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

The pleasures of post hoc reasoning

Niall Ferguson had an excellent short column on the financial crisis in this past Sunday’s The New York Times Magazine (here).  I liked the piece, especially where Ferguson punctures some of the conventional wisdom about regulation vs. de-regulation. 

I appreciated Ferguson’s reminder that we have to be very careful when drawing conclusions, especially when the topic is emotionally fraught.  These days of stress and strain seem to emphasize the cognitive biases most of us are prey to:

Human beings are as good at devising ex post facto explanations for big disasters as they are bad at anticipating those disasters. It is indeed impressive how rapidly the economists who failed to predict this crisis — or predicted the wrong crisis (a dollar crash) — have been able to produce such a satisfying story about its origins. 

More on the McDonald’s Revival

The New York Times yesterday had an excellent feature on the revival of McDonald’s over the past five years (here).  I don’t quite buy this characterization of the change by Bob Goldin at Technomics, however.

[T]he McDonald’s rebound had been singular because of its simplicity: “execute the basics, flawlessly.” He described the McDonald’s strategy as “three yards and a cloud of dust,” adding that “it’s not revolution stuff.”

I’m not sure what revolution looks like… a new format, new menu items, new hours, etc.?  My guess is that commentators are looking for a visible manifestation of wrenching change.  But perhaps the revolution at McDonald’s is in the way it can implement change.  From a franchisor, Ken Hullings:

It seemed like every other month I was putting something on the menu or taking something off, he says. We were looking for that magic bullet, that magic pill. And I think what we realized that it wasn’t just one thing.

I think that there’s a better football analogy for this business approach — the West Coast offense (especially Bill Walsh’s version).  This approach is in many ways conservative and disciplined, yet enables diversity and unpredictability in one’s play calling.  It also values players who can react in real-time to the unfolding competitive enviroment (i.e., the defense).  In fact, it sounds an awful lot like what the IBM Global Survey (here) envisioned as:

The Enterprise of the Future [which] embraces unpredictability as the new routine…

Coffee is the nectar of the gods…

Belated hat tip to Jeff Nolan (here) for highlighting the NYT story on the manifold benefits of “God’s Gift to Mankind” (here).

Oh, and don’t miss the Glengarry Glen Ross clip Jeff so kindly linked to.  “A…B…C…” and all that…

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