Archive | January, 2010

24 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

simplicity

simplicity

On the topic of presentations, meetings, conversations or any other type of interaction that leads to you gaining the result you wanted, all types of ‘rules’ float around on the topic of how much to say and for how long.

Citing the example of the world’s current beau of the stage and product announcement: Steve Jobs… each time he takes the stage he is well rehearsed (obviously), predictably turned out (without being another suit and tie on a platform) and says no more than three things. Occasionally he has a ‘one more thing’, but that final extra point is nothing short of explosive for the world of consumer technology.

What is the key to Steve’s keynote success? Tells a story in the domain of the audience and keeps it simple.

So I’ll keep this simple.

1. Figure out what message (yes, singular) you want to convey or where you want to lead the people you are talking with to be and say the bare minimum that will bring them to where you need them to be. The absolute bare minimum and no more. Fluff adds nothing. Keep what you need to say clean and clear.

2. Whatever you succinctly need to say; frame it in their context and not yours. If you were them, what would you want to hear that would make sense? The iPod nano first generation had an 80MHz ARM 7TDMI ’system on a chip’ processor with 2Gb. Awesome. Means nothing to most, and especially not the audience it was targeted toward.
The iPod nano holds 1000 songs in your pocket. YOUR pocket. Yes, you. That’s what it does for you. Interested? Tell a story that’s not yours but theirs and one that makes a difference in their life.

3. Let your crowd know how many topics you are going to cover with them (maximum three). Deliver those topics. Then tell them what the topics you just covered with them were. It sets expectation, it delivers and confirms. If you can, finish on the biggest and most pertinent/memorable point you have to make.

One more thing… do not be Steve Jobs. Be you. If the audience wanted to see Steve Jobs, U2, the pope or any other superfluous big name, they would absolutely go out of their way to do so (in the same way that if you wanted to watch an episode of Desperate Housewives you would make sure that you did). The audience in front of you has invested the energy to sit their cheeks on seats to listen to you. Yes, you. Give them your show and not someone elses.

Here’s Steve at work back in 2005. He sticks to three things, embodies them in a story that the audience can visualize in their own context and keeps it brief.

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23 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

stop right now

stop right now

Ever found yourself in a situation where you and probably a number of other people around you are heading down a particular path and it doesn’t feel right? Of course you have. This isn’t a problem of ‘not my idea’ phobia either.

It doesn’t feel right because it isn’t right. You know it. Everyone around you knows it. But what now?

If you suspect there are others around you that feel the same way but they haven’t said anything, it’s time for a one to one conversation. Go to lunch, have a beer at a bar, grab an empty meeting room and drag them into it and ask them what they think. “Off the record”* of course.

Regardless of how many supporters you have toward your not feeling right about the situation you’re in, you need to do something about it. You MUST do something about it. Nothing positively progressive ever happened when people sat around and watched the proverbial racing car head towards a cliff edge.

You know what’s wrong and you know what needs to happen to fix it. You can bitch like crazy behind the scenes to anyone who’ll listen and drag them and you down into the doldrums of talking smack. Great venting but nothing happens.

Stop the bad situation, even if force is required, and move whatever needs done back on to the rails of where it needs to head to for a positive outcome.

Bizarrely, it’s been my experience time and time again that when something ends, it usually more of a relief than a panic for almost every person involved.

* in the same way that you should expect anything you place online, Facebook included, and all content of any Powerpoint or Keynote presentation slide is going to be seen by anyone and everyone everywhere… an “off the record” conversation will influence the participants and is therefore, theoretically, already “on the record”.

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22 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

behind the tweet

behind the tweet

Friday is report and document creation day. I’m seriously considering outsourcing Friday.

Each time I have to rip through email to pick out highlights from the past week, open and modify a template document and summarize for upper management* I keep thinking back to “Step III: A is for Automation” in Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Workweek.

If the task you are doing can be outsourced to personal assistant companies anywhere in the world for $5/hour, why on earth are you doing this task yourself? Outsource it and use the hour to learn something, take a walk, have a conversation with someone you’ve never spoken to before or go and spend time with your family.

That’s where my head was when I knocked this tweet out. Too many reports that could be done by someone else in time that I should be using to change the world.

* the higher up the ladder you’re talking to, the more succinct and direct your message must be. Is it because they’re stupid at the top and need simple words? Hell no. You are one of hundreds of demands on their attention in any given day. It’s not that the big guns don’t have time for you (we all have the same amount of time handed to us), it’s that they usually only lack the capability to give lots of attention. Present what you need to say and what needs done about it in one or two lines (preferably verbal, not email or Powerpoint karaoke). Really, only one line.

From Pascal’s Lettres Provinciales:

“My Reverend Fathers, my letters have not usually followed so closely,
nor been so long. The small amount of time that I have is the cause of
both. I would not have made this so long except that I do not have the
leisure to make it shorter.”

