Using an unusual method for research on at-risk populations in a South American barrio, a friend watched as community members filed forward and placed individual matchsticks in specific areas of the map, thus creating a population density chart for her evaluation project. As one individual stepped up he broke the matchstick in half, said “this is me”, placed it on the map, and then walked away. Apparently all gathered around the table collectively held their breath – then a shared sigh passed through the room.
Adaptive management paradigms (AMPs!) helped me think about the different toolkits needed for local and global management practice. The two contexts seem to be different, requiring different emphases. [Read more...]
The Jesuits have thrived for nearly 500 years. Surely there is a sustainability loop here somewhere. [Read more...]
While at Cambridge University several generations ago, I researched an historical management case study focused on sustainable organizations. An innovative clergyman, Charles Simeon, created a 5-step cycle that fixed a minority group in English ecclesiastical society “to the remotest ages” through a strategy that generated a balancing loop, which offset an existing reinforcing loop. Reinforcing loops are cycles that build momentum each time a loop is completed. They can work like virtuous circles or like death spirals. (The former are preferable, btw.) To counter a death spiral, you need a balancing loop. (But if it’s an airplane were talking about, better use the parachute.) [Read more...]
A popular article at the New York Times examines the hypomania we associate with entrepreneurs such as Seth Priebatsch, founder of Scvnger (pronounced “scavenger”), who quit Princeton and now occupies a sleeping bag on a couch in his office when he’s not working 96 hours in a row. The article claims that:
On September 10, 2001, I delivered a presentation on terrorism and interagency coordination to an audience of American and Mexican military and government officials in Mexico City. My slide-deck, as it is known in military parlance, included images of the World Trade Towers and details of the 1993 truck-bomb attack, as well as open-source information on Osama Bin Laden. I had no special insight into the prophetic timing of my presentation, or of the magnitude of the events that would prove the resolve of both the perpetrators and targets of this infamous attack. There was, however, a foreshadowing regarding problems leading up to September 11th and which are present in most crisis events: the factors of trust and its impact on effective communication and coordination. I look back with a mix of emotions on the events of the following morning, because lack of unity and the silo-effect were contributing factors that plagued U.S. efforts to effectively develop a collaborative strategy of threat mitigation.
For those of you who missed it, the Economist picked up on a phenomenon in Japan worthy of notice. One of the hottest books of the year (it is said) titled What if the Female Manager of a High-School Baseball Team read Drucker’s ‘Management’ has been jumping off the shelves. (Over one million sold…)
The unlikely catalyst for this cultish enthusiasm is a fictional teenager called Minami. Like many high-school girls in Japan, she becomes the gofer for the baseball team’s male coach. Unlike many of her compatriots, she is the kind of girl, as the book says, who leaps before she looks. Horrified by the team’s lack of ambition, she sets it the goal of reaching the high-school championships. She stumbles upon Drucker’s 1973 book, and it helps her turn the rabble into a team.
Edgar Schein’s insights reminded me again of the all-consuming fire of group dynamics and how they waylay us. Schein’s classic work captures all the tacit activity that rumbles around in the background of both newly-forming and even well-established “groups”. This can mean anything from corporations to fantasy baseball aficionados.
Peter Drucker’s meaningful Outside postulates that all internal activity equals costs. Only external activity aimed at the meaningful Outside creates real results. But at the same time, without Schein’s “marker events”, “joint sensing of relief” and “shared emotional reactions” groups get nowhere. We have to slog through all that annoying stuff with other human beings to get at results. Until a group, team, start-up or corporation gets it together internally, nothing happens.
Bob Sutton picked up on a pertinent subject once again in bad is stronger than good. I was initially most amazed by the need for five times as many affirmations as negatives in a marriage or romantic relationship. I confess to being a grumpy husband at times. John Gottman wrote some good books and in at least one, demonstrated that he could predict marital success just by listening to whether spouses despised each other in a brief, video-taped record of a marriage interaction.
Preparing future business leaders to make wise choices is the principal objective for institutions of higher education that confer degrees in business and management. However, given a lack of crisis management curricula in many university business- management programs, it would be unrealistic to expect good decision-making of these “leaders” during times of crisis. Not taking the time to actively engage in thinking about and planning for crises is a major contributing factor in the current crisis of leadership. Curricula should be training students to apply effective and proven methods of engaging potential or emerging threats. Just as lawyers should not ask a question in court for which they do not know the answer, business leaders should not plan a business venture without carefully considering, and planning for, inauspicious contingencies. In addition to building a diverse and manageable crisis-action team, future business leaders should be taught how best to implement the following crisis-management practices:
No, it doesn’t show up in the Fortune 500 or any other business list de jour. Peter Drucker thought the Salvation Army got the nod. At one point, the world’s largest nonprofit (supplanted by the United Way when they apparently started counting their branches differently), this group brings an entirely new dimension to effectiveness and crisis management.
Peter Drucker said that constituencies were different in business than in politics. Essentially they were single issue groups who did not always seek to make their company or organization successful, profitable or effective. (Sometimes whistleblowers start out this way and that’s not a bad thing. Why they operate and where they end up is the true test.)
Observers of celebrities can move from natural skepticism to trust and followership. The celebrity leads through an assumed and artificial credibility. Observers become followers by buying into this credibility, essentially trusting a truth created and amplified by technology and made meaningful by an evolving brand, (whether well-managed or not), as the following crowd grows and sometimes even goes viral.
Each day has 24 hours – no more, no less. If you have defined your mO you know what your priorities are. If you don’t honor your priorities you won’t reach your mO.
Peter Drucker used to say that a minimum of six straight hours of concentration were needed to generate anything worthwhile. Especially in the summers he would hole up in his home office and allegedly not venture out until at least six hours had passed. A rough draft would then move from his home in Claremont to Orlene, the most loyal secretary in the universe, who reigned at his campus office a short distance away. Rough drafts never left the hands of Orlene until they were cleaned up and Peter claimed to never let a rough draft out of his or Orlene’s sight. I tried to look at one once, and my supposedly good friend Orlene nearly perpetrated some Middle East justice on the hand that reached for the rough draft.
As soon as enough people give you enough compliments and you’re wielding more power than you’ve ever had in your life, it’s not that you become…arrogant…or become rude to people, but you get a false sense of your own importance and what you’ve accomplished. You actually think you’ve altered the course of history. Leonard0 DiCaprio
If you want to lead you need a transformative crisis. This from Bill George and Andrew Maclean who write about transformative leadership passages. (By the way, the lack of one may contribute to what holds many “gap leaders” in the nonperformance zone. They simply never had the tears or scars required to move on.)
But the price is high.
A young person we know who recently finished her undergraduate degree started a new job, and immediately ran into a brick wall of sorts. Her quite expensive and highly-ranked liberal arts degree had not prepared her for an organization hard at work. Until she began contributing she lived in a precarious place. [Peter Drucker once said that a new graduate was a liability to any organization for eighteen months.]
Just when we had teams figured out, hierachies had disappeared (right.) and toxic leaders purged, the ground shifted and our world got more complicated. Cultural anthropologists sometimes talk about dynamic equivalence when translating a document or idea from one culture into another. This seems to be a good word for the shifting management landscape many leaders face.