There is a Place for Border Walls

There is a place for border walls. 


Walls are not bad. 


And neither are all people.


But some people are bad.


And we have the right to be protected from them. 


Walls help to manage the flow. 


Not everyone can just go whatever, whenever, wherever. 


Surely, some people need to move to and fro. 


But we must decide who and when and where. 


Walls define spaces and ownership.


Not every place and thing is everyone’s.


People have property rights as do sovereign nations.


Not everything is strictly defined.


There is the commons that we share. 


But also there is a mine and a yours. 


That’s how economics functions and how people give and take. 


Walls help separate and secure. 


Bridges help connect and transport. 


They are not mutually exclusive. 


I’ve never seen a house, company, organization, or government without walls. 


And neither have you. 😉


(Credit Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)

Don’t Give A Fire Truck

Sometimes, others can get negative at you in life.


People are unhappy. 

 

Complaints are rolling in. 


It seems like you can’t do right.


But you have to have a thick skin or as one colleague told me:

You need to be like Teflon and have it all just roll off you.


And this book title reminded me of this:

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck”


Yes, we do have to care about doing good in what we do. 


It’s just that we shouldn’t “give a f*ck” when others are just wanting to tear us down and enjoying it. 


Constructive feedback is good. 


But destructive negativity at every turn is just hurtful.


It’s also a way for others to not take ownership.


We all need to do our part to make things better in this world. 


Sure, no one does everything right and no one is perfect. 


But everyone needs to try their best, and when others just want to beat on you…


That’s a completely appropriate time to not give a firetruck. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Whose Throat Do You Choke

Head.jpeg

So this was an interesting term that I heard about getting people to take responsibility for their actions.


“Whose throat do I choke for this?”


Sounds a little severe, no?


I think this is partially an adverse reaction to “analysis paralysis” and “death by committee” — where no decisions can ever get made. 


And organizations where lack of accountability runs rampant and it’s more about finger pointing at each other, rather than owning up to your responsibilities, decisions, and actions.


So with dysfunctional  organizations, the pendulum swings aimlessly being no accountability and the ultimate chopping block. 


But choking off the life blood of our human capital certainly isn’t conducive to innovation, exploration, and discovery or to productivity, employee morale and retention.


So when it’s simple human error with our best effort and no bad intentions, how about we say a simple “Who done it this time,” do a post-action, figure out the valuable lessons learned, and resolve how we do better going forward. 


No throats or heads necessary (most of time). 🙂


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Getting A Leadership Washing

Getting It WashedGetting It Washed 2

So I am reading this book called, “What Your Boss NEVER Told You.”


In terms of leadership, a key principle is stated very well here: 

“‘What’ flows down

And

‘How’ flows up.”

Meaning that as the leader, you set the goal, but you don’t tell people how to achieve it.

Micromanagement “stomp[s] out 

creativity, ownership, and commitment.”

To give your people the breathing room to innovate and solve problems and feel good about their work, here’s the ideal manager:

“Hands-off whenever possible, 

and 

hands-on whenever needed.”

And finally the 3 “H’s” of leadership:

1. Honor — doing the right thing (i.e. integrity)

2. Humility — “give away the credit,” but own the responsibility 100%!

3. Humor — “take their work seriously, but themselves lightly.”

Overall, good book to get a clean bill of leadership health. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

 

2 Heads And A House

2 Heads and a House
My daughter took this photo on a trip to Spain. 



In America, in front of the McMansions, it is not atypical to see interesting statues (perhaps of lions or fantasy guard creatures), ancient fountains, and even modern art.



I thought this European house was unique with some busts of a man and woman on each side of the gate to the front door. 



Wonder whether these are actually supposed to look the owners or are just randomly funny.



Also, the color match the orange house and yellow entranceway sort of perfectly.



Either way, it makes you take a 2nd and 3rd look.



Why is the man bust smiling and the woman bust looking so miserable here (or is that just representative of what most “traditional” marriages are about)?



Wouldn’t it be sort of funny if every home had busts or large photos or other representation prominently and widely displayed of the family inside. 



No more mystery of who lives there and more warmth and personalization. 



When you sell/buy property, you just have to take all of yourselves with you. 😉



(Note: no idol worship please.)



(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

Learning To Compromise

Think
My wife and I decided after living in the same condo for the last 15 years that maybe it was time for a change. 



There is a great area that we hang out in with workout, grocery, pharmacy, and–most importantly to my wife–Starbucks–all right there.



So my wife made an appointment for us to look at this rental right above all the action….



The apartment was nice, modern, and best of all in this vibrant neighborhood–but on the smallish side (we would definitely be cramped) and with a substantial monthly. 



My wife, the perennial city dweller, loved it, and I didn’t.



Next, my turn up, we went with a real estate broker to see a charm of a house–this was the one we’d “been waiting for,” all these years. 



