Got Products? – now create experiences!

Male hiker on mountainIt is becoming widely recognised that when people buy products or services they are really buying an experience. What people buy has attributes that are associated with functional consequences that have psychological (emotional) consequences that are ultimately tied to underlying personal values [Gutman, Reynolds and Olsen]. In short that’s an experience either anticipated or realised. Experiences may be intrinsic in either a product or a service but, more often, the best experiences will arise from a combination of both.

So, if you are a provider of either a pure product or service then there is an opportunity to improve the overall experience for your customers by adding the missing half of the equation. In this article I will be focusing on value-add services for products. If there is sufficient interest I might write an extension piece to consider productising services. In either case, the main goal is to take a holistic view of the customer journey and the touch-points along it. These all provide opportunities for learning and potential improvement.

“To understand the man, you must first walk a mile in his moccasin.” – Native American proverb

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Getting Lean – it’s about more than just waste

Zen, bamboo, flowing waterLean is often regarded as simply targeting cost reduction through the elimination of waste. A quick-win approach may focus on eradicating the prime culprits in a piecemeal fashion at the tactical or, often, operational level. However, this was not the original intent and the need to regain a more strategic perspective seems obvious. For a more impactful and sustainable result a broader systems thinking approach should be adopted; one that integrates Lean principles with those of project, program and change management.

“Improvement usually means doing something that we have never done before.” – Shiego Shingo

 It’s not simply about eliminating waste (muda); that’s just an easy place to start. Overburdening (muri) people, systems and equipment is an important consideration since it correlates with issues in health, safety, quality and reliability. This is where many of the frustrations and problems associated with the workplace reside. Standardising outputs and processes can help reduce the flow of material and information to optimum levels but must be supported by systems and infrastructure. Variability (mura) in flow results in a system being designed to accommodate the peaks and, therefore, introduces waste when operating below this level. This is usually countered by implementing a pull-based ‘just-in-time’ system. However, whilst it is desirable to design a system for regular, predictable workflow this may be quite difficult outside of a manufacturing environment. Regardless, it should be easy to see that all three ‘M’s (muda, muri and mura) are interconnected and need to be treated holistically.

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Virtual Teams – getting them to gel

Two RobotsWith an even-increasing number of telecommuters and part-time workers operating in a growing global market place and with organisations and alliances becoming ever more geographically dispersed, working with or within virtual teams is becoming increasingly commonplace.

Recently I was involved in a Facebook debate where a friend had asked for some advice about keeping up morale, focus and momentum in a dispersed workforce that currently constitutes her entire business. I thought it might be interesting to elaborate on my initial short-form response and additionally incorporate a few of the other views that surfaced in that discussion.

Managing teams that are geographically dispersed and, therefore, primarily dependent on electronic means of communication has many challenges but most of these seem to stem from a single core issue – enabling effective collaboration. In this article I will take a quick look at a few critical areas that need to be addressed for your virtual team to gel.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” – Babe Ruth (Baseball Hall of Fame)

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Beyond the T-Shape – into the cave

25775188_mlHiring managers can be prone to think vertically when trying to fill a capability gap. They think in terms of specialist skills and alignment with existing or hypothesised silos. Despite a common requirement to collaborate and operate in a cross-disciplinary fashion, historically, a search for these important skills and behaviours has been given less attention than it deserves.

About ten years ago, Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, resurrected the notion of the T-shaped person and embedded it into IDEO’s recruiting and talent retention culture. He asserts that innovation needs T-shaped people and I agree with his sentiment although I also feel that it is a bit more complicated than that.

The T-shape model has two parts and refers to two important characteristics. The vertical line relates to depth of expertise, whilst the horizontal line relates to collaborative and integrative behaviours. The model assumes a two-dimensional construct where there is only one domain of expertise, only one vertical line.

My view is that it might be more useful to consider multiple levels of expertise that are developed in different domains to varying degrees of depth at different times and with varying longevity or relevance. This would yield a 3D model consisting of a time-series of T-shapes, of potentially different sizes, that would create a kind of stalactite effect.

“If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Smarter Devices, Dumber Users

14119236_mlAnticipatory computing – the buzz is growing louder but how much do we need it? Despite the ubiquitous mobile device and it’s plethora of tools for building to-do lists, recording memos, managing our appointments and alerting us about all manner of anniversaries, there still seems to be an emerging market for helping us remember even less ourselves.

Thankfully, in addition to that pressing concern, there are more meaningful ways in which predictive computing is being used in mobile devices. Primarily, these tools tend to focus on helping us manage our ever-complex, time-poor lives by personalizing our information streams and thereby uncluttering the process of finding that most relevant of data morsels. In this article I’ll take a quick poke around to see what’s been happening in this space.

 “It is one thing to use computers as a tool, quite another to let them do your thinking for you.” – Tom Clancy

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Performance Management – Coach or Counsel?

13283719_mlOne of the key responsibilities of both managers and leaders is to encourage and enable peak performance in our teams. From time to time the journey towards this goal will undoubtedly founder upon the rocks of incompetence and low commitment. When this happens the problem is quite likely to be rooted in matters of alignment, accountability and the supporting ecosystem. However, there will often be times when an individual will benefit from, or simply need, focused personal, coaching or counseling. Tackling this early is critical. Doing it right even more so.

“The test of an organisation is not genius. It is its capacity to make common people achieve uncommon performance.” – Peter Drucker

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