This is related to one of the most popular posts on the "Getting Things Done" productivity system and Excel templates. Macy Blanchard (shout-out to Louisiana State University*), was kind enough to share her version of the GTD (Getting Things Done) Excel Template.
Very impressive! I really like the updated headers and additional features such as "level of ease" and hash tags.
You can download it here.
(Original post which also contains original and updated versions from contributors can be found here.)
Thank you, Macy! *Go Fighting Tigers!
Throughout your personal and professional life, you will be tested on things that are ethically right or wrong. How do you decide on what is right or wrong?
There’s a simple test that one of my managers taught me years ago: How would you feel if what you did gets published on the front cover of the New York Times or similar national newspaper? If it will embarrass or shame you, your family, or company – then don’t do it.
Here’s a very recent real-life example::
A competitor contacted our sales group with a request that set off some suspicion. (Her name has been changed to “Kristine” and identifiers of the company and location have been redacted in the correspondence below.)
Initial Website Inquiry (shortened and company name replaced by XXX):
I am an intern working at XXX in Research Triangle Park, NC. I have been tasked with getting three quotes for performing glide force tests per ISO 11040-4 Annex E. My research shows that your 3342 and 5942 can perform this testing. We need one system for our product development lab and another for our production floor... Please include all costs for installation, calibration, training and warranty. For the production floor unit please include the costs for meeting 21 CFR Part 11 compliance and IQ OQ. At this time we do not want a visit, we are obtaining pricing from three vendors. The plan is to decide on a vendor this summer and place purchases later this year. I need to put together a comparison spreadsheet next week; your prompt reply is appreciated. I do not have a XXX email address so please reply to my (redacted university) email.
Reply after we proposed a visit:
“At this time, we are collecting quotes and not open for a call. Once we have narrowed our list of potential suppliers to two, we will invite you and (redacted) in for a visit to help us determine the best partner and provide demonstrations of your testing software and how you handle validation, compliance and traceability. Some of the operators have had experience with Instron in the past and mentioned that we should consider.
… If Instron does not want to put in an offer, let us know as we already have three proposals. As stated previously, I am turning these over to my boss at the end of the week.
The replies raised some suspicion since "Kristine", the “intern”, did not provide a company email address and asked all information be sent to her university address. A bit of research found that a person with the same name was working for a competitor. (I really applaud my colleague for his professionalism in his following correspondence. As Michele Obama said, "When they go low, we go high.")
Message sent to “Kristine” asking for clarification:
…I apologize if I am confusing you with another Kristine (redacted last name) who appears to be an Application Engineer with (redacted competitor). Instron is interested in providing quotes to XXX. In order to provide these quotes, though, I need confirmation that you are an intern working for XXX in Research Triangle Park, NC. I look forward to your response.”
Final Reply from “Kristine”:
“…Sorry for my delayed response. I have just now had a chance to read your last 2 emails.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am, in fact, a grad student at (redacted university) - working on my MBA. I am also an Application Engineer with (redacted competitor) in (redacted city and state). A colleague of mine asked me to leverage my school email address to try to obtain a quote from you. Against my better judgement, I agreed to try - if only for the sociological experiment value. Although I told this person that it was most likely foolish to try, as I have a fairly large digital footprint and a simple search on LinkedIn or Facebook would reveal my true identity. (Redacted last name) is not exactly a “common” name. :)
I appreciate your candor in asking the direct question. I apologize for the attempted deception.
So “Kristine” fessed up (although in a “sorry, not sorry” way) after finally getting busted.
Compared to so many other misdeeds happening every day, this “attempted deception” may seem very minor. But how would “Kristine” feel if this was blasted all over the NY Times, CNN, etc.? “Kristine” supposedly knew that this was wrong from the beginning yet continued to grow her lie with her second reply. It’s wrong on so many levels. Getting a proposal together takes up time and resources from hard-working and good people and distracts them from serving legitimate customers. Exposing “Kristine’s” real company of employment would be an embarrassment to that organization and may lead to her termination. Legally, she committed fraud lying about working at XXX, Company XXX would not be happy with her claim of fake internship and would have second thoughts about doing business with her employer if this was exposed.
Remember that one small lie or "sociological experiment" can lead to a slippery slope in life as Harvard Professor Clay Christensen so eloquently warned against (see post "Tested by Toilet Paper")
We really don’t want anything bad to happen to “Kristine” or even her company (even if it is a competitor...okay, we want them to call us "daddy" but on a level playing field). One of the principles of conduct for my parent company, ITW, is respect for the competition ("Be fair to ITW and to ITW’s employees, customers, suppliers and competitors").
We all have feet of clay.
It’s just a good reminder for all of us to apply the “Front Cover of the NY Times” test when making decisions.
The product team triumphantly returned from their customer focus tests. They previewed their soon-to-be-launched “Product X” to a select group of high profile customers. The surveys all showed positive comments and accolades.
Yet, Product X turned out to be a dud after release. What happened?
There are three basic psychological phenomena that need to be factored in for any Customer Focus Trial:
1. The Principle of Reciprocation
2. Demand Characteristics
3. The Hawthorne Effect
The Principle of Reciprocation
Robert Cialdini describes the Rule of Reciprocity in his book: “Influence: Science and Practice (2009)”. The reciprocation rule essentially states that if someone gives something to us, we feel obligated to repay that debt. There is a strong impulse in people to repay gifts or favors with a gift of our own to them.
In a psychological experiment, a demand characteristic is a subtle cue that makes participants aware of what the researcher expects to find or how participants are expected to behave. Participants will often alter their behavior to conform to such expectations. So when a focus user gets enthusiastically greeted by a product team and told that they will be given an exclusive look at the greatest thing since sliced bread – how do we think the user will be inclined to answer questions?
