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Friday, December 20, 2013

Text, Call, or Visit?

There are many ways to communicate, as I got a lesson this morning.

Yesterday, I got a text, which I misinterpreted, due to lack of detail. We were about to commit significant resources to an ongoing project when a chance call degraded the whole effort to much ado about nothing.

Seems to me a text request is best when the answer is “yes.” A “no” response could mean “We don’t have that capability” or “I don’t know,” you figure out which. I see a lot of parents texting their kids where the answer has to be “yes.” Or else.

So then we discussed how to find something from several suppliers. Based on previous experience, calling to ask on the minus side has at best a 50% accuracy factor, and on the plus side is a lot faster than driving around. So the best response again is “yes,” with a high probability of no resolution, because the communication broke down.

There is a Dilbert cartoon sent to me years ago where the boss is asking why no progress is being made, and the underling mutters, “Well, I made some calls.” So this is a long time interest.

Because completion within a defined time is the desired outcome for this project, we decided to check likely suppliers by internet and then show up until we get an acceptable outcome.

A visit has a higher chance of finding if they really have what we want, and if not, finding an acceptable workaround.

When you ask for something are you looking for a reason to stop, a chance to continue looking somewhere else, or a completed result?

Tips 4 The Big Chair – Find something you didn’t expect!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Four Ways To Have A Better Time At A Party

The end of the year brings a rush of social, semi-social, and non-social events. With the crush of other obligations, it’s hard for me to get into the season.

However, necessity is a mother, and over the weekend I found myself relearning four ways to have a better time at gatherings.

Number one is Do Something For Someone. Doesn’t matter what, after that I belong.

Next is Let Someone Else Talk, Draw Them Out. It’s their favorite subject and I usually learn something new.

Now I’m cooking!

After that, Admire Others. Admiration doesn’t just happen, I have to work at it, and then I know more.

Finally, Clean Up. Amazing how participating in logistics is its own reward.

Back to the fun!

Friday, December 6, 2013


A popular quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin is: Nothing is certain but death and taxes. True - however, the timing of one and the amount of the other are not certain.

Leaders face certainty and uncertainty when painting their vision – e.g., revenue must cover expenses for an organization to be viable, but the timing of each must be in relative balance or problems will overtake any chance of success.

That there is no crystal ball to give a glimpse of certainty to the planning process does not stymie a good leader – do the thinking and research, be clear on the mission and goals, map a path to achieve success, and turn folks loose to achieve it.

It's a myth - a misunderstanding – that once the leader shares a vision, plan, mission, or goal that these are cast in stone and unamendable.

Just not true – if the element is not viable, it is wise to 'fail fast' and replace it with a better approach; if the element is falling short of what's expected, amending it for improved performance is imperative.

Results are important, protecting ego by holding course is not, and churning (making too many changes) creates a zig zag path of wasted resources. Putting in the planning up front pays dividends to the success of the mission.

The Constitution of the United States epitomizes this approach – the Founding Fathers have created a governance structure that has endured – it's in its 227th year now, and the Constitution has been amended only 27 times during that period.

Ben Franklin's quote above is actually expressing his opinion about how the Constitution will fare in the future – here's the complete quote: Our Constitution is in actual operation. Everything appears to promise that it will last. But in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.

Appears that Mr. Franklin was correct in his assessment, so far anyway.

This may be of interest to you -
Digital Disruption In The Public Sector: Making The Agency Of The Future A Reality Today
Free Open Source Content Management Systems Event December 10, Washington DC.
Featuring speakers from The White House, National Archives, FEMA, Acquia, Amazon Web Services, and others.
For more information and to reserve your place.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


This old man was walking down the street and he sees a little kid sitting on the curb crying. 

“Little kid, why are you crying?”

“I can't do what the big boys do!”

So, the old man sat down and cried with him.

Jokes are how we explain the not-yet-knowable, part of the process to knowing.

Lashing out to stop a joke is manipulation, an attempt to hold off the knowing.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Organization Of The Future

In Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes To War, Max Hastings tells the story of the clash of modern war technology (machine gun) meets the warfare of the previous century, cavalry charges, colorful (target) uniforms, and the ego, misinformation, stupidity, and ego that commanders could have when battles took months to set up, and soldiers could have a whole career without having to face an enemy.

As the war to end all wars began, the commanders couldn’t understand what was happening to them.

Reminds me of the story of the broke down old fighter, who, when he went to his corner between rounds, his trainer said, “Keep it up, champ. This palooka can’t lay a hand on you!”

To which the boxer replied, “Then watch the ref closely. Somebody’s beating the heck out of me.”

Those WWI generals not could comprehend what was happening to them, their losses, that their professional beliefs no longer had any value. Everything they knew was no longer true, and following their cherished (and unrealistic) worldview they had started the bloodiest war in the history of the world.

So they executed seven year old kids, shot their own troops, anything to feel like they had some control over what was happening around them. It took some time for the next generation of commanders to get an understanding of what was happening and figure out how to respond.

The understanding and then inventing new solutions took place while thousands of soldiers and horses were being killed each week.

