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Simplicity in the 2009! January 19, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Focus, Efficiency Process.
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A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the book “Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises“.  It is a fantastic software architecture book written by Roger Sessions.  His whole premise is how to better serve clients through use of simpler solutions for complex problems.

The idea of simplifying is something that I definitely think that all businesses should be considering going in this year.  By really thinking through what you are doing and focusing on what’s important in your business you can cut costs, make customers happier, and probably generate more business.  You might even make your life less complicated.

I have a friend, Lisa at Call That Girl! who recently decided to stop doing LinkedIn training seminars.  Why? Not because they aren’t popular.  She decided to do it because she needed to focus on her core business and simplify.  That is what she has found is required for her to excel in 2009.

I am trying to finalize the business plan for my company (Borea Systems, Inc.) and one of things that I am trying to keep in mind is the simple acronym KISS.  I want to focus my business on what it is that I do.  It needs to stay focused and simple in order to not have a bunch of competing priorities.

Is 2009 the year for simple?  Let me know if it is part of your plan to make things more simple this year.

A Post about Attitude December 3, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions.
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Alright, I’ll admit that I am not certain that this post is completely about efficiency or technology but go with me here.  I just read an article that, while simple, points out what is needed to get the economy rolling and building business and jobs again.

http://blogs.openforum.com/2008/12/03/sell/

In this article Seth Godin outlines a very simple perspective:

The best way to deal with the economy, at least right now, today, is to sell.

I think that he hits the nail on the head.  Instead of simply sitting back and waiting for things to get better, make them better.  This to me is all about attitude.  If you keep your mindset on success that is the direction that you will be headed no matter what the weather.  That is why I think that Seth’s blog is so powerful in it’s simplicity.  What do all businesses do to succeed?  Sell.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily just mean go sell products/services to clients.  It also means sell your visions, your goals, your plan, etc to your partners, your employees, and your investors.  This means sell the idea of making your business better and more successful to everyone.  As Seth says in his article ‘Sell your optimism”.  I think that is extremely important that you keep your focus and keep driving.  If you do others will follow.

It’s easy to get caught on defense. Easy to spend your time reacting to incoming alerts, getting angry about unfair cutbacks, putting out fires here and there. If you do that, you’ll keep doing it, because things just get worse… they usually do.

It is way to easy to take a defensive posture in this type of market.  It is hard to step out and drive your business.  It’s scary. 

The alternative is to take a posture of growth. To realize that great small businesspeople are always selling something to someone. It’s a key part of being a leader and a critical component in running your company.

This is very difficult and it goes against the grain.  But, that is exactly how you grow that business.  If it were easy why would anyone have a job? 

So, with all that said, I would encourage everyone to drive their visions.  Make your businesses more efficient, position your business to explode when things pick up, and sell those visions to everyone around you.

I read this post and honestly kind of view it as a call to arms for small business owners.  Now is the time to get your businesses ready and prepared to boom.  Go for it!

Simplifying Organizations November 10, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Development Process, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies.
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I recently finished reading a book called Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises by Roger Sessions.  The book is about building architectures that are simple instead of overly complicated.  

System Complication

Organizations and business models are very complicated.  Add on regulation, best practices, trade secrets, etc and the business processes can be very difficult to utilize.  Many times these complicated systems cause issues for the businesses because employees can get lost in the details.  It also can make it extremely difficult to train new employees.  This causes a real problem should one of the employees go on long-term disability, maternity leave, or worse yet to the competitor.  Many times it is not a scenario where a temporary or new employee can just step right in and take over.

The other issue is that if the employee were to forget a step or not do it correctly it can really cause issues for your business.  Sometimes it may be as simple as having to fix the mistake but other times it could result in regulatory or even legal issues. 

Frameworks

All of the issues raised above and many more cause the need for frameworks.  A framework is structure that is put in place in order to standardize and simplify a process or set of processes.  In many organizations, there are many frameworks in place:  network frameworks, software frameworks, process frameworks, etc.  By utilizing properly designed frameworks employees should be able to do their jobs more quickly and efficiently in a very standardized way.  This will make the organization much more efficient overall.

Framework Issues

Many organizations have become very framework adverse.  This is due to the fact that they have invested a lot of money and time into frameworks and not seen the corresponding results.  Many times this is due to the fact that the framework has become way too complicated.  The book I described earlier has the following quote in it:

The paradox about complexity is that it is simple to make systems complex; it is complex to make systems simple.  Many people think that it takes a lot of talent to create a highly complicated architecture.  That  isn’t true.  It takes a lot of talent to take complicated ideas and realize them in a simple architecture.

I believe that this is absolutely true.  In many cases the frameworks try to handle the complexity of all the business without ever taking into account that the point is make it simpler and more efficient to use.  Instead they have only focused on handling all the business complexity in a single place.  In the end, the framework has cost the business quite a bit of money and has not made them more efficient and possibly made it harder to get things done.

