Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Show True Professionalism!

Have you ever been around someone who shows true professionalism? You may find it difficult to fully describe the characteristics of such a person, but you know them when you see them. Such a person typically exudes intelligence and competence, treats you with dignity and respect, and instills high levels of confidence.

I think we’ve all also had numerous instances where we’ve run into a person who is clearly an expert in his/her field and who has often risen to heights in his/her profession, who is clearly intelligent and talented, but who demonstrates very little in the way of professionalism. This may be a doctor who is haughty and dismissive with little patience for his/her patients, a lawyer who is curt and often abusive and who talks down to all around him/her, or an engineer who can’t be bothered to waste his/her valuable time with mere mortals. These are professionals who do not show true professionalism.

Professionals are people who enter careers such as medicine, law, business, engineering, and many other areas, who have typically undergone rigorous and demanding training (educational and other). They are Knowledge Workers (see Knowledge Is Power!), where the value they bring to the company or organization they work for comes primarily from their brains and their knowledge and not from their brawn. However, being a professional is not the same as performing in a professional manner. It doesn’t take a professional to show professionalism. Showing professionalism means a lot more than bringing the requisite intellectual capacity to the job. Showing true professionalism requires competence and proper behavior in many other areas. The following illustrates some of the characteristics of people who show true professionalism.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blunt Talk and Black & White Reasoning

In response to two of my recent articles, Promises & Delivery and Excuses, Excuses!, I heard back from a friend of mine, Jim Bleck. Jim is the owner and President of Bleck Design Group, a great industrial design and engineering company I have worked with in the past at a number of companies. Jim sent comments indicating, “I think the world has way too much hope and opinion, when what it needs is action and facts. … The world is ready for blunt talk and more black and white reasoning.  I wholeheartedly agree, and I will expand on his comments and add mine.

Here are some of Jim’s right on the money comments:

  • I always remind our staff that our client’s expectations are already very high (on the ceiling). Don’t increase the expectations – just deliver! There is always a fine line between aggressive goals and too-low expectations. 
  • I see too many problems develop from a lack of deep understanding or even desire to have a deep understanding.
  • I’m seeing too many engineers, business managers, salesmen, and designers ‘assume’ information acquired from past experience, data sheets, and hearsay was correct, or all of the story.
  • We apply the blunt and black and white standard to weed out weak information or opinions that are not backed by provable facts. When we get a problem developing, we start mining the history of information and we get back to assumptions made based upon over-simplification, or industry specifications that may not apply, or on published information that is old. You can’t question everything, but you can at least be curious and keep your knowledge base growing.
  • Many of the problems get started because, due to time and budget, intuition and experience must take over, and then little problems creep up that experience and intuition can’t solve. That’s when you need to get very blunt and honest about the issues. “Should work” needs to be followed by “but it fails, so it does not work!” Something is obviously amiss. As companies push innovation and get beyond experience, this really starts to be an issue, but that is also where value gets created. Intellectual Property (IP) is discovered, sizes are reduced, and functions not thought possible are discovered. For managers who don’t understand the technology, they can easily get baffled by it. Only simple, blunt talk gets past the haze of geek speak and endless nuances.
  • Lastly, there is blunt talk when evaluating features. There are times where, using the examples of Steve Jobs, it is necessary to tell people, “this is shit”, and make them defend their work and make it better. 
  • There is always a fine line between perfection and never getting done (see The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good), so you manage it. Managing conflict turns out to be a huge issue, and especially when everyone gets a thin skin and can’t just state the facts. I want my staff to tell me my estimate is crazy and define why we can get the job done for the price I quoted. Or, explain why the budget is so large when the problem seems small. I want to be able to look at work in progress and ask critical questions without a flinch. 
  • Anyway, you want to make people think. The older I get, the more I know the world is all about change, so deal with it and love it!