It takes time and is a minor art to be able to summarize and still achieve the decision/opinion/result you are aiming for.

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21 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

dot joining

dot joining

In life it’s only possible to join the dots backwards. You only know what’s happened, not what will happen.

The bigger businesses grow, the more they try to join the dots forward. Over planning prior to any work starting. Risk mitigation that overshadows desire for positive outcome. Processes that guarantee shit-in-shit-out, but in a predictable fashion. Bureaucracy outweighs creativity and innovation (real innovation, not the big business marketing bullcrap use of the term).

Am I saying that all businesses should be small business? Absolutely not. However, the smaller the company the more the essence of the people will shine through.

Regardless of how big the business is: instead of applying processes and excessive planning to minimize the role of people in achieving the desired result, you must trust everyone on your tour bus. Let them play their part in the performance.

If everyone knows what the result needs to be AND knows what their part in the band is (which is even more important to an individual than knowing what the result needs to be), the band will figure out together how to reach the end point.

A process well applied will give you a result. A bland result. A result that is easy to ignore. Six Sigma gives you a black belt in dull and average widget making. Try to join the dots forward before anything has even started and this is what you will end up with. Predictability kills character.

Side note: Far Eastern vehicle manufacturers applied six-sigma like methods decades ago but now are marketing driven instead of pure process focussed. Lexus, Toyota Prius and Honda listened to the crowd instead of singing whatever they wanted to (ala Ford, GM).

Let a group of people who know how to reach the end point as individuals in a team have at it and the end result will be remarkable. It will have character, applied learning, a unique personality and be a composite of the qualities of the people who cared enough to create what fulfilled (and more than likely exceeded) what was hoped for.

After the event the band will join the dots backwards and learn from what happened. Figure out the great things to repeat them and the bad things to correct them. There’s so little ego involved that doing this is easy and obvious.

If you don’t have people you can trust to do all this, you will need lots of process. It’s easier and far more comfortable to achieve with processes. However, the result will never be remarkable. Never attract attention. Never have fans. Never make a difference to others.

In the words of Todd Henry from Accidental Creative: “Cover bands don’t change the world. Don’t be a cover band”.

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21 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

behind the tweet

behind the tweet

Best phrase I’ve heard so far this week: “This has been a defining week.” Also candidate for euphemism of the year.

In the busiest week of his current role so far and with a horrid curveball just thrown at him, one of my management team said this. Over optimistic? Nah… taking uncomfortable and panic in his stride. Bad things are only as bad as you want to make them.

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20 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

tuff up

tuff up

Feeling uncomfortable is, well, uncomfortable. It’s not fun and nor should it be. In a situation that leads you to feel uncomfortable, what you are feeling is fear.

It could be comprised of uncertainty, confusion, doubt, hesitation or any number of emotions that’ll make you not do something.

Shut the little monster inside you up. Shut it up. Whatever the little monster is saying to stop you, shut it the hell up.

Being uncomfortable is an incredible thing. It means something is happening. Even something hellishly negative that you are in the middle of translates into action. Something to do something about.

Hesitation is the worst affliction of uncomfortable. Don’t do it. Shut the monster up, decide on what to do and do it.

Progress is how you learn and grow. You won’t know progress until you push yourself into uncomfortable situations often. Every day if you can.

The difference between people who go to work each day to do a job and those who make a difference at work or in the world, is that the latter have learned to deal with their fear, shut the inner monster up and push through discomfort.

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18 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

behind the tweet

behind the tweet

What’re you doing sitting there reading this? Go get something done…

Restrict Twitter, Facebook and email to no more than thirty minutes a day. Ignore news completely – TV, radio and Internet. Now go do something awesome with the hours in a day you have available to you. Write a book or start a blog about something you love and care about. Take a photo of something and post it for the world to see. Do something instead of consuming information that’s of no value to you.

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18 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

death by email

death by email

Email… it’ll kill you if you let it. The points in this video may sound extreme, however they are entirely practical and realistic.

If you find yourself about to write an email…

1. Phone the person or, even better, visit the person.
2. If you absolutely have to email: use facts only. No emotion or opinion.
3. Someone sends you an email, reply in person not by email.
4. No cc:’s

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18 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

behind the tweet

behind the tweet

It’s Monday. Get over it. (nobody died in the manufacturing of this tweet)

For the TGIF crowd. Monday’s are not a bad thing. More fool you for not doing what you love and having to regret heading to the office and looking forward to Friday. Go do something you love instead.

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17 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

behind the tweet

behind the tweet

And besides, well behaved people don’t make history.

Well, they don’t. On one hand there’s the trash paparazzi (critics are good – means you’ve done something worth talking about), on the other there’s hundreds of millions of people who do nothing with their lives but just exist. Don’t behave. Please don’t.

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