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Thursday, October 29th, 2009

DOS Exercise

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A lot of people have checked out my article  on SWOT Analysis: Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (amazingly, an estimated 300,000 people Google “SWOT Analysis” each month, according to Google’s own Keyword Tool).

If you want a variation on an exercise for strengths, opportunities, etc., there’s another simpler one called D.O.S.

DOS stands for Dangers, Opportunities and Strengths.

DOS Exercise

It’s very simple to learn DOS. Here are the steps:

1) Pick a new goal or thing that you’re considering taking on.

2) List out the dangers of taking on such a project.

3) List out the opportunities of taking on such a project.

4) List out the strengths of taking on such a project.

I’ve been using DOS for a few years and I’ve learned it’s important you go in the order of danger, opportunity, strength because psychologically it’s best to end on a positive — this is one advantage the DOS model has over the SWOT model (in SWOT analysis you START positive with strengths and END on a negative with threats).

Here’s a DOS example on a new challenge a friend of mine’s business is having with fundraising (she needs to raise some money to fund her new startup).

Dangers (of raising money)

  • She’ll take her eye off the ball of a new product launch.
  • She’ll be distracted from managing her newest hire (an engineer)

Opportunities (e.g. what the opportunities for her to take advantage of to raise money)

  • She has 100+ “friends and family” who might be able to invest
  • She has a new advisor she could add to her advisory board who is well connected and has raised money for a couple of different startups.

Strengths

  • This woman is very persuasive and can make a great pitch!
  • She has a superb team
  • She has an amazing product

That’s the DOS exercise.

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Sunday, October 11th, 2009

OODA Loop

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I’m a big fan of using Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop strategy for reacting to events in business.

I’m so into the OODA Loop theory that I once chanted “OODA, OODA” (like “Toga, Toga”) at a strategy session!

OODA stands for:

Observe — As in collect the inputs/data of the situation.

Orient — Analyze the inputs/data to determine your position.

Decide — Determine your course of action.

Act — Execute your decision.

It’s called an OODA Loop (or OODA Cycle) because the event/situation taking place may be changing and so you may have to change your decisions as new data/inputs are gathered.

While Col. John Boyd’s OODA Loops were created in military situations, he made recommendations on their use in business (and OODA Loop Theory is widely used in business today).

For example, Boyd recommended that decisions/actions be distributed throughout a business organization so that decisions and actions are made by the people who are directly observing and oriented to a situation (as opposed to an isolated commander/CEO who is only indirectly involved).

Colonel John R. Boyd is no relation to famous businessman John Boyd Dunlop who founded Dunlop the tire company or peace nobelist Lord John Boyd (United Nations, nutrition).

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Sunday, September 27th, 2009

PEST Analysis

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I’ve been receiving a lot of attention to my articles on strategic planning tools such as SWOT Analysis, Fishbone Analysis and DACI To Get Things Done.

Here’s another one: PEST Analysis (by the way, there are many variations of PEST Analysis and so I’ve listed all of the ones at the bottom of this article with their definitions).

What is a PEST Analysis?

PEST is an acronym that stands for the following four Macro-Economic factors:

  • Political — These include factors related to how a government intervenes in your business. It may include taxes, law, political stability, regulation and de-regulation.
  • Economic  — These include factors such as interest rates, inflation rates, unemployment rates, income rates/distribution and tariff rates.
  • Social — These include cultural aspects such as population growth, age distribution, career trends (attitudes towards work), lifestyle trends, etc.
  • Technological — These include trends such as remote working (see my article called A Virtual Workplace), mobile computing, the Internet and other research and development innovation.

PEST analyses are best used to measure a market situation (this differs from SWOT Analysis as SWOT is best used to measure a company or business unit situation). A good time to do a PEST Analysis is right before a SWOT Analysis.  More PEST Analysis definitions and history can be found at PEST Analysis Wikipedia

The best uses for PEST Analysis are:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Planning
  • Acquisitions
  • Business Development/Joint Ventures
  • Product Development
  • Marketing Planning

PEST Analysis Example/Template

  1. Identify the key trends related to Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors
  2. Rank them on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of what type of impact they could have on your business
  3. Pick the highest ranked items and dig into those using whatever tool you prefer (I recommend SWOT Analysis or Fishbone Analysis)

Here’s a good sample PEST Analysis of Yahoo

And, as promised here are those other variations of PEST with their definitions:

  • PESTEL Analysis (sometimes misspelled “PESTAL” Analysis)stand for: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Law
  • PESTLE Analysis is just spelled different than PESTEL (it stands for: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Law and Environment
  • STEEPLE Analysis stands for: Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Law and Education
  • STEEPLED Analysis stands for: Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Law and Education and Demographics
  • PESTLIED Analysis stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, International, Environmental, Demographic
  • SLEPT Analysis stands for: Social, Legal, Economic, Political, Technological
  • PESTELI Analysis stands for: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, Law and International
  • STEEP Analysis stands for: Social, Technological, Economic, Ecological and Political

You can tell that some people are really into these things!

If you like my articles on SWOT, PEST, etc. then you might want to check out my posting on DOS Exercise.

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Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Fishbone Analysis

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My friend Ralph taught me how to do a Fishbone Analysis recently (it had been invented by Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa).

You can use the Fishbone process to help you figure out how to best achieve an objective, including how to prioritize the individual items which together are needed to meet your objective.

Fishbone Analysis Example

Let’s say that you determine that you need to grow the number of visits to a Web site/page from 500 per month to 20,000 per month by year-end.

First, you go through the six things that prevent you from getting that objective done.  These are called the six “M’s” because each starts with the letter “M” to make it easier to remember.

The six “M’s” that prevent you from getting anything done are:

  1. Manpower — The people resources you need.
  2. Methods — The processes you need.
  3. Metrics — The measurements you need.
  4. Machines — The automation or technology you need.
  5. Materials — The material items (such as physical goods or marketing collateral) you need.
  6. Minutes — The time you need.

Now, it’s called a fishbone because you draw a line (the fish’s spine) with three diagonal lines on each side (which look like bones) and it looks like a fish (see my sloppy image above).

Example of The Six “M’s” of Fishbone

So, back to the Fishbone example of getting your traffic to 20,000 visits per month.

Go through the six “M” categories and for each one answer the question: “What things within each category are preventing me from getting to my goal (e.g. to 20,000 Web site visits per month).

  • Manpower
    • You need a person on staff who can can be the driver of more traffic to your Web site (see my DACI article on the importance of a “driver.”
    • You need access to someone familiar with HTML.
  • Methods
  • Metrics
    • You need to know the definition of a Web site visit.
    • You need to confirm that you’re actually receiving 500 visits per month right now (because you’re confused about Web site traffic)
  • Machines
    • You need analytics software to measure Web site traffic.
  • Materials
    • You need content on your Web site to attract visitors.
    • You need to figure out if the Internet domain name you’re using is the right one.
  • Minutes
    • The key people who would work on this project don’t have any free time.

Fishbone Ranking

You then take each of the sub-items (in my case I made it simple and there are only 9 (usually you’d have 20 to 30) and list them out and do a Fishbone Ranking of them.

The ranking approach Ralph suggested is to do a 1 to 10 on the impact, resources needed and time that each item will take where:

10 is high Impact (1 is low)

10 is low Resources Needed (1 is high resources)

10 is low amount of Time it will take (1 is a lot of time)

  • You need a person on staff who can can be the driver of more traffic to your Web site (see my DACI article on the importance of a “driver.”
    • Impact = 8 (a new “driver” of this project will have huge impact towards reaching your goal)
    • Resources Needed = 2 (a new driver will require a lot of money to hire)
    • Amount of Time = 7 (you can hire a new driver of this project fairly quickly)
    • Total = 17 (8 + 2 +7)
  • You need access to someone familiar with HTML.
    • Impact = 6
    • Resources = 5
    • Time = 5
    • Total = 16
  • You need to understand how you will be increasing Web traffic
    • Impact = 9
    • Resources = 8
    • Time = 4
    • Total = 21
  • You need to know the definition of a Web site visit.
    • Impact = 5
    • Resources = 10
    • Time = 10
    • Total = 25
  • You need to confirm that you’re actually receiving 500 visits per month right now (because you’re confused about Web site traffic)
    • Impact = 2
    • Resources = 7
    • Time = 6
    • Total = 16
  • You need analytics software to measure Web site traffic.
    • Impact = 6
    • Resources = 9
    • Time = 8
    • Total = 23
  • You need content on your Web site to attract visitors.
    • Impact = 10
    • Resources = 1
    • Time = 2
    • Total = 13
  • You need to figure out if the Internet domain name you’re using is the right one.
    • Impact = 5
    • Resources = 7
    • Time = 7
    • Total = 19

Priorities Come Out of the Fishbone Ranking

So, now you list them out in order of highest score first:

25 = You need to know the definition of a Web site visit.

