First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

The Art of Business: A book review by Bob Morris

Art of BizThe Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants
Raymond T. Yeh with Stephanie H. Yeh
Zero Time Publishing (2014)

Note: Occasionally I re-read a book published years ago simply for the pleasure of spending time again with a dear friend. That is especially true of this book. I envy those who have not as yet read it.

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The Practicalities of Philosophical Convergence

Yeh is one of several business thinkers who have learned a great deal from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. In this volume, he rigorously examines “five strategic arts,” devoting a separate chapter to each of the five, focusing on those organizations and individuals that best illustrate the values which Sun Tzu affirmed more than 2,500 years ago. Here they are: The Art of Possibility (Medtronic, Grameen Bank, and Southwest Airlines), The Art of Timing (Royal Dutch/Shell, Intel, and Southwest Airlines again), The Art of Leverage (Wal-Mart, Dell, and yes, Southwest Airlines again), The Art of Mastery (Singapore, the U.C.L.A. Bruins men’s basketball team, and indeed Southwest Airlines again), and finally, The Art of Leadership (Coach John Wooden of U.C.L.A, Earl Bakken who co-founded Medtronic, and of course, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines). When discussing his primary objective for JetBlue Airlines, CEO David Neeleman replied that he and his crewmembers (not “employees” or even “associates”) were determined to “bring humanity back to air travel.” That is one of Yeh’s key points in this book. He insists that the best organizations “have a soul and they find a way to make a profit consistently, while also serving the community.” That was a lesson which Neeleman learned during his brief association with Southwest Airlines. It is no coincidence that year after year, the companies identified by Fortune magazine as being “The Most Admired” and “Best to Work For” are also the most profitable in their respective industries.

What sets this book apart from so many others which have addressed many of the same issues is the fact that in it Yeh brilliantly correlates and sometimes blends Eastern and Western concepts of business success and personal fulfillment. Not only organizations but each of those within those organizations has a soul and must find (or be provided with) a way to achieve financial success while also serving the community. In essence, the “art of business” is really the art of having standard of living and quality of life in proper balance. The greatest leaders throughout human history have helped others to do so. Hence the importance of having VPV: vision, purpose, and values. A great leader inspires others with a vision and mobilizes them to pursue a shared future (the Art of Possibility); she or he initiates or responds effectively to change, especially to a crisis (the Arts of Timing, Leverage, and Mastery); and he or she can innovate constantly because values-driven leadership has developed and nourished both talent and integrity throughout the entire organization (the Art of Leadership).

According to Yeh, in addition to having a soul which creates meaning for its people, a great organization must also “know where it is going and somehow always seem to flow with the changing world, arriving at its destiny in perfect synchrony. A great organization cleverly leverages everything in its environment, including competitors, to effectively and efficiently utilize its resources. It is also the master of its trade, constantly treading on the leading edge while maintaining effective balance. Finally, a great organization is made of leaders “who help to actualize the organization’s vision by aligning their dreams to it.” Long ago, a 12th century French monk, Bernard of Chartres, (not Isaac Newton) suggested that all of us are able to stand atop the “shoulders of giants.” Today’s great leaders are those upon whose shoulders we and others will be privileged to stand in years to come.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How IDEO brings design to corporate America

Kelley , David

Here is the introduction to a “must read” article written by Dinah Eng for FORTUNE Magazine (April 11, 2013). In it, David Kelley explains how the company he founded, IDEO, brings design to corporate America.

Today, David serves as chair of IDEO and is the Donald W. Whittier Professor at Stanford, where he has taught for more than 25 years. Preparing the design thinkers of tomorrow earned David the Sir Misha Black Medal for his “distinguished contribution to design education.” He has also won the Edison Achievement Award for Innovation, as well as the Chrysler Design Award and National Design Award in Product Design from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and he is a member of the National Academy of Engineers.

