Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Stop Doing Dumb Stuff

When I need a quick kick in the pants, I reach for Tom Peters’ Brand You 50.

Each one of his 50 tips are tow trucks pulling me out of what ever rut I find myself in.

This is why I’m so excited about his new manifesto from Seth Godin’s ChangeThis project.

This I Believe! – Tom’s 60 TIBs

Yes, that’s 60 perspective changing points to reposition your work, and more importantly, your life.

  • 22. Screw-ups are the mark of excellence; I’ve seen many teams so afraid of making a mistake that the project falls victim of Analysis Paralysis. It’s not pretty. Often, the paralysis could have been avoided by the creation of a few prototypes and being comfortable with learning from failure.
  • 40. Stop doing dumb stuff; Systems become ingrained, systems that were created to solve one problem are repurposed to solve a different problem. They start to get in the way. They start being counter-productive.
  • 43. Take charge of your destiny. Or as Seth Godin says – The Time (to take action) is NOW. Things are constantly in flux, and ironically, that change you’re waiting for to make the big move won’t. That first step is up to you.

The remaining 57 are great and just as thought-provoking.

Thanks Tom.

Monday, 23 August 2004

When Brand is the Bottleneck

Recently, a collegue and I went to lunch at Pancheros, a 14-year old burrito chain started in Iowa City, IA. I’ve spoken about the power of lunch before as well as the lunch experience. Always enlightening. This time was no exception.

I’m a big fan of Chipotle, they’ve taken the Subway model and transferred it to Burritos. In the process, created the fastest growing resturant segment and an engaging write-up in Trading Up: The New American Luxury.

Rather, I thought it was Subway, until I stepped into Pancheros.

The process at both Pancheros and Chipotle are identical; start with the burrito, then rice, beans, meat selection, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and greens.

The difference is at the start; Chipotle has pre-pressed burritos that are steamed for each order, Panchero’s creates each burrito fresh from a ball of dough for each order.

According to Pancheros website, freshly-pressed burritos were introduced in 1998 – as Pancheros’ differentiator I suspect, for that was about the time I discovered Chipotle.

Bad idea.

This was the Panchero’s order-taker’s process I observed:

  1. Take burrito order.
  2. Turn around, press ball of dough into burrito.
  3. Throw freshly-pressed burrito on grill.
  4. Turn around, take next order.
  5. Repeat step 2.
  6. Flip over first burrito.
  7. Grab first burrito and re-ask first customer what they ordered.

Compare this against Chipotle’s order process:

  1. Take burrito order.
  2. Grab pre-pressed burrito and steam.

As I discussed in my 5 Organizational Tips from Academia entry, the infrastructure is often the bottleneck to greater capacity. Panchero’s capacity is being limited by their fresh-pressing.

If you have both in your neighborhood, pick a nice day and stop by both. I predict the Chipotle will have a line out the door and the Panchero’s might have 10 people in queue.

What should Panchero’s do? I recommend taking a cue from Baja Sol Tortilla Grill and differentiate on offering and freshness.

Sunday, 22 August 2004

5 Organizational Tips from Academia

This semester I’m one of the coaches in the excellent Visualization program at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. As part of that involvement, I attended their recent new faculty orientation. I’ve culled 5 organizational tips from that meeting.

  1. Have a Warning Sign for Poor Customer Relationships: Each faculty member is asked to contact the Academic Affairs department when any student’s performance falls below a ‘C’. Students are paying for the MCAD experience, and ‘C’ grade is one of the most visible warning signs that something isn’t working. A signal that MCAD needs to try something else with this customer, er student. Does your organization have a warning sign for poor customer relationships? (StoryBlog offers another approach)
  2. Institute a 3rd Question Person: The VP of Academic Affairs introduced himself as the ‘3rd Question Person’ – i.e. if you ask someone a question and they direct you to a second person, and this second person directs you to a third, contact the VP of Academic Affairs. He wants to know both the question, and that it was left unanswered.
  3. Know Your Capacity: Though professors can add as many students to their class as they can personally support, there is a limit to how many students the class itself can support. For example; if there are 20 computers in the computer lab – only 20 students can be in the class without negatively impacting the learning experience. For years, O’Hare Airport wasn’t honest about their capacity – believing they could support >120 take-offs / hour.
  4. Each Organization Needs a Well-Run Off-Stage & an On-Stage:Documentation, research, and internal policies may not be the favorite parts of the job. Though, without them the classtime and student work will not be as successful.
  5. Vendors are not Emergency Response Teams: Include vendors and partner organizations as early as possible, especially when you don’t need there help immediately. A quick phone call or email months ahead of time saying, “We’re thinking of using you for this.” will be better received than a call saying, “We needed you to do this yesterday.” The early communication will provide a higher quality of service.

