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How Dell Created a Great Place to Work

How Dell Created a Great Place to Work

Dell has been known for its productivity; however, behind productivity are people, and Dell is learning what it means to be a great company and a great place to work.

Dell has been a results-driven company for a long time—almost to the exclusion of everything else! In many ways, that has accounted for Dell’s success. One thing I discovered is that when your stock is going up 300 percent a year, no one pays much attention to issues like “effective management” or “creating career tracks for your people.” People willingly work very hard for long periods because the payoff is so huge.

Dell’s crisis of conscience came in 2001 when, for the first time, Dell had to lay people off. In late 2001, Dell went through a self-discovery process where Dell started to ask, “If we aren’t going to be a company where you can come in and be rich by noon tomorrow, what are we? What do we aspire to? What kind of company do we want to be?” Dell’s president, Kevin Rollins, and CEO Michael Dell began a dialogue about what it really means to be a great company and a great place to work.

Creating a Winning Culture at Dell

In the end, Dell came up with what probably looks to outsiders like a beliefs-and-values statement. Dell called it “The Soul of Dell.” It is a statement of Dell’s aspirations as a company. There are five aspects: the Dell team, customers, direct relationships, global citizenship, and winning. Dell shared early drafts of the documents with all of Dell’s vice presidents, and had some great dialogue about what Dell leaders and employees together aspired to become.

The biggest gap was between where Dell were and where Dell wanted to be with the Dell team. So leaders and employees started to talk about what it would mean to be a winning culture. Leaders soon realized that they would have to broaden the definition of what they cared about, beyond financial results. They continue to care very much about what they accomplish, but also how they accomplish it. After focusing more on performance for 15 years, when they came out with a beliefs-and-values statement Dell’s employees were a bit skeptical. In the first year, Dell had a series of programs, town-hall meetings, brown-bag sessions, and other discussions to talk about what Dell aspired to do—all of which were met with great enthusiasm and great skepticism at the same time. The enthusiasm was driven by the view that Dell needed to do more to become a great place to work over time. The skepticism was driven by a concern about whether or not Dell believed and were committed to what it’s leaders were saying.

Dell's Improvements to Management Quality and Organizational Culture

Dell’s Improvements to Management Quality and Organizational Culture

Last year, Dell’s leaders put some teeth in Dell’s effort to improve the quality of management and improve the culture. We decided to administer Dell’s employee opinion survey, “Tell Dell,” twice a year, and they asked every vice president, director, and manager to get 20 percent better results than the year before. We wanted to send a signal: The results are important, but how you get results is also important. At first people said, “That’s nice, but will they really pay attention?” The major change they made was to identify metrics, based on responses by employees, that measured how well Dell’s managers managed and how well leaders led. In short, they decided employees would vote on whether or not they had made any progress.

The results were interesting. First, they got 90 percent participation worldwide, which is amazing itself, and over 90 percent the second time they did it. When they first did the survey, they didn’t show much progress from earlier years, which was to be expected. But Michael and Kevin talk about it every time they get together as a senior management team. They direct the senior team to share the results, in front of their peers. And they discuss their own scores. That’s what caught people’s attention. Slowly but surely, we’re getting better—as are Dell’s managers throughout the company.

There are about 30 statements on the survey, and they use five of them as core metrics for measurements: My manager is effective at managing people. My manager gives effective feedback. If you had an opportunity to work some place other than Dell, would you take it? I feel like I can be successful and retain my individuality at Dell. My manager helps me manage my work/life balance.

When they did the second survey, it was fun. We did get 20 percent better! I think they were all surprised at how much progress they had made. What was even more amazing is mat this happened across the board—they got better everywhere.

This has been a very positive experience for everyone. Dell’s leaders are reminded that if they put Dell’s minds to it, they can get better at a lot of things—even things that seem intangible. For Dell’s employees, it has been positive because it has driven far more conversations about issues between managers and their people. We’re using simple metrics to measure change, but are broadening Dell’s definition of what it means to be a great company.

Dell's Leadership Development

Dell’s Leadership Development

For three years they have had a company-wide leadership program. It’s one-day long, and all leader-led (they never use consultants). Each year, they focus on a different facet of leadership at Dell. Each year, they advance what it means to be an effective leader at Dell. And every year it starts with Michael and Kevin. They devote one day to teach Dell’s strategy committee—Dell’s senior-most decision-making group—about what it means to be a good leader. Then each of us repeats that leadership training with Dell’s direct reports, and on down the company. We all share Dell’s expectations with Dell’s teams about leadership. It is a powerful change mechanism—to stand in front of your team and discuss what you expect them to do differently, and then have them tell you what you need to do to improve.

'Direct from Dell' by Michael Dell (ISBN 0060845724) First, it’s powerful that Dell’s chairman and president are willing to spend a day to talk about this because it is a very revealing process. They talk about things that they did well and poorly. It’s powerful to stand in front of your own team and lead a discussion about leadership. Personally, I feel very exposed during those conversations. I know that they know what the leadership issues are with me, and so I have to fess up and say, “Well, here’s what I think I need to work on.”

We have also used 360 assessments more with Dell’s VPs and directors. We have put together a consistent worldwide management-development curriculum that defines expectations as well as builds skills. We also have short tutorial workshops for anyone who scores below 50 percent on any of the five items.

