Developing Identity vs Being Commodity

If we own or are working in a business, we are delivering a service or product. The client or customer expects to receive what it is they’ve purchased according to the specifications, scope, and price. This is a fact that is true, whether conscious in the mind of the buyer and seller or not. This is the baseline. Let’s dive deeper now.

All companies in a category are expected to deliver to the category. Let’s even say that we expect all the scope of work to be delivered to the exact same standard, that we could pick any one of the enterprises in the category, and expect the same exact results. What then would be the differentiator in selection? Price (cost) of course. If all things are 100% equal, then select and work with the lowest cost provider for the specified service or product.

But this is never the case. Products or services from different companies are not all delivered to the same standard. Why is this so? There are many reasons. But let’s focus on differentiation here; let’s focus on core purpose, core focus, core values. Defining the differentiators, the “why,” “what,” and “how,” define the difference, and create the unique value proposition of any enterprise. In fact, all companies have these defining attributes, they just don’t always know what they really are, or how to define them.

“Our Why”: Core Purpose.

This is our reason, our essence, why we do what we do. Unless we want to be more of a commodity, we need a core purpose; a “why;” a reason for the enterprise’s existence. This has nothing to do with WHAT we do, but why we do it. For instance in my company, we “Enable Facades that Inspire.” We “do” things to support that, but those “things” are not our “why.” We love to work on, and to help develop, improve, remediate, fix, oversee facades, building skins, building exteriors, in an inspired manner and to create inspiring outcomes. That’s why we show up every day.

“Our What:” Core Focus.

What is it that we deliver or do as a core focus to support our core purpose? This is the “what” to support the “why.” In my company for instance, we provide design, engineering, science and consulting to support the core purpose to enable facades that inspire. When you work with us you may “get engineering” for example among other things as part of the service, but you don’t buy “engineering” from us. You buy our core purpose (knowingly or not.) You work with us to support your vision on an inspiring facade or exterior building skin. To support that, one service we provide is “engineering” expressed in various forms. What we all do in enterprises is different than why we do it.

“Our How:” Core Values.

How do we do what we do to deliver why we do it? These are the core values; the “how.” What’s our personality, and what values do we live out, manifest, and provide as a group, an enterprise, an organization? Core values (the how) are our guard rails, our sign posts. For instance, at our company we have five core values, developed as a team. They are as follows: communication, integrity, collaboration, client conscious, and capable. Everything we “do” is filtered through this grid, this reality. These are not aspirational, they are reality. These core values define us. For instance, if you don’t want to communicate, and it’s not a value for you, then you wouldn’t want to work for us. The core values are in every job offer, discussed during recruiting, and measured during annual reviews. You don’t have to be perfect in living out the core values, but you have to care, to buy into them, be committed to improvement, and to be accountable to them. Goods and services are delivered with, through and by the core values.

The Story:

So the “why,” the “what,” and the “how” allow us to build our story, a common story, that anyone in the company can express. It gives us a common context to work within, a common reality, a shared experience. This is a powerful lever in advancing with focus and velocity. The story may be manifested or experienced in different forms and expressions. But in the big picture, if talking to someone in the elevator, at the coffee bar, or on break at the conference, asking us, “So what do you do,” we could say something like this, “Well, we enable facades that inspire through services like engineering, design, science, and consulting. You you can count on us to be communicative, and express integrity around commitments and solutions. Plus, we really focus on collaboration, building a shared experience, with a client conscious focus throughout (beginning with the end in in mind). With all that we are as capable as they come.” This is one version of our “story.” This is what you get when you get “us.”

Closing Thoughts and Remarks

So are all enterprises the same? When we purchase a service or product to a spec, a definition, a scope, can we expect the exact same experience from all? Obviously not.

With whom would we rather work? The no purpose, low cost provider, or the clearly purposed, value driven niche company?

Without a “why” everything looks the same. Without a “what” there’s no clarity on what service or product is expected to be delivered and received. Without a “how” it’s all just colorless and without consistent experience; there’s no value added.

Without the core purpose, focus and values, we are just a commodity, a nameless, faceless organization that can only rely on being less expensive. This is a tough reality to live within; impossible really.

Does cost matter? Of course. But that is a topic for another blog post.

Get excited. Start defining today. There’s a process by which you can do so. Put it in writing. Shout it from the roof tops. Make a difference.

A Simple Business Differentiator

“Because I really like working with them….” is an acceptable reason for selecting and maintaining a business relationship.

Assuming all other things being equal in the product or service, “likeability,” or “ease of working relationship,” in itself can be a differentiator.

A good goal is to leave any person or interaction more “energy positive” and to provide value in whatever way is appropriate to the assignment or situation; to provide a solution, path to solution, recommendation, or to help simplify to a point of clarity.

Be the person others like working with.

Team

Replace:

“Report To”

With:

“Work with”

Replace:

“Organizational Chart”

With

“Accountability chart”

Sure, someone’s responsible to and for something or someone

But “work with” and “accountable for” make everyone truly a member of the “team” rather than “have’s and have not’s”

A staff team gets more effective traction.

Pulling in the same direction.

Fascinating and Motivating- Gauging Emotional Energy

As we gain experience, that which is “fascinating and motivating” changes. What may have been so at one time can become “just ok,” or even “annoying and frustrating.” It’s alright to move on and move forward into the next “fascinating and motivating.” This takes awareness.

While doing so, we can’t forget that our “frustration” with something now is likely someone else’s new opportunity (just like it was for us prior.) We can delegate it, or better yet, hand it over entirely to another colleague or recruit, someone wanting to step into their next “fascinating and motivating.”

It is liberating to recognize this, and to assess our priorities by gauging our emotional energy. Step back and audit what is exciting, what is motivating, where the value is best provided to clients and staff, what increases emotional energy, and what drains it. Re-prioritize, amend, delegate, delete. Stay present to coach, advise, support, and help those to whom we hand off the work,

What Time Is It?

What time and season is it for you?

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace. “

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Be aware of the time, and the times.

What I’m Doing Now

Working a lot. I have been super busy with the totality of work at www.wheatonsprague.com. The business has been very dynamic, as has been the market. This requires constant focus and awareness. We’ve made many changes, the biggest being the implementation of the business operating system known as EOS Worldwide. I am in the position of CEO (Visionary in EOS terms) and also running the Building Envelope Consulting Division at present. We’re experiencing growth there, and I am enjoying bringing more enterprise definition, process, scale, and continuity to it. We are also growing in our other division and various practice segments. EOS provides an A.D.D. idea guy like me a clear operational structure to work within and a path for creating and operating with definition. I like the structure of it, and we are getting results.

Exercising. I am continuing my pattern of exercise, which I have done for most of my life. Right now that means walking every morning, then alternating various forms of resistance work daily, upper body, lower body, core strength, flexibility exercises. The pattern is working and it’s just part of whom I am. This is seven days per week. I only miss if there’s some extenuating circumstance, but I always do something every day. I am working my body in some way about 350 to 360 days per year

Journaling daily. I read the bible daily, write out an observation, an action, an application to whatever I am studying or reading. I also monitor my energy, sleep, nutrition, and take a brief inventory of emotional, relational, spiritual, physical, mental inventory and assess if I am trending positive or negative. It takes adjusting daily to stay on a solid course in increasing measure.

Podcasting; The Creating Structure Podcast https://creatingstructure.buzzsprout.com is a high priority for me, and one of the reasons why the blog has not been populated regularly. The podcast has a strong, consistent audience, and is growing in popularity. Much positive feedback has been received. People look for it, wait for it, and affirm it. Vocationally, this is my “public service” work at the moment. I don’t need to do it for money. I do it because I enjoy it and because I seek to provide content that is encouraging, interesting, and of value in some form. Everyone should know what they do for “free” and for “fee.” I do engineering and consulting work for “fee” (for money.) I provide solutions to clients. I do podcasting for “free,” at least for now. There may come a time when that changes, but now is not that time.

More on the daily exercising; I am walking every day in the early morning. I see the sun come up almost every day. I walk the same path every morning. Some may find that boring, but there’s a hidden beauty and adventure in it; I get to observe the patterns and changes along the path every day. The creativity and beauty is in the observation of the little incremental differences experienced every day. The extra leaf that falls to the ground. The small game path and trails. The deer that like certain locations. Trees that have fallen. The smell of late summer, and the coming autumn. Being outside every day bring more clarity to me on the cycles of days, weeks, months, seasons, patterns. It’s a fascinating experience.

The Garden; I have stepped back from my work in our community garden plot this year. It’s been painful, but there have been too many other priorities in my personal life, so it’s the right thing to do. I haven’t stewarded the plot the way it really should be done. It has been more of a triage exercise. I am reconsidering the commitment to the community garden and what the context might be next spring and summer. I have my seed cache already, but still need to decide what is an appropriate investment for this life season. I’d love to have an abundant, sustainable, fully functional organic garden on my own property now. More on that later. I do have, and have enjoyed, a flower garden I groomed, expanded and have been working for 2 years. This one is at my home. It has Zinnias, Marigolds, and Cosmos, all heirloom seeds. Most of the seed was harvested from last year’s flowers and saved over the winter. I like having a place for pollinators to come and to enjoy. It is connected to a long patch of goldenrod that is thriving with many types of native bees, butterflies, dragonflies. I find it meaningful to have the color and to support the pollinating community.

I’ll leave it at this for now. It’s been a while, so I’ll be back with another post soon. Thanks for reading and being a part of this blog community

Sunday Spiritual – Easter

Just me being me on this significant day called Easter.

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, is one of the most well documented events in human history. He was executed, confirmed dead, his body made ready for burial, then placed in a guarded tomb. He was not present in the tomb on the 3rd day. This was verified. But it wasn’t just that the tomb was empty. He then appeared bodily to many, hundreds, actually. This was documented as well. He spoke to those to whom he appeared, further explained what was up, what it all meant,  how he had told them about it, that he was leaving to go back to the heavenly realm, and that he would  send the “one my Father promised,” the Holy Spirit.

The doctor, Luke, carefully records this in his letter to Theophilus, which we now call the gospel of Luke. Many chose to undertake to write an account of the life of Christ and Luke’s account stuck, along with the accounts from Matthew, Mark and John.

Here’s a brief account from the end of Luke’s letter, with direct quotes from Jesus, after he rose from the dead:

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.” – Luke 24:45-48

I never knew anything about this until I was 19 years old, when I heard about it for the first time. At 24 years old it became life changing. Literally. That was when I felt such a great burning with the reality of this truth, that I had to make a commitment and follow Jesus.

It is just too good to keep bottled up. Anyone who knows me, should know that if I can be forgiven eternally and walk in peace, anyone can. I don’t deserve it, but none of us do. We’re all cracked pots. Thanks to everyone who helped along my path. There were many, some of whom may be reading this.

Personally, I dont think the questions are whether Jesus existed or not, or whether he really died or not, or really overcame death to live again or not. That’s old stuff.  I think the question is “What are we going to do about it?”

There’s another life. It’s available here and after our time has passed here. Life to life.

Happy Easter.

He is Risen. And that makes everything different.

Imagine- Achievement vs Effort

A VISION for those in Professional Services:

The standard form of pricing professional services work among architecture and engineering firms still mostly involves some form of “gross up” cost estimating based on predicted labor investment at a defined labor rate. Even when setting fees on a “top down” basis or “cost of construction,” there’s still a “bottom up” exercise in regards to budgeting labor. Almost all firms “monetize” their time in some way by also filling out time sheets. The hours are loaded into the accounting system by project, by phase, by labor code.

Re-imagining

Let’s just imagine for a moment instead, a professional services business based only on results and value. There’s no time-sheet in the traditional sense. The business is not selling their time for a labor rate, but is focused solely on outcomes.

What is the issue? The time-sheet, recording time by increment, by labor code, by job number, on an hourly basis, is focused through the lens of effort– a justification model, “People like us focus on monetizing our time, documenting that effort, billing for it, while we hope to get the right results on the project.”

The opposite is a business focused through the lens of results- an achievement model, People like us produce results like these for fees like this.

Imagine:

  • Everyone is paid a salary – no hourly workers at any level.
  • There’s no discussion about “billable time,” only expected outcomes within time frames.
  • The focus is entirely on an achievement and income model:
    • “People like us produce results driven by value, scheduled completion dates, project milestones and deliverables that are billed at pre-determined values.”
  • The expected work week is to “complete the targeted work”- no exceptions. Work status is either “done or not done,” or “on-track or off-track.”
  • Jobs are billed based on percentage basis according to the fee and progress against the deliverable, not the time accrued.
  • There’s no accounting for time, but only revenue, only outcomes. We determine the percentage complete based on the results achieved vs the results planned. We set the fee based on the value to the market, region, project type, client.

What about Time and Materials ( T & M hourly) work, you ask? Perhaps there needs to be an exception for certain activities, but then why not charge more for T & M work than for fixed fee work. (We can’t achieve the margin a fixed fee can allow when we bill T & M.)

Alternatively, we simply stop working entirely on the effort-based model of billing for time. No T & M, ever. We work for clients that value the fixed fee model. For those clients that aren’t willing to pay a fixed fee we take the position of, “People like us produce the type of value where we believe a fixed fee is the only reasonable approach.”

Imagine this business, where everything is results, outcome, achievement driven rather than time-effort driven. Imagine piloting a project or a group that tests this approach.

Imagine quoting projects from the top down only, “We think a project like this should cost this much”. Our thinking is centered on the mindset of, ”Our business costs this much to run per year so we need to sell X-times that cost in executable backlog to be completed within this time frame”

Imagine.

Backwards

I think that we often have our values reversed; or maybe it’s just me.

Why would we want to sleep longer in the morning on our day off ? Don’t we want to get on with our free time?

Why would we want to spend the best of our energy during the work day prioritizing answering emails? Shouldn’t we save it for later, when we have used up most of our creativity on more important problems or value propositions?

Why would we consider it a win, like we’ve cheated the system, to skip a workout day, or a good nutrition day, as if we deserve it? Don’t we want to pursue health every day in some form?

Why do we prioritize the tyranny of the urgent over that which is important? Do we always want to be responding to other people’s priorities for us to the exclusion of everything else?

Flip the paradigm. Own rather than be owned. Initiate rather than just respond. Rethink the value system. Start in some measure immediately.

“Limbo”

There’s a word and phrase in my culture that we may speak to ourselves when we feel stuck, delayed, or unable to make a clear decision- “I’m feeling like I’m in limbo.” Or “I don’t like being in limbo.”

The other day I woke up in that space. There was a conflict in my mind between two major issues that unexpectedly presented themselves, issues that required attention, disrupting the exact timing on another major event I scheduled many, many months ago.

My first thought was, “I can’t be in limbo anymore about this.”

Then I reflected. There really is no “limbo.” Limbo is a mental construct. Limbo is the tension created internally between what I want to do versus what the situation is requiring me to do now; the true NEED versus my WANT or DESIRE.

Limbo is a signal that I am not living in the moment. That I am not being present in what’s before me.

Once I made the shift, I moved out of that tension. There is no LIMBO.

I get to choose. You get to choose.