Showing posts from 2005
Lead Like A Lovecat

A couple of years ago, author Tim Sanders, in his book Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends, started a movement based on three applications of love to business relationships:

- sharing knowledge with business partners
- networking with business partners
- compassion for your business partners

Are you a lovecat? What would a lovecat leader look like?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/26/2005
In or Out of the Box?

Ever since The Nine Dot Problem, academics and consultants specializing in creativity have talked about, and recommended, "thinking outside the box." Until now.

Author Douglas Rushkoff, in his new book, Get Back in the Box, offers some alternate thoughts.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/24/2005

Almost a year ago, I attended a management seminar called "Breakthrough to Leadership." After over twenty years in the field of Training and Organization Development, I'd say this this was one of the most memorable courses I have ever attended. And I don't mean that in a good way.

I wrote about this once before at this blog. To put this in context, my company had been bought in December of 2004. Immediately the downsizing began. In January, the new owners were putting all of the surviving acquired managers through a four day culture class. In that prior posting, I highlighted one of the positives of this seminar.

Now to balance out the picture. If there is one word that might best describe this experience it would have to be sadistic. It became clear within the first hour, that we were going to be cruelly tortured for the next four days. Not torture in the sense of pulling out fingernails or applying electric shocks to sensitive body parts.

No, …
All I Want for Christmas

As many of you know, I love Christmas. Always have. The fact that it is based on ancient pagan religions is fine by me. It sorta links things together. Who knows? Maybe the Neanderthals put up a tree in the dark of winter?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/23/2005
Austrian Brain, American Brain

Last week, there was an interesting editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle about the execution of Crips gang leader and convicted murderer Stan "Tookie" Williams.

Here is an excerpt:

"GOV. ARNOLD Schwarzenegger once characterized his conflicted feelings about the death penalty as a duel between his "Austrian brain and the American brain."

He recalled that capital punishment was an "absolute no-no" in his native Austria. On Monday, his "American brain" prevailed. Perhaps his "Austrian brain" would have recognized the value of keeping Williams alive to offer a credible voice of warning to young people who are vulnerable to the lure of gangs. Perhaps his immersion in American culture has anesthetized him to concerns about the margin of error in this nation's justice system."

This Austrian brain, American brain notion is worth some discussion. While I am not equipped to comment on the Austrian br…
Intelligent Design

Looks like "intelligent design" is out for the count in Dover, Pennsylvania, defeated before a federal judge who declared that such a theory, which posits an unseen creator to explain human existence and development, is not a science and therefore has no place in a public school curriculum.

I'm OK with this ruling. Teach evolution in science class.

The question remains, however, what to do with this notion of intelligent design. Here are some thoughts.

As a spiritual person, I trust that we are part of a bigger universe than what we can apprehend with our senses. That there is a greater purpose to "all of this" than just random mutations.

In the kaballah, there is the teaching that the Creator (the Ein Sof, "without boundaries") breathed and "all of this" came into existence.

There is a morning prayer that says, “Elokai neshama shnasata bi tehorah hi – O God the soul you placed within me is pure. You created it, you fashioned i…

Growing up, I lived in a household with Irish Catholic grandparents upstairs and my mother's two elderly Jewish uncles, Abe (born in Russia, near Kiev) and Charlie, at the kitchen table most days of the week. My dad was a tough Irish cop, but he made room in his home (and in his heart) for my mom's side of the family.

What a mishpokhe! Amazingly, we all got along, for the most part.

Having Uncle Abe (the mentsh) and Uncle Charlie (the shmegegi) in my life was a blessing, like two extra grandfathers. Abe taught me how to play chess. Charlie told stories about the old days. I made them tea. Man, I miss those days.

Interestingly, my two teenage sons, who are being raised Catholic as I was, feel a connection to their Jewish roots. I'm happy about that. My mom would be too.

I feel that I have had the best of both worlds.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/21/2005
Is Wikipedia Dangerous?

Wikipedia, the world's first free, user-built, online encyclopedia has had some bad publicity lately. Is it a danger to our society? Are kids, students, and researchers running a risk in using wikipedia articles as sources of information?

I'll admit that I am biased. I have been a wikipedia contributor for years. My topics tend to be in my field of expertise, namely organization development, but I have also started and contributed to articles on film, culture, travel, and local New Jersey history.

I like wikipedia. It's a fun place to write. You "meet" other writers, from all over the world. You can contribute to their articles, and they lend a hand with yours. Like a barn-raising.

Yeah, sometimes your stuff gets vandalized by punks. But usually the wikipedia staff comes along and cleans up the annoying graffiti.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/20/2005
Good Work

Good work doesn't feel like work. It energizes you. You jump outa bed in the morning and can't wait to return to it.

Good work "flows" (as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term) and you don't notice the passage of time when you are working at it.

Good work is something you feel proud of and wouldn't mind signing your name to it.

Good work taps into some talent that is rooted deep within you, something uniquely yours, your "genius" (as Dick Richards has called it).

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/20/2005

Businessweek has published its list of business buzzwords for 2005.

One hot HR buzzword that was omitted is "engagement." The idea that an "engaged" worker is a more productive worker. Prestigious HR consulting firms like Watson Wyatt are building practices on this.

I'm scratching my head over how you can create an engaged workforce at the same time that you are scrapping pension plans.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/17/2005
Job Search Update - Part 2

As of today, my job search is officially two months and ten days old. As the Christmas holidays approach, the question everyone is asking me is: Are you slowing down on your job search?

