First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

The Secret to Ensuring Follow-Through

Peter Bregman

Here is an excerpt from an especially valuable  article written by Peter Bregman 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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[Note: The excerpt begins mid-narrative. To read the complete article, please click here.]

As I finished my pre-offsite interviews, I made a single request of each leader: read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

A physician and writer, Gawande describes doctors who resist the checklist — it’s too simple, insulting even — and then shows us how hospital staff who follow a checklist save more lives than most medical “miracle drugs” or procedures.

Gawande makes a strong case for why experts need checklists, especially for the most mundane of tasks. The more expert we are in something, the more we take things for granted, and, as a result, miss the obvious.

Most of us think we communicate well. Which, ironically, is why we often leave out important information (we believe others already know it). Or fail to be specific about something (we think others already understand it). Or resist clarifying (we don’t want to insult other people).

Thankfully, there’s a simple solution: create a checklist and use it during every handoff.

During the offsite, the leadership team looked at where problems happened in the past and where they were likely to happen in the future. Almost all were during handoffs.

So we developed the following mandatory “handoff checklist” — questions that the person handing off work must ask the person taking accountability for delivery:

Handoff Checklist

• What do you understand the priorities to be?

• What concerns or ideas do you have that have not already been mentioned?

• What are your key next steps, and by when do you plan to accomplish them?

• What do you need from me in order to be successful?

• Are there any key contingencies we should plan for now?

• When will we next check-in on progress/issues?

• Who else needs to know our plans, and how will we communicate them?

Time it takes to go through the checklist? One to five minutes. Time (and trust) saved by going through the checklist? Immeasurable.

We came up with this checklist because it addressed the most common reasons for dropping balls in this particular organization. Your handoff checklist may be different.

Here’s what’s compelling about an established checklist: it not only reduces mistakes, it reduces the need for courage.

Why would we need courage? Imagine you just finished explaining the priorities of a project to someone. Wouldn’t it seem a little patronizing, a little insulting to their intelligence, to ask them to tell you what they understood the priorities to be?

With an established checklist, it’s no longer offensive; it’s standard. And when they answer, often with a slight misunderstanding of the priorities, you can correct them on the spot, saving them two weeks of misguided work and the loss of trust that goes along with it. That’s the power of the checklist.

A few months after the offsite, I called Mary to ask her how it was working. Was the new HR Shared Services organization delivering? Did she miss Lucinda?

“Sure I miss Lucinda,” she told me, “but I don’t need her.”

Then she pulled out her checklist to make sure we were both on the same page for our work going forward.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Peter Bregman speaks, writes, and consults on leadership. He is the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm, and the author of Point B: A Short Guide To Leading a Big Change. Sign up to receive an email when he posts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Google “grows” better managers

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Adam Bryant for The New York Times (March 12, 2001) in which he focuses on a plan that Google code-named Project Oxygen in early 2009.

To read the complete article, please click here.
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Laszlo Bock of Google says its study found that a boss’s technical expertise was less important than “being accessible.”

IN early 2009, statisticians inside the Googleplex here embarked on a plan code-named Project Oxygen.

Their mission was to devise something far more important to the future of Google Inc. than its next search algorithm or app.

They wanted to build better bosses.

So, as only a data-mining giant like Google can do, it began analyzing performance reviews, feedback surveys and nominations for top-manager awards. They correlated phrases, words, praise and complaints.

Later that year, the “people analytics” teams at the company produced what might be called the Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers.

Here are the “Eight Good Behaviors”:

1. Be a good coach: Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive. Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to the problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths.

2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage: Balance giving freedom to your employees, while being available for advice. Make stretch assignments to help the team members tackle big problems.

3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being: Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work. Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition.

4. Don’t be a sissy: be productive and results-oriented: Focus on what the employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it. Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.

5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team: Communication is two-way because you both listen and share information. Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team members to connect the dots. Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.

