[QUESTION] Do you think Trump uses Trello?

I’m slowly getting into podcasts. Yesterday, I figured I’d listen to whatever is currently the most popular one. According to Apple, it’s called “Pod Save America.” In a recent episode, the hosts interview President Obama. Early on, Obama mentions the early struggles his administration had with internal communication. He also mentions that he and his team got better at it. His mention of this struggle made me curious as to how he and his team got better. For example: did they read and put into practice ideas from a Patrick Lencioni book? Did they try Basecamp? Was there a scrum master?

Given the above, I also became curious about how the Trump administration is handling project management. Since he appears to be pulling in a lot of people from the business world, they surely have their own solutions for project management. However, what are Trump’s? Anyone know or care to speculate?

Say It Simply – My Time At CitiesAlive 2015

Last week I had the pleasure of attending CitiesAlive 2015 in Brooklyn, NY – probably the largest annual gathering of green roof and green wall professionals in the United States. It was an enriching experience.

I was invited by SuitePlants, a customer of ours that makes a very cool series of picture frame planters. While there I enjoyed dozens of conversations with industry folks and heard about all their latest advancements in green roof and wall technology. One woman from a local green roof installer in Brooklyn was even demoing an extremely inexpensive and reliable runoff sensing system she built using an Arduino!

Unsurprisingly, I was the only third party logistics person in attendance (that I could find). This meant people really had to “dumb down” their content for me. For example, I was talking with a business owner that sells growth media and had to stop him for an explanation on “intensive” and “extensive” systems (shallow soil versus deep soil). I interrupted another man for an explanation about phosphorus, algae blooms and how that applied to the green roofs (it’s bad). As I mentioned before, it was an enriching experience.

Inevitably, when talking with people we’d get to the point where they asked to hear about my business. According to my name tag, I was in logistics. This meant I did something complex. Consequently, the first few times people asked me, I responded with a logistical brain dump not dissimilar to a lecture about the virtues of a particular species of sedum (little flowery plants often used in green roofs). More than once I asked someone about their product’s harmonization code. More than once I received a confused look in return.

After two or three conversations like this, I realized a radical simplification was needed. People didn’t need to hear about all my obscure details. They wanted something they could relate to instantly. So, I gave it to them. Questions about “logistics” became, “We handle all the warehousing and delivery for your products so you can stay focused on greening the planet.” The confused looks went away.

Granted, in most conversations happening at this conference, the green-roof-jargon slipped out of mouths and into brains without a hitch. However, a personal takeaway/reminder for me was to always mind my audience and default to “say it simply.”

One of the Worst Phrases

People are prone to using the phrase, “we should start” when they want to offer up an idea they don’t want to be responsible for executing. For example, “we should start organizing our invoices in a filing cabinet instead of loose in this drawer.” Or, “we should start including change order language in our contracts so we get paid for scope creep.” Both are probably great ideas; however, like with all ideas, they are commodities that don’t have meaningful value until they are executed.

Image Caption: The band Yuck

If you’re prone to punk tendencies, stop “we should start” thinking all together. Instead, start something and don’t tell anyone about it. Make no grand plans or announcements. Just do it. And for others, be more impressed with people that complete things than talk about starting something.

The examples above were simple. As you meet with people over the course of the next couple business days, listen for this phrase either from others or yourself. See where the conversation leads and if any true action is planned. You may be surprised with what you hear.

Mike Pence, Indiana’s RFRA & Contract Language

Strom Thurmond

 

This morning I read an analysis of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in The Atlantic. It breaks down and highlights the fact that—despite Governor Pence’s claims to the contrary—Indiana’s law contains specific bits of language not found in the majority of similarly titled laws. Governor Pence has claimed that the Indiana law is the same as the federal RFRA. It’s not. He also claimed it was the same as the RFRA laws passed by other states. In fact, the Indiana law is similar only to the laws passed by Texas and South Carolina.

Image Caption: Former United States Senator from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond holding big documents

You can check out the particulars and nuances for yourself with the links above. The point is, language matters. Language has implications. Your business contracts also have language. The language in your business contracts also has implications. And implications come in two varieties: intended and unintended.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as legal advice and The Golobish Group is not a law firm. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice for contracts.

