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We Are All Permanent Beta… or we SHOULD be

5 Oct

Back in May, we hired a new Client Support Specialist.  He is a very bright individual, but new to our technology and our line of business.  Now, four months later, he and I were having a discussion about a few customer issues, and I was struck by how, well, comfortable, he looked.

I commented on this, and he told me that while he is more comfortable, he considers himself “Permanent Beta”.  I had never heard that term before (a phrase I believe coined by Reid Hoffman earlier this year).  I love the term, much more high tech than ‘work in progress’

I did a bit of googling and found numerous references to ‘Permanent Beta’.  Ironically, this term has both positive and negative connotations.  The positives being continuous improvement, self improvement, etc.  The negatives were in articles about products that are never finished (example: Google Apps End Their State of Permanent Beta).

Frankly, I like the idea!  Is ‘never finished’ a bad thing?

When I joined the iPhone set, I thought it was really cool that Apps are updated continuously, with no requirement for me to go somewhere to get the update.

I am happy to see technology that brings me along.  I don’t have time to look for version 5.1.3.2.55 or whatever.

So, who would complain about ‘Permanent Beta’?

– People and organizations that are rigid.

– People and organizations using products or technology that require ‘big-bang’ implementations.

– People and organizations that want things ‘the way they used to be’

Not me, I’m loving this idea.

I just joined the local rec center, I’m there every morning, huffing and puffing on the treadmill, lifting embarrassingly small amounts of weight on the machines.  No matter.  I feel better, I have more energy.  I’m permanent beta.

Let’s talk eProcurement.  A year ago I didn’t know what it was.  today I’m creating punch-out supplier connections, loading local catalogs.  I’m permanent beta.

Y’all better get on this band wagon.  The Permanent Beta train is leaving the station and it NEVER STOPS.

The alternative?  You get left behind.

– RTR

 

Commenting on “The Art of Letting Go”, Kenny Rogers and Don Draper

7 Jun

My new favorite blogger, Tony Schwartz, has done it again.  His blog “The Art of Letting Go” is a great piece for that sale, that venture, that relationship that you just can’t give up on.  It reminds me of that classic greeting card a friend once sent me:

They said it couldn’t be done….  How did they know?

Tony talks about how tough it is to go against the grain, how we are predisposed to fight the good fight, persevere against all odds.  The fact that this perseverance does exact an emotional toll.

I recall many instances in my sales career where the handwriting was Sharpied indelibly on the wall.  Without question the deal was dead, but we spent additional time, energy and effort to change the mind of someone who’s mind was already made up.  This is a chronic entrperneurial disease.  It is hard to walk away when you are small, trying to rapidly make the Big Time.

Tony ends the piece with a simple set of four questions:

1. Do I have a feeling in my gut that this dog just won’t hunt?
2. How important will this seem to me in six months?
3. How important will this seem to me in two years?
4. Is there a more enjoyable and productive way I could be investing my time and energy right now?

If the answer to 1 and 4 are “yes,” or the answers to 2 and 3 are “not much,” it’s time to let go.

Which brings to mind the timeless wisdom of Kenny Rogers….

“You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run”

OK, that was way too obvious.

I have a better quote…  Here’s where the connection was made and the fuse blew, and I started writing…

The phrase that came like a bolt out of the blue  into my consciousness came from Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men”, when Don Draper (Jon Hamm)  asked Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) to resign after he was caught embezzling.  I so wanted to get this right, I actually paid and downloaded the episode from iTunes to transcribe it accurately.  Lane sobbed “What do I tell my wife?  What do I tell my son?”…

Don Draper’s words are all the more riveting, considering how the episode played out:

“Tell them that it didn’t work out, because it didn’t

Tell them the next thing will be better, because it always is …

I’ve started over a lot, Lane.  This is the worst part.”

– RTR

Consensus & The Marine Corps

8 May

Commenting on a great Forbes Blog from a couple of weeks ago “Consensus – Team Building’s Silent Killer”; then another from Vistage that I dredged up from January comparing business to the Marine Corps.  Connecting the dots….

