Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 02AUG10

August 2, 2010

“Thank God It’s Monday” is to help companies thrive!

This week’s focus: innovation

Business process innovation can be as value laden as product or service innovation.

The San Jose Fire Department just laid off 50 fire fighters and will close a couple of fire stations due to budget constraints (and, frankly, the unwillingness of their unions to make concessions to save the jobs).

Sunnyvale, California, a major city in Silicon Valley, has an entirely different and revolutionary approach and, as a consequence, will lay off no one. Sunnyvale’s Public Safety Department combines fire, police and emergency medical services into one department. Those in police roles carry the equipment to take on fire fighter roles at a moment’s notice. Everyone is cross-trained to assume different roles. The officer in a police squad car this week might be stationed in a fire house next week. Sunnyvale’s lean approach drives great efficiency, agility and cost-effectively leverages total resources.

What process innovation is your team or company ignoring that can change the game and help you thrive?

Thought for the week:

“It’s a law of nature. Success breeds arrogance.” - Richard Martin, Alcera Consulting

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Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

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What makes “Silicon Valley” Silicon Valley?

July 2, 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Silicon Valley during June 2010 to experience first-hand what has made companies like Cisco Systems, Google and Facebook what they are today. Medvedev was joined by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In different geographic areas all over the United States and the world, people want to emulate Silicon Valley to create jobs and vibrant economies. Silicon Valley is often imitated but has never been duplicated.

I grew up in Silicon Valley, graduated from San Jose State University and Santa Clara University, and have had the pleasure of working and living here in the world of high technology. I offer my random thoughts on the “secret sauce” that makes our beloved Silicon Valley truly unique in the world. While some attributes certainly carry more weight than others, e.g., access to capital, it is the collective impact of all these attributes that make Silicon Valley what it is.

  • Access to capital (angel investor money, venture capital) from investors willing to take risks in exchange for a future “big payday” event
  • Terrific higher education system: Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, strong junior college programs
  • The western U.S. was built by pioneering folks who made great sacrifices; that pioneering attitude must be in our DNA as it fuels great innovation and a drive to succeed in spite of what are often long odds
  • Competitive benefits: medical insurance, personal time off (vacation, sick-time), 401-K
  • Burning desire of entrepreneurs and employees to compete and win in the marketplace—“failure is not an option” even though some situations lead to failure
  • Risk aversion: there is some measure of safety in knowing that you or your company can fail and there will be another employment opportunity somewhere
  • No one expects to join a company and retire from it
  • Big paydays: these used to occur with great regularity in the 80’s and 90’s when a company would “go public” by offering its stock on a stock exchange. In the decade of the 2000’s, big pay days are rare. Today’s strategy is more about companies being acquired rather than going public. So, instead of seeing the value of your companies stock go through a meteoric rise, you now watch the value of the acquiring company’s stock rise.
  • Opportunity to be part of something exciting, have some impact on the world and your personal finances.
  • Work hard; play hard
  • Tolerance for less than perfect operational systems—some systems are simply “good enough”
  • Willingness to sacrifice family time and personal life for company time—usually for a “big payday”
  • Dress code—we invented “business casual” and it’s gotten even more casual over the years
  • Lack of pretentiousness
  • Open door policy—eschew hierarchical or “command and control” leadership
  • H1-B visas allow people from other countries to come to the U.S. to work in high-technology—provides rich diversity and sufficient talent to do amazing things
  • Embrace diversity—Silicon Valley tends to be pretty inclusive rather than exclusive—people who come here from other geographies or nationalities aren’t treated as outsiders
  • Wonderful year-around weather helps to attract talent to the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Great companies of the world thrive here: Apple, Google, Cisco Systems, Intel, Applied Materials, Hewlett Packard, Oracle; these companies routinely acquire other companies

What Silicon Valley does not provide?

  • Pensions or retirement programs
  • Attractive home prices
  • Low cost of living
  • Attractive California state income tax system

Does Silicon Valley always get it right? Certainly not! The investment community understands this better than any single group. The dot com bust showed irrational exuberance on the part of investors and executives to create any Internet-based company they could. Lots of money was lost and many folks lost their jobs when the question, “who wants to buy and why” wasn’t asked and answered appropriately.