So, where do they go from here? We will do the survey again this year, and this time everyone will be expected to get at least 50 percent favorable responses on each question. If you’ve got an approval rate of higher than 75 percent, we’ll ask you to stay at that level; it’s hard to ask those people to get a 20 percent improvement when they are already doing so well.

Dell’s European team, in addition to doing what we’ve done, asked their entire management team, “If you were going to teach one lesson in leadership to the people on the Dell Europe team, what would that be?” Then they were asked to develop a 45-minute approach to teach that lesson. Every time they meet with a new group or visit a new country, they take an hour and teach their lesson in leadership. It puts Dell’s leaders up in front of Dell’s employees more consistently.

Almost every culture change has a back-to-basics emphasis because people tend to lose their focus on the business. We came at this from an opposite position. Dell’s business continues to do very well. Two years ago, they set a goal to double the size of the company in five years—and we’re already ahead of pace to do that. So, I’m proud to say that for a company on top of its game, they still want to be better—not just on Dell’s business results, but also in the way they manage Dell’s people.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Four Mistakes That Cause Most Failures in Organizational Change

Change Leadership: Many Start but Few Finish Well

No organization is invulnerable to change. To cope with new technological, competitive, and demographic forces, leaders often try to adjust the way they do business—evaluate few of these efforts meet the goals. Few companies successfully transform themselves.

Here are four mistakes that cause most failures in organizational change:

  1. Mistake #1: Writing a memo instead of lighting a fire. Most leaders mismanage the first step—establishing a sense of urgency. Too often leaders launch their initiatives by calling a meeting or circulating a report, then expect people to rally to the cause. It doesn’t happen that way. To increase urgency, gather a key group of people for a day. Identify 25 factors that contribute to complacency and then devise ways to counter each factor. Develop an action plan to implement your ideas. Your chances of creating a sense of urgency and building impetus improve inestimably.
  2. Mistake #2: Talking too much and saying too little. Most leaders under-communicate their change vision by a factor of 10. Moreover, the efforts they make to convey their message in speeches and memos are not convincing. An effective change vision must embrace not just new strategies and structures but also new, aligned behaviors. Leading by example means spending more time with customers, cutting wasteful spending at the top, or pulling the plug on a pet project that don’t match up. People watch their bosses meticulously. It doesn’t take much inconsistent behavior to fuel cynicism and frustration.
  3. 'Change Leader Learning to Do What Matters Most' by Michael Fullan (ISBN 0470582138)Mistake #3: Declaring victory before the war is over. When a project is completed or an initial goal met, it is tempting to pat on the back all involved and proclaim the advent of a new era. While it is important to celebrate results, kidding yourself or others about the difficulty and duration of transformation can be catastrophic. Once you see encouraging results in a difficult scheme, you still have a long way to go. Talking about “wrapping this thing up in a few months” is nonsense. If you settle for too little too soon, you will probably lose it all. Celebrating incremental improvements is a great way to mark progress and maintain commitment—but note how much work is still to come.
  4. Mistake #4: Looking for villains in all the wrong places. The opinion that large organizations are filled with recalcitrant middle managers who resist all change is unfair and untrue. Often it’s the middle level that brings issues to the attention of senior executives. In fact, the biggest obstacles to change are often those who work just below the CEO—vice presidents, directors, and general managers, who have the most to lose in a change. You need to build a guiding coalition that represents all employees. People often hear the CEO cheerleading a change and promising exciting new opportunities. Most people want to believe that; too often their managers give them reasons not to.
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Posted in Management and Leadership

Be Special to Your Customers

Be Special to Your Customers

There are only two things you need to know: Don’t compete with China on cost, and don’t compete with Walmart on price. And if you’re not competing with Walmart on price and China on cost, then you have to start going up the value chain and start doing something that’s worth being paid more money for.

In the last three years, the short space of three years, 60,000 foreign-owned factories have been opened in China. That’s a new factory every 26 minutes. And in the course of those same three years, 600 foreign-owned labs have opened in China—200 a year, or one every 43 hours. Good luck competing with China on cost. In Bentonville, Arkansas, Walmart has in its files 460 terra bites of data—twice as much data on its customers as exists on the entire Internet. Good luck competing with Walmart on price.

Make Customers Fall in Love with Your Business

'The Customer Service Revolution' by John R. Dijulius III (ISBN 162634129X) A focus on cost-cutting and efficiency is how many organizations weather a down-turn, but this approach will only ultimately render them obsolete. Only constant pursuit of innovation can insure long-term success.

The CEO of the Intercontinental hotel group was fired recently. He was an accountant. And I’m sure this guy did a brilliant job of shaping up the cost structure, but it’s a new world. The chairmen who fired him said they are now in a new phase of business where the group will be a franchising and management company and brand management is central. Intercontinental will now have more to do with brand ownership.

General Erick Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” During the six years that General Shinseki ran the army, he brought about more change than had occurred in the previous 75 years, and yet he was fired by Don Rumsfiled for not going fast enough!

I’m all in favor of having boring people in charge of organizations if the times are boring. But in freakish times, we need more freaks running our firms.

One of the offenses against gyrating is for a whole set of vaguely confident companies to merge with other companies saying, “Size is our defense.” Well it never has worked, and it never will work. Sears plus K-Mart is not keeping Walmart’s Lee Scott awake in Benville, Arkansas. Such a merger is called a horizontal double-dummy.