Reading the book, I realized that the Internet is our machine gun. It has completely changed how work is delivered.

I was talking to a thirty year client in Northern California who has recently started his blog and is pleasantly surprised by the results. He wondered if I would be available to talk to him on the phone. I suggest a Hangout video-conference, since he has Gmail. and started to explain what it was.

He was quite familiar as he works with a client in Thailand and they do their communication with Hangouts.

Just like machine guns changed the uniforms, the staging, the management, technology, and leadership of war, the Internet is changing what makes a viable organization, how we accomplish work.

That client (an Aikido Master), has video conferences across half the globe. Value is no longer in touch, in showing, in throwing, but doing other things to create similar results with more people across a global footprint.

People in charge used to be able to say, “Take a number and wait...we’ll get to you as soon as we can.”

Google and Amazon changed that paradigm.

You want information? The hardest part is figuring the right question to ask. The answer is instantaneous. That’s the new baseline, what people expect. You’re not set up to provide that? Your successor will.

You want to buy a solution? You teach yourself what you want by looking at the results offered. I have a story about that.

Several years ago we took our condo down to the bare walls and rebuilt. New floor plan, tripled the electric service, community steam room, and a host of other improvements.

The woman I love said she wanted her first flat screen TV to be white, to match her white walls.

I learned a great line from The Princess Bride, “As you wish.”

After we were flimflammed at Best Buy, I sat for three hours, with a laptop in my lap in a cold basement communing with Amazon. I learned the right size of the TV for the size of the room, the best way to hang a flat screen off a wall, how to get the cable installed (Yup, first flat screen and first cable), and at the end, I had a pad of notes. A balloon came up, “Would you like to order this TV with one click ordering?”

Let’s see, I couldn’t buy it from a store, it probably wouldn’t fit in my car, and if the boss didn’t like it, Amazon would cheerfully take it back. Are you kidding?

Turned out it was the wrong TV. But the next one hangs on the wall as a benefit of my embracing the new order.

A friend who has an advertising agency once said, “You’re not an early adopter, you’re a reluctant adopter.”

But the fact is the game is changing more and more quickly. I don’t want to be one of those guys who say, “The older I get, the better I was.” Better to have a current contribution.

What are you doing to embrace the new?

Digital Disruption In The Public Sector: Making the Agency of the Future a Reality Today, December 10, 8:30 – 11:30 am, Washington DC, Free, reservations required, features some of the people who are on the front lines delivering next generation services to citizens. Come see what good is.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Once Upon A Time, There Were Three Keiretsu

Bruce Schneier gave a talk at Authors@Google about his book, Liars and Outliers:Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive. I watched it a couple of months ago, and he provided a lot to think about.

What started as an off-hand observation and has since become increasingly useful is his metaphor of the Three Keiretsu. Keiretsu is a Japanese organizational structure of multiple companies in interlocking relationships for mutual benefit.

Bruce said that smartphones are feudal relationships where users pledge their loyalty to overlords, the phone of their choice, Apple, Android, or Windows phones.

I am a data point for a technology executives survey. They call, ask questions and I answer. I then get their reports and I learn new stuff.

Several years ago I took the call and the first question was “Has the mobile phone become the dominant web browser?” From their follow-on questions, I figured out it had.

Since Bruce mentioned keiretsu, I’ve come to understand how true his observation was and how high the silos are. Users of the three keiretsu make different use of their smartphones. The smartphone dictates how people work.

I am a maker using Google search, maps, sites, email, docs, forms, blogs and other tools for years before I got my smartphone.

I’m not cheap, I’m frugal. I use the Google tools to make useful software applications, that are often similar to commercially available software, except each does exactly what I want, usually around leadership or sales. Perhaps the Android keiretsu is for the frugal successor to Heathkit aficionados.

At Sales Lab, we have multiple Google Calendars for different projects, and they just show up for all the Android users. I am trying to integrate an iPhone user into our web tools, and so far she has minor capability.

But the iPhone has a better music system. She calls all her Apple gear “Shuffle” (a previous iPod) so I get requests for the red shuffle, the big shuffle, the other shuffle. Married people talk that way.

I think her iPhone has better battery, and it just works. As long as you want a stock application. Maps on her iPhone was the reason I decided to get a smartphone. I’ve been told I’m a reluctant adopter.

I wasn’t aware of the differences until I tried to combine functionality between handsets.

As an Android user, I don’t seamlessly switch my music across devices. But then, I think wearing earbuds walking in the city shows a lack of situational awareness. I keep seeing people bouncing off cars and buildings.

Microsoft realized their version of reality before smartphones. Several years ago I set up web presences for a half dozen companies at once and my cheapest resource was a dot net (Microsoft) programming team. By the third website launch, I remembered to ask the builders to uncheck the box that made the site available only to Exploder browsers. Who knew?

The few Microsoft smartphone users I’ve watched seemed to get value being text heavy and document specific. But earlier this month, I saw an Android user sending his documents from his Google Drive, pre-built answers for when the questions come up.

