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Welcome to ProcessImprovement.Me.  Each week we will post between one and three blog posts on change, how to improve at something in life or business, or learning something new.  Please join us and participate in the comments.  We would really like to hear your thoughts.  You cannot post a comment on the home page (just the way they set up the site.) All the other pages do afford the ability to post comments. We recommend you use the Blog Page for this.

Please join us, have fun, and interact with others in the same kindness that you would like others to interact with you.

Are Your Plans Working

We’ve been talking about making plans this week. Even though most plans will fall apart, the fact that you built a strategy gives you knowledge and forethought that will still help you to win the task. The question you want to ask yourself is how good are your plans, and how successful are they.

Your plans don’t have to work precisely as written to be valuable. Your ideas should be a good start and the basis of you completing the task before you. There will always be some rough roads and even some blockades as you execute your plan. And you will have to think on your feet to overcome them. This is true whether you are speaking with the customer, in the board room, or working with your own staff.

There are many people who, when hit with their first obstruction, call it a day and fail to even try to continue. When you run into insurmountable obstacles, you need to quickly look for a plan B, C, or D, and move off in the new direction. If you can keep your momentum driving forward, you have a chance of overcoming and succeeding.

The trick is to have faith. Faith in your product, your people, and your goals. If you believe you can, and are willing to do what it takes, you can do almost anything. The trick is to not give up on yourself.

Is this easy? Not really. Is it foolproof? No. Is the planning absolutely guaranteed? There are no guarantees in life. Yet, if you try this and you work at it, you may find these ideas to be useful tools that will help you as you plan what you want to do and where you would like to go next.

As with all my suggestions, there are no guarantees. Try something in small increments and if you find success try a little more. You will know what works for you and what does not.

Thank you for being with me today. I hope to be with you again tomorrow.

Planning It Right

If you are reading this right now, I’ve got a pretty good idea that you are a human. As humans, we have a tendency to plan for things we are going to do. We do this knowing that when we put the plan in motion, the probability of our plans staying intact is very rare. Why do we plan?

We plan because doing so keeps us on our toes. Making a plan is a decisive action. It allows us to understand the aspects of what we want to do, what the ultimate goal is, and at least an idea of how we can get from start to finish. The more we plan, the better our knowledge concerning the needed actions becomes. Because of our planning, when an initial plan falls apart, it is much easier to recognize that fact and adapt based on various bits of information we learned while developing different scenarios.

A person who has not planned at all will have a much harder time adapting and overcoming when their first ideas fail. They will not understand the lay of the land, the resources available nor the variations in actions which could help them. Planning allows you to snatch victory from the teeth of defeat.

Planning is very economical. Planning saves you time in actually completing a task. It saves you money by knowing upfront what you need and procuring it ahead of time. A plan will actually save you worry because you know what is required and you have made arrangements and accounted for those needs. One thing that no one who ever won, completed, or participated in a project did was regret planning.

Next time you have a project, define what the project is, what the end goal should have within it. And then develop a plan of how to get from the beginning to the end. This works for all projects, both big and small. Don’t take my word. Try planning and let me know how it went.

Thank you for being with me today. I hope to be with you again tomorrow.

Is It really their fault?

Today I am writing my blog a half a day late.  I meant to be on time, only sometimes things happen that no one can control.  Earthquakes, tidal waves and even the generic band of thunderstorms, with hail and the occasional twister, are all things the average person cannot control. What happens is not what matters.  What we do about uncontrollable change is what matters.

We often, in a time of dealing with things beyond anyone’s control, focus our wrath upon the person that relays the information rather than taking a moment to think clearly. I wonder if this is how the phrase about not killing the messenger came to be?

If anyone hasn’t figured it out yet, the person relaying bad news has no control or power over the situation and no stature within their corporation to do anything. Why? Because if they had any of that, they probably would send someone below them out to relay the message. Again, why? Because it’s probably a guarantee that many receivers will take the information poorly and take their wrath out on the messenger.

