Archives for category: Strategy

New Year’s resolutions are old hat, apparently. The new new year thing is New Year’s aspirations.

I suppose the logic is that we resolve to do something and then it falls flat – maybe it’s too lofty a goal, or we can’t sustain it – whereas an aspiration is something more realistic, something we can ease up to, to give ourselves time, to make a gradual behaviour change rather than go cold turkey.

I don’t really start my New Year’s stuff until a few days after the first of January, usually my first working day of January, which is today in fact. There’s too much of a social hangover from the holidays for you to stop dead in your tracks and change direction. You know what they say: stop smoking gradually, the way you started. Also, I tend to be away for New Year’s and then you end up getting home a couple days after the start of the month, and it’s hard to effect real change when you’re travelling.

I like the idea of New Year’s aspirations, though. It fits in with the science of effecting true behavioural change. You prep for change, you change, and then you enforce the change repeatedly until it’s the new normal.

I wish – or aspire for you – a great new normal.

It’s tough being a kid, especially a teenage one. It’s the one decade where you change out of all recognition. So much to learn, so much to get your head around.

It’s no wonder that kids seem to be all over the place sometimes, their poor brains scrambled as they rewire at an alarming rate through adolescence.

I know my kids often struggled with remembering to bring stuff with them, or to bring stuff back, or to give me things from school. So much going on, and so much to remember.

It’s unfair to expect them to remember everything, so you have to take memory out of it. You have to make it systematic: an automatic, engrained behaviour for a situation.

Give them a system, or a process, that they can follow until it’s almost instinctive. After all, that’s what you did when you taught them how to go to the toilet, hold their knife and fork, or tie their laces.

In point of fact, this advice works in work as well as play, for cutting down the errors, the miscommunications and the inconsistencies. A culture of system or process services us all brilliantly well. And then, on those occasions when we cut loose and get spontaneous, it’s so much more refreshing and enjoyable.

 

The phrase ‘to judge a book by it cover’ is a common one, and I’ve blogged before about how we should judge products by how good the accessories are, since they’re an intrinsic part of the product itself and the overall product experience.

I’m a firm believer in that you can judge a lot about a public place from the standard and cleanliness of its toilets. This is especially true of restaurants. If the toilets are not clean, what does that lead us to conclude about the restaurants’ approach to hygiene and about the kitchen in particular? Toilets are part of the product, the brand, the whole experience.

You can say exactly the same about pubs. I was out on a mini pub crawl the other evening. It was out in the country; we’re talking the deepest, darkest, quietest, most rural parts of east county Galway. Almost literally, the middle of nowhere. Some pubs you’d walk into, everyone would turn and look at you, and the decor was basic at best, very rough and ready.

The one pub that sticks in my mind? The one with the nice decor, the pleasant ambience, and, I have to say, the nicest toilets I have ever seen for a pub. Super clean, well appointed and with a recently applied expensive-looking tiling.

The pub that sticks in my mind is the one I will visit again. It got the whole product experience right, possible without consciously trying to do, but by making an effort.

 

I saw an article on the BBC website the day, about polymaths: people who are great at more than one thing, and how they can help the wider community solve bigger problems.

I didn’t read the whole article, obviously, because it was too damn long. But it roused in me a feeling that I’ve felt for a long time. There are no polymaths; it’s a myth to think there are.

At least as far as regular people like me are concerned, that is. A genuine polymath is one in a million, so why would the other 999,999 of us see this as something to aspire to, something we can achieve?

Maybe, back in the days of the Renaissance, there were genuine renaissance men and women who led their field in a bunch of fields. But back then, there were far fewer people with the access to some of those fields, never mind the time or ability to excel at them. The competitive pool was so much smaller. I don’t think some the examples in the article are genuine polymaths either. Just because a Nobel prize winner can play a few musical instruments or paint a bit, it doesn’t make her or him a polymath. It makes them something else, someone who draws on modest abilities in other fields to feed their main specialism.

This idea, that today the polymath is to all intents and purposes a myth, and possibly an unhelpful one, is one of several topics I touch on in a book I’ve written over the course of the last few years, and which is currently being designed and laid out by a proper professional.

The article’s worth having a look at. And hopefully, the book too.

 

A good start to the day is important, especially the working day.

If I’m working from home, and I get a good start to the working day, on time and with no distractions from my desk, it tends to make the whole day productive. I feel like I’m providing good value for money.

If I get a poor start to the day, distracted by domestic chores, a call I wasn’t expecting, an extra errand I need to run, a desk that needs sorting out, or a priority list for the day needed doing first, or maybe some or all of these things, then I find it really hard to get going. My productivity kicks into gear late and sub-optimally. The value is not 100%. The start of the session is really important to me. It almost guarantees a good session.

Yes, you gotta get a good start to the working day, otherwise your mindset isn’t right. The good start starts the day before, with a bit of prep.