For me, all smartphones are a less capable version of a computer. However, they are more available. Most internet users consume, they don’t author, and a phone is a convenient way to consume.

To which keiretsu have you pledged your fealty, and how is that working out?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Words And Actions Make Leaders Great

Greatness is a perception by others. What makes a leader great is more than achieving the mission, goal, or results – greatness is also about how he or she got us there. It's a complex set of factors not adequately described by a couple of words – but we can get in the general vicinity with these three traits:
  • saying what you will do
  • doing what you say
  • inspiring others to do their very best to achieve goals/results.

George Washington is admired as a great, if somewhat reluctant, leader. These two stories from the closing days of the Revolutionary War highlight his ability to inspire followers and achieve seemingly impossible results.

The momentum of the war was shifting in favor of the Colonial Army under General Washington's command and he wanted to press this growing advantage by crossing the Delaware River again to mount an unexpected attack on the British and the Hessians. Unfortunately, there was a huge problem – most of the troops had fulfilled their commitment to serve and were preparing to return home.

The troops had turned down an offer to pay them for continuing another 6-weeks, then the General visited the bivouac areas of the various units to speak with the men. His message was that there would never be another point in their lifetime that they could make such an important contribution to the freedom of their country as they could in the upcoming battle, AND that he would be honored to fight beside them to win the victory. The troops committed to joining him.

What money could not accomplish, a humble personal appeal to do for the greater good won their hearts and shortly, won the war.

After winning the Battle of Yorktown, General Washington and his senior commanders received a message that British General Cornwallis wanted to surrender. When the Cornwallis party arrived to present his sword in surrender, they attempted to present it to Washington – he refused to accept the sword and pointed to his second in command, General Benjamin Lincoln to receive the sword. By this simple action, Washington made clear that he did not see Cornwallis as an equal, and, more importantly, General Lincoln receiving the sword of surrender removed any doubts that Lincoln had Washington's support and confidence (Lincoln had lost a major battle to Cornwallis earlier in the war).

Great leaders are aware of the effect of their words, actions, and messages – direct and indirect – on their followers and others, and make good use of opportunities as they present themselves to reinforce the importance of the mission and goals as well as value subordinates bring to achieving the results.

See the New World – A View from the Big Chair

Monday, November 18, 2013

Intro...and Outro

I see a lot of advice about how to start relationships, that networking, firm handshake, clear eye stuff.

Earlier this month I got a delightful call from a 20 year customer asking permission to introduce me to a new prospect. We hadn’t spoken in years, but still like each other a lot, and he told me he has been reading the blog posts every week.

That got me thinking about how relationships maintain and what makes them dissolve, the “outro.”

Years ago, I was walking on the sidewalk and a customer pulled up and asked if I had time to go to lunch with him. We hadn’t spoken in several years after our project was completed, but we were thrilled to see each other. I jumped in his car.

We lunched, talked, and I remember he said it wasn’t time that eroded relationships, as we were able to start right where we had left off. Great afternoon, haven’t seen him since, and I was grateful for his observation.

I think that transactions are the stuff of relationships, relying on and being relied on. When there are no appropriate transactions, the relationship waits.

What makes the outro is too many promises not kept, creating a relationship better not maintained.

I’m not disappointed when a relationship goes away, because I can usually see it coming from a distance. And not all relationships should be maintained, we all grow and change what is important to us.

Kinda makes me want to cherish the ones that work while they work.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One Pagers

How do you start your new projects?

How do you remember what happened in meetings six months later?

Saturday I started two projects in a whole new area of my life. I had been collecting information for a week, and needed to figure out what I knew.

I wrote two one page descriptions, one for each project, adding everything I had written in my notes, using the internet to fill in what I hadn’t taken the time to find previously. A venture capitalist once said, “You don’t write what happened in the meeting, you write what should have happened.”

In less that an hour I had two one page descriptions of what had been accomplished. I was able to circulate them to other people on the project and get valuable additions in less than an hour.

After a meeting, I will type my written notes, answering any questions noted while the conversation was occurring, using the internet to flesh out the beginnings of ideas, related details, and taking the time to improve the first draft questions and ideas of real time.

I put in links, telephone numbers, quantities, dollars, knowing that later they may be important.

That one page provides the foundation of further work for me, for others, and is usually highly valued by the other people in the meeting, reminding them of ideas and actions that were lost in the conversation.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I got a chiding comment about Civility. “You write about longer conversations opening more options. You should be selling what your company is offering.”

Fair enough.

Through a quirk of career, I was a product manager designing offerings before I ever got into the field. As a matter of fact, I fought going into the field because headquarters was where careers were made. I hated to leave the bridge because things could change while I was out of the loop.

As a product manager, I would try to ask the technical staff what they were building, but mostly I was told what to emphasize by my superiors. Which I emphasized, since my game was getting promoted. I had a good thing going as a product manager.

In the run-up to Y2K, I was wooed by an IBMer sales professional. He had come out of the Marines, started at the bottom shuffling punch cards, and worked his way up to Corporate VP of an IT Firm.

