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Lean Communication

December 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I recently discussed the topic of new forms of media in the context of communication with a former colleague of mine. E-Mail, short messages, instant messages and even Facebook-messages infiltrated the workplace within the last two decades. Undoubtedly, those forms of communications bring a lot of advantages to our daily business and make the transfer of data not only easier, but also a lot faster.

But, have you ever realized that there is a downside to quick and easy communication channels? Most of you would probably agree that the number of letters we receive on a daily basis shrunk extremely with the rise of E-Mail. However, that shrinkage is small compared to the increase in electronic messages received. Because it is so easy to write and send an E-Mail the use of it is inflationary. Especially if someone is available via Smartphone we tend to write a short mail or message. Even though, it is believed to be the fastest and easiest way, is it really? Sending several messages back and forth can be very time-consuming and annoying. On top of that important E-Mails are always in danger of drowning in the flood of “not as important” (if you’d like to call it that way) E-Mail that flush through Inboxes every day. Therefore it might sometimes be better just to do the oldschool-way and grab the phone to discuss a topic rather than doing it electronically. And if we see this way: Someone who’s always online with his smartphone to receive E-Mails is also always available via phone.

In times of Lean-Management, Lean-Manufacturing,… everything’s aim is to be lean, so why don’t we try to use Lean-Communication?

Sebastian

Ethics in daily business

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment

The terms „business ethics“ and „business as usual“ are not necessarily related. But why is that so? It seems that the ethically of business choices  is only challenged in exceptional (and often public) circumstances . As such, the behaviour of a brand, a company or a person in day-to-day business situations are not continuously evaluated from an ethical point of view.

Most probably such state is the result of the publicity and impact extraordinary decisions have. But can we judge the general degree of ethics in a business solely based on such events? Does the impact of such big decisions have a higher influence on the ethical image than the “small” daily encounters that are being labelled “usual”? Furthermore, if “usual” manners are not seen as ethically correct, shouldn’t they be put in the focus, even more than one-of-a-kind big-ticket decisions?

One example:

A couple of weeks ago we wrote a post about Apple’s supplier Foxconn that got scorned by the press for unacceptable working conditions. Recently, Foxconn managed to be on the cover of a worldwide newspapers again. Even though the working conditions they provide are generally not humane, the only time the issue gets raised in the press  is when Apple launches their next big product. The poor conditions Foxconn provides and decisions they make on a daily basis do not seem to be of major concern. It requires a major singular incident, a focal event, to get the company back into the discussion about ethically, only to discover that their “business as usual” might not support an ethical environment…

To conclude, I would like to ask you if we judge the ethically of a company only based on singular major decisions and miss out on evaluating the morale applied in their day-to-day business?

Sebastian

More on Foxconn

Are you using your daily travel times right?

September 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Assuming that you are living in a metropolitan area, you are probably spending a lot of time using public transport. Undoubtedly it is the most efficient way to reach you workplace without the hassle of traffic-jams and the need to find a parking lot.

Even if you only have to travel 10 minutes one way, you are having a total of 20 minutes every day that you could use in some way effectively. And it doesn’t necessarily mean in a work related way. For example, the way back home is could be used to do something relaxing, so you are less stressed as soon as you arrive at home. Maybe you use the same argument for your way to work, saying that you want to arrive at your work place in a not-stressed-yet-mood, so you work efficiently right from the beginning. You could also use travel time to free up some of your valued and rare private time, maybe check your private e-mail-box and answer short replies right away, or read the paper to be up to date.

Alternatively, if you are not stressed by the idea of working on your way to work already, do some quick and easy stuff. Check your e-mail (if you can) and prioritize your tasks for the day. Also prepare for the meetings of the day and write a note of what you still have to do to be prepared. As soon as you are off the public transport you might even call your colleagues to discuss your strategy for the day… Doing so, might save you a couple of stressful minutes during your workday or give you a couple of minutes of downtime that can really add value. Or you might find some time to go for a cup of coffee during the day, what is a welcome change from work…

How are you using your daily time on public transport? And do you have any “special techniques” that make it more efficient? Share your experience with us…

Sebastian

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Generation Global

August 30, 2012 1 comment

When working for a big multinational company, you will be faced with tasks that require intercultural sensitivity and skills to work in such environments. No surprise there, as we are talking about those “multinationals”. But even smaller businesses that haven’t spread their branches to other continents or even other countries, require you to meet this demand. “International compatibility” (how I would like to call it in this post) is something that I haven’t missed in one job-offer that I have seen in a while.

This requirement is always directly connected to international experience in your education or prior work experience. When I think about my friends and fellow students from Uni, I’d say that vastly more than 50% of them meet this demand. But when you trust statistics, only 15,2% of German students in 2009 had this kind of experience (http://www.news.de/wirtschaft/855106950/bachelorstudenten-haben-weniger-auslandserfahrung/1/).

