I’ve re skinned my blog to something more up to date and simple. It’s more readable and looks nice too!
After living and working in Asia for close to two years it is time to say goodbye! My job in Thailand ended in February and I’ve been doing some traveling. First to Bangkok, then Myanmar and at the moment I’m in Taipei.
Want to increase innovation? Employee engagement? Lower turnover and create a work force that is focused on solving problems? Jag Randhawa tells us how in his new book, The Bright Idea Box: A Proven System to Drive Employee Engagement.
Are you giving commandments from on high or is your staff making commitments for work they think is important? I’ve been doing some consulting work for a non profit, mostly project management and business analysis.
Scrum is a flavor of agile software development. In agile the development teams are cross functional and are self-managing. The development cycles, called sprints, are short, 4 weeks or less. By the end of a sprint the code must be functional, tested and working. Scrum functions on something called empirical process control. Traditional software development (command and control) uses defined process control, which is based on the theory of how something should work. This is at the heart of why so many traditional software projects either fail or generate bad code. A defined process control is meant to work on projects that are not very complex, tasks that do not need to be exact, like making hat pins. Empirical process control is used in serious engineering when tolerances need to be exact.
How do you treat your vendors? Are they partners that are interested and engaged in your success or just a resource you use as needed? Many companies are too focused on having the upper hand and squeezing every last dollar out of vendor relationships. Both customers and vendors are guilty of this. When a relationship is focused on money and status, the rules change. If vendors gave their best price on the first quote and companies didn’t try to squeeze them, they could get money out of the way and focus on results.
I just spent 4 hours watching a Zappos All Hands meeting. They started streaming these meetings last quarter and there were over 1500 total views with a steady participation of 165 people. What does it say about a company that 1500 non employees would tune in to watch a business meeting?
I’ve worked in the Fortune 100, the military, state and federal government as well as educational institutions and small businesses. This was without question the best all hands meeting I’ve seen. No surprise really, but still impressive as hell.
I was recently found Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion.” So I got on Amazon and bought a used copy of the book since it’s out of print. It was written in 1957 and is largely about the problems with government administration. Nothing much has changed since then. Parkinson talks about how bloated the British Admiralty became between 1914 and 1928. Ships in service decreased by 67.74%, men in the service decreased by 31.5% and dockyard officials increased by 40.28% while Admiralty officials rose by 78.45%. He says there are two reasons for this. “An official want to increase subordinates not rivals” and “Officials make work for each other.”
In many businesses trust is hard to find. Do time cards, lengthy HR manuals, top down management and lack of transparency lend themselves to an environment of trust? Not so much. Organizations that have great cultures are based on values and trust. A healthy corporate culture is rife with trust at all levels, including vendors, customer and consultants. From executives to front line employees and everyone in between. At this juncture in corporate history trust is starting to make it’s way into our cultures and has been for 30 years of so, though it’s still the exception and not the rule. Too many executives are doing things the way we did them 100 years ago by holding on to controlling behaviors and focusing on short term profits.
In the next 5-10 years we’re going to see customer service increase across most industries. We are going to see good customer satisfaction being valued and pursued as a differentiator in business. This is going to lead to a customer service renaissance. With company after company trying to stand out and win loyal customers. When a company goes from zero to a billion dollars a year, in ten years, people pay attention.
Multitasking or divided attention is for computers not people. There is a mountain of evidence that says human beings can only do one thing at a time and do it well. I’m on the hunt for a job and just about every job description I read requires the skill multitasking. I’ve discovered that it’s possible for us to check email while attending a staff meeting, but you’ll write crappy emails and miss much of what’s said in the meeting and good luck coming up with intelligent sounding answers if called upon. My life lessons are backed up by psychology and neuroscience.
I’m not impressed with the care and feeding of customers very often. Usually the opposite is true. On Sunday I ordered a custom screen printed T-shirt, from Zazzle, as a present for my girlfriend. The website said it would take 3-5 days to make and I ordered 2 day shipping. I received a shipping notice on Tuesday night and they upgraded the shipping to overnight. I had the shirt Wednesday morning! A very nice job of under promise and over deliver.
Does your company know why it does what it does? Is there a good reason for all of the policies you follow? In most organizations, the answer to both of these questions is no. Here’s a test. Open up your HR manual and look at the section on sick days or paid time off. How many days do you get off for sickness? Can you use that time to take care of a family member or for a “mental health” day? Do you need a doctors approval to return to work?
This is your brain on Science! What if there was a way to understand and influence the way your mind works so that you could start having better outcomes and more innovation? Well, there is! A few weeks back I discovered the budding field of neuroleadership. It uses neuroscience to understand how things like insight, social pain, attention, autonomy and other “soft skills” work. It helps us understand what happens in which part of the brain, why it happens and under what circumstances. It also gives us some tools and techniques that can be used to influence outcomes.
