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binarycode

Numbers are cool. And they’re everywhere.

Measurements, calculations, logic…maybe as far back as humans could think about deep stuff, we’ve had numbers on their mind.

And in the last half century of course, there’s software. Think binary code, and a hundred computer languages, think the first work in space exploration, think EVERYTHING now: cars, phones, toasters, personal computing, and everything in between.

ax^2+bx+c=0

My father was a math teacher. One of his central messages when he would help me with my math homework:  Don’t be afraid,  don’t be intimidated by the numbers, the logic.   Take your time.  Think deeply.  Figure it out.  Good life lesson there too, come to think of it.

PV = \frac{FV}{(1+r)}
And then I learned a different type of math, different applied logic, in business school many years later.  Big picture topics like the various facets of finance and accounting. The Time Value of Money,  Percentage Gained, Lost;  Run Rates, Currency Conversions, Depreciation of Capital Equipment, and on and on and on, slowly soaking in and expanding my mind with numbers further.  Also cool.  And important when you’re trying to make a profit.

001-501-043
Now lately my work has me into inventory management systems, the logic of part number nomenclature and the organization of things. Cycle Counts, Reconciling differences, Spreadsheets, Data Analysis all take up minutes and hours, churning through as the daily tasks are completed.

Yep, numbers are still cool.

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Momentum: The Magic Potion

Finding a little momentum goes a long way.

This fact is especially when you’re sharpening up your focus to get sh*t done.  The approach isn’t new or complicated, but it is important.

Check your list.

If you don’t have one, write one down.  Depending on your level of motivation and focus as you begin, I suggest writing everything down.  The more items, the more focus you’ll have.

Consider the priorities you’ve got in front of you. Consider the time it will take to complete the various tasks on the list.  Don’t get overwhelmed by the list, be empowered by your effort to get it all down in front of you.  Once you’ve got a good representation of what needs to be done, it’s time to get after Number One.

My personal approach is to target a couple quick hits, items I can accomplish pretty quickly, to get some positive energy going in the right direction.  As you line out items on your list, you can feel the sense of accomplishment. Your focus will increase, your resolve to continue down the path will strengthen, you’ll be one your way forward.

So make that list and get after it.

The momentum you create will make the difference in your effort.  It will make it GOOD.

The Power of Silence

The power of silence can cannot be overstated. For some of us it’s harder than for others. The effect can be a devastating tool for good.

Consider serious conversation. Consider talking with your spouse, your kid, your employee, your boss. Make your case and then be quiet. See where it leads.

Want a second, similarly powerful tool? It’s called “patience”, and can be applied with equal effect. In fact, in goes hand in glove with silence, often times. After all, the more patient you are with outcomes, the easier it is to sit with situations and allow them to play out.

Practice both of these skills. You’ll be surprised by the results, and the peace they can afford you when honed properly.

Remembering Andy Grove

When Intel was well on the rise and Andy Grove was the commodore of the fleet so dominant in the seas of the micro-processor sector, I was a young sales guy trying to win business from the likes of Intel and all their neighbors in Silicon Valley.

At the time I remember reading a lot about various leaders of the companies and industries in the valley.  I looked for ways to hone my sales strategy and pitch to prospective companies’ own business objectives.

I found this article about Andy Grove somewhere along the way and liked it so much, I saved it.  In hearing about his passing today, I post this piece in remembrance of a great thinker and leader in American business.

I attended an Intel annual meeting several years back, after Grove had stepped down as CEO.  He was in the audience though, and I remember him looking relaxed, in a black leather jacket, crew-neck and khaki’s.  He chuckled and waved when the then CEO made reference to Grove sitting in the audience.

So here’s to you, Andy Grove.  As the hashtag goes around twitter currently #RIPAndyGrove ~

“A Cubicle Suits Him Just Fine” [original article written by “unknown author” c.1996]

As Intel has grown, Grove’s office has shrunk. It used to be that an executive’s climb up the corporate ladder was accompanied by a series of moves to ever-larger (and plusher) offices — culminating in the final move into a mahogany-paneled corner office from which the CEO ruled over his business empire.

But often, shielded by a phalanx of administrative assistants, the CEO had only a foggy idea of what was really going on at lower levels of the organization. That’s
definitely not the case with Andy Grove.

Not only does he take a vital interest in what’s happening throughout Intel’s far-flung realm, but he disdains the mahogany-row syndrome.

His office is remarkably compact. In fact, it’s not an “office” at all, but a partitioned-off cubicle crammed in among similar-sized cubicles on the fifth floor of the Robert N. Noyce building, which serves as Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara.

