Posted tagged ‘change’

If a tree falls…

October 28, 2011

This is perhaps a bit less of a blog post and more of a question to my avid reader…

I have been in several meetings in the last few weeks where I cannot help but notice that many attendees (and, I might add, often in meetings with less than 6 people) are emailing, texting on their phones, and generally and openly ignoring whoever happens to be speaking at the time.  Granted, most of the time it was me talking and therefore highly justified, but I swear at least 3 times it was someone else.

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In any case, my questions are these:

  1. have we reached a point where we are all so busy and “meeting overloaded” that we feel it is necessary to respond immediately to other demands on our time, even if it means that you’re openly disrespecting someone else in the room?
  2. Is this just the nature of multi-tasking?  So these folks really are listening intently and doing something else at the same time, because we are all just that good at it?
  3. Is it that this just turns out to be the best use of the attendees’  time?  Because whoever is speaking is doing it just to hear their own voice and there’s really little value in the perspective/opinion they’re sharing?

I am genuinely puzzled by this, because I still cherish the infrequent opportunities to be in the same room with others, where their body language, facial expressions, intonations, and gestures convey something that is completely lost on con calls and IM.  But I am also open to the fact that I may, yet again, be clueless.

What gives???

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You know you make me want to shout

August 18, 2011

As Raymond said in Rain Man, “I’m a very good driver.”  In order to be so good, I need a lot of information.  I need to know where all the other cars around me are, how fast I am going, how much fuel I have left, what gear I am in, what the speed limit is, and of course, who am I listening to on the sound system.  I have devised a system to deliver all this information to me in real-time, while allowing me to focus my attention on the road in front of me as well.

I have five other people sit in the car with me, each responsible for some key piece of information, and have them all shout it at me, constantly, for the entire trip.

What??  You think this is a bad idea???

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Well, then riddle me this.  Why is it that every time I create a well-crafted dashboard for an important project, program or entire collection of projects and ensure that it is kept current, executives and other “drivers” of the business never look at it, choosing instead to be “shouted at” by the other people in the car?

I am not suggesting that a dashboard is a substitute for genuine and important human interaction, but I do think that humans, as many studies show, are genetically pre-disposed to assembling and interpreting disparate visual information quickly and accurately.

What gives?  Is is the colors on my pie chart?  My far too infrequent use of the term “almost done” and “coming along nicely” in the status narratives??  Or do they simply not care?

I can fix just about anything except the last part…

PS – Here’s an awesome footnote:  If you google “dashboard” on Google Images virtually every image is a Business Intelligence Status dashboard, not the kind behind the wheel of a car…  Go figure.

Dante was right

June 13, 2011

Here’s a challenge that quite a few of my clients are facing these days.  How do you foster collaboration, social networking, and other employee “bonding” platforms while not letting the “inmates run the asylum” at the same time??

The short answer is that you take governance seriously.

That’s where Dante comes in.  Dante, as many of you astute students of medieval literature well know, was a 14th century poet who wrote The Divine Comedy.    In the Inferno cantica, Dante describes the nine levels of hell.  Those being:

I think Dante’s model has some relevance even today.  So here are my six circles of Collaboration Governance Hell:

1.  I have no Governance plan.
2.  I wrote one but “forgot” to share with users, stakeholders and sponsors.
3.  I wrote one and shared it with stakeholders and users but did not get anyone’s explicit approval.
4.  I wrote one after our intranet was up and running for 2 years because things were “starting” to get out of control.
5.  I downloaded Joel Olsen’s white paper / governance plan and did a mass find/replace with my company’s name.
6.  I wrote one but it’s just a list of all the things that I don’t think users and site admins should be allowed to do.

If you’re hanging out in one of these circles, don’t despair.  Just double your resolve to get out by:

– leveraging good governance content that is already available on the internet

– customizing it to reflect what really matters in your world and culture

– assuring it gets reviewed and approved by ALL your stakeholders

– developing a way to gently enforce it without emulating the Third Reich…

If you can follow all these steps, someday you may actually find yourself in Purgatorio…  OK, so that’s not Paradiso, but it’s a start!

We the People

June 8, 2011

I had an interesting experience last Thursday night.  Someone who worked for the same company I did, but at different times, organized a reuni0n of sorts for anyone who worked there over the last 10 years or so.  And quite a few people showed up!!  And near as I can tell, the bond that held and holds these folks together to the point where they’d give up an evening at home to reconnect with some old coworkers (granted, in many cases, they are also friends) is a company that no longer exists.  Hmmm…

I hear leaders all the time tell their staff that “their people are their most valuable assets.”  But what struck me was that your people are not only your most valuable assets – I truly do believe that – but they are also your most long-lasting.   I have no idea where the partitions, coffee makers, PC’s, laptops, office furniture and other ‘assets’ went, but I have a pretty good idea where about 80-90% of the people went.  To other businesses nearby to continue their productive work lives.

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So next time you contemplate how to treat a co-worker or a subordinate, remember that there’s a good chance they are going to outlast your company, your role, your title, and perhaps whatever sway you think you hold over them.

