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Golden Oldies: Process vs. Bureaucracy

Monday, April 24th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

The interest in some subjects is eternal — like avoiding bureaucracy. This post dates to 2006 (before I added pictures) and the subject is still a hot topic.

Too many bosses and founders confuse organizing business segments with becoming bureaucratic and everyone hates bureaucracy.

In reality, not organizing and developing a process to accomplish each function facilitates a wild west mentality, which usually results in a bullet in the foot or worse.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

People sometimes confuse process and bureaucracy. Process is good—it helps to get things done smoothly and efficiently; bureaucracy is bad—it’s process calcified, convoluted, politically corrupted, or just plain unnecessary.

Good process is an easy-to-use and flexible method of accomplishing various business functions. It is informal without being haphazard, and neither ambiguous or confusing.

Occasional surveys (internally asking staff and externally asking vendors and customers how things are working) alert you to when processes start to mutate.

By creating a skeletal process and a corresponding graphic in areas where it is needed (financial controls, hiring, purchasing, etc.), you lay the framework for your growth in the future, no matter how hectic.

Bureaucracy may stem from a manager, whether CEO or first level supervisor, who believes that his staff is so incompetent that it is necessary for him to spell out exactly how every individual action needs to be done. To correct this, the manager responsible must

  • reduce his own insecurity,
  • increase his belief in his current staff, or
  • hire people he thinks are smart!

Bureaucracy is often fed by people’s fear of change, “We’ve always done it like that.” and similar comments are dead giveaways.

Another significant factor that contributes to unnecessary bureaucracy is the failure to align responsibility and authority.

If a person has the responsibility to get something done (design a product, create a Human Resources department, meet a sales quota), she should have enough authority (spend money, hire people, negotiate with outside vendors) to get the job done.

Giving people responsibility without concomitant authority forces them to constantly ask their superiors for permission, thus reducing productivity, and lowering moral.

The final, and most important difference between process and bureaucracy is that people like working for companies with good process in place, and hate working for those mired in bureaucracy, but not for long—they leave—making bureaucracy-eradication a major tool in the retention game.

Golden Oldies: Pay For Performance

Monday, April 17th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Money. Everyone’s favorite subject that no one wants to talk about. Especially when it comes to work, as in, “what were you making previously” and “what are you looking for now?”  

Tomorrow’s post focuses on a new law enacted in Philadelphia and New York City that has the potential to change that entire, unwanted conversation, forcing managers/companies to focus on the future, as opposed to history.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

starIn a post last week I asked for opinions on the ideas presented in a series of articles in Business Week on managing smarter but especially one that claims that “treating top performers the same as weaker ones is ‘strategic suicide’” and said I would add my thoughts in a future post.

Bob Foster left two interesting comments (well worth your time to click over and read). Regarding pay for performance he tells the story of a company where everybody from the CEO down all quit.

“Taking on the task to salvage the company, I hired new people that met unusual qualifications: they had to be qualified for the job they were applying for; they had to be unemployed and available immediately; they had to work at sub-standard wages; they had to work while knowing the company could close at any minute; and they had to work without supervision. The team that came together produced a highly successful company, and it was not because of high pay, or performance bonuses (there were none). The team stayed together, and performed, because of mutual respect, trust, appreciation, and consideration—people were ‘valued.’ To me, this is the truest form of ‘pay for performance.’”

I agree that trust was one of the key ingredients in what Bob accomplished, but it wasn’t the only one—or maybe I should say that it needs to be based on fairness and honesty.

Bob says the pay was ‘sub-standard’, but I assume that it was universally sub-standard relative to position and experience. If he had chosen to pay part of the team, say 10% more than their peers, the team wouldn’t have coalesced.

And that is exactly why I disagree with the idea of paying top performers, AKA stars, big sign-on bonuses or higher salaries than their peers.

  • Based on my own experience, 98% of star performers become stars as a function of their management and the ecosystem in which they perform. Change the management, culture or any other parts that comprise that ecosystem and the star may not survive.
  • Just as a chain is as strong as its weakest link there is no star in any sport, business, media, etc., who can win with a team that is subject to constant turnover and low morale.