I remember being surprised by a quote from William H. Cosby, EdD, not because it didn’t resonate with me (it did), but because it didn’t sound like something ‘comedian Bill Cosby’ would say:

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

This rings true (like a bell clapper upside the head) for this ‘middle child’.  I was the third child of six in a loud and boisterous Italian-American family.  I learned early on that getting along sometimes meant keeping my thoughts to myself (you’ll notice I didn’t say “keeping my mouth shut”, not much danger of that).   However, with everyone talking at once, even if I HADN’T kept my thoughts to myself, no one might have noticed.

As I joined the work force and moved into management, I had two choices.  Be the loud, table-pounding type of leader (and risk alienation) or be a ‘consensus’ guy (and risk looking weak and indecisive).  Well I chose the later, and wound up with a reputation of ‘going with the flow’.  But that’s a good thing, right?  Nobody gets hurt, right?  So, it was interesting to read:

Teambuilding is not about equality at all – it has nothing to do with consensus. Rather team building is about alignment of vision with expectations, ensuring team members clearly understand their roles, and making sure they have the right resources to perform said duties with exacting precision.

Wow, us consensus guys missed the boat!   It’s not all about getting along, singing Kumbaya around the campfire and all that.  It’s about Shared Purpose, Roles, Responsibilities and Accountability.  Leadership is not a popularity contest, it’s much more difficult than that.  It’s a fine line tight rope walk between authority and popularity, where the answer can’t be the parental fallback “Because I SAID so”, but neither can it be “Whatever YOU think”….

The second connection was a Vistage blog entitled, “This is NOT the Marine Corps! In Business, It IS Okay to Leave Someone Behind”. It got me to thinking about a tumultuous time I lived through, the CAD/CAM contraction of the 1990s.

In about 1988, Prime Computer acquired the company I was working for, Computervision Corporation.  Regardless of how anyone on either side of the Prime/CV divide felt, looking back, I believe one of the reasons that the combination ultimately failed was that management was loath to lay people off.  The savings from the elimination of redundant functions never really materialized.  I know this sounds cold hearted, but there is NO ONE of the group laid off from Prime/CV that did not move on to other gainful employment.

Are there people in your organization that are ‘OK’, that you have decided to ‘accept as is’?  Of course there are!  I’ve never seen an organization of solid superstars, top to bottom.  The Vistage blog talks of three distinct groups:

In most companies, employees fall into three groups.  Core Employees, comprising about 20 percent of the workforce, are dedicated to giving everything to do their jobs well.  … . Temporary Employees—people who haven’t figured out yet whether they want to be a Core Employee or not—account for about 60 percent of the workforce. … The Others—the remaining 20 percent of the workforce—who have made a career out of mediocrity by doing just enough to not get fired but not nearly enough to help move your business forward.

A leaders job is to help transition as many ‘Temporary’ into ‘Core’ as possible, and ease out the ‘Others’.  So, how do you differentiate between a ‘Temporary’ and an ‘Other?  This brings me to my other favorite quote; author unknown:

If this was easy, ANYONE could do it…

– RTR

I Can’t Improve On This …

1 May

I have commented and opined on Tony Schwartz blog at Harvard Business Review in the past.  I noticed that Tony and I are contemporarys, both turning 60 this year. so this one REALLY hit home.  I won’t try to comment, it speaks for itself:

“Turning 60: The Twelve Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned So Far”

1. The more we know about ourselves, the more power we have to behave better. Humility is underrated. We each have an infinite capacity for self-deception — countless unconscious ways we protect ourselves from pain, uncertainty, and responsibility — often at the expense of others and of ourselves. Endless introspection can turn into self-indulgence, but deepening self-awareness is essential to freeing ourselves from our reactive, habitual behaviors.

