Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Involving Employees in Change

Organizations going through change should involve their workforce as much as possible in the process. Stryker Navigation shows how.

by Marco Nink and Klaus Welte
Employee surveys have now become standard in most organizations. Yet too often, the wrong questions are asked and the wrong things are measured. To make employees feel completely involved in the organization, "satisfaction" with the workplace alone is not enough. An employee who is satisfied with his salary or the amount of annual leave is not necessarily, of his own free will, going to lend full support to his employer and his employer's goals. Satisfaction can be connected to passivity -- employees can be satisfied and yet still be indifferent.
There is more value in optimizing the work environment, thereby increasing emotional attachment -- or engagement -- to the organization by rigorously fulfilling employees' core needs and expectations. The stronger the engagement, the more likely it is that the employee will act in the interests of the employer -- and the more engaged employees there are, the more productive the organization will be. It is possible to measure the degree to which these core needs and expectations of the workplace are met.
What to ask and where to start
Building on years of research, Gallup has developed 12 items -- the Q12 -- and employee responses to these items give information about the state of employee engagement, which in turn correlates with organizational performance. It is crucial that the results are discussed at the workgroup level as well as with the leadership and that action plans are put into place and followed through. The results act as a focus point for intense discussion within the team. (See graphic "The Employee Engagement Hierarchy.")

To ensure that the process is sustainable, the survey should be carried out regularly. Also, changes in the survey results over time need to be discussed within the team, and both action planning and follow-through must be monitored. Only when this happens will the employees feel really included and get actively involved in action planning. The results of the employee surveys can also be correlated with key performance indicators (KPIs). By combining these two types of organizational data -- the "soft" employee engagement data with the "hard" KPI data -- we can demonstrate the direct economic benefit of the actions on costs and growth.

The Employee Engagement Hierarchy
Stryker Navigation is an example of how this can be put into practice. As a company, Stryker is a global leader in the manufacturing of navigation systems for computer-assisted surgery. Stryker's machines help doctors and surgeons perform operations more quickly, more safely, and more accurately. Development and production for global markets is done at Stryker's site in Freiburg, Germany.

Decreasing motivation rang alarm bells
When the Freiburg management team registered that the engagement of its employees was decreasing, it set alarm bells ringing, as the company was facing some difficult technical issues that needed to be resolved. It was not going to be possible to produce some important products as quickly and economically as previously thought. This lack of engagement became particularly apparent in the cooperation between teams -- for example, between the Development and Production teams. While the individual departments were performing well in their own range of tasks, they were not prepared to view the manufacture of new products as a complete process that required their collaboration.

Stryker turned to Gallup to measure the employees' engagement and to help the company develop actions for improving the situation. In addition to the Q12 items, questions were asked about the collaboration between teams. The results were analyzed at the project team level and at the department level. The advantage of this approach is that it allows many different opinions on a project to be heard and discourages siloed thinking. The employees involved in a project can then work together to produce a list of actions, which serves to strengthen connections beyond departmental borders.

The most striking results were gathered in a presentation. Using Gallup's database comparisons and benchmarks, Stryker was able to see the areas in which the company was performing at excellence and those in which it was below average. Each team received its own scorecard, and internal benchmarks were used to show the teams how they ranked within their department as well as within the company as a whole.

How employee engagement doubled

The results of the first Stryker Navigation employee engagement survey demonstrated the potential for improvement. With 32% engaged employees, Stryker Navigation Freiburg was considerably better than the total working population of Germany at that time but was below average when compared with other organizations Gallup works with in Germany. (See "A Threat to German Growth" in the "See Also" area on this page.)

The company tries to position employees where they can best use their talents.
Most notably, the employees had rated two fundamental questions particularly low: "I know what is expected of me at work" and "I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right."

So these items became the starting points for action planning and implementation. For example, Stryker concentrated on describing more clearly what was expected of employees on individual teams and projects. The frequency of feedback discussions was also increased. And to promote the idea of project-based working, changes were made to each team's composition, structure, and where team members were seated.

These actions quickly brought about improvements. The percentage of engaged employees doubled to 64% within a year. But the management wanted to embed these changes for the long term. With this in mind, they designed the follow-through process to be highly transparent because it is important that employees see what actions should be achieved and how far they've progressed in that process.

Recipe for success: a transparent follow-through process

Since then, Stryker Navigation has conducted regular monitoring of action plans, which are discussed with the team at monthly meetings. Responsibility for achieving individual points lies not solely with the management but is deliberately shared with the employees. When compiling and implementing action plans, collaboration between technical supervisors and the human resources department is very important. Therefore the company closely links employee engagement tools to additional personal development programs. Stryker, for example, considers selecting and promoting talent to be highly important, so employees should be positioned where they can best use their talents, which is a significant factor for employee engagement.
Employee Engagement and Key Performance Indicators
In Stryker's opinion, the transparency, continuity, and coordination of the individual tools is key to the success of the action plans. The atmosphere in the company has changed for the better. Employees and managers feel that together they can get things moving and make improvements. Since 2004, the percentage of engaged employees has stabilized at an elevated level of 70% and had reached 73% after the survey in 2011. Stryker Navigation Freiburg is thus overall in the top 10% of companies in Gallup's database of German organizations.

Positive effect on KPIs

There has also been a change of mentality as far as collaboration within projects is concerned -- individual teams now see their colleagues from other departments as customers. They want to deliver results to them that they can work with optimally. This speeds up the development of new products for the market.

There are other indicators that confirm that Stryker Navigation has set out on the right path. In the past 10 years, the turnover of products from the Freiburg site has increased tenfold. And the quality of new products has also increased tenfold when measured against the number of repairs or customer complaints. (See graphic "Employee Engagement and Key Performance Indicators.")

Stryker now faces new challenges. It is already clear that the company is set to grow rapidly in the next few years. This also means that teams are redefining themselves and that work routines and responsibilities are changing. In collaboration with Gallup, Stryker Navigation will prepare its employees for this organizational change, with the goal of continuing to gain the workforce's commitment to Stryker and keeping turnover at a low level.
This article originally appeared in Personalwirtschaft in September 2011. Reprinted with permission.

Marco Nink is a Practice Consultant for Gallup.
Klaus Welte is Vice President and Plant Manager of Stryker Navigation in Freiburg, Germany.
The Q12 items are protected by copyright of Gallup, Inc., 1993-1998. All rights reserved.

How You Change Is the Change!

Interesting perspective on managing lean.. 


Lean management is not a change methodology. It is a destination, a desired set of practices and culture. How you get there will determine the outcome.

By Lawrence M. Miller,

There are far more failures than successes as companies attempt to implement lean manufacturing or lean culture. I believe that most of those failures are the result of the absence of sound change management strategies and skills. How you change creates a set of expectations for what will follow. You create a "pull" for adoption of the change, or you struggle to "push" the string of change up hill. 

