A site of endless curiosity

Archive for August 2010

Rose-colored glasses: our bias of success over failure

leave a comment »


This site has made many references to Seth Godin.  Seth is a great guy and has a great blog.  He is a serial entrepreneur, author of 11 books (so far), and a marketing genius.  He is highly influential in the business community.  He has degrees in computer science, philosophy, and an MBA from Stanford.

Nice to see that Seth has an article this months (September) Harvard Business Review.

Seth’s article in HBR is about Redefining Failure.

I am continually amazed by the wide variation in individuals assessment of what counts as success and what counts as failure.  For some, being average is “good enough”.  For others, this will never do.  For your son or daughter in school, is a C average “good enough”?  Or, is straight A’s the standard?  Do you just want to get by?  Or, do you want the change the world?  For some, enough is never enough.

Recently, I heard President Obama ask an affluent person, “Don’t you have enough”?  The answer should have been, “No, I don’t”.  Is there a cap on achievement or accomplishment?  Is there a cap on what you should invent, develop, or build?

Did they tell the people who built great cities, “Hey wait, that is too much! – Stop now!”.  If so, there would never be places like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  Did they tell the folks in Chicago that the Sears tower was too tall?  Did they tell the Pharaohs in Egypt, “Hey, those pyramids at Giza, too big, too tall, too beautiful, and they will last too long.  Stop your building now!”  Did the Beatles (or the Rolling Stones, or U2) write too many songs, have too many concerts?  Did too many people listen to their music?

Much of what counts as achievement is hard-wired or built-in as pre-cognitive positions of individuals.  By pre-cognitive I mean that there is no rational argument that you can present to someone who thinks that “average” is acceptable to convince this person otherwise.

“Good is the Enemy of Great” – Jim Collins

If you are reading HBR you are probably one of the “enough is never enough” people.  And so, the article by Seth Godin in the September issue is going to fit in perfectly.  The title of the article is Redefining Failure.

The point of the article is simple.  We don’t define failure broadly enough.  If what spurs action is failure, and if we have a definition of failure that is too narrow, then many things that look like not-failure are missed opportunities and the slow slide into mediocrity.

From the article:

One surefire way we’ve found to avoid failing is to narrowly define what failure is-in other words, to treat almost everything that happens as a non-failure.  If the outcome of our efforts isn’t a failure, there’s no need to panic, is there? Failure creates urgency. Failure gets you fired. Failure cannot stand; it demands a response. But the status quo is simply embraced and, incredibly, protected.

Seven new ways to think about failure

From the HBR article:

If you care about your company, your customers, and the meaning of value, you’ll care enough to reexamine your definition of failure. Here are a few types to consider adding to the mix:
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

August 31, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Quandary: Career Advancement of Technical Engineers Part II

with 3 comments

This is a follow-up to the posting:  The Quandary of Career Advancement of Technical Engineers

And the extraordinary question asked by an engineer to a Vice President at a corporate all hands meeting, “What does this [ direction, goals, reorganization of the company ] have to do with me?”

The last posting cited an academic study on why engineers turn down offers of advancement.  Or, in general why the interest of engineers is often not aligned with the company they work for.

Here is more from that research.  This comes from the Discussion section where the findings are summarized

Advancement Choices
Engineers enjoy technical work. That is why they chose their profession and it is also why they continue to be engaged in it. They entered the corporate world with the awareness that advancement means success, and success should be everyone’s goal. There is pressure to advance quickly, a finding that supports Westney’s (1985) earlier research. However, there is only one career to pursue: management. And even though management is a possible goal, the process of being promoted is mysterious and contrary to the engineering nature that appreciates unambiguity and concreteness. In fact, the engineers are not sure that a technical ladder actually exists. If it does, it is a very short one, as there is at most one level above the one at which they entered. The criteria for this promotion are inconsistent and the meaning of the promotion is ambiguous. The engineers would prefer a more open and structured technical promotion process based on experience and professional demonstration. On the whole, these findings support earlier research indicating that R&D career paths are ambiguous and inconsistent (Allen & Katz, 1986; Bailyn, 1982, 1991; Bailyn & Lynch, 1983; Dalton & Thompson, 1986; Ritti, 1971).

