In Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business published by Portfolio/Penguin Group (2010), Nancy Lublin explains how to “barter with zero” to produce more “with everything you’ve got” by asking smarter questions. Try it. Ask yourself these five of the 11 she poses on Pages 211-212:
1. Do you have excess inventory? Instead of marketing it down or warehousing it, is there someone out there who might need it for some other purpose?
2. Do you have extra space you are not using?
3. Are your people ever idle [and/or bored]? What skills do they have that might be leveraged [in new ways]?
4. Are there companies nearby – even if they make baked goods and you’re an accounting firm – that you ought to talk to? Just sharing corporate pain points in casual conversation could lead to something.
5. Have you ever reached beyond your neighbors? Have you asked questions of your social networks, like Linkedin? (Nobody is going to answer your quest for partnership [and/or collaboration] unless you ask.)
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My Take: Most of us have little (if any) idea of the nature and extent of “stuff” that has been accumulated at work and at home. Companies as well as individuals should “travel light.” I agree with Lublin, however: Before eliminating stuff, try to find a way to trade it or at least find a new home for it.
Zilch is a brilliant achievement. I also highly recommend:
Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, Scott Belsky
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam
In this remarkable volume, Dean Spitzer urges his reader to re-think how to measure and drive organizational success, whatever the size and nature of the give organization may be. He offers a number of performance measures and ways of measures that can have a “transformational impact” on the way people in organizations view the work, their products, their associates, and their customers. He asks his reader to begin to view measurement itself “through a new lens” when correlating the material in this book with her or his own organization. “Perhaps the most surprising truth covered in this book is that the `context of measurement’ [i.e. `an optimal environment for its effective use'] will largely determine its effectiveness.”
At this point, it should be noted that Spitzer offers two significant reassurances in the Introduction: transformational measurement doesn’t require a major change in a business structure or systems, “but only in how you think about measuring your organization; moreover, “on those occasions when measurement is used for the purpose of improvement rather than to make judgments or place blame, and when it is focused on the right measures, its true power is revealed.”
After an especially informative Introduction, Spitzer carefully organizes his material within and 13 chapters as he explains why transformational measurement is so powerful, what happens when measurement “goes bad, why it does so, the beginning of the transformation process, how to create a positive context of measurement, on what to focus when measuring, how to integrate measurement, the nature and extent of interactivity of measurement, the leadership required by effective measurement, what can be learned about and from measurement, what the uses and abuses of measurement technology are, how to achieve and then sustain “performance measurement maturity,” and then in Chapter 13 for purposes of review, what transformational measures are and aren’t as well as what they offer in terms of their capabilities and potential benefits.
Then in his final chapter, after having established a multi-dimensional frame-of-reference (i.e. a proper “context”) for his own core concepts, Spitzer examines 34 different transformational measurement “action plans. I strongly recommend that this material, in Chapter 14, be reviewed at least every 3-6 months because the needs and interests of a given organization, as well as the perils and opportunities within its competitive marketplace, are certain to change and thus modifications of its own “game plan” must be made in response to those changes.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Dr. Paul G. Stoltz for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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“Hot” and “timeless.” Those are the words last weekend’s International Herald Tribune used to describe Greek statues. The same two words could be used to describe that other thing that makes the big difference for you — for any leader, team, or enterprise — resilience. Resilience is suddenly everywhere. And, by the end of this blog, it can upgrade the lens through which you view and lead both those around you and your life.
Flying London to San Francisco, I found the words “resilient,” or “resilience” 13 times. And I was hardly trying. RESILIENT. The word stares down at you from the giant corporate ad board as you clear security at Heathrow. Not a bad theme for travel these days.
In the stores, I found “resilient” or “resilience” on woman’s clothing labels, kid’s toy packaging, sports gear, even a perfume bottle. While scouring five different publications on the flight, I found it describing everything from banished refugees, sport teams, financial markets and products, to leaders, children, communities, even drug lords and the Taliban. It’s as if “resilient” has morphed from an adjective to the defining virtue.
So yes. Resilience is hot.
It’s also timeless. All our core stories are about what happens when human beings and adversity collide. From those moments tragedies unravel and greatness is spawned. Adversity both destroys and elevates. It both strangles and sparks life.
What is your relationship with adversity? What role has it played in becoming who you are, in forging your essential character and mindset? How has it influenced your optimism, energy, opportunities, relationships, health, performance, capacity, and leaps of faith? Can you think of any force that has been more profoundly formative?
Here’s just one relevant example as you ponder the role resiliency plays for yourself and your people. We at PEAK measured the resilience of 1,600 people in the UK [click here] to see how it stacked up against these factors: happiness, quality of life, exercise, diet, energy, optimism, engagement at work, sick days, and a broad range of health factors. Resilience was statistically significant in predicting not one or two, but all of these factors.
Through my past three decades of research on the subject, I’ve learned something shockingly simple: It comes down to one of two things. Over the course of your years, either adversity consumes you, or you consume it. Unfortunately, being consumed by adversity is far more common than truly consuming it.
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
Dr. Paul G. Stoltz is CEO of PEAK Learning, Inc., Chairman of the Global Resilience Institute, and the originator of the Adversity Quotient (AQ) theory and method, currently used within Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program. He is the author of Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities, published by John S. Wiley (1999).
“most of the research shows that when class size reduction programs are well-designed and implemented, student achievement rises as class size drops.
Intuitively, it makes sense that the more attention a teacher can focus on each student, the more the student will benefit and, therefore, perform at a higher level.”
(excerpted from here).
As business leaders, we’re voracious seekers of business improvement ideas in the form of conferences, books, blogs, and training. We want our performance to be better, and we know it should be better.
(Gary Harpst: Six Disciplines Execution Revolution)
It’s Saturday. Let’s think about a big question/problem for American business.
The conventional wisdom goes like this. When you hire someone, make the right hire. If you make the wrong hire, you’ve got trouble.
If you make the right hire, and the person you hired needs to improve in a specific area, or two or three, then provide the right training.
This I know. It is foolish to have a good person (i.e., the “right hire”) trying to succeed at a job that he/she is not trained to succeed at. And when the “right hire” receives the right training, and then gets the right encouragement/supervision, the person, and the company, is more successful.
So – what is the right training? Let’s think about this training question. This is a big issue because in these tight economic times, companies cut expenses where they can – and training is one of the areas that gets cut. And the result of such cuts can definitely lead to more difficulties. When training budgets get cut, people don’t get trained. And then they don’t get better at their jobs. And then, because they don’t get better at their jobs, companies lose more money, or, at least, don’t make as much money as they could.
So – back to the question. What is the right training?
I suggest a simple formula: when the skill/deficiency is a simple matter of learning — for example: how to use a new software program; how to be proficient on Excel; how to create PowerPoint slides — then a training class of many, even very many, students can do the trick.
But the closer you get to what we call the soft skills — which are critical to a person’s success in so many jobs – then a large training class with very many students may not do the trick. No, that’s not strong enough. The closer you get to the soft skills, a large training class, with little one-on-one attention and follow up coaching, will not do the trick. It just won’t.
Let me describe an underlying bias, and then give an example.
A couple of decades ago, George McGovern came to Dallas to speak to a political group. One question he was asked during the Q & A was this: “How can we improve education in this country?” That qualifies as an important need. He said something like this (paraphrased, from memory): “People say that you can’t fix education by throwing more money at the problem. Well, I’m not so sure. Because hiring more teachers takes money. And if there is one thing that we know is true about education, it is this — the smaller the class size, the smaller the teacher-student ratio, the better the educational outcomes.”
Is that true – about the class size issue? Take Dallas. One of the schools that is legendary for its very successful educational outcomes is the private school St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas. Now, I know that the parents are very involved. And the students come from families that truly prize a good education. And the school is very demanding. (Check out their current summer reading assignments. This is a school with very high expectations!). And, yes, the teachers are certainly among the very best possible.
But here is a simple fact about St. Mark’s: the teacher-student ration is 6.83 to 1 (I did the math from this page on their website). Let me say that again – that is better than one teacher for every seven students. How does that compare? Well, nationally, the teacher-student ratio is higher in public schools than in private schools. And St. Mark’s ratio is substantially better than the national average for private schools. (You can compare some of these national average numbers here).
In other words, enough money is “thrown at” education at St. Mark’s to guarantee more personal attention. And personal attention produces more development, more correction… better educational outcomes! And those outcomes are better at St. Mark’s than in schools that have higher teacher-student ratios.
So, back to the business lesson. What if you “throw more money” at training? The closer you get to a low teacher-student ratio (trainer-employee ratio), especially for those hard to teach yet very important “soft skills,” the better the training outcomes. It really is, to state the obvious, simple math.
Here’s one example. Say you have an employee who needs to make presentations. This employee is smart, qualified, knowledgeable – but not very adept at making presentations. What do you do?
You can send that employee to a speech class at a local community college. (I teach such classes). That will help – a little, and it will cost very little. But I have classes with up to 25 students. The time I have for one-to-one, individual attention per student is practically zero. And, as much as I hate to admit it, all I can do is “tell” the basics. I can’t do much “coaching” in such classes. And, I am sad to say, many of my students in these classes show little actual improvement in their presentation skills over the course of a semester.
Or, you can bring in a good trainer for presentation skills training. (Karl Krayer and I offer that through Creative Communication Network). And the outcome is almost utterly predictable – the smaller the group of people, the more one-on-one coaching we can provide in the training experience, the better the training outcome.
For example, we are about to lead a two-day session for a company sending 4 people to the training. That is a trainer-employee ratio of 4-1. We will “tell,” but then each participant will practice, over and over again, for the two days. We will video tape, we will point out the bright spots, and then offer suggestions, and corrections. This is very high-impact training.
And, it is possible to get even better outcomes. Say a key employee has a very important presentation or series of presentations to make, and it is important for the company that these go well. If the employee could be more successful, and thus the company could be more successful, if he/she got substantially better, then you could hire a one-to-one presentation skills coach. (Yes, Karl and I offer this training also). This coach will provide some initial training, with very focused one-to-one practice and skill development, then watch a few presentations, offer correctives, point to ways to improve, and then provide periodic check-ups.
This is very expensive training. But maybe not as expensive as continued inadequate performance.
This approach can be repeated with other skill development. For example, Karl Krayer teaches a half day business writing skills session, then meets one-on-one with each participant, going over actual writing examples, and then provides follow up.
Why? Because we forget what we hear/read in the training sessions. We forget what our “coach” told us. There’s a reason why great sports teams practice every day. And there’s a reason why the best sports teams have very low coach-athlete ratios. It takes a lot of work to get good, and than really good, and then even better, at anything.
Such are my thoughts for a Saturday.