23 = You need analytics software to measure Web site traffic.

21 = You need to understand how you will be increasing Web traffic

19 = You need to figure out if the Internet domain name you’re using is the right one.

17 = You need a person on staff who can can be the driver of more traffic to your Web site (see my DACI article on the importance of a “driver.”

16 = You need access to someone familiar with HTML.

16 = You need to confirm that you’re actually receiving 500 visits per month right now (because you’re confused about Web site traffic)

13 = You need content on your Web site to attract visitors.

And, voila, this may be the order you need to do those items.

For those who really like fishbone brainstorming, you can take any of those individual items and do an entire new fishbone JUST on that item.

If you want to learn more about the man behind Fishbones, click here for a Kaoru Ishikawa biography

If you like this article, you will probably also like this article I wrote on the SWOT Analysis tool.

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Sunday, July 26th, 2009

SWOT Analysis

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I’ve been using SWOT Analysis for strategic planning lately and I thought I’d share the basics of it.

What is a SWOT Analysis

SWOT is a strategic planning tool. The acronym SWOT stands for:

S= Strengths

W = Weaknesses

O = Opportunities

T = Threats

The importance of a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a great exercise to help determine your tactics or execution of an objective.

The more you can prepare before you jump into your tactics (or execution), the better off your results will be.

How to do a SWOT Analysis

First, pick your topic (e.g. your topic might be broad such as on your business/company overall (a “Company SWOT Analysis” or something more specific such as a department in your business (e.g. a “Marketing SWOT Analysis) or it could be for yourself as an individual (a “Personal SWOT Analysis”).

Next you pick your objective. For example, if you’re doing a Company SWOT Analysis your objective may be to double the business within the next three years.

Now do the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats related to that topic or objective:

  • Strengths — These are attributes that you or your company possess that would be helpful in achieving the objective.
  • Weaknesses — These are attributes that you or your business have that are harmful to achieving the objective.
  • Opportunities — These are the external circumstances that are helpful to you achieving the objective.
  • Threats — These are external circumstances that could damage the performance of your objective.

Next, ask yourself if your objective is achievable given your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Is SWOT objective achievable?

If the answer is no, you have to revise your objective and do another SWOT.

If your answer is yes, then you can now move into discussing the tactics related to your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Specifically, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How can we leverage each one of our strengths?
  2. How can we improve upon each weakness?
  3. How we can capitalize on each opportunity?
  4. How can we minimize each threat?

A SWOT Analysis Example

[Check out my SWOT Analysis Examples posting to see larger company SWOT Analysis examples]

Here’s a summary of a general Business SWOT Analysis I did on our start up Mojam about ten years ago.

Our objective was to double the revenue of the business within twelve months.

Strengths

  • Amazing team
  • Large quantity of product
  • Well-connected investors
  • Good at partnering

Weaknesses

  • Low amount of capital
  • Mediocre product quality
  • Geographically fragmented team

Opportunities

  • Yahoo is interesting in partnering with us
  • Company can turn a profit with just a few more customers
  • Smaller competitor is distressed and may want to sell
  • New revenue sources such as merchandise sales are right around the corner

Threats

  • A small new competitor has entered the space
  • We may not make payroll if we can not raise more capital or grow our business

When we asked ourselves if the objective of doubling our business was achievable given these strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the answer was yes…so we moved on to answering the four questions on each SWOT.

E.g.:

  • How can we leverage our amazing team?
  • How can we exploit our large quantity of product?
  • How can we grow our capital?
  • How can we improve our product quality?
  • How can we close the Yahoo deal?
  • How can we start merchandising as a new revenue source?
  • How can we combat the new competitor that entered the space?
  • How can we buy more time to make payroll?

Now you’re into tactics and execution and that requires prioritization, time lines, business plans, etc….or, in other words, you just go do all the things you just said you shoud do in your answers!

Who should carry out the SWOT Analysis exercise?

Ideally it’s a cross functional team (e.g. someone in sales, marketing, finance, technology, etc.)

Who Invented SWOT?

