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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle


C&W CEO Announcement

In an announcement that comes as a shock to most, Cable and Wireless is replacing its Jamaica CEO, Rodney Davis.

The new CEO, an Australian, has once again emphasized that customer service is going to be the major point of focus.

After so many tries, and so many failures at improving customer service in the company, I wonder what he thinks he'll do differently?


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Searching Chronicles

It's easy to overlook, but at the top left hand corner there is a search box that allows this blog to be searched using any chosen word.

A visitor to the site who is interested in a certain topic can just enter it in the box, hit return and up comes every article in which the word appears.

Perhaps there is a way to place it in the right column? If anyone knows, do let me know.

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The Advantage of Being in Jamaica

One of the advantages I have of living in Jamaica is that it has helped me to see what is often accepted as a normal business practice in North America from a very different perspective.

One simple example is a question that we used to ask each other in the U.S. workplace -- "Are you keeping busy?"

Now, from a Jamaican perspective, this question looks like a strange one. Why should someone's goal be to keep busy? What is the purpose?

Will we all be happier when we are busy all the time?

Is the whole point of work... to find more stuff to work on?

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The Kinds of Business I am Not In

There is a temptation in business to try to build the company around whatever seems to be hot at the moment.

The logic taught in MBA schools is as follows:
  1. Do market research- Figure out what people want by asking them what their needs are
  2. Start a Business - Find a way to provide it to them at a price that can make a big profit
The logic seems to make sense, and it has created a generation of what one might call "profit chasers." People start companies in order to make as much money as they can as quickly as they can, and they are particularly susceptible to the latest offers that come along.

On the other hand, there is a new and growing school of thought that this thinking is limited. Instead, the new thinking is as follows:
  1. Follow your passions and interests until you become an expert
  2. Find ways of packaging and selling your expertise to those who appreciate what you have to offer
  3. Continue to innovate and expand your offerings, always paying attention to where your interests are taking you
I have become a firm believer in this new approach to business, which I will call Business 2.0. I started a company in the Business 1.0 model that didn't work -- a t-shirt company that just seemed like a good idea that would make money. Instead, it lost it (even while teaching me some stern lessons about running a company).

Living in the Business 1.0 world is cold and hard. People take jobs for companies they don't like, doing things they don't care for, earning enough to pay their bills at the end of the month. This is as good as it gets. In Business 1.0, people give as little as they can, while trying to get as much as they can in return -- what economists call "maximizing their utility." In this particular world, it always makes sense to pursue to highest paying job, no matter what.

In the Business 2.0 world, however, the single-minded pursuit of profit and tangible gain is set aside to some degree for other commitments, such as personal fulfillment and making a difference. There is a commitment to learn, expand and grow, while taking care of one's psychological and emotional needs along the way.

I observed an interesting contrast between these two models recently in two web sites that focus on methods of making profits through blogging.

One, problogger.net, is clearly Business 1.0 while the second, stevepavlina.com is clearly following the alternate model. While one model is not necessarily better than the other, I will say that the second is more likely to do a couple of things that i personally like:
  1. Business 2.0 is more likely to lead to a fulfilled life -- it passes the deathbed test because it is asking the question "what is my life for" at each step of the way.
  2. Business 2.0 is more likely to produce well-managed companies that are strong on innovation simply because one is likely to find more innovation by people who love what they are doing, than by people who are "paid to do a job" and are focused on "doing what they need to do."
I guess that my point here is that each of us has a choice in life, regardless of what we might argue to ourselves and others. I do know what many people complain that they have no choice, and they are more likely to bake what Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, calls "a bitter bread."

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FirstCuts ezine 14.0 - Strategic Planning

This month's issue of FirstCuts looks at how the annual strategic planning exercise can be rescued from the doldrums of same-old, same-old.

Any questions or comments related to the issue can be posted here.


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Discovering Facebook

Recently, I checked out Facebook (and also Myspace) to find out what the fuss was all about.

Something about the whole social networking thing left me feeling like it was too close to match.com, and too far from something that had a serious business application.

Well, my initial suspicions were terribly wrong.

Here in the Caribbean, Facebook is a excellent way to maintain business contacts, given the geographic distance that we have to overcome, Ironically, in recent speeches I have been giving on the power of using the internet for networking, I never imagined that these tools would have a regional use, but they sure do.

As I experiment some more I'll probably be writing about how users are able to get to know someone on all sorts of levels at the same time. Knowing someone in business terms is only a part of the overall picture that one can have, and the truth is that we in the Caribbean rely as much on social connections as we do on those related to family and business.

