First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

A video of Teresa Amabile’s TEDx program in Atlanta

Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School and co-author of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Originally educated as a chemist, Teresa received her doctorate in psychology from Stanford University. She studies how everyday life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. Teresa’s research encompasses creativity, productivity, innovation, and inner work life – the confluence of emotions, perceptions, and motivation that people experience as they react to events at work.

Teresa gave an 18-minute TEDx talk on Sept. 13. The video of the talk is now up on the TEDx Atlanta site. During this talk, she shares a passionate message about improving everyday work life – and lifting performance – in organizations everywhere. If you have any feedback for her, she’d love to hear it. To contact here, please click here.

To watch the video, please click here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer: An interview by Bob Morris

Teresa Amabile

Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School and co-author of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Originally educated as a chemist, Teresa received her doctorate in psychology from Stanford University. She studies how everyday life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. Teresa’s research encompasses creativity, productivity, innovation, and inner work life – the confluence of emotions, perceptions, and motivation that people experience as they react to events at work.

Steven Kramer

Steven Kramer is an independent researcher and writer in Wayland, Massachusetts. He is also co- author of The Progress Principle. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from UCLA, and his doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of Virginia. Steve’s current research interests include adult development, the meaning of work in human life, and the subjective experience of everyday events inside organizations (inner work life). Previously, he researched the perceptual and cognitive development of infants and young children.

Morris: Before discussing The Progress Principle, a few general questions. First, other than a family member, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth?

Amabile: My undergraduate mentors at Canisius College were extremely important in my personal growth. Let me describe one of several. Professor Frank Dinan, a chemist and my research supervisor for several years, helped me think through my love of science, my growing interest in psychology, and implications for my career choices. More than that, he was a model of a principled, intrinsically motivated professional – someone who obviously loved his work, cared about his profession, and nurtured the people around him.

Kramer: It is hard to choose one person. I would have to say that it was a group of women who did volunteer work at a school for children with behavior problems where I worked when I was in my twenties. From them I learned the value of doing meaningful work and the joy and satisfaction that it can bring. And I also learned much about myself and my own value through the contribution that I helped to make in the lives of those children.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development?

Kramer: Another tough one. There are so many, but I will limit it to two people – Studs Terkel and Peter Drucker. Although I wasn’t able to meet either one of them, their work has had a profound effect on my thinking and my feelings about work. Both of them viewed work as something that could and should help to fulfill people’s lives. And they saw the nobility in work of all kinds. My hope is that our work, in its own small way, can build onto the foundation that they built.

Amabile: I think that would be my graduate mentors at Stanford University – psychology professors Mark Lepper (who got me interested in studying motivation, and supported my early explorations of creativity), Lee Ross (who introduced me to the excitement of experimental research on causal attribution), Phil Zimbardo (who helped me learn to teach), and Daryl and Sandy Bem (who modeled passion for their work, superb writing, and balancing family life with professional work).

Morris: Here are two questions for Teresa. First, When and why did you first become so interested in the creative process?

Amabile: As a child, I overheard my kindergarten teacher tell my mother that I showed great potential for artistic creativity. When I failed to show any achievement in art by the end of elementary school, I wondered why. Years later, when I began studying intrinsic motivation at Stanford, it occurred to me that motivational state could be terribly important for creativity – and might depend on the social environment as much as on natural talent. I began to read the creativity literature… and the rest is (my) history.

Morris: What are the most common misconceptions about creativity?

Amabile: A few myths crop up frequently: creativity is only possible in certain professions (like art or science); creativity depends primarily on talent; creativity thrives under pressure or unhappiness.

Morris: Now three questions for for Steve: In 1924, 3M’s then chairman and CEO, William L. McKnight observed: “If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.” Here’s the first part of the question: What must supervisors do to accommodate both an organization’s need for structure and constraints and its workers’ need for “the room they need”?

Kramer: Supervisors must provide the overall direction for the organization and clearly communicate it their people. But they should do so with input from below. The workers in the trenches are much closer to the customers than management and they have more intimate knowledge of the practical constraints in meeting those goals. The direction of the organization must also be accompanied by a purpose or meaning, since it is meaningful work that engages people in the work. By meaningful work, we simply mean that the work has some meaning or value to the person doing it. It can be a lofty goal like curing cancer, but it can also be as mundane is providing a quality product or a useful service to your customer.

