Wednesday, September 27, 2017

18 Tips for Killer Presentations

Jerry Seinfeld has a skit where he points out that studies show public speaking is a bigger fear than death. That means, he claims, that if you are going to a funeral you are better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. While there isn’t a lot you can do to melt away your anxiety, the best start is simply to make a better presentation.
Becoming a competent, rather than just confident, speaker requires a lot of practice. But here are a few things you can consider to start sharpening your presentation skills:

  1. 10-20-30 Rule - This is a slideshow rule offered by Guy Kawasaki. This rule states that a PowerPoint presentation should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes and have no text less than 30 point font.
  2. Be Entertaining - Speeches should be entertaining and informative. I’m not saying you should act like a dancing monkey when giving a serious presentation. But unlike an e-mail or article, people expect some appeal to their emotions. Simply reciting dry facts without any passion or humor will make people less likely to pay attention.
  3. Slow Down - Nervous and inexperienced speakers tend to talk way to fast. Consciously slow your speech down and add pauses for emphasis.
  4. Eye Contact - Match eye contact with everyone in the room. Salespeople say that you shouldn’t focus all your attention on the decision maker since secretaries and assistants in the room may hold persuasive sway over their boss. In non-sales meetings, you are trying to gain support and buy-in from everyone not just the key decision maker.  
  5. 15 Word Summary - Can you summarize your idea in fifteen words? If not, put it on paper and try to condense. Speaking is an inefficient medium for communicating important information that needs to be retained, so know what the most important fifteen words are so that they can be repeated.
  6. 20-20 Rule - Another suggestion for slideshows. This one says that you should have twenty slides each lasting exactly twenty seconds. The 20-20 Rule forces you to be concise and to keep from boring people.
  7. Don’t Read - This one is a no brainer, but somehow PowerPoint makes people think they can get away with it. If you don’t know your speech without cues, that doesn’t just make you more distracting, it shows that you don’t really understand your message.
  8. Speeches are About Stories - If your presentation is going to be a longer one, explain your points through short stories, quips and anecdotes. Great speakers know how to use a story to create an emotional connection between ideas for the audience. Imagine your PowerPoint as a comic book. Each slide tells the reader part of the story and they all connect in a way that tells the overall story.
  9. Project Your Voice - Nothing is worse than a speaker you can’t hear. Even in the high-tech world of microphones and amplifiers, you need to be heard. Projecting your voice doesn’t mean yelling, rather standing up straight and letting your voice resonate using the air in your lungs rather than in the throat to produce a clearer sound.
  10. Don’t Plan Gestures - Any gestures you use need to be an extension of your message and any emotions that message conveys. Planned gestures look false because they don’t match your other involuntary body cues. You are better off keeping your hands to your side.
  11. “That’s a Good Question” - You can use statements like, “that’s a really good question,” or “I’m glad you asked that,” If you are presenting and open for Q&A, those statements might give you an extra second or two so you can pause and formulate a response. If you are facilitating, these statements are good transitions to throw the question back out to the group and generate discussion.
  12. Breathe In Not Out - Feeling the urge to use presentation killers like ‘um,’ ‘ah,’ or ‘you know’? Replace those with a pause taking a short breath in. The pause may seem a bit awkward, but the audience will barely notice it.
  13. Come Early, Really Early - Don’t fumble with PowerPoint or hooking up a projector when people are waiting for you to speak. Come early, scope out the room, run through your slideshow and make sure there won’t be any glitches. Preparation can do a lot to remove your speaking anxiety.
  14. Get Practice - Join Toastmasters and practice your speaking skills regularly in front of an audience. Not only is it a fun time, but it will make you more competent and confident when you need to approach the podium.
  15. Don’t Apologize - Apologies are only useful if you’ve done something wrong. Don’t use them to excuse incompetence or humble yourself in front of an audience. Don’t apologize for your nervousness or a lack of preparation time. Most audience members can’t detect your anxiety, so don’t draw attention to it.
  16. Do Apologize if You’re Wrong - One caveat to the above rule is that you should apologize if you are late or shown to be incorrect. You want to seem confident, but don’t be a jerk about it.
  17. Put Yourself in the Audience - When writing a speech, see it from the audience’s perspective. What might they not understand? What might seem boring? Use WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) to guide you.
  18. Have Fun - Sounds impossible? With a little practice you can inject your passion for a subject into your presentations. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Determine the Root Cause: 5 Why’s

Asking “Why?” isn't just something your three-year-old child does to drive you crazy it could also teach you a valuable quality improvement lesson. 

