First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Florence Nightingale sighted in Afghanistan

Cheryl offers: On the front page of Sunday September 19’s New York Daily News and the Wall Street Journal was a picture of several women in Afghanistan. They were dressed in blue veils and garments to identify them as voting poll administrators. These women were there even though the Taliban had threatened to harm anyone participating in the voting process.” WOW” was all I could think as I stared at the picture. These are truly brave women! It occurred to me today as Randy Mayeux delivered a book synopsis of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein that the stories about Florence Nightingale in that book could also be about the women in this picture. You see, Florence didn’t listen to conventional wisdom nor heed warnings from others. She made history by following her passion about what she knew but couldn’t necessarily prove.  She was one of those “obsessive people who have the skill, motivation, energy, and bullheadedness to do whatever is necessary to move them (new ideas) forward: to persuade, inspire, seduce, cajole, enlighten, touch hearts, alleviate fears, shift perceptions, articulate meanings and artfully maneuver through systems.” The only word missing from fully describing the Afghanistan women in that picture was courage; the kind of courage that inspires and motivates. None were likely named Florence, and yet they share more than a name – they share her spirit. WOW, am I lucky to have witnessed this!

Thursday, September 23, 2010 Posted by | Cheryl's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blockbuster, R.I.P. — Lessons for us All

You know, at one time there must’ve been dozens of companies makin’ buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company? You invested in a business and this business is dead. Let’s have the intelligence, let’s have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future.
(Lawrence Garfield — “Larry the Liquidator” – played by Danny DeVito, in the movie, Other People’s Money)


Blockbuster: R.I.P.

news item:  Blockbuster finally files for Chapter 11

Born, 1985:  (The first Blockbuster store opened in Dallas, Texas on October 26, 1985 at the corner of Skillman and Northwest Highway. By the way, I used to rent videos at that specific store.  I had no idea that it was the first).
Died, September 23, 2010:  (though some smaller version might last a little longer).

The lessons are many.  Like:

#1  Customer loyalty is dead.  Really dead.
#2  Someone intends to go right past you  — you’d better beat them to the punch.
#3  If the product you are selling is no longer the product that works best, you have no future.
#4  If these three are true, then you will go under – it’s just a matter of when, not if.

These are the thoughts that I have as I reflect on Blockbuster going into bankruptcy.  Netflix, and redbox, and youtube, and iTunes, all simply passed them by.  And Blockbuster simply was not nimble enough, not quick enough, not able to react and change fast enough, and now they are on the verge of gone.

Lots of thoughts, from plenty of books, come to mind, like:

Verne Harnish, in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, reminds us that all business starts with the functions of Making or Buying something.  So, if people no longer want to buy what you offer, you’ve got real trouble…

In Get There Early:  Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present (Using Foresight to Provoke Strategy and Innovation) by Bob Johansen (Institute for the Future), we learn about the VUCA world of (VUCA originated at the U. S. Army War College – the graduate school for Generals-to-be):

• Volatility
• Uncertainty
• Complexity
• Ambiguity

It’s the volatility that helped doom Blockbuster.

In The New Experts:  Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers At Their Decisive Moments by Robert (Bob) Bloom, Bob basically wrote Blockbuster’s obituary.  Consider these quotes from his book:

Today’s buyers – empowered by the Internet, assured by the enormous choice in every segment of commerce, and capitalizing on the acute vulnerability of sellers struggling in this new selling climate – have taken control of the entire purchase progression.
Buyers no longer care who they buy from.
Today, buyers are in control.
This reversal of supremacy has placed every business around the globe in a perilous situation.
This confluence of technology and choice started customer loyalty down the slippery slope – ultimately, customer loyalty died.

It is a scary world out there.  Somebody is out to beat you in tomorrow’s market.

I’ll end with a well-known quote from Gary Hamel (quoted by Tom Kelley in The Art of Innovation):

To those few companies sitting on the innovation fence, business writer Gary Hamel has a dire prediction:  “Out there in some garage is an entrepreneur who’s forging a bullet with your company’s name on it.  You’ve got one option now – to shoot first.  You’ve got to out-innovate the innovators.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Carrot Principle: A book review by Bob Morris

The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance (Updated & Revised Edition)
Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
Free Press (2009)

Note: The review that follows is of the updated edition (published on April 7, 2009) that includes results from a major global study in which more than 200, 000 managers participated.

