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The World Hidden Before Us.

Sunday night I swung by for Chinese takeout. I love chicken lo mein… Part of the joy of eating Chinese food has always been the fortune cookie. It’s not only the lightly sweetened taste of the cookie, but the hidden fortune inside.

I have begun to judge restaurants based upon the quality of these little treats – even shunning some while choosing others. The fortunes always give me a time to reflect upon the thought and ask questions.

Hokey, probably – but fun, most certainly!

When I opened the fortune cookie inside was a wonderful quote that really gave me some food for thought,

Technology is the art of arranging the world so we do not notice it.

At first glance, I was amazed at how succinct and wonderful this fortune was. In a previous post, The Heart of a Technologist, I said,

I see so many who seem to be on a quest for self-glory or the latest discovery, much like Ponce de Leon’s search for the infamous Fountain of Youth. Some may serve through discovery or creation, while some offer their service in the form of repair or maintenance. When at our best, we operate behind the scenes, unnoticed and under cover of dark, weaving our magic webs of security and five-nine’s availability.

In essence, I had thought the script read that when technology was working as it should, it was invisible.

However, as I rolled this around in my mind, much like tasting a great glass of wine, I began to wonder if it instead meant that technology got in the way of seeing the world for what it is. With communication coming at us in all directions and everything from coworkers to advertisers vying for our attention, are we too connected? Does the noise distract us from seeing the beauty?

These are all great questions for technologist and lay-person alike to ponder. Are you sure you walk your critical path in life? What gets in the way of you seeing life as you should?

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Live It, Love It, or Leave It.

I have learned that each of us has a special gift that we do better than just about anyone else out there.Certainly, we all need to celebrate the differences we encounter with a spirit of gratitude. We often give of ourselves to help others, but like to know that our gifts are appreciated. Don’t you?

Think about what occurs when you feel most appreciated. Is it when your boss, mentor or account manager spends time with you; is it when he or she offers you genuine compliments, offers you gifts, says thank you by doing something for you or simply gives you a hug or firm pat on the back for a job well done*?

You know what makes you smile!

What if the shoe were on the other foot? What if you found yourself offering of yourself, be it advice, time or compliments – and not only were they not being received, but refused outright. What a dramatic hit to our self-worth! It can be stunning to be rejected, right? Eventually, you no longer feel like giving of yourself – your advice, time or compliments. You begin to think it is pointless and falling on deaf ears.

As I see it, there are 3 choices the professional has:

  1. Live it: Suck it up and deal with the situation.
  2. Love it: Relish what you do (ideally).
  3. Leave it: Walk away, knowing you gave it your best effort and that your energy and gifts are better spent elsewhere.

Which choice do you make when you are running on empty? Which message are you telling your customer to think about you?

*Methods of appreciation adapted from Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages.

 

Stargazers Wanted!

In years past, many travelers used the night sky to navigate uncharted oceans and unclaimed lands. They looked into the deep, black sky filled with the stars of legend and the like. Orion, Leo, Pisces and Crux — all constellations standing upon centuries of lore. But most could not read their stories, making way for a special breed to spin their long tales — the stargazers.

Many would listen as a talented few told these stories spanning across time. The past and present were often fair game, but most curious of all was the futures they held. Proclaimed as heresy by some, and discounted by many more, these stargazers told stories lost on most. But a fortunate few heard the future whispered in the wind. By listening closely and seeing the unseen, a way was revealed as if from a dream.

These stargazers were often proven true, able to find their way when others were lost and steering weary travelers safely to shore.

Most travelers fix their sights upon the horizon, always fixated on the setting sun. But a fortunate few of us discover a latent gift; looking up into that deep, black sky, we pluck our choice of stars by hand. Carefully choosing each stitch, we weave our own constellation to throw back for all to see.

— But only a few see the convergence ahead. Are you ready?

FREE Time Management Tool: Download the Daily Focus Pad

Destroy Distraction Daily Focus Pad by ChangeForgeOf all the workplace productivity and time management tools I’ve tried over the years, I never could find one that had everything I needed in one spot. So I created my own called the Daily Focus Pad.

In their book, Rework (affiliate), Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson speak about creating their products to scratch their own itch. After such strong feedback from many of those who’ve been using the Daily Focus Pad, I decided to make it available for download with no strings attached.

It’s a super-easy way to prioritize your day, stay focused and stay motivated!

