Sunday, September 30, 2007

Late Night TV

The story of late night television, featuring Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Jonathan Winters, and others.

Management Priorities: Fighting Terrorists in NYC and LA


Judith Miller examines the different approaches taken by New York and Los Angeles in their anti-terrorism efforts. An excerpt:

Yet despite such similarities, the terror-fighting approaches of New York and L.A., like the cities themselves, reflect very different traditions, styles, and, above all, resources. New York, which knows the price of failure and thus has a heightened “threat perception,” sets the gold standard for counterterrorism—and has the funding and manpower to do it. Kelly, 65, views his highest priority as ensuring that al-Qaida doesn’t hit the city again. “When your city has been attacked, the threat is always with you,” he tells me. Deploying its own informants, undercover terror-busters, and a small army of analysts, New York tries to locate and neutralize pockets of militancy even before potentially violent individuals can form radical cells—a “preventive” approach, as Kelly calls it, that is the most effective way that police departments, small or large, can help fight terror.


In L.A., a city that has never been attacked, terrorism is a less pressing concern than gang violence and other crime. Lacking the political incentive, and hence the resources, to wage his own war on terror, Bratton, 59, has instead pooled scarce funds, manpower, and information with federal and other agencies—an approach that federal officials hold up as a model for police departments that can’t afford New York’s investment.




Accommodation?

It sounds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery that wound up in court:

The case of the breast-feeding test-taker.

Literary Break: Faulkner's Rise

Christine Gibson looks at William Faulkner's struggle for greatness. An excerpt:

To pay the bills, he churned out more than 40 short stories between 1929 and 1932. He also started work on a potboiler, “the most horrific tale I could imagine.” But his editors recoiled from the early manuscripts for Sanctuary, the story of a gangland rape trial. (“Good God, I can’t publish this,” his publisher told him. “We’d both be in jail.”) So Faulkner took a job as a night watchman at the university power plant. It was there, to the steady drone of the generator, that he wrote his next novel, As I Lay Dying. “Before I ever put pen to paper and set down the first word,” he recalled, “I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall.”

In 59 monologues from 15 characters, As I Lay Dying tells the story of the Bundren family’s disastrous journey through Yoknapatawpha County to inter their matriarch in her family plot. Published in 1930, the novel ignored most of the conventions of traditional storytelling, such as chronological plotting and an authoritative point of view. It earned favorable reviews but mediocre sales, so Faulkner agreed to revise Sanctuary into publishable form. When it arrived in bookstores in February 1931, Sanctuary finally won him public acclaim. Although reviewers scorned its transparently salacious plot, readers bought 7,000 copies in two months.

Happiness and Belief

Professor Arthur C. Brooks explores the happiness of religious versus nonreligious people. An excerpt:

How do religious Americans compare to the secular when it comes to happiness? In 2004, the General Social Survey asked a sample of Americans, "Would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?" Religious people were more than twice as likely as the secular to say they were "very happy" (43% to 21%). Meanwhile, secular people were nearly three times as likely as the religious to say they were not too happy (21% to 8%). In the same survey, religious people were more than a third more likely than the secular to say they were optimistic about the future (34% to 24%).

The happiness gap between religious and secular people is not because of money or other personal characteristics. Imagine two people who are identical in every important way--income, education, age, sex, family status, race and political views. The only difference is that the first person is religious; the second is secular. The religious person will still be 21 percentage points more likely than the secular person to say that he or she is very happy.

Midways Time!

Always worth checking out: On the Moneyed Midways at Political Calculations.

It features a selection of posts from various blog carnivals.

But Can I Afford The Insurance?

Check out the new Rolls-Royce Phantom.



I figure it's not too early to start dropping hints for Christmas.

Quote of the Day

Why do the caterpillar and the ant have to be enemies? One eats leaves and the other eats caterpillars. Oh, I see now.

- Jack Handey

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jackie Stewart's Tale

Imagine an 11-year window of time when you lose 57 – repeat 57 – friends and colleagues, often watching them die in horrific circumstances doing exactly what you do, weekend after weekend.
To be a racing driver between 1963 and 1973 was to accept not the possibility, but the probability of death. If an F1 driver was to race for five years or more, he would be more likely to lose his life on the track than to survive and retire.



Read the rest of The Telegraph story of Sir Jackie Stewart, Grand Prix survivor.

A Passion That Connects

An interesting man talking about his work:

Contentions has an interview with theater director Jack O'Brien.

Material Witness

Many thanks to consultant, author, and professor Nicholas Bate for the tip about this nifty site on crime fiction!

Attention Must Be Paid

Another home run from Adrian Savage at Slow Leadership on the oft-neglected topic of paying attention. My favorite line: "Multitasking is a badge of stupidity, not a mark of toughness."

An excerpt:

You have only 100 percent. So if you split it between two actions, whatever you earmark to each one must add up to 100 percent. Split it evenly and each gets no more than 50 percent. Favor one task over the other and one gets maybe 60 or 70 percent and the other 30 to 40 percent. People who way they juggle four or five tasks at once, can’t give any of them more than about 20 percent of attention. Ask yourself this question. What tasks can you do well on 10 to 20 percent attention—or less?

Miscellaneous and Fast

Perhaps that physical wasn't thorough: five commonly misdiagnosed diseases.


Michael J. Totten on the next Iranian revolution.

A customer might be able to set these without reading a twelve page manual. A site devoted to plastic radios. [HT: Tom McMahon ]

Past is prologue?
Why women worry so much.

I was feeling this way myself: Missing Moynihan at the United Nations.

Bravo! Oren Harari reviews an old - but very good - set of guidelines on completed staff work.

The Losing Trust Quiz

There are several indirect ways in which you can lose trust. Consider the following questions:


  1. An associate has made a formal proposal that you are going to oppose at a committee meeting. The meeting is going to be dedicated to discussing the proposal. You arrive early at the meeting and find your associate has also arrived. Do you: (a) tell your associate that you have some objections to the proposal or (b) say nothing about your opposition and engage in small talk and don't surface your objections until the meeting begins?

  2. An associate has sent a list of questions about a potential project to you and other team members. Do you: (a) refrain from responding for a week and then only respond in a joint phone call with another team member who opposes the project or (b) promptly respond directly to the associate and ask questions about your concerns?

