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Operations Planning Checklist

  1. Key operational objectives and strategies
  2. Location and facilities
  3. Equipment and technology
  4. Labor requirements
  5. Inventory management
  6. Supply channels
  7. Distribution channels
  8. Research and development
  9. Legal Requirements
  10. Order fulfillment and customer service
  11. Capacity utilization
  12. Critical processes
  13. Quality control
  14. Safety, health, and environmental concerns
  15. Management information systems
  16. Other operational concerns
  17. Start-up budget
  18. Operating budget

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive ... Change starts from within, and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces.
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind ... Develop a principle-centered personal mission statement. Extend the mission statement into long-term goals based on personal principles.
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First ... Spend time doing what fits into your personal mission, observing the proper balance between production and building production capacity. Identify the key roles that you take on in life, and make time for each of them.
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win ... Seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial. In cases where a "win/win" deal cannot be achieved, accept the fact that agreeing to make "no deal" may be the best alternative. In developing an organizational culture, be sure to reward win/win behavior among employees and avoid inadvertantly rewarding win/lose behavior.
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood ... First seek to understand the other person, and only then try to be understood. Stephen Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations. Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said through the lens of one's own experience. Rather, it is putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning.
  • Habit 6: Synergize ... Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual differences to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Through mutual trust and understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than would have been obtained through either person's own solution.
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw ... Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Maintain a balance among these dimensions.
[Thank you, Stephen R. Covey and QuickMBA.com]

Skills for Success

Although every business requires a specific skill set and related domain knowledge, there are some general qualities which you must develop if you want to get going in any business. I say 'develop' and not 'have' because I don't think these skills are rocket science and if you've got the willingness, you can easily develop them and carry on your business in a better manner.
  1. Be A Visionary ... Yeah, I know what you are thinking. Here comes the first cliche; I'll agree. But when I say be a visionary, I don't mean you should have grand visions right from the start. There should be a definite goal in your mind and you should work towards achieving that goal. You could always start with small goals initially and every time you achieve them, set yourself new challenges. And soon you'll find that you've got a vision, a vision which you never thought you could achieve and now, it suddenly seems possible.
  2. Be Adaptable ... Now here's the thing - you develop a strategy and start working towards your goal. But the world's changing everyday and soon you realize that the strategy isn't working. In this case, you should immediately adapt to the changes and adopt new methods of working while keeping your vision intact.
  3. Mix Passion With Planning ... If you aren't passionate enough, chances of your succeeding in your business are slim. But if you get carried away by passion, that's equally harmful for your work. Hence the idea is to mix passion and enthusiasm with planning and execution.
  4. Communicate Like A Pro ... It's not only about talking to the other person or to your client. It's about every form of communication, be it on phone, through email, through a letter or any other way of sending your thoughts across. Effective communication is one of the must have leadership skills and if you think you aren't very good at this, prepare to learn how to communicate in the most effective manner, convince others and get more business.
  5. Network Like A Pro ... Another essential ingredient for success in business. Identify the right people and establish relationships which are long lasting. Apart from helping you in your business, these relationships can also help in your personal life.
  6. Be Aggressive ... Being aggressive doesn't mean you are always pumped up and blindly grab every opportunity that comes in your way. It means you are ready to take risks, sometimes calculated and sometimes out of your gut-feeling. It means you aren't satisfied with an achievement and are hungry for more. It means you are available 24X7 for your work. And yes, it also means you are ready to make sacrifices when required.
  7. Be Persistent ... Without a doubt, persistence is a must-have trait for anyone who hopes to make it big in his business. So what exactly is persistence? Here's how Seth Godin defines it: "Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over."
  8. Do Things Differently ... That's what winners do, isn't it ? Apply new techniques and tricks to an already existing business model instead of trying to search for that new idea. You'll save time.
  9. Learn Everyday ... Really, the learning never stops when you are self employed. And you should never let it stop either. No matter how big your business grows, you should keep learning everyday and apply new techniques to make your business better.
  10. Never Be Complacent ... If organizations like Enron and WorldCom can bite the dust then anything can happen. No business, absolutely no business can be considered fool-proof. One mistake and the empire could crumble. Complacency is usually the first step towards this destruction. So better not be complacent.
[Thank you, Abhijeet Mukherjee]

Lean Startup Terminology

minimum viable product (mvp)
A minimum viable product (mvp) is the "version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort" (similar to a pilot experiment). The goal of an MVP is to test fundamental business hypotheses (or leap-of-faith assumptions) and to help entrepreneurs begin the learning process as quickly as possible.

