expect the unexpected

The unexpected can happen

It was a sunny day when I was in the backyard a few weeks ago. Being fall, I don’t typically look at my strawberry patch. But while looking at a few things nearby, I glanced over and saw a beautiful red strawberry. In the fall. It was totally unexpected.

The unexpected happens all the time around us. It just takes keeping your eyes open to find it.

You can't fake normal

You can’t fake normal

A few weeks ago, a commercial caught my attention. There was no talking, just a catchy tune along with a group of people moving to the music. But something seemed off. Looking more closely, it was clear the people had been filmed separately and cut together to appear as if they were actually together. All the subtleties of human interaction weren’t there. And while the attempt to make the environment seem normal, it wasn’t.

Some businesses today are trying to artificially create what normal was 9 months ago rather than working with the conditions of today and creating a new experience. You can’t fake normal. People will notice.

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?

how good are you at pouncing on opportunities

How good are you at pouncing on opportunities?

My dog loves her new toy. It is really an interactive game where I race a little toy attached to a fishing pole around the room. She chases it and pounces on the toy or grabs it when it is mid-air. She is really good at figuring out where it will be next. She is so good, I’ve got to up my game to get ahead of her. She just has a knack for seeing the opportunities coming.

It’s the same thing in business. You’ve got to see where the opportunities, get good at predicting where they will be and pounce when they are available.

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

Are you making it harder than it should be to do business with you?

It should have been a very simple process of buying my exercise gear. I knew exactly what I wanted, put it in the online cart and hit the checkout button like I had done many times before.  All of my information was already there, so it should have processed and sent me a receipt.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, I was taken to a screen asking me to set up Apple pay. After spending time with the person at the other end of the online chat, I was told that for all Apple devices, customers are routed to set up Apple pay. The only way around it is to download another browser, and use that browser to complete the transaction. You know this brand and probably have it in your closet. They don’t need to make it that hard to buy from them.

It is a good lesson in how a likely partnership with another company has made it harder to do business with customers. Have you unintentionally set up processes that make it harder to do business with you?  It is a good time to look at your end to end customer experience and get rid of anything that makes it harder to do business with you. You’ll be glad you did!

time, money or quality. pick 2

Time, Money or Quality. Pick Two

A friend recently shared the experience of building a house. The house was designed by an architect and was everything they wanted. The only thing was, the architect designed it to be beautiful, but not easy to build. My friend shared how excited they were at the final outcome, but lamented the time and money it took to complete the house.

This sort of situation happens all the time in business. Leaders want a project fast, but want it at a low cost with high quality. That combination doesn’t work. If you want it fast and high quality, it typically costs more.

As you think about your overall goals, it is important to think through the outcomes you are looking for and adjust expectations accordingly.

are you investing?

Are you investing right now?

Last week, the county put a slurry coat on all the streets in the area where I live. The county knows that the cost of the slurry coat is minimal compared to replacing the roads if routine maintenance does not occur. And they chose to invest in maintenance even in the midst of a pandemic.

That got me to thinking about how I’ve seen businesses taking very different approaches to investing over the last four months. Many are investing and reaping the rewards. Some aren’t but need to. Are you investing in your business?

what is your crumbs strategy?

The Crumbs Strategy

My dog has a strategy when it comes to crumbs. She only goes for the big stuff and will leave many crumbs that drop from a food prep mishap. Being a rescue dog with lots of anxiety, she has figured out how to get what she wants by giving me a look. She doesn’t need to chase crumbs.

In business, knowing whether you are going to chase crumbs or work for the big stuff is important. There are lots of crumbs around and they are easy to capture. But it takes more work and you sometimes get other stuff with them. Working for the big stuff takes a different kind of work, but the payoff is better.

Which crumbs strategy do you use?


Are you confusing people?

The department of transportation is reconfiguring the freeway to add a bus lane to avoid traffic during rush hour. The project basically takes the left shoulder, narrows the three existing lanes and takes a portion of the right shoulder.

The first step taken was marking where the new lanes will be with white dashed lines about 2 feet from the existing lane markers. As a result of the new lines, people were confused where to drive. Some were driving in the existing lanes while others were driving in what will be the lanes in the future.

I’m sure there were lots of good reasons for marking the lane in preparation for work that would happen a few weeks down the road. But it created a lot of confusion for those using the road, not working on the project.

These sorts of situations happen all the time in business. People take actions that will help their work. In the meantime, it confuses customers and co-workers operating in the same space. How are you making sure you aren’t confusing people?