Most managers and most consultants do not make the distinction between the destination and the method of travel. The destination can be defined as maximizing customer satisfaction, eliminating waste in all its forms, reducing variances or quality problems, speeding cycle times through core processes, and it can be defined as a culture of continuous improvement and empowerment. But knowing the "what" is like looking at a photo of Mr. Universe and saying, "I want to look like that!" That's easy. But, getting there is something else. Most failures are not the result of failing to know what you want to look like. Rather, they are failures in the process of change.

Here are some of the keys to successful lean implementation and culture change from my experience.
1. Ownership is 80% of success - The first rule of change management is: People will implement and make successful that for which they feel ownership.

Too often, the very people who are required to implement a change in processes or culture have it imposed upon them and do not feel that they had any say in its creation. This will almost guarantee failure. The worst way to go about change is to hire a high- priced consultant and have him or her study, write a report, make a presentation, and leave the implementation to those who struggle with the day-to-day realities of life.

Habitat for Humanity knows something about managing change. Their program of building homes for the disadvantaged is not merely about putting up structures. It is about building human capacity and human dignity. When they build a home for a family they ask the members of that family to contribute "sweat equity", their own labor to the construction of the home. This has the effect of giving the new owners a feeling of pride in "their home" that they helped to build. The probability of the family caring for and maintaining the home goes up in proportion to their sense of ownership.

Most senior managers have insufficient appreciation for the human capacity within their own people. For many years I have been facilitating internal "design teams" comprised of both first-line employees and managers who are assigned the work of redesigning their work processes and their social system or culture. These are the people who have their feet on the ground and have true knowledge of how things work in the organization. They invite in their customers and listen to their concerns. They map out the current state of the work process and identify all the variances that cause waste in the process. And, they analyze the culture, the sources of motivation and decision processes. Then, they design the future state, an "ideal state" that transforms both the work process and culture.

I can honestly say that after doing approximately 100 redesign projects it has never failed that those who design the future will develop a passionate commitment to their own design and will fight for its implementation and success. There is this commitment because it is literally "their own" design. It does not belong to a consultant or to senior management. These folks will make it work! That is 50% of success.
2. Build Competence, Don't be Consultant Dependent.

Gaining ownership leads toward the development of competence in those who will implement the new design. But the building of internal capacity must go beyond that ownership. It must develop the skills of change management and skills and tools of training and developing people to live within a lean organization.

I am not anti-consultant. After all, I are one! However, consultants are very often misused. Consulting firms are all too happy to have you dependent on their consultants, the more the merrier, for a long time. That is, after all, how they make money. But, is that in the best interest of the client?

The longer a client is dependent on a consultant the less likely it is that the consultant is transferring his or her competence to the client organization and building capacity within the client firm. I recently completed an assignment at a Merck manufacturing plant where 71 teams are implementing lean practices in every department and function and at every level of the organization. Everyone is involved. My role was to work with the senior team of the plant and to train and coach 14 internal coaches, both salaried and hourly, who serve as coaches to all of the other teams.  Who learns the most in this scheme? Of course, the internal coaches who have to turn around and train all of the other teams. They now have the capacity to carry on the process indefinitely. As a team of coaches they meet and learn from each other. This internal consulting team can now learn virtually any new practice that comes along and serve as vanguard for implementation. They don't need me anymore.
3. You Won't Get It Right the First Time -- Plan for Experimentation and Iteration.

When either Honda or Toyota have designed a new car and is preparing to manufacture that car, and even though they may have the world's best manufacturing engineers, they do not assume it will all go right the first time. An auto assembly plant may produce a thousand cars a day. But, when these companies are beginning production of an entirely new car they close the plant production to zero, install the required new equipment and programs, retrain all the employees on the new car and the new jobs around its production, and then they make ONE car. They watch that car go through the production process. Inevitably, they find things that don't work as planned. They may find machines that need to be re-adjusted or re-programmed. They may find workers who have not been fully trained. They will fix these things and then build another car. It may take months to gradually build up to full production.

Perhaps your managers implementing a major change are smarter than the Honda or Toyota manufacturing engineers, but I doubt it. The idea that we are so smart that we can design something that is complex to work perfectly the first time is pure arrogance, and arrogance is the worst enemy of continuous improvement. It forces managers to try to cover mistakes, inhibits learning and creates waste.

Design the new process and the new human systems as best you can. Then implement those changes with an "attitude of science," a willingness to try things out, then make adjustments and modifications. This attitude will drive out fear, maximize learning and maximize the rate of improvement.
4. Partner with Your Customers.

It is not you against the world unless that is how you choose to write the script. I am currently leading a couple of design teams that are redesigning the core work process of a service organization. They have major problems with unhappy customers. The design team invited in the managers of those customers, the very managers who are unhappy with the service they are receiving, and asked them for help. The design team asked the customers what improvements they would like to see. They asked if they knew of any best practices that they should adopt. And they asked the customer if they would help them in their effort to design the ideal service delivery system. It works every time! I have seen this over and over again. If you ask a customer for help in developing a better way to serve them, they always agree to help! Now you have a partner in your customer.

Every interaction with a customer is a sales call. Every interaction either increases or decreases the probability of future business. Asking the customer to co-create a solution to serve them is one of the best sales calls you will ever make. You have created a new partnership, a new co-owner of the house you are building for them. They will help you make it successful.
5. Invite In the Whole-System -- Embrace the Complexity.

Every organization is a complex system, an ecology, with a variety of sub-systems (people systems, financial systems, information systems) all interacting with one another to determine the course of the whole. Just like our economy, the human body or the culture of a country, the culture and competitiveness of a company is never the result of one system standing on its own. Yet, we hire a consultant to redesign the work flow. Another to implement teams or a motivation system. While another is redesigning the flow of information and another may be redesigning the structure. It is a prescription for the creation of waste. All of these systems must be aligned to the same principles and goals. They are all interacting and interdependent. If you don't approach major change with an appreciation for this interaction and interdependence, you are programming in failure.

Charter a design team to implement lean principles through the whole system, the core work process of the organization, and the enabling or support systems. If the human resource processes are not designed to enable the work of the core work process, you have reduced the chance of success. If you have not designed the IT/IS systems to provide those who do the real work of service to customers with the information they need, you have again reduced the chance of success.
6. Get in the Boat and Row; Stop Standing at the Shore!

Be the change! If you want change in your organization, LEAD! Lead doesn't mean writing encouraging memos. Leading is not simply deciding to go, or approving a budget. Leading is leading, being out front, doing what you want others to do. Be the model!

Twenty years ago Nevius Curtis was the chairman of Delmarva Power and Light. He wanted to transform his organization into a fully empowered, high performance organization. In my first meeting with him I told him that if he really wanted to succeed, he needed to make his team "Team No. 1." He needed to have his team go through the same training, do the same things he desired of every other team in the organization. He signed up and he signed up his team. In a few years Delmarva became recognized as a model for quality management and empowerment. That effort has sustained to this day. It worked because the leader provided true leadership. He didn't stand on the shore and yell "Row" or criticize the efforts of others. He provided a model.