If you want to stand out, thank the messenger and let them know you know the problem was not their fault. You know that they were only relaying information. In return, you may find employees who are more receptive to assisting you and solving the problem. Granted, it’s their job to do so anyway; however, feelings of mutual appreciation and understanding seem to rank higher and better solve problems when everyone works as a team.

I was told last night that my flight back to Colorado could not happen because the plane could not leave Chicago, the first thing I did was thank the ground personnel. I assured them that I knew this was not their fault and we work together to ensure that I would be back home before noon today. The bad news was not a failure, it was a chance for everyone to work together and make something good happen. Everyone I spoke to and worked with was sharp, on point, and never gave up.

Thank you for being with me today. I hope to be with you again tomorrow.

Roaming and The Reality

Roaming is fun, you go where you want to, and hopefully, you find exciting things to learn, see or do. It is a great way to reflect on present thoughts and ideas and allows you to discover and explore new ones. The only problem is the fact that it is hard to make that lifestyle pay very well.

You can, not roam and just stay in one place. Unfortunately, no matter how beautiful and diverse that one location is, you will find that after a time you will have discovered its treasures and the ‘Luster and Lore’ of the area will start to wear off and tarnish. One thing that most humans crave is new ideas, new adventures, and the ability to stretch our thoughts and knowledge.

Therefore, we have developed a balance which allows us the best of both worlds. We work, and we vacation. Our vacations enable us to go out and explore new things. This still works even if we don’t leave our own area, we just have to go to new places and trying new adventures.

I would like to recommend, though, when we do our work, we are serious about it and don’t add in roaming with it. Work is important. In the same light, vacations are essential. And you should not mix work with those vacations. And there is a good reason for maintaining the separation.

If you have people that work for you, before you go on vacation, make sure they’re trained on what needs to be done. Training is not only for those who work for you, but you also need to teach those who work over you to ensure they know what needs to be done and how it will happen while you are gone. The best thing is for everything to run smoothly and everybody realizes that the smooth working in your absence is because you have trained everyone as a team to work so well. If there is a problem or two while you’re gone, it points out how important you are to their process.

If there are problems while you’re on vacation and you’re always on the phone trying to fix them, you lose sight of the fact you’re supposed to be out exploring new things. If your company is on the phone talking to you all the time, they assume that that’s just part of healthy work-life. The company then loses sight of exactly how important you are. And you do not want to spend the rest of your time at that company being underappreciated and pestered continually.

Of course, this is just one person’s thought pattern. You have to try what you feel you need to do, starting in small doses to see how well it works, or not.

Thank you for being with me today. I hope to be with you again tomorrow.

Afterward

The last few years I’ve written about many things. Some things that are easy and will take a few minutes, such as drinking water to stay hydrated. Some suggestions, such as mapping your future, could take years or more to see the fruit of your labors. And sometimes I know that we all ask a similar question along the way, “why am I doing this?”

It reminds me of an old saying about alligators and swamp water. And the real understanding of what you did and why is rarely appreciated until you are at a point where you can turn around and look at what you have done. Until that point, you had an idea, a vision of what your actions would accomplish, and how it would help you in the long run.

I am not good at cleaning. I can hide things and mask odors, and I am noted for the idea of sweeping things under the rug. Being tired of this, and wanting the place to look better, I hired a team to come in for a day and help us out. They spent four hours with us cleaning everything from the walls to the most minute details such as the crumbs at the bottom of the toaster oven. And in those four hours, they worked a miracle to put the house back to where it belonged.

Before they came, I question myself on why I was bringing them in. I ran over the positives and negatives in my head and was genuinely unsure about what the results might look like. When all was completed, it looked as though my old house was taken away and a brand new look-alike was brought in to replace it. Everything was better than clean and had a pleasant smell that reminded me of my mom’s house.