The 5 Why’s is a technique used in determining the root cause of a problem and can be used during any improvement effort, including during the Analyze phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology. 

 Repeatedly asking the question “Why” (five is a good rule of thumb), can peel away the layers leading to the root cause of a problem. Very often the answer to the question “why” will lead you to another question. 

Although this technique is called “5 Why’s,” you may find that you'll need to ask the question fewer or even more times than five before you find the base issue related to a problem. 

How to Complete the 5 Whys 

1. Write down the specific problem. Although writing the issue down is not required, it helps you formalize the problem and describe it completely, it also helps a team focus on the same problem 

2. Ask why the problem happens and write the answer down below the problem. A written response serves the same focusing purposes 

3. If the answer you just provided doesn’t identify the root cause of the problem that you wrote down in Step 1, ask why again and write that answer down 

4. Repeat step 3 until the team agrees that the problem’s root cause is identified. Again, this may take fewer or more times than 5 Whys. 

 Best 5 Why’s Example The national park service was over budget on a regular basis so they called in some consultants. The consultants held a meeting in which they started asking why? 

Q. Why is the park service regularly over budget? 
A. Because resurfacing the Jefferson Memorial has to be done more frequently than anticipated. 

Q. Why does the Jefferson memorial have to be resurfaced so often? 
A. Because it has to be power washed weekly and the surface of the monument is damaged. 

Q. Why does it have to be power washed weekly? 
A. Because it collects excessive bird droppings. 

Q. Why does it collect excessive bird droppings? 
A. Because the birds are always there. 

Q. Why are the birds always there? 
A. They like to eat the spiders that are in abundance. 

Q. Why are the spiders in abundance? 
A. They like to eat a small fly like creature called a midge that swarm around the memorial in the evening. 

Q. Why do the midges swarm around the memorial in the evening? 
A. They are attracted to the lights on the memorial and the Jefferson memorial turns on it lights earlier than other memorials. 

So it turns out that the solution being over budget so frequently, was to turn the lights on a little bit later in the evening. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


The SIPOC is a tool used in process improvement efforts. The action of creating a SIPOC for process doesn't belong to any particular methodology. The SIPOC was used in TQM, Quality Circles, it can be used as part of an evaluation of category 6 (process or operations) of the Baldridge Criteria for Performance Excellence, and it's also now used in Lean Six Sigma.

SIPOC stands for Supplier, Input, Process, Output & Customer and it's simply a tool used to identify and focus on those areas. With that level of identification in hand, other tools such as a force fiel analysis or process mapping can start and be built upon to achieve a degree of process improvement.

While S > I > P > O > C indicates a natural order surrounding or related to a process, and is easy to remember, it can be confusing to fill out a diagram in that order.  I have found a more practical method of developing a SIPOC based on a revised order and asking questions. This preferred method is to develop

My preferred method of filling it out is C O I S P.

C - Asking first "who receives our product?" (good or service)

O - Next "what is the product they receive?" (good or service) 

I - Next "what is used to make that good or service" (what raw material product(s) go into it) 

S - Next "who supplies that product?"

P - Finally "what are the general steps used to turn the input into the output?"

Note that when identifying the general steps in the process or the P, keep it to between 3 & 5. A process map, SOP or desk guide are better places to expand on the process. 

There you have your SIPOC. A snapshot of what is done and how its done. A collection of SIPOCS can be a good representation of an organization and can help in many ways. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Wright-Way a book by Mark Eppler Review by Jeff Wright

As I was perusing the leadership and management section of a local bookstore, for some reason one of the titles just jumped off the shelf at me. 