If you want to create genuine and lasting change you will get in the boat and pull on the oars, and you will soon find that you have an army of rowers all pulling behind you, and in the same direction!
Lawrence M. Miller has been doing organizational change consulting for 35 years, beginning with his work creating a free economy in prisons. He has worked with Honda, Shell Oil, and dozens of other corporations. He is the author of nine books, most recently Lean Culture -- The Leader's Guide. His website and blog is

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Challenge of the Average Employee

This an interesting post on how to manage the majority of our workforce... the work horse..

posted at by Anthony K. Tjan

CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball and vice chairman of the advisory firm Parthenon.

Most businesses have a normal distribution of talent — a limited number, say top 10 percent, of high potential, rock star performers, a bottom decile of underperformers, and a thick middle of 80 percent of folks who get the day-to-day stuff done. In well-managed businesses, there are clear feedback mechanisms to ensure that the bottom of the talent pack gets managed out efficiently and objectively. While at GE, Jack Welch popularized the notion that it was good to fire the "bottom 10" of his managers every year. On the other end of the spectrum, the better companies manage the top-end of their talent pool, providing mentors to groom this group of next-generation of leaders and compensating them differentially in recognition of their superior performance.

The challenge lies in productively managing talent's fat middle. What is the right people strategy for the average employee — the stalwart who is performing well enough, but is not necessarily a standout? Here are a few of the challenges with the middle base of talent:

  • Almost by definition, they often get lost in the mix, lacking appropriate guidance and management attention. This creates an issue of not understanding who holds real potential to move up the talent curve with the right nurturing, versus those who have limited upward mobility, versus those who should not be at the company.
  • They can be a drag on those who truly are the best. While not everyone can be above average, the more mediocre talent you have in a business, the more likely it is to have a negative effect on those who can really make a difference. This creates retention and motivation issues for your higher performers. There will always be a distribution, even if it is a forced curve, of talent potential and capability in a business. But the goal should be to raise the overall average of the entire pool, and avoid letting it get pulled down.
  • In a similar vein, average talent can harm a firm's talent recruitment potential since those who are average tend to be more threatened by bringing in better people. The adage of "A's" attracting "A's" and "B's" attracting "C's" holds true.
So what should business builders do to better manage their talent base — especially in this middle area? Two simple ideas can help:
  • First, the best practice of conducting regular and specific performance feedback is critical. It is equally important to make sure that the person doing the review is capable and respected. Senior people who are responsible for managing the middle pool of talent should also be managed on their own ability to see, sift, cultivate, and retain the very best of that pool. How you grow and mentor organizational talent should be an evaluation criterion for senior managers' performance. Mentees and direct reports feel differently when they know their own managers are being evaluated (with real implications for good or bad performance) on their ability to effectively manage, mentor, and cultivate talent.
  • Second, at regular intervals of a person's career, there should be not just "performance reviews" but also what I call a "Fit Test Point." Too many times we see someone who can do the job, but if we are truly honest know that in the long-run they will be stuck in the middle of the organization. My sense is that companies spend more time discussing performance than they do "fit." Performance reviews are biased towards looking out for the best interests of a company — as long as someone is doing their job they have a place. A "Fit Test Point" is a tool to carefully consider the best interests of an employee. Is this person in product development really better served finding a position as an industry or market researcher, or is that analyst who can clearly make the next two rungs of the management track better served making a switch in her career now given the opportunity cost of time? We all know situations where instincts and experience alerted us that a job was not the best fit for someone, yet we let the person continue because they filled a short-term need or because we lacked the courage to have the honest "Fit Test" conversation. Consider key inflection points of one's career advancement and have the parallel conversation of performance and fit reviews.
Trying to serve everyone equally does not do anyone a service, but catering only to the top of the talent pool or overemphasizing the middle or bottom also does not work. An explicit strategy for managing each tier of talent needs to be in place. The public education system has shown that if we just settle, accept, and teach to the middle that is a formula for failure. As business leaders we should see how we can realize the full potential of each employee and help those who are not right for the business find other jobs where they can be more productive and happier.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Free tools for consultants

As independent consultant we are always on the lookout of tools that help us to service our clients better... this post helps in answering some (10 tools) of my needs ... hope yours too..

Source: by Ken Hardin, Clarity Answers  

Dia > The Dia diagram editor (current version, 0.97.1) is a GPL, v2 is very similar to Microsoft's standard Visio tool set. Dia supports layering, some advanced drawing methods such as Beziergon point manipulation, and AntiAliasing when you really want your output to shine. More importantly, it includes a menu of more than 30 conventional icon sets, and exports to a wide range of open and proprietary formats, including Visio XML and the LaTeX doc preparation system. Free, unlimited use.

PDF-XChange Viewer > Suggesting a free alternative to an already free product (Adobe's Reader X) may seem like a stretch, but PDF-XChange Viewer from Tracker Software is so feature-rich that Ken scores brownie points by recommending it to folks. You can actually create visible type inside a PDF with PDF-XChange Viewer, which makes filling out business docs a snap. There are also embedded screen grab tools, a slew of drawing tools (including one for "thought bubbles"), opacity controls, and a tabbed view for multiple docs. It even has built-in zip compression for sending PDFs via email. Tracker Software uses the freeware to upsell to a pro version (you still can't extract or combine files) and its development competitors to Acrobat, so you will see some menus for non-available functionality. Still, PDF-XChange Viewer is just great free software.

Express Invoice > Depending on the complexity of your business, a simple invoicing solution may be all you need to track billables without worrying about payroll or inventory. NCH Software offers a free version of its Express Invoice package for small shops with five or fewer employees (be sure to use the "Get it Free" link on the left of this page). The free version of Express Invoice is not as graphical as many of its competitors, but I've found it easy to create a simple database of customers, quotes and billable items, complete with presumptive tax rates. Minimal invoice customization is available, mostly in the form of logo insertion, and there's even a simple Web-based access to a backup of your account info.

There are a ton of free spreadsheet-based Gantt chart tools out there, but for Ken’s money, if the project is complex enough to merit a Gantt chart to begin with, he wants the data to be in a database, not a spreadsheet. The best free tool he has found for this joyous task is GanttProject, a GPL 2.0 freeware project. You can import resources from standard contacts, assign hard dependencies between tasks, and toggle views between Gantt and the friendlier PERT model. You can post the project to a Web server account, and most importantly, you can export to the MS Project format or CSV. A handy set of tutorials at the project's Web page can walk new users through the basics of Gantting out a project. Free, unlimited use.

Email & Calender
Recommending software from the Mozilla foundation is not exactly a bold move, but with the addition of the Lightning calendaring add-on (now in beta 1.0), Mozilla's Thunderbird 3.1 email client is now officially the best one Ken has ever used. Lightning integrates the retired Sunbird calendaring applet closely with Thunderbird, adding an Events and Tasks menu and a handy calendar sidebar to the intuitive tab-based Mozilla interface. Attachments, recurrence, event-level privacy for shared calendars – it's all there. The only drawback to Thunderbird now is that it does not play seamlessly with Microsoft’s messaging systems, but then again, what does? Ken just copies himself when using a client's Web-based Outlook account – inelegant, but it works.  Free, unlimited use.

