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Showing posts from 2004
After Christmas

As I sit underneath the big inflatable moosehead that my son received for Christmas yesterday, I wonder if the spirit of Christmas will come this year?

A friend sent me the following meditation. It feels right for the day after Christmas:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To rebuild nations
To bring peace among all
To make music in the heart

-- Howard Thurman


Crystal Clear

My grandfather, George T. Seamon, had a lot of flavorful expressions including "Clear as mud" to describe something that made no sense to him whatsoever.

I participate in several on-line discussion groups related to my field, workplace learning and organization development. Sometimes the discussions at these boards get quite heated. Recently there was a most interesting exchange about being clear in one's communication. One writer wrote: "Being absolutely crystal clear about the meaning of what we are saying, so that each person on the list attaches exactly the same meaning to what each of us is saying would lead to more powerful, intentional, authentic conversations."

Ah, if only we could be crystal clear in our communication with others. More often, our communication with others is "clear as mud."

Trouble is, meanings are not in words. Meanings are in people. This concept was developed by David Berlo.

If meanings were in words, a…
Group Interview

I had heard of group interviewing but had never experienced it personally . . . until the other night.

Without getting into specifics, the final fifteen candidates (who had all passed the phone screens) were all invited to a hotel in central New Jersey. When I arrived, I felt like I was at a conference as I signed in at a table in the hallway, wrote out my "Hello My Name Is..." sticker, and shook hands with the greeters. As all the other finalists arrived, there was a friendly hubbub as we socialized with one another.

At the appointed time, the facilitators invited us to take a seat and the program began. First, there was information about the Company and about the opening. Then each of us was invited to give a two minute talk about some accomplishment from our careers. After that, we had the opportunity to ask questions. Finally, the facilitators asked for feedback, thanked us for coming, told us what the next steps would be, and closed the session.

As…
most God-awfullest mismanagement ever

In the Star-Ledger newspaper, an economist for the New Jersey BPU said, "This was the most God-awfullest mismanagement of a company that I think we've ever seen in this state."

He was talking about my company, which was sold last week to another company.

The old regime is no more, gone with the winds of change. Like a bad memory, though, it lingers on.

The new owners rode into town last week. They came in hard, terminating most of the remaining managers, and putting their own people into leadership positions.

From a change management standpoint, it was probably an effective strategy. Take out all vestiges of the old. Destabilize the folks who remained. Start fresh.

Many years ago, the great Kurt Lewin developed a model of change that said you must first "unfreeze" the status quo. A sure method of unfreezing is the application of heat.

Spiritual Change Management

This is Advent, the time of year when Christians get ready for the great feast of Christmas. The time to prepare the way of the Lord.

John the Baptist was the first to proclaim Advent, to proclaim "prepare ye the way of the Lord." It is the time, he said, to repent.

Repent. A word that is seldom used in the 21st century. What does it mean to repent?

Literally, to repent is to turn away from, to change one's self (the Greek term metanoeo means "to change your mind").

To convert.

Spiritually speaking, whether Christian or not, the Advent season is sorely needed in this violence-filled world of ours. Every day, in many parts of th world, people turn to bombs, guns, landmines, and other weapons of death to influence, to attack, to retaliate, to redress.

If we continue in this way, we are headed for destruction.

The world (all of us) needs to repent, to convert, to turn away from violence.

Repentance means changing the mind, waking up, se…
Upward Feedback

In today's era of Sarbanes Oxley and corporate scandals, the performance of management in organizations is under the scrutiny of stakeholders like never before. And rightfully so. Management can really screw things up royally if we are not vigilant.

In that "we," there is a crucial but often unsung group: the workers in an organization. Seldom do the workers have a way to give voice to how management is doing. But in some progressive organizations, there is a mechanism called "upward feedback." Here's an experience of mine with the process.

By way of a brief background to set the context, I had joined a young telecommunications company, founded in 1984 when "Uncle Sam" broke up the phone company. This decision established the so-called "Baby Bells" which were regional local operating phone companies. In this new telecommunications landscape, new forms of local competition became possible. It was out of this opport…
Burning Down Libraries

A co-worker of mine calls it "burning down libraries" when highly knowledgeable and experienced workers are terminated.

The fires are burning at my company as we are being taken over by another company . . . and the terminations are underway.

Wednesday was Day One, a hard day for many. Seeing the firing of co-workers ---trusted colleagues, admired experts, and, in some cases, old friends--- is shocking, confusing, stressful, and depressing.

Hopefully, those who were terminated will use the outplacement service to develop plans, move ahead, identify opportunities, and land on their feet.

But what about those who are left to pick up the pieces and carry on? As a veteran of many organizational upheavals, I can say with confidence that there is Life after terminations. While it's hard to see the positive side, given the many emotions that swamp you at a time like this, it's there.

The main thing, as always, is Attitude.