The Hawthorne Effect
Beware also the Hawthorne effect, a well-documented phenomenon that affects many research experiments. It is the process where human subjects behave differently, at more diligent and loyal, and give a false positive result, simply because they are being studied.
Between 1924 to 1932, the Hawthorne Works company near Chicago commissioned studies to determine if the level of light within their building affected the productivity of the workers. Research showed that the level of light made no difference in productivity - the workers increased output whenever the amount of light was switched regardless of level. In fact, this effect occurred when any variable was manipulated. The researcher postulated that the workers increased output, simply because they were aware that they were under observation.
The logical conclusion was that the workers felt important because they were pleased to be singled out, and increased productivity as a result.
Understand the Cause of the Bias
Consider that you have invited your select group of customers to a nice location and treated them to coffee, lunch, etc. You may also be paying them for their time. The users feel somewhat obligated to reciprocate with compliments and a positive review. They see the apprehension in the product manager and the presence of upper management, e.g. the VP of Marketing. They do not want to dampen the enthusiasm of their hosts or the product team who are watching their every step and action. Negative feedback may be honest but may result in not being invited to the next exclusive product preview.
Understanding basic human psychological tendencies will help to minimize bias when you have product focus meetings.
Business travel is necessary but tiring. I just came back from a relatively quick trip to Malaysia and Singapore.
Wonderful colleagues and people there. Delicious spicy food (I love hawker food). It was an "aggressive listening" tour to observe the business climate, make sales calls, and be the main presenter at two customer seminars. Plenty of follow-up action items to do. Home office people either do not travel enough to meet and actively listen to the "troops" or show up as "seagulls" (squawk around like they're very important, leave a mess, and then bug out). All I know is not to be a seagull and follow up on agreed upon actions. Your word is critical when you travel and trust is everything.
The most difficult thing about travel personally is being away from family. Thank goodness for video calls but time differences can be an obstacle.
Love is just a word until someone comes and gives it meaning.
A customer is checking out at the supermarket. The bagger, a young lad, asks the customer, “Paper or Plastic?” The customer is focused on watching the prices ring up on the register and does not reply. The bagger now loudly repeats himself, “I need to know. Do you want your groceries in paper or plastic bags?” The customer dismissively replies, “Whatever is fine” as the scanned items start piling up at the end of the register. The bagger replies, “Sorry. I cannot make that decision for you”. The customer is clearly exasperated and shouts, “Okay. Paper! Please put everything in paper.” The young lad calmly looks at the customer and mumbles, “Sorry. We are out of paper.”
An outrageous situation that cannot happen in real life? We actually see similar scenarios every day - and the culprit is surprisingly SOPs, Standard Operating Procedures. Our fearless bagger was simply following his supermarket’s standard operating procedure to ask “Paper or Plastic”. How any times have we dealt internally with "that's the way it's always been done" or with external customer service who cite "company policy"?
We have reached a point where most reasonably sized organizations have Standard Operating Procedures. SOPs are not necessarily a bad thing. We need guidelines for safety, environment, and legal reasons, etc. Many companies proudly advertise that they are ISO 9001 or ISO 9002 certified. However, no one should strictly or blindly adhere to procedures and processes without recognizing that changing times and situations means constantly questioning established procedures. The organization and employees can play it safe but never grow or innovate. Employees become worker drones and stop applying common sense. There will be no employee empowerment to go above and beyond, no reason to look for ways to get better, and creativity and innovation are stifled.
We’ve all heard the outrageous news about and watched the video of the passenger (an elderly doctor) violently dragged off a full flight in Chicago in April 2017. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz initially defended the actions and stated that the airline’s employees “followed established procedures”
After being vilified by the press and public and losing $1 billion USD value on the stock market, United Airlines quickly settled with the injured passenger for an undisclosed amount (think millions of dollars) and did an investigation. The internal review showed that outdated policies and procedures, which focused more on operations and logistics than customers, put everyone in “impossible situations.” In a TV interview, Munoz called the incident “a system failure across the board.”
When releasing its internal review, Munoz added that, “Our review shows that many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what’s right. This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline. Our customers should be at the center of everything we do and these changes are just the beginning of how we will earn back their trust...” (The bold and underline format in the quote were added by me.)
So do not think of standard operating procedures as the answer to all. They should be treated as living documents. Otherwise, an organization cannot see the proverbial forest for the trees. Constantly challenge whether procedures are applicable in each situation and modify as necessary. Are the SOPs still in line with your organization's core values, goals, and mission statement? Empower your people to use common sense but remember: “Common sense does not mean that it is common practice”.
Finally, if in doubt, apply the "NY Times sniff test": If the actions were publicized on the front page of the NY Times newspaper, would you and your organization be proud of it? If the actions protected or enhanced your organization's brand and reputation and you weren't ashamed of the publicity - then you probably did the right thing.
My mother would take me food shopping in the streets of NYC Chinatown during my childhood. The streets were filled with fruit and vegetable stand vendors selling oranges, apples, bok choy, etc. They would hawk their goods to onlookers by yelling “Ho Teem Ah!” (Very Sweet!), “Leung Ah!” (Beautiful!), or “Ho Deh Ah!” (Great Value!).
There’s a Chinese saying: “A flower vendor will always sing praises about his flower’s fragrance.” In other words, what do you expect a seller to say about their product? Of course, they will say that their product or service is the best. Remember the old joke: ”How do you know when a Salesman is lying?” Answer: “His lips are moving.” (No offence to sales people intended.)
Now in the same market in Chinatown, my mother (and others) would suddenly stop and think twice if a bystander said, ”Yes. I bought some yesterday and the kids loved them. They were very sweet.” or “They are $1 dollar more expensive down the street”. In Chinatown, people will especially join in the frenzy if they see a crowd huddled in front of a stand and more than one person shares a positive comment.