Ken has found that a picture is often worth at least several hundred words, and the best free tool he has found for doing mock-ups is Inkscape, an incredibly sophisticated open source vector drawing tool – so sophisticated, in fact, that you can actually buy a user's guide for it. The comparable proprietary tool is Adobe's Illustrator, but the interface most reminds Ken of the late, great FreeHand. On the most rudimentary level, you can combine simple shapes and join text to paths or shapes to spice up your PowerPoint presentations. The tool goes a lot deeper, supporting cloning of linked objects, glyphs, and of course a slew of embellishments and filters. It can import and export virtually every format (including Illustrator and Corel DRAW), and if you ever need to do a flowchart, it has a neat "connectors" function to create persistent binds as you shuffle your label boxes. It's actually way more drawing power than the typical consultant needs. Free, unlimited use.

Microsoft – yes, Microsoft – actually gives away a real-time AV solution that, by most accounts, is quite viable. And it's already in version 2.0.657.0. Of course, since Microsoft's operating system is constantly under attack, most folks might say it's about time Redmond protected its own turbulent ecosystem. All the expected features – real-time updates, removable drive scanning, process exclusion – are there, and Security Essentials also can be set to check for anomalous patterns. The one knock on Security Essentials tends to be resource consumption; the malware agent runs at about 65,000K on Ken’s Windows 7 laptop, but he has seen no real lags in overall system performance.
Free, unlimited use.

Screen Capture
Little things mean a lot sometimes, and DuckCapture from DuckLink Software succeeds where so many screen grabbers fail – it can catch scrolling Web pages in any browser you may be using. (Ken’s guess is that it's because it requires Microsoft Visual C++ 2010, but so be it.) The interface is very simple – captures queue up in a preview window where you can annotate them and even snap a second image for composite before saving your grab. There is a paid version of DuckCapture, but unless you want to extend it with your own scripts, there's no need – the free version is quite robust. Free version with no upsell, unlimited use.

FBackup Even in the era of "the cloud," backing up your important data to a local source (i.e., a cheap USB 2.0 hard drive) is always a good idea. Ken really likes FBackup from Softland, now in version 4.5. You can set regular backups to either zip files or true mirrors locally or on a network resource. (Actually backing up a network resource, or posting your backup remotely via FTP, requires an upgrade to the paid version.) Managing multiple backup jobs for specific tasks is a snap, and there are handy tutorials about setting up jobs for common applications, such as Outlook. Really, there's nothing to complain about with Fbackup. Free, unlimited use.

HTML Editing & Site Manager
Ken first came across Trellian WebPage when he was looking for a handy tool to do some very basic HTML content editing inside a page that was loaded with scripts. Trellian became his editor of choice because it is stable – other "free" editors tended to crash. A lot. In addition to its stability, WebPage has a built-in script editor, absolute positioning of HTML elements, embedded image editing tools, and a generally usable layout reminiscent of the Windows "ribbon" interface. And of course a built-in FTP client, etc. Trellian uses its freeware editor to upsell to SEO and keyword marketing services, and some buttons led to a sales pitch, but all the functionality you need is there for simple page/site management. 
Free with some upsell, unlimited use.

Interesting Twist - Idolize Bill Gates, Not Steve Jobs

Read this interesting post in HBR blog.. when every website, blog and news mag is talking about Steve.. this is a refreshing post

Apple is undoubtedly the gold standard of today's tech world. In fact, it's probably the gold standard of American industry at the moment. Its innovative design, user interface, and ecosystem make it a titan in any category it enters. And it's clear that Steve Jobs was the reason Apple rose to its current heights from the brink of bankruptcy. In the wake of his death, HBR espoused his greatness — something I've done as well. And he was great. Steve Jobs has likely been our generation's most important leader in the world of business. But Steve Jobs is not the most important leader from the world of business. While Jobs should be who MBAs and industrial designers try to emulate, I'm not sure he's who we should idolize. That respect should be bestowed on someone we talk less and less about, Bill Gates.

Both Jobs and Gates had immeasurable impacts on the world. Apple ushered in the era of personal computing in many respects. Microsoft's platform made it possible for a generation of computer scientists to learn and flourish. Apple seems to have perfected the art of delivering fantastic consumer products. Microsoft has worked diligently to make the enterprise more and more efficient. Regardless of which camp you fall in today, it's impossible to deny each corporation's contribution. Jobs and Gates each deeply respected each other's contributions.

But at the end of his life, Steve Jobs worried about Apple, Inc. Walter Isaacson quoted the wizard of Cupertino saying, "Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they had left it in good hands. But now it's being dismembered and destroyed. I hope I've left a stronger legacy so that will never happen at Apple." At the end of his life, Jobs saw his legacy as Apple.

Bill Gates stepped away from Microsoft in 2006 and, despite the company's growing troubles in the face of the mobile disruption, has devoted his genius to solving the world's biggest problems, despite the fact that solving those problems doesn't create profit or fame.* Gates committed his talents to eliminating diseases, increasing development standards, and generally fighting inequality.

Since 1994, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation amassed an endowment of over $31 billion in funds to fight the world's most difficult issues. But it hasn't merely accumulated funds, the foundation has already given away over $25 billion. Those aren't trivial numbers. In seventeen years, the foundation has raised and given away more than one-tenth of Apple's extraordinary market capitalization. While the developed world takes things like clean water, basic healthcare, and the availability of food for granted — there are billions of human beings that don't have such fundamental resources.

Gandhi famously said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I don't doubt that, in recent years, both Gates and Jobs did just that. Jobs made the world more beautiful and the billion of us with resources loved him for it. Gates is making the world ideal, and the billions of us with no voice will be forever impacted.

Yesterday, I read a note Gates wrote to members of the Harvard community. It speaks for itself:

I hope you will reflect on what you've done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world's deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.

Those are not the words of a leader of business. Those are the words of a leader of people. Those are the words of an idol.

As much as I love Apple, Inc, I would happily give up my iPhone to put food on the plates of starving children. Steve Jobs turned his company into a decade long leader in the truly new space of mobile computing. Bill Gates decided to eliminate malaria. Who do you think we should be putting up on a pedestal for our children to emulate?

*While you might disagree with that claim, a quick reference of Google trends shows that since leaving Microsoft, Bill Gates star has dramatically faded — and in 2010 was eclipsed by that of Jobs.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently

Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals, but not others? If you aren't sure, you are far from alone in your confusion. It turns out that even brilliant, highly accomplished people are pretty lousy when it comes to understanding why they succeed or fail. The intuitive answer — that you are born predisposed to certain talents and lacking in others — is really just one small piece of the puzzle. In fact, decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do.

1. Get specific. When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. "Lose 5 pounds" is a better goal than "lose some weight," because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you'll "eat less" or "sleep more" is too vague — be clear and precise. "I'll be in bed by 10pm on weeknights" leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do, and whether or not you've actually done it.

