“If I want it, you’re late.” – A Marketing Lesson from My Cat

November 30, 2012

My finicky cat teaches me a lesson in marketing.  I have had many cats in my life, and have learned to interpret their unspoken (and “spoken”) language pretty well.  My wife gets a laugh our of my verbalization of what the cats are thinking, and I’m honest about it – the cats supply the material via their sounds and body language and I just express it in words.  Every morning my wife gets up and gives the cats some canned food, and it’s an “important ritual”, especially for our nervous Persian cat Chloe.  At 6:30AM Chloe paces the floor and bed impatiently, walking on us, bumping us with her head and sometimes poking my wife’s sleeping face with a fluffy paw.  (Remember: Dogs have owners but cats have staff!)  As we arise Chloe alternately sits in the bedroom doorway and paces up and down the hall, waiting for that expected move toward the kitchen where the food is.  Looking at this cat haughtily surveying us from the doorway, I said to my wife the first words I could think of that expressed the cat’s thoughts: “If I want it, you’re late“.  My wife burst out laughing, but I instantly realized that this illustrates a key principle of successful marketing.   Read the rest of this entry »

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What Does Caring have to do with a Successful Business Culture?

June 19, 2012

This is a rewrite of an unpublished article I wrote in 1994, when many businesses had recognized the importance of their internal culture and its impact on their business.  I believe the principles still hold, though the understanding of culture and how to create lasting business success seems to have slipped in the intervening years, at least in the United States.

Where were we going in the TQM era?

The intent of the Total Quality Management (TQM) cultural change effort of the late 20th century was to achieve maximum organizational effectiveness, meaning maximally effective people.  To be highly effective, people must be deeply committed.  This requires that people care about their work, employer, coworkers, etc., for they will only be committed if they care about what they are doing and whom they are doing it for.  Fortunately, people have a natural tendency to care about their work.  The sense of accomplishment available through work gives people reason to feel better about themselves, and makes caring and contributing possible and even pleasurable.  The positive self-image that arises in this kind of environment is a far more powerful motivator than any externally applied influence and results in far higher quality of work.  By comparison, fear is also a powerful motivator, but its effects are detrimental to the quality of work produced in many ways, and they all increase cost without a matching increase in value.  But how are business systems involved? Read the rest of this entry »


Business Process Standardization in Complex Organizations – Making It Work

April 9, 2008

Standardization of internal business processes, like any other tool (and a concept or procedure can be viewed as a tool), can be a double-edged sword. It can have many benefits if used properly, or can be harmful if poorly designed or misapplied. One of the great challenges for any organization, especially large ones within which many divisions produce different products for different markets, is knowing when and where to standardize processes, structure, and tools. This entry is intended to address standardization in the most difficult circumstances: large corporations with many, diverse divisions. To clarify, horizontal divisions might consist of a marketing group who define customer needs, a design group who dream up products to meet those needs, an engineering group who design the parts of the products and make sure they fit together, a production group who assemble the products in quantity, a logistics group that transports products to customer locations, and a sales group to complete the transactions with customers. Vertical divisions could exist to address parallel product or customer types, or unrelated products that shared other synergies such as a common resource or common technologies. So what do you need to know to use standards effectively? Read the rest of this entry »