 

 

I was recommended to listen to a podcast the other day by a customer’s CEO. It was from the series Anatomy of a Strategy. The link to the podcast, which is well worth listening to if your business is content, is here.

In the podcast, Alex Hillman draws the difference between thinking of a blog post as ‘just a blog post’, a piece of ‘throwaway’ content, and viewing it as small product, in fact a ‘tiny free product that delivers value’. From here you can then deliver content which works up to your own paid product which delivers even more value.

This is, of course, correct and I agree with it. It treats a single piece of content as part of a process, or a strategy to build your customers.

It did, however, get me thinking about my own blog posting, since I’ve done several hundred of them at this stage. I seem to be not practising what I preach. My posts are often throwaway and often do not lead to a more engaged conversation on the topic or on what I do for a living.

Then again, you have to think about the end goal for me. I get most of my business from my network and profile within that network, but blogging is not about building my business. It’s about the joy and discipline of writing. And at its root it’s also about process.

So, while I agree that each blog post is indeed a product of Paul Dilger inc, a mini-destination if you like, it’s also a small journey for me.

 

 

Everyone’s been all in a tizzy over the customer experience the last few years, with bags of content being produced and companies popping up all over the place with offerings to help companies focus on their customers’ buying process and the end-to-end journey.

This is all great, but what’s not really talked about much is the employee experience. You see, a company’s most important stakeholder is usually not their customer. It’s their staff. If you have good staff they’ll take good care of your customers.

From this, it follows that getting the customer experience right is actually secondary to getting the employee experience right. How many times have you worked in companies – or been a customer of companies – where the staff don’t know what’s going on, they’re not brought along on projects and processes or the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing when it comes to news, launches and the like? This is a top-down thing, and to get the employee experience and internal communications right senior people need to follow a similar process as they should do for marketing to their customers.

Here’s a link to a really good whitepaper from Hubspot on how internal communications can be the secret weapon within the marketing function.

We live in a world where scarcity prevails. There’s not enough resources to go round. There’s not enough time in the day. We don’t have enough money to do everything we want to do. Fact.

So it is with how we organise our own time, how we prioritise, and how we marshal our own resources. We can’t get to everything, not even close.

This is how I deal with everyday questions and how I approach a lot of things, in life and in work. I ask myself, does it matter? If it matters, do it, if it doesn’t, chances are you don’t need to bother with it.

I’ll give you a mundane example: cooking. You find a recipe you like, but it lists a lot of ingredients, and one or two of them you don’t have or can’t get. Ask yourself if it matters that you don’t have coriander, but you have some oregano. Probably not. What if it calls for 350g of this and 150ml of that. Does it matter if you’ve not used the exact amount the recipe calls for? Probably not, it’s near enough ‘as makes no odds’ as my northern English pals would say. Now, with something like baking, or so I’m told, it does benefit you to use the exact ingredients and the exact measurements, in which case, yes it does matter.

When it comes to navigating the resources and time at my disposal, and the myriad tiny questions that might crop up in the course of the day, I use ‘does it matter?’ as my guide. Quicker decisions, less agonising, mental paralysis and hand-wringing.

Brexit could be all done by the time you read this post, though as I write it couldn’t be more finely balanced.

There’s a tremendous amount of international shadow-boxing going on at the moment, as the UK government looks to brace itself against the punches of blame that might come its way from within. Stories have been ‘leaked’ and senior government officials are expressing their frustration that the EU doesn’t understand the UK position.

It’s clear to me that there is not a single marketer in the UK government. No-one has stopped for a moment and said, ‘hang on a moment, the EU is effectively a customer, or at the very least a partner. We should treat this as a commercial arrangement. Let’s try and put ourselves in their shoes, figure out what’s important to them and proceed accordingly.’ I think the EU has done this, and the thinking UK person has too. The unthinking person on both slides of the political divide probably hasn’t.

‘Let’s make it about them, and stop acting like it’s about us.’

Simplistic I know, but sometimes it suits to go back to basics before FUD fogs everything. A lasting, long-term negotiated agreement has to be a win-win, otherwise it won’t last.

A bit of humility and thoughtfulness rather than the usual dose of haughtiness and arrogance, please.

Who’s the most important stakeholder in any organisation? If you’re in the private sector is it your partners or your customers? If you’re in the public sector is it the people who use your services, like the general public, or is the local and national government entities? If you’re in the charity sector is it your funders, your donors, or your clients?

The answer for all three types of employer is the same: none of them.

You are the key stakeholder. You and your colleagues determine your organisation’s ethic, its culture, its brand. You are responsible for making people aware of your products and services, getting them to use them, delivering those products and services to them, sorting out problems for them.

Having the right staff in place, the good ones like you, will take care of your customers, clients, partners, suppliers, funders, donors, volunteers  Рall the other stakeholders that make up your industry or community.

When it comes to stakeholders – to adopt a well-known car-maker – you are job 1 .