I am sure to get into this topic more in the future, especially as I am writing an ebook on the very topic of regional networking. More on this to come.


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Transferring Expat Skills

In an interesting conversation with an expat manager yesterday, I realized a few things that might be of use not only to expats, but also to other managers.

A successful manager is not necessarily the best teacher, partly because their success may have come in ways that they are unable to clearly distinguish. This is why some of the most most accomplished sportsmen and women make terrible coaches. Their achievements came from their abundant talents, rather than from their ability to break their actions down into small elements that they then could practice diligently.

In this sense, someone who has less talent could well be a better teacher.

An expat coming to manage Jamaicans has a possible advantage.

Because they are entering a new culture, they often migrate with open minds, and they often are willing to take nothing for granted. They know that the environment they learned to manage in is very different. They know that there are some things that they learned when they were young that managers in Jamaica do not learn as readily.

What they (and Jamaican managers) can do is to take the following steps to coach those who report to them:

1. Distinguish the distinction that they possess
2. Articulate it in new-sounding language
3. Introduce it as a new item to be learned to their teams
4. Demonstrate that they are also learning how to apply it in this
5. Share what they are learning and encourage others to share

An example:

The distinction "being on-time" can mean something very different to expat managers, and is often a source of irritation. This distinction can be introduced by a savvy manager who wants to create an immediate change in the way people are managed.

Sometimes an outsider can bring these distinctions to bear on a group (which is often the role I play as a consultant) but this is only needed in the exceptional circumstance where the manager
has tried everything they can think of.


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Creating a Vision

It occurred to me today that many vision statements leave people unmoved.

At the same time, we all know of visions statements that were inspiring when they were said -- such as "A man on the moon by the end of the decade."

What was it that made this statement so very inspiring? Was it the clarity? Was it the fact that JFK said it? Was it the fact that it was measurable? Or is it because it was time-based?

I think these are all important, but I also think that there is a reason why a company's goal of "being number one in it's industry by 2010"leaves most who are listening stone cold.

It has nothing to do with the words, and everything to do with those who are listening.

Behind JFK's goal, or Bill Gates' (a micro-computer on every desktop) is an implicit understanding that the vision would not be realised in the normal course of events.

In other words, it was understood that a man had never walked on the moon before, and that there was not a micro-computer sitting on anyone's desk at the moment those visions were spoken.

This tension between today's reality and the vision being stated made it inspiring. If there were no tension between the statement and today's reality, it would be useless.

Or, if the gap between today's reality and the vision were not well understood, it would be toothless.

The management of this tension is essentially what management and leadership are all about. Executives do their companies a great disservice when they slip into "how great we already are" talk and start to claim that the vision is already being accomplished, or has already been accomplished. In effect, they destroy what little tension might exist in the listening of their employees.

Keeping this tension alive takes great discipline, and is the key to provoking excellence and extraordinary effort. Without it, employees are unconsciously being encouraged to merely seek the path of least resistance. Mediocre results are the guaranteed outcome.


(Many years ago, I read a book "The Path of Least Resistance" that I can only now understand in hindsight. The author's name is Robert Fritz.)


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Building an Environment that is Open for Business

Now that we are ten days away from election day, I am remembering an article (http://urlcut.com/dchuck) that Delroy Chuck wrote about creating an environment in Jamaica that is business-friendly.

Beyond the politics of what he has to say, there is a truthful point. I recently opened a business here in Jamaica, and I finally received the legal papers in August 2007 after waiting from December, 2006.

In an earlier post entitled "The Thwarting of the Creative Class", I shared some research that showed that Jamaica's ranking among countries in terms of how easy it is to do business is terribly low, even after years of efforts to make things easier.

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Low Trust in the Caribbean Workplace

I have written before about the low level of trust between employees in companies, and especially between managers and workers.

I thought that this article (http://urlcut.com/trustinja) from the Feb 4th, 2007 Jamaica Observer was not only useful for Jamaicans, but all of us in the Caribbean. It makes me wonder what the cost of broken promises is in regional corporations.

It also ties in with Michael Carter's "Why Worker's Won't Work." More on this later.


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A Quality Decision Process vs. a Sales Process

Jeff Thull's book "Exceptional Selling" on the art of conducting High Stakes Sales continues to provide superior value. He has written several articles for management consultants that I have found particularly useful.

In a prior post, I mentioned that I have been doing some work to customize my own approach, based in part on this book.

