Where Did I Put That Action Memo?

Desk Piled High
Lots of people desks seem to look like this.

(Not me though…compulsive neat freak and learned from IBM’s “clean desk policy” early on in my career.)

In analyzing our fight against Islamic jihadists and terrorists, Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal writes:

“In all the photos published of al Qaeda, Islamic State or any other terror groups, have you ever seen them sitting at desks?”

Henninger points out the root of “Bureaucracy” is the French word “Bureau,” which mean desk.

Hence, we in the West are stuck behind desks, while the terrorists are actively working to destroy our freedom and way of life–smashing down doors and wielding AK47s and suicide vests!

We’ve got to stop hiding behind our piled-high desks, analysis-paralysis position papers, endless meetings, and political bickering, and actually do something concrete, meaningful, and strong–to not only deter, but destroy the enemy!

Fear of making a decision or nonsense claims that your still searching for that action memo is something that should get you uprooted from your messy desk with a boot up your a*s!

Wake up, wake up, wake up–enough ho hum, we need some leadership that is bold, patriotic, and heroic to protect what we value so dear.

Don’t you think it’s time to win this war for real?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Shawn de Raaf)

Okay For A Drive By

Shooter
So, having grown up in New York, I’ve definitely heard of a drive by shooting, but never a “drive by meeting”. 



Until a colleague asked me, “Okay for a drive by?”



A little taken aback, but I was available (and figured not in any imminent danger by his type of “drive by”), so I agreed to meet for a few minutes. 



The meeting was quick, like a car whizzing by, but we discussed what was needed and accomplished the immediate goal. 



Personally, I prefer when someone is driving the meeting, rather than having a drive by meeting, but we all need to be agile to whatever the day brings. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When All Is Not Green

Guide_post

It’s tough to get the truth from people in the organization as to how things are really going.

Are their programs successful or not, is everything okay on their staff, will they–without fudging the numbers–meet their performance goals and targets (if they have any), and so on. 

People are afraid if they made a mistake or something isn’t working as intended that they will be in trouble.  

Maybe they will be yelled at, lose authority and power, be sidelined, demoted, or even fired; and their organizations may be downsized, outsourced, consolidated with another, or outright eliminated. 

So people hide the facts and the truth–as if, what they don’t know, can’t harm me.

So everything appears copasetic in organization-land!

But the truth is we need a solid guidepost to know where we are going, which paths are safe, and which are fraught with danger–and that is anchored in open and honest communication. . 

There is a great story about this in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (15 November 2012) about how in 2006, when ex-Boeing executive, Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford–and Ford was bleeding red ink, facing their largest loss for automobiles in history of $17 billion, that at the executive Thursday morning meetings, the performance scorecard for their initiatives “was a sea of green.”

Here the company is bordering on financial collapse, but the executives are reporting–all clear!

The story goes that Mark Fields, head of Ford’s North American business stepped up and showed the first red revealing a problem with a problem tailgate latch on their new Edge SVU that would halt production. 

With the room filled with tension, Alan Mulally rather than get mad and castigate or punish the executive, what did he do–he clapped!

Mulally said: “Great visibility. Is there anything we can do to help you?”

And what ultimately happened to Mark Fields, the executive who told the truth about problems in his area of responsibility?  

Last month, “Ford’s board elevated him to chief operating officer,” which analysts read as a sign that he will be the next CEO when Mulally is supposed to retire at the end of 2014.

The bottom line is that we cannot fix problems if we can’t identify them and face up to them with our people. 

While we need good data and sound analysis to identify problems in the organization, problems will remain illusive without the trust, candor, and teamwork to ultimately come to terms with them and solve them.

I love this story about Ford and think it is a model for us in leadership, communication, and performance management. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Meeting Busters, Come On Play Nice

Meeting

The Wall Street Journal (16 May 2011) had a interesting portrayal this week of the various types of people that tend to spoil meetings.

From low to high on nuisance level, these were as follows:

1) Jokesters–“cracks jokes, appropriate or not.”

2) Ramblers–goes on and on and often off topic.

3) Dominators–dictates to others with their opinions.

4) Naysayers–derails progress with negativity.

5) Plotters–passive-aggressive undermines decisions.

From my experience, I would add a few others (in no particular order):

6) Politicians–focuses on coming away looking good instead of on resolving issues.

7) Positioners–vies for a bigger piece of the pie, whatever flavor it is.

8) Honorees–comes to take all the credit, and politely thank everyone for their support.

9) Bystanders–shows up, but can’t or won’t contribute anything of value.

10) Bewildered–unsure even why they are here, but were told to just show up.

11) Malcontents–they are unhappy and they show it, so who cares anymore.