2. Notice the good. We each carry an evolutionary predisposition to dwell on what’s wrong in our lives. The antidote is to deliberately take time out each day to notice what’s going right, and to feel grateful for what you’ve got. It’s probably a lot.

3. Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.

4. Never seek your value at the expense of someone else’s. When we’re feeling devalued, our reactive instinct is to do anything to restore what we’ve lost. Devaluing the person who made you feel bad will only prompt more of the same in return.

5. Do the most important thing first in the morning and you’ll never have an unproductive day. Most of us have the highest energy early in the day, and the fewest distractions. By focusing for a designated period of time, without interruption, on the highest value task for no more than 90 minutes, it’s possible to get an extraordinary amount of work accomplished in a short time.

6. It’s possible to be excellent at anything, but nothing valuable comes easy and discomfort is part of growth. Getting better at something depends far less on inborn talent than it does the willingness to practice the activity over and over, and to seek out regular feedback, the more precise the better.

7. The more behaviors you intentionally make automatic in your life, the more you’ll get done. If you have to think about doing something each time you do it, you probably won’t do it for very long. The trick is to get more things done using less energy and conscious self-control. How often do you forget to brush your teeth?

8. Slow down. Speed is the enemy of nearly everything in life that really matters. It’s addictive and it undermines quality, compassion, depth, creativity, appreciation and real relationship.

9. The feeling of having enough is magical. It rarely depends on how much you’ve got. More is rarely better. Too much of anything eventually becomes toxic.

10. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, and don’t expect anything in return.Your values are one of the only possessions you have that no one can take away from you. Doing the right thing may not always get you what you think you want in the moment, but it will almost always leave you feeling better about yourself in the long run. When in doubt, default to calm and kind.

11. Add more value in the world than you’re using up. We spend down the earth’s resources every day. Life’s primary challenge is to put more back into the world than we take out.

12. Savor every moment — even the difficult ones. It all goes so fast.

Couldn’t have said it better,  thanks Tony!

-RTR

Not Just Your Boss

4 Apr

I found an interesting blog via LinkedIn (from monster.com) entitled ” Nine Things Never to Say to Your Boss“.  When I looked at the list, most of them struck me as things you shouldn’t say to ANYONE if you want to be successful in a professional environment.   Item#s 1, 4 and 9 are specifically ‘boss related’, but let’s look at the other six:

2. “That just isn’t possible.”

What a helpful comment!  Let’s all stand around and admire the problem.  Look!  It’s SO BIG!  It’s SO INSURMOUNTABLE!!  Come on, people, there is always something that can be done.  Don’t you just love working with people who have a problem for every solution?

3. “I can’t stand working with ____.”

I can’t state this any better than the referenced blog did:  “Complaining about a coworker’s personality usually reflects more poorly on you than on the coworker.”

5. “But I emailed you about that last week.”

Email is easy, email is effortless.  Email is not, however, two-way communication.  Often, it’s not even good one-way communication!   Walk down the hall and talk to the person.  If you’re not co-located, pick up the phone.  THEN send an email documenting what you talked about.  Don’t rely on one or the other.  Do both….

6. “It’s not my fault.” 

Not my fault, not my problem.  Doesn’t cut it.  Getting the job done is the key to professional success, not skillfully avoiding blame.

7. “I don’t know.” 

“If your boss asks you a question you can’t answer, the correct response is not “I don’t know.” It’s “I’ll find out right away.”   Couldn’t agree more, but this it not just your boss.  Do you think being viewed as the ‘go to guy(gal)’ is a good thing?  It sure is.  Being the ‘go to guy’ doesn’t mean that you have an answer for everything, it means you are willing to find an answer.  Those are the people that excel in a professional environment.  What kind of value do you add by saying ‘I don’t know”?

8. “But we’ve always done it this way.” 

Yep, and if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.  Innovation not replication!

Do I feel that these are important rules to live by, absolutely!  Have I broken one or more of these along the way?  You betcha.

