March 12, 2012

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Eisenhower on planning

(photo: FEMA Mgt. Institute)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
(Dwight Eisenhower)

All too often as executive teams attempt to develop visions of the future and define strategic plans for growth and profitability, they descend into arguments focused on differing predictions about the economy, or technology, or the workforce.

Or they become distracted by “bright shiny objects” like powerful new technologies (driverless cars, voice recognition, holographic distributed meetings – you know what I mean) that may be fascinating but usually have little to do with their own business.

Like so many other areas of organizational leadership, developing new kinds of conversations and new forms of inquiry about the future are critical components of organizational leadership.

Historically, strategic planning was all about focusing an organization’s attention on a particular marketplace and ensuring that it had the operational capabilities to compete effectively in that market segment. And today most strategic plans continue to make explicit assumptions about future trends, estimated probabilities, and include educated guesses about what’s going to happen.

However, in today’s highly volatile and unpredictable world, assuming any kind of predictability in the marketplace can be fatal. Traditional strategic planning is worse than useless when dealing with the uncertainties of today’s economy. Indeed, I believe that traditional thinking about the future, as if it were actually singular, and knowable, is downright dangerous. [click to continue…]

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Imagine this: you are the head of workplace services for a large high-tech firm that has just been acquired by Google (that’s the good news).

Here’s the tough part: you are responsible for a major suburban campus facility that houses about 2,000 employees and you’ve just been told that your immediate task is to build out several floors of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago to replace that suburban campus – and to persuade that entire workforce to begin spending about 90 minutes every morning and evening commuting between their homes and downtown.

As Stephen Monaco, Head of Global Real Estate and Workplace Experience for Motorola Mobility, described his experience carrying out that assignment, he began by observing: [click to continue…]

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Listen for Meaning

October 6, 2014

Try this exerciseEyes sometime: When you are with a friend, stare into his or her eyes for a full minute (while he/she is staring back at you). This isn’t about flirting, or hypnosis.

No, it’s just about appreciating that you are looking at something completely unique (and so is your partner).

No one else in the world has the eyes you have just been looking at; in fact, a retinal scan is a more accurate way of identifying an individual than a fingerprint – almost as accurate (and a whole lot easier) than a DNA sample.

Each of us also possesses a unique brain – a three-pound mass of cells that contains over 100 billion neurons that are linked by over 100 trillion synapses – the pathways that create our memories and serve as the filters that generate the emotional meanings accompanying each of those memories.

(See my June 30, 2014, article “There is Only One of You” for a more complete discussion about the incredible carbon-based networks and processing engines that live between our ears).

But it’s not just biology that makes you unique; it’s also your experiences, your core assumptions, and your personal collection of talents, interests, and perspectives. And if we add in age, gender, and ethnic/cultural differences, there is no question that every single one of us is unlike any other human being in all of history. [click to continue…]

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BizMeeting 000018482966XSmallHow often have you walked into a corporate meeting wondering why you were there? Or walked out angrily after wasting an hour getting absolutely nothing done?

As a good friend said recently, “Meetings are the bane of our existence.” And if you want to generate universal consensus, just make a comment about how horrible most meetings are.

What’s going on? In my experience there are two major shortcomings in the way most meetings are handled. And I’ve developed a four-question checklist to help me and my clients turn meetings into productive, energizing experiences.

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Date: 9 October

Venue: 221 Main Street, San Francisco, in the heart of SoMa

40% of all Americans between 18 and 36 prefer an urban setting; how will this impact the Future of Work? Find out at WORKTECH14 West Coast.

WORKTECH will be heading to San Francisco once again, with another insightful Future of Work conference. On 9th October 2014, we will gather at SOMA, 221 Main Street to focus on the alignment of business strategy and the workplace, and hear from renowned international and local thought leaders.

Breaking News:

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Every Big Change Starts Small

September 22, 2014

ideas

“I kept complaining ‘Somebody should do something about that,’ and then I realized I am Somebody.” – Anonymous 

I don’t know where I first heard that statement about taking personal responsibility for making the future happen, but it was on my mind frequently last week while I was attending World Workplace 2014 in New Orleans.

I enjoyed seeing and working with many long-term friends and colleagues, and experiencing the many wonderful sights and sounds of Bourbon Street and other less-well-known spots in New Orleans.

But while I lapped up the culinary treats, it was the food for thought that made the week worthwhile.

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Telling isn’t Teaching

September 15, 2014

A lecture is a process in which the notes of the professor become the notes of the student – without passing through the minds of either one.

– Immanuel Kant

ceo speaker

The most energizing experience I ever had as a teacher was many years ago at an IBM customer executive seminar, held at IBM’s development center in the bucolic hills near the Hudson River about 30 miles north of New York City. It was part of a five-day program called “The President’s Class.”

The course was designed to expose senior IT executives to the kinds of issues their presidents faced. IBM brought in a different Harvard professor each day to cover a single topic – marketing, finance, operations, HR, government relations, and so on. Each time we taught the course there were about 40 IBM customer executives and an equal number of IBM sales personnel in attendance.

My topic that day was leading large-scale organizational change. I taught two 90-minute classes in the morning, using Harvard Business School case studies. The well-known HBS “method” was to engage the class participants in an open, wide-ranging conversation about the decisions facing the protagonists in the case story.

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Bring Out the Blue Chairs

September 8, 2014

Conference RoomPlace matters. Last week I focused on the way most of us knowledge workers are moving around from one workplace to another, finding “the place just right” for getting our work done.

Sometimes we need a quiet place, sometimes we want to engage with colleagues in an informal lounge-like area, while other times we attend meetings with either focused group decision-making or open-ended brainstorming agendas. Each of those activities works best in a different physical setting.

Okay, that makes sense. But how does the design of the workspace affect your mood, your creativity, your ability to concentrate? More importantly, how does place impact conversation? And how does a change of place change a conversation?

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That’s the title of my article that was just published on Huffington Post – my first submission and first acceptance.

I’m very proud of that accomplishment, but what matters is that you read my analysis of why management is so broken, and what we should be doing to replace it.

Here’s the link to the post: Don’t Fix Management; Replace It.

Please read it, and then comment there, or comment here – but don’t just read it and forget it. Act on it!

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