sometimes automation gives you the wrong answer

Sometimes automation gives the wrong answer

The smoke has cleared and the sun is back! But for a while, everything went haywire. Including Amazon deliveries. My orders got to the area, but just sat there. I could see it through the tracking. The delivery dates were sliding out and finally were listed as potentially lost. There wasn’t any notice if the site was being impacted by smoke or fire and the people at the help desk didn’t know anything. After one order showed as being sent to Maryland from Portland a week later, I was finally able to reach a person live who told me everything was in Portland and would arrive that day!

When systems are completely automated and an unexpected event disrupts and intervenes, the system can give all sorts of bad information. How are you building checks into your systems to make sure you are getting the right information at the right time?

The 100 Year Event

The 100 Year Event

Heck. It is only September and we’ve already had at least three 100 year events in the Portland area: global pandemic, an extreme weather change that caused extreme wind gusts, and raging wild fires along the entire west coast of the United States. There might be more, and we aren’t even to the end of the year!

The thing is, conditions have changed and the 100 year events have been on the radar screens of many experts for a while. It was only a matter of time, a short time, before they happened. And they will probably occur more frequently than every 100 years going forward.

It’s the same thing about changing conditions in business. Looking to the past to guide the future makes sense under some circumstances, but not others. In evaluating risk, you need to assess the current environment, not the past environment to adequately mitigate and manage risk.

Are you paying attention to risks that are likely to occur today that were once considered unlikely?

we've always done it that way means it is time to change

What will you do when conditions change?

Before COVID, the grocery store encouraged customers to bring their reusable bags. With the current conditions, not wanting to spread germs, the store now prohibits reusable bags to protect everyone. They put all the items back in the cart after checkout and have a bagging station outside so people can use their reusable bags. Otherwise items are bagged in a paper bag. And that’s changed too….the paper bag is now plain and does not have its prior branded printing.

This move is temporary. And businesses of all types are making the same temporary changes. The trick is to make the shift to the most effective approach from a cost and availability perspective. How are you adjusting when conditions change?

don't panic

Don’t Panic!

My dog enjoys chasing critters that run. But when we are out on a walk, she can miss bunnies that are in yards if she is focused on something else. And when this happens, the bunny sees us and freezes while we walk by. The risk passes and then the bunny moves on to another area.

Sometimes what looks like a risk isn’t actually one. The best thing to do is keep an eye on it, not panic and let it pass by.

are you watching out for risks ahead?

Are you watching for the warning signs?

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is beautiful. And apparently the word is out. The roads fill with people from all over the place. Watching the license plates on the roads paints a picture about where people are coming from. And many times, they are in a hurry to get where they are going. But, they aren’t watching the signs they are about to fall into a trap. A speed trap.

Locals know where the speed traps are located. Always around a blind corner on the downhill. The locals stay out of the left lane and no more than 5 mph above the speed limit. They know where the traps are as those who don’t fly by in the left lane and get pulled over for speeding.

That’s the thing about risk. If you know what you are doing, you can push the envelope. But if you are in unfamiliar territory and those who are familiar with it are behaving differently, it’s a warning sign to understand the risks before pushing forward. Calculated risk taking is a good thing. Reckless risk taking is not.

Are you missing the signs?

Are you missing the signs?

The sign said accident five miles ahead, left and center lanes blocked. Surely there would be a significant backup with only one lane open. So, I turned on GPS to find the best way around the situation. The detour was fantastic. I was able to bypass the traffic and get back on the freeway. All the while I was watching the backup grow on the freeway from the side streets.

There are signs all around us about what is going on with the economy, our customers and our business. If you watch for the signs you can easily navigate varying situations. But if you don’t, you will find yourself in a mess at some point. Are you missing the signs? If so, it is time to start watching.

You need to do things differently to scale

Scaling up doesn’t mean do the same thing, only more

I used to work a business that built things. Sometimes they built facilities that had a new technology or process. They would build a small facility to test new technology or process. Once it worked, they would build the facility at scale. Many times building the exact same thing only bigger didn’t work. Some things always had to be adjusted.

And that is true in business. When growing a company, you can’t just do the same thing with more people. Things will start to break. You need to make changes as you scale to be successful. You need technology and leaders to get people focused on the right thing. Successful companies figure this out and make adjustments. Those that don’t don’t make it.

Have you thought about what you need to do differently to grow your business?

Does yes mean yes?

When Yes Doesn’t Mean Yes

Have you ever walked away from a meeting and thought everyone was in agreement? They said yes. Or so you thought. At some point you realize that yes didn’t mean yes. Sometimes it means: I heard you. Sometimes it means: I’m interested, but I’m not committing right now. Sometimes it means: I’ll wait to see if it gets traction before I jump in. Sometimes it means: I’m just saying yes to move the conversation forward, but I really mean no.

The only way to make sure yes really means yes is to agree to what actions will happen by when, and who is responsible for each action.  People may still reverse their decision, but the probability is lower.

What else are you doing to make sure yes means yes?

what are your red flags?

The Pitfalls of Scaling

Last week, my deck refinishing kicked off when the contractor showed up with the stain chips to choose from. The thing is, looking at a 1 inch square doesn’t give a real perspective of what the color actually looks like at scale. Usually contractors paint a sample to confirm the color, but it was skipped this time. And what a mistake that was! Rather than the red tone I was looking for to match my fence, the stain was peach/orange. Luckily, we caught it early and the stain was swapped out for the color I was looking for.

Scaling is one of the toughest things in business. What works at a small scale, does not always work at a large scale. It could be your vision is completely distorted when scale is reached. Or maybe the technology works in a small environment, but not a big environment. And while most people have experience with scaling gone awry, thinking through what needs to be done to scale frequently gets skipped. It is the classic pitfall in scaling. How do you avoid the pitfalls of scaling?

Check out my new book, Leading the High-Performing Company. You’ll find more tips about how to lead your organization to new heights.

how much friction is in your business?

Is the friction in your business higher than you think?

The roads in the area are in the process of being repaved. When I moved here, they were in bad shape and have worsened in the decade since. Ruts, potholes, and rough pavement made the drive an adventure. But it wasn’t until the freshly paved lane stood next to the lane waiting to be repaved that I realized just how bad the old one was. The freshly paved lane was quiet and smooth. Switching lanes brought a significant amount of noise and vibration from the rough surface.

The thing is, things wear down over time. They don’t work quite as well. The friction increases. And it isn’t until they are fixed that you realize how bad it was. That’s why it is important to have measures in place to signal when it is time to make a change. If you go by feel alone, you’ll miss when it is time to pull the trigger. How are you measuring the friction in your business?