Things fall apart

Another sleepless night.  It’s 4:25 AM and you’re wide-awake. Check that. You’re awake, sort of, after another sleepless night.  Yes, another sleepless night, because you had two last week, and another two weeks before that.

As you shuffle into the day — guzzling a cup of this, wolfing a bite of that — you barely put one foot in front of the other. You’re so busy that the only time you have to yourself is in the shower. As you slump under the spray, you ask “How did it come to this?”. That moment’s reflection leads to an answer.

You can’t sleep because your life is a mess, you can’t sleep because your job is a mess, and you can’t sleep because your project is a mess. “I’ve gotta take a step back and… Arrrgh!”

A bit of soap in the eye does the trick and now you’re well and truly awake…and late!  And rushing unawares into another day.

Does this sound familiar to you? Are you living this right now ? Has it happened to a friend of yours? 

More later…

A few thoughts on Stoos

I’ve enjoyed the bits and pieces of Stoos I’ve picked up, mostly via Jurgen Appelo‘s summaries (the discussions at the LinkedIn group have been valuable as well).  For those who aren’t familiar with the Stoos Gathering, the goal was modest, but the topic was bold:

At the Stoos Gathering we will discuss how to accelerate change in management and organizational transformation.

That’s all?  More seriously, I love the ambition and it it has been great grist for my mental mill, especially these three themes in the documents and discussions:

  1. Leaders should change themselves first: A fellow named “Hank” noted this in the pre-gathering documents.  For example, leaders who have not learned to self-forget may find they struggle to build trust.  And putting spiritual traditions aside, those who have not tended to their spiritual armor will find they cannot resist the forces of reaction.
  2. “The Problem” will prove a crafty and adaptive foe: Steve Demming notes that “the participants left for a future time evaluations of the best ways of getting from “the problem” to “the desired outcome.”  Wise move, because IMO these “best ways” will have to contend with Anna Karenina Syndrome: “Happy firms are all alike; every unhappy firm is unhappy in its own way.”  The solutions must be viral, in every sense of that word.
  3. Beware introducing “corporate managers”: I’ve seen a desire to involve corporate managers into Stoos what Jurgen calls Management 3.0.  That’s great, but some of us are “The Problem” and aren’t self-aware enough to know it (see point one).  I’m especially concerned about two types: those who’ll want to boil it all down to “one particular approach” and those who’ll pick any work product apart as “impractical”, “not actionable”, “unrealistic”, etc.

You’ll make or break your business with your first hires HT @workcoach4you

I liked this video via SmartBrief. The lesson applies to initial hires in any size organization. They lay the foundational deliver ables and set the bar for performance expectations.

The square peg and the workplace

Here’s a recent find, the “You’re the Boss” blog in the New York Times (H/T Phil Stott at CNBC).  What drew me in was this tough-minded post on happy employees by Jay Goltz.  “A tough-minded post on happy employees”, you say?  Yes indeed, for as Goltz notes:

Have you ever seen a company or department paralyzed by someone who is unhappy and wants to take hostages? It is remarkable how much damage one person can do. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you watch “The Caine Mutiny.” Basically, one guy takes apart the ship. He was unhappy. It only takes one.

Basically, Goltz says you have to be prepared to fire the square peg who doesn’t fit, doesn’t want to fit, or wants everyone else to change to fit him.

I learned this lesson early on back in my McD’s days.  Let me tell you, when you’re the opening or closing manager you don’t want to run short-staffed.  So it is very tempting Continue reading

Hamel’s Stretch Goals for Management

I’m working through the pile of links I’ve accumulated.  Gary Hamel’s 25 Stretch Goals for Management caught my eye, if nothing else because I liked the challenge they attempt to address:

What is it about the way large organizations are currently managed that will most imperil their ability to thrive in the decades ahead; and given this, what fundamental changes will be needed in management principles, processes and practices?

Four goals caught my eye, the first three are pulled together by the last phrase “equip every employee to act in the interests of the entire enterprise”:

13. Develop holistic performance measures. Existing performance metrics must be recast, since they give inadequate attention to the critical human capabilities that drive success in the creative economy.
14. Stretch executive time frames and perspectives. Continue reading

Stop. Look. Listen.