“The Wright Way – 7 Problem Solving Principles from the WRIGHT BROTHERS That Can Make Your Business Soar” by Mark Eppler.

After reading this book and highlighting passages, I decided to write down some of the more poignant parts so I could reference them later also that I may share some of these insights with others. I made note of the main subjects included in this book including quotes and commentary. This book nicely melds a factual historical account of an extraordinary accomplishment with proven solid leadership and management philosophies and concepts. The title refers to making a business soar but, as can easily be seen in the book, this applies to any organization.

The 7 problem-solving principles as identified in the book are;
  • Forging
  • Tackle The Tyrant
  • Fiddling
  • Mind-Warping
  • Relentless Preparation
  • Measure Twice
  • Force Multiplication.

The notes and quotations below in black text are the authors work that particularly struck me and should be self explanatory; however I will add some overall clarification in blue italics through the outline.   

INTRODUCTION – Intrepid Souls
This first section gives a broad introduction of the Wright brothers, their family and the task in general.

It was a unique, perhaps one-time occurrence when opportunity and preparedness, like two trains on the same track, collided to make something happen.
(pg 9)

In addressing the magnitude of the Wright brothers’ accomplishment, the author states, “It would be like Neil Armstrong landing on the moon in a craft he had built himself and paid for with a part-time job.”

The big news item in the papers the day Wilbur and Orville conquered the air was the story of Colonel H Nelson Jackson, who, in order to win a fifty-dollar bet, had driven cross country in an automobile in the unheard-of time of just sixty-three days! The Wright brothers invention would one day extract 99.8 percent of the time needed to make Nelsons journey.
(pg 15)

The actual flight of Orville wasn’t as much the answer to the problem as it was a confirmation of the process used to achieve it. In solving the problem, the Wright brothers resolved hundreds of smaller challenges that, when taken as a whole, yielded the first flight. For the brothers, the solution to the flying problem was actually a systematic process guided by an established, if not written, set of principles. The first flight was the culmination of that process. That’s why the brothers weren’t particularly excited or enthused when it occurred. For Wilber and Orville, the first flight was just another step along a problem-solving continuum.
(pg 17)

They achieved an extraordinary ROI (return on investment). Although others had offered to finance their research, Wilber and Orville were concerned that accepting outside funds might result in a loss of control over their work. Drawing on profits from their bicycle business, the cumulative amount spent by the Wrights in developing their flying machine would be less then $1000. By comparison, the launch mechanism alone for Langley’s flying machine cost $50,000. Hiram Maxim spent more then $200,000 on his efforts. Clement Ader, a French flying-machine pioneer, raised $100,000 in government funding and spent it all before giving up (Langley, Maxim & Ader were others trying to accomplish the first controlled flight). The Wright brothers’ invention was one of the greatest returns on investment in history.

Frustrated with the U.S. military’s lack of interest, the brothers took their flying machine overseas, where they were acclaimed as conquering heroes. It wasn’t till 1908, five years after the first flight, that many Americans would see what Europe had seen. The U.S. government’s failure to respond to the brothers’ achievement had spawned the globalization of flight, leading to economic, cultural and geographic changes worldwide.
(pg 20)

One of the first government agencies to take advantage of the Wright brother’s invention wasn’t the military but the post office, which began airmail service in 1911 on Long Island.
(pg 20)

The Wright brothers truly exemplified optimism and persistence.

If the Wright brothers were caught in fortunes wind, they were setting the sails and choosing the direction.
(pg 36)

Chapter 3 - FORGING – The Principle of Constructive Conflict
The practice of “scrapping” often took place at the Wright household. It was simply arguing an issue, often passionately but always courteously and constructively like a debate in school. Scrapping played a very large role in the development of ideas used to accomplish the Wright’s task. One strategy taught early on by their parents was to have these reasonable debates around the table after dinner, at some point during the scrap, the Wright father would have the boys swap sides of the issue, teaching them to recognize the other perspective and listen intently to the opposite point of view.  