When I look back, it was silly what he had to do to overcome my ignorance and fears, but I was his project, he gaffed me on board. Once I started working with customers, I found that even my most successful marketing had been by accident. Customers had all the power and all the knowledge of what they wanted.

As a recovering product manager, it was easy for me to replace management advice with customer advice. The customers and I would work hard to flesh out what they wanted enough to pay for.

Then I would take it back to headquarters and try to get the order filled. There were some amazing repercussions.

We were told to increase service revenue as much as we could. The goal was to have service revenue equal product revenue. We got my projects up to services at four times product, which resulted in the head of service delivery telling me I had used up my service quota for the April. I was done.

Turned out it was easier to get service providers than product, so our team recruited an outside installation team, and we lurched forward.

In a six month period, we created a new template for doing business, which resulted in the four largest transactions in the company’s history, all from taking extraordinary time to define what the customers really wanted. Like a junkman, I’ll take whatever is offered and work with it until we get something we can use.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Reformatting the Hard Disk...Twice

In the early days the Personal Computer, a major upgrade was the addition of a 20 megabyte hard drive – plenty of space for programs, files and other treasure.

However, floppy disks were required for sharing files (predates networked computers, and long before WiFi). Several times a during a day I would need a formatted disk to hand-carry a file to someone also working on the same project.

DOS (where we had to type out all the commands) had a program to format disks – put a floppy in the drive, access the program, specify the formatting instruction, and hit enter to begin the process.

The program quickly formatted the disk – but once activated, there was no escape or undo to stop the process.

The early version of the format program assumed the default drive was to be formatted – which, unfortunately, was the hard drive - so when the enter key was hit, the hard disk was formatted, unless a floppy drive was specified...there was a fail/safe message “Are you sure: Yes/No” (which defaults to “YES”) before the formatting begins.

As with many repetitive routines, formatting became a mechanical thing – do this, type that, hit enter. Works fine unless one forgets to change the default to the floppy drive!

When I skipped the default drive step – the computer cheerfully reformatted my hard drive – oh drat!!!! why did I do that? Then I spent lots of time to reinstall all the programs and reload all the files to that newly reformatted drive, pledging NEVER to do that again.


After some time, I skipped that critical step and once again reformatted the hard drive for a second time – I immediately recalled my 'joy' from that earlier time. Now I had learned the lesson and changed my routine to ensure the floppy disk was the target to be formatted. My success was bolstered by a change in DOS requiring the drive letter to be entered and the availability of pre-formatted disks.

Routines that become mindless and mechanical, but have significant potential for disaster, need a proactive fail/safe of some sort – pilots, for example, use a paper checklist to document the pre-flight inspection and preparation.

It is pretty much impossible to avoid the mindless – mechanical human approach to repetitive processes, but designing out the potential of a misstep (or seriously reducing its risk) is a valuable investment in avoiding a catastrophe and wasted resources.

Want to cut 80% of project time? Try Value Added Work Analysis

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I was presenting something completely new today, one time only, and had a meeting with a potential buyer. They wanted to see me, as we both know this could be a substantial opportunity for them.

About twenty minutes in, they lost focus, became bitter. We continued, because they were and are still interested, seeing a potential windfall. Ten minutes later, I was gone. They had all the detail they needed, so we are both considering while I chat with some other buyers.

Driving away, I was reflecting how civility, manners and optimism, may or may not have anything to do with the final outcome, but sure make meetings more productive, increasing the possibility of unexpected benefit.

Sure, we could radiate professional boredom, but I wonder how many opportunities are missed after we’ve gone to the trouble of getting face-to-face?

This was a wakeup call for me. Civility improves board work, committee work, and team work.

Or, consider Selling Innovative...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Old Joe

My life consists of putting up with existing conditions.”
Jostein “Old Joe” Hordnes

Quote of the Weekend
I’m gonna call you “Blister.” You show up after the work is done.”
Trisha Yearwood

WordPictures - Phrases That Lit The Bulb!

Friday, November 1, 2013


About Talk And Accomplishment...
Talk is usually the beginning, not the end.

A group document is not a collaborative document. Do you know the difference?

About Work – Some new perspective.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Two Faces of I

I” is a very powerful pronoun, but it has two distinct personalities – no doubt you have observed both.

I” can be used to convey power and significance to the subject at hand – the speaker is going all in as the poker players would say – infusing their knowledge, experience, and reputation into the statement. They are signaling commitment and purpose. Some examples:

I know (personal knowledge)
I learned (personal experience)
My (I) vision (path to the future)
I will (personal commitment)
I promise (personal assurance).

Used in this fashion “I” creates a spotlight and the speaker is center stage – everyone else is outside the circle of light – in the shadows, unnoticed. “I” is inclusive of you and exclusive of all others.

Thus, the second personality – as strong as the pronoun is to focus attention on you, it is equally as powerful for excluding the others from being acknowledged. Please consider the message in the following:

I grew the revenue
I won the contract
I increased sales
I launched the new product line
I developed the new service.

If you were leading a successful team, department, division, or organization, your “I” contributes to the outcome but the accomplishment of others are significant factors in achieving the great results. Using “I” ignores the others, even when their participation is assumed or implied.