This last Saturday I stopped for a bagel. I went to the bagel chain named after a relatively smart guy. I ordered an everything bagel with chive cream cheese, my favorite! I then asked if they had chai and the clerk said, “All we have is coffee.” I looked up at the wall and from the list there I ordered an iced mocha. I’ve been doing the low carb thing and wanted a treat - Saturday is my cheat day. The clerk replied again, “All we have is coffee.” I pointed to the wall, with a confused dog look on my face, and he told me that, “corporate made them put the sign up even though they can’t make any of those fancy drinks and won’t let them take it down.”
Do you believe your doctor puts your health ahead of profits? Does the red tape of health care affect the quality of the care you receive? These questions and more are addressed in a new book by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe called, Practical Wisdom. They say that professions like medicine should be a calling, not something that you do to make money. Doctors need income and considering the cost of medical school and malpractice insurance it needs to be substantial, though money should be a side benefit for practicing medicine, not the primary motivation.
Our children are being systematically turned into automatons that pass tests. That is, if their teachers think they have a chance of passing the test this time around, otherwise they’re left to ferment in the classroom. I don’t usually write about a book until I’ve finished it and then I do a Reading List entry first. I received an advance copy of Barry Schwartz’s and Kenneth Sharpe’s Practical Wisdom just before Christmas and it’s been making me crazy!
It’s that we don’t know how to do it. With the empirical research that’s been done on Self Determination Theory and Optimal Performance we have more than enough data to tell us what works as far as engaging and motivating employees is concerned. We also have over 20 years of business success to back up the research.
Do you trust your employee’s, your customers, your vendors, your management? If there is no or little trust between these groups then your business is in trouble. Trust is the social oil that makes things happen with much less effort. When you trust your boss, you have less stress and feel empowered. When you trust your staff, you have more time to mentor, facilitate and innovate. Trusting your customers gives them warm fuzzies and results in better experiences for companies and customers. Trusting vendors helps with scale and transforms them into partners.
This kind of trust does not just happen. It’s largely a byproduct of culture.
This is not the time to freak out. It’s a time of reflection and introspection for companies as well as individuals. It’s a great time to ask, “why are we here?” Are we in the right market? Are our customers delighted with our products and services? Are we in the right market? It’s a great time to do research and design and it’s a great time to start something new.
If more and more people start working from home, what affect will that have on our cities and communities? Will our need for office space decrease? Will traffic lesson, will we need less parking spaces in business districts? Will it strengthen or weaken our relationships at home or at work?
Certainly there will be consequences for changing the way we work. Some of them intended, lower cost for office space, higher employee engagement and satisfaction, some of them unintended. What will the unintended consequences be?
Are you trying to find happiness and success? According to Dr. Viktor Frankl, you can’t pursue them directly. You can only find them as a byproduct of other things. Dr. Frankl, a survivor of four Nazi Germany concentration camps, a neurologist and a psychiatrist developed a new field of psychiatry just prior to being sent to the camps. He had travel papers that would have let him leave Germany for the US but since his parents didn’t have a way to leave Germany, he chose to stay.
What makes our top achievers in business, sports or music great at what they do? Is it something they’re born with? Is it an overbearing parent pushing them to succeed? Is it hard work? Most of us think that talent is something we’re born with, that you either have it or you don’t. We think that how smart someone is determines their potential. Not so much. Sure, some people have inherited advantages in rare cases, but these advantages being smarter, stronger, taller etc, have little to no relation to how successful someone will be.
We have been told by patent holders, mostly large corporations, that intellectual property rights encourage innovation. Copyright laws have been extended from 14 years to up to life plus 70 years. Competition is said to accelerate creativity. Do these ideas serve innovation or corporate greed?
Do you strive to get better at what you do? Whether it’s fixing cars, selling shoes or programming computers? Or are you already at your best? Getting better at something you care deeply about is called personal mastery. Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline says,” Personal mastery goes beyond competence and skills, though it is grounded in competence and skills…
How do we create a tipping point for interest in Motivation 3.0? What if we could create an open source project of people willing to teach and help each other about how we can have meaningful, fulfilling, fun and nurturing work lives that resulted in companies that were more profitable and sustainable? What would that look like? How would it work? Has this problem been solved in another field?
Filling needs that people don’t know they have is hard. Earlier this week I read a blog post that Seth Godin wrote about: Marketing to the bottom of the pyramid. It got me thinking, that that’s what I’m trying to do, fulfill unarticulated needs. Needs that most folks don’t know they have. The average person doesn’t know that they could have a work life that lifts them up and makes them feel great. For that last 100 years we’ve been programmed to believe that work is a necessary evil, that we need to give up 40-60 hour of our week to purgatory, that being happy, fulfilled and engaged at work is more of a fairy tale than a reality.
When we think about doing something to make a positive change or to be helpful, it’s nice, but it doesn’t make a difference. It doesn’t really matter what the thing is that we do, it could be shoveling snow from a neighbor’s walkway or starting an afterschool program for at risk kids. It’s the doing that matters. It’s also more important to finish something small than to leave something significant incomplete. It’s what Seth Godin calls “shipping.”