February 10, 2011
In Linked Segments I worked hard to be succinct. In doing so, I actually squeezed the life right out of the blog post! Rather than rework it directly, I am attempting to metaphorically add milk, stir, warm, and thus reconstitute the soup rather than a leaving a congealed glob of condensed puree. :*)
I have worked with technical project teams spanning a few to many members . It’s easy to work with a few members – priorities and progress are easy to update – it occurs naturally in the hallway, across cubicle walls, and informal team meetings. It gets more challenging when there are more than about five (5) team members AND when one (or more) is not co-located – the fluidity declines to the viscosity of……..condensed soup!
I could make a list of many reasons why it becomes harder, but I believe the primary one is that with greater visibility (more team members) there is a tendency toward declining informality. Members feel pressure (internally?/externally?) to share only polished work stemming from personal struggles to maintain control and dignity (see my reference to Roger Martin’s work at Technical Complexity). So sharing frequency declines – we wait for members to fully analyze their data, prepare a slide deck, and then present at the next team meeting. These effects mitigate the efficiency and productivity gains of larger groups, because they slow progress down.
Gaining trust and reciprocity that facilitates frequent informal exchange is much easier in smaller groups because protective cliques form readily in small groups. Yet, gaining trust and reciprocity is not impossible in larger groups; it just requires forming a protective tribe – really. This is where the newer ESSP (Emergent Social Software Platforms) have a role. For example, in mid 2008, I began participating in Seth Godin’s online community, Triiibes. I was blown away at how effectively Seth created a large online community that allowed each of us to grow professionally – no polishing required. My blog post On Triiibes celebrates the 1st anniversary of that community and the value that it created — truly amazing!
Two of the very best primers on the subject of forming a tribe:
- Great Boss Dead Boss by Ray Immelman (note: although the title is unappealing, it is an excellent book!)
- Tribes by Seth Godin
When I realized that large organizations (agri-business, pharma, and medical research) were beginning to use larger work groups to increase efficiency and productivity (segment and specialize) I felt compelled to crystallize my most important insights. Unfortunately, my efforts to distill the essence left a blog post with the consistency of solid goo! I hope this greater context makes Linked Segments more readable. 🙂
My long-view message:
- Team members need to feel protected and valued.
Better? Your feedback is welcome and appreciated!
April 19, 2010
It has been an awkward few weeks with no Long View posts to share. It’s not that my life has been dull or without opportunity to learn new Long View axioms. To the contrary, I have learned much these past few weeks, I have even written posts to allow myself to process and integrate new ideas in my thinking, but I have chosen not to share because of the long view tenets:
- Act with Dignity – be worthy of honor or respect
- Be Tactful – be sensitive in dealing with others or with difficult issues
- Cultivate Decorum – behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety
My most recent (unshared) posts might be construed to lack one or more of those tenets. As such, I have chosen to learn from but not publish those posts.
I respect even my most challenging relationships for the long view. 🙂
Are you acting with dignity, tact, and decorum?
February 19, 2010
When I used to contract for services or products on behalf of an organization, I always appreciated that over the long view both sides need to accrue value in order for a deal to be positive. Today, I am appreciating the details in new and acute ways.
I am learning quickly how to discern which clients want to take advantage of my integrity, work ethic, and desire to over-deliver and which ones are grateful and willing to fairly compensate me for my service, skill, and ability to add value to their organization. It is truly a pleasure to work with the latter. 🙂
Even in these times of extreme austerity for business and individuals, the world is bigger than any of our personal or business interactions. So, what is true immediately will not be true forever. Thus, actions taken today (in immediacy) that could be considered opportunistic, manipulative, or exploitive, will live on indefinitely.
Real value is created when there is synergy from collaboration. In an environment of opportunism, manipulativeness, and exploitation, synergy is extinguished and replaced by minimalism – what is required is delivered rather than what is needed.
My long view advice to clients:
- Leave enough on the table to ensure that the interaction is valuable to both sides. (If you squeeze the turnip hard enough, you might get what you wanted in the short-term, but not over the long-term).
- Recognize the bounds of your agreements and/or contracts. (Don’t scope weeks of work while contracting for a few hours of service.)
- Be gracious to those that provide you service, say “thank you” and provide constructive feedback when accepting deliverables. (You would be surprised how far a little graciousness goes in creating extra value.)
- Foster collaboration with external providers worthy of internal rapport. (Ultimately, if you can create real synergy, you can achieve much greater value.)
