Category Archives: Career Management

Ethics of Personal Branding

Personal Branding
Personal Branding

In marketing, how you brand your product is the most important aspect you consider. Virtually everything you do affects your product’s branding. The brand is essentially, how the public views the product. The packaging, where it is sold, its price, advertising: everything affects the product’s brand.

The same is true in your personal branding. Everything you do can affect it. How you dress, how you act in public, what you post on social media, and how you perform. They are all inputs that make up your personal brand.

Truth in advertising

The point of branding a product is essentially to put it in the best light for the optimal number of people in the market in which you’re selling. If you’re branding toothpaste, you want the most people with teeth to think your toothpaste is the best.

You could do that by making it more whitening, better tasting, and more convenient to use. You could massively advertise these benefits to plant in consumers’ minds that you have the greatest toothpaste on the market.

But if those benefits don’t actually exist, you can get into trouble from the government for false advertising.

The same applies to your resume or what you tell people about yourself. If you tell them you have experience that you don’t, it can come back to bite you in a couple of ways.

First, an organization that is hiring you may very well do a background check. They may request and call your references and ask them about your claims. If these prove to be wrong, or even questionable, they may not hire you.

A second way this can hurt you is if they hire you under the assumption that you have the experience you touted as part of your brand. Just as the toothpaste didn’t whiten teeth, it won’t take them long to figure out that you can’t do that job. This can result in an embarrassing and awkward firing and a long-term scar on your brand if future employers talk to your past employer.

Think long term

Advertising toothpaste for benefits it does not have could increase a company’s profits for a temporary basis. But making false claims will result in much lower profits over the long term. It could even put a company out of business.

Lying about yourself to inflate your personal brand will do the same. Who you really are will come out. And misrepresenting yourself as something you’re not is a great way to limit your career opportunities.

Inconsistency in your personal branding

When you seek a position in consulting, certain things are implied. Consulting firms generally hire people to work for clients. They must hire people who are intelligent, capable and professional. These characteristics are often implied. The firm will interview people to verify that each person they hire has these characteristics.

You may interview with them and demonstrate your intelligence. You may have many accomplishments and act professionally. The caveat is that the consulting firm wants people who consistently demonstrate these capabilities. They can’t place people in front of a client that is professional only part of the time.

If you act like a true professional in all of your interviews, that’s wonderful. But if they check your social media accounts and see that you’ve posted inappropriate pictures and posts, it will hurt your personal brand.

We’re all a little less professional when we’re out with our friends having a few drinks. But posting inappropriate pictures and other content socially shows a lack of intelligence and professionalism.

Applying ethics to your personal branding

The essence of personal branding comes down to honesty. You want to convey the most positive image you can of yourself. You want to promote your greatest strengths and downplay your worst weaknesses. But you must be honest.

You have an ethical duty to yourself, to your profession, and to your employer. Ethics can be taught. Ethics can be regulated. But more than anything, ethics should be part of your core. It should drive everything that you do.

Decisions on your behavior should not be calculated based on whether you get caught. Setting and following a standard of ethics will ensure a long, happy and successful career.

How much does ethics play in your decision making?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do your orders create confusion?

Do your orders create confusion
Do your orders create confusion

I had a boss once who was incredibly smart. He started his career in technology as a developer. He worked his way up to team lead, manager, director, and eventually VP.

While he maintained his technical knowledge, he also developed a deep level of business acumen. The combination of the two led to a fast-tracked career for him. He was well known and admired throughout the company. He advanced quickly.

Despite his esteemed reputation, he had one serious flaw. When he gave direction, people often didn’t know what he wanted. I would sit in meetings with him and he would ask someone in the room to follow up on something. After he left, the person he spoke to would ask the room, “Do you know what he wants me to do?”
Continue reading Do your orders create confusion?

Take Time for Leadership

Take time for leadership
Take time for leadership

I once worked on an engagement where the president of the company flew in for the monthly steering committee meeting. He would schmooze the client, take them out to lunch, and assure them of their importance to the firm.

