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Monday, November 19, 2012

Boomerang Management

Boomerang Kids are adult children who move back into the family home, usually a sign of a weak economy. I loved Terry Bradshaw parading around nekkid in the Fish Room in Failure to Launch.

So here’s a new term, Boomerang Management, for when a former management team comes back and takes over because the current team isn’t getting the results desired. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Often these “boomers” still have significant equity tied up in their former venture.

Frequency? I’m seeing better than one a month.

Outcome? Generally worse than existing. Times have changed, most groups have undergone a radical transformation, most of all the environment these organizations operate in has changed forever.

I was working with a group that got thrown back earlier this year. The former CEO came back from a long retirement with a secret sauce – outbound cold call phone solicitation to businesses! Enough of this social web nonsense! This was the core of the organization!

It took five weeks to hire four and fire six. They hadn’t counted on voicemail.

It’s an executive-centric business view, that the economy rotates around a prime mover with sufficient strength, knowledge, and skills. There’s some kind of echo from when the Pope arrested Galileo for saying the Earth orbits around the Sun.

No matter how hard the Pope protested, solar-centric was the only way the math worked.

Your Boomerang Management sightings?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pirate, Executive, or Administrator?

I see three solutions for many positions. I first noticed this model when we were bringing up the cellular industry, for CEO positions, but have since seen it for many positions in many industries.

The Pirate
A leader in starts and turnarounds, keeps the tribe together with vision, hacks, and personal examples. Budgets are theoretical, because we’re working new situations. There is never enough resource, so we have to apply whatever we’ve got to what we need to get to the next step. Kara Swisher’s AOL.COM: how Steve Case beat Bill Gates,nailed the netheads, and made millions in the war for the Web is a great book showing this type of leadership

The Executive
Makes the most of an existing operation, bringing economical systems and delegation. Has the advantage of historical performance to improve against, often scaling is a major accomplishment. Jack Welch in his heyday defines this behavior for me.

The Administrator
Doing more with less has been the mantra for over a decade. Occasionally I’ve seen fat organizations, but more often I’ve watched poorly defined missions exited. I’ve also seen how this mindset causes organizations to disregard achievable, mission saving strategies. The Administrator often leads to entropy, and is followed by ceasing operations or transferring assets to someone who can create more value with them.

I was explaining this to one of my favorite Pirates last week. Times are hard, and he was trying to sell himself into an Administrator position. Had he grown the company, he would have created havoc. The owners had an emotional attachment to tanking.

After I explained the model and what was expected, he said, “Now why would I want to do that?”

What do your people expect?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where Is Your Next Buyer?

Where will your next buyer come from?

Sales happen at the intersection of what the buyer needs, what you offer to provide, and a connection between you both. This may be from a conversation across a desk; from an 'ah ha' insight in your blog or presentation; from a referral by another party; or from the other ways of talking your business.

Regardless of how these three elements converge – it is the engagement that's the catalyst for aligning buyer's needs with seller's solutions.

At a program by the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, Pamela Wagner, Vice President of W.R. Grace was speaking about the reduction of employee engagement worldwide and her thoughts on why.

While writing notes during the presentation, I realized that the same also applies to customers – current and potential.

Here's a formula Wagner offered to describe the engagement gap:

Volatile Economy creates insecurity
More Work with fewer employees and resources
Less Sustainable Engagement.

Uncertainty and stress are distracting – affecting employee involvement and the buyer's willingness to commit.

Since the environment is not likely to change soon, the key question is: how do we get ahead of the distraction?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guarding The Fort

I was working with the management team of a regional company. Their major assets are their facilities, and they work hard to make sure that each facility is the best in its market.

I knew I was in for a treat when the CEO opened the meeting, saying, “We’re doing very well right now, but if we don’t stop doing what we’re doing we’re going to go out of business.” Yow!

As the team spent a couple of hours defining their individual and collective strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, a common theme emerged. This team had worked so hard to perfect their operations, the next step was going to be to make that better known in their communities.

“My people think I have an easy job, I just get in my truck and go out a couple of times a week,” one manager (the first to embrace outside responsibilities) said. “I don’t think my people have the stamina to do what I do every week.”

Maintaining “The Fort” could easily fill all time available. Yet maintaining is not be the same as building their fort. They began putting a change plan together to maintain their existing superiority, while bringing their people out into the community on a managed basis.

Do you have an important activity that is keeping you from being successful?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Learning From Students

The Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland held 'mock interviews' and I had the honor of being an interviewer.

The students came eager to learn from this role-playing exercise. The 'interviewers' are seasoned individuals - most are Smith School Alumni - and well experienced in hiring superior candidates.

My 'interviews' found the 'applicants' well prepared, articulate in expressing themselves, offering direct answers to the questions, and telling stories of relevant situations from earlier part-time jobs.

What did I learn from the students? They are talking about the new normal in the past tense.

An accounting student commented on the radical effect of systems and digital files on the audit function – now requires a team of 2 instead of 10 associates – and felt that a second major in finance will help prepare her for the demands of clients for specific services.

Several other students were in dual-major programs as well – finance and accounting would be partnered with Information Technology – to be agile with both the knowledge and systems recognizing the evolution of these practice areas.

One individual, majoring in finance-accounting, finds math a rewarding exercise in solving puzzles, is a landscape artist, and an avid sports player – had marvelous stories to illustrate answers to interview questions from rich past experience.

Taken together, students are drawing from numerous resources to develop a pretty accurate view of the maturing changes of computerization on processes and practices. In addition, they find time to pursue other interests and gain other experiences – which gives them balance and well-roundedness while providing illustrations to help communicate ideas and concepts.

They are soaking in the various inputs and coming up with a new look of operations of organizations from the outside, while many of us in the working world are heads-down on projects – not seeing the changes around us

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Increasing Value

For Actions
There are three conditions an action has to satisfy to be considered valuable.
  1. You have to get it right the first time,
  2. The thing you are working on has to change physically (work added), and
  3. The customer has to care.
One out of three or two out of three do not qualify as valuable no matter how convincingly you protest.

For Adding Value In Transactions
I remember that value is what costs me nothing, that you can’t get at any price.

Ideas for increasing your value?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Encouraging Is Courageous

I just noticed that “encourage” and “courageous” come from the same word.

I never realized this relationship before. There’s something important in that.

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Right Comes From Wrong

Golf truth: Good shots come from experience. Experience comes from bad shots.

I was watching a group deal with unexpected results. Their first inclination was to explain what was wrong.

One guy started and everyone else piled on. It was just a made up opinion that became shared.

Once they agreed, there was no point investigating further. Time to go to something else.

For many people, naming a situation is enough. Doesn’t solve anything, doesn’t make it better, but it lets everyone move on with misunderstood agreement.

I have a default after-action question, “What was the best thing you learned?

That’s not an idle question. While I’m trying to figure it out, I don’t want some idjut making up a negative label, because then we might accept the label and move on before the useful work gets done.

If I’m going to ponder, I want everyone else doing the same thing, not distracting me with their made-up labels.

H. L. Mencken said, “For every problem, there is a simple solution, and it is wrong.”

I don’t stop at simple solutions any more. The solutions I find are the result of layering what works on top of what works until we come to something useful. A major part of that is staying with a lesson until we get something valuable, which is usually harder than figuring out what is wrong.

What’s your example of looking through the curtain of wrong to discover some right?