The use of “WE” is inclusionary, bringing the other contributors into the picture, sharing credit for attaining the goal.

Great leaders are mindful that the effective use of “I” can can build credibility with customers and stronger team bonds without diminishing leadership effectiveness or awareness.

The leaders' adage is: share the credit for success, but be first to accept the blame for mistakes. The corollary is “I” is a solo spotlight, but “WE” shares the glory.

To illustrate the two faces of “I”, recall the reaction to an organization's leader who repeatedly says “I” while speaking about the success of the organization; now recall the reaction when listening to a leader who talks about how “WE” achieved superior results. Which approach is more effective? For customers; for employees?

Great leaders share the spotlight with sincerity and avoid the ego trap of rhetorically claiming sole credit for success.

Entertaining experience - Sales Lab Video Channel

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Leadership Is Actions and Words

Even when he was a little guy, my son had picked up some mannerisms and used some phrases that mirrored mine. I first made this discovery when he had a vocabulary of only three 'words': ma, da, chit – he learned the latter term when I got to the bank after the drive-in window had closed for the weekend (long before ATMs).

Our kids are like a sponge – they absorb everything and are constantly observing parents for the standard of how to do and act.

I was under constant scrutiny – my actions and conversations were a model for my son's development – it was an inspiring (and scary) realization for me – for him, I was a role model.

Actions and words of a leader have a similar impact on their followers and others outside the organization.

George Washington was a masterful leader in words and deeds. Notable examples are how he retained the army for the second crossing of the Delaware and the Cornwallis surrender.

A pivotal point in the Revolutionary War was the crossing of the Delaware for the battle of Trenton – unfortunately, the commitment of virtually all army troops had expired before the operation could be launched. General Washington got no takers when offering to pay the soldiers, but got an overwhelming response when he spoke with the troops, saying that they would never have another opportunity in their lifetime which would have such a significant effect on the future of the country and their freedom, as was facing them right now – and that he would be honored to have them fighting by his side to succeed in winning the battle – leading by example and appealing to the higher purpose.

The Army defeated the British in the seige of Yorktown, General Cornwallis sent a message that they wished to surrender and wanted to present his sword to General Washington to complete the process.

Washington refused to accept the sword, instead indicating his second in command, Benjamin Lincoln, would be the recipient. Lincoln had been defeated by Cornwallis in an earlier battle and honoring Lincoln in this manner would salve the pain of that loss, as well as signify Washington's continuing confidence in his Second. Also, this would make the defeat more memorable to Cornwallis, when his sword was not received by the leader of the Revolutionary Army.

As with a parent and child, the leader's actions are always being observed, his or her words are listened to and interpreted, and the leader's consistency in saying what they do and doing what they say is constantly monitored. Success is determined by the collective results – which achieved by the words and actions of the leader and the reception and implementation by the followers.

A leader who keeps in mind the effect of actions, words, and the consistency of the two may be successful in avoiding the equivalent of a three word vocabulary which includes an inappropriate word.

Rainmakers – insight in 300 seconds

Monday, October 28, 2013

Management Reports

Management reports remind me of the peephole in my front door. I seldom see anything I recognize.

Management reports are backward-looking documents, rehashing the recent past. Often used as part of a roll-up, by people charged with repeating others’ reports, usually without understanding them. (See GIGO)

At best, they represent 90 minutes of diversion condensing the last 50 hours/30 days/90 days of work.

Worse is a response of “Let’s discuss,” which turns into hours of the dance of gray fantasy, “Tell me what you want, I’ll agree.” A smart economist told me last month, You don't torture a dataset until it confesses.

If the right answers were available, don’t you think I’d have put ’em in there? I wrote one of these reports last week.

Ever notice that when the right answers are available, they are no longer worthy of the report? We’ve already moved to a next stage.

Just checking, did we get through the next gate when I wasn’t paying attention?” It’s a management fantasy, like being on a cruise ship and waking up in a new port.

If you weren’t going to use management reports to reverify known history again, or trying to change reality to observers’ preconceptions, what might you do?

I’ve always found management reports are light on senior commitments, “When I come down the trail, hotly pursued by the entire population of hostiles, you’re sure you will have that skyhook rented and ready?” 

I assure you, we’ll really try our best!”

Or what about celebration? The middle of a project can get kind of dreary, or it can be wonderful. That’s up to manglement. Which do you think gets you better work product?

Heck, something good must have happened, otherwise how will we remember what good is?

If you’re just going to roll up your GIGO, how about supplying some top down information that improves strategy, speed, or safety? Best practices are either blindingly obvious or they’re fiction. Best practices are hard work, a lot like blogging, and that’s why we pay the top guys the big bucks.

How would you improve this list?

Tips 4 The Big Chair – Goodness that will curl your toes!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Backhoes and Bureaucracy

We use tools because they make us more efficient, able to get more done, with less effort.

I use tools a lot, for construction, software development, management, leadership, organizing, travel, and I appreciate mechanics who can really use a tool.

