Feeling Gravity’s Pull
There are other lessons to learn from “Apollo 13”. Changing your organization may be like bringing a spacecraft into Earth’s atmosphere – without careful planning and proper course correction, things may miss their targets, overheat… or worse. Continue reading Feeling Gravity’s Pull
Learn to Fly: Management Lessons from Dave Grohl
The best of them bleed it out, while the rest peter out.
And other things about being a leader I learned from listening to loud music. Continue reading Learn to Fly: Management Lessons from Dave Grohl
As You Likert
With so many survey tools available, there are more and more ways to mismanage data and spin silly results. Here are some things to consider – and ways to present the info – that avoid those traps.
Oh, and I rant about the absolute claptrap that is StrengthsFinder! Continue reading As You Likert
Am I ‘That Guy’?
There are going to be times when you think, “Am I absolutely off my rocker? Or is everyone else?”
Your options are to absolutely lose your cool, or to find a common perspective. Here are some tips for the latter.
Continue reading Am I ‘That Guy’?
Four Ideas to Make Your Projects Safer
When people get up in the morning to work on your projects, they expect to come home that evening.
A Man of Action knows not only to plan ahead, but where to focus, and how to rally the troops. Continue reading Four Ideas to Make Your Projects Safer
Knowing the Value of Knowing
Who doesn’t hate Tom Brady?
Objective knowledge of ‘Should’ and ‘Actual’, though, calls into question the merit behind Deflategate and his ultimate suspension.
A ‘KT Classic’ from 2015. Continue reading Knowing the Value of Knowing
Off The Rails: A Bureaucracy Update
Once a Man of Action purchases a train ticket with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, he will forever receive emails; most of them will be in Hindi.
Every once in a while, though, he receives one in English – that may as well be in Esperantu. A journey through the rules of getting a rail refund. Continue reading Off The Rails: A Bureaucracy Update
The engineers in HBO’s “Chernobyl” demonstrate the all-too-real flaws of poor problem-solving: Jumping to cause (and never letting go), refusing to accept data, and focusing on blame. Continue reading Trouble-Shooting Meltdowns
Own Your Culture: Fake It til You Make It
Consultants are frequently (OK, always) asked to change a client’s culture for them. Can’t be done – that has to come from the inside.
What we *can* do is recommend specific behaviors – and trust that hearts and minds follow. Continue reading Own Your Culture: Fake It til You Make It
When Change is the Call of Duty
Certified Man of Action Bob Gates was faced with a daunting challenge: successfully implementing a landmark cultural shift in the US Armed Forces – before Congress and President Obama could unsuccessfully botch the same job.
Lessons from the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ can apply to any change effort. Continue reading When Change is the Call of Duty
On Defense: Decisions, Debates, and Duty
Former Defense Secretary and Honorary Man of Action Robert Gates salvaged two wars and shook up the Pentagon, while providing valued counsel to both Republican and Democratic presidents.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from his memoir – about decision making, understanding culture, and getting shit done. Continue reading On Defense: Decisions, Debates, and Duty
The Parable of the Holiday Plaid
Demanding more from your customer? Be sure you know how the competition stacks up – while you still have a customer!
A festive story that can be enjoyed the whole year ’round. Continue reading The Parable of the Holiday Plaid
‘Why?’ What Is It Good For (Absolutely Nuthin’?)
Asking “Why?” five times is a great way to get punched in the nose.
It’s *not* a great “problem-solving” methodology. Continue reading ‘Why?’ What Is It Good For (Absolutely Nuthin’?)
Balancing Rewards and Behaviors: A Case Study
Remember that obnoxious Comcast call? It probably wasn’t the employees fault – he was just doing what offered him the most reward (or least pain).
A case study, based on what I learned from George Carlin records. Continue reading Balancing Rewards and Behaviors: A Case Study
Everything I Need to Know I Learned from George Carlin
Would you take business advice from this man? I did!
And here’s what I learned about motivating – and demotivating – employees. Continue reading Everything I Need to Know I Learned from George Carlin
Scoping Improvement Projects, Phase II – The Future State
Here’s the second stage of a “methodology-agnostic” model to scope, structure, and execute process improvement plans.
This is the fun part – coming up with what the future will look like. SPOILER ALERT: It involves Arts & Crafts! Continue reading Scoping Improvement Projects, Phase II – The Future State
There Is No ‘They’
As long as we’re in the process of banning words, let’s get rid of an insidious term that thwarts accountability and makes it all-too-easy to become a Man of Excuses. Continue reading There Is No ‘They’
Scoping Improvement Projects: An Agnostic Model
Just because someone is “good with tools”, you wouldn’t hand him a fancy new wrench and tell him to “build somethin'” without plans or prints.
Regardless of what improvement tool you use – Lean, Six Sigma, whatever – you still need a blueprint for your engagement. This three-phase model will help you scope, plan, and execute your initiative, no matter what color your Belt is. Continue reading Scoping Improvement Projects: An Agnostic Model
Take Control of Project Schedules
Whinging about projects slipping past deadlines is great sport, but good project managers know what actions prevent their initiatives from falling behind.
