Sunday, December 14, 2008

Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is created by little things. I experienced this some time ago when we renewed some office furniture.

I realized one day that I was sitting on a nice chair (which I had inherited)
while all the other chairs in the office were literally falling apart.

We started changing the chairs from our service team as they were getting new desks at the same time. This caused some discussion. Some teams felt they are more important than service team, and should have at least as good chairs before the service team. We were soon changing all the chairs, so this did not become an issue.

But of course not all the chairs are similar. It was rather important that some chairs have armrests and others don't. And as you can guess, this has nothing to do with some people needing to rest their arms more than others.

Now I am still sitting on my old chair, while everybody else in the office has nice new chairs.

Years ago I studied organizational culture and I could not have believed it is really built with such little things. But it is. Edgar Schein has a three level model for organizational culture.

1st level

Organizational attributes that can be seen, felt and heard by the uninitiated observer. Included are the facilities, offices, furnishings, visible awards and recognition, the way that its members dress, and how each person visibly interacts with each other and with organizational outsiders.

2nd level

The next level deals with the professed culture of an organization's members. At this level, company slogans, mission statements and other operational creeds are often expressed, and local and personal values are widely expressed within the organization.

3rd level

At the third and deepest level, the organization's tacit assumptions are found. These are the elements of culture that are unseen and not cognitively identified in everyday interactions between organizational members. Additionally, these are the elements of culture which are often taboo to discuss inside the organization. Many of these 'unspoken rules' exist without the conscious knowledge of the membership.

I blogged earlier about how organizational culture is more powerful than organizations strategy. If you want to change one, you need to change both.

The following story of monkeys and bananas illustrates well how organizational culture is formed. And this culture and the original strategy really need some changing...

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth.

Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been done around here.

And that, is how company culture begins.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Positive Business Manifesto

I read another great article at ChangeThis. Jon Gordon wrote a manifesto about Positive Business. He states that you would have to live on another planet not to notice the plethora of business books and articles discussing the importance of developing a positive organizational culture at work. The research is clear, he continues.

Positive leaders, positive work environments, and positive engaged employees produce positive results.

However, if building a positive business is so important and beneficial, then we are left to wonder, “Why aren’t more companies, more positive?” Why are there not more people skipping through the halls, smiling at their co-workers and loving their job? Why do more people die Monday morning at 9am than any other time? Why does negativity cost companies 300 billion dollars and sabotage teamwork, careers, morale and performance?

Successful, positive companies with positive employees and positive cultures are created like anything else—through a set of principles, processes, systems and habits that are ingrained in the corporate culture and each individual employee. Positive companies aren’t born. They are developed by positive leaders. And when you build a positive business, culture drives behavior and behavior drives habits.

To build a positive organization fueled by positive energy, the leader must invite his/her leadership team on the bus and develop a shared vision, focus, purpose and direction for the business. The leadership team must join the leader in making their organizational culture a top priority and be engaged and committed to the process.

In a world driven by stock price and short term results, building a positive, successful company requires leaders to have a long term vision. You should not focus on the fruit of the tree—stock price, profits, costs, etc. You should focus on the root— the culture, trust, people and positive energy of the company. Leaders who run successful, positive companies over a long period of time know that when you take care of the root of the tree you will always be pleased with the fruit it supplies. However, if you ignore the root, eventually the tree will dry up and so will the fruit.

At work you’ll likely face organizational and individual negativity. You’ll have to deal with processes and systems that create poor communication and negative interactions. In other cases negativity will arise from negative co-workers and customers, a group of office complainers and/or a boss who is a jerk. Regardless of your situation or the source of negativity, it is critical that you take action to cultivate the positive and weed out the negative.

Building a positive business always begins with selecting the right people. We must identify who the right people are, make sure they are positive, and create a process that gets them on the bus. We must also make sure we let the wrong people off the bus. Too many leaders know who their negative employees are but they don’t know what to do with them, and so they do nothing, which leads to dangerous consequences.

With the right people on your bus, you want to make sure you communicate consistently and effectively with them so they always know where the bus is going. Peter Drucker says that 60% of management problems are the result of faulty communication. When people feel fearful or uncertain or unheard they start thinking the worse and act accordingly, and negative energy increaces. By designing systems that enhance communication, you allow positive energy to flow through the business.

