Archive | August, 2011

A Deal-Breaker Q For Job Interviews

31 Aug

On August 28, the Sunday New York Times had a terrific interview with Andy Lansing of Levy Restaurants in Chicago.  An excellent discussion of leadership and a couple of job interview questions that are the most intriguing I have ever seen.  These will certainly make you re-examine what you are hiring for and how you are interviewing potential employees. The first question he asks in the interview is:

       • “Are you nice?”

And the second is:

       • “What are you passionate about in you life?”

To read why he does this and the results he gets go to:

PS: Skip the advertisement when yo get to the NYTimes page.

Beyond Luck is now an e-book on Amazon.  At $6.95 it’s a great deal.

Axioms #8: Watch The Waitress

24 Aug

This is one of my favorite stories.  Suppose we go out to lunch and the food is good but the service is terrible.  If you think “stupid, uncaring waitress” you’re very likely wrong.  Instead ask the following questions:  How many tables is she covering?  How much training has she had?  What is the interface with the kitchen like?  Does she also run the cash register?  Do her……  etc., etc., etc.  BUT the most important question is: What is her boss’s management style?

Any and every manager can be the one who helps you succeed or makes you fail.  No one has more direct effect on our work-lives than our immediate boss.

Several weeks ago I spoke with a recently retired person and asked “How is retirement better?”  She said “I don’t get sick on Sunday night any more.”  I have heard this story too often and have had the opportunity on a couple occasions to do an assessment is such places.  It’s always the key manager.

Go to:, click on “preview the book” and scroll down to The Basics of an Effective Management Style on pp.  11.  The pull-out quote is “Unfortunately, many of us have had the dubious opportunity to work for the manager from hell.”  Boy, did I miss the boat on this article, it should be called “The Manager From Hell.”

Beyond Luck is now an e-book on Amazon.  At $6.95 it’s a great deal.

Axioms: The Plumber’s Rule

17 Aug

Recently I have been working in a company that is interested in improving its performance and thus it’s management practices.  After hearing stories about poor management practices in a particular silo, I have commented on the Plumber’s Rule nature of the stories.  No one in the interviews had heard of the rule, this is very unusual.

One basic understanding about organizations is they are hierarchical.  This is because no one has found a better way to assign responsibility and authority.  Unfortunately some are too hierarchical.  One example of this is micro-management, a practice that encourages people to optimize their situation by obeying rules and passing as much responsibility upward as is possible.  This is a productivity killer.

Another general principle is leadership drives the culture of the organization, what happens at the top flows down into the organization.  When managerial performance is poor this is the Plumber’s Rule, “In organizations fecal matter flows downhill.”

Understand this fundamental idea.  When someone or some unit is not working well look up one or two layers.  Odds are that is the locus of the problem is there or as the Q people say, the root cause.

For an excellent example of this principle go to: The manager from Hades.

Beyond Luck is now an e-book on Amazon.  At $6.95 it’s a great deal.


Angry Gorillas: A Note To Employees

10 Aug

Taking a week off from Axioms to share a memo with you.  The COO of a small manufacturing company sends a note to all employees every week.  The title is “Pride of Excellence” and the subtitle on this one was: Every Order Matters to Someone.” Have a good read.

“Many of you may not have heard about the angry gorilla pumps last week.  We had an order going to XXX out in Los Angeles.  Everything was ready to go except a bronze impeller.  The impeller had been scrapped without consideration of impact on the customer and the order was rescheduled for the next bronze impeller.  The order status filtered through the system eventually reaching the end user.  Along with many unkind words, we were advised that these pumps were for the gorilla exhibit at the San Diego zoo.  The pumps were to run the water falls used to cool the gorillas.  Apparently, this made them somewhat cranky.

Once we figured out that angry gorillas may not be a good idea, the team leaped into action.  The scrapped impeller was deemed to be not so bad as to justify angering the gorillas.  A replacement impeller was expedited in.  We put a recovery plan into place and shipped the order.

Sadly, we should never have been in the position of angering the gorillas in the first place.  We failed to effectively discover and communicate customer needs.  We failed to consider the impact of our actions on the customer.  The point is not to beat people up over failures.  The point is to remind everyone that every order is important to one of our customers.    Every time we make a decision relating to an order, we owe it to ourselves and our customers to consider the impact.”

This is a very effective “note to employees.”  Why?  I would like to hear your opinions.

Beyond Luck is now an e-book on Amazon.  At $6.95 it’s a great deal.

Axioms #6: Occam’s Razor

3 Aug

William of Ockham (c. 1285–1349) formulated this principle in the 14th century and it has enormous importance to anyone engaged in the operation of large systems. He said, “Thou shall not multiply thy entities needlessly,” or more simply, in any pair of explanations one should favor the simpler. This is also called the Law of Parsimony, the philosophical and scientific rule that states that simple explanations should be preferred to more complex ones and that explanations of new phenomena should be based on what is already known.

Thoughtfully combining the Pareto Principle with Occam’s Razor allows leaders and managers with a powerful pair of tools for assessment, analysis and potential action. It permits pairs of comparisons and a criterion for evaluating the efficacy of each. Peter Drucker said, “It takes knowledge to transform data into information.” In a world where we often seem to be struggling with too much data and too little information this pair of axioms provides leaders with a simple and powerful tool to engage people and understand the results.

Does some of this sound a like the KISS principle?

For a more comprehensive discussion of Pareto and Occam”s tools with an actual example go to Analyzing key axioms for leadership in the Corridor Business Journal.

Beyond Luck is now an e-book on Amazon.  At $6.95 it’s a great deal.