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New River LeanCoffee Starting up

October 11, 2012 Leave a comment

So I am starting a LeanCoffee group in the New River Valley. We’ll probably meet in one of the Panera Bread location…Blacksburg or Christiansburg.

Contact me if you want to join and be part of it.

Allan

 

Lean Coffee started in Seattle in 2009. Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith wanted to start a group that would discuss Lean techniques in knowledge work – but didn’t want to start a whole new cumbersome organization with steering committees, speakers, and such. They wanted a group that did not rely on anything other than people showing up and wanting to learn or create.

Now, Seattle Lean Coffee happens every week, is very popular, and requires only that someone who has been there before shows up – and even then it’s just so they know where we stash the post-it notes.

HOW DOES LEAN COFFEE WORK?
The format for a Lean Coffee is very simple. This is intentional. It is meant to be the least structure necessary for a coherent and productive meeting. No more, no less.

1. Set up a Personal Kanban

Create a Ready | Doing | Done -> The simplest Personal Kanban

In this Personal Kanban we have the items to discuss, what we are currently discussing, and the discussed columns.

This provides a structure for the conversation. Next we populate it

2. What to Discuss

People all get pads of post-it notes and a pen. They then start to add their topics for conversation into the “to discuss” column. These can be literally whatever people want to discuss or follow a theme. Right now, we want to encourage as many unique ideas as we can.

When the ideas start reach a certain point (an you’ll be the best judge of when that is), each topic gets a 1 to 2 sentence introduction. This way people know what to vote for.

3. Vote and Talk

Each participant gets two votes. You can vote twice for the same thing or for two different topics. Simple put a dot on the sticky you are interested in. Tally the dots. Then you are ready to have a conversation.

The power here is that you now have a list of topics everyone at the table is interested in and is motivated to discuss for real.

For more info, go to leancoffee.com

Knowledge is not power – it's a weakness!

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

How many of us have heard that again and again? That knowledge is power. There is nothing wrong with knowledge…accumulating knowledge, surrounding yourself with knowledge, being around knowledgeable people or accumulating degrees etc…

Personally, I believe real value/power comes when that knowledge is put to work. These days, there is not much I cannot find on google, on a online book store or from other experts. Literally, knowledge is at my finger-tips! This is unlike when I was growing up in Africa. The biggest library I had access to was in my high-school with maybe ten book case of books, if that much. These days, there are an over-abundance of knowledge and knowledgeable people.

Knowledge should lead to execution!

So why do I consider knowledge as a weakness? Because those that accumulate knowledge for knowledge sakes in in the wrong century…trying to be a repository of info or a walking dictionary/encyclopedia is such a waste of time and storage space. More often than not, people go to seminars, workshops, and accumulate more knowledge instead of focusing on doing and executing what they already know.

How many people do you know need to lose weight? Ask them whether they know what they need to do, how to do it and compare that number to those that are in the same predicament and actually “do” it.

Maybe that is why I like the Nike slogan…”Just do it!”

Why I prefer to be a "clock builder" and not a "time teller"

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Consultants have this rap about them…that when asked what time it is, they simply ask you back for your watch and tell you the time. Well, in an overly simplified world, yes, that is done everyday and sometimes, it’s the only way.

Why you ask? Well, after working with well over 100 companies by now and experiencing what managers, business owners, founders do…they have an idea what they want and they want to make sure they are not making a mistake. It could be that there is simply an overload of information so no decisions are made. The consultant comes in and assist with a few things. One, find out what they want to achieve, what the problems/pain really is and what they have tried and what works and what doesn’t and to offer options. The key most times is not what they know or not know…the secret is what they are WILLING to do.

If they are not willing, it doesn’t matter how cool the idea is or how practical it is, it will not be embraced. However, once they commit to moving positively, a consultant can help identify bottlenecks, implement a “system”, tweak it, and help them avoid the potential problems may be around the corner. This is where experience helps a lot and cannot be found in a book. I believe 30% of what I do as a consultant is canned – and right out of a book, the other 30% is what the client knows and want to do, the rest of the 40% is my experience and knowledge.

Depending on the type of consulting, I prefer not to tell clients what to do. Why? Because to be honest, they can find that in a book and it is much better for me to just point them to it. Most time, I find more satisfaction and the client will get more achieved if I walk with them to the destination, instead of pointing the way…

So if a client wants me to tell them the time and that is “all” they want, I will. Most time, they need more and I prefer to be the clock builder. I want to get my hands dirty and also see things moving and working like they should. Although it doesn’t always go 100% the way I would like to see it, getting close enough is good enough for me.

Perhaps this desire to be the clock builder and not simple a time-teller is because I have more energy than I know what to do with.

It's nice to be able to write again…

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Ok…so what have I been up to? Well I have been consulting for an engineering company. It was a 4 month project that was suppose to end mid December. Today was my last day of transitioning my responsibility…Another successful project!

I am going to have some more time to write and do other consulting. The new company I launched with my long time partner Mike Greening and a new partner Joshua Eckstyne won a grant so that has been keeping us busy as well. It’s pretty exciting because of the potential this new project has.  We were able to licence out our software to a major State University and have been contacted by another University to help them with branding using our online platform.

I had the privilege of giving a negotiation workshop to a group of business owners through Synergy Sessions a week ago. I will write about that soon and share some insights.

Social Media Seminar – We took a risk and…it paid off!

August 23, 2010 1 comment

So last Thursday I had the privileged of moderating the Social Media Seminar For the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Business Expo. The panel is listed on the previous blog.