2. Seize the moment to act on your goals.
Given how busy most of us are, and how many goals we are juggling at once, it's not surprising that we routinely miss opportunities to act on a goal because we simply fail to notice them. Did you really have no time to work out today? No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers.

To seize the moment, decide when and where you will take each action you want to take, in advance. Again, be as specific as possible (e.g., "If it's Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I'll work out for 30 minutes before work.") Studies show that this kind of planning will help your brain to detect and seize the opportunity when it arises, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.

3. Know exactly how far you have left to go. Achieving any goal also requires honest and regular monitoring of your progress — if not by others, then by you yourself. If you don't know how well you are doing, you can't adjust your behavior or your strategies accordingly. Check your progress frequently — weekly, or even daily, depending on the goal.

4. Be a realistic optimist.
When you are setting a goal, by all means engage in lots of positive thinking about how likely you are to achieve it. Believing in your ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation. But whatever you do, don't underestimate how difficult it will be to reach your goal. Most goals worth achieving require time, planning, effort, and persistence. Studies show that thinking things will come to you easily and effortlessly leaves you ill-prepared for the journey ahead, and significantly increases the odds of failure.

5. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.
Believing you have the ability to reach your goals is important, but so is believing you can get the ability. Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, and our physical aptitudes are fixed — that no matter what we do, we won't improve. As a result, we focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves, rather than developing and acquiring new skills.

Fortunately, decades of research suggest that the belief in fixed ability is completely wrong — abilities of all kinds are profoundly malleable. Embracing the fact that you can change will allow you to make better choices, and reach your fullest potential. People whose goals are about getting better, rather than being good, take difficulty in stride, and appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

6. Have grit.
Grit is a willingness to commit to long-term goals, and to persist in the face of difficulty. Studies show that gritty people obtain more education in their lifetime, and earn higher college GPAs. Grit predicts which cadets will stick out their first grueling year at West Point. In fact, grit even predicts which round contestants will make it to at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The good news is, if you aren't particularly gritty now, there is something you can do about it. People who lack grit more often than not believe that they just don't have the innate abilities successful people have. If that describes your own thinking .... well, there's no way to put this nicely: you are wrong. As I mentioned earlier, effort, planning, persistence, and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed. Embracing this knowledge will not only help you see yourself and your goals more accurately, but also do wonders for your grit.

7. Build your willpower muscle. Your self-control "muscle" is just like the other muscles in your body — when it doesn't get much exercise, it becomes weaker over time. But when you give it regular workouts by putting it to good use, it will grow stronger and stronger, and better able to help you successfully reach your goals.

To build willpower, take on a challenge that requires you to do something you'd honestly rather not do. Give up high-fat snacks, do 100 sit-ups a day, stand up straight when you catch yourself slouching, try to learn a new skill. When you find yourself wanting to give in, give up, or just not bother — don't. Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they occur ("If I have a craving for a snack, I will eat one piece of fresh or three pieces of dried fruit.") It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier, and that's the whole point. As your strength grows, you can take on more challenges and step-up your self-control workout.

8. Don't tempt fate. No matter how strong your willpower muscle becomes, it's important to always respect the fact that it is limited, and if you overtax it you will temporarily run out of steam. Don't try to take on two challenging tasks at once, if you can help it (like quitting smoking and dieting at the same time). And don't put yourself in harm's way — many people are overly-confident in their ability to resist temptation, and as a result they put themselves in situations where temptations abound. Successful people know not to make reaching a goal harder than it already is.

9. Focus on what you will do, not what you won't do. Do you want to successfully lose weight, quit smoking, or put a lid on your bad temper? Then plan how you will replace bad habits with good ones, rather than focusing only on the bad habits themselves. Research on thought suppression (e.g., "Don't think about white bears!") has shown that trying to avoid a thought makes it even more active in your mind. The same holds true when it comes to behavior — by trying not to engage in a bad habit, our habits get strengthened rather than broken.
If you want change your ways, ask yourself, What will I do instead? For example, if you are trying to gain control of your temper and stop flying off the handle, you might make a plan like "If I am starting to feel angry, then I will take three deep breaths to calm down." By using deep breathing as a replacement for giving in to your anger, your bad habit will get worn away over time until it disappears completely.

It is my hope that, after reading about the nine things successful people do differently, you have gained some insight into all the things you have been doing right all along. Even more important, I hope are able to identify the mistakes that have derailed you, and use that knowledge to your advantage from now on. Remember, you don't need to become a different person to become a more successful one. It's never what you are, but what you do.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Purusartha and Project Management

Am blogging after a long time... more into twitter as I have to write less than 140 characters making life simple

Today I was reading about Purusartha or Human Purpose or aim or end
As per our great religion human purpose are four fold
Dharma - righteousness or right action
Artha - perusit of meaning or purpose
Kama - pleasure
Moksha - liberation

When thinking through this I realised that Project Management was all about Purusartha. These tenets can be applied to project management. Am making a start at doing it
Dharma - Right Action - Activities or Tasks we do to complete a project incl Governacnce
Artha - Purpose - Milestones or goals towards which we do dharma. Actions without a Purpose has no meaning
Kama - Pleasure - We all need to derive pleasure in doing Action with a Purpose. Celebrate success
Moksha - Liberation - Go-live or attaining completion of project whereby we all receive our liberation.. to start the cycle of Dharma to Moksha again...

Only difference is that for a project manager, there is no Moksha

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Global Innovation Interest Index


How interested are people in innovation — and how does that change cross-culturally? What do users across the worldreally want, how can we uncover and design for their unmet needs, and what services can we attach to products to stay close to our customers? We've found that these questions point to a new need for innovative cultures in the world today (distinct from innovative companies).

To start measuring the innovation culture in its pure form, we used Google Insights for Search, which is a keyword optimization tool that reports what people are searching for on the internet. We developed a small lexicon of terms that represent a wide spectrum of innovation activities outside of the core R&D and patent area. For example, we used innovation-linked terms like "design thinking," "Six Sigma," "open innovation," and "product design," among others. We then checked and cross referenced interest in those terms across country lines*. Here are the results — the countries we found to be most interested in innovation:


We found India to be a convincing leader, with the United States trailing second and Singapore, Canada, S. Korea, and the United Kingdom following. Note that even without data from China, Asia is bubbling with interest in innovation. However, we will admit the important qualitative differences in the interests of Asians and the English-speaking West that the data does not account for.

The United States, Canada, and the UK owe their place in the table to their interest in the funding and exploitation of innovation, and in terms that include the root term "create."

For example you can see in this chart indicating regional interest (below), the prominence of the search term "creative talent" in the US especially. "Creative talent" is represented by the orange bar, whereas the red bar represents the term "innovation process" and the blue "innovation and creativity."

creative talent.png

Source: Google Insights for Search

By contrast, India's interest in innovation (and Singapore's is similar) stretches across the range of terms. Interest is high in Six Sigma, ideas management, innovation management, product design, and in strategic terms like "adjacency."

