Let's get to it:
Practices for Winners
Next month will be the second anniversary of the Competitive Knowledge
Newsletter. Our purpose was, and still is, to help manufacturing companies
reach their full potential by providing competitive knowledge to their key
people. One of our initial CKN goals was to earn a readership of 25 new
subscribers each week. When I wrote the first issue, back in May 2000, we
had all of 124 subscribers. Today, we have a readership of over 7500 and
we thank you for putting us so far ahead of our subscriber goal.
In the past year, 4200 manufacturing professionals subscribed to our CKN.
That's a 27% increase over our first year and we thank each one of you for
helping us to exceed our expectations. Why am I telling you this?
I'm informing you of this event for two reasons... first, I wanted you to
know that we practice what I preach. In my e-tutorial, "Balanced
Scorecards" I promote a performance measurement technique that
produces great results:
"Set a weekly goal --- exceeded it --- celebrate it ---then set a new
We applied this technique in pursuit of our CKN subscriber goal. We exceed
the weekly goal a total of 7 times and raised the bar 10 subscribers each
time. Our celebrations were a pizza party, a gift certificate, a ride in
balloon, a trip to Mexico, another gift certificate, a dinner party, and a
theater party. Our goal today is 95 new subscribers per week. This brings
us to the second reason for telling you this story...
The 25, 35, and 45 were easy goals to exceed. At 55 it started to get
tough and took 10 weeks to exceed it. We have been stuck at the 95
subscribers per week goal for three months now and this is the reason for
bringing you into the play. WE NEED YOUR HELP! If each of you were to
copy of this CKN to your boss, or one of your peers, or an offsite
business associate and recommend that they become a CKN subscriber, I know
we would break through the 95 per week barrier.
So, "just do it!" Hit your email forward button and do it now...
WE THANK YOU.
Now do yourself and your company a favor:
Pick an opportunity --- set a weekly goal --- exceeded it ---celebrate it
--- then set a new higher goal.
You'll be amazed at your ability to exceed expectations in speed, quality,
growth and profits. It works for us.
For our lead article this month, I have chosen to present "The
Horse's Ass Story." It has been updated with a technological
relevance that you should find of interest.
This newsletter has reached your desk because I think we share a common
objective---to help manufacturing teams avoid "burnout" while
achieving their full performance potential. If this is not the case,
simply CLICK THE LINK at the bottom of this newsletter and you will be
removed from our mailing list.
P.S. I'll certainly let you know when we surpass our 95 subscribers per
week goal and then we can all celebrate together. Your associates can sign
up by sending a blank email to:
---- March 2002 ---
Horse's Ass Story
2. Taming the Wild Stallion
3. Unleash Your Creativity
4. Stewardship Delegation
5. Success Kills
Practices for Winners
Horse's Ass Story
The US standard railroad gauge (width between the two rails) is 4 feet,
8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?
Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates
built the U.S. railroads.
Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines
were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and
that's the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools
that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if
they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some
of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of
the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? The first long
distance roads in Europe and England were built by Imperial Rome for her
legions. The roads have been used ever since.
And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots first formed the initial
ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon
wheels. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were
all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard
railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original
specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and
bureaucracies live forever!
So the next time you are handed a specification that makes you wonder what
horse's ass came up with it, you might be exactly right, because the
Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the
asses of two war horses. Thus, we have the answer to the original
Now the extraterrestrial twist to the story. When you see a Space Shuttle
sitting on it's launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to
the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs.
The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah.
The engineers who designed the SRB's might have preferred to make them a
bit fatter, but the SRB's had to be shipped by train from the factory to
the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a
tunnel in the mountains. The SRB's had to fit through that tunnel. The
tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track
is about as wide a two horses' asses.
So, a major design feature of what is arguably the worlds' most advanced
transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the
width of a horse's ass.
Practices for Winners
Taming the Wild Stallion
Do you need to reign in a "maverick" employee? Do you see
potential, but find yourself constantly frustrated by their refusal to
Lets "tame" your wild stallion:
1. Alone, evaluate this employee and how they can best benefit your
company. Where do their work habits cost your business?
2. Pick one area and set a goal for them. Make it a measurable, attainable
goal. For example, a technician communicates poorly with customers, limits
repairs to save money, and won't completely fill out a service report.
with the service report, it's the simplest to fix.
3. Meet with the employee and lay out the goal and your expectations. Tell
them they are valued, but this work habit hurts the business and them. Be
clear and thorough. Make it a requirement, not a suggestion.
4. Set a time to follow up. With the service report it would be at day's
end, every day. Have accountability meetings until they consistently
comply. Praise them along the way for successes, while patiently, but
firmly correcting mistakes.
5. After success with the first bad habit, send the message clearly that
you are very pleased and move on to the next in a week or two. If you are
unable to help them succeed in the first easy area you chose after several
weeks of working with them, it's time to reconsider them completely.
This is not a quick fix, but an investment in retraining and will pay big
dividends in the long run.
Practices for Winners
Unleash Your Creativity
We live in a hectic time.
Ours is an instant gratification society. We want it now. Yet, as we
reflect on the best things in our lives, we often find the truly important
things took time to develop.
The 'always on' nature of the tools we use in business can all too easily
trap us into believing that we can function as machines too.
But we're not machines, we're human beings.
