business category archives

A great discussion of systems thinking by Fred Kofman, which ties into much of what the folks in the Theory of Constraints camp talk about. In the first minute, he says several times some version of, "To optimize the overall system, you must sub-optimize the subsystems."
I read the 20-year-old Raving Fans recently. It has some great ideas that help people think about how to grow and develop your business. The key is to turn your customers into raving fans.
Are successes because of the design or despite the design? What about failures?
John Kotter's A Sense of Urgency is completely focused on the first of his eight step change model. The book describes the basic problem (too much complacency and false urgency; not enough urgency), describes a high level strategy to create urgency, and gives four tactics to help increase urgency.
I've known for a long time that the questions one asks - or the way those questions are framed - elicit very different responses. I learned more about this in "The Art of Powerful Questions (catalyzing insight, innovation, and action) by Eric E Vogt, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs (published 2003).
Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to see a blog-friend, Martin Röll, who has been visiting Boston and the US on business. The specific meeting point was an introductory session on the Art of Hosting conversations that matter.
Why do businesses exist? What is their purpose? Can we identify just one thing? Steve Denning talks about Milton Friedman's statement that the sole purpose of corporations is to make money for its shareholders. The short form is that Friedman based his article on flawed logic.
Inspired by Oscar Berg thinking on experts: "Being an expert is not about knowing everything within a certain domain. It is about being able to ask the right questions, and having the skills and network to find the answers."
It seems obvious to say some of these things, but not everyone knows how to use email better. Here are some basic hints.
A nice reference source of Drucker thinking from the Process Excellence Network. "Making Knowledge Workers More Productive: Insights from the Works of Peter F. Drucker"
The idea of standard work applies to the management of knowledge work, rather than to the specifics of the work.
I am on holiday in Montreal, but the Canadian National Post has a research report in their productive conversations series on Revisiting workforce engagement by Ofelia Isabel. This is based on a Towers Watson study of engagement. I thought that at least Luis Suarez would be interested. Their basic framework expands...
Throughput Accounting is an important decision-making topic in the Theory of Constraints community, but it doesn't get much play beyond TOC. One of the key aspects revolves around the idea of cost allocations. Here is my attempt to explain it.
A recent HBR Blog Network article by Susan David asks "Is Busyness Bad for Business?" and the answer isn't completely as expected. Be smart. And I suggest we need to do a better job of SEEING what is going on.
One "purpose of management" is to help people get their work done. And in today's environment, that is all about working together. And working together requires that we know one another. Here are some of my thoughts inspired by an article proposing tips to create a collaborative culture.
I recently finished an interesting set of books that seemed to share a theme. Or at least a thread of the familiar: Betterness by Umair Haque; The Elastic Enterprise by Nicholas Vitalari and Haydn Shaughnessy; Abundance by Peter H Diamandis and Steven Kotler; and At Home by Bill Bryson.
I've run across some quotes today that tie in with a recent thread of thinking on the idea of "being scientific" and using evidence as the basis of decisions and testing your hypotheses.
Wasting time is such a 20th Century mindset. Why not give people the time and resources they need to accomplish interesting work, and then measure them on results instead?
Todd Williams and Gamestorming re-introduced me to the idea of diverging and converging when it comes to coming up with ideas - either for brainstorming or more mundane things like meeting planning.
I picked up and breezed through the e-book version of Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson's "Race Against the Machine." It is a quick and informative read about the current state of the economy and where it might be going.
This is exactly the reason that high-level support for collaboration and collaboration technologies is still so critical. I hear these comments almost every time I bring up the idea of social media within the organization.
Context matters. I've said this for years. And now, Sam Sommers has a new book out that says the same thing. Plus a video introduction.
Interesting set of executive "habits" associated with failures from Sydney Finkelstein - originally published eight years ago. I like the "lack of respect" early warning sign.
James Slavet has an interesting set of "Five New Management Metrics You Need To Know" on the Forbes technology blog. Rather than look specifically at throughput, he suggests some internal metrics that might be leading indicators.
Follow the cash. Other accounting practices don't help with decision-making.
Another take on defining problems the right way, motivated by a David Allen newsletter article.
A Goldratt discussion on TOC for startups reminds me of the importance of subordination and synchronization.
A great paper from 1988 by Jonathan Grudin reminds us to pay attention to all the points of view when brining new technologies to bear in an organization.
Some thoughts about Systems Thinking resources from my perspective from Theory of Constraints and other experiences.
New tools and technology are fun and all, but once you get beyond the experimenting stage, please decide how you are going to use that shiny new tool to do the things you need to do.
Engaged employees are happy employees. Happy employees lead to their advocating for you in the wider world. Go for it!
Following on the heels of my previous post, I have just listened to a couple podcasts that feature a similar idea: HBR Ideacast and Manager Tools.
There are a number of ideas floating around out there that suggest management are one of the biggest areas for improvement in business. Here are a couple examples and some thoughts on why this is and how to start solving. There is much more to do than what I've written here, but I think this is a start.
I was asked today, "If you were to blog about this, what would you say?" Interesting observation that I tend to be more eloquent on my blog than I was on the phone. Of course, I usually don't write so directly about what is happening between my ears.
I came across this short piece by Joy Goltz in the NY Times, Why Cash Is NOT King. And I couldn't help think of the connection to one of the core tenets of Theory of Constraints thinking and consulting practice.
This may be familiar to those who are familiar with SPIN Selling or related concepts, but I see it showing up over and over again. Sellers (taken broadly) focus on features and techniques, and then they are disappointed / upset that customers don't find these things interesting. Or worse, customers reject the effort entirely.
I've talked about complexity vs. complicated and simplicity before. It all depends on your point of view, and this Eric Berlow TED talk (3 minutes) highlights that beautifully. If you can take a different view on your situation, you can often take something that seems overwhelming and home in on the areas that can really influence the question at hand.
I read SPIN Selling for the first time and enjoyed it. SPIN is about asking questions to understand the Situation, Problem, Implications, and Needs-Payoff of your customers / clients. It's about creating buy-in by connecting to explicit needs of and benefits to the customer.
Kevin C Desouza has a nice categorization of management consultant roles in "What kind of a management consultant are you?." I fit his category as a doctor.
I stumbled upon this story from the University of Texas' McCombs School of Business, describing a class that took an interesting set of field trips along a supply chain from Austin, TX to China.
The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared." This idea shows up again and again in life and business. For some reason, I pick up on it right away when I am reading something new or hearing new ideas about how to organize or plan or get something done. It's usually in the form of "to succeed at _____, you must be prepared."
Tim Kastelle has a nice piece on "The Problem with Metrics." There is a lot to the story of metrics and measures, but the key is to measure the right things. And more importantly, stop measuring the wrong things - those measures will drive the wrong behaviors.
One of the fun things about knowledge work is that it is flexible and often there are many ways to solve a problem. But one of the key things that you need to know is where you want to be when you are done.
A couple of podcasts on giving feedback provided some common advice and some conflicting advice. Interesting. The key though: feedback is supposed to help change behavior.
The recent American Management Association "Leader's Edge" newsletter contained an article by Rick Maurer on change management - or failures in change management, Why So Many Changes Fail-and What You Can Do About It. Given that I've been reading a bunch on the topic recently, the article struck me.
Ram Charan gave the keynote talk at Project Flow 2010 today. His theme is related to his research and writing on the topic of Execution and driving performance in companies. His suggestion to the attendees was fairly simple: align yourself to the issues that the CEO faces, and you will be able to help both yourself and the company.
My brief review of John Kotter's "The Heart of Change." Throughout the book, Kotter emphasizes two things - moreso than in Leading Change. One, leading change is all about changing people's behavior. And two, the path through all the stories is about "See, Feel, Change."
Many people have passed around this hilarious video from a company talent show of an all-too-real spoof of a conference call, including the "bloop bloops" of people arriving (late) and a dog barking in the background and someone typing too aggressively. But how do you make these things better?
John Kotter's Leading Change has been sitting on my should-read list for quite a while, particularly since my association with the MS-LOC program at Northwestern. It's also come up a number of times on a Theory of Constraints mailing list as a must read to get a better understanding of why change implementations get stuck and what to do about it.
Thanks to Harold Jarche, we have a fun meme for people who are into social media. Let's counter those "10 top reasons to ban social media in the organization."

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