12) Socializers–shares personal tidbits and whispers about where they want to go lunch or for happy hour afterwards.

For all the meeting attendees out there, life is not a box of cherries, but you don’t have to make it the pits! 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Voka – Kamer van Koophandel Limburg)

Robots, Coming to An Agency Near You Soon

There is an article today in the Wall Street Journal (10-11 March 2012) about how an Anybot Robot attended a wedding party in Paris dressed up as the man’s 82-year old mother who logged on from her home in Las Vegas and by proxy of the robot moved and even danced around the party floor and conversed with guests–she was the hit of the party.

While sort of humorous, this is also amazingly incredible–through robotics, IT and telecommunications, we are able to close the gap in time and space and “be there,” even from a half a world away.

The QB Anybot robot is life size, rolls around on 2 wheels like a Segway, and has glowing blue eyes and a telescreen for a forehead on a long skinny cylindrical body that can be controlled remotely and costs only $9,700.

While this is the story of a robot “becoming the life of the party,” I believe that we are at the cusp of when robots will be reporting for duty at our agencies and organizations.

The function of robots in workplace has been tested with them performing everything from menial office tasks (like bringing the coffee and donuts) to actually representing people at meetings and around the office floor–not only keeping an electric eye on things so to say, but actually skyping back and forth with the boss, for example.

As robots become more dexterous, autonomous, and with better artificial intelligence, and abilities to communicate with natural language processing, we are going to see an explosion of these in the workplace–whether or not they end up looking like a Swiffer mop or something a little more iRobot-like.

So while we are caught up in deficit-busting times and the calls for everything from “Cloud First” to “Share First” in order to consolidate, save, and shrink, maybe what we also need is a more balanced approach that takes into account not only efficiencies, but effectiveness through innovation in our workplaces–welcome to the party, Robots!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Do Business With Good People

Robot_with_a_heart

While most companies run to do business with anyone with a checkbook or credit card, some amazing others are more discriminating.

In interview on Leadership in the New York Times (24 December 2011) with Ori Hadomi, the CEO of Mazor Robotics(they make robotic systems that aid in spinal surgeries) he states: “You can’t afford to working with people are not good people [you need to be selective]…you need to look at your vendors and your customers the same way.”

He actually “told one our salespeople recently that he didn’thave to sell our product to people who were not nice to him.”

Wow–this is powerful stuff.

It’s not about just the money, it’s about the meaning and feeling good about yourself, the organization, and what you are achieving,

Similarly, Hadomi has a different–better–philosophy on the role of the management that typically sees itself as making sure employees get the work done and work hard.  Hadomi states: I believe that my role is not to make people work, but to give them the right working conditions, so that they will enjoy what they do.”

On making mistakes, often a punishable offense in organizations, Hardomi states: “It’s natural that we make mistakes.”  The main thing is that we learn and solve them for the future.

With planning and communicating, while many organizations play their stakeholders and stockholders telling them everything is going to be just great–and this often is pronounced when companies reassure investors and others right before they were about to fall off the proverbial bankruptcy cliff.  However, Hardomi tells us that while positive thinking can help motivate people, it can also be dangerous to plan based on that and that instead in Mazor robotics, he establishes an executive as the devil’s advocate to “ask the right questions [and]…humble our assumptions.”

In working out problems, while email wars and reply-alls fill corporate email boxes, Hardomi cuts it off and says “after that second response…you pick up the phone.”  Problems can be resolved in 1/10 the time by talking to each other and even better “looking at the eyes of the other person.”

As we all know, too often, the number and length of meetings are overdone, and Hardomi has instead one roundtable a week–where everybody tells what they did and are planning to do–this synchronizes the organization.

Who does Hardomi like to hire, people that are self-reflective, self-critical, and can articulate their concerns and fears. These people are thoughtful, are real, and will make a good fit.

Hardomi sets the bar high for all us in breaking many traditional broken management paradigms–he is paving a new leadership trail that especially from a human capital perspective is worthy of attention and emulation.

(Photo adapted from herewith attribution to Gnsin and Honda)

>Who’s On First

>I have a new article in Public CIO Magazine (April/May 2011) on the topic of Accountability In Project Management:

We’ve all be to “those” kinds of meeting. You know the ones I’m talking about: The cast of characters has swelled to standing-room only and you’re beginning to wonder if maybe there’s a breakfast buffet in the back of the room.

It seems to me that not only are there more people than ever at todays meetings, but meetings are also more frequent and taking up significantly more hours of the day.

I’m beginning to wonder whether all these meeting are helping us get more work done, or perhaps helping us avoid confronting the fact that in many ways we’re stymied in our efforts.

Read the rest of the article at Government Technology.