What Does This Mean for Clients?

Read your &#%?ing contracts! Read them carefully and understand them. If you can’t clearly unpack from the contract language the deliverables that you expect in the timeframe you expect—the contract may be suspect. Strongly consider if you want to sign an unclear, suspect contract.

In our experience, firms that have signed unclear, suspect contracts with vendors often don’t know what they are contractually obligated to receive. Typical frustrations include:

This thing auto renews?! You mean I’m stuck for another year?!

I thought I was going to get [insert quantity] and I only got [insert lesser quantity]! This thing doesn’t mention quantities?!

Wait. You mean to tell me that costs extra? I could have sworn that was included!

Since we’re not lawyers, our main objective is to make people aware of what’s out there in regard to contracts and to act responsibly.

What Does This Mean for Vendors?

Unclear contracts don’t only frustrate clients. They also frustrate teams responsible for delivering the items inside a contract. In their efforts to quickly close deals, sales people may not apply the same rigor to a contract that someone on the delivery team would employ. In our experience, this leads to contracts that miss essential information teams need to meet customer expectations. Typical items that sometimes go missing from contracts include:

  • Start Date
  • End Date (if applicable)
  • Contracted $ Amount
  • List of specific deliverables
  • Quantity of items to be delivered
  • Client signature

A quick remedy to the above is to create contract templates and checklists that have top-down buy-in from execs through sales people. Granted, this adds a bit of bureaucracy to your organization that will slow you down at first; however, as we all hopefully know by now: “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

The Golobish Group is a management consulting firm focused on increasing the performance of SMBs through disciplined use of business analytics, process and technology. Click here to contact the Golobish Group.

What’s Your Team’s Capacity?

As a professional service organization matures and grows, there always comes a time where understanding the true work/task capacity of departments and teams becomes a big priority. Typically, execs want to know how much they can sell before they need to invest in more resources; i.e., understand details about how the business is going to scale. In more practical terms, without knowing what your org’s capacity is, you’re left guessing about when you really need to make strategic hires to accommodate growth. And, you also run the risk of your sales department selling deals for which you have no capacity to fulfill. So yeah, understanding capacity is kind of a big deal. But before you jump into a capacity study, you’ll need to answer a few questions about where you are in terms of professional maturity.

What Are Your Metrics?

Every business has metrics. The simplest ones usually involve cash and customers; i.e. are we making money and do we have customers? As a business matures, so should the metrics it uses to gauge its performance. This is where capacity metrics are useful. Similar to the first step I mentioned in last week’s article about utilization, when attempting to understand your org’s capacity, it’s critical that you have a capacity method and framework that everyone agrees upon. For example, if you’ve decided that your goal is to hit 75% billable utilization, then tracking against that will give you insight into your capacity. Further, if your goal is 75% and your current average across your team is 80%, then it may be time to start looking for a new resource even though you’ve got capacity to spare. Capacity studies on utilization metrics are typically cut and dry once you agree upon a framework.

For teams with deliverables beyond simply hours billed; e.g., widgets created or LinkedIn articles written, you’ll need to consider additions to your capacity framework/method. Your org’s delivery processes now come into play.

How Repeatable Is Your Process?

In business, “repeatability” is a word used to describe a business process that is literally repeatable. Processes that are repeatable are typically where a business finds its scale points and growth opportunities. Think: making cheeseburgers or preparing taxes. Both are very repeatable.

Coinciding with understanding your utilization metrics, it’s important to gauge the maturity of your repeatable processes. For example, how much of what you do is repeatable? Assuming your organization has some sort of specialization and each resource isn’t geared to be all things to all people, then some amount of repeatability is in play and roles are at least loosely defined. Therefore, you’re likely able to include specific types of capacity into your framework. For example, if you have a junior copywriter on your team, they are likely bound by words per minute and/or articles per hour just like a french fry chef at McDonald’s is bound by the size of his/her fryer and ability to prepare the frozen potatoes. Therefore, provided you have relatively mature processes guiding your delivery, you may be able to track a quantity of widgets produced and gain a more sophisticated understanding of your capacity.