I don’t get over to John Agno’s Coaching Tip blog often enough, though I did make it over the other day and found this timely post: In Stressful Encounters, Rewire Yourself to Listen.  He points out that:

In a stressful encounter, you may have less than two minutes to gain control and salvage the situation. 

The paradox is that we need to be deliberate, calm, and open at a time when our instincts are screaming “react!”.  John’s tips — and those of Mark Goulston — are very practical. 

My only addition: cultivate the habit of mindfulness so you can access such knowledge and don’t default to merely emotional responses.

Owning your change program

It has been a while since I’ve checked out my leadership counterparts on Alltop… I found some tasty posts from bloggers I hadn’t seen before.  Melissa Dutmers at Riverfork challenges us to not fall back on conventional wisdom:

…that the greatest contributor to success is “active and visible executive sponsorship” (this is corporate speak meaning high level executives are supposed to inspire and influence their people). I don’t buy it. I believe that the number one success factor for leading change is YOU (emphasis Melissa’s). 

I agree.  The need for executive sponsorship is almost a truism; as Melissa notes, “you need the support of a high-level manager or executive to approve the idea”. 

But can a change leader stop at formal approval?  Are you content with leaving the “active and visible” part of executive sponsorship to the executive him/herself?  For example, do you bother to draft that announcement e-mail or put together talking points for the exec to use with the board?  Do you make the leadership the first part of the communications plan, not the last?

Asking vendors partnership-promoting questions

As I closed my Q&A with Gary Cohen, I asked about working with oursourced resources.   Service and technology providers are integral parts of many projects, but too often I see them treated like arms-length vendors rather than true partners. 

  • Crossderry: What kind of questions should we ask consultants and vendors to reinforce to them — and to other stakeholders — that we are all in this together?
  • Gary Cohen: To encourage partnership with consultants, I recommend asking the following questions:
    * What risks are there to you if the project fails?
    * What opportunity costs are you giving up in order for us to work together?
    * What would like to hear me say to you a month after the project has been completed? What praise, in other words, would signify the optimal outcome?
    * What might prevent you from hearing that praise?
    * What can I do to help you achieve the optimal outcome?

Help others answer “their” questions

Placing yourself in another’s shoes is one of the most effective ways to confront reality.  I particularly like  Gary Cohen‘s take on how you can use the right questions to not only express empathy, but to also increase accountability (from my Q&A with Gary, author of JUST ASK LEADERSHIP: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions.

  • Crossderry:  I like the distinction you’ve made between questions that answer “your” questions — i.e., questions where you own the decision — and asking questions that help others answer “their” questions.  Can you talk more about such questions and how they can be used to reinforce accountability?
  • Gary Cohen: One of the most important questions leaders can ask is, “Whose decision is it?” When leaders allow job descriptions to determine decision-makers, not rank, decisions are usually made by the most informed party, and everyone must take ownership of their work. Blame and credit are easy to assess, in these instances. If, on the other hand, leaders make others’ decisions, they take away accountability from coworkers. Blame and credit are harder to assess, and it takes longer for new leaders to emerge because there’s less incentive to take ownership of their work.

SAP’s product side is the problem

Dennis Byron here gives the most succinct gloss I’ve seen on the challenge before Hasso:

Hasso Plattner wants to drive a great deal of technological innovation at SAP, and did not believe it could happen under Leo’s leadership, and without Hasso’s very direct involvement…. The product organization is full of conflicting technologies, conflicting interests, and conflicting agendas. Driving change in this kind of climate will be very challenging for Jim [Snabe] and Vishal [Sikka].

Hasso stalks the product halls?

There’s one more challenge: SAP hasn’t been honest about what is working on the product side. BYD folks walked around like the cocks of the walk long after it was clear that BYD was in deep trouble.  And the leadership let them…

Hasso’s right: Leo couldn’t call BS on the product side effectively enough.  From what I can tell, he’s the only one left in SAP who can meld innovation with the market AND is credible and powerful enough to actually do it!

Unfortunately, I can imagine that many on the development time think that they’ve won and happy days are here again.  Hasso’s back and it’s innovation for innovation’s sake at SAP!  What…monetize?  Isn’t that what sales people are for?

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