Now THAT’S asset management…

Nature v Nurture

May 26, 2011

I was hanging out in my friend Lori’s office a few weeks ago.  She had a magazine in her lobby – HR Magazine.  Who knew such a publication even existed??

The cover story?  “Slackers, Can they be saved?”  The byline?  “Most slackers can be turned into better performers by removing organizational conditions that create or enable loafing behavior.” 

Next, the definition:  “Slackers are people who know they could be much more productive but make a conscious decision not to be.”

And finally, the requisite quadrants of slackers, who apparently fall into one of four quadrants:  Sandbaggers, Weasels, Parasites and Mercenaries.  I kid you not.

I would post a link to the article, but you have to “join” HR magazine first and I already re-upped my membership in the KKK this spring, and there are only so many hours in a day to stereotype people and then mistreat them…

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Let me just say a few quick things about this:  I understand that it can be challenging to get the most out of any team on any given day.   I also understand that a lack of motivation can cripple any undertaking.  But I suspect that many of these so called “slackers” are highly engaged parents, mountain bikers, runners, audiophiles, volunteers, or hobbyists.   Nowhere in the article, whoever its intended audience might be, does it suggest that the leader or senior executive might be the problem.    The article does seem to suggest that a manager’s job is to “catch them,” calls them “time bandits” and bemoans the fact that in this age of computers, slacking is “easier to mask.”

Maybe the organizations goals are not clear.  Maybe the slacker cannot relate what they do to the achievements of the team, department or company.  Maybe they think the company’s “mission statement” is a bunch of BS.  Maybe management’s actions and words are more misaligned than a Yugo that just jumped a 2 foot curb.  Maybe they showed up for their first day at a new job all those years ago, full of enthusiasm and optimism, and the management style, hypocrisy and bureaucracy drained them of their energy like a slow leak in an above ground pool.

As Rodney Dangerfield said long ago, when asked by his spouse to take the trash out, “You cooked it, you take it out…”

Cha-Cha-Chains

April 13, 2011

 

When my daughter was younger, I was very interested in how she spent her day, what she did at school, etc.  So naturally, I would typically contact her best friend’s mom’s sister-in-law to find out more.  I think her name was Margaret.

“Margaret,” I would say, “what’s new with my daughter Alice?  What did she do today?  Anything I should be concerned about?”

And Margaret would typically say, “Gee, I am not sure.  Let me ask my sister-in-law.”  And she would.  And her sister-in-law would usually say, “I don’t know.  Wait here.  I’ll ask my daughter.”  And she would.  And her daughter would sometimes say, “I didn’t see Alice today.  Maybe she was on a field trip.”

And Margaret would return to me, sometimes hours later, and say, “Why don’t you just ask Alice?”

“That’s a great idea!”  I exclaimed.  “Of course!  Just ask my daughter directly!”

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That’s a bit of a long way around to make a point.  But that never stopped me before…

Have you ever worked in an organization that is so tied to its “chain of command” that even if you knew who was working on an initiative or had some information you needed, you would typically first consult the org chart, see who they worked for, and possibly who THAT person worked for, and then ask them?  To be honest, Xerox was a bit like that.

When you think of all the time and productivity that is wasted by following the chain of command to get information, seems like there’s got to be a better way.

Maybe next time, you should just “Go ask Alice…”  Is that so wrong…?

Less is More

April 7, 2011

I had a strange convergence of events this week.  I have been working closely with a client during the requirements phase of a big, complex project that could easily evolve into “more is more” if we’re not careful.  I am reading ReWork by Jason Fried, which is just an interesting little collection of one or two page thoughts on how to work smarter and be more productive.  On page 83, there’s a segment titled “Throw Less at the Problem.”   Inspiring and counter-intuitive!  But here’s the convergence topper!

I was watching Jimmy Fallon’s talk show.  His guest was Jerry Weintraub who, among other things, supposedly managed Elvis Presley’s road show engagements for a while.  He told a great anecdote on the show, which I will try to summarize:

He said he booked Elvis at an afternoon gig in Miami in July.   According to Jerry, Elvis had two key requirements for his performances:

  1. there need to be women in the front rows of the audience (duh)
  2. the venue has to be full

Jerry booked an 10,000 seat arena for the show.  He called to check on ticket sales and was told by the local promoter that the show had sold out.  When Jerry got there the day of the show, the promoter fessed up and said they really had only sold 5,000 seats and that he lied about the sales because he thought that’s what Jerry wanted to hear.  Who wants to go to an indoor concert in the middle of a July afternoon in Miami??  So Jerry had to sell 5,000 seats in a few hours to make sure the arena was full for Elvis’ concert.  Or did he???

He said he hired a few local workers and removed 5,000 seats from the arena!  Brilliant! Elvis was very happy with the “sellout” for the show.

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So next time, before you throw more resources, money, time and effort at a problem, consider what you might take away instead…  Who knows what you might come up with!