No. I am continuing to network, reaching out to friends, business associates, former colleagues, and strangers. I am using the outplacement service for coaching. And I am using online networking tools like LinkedIn, Friendster, and Doostang.

As I said in my prior update, I am staying upbeat. Attitude is everything. A long time ago, I learned that a job hunter, like a salesperson, has to be positive.

What helps me maintain an optimistic outlook? First, because I am a veteran job hunter, I know how to do it. Plus I am learning new tricks from some of the job coaches I am encountering, for example Dick Richards (who is teaching me about my genius)and Lloyd Feinstein(who is teaching me to approach the job search like a sales campaign).

Second, I know who I am and what I have to offer…
Playing With The DaVinci Code

Are you a fan of author Dan Brown's mega-bestselling book The DaVinci Code? Looking forward to the big-screen movie version, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks?

If so, then you might enjoy this bit of fun. Apparently, the movie trailer itself has some clues built into it that, if followed, will lead you to some interesting material. This blogger points the way.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/15/2005
I Have Been Published!

Happy to report that my piece on adaptability was accepted and published by the Western Ohio Chapter of ASTD in their monthly members-only newsletter, Professional Insight. My "thanks" go out to Cris Wildermuth and April Mason.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, posted 12/15/2005
Candid Sharing, Effective Action

What is organization development (OD)? I get this question a lot. Usually I paraphrase Richard Beckhard, one of the founders of the OD field, and say that OD is about intentionally planning ways to make organizations more healthy and effective.

As I am job hunting, I look at a lot of job ads. This morning I saw one that takes an interesting approach to OD. Here is an excerpt:

Organization Development is the attempt to influence the members of an organization to expand their candidness with each other about their views of the organization and their experience in it, and to take greater responsibility in sharing and owning their own actions as organization members.

The assumption behind OD is that when people pursue both of these objectives simultaneously, they are likely to discover new ways of working together that they experience as more effective for achieving their own and their shared (organizational) goals. And that when this does not happen, such…
Pushing the Paradigm Button

Ryzer Jamie Walters recently asked, Are there really new paradigms? That's a good question.

The concept of paradigms was all the rage in corporate circles back in the Eighties when consultant Joel Barker arrived on the scene and popularized the term. He acknowledged at the time that he was standing on the shoulders of Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science who first wrote about the concept of paradigms in his slim but deep volume the Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

From my understanding of Kuhn's argument, one of the characteristics of a really new paradigm is that it should appear to be absurd, ridiculous and first. Meaning that the audience that is considering the new paradigm is steeped in the context of the existing or "old" paradigm. The old paradigm makes sense. The new one seems like heresy.

In the news today, I saw a story that can illustrate this, where a research scientist, in dating some ancient human footprints, ha…

Creativity - Don't Wait. Do Something.

What is your take on the creative process? Is creative inspiration something you wait for like a weather front? Or is creative inspiration akin to priming a pump where the first few tries produce nothing but then a gusher?

For me, creativity is probably all of the above . . . and other as well.

When I was in graduate school, studying creative arts education, I read some interesting stuff on imagination and the creative process. One model that I liked I'll call the "Don't Wait; Do Something" approach which basically said that creativity occurs when we are in motion, when we are taking action.

Rather than waiting for inspiration, go ahead and start writing, painting, walking or whatever it is that gets your juices flowing.

Trust that in the doing, the creative process will kick in.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/12/2005
New KM Guru Blog

Thanks to Gautam Ghosh for alerting us to a new knowledge management blog from Babson.

I have found several interesting threads, including:

- The strange relationship between KM and HR

- The potential high cost of missing knowledge

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/9/2005
Ten Golden Rules at Google

How do you manage today's knowledge workers? Eric Schmidt, CEO at Google, has ten golden rules including:

- Hire by committee - Sounds like the return of self-managing teams.

- Cater to their every need - Sounds good to me. Do they really mean it?

- Pack them in - Personally, being an INTP, I would scream over this one.

- Encourage creativity - We've heard this one before.

To

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/8/2005
You Don't Have to be Christian to Like Christmas

I'm the Catholic son of a Jewish mother. When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV commercials was for Levi's Jewish Rye Bread. The slogan was: You don't have to be Jewish to like Levi's.

As we swing into the annual Christmas season, I think this world needs a similar slogan: You don't have to be Christian to like Christmas.

Christmas, when you look at it, is really for everybody.

For Christians, it's a celebration of the birth of Jesus.

For Pagans, Christmas has it all: trees, mistletoe, even elves.

For everybody else, it has a universal message about Emmanuel, God-with-us. A message about peace on Earth, good will to all.

A message that says God is indeed with us. Even when it seems like God isn't.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/8/2005
Assessing the Impact of a Leader

In scanning the business news headlines this morning, I came across an article about my former employer. It turns out that the rumor mill had been right: the CEO is leaving the company and will take a top-level position with a company on the west coast where she will be closer to home and spouse.

Coming in about seven years ago with a turn-around mandate, the CEO aggressively changed the company, growing it through a succession of acquisitions. The company is much larger now, in sales, employees, footprint, and value.

Along with this spending spree, she also drove a culture change, and a cost reduction campaign. Regarding the culture change, the CEO shook the place up in an effort to shed complacency and instill a renewed sense of ambition. Regarding the cost reductions, the acquisitions were followed by consolidations that included the firings of lots of people.

Can we assess this leader and her effectiveness? Admittedly, I am not an objective rater …
Assessing Leadership Effectiveness

How do you assess the effectiveness of a leader? Blogger and consultant Don Blohowiak has an idea: assess the organizational outcomes that they produce.

