Tag Archives: Marketing processes

The Business Face

Camouflage is one of nature’s basic techniques for ensuring the survival of species. Flatfish have the same colouring as the seabed where they dwell. Females of bird species which nest in vulnerable places tend to have less colourful plumage then their male counterparts, to conceal them from predators while they incubate their eggs. The pheasant is a good example of this. Stick insects resemble the foliage of the plants on which they live. There are hundreds, thousands of similar examples. Some animals and birds actually change colour depending on their surroundings. The Artic Fox is brown in summer and white in winter, to match the snow. The Ptarmigan, a type of grouse that inhabits the snowy arctic tundra, does the same. It is not only the famed Chameleon which changes colour to camouflage itself. To stand a chance of seeing a camouflaged creature, you have to look carefully, in the right places.

How is this reflected in the business world? Who uses camouflage techniques to conceal themselves? Many people at work put on their camouflaged ‘business face’. The face that nods agreement sometimes when they should really be shaking their head to disagree. The face that agrees with you when in the same room, but who spreads discontent, rumour and innuendo amongst friends and colleagues behind your back. The face that tells you what they think you want to hear.

This is especially true in times of change within the company. When processes are reviewed, waste of one form or another is almost always uncovered. This ‘waste’ will be all or part of some people’s daily roles within the company and they will become very uncomfortable if they think that their job is in jeopardy. When told of impending changes in their department they may smile and nod agreement with the proposals. Underneath, they may be very worried and can react in a number of ways:

  • They can decide that it is time they found a new job with a new company and so will start job hunting. The organisation may or may not wish to keep the employee and the follow up action will depend on this position. Ultimately, the employee’s actions will have a fairly ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • The employee may seek clarification from their line manager –’how will the changes affect me?’; ‘if my job goes, will I find another position within the company?’; ‘How much redundancy pay can I expect to get if my job goes?’, etc. If there is a likely to be a positive outcome and the employee finds a new position, this too will have a ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • Alternatively, the employee may be a ‘blocker’, someone who reacts negatively to any change. They may start off with a camouflaged face but quickly come out in to the open. They may still nod in agreement in public, but will spread negative (and usually exaggerated) rumours about the implications of the changes amongst the other members of staff. These people have very ‘active’ (and negative) effect on the proposed changes and they can change the overall opinion of the workforce unless they are managed correctly and speedily.

The important point is to recognise that many people wear a disguise when at work. Understand this and its implications. Key to this is Communication, the topic covered in the next instalment of ‘Natural Processes’.

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Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and in helping the commercial side of businesses to review processes and implement new IT Applications. If you would like to find out more, see www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk If you’re looking for a new job – advice here: www.mynextrole.co.uk


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Planning to win

Stonechat

Stonechat

July in The New Forest and walking in the open forest is what summer evenings were made for. The sun is shining and the forest looks very different than it did six weeks ago, let alone six months ago. It’s a sea of green with bracken growing up to six feet high intermingled with gorse bushes. As Lucy (the dog) and I walk along, a strong twittering and chirping attracts our attention. The source of the agitated chirruping soon becomes apparent. Standing on the highest branch of a nearby gorse bush, a male Stonechat guards his nest. His equally agitated mate sits in a tree nearby, noisily encouraging us to move away. We move on and leave the birds to their solitude.

In the winter, it’s possible to walk anywhere in the open forest, apart from the boggy areas. In the summer, the ponies and visitors follow pre-defined paths through the bracken. You can still walk anywhere but it’s much more difficult to force your way through the bracken. It can be dangerous too as you can’t see where you’re walking – you wouldn’t want to tread on an adder!

We follow the well worn paths through the forest in same way that we follow the well worn plans that help us to manage our projects. How often so we stop and think about other ways of approaching our work? Just because it was done this way last time and the time before doesn’t make it right. Did we involve the right people – the people at the sharp end? Did we check the results of last year’s project? Was an evaluation of last year’s project ever written?

