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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, December 31, 2004

More About Reading Business Books -- Steven Holt of Boeing is a regular contributor to various TOC-related email discussion lists. He recently wrote the following, which he has given me permission to quote in full, since the list's archives is not link-friendly...
Some time ago I began to see what might be called the Goal Syndrome--there seem to be  people who believe that they completely and totally understand TOC from reading The Goal and nothing else. They can point to all sorts of things that aren't in that one book and conclude that TOC is flawed for not including them.

I've been trying to come up with analogies to this.

Lean Syndrome: People who have only read The Machine that Changed the World by Womack and conclude that Lean is only applicable to the automotive industry.

Letter A Syndrome: People who get the "free" introductory book for a set of encyclopedias and, consequently, know everything there is to know about subjects starting with the Letter A. They point out that there is more to life than things starting with A, therefore the encyclopedia must be wrong.

The I've Never Seen it So it Must be Impossible Syndrome: I ran into this one years ago working a process improvement issue. After days of resistance from a team member, he finally said that he had worked in the industry for many years and had never seen anyone do what we were proposing, therefore  he concluded that it must be impossible to do. And, if it was impossible, we shouldn't waste our time trying to do it.

This should be contrasted with the "It's All in the Book" Syndrome: this one is from first time project managers who get a copy of the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) and attempt to implement EVERYTHING in the book on their project.

We all begin with the first book and learn about the Letter A and soon after we discover that there's a lot of interesting knowledge that starts with other letters, too. Likewise, there's so much more to TOC than what's in "The Goal."
Solid advice that applies to more than just TOC. Thanks, Steve.

By the way, I'm an anomaly. My first TOC book was Dettmer's original college text version of Goldratt's Theory of Constraints: A Systems Approach to Continuous Improvement, followed by It's Not Luck. Isn't TOC all about the Thinking Processes?

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Fill Up That iPod You Got for Your Winter Holiday -- iTunes Gift Card $15 [buy four, get fifth free if you act before January 2]. Recommended song, referencing the previous post: Don't Worry, Be Happy.

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Year End Thoughts - Changing the Future --
"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't."
    -- A. A. Milne
[Via Clarke Ching's reference to Winnie the Pooh.]
"There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening."
    -- Marshall McLuhan (1911 - 1980)
[From Quotes of the Day - The Quotations Page.]

Changing the future involves changing behaviors. Traditionally, year-end is a time of looking at one's behaviors and of making resolutions to add to, delete, or modify them. I've never been a big one for the tradition, preferring to address change efforts on an as-identified and/or needed basis rather than batch them in such artificial efforts that result in a daunting list. However, blog buddy Esther Derby, writing in a ComputerWorld column, offers up some suggestions that managers could consider for their list of resolutions. They include...
1. Define daily goals...
2. Undertake a personal measurement program...
3. Invest in you...
4. Create time for reflection...
5. Revitalize your support network...

(Read the whole thing)
If these sound good to you, making new behaviors like them stick is helped if you can turn them into habits. Another blogosphere friend, Jack Vinson, points to and comments on a quote from another thinker you might have heard of...
"It is easy to perform a good action, but not easy to acquire a settled habit of performing such actions."
    -- Aristotle

On the other hand the first step into a new habit is to take the action. With respect to personal effectiveness, this is a beautiful quote. It is difficult to form the habit, as I have discovered over and over. But I have to at least act like the good thing is already a habit, even if it isn't.
And to toss in one more from my circle of on-line friends, Hal Macomber pointed out a while ago that...
"In a nutshell, what we think is what we see. If we want to see something else or something new, then we must adopt a different mental model."
So...You are what you do, you do what you think, and you think what you see. In that vein, my wish for you is to see happy, think happy, act happy and be happy in the new year.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Rolling Rocks Downhill -- Clarke Ching, 2004's Focused Performance "Rookie of the Year" for blogging on things TOC (as well as other stuff) with his unusually named Clarke Ching's I Think Not, Baby Puppy (Where does that name come from, Clarke?), is joining the ranks of "business novel" authors, with Rolling Rocks Downhill, a nascent tome about managing software development. If the eventual content is as substantive as the first couple chapters are stylistically written, it should be good.

One of these days, I should get started...sigh...

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Four Years -- It's been 4 years, 840 posts, about 400 comments, 266 Bloglet subscribers, 229 Bloglines subscribers, 1 personal blog (with 301 of its own posts), and enough Amazon associate purchases to pay for my Babylon Five and Lord of the Rings DVDs since I started this thing.

Thanks for all the encouragement and feedback over the years.

Blog on!

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

What's in a Name? -- How did I miss this from October? Maybe I was out of touch.