  3. You have committed to supporting a course of action but have recently discovered some information that will cause you to change your position. Do you: (a) call the action officer for the project and tell him or her about your change of mind or (b) wait until a group meeting to do so?

  4. You receive an urgent e-mail from a colleague but you don't have time to provide a substantive response. Do you: (a) immediately respond with a note explaining that you won't be able to give a substantive response until later or (b) wait until you've had a chance to assemble your information and then respond?

  5. You receive an e-mail from a manager which describes an innovative approach to handling a major project. Do you: (a) respond solely to the manager or (b) respond and copy others on your response?

The best approaches for preserving trust are 1(a); 2(b); 3(a); 4(a); 5(a).


These may seem obvious and yet in the course of a busy workweek it can be extremely easy for otherwise trustworthy people to slip into some of the less admirable choices. While trust can be lost rapidly via a major breach, it can also be eroded through smaller actions.

Top Five List

Seth Lipsky lists his top five books about "newspapering."

Quote of the Day

He thought he was a wit and he was half right.

- Henri Arnold

Friday, September 28, 2007

Nike's "Air Native"

A great stride forward in ethnic footwear:

Nike designers and researchers looked at the feet of more than 200 people from more than 70 tribes nationwide and found that in general, American Indians have a much wider and taller foot than the average shoe accommodates. The average shoe width of men and women measured was three width sizes larger than the standard Nike shoe.

As a result, the Air Native is wider with a larger toe box. The shoe has fewer seams for irritation and a thicker sock liner for comfort.

[HT: Eclecticity ]

Will "Google" = Telephone?

Will Google offer a free, ad-based, phone service?

Business Week explains why some people are very nervous.

HR Blogs

The HR Capitalist has released its HR Blog Power rankings.

Some renegade wizard from Dublin came in first!







Tact Filter

Jeff Bigler's "tact filter" theory: Do you filter the stuff you say or the stuff you hear?

Bike It

This description by Cool Tools of some great long-distance bike trails is enough to get anyone thinking about biking.

Publishing and POD

Michael at 2Blowhards examines the growing relationship between traditional publishers and publishing on demand.

That's good news since it is one more way for writers to surface new work.

Slow Down

We live in a world that celebrates speed. Our attention spans and patience dwindle as technology reduces the time for various tasks. I recall a study a few years ago indicating that Americans believe heating a meal in the microwave for over ten minutes constitutes serious cooking.

There a great deal of pleasure, however, to be found doing things at a slow, methodical, pace. The enjoyment of the task is revealed as it slowly unfolds. In the beauty and simplicity of the process our stress dissolves. Make a perfect pot of coffee. Drive slowly through some empty countryside. Sit in a restaurant and soak in the flow of the conversation.

On the job, select one meaningful task and begin to work on it very slowly, taking each step as a clearly separate entity. Resist the temptation to speed up. Focus on doing the immediate component extremely well, just as a master carpenter will study the grain of the wood before slowly using the plane or chisel.

Remember the mantra: Fast is slow. Slow is fast.

Enjoy the process of work.


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Quote of the Day

I find it rather easy to portray a businessman. Being bland, rather cruel and incompetent comes naturally to me.



- John Cleese

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ridley's New Blade Runner

Wired has an interview with Ridley Scott on his polishing of a new version of Blade Runner:

It's a classic tale of failure and redemption, the kind of story Hollywood loves to tell.
Fresh off his second successful movie, an up-and-coming director takes a chance on a dark tale of a 21st-century cop who hunts humanlike androids. But he runs over budget, and the financiers take control, forcing him to add a ham-fisted voice-over and an absurdly cheery ending. The public doesn't buy it. The director's masterpiece plays to near-empty theaters, ultimately retreating to the art-house circuit as a cult oddity.


That's where we left Ridley Scott's future-noir epic in 1982. But a funny thing happened over the next 25 years. Blade Runner's audience quietly multiplied. An accidental public showing of a rough-cut work print created surprise demand for a re-release, so in 1992 Scott issued his director's cut. He silenced the narration, axed the ending, and added a twist — a dream sequence suggesting that Rick Deckard, the film's protagonist, is an android, just like those he was hired to dispatch.

Simple Things

Trizoko on "Why you ain't happy."

Re Priorities: Less is More

Want to reduce the chances of successful implementation?

Increase the number of priorities. Tim Berry explains.

Basis for Selection

Years ago, I saw this sentence at the bottom of an employment ad:

We discriminate solely on the basis of merit.

I've always liked that line. It encapsulates what the employment process should be all about and yet I wonder if any employer can honestly say it. This is in no way meant to excuse the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" old boy (and old girl) selections that you see in many firms, but is merit always the key factor?

Consider this scenario: There are two top candidates for a position. One is a person you know; an employee who is not a brilliant performer but who is far above average, dependable, and well-liked. The other is an outsider who outscores the internal candidate on all objective criteria. The outsider seems nice enough and the references say nice things.

Barring some crisis that may favor selecting new blood, which one do you select?

My guess is that in most cases you'd pick the internal candidate. Is your pick based on merit or is it because:
  • You want a known commodity;

  • The outsider poses some risk;

  • There is little danger of criticism if you select the internal candidate; and/or

  • You can cite upward mobility as an added benefit?

Perhaps rather than claiming selections are based on merit, we should state that "The criterion for all selections is the good of the organization."

That may be vague but at least it is far more honest.



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Quote of the Day

When a supporter of William Jennings Bryan bragged that his candidate made 19 speeches in a single day, an opponent asked, "When does he think?"

- William Safire

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Other Russian

Writing in The New Yorker, David Remnick looks at Garry Kasparov, the chess wizard and much more. An excerpt:

Kasparov is forty-four. He was the world chess champion for fifteen years. Until his retirement, two years ago, his dominance was unprecedented. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Fischer—none came close. Chess has outsized meaning in Russia, and Kasparov at home was a cross between the greatest of athletes and a revered intellectual; with his status came celebrity, foreign investment accounts, summers on the Adriatic, an apartment along the Hudson River, friendships among Western politicians and businessmen, and the attentions of beautiful women. Now he has volunteered for grim and, very likely, futile duty. As the most conspicuous leader of Drugaya Rossiya (the Other Russia), an umbrella group of liberals, neo-Bolsheviks, and just about anyone else wishing to speak ill of Vladimir Putin, he is in nominal charge of opposition politics in a country that, in actuality, has no real politics except for that which takes place in the narrow and inscrutable space between the ears of its President.

Designing for Communication

I spent this morning in a city council chamber talking to a team of managers about communication.

It reminded me of the role that design plays in our interactions. Courts are designed to create a sense of majesty. The judge is elevated and lawyers ask permission to approach the bench. Council chambers and similar decision making bodies use the same approach. I think that in many instances, the overall effect is less one of majesty than distance between those who govern and the rest of us. Speaking before the mayor and council begins to resemble a visit to Mussolini.

Sit in the chair of a major decision maker and you can quickly understand how an "Us versus Them" attitude can develop. Everyone else is "out there" and you are surrounded by gadgets and buttons that signal status and power. Push this one and things happen. Push that one and people come running.

We know about fast food restaurants that are designed to discourage lingering. How do you design a meeting room that provides comfort and enhances communication without removing a certain air of majesty and becoming too casual?

Sacking Customers

Sooner or later in most businesses, you have to fire a customer.

The relationship may simply be a bad fit. Those are the easiest situations. There can be amicable and respectful separations. But the usual break is less direct and far less pleasant. Some customers are impossible to please, some are flat-out rude, and a few are crazier than bedbugs.

The biggest mistake is to refuse to sever a relationship because of money. As I tell my classes on harassment prevention, would you want to tell your employees, "You know, if someone pays us a lot of money, we let them harass you?" A public works executive put it even better: "We wouldn't let someone abuse our machinery. Why would we let anyone abuse our employees?"

The decision to fire the customer is often a matter of self-respect. Some customers skirt the edges of improper conduct, coming close to the breaking point, and then backing away. A few are so skilled at doing so that it is natural to suspect that they enjoy it. You are fortunate if you can spot that type before you commit to the project, but once you do, if at all possible, drop them like a hot rock.

Life is too short to be a door mat.


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Quote of the Day

Do not get into a fight if you can possibly avoid it. If you get in it, see it through. Don't hit if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting, but never hit soft. Don't hit at all if you can avoid it; but if you do hit him, put him to sleep.



- Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MacArthur Wanted

Another shameless effort to get a MacArthur genius grant: recycling an old Slate article on how to get the award.

Payback

Can you force employees to repay the cost of technical training if they leave within a year?


CareerJournal provides some answers.

Blunder 2007?

Peter Huber provides some gentle criticism of Microsoft.

Innovative Leadership?

Consultant: How many employees and managers in this department are truly bad? By that I mean how many have terrible attitudes and overall performance that is below standards?

Executive: Out of 20 managers, I'd say two are close to that. Out of 200 employees, there are probably seven who would fit that description.

Consultant: Do you know who they are?

Executive: Oh, sure. I can name them.

Consultant: Then why are they still here?

Executive: Well, it's hard to fire people nowadays. The lawyers get involved and the folks at the top are afraid of getting sued.

Consultant: But upper management probably doesn't feel the full effect of their problem behavior. The people in the field must see it every day.

Executive: That's true. The questionable managers sort of kiss up and kick down. Even with that though, they can be pretty unpleasant. If they're jerks with me, I can imagine what they're like with the employees.

Consultant: Have you tried to fire any of them?

Executive: No, but we've heard stories from other departments and then you read things in the newspapers. It seems easier just to put up with them until they decide to jump ship or do something so stupid that they force our hand. We have thought of just assigning all of them to a remote location.

Consultant: So you'd create a turkey farm.

Executive: Well, of course we wouldn't call it that. It'd get some bureaucratic name. But the good news is they'd be away from everyone else.

Consultant: Do you think that's a good move?

Executive: No. I realize we should either correct them or fire them but a turkey farm is certainly better than nothing. Do you think we'd get an award for innovative and creative management?

Consultant: I'm afraid that one's already been done.


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Quote of the Day

It's amazing how many cares disappear when you decide not to be something, but to be someone.

- Coco Chanel

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sabbaticals Now!

After working as a divorce lawyer for 12 years, Lisa Angel needed a change from the rigors and emotions of the job. So when her firm announced a paid sabbatical for employees who had been there five years or more, she was the first to raise her hand.

"It was the perfect time to take a break and reassess," says Ms. Angel of Raleigh, N.C. "I walked away from my life for a while." That decision led to a three-month sabbatical, biking alone in China and Southeast Asia. She even studied meditation in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. "I wouldn't have been able to do that on a normal vacation," she says.

Read the rest of the Christian Science Monitor's article on the benefits of sabbaticals here.

The Boys in Teheran

In light of the Columbia University talk, it might be good to review Michael Ledeen's article on talking with Iran.

Money Talks

Check out this collection of interviews that Forbes conducted with self-made billionaires.

Guess whose favorite book is The Art of the Deal?

[HT: BusinessPundit ]

GM Strike

The UAW has called a national strike against General Motors.

Update: Views from:

Portfolio

Fortune

Business Week

Unconventional Questions

Rowan Manahan has a thought-provoking post on the use of bizarre case examples in employment interviewing.

I love the use of real world case examples but, my apologies, I think that the interviewer who automatically ruled out any candidate who, when asked to design a house, immediately drew a square is as limited and dogmatic as an interviewer who would rule out anyone who didn't draw a square. Having seen a lot of employment standards challenged in discrimination cases, I'm as suspicious of the "We're so creative" crowd as I am of the linear thinkers.

Seth Godin is always going to hire the person who immediately takes charge in the "How many gas stations there are in the United States?" exercise?

He may have just hired the biggest conformist in the room. The old anarchist saying of "If they give you lined paper, write against the lines" fails to recognize how quickly writing against the lines becomes the new conformity.


Give 1 Get 1

An update on the effort to get laptops to poor countries:

Under Give 1 Get 1, which will run for two weeks starting Nov. 12, U.S. customers will be able to pay $399 to buy two laptops: one for themselves and one to be shipped to a child in one of those four countries. About half of the purchase price will be tax-deductible. Also, starting Sept. 24, people can simply "give" a laptop by making a $200 donation. Those who'd like to participate can sign up for e-mail alerts on the Web site www.XOgiving.org. The machines, which are being built in Taiwan, will begin shipping to U.S. customers in January or February.



Workshop Sins

Common sins when hosting or conducting management workshops:


Packing in more than 30 people per session. Is it possible for a class to be effective with more people in the room? Sure. But with each additional person you harm the connection between the speaker and the audience. Exception: Mega-audiences. Once the attendance hits around 70 or more, people loosen up. They are less conspicuous. It's the in-between numbers that are the problem. A key factor, however, is the nature of the subject. The more sensitive the topic, the better it is to have smaller groups.


Long conference rooms that create an airliner effect with the speaker at the front of the plane. If no microphone is available, the speaker has to shout to reach the people in the back.


Lack of audience manners. Most audiences are great but a few are strangers to basic courtesy. They show up late, noisily sit down, and are oblivious to their effect on the presentation. That subject is seldom or never addressed in many organizations.


Lack of refreshments. Not every organization can rise to the level of the large corporations that bring in exotic coffees, fruit, and freshly baked cookies, but you should at least be able to provide bottled water.


A poorly prepared introduction. It's far worse than having the speaker handle that task. This is the moment of first impressions and a botched introduction that gives away key parts of the presentation, belittles the subject, or erroneously describes the speaker's background is an unnecessary obstacle. In most cases, the briefer the introduction, the better.


Poorly placed visual aids. All should be within easy reach of the speaker.


Extreme temperatures. For some reason, freeze or bake is a frequent problem with conference rooms. If possible, the cooling/heating system should be fixed or another room should be used.


Failure to provide frequent breaks. In general, there should be a short break every hour. Even the most comfortable chairs start to pinch after an hour.


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Quote of the Day

I may make a mistake sometimes but I am never wrong.

- James Hoffa

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Miscellaneous and Fast

Kevin Hassett gives an overview of how the Fed works.


Dane Carlson notes 15 iGoogle products for increasing productivity.

Ford, via The Onion, reintroduces a model that made it great. [HT: 2Blowhards ]


Stanley Bing will not be joining MySpace.

Great Moments in Customer Service - continued

Seth Godin has the picture.

Customer Glasses

Oren Harari on the value of wearing customer glasses. An excerpt:

In one of McNerny’s early senior meetings, he asked the executives to explain the value and benefits of the 787’s new composite technology. The chief technology and engineering people put together a nice Power Point on factors like fatigue life, corrosion, and such,. The manufacturing and financial people put together a nice Power Point on factors like operational and cost efficiencies and such. And McNerny responded in a bizarre way. He said, in effect, that he was aware of all those benefits, but they all were benefits for Boeing. His question was different. What he had meant was: How does the new composite technology benefit Boeing’s customers, in this case the airlines? As you can imagine, the reaction in the room was slack jaws and a “hmmm…”.

But McNerny was not engaging in word play. He was trying to get Boeing's leaders to view the world from the customers’ perspectives, and act accordingly. If the composite technology would have lasting business value, the value should be reflected primarily on behalf of Boeing’s customers, and if it was, then Boeing would benefit with the kinds of customer loyalty, market share, profit margins, and sustained growth that truly delight investors. In fact, it turns out that the composite technology would very much benefit aircraft customers by significantly lowering their maintenance and fuel costs, providing them with much greater flexibility in their routing, increasing their speed to destination, and so on. Unsurprisingly, once all this sank in, Boeing people raced to develop even more customer-pleasing features into the product.

Auchincloss at 89

Trevor Butterworth talks with Louis Auchincloss. An excerpt:

“I had a happy childhood until I went to Groton,” says Auchincloss, “and then I had two years of festering misery.” He knuckled down, studied hard and did well, but 70 years on still finds the experience unresolved. “I don’t know,” he muses, “which did me more harm, doing badly – or doing well.”

The idea that prep school (like public school in Britain) is a mixed blessing – an experience which the rest of one’s life is spent trying to decipher – has been a boon for those who went on to become writers, and a vicarious thrill of loathing and envy for readers.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

Jury Service?

The celebrities assembled last week by the Postal Service to launch a new stamp in honor of jury duty had one thing in common: none had ever served on a jury. “I’ve been down here, but I was never picked,” Bernadette Peters said, as she waited for the ceremony to begin, in the rotunda of the New York County Courthouse building downtown. Ditto Cindy Adams, the Post gossip columnist. Paulina Porizkova, the model, recalled, “When I was called, I was pregnant, and I wasn’t hormonally ready for a jury.” The actor Richard Thomas is in the middle of a national run as Juror No. 8 in the stage version of “Twelve Angry Men.” “According to the rules of show business, that entitles me to speak as an expert,” he said.

Jeffrey Toobin notes the issuance of a postage stamp honoring jury duty.

Conversation with a Manager

Q: Do you turn out a great product?

M: We turn out a very good product.

Q: Not a great one?

M: I would not go so far as to say that. It's very good but great? I'm not so sure.

Q: Why don't you sell a great product?

M: Well, you know "great" takes a lot of time. We're not overly blessed in that category. We can do "good" and even "very good" but "great" sort of scares me.

Q: Why?

M: Because if you're great today, people will expect you to be great tomorrow and the next day. That's asking a lot. We don't want to overpromise. We prefer "pretty good."

Q: But once upon a time, your "pretty good" would have passed for "great" and some pioneers raised the expectations. Why aren't you willing to be a pioneer?

M: That's risky. Pioneers have to ford streams and climb mountains. Besides, I never forget what I heard about pioneers in my business classes.

Q: Oh, really. What's that?

M: They're the ones with the arrows in them.


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Quote of the Day

Happiness requires freedom and freedom requires courage.

- Pericles

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Miscellaneous and Fast

Himmler wasn't available? More on inviting Nazis to speak at Columbia.


Harry Stein likes The Kingdom.

Fast and green: A bio-diesel motorcycle.


Sad news: BusinessPundit is selling his blog.

Say it ain't so. Man dies of Internet usage? [HT: Lou Rodarte]

Farewell of a Dying Man

Many thanks to Eclecticity for pointing us to this demonstration of style, courage, and grace.

Religious Accommodation Update

This proliferation of religion in the workplace is creating new challenges for employers. They increasingly are being inundated with requests for religious accommodations and progressively confronted with unexpected and awkward faith-related situations (i.e., proposals to form affinity groups and prayer breakfasts, employee e-mail sign-offs that quote Scripture, and proselytizing).

