Showing posts with label Performance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Performance. Show all posts

April 15, 2019

Theater And A Bagel

We stopped in at the Flying V Awesome-A-Thon yesterday. 

How can anything "awesome" not be good? 

Flying V mixes it up with the arts and culture. 

They combine theater with wrestling!

Essentially, this group tries to add adventure and combat to the more staid dramatic performances. 

Anything that brings theater more alive is definitely a good thing. 

We got to sit in on the event organizers doing a live podcast and could definitely see their enthusiasm for "Shakespeare and training" and becoming a success story.  

Anyway, they did have some snacks at the event, and this colorful bagel was definitely the standout. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 12, 2019

Gotta Love FANUC


I love FANUC industrial robots. 

They are made by a secretive company in Japan and they are #1 in workplace automation worldwide! 

They have over half a million installed industrial robots around the world.

Their robots are on assembly lines making everything from "cars and smartphones to beverages and drugs."  They also are in Tesla and Amazon...so you know they are pretty much everywhere. 

FANUC has customers in 108 countries supported by 263 service locations. 

Their robots are made by...that's right other robots...80% is automated

These robots are strong, fast, and precise, and they can do dangerous work. 

This company is the future of jobs, productivity, efficiency. 

But of course, people are still the brains behind the brawn.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 29, 2018

The 3 P's Do NOT Matter

So I heard Joel Osteen give a great speech. 

He said that it's not any of these things that make a person worthwhile:

1. Possessions
2. Performance
3. Popularity

But rather, it is a person's inner self and soul that determine their value. 

Each person is a son or daughter of G-d.

I agree that our personal worth is a matter of how we act as human beings in choosing right over wrong and good over evil; and it is not based on how much we have, how successful we have become, or how much we are liked. 

In the end, a person must return to their maker alone to answer for their actions.  

You can't take anything with you.

Materialism and vanity all fade away and only your spiritual inner self will pass over and live on.  

So how will you spend your time and attention--chasing vanity of vanities or doing good in all your words and deeds? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 25, 2017

Introducing The Valkyrie

Wow, just loved this new Aston Martin called the Valkyrie!

If I had a spare $2.6 million laying around that no one needed, I'd definitely get one of these. 

1,000 horsepower, V-12 engine, and they fit the car to you, literally!

"It's a carbon fiber rocket" with an assisted electric motor for the environmentally conscious. 

Here's a link to some awesome images of this gorgeous "hypercar" (which reminds me of Elon Musk's Hyperloop and it's a thousand time better looking than the Tesla).  

Fast, futuristic, performance, stylish, and sleek as can be.

I almost want to photoshop a picture of myself in the diver's seat with a huge smile on my face as I wave and say see you later. ;-)

(Source Photo: Aston Martin)
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August 4, 2016

America's Great Disappointment


So the Wall Street Journal asks today,"Why [Is] This Recovery Is So Lousy"?

They say that with Obama, "No president was ever better positioned to lead a strong recovery...no resources were spared...yet not once in the last seven years has annual economic growth ever reached [even] 3%."

But the news gets worse, in fact, "U.S. GDP grew a disappointing 1.2% in the second quarter...[and] economic growth is now tracking at a 1% rate in 2016...that makes for an average annual 2.1% rate since the end of the recession."

And that is after Obama's $836 billion stimulus and $3 trillion in Federal reserves injected into the economy!

The Great Recession may be the most disastrous economic results short of the Great Depression itself.

However, this is not the only reason Americas are disappointed with what they are getting from Washington (and we won't even talk about the candidates).

80% say we are heading in the wrong direction!  Let's repeat that again, 80% say we are heading in the wrong direction.

Harvard Business Review says it's not just the economy stupid, since we still [despite ourselves--with failing policies of enormous tax and spend and over-regulation] rank #5 on GDP per capita. 

Yet that doesn't translate into overall social progress for us.

Get this, the U.S. ranks 19th in social progress in the world--just one place above Slovena!

Why???

- We rank 26th on personal rights because of restrictions on freedoms like the right of assembly. 

- We rank 27th on personal safety because of high homicides and poor road safety.

- We rank 36th on environmental quality because of high greenhouse gases and poor water quality.

- We rank 40th on basic knowledge because of poor education and high dropout rates.

- We rank 68th on health and wellness because of suicides, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

HBR points out that there may be individual reasons for each of these, but overall this is a bleak "troubling picture" and Trump isn't the one who painted it.

The sad fact is that one of the only things that the U.S. is ranking #1 in the world in is our national debt to everyone else...and this is being squandered. 

