Month: December 2013

Aging in America – A Troubling Infographic and Helpful Resources Aging Population

Life expectancy in the US is increasing, and it’s doing so dramatically. In 2011, a newborn baby could expect to live 79 years, up from 69 years in 1960. In 1900, a lifetime lasted only about 47 years.

Today, our odds of becoming centenarians are impressive. If you’re 55, you have a one-in-eight chance of seeing a 100th birthday. If you’re 20, your odds are about one in four.

Living Longer Isn’t Always Living Better

senior infographicBut living longer isn’t necessarily living better for many Americans.

In years past, older people in the United States have relied on family to provide care and support.

Shifting family trends, such as marriage later in life, divorce and an increasingly mobile younger generation have changed the status quo. Many seniors often can’t rely on spouses, children and other family members for help.

65+: A Fast-Growing Demographic

The older population is growing-and it’s growing fast. The number of people 65 and older in the US is forecast to double in the next 40 years. And the older this group gets, the more likely they are to be living alone; even as they approach the age at which they may need help from others the most.

Organizations That Offer Help to Seniors

Thankfully, there are many organizations throughout the country that offer services to seniors. Often free of charge, these groups help those in need of assistance with day-to-day tasks or just a friendly face to check up on them.

One such organization is ElderHelp of San Diego. As a volunteer with ElderHelp, I’ve seen firsthand the difference we can make in the lives of seniors who may not have many people in their lives, or anyone at all, to support them.

ElderHelp offers great services such as rides to appointments and errands, help with personal care, grocery shopping, home repairs, yard work, and dog walking (my favorite) – to name just a few.

Often, our seniors just want a friendly visit or phone call to know that somebody cares about them. And the good news is that groups like ElderHelp exist all across the United States, ranging from local senior centers to far-reaching national organizations (see the map below to link to a few of the many nonprofits that are out there).

senior map

If you or a neighbor, friend or family member is having trouble going it alone, there are people that want to help. Or perhaps you want to lend a hand yourself. Get in touch and see what they can do for you… or what you can do for them.

Follow the links from the images above to access interactive visuals which you can download if you’d like. Also, if you have organizations in your area that you’d like us to add to our map, please respond in the comments section below.

Are You Using Visuals to Communicate to Your Customers?

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

You have heard it before many times about visuals. A “picture is worth a thousand words.” Why is that? The reason is that the majority of people are visual learners. A picture can communicate in ways that a spoken or written word is unable to do as effectively. In fact, studies have shown that “communicating with visuals is six times more effective than with words alone.”

So whether you have heard this before, or are learning it for the first time, it’s safe to say then that writing blog articles, emails, newsletters, white papers, and other customer and prospective customer communications without visuals is simply a wasted effort then, right?

Here’s an example: A blog I read on occasion regarding restaurant marketing, Four Topper, has several interesting and poignant posts but it typically lacks visuals of any kind. In the post, 5 Strategies to Help Google Find Your Restaurant, the author Michael Adams writes a simple yet eloquent post of simple strategies for restaurant owners to follow to help boost their exposure on Google. However, the post is simply text with a bullet list of steps. So, I took the liberty to create the steps into a mind map to show the relational aspects of the steps.

5 Strategies to Help Google Find Your Restaurant - Opened Mind Map
Click to Enlarge

The mind map visually outlines the same steps written in the post with the subsequent detail. You can expand and collapse the mind map to show only the layers you want to focus on within the post itself.

5 Strategies to Help Google Find Your Restaurant - Collapsed Mind Map
Click to Enlarge

Also, should the reader wanted to use this exact mind map and begin the steps, why not post the file to download so that the person seeing it can use it and even convert the mind map into a Gantt chart to get started on this project immediately? Like so…

5 Strategies to Help Google Find Your Restaurant - Project Chart Mind Map
Click to Enlarge

Quite a customer centric communication visual and device, don’t you think? With that said, click the following links if you want to download the above mind map template and project chart template in its original file format to edit and start this project.

If you don’t have a copy of SmartDraw, just click this link to get a free trial version.

An Actual, Real Interview with Santa Claus

A candid conversation with Santa Claus—the Right Jolly Old Elf himself—about how he  plans, organizes and manages to deftly carry out a seemingly impossible task in just 24 hours every year.

SmartDraw: I suppose it’s only natural to start by asking whether you’re real.

Santa Claus: I suppose you could look me up in your customer database, Einstein.

Santa and His Reindeer

SD: Fair point. I notice you don’t use the North Pole as your address.

SC: I outsourced my call center to Delhi several years ago.

SD: I assume you’re talking about India, not…

SC: A delicatessen. So, already with the fat guy jokes. How are you stocked for coal this year, Stretch?

SD: Sorry. Do you still put coal in people’s stockings? That seems so environmentally…

SC: Oh, so now you’re going to get on me about the width of my carbon footprint? Listen, Slim… I run a very efficient, environmentally friendly operation. With an on-site dentist.

SD: Tell me more about your operation. How on earth do you take in all those orders and get everything delivered worldwide in a single night?

SC: You’re up to speed on the flying reindeer and my magic finger-aside-the-nose thing, right?

SD: Yes.

SC: Good. Thank goodness that poem has answered a lot of those questions over the years. But truthfully, the delivery is the easy part because of the magic and all. The tough part is the logistics of planning, ordering, manufacturing, stocking, scheduling, managing, etc. It used to be an absolute nightmare before SmartDraw.

SD: Don’t tell me SmartDraw is the reason you’re able get all of that done.

SC: I’m not sure why you don’t want me to tell you. Have you ever done one of these marketing interviews before, Bones?

SD: Maybe you could just give me a few examples of how SmartDraw helps you get those things done.

SC: Sure. Have you ever worked with elves?

SD: Excuse me?

SC: Elves. Hard-working little folks, but they’re very impatient. And not always the sharpest knives in the tree, if you get my drift. Can’t get ‘em to read a list of instructions, but I can show ‘em a diagram and they get it. Which works fine for me, because I can make a SmartDraw diagram in the blink of an eye.

SD: With magic?

Santa’s Value Stream Map

SC: With automation. Do you ever read your own marketing stuff, Skinny? I point, click, type and SmartDraw builds a perfect flowchart, org chart, Gantt chart… whatever I need. It’s easier than magic, truth be told.

SD: You use all of those diagrams here at the North Pole?

SC: Sure. We don’t have time to waste… you know what they say about time.

SD: That it’s money?

SC: Why would I care about money?

SD: You don’t need money to make all this stuff every year?

Santa’s spaghetti diagram

SC: Why do you think I created Bitcoin? But that’s another story. No, time is precious. So I don’t want to waste it.

SD: But how do you bring it all together… it can’t just be SmartDraw, as much as I’d like to believe.

SC: You’d better believe. Although it certainly didn’t hurt our performance a few years back when I went Lean.

SD: Heh-heh-heh.

SC: Oh, that’s funny because I don’t look Lean to you, eh, Pencil Neck? Maybe you’d like to see some examples. Like this Value Stream Map. Or how Kanban boards keep our inventory in check and the elves on task. Here’s another drawing, take a look at this spaghetti diagram. It helped us revamp our production floor to eliminate transit waste. How does that jingle your bells?

SD: Wow, nice! So you use SmartDraw for all of your Lean diagrams now, too?

One of Dr Herbie’s dental charts he made with SmartDraw.

SC: Of course!

SD: What are these brownish spots on your spaghetti diagram?

SC: Uh… oh, meatball stains. Don’t even think it, Spindly.

SD: So, anything else you use SmartDraw for?

SC: Sure. Herbie, our dentist uses your medical diagrams for training,  education, and generally keeping his office running smoothly. Elves eat a lot of candy, so keeping his busy practice organized is really crucial for him.

SD: Herbie, from the Rudolph cartoon? He’s actually real?

SC: Yes. And what do you mean, cartoon? That was a documentary.

SD: It sort of looks like a cartoon.

The hat Santa gave me to prove that I really did conduct this interview.

SC: Yeah, I guess so. We’re very careful about protecting our images here. That’s why I wouldn’t let you photograph me or anything else around here for your interview.

SD: I appreciate your giving me the hat. Just in case anyone doesn’t believe I was really here.

SC: No problem, any other questions?

SD: Just one. You’ve been portrayed a lot in movies over the years. Which one would you say was the most accurate?

SC: Hmmm. I’d say Billy Bob Thornton.

SD: Bad Santa is the most accurate portrayal? Do you really want the kids to find out about that?

SC: No. I really want Angelina Jolie to find out about that.

SD: You do realize she divorced him and married Brad Pitt, don’t you?

SC: That’s it. Lumps of coal for you. Out, Beanpole! Out!

Four Reasons Why Kanban Boards will Simplify Your Life

Leap frog
You don’t have to be Agile to benefit from using Kanban boards.

First off, let’s get one thing out in the open right up front. I am not an Agile or Lean expert. And I realize the origins and uses of Kanban boards are primarily related to process-oriented industries. However, I have found Kanban boards to be extraordinarily helpful for a non-traditional project manager like me.

If you’re a non-traditional project management professional, here are four reasons why you should use Kanban boards.

1.   Kanban boards keep project tasks organized in a simple manner.

I have tried using Gantt charts and other project charts in the past to keep my project tasks organized. What I realized is that those tools are for projects with layers of complexity that mine don’t have. I simply need a project chart that divides my work into three basic areas:

  • what I am working on,
  • what I’ve completed, and
  • what I have yet to start.

Kanban boards do exactly that. I don’t waste time setting project milestones or creating and adjusting task dependencies—even if there are some. All I need is a high-level view of task status.

2.   Kanban boards are easy to understand.

One of the best reasons to use Kanban boards for task management is that anyone can glance at the Kanban board and quickly understand where everything stands. Other project charts, in my opinion, can be overwhelming to read. Often, I have no idea what I’m looking at. Kanban boards quickly and easily communicate the current status of tasks—without information overload.

3.   Kanban boards focus on current status.

Okay, so I ended the last paragraph with a buzz kill by already stating this. But it garners a little more depth than mere assertion. For non-traditional project managers like me, this is important. Why? Because I’m a bottom-line type of guy.

I already understand that projects and tasks have team member responsibilities, dependencies, milestones, and a whole array of layers that are essentially rolled up in the Kanban board. But ultimately, all I want to know is: where does this project (or task) currently stand?

Here’s an example. During a meeting, I often need to communicate the details of a project or specific task.  I find that a simple Kanban board works much more easily than a Gantt chart. The Kanban board allows a simple walk-through without a lot of distracting details. Any details can be delivered orally—if they require discussion at all. This brings me to the final reason why you should use Kanban boards.

kanban board - 4 reasons blog post
Sample Marketing Task Kanban Board

4.   Kanban boards eliminate long meeting discussions.

Meetings can be a huge time suck—for you, for those you manage, and for those who manage you. Robust discussions can many times be very helpful for brainstorming ideas and other strategic purposes. But project status meeting discussions can very easily become long and laborious. Kanban boards are perfect for hitting the high level points of projects and task status. A non-traditional project manager like me can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time keeping people up-to-date. If a specific detailed discussion is needed on any point, we can wrap it up and quickly move on down the line to the other cards on my Kanban board.