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You may not know the design firm IDEO (pronounced EYE-dee-oh), but chances are you know its work. If you’ve used an Apple mouse (IDEO fashioned the company’s first, in 1980), swept with a Procter & Gamble (PG, Fortune 500) Swiffer (it collaborated on the hit), or even stood in line at an airport recently (the firm has worked with the Transportation Security Administration to make the process friendlier), you’ve felt the legacy of David Kelley. He founded IDEO in Palo Alto in 1978 and built it into a global operation with 600 employees and $130 million in revenue (he declines to divulge profits). IDEO brings a human-centered approach to products, services, and organizational concepts for the likes of Samsung, Eli Lilly (LLY, Fortune 500), and Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500). Kelley, 62, is also Stanford University’s resident design Yoda. The avowed “variety junkie” is proud that IDEO does everything from designing the ideal home for wounded soldiers to helping Elmo teach kids good behavior via a mobile app. His story:

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Listen up, biz leaders: It’s time to rethink everything

Here is an excerpt from article co-authored by Geoff Colvin that appeared in Fortune magazine. To read the complete article, check out other resources, obtain subscription, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

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We’re not living in ordinary economic times. Every company needs to determine if its strategy requires an overhaul or just thoughtful tweaks. Here’s how to start.

FORTUNE — Remember when Motorola (MMI) ruled the mobile phone business worldwide? And then Nokia (NOK) did? And then BlackBerry (RIMM) did? And now none of them do? As Fortune headlined a recent BlackBerry article, “What the Hell Happened?”

We all ask the same question about Kodak, monarch of the global photo industry for a century, now bankrupt, while Instagram, a photo-sharing service with a dozen employees, is sold to Facebook (FB) for $1 billion. And while we’re at it, what happened to Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)? To Yahoo (YHOO)?

We’re not living in ordinary economic times. The convulsions of the past five years have left many business people asking the most fundamental questions about their companies: Will our strategy work in this environment? What must we change, and what must we not change? Do we need a new business model?

Reconsidering strategy can turn into a miasma that consumes endless time and yields nothing. Yet the process is manageable. One way to think through your strategy in today’s uncertain environment is to answer three basic questions.

[Here is the first.]

1. What is our core?

A finding that’s consistent across cycles is that the best performing companies keep investing in their core no matter how bad things get. Look at what Dupont (DD) did during the Great Depression. Even as profits plunged, the company resolved to keep funding chemical research — its core — no matter what. Among the results: nylon, neoprene, and other products that brought Dupont billions of dollars over the following decades.

In good times, companies often wander into businesses for which they command no special capability. Then, when a downturn hits, those non-core businesses blow up and have to be axed. Pioneer bailed out of the grindingly competitive flat-screen TV business in the recent recession. Home Depot (HD) shut down its Expo chain of home design centers. Google (GOOG) closed non-core businesses that sold advertising on radio stations and in newspapers.

Excellent companies are certain of their core. Early on in the recession, Brad Smith, CEO of software firm Intuit (INTU), said, “We’re not going to cut innovation. This company for 25 years has been fueled by new product innovation. We’re protecting the innovation pipeline so we come out of this strong.” He would cut elsewhere if necessary, but in the realm of personal and small business finance software, he’s up against mammoth competitors, including Microsoft (MSFT). He cannot afford to fall even a fraction of a generation behind.

Are you sure of your company’s core? If not, you’ve got to do some corporate soul-searching.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Geoff Colvin is senior editor at large at Fortune magazine. A longtime Fortune editor and columnist, he is one of America’s sharpest and most respected commentators on leadership, globalization, wealth creation, and management. As former anchor of Wall Street Week with Fortune on PBS, he spoke each week to the largest audience of any business television program in America. His national bestseller, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else, won the Harold Longman Award as the best business book of 2009. His email address: gcolvin@fortune.com.

Saturday, December 1, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging on Business Update from Bob Morris: Week of 10/22/12

Here are some recent posts that may be of interest:

REVIEWS

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success
William N. Thorndike, Jr.