Pam Pollace, who works closely with Grove as vice president-worldwide press relations, occupies an adjacent cubicle. Pointing out that increased staff hiring has

forced the company to squeeze more cubicles into a finite space, Pollace finds it humorously ironic that, as the size of Intel’s manufacturing facilities and corporate revenues have increased dramatically, Grove’s office has grown smaller and smaller because of the “compression” effect. (He does, however, have a window
with a nice view — his only evident “status symbol.”)

Asked whether the tiny quarters are adequate for his needs as CEO, Grove replies, “Absolutely. . . . I need a conference room for private meetings, but most of the
time I can read, work at my computer, or have phone conversations very nicely in my office — even if Pam often does overhear me.”

Breaking into a chuckle, he adds, “Earlier today, I was having a meeting in my office and everyone was talking about [Pam’s] role — and she pipes up on the other side of the partition and answers the question we were discussing. I have to be cognizant of things like that, but I’ve been living in cubicles since 1978 — and it hasn’t hurt a whole lot.”

Significantly, the open-office environment symbolizes one of Intel’s great strengths — a culture that encourages open and honest communication.

Senior Vice President Ron Whittier observes that Grove fosters open communication by encouraging staffers and others to say what’s on their minds. “People here
aren’t afraid to speak up and debate with Andy,” he notes. As a result, Grove is able to keep in touch with what is really happening throughout the 62,000-employee
company, which has a dozen wafer-fabrication facilities and other manufacturing operations around the globe.

E-mail, which he finds to be much more efficient than the telephone, also keeps him in touch. He estimates that he receives 250 to 300 e-mail messages a week. “As a
practical matter,” he says, “my phone is not nearly as important as it used to be.”

Moreover, e-mail has eased the burden of correspondence. “Back about 20 years ago,” Grove says, “if I went on a week’s vacation, when I came back, it took me about 10 hours to catch up with the regular mail. Now, the paperwork is almost nothing. “When I think about how I used to use correspondence, I would use the margins of memos — and scribble a few lines and send them back. And that is what e-mail does.

When someone writes to you, you respond back with a few lines or a paragraph. It goes back and forth, but it is very brief. . . . And a big difference is [the time element].  If you stick a letter in the mail, it takes a day or two to get to Arizona or wherever. There is no immediacy. But an e-mail transaction usually takes place within hours.”

E-mail, a byproduct of the information revolution that Intel helped to foster, has also reconfigured intra-company communications. “I no longer get internal [paper]
mail or internal phone calls,” Grove says. “If you want to reach somebody, you very quickly discover that the most effective way of doing that is through e-mail.

“If somebody phones while you’re out of the office — and you try to return the call — you ping-pong back and forth so many times that you forget why you called in the first place.”

That comment is proof that Andy Grove understands the real value that Intel helps to deliver to the business world. In fact, if he didn’t use e-mail, it would be a bit like the chairman of General Motors driving to work in a Toyota.

But, obviously, the culture at Intel is radically different from that at GM. And it is reflected in a variety of metrics — including the high-tech firm’s impressive stock-market performance in recent years. And, yes, even the dimensions of the CEO’s office.

SP32-20160322-150756

Avoid the Rat Hole

I was talking to my brother yesterday.  Through the course of the conversation he said something like, “…not to go down the rat hole on this, but…”.  I’d never heard of the term.

Then last night the neighbors were over for dinner, and I asked K (who works in the tech sector) if she’d heard the term, “rat hole.”

She replied quite assumptively, “Yea, we use it all the time.  Like in meetings.  We even have a separate, rat hole white board, to capture those ideas during the discussion, but not allow the agenda to get high-jacked.”   Ah yes, the RAT HOLE.

This situation got me thinking.  There’s terminology, jargon, vernacular, whatever you want to call it, that’s likely to develop in any business, discipline, group, team, etc.  That’s probably a good thing most of the time.  It gives people with a common purpose a common language with which to move their goals forward.

Just as important as the language though — maybe more so, actually — are the processes and commitment to see things through to the goals that are set.

So to go back to my neighbor’s example, having a white board up during a meeting to note ideas that come up during discussion that aren’t particularly relevant to the agenda at hand is really smart.  It allows the ideas that come up to be captured for future review, but also keeps people moving forward towards their goals.

Figure 0ut ways to hack your behaviors to be more productive, to move toward the objectives you’ve set. You’ll be more successful.  Even more important, you’ll be happier. And you’ll stay out of the rat hole.

#MondayMotivation

mondaymotivation_sunrise

Any day and every day, motivation is one of the keys to making the most of the day.  #MondayMotivation is one of my favorite hashtags on twitter, and it fits perfectly into the mantra of getting the most out of any day, especially Mondays.