Once supervisors have provided workers with clear goals, they must do two things. First, support them in meeting those goals. Give them the resources and help that they need to succeed for the organization and for themselves. Second, give them the autonomy to use their talents, skills and knowledge in meeting those goals. In other words, check in with your people and find out what they need and, to the extent possible, give it to them. But do not look over their shoulders and tell them how to do their job. This is the difference between “checking-in” and “checking-up.”

Morris: If the results of recent research studies are to be believed, on average, less than 30% of a workforce in the U.S. are positively and productively engaged; the other employees are either passively engaged (“mailing it in”) or actively engaged in undermining the company. How do you explain this?

Kramer: There are obviously many reasons for this. But we think that a critical reason is that people are not making steady progress on work that they find meaningful. We found that of all the things that make people happily engaged in their work, the single most important one is simply making progress in meaningful work. We call this discovery the progress principle. Unfortunately, when we surveyed nearly 700 managers from around the world, we found that few understood how important meaningful work is to motivation.

And this problem has been exacerbated by the economic turn down. Companies are cutting back on people and resources, and this is making it much more difficult for people to move forward. Of course, management often has real concerns about costs. But people simply cannot be expected to succeed if they are not given what they need, and this will inevitably hurt both the organization and the people doing the work.

Morris: Opinions are divided – sometimes sharply divided – about 360º feedback. Some favor anonymity, others transparency, and still others want absolutely nothing to do with it. What are your own thoughts about 360º feedback?

Kramer: I think opinions are sharply divided on this because there are both positive and negative aspects to 360º feedback. In organizations where there is a high level of trust and respect, and where 360º feedback is used primarily as a learning tool, it can have a very positive effect. However, when that trust is not there, and where it is used solely to judge people, it will be very negative.

But even when it is used well, it is most often too infrequent. Annual reviews are of little help in fostering the kind of daily progress that fuels engagement in the work. Rather, there needs to be a constant flow of communication moving up and down the organization, where all ideas are listened to and respected – and where people get the support they need.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Progress Principle. When and why did you decide to write it, and write it together?

Amabile: The Progress Principle arose out of a multi-year research program that looked at what really goes on inside the hearts and minds of people at work, and how this affects performance. To study that, we asked 238 professionals working on creative teams to email us a diary form each work day for the length of a project. The form included a number of scale-rated questions about participants’ progress, creativity, moods and perceptions on the day. But the most important data was an open-ended question asking them to describe one event that happened that day that was related in some way to the work. When we were done, we had almost 12,000 of these diaries.

When we analyzed this data, two related findings rose to the top. First, was the inner work life effect. Inner work life is our term for the constant flow of emotions, perceptions and motivations that people experience as they react to and try to make sense of the events that occur throughout the work day. The inner work life effect is the strong influence that inner work life has on performance: creativity, productivity, commitment to the work, and collegiality. The second was the progress principle. These are reciprocal – positive inner work life leads to higher performance, and progress leads to better inner work life.

Kramer: I became involved in the research organically. Teresa and I would talk about her research over dinner and during walks. Soon, I found myself helping with the design and the data analysis, and then coauthoring articles. As we began to see what we had in the data, it became clear to us that we needed to write a book. First, the data were so rich and complex, that the only way we could truly understand the whole picture ourselves was to write a book. And second, it became clear that we had discovered something that could not only make the lives of people within organizations better, it could help to improve the performance of those organizations.

Morris: Who brought what to the collaboration?

Kramer: I think we were complementary, both intellectually and temperamentally. Teresa is more careful and detail oriented, while I am more spontaneous and tend focus on the big picture. I am more technologically inclined and more sophisticated regarding statistics and data analyses. Teresa certainly has a better grasp of business and management theory than I do, and is a more talented writer. As a developmental psychologist, I probably help out most when we need to understand some of the more childish behavior described in our diaries!

Amabile: Steve’s description is quite accurate. Our skills our quite complementary, and so are our styles – when they aren’t clashing! Overall, I feel that our appreciation for each other has deepened through this experience. Our marriage is still strong and highly enjoyable!

*     *     *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Amabile and Kramer cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:

For more about The Progress Principle, please click here.

There is also a video (about four minutes in length) offering a portion of an interview during which Teresa Amabile discusses The Progress Principle.  To watch the video, please click here.