And that was true. This was one of the largest engagements we had in the firm. This was a very important client.

We had many consultants on the project. While some were offshore, more than half of them were in the same building in which the steering committee took place.

The first couple of times, we convinced the president to meet with the team. We felt it was important for the president of the company to give them some of his time and say thank you in person. They worked hard and we thought it would be a good morale boost.

It was. The team felt good meeting with the president of the company. They liked being thanked.

We did it again the second month he was in town. Once again, it made the team feel good.

On the president’s third visit, we suggested meeting with the team. He demurred. “They don’t seem to like it.” He said. “Nobody asks any questions.  It’s just awkward.”

It’s true that nobody said much in these meetings. Many of these people were lower level team members. Some were just a few years out of college. They’re also technical folks. Many of them are more comfortable writing code than dealing with people. Many were probably a little intimidated by him.

Regardless of their response, they enjoyed meeting with him. That twenty-minute exposure to the brass made them feel appreciated. It made them feel important. Many went home and bragged to their spouse about meeting the president of their company.

The president continued to fly in every month for the meeting. But he never met with them again. The team members knew that he was on site. They knew he didn’t meet with them. We tried to explain that he had an early flight for some other meetings. But they still felt blown off.

These meetings made the president feel awkward. There was uncomfortable silence after he thanked them for their work. He missed the point though. That meeting wasn’t designed to make him feel comfortable. It was designed to boost morale. The meeting was about the team members, not the president.

Leaders have two jobs

I’ve seen many examples of this from people in leadership positions through the years. A leadership role is really two jobs. One job is the day-to-day work that has to get done to achieve the organization’s goals. Reports need to be reviewed. Meetings need to be attended. Decisions need to be made.

The other job is the leadership part. A leader has to make sure people are happy and motivated. A leader needs to communicate the vision repeatedly to make sure everyone is working in lockstep to achieve the organization’s mission.

If a leader only focuses on the daily task work, but doesn’t take time for leadership, they really can’t claim to be a leader.

Long term effects

Time management experts talk about the difference between important and urgent tasks. When we prioritize our to do list, we tend to focus on the urgent issues, putting the important tasks on the back burner.

The here-and-now forces us to be tactical. Leaders need to look forward strategically to make sure that the organization is going in the right direction.

Does your organization have the right skills to compete in the future? Time should be spent assessing that concern. If it doesn’t, how will you deal with it.  It could involve training of your existing staff. You may need to bring in the right people with the necessary skills. It may require some of both. But neither will be addressed if you don’t take time for leadership.

Communication avoidance

I’ve worked for leaders who avoid communication with lower level folks. Leaders are busy people. They don’t have time to answer every question from every person in the company. That’s what the chain of command is for, right?

But when someone talks to you, it doesn’t take that much time to listen to them. If you look at your watch every thirty seconds and do whatever you can to end the conversation, it sends a message. The message is that you don’t care about the concerns of someone in the organization that serves you.

It’s common to have a monthly or quarterly meeting to communicate updates to the team. In consulting, team members are often scattered about at various client sites. This periodic update meeting is a rare chance for consultants to feel a sense of a home base. It’s a chance to catch up with people they don’t see often and to hear what’s new within the firm.

There are many reasons for management to cancel a meeting like this. There are a thousand other commitments. A meeting like that takes a lot of time to prepare for.

But when they do cancel that meeting, the consultants miss a chance to connect with the firm. Regardless of the reason the meeting is cancelled, many will immediately assume the worst. They must be avoiding the announcement of bad news.

Communication is important within any type of organization. It’s even more important within consulting firms. When people are spread out at many locations, they need the connection that communication provides.

Meeting in person is important. If that can’t be done, a weekly newsletter providing critical updates allows people to at least know what is going on. It’s not the personal touch, but it’s better than nothing.

Conclusion

People in leadership positions are busy people. They need to do everything they can do to keep the lights on. But they also need to take the time for leadership. They need to be focused on the future and make sure they are navigating the ship in the right direction.

