Showing posts from 2009

A Management Challenge

Here is a little management challenge for you: You are a world class management consultant. You have been brought in to fix a problem at Big Company, the world's premier Thingamajig producer. The BC CEO tells you that except for the occasional hiccup, Thingamajig sales have been good for the past two years. Sales have been climbing for some time, but now they have suddenly dropped dramatically. The CEO shows you a sales chart to drive the point home: Some finicky person has provided a table with the raw sales data next to the chart: The sales department has 12 people. Most are experienced sales persons. There are three junior sales persons with less than two years of experience. One of the more experienced sales people got married in June. The CEO wants you to bring sales back to the original level, quickly. What should you do? Assume that the CEO trusts your world class reputation as a management consultant, and will do whatever you tell her. If you want to take up t

Barry Schwartz On Our Loss of Wisdom

This is worth listening to: This talk was originally published here . - Talk by Professor Richard Donovan

View this videocast . It starts off a bit dry, but gets more interesting, and Donovan is fun to listen to.

Building Better Offices

I am interested in working environments, particularly for knowledge workers.  The following tweet was quite interesting: RT @menloprez: Coolest offices in America ... we didn't see this one coming! (Inspired by IDEO and Kent Beck). By Ron Jeffries   I found the article quite inspirational, but all of the examples are high profile, and quite expensive, examples of building better workplaces. I'll show an example of a low cost, but at least as effective, way to improve a workplace in a (near) future blog post.

Leverage Points - Where to Intervene in an Organization or Other System

I have mentioned Donella Meadows and her list of places to intervene in a system before in this blog. Meadows worked out the original nine item list when she was at a meeting about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization. Later, she expanded the list to twelve points. The list is very, very useful for business executives because it provides insight into  where to intervene to improve an organization. The list does not tell how to intervene. I'm glad it doesn't. Keeps life interesting and me in business :-) Without going into detail, or the science supporting the list, here is a version that has been slightly simplified and adapted to business: Figure 4 shows the intervention points in order of increasing leverage. Of course, there are other considerations than the power of a leverage point. Weaker leverage points are often easier to apply, but the results are not as good as when using a stronger leverage point. In her paper D

The Logical Thinking Process Workshop with Bill Dettmer

I rarely do announcements in this blog, but there are exceptions. Here is one. If you go, I think you will enjoy it: Catalysts in Linz, Austria, are organizing a five day Jonah workshop about The Logical Thinking Process with Bill Dettmer . Date: May 21st – 27th, 2010 (Wednesday – Friday, Monday – Tuesday) Location: Park Inn Hotel, Linz The fee is 3,200 EUR (+ VAT) with a rebate of 20% for groups of 2 or above (i.e. 5,120 EUR for 2 people). You can get all the details by clicking on the link above. Bill is a well known and very well respected management consultant. He has written several books about manufacturing processes, brainstorming techniques, and of course about The Logical Thinking Process . (Scroll down a bit and you can see my very enthusiastic video review of the book.)

Certain To Win

Sinan Si Alhir (@ SAlhir ) and I discussed a very interesting book, Certain To Win by Chet Richards. Sinan tweeted: @ Kallokain  I have a few copies that I have warn-out due to re-reading so many times ;-) and @ Kallokain  I also distribute Certain to Win to teams that I coach; it is simple & compelling; beautifully elegant... Well, here is what my copy of Certain To Win looks like. I have put plastic markers at noteworthy passages. In case you are wondering, there are 22 markers, but that number is likely to increase the next time I reread it.

Solve your own darn problems!

Jamie Flinchbaugh has an excellent post on a very basic mistake most managers make. He describes how managers believe that the number of problems each report has add up, so that the manager's problems are the sum of the problems the reports have. Why not just pop over to Jamie's site? You will find other valuable insights there too.

