Monthly Archives: November 2009

Witch Doctors (Episode 39)

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© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

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My Report to the President

Dear Mr. President:

You had requested an executive summary of my analysis of your current ability to influence and create constructive change. I’ve listed the points in no particular order, since they are all important. Sorry we couldn’t meet as planned, but I’m sensitive to the rigor of your schedule.

1. Ironically, perhaps, Americans crave an imperial Presidency. It’s one of the primary reasons that Jimmy Carter served only one term (he wanted to dispense with his limo and stop at red lights, for example). You’re on television too much. You ought to wear a suit and tie more often. No one needs to see you playing basketball all the time. We’ll take your word that you have a good jump shot. Start acting like the leader of the most powerful and freedom-loving country in the history of the world. Americans don’t need another friend, they need a strong leader, and they are looking to you to fill that role. (Note to staff: If unrequited love is deemed essential, elevate executive director of the American Kennel Club to cabinet level.)

2. Stop apologizing. Stop the perception of apologizing. People would rather have your wife place her hands on the arm of the Queen of England than see you bow to an Arab prince or a Japanese Emperor. The United States flag is never, ever dipped or lowered in salute to anyone, anywhere. Take your lead from that protocol. We’ve made mistakes, so has everyone else. We learn better than most, and constantly try to improve. Our country may operate first and foremost in its own self-interest. There is nothing in the Constitution about having to dazzle the Europeans.

3. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. What’s really important? You’re advocating a supposedly historic health care overhaul, but also dashing off to Copenhagen to try for an Olympic decision (that ultimately didn’t even have the U.S. in contention and provided a slap in the face). Why are you interfering with an overzealous cop and a curmudgeonly professor? Let them work it out. You’re not a community organizer any more. Trigger mechanism: Wherever American lives are being lost or are endangered, that’s a priority.

4. When you do communicate, you must provide a higher level of emotional investment. Pretend it’s a basketball game, and you were just fouled but the ref didn’t call it. You create tight intellectual arguments that don’t admit any passion. Logic makes people think, but emotion makes them act. Those folks showing up at town meetings to protest proposed health care changes weren’t organized by the enemy. They were people driven to a high emotional pitch by issues urgent to them. You need commitment, not compliance. You need to recapture the fervor of your campaign while leading.

5. Stop starting sentences with “Look!” It’s condescending and perceived as implying that the listener isn’t paying attention. You keep repeating, “Let me be clear….” You need to be saying, “Let me be specific….” Then people will look. And listen.

6. You must be politically effective, not politically correct, which are often antipodal. A “holiday tree” without religious connotation probably manages to offend most people and cause the rest to believe you’re afraid of offending anyone. You did attend church regularly yourself (remember the Reverend Wright debacle). Christmas is not originally a secular holiday, no matter what historical revisionists say. Either celebrate it or not, but stop trying to please everyone. Incredibly, you seem to lose sight of the historical fact of your election, and often revert to campaigning. Use the fervor of running, but the power of your office.

7. The honeymoon is over, the positive ratings are down, so you have to create a more professional appearance for your administration. That scary jet flyover in New York, the crashers at the state dinner, the complaints about no women in your “insiders” fun and games—the appearance is of amateurism, a meeting of a Toastmasters chapter instead of the Harvard Business School. We have a consulting term for this: taking names and kicking ass.

In summary, you need to reduce your exposure but increase the passion of those appeals you do choose to make, based on clear priorities. Don’t be arrogant in representing us, but do exhibit pride in our accomplishments. It’s time to take accountability as a leader. In the Civil War, the highest proportional mortality of any officer was at Brigadier General level (impossible today) because that officer got on a horse in full view and said to his brigade, “Follow me!” as he galloped off to the enemy lines. Those generals showed great courage which engendered loyal troops.

You need to get back on that horse, Mr. President, and people will follow. We want you to succeed because we want to succeed.

My invoice is in the mail, per our agreement. I’ve waived the expenses, since I simply took the Acela and greatly enjoyed having my picture taken at the dinner with Joe Biden and Michaele Salahi. (However, I thought the chicken was a tad dry.)