Also notable, open innovation has visibly become more interesting globally, with a heavy concentration of data in Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, interest in Six Sigma is an area where the United States scores highly. From the data it appears that people across the world are catching on to open innovation strategies; and even though open approaches originated in the United States, the US is not as interested as competitor regions.

Digging a little deeper into the US-specific data, we can also see that the more future oriented term "Open Innovation" and the current in-vogue term "Design Thinking" are beginning to close on the very tools-based term "TRIZ" in the United States. TRIZ is a technique for orienting companies to future economic states as a starting point for invention today, and is widely deployed across Asia by companies like Samsung. Over the last few years, we found interest in TRIZ is losing ground to the less formal open and design paradigms, as you can see in the chart below:

triz against deign thinking and open.png

TRIZ (Green) vs. Design Thinking (blue) and Open Innovation (red)

Source: Google Insights for Search

As you can see, exploring innovation through web interest has value. The enthusiastic interest of Asian users should send an important signal that Western companies — like those based out of America, Canada, and the UK — should do more to promote a broader base for their innovation cultures. However, this study is itself a signal that we can measure innovative cultures in ways that reflect real interest.

*Google Search does not operate in China, and therefore China's data is omitted from the results.

Haydn Shaughnessy is editor of Innovation Management, and a Visiting Fellow at nGenera Insight, where he writes on ecosystem management. Nick Vitalari is the Director of the Moxie Insight Enterprise Research Program.

Building a Resilient Organizational Culture by

George S. Everly, Jr.

Current events teach us that crisis and even disaster occur far more frequently than previously anticipated. Japan's post-tsunami crisis and repeated tornadoes of the Southern and Midwestern US demonstrate the vulnerability of modern infrastructures to the forces of nature. Wall Street's meltdown, the subsequent recession, and the consequent demise of discretionary spending remind us that human-made disasters can be devastating in other ways.

The key to not only surviving such events, but to prospering during such upheavals, we argue, is human resilience. While human resilience may be thought of as a personality trait, in the aggregate, groups, organizations, and even communities can learn to develop a "culture of resilience" which manifests itself as a form of "psychological immunity" to, or the ability to rebound from, the untoward effects of adversity.

My colleagues and I have observed human resilience in individuals ranging from accountants to law enforcement personnel, and even former US Navy SEALs. After the first Gulf War, we saw the power of human resilience transform a broken and burning nation of Kuwait into a leading economic power.

Our observations have led us to believe that, just as individuals can learn to develop personal traits of resilience, so too can organizations develop a culture of resilience. We would argue that a culture of organizational resilience is built largely upon leadership, what we refer to as "resilient leadership." Consistent with the "Law of the Few" described in Malcom Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, we believe key leadership personnel, often frontline leadership, appear to have the ability to "tip" the organization in the direction of resilience and to serve as a catalyst to increase group cohesion and dedication to the "mission." They do this, we argue, by demonstrating four core attributes of optimism, decisiveness, integrity, and open communications while serving as conduits and gatekeepers of formal and informal information flows throughout the organization and enjoying high source credibility (ethos).

All of these can be learned. Simply said, when a small number of high credibility individuals who serve as visible informational channels demonstrate, or "model" the behaviors associated with resilience, we believe they have the ability to change an entire culture of an organization as others replicate the resilient characteristics that they have observed.

Using the insightful and well researched formulations of Albert Bandura, we employ the construct of "self-efficacy" as a framework to operationalize many of the aforementioned attributes of resilience. Self-efficacy may be thought of as the belief in one's agency and the ability to be a catalyst for change. He argues that the perception of self-efficacy shapes key human behaviors:

  1. The courses of action people choose to pursue,
  2. How much effort they put forth in given endeavors,
  3. How long they will persevere in the face of obstacles and failures,
  4. Their resilience to adversity,
  5. Whether their thought patterns are self-hindering or self-aiding,
  6. How much stress and depression they experience in coping with taxing environmental demands,
  7. The level of accomplishments they realize.

All of the aforementioned behaviors we believe are not only essential in resisting (developing immunity to) or rebounding from adversity, they are the foundations of a resilient organizational culture and can be used to increase resilience throughout the organization

Our evidence suggests that optimism and self-efficacy can be learned employing a simple yet powerful framework in the organization:

First, understand that people prosper from success. Create an environment wherein they are successful, especially early in their career. Utilize a process of successive approximation wherein success is achieved in tasks of increasing difficulty and overall complexity.

Second, people learn while observing others. Assign new personnel to successful workgroups. Let them begin to experience "vicarious success." Simply possessing membership in successful, or elite groups, may create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Elite colleges and occupational groups thrive upon this principle.

Thirdly, provide encouragement, support, and even mentoring. Research suggests that the single most powerful predictor of human resilience is interpersonal support.

Lastly, using the latest finding from the neurosciences, provide basic training in how to manage personal stress. In our training programs, we refer to this as developing "psychological body armor".

Here are how some companies have employed resiliency traits at the organizational level:

Resilient organizations invest in their client base. At a time when the travel industry was undergoing a dramatic decrease in demand, American Express Platinum Travel Services sent a gift to loyal customers as a way of saying "thank you." Such frequent customers were given several hundred dollars worth of travel-related items including carry-on luggage, an iPod, earphones, and a digital video camera.

Resilient organizations are innovative in times of adversity. Innovation typifies Apple. At a time when the music player and phone industries were commoditizing their products, Apple introduced radically simple and beautifully designed products that remade the company.

Resilient organizations invest in their leaders. In a time when government agencies are demanding more and more from their contractors, one government contractor gave 30 departmental managers two entire days off, at a location away from work, in order to attend a training program that taught skills in resilient leadership as well as "psychological body armor" (the latest advances in how to manage personal stress).

Resilient organizations invest in all levels of their workforce. In 2010, the Wisconsin Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Health awarded Kimberly-Clark Corporation in Neenah, WI a Gold Medal for promoting employee health and wellness. Kimberly-Clark has been a pioneer in occupational health promotion since the early 1980s fielding truly seminal programs in physical fitness, nutrition, and stress management for not only workers but their families.

To say we live in challenging times is an understatement, but crisis may also be understood as an opportunity. Those who cultivate a resilient organizational we argue will be better positioned to prosper when others falter.

Dealing with the Ghosts of Change Management

Transitions that left scars in the past can hurt new initiatives.

Title: Haunted by the Past: Effects of Poor Change Management History on Employee Attitudes and Turnover (Subscription or fee required.)

Authors: Prashant Bordia (Australian National University), Simon Lloyd D. Restubog (Australian National University), Nerina L. Jimmieson (University of Queensland), and Bernd E. Irmer (Queensland University of Technology)

Publisher: Group & Organization Management, vol. 36, no. 2

Date Published: April 2011

Changing the direction of an organization is like driving a car, write the authors of this paper. While moving forward, managers must also pay attention to the “rear view.” This means understanding that employees’ past experiences with organizational change help dictate their attitudes and behavior regarding the current transition — including whether they trust the company enough to remain.