Personal “Reality”
Success is not really on the engineers’ minds, but when prompted they say they do feel successful. However, they tie their success more to family, happiness, and personal accomplishments. They view internal ideas of success as more important than social, or external, measures of success. Their self-development occurs outside of work and they also have outside leadership roles. They feel their lives are sometimes out of balance due to clashes in work and personal life demands. They view the demands of work as excessive and think that their workplace should be more flexible in the area of time. They feel organizations are trying to trade visions of flat organizations and empowerment for more of their time, and this just does not work for them. Their organization does not provide onsite childcare, which they feel would help their situation. They feel torn between their personal and work obligations and this causes a fair amount of stress. They see organizations’ increased demands as unhealthy for people and detrimental to organizations’ long-term goals. The only way they feel that they can cope is by keeping organizational and personal concerns completely separate. Their experiences parallel Hochschild’s (1997) and Rifkin’s (1995) work regarding the difficulty of defining work and personal life boundaries. The engineers would like to continue to “build” things, and they think that they might enjoy doing work that involves “using their hands.” They would like to own their own businesses, or work in a more creative environment. They mentioned trying management under different circumstances, when they have less personal obligations to attend to, or perhaps in a smaller company with a different culture. They look forward to a time of retirement and financial independence, when they might donate their technical work to needy causes.

The Disconnect between Engineers “Personal Reality” and Corporate Goals

Here’s a proposition for you to consider.  The personal goals of an engineer and the basic fundamental goals of a corporation are fundamentally opposed.  Engineers are engineers because: 1) they love technology 2) their primary pursuit is that of personal technical competence – both self-development and application.  Corporations exist to: 1) Make money 2) Satisfy the wants/desires/needs of other people in order to sell products and services to generate revenue (make money) for other people (shareholders). 

To  put it clearly, Engineers are about technology and self.  Corporations are about money and others.

There is a little more to it. 
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

August 29, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

The experience of the presence of God: On-Demand

leave a comment »

The God Helmet

How do you know the World?  All experience is mediated and interpreted by the brain.  Did you ever have a “ringing in your ears”.  As you know, there is no real sound, out there, in the “Real” World.  The brain self-generates this experience and its as real (to you) as any sound you ever heard.  But you know there is no external source for the sound.

When you have an experience, how do you know if its “out there” or “in your head”?

What if you could generate “experiences” on-demand?  What if you could experience the presence of God, on-demand?

What if you could build an electronic device that stimulate a certain part of the brain, and just as you hear “ringing in your ears (Tinnitus)” you could experience the presence of God.  In this case, where is God?

This is just what Michael Persinger says he can do…

His theory is that the sensation described as “having a religious experience” is merely a side effect of our bicameral brain’s feverish activities. Simplified considerably, the idea goes like so: When the right hemisphere of the brain, the seat of emotion, is stimulated in the cerebral region presumed to control notions of self, and then the left hemisphere, the seat of language, is called upon to make sense of this nonexistent entity, the mind generates a “sensed presence.”

Persinger has tickled the temporal lobes of more than 900 people before me and has concluded, among other things, that different subjects label this ghostly perception with the names that their cultures have trained them to use – Elijah, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Mohammed, the Sky Spirit. Some subjects have emerged with Freudian interpretations – describing the presence as one’s grandfather, for instance – while others, agnostics with more than a passing faith in UFOs, tell something that sounds more like a standard alien-abduction story.

It may seem sacrilegious and presumptuous to reduce God to a few ornery synapses, but modern neuroscience isn’t shy about defining our most sacred notions – love, joy, altruism, pity – as nothing more than static from our impressively large cerebrums. Persinger goes one step further. His work practically constitutes a Grand Unified Theory of the Otherworldly: He believes cerebral fritzing is responsible for almost anything one might describe as paranormal – aliens, heavenly apparitions, past-life sensations, near-death experiences, awareness of the soul, you name it.

Michael Persinger has a vision – the Almighty isn’t dead, he’s an energy field. And your mind is an electromagnetic map to your soul.

Read the full story in Wired -

Watch this multi-part video from the BBC.  First part below.  You can find all the parts on YouTube


More on “cerebral fritzing” – The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

Written by frrl

August 29, 2010 at 7:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Of Telegraphs, Telephones, Radios, and Organizational Momentum

leave a comment »

As told by Joel Kurtzman

Never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity

Western Union, founded in 1851, commercialized the telegraph. In 1865, at the end of the American Civil War, the first war in which the telegraph played a role, Western Union was America’s largest and most valuable communications company. In 1884, it was one of the original stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, having built a nationwide communications infrastructure. And then it went to sleep.

The Telephone

In 1879 a young, Massachusetts‐based educator and high‐tech inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, attempted to interest Western Union in one of his inventions: the telephone. He argued that with his patents and its nationwide infrastructure of telegraph wires, the company could quickly be transformed into something new and potentially far more valuable: a national telegraph and telephone company.

