Cheryl offers: This is embarrassing to admit, but I’m going to do it. I just tried to register for First Friday Book Synopsis only to see the computer screen read “SOLD OUT”. I saw this on my computer screen and thought “What? How can that be?” Now for those of you who are not familiar with this event, it occurs every month on the first Friday, just like the name states. Therefore, I know this happens each month and since I attended last month’s event, I even knew which books were going to be showcased tomorrow. I’m in a real pickle here folks. I’ve been promoting this with some key executives at my company and there are 3 who want to attend tomorrow along with me. How did this happen I ask myself? I found solace in Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind. When Pink describes the value of telling stories and how much longer we all remember stories than mere data, he says “Story represents a pathway to understanding that doesn’t run through the left side (that would be the logical side) of the brain.” Oh perfect! I was telling myself the story “I know I need to do this and I know I can wait until the last minute. It’s OK because it’s always been OK.” If I had thought about this logically, I would have taken action to ensure things happened smoothly. Lesson learned again: Be careful who I listen to, especially when it’s myself!
This much is clear: the storehourse is stocked. The problem is not in the supply; the problem is in the distribution. God has given this generation, our generation, everything we need to alter the course of human suffering.
Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life
(Max is a thoughtful Christian author. I’ve known him for years. His heart is always bent toward grace, and, I think, justice).
One who works by the day…
Tomorrow morning at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I present my synopsis of Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. It is a terrific book. But as I read about the “dark side” of the wikinomics economy, a phrase came to mind that I have not been able to escape. So – here’s my prediction:
We are becoming a nation, and world, filled with “knowledge worker day-laborers.”
You know what a day-laborer is. It is a person who shows up at a site where others gather, hoping to be hired for the day. Traditionally, this is a phrase describing physical laborers, expecially farm laborers. They show up, early in the morning, on the right street corner, hoping to be hired for the day.
Well, the book Macrowikinomics describes all sorts of ways that companies are using more than just “their employees,” and all sorts of ways that individuals are collaborating on short term projects. This is all well and good. But…where will the actual jobs be? Or, to put it differently, how will people feel secure, confident that they will have work to do for the next day, week, month, decade…?
Conisder these thoughts, from the book:
(re. the “joblessness” of the younger adults, throughout the developed world) – This is a problem of epic proportions… There is a real danger that the largest, most highly educated cohort of young people in history could become “the lost generation.”
The trend for many companies is clear: if we can do more with fewer, we will… talent can be inside and outside of firms… Aren’t wikinomics business models the death knell for jobs?
The Big Scares (my observations)
• are we becoming a world of (internet connected and enabled, computer terminal) “day-laborers” – always looking for the next job/assignment/project… with little or no security and continuity? (in other words – how will people make a living in this brave, new, scary world?)
• Think about this: IBM – from 399,000 to 100,000 by 2017 (projected cuts in actual employees – their planned “HR transformation program”).
Think about that last item – IBM intends to cut nearly 75% of its jobs, and maybe “hire” many of the same people back on an “as needed basis” for specific tasks/jobs. “The trend for many companies is clear: if we can do more with fewer, we will….”
Yes, the wikinomics world is an exciting world of collaboration and multiple breakthroughs. And the book tries to paint an optimistic picture. The book says: “We think that there is a stronger case to be made that wikinomics principles help bolster fledgling enterprises by supercharging their innovative capabilities and that small enterprises in turn are the most reliable job creators.”
But I can’t help but think that what we really face is a not-so-brave, not-so-secure world of “Knowledge worker day-laborers,” hanging around their virtual street corners each morning looking for work for the day, facing a very uncertain future.
“This is a problem of epic proportions.”
Here is a special report that appeared in Talent Management magazine (September 2010). To check out all the resources and sign-up for a free online and/or print subscription to Talent Management and/or Chief Learning Officer published by MediaTec, please click here.
* * *
North American employees are twice as likely to head for the door as they were before the recession, according to the latest findings of global consulting firm BlessingWhite.
Assuming you have a choice, do you plan to remain with your organization through the next 12 months?
Yes, definitely 60%
No way 7%
Yes, definitely 56% (-4%)
Probably 31% (-1%)
No way 13% (+6%)
An alarming 19 percent of high performers who scored low on job satisfaction indicate plans to leave. Another 48 percent are noncommittal, saying they’ll “probably” stay. Christopher Rice, president and CEO of BlessingWhite, explained, “In attempts to survive the recession, organizations handed employees more work to complete with fewer resources. Now employees — especially the high performers — may be burnt out or underchallenged, and they are seriously considering leaving at elevated rates.” Rice cautions that leaders — more than ever before — should think about how to create growth opportunities and assign meaningful work to keep their top employees from walking out the door.
“High performers, after months of heroics for their employers, are finally stepping back and asking, ‘What about me? What about my career?’” Rice said. “If management doesn’t present employees with the opportunity to pursue personal development or engage in work that’s interesting or worthwhile, these individuals are going to take their knowledge and skills elsewhere.” Senior management has to address retention issues in its high-performing populations in a comprehensive way, believes Rice. “But even solitary efforts help,” Rice said.
“The objective is to minimize undesirable turnover and actively engage those employees who are on the fence. Individuals who are thinking about greener pastures aren’t engaged and they’re not productive.” These findings are based on the preliminary results of BlessingWhite’s latest employee engagement study, which compares more than 2,400 North American post-recession survey results with pre-recession data. The full global report, based on more than 9,000 survey respondents and interviews with senior leaders, will be available November 2010.
For more info from BlessingWhite, please click here.
Let’s face it, few (if any) of those who read this book will then be “insanely great in front of any audience.” That’s not why Carmine Gallo wrote it. Rather, his purpose is to help his readers to present their ideas to anyone, anywhere, anytime “with the power of believing in themselves and in their story.” Obviously, there are valuable lessons to be learned from what Steve Jobs does and how he does it. He brings so many resources to bear on each presentation. They include (1) a thorough understanding of the given subject, (2) a passionate interest in it, (3) rigorous and extensive preparation, (4) total self-confidence and physical presence that command attention, (5) brilliant insights that are thoroughly developed, and (6) sharp focus on what is most interesting and most important to the audience…and on nothing else. I have seen Jobs in action several times and can attest to the power and impact of what he says and how he says it.
Note: Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd_ptbiPoXM and upload his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. Once you’ve seen and heard it, you will never forget it.
The various “tips” that Gallo early in his narrative may seem simple but don’t be fooled. All of the greatest public speakers will tell you that it took them many years (about 10,000 hours) of deliberate practice to master them.
Here are three:
• Answer the One Question That Matters Most: Those in the audience are asking the same question, “Why should I care.” Disregard this question and you will lose the audience almost immediately.
• Develop a Messianic Sense of Purpose: Gallo notes that Jobs was worth more than $100 million by the time he was 25 and it didn’t natter to him at all. That wasn’t what he was about. “Understanding this one fact will help you unlock the secret behind Jobs’s extraordinary charisma.”
• Introduce the Antagonist: In each of Jobs’s greatest presentations, he introduces a common enemy against which everyone unites, becomes emotionally engaged, prepares to do battle, agrees to make sacrifices, etc.
As I suggested earlier, few (if any) of those who read this book will then be “insanely great in front of any audience.” However, there are valuable lessons to be learned from what Steve Jobs does and how he does it. I commend Carmine Gallo on his brilliant organization and presentation of so much material. As perhaps he would agree, much of his success as a writer is explained by how he has learned from “an insanely great” role model.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Chad Storlie 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.
* * *
This post is part of an HBR Spotlight examining leadership lessons from the military.
How does your team respond when a plan changes?
Does everyone seem to know what to do or is there confusion, a lack of meaningful activity, or people standing around waiting to be told what to do next? Planning is difficult whether in business or the military.
Military planners use Commander’s Intent, a key element to help a plan maintain relevancy and applicability in a chaotic, dynamic, and resource-constrained environment.
Commander’s Intent is the description and definition of what a successful mission will look like. Military planning begins with the Mission Statement that describes the who, what, when, where, and why (the 5 W’s) of how a mission will be executed. Commander’s Intent describes how the Commander (read: CEO) envisions the battlefield at the conclusion of the mission. It shows what success looks like.
Commander’s Intent fully recognizes the chaos, lack of a complete information picture, changes in enemy situation, and other relevant factors that may make a plan either completely or partially obsolete when it is executed. The role of Commander’s Intent is to empower subordinates and guide their initiative and improvisation as they adapt the plan to the changed battlefield environment. Commander’s Intent empowers initiative, improvisation, and adaptation by providing guidance of what a successful conclusion looks like. Commander’s Intent is vital in chaotic, demanding, and dynamic environments.
Battlefield Example of Commander’s Intent: During World War II, the sea and airborne invasion of France on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) had been planned for years. British, Canadian, and American airborne forces planned and rehearsed for months a precise series of glider and parachute landings that were designed to secure bridges, road junctions, and other key terrain that would enable the ground invasion forces to advance rapidly inland. The airborne invasion forces took off from England and months of planning appeared to vanish instantly. Parachute forces dropped into unmarked landing zones, gliders landed in the wrong areas, and thousands of soldiers from different units were mixed together in the night.
It appeared that a military disaster had occurred. Yet, only hours later, the original military objectives were bring accomplished by ad-hoc units that faced much fiercer German resistance. Commander’s Intent had saved the day. Leaders and soldiers at all levels understood that no matter where they landed, they had to form into units and seize the bridges and key terrain. The plan was a failure, but good Commander’s Intent and superior training allowed improvisation and initiative to save the mission.
Hypothetical Business Example of CEO Intent: At FedEx, led by Fred Smith (a former U.S. Marine officer), planning is of vital importance. FedEx operations start at package pickup at customer origins, then move to the packages entering a large consolidation facility for transport to their destination. Once at destination, packages are unloaded, enter the destination sort facility and are assigned to a driver to go to the final delivery address. This seemingly simple process is extraordinarily complex when you add traffic, weather, customer preferences, cost elements, safety, customs clearance, and package handling requirements. So, when a snow storm closes the roads between Denver and Kansas City, the FedEx plan must adapt. The FedEx CEO Intent is to get all packages to destination in a safe, damage free, cost effective manner within the shipment period specified by the customer. Therefore, FedEx managers start re-routing drivers from Denver to Oklahoma City, scheduling extra planes in Memphis, getting extra truck trailers at Saint Louis and adapting sort schedules in Kansas City. FedEx uses initiative and improvisation to adapt the plan to meet the CEO Intent of an on time delivery despite the snow storm. CEO Intent, like military Commander’s Intent, ensures a successful end state as business conditions change.
The key to successful Commander’s/CEO Intent is trained, confident, and engaged military personnel/employees. Employees must understand the plan and when they have to deviate to ensure the Commander’s Intent is accomplished. Military personnel have to employ a “Spectrum of Improvisation” when they execute Commander’s Intent. As they adapt the plan to meet Commander’s Intent, they do not want to change proven processes and other common work techniques that are part of the plan and strengthen operational outcomes. Many times the plan is a source of strength; business leaders need to adapt only the portions of a plan that require adjustment. The Spectrum of Improvisation is to retain processes and systems that support mission excellence and adapt only necessary elements.
Steps to grow initiative and improvisation are essential to have an employee base that can execute Commander’s Intent. The following are training ideas and concepts to grow an employee capability for Commander’s Intent:
Simulation Training and After-Action Reviews. Organizations need to find a way to allow employees to simulate new product introductions, competitive analysis, and store openings. These simulations can incorporate dynamic changes in the base business situation that will force employee’s to adapt themselves and their teams to new changes to meet the existing business objectives.
Small Projects. Empowering a subordinate or a team to enter a small, untested market or attempt a new project has little risk to the core business and is an excellent testing ground to build confidence, improvisation, and a strong employee base with nominal risk.
Business History, Military History, and Current Events. A strong understanding of past events provides context, ideas, and a perspective on the value of improvisation in history and business.
Commander’s Intent is the definition and description of what a successful operation will yield. Good Commander’s Intent allows employees and teams to adapt the plan using improvisation, initiative, and adaptation to reach the original plan objectives.
* * *
Chad Storlie is a Senior Business Director at Union Pacific Railroad and the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader: 20 Lessons to Advance Your Civilian Career.