When you care about your employees and the people you work with, they are more likely to stay on the bus and work harder, with more loyalty and greater positive energy. In turn, they are more likely to share their positive energy with your customers, enhancing service and the bottom line. That’s why I say the greatest customer service strategy has nothing to do with customer service, but rather it has everything to do with how you treat your employees. If you treat them well, they will treat the customer well.

Caring about your employees keeps your people on the bus, but when you drive with purpose they will help you push it when the bus breaks down. The fact is every organization will face adversity and challenges and be tested on their journey. And the answer to these tests is a positive culture filled with purpose driven people.

I've shared a number of principles, strategies and suggestions to develop a positive business. However, he is realistically aware that none of this will do any good unless you and your organization have the ability to take action and execute. The difference between a successful positive business and unsuccessful business is one word: “Execution.” The way the most successful businesses do ordinary things better than everyone else.

To build a positive business, you must be able to not only identify your vision and purpose for your organization, but make it so it is ingrained in the culture, mindset and actions of your people. Having the desire to be a positive business is wonderful, but it won’t happen unless you relentlessly focus on your culture, people, processes and systems.

I wish you all green lights on your journey. Stay Positive,
Jon Gordon

The text above is my short summary of Jon's manifesto about Positive Business.

Jon Gordon is the author of The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work and The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Three Essentials of Leadership

I was browsing trough Zen Lessons - The Art of Leadershipand I was again amazed how correct the ancient wisdom is. The rest of this post is simply a copy of what Master Fushan Yuan said in a letter written about 800 years ago:

There are three essentials of leadership:
humanity, clarity, and courage.

Humanely practising the virtues of the Way promotes the influence of the teaching, pacifies those in both high and low positions, and delights those who pass by.

Someone with clarity follows proper behaviour and just duty, recognizes what is safe and what is dangerous, examines people to see weather they are wise or foolish, and distinguishes right and wrong.

The courageous see things through to their conclusion, settling them without doubt. They get rid of whatever is wrong or false.

Humanity without clarity is like having a field but not plowing it. Clarity without courage is like having sprouts and not weeding. Courage without humanity is like knowing how to reap but not how to sow.

When all three of these are present, the community thrives. When one is lacking, the community deteriorates. When two are lacking the community is in peril, and when there are is not one of the three there, the way of leadership is in ruins.

Master Fushan Yuan
in a letter to
Master Jinqyin Tai

The next US president is elected today – do you think the candidates lead according to these essentials?

How about the world financial crisis? Which of these essentials do you think were lacking?

How about the Chinese food and toy scandals? How many of these essentials do you think were lacking?

Don't you think that humanity, clarity, and courage are as essential for 21st century business ethics as they were for ancient Zen monks?

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Some years ago I was coached by a management consultant. Looking back the past couple of years in my recent position, I can say

There have been times when I could have used some coaching again.

Two specific features of coaching had a prominent impact on me earlier; the opportunity to openly discuss things without the political pressures and restraints of the organisation and receiving an outsiders perspectives on your situation, thoughts, aspirations and goals. Coaching helped me distance myself from the every day execution of tasks, allowing me to see and handle things more objectively. You can read more about my coaching experience here.

Coaching can be defined as “a structured process-driven relationship between a trained professional coach and an individual or team which includes: assessment, examining values and motivation, setting measurable goals, defining focused action plans and using validated behavioral change tools and techniques to assist them to develop competencies and remove blocks to achieve valuable and sustainable changes in their professional and personal life.”
(Zeus and Skiffington cited in Wikipedia)

The most tangible input my coaching program had was the personal development scheme which I drew up during the coaching. With the help of the tools provided by the coach, I set myself goals to achieve professionally as well as ones to achieve personally during the next six, twelve and twenty-four months. They have helped me ever since.

But coaching can only help you if you are willing to learn and change. The article in Wikipedia continues

All learning leads to nothing when people don’t change their thoughts and actions (read: behavior).

This is exactly what I have said before - I truly believe that learning must start within yourself. Only by first developing yourself, you can start to develop and improve bigger entities – your team, your unit, your company, our planet.

What is your experience and opinion?

Do you think that an outside perspective would allow you handle things more objectively?

Would it help you on setting measurable goals?

How about help on developing competencies?

Are you willing to admit and work on your weak points?

Photo by I'll never grow up

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lessons in Organizational Resistance

This week I have again had several discussions about change resistance - at home, in the office, company wide, ... It always amazes me how

People use a lot of time, energy and innovativeness on resisting things.
If only that time, energy and innovativeness could be used
to develop things and create something new.

