Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Sins of Ken Blanchard - A 100 Word Essay

His Manager done poorly was my first exposure to popular leadership. Unfortunately, management, no leadership isn’t such a simple story.

Followers and leaders who don’t “Know the Machine” can’t set rational objectives and measures. Done poorly, these goals lead nowhere or worse.

One Minute praises and scolding, err… reprimands, depend too much on emotional, authoritative relationships. That might work with a homogenous workforce, but smacks of manipulation with a diverse population.

It’s not that simple, One Minute is not enough. Ken Blanchard should, I know he does, know better.

Propagating these popular myths, half-truths, are the sins of Ken Blanchard.

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Good Management & Leadership

…Good management and leadership can not be separated. Does anyone want to work for a manager who lacks the qualities of leadership? Well, how about a leader that doesn’t practice management?
- Henry Mintzburg

Let’s take a closer look at this, “…management and leadership cannot be separated…”

We all know this is true, our experience verifies this fact every day. Who hasn’t encountered the boss who lacks managerial skill? More often than not, he plagues their people with an approach that combines micromanagement and cheerleading; a sure sign that he views the job of running an organization as being no different than performing the value-adding tasks: shipping the box, performing the analysis, building the application, treating the patient, etc… the organization exists to perform.

As far as the boss without the qualities of leadership, without the trappings of their position, you would never know that they were supposed to be in charge. Fortunately, or not, due to the viral impact of the Conventional Leadership Wisdom propagated by the Leadership-Industrial Complex (LIC), you don’t see many examples of the boss without leadership qualities. Of course, with leadership being a virtually immeasurable activity, if indeed it is an activity rather than a mythical explanation of an ill understood past success, the ability to fake the qualities of leadership is often confused with the qualities themselves. The tradition of Machiavelli’s Prince is alive and well…

So, if good management and leadership cannot be separated, why has the LIC exerted so much effort to separate the two?

The answer lies in the business of feeding an Otaku. A simple Otaku is easier to feed than a complex one. A management-focused-leadership Otaku with its emphasis on measurement and results presents too many difficulties. Someone might actually realize and be able to prove that the fare the LIC was serving wasn’t very satisfying.

It is much easier to feed an Otaku that has no means of measure, no means of indicating satisfaction. It’s the same reason buffets are so popular. The foods not very good, but it is all you can eat. But that’s a topic for another post.

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Leadership vs Management

We have all seen the lists. You know the ones that define the differences between Managers and Leaders. They go something like this:

Managers have subordinates - Leaders have followers
Managers seek objectives - Leaders seek a vision
Managers rely on careful measurement - Leaders rely on instant feelings
Managers are boring - Leaders are sexy

After a quick look at the list, it is obvious that you want to be a leader. Upon closer examination, it appears that while managers are working in the realm of measurable reality, leaders do ephemeral stuff that isn’t measurable.

Additionally, beyond this immeasurable quality, the leadership hodge-podge of attributes and activities does not seem to have a unifying theme.

Finally, when you see this kind of list you usually find a definition of management and leadership where the central difference between the two is managers work with things while leaders work with people.

A more artificial and manipulative description of any other activity would be difficult to find.

However, if you buy into this line of thinking, it doesn’t take long to realize that regardless of your experience or ability regardless of your organization’s real needs, leadership is the place to be and the Leadership-Industrial Complex is standing ready to serve.

Here in lies a big part of the problem. Most of us are not in the leadership business. Rather, we are in the Healthcare, Auto Parts Sales, Truck Driving, Systems Integration, Farming, Manufacturing, Publishing, Education, Marketing, Any-Conceivable-Activity-Besides-Leadership business.

Unfortunately, feeding the Leadership Otaku is big business and the Leadership-Industrial Complex depends upon this division; it is one of the central tenants of their Conventional Leadership Wisdom. The greater the divide the greater the opportunity to fill the gap with leadership publications, leadership training, leadership conferences, and every other form of leadership think.

The next time you encounter a conversation about the differences between management and leadership; gather up your courage and ask this question, “Can you have one without the other?”

If the answer is, “No, you cannot have one without the other” then point out that the division is artificial and the conversation will not lead to a greater understanding of the challenges faced by your organization.

Now that is an opening to a real conversation.

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Take care…


Monday, October 23, 2006

Collecting Some Random Thoughts...

Squidoo for You...
Earlier this year, I started playing with Squidoo. This evening, I published my first Lens. Check it out at, you guessed it,

Thoughts From the Coyote...
Today, Carmine Coyote at Slow Leadership had a good posting on his thoughts about the leadership epidemic. He's taken a different tact than I am, but his thoughts reflect the recognition of a problem that plagues American business.