This is quite close to an idea I started writing about (in 2003) at wikipedia that I called management effectiveness. In the wiki spirit, many others have subsequently added to my original entry.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/7/2005
Man, the Hunted Runner

In USA Today, I caught a "science snapshot" article about an anthropologist named Donna Hart who, along with her colleagues from the University of Missouri, has presented an argument about ancient man that says:

"being hunted, rather than hunting, was the daily fare of humanity's ancestors...

"trying not to be eaten played a significant role in human evolution...

"our earliest ancestors probably spent a lot of time evolving into a creature that survived being on the run..."

So basically what Prof. Hart is saying is that our prehistoric grandparents were the lucky ones that were able to procreate before they became dinner for some sabre toothed tigers.

In addition to being fast runners, they must have developed some other survival skills. How else can you explain the fact that we are here having these exchanges?

I would imagine that some other skills arose as a result of being the hunted; for example:

- communication skills (How do we le…
Two Steps to Intentional Living

Psychologist and coach Mark Arcuri says that there are two steps to take in order to create something intentionally in your life.

1. First you write a few lines about what you want to create.

2. Then you reflect on the intention for a few minutes each day while visualizing the finished product.

That's it. I'm going to try it.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 5, 2005
Spiritual Change Management

Isaiah said: "Prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight a highway for our God!" John the Baptist proclaimed: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

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. It is the time 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 metanoia 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 the 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.

Getting Noticed

This blog has been noticed by a professor at Case named Sandy Piderit and a knowledge management blogger in Germany named Alexandra Gra├čler.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/4/05
Interesting Capability

As I am "in transition" at the moment, I read a lot of job ads, and not just in my own field. In one I read this morning, for an asset manager, there was the following:

~ The Asset Management group is action oriented; its efforts culminate in an asset sale, a refinancing, a commercial restructuring, an operational improvement, a re-engineering, or project development.

~ The closings are typically preceded by a long period of analysis, negotiation and set backs. The ability to apply effort toward an objective over a long period of time without guarantee of success is invaluable.

Interesting capability, no? Doesn't such an ability apply to organization development work as well?

It definitely relates to waging a job search campaign.
Thanks, Don!

Hey, I just noticed that my blog is now listed on Don Blohowiak's blogroll, too. Many thanks!
Thanks, Dick!

Consultant and author Dick Richards has added my blog to his blogroll at Come Gather Round. I am honored.
Shaping the Course of My Life

On some level, I think we all recognize that our parents play a key part in shaping us and the course our lives will take. When you become a parent yourself, you realize that your hand leaves a lasting mark on the lives of your children.

I'm reading a book called Is Your Genius At Work? by Dick Richards. In one of the exercises, number 23 on family history, Dick suggests that you take a look at the messages you got from your parents. He asks: Do the messages that I received suggest an "assignment" of some sort, that I have been carrying out in my life choices? This exercise has really moved me.

I was raised in a bustling, large, multi-generational household. There were six kids, and my grandparents lived upstairs. Today, I'm blessed with a loving wife and two great teenage sons.

Reflecting on my early years, there were several messages that I received when I was a kid including:

- become a pharmacist (that was my mom's most cherish…
Finding My Genius

Consultant Don Blohowiak has an interview with Dick Richards, author of Is Your Genius At Work?, available as a podcast.

Just finished listening to it. Great podcast! Thanks for the early Christmas gift, Don.

Coincidentally, when the podcast ended, the iTunes player on my laptop went directly into "Touch Me" by the Doors.

"Can't you see that I am not afraid.
What was that promise that you made?"

Not sure what the connection is, or even what the Doors meant in this song, but it has always been a favorite.
Thanks, Anu!

There's a blogger in the UK who has added my blog to the blogroll on HR and Communication blogs. It's quite a list of bloggers to rub elbows with including Gautam Ghosh, Regina Miller, and Don Blohowiak.
Giving Thanks

Here in the U.S., we celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, a national holiday that expresses a notion from way back in our history as a nation, an acknowledgment that we Americans are indeed fortunate and blessed. In today's world of war, hatred, greed, misery, and poverty, it is a message that all people need, and one that is sorely in need of revitalization.

The courageous people who boarded ships and fled religious oppression in the Old World, and the indigenous people they met in the New World, both recognized that there is more to this life than what our eyes perceive, that there is a higher power that created us and gave us everything in the world, and that we are the stewards of those gifts, responsible for their wise use and accountable for our actions.

So I want to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for all that I have received, especially for my loving wife and sons, for my friends and family, for my health, for this great country in which I live, for its freedoms…
Finding Creatives

The topic of creativity is one of my passions. What is creativity? Can it be developed? Who is creative?

I had an interesting experience the other day. As you may know, I was downsized and am now job hunting full time. A large part of the job hunt is networking.

At a networking meeting here in central New Jersey, a big group (close to thirty job hunters) assembled in a warm multipurpose room at a peaceful church for a Saturday morning session. We sat in a big circle and the facilitators opened by asking us to introduce ourselves.

As we each took turns, there were finance people, IT people, marketing people, scientific people...the whole spectrum of business life.

Then a balding middle-aged fellow (not me ;)), a graphic arts guy, stood up and said, "Hi. I guess I'm the only creative in the room this morning."

Well, to the speaker's surprise, the rest of the room erupted in a friendly uproar. The other attendees called out "Whaddaya mean we aren&…
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is my favorite time of year. Always has been. Since I was a kid. Thanksgiving. Christmas. I love it.

Yet, for the past 25 years or so, there has been a dark cloud that comes around at this time of year as well. Performance Reviews. It's one of my "buttons" and it's hard to resist weighing in.

