Friday, 11 October 2019

10 Years Learning

If I do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that job in 30 minutes.  You owe me for the years, not the minutes.

Knowledge is an intangible product, yet we need it to run our businesses and lives.

We think little of paying doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers or other “professionals” for the results of their knowledge.  This is because we get some benefit from their activities: better health, advice on behaving properly, tax returns, machines that work, for example.  

We hesitate, however, to pay advisers or consultants.  Just as with doctors and the other professionals above, these people will often have spent years acquiring knowledge that can be applied.  Like a good car mechanic, they may provide a “simple fix” in terms of what’s needed, but it’s the knowledge acquired over all those years that allows them to provide that “simple fix”.  

I heard an amusing story about a factory whose machinery broke down, meaning that the factory couldn’t operate and earn money.  No one at the factory could fix the machinery, so in the end they called in someone who, after examining every inch of the machinery, turned a screw and restored production.

When asked for his bill, he presented one for $5,001.00.  One being asked for a breakdown of this seemingly “excessive” charge, he responded as follows:

Turning screw:
$       1.00
Knowing which screw to turn:
$5,000.00  
Total:
$5,001.00

We need to remember that, if someone solves a problem that we can’t due to our lack of expertise, then we pay for the expertise that they’ve taken years to acquire.  If we don’t want to pay, then we need to acquire that knowledge ourselves and put in the time and effort involved.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website  provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Consumer Demand is Key

I’ve just updated my iPhone iOS to the latest version.  One of the developer’s claims is that it makes the built-in “Reminders” (To Do List) function more user-friendly.  Frankly, I don’t see it.

I’ve been using a third-party app to manage my To Do lists Body ever since I switched from a PC to a Mac.  Microsoft’s Outlook was, in my opinion, one of the best To Do list managers I’d ever encountered, and I miss it!  Microsoft do include it in their Office for Mac Suite, but synchronisation is almost non-existent.  The problem with using third-party To Do list apps on an Apple device is that they rely on synchronising through Apple’s Reminders app.  The reason I use third-party To Do list apps is that they allow me much more flexibility, in particular to:
  • Allocate start AND end dates to tasks;
  • Sort To Do lists by start date, due date, priority, etc;
  •  Build To Do lists either by “category” (e.g. “Business”, “Personal”) or by when they’re scheduled (e.g. Today, next 7 days, etc);
  • Set tasks as “repeating” or “recurring” (i.e. to repeat at regular intervals);
  • Build “Smart Lists” based on what I need (e.g. Today, next 7 days, etc).
Apple’s Reminders are simply a list of tasks that need to be done with the ability to:
  • Prioritise;
  • Set an alarm to say when they’re due;
  • Aggregate lists into groups (useful for project management?);
  • Sort by category (e.g. “Business”, “Personal”) 
  • Synchronise across my desktop, tablet and smartphone;
  • Functionality for sorting start date, due date, priority, etc is limited.
Depending on the user, this may be all that is required.  I would love it if Apple could develop a To Do list that worked for me (and, I’m sure countless others like me).  Many of us don’t manage our lives on a “just-in-time” basis, and with some tasks one needs to be able to set a time period lasting a number of days (particularly for lower-priority tasks that should be done, for example “sometime next week”.

There are a lot of Task Managers or To Do Apps out there, but what is key is user experience.  For me, a “good” Task Manager app will allow me to:
  • Create custom lists by group;
  • Create “Smart Lists” based on my own criteria; 
  • Set start and end dates;
  • Prioritise;
  • Set recurring tasks;
  • Set alarms for particular tasks;
  • Add notes to a task to remind me why it’s being done, or what I need to remember while doing it;
  • Synchronise across my desktop, tablet and smartphone.
We always need to be thinking about our product or service: 
  • Is it doing what users want?
  • Could we do it better?
  • Is it available at the right time, place and price?
  • Can we fix it if it goes wrong?
  • What will they want in the future? 
If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, how do we fix it?


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website  provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Tuesday, 17 September 2019

I recently encountered a classic case of the story of “Everybody, Anybody, Somebody and Nobody”.  For those who don’t know it, it goes something like this:

“There were four people called Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.  The boss wanted something done and made a general announcement to them about it. Everybody thought that Somebody would do it.  Frankly, Anybody could have done it, but in the end Nobody did it.  The boss was angry – after all, he had told Everybody. 