Monday, September 19, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The culture of engagement: 13 core elements

Over the years, I have probably read and then reviewed about 65-70 books in which their authors discuss one or more aspects of organizational culture. A few address employee engagement. Hopefully, a high percentage of those who share a workplace — at all levels and in all areas of operation — are positively and productively engaged. In fact, according to recent research by firms such as Gallup and TowersWatson, the average percentage in U.S. workplaces is less than 30%.

"We are Beryl!"

In my opinion, Beryl Companies offers the single best example of a company that continues to possess, indeed celebrate its culture of engagement. To learn more about Beryl, I highly recommend a book written by its founder and CEO, Paul Spiegelman: Why is Everyone Smiling?: The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit.

What follows hardly qualifies as scientific research with definitive analysis. I have selected a baker’s dozen of what seem to be the essential elements, based on what I have learned from dozens of primary sources, including Paul and his company:

1. The power of one: Each person matters. Check that, each person really matters.

2. The power of team: “Together, we know much more and can do much more than any one of us can.”

3. Solution orientation: Each person is empowered to solve problems or obtain the help needed to solve problems.

4. Trust, honesty and transparency: These are the core values by which everyone lives and labors.

5. Celebration of learning: Each failure as well as each success is a precious learning opportunity, with lessons shared.

6. Development and training: These are twin processes by which to achieve personal growth and professional improvement.

7. Clarity of communication: Everyone knows what they need to know; also, the intended meaning of whatever is communicated is identical with what the recipient thinks has been communicated.

8. Embracing all kinds of diversity: The “melting pot” metaphor is all wrong. Think in terms of a salad or a symphony. Each single part is essential but no single part is sufficient.

9. Be customer-driven: Peter Drucker said it best, “Without customers, there is no business.” However, as Southwest Airlines’ retired chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, suggests, “If you take great care of your people, they will take great care of your customers, and your customers will then take great care of your shareholders.

10. Networking and connectivity initiatives: The primary objectives are sharing, helping, supporting, giving, encouraging, protecting, etc. those in need, both within and beyond the given enterprise.

11. Time to think, dream, and create: Time is the only resource that is not renewable. Ample time is set aside time to renew mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy, energy that should be committed only to what is most important.

12. Ownership empowerment: Those who have earned the respect and trust of their colleagues are expected to take ownership of questions to be answered, problems to be solved, opportunities to be seized, etc. Over time, others who provide the support needed will also earn the respect and trust of their colleagues. Ideally, all members of an organization are equal owners. In reality, that is a journey rather than a destination.

13. Physical space: Everything in a physical workplace has been eliminated that wastes human energy, discourages interaction between and among people, and creates discomfort and distraction. Here’s a key question: “What can we do to make our physical workplace more appealing in terms of the five senses: what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell?”


Wednesday, August 10, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Most Valuable Business Insights: 16-20

After having read and reviewed so many business books, I now share brief comments about what I consider to be the 25 most valuable business insights and the books in which they are either introduced or (one man’s opinion) best explained. Here are 16-20.

16. PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT: First, determine which tasks are most important. Then, make performance expectations crystal clear to each of those whose performance will be measured.  Next, co-determine with them what the metrics for measurement will be. Third and finally, review measurement data after 45-60 days and revise (if necessary) (a) performance expectations and/or (b) the criteria by which performance is measured.

Best Sources:

Transforming Performance Measurement
Dean Spitzer

Analytics at Work
Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris, and Robert Morison

17. PERSUASION: This is the art and science of convincing another person or persons to agree with what they are asked to think, believe, or do. The basic requirements include eloquence, conviction, logic, and clarity as well as sufficient information to justify the given proposition or action. The most persuasive people respond effectively to a question that may only be implicit: “What’s in it for me?” One of the most effective persuasion strategies is to appeal to enlightened self-interest.

Best Sources:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Robert B. Cialdini

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

18. POWER: This is probably one of the most difficult terms to define because it has both positive and negative connotations and can be experienced in so many different dimensions (i.e. mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual). As Thoreau, Ghandi, and then Martin Luther King, Jr. suggest, non-violent resistance can have great power; we also know what other forms of power can do in response to that resistance.

Best Sources:

Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t
Jeffrey Pfeffer

The Elements of Power: Lessons on Leadership and Influence
Terry R. Bacon

19. PRODUCTIVITY: Get the most and best results from the least consumption resources (e.g. time, energy, materials). It is imperative to know what those desired results are, first. Otherwise, Peter Drucker’s observation applies: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Experts recommend that, in meetings and conversations, focus on discussion of what must be done, not on what to discuss.