As "Mr. Performance Review" in several of my corporate gigs, I have had the opportunity to deal with this process up close, for many years.

There are two chief flaws in the way performance review is typically executed.

One is the linkage between performance and pay. While an organization should insist on people performing, the annual determination of who performed better is subjective at best. At worst, it is a flawed exercise in how to distribute a finite bucket of merit money that leaves folks feeling like they weren't adequately recognized or rewarded.

The other is the weak focus (or lack of focus altogether) on develo…
My Previous Life

Ever wonder if you lived before? There is a website called The Big View that has a Past Life Diagnosis tool where you can find out about one of your past lives. You plug in your birthday and it gives you a report.

Here's what the site told me:

~ I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation.

~ You were born somewhere in the territory of modern North India around the year 900.
Your profession was that of a writer, dramatist or organizer of rituals.

~ Your brief psychological profile in your past life: You had the mind of a scientist, always seeking new explanations. Your environment often misunderstood you, but respected your knowledge.

~ The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation: Your lesson is to study, to practice and to use the wisdom that lies within the psychological sciences and in ancient manuscripts. With strong faith and hard work you will reach your real destiny in your present life.


There is a new species at large on the corporate landscape these days. This hardy and resilient lifeform has arisen in response to the downsizing, rightsizing, reengineering, consolidating, outsourcing, and offshoring that has been all the rage in C-level boardrooms. Called “transitionists,” a term borrowed from extreme snow-boarding (I kid you not), this creature is extraordinarily adept at performing the transitions (i.e., tricky maneuvers) required in managing change.

The transitionists have a sunny disposition and are quite elastic, making them very hard to kill. Where did this robust thing come from? For an answer, let’s revisit the theory of Natural Selection.

For Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution of the species, the essential key to his concept of “survival of the fittest” was adaptability. In his theory, since all living things struggle unceasingly to survive, an organism’s survival response to changes in its environment makes all the differ…
Democracy at Work?

In one of my favorite movies, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, there is a humorous exchange between a bewildered King Arthur and an annoying peasant:

Peasant: Now who does he think he is?
King Arthur: I am your king.
Peasant: Well, I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for king!
Peasant: Well, how'd you become king then?

This scene came to mind today after an exchange with Gautam Ghosh about Ricardo Semler's experiment in Brazil with workplace democracy.

Semler's achievement does sound remarkable...revolutionary even.

But the reason I have my doubts about implementing workplace democracy is simple. In most companies, the real organizational structure is a power hierarchy populated by superiors and subordinates.

Although the manifesto at ChangeThis is well written and compelling, the predominant corporate culture is not a democracy. Quite the opposite, it is more like a medieval fiefdom of lords and serfs. The serfs work the land at the lea…
My Value Proposition

My dream: To have a business of my own centered around helping other people. To be my own boss in a consulting gig where I help people to figure stuff out, to learn, to discover, to improve themselves and their organizations.

My offering: Coaching to Build Successful Leaders, Teams, and Organizations

Over the years, I have discovered what I am best at, and what brings me the most joy. It boils down to the essence of the core value proposition that I bring to the party.

1. Creative Envisioning of Possibilities

I love to help others think "What if...?" and "What else...?" and "Why not...?" As a facilitator, I can help others share wisdom, explore alternatives.

2. Empathetic Facilitating, Listening & Synthesizing to Enable Learning

I love to help others to grow and expand their thinking and their capabilities. As a facilitator, I can design and conduct learning experiences that help others reach a new level.

3. Enthusiastic Communicatin…

Truth and Wisdom

Truth and Wisdom in OD

Practitioners in the field of Organization Development (OD) are guided by a set of core values; for example, consider this code of ethics from the Organization Development Institute.

"Telling the truth," for example, is an important core value embraced by OD professionals. Telling the truth about Yourself (i.e., truth in advertizing). Telling the truth to your Client (i.e., telling it like it is; no sugar-coating; no collusion to delude).

Some years ago, I worked for an OD Director who was very much a truth teller. If a client's idea was an "ugly baby," we had to find some way of telling him or her. If the client was the CEO, it was difficult. If the CEO was "an emperor with no clothes on," we had an acute truth telling dilemma.

This core value around "tellng the truth" is related to, but distinct from, I believe, another core value of OD. If OD folk believe that it's their job to "help the client organiz…
The Vision Thing

A few years ago, in business and in politics, there was a lot of discussion on leadership vision. Someone coined the phrase "the vision thing" to sum up the importance of having and communicating a vision.

This is nothing new. Thousands of years ago, Solomon understood this. In Proverbs 29:18, he said: Where there is no vision, the people perish.

Whether you are a leader of others, or a leader of Self, vision starts with the man or woman in the mirror.

~ Who are You?

~ What do you stand for?

~ Where have you been and where are you going?
Job Search Update

As of today, my job search is officially one month old. The question everyone is asking me is: How is it going?

First, some metrics. With three interviews in process, and my resume submitted to several more potential employers, I'd say it's going well.

I am networking like crazy, reaching out to friends, business associates, former colleagues, and strangers. I am using the outplacement service for help sharpening my resume. I am using new online networking tools like LinkedIn.

With extra time available, I am doing things I did not have room for in my schedule such as exercising and getting a full physical exam.

Perhaps most important of all, I am staying upbeat. Attitude is everything. And I learned that a job hunter, like a salesperson, has to be positive.

What helps me maintain an optimistic outlook? First, because I am a veteran job hunter, I know how to do it. And I know I will land at some point.

