Month: April 2014

Survey Says: Most Execs Doodle Visuals by Hand

iStock_000008721394MediumA recent survey of business owners, executives, and managers revealed some startling facts.

Perhaps the most surprising is this: Nearly two-thirds of upper-management business people who took the survey say they use a pencil and paper to convey visuals in their business. We aren’t talking about doodles on a note pad for their own amusement during a meeting. This is to visually communicate ideas to others.


Creating Visuals is Extremely Important in Executive and Management Roles

Interestingly, the vast majority of respondents said that it’s either “somewhat” or “extremely” important that they create visuals as part of their job function.

This raises an interesting question. Given the importance of the activity, do most high-level execs use a pencil and paper to create visuals because they are freakishly gifted artistically? Because why else would they use such a rudimentary way to present information of such importance, right?

Unfortunately, the survey didn’t ask this question. Let’s go out on a limb and venture a guess. Based on my own anecdotal evidence watching the suits (me included) at a whiteboard trying to draw a decent stick figure, I’ll say probably not.

So why are they doing something they consider so important by hand (assuming they don’t have the hand of Leonardo da Vinci)?

Business Execs Want Ease of Use and a Professional Look

Digging a bit further into the survey, we find another interesting bit of data. The survey group was asked, “How important is it to you personally that software used to create visuals has each of these attributes?” The overwhelming winner, at 73%, was “Easy to Use.”


In second place was “Simple,” which seems to me to overlap with ease of use, so I didn’t put it on my chart. But clearly, the message is there: most diagramming software is just too complicated (or at least that’s the perception) for higher-level executives to want to mess with.

Other strongly desirable attributes are “Creates Visuals that Look Professional” and “Allows Me to Create Visuals for Complex Concepts/Ideas/Processes/Data Etc.” Of less importance are the ability to collaborate with two people at once and availability of a “modern app” such as SaaS or a net-native platform.

Our New Video Explains the Combination of Ease-of-Use and Professional Results You Get with SmartDraw

It’s sort of a maniacal focus of ours. Among all of the attributes of our diagramming software, it must meet these two criteria: It has to be easy for anyone, regardless of skill level, to use. And, despite its simplicity, it must produce a beautiful, professional-quality output.

Check out our new video. It’s only a couple of minutes long, but I think it does a very nice job of conveying this message. What do you think?

Mad Men 1960s Timeline end of an era is looming. It’s approaching the end of the 60s for Don Draper and the people of Sterling Cooper & Partners and it’s nearing the end of one of the finest runs in television history for fans of Mad Men. Its seventh and final season starts Sunday April 13th on AMC.

Since it’s the middle of the day and I’ve consumed zero martinis and because we can’t help but chart every little thing here at SmartDraw, I thought it would be fun to use a timeline to look back at some of the more memorable episodes of this outstanding show, which not surprisingly coincide with some of the most important events of the 1960s.

Some of these events were so momentous that nearly everyone in the world was affected by them and this was reflected in the lives of the characters of Mad Men. Other times, these events served as a subtle backdrop to the main storylines, infusing them with an underlying sense of dread or uncertainty – a reason to retreat into the arms of a mistress or an excuse to have one more drink.

Before each season, fans have enjoyed pondering how these moments in history would affect their favorite characters. And the end of the 1960s should provide many more opportunities for drama and great storytelling. It will be sad to see it go, but Mad Men is bound to make great TV history one last time.


(UPDATE: Go here to view a final historical timeline for all seven seasons of the show).

Does Lean Work in Healthcare? term Lean is often followed by the term manufacturing, since that’s where the idea first took root. So it’s natural that many people—maybe most people—outside of manufacturing aren’t aware of Lean methods.

If you aren’t familiar with Lean, it is what I like to call an organizational lifestyle change. Just as a commitment to good health requires a person to adopt a lifelong goal of exercise and healthy eating habits, Lean requires an entire organization to buy into its approach.

There are three basic goals of Lean.

• Focus on providing the best possible customer experience
• Minimize waste in the development/delivery of goods and or services
• Continually strive to improve in all areas

But will Lean principles work in non-manufacturing endeavors? For example, does Lean work in healthcare?

The overwhelming evidence says the answers to these questions are yes and absolutely, yes. Applying the above ideals of Lean to healthcare, we get a goals cycle diagram that looks like this:


Does Lean Work in Healthcare? These Case Studies Say it Does

Here are just a few case studies, with links to the stories, validating how Lean does work in healthcare.

Banner Health – Doctors and nurses teamed to improve emergency room processes and reduce litigation risks. The result was an 89 percent decline in patient complaints prior to discharge.

Doctors, Nurses Overcome Workplace Hierarchies to Improve Patient Experience Scores in Phoenix ER

Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute – Increased procedural volume by 12 percent and added nearly $8 million to its annual incremental margin.

St Joseph’s Hospital – By using Lean to change its patient flow in the ER, is able to treat at least 10,000 additional patients annually. This will add up to $8 million to its bottom line.

Efficiency paying off at Moffitt, St. Joe’s

New York City Health and Hospitals Corp  – Cut a $10 million inventory in supplies, many of which would expire unused, by switching to a just-in-time inventory system. Inventory was cut in half for a one-time windfall of $5 million.

Delnor Hospital – Implementing a Lean system, the average length of a patient’s stay was cut by 10 hours. This made a contemplated $80 million expansion unnecessary.

ThedaCare – This operator of multiple hospitals and clinics slashed inpatient care costs by 25 percent. The improved productivity and savings on supplies saved the organization $27 million over four years.

Hospital CEOs manage staff time, inventory to cut costs

That Sounds Great. So How Do I Use Lean to Improve My Healthcare Practice?

The first step is to take an honest assessment of your current processes. In Lean terms, this is called your value stream. You want to do this from the patient’s perspective. The best way to do this is to create a value stream map. This short video helps to explain how to create a value stream map.


Next, you will examine your current state to assess areas of waste. For example, long patient waiting times, paperwork bottlenecks, communication gaps or even inventory control issues.

Data will be collected to determine how much time is spent in each step. Specifically, you’ll be looking to break time into two elements: value add time (this is the time that adds value within the process, such as examining a patient) and non-value add time (time the patient wastes waiting to see the doctor or time wasted by admin staff trying to locate patient files, for example).

Once all of the data are gathered and the current state map is complete, a future state value stream map will be created. The goal will be to take the practice from where it currently exists to this future, Lean state.

Obviously, this is an oversimplification, but hopefully you get the idea. By focusing on making every step in the various processes of your practice more effective and efficient, and by focusing the entire organization’s efforts on maximizing the patient’s experience, everyone benefits.

Business systems reviewer Software Advice published an excellent blog article that goes into more depth and will give you a better understanding of how to use Lean in your healthcare practice.

Game of Thrones Headcount – Charting the Many Deaths of the Epic Fantasy Series“Valar morghulis”, or “All men must die” is a phrase known well by Game of Thrones fans and it’s an apt mantra for a TV show that kills off many and often – even leading characters and fan favorites. It seems like bleak fare for Sunday night entertainment but the millions of fans around the world who tune in each week don’t seem to mind. In fact, they can’t get enough of it.

With the fourth season on the verge of premiering on HBO on April 6th, we here at House SmartDraw thought it would be fun to break down the many deaths that have happened thus far the best way we know how – with a Game of Thrones Headcount infographic. Keep in mind that the doomed in question are characters whose demise we see on screen and are often characters known by name. Deaths that occur on the periphery, battles and killings that are alluded to but happen off screen, are not included as they would be nearly impossible to measure and are surely in the hundreds or thousands. Still, the headcount is high. We even speculate as to the fate of Westeros’ most cowardly yet endearing baker boy with a Hot Pie Chart. But “words are wind”… I’ll let the charts tell the story:

Game of Thrones infographic

1031 Exchanges are Complicated. Explaining Them Doesn’t Have to Be.


iStock_000002765246MediumLike a lot of information in the business world, a Section 1031 Exchange is complex. But it can be made a lot easier to understand and digest when presented in a visual way.

1031-exchange-photoPretty much anything can.

You say you don’t believe it? You say, “I’m from Missouri… show me!”?

Okay, fair enough. Allow me to present a rather complex example: a Section 1031 tax-deferred exchange.

What is a Section 1031 Exchange?

It used to be called a Starker exchange. The term came from the 1979 case Starker v. United States in which an investor challenged an IRS ruling against his non-simultaneous real estate exchange and won. This led to Section 1031 being added to the Internal Revenue Code, which now provides an extensive set of rules for tax-deferred property exchanges.

Section 1031 Exchange Rules Explained Visually

There are a lot of rules and timelines involved in a 1031 exchange. All are important. But rather than give you a long, dry laundry list, here’s an infographic that presents the key points visually.


A Brief History and Explanation of the 1031 Tax-Deferred Exchange

Back in the old days, we called it a Starker. Today, it’s more commonly called a Section 1031 exchange.

But don’t get hung up on the name. Because whatever you call it, it’s a great way for real estate investors to defer taxable gains when selling business or investment property. When properly executed, the seller (taxpayer) can defer all of the gain in his or her transaction by moving it into a newly acquired property.

It’s important to know that this is not a “tax-free” exchange. Your gain still exists. But a 1031 exchange allows you to defer the obligation to pay any tax liability until you sell the new property at some future date. (Or, you may decide to exchange and defer again.)

The beauty of it is that instead of paying taxes with a chunk of your profits, you can leverage all of your proceeds into a larger investment with more income and appreciation potential.

If you’re thinking about entering into a Section 1031 exchange, do your homework. I’ve done a lot of studying on this topic because I have been involved in a few of them myself. It is absolutely crucial that you follow all the rules and meet all the timelines.

The Meaning of “Like-Kind” and How a 1031 Exchange is Accomplished

While it can be used in the exchange of any type of “like-kind” property, the most common application of a 1031 is for business and investment real estate. “Like-kind” is a fairly broad term covering all types of investment property. It doesn’t limit you to exchanging your rental house only for another rental house, for example. You may exchange it for an office building, warehouse, or other investment property.

It also allows transactions to happen non-simultaneously. This means you don’t have to find someone willing to swap properties with you. The 1031 Exchange Rules allow you to sell your property, and then buy any like-kind replacement property you choose, without needing to do a direct trade. The key is that you must use a Qualified Intermediary. This person (or company, also known as an accommodator) acts as a liaison. They collect the proceeds from your sale, hold them in escrow, and then use them to buy the replacement property you designate.

About the 1031 Exchange Infographic

Now, I’m no graphics whiz. This took me about two hours to put together using SmartDraw CI. I could probably have used prettier pictures, but I just used clip art images from the SmartDraw library to keep it simple. If you haven’t tried our infographics feature yet, what’s keeping you? Come on, give it a go!