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

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True Thanksgiving

We went to church on Thanksgiving morning in the beautiful, large chapel in St. Vincent’s hospital, where the twins were born and taken care of so wonderfully and miraculously.

There were just a few of us there, including medical people in scrubs, but then we found at mass Dr. Mary Marron-Corwin, who was instrumental in the twins’ success over the rocky road from their premature birth. She was surprised to see us there, and held Alaina during the services. She was genuinely thrilled to see them again.

The priest celebrating mass was the same one who baptized Gabrielle very early as a precaution.

It was an extraordinarily appropriate and wonderful way to begin Thanksgiving. There are doctors and nurses, and there are special doctors and nurses, and then there are extraordinary doctors and nurses. At St. Vincent’s and Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center there are extraordinary medical people taking care of these tiny infants.

We are grateful to them all. It was appropriate to meet Dr. Marron-Corwin again in the striking chapel, around which St. Vincent’s is built. Miracles happen there.

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Lean Solo

Guest Article:

Five Reasons Why the Best Solo Consultants Are Inherently Lean
By Katherine Radeka

As a solo consultant, I unabashedly claim that I am inherently leaner than my colleagues at large lean consulting firms: I deliver more value for the client’s investment of time and energy, with much less non-value-added activity (waste), through helping my clients solve problems permanently.

The business press usually defines lean as “eliminating waste” but this is only one part of the picture. The original lean companies, Toyota and Honda, developed systems that maximized value. In fact, the famed Toyota Production System (now lean manufacturing) includes many practices that look wasteful at a local level, but maximize value across the entire business, such as short production runs and frequent tool changes.

Independent consulting is a little like that: it may seem wasteful for a company to contract with several independent consultants to gain access to the expertise that the company needs. Isn’t it more efficient to work with a large firm that can handle a wide variety of client needs?

Lean manufacturing overturned our assumptions about economies of scale, and this is no different. The truth is that a large firm is only more efficient for the accounts payable and purchasing departments. In the rest of the business, a world class solo consultant with a value-based fee structure can usually deliver more value for less investment of time and energy, even if the fee is the same. Here are five reasons why:

1) We have a vested interest in solving problems permanently and expeditiously. There is no incentive for the independent consultant to take extra time, add extra people or create unhealthy dependencies with clients. Instead, they both benefit from achieving the client’s objectives with as little friction as possible: The client receives immediate benefit and the consultant is free to move on to the next challenge.

2) We leverage our experiences across multiple clients to create systematic approaches to problem-solving. Along the way, we develop analysis tools, working models and process visuals that help us resolve future problems more effectively. The more we use and improve the models, the more value we create for our clients. Large firms do this, too but for a solo practitioner, the models get updated and adapted in real time, since they arise from direct experience.

3) The client gains access to a deep pool of reusable knowledge that they could not replicate internally. For example, I’ve now formally engaged with over two dozen companies to get better products out faster, and I’ve informally helped dozens more through my networking, speaking and writing. Every client benefits from my experiences—all the things that I can explicitly communicate through words and models, and all the tacit knowledge that I share through personal interactions. My client gets all of that knowledge directly from me, with no information loss through hand-offs to associates.

Large firms do this, too—in fact, I know of at least one that has sophisticated knowledge management tools for capturing and sharing explicit knowledge. But there is no substitute for working with one person who has a wealth of relevant experiences and a deep pool of tacit knowledge to bring to bear on a challenge.

4) We ruthlessly eliminate non-value-added activities from our businesses and our lives. We constantly seek to reduce “labor intensity” as Alan says, without compromising on the value we deliver. We reduce labor intensity by eliminating non-value-added activities, such as travel to meetings that we can handle quite well by web conference and formal status reports when frequent informal communication with our clients keeps them better informed. That frees up time and energy to focus on the thing that does add value: improving the client’s condition. We don’t have to get anyone’s approval to eliminate 80% of the waste in our businesses, and for the other 20%, it’s not hard to get the client to agree that eliminating excess work is a win/win.

5) We bring in additional help only as needed, and all of our associates’ time directly adds value. Many of the solo consultants that I know have the ability to work on large projects by pulling together virtual teams of trusted assistants to share the workload. The overhead required to support this structure is minimal compared to the amount of structure that even a small firm needs to manage permanent, full-time employees, and there is no pressure to keep them busy or to add them to client projects simply to provide development opportunities for the associates.

At the root, independent consultants are inherently lean because client value and consultant value are aligned: achieve objectives quickly and permanently, leverage knowledge and experiences effectively, and eliminate unnecessary activities. As a result, the best independent consultants deliver increasing value for their clients over time.
© Katherine Radeka 2009. All rights reserved.

Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame inductee Katherine Radeka helps companies use lean strategy,technology and product development to launch products that delight their customers and outrun the competition.

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The Writing Behind The Writing On The Wall

Earlier this year I visited Alan to discuss several projects we are working on and to also leverage the opportunity to tape quite a few video segments for Alan’s site. It just so happened that I landed on the day he was scheduled to tape the next five segments of the Writing On The Wall (WOTW) series. Since I am always looking for interesting and valuable content, I pulled out my video camera and taped the “behind the scenes” of Alan’s production. What I found most fascinating is that in less than the 90 minutes session, which mostly was interrupted by me, he was able to tape five segments for the WOTW series and four video testimonials for people in his hall of fame program.



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Dog Days of Summer

Wonderful lunch with Omar in Petrossian, superb caviar and plans for an Asian initiative. Sitting in the Grand Havana Room waiting for Andrew Sobel, smoking a limited edition Dominican. Posted from my iPhone!

– Post From My iPhone

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Thanksgiving in New York

The car picked us up at 8:30 am yesterday and we breezed into New York on the Acela smack on time, where another car took us to the W Union Square, a few blocks from my daughter’s apartment. The driver then took us back uptown for some heavy duty shopping in Bergdorf’s and Tourneau.We rendezvoused with my daughter and son-in-law for pre-theater dinner at 5 Napkin Burger (don’t laugh, it’s in Zagat’s, requires reservations, and dinner for four was $200!). The burgers were as advertised, as were deep fried pickles and sauerkraut. Then off to Billy Elliot, which was terrific, about 95% of the London performance we caught a couple of years ago.Observation: Restaurant packed, theater filled, high-end stores mostly empty. Today it’s a haircut at the Barrett Salon back in Bergdorf’s, lunch with Omar (co-author of The Global Consultant) at Petrossian, then a business meeting at the Grand Havana Room and a cigar from my humidor there (with the best lichee martinis in town).Maria is helping Danielle cook all day, sounds like a fair division of labor!Maria and I send our best to everyone for a happy and joyous Thanksgiving with loved ones, friends, and family. Life is short. Take some time to appreciate its blessings.(Bergdorf’s Goodman Holiday Windows)(Deserted Grand Havana Room)© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

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Alan Weiss Interviewed by Simma Lieberman

Alan Weiss on branding, interviewed by Simma Lieberman, recording provided by John Weathington. Join the teleconference with Alan commenting on the long life of his “Million Dollar” brand….”

and now also on iTunes

Click Here for entire podcast series table of contents

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 11/23/09

Alan’s Monday Morning Memo’s mission is to help readers to thrive.

November 23, 2009—Issue #10

This week’s focus point: Government crackdown and lawsuits are being threatened on outrageous claims (“World’s best cat food!”). Promote yourself aggressively through testimonials from clients, descriptions of actual accomplishments, and intellectual property. Fourteen questionable and cryptic initials after your name can’t match six delighted clients happy to sing your praises.

Monday Morning Perspective: It is what Newton and Christ, Freud and Marx, had in common: the ability to redescribe the familiar in unfamiliar terms. — Jeremy Campbell in “The Liar’s Tale”

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ISSN 2151-0091

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved

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Lawyers Gradually Gaining Intelligence

Meredith Hamilton sends this link about lawyers turning toward project fees:

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