Throwing up their hands and saying, “It’s out of my control!” is not how a Man of Action does it. Continue reading Take Control of Project Schedules
Leadership Is a Dish Best Served
A recent experience serving up barbecue reminded me of a few things that can make it easier for employees to perform well. I seem to recall that being called “leadership”.
A pulled-pork parable of clarity, command, and kudos.
Continue reading Leadership Is a Dish Best Served
When Step Change Is A Giant Leap
‘Totality’ may have been the most over-used word this week.
But the difference in the skies for those “in the path” and those just outside of it was striking.
The difference between 99 percent and “totality” is… well, absolute. Continue reading When Step Change Is A Giant Leap
It’s All About Being a Man of Action
Pity those who are in over their heads.
But a pox upon those who brazenly don’t even try.
You don’t need to give 109 percent or more to be a Man of Action – you just have to be present. Continue reading It’s All About Being a Man of Action
Goldilocks Your Change
A lot of “Change Literature” wants you to follow one set, magically correct path.
Trouble is, every organization is different. For one, that path may be too narrow – for another, it may be too wide.
Some things to consider to make your change effort Just Right. Continue reading Goldilocks Your Change
The Hunt for Red Tape
Ever stand around waiting for a cashier to “get approval” on a return? Eventually, the manager punches his code into the register and walks away – that’s the “approval process”!
Bureaucracy wastes your time (you had to wait for the manager to show), disempowers employees, wastes money, and destroys the human spirit.
So stop doing that. Continue reading The Hunt for Red Tape
The Golden Rule of Meeting Participation
‘Hmmmm. I can’t let this meeting end without contributing SOMETHING…’ Continue reading The Golden Rule of Meeting Participation
What’s the Objective II: Of Projects and Process
‘Teaching to the test’ may be a crap way to run a school, but letting employees know what gets an ‘A’ is both efficient and effective.
Setting clear objectives – when launching a project or designing a business process – is a winning idea. Here are some quick questions to check your thinking.
(Part Two of Two) Continue reading What’s the Objective II: Of Projects and Process
What’s The Objective?
Clarifying objectives – that is, understanding the rationale behind expectations – allows a Man of Action to act wisely.
Properly articulating the “why” improves customer satisfaction, response speed, employee engagement, and more.
(Part One of Two) Continue reading What’s The Objective?
The Skies Still Ain’t So Friendly
After a few weeks of doing basically nothing, United Airlines’ CEO reached out with… really nothing but an empty email. (Well, they cleared up when he’ll call the cops on customers).
One of many things United needs is to take a hard look at its business processes, and make sure all employees understand their intent. Continue reading The Skies Still Ain’t So Friendly
Seven Leadership Secrets from Shakespeare
Shakespeare gave us the language of love, but he also gave us some darn good rules for management.
Most of his tales – with the exception of Henry V – are cautionary ones. Here are seven things you definitely don’t want to do! Continue reading Seven Leadership Secrets from Shakespeare
Talkin’ Bout the Squished Generation
The piece in Sunday’s NYT – “I’m Not Texting, I’m Taking Notes” – managed to push every one of my (analog) buttons. Punks with no experience – and even fewer good ideas – have invaded our cubies and want to take over, NOW.
Naturally, I know exactly what must be done to move forward. But how did we end up like this? How have we destroyed the Organization? Some thoughts… Continue reading Talkin’ Bout the Squished Generation
March Madness! Annoying Buzzword Edition
Will ‘Accountability’ repeat as the Most Annoying Buzzword of the Year???
Fill in your brackets and follow the fun! Continue reading March Madness! Annoying Buzzword Edition
Does Chaos Really Work?
Several chaotic journeys through Indian traffic makes one wonder: Is having a process, and executing it, complete folderol? Continue reading Does Chaos Really Work?
Design Adaptability Into Your Process
A recent run-in with Indian transport and teleco bureaucracy brings into stark contrast the difference between a good “Process” and merely “procedures”.
Some ideas to help make your processes more flexible. Continue reading Design Adaptability Into Your Process
Twelve Resolutions for a Better 2017
Don’t let the ball drop on making improvements in the New Year. Instead of quitting smoking or eating fewer carbs, why not try to build some healthy habits in the workplace?
Here are a dozen ideas to get started. Continue reading Twelve Resolutions for a Better 2017
Seeking Balance with ‘People Problems’
People don’t “cause” problems because they want to – it’s generally because the culture not only allows it, but encourages it!
Here are some questions to consider to see if your performance environment is out of balance. Part 3 of 3. Continue reading Seeking Balance with ‘People Problems’
In my previous post, I discussed the temptation of assigning blame during any kind of root cause analysis.
No matter the cause, understanding how employees were – and will be – expected to behave is key to successfully implementing a fix. Continue reading Expect Better
Good Investigators Don’t Search for the Who
Even high-profile investigations get knocked off course when they pursue WHO to blame, rather than the underlying causes behind WHY it occurred.
In this post, the first of three, I discuss the hazards with chasing the Who and not the Why. Continue reading Good Investigators Don’t Search for the Who
Get the Bugs Out of a New Process
Even the best designed processes can have “bugs” discovered during implementation.