The never‐before‐challenged leaders of Western Union huddled together and examined Bell’s patents, which they collectively deemed “no big deal.” Of course, we now know Bell’s patents were the most valuable in all of business history and went on to form the basis of the U.S. and global telephone industries. Those patents led to the creation of the Bell Telephone System, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), and many other companies. For nearly a century, the companies Bell founded were the world’s most valuable, enriching millions of investors who owned their stocks.

The Radio

After it had passed on the telephone, Western Union was offered another new invention: radio. With radio, information could travel around the globe instantly, reaching communities everywhere, not to mention ships at sea and airplanes high above the earth. But Western Union passed on radio too.


Later, in the late 1930s, Western Union glanced at another new technology: television. Some of its suppliers had decided to produce TV sets and TV production equipment, but the leaders at Western Union once again declined to participate, preferring instead to focus on what made them money then—delivering telegrams and transferring money—rather than what might make them money in the future.

The Internet

Later still, Western Union observed the introduction of the Internet and briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a player in that burgeoning field. And why not? With its wire‐and‐microwave‐based infrastructure, Western Union could have become an important carrier of packets of digital Internet traffic. But in the end, Western Union failed to invest in the Internet.


Finally, in the early 1970s, Western Union watched as cellular telephone technology was developed by Motorola and then commercialized in the mid‐1980s by AT&T, one of Bell’s companies. Again, Western Union’s infrastructure could have supported this technology. But the company decided not to invest. Western Union kept its network and its company intact, but failed to take advantage of decades of progress and change.

Where they are today

Today Western Union continues to exist, but it is limping along on the verge of extinction, saddled with debt, having been taken over, sold, and resold several times. And rather than growing, this old firm has spent most of its long life in slow decline. Today, as in 1871, Western Union’s largest (and now sole) business is transferring money.

The moral of the story


Western Union was organized from the top down, like most other companies of its time. All strategic decisions and capital allocation decisions were made at the very top. Western Union’s leaders could not be challenged. They were experienced people, from similar backgrounds. They had inherited a company of substance, which they were determined to preserve. And they were suspicious of outsiders and of new ideas.

The Affect of A, B, and C players in an organization

Tragically, poor leadership tends to perpetuate itself, which explains why once great organizations slowly wither and die. As Joe Griesedieck, vice chairman and managing director of CEO services at Korn/Ferry, the world’s largest search firm, told me, A players pick other A players with whom they surround themselves and from whom they build their teams. But B players pick B and even C players to prevent their leadership from being challenged. Over time, B players are succeeded by the B and then C players they picked. And since leaders in hierarchical organizations can’t really be challenged, the tyranny of the B player is preserved. As a result, once great organizations wither and die. Missing out on opportunities is as much a killer of organizations as failing to pay attention to bad news

How many other organizations are in the same boat as Western Union, missing opportunities, failing to innovate, resistant to change, led by a cloistered assortment of B and C players? How many organizations turn away from the future even when it knocks at the door? Sadly, the answer is far too many.

Read a related articleThe Google Way

Written by frrl

August 27, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Homeland Security – National Interoperability Field Operations Guide

leave a comment »

What is the “National Interoperability Field Operations Guide”?

The National Interoperability Field Operations Guide is a technical reference for radio technicians responsible for radios that will be used in disaster response applications and for emergency communications planners.

[ It ] is a pocket-sized listing of land mobile radio (LMR) frequencies that are often used in disasters or other incidents where radio interoperability is required, and other information useful to emergency communicators. It is based on the “National Interoperability Frequency Guide”.

We encourage you to program as many of these interoperability channels in your radio as possible.  Even if geographic restrictions on some channels preclude their use in your home area, you may have the opportunity to help in a distant location where restrictions do not apply.  Maximize your flexibility

Take a read and be prepared -

Here is some interesting guidance found on page 3 and following

Don’t I need a license for these channels before programming them into radios?

A license (for non-Federal radio users) or an authorization (for Federal users) is required only to TRANSMIT on an LMR radio frequency. No license or authorization is required to program the frequencies into radios.

How can I use these frequencies if I don’t have a license for them?

 There are six ways you can legally transmit on these radio frequencies:

  1. You or your employer may already have a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license or a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) authorization for some of these frequencies, or may be covered by a higher authority’s license.
  2. The non-Federal National Interoperability Channels VCALL10-VTAC14, UCALL40-UCALL43D, and 8CALL90-8TAC94D are covered by a “blanket authorization” from the FCC for mobile operation, but base stations and control stations still require individual licenses (see FCC 00-348, released 10/10/2000, paragraph 90).
  3. In extraordinary circumstances, the FCC may issue a “Special Temporary Authority” (STA) for such use in a particular area.
  4. In extraordinary circumstances, the NTIA may issue a “Temporary Assignment” for such use in a particular area.
  5. If you are an FCC licensee, you may operate a mobile station on the Federal Interoperability Channels only when invited or approved to do so by a Federal Government radio station authorized by the NTIA to use those channels, and only for the purpose of interoperability with Federal Government radio stations. You may not use these channels for interoperability with other State, tribal, regional, or local radio stations – these are not a substitute for your regular mutual aid channels. Your use of these Federal channels is done under the auspices of your FCC license; any misuse subjects you or your employer to FCC ines and/or possible license revocation.
  6. When necessary for the IMMEDIATE protection of life or property, radio users may use prudent measures beyond the speciics of their license:

