Sunday, April 30, 2006
An irony that Europeans should appreciate is that China and Russia are faithfully upholding one cardinal principle of the international liberal order -- insisting that all international actions be authorized by the U.N. Security Council -- in order to undermine the other principal aim of international liberalism, which is to advance the individual rights of all human beings, sometimes against the governments that oppress them. So while Americans and Europeans have labored over the past two decades to establish new liberal "norms" to permit interventions in places such as Kosovo, Rwanda and Sudan, Russia and China have used their veto power to prevent such an "evolution" of norms. The future is likely to hold more such conflicts.
The world is a complicated place and is not about to divide into a simple Manichean struggle between liberalism and autocracy. Russia and China are not natural allies. Both need access to the markets of the liberal West. And both share interests with the Western liberal powers. But as autocracies they do have important interests in common, both with each other and with other autocracies. All are under siege in an era when liberalism does seem to be expanding. No one should be surprised if, in response, an informal league of dictators has emerged, sustained and protected by Moscow and Beijing as best they can. The question will be what the United States and Europe decide to do in response. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda may not be the only challenge liberalism faces today, or even the greatest.
I have to admit, from what I've read of the management of Enron, that the same thought has occurred to me.
Prosecutors think that CEOs are all-knowing and yet there are plenty of situations on which the top person really doesn't know. The filtering of management information is frequently discussed in business schools but not in law schools.
I plan on seeing it, but will have to get in the right mood, being one of those individuals who cannot remember that day without a certain amount of anger.
The passengers on United 93 were among the first to see the face of Islamo-fascism close up and to take direct action against it. They didn't hold workshops in the back of the plane on whether the people who cut the flight attendant's throat had been traumatized by the Balfour Declaration. They didn't ponder the cultural repercussions of Bay Watch replays in the Arab world. They knew they were in the hands of murderers and resolved to do something about it.
In reference to the German, Japanese, and Italian dictatorships during the Second World War, Winston Churchill asked, "What sort of people do they think we are?" He knew that our enemies then thought we were weak and that we would crumble.
So it is with the new threat. On September 11, 2001, the passengers of United 93 started the process of telling the Islamo-fascists just what sort of people we are.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
That is illustrated in these automatic doors.
Positions can be refilled, but people cannot be replaced. You will find teams and organizations that suffer for years when one person leaves. To deny that is to deny the unique combination of talent and insight that some individuals bring to the job.
A reasonable case can be made that the Second World War would have been lost if Winston Churchill had not been prime minister of Great Britain. The other contender for the position, Lord Halifax, was far more inclined to seek an armistice with Nazi Germany; an act that would have significantly increased Hitler's ability to conquer the Soviet Union. Once in possession of the Soviet Union's resources, Nazi Germany would have had enormous power and the world would have been seriously altered.
Rather than touting poems about replaceable people, we should be emphasizing the importance of the individual.
"We’re like one big happy family." And at home, when times get hard, we toss grandma into the street.
"The customer is always right." Even if the customer is mean, dumb, and unrealistic.
"We always hire the best qualified." And my friends are always the best qualified.
"A diverse workforce is a better workforce." Toyota is the picture of diversity.
"We’re not a melting pot. We’re a salad bowl." Like Beirut and Bosnia.
"None of us is as smart as all of us." That's why mobs are so intelligent.
"Who cares who started it?" Why should we bother with something like fairness?
"There’s no ethical problem. Everybody does it." And there's a magic number that makes things ethical.
"I’ve got a great employee, but he’s got a lousy attitude." People hate him and divert work around him, but his attitude has nothing to do with performance.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Some cops are conducting a mock exercise. Some other officers who aren't in on the original project hear about some suspicious activity, show up, and taser one of the "mock exercise" cops.
A good time will be had by all, including Internal Affairs.
Click here for details.