Consider this common example.

Two people are hired at the same time with the same background, same GP0 and similar work experience, but with the one exception. One graduated from a ‘name’ school and the other from a community college. Starting salary is $50K, but the manager adds a 20% premium to the first candidate’s offer on the basis that she must be better to have gone to that school.

Neither candidate lived up to their potential because the manager made poor choices. In doing so he set both up to fail but for different reasons; one thought she had it made and the other that he was low value.

Merit bonuses fairly given for effort above and beyond acceptable performance levels make sense as long as they don’t come at the cost of developing new talent.

But one problem with ‘pay for performance’ is the pay often comes before the performance, but there are others and I’ll discuss them more Thursday. In the meantime, here are links to five posts from 2006 that give more detail on the trouble with stars.

Stars—they’re in your MAP

More about stars and MAP

Rejects or stars?

Star compensation

Retaining Stars

Image credit: sxc.hu

There were several interesting comments on the original post; check them out.

Golden Oldies: A Lesson in Capitals

Monday, April 10th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Have you noticed how boring/confusing/annoying/embarrassing/etc. so much content, emails and other written communications are these days?

Or are you happy communicating by text and feel everyone should just forget dumb, outmoded stuff like grammar, capitols, punctuation, and shoving it out the door fast?

If you’re in the latter category I feel sorry for you. I’ve written many times about the value of good writing along with the importance of reading as a basis for it.

I don’t mean polished and professional; I mean the ability to put words together in a way they won’t be misunderstood.

If you think that it really doesn’t matter read the following 2012 post and join me tomorrow to see how a lowly comma cost a company big time.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottiet812/3064819572/My client/friend, EMANIO [now Quarrio] CEO KG Charles-Harris, has been a guest poster here; he’s received several hat tips for sending links to information used in various posts and he just racked up another one.

I’ve written before about the importance of details when writing; details like commas, periods and capitals.

But the note KG forwarded drives home the importance of capitals—unforgettably.

Miki, I received this from a friend who is an English Professor and thought you would appreciate it; it’s short and to the point.

In the world of hi-tech gadgetry, I’ve noticed that more and more people who send text messages and emails have long forgotten the art of capital letters.

For those of you who fall into this category, please take note of the following statement: “Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.”

Thanks, KG; graphic word imagery does get the point across, even to teens.

Flickr image credit: ScottieT812

Golden Oldies: Ducks in a Row: Rich Waidmann’s No jerks Allowed

Monday, March 27th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Since tomorrow’s post takes yet another look at Silicon Valley culture, sources of the blatant misogyny, and how that relates to brilliant jerks and so-called stars, I thought I’d share Rich Waidmann’s take on the subject.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

I’m in love — with a man I never met, never spoke to, never followed or chatted with online.

His name is Rich Waidmann and he’s founder and CEO of Connectria Hosting.

I love him because when he started his company he consciously set out to make it a great place to work. (See the full Infographic at Business Insider)

That means it’s a job requirement at his company that every employee treat everyone else with courtesy and respect as well as “going the extra mile” to take care of people in the community who are less fortunate

Then his company did a survey and found that

More than half (55%) of 250 IT professionals in the US. surveyed said they had been bullied by a co-worker. And 65% have said they dreaded going to work because of bad behavior of a co-worker.

Waidmann believes it shouldn’t be that way so he’s starting a No Jerks Allowed movement in an effort to encourage better cultures.

Way back in 2007 Stanford’s Bob Sutton wrote The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, but looking at the stats I’m not sure how much good it actually did.

And considering the fact that companies are shoehorning more people into less space something needs to change.

The Talmud says, “We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.” Moreover, it’s often as we are that particular day, or even minute, and even as we change, minute to minute, so do others.

Jerks are known to lower productivity and kill innovation, so a lot of good information on identifying and dealing with jerks has been developed since Sutton’s book came out.

Contributing to that effort, here are my four favorite MAP attitudes for dealing with jerks.