President Woodrow Wilson – “Leaders of Men”

leave a comment »

When I read the proposed constitutional amendment to remove term limits from the President of the United States I thought of Presidents like this guy – Woodrow Wilson.  Woodrow Wilson was the 29′th President of the United States during the Progressive Era.

In 1889 Wilson wrote an essay entitled: “Leaders of Men”

Here is a slice

The true leader of men is equipped by lacking certain sensibilities which the literary man, when analyzed, is found to have as a chief part of his make up. He lacks that subtle power of sympathy that enables the men who write the great works of the imagination to put their minds under the spell of a thousand motives not their own but the living force in those whom they interpret

The competent leader of men cares little for the interior niceties of other people’s character.  He cares much everything for the external uses to which they may be put.  His will seeks the lines of least resistance; but the whole question with him is a question as to the application of force.

There are men to be moved: how shall he move them? He supplies the power; others supply only the materials upon which that power operates. The power will fail if it be misapplied; it will be misapplied if it be not suitable both in its character and in its method to the nature of the materials upon which it is spent; but that nature is, after all, only its means.

It is the power which dictates, dominates; the materials yield. Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader.

Woodrow Wilson would make a good no-term-limit President of the United States

Read the essay –

Read a related article – The Ruthless vs the Rest of Us

Written by frrl

August 24, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States

leave a comment »

Are you paying attention to the proposed changes to the US Constitution?

In writings of the founding fathers the Constitution of the United States was called “an experiment”.  The authors of the Constitution provided for the provision to change, as circumstances arose, this founding document of the United States.

Are you paying attention to the proposed amendments?

You can find them on the website

Some of the more interesting amendments include:

  1. Removing term limits on the President of the United States (was this sponsored by Hugo Chavez (read) ?
  2. Abolish the Electoral College
  3. The right of everyone to affordable housing
  4. Government protection against unemployment and to provide “existence worthy of human dignity” through “social supplements”
  5. Ok, everyone in the pool – “… proposed amendment to give citizens the right to propose amendments to the Constitution through an initiative process”

You can see all the amendments proposed to date by entering this link

Written by frrl

August 23, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Quandary of Career Advancement of Technical Engineers

with one comment

Last week, I was able to listen to an exchange between an engineer and a Vice President at an “all hands” meeting of a Fortune 200 company ( $20B in Revenue).  The context was the reorganization of a division responsible for 1/4 of the company annual revenue.

The question from the engineer came at the question and answer session at the end of the presentation.  The questions were not pre-screened.  Several thousand people heard the q/a exchange.

The big question

After the VP finished talking about the reorganization to better align the organization to the changing marketplace and competitive landscape an engineer asked this simple question:

What does this have to do with me?

There was a long silence.  It was as if the engineer was asking: “why are you wasting my time telling me this stuff about the organization – what does this have to do with me?”.  And I think the long silence from the VP was perhaps that he was trying to figure out why this employee was disinterested and unconnected with the company.

After some delay, the VP talked about careers and how this engineer would need to know about the organization, how it is structured,  and why the reorganization was taking place  in order for employees to take advantage of new opportunities that this reorganization might provide them.

After the meeting, there was considerable discussion of this engineers question.  This particular company invests heavily in “Learning and Talent Development”.  Why are we spending all this mony on L&TD when (at least some) people seem not to care about the organization or advancement?  Do we have the right people if they are not interested in the organization or advancement?  The question and answer session was deleted from the recorded version of the presentation that was made available for replay on the corporate internal website.

The Research

This reminded me of a masters thesis by Elena Papavero which I read a while ago.


The subject of the thesis is a study of engineers who rejected offers of advancements.  This research was limited to s single company so the research has this limitation and the risk would be to generalize the findings.

So, this seems to be what we have going on at this company.  The particular engineer (and how many more like him?) seemed disinterested in what was going on with the organization.  Did this extend to his career advancement in the organization?  If he was offered career advancement would he turn it down?  Stated more clearly, if the company invests in talent development and segments of employees “go along” but are ultimately disinterested in moving from technical to management or leaderships roles, is the company wasting resources (investments) that could be better used elsewhere?  Or, should the hiring/retention policy be changed to reduce this segment of employees?  For critical parts of the organization should the policy be “up or out”?  That is, as soon as someone become nonpromotable should they be “out”?