Many had signed up for my eBook, 7 Secrets to Destroy Your Daily Distractions: A Field Guide to Focusing Today!, and received the Daily Focus Pad. This is still available, but I’ve added a form-fillable PDF because so many of you had asked for it.

Keep the feedback coming, because I’m happy to keep helping everyone be effective and destroy the BIG ‘D’ — Distraction!

Download is freely available using this link. While you’re at, pay it forward and share it with a friend, too!

PS – I’ve been tinkering with the idea of creating an iPhone and Android app. Answer 2 simple questions to let me know if  you like the idea!

The Results Are In: How Are You Taking ACTION?


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What’s the biggest problem you face in your business, right now?

In my recent series about my PROACTIVE system of making change easier for you and your customers, I asked this question as part of a brief survey (take it here).

The answers you gave indicated there is a real desire to create a long lasting, high value relationship with your customers and continued disconnects within your own company to execute as a unified team.

Sixty percent of you were interested in learning more about how to create a rock-solid pre-implementation plan. This is a great sign, because it means you know that preparation + practice makes for an excellent customer experience!

Because it’s not sexy and slick, we often overlook the operational details in a technology-centric rollout, focus on the technology instead of the culture, and often get frustrated by the seemingly petty details of an implementation.

In his recent book, FLIP (Amazon store link), Peter Sheahan makes the point time and again that you must sweat the small stuff — especially in today’s market. But does sweating the small stuff mean that it has to be complicated?

I have spent a lot of time working on many different projects, and the one thing I found is that most small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) don’t want or need the formal project and change management practices of the larger enterprises.

Taking ACTION

As one of the key steps in the PROACTIVE system for making managing projects and making change easier, step one centers on how you can create a rock-solid pre-implementation plan and take action without the headaches. The six steps can be easily remembered using the acronym ACTION:

  1. Asset Specification & Order Processing: Your customer has bought what you were selling, so it’s critical you get the order right! Your customer  wants you to make it easy for them, so don’t let your order process make a fool of you.
  2. Contract Setup & Financing: When you put legal contracts in front of your customer, it’s like you just turned from professing your undying love and desire to marry your true love to asking him/her to ensure plan for the eventuality of a divorce! The trust you’ve earned during the relationship building process is on your side, but their hard-earned trust is put to the test from this point on. Remember, now you are dealing with their money; be sure to make it easy for them to spend it with you because of their trust in your company’s services.
  3. Team Meeting: I am an huge believer in the internal team meeting — to get everyone on the same page. I have a very specific agenda I’ve found that works in these meetings, which creates a highly effective meeting and wastes as little time as possible to get everyone out of the gates and working on your customer’s implementation.
  4. Inspect the Site(s) & Survey the Customer: Having an effective on-site survey is often thought to be too complex. One of the keys to success is in surveying the customer. This process is a quality check to ensure everything lines up. Your customers find this extremely professional, you avoid costly shipment errors and on-site delays, and everyone has a smile on their face in the end!
  5. Operational Review: In the world of construction, a ‘punch list’ is used to identify gaps between what is currently built-out and what should be built. The Operational Review helps you, your team and the customer’s team begin the project with the same perspective – and on equal footing.
  6. Next Step: Be sure to always clearly identify the next step (or steps) as you move to begin your implementation. No one should be left in the dark as to what their role is in the project or what is expected of them.

In just another week, I’ll be presenting the entire process in Orlando, Florida. Be sure to Register today for an exclusive action packed day!

PS – If you can’t make it, or simply want more information on this topic, I’ll make it easy for you: simply fill in your contact information below (or click this link); I’ll be sure to send you more information personally.

9 Steps to Avoid the Honeymoon Fight with Your Customer

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Have you every considered your customer relationships like marriages? How about marriages where both partners are committed to one another?

According to the CDC, there was one divorce for every two marriages in the US in 2009. That’s frightening, especially considering how much effort goes into just the wedding itself).

There is the whole business of actually finding a date in the first place, and I don’t know about you but dating surely wasn’t cheap either. Aside from the monetary costs, what about all of the emotional baggage you build up?

So what are you doing to improve your chances in your marriage? How about your marriage to your customer?

Married to Your Customers?

I remember our honeymoon, soon to be 15 years ago this May. We got into a huge fight all because our expectations didn’t match what we’d built up in our head. If you are like most businesses I’ve worked with, your sales cycle can tend to set you up for a very similar let down.

