Saturday, August 20, 2005

Managing for Creativity

In my previous post that had generated some buzz, I wrote that most people are not (directly) motivated by money. They work because they feel appreciated for what they do.

In today's environment where almost everything is outsourced, is heavily commoditized, and is highly deregulated, most competitive advantages no longer come from access to certain technology, certain raw materials, railroad access, or political connections. They often come from how effective an organization can "exploit" the only thing that's internally controllable: its own "creative capital". Though "exploit" might sound to be a negative term, it really is not. Take SAS.

Harvard Business Review, July-August 2005
Managing for Creativity

"Creative people work for the love of the challenge. An InformationWeek survey of tens of thousands of IT workers confirms that theory: On-the-job challenge ranks well above salary and other financial incentives as the key source of motivation ... SAS recognizes that 95% of its assets drive out the front gate every evening. Leaders consider it their job to bring them back the next morning. It takes roughly six months to get a new worker up to speed in terms of technical knowledge, but it takes years for the employee to truly absorb a company's culture and forge solid relationships.

(And) people who are preoccupied wondering 'When can I fit in time at the gym?' or 'Is that meeting going to waste my whole afternoon?' can't be entirely focused on the job at hand. The Oprah Winfrey Show, 60 Minutes, and lots of newspaper and magazine articles have publicized the perks SAS lavishes on its employees, but the company isn't just doling out treats willy-nilly. Not only do the benefits make workers more productive, but they also help retain those workers, reducing the company's expenses for recruitment and replacement ... the managers (in SAS) clear away obstacles for employees by procuring whatever materials they need. Larnell Lennon, who leads the software-testing team, describes his job as 'Go get it, go get it, go get it'. When his people come to him asking for a software package or financial support, he doesn't pepper them with questions. If it's a reasonable request, he takes care of it. If the outcomes aren't up to snuff, it's a different matter ... Some have described SAS's philosophy as 'Hire hard, manage soft.' But 'Hire hard, manage open, fire hard' is more apt.": Richard Florida, Professor, George Mason University, and Jim Goodnight, CEO, SAS Institute.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Moments of Greatness

Each time I was asked: 'what was your career-best moment' or 'what was your greatest leadership achievement'; my answer had always been: 2003 Zhengzhou, China, production facility start-up. That was my defining moment. More than two years ago. This is not to say that I accomplished nothing since then--though I probably did slack out a bit since then :) It was just ... different. I believed this moment had helped my career advances in many big ways. People saw what I did and remembered me for what I did; despite--and not for--how young and inexperienced I was. Ask anyone involved; and they will tell you just that.

There I was, in Zhengzhou, China ... given the opportunity and responsibility to support a plant start up. I was only 23 years old, barely 18 months out of school.

Harvard Business Review, July-August 2005
Moments of Greatness: Entering the Fundamental State of Leadership

"I call it the fundamental state of leadership. It's the way we lead when we encounter a crisis and finally choose to move forward. Think back to a time when you faced a significant life challenge ... First, we move from being comfort centered to being results centered. Second, we move from being externally directed to being more internally directed. That means that we stop complying with others' expectations and conforming to the current culture. Third, we become less self-focused and more focused on others. Fourth, we become more open to outside signals or stimuli, including those that require us to do things we are not comfortable doing. We are adaptive, credible, and unique ... By entering the fundamental state of leadership, we increase the likelihood of attracting others to an elevated level of community, a high-performance state that may continue even when we are not present ... When leaders do their best work, they don't copy anyone. They draw on their own values and capabilities.

To get started (to reenter the fundamental state), we can ask ourselves (the) four questions ... Am I results centered? ... Am I internally directed? ... Am I other focused? ... Am I externally open?": Robert E. Quinn, Professor, University of Michigan Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor

Monday, August 08, 2005

In Belgian Beers and French Wines ... Ieper: First Month

Dear Friends:

By the way, Ieper is with an "i", not an "L". And those are not all cathedrals. The big buildings are the cloth halls that are used for trading clothes in the middle ages; now they are being used as stadhuis--townhalls. Though you are right; they have found other uses for the Cathedrals. Have you heard the expression: it's so obsolete it must have been "a" museum? Now you have. It's ironic I know. Just wait until they turn the Cathedrals into a Science Museum.

I was supposed to have a walk in closet--have to admit these things are a luxury around Ieper--but the apartment that I wanted was snapped out before HR could make a decision on my living arrangements. I am not too happy with my apartment now, but anyway it's fairly cheap. No, they do not have satellite dishes here. Why would you want the ugly dishes on top of these "cute little dollhouses" (as a friend called them) anyway?

I love it here, though I have to admit that I am homesick already. Missed my big-ass fridge, Costco, 24 hr neigborhood Kroger's, AC, SUV, cheap Chinese, American (sized) steaks, golf course lot, Best Buy, cheap(er) gas, free reward credit cards, and all other American (hedonistic) "cultures" (but NEVER mention the phrase "American Culture" in front of a European unless you're mentally ready for some verbal abuses). Shoot; but I won't complain about the cheap reliable train (did I mention 1 hour train ride to Paris?), friendly and sociable people, downtown living and free concerts, Belgian beer, French wine, mild weather ... who needs AC? Come to think about it, at least I will never have to wear sweater in my office in the middle of the summer anymore.

And I missed y'all. Hope you will come visit soon, since I've planned so much travel I won't get to set a foot in the "States" within the next three years!