Think good and hard about the nation you are leaving your children and grandchildren...this is a horrible performance scorecard for America, the superpower!  ;-)

(Source of the amazing photo: Minna Blumenthal)
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April 7, 2015

Different, Better Than Mad Max

Love this photo of the Orange Porsche epecially at this cool angle.

Ok, this is not a Mad Max black muscle car.

More like a Fast and Furious action racing vehicle. 

When I saw this car in front of the new Pike and Rose in North Bethesda (gorgeous by the way), I thought this is becoming more like Miami than typical Washington, D.C. 

Aside from the cars, the upscale dining, shopping, and iPic movie theatre (with luxurious reclining plush chairs and alcoholic drinks) has brought this area to a whole new level. 

Mad Max eat your heart out or perhaps those of your post-apocalyptic adversaries. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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January 20, 2015

Buyer Beware, Else Buyer Remorse

Just a quick lesson I wanted to share from my grandfather.

He used to say (or so my dad used to tell me), "You open your eyes or you open your wallet!"

Put another way is that "A fool and his money are soon parted."

But I like the way my grandfather put it even better--easier to remember and no name calling involved! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 28, 2014

The Movers and Shakers

For a long time, I've heard of "The movers and shakers" as the ones who get things done. 

But I think there is another and more accurate meaning to this phase.

And it is related to the old adage of "those who can do, and those who can't teach." 

Note, there is no disrespect intended to good, solid teachers here, as they have one of the most important jobs in society in educating and molding our children, but the point is that there are some that can only talk theory, but haven't actually done the job!

Similarly, in the organizations, movers and shakers are often not one and the same, but two different types of people.

We have those who are "the movers"--who actually get things done, who break logjams, who overcome bureaucracy, who solve problems, who make things better.

And then there are "the shakers," those who do more jumping up and down and waving to get attention for themselves, their egos, their resumes, and their bogus brands, but don't or can't actually deliver the goods--real results. 

The movers are the genuine, hardworking doers and carers of our organizations; the shakers are the Billie Big Mouth Bass showpeople. 

The movers work the problems everyday and make progress and it is wonderful to celebrate their hardwork and successes, but the shakers are the attention-grabbers, boasting more about what they do, instead of actually doing much of anything. 

Beware of those that talk a good game, but can't actually hit the ball--and the recognition and attention they are bathing in may actually just be a good cover like from a tanning salon and not from the real beach. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to RedHerring1up)
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October 18, 2013

Mr. Universe of Leadership

A colleague at work told me about a book called Compelling People by Neffinger and Kohut.

The thesis of the book is that the most effective and powerful leaders balance projecting strength and warmth.


If you just show strength, then you would potentially be seen as dictatorial, a micromanager, unapproachable, all work and no personality, and maybe even a tyrant.


And if you just project warmth, then you would likely be seen as wimpy, emotional but not intellectual/skilled, managing by friendship and not professionally, and not focused on results. 


That's why combining and projecting a healthy balance of strength and warmth is effective in leading towards mission results, but also in being a "mensch" and caring for the people you work with. 


You can't have sustained strong performance without a happy workforce.


And you can't have a happy workforce without strength to achieve meaningful work performance.


In funny, but in a sense Arnold Schwarzenegger is a good example of someone who combines the two. 


On one hand, he represents the big and strong "Mr. Universe," and was able to play in numerous action movies, such as Terminator, Predator, Conan The Barbarian, and more.


At the same time, Schwarzenegger always had a warm, softer side and stared in comedies like Kindergarten Cop, Twins (as the intellectual twin of street-wise Danny Devito), and Junior (where he undergoes a male pregnancy!).


While no one is good at everything and it can be hard to effectively balance strength and warmth, leaders that master this can become the real Mr. Universe for their organizations and people. ;-)


(Source Photo: Left from Andy Blumenthal and Right from here with attribution to Eva Rinaldi)

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August 23, 2013

Posture Matters

So the military got it right when they teach their cadets to stand tall "at attention."

"Chin up, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in."

The Wall Street Journal (21 August 2013) says that "posture can determine who's a hero, [and] who's a wimp."

Research has shown that striking a power pose raises testosterone levels that is associated with feelings of strength, superiority, social dominance, (and even aggression at elevated levels) and lowers cortisol levels and stress. 

Power poses or even just practicing these have been linked with better performance, including interviewing and SAT scores.

Body language or non-verbal communication such as standing erect, leaning forward, placing hands firmly on the table, can project power, presence,  confidence, and calmness. 