Second, I know who I am and what I have to offer. I kn…
Meetings With Remarkable Men

I know that was the title of a book by the extraordinary mystic George Gurdjieff. But it fits this series of entries about my job search. It feels right . . . to me.

Today, at a diner with the sign EAT, I met with a guy I worked with years ago, and had not seen in over 5 years. He decided to become a consultant in his field, and has been building his business for several years.

I asked him to share his wisdom about going the consulting route vs going back into a corporate role. Here's how he put it:

"Why would you go back into a place that does not value creativity or independent thinking? A place that isn't interested in innovation? A soul-deadening place? A place where the spark of intelligence is quickly extinguished?"

His advice to me: Look into Yourself. Decide what You are about, What You want. And set a Goal.

Before pursuing the consulting path, be sure it's OK with your Family too. They need to support it. And You need to …
Some Over-50 Reality

In any job search campaign, you need a strategy. A great input to strategy development, is the wisdom of others. And a great way to seek and obtain such wisdom is through networking.

This morning, at a local coffee shop, I met with a networking contact, a guy I had worked with years ago. He is a few years my senior and is also looking for work.

After catching up on the years that have flown by since we last worked together, we got down to business . . . and some harsh realities.

He said:

"Terry, It's a buyer's market. If they want 38 things, and you have 36 of them, they can afford to keep looking until they find someone with all 38.

"There are three, no four things that you will find working against you. They are:

"1. Your age. You are Fifty now and, with your bald head, you look older than your age.

"2. Your gender. You are a male in a female dominated field. And, combined with the first point, you are not some "hot" youn…
The Elephant and the Blind Men

This is one of my favorite stories. Don't remember where I got it, but I have used this one for years in my practice. This story has tremendous application to understanding and improving communication in organizations.

The Blind Men and the Elephant

One day, three blind men were walking along a road, begging for alms. They had been blind from birth. That day, they encountered for the first time an elephant. With great excitement, they approached the large beast. The first blind man touched the tip of the elephant's tail and said, "Ah, an elephant is a small fuzzy animal." The second man touched the broad rough side of the elephant and said. "An elephant is a big, flat animal, like a wall." Holding the elephant's trunk, the third said, "An elephant is long and round, like a big snake."

Later that day, while they sat under a large tree, discussing the marvels of the day, the talk returned to the encounter with the…
OD and KM - Perfect Together

A little alphabet soup again, eh?

This time the topic is knowledge management. At Jack Vinson's blog, he has an entry about how KM and OD (organization development) can and should work together.

I agree. But in actual practice, I think the reality is often quite different, where the OD folks and the KM folks are in different rooms . . . actually different realms.

Last year (in February of 2004), I had the opportunity to hear a talk by Stephan Kudyba, founder of Null Sigma Inc and professor at NJIT (and author of Data Mining and Business Intelligence: A Guide to Productivity, Information Technology, Corporate Productivity and the New Economy).

Kudyba takes a strategic view of both KM and OD and says that both should be involved in the pursuit of productivity gains and innovation. Here are a couple of excerpts from his thinking.

On KM, Kudyba is clear on the strategic nature of the endeavor:

"A knowledge-management initiative is a strategic plan that se…
Peeling the Onion

A metaphor that I like, that I have used quite a bit in my practice over the years, is "peeling the onion."

In Organization Development work, peeling the onion means looking deeper. Not accepting a problem definition at face value. Peeling the onion is a search for underlying causes.

Peeling the onion is a learning process. A discovery process. It involves gently peeling layers of data, layers of interpretation, layers of emotion, layers of meaning. Asking "Why?" and "What do you mean?" and "What else?" persistently.

Peeling the onion also means discovering things about yourself. It means being honest with yourself and going deeper.

When I have peeled the onion of my Self, I can reach greater self-awareness. Greater self-acceptance. And greater personal effectiveness.
Don’t Know? Facilitate!

For many years now, one of the chief things that I have done for my clients is to facilitate. But what is that exactly?

A facilitator, one who facilitates, is someone who smoothes the way for others, making an easy path to follow.

Often the facilitator knows little or nothing of the subject matter that the client is dealing with. And that’s OK. Actually, it’s great. Because the facilitator would only get distracted by it.

I find that it’s better when I don't know enough about the subject matter to try to solve my clients' problems. So instead what I do is facilitate their solving of their own problems. My operating assumption is that they know all that they need to know and that they just need some help finding their way to the “aha” . . . and then expressing it.

Does a facilitator know stuff? Sometimes, as a facilitator, I feel empty. Like I am content-free. But that's not really true.

The "body of knowledge" that a facilitator br…
You Cannot NOT Communicate…

Whatever an organization's chief reason for being, all organizations communicate.

Internally, the levels, members and groups communicate with one another, and the organization communicates externally with other organizations in its environment.

Whether intended or not, this communication is constant because "You cannot NOT communicate."

There are a host of implications for Organization Development practitioners, including helping leaders in organizations to:

- understand the importance of communication

- become more intentional about communicating

- recognize mixed messages they may be sending

- become more aware of the effects of stifling the free flow of information in the organization

- utilize communication to enhance organizational performance

By the way, I stay away from the term "communications," preferring instead the term communication (singular).

(Why do people add s's to words when there is no need? I can't tell you h…
Creating a Culture of . . .

I was recently reading some blog posts about creating a culture of collaboration.

As with any change in an organization’s culture, this demands some strategic thinking; for example:

Vision: What do we mean by “a culture of collaboration”? What would it look like? How would we behave? How would it differ from the way we do things now?

