sizzle.jpgThe Sizzle is our blog - observations, thoughts and snippets related to quality, delivery and cost in enterprises; for a profile of the author go here

vive la différence

Working across both the public and private sectors, we celebrate the differences between the two. The public sector is slower, more careful, more risk averse, but more costly for it. The private sector is the direct opposite of this.

As a vendor, we relish chasing a sale and proving our worth in service at the same time. This seems only possible with private clients, however, who inherently understand risk and time-cost.

The public sector sales process is thorough and fair but tiresome, soul-less and expensive. Public sector programmes to change this follow the principle that

savings is the oxygen of procurement reform. 

I only wish they could find a way to balance risk and time-cost. Perhaps its about managerial courage and decision agility. 


under promise over deliver

Under promise and over deliver is a kiwi approach to self promotion. New Zealanders are reknown for understating their worth while they quietly excel; where other cultures are famed for the direct opposite - hyping up themselves, "faking it before they're making it". The NZ film industry adjusts expectations of candidates for big new movies - upwards for kiwis, downwards for some others.  In other circumstances job applicants will talk about skills they don't have rather then what they do have. We seem to fear being labelled as arrogant or egotistical.

This approach is likely to be to our detriment, however, when it translates into understating what your business can offer - especially when competing against hardened international operators. Perhaps we need more exposure to international competition to appreciate what we do and to see how others represent themselves.

Confidence is infectious, spread it to your customers


how's your moral compass?

I used to fancy myself as a rational capitalist business-person when I debated social and religious issues with my elders. I used to think the most powerful guiding pholosophy was simply:

create your own fate - at your own expense

This means the moral freedom to do whatever you want so long as you accept reponsibility for all your actions, inactions, and their outcomes and what you do doesn't hurt anybody else.

The challenge in business though, is this approach tends to reduce people and contacts to components in an economic system; components you try and exchange value with in order to move toward your goals.

This is a challenge because it's inhuman. I have always maintained that people do business with people. Business ethics may prevent us from dishonesty or doing harm, but what will motivate us to do things that help others but don't create us a pay-off?

Credit: ScinttThe answer is a deep, DNA-level, moral compass that probably goes back to tribalism, or at least to community-based survival. It's an urge to help others and a personal satisfaction from reaching out. The need for human connections may be part of what drives the social media phenomenon but it also works in business where authentic networking supports a comminity of interest. It also works in the aftermath of disasters, of course.

We can only hope it kicks in at a broader societal level should capitalism continue to fail us.   


our ideal customer

Recently innovation facilitator, Rumi Shivas, posed the question "what's your ideal customer profile?". He cited his own list of defining qualities, including:

1.  Will return my calls or emails promptly, usually within 48 hours 

2.  Passionate about value creation and innovation

3.  In decision making positions with access to funding and resources

4.  Has a sense of urgency and prepared to take calculated risks

5.  Has a customer care mindset

6.  Cares about 'value & outcomes' more than 'process & methods'

In a world where the customer is always right, this is not as counter-intuitive as it may sound. Knowing clearly the personal attributes of your ideal client can help you focus effort and identify the gold in prospecting.  At Ezidocs, we describe our ideal customer as:

A senior manager with the imagination to recognise a better way, the drive to make improvements, the appetite to take a calculated risk and the political equity to effect a change.

These are the heroes of change, the princes of possibility and the bridge-builders to the future. They also make our job a lot more exciting. We love working with visionary change agents: making the world a better place is what drives us.

If this sounds like you...we'd love to hear from you!



counting the intangibles

image: PastoriusThe management meme "you can't manage what you don't measure" does not mean that "if you can measure it, its important to manage". Instead, it encourages you to find measures, or at least indicators, of the things you need to manage. It's even possible that the adage came from a Galileo quote: "count what is countable, measure what is measurable. What is not measurable, make measurable".
The risks of overemphasising the importance of easy measures are:
  1. You may create a faulty compass - causing you to steer and drive the wrong way, thinking all is well
  2. You may create the wrong behaviours in your team. People particularly motivated by targets (such as sales staff) can ignore uncounted activities - leading to unintended outcomes for the business
  3. In capital or change decisions, you may actually make the wrong call. 
In the field of document automation as an example, tangible, even bankable measures that can easily be measured, monitored, and managed include:
  • Win rates - % of customer decisions made in your favour
  • Productivity improvements - time spent on the activity
  • Quality - mistakes, incomplete information, or ambiguities apparent in queries or clarifications after publication
  • Production costs - use of ink and paper in the draft and review process
  • Training costs - what is needed to get new staff up to speed
  • Stakeholder satisfaction - customer, supplier, and staff feedback   

Other benefit measures would require more indirect counting such as:

  • More informed management
  • Better institutional knowledge capture
  • Brand impacts.

Which measures are selected and the effort required for monitoring should depend on their priority impact on the business or business case.

The reality is that the important dynamics in business may be difficult to gauge. People are complex. While Deming is often quoted as saying "In God we trust, everyone else bring data, he also said "the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them".  And when decisions come down to faith, judgement and intuition, assumptions should at least be realistic and defensible - note the dispute over the cost/benefit of the Fifa World Cup for South Africa, for example, because of hidden, intangible or long term consequences.
"not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts" Albert Einstein