Posted tagged ‘laziness’

Put me in, coach!

September 1, 2011

One of the things I love about baseball is the subtle communication that is taking place all over the field.  The signs between the catcher and pitcher, silently communicating the type of pitch and its location.  The signs between the manager in the dugout, the third base coach and the batter, informing the batter whether to bunt, swing away, take the next pitch, or ask for more money in his next contract.  You can imagine that, if a new player showed up on the team and didn’t take the time to find out what all the signs were, he wouldn’t be very effective and would be on the bench, “riding the pine” as they used to say, pretty fast.

So I am always a bit amazed when a vendor that is being  paid handsomely for their efforts introduces a new “player” in a meeting or on a conference call, allegedly with some new expertise that is greatly needed for the project/endeavor to succeed, and the first words out of the new player’s mouth are, “I’m really not familiar with your project or environment.”

Really?  Did the person coordinating the resources from your end not take the time to fill you in on a few key details, like what we’re trying to accomplish, who the team is, what our milestone dates are and what your role will be??  Or did you not bother to ask??

imageWhen you play pickup baseball in a park or schoolyard, there are no signs.  That’s because everyone playing are a bunch of amateurs, not paid professionals.

How do you want YOUR team to be perceived…?


Carbon footprint

August 25, 2011

When I was a kid and disputes were escalating among siblings, your “ace in the hole” often was, “I’m telling mom” or “I’m telling dad.”  You knew you ran the risk of being called a tattler or escalating things further, so you tended to only play that card in desperate times.

Fast forward a few years…

I always thought that CC in an email stood for “courtesy copy.”  According to the search I just conducted, it stands for “carbon copy” and is defined as:

Carbon Copy, it is for those that are not part of the main email but are just being informed of it

But that’s not what it’s used for in many organizations, is it???  It’s used to tell mom.


I have a theory that I bet some really smart developer with access to an organization’s MS-Exchange data store could prove or disprove.  I submit that the level of bureaucracy in an organization can be measured by counting the number of emails that everyone cc’s their boss on in comparison with the total number of emails they send.   The higher the number, the more you have to tell mom to get a co-worker, peer or someone else who doesn’t “report to you” to actually take action and help you when there’s nothing in it for them.

It’s a sad state of affairs when two co-workers who allegedly work for the same organization and should have the same goals won’t collaborate unless it’s under the watchful eye of one of their bosses.

Why don’t you take a moment and ask what your “carbon footprint” is?  If it’s more than 5 to 10 percent, maybe it’s time to reduce your emissions…

In an instant

July 6, 2011

Every once in a while, a series of events goes across my radar that stimulates my otherwise dormant brain into thinking.  This past week, I watched a cool fireworks display at a friend’s lake house while also watching neighbors shoot bottle rockets at each other, my son’s bicycle tires and seat were stolen from his bike outside a restaurant he was eating in, and I read an article in the NY Times about rampant stroller theft in New York.

Let’s take the bike first.  It was chained up.  Well, apparently, to be more accurate, the frame was chained up, but obviously not the wheels or seat.  When I asked my son about what happened, he said, “I was only inside for a little while.”

On to strollers…  I guess there are some pretty high-end strollers for sale these days, running upwards of $400-500.  Nice!  And I guess one of the attractions is that they are pretty heavy duty but sadly not that easy to carry up a flight of stairs.  So there’s a tendency among stroller-owners to leave them outside while they run up to their apartments to drop off groceries or dry cleaning before getting on with other errands, which makes sense especially when you already have an infant in your arms.  I imagine that’s all the time a stroller thief needs to make off with the goods, which I am told are easily sold on Craig’s List.  Nice again!

Finally, not to put a damper on 4th of July celebrations, but there are always a few stories of over-enthusiastic or careless revelers who lose a finger, an eye, or worse from a fireworks ‘mishap’ this time of year.


As a leader, one of the most important things you can do is to continuously assess, manage and mitigate risks in your organization.   What that means is, you have to be out in front – questioning what is prudent, thinking of ways to create “insurance policies” against the unthinkable, and generally being a wet blanket.  The thanks you will get for this is not much more than walking out your office every day and seeing your stroller/bike/finger is still there.  When you consider the alternative, I hope that’s thanks enough…

Here’s to a safe second half of 2011!

The Chief

February 4, 2011

Many of you who know me also know I am an unapologetic Steelers fan.  You have been cautioned.  So you would rightly expect a post basking in the glory of decisive wins over the Jets and Ravens to reach Super Bowl XLV (that’s 45…) or a prediction of a Steeler’s VII’th (that’s seventh…) championship.  But you would only be half right.

The New York Times ran a great article today about the Steelers relative success and how it seems attributable to how they run their team like a business.  Here’s the article.  What struck me, and what I hope will strike you, is how many of the  strategies they apply to run a professional sports franchise are applicable to any business that cares about its employees.  And how some of Mr. Rooney’s quotes are words for us all to live by, and how his actions back up his words.

Here are a few quick gems: (bolding courtesy of yours truly)

  • More than by any player or coach, the Steelers are identified by the way they have done business for 40 years. They build through the draft, take care of their players, maintain financial discipline, eschew flashy hires and treat people well.
  • “I’m envious,” the Indianapolis Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, said. “I’ve spent more than $100 million more than those guys in the last 10 years.” He added, “How can you accomplish so much with such a disciplined business model?”
  • Two weeks ago, when Dan Rooney, now the United States ambassador to Ireland, returned to Pittsburgh for the A.F.C. championship game, he spoke to a handful of reporters about the N.F.L.’s labor strife. During that conversation he offered a bombshell of a quote that summed up the Steelers’ ability to take the long view of success.
  • “I’d rather not have the money,” Rooney said about the proposed 18-game regular season.
  • The remark also resonated in the Steelers’ locker room, where stories about the Rooneys’ unusual affinity for the people who work for them are limitless. They shake the hands of each player after games, win or lose. They offer advice to new players on where to send their children to school. They take the men and women who work in the cafeteria at the team’s training facility to the Super Bowl.
  • “He’s talking about he’d rather not have the money,” Steelers linebacker James Harrison said. “He’s truly concerned about the players. Other owners that are willing to go ahead and say give us 18 games don’t really care about the safety of players. They care about making money.”