Obviously, there is a big gap between the supply and the demand of international experience of recent Uni graduates, when you compare these stats with employer-expectations. So, I’m wondering: Is it truly compulsory? Does it have a negative impact on your application if you don’t have it? Or the other way around does it have a positive impact if you have it? Or does it make a difference if you have extraordinary international experiencing instead of “just” some kind?

I’m pretty sure that recruiting departments are not searching for certain professional skills when asking for international experience, but the personal development you went through during that time. But is this something that you have necessarily made, when living abroad? And is it something that you definitely can’t have if you haven’t lived in a foreign country? Also, were does internationality start: Does a semester in Belgium provide a Dutch person with the same cross-cultural skills like a 2 months internship of a Mexican guy in Norway?

I would like to hear your opinion about this topic, because I’m not sure how to handle it in the application process in a general way. I made these international, cross-cultural experiences myself and they had a large impact on my personality.

So: international experience – YES! But is it really the only thing that is important?

Sebastian

S** sells

August 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I don’t know what you thought this post would be about. But if you are suprised by the content of it, I’ve probably proven a different point than what I originally wanted to make ;-).

The title of this post is “Simplicity sells”.

When you are working on a project, no matter what it is about, you always become the specialist of what you do. You know every detail of it. You know about it’s strengths and applications and you probably also know about it’s weaknesses and exceptions. The downfalls which you knowingly implemented, the one’s that are just not economically to solve and the one’s that you just don’t have a solution for.

It is good to know all of them, because YOU need to know about them when you are executing the project. But does everybody else who isn’t part of the project-team need to know about all of these details as well?

People you are presenting your projects, solutions, and ideas to are interested in the big picture. They want to know what the problem is and why and how you solved it. And when I say “how you solved it”, I mean that more in a “what the solution looks like”-way.

When you get to present or sell something: Keep it simple. Don’t annoy people with details they don’t care about. Communicate your message in a way that everybody who isn’t familiar with the topic at all, can get the idea. Don’t get me wrong: You need to know the details and you need to be prepared to explain them in the case somebody asks for them, as well. It’s just: “If somebody asks for them”…

It’s always better to keep it sharp and short, and stimulate some discussion about details that matter to the audience.

So, simplicity sells…

 

Sebastian

 

Buzzwords, ever thought about the downsides?

There are buzz-words everyone is talking about nowadays that are synonymous for efficiency and process improvement. If I think about it: Efficiency and Continuous improvement are such buzz-words themselves. All of you will have come across some already and there is no way they won’t catch up on you on a regular basis anyways. A commonality across these words is that they give off positive connotations.

Take ‘team-work’ for example: It is the paragon for decisions that account to all sides of a critical topic and workload-distribution to specialists. Therefore it is said that teamwork will always save you a lot of time, because of distributing work to several people, and that it will always help you choose the best possible decision, because you’ll have considered every possibility and found one that has all benefits but no shortcomings.

Is that right? Aren’t there any downsides of teamwork? What about the time you “waste” on the Forming, the Storming and the Norming parts of the work-process . Time you could have easily used to work efficiently on your own. You should also think about how solid the base of your decision-making process is. Even if you think you have considered every possible shortcoming of your decision, that doesn’t mean that you really have… What if your team is very diverse in itself, but it doesn’t include one person that really presents the customer’s point-of-view to your product? Also, what could be the downsides of not having specialists on your team? Some people just talk out of their mind without the same level of analysis…

This was just one example…

Other fancy buzz-words that seem to be wholly positive and aren’t considered with their downsides can be seen pretty much everywhere. There are only a couple of them that I can spontaneously think of now, but there are dozens of them out there, like: teamwork, social media, continuous improvement, synergies, connectivity, transparency, work time flexibility, centralization …

Be aware of people who use them without thinking, these words are just labels, the depth and wisdom of the concept they convey depends entirely on the speaker.

What other buzz-words have you come across that you think are seen to be too positive and aren’t considering the downsides? And what downsides could you think of?

How to leave a good job

During the last couple of years, a lot of my friends interned or finished Uni and started working for different companies in different industries. The one thing they had in common was the expectation of long working hours and working a lot of over-time.I guess that is what Uni-graduates expect their employers to expect from them. That’s fair enough and in most cases probably true. I’m also very certain 9-5 isn’t what is awaiting me.

Motivated by this expectation, all of them have worked their 60 hours per week and are majorly satisfied with their jobs and the work they are doing. So, I wasn’t surprised when I recently read the first bit of a study’s title: “Younger employees most satisfied with, work…”. But the second part confused me, by stating: “… but also most likely to leave”. (Study by Mercer: Younger employees most satisfied with work, but also most likely to leave.)

In this study they found that 65% of 19-24-year-olds agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend their company as a good place to work, but at the same time 46% of them are considering to leave the company – what means that at least some of them must have checked both of these facts in the survey. For the age-group of 25-34 it’s similar: 62% of them would recommend their company and 40% consider leaving.

Because I can’t think of a feasible explanation for these results, I would be very interested in your opinion about what would make you quit the job you really like…

Sebastian