FixOrReplace


Let’s suppose that an organization is functioning in a way that is not leading to good or desired outcomes. Things are just not working out the way we want. What to do?

This kind of dilemma can develop in families, in groups from teams to social gatherings, from corner shops to international businesses. Any time people get together with a goal or outcome in mind, there is the potential for bad or at least less than optimal outcomes. So what is the cause and, more importantly, what is the fix?

The underlying cause is usually some variety of the same issue. To understand how it happens, there are a few points that need our attention.

• Things are always organized and functioning perfectly to get the outcomes we are getting. Were we to start from scratch, wanting the outcomes we are currently experiencing, we couldn’t do better than to encourage everyone to keep up the good work, using only the resources and opportunities available to them today.

• The way people, roles, responsibilities and resources are currently arranged and distributed is optimal for the current outcomes.

• If we are satisfied with how things are working out, maintaining the status quo is definitely our best choice and needs to be our highest priority.

But what if we are not satisfied? What if the status quo is not acceptable? The answer is easy: something has got to give, things have to change.

Here’s the problem. We look at the status quo, focus on how things are working today. Our assumption is that something or someone is not functioning correctly or well enough, assume that something is screwed up or that someone is screwing up. We just need to identify the malfunction and fix it.

The good news is that this quick fix gets the job done now and then. Things get better and outcomes improve. But more often, the status quo persists and now and then, things get worse. Even so, trying to fix things or encouraging or forcing a people change is usually worth a shot. It might just work.

The bad news is that if the status quo is truly unacceptable and if the outcomes we are getting are also unacceptable, simply trying to fix whatever we think is not functioning correctly won’t work and is likely to make everything worse. This is particularly true when the problems have been persisting for quite a while. Something more is needed.

There are a couple of realities that are easily overlooked.

• Most groups and organizations have evolved over time. They weren’t just formed today to achieve today’s goals. The reality is that they were formed some time ago to achieve the goals we had at that time. Since then, the group or organization has gotten less successful at achieving those goals or, more likely, the goals themselves have changed.

• Either way, our target is to achieve today’s goals. The reality is that very few groups or organizations are configured optimally to deal with today’s goals. Were we to start from scratch, we wouldn’t configure our group or organization as it currently exists. It is also unlikely that we would use the exact same strategy that we are currently committed to using. Instead of starting with the status quo and asking how we can make it work for us, we would start with the current goal and ask what the best way is to achieve that goal.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, what we discover is that we are approaching the issue from the wrong perspective. Our natural move is to try to figure out how to enable our current group or organization to achieve today’s goal. We think that fixing it will get the job done.

A better alternative is to start with a clear understanding of today’s goal. With that in mind, we need to figure out the best way to achieve the goal, if we were to initiate the process from scratch. This step results in our knowing what the optimal strategy is and the best configuration to implement that strategy.

With the optimal strategy and configuration as our roadmap, our effort shifts from fixing things to doing whatever is necessary to transform the current group or organization into the optimal configuration needed to achieve the current goal. But how do we go about facilitating the transformation?

• Stop doing everything that is not working today, especially if those current activities are not needed in the transformed configuration. In an organization of most any size beyond a few people, there are things that have always been done and once had a valid purpose but no longer serve any legitimate purpose. Just stop doing them.

• There are current activities that partially have some legitimate purpose and can’t be abruptly stopped. Those should be temporarily continued, pending development of the transformed strategy to achieve today’s goal.

• Within the current group or organization, there are usually elements and people that can and will be part of implementing the new strategy. As quickly as possible, transfer them from the current strategy to the new strategy. Start building the transformed group or organization needed to implement the new strategy.

• It’s rather like relocating an operation to a new facility. We bring along only those elements and people needed in the new facility. We make the transition gradually but progressively. To the extent possible, we retrain and support current people, making our best effort to enable them to join us in the new facility. Many but not all will successfully make the change.

If we go back to the beginning, let’s suppose that an organization is functioning in a way that is not leading to good or desired outcomes. Things are just not working out the way we want. What to do? We transform the current group or organization into a new entity optimally configured to do today’s business today. We fundamentally dismantle the current group or organization, replacing it with an entity fully conforming to contemporary standards and values while consistently achieving today’s goals. At the bottom line, we haven’t fixed anything. We have replaced in place. The old group or organization is gone and the new entity is in place, doing what needs done today.

Now you know so there you go.

Fired With Enthusiasm


Fired With Enthusiasm

“Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.” = “Seize the day, put no trust in tomorrow.” –– Horace

Along with “Carpe diem,” Horace said, “He has the deed half done who has made a beginning.” Indira Gandhi also thought that getting on with getting on is the way to go, “Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy joined the get your get up and go up and going chorus when he said, “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.” And perchance you think that people will simply assume that you have good intentions without your actually needing to go for it, the famous Anon pointed out, “Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold –– but so does a hard–boiled egg.”

