Friday, August 31, 2007

Miscellaneous and Fast

Ann Althouse on a new survey on bullying in the workplace.

Eclecticity has a profile of a father of the year.

Hawaii has a pro-smoking ad to reassure Japanese puffers.

Citizen Brand recalls time well spent with Gordon Lightfoot, who may be 70 but we don't have to believe it.

Cory Doctorow on what not to wear to your next job interview.

On the Latest in Sociopathic Behavior

Writing at the CSO site, Joe Basirico examines a new twist in identity theft. An excerpt:

I was just interviewed by a local news station about a story they were doing on daring hackers that have started advertising their abilities to destroy a person’s life for as little as $20 per month. Apparently the deal goes something like this: you make a deal with a hacker to destroy somebody’s life by signing them up online and the hacker will ensure the target can’t get a good job, can’t apply for credit cards, will be denied for loans, etc. The interviewer wanted to know if I thought that this was really happening or if it was some kind of joke and was really that easy.

I’m not in the revenge business myself, but I suspect that this is a great way for the hacker to get a little extra money for something they do anyway. Last time I checked, the going rate on the black for a “full identity” (enough information to become another person) is up to $5 in some countries. If we apply the supply and demand model that seems to mean there is a wealth of supply but lagging demand.

Beyond Blundering

This book by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson on the Duke LaCrosse rape case should be fascinating.

I'll be reviewing it after a few management books.

Pin-Striped Bloc

Which of the possible U.S. presidential nominees would be the best and the worst for business?

A survey of executives by Chief Executive magazine concluded:

Republican Best: Mitt Romney

Republican Worst: John McCain

Democratic Best: Barack Obama

Democratic Worst: Hillary Clinton

Crowning King Weasel

Okay, take a break and read this brilliant and invaluable post by Rowan Manahan on an old game that relies upon human nature. Prepare to sob or smirk.

The Blame List: 30 Culprits

The following is a quick listing of people and institutions that may be frequent objects of blame in your life. Feel free to contribute additions or amendments.
  1. Your parents
  2. Your children
  3. Your spouse
  4. Your third grade teacher
  5. Your prom date or lack thereof
  6. Your neighbors
  7. Your co-workers
  8. Your boss
  9. Your computer
  10. Your hair or lack thereof
  11. Your weight
  12. Your car
  13. Global warming
  14. City Hall
  15. The president, prime minister, or chancellor
  16. The Saudis
  17. The church
  18. The Bossa Nova
  19. Lawyers
  20. Congress
  21. Judges
  22. Kids these days
  23. Detroit
  24. Washington, DC
  25. Hollywood
  26. Talk radio
  27. The Internet
  28. Carbs
  29. The infrastructure
  30. Steroids

Another Whiner

I'm encountering gremlins in posting today.

Please bear with me. Wizards are working on it.

Quote of the Day

People are never more insecure than when they become obsessed with their fears at the expense of their dreams.

- Norman Cousins

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Music Break

Michael at 2Blowhards has assembled a great collection of music links from Van Morrison to the Everly Brothers.

Street Justice

Bravo for Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

It's a bit disappointing that a thrashing was not administered but one can't have everything. An excerpt:

It seems that, if any adult wants to dispute the right of young thugs to misbehave, then not only does he or she do so at considerable personal risk, but with the express disapproval of the forces of law and order.

The implication is that there can only be two figures of authority on the streets - the thugs and the cops. Everyone else must creep around, averting their eyes, hoping that someone will call the police: which might be all right if we could really hope that the police will come, and if there were really enough police to deal with all the forms of anti-social behaviour.

Just The Place For Financial Advice

Wall Street executives at Burning Man? You bet. Though there’s nothing farther from the cutthroat, moneymaking world of Wall Street than the anticapitalist, anticorporate festival of radical self-expression known as Burning Man, we found several New York business executives and Wall Street types who are heading out West this week and staying through Labor Day. In the dusty, storm-ridden desert flatlands north of Reno, Nevada, is a place dubbed Black Rock City, home of the biggest little countercultural festival in the world.

“I first went out there in 2003 because a classmate from the Stanford Business School had an art project on the playa,” says a senior executive for a major Wall Street company, who asked not to be named. One of the main draws for him and most of the other 50,000 participants expected this year are the massive collaborative art projects, like last year’s giant Belgian Waffle or the 50-foot stick figure that gets torched at the end of the week—the burning man that gives the festival its name.

Find the rest of
the Portfolio article here. Be sure to wear your baseball cap backwards.

The Need for Elevation

Why is it that all children - and many adults - upon seeing the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films, exclaim, "I wish I could have gone to a school like that?"

Set aside the floating candles and the shifting staircases: The answer is Style.

Modern elementary schools look like factories in which people sort rags or hammer on blocks. The architecture does not inspire or announce, "This is a place where something special occurs." The same thing can be said of many business and government offices. It is as if some evil-minded administrator once decreed, "Let's put up boxes of steel and glass and squeeze the majesty out of life." No wonder workers glance longingly out the window at the trees and not at any structure. The architects have sold us a bunch of crap. Occasionally as an apology, they toss a feeble excuse for sculpture in front.

Now shift to lifestyles. We once watched Cary Grant and Grace Kelly portraying lives that elevated our hopes. They and other stars showed us how people with values and style behaved. The anti-heroes and automatons are now supreme and when an exception arrives on the screen we almost weep in gratitude. I won't even start on the dreck that passes for popular music and late night television has fallen from a place where once you might have seen Jack Paar or Dick Cavett talking to Buckley, Vidal, Mailer, or Updike to a spot where Jay and Dave let stars do infomercials for their latest film.

We have become so practical and utilitarian. I majored in "Government" as an undergraduate. Now it's called "Political Science" although it is anything but a science. The word might, however, impress the Board of Regents. Perhaps "sciences" don't get their funding slashed as quickly as the softer subjects. The same mentality that believes there is such a thing as "Social Science" doesn't flinch at using concrete boxes to house students nor does it consider just what sort of people those boxes will produce. No problem. They can join a growing tribe of pragmatic careerists that combines avarice with adolescence and scoffs at values and sacrifice.

Little things make a difference. We could use a renewed dedication to the type of conduct that elevates the individual and the society. Dropping the notions that Coarseness = Truth and Refinement = Hypocrisy and that Style is a waste of resources will be a good start.

We can have lives of beauty.

[HT: Jonathan Wade]


Daniel Henninger on what's afflicting the media:

But for the media ponderers there's a more troubling issue than the restoration of trust. It's the possibility that too many people now simply don't much care about the major media anymore. Normally the great media combines would overcome periods of lassitude by forming up focus groups to tell them what to do next. Hah! They want "Survivor"! Alas, living as we do now in a world of seemingly infinite choice, it is possible not to care for a seeming infinity of reasons, which is why the established media are having such a hard time knowing what to do.

Mr. Paxman identified one reason not to care: "In the last quarter century we've gone from three channels to hundreds. . . . The truth is this: the more television there is, the less any of it matters." Once there was a time when TV announcers used to say, "Stay with us." Now no one stays. They go surfing, endlessly seeking a five-minute wave of TV that will take them just a little higher than the five minutes they just watched.

Quote of the Day

It is easier to act yourself into a better way of feeling than to feel yourself into a better way of action.

- O.H. Mowrer

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Spandex is not forgiving."

If you think that you've got a strange job, Eccentric Employment may change your mind. Its current listings include ads for:

Caviar Sales Rep

Look at That!

Tired of boring PowerPoint slides?

Don't miss this article on visualization in Smashing magazine.

Click through and be sure to scroll down. Creative stuff. Beats the pie chart I drew in grade school.

[HT: Guy Kawasaki ]

Assigned Mentors

Wally Bock has a thought-provoking piece on why assigned mentor programs are unnatural.

[It reminds me of the story about the Columbia University administrators who urged then Columbia president Dwight Eisenhower to direct the students to stay on the sidewalks and not to walk on the grass. Eisenhower replied, "Put sidewalks where the paths are."]

Book Review: Lessons on Leadership

Jack Stahl, the former President of Coca-Cola and CEO of Revlon, has written Lessons on Leadership: The 7 Fundamental Management Skills for Leaders at All Levels.

That sentence will cause some readers to crouch behind the sofa. "Another leadership book by a CEO?" they'll gasp. "Can't we be spared another tale of corporate heroism?"

Fortunately, Mr. Stahl does spare us at least most of his heroic tales in this readable review of leadership lessons. My favorite anecdote was how Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta once used a mistake to teach a powerful lesson. Goizueta had noticed an error in an internal management report. He called Stahl, who had just arrived in Austria for a week of review meetings. The conversation went as follows:

Goizueta: "This report is wrong. It needs to be fixed. Find out how this could have happened."

Stahl: "I am already aware of the error, Roberto, and our financial people are working on the issue. As soon as I get back to Atlanta next week, I'll resolve it, and will let you know the outcome."

Moment of silence.

Goizueta: "Jack, what flight will you be on tomorrow morning to fix this problem?"

Stahl: "I have meetings scheduled here in Austria all this week - it's being worked on, and I will focus on it as soon as I return to Atlanta from Vienna next week."

Goizueta: "No, Jack - I want you back here on the first plane tomorrow to deal with this."

Stahl notes that Goizueta used the mistake as an opportunity to send a powerful and pointed message about the importance of accuracy in reports. One can imagine the effect that the story of Stahl's early return had as it rippled through the organization.

Although this and similar examples of the intangible aspects of leadership may be the most interesting parts of Lessons on Leadership, they are not necessarily the most helpful. Stahl is a systems advocate who is aware of the continuous need to search for what he calls "cracks in the execution of details" and he deftly covers the importance of developing people as well as creating a high-performance organization. With regard to the latter, he notes:

Great performance and results do not happen by accident. They are most often the product of improvements in overall critical capabilities, which are driven by the leadership of the organization. However, even good leaders sometimes miss this point: Like sustainable increases in performance, new strategies also require organizational capability shifts.

He sees connections. He appreciates how cost reduction programs may require negotiation training for the employees who will have to bargain for low-cost raw materials or how a new information system may be needed to measure the costs and expenses. He notes that cries for new products should also be accompanied by a reassessment of how new products are developed. Stahl clearly understands how positive pressure in one area can cause a negative result in another.

Since this is a leadership book for a general audience many readers will find sections that are more than familiar. That is the nature of general leadership books, however, and it should not detract from the real value of Stahl's ideas. [He tucks "Valuing a Business Using the Discounted Cash Flow Approach" and "Determining the Cost of Capital" into the back of the book, possibly so they won't scare off the average reader.]

I found Lessons on Leadership to be a practical and insightful guide on how to gain control of the myriad details and pressures that confront the modern leader/manager. If you are a new leader or a seasoned one who wisely wants to review your assumptions, it's well worth your time.

Check it out.

Clip Job

Andrew Stark examines the odd - and reported here in an earlier post - story of how Kyle MacDonald took a paperclip and wound up with a house. An excerpt:

But Mr. MacDonald was looking to own, not rent, and so he kept going. It turned out that rock star Alice Cooper has a restaurant in Phoenix. An employee at Alice's restaurant, looking to live rent free, offered an afternoon hanging out with her boss. Mr. MacDonald promptly traded quality time with Mr. Cooper for a snow globe branded with the logo of the rock band KISS. Enter the actor Corbin Bernsen, who starred in the TV show "L.A. Law" years ago and now appears on the series "Psych." Mr. Bernsen owns more than 6,000 snow globes. He offered a speaking part in his new movie in return for Mr. MacDonald's.

Then, in July of last year, the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan, entered the barter-sequence. It gave Mr. MacDonald a renovated 1920s house on Main Street in return for the film role, which it then raffled off in a local "American Idol"-style audition won by a town resident named Nolan Hubbard. Mr. MacDonald and his girlfriend, Dom, moved to Kipling, having achieved their goal of turning a paper clip into a house. Mr. MacDonald, by the way, now has a movie deal with DreamWorks.

Quote of the Day

The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I'd made my teammates play.

- Bill Russell

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


The honeybee population is dropping and, as a Fortune article notes, the effects may be far-reaching:

We wouldn't starve if the mysterious disappearance of bees, dubbed colony collapse disorder, or CCD, decimated hives worldwide. For one thing, wheat, corn, and other grains don't depend on insect pollination.

But in a honeybee-less world, almonds, blueberries, melons, cranberries, peaches, pumpkins, onions, squash, cucumbers, and scores of other fruits and vegetables would become as pricey as sumptuous old wine. Honeybees also pollinate alfalfa used to feed livestock, so meat and milk would get dearer as well. Ditto for farmed catfish, which are fed alfalfa too.

And jars of honey, of course, would become golden heirlooms to pass along to the grandkids. (Used for millennia as a wound dressing, honey contains potent antimicrobial compounds that enable it to last for decades in sealed containers.)

In late June, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns starkly warned that "if left unchecked, CCD has the potential to cause a $15 billion direct loss of crop production and $75 billion in indirect losses."

Get Swept Up!

When it comes to serious sports, sometimes the excitement is too much to bear.