Some days ago I read an interesting post about Lessons in Organizational Resistance by Cheri Baker at The Enlightened Manager Blog. With her permission I just copy her text here.

Lessons in Organizational Resistance

So what happens in an organization when you go picking at something that is off limits? KA-BLAM! Organizational resistance shows up.

  • The process is questioned (Should we really be using focus groups? I hear that....)

  • The participants are questioned (He doesn't have the experience to be managing this project...)

  • Delays are built in (I'll call you when I'm ready to meet.)

  • Resistance to Decision Making (Let's run a few more analyses....)

  • Silence (He won't return my phone calls.)
There are a few problems with organizational resistance.
  1. The "types of resistance" above don't usually point to the real cause. (These may include lack of trust, lack of urgency, lack of need, issues of power and control, etc.)

  2. They are sand-traps, designed to capture the unwary. They become distractions to the real issue at hand.

There is a fine line between valid discussions of process and objections that mask the real issues. I had a real blunder recently when I interpreted objections as a series of unreasonable attacks instead of seeing them for what they were - just a source of resistance to be further explored. I compounded my mistake by reacting to the situation instantly, instead of giving myself 24 hours of perspective.

So here I am, feeling pretty deeply stupid and unsure what will occur next. Ick. Ick. Ick.

Live and learn. See organizational resistance for what it is - data - and don't respond from an emotional place. I wish you the best at learning from my mistakes, to save you the pain of committing too many of your own!

from Cheri

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Candidate's leadership

As I mentioned, I have just been trough a training on Situational Leadership - a model that presumes that different leadership styles are better in different situations, and that leaders must be flexible enough to adapt their style to the situation they are in.

Quite interestingly the main story of USA Today this morning is about The Candidate's Leadership Styles, titled

Different styles, same goal
How the candidates made it work

I can not vote, and I do not want to start any political debate here, so please think of the articles as they are - an analysis of both candidates leadership styles.

Different styles, same goal: How the candidates made it work
Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY, October 9, 2008

They're both senators, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.

From their first jobs to the financial crisis, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have revealed themselves as polar opposites, forged by their personalities and biographies into potential presidents with vastly different leadership and management styles.

One came up through the military, the other through community work and law school. One is impulsive and emotional, the other cool and analytical. Both have worked with diverse people and both get results, says Princeton scholar Fred Greenstein, author of The Presidential Difference, but the methods reflect the men. "McCain breaks a lot of china along the way," Greenstein says. "With Obama, it seems like nothing's happening, but somehow everything seems to work."


[As a community organizer on Chicago's South Side, Obama] helped people find common goals and pursue them together — tools he's applied to every undertaking since, from heading the Harvard Law Review, to serving as an Illinois state senator and U.S. senator, to a presidential campaign that raised unprecedented amounts of money and toppled the Clinton dynasty, to nudging Congress behind the scenes to act on the Wall Street meltdown.


McCain pioneered his upset-the-apple-cart style 32 years ago as commander of a Navy squadron, ousting older, senior people and ending business as usual.

The risks and rewards of McCain's approach were clear when he put himself center stage this fall in Capitol Hill negotiations on the government's $700 billion bailout for Wall Street. The dramatic move grabbed attention — but so did his failure to broker a deal.


Read the full article.

See also two more detailed looks at the jobs and personality traits that have shaped the nominees as leaders, managers and future president.

McCain: 'Bare-knuckled fighter' won't take no for answer

Obama: Keeping cool, focusing on 'common purpose'

Some questions to link this to Situational Leadership

How good are they on analyzing the needs of the situation?

How flexible are they to adopt the most appropriate leadership style on the situation?

What is their match with the follower needs in the situation?

What do the followers think of the match (and how do they vote)?

And later, how will the new president apply these skills with the Government organization, the American people, and with the "World political organization"?

Photo by Shiny Things

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Difference Between Management And Leadership

My son's class started reading The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens and I went back browsing The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.

In the book I found a quote from Peter Drucker

Management is doing things right,
Leadership is doing the right things.

The author, Stephen R. Covey illustrates the difference with a little story.

You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way trough the jungle with machetes. They're the producers, the problem solvers. They're cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!”

But how do the busy, efficient producers and managers often respond? “Shut up! We're making progress.”

The other day I was watching Letters from Iwo Jima by Clint Eastwood. I observed very similar leadership behavior by General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and very similar management behavior by his officers. In small and big issues.

The smallest might be, when he instructed the cook to serve officers same food as for men. He was brought two extra emply plates, because the officers were to be served three course meals (according to the official rules).