This is simply proof that the words from a fellow customer, especially one with a similar profile, will have infinite more credibility than hearing it from the seller.
Take for example, Instant Pot, an electric pressure cooker which has more than 400,000 Facebook fans, and managed to break the Amazon Prime Day sales record by selling over 215,000 cookers in 2016. Yet surprisingly, the company does not do any TV or print advertising. Most of its sales are due to word of mouth with users who have basically become cult followers raving about the product. They talk about the product and its uses in blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, etc. They share recipes, pointers, praises, and help answer product questions in on-line forums. Instant Pot remains the number one best seller on Amazon with over 17,856 reviews in Amazon online with a product rating of 4.7 out of 5. Each review is a mini case study of its own with the reviewer describing their own background, use case, and the features/benefits of the product.
This 25 man company in Canada has managed to outsell big brand names such as Cuisinart without much paid advertising or resorting to doing TV informercials featuring cooking celebrities with the likes of Wolfgang Puck or Ming Tsai. Yet, the social media frenzy has led NY Times and other media to write about Instant Pot based on all the viral phenomenon.
What does this mean to your business?
You have to get to the “influencers”, the customers who hold some sway in the market, those who can and want to evangelize for your product. The key is that you have to make them happy. Perhaps even help make them a super star to their audience. (Note: I would avoid giving away a product for such purposes because of the ethical issues. You can see the backlash on Amazon for such tactics. "I received this product at a discount in exchange for my unbiased review." Absolutely no credility.)
Years ago, the company that I worked for had a terrible reputation and history in software. We had to convince a very skeptical prospect base that our new products were indeed friendly, easy to use, and reliable. That’s when I focused on key influencers, the big users whom other users listened to and respected. They could be the chief engineer in a main laboratory of a worldwide company, a standing member at a professional group such as ISO, ASTM, etc., a key user at the top of the "Supplier Chain" - in a big company (e.g. a GM, Ford, or Boeing) that smaller companies supply to.
The work was to constantly reach out to these users for feedback and incorporate their requests (I even nicknamed those features to honor them). You not only want to ensure that the users knew how to use the product but also all the “cool” tips and tricks that they would want to pass along.
It made a huge difference when I was able to provide written testimonials and case studies from these users. Nothing beats a prospect gaining confidence based on knowing that someone else (with better credibility) in a similar situation can share their experience and readily vouch for you. These influencers actually became stronger advocates because they became the product experts within their organizations – a virtuous circle.
So stop telling your prospects how great your products are. They don’t expect you to say anything less. Let your happy users do the talking and selling for you.
Remember: Mind Share before Market Share.
(I ended up buying an Instant Pot myself after reading all those reviews and learned that a steel inner pot was a key difference from other brands. It is a cool product. I just became a customer advocate for them.)
I’ve found that product managers are good at launching new products but terrible at phasing out products. You cannot support a product forever nor do you do anyone a favor by pretendng to be able to do so.
Reasons to phase out or retire a product include:
At some point, products need to retire or made obsolete. The best way to go about this is to be transparent with the installed base. You want to show that you are working as a partner with your installed base.
Give your user base proper advanced notice with reasons for change, expectations, time frame, options, benefits to act on options.
Repeat the notice (frequency based on urgency) and have it posted on your website for reference.
Product Support Life Cycle - Phases
Many companies have created phases for their products with extent of support defined.
Most Product support Life Cycles have 3 or 4 phases.
An example of a Product Life cycle with 4 Phases of Support is:
Phase 1: Current product. Full Support.
Phase 2: Out of production. Full Support.
Phase 3: Out of production. Best Efforts Support.
Phase 4. Out of production. No support. Obsolete product.
Most customers appreciate the advance notice so they can plan accordingly. Try to notify users before September or end of the year (before they plan their fiscal budget). No user likes to find out that their product cannot be supported or repaired when it breaks down. Most often, a financial incentive such as a trade-in allowance would help. Another tip is to keep records of who the notice was sent to at each organization. I have found managers getting very irate only to calm down when I could produce a record trail of the number of notices sent to their staff.
There will always be some users who are a bit unreasonable believing that a product should be supported into eternity after purchase. As an example, you may still have a die-hard who insists on running a software product sold to him 15 years ago – running Windows 98. The user is very happy and has stockpiled a number of old PCs with Windows 98 to keep him going for the foreseeable future. Do you devote support resources to answer his questions? That means tying down staff to research archives and look for a Windows 98 system to replicate problems. Who pays for that time and effort? Do you have staff who even know Windows 98? You might offer a service support contract or fee per support instance if the account is strategic but otherwise, this will be a money loser.
Fortunately, most customers understand and appreciate the changes in technology and business reasons. Many actually use the notice as justification to get a newer replacement product.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who cared for people at the very end of their lives.
She recorded and wrote about about their top five regrets in life.
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
When you ask "What is the meaning of life?", "How you live it" will be your answer.
You provide the definition each and every moment and day.
Get out of your comfort zone. Do not be afraid of change. Make “someday I will...” become “Now, I will…”
You must stop visiting and living your past in order to live now. How can you write the next, exciting chapters of your life if you keep going back to the previous pages?
And do not be afraid to love and show compassion. There really isn’t anything else. Love grows you. Hate consumes you. People are not stepping stones in your career. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Love yourself. This may be a strange concept in a world where we honor self-sacrifice but, truly first and formost, do love yourself. As Kamal Ravikant wrote in his wonderful book, "Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It", this is not to be narcissistic. This is in fact, the most important step to care for and love others. As Kamal describes it, you need to put on the oxygen mask first when it drops down on the airplane before you can help others do the same.