Check People’s Faces

If you’ve seen people working frantically and turning in a lot of overtime to get things done, you may have pressing capacity questions to answer. It’s likely that your time may be best spent in the very short term simply helping the team get their heads above water either by hiring more talent or lending a hand yourself. However, once you no longer see the pain on people’s faces or on their time sheets, it’s a safe bet that you can sit down and perform a capacity study. Alternatively, if you need to justify hires to execs that don’t typically see the day-to-day capacity challenges you face, ask them the questions above and lock in on a capacity method. They may not always agree with your rationale but understanding your situation with actual metrics will give you the insight to either push for more hires or refine your process.

Free Consulting Friday: 100% Utilization

Old timey steam whistle

Question

Hey Golobish Group, I really want to get my (professional services) team to 100% utilization. How can I do that?

Answer

Since utilization rate is a calculation, the easiest way to get to 100% is to simply change your calculation method. Problem solved. Ha!

Image Caption: Old-timey steam whistle reminiscent of the ones from Road Runner cartoons.

While the above may sound absurd, the first thing you should do when considering utilization policy is to make sure you’re locked in on a calculation method and framework; i.e., decide on the number of hours in a period a resource should work, whether or not you’re going to include vacation time, holidays, etc., and if you’re going to make a distinction between “resource utilization” and “billable utilization.” Once you have top down organizational buy in on the above, you’re ready to set your baseline and begin making policy.

As a quick reminder, “resource utilization” is simply the raw amount of time a person works on tasks for your business. It often includes helping sales and marketing, professional development, HR stuff, team building and “bench time” (pretty good to have since it keeps people sharp and makes your shop a “career” place for top talent). Relatedly, “billable utilization” is the time a person works on actual client tasks that earn money. Understanding how both impact your calculation method, framework and resulting policy is important.

Now that you’re ready to test out some policy, you’ve likely realized that hitting 100% is a bit more nuanced than you originally thought. What’s also likely is that you’re now trying to hit a different number than you originally intended which, again, is likely to be less than a simple 100%. However, if you’re truly still interested in hitting 100%, I’d argue that your time may be better spent understanding your team’s capacity and increasing their efficiency.

If you have contracted hourly resources, you’re probably off the hook for a method. If you have people on retainers, the method may be a simple ratio of hours used to hours allotted. In the case of the latter, getting retained resources to use up the time they’ve allotted for you is generally a matter of tightening up your project management ops.

Finally, the most fun way to get to 100% utilization is to simply close more deals.

Small Data. What’s Your Plan?

Amidst the continued buzz surrounding “big data” and its promise to revolutionize business, it’s easy to overlook the “not so big” data you likely already have. Bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes, it’s just bigger.

Image Caption: A data analyst reviewing punch cards, the precursors to disk drives.

When the business media and big data thought leaders say “big data,” they are typically talking about storage sizes that are more aptly described to lay people as being measured in the amount of physical space actually required to store the data; i.e., server warehouses the size of football fields, rather then sizes that are just hard to open on your laptop. Big data analysis is important. However, the vast majority of marketing professionals and businesses are “small data” shops.

For “small data” organizations, the opportunities to use their data to make better business or marketing decisions aren’t always clear. Why? Because it often exists in small chunks spread out in a variety of different places. Think: a little in your CRM, a little in your email marketing platform, a little in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and whatever custom software your company uses. Don’t forget Google Analytics. Oh, then some on your laptop.

Just like the organizations that are increasingly being able to take advantage of their “big data” to make better decisions and gain a competitive advantage, small and medium size business can do the same with their “small data.” For example, wouldn’t it be great to match up your ExactTarget or Constant Contact databases with your sales reports? Or, wouldn’t it be nice match up your donor database with geolocation information from Google Analytics? It’s possible. You just need a “small data” plan.

If you’re a company or marketing organization that uses computers to get stuff done, you have small data. And, there are secrets inside it that are waiting to be shared.

The Golobish Group is a management consulting firm focused on increasing the performance of SMBs through disciplined use of business analytics, process and technology. Click here to contact the Golobish Group.