The people in the firm want to be led. The personal touch of a brief meeting and saying thank you means more to them than most leaders realize. Communicating regularly with your staff can make a world of difference in their effectiveness and their level of morale.

How often do you take time for leadership?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Personal Weakness Assessment

Personal weakness assessment
Personal weakness assessment

I remember the performance evaluation I received after the first year of my career. My boss was a great guy. I liked him personally. But he was a bit non-confrontational.

The review was outstanding. Anyone reading it who didn’t know me would think I was going to be CEO in just a couple of years. I was great at everything.

But I knew that wasn’t the case. I had one year of a professional career under my belt. I felt like I did well. But I had a lot of things to learn. I walked out of his office with a nice feeling. But more than anything, I felt a little empty.
Continue reading A Personal Weakness Assessment

Do you copy the right people?

Copy the right people
Copy the right people

Most of us get more emails in a day than we would like to admit. Most of us have at least two email accounts: work and personal. As a consultant, I have an account for my firm, my client, and two personal accounts.

I have a daily routine of going through and killing all of the junk items. I unsubscribe when appropriate.

Then I have to go through all of the remaining emails that may or may not apply to me. Some I have to act on. Some are just sent to me as an FYI. Many of them I look at and wonder why I was included. This can be more annoying when it becomes an on-going thread.

On the other hand, I learn in meetings and side conversations that an email thread was sent around to a group that I should have known about, but I wasn’t included.

Removing people from an email thread

Often, an email is sent to a large group of people because the sender is unsure who can resolve an issue. As the thread evolves, it develops into a conversation with only a few critical participants.

Any remaining people may see the on-going thread as noise. At that point someone, preferably the original sender, should ask who on the thread would like to be removed.

Other times, it may be obvious that some people should be removed from a thread. Make sure the email isn’t being sent to unnecessary or inappropriate recipients.

Adding people to a thread

It is also imperative to make sure the right people are involved. Some people need to be involved to help resolve an issue or participate in a conversation.

A critical manager may need to be involved so that he or she is aware of an on-going issue. The best way to add that person is to “Reply all” to the email, add that person to the recipient list, and add a “+ Bob”. This helps make it explicit to everybody that the person(s) has been added to the thread.

If a manager just needs to know the outcome, it may be better to wait until the thread comes to closure. At that time, you can forward the final email of the thread to the manager. Provide a short summary of the issue and its resolution. Make sure to copy anyone who needs to know that this person has been informed. If the manager wants additional detail, the entire thread is below for their reading pleasure.

Copy the right people from the beginning

When sending an initial email, it’s hard to know if it’s going to be an epic thread that goes on for weeks, if not months. But when you send any email, consider the fact that it might. Stop for a moment to consider the list of people you are sending the email to.

Do you need to have everyone on that list or can you add people later if it evolves?

Are there others who should be on this distribution that can lead to a faster resolution?

An additional consideration is multiple people with similar names. I once sent an email to someone named Chris when I meant to send it to Christine. This leads, at a minimum, to delays when you send to the wrong person. You also could be intending to send sensitive information within your organization. If you accidently send it to the wrong person, it could be a major security breach.

Be careful with “Reply all”

Sometimes someone will send out an email asking a group of people to provide them with some information. This usually warrants a simple reply to the sender. Does the whole distribution list need to know your lunch order for that meeting next week? Reply All only when it’s necessary.

Conclusion

Email has become the communication mode of choice.  It’s quick and easy to send an email or reply to one that has been sent. But in our need to be quick and efficient, we often don’t stop to think about what we are sending and to how many people we’re sending it to.

Take a moment every time before you hit Send to think about the distribution list. You may begin to save people a little unnecessary time out of their day.

How often do you copy the right people?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do You Take Time to Save Time?

Take Time to make time
Take Time to make time

I saw a great cartoon the other day. It was drawing of two cave men pushing a cart with square wheels. Another cave man is offering them round wheels to replace the square ones. To which they respond “No Thanks. We are too busy.”

It’s easy for us non-cave people to sit in our third person realities and ridicule this irrational behavior. But if you didn’t see yourself in it, you may be in a little denial.