Have gratitude for what you have. Otherwise, why would the universe give you more if you aren’t thankful for what you already have? Happiness is a choice. Don't just look at the glass as half full versus half empty. Even better, be thankful for the glass!
It also means to “remember to remember”. That means this very moment. Tonight, look at the faces of those at your dinner table and cherish the mental snapshot and conversation. Stop and smell the proverbial roses. They will not be there forever.
Take the time to build relationships. Put away that smartphone when with others. I have seen a couple in a restaurant, a young male and female both punching away on their touchscreens while sitting across from each other at the same table. Absolutely no verbal communication going on throughout the meal – unless they were texting each other. (I remember dreamily looking into the eyes of my wife when we dated.)
Simon Sinek recently talked about people constantly checking their smartphones before meetings, putting them down only when the meeting starts. The message comes across as, “You are just not that important to me.” Mr. Sinek attributes this to the need for instant gratification. That wait time should be the time to build relationships, to be human, e.g. “I heard that your dad is unwell. How is he?”, "Did little Jimmy get out of prison yet?" This is how you connect, understand each other, and build bonds.
So, no fancy advice or philosophy.
Live. Laugh. Love. Live life with no regrets.
I wish you all happiness and wellness for 2017.
So Donald Trump defied every major political poll. The NY Times showed Hillary Clinton with a 92 percent lead for many weeks prior to the election. All those fancy polls and big data were not even worth the paper that they were printed on. The pollsters didn’t reach the right or enough people, people lied, or some combination occurred.
This same phenomena happens in product development. Products fail big time despite doing all the market research, big data analysis, and prototype testing. Why? Customers sometimes lie. People don’t really intend to but they will have a tendency to tell you what you want to hear. We learned about that tendency in the children’s story “The Emperor Has No Clothes”.
Social desirability bias describes the tendency of respondents to answer questions in a way that they believe to be socially acceptable. In other words, respondents might give answers to be polite, not to offend, or to make you happy. How did you respond to your girlfriend asking, ”Does this dress make me look fat?” How did your EX-girlfriend react when you told her the truth? (By the way, the correct answers are either “No way!” or “No Hablo Ingles.”)
Here’s a possible, classic scenario: a company invites “friendly” customers to provide feedback on a prototype product. The customers are greeted by product marketing and engineering managers involved with the product development who then happily share how excited they are (“We spent eons innovating!”). The first mistake is going for all “friendly” respondents. The second mistake is sharing too much about the product and the personnel. Put yourself in the shoes of the respondent: “I’m drinking your free coffee and eating your free donut. You just told me how great your product is supposed to be. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. There’s a chance that you won’t invite me back if I am too negative.”
People are also biased and selective in deciding what they want to hear. We filter out naysayers and label them as outliers in the data. The pollsters in the election either did not pick up the anger in particularly the rural masses or underestimated it. One likely factor is that the pollsters, being urban and college educated, simply filtered this out. Or they thought that it wasn’t important enough to buck their fellow pollsters.
The point is that customer research, customer testing, and data analysis are important but take it with a grain of salt. Gather all the data from all sources. Talk to your field sales and service staff to get the quantitative and qualitative data. They are your boots on the ground who know the customer best, can see trends firsthand, and most likely to be honest with you. And use your gut instinct and experience.
I found some thoughts in my notes that I could not possibly be clever enough to have created. I don't recall where the following came from so I hope that the original source will forgive me if it is a direct copy and paste here.
Teach every child you meet the importance of forgiveness. It's our only hope of surviving their wrath once they realize just how badly we've screwed things up for them.
When you wish upon a falling star, your dreams can come true. Unless it's really a meteorite hurtling to the Earth which will destroy all life. Then you're pretty much hosed no matter what you wish for. Unless it's death by meteor.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others. Accomplishments
You can fool all of the people all of the time if your effects budget is large enough.
You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor.
The discovery that you're no longer a big fish in a small pond, or even a small fish in a big pond, but a small fish in a big fish.
Not all pain is gain.
If you're attractive enough on the outside, people will forgive you for being irritating to the core.
The best leaders inspire by example. When that's not an option, brute intimidation works pretty well, too.
The journey of a thousand miles sometimes ends very, very badly.
Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.
Just like teamwork. Only without the work.
When the winds of change blow hard enough, the most trivial of things can become deadly projectiles.
Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason.
Years ago, I worked as a waiter to put myself through school. I met some very demanding customers who insisted on their soup being very hot. In most cases, restaurant soups are pre-made and stored in large vats inside countertop warming tables. So, being a good waiter, I would go the extra step to heat up the soup to a full boil in a pot before serving them. That satisfied most customers but there were a number of customers who would automatically reject the soup when served. They insisted that the soup was still not hot enough! Why? The reason was that the soup bowls were stored at room temperature and the customer was simply touching the bowl to gauge the soup’s temperature. No amount of persuasion would change their minds. More experienced waiters then taught me a trick - dip the soup bowl in hot water before serving. That usually worked. (I did have one rather obstinate customer who still rejected her soup; I ended up holding the bowl with tongs over a grill – she definitely felt that it was hot enough after that touch test.)
This was my first lesson on customer inferences. In the words of MIT Sloan Professor, Duncan Simester, customer inferences are “Using observable cues to infer unobservable product features”. Whether true or not, the restaurant customers inferred that touching a hot bowl meant that the soup was also hot.
Duncan Simester cited another example of inferences – McDonald’s encouraged their franchises to maintain a clean parking lot since people inferred that a clean lot meant that the kitchen and restaurant were also clean.
