Showing posts from February, 2005
Getting Stuff Done

A ground-level challenge in mergers & acquisitions, that may escape the eyes of higher-level executives who are watching the stock price, the P&L and other metrics of organizational performance, is something I call getting stuff done.

Ground-level workers in staff and line jobs are good at getting stuff done every day, from answering customer calls to solving operational problems to delivering service. They know their jobs and they have the organizational know-how that their positions require to be able to get what they need so that they can get stuff done.

A big organizational upheaval, like a merger or an acquisition, kicks the stuffing out of people in an organization and imperils their ability to get stuff done. I am going through one of these periods now where I work. My company was sold to another company back late last year.

Here are some of the dimensions of this challenge.

What is my role? Part of getting stuff done is knowing what your job is. When…

Gifted and Broken

When people are born, they are born whole; they are who they are. Yet what makes up the totality of that whole being? I believe that we are all broken. Brokenness is part of our human condition.

Being human is, as the song tells us, "laden with happiness and tears." We are broken from the moment of birth until the day we die. Yes, a birth is a wondrous and joyous thing! Yet at birth, both mother and child are broken in the act. The baby breaks out of the womb. The mother expels the secret life it held for nine

Throughout our lives, we suffer many trials and experience our share of adversity. These trials strip us, shape us, and strengthen us.

Sometimes the breaks are physical such as a broken arm or rib. More often, however, the breaks are social, occupational, or political:
-- losing a friend
-- losing a parent
-- losing a job
-- losing a game
-- losing a race

The world is full of broken promises, broken homes and broken hearts.

We struggle with the "tough…

The Batting Coach

As a Little Leaguer, I was not much of a ball-player. A fact that bothered me, but also bothered my dad. My father was an uber-athlete, a champion in his youth, and a coach, referee and umpire in his middle-age. Sport was everything to him. And four out of his five sons followed suit.

The fifth son, yours truly, was the exception. More of an egghead than the others, I was best at academic performance, and a shambles on the ball field. I had no skills and little discernible aptitude.

My dad was encouraging but he tended to invest his energies in the other better players. One evening at baseball practice, an assistant coach named Ed approached me. I was pretty amazed that he was even speaking to me since I was a third-string splinter-collector.

Ed said, "Let's see your swing, Terry."

I got up, grabbed a bat, and showed him my style. Appraising me carefully, Ed began to coach me, saying "Hmmm. Let's try this. I want to change a few things, OK? First, I'd l…

A Weick on the Side of the Head

Karl Weick wrote some very cool stuff about human behavior and organization. In one piece, he wrote about a team of smokejumpers that became disorganized and, as a result, many of them died.

An important concept that Weick coined is "sensemaking." In a nutshell, sensemaking is the mental process of interpreting and constructing the reality around us. So defined, we are sensemaking pretty much all the time as we go about our daily lives. Most of the time, stuff makes sense to us. Sometimes, we find ourselves in challenging circumstances where we have to actively make sense of what is going on.

In my field of organization development, this is a frequent challenge. For example, right now the company I work for is in the throes of post-acquisition integration. The larger company that bought my employer is taking hold of everything and changing a great deal of how we do business.

My co-workers (and I) are faced with a constant stream of new faces, new demands, questions, and uncerta…

Crap Detectors

You know you are dealing with an expert if he (or she) has a well-functioning crap detector that enables them to sniff out the BS in someone else's position. This cuts across all occupations, places, and levels. My wife Joan is one of those experts. In her case, the field is church music and not much gets by her. When some pretender is blowing smoke about music in church liturgy, she will spot it, cut them off at the knees (with out batting an eye), and bring them down to size.

The concept of a "crap detector" is nothing new. I think it was first coined by the writer Ernest Hemingway many years ago. Ever since, the phrase has had widespread exposure and use.

What's not so widely known is its companion, the "gem detector," a concept first discussed (I believe) by several organizational learning & development practitioners, including Winfried Dressler, At de Lange, Leo D. Minnigh and John Gunkler back in 1999.

Gem detectors are filters we use to spot …