A bigger issue was described in New York Times: General Kuribayashi, the highest-ranking officer on Iwo Jima, had instructed their unit to abandon its position so as to concentrate the remaining forces elsewhere on the island. Instead their captain, choosing ancient custom over the explicit directions of a superior officer, put a bullet in his head, after watching his men, one by one, clutch live grenades to their chests.

Dispite the leader had yelled "Wrong battle! Come here and let's continue the battle."

The movie has many more similar examples of good leadership trying to overcome bad management.

Same happens in small scale in many workplaces. Official procedures or long traditions limit people from doing the right thing.

I wonder where were the leaders during US financial crisis? Or during the Chinese milk scandal?

Why didn't they yell "Wrong jungle!"?

Or were there too many people getting blinded by the obvious respond "Shut up! We are making profit."?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Right People On The Right Jobs

The well known saying “People are our most important asset” is very true, if you concentrate on getting the right people for the right jobs. This is something that I have read lately in several books and witnessed in real life during organizational restructuring.

Charan and Bossidy, in their book Execution, state, “given the many things that businesses can’t control, from the uncertain state of the economy to the unpredictable actions of competitors,

You’d think companies would pay careful attention
to the one thing they can control –
the quality of their people,
especially those in the leadership pool.

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, says this is exactly what has been done in the great companies who outperformed the market. They have concentrated on “getting the right people on the bus, the right people on the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus” and only after that where to “drive the bus – how to take it to someplace great.” First who – then what.

Charan and Bossidy continue by saying that “the foundation of a great company is the way it develops people – providing the right experinces, such as learning in different jobs, learning from other people, giving candid feedback, and providing coaching education and training. If you spend the same amount of time and energy developing people as you do on budgeting, strategic planning, and financial monitoring, the payoff will come in sustainable competitive advantage.”

If you pay enough attention to the selection of people and development of people, you can honestly say that people are your most important asset.

The right people, or smart people, challenge you to think and work on a different level than you really thought possible, and the types of perspectives and interesting intellectual arguments they make really give you a whole new way of thinking about things, states Marissa Meyer from Google

Steve Jobs, in a Fortune Magazine interview, compares recruiting to finding needles in the haystack. He has participated in thousands of hirings and takes it very seriously.

Peter Ducker, in the Definitive Drucker, comments on the topic “The only thing that requires even more time (and even more work) than putting the right people into a job is unmaking a wrong people decision.”

Charan and Bossidy also say “When people are not in the right jobs, the problem is visible and transparent. But an alarming number of leaders don’t do anything to fix the problem.”

Redirecting or letting go of the people who are not right for their current job is though – I know, I have had to do that. But “the only way to deliver to people who are achieving in not to burden them with people who are not achieving”, Jim Collins quotes one of his case companies executives.

Every leader should remember these things about selection and development of people before they really can say “People are our most important asset”.

At the end some questions from another book by Ram Charan, Profitable Growth:

Do you have the right people with the right skills for what you are trying to do?

Are they in the right place?

Are you systematically developing the people and their skills?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Managers Need to Become Innovation Coaches

I read an interesting post by Mitch Ditkoff, the author of Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an Uphill World).

It's all about creating a culture of innovation, and I could not agree more with what Mitch writes. Below is a slightly shortened version of his original blog post.

"Intellectual capital" is the name of the game these days -- and it is the enlightened manager's duty to learn how to play.

Only those companies will succeed whose people are empowered to think for themselves and respond creatively to the myriad of changes going on all around them.

Managers must learn how to coach their people into increasingly higher states of creative thinking and creative doing. They must realize that the root of their organization's problem is not the economy, not cycle time, not strategy or outsourcing, but their own inability to tap into the power of their workforce's innate creativity.

Everything you see around you began as an idea. The computer. The stapler. The paperclip, the microchip and the chocolate chip. All of these began as an idea within someone's fevered imagination. The originators of these ideas were on fire. Did they have to be "managed?" No way. In fact, if they had a manager, he or she would have done well to get out of the way.

If you want to empower people, honor their ideas. Give them room to challenge the status quo. Give them room to move -- and, by extension, move mountains.

The arrival of a new idea is typically accompanied by a wonderful feeling of upliftment and excitement -- even intoxication. It's inspiring to have a new idea, to intuit a new way of getting the job done. Not only does this new idea have the potential to bring value to the company, it temporarily frees the idea originator from their normal habits of thinking. A sixth sense takes over, releasing the individual from the gravity of status quo thinking.