He makes the point that a high quality sales approach is basically a high quality decision process, just mis-named.

He also advocates the production of a Cost of Problem Analysis (COPA) that describes the cost of the problem that exists. Once that is done, he describes a Solutions Report that is used to defines the Gains to be made from the solution, as well as the Solution Cost. The difference is the Solution's Financial Impact. All these computations are described in a Solutions Report.

As I am learning more about this approach I am seeing that it takes some skill to devise these reports for the kind of work that I do -- after all I am selling interventions, not machines.

This is where my industrial engineering background has been helping.

He says:

Next, explore the six major focus areas required to arrive at a quality decision process. They include: thoroughly diagnosing the problem; determining the financial impact of the solution; establishing measurable outcomes; understanding solution alternatives; defining investment parameters; and establishing the decision criteria. In each of these areas ask the following questions to help prevent decision mistakes:

  1. What types of mistakes do clients tend to make regarding this kind of decision?
  2. What do clients most frequently overlook or not consider?
    Make sure the decision process brings these elements into consideration.
  3. What are the most difficult things for a client to understand?
    Determine ways to communicate these elements precisely.
  4. What must a client understand to reach a fully informed decision?
    Make sure the decision process brings these to the client in an orderly fashion.
  5. What level of professional education or experience is required to understand each specialty area of the decision?

Make sure you engage people in the decision process that have the required experience or professional background.

In the article I read, he talks about helping the client to improve the way they make complex decisions, and preventing them from making mistakes. The same also applies to the sales professional.

Phew... this is going to take some thought!

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Developing Trinidadian Managers

Last year Framework Consulting issued the findings of a study of Trinidadian executives in Jamaica (the report is available by sending an email to fwc-triniexec@aweber.com.)

In the study, we interviewed over 30 Trinidadian executives on their experience working in and leading companies in Jamaica, and the report distills the best practices that we found.

A new Trinidadian manager to Jamaica needs to keep in mind certain Guiding Principles, and also to learn some new habits.

Principle #1: Accord Respect
Above all, a manager must be respectful towards each and every employee. A manager is conferred with greater hierarchical power than they would normally receive in Trinidad, and when they come to Jamaica this power may not be well understood.

Practice #1: Be deferential and humble, until it starts to almost feel silly. Use Mr. and Mrs. wherever possible. Start conversations in formal language, and in a very formal manner, as if one were meeting the Queen of England. Say Good Morning, Good Evening and Good Night in a way that connects with people. Look for the moment when the formality is broken, and seize it, because at that moment the real conversation is about to start.

The manager is expected to be the most formal person in the room, until the environment becomes relaxed.

e.g. Say Mr. __________ or Mrs. ______________ even with good friends in the workplace

Practice #2: Don't tell jokes in public at other people's expense. Pecong has no place in the Jamaican workplace. It is a dangerous practice in this environment, to be used only in private, and only with the closest of friends. Never use humour to pull people down, or to give any kind of feedback, even jokingly. A Trinidadian manager is better off practicing jokes at their own expense.

Principle #2: Stay in the Role of Manager
Jamaicans will expect a manager to always be the manager -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They don't expect them to behave, dress, socialize or drink differently after hours, on weekends, on holidays or at parties. It is better to play ignorant, and ask for help about how to interact with people in a new social environment.

Practice #1: Dress the part of manager, even on weekends, until it becomes abundantly clear that the culture will accept any deviation from the expected.

Practice #2:
Drive a clean, modern car.

Principle #3: Demonstrate a powerful social conscience
If there were ever a "History of Jamaican Workplaces" book written, the dominant themes would be force and exploitation. The idea that a company exists primarily to enrich its shareholders is one that is simply unacceptable. A Trinidadian manager must learn that a Jamaican company exists for everyone in society and in the community.

Practice #1: Seek to give back to the community outside the company in tangible and visible ways.

Practice #2: Give gifts to employees at Christmas and Easter time, and create programmes to assist employees' families that are well publicized.

Principle #4: Understand an Executive's Phases of Adjustment
Coming to fully appreciate Jamaican culture is a process, and the Trinidadian manager needs to understand the phases that they will go through as they adjust to the new environment. Read the section on Phases of Adjustment for Executives from the report.

Practice #1: Get help. Cultivate a network of other Trinidadian executives outside the company. Get outside help if the transition is proving to be difficult.

Principle #5: Maintain the Hierarchy for a Long Time
While Jamaican workers appreciate being included in decision-making, executives need to be seen as the decider of important decisions (until sufficient trust is built). Workers will quickly criticise a manager who delays making decisions by trying to be too participative.