As an example, Ries notes that Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn wanted to test the hypothesis that customers were ready and willing to buy shoes online. Instead of building a website and a large database of footwear, Swinmurn approached local shoe stores, took pictures of their inventory, posted the pictures online, bought the shoes from the stores at full price, and sold them directly to customers if they purchased the shoe through his website.Swinmurn deduced that customer demand was present, and Zappos would eventually grow into a billion dollar business based on the model of selling shoes online.

[Note: Compare a minimum viable product (mvp) to a Maximum Value Product (MVP) which typically results from mvp iterations over time.]

Continuous deployment (only for software development)
Continuous deployment, similar to continuous delivery, is a process "whereby all code that is written for an application is immediately deployed into production," which results in a reduction of cycle times. Ries states that some of the companies he's worked with deploy new code into production as often as 50 times a day. The phrase was coined by Timothy Fitz, one of Ries's colleagues and an early engineer at IMVU.

Split testing
A split or A/B test is an experiment in which "different versions of a product are offered to customers at the same time." The goal of a split test is to observe differences in behavior between the two groups and to measure the impact of each version on an actionable metric.

A/B testing can also be performed in serial fashion where a group of users one week may see one version of the product while the next week users see another. This can be criticized in circumstances where external events may influence user behavior one time period but not the other. For example a split test of two ice cream flavors performed in serial during the summer and winter would see a marked decrease in demand during the winter where that decrease is mostly related to the weather and not to the flavor offer.

Actionable metrics
Actionable metrics can lead to informed business decisions and subsequent action.[1][24] These are in contrast to vanity metrics—measurements that give "the rosiest picture possible" but do not accurately reflect the key drivers of a business.

Vanity metrics for one company may be actionable metrics for another. For example, a company specializing in creating web based dashboards for financial markets might view the number of web page views[20] per person as a vanity metric as their revenue is not based on number of page views. However, an online magazine with advertising would view web page views as a key metric as page views are directly correlated to revenue.

A typical example of a vanity metric is 'the number of new users gained per day'. While a high number of users gained per day seems beneficial to any company, if the cost of acquiring each user through expensive advertising campaigns is significantly higher than the revenue gained per user, then gaining more users could quickly lead to bankruptcy.

Pivot
A pivot is a "structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth."[1] A notable example of a company employing the pivot is Groupon; when the company first started, it was an online activism platform called The Point.[3] After receiving almost no traction, the founders opened a WordPress blog and launched their first coupon promotion for a pizzeria located in their building lobby.[3] Although they only received 20 redemptions, the founders realized that their idea was significant, and had successfully empowered people to coordinate group action.[3] Three years later, Groupon would grow into a billion dollar business.

Steve Blank defines a pivot as "changing (or even firing) the plan instead of the executive (the sales exec, marketing or even the CEO)."

Innovation accounting
This topic focuses on how entrepreneurs can maintain accountability and maximize outcomes by measuring progress, planning milestones, and prioritizing.

Build–Measure–Learn
The Build–Measure–Learn loop emphasizes speed as a critical ingredient to product development. A team or company's effectiveness is determined by its ability to ideate, quickly build a minimum viable product of that idea, measure its effectiveness in the market, and learn from that experiment. In other words, it's a learning cycle of turning ideas into products, measuring customers' reactions and behaviors against built products, and then deciding whether to persevere or pivot the idea; this process repeats as many times as necessary. The phases of the loop are: Ideas –> Build –> Product –> Measure –> Data –> Learn.