Best Sources:

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm
Verne Harnish

Now…Build a Great Business! 7 Ways to Maximize Your Profits in Any Market
Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy

20. SELLING usually requires these components: a seller, a buyer, and a product and/or service of some kind. The term is also used with regard to convincing people (getting their “buy-in”) such as during change initiatives or during a negotiation (“I’ll buy that”).  Whatever the situation, the challenge to anyone selling is to possess the right information (i.e. accurate, sufficient, relevant, and verifiable) and present it effectively (i.e. convincingly).

Best Sources:

SPIN Selling
Neil Rackham’s

Selling to the C-Suite: What Every Executive Wants You to Know About Successfully Selling to the Top
Nicholas-A.C.-Read and Stephen J. Bistritz

Monday, April 4, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Perpetual Recession: Productivity Up, Jobs Not Up – Where Will The Jobs Be?

Let’s get more innovative.  Let’s get more productive.  Productivity – up, up, up!  Let’s find a way for each worker to produce more.  Let’s find a way for our company to produce more in fewer total work hours.  This is good for the company, this is good for our stockholders.  This is good, this is always good!  And, let’s get even more productive next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…

Right?

This is very good — except when it is bad.

The good is obvious.  People, companies, are more productive.  This is bad because, the more productive each worker is, the fewer workers needed to do the same amount of work.  Thus, no new jobs are created, because we can do more with fewer people.

Thus…the perpetual recession.

That is the key line in an article on Bloomberg.com, Bernanke Employment Goal Elusive as Profits Bring No Jobs by Craig Torres and Anthony Feld.  And it gives more insight re. the ongoing dilemma of:  where will the jobs be? Here are excerpts:

Not far from where Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke grew up, a revolution inside a Campbell Soup Co. plant explains why U.S. corporations are piling up profits — with little need to hire more people.

Workers such as “Big John” Filmore, a 28-year Campbell veteran, huddle every day with management in situation rooms before their shifts to find ways to save money for the company. Rising productivity is helping boost profit margins here in Maxton, North Carolina, where 858 workers turn out a billion meals a year, and at most of the 243 non-financial companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index with rising profit margins.

Companies slashed 8.5 million jobs during the worst recession since the Great Depression, while also slowing capital investment plans. Campbell, the world’s largest soup maker, DuPont Co., the third-biggest U.S. chemical maker, and United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s largest package-delivery business, are asking workers to help save cash by working smarter with existing technology. A potential cost: Efficiency gains reduce the chances recession-casualty jobs will come back.

“When the productivity growth comes, then watch out because that is when companies start not needing so much labor,” Edmund Phelps, a Columbia University economist and Nobel laureate, said in an interview.

Some 142 non-financial companies in the S&P 500 had improvements in operating margins of three percentage points or more from the final three months of 2007, when the previous expansion peaked, compared with the most recent quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg as of yesterday.

Firing and Hiring

Yet data released Nov. 18 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that while firing has slowed, hiring hasn’t picked up. Job gains from new or expanding businesses were 6.1 million in the first quarter, the lowest quarterly increase since the recession ended. Job losses from closing or shrinking businesses fell to 6.4 million, the smallest on BLS records going back to 1992.

“We’ve seen remarkable productivity gains in the last year or so in the U.S. economy,” Bernanke told Congress’s Joint Economic Committee on April 14. “We don’t anticipate productivity growth will continue at that rate going forward, but if it does, then that may reduce the number of workers that firms need to bring back in order to meet demand.”

Bernanke and fellow Fed policy makers launched a $600- billion second round of Treasury bond purchases November 3 to boost growth and lower unemployment, which has remained above 9 percent throughout the recovery. The jobless rate held at 9.6 percent in October, a sign that companies still have little need to absorb workers who need a job.

The Minimum

The economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter. That’s the minimum needed to keep unemployment from rising further, according to estimates by Fed officials this month.

U.S. corporations “live in a perpetual state of recession” because of fierce global competition, said Tom Schneider, chief executive officer of Washington-based consultant Restructuring Associates Inc., which helps boost efficiency at such companies as London and Rotterdam-based Unilever, the world’s second-largest consumer-goods maker. They have “no expectation that this is a short-term blip.”

As we try to figure out the direction of this still fragile recovery, this is the challenge that perplexes so many.