Constructing a Non-Corrosive Corporate Culture

Royal_Irish_Rifles_ration_party_Somme_July_1916Companies love to brag about their corporate culture. That’s a fact. Usually, it’s a way for a company to highlight themselves as occasionally fun, nerdy, innovative or just silly. Maybe your company has Beer Fridays, or monthly Pajama Mondays. However you’ve chosen to embrace the silly side of your company’s culture—the truth is that constructing a meaningfully positive and effective corporate culture is much more difficult than deciding to express occasional whimsy. Constructing a positive and non-corrosive corporate culture can form the underpinnings of longterm growth and success.

Vulnerability

The most effective organizations have extremely high trust environments. High trust environments are largely free of judgement culture. There’s freedom to experiment, freedom to fail, freedom to work outside of a rigidly defined role expectation. This removes the “not my job” mentality where individuals perform just up to the standard of role expectations and nothing more. A trust culture is a helping culture. Notice, I previously referenced judgement culture, which is not to indicate a lack of accountability. High trust environments accommodate high accountability standards. A judgement culture creates a constant need for a potential scapegoat should failure occur, a trust culture is built on mutual vulnerability and letting colleagues see our true selves rather than a carefully constructed work persona. This is workplace vulnerability—and it’s not weakness. It’s the key to innovation.

Innovation

Judgement culture kills the spirit of innovation. Fact. But when vulnerability becomes the new normal and a trust culture blossoms, the fear of being judged harshly—or scapegoated—diminishes and individuals become more likely to innovate. Failures in innovation are viewed as Edison viewed his lightbulb failure—positive knowledge/data about what won’t work helps winnow down to what eventually will work. Getting to a state of vulnerability as a corporate norm doesn’t occur as the result of a top-down mandate though. Vulnerability is a scary proposition for people. It needs to be built at the team level through hard work, constant leadership encouragement and support, and by giving mid-level managers the mission of becoming vulnerability champions. Monthly one-on-ones between managers and individual contributors should not be perfunctory affairs just to check off the management to-do list. Conduct one-on-ones offsite, away from the daily grind, and use them to begin building solid and vulnerable trust-heavy relationships on teams.

Empathy

When vulnerability blossoms org-wide into trust-heavy corporate culture, it transforms into empathy. Why does that matter? It’s simple. Empathy is the secret to a truly collaborative, problem-solving, solution-finding non-corrosive corporate culture. First, let’s define terms. Empathy is “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.” This means that a typically human perspective of only thinking about one’s duties, needs or desires is no longer the only criteria for fulfillment and satisfaction. The needs of others become important to you as well. So no longer do you have a “not my job” perspective as it relates to the needs of colleagues. Empathy results in a “how can I help you” mentality instead. And that approach—if carefully nurtured—can result in proactive, other-oriented problem-solving. You’ll start to hear this kind of question more frequently in team meetings: “what kind of support or help do you need from me to be successful on this project?” And you can certainly keep doing the Beer Fridays and the Pajama Mondays. Those kinds of things are cool and people generally enjoy them. But if you want to dig deeper and truly craft a world-class corporate culture, start encouraging vulnerability on a large scale and see where it takes you.

The Golobish Group is a management consulting firm focused on increasing the performance of SMBs through disciplined use of business analytics, process and technology. Click here to contact the Golobish Group.

Top 3 Reasons Execs Should Blog

WP colorful pic for G Group blog

Photo Credit HowToStartABlogOnline.net

Chances are, you or your exec have worked diligently for years to establish expertise and gain hard-won credibility in your field. In addition to sharing this expertise with prospects, clients and employees in the real world, you should be doing the same in the virtual world; i.e., on the Internet. Here’s three reasons why.

1. You Need to Control Your Online Reputation

Crafting frequent, thoughtful articles from your expertise wheelhouse goes a long way toward cementing the online reputation you want. When a prospect or customer “Googles” your name or looks you up on LinkedIn, you want content to appear that carries your professional message. You have to create that content. It won’t always appear on its own.

