Monthly Archives: February 2013

Alan’s Thought For Today

It occurs to me that many people posting their issues on Facebook think that’s the equivalent of actually dealing with their issues. That’s like screaming about your bills in a bar and thinking they’ll now be paid. — AW

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What’s Your Metaphor?

Don’t be alarmed because you don’t know the buyer’s company or industry as well as the buyer does. You never will.

The key is to create a metaphor that you own to draw the buyer OUT of his or her world and INTO yours. For example, let’s take a very common topic—leadership—and a banking executive who says, “How are you different from other consultants in leadership?”

“Do you have GPS in your car?”

“Yes, why?”

“That GPS provides the destination you enter, your current position, time to the destination, alternative routes, points of interest, and so on, right?”


“Well, I provide LGPS—Leadership GPS. I help you and your key team to agree on destinations, appreciate alternative routes, always understand exactly where they are and what options they have, and how to adjust their speed when needed. Would you like to know how it works?”

“I would.”

“Then let’s be pragmatic and not theoretical. Give me a key leadership or change initiative you’re facing, and I’ll show you how we’d work together.”

Knowledge of banking (or of any content) is never important. Move the buyer in your world via metaphor. That will set you apart from the crowd.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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You Think Consulting Is Tough?

Anyone trying to make it in the acting profession can tell you that consultants have it easy. We just have to find economic buyers and convince them of our value.

Actors have to have the right look, be at the right place, appear at the right time, and then trust their fate to implausible casting decisions.

Last night, CBS debuted “Golden Boy,” a series using flashbacks from a fast track police commissioner to demonstrate how he arrived at his exalted status so fast. It stars Theo James (he played the Egyptian diplomat who shamed Mary in Downton Abbey) who simply cannot act. His interpretation of emotion—any emotion—is to dip his head and smirk. He must have done so 40 times in 40 minutes, and that was the extent of his range (from A to B, as they say).

How does a productions company, casting director, producer, director and assorted executive pooh-bahs allow such a horrible actor to gain a leading role? He is embarrassingly awful (as he was on Downton Abbey). There are thousands of actors waiting on tables who could do better in this role tomorrow.

He must have a great agent. Maybe that’s what consultants need—a great agent, no matter what their talent! It’s a good think we just need buyers and don’t need to convince casting directors. (Which is why you should stay our of human resources.)

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Guest Column: The Levers of Change

The Levers of Change

By Rick Pay

Rick is a graduate of the Million Dollar Consulting® College and is a Master Mentor.

I’d like to introduce you to the first management consultant, who appeared a couple of millennia ago, and who had the greatest tool. His name was Archimedes and he had a lever.

I just used that lever with some client executives who, with the strength of their position, were able to accomplish change ten times greater than others whose efforts were noble, but never seemed to pay off.

What are the levers of change and how do you apply them?

A Tale of Two Companies

Last year two clients with the same objectives achieved completely different results. The first company – we’ll call them Company A – got results quickly: they cut their inventory in half, boosted warehouse productivity, and set innovative practices in motion with their suppliers. They did it all in only seven months.

The other company, Company B, while moving forward in their efforts, is far behind and months will pass before they enjoy the fruits of their labor. What’s the difference between these two companies? They have very different levers.

The leaders of Company A are engaged, they have already established a culture of change in their organization, they let innovative ideas drive breakthrough thinking, and most importantly, they have a middle management team driving the change efforts. By contrast, Company B’s leadership, while very interested in topics like change management, culture, and innovation, have yet to move from the “talking about it” phase to actually doing it. Their middle management team suffers under the tyranny of the urgent, failing to get past their day-to-day duties to lead the change efforts.

When you consider that Company A has the levers of engaged leadership, the right culture for their vision, innovative middle managers and a welcoming attitude toward change, it’s no surprise that they are reaping dramatic benefits, while the company with weak, ineffective levers is spinning in circles, falling short of the outcomes they desire.

It Takes More Than Talk

Many companies claim to be interested in leadership, culture, change management, innovation, the list goes on. But if being interested were enough, a lot more companies would achieve breakthrough results. Along the same lines, these same companies dabble in Lean, Six Sigma, TOC (Theory of Constraints), Just In Time inventory and more, but without the ability to execute, they typically fail to get results. Success requires much more than being interested.

The Levers of Change

Let’s take a closer look at what sets Company A apart: they are able to execute change quickly and effectively. Execution is the force that can transform a company that is spinning in circles into one that moves mountains.

Good change execution has four main ingredients:

  • Engaged leaders
  • Culture that supports and encourages change
  • People who drive the change efforts
  • Innovative ideas

Engaged Leadership

In an organization, engaged leadership means

1) Setting a clear vision for change

2) Communicating with the managers who drive change

3) Deploying resources

4) Holding people accountable for results

A common leadership mistake in companies that are underachieving is to launch the change initiative and then disappear, either moving on to other priorities, or simply not staying in touch with those who drive the change. Frequent travel is not an excuse; successful companies can by led by someone in another state or another country.

Successful change leaders, regardless of what time zone they’re in, communicate clearly and consistently, set metrics that drive accountability, and deploy resources wisely. They are focused on results, not just activities. As my mentor Alan Weiss says, “Leaders aren’t paid for action, they are paid for results.”


The second element for successful implementation of change is a culture that reinforces change. This means encouraging people to work on initiatives that are not part of their day-to-day jobs. Acknowledging that mistakes can lead to improvements and allowing people to experiment creates a culture that is agile and open to change. Recognizing and rewarding not only success but also innovation – even if it doesn’t lead to immediate results – also sets the stage for change and growth.