6. Help your employees with career development.

7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team: Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy. Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.

8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team: Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the tram, when needed. Understand the specific, especially the unique challenges of the work to be done.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on that he started in March 2009. To contact him, please click here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bon Jovi May Be Right About Steve Jobs – But Don’t Blame Steve Jobs

(personal note – I have taken a few days away from blogging – and from a whole lot of other stuff.  I hope to be back in full swing in a day or two…)

News item (Huffington Post): Bon Jovi rips Steve Jobs for killing the music industry

“God, it was a magical, magical time. I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”
Interestingly, his criticism isn’t about illegal downloading or any skewed road to success; instead, Bon Jovi is complaining about the actual experience of listening to music, which he thinks has been downgraded by iTunes downloads and iPods.

He may be right.  But, the complaint will be the same for the book industry – “The Kindle killed the book business.”  And for television:  “the internet and dvrs killed the networks.”

The list is endless, and the point is inescapable.  Technology marches on, and it is not pretty, it does not wait, it is not fair. (this is a paraphrase of a quote from some business book I have presented, and I can’t quite remember which book.  My apology to the author).  In fact, google the phrase “technology does not wait,” and the quotes are numerous…    When technology arrives, the world changes.

I was in Austin reading a book (yes, an actual book) to my granddaughter over the weekend.  The title of the book was Opposites.  She is 14 months old, so it is pretty much a point to the picture and try to hold her attention for a few seconds experience.  One picture was an elephant (no guarantee that I am remembering the animal, or even the title, correctly) talking the right way and the wrong way on the telephone.  But in both pictures, there was a phone with a cord and a handset.  My granddaughter may never live in a house with such a phone.  In fact, my son and his wife do not have a phone at their house – they each have a cell phone.

So, Bon Jovi can blame Steve Jobs for killing the music industry.  And he may be right – but he is wrong.  Jobs was just the guy at the time.  If not him, someone else would have introduced a magic music machine based on the new digital technology, and the world of music would have changed.

We may as will get over it.  We may not like it, but it happened, it is happening, and it will continue to happen.  Technology marches on.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Live Your Mission, Don’t State It





Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

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The problem with most mission statements is that they are full of jargon and platitudes that apply to any organization, not just the one they were written for.

Don’t wring your hands over the wording: focus on action instead.

A mission statement is an abstraction. An organization on a mission is inspiring.

Think about what it is you want your company to do — create the best personal computer, change the way people think about coffee, end hunger, etc. — and make that your charge. Mission statements can galvanize and align employees or explain to others what you do, but only if there is a true sense of purpose behind them.

Today’s Management Tip was adapted from “Do You Have a Mission Statement, or Are You on a Mission?” by Dan Pallotta.

To read the full post and join the discussion, please click here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When and why a “failure” is an “orphan”

First of all, I define a “failure” as an effort or combination of efforts by an individual or group that produces nothing of value.

Thomas Edison

Long ago, Thomas Edison is reported to have said of an experiment that disappointed his research associates, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” When he died in 1931 he held 1,093 patents in his name, many of which were collaborations that he gratefully acknowledged.

My point is, there is substantial value in learning and then sharing what was not known before. That is what Edison meant when suggesting that we always “pass lots of failures” on  the so-called “road”  to ultimate success.

I was a child when I first heard someone say that “success has many parents but failure is always an orphan.” Over time I began to realize how true that is, especially in the business world.

The most successful organizations are those in which constant and continuous failure of small, low-risk, highly-visible experiments is encouraged and rewarded but only if lessons are learned from them and immediately shared with others.

This is the culture that Edison established with his research center in Menlo Park, New Jersey (1879).

This is what Peter Senge had in mind when defining a “total learning organization” in The Fifth Discipline (1990).

And this is what business leaders should actively and generously support, especially now when innovation or the lack of it usually determines if an organization thrives, merely survives for a while, or evaporates.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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