All I can tell you is to put your critical thinking skills to work. Instead of fearing the unknown or the yet to be seen, add up the pros and cons. Never use fear or blind trust because neither is totally correct. Figure out what you really need and look for a solution you can accept. Then move forward.

One more critical tip. When you bring in the pros, make sure they have what they need, including the information that you need to get them. Be kind to them and thank them for helping you, then get out of their way and let them do their best.

Thank you for being with me today. I hope to be with you again tomorrow.

Help

We are humans. And as such, we are vulnerable. We have great things that we strive towards and do. And in that same breath, we have other tasks that we just cannot complete with any certainty of proper completion.

I, for one, believe that everybody has something that they can do exceptionally well.  This gift is usually a diamond in the rough. You must work at it, polishing each skill until it glistens. Learning your trade and becoming the expert takes hard work. Yet the core of your gift is always there, waiting for you to dig it out and start to use it.

So, how do you accomplish those tasks that you’re not really good at? One way is to trade what you do well to others who need what you do. And, the other person can exchange their best services which you need in exchange for your services, helping them. Does this sound like the start of commerce? Well, I imagined it works really well until someone in Mesopotamia finally figured out the touchstone. Ever since then, our trade seems to be centered around everything from precious metals to plastic.

If I need some cabinets built, everyone cringes. They have seen me with power tools. I can work hard for days at a time, jump on an airplane, and sleep during the trip to a South Pacific island. I wake up right before the plane lands, and work for the next 3 to 4 days diagnosing and repairing sensitive electronics with little more than an hour or two of rest per night. When I get back home from the trip, it is obvious I need to hire a housekeeper to help me out on occasion. I’m just not good at housework.

It is okay to admit that you’re not good at something. Because recognizing the fact gives you a choice. You can either live in poor conditions, or you can trade what you do well for what others do well. This is the essence of how we work.

I will grant you that these days I work for one person who pays me what I am worth in monetary currency. I take that currency and give it to someone else for something that they do well, and I need. It’s hard sometimes to look through all the money, bank transfers, credit cards, and other financial documentation, but when you boil all that down, we are trading what we can do for those things we need to have done by someone else.

Thank you for being with me today. I hope to be with you again tomorrow.

Organization

Trust me, I am not one to talk on organization. I had some notes here somewhere on organization. I just can’t seem to find them. Organization is not what many people think it is. Some people point to a clean desk. Some people believe it is everything put neatly into its own cubbyhole. Some people think it is minimalism. And yet, ‘organization’ is really none of those things.

Organization is being able to know where you’re going, what you need along the way, and at any time being able to understand where the tools and items you need are. Some folks with the messiest of desks know which pile holds the next thing they need. Their lives are not planned directly from point A to Z. Instead, they choose a set of ellipses and S curves with a few spirals thrown in for good measure. Yet, they know where they want to go and what they want to do.

The person who is neat as a pin, everything put away, and sitting at an empty desk unsure of what’s next or what his or her next step will be is the one I worry for. The person in the last paragraph has a plan. The person in this paragraph has a set of habits. The question is, where will these habits lead? And, what kind of spark will it take to move from habits to future desires?

I am not trying to make you believe that everyone who is messy and scattered is actually working to a higher plan. Yet, as you get to know people, you will find some that do. Nor am I trying to tell you that people who are neat really don’t know where they’re going, although some don’t. And both groups have people who have not taken the time to consider what it is they really want to do in the future. And there are people in both groups who have worked out their plants and know exactly where they want to go.

What I want to tell you is that you can’t judge an e-book by its cover. Some people, like some books, will follow fantastic winding roads through beautiful scenery and epic adventures. And you cannot judge anybody from the appearance of their outer cover, because everyone is unique and often times full of surprises.

The real thought I want to bring you to is one about yourself and not others. This question is for you. Have you planned where you want your story to take you? What type of epic adventures will you have? And what kind of roads will you walk along the way?

Thank you for being with me today. I hope to be with you again tomorrow.