Settling In at Generac

So, it’s been almost 2 months working at Generac in the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin. The professional transition has been pretty smooth. I’ve had to learn new business models and supporting processes, which has been great! On the personal side, we will be happy to officially relocate to the area. There is so much to do in this area, so my family and I are looking forward to a fun summer.

To transition to a company like Generac, I am lucky to have spent 20 years at a company like Caterpillar. Since Caterpillar is so large and diverse, I had already experienced what it takes to learn about unique business models and marketing strategies. It feels like a luxury to learn about Generac and their 4-5 business lines and be able to focus on those areas. Contrast that to Caterpillar where I would learn about a new business, then immediately need to keep bouncing around to 30 other groups.

More than anything, I am excited. Generac has grown quickly and is in the adolescent stage of maturing from a small single focused generator company to globally diverse energy management power-house.

Digital Marketing plays an important role in the future of Generac. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help steer the company to an ideal future state. The teams are already executing so many impressive marketing strategies. We have the opportunity to lock-in common processes, build for scale / global reach and create interesting solutions.

The next 6 months will be a fun ride!

Closing one chapter – Opening a new

Ok. Yes, I know. It’s been a while since I’ve made a post here. It always seems to happen once things get busy.

Trust me, things have been BUSY!

In January, I had to make the hardest decision of my life!

I decided to resign from Caterpillar after 20+ years with the company.

To my team, friends, colleagues at Caterpillar, this has come as a shock. The outpouring of kind words and best wishes has been overwhelming. I am very great-full to have worked with such an amazing group of people for such a long time.

Like I said, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.

While moving away from Caterpillar, I am becoming very excited for the next opportunity. In early March I will be able to share more details about the next chapter. It’s going to be electric!

2021 (& 2020) Reading List

We can all agree that 2020 and 2021 have been strange. To me, the years blended together. I especially recognized this once I noticed that my 2020 book reading list was never published!

I know hardly anyone sees my annual reading list, but it’s not really about anyone else. To me, cronicalling my list of reading is one of my annual traditions to look back and reminance on all the good books and ideas I soaked in through the year.

Since we all feel like 2020 and 2021 were one blended year, that is how my reading list will be presented. 🙂

Here is the list:

2020

  • Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
    By: Megan Phelps-Roper
  • The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors
    By: Dan Jones
  • Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders
    By: Vincent Bugliosi , Curt Gentry
  • How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships
    By: Leil Lowndes
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Book 7
    By: J.K. Rowling
  • The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism
    By: Katherine Stewart
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
    By: Ron Chernow
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Book 5
    By: J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 6
    By: J.K. Rowling
  • Snow Crash
    By: Neal Stephenson
  • The Diamond Age
    By: Neal Stephenson
  • The Founding Fathers: Biographies of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin
    By: Shane Costello
  • Attachments: A Novel
    By: Rainbow Rowell
  • The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win
    By: Maria Konnikova
  • A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir
    By: Colin Jost
  • The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought
    By: Susan Jacoby
  • Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
    By: Susan Jacoby
  • The Kite Runner
    By: Khaled Hosseini
  • Catch-22
    By: Joseph Heller
  • A Promised Land
    By: Barack Obama
  • Brave New World
    By: Aldous Huxley

2021

  • Cyberspies: The Secret History of Surveillance, Hacking, and Digital Espionage
    By: Gordon Coreraa
  • Infinite
    By: Jeremy Robinson
  • The God Delusion
    By: Richard Dawkins
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
    By: Margaret Atwood
  • The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic
    By: Benjamin Carter Hett
  • A Devil in the Valley
    By: Paul Holes , Peter McDonnell
  • The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
    Michael Bungay Stanier
    (Kindle)
  • Heaven’s River
    Dennis E. Taylor
    (Kindle)
  • Billy Summers
    By: Stephen King
  • The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music
    By: Dave Grohl
  • The Stand
    By: Stephen King
  • The Grand Design
    by Stephen Hawking

Reflecting for the Annual Performance Review

It is nearing the time for year end performance reviews. A process for which I have greater respect these days compared to when I shuffled through the ‘must-do’ paper work and half-ass summary of my annual accomplishments.

Firstly, the annual review concept should not be something that is considered ‘annual’. This process should be something that is weaved into the day-to-day or at least a monthly retrospective. Incrementally keeping track of what has been accomplished is much easier than rushing at the end of the year to pour over the past 12 months of the calendar in an attempt to remember what was completed.

Another point is that the annual review process should not consist of writing a 30 page synopsis of every detail of every task that was completed. Instead, this is a process to showcase the greatest hits in nothing more than 2 maybe 3 sentences. No manager is going to read all the details. Remember, this is to highlight accomplishments, not activities.

Lastly, remember that the discussions with your manager is the real key to performance management. The regular cadence of communication and demonstration of your organization, initiative and ability to complete work ultimately helps those that assess your performance maintain a well rounded perspective on your effectiveness through the year.

Treat the performance review as an opportunity to shine!

Get your hands dirty

Over the past week, my team has been gracious enough to take the time and walk me through their day-to-day processes.

Yes, I am a process nerd. I took all their information and converted it into a fairly convoluted swim-lane process map.

As a leader, is that necessary? Shouldn’t the team be building this for your review?

Well, I consider this type of exercise part of my investment into the team. By outlining my understanding of how things work in a visual manner, it provides the opportunity to talk about the process with the team, allows us to identify pain points, and becomes a tool for working with partners to facilitate change in areas that need attention.

On top of all those reasons, working with a team in a deep manner builds culture and trust. By taking the time to really understand the in’s and out’s of your team members activities, it demonstrates your commitment to the team.

This may be a more ‘hands-on’ approach than some managers want to manage, but for me, it’s a must.

Touch it Once

One of the most influential leaders at Caterpillar introduced me to the “Touch it Once” productivity concept. That was at least 15 years back.

A quick google search shows that “Touch it Once” is not a unique concept, but I can attest that it can be life-changing when you start to use this method in your daily work.

The idea is that you don’t put things to the side to address later. Once you open an email, you do not start anything else until that message is read and you take some form of action.

For me, it may be simply the action of Archiving each email I read. However, when a response or action is needed, I make it a point to not move on to anything else until I’m able to move the item along to it’s next stage.

Of course, there will be occasional distractions that don’t allow you to finish taking the action at that minute, but the key is, don’t jump to another task or email until you finish addressing that open item.

The “Touch it Once” method is so valuable because it helps limit the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Before I implemented this method into my working style, I would attempt to read all emails and then prioritize what needed to be done. All the items piled up. If things got in the way, the pile just got larger and larger. The awareness of all those items and half-thoughts on what should be done for each can exhaust a person.

The “Touch it Once” method may be a mind-game since the number of emails may pile up, but until you read the message, it is not filling your mental space.

A benefit of today’s technology is that if something critical and time sensitive is happening, there are so many other ways for people to reach you immediately. So, there has never been a better time to use the “Touch it Once” method.

There is no question in my mind that using the “Touch it Once” method is one of the best personal productivity methods I’ve every implemented. I’ve been using it for at least 10 years. I’d recommend you give it a shot.

Collaboration

Getting things done in a big company is an art. Partnership is critical as very little happens in a silo, and if it does, it is commonly not so good for the company.

Siloed activities typically stem from a lack of desire to collaborate. This is driven by the fact that working with others can be more tedious and time consuming then executing something independently. Acting independently requires little need to build shared perspective or consensus thus you can act faster.

However, from the broader point of view of the business, siloed work is commonly found to be costly and only meeting the business needs and value of a single group.

In large companies, size is an advantage. Bringing multiple groups together with common needs provides a cost effective method to create greater value for multiple groups.

Sure, it’s hard to bring everyone together and establish solutions that meet everyone’s needs, but with the right techniques and approach, it can be done.

Everyone can share in the value story and be apart of a common vision and culture.

PS: I’d highly recommend the following article that digs into the effect of Silos in organizations: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3813367/

Mental Preparedness

Having everything ‘figured out’ is not immediate. It can take time.

The process of soaking in information and understanding the back / side stories is something that should not be rushed.

Creating a mental map of 3 key areas is critical for starters…

  1. What is being done?
  2. What are the immediate opportunities?
  3. What are the long-term objectives?

As this begins to form mentally, the process of locking these details down into documented form will be geared towards summarizing what you know, avoiding taking a stab in the dark and hoping you hit the target.

The intention is to get to the point where formal goals can be established. But, before moving too fast, make sure that you take the time to mentally hover.

If you jump in too fast and start to ‘put things on paper’, you will find too many areas where you have to backpedal or adjust. That is what happens when you don’t take the right amount of time to process and build a solid stance of what is happening and what needs to be done.

Deliver Fast or Deliver Right

Some choose to lead and get things done by applying high amounts of pressure and self imposed deadlines.

It works. However, quality typically lacks and problems tend to appear later.

Instead, focus on working with the teams to build time boxes that ensure full discovery and requirements definition.

No one wants a somewhat functional solution. We all want a solid well functioning solution.

While high pressure stress inducing deadlines may get people moving, it just makes more messes to cleanup at a later point.

Take your time. Do it right.

Translation of ALL content

Want a way to turn me off as a consumer? Send me to your website’s product information for my country / region and show information in untranslated or mixed translated form.

From an English speaking perspective, it rarely happens, but occasionally you may experience some Japanese or German content on products based from those countries. It’s easy enough to understand since all the engineering and information initially generates from those locations.

I’m not sure if this is an American ‘thing’ or what, but on a much more regular basis, English will be shown in Non-English locations in a mixed or completely untranslated form.

Just trying to put your feet in the shoes of a local non-English customer… Do you think this is a positive experience? I don’t think so. The same annoyed feeling I have when experience Japanese or German on an English page is what customers are bound to happen in reverse.

One of my missions is to ensure 100% language management for product content.

Yes, it costs money. Sometimes it does not feel ‘worth-it’ to spend the money in all cases. However, the negative brand and purchasing impact can be measured. (Yes, it’s been researched).

You and I don’t want to be used as an example in those metrics.