Have we become too connected?

I was at a presentation by GVTC last week where they were discussing the possibility of running fiber to the homes in Fair Oaks Ranch. See, many of the homes in the city are very spread out and it just hasn’t been cost effective for companies to provide better connectivity to the homes. The thing is, many influencial and well-to-do families live in Fair Oaks and many are grumbling.

At the presentation, GVTC had a picture of a home and they were discussing how much bandwidth a typical house might consume. They were estimating an average of six devices that are wirelessly connected. I started to count: 2 cell phones, 2 tablets, 5 computers, 2 printers, 4 repeaters, 2 game stations, 6 tvs, 2 watches, 5 door locks, 2 thermostats, 6 smoke detectors, 1 CO2 detector, 1 scale, 1 weather station, 1 pulse monitor, 2 keyboards, 2 mice, and a router. That’s almost 50 items connected either by WiFi or Bluetooth technology and I’m probably missing something.

The thing is that there isn’t any intelligence behind these connections.  All of these connections and, in reality, we are as unconnected as possible. Have we become too connected and is it getting quickly out of control. I have also considered things like a connected refrigerator, washer, and dryer, and getting the security system and pool controls connected as well. Where does it end and when do we start thinking about how connected we really are?

Consider social media. Today there are many avenues to leverage social media–channels if you will. People trying to leverage social media find it a bit overwhelming. Wala, Hootsuite is an example of trying to control all your social media via one hub. But the ways we communicate via social media really are limited.  The channels are finite, so it is easy to create a hub for it…well, easier.

How do we establish control of our connectivity in our house and at work. How do we make our lives more effective by leveraging a connection hub of sorts with all of our Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity? How do we build systems that effectively handle all the bandwidth associated with this connectivity? How do we protect ourselves in this uber-connected world? And how do we simply make sense of it all so when it breaks, it is easy to fix?

Questions I pose the connected universe…


Mentor or Coach

Over lunch a couple of days ago, we were discussing the subject of mentors and coaches and started to highlight the difference in the roles. Sometimes people can seemlessly operate in both roles at once, so the roles do not seem distinctly different, but they are.

We discussed a few items that seem to differentiate the two roles:

One of the items was Blind Spots. Coaching is designed to identify blind spots, where mentorship is more designed to overcome blind spots once identified. Sometimes the coach can guide the coachee in ways to overcome the blind spot, while in other situations they might recommend they obtain training or a mentor.

Another item was Proximity. Coaches are generally involved with what they are coaching you on, whereas a mentor is someone you mostly meet with to discuss things with. Coaches tend to actively participate in the thing they are coaching you on so they can witness your actions and provide advice and direction if improvement is needed.

Another item was Selection and Appointment. Although some organizations have more formal mentorship programs, generally coaching relationships are formal and assigned for a specific reason. Mentors are normally sought out to discuss and close a gap.

When we were discussing the subject, we discussed two different types of coaches–Lean Six Sigma and Executive. Both of these are very specific roles where an individual is involved with what is going on in a coachee’s life. In Lean Six Sigma, for example, the coach is engaged with every step of a coachee’s project,  guiding them in the application of the skills they should have learned already. If the coach recognizes that the coachee has difficulty in running meetings or presentations, they might suggest that the coachee obtain additional training in those areas. If the coach notices that the coachee has trouble with time management, they might suggest establishing a mentorship relationship with someone that they know is particularly good at time management. If the coach is good at time management, they might quickly switch into that mentor role, but this is outside of the original coaching arrangement.

This is why people often see coaches and mentors as the same thing–they can cover more areas than what they are specifically coaching for. In the case of an executive coach, the coach might be able to provide all kinds of advice and assistance on leadership and employee motivation. However, they probably would suggest the executive have a mentor if the coachee is trying to learn how to navigate the company’s culture toward promotion.

When you think about the roles, this should help you better delineate what each does and which you need.

Are You Easy To Do Business With?

Bubble CloudThis Voice of the Customer (VOC) question comes up often…

What does “Easy to do business with” really mean to your customer?