The number of religious accommodation requests and religious discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have risen sharply during the last decade, underscoring the growing pressure companies face to accommodate their employees' diverse religious views, practices, and expressions.

In fact, religious discrimination claims currently are the third-fastest growing discrimination claims behind disability-based claims and sexual harassment claims.

Read the rest of
Lisa J. Teich's New York Employment Law Letter article on religion on the workplace.

The Dilemma of Tip Jars

WaiterRant gives his opinion on tip jars.

I don't agree with his entire analysis but it's thought-provoking.

Trivia Time: Advertising Icons

Mental Floss provides an update on what happened to various advertising icons such as the fast-talking FedEx guy, Little Debbie, Wendy, and the food disposal known as Mikey.

[HT: Adfreak ]

We Love It. We Really Love It.


Arthur C. Brooks on our love of work. An excerpt:


Ask yourself this: What proportion of Americans do you think are satisfied with their jobs? Twenty percent? Thirty? In fact, according to the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, among adults who worked 10 hours a week or more in 2002, a surprising 89 percent said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. Only 11 percent said they were not too satisfied or not at all satisfied.


Of course, this statistic might be hiding big differences between people with “good” jobs and those with “bad” jobs. What about the people with low incomes and little education? They must be less satisfied with their jobs than we are, right? Wrong. Precisely the same share of Americans with above-average and below-average incomes are satisfied: 89 percent. Similarly, 88 percent of people without a college education are satisfied, as well as 87 percent of people who specifically call themselves “working class.” What about the middle class, who we hear from television pundits and politicians are so dispirited? Ninety-three percent are satisfied. Also, the proportion is almost exactly the same—around 90 percent—among people working for private companies, for nonprofit organizations, and for governments.

Leadership by More Than Example

Leadership by example is the organizational equivalent of motherhood and apple pie.


Not that I'm knocking it. I've intoned its virtues to many a group and have ground my teeth when leaders fail to hold themselves to the same standards they rigorously apply to their teams. When it comes to communicating values, however, leadership by example is far too passive.


When you only use your example to demonstrate the expected forms of behavior, you may not making things worse but you're probably not making them a whole lot better. You can wander about, expecting your followers to emulate your example but, despite your best efforts, most of them haven't noticed.


Not that your team members aren't perceptive. It's just that they're busy with their jobs and wondering if that mark on their arm is cancer and if their kid is going to pass geometry and whether their old car will last another year.


Amid all of that, the glow of your grand example is easily overlooked.


So what does this mean?


It means you've got to talk to people about what matters most. You've got to talk about values and standards and which items should take priority. You have to explain why you took certain decisions and where the unit is headed. You need to note why technical mistakes will usually receive far less discipline than a values mistake and you then have to tell them that you expect them to speak up when you are failing to lead by example.


In short, you need to engage. If you think they are going to read the cosmic vibrations that you send off whenever you enter a room, get ready for disappointment. If you believe they ponder your deftly placed hints, you need to get out in the field more often.


Neither you nor they are that good.


Your leadership must be directly and clearly expressed. You're not writing a Victorian novel. You're leading people who have little time and patience for playing Twenty Questions or charades.


Don't suggest your values. Discuss them.


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Top Five List: Judaism

Ruth R. Wisse gives her top five list of books about Judaism.

Quote of the Day

Little by little we were taught all these things. We grew into them.

- Adolf Eichmann

Friday, September 21, 2007

Security Bias

Which luxury car was preferred most by women in 2007?

No surprise.

Alan The Eloquent

Noonan on Greenspan:

The book has merits--it is blessedly lucid on how the Fed works and how Fed-heads think--but there is within it a great disconnect. I was thinking about this when I got a note from a former U.S. senator who groused about "the phenomena of high-level public officials 'bravely speaking out' after they have left office." He scored Mr. Greenspan as "perfectly free to have spoken out about the need for the President to veto more spending bills on numerous occasions when he was testifying in public." My correspondent says Mr. Greenspan's "total silence" while in office does not exactly qualify as "bravely speaking out."

The former senator has a point. It can be summed up as: Now you tell us? It doesn't take courage to speak clearly when no one can hurt you. It takes guts to be candid when candor can earn powerful enemies.



Must Reading: Miserable Jobs

Take a few minutes today to read and ponder Tim Berry's post on ways in which jobs are made miserable.

I've made a note to read Patrick Lencioni's book on the subject.

Asia at Sea

Robert D. Kaplan on what's been happening in Asia:

Then there is China, whose production and acquisition of submarines is now five times that of America’s. Many military analysts feel it is mounting a quantitative advantage in naval technology that could erode our qualitative one. Yet the Chinese have been buying smart rather than across the board.


In addition to submarines, Beijing has focused on naval mines, ballistic missiles that can hit moving objects at sea, and technology that blocks G.P.S. satellites. The goal is “sea denial”: dissuading American carrier strike groups from closing in on the Asian mainland wherever and whenever we like. Such dissuasion is the subtle, high-tech end of military asymmetry, as opposed to the crude, low-tech end that we’ve seen with homemade bombs in Iraq. Whether or not China ever has a motive to challenge America, it will increasingly have the capacity to do so.


[HT: RealClearPolitics ]

Deep and Shallow Waters

Joseph Epstein on novelists, poetry, and the changing world of the literary intellectuals:

No one could say that Susan Sontag didn’t take ideas seriously. Ideas, one might say, were all she knew; it was only reality of which she was ignorant. (Always a tricky business for intellectuals, this matter of reality.) The problem for Susan Sontag was that, in the fullness of time, she changed so many of her ideas: Communism turned out not to be such a hot idea after all, she concluded as late as the 1980s, it was only “fascism with a friendly face” (why “friendly” I have never quite understood; it was grim and monstrous from the git-go). In the end she was no longer even “against interpretation”—the title of the book of essays that launched her career—but came out in favor of the damned thing, interpretation, that is (art apparently needed a hermeneutics, after all, and not, as she originally stipulated, an “erotics”). Nor, she decided upon further reflection, was “the white race … the cancer of human history.” She was even coming around to decide, after her initial pronunciamento to the contrary, that the United States did not bring the Arab terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on itself. Extreme opinions were her stock in trade, but weakly held.



Survival Rates

Political Calculations looks at the cancer survival rates of the United States versus Europe.

Ho Ho

The humor site Scrappleface notes that right-wing bloggers are questioning the authenticity of Dan Rather's lawsuit.

Irrationalities

Speeding up to get through a construction zone because the road is dangerous.

Avoiding seeing a doctor because you might have a serious illness.

Not asking someone out on a date because the person is extremely attractive.

Overeating to remove your depression about being out of shape.

Being kinder to strangers than to friends.

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Build It and Sometimes They Don't Come

An Arizona story of interest to anyone interested in notable failures. An excerpt:

Biosphere 2



The idea was that eight people would live in a 3.1-acre glass dome for two years. Their environment would be completely sealed from the outside world, and scientists would use the experiment to develop similar closed systems that could be used on other planets.The dome was built in Oracle, outside Tucson, and funded by Texas billionaire Ed Bass.

The first eight Biosphere 2 residents entered in September 1991. But three weeks in, the seal was opened. A woman had to leave temporarily because she cut her finger. Then came the December revelation that outside air was pumped into the experiment to ward off possibly dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. And that a machine was secretly installed to artificially recycle carbon dioxide. Also, a generator made electricity, not the solar power that the Biosphere 2 was supposed to run on.The project fell into a series of administrative and legal squabbles. A second crew entered in 1994 but left six months later.



The giant glass dome was taken over by scientists from Columbia University who wanted to study how rising carbon dioxide levels would affect plants.



Last year, Bass sold the property to - of course - a home developer. The dome is still open for tours, but it's unclear what will happen once the developer starts building a bunch of smaller habitats for humans.

Quote of the Day

Complexity is the first refuge of the scoundrel.

- John Gross

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Learning the Lingo

Via CareerJournal, Ruth Mantell on the foreign languages that can boost your career.

Genetic Proclivities and the Law: Exciting Stuff

Splashing about the gene pool, Kylie B. Crawford at the Arizona Employment Law Letter examines the murky world of genetic information discrimination.

Big Brother CEO

This article from Popular Mechanics on surveillance in the workplace reminds me of a Chinese proverb: If you suspect a man, don't employ him, and if you employ him, don't suspect him.

An excerpt:

You may think the data is yours, but the equipment is theirs, and employers reserve the right to micromanage all the bits and packets on their networks, computers and mobile devices. There’s no such thing as unreasonable search and seizure when it comes to company property, and the surveillance tools used by IT departments are getting stealthier and more powerful—and more heavily funded each year. How do you know if you’re under suspicion? You don’t. If it were your computer Keener was exploring, you’d probably never know.

“Our software agent runs in the background and rarely uses more than 20 percent of the computer’s processing power,” he says. “If you had an iPod or digital camera charging through the USB port, we could browse all the files that were stored onto the device.”


[HT: Instapundit ]

Best Novels about the Workplace

It periodically makes sense to consider which novels present revealing insights on the workplace. Fiction can often provide deeper thought than the standard volume of management lore.

Any list will be arbitrary and limited by the reading of the list-makers. [That's why the floor is open for nominations. I'm guilty of not having read Bartleby the Scrivener.]

My own quick list of nominees would be:

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe

Something Happened by Joseph Heller

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg

All of those books, however, are dated. Are there any novels published in the past five years that provide insightful or amusing views of the workplace?

Cultural Relativism

Mark Steyn takes on multiculturalism.

[HT: Jonathan Wade ]

Quote of the Day

All of men's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.

- Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gross Injustice

Remember the case of the loon who sued the dry cleaners because they lost his pants?

The Chung family is sad to announce that they have closed Custom Cleaners dry cleaners due to the revenue losses and emotional toll resulting from the Pearson v. Chung lawsuit. The business has been sold. Having had to now close two of their three dry cleaning stores since the filing of the lawsuit, the Chung family is currently focused only on their Happy Cleaners store. The Chungs hope that a successful Happy Cleaners store will help them someday rebuild their businesses in the aftermath of the lawsuit.

Car Dreams

If you are tired of longing for the usual hot cars, check out this gallery of the Pagani Zonda F Roadster and other extraordinary vehicles.

Then imagine the car payment.

Culture Break

One of the "must see" places in the world: Sir John Soane's Museum and its collection of Hogarths.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Loreena McKennitt singing The Lady of Shallot.

Donald at 2Blowhards weighs in on Time's list of the worst cars.

The boss who decided to rewrite an employee's resignation letter.

Michael Totten reports from Iraq.

A booming business addresses tattoo remorse.

Update: Another great moment in employment law. Dan Rather is suing CBS.

Life is Unfair Update

The HR Capitalist examines a report on the highest paid HR execs and offers some comments to console, inspire, and amuse.

Frankl

Psychiatrist and death camp survivor Viktor Frankl in a 1995 interview . An excerpt:

"You asked me earlier, Do I still think of these things? Not a day goes by when I do not! And in a way I do pity those younger people who did not know the camps or live during the war, who have nothing like that to compare [their own hardships] with. . . . Even today, as I lose my sight or with any severe problem or adverse situation, . . . I have only to think for a fraction of a second and I draw a deep breath. What I would have given then if I could have had no greater problem than I face today!"

IT Threats

SoxFirst reminds us of a hard truth: When it comes to IT threats, sometimes we're watching outside the castle when we should be looking elsewhere.

Fetch the Doubloons

If people seem to be talking a bit differently today, it may be because of this noteworthy international celebration.

The Bottom Line That Matters

Slow Leadership looks at the real content of the bottom line. An excerpt:

What is the true position of an organization that is currently making substantial profits, but alienating its customers by the methods it has chosen to do so? What about one that is maximizing short-term gains by mortgaging—or compromising—long-term growth necessities? As the world finally wakes up to the size of the problem of the human impact on the environment, what is the “bottom line” for an organization that relies on old, polluting technologies to make its profits?

The rash of Chinese imports to the USA that break US standards of product safety shouldn’t surprise anyone. All these Chinese companies are doing is copying their Western models by finding ways to maximize short-term profits at the expense of quality and safety standards. The main difference is that they aren’t nearly as practiced at doing it, so they are caught out more easily. Western companies have been sacrificing ethical and environmental standards for over a hundred years in their belief that immedaite financial profitability is the only “bottom line” that matters.

HR Carnival

Evil HR Lady is hosting the Carnival of HR and has - 10 points for creativity - put it in the form of a staff meeting.

Good stuff, even if the thought of an HR staff meeting is chilling.

The Twin Deceivers: Failure and Success

Roger von Oech tackles some related subjects in Embrace Failure and Disrupt Success.

Not Bad Enough

Forget any quests or searches for excellence. Many workplaces operate on the benchmark of Not Bad Enough.

The Not Bad Enough standard means that no corrective action will be taken until disaster has struck or is minutes away. Earlier warnings are dismissed as alarmist or a waste of time and money. The line "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is frequently employed. Stories are told of times in the past when someone uttered a dire prediction and nothing bad transpired. Executives who can erupt in anger if a restaurant order is slightly late suddenly attain the patience of Buddhist monks.

Don't worry, they purr. It's not bad enough to merit that sort of strenuous response. The more open among them urge waiting for additional evidence.

Naturally, there are times when their words make sense. Specialists often see crises everywhere and a leadership group that listened to all of their predictions would either be paralyzed in fear or running off in all directions.

The Not Bad Enough advocates, however, are a different crew. They operate not from a rational resistance to alarms but from three perspectives. Some live in a fantasy world in which nothing terrible will take place because the organization is just so big and powerful that terrible events scurry away at its approach. Others are calculating careerists who figure that it is wiser to wait for irrefutable evidence of a problem - such as lawsuits or explosions - than to leap into a decision that might harm one's progress up the ladder. Still others may secretly welcome a crisis because it will be a break from their usual humdrum routine and will provide many opportunities for heroic action.

Those who seek to move this Not Bad Enough crowd will have to show:
  1. The danger is real;

  2. There is greater career damage and risk in delay than in action;

  3. To take action now is heroic.

If those criteria are not addressed, then the odds of persuasion are remote. After all, things are bad enough.



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Quote of the Day

From what we get, we can make a living. What we give, however, makes a life.

- Arthur Ashe

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Benny Eggs and New York Rents

Jimmy Breslin writes a tribute to New York City. An excerpt:

It is these rents that affected the Genovese crime family, once the nation's biggest and most lethal Mafia outfit. For it was in the Village, famed for palette and pen, that the mob missed its first heartbeat. The organization flourishes in places where the poor live. In a sense, real estate prices more than the law did in the Mafia—and helped change the character of this part of New York.

Consider the story of mobster Benny Eggs. He was paying $200 a month for his ground-floor clubhouse at 101 Thompson Street. He assumed the landlord was satisfied. The landlord was satisfied—satisfied that one day the cops would catch up with Benny Eggs and the clubhouse would be ready to rent to some scarecrow woman designer from Milan for thousands. Each morning, the landlord thrilled at the headlines in the New York Daily News about Mafia arrests—delight that turned to despair when Benny Eggs was not among them.

Then came the headline he had been dreaming of: BENNY EGGS BUSTED. Soon there was a store on the ground floor of Number 101 that paid $3,500 and sold expensive Italian fashions.

Finding Time

We've all seen various time management schemes in which daily tasks are prioritized.

Most advocate the use of A, B, and C designations with "A's" being tasks that will be an embarrassment if left undone and then the other labels progressively dropping in importance.

Embarassment is not a bad standard, I suppose, but it is certainly not the only one and, as Stephen Covey has noted, sometimes greater attention should be given to those Not Urgent But Important tasks which may not mean much today but may make an enormous difference three or four years from now.

Some other ways to organize your day or week are less conventional. One approach is to focus on a particular theme - office organization, for example - and do things that advance that area. Another is to address commitments to people or institutions: "This morning will be limited to working on the Parks project and the afternoon will be dedicated to the Phillips account." Many of our greatest regrets in time management come when we have failed to keep commitments to others.
[One of the most common time management mistakes is using schedule books solely to chart meetings and not activities.]

The two key factors in any of these approaches involve deciding what is worthy of time and then focusing on the top two items. Ideally, you would focus solely on one priority but boredom and interruptions make it wise to have the top two in mind so if action on one is blocked, you can shift your attention to the other. Once one is completed, of course, a worthy replacement can be selected from the back bench.

In most cases, this will be done amid a certain amount of chaos. Indeed, the actual work is likely to be done in bursts and not in a continuous, organized, flow. Recognizing that hard truth acknowledges that all work days - except those of neurotics - have lag times and goof off points.
The challenge is to make sure that the "down times" don't predominate and that the "focus times" are given meaningful amounts of time and attention.


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Quote of the Day

Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.

- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ledeen on Iran

Check out BookTV's program on Michael Ledeen's new book, The Iranian Time Bomb.

Work Ethic Update


One of the last things Lisa Hammond remembers about being prepped for a rotator-cuff procedure last year was the medical personnel prying a BlackBerry out of her hands.

Hammond, the chief executive of Femail Creations, a Las Vegas-based shopping-catalog company, was on a deadline: She had a date to repair her torn shoulder, but she needed to email approvals for her firm's latest catalog. Hammond says she managed to do both as she was being wheeled on a gurney into the operating room.

Click here for more on executives who disobey doctor's orders.

B School Rankings

The Wall Street Journal/Harris Survey of recruiter rankings of which MBA programs are best in which disciplines:

Click here and look for your alma mater.

Click here for a photo of the top student.

Kagan on Foreign Policy

One of the most interesting thinkers out there: Robert Kagan writing on the state of world affairs. An excerpt:

It is odd because the struggle between modernization and globalization, on the one hand, and traditionalism, on the other, is largely a sideshow on the international stage. The future is more likely to be dominated by the struggle among the great powers and between the great ideologies of liberalism and autocracy than by the effort of some radical Islamists to restore an imagined past of piety. But of course that struggle has taken on a new and frightening dimension. Normally, when old and less technologically advanced civilizations have confronted more advanced civilizations, their inadequate weapons have reflected their backwardness. Today, the radical proponents of Islamic traditionalism, though they abhor the modern world, are nevertheless not only using the ancient methods of assassination and suicidal attacks, but also have deployed the weapons of the modern world against it. Modernization and globalization inflamed their rebellion and also armed them for the fight.

It is a lonely and ultimately desperate fight, for in the struggle between tradition and modernization, tradition cannot win — though traditional forces armed with modern technology can put up a good fight. All the world ’s rich and powerful nations have more or less embraced the economic, technological, and even social aspects of modernization and globalization. All have embraced, albeit with varying degrees of complaint and resistance, the free flow of goods, finances, and services, and the intermingling of cultures and lifestyles that characterize the modern world. Increasingly, their people watch the same television shows, listen to the same music, and go to the same movies. And along with this dominant modern culture they have accepted, even as they may also deplore, the essential characteristics of a modern morality and aesthetics: the sexual as well as political and economic liberation of women, the weakening of church authority and the strengthening of secularism, the existence of what used to be called the counterculture, free expression in the arts (if not in politics), which includes the freedom to commit blasphemy and to lampoon symbols of faith, authority, and morality — these and all the countless effects of liberalism and capitalism unleashed and unchecked by the constraining hand of tradition, a powerful church, or a moralistic and domineering government. The Chinese have learned that while it is possible to have capitalism without political liberalization, it is much harder to have capitalism without cultural liberalization.

Psst. The Meaning of Life. Pass It On.

Anthony Kronman on colleges, universities, and the meaning of life. An excerpt:

As this new vision of higher education took hold in America, faculty members ceased to think of themselves as shapers of souls. Today's students are thus denied the opportunity to explore the question of life's meaning in an organized way, under the guidance of teachers who seek to acquaint their students with the answers contained in the rich tradition whose transmission was once the special duty of the humanities.

It has also put the humanities in the shadow of the natural and social sciences. Judged by the standards of these latter disciplines, research in the humanities is bound to seem less conclusive, less accretive, less quantifiable. In philosophy, one can reasonably claim that there has been no meaningful progress since Plato. For a physicist to say the same thing about Newton would be absurd. Teachers of the humanities who judge their work strictly from the standpoint of the research ideal condemn themselves to an inferior position in the hierarchy of academic authority and prestige.



[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

Committee Sloths

Although the Committee Sloth is a creature once thought to exist only in prehistoric North America, recent evidence indicates it is now found on all continents. Slow-moving and showing little inclination toward creativity, Committee Sloths travel in herds although individuals have been known to break from the group if a box of donuts is nearby.


The Committee Sloth is known for several proclivities. The most characteristic is its tendency to volunteer for committees and then do nothing or next to nothing. Its habit of suggesting various approaches is especially irritating to other species, possibly because they sense the Committee Sloth will do no actual work if the Slothic idea is adopted. Committee Sloths fear darkness and rarely work late. They seldom respond to e-mail since typing involves an expenditure of energy. Deadlines have no effect on this creature due to a genetic immunity to shame. Although Committee Sloths accomplish little, they frequently bemoan their heavy workload.


There are numerous reports of Committee Sloths killing projects and assignments by sitting on them. These creatures may appear amiable but the cumulative effect of their practices poses a real danger to effectiveness and morale. If a quorum is required for a committee, the beasts can be lethal from a distance.

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Turning Chrysler

Is Robert Nardelli building a dream team at Chrysler? An excerpt from Business Week:

Cerberus had been scouting talent even before it acquired Chrysler in May. In March, while it was bidding for the carmaker, its managers were talking to Nardelli, and later had headhunters stocking a pool of hot prospects. They approached Press a few months after. He met with Cerberus founder and CEO Stephen Feinberg over the summer, says a source close to the firm, and Feinberg made an impassioned pitch about joining a patriotic mission to save an American icon. Deborah Wahl Meyer, the former vice-president of marketing for Toyota's Lexus division who became Chrysler's chief marketing officer on Aug. 15, was approached by Heidrick in July, met with Cerberus, and negotiated a deal over two months. She couldn't resist the turnaround bid: "You only get a few chances in your career to do this."

Quote of the Day

Remember that the world's greatest leader washed the feet of His associates.

- Sign at Union University, a Baptist college in Jackson, Tennessee

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Six months of work in four days. And mono."

Need some entrepreneurial spirit?

Check out BusinessPundit's take on the wizard called Woz.

Wild and Sick

McCullough on Leadership and George Washington

I've already read David McCullough's great book, 1776, but still found his interview with Charlie Rose to be fascinating.

Credibility and HR

The greatest mistake that can be made by Human Resources departments is to lose credibility.

Unfortunately, many HR professionals act as if they wish to do precisely that.

Among the credibility-destroying actions are:

  • Acting like a paralegal for management. The wise HR department will be an honest broker who will admit when management has made a mistake and will lobby to correct poor practices. HR people who become toadies quickly earn contempt.

  • Adopting a cynical attitude toward employees and their concerns. As an executive once remarked to me, "We don't have a personnel department. We have an anti-personnel department." Labeling some employees as whiners and troublemakers can result in a failure to listen when those individuals raise valid concerns.

  • Failing to keep up with important changes in the law. The HR people need to know when the attorneys are on target or are being overly cautious. There are many legal defense strategies that have terrible management repercussions.

  • Being too much of a cop instead of a consultant. There are times, of course, when conflict is appropriate but on most occasions HR should be an ally and not an adversary for the other departments.

  • Failing to keep employee confidences. Gossiping should be treated as a cardinal sin in any HR department. One instance of breached confidence can damage an HR department for years.

  • Focusing on turf instead of mission. HR departments that actively seek to prevent employees from getting management information from other sources only demonstrate their insecurity and limit the education of their workforce.

Much of the above can be encapsulated in a simple standard: It is more important to do right than be right. HR departments need the guts and insight to maintain that standard even if doing so means being willing to walk away from the job. An HR director who will do anything to hang onto a position has started to walk down a smooth and grassy path that leads to a very unpleasant place.

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Crystal Balls

The always interesting Tim Berry on fear of business plans.

Late Bloomers, Take Heart!

Ninety years old and his first novel is coming out.

An excerpt from The New Yorker article on Millard Kaufman:

His alliance with McSweeney’s was a product of circumstance. “My literary agent, who was younger than me, had died suddenly, and I had nobody,” Kaufman said. He is now writing a second novel.

“Years ago, I was working in Italy, and Charlie Chaplin and his family came from Switzerland,” he recalled. “We were at a beach north of Rome, and it was a very foggy day and the beach was lousy. At about three o’clock it cleared up, and Chaplin said, ‘I’m going back to the hotel. Unless I write every day, I don’t feel I deserve my dinner.’ That made an impression on me.”

Quote of the Day

Experts ranked in serried rows
Filled the enormous plaza full.
But only one is there who knows
And he's the man who fights the bull.

- Robert Graves