Solid, roomy, castle-like…but it would have some ongoing house maintenance things and was a little distance from public transportation (i.e. we’d mostly have to drive). 



This time, my wife hated it, and I loved it.



Back and forth–argue and debate–getting no where (this is a very egalitarian relationship–my wife tells me what to do!) 🙂



Thinking about this, I say “Okay, let’s compromise”–let’s look for a more upscale and roomy condo that we can make our own but in the neighborhood she really likes (and yeah, I like it too). 



1-2-3, with a little searching, we find something online we like, and back to the real estate broker to make an appointment. 



This story is not over in terms of where (or if) we are going to move to, but along the way we continue to learn as a couple to get along, love each other, and of course, compromise. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Take Your Advice And Shove It

Take Your Advice And Shove It

Great piece in the Wall Street Journal today on getting and giving advice.

This was a funny article about how most advice comes not from the wise, but from the idiots trying to push their own agendas, make a buck off you, or bud into your business.

When people try to tell you what to do, “the subtext is ‘You’re an idiot for not already doing it.”

But who wants to do what someone else tells them to do–unless you a robotic, brainless, loser!

Every manager should already know that everyone hates a control freak micromanager–and that they suck the creative lifeblood out of the organization.

The flip side is when you give people the freedom to express their talents and take charge of their work activities, you motivate them to “own it!”

Real meaning from work comes from actually having some responsibility for something where the results matter and not just marching to the tune of a different drummer.

The best leaders guide the organization and their people towards a great vision, but don’t choke off innovation and creativity and sticking their fat fingers in people’s eyes.

The flip side of advice not getting hammered on you, is when you have the opportunity to request it.

People who aren’t narcissistic, control freaks seek out other people’s opinions on how to approach a problem and to evaluate the best solutions.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart and capable people in and of themselves, but rather that they are actually smarter and more capable because they augment their experience and thinking with that of others–vetting a solution until they find one that really rocks!

While decision making by committee can lead to analysis paralysis or a cover your a*s (CYA) culture, the real point to good governance is to look at problems and solutions from diverse perspectives and all angles before jumping head first into what is really a pile of rocks under the surface.

Does vetting always get you the right or best decision?

Of course not, because people hijack the process with the biggest mouth blowing the hottest stream.

But if you can offset the power jocks and jerky personalities out there, then you really have an opportunity to benefit from how others look at things.

While the collective wisdom can be helpful, in the end, all real grown ups show personal independence, self-sufficiency, and a mind of their own, and take responsibility for their decisions and actions.

We can learn from others, but we learn best from our own mistakes…no pain, no gain. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

For Somebody Who Has Everything

For Somebody Who Has Everything

What do you get somebody who has everything?

Well check this out…

You can actually buy acreage on the moon through The Lunar Registry, “Earth’s leading lunar real estate agency.”

Based on The Outer Space Treaty, no country can own a celestial resource such as the moon, planet, or asteroid, but this doesn’t preclude private entities and individuals from purchasing a “lunar land claim.”

The Space Settlement Institute, which “promotes the human colonization and settlement of outer space” is lobbying for the U.S. to recognize these space land claims (PopSci).

According to their website, when you purchase real estate through the lunar registry, “your property ownership is permanently registered by the International Lunar Lands Registry in its annual publication, which is copyrighted and deposited in the United States Library of Congress and with international patent and trademark offices.”

You can view available properties here, from the Sea of Vapors (“moon on a budget” for $18.95 per acre–near Crater Manilius) to Lake of Dreams (“most popular” for $34.25 per acre and a special “Sweathearts package with 2 acres side-by-side).

Properties can be viewed at The Full Moon Atlas through The Luna Society.

I found Lake of Dreams by its reference in sector B-4, although I couldn’t really tell from the atlas whether this was a place that I’d like to settle down or not.

In real estate, they alway say “location, location, location”–when you’re buying on the moon, who the heck knows? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

Project-success
I remember years ago, my father used to joke about my mother (who occasionally got on his nerves :-): “you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.”Following the frequently dismal state of IT project performance generally, I’m beginning to think that way about technology projects.On one hand, technology represents innovation, automation, and the latest advances in engineering and science–and we cannot live without it–it is our future!On the other hand, the continuing poor track record of IT project delivery is such that we cannot live with it–they are often highly risky and costly:

  • In 2009, the Standish Group reported that 68% of IT projects were failing or seriously challenged–over schedule, behind budget, and not meeting customer requirements.
  • Most recently, according to Harvard Business Review (September 2011), IT projects are again highlighted as “riskier than you think.” Despite efforts to rein in IT projects, “New research showssurprisingly high numbers of out-of-control tech projects–ones that can sink entire companies and careers.”
  • Numerous high profile companies with such deeply problematic IT projects are mentioned, including: Levi Strauss, Hershey’s, Kmart, Airbus, and more.
  • The study found that “Fully one in six of the projects we studied [1,471 were examined] was a black swan, with a cost overrun of 200% on average, and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.”
  • In other words there is a “fat tail” to IT project failure. “It’s not that they’re particularly prone to high cost overruns on average…[rather]anunusually large proportion of them incur massive overages–that is, there are a disproportionate number of black swans.”
  • Unfortunately, as the authors state: “these numbers seems comfortably improbable, but…they apply with uncomfortable frequency.”