Create a Memorable Customer Experience

Most giant firms have never performed well. Forbes went back 87 years to see how the Forbes 100 had done. The answer was pathetic: 61 dead, 39 alive, and of the 39, only 18 were in the Fortune 100, and those 18 had underperformed the stock market by 20 percent. Only two of them had out-performed the market—GE and Kodak, and now we’re down to one, GE.

'The Customer Rules' by Lee Cockerell (ISBN 0770435602) What’s interesting to me is that GE is the most disorganized of that set. Not undisciplined, but disorganized. Trust me, the guy running the appliance division in Louisville, KY, could not find GE’s headquarters on a map. They send him to Louisville and say, “Make some money, dude, see ya in five years, if you screw it up, you’re outta here.” Size is over-rated.

Dick Kovacevich, CEO of Wells Fargo, said, “I don’t believe in economy to scale. You don’t get better by being bigger, you get worse.”

In 240 industries, the market share leader is the return on asset leader in only 29 percent of the cases. Nick Negroponte, head of MIT’s media lab, put it this way, “Incrementalism is innovation’s worst enemy.” In a time of non-incremental change, if you are working on making it a little bit better, you’re not working on blowing it up.

If you’re the leader, you don’t want to known as the King of the Tinkerersthat’s playing around while the world is flipping upside down. Roger Enrico, chairman of Pepsico, said, “Beware of the security of making small changes to small things, rather, make big changes to big things.” Good advice.

ISIT is blowing up every industry. We all live in a Dell-EBay-Walmart-Google world. What’s required, then, is absolute reinvention of the enterprise. Ray Lane ran Oracle for 10 years as president. He said e-business is about rebuilding the organization from the ground up. Most companies today are not built to exploit the Internet. Their processes, approval, hierarchy the number of people they employ—all of that is wrong for running an e-business.

People who have not been investing heavily in ISIT in the last five years are stupid. I watched it with Sysco, the company that distributes food to hospitals, schools, and factories. When everybody else was shutting down their ISIT investment five years ago, Sysco doubled their investment. Their chairman said, “I’m betting that I can reinvent the company, this entire industry, and get a 15-year jump on the competition.”

And they’ve done it! Sysco just bulldozed the entire industry and has grown from about $15 billion to about $35 billion dollars in five years.

Forest Gump, the father of outsourcing, said, “Don’t own nothing if you can help it. If you can, rent your shoes.” Forget outsourcing; let’s talk about best sourcing. Only an idiot would work with anyone who is not the best in the world. Several firms now even rent CEOs, so I’m not even sure we need these. There is no excuse for not working with the best.

If There’s No Perceived Difference for Your Customers, You’re Dead.

In the age of ISIT, the customer relationship is going one-to-one. Mass media is dead. Narrow-cast and one-to-one is the answer. Over the next 10 years, narrow cast will grow at 14 percent a year, mass media at 3 percent a year. To use CRM right, you have to blow up the organization and re-imagine everything you’re doing. It’s not a tool for getting a little closer to your customer; it’s a tool for revolutionizing the way you work with your customer.

'The Service Culture Handbook' by Jeff Toister (ISBN 0692842004) I love books, and I used to love going into bookstores. Now I love something else—Amazon.com. I have never met a living human being from Amazon, and probably never will. But I know this: any book I order will be on my desk tomorrow.

As Paul Cole, who ran the CRM practice of Cap, Gemini, Earnst, and Young said, “CRM is not about a pleasant transaction; it’s about a systemic opportunity to rethink the entire enterprise so that we can take advantage of every resource in the system to enhance the customer experience.”

I started blogging last year, and my life has changed. Blogging is short for “web log” and it says that the website becomes, not a place to process information, but a place to have intimate conversations. The web at its best is about conversations and portals.

I like what Home Depot is trying to do. Bob Nardelli discovered a mess when he arrived at Home Depot. Basically he said, “I want people to fall in love with the orange box, and know they’ll be taken care of. Their home electronics center, their chlorine in their pool, their home improvement projects—it’s all in that portal called, ‘Trust in the orange box.'”

We’re seeing a white-collar tsunami in professional services, as contract forms and advice are available on the web. I get mad when I hear, “But we have to protect the unsuspecting consumer.” That’s baloney. I am not an unsuspecting consumer, I’m a human being with a brain who can access health information on the web that is better than what my doctor offers. I’m not smarter than my realtor, my lawyer, or my doctor, but I’m a lot smarter than I was 10 years ago—and getting smarter every day. The conceit of gurus and doctors is, “You’ll listen to me because I wear the white coat.” What that means is, “Pay me a lot, I know some special stuff.”

What’s So Special About You for Your Customers?

I don’t deny professionalism, but I’m saying, “Don’t ever talk down to a customer.” Most young people are patrolling 50 websites. They’re not saying, “Let’s check out Lending Tree.” They’re saying, “Let’s check out Lending Tree and 100 others.”

It’s a new world order, regardless of the industry. Extremely good work is no longer enough, because the world is exploded with people doing extremely good work. Experience buys you nothing. It’s the price for entry. But it doesn’t make you special.

What is special about you? I don’t think excellence or being best is enough. Sears was best; Walmart was different. Compaq was best; Michael Dell was different. That’s the point of uniqueness.

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Posted in Business and Strategy

Organizational Subcultures

It is important to recognize that even an organization’s unified culture is not entirely homogenous; subcultures subsist and each division or unit in the organization sees things from a somewhat diverse standpoint.

