how do you assess risk?

How are people self assessing risk in your business?

Every morning I see rabbits all over the place. Some are on their own, while others are in groups. On one particular morning, there was a group of four nibbling on the grass. As I approached, three ran up the hill and into a bush. The fourth ran down the hill, paused and watched me as I walked by.

Everyone has their own perception and tolerance for risk. But in business, that can be problematic if individual tolerance for risk is too permissive or too restrictive. How are you making sure you get the balance you want in your business?

what signals do you have to adjust behavior?

What signals do you have in your business to get people to adjust their behavior?

There’s a pedestrian crossing at the bottom of a hill where cars speed by. Recently, the city put in solar powered speed signs that warn people when they are going to fast. And they are doing the job! As soon as they went in, people started slowing down when the sign started flashing “slow.”

Signals that bring focus to behavior that is not in line with expectations are powerful. What signals do you have in your business to get people to adjust their behavior?

how clear are you about your purpose?

How clear are you about your purpose?

A few weeks ago, I went for a hike by Mt. St. Helens. It’s a popular spot and there were a lot of people there. One woman found a family of chipmunks and was taking pictures. Another family with a 4 month old and a 5 year old were “starting them young.” A local hiking group was out for their weekly hike. And a young man was there to get exercise and was moving faster than everyone else on the trail. They all had different purposes and designed their hike to suit their purpose. And they all seemed to be having a great time.

In business, being clear about the purpose of the company and sticking to it is important to attracting the right people for the business and delivering the promise to customers. How clear are you about your purpose?

how far should it bend before being replaced

How far should it bend before being replaced so it doesn’t break?

Every day about noon, the wind picks up and blows pretty aggressively. On one particular street, the daily gusts have shaped the trees so they are permanently bent sideways from the wind. And in the morning, seeing the trees with their sideway lean causes one to wonder if a different landscape design would have been chosen if the designer knew this would be the outcome.

The same sorts of bending of organizations happens all the time to accommodate the daily flow of business. And eventually, the bending becomes permanent. The question is, do you leave something in place that is not designed to work that way, but has adapted as best it could? Or, do you remove it and put something more functional in its place?

how are you making sure quality issues don't slip through the cracks?

How will you make sure quality defects don’t slip through the cracks?

Last week, I got a new package of toilet paper. The plastic wrap around it felt a little loose. And when I opened the package, I found out why. Clearly there was a manufacturing issue that resulted in one of the rolls being pretty narrow. Something was off in the quality control department and no-one caught it or someone let it through with an obvious issue.

A lot has changed in the last year. But standards in quality and delivery of service today shouldn’t be one of them. People will notice. Do you have processes and systems in place to alert you when something is off? How will you make sure quality defects don’t slip through the cracks?

what symbols are you using?

What symbols are you focused on?

A few weeks ago, we had heat in the Pacific Northwest that got up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit. It scorched bushes and trees, and destroyed fruit crops. The heat only stayed for a couple days, but the damage was done. But, the scorched leaves on bushes and trees are left behind to remind us every day of those brutal days that killed a few hundred people. The memories would fade quickly if not for those visual reminders everywhere.

Businesses have symbols all over the place too. Some of happy times. Some of goals. Others of tough times. What do you want people to focus on? Are those symbols in prominent places to help remind people of the things you would like them to focus on?

what are you thankful for

What are you thankful for?

On July 4, 1989, I was in Prague. The trip started several weeks earlier by going through Checkpoint Charlie from West to East Berlin. There, people shared how they had to put their name on a list to get a used car and needed to have the money to buy it ten years later when their name came up. Or they had to start all over.

In Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union at the time, our dinner was potatoes and pieces of fat. It’s what was available to eat. And after dinner, someone tried to buy the clothes I was wearing while in the bathroom.

In Poland, I asked for ice to cool my drink. I was so embarrassed when I asked what was taking so long, not knowing they didn’t have any. They bent over backward to freeze water and bring it to me an hour later. So, when Take Me Home Country Road by John Denver played in the bar in Prague, I really missed home and all the things we have.

Fast forward to 2013. I was in Havana, Cuba and the person I was speaking with shared his excitement that Raul Castro had just granted permission to the people to speak their thoughts. The “grocery store” was just a room with a chalkboard that shared the dates when rice, beans and a few other items would be available. You couldn’t just go in and buy whatever you wanted. There were no stocked shelves. Food is rationed.

We have our challenges. We also have a lot. Sometimes it takes seeing other places to appreciate and be thankful for all we have.


unintended consequences

Are unintended consequences derailing your good ideas?

Malcolm Gladwell recently shared things he has been thinking about and testing. One in particular caught my attention. Driverless cars. His theory is that people fear walking out in front of cars because they won’t be seen and will be hit. But in the future, driverless cars will be programmed to stop when people walk in front of them. As a result, what has been touted as a more efficient way to commute will come to a grinding halt because people will no longer follow the rules and will walk across roads and highways at will.

Unintended consequences happen all the time from great and well-meaning ideas. What unintended consequences are coming from your ideas?

you said what?

What? Why now?

About a week ago, I went to the grocery store. And there was a big change in the parking lot. All of the prime parking spots were changed to order online and pick up here. And they were all empty. It was strange. Through the entire pandemic, home delivery and order online and pickup were not an option at this store.

So, why now? After a year and a half of not having the option when vaccine coverage is getting better every day and we are on the verge of having restrictions lifted? And why make customers walk further to get to the store when they could have put the pickup location in a different spot without impacting so many people? And why not give customers the information about how to find and use the service?

Businesses make changes all the times. Sometimes they are obvious and sometimes not. The change sticks when people are better off. When their life is easier.

Are your customers wondering why?

are you asking for what you want

Are you asking for what you want?

My dog has figured out how to get what she wants. In the morning, she positions herself at the top of the stairs, blocking the path down. It’s clear what she wants by her positioning. She wants me to scratch that spot on her back right above her tail. And she just stands there smiling, getting her scratches until she is done and runs downstairs.

Many years ago, someone shared their perspective with me: The most you will ever get is what you ask for. Whether in business or in life, are you asking for what you want?