rainbow_elam_cr_1
Inspirational, Perseverance

Forget the rain, look for the rainbow

How do we compare Watanabe with English-speaking, noted people like Thomas Alva Edison, Hellen Keller, Stevie Wonder, and Nick Vujicik, among others. In case you’re not familiar with their names or may have forgotten them, let me describe their personal qualities:

Edison was a lightbulb and phonograph inventor who was known for his famous edict: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Keller is blind and deaf who became the first such person to earn a bachelor’s degree and later on became an author, political activist, and lecturer. In recent memories—Stevie Wonder, whose real name is Stevland Hardaway Judkins, is a blind musician, singer, song writer, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist who is best remembered for the 1972 hit “You are the Sunshine of my Life.”

While Vujicic is a modern-day Christian evangelist and motivational speaker who was born without arms and limbs.

Their stories have one important lesson in life. If you want to succeed, never mind the cloud and its accompanying rain. Instead, always look out for the rainbow. If there’s no rainbow, at least be satisfied that the rain watered the farm, filled-up our dams, and made frogs sing their favorite songs. Never mind how old the stories are, but it’s timeless, positively evoking lessons. It’s like applying old solutions to new problems.

Therefore, how do you persevere despite all odds, including age and physical limitations? In the words of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up!” Stay on course. Show commitment with relentless pride and positive energy in completing a task. Trying again and again and again like Watanabe who passed the bar exam after 17 attempts and Edison who learned 10,000 times from his failed experiments.

And of course, being patient as you work hard enough, day and night. That’s a common pattern when one tries to move forward. So the real questions—how do we explain the positive use of perseverance to our children. Well, at least, my wife can read Eric Carle’s “The Very Busy Spider” to our first grandson, Teo, now a 3.5 years old energetic, playful, and English-speaking pre-school boy.

The busy spider is one important lesson on perseverance. Don’t mind all the noises from literal and figurative animals. Spin your web to your heart’s content. Do your job and do it well. Fortunately, the world has a lot to offer. You can turn a problem into an opportunity or vice versa, depending on how you appreciate things.

NOTE: This article is a modified version of the author’s article in his Sep 4, 2016 “Beyond Buzzwords” column in The Manila Times. Image credit to http://www.missouriskies.org

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humility
Humility, Uncategorized

Humility is Better than Being Good or Great

“GOOD is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life,” so declares Jim Collins, a best-selling author, in his 2001 opus. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t.

Collins discusses many ideas about how organizations can become good to great. What strikes me the most, however, is you can become great, only if you’re humble. He calls it Level 5 Leadership – leaders who are humble, but driven to do what’s best for the company. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it is difficult to find humility among our corporate leaders. That’s why they’re not great.

It’s timely, indeed. Humility was the subject of yesterday’s gospel – Luke 14: 8-14 on the parable of wedding feast: “8When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.

“9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you —‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. “10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.

“11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Humility is difficult to understand because when people reach a certain status they tend to project themselves more in every situation and in every step of the way so that they will not lose sight of any imaginable status that they want in life.

In any situation, the seat or any location you’ll choose is the one that gives you a vantage point where you’re fronting the stage or the white screen (for any presentation) while at the same time you can have an easy eyeball-to-eyeball exercise with everyone.

To protect your territory from invaders, ensure that a disposable prop (like a thought-provoking bestseller that you bought from a book sale) to be on top of your desk or chair where you can leave them while you’re at the restroom.

The situation can be applied in a photo session. You know you are fingerling but you can prop yourself up like a mean shark by shunning the chairs. Instead, go upright behind the chairs and position yourself behind the chair at the center. It’s just like in a game of chess. The one who controls the center of the board would always win.

Now, you know why an average performer can’t be an excellent worker. That’s because it’s easy to become an average person than a great person.

