The weakest link
A highlight of my recent vacation to Costa Rica was a guided nature hike through the jungle of Manuel Antonio National Park. Danny, our guide, was dressed like Indiana Jones and armed with a long-range spotting scope mounted on a tripod. He guided our group of ten “turistas” on a four-hour hike through numerous trails, occasionally stopping to set up his tripod and point out the amazing wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, birds, iguanas, insects, and more.
Overall, the excursion in the jungle was enjoyable, but spoiled by one annoying dynamic in our group – the youngest couple in the group was lagging behind at every stop. Almost every time we restarted our journey down the trail after a stop, Danny would realize that he was two turistas short in his group. He’d then have to go back to the last spot and wrangle up the stragglers.
The young couple was typically taking pictures, or exploring side paths, while the rest of the group was waiting impatiently on the trail. The tour of the national park took longer than planned and we ultimately got caught in an afternoon storm while leaving the park. I was soaking wet when we arrived at the bus, and I wondered if our group would have avoided the storm if our laggards had kept up with the tour group throughout the morning.
In organizations I coach, it’s not uncommon to see similar situations: The team can only move as fast as the slowest or weakest link.
The drag on your organization could be a team member, a manager, an entire department, an equipment or a process.
The key to a fast-growth organization is to constantly identify what’s holding you back and create a plan to fix it. A quarterly planning meeting is an ideal place to address constraints slowing down your company.
Based on my coaching experience, here are the three most common issues that slow down organizations:
1. Ineffective internal communications
The number one issue restricting many organizations is poor internal communications. The problem can manifest itself in many ways, but it almost always starts at the top.
If the leadership team is incapable of communicating a clear vision on a consistent basis, it is impossible for the team to follow. Once the leadership team has a clear and consistent vision, the next communication breakdown typically has a regular rhythm for communicating amongst the team.
Organizations need a daily huddle that allows every team member a single channel to participate in sharing relevant updates about clients, obstacles, and accomplishments.
Another example of poor communications is when teams are incapable of participating in constructive debates, typically due to a lack of trust or a misunderstanding of individuals’ communication styles.
2. Disengaged team members
According to a recent survey by Gallup, only 13 percent of people working at companies today have any strong emotional commitment to work at their company. Some of these other 87% of team members are not just disengaged – they’re actively destroying the company from the inside.
The first way to address this problem is to have a structured and stringent hiring process, like TopGrading, to ensure that you only hire team members that fit your culture.
And second, your leadership team and managers must actively build a culture of accountability. Team members that regularly fail to meet their commitments must be trained or removed. I always remind my clients that the biggest thing holding back your top team members, the “A-players,” is the disengaged employees.
3. Poorly documented systems and processes
Early in my entrepreneurial journey I had the delusional belief that I could just hire good people, pay them well, and they would know what to do without any oversight or management.
And while you might get lucky every now again with hiring a unicorn, it’s not a scalable approach to building a high-performing team.
All organizations should identify their key processes and systems, document them thoroughly, and then consistently refine and improve them.
A related challenge is a company that’s not committed to continuous learning and development. The world and technology are rapidly changing, so don’t assume that the systems and processes that work today will be competitive tomorrow. As Edward Hess documented in his great book, “Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization,” to survive in today’s world a company must become a high-performance learning organization.
If your company’s journey to the next destination is taking longer than expected, ask yourself, “What or who is slowing us down?”
A real life robot battle: America vs Japan
(BUSINESS NEWS) Robots are real and America is fresh out of a battle with Japan in a real life robot battle royale.
What’s the future of sports look like?
Giant. Fighting. Robots.
That’s right, your childhood dreams have arrived, at least I know mine have.
Two years ago, American robotics firm, MegaBots Inc., challenged Japanese rival, Suidobashi Heavy Industries, to a showdown of the battle of the mechs. The challenge was accepted, but with one simple caveat: the inclusion of melee combat.
And so the Super Heavyweight Title Fight two-years in the making premiered on leading social video platform, Twitch, yesterday evening to tech and sci-fi fans alike who waited with baited breath for such an event.
In order to prepare for the match, the American team needed to build a new bot capable of fulfilling the duel requirement, as well as one that would be a force to be reckoned with against the Japanese fighting machine.
MegaBots, or “Team America,” was able to crowdfund the robot battle through a Kickstarter campaign earning over $500,000 by just under 8,000 backers. With this campaign, they were also able to upgrade their Mk.II behemoth that would be entering the rumble.
Meet Eagle Prime.
More metal. More power. More American.
According to MegaBots, Eagle Prime “weighs in at 12 tons, stands 16 feet tall, seats two, is powered by a 430 horsepower V8 LS3 engine, and costs a cool $2.5M.” This robot is massive; a good foot higher than its predecessor.
Founders Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti commented on the design of Eagle Prime, quipping, “We made it huge and strapped guns to it;” as American as apple pie.
Suidobashi’s robot, KURATAS, stands a few feet shorter (about 13 feet tall), but carries a more sleek and elegant design to it. With a tripod-wheeled base and twin Gatling BB canons with the ability to fire 6,000 bullets per second, it seemed a toss-up as to who would reign supreme in the first mech battle.
While this sounds like an epic episode of awesomeness, don’t expect Pacific Rim level combat just yet. Rather than give a play-by-play of the event, I’ll just tell you straight away that Eagle Prime came out on top in the brawl. To be fair though, it really wasn’t much of a brawl.
Eagle Prime had two years of extra time to be built in preparation for such a match against Kuratas. It was made bigger (and for “funzies”, added patriotic colors to the bot as well as a head of a bald eagle for a “head” as well as a chainsaw-sword-type of device that likely, and ultimately, ended up costing Kuratas a pretty penny in damages.
