March Vinyl Acquisitions

I actually made it a month without buying any records!  Of course, I was recovering from illness and working through the 2,000 records I bought in January, plus it was the shortest month of the year, and I had a couple business trips (photos from one coming soon!), but the fact remains I didn’t buy any vinyl in February.  I had worked down the January acquisitions to less than 100 records to process, which included clearing one of my two shelves of about 150 records that were “in queue” to be listened to as well.  So overall, a good month for working through my acquisitions, and I felt like I had reclaimed much of my available space in the man cave.

I made up for it in the last 8 days, buying about 825 records, of which about 75 are “junk”. Of the 750 I like, about 475 are mostly Motown and soul, and the other 275 are classic rock.  They’re currently sitting in 9 crates and boxes, so all of that available space I created in February is about gone.

9 boxes of vinyl remaining after sorting out the “junk”…

The group of classic rock is fairly spectacular in my opinion.    It came after the Motown collection, and Mrs. Outspoken’s response after I received the call about the collection was “Really?   You have all these albums yet to clean and listen to, and you’re buying more?!?!”

Yep.  I gotta buy when the opportunity arises.  I went 7 weeks or so with nothing, so buying 2 collections in a little over a week might seem a little over the top, but both were great deals at under $1 per album.

So what makes the collection of rock so great?  How about 4 Zeppelin, 4 Pink Floyd, 4 David Bowie, 4 Allman Brothers, 3 Beatles, and 20 Bob Dylan for starters?    Other artists with multiple albums include Van Morrison, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Steeley Dan, Springsteen, Foreigner, Rush, Yes, Kansas, CCR, ELP, Grand Funk, Heart, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, the Cars, and Aerosmith.  It’s basically a compendium of 70’s and 80’s radio rock music, including some of the softer folk-ish tunes, with none of the pop-disco stuff.

Then there’s some oddball stuff too – stuff I just don’t see. The Butterfield Blues Band, Steve Hackett, Kate Bush, Patti Smith,  Nektar, and some Christian praise stuff by 2nd Book of Acts and Phil Keaggy.  Honestly, I could probably enjoy listening to about 80% of this collection, and if it comprised my entire collection, it would represent probably 60% of what I’d want to have.  Basically, the guy who assembled this collection and I had similar tastes.  🙂

One of my favorite finds so far has been an album from The Monroes.  It’s an EP, only 5 songs, and it was their only album.  I really enjoy it.  Definitely and 80’s sound, but 80’s guitar, not the electronic stuff.


It was missing a lot of Beatles (but hey, it has Abbey Road), Hendrix, and some of the psychedelic stuff I like, but overall, it’s a great collection in my opinion.   I’m sure I’ll find enough titles to cover my costs, but I think I’ll be keeping a much higher percentage of this collection than normal.

Both of these collections came through my previous contacts; the albums are finding me at times!  It’s also part of why i got the deal I did on them.  I’ve treated the sellers fairly, and they’re active collectors, so I was in a way helping each of them move a large quantity of records quickly.    I also agree to buy them all, and don’t get into cherry picking the collection  or nit-picking on the condition of certain albums.

The way you treat people is important in life and business.  Over the course of my career, I’ve always been focused on process improvement; how to find ways to do “it” better.  It hasn’t really mattered what “it” is, as the basic problem solving methodology of Lean works anywhere (at least I’ve yet to find an application where it doesn’t).  While some people call me an efficiency expert, I look at it more as improving the overall performance of the teams and systems of an organization.    We change the system to change the result, and coach the people through the systemic changes.  But it’s about more than results; for the changes to stick, it’s also about behaviors.

As we change the behaviors and systems to produce different results, we start changing beliefs within the organization.  What happens when the shared beliefs of an organization change?  One, we change the future of that organization.  Two, we have created a culture change.

How’s all this tie into me buying arguably too much vinyl?  Honestly, I wasn’t sure at first.  But for one, I buy with no fear of spending too much, because I have a several year track record of all my hobbies actually producing money.  I have the tax returns to prove it.  🙂 Plus, I’m spending cash that has come from the hobbies.

Therefore, I believe, as does Mrs. Outspoken – even if not as completely as me – that I’m not being irresponsible or delaying our objectives, because in the end I actually contribute towards those shared  objectives from my hobbies.   And I believe I’ve done so buy dealing appropriately with others, and the evidence of that is the number of opportunities that tend to find me.

Second, since there was so much David Bowie in the one collection, would be this album:


A line from the song Changes is perhaps the foundation of the best inspiration I can think to provide today:

“These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

No matter what it is you’re trying to do or achieve, there are often people who will try to hold you back, make you feel like it’s too hard, not worth it, or even impossible.  Don’t listen to them.  Act responsibly and with intention, treat people with dignity and respect,  but be courageous at the same time.   You can’t do what everyone else thinks you should do and still achieve the greatness that is within you.

Great things aren’t done by being average.




Small changes

I wrapped up 2016 on vacation from work, but unfortunately I’ve also been battling a cold almost the entire time.  Since December 27th, cold-induced bronchitis has limited my activity.  My wife jokes that every time I take a winter vacation I get sick, and it’s hard for me to remember one when I didn’t.  Last year. I worked through Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks, and I didn’t get sick.  This year, I’ve been sick twice: After Thanksgiving, and after Christmas.

So while that may seem convincing to some, I think there’s another factor:  consumption of alcohol. Both of these rounds of colds were preceded by drinking a little too much the night before.   There seems to be some research to suggest heavy drinking can affect our immune system’s ability to fight off infections for at least 24 hours.   Maybe it’s common sense that I just had never considered…

After I factor in the expense of drinking, I have decided I’m going to curtail my drinking for both health and financial reasons.  There’s probably at least $1,500 annually (and maybe upwards of $2,500 when I consider all spending) I can cut from my spending on alcohol, which when I think about it is a lot of alcohol.  I have slightly expensive tastes, though, so it’s not like I’m pounding cases of Milwaukee’s Best every weekend.  Of the things I buy, bourbon is $30-$50+ a bottle, craft beer is $30-$60 a case, and wine is about $10-$12 a bottle.  And drinking at a restaurant or bar is just crazy expensive, even the few times a month I do that.

So since I’ve spent a majority of the Winter Holidays not drinking,  I might as well continue the trend.  I think it will have a very positive impact on my overall life.  Having a drink after work or with dinner often relaxes me and leads to an evening of not getting stuff done.  If I’m going to ramp up the side hustles this year, I’ll need to be more productive in the evenings.

I think the benefits from reducing alcohol consumption may also carry over into my real job as well.  I’ll be more active, which should improve my overall health.  More activity in the evenings should lead to better sleep, which will make me better rested for the next day.  It might even lead to more “real” exercise.   So overall, it seems like a good idea, and deep down I’ve been feeling like I drink a little too much some nights, so it’s time for a change.

It’s less a New Year’s resolution and more of a product of having  11 days to think about ways to improve my life and the ability to realize our financial goals.   Regarding the finances, it’s not about the money directly, but more about what the money represents: freedom.  If reducing my alcohol consumption affects that realization of freedom on so many levels, it would be foolish not to change my ways.

In December, I added a Habit Tracker to my notebook.  It looks like this:

December Habit Tracker

I found it useful and enlightening, and I plan to continue it’s use over the coming months.  If you’re working on creating some new habits in 2017, perhaps a similar tool will be helpful to you.  Whether it’s in a notebook, on a piece of paper posted on your wall, or maybe even on a chalkboard in your kitchen, visually tracking your adherence to your targeted habits can be very beneficial in cementing the change.

Whatever you choose to use, find a visual way to track your goals and progress towards them.  If you do, I bet you’ll find you hit more of your targets in 2017.



Drinking Whisky and Feeding Kids

Due to my recent involvement with Leadership Washington County (LWC), I’ve also had the pleasure of working to raise money for a program called Blessings in a Backpack.  Blessings provides food on the weekend to children that are fed during the week by government programs.  Without this support, many of them wouldn’t eat for the entire weekend.  “Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, increased hospitalization, lower IQ, shorter attention spans, and lower academic achievement” according to the Blessings website.

This makes perfect sense, and while I’d rather figure out how to impact the true root causes of this problem, the kids that benefit from the program are in their circumstances now.  So a small group of us from LWC were put together in a team to raise money for the local Blessings program.

Our initial brainstorming session had a common theme: alcohol.  Eventually we landed on a handful of options, and once we visited Mingo Creek Distillery we thought we had a good location for  an upscale event.  As we continue the planning, there’s some concern we’re dreaming too big for our upcoming February event.

The distillery is a small venue, but their spirits are relatively high end.  Their Rye is $47 a bottle; their Bourbon is around $55.  Our event is planned to coincide with the release of their next batch of Bourbon.  There will be 4 or 5 tables in different rooms of the distillery which pair upscale food with craft cocktails.  There’s about $20 of drinks in each ticket, and tickets will be limited to a max of 50.  We’re calling it the “Winter Warmer.”

Our intended price is $150 per ticket, shooting for $100 to Blessings for each attendee.  Essentially, every ticket would feed a child for the entire year of weekends.   With bourbon and craft distilling being so hot, paired with an exclusive event and some great food, I don’t think the ticket price is too steep.  We’d offer a $25 discount on a pair of tickets.  Others think we’re severely overpriced.

I think the kind of people who buy $50 bottles and $14 cocktails would be willing to pay up for a release event that feeds children too.  “A little less guilt for your guilty pleasure.”    We’ll see how it pans out, but I will say the act of getting involved in supporting this program has been very personally rewarding.

Giving doesn’t always need to be monetary.  In Romans 12: 5-8, Paul talks about all of us having various gifts.  Too often people think of giving as a monetary thing.  But often, giving of your time and talents in service to others is more personally fulfilling, and frankly might cause a greater financial impact in the end.

If you have some time off around the holidays, think about some ways to give of yourself rather than just of your money to help some other people.  It might be the greatest gift you can give yourself, and them too.




Simple Compliments

Last Friday I was asked to conduct a three-hour training session for our entire leadership team, which is about 140 hours.  It is part of an annual Leadership event that encompasses all levels from supervisors and managers up to the CEO.   I’ve done a lot of training sessions, and have worked with all of the levels, but to provide a singular message that represented about 75% of the days’training had me a little stressed.

I was worried about the quality of the videos that I shot and edited.  I was worried that too many people might think the targets of performance and behavior I was suggesting for the organization were too aggressive.  I believe any time a person puts themselves out there just a little too far as they urge the organization forward one of two things can happen:  either their stock rises or it falls.  People either get more aligned with your goals, or your can lose some support and momentum.

At this point in my career, I’m not worried about promotions, so it’s more about making sure that I leverage these opportunities to gain momentum on our Lean Transformation journey.  I felt like this training and the corresponding message, if successful, would take us to the next level on our performance improvement efforts regarding our Lean Management System.

If  you imagine a three hour seminar on metrics and leading effective team meetings (or huddles, as we call them),  you can understand why i was a little worried, because those were my topics.   To top it off, I had been battling a cold that had just gotten progressively worse all week, but was just starting to improve.

It’s one thing for my team and close co-workers to tell me they’re sure I’ll do a good job.  But the point of this long background story is that sometimes a simple, polite comment can do wonders for someone.  At our first break, which was 2 hours into my material, someone at the table in front of me looked at me and said “has it been two hours already?  Man, you really keep this stuff interesting, with the speed of your words, your timing, and your clear diction.  This is really good.”

I said thanks and mentioned I was a little nervous since I hadn’t been feeling well, and the response was “I wouldn’t have known other than the four cups of hot tea…”

The COO and a colleague that organizes the training session both provided very positive feedback as well.   So I was a little more at ease when i went into the most challenging part of the message, which was about changing our questions as leaders; about letting our staff occasionally work to learn the answer to questions we might already know as part of their development.

It seemed to go well, and I was pleased that the CEO had incorporated some of my message into his closing remarks and system update.  Then, as we were cleaning up, one of the managers stopped and said thank you.  He mentioned that he could listen to me for hours – I was just so interesting and seemed so knowledgeable.  He was amazed that I seemed to have really good suggestions when people asked questions.

This was a manager I don’t consider as being “on board” with my vision for the organization.  But the small comments from just a few people really helped me through the day and boosted my confidence.  I also think it eliminated my worry over the weekend, allowing me to focus instead of getting well for next week.

Never underestimate the power of a small compliment.  When organizations talk about motivating teams, sometimes they turn to financial incentives.  This is usually only short-lived in my experience, and also has the potential to lower intrinsic motivation.  But the simple act of giving someone a sincere compliment, or even just saying “thank you”, can go a long way in making someone’s day.

Give someone a compliment today.  Maybe the girl at Starbucks, or the grocery store, or better yet, someone at your place of work.  It really might change their day, and I bet it makes you feel better too.


You Need More Smoke Detectors: Countering Firefighting with Leader Standard Work

This is primarily what I do for a living:  find better, safer ways to do any particular job.  I’ve been in a few industries, and honestly so far I enjoy healthcare more than any of them. It probably has more to do with the team and the organization, but making an impact directly on people’s lives is part of the equation as well.  Here’s my latest article on LEI’s Lean Post:

Excessive firefighting is a major threat to lean transformations – it may seem easier to time-strapped managers, but it does nothing to foster a culture of problem-solving thinkers. Aaron Hunt of Washington Health System knows this all too well, and now shares his organization’s favorite firefighting deterrent.

Source: You Need More Smoke Detectors: Countering Firefighting with Leader Standard Work

A Framework for Setting Goals

Love yourself – set some goals in 2015!

Do you have a process for setting goals?  I do, and I use it every year to achieve more and make the intentional changes in my life that drive me (hopefully) to a longer, more fulfilling life.  Here’s the outline of my goal setting process:

  • November – Set Strategic Vision
    • Review performance on both Personal and Professional goals of the current year.  Set final push to wrap up anything not complete.
    • What are the big changes you’d like to make next year?  Where do you want to go in your career?  Your life?
    • What are your “BHAGs” – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals
  • Late December – Set actionable goals to support Strategic Vision
    • I try to take 2 periods of dedicated, intentional planning and reflection for this step.
      • The first period of several hours is the draft, and the second is the review and final goal setting
    • I also record these in a place where I can find them and see them often
      • Professional goals go in the corner of my office white board
      • Personal goals go into Evernote and in the back of my creative notebook.
        • I tend to jot ideas in the back of my notebook, so I see them often.
        • I have a specific colorful Moleskine softback notebook for my creative pursuits so it doesn’t look like one of my black business notebooks.  These are the things that eventually come out in what I jokingly call ‘Crazy Idea Wednesdays’.
  • Beginning of January – add actionable goals to your calendar, with appropriate reminders.
    • Adding them to your calendar now – for the year – reserves the space.
    • If they require certain number of hours, block time on your calender NOW to work on them at the appropriate time.
    • Don’t let these be pushed out or procrastinated.  By setting a reminder 2-3 weeks in advance of the goal, you can see potential scheduling conflicts and pull it FORWARD on your schedule to complete the action towards your goal.
  • Share your goals with others.  This makes you accountable.
    • A few trusted colleagues, friends, or family members is enough.
    • Pick people who will encourage, not look at you like you’re crazy.
  • Schedule goal review sessions very 2 months. 30 minutes is usually enough, but plan on 45 for those you do with others.
    • If you’re a leader – do this with your team
    • If you’re an employee – do this with your manager.
      • I loved my employees that did this for me.  The best even had an agenda and provided summaries of the discussion.
    • For personal goals – add it to the Calendar.  I prefer Friday afternoons because then I can schedule time the following week as I’m planning my week to make progress where needed.
  • Do a mid-year reflection.  I learned this originally in the 1990’s as a practice called Hansei, which I also do weekly.
    • Spend a few hours of reflection in June or July about what has gone well, what needs improvement, and what you and/or your team has achieved.
    • Make any modifications to goals as needed.
    • Set new targets or goals if you’ve already achieved your targets or they seem too easy.
      • Leave the hard ones in place.  Develop a plan to get as close as possible (unless some strategic change has happened which makes this goal non-valuable or irrelevant).