It’s all about the interaction from the customer’s point of view.  Answer these questions and you will better understand how easy you are to do business with and this should lead you to creating the right measures to monitor your ease in the future:

  • Do I (Customer) interact with you (Company) in my channel of choice or in your channel of choice?
  • How long does my interaction with you actually take–how much of my time are you taking up?
  • Do you get our interaction right the first time and if you do not, how do you handle it?
  • Do you know me and what I want when we interact, or do I have to keep repeating myself?
  • Do I initiate the interaction when I need to or do you initiate the interaction when you know I should?
  • Do you interact with me in the right amount, too little, or too much?
  • Is my interaction with you always consistent?
  • Do you force me to interact with you in ways that I do not want to?

Understanding the answers to these questions can provide significant insight into this question.

I would enjoy hearing other questions from the customer’s point of view that you feel are key.

Being Agile


This is quickly becoming the management buzzword of 2015. Just another magic pill for industry to improve what they do with what they believe is little work.

Agile, as a process (yes folks, it is normally a process), usually starts in an organization with IT in software development. Soon after companies get the “agile bug” and they want everything to be agile. Lean quickly becomes the Agile way to be.

Agile, by itself, is just a word describing a state of being. I’m sure there are many definitions, but in its basic sense, Agile is being able to adjust, change, or respond quickly. It’s being resilient and flexible. Agile approaches are based on quick incrimental iterations. Agile, at its core, is organic and a state of being, not a program.

How do you become Agile?

Look at how you are organized and how you make decisions in your company. Is your company fairly flat and accepting of risk or do decisions need to be collaborated up through many levels and do they take a long time to obtain approvals?

Does your system, to get things done, have to go through annual processes with multiple approvals and significant roadblocks, or are employees empowered at the lowest levels to embark on projects when needed to make things happen?

Do you focus on managing change (I e., reactive) or are your employees ready and actively looking for change opportunities and making them happen?

Agile cannot become the way you are without significantly addressing your culture and operating models. If you are slow to make decisions and change as a company and if you are reactive to changes after they occur, then you are not Agile.

Employing Agile methodologies like Agile Software Development or Lean are only programs…they do not make you Agile as a company.

Being Agile means fundamentally changing everything about your company…

Will that work for your company’s culture?

Professional Interview Tip: Weakness

Job-Interview-Tips-and-adviceForbes recently published a great article that outlines the five primary questions you will hear in an interview and how to answer them.


It’s a good article and I find the five to be spot on having been on both sides of the interviewing table.

I wanted to share an idea regarding discussing weaknesses (see the article).

Weaknesses for people are often hard to identify because they become blind spots to us. If you haven’t ever taken a personality assessment like Myers-Briggs, DISC, etc., I suggest you take one. Take a look at the areas of weakness that you’re personality type inherently deals with and use that as your example.

For instance, I will use me as an example. I might answer this question this way:

In the Four Colors Assessment, I am Gold / Orange and have very little Blue. This identifies me as the strong outgoing planning type, who gets things done. However, with little Blue, I often do not think about special events in people’s lives like others do. You know the type…they always know whose birthday is coming up and have a stash of cards for the just-in-case moment. I’m not that person.

Now, it’s not because I don’t care, but more that it’s not in my DNA. So, to overcome this, as a person, I make sure I put important dates on my calendar with early reminders. I sit down and take time to really consider special gifts and not just the random cards, and I try to make recognition a planned event or recurring activity so I don’t forget.

If I am in charge, I find on my team the Bluest person. Blue people love to support others and your bluest employee will probably enjoy being the office special events coordinator. He or she doesn’t have to run everything, but they help build the plan and keep you on track.

By identifying a weakness from a data source, like an assessment, and then sharing how you overcome it, you become a more powerful candidate.

The fact of life is that we all have blind spots. Assessment tools help you realize what they are. Now it’s your job to figure out ways to overcome them or deal with them and you are prepared to answer this difficult question.

Internal Service Providers vs External Service Providers

Here is a situation that keeps repeating itself everywhere I turn: internal vs external services.

When I am talking about service providers, I mean the activities that help the company run, but add no value to the product the customer buys. Things like HR, IT, Facilities Management, Finance, etc. There is a specific situation that plays itself out over-and-over again with these internal organizations.

