Category Archives: Strategy

ROC – Return on Curiousity?

This is a story about the future impact that Waterloo can have on the country and maybe even the world.   But it’s NOT about Blackberry.  Crazy, you say?

Today, on a beautiful Friday afternoon in late September – what could be one of the last great summer-like days of the year we did somethign crazy.   We said “to heck with that” and headed indoors to a crowded lecture theatre in the Engineering building at the University of Waterloo.  It was worth every minute. Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Commentary, Organizational Change, People, Startup, Strategy, Waterloo

Did Zuckerberg do it on purpose?

A post has been making the rounds on the internet titled, “It’s Becoming Clear That No One Actually Read Facebook’s IPO Prospectus Or Mark Zuckerberg’s Letter To Shareholders.

I had to admit that I was on the people who hadn’t read it.  Of course, why would I?  I wasn’t going to be buying any Facebook shares.

I didn’t need the  prospectus to know that the hype was not justified.  No matter how I looked at it, I couldn’t find a rationale that supported the price.

Where do I start?

If you understand what is going on in the world of on-line advertising — if you did the slightest bit of homework — it would be obvious that it would have taken a small miracle for Facebook to deliver earnings that would justify the sale price.   The only people who were going to make money on this deal were the original shareholders and  those same people who gave you the mortgage backed securities debacle that nearly torpedoed the US economy.

Or even without understanding the industry, if you looked at the fundamentals alone — earnings versus share price — there was no possible support for the share price.

The only explanation I could find for the price?  P. T. Barnum once said,  “There’s one born every minute.”  I wasn’t going to be part of it.  So I paid no attention.

And frankly, I wrote off Zuckerberg.

That, as it turns out, was a mistake. Continue reading


Filed under Commentary, People, Strategy

Corporate Sanity Officer? Imagine That!

It was 8:30 on a Monday morning when I got in to work.  I was just back from my vacation.  My office was a shambles.  It had been torn apart. There was dust everywhere.  My whiteboard had been taken down and was leaning against a chair, the edge of which had rubbed out part of a work of inspired genius from a Friday “chalk talk” with our lead architect just before I left.   It was the perfect image of destruction.  Thank god I had taken my laptop with me.  My docking station was encased in a plastic cover, but that cover was full of dust.

In the middle of what once was my office was a stranger in a yellow hard hat staring at at the skeleton that was my wall,  with the aluminum studs exposed.   Another was on his knees, monkeying with the bottom of a stud that he appeared to be wiggling back and forth.

What the hell was going on here? Continue reading


Filed under Change, Organization, Strategy

The Mile High Club

I got your recent email.  The chirpy tone and bringing me up to date with what was happening made me feel strange.  Didn’t you know that we’ve broken up?   Didn’t you get the message?

When I stopped coming around, didn’t you ask why?

Now, how do I say it?  Let me try this.

Get lost.  Scram. Get out of my life.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

It’s sad that things have come to this.  We used to be so close.    I was your number one guy.   You remember the pet name you called me?  Elite.  I simply called you Air Canada but I did it with such affection.  Continue reading

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Filed under Organization, People, Strategy

Dream Team – Or Your Worst Nightmare? In praise of the “B” Team

Everyone wants that perfect team. We are taught from the time we start in business that the secret to project and corporate success is getting the “very best” people in the right positions.  The “dream team”.  Get that right and you are 90% of the way to giving the competition a real butt-kicking.

That’s what we imagine. Excitement builds. We’ll get the best people, from the best schools, people who are “up and comers”! Get me the “A” performers! No “dead wood” on this team!

What a load of crap. Continue reading


Filed under Change, Organization, People, Strategy

I’ve been value propositioned!

Value proposition. How I hate that term. The reaction unfortunately is visceral. It brings back memories of a time when I was heading a global practice area and made frequent trips to our New Jersey office.

I don’t know what they put in the kool-aid in that office, but everyone was the same. I always got the feeling that they were on the edge of their chair, pushing forward, always pressing their idea as if the intensity of their effort would mow down any objections that dared rear their head.

I’d come out of a different culture, one which valued dissent. We taught, even encouraged diversity of opinion believing, as my friend Craig Hubley articulated so well, “every unanimous opinion is wrong”.

But that world ended and I found myself part of a new company with a different culture. Objections were not highly prized in this culture. You weren’t “on the team”. I learned that the hard way. Continue reading

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Filed under Organization, Social Networking, Strategy

Think small…change the world

Don’t kid yourself. Thinking that you can find new solutions is not only a matter of science. It’s a matter of faith. It’s not faith founded on belief without substance or experience.