 

 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jobs Are Lost To Greater Productivity (And Plenty of the Credit Goes to Wal-Mart)

The law of unintended consequences is an adage or idiomatic warning that an intervention in a complex system always creates unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.
From Wikipedia

——-

Recently, I linked to an article about the best magazine articles ever.  (My post here; the main article with the complete list from CoolTools, here).  Many (ok, most) of these are articles I was not aware of, thus, certainly, had not read.  So, I am reading through much of the list slowly.

Yesterday, I read this article: The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know by Charles Fishman, from December 1, 2003, Fast Company.  It is a valuable article — giving genuine insight into what has happened in today’s work world.

First, here is the message in a nutshell:  Wal-Mart demands a lot from its suppliers.  A whole lot.  Suppliers have to produce more and more, at the lowest possible price, to meet Wal-Mart’s expectations – or they lose the account.  And the account at Wal-Mart is pretty much the whole ball game in the USA.

And, though very, very demanding, Wal-Mart is not lacking in integrity:

To a person, all those interviewed credit Wal-Mart with a fundamental integrity in its dealings that’s unusual in the world of consumer goods, retailing, and groceries. Wal-Mart does not cheat suppliers, it keeps its word, it pays its bills briskly. “They are tough people but very honest; they treat you honestly,” says Peter Campanella, who ran the business that sold Corning kitchenware products, both at Corning and then at World Kitchen. “It was a joke to do business with most of their competitors. A fiasco.”

But, though this article says plenty about Wal-Mart and its practices, it actually says something deeper.  First, this key quote:

Carey, a partner at Bain & Co., says, “for any product that is the same as what you sold them last year, Wal-Mart will say, ‘Here’s the price you gave me last year. Here’s what I can get a competitor’s product for. Here’s what I can get a private-label version for. I want to see a better value that I can bring to my shopper this year. Or else I’m going to use that shelf space differently.’ “

Throughout the article is this one undeniable fact – any supplier that provides a product at one price this year is expected to provide it next year at a lower price.  Or else!

Thus, all suppliers have to be meaner, leaner, pulling more productivity out of each worker, making more products for less money, year after year.

Here is the unintended consequence:  this has helped fuel the rise of productivity, and thus, contributed to a great loss of jobs.  Because if a company has to produce more for less, one of the “less” factors is the factor of producing more with fewer workers.

And, ultimately, as fewer workers produce the same or greater output in one company, this leads to a grand total of fewer workers overall.

Bob Herbert, this morning in the New York Times, has this:

At some point we’re going to have to claw our way out of this denial. With 14.6 million people officially jobless, and 5.9 million who have stopped looking but say they want a job, and 8.5 million who are working part time but would like to work full time, you end up with nearly 30 million Americans who cannot find the work they want and desperately need.

We’ve got more and more people in our working-age population and fewer and fewer jobs to go around. Mr. McMillion tells us that there are now 3.4 million fewer private-sector jobs in the U.S. than there were a decade ago. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen the worst job creation record since 1928 to 1938.

There are a lot of reasons for the loss of jobs.  But, one reason is that we have simply gotten so very much better at producing more with fewer people.

And as good as this is for productivity, and prices, the unintended consequence leading to overall job loss is looking like a true nightmare.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Swift response to pollution

Gustavus Swift (1839-1903)


Here is a brief excerpt from American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States in which Larry Schweikart and Lynne Pierson Doti focus on Gustavus Swift who was alarmed by fat content in Chicago’s Bubbly Creek into which the remains of animal carcasses were discarded after processing within his slaughterhouse.

“Swift was convinced that any fat in the water meant that too much of the animal carcass was discarded. Thus, for economic, and not environmental, motivations, Swift cleaned up the water by finding ways to use virtually all parts of beef and pig carcasses. He developed a series of by-products that included glue, soap, fertilizers, beef extract, and bone products, joining the many uses for other [parts of the animals – leather shows, gloves, baseball covers, even red paint made from animal blood – already in place.

“A century later, the process that Swift started reached almost 100 percent efficiency, but even during his time Swift accurately could boast that ‘we use all of the hog but the grunt.’”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Netflix Prize is Brilliant –- but Is it fair?

The tech observers will be weighing in on the Netflix wikinomics prize given to the best idea to improve their “recommendaiton software.”  (See my earlier post, “Everybody” Knows More than “Anybody” — Netflix Awards a Prize in the Era of Wikinomics).  Slate’s technology writer, Farhad Manjoo, thinks the whole concept was brilliant.  He wrote, in  The Netflix Prize Was Brilliant: Google and Microsoft should steal the idea, that Netflix could have never hired as many innovators as actually worked on the project (they all had other jobs); they would have never worked this diligently on the assignment without the potential of the prize money; and, if it had simply been an open source project Netlfix would not own the winning software outright.  But here was the line that got my attention: As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admitted to the New York Times, “You look at the cumulative hours and you’re getting Ph.D.s for a dollar an hour.”

