A Cascade Of Outcomes

August 24, 2014

I’m just back from a short holiday in Italy and I always find these breaks are good for seeing things in a new (or least a slightly different) light. Often this results in changing the amount of time I allocate to my different personal (or collaborative) projects. Some in actuality I haven’t even started and others have meandered so an honest review is always handy anyway.

Part of this is figuring out what activities really matter. I recently came across this thought-provoking quote:

“Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one or a very few pivotal objectives, whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favourable outcomes.” – Richard Rumelt

Not just a highly favourable outcome, a cascade of outcomes! This puts things in quite a different light. So, in part, it means saying ‘no’ to things (and being comfortable and disciplined in this) but also to imaginatively think through the possible consequences of a ‘yes’. The use of the word ‘cascade’ emphasises anticipating not just one (major) jump ahead but (loosely) a few more.

The author of the quote is the Professor of Business & Society at UCLA Anderson and he’s written a well reviewed book on this topic: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy. Here are some sample extracts:

Good strategy is rare. Many organizations which claim to have a strategy do not. Instead, they have a set of performance goals. Or, worse, a set of vague aspirations. It is rare because there are strong forces resisting the concentration of action and resources. Good strategy gathers power from its very rareness.

Competitors do not always respond quickly, nor do customers always see the value of an offering. Good strategy anticipates and exploits inertia.

Organizations experience significant entropy—the continual drift towards disorganization. Much of the useful work of managers and consultants is maintenance—the constant battle against entropy. Strategists must battle this never-ending drift towards disarray within their own organization. And they must try to exploit the disarray of their rivals.


The Chemistry Of Conversations

August 14, 2014

Apparently:

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

This “chemistry of conversations” is why it’s so critical for all of us – especially managers – to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviors that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call “Conversational Intelligence” or “C-IQ,” or a person’s ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively and strategically with others. Behaviors that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.

More from the HBR article here.


Taking A Step Back

August 6, 2014

Really good set of points to think about from Bob Sutton:

  1. Sometimes the best management is no management at all — first do no harm!
  2. Indifference is as important as passion.
  3. In organizational life, you can have influence over others or you can have freedom from others, but you can’t have both at the same time.
  4. Saying smart things and giving smart answers are important. Learning to listen to others and to ask smart questions is more important.
  5. Learn how to fight as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong: It helps you develop strong opinions that are weakly held.
  6. You get what you expect from people. This is especially true when it comes to selfish behavior; unvarnished self-interest is a learned social norm, not an unwavering feature of human behavior.
  7. Getting a little power can turn you into an insensitive self-centered jerk.
  8. Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting like them.
  9. The best test of a person’s character is how he or she treats those with less power.
  10. The best single question for testing an organization’s character is: What happens when people make mistakes?
  11. The best people and organizations have the attitude of wisdom: The courage to act on what they know right now and the humility to change course when they find better evidence.
  12. The quest for management magic and breakthrough ideas is overrated; being a master of the obvious is underrated.
  13. Err on the side of optimism and positive energy in all things.
  14. It is good to ask yourself, do I have enough? Do you really need more money, power, prestige, or stuff?
  15. Jim Maloney is right: Work is an overrated activity.

An Internet Minute

August 3, 2014

qmee-internet-minute-2014

Some remarkable numbers. The corresponding infographic for 2013 can be found here.

Picture credit here.


Memorable Meetings

July 22, 2014

From Greg McKeown in the HBR (I’m reading his book Essentialism at the moment):

Mr. Frost, my superb economics teacher in England, once shared the story of two people talking about a lecture given by the late Milton Friedman, the father of Monetarism. The first said, “Twenty years ago, I went to the worst lecture I’ve ever heard! Friedman gave it and I still remember how he just muttered on and on and all I could make out was the word ‘money.’” The second man responded, “If you can remember what the key message was some twenty years later, I think it might be the best lecture you ever heard!”

Indeed, Friedman’s singular message — that by controlling the supply of money, you can stabilize the whole economy — became, arguably, the most impactful economic theory of the second half of the 20th century. The point I wish to emphasize is not an economic one, but a human one: if you try to say too many things, you don’t say anything at all.

He highlights a few key lessons he’s learned over the years in giving effective presentations:

  1. You can’t communicate what you haven’t defined i.e. be really clear, starting with yourself, about what you want to say
  2. Lose the slides and have a conversation – something my friend David Gurteen has been saying for years!
  3. Kill your darlings i.e. ruthless editing
  4. Be repetitive without being boring i.e. focus on the one message you want to hammer home

See also, Why Are Most Events Rubbish?

Rereading this latter post, it may be a bit unkind but the underlying point is still a good one and one that everyone still seems to be struggling with.

 


Luck And Learning

July 1, 2014

Quote from the entrepreneur Richard Farleigh:

Do you remember your best and worst business decisions?

I can remember the worst ones. Psychologists say when something works well we put it down to ourselves, and when something goes badly we put it down to luck. I try the opposite. All you can say is you learnt from each one.

See also here, on the fascination of failure.


The Benefits Of Wasting Time

June 22, 2014

Lifehack Quotes Dylan and Success

Worth clicking on…

Time management is a perennially popular topic, there are articles and books on it everywhere (mostly saying the same things over and again).

You often get the feeling that the aim is to try to extract the very last drop of ‘value’ from your allotted span and that there may be some hidden trick that you’re not aware of that will allow you to do this.

Over the years I’ve bought quite a few books of the subject and read lots of articles and posted a few myself as well.

concentration

In this general context I was interested to read a couple of articles recently on some of the more intangible aspects of time management. One was by the journalist Rosie Millard, which emphasised that time wasting may not be a bad thing at all and was motivated by a recent book:

Getting to the airport frightfully early, we now learn, is a bad strategy. In his book How Not to be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life, he summarises it thus: “If you’ve never missed a flight, you’re not doing it right.”

The article ends with:

Indeed, when I apply the Prof’s wisdom to my own crammed, time-poor, frantic lifestyle, I realise that the only moments I feel wholly relaxed are when my time-saving devices are nowhere near me, and I am actually “wasting time”. Running miles and miles along the Regent’s Canal tow path, for example. Or sitting leafing through ancient bird books at my parents’ house. I once spent 12 hours waiting for a plane at Sao Paulo airport. It’s the sort of thing that would have driven Prof Ellenberg crazy. I don’t even remember having a book to hand. I just drifted around and looked at people, who were also drifting around.

It was good.

That certainly rang a bell with me.

The other was by the writer A N Wilson on the value of a university education (prompted by record complaints by students that much of university teaching is not worth the fees):

That is why so much of university life should be a waste of time. The eight-week term flies past. If, in that time, you have fallen unsuitably in love (or, even more time-wasting, suitably in love); and/or if you have been acting in a play, or improving your squash, or becoming obsessed by Swedish cinema, the likelihood is that you will not have been giving enough time to your friends. And friendship, for many people at university, is its chief glory. This is the first time in your life when you are away from home, and away from the very limited circle of school contemporaries. You could, potentially, meet anyone from any walk of life, and this, for many people, is where friendships for life are formed.

Is it any wonder, in such circumstances, that you might neglect your work? Just a little?

Although the above viewpoint may be a little dated and whimsical, the underlying premise remains.

In summary:

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.