Before I finished my post, I read Seth’s post: more, More, MORE! – apparently we are channeling the same subject today! 🙂
In your interactions, are you considering both sides?
February 12, 2010
I got one of my clients to use BaseCamp (very cool workplace networking and project dashboard platform). It was clear to me that they could benefit due to the geographic diversity of their team and their need to increase visibility of their project work. For this client, BaseCamp was instantly successful and they now collaborate more effectivley (than before) commercializing some very promising technology.
BaseCamp itself solves project visibility issues for team members, but instantly creates the proverbially “cannot see the forest for the trees” problem for project managers (PMs). It’s just not possible to get a top-level, Gantt view of projects, tasks (to-dos), and milestones inside BaseCamp. But….
I became a raving fan even before I spent a penny with them. Here’s why….
I noticed in the Trial IntelliGantt Add-In (FREE) that my BaseCamp imports of completed-tasks were not shown as complete yet associated Milestones indicated progress in MS Project. I wrote to John at TeamDirection and explained the problem. Over the course of a few days, we worked together by phone and by web – John even joined us at our BaseCamp until he understood and could resolve the problem.
The fix was dramatic – a wow moment, like putting glasses on for the first time! The quality of the data import was now high fidelity and aligned exactly as I would expect to see it in MS Project. I loved even more that he thanked Linda on the software update for helping them. :*)
- Build relationships with your users. Creating connection encourages honest, timely communication.
- If your customer calls you to complain or seek advice, THANK them, encourage narratives, and listen for information in the details.
- Fix what isn’t right without excuse and be grateful for the opportunity.
Thanks John and TeamDirection!
If you are BaseCamping, are you IntelliGantting? (I’m buying the Add-In!)
January 11, 2010
First, I have been married a LONG time (in a few more months, a wonderful 20 years LONG) so this will not be all gushy…
The setting was post-breakfast. Everyone at the house was moving toward jobs and school (two teens, two parents). I mention to my wonderful husband that I just got off the phone about a quote for some insurance that I thought we should consider. His immediate response was to tell me that it was unnecessary and I shouldn’t spend any time on it. I became upset because I thought I was doing something good for us and he was not being duly appreciative.
Even though we both hate to part mad at each other, there was no time to get everything back to better before we all had to depart (he was leaving for three days).
When I was done being upset, I wrote him a quick email with the following long view advice: Support first, then Criticize.
- I know that we both hate parting mad, so I apologize for not being able to get past my upset this morning. I know that you mean well when you criticize my efforts. I even value the criticisms, but not when I don’t feel supported.
- I need from you: Support first, then criticism. Okay?!
- You beat me to the punch. I was chomping at the bit all morning to get a moment to write you and say “sorry” for the bad parting this morning. Yes, you are right. I meant to say and do exactly as you suggest – “good idea to investigate, let’s make sure we understand if it is really needed.” Please accept my apology.
- Apology accepted.
All better! 🙂
Are you supporting first and then criticizing (when needed)?
P.S. Support first then criticize (if needed) applies to business too….
November 23, 2009
At what point is stuff on the net (public domain) none of our business? When should we avert our eyes and not read a little more? What is the threshold from curious to stalking?
Recently, I met an interesting fellow at an alumni-networking event. After an engaging conversation of shared interests, we exchanged email addresses. Later, I wanted to suggest an appropriate meeting place but could not recall where he had said that he lived, so I turned to the Internet to do a quick address search.
Intrigued by my new friend’s wife’s blog, I read on. It turns out, the stories (blog posts) were every bit as interesting and engaging as his conversation had been. However, immediately following this confirmation, I felt unsettled. Just how would I let on what I knew and how I knew it? Had I usurped his privilege of introducing me to his wife’s blog? Had I devalued the connection by barging in myself? Is this part and parcel of 21st century networking that I am not yet used to?
My experience was confirmed in Wired Magazine’s headline article this month, Vanish: “…ordinary people – really can gather an incredible dossier of facts about you.” It is because of the combination of powerful search engines and extensive amounts of publicly available information. It behooves us be aware of what information is defining us and to be thoughtful about what is defining others.
In old cultures where privacy was hard to come by, people learned to avert their eyes to allow for privacy and were admonished to mind their own business. In addition, we were encouraged to live an honorable life because of public scrutiny. Those old (long view) rules are evolving to deal with the connectivity and information richness of our lives today, yet still apply:
- Live your life impeccably. Doing so, will mean never having to be ashamed, embarrassed, or held accountable for wrongdoing.