As humans, we are usually victims of routine. We get into habits and don’t like to change them. I often catch myself doing things out of habit. If I step back and think about it, I may rethink my actions and figure out a better approach.

More often, this happens when someone else observes my behavior and asks, “Why are you doing it that way?”

I usually respond with something intelligent like, “Well that’s how I’ve always done it.”

Even after someone explains a simpler or more efficient way to do things, I sometimes resist. Even when people offer me round wheels, I like living in my comfort zone.

Taking a different approach to something usually involves additional thinking. If you drive the same way to work in the morning, you usually can do it without much thought. You habitually turn where you need to turn. You probably park in the same general area every day.

If someone tells you an alternate route that might be faster, you’re suddenly out of that comfort zone. You have to concentrate a little more on where and when to turn.

The same happens at work when we do something routinely. You may do it that way because it’s the easiest and most efficient way. But the situation may have changed. There may be a better way now.

Changing the way we do something often requires an investment in time as well. If we changed the wheels on the cart, we would have to stop what we’re doing, take the square wheels off and put the round ones on.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I have the time to invest doing all that work. But if I’m honest with myself, I’m probably just too lazy to change my ways.

I’ve caught myself doing intense manual work to make changes or find data in a large spreadsheet. And I’ve caught myself saying that there has to be an easier way.

I’ve had to force myself to investigate the many Excel commands that I’m not familiar with to find the easier way to do it. I not only find that easier way. But I also learn a new Excel function that I can use later. (I usually learn a couple of functions just finding the one that works best for that situation.)

Routine is generally good. It can make you more efficient when you can do things with little effort. But it’s important to frequently stop and analyze what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Is there a better way?

You might just find some round wheels.

Are you using square wheels anywhere?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Getting to Agreement

Getting to Agreement
Getting to Agreement

We live in divided times today. And as much as we want to complain about it, it is nothing new. Abraham Lincoln famously said “a house divided cannot stand.” There are many examples of major disagreements throughout history. We humans can be a disagreeable group of people.

You see it on projects on a daily basis. We disagree about how to implement software and who to hire for a project. Different people disagree in different ways. Some people get mad and start to yell when someone disagrees with them. Others stay calm and try to plead their case.

Can’t we all just get along?

A good consultant is able to work with diverse people with diverse goals and diverse opinions. They figure out how to “herd the cats” in the direction of a successful engagement.

Here are some tips on bringing people together and getting to agreement when warring factions butt heads.

What problem are you trying to solve? When people disagree, sometimes they are simply disagreeing on what the actual problem is. The first step is to make sure they agree with what they are trying to solve. This gives them a common vision and the first step toward agreeing with each other.

What assumptions are you working with? In the U.S., we have Republicans and Democrats. There are two primary differences between them. The first is the role of government. Republicans want a limited role, while Democrats usually advocate more government involvement. The second is taxation. Republicans want lower taxes, particularly for the rich. Democrats want to tax the rich to pay for the increased government programs.

Each group is working on diametrically opposed assumptions. Trying to bring them to agreement is a great challenge because of the vast difference in their assumptions.

What do you agree on? Try to find areas where they agree. Most Republicans and most Democrats agree on world peace. They may disagree on how to get there, but finding their common beliefs and values is a great starting point.

Finding as many points of agreement as possible, not only provides a starting point, it develops trust between the two. When they realize how much they have in common, they realize that they are not that different. They’re likely to approach their differences in a more cooperative light.

Find a middle ground. Once you have identified their areas of agreement, it might be easier to identify opportunities for compromise. Points of agreement are a bridge; a meeting of the minds. With that connection point, you can begin breaking down additional walls to see if there is any point of compromise.

The tricky aspect of compromise is that both sides need to give a little. But it takes one person to start the process. If you can convince one person to give in a little, it sets the example to his counterpart. They will be challenged to give some more. It may take each side to give just a little in multiple alternating sequences to get anywhere.

This is the hardest part. When arbitrating this between two sides, it usually requires creativity. Providing hypothetical situations can force each side to see the other person’s perspective. You might describe scenarios where one person’s approach would fail and their counterpart’s would be successful.