People infer when making buying decisions – the solid thump when closing a car door infers that the vehicle is solid. People usually associate a higher priced item as being a more premium product of higher quality. Many digital cameras and smart phones advertise high megapixels counts because people believe that more megapixels means better photographs (not necessarily true). Brand names are constantly extended to other products if they infer quality and value to the buyer. It’s also how a small one-person outfit can outshine a multi-national corporation by creating a fancy company website with stock photos of good looking professionals – the internet can make all companies appear the same.
In fact, one can argue that the user experience after purchase and quality impression is also based on inferences.
Being innovative and having a great product is not enough for success – do not expect that the customer will recognize that a product meets their needs. Professor Simester states that people are selective and interpret information based on prior experience. We interpret information in a manner that supports our beliefs, and retain information that supports our past beliefs. One of the world's top automobile manufacturer visited my company to select a vendor for a major contract. In addition to technical specifications, their decision factors included observing how clean our factory was and whether the employees appeared happy and friendly.
It is important for firms to address these inferences and understand how customers learn about and choose products. In some cases, it could be through educating the consumer. In other cases, the customer bias is too ingrained. That means properly satisfying their inferences, i.e., make that car door sound solid when closing or torch that soup bowl over a grill.
Here is an update to the most popular download on this site: the "Getting Things Done" work/life management approach. http://franklio.weebly.com/1/post/2012/01/stop-being-pavlovs-dog-getting-things-done-gtd.html
A number of Linkedin readers read about my use of Excel file templates used for GTD and asked me for a copy. A reader, Maximilianah Zales, send me a very nice email and kind enough to share her excellent modification to my GTD (Getting Things Done) Excel Template. You can download the Excel template file below.
“ I plan on using your spreadsheet to get started, and just wanted to share with you that I added a tab to include the list of "triggers" from pages 116-120 of the 2015 edition of the book.
It will be helpful to have it on the spreadsheet (instead of the book) to be able to go through it to mentally gather things to move over to the "stuff" tab by using the filters and copy and pasting.
I thought you might want to update and share on your page.”
A "trigger list" helps jog the memory of GTD users while doing their weekly review.
Start with the first tab named "Stuff" and work your way to the next tabs sequentially by transferring items from the "Stuff" tab. I print all the tabbed worksheets weekly, kept them in a small binder, continuing to add to the "Stuff" sheet whenever needed. Modify it as you like.
You can download the updated template here.
Thank you, Maximilianah!
WATCH THE VIDEOS ABOVE BEFORE READING THE ARTICLE.
(If you have never viewed the first video, count the number of times the people wearing white passed the ball.)
I am always cognizant of these experiments and how they affect my thinking.
These are classic psychology videos that show the limits of human cognitive abilities. In the first experiment by Professors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, subjects watched six people pass basketballs and were told to count the number of times the people wearing white passed the ball. Half of the observers missed the gorilla who entered the scene, thump his chest, and walk away. In the second video, a follow-up to the gorilla experiment, pedestrians were so engrossed in giving directions to a passer-by that they failed to notice that the passer-by changed!
What Does This Mean in Life?
Why did half the participants miss the gorilla in the film? They were not expecting to see it. They weren’t looking for it. Their focus was entirely on something else.
Reminds me of the old joke about the gate at a factory where workers are checked when they leave work. One employee comes out each night with a wheelbarrow full of dirt, and each night the guards carefully go through the dirt for pilferage: nothing. This happens for years. Turns out the guy is stealing wheelbarrows.
In life, be mindful. Beautiful things are happening right in front of your eyes. Your family, your kids, your life. You just can’t see it because you were too busy looking. How many of us are so focused on “I will be happy when I (fill in the blank)” or “Life will be good when _______” without recognizing or showing gratitude for what we already have? Did you see the sun this morning? Smell that cup of coffee? Your gorilla is thumping its chest right in front of you and you don't even notice.
I have a cousin who works and lives in another country away from his wife and child. He probably makes a ton of money yet I cannot fathom not being with my children growing up, missing the school concerts, the small talks with my wife, etc. Don’t focus just on the balls. Remember to remember.
(You can also cite this experiment to explain or rationalize why you didn’t notice your girlfriend’s or spouses new hairdo or handbag (absolutely no guarantee that this will work.)
You don't know what you can't see. Don't think that your data and analysis (or someone else's) are 100% conclusive. Past experience is not a 100% indicator of the present situation (or even reality). Always question whether you are missing the gorilla in the picture.
This is Never Ending
Once you focus on what you were missing and learn to refocus on, you miss out on what else you are not focusing on. (This sounds a bit like what Yogi Berra or George Bush Jr. might say.)
Simons repeated the experiment with a twist. He showed the video to people who already knew about the first test. Only 17% saw the new event that was added to the video. (I failed this test too.)
Try it out yourself below.
All too often, product people fall in love with their own products during the new product development phase. Then they blame the sales force after launch for not being able to follow through. "Well, it's obvious that we have the best product out there! Look at this/that! See how fancy this is? We use gold plated switches!"
A feature is not necessary a benefit to a customer!
The three most important questions for a product or service are:
Why Should They Care? "So What"?
What Makes You So Special?
Really touched by my boy today. I have much to learn from him.
Me: "Your Mom is a good woman. I haven't given her much in life. I haven't given her any big things."
#2 Son: "It's okay. Mom hasn't given you anything. Except for her love..."
Me: "Then your Mom has given us everything."
A few minutes later:
#2 Son: "Dad, it's okay not to have big things. Big things are not the most important things. You can't buy the most important things...like love, family, and health."
We have all heard about the razor company giving away the razor so that they can make real money from the replacement razor blades. This is a basic primer on understanding where the revenue stream is.
You need to think beyond the initial sale and look at the revenue you get from a customer during his/her entire product usage life cycle (from initial purchase to replacement). Look a the maintenance, training, and ancillary (e.g., accessories) purchases. Also consider whether this customer is a high profile account that influences other purchasers.
