Debugging Six Sigma

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

SixSigmaIf you don’t know what Six Sigma is about, read this Wikipedia-article first.

I had some discussions lately about sense or nonsense of Six Sigma. Part of the information flooding today is that there are a lot more variations of “best practices”. So I do not disagree with Six Sigma, but there’s two points you should keep in mind with their or any other best practices. They are guidelines. Not a panacea. And with all such best practices, they are about what you make out of them.

For Six Sigma especially, there is a point I found far to strictly adhered to: The financial focus.
In most jobs I have done in my life, I was the fire fighter for managers who did not understand the value of a fire fighter. Because a fire fighter is paid like an insurance. You are happy if you never need it.
We call it the Saint-Florian-principle:

Oh dear holy Saint Florian,
Don’t burn my house
take the other one…

automationThere are many such jobs in any company, but that’s the jobs, most often the first ones being cut by Six Sigma disciples. Service, support. They are cost factors, they do nothing but cover for the mistakes done up front. As there must be no mistakes, there’s no need for service and support. It’s a very typical trend for any company where managing responsibility is transferred from the entrepeneur to the finance, money driven folks.
Good ideas are declined as they are risky and you got to believe in the idea. Speaking to the financial guys, my experience is that you hit a brick wall. The same is true if you talk about “non-essential” services. Like service. And my experience is that the entrepeneur has a total different understanding of Six Sigma or other such best practice principles, than financial bean counters.

So it is not about Six Sigma or not, but what you make out of it! I think, we just learn, what bean counters got and get us into. I call it greed and fear. “CYA”: Cover your ass. I learned that from a CEO with finance background. I may live better if I would live their way. But I sleep far better trying something and standing up for my own mistakes.

What a chance the U.S. to have a president-elect who is creative and open to change = risk? I hope the focus of companies shifts from a conservatory play-it-safe back to a search for creative new ideas and do some trial. Sure, not everything will work out. But I predict: The survivors are the ones that move.

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Value of Time

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

MomoHaving linked Momo last week, I know the book is worldwide not as well known as in Germany. It is the story about a little girl fighting the Grey Gentlemen, who live of time and suck it (just like vampires) from us. We have less and less time to be happy. People themselves become grey. “Time is money and we don’t have any” is a joke I increasingly hear. Itself and it’s variants. Seminars in “time management” are said to be a cash cow.

Time is the only commodity we cannot replace.

What good is it, if you are wealthy but lack happiness? Friends wonder that I take one hit by Murphy after another, still smiling, still happy. A question of priorities: I am happy. Yes, I can live of Hartz IV if I have to. No, nothing I fancy. But we are lucky to have such a fail-safe! I visited Russia lately. The average income in the city I visited is 10-15.000 Rubels (350-500 Euros). No real social security. The average cost for a one-room apartment is 10-15.000 Rubels. Oops…? I have met people living there. Happy people. Not rich. But happy. Something becoming rare as people gain wealth…

Money ≠ Happiness?

Do I want to be wealthy? No. Yes, a decent monthly income doing a decent job would be great. And I love to do a good job. I am happy.
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Blood Money

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

VampiresAn Inuit chief once compared the human life on Earth with cancer. Instead of looking after the world and trying to live in balance, we exploit its resources, extinct other life-forms, farm life, even kill and eat other intelligence, such as whales. No symbiosis but parasite. Like vampires.

What was not said, but I imply it – is that not all people, but just some (powerful) humans are like cancer. Many managers think they must be “tough”, make utmost profit at all cost (who told them that?). And humanity’s and world’s immune system fails.

The “Western” industry nations are build on a religious system that values life. God gave us Earth to foster it. But there is a strange implied value system that builds around “wealth” and “power”. It’s an old question: Are rich people happy? Can you purchase happiness? If you dominate, are you loved?

Starting my own business, I was (very) quickly confronted with “Corporate Social Responsibility” and questions about corporate morale and ethics. Questions as alien to me as the question “Do you breathe?”. (If I don’t, the question is useless).

Thinking about this, I hope that this crisis will enable some of our “decision makers” to recognize some of the disease and cut it. But I doubt that. Too many politicians (and journalists) are part of the systems, suck blood themselves. They would risk too much of their own blood-money, are part of the system. Welcome the Gray Gentlemen.