The goal with the brothers was not consensus, but convergence – a blending of ideas that yielded the strongest options
(pg 46)

Since the purpose of their arguments was to uncover the truth, both men wanted to hear the point of view of the other.
(pg 46-47)

Taylor (Wright Cycle Company’s only employee) recalled one fierce argument the propeller problem had occasioned. The morning after their scrap, Orville came into the shop and told Wilbur he felt like he might have been wrong in his point of view. Wilbur, who had continued to evaluate Orville’s arguments overnight, said he was inclined to agree with Orville’s approach. Taylor said, “The first thing I knew they were arguing the thing all over again, only this time they had switched ideas.” It was the very strategy their father had taught them as young boys debating at the dinner table.”
(pg 49)

Jagoda Perich-Anderson, an organizational consultant and conflict mediator, says some companies need to increase – not reduce – the amount of conflict in their organizations. “We need to learn to become more comfortable and skillful with conflict” she says. Perich-Anderson suggests there are three keys to making conflict a plus: mutual respect, a spirit of curiosity, and a commitment to learning.
(pg 51)

Chapter 4 – TACKLE THE TYRANT – The principle of Worst Things First
The tyrant is the part of the problem that is the real monster or source of troubles.

They look for parts of the problem that are familiar to them, that they feel they can comfortably address, then start there in an effort to get things going.
(pg 70)

Steps to identify the tyrant
  • Break the problem down into small components or subsets
  • Identify the obstacles and barriers associated with each subset
  • Determine the resources (i.e., time, money, people) needed to solve each subset
  • Rank subsets in terms of degree of difficulty
  • Pick the tyrant
  • Tackle the worst (i.e., more difficult) first
(pg 72)

Chapter 5 – FIDDLING – The principle of Inveterate Tinkering
The Wright brothers were always trying or testing something. They had several exhaustive examples of trial and error, however, there was always more trail then error, which ultimately had something to do with their accomplishment.

Soon after the lathe project, Orville notices that many of the kids in his school have taken up chewing pieces of tar. Thinking that flavoring might make the tar more appealing, he begins working with ingredients to make the tar sweeter. Years later Wilber would kid his brother by making references to that “chawin’ gum corporation.”
(pg 81)

Discourage milk runs. Getting in the habit of doing things the same way is often a detriment to creativity. As the old saying goes, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. I call this approach a milk run because it involves making the same stops on the same route every day.
(pg 92)

Chapter 6 – MIND-WARPING – The Principle of Rigid Flexibility
The Wright brothers did not have a problem finding the line that runs between agility and wishy-washyness or stubborn inflexibility. They wouldn’t have even come close to their goal without questioning, testing and eventually rewriting some of the established scientific teachings of aerodynamics.

Mind-Warping is a problem-solving principle that encourages flexing the mind, allowing it to consider possibilities that fall outside the plane of thought established (and limited) by policy, tradition, and personal experience. It is the ability to think “outside the box”, without abandoning the box.”
(pg 95)

Although their experiments with their glider had been filled with some anxious moments, Wilbur and Orville were encouraged. Later, Wilbur noted that they considered it quite an achievement to “return home without having our pet theories completely knocked in the head by the hard logic of experience.”
(pg 96)

Those who fell into the airmen category were later broken into two additional groups based on their approach to the concept of aircraft stability. Octave Chanute (1832-1910), among others, felt that the primary objective of experimenters should be to develop methods for eliminating instability. The focus of this group was on developing the automatic systems needed to correct the machine’s wayward movements. The second group, represented primarily by the Wright brothers, believed that the key was to conquer the inherent instability of a flying machine by providing means to control and balance it. Instead of trying to eliminate the instability inherent in the craft, the goal was to preserve it and give the operator the means to overcome it.
(pg 97)

“If I take this piece of paper and, after placing it parallel with the ground, quickly let it fall, it will not settle down as a staid, sensible piece of paper ought to do, but it insists in contravening every recognized rule of decorum, turning over and darting hither and thither in the most erratic manner, much after the style of an untrained horse. Yet this is the style of steed that men must learn to manage before flying can become an everyday sport.” Wilbur Wright
(pg 98)

Chapter 7 – RELENTLESS PREPARATION – The Principle of Forever Learning
This chapter refers to “forever learning” and how important it is in the pursuit of answers to a problem.