Take time to think about your plans and see if there might be a better way or at least a different way to reach the end goal. There almost certainly will be. Don’t make the mistake that just about every politician makes with depressing regularity – don’t fight the battles in this war with the strategy from the last war. Time moves on and the environment changes – ask the Polish Cavalry!

So think about looking for a new path but watch out for any adders along the way.

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Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and in helping the commercial side of businesses to manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. If you would like to find out more, see www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk If you’re looking for a new job – advice here: www.mynextrole.co.uk

Change in the Workplace

Camouflage is one of nature’s basic techniques for ensuring the survival of species. Flatfish have the same colouring as the seabed where they dwell. Females of bird species which nest in vulnerable places tend to have less colourful plumage then their male counterparts, to conceal them from predators while they incubate their eggs. The pheasant is a good example of this. Stick insects resemble the foliage of the plants on which they live. There are hundreds, thousands of similar examples. Some animals and birds actually change colour depending on their surroundings. The Artic Fox is brown in summer and white in winter, to match the snow. The Ptarmigan, a type of grouse that inhabits the snowy arctic tundra, does the same. It is not only the famed Chameleon which changes colour to camouflage itself. To stand a chance of seeing a camouflaged creature, you have to look carefully, in the right places.

How is this reflected in the business world? Who uses camouflage techniques to conceal themselves? Many people at work put on their camouflaged ‘business face’. The face that nods agreement sometimes when they should really be shaking their head to disagree. The face that agrees with you when in the same room, but who spreads discontent, rumour and innuendo amongst friends and colleagues behind your back. The face that tells you what they think you want to hear.

This is especially true in times of change within the company. When processes are reviewed, waste of one form or another is almost always uncovered. This ‘waste’ will be all or part of some people’s daily roles within the company and they will become very uncomfortable if they think that their job is in jeopardy. When told of impending changes in their department they may smile and nod agreement with the proposals. Underneath, they may be very worried and can react in a number of ways:

  • They can decide that it is time they found a new job with a new company and so will start job hunting. The organisation may or may not wish to keep the employee and the follow up action will depend on this position. Ultimately, the employee’s actions will have a fairly ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • The employee may seek clarification from their line manager –‘how will the changes affect me?’; ‘if my job goes, will I find another position within the company?’; ‘How much redundancy pay can I expect to get if my job goes?’, etc. If there is a likely to be a positive outcome and the employee finds a new position, this too will have a ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • Alternatively, the employee may be a ‘blocker’, someone who reacts negatively to any change. They may start off with a camouflaged face but quickly come out in to the open. They may still nod in agreement in public, but will spread negative (and usually exaggerated) rumours about the implications of the changes amongst the other members of staff. These people have very ‘active’ (and negative) effect on the proposed changes and they can change the overall opinion of the workforce unless they are managed correctly and speedily.

The important point is to recognise that some people wear a disguise when at work. Understand this and its implications. Key to this is Communication, the topic covered in the next instalment of ‘Natural Processes’.

=========================================================================================================

Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk

Marketing Projects

Many pieces of work carried out in a typical marketing dept can be classified as projects.

·         A new product launch

·         A sales promotion

·         A new ad campaign

·         A brand extension

·         A packaging update

All are discrete pieces of work which could be defined as ‘projects’. Except that in a typical marketing department, they aren’t classified as projects. They are pieces of work which need to be done as part of the marketing manager’s job description – it’s just the day job.

That’s fine, but perhaps this leads to a less rigorous approach to the piece of work than would be the case if it was managed as a formal project.

One view that is commonly held by marketers is that ‘a project management approach will stifle my creativity and spontaneity’.  That may or may not be true, depending on your definition of project management. A ‘project’ is a piece of work with a discrete start and a discrete end and this can obviously vary in size. At one end of the scale, a project might be ‘build a new Football Stadium’. At the other end a small project might consist of a departmental reorganisation.  Both have beginnings and ends, so are both projects but the approach to each will be markedly different. There is much that marketers can learn from the world of project management, without stifling their creative juices.

