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Pimp Your Work

May 11th, 2007

Darren’s series on Creativity-A must read

My buddy (and boss-though he’s been my friend longer than employer) Darren Rowse-an uber blogger is there ever was one-has been working on a series of posts on creativity.

While the series is aimed at bloggers, creativity is a central facet to almost any work.  What brings those flashes of brilliance?  Although I might joke that caffeine or chocolate contributes a great deal to my creativity, in reality I don’t fully know where it comes from in myself.  I do know how to tap into it when I need to, and yes, it does require psyching myself up for it.

Take a moment and read the three posts thus far (I haven’t gone back to see if Darren has added a fourth) … I think something in at least one of the posts will click with you:


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By Tris Hussey -- 1 comment

March 1st, 2007

A Jet Blue Perspective

When I was enjoying myself in sunny Costa Rica on vacation, the United States East Coast enjoyed one of those great consecutive snow blowouts that snarled traffic, cancelled school, and created general havoc for everyone.

Jet Blue got caught in the crosshair as well, stranding passengers on planes out on the runways for hours, canceling a thousand flights, and estimating their cost to the storm of over $30-million dollars. Much has been made of the service, the mea culpa of Jet Blue’s CEO, and some active discussion about passengers having a Bill of Rights.

The future is hard to predict. Three weeks ago, Jet Blue was sailing along and enjoying the business of business. Who could have foretold that their scheduling systems would get caught in a frenzy, that something this big would hit along all of their routes, and that other failures in the airline passenger system would contribute to their misfortune?

Perhaps good disaster recovery people would have come close. But, in my experience, whatever scenarios people come up with will not be the scenario that actually happens.

You see, we don’t know what we don’t know.

The only thing we can prepare for is to build a disaster recovery process and ruthlessly test it against a variety of scenarios to see where the process can be improved. Process preparation will trump scenario preparation.

Jet Blue can take this real life learning experience and test it against their recovery process and see where things could improve.

How’s your recovery process?

By Scot Herrick -- 0 comments

February 27th, 2007

Technology can Pimp Your Work

Sometimes, it is not the individual tip or trick that needs to be done to Pimp Your Work. Sometimes, your company needs to step up and figure it out so that everyone benefits from a productivity increase — including the company.

UPS is one of those companies. Being rolled out over the last two years, UPS now maps out the most efficient route for its drivers to follow to deliver that day’s packages to their customers.

Some of the features are pretty crazy:

Minimizing left turns so as to minimize the amount of time spent at stop lights.

Using GPS, a signal that beeps the driver if they enter the wrong driveway for the package being delivered.

Allowing customers to reroute a package in transit to a different address.

Does it make a driver and the company more efficient? Yup. UPS logged 3-million fewer miles last November alone than the year before. That saves a large amount of fuel, wear and tear on the delivery vehicles, and greenhouse gasses.

And it gets the drivers home in time for dinner, a pimpalicious treat.

By Scot Herrick -- 1 comment

February 21st, 2007

Good and Great

There is an interesting saying out there: the enemy of great is good.

I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time with that saying for a long time. After all, there are few things that anyone can be great at, but quite a few things that each of us can be good at.

And our work asks us to be good at a lot of different things. We even have to pretend to be able to multi-task.

But the enemy of great is good.

I’m writing this on a plane returning from Costa Rica, after spending ten days out of the country, disconnected from work, and totally connected with everything else. It was an opportunity to gain perspective.

One of the perspectives gained was that the enemy of great is good. I can be good at many things, but great at few. To help maximize the opportunity to be great at what I want to do, I determined that I need to say no to some of the good things that I am doing at both work and play.

Saying no to some of the good things I do will help maximize my opportunity to be great at a couple of things I want to get done.

If you take a look at things you are good at, what things could you say no to that would improve your work to great?

By Scot Herrick -- 0 comments

January 2nd, 2007

My Idea Board

I am fortunate that I have a large white board where I work that I can use for…whatever. At the end of 2006, I was staring at the white board, noting how much stuff was still showing up on the board even after being erased.

So I got out the cleaning spray and cleaned off all the old stuff so my white board actually became white again. Twice, because old stuff is hard to get rid of sometimes. Not just on white boards…

I don’t know about you, but my white board is My Idea Board. In discussing stuff with my team or peers, the notes go on the board. If someone is taking notes, what is on the board goes into MindMap. As we discuss the ideas, the notes on the board get modified, erased, and thrown out of the discussion. Later on, the ideas start to build into a structure that can be used to start building something.

Nothing on the white board, you see, is permanent. Only what we put into our tracking systems becomes what needs to be done.

I’m starting off this year with a clean white board — the more modern version of a “clean slate.”

Today, I’m going to start getting a lot of use of My Idea Board. It’s a new work year and it’s time to go get some ideas and start to build what we want to get done.

Is your white board ready?