I believe this epidemic is hurting more than busienss organizations. Randomly pick any organization with more than three people and you will find this problem. Check it out...

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Leadership Does Not Stand Alone...

Before I get into my version of the history of leadership, let me first establish that leadership does not stand alone.

Rather, leadership exists in the presence of management which in turn exists in the presence of technical activity, i.e. work. As with most cause-and-effect relationships, the direction of the correlation is important here. While you can have technical activity without management and you can have management without leadership, you can’t have management without work and you can’t have leadership without management.

This reality is easy to understand but cannot be over emphasized.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Answer to Every Problem...

In my role as a Healthcare Administrator, I have come to accept that one of the greatest demands on my time is going to be problem solving: problems with patient safety; problems with patient satisfaction, problems with meeting access demands, problems with meeting financial targets, problems with staff turnover, problems with staff development. The list is endless.

Okay, “accept” is the wrong word. I love the challenges my job presents. I love working with people to make things happen; to make things better.

I became a Healthcare Administrator because when I was a Computer Programmer I didn’t have enough interaction with people. I wasn’t part of the team that was addressing the hard issues. I was outside the problem-solving loop and wanted to be on the inside. What better place than healthcare?

Unfortunately, things have changed.

A few years ago, the solution to every conceivable problem was identified. Whenever a problem crops up, the cause is a“failure of leadership”. Therefore, the answer to every problem is to fix the leadership; to get more leadership into the organization; to make everyone a leader.

Who could argue with the leadership conventional wisdom? To suggest that leadership may not be the answer has become tantamount to heresy. In many organizations, you would be better received if you volunteered information regarding the development of your recent crack cocaine addiction.

But what are we really saying when we say the problem as a “failure of leadership”?

To answer this question, I believe you must first take a hard look at the history of leadership.

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Why an Epidemic?

Today at school, my daughter Taylor was caught sneaking a peak at my blog when she was supposed to be researching American Colonial Leadership. When she got home, she told me her teacher wanted to know why I called my blog The Leadership Epidemic. I suspect she’s not the only one with that question.

The idea of a Leadership Epidemic is based on an ever-increasing gut feeling I’ve had about the state of leadership in the world today, particularly in large organizations. Three years ago, while working in a hospital in Korea two ideas I had been reading a lot about: “Conventional Wisdom” and “Viral Marketing” collided with a routine SARS data review. The result was an “A-ha!” moment regarding the rampant spread of leadership as the be-all and end-all answer to the operational problems that large healthcare organizations were facing.

That evening, I went home and started building a model to explain the spread as a large-scale, viral event or epidemic. In other words, a Leadership Epidemic.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Do You Have A Leadership Otaku?

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin introduced me to the term Otaku: an interest that is more than a hobby but less than an obsession. When I first read his Otaku chapter, (Actually, I listened to it. For some reason, I like listening to Seth Godin more than reading him.) I thought to myself, “Otaku…now that could be a good thing but probably not all of the time.” That Otaku is considered a Japanese pejorative is a good indication that Otaku is not the be-all and end-all of positive character traits. Apparently, living on just-this-side of obsessive has its down side.

On a seemingly unrelated thought, I have to admit, I have a love hate relationship with Google.

I love all the stuff that you can do with Google’s Personalized Home option. Do you need access to all the RSS feeds you watch, anywhere in the world? Google Reader is your answer. Do you need to keep tabs on the latest news of your choice, anywhere in the world? Google applets offer an endless variety of news. Do you need to play a Sudoku anywhere in the world? The CountToNine applet on Google offers Sudoku on command. Yes, Google has a lot to love, but not everything.

The think I hate about Google is searching. Maybe it’s because I’m so bad at “Search Wordifying” the concepts I’m looking for. It’s not that I have a limited vocabulary, and I’m actually pretty good at stringing together searches using the tricks outlined in the Google Cheat Sheet. I’ve even figured out how to use Advanced Operators with my Google searches. But, for the life of me, I can not move beyond the inept stage when it comes to finding anything but the simplest concepts using Google search.

My daughter told me that the reason I was having so much trouble is because I’m searching for concepts rather than words. Herein are the seeds of my hatred for Google. Google encourages us to think in terms of words made popular by links rather than concepts. So, the concept I have to search for, words with links, isn’t necessarily the concept I’m looking for. In so doing, Google dilutes the power of the material it is supposed to be helping us find; particularly if we can’t find it.

So, if anyone from Google is listening, here’s the deal. I’ll give up my Reader, News and daily Sudoku if you will quit squandering the yotta-joules of Google brainpower on applets and build a concept search engine to replace search wordification.