Monday is a mindset. For most people, the work week starts on Monday.  The weekend is over. It’s time to get back at it, doing whatever work we do after a day or two of rest.

Here are the simple truths:

When you’re motivated to make the most of the day, Focus follows.  We narrow in on what we want to do, and make a plan to execute.  You’ve got your list that’s going to get you from here to here.  It’s time to go.

Once you’re focused, a Good Attitude isn’t far behind.  You’ve got the energy flowing within.  You’ve got your mind focused on the activities for the day. You’re ready to go.  That creates fertile ground for a good attitude to making it’s way to the surface, permeating your cells, pulsing through your body.

Before you know it, you’ve worked through you list, through your day, and if you look back, it’s pretty certain that you’ll have some Results to show for the efforts of the day.  Mind you, things may not have gone the way you expected, you’ll likely have run into some unforeseen obstacles, but you’ve made some measure of progress, no doubt.  Look closely if you can’t see it right away.  It’s there.

One final suggestion:  start the day EARLY.  Get after it before the sun comes up.  Before others can set the tempo for your day.  And get some exercise.  Be it a walk, a swim, a bike ride, a session with some weights, whatever.  Getting up and into the day earlier means you have time to warm up and start the day with a clear mind and purpose, establish the agenda, and start ticking items as DONE on your list.

Yep, Monday is a mindset.  But really the suggestions above are applicable for every work day.   So get MOTIVATED.  It’s up to YOU.

 

Two Keys to Success: Managing Accountability and Expectations

keys

Sitting in a meeting this morning I had a particular “moment of clarity”, to coin a phrase from Pulp Fiction (and the Big Book).   A couple of simple concepts came to mind that can make a big difference in how things go in your work life, and home life too.

Two keys to success are centered around Accountability and Expectations.  Get those two figured out, and ingrain them into your life.  The result will be progress toward your goal.  The result will be success.

Let’s start with a couple definitions.

According to the dictionary, Accountability refers to “the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.”  In other words, it means being responsible, being aware, and taking ownership of any given task or set of tasks, and the associated outcome(s).  It means you won’t pass the buck. It means you have to be able to explain, if asked, what happened, whether it’s good, bad, or otherwise.

Under Expectation, you can find this definition: “the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.”  Clarity in communication is critical to how expectations are conveyed.  If you’re the Setter of Expectation, you need to make things clear and concise to who ever is being given the Expectation to live up to.  Being reasonable, though a somewhat vague concept, is equally clear in setting expectations.  Empathy helps here also, to have some idea of what the other party is feeling and will experience when they try to live up to that expectation.

All pretty simple, right?  But perhaps somewhat opaque?

Here’s an example of how these traits played out in a recent business transaction.

There’s this one project I’ve been working on of late.  The buyer is in southeast Asia.  We were trying to get a deal done to sell a piece of equipment.

We’d sent the proposal a while and the buyer came back interested in making a purchased.  We’d gone around on the commercial terms, including financing, logistics, etc.  Before long we came to agreement.  We offered a discount for a favorable payment term. They seemed pleased with that.  We thought we were on our way.  Expectations had been carefully and completely worked out on both sides.  We expected the order to come any day.  And it did.

Then the unwieldy bureaucratic requirements by the buyer’s central office stepped in the middle of the road.  Sent with the order was a separate agreement document that needed to be included.  This requirement was in addition to the standard purchase order document and involved quite a few (proposed) clauses/requirements.  We had done a few other deals previously with this buyer, but no such agreement had been required.  Expectations changed.

The agreement needed original signature and countersignature to proceed.  No money could change hands until the agreement had all the required sign-offs.  Sigh.

We reviewed the document with our legal department and by and large were ok with the agreement language.  We struck two sections from the agreement, which the buyer accepted.   This approach and related result was promising.  There was give and take.  We were in agreement with amendments. Things were aligning reasonably.

We sent the original signature agreement document via courier service.   A week later it was delivered, but the buyer then explained they really needed two copies, not one.   They hadn’t mentioned this clearly in previous communications.  We would have to send a second set via courier.  Nominal, extra costs would be incurred.

The cost of shipping across the Pacific is not cheap. Doing it twice is (obviously), twice the cost. Every dollar counts. Every dollar spent on costs not accounted for in pricing cuts into profits.

As a show of good faith and to get the deal done, we agreed to split the courier service charges with the buyer.  Fortunately we were able to create Accountability for both sides, and bring the deal close to fruition.

By creating and managing expectations and accountability through the process, we were able to reach mutual concession and thus, move the deal forward to close.

At least I hope so.  We’ve followed a good process to manage two of the factors that are critical to positive outcome:  Accountability and Expectations.

The deal’s not done yet tho’.  We’ll see.  ONWARD.