Anybody could have done it.  Everybody thought Somebody (just not them) would do it but didn’t appreciate that Nobody would probably do it.  Equally, Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it… In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Anybody could have done it.” The moral is that, if the message or its delivery are confusing, nothing gets done.  Simply going out and making a “general announcement” won’t work.  Whom do we blame when things don’t get done? Every(body) has the perfectly legitimate excuse that they thought somebody else would do it and it wasn’t made clear that they themselveswere actually responsible. I have two standard questions when someone says that something “must” or “needs to” or “should” be done:
  1. In the case of it being my manager, I ask whom they want to make responsible which then clears the way forward (even if it’s me);
  1. In the case of someone in a group (or one of my reports) making the announcement whether they will take the lead on it.   If they don’t reply, it’s a case of them thinking that somebody else will do it…
We tend to get caught up the heat of the moment as managers and go into “destructive delegation” mode.  When delegating, we need to explain:
  • What needs to be done
  • Why
  • Who is expected to do it
  • By when
  • With what support
  • Within which limits of authority
It also helps to follow up from time to time over the duration of the project to make sure all is proceeding on course and that no nasty surprises are lurking. Our team will appreciate it, things will be clear and will get done.  Everyone will be happier.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services. For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Thursday, 12 September 2019

Customer Pet Peeves

As customers, we will usually find, at some point, that we need to contact a business’ “Help Desk”.  From many customers who’ve had to do this, one “pet peeve” emerges.

This is that the so-called “Help Desk” doesn’t actually “help”.  Often, it’s an online function (with no phone number”).  When customers send an email request help, the response is either a list of websites which may be able to answer the question (but often don’t), or customers are faced by a phone system automated (it seems) to drive them away.

The organisations that “get it right” are those that have trained people able to ask the questions needed to diagnose problems and then propose solutions, on the phone or online. Their challenge is dealing with customers who are not always able to articulate the problem clearly.  

We’re often faced with this problem: the customer needing help but who can’t say exactly what, whilst on the business’ side, the set-up may not be geared to this situation.  The response system has to flex between catering for those who can do independent research, or for those who need their “hand held”.  Addressing only one part of the audience necessarily in dissatisfaction.

It ends up with “knowing our customers” and their preferred approach.  Some businesses aim their product/service at those who are happy to go online in the new “generational paradigm” that teaches younger people to search online for answers that, in the past, were the preserve of “experts”.  Others understand that certain elements of their customer base may lack the online research capabilities and inclination of others.  

Whichever the case, we still deal with a wide range of abilities and inclinations.  Whether those then become the subject of “peeves” is up to us.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services. For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Price vs Value

“Price is what you pay, value is what you get” says Warren Buffet. As our world finds it increasingly easier to copy and “commoditise” products and services, the emphasis tends to be on price only.  

The great thing about this is that consumers are finding there’s more competition for their money and that process are falling in many areas.  The bad thing is that, if you make something cheaper, something’s “gotta give” and usually it’s either service or quality of product or service.

The expectation is that the more you pay, the better product or service you get.  A simple illustration is between flying on a Low-Cost Carrier (LCC) vs First Class on (say) Singapore Airlines.  The experience for travellers will be completely different. Complaints about LCC service (or lack of) on LCCs abound, but we don’t hear many about the service or experience on Singapore Airlines First Class.  

Price also sets expectations.  If someone is paying (what they consider) a higher price, they expect more value in terms of the product or service they receive.  If Singapore Airlines First Class did not deliver the experience its passengers wanted for the price they were paying (a lot), the airline would find travellers shifting to the competition (and there’s plenty out in Singapore). 

I’ve recently read several comments on the quality of the product of a certain well-known, high-end audio equipment manufacturer.   The problem here is expectationsengendered by price as well as (in this case) the vendor’s prior history of quality results.  This illustrates well the trap that many fall into (both buyer and supplier).

Having been lucky enough to experience Business and First Class travel (not with Singapore Airlines)., I can safely say that the experience to what I am accustomed to in Economy is truly different. Apart from the wider seats and increased leg room, the food, service and amenities are totally different.  The traveller also gets the benefit of using a Business Class Lounge in which to relax before the flight as well as priority boarding at the departure gate.  So, I got “value”.  

The problem comes with the conflicting agenda of price vs value.  People seem to want low prices, but high value.  Given the training and investment needed to provide a superior product or service, this generally isn’t possible.  However, we still see negotiators pressing for a lower price, and then expressing surprise at the result.  

How to make sure we, as providers, don’t fall into the price/value/expectations trap?  We need to know:
  • What our customers want and expect
  • What they’re willing to pay for it
  • Whether we’re still delivering what they expect

Reaction time to correcting any perceived problems thrown up by the above issues and our success in doing so is what will differentiate us from the competition.  If we're getting it right, our customers won't want to change us.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services. For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610

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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Destructive Delegation Styles

We delegate for a number of reasons: ideally to free ourselves up for more value-added work and to develop skills in team members. These are good reasons to delegate - they result in more value-added to the organisation and to the individual. We also need to bear in mind that we are simply physically incapable of doing everything ourselves. 

However, I repeatedly see instances of what I call “Destructive Delegation” (delegation for the wrong reasons). 

1.    “Drive-By” Delegation: 
Like the “drive-by” shootings of gangster films, this involves the manager stopping briefly at a team member’s desk and delegating a project or task without ensuring that they fully understand the background, results expected and any limits on authority. 

