Photo credit: Genelet via flickr used under a creative Commons License.
Here is a recent blog post by Sam Carpenter, author of Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less. To check out the wealth of resources he offers, please click here.
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I am not one to challenge the status quo in order to flaunt some kind of anti-establishment pathos. I’m not a drone, either. But most times I find the status quo is correct as-is, and I attribute this condition to simple cause-and-effect: Whatever a particular accepted status quo happens to be, it’s that way because, in all probability, that’s the permutation that works best. Over some amount of time, through trial and error, the status quo got to be an accurate representation of reality.
One could say that the status quo is the result of a kind of a random, free-market social tweaking.
I can hear the howls of dissention. My retort is that, for some people, accepting any status quo would seem reactionary. For some, casting aspersions at any commonly accepted notion IS the status quo.
Of course the status quo can be wrong sometimes. But, not usually.
In any case, once one acquires the Systems Mindset, the thought process doesn’t choose a positioning based on whether it fits the status quo…or the opposite. The new thinking process is more detached and mechanical than that. Got a problem? Sometimes solutions can be radically different from the status quo, but most times, just a small reiteration of what’s already there is all that’s necessary. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; don’t cut off your nose to spite your face, etc.
Fresh starts are sometimes necessary, but knee jerk start-overs too often result in carnage. The problem system-whether it’s a marriage or a career or a government-whispers quietly, please don’t discard me so quickly. First, just get inside and tweak me a bit.
Don’t jump into a divorce. Instead, drop the emotional theatrics, isolate the mechanical sore-spot, and then manipulate the internal mechanics of that sore spot to find resolution. Financial problems, personal or governmental? Challenging the laws of physics by deliberately spending more money is flashy but ridiculous. Doing some serious cost-cutting is the less exciting yet rational approach. Depressed? Rather than scoring anti-depressants from the doctor, stop drinking (because, silly, alcohol is a depressant). Do I need to say this is not rocket science?
So, problems? There’s a good chance the box you’re in doesn’t need replacement. It just requires some internal tweaking. Of course, thinking-outside-the-box is a good thing and is exactly consistent with the systems mindset approach, but as you float outside and slightly above your world, examining the problems down there, consider that maybe your situation is not really so bad after all, and that the simple solution to smoothing things out lies right there, inside the box.
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A resident of Bend, Oregon, author and speaker Sam Carpenter has been featured by hundreds of media, including NPR, ESPN radio, US News Radio, and Small Business Television. President and CEO of Centratel (http://www.centratel.com/), the premier telephone answering service in the United States, he has a background in engineering, publishing, telecommunications, and journalism. Carpenter founded and oversees Kashmir Family Aid (http://www.kashmirfamily.org/), a 501c3 non-profit that aids surviving school children of the Northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir earthquake of October 2005. Originally from upstate New York, and an Oregonian since 1975, Sam’s outside interests include mountaineering, skiing, cycling, reading, traveling, photography and writing. He is married to Linda Carpenter who works with him as CFO at Centratel.
Many of the same core concepts in this book were previously discussed in Thull’s Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High! However, what we have here is a much sharper focus on two of the three objectives specified in the subtitle: close the value gap and increase margins while winning the complex sale. In the Foreword, Greg Lewin does a skillful job of explaining the need for this sequel, offering his own conclusions about customer value: “First, value should be added to the customer’s entire business, not just a specific part of it…Second, the value created for your customer should be easily identified and owned by your customer…Third — and this is the main objective of Thull’s Prime Solution — the value you promise must be delivered…Fourth, the `secret sauce’ is the heart and soul of your organization — the people!” According to Thull, Prime Solutions deliver optimal results which leverage value to the highest level of each customer’s business, ensure that customers are provided with the best answer to the given problem, and provide solution implementation and value-enhancement strategies that enable customers to achieve the ROI that they anticipated.
Presumably Thull agrees with me that getting beyond customer satisfaction and even loyalty to what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as as “customer evangelism” requires that what Thull calls “robust solutions” must be provided consistently, time and again, whatever questions must be answered, whatever problems must be solved. To sustain that relationship, therefore, He recommends three separate but interdependent protocols: value maximization of product, process, and performance; decision acuity that enables customers to recognize — and thereby appreciate — the tangible benefits of the solution(s) provided; and optimization of a measurable ROI. I agree with Thull that what he calls the Prime Solution Cycle (please see pages 179-194) requires a cross-functional effort; that is, communication, cooperation, and collaboration between and among all areas within the provider’s organization.
In Part I, Thull explores the environment in which complex solutions must compete. Then in Part II, he shifts his attention to an analysis of how to translate the demands of that environment into the three protocols that define, guide, and inform prime solutions. Finally, in Part III, Thull responds to a question which each reader is probably asking as she or he arrives at page 125: “How can my organization develop and then deliver prime solutions to our own customers?” Four chapters are devoted to Thull’s response. First, he recommends a process of discovery and engagement that will reveal opportunities among those prospects currently experiencing insufficiency of the value offered. Next, diagnose and quantify what is needed. Then, design and produce what will fill (solve) the given need. Finally, deliver, measure, and improve on the solution(s).
Here are a few caveats. First, beware of what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton characterize as “The Knowing-Doing Gap” in the book that bears that title. More often than not, decision-makers fail to convert knowledge into action to achieve the desired results. In this context, I am reminded of Coach Darrell Royal’s assertion that “potential” means “you ain’t done it yet.” By all means absorb and digest the information and counsel that Thull provides in abundance. You and your associates must then focus together on formulating and then providing what each customer needs. Also, when seeking buy-in within your organization, expect to encounter resistance to change initiatives. If I understand Thull correctly (and I may not), he urges his reader to think in terms of cross-functional teamwork that involves customers as well as everyone within the provider’s organization. Granted, that is an ambitious objective but I wholly agree with him that it is also an “achievable reality.”