Reinventing Yourself

Reinventing copyI have been trying to write a minimum of one post a month.  I know it should be more frequent but it’s a reasonable goal which I plan to improve upon.  I find myself on the last day of the month without an entry but I have the beginnings of this post as a draft.  Interestingly the topic, reinvention, is topical given that New Year is typically a time that people address these types of issues.  So here goes.

One of my dominant personal themes is “reinventing myself.”  This has been something I have done for many years.  I’m addressing this because I’ve taken what some might think is a pretty dramatic change in my work.  I spend many years in traditional media, first on the creative side followed by many years selling.  I am now working on business development with an online marketing company plus doing marketing for a local garden centre.

Each year, going into a new fiscal year with new budgets (do they ever give you a smaller budget) I would go through my reinvention process.  My philosophical approach I wrote about a few years ago in “A Sports Analogy.”  In a nutshell, my process is designed to analyse changes that have taken place in my industry, may marketplace an my environment, things that are external.  Things are always changing, one needs to be aware of the changes and give thought to what impact the changes will have, positive and negative.  After this analysis I then try to identify what changes I need to make to continue to perform at a high level.  Do I need to learn a new skill, focus on a new market segment, seek help from a new mentor?

Seth Godin wrote “Ways to Reinvent Yourself” (Nov. 2012) for Success Magazine.  Godin uses terms like “transformation,” “reset button” and “overhaul.”  I disagree with his approach.  I recommend an evolutionary process over revolutionary.  Darren Hardy in his book “The Compound Effect,” subtitle “Multiplying your success one simple step at a time,”says big change comes from a series of small changes.

Further to this is the Japanese concept of kaizen.  Kaizen is Japanese for “improvement” and as a philosophy of continuous improvement.  In a business setting this involves everyone in the organization and involves all aspects of the business.

So as we enter 2014 I encourage you to spend some time with reinvention.  However, don’t feel that it should only be used at the New Year, it’s a tool that should be used for continuous improvement.

The Demand-Support Matrix

Demand Support MatrixRRRI am sharing something that I found very useful when assessing a demanding situation I found myself in.  I continue to use this and hope you find value. Let’s start by looking at degrees of demand.  Of course this is not the classical economics use of the word demand as it relates to supply; here we are talking about the amount of demand that is placed on us in a give situation.  This is then overlaid with the amount of support we are given to manage that demand.   In my Demand-Support Matrix the vertical axis is “demand” with a low demand situation below and high demand above.  Keep in mind that this is a continuum, it is not either/or but a matter of degree.

If we look at jobs like delivering newspapers or flyers, I characterize this as low demand.  There obviously is some level of expectation that the piece will be delivered and in a reasonably timely fashion but this is not extremely demanding.  Often a daily newspaper has a performance standard for delivery, such as delivered by 6:00am.  That is the promise in my community but the fellow that delivers the paper on my street hasn’t met that standard in many years.  I no longer have the paper delivered but I see him while I am out walking my dog.  It’s the same time every day and he’s delivering to my neighbours well past the delivery standard.  My point is that there is a standard in place but not much is done to enforce the standard clearly a low demand situation.

When we think of high demand situations some of the classics are air traffic control, bomb disposal, and hostage negotiation.  First responders are often in demanding situations.  The situations most people find themselves in and the ones I’m addressing, are not situations where lives are in the balance but situations where you face demands placed on you by others.  A supervisor is put in charge of an under performing team and given the task of turning it around.  A sales person is given a territory and an aggressive budget to achieve. An athlete is given a performance goal in order to remain with her team.

Being in a demanding situation by itself is not a problem.  The amount of support you have is what can make a demanding situation more or less stressful.  Let’s look at the matrix when we add the support axis, with low support to the left and high support to the right we have four quadrants.  I maintain if you have high support when you are in a high demand situation you can achieve a great deal.  When you are in a high demand situation with little or no support you have a problem.

What do you do?  You have some options.  You can continuing in the situation with a new understanding.  Sometimes understanding a situation helps you frame it in a way that makes it tolerable.  Perhaps the goal is achievable and the rewards great.  Option two is to try and adjust the situation.  It is a matter of adjusting demand downward or increasing support.  The third option is to look for a different challenge.  Good luck, let me know if this is working for you.

A Sports Analogy

Here is a business anaylsis excercise that can make your company better.  In sports, leagues are always changing the rules.  This is done with the intent of making the league better.  When these changes are viewed at an individual team level it is good for some teams and maybe not good for others.  The team management has to asses the rule changes and determine how it might effect them and discuss how they will change to adjust to the new rules.  This is standard practive.  Keep in mind that in sports, rule changes are made during the off season and teams are informed of the changes.

In business, change is ongoing.  Sometimes businesses are unaware that a “rule change” has occurred.  Every year it is worthwhile to sit down and determine what has changed in your business, in your industry, in your marketplace and with your customers.  What do you need to change in order to continue to win under the  “leauge’s” new rules?  A useful technique to employ as part of the exercise is to say “If we were to launch a business to complete against us, what would we do?”  Put together a plan.  Now ask yourself, “Is there any part of this plan that might be seen by consumers as better that what we are currently doing?”  If the answer is yes then you should seriously consider implementing this in your business.  If you aren’t able to, or decide against taking this new approach develop a plan to bullet-proof your business from competitors that might use this approach.  It might be a simple as developing a communications plan to explain how your plan or offer is superior.

If this exercise is done on a regular basis your business will evolve and stay current and reduce the risk of having dramatic changes forced on you in the future when you are not well prepared.  Be proactive.  It’s almost always better to have change be an evolution instead of a revolution.  Good luck.