When he (Orville) asked the librarian why there were no books on aeronautics, he was told that “scientists held the idea in great discredit and it was therefore not a subject on which libraries spend money.”
(pg 122)

It is withholding judgment until all possibilities have been considered. It is not the search for the right answer; it’s the search for the right answers.
(pg 126)

In Marketing 101, I was told there were basically four things that could give a company competitive advantage: a unique product, the lowest price, exceptional customer service, or strong, well established relationships. Arie de Geus, a planner with the Royal Dutch Shell, would say there was only one. “The only truly sustainable competitive advantage in the future,” de Geus notes, “may be the ability to learn faster then the competition”
(pg 127)

Chapter 8 – MEASURE TWICE – The Principle of Methodical Meticulousness

With money and material in short supply, the Wright brothers’ mother was very careful not to waste either. An excellent seamstress and designer, she had a routine she followed when making a new dress. Before putting scissors to fabric, she created—and tried on—a paper pattern of the dress. Once she confirmed a proper fit, she transferred the pattern to the material and began cutting. She used to tell her sons, “Make your mistakes on paper if you can.”
(pg 140)

Detailed record keeping.
Legend has it that in an effort to bring order to the kitchen of their Kill Devil Hills camp, he (Orville) numbered eggs so they could be eaten in the same sequence in which they had been laid.
(pg 142)

The Wright brothers were able to move so quickly because of their meticulous and methodical approach to a problem. Instead of slowing them down, their meticulousness removed many of the time-wasters known to any project: backtracking, reworking, and procrastination. Having a detailed plan to follow, then working the plan, is still the fastest approach to a solution.
(pg 147)

Chapter 9 – FORCE MULTIPLICATION – The Principle of Team Equity
The Wright brothers had a unique relationship, externally they were very different but very similar at the core. Exemplifying the thought that two heads are better then one, the Wright brothers father is quoted as saying  “They (Wilbur and Orville) are equal in their inventions, neither claiming any superiority above the other, nor accepting any honor to the neglect of the other. Neither could have mastered the problem alone.” 

One example (of the equitable distribution of trust) is the trust the Wright brothers had in each other in their financial dealings. When Wilbur and Orville first went into business together, they opened a joint checking account at the bank. It would be the only account that either brother would have. All funds generated from the operation of the business were deposited into this account. If either brother needed to write a check, he would sign it the same way: Wright Brothers. Only a small set of initials (O.W. or W.W.) under the signature would let someone know who had written the check. Neither brother ever questioned the expenditure of the other. This system worked from the beginning until Wilbur’s death in 1912.
(pg 158)

The Equitable Distribution of Power (Information)
  • Unequal knowledge separates people, compromising their ability to come together as a team.
(pg 162)

Share the Glory
  • Remember that any good behavior that goes unacknowledged eventually disappears.
(pg 165)

Establish bonds of trust.
  • The most effective ways to build trust are to maximize listening skills and follow through on commitments.
(pg 166)

Chapter 10 – SOULS ON FIRE
Ambition and passion ultimately resulted in the accomplishment of the Wright brothers. Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), a French field marshal, is quoted  “The most powerful weapon on earth is a human soul on fire”

A concerned mother sat down and wrote a letter to her son, taking him to task for his inactivity and seeming lack of direction in life. She reminded him that at the age of twenty-two, he needed not only to find a purpose in life, but to work hard to achieve it. “Life means work,” she wrote, “and hard work if you mean to succeed.” I think it’s safe to say that Jennie Churchill’s letter to her son had the desired effect.
(pg 167)

Orville’s vision was so intense that it served as a sort of “cosmic magnet” pulling him toward destiny. He had lived with that vision of success for so long that it had become reality in his mind. December 17, 1903, marked just another flight to Orville.
(pg 173)

Learning to Soar
  • Remember that great ideas need landing gear as well as wings.
(pg 178)

EPILOGUE – Lives of Consequence
Other then carrying one of the greatest surnames that man has ever known, the Wright brothers truly made a lasting difference, and that is what really matters.