  • Life happens, people react and act out, but that doesn’t mean you have to let their act in.
  • Consider the source of the comment before considering the comment, then let its effect on you be in direct proportion to your respect for that source.
  • Use mental imagery to defuse someone’s effect on you. This is especially useful against bullying and intimidation. Do it by having your mental image of the person be one that strips power symbols and adds amusement. (Give me a call if you want my favorite, it’s a bit rude, but has worked well for many people.)

And, finally, the one I try to keep uppermost in my mind at all times

  • At least some of “them” some of the time consider me a jerk—and some of the time they are probably correct.

Image credit: Connectria

Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Finding the Cause of Turnover

Monday, March 13th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Bosses are usually unrelenting when something goes wrong with a product/service. They, the team and often the entire company work to not only find the cause, so it won’t happen again, but also to placate their customers.

However, when the problem is an internal human one, they are more hesitant to root it out, since that often means first looking in the mirror and then actually changing (not just paying lip-service until the turmoil dies down).

Read other Golden Oldies here.

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read allIf the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn the right frame of MAPping Company Success it says, “Have a quick question or just want to chat?” along with both email and phone number.

A few weeks ago a “John,” a founder, called me to see if I had any idea why his turnover was so high.  

In response to my questions he described his company’s culture, management style, product, etc.

I told him that assuming what he said was what was actually happening then something else was going on.

Since we are several thousand miles apart, we came up with the idea of using a stationary camcorder to tape the interactions; a “set it and forget it” approach to capture the norm and not performances.

A few days later he sent me a link to see the results.

I choked at the length, but it didn’t take that long to find what the likely problem was.

To see if my instinct was correct, I watched the entire nine hours on fast forward.

What I saw was that, almost without exception, during every interaction John had, whether with programmers or senior staff, he interrupted them to take calls or respond to texts.

We discussed the ramifications and effects of the constant interruptions and I asked him how he would feel if they had acted the same way.

He said it had happened to him and he usually felt annoyed, offended or both.

So I asked why they would feel any different.

John said that also explained why one senior developer said he preferred to work where he was shown some respect.

John had chalked it up to the developer’s age and that he couldn’t handle the casual atmosphere, but thinking back the guy had had a good relationship and no problems with the team.

I suggested that instead of saying anything he just change, i.e., pay attention and not interrupt, since actions speak louder than words.

I also sent him this image as a constant reminder.

respect

John went further than changing; he called the most recent three who had left, apologized and said he would like them to come back.

One had already accepted a job, but the other two decided to give it another shot.

They both said that his candidness, honesty in recognizing the problem and sincere apology made it likely he would follow through.

Image credits: HikingArtist and via Imgfave

Golden Oldies: Pity for a Generation

Monday, March 6th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

In the three years since I wrote this the situation hasn’t improved — in fact it’s gotten much worse. Worse because it encompasses what seems like the majority of people from every country around the globe and all ages.

Something else happened during those three years — mental health practitioners recognized the addictive qualities of social media and formalized several conditions, such as FOMO (fear of missing out).

As with any addiction there are two sides, addicts and suppliers. Join me tomorrow for a look at the supply side.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicubunuphotos/5925119201/

I feel sorry for the current generation and all those who’ve bought into their ethos.

Everywhere I go I see them; eyes locked on a tiny screen desperately seeking the latest indication that they fit in; that they are accepted; that they are liked.

But what they find on that screen is an illusion; one that leads them away from the real connections all humans crave.

Studies show that American college students spend, on average, three hours texting and an hour and 40 minutes on Facebook every day. One of the more recent studies centers on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale: Norwegian researchers have observed that excessive Facebook use leads to higher rates of anxiety and social insecurity.

The proof is in what happens when they’re in public and you take that screen away.

“I gathered my things and bolted out the door,” one student wrote about her reaction once she finished her meal. “I was glad that I could feel like I belong somewhere again. . . . What I hated most was being alone and feeling like I was being judged for it.” Another student echoed this experience. “By not having my phone or laptop to hide behind, it was amazing how self-conscious I felt.”

How sad is that?

In short, no screen equals no confidence

“I realized something disturbing after doing this. If I don’t feel connected with others, I automatically feel alone, unpopular, less confident.”

The feedback of online connections may provide instant gratification, but that’s cold comfort when what you’re longing for is warmth, intimacy and a hug.

