Past Results Are Not A Guarantee Of Future Performance

Past Results Are Not A Guarantee Of Future Performance

Featured, Improvement

trendsIf you have seen commercials for financial advisors, there is usually a line that says “past results do not guarantee future performance.” This doesn’t just apply to the stock market.

One of the most common habits that leads to terrible decisions is remaining locked in the past. We rely on the same old data or processes, failing to understand that they may be based on assumptions that are no longer true. It’s important to keep those base assumptions in mind when applying the tried and true.

  • Question the data and processes you’re used to, and ask whether they can be updated or improved. Just because they worked in the past doesn’t mean they’ll work in the future.
  • Ask why you are doing what you are doing. If the answer is because we’ve always done it, it’s time to take a look at whether it is still needed.

If you continue to do this, you can avoid the stuck-in-the-past pitfall and become a more effective decision maker.

Look Outside Your Field

Look Outside Your Field

Featured, Improvement, Innovation

industryThere is an old quote that has been attributed to numerous sources, “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal.” When it comes to innovating, one of the best ways to develop innovations is to steal from other industries.

What is standard, and even taken for granted, in one industry, can be brand new to another. Adapting processes from different industries can spur new ideas and improved productivity. It also brings another advantage. People in a given industry tend to think alike. Part of this is due to the type of person your industry attracts, part of it is training. Bringing in ideas from a different industry brings in a different point of view and enhances the diversity of ideas you are working with. Don’t limit yourself to similar industries. A service business can get great ideas from manufacturing. Non-profits can get ideas from retailers. The ideas can come from anywhere.

Once you find new ideas in different industries, see how it can fit into what you do. It may not be easy to adapt all ideas so don’t feel obliged to bring the idea over as is. Just take the parts that work for you. Taking two ideas and putting them together in a way they haven’t been done before is the core of innovation. Look far and wide for those ideas and bring them home.

Stop Procrastinating By Breaking Down A Project

Stop Procrastinating By Breaking Down A Project

Attitude and Mindset, Featured, Improvement

procrastinationWe all have tasks that we put off and put off, but actually accomplishing them is rarely as bad as we expect. Sometimes beating procrastination is about just getting over the initial hurdle. Instead of forcing yourself to tackle the entire task at once, focus on the first piece of it. Start by thinking about the task and your resistance to it, and then find a time period that you’d be willing to commit. Could you focus on the task for an hour? What about 30 minutes? Shorten the amount of time to something that doesn’t make you resist getting started. Then figure out the bare minimum you can do — writing a few paragraphs, reading a few pages, or whatever won’t make you return to your procrastinating ways. Once you begin, the task will seem much more manageable. Working on something, even in small pieces, means you’ll continue to process it, which makes you more likely to resume the work later on.

Stay On Track

Stay On Track

Featured, Improvement

roadSometimes it’s hard to stay on track to meet goals. We get distracted by other priorities, interruptions, and project creep. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure what you’re doing is what you need to be doing.

  • What are you doing today? This will bring to light any significant work that you aren’t aware is being done or that’s taking much more time than it should.
  • Why are you doing the work you’re doing? This allows you to gain clarity on what’s important and why it’s important.
  • How does what you’re doing today align with the bigger picture? This is a discussion about gaps and outliers. If you are working on something that doesn’t align with your broader goals, question the value of doing that work.
  • What does success look like? This allows you to hone in on what’s really driving your success, in terms of activities, behaviors, relationships, and strategic outcomes.
  • What else could you do to achieve more, better, faster? This is where you push yourself to be innovative. If you’ve done the work to answer the preceding questions, you are well-positioned to be strategic in answering this one.
Ask the Right Questions Before Using Productivity Apps

Ask the Right Questions Before Using Productivity Apps

Featured, Improvement, Process

productivityMany of us search for the latest, greatest app or the fancy new software that will finally help us manage our time. But even the most well-designed program won’t help you unless you have a workflow management process, or methodology, already in place. If you find yourself installing new programs or apps, testing them out for a day or two, and then never opening them again, it may be because you didn’t have a strong workflow methodology to start with. So before you install that latest app, Harvard Business Review recommends you ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I currently track tasks?
  • How will this software fit into my existing process?
  • What problems do I want the tool to solve?

There is no question that technology can improve productivity. But when investing your time in a new tool, focus first on your methodology so you know what will suit you best.  

Cultures Are Not Interchangeable

Cultures Are Not Interchangeable

Featured, Improvement

CultureHave you ever heard of cars from NUMMI? It’s not surprising if you haven’t. Closed in 2010, NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.) was a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. Toyota shared its production methods, bringing people from the plant to Japan to train. Lessons learned from the joint venture are detailed in the book, “The Toyota Way.” The methods never gained steam, either at NUMMI or GM as a whole. Why? The cultures of GM and Toyota were too different to make the transition.