I think, as I said in my earlier post, that for such a massive innovation project this wisdom of crowds/wikinomics approach is perfect, it subtly reminds us of another development in our current economic climate.  Though this is a really good way to innovate, is this another example of increasing productivity with lower wages?  Admittedly, all of those who worked so diligently to win the prize did so “voluntarily,” with the hope of the prize as their motivation.  It would have cost Netflix far more than the one million dollars they spent to obtain this outcome if they had hired all of these innovators.  Getting more work for less money out of people seems to be the dominant direction in this increase productivity at lower cost era.

It turned out great for the winners.  Another team came in 20 minutes late, and won nothing.  The winning team had seven members.  The team that was 20 minutes late had 30 members.  And many others worked many, many hours and also did not win the prize.  Netflix got an exceptionally good return for its investment.

Is this good, or bad?  It is certainly good for Netflix.  And good for customers of Netflix.  Is it good for the worker?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , | Leave a comment

In an age of stress, you can incorporate “energy builders” into your life

The Other 90%

The Other 90%

It’s Monday morning.  Time for a Monday morning quote:

First thing Monday morning, do you wake up envisioning – “Another week of stress and strain at work” – or “Another chance to do more of the things I love”?

This is one of the many fine quotes from the book by Robert Cooper, The Other 90%:  How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about issues of time/energy management lately.  Recently I wrote this post:  Is Everybody Tired, or is it Just Me? — Energy and Time Management in the Midst of Challenging Times.  And I sense that a whole lot of people are tired.

I teach a few classes at one of the Dallas County Community Colleges as a member of the adjunct faculty.  I am meeting quite a few fellow faculty members who teach the maximum number of classes, and then they also teach in other colleges outside of the district.  They run from one engagement to another, piecing together a living.  Independents (like me) especially have this problem.  And the constant shift; the fact that they do not “go” to work, but they go from task to task, from “job” to “job,” adds to the stress.

But it’s not just independents.  The people with “normal” jobs are equally stressed.  Have you seen the latest productivity numbers.  America’s productivity is up, but so is unemployment.  The same (actually fewer) people are churning out more and more work.  Productivity is up because individuals are doing more and more.  Here’s the report summary:

The Washington Post carries an AP story this morning reporting that productivity rose by an annual rate of more than 6 percent during the second quarter, while labor costs plummeted. As the story notes, productivity, or output per hour of labor, is often “a key ingredient for rising living standards,” but in recent months companies have been using the output gains to cut costs and bolster their bottom lines. A related Wall Street Journal story offers further explanation. “The net result” of businesses squeezing more work out of fewer employees, the Journal writes, is “rising unemployment, stagnant wages, sagging consumer confidence — and better-than-expected corporate profits.”

So, for this Monday morning, I present a list of suggestions, things to do to help with the stress.  These come from the Cooper book, The Other 90%.  And when I remember to do these, I can tell you that they help.  Here’s the list:

• The seven elements of  a “break”:
• Deepen and relax your breathing.
• Change your view and catch some light.
• Re-balance your posture and loosen up.
• Sip ice water.
• Enjoy a moment of humor.
• Add some inspiration.
• EAT SMART.

• Start the day right:  without a bang…
• Awaken without a jarring alarm.
• Turn on the lights.
• Get at least five minutes of relaxed physical activity.
• Enjoy several bites of a great-tasting breakfast.

Very practical.  And I have tried to incorporate a few of them.  For example, I have changed my alarm to a soothing “harp” choice (from my iPhone.  It really is less jarring).  I do sip ice water (he recommends cold, ice water .  I don’t know why – but it works).  And I periodically click on one of Andrew Sullinvan’s “mental health breaks” links (not always humorous, but always a nice distraction).  Here’s one.  And for inspiration, I read constantly — including the blog posts by Bob Morris on this blog

So – on a Monday morning, think about how you can begin and spend your week with passion and energy.

Good luck.

———-

• You can order the synopsis of my presentation of The Other 90%, at our companion web site, 15 Minute Business Books.

Monday, August 24, 2009 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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