NOTE: This article is an abridged version of the author’s article entitled “From Good to Great…to Being Humble” which was published in his Aug 29, 2016 Beyond Buzzword’s column in The Manila Times. Image credit goes to hub.n2growth.com  

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humor, Lean management, Waiting time

Patience is a virtue, but not when you’re at a fast food restaurant

waiting

YOU see it everywhere: at Jollibee, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chowking and anywhere you’re forced to wait for your food, beverage or whatever. At times, when I would be intimidated by my wife to wait at a bank, department store, or supermarket, I’d be 110 percent ready to make my time productive, so you’d see me reading Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”

Why not? It makes you feel justified with Tolstoy’s words: “Everything comes in time to him who knows how to wait.” However, there are 7,230 times that I would reject such false idea. Being an incurable student of work efficiency, I’m the first person to reject waiting as one of the most hateful problems in every situation. After all, waiting is a universal form of waste that robs customers on one hand, and the service provider or product manufacturer on the other, of opportunities.

Let’s study this carefully. When a customer sees a long line of customers in a restaurant, he is often confronted with four options: One is outright rejection of the situation, no matter how tasty the food is or how well the price of the merchandise on offer matches your budget. When you see a restaurant overflowing with customers, you move to a next-door competitor with fewer customers, even if they charge exorbitant rates at modest quality and quantity.

Two is to wait and reject. You enter the restaurant, join the queue, evaluate the situation, and if you feel like it’s a hopeless case, you leave the place with a smirk on your face, if not a dagger look at the unconcerned branch manager who’s checking updates on his Facebook page.

Three is related to number two above, except that you try to learn from a problem situation like that. You attempt to make a scientific analysis of things and the people around you. If there are four cash registers manned by four service crew members, with each line averaging at seven customers each, you literally and figuratively calculate the situation in your head.

You’re now occupying a queue with five customers ahead of you. Would you transfer to a shorter line or stay in line with those five who were ahead of you? Without thinking, the obvious answer is to move to a shorter line. The trouble is that – it’s not always the correct answer. Why not?

If you’re too shy to ask each person ahead of you for the volume of their order and the exact bills (it takes time to change P1,000 bill than P100), more often than not, you’ll use their age, appearance, and body shape to give you a clue on whether to move to another line or not.

For example, a late-40s management professional wearing decent clothes may order a set menu, plus a side dish and gives a P500 bill as payment. While a 20-year old college intern in her uniform may simply be satisfied for a one-piece chicken meal or plain hamburger, to be downed with a standard-size cola drink. She pays with a P100 bill, if not with an exact change, unless she fumbles looking for coins in her counterfeit Hello Kitty wallet.

But what if, the five customers (two males and three females) ahead of you are all heavyweights that approximate the size of Orca, the killer whale? If you’re not a fan of Animal Planet, chances are you know nothing about killer whales being alpha predators—meaning they are on top of the food chain and no one is interested in dealing or frolicking with them, much more in preying on them.

Would this little known fact push you to take your chance to reject a line of five Orcas in favor of a line composed of eight persons with average height, size, appetite and earning capacity?

Now, you know what I mean, except that what we know represents only one side of the clock (errr, coin). These fast food restaurants know what they’re doing best to reduce the customers’ waiting time.

That’s why you encounter student part-time crew members taking advance orders while you’re on the line during peak hours, among other waiting time reduction strategies.

Then you also wonder, among others, why Jollibee and McDonald’s use the multi-server (several cash registers) and multi-line (several customers queue) approach, compared with Starbucks’ single-server (one cash register) and multi-phase (one cash register and one order pick-up point)?

Which one is better in appeasing customers who have every right to vote with their feet?

SOURCE: This article was first published on June 13, 2016 by The Manila Times under the title “The Science of Waiting Time at a Fast Food.” Image credit goes to http://www.payscale.com

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Ford, Innovation, PDCA, Toyota

Copy, improvise, and innovate to become original

Manufacturers-target-innovation-but-fear-competitors

MY general thesis on innovation is that you can start many good things by improving the basic model so that you can come out with something new out of the old. There’s no such thing as instant success. You have to go, test, and improvise on something out of something.

No, it’s not about putting new wine into an old wineskin. Our six-million dollar question remains the same—is there a better way? It’s a companion question to Mark Twain’s catchphrase: “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Take Ford Motor’s Model T. When Henry Ford started the company in 1903, he built several car models intended for the middle class.

Ford started with Model A, then B, C, D until he reached Model S—totaling 19 prototypes until Model T was launched and became a hit to consumers for its mass appeal and affordability. In 1999, Model T was named the world’s influential car of the 20th century by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation.

Toyota, one of the world’s largest car makers, has short-circuited the process by copying and improving the achievements of other car brands. During its first few years of operations, Toyota admitted “copying the Chevrolet 65-horsepower straight-six, using the same chassis and gearbox with styling copied from the Chrysler Airflow,” according to toyoland.com.

Business history around the world is replete with case studies on how copying and improving on one’s basic model can become an imperative strategy. Another example is Xerox, the company that invented the photocopying machine in 1959 that its name became generic to consumers, like what you can imagine with Colgate and Coke, among other pioneering brands.

However, Xerox was beaten black and blue by Japanese brands like Canon and Ricoh, which produced their copiers much lower in cost while achieving the highest quality and delivered right on time to the customer. I don’t know how Canon and Ricoh made a coup and dominated Xerox’s market. But I will not be surprised if they used reverse engineering to disassemble and analyze the components and inner workings of a typical Xerox model toward the end of coming up with an improved version.

Theoretically speaking, you can find solace with educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy on how these global brands are making money by copying and improving one’s basic model. Dr. Bloom (1913-1999) said there are six types of learning: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating—the last one being the highest form of learning.

At the bottom of Bloom’s pyramid is “remembering,” like a simple recall of a buzzword or management principle, except that it is considered the lowest form of learning. Even if you can recall facts and define it in your own words, you can’t go places without “creating” something new out of the old, basic foundation.

A good example of this is the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) Cycle, which was copied by American genius and Japanese hero W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993), who improved the original concept of PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) which was created by his mentor Walter Shewhart (1891-1967).

Today, the PDCA Cycle has been refined several times over with the popular DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) for the Six Sigma approach of creating zero-defect products or services.

Now, how can you test this proposition of copying and improvising? Last week, I assigned one group of students to improve the ABCD formula that is being used by teachers, facilitators, and seminar presenters on how to come up with the best possible training curriculum.

ABCD stands for Audience, Behavior, Conditions, and Degree. You can check the internet for more details. As I’ve expected, that group composed of 19-year old kids came up with a better version of ABCD using the acronym ANSWER, which stands for Audience, Needs, Successes, Weaknesses, Effort, and Resources.

It became clear. In producing the best training plan, it’s best to use the ANSWER strategy created by young students rather than the ABCD Formula, which was formulated by people with doctorate degrees.

Getting these ideas out in the open give you the chance to become an expert in your own right.

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was right: “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery—it’s the sincerest form of learning.”

NOTE: This article first appeared in the May 23, 2016 issue of The Manila Times. The image is

from foodmanufacture.co.uk

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Lean management, Lean service, Security protocol

Redundant work is your first clue to downsizing

Picture1I’VE been seriously thinking how the security industry is making a killing in the civilian world. They’re taking advantage of their clients’ gullibility (or partnership in crime) by deploying as many guards as possible in and out, if not around our offices, shopping malls, office buildings, factories, and car parks. Even in the presence of CCTV cameras and electronic sensors, you wonder why human intervention by security guards is still needed.

When you enter a car park building, you’d be amused, if not annoyed at two control centers that will screen your body parts and car model. The first one is a computer monitor where you swipe your ID card and as soon as the aluminum boom is lifted, you’d be halted by a second control, this time by at least two guards who will ask your full name, inspect and record your car model and plate number – as if you’re trying to enter the Pentagon.