But sometimes our experiences play tricks on us. We don’t see the real problems and the real solutions. We’ve been conditioned not to see that solutions do exist. We’ve been trained to play the game a certain way. We can only see the solutions that are “acceptable” or fit the “accepted wisdom”.

Someone once said that “for every difficult question there is a simple, direct answer. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.”

I’ve found that to be so very true. As I work with process transformation using LEAN techniques, I’ve been struck by how many times the real, lasting solutions to tough problems are counter intuitive. They go against traditional wisdom.

I’ve learned that you have to balance these contradictions. I’ve learned to do things that seemed outrageous at first but really work. You have to slow down to speed up. I’ve learned that bigger isn’t better – that you can produce more efficiently in smaller units which are produced at the rate they are consumed. I’ve learned that you have to give up control to get a disciplined regulation of an organization. Sound like nonsense to you? That’s okay. I didn’t accept half of this stuff at first.

It took me a long time to realize that biggest impediment to problem solving is the way we stick to the things we “know” and rule out new and novel solutions. We do this even when our existing solutions are what is causing the problems.

What makes it more more insidious is that we don’t even realize what we are doing this until, for the lucky few, someone comes along and shows us that the emperor has no clothes.

The problems we face are large and important. If we merely show that our current wisdom is leading us off an abyss, we have not solved the problem. We’ve created another — hopelessness. When people fell hopeless and helpless, they simply go into denial. What we need is the faith and belief that there is a solution, if only we can see it.

How do you get people to try new solutions which their whole education and all general wisdom tell them are “pie in the sky” or “dreams” or will just plain never work? I said earlier that I’ve seen the results and now I have faith. But in our scientific and logical world, faith and belief is not enough. It’s rare that any of us have the position to bring a group or an organization along solely on the basis of faith. Real leaders can sometimes do this. It takes tremendous courage.

For the rest, we need to have some proof that if we let go of our current blinders, we can find solutions to even apparently insoluble problems. Only then do we stand a chance of helping others to rid themselves of the the baggage that is obscuring the solution from their view.

The proof is out there if you want to see it. I encountered that today. I’d like to share it with you. Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Lean, Social Media, Social Networking, Strategy

Teach me how to fail – we need the money!

We only learn by our failures. Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that before. And your cheque is in the mail.

We all repeat this by rote like a demented parrot. How many actually believe it? And if we do, why don’t we act like it?

The cynic would say that the reason we don’t actually allow people to fail is that companies lie. They say they want to encourage taking chances but they really don’t. They simply do not want to pay the price. I suggest that it’s not hypocracy, that gets in the way. The problem is we don’t know HOW to fail. The good news is that you can learn to embrace failure – and reap the rewards. Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Marketing, Sales, Strategy, Technology

Strategy and Tragedy – Reflections on Through the Looking Glass

Someone used that phrase this week – Strategy and Tragedy. It was a chance meeting, an introduction — but the phrase made it memorable. Beyond the sound of it, which I loved, there was an idea that merited thought. I also liked that it was done in very good humour. As always, behind the humour, there’s something real and insightful. Humour is one of the ways we react — and cope with painful situations.

When a phrase sticks with me, I know there is a reason. Like many people, I pick up on comments that are part of my own personal zeitgeist. They are part of a question or issue that we have been working out in the back of our mind, something that’s troubling us — or to continue the pain motif — they touch a nerve somehow.

That can be painful. And for me, strategy is painful. Now that’s funny, considering that strategic consulting is the way I’ve chosen to make my living. Yet, when you understand how my mind works, it makes a lot of sense.

I got into strategy by the back door. While I love to think about and discuss issues, what really drives me is results. I like to see accomplishments, achievements. But in order to have accomplishments, you have to know what you want. As someone who is driven to results, I’ve always been able to see my goals very clearly. In my early career, I was often given troubled projects and I made a name for myself getting them back on track. IT? Business? It didn’t matter. I loved a problem. Interestingly enough, most of my successes came from establishing some goals and a sense of direction.

Without clear direction, there might be lots of action, lots of effort, but little of it was focused on the real problems. Even for those where the effort was great, the phrase “madly off in all directions” often came to mind. In reality, the world often seemed mad.

For someone like me, the challenge was simple. I needed to get people to see the true problem and once they got that, they’d see where they needed to go.