So, what is the first concept that I would search if Google developed a concept search engine? How about this one, “Why do smart business people act stupidly by allowing themselves to become obsessed with leadership as the cure-all for poor execution and performance?” Until them I suppose I could search on “Leadership Otaku” but I’m pretty sure where that will get me.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Please Ad My Splog to Your Site

Lately, I've been reading a lot about "Splogging". It is the subject of the day that everyone seems to love to hate. Today, I started wondering if all the press about splogging isn't encouraging people to start splogging and building their own “Made for AdSense” (MFA) sites. I mean, if you could earn $71,000+ in a month building splog pages would you? While you might not, I bet a lot of people are. At least, they are trying.

The thing is, Splogging has some problems beyond being the current trouble child of the search world. Splogging has to be just like building a website that accomplishes something. or writing a Blog with a following, it is more difficult to do than just throwing up a bunch of page with scraped content and AdSense links.

I understand that close to 80% of all Blogs die because people don't keep at it. Apparently, they don't have as much to say as they thought they did, or they discover that writing well enough to get across what they are thinking is more difficult than they originally thought, or they don't have the time [I know this has been my biggest challenge], or they just get bored with it.

If all these things are true, I wonder if and suspect that the same is true for all the beginner Sploggers that invest their limited time developing the beginnings of a link farm. Most of them are going to find themselves with the equivalent of an unprofitable family farm.

It also makes me wonder, if there is a market for these tiny patches of the blogosphere/splogosphere.

Could a commercial-caliber splog be built from these remnants? Would a successful Splogger be willing to buy these sights outright for a small cash payment or perhaps be willing to “Share” out the maintenance of small plots of their link farm to give them a feel of legitimacy?

They could call this new sub-class of sploggers, ShareSploggers. In return for working their plots, the ShareSploggers could include one of their own AdSense links. Another option would be for a bunch of small-time Sploggers to get together and form a Co-Op where the members agree on product lines to manage and link to each others sites.

Okay, realistically, a splog site needs thousands of links. But are a couple thousand links really that many; is it really such a big number?

Do the math and you find out that a link farm that starts with two links and is able to double the number of links every month, would reach 2000+ links in 10 months.

Now, what if all of the revenue generated from those 2000+ links was used to buy cheap AdWords on Google that could be used to drive more traffic to the ShareSplogger sites and drive more AdSense revenue?

That would be a symbiotic relationship reminiscent of the Military-Industrial Complex that President Eisenhower warned us about. Well maybe more along the lines of the TV-Industrial Complex that Seth Godin educated us about.

As an experiment, I’ve built my own splog site: ShareSplogger. You may have clicked on it earlier in the post. Actually, it’s not a splog in the true sense of the word. Rather, it’s more of a Blog about Splog, a BSplog if you will. Check it out, build your own BSplog and join the experiment.

Take care…


Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Long Tail of Poor Customer Service

Do you know this curve? If you don’t, chances are, your organization is suffering from at least one of two problems; most likely both: underserved customers and overworked employees. A smart manager, hopefully you, should read that as dissatisfied customers and burned out people.

According to the chart, if your organization is operating at greater than 80% of its capacity, you have entered the long tail of poor customer service where customers are guaranteed to encounter a wait, a long wait. Worse yet, in this long tail, small changes in use lead to large changes in line length and wait time.

Now, it may be fashionable to be seen waiting in line to get into the latest hot restaurant. Or, it may be worth the wait to get tickets for a must-see performance. But, have you ever gone into a store, picked up a few items and abandoned the purchase because the wait at the counter was too long; not worth the wait? When was the last time you thought it was fashionable to be seen waiting in a line at the grocery store check-out?

Long lines may be remarkable, but it’s a fact of life that most organizations don’t thrive by making people wait.

Further, the graph shows that as the demand for your services reaches your capacity to provide those services, customer wait time will approach infinity. Of course, you don’t have an infinite pool of customers to draw from and nobody will wait forever.

If you don’t know where or how long your customers are waiting, you can’t fix the wait and you are losing money to your competition.

So, look at the processes and tasks you use to provide the services your customers are paying for. Get to “Know the Machine” that drives your “Value Proposition” and identify the bottlenecks where processes and customers have to wait. Piles of inventory, long lines and full “Queues” are a good indicator. Develop a “Singularity of Intent” that makes the elimination of you longest line your purpose in life. Repeat.

What are you waiting for? Better yet, what are your customers waiting for? I’ll bet you a dollar they won’t be waiting for long.

Take Care...