Most people credit Albert S. Humphrey, a business and management consultant who also founded the Stakeholder Concept and Team Action Management (TAM) Concept.

note: Some people mistakenly call it “SWAT” Analysis (SWAT is an acronym for special weapons and tactics started by the Los Angeles Police Department around 1968 (coincidentally, Albert Humphrey began popularizing SWOT right around the same time (in the late 1960′s!))

A great definition of SWOT can be found at SWOT Analysis Wikipedia.

Good luck with your SWOT!

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Friday, July 10th, 2009

How to Scrum & Sprint (Agile Computing)

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I’m sitting here talking with Jane Newcomb, a firm believer in Agile Project Management, including the Scrum approach, to getting things done.

Jane works on product development for BabyCenter.com, the dominant Internet baby company.

Srum Enthusiast Jane Newcomb of BabyCenter

Srum Enthusiast Jane Newcomb of BabyCenter

I thought I’d share her perspective with you through a question and answer session.

Why do you use Agile Project Management with Scrum?

BabyCenter applies the Agile Scrum Methodology to our new product and software development because we found through trial and error (including trying the Waterfall methodology) that Scrum was the most efficient project/product management tool.

Talk about Agile Methology versus Waterfall Methodology?

At the core, Waterfall Methodology assumes all aspects of a project, all features, all the funtionality — it’s all completely mapped out upfront…and then four months later the finished product is rolled out to the business owners. The business owners don’t see any code or software until the entire feature/product is delivered.

And then it’s often not the deliverable that the business owners were expected.

Whereas Agile Methodoliges are more flexible and allows business owners to see working code rolled out every two to four weeks…that allows for change in direction, alterations based on business need changes, marketplace changes.

What’s An Agile Scrum?

The Agile Scrum represents executionof  the Agile Methodology: it’s the daily huddle where team members come prepared to talk about what they worked on, what their obstacles are and what they’re working on for the next 24 hours.

It’s the daily check-in to allow business owners to understand what’s going on…and make adjustments as needed.

Do You Use Agile software development with Scrum?

Yes, we use an out of the box software tool called VersionOne.

What Is An Agile Scrum Master?

The role of the Scrum Master is to keep the team focused on the tasks and the stories that are part of whatever Sprint we are working on. It is their job to remove any obstacles and to help keep the team on track

What is an Agile Sprint?

A Sprint is the amount of time from start to finish that business owners agree to let the team work on the pre-defined set of requirements that were agreed upon prior to going into that Sprint.

How often do you use Agile Sprints?

The average Sprint lasts two to four weeks.

Did BabyCenter provide you Agile Scrum training?

I personally learned it on the go. But you can become a certified scrummaster through Agile training.

Thanks for sharing, Jane!

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Saturday, June 13th, 2009

How to Write A Purpose Statement

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In late 2007 I was introduced to “Coach Terry,” a phone-based life coach.

I was dubious about the phone-only part but I gave it a shot for a few months and learned a ton.

The most important thing I learned from Terry was the importance of having a statement of purpose for anything substantial in my life (you can find a sample statement of purpose below).

I began writing a statement of purpose for my life, my business, my role in business, a holiday trip, my romantic relationship or even just my plan for a day.

I’ve found it useful to constantly be asking myself what the purpose of something I’m doing is, or when people ask me to do something or say they are doing something, I ask them: “What is the purpose of that?”

Be purposeful about all things in your life…and you’ll find that the outcome is more favorable.

So, here’s how to write a statement of purpose along with some purpose statement tips:

1) List Your Expectations

Write down all the expectations you have about your purpose related to a certain topic (e.g. your life, job, relationship with someone, etc.) on the left-hand side of the page.

Examples of expectations are wants, needs and even fears — for example, if you’re writing a purpose statement about a job you should be answering the following questions:

What do I really want my job to be?

What do I really need in my job?

What fears do I have about my job?

Spend at least 5 to 10 minutes on this part…and really open up!

You should now have at least 7 to 10 expectations — and they will probably be centered around a few topics or themes  (e.g. for a job, it might be to make money, have fun, have a flexible schedule, etc.)

2) Purpose Statement

Now, fresh from writing out those expectations, immediately write down one long sentence that starts with “The purpose of my __________ is to …” and the rest of the statement should flow pretty naturally (hint: if you have any challenge here, take your Expectations and group them into a few topics or themes and use those as your purpose statement).

Writing a purpose statement is that easy!