·         Write a Project Plan – this doesn’t need to be overcomplicated, an excel spreadsheet is fine with tasks and responsibilities down the side and a timeline along the top. This gives a view of the tasks which need to be done, who is responsible for doing them and by when.

o   TOP TIP 1: Share the plan with everyone who is involved with the project tasks. Sounds obvious, but doesn’t always happen.

o   TOP TIP 2: Keep the plan up to date. When something changes, update the plan and re-circulate it. You don’t need to become a slave to the plan, just spend a few minutes every week reviewing it to keep it current

·         Monitor the project:

o   Understand the Risks involved in running the project. What changes will it involve? Who will be affected? How likely is it that the identified risks will actually occur? How serious is each risk? Have a proactive plan to deal with each risk (even if the plan says ‘we see x as a risk but will take the chance that it doesn’t happen’. This is an acceptable risk response, providing everyone involved understands that this is the decision that has been made).

o   Monitor the budget. Keep on top of cost, particularly costs incurred by third parties.

o   Measure progress against the plan

o   Update the plan when necessary, but don’t become a slave to it!

·         When the project reaches its end, have a ‘wrap up’ review. What went well, what lessons were learned?

o   TOP TIP 1: Document these learnings and save them in a central repository which is accessible to anyone who may run a similar project in the future.

None of this is rocket science but much of it is ignored by marketing execs who are keen ‘to get things moving’. Time spent thinking about the piece of work up front, planning and anticipating the potential issues, will free up time later on – guaranteed!

Sayings:

I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap. 
– Bob Hope 
We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress. 
– Will Rogers 
Don’t worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you. 
– Winston Churchill 
Maybe it’s true that life begins at fifty .. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out. 
– Phyllis Diller 
By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere. 
– Billy Crystal 

Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and helping the commercial side of organisations to manage projects. If you would like to find out more about documenting processes or project management, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk

 

Up close or far away?

We went on an organised walk on Brownsea Island recently. Situated in the middle or Poole Harbour, the island was the site of Baden-Powells’ first scout camp in 1908. Today it is owned by The National Trust and is a nature reserve. The Red Squirrel thrives here as the more aggressive Grey variety, which has killed off most of the UK’s Red Squirrel population, has not made the watery crossing from the mainland.

Brownsea Island is also a major bird reserve and thousands of migrant birds which live on the shoreline overwinter here. If you’re interested, you can view the lagoon through the webcam. Species that may be seen include Godwits, Redshank, Greenshank, Little Egrets and the striking black and white Avocet with its upturned bill. On the day that we visited, there was a flock of about 200 Avocets, quite a sight. Watching from the anonymity of a ‘hide’, several pairs of binoculars were trained on the feeding Avocets and the other waders enjoying the winter sun on the lagoon. Binoculars, of course, bring the subject up close by magnifying the image. Viewed from the other end, by comparison, the subject appears to be far away. Without binoculars, much of the interesting detail within the scene unfolding before us would have been missed.

Back in the real world, how often do you check the detail of your work? You’re not a detail person? Many of us like to take the overview and leave the details to others to worry about. It is sometimes illuminating to take the binoculars to a particular area of work to check that the details are being covered. You may head off some nasty surprises!

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Local News:

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue , Boscombe, delighted the audience
with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each
week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she
recalled – ‘He’d always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the
crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt
out ‘Heil Hitler.”
( Bournemouth Evening Echo) 

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Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the areas of working with agencies and turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

Woodpeckers in the workplace

 

Lucy

Lucy

When I take Lucy (the dog) for a walk in The New Forest I see many different species of birds. I could make a list of those that I expect to see every time – Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Rooks, Jackdaws, Buzzards and Canada Geese would top the list. I’d expect to see 9 out of 10 of these in 9 out of 10 visits. I wouldn’t be far out.

I also come across other species, of course, but these are less common in the forest and so I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see them every time. Or indeed, ever.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Goldcrests on two consecutive days – these will be the subject of a later post. This morning, I was walking along beside some gorse bushes when a Green Woodpecker flew up from the ground into a nearby tree. These woodpeckers are reasonably common in the forest but they are usually heard but not seen – their machine gun like hammering on tree trunks alerts us to their whereabouts ‘somewhere over there.’ Today I was much luckier. The Green Woodpecker flew up into the tree and settled within view. As I watched, I realised that he (or she) was not alone. A second woodpecker hopped into view further up the tree. I have never seen two woodpeckers together so it was a memorable sight.