WIIFU: Why would we want such a culture? What would it do for us? for our customers?

Commitment: What will it take for us to transition to this culture of collaboration? What commitment? What steps? What timetable? What resources? What changes? What cost?

By the way, WIIFU means "What's In It For Us?"
Back to the Garden

As I gaze out my window this morning in rainy central New Jersey, I notice how green it is, despite it being October already. Instead of leaves falling, there are tomatoes ripening in my garden. After the hot summer we had, where the grass turned brown and crunchy, it's nice to see green.

Coincidentally, a blog entry by Don Blohowiak got me started toward a new paradigm for managing human resources in organizations, one based on a different set of values and principles than the one typically found. Let's call it the Gardener's model.

Typically in organizations, when we have problems with the lettuce, er I mean the employee, we attack the problem, i.e. the person.

Seldom do we consider the soil, the sunlight, the watering, whether other pests are in the garden, etc.

The Gardener’s Model of managing human resources would be a systems model. It would say that to get a good crop (i.e., a well-functioning workforce), you need to tend carefully to the whole gar…
Waiting for Beauty...

No matter how dark the night, there is always a dawn.
No matter how dark the clouds, there is always hope.
No matter how savage the storm, there is always Spring.

Think beyond the moment...and wait for beauty to emerge.

80% of Success...

There's a line in a Woody Allen movie that says, "80% of success is showing up."

Years ago, I was impressed by that line. So much so, that over the years I would repeat it, trying to be helpful to others, particularly in job search conversations.

Now I realize that it's not really totally true.

At Mass this morning, my pastor Fr. Doug gave a homily on the Gospel about the ill-dressed wedding guest (Matthew 22:1-14) who was thrown out of the banquet hall. The problem with the guest, according to Fr. Doug, was not showing up. It was that the guest had not dressed appropriately for the feast.

Fr. Doug explained that the guest, in not dressing properly, had dishonored the king (God) who was throwing the wedding party (the Kingdom) for his son (Jesus).

Opening up the metaphor in Matthew's Gospel, Fr. Doug encouraged us to connect this symbolic parable to our own lives today. Where in our lives do we simply "show up?" Expecting to be handed cha…
On the Market...Again

I "got the package" today. Yeah, it's a little upsetting to be terminated, but actually I am a veteran. I figure this is my eighth time getting downsized in the past 25 years.

On the plus side, I'm free! Free to explore opportunity and choose once again. It's a little scary, yes, but I've got the resilience. I know how to bounce.

If anybody reading this hears of any leads for an OD Guy with experience in

- workplace learning
- leadership development
- organizational performance
- facilitation
- training
- culture
- coaching
- and change

...let me know, OK?

Isolating the Effects of Training?

Some of my esteemed colleagues in the field of Training & Employee Development are very concerned about measurement and ROI. Very important things, I'll admit.

While reading a thread (at ROInet) about isolating the effects of training from other factors that might influence performance, a mischievous thought came to me.

Playfully considering the words "isolating the effects of training," it occurs to me that there is an implied metaphor lurking underneath, that of contagion containment. Like quarantining a flu outbreak to isolate its reach.

What if we practitioners in T & D (or HRD or OD) did just the opposite? What if we did not isolate the effects of training? What if we looked to spread the effects of training? By design.

For example, if we found ways to help our salespeople to be more effective, why wouldn't we think about applying our success to say customer service? to operations? to R & D?

Just a thought.
Sock It To Me

As the corporate year begins to wind down, I look forward to the annual performance appraisal where my boss tells me what he thinks of me: how I did, what my strengths are, my weaknesses, and whether I'll be getting a raise or not.

If you believe the above, I have a bridge to sell you.

There are a lot of problems with performance review as it is typically done in corporate America: top-down, forced-fit, controlling, non-negotiable.

The great W. Edwards Deming wrote that evaluation of performance, merit ratings, and annual reviews of employee performance comprise the third of his "Seven Deadly Diseases" of management. Why? Because there is often a conflict between these practices and the values of Quality.

The values of Quality that Deming cared so much about include:
- customer focus
- systems thinking
- teamwork
- process improvement
- and fact-based decision making using measurement

One more value that Deming was passionate about involves how employees are treated.…
Internal Disarmament

Yesterday morning, in the football stadium at Rutgers University, the Dalai Lama spoke to a huge and appreciative crowd about peace, war and reconciliation. It was a good message that all people need to hear...and heed.

In part, the Buddhist sage said that attaining true peace in the world depends upon "internal disarmament," where we work to become more aware of our own emotional reactions to other people and thereby gain greater control over negatives like hatred and anger.

It is not a quick fix. The Dalai Lama said that if we start now in earnest, educating the children in the ways of peace, we may attain this goal in a century or so.

We won't be alive to see the fruits of this effort, but this is noble labor.

Showing Your Stuff

A friend of mine named Loren, a retired IT guy who teaches Judaism at a religious school in New Jersey, had a show of his photos last night at a cafe in Chatham .

Photography is something he likes to do and he has an eye for things, whether nature or cityscapes.

Loren is "showing his stuff." And why not?

Posted by Terrence Seamon
Hi, We're from Corporate And We Are Here to Help

There's an old Borscht Belt line that says, "Don't pee on my shoe and tell me it's raining."

Sometimes you feel that way in the business world when people from Corporate Headquarters come to town.

In my career, I have sometimes been the Guy from Corporate who flys into town to visit the remote business units. Sometimes you are there to listen and to learn, but more often than not, you are there to implement some dictate from the Top. The folks at the local site can smell you a mile away. They know that you have come to town for a reason...and they suspect that they may not like it.

