Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer Reading

Here's my own ambitious list:

  • Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
  • The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Sell and Market Your Way Out of This Recession by Nicholas Bate
  • In Pursuit of Elegance by Matthew E. May
  • Ordinary Men by Christopher R. Browning
  • His Excellency George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
  • Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
  • American Lion by Jon Meacham
  • At least a couple of books by Ed McBain
  • Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  • Londonistan by Melanie Phillips
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo


Here's a list from Cultural Offering.

And one from The Wall Street Journal.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A look at the new world of books from View from the Ledge.

Quote of the Day

The intellect of man is forced to choose,
Perfection of the life, or of the work . . . .

- William Butler Yeats

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Terminated's Revenge

PseudoHR shows four reasons why terminated employees should not be permitted to finish the day.

Quite amusing and yet you can also find employers who are needlessly heavy-handed in the termination process.

Trolls and Sales

Sonia Simone discusses the troll that whispers in our ear whenever we hear a sales pitch.

[HT: Seth Godin ]

Identity Politics and Disparate Impact

Writing in The National Journal, Stuart Taylor has a thoughtful piece on Judge Sonia Sotomayor, identity politics, and the issue of disparate impact. An excerpt:

The disparate-impact dynamic has the benefit of expanding opportunities for preferred minorities. But it also has great costs. It is unjust to high-scoring white and Asian workers; it has greatly eroded the anti-discrimination principle; and it downgrades incentives for students and workers to study and learn -- both in school and in rigorous test-preparation courses such as the one that helped some New Haven firefighters improve their skills and do well on the test.

[HT: Real Clear Politics ]

Fit City

Which city is the fittest in the United States? This finding might surprise you.

Living with a Fevered Brow

Naturally, my mother was fundamentally opposed to buying Pepsi (because of its associations with the United States, big industry and Republicans) or Coca-Cola (USA, big industry, Democrats), except for children's birthday parties or when we were sick and nauseous. Then we were given small amounts of the ice-cold beverage, which is why I still associate Coca-Cola with sickness today. When the papers reported that children in Africa had died after consuming Nestlé powdered milk, Nesquik immediately disappeared from the breakfast table. When a friend told me that Smarties candies were also made by Nestlé, I prayed ardently that my mother would never find out.

Read the rest of Spiegel editor Jan Fleischauer's account of accidental political conversion.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

Being Underestimated

My post on the danger of making it look easy is up at U.S. News & World Report.

Put It in Writing

Here's the comment-provoking scenario behind a post at Fistful of Talent:

You get a verbal job offer from a recruiter. You request that the offer be put in writing before notifying your current employer of your intention to leave.

Is your request out-of-line or strange? I don't think so.

Quote of the Day

He has occasional flashes of silence, that make his conversation perfectly delightful.

- Sydney Smith

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Good News

After a long absence, Managing Leadership is back.

Culture Break: Unusual


Check out this, uh, unconventional but impressive performance of Bach.

You will smile.

Kindle Addiction

A review from another convert.

The Kindle doesn't replace "real" books but it is the single neatest and most convenient device I've ever seen.

25 Unacceptable Excuses for Not Attending the Weekly Staff Meeting

  1. Ennui.
  2. Deja vu.
  3. Heebie-jeebies.
  4. Fear of domestic terrorism.
  5. Carson got the last bear claw.
  6. Wanted to lose a few pounds first.
  7. Allergic to Old Spice.
  8. Received email promising millions from widow in Ivory Coast.
  9. Indiscreet use of "Reply All" button.
  10. Job interview outside of building.
  11. Thought I heard my car alarm.
  12. Realized progress report had career-ending observations.
  13. Feel lost in any meeting without endless PowerPoint.
  14. Didn't want to hear diversity officer say "Walk the Talk."
  15. Heard there was a quiz.
  16. Chiggers.
  17. What happened in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas.
  18. Had to catch up on spam.
  19. Sent Blackberry in my place.
  20. Garbled voice mail sounded a lot like "Meeting canceled."
  21. Visiting porn sites.
  22. Preparing resume.
  23. Pondering the meaning of Twitter.
  24. Thinking outside of the box.
  25. Learned that all of us aren't always as smart as one of us.

Quote of the Day

It is better to entertain an idea than to take it home to live with you for the rest of your life.

- Randall Jarrell, Pictures from an Institution

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Government Can Go Lean

Government executives generally don't care about operations. Most elected officials and government executives didn't join government to manage. Instead, they are driven by a deep desire to advance a cause, a policy issue or a political agenda. They get excited about bold new programs and solving big problems — not about making the widgets. But the key to results in government is a combination of innovative policy and improving the performance of operations. There has to be a balance between "bold new stuff" and improving the "stuff we already have." Right now, though, the balance is out of whack. We have too much emphasis on policies, programs, politics and people and not emphasis on our processes.

Read the rest of Ken Miller's article on lean government management.

Put Down the iPhone, Frodo.