Elena’s thesis starts off with a couple of interesting quotes about employee relationship with their employer

The first

Reducing the inordinate rewards of ambition and our inordinate fears of ending up as losers would offer the possibility of a great change in the meaning of work in our society and all that would go with such a change.

To make a real difference, such a shift in rewards would have to be a part of a reappropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one’s own advancement. (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, & Tipton, 1996, pp. 287-288)

The second

The term “career” has taken on a whole new meaning, reflecting the precedence of self development and individual survival over organizational loyalty. The choices to be made concerning careers are more complex than ever. The right decisions regarding movement into positions with increased responsibility become less clear. The new psychological contract has brought a “corresponding drop in the career aspirations of those who work in corporations” (Hall & Mirvis, 1996, p.

Engineers Perspective on Success and Careers

There is much in the Masters Thesis – but here are a couple of Elena’s findings relevant to this posting


The majority of the engineers are not concerned with success. Moreover, they have much difficulty defining success: “But I feel successful. You know. I mean, I don’t how I’m measuring that. So I really feel in life I feel successful. But I don’t know how you define it.” One engineer points out that a successful life may be the sum of many small successes rather than one big one. Another noted that she feels “wildly” successful. However, she does not think that she pursued success aggressively in any way, but was instead pushed towards it by others. The engineers see themselves as professionals, but they are not all together sure that they have careers: “I don’t have a career in the sense that I don’t have an advancement plan.”

Several of the engineers think that being happy means being successful. Some think that a successful family life or providing for a family is of utmost importance. Most do not link success with their jobs: “I imagine that success is going to be defined by something other than work.” All of the engineers feel financially successful, but they feel there is a lot more to success than making money.

Internal success is differentiated from external success by several of the engineers:

…a lot of these things kind of differ between things that can be externally viewed and things that are internally viewed. You could say because somebody is a vice president, they’re a success –most people can agree with that. But you can’t say because they’re an MTS [Member of Technical Staff], they’re successful. … [unless] you defined it as happiness or self-fulfillment…

One engineer describes how the drive for job success can lead to personal sacrifice:

…sometimes I think that’s why a lot of these people really get involved and call themselves quote/unquote successful…They’ve dedicated so much of their being and energy and emotion to that job, to that role that they wear that they have no room left for anything else. Anybody else that was in their life is now gone. They don’t exist. That’s all they’re focused on. … it slowly consumes you, especially in today’s world. Cause they’re just keep throwing stuff at you. And it just does consume you. So I felt that this is really–I can’t believe this here, you know. It’s like I can’t get away from it.


Most of the engineers think that their self-development occurs outside of work and do not see technical skill development as self-development. One of the engineers feels that he has plateaued as far as personal skills that he can learn from his job. However, he does view the mentoring role that a senior engineer naturally assumes as giving a sense of personal satisfaction, even if it is not actually an opportunity for self-development: “So you actually get more reward– personal satisfaction reward back from helping other people. So that’s the aspect that I take away from it, but again, I wouldn’t qualify it as a self-improvement or self-development.”

Several of the engineers have some type of leadership role outside of work. One engineer plays a leadership role in her extended family and runs family meetings where important decisions are made. Several of the engineers coach children’s sports teams, which gives them a great feeling of accomplishment. One engineer ran a non-profit organization at an early age. Another heads a sports league at his place of work.

 The Take

The take away on this one are a few questions:

  1. If any employee asks “What does this have to do with me?” when corporate executives communicate the vision, goals, and strategic initiatives of a company do you have the right people in the organization?
  2. Why do engineers - or do engineers in general – think that “self-development occurs outside work”.  Why is this?
  3. Why do engineers have leadership roles outside their corporate employment and not inside their corporate employment?  Aren’t leadership qualities fundamentally the same that they can be applied in both contexts?
  4. Another researcher came up with a taxonomy of “tribes” or groups that can exist in an organization (read the article – Parsing Corporate Cultures).  The “what does this have to do with me” would not fly at  Zappos employees are offered money to quit if new hires do not feel they fit into the organization or corporate culture.  Are the “What does this have to do with me” folks stuck in “what’s in it for me” culture at the expense of team goals and at the expense of making a significance impact mediated by corporations?  Can anything significant be accomplished by a phalanx of  “lone warrior” individuals each pursuing their own personal self-development?


Read the masters thesis -


Even though the engineers in the study did not see themselves in corporate management or leadership careers they had some interesting insights on the management, leadership and how these are different.