APICS -- The Educational Society for Resource Management is changing its name to APICS -- The Association for Operations Management, and will use a new tag line -- Advancing Productivity, Innovation, and Competitive Success.

APICS was founded in 1957 as the American Production and Inventory Control Society, Inc. In the early 1990s, it adopted the name APICS -- The Educational Society for Resource Management to acknowledge its growing international presence and expanded scope.

APICS is the professional society that has most openly accepted TOC as a part of it's body of knowledge, via its CMSIG -- Constraints Management Special Interest Group.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Don't Panic --
"Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word 'safe' that I wasn't previously aware of."
    -- Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001), Arthur Dent in "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy"
More evidence of my not so latent geekishness.

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The Evolution of Manufacturing -- OK, it's really just an online special advertising section touting PeopleSoft and John Costanza's Demand Flow Technology they acquired in 2003, but the selection of articles from the NY Times' archives, starting with System The Secret of Ford's Success Building in Large Quantities Reduces Original Cost, Which is Prohibitive, By Henry Ford (Jan. 3, 1909 -- Simplicity of Design Makes Further Reduction Possible, While Economies in Marketing Aid as Well.) to one on computer-aided manufacturing when I was a junior in high school...Computers: New Values For Society, By Melvin Kranzberg (Jan. 9, 1967 -- The advent of the computer is producing subtle changes throughout the entire fabric of society) to one on the "new economy" of a few years ago are well worth a perusal.

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Reading Business Books - I often point you to books on this blog (and thank you for your support by purchasing them through my Amazon links). Cyberlibris has some advice on what to do with them...
1. Take a big grain of salt...
2. Distill the central idea...
3. Create your own toolbox...
Read the whole thing. [via Corporate Engagement via Slacker Manager via Creative Generalist. I wonder if I couldn't find Kevin Bacon in this list of connections if I tried.]

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Solstice Greetings

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On Laziness --
"There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it."
    -- Mary Wilson Little
[From Quotes of the Day - The Quotations Page.]

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Monday, December 20, 2004

How Many Projects? -- In addition to the good comments offered when I last considered this question, here's a quantitative way of looking at PM workload. (Hey, once a left-brained Industrial Engineer, always a left-brained Industrial Engineer.) I'm talking here about short-term projects, about 4-8 weeks or so, involving at least some creative aspects, a bit of relatively simple tech implementations, and sometimes a bit of web development.

Let's assume a weekly review with clients (who do play the role of resource in the approval of creatives and concepts, as well as in some software installations on their systems.) -- 30 minutes a week. Then an internal status and update review so we can put an organized, in-control face on for the client -- another 30 minutes. Some prep and post wandering around and an analysis for each of these -- another hour or so. 2 hours per week per active project. (Keep in mind these are relatively simple projects with only 2 or 3 parallel chains of tasks and about 6-8 resources involved, including clients.)

For new projects, kickoffs (internal and client) -- 45-60 minutes each, with a half hour prep for the client kickoff, and an hour for detailed planning once the scope is refined beyond what the salesperson told us in the internal (assumes projects similar to things we've done before.) Let's say 3 hours per. At 2-3 per week, that's about a day.

Assuming 2-3 projects closing out per week (hopefully balancing out the new ones), about couple hours of lessons learned processing.

On top of project work, let's include about 15% of time for administrivia, collegial discussion, process improvement, and general chaos and necessary goofing off...6 hours per week.

So... 40 hours minus 6 leave 34 for project stuff. 34 minus minus 2 for closeouts leaves 32. 8 hours for new projects leave 24 for active projects. At 2 hours per, we're left with 12 projects per PM, more or less. (Sounds familiar.)

Your mileage will vary.

[Whoops -- Forgot those projects for which the PM takes on occasional task responsibility. Oh well...close enough for jazz.]

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Business Books of 2004 -- strategy+business has selected the nine best business books of 2004. The winners, along with 26 other works on strategy, management, innovation, and other timely topics, are explored, debated, and recommended in nine essays by some of the world's most prominent business thinkers.

