Think Fast Service and Operations Leadership

Focus on the Sweet Spot

Where is your team’s sweet spot?  Is it in providing exceptional, customized services to clients who see the business value in you meeting their specific needs?  Is it in an extremely efficient, productive means for providing output at consistent quality and lower cost than your competitors?

There can be a lot of unproductive noise at times within our operational goals and metrics that prevents us from stepping back and ensuring that we are measuring the right things and maintaining our commitment to our core value to our customers.  I have thoughts on some activities we can practice to improve.sweetspotbat

I saw a great ad for a baseball training bat that gets batters to focus on the sweet spot.  The end of the barrel of the bat provides the optimal hitting surface and power generation and some ingenious baseball trainers developed the SKLZ Sweet Spot Training Bat.  This mental and physical tool trains you to hit on the sweet spot by practically eliminating the rest of the bat.

To improve your team’s focus on your sweet spot try eliminating everything else, at least for a test period.   Stop measuring things that customers don’t care about, or simply stop reporting on them.  Spend all your time on the sweet spot to dramatically improve your overall performance in the minds of the customers who are at the center of your value proposition (sorry for the marketing-speak).

Please share a comment if you have other suggestions, or if you think this is theoretical nonsense with no practical application.  And what would you do to improve your focus on the sweet spot?



May 26, 2009 Posted by | Service and Operations | , , , , | 7 Comments

Insight and Action

While leafing through an IDC brief this morning I noticed a couple of references to an “insight team” and an “action team.”  The insight is gathered from analyzing information on trends or other interesting points, such as profitability by customer, profitability by product, revenue retention, etc.  The action team executes on projects and activities prioritized to attack issues and opportunities identified with the “insight.”  It struck me as a useful way of organizing a team or a quick collaboration along the lines of first getting the factual data together, agreeing on the call to action, and then putting a plan together for practical and constructive application.

 There is a great new book by Ric Merrifield entitled Rethink:  A Business Manifesto for Cutting Costs and Boosting Innovation where he makes a similar breakdown in business process analysis that he simply refers to the “what” and the “how.”  Ric has also authored or co-authored articles in the Harvard Business Review on this and similar topics.

It seems apparent to me that this breakdown of what and how naturally occurs because there is a distinctly different skillset required for each activity.  The analytical data miner may not be the best get-it-done person, and the action oriented doer is lost without fact-based priorities.  I can think of people I know of each type and it is difficult for me to come up with a person who can do both really well.

Is it reasonable to structure a team this way?  Is this just over thinking it?

If you have used this approach or if you think it is silly I would love to hear from you.



May 14, 2009 Posted by | Service and Operations | 4 Comments

How Do You Collaborate?

I thought this sounded like an interview question, and I don’t usually care for interview questions.  I was in the middle of being interviewed for a position after all, and this was a question my interviewer had on a printed page in front of him with intentionally open spaces for his note-taking.

With a poor attitude like this I did not fare well on this portion of the discussion, stammered a bit, and blurted out something about superior inter-personal skills and team blah blah blah.  My interviewer politely smiled and moved to the next question, but I tried to re-engage, knowing that I had been very clumsy with this non-answer.  We both basically laughed it off and I assumed it was one of those unanswerable points that can be used in an interview to discern thought processes and verbal skills as opposed to a right or wrong answer.

On the plane home it was still bothering me and with some time to relax and put some thought into it I realized that it is not an inane interview “gotcha,” it is an excellent question to determine thought process or, more importantly, to gain insight into a person’s ability to take an abstract concept like “collaboration” and move it into tangible business actions.

It seems to me there is one overriding requirement for successful collaboration, and everything else falls into place from there in successively more detailed and tactical steps.  The requirement is that all parties involved in the collaboration understand and share the common objective and business purpose that has brought them together.  I would think the progressive tactical steps would be something like:

  • Agree on common objective for collaboration
  • Method(s) of communication, frequency
  • Method(s) for achieving end result
  • Measurements, milestones, timeframes

What am I missing here?  This was the start of a brainstorm, there must be many more issues to consider…


May 11, 2009 Posted by | Service and Operations | 12 Comments