It all ties together where saying the right thing is augmented and synergized by looking the right way, and doing the right thing. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Official U.S. Navy Imagery)
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December 30, 2012

Dyson Vs. Dirt Devil

For those of you neat freaks out there, you probably have been sold on the King of Vacuum cleaners--the Dyson!

Dyson, a British company has built a vacuum cleaner (and fan and hand dryer) empire with 4,000 employees and $1.5 billion in sales. 


For a number of years now I have used Dyson including their super powerful (and expensive) "Animal" bagless cleaner--this thing actually ate up one of my phone cords and tore it to shreds.


I've also had other Dysons and my experience has been that while they look really nice in their bright yellows and grays, and sort of sleek for a vacuum, but they tend to break down--especially the motor for the brushes that work on the floor that I find accumulates hair and dirt around the spinner until it stops working. 


The other thing that I've found with the Dyson is they come with so many annoying attachments, many with no place to actually attach them all--I think it is overkill for most people's basic cleaning needs. 


After going through a number of Dysons, I finally got fed up with paying so much and getting so little, and we decided to stop "investing" in short-lived Dyson vacuum cleaners.


Instead we said let's get a simple, cheapo, Dirt Devil for like 50 bucks and run it into the ground. If it stopped working we could replace it 6-10 times for the cost of a single Dyson!


We purchased the Dirt Devil, and my expectations were very low--I actually considered it an experiment in purchasing this low-tech machine, and just seeing what we would get. 


Well, it's been about 3 months and I can't believe the amount of vacuum you can get for so little money with the Dirt Devil--it is bagless like the Dyson and without scientifically measuring the amount of dirt it picks up, I'd say it is almost equivalent in getting the dirty job done. 


Additionally, the Dirt Devil--doesn't come with all the useless attachments--a case where more is less--and it weighs only around 8 pounds, which is 1/3 of what the Dyson weighed--so it is much easier to use around the home. 


Similarly, when I look at the cool Dyson fans without blades, it seems almost magical how they actually work, but frankly who cares if it cost $300-$450 and doesn't work as well as a basic floor Vornado that sells for about $120. 


My opinion is that Dyson is generally overpriced and underperforms--but at least you'll have the image of innovation and performance, even if not the reality at the price point.


Anyway, If I had a vacuum cleaner dream, it would be to one day get one of those "commercial" vacuum cleaners that you see being used in the huge buildings--almost non-stop use--and they may cost a little more, but they actually give you more as well. ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Molly DG)

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September 11, 2012

Radiate Possibilities

Today, I had the opportunity to see one of the best leadership videos I have ever seen, called "Leadership: An Art of Possibility." 


It features Ben Zander, an Orchestra Conductor who is not just a leader of making music, but of driving people to excellence.

Zander's passion and energy bring out the best in people--and you can literally see them transformed as their playing comes alive, their faces shine, and they glow under coaching of this conductor extraordinaire. 

His leadership principles are:

- Speak possibility--create a shift in being (transformation) by seeing the possibility in everyone, and lead people by empowering, not commanding; help people get in touch with their inner passion, so they remember why they love what they do and why it is ultimately important.

- Quiet the inner voices--communicate that everyone can get an A and everyone has value; assume the best of everyone, eliminate the fear of judgement, barriers, and mindset of "I can't do it," so people can genuinely perform. 

- Enroll every voice in the vision--make every person feel and realize that they can contribute and make a difference on our journey together; shift from a mindset of pure individuals to that of living in a connected world; like in a symphony-- we create a "sounding together."

- Look for shining eyes and radiating faces--you know you are positively reaching people and impacting them when their eyes and face light up; and you need to ask yourself what you are missing, when you aren't getting this guttural reaction. 

- Rule #6 ("the only rule")--Don't take yourself so %@&$! seriously; mistakes happen and life goes on; really feel the joy, relief, ease, spontaneity, and community around what we do. 

The art of possibility is a paradigm shift where we move from having an external standard to live up to, and instead move to fulfilling the possibility we can live into. 

In essence, Zander's leadership philosophy is about removing the barriers that inhibit us and releasing our deep inner talents, so we can achieve our marvelous potentials--and self-actualize. 

As Zander states: the conductor actually does not make a sound, yet by empowering people, he leads them to make the most beautiful music together. 