'Administrative Behavior' by Herbert Simon (ISBN 0684835827) DeWitt Dearborn and his colleague, the Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon, had executives from a single company read a case study that was to be discussed as part of a training program. Before the discussion began, they asked the executives to write down what they each saw as the primary problem facing the organization described in the case. As you may expect, the head of marketing saw the problem as a marketing problem, the head of finance saw it as a finance problem, and the head of production saw it as a production problem, and so on.

That is, the different heads of the different divisions in the company tended to perceive the world in a way that was congruent with their own division’s function, and in terms of the culture that their division had developed. This is not to say that they did not share parts of each other’s culture, but they did have views exclusive to their own parts of the organization.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Value the Roles of Leader and Manager

I find it valuable to cut through complexity and distill core insights that are generalizable—they apply to all across a range of situations; transformative—they elevate performance from good to great; and actionable—they guide action.

By identifying the core insights of the roles of manager and leader, you can find the one thing that will leverage everything. We often try to define a role in so much detail that we end up with 15 or 20 competencies. The inference is “you need all of these to be a great salesperson or manager.” People are overwhelmed by the expectation.

You will get more out of yourself if you discover your strengths and capitalize on them. And yet most people still believe that the secret to success lies in fixing flaws. Only 17 percent of people spend most of their time on tasks that play to their strengths.

Managers often get short shrift: Leaders are strategic; managers are just tactical. Leaders transform people; managers just administer things. The perception of the manager is just this low-life waiting for an opportunity to lead. This isn’t true. The roles of manager and leader are different, but both are important.

Role of Manager

The role of a manager is to turn one person’s talents into performance. If you hire great talent and let them run, they will be productive because that’s what talented people do. The manager’s role is to speed up the reaction between the talent of a person and the goals of the company. The manager is the catalyst for performance. The one thing that great managers do is to discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it—to identify the unique talents in each person and then leverage those talents, treating each person differently based on personality and motivations. They pick up on the differences in people and then put those differences to work.

'Principles: Life and Work' by Ray Dalio (ISBN 1501124021) Rather than try to remedy people’s shortcomings, they focus on maximizing their talents. Their chief responsibility is to turn a person’s talent into performance. Managers influence how long the person stays and how effectively the person performs. Knowing that each person has unique talents and motivations, they seek to understand and leverage this uniqueness. They build their teams to maximize the unique talents and contributions of each person on the team. They treat each person differently based on that person’s talents and motivations. Great managers may standardize the outcomes, but individualize how each person goes about achieving those outcomes. Average managers play checkers; great managers play chess. In checkers all pieces move in the same way; in chess, each piece moves differently. Great managers know the differences in each piece and coordinate the team to take advantage of the individual strengths.

Most managers focus on a person’s weaknesses and address shortcomings. In contrast, great managers grow the person’s greatest strengths. Developing a person’s greatest talent is how to achieve breakthrough performance. Great managers don’t ignore shortcomings, but they work around the shortcomings by changing people’s jobs, allowing them to spend more time where their talent fits best, or pairing one employee with another who has complementary talents.

Great management is not about changing people. Great managers take people as they are and then release their talents. They don’t see people merely as a means to an end; they see people as the end. They are motivated by identifying people’s talents and then developing them. They spend most of their time with individuals, trying to pick out their strengths and then leveraging those strengths. They get the best return from their investment in people by challenging them around their strengths. A strength is something that strengthens you, something that resonates with you, something that you enjoy doing. A weakness is any activity that weakens you. When you are doing it, time seems to go slowly. And when you are done, you feel drained and frustrated. A good manager always looks for what strengthens a person.

Managers also need to know what triggers those strengths in people and their style of learning. How do you trip those strengths? Bill Parcells, former coach of the New York Giants, was asked after winning the Superbowl in 1991 how he had such a great season even though he played two quarterbacks. He said, “You have to know how to trip each one’s triggers.” One quarterback liked to be shouted at. He loved the emotional intensity. The other quarterback would shut down in the same situation. Some people like praise in public and other people want a quiet word in the office, where you tell them how much they mean to you. Some people want you to check-in with them daily other people don’t. Figure out what switch needs to be flipped to get the most out of a person.

People learn in their own style. Good managers notice how each person learns and helps the person learn and adapt. Some people learn by analyzing and they like time to prepare. They like the role-playing, they read the books, they go to classes and they love it. The doers learn by jumping into it. Different people learn different ways.

Role of Leader

As a leader, you need innate optimism, a belief that things could get better, and the ego to believe that you can make that future come true. Many leaders struggle—not because their egos are too big, but because their ethics are too small. The best leaders all have a driving need to be at the helm and move people into the future.

Leadership is about rallying people to a better future. Great leaders get us to feel that the future is possible and better than where we are now. They rally people to help make dreams come true. They turn people’s legitimate anxiety about the future into confidence. They find what is universal or shared among members of a group and capitalize on it. Through their words, images, stories, and actions, they tap into things that all of us share and are unremittingly clear. You don’t need to be passionate, consistent, strategic, or creative, but you do need to be clear and precise.

'Find Your VOICE as a Leader' by Paul N Larsen (ISBN 1943164711) Great leaders are optimists who rally people to a better future. They turn anxiety or fear of the future into confidence by providing clarity around who we serve, what our core strengths are, how we keep score, and what actions we can take immediately. Great leaders do not necessarily have the right answers to these questions—in many cases there are no “right answers”—but they provide answers that are clear, specific, and vivid. Their followers know exactly who they serve, how they will win, how to keep score to know if they are winning, and what they can go do today.

