October 19, 2009
Someone once told me that the most powerful person in an organization is the receptionist. Although it may not be entirely true, there is a kernel of wisdom in that advice, because the receptionist touches everyone that comes through the door of a business. The process of touching allows the receptionist to develop a sense of order about vendors, staff, and clients, allowing her to come to understand the underlying structure of the organization and be able to successfully assess and courteously triage access to executives and other staff.
I recently ran across a director-level staff person not yet ready to relinquish known workarounds and seize the opportunity to transform his work by touching data flows (such as cleaning up a client database). The rationalizations were typical, “I’m too busy” and “Maybe we could hire someone else to do that?,” failing to recognize the long-term benefits of gathering information oneself and understand the underlying limitations.
I was saddened by emphasis on the short-term urgencies and the limited investment in the important (long-term) that I observed, but this was a case where I did not actually have any influence. Because I care about the organization, I asked too many questions, so my advice to self is to stop asking such questions, but I digress…
When I look at situations like this one, I recognize that organic learning is often required, because organizations tend to grow organically – they fail to document along the way, they fail to create processes for review and archiving (until it is a crisis), and they allow single person specialists to emerge (that can leave with the organizational history). Yet it is important (and tedious) to gather, consolidate, or validate information when trying to move an organization to an improved future. The hard news is that such work often requires tedium and/or assimilating the unknown. The good news is that the most valued people in every organization are the people who learn, think, and transform by doing this. As such, my long view advice:
- Seize the opportunity to touch key data flows and learn the limitations of the current system.
- Spend time on the important (learn, think, transform) even when your schedule is filled with urgencies.
- Do not be above tediousness; participate in the tedium and gain appreciation for the efforts of others who complete tedious work regularly.
Are you touching important data flows, learning from them, and creating transformation?
May 18, 2009
Rachel Alexandra, a girl horse, won the Preakness Stakes, the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown of Horse Racing this past Saturday! It hasn’t happened in 85 years.
Part of long-view thinking requires identifying, being present, and breathing-in moments of inspiration to launch and sustain transformation. The achievement of Rachel Alexandra is one of those rare inspiring events.
Rachel Alexandra’s accomplishment reminds me of similar inspiration…
I was paying attention (and cheering) when Title IX was passed into law (1972) and when Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs in the tennis “Battle of the Sexes” (1973). At that time, I imagined the transformation of our world to largely what we have now – women participating, competing, and being taken seriously in many, many sports, just like the men.
In 1977, I was the first girl in my high school to be allowed to take weight lifting for P.E. credit instead of the expected volleyball. I recall that the coach agreed to give me an “A” if my cumulative total for the three defined lifts: squat, dead lift, and bench-press, was three times (3x) my body weight at the end of the program. The boys needed a cumulative total that was five times (5x) their weight for an “A.” Although it was probably a fair accommodation considering that boys are stronger than girls, I wanted to be taken seriously. I set my goal at 5x in three lifts.
In class, I was partnered with Todd, the skinny kid who also weighed only about 100 lbs. and who didn’t really care about weight lifting. Although we had different outlooks and viewed each other suspiciously at first, we found common ground. I was grateful for his collaboration to help me achieve 5x. Together we learned excellence in technique and worked hard. At the end of the term, we both achieved 5x and the rest of the class took us seriously. ☺
I am grateful to have been inspired by the birth of equal opportunity athletics and to have participated in nurturing and sustaining the transformation.
Woohoo, Rachel Alexandra, you go girl!
How are you inspired?!
May 1, 2009
There is just something about gadgets that I love. I love the innovation and the potential for transformation that they represent. With each new gadget, I buy into the story that it will somehow improve my life: save me time, make my experience more joyful, or reduce the tediousness of tasks.
Emerging technology represents the same potential for transformation, yet must be nurtured to successful commercialization. Processes need to be developed ensuring that robustness and customer satisfaction are built in.
With the love and devotion that I give my gadgets, it is such a disappointment when a favored gadget fails. Yesterday, one of my favored gadgets, the Max Stealth Tire Minder pressure gauges, failed. My car had a completely flat tire – not a little low, but completely flat! Naturally I assumed that I must have picked up a nail on my last trip. Maybe because I wanted to believe that my Tire Minders were robust, it never occurred to me that they failed (even though it happened once before a few years ago). So, instead of pulling out the compressor, I dutifully pulled out the jack, collected the tire wrench and changed my tire. Although I couldn’t see the failure point on the tire, I took the tire to the shop this morning to get it fixed. My tire dealer assured me that the tire was fine, but my super-hooty-doo tire stem pressure gauge indicator was the culprit. Aargghh, the indignity of it all – I believed in them, loved them, and told all my friends how neat they were – I feel betrayed!
I sold myself the storyline that I saved time while still ensuring that my tires were properly inflated (saves gas!). Each time I filled up, I didn’t have to drag my pressure gauge from the glove compartment to check my tire inflation. All I had to do is just walk around the vehicle and look for the “yellow” indicator to see if a tire was low.
As it turns out, all that accumulated time that I saved not using the regular tire gauge evaporated with the time it took to change that tire, take the tire to the shop, and then wait to have the shop “fix” it. Was it worth it? Well, the fellow at the tire shop told me that he sees lots of failures and fine print indicates that they are warranted for a year. I bought them exactly one year ago, when I purchased my tires – how did they know a year was up?! Even though Tire Minder is neat, it is not robust enough to create my satisfaction over the long view.
There’s always a positive, I think my neighbor got some good laughs watching me change my tire. I was challenged to break free the lug nuts with my short little tire iron that came with my sedan, so there I was jumping up and down on the tire iron (putting all my weight into it) to get them loose. My neighbor took pity on me and brought over his long lever arm tire iron. It worked much better; I think I need one of those! 🙂
That being said, I will continue to try new technology and innovations, because over the long view that is how we achieve progress. This story just provides another reminder of the importance of building robustness and customer satisfaction into innovative products (and emerging technology) to ensure successful adoption (and commercialization).