– RTR


Reverse Mentors: Influence vs. Mutual Benefit

29 Mar

How I blog…  I see something that intrigues me, makes me laugh, makes me think…

I ran across a post a few days ago that spoke of ‘Reverse Mentoring’, how us old folk can learn from the current generation.  I put it aside for a ‘future’ blog, then this morning, I saw an blog from the Harvard Business Review that brought this topic back to life.  The blog, entitled “When Your Influence is Ineffective“, spoke of the 5 methods of influence Rationalizing, Asserting, Negotiating, Inspiring and Bridging.  What I found most enlightening was not the blog itself, but the comments.

 I would refrain from using the word influence. One should never try to influence, change or manipulate others for own benefit. One should rather work for mutual benefit –Sai Dattathrani

If we can just step back for a moment and observe our desire to influence someone, recognize its source, and then fit it into the larger picture of our work and our relationships, we’ll be able to be more fully present in our interactions. Instead of mindlessly launching into a habitual influence strategy, we’ll loosen our sense of compulsiveness around influencing others. We’ll be able to better tolerate situations where we don’t influence anyone, and paradoxically, end up in more situations where we influence people without even trying. – Kartik Subbarao

… but the latest comment is the one that really caught my eye.

..based on Kartik and Sai’s response , do we need to question  our pervasive use of the word influence when discussing leadership with people from different cultures? – notmd

That is where the light went on and the two blogs ‘collided’.  Is this really a question of cultures, or is it a question of generations?

I ask those of you that are parents, have you ever resorted to “Because I SAID SO” (asserting)?  In today’s world, that’s not any more effective in the workplace than the home.  Just because you have authority doesn’t mean you have agreement.  Nothing is more demotivating than “The management team got together and decided….”

I struggle regularly at my new job with this question: “Is my team agreeing with my assessment because they truly agree, or because I’m the ‘boss’?”

Going back to generations and the parenting analogy:

As my children have grown to become adults, I find myself relying on their opinion more and more.  The world changes so quickly, it is their world now.  Reverse mentoring has extraordinary value.

My closing thought?

Influence goes both ways.  A good leader is one who recognizes and welcomes the influence of others and then leads by example, not by edict.  That’s my goal.

– RTR

You’re Going to Get Punched in the Face

26 Mar

Can I write a blog based on the alleged entrepreneurial wisdom of Mike Tyson?  Sure I can!

The title comes from a quote attributed to the former heavyweight champion of the world,  “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face.”  The origin of the quote was actually from another former champion, Joe Louis, who said:

Every fighter’s got a plan until they get hit

That’s what differentiates “entrepreneurs” from “managers”.  Managers manage.  They plan.  They build structure.  They strive for comfort.  Many “can’t take a punch”.  They use language like, “those are the rules”, “that’s how we do things here”. I believe that’s why many large companies have difficulty maneuvering.  It takes a different mindset.

Entrepreneurs KNOW they’re going to get punched in the face.  So what?  It’s just a punch in the face.  No big deal.

…. but what if you get knocked down?   You get back up.

…. but what if you get knocked out?  You start again.

Does that mean entrepreneurs are fearless?  I don’t think so, I think it’s that their drive, their belief, is bigger than their fear.

The first entrepreneur I ever met was my late uncle, Bill Ricci.  He never went to college (that was reserved for the oldest son in this 1st generation Italian-American family, Bill was #2).  Bill was a self-taught engineer, an idea guy with seemingly unlimited energy.  My mother tells the story of when he had mortgaged everything he owned and things he didn’t own (my grandmother’s house), to get through the tough times.  In all the years I knew him,  I never saw any sign of worry, concern.  He was emotional, yes.  Boisterous. Full of life. Angered easily, laughed easily, but I never saw any sense of uncertainty.  You were never in doubt on where Bill Ricci stood on a topic.

Cambridge Tool & Mfg, now part of Pace Industries, was started by Uncle Bill in 1945.  It was an incredibly successful company, mostly because Uncle Bill knew it would be.

That’s what it’s all about.

– RTR