If you get a chance to watch this video, I believe it is extremely valuable because the passion, love, and energy that Zander demonstrates turns every face into a presence radiating their own joy and excellence--it is truly leadership unleashed. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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September 3, 2011

Weeding Out The Servant-Leader From The Psychopath

Psychopath-at-work

A number of weeks ago, I saw the movie Horrible Bosses, a dark comedy with Kevin Spacey who not only horribly mistreats his workers, but also ends up being a psychopathic killer. (Note: the film has already grossed over $170 million).

The UK Daily Mail (2 September 2011) reports that psychologists have found that "one in 25 bosses is a [real] psychopath' but hides it with charm and business-speak," and that this is 4 times higher than the prevalence of psychopathology in the general population.

According to Oregon Counseling, a psychopath "lives a predatory lifestyle. They feel little or no regret...[and they] see people as obstacles to be overcome and eliminated."

The position of a boss at work would seem like a comfortable perch for a psychopath to occupy, where they could feed off of vulnerabilities of their underlings.

Thank G-d, not all bosses are like this--I can vouch for some very good ones out there--who truly are devoted to the success of the enterprise and look out for their people. As one of my good bosses told me, "we are going to set up together to succeed!"

At the same time, there are other bosses out there, who as one of my best friends would say, "the wheel is still turning, but the hamster is dead." They are there purely for themselves--plain and simple. Their career, their success, their next promotion...everyone else is just part of the food chain.

If I had to guess, I would bet that narcissism is highly correlated with psychopathic behavior at work. Note--to organizational behavior researchers out there, please verify!

So how do the psychopaths achieve the positions of power?

According to the research cited in Daily Mail, they actually cover up their poor performance and climb the social corporate ladder "by subtly charming supervisors and subordinates."

In other words, boss psychopaths are chameleons--expert at hiding their true colors or as my father used to tell me if that person has two faces, why would they use that one? :-)

Boss psychopaths are NOT real leaders--they lack empathy, are callous, deceitful, and use others for their own gain.

When we are fooled by psychopaths into putting them into positions of power, we are falling prey to their manipulations, and are putting our organizations and people at the ultimate risk for failure.

One Psychologist calls psychopaths: "people without a conscience"--this is the complete opposite of who we need to seek out as leaders for our organization--to raise them up to higher standards of conduct, performance, and genuine teamwork.

A REAL leader is a caretaker of the mission and people of the organization who strives to see both outperform and thrive--while bottom-feeding is for sharks and psychopaths only!

There is a religious (Jewish) saying that from one good deed comes another--for the organization and it's people, focus on the demonstration of ethical and caring behavior and results.

When I see a truly great leader, I am am inspired and hopeful again.

(Source Photo: here)

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April 11, 2011

Optimizing Culture For Performance

Interdependence

Strategy + Business (Spring 2011) has an interview with Edgar Schein, the MIT sage of organizational culture.

In it, he describes why it is so hard to change this.

In my experience, organizational culture is key to success.

Why do we want to change organizational culture to begin with?

Sometimes it becomes dysfunctional and can get in the way of performance.

Sometimes, leaders think they can simply change a culture, but Schein disagrees. He says that you cannot simply introduce a new culture and tell people to follow it--"that will never work."

"Instead you have to...solve business problems by introducing new behaviors."

However, you cannot solve problems or even raise concerns where "in most organizations the norms are to punish it."

Schein states that "the people with the most authority...must make the others feel safe"--to speak up, contribute, and even make mistakes.

Schein goes on to call for people "to work with one another as equal partners"--breaking down the traditional organizational boundaries--so that we stop telling people, so to speak, that "you're in my lane" or "that's above your pay grade."

He goes a step further, stating that the healthiest work cultures are interdependent, meaning that people actively try to help one another solve problems.

What an enormously powerful idea, that everyone has something valuable to contribute. Every opinion contributes to the dialogue--and all employees are worthwhile.

That is my definition of a healthy culture, for the organization and its people.

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January 23, 2011

How To Cope When The Boss Is A Bully

We are living in tough economic times, and according to a recent news article, even those who have jobs are often feeling the pain.

USA Today, 28 December 2010, features a cover story called “Bullying in the workplace is common, hard to fix.

The subhead: “One in three adults has been bullied at work” – based on research conducted by Zogby International.

This reminds me of the poster “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten,” since the old schoolyard bullying is faithfully carried over to the “adult” workspace.

How unfortunate for our employees and our organizations—because abusive leaders not only harm employees through ongoing intimating and demeaning behavior, but ultimately they bring down organizational morale, innovation, and productivity.