On Management

In management, the ultimate measure of management's performance is the metric of management effectiveness, which includes:

Execution: how well management's plans were carried out by members of the organization

Leadership: how effectively management communicated and translated the vision and strategy of the organization to the members

Delegation: how well management gave assignments and communicated instructions to members of the organization

Return on investment: how well management utilized the resources (financial, physical, and human) of the organization to bring an acceptable return to shareholders

Given the importance of management roles within an organization, when the incumbents in such roles lack certain key competencies, havoc can be the result. Here are some common and potentially damaging shortfalls:

Poor communicator - The manager that has difficulty expressing himself can leave his subordinates confused.

Aloof - The manager that keeps to hers…
Sideways

As a wine enthusiast, I was greatly looking forward to the new film Sideways from director Alexander (About Schmidt)Payne, featuring a roadtrip in California wine country. I was not disappointed. Sideways feels so real and is so involving that when the final scene came I yelled "No!" And I wasn't alone. You could tell that the others in the audience wanted this movie to keep going.

As in one of his previous films "About Schmidt," director Payne introduces us to an unlikely hero. Myles is a divorced, depressed, wine-loving near-alcoholic failed-novelist turned English teacher (memorably played by Paul Giamatti) who is slowly sliding down the bleak side of middle age. This poor schlubb is treating his old college buddy, a failed Hollywood actor (in a star-turn performance by Thomas Haden Church), to a week-long excursion into wine country before his friend's impending marriage-of-convenience.

As in all such road movies, their trip takes some fa…
Thanksgiving

Today, in the United States, we celebrate an annual holiday called Thanksgiving Day.

I guess it's one of those curious American holidays that has both secular and religious dimensions, but lately it's more a commercial bonanza for turkey growers and retailers.

On the spiritual side, Thanksgiving is a day to remember that we have much to be thankful for. We have Life. Liberty. Choices. Freedom.

So in that spirit of gratefulness, I offer the following prayer:

Today, as you enjoy your meal with family and friends,
don't forget those who are less fortunate...
- those who are missing a loved one
- those who may not have a meal

And be sure to give thanks to the One Above who makes all things new and all things possible.

May we all have a blessed day.


Improving organizational performance

Someone recently asked (at an online discussion group that I belong to) what one skill could be taught to workers that would improve organizational performance. Though a broad question, it intrigued enough of us that a lot of good responses came tumbling in, including learning, listening, communicating, and many others.

Thinking about this question, it occured to me that organizations, regardless of their diverse purposes, all have one thing in common: they exist to serve somebody, some customer (or client). Therefore, they all need members to be skilled in service delivery.

If you break "service delivery" down into its component skills, you get a number of skill areas including job skills, process management & improvement, problem solving, teamwork, and customer service.

Someone replied: "At my shop, the person soldering chips on fiberglass printed circuit boards for delivery to the warehouse probably his little or no use for…
National Treasure

Did you read the bestseller The Da Vinci Code and think, That will be a great movie some day? Well, producer Jerry Bruckheimer has beaten director Ron Howard to the punch. The new smash hit National Treasure is that movie!

Though I enjoyed it, I was less than satisfied by the film as an entertainment. Three complaints:

1.Often quirky actor Nicolas Cage seemed somewhat restrained in his performance.

2.The usual level of mayhem expected in a Jerry Bruckheimer film (e.g. Con Air) seemed subdued by the Disney influence. The villain, played by excellent British actor Sean Bean, was no Cyrus the Virus.

3.And the overall long running time contributed to a feeling of boredom at times.

Having said the above, I must say that actress Diane Kruger is gorgeous. I could watch her all night.

Movin Out

As a birthday present, we took my brother to a performance of Movin Out yesterday afternoon in NYC. Can a play work and not work at the same time and be a success? Apparently it can and Movin Out proves it.

There are two shows in one, going on simultaneously, with little relation between them. Both are great! One is a performance, by an excellent band, of a bunch of great Billy Joel tunes. The other is a ballet, choreographed by Twyla Tharp, based on characters from some Billy Joel tunes, and performed by a talented group of dancers, led by the athletic John Selya. Leaping about the stage, you think he could soar into the air. He is so strong looking that I expect someday to see him in a movie as a superhero.

Though schizo, Movin Out is a thrilling show and deserved the standing ovation at the end.
The murder of Margaret Hassan

The news, that someone in Iraq shot and killed CARE chief Margaret Hassan, has stirred up feelings of anger and helplessness within me.

Why? What purpose did her killing serve?

How could this happen?

Will her murderers be brought to justice?

When will this madness in Iraq end?

What is wrong with us that we cannot live in peace and mutual support?

Dinner and The Da Vinci Code

My wife and I are having guests for dinner in a few days and the topic for the gathering is Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code.

I read it several months ago and enjoyed it. Plus, intrigued by the fact that TDVC was a sequel, I gobbled up Brown's Angels and Demons, and enjoyed that one even a tad more.

I just read this morning that Tom Hanks has been cast as the lead in the film version to be directed by Ron Howard. I like Hanks and I'm sure he will do well in the role. But I wonder who else could play the part?
Beautiful words

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

An excerpt from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, 1927




Blogging through change

The other day, I came across a blog entry on blogging as a communication tool for organizational change management.

