Saturday, March 31, 2007
Somewhere along the way that disconnect began to gnaw at Schultz. Most recently it manifested itself in a note he wrote to his senior team. The Valentine's Day memo, which leaked to the Web, cut to the heart of what he sees as the company's dilemma. "We have had to make a series of decisions," Schultz wrote, "that, in retrospect, have led to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and what some might call the commoditization of our brand."
Now, Schultz is asking his lieutenants to redouble their efforts to return to their roots. "We're constantly—I don't want to say battling—but we don't want to be that big company that's corporate and slick," says Michelle Gass, senior vice-president and chief merchant for global products. "We don't. We still think about ourselves as a small entrepreneurial company." That's a tricky business when you have 150,000 employees in 39 countries. But keeping that coffee joie de vivre alive inside Starbucks is crucial to Schultz' entire philosophy. Who better to sell something than a true believer?
Friday, March 30, 2007
[For an amusing take on interest group politics.]
- Let your associates filter all of the people and memos that get near your desk.
- To the greatest degree possible, use tightly controlled meetings as the sole venue for contact with lower level employees.
- Pop in on farewell ceremonies for no more than 15 minutes of chit chat and only attend events for white collar employees.
- Be better known by community movers and shakers than by the employees in the adjoining department.
- Revise the organization chart every eight months.
- Be more interested in preventing a union than in addressing the issues that may create a union.
- Exile or fire independent thinkers.
- Schedule, then cancel, feedback meetings.
- Scoff at employee attitude surveys.
- Regard complaints as a sign of disloyalty.
- Always travel with a retinue of the ambitious and the compliant.
- Mary Jean Irion
Thursday, March 29, 2007
"If you are going to law school, you should study Latin in high school and college."
"If you are going to study medicine, your foreign language should be German. It's the new Latin."
"You should stay at least five years with an employer or people will think you are a job-hopper."
"This is the era of globalization. Service in an overseas assignment will definitely boost your promotion chances."
"You're too old to go back to school."
"They'd never bring in someone from outside of the company."
"They carefully monitor the talent bank in most of these large companies."
"If your background doesn't exactly match what the employer is asking for, don't bother applying."
"The company is not going to promote someone who can't produce results."
"To get a PhD, you have to be fluent in a foreign language."
"They won't even look at you if you don't have a graduate degree."
"They don't care about your appearance. They're interested in what you can do."
"Don't toot your own horn. Just keep cranking out the work. Some day it will be recognized."
"They are only looking for someone with a degree in that subject."
"Don't worry. Nobody checks references."
"If your resume is unclear, they'll ask you about it."
"Specialists don't get promoted."
"What are you worrying about? He won't hold that against you. That was ten years ago!"
"Do you really think they'll have you reporting to that kid?"
"This place would shut down without you."
"Don't waste a lot of time preparing for the interview. Just think of it as a conversation."
"You'll get a chance to apply. They won't fill an important job without recruiting."
The person who micromanages (a problem) in order to prevent mistakes (a solution).
Yet the more abundant the information, the less meaning it seems to yield. All seems, instead, congestion and confusion. The surest way to destroy a person's capacity for discrimination and good judgment is to bombard him or her with an enormous abundance of data, even if it's incontestably relevant. The greater the variety of good food consumed at a meal, the less you appreciate each dish. The louder the noise, the less clear the message.
- Theodore Levitt
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
In many situations, the employers should be able to show that this will create an undue hardship on their operations.
As for the cab drivers refusing to pick up passengers who are carrying alcohol, doesn't that refusal constitute discrimination against the customer because of the customer's religious beliefs?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
So I asked the usher what I could do. He said to see the house manager, and I asked, "And what will they say?"
I said "they" in order to cover the possibility that the manager might be a woman, which, in fact, it turned out to be.
I didn't want to say "And what will he say?" because all house managers are not men, and we all know deep down that "he" really does not cover both men and women. The word "he" brings a man to mind. I sure wasn't going to say, "And what will he or she say?" And I presume no one would expect me to spin out, "And what answer shall I expect?"
Yet, even as a linguist, it is hard to convince someone that I did not commit a "grammatical error." "They" is plural, you say, but allowed authors like Chaucer and William Thackeray were using "they" in the singular, centuries ago. I was also using "they" in the singular sense at the theater, but more so because I thought I was being culturally sensitive toward women.
Read the rest of John McWhorter’s article here.
Mark Steyn looks at murder, cricket, and creeping sharia. An except:
If you had to draw one of those organizational charts of the world's problems, Pakistan would be at the center of them. We speak of the northwestern tribal lands as some of the most remote places on Earth. But, in fact, when they wanted to, the Saudis had no problem getting to them, spreading a ton of walking-around money, and utterly transforming those villages. From the North-West Frontier Province, the Saudi money and Wahhabist ideology seeped through the country, into the mosques of the cities, radicalizing a generation of young Muslim men. From there it moved on to new outposts of the jihad, to Indonesia, Thailand and beyond. The flight routes from Pakistan to the United Kingdom are now the most important ideological conduit for radical Islam. The London bombers last summer were British subjects of Pakistani origin. Last week, two more were arrested in connection with the Tube bombings at Manchester Airport as they prepared to board a plane to Karachi.
Meanwhile, flying back from Karachi and Islamabad to Heathrow and Manchester are cousins, lots and lots of them. In his detailed study of the Mirpur district in Pakistan, Roger Ballard estimates that at least half and maybe up to two-thirds of those living in Britain of Mirpuri descent marry first cousins. This is a critical tool of reverse-assimilation: instead of being diluted over the generations, tribal identity is reinforced; in effect, Pakistani tribal lands are now being established in parts of northern England.
- The police are not criminals and are subject to various legal restraints and independent oversight. They are also trained professionals.
- There is an independent judiciary that strives to be impartial.
- If the fire department comes to your house, the firefighters do not walk away with your possessions.
- If you need emergency medical care, you can use a reliable telephone service to summon it and help will arrive within minutes.
- If you turn on the tap, water will emerge and it will be safe to drink.
- You can have electricity 24 hours a day.
- State-of-the-art in-door plumbing is not unusual.
- City officials will not require bribes before issuing permits and you don't need to be a relative or supporter of the mayor in order to get a city job.
- You can travel without having to bribe a collection of airport and customs employees to perform their basic duties.
- Public sanitation needs are routinely and effectively handled and people don't have to burn trash in the streets.
- Your local hospital has a highly educated medical staff that doesn't supplement its salary by selling the hospital's drugs.
- Large segments of the population are not automatically excluded from employment because of sex, race, religion, color, national origin, or disability.
- You can own private property and pass it on to your children. If you develop the land, it will not be seized by some greedy tribal or national leader.
- A huge pothole on the highway will be repaired within hours and not within months or years.
- You can safely drive between most of the major cities in your country.
- Money allocated for a public project cannot be stolen and the project never completed without anyone uttering a word of protest.
- If you go to a hospital, once you have recovered you will not be held prisoner there until you or your friends or relatives have paid your bill.
- The press is not controlled by the government.
- Food is so inexpensive that obesity is even a problem for the poor.
- You can speak out against government policies without fearing a midnight visit from the secret police.
- If you are arrested for a crime your relatives and friends will not be subject to arrest simply because they are your relatives and friends.
- You can practice any religion - or your choice not to believe - without retribution.
- If a train schedule says the train will depart on Tuesday at 9:00 AM, it will usually leave at that time and not days later when the crew decides to go.
- Your local restaurant receives thorough health inspections.
- The military is under civilian control and is respectful of the citizens.
- You have the right to travel.
- You can listen to radio and television broadcasts and watch films and read books that are critical of the government.
- You have a substantial opportunity to succeed or fail depending upon your own efforts.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
One incident in particular has stayed with me. The mayor held an annual awards luncheon at which various individuals and organizations that had done good things for the community in this particular area (I know I'm being a little cryptic here) were honored. One year, a Fortune 100 company was selected to win one of the awards. It had done great things and clearly deserved the honor.
Then things got strange. The company's CEO decided to fly out from New York to accept the award. That in itself would not have been a big deal - we call the name, the person walks up and gets the award, shakes hands with the mayor, gets a photo taken, and then goes back to chewing rubber chicken - but then the CEO's assistants started in with the demands. This was needed, the CEO liked that, didn't want the other, certain camera angles were important. You can imagine the routine. The list went on and on.
We did our best to accommodate but only within reason. After all, lines had to be drawn or the event would be transformed into a Mayor Genuflects Before CEO ceremony and I somehow sensed that might not be wise. Besides, I'd already encountered such characters when I was in the Army. We called them "horse-holders." (An amusing attitude because in some respects I had the same role.) Their generals were usually pretty decent fellows. The aides were the ones to watch.
Ever since then, I've occasionally wondered how executives can restrain the tendency of their inner circle to make excessive demands in the name of The Great Man or Woman. I've concluded that it's a topic that should be discussed, in Trumanesque language, more than once or the horse-holders can create a lot of enemies for the CEO.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Until well into the 1970s, airlines enforced strict physical and age standards on stewardesses. In the 1930s they were expected to be about five-foot-four and weigh no more than 115 pounds; later, these numbers rose to five-foot-eight and 130 pounds, tops. They were also expected to be extraordinarily attractive. In the 1960s, Eastern Air Lines ran an advertisement with the headline “Presenting the Losers.” It showed 19 frowning all-American beauties who were “probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want.” But they hadn’t passed muster at Eastern, which demanded the very highest level of poise, intelligence, and good looks. “Sure, we want her to be pretty . . . don’t you? That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.”
In keeping with such standards, the airlines didn’t allow women who were married or older than 32 (35 at a few liberal carriers) to keep working as stewardesses. Therefore the turnover rate among cabin crews was amazingly high. In 1955 the average career of a flight attendant lasted just 27 months.
Pretending that it constitutes good performance.
Lowering standards so it is good performance.
Reassigning the employee causing the problem.
Promoting the employee causing the problem.
Calling HR and telling them you want to get rid of the poor performer.
Apologizing to HR for giving the poor performer "Meets Standards" performance evaluations.
Telling hiring managers in other departments that you're worried someone else is going to lure that dynamo away from you.
There is, however, a flip-side to that issue: the hyper-sensitive employees who find offense in mild remarks and the managers who cave in to their demands.
The first type is reminiscent of the paranoid Woody Allen character who interpreted a colleague's question, "D'you eat?" as "Jew eat?" Every intonation is explored and evaluated for possible bad intent and some of the stretches made to find offense are extraordinary. I've heard disabled rights advocates disparage people who use the term "handicapped" on the grounds that the term is derived from an expression, "cap in hand," that was once used in England for beggars following the Boer War. Assuming the word's history is correct, it is also irrelevant. Most people who use "handicapped" are not thinking of the Boer War or beggars nor do they intend to offend. The loud denunciation of the term is, I suspect, more designed to proclaim the innocence and moral superiority of the protester than establish the guilt of the alleged offender.
The managers who cave in to these folks are also into the display of innocence and moral superiority. Rather than seriously considering if there is any reasonable basis for intentional offense, they rush to discipline and condemn. This is their means of demonstrating that they personally do not condone anything that might offend the protesting party or - and this fear is often behind such appeasement - any advocacy groups that might rally behind the hyper-sensitive.
Organizations that reward obnoxious behavior will get a lot of it. Those that reward hyper-sensitive behavior can plan receiving on plenty of complaints. In either case, trust has been damaged and the concept of sensitivity has been tarnished. The very virtues that are supposedly protected are profaned.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
- The employee who gossips to co-workers about the boss's personal problems?
- The employee who jumps the chain of command to report a disagreement over a relatively minor policy decision?
- The supervisor who sits silently while upper management gives the supervisor the sole credit for the success of an operation that was a team project?
- The supervisor who foists a poor perfomer off on another department?
Those little disloyalties don't make the front pages and yet they foster mistrust and division. They may thrive because many people don't think of them as acts of disloyalty or, as in the case of the chain of command jumper, they believe that another virtue, such as pursuit of excellence, has trumped the obligation of loyalty.
The presumption, I believe, should be in favor of loyalty and - I'll go out on a limb here - even mildly inept bosses deserve it. If a safety hazard or its equivalent is present, then clearly any loyalty to the boss has expired but if supervisors had to fear that every fumble or policy disagreement could trigger staff disloyalty, then organizations could lapse into chaos.
The employees who have been labeled as cranks and Neanderthals because of their resistance to the proposal might be a little nutty on many things, but that doesn't mean they're wrong on this one. By the way, giving them labels may obscure your ability to see the merit of their arguments.
The minor parts of the proposal in which job titles and reporting relationships were changed are not regarded as minor by the people who were affected. They are seen as attacks on their status ...even by those who will lose no money under the change. Technical change is more readily accepted than changes affecting social status.
Your audience wonders why they are only told about the changes after things are set in concrete and not at the beginning when matters were in draft form. That's not a bad question.
If you feel that these changes need to be hammered through, don't be surprised if you are perceived as a hammer.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
[With regard to a related subject, our firm decided years ago to stay away from referral fees because they inject a financial incentive into a referral. Our view is if we recommend another firm to a client, it is because we believe that firm is a good match for the client's needs. That approach makes things much easier.]
- Failure to confront a employee who has a performance problem;
- Failure to set clear goals;
- Failure to discuss changed priorities;
- Failure to double-check work;
- Failure to coordinate projects;
- Failure to acknowledge good performance; and
- Failure to create systematic ways of performing frequent responsibilities.
We omit these responsibilities in large part because we are busy and because our failure doesn't require immediate attention. (If it seized us by the throat we would probably be more attentive.) In many instances, however, error by omission evokes a sense of unease that paces in the back of our mind.
