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Archive for March, 2007

Friday laughter for St. Pat

Friday, March 16th, 2007

In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I borrowed four work-related, start-to-finish jokes from Irish Jokes.

Job Application
Paddy was filling out a job application. When he came to the question, “Have you ever been arrested?” he wrote, “No.”
The next question, intended for people who had answered in the affirmative to the previous question, was “Why?”
The applicant answered it anyway: “Never got caught.”

Job Interview
While being interviewed for a job, the personnel manager said to the Maguire brothers,
“We’re going to give you a written examination. Ten questions. Whoever gets most right we’ll hire.”
Papers were produced and the boys set to work answering the general knowledge questions. When the time was up the personnel manager collected and marked the papers.
“Well,” said he, “you’ve both got nine out of ten, but I’m giving Mick the job.”
“Why’s that?” asked Pat.
“Well,” said the manager, “you both got the same question wrong but he had
“I don’t know this” and you had “Neither do I!””

Three Whiskey Reps
Three whiskey reps were seated in the restaurant waiting to have lunch with the prime minister and assorted international statesmen.
“Right,” said the Bells whisky rep, “let’s have a jar.” So saying he went to the bar and returned with three large Bells.
These were quickly supped and the Teachers’ rep said, I’ll get the same again.” He returned with three large Teachers and they were supped with equal speed. Finally, the Jamiesons rep went to the bar and returned with three large Bells.
“Bells? Bells?” said the other two in chorus. “Why didn’t you buy Jamiesons?”
“Well, you see,” said the Jamieson man, “it would hardly be polite to meet all those dignitaries smelling of strong drink!” (Ahh, the subtlety of a master salesman)

You’re Fired
“You on the scaffolding – you’re fired!” shouted the foreman from below.
“What did you say?” shouted Pat cupping his ear.
“You – get your cards – you’re fired!”
“Can’t hear you,” shouted Pat.
“I said you’re fired,” screamed the boss.
“What?” called Pat.
“Never mind,” muttered the foreman to himself. I’ll sack somebody else.”
“You do,” bellowed Pat, “and I’ll have the union on you!”

Irish or not, I wish you sunshine, shamrocks, and rainbows.

Meeting MAP

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

From the time humans first got together to accomplish a task that couldn’t be done alone there have been meetings—and probably complaints about them.

In more modern times, meetings have been satirized in the likes of Dagwood and Dilbert and given rise to dozens, if not hundreds, of books with detailed information on making meetings successful, yet people still loathe them.

“Meetings take up about 40 percent of employee time, according to the National Statistics Council. And that time may not be well spent. In a series of MCI Conferencing studies, 90 percent of those surveyed admitted daydreaming during a meeting and 40 percent admitted falling asleep.”

Before you jump on the detailed mechanical fixes (solid agendas, controlling meeting bullies, etc.) available, you need to check your own meeting MAP.

  • First, be sure that you’re not part (or all) of the problem, and
  • second, perform any MAP adjustments needed to implement successfully the meeting expertise available to you in all those books.

To do the first, ask one or two people you’re sure will be honest with you to evaluate your meeting skills and behavior and, even if you’re not sure that they’re correct, try adjusting your actions and see if there’s improvement. If there is, then you’ve already accomplished the second, if not, try something different.

Give it a month or two for the changes to sink in (don’t announce them) and then ask your group to anonymously evaluate you and each other in light of improving meeting success—the anonymity yields more candid responses than an open discussion.

Correlate the responses and then discuss them privately with each person. Share with them that you already did this on a smaller scale and are planning to do it again based on the new feedback. Lead them through the same process that you went through, so they understand that making changes in how they think makes changing their actions much easier.

Do the evaluations again in six months, then repeat at least once a year, more often if necessary.

Even if meetings are still considered a necessary evil, at least they’ll be a productive and relatively painless one.

More about stars and MAP

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I received a very irate phone call after yesterday’s post, in which I said that managers make their own stars and if that wasn’t happening then they needed to look at their own MAP, since it’s the basis of their management skills.

My caller informed me that I didn’t know what I was talking about; that poor performance was poor performance and that saying it was anything else was merely an effort to excuse it. He said all this at length, with great passion and fire.

I asked him to describe his management approach. The essence was that he had learned the hard way that most people weren’t like him; they didn’t really care about doing a good job, so he set very specific tasks and kept a close eye on what/how they were doing.