One way to make the point was humour. I’d show cartoon pictures like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland . I’m sure you’ve seen it. The famous picture of the cat grinning in the tree, and the equally famous conversation between Alice and the cat. Alice asks:

“Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where –‘ said Alice.

Then it doesn’t matter which way you go, ‘ said the Cat.

That’s how I got into strategy. This example showed precisely what I saw as the problem.

In fairness, that’s how strategy was taught at the time. It was, what I now refer to as gap consulting. I’m sure you’ve seen it somewhere. Gap consulting shows a current state — where we are today. It has a future state which shows where we want to be. the middle has the options, actions, projects or whatever that take us from the current state to the future state.

A lot of consulting that is based on that model. I’ve done a fair bit of it myself. I was very proud of it — still am to some degree.

But I’ve also had my share of frustrations with it. Given my need for results, it didn’t always yield the results that I wanted. It got somewhere, but it wasn’t always the knock it out of the park that I’d hoped. Funny, as I re-read this famous quote to work on this article, I’d forgotten the rest of the dialogue:

“– so long as I get somewhere.” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.

I should have known better. My first degree was in English Literature. And Shakespeare was all over this problem – as always. Hamlet says the famous words, to be or not to be and states the problem as clearly as anyone every could. Then for the remaining four acts, he demonstrated how hard it is to take action.

Strategy and tragedy.

Therein lies one of the real problems of a lot of gap consulting. That middle part — the action — is harder than it seems. I remember a client listening patiently to our description of the strategic challenges he faced. Part way through he interrupted and with the words that I have tried to live by ever since. He said, stop admiring the problem</em? and tell me what I have to do — today!

As long as “to be or not to be” is a question, it was irrelevant to him. While existential angst makes good drama, it makes lousy strategy. If it leads to action it worth engaging with. Otherwise it’s just “admiring the problem“. I learned a real lesson from that.

I’ve discussed this situation a number of times — often with other strategy consultants. Some get it. Some sympathize with the client to some extent. Others go on to state that this type of thinking is short term or tactical. The real problem, they say, is that the client doesn’t understand the difference between strategic and tactical thinking.

I have a real problem with the phrase, “the client doesn’t understand”. To me, it’s a lot like a comedian claiming the audience doesn’t get the joke.

To me, the client was right. Understanding the real nature of the problem has no intrinsic value by itself. It’s only use is that knowing it has some meaning to guide our actions today. Action is what saves strategy from tragedy. Larry Bossidy in his great book on strategy, which is called, curiously enough Execution makes a virtue of the tactical. He says, sweat the small stuff.

For gap consulting to work a lot of things have to come together. On the surface, we could say that it takes areal leader, with a clear and correct view of the future. No small feat, given the uncertainty and speed of change. One of my friends overheard two executives at a conference saying, “On a clear day, you can see six weeks.”

There is a conundrum here. When the future is uncertain, but the leader is certain, someone is wrong. And if a leader can only be effective if they are always right, who exactly qualifies as a leader? How do you know?

It matters both in perception and in reality. As long as there is any uncertaintly, unless you also own the company and have limitless resources, the leader alone can’t be the only one with the long term view. It needs all stakeholders – investors, employees, suppliers and customers to buy in. Almost any one of these groups can derail a long term strategy — not because of any malicious intent, but even if they just see it as hitting them too hard in the short term. The long view, as many large companies are finding out in this recession, takes enormous resources and very deep pockets.

The real leadership decision of the moment is — even if you are right about the future, can you survive long enough to see it? And that’s only for those who are certain they are right.

Are you that certain of anything? Do you ever wonder if you are wrong? You might have good reason. Anyone who has seen energy prices rise and fall recently has to has to admit that any prediction has a degree of probability — rarely if ever is there a certainty. With uncertainty comes differing views of how to deal with uncertainty. Different capacity. Different risk tolerances. All of the range of human reactions, right up to denial — which, as my friend John Thorp frequently points out, is not a river in Egypt.

What turns strategy into tragedy? The same thing that that gets in the way. Life. That was my big insight.

Could if be that the real model for strategy is not some grand theory, but the same nuts and bolts that drives our everyday lives?

think about it. Most of us know that there is, or should be a direction we should be taking with our lives. We know by and large where we are. We know, or knew where we wanted to get to or at least where we should get to. We even have a reasonable idea of the steps that we need to take.

That alone is not enough. We know what’s good for us but we don’t always do it. Back to that river in Egypt.

In fairness, it’s not only denial that keeps us from doing the right thing. If we are really honest with ourselves — uncertainty plays a role. We’re not sure that even if we do all the right things, we’ll get to our goal. So many factors are out of our control. There are so many risks, so many potential pitfalls. Life isn’t always fair.

If we are really honest, many of us will confess that we are even that certain about the ultimate destination. It’s a matter of faith, not certainty.

So what are we certain about? For many of us — not much. For those bordering on the cynical, the Cheshire Cat gives an explanation to Alice if you read a little past the famous quote. Alice confesses that she doesn’t much care where she goes, as long as it’s somewhere. To this, the Cat answers:

“Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

That’s the reality we all come to. For some, it’s frightening. For others, it reflects a certain degree of maturity. Take your pick. Either is valid. It doesn’t change the answer. We will get somewhere. It might not get the goals and dreams we started out with.

If that wasn’t sobering enough, the Cat tells Alice some bad news. No matter which direction she goes in, she’s going to face challenges and uncertainty. She won’t be able to tell what path is the “right one”. He points in two directions, one leading to the Hatter and the other leading to the March Hare. His explanation:

“Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”

Alice’s protest is an echo of our own.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked

The Cat adds a bit of wisdom for us all.

“Oh you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

That’s my reflection for the week, if you’ll forgive the metaphorical pun.

If Lewis Carroll is right, life is a lot like strategy. It’s a curious adventure in a mad, mad world. We are on an uncertain path to an equally uncertain future. No matter where we go, the signs will be confusing. We will find people who seem strange or different — even crazed in their actions. But in the end, whether we choose to realize it or not, we seem as different (or as mad) to them as they do to us. For those old enough to remember Pogo, the cartoon strip, “we have met the enemy, and it is us.

So much for the certainty of a current state and future state. More times that I care to admit, the assignments I walk into look a lot like this.

That might not always be the fault of the organization. The world is in upheaval. The path is not certain. People are, well — different. And the only certainty is that no matter what you do, you get somewhere.

Wait a minute. Am I talking about life or strategy? Even I’ve lost the distinction, and I’m the omniscient narrator.

I think the are the same in more ways that we care to admit. Classically, we haven’t wanted to see life and strategy the same way. That’s how we can divide between strategy and tactics — as if there is some magic divide between our day to day management and the strategy that guides it. In this concept, strategy is an event — it’s our moment where we corner the cat in a tree and elicit the answers. Life is more like the cryptic message that the Cat gives to Alice — it’s not an event, it’s a journey.

Hence our dissatisfaction with strategy. Often there is no right answer — or if there is one, it’s not forthcoming. This is actually a good thing, if the Cat is right. Because even if we have the answer, the directions take us through a choice of madness and madness. I don’t know about you, but for many owners I talk to, this is a pretty accurate description of the strategic horizons we are all looking at right now.

Are there lessons we can learn that can keep strategy from becoming tragedy?

For answers about life, you have to go back to people. With all of this uncertainty, with all of the disappointment, with all that life hands some of us — why are some people so successful at life? Note that I’m not just talking about people who’ve achieved what we think they should. I’m talking about people who regard their lives as fulfilled — on their terms.

Here’s what I see. Some people have a continuing confidence and belief in their goals. Yet they are flexible about how they will get there. The path is not always clear or linear, but they are always moving towards it. Success comes in steps. Some of these steps will be successful, some will be life lessons. I got this from a close friend who had lost his job this week. You have to know this guy well to know that this was not just hot air. He said, that he knew that the future was full of new possibilities. He sincerely saw this as doors being opened.

This is not being a Pollyanna. I know that this guy understands the issues that he’s facing. This is not denial. This is choosing to see a setback for what it was — one of many steps on the road.

Successful people enjoy success, for what they can do with it. They use that to lever themselves to another level. But when they are not successful, they’ll use that too. They have setbacks, they have learning — not failures.

For them, it’s not a choice between strategic and tactical thinking. It’s a blend. They have to keep an eye on the future for hope, but pay attention to the present.

Like so many things in life — when we ask ourselves to choose between one thing OR another, we’re cheating. Or is rarely the only choice. Often it could also be this AND this? That’s when you need to take the long view. You need to be careful about closing doors until they need to be closed. Decisiveness for its own sake is another way of admiring the problem.

The best analogy I can use is a chess game. In chess, you think of a number of possibilities and are constantly evaluating them. There’s no question what the end goal is, but there are many ways to get there. (Sound familiar?)

It matters in terms of results as well. If you think only of the end — of winning or losing — you’ll lose to a good player. If you think only of the next move — you’ll lose to a mediocre player. If you learn to think of many possibilities and pick the best choices — you’ll be a challenger to even a good or even a great player.

Notice I didn’t say you’ll always win. In chess, in strategy, in life — there is no certainty. But in chess, there’s always more than one game. And isn’t that the same for strategy — and for life?

That’s where I got to this week. The difference between Strategy and Tragedy is not how well we understand the destination. In many cases, the destination is obvious. It’s how well we understand the journey. There are no absolutes, just potential moves that take us closer to our goal. There will be setbacks, even losses. The real question is – how can you learn from those.

If you are as results focused as I am, this little epiphany is bigger than it seems. For those who need a clear path, this could be frightening.

One thing you can be certain of. The Cat was right. If you keep at it long enough, you eventually get somewhere. The real trick is in taking that wisdom and using it to guide the day to day. When I’m uncertain, the best thing for me to do is to really listen to your clients:-) “Stop admiring the problem and tell me what I need to do today.”

Today? You need to be less focused on the end game and more focused on the possibilities that can take you there. There isn’t a certain path, and the certainty of the direction is up to you. Believe in your direction but be flexible about what steps you might have to take to get there. Some will work out, some won’t. What do you need to do today? What are the possibilities? What’s the best action to leave you positioned for that?

And if you make the wrong move, or the wrong move happens to you — learn from it, but regard it was a step. Look at the possibilities.

Hmmm. This could work as a strategic method.

That’s an idea I’m going to play with for a little while. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

As always, I’d love your comments.

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If you want new clients, go where the clients are!

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? You might have had a different experience. But here’s something that I’ve observed. Einstein had it figured out when he said, “every solution should be as simple as possible – and no simpler.”

When I first read this quote it stuck with me instantly. I remembered it days later. I had this visual image of Einstein with the funny hair and a blackboard behind him with E=MC2 written on it in chalk. The visual image made the quote even more memorable.

Isn’t it funny how a simple message can have such an impact? What would you give to be able to be that memorable to potential customers?

Why is that important? Because in this environment, can you really afford to lose even one single deal that you could have or should have gotten? Are you struggling to find those new customers in these tough times?

I’d like to suggest something that I’ve found has really worked for me. It might work for you as well. Only you can find that out for yourself. Your experience could be different. But take a second and think about this.

Two nights ago I went to see Shelle Rose Charvet speak at a meeting of the our Strategy special interest group of the Toronto CMC Chapter. Shelle said a number of amazing things, but she left me with an image that I can’t get out of my head. Actually, it was two images — but if you want the second one, you have to hear her speak. She knows what it is. I think of her talk at least once a day. It turns out that’s healthy. But even if I tried to forget it, I couldn’t. And I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday. So making me remember two things is quite an achievement!

Let’s return to that first image. Here’s what she said — I wrote it down so I’d get it exactly. It might not be perfect, I wrote it quickly, but I’m sure she will correct me if it’s not right.

Here’s what I heard.

“In order to get someone to go somewhere with you, you need to meet them where they are…”

Shelle went on to make another point. She feels that many times our real competition might not be competitors. The real thing that’s preventing us from winning the sale may be that the client has other alternatives. One of those alternatives is to do nothing. The other is to study the issue – put it off.

She suggested that we need is to find a way to convince our clients that they need us more than ever. Shelle also went on to explain why we can have the best product or service and still lose the deal. Or why sometimes our own honest enthusiasm might be working against our message! I appreciate that all of this might sound a little over the top so let me share something from my own experience.

I’ve been following Shelle’s work for a few years now. Recently I had a client who had a problem. They had a product which would legitimately save their customers money. It had added benefits as well. It offered them ways to access new services. Interestingly enough, this other product was not only good for my client’s customers, it was much more profitable for my client. So imagine how frustrating it must have been to find out that they could not convince customers to switch.

They told me that their customers preferred the first (less profitable) product. They could not be convinced to switch.

As someone who cannot resist a good problem, I wanted to see if I could help them (as Shelle would say) re-frame the issue. Or as I might call it — to change the game. I had some ideas I thought might work, and I asked them if we could do a pilot to test them out.

So here’s what we did. We stopped selling. We asked customers if we could help them. We created a script which asked customers what their needs were and we asked permission to explain the differences between the two options. We explained these options clearly and objectively (we’d prepared this well). What happened? In our tests, we converted 60 percent of the people to the cheaper, but more profitable option.

