Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Right People

With growth a business needs to seek out the right people to support that growth. This adds a complexity to the management role which only increases with the prosperity of the organization.

It becomes a bit of “good news – bad news” scenario. The good news is that business has increased enough to require an expansion in staff. The bad news is that if the wrong people are selected they can slow or even halt progress.

Many firms still hire or promote by position title. The identified need is for a manager; supervisor; coordinator; etc. Accordingly, that is the position advertised both internally or externally. Unfortunately specific job requirements for these positions can vary significantly from firm to firm. As a result, applicants may not be the individuals really needed in the position. In selecting the right people it is critical that there first be a clear understanding of what that person is specifically going to be asked to do.

There is also the need to ask the question “how will the employee be behaving in that position, as part of the organization?” Not an easy question to be sure, but definitely worth answering.

One solution to the dilemma is to describe clearly and in specific observable terms exactly what the person hired or promoted needs to do. With that description in hand the position title and job level be clearly determined. You may find it is totally diffent than you had originally thought.

I get into this concept ever further in Chapter 4 of There Has To Be A Better Way. Request your copy as a comment or send me an email to

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Right Culture

The culture of a business is often overlooked by leaders. Or if considered at all is thought to be of little consequence. After all, as long as the clients are happy and buying, business is great, right? However, the very question of how successful we will be and for how long lay in our business culture.

According to The Conference Board of Canada – Learning and Development Outlook 2005 report, “Only about a quarter of organizations (28%) believe that risk taking is actively encouraged and supported. Likewise, only 30% feel that failures are constructively discussed.”

This response reflects the lack of an innovative and learning culture in the majority of Canadian organizations. Unless employees are comfortable adapting a different approach to their tasks, they will always do just what they have always done. Unfortunately, with the rapid advance of both technology and competition, “what they have always done” is not good enough. The sales rep who continues to rely on mail for contact with customers will soon be outpaced by the rep using on-line social networks and the internet for connections.

To help determine whether an organization encourages reasoned risk taking, look to the answers to two questions:

• When was the last time an employee presented an improvement to what they do or how they do it?
• Are employees aware of how to document, measure and improve their work processes?

Based on the answer to these two questions, it is possible to identify whether or not the organization has a continuous improvement culture. With a no to either question, the need to change has been identified.

I get into this concept ever further in Chapter 3 of There Has To Be A Better Way. Request your copy as a comment or send me an email to

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Doing the Right Things

How often have you heard someone say, “I seem to be busier these days but don’t seem to get as much done.” Perhaps this is because the person has identified their measure of success as activities. Many of us do exactly that. We look at what we did today, I.e. made 20 phone calls; answered 35 e-mails; wrote 5 letters; and on and on. It was a busy day. Lots of activities. The question, however, is what were the results achieved?

It is critical to determine up front what measure will be used to determine success. The adage “if you can measure it you can manage it” has never been truer than in today’s fast paced business environment. Measurement is the only way to know whether we’re winning or losing in any given situation. The other option is to have no idea about how we are doing. Which would you prefer?

All too often employees, even ourselves, are asked to perform tasks for the sake of activity. For example, how often is a weekly, monthly activity report that merely gets filed when received, been asked for?
People have, for one reason or another, fallen into the trap of always doing what has always been done. To quote Einstein, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

I get into this concept ever further in Chapter 2 of There Has To Be A Better Way. Request your copy as a comment or send me an email.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Review

Scott D. Anderson, Principal of SDA Consulting has provided the following comments on my book.

"All of us, at one time or another, have uttered (perhaps muttered) the title of Gordon J. H. Newman’s book There Has to Be a Better Way. Usually this comes as we are contemplating another project with a difficult client or getting a new team member to understand and correctly use a particularly tricky development tool or technique. Frequently, the words come to mind as our choices narrow and options become limited as to how we can envision a successful outcome to the problem at hand. It was to the latter situation which Mr. Newman and his book attempts to prepare the reader.

The book is divided into ten short, easily absorbed chapters expanding on each of the requirements of a successful system. The closing section of the book contains samples of all the Tools and Templates introduced and discussed in the text.

There Has to Be a Better Way – the Right Systems for Success provides a good reference for new project managers to turn to for basic tools and process documentation to back up otherwise solid processes. It also provides examples and discussion which will help a new PM make a positive impact. As Mr. Newman says in his introduction; his ideas are not theoretical but practical in nature and based on his 40-years of experience. As a collection of ways to do things better than personal experience and a source for learning from another, this can be a useful tool that deserves to be ready to hand and looking like it has been well used."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Awaiting The Review

Throughout our lives we have all at one time or another had to wait out the results of a review of our work. Perhaps the most memorable for you was waiting for the report card from grade school. For others it might have been waiting to get your final transcript from college or university.

Still others hold in their memory something much more recent, the job review by your boss. If you are in business for yourself it may have been the review or feedback requested from a client.

Suffice it to say we can all say "Been there, done that. Didn't get the T-shirt." when it comes to awaiting a review.

My latest and definitely most memorable, even after almost 40 years in the corporate world and 5 as an independent consultant, came just today.

It started about two months ago when one of the editors for Performance Improvement, a publication of the International Society for Performance Improvement asked me if I would like to have my book, There Has To Be A Better Way, reviewed. Hesitantly I said, "sure, why not?". Sent two copies off, so it could be review by two people independently and waited. Well, as time went by it moved further and further toward the back of my mind.

Then this evening it all came rushing forward like a run away freight train. I received an email attaching the review. I was asked to read it over and let them know if there would be any problems publishing it in the February 2010 issue.

Now I know what the playwright must feel like when they await the reviews following opening night. You have the paper in your hand but are almost afraid to read the words of the reviewer.

Steeling myself,I opened the document to find it contained not one page of comments but rather four and 1/4 pages of feedback. Each chapter had been commented upon in a summary.

Curbing my desire to go right to the last page I read each page. Thankfully when I got to the last paragraph on the last page, it was a good review.

The closing comment: "As a collection of ways to do things better than personal experience and a source for learning from another, this can be a useful tool that deserves to be ready to hand and looking like it has been well used."


Getting The Referral

While cleaning up the office the other day came across a slip of information gathered in my early business days. The slip provided information/tips on getting referrals. In fact I had headed it as "Ask for the referral scripts." Thought it might be useful to share so here goes.

Remember, you are not making an Oscar acceptance speech here. When you ask for a referral, be sincere and direct, Say something such as:

"I'm really glad that you're pleased with my work. I'd really appreciate it if you would pass my name along to anyone else you know who would be interested in..............(what you do). May I leave these extra business cards with you?"

Leaving extra business cards with a person makes it easier for them to pass your name and contact information to someone else.

Another variation on the script is even more direct and asks for names when you are asking for referrals. For instance, you might say:

"I'm really glad that you are pleased with my work. I'm always looking for referrals and wonder if you know anyone else who might be interested in........(what you do)."

Pause here and see what they say. Some people will offer some names. Some will say "Yes, maybe," and not offer any further information. Some will say, "No" but at least you tried.

If they do offer names, take them down and ask the person if they mind If you contact the person directly or if they would prefer to pass your information along to them yourself. If they don't offer names, just as in the previous script, ask if you can leave some additional cards with them that they can pass along.

Bottom line is you never get if you never ask. So get out there and start asking. This is not the time nor economy to be hiding your light under a barrell.