This is unusual:

Some commentators on the constant quest to be connected who really sort of like it. An excerpt:

On balance, we regard mobile devices as powerful tools that enhance our lives. Sure, some folks overdo it. But as with food, fashion, and exercise, one person’s excess is another’s necessity. Even for the workaholic, a “CrackBerry” can provide a lifeline to the office, a tether that allows him to float in the ether while avoiding the stress of being cut off from decisions that may require his input.

The Detector

At some point, if you are fortunate, you will develop the ability to listen to eloquence and detect when the speaker doesn't know what he or she is talking about.

In Russia, there is a distinction between a summer fool and a winter fool. The summer fool runs about with almost no clothes and upon sight, people can quickly conclude, "This is a fool." The winter fool is harder to spot because of the many layers of clothing but, once the layers are stripped away one-by-one, it can be said, "This is a fool."

The ability to spot a winter fool before the many layers are removed can be a major advantage in business and in life. Many of these individuals are rather smooth operators and, although possessing deeply flawed judgment, they usually aren't fools. They are, however, a hazard because their ability to feign wisdom is well-honed. Some of their habits are:
  • Somberly stating opinions as facts.
  • Rewriting history to support their positions.
  • Setting up straw men and then boldly knocking them down.
  • Equating opposition with ignorance.
  • Deftly switching positions and denying that they ever did so.
  • Denouncing any challenges as unfair or mean-spirited.
  • Using vague terms.
  • Opposing "4" but supporting "2 + 2."

Quote of the Day

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

- Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Fluff Market

Do you ever get the impression that a large number of corporations are in the market for fluff?

I cringe at some of the expensive consulting programs that various companies purchase. One shallow exercise after another. Questionable conclusions piled upon even more questionable ones. Cute and clever categories. And always a clever title.

What is it about those programs that is so appealing?

Are the people making the hiring decisions so inept that they cannot spot the hollowness of the products? Or is it a case in which one person's fluff is another person's substance?

I ask that in all seriousness. It may be that I am missing something significant. I'm certainly missing a marketing approach that has proven appeal.

Crichton's Estate

The disposition of novelist Michael Crichton's estate may be his last thriller. An excerpt from the Portfolio article:

The son, John Michael Todd Crichton, isn't mentioned in Crichton's will, but as an "omitted child" in legal theory, he may nonetheless be entitled to one-third of the writer's estate. The amount at stake is not known, but may well reach into nine figures: By one account, Crichton earned $100 million a year in his prime.


Cultural Offering explains the importance of what can be found at life's margins.

Expand Apprenticeships

It would be both honest and helpful to expand the concept of apprenticeship.

Many blue collar jobs have apprenticeships. Doctors go through internships. Part of the reasoning is that a period of "hands-on" experience is needed in order to gain a level of expertise.

Why not extend this to other jobs? Doing so would recognize that entry-level positions should indeed be learning experiences that, while not paid well, are designed for learning. It would avoid the "entry-level position, five years experience required" nonsense that you sometimes see in ads and convey a clearer view of employee development.

Such clarification would benefit those on both sides of the desk in employment interviews.

Quote of the Day

We must beat the iron while it is hot, but we may polish it at leisure.

- John Dryden

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Purple Cow

Seth Godin is accepting stories for an updated version of Purple Cow.

The one about the SAME restaurant is fascinating.

More Booms from the Artistes

Went to see new Star Trek film. Not exactly The Third Man but it did what it had to do.

Preview #1: Explosions and a ton of special effects.

Preview #2: Explosions and a ton of special effects.

Preview #3: Explosions and a ton of special effects.

I don't recall anything with a story, but then perhaps the Star Trek film's trailer consisted of explosions and a ton of special effects.

Back to the books.

Diversity Follies

Dorsinvil is smart, capable, bold, and has any number of the attributes you need to be a successful entrepreneur. His business has gone gangbusters without the benefit of preferential treatment, and in an open market, he seems like the last guy you'd want to compete against, whatever your color might be.

I don't ask him if he feels disadvantaged. To do so would almost seem an insult after all he's just told me. Nor do I make him for a cynic, though he's obviously not above gaming a system that invites cynical exploitation. So I rib him a little instead. "Let me get this straight," I say. "You're a minority-owned business. You've partnered with a woman, and she's gone green .  .  ." I don't finish my thought, before a broad smile crosses Dorsinvil's face, as though he's holding three aces, and the fourth one could be next out of the dealer shoe. "All I need is a disabled vet," he jokes, about the surreal advantages of being disadvantaged, "and I'm in the money."

Read the rest of Matt Labash here.

Memorial Day

Quote of the Day

Democratic civilization is the first in history to blame itself because another power is trying to destroy it.