In this mindset, the idea originator is transported to a more expansive realm of possibility. All bets are off. The sky's the limit. All assumptions are seen for what they are -- limited beliefs with a history, but no future.

If you are a manager, you want people in this state of mind. It is not a problem. It is not the shirking of responsibility. It is not a waste of time. On the contrary, it's the first indicator that you are establishing a company culture that is conducive to innovation.

You, as a manager, want to increase the number of new ideas being pitched to you. It's that simple. You want to create an environment where new ideas are popping all the time. If you do, old problems and ineffective ways of doing things will begin dissolving. This is the hallmark of an empowered organization -- a place where everyone is encouraged and empowered to think creatively. Within this kind of environment managers become coaches, not gatekeepers.

How does a manager do this?

First off, by expressing a lot of positive regard. Get interested! Pay attention! Be present to the moment! This is not so much a technique as it is a state of mind. Simply put, if your head is always filled with your own thoughts and ideas, there won't be any room left to entertain the thoughts and ideas of others. It's a law of physics. Two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time.

And whether the pitch is now or later, your response -- in the form of exploratory questions -- needs to be as genuine as possible. Consider some of the following openers:
  • "That sounds interesting. Can you tell me more?"
  • "What excites you the most about this idea?"
  • "What is the essence of your idea - the core principle?"
  • "How do you imagine your idea will benefit others?"
  • "In what ways does your idea fit with our strategic vision?"
  • "What information do you still need?"
  • "Who are your likely collaborators?"
  • "Is there anything similar to your idea on the market?
  • "What support do you need from me?"
  • "What is your next step?"
Basically, you want the idea originator to talk about their idea as much as possible in this moment of truth. An idea needs to first take form in order to take root, and one of the best ways of doing this is to encourage the idea originator to talk about it -- even if their idea is not yet fully developed. The telling of the idea, in fact, is not unlike someone telling you their dream. The telling helps the dreamer flesh out the details of what they imagined and the subsequent hearing of it firmly installs it in their memory -- and yours -- so the idea does not fade quite as quickly.

Most of us, however, are so wrapped up in our own ideas that we rarely take the time to listen to others. Your subordinates know this and, consequently, rarely share their ideas with you. But it doesn't have to be this way. And it won't necessarily require a lot of time on your part. Some time, yes. But not as much as you might think.

Bottom line, the time it takes you to listen to the ideas of others is not only worth it -- the success of your enterprise depends on it. Choose not to listen and you will end up frantically spending a lot more time down the road asking people for their ideas about how to save your business from imminent collapse. By that time, however, it will be too late. Your workforce will have already tuned you out.

Text above is is a slightly shortened version of Mitch Ditkoff's original blog post.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Do I Decide What To Post On My Blog?

A couple of weeks ago I received this question from Laura.

I sometimes read your blog. I like the posts about designing impactful presentations. I also saw something that caught my eye about employees submitting ideas to their employer online. That sounds like an outstanding idea. I am known to be skeptical so I ask you, "How do you decide what to post on your blog?"

Are you concerned about accuracy or do you just reach for what is interesting?

I answered her.

I normally select to post some topic that is relevant to my work, or our company, or then just an interesting topic I run across in a couple of sources. Something that I feel I need on my everyday job as a leader and manager – in other words something that supports my mission and vision, and my strategy. I am not so concerned about (scientific) accuracy - I am more concerned about the usefulness of the topic. What I do is I combine the sources and try to keep the post under 1A4 page - keep it simple and specific and stick to one idea.

For example submitting ideas online is something I have proposed it in our company a couple of years ago. I heard about this tool a year ago, and proposed it again. In the spring I found a couple of articles about the tool being used by major companies and proposed it again. We might start considering it one day... But I also blogged it to remember the idea better.

Actually most of the posts are some ideas or advice I have given to my friends or colleagues (or needed on my own job). I realized I kept on sending same advice on email over and over again to different people. Those emails I have later converted to blog posts.

Why I decided to post this answer now, is because I read an interesting blog post at ZenHabits earlier this week.