I worked a summer with Sterling Guthrie, backhoe artist. He had a totally different way of thinking about work and a more creative relationship with gravity than did men who stood on the ground. He would use his backhoe for up, down, sideways, and twist, saving hundreds of man hours and increasing the production and safety of our crew. Sterling got more completed work out of his backhoe than any man I’ve known.

I was remembering Sterling last week while I was on a Caribbean cruise. Every time we left or came back on the ship we ran a security gauntlet. Ship’s crew, mainly from the Philippines and Eastern Europe, ran us through a scanner at a brisk pace, 100% document check, speaking to each of us by name, actively looking for signs of “not right.” They were smiling, because smiling increased their engagement with each passenger, they were engaged because they were going to be on the ship if anything went wrong, they were establishing personal connections because that is what experience professionals do.

For that cruise, we started from the Port of Baltimore, saving time, complexity, and the security-by-threat of air travel. That was a major bonus.

While I was on the cruise I got to think about why our government had shut down my municipal golf course, memorials, cultural institutions. How had they ever gotten authority to spread that misery?

I remembered a conversation with an in-law a couple of years ago. He was explaining the healthy pay bump he got from carrying a gun to his job, “I’m not a toll collector, I’m a bridge guard!” I couldn’t help myself, “Really? How many get away?”

When we came back, we went through US Customs, after 6 runs through private security screening that week. This time there was no engagement, no encouragement, with a crew who had decided our security was best protected by being unhappy and uninvolved.

Providing negative reinforcement, making no reinforcement the desired state, misses half the available reinforcement response. Our official customs experience was a little less efficient than an open doorway.

I used to accept the occasional government foul up as a part of being a citizen. As business and social groups have gotten more efficient, the government I interact with has lowered their successful completion baseline, while increasing their citizen-threat behavior.

A bureaucracy is a tool, just like a backhoe. If the operator can’t provide value while delighting the customer, it’s time to get another operator.

Sometimes you have to Drop The Other Shoe

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


A Full Bird in the Pentagon said, “All computing is logistics.” Since he was a customer, he wasn’t wrong. The customer may not always be right, but they are never wrong.

Figuring that code is the record of culture, perhaps logistics is more.

Jack and I are watching the crash-and-burn of four organizations. Previously successful efforts, crashing vigorously.

They are each useful, fill a need, and are leaving a lot of anxious customers.

In each case, management got bored with logistics, the blocking and tackling of doing the business. They started focusing on something grander.

A couple of years ago, United had a commercial, black and white, about a manager saying business was down. And they were going to come back. So he started handing out airline tickets to go see the customers. And things were going to get better.

I liked that commercial. I see too many people with an intense internal focus.

Reports aren’t work. Reports are reports of work.

How much of your day adds value? Do you even have a working definition of value?
“Um, good coffee. Tasty!”

Perfecting logistics can make a healthy organization.

Monday, October 14, 2013


I was reading Reagan In His Own Hand, a collection of drafts Ronald Reagan wrote for his radio show and other presentations. The premise of the 550 page book is that since the talking heads knew Reagan was a dolt, it might be interesting to see what he actually wrote.

I never heard his radio show, and even today I would rather read a transcript than listen to a podcast, so this was fun for me.

I saw how Reagan developed a strong sense of what worked and what didn’t in this world interviewing and analyzing people who were making things happen. How he adjusted his views as he discovered new data.

When he later had an off-the-cuff observation (or “soundbite” as the talking heads say), it wasn’t a first time thought, it was the result of years of study.

Can’t Get A Break Department:
From Praise for Reagan, In His Own Hand (blurbs in the front of the book),

“These speeches certainly show what the (book) editors contend: ‘The wide reading and deep research self-evident here suggest a mind constantly at work.’ How come I – and my colleagues – never discovered these Reagan depths? To use another response that sounds like Reagan: ‘It beats me.’”
    - Godfrey Sperling, The Christian Science Monitor

No shame, no embarrassment, no outrage at revealing yourself as a lightweight. My spiritual counselor calls it “surface thinking.”

Back in the late ’60’s, I was a journalist, and the only way I could get accurate reporting on Vietnam was Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice. A jazz columnist, fer cryin’ out loud, who was angry enough to wade through the disinformation to get pieces of the story.

Knowing more didn’t make me popular, kinda made me sad, and greatly reduced the surprises. Same way I felt reading Reagan In His Own Hand.

Today the trustworthy news I find comes largely from bloggers. Solution oriented thinking comes mostly from bloggers. Examples of good behavior comes from bloggers.

But if you want to have a simple solution that exercises your emotions, without getting the details right, try a news outlet. They are in the business of selling hope and pills.

The Internet makes everything available, Finding trustworthy information takes work. Why would you want the right stuff?

WordPictures – Phrases That Lit The Bulb

Friday, October 11, 2013

Thank Goodness for Customers

We truly appreciate our customers for buying our goods and services – without them we would merely have a hobby instead of a business.

However, customers provide us with several valuable resources and contributions which may not be as obvious...less top-of-the-head mindfulness on our part.