Currently I am based inside a remote business unit, hundreds of miles away from Corporate Headquarters. The other day some visitors from Corporate came to town and asked, "What can we do to help you?"

Naturally, your first thought is to say "Go home"...but you don't say it. Wouldn't want to insult people f…
Dissociative Leadership

I don't really know what to call this.

In an AP story about the Supreme Court hearings, nominee John Roberts (who is Catholic) said that his religious beliefs will not intefere with his ability to judge the law. Here's an exerpt from the news report:

"Over and over, he assured lawmakers his rulings would be guided by his understanding of the facts of cases, the law and the Constitution, not by his personal views.

"My faith and my religious beliefs do not play a role," added Roberts, who is Catholic.

"I will be my own man," he said later."

Does this bother anybody else but me? How can a person dissociate himself from his faith?

Isn't faith a deep and integral part of the Self? A moral compass that guides a person toward a spiritual north? A foundation for living in peace with others?

I know that Roberts is not the first Catholic in public political life who has dissociated his faith. Mario Cuomo and JF Kennedy preceded him.

Planners and Operators

Generally speaking, planning is a good thing. Especially when it prepares you to deal with stuff that happens. Like a hurricane.

Listening to a report about Hurricane Katrina on npr the other day, I was impressed by how much advance planning had taken place.

So, with all the modeling and conferences, what happened? Trouble is not the planning. Rather, it's the planners and the operators.

The planners make the plans. The operators follow the plans. Makes sense, right? In theory yes. In actual practice, it can fall apart. For example, the planners plan based on assumptions. The operators cope with actual realities.

Many years ago, when I first entered the OD field, we used to run a little exercise in the management development programs we did for our clients, called "Planners and Operators."

In this exercise, there was a task to acomplish. The group of trainees was divided into two teams, a team of planners, and a team of operators. The planners…
Bringing Up Baby

The other day, at trdev, there was a discussion of how best to criticize someone else's ideas.

I pointed out that ideas are like babies. When it's my idea, it's my baby and I want everyone to "oo and ah" over it. Even more, I want everyone to love it and smooch it.

When someone criticizes or over-rides my idea, watch out. "Hey that's my baby, pal."

This is something that more and more of us face these days as we find ourselves thinking for a living (which incidentally is the title of Tom Davenport's new book on knowledge management).

Another trdev poster added that we are touchy about criticism of our ideas because "people are conditioned to taking sides, so any balanced appraisal is seen as an attack." He went on to ask, what sorts of strategies can we use to "avoid being viewed as a hater" when all you are attempting to do is respond honestly and logically to another person's idea?

For starters, we need …
Emergent Organizations

A few months back, Gautam Ghosh had a posting about emergent organizations where he mused about film crews. He (and several other who added comments) wondered if film crews represent a form of organizing (i.e. emergent, temporary, self-organizing) that we will see more of in the future.

I would think so. Having smaller and more variable organizational structures seems advantageous in today's business world.

As a movie buff, film crews are interesting to me. In addition to being temporary organizations, film crews are also comprised of technicians and experts from many crafts (e.g. carpentry, costuming, lighting, make-up, hair dressing, cinematography, etc.), all ready to do their thing. They are highly motivated people. Their goal is to make a movie. What they need is direction.

An interesting case study in this area is a recent film called Lost in La Mancha, about director Terry Gilliam's doomed effort to make a movie about Don Quixote.

The film crew…

Love In Action

The sheer enormity of the Hurricane Katrina story is overwhelming to me:

- the devastation that it wreaked on New Orleans and its people

- the multi-level failure of emergency preparedness to respond to the storm and its aftermath

- the task of clean-up and rebuilding

Where does one begin?

Here at St. Matthias, my church in New Jersey, we have chosen a way to begin, a way to help. We are reaching out to Epiphany, a church and parish in New Orleans, that was heavily damaged by the storm. We are sending them aid now, and are offering to go down there, at the appropriate time, to help in the restoration.

Although it's only a small scale effort, it feels like the right thing to do.

If enough churches and other organizations did something like this, a small scale effort could become a large scale effort.
It's All About Talent

In this change-filled era of outsourcing, off-shoring, and rightsizing, many in HR and OD are groping toward a sense of identity and purpose. Although there are many stakeholders to satisfy, there is a clear trail of bread-crumbs to follow. In a nutshell, it's all about talent.

The Top Dog (TD), whether he or she realizes it or not, needs a flow of Talent into the organization in order to be successful. Who will design and own the process to attract and hire this Talent?

The Managers need to utilize and develop that Talent continuously in order to deliver the results they are accountable for. Who will design and own the processes to support managerial effectiveness?

The Talent (i.e. the Employees) need to perform and deliver on what is expected of them. They do so by applying their skills to their tasks, and by acquiring other skills along the way. Who will design and own the processes for performance management and employee development?

Is there a clear …
Blogging the Hurricane

Here is a Mass Communication professor from LSU who is blogging the hurricane.

Others are doing it too.

I wonder if emergency planners are revising their protocols to include blogging as a communication tool?
The Potential of OD

At his blog, consultant David Lorenzo's recent entry, "The Power and Value of Effective Organizational Development," describes his reactions to a recent meeting with some OD professionals. In a nutshell, he was less than impressed. As David says, there is great potential in OD to help organizations to perform and excel. Unfortunately, for several reasons, OD can be its own worst enemy.

I've also written about this before (for example in my Nine Steps to OD series, e.g. here).