- Out of respect and kindness, engage the positive and disregard the negative.
Embracing the new:
- Take what you learn on the Internet with a grain of salt.
- Be judicious in how you apply Internet “knowledge.”
- Follow your instincts, yet pay attention to the evolution – norms are changing.
Bloggers expect that others will be informed, transformed, and educated through connection to our blogs. Participating constructively is welcome and my new friend was fine with it. 🙂
Are you living life impeccably and engaging the positive?
October 16, 2009
I received a personal note from a friend who attended graduate school with me. She commented on the topic of my blog post Incongruence, noting that in her professional life in a foreign country, she finds little congruent or predictable yet she finds success. In fact, she specifically said that she has had to “adapt from my sort of square, orderly, American way of thinking and doing things (so I have been told) to the go-with-the-flow / be-ready-to-switch-gears-next-week way of doing things in the foreign environment. To my surprise, both methods can lead to successful ventures.”
I am glad she wrote because it offers me an opportunity to clarify my mixed message observation. I described the incongruence of mixed messages through the generalization of the broad communication problem of not everyone having the same priorities. However, in the specific example I cited, although the small biotech’s message was mixed (incongruent), it was really their failure to communicate that I found disagreeable.
I agree with my friend that being nimble and adaptable are important business success factors because all businesses are subject to shifting priorities due to changing environments and new information. What I challenge is the extension to the person. Once a personal relationship has been forged in the name of business, a commitment to get back to someone is never relieved by a changing business landscape. The message might change and/or an assistant might deliver it, but a commitment to communicate persists once a relationship exists because it is the relationship that carries trust, credibility, and honor.
It might seem easier to dismiss and excuse, “its just business,” rather than take responsibility to communicate when inconvenient, when the message will be difficult, or when anonymous (no one is looking). Yet the long view position requires that we dignify human interactions with the minimalist “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Done consistently, cumulative nurturing of personal respect cultivates and amplifies trust, loyalty, credibility, and honor (long view attributes). This is part of congruence.
Do you communicate consistently in your business relationships?
September 15, 2009
It has been one month since my mother’s unexpected death left my father alone, full-circle, back to his humble beginning.
My father was born late in the life of his parents. His siblings had graduated or neared graduation from high school at the time of his birth, so he spent much of his youth alone with his horse and rifle. He kept busy with a mare purchased for him as a yearling and a rifle his father had given him to hunt. Always ambitious, at a tender age he began bounty-hunting magpies for the local fish and game department, which kept him in ammunition and taught him the skills of the earth. As he matured, he worked as a ranch-hand and then set off to college to study engineering. He met my mother when he was attending undergraduate school. Although their pairing was unusual, she was refined and he was cowboy-rough, they worked. He matched her brilliance with intensity and passion and she guided him where he was unfamiliar. They both excelled professionally building a life together that included the best of both of their respective worlds. They retired to a ranch in the mountains of my father’s youth with several horses and a collection of rifles appropriate for land he inhabits. With her death, he returns to where he started, alone with his horse(s) and rifle(s) in his native rural home.
Today, I share this blog post with my Dad giving him an opportunity to share the Eulogy that he gave memorializing my mother on what would have been her 68th birthday. Although the sorrow and grief are still fresh, with this post, I wish to put the wind back under his wings with some long view advice:
- Find joy – rekindle the joy of your youth when you found happiness alone with your horse and rifle.
- Stay engaged – constantly move forward and approach life with the passion, energy, and vigor that have always been your trademark.
- Reduce entropy in the world – continue to commit to leaving things better than you found them just as you have always done and taught me to do. Repair the fences, clean the corrals,….
- View the cup as half-full – stay positive and eschew negativity.
- Learn new things – rock your new satellite internet connection and iMac! Perhaps learn to blog?….
- Nurture your friends and community – remember that your four-legged friends count on you and your two-legged friends care.
In memory of Evelyn
“We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to Janet Evelyn and commit her remains to the earth in her wonderful native home. From my simple perspective, Evelyn was relatively young and her passing was totally unanticipated; however, Evelyn and I believe that it is the Lord who decides the time for us to leave this earth and we believed his will shall be done.
Evelyn and I chose to be life’s partners over 50 years ago. Our love for one another was boundless and unending and our primary desire was to be alone together. Our life’s journey together generally involved good times with a few not so good times that we shared equally; however, it was her gentle and steady hand that guided our loving partnership through all of the years and all of life’s issues. Those that knew us recognized that our lives were totally entwined and one should anticipate encountering the two of us, not one or the other. Our uncompromising desire to be together and holding hands on a walk or attending business or social gatherings was, unfortunately, a point of contention for some but as such gave us strength and knowledge that our commitment to one another was many levels above all of our critics and reinforced our desire to be alone where we felt most comfortable. I would argue that our Life’s Journey together was outstanding even if, in my opinion, it was far, far too short.
I feel compelled to briefly tell you that this poor old country boy was born in the living quarters of a rural northwest railroad depot and was a struggling university student at the time that I met Evelyn. I immediately became totally infatuated with this young, intelligent, and accomplished city girl (city girl are my words). She, unlike this country boy, had never ridden horses, never fished mountain streams for trout, never hiked the mountain back country, never hunted deer and elk, or any of the acknowledged rural northwestern traits that boys and, yes, girls from this region were generally familiar. However, this bright, accomplished, and well-read city girl was willing to accept this poor old country boy and all of his failings. I would like to think perhaps to some extent because of my commitment and adoration for her. But, for whatever reason she willingly took my hand and I felt that she joined me just as it is stated in the old Testament Book of Ruth – your people will be my people and thy God my God. She readily accompanied me in all of these foreign endeavors previously unknown to her and she walked by my side and advised me in every aspect, every phase and every issue of our life. I recall the absolute amazement and initial disbelief as well as perhaps horror of her parents when she shot her first deer.
I cannot begin to tell you what this beautiful incredible woman meant to me both as my life’s partner and special confidant.
Allow me to offer a closing prayer before I place her remains into the earth. ‘Dear God Thank You for the gift of her life, for her sweet companionship, and for the cherished memories that endure. God please comfort us as we mourn and grant us strength to see beyond our sorrow and sustain us in our grief. Amen.'”
Dad, remember that the vows, “until death do us part” remind us of the fidelity needed for two lives lived together, but also remind us to move forward when death separates. So, rebuild, rekindle the joy of your youth when you were alone with your horse and rifle, and move forward into new frontiers creating a future that honors not only your own life, but hers. She will not be forgotten.
August 25, 2009
I am grateful that there are not too many instances of nonsense in the day-to-day interactions that I have with merchants and providers. However, when I run into bona fide examples of nonsense, I tend to be incredulous – just how does it happen?!
My favorite chain drugstore was purchased by another chain drugstore about a year ago. Since then, my favorite store has been undergoing renovation. Although I have been disappointed as they eliminated my favorite cleansing pads and adhesive bandages, and as they narrowed the aisles and increased the shelf height, I have been accepting of their progress, until recently. Last week, I went to the drugstore at lunchtime to pick-up a prescription and found the pharmacy closed!
Another patron watched me discover that the pharmacy was closed and stopped me as a departed to ask me how I felt about the reduced hours. Obviously, I was not pleased with the change. She told me that she had just asked to speak to the manager because she wanted to complain about the reduction in service hours. She was especially distraught because lunchtime was the only time she could get to the pharmacy. I decided to wait with her and corroborate her concern. When the manager finally arrived, we both expressed our displeasure at the reduction of hours under new ownership. The manager explained that there had been no reduction in pharmacy hours – the same staff schedules were being maintained. Really?!
So I pushed her explanation, how is it that I could previously access the pharmacy during lunchtime, but not this week with the same hours? She explained that the corporate policy of the new drugstore differed from the old drugstore such that pharmacists must take a lunch break mandated by law. When the other patron and I asserted that the old drugstore covered the lunch hour satisfactorily and that the laws had not changed, she replied that the old drugstore used a waiver to satisfy the requirement. Okay, we said, get a waiver or add staff to cover the lunch hour differently OR accept and acknowledge that there is a real reduction in customer service hours. The manager then began reiterating the party line, “there has been no reduction in pharmacy hours…”
Maybe from the employee staffing perspective there is no reduction in pharmacy hours, but that is irrelevant to the customer. What matters from the customer perspective are the available pharmacy hours. Although I would still be unhappy if she had acknowledged that they had reduced pharmacy hours, at least I wouldn’t be insulted. It is difficult to believe that she thinks customers will accept the nonsense explanation that there was no reduction in customer service hours. This is not a positive development in my long-term relationship with this drugstore.
It is apparent that the drugstore manager does not subscribe to the long view advice from my prior blog posts: Keeping Core: understand your customer’s perspective or Rocking Customer Service: fix what isn’t right without excuse and be grateful for the opportunity. However, in this situation, what really ruined the long term customer relationship (trust and loyalty) is the doublespeak defense against complaint. As such, I offer additional long view advice:
- Think critically – Does what you say make sense from differing perspectives? Are the arguments internally consistent?
- Banish nonsense – Do not claim something that is not. Correct problems, apologize for interim inconvenience, and avoid clever debate.
Are you banishing nonsense and thinking critically?
August 20, 2009
Although she had been struggling with allergies and pancreatitis weakening her body with constant digestive upset, no one anticipated that additional congestion and lack of sleep from a bad cold would render her lifeless when she finally fell asleep reading a book while my father tended to ranch chores.
My parents’ lives were so entwined it is hard to imagine one without the other. I am grateful that they were able to celebrate their 50th anniversary this past June. Befitting their life journey, they prepared a photomontage capturing their life essence together: joy of young love, stunning scenery across enduring love, and amazing accomplishment as partners in life. As I watched the collection again and again this past week, it reinforced for me just how beautiful, accomplished, brilliant, and quietly adventurous my mother was.
My earliest memories of her were of her books and music. She loved to read and her breadth of knowledge was extensive as a result. She read to us when we were little, cultivating more avid readers. By her own admission, “…I did stretch the rules a bit – reading you the Chinese history that I was currently reading rather than a child’s book…” In addition, she practiced the piano and organ regularly. When I had fallen in love with the music from Man from La Mancha (Impossible Dream), she granted me private mini-concerts when she arrived home from work – she played the selected pieces on the piano for me. Whenever I hear that music, I still hear in my own head the way she played it on the piano.
She taught me the basics of life: be proficient (not extraordinary) domestically and master how to be selective in which tasks you actually commit to doing – work on high leverage projects. I learned to sew, cook, and be selective. It took me a while to realize how unique she really was. I remember when a new girl in the middle school needed a choir dress made, but her mother did not sew. She asked me if my mother could help, so I volunteered her. My mother explained that she didn’t really have the time, but if I would do most of the work, she would do the trickiest steps. Together we made the dress quickly and efficiently. When the other girl’s mother came by with a bouquet of flowers to give to my mother for the help, she was surprised that my mother was at work. The other girl’s mother was so surprised that it was at that moment that I realized how different (and special) my own mother truly was.
My later memories were of her many professional accomplishments and what lessons that she taught me from her own experience. She was mathematically gifted, having received two degrees in Mathematics. She worked professionally as a computer programmer in the early years of programming (I remember her carrying home huge stacks of computer cards and sorting them on the kitchen table in the evenings!). Later, she received her MBA and worked professionally in Operations and Project Management. Although it seemed dicey to me at the time, I benefited from our shared University time. My last year of engineering school was her first MBA year. During that time, she wrote essays on the challenges of being a professional woman in a male-dominated workforce and shared them with me (I still have them). She quietly provided unsolicited advice, suggestions, and observations. One of the most important lessons that she taught me is that “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” As such, she taught me to cultivate positivity, kindness, respectfulness, and to always have a good strategy – think before you act.
In some ways, it was hard having a Mom who was so accomplished and successful, but it definitely made it easier to believe that I could do it too. Even though we share many traits, we differed drastically in one domain: she was a musician and I am an athlete. This difference strengthened us because I admired her musical ability as much as she took pride in my athleticism. I never felt that I had to be accomplished in music and she accepted that athleticism was not her strength. Mom skied, canoed, fished, hiked, and tolerated the family adventures knowing that the stunning scenery of mountains, streams, lakes, and valleys visited were worth the effort, but many were often a challenge for her. I was always glad to be able to help her – take a little extra weight in my pack to lighten her load. It helped me to build the confidence that I too could someday be as accomplished as her, but with my own strengths. This experience helped me to truly value diversity and observe and channel the strengths of others.
In later years, I continued to admire her ability to be organized, to be thorough, and to take on new ventures (run a farm/ranch) without prior experience.
Finally, as I rifled through her files and her Quicken entries this past week on my Dad’s behalf, I realized just how lucky my Dad was to have had someone so amazing with which to share his life. It didn’t take a ton of effort to figure out the finances (which she took care of for their 50 years together) and get Dad moving forward without her. Her systems were clear, effective, and well documented. I only hope to leave a long view legacy like hers…
Your memory is a blessing to me. I love and miss you Mom, rest in peace.