can lead to a "good enough" creativity to support and enhance desired ends.

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From Quality Digest - Thomas Pyzdek on Six Sigma and TOC - "If you choose the wrong projects it's possible to make big "improvements" in quality and productivity that have absolutely no impact on net profit. One approach uses the theory of constraints (TOC) to determine which project(s) to pursue." This article recognizes the meaning that a contraint management viewpoint can bring to typically local efforts like Six Sigma. Using Eli Goldratt's classic PQ problem from The Haystack Syndrome, Pyzdek points to the TOC view as a path to avoiding disappointment in improvement programs.

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Less is More One of the few common issues I've seen on performance appraisal forms is a judgement on how well the appraisee handles "multiple priorities." Now there's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one. Think about it. The same way there is only one weakest link in a chain, there is only one real priority for the use of your time.

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Monday, August 26, 2002

Process Mis-Management A client, having lived with TQM for a long time, once told me that "If all of the processes for the internal customers are perfect, that means, they make that customer, the employee, happy, the performance of the processes, aimed on the external customer will improve." This is true, but only "if all of the processes...are perfect."

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Friday, August 23, 2002

Follow-up to 8/22 post on Total System Productivity - I guess the gist of the article is that we've gotten real good at managing the bottom line by "managing" costs. My feeling is that the failure to manage the top line effectively -- the failure to create and communicate the value of the output -- the failure to innovate in both the product and its marketing has seemingly forced too many companies into a cost world focus. I said "seemingly" because I think that the acceptance and relative ease of layoffs and downsizings and restructuring has drained limited management attention and time from driving innovation for the top line.

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Accentuate the Negative Have you ever been in a brainstorming session in which the facilitator was one of those "cheerful Charlies" who tell the group that it's against the rules to say anything negative about an idea? How many rounds of ideas went by before you were biting your lip?

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Thursday, August 22, 2002

The Leverage Point There are two basic ways of thinking about improvement. The first can be related to Ben Franklin's old saw, "A penny saved is a penny earned," and that a lot of saved pennies can accumulate to a significant sum. The second goes back to Archimedes of ancient Greece, who said "Give me a place to stand and I can move the world," referring to the multiplying power of a lever, and of a well-placed leverage point.

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Cost or Value? An online friend of mine recently mentioned the "correlation between workmanship and cost..."

hmmm . . . I wonder if the real correlation is between workmanship and value, and therefore those who provide it can charge more, thereby translating into higher "cost." Yes, sometimes, workmanship takes more time, and therefore can consume more resource (cost more), but if the value of the workmanship wasn't compensated in the market, the effort wouldn't attract those resources, except perhaps for those for which the workmanship is a calling (artists come to mind) and are willing to subordinate their comfort/compensation to their calling.

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Total System Productivity I've been mulling over a recent NY Times article (free registration required to access link that might not be there due to the Times' practice of archiving stories for paid access after a period of time). Here's a few quotes from it...

"By cutting back the hours of workers without reducing the workload, employers pushed up the nation's annual growth rate of productivity by 1.1 percent in the second quarter..."

"Rather than keep idle employees on the payroll, companies now lay them off and cut overtime so quickly that output per hour in the second quarter continued to rise despite almost no increase in production."

"It is easy in the United States," said Robert J. Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, "to get sharp and sudden declines in hours by laying off workers..., and this contributes to healthy productivity growth in hard times."
What it got me thinking about was that this "productivity growth" number, which is usually interpreted as the productivity of the nation is really only the productivity of the working part of the nation. Taking a bigger picture, whole system view would require factoring in the layoffs of the thousands of creative, potentially productive people. I wonder what the real change in the nation's productivity is? Total output versus total resouce looks a lot different than total output versus utilized resource.

Being New Jersey based, near the home of AT&T, Lucent, Avaya, Telcordia, and as a former employee of that industry, I've watched local business headlines full of layoffs. The lost opportunities associated with the idling of 10's of thousands of creative, potentially productive is staggering. (I almost said "criminal.")

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