Flickr image credit: nicubunu.photo

Golden Oldies: Leadership’s Future: Cheating Is OK

Monday, February 27th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a Feb decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

When I wrote this post in 2009 one of the things I wondered was this. If 95% of students felt it was OK to cheat (not a new attitude) to get what they wanted in school would they see cheating and other similar actions/attitudes as acceptable in the grownup world of work?

While eight years isn’t all that long, we’re already seeing the answer and it’s not pretty. As usual, Silicon Valley is leading the way and, sadly, it will probably get a lot worse before it gets any better

Read other Golden Oldies here.

cheat

According to Donald McCabe, a professor of management and global business at Rutgers University, 95 percent of high school students say they’ve cheated during the course of their education, ranging from letting somebody copy their homework to test-cheating. There’s a fair amount of cheating going on, and students aren’t all that concerned about it.”

“The professor has been surveying cheating practices among college kids for 18 years and high school students for six years. He says he’s surveyed 24,000 high school students in 70,000 high schools, grades 9 to 12. His findings? Sixty-four percent of students report one or more instances of serious testing-cheating, which include copying from someone else, helping someone else cheat on a test, or using crib notes or cheat notes.

In 2002 17-year-old Alice Newhall was quoted in a CNN article on cheating, “What’s important is getting ahead. The better grades you have, the better school you get into, the better you’re going to do in life. And if you learn to cut corners to do that, you’re going to be saving yourself time and energy. In the real world, that’s what’s going to be going on. The better you do, that’s what shows. It’s not how moral you were in getting there.“”

Colleges are no different, with MBA students leading the pack. 56 percent of MBA students admitted to cheating…  In 1997, McCabe did a survey in which 84 percent of undergraduate business students admitted cheating versus 72 percent of engineering students and 66 percent of all students. In a 1964 survey by Columbia University, 66 percent of business students surveyed at 99 campuses said they cheated at least once.”

MBAs lead another pack; see if these names sound familiar: Jeff Skilling (MBA, Harvard). Joe Nacchio, (MBA, NYU), Richard Fuld, (MBA, Stern), John Thain, (MBA, Harvard), the list goes on and on.

Do you see a pattern here?

  • It’s OK to cheat in high school to get good grades to gain entrance to a good college;
  • it’s OK to cheat in college to gain entrance to a top grad school; and
  • it’s OK to cheat in grad school to insure access to a good job, especially on Wall Street; so
  • it must be OK once you’re working to cheat to improve your company’s bottom line.

Cheating is good business in its own right directly or in the sub-strata of plagiarism.

Google offers 1,620,000 results for “how to cheat in school,” 605,000 for “how to cheat on a test” and another 562,000 for “how to cheat on tests,” not to mention the more than 3,000 “how to cheat” videos on YouTube.

Meanwhile, on the plagiarism front, “school papers” returns a whopping 22,600,000 results.

Take a good look at the numbers and you’ll see that religion, spirituality and cheating seem to happily co-exist.

“The University of California at Los Angeles’s Higher Education Research Institute reported that 80 percent of students show high degrees of religious commitment and spirituality. The new data comes from a survey conducted this past year involving 112,232 first year students attending 236 various colleges and universities.”

All the ethics courses, integrity lectures and moral preaching that go on aren’t likely to change decades of successful cheating—mainly because it works getting people where they want to go.

Cheating isn’t new, but the casual acceptance of it as a viable life strategy has radically changed.

So what do we do now?

Image credit: Jhayne

Golden Oldies: Flavors of Fools

Monday, February 20th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I’ve written several posts over the years about fools (links below). I thought sharing previous thoughts was apropos, since tomorrow’s post is about the importance/value of fools to every organization.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmak/2575149616/

In the past we’ve looked at fools and money, fools and management and Shakespeare’s idea that one should never underestimate someonewise enough to play the fool.”

One fool thing I haven’t addressed is the idea of suffering them gladly, as in ‘he doesn’t suffer fools gladly’.

An op-ed piece defines the saying this way,

It suggests that a person is so smart he has trouble tolerating people who are far below his own high standards. It is used to describe a person who is so passionately committed to a vital cause that he doesn’t have time for social niceties toward those idiots who stand in its way. It is used to suggest a level of social courage; a person who has the guts to tell idiots what he really thinks.