  • Customers keep us sharp and competitive – they have an expectations of us for providing value, quality, and service
  • Customers tell others about our goods and services – bragging on our behalf when we exceed their expectations; warning others when we don't
  • Customers give us feedback and suggestions – good, bad, or indifferent, they periodically have something to say and share it with us
  • Customers like value, but expect fairness – when something goes wrong they expect a fair, hassle-free solution
  • Customers demonstrate affiliation and loyalty by alerting us of problems or situations – often they are the first to report a problem with our on-line presence or alert us early about things like an emerging trend in slow delivery
  • Customers realize we're not always perfect but expect us to strive toward practical perfection – how quickly do we identify and correct problems; are we innovating by adopting proven new technology
  • Customers want to be treated with respect and consideration – they expect to us to follow up on commitments – like a promised return call or sending additional information
  • Customers like simple and easy transactions – simple items like recognizing a returning customer so we can complete routine and contact information from stored data
  • Customers return to buy again where they have a relationship and receive value, quality, and service – we can control all these variables.

Organizations that recognize the value of the customer beyond just today’s sale have a precious resource to aid in their success – like the 12th player on the field for some football teams – the fanswhich have a huge influence on the outcome of the game by being engaged and enthusiastic.

Organizations with no direct customers, or who do not recognize the contributions by the customers, will have a harder time achieving success. Know of any?

Philosopher George Santayana said: those who do not learn from history are obliged to repeat it mistakes – a business corollary of today is: organizations who do not recognize the value of listening to their customers are bound to make the same mistakes repeatedly, but not to the same customers (they have moved on).

Sales Lab Posts a fresh outlook

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Project Template

Do you keep templates for improving your next project?

I build organizations, teams, destinations on the internet, and publications, and for each project, I have one or several Benefits of Hindsight Templates. With a nod to Professor Keith, I wanta know now what I shoulda known then...

I was talking with Jack about a professional editors response to my exact typography standards, when he said, “Well you use them several times a year, of course you know them better than someone just feeling their way.” Those standards have been developing since 1989, when the other Robin Williams published The Mac Is Not A Typewriter. Before that I had been setting standards by eye on the Vydek and then Trash 80. Didn’t do any good to set standards on .dos, because every printer was different.

The other night when I was talking with a magazine editor, who asked for my opinion of her work. I had some specific improvements, and was giving her a string of numbers for changing her typography in both Word and open source software. She stopped me, saying, “Is there open source software I could use for setting my publications?”

Well now, that’s another template. And that template came from my Pagemaker Ninja status, where I learned, “You become a ninja when the sun comes and you hadn’t intended it to.”

The other Pagemaker story was when they ported it to Windows, one of my clients ran out and bought copies for their code wranglers, since they had been been giving me their data, I would go home at night and come back with their finished product.

We tried their Windows version, and it sat there like a lump and blinked at us..

Finally, I got frustrated and started suggesting Mac keyboard commands to the operators. The file started to take shape, but it was hard work.

Eventually, we shipped, and one of the programmers brightly said, “Well that’s the difference between Windows and Mac. Mac has keyboard commands.” Aargh! Something like that.

My Doctor Of Proposals is smart, but that CD with his previous creative solutions makes him a force of nature. He’s like Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity, the combining of man and machine.

It’s not the words or data, it’s how they were used, the creative solution, that gets us to the next level. It’s not the length of the wand, but the magic of the magician.

So many people don’t keep their lessons, so they are doomed to repeat them, usually losing details and quality.

The beauty of templates is that all those details that were so brilliant at the time don’t get away. That let’s me spend my time on the new details.

What do you save to take forward?

Moments of Truth – New Strategies for Today’s Customer Driven Economy

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cutting Development Time

I read that Jeff Bezos of Amazon makes champions of new projects start by writing an imaginary press release about the benefits of the new project. That’s nice.

Then after a while, I understood. This is different from typical development, where you build something and then try to figure out the benefits.

By starting with the benefits, when there is still energy to edit and improve, we get the very best benefits, the sparkling benefits. That cuts out a lot of trial-and-error development, and makes a more purpose-designed product, slimmer and more elegant.

Instead of picking up the castoff ideas from the shop floor, or going from version 1 to version 2 to version 3 to come up with a successful product, why not spend your energy to define what good is and start there?

WordPictures – Phrases That Lit The Bulb!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fishing and Catching

Two weeks ago, while at the shore in North Carolina, I came upon a seasoned angler fishing from a small dock on the sound. He had a couple of rods, a tacklebox bursting at the seams, a cooler, and was casting his line into the water seeking fish.

I stopped by for a quick chat about 'how they're biting?' - he caught me up short saying the fishing is fine, but the catching leaves a lot to be desired!

His explanation:

I have a variety of hooks, rods, rigs, sinkers, lures, and types of bait because fish have preferences – some like certain bait while others go for a specific lure, or are more likely to hit a line rigged a certain way.

The trick is to use the right combination of items to achieve the desired result...catching.

This made sense, so I asked how he knew what was the right combination? He grinned and said you have to ask the fish – by trying various configurations and remember which works.

He noted that two fishermen can be fishing in the same location – side by side – with one pulling in fish after fish as the other is waiting impatiently for a hit. You must offer what is appealing to the fish to get the desired results.

This wise fisherman may have been talking about fishing, but he was describing business – we can have the best equipment, processes, procedures, and presentation, but if it is not what the customer wants, it is not effective.

Like with the fish, to know the right combination that will meet the need of the customer, we must listen to what they have to say and develop a solution which satisfies that need in as simple and straight-forward a way as possible.

Fishing is like a business with the equipment, process, and energy, but catching is using the right resources to get the desired results.

Who knew that fish were so smart!

Applied leadership – Gibbs Rules

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Work is making and keeping promises.

Delegators want to factor complexity into their failure. No points off.

Work requires learning and developing improved processes. No points off for ignorance.

Work requires maintaining successful relationships in the environment. Losing is losing.

Work is a tough game. No one is ever error-free. Which gives everyone a chance to succeed.

There are three stages to making and keeping promises.

The first is the youngster who figures that not making any promises means not having to keep any promises. He’s the one who was so lonely his momma had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him.

The next step is making adequate promises and enjoying the thrills and spills.

The last step, since life is a rodeo, is making the promises that should be made, and enjoying heaven and earth shifting so you keep them.

What is your work style?

For more ideas, see out new web page, About Work!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Creating Reality

I was sitting in a meeting listening to a social scientist creating a reality with his mouth. He was flashing his eyes, pointing his fingers, threatening doom.

I noticed he didn’t have any experimental data or observation, he had a string of slogans and epithets, which having lost their original data and observation didn’t make sense to me, having done some actual research and gained certifications using the tools in his area of opinion.

He was long on threat, short on facts.

I couldn’t get up and leave without disrupting the meeting, so I started to ponder. If I wanted to create a reality with something other than my mouth, what would I use?


Had I seen people create a reality with their ears?

Suddenly, I knew I was on to something as ALL the people I respected for creating reality had listened until they knew what they were talking about. This was an important point.

The guy at the front of the room was getting louder, more excited, more threatening, more finger slashing, as he sensed he wasn’t making much progress. Then I recognized his weaker magic.

150,000 years ago, when shamans first started negotiating and explaining the unknowable, they all had mouth sounds, threatening gestures, and sudden moves. But the more powerful explainers also gained the ability to leverage their power by slamming sticks into the ground, while whirling and shouting.

And I am a golfer.

Tips 4 The Big Chair – Up your magic!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Word Inflation

A while back, I collaborated on a project to produce a document suitable for public dissemination.

I noticed that when collaborators sent back edits and improvements to the draft's author, each received a comment like: 'Awesome Changes!', or 'This will really make our document Awesome!', or 'The new formatting is Totally Awesome!'.

In reality, the changes did make the document incrementally better, but this exchange made me think about the non-communication that has developed from the over use of laudatory remarks for non-laudatory work.

This feedback to the originator is analogous to giving a trophy to everyone on the team, regardless of their contribution or skill level – it's a cheap 'feelgood' for showing up but does nothing to help the player (collaborator) improve their output. If a slap-dash revision is greeted with the same accolade as a masterwork improvement, what does the collaborator learn about their contribution?

Valid feedback is a precious gift from the giver because it shares an engaged point of view. The remark 'thanks, that clarified the point' provides value, as does 'thanks for the edit, but I did not see much improvement over the original wording'. How does Awesome convey either message? Any message?

I certainly hope you feel this post was Awesome, and will comment appropriately.

All Around the Town - Sales Lab Presentations

Monday, September 23, 2013

Learn...And Share

I spend a lot of time reading on the internet, while that little voice in my brain is haunting, “Is this a good use of your time?”

Suw Charman, one of my first favorite bloggers told of one of her editors asking, “Why do you read so much? Just write something.”

I have written about the best ways to generate useful knowledge on a reliable basis.

We need to learn more, including better context for what we already know. When I am reading, I am first looking for solutions to my current projects. Then solutions for my coming projects.

Because I don’t work alone, I also find things that will help the people who help me. Many things I read I send to people I am working with.

That has a nonobvious advantage of over time giving us a common base of reference for what we are doing.

When I am starting a new project, I read up on it. I’ll even crack open a Gmail and write the terms I’m researching, and then follow the ads that appear.

Once, when I was selling a company, the owner told me there was one industry analyst firm for that vertical. Using the Gmail ad research approach, I discovered that there were three, and we were using the one who had a 12% market share. That was a useful six minutes.

A twenty year client is switching from selling financial products to publicizing early human origins. We’re both reading a lot of new books. I’m getting a lot of valuable information on successful organizations, some of them 200,000 years old.

He complimented me on my discipline sharing things I was learning that helped him, which was how I started thinking about this post.

Peter Drucker said that in the manufacturing age, power came from hoarding information. In the information age, power comes from giving it away.

The first time I read that I liked it. Now I’m starting to understand it.

What is your learning regimen?

Sales Lab Resources Hidden Treasure