Similarly, are you contemplating a career move? Having an established presence as a thought leader in your profession can serve as a catalyst to the career move you want and potentially entitle you to a larger compensation package. Maybe you’re perfectly happy in your organization, but secretly hanker for more personal prestige. Harnessing the discipline to consistently produce thought leadership can do that for you. A little healthy boost to the professional ego never hurt anyone.

2. You Need to Crystalize Your Thinking

Even if you have no desire to create thought leadership articles for credibility or reputation management, leaders should still publish their thoughts. As it relates internally to your organization, emerging as a known thought leader can help you garner a larger group of loyal follows from within your organization. Most importantly, publishing your thoughts helps you crystalize your strategic planning and philosophical underpinnings; i.e., vision, and gives your team a framework they can reference with just a web browser. A happy outcome of publishing is typically that new initiatives you roll out suddenly require less time and energy on your part to get organization-wide buy-in and adoption.

3. You Need to Attract More Online Prospects

Chances are, a large portion of your prospective customers use the Internet at some point to make a buying decision related to your product or service. The same effort taken to increase loyalty and follower-ship internally can have positive implications on your organization’s ability to attract new clients as well. If you want to leverage your personal brand and influence to grow your client roster, it doesn’t require additional effort on your part. The same frequent and thoughtful articles highlighting your expertise and track record of effective problem-solving that resulted in a larger internal follower-ship will attract new clients as well.

The Golobish Group is a management consulting firm focused on increasing the performance of SMBs through disciplined use of business analytics, process and technology. Click here to contact the Golobish Group.

Thought Leadership 101

Lowell Photo for G Group blogThought leadership is no longer an Internet marketing buzzword/fad. It’s a respected piece of the marketing puzzle that is valued by prospective customers and search engines. However, individuals who need to establish online thought leadership the most, CEOs, execs and other visionary/leader types, are the least likely to have the right mix of time, discipline and digital know-how to do it well and efficiently. It doesn’t have to be that way. The following is a primer for actual thought leaders interested in taking the first step towards being known on the Internet for what’s in their brains.

Why Produce Thought Leadership?

The Internet is crowded with content and it’s only getting worse. It’s a virtual cacophony of voices and the digital presence you may have once enjoyed has been drowned under a deluge of psycho-babble, pseudo-science and the general clamor of modern day snake oil salesmen. It’s a hard scrabble digital dustbowl. You can’t get into content marketing heaven with words alone anymore. You actually have to do something intelligent to make it through the pearly gates. Faith doesn’t cut it. You gotta work for your digital salvation.

Where Should Thought Leadership Live?

To start with, begin at home. By that I mean you should start with creating a presence on your organization’s home page. If you have a blog on your website, begin crafting your thoughts into blog posts at least once a month and more frequently if you can. If you want to be known in your community or vertical, you can’t be a digital hermit. You need to come out of your cave and give an occasional nugget of wisdom to your followers. And starting with your website is the easiest way to begin. Once you’re comfortable with the process, sharing thought leadership on LinkedIn is a good idea. If you have a monthly e-newsletter, that can provide a good platform as well.

What Should Actually be Written?

If you’re stuck on what kind of content to craft, begin with what you’re most passionate and care most deeply about. That’s most likely to result in content which will interest and intrigue readers. You may have deep insights and passion about multiple aspects of your business vertical, relationship-building, how to create a positive and effective corporate culture, leadership tips—virtually all the experiences packed into your resume can provide thought leadership fodder. Brainstorming with colleagues is often a fun and fruitful exercise if you’re stuck.

How Should It Get Done?

You may not be a great writer. That’s okay. You don’t need to be. But what you can do is take fifteen minutes every day to get the thoughts in your head onto paper. Get them scribbled down longhand, or in a Word doc—whatever works for you. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation, just get the thoughts out. Your job here isn’t to produce a piece of polished prose—you have people in your organization or elsewhere who can do that for you. Your job is to provide the thought leadership fodder that someone else can tee off on. It’s also your job to have the discipline it takes to produce the scribble in consistent intervals; i.e., create a routine and hold yourself to it. Leaders have great thoughts. Great leaders are consistent.

The Golobish Group is a management consulting firm focused on increasing the performance of SMBs through disciplined use of business analytics, process and technology. Click here to contact the Golobish Group.