This rapid iteration allows teams to discover a feasible path towards product/market fit, and to continue optimizing and refining the business model after reaching product/market fit.

Business Model Canvas
The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management template invented by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur for developing new business models or documenting existing ones. It is a visual chart with elements describing a firm's value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. It assists firms in aligning their activities by illustrating potential trade-offs.[30]

Lean Canvas
The Lean Canvas is a version of the Business Model Canvas adapted by Ash Maurya specifically for startups.[28] The Lean Canvas focuses on addressing broad customer problems and solutions and delivering them to customer segments through a unique value proposition.

[Attribution: Wikipedia]

[2.10]

Leonardo da Vinci's Seven Principles

  1. Curiosit√° ... an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
  2. Dimostrazione ... a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistance, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
  3. Sensazione ... the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
  4. Sfumato ... literally "going up in smoke" ... a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
  5. Arte/Scienza ... the development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination ... "Whole-Brain" thinking.
  6. Corporalita ... the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
  7. Connessione ... a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena ... systems thinking.
[Thank you, Michael J. Gelb]

How to Write an Executive Summary

The purpose of the executive summary of the business plan is to provide your readers with an overview of the business plan. Think of it as an introduction to your business. Therefore, your business plan's executive summary will include summaries of ...
  1. a description of your company, including your product and/or service solutions
  2. your management
  3. the market and your customers including basic quantitative information
  4. marketing and sales strategies
  5. your primary competition
  6. your competitive advantage
  7. your operational strategies
  8. financial projections and plans
  9. contact information
The executive summary will end with a summary statement, a "last kick at the can" sentence or two designed to persuade the readers of your business plan that your business is a winner.

To write the executive summary of the business plan, start by following the list above and writing one to three sentences about each topic. (No more!)

If you have trouble crafting these summary sentences from scratch, review your business plan to get you going. In fact, one approach to writing the executive summary of the business plan is to take a summary sentence or two from each of the business plan sections you've already written. (If you compare the list above to the sections outlined in the Business Plan Outline, you'll see that this could work very well.)

Then finish your business plan's executive summary with a clinching closing sentence or two that answers the reader's question "Why is this a winning business?"

Tips for Writing the Business Plan's Executive Summary
  1. Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details and whether bank managers or investors, the readers of your business plan don't want to have their time wasted.
  2. Keep your language strong and positive. Don't weaken the executive summary of your business plan with weak language. Instead of writing, "Dogstar Industries might be in an excellent position to win government contracts", write "Dogstar Industries will be in an excellent position..."
  3. The executive summary should be no more than two pages long ... one page is probably better. Resist the tempation to pad your business plan's executive summary with details (or pleas). The job of the executive summary is to present the facts and entice your reader to read the rest of the business plan, not tell him everything.
  4. Polish your executive summary. Read it aloud. Does it flow or does it sound choppy? Is it clear and succinct? Once it sounds good to you, have someone else who knows nothing about your business read it and make suggestions for improvement.
  5. Tailor the executive summary of your business plan to your audience. If the purpose of your business plan is to entice investors, for instance, your executive summary should focus on the opportunity your business provides investors and why the opportunity is special.
  6. Put yourself in your readers' place... and read your executive summary again. Does this executive summary generate interest or excitement in the reader? If not, why?
Remember, the executive summary of the business plan will be the first thing the readers of the business plan read. If your executive summary is poorly written, it will also be the last, as they will set the rest of your business plan aside unread!

[Thank you, Susan Ward]

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Bloom's Taxonomy

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. Bloom found that over 95 % of the test questions students encounter require them to think only at the lowest possible level ... the recall of information.

Bloom identified six levels within the cognitive domain, from the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order which is classified as evaluation. Verb examples that represent intellectual activity on each level are listed here ...
  1. Knowledge: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce state.
  2. Comprehension: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate,
  3. Application: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write.
  4. Analysis: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test.
  5. Synthesis: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose, set up, write.
  6. Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose compare, defend estimate, judge, predict, rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate.