[HT: www.fark.com ]
Over in Sweden, they've been investigating the Grand Mosque of Stockholm. Apparently, it's the one-stop shop for all your jihad needs: you can buy audio cassettes at the mosque encouraging you to become a martyr and sally forth to kill "the brothers of pigs and apes" -- i.e. Jews. So somebody filed a racial-incitement complaint and the coppers started looking into it, and then Sweden's chancellor of justice, Goran Lambertz, stepped in. And Mr. Lambertz decided to close down the investigation on the grounds that, even though the porcine-sibling stuff is "highly degrading," this kind of chit-chat "should be judged differently -- and therefore be regarded as permissible -- because they were used by one side in an ongoing and far-reaching conflict where calls to arms and insults are part of the everyday climate in the rhetoric that surrounds this conflict."
In other words, if you threaten to kill people often enough, it will be seen as part of your vibrant cultural tradition -- and, by definition, we're all cool with that. Celebrate diversity, etc. Our tolerant multicultural society is so tolerant and multicultural we'll tolerate your intolerant uniculturalism. Your antipathy to diversity is just another form of diversity for us to celebrate.
Read the rest here.
The author's recommendation to base the standard on professionalism is wise. Wandering off into other territory, such as the subject of suggestiveness, can create more problems than it resolves.
Ah, yes. These unusually irritating persons often possess qualities that make them very successful strivers and office politicians. For example:
They know how and when to keep a low profile. They don’t take bold, principled stands that can sink careers or send the virtuous to Siberia. They duck and cover when career-ending decisions are to be made.
They are almost incapable of being embarrassed. They bounce back from setbacks that would send the rest of us to bed for several days. They are willing to be obnoxious until they get what they want. They know the power that comes with caring less.
They drive off their competition. Who wants to work with jerks? Sharp people flee the organizations that tolerate them and consequently abandon the field to the less capable.
They do what is needed and no more. That sounds like a formula for failure but often, that is all that is desired. Achievers can be threats to those who hand out the choice assignments. Weak people choose weak subordinates. Jerks make great lackeys.
They socialize. When there is a company event, they don't scurry home to their families. They’re there nursing drinks and stroking egos until the last boss has departed.
They usually do one thing well. And that one thing can gain them a company-wide, perhaps industry-wide, reputation. Consequently, they may be highly regarded...by people who don’t have to work with them.
They are good old boys or gals. At least to upper management. Their strategy is kiss up and kick down.
They seek comfort, not excellence. If you seek excellence, you tend to promote change, and change has its enemies. Promotions often go to the person who has made the fewest enemies in upper management. And you know who that is.
They let upper management know about their accomplishments. They advertise every minor accomplishment while those schmoes who believe that hard work is its own reward don’t. Guess who has the better public relations program. Other employees may have accomplished far more, but if no one knows about it, how much does it count?
People underestimate them. Some jerks have a bad reputation throughout the organization. They are what the Russians would call a summer fool. They walk in the door and people immediately say, "There is a fool." They are quickly exiled or diminished. The more formidable jerks, however, are winter fools. They have to remove their hats, galoshes, heavy jackets, and sweaters before anyone notices they are fools. Their flaws are sufficiently hidden and they take care not to reveal their true personalities around the top brass.
Co-workers who think the vices are impossible to overlook don’t see what upper management sees. As a result, they underestimate their jerkish rivals and suffer the consequences.
Are the above items unusual? In many organizations, yes. But they are frequent enough that many of you have probably seen such examples in your own careers. The jerks are out there and they aren't stuck in one pay grade.
– Walter Kerr
Thursday, April 27, 2006
The most popular is the kangaroo, an animal most of us normally associate with fine wine.
The theory is the critters indicate that wine can be fun. I suspect it also means that if the wine turns out to be swill, the cover story is: "It was a joke wine anyway. Didn't you see the koala bear on the label?"
Businesspundit is on a roll. Read the rest here.
My take: No one style is best. Adjust to the environment. This sounds glib, but it is simply practical. There is no "one size fits all" style of management.
“This guy gets pulled over on suspicion of a DUI,” she said, “And it turns out that he only speaks Spanish. So the cop radios for a Spanish-speaking colleague. A second officer shows up, reads the driver his rights in Spanish off of a little card that all cops carry, and they administer the breathalyzer test. Sure enough, the guy is soused.
“We figure this case is a slam dunk. But a few weeks later the driver’s lawyer submits a motion to have the results of the breathalyzer voided, saying that the defendant didn’t understand his rights before we gave him the test. And we’re all, like, ‘Nuh-uh! We read him his rights. In Spanish, even.’“But the defense somehow got a copy of the Spanish language card that the officer read from, and noticed that the little squiggle was missing from above an ‘n’ in the sentence: ‘¿Tiene veinteuno años?’ In English that literally translates to ‘Do you have 21 years?’—in other words, this was just a routine question to make sure the guy was an adult. But without the tilde over the ‘n’, the word ‘años’ becomes ‘anos’—Spanish for ‘anuses.’
Read the rest of this sad story here.
So let's start with a few uncomfortable facts. American oil production peaked in 1970. That's right, 1970, 36 years ago. We briefly hit 10 million barrels a day in that year, then started to slide back. It's been downhill ever since. It didn't matter too much because we were only consuming 12 million bbd at that point. But consumption kept rising and before you knew it we were importing 30 percent of our oil. That's what led to the 1973 Arab Oil Boycott.
Since then, American domestic production has declined to 6 million bbd. We've opened up Alaska, discovered the Overthrust Belt, and built billion-dollar platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Still, oil production has never approached its 1970 peak again. Prudhoe Bay started declining in the late 1980s and Gulf production has leveled. Basically, we've got nowhere to go but down.
Meanwhile, consumption has reached 18 million bbd. All those improvements in gas mileage have only prevented consumption from rising faster. Americans now drive 50 percent more miles than we did in 1980. We import 60 percent of our oil and will break 66 percent by the end of the decade.
In this situation, it's comforting to blame American oil companies because it preserves the illusion that they are still mighty enough to do something about it. In fact, the oil companies are nothing more than international pedlars. They buy oil in one place and sell it in another. Oil companies own only about 20 percent of their oil these days. Most of it belongs to the countries where it is found - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, etc. We can shake our fists at them, but what good does it do?
Read the entire article.
An excerpt from the article:
It also helped that Lafley began hammering away at a unifying principle: The “boss” was the consumer, and everything the company did should be oriented toward improving the lives of women and their families around the world. Some CEOs might give lip service to these notions, but Lafley seems to really believe them. When he talks, his comments are peppered with indefinite antecedents—this is how “she” lives and this is what “she” wants. The “she” is the customer. Listeners are just supposed to know what he’s talking about. Lafley’s frequent forays into the homes of consumers also help drive that message through the company better than formal speeches could.
[HT: www.jotzel.com ]
- Jeff Angus, author of Management by Baseball
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
As is noted, this is always a tough decision for employers and the courts have not provided a clear line. I doubt if they ever will.
That doesn't mean that they belch at lunch or can't pick out a decent wine or have never read Dickens. It means they have a passion for the basics of management and leadership that leads them to extraordinary performance.
You can quickly spot the skeptics. They scoff at allegiance to simple concepts such as the Phoenix Fire Department's mission statement (Prevent harm - Survive - Be nice), but when you get past their snickers, you find they ridicule the very qualities that their organizations lack.
If it's so obvious - you feel like shouting - then why aren't you doing it?
Extraordinary managers know how difficult it is to get across a simple program or concept. They know that egos are fragile and schedules are filled and as a result people half-listen or strive to protect turf and preserve comfort. The simple idea is soon restrained by footnotes, caveats, and amendments and many a brilliant beginning has been drastically modified in the field.
A good example is diversity management. At its best, it is a beneficial program. At its worse, it is a zealot's dream. But no one would argue that it is uncomplicated. The sophisticates rush to implement diversity management programs when the much simpler concept of equal opportunity has yet to take root. They bring in corporate anthropologists to discuss the nuances of culture at the same time their first line supervisors are grappling with how to keep Tom from discriminating against Mary.
The great managers know this. As was once said, the young men know the rules and the old men know the exceptions. The great managers know that clarity and reliability are closely related to simplicity and that it is possible to be too clever by half. They avoid complication.