Here are a few more quotes from the thesis

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

August 22, 2010 at 10:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Making Better Decisions – Five Styles of Decision Making

leave a comment »

I wonder how many people take the time to analyze the process of decision making in groups, teams, and organizations?  Well, there are many models.  One of these models is the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Normative Decision Model.

So why would you care how decisions are made?  Well, to make the model of decision making explicit helps you make better decisions based on a number of variables that are going to affect the quality, acceptance, and ability to implement the decisions under different circumstances.

In the Vroom-Yetton-Jago model, first ask these situational questions

  1. Quality Requirement (QR): How important is the technical quality of the decision?
  2. Commitment Requirement (CR): How important is subordinate commitment to the decision?
  3. Leader’s Information (LI): Do you (the leader) have sufficient information to make a high quality decision on your own?
  4. Problem Structure (ST): Is the problem well structured (e.g., defined, clear, organized, lend itself to solution, time limited, etc.)?
  5. Commitment Probability (CP): If you were to make the decision by yourself, is it reasonably certain that your subordinates would be committed to the decision?
  6. Goal Congruence (GC): Do subordinates share the organizational goals to be attained in solving the problem?
  7. Subordinate conflict (CO): Is conflict among subordinates over preferred solutions likely?
  8. Subordinate information (SI): Do subordinates have sufficient information to make a high quality decision?

Second,  turn the crank on the model using this chart.  Note: This chart looks complex, but it’s not.  The chart will not hurt you or damage you in any way.  Click to enlarge

Lastly, the output is one of five styles of decision-making

  1. Autocratic Type 1 (AI) – The leader makes his/her own decision using information that is readily available to him/her at the time. This type is completely autocratic.
  2. Autocratic Type 2 (AII) – The leader collects required information from the team/group and other stakeholders, then makes decision alone. The problem or decision may or may not be informed by the team/group.  Here, the team/group involvement is just for providing information.
  3. Consultative Type 1 (CI) – The leader shares the problem to relevant team/group members individually and seeks their ideas & suggestions and makes decision alone. Here the  team/group members do not meet each other & the leader’s decision may or may not have team/group influence. So, here team/group involvement is at the level of providing alternatives individually but not collectively.
  4. Consultative Type 2 (CII) – The leader shares the problem with the team/group collectively and seeks their ideas & suggestions and makes the decision alone. Here the team/group members meet with each other and through discussions they understand other alternatives. But the leader’s decision may or may not have the  team/group member influence. So, here the  team/group involvement is at the level of helping as a group in decision-making.
  5. Group-based Type 2(GII) – The leader discusses the problem & situation with the team/group collectively and seeks their ideas & suggestions through brainstorming. The leader accepts any decision & does not try to force his/her ideas. The decision reached and accepted by the team/group is the final one.

The ‘Get”

The get is simply this.  People in groups, teams, and organizations are generally unaware, or dimly aware, of their decision-making processes.  Without knowledge of the process (generally, an ad doc process is used) decisions don’t fit the circumstances, are sub-optimal, or fail in implementation – especially when buy-in is needed by a large group of stakeholders or implementors.

So, take the time to make explicit the decision-making process in the teams, and groups in your organization for different classes of decisions that have to be made.  By making the decision-making process explicit, at least, a team or group can all be on the same page – be in alignment – on how decisions are made. 

Made explicit, stakeholders will be more comfortable with the decision once they know the parameters and the process that contributed to the final decision outcome.  And of course, there is always the opportunity to make another pass through the model by changing any of the eight situational parameters in the list above. 

To the extent that decisons are based on contexts,  these decisons should include a ‘sunset date” – or some date that that decsion is re/evaluated in a new context or situation.  In the law, decisons are challenged when they no longer “make sense” under changed cirsumstances.  Some good examples are given in the TED talk by Larry Lessig on why the the law (decisons) must be challenged based on new and emerging technological contexts.


A great movie on the dynamics of group decision making and consensue building - Twelve Angry Men

Written by frrl

August 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

In search of a Spine; In search of Character; In search of a Point of View

with 3 comments

The really great thing about issues that inspires passion on one side of an issue or the other is that it forces people to reveal their true selves and their character.

Some people will take a stand; others will be will be paralyzed; some will run.

Thank god for such issues.  For otherwise, how would we know who these people really are?

On the issue of building a mosque near the site of the 9/11 tragedy in New York

From President Obama

“I was not commenting
and I will not comment
on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. …”

Here is what Aristotle knew 2,500 years ago

“Criticism is something we can avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing.”

Some think that the only way to develop the ability to form character, have a point of view, and take a stand on very difficult issues  is to be placed in these situations over and over again and survive.  Taking a stand is a learned and practiced behavior developed over many events over long periods of time. 