Simplifying Frameworks

In order to make frameworks really help businesses they must be simple to use.  For this to happen the person creating them must focus on simplicity while also solving the problem.  This can be a very difficult thing to do.  Another quote from Session’s book says:

Anybody can create a complex architecture.  It takes no skill at all.  Architectures naturally seek the maximum possible level of complexity all on their own. 

It goes on to say:

The observation that architecture are naturally attracted to complexity is actually predicted by physics – in particular, the law of entropy.

All of this to say that it is natural for frameworks to become more complicated and chaotic if someone doesn’t focus on keeping them reigned in.  This is the job of the architect.  It is by far the hardest job that architect has.  As stated earlier, it is quite complicated to keep the frameworks simple to use.

Summarizing

I hope that this article wasn’t too techie or high level.  I found Mr. Sessions’ book to be very interesting and should serve as a reminder to follow the KISS theory when building frameworks.  Frameworks can have a significant impact on organizations in terms of business efficiency.  On the other hand, if not properly handled they can actually have the opposite effect or making businesses less efficient.

Do you have frameworks in place to make yourself more efficient?  If so, can you make them simpler?  If you don’t have them, are there ways to create them to make your business simpler?

Let me know if I can help you with creation or simplification of frameworks.

Interesting Einstein Articles October 22, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business Solutions, Efficiency Process.
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Today I was reading the posts from Entrepreneur magazine and there were two that dealt with Albert Einstein.  Now I think that some entrepreneurs really have genius ideas but didn’t really think about some of this before.

10 Traits Entrepreneurs and Einstein Share

Unleash Your Inner Einstein

I bring these articles up not because I am trying to compare myself to Einstein (BE NICE!).  There were a couple of points that I really thought hit some of the things that I have been trying to point out on my blog for the last couple of months.

That’s the way we’ve always done it

Both articles discuss how Einstein always questioned everything.  Einstein was well known for always asking why or why not.  Even when he was told that something worked a specific way he always questioned the “facts” behind what he was told.  In the second article there is a good story about how he questioned the make up of light.  It outlines his thought process and his questioning of the accepted knowledge.

I point this specific point out because in many businesses we don’t question the reasons or the facts behind why we do things the way we do.  The common answer is ‘That’s how it’s always been done’.  This is something that Einstein did not accept and my honest opinion is that it is something that we should not accept either.  I would encourage people to ask ‘Why?’.  In some cases you learn that it is correct and necessary but in other cases you will find that it is something that can be altered to be better.

This really is a core foundation of the theory of constant improvement.  You must question what you are doing in order to improve the process.

New Ways of Thinking

Another characteristic that they describe goes along with the previous one and it is described as “Old problems, new ways of thinking”.  The next comment from the article I feel is a terrific point:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

This is such an important point.  First we have to question “why” and second we have to look at it from a new standpoint.  Probably many things have changed since the original process has been put in place.  You have quite a bit more knowledge, technology, and experience than you probably did when the process was created.  So we must focus on solving the problems using today’s resources.

Be Like Einstein

When Einstein was alive and pondering all of the amazing topics that he did, he was always asking why.  He would come up with what some people would call a “crazy idea” and then think it through to see if he could figure out whether it would work or not.  He was not limited by what everyone else told him were the way things were.  Einstein always wanted to understand why the limits were set as they were. 

I think that it is extremely important for entrepreneurs, business owners, managers, and employees to all look at their businesses from this viewpoint.  This is how innovation happens.  This is how efficiency happens.  This is how greatness happens.

I challenge everyone to at least once this week to really look at something that you do everyday and ask “Why do we do this and why do we do it this way?”.  You may be surprised what you learn.

As always, feel free to contact me if I can help you in any way.

What is a business system? August 18, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Efficiency Process.
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When I utilize the term “business system” it has a very simple meaning.  It is the system or process that makes your business run.  It is not a software system or piece of equipment, it is simply the steps that your business goes through to provide your product or service.  This may be all manual or in some cases it may be completely outsourced.  It really depends on your business and your way of providing your product or service.

Successful franchise businesses have recognized the value of business systems.  They have analyzed, documented and reproduced that same system in each of the franchises.  Think of McDonald’s, no matter where you get a cheeseburger in the United States they are pretty much identical.  This is due to the system that McDonald’s has put in place to provide their product.  This allows them to provide their product in a uniform fashion with millions of different people preparing it.  This is a business system.

Many other businesses have never even spent the time to realize they have a system in place or have never tried to determine if their system is the most efficient for what they provide.  In many cases their business system has been dictated by reacting to circumstances that have arisen while trying to provide their goods and services.

In the next post we will discuss how a business system analysis can help to provide businesses with a more efficient mechanism of providing their product or service.