This simplicity produces a direct nature. These managers don't sit behind closed doors trying to figure out what employees want; they ask them. They don't develop a new departmental policy to deal with Maria's misconduct; they talk to Maria. They don't conjure fears of litigation to justify not taking action against jerks; they take no-nonsense steps.
Over the years, I've found that these managers have another characteristic: The employees respect and trust them. That's not surprising because with these folks, what you see is what you get. They don't say Yes and do No. You always know where you stand; unlike the smooth talkers, who can always find an escape clause.
In short, the great managers and leaders still believe in things like honor and loyalty.
You know, all that unsophisticated stuff.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
For example, since a manager or supervisor is not a personal counselor, he or she should not venture into areas that may result in too much information being disclosed.
If it appears that an employee may have a significant personal problem, referring the person to a professional counselor via an employee assistance program can make enormous sense. The problem is addressed and management doesn't need to know the terrible details.
This page from the National Holocaust Memorial Museum contains individual memories. No matter how much one reads about it, it is still a nightmare. In this case, analysis does not bring detachment.
Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to experts who have seen a proposal.
Read the rest of the story here.
[HT: www.althouse.blogspot.com ]
Monday, April 24, 2006
Quality (in resume and letter) + Quantity (in number of contacts) + Interview prep + Interview performance = Eventual job. There are exceptions, but this is the traditional approach.
It can, however, be shortened to:
Quality (in resume) + Quality (of contacts) = Fast job offer.
“You can’t control, you know, what’s done on those things. Things can be taken out of context.”
- Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who says he's quit using e-mail out of concerns over what might become of the messages
Lawyers use them in court. A warehouse used a mannequin as a security guard, which may say something about how often their security guards actually move. Some may even be drawing paychecks. The possibilities are endless.
[HT: www.jotzel.com ]
One of the subjects is complicity - how the Nazis designed a system to make the victims share a sense of guilt and shame - and I'm hard pressed to think of a more evil act. The SS made some Jewish prisoners participate in the killing process and then periodically gassed those crews and replaced them with others.
"Misery loves company" is the old saying, but Levi's analysis suggests that can also be "Guilt loves company." On a far less extreme basis, the peer pressure to do wrong, to join the group in questionable behavior, is frequently seen in workplaces. The person who withstands that pressure may expect attacks for being self-righteous, but what the attacks really mean is the critics are mad because the person has not joined them in their guilt.
Is it any surprise that street gangs often require the putative member to commit a crime as a form of passage to full membership?
You don’t need a life plan. You don’t need motivation,
self-confidence, peer support or even luck. All you need
is the willingness to take the next most obvious step—
then repeat the process again and again, regardless of
how you feel. Try it. Happiness comes from seeing the
results of your efforts. You don’t need it before you start.
The number of people who say that they have worked for a bully sounds high to me, perhaps my own experience has been more benign. (Or possibly I have lower standards!)
The article suggests going to Human Resources. That will work if the boss is not the CEO, but if the head honcho is a jerk, the only recourse is to flee.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
These problems can even arise with good teams as the dynamics change from project to project. Some strategies to head off difficulties are:
- Determine roles and responsibilities early and periodically review them. Although it will make sense for members with relevant skills to handle certain tasks, each team member should receive assignments and should be expected to report on their progress. As the old saying goes, if you can’t skin the bear then at least grab a leg.
- Recognize that roles should change with needs. Rather than setting the responsibilities for all tasks at the beginning, it may make sense to determine responsibilities for later tasks at a later date. A task leader in the early stage may shift to a more supportive role later on and one of the team support members may assume leadership, all simply because skills must be matched with responsibility.
- Tie down specific responsibilities. Exactly who is doing precisely what by which specific date. Beware of vague assignments. They have a habit of not getting done.
- Establish team ground rules to determine how conflict should be handled. Some basic rules: No factions. No back-biting. No sulking or declaring war. If there is a disagreement, team members will try to resolve it one-on-one and, if that is not successful or possible, then it will be brought – without prior lobbying – to the rest of the team.
- Set team values. Team members don’t hoard information. They don't ambush one another at meetings. They don’t let other team members fail. They return calls and answer email. They keep their minds open to alternative approaches. [When opinions are solicited, everyone contributes and declares a position. No one "passes" and then attacks the team's actions later.] They are courteous at all times. They criticize performance, not people. They take initiative. They always put mission over turf. They are solution and not blame-oriented.
- Create a “dashboard report” that will feature key elements of progress. Set “red zones” for each area so the team will know if actions are seriously behind their target dates.
- Circulate progress reports on a frequent basis. People get distracted by other duties. They forget things. The progress reports and the red zones can nudge them back on track.
- Watch out for fatigue. Standards and performance can easily slip when people get tired. Schedule rest breaks and be sensitive to the demands of family.
- Celebrate progress. Don’t just keep raising the bar. Take some time to reward the team for success. Make the team, not individual members, the star.
Teams require attention. Maintaining a team is not like launching a rocket. You can’t just set the coordinates at the beginning and then all else will automatically follow. Teams need to be monitored, repaired, and recalibrated. In an ideal world, you might not have to do that, but if you don’t carefully watch your team, you’ll wind up in a jungle.
We are entering a well-armed world, with more players than ever who can unhinge the international system and who have fewer reasons to be afraid of us. That's why a resentful state leader, armed with disruptive technologies and ready to make use of stateless terrorists, poses such a threat. Hussein was a wannabe in this regard. According to a Joint Forces Command study, parts of which appeared in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, he was preparing thousands of paramilitary fighters from throughout the Arab world to defend his regime and to be used for terror attacks in the West. Looking ahead, Ahmadinejad would also be a prime candidate for such tactics, as would Chavez, given his oil wealth and the elusive links between South American narco-terrorists and Arab gangs working out of Venezuelan ports.
We face a world of unfriendly regimes, even as our European allies are compromised by burgeoning Muslim populations and the Russians and Chinese deal amicably with dictators, because they have no interest in a state's moral improvement. Never before have we needed a more unified military-diplomatic approach to foreign policy. For the future is a multidimensional game of containment.
[HT: www.realclearpolitics.com ]
But a lawsuit culture still corrodes daily relations throughout society. Doctors practice defensive medicine to ward off patient lawsuits and hesitate to intercede against inept colleagues, fearful of years of litigation. Businesses won’t give job references. Teachers have lost control of the classroom—78 percent of middle and high school teachers surveyed recently reported that students had threatened them with lawsuits for violating their rights. Distrust of justice may be at a new low: only 16 percent of Americans said that they would trust the justice system if someone brought a baseless claim against them.
Hardest hit are activities that are optional. Fun, for example, is fraught with fear. Schools ban dodgeball and tag. Jungle gyms, diving boards, and seesaws seem relics of some past civilization. Meanwhile our children, rescued from the risks of roughhousing and accident, suffer from the far greater risk of obesity, now at epidemic proportions.
A hidden casualty in the coffee wars has been a Colombian coffee farmer named Juan Valdez. Perhaps the world's best-known bean grower, he existed only in ads and was the fictional spokesman for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. The group created him to promote its beans in grocery stores -- contending that they tasted better than other grocery store coffee -- and thus secure a premium price from retailers. The Federation even persuaded some retailers to put its logo -- a drawing of Juan and his mule -- on containers of coffee.
The Federation's beans "were among the first grocery-store brands that said, 'We have higher quality,'" notes marketing professor Patti Williams. "And they had remarkably high recognition for Juan Valdez as a character. A tiny little organization developed this brand icon." But the coffee-house revolution eroded the federation's gains. Marketing by Starbucks and regional chains advanced the notion that the best coffee comes from freshly roasted and ground beans, and few grocers offer that. "Now all grocery-store coffee is viewed as bad," Williams adds.
Valdez is fighting back. He, too, has become a "barista" -- an Italian term that many coffee houses use to refer to their espresso makers. The Federation has launched Juan Valdez cafes in New York, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. The Seattle store held its grand opening April 16 and is near Starbucks' original location. But Juan Esteban Orduz, the Federation's president, told The Seattle Times that the cafes don't aim to take on the coffee-brewing behemoth. They are intended to serve, in effect, like "billboards," he says, publicizing high-quality Colombian coffee to a new generation of coffee drinkers.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Read the rest here.
[HT: www.instapundit.com ]
One mistake Westerners frequently make about China is to assume that the government is furtive about its censorship. On the contrary, the party is quite matter of fact about it — proud, even. One American businessman who would speak only anonymously told me the story of attending an award ceremony last year held by the Internet Society of China for Internet firms, including the major Internet service providers. "I'm sitting there in the audience for this thing," he recounted, "and they say, 'And now it's time to award our annual Self-Discipline Awards!' And they gave 10 companies an award. They gave them a plaque. They shook hands. The minister was there; he took his picture with each guy. It was basically like Excellence in Self-Censorship — and everybody in the audience is, like, clapping." Internet censorship in China, this businessman explained, is presented as a benevolent police function. In January, the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau created two cuddly little anime-style cartoon "Internet Police" mascots named "Jingjing" and "Chacha"; each cybercop has a blog and a chat window where Chinese citizens can talk to them. As a Shenzhen official candidly told The Beijing Youth Daily, "The main function of Jingjing and Chacha is to intimidate." The article went on to explain that the characters are there "to publicly remind all Netizens to be conscious of safe and healthy use of the Internet, self-regulate their online behavior and maintain harmonious Internet order together."
The list of our ancestors' fossils showing evidence of predation continues to grow. A 1.75-million-year-old hominid skull unearthed in the Republic of Georgia shows punctures from the fangs of a saber-toothed cat. Another skull, about 900,000 years old, found in Kenya, exhibits carnivore bite marks on the brow ridge. A six-million-year-old hominid, also found in Kenya, may well have been killed by a leopard. A fragment of a 1.6-million-year-old hominid skull was found in the den of an extinct hyena, in Spain. A cranium from 250,000 years ago, discovered in South Africa in 1935, has a depression on the forehead caused by a hyena's tooth. Those and other fossils provide rock-hard proof that a host of large, fierce animals preyed on human ancestors.
It is equally clear that, outside the West, no small amount of predation occurs today on modern humans. Although we are not likely to see these facts in American newspaper headlines, each year 3,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa are eaten by crocodiles, and 1,500 Tibetans are killed by bears about the size of grizzlies. In one Indian state between 1988 and 1998, over 200 people were attacked by leopards; 612 people were killed by tigers in the Sundarbans delta of India and Bangladesh between 1975 and 1985. The carnivore zoologist Hans Kruuk, of the University of Aberdeen, studied death records in Eastern Europe and concluded that wolf predation on humans is still a fact of life in the region, as it was until the 19th century in Western European countries like France and Holland.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]
Friday, April 21, 2006
As a fifth-generation Californian, I deeply love this state, but still imagine what the reaction would be if the world awoke each morning to be told that once again there were six more murders, 27 rapes, 38 arsons, 180 robberies, and 360 instances of assault in California—yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day. I wonder if the headlines would scream about “Nearly 200 poor Californians butchered again this month!”
Iraq’s judicial system seems a mess. On the eve of the war, Saddam let out 100,000 inmates from his vast prison archipelago. He himself still sits in the dock months after his trial began. But imagine an Iraq with a penal system like California’s with 170,000 criminals—an inmate population larger than those of Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Singapore combined.
Just to house such a shadow population costs our state nearly $7 billion a year—or about the same price of keeping 40,000 Army personnel per year in Iraq. What would be the image of our Golden State if we were reminded each morning, “Another $20 million spent today on housing our criminals!”
Much is made of the inability to patrol Iraq’s borders with Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. But California has only a single border with a foreign nation, not six. Yet over 3 million foreigners who snuck in illegally now live in our state. Worse, there are about 15,000 convicted alien felons incarcerated in our penal system, costing about $500 million a year. Imagine the potential tabloid headlines: “Illegal aliens in state comprise population larger than San Francisco!” or “Drugs, criminals, and smugglers given free pass into California!”
Every year, over 4,000 Californians die in car crashes—nearly twice the number of Americans lost so far in three years of combat operations in Iraq. In some sense, then, our badly maintained roads, and often poorly trained and sometimes intoxicated drivers, are even more lethal than Improvised Explosive Devices. Perhaps tomorrow’s headline might scream out at us: “300 Californians to perish this month on state highways! Hundreds more will be maimed and crippled!”
I'll tell you why: Many of the programs are padded. They take too long to complete. They require a bunch of stuff that is truly unnecessary. People catch on to that and think, "Hmm. On second thought, a masters degree may be just fine."
Have you ever considered why college classes miraculously take approximately the same amount of time to complete? It is because artificial start and end dates are imposed, not because it takes that long to teach the material. If they followed the latter criterion, some subjects could be taught in three weeks.
This is a time sensitive culture and the PhD programs operate as if we were in the 19th century.
[HT: www.crankyprofessor.com ]
Defendant Stryker Medical Division set a trap for the unwary when it hired Plaintiff Timothy R. Conway. The name of the trap was a six-month limitation on any claim brought under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"). Plaintiff nominally agreed to the trap when he signed a form application for employment complete with legal language promising that he had read it (though of course, no production worker would ever attempt to negotiate form language, which is offered on a take it or leave it basis and which is why workers pay little attention to such forms). When Plaintiff was discharged by Defendant, he consulted with Plaintiff' s attorney who filed suit on his behalf after the expiration of the six-month period, but well before the expiration of the statutory limitation period. The trap has now been sprung by Defendant's filing of a Motion for Summary Judgment premised on the artificial limitation period. The Court is no party to the unconscionable limitation on FMLA claims and now holds it to be unenforceable under the terms of FMLA and as a matter of public policy.
There was only one problem: It scared management. They were afraid that the center would harm the chain of command as in "If employees don't know something, they should ask their supervisors!" When the center received several hundred calls a day, the center was disbanded.
Taken from the standpoint of control, management's behavior was completely rational. Permitting employees to gain access to other opinions means they might encounter some advice that you don't entirely endorse.
Taken from the standpoint of good management, the decision was ridiculous. Employees don't exist in an isolation chamber. Every day, they get other perspectives from newspapers and magazines and even from blogs. They get them from seminars and management books. If management is so insecure that its supervisors can't cope with an employee who brings in a new viewpoint, then the organization has much deeper problems than an advisory center.
The idea that employees should bring their questions to supervisors or HR departments reflects an ideal. Even in a trusting relationship, employees may be reluctant to run questions by the boss out of fear that they may appear to be an idiot or a pest. Taking a problem to HR can be even more intimidating. The biggest danger for organizations is not that the employee may surface a matter with an outsider. The biggest problem is that the matter won't get surfaced at all and that eventually it will explode.
Some management teams, however, seem to prefer that, possibly because the blame then is centered on the employee and not on them.
Letting people get other opinions though, wow, that's dangerous.
Employers who require that employees share rooms on business trips.
It's bad enough that you have to travel on business. Security checks, jet lag, lost luggage, cramped airplanes, disrupted exercise routines, and distance from loved ones are part of many a trip.
The hotel room, however humble, becomes a sanctuary; a decompression zone. Forcing employees to share rooms destroys that one area of peace. It's the worse business idea since the cubicle.
[HT: www.employerslawyer.blogspot.com ]
Consider this example:
You have a friend who is an HR director and your spouse is looking for a job.
- Is it unethical to talk to the person about your spouse's job search?
- Would it make a difference if the person is the HR director for a governmental organization that has strict rules regarding selection?
- If your answer is that there should be no mention, why should your friendship with the HR director make you less able to discuss your spouse's job search than could a person who is a stranger?
- By not talking to your friend about the job search, have you engaged in a form of unilateral disarmament in a world in which most people pull strings?
- If you applied for a job with that organization and you learned that another person may have edged you out for the slot because that person had personal ties to the HR director, would you feel that the selection was ethically sound?
- Is the "Everybody does it?" defense acceptable in this case, or in any other for that matter?
I'm still thinking about this one.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
We have a conspiracy against assimilation. One side would offend and ostracize much of the Hispanic community. The other would encourage mounting social and economic costs. Either way we get a more polarized society.
On immigration, I am an optimist. We are basically a decent, open and tolerant nation. Americans respect hard work and achievement. That's why assimilation has ultimately triumphed. But I am not a foolish optimist. Assimilation requires time and the right conditions. It cannot succeed if we constantly flood the country with new, poor immigrants or embark on a vendetta against those already here.
Every significant project, in any organization, will be late, over budget or riddled with defects, blockages and unexpected mistakes—probably all of these. The more people rush at the last moment, or add extra members to the team who have no idea what's gone on before, the more mistakes, setbacks and snafus they'll create. Initial project time scales and budgets should be treated as no more than guesses fueled by over-optimism and ignorance. Whatever the deadline and estimated cost, mentally double it. Then don't get excited until you've passed that figure. Life is uncertain and Murphy's Law is found everywhere.
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.
Read it all here.
That's Theodore Dalrymple writing on crime and wimpish prison sentences in Great Britain.
Must reading. Click here for the entire article.
[HT: www.lileks.com ]
It is described on the bottle as a "carbonated fusion beverage." That should have been sufficient warning. Can you ever imagine yourself saying, "I'm in the mood for a carbonated fusion beverage?" I think Bruce Dern drank a carbonated fusion beverage in Silent Running. A coffee-flavored soft drink is not a bad idea, but this tastes less like coffee and more like some weird fruit juice.
In all fairness, I should note that a co-worker likes it.
[An alternative? Jolt Cola is making a comeback. Now that's a caffeine addict's drink!]
He wonders why though, if the printer is past the warranty, they won't help him over the phone.
Good question. It's understandable if they don't repair a product when the warranty has expired, but shouldn't a company always be willing to advise the customer on the use of the product?
They appear to be regular household and food products, but aren't. [Just make sure no one decides to clean out the refrigerator when you're not around.]
[HT: www.neatorama.com ]
Do some leaders fail to do this because they are afraid of appearing hokey or less than cool? Whatever the reason, they miss the passion of life and the hope of everyone, from the ditchdigger on up, to have meaning.
Mary Kay, the cosmetics legend, once said that everyone has a sign on her head that reads: "Make me feel important." Wayne Leonard understands that.
In my consulting practice, I've seen more problems in the opposite direction: the former associates who don't cut their former peer/now boss a break. Any assertion of authority is described as being drunk with power. Training programs need to include workshops on followership as well as leadership.
Naturally, being young and convinced that old people had no stories of interest, I failed to discuss it with him.
Are your parents or grandparents still alive? If you don't record or videotape some conversations with them, some day you'll regret it. In my own case, I could have talked to a man who'd ridden the rails as a hobo and had been a vegetable peddler, a laborer, a mailman, and a cotton farmer. I could have questioned a man who'd known people who'd fought in the Civil War and who lived in the South in the wake of that conflict.
But no. I was too busy. What's your excuse?
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Real action has reasonable chances of achieving results. Fake action has little or no chance of producing results; its main concern is establishing an alibi.
When have you seen fake action? Whenever you've been subjected to the following representative but hardly all-inclusive list:
- A supervisor who doesn't confront the problem employee but instead chooses to send a policy reminder memo to everyone in the office.
- A manager who calls a staff meeting to address a problem that may arise every five years, if then.
- An executive who reorganizes reporting relationships every four months.
- An executive who falls for every "flavor of the month" management theory while ignoring the basics of good management.
- The CEO who pushes glitzy projects at the expense of more substantive, but more difficult, approaches.
If you want to test whether or not an item is real or fake, just ask yourself, "Does this action have a reasonable expectation of success or is it: (a) a simple ego boost or; (b) an act of desperation; or (c) a means of conflict avoidance?"