Peer of One

Posted on September 10, 2016


My team was calculating benchmark comparisons for a client, and I called an abrupt mental break. Really, how similar are these peer companies? Is Ford the same as General Motors? Coca-Cola and PepsiCo? Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi? Are company components – like people, process, or technology – commodities to be easily transferred? How much of one company would need to be replicated elsewhere in order to produce similar results? Yes, we can compare metrics to identify and apply best practices in domains, but ultimately an organization has its own history, culture and structure at a point in time. It has only one true peer…itself.

“…if you want to rework Matisse, you’ll just be a bad Matisse, that’s all.” -Donald Judd

It’s similar with individuals. Your specific personality, choices and environment present you as a peer of one. Demographics provide little insight, even in how we age. Look around to challenge yourself, make only mindful comparisons, and strive to be a better version of yourself, everyday.

“If your goal is to be better than you were – if you’re competing only with yourself – it’s a more realistic place to be.” -Rick Rubin



Posted on October 21, 2016


Some drive-through restaurants utilize off-site locations to receive orders – the speaker by the menu board is run through a call center team, and orders are routed electronically to a screen in the restaurant. You don’t actually interact with someone at the restaurant location until you get to the pick-up window.

The ability to distribute process activities across physical locations has been convincingly demonstrated. You can decouple activities and geography, people from organization reporting lines, processes from technology, and products from sales channels. It’s an opportunity and a challenge to appropriately balance the dimensions.

I once had a social conversation with a business executive who could not understand the difference between television content (shows) and television networks (channels). It’s no wonder some companies go bad.



Posted on September 23, 2016


The tl;dr summary of a Chief Operating Officer conversation this month: let’s not reduce costs…I don’t want to run around cutting legs off of the furniture. It’s such an extreme binary view when we can look at degrees of application. To what degree should you practice, participate, delegate, solicit or invest? It’s a version of a spectrum, and there’s a long way to go before your furniture has no legs.


Glass Walls (or None)

Posted on August 27, 2016


Walking through an airport parking facility this week, I passed a large glass wall facing the processing area for returned rental cars. Concrete islands of vacuum equipment, trash cans and cleaning supplies stood a few inches above wet pavement and years of scuffing. Tossed to the side of one car I noticed a child’s car seat – the type rented out – face down in the muck of course. Because who would ever see it?

Later in the week, I walked a stairwell in a luxury hotel – passing discarded cigarettes, food wrappers, and harsh lighting – on my way to the fitness center. It was a stark contrast to the meticulously planned and conditioned lobby infused with trendy music and that customized fragrance. Because everyone takes the elevator, right?

I arrived for a client working session with customized information from everyone in the room – because a colleague meticulously followed up with each participant to ensure we were ready, and they knew what to expect. Isn’t how we work with you now a sample of what’s to come?

These things aren’t just seen, they’re felt. And it’s so easy to see behind the facade. We can tell if the process is broken, communication is bad, the project is not coordinated, or the sales pitch was inauthentic. How we get there can be as important as the destination itself. Be mindful of the process and experience along the way.



Avoiding Labels

Posted on August 14, 2016


I witnessed a CEO encourage his leadership team to avoid labels. Don’t call HR. Call Carrie. Be a collection of people, not a collection of functional titles.

Labels generalize.

Labels categorize, often problematically.

Names personalize.

Names appreciate history.

Names build relationships.

“Just because two people may live in the same building in the same projects, may have felony charges for the same crimes, doesn’t mean they’re the same person. They may have gotten to the same existences taking two completely different roads.” –Michael Kenneth Williams on Any Given Wednesday


Alignment versus Consensus

Posted on August 5, 2016


There’s a subtle but important difference between consensus and alignment in organizations. Consensus feels safe, but it can take herculean efforts to reach outliers, sway resistors and convince skeptics on the way to agreement. Alignment is more about arrangement and positioning. Sometimes you don’t need people to agree, you need them to align…just enough to move forward.