April 2015

Great Leaders Think Dirty Thoughts

By | 2015-04-21T14:40:30+00:00 22 April 2015|Categories: SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , |

As we climb the corporate ladder, we catch on that people on the lower rungs do the tactical, heavy work. Further up the ladder, they get to sit at desks and focus on strategy.

So, we set our sights on the upper rungs, work hard to get promoted to a job where we can stop getting our hands dirty, and use our minds instead.

To be in the role of big shot, we focus on big picture strategy and try not to even think about the details.

This is where the mistake happens.

If you dismiss the detail work associated with your strategy, there is a chance those details may never be thought through. Those small, dirty, details are what your strategy is constructed from. Bad details = failed strategy.

Maybe you have earned the right “not to get your hands dirty,” but you’ve got to at least think dirty.

Great leaders have to think dirty thoughts.

January 2011

August 2010

Nothing Worse Than The Wrong Problem Solved Properly

By | 2010-08-26T15:43:53+00:00 26 August 2010|Categories: SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , , , , |

“There’s nothing worse than
bad coffee brewed properly.”

That’s a quote by Tim Kern. He was a coffee guru at Starbucks Coffee. A long-time employee who was caught a the lay-off sweep a couple of years ago.

The artwork is from a notebook Starbucks handed out to participants in a leadership conference. The notebook was sprinkled with quotes provided by partners (employees).

Tim’s point… Garbage in equals garbage out. You can have the highest quality, best machine in the world, but if you fill it with bad coffee – you’re going to get a bad product.

This is a challenge that happens with problem solving. The best people, using the best process, in the right place won’t made headway when they’re addressing the wrong problem.

Sometimes we don’t spend enough time identifying the root cause of a problem. As a result, we do a really good job fixing the wrong thing. It ends up wasting time, money, and effort. Worse – thinking the problem is indeed fixed (a false sense of security) – the root problem has a chance to deteriorate further.

The return for ensuring you’re addressing the root cause is worth the investment.

Tips to Find Root Cause

Here are a few articles I’ve posted in the past that will prevent you from properly solving the wrong problem.

Do You Flemish?

By | 2016-04-12T15:45:32+00:00 16 August 2010|Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

Huh? Am I asking you are from Belgium? Or have a cold… phlegmish? No. No. Do you flemish?

To “flemish” is to coil the loose end of the lines* (ropes) used when boating.

It is an attractive and safe way (reduces tripping) to tidy and stow loose line.

Not all boaters do this, but when you see it, you think…

  1. they care,
  2. how neat and professional, and
  3. what great attention to detail.

One of the reasons I admire Walt Disney is the way he pushed his teams to take extra steps to care and make their work neat and professional. His animation, theme park legacy, and brand was built on this attention to detail or “flemishing the lines.

Are there things at your business, with your products or services – or perhaps personally – that are being left untidy? Knotted ropes? Things customers could trip on?

If you fathom the benefits, take the time to coil those loose ends. Trust me, the tangles are noticeable, flemishing will reflect positively on your brand.

*Just like marketing, boating has lots of jargon. When boating you never call them ropes, they’re “lines”. Also the kitchen is called the “galley,” maps are “charts,” and the toilet the “head.” The expression “bitter end” comes from boating… it’s the last just before a line ends.

February 2010

Disney Imagineer Jargon:
“Berm” & “Contradictions”

By | 2010-02-10T23:58:00+00:00 10 February 2010|Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

The Imagineers at The Disney Company, the folks who dream-up theme parks and make them a reality, have created their own terms that allow quick understanding.

The Imagineer Terms

Berm – A raised earthen barrier, typically heavily landscaped, which serves to prevent visual intrusions into the Park from the outside world and block the outside world from intruding inside.

When you’re in the fantasy world of a Disney theme park – Disney didn’t want the outside world to break that spell.

Contradictions – Elements that could break the spell and ruin the experience. Walt Disney taught his team to be attentive to details and to think things through to the very end. They don’t leave the experience to chance, it is all calculated.

The Disney Imagineers go to great lengths to eliminate contradictions. They have taken care to ensure you can’t see the future of Tomorrowland while standing in ye olde Frontierland. Cowboys and Astronauts don’t mix. They built ‘utilidors’ – a basement beneath the Magic Kingdom in Florida – that allows cast members (employees) to travel directly to their attraction from beneath the scenes in their themed costume. The guy wearing his silver Space Mountain costume would look quite alien strolling to his shift along Victorian Main Street, USA.

