Archive | December, 2013

End Of Year 2013

31 Dec

When it comes to human behavior there is much wisdom in the writings of the ancients.  Some year ago I stumbled upon several pieces of advice from Cicero.

 

Marcus Tullius Cicero was assassinated on Dec. 7, 43 BCE. He left behind a substantive body of writing. Some years ago a colleague shared Cicero’s list of “man’s drastic mistakes.” I often review them as a reminder. As you consider your New Year’s resolutions perhaps you will reflect with me on these attributes.

• The delusion that individual advancement is made by crushing others.

• The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected

• Insisting that a thing is not possible because we cannot do it ourselves.

 • Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.

• Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.

• Neglecting development and refinement of the mind and not acquiring the habit of reading and study.

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Parenting and Managing

17 Dec

Occasionally in a management development meeting someone will ask “What’s the difference between managing and parenting.  Pausing for dramatic effect I will answer children are shorter.  For an overall treatment of this issue go to How Parenting and Managing Inform One Another in the Corridor Business Journal.

For those of you who would like some more specific advice the WSJ had an excellent in-depth article about what works and doesn’t work in parenting of children.  Of course if you have not socialized your children by the time they reach the teen years, good luck.

Smarter Ways To Discipline Children

 

There are a couple of ways that people can subscribe to this blog. Click the “+ Follow” link on the bottom right section of the site and enter your email address. This is a very easy way to receive the newest post as an email. The other way is via RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed. The RSS Feed link is located on the right sidebar of the site, directly above the Categories section. Click on “RSS – Posts” to receive your posts in their favorite RSS reader. The RSS reader that many prefer is Google Reader (http://reader.google.com). It is free, well organized, and easy to use.

 

Plan For a Successful Life

11 Dec

Consider this developmental model of a person’s life. Attitudes, a combination of thoughts and emotions support relationships. Relationships are the glue that binds roles together. Roles are the building blocks of organizations. Organizations define our lives. Obviously, this is not a direct causal chain but throughout the links there are many reciprocal and interdependent interactions. Consider the question, what do you do? The answer to this single question probably tells you more about a person than any other.

The latest thinking and writing about leadership sees it not as a set of skills to be mastered, such as management, but rather a life-long journey of self-discovery, development and wise self-deployment of a person’s strengths. This is an example of a relatively new perspective labeled positive psychology. Briefly, instead of focusing on a person’s weaknesses, identify their strengths and help them self-manage from that base.

There are a couple of ways that people can subscribe to this blog. Click the “+ Follow” link on the bottom right section of the site and enter your email address. This is a very easy way to receive the newest post as an email. The other way is via RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed. The RSS Feed link is located on the right sidebar of the site, directly above the Categories section. Click on “RSS – Posts” to receive your posts in their favorite RSS reader. The RSS reader that many prefer is Google Reader (http://reader.google.com). It is free, well organized, and easy to use.

No Plan Survives Contact With The Enemy

4 Dec

 

 

Yesterday the WSJournal had an amazing story about the elements of the successful launch of a new product or service based on the performance of Amazon.  Because this is not a political blog and much of the material is a contrast with the launch of healthcare.gov I have edited out those portions that are political commentary.

The author, Bret Stephens begins by noting that Amazon.com handled 26.5 million purchases on Nov. 26, 2013, a company record and a rate of 306 items per second. What follows is a summary of the four Amazon principles that produce such results. 

I was particularly intrigued by the fourth principle It reminded on the military axiom: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” 

Embracing the truth: Mr. Bezos “embraces the truth,” Rick Dalzell, a retired top manager at Amazon, told biographer Brad Stone for his book, “The Everything Store.” “A lot of people talk about the truth, but they don’t engage their decision-making around the best truth at this time.”

Sweating the details: “Bezos paid a lot of attention to the flow of the checkout process and the warehouse order processing software,” writes biographer Richard Brandt in his book “One Click.” “And everything had to be stable enough, able to handle enough traffic that it would not crash and leave customers stranded, a common problem, especially in the early days of commercializing the Internet. ‘He was scared to death that we would get all these customers, and then they would go away because the system didn’t work well, wasn’t easy,’ says [programmer Peri] Hartman.”

Real-time accountability: Mr. Stone describes a meeting during the 2000 holiday season when Mr. Bezos tested a claim by Bill Price, his vice president for customer services, who said hold times on Amazon’s phone lines were less than a minute.

“‘Really?’ Bezos said. ‘Let’s see.’ On the speakerphone in the middle of the conference table, he called Amazon’s 800 number. . . . Bezos took his watch off and made a deliberate show of tracking the time. A brutal minute passed, then two. . . . Around four and a half minutes passed, but according to multiple people at the meeting who related the story, the wait seemed interminable.” Less than a year later, Mr. Price was gone from Amazon.

Searching, not planning: The development expert William Easterly makes a useful distinction between “planners” and “searchers”: The former come to a task with preset ideas about what should work, and then they go about implementing the plan. Searchers, by contrast, spend their time figuring out through trial-and-error what does work.

Amazon succeeds because it searches. How to reassure customers that their credit card information is safe? Should Amazon invest in warehouses or not? (Mr. Bezos at first opposed the idea, then changed his mind.) Should the site feature negative product reviews? Mr. Bezos gambled that customers would appreciate the honesty. And so on.