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Managers Learning From The Nuremberg Trials

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

Thanks to friends like Sapphire, I discuss lately questions of Ethics and Morale. If you like to join into the discussion, I recommend you our SapPhilosophy blog.

"If I wouldn't have done 'someone else' would have"
Neither was: “If I wouldn’t have done ‘someone else’ would have”

If I look at the managers today, they hide behind the same old reasons as did the people with powers in the Third Reich. Did we not learn from the Nuremberg Trials? Oh, I am German and this is about Nazi-Deutschland, I am not supposed to touch it…? Come on, this is history and we should learn from it.
The Nuremberg Trials clearly condemned the idea “I was under orders” or “If I did not do it, someone else would have done it”. Company X publishes an increase in revenue of 15, 20% but anounces about the same time job cuts of about the same many employees? Who decided? Who is the responsible boss? He did not know? Get outta here! The Nazis all were the same innocent. But charged guilty and many got hung.
So maybe we should call in for a new Nuremberg trials – and look at the current managers and politicians? Look into the mirror: You, for yourself. What do you do? Can you maybe improve on your personal (and also corporate) morale and ethics? Are you guilty?

21.09. I referred to the “Gray Gentlemen” from Michael Ende’s bestseller Momo. If you don’t know it: They are stealing the time of people and the people become busy and successful and rich, but poor in the true luxuries: Time, family, friends.

And if you believe in God, do you truly believe your soul is anything but black, if you just pray to the gods of wealth? How many families you condemn by hiding behind the above excuses? Or the one calles “Shareholder Value”? If you are a shareholder? Aren’t you responsible if the management of the company you own part of works that way?

A month ago I/we also addressed the 10 New Commandments. I would very much appreciate if you read them and also that you let me know what you think about them. Or if you find them truth and spread them!

No. 10 quotes the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
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What Is Luxury?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

MarriedWithChildrenWhat is luxury to you? Is it the ability to travel the world? Is it a challenging job? Is it time with your family and kids? I do appreciate your feedback!

The luxury of my life was to get my eyes lasered. Some of you may recall me with the glasses. Thank goodness I got rid of them – sometimes reading glasses, I do not get younger either 😉

Currently the luxury I want is to be Married with Children 😉

To achieve this, I think I prefer a decent job. The fun part on that one: If I send out an application (even if on demand), I usually do not even get an answer. And that is especially in the hospitality industry… Excuse me? I would consider it an honor that you apply with me and a common courtesy to tell you if you don’t fit my needs.

Ahem. What's the Question?
Ahem. What’s the Question?

Not to answer is a typical sign of what is wrong today in the travel industry. It is a service industry. Decent treatment of applicants and staff, decent salaries and work hours are complains I hear all over the places. Be it travel agency, airline, or hotel industry…

Two side notes: This is a pre-prepared post as I return today from Russia. Interested to know more? Let me know! And I sure will write a summary of my experience with that trip.

December 3-5 I will be doing a workshop and a presentation at the conference in London. If Sales, Marketing and CRM in hospitality are your business, I sure appreciate to see you there 🙂

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Are You Good At Selling Yourself?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

MomoA discussion on LinkedIn triggered thoughts about personal priorities in business. And keep in mind that it’s the (wo)man in the mirror that makes a change (or doesn’t).

I do think we far too much try “selling” and many people have forgotten the good old habits of reliability, honesty, trust and faith. We spend all our time making money to spend on luxuries and saving it for spare time we do not have. We forgot how to live.

Many managers nowadays aren’t any better than Ebenezer Scrooge and one just wishes the Ghosts of Christmas to visit them! What is important? The money you make? The money some unknown investor makes? Welcome to the Grey Gentlemen! If you are a manager, what are your values? Think about it!

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Bring me a Rock

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

From: http://bringmearock.blogspot.com/
By Edward J. Fern, Time to Profit, Inc.

Bring me a RockThroughout the time I was employed by others, I played a game I call, “Bring Me a Rock.” The game has thousands of minor variations but they all follow the same basic format.