Great leaders are not unrealistic; in fact, they are grounded in reality. However, they believe that things can be better in the future than they are today. They create a vision of this future and rally others to support it. Leaders turn legitimate anxiety over the unknown future into confidence through clarity.

Clarity is the answer to anxiety. Effective leaders are clear. Great leaders think about excellence and reflect on what causes success. They pick their heroes with care. When they give awards and praise others in public, they send important signals about who should be viewed as heroes by others. Great leaders explain why these individuals were selected—who they served, how they scored, and what actions they took. In doing so, they embed these behaviors in the organization. They practice their words, phrases, and stories and communicate in ways that resonate with others. They practice the words that they use to help others see the better future that they imagine. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech used phrases and images that King had carefully honed over years of practice.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Quotes from David Allen’s Masterpiece “Getting Things Done”

'Getting Things Done' by David Allen (ISBN 0143126563) Time management guru David Allen has established a cult following. His bestselling book, Getting Things Done, has produced an international crusade of dedicated adopters from executives, techies, soldiers, businesspersons, university lecturers, musicians, scholars, and ordained priests. It has spread into a flourishing “GTD” trade of web sites, blogs and software applications. Internet searches bring up tens of millions of references.

  • “The art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probably one of the secrets of our great men.”
    –Captain J.A. Hatfield
  • “Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organization, preparation, and action.”
    –David Kekich
  • “Time is the quality of nature that keeps events from happening all at once. Lately, it doesn’t seem to be working.”
    –Anonymous
  • “We can never really be prepared from that which is wholly new. We have to adjust ourselves, and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem: we undergo a test, we have to prove ourselves. It needs subordinate self-confidence to face drastic change without inner trembling.”
    –Eric Hoffer
  • “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”
    –Anonymous
  • “The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.”
    –Edward Gibbon
  • “Life is defined by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.”
    –Nadia Boulanger
  • “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.”
    Shunryu Suzuki
  • “There is one thing we can do, and the happiest people are those who can do it to the limit of their ability. We can be completely present. We can be all here. We can… give all our attention to the opportunity before us.”
    –Mark Van Doren
  • 'The Power of Habit' by Charles Duhigg (ISBN 081298160X) “Think like a man of action. Act like a man of thought.”
    –Henry Bergson
  • “The ancestor of every action is a thought.”
    –Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “This constant, unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy.”
    –Kerry Gleeson
  • “Rule your mind or it will rule you.”
    –Horace
  • “The beginning is half of every action.”
    –Greek proverb
  • “Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the stairs.”
    Vaclav Havel
  • “It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.”
    –Sally Kempton
  • “The knowledge that we consider knowledge proves itself in action. What we now mean by knowledge is information in action, information focused on results.”
    –Peter F. Drucker
  • “Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are the most active.”
    –Leonardo da Vinci
  • “It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”
    Elbert Hubbard
  • “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
    –Michael McGriffy, M.D.
  • 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman (ISBN 0374533555) “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
    –Albert Einstein
  • “The affairs of life embrace a multitude of interests, and he who reasons in any one of them, without consulting the rest, is a visionary unsuited to control the business of the world.”
    –James Fenimore Cooper
  • “You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing the small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”
    –Alvin Toffer
  • “Don’t just do something. Stand there.”
    –Rochelle Myer
  • “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”
    George Santayana
  • “Celebrate any progress. Don’t wait to get perfect.”
    –Ann McGee Cooper
  • “Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.”
    –Dee Hock
  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
    –Albert Einstein
  • “Your automatic creative mechanism is teleological. That is, it operates in terms of goals and end results. Once you give it a definite goal to achieve, you can depend upon its automatic guidance system to take you to that goal much better than ‘you’ ever could by conscious thought. ‘You’ supply the goal by thinking in terms of end results. Your automatic mechanism then supplies the means whereby.”
    –Maxwell Maltz
  • “I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific.”
    –Lily Tomlin
  • “The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas.”
    –Linus Pauling
  • “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.”
    –Emile Chartier
  • 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen R. Covey (ISBN 1451639619) “Only he who handles his ideas lightly is master of his ideas, and only he who is master of his ideas is not enslaved by them.”
    Lin Yutang
  • “Plans get you into things but you’ve got to work your way out.”
    –Will Rogers
  • “It is easier to act yourself into a better way of feeling than to feel yourself into a better way of action.”
    –O.H. Mowrer
  • “I am rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I want to do, but I don’t know where to begin.”
    –Stephen Bayne
  • “I got it all together, but I forgot where I put it.”
    –Anonymous
  • “I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
    –Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • “We must strive to reach the simplicity that lies beyond sophistication.”
    –John Gardner
  • “Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness.”
    –Jean de la Bruysre
  • “What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.”
    –Aristotle
  • “To make knowledge productive, we will have to learn to see both forest and tree. We will have to learn to connect.”
    Peter F. Drucker
  • 'The Effective Executive' by Peter Drucker (ISBN 0060833459) “‘Point of view’ is that quintessentially human solution to information overload, an intuitive process of reducing things to an essential relevant and manageable minimum. In a world of hyperabundant content, point of view will become the scarcest of resources.”
    –Paul Saffo
  • “Thinking is the very essence of, and the most difficult thing to do in, business and in life. Empire builders spend hour-after-hour on mental work… while others party. If you’re not consciously aware of putting forth the effort to exert self-guided integrated thinking… then you’re giving in to laziness and no longer control your life.”
    –David Kekich
  • “We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all.”
    –Daniel Cohen
  • “To ignore the unexpected (even if it were possible) would be to live without opportunity, spontaneity, and the rich moments of which ‘life’ is made.”
    –Stephen Covey
  • “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”
    –Buddha
  • “The best place to succeed is where you are with what you have.”
    –Charles Schwab
  • “The middle of every successful project looks like a disaster.”
    –Rosabeth Moss Cantor
  • “Luck affects everything. Let your hook always be cast; in the stream where you least expect it there will be a fish.”
    –Ovid
  • “How do I know what to think, until I hear what I say?”
    E.M. Forster
  • “Let your advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”
    –Winston Churchill
  • “Out of the strain of the doing, into the peace of the done.”
    –Julia Louis Woodruff
  • “It is the act of forgiveness that opens up the only possible way to think creatively about the future at all.”
    –Fr. Desmond Wilson
  • 'How to Win Friends & Influence People' by Dale Carnegie (ISBN 0671027034) “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting with the first one.”
    –Mark Twain
  • “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
    –Mark Twain
  • “No matter how big and tough a problem may be, get rid of confusion by taking one little step toward solution. Do something.”
    –George F. Nordenholt
  • “You can only cure retail but you can prevent wholesale.”
    –Brock Chisolm
  • “Talk does not cook rice.”
    –Chinese proverb
  • “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
    John F. Kennedy
  • “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, they make them.”
    –George Bernard Shaw
  • “Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified.”
    –Dr. Samuel Johnson
  • “An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”
    –Sidney J. Harris
  • “A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world.”
    –From a church in Sussex, England, ca. 1730
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The Fantastic Ornate Building of Saint Philomena’s Church, Mysore

