Volume 8, Issue 4
2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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Many effective executives pay close attention to resistance, and act quickly to overcome the obstacles that can impede progress in an organization. When the resistance is self-imposed, the removal of obstacles can be slower, especially among stubborn executives. In this issue, we explore some aspects of change, especially from the perspective of impediments. As you read the stories we’ve selected, think about your own approach to rapid recognition of what you and others need to be doing today and tomorrow to achieve the results you want. Decide how to recognize resistance in yourself and others, and commit to finding ways to overcome the obstacles you encounter.
Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Nine books received three-star ratings, five are mildly recommended with two-star ratings, and one book earned a one-star rating. Visit our 2006 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2006books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 190 books we’re reading or considering so far this year, including 25 that we added to the list in March. If there’s something missing from the bookshelf that you think we should be considering or if there’s a book lingering on the Shelf of Possibility that you think we should read and review sooner rather than later, let us know by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. As an added benefit to Executive Times readers, we’ve put all the books we’ve ever listed on one web page at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.
Few executives admit that they subscribe to the advice from the Scarlett O’Hara School of Management: “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.” Most executives acknowledge that after procrastinating on a decision, they regret not having acted sooner. There’s always a good reason (or rationalization) for deferral. One of the best confessions in this year’s Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter (http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2005ltr.pdf) from Warren Buffett is: “The hard fact is that I have cost you a lot of money by not moving immediately to close down Gen Re’s trading operation. Both Charlie and I knew at the time of the Gen Re purchase that it was a problem and told its management that we wanted to exit the business. It was my responsibility to make sure that happened. Rather than address the situation head on, however, I wasted several years while we attempted to sell the operation. That was a doomed endeavor because no realistic solution could have extricated us from the maze of liabilities that was going to exist for decades. Our obligations were particularly worrisome because their potential to explode could not be measured. Moreover, if severe trouble occurred, we knew it was likely to correlate with problems elsewhere in financial markets. So I failed in my attempt to exit painlessly, and in the meantime more trades were put on the books. Fault me for dithering. (Charlie calls it thumb-sucking.) When a problem exists, whether in personnel or in business operations, the time to act is now.” Resistance to act now often comes from the expectation that one way or another the problem will get smaller tomorrow. Experience usually reinforces that problems grow over time, they don’t shrink.
What problems are you avoiding right now? Are you aware of your own thumb-sucking, or that of those who report to you? Have others procrastinated in telling you about problems? Do you communicate in one form or another that you’d rather not know? Is your confidence that conditions will be better tomorrow well-placed?
Is there a contribution for you to make in the arena of social and political activism? What do you and others in your organization have to add to the policy debates that can affect your stakeholders? How have you incorporated sociopolitical issues in your decision making? What resistance will you face if you speak with a national voice? Are there fundamental obstacles to your organization’s competitiveness that lead you to thinking about greater political involvement? Have you or others imposed a barrier that has defined political activism as off-limits?
One of the obstacles to change in some organizations is that all potential change agents are looking for a signal from the top of the organization that change is ok. IBM takes a biennial survey of CEOs and governmental leaders and some of the results are reported in the April 3 issue of Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_14/b3978073.htm) in the form of an interview with IBM Chairman Samuel Palmisano. When it comes to innovation, Palmisano said, “The CEO has to give permission to the organization to have it happen. If the CEO doesn't give people permission to go change behavior and to collaborate, then it's not going to happen. Everybody is looking for the signal. They want to know whether things are really changing fundamentally.” One interesting finding from the survey is that executives of top performing organizations are worrying about changing their business models. “The holy grail of strategic thinking is, how do you come up with a business model that differentiates you and that creates value for your customers, and, by doing that, puts you in a unique position in your industry? Why is business-model innovation so much harder to achieve than product innovation? It's because organizations have inherent resistance to change.”