- Jean-Francois Revel

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Inattention Update

Over the last twenty years, Meyer and a host of other researchers have proved again and again that multitasking, at least as our culture has come to know and love and institutionalize it, is a myth. When you think you’re doing two things at once, you’re almost always just switching rapidly between them, leaking a little mental efficiency with every switch. Meyer says that this is because, to put it simply, the brain processes different kinds of information on a variety of separate “channels”—a language channel, a visual channel, an auditory channel, and so on—each of which can process only one stream of information at a time. If you overburden a channel, the brain becomes inefficient and mistake-prone. The classic example is driving while talking on a cell phone, two tasks that conflict across a range of obvious channels: Steering and dialing are both manual tasks, looking out the windshield and reading a phone screen are both visual, etc. Even talking on a hands-free phone can be dangerous, Meyer says. If the person on the other end of the phone is describing a visual scene—say, the layout of a room full of furniture—that conversation can actually occupy your visual channel enough to impair your ability to see what’s around you on the road.

Read the rest here.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

Convenient Rationalizations

There is a certain admirable candor in individuals who will screw you over and admit that they are doing it.

They stand in contrast to the characters who cook up rationalizations. Consider the second group's creative lines:
  • "This was for your own good." Oh, that's why you kept it a secret. You wanted it to be a pleasant surprise.
  • "I had to do it." How about the other choice of not doing it?
  • "Everybody does it." Everybody doesn't and even if everyone does, so what?
  • "If I hadn't done it, someone else would have." Thank God, I wasn't betrayed by a stranger!

The Technological Drag

I've written before about how email, instant messaging, faxes, and other "advances" raise expectations of speedy responses and thus increase stress.

There are, however, some other aspects that deserve attention.

  1. Since it is easier to communicate to groups of people, we tend to communicate with larger groups. We might have been stingy when adding the cc's to a standard letter, but there's hardly any effort at all to copy small armies to our email messages. We possess a greater capacity to squander the time of others.

  2. These shotgun blasts have been countered with another weapon: the delete button. Technology has made it easier for the recipients to ignore our messages. When you received an old fashioned paper memo or letter, you usually read it. Nowadays, it is far more convenient to delete messages without a single peek at the contents. You can imagine the impact in the publishing biz. Unknown writers who submitted queries "over the transom" - as the quaint phrase went - once had a chance that a real, live person might glance at the next "War and Peace" and rescue it from what was coldly referred to as the slush pile. Many book and magazine queries are now dealt with via email. Rather than bother with tucking crushed dreams into self-addressed stamped envelopes, the publishers declare that if an electronic query or submission receives no response within x number of days, all is lost and the writer should return to the plow or the burger grill. In that case, modern technology hasn't brought people closer together. It has pushed them apart.

  3. Electronic communication also lacks charm. I'm guilty of sending electronic thank you notes but will readily concede that a hand-written note on nice stationery is more human and more humane. A hand-written message gives you a better sense of the personality behind the correspondence.

  4. That lack of warmth is an inherent problem with email, no matter how many smiley faces are inserted. We are expected to give responses via a medium that is inherently cold within a time period that discourages calm deliberation. Not good. Not good at all.

World's Smallest Car

Watch this and make your day.

Fast Company 100

This Fast Company list of the 100 most creative people in business is interesting, but some of its members aren't really in business.

Neil Gaiman?

Quote of the Day

Society needs to condemn a little more and understand a little less.

- John Major

Friday, May 22, 2009

Miscellaneous and Fast

From Cage Liner to Dead Parrot

Mark Steyn on John Edwards, a baby, a burger, and the fall of the press. An excerpt:

The blogger Mickey Kaus likes to distinguish between the news and the “under-news.” The “news” is what you get from your bland monodaily or your incontinence-pad-sponsored network news show; the “under-news” is what’s bubbling out there on the Internet. I can see why Obama, Edwards and others value the king-rode-in-the-park model. But it’s not clear what’s in it for America’s failing newspapers. If you’re conservative, you don’t read them because they’re biased. If you’re an informed leftie, you don’t read them because they don’t have the gleeful partisan brio of the Daily Kos or the Huffington Post. And, if you’re apolitical, you don’t read them because they’re just incredibly boring.

Helping You Succeed

My post on the ideal colleague is up at U.S. News & World Report.

MBA Bashing

Business Week examines arguments that business schools bear some responsibility for the financial crisis.

My business school made me do it? Where does that end?

TARP: "Duct tape and fishing wire"

From U.S. News & World Report, an insider's look at how TARP began. An excerpt:

But TARP morphed into an über-bailout that included direct cash injections into banks, the auto rescue, the AIG intervention, and other government efforts to revive the economy. If it sounds like a trial-and-error experiment, well, that's how it felt to the policymakers who designed it, too. "When we looked for easy solutions, we kept coming up empty," says David Nason, who was a senior Treasury Department official during the Bush administration. "Hank used to say all the time, 'We're going to have to do this with duct tape and fishing wire.' "

Quote of the Day

Don't be humble, you're not that great.

- Golda Meir

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Utopians

Cultural Offering expresses the concerns of many of us about the Utopian attitude and the increasing role of government.

I haven't read Hayek since college. It's time to read him again.