Broader Marketing Interpretation

While we may not worry whether customers can see the outside world, we do have to be attentive to visual intrusions and contradictions within our locations.

Typical examples may include:

Smoking employees – especially if your business has anything to do with food. Yeah, maybe your wait staff or chef needs a break to chill with a smoke… But don’t let your customers see it. And for Pete’s sake as a courtesy – please make sure they wash your hands before returning to work.

Incentive posters – Customers don’t care or want to see employee-targeted posters for your “extended warranty incentive.” How genuine do you think it’s going to sound to the customer – who spots the partly shaded “Warranty Sell to Sail” bar graph – that the warranty is “really in their best interest?”

Sales awards – Don’t let the manager post their 90% secret shopper score award in customer view. Doing your job right is not something to boast to your customers. It’s an expectation. That’s meant for backstage. Note to self… do a post about ‘backstage.’

Drive-Thru Dumpster/Grease Buckets – Garbage, trash and used frying oil are realities of most fast food restaurants. But, when is someone going to invent a drive-thru design that doesn’t parade drive-thru customers past a kid dragging an oozing bag of restaurant waste to the dumpster? A dream I had, while working at Starbucks, was to be part of the Drive-Thru Development team and make the drive-thru experience like no other. A challenge I proposed was: How would Disney do a drive-thru? (My dream was to make it operate like a car wash where you put your car in neutral, and you were guided by the drive thru like a Disney attraction)

Decompression Zone – Paco Underhill the cultural anthropologist and author in his book Why We Buy wrote about “decompression zones.”

This is offering an area at the entrance of a store/business where the shopper can make a transition from one environment to the next. For example, from the main mall to the entrance to your retail store. Think about the first time you entered a new store; the lighting is different, the decor, the music, the smells, and sometimes the temperature. You’re not taking time to read a sale banner or want someone asking, “May I help you?” As a customer you’re simply trying to get acclimated to the new space – get your bearings.

Back to Disney for a great example of a ‘decompression zone.’ And for this one, I’ve even provided an annotated illustration diagram below.

Disney knows the reality of the world doesn’t wear off easily. So, when entering the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Florida, after you pass the ticket entrance you have to enter the park through two short, slightly dark tunnels. These run underneath the railroad station. When you emerge you are on Main Street USA. However, you still don’t see Cinderella’s Castle yet – the icon of the park – until you’ve started to head down Main Street.

These tunnels serve as a final buffer between the outside (reality) and the fantasy of the park.

Magic Kingdom Entrance

[Fig. 1 Magic Kingdom Entrance • Walt Disney World Resort, Florida]

This article is part of a series I’ve contributed to about Imagineer Jargon. Previous installments include:

This post follows up yesterday’s article about visual intrusions and environmental integration.

August 2008

Reducing Litter at Bank ATMs… and Brand Litter at Your Company

By | 2008-08-04T11:17:56+00:00 4 August 2008|Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

Automated Teller Receipts (ATM) litter is a nuisance. More times than not, the area around an ATM looks like what’s pictured below… a carpet of discarded transaction receipts.

Do you even notice this anymore because it has become the standard appearance at ATMs?

The ATMs at my bank offer the option to view the balance via on-screen receipt without printing. Additionally, the machine asks at the beginning of the transaction “Would You Like A Receipt?” This way it doesn’t automatically spit one out at the end. I like that. It’s a great fix to the litter problem.

Check out the machine pictured below… Despite being in a high-traffic tourist area in Athens, there wasn’t a single receipt littering the ground. Not only does this machine offer the option of printing/not printing a receipt, but someone was smart enough to install a receipt trash can for immediate disposal Making the trash receptacle transparent, it is obvious that it is for receipts. Such a simple solution.


[click for detail view]

The Lesson

The dirt, trash, and clutter – realize it or not – affects the way we perceive the bank and/or the customers who use that bank. Just the same way your restaurant employee smoking in customer view, affects perception of cleanliness.

Marketing author, Tom Peters once said… “Coffee stains on airline seat trays make you wonder about airplane engine maintenance.”

As customers we agree with this.

But for some reason, as business managers, we pretend things like this don’t make a difference. They end up in our brand blind spots.

If you were to take a “fresh eye”s look at your business from the perspective of a first-time customer, what is your equivalent of ATM litter or dirty airline trays? Perhaps you can no longer perceive these things… Find someone who will be honest with you and will provide you with this perspective. It’s invaluable.

When they answer, don’t take it personally… just fix it.