It’s like poison that starts with the individual bully and spreads—permeating from his or her human targets (our precious human capital assets) to chip away bit by bit at the core of organization’s performance.

According to the article, the bully often behaves in subtle ways so as not to get caught:

- “Purposely leaving a worker out of communications, so they can’t do their job well

- Mocking someone during meetings, and

- Spreading malicious gossip about their target”

To further protect themselves, bullies may exhibit the pattern where they “kiss up and kick down.” Therefore, the higher ups may close their eyes to the abusive behavior of the bully—as far as their concerned the bully is golden.

By menacing their employees, bullying bosses spread trepidation amongst their victims and prevent them from telling anyone—because their targets fear that there will be “hell to pay,” in terms of retribution, if they do.

So bullied employees react by withdrawing at work, calling in sick more, and trying to escape from their tormentor by finding another job elsewhere in the same organization or in another.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, “slightly more than 60% of bullies are men, and 58% of targets are women.” But generally, the sexes tend to prey on their own: “Women target other women in 80% of cases. Men are more apt to target other men.”

For employees who are victims, professionals offer four basic strategies, which are adapted here. Of course, none of these is ideal, but all of them give people a way to cope:

1) Talk It Out—it may be wishful thinking, but the first thing you want to try and do is to talk with the bully and at least try and reason with him or her. If that doesn't work, you can always move on to strategies two through four.

2) Fight—document the abuse and report it (e.g. up the chain, to the C-suite, to internal affairs, the inspector general, etc.). Like with the bully in the playground, sometimes you have to overcome the fear and tell the teacher, so to speak.

3) Flight—leave the organization you’re in—find another job either internally or at another outfit; the focus of the thinking here is that when there is a fire, you need to get out before you get burned.

4) Zone Out—ignore the bully by waiting it out; this may be possible, if the bully is near retirement, about to get caught, or may otherwise be leaving his/her abusive perch for another position or to another organization.

Experts point out that whatever strategy you chose to pursue, your work is critical, but the most important thing at the moment is your welfare—physical, mental, and spiritual. And your safety is paramount.

As a human being, I empathize with those who have suffered through this. Additionally, as a supervisor, I try to keep in mind that there are "two sides to every coin" and that I always need to be mindful of others' feelings.

Finally, know that challenging times do pass, and that most people are good. I find it comforting to reflect on something my grandmother used to say: “The One In Heaven Sees All.”


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November 26, 2010

Raising the Bar By Aligning Expectations and Personality

I always love on the court television show Judge Hatchett, when she tells people: "I expect great things from you!"

The Pygmalion Effect says that when we have high expectations of performance for people, they perform better.

In other words, how you see others is how they perform.

While behavior is driven by a host of motivational factors (recognition, rewards, and so on), behavior and ultimately performance is impacted by genetic and environmental factors—“nature and nurture”—and the nurture aspect includes people’s expectations of us.

Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, people live up or down to expectations.

For example, studies by Rosenthal and Jacobson showed that if teachers expected enhanced performance from selected children, those children performed better.

When people have high or low expectations for others, they treat them differently—consciously or unconsciously—they tip off what they believe the others are capable of and will ultimately deliver. In the video, The Pygmalion Effect: Managing the power of Expectation, these show up in the following ways:

  • Climate: The social and emotional mood we create, such as tone, eye contact, facial expression, body language, etc.
  • Inputs: The amount and quality of instruction, assistance, or input we provide.
  • Outputs: The opportunities to do the type of work that best aligns with the employee and produce that we provide.
  • Feedback: The strength and duration of the feedback we provide.

In business, expect great things from people and set them to succeed by providing the following to meet those expectations:

  • Inspiration
  • Teaching
  • Opportunity
  • Encouragement

Additionally, treat others in the style that is consistent with the way that they see themselves, so that there is underlying alignment between the workplace (i.e. how we treat the employee) and who the employee fundamentally is.

Normally people think that setting high expectations means creating a situation where the individual’s high performance will take extra effort – both on their part and on the part of the manager.

However, this is not necessarily the case at all. All we have to do is align organizational expectations with the inherent knowledge, skills, and abilities of the employee, and their individual aspirations for development.

The point is we need to play to people’s strengths and help them work on their weaknesses. This, along with ongoing encouragement, can make our goals a reality, and enable the organization to set the bar meaningfully high for each and every one of us.


