Email is not a job

“Doing email” is not a job…OK?

It will never be in your job description, and along with essential activities like making coffee, taking toilet breaks, greeting your fellow workers, watering the office plants and refilling the coffee machine, you do not get paid for it. “Doing email” for several hours each day means you are wasting time. It’s the same as opening envelopes in the old days: instantly throwing out the junk; reading and filing FYIs and simple notifications; and putting the rest in your in tray for future action. This doesn’t take hours; it’s a task that should be done quickly and effortlessly, rapidly sorting wheat from chaff.

Your are however paid to communicate constructively with your colleagues, your customers and your suppliers. Imagine handwriting a letter to your most important customer. You think about the paper (120gsm, bond white), the pen (fountain pen, royal blue ink), take care with your script, sign your name with an elegant flourish. A lot more care and attention than you employ when wielding the letter opener and skimming inbound correspondence. A bit more effort and positive thought than the sigh, scrunch and toss elicited by yet another conference advertorial / stationery catalogue / (insert favourite junk mail item).


Why is it when you sit down “doing email” for hours each day you include writing critical communication in this activity. “thanks”; “ok”; [delete]; and then a casually defensive reply to a customer complaint, oops another one just popped up, yes I would like pizza for lunch, no it wasn’t our fault you must be mistaken.

Be honest with yourself. Your email has become poly-filler for your calendar, expanding foam in your brain. It has swollen to fill all available thinking time, making you very, ahem, busyjust remember, email is not a job!


Strategic Initiatives

January is the time for making commitments, setting resolutions, designing a better you. Thinner, faster, smarter, stronger, kinder, healthier, richer. Reflection, dreaming, then planning. Trim all the things you don’t like, and where once there were gaping holes in your physique, psyche, pathology, you will soon have a whole wardrobe full of shining new capabilities!

Companies set resolutions too, dressed up as strategy. Strategic Initiatives they are often called – a concept which in the corporate lexicon has come to carry pretty much the same weight as the good old fashioned New Year Resolution.

Strategic, coming from strategy, meaning it’s somehow part of your plan. Initiative, from initiate, hinting you might be starting something. So does that make a Strategic Intiative :
a) something at the start of your plan;
b) the start of your planning; or
c) a brain fart in the key of B flat announcing to the world that you are planning to start your planning process to deliver the world’s greatest plan?

The Great Euphemism

Or is the phrase “Strategic Initiative” really just fancy words for “important stuff we need to get done”? The thing is, your staff and customers know what’s important because that’s where they see you spending your time, energy and $$$…not where you are paying lip service. So if you come up with a good idea for improving profit, making more sales, making your customers or staff happier, don’t just talk about it, or give it a fancy title, or plan it out; DO! Because even the world’s best PowerPoint presentation won’t effect change in your business – only you can do that!

Serve Us… please


Q: How do you know when your customers are happy?
A: We measure our service and we’re at 99.9%

Q: But how do you know if this makes your customers happy?
A: Well they must be. We answer 98.2% of queries within 24 hours.

Q: But does this mean they are happy?
A: Well sure it does. We measure ourselves, and we’re doing a pretty good job. The reality is that our customers don’t really know what they want. So we give them what they need.

Sometimes customers expect miracles. But most of the time they just want your product or service to be what you told them it would be. And that’s what they think you told them – not what you thought you said. They have expectations, built on what they understood you promised, their previous experience and what they see in the market place. This may not be be fair, but if they are expecting something that you are not delivering, the seed of dissatisfaction is sown.


The thing about service is that only the recipient can determine if they’ve received it or not. It doesn’t matter what your metrics say, how many cases you open and then close each day. If they’re not happy, they’re not happy. You can’t “metric” your way to good service and happy customers. Only your customers can tell you if they are happy.

At some point in time, your current customers voted for you, and handed you the privilege of servicing them. They were wooed, promised, convinced, persuaded. Perhaps they even piloted your service, and found that it tasted good. Sooner or later, they will vote again, with their feet. When the worm of public opinion starts to turn, and crowd behavior takes over, you’ll be left with a great service, meeting all of your internal metrics, that no-one wants to buy.


Analyst’s Rule… ok

One of the greatest inventions of the modern computing era is the humble spreadsheeting program. This tool gives high end mathematics, statistics, accounting and finance power to ordinary everyday office workers, enabling them to access levels of knowledge and understanding that was previously off limits to them. Said differently, it puts WOMDs in the hands of those simply unqualified to use them.

With the power of spreadsheets I can understand and model the present, and then predict the future. If I just continue the line on the chart, it’s like my 10 year old on a skate board ramp – it just keeps going up. If I add 1, and 1, and 1, and 1 surely I get to 15 eventually. And if we do 7% per annum over 10 years, that’s like 70%. And the margin just gets better every year, cos our programmes will save 10%.

Man, this business is really going places – my spreadsheet tells me so. And I really trust my model, cos I spend all day with him. He even has a name – WorldsGreatestBusiness.xls. WGB and I have such a deep connection… I really trust my model.

We do simply everything together. Sometimes it’s like WGB knows what I’m thinking even before I do! With WGB at my side, I am the font of all knowledge. I know what happened, and what’s going to happen. On average, (that’s AVERAGE($me$1:$u$99), WGB tells me you’re lousy at your job. And the sum of my performance (SUM($then$1:$now$1)) is really good…oh hang on, WGB absolutely relatively screwed up. Just give me a minute and I’ll drag him in to line. Control See, Control Vee, that will do it. Now I’m even better than before. Oh, and your average is still average.

What’s really cool is that WGB and I have been putting this model together all day. If you give me another week we’ll be able to play with the colors, the thickness of the lines, the scale and make it look like you didn’t lose so much money last month. It really helps those that can’t understand the numbers; they can just follow the colours. Especially when I copy it to a slide for you – the numbers are a bit hard to see, but you can see the general trends….

Don’t question my data, don’t question my model. Analysts rule… ok?

You’re a micro, micro man…

Micro, Micro Man,
I’ve got to be, a Micro Man
Micro, Micro Man,
I’ve got to be a Micro

Micro is the new Macho. In the month of Movember, how cool would it be to have a Micro Manager with a thick Macho moustache!

Awesome. Someone to tell me when to breathe. When to read each email. How to respond. My very own Micro Man will disempower me, relieving me of the terrible burden of decision making. Liberating me. I would no longer need to think, because Micro Man does all the thinking for me.

The best thing about having my own Micro Man is that if I were to do something well, the credit would go to him, standing beside me all the way. If I screw something up, obviously that’s because I’m too stupid to follow the instructions given to me.

The more Micro Men we have in the world, the more mindless idiots we can employ. By giving them a home, we will have no room for those troublesome, free thinking innovative types. With a Micro Man, I can leave most of my intellect and energy at home. It’s simply not needed in the office anymore. I would be so task focussed, without the distraction of solving problems, innovating, or doing anything other than what Micro Man tells me. Every day I would live to bring glory to Micro Man, carrying out his instructions with discipline and diligence.

Micro Man. The key to predictability in the office, with everyone following his instructions. Suffocate innovation, diversity and free thinking. Get yourself a Micro Man today.

Entitlement complex

entitlement complex noun A state of thinking you deserve something, just because you’re you

It’s amazing how regularly this condition can be observed in business. Commonly observed in the narcissistic manager, entitlement complex is a frequent ingredient in failure.

“I deserve to be promoted, I’ve been here the longest.”

“We should have got that sale, we’ve been supplying XYZ Co for over 10 years”

“We’re pretty smart, we know our operation. We should be able to save 10% on our costs.”

Special, Talented You
Everyone knows you’re special, you have talent. You could do anything you put your mind to. Unfortunately entitlement complex leaves you thinking that you deserve success. Because you’re smart. Because you’re experienced. Attractive. Gifted. Surrounded by good people. Representing a good brand. Bred from good stock.

Where does success come from?
Success comes from having a vision, constructing a credible plan to achieve your vision, and then executing. Not wiggling your nose in a bewitching way. Not believing you’re good, but actually doing. Sales occur when you understand your customer’s needs, and deliver a proposal which addresses them. Cost reduction comes from identifying specific areas of your operation, and working on them to remove cost. Successful product development occurs when you understand what the market wants, and build something to address those desires. You get promoted because you develop skills desirable to your employer.

If you find yourself thinking you deserve something, just because you’re you, you’ve probably already lost. Go back to basics, and work out from first principles how you got where you are today. Chances are you earned it!

An allegory of bees…

Spring time can mean swarming bees. A wandering queen with an army of loyal workers looking for somewhere to set up shop. A safe place? A secure place? Close to nectar, a productive place? Makes you wonder about the power of choices in business.

The choice?

With every decision, business leaders face the choice to build, or the choice to tear down. A decision to build takes the business forward, creating the best environment for
workers to make honey. Changing direction, excising dead parts of the hive, or giving constructive feedback to a worker. These all take the business forward.

A decision made without Vision always takes the business backwards. Random cutting in the face of market challenges tears the business down. Typically the leader without vision will cut the parts of the business he/she least understands, and defend the comfortable home patch. The Sales guy doubles down on front end resources, the ops guys invests in productivity improvement, the Finance leader needs more Analysts. The narcissistic leader invests in his own future.

Just like the Queen Bee, the true leader has the long term interest of the hive at heart, and will direct the workers accordingly.

What many Leaders fail to realize is how often they are presented with these decisions. With every staff interaction, there is opportunity to build, or to tear down, whether those interactions are in formal reviews, chance encounters by the water cooler, or via written communiques. With every strategy decision, the leader either builds or breaks down. With every funding decision, the business goes forward or backward. Indecision, or the choice not to act will inevitably be a decision to break down.

What breaks a business down?

Poor strategy. Failure to address external market conditions. Not realizing your customers have moved on,and you are now failing to delight them. Bad culture within your organization. Cynicism within your workforce.

When faced with the choice, choose to build, not tear down. Your people, your processes, your products, your culture, your technology base. Take the business forward, don’t kill it.