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April 2, 2007 [ More archived home pages here ]

2007 Birthday Weekend Recap

The above image, Vision At Ocean Shores is also available as a Desktop

Today's song is Dance With Me, by Orleans, released in 1975.

As I mentioned on my last home page, I was headed for a special weekend. Now it is over and here's some of what happened.

Firstly, my family and friends gave me warm hugs and gifts. I received many considerate emails with birthday wishes from my extended family and friends. One person sent me a link to a YouTube birthday video, that was very cool! It was a wonderful birthday weekend for me, thanks everyone!

On Saturday, I was Toastmaster for the Twin Oaks Toastmasters Speech Marathon. We heard six great speeches. We gave each other effective evaluations and comments. One of the speeches was, Billy's Dream. Presented by Maria Dolores as a Storytelling speech, it was very emotional. I evaluated that speaker and for the first time during an evaluation, I was overcome with emotion. Stories can do that sometimes.

My friend, Jackie, gave powerful speeches earning her Competent Communicator (CC) and Competent Leader (CL) awards. Jackie is our current club President and one of the many members I've mentored during my four years with the club. She is an effective leader and I am very proud of her accomplishments.

I gave my third manual speech towards my Advanced Communicator Silver (AC-S) award from the Technical Presentations manual, titled, Administrative Workflow. That speech project required me to use a flip-chart as a tool. The speech asks the audience to "role play". I was introduced in the following way:


Please use your imagination to place yourselves as Vice Presidents of a global firm gathered together at the direction of the firm's Board of Directors. Each Vice President is a shareholder in this firm and a voting member on its corporate decisions.

The firm has an ongoing worldwide Quality Management Program in which each Vice President is assessed a Quality Program score based on client survey responses. The Quality Program has not been performing as expected and changes to the process are being proposed and considered for approval.

Each Vice President is eligible to an annual bonus that could be up to 30% of their base salary. Their particular Quality Program score is a significant factor in determining the amount of that bonus.

The Board of Directors has directed all Vice Presidents to attend this meeting to be briefed on the new direction of the Quality Program and later vote on the proposal.

Don Larson, Quality Program Administrative Project Manager, will now present his proposal to you, the Vice Presidents of this global corporation.

Please help me welcome, Don Larson.


With the audience properly prepared, I then gave my 8-10 minute speech without notes, incorporating an additional 3-5 minutes of Q & A as a proposal concerning a technical subject. I used the flip-chart by creating some some basic drawing and hand-written points on it to help explain my speech as follows:


Welcome, Vice Presidents!

The Quality Program is the firm's plan to survey all consulting assignment client stakeholders worldwide, before, during, and after assignment completion.

There are two parts to the information processing of these surveys. The financial records that trigger the assignments are part one, managed by the Vice President of Finance and are outside the scope of my presentation today.

Part two are the surveys themselves. The Board of Directors is unsatisfied with the current Quality Program performance in this part. Specifically, the reporting process from those surveys is incomplete, untimely, and very limited in value.

Last week, the Board named me the administrative project manager for the firm's global quality program implementation. I report directly to the CEO on this project.

Today, I want to tell you my proposal for streamlining the administrative processing for that program without the need to increase staff. My proposal will put that important worldwide program on-track while reducing the actual budget.

Questions will be entertained at the end of this presentation.

Project Scope

My oversight governs the actual administrative processing of all survey processing tasks and how that information is selected and sent to clients, tracked, and processed by the quality team.

Client feedback will dramatically improve by the end of the first month, standard reports will appear on-time, new areas of reporting will be available on short notice to the Board of Directors and the Engagement Officers.

The unique elements of the project are:

  1. The two Quality Center offices in the U.S. and Europe will be coordinated
  2. Clients expect documents properly prepared in their native language
  3. Mainframe character-set unable to capture international character-set data (i.e. ü, é)
  4. All data-sources need to be accessible by the quality staff on a round-the-clock basis worldwide

My proposal revolves around the following benefits:

  1. A multi-user server cluster independent from mainframe
  2. Customized software design
    1. Multi-user Calendar
    2. Graphical-query system
  3. Word-processing technology integrated with the above technologies
  4. Knowledgeable staff trained to generate valuable results
  5. Process visualization and documentation

The cost of this plan in technology related expenses, travel, training, and support materials is $50,000 for the first year and about $10,000 annually for the next five years. Salaries and benefits are not part of this budget; those are managed within the Quality Program budget.

Those project costs are significantly less than the current mainframe processing of $100,000 annually. My implementation allows round-the-clock access to the vital information, unlike the current mainframe system that can only be accessed during U.S. daylight hours, locking-out the other time zones of the firm.

Underlying Technologies

Two multi-user server clusters will be purchased and installed in each Quality Center office. The servers will be securely connected within the company's internal network. Only the Quality staff will have access to the confidential raw data on those servers. All client contact information, survey data, tracking schedules, and reports will be based on those clusters. Data incorporating international character sets can be stored in the database directly.

Customized software will be designed to minimize side effects of business rules changes. That software will allow the Quality staff to:

  1. Enter and edit the raw data from the surveys. No limitation on international character-set data
  2. To query the data with a variety of inputs using a graphic-user model. The model will not require the users to understand the semantics of the underlying language used to generate those queries. Instead they can focus on the value-add results of those queries.
  3. Create and save data sets matching queries
  4. Create a calendaring system allowing the scheduling of survey generation and collection tasks
  5. Manage the business rules for incorporating the query set results with the word-processing requirements mentioned next.

Word-processing will be used to handle mail merging of the particular language dependent requirements. Word processing will generate the surveys themselves, the letters to clients, and internal memos to the Client Engagement Officers in-charge.

The knowledge training will allow Quality Center staff members to quickly produce the information required. They can initiate the survey process in the native language expected by the clients and track the returned results to produce reports as needed by the Board of Directors or the Client Engagement Officers on their particular assignments. Exceptions to the normal workflow will be caught sooner in the process with time to consider and remedy, if needed.

There is no need to increase staff. In actuality, this new process will allow better utilization of staff by allowing them to use their time to audit the data flow instead of connecting remotely to the mainframe and sifting through complex financial reports to acquire the relevant portions of data to build the current reports. Instead, the staff can create their own reports, customized to contain the information desired.

The visualization and narrative description of those new processes is an important aspect of this proposal. It allows downstream personnel changes with the minimum of disruption. The knowledge transfer will help the Board of Directors understand the entire workflow of the Quality Program allowing improved oversight.

Summarizing, my proposal will:

  1. Put the project on-track
  2. Reduce costs
  3. Improve survey processing
  4. Decrease risk of Quality Program personnel changes
  5. Improve the partner's understanding of client perceptions and expectations

I now ask you to strongly consider my proposal for approval. I'm ready to answer a few questions from you on the merits of my presentation.


Usually, when I give visual presentations, I use a projector hooked up to a computer with PowerPoint Presentations or Quicktime video running. This time the speech project required using a flip-chart and I had to adapt to those limitations.

I discovered that flip-charts don't lend themselves to my mode of thinking. I rely on software to help create effective visual references that cannot be duplicated by hand. It is useful to give a speech like the one I gave Saturday where I could discover the lessons from using different media.


I complete today's message with the following Digital Insight.

Vision at Ocean Shores (Created in October 2001)

Like so many people, I spend time at the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes I walk along to relax to the waves as they break on shore, sometimes I daydream. I often sense things that other people are feeling.

Those experiences are real and very mysterious to me. Maybe someone I know is thinking of me in that moment. This image is for those that do. Using my own words, I quote a portion from that page's narration:

"Out of sight, not always out of mind, regardless of the passage of time."


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