Interesting. Although communication is terribly important to people as they go through a wrenching organizational upheaval, like a merger or acquisition, I wonder if a blog is the best tool for such communication?



Sometimes going to work is a pleasure

The other day, while driving up the Garden State Parkway to a meeting in northern New Jersey, I had the opportunity to chat with the IT guy that I'm partnering with on a project.

Lo and behold, I learn that the IT geek is a wine expert! In fact, he is so much of an expert that he write articles on wine and consults on the side.

Being a wine lover, I shamelessly picked his brains for free about recommended Italian wines.

Two that I recall are the pinot grigio from Friuli up north and the primitivo red from Apulia in the south.

Not a bad way to spend the time motoring along the parkway.


Leaders as Teachers

Yesterday's New Jersey Organization Development Network meeting, hosted at NJIT in Newark, featured a presentation by Ed Betof, Chief Learning Officer at Becton Dickinson (BD) called "Leaders as Teachers: Building Organizational Capability at BD."

Becton Dickinson, a 107 year old medical technology and biosciences company based in northern NJ with operations around the globe, started a new approach to leadership development about four years ago. The new approach was driven by a new business strategy which emphasized three broad goals:
1.top-line growth through product innovation
2.bottom-line growth through operational effectiveness
3.and organizational capabilities growth through leadership development

BD did not define leader by level. Rather, they defined a "leader" as anyone in BD who has the opportunity to affect one or more of the three growth goals, and who can contribute to BD's Three Greats: great performance, great contributions to society, and great p…
Now that Bush has won, what can we look forward to for the next four years?

As a voter who decided to cast my vote for change, I am disheartened and disappointed that Bush won re-election. Though I was quite unenthusiastic about Kerry (what a stiff, so boring), I felt that we needed change.

I heard a guy being interviewed, on a New York area radio talk show the other day, who said, "I don't understand my fellow Americans who voted for Bush." I guess I am in the same quandary. Why?

Why vote for the guy who got us into a quagmire of death and destruction in Iraq? Why vote for a leader who lamely excuses the whole fiasco by saying that the intelligence was wrong?

Now, unfortunately, we get the same guy again. He is not my idea of a change leader.

I wonder if he will take note of the number of voters who went for Kerry. And why they voted for a change.


Attention Chicago-area fans of composer Howard Shore! The premiere concert performance of Howard Shore's new 6-part symphony based on his music for The Lord of the Rings will be on October 8 in Chicago. Darnit, I live in New Jersey
Skunked at the Tribeca Film Festival

For Mother's Day, I took my wife and sons, along with some friends, to the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan yesterday.

This was my first time at the film festival (in fact, it was my first film festival ever) and I wasn't sure where it was or what to expect.

With the help of the internet, I was able to get program info as well as a subway map showing the route from Penn Station down to the festival locations.

The festival was centered around a UA Theater near the World Trade Center site. Lots of folks were there, waiting on long lines to see the films. My younger son and I wanted to see the samurai film Zatoichi but it was already sold out. So we waited on another line for Crazy Legs only to find out that it too was sold out.

On the positive side, the weather was great so we ended up walking around lower NYC and found an Irish pub called Biddy Early where we stopped for dinner. The Guinness was tasty. After that we walked to Chinatown for …
Law vs Love

At Mass recently, Fr. Nick gave a most interesting homily about law vs love.

In Jesus' day, he said, the Sanhedren represented the law. Jesus, in contrast, was about love.

Fr. Nick (who teaches law at a college here in NJ) explained that the law tells you what to do and what not to do. The law coerces you into obedience and compliance by threat of sanction.

Love too is about obedience but not in the way that law is. Love is about having right relationships with God and your neighbor. Jesus taught that neighbor includes everyone in the world: not just your your family and friends, but also those ones who live in enemy territory.

In today's world, Fr. Nick observed that the Pope and the Church have slipped into the sad state of being like a modern Sanhedren, wagging the stern finger of law and obedience at American Catholics.

Somehow, Fr. Nick said, the Church has lost the spirit of Vatican II that Pope John XXIII started back in 1962 which attempted to reinvigorate…
Stern = WMD?
Are you a fan of radio "shock jock" Howard Stern? In case you've been asleep during the recent culture war, it appears that he may be the biggest anti-Bush "weapon of mass destruction" currently on the scene. AlterNet: Culture War May Find WMD
Ah, Central New Jersey!

Yes, I live in New Brunswick, the "hub city" of Middlesex County, not far from New York, not far from Philadelphia. New Brunswick is noted for being the home of Rutgers, as well as the world headquarters of Johnson & Johnson.
Wicked!
Saw the Broadway show Wicked last week and boy was it good!

Two of the stars, Kristen Chenoweth (who plays Glinda) and Idina Menzel (who plays Elphaba) have been nominated for Drama Desk awards.