So, can Russia create its own Silicon Valley? Yes, but, it won’t be like the Silicon Valley I know and love. Russia will need to see a cultural shift to be more open and trusting.

Russia has some fantastically creative and talented computer scientists and engineers who, given the opportunity, will do some great things for themselves, their companies and their country. Best wishes to Russia and President Dmitry Medvedev on their journey.

I would love your comments and reaction to this.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com


You can sue for any reason

May 27, 2010

A woman who fell asleep on a flight ended up spending 4 hours sleeping on a plane after it had landed and the crew left.  If it were me, I’d laugh it off.

But, not this particular woman–she’s looking for a “big payday” as a result of this incident.  From MSNBC’s website comes this:

PHILADELPHIA – The woman left sleeping for four hours on a United Express jet after landing in Philadelphia is suing United Airlines, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

The lawyer of Ginger McGuire, 36, of Ferndale, Mich., said the lawsuit claims false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress and negligence, the paper said.

Are you kidding me?  Ginger, I hope you realize not one dime for your trouble.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com


Toyota-Tesla joint venture announced

May 20, 2010

About 3:30 pm PDT today, I heard the fantastic news that:

  • Toyota and Tesla Motors have formed a joint venture to produce electric vehicles
  • The production will take place in Fremont, California
  • It will utilize the production facility that closed on April 1, 2010, known as the NUMMI plant, a joint venture between GM and Toyota

This is very exciting.  When the NUMMI plant closed, it displaced 4,500 workers and had a negative impact on nearly 25,000 jobs through the supply chain, shipping, logistics, etc.

The NUMMI folks fought long and hard to save their jobs and did not prevail resulting in the closure of the last automotive manufacturing facility in California.

Well, no more.  Here is an article summarizing this news story.

The news could not be more welcome here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thank you Toyota and Tesla Motors for reaching an agreement that will stand to benefit thousands and thousands of people right here in my back yard.

Wahoo!

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com


Highest manufacturing growth since 2004

April 1, 2010

Great news this morning from the Associated Press:

The U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in March at its strongest pace in 5 1/2 years, a private trade group said Thursday, as industrial companies continue to lead the recovery from the recession.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its gauge of industrial companies rose to 59.6 in March from 56.5 in February. It is the eighth straight month of expansion and the fastest growth since July 2004, when the index was 59.9.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected the measure to read 57.

Very encouraging!

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com


Hilarious Indian call center experience

March 30, 2010

All of us have heard stories about how upset Americans become when forced to deal with overseas customer service call centers.  I’m not one of them.  I live in a part of the world that looks like the United Nations–there are people from all over the world.

Recently, I needed to speak to Dell Financial Services about a computer lease.

When a human finally comes on the phone, he says in his finest, thickest Indian accent:

“Hello, thank you for calling Dell Financial Services, this is Bob.”

Bob? I was taken aback.  Indian men have names like Sanjeev, Kumar, Satinder, but, “Bob?”

Did “Bob” think I would miss the fact that he was in India?  It the trend for people working in call centers for American companies to use more “Americanized” names?  It was hilarious.

I’m happy to report that “Bob” did a fine job of handling my call.  Thanks, “Bob” or whatever your real name is.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com


How to improve the Department of Homeland Security

January 10, 2010
The Department of Homeland Security is not securing our safety from terror as we should expect. How should they approach this challenge to improve speed, accelerate collaboration and improve efficacy?

The unsuccessful Christmas Day terror attack (a.k.a. the underpants bomber) involving Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit has highlighted inefficiencies and process breakdowns that a reasonable person would have thought would have been eliminated years ago.

In spite of receiving what should have been considered actionable intelligence from the terrorist’s father, critical information was not acted on appropriately or in a timely fashion by governmental agencies. This breakdown could have caused the death of 288 people on the aircraft and perhaps more on the ground.