The point of this story is this. If the first woodpecker hadn’t caught the corner of my eye as I walked past it, I would never have known that it was there. I would never have seen one woodpecker, let alone two. I would have walked on by, completely oblivious to their existence.

In the workplace, how often do we make assumptions about what we expect to do, what issues we expect to encounter, what risks we’re prepared to take and then blithely carry on thinking that we’ve covered all of our bases. Sometimes, we’re blind to those unexpected issues that occur until it’s too late. If we don’t look for them, we often don’t recognise them as issues at all. Sometimes that may not matter. Other times, it matters a lot!

Always expect the unexpected. One project, or piece of work, is unlikely to be exactly the same as the last. You will always have your list of expected risks and issues but please look out for the unexpected. If you remain alert to the chance of something unusual occurring you will spot it early and deal with it. This may prevent a disaster. On the other hand, it may turn out to be something beneficial, like my woodpeckers. Ignorance, in this case, is definitely NOT bliss!

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REPORTS IN BRITISH NEWSPAPERS:

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas
bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, ‘We agree it was rather high
for the time of year. It’s possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the
gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.’
(The Daily Telegraph)

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami
in her underwear. When asked why, she said it was because she was
missing her Italian boyfriend.
(The Manchester  Evening News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because
they cannot issue a description. It’s a Special Branch vehicle and they
don’t want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was
rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman
commented, ‘This sort of thing is all too common’.
(The Times)

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Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects and improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the areas of working with agencies and turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

To process or not to process?

Business ProcessesAre you process driven? If you’re a sales manager or marketer reading this then you’ve probably gone cold and shivery at the thought. You may feel the need to press the ‘back’ button and look for something more interesting, like your LinkedIn or Facebook updates. Please don’t go…
The majority of sales and marketing professionals are results driven – quite rightly. The end is everything and the means of getting there is far less important. Which is fine up to a point. You may know what is going on in your world but unless you communicate regularly with your colleagues, they won’t know where you’re at. Importantly for them, they won’t know the status of the work that you’re doing which affects their world.
Those of you that have been reading past posts on this blog might be wondering where the link to nature comes in. Simplistically, I guess we could say ‘everywhere’. Nature follows its predefined natural processes – the seasons, the passing of the days, the hierarchy within the food chain, the evolution of species, the natural movement of energy deep within the Earth which brings chaos and disaster to those in its path when it breaks through the surface crust. The process is predetermined; the reaction to changes in the process or unexpected outcomes is not. The natural world adapts, moves on and the cycle continues. The world of business (and your department head in particular) tends to be less forgiving of surprises and unexpected change is not welcomed – in fact it’s positively discouraged! The change itself shouldn’t be the issue, the fact that it has appeared unannounced will always start an inquest!
Documented processes, plans, briefings and status updates will head off most surprises. They will be in the public domain throughout the lifecycle of the project so everyone concerned knows the status of the project and contingencies can be put in place if changes occur. It is worth putting in a bit of effort at the beginning of the process to agree the plan, document it and think about potential Risks. Put a process in place to head off these risks before they have a chance to occur. Keep your colleagues up to date with your status, as they must do for you. Agreeing the process up front, documenting a plan and anticipating potential pitfalls will save you a lot of time during the course of the project.
Surprise tsunamis in the business world are just as unpopular as they are in nature. They may not cause as much death and destruction, it’ll just seem that way to you if it’s all your fault and you forgot to warn people in time!

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The following is supposedly an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so “profound”
that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One
student, however, wrote the following: First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are
moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore,
no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different Religions that exist in the world today. Most of these
religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do
not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of
souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the
temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:
1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.
So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, ‘it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you’ and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct…leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting “Oh my God.”

THIS STUDENT RECEIVED THE ONLY “A”

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Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects and improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the areas of turning prospects into customers and working with digital agencies. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk