Chancellor Commendation

I took a half day of vacation yesterday to do a presentation on use of social media tools in election administration for a conference sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute. Given my early career background in politics and government, it was a fun opportunity to stretch my basic presentation a bit beyond health care and general social media training.

I was really pleased with the response, and the Q&A period was great. I was introduced to one barrier to social media use that was new to me, though, in that some of the city and county officials present are concerned that using Facebook or YouTube in an official capacity will put them in violation of data practices regulations. State laws require government bodies to archive data for potential legal discovery, for example, and the concern is that a local jurisdiction can’t compel Facebook to maintain data practices in keeping with state law. I plan to devote a full post to this later.

But first, I wanted to share a testimonial from Pat, one of the conference participants. She came up to me after the presentation and was particularly enthusiastic about what she had learned. Kind of made me blush. But since I had my Flip along (as Karl Malden used to say about American Express: “Don’t leave home without it”), I asked if she would be willing to share her reactions on video.

I’m experimenting with the Flip HD camera (instead of standard definition) and how to best encode video to display on various platforms, so I’m going to upload this to the SMUG group in Facebook, too. If any other SMUGgles would want to upload a video to that group, or leave a comment here or on the SMUG wall, about your experiences in social media or your reactions to what you’ve learned through our University, it would be mose welcome.

My grandma would have called this fishing for compliments. Andy Sernovitz would call it word-of-mouth marketing.

Five Free Follow-Ups For Before 5 p.m.

I enjoy giving webinar presentations like this one, but I often think of slides I wish I would have added, and examples I would like to share, after I’ve submitted the presentation file to the organizers. And sometimes I forget to mention some points that I had intended.

One of the beauties of blogging is that I can share some additional notes and highlights so that people who participated in the webinar can explore on their own. It lets me make sure I covered the key points before the presentation even starts. Some of this may be review for long-time SMUGgles, but you may find portions helpful as well.

The main point about doing this before 5 p.m. is to not procrastinate. Those in the EST time zone will have a couple of hours after the webinar, while the PST gang has the whole afternoon. But since you’re reading this now, why not get started right away?

  1. Observe some examples. Check out our Mayo Clinic Podcast Blog (and particularly this post on Niemann-Pick Disease Type C), our Mayo Clinic YouTube Channel, our Facebook page and our News Blog. See this story from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that includes a link to a Mayo Clinic Medical Edge video story, and this post from the WSJ’s Health Blog, which included one of our Flip videos from our YouTube channel. Besides providing information directly to consumers and potential patients, “new media” tools like web video and audio can help generate or enhance your traditional news coverage.
  2. Complete Podcasting 101, which is the first course in the Podcasting curriculum at SMUG. In the coming days, as you work through the 100-level courses, you will be able to create your own podcast and have it listed in iTunes for exactly $0.00. It’s all free. Like my podcast, Chancellor Conversations, this won’t have the production quality you would want for your official organization podcasts, but by working through the process step-by-step you will strip away the mystery, and no one will be able to tell you “it’s too complicated.” Then you can spend a few hundred dollars for some better recording equipment, and develop a really solid, low-cost, high-quality communication vehicle.
  3. Enroll in SMUG. The tuition is $37,700 less than Johns Hopkins. If you or your organization spend at least a few hundred dollars on a webinar, or thousands to attend a conference, to learn about social media, wouldn’t it be silly to not take the next step and get some hands-on experience, particularly when it’s free? Besides joining the SMUG Facebook group, you can friend me (be sure to mention the webinar), or follow me on Twitter. SMUG’s mission is reflected in our motto, and our goal is to help you discover what you can do at a ridiculously low cost (or perhaps even for free) and without any support from your IT department. In economic times like this, as Jacopo asked Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Christo, “How is that a bad plan?”
  4. Check out I thought Elizabeth Tracey’s point about connecting audio files with Powerpoint presentations was good, and Slideshare is a way you can do it today, for free. Here’s a link to one of my slidecasts from the Podcasting curriculum to demonstrate. Slideshare is like YouTube for PowerPoints; you can embed it in your own blog or site, and also can make it available in the “marketplace” for others to find and embed, increasing your reach.
  5. Complete Social Media 101, which is part of the Core Courses curriculum at SMUG and originally was my “12-Step Social Media Program for PR Professionals.” As in all similar programs, the first step is to admit that you have a problem. Social Media 101 will give you an introduction to the broad scope of social media tools that may have application in your work.

In addition to the five free things before 5 p.m., here’s a bonus you should do after 6 tonight. It’s not free, but you’ll be glad you did it:

Get a Flip video camera.

You can find them for $150 or so at Wal-Mart or Best Buy. If you’re into the delayed gratification thing and want to work through more of the SMUG curriculum, I hear you can get them even cheaper at Consider it a Christmas gift to yourself. Spend another $15 or so for a tripod. You’ll want to have this for personal use; it’s the video camera you can always have with you, so you never miss those magic moments because you forgot to bring the camera bag. But then take the Flip to work and see how you can use it for business purposes.

I hope you found the presentation (and this post) helpful, and would appreciate any feedback in the comments below.

Truth Hardware’s Lean Journey

The second speaker at the Lean seminar I described here was Jim Wheeler from Truth Hardware, a company with 1,000 employees in Owatonna, Minn. They make parts for window manufacurers like Andersen, Marvin and others.

They didn’t think Lean could work for them because they have 10,000 saleable part numbers, adding 10 new ones each day. How could they possibly do just-in-time manufacturing with that many unique part numbers?

Jim says Lean is not a cost-cutting strategy … it’s a growth strategy. In the current housing downturn, the productivity gains they have made have enabled Truth to maintain and even grow market share, even against competitors that have moved their manufacturing to China. When the housing market comes back, Truth will be poised for significant growth. And because they have eliminated waste, they will be able to add capacity without huge investments in additional facilities or equipment.

Truth holds one week-long Kaizen event per month. Instead of analyzing to death, they say getting things 60 percent right is good enough. They develop prototypes, then make the changes and continually iterate. Jim says “Don’t just think about it, do it and then find out what the problems are, so you can fix them.”

My kind of guy.

Jim also described a literal breakthrough Truth achieved through one of its Kaizen events. I may be getting some of the details wrong, but in essence they had one big piece of equipment that was used for metal fabrication, and after that step the parts would be loaded into bins and put on a fork lift to be hauled through the plant to the painting and finishing area. As they looked at the process, they realized that the finishing area was just on the other side of the wall from the fabrication equipment…so they cut a hole in the wall to enable the parts to flow through to be painted.

This saved hours from the start-to-finish process, and also eliminated the need for storage bins to hold the half-done parts waiting to be painted.

Through Jim’s presentation, I learned something else about system engineering that I thought was really interesting: in the airplane cockpit all of the instruments are arranged so that if all of the indicators point straight up, it’s normal. Then you can tell at a glance when something is wrong, because the abnormal readings really stand out.

Jim Wheeler is a Lean evangelist in much the same way as I’m a social media evangelist. Here was his list of recommended reading:

If you want to reach Jim, based on what I heard in this seminar, I’m sure he’d be glad to share his experience.

How about you? Have you looked at your work to see what delays are introduced into your processes, that don’t add value from your customers’ perspectives? What prototypes can you develop easily (perhaps using free social media tools) to eliminate both wasted effort and wasted time?

Finding Profit through Lean

A couple of weeks ago I took several members of my work team to a seminar, which was sponsored by Minnesota Technology, called Finding Profit through Lean Enterprise. Social Media University, Global students may not find this post intuitively relevant, but Lean is about rethinking processes to provide great value to customers at the lowest cost. And social media may be among the tools that can help make that happen.

So please bear with me. I may have another couple of Lean posts, but we’ll be back into the regular SMUG curriculum soon.

Here are the five essential principles of Lean (you’ll also find this history helpful):

  1. Specify the value desired by the customer
  2. Identify the value stream for each product providing that value and challenge all of the wasted steps (generally nine out of ten) currently necessary to provide it
  3. Make the product flow continuously through the remaining, value-added steps
  4. Introduce pull between all steps where continuous flow is possible
  5. Manage toward perfection so that the number of steps and the amount of time and information needed to serve the customer continually falls

One of the interesting commonalities among the three presenters we heard at the seminar was that they all had gone into Lean with serious doubts about whether it could really apply to their business. Likewise, those of us working in communications or public affairs may wonder whether Lean, which is normally considered a manufacturing concept, is applicable for services like PR or corporate communications.

But even though we’re not cranking out widgets, I firmly believe Lean can help us identify steps in our processes that don’t add value for our customers (however we define them), and that by finding new methods and tools (some of which may involve harnessing social media) we can create new value streams.

The morning’s first presentation was from Denny Dotson, President of Dotson Iron Castings, a foundry in Mankato, Minn. Among the lessons his company learned in its Lean journey:

  1. Culture change is everything – you need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable in an uncomfortable environment.
  2. Getting buy-in from the whole team has made the decisions take longer, but the implementation moves much faster.
  3. Give users the tools. For example, they gave shop floor people Photoshop and ability to create their own parts catalogue/user manual. They had it completed within days, and in a way that was most useful to them. Think how much easier it would have been if they had been given a really great tool like an internal blog?
  4. Dotson uses touch-screen kiosks on the shop floor for communicating with employees, and one of the interesting elements is an opportunity for employees to upload personal and family pictures. This is sort of like Facebook without a computer, and it shows the value of enabling employees to get to know each other as whole people instead of just as what they do.
  5. More than half of their shop-floor employees went to visit customers in the last year, so they could see first-hand what the customer needs are. Interestingly, the biggest concerns about this originally came from sales staff, who didn’t want others “interfering” in their client relationships. But the customers loved it.
  6. Continual education is crucial. Dotson will pay half of any continuing education for its employees, up to $1,500 per year. (And if they enroll in SMUG, Dotson can pay 100 percent of the costs!)
  7. When you’re forming a project team to consider Lean improvement projects, don’t staff the team with cost accountants, and ignore the “tool conversion” costs for new technology. (Again, a non-manufacturing business actually has an advantage in making a Lean transition if it can use social media tools, because the costs for those tools often approximate zero.)

Mr. Dotson recommended a book by Dean Spitzer called Transforming Performance Measurement. I recommend another book, The Toyota Way, which was what got me interested in having my work team attend this seminar in the first place. Meanwhile, if you want to read further about Lean but don’t want to wait to get the book, you can start with the Wikipedia article.

I see Lean as a way to free up capacity that is being wasted by inefficiently providing current products and services, so that energy can be released to explore creation of new offerings. And if social media tools can be used creatively to meet business needs, which is one of the major premises behind SMUG, using those tools in conjunction with Lean thinking can be even more powerful.

In my next post (or two) I will share some additional highlights from that Lean seminar. I hope it will help you think creatively about applying lessons from the manufacturing world (and the company that is on the verge of becoming the top automaker in the world, in terms of sales) to improve the way you and your company work.

SMUG Extension Classes


Social Media University, Global (SMUG) is built on the distance-learning paradigm. And unlike traditional universities with on-line programs, we don’t have a requirement that some of the credits be taken on campus in a group setting.

Frankly, we don’t have room for all y’all. (I understand that’s the plural for the singular Texas “y’all.”)

Don’t get me wrong, we’d love to have you visit… one at a time. While you’re here in Austin, Minn. you can also see the world-famous SPAM museum. People have been known to come from as far as Hawaii and Guam to visit the birthplace of the canned meat that saved Western civilization during WW II.

So if they’ll travel that far for SPAM, maybe you’d want to do it for SMUG, right?

If not, and if you’d like to organize a group to have SMUG’s Extension Service bring an intensive session of classes to your community or company, let’s talk. Face-to-face dialogue is still the most effective way to learn.

We can do a Blogging Bootcamp. A Facebook Forum. A Wiki Workshop. A Twitter Tutorial. A Podcasting Program. Or we could tie it all together into a Social Media Summit.

Then you can continue your SMUG education through our on-line courses.

The map above, which is from my Facebook Cities I’ve Visited application, is useful in three respects:

  1. If you see a pin on the map for your city, I’ve been there before. Not for SMUG classes, but I know how to get there. I’d be glad to visit again.
  2. If you don’t see a pin for your city (or if your continent isn’t even shown!), it would be a new adventure for me. That would be fun, too.
  3. All blog posts should have a graphic or video of some kind to make them more interesting. Having the map accomplished that for this post.

If you’re interested in SMUG Extension, see the “Contact the Chancellor” box on this page.