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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?

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