Advocacy: Championing Ideas and Influencing Others
John Daly

The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line
David Horsager

Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing Is Still Key to America’s Future
Ro Khanna

Paid to Think: A Leader’s Toolkit for Redefining Your Future
David Goldsmith with Lorrie Goldsmith

How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life
Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston with Geoffrey Lewis

INTERVIEWS

Kevin Liles (KWL Enterprises) in “The Corner Office”
Conducted by Adam Bryant
New York Times

COMMENTARIES

“Can’t We All Just Get Along?”
Mike Prokopeak
Talent Management magazine

“Listen up, biz leaders: It’s time to rethink everything”
Geoff Colvin
Fortune magazine

“Why Rooster Cogburn would probably get into Harvard”
Blogging on Business

“The most valuable lessons that CEOs can learn from the U.S. Navy’s five-star admirals”
Blogging on Business

“A New Game Plan for Planning 2013″
Andrea Kates
Business Genome website

“David Ogilvy on effective communication”
Blogging on Books

“Why Command-and-Control Leadership Is Here to Stay”
Herminia Ibarra
Harvard Business Review

“Jedi Mind Tricks: 17 Lesser Known Ways to Persuade People”
Peep Laja
Conversion XL website

“Winning the $30 trillion decathlon: How to succeed in emerging markets”
Yuval Atsmon, Peter Child, Richard Dobbs, and Laxman Narasimhan
The McKinsey Quarterly

“How to Put Failure in Its Proper Place”
Whitney Johnson for the Harvard
Harvard Business Review

“Big Data: The Management Revolution”
Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfss
Harvard Business Review

“How and Why Frameworks Improve Performance When Adopted at Any Level of an Organization”
APQC (American Productivity & Quality Center)

“Quotations from and for lovers of books”
Blogging on Business

“20 Lessons Internet Marketers Can Learn from Warren Buffett”
“Tyler”
seohosting.com

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To check out these resources and other content, please click here.

To subscribe via RSS Reader, please click here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Lead Until You Have Earned the Right to Lead in a New Job

Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas prepares backstage (Getty Images)

Here is a brief excerpt from a leadership column posted by George Bradt at the Forbes magazine website. To check out a wealth of free materials, learn more about George and his firm, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

About 40% of executives who change jobs or get promoted fail in the first 18 months.” As Anne Fisher points out in a recent Fortune article, this has been true for about 15 years.

A big reason for the ongoing failure rate is the inability of executives to determine the right time to pivot from converging (becoming part of the team) to evolving (initiating change) when they are onboarding, changing jobs or getting promoted – and the inability of others to help them get this timing right.

Let’s unpack that into three musts for executives:

1.  Must adopt a converge and evolve approach to onboarding

2.  Must make a conscious choice about pivoting from converging to evolving

3.  Must time that pivot right

Must Converge and Evolve

We use an ACES approach to onboarding, in which leaders make a choice based on the business context and corporate culture of the company whether to Assimilate in, Converge and Evolve, or Shock a system by making immediate changes.

Understand that while there are certainly some situations where it’s right to shock a system or simply assimilate in, in the vast majority of cases, converging and evolving is the right approach. New leaders cannot lead until they have established a working relationship with their followers.

Hence, converge and evolve. Ajay Banga did this particularly well when he went into MasterCard.

Must Choose to Pivot

Converging and evolving are different. The activities are different. The skills utilized are different. This is why a new leader can’t do both at the same time. This is why it’s so important to have a clear pivot point between asking/converging and leading/evolving.

QlikTech’s Lars Bjork used his first annual meeting to do this, and it worked so well that he pulls his whole company together every year to pivot from the learnings of the year before to the priorities of the year ahead.

This is a critical part of step 2 of The New Leader’s Playbook: Engage the Culture and Your New Colleagues in the Right Context

Be careful about how you engage with the organization’s existing business context and culture. Crossing the need for change based on the context and the cultural readiness for change can help you decide whether to Assimilate, Converge and Evolve (fast or slow), or Shock.