This is not to say that the hierarchy should be maintained forever. Instead, it should be abandoned only slowly, and carefully, as the manager transforms his relationship with the workers. It often takes longer than the Trinidadian manager thinks it should, but once the foundation is built, he/she will frequently find that the depth of loyalty that's generated is deeper than they found in Trinidad.

Practice #1: Ask for input to decisions, but stand ready to make a command decision.

Practice #2:
Break instructions down into the simplest details, and be ready to follow-up intensely. The average workers education level in Trinidad is much higher, and it shows.

Learning Points

Learning Point #1: Individual Application

One manager's habits and style may not work for another. Each manager must develop their own style, and experiment with different approaches until they find one that works for them. This takes some willingness to feel uncomfortable as they adapt practices that might be laughed at in Trinidad.

Learning Point #2: Experimentation

Learning Point #3: Learn about oneself is the key to changing

Learning Point #4: Most practices will feel unnatural and phony

Many of these practices will feel unnatural at first, and would fail miserably if attempted in Trinidad. The point is that they work here in Jamaica, and they are exaggerated somewhat in order to provoke a Trinidadian manager into a different mode of action. The mistake that many Trinis make is to assume "all a we is one" when in fact the workplaces in both countries are very different.

Many of the ideas in this article were developed from the Caribbean Acquisition Project and the book "Why Workers Won't Work" by Michael Carter. They are available as downloads from the Framework website (http://www.fwconsulting.com).

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Open Positions at Framework Consulting (update 8.13.07)

Consulting Project Consultants: None at the moment

Administrative Non-Consulting Positions: None at the moment

Web Designers: We are looking for someone to edit and update the Framework blogs and website. The edits involved on the website are minor, while those on the blog are likely to be more substantial, and probably involve monetizing one or more sites.

Job Description
Preferably living in Jamaica, the Web Designer must have a working knowledge of html and php and display a high standard of work, plus a healthy regard for due dates.

Date: updated 8/13/07

eBook- Designer: We are looking for someone to be either a co-author (unpaid) or designer of an ebook on the topic of Caribbean Networking.

This position was filled on 8/13/07

Blog Editor (Volunteer): An editor who can read through the Framework blog and make corrections in spelling, missing words, shockingly poor grammar, etc. The Editor will also apply a relevant label to each entry.

This position was filled on 8/6/07.

Time Management Content Contributor (Volunteer): We are in the process of rolling out a new time management course with the flexibility to be useful to any professional in the Caribbean.

The ideas for the course are still being fleshed out, but this 3-6 month project will involve looking at the ideas that have been developed to date, and working to improve them.

This position requires a willingness to learn how to use a wiki, a knowledge of how to access a blog and a bonafide interest in coming up with practical ideas to include in this open source effort.

Send email to fwade99@gmail.com


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JobSmart: The Company Owes You Nothing

This is the latest submission in the JobSmart series.


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Opposable Thinking

As I wrote the last post, it occurred to me that it was connected to a prior post I made on the Opposable Mind.

In that post, I made reference to another article that made the point that breakthrough thinking came from an ability to hold two opposite concepts in the mind at the same time.

Now, I wonder if success as an entrepreneur has something to do with an ability to hold multiple accountabilities within a single human being -- a little bit like the opposable mind, except there are more than two opposing concepts at play, and more like 5-10 different accountabilities.

This idea seemed to resonate with me, and may explain why so few are cut out to run their own business. One of the most difficult disciplines to learn as a new business owner is that one may move from one accountability and skill-set to another in a matter of moments.

Also, a good business owner knows that their company is only as strong as its weakest accountability. If, in the case of a solo professional, their accounting is in poor shape then that is the weakest link, and the link most likely to cause the company to fail. If the company is not run in a systematic way, then that in turn is the weakest link that will cause things to fall apart.

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Being a Multi-Disciplined Entrepreneur

Recently, a relative breakdown in a key result -- following up on sales leads -- had me ponder where I have not been managing myself properly even as a sole operator (which is the role I play most of the time in the central affairs of Framework).

It occurred to me that I had failed to manage a relationship between one part of myself and another.

In a prior post, I wrote about how the ideas of Michael Gerber transformed the way I think about running a small business. It lead me to think about the roles I play as actually divided into eight positions or accountabilities: Leadership, Management, Financial, Marketing, Lead Generation, Lead Conversion, R&D and Client Delivery.