The Dirty Little Secrets of Productivity Bloggers

  1. We're making it up. Yes, you heard that right. Some of what we write about we read other places, and tested it out, and found it worthy of passing on. Other stuff we just make up as we go along, and see if it works.
  2. We'e deathly afraid people will find out. Yes, we're afraid people will start pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes on, and we'll be in the middle of a crowd, naked, with everyone laughing at us. But because of this fear, we have to act like we know what we're talking about. Truth is, we don't know any more than anyone else.
  3. We don't always follow our own advice. If you had a fly-on-the-wall camera and could spy on the best in the biz, even they have days when they're not motivated, when they don't follow their systems or tips or general productivity advice.
  4. We can be lazy and let things go. I'll be the first to admit it. I take naps.
  5. We didn't invent any of this. Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero, for example, is based almost entirely on David Allen's Getting Things Done. Allen's GTD, in turn, is based on productivity advice that has been around for generations — each productivity guru improving on the previous one a little, but basically giving the same advice.
  6. We're just regular people, figuring things out. Think of our posts as the preliminary results of an ongoing experiment. We try things out, and if it seems to work, we pass it on. If it doesn’t, we'll let you know. But these posts aren't the final results — we're still testing things out, still trying to figure out what works when and for whom. It's an experiment that will probably last for as long as people do work.
  7. We really do love all this stuff. Despite all of the above, despite our flaws and secrets, this is a great job, and we love it. It shows in the enthusiasm and passion in our writing.

These pretty much summarize my own toughts (though I do not take naps during office hours – I can't, as I am not self employed full time blogger).

I am happy to answer more of your questions by email or on the comments below.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Change Resistance

Many wise people have said many wise words about change resistance. Jack Welch, in his book Winning says "What you have heard about resistance to change is true." I prefer more what Michael T. Kanazawa says in his ChangeThis manifesto People Don’t Hate Change, They Hate How You’re Trying to Change Them:

If you believe that people hate change and that it is your job to change them, they will hate it.
If you believe that people thrive on change and that your job is to unleash it, you will tap into a limitless source of ingenuity, energy and drive that will allow you to consistently take your big ideas into big results.

Kanazawa mentions Apple, Google, Nintendo, Starbucks and IBM as examples of “companies [whose employees] have thrived on change, bringing out their best talents, creativity, ingenuity and determination.” He continues “Why can’t we all work in organizations like these? We can, if we focus on the right challenges.” Check his manifesto for his view of the challenges.

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, talks about the dynamics of fear and change – how “change has to have enough force and enough energy to overcome people's fears and to overcome the power of the status quo.”

INSEAD professors Stewart Black and Hal Gregersen believe "that an organisation changes only as fast and as far as the front-line individuals implementing that change. Therefore, they need to be considered first, in the change paradigm." You can find a 2 page introduction to their new book It Starts with One: Changing Individuals Changes Organizations, and a 25 minute video where they chat about change here.

John Spence mentions adapting to change as one of the foundations of Achieving Business Excellence. Jack Welchdoes the same by saying that "Change is absolutely critical part of business. You need to change, preferably before you have to." Apple got that right with iPod – Sony failed with Walkman... What happened to Sony? Last December Newsweek published an article about why they failed to change.

Leading change is a critical part of every leader's job. Leaders need to help everybody overcome their fears. Every successful company needs to change, and an organisation changes only as fast and as far as the front-line individuals implementing that change. At the end, it becomes a question of enough leadership to change the culture.

To the end, my favourite quote from Peter Drucker, from his article Management's New Role (HBR November 1969).

We will, therefore, increasingly have to learn to make existing organizations capable of rapid and continuing innovation.
How far we are from this is shown by the fact that management still worries about resistance to change.

Do you fear change?

Or are you driven by change?

Do you worry about change resistance?

Do you help others overcome their fear and resistance?

Is your organization capable of rapid and continuing innovation – or should you change?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Presentation Skills

Earlier this year I joined one of my colleagues to a presentation by Garr Reynolds, the author of the great book Presentation Zen. During his presentation I realized that

I have given many bad presentations
I have seen many bad presentations.

I decided to try a different approach, in the office, and at SlideShare. But as pictures tell a story better than words, I'll show you what I mean.

This presentation by Rowan, or actually the first half of the presentation, best describes bad PowerPoints. Have you seen any?

To get an idea of Presentation Zen, you need to give it a thought and spend some time on Garr's blog, check his presentation tips, buy his book, or take an hour to watch a presentation he gave at Google in March. It's pretty much the same presentation I saw live, and it's an hour well spent!

If you don't have much time now, here is a good example by Justin about points to remember. Not directly based on Presentation Zen, but sharing many of the topics. And nicely simplified!

When was the last time you saw a really great presentation?
How was it done and delivered?