Remember that my client was convinced this wouldn’t work? the results immediately raised some skepticism. So they should. They have every right to be skeptical about results like these. It’s a good thing. And I wanted to be careful not to “oversell” this. I was clear that their results could be different in other stores, other circumstances. But I got the chance to ask a question. I got the chance to ask what benefit they would get if the results were 1/10th of what we got in the pilot?

When even the skeptics went to work on this, they had to admit to themselves that this was worth a try.

Why did this work? The underlying principles came from reading one of Shelle’s books “Words That Change Minds”. I tell people that the reason my consulting gets results is not that I have to be smarter than everyone else. I just have to be smart enough to recognize great ideas an adapt them to what I do. Shelle has given me a number of those ideas over the years in her book. So it was very rewarding for me after all these years to be able to sit in the audience and hear her talking about things that I had thought about over the years since I first discovered her book in our company library.

And as always, she was reframing the issue so I could see it in a new way. If you want to get someone to go somewhere with you, you have to meet them where they are. We did that. We got to them in the store as they were in the process of making their decision. But we knew from surveys that customers wanted to be helped, not sold. We devised this so that it was clear and helpful — no sales, we simply gave them the facts they needed to make an informed decision and invited them to make up their own minds.

If we’d started where we were, we would have been trying to convince them. Even if we were right, even if we were enthusiastic, we would have been making them even more skeptical and less likely to hear our message.

So I’ve been asking myself a question. How many times am I missing opportunities because I am not going to where my clients are? As a consultant, I fall into the trap myself. I might be good at spotting issues with clients, but missing them in my own work. My own filters might keep me from seeing myself clearly. Sometimes even the best of us need a good mirror. That’s what Shelle’s presentation was for me. And what her work has been for me over the years. It’s a chance to hold up a mirror and take a clear look at how my message is being (or not being) received. By seeing it clearly, I can remove the obstacles to my own success — in the same way that I remove them for others.

So to my friend Bob who started this out with his question this morning. If you are reading this, that’s the answer to the question you asked (half in jest) this morning. Your question was right on the money. I hope I got it right You asked, if I’d read Shelle’s book so many times, why didn’t I spot these issues earlier? Correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll fix it. (The wonderful thing about a blog!)

I might suggest suggest that I’ve done some very good work for my customers. Do you remember that famous quote from Archimedes? I think we all learned it in school. “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

I’d like my clients to think of my services in that way. I can help them leverage what they do now and transform their efforts so they can do things they never thought possible. I can help them solve tough problems. The solutions are what they need them to be. For some, its that extra customer, for others, it’s reducing costs, for others its getting their teams to work together effectively. Some just want to hold the customers they have by building loyalty. They believe that loyal customers stick with you in tough times.

Even my business has challenges. We are a growing business and need to find new customers. Or better still, we need to convince old customers that doing nothing is not an option. I have to help them see why they need my services more than ever. This recession (or whatever it is) is changing customer behaviour. To use Shelle’s visual metaphor, it’s like clients have moved off to a different bus stop. And I can only convince them to get on the bus with me if I go to the bus stop where they are. It’s a timely message that we might all consider.

Everyone — including good consultants — need a look in the mirror from time to time. Because the world changes and our filters — the very things that help us cope with all the information out there, the things that make us successful, can actually prevent us from seeing problems clearly. Even if you are great at seeing what others need, you can still miss it for yourself. Shelle helped me once again, to reframe and see a challenge that I have.

so I came out of Shelle’s workshop with a list of notes. I’ve learned that if I want to get a lot out of an event, I have to listen carefully. Some speakers make that hard. Some make it easy to listen.

Shelle not only makes it easy, she explains how you can do that as well.

I hope I will never stop improving. So I set some goals. I will try to meet my clients where they are. I will expect them to be skeptical if I talk about all the great results that they will get. I will ask even more about their problems. I’ll remember to ask them what matters to them and why. I’ll continue a habit that Shelle taught me long ago – I’ll capture the answer in their words and not mine. I want to meet them where they are and not where I think they should be. If I can do that, I can invite them on the bus with me and we can take a journey together. That’s the type of work I think I’m good at. It’s also the type of work I love.

Thanks, Bob for raising that question. Thanks to Shelle for helping me see an issue that I can share with my friends, colleagues and readers.

Note for anyone who missed this workshop. Shelle is having two more workshops which are sponsored by CMC Canada in Toronto. Contact CMC Canada if you want more information about these workshops. Check out Shelle’s web-site if you want to find out more about her. You have to make up your own mind. All I can tell you is that her advice has helped me a lot 😉

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