Category Archives: Management

The Dark Side of Process Efficiency (Part 2)

New Orleans MintI’m an efficiency expert.  My raison d’etre is to make businesses run better, faster, cheaper.  I love the work, which is challenging and rewarding, in more ways than one.  But in recent years, I see a darker side to what I do.

Efficiency increases the divide between employees who are capable of innovation and those who merely follow instructions.  In an earlier post, I mentioned three examples of how automation is taking away jobs, faster than any of us ever imagined, and in a wider variety of professions and industries.

At the present time, the easiest tasks to automate are the ones that don’t require the ability to think on your feet, or reason out problems, or innovate.  We’ve heard before that the drive toward automation and efficiency is increasing the divide between the educated and uneducated workforce.  The thought is that there are going to be fewer jobs in the middle income strata. Continue reading

The Importance of Influencing Peers

Wrong Way SignAt one time, Stephen King decided to stop selling a relatively popular book called “Rage”.  The novel was the first book published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman, and was written decades ago.   It’s the story of an angry teenager who shoots teachers and holds classmates hostage.

For a while after the book was published, King defended his story, saying that it did not cause anyone to go off the deep end.  Over time, however, the book was found in the belongings of four perpetrators of school shootings, and around 1997, King allowed the book to fall out of publication and apparently asked publishers to remove existing copies from sale.  A few years after that, many applauded his decision, although others thought he should have stood up for the rights of the artist.

This isn’t the only story of how people use their influence to create a better world. Continue reading

Stop Apologizing… It’s Bad for Your Career

Sorry Playing PieceA few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that she is training herself to stop saying, “I’m sorry” at work. At first, this seemed ludicrous to me, now it seems like genius. Business people, most particularly businesswomen need to get out of the habit of apologizing. As a good girl, who prides herself on being “raised right”, this feels a little callous and rude, but there’s an important lesson here. Continue reading

It’s Okay That the Corporation Has No Soul…

Man Facing the SunIt’s a well known maxim – “the corporation has no soul”.  I believe that with my whole heart.  People have souls, enterprises don’t.  Sometimes, the culture of an organization allows the collective souls of its employees to set a shining example, but those efforts are still led by feeling, thinking humans.

There are lots of reasons for business to exist, but the overwhelming and primary reason is to make money.  And… if a corporation focuses on that goal without wavering, they will do a lot of good along the way.

Most of us understand the basics of the enterprise.  Every business in the world – from Campbell to Planters – has followed one script… Continue reading

How to Justify Your Sustainability Program

Rooftop GardenI’m regularly surprised by questions about how to justify a sustainability program.  It’s an easy answer.  It takes time and money to run a sustainability initiative and you justify it in the same way you justify ANY company expense.

Business “value” is quantified in just a few ways.  Revenue and current cost savings are considered hard value.  Productivity gains and cost avoidance are soft value.  Goodwill and reputation value are even softer still.

Hard Value.  Discussions of hard value are easy.  Continue reading

RadioShack is Going Down

RadioShack in MallJust yesterday, I noticed the stock price of RadioShack.  It was no surprise.  This company has been sliding down a slippery slope for a decade.  But they didn’t have to…

I’m a ’70s kid.  I grew up in a small town, with a small mall.  We had some bigger anchor stores, but the place to be if you were a smart kid, was the RadioShack that sat right in the middle of the mall.  I’ve already written about my first job.  My second job was this… I arrived for my teenage summer job at the family business.  My dad pointed to some boxes in the corner and said, “There’s your job.”

“Unpacking boxes?” I asked. Continue reading

Describe Your First Job… A Great Interview Question

Lemonade StandYesterday, I saw a great post on an HR site, suggesting an out-of-the-box interview question.  Frankly, these are sometimes a dime-a-dozen, but I really like this as a good interview opener:  “Tell me about your first paying job and what you learned from it.”

My first job, at the age of 14, was on a land surveying crew. My dad owned the business and there was only one job available (my older sister was already working in the office, at the reception desk).  It was hot, sweaty, dirty and definitely not the job that a teenage girl dreams of.

What did I learn at that job?   Continue reading

When a “Casual Comment” is Anything But

Stacked WoodLet’s say you’ve recently become a manager.  No doubt, you’re happy with your achievement.  You have a lot more authority to make decisions and to influence others.  Has it occurred to you yet that there could be a downside to your authority?

Kerry Patterson, in the VitalSmarts newsletter, has written an excellent cautionary tale he calls “the captain’s fireplace”.  You can read the original story for yourself, but here’s a quick summary…  The captain of a military base notices some scrap wood in a dumpster and calls to make sure no one else wants it before he grabs some for his fireplace.

The ensign he talks to offers to find out about the scrap wood and calls the chief of supply to make sure it’s okay.  The warrant officer makes a call, and so on, until the captain’s wife eventually calls to thank them for the wood.   Outside in the supply yard, people are grumbling about how they had to cut brand new boards to fit the captain’s fireplace, when they couldn’t afford other vital supplies.

What happened? Continue reading

How Process Simplicity Could Reinvent Late-Night Television

Netflix Late Night June 2014

Finally, the first woman has landed a late night comedy talk show on a major network.    So, is it CBS? ABC?   Comedy Central?  No, it’s Netflix.

On Thursday, Netflix announced that they would be “reimagining the late night talk show for the on-demand generation,” with an offering by Chelsea Handler.  The show won’t start until 2016, and some industry watchers have pondered the technical difficulty Netflix will face in broadcasting a same-day show.

Ridiculous… Netlfix has two years to solve a technical issue that has already been solved.  There are two technical processes in play here, both of which already exist.  For decades, traditional networks have been taping in the afternoon, to broadcast their late-night talk offerings in the evening.   For several years, Netlfix has been turning “canned” content into streaming content.

All they have to do now is stitch the two processes together… And speed up the resulting process so that it can take place in a few hours, instead of several days. Continue reading

Bully Me Not: A Second Take on Amazon, Hachette & The Rest of Us

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today’s blog at The New York Times mentions that Stephen Colbert has joined the dog pile of voices condemning Amazon.  The dispute started when – during negotiations to give Hachette Book Group a bigger percentage of ebook revenue – Amazon started to intentionally limit the availability and sale of books published by Hachette.

The other day, I posted about this, remarking that the bigger problem isn’t how Amazon is addressing Hachette, but how book publishers in general take too big a slice of the profits from ebooks, much of which I believe should go to authors.

I’ll admit, I have an overdeveloped sense of fairness.  Continue reading