How can we forget such simple hints so often?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leading Change

There is a lot of talk about the need of change, but much less about

How To Lead Change

John Kotter presented his model of Leading Change in Harvard Business Review in 1996. In 2006 he slightly updated the model in his book Our Iceberg Is Melting - Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions.

I created a presentation about the model, which is rather simple and universal. It can be applied to any change - global or small.

Our Iceberg Is Melting - Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions


1. Create a Sense of Urgency.
Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.

2. Pull Together the Guiding Team.
Make sure there is a powerful group guiding the change— one with leadership skills, bias for action, credibility,
communications ability, authority, analytical skills.


3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy.
Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality.


4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy-in.
Make sure as many others as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.

5. Empower Others to Act.
Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so.

6. Produce Short-Term Wins.
Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible.

7. Don’t Let Up.
Press harder and faster after the first successes.
Be relentless with instituting change after change until the vision becomes a reality.


8. Create a New Culture.
Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become a part of the very culture of the group.

Can you think of a change process where this model is not valid?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Work-Life Balance

A week ago in Friday I heard about World's Best Presentation 2008 Contest and figured out that I would like to participate.

I have worked like crazy this week on the presentation, on marketing it, and on running the office in my job.

Now I need a holiday!

Luckily my holiday starts now.

Jack Welch
wrote a chapter about Work-Life Balance in his book Winning:

In the '60 and '70s all my direct reports were men. ... I never once asked anyone, “Is there someplace you would rather be – or need to be – for your family or favourite hobby or whatever?” ... They did not attend ballet recitals on Thursday afternoons, or turn down job transfers because they didn’t want to disturb their kids' sports "careers." ... In general it was assumed that wives stayed at home to make everything run smoothly.

All that started to change in the '80s, when women started moving up in the workforce. … I started to hear a lot more about work-life balance. ... Managers started describe the pressures they felt trying to manage travel and transfers in two-career households.

Debate about the topic became more intense in the early '90s. These conversations forced me to confront ... the conflicts involved in managing two full lives – the one at work and the other after hours, be it caring for kids, volunteering at homeless shelter, or running marathons.

Basically work life balance has become a debate about how much we allow work to consume us. You can be like me and my type, and make work your major priority. Or you can attempt a kind of literal balance, with work and life each getting 50 percent of your time, or you can go to surfing 80 percent of your time and work 20 percent. There are as many work life balance equations as there are individuals.

Achieving work-life balance is a process. Getting it right is iterative. You get better at it with experience and observation, and eventually, after some time passes, you notice it’s not getting harder anymore. It’s just what you do.

This is surprisingly valid to my situation this week. I presented the world my view of women's right to education, which will eventually lead to them moving up in the workforce, also in the countries where wives still today stay at home to make everything run smoothly. This week I have made work my major priority – it was easy since my family was on the other side of the world (but I hardly had time to sleep). Tomorrow I will fly to them and start my holiday.

Due to my holiday and travel, I will not update this blog before beginning of August, but will follow the comments. And follow the contest. While posting this, my presentation is leading the Education category. I can take a holiday now, and let social media take care of the rest.

“Is there someplace you would rather be – or need to be – for your family or favourite hobby or whatever?”

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How Do We Educate Our Children?

I believe that the

Foundation for Lifelong Learning is laid at school

Living abroad, we often have to answer the question:

"How do you educate your children?"

Some times people want to know about education when living in a foreign country, but most often about education at our home country. To answer that question I made a presentation, which is my entry to the World's Best Presentation Contest 2008.

If you like it, please exercise your right to vote and spread the word.

Thank you!


I made this presentation based on some 20 years of education, and some 15 years of lifelong learning, and with the help of some books I have been reading lately

About creating and presenting a message

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heat and Dan Heat

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds

About distributing the message

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

The Word of Mouth Manual by Dave Balter and Seth B. Minkin

And as word of mouth is free, the book can be also downloaded for free as a pdf from - spreading important ideas and changing minds.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Authentic Leadership

I have been busy doing other things this weekend and did not think of blogging, but

As I was reading some of my favourite blogs, I noticed an interesting post worth spreading.

John Spence blogged a list of 10 Things Authentic Leaders Do by Robin Sharma.

The post was so good that I decided to simply blog a short version of it. See John’s blog for the whole story.