One of the most brilliant examples of this "customer alignment" is Amazon. Amazon does not try to make an obscene profit from its Kindle e-readers and tablets (the profit margin is most likely very small). However, that initial purchase has drawn the user into its ecosystem where the user continues to buy e-books, games, and streaming media. To top it all off, Amazon recognized that the Kindle has an additional continuous revenue stream – the advertisers whose ads appear on their discounted versions of their tablets! Simply brilliant.
So think beyond the initial purchase. Focus on how the user will use your product and his/her needs during that time. Grow and build your ecosystem to accommodate that use and your revenue will grow correspondingly.
Love is a verb.
I wished that I learned this a long time ago.
Yes, it is also a noun when it is a feeling - but it’s a noun that cannot exist without the action.
If you love someone, show it. Be present. Act. Express it. Acknowledge it. Do things that affirm it.
And love is an act without conditions. Do it from the heart. Do it every day.
Do it before it’s too late.
We all heard the line that “a product manager has all of the responsibilities but none of the authority”. True. Now get over it. That goes with the territory and is no excuse for not being a great product manager. So what makes a successful product manager? Let's look at the critical responsibilities and what you need...
The product manager must pull all the required functions together to make a product succeed:
A good product manager basically possesses 2 types of knowledge:
A good product manager masters the art of influence without authority:
A Product Manager’s greatest input is in:
Cajole, Persuade. Repeat.
You must have high Emotional Intelligence. Every department and person has their own agenda which may not match your agenda (sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not). You must cajole, persuade, and sometimes get forceful without burning your bridges. Think of Product Managers as the grease that keeps the machine going. You practice what I call “Shuttle Diplomacy” to gain consensus. (Remember the rule: Consensus is 70 percent agreement, 100 percent buy-in. You cannot look for 100 percent agreement; otherwise you will have paralysis.)
Spend Time in the Front-Lines. Don’t be a REMF.
People keep talking about innovation and the need to think outside the box. Well, first learn what’s in the box!
I’ve heard too many Sales and Service people disparagingly refer to product management and marketing people as the "Ivory Tower". Many times, they do this for good reason.
A product manager should be spending 20 - 25 percent of his or her time with the customer and Sales. There is no other way to get real front-line feedback and the benefits of learning user-innovation. In addition, I think that a good Product Manager should go train a customer at installation to see firsthand how a user actually uses the product. There is no better UX experience than this.
A very under-appreciated resource is the Service group. Service people see how users actually use the product. They see what puts a smile or frown on the users’ faces when they train them. Customers also tend to see your Service group more as their friends compared to the Sales group (rightly or wrongly) since they are typically not in a selling mode. Thus, Service people can provide different insights with some more open feedback.
Have a limited travel budget and time? Pick up the phone and call people up. Plan this into your work schedule. I used to “spin the Rolodex”(sometimes randomly selecting a contact name from the customer list) and call the customer s a courtesy call to see how they were doing. These calls from the ‘home office” were always were a pleasant surprise to customers. You learn how satisfied they are with the product and company, how they use the product, and get feedback on how the product could be improved. Additional benefits: a chance to rectify any dissatisfaction, insights into future purchases, a personal connection, and an addition to the customer reference list. Most calls were a quick 5 - 10 minutes and well worth it.
The Product is Your Baby. Protect Your Baby.
Be a product evangelist. This is an over-used term but the concept still rings true. Believe in your product. Know your product and customers inside out, and the unique values over the competition.
I used to audit training classes for my products. Why? I wanted to see how the instructors were presenting the products and how attendees’ impressions during the training. More than once, I found that the instructors didn’t know the products well enough to my liking and made them more difficult than they were. Poor training leads to poor impressions which can last forever. I made sure that the training improved even though the instructors did not report to me directly. Why? That was MY product that they were representing. Remember, you own the product which includes all aspects including training.
Questions that Good Product Managers Should Ask Themselves:
There are nos script or shortcuts for product management. All successful product managers possess keen product and customer knowledge, know how to navigate among people in the organization, and fully own their products.
Finally, do try to keep quiet when you do listen to your Sales, Service people, Customers, and others. As a rule, you don't learn much when you are doing the talking.
A question from a reader…
“I have a ‘prospect’ who has plenty of the competitor’s products and continuously asks for quotations but never buys from us. The prospect keeps insisting that we have a chance to break into this account so Sales keeps accommodating them. We end up spending valuable time and effort doing these proposals for nothing. Should we continue to quote?”
Remember the saying “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again, shame on me”?
Stop quoting and explain the reasons to the "prospect". Many companies must solicit a number of bids before purchase. Worse yet, some buyers will simply use your quote to get better pricing from other sellers or their favored seller. If you see the pattern, share your reservations withe the "prospect" and explain why you will decline based on past experience. Inform him/her that if their purpose is solely to get another competing bid for purchase or leverage, you can still help them by providing a quote with a low offer - but just for that purpose. Once you call a spade a spade, some of these “prospects” become more reflective on their actions. I’ve had a few actually explain why the current situation is different and end up buying from us after one final opportunity.
Same applies to giving away free services such as consulting or testing. If you do not value your time and efforts, why should anyone else?
This reminds me of the girl who kept copying my homework and strung me along in elementary school. I finally got wise, cut my losses and moved on. Thanks for re-opening this old wound. (I kid. I kid.)
Try contests as a source for innovation in addition to ideas and feedback. Contests (external and internal) are an under-utilized tool and can be a relatively inexpensive way to involve your prospects, customers, and employees for ideas and feedback.