The Chief, by the way, is Art Rooney I, the first owner of the Steelers.  The current owner, his grandson, is not a spoiled rich kid; he’s a proud man carrying on a proud legacy – still treating “employees” right.


I think the Rooney’s are one of the best examples that success, loyalty, and treating people right do not have to all be mutually exclusive.

I would hope that even a few Packers fans can agree on that…

Close enough to smell the lemons

September 10, 2010

When my buddy Ed and I were around 9 years old, having heard the tragic parental response “No, you may not” yet again to our request for a quarter to buy ice cream from the Good Humor truck (yes, I am that old…) we decided to take matters into our own hands.  We opened a lemonade stand.

We pooled our meager savings, headed to the A&P, and bought lemonade mix and some Dixie cups.  I think we laid out about $1.10 when all was said and done.   We made a sign, borrowed a pitcher from the kitchen, and set up shop.  Pricewise, we decided 5 cents seemed about right – and suddenly, we had a business model and a goal.  On the 23rd cup of lemonade, we were making money.  We both sold, we both poured, we both refilled inventory.

image Fast forward to the organization you and your team work in now.  At the simplest level, is what the organization does all that different from the lemonade stand?  In many cases, the honest answer is “no.”   So the question becomes, what does your team do?  Are you selling, pouring or refilling?

Unfortunately, many of us are challenged to answer that.  And you know what?  That’s OK.   There are other roles in organizations that, due to regulations, automation, safety or just complexity in general are necessary to function.  That’s not the problem.  But if you’re not selling, pouring or refilling, how do you treat the folks who do?  Do you see them as just other cogs in some giant wheel that is so massive it completely blocks out your view of the lemonade stand?  Or do you recognize that the closer someone is to the stand itself, the more they deserve just a little extra deference and respect?

Would you even know when the 23rd nickel landed in the bottom of the coffee can, er, I mean cash register?  And just as important, would you care?

If not, you might want to try to get a little closer to the Big Pitcher…

What’s that ticking sound?

August 6, 2010

When I was growing up, there was a whole collection of games that I now realize fall into the same basic category – let’s call it event avoidance.  You know the games.  Musical Chairs, where there is always one more person than chair and you walk around with the other players until the music stops and then you dive for a chair and one person ends up standing – that’s the event you want to avoid!  And hot potato, where an item is passed around and when a timer goes off or some other signal is issued, as long as you’re not holding “the potato” you’re safe.  And there was even a game called Time Bomb, which I imagine would now be politically incorrect, where an actual ticking toy bomb is passed around among a group and if it “goes off” while you’re holding it, you’re out!


And so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me so much that there are lots of grownups out there, some of whom might even work for you, who are highly skilled at “event avoidance.”  There’s work to be done, a lingering issue that needs to be tackled, a new project that needs someone to get it started, or an upset customer that needs some attention.  And so the game begins.  The ticking starts and the work is deftly passed back and forth among different departments, vendors or team members.  Email, by the way, is one of the great enablers of this.  All you have to do is send someone an email with a reference to or question about the time bomb, and you’re safe until they respond!  “Didn’t you get my email about Angry Customer #37?”  You’re golden!

So I guess we have to live with the childhood cultural bias we’ve inadvertently provided.  But what about your culture now?  Do you wait until the music stops before holding your team accountable for getting work done?  Are you unconsciously enabling a big game of hot potato??


Connecting the DOTS

June 18, 2010

I suppose this is just an urban myth, but I always heard that dentists have the highest suicide rate, because their job essentially entails causing other people, albeit temporary, discomfort.  But after driving back and forth to Chicago on Wednesday, I suspect that being a Department of Transportation Road Construction Executive has to be worse.  The level of discomfort that I suffered through trying to get to and from Schaumburg made me long for a dentist’s chair and some Novocain!

But wait!  There MAY be a reason why you never hear about suicides among DOT executives and planners.  Sure, it could be because they are all murdered before they get the chance to “off themselves.”  But I think a more likely explanation is that THEY ARE NOWHERE NEAR THE ACTUAL CONSTRUCTION SITE and have no idea what kind of suffering they are causing.  Dentists, God bless them, are at least present for most of your pain.


That got me thinking about how leaders stay connected to the folks in the trenches who are doing real work.   And more likely, how they justify staying disconnected.  I think every DOT official should have to spend 3-6 hours each week at a construction site, gauging progress, lane closures, the reaction of drivers, the traffic backups and the associated waste of precious fuels.

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand the need for road maintenance.  But it’s too easy to draw up a Visio diagram of your “strategic plan” that shows you’re going to close 2 lanes of I-294 right at the intersection of I-290 for 8 months and believe you’re making things happen.

How about you?  What do you do to stay connected to your equivalent of your road crews?  Sit in your office and look at progress dashboards, satisfied with the little bars that are slightly bigger than last week?  Ask ONLY your direct reports “how things are going??”

Are you willing to go find the guy or gal who holds the STOP/SLOW sign at a lane closure, inviting the wrath of everyone sitting still, baking in their cars, and take their shift for an hour?

If not, you just might be part of the mentality that lets Tony Hayward, the BP CEO, respond to a congressional question today by saying, “I was not part of that decision.”  Really???