Are you giving and getting signals that change needs to occur in your organization? If not, what makes you immune to the changes going on around you? Has your organization attained a unique position that creates value for your customers? What signal are you waiting for? What signal are you intending to send?
face distractions, and most find effective ways to minimize them. The cover
story of the March 20 issue of Fortune
was titled “How I Work,” and had many useful ideas on this topic, and some
might be applicable to your situation. We found these five simple, but
helpful, rules from Ellen McGirt (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/03/20/8371814/index.htm)
for remaining sane and getting out from under a distracting overload of work:
2. Show your technology who's boss. Most of today's devices and software actually can be set to be less intrusive. You just need to learn how: Switch off the ping that heralds the arrival of an e-mail, create folders into which incoming messages are automatically shunted. When busy, let outgoing messages alert others to when they might reasonably expect to hear back from you.
3. Give yourself a time-out. Devote an hour to uninterrupted thinking and planning every day. First thing in the morning is safest, but anytime is good. No calls, no e-mail, no chitchat. ‘If there's an emergency, someone will come get you,’ says organization expert Julie Morgenstern. ‘Use this time to think strategically about your work.’
4. Say no. ‘Sorry’ isn't the hardest word—‘no’ is. But not saying it to desperate colleagues or harried bosses is the quickest way to overload your schedule and muck up more important goals. Focus first on meeting your stated objectives. Also, consider family and personal time when filling your calendar: Work-centric employees are more likely to report feeling overloaded than those who plan for their personal lives.
5. Delete. Surveys show we waste 20% of our day on nonproductive activities. Cut out or delegate anything on your to-do list that doesn't have long-term consequences for your work. Be ruthless. And while you're at it, don't let a stuffed e-mail in-box sap your will to live. When reviewing each e-mail, make an on-the-spot call to delete, file, or reply to each one--even if the response is, ‘I'll get back to you on this later.’”
Are your methods of working helping or hurting your contributions to achieving results? Are distractions manageable or infuriating? What are your rules for working effectively, and how do those mesh with those with whom you work? Who’s distracting you, and what are you doing about it? Do you know the individuals you are distracting?
Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:
Ø We last called attention to J.
P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon in the February 2004
issue of Executive Times when we noted that he claimed he has
nothing to prove and didn’t need to return to
Ø We haven’t checked in on Boeing since we fessed up in the April 2005 issue of Executive Times that we were wrong in thinking that former CEO Harry Stonecipher wasn’t part of that company’s ethical problems. Business Week reported in its March 13 issue (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_11/b3975088.htm) that new CEO James McNerney has gotten off to a fast start in improving the company. “Having spent his first six months on the job in a ‘deep dive’ learning about the company, McNerney believes that internal rivalry not only is at the root of the company's ethical scandals but also has prevented managers from cutting costs and sharing good ideas effectively. His prescription includes some predictable elements, including exerting more effective central leadership over Boeing's three divisions, changing the way executives are paid, and encouraging managers to exploit the giant manufacturer's cost-cutting leverage. But it also includes some unusual ones, such as encouraging managers to talk more openly about Boeing's severe ethical lapses.”
college basketball fans, March Madness became March Sadness when they learned that former DePaul
University coach Ray Meyer
died on March 18 at age 92. Meyer loved winning, and through forty seasons at
DePaul he led teams to twenty-one post-season appearances, and an overall
record of 724 wins and 354 losses, currently the sixth best college
basketball coaching record. Named “Coach of the Year” four times, he was
asked why he didn’t accept offers to coach at other, larger schools,
including his alma mater Notre Dame.
Meyer answered, “I hate change.” He learned to change over his coaching
career, as his approach needed to adapt to the needs of new players. His
emotional reactions during games were never muted. Every player knew he
wanted their best performance, and more importantly, he wanted them to
understand what was important in life. Part of the example Meyer provided was
the way in which he treated everyone the same, with no regard to their
stature. Meyer talked about basketball to anyone and everyone. He yelled at
players, and they knew he loved them. In the days before his death, he was
plotting with some friends on how to get out of the nursing home and to
Latest Books Read and Reviewed:
(Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers to order copies directly from amazon.com. When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com. Click on the title to read the review or visit our 2006 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2006books.html).
2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC. Executive
Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the
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