The game begins when the boss calls me into his or her office and invites me to have a seat. Over the next several minutes of extended conversation, the boss’s message can easily be summarized in four words, “Bring me a rock.” I’d then return to my own cubicle or office and construct a list of the features I believed the boss’s rock should have and begin to study where and how such a rock might be developed.

Hours, days, weeks, or months later I’d return to the boss’s office and proudly place my rock squarely in the middle of the desk. Aghast or at least disdainfully, the boss would ask, “What the #e!! is that?” Gently I would remind, “You asked me to bring you a rock.”

“That,” derisively, “is not the rock I wanted.”

Then I would inquire, “Can you tell me about the rock you want?” “Yes!” emphatically, “I will know it when I see it!”

Eventually my last boss got tired of the game and let me know I was being laid off. As I heard his words, I realized that I too was tired of the game.

If this has happened to you, this blog is just for you.

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General Sales Agents

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

GSAThis week I addressed the issue of General Sales Agents (GSA).

In general, the GSA is a very good idea. If you cannot afford your own staff, why not share with other companies just as yours? There are two major hurdles:

1. In many cases, the GSA is considered a “second class employee”, as they only spend a part of their time on your product. My recommendation: Have the key people (reservations, sales) invited within four weeks to your location to get familiar with your product, philosophy and work style. Have them meet the decision makers personally they need to have contact to. This will not only motivate them, but also make them truly represent you in their respective markets. Repeat this frequently. Your GSA sales representative(s) usually should be invited to attend your sales meetings. I have seen results by thus motivated staff, that exceeded the results of an entire airline office in another market. And listen to them. Their prime interest is (or should be) to increase your revenue and make your product sales stable.

2. In other cases, GSAs work on a “minimized effort” scheme. Instead of sharing the resources properly, they try to tweak the last dollar out of you, until you recognize they just drain you. Ensure to have an as close contact to their sales teams as you have to your own. Ensure to have a clear manpower commitment. It is reasonable for a GSA sales person to have three or four, either similar or complementing products. I have seen cases where one person was asked to fully represent six or more products.
That might work, if the products are complementary, but that is not the common case.
Assure to have your GSA benefit fair from all sales in their region. In that case they are interested to support you to spread your distribution channels. Otherwise they will try to keep all dropping through their office, limiting the market awareness.

So GSA can be a very good thing, there are many very good and motivated GSAs out there working 150% in their client’s interests. But ensure that the principal and the GSA work on the same goals. Set targets. Find a GSA that has experience in your market. Not only the branch, but also the global region. Ethics, work style, etc. do differ.

The GSA is not a panacea. They need reasonable funding. But usually, you can pay them a base fee covering their normal operations, with marketing funds depending on the revenue they generate. But check what interest they have to sell you!

If you have questions or wish to select a GSA in Europe, ask me. And if you want to build your team and seek experts for sales, business development, reservations, etc., let me know, there are some good out there seeking a decent job 😀

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Banking Mafia

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

banksI don”t know if this is a specific German issue, but lately a lot of deals become public, where banks and analysts are found to abuse their power to increase the IPO-value of startups or systematic damaging of reputation and corporate value i.e. by publishing misleading information or cancelling given credits without cause, just to take over control of dependent companies. So Joachim Hunold now filing official protest against Dresdner Kleinwort is sure an overdue step. Even German national television (ARD) named that lately in a report “Mafia-methods”.

So with my respect: Good luck Mr. Hunold!

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Do you eat insects?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

LobsterSkorpionNo? I couldn”t make you consider eating that scorpion? Hmm… How about Lobster? Shrimp? That is something different? Okay. They live in the sea, they are larger. But matter of fact, they both are crustaceans! [1]

So what are cultural differences all about? I was asked lately – by a beautiful lady I must admit – if I wouldn”t have problems the different culture and mentality…? From what I learned doing international sales and projects: Sales as well as friendship are based on mutual respect. That includes to (temporarily) accept local customs and traditions, as well as those of your guest. To be friendly, honest and trustworthy are keys to success. Lies have an extremely low half-time and they tend to hit you in the back at the most awkward of times.


[1] Based on a comparison by Gordon Ramsay
[2] Image Ron Harris

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