In recent years, the discipline of project management and the technique of earned value management have been in vogue to better manage and control runaway IT projects.

At the federal government level, implementation of such tools as the Federal IT Dashboard for transparency and TechStats for ensuring accountability have course-corrected or terminated more than $3 billion in underperforming IT projects.

Technology projects, as R&D endeavors, come with inherent risk. Yet even if the technical aspect is successful, the human factors are likely to get in the way. In fact, they may be the ultimate IT “project killers”–organizational politics, technology adoption, change management, knowledge management, etc.

Going forward, I see the solution as two-pronged:

  • On the one hand we must focus on enhancing pure project management, performance measurement, architecture and governance, and so on.
  • At the same time, we also need to add more emphasis on people (our human capital)ensuring that everyone is fully trained, motivated, empowered and has ownership. This is challenging considering that our people are very much at a breaking point with all the work-related stress they are facing.

These days organizations face numerous challenges that can be daunting. These range from the rapid pace of change, the cutthroat global competition at our doorsteps, a failing education system, spiraling high unemployment, and mounting deficits. All can be helped through technology, but for this to happen we must have the project management infrastructure and the human factors in place to make it work.If our technology is to bring us the next great breakthrough, we must help our people to deliver it collaboratively.The pressure is on–we can’t live with it and we cannot live without it. IT project failures are a people problem as much as a technology problem. However, once we confront it as such, I believe that we can expect the metrics on failed IT projects to change significantly to success.(Source Photo: here)

>Hooray For Motivation

>

Hooray

Much has been written about the importance of meaning in driving a productive and motivated workforce.

Already in 1964, Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory differentiated work satisfiers (aka motivators) such as challenging work, achievement, and responsibility, from dis-satisfiers (aka hygiene factors) such as the absence of status, job security, adequate salary/benefits, and pleasant work conditions.

In other words, motivation is driven primarily by the underlying meaningful and the productive work, not by the context of the work such as the money and fringe benefits.

In that vein, Harvard Business Review in “A Spotlight on Productivity” in May 2011 describes how poor managers “unwittingly drain work of its meaning“–in essence destroying their employees motivation and their productivity.

1) Trivializing Your Workers Input–“managers may dismiss the importance of employees work or ideas.” In a sense, this one is about marginalizing employees, their creativity, and their contributions and is extremely destructive to the employees and the organization.

2) Decoupling Employee Ownership From Their Work–“Frequent and abrupt reassignments often have this affect.” Also, not assigning clear roles and responsibilities to projects can have this affect. Either way, if employees don’t have ownership of their projects, then the productivity will suffer amidst the workplace chaos and lack of ultimate accountability for “your work.”

3) The Big Black Hole–“Managers may send the message that the work employees are doing will never see the light of day.” In other words, employees are just being forced to “spin their wheels” and their is truly no purpose to the “shelfware” they are producing.

4) Communication, Not–Managers “may neglect to inform employees about unexpected changes in a customers priorities” or a shift in organizational strategy due to changes in internal or external market drivers. When employees don’t know that the landscape has shifted and moreover are not involved in the decision process, they may not know what has changed, why, or feel invested in it. Without adequate communication, you will actually be leaving your employees blind and your organization behind.

So while it is tempting to think that we can drive a great work force through pay, benefits and titles alone, the lesson is clear…these are not what ultimately attracts and retains a talented and productive work force.

The magic sauce is clear–help your work force to know and feel two things:

1) Their work–is ultimately useful and usable.


2) That they–are important and have a future of growth and challenge.

When they and their work mean something, they will get behind it and truly own it.

In short: mean something, do something.

To get this outcome, I believe managers have to:

1) Make the meaning explicitIdentify your customers, the services you are providing, and articulate why it is important to provide these.


2) Determine strengths and weaknesses of each employee and capitalize on their strengths, while at the same time coach, mentor, and train to the weaknesses.


3) When workers go “off track,” be able to give them constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement without demeaning and demoralizing them.


4) Find the inner strength and self confidence not to be threatened by your employees actually doing a good job and being productive–that’s ultimately what you’ve hired them for!


5) Recognize the importance of everyone’s contributions–It is not a one-person show, and it takes a bigger boss to recognize that other people’s contributions don’t take away from their own.


6) Be a team and communicate, honestly and openly–information hoarding and being the smartest one in the room is an ego thing; the best leaders (such as Jack Welch) surround themselves with people that are smarter than them and information is something to be leveraged for the team’s benefit, not weaponized by the individual.

There are more, but this is just a blog and not a book…so hopefully more to come on this topic.