Thirty years ago when the notion of improving processes began to get traction in the U.S., it held great promise. But one problem has kept the promise from becoming a full reality.

It’s too complicated!

How many organizations have shelves of binders chalk full of process maps and standard operating procedures? Lots. With the hope of improving performance it is common that the hard work is done to document processes and standard operating procedures.  Again, the hope is to once and for all eliminate the confusion.

The problem is once it’s written down no one ever looks at the binder again. Unless it’s time for training new employees and then we dust off the binders and hope maybe this batch of people will follow standard procedures.

I have struggled with this dilemma for a long time myself because I know the value of understanding how work should be done – the value of using processes to accumulate and transfer knowledge. I write a lot about management as a process in my book Business at the Speed of Now. But the freight ain’t worth the price.

There is a simpler way. Like in the classic scene in the movie The Graduate, its one word that matters most.  While Dustin Hoffman’s character was told it was all about “plastics”, in the case of process improvement you would well advised to understand “Checklist.”

If you want people to follow a process, create a process checklist that focuses them on the handful of factors that determine the processes success. Here are three things to think about in creating a useful checklist:

  1. Keep it simple – never more than 10 items
  2. Avoid the classic checkbox; instead require the recording of useful data (a dimension, the cycle time it took, a category or type of repair, etc.)
  3. Use the data collected to monitor performance, make further improvements and learn

If you put the right things on your checklist, the most important things for the people who work the process to pay attention to, you will get all the benefit of that boring material in the binder without following that hideous manual you know you put somewhere.

A great book to learn more about this is The Checklist Manifesto. I recommend it.

If one day a truck showed up at your business full of valuable materials given to you by an anonymous donor – and it was exactly the stuff you needed to take the company to the next level – you would be elated. A gift from heaven, you might think.

Ironically, a truck full of valuable materials actually has been parked out back waiting to be discovered for a long, long time. This truck contains the single greatest untapped asset available to you and your business.

That truck is filled with your employees’ ideas, their concerns, thoughts, passions and values. It’s locked up and no one has looked inside for a long, long time.

I used to hear it said all the time, “our people are our most valuable asset.” It’s funny how rarely that is heard these days. After all the botched efforts to engage our people we have pretty much determined it is either impossible to do or it is pure naive idealism.  And so our human gifts go largely untapped, underutilized, and – I hate to say it – unappreciated.

With this said, I want to explain why this situation exists and why it matters.

Most organizations have a huge amount of waste. It ranges from as low of 15 percent of operating costs to as high as 50 percent. It’s all those things that happen every day that add no value, yet, for some reason, we do them anyway. And, someone somewhere in your organization knows just what to do to get rid of that waste. But they don’t do a thing about it.  Why is that?

A truck full of passion

It starts with the fact that Gallup tells us 67 percent of our employees aren’t engaged. They show up and do what they are told, nothing more and often less. They know where the waste is, and they hate it because it squanders their time and robs them of the pride and satisfaction in a job well done. They don’t engage because they can’t; the way the business is managed does not allow them to make the change that eliminates the dreaded waste.

As leaders of organizations the vast majority of us truly believe in our people – in our hearts. But in our heads it doesn’t work as advertised. People seem to be so complex and a lot of the time their thinking seems half-baked and their actions nonsensical. We see living proof that the promise of employees seems to fall far short of our heartfelt expectations.

Employees disappoint us NOT because they lack the talent, passion and innovation we all think they have.  The reality is the way we run our businesses actually prevents the fulfillment of the great promise of human innovation. What’s broken is not the people, it’s our management model and its inability to engage employees.


People thrive in a system designed to give them the data they need to make smart decisions.  People thrive in a system where they understand the organization’s direction so they can take action that supports that direction.   People thrive when the dominant motive is to do what is right, not to do what is safe. People thrive when they don’t walk in fear.


Open up that truck out back and take a look inside. The management model needed to release the passion and innovation of your people is waiting there for you.




December 1, 2011- All of us at Mass Ingenuity are excited for Ed and his new direction. After several years of marketing and sales of the NOW Management System, Ed will be moving into new opportunities, greater leadership roles, and continuing with his sales efforts.  Stay tuned as Ed starts to roll out his plans! We know they will be exciting.

Many of you have worked with Ed and know how wonderfully excited he is over our NOW Management System. His excitement and energy have propelled Mass Ingenuity forward and delighted many customers and strategic partners. All of us have benefited from Ed’s vision for how the system has transformed so many organizations.

I am especially excited to see Ed going after new and expanded leadership roles. His ability to build teams and stimulate engagement are much needed. Ed always told me that “achieving growth through an outcomes driven approach to management” is one of his greatest passions. It will be exciting to see Ed apply this type of management and leadership in his new venture.

One question many will have is, “will Ed still be involved with Mass Ingenuity?”  Without question the answer is yes.  Ed and I have talked about this at length and we will always have a strategic relationship.

Expect to see us supporting each other’s businesses as we move forward. If you have questions don’t hesitate to call or email me.

 On behalf of the entire Mass Ingenuity team, “we will miss you Ed!”


Aaron Howard | President & CEO | MASS INGENUITY® 

“Steve Jobs was buried at Alta Mesa in a memorial park shared by some pioneering technologists he admired”

For some reason Steve’s final resting has had a powerful effect on me (not to mention the world). I’m not entirely sure why. Is it is his great spirit? His amazing product vision? His wild management style? The iPhone? Hmm … I suspect not. Steve’s passing and final resting feels like a window into all of our futures. Literally, “our futures.” Will we accomplish our life’s dreams? Will we be the person we hoped to be? Will our friends and family simultaneously celebrate and mourn our passing? Only the future knows these answers.

My many and intense interactions with Steve were amazing. I find it odd that it is only now that I am seeing those experiences through the lens of the future. Steve was all about the future. Our dreams became real through his marvelous ability to know what we aspired to be. How did he succeed in seeing our future in so many ways? I’m not sure and it’s too late to ask any more questions. All we have are speeches, quotes and “expert observations.” I feel like I missed something. This has been nagging at me for days. Why do we seem to “miss the day” rather than seize it. Who knows.

However, like everything in life we have choices. Stay stuck? Move on? What to do? Go? Stop? … or just maybe … make a difference.

I’ve decided that Steve’s passing will be my “wake up call.” We, all of us, have greatness in us. The choice we have is to pursue our dreams or fade into dust. Steve helped us understand that waiting is useless. The fact that he continued to create amazing customer experiences while he was dying speaks volumes. Act and act now is the lesson we gain from Steve. I chose to act NOW. “Business at the Speed of Now” is the mission. Let’s go get it! Get on board!

Thank you Steve. Stay tuned world. We are going to change it for the better.

Aaron Howard, circa 1975


66 days and counting until Business at the Speed of Now will be available in fine bookstores and on eBooks. It’s getting closer to the December 6th release date!

The evolution to a world where we do Business at the Speed of Now enjoyed strange bedfellows, about as incompatible as John Candy and Steve Martin in the goofball movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Henry Ford’s Model T brought into reality mass production management, which shaped and continues to shape how we think about organizations.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

The great age of the television gave a glimpse of the coming of social media. And the computer along with the Internet put into our hands instant access to the world and to each other.

Evidence grows that The Great Recession may be far more than a recession after all. Its’ double-dip nature may prove that our global economy is instead experiencing the grinding gears of a fundamental shift.

“This economic crisis doesn’t represent a cycle,” says Jeffrey Emmelt, CEO of General Electric. “It represents a reset. It’s an emotional, raw social, economic reset. People who understand that will prosper. Those who don’t will be left behind.”

A century ago we watched the end of the Agricultural Age as the percent of the U.S. population that worked on farms dropped dramatically in response to phenomenal increases in farm productivity. In the past 30 years the same reset has been happening as the Age of Mass Production draws to a close proven by the rapid decline of factory jobs.

If mass production is dying, what’s being birthed? Mass customization – an age when everyone wants what they want and they want it now! The shift is making YES the only viable value proposition (a service economy in the broad sense), and NOW the only acceptable timeframe.

An odd symbol of the changing world is a little object of much affection, the potato chip. While chips are mass produced, today you can find some 1,400 bizarre flavors around the globe as chipmakers adapt to the regional and individual tastes of its customers. While chips are not customized in the NOW, they serve as a greasy example that even mass produced products must increasingly be customized.

The shift has profound implications to how we think about organizations, and profound implications to the critical nature of individual employee autonomy to make the all essential, in-the-now decisions.

This is the final installment of Part One of our series leading to the December 6th release of Business at the Speed of Now. In Part Two, I’ll explore how the birth of a NOW world came to be as seen through the lenses of the heroes of our age: Superman, James T. Kirk, Spiderman, Austin Powers and t

77 days from now Business at the Speed of Now will be in all fine bookstores and available as an ebook. You can preorder it today on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and

While the logic of Mass Production enabled the affordability of many products, the television gave birth to an exciting new window into the world for the masses. Only if you lived in Berlin or Leipzig in 1936 and knew someone who owned one of the earliest televisions were you able to watch the first televised and infamous Berlin Olympic Games.  Not until the 1950s were Americans no longer reliant on the newspaper’s still photos and the radio’s ability to transmit voice to see their president — television was commonplace. The human desire to peak into the private lives of others — a harbinger of our love of social media – made televisions shows from Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver on to today’s Dancing With the Stars and Survivor.

The affordability of television was made possible by mass production management techniques, perfecting the products and driving down cost and up quality.  Television more than anything, created a platform for common human experience as we all thrilled on Sunday night over The Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show and trembled together watching the World Trade Center Towers collapse on live television in 2001. Whether as Trekkies, ESPN couch potatoes or reality TV addicts (American’s spend 1/3 of their free time watching television and 67 percent of that is on reality shows), we hunger for something missing in our boring lives and hope to somehow experience it vicariously watching others.

Reality television is life at the speed of now, watching people face the daunting challenges of everything from losing a 200 pounds to trying to get along in a house or on an island with a bunch of strange and often odd people.

The phenomenal adoption rate of social media should surprise no one, when you think a bit about our love for the intimate details of some else’s life!

Today nearly half of Americans are members of some on-line social network and 30 percent of these users access some social tool several times a day.

We are social creatures, and the revolution that is coming, is when these tools become commonplace INSIDE our organizations. Today many executives see social media as rather strange and a dangerous waste of time and energy, but once they begin to see how to harness their power inside the organization, social media will become the power tool of great leaders in the decade ahead.

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84 days and counting until the release of Business at the Speed of NOW

Far more than a boxy black horseless carriage, the Ford Model T is a symbol for many things that made the U.S. a great nation. Not only was it the first automobile produced in mass quantity (15 million were produced between 1908 and 1927), but it fueled a revolution in management.

“I will build a car for the great multitude,” said Henry Ford at its initial release. “It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

In 1909 it sold for $850 (equivalent in today’s dollars of $20,709), but by the 1920s mass production techniques were so successful that the sales price had dropped to $290 ($3,289 today). At that price, the automobile achieved Ford’s dream and became standard transportation for the masses.

While that reality is incredible in and of itself, the enduring contribution of Henry Ford was a system of thinking – a logic for running an enterprise – a management approach that was so effective and efficient it was widely emulated.  Specialization, functionalization, centralization, simplification. Ford tuned his system, employing some of the earliest “management science” techniques, and that thinking is still in popular use in the vast majority of enterprises today.

The result of great efficiency was a circular economic engine that produced affordable products and worker wages sufficient to buy the very products the mass production engine generated. The great American middle class was born, fed, sheltered, and eventually made increasingly comfortable with dishwashers, plasma televisions, computers and an iPhone in every hand.

While a blessing in a thousand ways, Ford’s system of management became so ingrained in our management thinking that we lost track of the fact that it was an ideal construct for its time, not the only way to run an organization. Mass Production worked THEN.

Today, our economy thrives on Mass Customization. We live in an era where YES is the only viable value proposition and NOW is the only acceptable timeframe. This is NOW! Failure to understand this fundamental shift puts any business at risk of surviving through the biggest economic shift in a century.

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OK … it’s a holiday and time for a little fun. These guys must have a lot of time on their hands. In any case, it’s cool. Enjoy! Happy 4th too.

This article was posted by John Moore a few days ago. It is an important article in the series on Social Ecosystem and all of us at Periscope are excited to see this conversation evolve. Take a look and let us know what you think. Join the discussion!

via John Moore’s weblog: As you may recall, in part one of defining the Social Organization we discussed a few reasons why we need a new view of the world.  We also took time to define The Social Organization in very simple terms:

The Social Organization will use standard approaches that make it easy for customers/citizens to find and buy products and services while enabling the organization to meet their goals.

This easy to understand definition enables us to begin to define the attributes of the Social Organization:

  • Social Organizations use standard approaches.  They follow a well-defined framework for successfully achieving their goals. We will define this framework as we go, but understand that 75-80% of the framework applies across all types of organizations in The Social Ecosystem.  The remaining percentage takes into account the uniqueness of your organization.
  • Social Organizations focus on delivering value in an equitable way.  We do not live in a utopian world, we live in a world where services are delivered in a way where, ideally, customers feel they have received value while allowing organizations to meet their goals (for businesses, making money).  For example:
    • When a customer buys an iPhone they are not focused on the amount of profit made by Apple, they are only concerned with the value received for their money.  If they feel they received the value expected they are happy.  If Apple, as the Social Organization in this example, is able to meet its goals as well, both sides have “won”, equity is achieved.


John  Moore’s recent article (The Social Ecosystem) is of great interest to all of us at The Periscope Group. Is a concept such as a “social ecosystem”  ready for prime time? In our opinion the answer is yes. Here’s an excerpt from John’s article:

“Organizations of all types have struggled to come to grips with terms like Government 2.0, Social Business, Social Media, and a long list of others that are floating around book stores, universities, and blogs.

I have spent a lot of time speaking with businesses and government agencies, exploring what is working, what is failing, and seeking to understand where confusion and hype are preventing these organizations from achieving full value from their efforts. The Social Ecosystem is the result of these efforts and is meant to reduce confusion and offer guidance for organizations across the world.

Lofty goals? Perhaps, but the Social Ecosystem is not being defined in a vacuum, it will fully leverage many ideas that are already available and will evolve, as needed, as we continue to learn more.

For this post I will discuss, at a high level, the major components of the Social Ecosystem as well as some key definitions. Over time I plan to create a table of contents, a section for terms, and break this down into a book-like format. Please be patient as it will take time and we’ll all work through this together.”  Read More

John, thank you for getting the conversation rolling. We very much like the “social ecosystem” concept and the 3 key components. Over the last 2 years we’ve talked to a lot of leaders in private and public sectors. To a person they have asked for clarification and some sort of threaded language to wrap their heads (and strategies and budgets) around. Trying to explain things in an unthreaded system was and continues to be very difficult. It steals cycles that need to be focused on development. A “social ecosystem” would have made a huge difference in achieving clarity of purpose, alignment of strategies and ultimately allocation of resources. We’re looking forward to the evolution of these conversations and the “social ecosystem.” We will bring several people who are building a “system of management” into this conversation as well. Ultimately, that system and this ecosystem will be closely tied together.

via The Social Ecosystem