Time, Newsweek, and Desperation

John Podhoretz contrasts the old Time with the new Newsweek. An excerpt:

Time Inc., the parent company of Time, was flush then. Very, very, very flush. So flush that the first week I was there, the World section had a farewell lunch for a writer who was being sent to Paris to serve as bureau chief…at Lutece, the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan, for 50 people.So flush that if you stayed past 8, you could take a limousine home…and take it anywhere, including to the Hamptons if you had weekend plans there. So flush that if a writer who lived, say, in suburban Connecticut, stayed late writing his article that week, he could stay in town at a hotel of his choice. So flush that, when I turned in an expense account covering my first month with a $32 charge on it for two books I’d bought for research purposes, my boss closed her office door and told me never to submit a report asking for less than $300 back, because it would make everybody else look bad. So flush when its editor-in-chief, the late Henry Grunwald, went to visit the facilities of a new publication called TV Cable Week that was based in White Plains, a 40 minute drive from the Time Life Building, he arrived by helicopter—and when he grew bored by the tour, he said to his aide, “Get me my helicopter.”

Quote of the Day

Blackbirds are the cellos of the deep farms.

- Anne Stevenson

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"So easy, a man can do it."

Idea Anaconda examines a story from Britain about the way men are portrayed in commercials.

You can certainly find that pattern in American ads. If there is an idiot in a commercial, odds are it is a man.

The Gumblar Attack

A new attack that peppers Google search results with malicious links is spreading quickly, the U.S. Computer Emergence Response Team warned on Monday.

The attack, which has intensified in recent days, can be found on several thousand legitimate Web sites, according to security experts. It targets known flaws in Adobe's software and uses them to install a malicious program on victims' machines, CERT said.

The program then steals FTP login credentials from victims and uses that information to spread further. It also hijacks the victim's browser, replacing Google search results with links chosen by the attackers.

Read the rest of the CSO article.

The Beauty of Virgil

John J. Miller interviews Sarah Ruden, translator of a recent edition of Virgil's Aeneid. An excerpt:

RUDEN: I had to translate a major classic or find another career. Translating something less important than the Aeneid doesn’t help much with a livelihood. But I had divided feelings at first. At nineteen I had seized on Virgil’s Eclogues with a loopy teenage love. But I had a variety of distastes for the Aeneid. It’s a war poem, and I’m a Quaker pacifist. And a lot of the story is just hokey, and a lot of the tone bombastic or hysterical. These rhetorical faults, and killing as something well-intentioned people can do, only slowly came into perspective through a deeper experience of the exquisite language and the author’s superb balance of engagement and irony.

Hubris Update: Government as Car Maker

Views on the increasing injection of government into the American car business:

The Daily Choices

  1. Do I act in an upbeat manner or do I inflict my bad mood on others?
  2. Do I eat nutritious food or convenient junk?
  3. Do I let careless or rude people affect my day or do I think past their behavior?
  4. Do I greet people or merely grunt in their direction?
  5. Do I rush to ascribe bad motives or do I focus solely on behavior?
  6. Do I speak ill of others or do I find people who are worthy of praise?
  7. Do I add creative twists to my work or do I simply crank out the minimum?
  8. Do I give thanks for many blessings or do I regard myself as a self-made wizard?
  9. Do I try to help others or do I only devote energy to my own advancement?
  10. Do I let television and other entertainment devour large chunks of time or do I set aside hours for self-improvement?
  11. Do I judge others far more harshly than I judge myself?
  12. Do I judge myself far more harshly than I judge others?

Quote of the Day

Remember Christopher Columbus. He didn't know where he was going. When he got there he didn't know where he was. When he got back, he didn't know where he'd been. But he became famous for it. And he did it on other people's money.

- Ken Burnett

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Let Us Thank Our Competitors

They teach us how to get better.

They show us where we are vulnerable. They challenge our assumptions, reveal gaps in our research, and, if we are wise, unite us in a drive to achieve.

They demonstrate new approaches that we can avoid, adopt or improve. They remind us that while we may be wise, we do not have a monopoly on wisdom and there may indeed be areas in which we are barely sufficient.

In some respects, they are not the opposing team; they are extensions of our team.

Bad Form

Beware of the following behavior in the workplace:
  1. Smirking.
  2. Mocking.
  3. Gossiping.
  4. Offering "constructive" criticism.
  5. Frequently employing sarcasm.
  6. Rubbing it in.
  7. Gloating.
  8. Blowing up.
  9. Retaliating.
  10. Excluding.

Quote of the Day

Uncertainty is the only thing to be sure of.

- Anthony Muh

Monday, May 18, 2009

Score Boards, Please

Cultural Offering looks at the joys of lawn mowing and astutely points out the importance of measurable success and failure.

Not Your Usual Car Review

No, Jeremy Clarkson does not like the new Honda Insight Hybrid:

So here goes. It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

One Damned Thing After Another

The problem is before you.

Sometimes, it comes with cohorts; related issues that might be formidable in their own right but which certainly have weight when assembled.

You study the problem. If you are fortunate, it stands still long enough to be examined.

Experts are brought in and you quickly learn how experts can differ. Even if there is consensus there is usually a collection of unknowns.

Time seems to have too speeds: rabbit and snail. One assessment leads to another. Impatience is common, both with the problem and with the proposed solutions.

What keeps you from screaming? The knowledge that:
  1. There are limits to what you can do. You are not Master of the Universe.
  2. Ultimate wisdom in contained in the phrase, "This too shall pass."
  3. Breaking the problem into components and focusing on areas that you can control makes sense.
  4. Rest is important and you're not goofing off when you take breaks.
  5. Positive efforts, however small, make a difference.
  6. Any plan is usually better than no plan.
  7. There are people who really want to help.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

- Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Expense Scandal in Britain

A week or so ago, the Telegraph newspaper got its hands on some of the juiciest secrets in Britain -- the dubious expenses claimed over the last few years by British politicians. The scale of the cupidity is astonishing. The evidence suggests that members of all parties -- Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, even, most impressively, representatives of Sinn Fein, the Irish republican party whose members for years actually refused to take their seats because they didn't recognize Westminster's writ -- have been bilking the system for all they're worth.

The scandal threatens to be as corrosive as anything seen in Britain in decades -- this is not just about a party abusing power; it threatens to undermine the public's remaining faith in the probity, not just of politicians, but of Parliament itself.

Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article.

Success and Self-Control

A researcher then made Carolyn an offer: she could either eat one marshmallow right away or, if she was willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, she could have two marshmallows when he returned. He said that if she rang a bell on the desk while he was away he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow but would forfeit the second. Then he left the room.

Read the rest of Jonah Lehrer's article in The New Yorker.

What? Detroit Didn't Make It?

Here's a controversial list: The World's 10 Best Cities to Live In.

Off-Hand and Remembered

Wally Bock has written a must-read post on flower girls and casual comments.

Sickies in the Workplace

This needs to be said more often:

With the convergence of our economic crisis and swine flu fears, sick days are nothing to sneeze at. Some workers have always taken pride in never missing a day of work because of sickness. They don’t take into account the number of coworkers they’ve made sick to keep their record perfect.

Read the rest of employment attorney John Phillips here.

And that brings to mind the charming tale of a dedicated cook.

CEO of the Year

Chief Executive magazine has named Jim Skinner, the CEO of McDonald's Corporation as the CEO of the Year:

“Skinner successfully transformed an iconic brand by shifting strategies to being better versus bigger and introducing a range of quality enhancements from introducing new, healthier menu options to the innovative redesign of restaurants,” said J.P. Donlon, Editor-in-Chief of Chief Executive magazine. “He has been respectful of McDonald’s legacy while engineering an inspirational strategic leadership that re-invented the industry. He’s a remarkable leader in all facets, and we are happy to name him the 24th CEO of the Year.”

Skinner and his executive team have delivered exceptional results, since his appointment in 2004, McDonald’s worldwide restaurant sales have increased from $50.1 billion to $70.1 billion in 2008, up 41.1 percent. Last year the company far outperformed its competitors and was one of only two DJIA stocks that ended 2008 with a gain.

Rogue's Gallery

John Steele Gordon looks at Wall Street's 10 most notorious stock traders. An excerpt:

Jay Gould was quiet, unhealthy, small, and thin (he would die of tuberculosis at the age of 56), with eyes “that freeze and fascinate.” But he combined a fierce ambition to succeed with perhaps Wall Street’s best brain ever. Born in upstate New York, he had come to Wall Street in the early 1860s, having worked as a surveyor and in the leather tanning business. By 1869 he was the president of the Erie Railway. That’s when he decided to corner gold.

Quote of the Day

Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.

- Robert Frost

Friday, May 15, 2009

Humor Break: Sales Demo

Classic: The Reverend Jim from "Taxi" sells vacuum cleaners.

Group Dynamics

I once read that meetings of more than 12 people are undesirable because the personal dynamics of that many combinations of alliances and relationships are too complex.

That's understandable. Getting agreement on a simple proposal can be next to impossible with a much smaller group. Karen doesn't like Ray, Ed wants to control the outcome, Carlos doesn't care about the outcome but doesn't want anything that Ed wants, Harold and Mary are allied against Ellen. You know the drill. Pop in a few more folks and it gets even more interesting.

Extracting the poison of personal animosity and bitter memories can be extremely difficult. Some factions are still fighting battles that started a decade ago. Newcomers to the organization can be baffled by the hard feelings that seemingly come out of nowhere.

It would help if teams adopted a statute of limitations.

Crisis Steps

My post on 10 ways to handle a crisis is up at U.S. News & World Report.

The Proper Role of Government

Back by popular demand: From Mark Steyn's speech to Hillsdale College:

But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.

[HT: Instapundit ]

The Intangibles

The intangibles can both lift you up and do you in.

What are they?

  1. Trust and suspicion.

  2. Forgiveness and grudges.

  3. Empathy and sympathy.

  4. Humility and hubris.

  5. Pragmatism and opportunism.

  6. Mission and turf.

  7. Focus and dispersion.

  8. Curiosity and complacency.

  9. Kindness and manipulation.

  10. Attention and presence.

  11. Action and activity.

  12. Courage and rashness.

  13. Wisdom and information.

  14. Love and indifference.

Quote of the Day

When people say they haven't got time, what they are really saying is that they don't want to think about it now.

- Nicholas Bate

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Paging Mr. McCartney

It doesn't get much stranger than this: Bert Parks singing a Wings song.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Screening Preferences - Part II

The recent post on "Screening Preferences" drew thoughtful comment.

It reminded me of a conclusion I reached while preparing a book on leadership. Although people sometimes speak of "putting a business executive in the White House," the transfer of lessons from the private sector to the public one is far more difficult than the reverse. The public sector's restrictions, combined with its multitude of second-guessers, possess factors that don't exist in private sector leadership. The lessons from the public sector - such as the handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis - can be more easily applied to private sector scenarios.

As for the reason why a Churchill or DeGaulle might have greater difficulty rising in a private sector firm, that may come from the tendency of private sector organizations to favor a particular type. Voters are more open to eccentrics and those who do not fit the mode although they do have their own bias. Political candidates who appear to be from Central Casting can seem too programmed even though they may have impressive records of achievement.

Quote of the Day

America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.

- John Updike

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Music Break

Screening Preferences

Pretend for a moment that Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Thatcher, Theodore Roosevelt, and Nelson Mandela work in your organization.

Assuming they would possess relevant experience, would any of them stand a serious chance of making it into the top job or even into senior management?

My guess is Thatcher might have the best odds, but as for the others? Hmm.

The next question is, "Why not?"

A Good Grilling

Donald at 2Blowhards on where the Chrysler 300 got its face. He provides nifty photos of older cars that had some personality.

Quote of the Day

Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges - Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go.

- Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Malaguena Salerosa

Travis Edmonson died recently.

Years ago, I was sitting in a hot and smoke-filled room in a small house in Tucson that the Lutheran Church had turned into a hang-out for students and folk singers. There was the usual array of local talent.

And then Travis Edmonson walked in and sang this song.

Some Respect, Please

Thought-provoking: Check out the list by Mary Jo Asmus on showing respect in tough times.

The Germ Maker Next Door

This story might make you nostalgic for meth labs: The rise of bio hackers.

[HT: Instapundit ]

Business Travel's Chief Culprit

What is the worst aspect of business travel?

As an old road warrior, I've encountered terrible airports, dangerous shuttle drivers, disappearing flights, sauna-like conference rooms, and bizarre passengers.

Those irritations, however, are not common. I would submit that the most frequent downside of business travel is the hotel bed.

Peter Drucker once commented that he refused consulting projects that required him to spend a night away from home because he found it more and more difficult to sleep in a strange bed. George W. Bush used to take his own pillow with him on the campaign trail.

Those practices once sounded weird to me. They don't anymore.

Quote of the Day

So why not go to the top? Because the executives at the top were smart enough to know that if they ignored their four middle managers, they'd lose their support while being deluged with harebrained schemes.

- Seth Godin

Monday, May 11, 2009

Busting Healthcare Myths

Many people think that is the only humane alternative, but Pipes disagrees. “It is government monopoly healthcare that is heartless and uncaring. And the inferior treatments it provides come with a very steep price tag—rationed care, lack of access to tests, with the latest technological equipment, and long waiting lists.”

Read the rest of The American article.

Gaining Wisdom at Any Age

Mark Twain and a number of other distinguished commentators are routinely enlisted to show that we acquire wisdom as we grow older.

When you are younger, you may interpret their comments to mean that we acquire more information. That's an easy call. It stands to reason that if you hang around long enough, you'll have more information.

I wonder, however, if we appreciate the extent to which we gain wisdom. How many of you have, after the age of 40, found perspectives on and rules of life that you regard as a profound improvement over your earlier viewpoints?

Do you expect to make similar discoveries over the next ten years?

I have and I do.

Small Pleasures

Who takes greater pleasure?

The person who wolfs down fast food or the person who takes the time to prepare a meal, sets the table properly, lights some candles, and then eats the food slowly and with careful attention to the flavors?

The person who gulps some coffee while listening to a TV or radio and reading the newspaper or the one who methodically grinds the coffee beans, brews a pot, and sips a cup while reading the paper or making notes on the upcoming work day?

Those are terribly slanted choices, of course, and yet they aren't that far from the ones we often make.

And we often choose the one we readily concede is inferior.

We do so in the name of speed, convenience, and necessity although I doubt if the last item plays that big of a role. In many cases, we have a choice and we have chosen to believe that a small and beneficial pleasure should be sacrificed for some good that is out there in the distance.

The problem is it's always out there, just beyond our grasp, and we lose so much in our quest to seize it..

Quote of the Day

He that is good is free, though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.

- St. Augustine

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Where are You in the Movie? A Mortality Tale

Only Eclecticity finds stuff like this.

Kessler's Theory: Addicted to Food

Our national weight gain is not, as many people assume, because we are far less active; studies have found little difference in energy expended now than in the 1950s. It is because we are eating far, far more calories than ever before, in the form of soda, junk food, sweets, fat and salt laden meals, and huge portions. We have become addicted to food, and that addiction starts in very early childhood.

Kessler lays out how sugar, fat and salt stimulates the reward centers of the brain in much the same way as cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Put down that donut and read the rest of the article here.

A Suggestion for Mother's (and Father's) Day

Both of my parents passed away years ago.

I often think about what they taught me and the sacrifices they made for their five children. I also think of how little I told them of my appreciation.

Among my regrets, however, is something rather basic: That I never recorded an interview with them.

Recording the memories, stories, and songs of parents would be a good tradition for both Mother's and Father's Days.

Do it. At some point in the future, you'll be very happy that you did.

A Tower's Critics

Show me something or someone great and I'll show you a group of critics.

This story of the Eiffel Tower is an example:

The tower is so beloved that few today remember the storm of vitriol, mockery and lawsuits provoked by its selection as the startling centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. (One of the losing entries was a gigantic working guillotine!) Even as Eiffel was breaking ground by the Seine River in February 1887, 47 of France's greatest names decried in a letter to Le Temps the "odious column of bolted metal." What person of good taste, this flock of intellectuals asked, could endure the thought of this "dizzily ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a black and gigantic factory chimney, crushing [all] beneath its barbarous mass"? The revered painters Ernest Meissonier and William-Adolphe Bouguereau, writers Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas fils, composer Charles Gounod and architect Charles Garnier all signed this epistolary call to arms, stating that "the Eiffel Tower, which even commercial America would not have, is without a doubt the dishonor of Paris."

Quote of the Day

My favorite word is grace - whether it's amazing grace, saving grace, grace under fire, Grace Kelly. How we live contributes to beauty - whether it's how we treat other people or the environment.

- Celeste Cooper

Friday, May 08, 2009

Making Matters Worse

Clive James on the scandal of the little white lie that grew:

In a case which has deep resonance for Britain and the entire civilized world, the whole of Australia has been glued to the media in recent weeks, following the story of an eminent judge who has ruined his reputation because he tried to lie his way out of a speeding fine that would have cost him about £36.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

Music Break

Some samples of film music composed by Maurice Jarre:

Lawrence of Arabia

Dr. Zhivago

Is Paris Burning?

How to Make Enemies

My post on how to make enemies is up at U.S. News & World Report.

Lay-Off Prep

Liz Wolgemuth's post on "How to Prepare for a Lay-Off" should be widely read, even by those who never expect to be in that situation.

Not Being Charlie Brown

Put things in perspective.

Be sure to read Cultural Offering's observations on the critical one-third.

The Choice

On which one should an employer be tougher: the new employee who has engaged in misconduct or a long-time employee, with an otherwise fine record, who has done the same thing?

I've discussed this with management classes over the years and have found it to be surprisingly controversial. One group believes that more slack should be given to the long-time employee because of service rendered. The other group counters that the senior person should have known better than the new employee and should be subject to greater discipline.

Excluding cases in which the misconduct is so severe that it would override other factors, how would you decide?

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

Thursday, May 07, 2009

We are Unworthy Update

Shannon Love looks at "Life After People" and sees environmentalist porn.

I haven't seen the program but I had a similar reaction when viewing the previews. You can sense how some might be enthusiastic about the prospect of a world without people.

Europe Descending

Those few dozen London Jews considered themselves at ’ome. But they weren’t. Not any more. The tour was abruptly terminated when the group was pelted with stones, thrown by “youths”—or to be slightly less evasive, in the current euphemism of Fleet Street, “Asian” youths. “If you go any further, you’ll die,” they shouted, in between the flying rubble.

Read the rest of Mark Steyn here.

7 Ways to Make Matters Worse

No matter how bad things get, here are some time-tested strategies for making them worse:

  1. Fail to get rest. Fatique will cloud your judgment and diminish your courage.
  2. Isolate yourself. Shunning the advice and company of others harms your morale and your perspective.
  3. Exaggerate the dangers. This is a tricky one because some dangers are all too real. In most cases, however, they are not as great as our imagination would make them.
  4. Don't prioritize concerns. By failing to assign priorities, all matters may seem pressing.
  5. Don't ask for help. Pile as much stress as possible on your shoulders.
  6. Don't marshal your resources. There are tools at your command. What are they?
  7. Place undue emphasis on matters beyond your control. Doing so builds a house for worry.

Buying "American"

Matthew J. Slaughter examines just what defines "an American car":

What exactly makes a car "American?" Does it mean a car made by a U.S.-headquartered company? If so, then it is important to understand that any future success of the Big Three will depend a lot on their ability to make -- and sell -- cars outside the United States, not in it. A big reason Chrysler has fallen bankrupt is its narrow U.S. focus. It has not boosted revenues by penetrating fast-growing markets such as China, India and Eastern Europe. Nor has it lowered costs by restructuring to access talent and production beyond North America.

Quote of the Day

We look at it and do not see it.

- Lao-tzu

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Culture and Hard Times

More than any other country over the past two decades--more even than China--Ireland has given up its traditional culture for the global economy. In a quarter century, it went from being a little, poverty-stricken, priest-ridden agricultural backwater to a swingin', low-tax, wide-open, unregulated global-economy entrepôt. Last year, on paper, it was the seventh-richest country, per capita, in the world, ahead of the United States and trailing only a few oil exporters and tax havens. In the decade up to 2007, Ireland's GDP increased 350 percent. House prices quintupled.

Read the rest of Christopher Caldwell's article here.

Humor Break

A man goes to a lawyer and asks:

"How much do you charge for legal advice?"

"A thousand dollars for three questions."

"Wow! Isn't that kind of expensive?"

"Yes, it is. What's your third question?"

- Old joke

Churches and Men

Check out Idea Anaconda: Why men don't like church.

Bing's Take on Survivors

Stanley Bing looks at the end of the crisis and lists things that will survive.

What did he miss?

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrong-doer.

- Marcus Aurelius

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "The Big Clock."

See if you can spot the young actor who became Colonel Potter.

Tata's Car

Tim Blair has yet another new site and he's got the scoop on the consumer bookings for the world's cheapest car.

Advantage: Underdog

Malcolm Gladwell on How David Beats Goliath. An excerpt:

He would never forget the first time he saw a basketball game. He thought it was mindless. Team A would score and then immediately retreat to its own end of the court. Team B would inbound the ball and dribble it into Team A’s end, where Team A was patiently waiting. Then the process would reverse itself. A basketball court was ninety-four feet long. But most of the time a team defended only about twenty-four feet of that, conceding the other seventy feet. Occasionally, teams would play a full-court press—that is, they would contest their opponent’s attempt to advance the ball up the court. But they would do it for only a few minutes at a time. It was as if there were a kind of conspiracy in the basketball world about the way the game ought to be played, and Ranadivé thought that that conspiracy had the effect of widening the gap between good teams and weak teams. Good teams, after all, had players who were tall and could dribble and shoot well; they could crisply execute their carefully prepared plays in their opponent’s end. Why, then, did weak teams play in a way that made it easy for good teams to do the very things that made them so good?

[HT: Jonathan Fields]

Quest for Cosmic Justice

Back by popular demand: Thomas Sowell's essay on his three propositions of the quest for cosmic justice:
  1. The impossible is not going to be achieved.
  2. It is a waste of precious resources to try to achieve it.
  3. The devastating costs and social dangers which go with these attempts to achieve the impossible should be taken into account.

Above and Beyond

Great customer service is often characterized by something being done that didn't have to be done.

So it is with much of life.

Being kinder than necessary may be more necessary than we realize.

Workshop Rules

Four key rules for conducting a successful workshop:
  • Keep it moving.
  • Keep it practical.
  • Keep it short.
  • Answer all questions.

Quote of the Day

Alignment is the essence of management.

- Fred Smith

Monday, May 04, 2009

Getting to Carnegie Hall

David Brooks on the modern view of genius:

The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.

Fiat Frenzy

Business Week reports that Fiat also wants GM Europe.

Daily Routine Secrets

Cultural Offering has a series on how people plan their days. Great idea.

Yes, Capitalists Are Still Around

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up.

Career Speeding, Then Braking

Psychologists have written of how some individuals possess sufficient ambition to try but then, as they near their goal, begin to have doubts and engage in self-sabotage.

My guess is that behavior is fairly common. I've seen executives and managers whose careers are dotted with bursts of aggressively ambitious behavior followed by periods of significant insecurity. Lyndon Johnson once said Richard Nixon reminded him of a horse that nears the finish line only to suddenly turn around and run the wrong way.

These aren't people whose lack of ambition has taken them out of the game. If it had, their lives might be much simpler. Instead, they have the ability and drive to succeed and yet seriously question whether they deserve success. In many cases, less able competitors with little self-doubt wind up passing them.

The victims of this syndrome can usually be helped. The question is whether they will seek it.

Quote of the Day

Feelings make good advisers but poor masters.

- Bill O'Hanlon

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Pontiac's Rise and Fall

Ralph Kinney Bennett on the passing of Pontiac. An excerpt:

Pontiac had started in 1926 as a “companion car,” a lower-priced model of a GM car called the Oakland. The now-forgotten Oakland had been a GM mainstay—one of the three original makes (with Oldsmobile and Buick) brought under the GM umbrella when the corporation first organized in 1908. Both Olds and Buick had also introduced companion cars, the Olds Viking and the Buick Marquette, neither of which did particularly well.

Clever - and Candid - Ad

Just what you were thinking: What would life be without advertising?

The Intrusion of Reality

The problem in the Western world is that governments are spending money faster than their citizenry or economies can generate it. As Gerald Ford liked to say, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” And that’s true. But there’s an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give Phil from Cathedral City everything he wants isn’t big enough to get Phil to give any of it back. That’s the stage the Europeans are at: Their electorates are hooked on unsustainable levels of “services,” but no longer can conceive of life without them.

Read the rest of Mark Steyn here.