The C's of Communications

  1. Clear: Make the goal of your message clear to your recipient. Ask yourself what the purpose of your communication is.
  2. Concise: Your message should also be brief and to the point. Why communicate your message in six sentences when you can do it in three?
  3. Concrete: Ensure your message has important details and facts, but that nothing deters the focus of your message.
  4. Correct: Make sure what you're writing or saying is accurate. Bad information doesn't help anybody. Also make sure that your message is typo free.
  5. Coherent: Does your message make sense? Check to see that all of your points are relevant and that everything is consistent with the tone and flow or your text.
  6. Complete: Your message is complete when all relevant information is included in an understandable manner and there is a clear "call to action". Does your audience know what you want them to do?
  7. Courteous: Ensure that your communication is friendly, open, and honest, regardless of what the message is about. Be empathetic and avoid passive-aggressive tones.
  8. Clutching: Make sure your message has AIDA: grabss Attention, develosp Interest, builds Desire, triggers Action. Be sure there is a clear "path to action" for the reader to take ... call, email, website, et alia.

Twelve Team Tips ...

Building a venture team? Here are some goog guidelines ...
  1. A team needs a good leader. Usually, in a work situation, the leader is chosen by people outside the team. In more social contexts, the team may choose the leader.
  2. A team needs to be the right size. There is no precise figure here, but generally speaking one would expect a new business venture management team to be around 3 to 6 members.
  3. A team needs members with a variety of skills. The nature of these skills will depend on the organization and the task. However, typically one might want someone good with figures as well as someone good with words, someone who is effective at getting things done as well someone who is a creative thinker. It is important to avoid the temptation to chose too many like-minded members and team members need to know and respect the skills of others in the team.
  4. A team needs members with a variety of personalities. Again the nature of these personalities will depend on the organisation and the task. One might want an introvert as well as an extrovert and a maturer person as well as a younger one. Gender and ethnic differences can also make a creative contribution to an effective team.
  5. A team needs to bond. Some of this can be in done in the course of carrying out team tasks. However, it is good to create more specific opportunities for bonding that are outside the normal work schedule and situation, such as strategy sessions, training course and social events. One should take opportunities to celebrate successes - such as winning a new contract or fulfilling a particular project - and to celebrate occasions - such as birthdays of team members.
  6. A team needs to be able to resolve internal conflicts. However well a team bonds, it is likely that from time to time there will be differences in the team. This should not be unexpected or even always avoided; it is an inevitable feature of creative people having different ideas. 
  7. A team needs good communications. People need to know what is expected of them, what is happening in the organisation, and how all this effects them as individuals and as a team. In many ways, the best communication is face-to-face but this can be time-consuming and may not always be practical. These days e-mail is an efficient means of communication, provided that it is not overdone or used as a way of avoiding difficult encounters.
  8. A team needs shared values and a shared vision. All team members need to know and agree how the team is going to work and what it is trying to do. This might involve having some sort of strategy session - maybe facilitated by someone outside the team - with exercises to ensure that the values and the vision are embraced by all.
  9. A team needs clear objectives. Ideally these objectives ought to be SMART - that is, specific, measurable, achievable, resourced, timed.
  10. A team needs to be empowered. There are two elements to this. First, the team collectively needs to be given the resources and the authority to achieve the objectives set for it. Second, each individual needs to know what is expected of him or her but left to work out for himself or herself how best to achieve this on a day to day basis.
  11. A team needs trust. Members need to trust each other and most especially the team leader. This requires open and honest communication, acceptance of a 'no blame' culture, and a recognition that every mistake is an occasion for learning and not an excuse to criticise.
  12. A team needs to be flexible. There are two elements to this. First, roles in the team should not be rigid - it is the team's success that matters more than who exactly does what. Second, the composition and existence of the team needs to be flexible so, if a new skill is needed, one might add a new member to the team, but conversely, if the team's project is satisfactorily completed, there might be no continued need for the team.
[Thank you, Roger Darlington]