Result: task is done poorly or doesn’t include sufficient information.  Manager and team member stressed.

When this works: with well-trained and experienced people who know how you work and the general background of what’s going on in the organisation, its business and customers. This means investing time in them up front.  The “trained whale” doesn’t exist.  Also works with tasks people have done several times before.


2.    Delegation by Default: 
Usually because the boss keeps things to themselves until they realise, at the last minute, that they can’t do it and drop it on someone else’ desk (using “Drive-By” Delegation techniques).

Result: all the manager has done is pass their impossible deadline to someone else. Task is done poorly or doesn’t include sufficient information.  Manager and team member stressed.

When this works: it doesn’t. 


3.    Delegation by Delivery/Messenger: 
Passing on a delegated task via a staff who may also not be able to supply necessary background/info... “The boss asked me to ask you to...”

Result: task is done poorly or doesn’t include sufficient information.  Team member confused.  Manager and team member stressed.

When this works: with well-trained and experienced people who know how you work and the general background of what’s going on in the organisation, its business and customers. This means investing time in them up front.  The “trained whale” doesn’t exist.


4.    Delegation by Mind-Control: 
 “This has always been done by this job…” - but did anyone tell them?

Result: task usually hasn’t been done because no one took the time to explain.  Manager and team member stressed.

When this works: with well-trained and experienced people who know the other person’s job, how they work, the general background of what’s going on in the organisation, its business and customers. This means investing time in them up front.  The “trained whale” doesn’t exist.


5.    Delegating “Don’t Likes”:
When people delegate the jobs they don’t like, or the ones they consider beneath them, because “they’re the boss”.  

Result: team members resent the manager, morale and productivity fall, people resign or transfer to other teams.

When this works: there’s a fine line between “don’t likes” or “what is beneath us” and delegating because someone else can do it better or because we need to free ourselves for a more value-added task.


6.    Delegating to Divert:
When people delegate jobs they consider too "risky" in order to be able to blame "someone else" when things go wrong.  

Result: team members resent the manager, morale and productivity fall, people resign or transfer to other teams.

When this works: one of the most toxic ways of delegating that soon gets seen for what it is.


How do we avoid situations, which could result in demoralised team members, stressed managers, falling productivity and perhaps poor customer service?  

Train people.  No team member is ever “fully trained” from day 1 (despite what Hollywood thinks).  

Job descriptionsfor team members should include what tasks are done / delegated from above or “covered” …

Regular Team Briefingsso everyone knows what’s going on.  These should be 30 minutes long, have a fixed agenda and be held standing up so no one stays longer than necessary and stays alert.  It also improves health. *

Coach team members: delegate, but ensure they have what they need and review the task after to see how it could be done better.

Understand their strengths and weaknesses.  Not everyone is good at everything (even us managers).  Play to their (and our) strengths.

Cross-train– so everyone knows at least one other job.  The military do this all the time.

Never assume anything– particularly with new staff.

Read books on how to delegate.

If we find we’re on the “receiving end”: we need to talk to our manager.  Without criticising their management style (of which they may not be aware…), we could suggest how to “improve” things be means of the strategies above.

When taking over a job, never assume we’ve been given all the information.  People forget.  Ask questions about other colleagues covered, training available, where to get information.

* Apparently, we burn 50 calories per hour of standing.  That may not sound much, but if we stand for three hours a day for five days that's around 750 calories burnt. Over 1 year that’s almost 40,000 extra calories.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services. For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.
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Tuesday, 13 August 2019

All About Timing

People talk about the “4 Ps” of marketing: Product, Pricing, Promotion and Place.  A critical 5thelement to me is “Punctuality” (or “Pronto”?) - the timing of the delivery of the product/service. 

My wife and I recently visited a local small business that sells delicious lunch boxes or snacks to get our midday meal.  On entering at around 12:30pm, we noticed that the shelves were, to put it mildly, bare. We asked the assistant if we were too late and whether they’d sold out. 

To our surprise, she answered that their lunch deliveries usually came in at 1:30pm. To us, this seemed strange – why would you stock up just as the lunch hour is starting to come to an end?  There’s a large number of restaurants and other food outlets in the area, so this particular place didn’t exactly have a monopoly of the local lunch trade, and yet here they were putting themselves at a major disadvantage. 

Another business specialised in food delivery to homes.  The trouble was, the food took a long time to reach the home and, when it arrived, it was cold.   

In each case, both businesses had identified a problem in the market, their ideas were sound, but the execution in terms of timing was poor. 

When people buy something, they want it as soon as possible (even if it’s something that takes a few days to ship over).   “Delayed gratification” isn’t what they’re looking for. If we can’t provide it when they want it, they’ll go to someone who can. 

I felt very sorry for the young lady who served us on this occasion.  She clearly saw the problem, but there was little she could do about it. 

Lesson for us all, make sure we get the “timing” right.  If we don’t, the competition will…



I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services. For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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