People Who Drive Change

The managers on the front line need the initiative and zeal to drive real change. In companies with a good change culture, the managers are almost like kids in a candy store, proudly reporting on new initiatives, their successes, and yes, their failures. The results can be astounding, and they are not driven by people who follow the rules and focus on day-to-day tasks, but by managers who are excited to experiment. Companies need to hire for that attitude.

Innovative Ideas

It is very difficult for companies to drive innovation using only internal resources. While incremental improvement can be driven internally, new, innovative ideas typically require change agents from outside of the company to provide the seeds of breakthrough ideas. Setting the future state/vision of innovation is what thought leaders do, and those thought leaders are rarely inside the organization.

Pick Up A Lever and Get It Done

To drive change quickly, leaders need the levers of change. Those levers are engagement, culture, people who drive change, and innovative ideas. Archimedes believed he would move the world with his lever, and you can too.

Rick Pay is president of The R. PAY COMPANY, LCC, a Portland-based management consulting firm that helps manufacturers and distributors achieve peak operational performance. Learn more about him at, or follow his blog at

© Rick Pay 2013  All rights reserved.

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The Writing on the Wall Episode 78: Modern Day Myths

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In Case You Were Wondering What I Was Thinking

How can you be surprised when clients simply don’t use common sense? It’s in ridiculously short supply. Our government tumbles toward conditions which will hurt millions of citizens because neither the President nor congressional leaders are willing to compromise. Customer be damned! (Because it won’t affect them.)

The Oscars were their usual directionless mess, with a snarky host used to making bathroom jokes acting snarky and making bathroom jokes. Red Carpet banter was barely sentient. Women seemed assembled more than dressed, with more people engaged in their creation than it took to build the Golden Gate Bridge.

NBC has finished behind Univision in the ratings, never before accomplished: A fifth place finish for a major network. (Or what used to be a major network.) Watch just one episode of “Smash” and tell me if you couldn’t find better writing and acting on the subway platform next to you in the morning or the Starbucks line during lunch.

Given this (not to mention the Italian elections, demonstrating that someone is always loonier than we are), is it surprising to you that major companies don’t know enough to stop doing something when it hurts or come in out of the rain? (“Hey, you! If you come through these doors it isn’t raining in here, and stop hitting yourself with that hammer!”)

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Alan’s Thought For Today

Disagreements in views which many are eager to attribute to “generational” differences are all too often an excuse for lowering standards. Too many people want to limbo instead of pole vault.

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Speaking Opportunity

Hi Alan,

Lorman Education is seeking someone to deliver a 90-minute online seminar April 16, 1pm-230pm est on Customer Negotiation Techniques.

I’m unavailable that day and am helping them find a speaker.  If you feel that anyone in your community could do a program like this and would want to, please forward.  Interested speakers can contact me and I’ll provide the Lorman contact.

The date, time, and topic are firm.

This is Lorman’s website if they want to learn more about how the system works.


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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 2/25/13

February 25, 2013—Issue #179

This week’s focus point: The fiscal cliff will probably be more of a slope if the current impasse in the US continues. I’ve seen, in 30 years of consulting, that seemingly responsible executives often make horrendous mistakes because they are as imprudent, emotional, uncompromising, and irrational as spoiled children. It shocked me at one time (I’ve recovered) that leaders can be so oblivious to their customers, investors, and communities. Yet that is exactly what our governmental leaders are doing at the moment. They are endangering jobs, the economy, even safety because they, themselves, will be immune to any immediate repercussions. This isn’t a party issue, but a leadership issue. And this is why there are so many books, curricula, consultants, and resources focused on leadership—because it’s become obvious that it’s very difficult to teach common sense.

Monday Morning Perspective: As a king, he was quite a different man, beginning to realize perhaps that it is easier to criticize authority than it is to exercise it. — Thomas Castain on Henry IV, “Last of the Plantagenets”

Teleconferences on design and abundance: Two special teleconferences, discount ENDS March 1:

You may subscribe and encourage others to subscribe by clicking HERE.

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Contact information:
ISSN 2151-0091

© Alan Weiss 2013. All rights reserved

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My Last Week on Route 66

I’m sitting on our balcony in Naples, geometrically centered in the Ritz-Carlton, listening to the surf of the Gulf of Mexico below. There is no horizon, only a single darkness, as the ink-black of sea and night meet somewhere in the distance. We arrived today, escaping  the wintry northeast, and I’ve cadged a brandy and some chocolate from the club to accompany my cigar.

This is my last full week on Route 66. We fly home on March 2, and the next day I’m scheduled to be 67. I find it’s a destination I’m unable to change, so I’m thankful that I can at least go first class!

We hear that life is short, and compared to the dinosaurs pretty much having their own way for 150 million years, it is. But they were taken out by a meteor six miles in diameter striking not terribly far from where I currently sit. Halfway around the world in Siberia, a small cousin with the force of a hundred nuclear bombs recently exploded without anyone knowing it was there.

I’ve always tried to live life to the fullest. You may ask what alternative we have, but daily I see people throwing their lives away in part and by pieces, which to me is the equivalent of simply taking more time to end it. I don’t believe we’re here to stick our toes in the water. I believe we’re here to make waves.

I have no idea what “retirement” means in today’s world, an artificial construct, based on math and premises that are obsolete and absurd. (The partner in a financial planning firm told my wife that, as far as she could determine, I had retired about 15 years ago.) I do know that so long as I’m on top of my game, I’ll keep doing what pleases me. When that’s no longer the case, then I’ll leave that particular stage. Sandy Koufax knew how to do that. Frank Sinatra did not.

The inexorable and thrilling journey continues. We can’t affect the process but we can certainly create the content. I’m anticipating 67 will be exciting, just as I know that the distant, unseen horizon will be visible in the morning when the sun illuminates this part of the world.

It will be the same horizon as yesterday, but just a tad closer.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Posted in The Best of Life | 10 Comments