Thursday, 19 August 2004

Wal-Mart.com Tests Ship-To-Store

Big box retailers are continuing their search for the Holy Grail of Retail – increasing merchandise selection without increasing real estate costs.

For years, Click’n’Pull for years. Unlike Click’n’Pull which is only available for in-store items, “Ship to Store” is only available for Wal-Mart’s web exclusive items.

This development is interesting in 3 major ways:

  1. It recalls the heyday of Sears & JCPenney catalogs, where orders could be placed and picked-up in-store.
  2. Both Sears & JCPenney currently offer an “order online / pick-up in-store” service. Sears.com has offered it for the past 4 years and seen 22% of online customers make additional sales while picking up their orders.
  3. This is for items not normally stocked by Wal-Mart. Knowing that Walmart.com merchandise is of higher quality and the store merchandise. Is this a way to gradually increase the quality of in-store merchandise, therefore a play against Target?

Dallas Morning News articles: Wal-Mart tests store pickup for online buys

Wednesday, 11 August 2004

How Not To Do Customer Research

We do quite a bit of customer and employee research here at Working Pathways. From in-depth 1-on-1, deep dive, interviews to quick email surveys to observational studies – our expertise runs the gamut. Whatever the study, each participant involved is 1. screened and qualified and 2. receives some level of compensation for their time and insight.

With that in mind, here’s how not to conduct a customer research telephone study:

  1. Don’t tell recruits who’s sponsoring the study. That’ll just skew the data and hey, why do participants need to know anyway?
  2. Don’t tell recruits why you’ve called them. That’ll skew the data also, say ‘satisfaction with products you may or may not have used’.
  3. Don’t tell recruits how long the interview will last. Participant’s time isn’t valuable, we can use as much of it as we’d like.
  4. Don’t compensate them. They should be happy just talking to us.
  5. Be surprised when nobody wants to talk with you.

In our experience, the most insightful research comes from passionate customer, they want to share their experiences with your products. You won’t get the valuable stories through a dispassionate qualitative satisfaction survey on products they haven’t used. They only come out when you respect your customers and consider your time with them a business appointment – pre-scheduled on both parties calendars. Like a business appointment, in this mode – one party compensates the other for the interaction.

Want Better Collaboration – Improvise

The earlier collaboration techniques post (Stop Asking Questions) was based a key to successful improvisation. This post digs further into the relationship between improv and collaboration.

Good improvisational comedy teams believe a group of individuals working together can start with nothing and quickly create something engaging, desireable, useful, and valuable. From this perspective, the keys for successful Improv apply to any collaborative effort.

As such, there are 7 keys to successful improvisational collaboration:

  1. Acceptance of a new idea from the standpoint of exploring its possibilities; An attitude of “Yes, and” rather than the destructive “but” .
  2. Attentive listening to all the partners on the team.
  3. Temporary suspension of critical judgment.
  4. An attitude of relaxed openness to new ideas. Exploring the far reaches of “What if ___?”
  5. Reframing situations to explore creative possibilities.
  6. A willingness to take chances, to risk appearing foolish, i.e. Stop Asking Questions.
  7. An understanding that no choice is absolutely right or wrong, though each may turn out to be more or less productive in a given situation.

Thanks to the Applied Improvisational Network.

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

Talking is Marketing

Any time someone in your organization has any contact with your clients or prospects, they are performing a marketing function.

Thanks to John Jantsch for this timeless thought.

Saturday, 7 August 2004

Moving Day.

I’m moving workingpathways.com to a new host this weekend. So, there maybe some flakey-ness over the next couple days. Apologies for any interruptions in advance.

The move is complete and successful – if the site feels faster now, this is why.

Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, 1 August 2004

Want Better Collaboration – Stop Asking Questions

The first step to a collaborative environment is to banish questions. Yes, banish the question mark from all conversation.

Questions reinforce heirarchial relationships rather than build the peer-to-peer relationships necessary for innovative, effective collaboration.

Step #1. Everyone is smart and everyone’s knowledge is of equal value.

A question forces someone else to make something for you.

Step #2. You can create things others find valuable.