With 70 percent of all major changes failing, you might be better off getting married, wouldn’t you? Continually, businesses invest time, money and effort into courting new customers only to throw it all away because they put the implementation on autopilot.

If you are the salesperson, I’m sure you have all of the best intentions, but be honest — you’ve got a quota to maintain, and those widgets sure aren’t going to sell themselves are they? Tell me it wouldn’t make you feel better knowing your implementation team is a fine-tuned, eat-nails-for-breakfast type of crack-team.

If you are on the implementation team, wouldn’t it be nice if your sales team finally quit promising the world for you to deliver?

It’s not just about product knowledge, it’s about the intimate knowledge with this process that makes everyone look like heros!

Less Effort & More Results

I found out a long time ago that you have to put effort into something to get the results out you want. But it can’t always be so hard, or else you’ll begin to wonder, “What’s the point of it anyway?”

Think about diets and exercise routines; it takes real commitment to see those through doesn’t it? (I know my waste is starting to say so!)

The marriage to your customer — your new customer — should take no less focus, but it doesn’t have to keep taking so much effort!

9 Steps to Avoid the Honeymoon Fight with Your Customer

The key to your success is easier than you think.

I’ve fallen down and scraped my knees more than I care to think about. In that time I’ve uncovered 9 key steps to help you avoid the honeymoon fight with your customer!

Maybe you’re tired of mopping up the messes of failed implementations, or maybe you just want to learn some things you could do to improve your total customer experience.

In May, I’ll be delivering this one-of-a-kind, MPS-centric program on how to make your total customer experience top notch as part of my 1-day, I’m Tired of MPS Seminars workshop at the 2011 Global MSP Conference hosted by Photizo Group.

Don’t miss it, and Register today for an exclusive action packed day full of a bunch of great topics like this!

PS – If you can’t make it, or simply want more information on this topic, I’ll make it easy for you: simply fill in your contact information below (or click this link); I’ll be sure to send you more information personally.

You Got the Sale! Now What?

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You worked your tail off getting or supporting the sale — and you won! Now what? The scary thing is that you’ve only got one shot to get this right…

With  7 of 10 major changes failing in organizations, do you want to risk all your hard work to a sloppy rollout?

Today, I’m sharing with you the 9-step system I’ve developed in over 15 years of technology- and process-centric changes in organizations just like your’s.

Whether you are part of the team delivering the sale or responsible for making all of the sales team’s promises come true (oh, brother!), there are always a lot of moving pieces to consider in a technology implementation.

To top it all off, I bet you are tired of hearing all of the jargon (and sick of the complexity) around project management and change management. It’s just too complex for most small and medium sized service providers to digest.

If all of this information is hard for you to get your hands around, how are you going to make it easy for your customers?

Be PROACTIVE

After spending a lot of time working with both large and small organizations to ‘make the change’ happen for our customers, I’ve developed a 9-step system directly focused on helping small- and medium-sized providers ease the pain of transition during technology- and process-centric rollouts.

  1. Pre-implementation Agenda – Next to the actual delivery and execution, this is the most important component to ensure your success. Sadly, this is the most often overlooked and hurried step. By developing a customized 6-step ACTION planning system, I’ve allowed you to maximize your chances for success!
  2. Reveal & Review Change, Embrace Resistance – There has to be a story behind why the change is important to your customer’s culture! Be sure to explore why this change is beneficial, but also be prepared to embrace resistance by applying the 7 E’s to Embracing Resistance.
  3. Opening Day Meeting – As part of making change easy for your customers, you want to build excitement while getting everyone on the same page of the program. I have found the opening day meeting (or kickoff meeting) is critical to gathering both cheerleaders and collaborators to your cause.
  4. Asset Deployment & Alignment – This is where the rubber meets the road; whether it’s hardware or software assets, how you align these assets to your customer’s culture is what ultimately tests the mettle of your very first proposal.
  5. Configure & Connect(2) – Customizing and connecting the assets are important, but don’t forget to ensure your project engineers and specialists are connecting with the customer’s people too!
  6. Train – A great way to increase customer satisfaction and shrink that long-tail of support calls after a rollout is to ensure you train and certify your customers. You’ll want to focus on the technology point of contact, key operators appointed to help end-users, and the end-users themselves.
  7. Implementation Wrap-up Meeting – It’s easy to get in a rush when you’ve spent long hours implementing a project of any size. This is a scheduled meeting to ensure mid-level review of the changes that have occurred takes place, as well as allows any additional issues to be addressed.
  8. Vital Review Meeting – I’m often asked what frequency you should follow-up with customers to maximize effectiveness. While the answer is largely dependent on your ability to be consistent in your own process, I recommend that you follow a 3-3-3 rule (after wrap-up). This is to say that you are checking in with your customer at day 3, week 3, and having an on-site, executive review every month for the first 3 months.
  9. Explore & Evaluate Additional Opportunities – If you’ve done your job, you now have achieved a trusted advisor status. In as little as 30 days, at your first VRM, you can proactively begin suggesting enhancements based upon expert insights you’ve developed by staying close and monitoring specific processes within the customer’s environment.