Fantastic Ornate Building of Saint Philomena's Church, Mysore

Though Mysore has been a stronghold of traditional Hinduism from time immemorial, it has been famous for the harmonious coexistence of other religions also. This is testified to by many churches and mosques, which have been serving the cause of religion of their followers without any hindrance. Saint Philomena’s Church on the Ashoka Road (and practically at the entrance of Mysore coming from Bangalore) is a testimony for the religious tolerance of the people of Mysore.

Attractive colonnades of Saint Philomena's Church, Mysore There was a church known as Saint Joseph’s church built in 1840 and it was reconstructed and was renamed as Saint Joseph and Saint Philomena’s cathedral. It is said that Sri Thamboo Chetty, the then Dewan of Mysore in one of his visits had brought a piece of bone and drapery of the famous religious savant from Magnano in France from Peter Pisani, Apostolic Delegate of the East Indies and he wanted to consecrate them in a suitable church for this purpose.

The cathedral was designed by French architects and its foundation was laid by the then Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadeyar II in 1933. This church is modelled on Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and the Gothic Church at Cologne in Germany.

Unique Architectural Style with Some Greek Features

The most attractive part of this edifice is the two tall imposing pointed towers at the facade itself. The two towers rise to a height of 165 ft. The elegance of this structure is enhanced by miniature pointed towers at different points, adding further height to the cathedral.

The vertically fashioned tall windows at regular intervals add a great charm. The pointed triangular gothic motifs at different places is another attraction.

Crypt with statue of Saint Philomena in Mysore

The church has a crypt in which is a statue of Saint Philomena in a catacomb-like cell. A piece of her bone is preserved at the center of a beautiful shield. There is also a piece of her drapery. Hence, this is important to Roman Catholics.

The interior of the cathedral is decorated with attractive colonnades and glass paintings made in France. Particularly noteworthy are the paintings of crucification of Christ and John baptizing Christ. The annual Saint Philomena’s feast is held in this cathedral. Large numbers of Roman Catholic devotees visit this sacred cathedral.

Unique Architectural Style with Some Greek Features of Saint Philomena's Church, Mysore

Hundreds of tourists of all religions to Mysore visit this cathedral daily to see the lofty and beautiful, tall and imposing towers and the architecture of a rare type not generally seen in many areas of this country.

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Posted in Faith and Religion Travels and Journeys

A Value Investing Checklist from ‘Poor Charlie’s Almanack’

'Poor Charlie's Almanack' by Charles T. Munger (ISBN 1578645018)

From Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger

Risk—All investment evaluations should begin by measuring risk, especially reputational

  • Incorporate an appropriate margin of safety
  • Avoid dealing with people of questionable character
  • Insist upon proper compensation for risk assumed
  • Always beware of inflation and interest rate exposures
  • Avoid big mistakes; shun permanent capital loss

Independence—“Only in fairy tales are emperors told they are naked”

  • Objectivity and rationality require independence of thought
  • Remember that just because other people agree or disagree with you doesn’t make you right or wrong—the only thing that matters is the correctness of your analysis and judgment
  • Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance)

Preparation—“The only way to win is to work, work, work, work, and hope to have a few insights”

  • Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day
  • More important than the will to win is the will to prepare
  • Develop fluency in mental models from the major academic disciplines
  • If you want to get smart, the question you have to keep asking is “why, why, why?”