Various surveys conducted among millions of workers indicate that “feeling appreciated” is of great importance to them. In fact, it is ranked #1, #2, or #3, together with “doing work that has value” and “working for an employer I respect.” Nonetheless, believe it or not, a recent study conducted by the O. C. Tanner Company indicates that 74% of leaders worldwide still don’t practice recognition with their employees. Gostick and Elton added a new chapter to the book based on the resukts of this study. Here are some of the study’s other key points:

65 per cent of respondents report that they weren’t recognized at all in the preceding year.

79 percent of people leaving an organization report “lack of appreciation” as a key reason.

Of those reporting the highest morale at work, 94.4 per cent agree that their managers are effective at recognition.

Organizations that effectively recognize excellence tend to be more profitable and can have more than three times the return on equity than those that do so the least.

In this book, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton explain why there is reluctance “to embrace the power of recognition.” At this point, I need to make a distinction between formal (institutional) recognition and informal (situational) recognition. Probably no other organization makes more effective use of formal recognition than does Mary Kay. With all due respect to pink Cadillacs, the fact remains that this company has identified hundreds of other ways to say “Well-done!” and celebrate outstanding performance.

With regard to informal recognition, I wish to share a personal experience that occurred when I arrived at a client meeting (it is a Fortune 50 company) and was being escorted from the reception area to the CEO’s office by his administrative assistance. We walked past one office and I stopped, having noticed through the open door a framed “something” on the wall. It was the office of a senior vice president and he was not there. “Everyone notices that,” she said. “Here, take a look.” We entered the office and I examined what was under the glass: more than a dozen multi-colored Post-its, each personally inscribed with brief, congratulatory comments addressed to “Warren” for a winning proposal, an excellent presentation, etc. “He’s so proud of those little notes that he went out and got them all framed.” I cannot say that “Warren” would rather have the Post-its than a new Cadillac but that’s beside the point anyway. Everyone appreciates being recognized. They welcome appreciative recognition. The 74% of managers who deny or ignore those facts are making a very, very serious mistake.

With regard to this book’s title, Gostick and Elton explain that in business, “a carrot is something used to inspire and motivate an employee. It’s something to be desired. In fact, it tops the list of things employees say they most want from their employers [or at least is among the top three]. Simply put, when employees know what their strengths and potential will be praised and recognized, they are significantly more likely to produce value.” In this context, recognition’s function is to serve as an incentive and the reward (as the Post-its example indicates) need not be monetary. “In fact, “Gostick and Elton note, “one-third of the people you give a cash award to will use that money to pay bills.”

They organize their material within three Parts: The Accelerator (i.e. leadership needed to establish and then sustain a “carrot culture”), Carrot Culture (i.e. its design, “building blocks,” and operations), and Managing by Carrots (i.e. determining the nature, extent, and funding of awards). They provide managers with a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program by which to “engage their people, retain talent, and accelerate performance.” According to recent Gallup research, only 29% of the U.S. workforce is positively engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% is passively disengaged. That is, they are going through the motions, doing only what they must, “mailing it in,” coasting, etc. What about the other 16%? They are “actively disengaged,” doing whatever they can to undermine their employer’s efforts to succeed.

So, a combination of formal (institutional) and informal (situational) recognition “accelerates business results. It amplifies the effect of every action and quickens every process. It also heightens your ability to see employee achievements, sharpens your communication skills, creates cause for celebration, boosts, trust between you and your employees, and improves accountability.” Those who read this book and then decide to introduce or revise a recognition program will need the convincing, indeed compelling support for doing so that Gostick and Elton provide in their brilliant book. I presume to add that establishing and then sustaining a carrot culture requires recognition initiatives that create a climate of appreciation. Don’t wait until you have recruited an army of those who share your vision, don’t wait until a full-blown program is in place. Show your appreciation now, at every appropriate opportunity, if only with a brief expression of praise as I do now with Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton: Well-done!

Thursday, September 23, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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