Edward Deeds, another noted Daytonian, said; “Our lives and the lives of our children, and our children’s children, depend upon our breadth of vision, unity of purpose, and courage to execute.”

(pg 183)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pairwise Ranking - the forgotten tool

Pairwise ranking is a tool that was once included in the Coast Guard Performance Improvement Guide (PIG*). As the PIG grew this tool was removed partly for space concerns and partly because there are other prioritization tools included.

Pairwise ranking is a method for listing a small number of items/options in priority order. It can help you:
·         Make decisions in a consensus-oriented manner
·         Promote discussions of items in a head-to-head manner
·         Further discuss and decide among the top options (breaking ties) resulting from another prioritization tool such as a Muti-Vote

How to use it:

Discuss the choices. Ensure a common understanding of all items represented. One method to accomplish this is to have a subject matter expert address each option.

Letter the choices. This makes tabulating the votes easier and counting less confusing.

Construct a pairwise matrix.  Each box in the matrix represents the pairing of two items (the choice shown at top of the column compared to the choice shown at left of the row).  If your list has five items, the pairwise matrix would look like the one below, with the top box representing option A paired with option B:

Note: Each progressively longer row is labeled with the second through the last choice. Each progressively shorter column is labeled with the first through the next to last choice.

Rank each pair. For each pair, have the group (using a consensus-oriented discussion) determine which of the two ideas is preferred. Then, for each pair, write the letter of the preferable idea in the appropriate box. Repeat this process until the matrix is filled in.

Count the number of times each alternative appears in the matrix.

Rank all items. Rank the alternatives by the total number of times they appear in the matrix. Where two ideas appear the same number of times, look at the box in which those two ideas are compared. The idea appearing in that box receives the higher ranking.

Jeff Wright

*The Coast Guard PIG is not copy written and available electronically. You can download a copy from


Friday, February 13, 2015

Measurement is over-rated

Most people working in the Quality/Performance arena are familiar with Dr. Deming and his famous question “how do you know?” This question is designed to illustrate or even prompt people to identify a measure.

In the title I say that measurement is over-rated but how do I know? More importantly, to what degree is it over rated. Would I be safe saying "measurement is vastly over rated" or would it be more accurate to say "measurement is minimally over rated". On a scale of 1 to 10, would it be a 5 an 8 or just a 3. Just how do you measure measurement anyway?

Before going on let me make it clear that I simply don’t know for sure, but that’s not going to stop me from giving an opinion. I know measurement is over-rated because of the people I have talked to and the amount of truly actionable measurement results that I've seen. Other indicators include the blank stares on the faces of people being force fed measurement in large doses either by books or consultants as well as the comments heard from those who have repeatedly measured something only to see those results go into a report which serves exclusively as an executive dust magnet. An instruction given to the group of internal consultants that I was once part of made reference to consultants “selling” measurement. The concept of measurement should not need to be sold. A well rounded leader wants to measure in order to maintain or even improve the desired level of performance.

Returning to the original question, by how much is measurement over rated? To this I have to step back and admit "not as much as I may think". Measurement clearly has a purpose and should simultaneously hold a level of importance in many different areas within every organization. While there are really only a couple of truly valid reasons to measure something, I must acknowledge that a lot of what currently is being measured at organizations legitimately falls under one of those headings.

There are really only two reasons to measure anything; first to indicate progress toward a goal, and second to make a decision. “Mandates” has been suggested as a possible third reason for measuring especially within a military culture, “we are measuring that only because command says so”, but at some higher level, whatever is being measured must fit into one of the two legitimate reasons or else time is being wasted. Accountability was once stated as another reason to measure and indeed accountability is very important and often overlooked, however it's also not something that should stand on its own. Someone should not be accountable just so they can be congratulated or punished (although that happens, often) but accountability really needs to be tied to something, usually progress or performance (either overall or project specific) with the connection being very clearly pointed out. If either progress or performance is not related to a certain goal, is there really any point?

