Value separation

How do you as an individual, “be different”?  As a company?  How do you create value that stands out from others providing your services?  And if your services fall in the same category as others, you must not be different, right?  Shouldn’t you then be in your own category?

Catching up on some blog reading, Brian Buck (@brianbuck) posted about a new book by Youngme Moon called  Different.

One clip in the video caught my attention:


However, simply being a smaller version of the bigger thing isn’t going to do it.  For me, “smaller” as a software company may in itself be different, but I need to do things that the big companies can’t do.  For me, I have always tried to focus on:

  • Going to the “software gemba”: this is where it all started for me.  My own personal frustration with software companies and the applications themselves.  I got frustrated watching users fight with applications that should have improved organizational processes, but sometimes seemed to only hinder.  I still get the most value by talking with users directly and with observing how they use software to manage their information flow.  My “best ideas” are simply insights gained at the “gemba”.
  • Action: Have an idea to enhance the product?  Something not working as expected?  Want a new feature?  I love ideas.  I strive to get ideas implemented quickly, something I think is significantly easier for a nimble organization than a large one.  Product changes are implemented in days instead of “in the next release sometime next year.”  I have even implemented something new while in an on-line support session with a client.  You won’t be routed to a call center overseas with LeanTech, you have direct access to someone understanding not only the product, but your individual business needs.

The “Different” video has gotten me thinking about other ways to differentiate.  I always want to find ways to give clients the best possible experience of working with a software vendor.  I’ve started cataloging some value-creating excellence here

The video below is one of the items I bookmarked recently.  It shows an amazing way to stand out, in this case for a photographer, but it should definitely get the creative juices going for your own organization.

Casey Templeton Photography 2010 Promo from Casey Templeton on Vimeo.


Promotional video for “Different” is embedded below:

By |2010-03-23T10:23:32+00:00March 23rd, 2010|Business, Innovation|0 Comments

Health care: Little House on the Prairie style

Remember when Dr. Baker on Little House on the Prairie went to the homes of the people who were ill?  That would never work today, would it?

Well don’t tell Jay Parkinson that.  When he finished residency, he was determined to revolutionize health care by personalizing it.  Here’s some of what he has to say:

My goal was to just provide a super easy visit for people.

I designed my own web site, people would go to my site, visit my site, see my Google calendar, choose their own time, tell me their symptoms, my iPhone alerts me, I do a house call, and they pay me via PayPal.

Talk about wow (first learned of this “Dr. Wow” video from Jeff Jarvis).

Jay Parkinson at Pop!Tech from Jay Parkinson on Vimeo.

So why is it relevant here?  Jay recognizes the simplicity of his solution and its similarity to another effective, CUSTOMER CENTRIC solution:

Really, it was the Toyota Way.  It was lean.  It enabled me to practice medicine and solve 90% of the problems.

Jay has gotten a lot of buzz, and that’s because he’s delivering a very important value: personalized, easy-to-do-business-with healthcare.

By |2008-12-01T09:43:02+00:00December 1st, 2008|Customer Service, Healthcare, Innovation, People|0 Comments

More lean success in Iowa Government

Almost a year ago, I blogged about the Government of the State of Iowa and its lean efforts.  Right now, I am on the Lean Enterprise Institute’s "Success Stories" web site reading about another lean success story by David Drickhamer for the State of Iowa, this time for the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.

The article describes how the kaizen process for them is no different than when used in manufacturing:

By Wednesday or Thursday, they’d been told, emotions would run high, patience would wear thin, arms would cross, and progress would grind to a halt. That’s exactly what happened.

In terms of process steps, here’s what they gained:

The new process, which fully unfolded over the coming months, trimmed the number of steps from 124 to 91, cutting delays and handoffs by 69%.

The entire lean process has put new emphasis on who the customer is, which is of course the residents, and is resulting in building a new facility:

Reflecting a movement in the healthcare and nursing home industry toward “patient-centered care,” the new facilities will feature private rooms and warmly decorated common areas with full kitchens.

The article continues with an impressive list of improvements that have been achieved at this facility alone, spanning departments from administration to maintenance to admissions and the pharmacy process.

Drickhamer also covers some of the other departments within the Iowa Government that have achieved gains, including the DNR which took its permitting process for air quality construction permits down from 62 days to just six and eliminated a 600-application backlog.  These kind of results from government not only eliminate a lot of headaches for people, but also begin to tear down the perception of government as a big, inflexible, red-tape-riddled organization.  Read the whole article here.

By |2008-11-20T14:30:48+00:00November 20th, 2008|Innovation|0 Comments

Alltop: do you really like staring at a magazine rack?

Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t.  Guy Kawasaki (author of one of my favorite books, The Art of the Start) recently launched, which he has branded as "the online magazine rack" for information from the "top publications and blogs".  I’m sure in a lot of circles (okay, maybe most circles), there has been zero buzz about Alltop (I guarantee my wife, my friends, my dad, my in-laws, general public have never heard of it…I would venture that no one I have been in contact within the last week has heard of it).  In the world of bloggers and technologists, there has been much discussion, and of course if you subscribe to Guy’s twitter-feed (what in the world is twitter?) you would know that just about every other tweet has something to do with Alltop.


