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  • Sustainability

    I believe that the two biggest players in sustainability are government and consumers. Corporations indeed have a role to play as they have the ability to research and develop new technologies to solve issues but I believe it is the consumer that drive these changes. Corporations can lead the market but if the consumer is not ready to accept new ideas they will fail. Consumers are the ones that vote for corporations, and technologies by buying products and services. Consumers are also the ones that elect their government who both creates new regulations and enforces them upon corporations.

    The truth is that all three groups influence each other. Corporations hire lobbyists to influence politician’s decisions which impact regulations. Corporations can also choose to lead the way by enforcing higher standards on themselves.

    The government has the ultimate power but they serve the people (consumers). They create the regulations and enforce them. Government is usually slow to react and is behind especially with laws and regulations concerning new technology.

    Government and corporations often work together to regulate industries. The leaders of industry usually end up being on regulatory boards that define the limits corporations must meet in order to be considered meeting environmental standards.

  • Leadership

    If we consult Maslow’s hierarchy of needs all individuals want to reach the top of the pyramid and achieve self-actualization. As a leader we can help ourselves and our followers at the same time by helping them to grow personally and professionally.

    The needs of a follower depend both on the work that the followers do and the personality of the follower. If the work involves repetitive manual tasks then the follower would be motivated for higher salary. If however the work involves higher thinking and creativity the motivation of the follower would be for higher needs.

    Leaders must ensure that they at least meet the basic needs for followers. It is best to make money a non-issue buy paying a competitive salary. This avoids the follower thinking about their lower needs.

    A leader needs to provide a vision and goals so the followers feel their work gives them purpose. This helps to meet their higher needs.

    A leader should make themselves available to their followers and the followers should be notified about their availability. A leader should provide constructive feedback that is also provided quickly and is frequent.

    To empower and enable followers to grow and develop the leader should also act as a coach rather than a manager. Coaching should be supportive to meet the personal as well as professional needs of the follower.

  • Project Management

    With waterfall, the project moves in one direction after each phase is complete it moves onto the next phase. Agile on the other hand focuses on smaller iterations and has a focus on completing a minimum viable product. The best example that I heard of is if a client needs a car you don’t just start trying to build a car the first iteration is a skateboard which is a form of transportation like the car but extremely basic. The next iteration would be to add more features and build a motorcycle. This is much closer to what the client requested in fact the client might be happy with this product as is.

    Because of its nature waterfall methodology produces tons of documentation including diagrams because they have to get it right on paper before moving onto the next phase. Agile requires less up front documentation and has more chances of removing bugs. Written documentation is usually hard for the customer to imagine the result.

  • Management

    Theory X and Theory Y management theories originated in the 1960s by Douglas McGregor. Theory X and Theory Y management styles make assumptions about human behavior and are essentially opposites of each other. These are among the first theories discussed in business schools, and are fairly easy to understand as they are two completely different viewpoints and most managers are somewhere between the two. Theory X is a very pessimistic view of employees while Theory Y is much more optimistic. These theories seem to try to give to ends of a spectrum and there are other management theories that build upon these.

    Theory X

    • employees hate work and will do anything to avoid it
    • employees do not want any responsibilities
    • what management says goes
    • employees are not creative
    • employees are motivated only by rewards and money
    • the organization must have a well-defined hierarchical structure
    • employees require close supervision, need to be micro-managed and need help to stay on track
    • management must apply pressure to insure the work gets done
    • employees require direction
    • employees are self-centered and look out for themselves

    This style of management tends to produce very low morale, as it is reliant only on the manager and is not a team effort.

  • Strategy

    We make decisions all the time. As a small business owner we have to make decisions on all the daily operation problems. You also need to be to make decisions today that will affect your long term strategy.

    Let’s take a moment and break apart the decision making process. How does it happen?

    First, we realize that we have a problem that requires us to make a decision. If it is a situation we have encountered before then we can draw on our own experiences to act. If we don’t know then we gather information. We can ask others, read this blog, etc. Once we have some information we can start to brainstorm some potential solutions. When brainstorming we let the ideas flow. Next we can analyze each and weigh the pros and cons. Once we see the favorite solution that has the greatest benefits and perhaps limited risk then it is time to come up with a plan to implement the solution. Once implemented some may stop here. The problem is solved but how do we know we are truly successful. We need to measure and review the outcomes so we can learn from successes and failures.

    It is important to stay focused on the outcome you wish to achieve. How will this decision impact the short and long term?

    By asking others and learning from their experiences it can save you many hours and effort.

    If your head starts to hurt take a break, go for a walk. When you stress your brain cannot think.

  • Project Management

    A business analyst works in many industries and thrives in a changing business environment. A business analyst improves business processes, plans elicitation activities, manages requirements, negotiates with stakeholders and compares and confirms solutions.

    A business analyst acts a as a liaison between stakeholders. They need to understand business operations and how organizations function. A business analyst uses investigate skills to determine the problem. Analyzing different types of information. Given the problem to solve, the business analyst identifies the best course of action for the business to take. Identify the best solution that delivers the most value to the organization. They recommend solutions to allow the organization to achieve business goals.

    Involves identifying the correct stakeholders. Interact with many different business customers including end users, management and executives. Business analyst requires good communication skills, as they need to be able to question stakeholders and end user to ensure that they capture all the requirements clearly and concisely. It requires developing relationships with stakeholders. Work with project managers, stakeholders, subject matter experts and end users.

  • Project Management

    Prototypes are not just about cost savings or catching errors. They help the development team to capture the right requirements from the business areas to build the correct product. Prototypes help the users to get their hands on something so they get a feel if the product will work for them. It increases understanding across all project team.

    Types of Prototypes

    There are different types of prototypes. Prototypes can be divided into wither low or high fidelity.

    Low Fidelity Prototype

    A low fidelity prototype is pen and paper. I sometimes do this when I meet with my clients and I need to clarify what goes where. I draw out simple doodle in very high abstraction. An image might be represented by a single box with an “X” in it. If multiple pages or screens are needed in the product, I might draw tiny screens on the page with arrows connecting them so I can understand the navigation flow.

  • Leadership

    Business Leadership

    Owning your own business makes you the boss by default but a leader is more than that. Leadership is about earning the trust and respect of employees through by supporting them. It is about what you can do for them and acting in a way that inspires them to perform.

    Good leaders tend to have similar qualities.

    Adaptability

    Change happens. What worked before may not work today. Just because it is the way we have always done things does not mean it is right. Look for new opportunities to become better.

    Appreciation

    Providing positive feedback regularly boosts your employee’s self-esteem. It shows you are paying attention and you care. This works for customers also. Show them that you value their business.

    Communication

    When you communicate effectively you avoid confusion and you build trust. If you listen, really listen, to what is being said the message gets across. Be honest, speak truthfully. Provide feedback if needed and keep the communication path open. Be available.

    Delegate

    Know who can do what. Know who likes doing certain tasks. Empower employees to lean and grow. Allow them to go beyond their roles. Do not micromanage. Be a cheerleader for your employees.

  • Accounting

    Overhead is the total expenses paid by the business. It is the expenses paid to keep the business running day-to-day. There is no way of getting around it. It must be paid for the business to generate any profit.

    What makes up overhead?

    Rent, wages, insurance, legal fees, supplies, taxes and utilities are all examples.

    Overhead costs can be grouped into either administrative or manufacturing. Administrative overhead includes anything that supports other areas of the business some of this includes admin staff wages, office equipment, supplies and travel expenses.

    Manufacturing overhead re all costs in order to create a product or service. These costs are much more visible. They can also be grouped by location. Wages for production staff i.e. plant workers, deprecation, taxes, rent, utilities are all examples.

    Overhead is used for budgeting. It allows a business to figure out how much to charge consumers for product or service in order to cover costs. Overhead are costs that are not directly related to specific business activity. Overhead is often fixed and does not typically change from one month to the next.

    Overhead allows determining break-even costs. Operating expenses on the other hand depend on production. As production, changes operating expenses change while overhead remains stable. Overhead must be paid even if your company produces nothing.

  • Strategy

    It is difficult to understand how well you are performing unless you measure. Benchmarking allows you to determine how well you are performing by comparing your numbers to an average of others. It is used often in sales and operations. Benchmarking forces management to look beyond its own company and see what others are doing. Benchmarking is a proactive discovery method.

    You can compare your business externally with industry data or internally by comparing different teams, locations and departments. For industry data, it is best to compare against companies of the same type within the same industry. What may look good in one industry may be horrible in another.

    You look for what makes others perform better and model your company to theirs. You look at which processes work and which do not. You can even look at individual products.

    It starts with knowing what are key performance metrics, what are the things you need to measure. Management must agree on the metrics and how they are measured. Measurements must be applied in the same way every time otherwise the results are not useful. You need to collect data over time to see changes in these metrics. You can collect your own data, gather free data or purchase data.