Please click here to read about each step in the playbook.

Please click here for YouTube videos highlighting each step.

*     *     *

To read the complete article, please click here.

The New Leader’s Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months.

George Bradt is PrimeGenesis’ managing director, and co-author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 3rd edition 2011) and the freemium iPad app New Leader Smart Tools. Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.

To read my interview of George, please click here.

To read my review of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, please click here.

 

 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton: An interview by Bob Morris

Internationally recognized workplace experts Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are partners in the consulting firm The Culture Works.

Adrian Gostick

Adrian Gostick is the author of several best-selling books on corporate culture, including the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers The Carrot Principle and All In. His research has been called a “must read for modern-day managers” by Larry King of CNN, “fascinating,” by Fortune magazine and “admirable and startling” by the Wall Street Journal. As a leadership expert, he has appeared on numerous television programs including NBC’s Today Show and has been quoted in dozens of business publications and magazines.

 

 

 

Chester Elton

Chester Elton has been called the “apostle of appreciation,” by the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, and “creative and refreshing” by the New York Times. The co-author of All In, The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution, his books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Chester has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company magazine, and New York Times, and he appears in a weekly segment on CBS News Radio.

Here is a brief excerpt from my interview of Adrian and Chester.

To read the complete interview, please click here.

*     *     *

Morris: Before discussing All In, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal and professional growth? How so?

Gostick: We’ve talked about this often. Our parents were our first bosses—they gave us our moral compass, goals, and our first recognition. My dad worked 25 years for Rolls Royce in England. He taught me the value of working someplace where you can make a difference—not chasing money but doing work that you found purposeful.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Elton: About 15 years ago now I was working as a consultant with some large organizations in the Northeast. We were working at the time on employee recognition ideas and we were doing some really innovative things. I realized no one had ever written the definitive work on recognition. There were these 101 ways books. Most managers had one on their shelf, but no one ever read them. Just then my firm hired Adrian as its head of communication. We collaborated on our first book in the Carrot line and it really took off. Finally Simon & Schuster contacted us to do a big research book on the subject and that became The Carrot Principle. That book has now been translated in 25 languages and is sold around the world.

Gostick: Over the years since that release our work has taken us to the characteristics of the world’s best teams and now on to culture—something that we are hearing more and more from our clients. They want to know how to build not only a great corporate culture, but effective cultures in each of their smaller teams.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Gostick: I was able to study 50 years of leadership theory and practicum in my master’s program at Seton Hall, and it has provided the backbone of the knowledge we use every day. My undergraduate work was in journalism, and my early work as a newspaper reporter taught me how to research, write, and rewrite.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does All In in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Elton: We originally handed in the manuscript for All In to Simon & Schuster in the late summer of 2011. Four months later it went to press. Those four months were some of the hardest in our lives as our editor threw out half the book and demanded entire new chapters. While we had explained our findings well, we think, she pushed us to make the takeaways relevant for real business leaders. We spent so much time on explaining what a great culture looks like, we had neglected to tell readers “how” to do it. So many business books fall into that trap, and we are so grateful to Emily Loose, our editor, for pushing us to answer that paramount question: “I do what?”

Morris: Recent research studies by highly reputable firms such as Gallup and Towers Watson indicate that in a U.S. workforce, on average, fewer than 30% of the employees are actively and positively engaged; as for the others, they are either passively engaged (“mailing it in”) or actively disengaged. How specifically can business leaders increase the percentage of actively and positively engaged employees within their organizations?

Gostick: First, managers should understand there are some simple things they can do tomorrow that will make a big difference in their culture, but so few managers do them. For instance, the great leaders in our study treated their people like partners in the organization. That meant they created for their people a sense of connection by teaching them how their jobs impact the larger organization. And they showed them growth opportunities, how they can grow and develop with the company.

Next, these leaders also created a culture of rooting for each other with much greater levels of recognition and rewards. And finally, managers learned to create a share everything culture, where they honest and openly discussed issues.

Elton: Simple things really, but powerful. It comes down to opportunity, recognition and communication. Three things you can do right way to see results.

Morris: Given your response to the previous question, to what extent will those initiatives also help to retain valued employees who might otherwise leave?

Elton: The number one and number two reasons key performers leave an organization: one—I don’t feel in on things, and two—I don’t feel appreciated. It’s not money, it’s not job growth, people most often leave for things that are absolutely in our control as managers.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you began your first full-time job? Please explain.

Gostick: When I first became a manager, I didn’t realize that there were people who did a good job but who were toxic to the culture. I waited much too long to get rid of those people.

Morris: Here’s a hypothetical question. If there were a monument honoring business leaders comparable with the one honoring U.S. Presidents on Mount Rushmore, sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, which four would you select? Please explain each choice.

Elton: I’ll give you one. One of our favorite leaders is someone most people have never heard of: Scott O’Neal. He’s president of Madison Square Garden Sports, and he’s the best leader we have ever met. One thing Scott does with every new hire: He asks them where they want to be in five years, and then he commits to help them get there if they promise to give 100 percent to him every day. And people do it, and in turn he’s helped business leaders all over the sports world achieve their dreams. He lives up to his promise.

Gostick: Here’s another one: Doria Camaraza. We feature her in chapter three of All In. Doria is the general manager of American Express’ 3,000-person call center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She is simply amazing. She seems to know every one of her employees, and spends her days making people included and recognized and wonderful. Her call center has employee turnover that is one fifth the national average and has the best efficiency and productivity numbers in the call center industry. My favorite thing she does is called Tribute, where she gathers all her employees together once a month and the leaders come out dancing to Lady Gaga or Aerosmith and then she recognizes a dozen people for living the core values of American Express. It’s really powerful and there are a lot of tears.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Adrian and Chester cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:

The Culture Works

Amazon.com

Sunday, May 6, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 12 greatest entrepreneurs of our time

Here is an excerpt from John A. Byrne’s cover article by FORTUNE magazine. Great ideas are hard to come by. Putting them to work is even harder. Byrne invites you to meet the founders who turned concepts into companies and changed the face of business.

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When Jeff Bezos came up with the idea for what would become Amazon.com, he went on a stroll in Central Park with his boss at the time to share his epiphany.

Bezos, in 1992, was a senior vice president for the New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw. He described his dream to create a company that would sell books on the Internet. His boss listened intently before offering a bit of advice: “That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn’t already have a good job.”

Big ideas of the ground-shifting variety are rare — and hard to pull off. But that’s the difference between the dreamer and the doer. It took Bezos all of 48 hours to decide to quit his job and get started. Some 18 years later, he’s still at the helm of Amazon.com, which has redefined the way people buy almost everything, employs 56,200 people, and is valued at more than $80 billion.

Having spent years studying Bezos and others like him as an author, senior writer, and editor at both Business Week and Fast Company, I can tell you that Bezos is one of those rare birds who have made a meaningful mark on our economy and our world. He would certainly be on anyone’s list of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of my generation. Who else should make that cut? After spending the better part of the past year pondering that question for a new book, World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It (Portfolio Penguin), I was asked by FORTUNE who deserves to be on that list — and what we can learn from each of them.

Many are obvious — from the late Steve Jobs, who helped make Apple the hottest and most valuable company on the planet, to Mark Zuckerberg, who will take Facebook public in what is anticipated to be the biggest IPO of all time (at a value of more than $80 billion). But there will be a few surprises too, such as N.R. Narayana Murthy, the visionary founder of Infosys who has built one of the largest companies in India, helping to transform that economy and put it on the world stage.