Here are six steps to prepare the team – and the organization – to minimize disruption and quickly recover. Continue reading Get the Bugs Out of a New Process
Balancing Project Portfolios
Think you have more projects than people? Take this handy quiz to check!
If you are overstretched, here is a two-step analysis to identify the bottlenecks in your organization’s project portfolio. Continue reading Balancing Project Portfolios
How to Make Your Change Effort Fail
Before any Change Management can begin, organizations must feel the need for change.
Here is a cautionary tale of a client who did nearly everything wrong, and still felt no need to act. Continue reading How to Make Your Change Effort Fail
Beat the System
Software sometimes makes us do stupid things just to get something done. Stop blaming the software, blame the underlying business process.
And stop blaming the process – it’s time you did something to fix it. Here’s how to get started. Continue reading Beat the System
The Performance Review Process: Does Not Meet Expectations
In the latest HBR, Facebook claims to have reinvented the annual performance review. They haven’t. But you can.
Here are five ways to reinvent your performance reviews.
Continue reading The Performance Review Process: Does Not Meet Expectations
Stop Creep from Sneaking Up on You
‘Scope Creep’ isn’t something that just happens to a project. It can be controlled, and good project managers know how to do that.
This post includes some causes and corrections of a common project malady.
Designing Internal Measures
Being able to check and track the quality of work before passing it on is a cornerstone of both continuous improvement efforts and ‘getting it right the first time’. Knowing the ‘leading indicators’ of success also saves a lot of time and heartache.
Here are some things to consider when creating a method to measure success – before the work is complete. Continue reading Designing Internal Measures
The Rules of Brainstorming
“How about you just shout out your ideas and I’ll keep writing them down until this Post-It note is all filled up?” (c) The New … Continue reading The Rules of Brainstorming
Seven Questions to Ask Before Starting a Project
Whether volunteering to lead a high-profile initiative, or being press-ganged into managing a project, good project managers know how to clarify expectations before they begin.
Here are seven things to define about the who, what, why, and how a project should be managed.
Continue reading Seven Questions to Ask Before Starting a Project
There’s Something About Measures
When metrics are used wisely, they can be effective tools for managing and improving processes. When they are used as weapons, or just improperly handled, they can be dangerous.
Some things to consider to keep yourself in the ‘wise’ column.
Five Ways to Change Your Meeting Culture
One of my clients actually differentiated between ‘meetings’ and ‘working meetings’. EVERY meeting should be a ‘working meeting’!!!
Here are some tips other clients have implemented successfully to keep their meetings from being a tragic waste of human spirit. Continue reading Five Ways to Change Your Meeting Culture
Freedom Within a Framework
A common perception is that ‘following a process’ means limiting staff creativity. When processes are designed and implemented correctly, that simply isn’t true.
Here are some non-traditional examples of very strict processes with very creative outputs.
Think Before You Click
You don’t have to go to every meeting you’re invited to.
Here are some ways to figure out which ones you need to attend, which ones really need you, and which are just clogging your calendar.
Giving Up Mr. Lovejoy
‘I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t clear. But I thought I told you to keep your mouth shut.’
‘I had to tell them something.’
‘You tell me you want these guys off your back. Next thing I know, you’re saying, yeah, maybe they can have a piece of Mr. Lovejoy. I couldn’t believe my ears.’ Continue reading Giving Up Mr. Lovejoy
The Room Where It Happens
If paranoia, fear, and/or curiosity are the primary reasons to attend a meeting, consider finding more productive things to do with your time.
No one ever got promoted for attending meetings.
Five Keys to Project Sponsorship
Project managers face a host of obstacles between ‘Charter’ and ‘Closeout’.
Good project sponsors can anticipate and minimize those obstacles.
Sailing Through Change
‘Boy, changing things around here is like turning a ship. It takes a lot of time and a lot of ocean.’
Ships turn on a dime. Here’s how – and what it means for your change initiatives.
A ‘KT Classic’ by RJB and firm principal Sam Bernstine. Continue reading Sailing Through Change
James Bond and the High-Stakes World of Project Management
James Bond may be licensed to kill, but he sure isn’t certified to run a project.
You know who runs a good project? SPECTRE.
A ‘KT Classic’ from RJB. Continue reading James Bond and the High-Stakes World of Project Management
Skipping Risk Management Is No Joke
Without considering the collective risk of independent actions, a popular website destroyed data representing hundreds of hours of users’ work.
Using Kepner-Tregoe’s Potential Problem Analysis would have prevented that.
A ‘KT Classic’! Continue reading Skipping Risk Management Is No Joke
Booing Is Not Feedback
There is no such thing as ‘negative feedback’ or ‘positive feedback’ – just feedback.
Here are five steps to using feedback to effectively manage employees.
Another ‘KT Classic’ from the only ‘Football Correspondent’ in the consulting industry. Continue reading Booing Is Not Feedback
Preparing for Stronger Regulations
Preparing an organization for change – whether internally driven or mandated by external influences – combines the tools of project management, problem-solving, and good decision-making.
This appeared in ‘Industry Weekly’ following heated conversations as American companies prepared for the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2013. Continue reading Preparing for Stronger Regulations