Here’s a quote from Margaret Wheatley on why we need Reflection:

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

Sometimes we get lucky and reach our goals by way of a happy accident – much like the heart-shaped foam of my cappuccino this summer.  But to really achieve your dreams required intentional effort.  You can control your future; change your future, by being intentional with your goals.  Set them now, deliberately.  Your team will achieve more if you are intentional about the goal setting and review process.

This year, don’t make a New Year’s Resolution, create a plan to change your life.  When New Year’s comes, you’ll already have a clear vision and there will be no resolutions needed.

For 2014, what goals did you achieve that you’re most proud of?  What other tips do you have for meeting your goals?


Respect for People

Temple of Saturn
Temple of Saturn

A colleague of mine was venting some frustrations last week.  Apparently she had spent 5 hours providing information and slides for a presentation to be used during what was expected to be a 3-hour meeting.  When she received the final deck of slides she discovered none of her information was included.  She almost quit on the spot, and at the minimum she was not productive the remainder of that day.

Here’s a talented young leader of a multi-national company that spent 20% of her week doing something that didn’t matter.  In fact, she said the meeting was mostly a waste of her time as well.  What could I say?  All I could do was to get her focused on the positives of the week, and to have her learn from that scenario as something to never do to her team.  I pointed out she can learn just as much from a bad boss as she can from a good one.

I speak with this colleague often – she’s in a tough situation.  Mary works for a boss that seems to have little respect for her employees.  Meetings called with little to no notice, 0r even being called into a meeting mid-way through the meeting only to be peppered by questions.  Again with no notice.  Most of the team has limited contact with their boss outside of meetings (in fact a few have only spoken with the direct manager twice in 6 months).  Ideas are challenged and criticized to the point that most of the team has stopped offering suggestions.  And worst of all, about 75% of the senior members of that team have left the company.

Mary seems to be in the middle of one of those scenarios where people don’t quit the company, they quit their boss.  It takes a lot of effort to build a good team.  But an unfortunate result of having a talented and motivated group is that when bad leadership is put in place the members of that team are very mobile.  They can leave relatively quickly, and most of them won’t suffer fools for long.  If you see an exodus from a team, look at the leadership first.

In his book “The Rise and Fall of Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp”, Brian Solis writes of the cultural undoing of Sony as the company switched leadership from  Akio Morita to Noboyuki Idei.  When I worked for Sony, I met both men personally.  And I can say that in the first year of Idei-san’s tenure as CEO the company changed dramatically.  A great organization was being dismantled, and I had a front-row seat for the beginning phases.

The company transitioned rapidly to a one that treated employees like family to one that treated them like resources.  Sony had never laid workers off until Idei took the reigns.  Regardless of what was written in corporate documents, respect for employees was no longer a key value.  I left the company within a year.

Five years later, I had the opportunity to tour my old factory.  It was depressing.  Out of 500 or so people in the building, I recognized only three.  It used to be a gleaming facility, now it looked like little more than a dusty warehouse with trash strewn everywhere.  Yet they were still producing product.  Instead of making $100 million in profit each year they were losing money.  It took seven years to build that team from nothing to greatness.  But it only took months to tear it down and leave it in ruins.

I’ll be surprised if Mary doesn’t leave her organization within three months.  In fact I’m doing what I can to help her find an exit plan.  People are an organization’s  most important asset.  Every day as a leader, you have the opportunity to show your respect – or lack thereof – for your team.  So ask yourself “How would I feel if someone did this to me?”  Don’t ask your team to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.

Have any of you ever felt disrespected by or worked for a bad manager?  How did you react?  What long-term impact did that “bad boss” have on you?