He said that his people got the assigned work done, but took little initiative; didn’t offer suggestions to improve anything and rarely put out more effort than was necessary—confirming his belief that they didn’t care.

He was angry because a peer group, managed by a guy who spent most of his time chatting with his workers and “codling them,” had just come up with a process improvement that would save the company millions.

He said that it didn’t make sense to him; he thought the guy was a wimpy manager, more worried about being liked than making sure the work got done.

I asked about turnover in both groups and he said that it was lower in the other group, because the manger was so laid back, and higher in his, mainly because he ran a demanding organization and people didn’t want to work that hard.

I didn’t argue with him, I mainly listened, but, with every word, he confirmed my long-held belief that stars are the result of managers’ MAP.

Finally, I asked how his manager worked. He said that his manger laid out the goals, didn’t interfere, and let him get on with the job. When I asked how he would feel if his manger managed him as he managed his group, he told me he wouldn’t tolerate it, but that it was a stupid question, since his boss knew that he cared, just as he knew that his people didn’t.

Stars—they’re in your MAP

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

I’m a mystery reader, especially old mysteries, and one of my favorites is the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth. I mention it because the opening lines in one are very apropos to hiring.

They go, “[she] became involved in a story which had begun a long time before, and whose end may be quite unknown, since what happened yesterday must needs affect today and set out a pattern for tomorrow. It is not, of course, necessary to follow the pattern, but it is sometimes easier, and ease is always tempting.

That’s an excellent summation of your relationship with a candidate.

You hire based on past performance, which doesn’t a guarantee the future; when that performance doesn’t work out it is easier to blame the candidate than to look for shortfalls in your own management. And, as Wentworth said, “ease is always tempting.”

Stars are far more often made than born, and it is you, their manager, who makes them.

Bad/poor management can dim the brightest star, whereas great management can make even an asteroid shine.

It is your MAP that defines how you manage and, for most workers, no matter their level, how they are managed defines their productivity, creativity and star power.

Your MAP, your control, your decision.

More on company reputations

Monday, March 12th, 2007

A few weeks ago I wrote about company street reputations and how the Net makes them perpetual—as in, unhappily ever after.

In an article, Chris Gidez, head of U.S. crisis management for the public-relations firm Hill & Knowlton, says, “Once it’s on the Web, it’s like taking the rods out of a reactor. Companies have to work harder to determine, ‘Do we need to worry about this?’ “Overreacting can call more attention to a rumor than it gets on its own, I’ve had clients who wanted to respond to a problem with guns blazing, and I say, ‘Hold on a second. You might be telling a larger universe of people about a problem they didn’t know existed.”

Granted, in some cases, you don’t want to acknowledge rumors because it merely fans the flames. but you do need to address any that are reverberating in your customer/employee base, on the Net or in the media.

“In trying to kill a rumor, companies often enlist help from outside sources, including linking to other Web sites like Snopes.com, a well-regarded reference for sorting out myths and rumors.”

But it’s more difficult to address negative impressions within your candidate/employee base, since there are no outside sources to enlist—and it’s impossible when the rumor is true.

If your company has a rep for arrogant managers who treat workers like dirt because the managers are arrogant and they do treat workers as expendable, then there is little point in trying to refute that.

If the company brings in new management with the express goal of changing the actual culture, as well as its public perception, then it’s absolutely necessary to make those changes very public.

However, rather than major announcements trumpeting the changes, it’s better to make the changes and mount a viral campaign after the fact.

As usual, it’s far more effective to walk first, then talk.

It’s in your MAP

Friday, March 9th, 2007

Henry David Thoreau said, “Things don’t change, people do.”

I say, “To change what they do, change how you think.”

Over the years, I’ve watched managers and companies try to change the outcome without changing the input and seen results ranging from brilliant to disastrous when input was changed.

Is there secret ingredient that leads most often to success? Is there something in the MAP of a Gerstner or Immelt that’s missing from a Nardelli or Stonecipher?

You bet there is.

It’s described in various ways—humble, listener, flexible, open—the list goes on, but they’re all indicative of a similar mental attitude.

Sum it up as a “TaIk to me, I don’t know everything.” way of thinking, vs a “Shut up, just do what I say.” mentality.

Think about it.

Which are you?

Once you know, then take the next step and decide if that’s what you want to be—if not, change it.