The hard part, I am finding, once these areas have been defined, and operating manuals have been written for each, is how to manage them separately when in fact there is only a single person behind all of them

In other words, how does "Financial" relate to "Managerial"? How does one hold the other to account, when in fact behind the scenes there is only one person... me?

To start out, I began to wonder what it might be like to have a "Managerial" meeting each week to look at the different accountabilities, as if they were held by other people.

And this seemed to provide the key: to manage myself as if I were only the Manager, for at least a few minutes, and the ask the questions that a Manager would ask, with the concerns that a Manager has -- without immediately flipping into one of the other roles and enter into instant "problem solving mode".

I was shocked to find that this was different from anything I had ever done before.

I could immediately see that there were several things I had not been doing effectively in several accountabilities. For example, I could see that as the Manager I was not doing a good job apportioning time between accountabilities. I needed to put more time in Lead Generation and less time in R&D. I happen to have a natural affinity for the latter, so I was not surprised to find that I was spending more time there than I would if I could see the entire picture.

In essence, the Manager was not doing his job of directing time away from one accountability to another. That was happening because there were no regular meetings to do the kind of thinking that only the Manager could do. Also, I was not spending enough time as the Manager to clarify the questions I needed to get answers to. I started to develop the discipline of presenting the question, without immediately trying to get an answer.

When I discovered the imbalance, I saw that the Manager needed some different kind of information each week in order to manage each accountability, and in particular the ones that were not performing up to snuff. The result was a series of requests that would be directed towards each accountability for some new reports, and for a couple of new plans of action.

For example, here is an example of a conversation that I had in my meeting with myself in 2 roles:
Manager -- "I need a report that shows me how well the Lead Generation activities are working. I need this weekly, and it also needs to show me how the conversations to enter a new company are going, and which companies we are targeting. I need this in our Monday morning meetings."

Lead Generation Manager -- "OK Boss, I'll have a prototype next week."

Manager -- "Thanks. Mr. Financial Manager, I need a weekly report showing our projected cash-flow for the next 12 months. The same applies -- it's for our Monday morning meetings."

Financial Manager -- "Yes Boss, will do. That will help me to give you the information you need, no more and no less."
Then things got interesting, because then I discovered that I was essentially making myself promises that I needed to keep, from one accountability to another.

In another prior post, I mentioned the ground-breaking work by my colleague, Scott Hilton-Clarke, on a system for executives to manage projects. In a major breakthrough, he has evolved that work radically by evolving it to manage the smallest possible element in a project -- a promise. He calls the latest version of the programme "Promisystem." (It used to be called Executive Slice.)

It struck me that I could use his programme to manage myself in different accountabilities, as if I were different people. As I started to use it last week, I found it to be a good start, as I start to develop a certain "firewall" between the thinking I do in each accountability. The software helped me to stay in one accountability, without drifting into another. As I used the software, I found that I was more demanding of results, and more focused than when I bounced around.

Something similar happened when I had my first meeting in one of the accountabilities. In Promisystem, I responded to the request from the Manager, and started to come up with some new ideas. I could see that my old way of thinking -- mixing up accountabilities -- had become routine.

Now, the truth is that Promisystem is not made for this purpose. It really is built for the executive who is managing promises from different people. It really is not made for the individual business owner who is managing him or herself, but with a few tweaks it could easily be adapted by Scott and his team.

I hope he makes these changes at some point, because I could expand the way I am using Promisystem.

I also discovered that my company, like any other, is as strong as the weakest accountability. The one that I am least proficient in is the place where the company tends to experience problems. In the case of the sales breakdown, I saw it as a Managerial problem more than anything else.

Within each accountability, I discovered that there happens to be a mix of routine, maintenance items and others that are strategic and novel. Of course, the new and novel tend to be more exciting, while the routine items are more likely to fall to the side.

What I am asking myself is how do I turn routine, maintenance-driven items into must-do's? Also, how do I teach myself new habits and what kinds of supports can I use to keep the habits going?

This is a question I am also asking with respect to the 2Time Management System I am developing, as it requires the self-teaching and learning of new habits over a protracted period of time.

One new one I am looking at is Joe's Goals, and other one is a plain sheet that I picked up from Productivity 501.

I am open to new ideas on this.

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HRMATT Conference Oct 9-11th, 2007


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JobSmart: The 10 Working Basics

To ask a question or comment on the recently published JobSmart article on the 10 Working Basics, click on Comments below.

Click here to read the first article.

Click here to read the second article.


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