A service–let’s use the example of payroll–is needed to pay employees of the company. When the company is starting out, employees are simply paid by the president or another random person working in the company. As the company grows, the workload increases and an office manager is hired to take care of these things. Over time an HR department is stood up with several related functions, payroll just being one of them.

Then, the company really starts to focus on their margin. Competition has stood up and offering the same cool ideas and the company needs to figure out how to cut costs to keep their prices down. The days of being the fat, dumb, and happy big kid on the block are gone. Normally cuts come from the services that support the company–places like HR. After all, they are non-value added in a lean environment, right and these people have been with the company for several years and now make pretty good salaries. Basically, they are a drain, and we need to keep them to a minimum.

Oh, the plight of the service organization…can’t live without em, but don’t want to pay them.

Because they are lean and mean (and maybe mad), the services that they always provided to the company start to get harder to accomplish. The company is growing, but their office is not. The results of their work suffer and it takes longer for them to do stuff. The company (internal customers) starts to get frustrated with the poor service. In some cases the company has become so big that no one even knows how this service is even done or who does it.

In order to keep up, the payroll service starts creating self-service capabilities to ease their workload. Essentially they start outsourcing what they do to the customer. They sell this as a positive thing, but it adds time and complexity to the employee and removes the level of expertise that the service was hired for. Imagine the frustration that is setting in.

Next, the internal customer, frustrated with long waits, lack of and poor service, and having to do many things themselves, decides to take matters in its own hands. The thing is, now the company is so big, that everyone has their own budget and can do what they want. So, factions of the company hire their own payroll person or even department. Of course this person doesn’t do everything but they start taking on the roles that the official department should be doing, but isn’t being very effective at. At first, the original payroll department doesn’t have a problem with this…good for them. But then people start questioning what they do, versus what this new person is doing and why are they even needed?

Next step, the payroll department figures out that payroll is their job and demand that the people doing the work in the company all work under the same department. There is a big effort to consolidate all these new positions paid for by the internal customers and the payroll department becomes big enough to handle the workload again. The problem is, these employees are now part of the payroll department and service everyone under the same flawed systems that was causing the problem in the first place. Internal customers quickly get upset because they lost their personalized service and the company decides, in its annual planning activity, that the payroll department is a good place to cut staff because it has become “too big.”

Again, the frustration sets in, and the next thing you know ABC Payroll Services, an outsourced payroll service, finds its way into the company. It might be a small engagement at first. In some cases, the payroll department itself might outsource non-core, busy-work functions to them. The thing is, they specialize in payroll, do it for many companies, and have cheaper labor that less benefits. Suddenly everyone is questioning the value (i.e., cost and ROI) the payroll department brings when this new and very efficient and effective service provider is doing such a good job for very little money.

To save money, the payroll executive decides to quietly outsource their whole department, saving a job for themselves to “oversee” the activity.

Are you an internal service provider to a company? What value do you bring to your company? Have you outsourced yourselves through customer self service? Are you already challenged by someone else doing part of your work?

This story is played out over-and-over again with every type of service in companies. There are ways to combat this, but many do not see them. Consider the situation above and what the service provider could do to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Why Blog?

Some people use blogging as a poor substitute for advertising. They provide just enough detail to catch your interest and then they hit you with their book or business. Sometimes they want you to sign up for something “free” so they can spam the heck out of you till eternity.

This blog is not for you.

Why should someone blog? It’s not about who reads what you write…in fact if no one reads this, so what? I do it for free so if you read it great…if not, I’m not out anything. But the value for me is that I put my thoughts together, jumbled as they might be, and record them for all to see. It’s about sharing too much of your soul, because anything less just isn’t enough. It’s thinking through and idea and formulating the heck out of it. Misspellings and poor grammar are just the cost of the journey.

So, why blog? Do it for yourself first and maybe someone out there can take something from it. Possibly you come up with good future book or business idea. Or, maybe some corporate mogul out there will offer you millions of dollars to work for them. But do it for yourself and leave the adds to Google.

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