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November 13, 2010

A Spiritual Approach To Material Success

Anyway, I’m reading this book about achieving personal wellbeing and there is a section about a study that was done where people were given two choices:

1) Earn $50,000, while your peers earn $25,000 or

2) Earn $100,000, while your peers earn $200,000

Well, the study found that about half the respondents choose #1—even though they would earn significantly less (i.e. literally half) and be able to afford less in real purchasing power.

In other words, many people choose to be poorer in real terms, in order to be relatively well off compared to their peers.

This is in stark contrast to the notion of collaboration. In leadership classes, books, etc., haven’t we been trained by now to believe that by working together, we can increase “the pie” for everyone? Well, increasing the pie seems appealing to many, only if their slice remains the largest piece!

The question is—why? Is it that people are unabashedly competitive, overwhelming selfish, or endlessly jealous of others? Or is this a survival-based choice, where we are “hardwired” to fight not only to stay alive, but also to achieve status?

Frequently at work—particularly around budget time—we hear people say things like this is “a zero-sum game”—meaning that what goes to one, comes from another. In other words, there is a winner and a loser in every transaction. For example, if I give you the resources, someone else has to give up some resources, so we can achieve our overall budget numbers.

Similarly at performance time, there is typically a “performance pool” with a certain allocation of money available for bonuses. The more that goes to one/some, the less that is available for others.

So despite all the “platitudes” about sharing, in real life a message about competition vs. sharing seems repeated again and again in life, with the doling out of the best education, job opportunities, healthcare, housing, and so on. There are limited/scarce resources and so not everyone is going to get what they want. The message sent to all: you have to compete to get your due—and the more someone else gets, the less that’s available for you.

But is striving for superior status really always desirable?

From a business perspective, there is a compelling case to be made that competition drives performance, and that we need to reward the best performers. At the same time, collaboration and information-sharing can improve our competitive edge. In other words, working with your peers effectively can improve everybody’s chances for success.

However, to many, there is an inherent notion of inequity in promoting competition, because we are all people—all children of G-d—all worthy. Why should some get more than others?

Unfortunately, there is a misperception of what competition is really all about and what it means to succeed.

Many believe or are taught that those that “win the race” are the more deserving—i.e. they are better people, chosen, or selected by fate or DNA; and those that get less are either a lower class or caste, punished or cursed, or that they must simply work less or just don’t try. Many unfair and ridiculous judgments are thus cast on why some have more and less. (Even the people who “lose the race” often feel this way.)

So it is no wonder, when people are asked to choose real or relative wealth, in a way, it is no wonder that so many may choose relative over real wealth—because winning means that they are deserving and therefore better.

If only we could let go of our judgmental attitudes, our superiority complexes, and the notions of entitlements because “we are who we are,” then maybe we could see past the illusion of superiority and move toward a society where we all seek a larger pie for everyone to share and benefit from.

In that world, everyone will chose option #2—to not only do their best, but also to maximize the best for everyone else.

In the end, competition is not with others but with ourselves. And success is helping others succeed, and maybe even being happy for them if they do better than we do.


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June 25, 2010

TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More

People are selfish; they think in terms of win-lose, not win-win. The cost of this kind of thinking is increasingly unacceptable in a world where teamwork matters more than ever.

Today, the problems we face are sufficiently complex that it takes a great deal more collaboration than ever to yield results. For example, consider the recent oil spill in the Gulf, not to mention the ongoing crises of our time (deadly diseases, world hunger, sustainable energy, terrorism).

When we don’t work together, the results can be catastrophic. Look at the lead-up to 9-11, the poster child for what can happen if when we fail to connect the dots.

A relay race is a good metaphor for the consequences of poor teamwork. As Fast Company (“Blowing the Baton Pass,” July/August 2010) reports, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the USA’s Darvis Patton was on the third leg of the race, running neck and neck with a runner from Trinidad when he and his relay partner, Tyson Gay, blew it:

“Patton rounded the final turn, approaching…Gay, who was picking up speed to match Patton. Patton extended the baton, Gay reached back, and the baton hit his palm. Then, somehow it fell. The team was disqualified.”

Patton and Gay were each world-class runners on their own, but the lack of coordination between them resulted in crushing defeat.

In the business realm, we saw coordination breakdown happen to JetBlue in February 2007, when “snowstorms had paralyzed New York airports, and rather than cancel flights en masse, Jet Blue loaded up its planes…and some passengers were trapped for hours.”

Why do people in organizations bicker instead of team? According to FC, it’s because we “underestimate the amount of effort needed to coordinate.” I believe it’s really more than that – we don’t underestimate it, but rather we are too busy competing with each other (individually, as teams, as departments, etc.) to recognize the overarching importance of collaboration.