Without character, without a point of view, people say nothing, do nothing, and they are nothing.

Read a related article – What Makes Men

Written by frrl

August 18, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

In search of the passionate inarticulate

with one comment

I read Seth Godin’s blog from time to time.  I caught a very short blog entry – reproduced below.

Seth seems to want to say that if someone is  inarticulate – if they can’t really say anything substantial or with depth about something –  then that person is not passionate about the topic.  Let me expand on this.  What if you encounter a person who really can’t talk about anything substantial on any topic?  That is, if all the conversation you can have with the person in question is “small talk” then what is going on?

If a person is inarticulate in general, are they passionless?

Seth’s unstated presupposition in the blog entry quoted below is that expression of passion about something or some subject is (primarily or essentially) verbal (“How long before you run out of talking points?”).

Seth uses the example of Dan Dennett.  Dan Dennett, or perhaps more precisely professor Dennett, is a philosopher.  The “performance” of Philosophy is verbal and written.  Dennett has “talking point” galore as a fundamental mode of expression, or performance, of his passion for the philosophical topics that interest him.  Philosophy is fundamentally expressed in words (spoken or written).  Is there a “physical” (non verbal) performance or expression of Philosophy?  If one could not “physically perform” philosophy could you make an argument on the basis of the primacy of “physical performance” that philosophers are passionless?  It’s just like Seth’s argument exchanging the primacy of physical expression for that of verbal expression.  Philosophers could be “physically inarticulate” from that perspective and thus rendered “passionless”.

What about people who “do things” but don’t necessarily “think about things”?  With no talking points does it mean they are not passionate or “emotionally connected or informed”?  Is a physical performance a sign of passion?  For example, music, dance, or a magic show?  When does AC/DC’s  Angus Young run out of “talking points” in a guitar solo?  ( Watch six minutes of verbal inarticulation by Angus Young.  How passionless  and uninformed about music he must be! )

Let’s get back to the question.  Why the primacy of speech (and thought) as a hallmark of passion? – or intelligence, for that matter!  And if you encounter a person who “can not speak” – a person who is inarticulate – then what is the precondition for this situation?  Does it mean the person is not intelligent?

I encounter people who “have nothing to say” – on anything.  What’s going on?

From Seth Godin’s blog

How long before you run out of talking points?

Here’s how you know if someone is living the brand, is emotionally connected to the story and is literate and informed–or if they’re just emotionally connected in the moment:

Ask a lot of questions.

Cornel West can talk for hours about race, the Bible or Marx. He knows it cold.

Dan Dennett can write for three hundred pages about the philosophy of free will and consciousness and he’s just getting started. There’s depth there.

I’ve talked to brand stewards from JetBlue and Starbucks that could go deep or wide or detailed for hours.

Then compare these passionate leaders to a pundit, spin doctor or troll (for just about any cause du jour) being interviewed on TV. After three sentences, they run out of assertions, facts or interesting things to say.

There’s a lot to be said for being deep, scientific and informed.


Read more on (non-verbal) intelligences:

More from AC/DC Angus Young – Getting the crowed whipped up without saying a word, being deep, scientific, or informed.  Angus is the living brand of the band AC/DC – and he doesn’t need to utter a word.

Written by frrl

August 16, 2010 at 4:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Memes: Information Packets with Attitude

leave a comment »

So what’s a meme?  What are they made of?  How do they replicate?  How do they travel?
Can memes travel over the internet?  If  so, with the internet touching every part of the globe, are we not entering an unprecedented time in history for the viral and unstoppable  transmission of memes? 
Is the Internet the ultimate host for memes?  What happens when people pick up memes and then pass them on in social situations?  Once in the population, then the continue to replicate, mutate, and evolve.

Do you have to have a mind to have a plan? Are memes literally alive?  Can a meme destroy a culture?   Can a meme give rise to a new cultural understanding as they travel through the population?  How do you make a judgement if particular memes are “good” or “bad” – does this distinction have any meaning?

Can memes in the population supplant the biological mandate of self-preservation?

It is now known that memes can not be annihilated – no matter how hard we try – history has proven that.  Contemporary attempts by China and other countries to stop the memetic invasion is failing.

So what should we do?  What can we do?  Will what destroyed the invaders in “War of the Worlds” destroy us?

Watch this TED talk by Dan Dennett on Dangerous Memes


Read more –

Written by frrl

August 13, 2010 at 2:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Entrepreneurship with a safety Net

leave a comment »

Entrepreneurship is hard – lets face it.  If you are a “stand alone” entrepreneur you need a lot of stuff – that maybe you don’t have ready-at-hand.  In some cases, you can practice your entrepreneurship inside a big company.  It’s not as bad as you might think.