I once mentioned to an organization, which regularly published a wonderfully usable progress report, these two valid reasons for measuring. I followed up my comments by suggesting that if the organization had a measure that did not fit one of the two valid purposes that the leaders may want to consider getting rid of it and using the time savings elsewhere. Shortly after my vist, some changes were made, measurement activity reduced, and a signifficant amount of time was freed up for operations while the organization still had the information needed to publish their wonderfully usable progress report.

Perhaps some readers may be familiar with the following concept. During a measurement class, the story was told of an organization that was spending a considerable amount of time preparing numerous lengthy reports. Consultants were called in to help this particular organization use their time more effectively. The consultants suggested that a heading be placed on top of every report form stating "the purpose of this report is ________". The organization did this and discovered that as they filled out the section, that the purpose of certain reports was either stupid or duplicated and the report could just be eliminated.

What if this same technique were used with measures? What if, prior to considering a new measure, the purpose question was asked? If the answer does not fit in to one of the legitimate reasons to measure, perhaps it's not the best place to spend time and effort.

Everyone should understand reason for measuring #1, “measuring progress toward a goal”. This is what it's all about, to do the work that goes into achieving a goal, of any type. Our goals should support those of the unit or division, and those goals should support those of the organization. Even an organizations goals need to support something higher, perhaps a those of a board of directors, stake/stock holders, maybe even a vision that involves serving customers.

A good story to describe reason for measuring #2, “to make a decision” came from my experience as an internal consultant for a military organization. This example involved airplanes. For each mission airmen were asked to measure, record and report the amount of cargo carried in their aircraft. Some did not do so but at the same time complained that their aircraft was too small and they were often pushed beyond capacity. What they did not understand is that headquarters was using the measurement information to make decisions about aircraft replacement. Those locations that reported a cargo measurement indicating that they were frequently overloaded were put on a list to get a bigger and better aircraft.

To put a cap on understanding this whole measurement thing, a big “ah-ha” came for me while attending a conference called "Quest for Excellence". One of the speakers equated measurement to communication in a way that struck a chord. I've always been a huge proponent of the theory that all problems can be attributed to communication. There are times when it's more appropriate to think of “interaction” as opposed to “communication”. Even problems that come up in the area of mechanics are due to action-reaction or influence-response, this relates to communication closely enough for me to be able to attribute all problems to communication.

Back to business, how does the boss or the staff communicate operating status, either internally or externally, unless there is a measurement? How can the boss or staff, communicate, either internally or externally, if or how an organization is progressing? The communication of measurement can be between the system and you (yes a system can communicate with you once indicators are identified) or between you and others.

Consider the charts and graphs in an executive summery. Some of that measurement is telling the leader what he or she needs to know, does it all? Measurement is about communication and only about communication, it is not only the “How” to the “How do I know” but to the “How do I let you know”.

Jeff Wright
Measurement is over-rated

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Spirit to Serve - Marriott's Way

 Review by: Jeff Wright

I had seen the red and white paperback in hotel night stand drawers many times before but on one particular trip several years ago I decided to take the time to open it and begin reading. It was longer then the newer version I have seen in Marriott hotels since, this book was longer then I could read on the short business trip so I asked and received permission to take it home with me. This little volume was packed with Marriott history and stories describing the Marriott way of doing business. The book was good enough that it found a home on the library shelves of the professional development library at work. The lessons are transferable so the following short summary was written and distributed to colleagues (fellow consultants) so they could benefit from the “The Spirit to Serve - Marriott’s Way”.

This book discusses the Marriott’s philosophy and how important it has proven in building organizational success. The Marriott empire had its share of hard times and is not perfect, but it has indeed been able to deal rather effectively with the hurdles that have been faced. Marriott has never directly won a “Baldrige National Quality Award” for performance excellence, but it appears from this book that they certainly could meet the stringent requirements. Ritz Carlton hotels, owned by Marriott, has won a Baldrige award in large part because of doing business the Marriott way.