Nobody can do it for you, it’s in your court, in your control.

How to succeed in business without really performing

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

The New York Times is running a great series on CEO pay.

We’re all taught the value of hard work, exceeding goals, giving our all, but some have found a better way—getting paid for non-performance.

Speaking of non-performance bonus money; because Coke had a $2.9 billion noncash charge in the fourth quarter they cut 3500 workers and execs missed their performance bonus targets. However, save your executive sympathy. The Board stepped in, giving “…millions of dollars in “discretionary cash awards”…the chief executive, will receive a cash award of just over $1 million. That almost matches his $1.1 million salary…the chairman, will receive an $811,368 award. Five other executives…will receive bonuses ranging from $320,188 to $393,683.”

There’s a simple explanation (excuse?) for these giant pay packages, the same one that kids have been using for generations—peer pressure.

A newer happening is that US-style CEO pay is being exported to Europe, but it’s doubtful that it’ll affect the trade deficit.

Even great performance pay raises questions when it averages $144,573 a day for 13 years.

Then, of course, there are stock options.

If little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice” and little boys are made of “snakes and snails, and puppy dog tails,” then these CEOs are made of ego and greed and the skill to mislead.

Which still leaves the question, what are Boards made of?

Six Sigma and Innovation

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

I’m a long way from being a Six Sigma guru, my knowledge of it comes mainly from reading articles, since the mid-Eighties when it first started at Motorola, about companies that have embraced it.

The stories about how it turns companies around are legion, but if you follow the same companies over many years, it becomes obvious that using an unadulterated version yields great short-term results, but long-term it can hurt.

Why? Because Six Sigma, and similar metrics, impact culture, in fact, in many case they become the culture. Innovation doesn’t lend itself to rigorous measurement and creativity, especially breakthrough next-gen thinking, is difficult to quantify, let alone determine its ROI at inception.

That doesn’t mean that you want to ignore what Six Sigma, or other rigorous metrics, can do for your organization. It does mean that you need to apply them where they work best, while protecting and enhancing a culture that manages risk, invites ideas and celebrates failure.

Symbol Technology is a great case study of a company, known for continual innovation, that lost it, and got it back—

“It involves an ex-CEO who is on the lam in Europe, a former Cisco Systems executive brought in to patch the company back together with Six Sigma glue, and a Wall Street guy who tried to inject risk back into a culture that had leached it out.” It’s “…about the fragility of innovation and how easily it can be lost, even with the best of intentions.”

It’s about rebuilding a culture that garners ideas from all sources, balances the associated risks and refills its innovation pipeline.

It’s also a good reminder that there are no silver bullets; no one concept/approach/discipline with which to run your company; and that a myopic focus on the short-term is likely to kill you in the long-term.

Bedrock for culture and MAP

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Galileo knew something about culture and MAP, actually he knew quite a lot. I was reminded of that when a Galileo quote was used in the Agnes comic strip.

Several hundred years ago he said,

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” (Agnes says this to her teacher.) He also said,

“I never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.”

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

When building a culture, or refining your MAP, it’s great to find bedrock truths to base them on—ideas from impeccable sources and requiring no interpretation, because they are so simple that anyone can understand them.

If you manage based on the first two, you’ll be respected by your people and rewarded by your bosses.

Add the third, and you’ll jumpstart innovation by remembering that all ideas are worth at least one real look—no matter the source.

Culture obsession

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

People who know me kid me about my obsessive focus on culture and MAP, but I’m in good company.

Toyota is a company whose “…corporate culture has transformed it from a small manufacturer into a market-gobbling giant famous for quality circles and giving workers control over production lines.”

Of course, it’s not the only one, but it goes further than most, and faces more difficult challenges, while disseminating its culture, known as The Toyota Way.

Take the idea of a public graphic tracking each individual’s success/failure on their work targets with the goal of each person helping anyone who’s stuck.

“For Americans and anyone, it can be a shock to the system to be actually expected to make problems visible,” said Ms. Newton…who joined Toyota after college 15 years ago and now works at the North American headquarters in Erlanger, Ky. “Other corporate environments tend to hide problems from bosses.”

There are many more examples in the article that not only make it a good read, but also offer insight on what makes a company great and how to keep it so in the future.

With a little imagination, most can be translated for use in any size company, anywhere in the world.

All it takes is an obsessive focus on culture and MAP.

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