Friday, 6 January 2012

Newsletter Issue 211, January 2012

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 211, January 2012

Hi guys,

Subir Chowdhury's team at ASI Consulting Group has a process for problem-solving. Check out Listen-Enrich-Optimise below.

Take a walk through billionaire Nick Hanauer's views in Demand-side Economics

Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.


When leading, we sometimes have trouble solving problems. Sometimes things which seem simple at first glance just don't respond to anything we do, and anything attempted ends in dismal failure. When things get really bad, our productivity drops and the profitability of our businesses take a hammering. Then it becomes a diminishing spiral; customers start complaining, and their perception of our product quality falls. We stop addressing customer needs well, so satisfaction also falls.

In December's AMA Leader's Edge Newsletter, Subir Chowdhury of Michigan's ASI Consulting Group has just written an article on this very issue. He says that many of his clients not only don't focus on preventing problems, they aren't able to fix them quickly once they have happened. He works with his clients to create a "structured yet flexible process to uncover ...problems and ...develop specific solutions quickly with lasting effect".

Subir calls this process "LEO", standing for Listen, Enrich, and Optimise:

"LISTEN: Observe and Understand. To obtain a deep comprehension of the issue at hand, put aside past assumptions, and directly interact with all relevant parties – including customers, suppliers, and employees. Add to your findings whatever statistical and observational data can be uncovered.

"ENRICH: Explore and Discover. Based upon the information you have gathered, reach out (especially to the frontline employees) for ideas and possible solutions to enrich your products, processes, systems, and your organization. The wider you cast your net, the more likely you will move beyond the usual suspects to discover new and better answers.

"OPTIMIZE: Improve and Perfect. Examine the solutions you have found and select the best and implement with total confidence. Subject it to every kind of challenge it might conceivably encounter and correct any and all possible shortcomings."

Subir went on to quote the case of a non-profit organisation which builds homes for victims of natural disasters, where rebuilding processes were slow - much, much slower that the organisation - or victims - could afford. In the Listening phase, Subir's team gathered enough information to develop a high-level five step process. Then they drilled right down to what individuals were doing at each step, and found a few key roadblocks, mostly in the second step, which was "Acquire lots to build on" where three staff were dealing with each purchase on a totally ad hoc basis.

In the Enrich phase, Subir'd team got all participants around the table and argued out a "how to" purchase process that stripped out duplication, ensured all legal boxes were ticked, checked that prices were affordable, set a budgets, the builders could build, the local authorities were happy and the clients were happy; an SOP for the “acquire lots” process, written up as a worksheet for staff to use.

In the Optimise phase, they ran "what if" testing - a "What if there was a power cut?" to "What if the CEO died?" type trial run and amended the SOPs. Tweaks were made so they could be sure that the solutions being put in place would solve the organisation's problems, and give them a good framework for solving future issues. As Subir wrote "The goal, after all, was not just to put out a fire but also to prevent it from happening again".

And the results? Subir reports "It used to take each of the three staffers devoted to the process a month to declare just a single lot 'feasible to acquire.' Today, one person using the worksheet can routinely declare 15 to 20 lots a month".


Subir's original article on AMA's website:

Demand-side Economics

In his article on December 12 on Nick Hanauer's views on what is wrong with the economy, Henry Blodget wrote "In the war of rhetoric ...for our economic mess, one argument has been repeated so often that many people now regard it as fact: Rich people create jobs". This argument has been used as the reason why we should tax the top level earners in our societies less, so that they use their extra funds to create more work. Then that will filter down and we will all be better off.

Henry then goes on to unpick why rich people DON'T create jobs; and that the middle classes do.

Firstly, in general - throughout the world - top bracket taxes lower today than they have been in the past, yet Western societies are once more developing a deep divide between the rich and the poor.

Secondly, many wealthy entrepreneurs have already stated that a modest tax hike "would not have the slightest impact on their desire to create companies and jobs" (Blodget, 12 December 2011).

Thirdly, Nick Hanauer, founder of aQuantive (a Microsoft $6.4 billion purchase), is that job creation comes from companies' customers.

"What?" I hear you say.

Henry reports that Nick's argument runs as follows. Companies' CUSTOMERS buy products, which creates a production need, so the companies can make, sell and service their creations. If the CUSTOMERS have no money, demand collapses, and company employment dries up. The owners can keep creating as their ships are sinking, but without demand, there will eventually be no supply.

No matter what the entrepreneur does; if the customers aren't buying, there will still be no jobs. it doesn't matter if the entrepreneur pays more tax or not.

As Henry (Blodget, 12 December 2011) says, "ultimately, whether a new company continues growing and creates permanent jobs is a function of the demand for the company's products, not the entrepreneur or the investor capital. Suggesting that 'rich entrepreneurs and investors' create the jobs, therefore, Hanauer observes, is like suggesting that squirrels create evolution".

So who are these magic customers who aren't buying at the moment? Pretty much you and me. Our middle classes who have less disposable income than they had a few years ago. We all take home less than we once did, because, as Henry (Blodget, 12 December 2011) puts it "The middle class has been pummeled, in part, by tax policies that reward 'the [top earning] 1%' at the expense of everyone else".

Henry goes on to say "But, wait, aren't the huge pots of gold taken home by "the 1%" supposed to 'trickle down' to the middle class and thus benefit everyone? Isn't that the way it's supposed to work? ...Unfortunately, that's not the way it actually works. And Hanauer explains why. Hanauer takes home more than $10 million a year of income. On this income, he says, he pays an 11% tax rate... With the more than $9 million a year Hanauer keeps, he buys lots of stuff. But, importantly, he doesn't buy as much stuff as would be bought if that $9 million were instead earned by 9,000 Americans each taking home an extra $1,000 a year. Why not? Because, despite Hanauer's impressive lifestyle ...most of the $9+ million just goes straight into the bank (where it either sits and earns interest or gets invested in companies that ultimately need strong demand to sell products and create jobs).

"For a specific example, Hanauer points out that his family owns 3 cars, not the 3,000 that might be bought if his $9+ million were taken home by a few thousand families. If that $9+ million had gone to 9,000 families instead of Hanauer, it would almost certainly have been pumped right back into the economy via consumption (i.e., demand). And, in so doing, it would have created more jobs.

"Hanauer estimates that, if most American families were taking home the same share of the national income that they were taking home 30 years ago, every family would have another $10,000 of disposable income to spend. That, Hanauer points out, would have a huge impact on demand — and, thereby job creation."

Read Henry's original article online at:

Excel's Convert Function Codes 2

Remember in the last newsletter, when I said you can convert measurements from one metric to imperial, or from the format to decimal in Excel 2007, by using the CONVERT function (Newsletter 210)?

Well this time I am showing you the codes for weight and mass (and remember "Inbuilt" means Excel will autocomplete, "Multiplier" won't):

  • Gram "g" Inbuilt
  • Kilogram "kg" Multiplier
  • Milligram "mg" Multiplier
  • Pound mass (avoirdupois) "lbm" Inbuilt
  • Ounce mass (avoirdupois) "ozm" Inbuilt
  • Slug "sg" Inbuilt
  • U (atomic mass unit) "u" Inbuilt

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:

  • SOP, Standard Operating Procedure. A set of processes or procedures for doing something/anything that usually ends up in a folder used as a doorstop :-)  
  • SATA 2, Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.  This is a marketing term for the SATA revised version standard. It defines the interface that connects computer motherboards and hard drives, tape drives or other storage devices.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys

In this newsletter, we look at all you can do in Windows with Page commands:

  • Windows "Display next tab when working with a dialog box with multiple tabs or in an extended selection list box, move to additional items below an already select item, without selecting the additional items. In a multiple selection list box, use to move without changing the selection" Ctrl & Page Down
  • Windows "Display the previous tab when working with a dialog box with multiple tabs or in an extended selection list box, move to additional items above an already select item, without selecting the additional items. In a multiple selection list box, use to move without changing the selection" Ctrl & Page Up
  • Windows "In an extended selection list box, select additional items above an already selected item" Shift & Page Up
  • Windows "In an extended selection list box, select additional items below an already selected item" Shift & Page Down
  • Windows "Select a lower or higher setting when working in a dialog box with slide out menus, depending on the application; move a selected item down one screen; equal to arrow keying many times" Page Down
  • Windows "Select a lower or higher setting when working in a dialog box with slide out menus, depending on the application; move a selected item up one screen; equal to arrow keying many times" Page Up
  • Windows "Toggle Follow mouse cursor. " Windows & Page Down
  • Windows "Toggle Invert Colors" Windows & Page Up

Hot Linx

TechRepublic have a very fast way to add a header & footer to all spreadsheets in a workbook. Check it out at

Sage will be publishing "Career Development and Knowledge Appropriation: A Genealogical Critique" by Ken Kamoche, Mary Pang, and Amy L. Y. Wong (pp. 1665-1679) in Organization Studies, December 2011 (Vol. 32, No. 12). Abstract at

Check out what Facebook's recruiting manager, Richard Cho tells HR Daily about using social media to help hire the right people at 

If you were interested in what Henry Blodget had to say, read Nick Hanauer's original work on where wealth is created in our economies in his original BusinessWeek editorial at

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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