Based on their deeply-held assumptions, they may think your scenario is unlikely or impossible. It is your job to convince them that it may be more realistic than they think. This should be done as equally as possible with both sides of the argument.

The ultimate creative solution may look completely different than what either side proposed. The critical point is to make both of them feel like they own the solution together.

Document any agreement. You probably won’t succeed every time. Some sides are just too stubborn. They may be under too much pressure from their factions to give an inch to compromise. But if you are successful at getting either side to compromise, make sure that it is written down and published. This enforces the agreement and reduces the chance of either team backing out of the agreement.

When documenting the agreement, all credit should go to the warring parties for getting to agreement for the common good.

Conclusion

Whether you live in the political world, the business world, or some other type of community, you will always deal with people who disagree. Some are more willing than others to work towards a solution of compromise. Some simply can’t be budged. But working in a strategic, creative, and methodical approach with two groups that disagree can help in getting to agreement.

Have you ever been successful facilitating two parties to agreement?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Overplaying Your Leverage

Overplaying your leverage
Overplaying your leverage

Our current president has been given the opportunity of doing something that many new presidents do. With his party holding a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, he has leverage.

This gives him the ability to push legislation through congress with relative ease. Bill Clinton and Barak Obama both started their presidencies with majorities in both houses.

This led them to use their leverage to push legislation through congress as well. But those two former presidents lost those majorities in the mid-term elections two years later.

While there are many factors involved, it is safe to say that taking advantage of their majority leverage may have offended some voters. This could have caused them to swing to the opposite party when voting for congressmen two years later.

I’ve seen similar occurrences in the business world. Someone has a very powerful position and uses it to manipulate people. Sometimes they mistreat their employees, making them do unpleasant tasks or publicly berating them. Sometimes they force policy through to the chagrin of their peers within the company.

But the same thing can happen that happened to the former presidents. Someday that powerful manager is going to need something from some of those people he was so abusive to. Then they learn a valuable lesson: Overplaying your leverage has political consequences. Those people may be a lot less willing to cooperate with someone who showed them no respect in the past.

While working in business and politics are different animals, we all know that there are plenty of politics that go on in the business world. It may be necessary to “play nice” with people even if you have the power to be otherwise.

As a parent, some of the best advice I received from a friend was to pick your battles. Kids get out of line a lot. If I had reprimanded them every time, that’s all I would have done. And the kids would probably get pretty tired of my demands.

I learned that you let some things go and pick the fights that are worth fighting.

Two types of power

The same thing goes for getting things done at work. You could force things through with all of your power. But that could be short lived. In the business world, you have two types of power, official and unofficial power.

Official power is the power that the company bestows on you for your position. If you’re the boss, you have official power over the people that report to you.

Unofficial power is what you get from people that will help you out. If you are nasty to the people that work for you, they will probably do the minimum work that they must do under your official power. But if you treat them well and they respect you, they will give you additional unofficial power. This will likely get more done for you by your people.

You get unofficial power from other people within the organization. When you cooperate with your peers and help them get what they want, they will likely grant you unofficial power. You will get their cooperation for help on a project or to help get a policy changed.

Overplaying your leverage can hurt both types of power. You don’t get much unofficial power if you are seen overplaying your leverage too often. It could also stunt your growth in the company. Make enough people mad and the word gets out that you’re not a team player. If that gets back to the executives, they may be more likely to pass you up for that next promotion. That’s a big hit to your official power if you can’t build on it.

So here are some tips for balancing your power in the workplace.

Play nice. Perhaps you have a powerful position. You may be able to get your way at the expense of another department’s manager. But you may need that manager’s help someday. Establishing a reputation as a team player could give you more unofficial power than your official power. And that could come in handy.

Treat people like you would like to be treated. Some see it as a sign of weakness to be nice to people. “I’m not here to be liked. I’m here to get things done.” But being kind and fair is not being weak. In fact, it could give you enough unofficial power to make you much stronger.