This is partly because we see don’t see others as helping us. Instead we (often erroneously) see them as potential threats to be weakened or eliminated. We have blinders on and these blinders are facilitated and encouraged by a reward system in our organizations that promotes individualism rather than teamwork. (In fact, all along the way, we are taught that we must compete for scarce resources – educational slots, marriage partners, jobs, promotions, bonuses and so on.)

So we think we are hiring the best and the brightest. Polished resume, substantial accomplishments, nice interview, solid references, etc. And of course, we all have the highest expectations for them. But then even the best employees are challenged by organizational cultures where functional silos, “turf wars”, and politicking prevail. Given all of the above, why are we surprised by their failure to collaborate?

Accordingly, in an IT context, project failure has unfortunately become the norm rather than an exception. We can have individuals putting out the best widgets, but if the widgets don’t neatly fit together, aren’t synchronized for delivery on schedule and within budget, don’t meet the intent of the overall customer requirements, and don’t integrate with the rest of the enterprise—then voilá, another failure!

So what do we need to become better at teamwork?

  • Realize that to survive we need to rely on each other and work together rather than bickering and infighting amongst ourselves.
  • Develop a strong, shared vision and a strategy/plan to achieve it—so that we all understand the goals and are marching toward it together.
  • Institute a process to ensure that the contributions of each person are coordinated— the outputs need to fit together and the outcomes need to meet the overarching objectives.
  • Reward true teamwork and disincentivize people who act selfishly, i.e. not in the interest of the team and not for the sake of mission.

Teamwork has become very clichĂ©, and we all pay lip service to it in our performance appraisals. But if we don’t put aside our competitiveness and focus on the common good soon, then we will find ourselves sinking because we refused to swim as a team.


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June 5, 2010

Reorganization Best Practices

Sometimes a leader has to consider and implement a reorganization (“reorg”) as this can benefit a organization.

Organizations are not a static environment, but rather are dynamic systems. To survive, organizations must adapt to changes in the external environment and from changing forces within, by reorganizing in ways that improve the organization’s ability to perform.

Harvard Business Review, June 2010, has a couple of important articles on this topic (the articles are actually in reverse order in the issue):

1) “Change For Change’s Sake” by Vermeulen, Puranam, and Gulati

2) “The Decision-Driven Organization” by Blenko, Mankins, and Rogers

In the first article, the authors assert that “even successful corporations have to shake things up to stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Sometimes, this can be driven by changes in the competitive landscape necessitating that we adapt to meet these head on.
  • At other times, it is because of internal organization dysfunctions such as where: routines are stifling innovation, silos are hampering collaboration, and resources have become entrenched with the powerful few—these will hamper performance and potentially destroy the organization if not disrupted.

In the second article, the authors recommend that reorganizations should focus on better decision-making, i.e. on structures that “improves the organization’s ability to make and execute key decisions better and faster than competitors.”

  • Reorgs are seen as necessary for creating the right structure to perform: “Like Generals, they [CEO’s] see their job as putting the right collection of troops in the right place…Nearly half of all CEOs launch a reorg during their first two years on the job.”
  • Results of reorgs are generally poor: According to a Bain and Company study of 57 reorganizations, “fewer than one-third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Most had no affect, and some actually destroyed value.”
  • Start with a “decision audit”: “Instead of beginning a reorg with an analysis of Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats [SWOT], structural changes need to start with what we call a decision audit. The goals of the audit are to understand the set of decisions that are critical to the success of your company’s strategy and to determine the organizational level at which those decision should be made and executed to create the most value.”
  • Align organizational elements to optimize decision-making: Organize assets, capabilities, and structures to “make the essential decisions and get those decisions right more often than not.” Similarly, align “incentives, information flows, and processes with those related to decision-making.”
  • Avoid conducting reorgs that degenerate into turf battles and horse-trading: “Powerful managers grad decision rights they shouldn’t really own while weak ones surrender rights they really should own. [Further,] people end up with responsibilities hat are defined too broadly or too narrowly, given the decision they need to make…without a focus on decisions, these power struggles too often lead too creeping complexity in an organization’s infrastructure.”

In my opinion, reorganizations are likely to be most successful when they have specific goals such as adapting to changes, creating new opportunities, closing gaps, and fixing misalignments. Simply “shaking things up” is not enough reason.