The top books in each category are:
Strategy: "Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right," by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon

Management: "The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company," by Constance L. Hays
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon

IT & Innovation: "The Keystone Advantage: What the New Dynamics of Business Ecosystems Mean for Strategy, Innovation, and Sustainability," by Marco Iansiti and Roy Levien
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon

Leadership: "Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value," by Bill George
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon

Governance: "Back to the Drawing Board: Designing Corporate Boards for a Complex World," by Colin B. Carter and Jay W. Lorsch
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon

Change Management: "Change Without Pain: How Managers Can Overcome Initiative Overload, Organizational Chaos, and Employee Burnout," by Eric Abrahamson
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon

The Bubble: "Rational Exuberance: Silencing the Enemies of Growth and Why the Future Is Better Than You Think," by Michael J. Mandel
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon

Behavioral Economics: "The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life," by Paul Seabright
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon

The New Consumer: "The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness," by Virginia Postrel
The s+b essay and The book on Amazon
Fast Company also has some year-end book suggestions...
10. Word Spy by Paul McFedries.
9. The Allure of Toxic Leaders by Jean Lipman-Blumen.
8. Why People Buy Things They Don't Need by Pamela Danziger.
7. Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin.
6. Call of the Mall by Paco Underhill.
5. The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki.
4. Unstuck by Keith Yamashita.
3. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.
2. Managers Not MBAs by Henry Mintzberg.
1. The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C.K. Prahalad.
Then there's my favorite book of the year.

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

A Tough Decision - My copy of The Return of the King (Special Extended DVD Edition) arrived this week. Do I jump right into its 250 minutes of extended running time and its plethora of commentaries and extras, or do I rewatch Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers first for the full effect of the epic?

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Get the Team Involved --
"Project managers spend way too much time tweaking their plans -- without guidance from the team -- only to be faced with the inevitable oops!!"
(From Hal Macomber's late Project Reformers e-Tip.)

Picking up on the conversation surrounding a previous posting about having too many projects going on - for either the PM or the organization as a whole...when that is the case, there is insufficient bandwidth on the part of both the PM and the team for the important conversations that Hal is talking about here.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

A New Favorite TOC Book -- On Saturday evening, I finally got around to picking up one of the newer books on TOC, The Cash Machine: Using the Theory of Constraints for Sales Management by Richard Klapholz and Alex Klarman. Going into it, I'll admit I was a bit skeptical, thinking it was going to be just another Goal-wannabe "business novel." But at 1:30 on Sunday morning, I finished it and considered the 4 hours time well spent.

Literarily, it's a more episodic than novelistic, as the protaganist, Roger, takes on different aspects of his new assignment as VP of Sales as he moves through several iterations of the five focusing steps of TOC. But from a learning perspective, or at least from a perspective of introducing TOC logistical concepts, it's moved up toward the top of my list of recommended books on TOC, not quite displacing Deming and Goldratt (which is more of a straight how-to and not a "business novel") but right up there among and even above some of Goldratt's novels. As a matter of fact, if you are in a knowledge working environment rather than manufacturing, I'd aim you to The Cash Machine even before The Goal for a quick, easy-to-digest read.

The book does a good job of putting bottleneck management in the context of a business process (selling) environment instead of the usual manufacturing processes, applying it to the funnel concept and a 10-step selling process I suspect is familiar to most sales organizations. The self-defeating effects of multi-tasking are offered up in terms of a sales support group, along with some practical advice on saying "yes, later" instead of "yes" with meaningless implicit promises or "no." There's a few conflict resolution diagrams (clouds) sprinkled throughout, as well as a Current Reality Tree addressing the "end of quarter syndrome." Finally, as something new (to me at least), it offers up an approach to sales incentives and budgets in which anyone comfortable with buffer management would feel at home. Overall, the book does an excellent job of laying out the application of TOC to the "contact-to-cash" process that is the "cash machine" of the title.

The Cash Machine is now my top "business novel" recommendation for non-manufacturing environments. While it's nominally set in a sales organization, the leap to application of its ideas in any "white collar" business process is a far shorter leap than that from other books on the subject. Check it out.

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Saturday, December 11, 2004

More Google Coolness -- Google suggests.

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It's More Than the Numbers -- From DM Review...
Creating a Culture of Analysis...

The importance of analytics and access to the 'right information at the right time by the right people' has been largely heralded as a business imperative and essential to enabling the execution of successful business strategy. Consequently, more and more departmental and enterprise-wide data aggregation and analysis projects have come into existence with applications deployed in hopes to more efficiently and effectively understand 'the business.'

Despite these nominal developments that might otherwise be taken as presaging a new 'culture of analysis' for business management, there is a widening gap between the ability of the new technologies to deliver information beyond management expectations and the actual use of that data by management to make improved business decisions.
It's the logical analysis of situations -- the understanding of cause-and-effect that results in what the numbers are saying -- that lead to "improved business decisions." As Goldratt titled one of his books, referring to Information technology and its outputs, it's Necessary but Not Sufficient in the effort to improve organizational performance. What helps round out the sufficiency is the application of logical analysis to provide a context for the quantitative analysis. You can't run a business "by the numbers" alone.

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Exploiting a Constraint -- When the constraint is the combination of a policy of one trip to the salad bar and a limited capacity container, sometimes exploitation is taken to new heights.

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