The American people deserve better. This predictable event was an entirely avoidable business execution failure on the part of those charged with protecting us.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security[i] (DHS) was established on March 1, 2003. Its stated goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. This cabinet-level department’s mission is to protect the U.S. from terror attacks and to respond to natural disasters. This cabinet-level department was created after the September 11, 2001, terror attack by the Bush Administration. The Department of Homeland Security works in conjunction with other federal departments.[ii] Homeland security policy is coordinated at the White House by the Homeland Security Counsel.[iii]

A Simple Solution

I am for simplicity in business process and system design. I prefer speed and agility over elegance. From a simplistic viewpoint, here’s what should have happened after any human being in any government agency receives a report about a real, possible or potential threat.

  • DHS is immediately notified by any government employee about any potential threat,
  • The individual(s) is/are added to the terrorist watch list and no-fly list,
  • A report dispatched to all federal agencies and international partners who need to be aware of this intelligence,
  • Any outstanding U.S. visas are immediately revoked,
  • Appropriate post-report actions are taken

If it turns out the report is a mistake or a hoax, apologize and move on.

Political correctness, not having sufficient details of a threat, etc., is no reason to not immediately escalate our response to a potential threat.

How Anti-Terror Processes Should Be Designed

The business processes should consist of a series of business process modules with each module reflecting a likely scenario that may be encountered.

Example: Human #1 advises Human #2 within a government agency that Human #3 represents a specific threat. The response to the specific scenario should consist of very simple business process steps that can be executed with a minimum of delay and minimal need for training. The process described under “A Simple Solution” above could be adopted very quickly.

Information technology availability always lags the needs of the organization. Therefore, information technology may not take a lead role in a solution. As information technology becomes available to tie together the modules together, this can be implemented. It is not, however, acceptable to wait to eliminate gaps and breakdowns in current business processes until information technology is available. There can be incremental improvements over time.


Impediments to Change in the Federal Government

Forming the Department of Homeland Security has not immediately resulted in business process improvements or improvements in business execution. Lesson learned: we cannot legislate improved business execution.

The biggest impediments to improving business execution are leadership and culture.

All governmental departments are led by political appointees. The career employees in each department know that they need only stall for 4 years, 8 years or sometimes even less, and this new political appointee will be gone, they won’t have to radically change what they do or how they do it, and they can pretty much be impervious to all but the most minor amounts of change.

Whenever people want to push back on major change, one of the first things the change agent will hear is, “Well, you just don’t understand.” And, by the time the person does understand, the gig is up, a new department head comes in and the process starts all over. Net impact: almost none. The “line in the sand” barely moves.

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Why is Change So Difficult?

Most people start with the details rather than the view from 20,000 feet, get clear on the required objectives or outcomes, and adjust the processes to fit the objectives or outcomes. It is so easy to get mired in details that one loses sight of the desired outcomes.

Making required changes to existing processes requires intense, laser-like focus on specific objectives and outcomes that have to be achieved within a rapid time frame. It is important to remember that, all the while, the culture is pushing against change.

The leader must keep pushing back to make sure that changes are not being undermined for the sake of delaying or denying change. The leader must also overcome the inertia and resistance to sharing information outside of agency silos.

Roles and responsibilities need to clearly defined for employees in each scenario. Employees need to be held accountable for executing the process in accordance with expectations and need to understand that there are immediate and dramatic consequences for non-compliance.

There is never a viable excuse for not being fast. Just as readers here are looking to become fast companies, government processes must become fast as well.  And, please, if you think I don’t understand, help me understand how you would make change to improve the efficacy of this critical need, not why change is not possible.

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David Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, author, blogger who specializes in eliminating business execution problems that threaten profitability and growth. He can be reached through his web site at www.gardnerandassoc.com.


[i] The Department of Homeland Security has over 200,000 employees in federal organizations that include:

  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • National Protection and Programs Directorate
  • U.S. Secret Service

[ii] Several key federal departments that are also charged with protecting the U.S. include:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Department of Justice
  • The Department of Energy
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Department of State

[iii] The Homeland Security Council is chaired by the President of the United States. The statutory members include the Vice President of the United States and the department heads from treasury, justice, defense, homeland security, health and human services, federal emergency management agency, FBI, and the homeland security advisor. Other cabinet-level secretaries may be called upon to participate as well as the chiefs of staff for the President and Vice President, and other key members of the executive branch.


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