Does this picture look interesting to you?  This is "push" not "pull"

…then you might like Alltop.  If being inundated with information and you like "browsing" then Alltop will provide a great place to browse and start getting information.  Alltop gives ("pushes" from a consumer standpoint) all of the latest headlines from around the Internet.  The "magazines" are arranged into categories and sub-categories (like work, living, people and within those maybe career, food, and egos).  If you don’t really know what you’re looking for, this might be helpful.  However, the "magazine" most useful to you may not be available on this "magazine stand" because the information for "sale" is being determined by the magazine-rack owner.

The people that probably most need Alltop don’t know about Alltop

Referring back to the people I mentioned that don’t know about it–my wife, dad, general public, etc.–these are the people that are less inclined to use some kind of RSS aggregator to subscribe to blogs.  Understanding blogs and the technology and usefulness behind them is not easy for this group of people.  They could benefit from finding this magazine rack of headlines from different blogs to start finding useful information.  However, since all of the buzz (as far as I can tell) about Alltop mostly exists within the community of bloggers and people that are already living in "this world", then the people that need it the most are still missing out.

The people who know about Alltop probably don’t need it

Guess who’s talking about Alltop the most?  The people that have been featured on Alltop!  Wouldn’t you?  I suppose I might have a completely different opinion about Alltop if I was featured on it.  However, I would surmise that generally these people do not need Alltop because they are probably already to subscribing to the information most relevant to them.  I can’t imagine any of them would actually spend much time "browsing" the "magazine-rack" at Alltop.

I want the stuff delivered to my front door: "pull"

I contend that people who still want the information delivered to their "front door" will still use RSS aggregators.  I want to subscribe to the information I want ("pull") and not have to fish through everything else to get what’s most relevant to me.  I don’t want 200 magazines dropped on my doorstep everyday that I have to waste time fishing through to find the things I’m interested in.

When would I use it

Okay, having said all that, there are instances I would use it.  Old-school instances would be like the old days of going to the public library or accessing some other reference material.  For example, if I suddenly took an interest in cooking, I would probably start at to find some useful information.  However, I would never make my browser homepage.  I would find the sites most relevant to my needs and then subscribe to things I would want updates on.


If you normally spend a lot of time at the airport or on a street corner staring at the endless choices of publications available, then Alltop is your online substitution.  If you are busy and want to use your limited time to get information most relevant to you, then stick to your preferred method of subscribing to online resources.

By |2008-03-17T11:19:56+00:00March 17th, 2008|Culture, Innovation, Life, People, Technology|4 Comments

Trimming the fat in healthcare

The Iowa healthcare system is using lean principles to improve quality and cost of healthcare.

I was traveling this week and had a chance to get caught up on some podcast listening.  During the America’s Business program from last week, Mike Hambrick introduce Vince Newendorp of Vermeer Manufacturing in Pella, IA.  Way to go Vince!  Vince is the current Vice President of Human Resources and also the dad of a high school senior that I mentor.  Vince used to chair the Iowa Committee on Lean and Healthcare (Iowa Healthcare Collaborative).  As healthcare costs continue to rise, their goal is to find ways to improve healthcare costs.

By |2008-03-15T22:22:20+00:00March 15th, 2008|Innovation, Manufacturing, People, Podcast|0 Comments

Could it be? “Kaizen is…Very Dangerous Stuff.” -Tom Peters

I think Tom Peters has tremendous passion and great ideas. Among his ideas are the topic of innovation and breaking paradigms (probably “destroying” would be a better term) and of learning through failure. Because of this, he is not a fan of kaizen or continuous improvement, as they tend to be incremental refinement of an existing process, rather than the creation of an innovative product or service. Is this “dangerous”? Is there a place for kaizen? In “This I Believe” (found here) Tom presents 60 ideas he firmly believes in, one of which (number 12 in his list) is the concept that “Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) is…Very Dangerous Stuff”.

“Yet these important notions are in part cornerstones of an earlier, industrial age…when winning products stayed on the shelves in showroom floors for years, even decades. Now excellence has become transient…the Pursuit of Perfection gets in the way of ferreting out the Next Big Thing.”

These seem like scary ideas to be communicating on my blog, since I support kaizen and improvement efforts. However, I disagree with Peters to some degree. Kaizen and improvement have its place. Once you’ve created the “Next Big Thing” now you need to make it, and you need to do it such a way that you are adding the most value to your customers and doing it with the least amount of waste.  And kaizen and continuous improvement are the tools for the job.  Even within kaizen and CI, you can innovate (in fact, that’s what should be happening) how the product is produced.  And it should happen quickly (kaizen: rapid change for the better).

However, I will agree with Tom that they may not always be the best tools for the job.  Kaizen, CI, and other lean tools may need to stay away from companies’ R&D and creative departments, as a great article in Business Week recently discusses.  It covers the tension 3M is facing in remaining creative and innovative while implementing tools like Six Sigma that were ingrained during James McNerney’s reign as CEO there.  As the new CEO, George Buckley, leads 3M he could provide a great road map for striking a balance between breakthrough innovation and process improvement.  Kaizen could be dangerous, but only when used for the wrong purpose.

By |2007-06-22T12:06:28+00:00June 22nd, 2007|Innovation|0 Comments
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