Give and take. Some people see everything as a competition that they must win. They don’t stop to think what the other person may want. That type of person doesn’t see win-win scenarios very often. They only see things as win-lose and they don’t want to lose. Open your mind and negotiate with people in a way that will make them want to deal with you again.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Millennials May be the Next Greatest Generation

next greatest generation
Millennials: The next greatest generation?

I can’t remember whether it was on Facebook or Twitter that I saw it. It doesn’t matter. It was just another post slamming the millennial generation. They’re so full of themselves. They’re always staring into their phones. They have such a sense of entitlement.

Some of the posts approach it with pseudo-psychological theories. Social media has turned them into uber-narcissists. The “everybody-gets-a-trophy” syndrome has taught them not to succeed. They have a constant need for attention.

And for every one of those complaints, I can point out some from the millennial generation that fit the description. I’ve worked with millennials right out of college. As a parent, I’ve raised a couple and coached many. I’ve watched a lot of them grow up.

There are many that are major pains in the neck.

But more often than not, they’re great people. They’re responsible hard workers. And they don’t resemble the stereotype that so many people like to describe.

They’re lazy and not driven to succeed

In the 1960s, the old folks worried about the “hippie generation.” They just sat around and smoked pot on campuses to avoid the war. People asked, “Is this our country’s future?”

The answer was a resounding “Yes.” The world may not be perfect today, but we have survived pretty well. That generation brought us some pretty nifty inventions and a thriving stock market.

The millennials that I know are driven to succeed. They’re just driven to a different definition of success than many of us have. It might be a result of everyone getting a trophy. But they don’t see the world as a zero-sum game. They don’t necessarily believe that there must always have be a winner and a loser. They are very collaborative and don’t feel the need to compete with their peers at work. They’re focused on us all succeeding together.

They also see work-life balance as a big factor in success. They don’t necessarily believe that the guy who dies with the most money wins. They see success in quality, not quantity.

They have a sense of entitlement

I have seen this behavior in many millennials. I also saw it in me at that age. I believe it is a symptom that every generation learns once they face the reality of life. Growing up, my parents gave me everything I needed and a lot of things I wanted. It created the byproduct of teaching me that life was easier than it really was. At some point in my life, I started paying for rent, student loans, groceries, etc. I realized that I wasn’t as entitled as I might have thought.

Millennials need to mature in the same way. It may take them longer though. Their parents were more prosperous than any previous generations and bought them a lot more stuff.

They will learn. In the meantime, people tend to get mad at the victims rather than the culprits.

Their faces are glued to their phones

Correct. They do that. But I see people from every generation do it. I look around in restaurants and see middle-age couples dining out and staring in their phones. Although it is illegal in Illinois where I live, I see people of all ages do it while they drive. Many blatantly hold the phone out in front of them blocking their view of traffic.

Granted, I have had to tell some millennials to put their phone away during a meeting. But I see it as a maturation and education issue. If nobody in their past taught them not to do it, teach them.

They are disrespectful

Many years ago, child abuse was swept under the rug. It was rarely brought out in the open. Often, the victim was made to feel at fault.

Today, while it is not reported to the degree it should be, more people are aware of the issue. It is discussed more frequently. Millennial children were taught to speak out.

While some disrespect is attributable to developing some maturity, this generation was taught not to be afraid to speak up. They won’t be intimidated by the older generation. They may need to develop some diplomacy, but most of them will.

Necessity will prevail

In 1997 Tom Brokaw wrote “The Greatest Generation,” about the generation of people who grew up during the Great Depression, and went on to save democracy fighting World War II.

I remember an anecdote Brokaw told in the book about growing up in his small South Dakota hometown. His mother worked in the local post office and a resident came in complaining that some kids had tee-peed some trees in town.

His mother kind of laughed it off and asked flippantly, “Oh Bob, what kinds of things were you doing when you were eighteen years old?”

He looked at her and said, “Liberating France.”

Admittedly, that “Greatest Generation” set a difficult bar for the rest of us. But it was the necessity of the depression and then the war that they were required to step up. I thank them for doing such a great job.