There you have it, the argument for not sitting around twiddling your thumbs; but, as with most ideas, there is an alternative point of view. One might suppose that it’s now time to dig in, go for the gusto, strike while the iron is hot, expatiate, explicate, and generally expound on that alternative point of view; but one would be wrong. Remember Johann von Goethe’s warning, “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

If that isn’t sufficient to slow the pace, also remember Walter Kerr’s observation, “Half the world is composed of idiots, the other half of people clever enough to take indecent advantage of them.” It would be well to first determine whether one is clever, an idiot, or merely a clever idiot before jumping to an ill considered conclusion. If all of that still doesn’t put the brakes on for you, persuade you to look before you leap, and convince you not to jump off the cliff until you learn how to fly, listen to Laurence J. Peter, “Fortune knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.” And speaking of misfortune, even Horace advised you to put no trust in tomorrow.

OK, you’ve got them, the alternative points of view. Do you act or not act, take a chance or play it safe? Sure, you need to Carpe diem; but it’s worth pointing out that even Horace didn’t say that it can’t wait till after lunch.

Having said that and with a balanced perspective firmly in mind, know that, “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.” –– Vince Lombardi

This isn’t always true but is true enough often enough. It may not be true if you are the boss’ kid, the only one who knows how to drive the truck, or if it’s your ball and you will take it and go home if they don’t let you pitch. Other than that, think of it as Lombardi’s immutable law of continuing employment. Oliver Wendell Holmes even knew the source of the fire, “Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing.”

You probably won’t want to take the getting fired up thing as far as John Wesley did. He is the one who said, “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.” Even so, John W. Foster’s point is definitely worth keeping in mind, “One of the strongest characteristics of genius is the power of lighting its own fire.” Turning into a torch like Wesley is going a tad too far; but keeping a match handy to light your own fire might be pretty cool, so to speak. Being a genius certainly can’t hurt your chances of avoiding the employment ax, if it falls.

If you don’t happen to have a promising future as a genius, Napoleon Hill offers some useful advice, “The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat.” You need to have a strong desire to succeed, a lot of Lombardi’s enthusiasm. As Publius Terentius Afer pointed out, “There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.”

Winston Churchill hit the same nail on the head, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” And Robert Schuller drove it home when he said, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” Schuller could have easily added, “And do it enthusiastically.” Should you be thinking that the fire you need exceeds your capacity, the popular Anon. has a parting thought just for you, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

FailureMayNotBeNecessary


Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions. – Author unknown

All the mischiefs in the world may be put down to the general, indiscriminate veneration of old laws, old customs, and old religion. – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Stubbornness does have its helpful features. You always know what you are going to be thinking tomorrow. – Glen Beaman

The relationship between trial and suffering is a common theme in the success and motivation literature, although “failure” usually replaces “trial and suffering” in the equation. For example, Benjamin Disraeli said, “All my successes have been built on my failures.” The famous Anon. said, “Failure is a better teacher than success, but she seldom finds an apple on her desk;” and Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, said, “Most success springs from an obstacle or failure.” Maury Povich joined in too when he said, “There’s got to be a glitch along the way, or else you lose touch with reality.” Robert Louis Stevenson took the concept to the extreme, “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits;” and Winston Churchill echoed the theme, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Now isn’t that just dandy. It’s enough to make one get out there and fail just to get firmly on the path to success; and the bigger the failure, the better. “Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success,” according to Napoleon Hill. Perhaps a good measure of trial and suffering would also be a terrific addition to one’s optimal success strategy.

Interestingly, simply failing is, by itself, not sufficient. One must develop the right attitude toward failure. Reggie Jackson suggested, “I feel the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it.” Dexter Yager said, “A winner is one who accepts his failures and mistakes, picks up the pieces, and continues striving to reach his goals.” It’s a get back on the horse kind of thing. Denis Waitley puts it this way, “Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.”

At least Norman Vincent Peale didn’t buy into the negative approach to success, “We’ve all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it is more important to learn from our successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.” The conclusion here is simple. Fail if you absolutely can’t avoid it. If you fail, don’t quit. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. Having said that, success is always more fun than failing and there is never any shame in having fun. The key is to do the right things right, the first time, on time, every time. With that as your personal standard, you won’t always have fun but the odds will definitely favor your proactive approach to success.

Now you know so there you go.

F Ing Has A Lot Going For It


F’ing Has A Lot Going For It

“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.” –– Maurice Baring

You definitely don’t want to be rude and undoubtedly avoid what you have come to think of as rude or vulgar behavior. Eric Hoffer punctuated the point when he said, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” You are neither weak nor an imitation of anyone or anything else. You are definitely your own person and are most certainly not rude. However, there is a little tip that may come in handy now and then, even for a classy person like you. It expands your options a tad as you keep your commitment not to be rude or vulgar.

Have you heard people talking whose vocabulary seems to be so adjective challenged that everything is F’ing this or F’ing that? It can get to where it’s hard to tell whether F’ing is a good quality or bad. Of course, F’ing is also sometimes a verb which one presumes refers to desirable activity but even that isn’t always clear. The problem here is that F’ing has become a word that people who are even slightly literate carefully avoid, along with staying away from people who include it in their active vocabularies. This is unfortunate since F’ing actually has a lot going for it if managed thoughtfully. You are skeptical? Read on.