It happens in joint ventures and mergers all the time. When corporate cultures are not taken into consideration, they can clash dooming long-term synergies. In the case of Toyota and GM, you not only had the different corporate cultures, but the differences in the American and Japanese cultures. These culture differences have to be taken into account when looking at how companies operate.

When a problem arises, a simple solution is to look at other companies that have had the problem and see how they solved it. However, what worked for them may not work for you. You must take culture into consideration to see if the methods can be adapted. Just because something works well in Japan does not mean it is feasible to use in the United States and vice versa. If you understand the differences in cultures, you have a better chance of making solutions work across organizations.

Take a Vacation To Boost Your Productivity

Take a Vacation To Boost Your Productivity

Featured, Focus, Improvement

vacationStudies show that Americans are taking less vacation than they ever have before. In fact, more than half of Americans (55%) let their vacation days go to waste, which equates to 658 million unused vacation days. Remember, this is paid time off — by not taking your allotted days, you’re essentially volunteering for your company. Forgoing your vacation might be worth it if doing so made you more successful, but studies show that people who take more vacation days are actually more likely to receive a raise or a bonus. So, go away! Plan ahead, too: Your vacation will only improve your energy and outlook upon returning to work if you plan it at least a month in advance and get far away from work (that’s physical and emotional distance). And be sure to relax. A stressful vacation eliminates any of the positive benefits of taking time off.

Learn More From Your Experiences By Keeping a Journal

Learn More From Your Experiences By Keeping a Journal

Featured, Improvement, Process

WritingWhen you’re always rushing to do, do, do, it can be tough to find the time to reflect on and learn from your experiences. In the moment, your brain records what takes place, but it determines what’s important for long-term retention later, during periods of quiet reflection. You can help that retention by keeping a journal. Start each entry with the primary outcome — the headline that best captures what happened. Then list the reasons for that outcome. You may need to ask yourself “Why?” several times, peeling back layer after layer, to determine what caused the outcome. Next, write about the emotions that influenced your decision making. Can you determine why certain feelings flared up at certain times? The final step is to identify what you can learn from the experience and what you can do differently next time. When you finish a project, don’t just jump straight into the next one. Use your journal to slow down and consider how you can make better decisions in the future.

The journaling exercise provides benefits in two ways. First, it forces you to examine the experience and learn from it. That examination allows you to break down what happened so that you can replicate the experience for avoid it, depending on what the outcome was. Secondly, the act of writing the information down engages a different part of your brain than simply thinking about it. Engaging more of your brain enables you to better remember and internalize it. It also provides the benefit of creating a textbook of your learnings, which you can refer to whenever needed.

Don’t Set Growth Targets Without Thinking Carefully About Timing

Don’t Set Growth Targets Without Thinking Carefully About Timing

Featured, Improvement, Planning, Process

metricsYou’ve probably seen them before — those project spreadsheets in which Year 2 revenue is Year 1 revenue plus 10%, and so on. These projections are rarely accurate, because they reduce the world to linear models — when in reality the growth process is nonlinear, sometimes even exponential. Additionally, most plans depend are multiple parts all working in conjunction. If one part takes longer than expected or implementation isn’t done in the proper order, the ultimate goal is delayed.

The Harvard Business Review recommends instead of assuming that growth will happen right away, and at a steady pace, think about the likely times at which revenues will be realized. What’s the realistic lag time between initiating your growth project and reaping the rewards from it?

Focus on three inputs:

  • the revenue goal for the investment at steady state;
  • the assumed first-year revenue;
  • the inflection point, which is the time required to reach 50% of the revenue goal.

Unrealistic revenue projections can lead to career-ending misses. So take plenty of time to do some smart thinking beforehand.

Lessons From Lake Placid

Lessons From Lake Placid

Featured, Improvement

Team USATo this day, few Olympic moments can match the excitement generated by the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team.  A group of college kids was out up against the juggernaut Russian team who had not only beaten them prior to the Olympics, but also beat the NHL All-Stars. The Russians had years of experience where the U.S. team worked together for a few months. In one of the biggest upsets in sports, the U.S. team inspired a country that desperately needed it. There story includes several lessons that we can all learn.

  • Work As A Team: When the athletes started, they identified themselves as being from their various colleges, several of which had rivalries. They didn’t start to gel until they started thinking of themselves as Team USA instead of a group of individuals.
  • Make The Effort: Coach Herb Brooks worked the team to the point of exhaustion. The team had limited time and limited resources, especially when compared to the Russian team. They made up for it through sheer will and hard work.
  • Don’t Fear The Opponent: One of the mistakes most of the Russian teams opponents made was assuming the Russians couldn’t be defeated. If you believe you can’t win, you won’t. While it is important to show the proper respect for your rivals abilities, overestimating them can be just as dangerous as underestimating them.
  • Don’t Lose Sight Of The Finish: While the victory over the Russians was a major accomplishment, it wasn’t the main goal. The victory moved Team USA into contention for the gold medal, but if they had coasted after beating the Russians it was still possible for them to walk away without a medal. Keep the finish line in sight and don’t stop until you get there.