Another surprise: Not a single woman makes the list of the top 12 — at a time when women have gathered more influence and power in business than ever before. Oprah Winfrey has leveraged her celebrity into a formidable media empire, and the late Body Shop founder Anita Roddick proved that you could market products by being socially and environmentally responsible. They clearly warrant honorable mention but have not, in my view, transformed the face of business or society in as profound a way as those singled out here.

Admittedly this list of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs is subjective. I based it largely on social and economic impact; the world-changing vision of a founder who has inspired employees and other entrepreneurs alike; a record of innovation; and the actual performance of their companies over time. These founders created and then nurtured healthy, sustainable organizations that now have a combined market value of more than $1.7 trillion. They directly employ more than 3 million people, ranging from a high of 2.1 million at Wal-Mart to just over 3,000 at Facebook.

Yet those numbers only touch the surface. Each of their companies sits at the nucleus of a thriving ecosystem that has cultivated and nurtured dozens if not hundreds of other enterprises. Small companies have thrived as suppliers, for example, to Whole Foods, which, among other things, buys produce from more than 2,000 local farms. So the power of each of these organizations extends far beyond its own walls.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

John A. Byrne is Chairman & Editor-in-Chief at C-Change Media Inc. John A. Byrne is the chairman and CEO of C-Change Media Inc. Until recently, Byrne was editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com and executive editor of BusinessWeek. He holds the distinction of authoring a record 58 cover stories in BusinessWeek magazine and is also the author or co-author of eight business books, including two New York Times‘ bestsellers. Byrne had also been editor-in-chief of Fast Company magazine. He founded C-Change Media, a digital media company, to take advantage of the sea change that is roiling the traditional media business. C stands for content, curation and community, the three common attributes of each C-Change web venture.

Monday, April 9, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Lessons You Can Learn From the World’s Most Admired Companies

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Mel Stark and Mark Royal for Talent Management magazine (5/10/2011). To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

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Experts from Hay Group, which partnered with Fortune magazine to release the 14th annual World’s Most Admired Companies list, break down analysis on practices that have helped the top companies such as Apple and Google sustain their success.

Apple, Google, Southwest Airlines and Procter & Gamble are just some of the companies that topped Fortune magazine and Hay Group’s annual list of the World’s Most Admired Companies (WMAC).

Hay Group has performed supplemental research to uncover the business practices that make these and the other top companies both highly regarded and highly successful. A hallmark of the WMAC is consistently strong performance and reputations amid changing business conditions. ?

The 2010 study confirmed that many organizations drew heavily on the “reservoir of goodwill” associated with engaged workforces to manage through difficult economic times and position their organizations for future growth. Looking ahead, leaders will need to revisit strategies, systems and processes to ensure they are setting their organizations up for sustained performance and success.

Accordingly, this year Hay Group studied the approaches the WMAC are taking to sustain performance and has identified five things that make these companies stand out and how managers can put them into practice in their organizations.

[Here are the first two. To read the complete article, please click here.]

1. Involving employees at all levels in promoting efficiency and innovation. While 76 percent of peer firms regularly reach out to employees for ideas on how to increase efficiency, this is standard practice for 91 percent of the WMAC. These companies are also much more likely to encourage managers and employees to take reasonable risks to increase organizational effectiveness.

Managers should realize that those closest to the action are most aware of and best suited to recognize what could be working more effectively. Management by “walking around” is more critical than ever.

2. Recognizing that work/life balance is about more than employee comfort. The WMAC recognize that taking work/life balance seriously is essential to avoid burning out and losing key people. Half of these companies view this issue as a top priority over the next two years, as compared to only 30 percent of peers.

Managers should recognize that people’s lives are more holistic – being respectful of this and accommodating it is a winning strategy.

*     *     *

The WMAC show us that sustained performance depends on giving people the conditions to contribute and succeed – whether it’s harnessing their ideas, promoting work/life balance, sharpening their skills or giving them clarity of purpose.

 

 

 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple’s Success Secret: It Makes Mistakes All the Time

Erik Sherman

Here is an article written by Erik Sherman for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

*     *     *

In part of the long piece that Fortune did on Apple (AAPL) — the article itself has become a story because Fortune has posted only small parts on the Web — Adam Lashinsky wrote of Apple’s start-up nature. In the process, though, he bought into an Apple-inspired mythos and missed an opportunity to explain one thing that really does make Apple different.

The lead sentence telegraphs the myth: “Apple doesn’t often fail, and when it does, it isn’t a pretty sight at 1 Infinite Loop.” But if you pay attention to the clues that people from Apple, including CEO Steve Jobs and senior vice president of industrial design Jonathan Ive, have dropped over the year, it’s clear that people at Apple make mistakes. They do so all the time, and it is those mistakes that make it possible for the company to come up with the products that it does. Where Apple differs from other companies is in how it makes mistakes.

Apple believes in making a lot of mistakes internally. Where Apple differs from other companies is that its standard for what constitutes a mistake is stratospheric and it doesn’t tolerate mistakes in public.

By no means are new Apple products right the first time out. The company will return to the drawing board to keep changing and polishing an idea until it does what it needs to do. Any engineering or design process at any company works that way. Where Apple parts ways with the mainstream lies first in its general standards of what’s acceptable and what isn’t, as this video with Jobs and Ive helps show.

You can argue whether the Jobsian view of perfect actually applies to what all people would like, but it clearly fits the vast number of Apple’s loyal customers. As Jobs said:

“We’re willing to throw something away because it’s not great, and try again when all of the pressures of commerce are at your back saying, ‘No, you can’t do that.’”

For most companies, “good enough” rules. That’s true for most consumers as well, though perhaps that’s because many rarely see high enough quality to make them willing to pay more. In an interview last fall on the topic of being the boss of Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO John Sculley had an interesting observation about Microsoft (MSFT):

“The legendary statement about Microsoft, which is mostly true, is that they get it right the third time. Microsoft’s philosophy is to get it out there and fix it later. Steve would never do that. He doesn’t get anything out there until it is perfected.”

And that gets to the intolerance for making mistakes in public. Not that Apple has never made product mistakes. Flawed mortals run the company, and you don’t have to look far to see evidence such as the iPhone 4 antenna problems, the recent privacy issue of stored location tracking on iPhones, and iPods that overheated to the point of physical danger to consumers. Look at what happened with Apple’s MobileMe service, according to Fortune, when it got panned on launch. Jobs addressed the engineers responsible:

For the next half-hour Jobs berated the group. “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation,” he told them. “You should hate each other for having let each other down.” The public humiliation particularly infuriated Jobs. Walt Mossberg, the influential Wall Street Journal gadget columnist, had panned MobileMe. “Mossberg, our friend, is no longer writing good things about us,” Jobs said. On the spot, Jobs named a new executive to run the group.

The problem wasn’t having made a mistake. You can’t create and improve products without making mistakes. The problem was in not insisting on fixing the mistakes at a time when they should have been obvious. Perhaps that’s why other tech companies look cowardly in comparison, trying to creep along behind Apple to find the magic product features that will guarantee sales.

Competitors are used to sending out half-baked products and then fixing problems over various releases. They don’t want to see mistakes in house and close their eyes to the value of making them. Instead, they want the winning answer in advance, when that winning answer is to be willing to throw out a steaming pile of crap and start over.

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Erik Sherman is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. His work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Fortune, Inc, Newsweek Japan, the Financial Times, Chief Executive, Advertising Age, and CIO Insight. Before going into journalism, he was head of product marketing at a publicly-held technology company and later was an independent business consultant. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

Monday, May 16, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Build Confidence

Amy Gallo

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Amy Gallo for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.

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Very few people succeed in business without a degree of confidence. Yet everyone, from young people in their first real jobs to seasoned leaders in the upper ranks of organizations, have moments — or days, months, or even years — when they are unsure of their ability to tackle challenges. No one is immune to these bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back.

What the Experts Say

“Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance,” says Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of
Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live. And yet he concedes that “insecurity plagues consciously or subconsciously every human being I’ve met.” Overcoming this self-doubt starts with honestly assessing your abilities (and your shortcomings) and then getting comfortable enough to capitalize on (and correct) them, adds Deborah H. Gruenfeld, the Moghadam Family Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Co-Director of the Executive Program for Women Leaders at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Here’s how to do that and get into the virtuous cycle that Schwartz describes.

Preparation

Your piano teacher was right: practice does make perfect. “The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it,” says Schwartz. Many people give up when they think they’re not good at a particular job or task, assuming the exertion is fruitless. But Schwartz argues that deliberate practice will almost always trump natural aptitude. If you are unsure about your ability to do something — speak in front of large audience, negotiate with a tough customer — start by trying out the skills in a safe setting. “Practice can be very useful, and is highly recommended because in addition to building confidence, it also tends to improve quality. Actually deliver the big presentation more than once before the due date. Do a dry run before opening a new store,” says Gruenfeld. Even people who are confident in their abilities can become more so with better preparation.

Get out of your own way

Confident people aren’t only willing to practice, they’re also willing to acknowledge that they don’t — and can’t — know everything. “It’s better to know when you need help, than not,” says Gruenfeld. “A certain degree of confidence — specifically, confidence in your ability to learn — is required to be willing to admit that you need guidance or support.”

On the flip side, don’t let modesty hold you back. People often get too wrapped up in what others will think to focus on what they have to offer, says Katie Orenstein, founder and director of The OpEd Project, a non-profit that empowers women to influence public policy by submitting opinion pieces to newspapers. “When you realize your value to others, confidence is no longer about self-promotion,” she explains. “In fact, confidence is no longer the right word. It’s about purpose.” Instead of agonizing about what others might think of you or your work, concentrate on the unique perspective you bring.

Get feedback when you need it

While you don’t what to completely rely on others’ opinions to boost your ego, validation can also be very effective in building confidence. Gruenfeld suggests asking someone who cares about your development as well as the quality of your performance to tell you what she thinks. Be sure to pick people whose feedback will be entirely truthful; Gruenfeld notes that when performance appraisals are only positive, we stop trusting them. And then use any genuinely positive commentary you get as a talisman.

Also remember that some people need more support than others, so don’t be shy about asking for it. “The White House Project finds, for example, that many women need to be told they should run for office before deciding to do so. Men do not show this pattern of needing others’ validation or encouragement,” says Gruenfeld. It’s okay if you need praise.

Take risks

Playing to your strengths is a smart tactic but not if it means you hesitate to take on new challenges. Many people don’t know what they are capable of until they are truly tested “Try things you don’t think you can do. Failure can be very useful for building confidence,” says Gruenfeld. Of course, this is often easier said than done. “It feels bad to not be good at something. There’s a leap of faith with getting better at anything,” says Schwartz. But don’t assume you should feel good all the time. In fact, stressing yourself is the only way to grow. Enlisting help from others can make this easier. Gruenfeld recommends asking supervisors to let you experiment with new initiatives or skills when the stakes are relatively low and then to support you as you tackle those challenges.

Principles to Remember

Do:

Be honest with yourself about what you know and what you still need to learn
Practice doing the things you are unsure about
Embrace new opportunities to prove you can do difficult things

Don’t:

Focus excessively on whether you or not you have the ability – think instead about the value you provide
Hesitate to ask for external validation if you need it
Worry about what others think — focus on yourself, not a theoretical and judgmental audience

[To read the complete article, including two especially informative case studies, please click here.]

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Amy Gallo is a writer and editor. Her work appears on HarvardBusiness.org. For eight years, she worked for the management consulting firm Katzenbach Partners (now Booz & Company). At Katzenbach, she authored the firm’s report on the Informal Organization, featured in Fortune magazine.

Saturday, April 30, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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