Secondly, aligning the organization around execution is as important as better planning/decision-making. Therefore, we should restructure around two areas—strategy (i.e. planning and decision-making) and operations. For example, in Information Technology, we could restructure and align the organization to improve:

1) Strategy formulation: This involves reorganizing to improve architecture and planning, investment decision-making, project management oversight, customer relationship management, and performance measurement. (Reference: The CIO Support Services Framework)

2) Operational execution: This involves reorganizing to improve IT execution of network and operations, systems lifecycle, information management, and information assurance.

Thirdly, success depends on implementing the reorg with people, funding, and other tangible changes that will help the reorg to meet its goals. This advances it from “redrawing the map” to giving it “the legs” to work on the ground, and is the most exciting stage in seeing the vision be fulfilled.

By reorganizing with specific goals, focusing on better decision-making and execution, and on fully implementing the reorganization with enabling structural and process changes, executives can broadly and deeply impact the performance of the organization for the better.


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April 11, 2010

Balancing Planning and Action

There are two common problems where immature or dysfunctional governance results in poor performance. When good governance is lacking, either decision makers:
1) Over-think and underperform or
2) Under-think and underperform
In the first case, people are seemingly paralyzed (often in a state referred to as “analysis paralysis”) and are hesitant to make a decision and so the organization stagnates—in a state of perpetual inaction—and underperforms.
In the second case, people don’t think enough about what they are doing—they lack adequate mechanisms for planning, analysis, vetting, and general due diligence—and are too quick to just do something, anything—whether or not it’s the “right” thing—and again they end up underperforming.
Both situations have negative consequences on the organization: In one, people are over-thinking and therefore not doing enough and on the other hand, people are under-thinking and therefore end up doing the wrong things.
Instead what we need is a rational sequence of think, do, think do, think, do—where actions are regular, frequent, and driven by a reflection of what’s occurred, the entry of new inputs, an analysis of alternatives, a vetting process, and the point of decision-making.
This is the essence of good governance and the most basic balance of thoughts and deeds, where thinking leads to action and action feeds back to the further thinking and so on.
In it’s more expanded form, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality management, founded the Shewart cycle or PDCA (based on the scientific method)—where planning, doing, checking, and acting is a constant cycle of action and reaction:


Here we can see that good governance leads to continuous momentum from planning (thinking) and doing (performing) to a robust feedback mechanism that includes checking on results and acting to analyze and improve on those.
A recent article in MIT Sloan Management review, Spring 2010 called “Learning When To Stop Momentum,” by Barton and Sutcliffe, provides similar lessons from the perspective of overcoming dysfunctional momentum.
Dysfunctional momentum: “occurs when people continue to work towards an original goal without pausing to recalibrate or examine their processes, even in the face of cues that they should change course.”
Dysfunctional momentum fits into the category described above of under-thinking and underperforming. If we don’t “pause and recalibrate,” (i.e. think before further action) we are not going to perform very effectively.
The authors recommend that we do the following to cure dysfunctional momentum (under-thinking):
1) Be humble—“be confidant in your skills but humble about the situation. Even the most experienced experts cannot know how a dynamic situation will unfold.”
2) Encourage skepticism—“it is important that everyone’s voice be heard.”
3) Seek out bad news—“use the acquired information as an opportunity to learn.”
4) Be available—“interruptions force us to reconsider whether we really know what is going on and how well the present actions are working.”
5) Communicate frequently—“face to face is the richest medium for communication because…it conveys multiple cues that allow for a range of meaning, and it provides the opportunity for rapid feedback.”
To me, we can also cure dysfunctional paralysis (over-thinking) by tempering the prior recommendations with the following ones:
1) Be bold—be willing to understand the requirements, the options, vet them, and make a decision and move forward.
2) Encourage conviction—hear everyone’s opinions, thoughts, and ideas and then have conviction and take a stand.
3) Seek a decision—get the good news and the bad news, put it into a business case or other presentation for decision makers to act on.
4) Be discrete—manage time with discretion following the phrase from Ecclesiastes that “there is a time for everything”—a time for thinking and a time for doing.
5) Communicate with purpose—communication is critical and often the best communication is directed ultimately toward some decision or action to further some advancement on the subject in question.
The article summarizes both perspectives this way: Dysfunctional momentum occurs not necessarily because people are ignorant, risk-seeking or careless, but because they are human and have as much trouble in controlling momentum as they do in surmounting inertia.”
To address the issues of over- and under-thinking problems, we need to establish policy, processes, structures, and tools for good governance that support people in thinking through problems and making decisions on a sound course of action—leading us to a continuous and healthy cycle of thoughts and deeds, planning and action.

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