Entrepreneurial Program Design

Can we  agree that the vast majority of residential energy audit programs are designed without a shred of entrepreneurial potential?

Programs become fortress like in their imperative to protect themselves and their designs.  But I’m afraid the castle walls must be breached.  A program design should be exactly as sacrosanct as its performance justifies.  No more, no less.  Question assumptions.  Regularly.  And especially in the early stages of a program.

How would Google run an energy audit program?  What about Apple?  Or perhaps Zappo’s?  Do you think that programs that they would design would look like the ones that we have today?  I doubt it.  But just as Google runs trial balloons and then lets them go, programs should do the same.  In marketing, A/B testing is commonplace.  Test Idea A against Idea B.  In energy audit programs, we often run pilots, but only on Idea A. Where is the A/B testing?   Yes, it would take longer and be more expensive.  How much time and money is wasted on faulty assumptions that wouldn’t stand the up to a rigorous test?

Here’s an idea.  The next time a DSM program is designed, make it a competition.  Much like architects might enter a design competition.  And don’t send it to just the usual suspects.  Throw the doors open wide.  The winner might surprise.  They might not be the right entity to RUN the show, but you can pay them for their effort.  Prize money!  A bounty for innovative, entrepreneurial designs.

Then, fund the best two or three and think of it as an incubator for program proof of concept.  Encourage cross-disciplinary teams.  Bring together the engineer and the anthropologist, the marketer and the statistician.  This is how it’s happening in business, cross-disciplinary teams are forging unexpected and new paths in all manner of fields.  Let’s grab a little of that mojo for our industry.



EnergyLogic in Shanghai!

USGBC LEED for Homes Green Rater and HERS Rater training in China.  Great group of students.  Carissa Sa

wyer and I are conducting training here over the next two weeks.  We’re halfway through USGBC LEED for Homes Green Rater and it’s both exciting and daunting.

HERS class starts next week. Lugging our blower door around in a taxi.  Pondering the differences and similarities in construction, materials, etc.

Trick Question – How much energy does an energy audit save?

Of course, you know the answer is none.  It really isn’t even a good trick question.  However, I think it’s important every now and again to refresh our memory of this somewhat inconvenient reality.  A lot of us in the industry are working to alter this equation, but it is really ea

sy to forget in drive to stand up energy audit programs.

I’m not as old as some of the old heads in this industry, but I’ve seen enough now to wonder just how often programs meet their stated goals.  I don’t believe that anyone has a sense of the overall success or failure rate for the industry.  And that brings me to the core of the question.  What is success for an energy audit program?

If I ran a program and delivered exactly the number of energy audits that I proposed to do, how much energy would I have saved the client?  None of course.  Now of course, the inverse is even more true, if I fail to meet my goals for audits, I can hardly achieve success.  So, not to be too terribly simplistic, but sometimes we need to get out of the trees so we can see the forest.


So, we can improve the Energy Audit Success Ratio by either increasing the amount of energy saved per audit or we can try to do a lot more audits that save less energy.  There isn’t a right answer per se.  It will depend on the program.  We can design a spectrum of programs that look to leverage success in different ways.  Ultimately though, you simply can’t escape the fact that Audit to Action℠ ratio is the primary driver.

I know that many programs have remarkably poor Audit to Action℠ ratios.  Yet they persist.  What should the ratio be?  10%?  25%? 33%?

I think that we should collectively strive for at least 50%.  That’s ambitious, but we know that programs and companies achieve it, so why should low numbers be tolerated?  One problem of course is the length of time involved in feedback loops to program administrators and participants.  When you get once a year evaluations of performance, what do we expect?  It’s a bit like annual performance reviews for your employees.  Egad.  But that is another subject.

I’d like to see programs designed to be extra

ordinarily flexible.  Programs get  locked into attempting to prove their designs.   Again, if you ran your company this way, you’d develop a business plan, stay with it doggedly, regardless of what the market was telling you and revisit every two or three years.  Of course, that is a formula for being out of business.  And there are a lot of programs out there that should be put out of their misery.

If we ran DSM programs like “real” businesses, we’d have Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that we would monitor, react to, fret over, work to improve and work to modify to give us the best information to guide our program efforts.  I’ve yet to see a program that operated in anything that remotely resembled a n entrepreneurial enterprise.    What would that look like?  What do you think?  Subject for the next post…




One way I use BCC

There are a number of acceptable, even laudable reasons to use bcc or blind carbon copy, in email messages.  For some great thoughts by thoughtful people on email etiquette (can’t really hear or see it too much) see Seth Godin’s list and Christ Anderson’s list.

I recently realized that I use the bcc function in a different way.  Now I think that some people feel that bcc is somehow “sneaky” or not appropriate short of mailing list use.  Certainly, bcc should be used with care to avoid that.  No one wants to be sneaky.  Well, perhaps there are a few, fill in the blank…

One of my roles is to mentor others in the company in how we present ourselves in written communication.  This includes subtleties like tone and tenor.  Things like frequency of communication (what’s more grueling in business than waiting for the proposal response!) with a prospective client.  Things like the proper use of humor and personal asides.  But just as we model all of these things in our “live” interactions, we can and should model these things in our virtual ones.  This can be extended to other areas like webcasts, podcasts and other communication channels that may not be as scripted as some others.

What do you think ?  Do you have ways that you perform this role?  Is it important to you and your organization?  Eager to hear from you!


Urgent vs. Important

It’s the question that faces most of us every day … and the one most of us likely get wrong. What do I do first today — handle what’s urgent, or handle what’s important?

Seems like a bit of a Catch-22 but really, the answer is simple … get the important things done first.

If you’re like me, you often get sucked into getting the urgent things done first. Unfortunately, these are often the activities that are not critical to driving changes in our business. They are urgent, yes, but often they are merely dealing with day to day activities that need to be done but don’t really drive big things to happen.  When possible, delegate to others in the organization what you can or get help from someone more appropriate to handle these sorts of tasks — or maybe even just wait it out and see what happens. A ringing phone, after all, is urgent. Whether it’s important or not is unknown. Likely if it is, the caller will try to find someone else or when you get the third call from the same person in a five-minute time span, you’ll know that it’s probably important (at least to them).

In terms of managing your daily workload (for those who don’t have it managed for them), schedule the important activities early in the day so they get done; also, set aside a block of time to dedicate to some “big picture” thinking. This will help you grow and help the company keep thinking big.  It will also keep the important from becoming important AND urgent … which is a recipe for making mistakes — something you don’t want to do with important topics.  Finally, also set aside a block for the urgent.  If you’ve manged the important, there will be time for the urgent and if you’ve managed it well — you might find you don’t even have anything urgent to handle.

Just as an aside … for those of you with significant others who happen to call — it’s always important.