Do you ever have trouble sticking to your personal priorities? Even worse, do you sometimes have trouble knowing what your priorities are? The next time you find yourself struggling with what’s important or what deserves your attention, remember that it’s only a temporary memory laps. You have just forgotten about F’ing.

F1 = Family: What’s that you are saying? You have higher priorities than your family? OK. You must be way into money or power or both. If so, you definitely have no interest in this kind of F’ing. Your kind of F’ing is quite another approach to success. Let’s hope that you are very good at it and that the next person you meet isn’t better at it than you. If they are, you are likely to learn a tough lesson that you are unlikely to enjoy. Nonetheless, it’s your choice. The rest of us will stick with F1 = Family.

F2 = Friends: Let’s restrict friends to people you could call in the middle of the night and ask them if they will do you a big favor. Sure, you can call anyone whenever you feel like it. Friends are the ones who don’t ask if you have lost your F’ing mind. Actually, they don’t ask anything. They just say, “Sure,” and wait to see what you need. Do you have a friend like that? If so, thank your lucky stars and be sure you never do anything to jeopardize such a special relationship. You have hit the people jackpot.

F3 = Fun: There you go again, mumbling in the middle of this essay. You are too busy for fun. You have too much responsibility to take time out for fun. You are going to have lots of fun just as soon as you are successful. You have your priorities and having fun isn’t one of them. Oh well, it seemed worth mentioning. While you are keeping your shoulder to the grind stone, the rest of us are going to take a little time now and then for some fun. You never know. You might notice us and decide that it looks like so much fun that you will give it a try, if you remember how. Let’s hope that you still remember how once you are finished becoming successful and that you are still up to it whenever that day finally arrives.

F4 = Food: Yes, eating healthy is important and we are what we eat and there isn’t any free lunch. But since you need to eat, you might as well make it a priority. It’s better than Fasting which is the only other “F” word in that category. What is the absolute best snack in the world? No, don’t worry about regular, every day food. You will work enough of that in without making it a priority. Think about a great snack, a totally terrific snack, the perfect snack. Do you have it in mind? Can you taste it? Is it at the center of your attention? OK. That’s called prioritizing. How will you get that snack for yourself? That’s called planning. Now, make that snack yours. That’s called performance. There you go. Prioritize, Plan, Perform. That snack is yours.

F5 = Faith: This one is easy. Have faith in your family. Have faith in your friends. Have fun while you prioritize, plan, and perform. Most importantly, have faith in you. If you do, you are assuredly going to be an F’ing success. Now just how cool is that? Sure, it’s F’ing cool.

ExitStrategy


Whether your goal is to give a stirring speech, stand up and preach, passionately beseech, or quietly teach, you need an exit strategy.

Whether your goal is to lavish with praise, turn a clever phrase, ask your boss for a raise, or merely sit and gaze, you need an exit strategy.

Whether your goal is to ride a bike, take a hike, build a dike, or play a game you like, you need an exit strategy.

Whether your goal is to walk in the rain, fly a plain, travel by train, or simply refrain, you need an exit strategy.

Sure, I could continue without angst or rancor whether your goal is to captain a tanker or to do lunch with a banker, sell ice cream in Alaska or grow palm trees in Nebraska. You still need an exit strategy.

The need for an exit strategy is never quite as important as when talking or writing. Okay, it’s pretty important to have an exit strategy if you plan on jumping in the lake or grabbing a snake, slipping out for a break or just staying awake. Even so, if your plan is to give a speech or write an article, make a presentation or publish your novel, having an exit strategy is essential.

What is the big deal about this exit strategy thing?

At a broad level, most things are easier to get into than out of, easier to start than finish, quicker promised than delivered, and most importantly, much easier done than undone. The range of messes we can and sometimes do get ourselves into is sometimes astounding. Fortunately, most of us usually manage to avoid these pitfalls of life and living. We are normally thoughtful enough and cautious enough to keep ourselves between the lines.

When talking and writing though, far too many of us venture forth without so much as a rudimentary exit strategy. The talk we give or point we make just hangs out there with no landing point or conclusion. We know that our exit strategy was inadequate or missing when we stop talking and those around us immediately resume talking about something else as if we hadn’t said anything at all. From their perspective, that’s what happened. We said nothing worth further consideration.

The same level of non–response can also be experienced when writing without an exit strategy. Whether your words are only for sport or the text of a report, as rough as a wart or ready for court, you are hoping for a response. It’s not precisely material what you hope the response will be but a response is nonetheless anticipated. When you have personally observed a more detectable response from people scanning the menu at McDonalds, you know that you have written without an exit strategy. You would have faired better ordering a Big Mac.

Here is a pro tip for assuring that you always have an exit strategy when speaking or writing. It matters not whether your audience is standing room only or but two or three, whether you write for the ages or are just texting me, know how you will finish before you start, know where you are headed before you depart.

Whether my goal is to give a stirring speech, stand up and preach, passionately beseech, or quietly teach, I take care to have an exit strategy. I now pass the tip along to you. Please make it your first step to assure that you always get the last word.