When I had spoken with Catherine Sutton from the Chamber a month ago, the panel was going to each spend 10 min giving a presentation. After forty to fifty minutes, there would be a Q and A session.

That just didn’t seem to sit right with me so I made a few suggestions and Catherine was very willing to try them out. I wanted the interaction to mimic social media. I was not sure that Catherine would go with it. It was going to be a risk because it was the first time we met and we had never worked together before.  Apart from the faux pas I made addressing her when it started, I think it went rather well. This is what we did:

  • Instead of me introducing the panel, it was much more effective having the panel introduce themselves briefly. It saved me from memorizing or making a statement about their achievements and credentials only to have them say “Oh, if only half of that was true…” in order to be modest. This panel would never do that but why take that chance.
  • We nixed the podium. Rather we sat comfortably and interacted with them at a peer level. Sharing information. It was an attempt at mimicking social media.
  • I gave out my mobile number (should have used google voice’s instead) and my twitter account. Attendants could tweet,  text or simply put their hands up. This way they could take their time to formulate it and not interrupt the panel of other attendants. It also prevent them from simply giving up when they failed to see an opening to ask their questions. That went very well and NRVLiving broke the ice and tweeted…
  • I am sure you recall a time when you spoke and did not realize the time. In order to prevent boring the audience, I gave the panel a hands signal which essentially meant ” wrap it up” and pass the mic back to me. The panel was exceptionally responsive to that made my job very easy and enjoyable. We even had many instances of some friendly banter.
  • I had the privilege of knowing most of the panel and we had the chance to have lunch earlier at Jane Dalier’s of the Valley Business Front. She was an exceptional host and the food and conversation was very stimulating.
  • During the event, Anne and Lynda suggested texting people at the expo and the first one that came in won a $10.00 prize. It was spontaneous – and the audience and panel had  fun with that.

I am looking forward to moderating more events open to this kind of response, energy, humor, and interaction. It was definitely a social event! The hour and a half went so fast we hardly noticed it. We forgot to take a break!

One word to describe the event – “Extemporaneous”.

4 Reasons to attend this Social Media Seminar

August 18, 2010 1 comment

Social media the last few years have gone viral…pun intended. It seems everywhere you turn, there it is. I was asked to be on the social media panel for the NCTC (New River Corridor Technology Council) a couple weeks ago. This week I will be moderating a panel consisting of bloggers, SEO experts, social media experts for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

You think you know “social media” till you have to be on a panel or have to moderate one. I have learnt more in the last couple weeks than I have in the last year. I am not an expert nor do I claim to be one. It is just an intriguing area for me and I use it often. As an entrepreneur, a business advisor and coach, I have to ask myself and others that are experts in this area some tough questions:

1. What are the security issues surrounding social media

2. How to create an effective social media strategy for your company

3. How to leverage it effectively and efficiently to get your message across and to interact and dialog with the group of people that COUNT

4. Finally with regards to marketing – what is the ROI and how to measure it…

The panelist are:

1. Anne Giles Clelland is the former founder of business new site Handshake 2.0 (www.handshake20.com ) and the President and CEO of Handshake Media, Inc., which is a new media PR firm.

2. Janeson Keeley is the owner of JTKWeb in Roanoke where she specializes in Web site development and search engine optimizations. She is also the founder of TweetVA (www.tweetva.com ).

3. Dan Smith is the editor and co-owner of Valley Business FRONT.  He has been a journalist for more than 40 years and is the founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

4. Lynda McNutt Foster is with Fast Training which is a one stop source for small business. They utilize Synergy Sessions (www.synergysessions.org) that focus on tools and techniques that promote education and collaboration for small business owners.

I am looking forward to asking some tough questions and learning from these experts. Feel free to let me know if you have anything you would like me to ask the panelists.

4 Reasons to attend this Social Media Seminar

August 18, 2010 1 comment

Social media the last few years have gone viral…pun intended. It seems everywhere you turn, there it is. I was asked to be on the social media panel for the NCTC (New River Corridor Technology Council) a couple weeks ago. This week I will be moderating a panel consisting of bloggers, SEO experts, social media experts for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

You think you know “social media” till you have to be on a panel or have to moderate one. I have learnt more in the last couple weeks than I have in the last year. I am not an expert nor do I claim to be one. It is just an intriguing area for me and I use it often. As an entrepreneur, a business advisor and coach, I have to ask myself and others that are experts in this area some tough questions:

1. What are the security issues surrounding social media

2. How to create an effective social media strategy for your company

3. How to leverage it effectively and efficiently to get your message across and to interact and dialog with the group of people that COUNT

4. Finally with regards to marketing – what is the ROI and how to measure it…

The panelist are:

1. Anne Giles Clelland is the former founder of business new site Handshake 2.0 (www.handshake20.com ) and the President and CEO of Handshake Media, Inc., which is a new media PR firm.

2. Janeson Keeley is the owner of JTKWeb in Roanoke where she specializes in Web site development and search engine optimizations. She is also the founder of TweetVA (www.tweetva.com ).

3. Dan Smith is the editor and co-owner of Valley Business FRONT.  He has been a journalist for more than 40 years and is the founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

4. Lynda McNutt Foster is with Fast Training which is a one stop source for small business. They utilize Synergy Sessions (www.synergysessions.org) that focus on tools and techniques that promote education and collaboration for small business owners.

I am looking forward to asking some tough questions and learning from these experts. Feel free to let me know if you have anything you would like me to ask the panelists.