Organizational change can occur in a variety of ways. Firms shift their strategies and processes, undergo mergers and acquisitions, restructure or downsize, and introduce new technologies. For employees, the resulting uncertainty often creates stress and additional work demands.

The researchers studied two organizations to test the relationship between previous change initiatives and employee attitudes.

The first study involved a property and development firm in the Philippines. Unable to meet the demands of a booming population and increasing competition, the company’s executives had decided to merge with another firm. At the time of the study, the organization had announced the merger to its employees and begun the transition — including the evaluation and redefinition of jobs.

In interviews with the human resources department, the researchers learned that the company had a poor history of change implementation: In the past, senior managers had created satellite offices and reassigned employees without consulting them, leading to resentment among those affected. With the help of HR, the researchers split employees into two groups — those who had reason to resent upper management for previous actions and those who didn’t.

Two months after the merger was announced, 155 employees at the firm completed surveys assessing previous change management projects, their perceptions of the current transition, and their level of trust in the organization. The results of this first study confirmed that employees who had had poor experiences with change in the past felt more cynicism about the current transition as well as less trust.

The second study took a deeper look at the issue, examining how change-related attitudes affected employees’ job satisfaction, openness to change, and decisions about whether to leave. The organization in this case was a midsized university in the Philippines whose vice president had recently proposed a comprehensive overhaul of the education process for freshmen; the curriculum would be revised and teachers would be reassigned, relocated, or laid off.

The university had a history of failed change initiatives, including “poorly managed organizational restructuring which resulted in a string of lawsuits,” according to the authors. As with the first study, employees were split into two groups: those who felt resentment because of past mishandled transitions and those who did not. A total of 124 staff members completed the surveys, which were distributed three months after the change process began. The researchers also obtained turnover data two years after the survey and matched that data with the survey responses.

The researchers found that when employees had less trust in the organization because of the previous failed change initiatives, they also had lower levels of job satisfaction and stronger intentions to leave. In fact, 19 percent of the employees in the second study left the university after two years. Using the survey responses, the researchers were able to predict which employees would leave with 87 percent accuracy.

When embarking on a new change program, senior managers need to be acutely aware of the organization’s history in this area, the authors conclude. If managers begin to sense that certain employees have become jaded about change, the researchers urge them to act quickly. Although influencing employee attitudes is never easy, managers should hold open discussions during which staff members learn about upcoming changes and the company acknowledges past mistakes and explains how the process will work better this time around. An engaged leadership, one that stresses personal relationships and inspires the troops, has also been shown to cut down on cynicism about organizational change.

Bottom Line:
When organizational change has been managed poorly in the past, the effects linger, lessening employee trust and creating cynicism about new change initiatives. To minimize turnover and morale problems in periods of transition, managers must be aware of past mistakes and take them into account in any new initiative.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

20 Powerful Management Truisms

  • Strategy and execution complement each other; neither works without the other.
  • If you’re your own worst enemy, you’re sure to lose.
  • If you set out to build an empire, you’ll fail. All empires have humble beginnings. Just put one foot in front of the other, try not to stumble, and when you do, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.
  • If you’ve got loads of strengths, it’s okay to ignore your weaknesses. If you’ve got loads of weaknesses, you better work on them.
  • You don’t know squat. Once you think you’ve got things figured out, you’re in big trouble. Only fools have all the answers.
  • There are times to study and analyze and times to act decisively; the key is to know the difference.
  • A big ego is sufferable if the person delivers the goods.
  • Fear and desperation are powerful motivators, but they don’t always result in good or the right behavior.
  • One who actually gets things done is worth a dozen good-intentioned can-do attitudes.
  • Principles are a personal matter. Having them is good, pushing them on others, not so much.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously or nobody else will either. Self-important people are just that - only important to themselves.
  • Leaders who make excuses and blame others don’t deserve their authority.
  • Coming in second is still losing. Still, learn from it.
  • What you think doesn’t matter half as much as what the other guy thinks. Better to listen than talk.
  • You get what you pay for. It’s true of goods, services, executives, employees, everything.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong, only if you win or lose.
  • If everyone’s out to get you, there’s probably a good reason for that. Look in the mirror.
  • Success depends on adapting quicker than your competitors do. It’s like the movie title The Quick and The Dead. Those really are the only two options anymore.
  • Play nice with the other children. It’s okay to spat as long as you apologize and make up. Playground rules work in organizations. Really.
  • Problems should be solved by those who discover them. An organization where nobody passes the buck is powerful.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bosses Behaving Badly


A Conversation with Barbara Pachter by Gardiner Morse


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Barbara Pachter has seen it all. President of Pachter & Associates, a consultancy specializing in etiquette and gender issues, she’s coached executives around the world on the finer and grosser points of protocol—from who holds open the door for whom to how to tell the boss his fly is down. With clients ranging from DaimlerChrysler, IBM, and Pfizer to NASA and the Department of Defense, Pachter has witnessed all manner of etiquette blunder. The common thread: executives’ lack of self-awareness. In this conversation, edited here for length, HBR’s Gardiner Morse spoke with Pachter about how etiquette rules are evolving and the fundamentals that every executive should know.

What’s the most surprising etiquette violation you’ve seen?

I didn’t see this firsthand, but it was reported to me independently by two employees who were there when it happened. The vice president of the bank I was consulting for arrived early for a meeting. Some junior people had already arrived. He put his briefcase on the table, opened it up, took out a stick of deodorant, unbuttoned his shirt, and put it on. Nobody said anything, they were so stunned. And the VP seemed oblivious. But the cost to this guy will be high. If the people around him think he might at any moment whip out a deodorant, figuratively speaking, he’s never going to have the full consent of his followers.

Most bad business behavior is subtler than that. Are there common themes in executives’ etiquette lapses?

Most bad manners arise because executives aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing. Drinking too much at business events is surprisingly common. Everyone knows it’s a bad idea, but people do it anyway. Then there’s the whole class of behaviors that fall somewhere between bad manners and bad mannerisms. I once coached a director whose colleagues thought she was condescending. Turns out, part of the reason people saw her that way was because of how she wore her reading glasses. She kept them down on the tip of her nose, and when she was in meetings she peered over them. It made her look skeptical and disdainful. She had no idea. And how about people who mangle paper clips when they talk? If you’re meeting with a visitor from another company and you’re dismembering paper clips, you probably don’t know you’re doing it, and you’re probably sending a message you don’t want to send.

Why can’t executives see their problem behaviors?

Executives are no different from anybody else. I’ve given 1,500 seminars to over 100,000 people, and no one in any of my classes has ever admitted to having bad behaviors. It’s always the other guy. It’s the same psychology that makes everyone think they’re better-than-average drivers. Many people are worse than average, by definition. But they’d never admit it to themselves. So the starting point is for businesspeople to acknowledge that, chances are, they’re making etiquette mistakes they’re unaware of and that they’d want to correct if only they knew about them.

How do you find out what you’re doing wrong?