Is there a way to achieve peak performance and happiness in life too? Of
Here are five factors which, when practiced consistently in your life,
will help you tap into the giant creativity reservoir you have within.
1. Find your peak mental time
You may hear some people say "I'm a morning
person" while others say they don't really get
started until noon. To maximize your effectiveness, it
is vital to know who YOU are and co-operate with your
natural clock rather than fight it.
One great way to discover your peak time is to keep a log of how you feel.
Keep a log for a week, noting when you felt the
sharpest. Then arrange your work around these peak hours, planning the
most important tasks for
this time. Many have found that once they harmonize with who they really
are, they get much more done in less time.
2. Make a 'creativity appointment' with yourself
Plan 30 minutes every day DURING this peak time for
a "creativity appointment". Make this time as
undisturbed as possible. Use this time to connect deeply
with your mission in life and review your goals as well.
3. Get ready to solve a problem
During this time, think deeply for the first 10
minutes about the biggest problem you face. Allow
yourself to play 'what if' about the challenge you face.
If you had every resource a person could have, would it still BE
a problem? What if you tackled it and did nothing else?
Would that solve it? What if you neglected it completely for two weeks?
Would that make it worse, or make it go away?
4. Let your subconscious work
After these 10 minutes, and for the rest of the
time, let your mind wander anywhere it wants to go.
If possible, step outside and look at the sky.
Even better, go outside and hear the sounds of nature. You want to
think expansively now, to consider all possibilities.
5. Prepare for the answer
During this quiet time, keep a pad and pen handy and write
down any new and creative thoughts that come to you. You may find that
during this time new, and very exciting, thoughts and possibilities rush
into your mind. Write each one down, no matter how silly they may seem.
Be consistent. The more often you keep your creativity appointments, the
more you will find that you have the "aha!" moments during your
day, when solutions to problems just pop into your mind.
Expand the appointments to include a half-day a month and you will unleash
even more creativity. Soon, you will hunger for these times because you
will find that it is while doing nothing at all that something very good
Practices for Winners
Do you have too much to do?
It's easy to say, "just delegate", but how do you do that when
it often means that YOU end up having to do the job yourself (or
correcting mistakes) in the end?
The first step is to identify the difference between stewardship and
"go for" delegation. When you direct an employee to complete a
task and return to you when it's done, without allowing them to see the
big picture, you are using "go for" delegation. Even in today's
world, "go for" delegation is the most common kind of delegating
that gets done.
Webster's Dictionary defines stewardship as:
Stewardship : the conducting, supervising, or
managing of something; especially : the careful and
responsible management of something entrusted to one's care
<stewardship of our natural resources>
How much better would our lives be if our employees became stewards of the
projects they are involved in, and not simply "go for's"? When
an employee takes ownership of a project he or she becomes the steward of
that project, with your role becoming one of overseer.
When we help our employees become stewards, we help them develop into
persons who can run the show while we are busy doing other things. The
process minimizes interruptions in our days and provides more peace of
mind throughout the day as well.
Consider these five steps to help your employees make the transition into
1. Evaluate and choose one person to begin with. Remember,
you're not choosing someone to go get coffee. You're
choosing someone to trust.
2. Explain to them what you are doing, without showing them
the whole picture yet. If it doesn't work out, you'll
lose them if you say too much now.
3. Set one long-range goal and one short-range goal. Make
the short-range goal one that can be done within two
4. Teach them how to plan. Teach them how to break tasks
into small pieces and keep track of the progress.
Remember, this is an investment in YOU. Make sure they
have access to the resources they will need.
5. When the two weeks are up, evaluate his or her progress.
Hold them to a reasonable standard.
Stewardship will not be a good fit for every employee, or every manager
for that matter. One good way to decide if stewardship is right for you is
to check your level of interruptions. Run an interruption log for one
week. If you
find you are interrupted five or more times in an average day, perhaps a
'steward' to assist you would be a good idea.
Practices for Winners
5. Success Kills
Has success killed your creativity?
Do you remember when times were leaner? When you had to improvise to get
things done? When you knew your entire team on a first name basis?
Many of us attend seminars where the speaker sniffs, in their best
condescending tone, that we must "think outside the box" or
"embrace new realities".
While it is true that we must understand systems and processes in order to
grow and thrive, it's equally important that we trust ourselves and our
We might not want to return to leaner times (who would?) but we may
benefit greatly from the thinking that took place during those times.
If your creativity level is lower than you would prefer, consider this
process to rekindle the fire that burned within.
When faced with a new dilemma ask yourself these questions.
1. When presented a challenge, is your first thought how to
systematize the problem or how to solve it now?
2. What would you do if YOU were the only resource available
to solve the problem?
3. How many alternative ways are there to solve the problems
you face at this time? Have you listed and explored each?
4. If you had to decide NOW what to do, what would you
Bureaucracy is like a boat that loses it's anchor. Little by little, we
drift so far that we can no longer see the shore.
If you still believe that the shortest distance between two points is a
straight line perhaps the best "to do" on your list today would
be to identify the one piece of bureaucracy that you would like to
eliminate and take action to change it.
The simple fact is that in most circumstances we know what to do. We've
been schooled. We've been trained. We have the tools within us to excel.
When we learn to focus on performing the basic tasks of our businesses
excellence, and to trust ourselves in the process, the laser focus that
leaner times creates will return.