Part of our weekly review should include an Unease Analysis; i.e., a listing of what is troubling us. In most cases, it won't be something we've done. It will be a gap in action.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Google certainly isn't a surprise and I'm always amused when Harley-Davidson is on these lists. As one observer put it, one of the most powerful signs of brand appeal is when customers tattoo your name on their bodies.
Friday, March 16, 2007
It took us three days to get the aroma of Old Spice out of the office.
No, I don't think I look like Orson Welles.
Contrary to your resume's assertion, Harvard University is not in Philadelphia.
You might keep in mind that people who call themselves "geniuses" usually aren't.
We learned that your mysterious and vaguely-described job with the State of Montana involved making license plates.
You were a little too friendly with the receptionist.
Your tie contained portions of your lunch.
We really didn't want your uncle to attend the interview.
You might want to change your entries on My Space.
The "babemagnet" portion of your email address raised a few eyebrows.
We've seen less cleavage in a cocktail lounge.
You said you have no weaknesses. We can't have saints like that around here.
What is missed is how otherwise nice people can slip in the knife. Some common ways are:
Withdrawal. The person no longer fulfills responsibilities. Deadlines, e-mails, and phone calls are not acknowledged. If the person is confronted about the problems, he or she denies any bad intent.
Hiding knowledge. The person knows things that could be of assistance but doesn't volunteer the information.
Slowing down assistance. Help is given, but slowly and reluctantly. The reason for the delay is never admitted.
Spreading partial information. The person spreads information that is technically correct but misleading. For example, a co-worker may be described as having a punctuality problem. what is not mentioned is the person has been named Employee of the Year for the last three years.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
From Overheard in Chicago.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company assembled some of the explanations for accidents that claimants have given over the years. Among them are:
An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car, and vanished.
I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.
As I reached the intersection, a hedge sprang up obscuring my vision.
I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.
The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.
The telephone pole was approaching fast. I attempted to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.
The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.
[Source: Quotable Business by Louis E. Boone ]
They can't stand one another.
Each could probably list certain things about the other that are objectionable and yet the dislike is almost biological. They can barely stand to be in the same room.
One finds the situation irritating. The other, although equally repulsed, finds it amusing.
They've never spoken to one another about their mutual antipathy. Co-workers can sense some tension. Strangers sometimes pick up on the vibrations but are thrown off by the fact that each man, for the most part, behaves professionally toward the other.
At least in the open. Behind the scenes, the irritated one occasionally tries to undermine his amused "rival." The amused one regards the relationship as a mystery of life.
And perhaps it is.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
You have to choose a team to represent the company in some business negotiations with a foreign corporation. You know that the culture of the other country places women in subordinate positions. Samantha is your best negotiator. She knows the deal, the product, and the competition inside-out. Charles is next best, but he is far behind Samantha in knowledge, expertise, and experience.
You are worried that if Samantha leads the team, you might not land the deal and it will be solely because of bias. Leading a successful negotiation team will be a major professional boost.
Which person do you pick? Samantha or Charles?
Monday, March 12, 2007
Read the rest of the Scientific American article here.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]
This post on the memorable first lines of novels continues to get nominees from readers and they're pretty good.
Another that I'd add:
"The professor thought that I looked like Lenin."
- Charles McCarry, Lucky Bastard
Think of the United States and the People's Republic not as two countries, but as one: Chimerica. It's quite a place: just 13 per cent of the world's land surface, but a quarter of its population and fully a third of its economic output. What's more, Chimerica has accounted for around 60 per cent of global growth in the past five years.
Their relationship isn't necessarily unbalanced; more like symbiotic. East Chimericans are savers; West Chimericans are spenders. East Chimericans do manufactures; West Chimericans do services. East Chimericans export; West Chimericans import. East Chimericans pile up reserves; West Chimericans obligingly run deficits, producing the dollar-denominated bonds that the East Chimericans crave. As in all good marriages, the differences between the two halves of Chimerica are complementary.
[HT: The Business of America is Business ]
Sunday, March 11, 2007
How will online ordering change the way you do business?
Well it's already changed the way we do business. We started online ordering in 2001, and when I came here I saw a phenomenal opportunity, so we've cranked it up ever since. In the last two years we have more than doubled it. Last year we did more than $200 million in online orders, out of $2 billion in total systemwide domestic restaurant sales.
We now have plan-ahead ordering - you can order a pizza up to 21 days in advance, like for a birthday party. Last year we did 260,000 of those orders. We also offer "same again" orders, which lets you repeat your last order. And in the next few weeks we will store customers' credit card numbers to make it more convenient. In our tests, over 50 percent of the customers who had the option to use credit card storage used it. We will also customize our e-mails to customers. We've got a long way to go.