What’s NEXT?

Obviously there is a lot to cover here, and I will be covering more in future articles. If you want to learn how to make change easy for you and your customers, simply fill in your contact information below (or click this link); I’ll be in touch with more information shortly.

PS – I’ll be working directly with Photizo Group to deliver an MPS-centric version of this system in Orlando on May 2nd that will only be available to Photizo customers! Register today for an action packed day!

Five Lessons Learned On the Road to Becoming a Guru

In our hyper-connected world, how you package yourself is critical; we all want to be seen as the expert at what we do. After all, each of us is selling something we want customers to buy — or buy into. However, achieving the status of ‘guru’, or passionate expert, is often elusive. As a student of life, I wanted to share five lessons I’ve learned.

How you package yourself is directly related to your ability to garner trust and translate this into customer conversions. I often refer to this as a ‘personal brand’, or a means to tie all of your skills, knowledge, persona and intellectual property into a customer-facing package. In other words, it’s how your customer would react if you were a gift.

Would they have a genuine smile of pleasant surprise, or would they wrinkle their nose while smiling thinly in your general direction?

Lesson #1: Remember where you are at all times.

Have you ever overheard a conversation where you walked away stunned someone would say such things about another person? “I would never be that rude,” you probably thought.

There are ears everywhere, and your personal brand does not end with fancy websites or eloquent elevator pitches. It extends into delivery of your products and offerings as well as the on-going commitment to your customers’ satisfaction. Each transaction could be considered a form of deposit or withdrawal in your ‘reputation’ account. More importantly, others are making deposits and withdrawals with and without your knowledge all of the time.

With so many ways in which to interact with your customers, what you say is as important as the ways in which you choose to interact. For instance, I’ve chosen this format to be my primary means of communicating my own personal brand to the world. On the flip side, one advertising executive managed to completely wreck a relationship with FedEx, worth millions of dollars, and his own personal brand in less than 140 characters on Twitter.

How and what you say are critically important. Remember  where you are all times.

Lesson #2: Being a guru isn’t voodoo.

Some have called me a technology guru, MPS guru or even a change guru. So how did I earn this kind of respect from others?

There are those who might argue that being a guru, or passionate expert, is like putting on your clothes; you either have the ‘secret sauce’ or you don’t. I tend to disagree, and hold with the belief that being a guru isn’t voodoo.

Instead, it relates directly to your ability to generate trust. Many ask why I offer so much content for free, while others choose to charge for it. It’s a matter of personal taste and objectives. My hope is that in doing so, you see I am focused on giving more than receiving. I enjoy sharing my view of things with you, and always enjoy learning about your view of the world as well.

Becoming a guru really takes persistence and commitment to something you are passionate about. You can become an expert at things you are not necessarily passionate about. But when you introduce passion to commitment, you have an unstoppable force.

It certainly isn’t magic, but it does take persistence.

Lesson #3: Owning your heart is where it starts.

We are living in the ‘on-demand society’, lulled into a belief we can achieve anything with limited resources and finite amounts of time. I promote the ideal of dreaming big and winning bigger. However, I’ve had to learn that it is in the alignment of who we are  and what we love with our choices which make us ho-hum achievers or wildly successful winners!

I recently had a great opportunity to reacquaint myself with clarity, in a rather painful way. I didn’t embrace who I was and what I loved. More importantly, I didn’t stay clear as to what my actions said about me in the eyes of my colleagues’ and customers’ eyes.