Get feedback. In general, the higher up you are, the less you can count on people to tell you what you’re doing wrong. Getting honest feedback is always tough. Frankly, most high-level executives have major egos. They don’t think they need this sort of feedback, and they don’t want it. But they do need it. Of course, I think every executive should have a coach. But, lacking that, they can do two things: Create an environment that encourages feedback of all types, and get videotaped. I can tell a client her expression looks disdainful until I’m blue in the face. But when she sees it on videotape, it really hits home.

Do business etiquette rules differ for men and women?

When women really started moving into the workplace 30 years ago, the social rules came along with them and created all sorts of problems. Who picks up the check? Who pulls out the chair? Who opens the door, carries the packages? A woman who expects men to do all these things for her sends a message that she needs help. No wonder she’s not the first person who comes to mind when the boss is looking for an executive to take on a big assignment.

For women in particular, it’s important not to allow interaction etiquette to be tied to gender. It should be governed by business relationship or rank. If you’re the host, you pay the bill, regardless of gender. Opening the door is tricky because men want to do it, no matter what. But the simple rule is, whoever gets to the door first opens it and holds it for the person behind. Rank is a complicating factor. It’s a very smart junior person who subtly—and that’s important—gets to the door first and opens it for the senior person. In the same way, the host should subtly maneuver to open it for the guest.

Then there’s the handshake. This is a huge gender issue. A lot of women weren’t taught to shake hands. In my seminars, when I go around to introduce myself, about 75% of the men stand to shake my hand. Only about 30% of the women do. It’s one of the ways women remain invisible in the workplace. They don’t shake hands enough.

Everyone has horror stories of international business gaffes. Any advice?

The old adage “When in Rome…” still applies. But unless people are really attuned to and practice the etiquette of their own culture, they’re probably not going to do a good job modifying their behaviors for another culture. I heard about an American executive traveling in Japan who took a Japanese colleague’s business card and then absentmindedly picked his teeth with it. That’s a big mistake even in the United States, but you can imagine the Japanese’s reaction. It’s not enough to read a book and take a one-day course on Japanese business etiquette before you go. You’ve got to nail your own culture’s etiquette first. Then you step out of your culture, look back at it, and compare it with the other culture.

You’ve said about conducting international business: “Don’t be humorous, but have a sense of humor.” What do you mean by that?

Humor doesn’t travel well across cultures. It can bomb badly. Here’s a mistake I made. You would think I’d have known better. I was in Kuwait, and I was invited to my agent’s home for dinner. I walked in, and on the dining room table there was food laid out from one end to the other. They must have been cooking for a week. And I said, “Do you think there’s enoughfood?” Oops. My agent thought I was serious. Fortunately, we were able to talk about it later and have a good laugh. The point is, unless you know exactly what you’re doing, don’t try to make a joke. And have a sense of humor about the cultural challenges you’re facing and the mistakes you make. Because you will make them.

So, do you tell your boss his fly is down?

Or that her slip is showing? Absolutely. The cost of not telling him or her could be high if it appears that you knew and said nothing. It’s simple. Just give him the facts, quietly if possible. “Bob, your fly is down.” If you’re embarrassed because of gender, you get someone else to do it. Everybody wins: The boss is saved from embarrassment, and you’ll go up a notch in his estimation for your nerve and for limiting his exposure

How to Tell the Boss His Fly Is Down


by Barbara Pachter  | Comments (17)

I've coached executives around the world on the finer and grosser points of protocol — from who holds open the door for whom to how not to tell a joke. With clients ranging from Merck to Microsoft, I've seen every type of etiquette blunder. The common thread: lack of self-awareness. You probably don't mean to be rude — but you don't know any better.

Consider this one, the vice president of the bank I was consulting for who arrived early for a meeting. Some junior people were already there. He put his briefcase on the table, opened it up, took out a stick of deodorant, unbuttoned his shirt, and put it on. Nobody said anything they were so stunned. And the VP seemed oblivious. But the cost to this guy will be high. If the people around him think he might at any moment whip out his deodorant, figuratively speaking, he's never going to have the full consent of his followers.

Most bad manners arise because the perpetrator isn't paying attention. Drinking too much at business events is surprisingly common. Everyone knows it's a bad idea, but people do it anyway. Then there's the whole class of behaviors that fall somewhere between bad manners and bad mannerisms. I once coached a director whose colleagues thought she was condescending. Turns out, part of the reason people saw her that way was because of how she wore her reading glasses. She kept them on the tip of her nose and peered over them. It made her look skeptical and disdainful. She had no idea. And how about people who mangle paper clips when they talk? If you're meeting with a visitor from another company and you're dismembering paper clips, you probably don't know you're doing it, and you're probably sending a message you don't want to send.

I've given more than 1,600 seminars to over 100,000 people, and no one in any of my classes has ever admitted to behaving badly. It's always the other guy. It's the same psychology that makes everyone think they're better-than-average drivers. Many people are worse than average, by definition. But they'd never admit it. So the starting point is to acknowledge that, chances are, you're making etiquette mistakes that you'd want to correct if only you knew about them. How do you find out? Easy. Get feedback. In general, the higher up you are, the less you can count on people to tell you what you're doing wrong. Getting honest feedback is always tough. Frankly, most high-level executives have major egos. They don't think they need this sort of feedback, and they don't want it. But they do need it. The best thing to do is get a coach. Failing that, create an environment that encourages feedback of all types, and get videoed. I can tell a client her expression looks disdainful until I'm blue in the face. But when she sees it on video, it really hits home.

Getting etiquette right is doubly important, and doubly hard, in international business. The old adage "When in Rome..." still applies. But unless people are really attuned to and practice the etiquette of their own culture, they're probably not going to do a good job modifying their behaviors for another culture. I heard about an American executive traveling in Japan who took a Japanese colleague's business card and then absentmindedly picked his teeth with it. That's a big mistake even in the United States, but you can imagine the Japanese executive's reaction. It's not enough to read a book and take a one-day course on Japanese business etiquette before you go. You've got to nail your own culture's etiquette first. Then you step out of your culture, look back at it, and compare it with the other culture. Bear in mind also that humor doesn't travel well across cultures. It can bomb badly. Here's a mistake I made. I was in Kuwait, and I was invited to my agent's home for dinner. I walked in, and on the dining room table there was food laid out from one end to the other. They must have been cooking for a week. And I said, "Do you think there's enough food?" Oops. My agent thought I was serious. Fortunately, we were able to talk about it later and have a good laugh. The point is, unless you know exactly what you're doing, don't try to make a joke.

So, to return to the question of how you tell your boss his fly is down (or that she has lipstick on her teeth): The mistake to avoid is to not say anything. The cost of not telling could be high if it appears that you knew and kept quiet. It's simple. Just give him the facts, quietly if possible. "Bob, your fly is down." If you're embarrassed, get someone else to do it. Everybody wins: The boss is saved from embarrassment, and you'll go up a notch in his estimation for your nerve and for limiting his exposure.

Barbara Pachter is President of Pachter & Associates, a consultancy specializing in business communications and etiquette. This blog is adapted from her HBR article Bosses Behaving Badly.