OD folk are an interesting bunch. Many believe that OD is most effective when working at the top of an organization. Others prefer to work deep down in the trenches, with front line teams and supervisors.

To my way of thinking, OD is most effective when it's "everywhere at once." When it has the ear of business leaders, but is also rolling up its sleeves and working with the employees who face the customer.

The key to effective OD is to harness the rich theory…
Science and Religion

Lately here in the U.S., there is quite a controversy going on regarding the attempt to introduce the "Intelligent Design" concept into the public schools, alongside the accepted theory of Darwinian evolution. Some see "ID" as a veiled version of creationism.

Can science and religion co-exist? I think so.

Both science and religion are human endeavors seeking to understand the meaning of life. Science seeks to understand how It works and how to improve It. Religion seeks to reveal Its purpose and to discern how to align one's life with that aim. To me, they are the complementary halves of a whole.

For many people these days, God is pretty much dead. For others, God is still going strong. For some, the old-fashioned notion of a robed father figure sitting on a fluffy throne is still current; for other's, it's gone, replaced by a more mystical notion of God as a creative life-force that is in and around everything, connecting and powering …
Meddling With Primal Forces

After wanting to see this film 30 years ago, I finally watched Network, the 1976 film by director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. This film was way ahead of its time in depicting the movement toward reality-based TV programming.

There is a great speech by the head of the fictional "UBS" corporation, that folks in the OD field might enjoy. You can hear it at this link.

In part, the CEO says:

"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?!

"You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West!

"There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds and shekels. …
The People Side of Business

I had an "aha moment" this morning while reading an interview with Dick Beatty at HR.Com.

Richard W. (Dick) Beatty is Professor of Human Resource Management at Rutgers University and is the author of The Workforce Scorecard with Mark A. Huselid and Brian E. Becker. Professor Beatty teaches in the areas of applied behavioral science in human resource management and the role of the human resource function in organizations. He was one of my professors when I completed the HR Certificate program at Rutgers back in the '80's.

Here is an excerpt of what Dick had to say:

"For most organizations, about 70% of expenditures are attributed to the workforce, in terms of direct and indirect compensation. The question is whether or not we are maximizing the possibilities of our workforces and delivering the strategy of the firm as intended. Are we producing the customer advantages that we want to produce so that customers choose us, remain loyal and …
Overcoming Fear and Adversity

Some days the lessons that Life teaches really present themselves full force. Yesterday was one of those days.

First we attended the wedding of one of my wife's cousins who lives north of us in New York state. This poor guy has suffered his whole life from violent seizures. So much so, that we wondered if he would ever have a normal life. And there he was on the altar with his bride getting married.

Then we drove back to central New Jersey for the 50th birthday party of an old friend from church. She has been battling cancer for years, with several close calls. So far, she has beaten it. Despite the presence of death that walks with her every day, she is a joy-filled woman, living every moment to the full.

Later while driving in the car, my wife's sister told us a story about a friend of hers and her son. The friend and her son had been watching the new Summer reality series Brat Camp, a show about a group of troubled teenagers who are placed …
The Open Source Way

Imagine if professionals were amateurs? Think "amateur" as one who loves.

This writer has some very interesting things to say about...

- work
- managing
- organizing
- productivity
- professionalism
- unleashing talent
- and worth

As a blogger (um...I mean as a writer), I can relate.
Getting More Strategic

The recent Fast Company article about HR ("Why We Hate HR" in the August 2005 issue) has sparked some lively exchanges about what HR can do to improve its image and effectiveness.

This is nothing new, however. For a long time, HR departments have been wrestling with how to get more respect and how to "get a seat at the table" with the CEO and the senior team.

One of the elements in the transformation of HR from a back-office admin function to a true business advisor is becoming "more strategic." But what does "more strategic" really mean?

There is no pat answer. You have to start reading and studying in the field of strategic thinking. One author to check out in this regard is Ram Charan.

Other thought leaders in this regard are Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad. Their work on the "core competencies" of the organization is a key concept for HR folk to ponder.

A consultant and author who has focused on HR is Dave Ulric…

Why HR and OD Don't Get Along

Why HR and OD Don't Get Along

There is an article in the current issue of Fast Company magazine, Called "Why We Hate HR," that is getting a lot of discussion at places like ODNET and HRNET. I have even weighed in a bit at those two discussions.

In this blog entry, however, I am going to look at a different angle, the relationship between HR and OD.

HR and OD are related functions in many organizations, where both are concerned about critical people processes. Sometimes they get along fine; but at other times, they eye each other with suspicion. Why is it that HR and OD don't get along sometimes?

Although quite often they have a common reporting structure (e.g. to the VP of HR), they often have different areas of focus. HR tends to focus on short-term tactical people processes such as recruiting, benefits, salary structure, policy, pay, and performance reviews. OD tends to focus on longer-term strategic people processes such as training, development, leadership, suc…
Faith in Organizations

At an OD discussion list, there is an exchange going on about whether or not it's appropriate to consider religion and spirituality when working with organizations. Are they germane to the practice of OD?

I am a faith-filled person who also practices OD (I am an internal consultant for a natural gas utility in New Jersey).

I find that most of the people I work with are also faith-filled, whatever their faith may be.

But where does their faith enter into their organizational lives? From what I've experienced, it seems that most make a separation. While it is not unusual to see someone wear a symbol of their faith (e.g. a crucifix on a chain worn around the neck), it is very unusual to find faith entering into a business decision.

So where does faith fit into our work as OD folk? Speaking just for myself (though I know some other ODers who have a similar outlook), since my faith is a major part of who I am as a person, it comes with me when I work with my c…