You now have the beginnings of the purpose statement — you can refine this now or later (if you’re like me, you’ll find that you remember new wants, needs and fears later on — so just add them in and iterate).

3) Bonus Round: WriteI Will” Statements

If you want to take this thing one step further, return to the expectations and to the right of each of them write down an “I will” statement.

The “I will” statement should be something actionable that you could do to be more purposeful.

Try to make each “I will” statement specific, measureable, actionable and timely.

Don’t worry about ever doing such things — this isn’t a to-do list — just write it down!

The act of merely writing them down will make you more mindful of your purpose.

I promise you that if you do this exercise, you will be more purposeful on whatever the topic.

So, now you have a purpose statement (remember, you can refine it all you want) and even some actions that you can take (I sometimes DO treat it like a to-do list by printing it out and doing some of the actions immediately)

Samples of Purpose Statements

Here are some sample purpose statements I’ve written:

Life Purpose Statement — My life purpose is to smile most of the time, develop myself constantly to find my greatness, be productive the vast majority of the time, give plenty to others and to have a positive vibration on the planet.

Purpose Statement For Layoffs I Had To Make — The purpose of our layoffs is to be able to execute the plan on a timely basis, to be respected in the execution and to protect the jobs of productive people

Business Purpose Statement — The purpose of our business is to have fun, help people and make a little money.

Purpose Statement For My Job –  The purpose of my job is to make money, meet only with people I love and respect, work on things I enjoy and provide a flexible schedule to take care of the primary choices in my life. Check out 3 Easy Steps To Write A Purpose Statement For Your Next Job.

Purpose Statement For A New Management Meeting I Had To Start (see my Daily Huddle Article) — The purpose of the daily huddle meeting is to align the management team and to increase the speed of our growth.

Purpose Statement for My Wife — The purpose of the relationship with my life-mate is to have a passionate, healthy and positive relationship — while still enjoying some vices! — that leads to a larger family with children I adore.

I also highly recommend you check out this How To Write A Purpose Statement article by Steve Pavlina.

That lead to the following life purpose statement by Mr. Pavlina: To live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the great spirits within others, and to leave this world in peace.

Enjoy being purposeful!

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Monday, May 11th, 2009

3 Simple Steps To Run An Effective Meeting: The GAP Approach

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I get asked about how to run effective meetings all the time. As I wrote about in my Daily Huddle Article, how you run meetings has a material effect on your business.

If You Run Poor Meetings, No One Will Show Up

If You Run Poor Meetings, No One Will Show Up

I believe that the difference between a dull meeting and an amazing meeting is how you organize it.

I originally heard about one meetings format used by a consultant to a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary and I think it works just great.

It’s called G.A.P and it stands for Goal, Agenda and Preparation.

I believe every meeting should have all three!

Goal

The goal, or purpose, of the meeting needs to be stated upfront. A good way to remember what goes into a goal (for meetings or anything else) is that it should be a SMART Goal as in:

S = The goal should be Specific

M = The goal should be Measureable

A = The goal should be Achievable

R = The goal should be Relevant

T = The goal should be Timely (it should be reachable by the time the meeting ends)

That gets you off to the right start to a SMART meeting!

Agenda

When you hold a meeting, you need to have an agenda…even if the agenda is to have no agenda. Huh?

What I’m saying is that you as the meeting organizer need to state how the attendees are going to use the time at the meeting. The agenda could be something as simple as:

  1. Description of Problem You Face (10 minutes)
  2. Input From Each Team Member (10 minutes)
  3. Recommendation on Next Steps (10 minutes)

Or, if you’re not going to have something so structured, then state that the agenda is:

  • Open Discussion (30 minutes)

Preparation

A key to most meetings is preparation (by you the meeting organizer and by the attendees).

So, if you call a meeting, tell the attendees what they need to do to prepare.

When they join the meeting, should they have already reviewed a spreadsheet that you sent out? Do they need to have collected information from someone inside or outside the company?

Tell them how to prepare…if there’s no advanced preparation then I like to just say: “No Preparation…Just Bring Your Brain.”

If you use online calendars to schedule meetings, you should put the entire Goal, Agenda and Preparation (GAP) within your calendar invitation.

Follow GAP and you’ll have better meetings.

Note: You may have heard of another “GAP” used in business: the GAP Analysis strategic planning tool. Read How to Do A Gap Analysis for more on this valuable tool.

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