Motivation - How Business Runs on Folklore, not Science

In this TED Videocast , Dan Pink talks about how extrinsic motivators reduce performance. Hard to swallow for business people, but well known in the scientific community. If you are interested in looking closer at the scientific evidence, I recommend: Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn Sway by Ori and Rom Brafman No amount of scientific evidence will convince people who have a reward system. Rewards are addictive. Facing up to facts requires breaking the addiction. On the other hand, if you consider starting a company, I suggest you look at the evidence before charging ahead and implement the same kind of extrinsic reward systems that are  holding your competitors back. The research showing the problems with extrinsic rewards goes back at least 50 years. Business people are ridiculously behind. So much so that management consulting giant McKinsey is speaking up about the problem . McKinsey must of course careful not to offend their clients, so they are softening the blow a b

Tic-Tac-Toe and Business Strategy

Business strategy is often likened to a game of chess: complex rules, practically infinite variations, many complex patterns, difficult to master... The complexity of chess can easily obscure the points about strategy, so let's use another game as a model for understanding the use of business strategy: Tic-Tac-Toe: Business strategy is about moving swiftly and getting an advantageous position. In Tic-Tac-Toe, this is pretty straight forward: The first mover can choose the best position. In business, it is a bit more complicated. For example, a first mover may have to expend effort blazing a trail, selling a new concept to the market. A second mover can use the trail blazed by the first mover. when the time is right, the second mover can pounce, exploiting a weakness in the first mover's strategy. Even if business strategy is more complex, the principle is the same: Move swiftly when the time comes, go for an advantageous position. One important aspect that is often overlook

Creativity Crow

In his excellent book Brain Rules , neuroscientist John Medina tells a very touching story about his newborn son and himself. Medina noticed his son sometimes stuck his tongue out. Medina immediately stuck his tongue out back at his son, encouraging him to do it again. This helped Medina to build a relationship with his son right from the start. (There is more to the story, both from a human and a scientific perspective, and Medina is a great writer, so I suggest you read the book for yourself.) I had reason to reflect on Medina's story recently during a dinner. A psychologist who has worked as an advisor to industrial leaders in Sweden was present. So were two children, about 4 years old. The children began sticking their tongues out at each other, just like Medina and his son did. (And triggering mirror neurons , which was one of the things Medina wrote about.) The psychologist immediately applied the same expertise he uses to advice industrial leaders: Stop that, or I'l

TED Talks: Living with Data

This is the most amazing user interface demo I have ever seen: Thanks to Hannu Kokko and Petri Aukia for tweeting about this.

Are Nash Equilibriums Killing Agile Initiatives?

Over the past two years I have seen a lot of debate about the success of Agile software development. Agile methodologies can produce great results. This is well documented. Yet, in many companies, they don't. This has lead many people to question Agile. Some reject it altogether. However, the root cause of the problem isn't in the Agile methodologies. The root cause that makes Agile fail is in the companies adopting Agile methodologies. Let's look back about ten years, when Agile was beginning to gather momentum. It was believed that if a company was functionally organized, like this: Introducing an Agile software development method in part of the organization like this: would cause everyone in the organization to reevaluate their strategies, so that the organization could reorganize into a flow organization, like this: It turned out not to be that simple. An important reason is that most business organizations are designed to be in a stable state. All major playe

Sweet ReTweet

I have had a Twitter account for some time now. Like many other Twitter users, I am interested in what impact, if any, I have with my tweets. (A tweet is a Twitter message, a text string no longer than 140 characters.) Just for fun, I decided to map the travel paths of some recent messages that had been picked up and retweeted by other Twitter users. The (very simple) map looks like this:  As you can see, having a message retweeted means a lot for how much it spreads. Usually, after one of my tweets has been retweeted, I have also picked up a couple of new followers. (Which I usually begin to follow in return.) If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed I retweet other people's tweets a lot. I follow a lot of people who are smart, fun, and willing to share their knowledge of Systems Thinking and related subjects. I want these ideas to spread, so I retweet the best tweets I read. Quite often, these tweets link to some blog post. Here is a map of some recent retweets I ma