(If you buy the validity of the idea behind this definition I have a great deal on an orange bridge you can buy for your backyard.)

It isn’t courage this person has, but rather a lack of empathy, an abundance of arrogance and absolutely no manners.

And make no mistake, even these days manners are important; in fact, more so than ever. As Edmund Burke said,

“Manners are of more importance than laws. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.”

So before you part a fool and his money, give a fool a tool, or refuse to suffer a fool I suggest you look in the mirror, because one person’s genius is another person’s fool.

Flickr image credit: Chris Makarsky

Golden Oldies: Differences Worth Noting

Monday, February 13th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

During his time at GE, Jack Welch was lauded and crowned as a god of leadership and management— How times have changed. Welch’s success was dominantly a function of GE’s financial services and he created one of the harshest cultures around—which would have failed miserably with today’s workforce.

Immelt sold off the financial stuff, totally changed the culture from one of suspicion to one of trust,  dumped the forced rankings, just issued a directive that all new hires learn to code and has responded to the current worldwide protectionist mindset by moving from globalization to localization.

Immelt is a worthy role model.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

2185315789_e5d6af6e0d_mThere is a sizable difference between accepting positional leadership when a company is at the bottom and there is no place to go but up and taking over when its at its height—even more so when what was the growth engine and source of extraordinary profits disappears from the economic landscape.

It is one thing to maximize what you have, wringing out every last possible dollar, and investing in innovation for sustainable growth in the future.

It is one thing to create a culture where public shame and the likelihood of termination for missing your numbers rules and changing that to a culture that encourages appropriate risk-taking and never kills the messenger when the risk doesn’t pan out; a culture that understands not every innovation will be a home run, but encourages and applauds the effort anyway.

These are the differences between Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt.

Welch had taken over when the company was in the bottom of an economic cycle. He took over GE in a recession, not at the height of a bubble.

Immelt got the job right after the end of the high-flying 1990s, an era which crowned CEOs with mythical, God-like crowns, and Welch was bestowed the biggest of them all.

Immelt had known before the meltdown the company needed to wean off the leveraged risk from finance that was begun under Welch. … He admitted mistakes, as any good leader must do, and GE more quietly if not humbly went about its business in making the company a 21st century sustainable and reliable profit engine.

The differences are worth noting.

Flickr image credit: laurita13

Golden Oldies: Bullies And Performance

Monday, February 6th, 2017

https://twitter.com/goldenoldiesbnnIt’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I hate bullies. The biggest changes in the decade since I wrote this post are that there are more bullies, many using the anonymity of the internet to morph into trolls, more hand-wringing, that accomplishes nothing, and a rising tide less willing to be bullied that responds loudly and displays its disgust actively with its wit and its feet. Hopefully that tide will turn into a tsunami.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Does your newspaper carry The Born Loser by Chip Sansom? Actually, I don’t find Brutus, the main character, to be a loser—just a slightly naive guy who works for an arrogant bully who constantly belittles him.

In the July 26 panel the dialog is as follows:

Boss: I am looking for a unique spin to put on our new ad campaign—do you have any ideas?

Brutus: Gee, Chief, I’m not sure—are there any ideas you think I should think of?

Boss: Brutus Thornapple, master of thinking inside the box.

It reminded me of managers I’ve known, who, no matter what happened or what feedback they received, never could understand that it was their MAP and their actions, not their people’s, that was the root cause of their under-performing groups.

After all, if you

  • ask for input and ridicule those who offer it, why be surprised when you stop receiving input;
  • claim that you want to solve problems while they’re still molehills, yet kill the messengers who bring the news, you should expect to grapple with mountainous problems requiring substantially more resources;
  • tell people their ideas are stupid, whether directly or circumspectly, or, worse, that they are for thinking of them, why should they offer themselves up for another smack with the verbal two-by-four?

So, before you start ranting or whining about your group’s lack of initiative and innovation, try really listening to yourself and the feedback you get and then look in the mirror—chances are the real culprit will be looking straight back at you.

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