Every generation and every human being reaches a point where they have to step up to survive and to thrive. I’m confident that the millennial generation, and most of the individuals in it, will do that.

Every generation also reaches an age where they forget how self-consumed and entitled they were in their youth. It’s a generational tradition to condemn the succeeding generation for much of the same things they did when they were the same age.

Maybe we didn’t have smart phones at that age. But we played our share of video games. We wasted incredible amounts of time just “hanging out” with friends. We drove around in our cars going nowhere, wasting unacceptable amounts of fuel.

I can’t imagine how we would have been with smart phones at that age. Or maybe I can. We’d be constantly glued to them, texting our friends and taking selfies. We would be kids.

Conclusion

I for one want to hand this world off to a generation that isn’t intimidated by me. I believe it will make the world a better place.

This generation is one of the most intelligent generations to ever exist. I learn from them every day. If the older generations would swallow their pride, work with millennials, and see their positive traits, we would get a lot more done.

If you think millennials are a bunch of no good, lazy ne’er do wells, you’re probably looking at the wrong end of the glass. Take a hard look at your own generation at the same age. You may be surprised at the similarities.

Kids!
I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Kids!
Who can understand anything they say?
Why can’t they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?

– Kids (From the Broadway show and motion picture “Bye Bye Birdie,” 1963

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Solve it once – Duct tape gets expensive

Solve it Once
Solve it Once

I consider myself to be pretty handy around the house. I’ve built things, made furniture, and installed appliances with some decent success. Some of the things I don’t like to do are automotive work and plumbing.

Maybe I’m just better with wood, I just don’t get the satisfaction from those other activities. So when I do plumbing and automotive, my goal is to get it done rather than to enjoy it. This takes away a lot of motivation to do it right.

Unfortunately, I don’t always get it right. If a hose in my car is leaking, rather than taking the time to go to the automotive store and get a new one, I’m much more likely to do something like duct taping the leak to put the issue behind me.

As you may know, duct tape doesn’t last forever. I may end up doing it multiple times.

Duct taping business solutions

We see that in the business world a lot. An issue comes up. We do some investigation and find out that there is a duct tape solution, and a more solid, long-term solution. On a fairly consistent basis, the long-term solution is the much more expensive solution. It will take more time, more money, and more resources to solve it that way.

The duct tape solution is usually much cheaper. We can implement it with limited funds and it will take less time. Then we can get back to business.

The problem is, it may cause additional issues as a side effect. Or it may just resolve the issue temporarily. If you have to spend time, money, and resources multiple times to fix it, you may end up spending more on duct tape than on fixing it right the first time.

The cheapest approach is not always the best long term solution.

Find the root cause

Sometimes, we apply the duct tape solution unknowingly. We identify a problem and a solution seems obvious. For instance, imagine a situation where a software application continues to go down. Restarting the application and sometimes restarting the server that it runs on fixes the problem. Each time this happens, it brings down the application for five to fifteen minutes.

The restarts are seemingly inexpensive. It only takes an operator a few minutes to perform the action. However, since customers use this application, it affects customer satisfaction during these restarts.

When the manager of the application learned about the restarts, she started to ask what was causing the issue. Nobody knew. They just kept performing the restarts.

The manager asked the team to investigate the root cause of the issue. After three days of investigation, an analyst determined that to fix the application, it would take eighty hours.

Solve it once

The manager calculated the internal cost of the investigation and the fix to be about $12,000. She also made the determination that they risk losing sales every time they do a restart.

She determined that if they lost a sale every time they did the restart, the cost of the restarts would exceed the $12,000 cost within three months. Instead of continuing to restart the application every time there was a problem, she decided that it was a better long-term solution to fix the code in the application.

Conclusion

It is not always the case that solving the root cause is cheaper. But it is always worth doing the investigation to determine the true root cause. Comparing the cost of fixing the real problem or fixing the symptoms will give greater insight. You may find that to solve it once is cheaper than the duct tape.

How have you spent more on duct tape than to solve it once?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net