The Frito-Lay's “Do Us a Flavor” campaign is a brilliant example of using contests for marketing and product development. Yearly, Lay’s gives the public a chance to create their own potato chips flavor and then allows everyone to vote for their favorite flavor. The finalists get their entries made and sold in stores. (Thus, the results are truly measurable by sales – people literally "put their money where their mouths are".) The winning entry is made into an official flavor and the winner gets either $1 million or 1% of net sales for one year. The company increases their social media, consumer interest, and sales. Think of the data that Frito-Lay acquires including, e.g. segmentation – are there regional differences?, trends – are more entries for spicy flavors? Would Frito-Lay's have gotten the same results with just traditional methods such as surveys, test kitchens, or consumer panels? Absolutely not.
Traditional VOCs (“Voice of the Customer”) methods typically have a few people visit customers and either observe and/or ask them set questions. This can have drawbacks including: 1) small sampling based on already known customers/users, 2) labor intensive - requires at least 2 - 3 people per visit, 3) travel, financial, and time constraints, 4) interviewee(s) may be unable to share pertinent information or may not give you "honest" answers.
So if you need new ideas or looking to innovate, don’t keep it to a few customers, users, or employees via some closed door meetings. Need a better design? A new product or better product name? Worthwhile product features or enhancements? Generate some excitement and reach out to the world with contests. There’s no excuse with the internet and technology today.
While China is a growing and important market for many companies, most people are confused about the written and spoken languages.
Most Chinese names consist of three or two characters or words. Many non-Chinese are confused because the surnames come first. For example, “John Smith” would be “Smith John”. So chances are that the name “Liu De Hua” on a Chinese business card means that the person is “Mr. Liu” (not “Mr. Hua”). I sometimes joke with my confused colleagues not to “Wing” the “Wong” number.
Some adopt an unofficial Western name so “Liu De Hua” may ask you to call him “Andy”. The rule is to ask the person how he or she would like to be called when you are unsure. Just be sure to recognize that this is more a nickname when it comes to email addresses and other official documents.
So these are a few tips to hopefully make things a bit clearer. Feel free to share any related tips or advice!
One of my boys told me about a girl in his second grade class.
“Emily is mean.”
“How is she mean?”
“She keeps telling the teacher about me. Some of it is not even true.”
“Don’t worry about her, son. She’ll get hers.”
“What do you mean?”
“Snitches get stitches. Snitches get stitches...”
If there is one lesson to be passed on, it is to never gossip or speak poorly about others behind their backs. As Stephen Covey said, “Always speak about others as if they were present”.
Some people think it’s fun or builds relationships to tell “secrets” or talk about others. Talking about others behind their backs actually does the opposite and decreases trust in you. After all, you've shown that you have loose lips and could easily do the same with them.
Sooner or later, what goes around comes around. People will find out what you said about them. Sometimes, it may be unintentional. A colleague once told me that he trusted Bob (not his real name) “as far as he could throw him”. I didn’t understand that phrase in my younger, more innocent (naive) days. My colleague was a very big guy compared to Bob so I reckoned that he could toss Bob a fair distance. I took that as compliment about Bob. I later made a comment to Bob that “(so-and-so) spoke very highly of you. He said that he trusted you as far as he could throw you.” Bob didn’t say anything. I repeated that to a few others until someone mercifully enlightened me to the real meaning of the phrase.
We teach children not to tattletale but forget about doing that as adults. It's difficult because we all love sharing things at the water cooler. "She got married?" "I heard that they had to." An entire industry caters to gossip on TV and other media.
Remember the saying, “If you have nothing nice to say about someone, don’t say anything”. Simply do not talk about other people behind their backs. In business and life, you don’t win by talking bad about a competitor or others. You don’t raise yourself you by talking someone else down. So always speak about others as if they were present.
And Emily, if you are reading this..."snitches get stitches".
The ultimate product strategy where you can lock in your customers is to create a complete ecosystem for your products.
Too many people think of only making beautiful products with proprietary software platforms, accessories and peripherals. They believe that this allows them to “own” the customer. Their belief is that everything made or sold is in direct competition to them.
On the contrary, winning companies think of opening up their products to allow users and third parties to further innovate, complement, and enhance what they offer. This expands the features and functionality of their product and, ultimately, their customer base. These people recognize that others can complement their products and enhance their customer value proposition. The third parties are not seen as competitors but rather “complementors”.
“Complementors” are so important that they are defined the sixth force in Michael Porters’ Force Forces of Competition framework. A commercial symbiotic relationship develops when a product or service complements another. The sum becomes greater than the individual offerings in the eyes of the buyer.
Apple took the first route with their original computers. While they were technically superior to the competition, its hardware and software were proprietary. They used unique cables, disk drives, and power cords. You had to have an Apple computer to run Apple software. Apple did not build up enough partners to support their products. This made Apple PCs more expensive and severely limited their initial customer base.
Bill Gates, at the same time, developed the Windows operating system which was open to third-party developers. Andy Grove at Intel also understood the concept and built microprocessors that were used across multiple industries. The combined “Wintel”, personal computers with Intel processors and Microsoft Windows allowed others to help create software applications and hardware around them, building a huge software and hardware ecosystem to dominate the PC market.
Another lesson on ecosystems is from the mobile phone industry. Blackberry was dominant but also very proprietary - its OS ran only on Blackberry devices. Google’s Android OS was open source and eventually a whole ecosystem of hardware devices and applications was built around it. Samsung, LG, HTC, Motorola, Sony, etc. all make Android phones. Over one million applications exist for Android today. The iPhone operating system was eventually opened up to allow third-party developers to build applications. Microsoft’s Windows phones are still fighting an uphill battle because of their small ecosystem – it’s applications library is limited compared to Android and Apple’s. According to research firm IDC, Android owned 80% of the global market and Blackberry fell to less than 1% in 2014.