I often railed against being categorized as “the propeller head” and bristled at being just the “IT guy”. In my quest to elevate myself above what I thought to be a limiting personal brand, I missed two key points:

  1. Just because I can sell doesn’t mean I’ve earned anyone’s trust as a sales guru.
  2. In continuing to give and help others, I had already elevated myself above the brand of “just IT guy”.

You see, clarity isn’t an end state in the human condition. It is actually a frame of mind that is rather easy to fall out of. But before you can get clear on where you are and need to go, owning your heart is where it starts.

Lesson #4: Use your baggage to build your ‘guru gravitas’.

Everyone has baggage, a reputation that’s been sullied by missteps and mistakes.

Being married to my beautiful Wife for almost 15 years, I can assure you our reputation follows us throughout our lives. I’ve made lots of dumb mistakes in our marriage, but perhaps one of the worst was the first Mother’s Day after our daughter was born. I made the rookie mistake of thinking Mother’s Day was only for my Mother. So I didn’t buy my Wife a Mother’s Day present, and let me just tell you that I’m lucky she sees fit to still introduce me as her husband!

Maybe you’ve entertained dreams of running away to a far away country with lots of beaches and crystal blue waters, but for most of us this just isn’t a reality. When I use to tell a friend about that dream he used to reply, “The only problem is that you take yourself with you.”

Sure enough, on your way to becoming a guru you will make mistakes. In fact, I believe this makes a stronger and more passionate expert. Your customer and your community won’t like that you make mistakes, but owning them and moving to remedial action is essential to you and your reputation surviving intact. In fact, I’ve found the best ways to accelerate your status as a guru in your customer’s eyes is to humbly admit you make mistakes.

Blasphemy?

To some, sure. However, the reason customers want to pay you for your help is because of your knowledge. This is comprised as much of what to do right as what not to do wrong. While you carry your baggage with you everywhere, embracing the mistakes (and lessons learned) as part of your character surely adds to your ‘guru gravitas’.

Lesson #5: You’re never done!

The key thing I want you to take away from this is that you need to be a guru in every aspect of your life. Not only is it important for your profession, but it’s important for you as a person.

The word ‘guru’ might be just a word without a lot of weight, or it can take on a deeper meaning for you.

Certain words may not be important to some because only shades of what these words represent have been experienced. For those who have experienced the unconditional love of a child, or the deeper layers of love an actively engaged marriage reveals, you instantly associate the word love with how powerful a force it can be in your own life.

As you go through life, don’t settle for the definition of ‘guru’ as an actively engaged industry expert. Instead look around and find areas in your life where gurus are needed. Maybe it’s being a great father or mother, becoming an excellent husband or wife or being a volunteer at your local community center.

While the glory of the quest sometimes overshadows its purpose, don’t become complacent in your quest to become the ‘guru’. Achieving this will always find you in demand,  because the world always needs a guru like you.

Build Your Brand Around You, Not Your Software!

You’ve spent a lot of time, energy and money getting your customer to know you by name, right? Then why build your brand around a product or service you don’t own and control?

In the world of software, you can bank on acquisitions. It’s not a matter of if, but when and were they acquired by a company who cares about your business more than the intellectual property they just bought. So I advise my customers all the time, build your brand around you — not your software!

The term ‘brand’ simply refers to a customer-centric concept, which a company, product or service promises to its customer and what delivering on that promise implies; it’s about being relevant to your customer, while differentiating your offering. A good example would be the company and product of Coca-Cola with its “Open Happiness” slogan; the product is a soft drink, while the brand is a little smile packaged in a bottle – if you believe it.

People respond to brands for different reasons, buying and consuming based upon their perception of this promise and how it will be fulfilled (the smile); others simply respond to the features and benefits of the product or service, itself (tastes good, refreshing). Software isn’t really so different.

But I might encourage you to turn and look at things a bit differently…

It’s easy to fall victim to thinking a well established brand can lift you to new heights in your customers eyes. Those companies have really done a great job building a brand. Why not see if you can grab a little of that mojo for your own, right?

Worse yet, you were lazy and just started telling your sales team you had this great new tool that would make their lives awesome! The tool did everything it promised and more, and you woke up one day to find the company who owned and maintained the tool had been sold.

Now you’ve got a bunch of questions to answer — and let’s hope this tool doesn’t impact your cash flow… but it probably does.

So what do you do now that you baked that turd-pie, wrapped it in a box and put a bow around it?

I might have a few answers for you. Otherwise, I guess the answer depends on just how bad things stink.