10 things that authentic leaders do on a regular basis:
  1. They speak their truth. In business today, we frequently ’swallow our truth’. We say things to please others and to look good in front of The Crowd. Authentic leaders are different. They consistently talk truth.
  2. They lead from the heart. Business is about people. Leadership is about people. The best leaders wear their hearts on their sleeves and are not afraid to show their vulnerability.
  3. They have rich moral fiber. Authentic leaders work on their character. They walk their talk and are aligned with their core values.
  4. They are courageous. It takes a lot of courage to go against the crowd. It takes a lot of courage to be a visionary. It takes a lot of inner strength to do what you think is right even though it may not be easy.
  5. They build teams and create communities. One of the primary things that people are looking for in their work experience is a sense of community.
  6. They deepen themselves. The job of the leader is to go deep. Authentic leaders know their weaknesses and play to their strengths.
  7. They are dreamers. Authentic leaders dare to dream impossible dreams. They see what everyone else sees and then dream up new possibilities.
  8. They care for themselves. Taking care of your physical dimension is a sign of self-respect. You can’t do great things at work if you don’t feel good.
  9. They commit to excellence rather than perfection. No human being is perfect. Authentic leaders commit themselves to excellence in everything that they do.
  10. They leave a legacy. To live in the hearts of the people around you is to never die.
As always, some questions at the end. This time copied from John.

Look at the list and give yourself a brutally honest score of 1 -10 on each of his items.

10 = you are a living example of this — it describes you perfectly.
7 = you do this almost all of the time.
5 = 50/50, sometimes you behave this way - sometime you don’t.
3 = this describe you a little bit, every now and then, but this is not a typical behavior for you.
1= this isn’t you at all - you might wish it were, but the truth is - this is not the way you lead today.

John’s recommendation: Anywhere you scored a 7 or less is a good place to start working. Anything below a 4 means you need to get to work on that particular issue immediately. Remember: be 100% honest with yourself!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Waste of Time

I found a strange article the other day about

New Zealand Book Council has made
classic book summaries
on powerpoint format

And not only powerpoint but a slideument format so you can read them at work without your boss noticing.

Why would you do that?
Because you have nothing better to do than pretend you are doing something useful?

The people who created this really must have had too little work to do and think it is funny!?

This is really counterproductive and against every work value I know! And a misuse of literature. And a misuse of powerpoint!

Even the Wall Street Journal thought it is funny!?

Unbelievable! The readers of Wall Street Journal should rather think why this is happening and how to avoid it.

And yes, I do know who would read it - the people who are not engaged to their work:

The percentage of employees who are engaged ranges from 29% in the United States to 9% in Japan and Singapore; the percentage of actively disengaged employees ranges from a low of just 6% in Thailand to a high of 31% in France.
Gallup Management Journal
New Zealand is rather average, but there are still enough disengaged people.

Scary, isn't it?

I prefer real books and will go to read some nice fiction now.

Or is it just a joke? I can not find readatwork link from New Zealand Book Council pages.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Skills to Make You an Effective Manager

I have just returned from a Leadership training and to summarize that I decided to write about Management skills. Why? Because the trainer, Dr. Angelo Kinicki, links management and leadership tightly together

The management skills constitute a cycle of
goal creation, commitment, feedback, reward, and accomplishment,
with human interaction at every turn.

In his book Angelo points out that management is primarily about dealing effectively with people – being effective in leadership.

He lists 11 observable categories of managerial behavior, identified by Clark Wilson.

There is a bit of Curse of Knowledge in these books, but if you look close they provide really great advice, so I tried to make a Made to Stick presentation of them:

Effective Manager
  1. Clarifies goals and objectives for everyone involved.
  2. Encourages participation, upward communication and suggestions.
  3. Plans and organizes for an orderly work flow.
  4. Has technical and administrative expertise to answer organization-related questions.
  5. Facilitates work trough team building, training, coaching, and support.
  6. Provides feedback honestly and constructively.
  7. Keeps things moving by relying on schedules, deadlines, and helpful reminders.
  8. Controls details without being overbearing.
  9. Applies reasonable pressure for goal accomplishment.
  10. Empowers and delegates key duties to others while maintaining goal clarity and commitment.
  11. Recognizes good performance with rewards and positive reinforcement.
Actually, at the training, Angelo emphasized three topics
  1. Goals
  2. Feedback
  3. Rewards
You could say that the other steps are means to effectively lead and manage your team to achieve the goals.

And there are plenty of tools and techniques for each step, but that's another story. These are the important skills you need to remember to get tools and techniques for.

Simple, isn’t it?

And well in line with my Manager's Toolbox Mission and Vision