Here are seven reasons why you might thrive in a large corporation rather than “going it alone” along with seven concessions you need to make to leverage the tremendous resources a company has to offer to someone with an entrepreneurial  spirit – but who doesn’t want to take the full risk.

  1. Maturity of Process.  Many have come before you.  Large corporations, partly because they are large corporations and have been in business long enough to grow to be large corporations, have institutional knowledge on how to do things.  “Smart” companies learn from their mistakes and continually integrate these lessons learned back into the process.  So, “they” ( the process ) knows how to do things.  And, over time, it just gets better.  They know how to bring new products and services to market – at least they understand the process – battle hardened.
  2. Market Research.  You need to “make what you can sell’ not “sell what you make” and you need to understand the industry, the market opportunity, market trends, market size,  and the competitive landscape.  Large corporations have teams of people who do nothing but market research and competitive analysis.  These folks talk to industry analysts – they know what’s going on and they publish this information internally continually.
  3. Sales Interlock.  The VP of Sales and Marketing is going to have to sign off on your sales forecast and their ability of sell the product or service according to your multi-year forecast.  Sales interlock is a good thing.
  4. Many Mentors. In a large corporation of 100,000+ people, someone, and in many cases,  many people, know what you need to know to make your product or service successful.  Large corporations are huge resource pools for ideas and idea validation.  They are on your side.  They want to see  the company and you  (and themselves) successful.
  5. Capital.  Need a million dollars seed capital to get going?  In a large corporation, $1MM is not a problem – if you have a good business case.  Or at least, getting funding is easier than pitching to investors and/or VC’s (venture capitalists).  Expect that the funding will be “gated” at strategic points along the product/service development cycle and you have to deliver what you say you will deliver reviewed by various governance boards along the way.
  6. Take a Wild Ride.  Own it. Live it. Love it – through a highly scrutinized product/service build,  to sell and delivery of the product or service into revenue generation .  “The journey is the reward.”
  7. Walk Away and Do It Again (sometimes).

The concessions you will likely have to make in exchage for this wealth of corporate resources and knowlege:
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

August 12, 2010 at 1:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Reevaluation – Thirty-six assumptions about people in the workplace

with one comment

Back in the 1960′s there was this crazy management theory called “Theory Y” dreamt up by McGregor.

Imagine this

Theory Y management, in which the essential task “is to arrange organizational conditions and methods of operation so that people can achieve their own goals best by directing their own efforts toward organizational objectives”

The list below are assumptions of Theory Y. 

I wonder, in 2010, how many of these assumptions seem a throw back to the age of ideological TV sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, Bewitched, and similar?  Or, are these assumptions about people, in the face of Enron, Global Crossing, and the modern workplace, looked upon as fond memories of the past – a place where we can never return. 

Better question yet – Were any of these ever true?  Or were they just a projection of a an academic idealism that was never true or realistic - just like a 1960′s family sitcom?

1. Assume everyone is to be trusted.
2. Assume everyone is to be informed as completely
as possible of as many facts and truths as
3. Assume in all your people the impulse to achieve.
4. Assume that there is no dominance-subordination
hierarchy in the jungle sense or the authoritarian
5. Assume that everyone will have the same ultimate
managerial objectives and will identify
with them no matter where they are in the organization
or in the hierarchy.
6. . . . assume good will among all the members of
the organization rather than rivalry or jealousy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

August 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

In Corporate America Powerlessness Corrupts

with 4 comments

They say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

But what about powerlessness?   According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in an article in the July-August issue of Harvard Business Review, powerlessness can corrupt as well – but in a different sort of way.

In some large corporations, strategic plans are done by a few people at the top and then cascaded down to the rest of the organization.   These neat tidy plans, generated by a few, are passed on to the masses who get stuck with the not so tidy, not so pleasant, and messy job of execution.

Those who get hit hardest are those in the middle – middle managers.  Squeezed by scarcity of resources, hemmed in by bureaucracy, and treated as unimportant (“in the middle” – not executives), Kanter observes that, under some circumstances, these folks –  “get even”. 

They “get even” because, caught in the middle, they are powerless.

How Managers “get even” in the face of powerlessness

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

August 2, 2010 at 6:18 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Video: Lightning strikes slowed down to microseconds

leave a comment »

Ever see lightning in increments of microseconds? – take a peek at the link below.

Don’t think lightning travels up?  – then watch
Don’t think lightning strikes the same place twice? - then watch 15 separate strikes to same place over a time period of about 1 second.

Written by frrl

August 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers

%d bloggers like this: