February 28, 2010

First Blog-o-versary

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:56 pm by lindaslongview

I’ve accomplished one year of blogging. Not much on the scale of the long-view, but enough time to take stock…

When I first became interested in blogging it was because I was an avid reader of Seth’s blog, I knew one person who blogged (my friend Willis), and because it existed on my edge.  But that wasn’t really the why I wanted to blog…

I recently described the why to my father-in-law (Ed):

“I take in so much information on a daily basis, in the form of interactions, reading, and listening, that I want to process and resolve what I learn each day (or week) against my framework for life.  Although that might seem weird, for me it’s about adapting and evolving with each new piece of information.  As such, I must process and store what I learn (and how I learned it) so that I can reference it for future reflection, lest I become anxious from internalizing too much stuff!  It’s about leveraging my opportunities to live life as positively as I can.”

Blogging has allowed me to tame the fire hose of my thoughts and distill them constructively in the form of advice (to myself).  The process of sharing my blog allows me to receive feedback and create references to topics when they resurface!

Although I stumbled upon the importance of building a framework of ideas, real experts, like David Allen, have written extensively on the subject.   From his blog:

“…we’re overloaded – not with information, but with meaning to be mined. So the solution is not about slicing and dicing and reorganizing data – it’s about how quickly and discretely we can decide its specific meaning to us…and most of us weren’t taught how to get fast and comfortable with clarifying meaning…”

David provides practical tips on improving productivity in his book Getting Things Done through the processes of Collecting, Processing, Organizing, and Reviewing.  My long view advice is similar:

  • Observe and collect interactions – what could have been done different for an improved interaction?
  • Process and clarify – how does this fit into and/or change your framework?
  • Distill the key learnings so that they can be referenced – can you describe in a few sentences the crucial nuggets?
  • Find the discipline to do it regularly so growth does not stagnate.

Blogging might not be for everyone, but blogging provides me the discipline to do this knowledge work regularly. I care about my consistency to my few readers (aka stats!) and the importance of legacy (the long view!).

Are you engaging in disciplined knowledge work for personal growth?

July 15, 2009

Keeping Core

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:17 am by lindaslongview

JambaJuiceJamba Juice is a frozen fruit smoothie franchise that has consistent taste, predictable service (both timing and quality), hip marketing, and friendly staff.  As a process engineer, I have always marveled at the “process line” that Jamba Juice employs.  It is simple, efficient, and allows for excellence in quality in pace and accuracy (so long as the vast majority of products being sold are smoothies).

Jamba Juice uses a register station, a prep station, a blending station, a finishing station, and a washing station.  The “line” works because each smoothie gets a paper ticket with the smoothie identity (product) and the purchaser identity.  The paper ticket sticks to the blender carafe when moist, so information flows along the line with each carafe.  As the tickets flow, carafes are prepped and pushed down the line, creating an excellent First-In-First-Out (FIFO) process line.  The “line” is usually well staffed to ensure flow through the series of stations and the register station can be used regulate flow.  If needed, they can reduce the flow momentarily by ceasing to take orders when they get too backed up.  It is easy to see your order progress in the line-up, making the wait very predictable.

I also like Jamba Juice because they are “hip.”  They use colorful advertising, clean humor, and they have a “secret smoothie menu” that appeals to teens (my kids like the “Pink Star”).

When I went for a smoothie today (it was hot outside), I found that Jamba Juice had added many new food products to their menu.  I watched sadly as the once simple process gave way to complexity and FIFO flow was no longer working.  The woman in front of me in line received only one of her two smoothies.  Even though she muttered about the error (such that I knew), she was not assertive in requesting a correction from the staff.  On the other hand, when I observed that one of my smoothies had NOT been prepared at the prep station, I spoke up immediately, because it was clear to me that the new way the paper tickets and carafes flowed led to errors and a loss of system capacity.

Indeed the squeaky wheel (me) got the grease (my order was fixed ASAP).  I left advising the woman ahead of me to speak up, even though I knew that more expediting would continue to cost process capacity.  They had became caught in an eternal expedite situation – as each person found an error in their order, “flow” work ceased and “expedite” work filled the capacity of the staff.   The line backed up more and more because complexity unintentionally increased the rate of error and no mechanism was added to compensate.

I lament the loss of the niche excellence that Jamba Juice once commanded.  I am saddened because they have lost their core to the unintended consequence of what probably seemed like an “improvement” (revenue?).  Maybe only this location was duly affected with the addition of food to the menu and maybe they can create a corrective action, but I am not confident.

Jamba Juice failed to see the long view value of their core competence from a customer’s perspective:  consistent fruit smoothie preparation (tasty!), FIFO process (predictable timing), and high order quality (order accuracy).  It is the experience that has value. The unintended consequence of their change compromised this core value.    As my friend Greg (a marketing guy) points out, “Ask your customers why they buy your product and why they buy your product from you and not one of your competitors. You will no doubt be amazed at the answer.”  In summary, understand your core and the potential for unintended consequences from your customer’s perspective.

Do you know what your customers think your core competency is?