So always think of the product ecosystem. Apple eventually grasped the importance of platform and ecosystems when Apple created the iPod. Steve Jobs persuaded the big music companies to join the iTunes Music Store. They released “iTunes for Windows” to allow PC users to use Apple's iPod on their Windows computers.
Think of competitive strategy in terms of having a pie. Those who want closed, proprietary products believe that their pie is finite - in danger of being divided and taken by others. Those embracing open systems and enabling third parties and partners will have their pie get bigger with more than enough to share. Consider how Amazon.com opened up their website to third party sellers - a "win-win".
Think Platform. Look for and encourage Complementors.
Many years ago, a CEO told me that he did not expect to be liked but did expect to be respected. I have been trying to figure this one out. Leadership is not a popularity contest and, in many cases, you are no longer “one of us” among your colleagues when you assume a leadership position. There are times when you have to make unpopular decisions for the good of the company and all. I suppose this is where transparency and inclusion earns you the respect.
However, you still must have empathy and compassion. Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the 34th Chief of Staff of the United States Army, said that “You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader. You can certainly command without that sense of commitment, but you cannot lead without it.” One of the four "Leadership Framework Capabilities"(4-Cap) taught at the MIT Sloan Leadership Center is “Relating” which is to develop key relationships within and across organizations.
I like to be seen as the “alpha dog” in my family (okay, after my wife) and I hope that my children not only respect but also at least like (love) me. I suspect that there is a good chance that I will only aim for their respect when they become teenagers.
So I suppose that the CEO was correct, you must be at least respected, although I don’t think that he got either wish. People disliked him too much to earn their respect.
Does a leader need to be liked, respected, or both? Should he or she strive for both?
"Under controlled conditions of light, temperature, humidity, and nutrition, the organism will do as it damn well pleases."
Eleven teachers from the Atlanta Public Schools were recently convicted for tampering with state standardized tests. An investigation found that 44 out of 56 schools cheated on the year 2009 tests; 178 teachers and principals were found to have corrected answers entered by students. Many who confessed blamed the pressure to meet mandated targets and the consequences of failing, including termination.
Why did this happen? One can argue that this was inevitable with the “Pay for Performance” or “Carrot and The Stick” approach from management. The traditional mindset for employee motivation is akin to treating a person like a horse – you dangle a carrot in front of it to get what you want and punish it with a stick if it fails to do so. The “carrot and the stick” approaches just don’t work well (if at all).
Large incentives tend to drive the wrong type of behavior. We saw that happen not only in Atlanta but also with the financial scandals where banks and institutions were falsifying mortgage loan applications and leading unqualified customers to affordable loans. The reason? There were large monetary incentives to hit the “numbers” and penalties for failing. People ended up losing their homes and a huge number of banks failed due to bad loans – with the biggest financial names requiring federal intervention to avoid bankruptcy.
The rewards and punishment system inevitably leads people to ignore the bigger picture. They become so focused on the reward(s) and penalties that they (and the organization) develop tunnel vision. You end up doing what gets you rewarded short term, not necessary what is right for the organization in the long run. Suppose that management was incentivized by quarterly bookings and shipment targets. Larger discounts may be used to entice customers to close orders by the end of the quarter and products may be rushed out to meet the shipping targets. The possible downsides are lower margins due to larger discounts, stressed employees, lower quality goods, and more customer satisfaction issues. People stop helping each other because it conflicts with their personal goals and targets (one is penalized for being helpful).
Another surprising result is that people actually perform worse with such reward and punishment systems. You actually demotivate people – the exact opposite result of what the incentives are designed for. Microsoft abandoned the “stack" or "forced ranking” employee-review and compensation system where managers graded and ranked employees against one another on a scale of one to five. The system guaranteed that a percentage of employees would be designated as “under-performers” and were a key factor in promotions and bonuses. Some companies employing such a system penalized such lower ranked employees monetarily or with termination. The end result was low employees morale, complaints about unpredictable rankings, power struggles, the focus on looking good in front of management, and unhealthy competition among colleagues. Employees became inward focused versus customer outward focused. One could see the product and corporate results of such a system during the Steve Ballmer reign at Microsoft.
So what works?
Blanchard International calls the traditional system “Imposed Motivation” where one thinks “I have to do it”.
Optimal motivation is based on “A-R-C” * – which satisfies three basic psychological needs:
· Autonomy – feel that we have choices, freedom within boundaries
· Relatedness – genuine connection with others and contributing to a greater cause
· Competence – personal growth, continual learning, and a sense of accomplishment
Daniel Pink in his bestselling book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us“, came to the same conclusions. "A-R-C" represents the core human needs and motivators behind the motivation theory known as the "Self-determination Theory (SDT)".
How an Individual Can Gain Optimal Motivation:
1. Ownership. Realize that you do have some control over how things get done (and definitely control over how you feel).
2. Connect with your colleagues and customers. Take the time to chit chat and know them. Get involved in company extracurricular activities, e.g. community outreaches, to bond with others.
3. Take the perspective that every project and task is an opportunity to learn, improve, and grow. Be curious. Accept challenges. Pause to celebrate your accomplishments.
How a Leader Can Drive Optimal Motivation:
1. Trust and empower your people. Don't micromanage. Make them part of the decision process. No more "My way or the highway".
2. Have genuine compassion and empathy. Have shared corporate and team values and goals. Be transparent and inclusive. Learn what your people care about and their personal life and career goals - and help them on their personal journey.
3. Mentor and coach. Give people an opportunity to learn new skills and grow. Acknowledge people and their work (a simple "thank you" can go a long way).
No matter what we call it, the bottom line is the best motivation comes from shared goals, purpose, and values instead of fear and guilt.
A YouTube video discussing Daniel Pink’s research and book is embedded above:
*A-R-C is an acronym coined by Blanchard International.
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
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