At grocery stores, you can see security guards checking your receipt and routinely compare it with the merchandise you’re bringing out, in their mindless attempt to mock the capacity of million-peso worth of electronic sensors that they say are nothing compared to face-to-face human control powered by a 12-hour work shift, which is a standard industry practice.

That’s not all. Almost every day, you can see traffic enforcers on the road, trying to justify their physical existence by vigorously waving their hands to motorists, unmindful of a well-functioning traffic light system. Sometimes, they have the bold capacity to make the automated lights irrelevant by waving a “stop” sign to motorists for no apparent reasons (like a screening ambulance carrying mentally-incapacitated politicos), when the green light is on, and vice-versa.

When you talk to these people, you’ll be met by a blank stare, and with a soft, almost in a calm voice, they’ll tell you – “it’s better to be despised than to have a security breach” or words with the same effect as if they’re potential heroes willing to sacrifice their lives and limbs to bring to justice a 62-year old terrorist.

Imagine that foolishness under the guise of a well-intentioned security protocol. But in truth, such cumbersome procedure, more than anything is displaying a ridiculous objective of getting as much money from customers, if not make their lives difficult. “No, these electronic sensors and CCTV cameras are not enough,” security agency personnel are wont to say.

That’s why you can see security overkill everywhere where a computer is pitted against manong (uncle) guard as if it’s an eternal, everyday duel between Deep Blue and world chess champion Gary Kasparov. Seriously, take it as a good example. How can human beings susceptible to fatigue, stress, and personal problems, among others win against today’s computers?

This is not to mention the thousands of people they’re screening every hour, every day contributing to the security guard’s fatigue.

Since the time of Deep Blue-Kasparov chess match in 1997, computer programs have progressed many times over to prove that machine can beat man, much more security personnel who are on their toes, 12 hours a day, and six days a week.

Extra processing is everywhere. It’s a detestable act, but many of you can’t understand them unless you remove your blinders. It’s similar in intensity to a mindless procedure of requiring a dozen signature in a government transaction worth less than P1,000. In the private sector, you can also see this happening in the approval procedure of an application for a one-day vacation leave of hapless workers, who must wait to secure the signature of at least three command-and-control, stupid bosses.

Theoretically, extra processing is a form of waste under lean management. It must be reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Why not?

Multiply over-processing to a good number of security personnel doing duplicate to triplicate jobs in several outposts or outlets, 30 days a month, 12 times a year and you’ll readily come out with millions of pesos down the drain or into the pockets of unprincipled office managers who are in the payroll of these equally immoral people from security agencies.

Of course, this is not a general indictment of those people, including those at the Ayala Center as shown in the above photograph. But in many cases elsewhere, we can’t help but think that some managers are simply imprudent and don’t know what they’re doing. Now, can you imagine this happening in thousands of government offices around the country?

NOTE: This article was first published on April 4, 2016 by The Manila Times.

 

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bigstock-Red-Heart-On-Wooden-Background-56485448-583x388
People management

Who’s right — employee or customer? But it’s not who’s right, it’s who is left with you

MAN IS  REASONABLE. If you treat your employees more than what they expect of you, they will reciprocate by treating your customers more than what they expect you to do. It is as simple as that. Progressive discipline has become obsolete in the 21st century workplace. If you’ll stick to the imposition of reprimand-suspension-termination procedural steps, chances are erring employees may even challenge you with the idea of bringing you to a court of justice, if not make things difficult for the organization in some ways.

Disgruntled employees can do a lot of things. They can sabotage business operations without you knowing it. Among other reasons, they can even copy product designs or customers’ database for some malevolent reasons.

Instead of progressive discipline, why not explore positive discipline where instead of giving suspension without pay, you allow erring employees to exhaust their vacation leave credits instead? Of course, you may find this as an extreme idea, unless you benchmark with other dynamic organizations on how they manage difficult employees.

Image source: http://www.skipprichard.com

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