A quote from Jim Collins, bestselling author of “Good to Great”, illustrates the axis on which the Marriott world turns; he says

There can be no distinction between a company’s core values and the core values of its leadership”.

As each of us considers how this statement relates to our own world of work, we must ask ourselves if our respective organization’s core values are internalized within its leaders.   

I would like to highlight another quote from the first pages of the opening section of Marriott’s book that describes some of the activities and progression that are so important to Marriott and other successful organizations.

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there”.
Will Rogers

The Marriott’s opened their first business, an A&W franchise in Washington DC, in 1927. Later, hot food was introduced and the term “Hot Shoppe” was adopted, in time other locations were added. The following story is told by Bill Marriott Jr.

Back in the heyday of Hot Shoppes, the daily menu had more then 300 items on it. My Father insisted that every selection be available--and fresh--at all times. Naturally, this is virtually impossible in the restaurant business, but Dad would not hear otherwise. If he went into a Hot Shoppe and they were out of something, he’d raise the roof. After a few such instances, the managers took matters into their own hands. When my Dad showed up at a shop and ordered something that was not available, the kitchen would call the next nearest Hot Shoppe to see if they had it. If they did, runners from the two restaurants would meet in the middle to rush the order back to my unsuspecting father”.

In 1929 Hot Shoppes Inc. was formed and Marriott stepped into the airline catering business. Following several years of growth, in 1955 Marriott opened their first motor hotel beginning the enterprise that exists now. Over the years there have been hurdles, division of product lines, the buying of new companies and selling of less profitable ones. They even took a shot at theme parks with a Marriott’s Great America Park in Illinois and one in Santa Clara, CA. but eventually the parks were bought by Paramount. Marriott took some time testing the waters in other businesses but eventually decided to stick with those things that it does best. Regarding sales, Bill Marriott says

what we’re really selling is our expertise in managing the process that makes those sales possible. And that expertise rests firmly on our mastery of thousands of operational details.”

Initially Marriott owned most of its hotels and earned a solid reputation for smooth operations and exceptional service. Marriott now focuses on hotel branding and management with many properties being owned independently. The book I read is several years old but as of the late 80’s Marriott managed 7% of all hotel rooms in north America and 2% in the world, however, Marriott owned just 1 in 10 of those rooms. There has obviously been incredible growth since then. The percentage of hotel rooms managed by Marriott has grown significantly, and there has certainly been an increase in the number of properties that they own.

Marriott does a phenomenal job with the aspects in Baldrige category 5, which is titled “Workforce Focus”.

As important as companywide recognition programs are, it’s even more critical to make associate appreciation a daily, ongoing, bone-deep philosophy
- Bill Marriott Jr.

Large customer based operations, like hotels, have very large support operations that go on behind the scenes, Marriott refers to the location of this support as “the heart of the house”.

Every Marriott property has its own way of thanking and recognizing associates, but one of my favorites is the Hospitality Gold Star program at one of our vacation resorts. Each week, three guests are selected at random and asked to identify the Marriott associate who has been most helpful during their stay. Each guest receives a beach towel as a gift for helping out. The associates who are identified by the guests receive a monetary award, plus gold stars to wear on their uniforms. Simple enough, right? But there’s a twist. The three winning associates are then asked to identify three associates in the heart of the house who have been most helpful to them during the week. That trio of associates likewise receives monetary awards and gold stars. Why the second round of awards? The GM at the property knows that the folks on the front lines could not do their jobs and win guest plaudits and gold stars without the support of the people working behind the scenes. The second three awards make sure that heart of the house contributions don’t go unrecognized or unrewarded simply because they’re invisible to most guests

The description of the “Hospitality Gold Star Program” exemplifies the overall message of this book. The sprit to serve is not just about serving customers, it also includes a critical element of positive leadership, serving those who serve the customers.


Jeff Wright

ref: The Spirit to Serve – Marriott’s Way
J.W. Marriott, Jr., and Kathi Ann Brown
Marriott's Way PDF