By Scot Herrick -- 1 comment

December 7th, 2006

Passion, but Keep Your Day Job

So let’s be clear: this Pimp is cynical of anything Corporate. In fact, working in a cube means it is management’s approach to the work and when you get to the nice panel office it is all about sacrificing for the corporation.

It was enlightening, then, to read about Pricewatershouse Coopers asking an old employee back after several years to work the accounting business.

Our hero, Allen Sheffield, eventually left the corporate world to help kids in Detroit. But, keeping in contact with his former employers, he received an offer to come and work on a flexible schedule that would enable him to maintain his commitments to the kids and help out in the accounting.

Necessarily, the timing, work, and schedules had to mesh. But, I have not seen this in corporations before. It would be terrific if more people could follow their passions and corporations could balance their needs with those of their employees and their total work life.

But, I’m still the skeptical type. I think this is a major exception and not anything close to the rule.

Would your work place offer a flexible schedule to you if you proposed it?

By Scot Herrick -- 0 comments

December 6th, 2006

Performance Reviews Control Companies

In my post yesterday, I noted that there are two ways executives and managers can get control of a company. The first way was through budgets.

Today we’ll examine what, in my Pimp Opinion, is the second way executives can get control (and start to change the culture) of a company.

The second way is through performance reviews.

In yesterdays post, for example, we said that reviewing budgets with the people responsible for the budget on a regular basis was necessary for control. But the truth of the matter is that behavior doesn’t change just through meetings. No, behavior changes when managers start hitting the pocketbook of people responsible for implementing the work.

So it does an executive no good to review budgets in meetings and whine about the budgets not being met. It does make a big difference to take away a person’s bonus because the goals weren’t met.

I worked in a company where the Chairman and CEO believed that the amount of Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) was a good metric to meet for some good reasons — and some weird ones. The metric was so critical to the CEO that it was named the “Chairman’s Metric” in the company. The metric was named for him because when two executives didn’t meet the DSO, the performance review reflected that and he took away the entire bonus for the executives. Millions of dollars of bonus.

You either changed your behavior, or you left. Because you were going to lose dollars on the performance review if you didn’t.

Budgets and performance reviews give executives control of a company. Understanding this dynamic will help you understand what needs to be done in your work to make things happen.

Any others?

By Scot Herrick -- 2 comments

December 5th, 2006

Budgets Control Companies

How do those executive types running a business get some level of control over the work being done in a corporation?

You’ve seen all those news stories about executives being parachuted in to come and save the day for the company, right? But how do they do it?

In my Pimp Opinion, there are two ways. The first one is Budgets.

Every business defines profit and loss and that happens through revenue and costs. Some effort is made on the revenue side, of course, through products and services. But getting control is a lot harder on the revenue side because the risk and fickleness of the customer.

But the cost side is relatively easy to get control over. It’s done through budgets. There are many opportunities here:

  • If you don’t like the program as an incoming executive, cut the budget for the program.
  • If you don’t want to add people, deny the job requisitions and cut the personnel budgets.
  • If you want to get managers to be creative, cut the budget across the board.
  • If you want everyone to know you’re serious about this, then review the budget numbers monthly with your direct reports. In detail.

You see, at the end of the day, budgets are really stories about what is being done in the business. It’s not just numbers, but what the numbers represent. It’s not $10 million. It’s implementing a new program that will reduce overall cycle time by 30% and the payoff compared to the $10 million is $30 million.

If you can’t tell your stories through your budget, you won’t be able to defend your actions in business. And if you want to get control of a business quickly, the first step is through defining the budgets.

How else can you get control of a business? I’ll have step two tomorrow.

By Scot Herrick -- 0 comments

December 1st, 2006

Innovation Culture

If you are a manager, how do you delegate work? Like, projects? Or strategies?

There are a couple of different approaches to the work that can be chosen. You can be a manager that explicitly lays out the steps that needs to be done and explain those steps to the individuals doing the work. There are advantages to this approach:

You are working with a new employee on the job and you will utilize the specific steps developed to implement to explain what is being done and why so that the employee learns.

You have no choice as a manager because your manager has laid out the steps for you to do and there is little, if any discussion about the steps.

If you think about this approach, there is virtually no ability to be creative or innovate in this type of environment. These…are…the…rules…and…you…will…follow…them…

Or, you can be the manager that lays out what needs to be accomplished through the project and then let the people doing the work figure out how it can be done. There are more advantages to this approach:

Since the end is defined and not the means, the individuals involved in the work can determine the best approach to the work, allowing for more creativity.

Since the individuals involved in the work create the best method of achieving the end, there is a much higher degree of ownership of the work.

I personally have a theory that says that creativity comes out of chaos, something that one of my better managers in my work life taught me. Too much structure stifles creativity.

If you’re Old Skool, you could almost say that the first approach is Theory X and the second approach is Theory Y on getting things done through people.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Define the goal. Leave the rest to your skilled workforce.

By Scot Herrick -- 0 comments