[HT: Adfreak ]

Godwin and Man: How Ideas Spread

Think good viral: Seth Godwin, with a touch of Darwin, on how elephants and ideas spread.

Urban Terrorism: "Improvements in Lethality"

Writing in City Journal, John Robb explores the future of urban terrorism. He also provides some provocative answers. An excerpt:

Unfortunately, the improvements in lethality that we have already seen are just the beginning. The arc of productivity growth that lets small groups terrorize at ever-higher levels of death and disruption stretches as far as the eye can see. Eventually, one man may even be able to wield the destructive power that only nation-states possess today. It is a perverse twist of history that this new threat arrives at the same moment that wars between states are receding into the past. Thanks to global interdependence, state-against-state warfare is far less likely than it used to be, and viable only against disconnected or powerless states. But the underlying processes of globalization have made us exceedingly vulnerable to nonstate enemies. The mechanisms of power and control that states once exerted will continue to weaken as global interconnectivity increases. Small groups of terrorists can already attack deep within any state, riding on the highways of interconnectivity, unconcerned about our porous borders and our nation-state militaries. These terrorists’ likeliest point of origin, and their likeliest destination, is the city.

The Geist Weight Chart

Ideal weight chart for fiftyish females and males:

Height: 5'0"
Small boned: 180 lbs.
Medium boned: 200 lbs.
Large boned: 250+ lbs.

Height: 5'6"
Small boned: 225 lbs.
Medium boned: 250 lbs.
Large boned: 300+ lbs.

Height: +6'0"
Small boned: 250 lbs.
Medium boned: 300 lbs.
Large boned: 400+ lbs.

Mr. Geist notes, "Using this system to calculate your own exact personal ideal weight, simply take your current weight and add 8 pounds."

Source: The Big Five-Oh!: Facing, Fearing, and Fighting Fifty by Bill Geist.

His book is, of course, must reading for those who have been fifty, are fifty, or some day expect to be fifty.

Doing More by Doing Less

Matthew Cornell conducted a productivity experiment with The 4-Hour Workweek.

Here are his results.

Great Staff Work: 7 Tips

It is shocking how seldom the elements of great staff work are discussed in the modern workplace. Such discussions can go against the egalitarian tone of the times since the role of a reliable staff member is to support and not decide. Subordinate roles have such a bad image that some individuals afflicted by excessive sensitivity even refrain from using the word, "subordinate."

Those who do so miss the crucial role fulfilled by talented staff members who perform the heavy intellectual lifting so the ultimate decision maker can make the best possible decision or, at the very least, a practical one.

The ground rules of good staff work are simple but crucial:

  1. No decision should go to the decision maker unless he or she needs to make that decision. Keeping trivial and minor decisions at a lower level saves time and prevents distraction.

  2. Only excellent work should go to the decision maker. The boss should not have to play editor or proofreader. Will some bosses do so? Sure, but that does not mean the staff should engage in reverse delegation or turn in half-done work. All bosses have their quirks and any staff officer with basic smarts will commit those biases to memory so future work will be as change-proof as possible.

  3. Adverse information should never be omitted. The staff officer's role is to clarify, not to decide. This means surfacing the negatives as well as the positives.

  4. Err on the side of excessive coordination. It will save no time and will create enemies if a staff officer fails to obtain the ideas and positions of others who may have a substantive interest in the decision. Doing so will also jeopardize losing the trust of the decision maker.

  5. Recognize that the best can be the enemy of the good. The staff officer who seeks perfection will frequently find that the work's quality has been damaged by its tardiness. Timely decisions are needed. Go slowly on irreversible decisions and quickly on ones that can be easily reversed.

  6. Always present more than three options. Anyone can produce three options: Do nothing, do everything, and do a middle option that is favored by the staff. A good staff officer knows that some very creative options are often discovered when the list of options is increased. Savvy decision makers are righly suspicious of the old "three option sandwich."

  7. Give a recommended course of action. That's your job. It doesn't mean that the recommendation will be accepted but it gives the decision maker the advantage of seeing what is, in your judgment, the best option. Staff work that is inconclusive and neutral is incomplete. Have the courage to stand by your research.

Tested Faith

The recent discovery by a retired businessman and climate kibitzer named Stephen McIntyre that 1934--and not 1998 or 2006--was the hottest year on record in the U.S. could not have been better timed. August is the month when temperatures are high and the news cycle is slow, leading, inevitably, to profound meditations on global warming. Newsweek performed its journalistic duty two weeks ago with an exposé on what it calls the global warming "denial machine." I hereby perform mine with a denier's confession

I confess: I am prepared to acknowledge that Mr. McIntyre's discovery amounts to what a New York Times reporter calls a "statistically meaningless" rearrangement of data.
But just how "meaningless" would this have seemed had it yielded the opposite result? Had Mr. McIntyre found that a collation error understated recent temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius (instead of overstating it by that amount, as he discovered), would the news coverage have differed in tone and approach?

Read the rest of Brett Stephens's "denier's confession."

Quote of the Day

Two and two continue to make four, in spite of the whine of the amateur for three, or the cry of the critic for five.

- James Whistler

Monday, August 27, 2007

How To Talk When Times Are Tough

Steven Silvers notes that Mattel, Inc. and Countrywide Financial have given quite different examples of how to handle communications during a crisis:
Mattel faced its second product recall in two weeks, having to pull in some 19 million toys because of lead paint and other safety issues. The company’s response has been textbook crisis management: clear facts and continuous communications, broad outreach to all stakeholder groups, plenty of media access to the top executive. There’s even a dedicated web site on the recall that includes detailed information and a personal video message from CEO Bob Eckert.
Countrywide, on the other hand, faced the highest level of foreclosures and delinquencies in many years. How did it respond? The company “all but shuttered the doors at its Calabasas headquarters, offering scant public comment even as news turned worse and customers rushed to its bank branches to close their accounts,” reported the LA Times.

Creative Introduction

This in itself is creative:

What is the first phrase that creativity consultant Roger von Oech learns in any foreign language?

"I is a college student."

I was working with a law firm last year on a hiring process. Lots and lots of CVs, cover letters and application forms coming in from some very smart young people. I ended up sitting in a conference room with the HR person and the Hiring Partner screening the applications. One of the ground-rules we laid down was that any application with a spelling error should be dumped on the first pass.

"That kind of carelessness simply isn't acceptable for a job of this nature," intoned the partner. That sounded just fine to me and we proceeded. We had about 500 applications to whizz through on the first pass. We hit a snag. A big snag.With the first pass completed, we had no applications left. None. Count 'em again - not one.

the rest of Rowan Manahan's post on the next generation of job-hunters.

Elixir of Youth (or Empire-Building)

Sumner Redstone's anti-aging secret is a Brazilian berry:

A dark-purple elixir with a cult-like following, MonaVie is an antioxidant-rich concoction whose main ingredient is the Brazilian açai berry (pronounced ah-sigh-ee), long touted among health nuts for its anti-aging ingredients.

Vitamin-water it's not: MonaVie costs $40 a bottle, and you can't get it in stores; it's marketed only through the company's network of thousands of individuals who sell it out of their homes (think Avon or Tupperware).

Ten Time-Savers

            1. Clear responsibilities and authority.
            2. Limited phone calls.
            3. A team without factions.
            4. A meeting with a clear agenda.
            5. An e-mail box without spam.
            6. Leaders who make decisions.
            7. Workers who take initiative.
            8. A limited open-door policy.
            9. Supportive family members.
            10. Access to resources and information.

            Sweet Deals

            John Fund looks at state certification boards and the question of whether they are out to protect the consumer or restrict competition:

            Reason Foundation analyst Adam Summers has written a new study of occupational licensing (available here) that catalogues some of the absurd requirements to get occupational licenses. Does a hair braider really need hundreds of hours of instruction in all aspects of cosmetology, hardly any of which he will ever use? Is it essential to the well-being of young children that directors of day-care centers possess master's degrees? What's the point of refusing to license a car service unless it has at least 10 cars?

            Some states require licenses or credentials for all manner of jobs, while others seem to get along just fine with a much more targeted list. California has been burdened for years with an uncompetitive business climate, and part of the reason is that it requires licenses for 177 different job categories. Next door, Arizona licenses only 72 job categories and Nevada only 95. No wonder job growth is much higher in those states.

            Quote of the Day

            Ours is the age of substitutes: Instead of language we have jargon; instead of principles, slogans; and instead of genuine ideas, bright suggestions.

            - Eric Bentley

            Sunday, August 26, 2007

            The Cartoon You Shouldn't See?

            Here's a link to the Opus cartoon that some newspapers are refusing to run.

            [HT: Ed Driscoll ]

            Book Review: The Last Days of Europe

            Walter Laqueur, historian and former chairman of the International Research Council of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has written yet another important book.

            The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent is powerful because it is restrained. Employing a tone that might accompany a CPA's report, Laqueur dissects the impact of Europe's declining population as well as its alienated Islamic groups and rapacious welfare systems and concludes that a perfect storm may be on the horizon.

            For those readers who have been following the demographic projections, Laqueur's statistics will not come as a surprise, but to cite just a few:

            • Russia's current population of 145 million is shrinking annually by 2 percent and within 50 years is expected to be one-third of its current size. Its population may be surpassed by those of Turkey and Yemen.

            • The United Kingdom's population is expected to decline from its current 60 million to 53 million in 2050 and 45 million in 2100.

            • Germany's population is expected to decline from its current 82 million to 61 million in 2050 and 32 million in 2100.

            • Italy's population is expected to decline from its current 57 million to 37 million in 2050 and 15 million in 2100.

            • Spain's population is expected to decline from its current 39 million to 28 million in 2050 and 12 million in 2100.

            • In 2050, the median age in the United States will be 36. In Europe it will be about 53.

            In short, many of the European nations are in this box: Their populations are shrinking and aging. In order to maintain the generous benefits of their welfare states, they will require younger workers. A large portion of those younger workers, however, will be Muslims who may - or may not - desire to be assimilated into or maintain democratic societies. Consider the extent to which American minority groups with 10 to 14 percent of the population can affect American political stances and then imagine what the effect would be if such groups favored sharia law and opposed freedom of expression and equal rights and you may gain a sense of what Europe will be facing.

            Laqueur follows writers such as Bruce Bawer and Mark Steyn in stating this concern and yet his international relations and scholarly credentials give added weight to his arguments. There is little doubt that his book will be widely read in the United States. One hopes that it receives an even larger readership in Europe.

            Recycling Architecture

            Strange and yet oddly appealing: an apartment made from a water tower.

            Geekologie has the details.

            Preferences: Unintended Consequences

            Gail Heriot examines indications that affirmative action preferences have reduced the number of black attorneys:

            Three years ago, UCLA law professor Richard Sander published an explosive, fact-based study of the consequences of affirmative action in American law schools in the Stanford Law Review. Most of his findings were grim, and they caused dismay among many of the champions of affirmative action--and indeed, among those who were not.

            Easily the most startling conclusion of his research: Mr. Sander calculated that there are fewer black attorneys today than there would have been if law schools had practiced color-blind admissions--about 7.9% fewer by his reckoning. He identified the culprit as the practice of admitting minority students to schools for which they are inadequately prepared. In essence, they have been "matched" to the wrong school.

            Quote of the Day

            The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.

            - Ernest Dimnet

            Saturday, August 25, 2007

            When Yugos Fly

            Jalopnik poses the philosophical question of the weekend:

            Reviewing the Marshall Plan

            Writing in The New Yorker, Niall Ferguson evaluates the Marshall Plan. An excerpt:

            Flitting across this crowded stage are some better-known figures: Harry Truman, who declined to call the program the “Truman Plan” not out of modesty but for fear of riling Republican opponents; Josef Stalin, whose aggressive action toward Czechoslovakia greatly helped Vandenberg to overcome congressional resistance; Ernest Bevin, the overweight, ebullient, and ineffably proletarian British Foreign Secretary, who was the Plan’s biggest fan; and the diarist and wit Harold Nicolson, whose condescending characterization of the United States (“a giant with the limbs of an undergraduate, the emotions of a spinster, and the brain of a pea-hen”) now reads like postimperial sour grapes. The United States in 1945 was a giant, all right, but with the wealth of a Harriman, the altruism of a Marshall, and the sheer dedication of men like Clayton, Vandenberg, Hoffman, and Bissell, it was surely a benign colossus.

            Gaining by Giving

            I used to jar some of the department heads in one organization by insisting that when employees file discrimination complaints through the internal complaint process, they should be told about the federal and state agencies where their complaints could also be filed.

            "Why should we should tell them that?" groaned some of the executives and managers. "All you are doing is encouraging them to file elsewhere. We'll wind up spending large amounts of time dealing with some outside investigator."

            I replied that the main goal of any internal complaint process should be to determine the truth and then take appropriate action. Why hide information from the employees? Let them know their options and then move forward to make sure that the internal investigation is prompt, thorough, and impartial.

            After several years of following that approach, we were able to monitor the results. The number of internal and external discrimination complaints had not risen; in fact, they had fallen dramatically.

            I recall that development whenever I see executives and managers who are so intent on hanging onto power that they wind up losing power. Their focus is invariably on the wrong thing. They are seeking control when they should be after credibility. That sin isn't confined to operations and folks in the field. Propose giving away information and power and many soft-skilled HR types are just as eager to pull up the drawbridge and station the archers.

            The natural tendency may be to hunker down. Our professional commitments, however, should cause us to question whether that is wise.

            Food at Work

            The most innovative company cafeterias: Going far beyond the stereotypes of rubber chicken and frozen burritos. An excerpt:

            Google is far from alone among tech firms in offering employees innovative dining options. Microsoft (MSFT) boasts 26 cafés at its main Redmond (Wash.) campus, with several more slated to open this year and next—and that's not counting the pantries scattered throughout the buildings and the more than two dozen coffee stands.

            But it's not just workers in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs who enjoy the benefits of good grub on the job. Plenty of companies in a variety of businesses in every corner of the country offer meals on site. The menus are diverse, and so are the reasons for offering food service. Some employers cite productivity as their prime consideration; when employees eat in the company's cafeteria, they save time they would have spent foraging at nearby fast-food chains and delis. "I want people to be well-fed and satisfied," Michael Bloomberg, the current New York mayor and former chief executive of Bloomberg, the financial data business he founded in 1981, told Fast Company magazine in a 1995 interview. "I want them to be able to grab a cup of coffee with a colleague and hash things out. But most of all I want them to stay here. I don't want them leaving."

            Japan's Rebound

            Rowan Callick on business changes that produced Japan's comeback. An excerpt:

            By 2001, the Bank of Japan had lowered interest rates to zero and people were paying banks to keep their money. Japanese commercial property had tumbled to two-thirds of its value from its 1980s peak, when the wooded imperial estate at the center of Tokyo was worth more than the entire state of California.

            When Japan’s bubble burst, it took a painfully long time for reality to set in. During the baburu (or bubble), demands on workers had soared; the sarariiman (salaryman) was expected to be available 24 hours a day, enabling him to evolve into one of the highly admired kigyo senshi (corporate warriors). In exchange for this servitude, he was supposed to have a secure job for life. That all collapsed along with the economy.

            Sawa Kurotani, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Redlands in California, has written of “the death of the sarariiman way of life.” She says that Japanese corporations “began radical restructuring and downsizing to survive in global competition.” Suicide rates soared (they were twice the rates in the United States and higher than anywhere except the former US R and its satellites, plus, for some reason, Sri Lanka), with many cases declared to have been karojisatsu, or triggered by excessive stress. The most common method was tobikomi: jumping from a platform into the path of a train.

            Destruction of Childhood Update

            Emily Yoffe, shopping with her young daughter for clothes, discovers an extensive fashion line:

            The slut look.

            [HT: RealClearPolitics ]

            Top Five on Early America

            Jay Winik gives his top five list of books related to America's founding.

            Quote of the Day

            You can't pick cherries with your back to the tree.

            - John Pierpont Morgan

            Friday, August 24, 2007

            A $400 Baseball Glove?

            Writing in Fortune, Matthew Boyle tells the story of a baseball glove unlike most others.

            An excerpt:

            St. Louis is as good a place as any to begin this glove story, as it is the home of Rawlings, currently in its 120th year as a supplier of all manner of baseball equipment. In 1920, Rawlings introduced the first glove to feature laces between the thumb and forefinger (previous mitts were no more than padded workmen's gloves).

            That glove, called the Bill Doak, began an evolutionary process that today culminates in the Rawlings Primo, the most expensive baseball glove ever made. It costs $400. Yes, $400 - that's a little over a week's pay for a typical Wal-Mart employee. (At least that employee won't be tempted to blow his wages, as you'll never find the Primo on Wal-Mart's shelves.)

            Two years in development, the Primo features Italian leather hand-sewn into an advanced three-layer design that, Rawlings claims, can be broken in to suit specific positions. In a season dominated by batting achievements (Barry Bonds' record*, Alex Rodriguez's 500th homer), Rawlings hopes the Primo will reestablish its status as the preeminent glove-design house, a position that is under threat from rivals like Wilson, Mizuno, Easton and Nike (Charts, Fortune 500).

            The Kremlin StairMaster

            Although Stalin reputedly couldn't start a full day of purges without a latte and a couple of bearclaws and Khrushchev was an iced mocha man, Putin appears to have been working out.

            Gordon G. Chang provides analysis.

            Book Review: WHAT MADE jack welch JACK WELCH

            WHAT MADE jack welch JACK WELCH:

            How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders

            Author: Stephen H. Baum with Dave Conti

            Publisher: Crown Business, 2007

            Stephen H. Baum, an executive coach and leadership consultant, places less emphasis on how to be a leader than he does on how exceptional leaders acquired the traits that made them successful. It is an approach that serves him well throughout the book although there are times when the lines become blurred because of the natural mixture of being and doing. His book identifies the following key characteristics:

            • The appetite to take charge;

            • Character;

            • Confidence to seek challenge and embrace risk;

            • Capacity to act;

            • Ability to engage and inspire; and

            • Shaping experiences.

            Baum interviewed and researched a series of leaders to glean his lessons and provides ample anecdotes about their challenges and victories. This strengthens his analysis but also goes against the title since a large portion of the book is focused on other leaders and not on Jack Welch.

            [One feature of the book was a real pebble in the shoe: In any references to Welch's pre-greatness days, Baum spells Welch's name in lower-case letters (e.g. "jack's competitiveness and desire to win continued to be nurtured...") and then switches to all-caps when the great man has reached Olympus. I found that to be beyond irritating. Somewhere in this world there is an editor who deserves to be flogged.]

            Although I would have preferred to learn more about jack's/JACK'S leadership, Baum's book provides enough juicy executive suite stories to make you forget The Great One. I particularly liked the emphasis on character that was a thread throughout the book and especially appreciated the fact that Baum's leaders don't magically transform anything. They adopt strategies that nudge, shape, and eventually improve; in short, they achieve the sort of results that we see in the real world.

            The example of how Jim Broadhead, the CEO of Florida Power & Light, decided to deal with a resistant team and implement needed changes while fending off a potential shut-down of a nuclear power plant by the federal government could serve as a guidepost for any leader who has to grapple with outside regulations. The tips on obtaining the shaping experiences in learning to lead may be regarded by some as obvious (e.g., "Connecting with others") but if they are so obvious - and certainly items such as creating your personal board of directors are not - then why aren't more people doing them?

            My advice is simple: If you want to get the most out of Stephen Baum's book, forget about jack welch/JACK WELCH/Jack Welch. Forget about gaining insightful lessons about leadership. Looking for those will only distract you from the book's real merits. Instead, regard the book as a series of guidelines from an extremely savvy coach who has some tips that will truly help your career.

            That's where the real meat is.

            A Different Take on Customer Service

            As for my staff, I'll hire people who don't know arithmetic, so that if a question ever arises about a customer's being charged the wrong price, the clerks will say, "I don't know arithmetic. It's store policy." I will make sure that most of my clerks have never operated a cash register before, so my store will have long lines of irritated customers watching my clerks stare blankly at the cash register as if they had never been told to understand why they were hired.

            If that doesn't sufficiently interfere with progress, I'll insist that my clerks talk on the phone with their boyfriends or girlfriends and regard customers as intruders. Instead of hiring good-natured, conscientious people who know you have to work for a living, I'll carefully screen the applicants in search of people who will behave as if they think their job is demeaning and not worth taking seriously and who will let you know it.

            - John Welter, "My Store of Grievances" [The Atlantic, August 1987]


            Ted Frank analyzes the weird world of crazy lawsuits. An excerpt:

            For a mom-and-pop immigrant dry-cleaner to defend against Roy Pearson’s consumer-fraud claim demanding tens of millions of dollars over an allegedly lost pair of pants cost nearly six figures and nearly drove the Chung family out of business, which is why they were willing to settle that meritless case for $12,000. And the case still isn’t over, even after a trial victory. A loser-pays rule would hypothetically compensate the Chungs, except it is unlikely Pearson could ever pay the $83,000. Judges need to do more to throw cases like this out early: there is no reason the Pearson case had to go to trial and run up the bill for the Chungs. A recent Supreme Court case, Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, gives more freedom to judges to discard cases without plausible theories of recovery earlier in the process.

            Quote of the Day

            If my boss calls, get his name.

            - Anonymous

            Thursday, August 23, 2007

            When Reliability Trumps Brilliance

            Bedroom Decor: Modern Gladiator

            Geekologie has the details on the new Bedroom Security Table. What sort of neighborhood do these people live in?

            Artful Dodger

            Indexed has a chart on why "I Hated Gym."

            Get Some Beer. They're Out Of Common Sense.

            My brain has fallen and it can't get up. While buying some beer, Eclecticity encounters a policy guaranteed to avoid the devilish evil of "age profiling."

            A Leadership Lesson: Choosing What to Overlook

            Rachel told me what had happened before the revolt.

            She'd been placed in charge of the department while her boss was on vacation. She'd often filled in for him for short periods and she was comfortable with her knowledge of the job. In some respects, she knew far more about some departmental operations than did her boss and she was proud of that knowledge. In fact, she felt the boss was a little lax in some areas.

            Within two days of taking charge, Rachel started to crack the whip. Rules that had been unenforced were now enforced. Employees who were pretty good workers were rather tactlessly shown how they could be even better. By the third day, people were starting to ask - casually, of course - just when the boss was getting back from his trip.

            By the fifth day, a few of them were in open revolt, refusing to proceed on certain projects until the "real boss" returned.

            Rachel felt betrayed. She regarded all of her actions as reasonable and, as she analyzed them one-by-one, it was clear that she'd failed to consider the appearance and the context. She had failed to understand how her actions would be perceived and she completely missed a crucial part of effective management: Knowing what to overlook.

            Rachel did not grasp that leadership is a constant choice of priorities and that leading often means consciously loosening a management standard here or there. She thought she could have it strict enforcement of petty rules as well as enthusiastic support of the team. Her team quickly reminded her how much leaders need followers.

            Listening to her analysis of what went wrong, it was clear that Rachel had plateaued. She was refusing to admit that her behavior contributed to and perhaps even created the problem. It was as if she had announced, "I'm a very good assistant director but I'll always need a director to rein in my autocratic tendencies." That in no way discounts her very real skills and yet it is sad that a great opportunity for growth turned into a demonstration of limitations.

            Physician Dissatisfaction

            A look at how malpractice suits and rising insurance costs affect physicians and ultimately the relationship with patients.

            Quote of the Day

            Most of us would rather risk catastrophe than read the directions.

            - Mignon McLaughlin

            Wednesday, August 22, 2007

            Saudi Samizdat

            Juliet Samuel looks at chick lit in Saudi Arabia:

            Much ado about a book on the love lives, sex and shopping habits of four rich Saudi girls. A modern epistolary novel, it's written as a series of emails sent to a Yahoo! group list serve by a mysterious, lipstick-wearing Saudi woman. In another world, it would be a trivial lip gloss narrative of life as a desirable young woman in Riyadh. But such a story can't avoid being political—and it turns out that chick lit is a convenient vantage point from which to critique Saudi society. Alsanea explores Saudi values in all their mundane invasiveness; this is a world where possessing The Nutty Professor on DVD is a political act, inviting social disgrace. And beyond the picayune restrictions lies blatant hypocrisy: the Saudi elites enforce dressing conventions at home and happily change into chic Western attire on the plane out of Riyadh.

            The Peace Racket

            Bruce Bawer finds that appeasement is alive and well in the Western nations in the guise of peace studies. An excerpt:

            Reading these personal accounts, I remembered being 17. I’d never been outside North America, but I’d paid attention in history class and, being curious about the world, had read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Babi Yar, 1984, John Gunther’s Inside series, several books about the USSR, and much else. I had an uncle who’d been in a Nazi POW camp, a Polish-speaking grandmother who felt blessed to be an American citizen and not a Soviet vassal, and a Cuban schoolmate whose father, a journalist, Castro had tortured and blinded. I knew what totalitarianism was. The young people who get taken in by the Peace Racket, though, seem not to have had much of a clue about anything before visiting Haiti or Ghana or wherever. And their peace studies classes and international adventures don’t exactly wise them up. A peace studies student at McGill University, recounting her internship with a “Cuban NGO” (as if there really were such a thing!), refers enthusiastically to her participation in “the largest demonstration in Cuban history.” She doesn’t elaborate, but the reference is clearly to a government-organized protest against the U.S. trade embargo. This perilously naive young woman has no idea that she was the tool of a dictatorship.

            Royal Longevity

            Mark Steyn on a king's life:

            The other day King Zahir of Afghanistan died at the age of 92. Sad and all that, but he’d lived a full life. Do you know what a full life in Afghanistan boils down to? Do you realize how unusual it is for anyone in Kabul to die at the age of 92? Male life expectancy in the country is 43.6 years – and not because the wiry lads in the Hindu Kush all expire in mid-jihad or bushkazi match: female life expectancy is only 43.96 years. That’s to say, if you were born in the mid-Sixties, passed through middle school in the disco era and danced with your teenage sweetheart to George Michael and Duran Duran, you should be dying any day now.

            Zahir Shah was older than an average pair of Afghans put together. The King came to the throne in 1933, a year which is as remote to the typical Afghan as the Civil War is to us. Back then, the other new rulers on the international scene were President Roosevelt and Herr Hitler. But never mind his coronation, most Afghans weren’t even around for his abdication in 1973: The median age in the country is 17.6 years. Even if you survive the appalling childhood mortality rates, eking out three-score-and-ten is the longest of long shots. If you’ve ever met Afghan men, you’ll know that feeling when you run into some aquiline weathered Pushtun warrior with white hair and a wispy beard framing a leathery old face that wrinkles up every time he smiles. And the old-timer full of ancient folk wisdom from the Khyber Pass turns out to be 38. He looks like Anna Nicole’s late husband but at school he was three grades below Demi Moore’s boy toy. In such a world, a 92-year old man is a phenomenon – and, even in his dotage, King Zahir looked healthier than many of the fortysomethings running the country.

            Read the rest of his essay here.

            Miscellaneous and Fast

            Max Boot analyzes the options in Iraq.

            James Dean in a driving safety ad.

            Business Week looks at the labor shortage: myths and realities.

            Ron Rosenbaum examines - with a knife - professor Stanley Fish's discovery of a coffee shop called Starbucks.

            [HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

            Put Down The BlackBerry!

            Carol Hymowitz has advice for vacationing bosses. An excerpt:

            He acknowledges that technology is making it increasingly difficult for executives to separate themselves from work and from their staffs even for a day. On fishing trips to remote areas in British Columbia, Mr. Bonsignore has observed executives. They "step off the float plane onto the dock, and the first thing they do is make sure their cellphone and BlackBerry are working," he says. The fact that they can connect so easily to their offices and staffs from anyplace in the world makes it harder to choose not to engage.

            Read Us! Please Read Us!

            The Los Angeles Times, a boutique newspaper in southern California, has managed to draw fire from both right and left wing bloggers. Some of it is pretty amusing.

            Your Shelf Life

            Stanley Bing has uncovered a universal truth. An excerpt:

            I have this theory. It’s pretty simple. I believe that, when it comes to our jobs, we’re all like a quart of milk or a pack of sausages. Each one of those objects, and so many more of varying compositions and ages, are stamped with a date by which they must be sold or consumed. It’s their shelf life. Everything has one. For fish, it’s a couple of days. A can of corned beef hash can live a decade in a cupboard. But eventually, everything reaches the point of expiration.

            So it is with jobs. Some of us are lucky. The invisible stamp on our foreheads says 2014, maybe, or “good for 32 years if kept in a cool, dry place.” But the stamp is there. And there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

            Hint: One Cleans Under the Bed

            Okay, it was a choice between posting either an academic article or a review of the new Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner.

            Guess which won.

            Real Money or Shatner Money?

            Measuring Kindness

            I recently had an interesting conversation with a couple of managers about customer service issues.

            The question arose of whether a person who lacks character, kindness, and the inclination to treat people decently can be trained to deal with customers; in short, if those qualities aren't present, can they be poured in?

            No magic answers immediately emerged but the discussion also sparked consideration of how seldom kindness is tested for in the applicant screening process. To be sure, there are hypothetical questions regarding how various job-related incidents should be handled, but those scenarios can be a better measurement of judgment than of kindness.

            Those little intangibles such as kindness, courage, and creativity are, of course, not so little in the long run. Their importance can be obscured by the high brush of job descriptions and formal credentials.

            They deserve more attention.

            Quote of the Day

            I shut my eyes in order to see.

            - Paul Gauguin

            Tuesday, August 21, 2007

            Closet Nappers Unite!

            Ann Althouse explores the subject of napping and concludes that, yea, it is good.
            She is, of course, correct since sleep is one of the great pleasures of life, in the same league with chocolate.

            Baby Domain Names

            In a move that may represent caring, far-sightedness, or just plain looniness, some parents are buying domain names for their young children.

            If this becomes a trend, will it influence the naming of children? Will parents be tempted to go for domain-friendly monikers?

            (I'll talk it over with my children: Google and Yahoo.)

            The Suicide of Reason

            Lee Harris's newest book, The Suicide of Reason, will be gaining a lot of attention in the months ahead.

            Here's an essay he wrote in 2002 on fantasy ideologies. It's worth revisiting. An excerpt:

            To be a prop in someone else’s fantasy is not a pleasant experience, especially when this someone else is trying to kill you, but that was the position of Ethiopia in the fantasy ideology of Italian fascism. And it is the position Americans have been placed in by the quite different fantasy ideology of radical Islam.

            The terror attack of 9-11 was not designed to make us alter our policy, but was crafted for its effect on the terrorists themselves: It was a spectacular piece of theater. The targets were chosen by al Qaeda not through military calculation — in contrast, for example, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — but entirely because they stood as symbols of American power universally recognized by the Arab street. They were gigantic props in a grandiose spectacle in which the collective fantasy of radical Islam was brought vividly to life: A mere handful of Muslims, men whose will was absolutely pure, as proven by their martyrdom, brought down the haughty towers erected by the Great Satan. What better proof could there possibly be that God was on the side of radical Islam and that the end of the reign of the Great Satan was at hand?

            As the purpose of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia was to prove to the Italians themselves that they were conquerors, so the purpose of 9-11 was not to create terror in the minds of the American people but to prove to the Arabs that Islamic purity, as interpreted by radical Islam, could triumph. The terror, which to us seems the central fact, is in the eyes of al Qaeda a by-product. Likewise, what al Qaeda and its followers see as central to the holy pageant of 9-11 — namely, the heroic martyrdom of the 19 hijackers — is interpreted by us quite differently. For us the hijackings, like the Palestinian “suicide” bombings, are viewed merely as a modus operandi, a technique that is incidental to a larger strategic purpose, a makeshift device, a low-tech stopgap. In short, Clausewitzian war carried out by other means — in this case by suicide.

            Perpetual Adolescence?

            In the 1990s, most people who played video games were teenagers. Now the average gamester age is nearly 30. Cultural products aimed at tots and preteens capture the attention of adults. "SpongeBob SquarePants," intended for the 6-to-11 age group, draws almost 19 million viewers from the 18-to-49 crowd. Some famous museums, uncomfortable with their adult role as guardians of historical memory, have gone adolescent, staging exhibits on motorcycles, hip-hop and "Star Wars" movies. Many college courses, even on major campuses, make rainy-day activities at summer camp seem profound.

            Such examples of America's descent into perpetual adolescence populate Diana West's provocative "The Death of the Grown-Up." Ms. West, a columnist for the Washington Times, argues that the country is suffering a case of arrested development, with teen tastes and desires eclipsing traditional adult conduct and values. A good deal of evidence supports her. An obsession with play and self-expression and a resistance to limits--conventional hallmarks of adolescence--are increasingly strong "adult" themes too.

            Read the rest of
            John Leo's essay here.

            Update: Eclecticity suggests a link.

            Political Appointments

            I've worked in the private and public sectors. One area in which the public sector has a clear advantage is it usually labels its political appointments.

            There is little sanctimonious rhetoric about the best qualified person for the job. Although the appointee may be highly competent, everyone knows that the appointment is due to connections or influence and that it was not the result of careful screening.

            Contrast that with the two-tiered approach in many companies. This Management Assistant job will be filled after we advertise it, attract a wide range of applicants, evaluate their knowledge, skills, and experience, interview them, and then select the person who has received the highest score. On the other hand, this vice presidential job several levels above the Management Assistant will be filled by a candidate the CEO once knew in Toledo. No serious screening. No objective interviewing. No bothering with equal opportunity or affirmative action concerns. Poof! He or she is in.

            And here's the kicker. For the next VP slot, we may go through the formal system. You see, it's sort of optional. But you can bet that if the spot being filled is one of those lower level jobs, we'll be scientific and objective. We'll thoroughly search the hinderlands and carefully review our selection standards to make sure they are closely related to the job.

            After all, we don't want to take any chances.

            Quote of the Day

            The Lion Tamer School of Management:

            Keep them well fed and never let them know that all you've got is a chair and a whip.

            - Anonymous

            Monday, August 20, 2007


            All Dressed Up With No Place To Go

            In some recent coaching sessions with clients, I've been reminded of the importance of running room.

            The business section of many bookstores is filled with career advice books that counsel this strategy and that. Most are based on two assumptions:

            1. There are sufficient opportunities for advancement within the organization.

            2. The reader is interested in those opportunities.

            Those are pretty big assumptions. The career advice books that feature examples from Fortune 500 companies are discussing scenarios that are worlds apart from the average person's reality. Giant organizations offer far more opportunities for advancement and the inspirational stories of people who took advantage of those chances don't resemble the places where a grand opportunity may open up every six or seven years.

            The issue of interest also is different. Larger outfits don't just offer more opportunities, they also have a greater likelihood of offering something of genuine interest. A company of 10,000 employees or less is going to have much less running room for people who are ambitious than will one of the mega-corporations.

            I'm familar with the Horatio Alger-like stories of people who created their own job opportunities by thinking of a new product or service. That can occur if the organization is receptive to such creativity. Many places, however, let the dead hand of bureaucracy stifle such energy.

            My point is that individuals who are preparing themselves for advancement within a particular organization need a realistic appraisal of whether that organization will provide enough serious opportunities for their talents.

            Many workplaces face a serious morale problem: What to do with highly skilled middle managers who are all dressed up with no place to go?

            Grassroots Recognition and Appreciation

            Odds are, you can quickly name several extraordinary performers in your organizations whose efforts are largely unrecognized. You may be one of them.

            Instead of shrugging and updating your resume or suggesting that those people do the same, my suggestion to those who've noticed the Great Unnoticed is to make some small effort to correct the situation.

            Sending a note to the person's boss (and maybe even copying the note to that person's boss) is a decent thing to do. The note doesn't have to be lengthy and it shouldn't state anything that is untrue. Simply describe the nature of the work that you've noticed and how much you appreciate it. Don't assume that everyone knows how good that employee is. Supervisors are notoriously near-sighted on such matters and a note is the sort of nudge that can lead to meaningful recognition.

            Even if nothing extraordinary happens, you can be assured that the other employee will appreciate your effort. Imagine how wealthy you would be if you had a dollar for every person who hungers for appreciation.

            The responsibility for appropriate recognition isn't limited to the immediate supervisor. In a perfect world, that might be sufficient but we all know this isn't a perfect world. Some people out there deserve your help.

            Why not help them?

            Quote of the Day

            Broadly speaking, the short words are best, and the old words best of all.

            - Winston Churchill

            Sunday, August 19, 2007

            Planting the Seeds for a Raise

            A Simple Remark

            The selection committee was torn between two candidates for promotion. A committee member made a joke about one candidate's personality and, although the committee continued to follow the required procedures to ensure objectivity, the candidate's chances were finished.

            The junior member's suggestion at the staff meeting was interpreted by one of the department heads as a veiled criticism of his professionalism. An enemy was created who would later strive to thwart the junior member's advancement.

            At the annual retreat, a division head was stunned to learn that some comments he'd made to a group of interns several years ago had inspired one of them to develop a highly successful program. The division head could not remember what he'd said.

            The department director asked the secretary why, year after year, all of the Special Action Reports were printed on blue paper. The secretary said she wasn't sure but she would find out. It was discovered that a department director seven years and three directors ago had said she liked the color blue.

            Not Your Standard Conference

            Why go to a normal conference when you could be at Comic-Con? The Telegraph looks over the event where many of the attendees dress as comic book characters [Hold on, I've attended management conferences like that!]:

            Comic-Con is a mixture of seminars, on such topics as 'Klingon Lifestyle', 'Gays in Comics', 'How to be an Internet Geek Superstar', parties, autograph sessions, a giant exhibition hall with stalls from comic-book companies, artists, toy manufacturers and, of course, presentations from the big studios trying to hype their films.

            Fittingly, it takes place in a convention centre the size of the Death Star. At 2,700,000 square feet, even comparing it with football pitches (about 60, actually) becomes meaningless. It stretches across the horizon and it takes 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other. The entry queue on the first day winds around the entire building.

            Quote of the Day

            So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question.

            - Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 1

            Saturday, August 18, 2007

            Drucker and Values

            Rick Wartzman, director of the Drucker Institute, on what the Chinese need to learn from the late and great Peter Drucker. An excerpt:

            Earlier this summer, I took part in a symposium at Claremont Graduate University in California, where a group of Chinese entrepreneurs expressed serious concerns that in the eyes of far too many young people in their country, becoming rich and being ethical are somehow mutually exclusive.

            The occasion for this gathering, which drew attendees from 10 different nations and all over the U.S., was to discuss the work of the late Peter Drucker, the renowned management philosopher who held that "free enterprise cannot be justified as being good for business; it can be justified only as being good for society."

            Drucker, who died two years ago at age 95, was no starry-eyed sloganeer. And he sure wasn't against making money. "Actually," he wrote, "a company can make a social contribution only if it is highly profitable."

            [Need I add that many American entrepreneurs require the same message?]

            Living Large and Far Out

            The price? 4 million big ones for 3 nights.

            Career Choices: Why HR?

            Sadism, masochism, and high social status are not mentioned.