Intellectual humility—Acknowledging what you don’t know is the dawning of wisdom

  • Stay within a well-defined circle of competence
  • Identify and reconcile disconfirming evidence
  • Resist the craving for false precision, false certainties, etc.
  • Above all, never fool yourself, and remember that you are the easiest person to fool

Analytic rigor—Use of the scientific method and effective checklists minimizes errors and omissions

  • Determine value apart from price; progress apart from activity; wealth apart from size
  • It is better to remember the obvious than to grasp the esoteric
  • Be a business analyst, not a market, macroeconomic, or security analyst
  • Consider totality of risk and effect; look always at potential second order and higher level impacts
  • Think forwards and backwards—Invert, always invert

Allocation—Proper allocation of capital is an investor’s number one job

  • Remember that highest and best use is always measured by the next best use (opportunity cost)
  • Good ideas are rare—when the odds are greatly in your favor, bet (allocate) heavily
  • Don’t “fall in love” with an investment—be situation-dependent and opportunity-driven

Patience—Resist the natural human bias to act

  • “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world” (Einstein); never interrupt it unnecessarily
  • Avoid unnecessary transactional taxes and frictional costs; never take action for its own sake
  • Be alert for the arrival of luck
  • Enjoy the process along with the proceeds, because the process is where you live

Decisiveness—When proper circumstances present themselves, act with decisiveness and conviction

  • Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful
  • Opportunity doesn’t come often, so seize it when it comes
  • Opportunity meeting the prepared mind; that’s the game

Change—Live with change and accept unremovable complexity

  • Recognize and adapt to the true nature of the world around you; don’t expect it to adapt to you
  • Continually challenge and willingly amend your “best-loved ideas”
  • Recognize reality even when you don’t like it—especially when you don’t like it

Focus—Keep things simple and remember what you set out to do

  • Remember that reputation and integrity are your most valuable assets—and can be lost in a heartbeat
  • Guard against the effects of hubris and boredom
  • Don’t overlook the obvious by drowning in minutiae
  • Be careful to exclude unneeded information or slop: “A small leak can sink a great ship”
  • Face your big troubles; don’t sweep them under the rug
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Posted in Investing and Finance

Bernard Baruch’s 10 Rules of Investing

Bernard Baruch (1870–1965) was the son of a South Carolina physician whose family moved to New York City when he was eleven year old. By his mid-twenties, he is able to buy an $18,000 seat on the exchange with his winnings and commissions from being a broker. By age 30, he is a millionaire and is known all over The Street as “The Lone Wolf”.

Bernard Baruch's 10 Rules of Investing Born in Camden, South Carolina, and raised in New York City, Bernard Mannes Baruch graduated from the City College of New York in 1889. His original job on Wall Street, at the brokerage firm of A. A. Housman & Co., paid $3 a week, but he became a millionaire by the time he was thirty. He was a director of the New York Stock Exchange, a front-runner in mining finance, and an irregular investor in properties ran by the Guggenheim household. Even though he did not sell out just before the stock market crash of 1929, as fable has it, he did recover the bulk of his fortune.

In his two-volume 1957 memoirs, My Own Story and The Public Years, Baruch left us with the following timeless rules for investing

Being so skeptical about the usefulness of advice, I have been reluctant to lay down any ‘rules’ or guidelines on how to invest or speculate wisely. Still, there are a number of things I have learned from my own experience which might be worth listing for those who are able to muster the necessary self-discipline.

  • Don’t speculate unless you can make it a full-time job.
  • Beware of barbers, beauticians, waiters—of anyone—bringing gifts of “inside” information or “tips.”
  • Before you buy a security, find out everything you can about the company, its management and competitors, its earnings and possibilities for growth.
  • 'Baruch My Own Story' by Bernard Baruch (ISBN 1607969130) Don’t try to buy at the bottom and sell at the top. This can’t be done—except by liars.
  • Learn how to take your losses quickly and cleanly. Don’t expect to be right all the time. If you have made a mistake, cut your losses as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t buy too many different securities. Better have only a few investments which can be watched.
  • Make a periodic reappraisal of all your investments to see whether changing developments have altered their prospects.
  • Study your tax position to know when you can sell to greatest advantage.
  • Always keep a good part of your capital in a cash reserve. Never invest all your funds.
  • Don’t try to be a jack of all investments. Stick to the field you know best.

Baruch would afterwards continue from Wall Street to Washington DC as an consultant to both Woodrow Wilson and to Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.

Later on, he became identified as the Park Bench Statesman, due to his keenness for debating policy and politics with his associates in the open air.

He lived until a few days before his 95th birthday in 1965. You could do worse than to invest and live based on these facts.

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10 Leadership Lessons from JFK

10 Leadership Lessons from JFK

John F. Kennedy remains a popular president. He was one of those rare presidents who became more popular during his time in office. In the last Gallup poll before his assassination, Kennedy’s approval rating stood at 70 percent!

Some pundits have dismissed Kennedy as “all profile and no courage.” But a closer look reveals that behind the charisma, smile and bold rhetoric, lay courage aplenty, plus vision and substance.

