Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pound the Facts, Not the Table

Have you been involved in discussions where people relate stories with high emotional content that may get you charged up and ready to jump on board with them, only to later hear facts come out that undermine the emotional impulse and make you feel foolish for jumping to conclusions that were not supported by the facts? At the end of such an episode, you generally feel taken in and mislead. Such episodes will most often undermine the feeling of trust you may have had for the person making the emotional appeal (see also Trust Me, I’m Not Like The Others!).

There's an old adage among lawyers that says, "If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table!" The approach in business, at least inside a company, is not by design an adversarial system as is the practice of law, and pounding the table is not appreciated and will almost never get you what you want. It is far more effective to convince people with facts and logic, and not with emotion and feelings.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Self-Destructive Behavior

Have you ever heard a new pronouncement from a company’s executive management team and just thought that it makes absolutely no sense? Or that what they think they’ll achieve with this pronouncement is clearly not what they’ll get? You just know that you will shortly have a ringside seat to a slow train wreck. Sometimes you just have to shake your head and think, “What are they thinking?” The problem is that often they’re not thinking. They’re engaging in self-destructive behavior, and they don’t even know it.

People often engage in personally self-destructive behavior such as excessive smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, overeating, etc. Too much of anything can be bad for you, and can become addictive and self-destructive. But individual self-destructive behavior generally directly impacts the individuals themselves and more indirectly their family and friends. It generally does not adversely impact their community at large.

When companies engage in self-destructive behavior it impacts everyone in the company, most of whom are not part of the decisions leading to the self-destructive behavior.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!

You and your team have been working non-stop for a very long time on a project with unrealistic milestones and barely possible deadlines. You have all just broken your backs to meet yet another critical but nearly impossible deadline, you’ve spent many nights and weekends to get this done. You’ve all missed important family events to accomplish this.After all of this, after accomplishing what looked to be impossible, you meet with your boss, expecting heartfelt thanks and appreciation, but instead you are told that what you did was simply not good enough and your boss is disappointed in you all for failing to deliver on what he promised, and that if things don’t improve, you are all in danger of losing your jobs. How’s that for a great work motivator! You are one of the “lucky” teams to have a boss who comes from the “Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” (FWCUMI) school of inspirational management.

It would be nice to think that this type of management approach isn’t common, but it is far more common than it should be. The view is to concentrate on what you’re doing wrong and to ignore what you’re doing right. In the industrial age, where the means of production were predominantly the equipment used to produce products and where that means of production remained at the company when the employees went home at night, this kind of approach might work, although it would hardly be effective. But in today’s information age, particularly with “knowledge workers”, the means of production resides in the brains of those “knowledge workers”, and goes home with them every night. Using the “FWCUMI” philosophy is not only foolish, it is counter-productive and destructive.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stolen Credit - It's Not Just About Credit Cards!

You've been working hard on a critical project and you need some help in order to overcome one troublesome obstacle. You’ve successfully completed more than 95% of the work on your own, and have a plan to complete almost all of the remaining work, but you just haven’t encountered this one particular problem before and need some help. So you go to a co-worker who you know to be knowledgeable about this particular aspect. You ask for his help and he is quickly able to get this aspect of the problem solved. You thank him for his great assistance and continue the remaining work needed to get the project wrapped up and ready for delivery. When you’re done, you go to your boss to let her know that this critical project is now complete and ready for release, including giving credit for the critical help of your co-worker.

But your boss then tells you that your co-worker has already been in to let her know about the great project he had completed on his own, and that she has already informed the management team up to the top ranks of the company about the great work your co-worker has done, and the rewards that co-worker has coming. You’re speechless and attempt to explain to your boss that you've done all the work except for the one small part your co-worker contributed, but your boss looks at you like you’ve got two heads, questioning why you want to claim credit for the work your co-worker has clearly claimed as his own. Unbelievable!