Really, Kuratas had no chance: there was a bit of overkill on the part of Eagle Prime.
The chain-sword alone raises some safety concerns, especially when we’re talking the future of sports. That said, the pilots of both mechs, Eagle Prime piloted by both Oehrlein and Cavalcanti and Kuratas by Kogoro Kurata, could use a bit more protective gear than helmets, even if the robots in action look like a couple of toddlers fighting.
But hey, it’s a start. And that’s the point.
Maybe one day we will be in giant stadium arenas watching huge robots piloted by humans hashing it out, but we’ve got a long ways to go. And maybe, just maybe, these things could be of use in natural disaster efforts.
Who wouldn’t want to be saved by an Optimus Prime-like, human-piloted “robot” that could withstand whatever was thrown its way?
It’s going to be an expensive endeavor that will require a nice chunk of change in investments and endorsements, though I will say, what a time to be alive.
These stores refuse to start Black Friday early
(BUSINESS NEWS) There is a rising trend of stores being pressured to open their doors earlier and earlier each holiday weekend but these companies refuse.
This year, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy are among a group of retail super villains who have decided it’s appropriate to begin the Black Friday shopping nightmare on Thanksgiving Day, with some opening as early as 5pm on Thursday.
As someone who has only had the misfortune of working the retail tornado of Black Friday once, I would never wish it upon anyone. Yet many stores feel pressured to begin the doorbusters earlier every year.
To compete with online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers implement drastic measures to get customers in stores during the discount season.
Last year, eMarketer reported internet users in their survey were likelier to shop online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching retail stores crumble as online shopping continues to dominate the market.
To lure in shoppers, physical stores must come up with deals so alluring that people would kill for them.
Literally. I just googled “did anyone die on Black Friday last year” and found out that there’s a handy site called Black Friday Death Count. The answer is yes, some people died last year in Black Friday-related incidents, and in fact two of the three deaths took place at separate Walmarts.
So that makes this year’s disturbingly early foray into deal hunting even less enticing.
While I don’t hold Thanksgiving sacred by any means, moving the even unholier Black Friday back to impede on a holiday is ludicrous. But a handful of heroes are saying no seriously guys, we’re not doing this.
Over fifty retailers are collectively putting their foot down, and will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. While some may still be party to next-day discounts, they’re at least taking a stand.
Here’s a list of all the places you can’t go on Thanksgiving, because mercifully they’re closed:
- A.C. Moore
- Abt Electronics
- Academy Sports + Outdoors
- At Home
- BJ’s Wholesale Club
- Blain’s Farm and Fleet
- Cost Plus World Market
- Craft Warehouse
- Crate and Barrel
- DSW – Designer Shoe Warehouse
- Ethan Allen
- Gardner-White Furniture
- Guitar Center
- Half Price Books
- Harbor Freight
- Hobby Lobby
- Home Depot
- JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores
- Jos. A. Bank
- La-Z-Boy (all corporately owned stores)
- Mattress Firm
- Micro Center
- Music & Arts
- Neiman Marcus
- Office Depot and OfficeMax
- Outdoor Research (closed Black Friday too)
- P.C. Richard & Son
- Party City
- Pier 1 Imports
- Raymour & Flanigan Furniture
- Sam’s Club
- Sierra Trading Post
- Sportsman’s Warehouse
- Sprint (Corporate & Dealer Owned Stores; Mall Kiosks May Open)
- Sur La Table
- The Container Store
- The Original Mattress Factory
- TJ Maxx
- Tractor Supply
- Von Maur
- West Marine
And while that’s a pretty hefty list, the fact remains that many unfortunate employees will have to show up to work on Thanksgiving when they should be taking naps, or avoiding helping their family clean up after lunch.
Thinking about some retailers’ decision to open a day early for Black Friday almost makes Cards Against Humanity’s crowdfunded hole stunt last year seem reasonable. Maybe if we’re lucky, the tradition of Black Friday will get sucked up in a black hole, never to plague us again.
I guess staying home is also an option. If you opt into the shopping this year, stay safe. And if you choose to do so on Thanksgiving, maybe just don’t tell anyone.
Amazon is extending its takeover to sportswear
(BUSINESS NEWS) As Amazon continues its quest for total retail dominance, they are beginning to try their hand with sportswear.
Because Amazon won’t settle until it controls every single market ever, the online retailing giant is, reportedly, gearing up to start offering its own sportswear line.
Rumors that the company might get into the workout gear game started circulating earlier this year when the company posted job listings for brand managers to help create “authentic activewear private label brands.”
They hired a brand manager for athletic wear in January.
Amazon has already been dabbling in the world of fashion, having created eight clothing brands since early last year, including a men’s shirt brand called Buttoned Down that is offered to Prime customers.
Insiders say that, while no long-term contracts have been signed so far, Amazon is negotiating with Makalot Industrials Co., a producer that makes sportswear for Gap, Uniqlo, and Kohl’s, as well as Eclat Textile Co., who provides textiles for Nike, Lululemon, and Under Armour.
Both Makalot and Eclat are based in Taiwan.
Apparently, these manufacturers are making small test batches for Amazon so they can run a trial on the concept. The fact that Amazon is working with experts in this market means they are serious about making a competitive, quality product.
Amazon currently sells about $10 billion worth of apparel, making it a serious competitor with brick-and-mortar retailers.
The workout wear market is a pretty big deal, so it would obviously be profitable if Amazon can come out with a good product. Customers are already crazy about Amazon’s online convenience and quick delivery, so they may be happy to find more options for sneakers and yoga pants.
On the other hand, private label brands that Amazon is already selling, such as Goodthreads and Lark & Ro may feel betrayed. Other sportswear brands can’t be too pleased either, with Nike reporting declines this quarter and Under Armour reducing its annual sales forecast.
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