  • Craft a compelling vision. By 1960, a new generation of “Baby Boomers” was coming of age. What was to be their challenge? In his Inaugural Address, Kennedy gave them one: “Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation-a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that effort?” He dared young Americans to take on the status quo and to push themselves to the limit.
  • 'JFK and the Unspeakable' by James W Douglass (ISBN 1439193886) Face adversity with a smile. John F. Kennedy was born with an unstable back, which he aggravated further in sports and in the PT-109 incident. Also, he nearly died of scarlet fever as an infant, was mistakenly diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager, developed Addison’s Disease, which could be controlled only with painful cortisone treatments, suffered from allergies, bad eyesight, slight deafness in one ear, and much else besides. Born into a wealthy family, yet cursed with a sickly body, Kennedy could have given in to self-pity and sat on the sidelines. He refused, facing his maladies with a smile and joke. He was thus well-prepared to deal with the frustrations of political life.
  • Don’t follow the crowd. John F. Kennedy set his own course in life, always wary of being seen as anybody’s “man.” As a young man, he spent much time in Europe watching his father make blunder after blunder as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, and young Kennedy resolved not to repeat them. He rejected his father’s crabbed isolationism in favor of a robust internationalism personified by Kennedy’s hero, Winston Churchill. He and his brother Bobby investigated corruption in U.S. labor unions, particularly the Teamsters. He also took on the American Legion, the House Democratic leadership, the Pentagon top brass.
  • Educate yourself. A passion for self-education might be one of the most reliable markers of leadership: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan were mostly self-taught. Jack Kennedy became a reader during his childhood illnesses as he lay flat on his back in hospitals. History, biography, and historical fiction, such as Churchill’s History of the First World War and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, were among his favorites. Before becoming president, Kennedy traveled the globe, visiting places few Americans had ever been, such as Vietnam. The contrast he witnessed between pre-war and post-war Berlin demonstrated vividly the possible consequences of world war, especially if it became nuclear.
  • 'Churchill: The Power of Words' by Winston Churchill (ISBN 0306821974) Learn to communicate. Kennedy was a poor public speaker at the start of his career. He spoke too fast, failed to pause for audience reaction, tended to speak from the larynx rather than the diaphragm and so wore out his voice quickly. He spoke with a pronounced regional accent. He dealt with this by keeping his talks short, and leaving time for questions. But he worked hard to improve himself, hiring voice coaches and a speechwriter, Theodore C. Sorensen, who helped him craft memorable phrases and imagery. Kennedy was also one of the first politicians to receive media training. His live press conferences became a White House tradition. He cultivated reporters who wrote favorable stories about him and his family and declined to write about his affairs and illnesses. He used his communication skills to rally the nation to fight the Cold War, soothe its fears, inspire unity, and achieve its highest aspirations.
  • Don’t let crises manage you. Perhaps the most important quality a leader can possess is the ability to manage a crisis without letting the crisis manage the leader. Kennedy projected a calm confidence that communicated to those around him and to the country. For example, during the Cuban missile crisis (October 1962), Kennedy remained calm and refused to retaliate. To prevent future miscommunications, Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed to establish a “hotline” between the White House and Kremlin.
  • Build a team and find your “Bobby.” No one gets to the top alone. To reach and hold a major leadership position, you need to build a team. Kennedy learned early how to get along with people from all walks of life. He could charm European aristocrats as well as bell hops and cab drivers with equal felicity. His intensity and purpose proved irresistible, and most people who worked for him remained devoted to him (no member of the Kennedy circle ever wrote even a remotely hostile memoir.) When Jack’s first Senate campaign manager proved incompetent, he turned to his brother Bobby, who impressed Jack with his organizational abilities. Bobby took charge, firing those who failed to perform and promoting those who showed drive and determination. He became indispensable to his brother, who defied the charges of nepotism to name him attorney general. Everyone at the top needs someone whose advice he can trust implicitly.
  • Add a touch of showmanship. When Kennedy became president, the presidential aircraft was painted in an orange-white-and-black paint scheme with the phrase “Military Air Transport Command” stenciled on the side. For the New Frontier, this simply wouldn’t do. So Kennedy called in Raymond Loewy, a great industrial designer. Loewy came up with the pale blue and white paint scheme and the words “United States of America” stenciled on the fuselage. Kennedy also discovered the aircraft had a codename: Air Force One. That was too good a name to keep secret, and Kennedy began using it publicly.
  • 'Profiles in Courage' by John F Kennedy (ISBN 0060854936) Learn from mistakes. When Cuban exiles invaded that country with U.S. support early in his administration in an effort to overthrow Fidel Castro, the effort collapsed ignominiously. Kennedy did not blame the previous administration, whose idea it was. Instead, he accepted full responsibility, saying, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” Still, there were consequences. The director and deputy director of the CIA were both sacked. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were required to give their opinions to him in writing. Never again would Kennedy simply trust anyone’s word. Instead, he questioned his advisers to ensure all options were explored.
  • Do what’s right. Courage is a leitmotif running through Kennedy’s life. He possessed enormous physical courage, playing rough sports like football and starring on the Harvard swimming team despite his fragile frame. Before the United States entered World War II in 1941, Jack enlisted in the navy. After the PT-109 was sunk by a Japanese destroyer, he joked with his men to keep their spirits up. His best-known book is called Profiles in Courage, which chronicles the stories of United States senators who risked their careers by supporting unpopular causes.

When African-Americans were agitating for their civil rights, Kennedy at first hesitated to embrace their cause, fearing it would damage him politically. But on June 11, 1963, he did so wholeheartedly. Kennedy was the first president to call for equal rights for all Americans. And his words could not be taken back once he had spoken them. In addition to his physical courage, he had inner courage as well.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership