Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting

YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • I live in the town of Penfield, New York.  Our local school district sends out a monthly newsletter and the cover story for November was common core standards for English, History, Social Studies, Science/Technology and Mathematics.  Having spent most of my career in finance I was struck with the similarity between the core learning standards for mathematics and expectations/skills needed in the workplace.  In fact, I thought it was fabulous to see such a strong linkage.

    I would like to share them with you verbatim and hope that it may rekindle an interest in the mathematical and analytic skills required for a company to be successful in the marketplace and an individual to be successful in their career.

    [1] Making Sense of Problems and Persevering in Solving Them:  Each of us encounter problems every day.  Some are simple and some extremely complex.  We add value to the companies we work for when we know how to approach and solve problems effectively.

    [2] Reasoning Abstractly and Quantitatively:  This is all about getting to know the data and metrics for your work and organization.  After working in an area for a while you get a feel for the numbers.  Even before you put pencil to paper [or now fingers to the keyboard] you know the numbers are wrong.  As a result you can fix a mistake and ensure sound output.

    [3] Constructing Viable Arguments and Critiquing the Reasoning of Others:  In my experience, the problems that most need solving are complex.  It requires hard work to determine the potential (viable) causes.  You also need a team of knowledgeable individuals to have discussions.  In these sessions you will challenge and critique all the ideas to ensure they are valid.  In these lively discussions it is not about right and wrong; it is about exploring all possible options so that you get the best possible solution.

    [4] Modeling with Mathematics:  The bigger the impact of a decision the more important modeling becomes.  Modeling allows you to see the impact of all the variables for a given decision.  This critical information helps you know where to focus your efforts.  For example, if the value of a variable can triple without impacting the outcome and it is highly unlikely that the change will happen then that variable can be ignored.  On the other hand, if the normal variation of a variable is plus or minus 5% and 1% change significantly changes the decision, then this variable is critical to understand and model.

    [5] Using Appropriate Tools Strategically:  The example that comes to mind immediately for me is Lean/Six Sigma.  There are many tools available to assist in eliminating process defects.  An individual needs to learn the tools and then know when to use them.  Using the wrong tool for a given situation will not solve the problem.

    [6]Attending to Precision:  Attention to detail applies to both communication with others and the actual work you do.  When communicating ideas with others you need to be crisp and concise.  Have you ever received a “stream of consciousness” e-mail?   Another word for it is “rambling prose”.  You read it several times and the point still is not clear.  That is certainly a waste of your time.  It also applies to the actual work.  In the world of accounting for example, if you are doing an account reconciliation, you cannot say, “It sort of balances.”  Either it does or it doesn’t.  And if it does not, you need to figure out why and take the appropriate action.

    [7] Looking for and Making Use of Structure:  When you have worked in a field long enough patterns start to emerge.  One that is interesting to me is how at the end of the year, departments increase their capital spending because they have underspent their budgets.   They say, “I do not want to lose my money.”  However, spending money with no purpose but to use up a budget most likely means the money is being wasted.  Your ability to see patterns helps to anticipate problems so that you can take corrective action earlier.

    [8] Looking for and Expressing Regularity in Repeated Reasoning:    When you are familiar enough with your work you should expect certain results. If you do not get them, you should then figure out what went wrong.  There is also an expectation of consistency.  The terminology in lean/six sigma is standard work.  Common and repeatable approaches allow the work to get done effectively and efficiently.  If the work methods change day to day you are injecting variability into a process.  A great example of this is as follows:  an individual in the accounting department had finished their monthly closing activities for that particular day early.  They decided to get a head start of the work for the next day.  Unfortunately, that work had to be done after the SAP system closed for the month which was going to happen at midnight.  Although the individual had good intentions, they did not follow the published closing schedule and as a result caused a lot of extra work for many people, including the IT department.

    I hope that in reading these 8 core standards for mathematics you have seen a similarity with the analytical expectations you have set for your organization.  For me, reading something new refreshes my thoughts on any given subject.   I hope this post has sparked some ideas to help you more clearly articulate the need for strong mathematical and analytical skills in the workplace.

    Please call me for a complimentary discussion of how to improve the written expectations for your organization.  585-329-3754.

    Note:   to read the actual wording for the standards go to the link below (page 6).

    http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_Math%20Standards.pdf

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  • As leaders we are a model of inspiration for our staff. How do we find constant renewal to keep us fresh when it is so very easy to fall into the rut of comfortableness? How do we push ourselves to remain on the steep part of the learning-curve.

    For me it has always been about reading books. While I do have all-time favorite leaders, bloggers and courses, books can be savored at my pace. They also allow me time for personal reflection. As I read concepts, I ask myself how I measure up. By being brutally honest with myself, I discover opportunities to improve. Books are the best way for me to keep my knowledge fresh.

    While I think most of the books I read are good, every once in a while you discover an absolute gem. In those cases, I have purchased copies for my leadership team and we have discussed the chapters together during staff meetings. The biggest lesson we learn is that we are in charge; we need use our knowledge and judgment to determine the best path forward. We hold the answers within ourselves and do not need to turn to the “experts” or “teachers”.

    Another huge benefit is engaging with the team and individuals. Sharing the key points and concepts with others brings them into the decision making loop and demonstrates that you value their opinions. It also role models the critical behavior and responsibility of “keeping yourself current” and up-to-date. A leader’s role is not to tell people what to do, but rather help them discover the right path on their own. Or as Galileo said, “You cannot teach a man or woman anything; you can only help them to find it within themselves.”

    In the end, my dilemma is not finding a book to read, but choosing a book; there are so many great ones to choose from. Here are some of my recent favorites:
    Coach Wooden’s Leadership Game Plan for Success: 12 Lessons for Extraordinary Performance and Personal Excellence, by John Wooden, Steve Jamison
    Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, by Don Tapscott
    Being Strategic: Plan for Success; Out-think Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change, by Erika Andersen
    Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service, by Dennis Snow, Teri Yanovitch
    Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization, by Leonardo Inghilleri, Micah Solomon, Horst Schulze

    Share one of your favorites.

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