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Corporate Culture: Live it or Leave it

I-Love-(Heart)-My-Awesome-Company-T-ShirtsCompany culture.

It's one of those fascinating terms that conjures different meanings for different people. We all filter it through the cultures in which we've worked. For some people, it's a wonderful term equated with teamwork and comradery and accomplishment. For others, it may mean drudgery and distrust. 

I've always been fascinated by culture, especially being a consultant. I've been exposed to numerous cultures inside and outside my home town. I've watched cultures shift over the years... some for the better, others for the worse. My current client has an amazing culture, and much of the credit is due to the fact they make their employees aware of the culture and their individual impact on it.

I think awareness is a key aspect of any organizational culture. I recently sent copies of my books to a friend. He's been reading my book, GUST, about office politics. Before he started, he offhandedly remarked that his organization was free of politics. Now that's he's halfway through the book, he's aware of the some of the signs of office politics he never noticed before. Sometimes, you need to be able to look at your own culture through an outsider's eyes.

I've also written before about toxic cultures, where people are blindsided by sneak attacks. If you're not paying attention, you miss a lot. The signs of your culture are there for you to read and interpret.

What is your corporate culture telling you? If you were to look at your coworkers, your furniture layout, your dress code, your meetings, your policies and procedures, and your general vibe through fresh eyes, what would you see?

Just some thoughts to start out your work week.


It's a Shame

ShameI was catching up on news the other day online and ran across the story of Adam Smith, the former CFO who was fired after his vitriolic Chick-Fil-A video went viral. He went from making $200K a year with a million more in stock options to being on food stamps. He had managed to get a job elsewhere, but when his new employer found out about the video, they also fired him.

About the same time as seeing the news story, as I was cleaning my shed (have to love post-move spring cleaning)I ran across Jonah Lehrer's book, How We Decide. It reminded me of the plagiarism and fabrication scandal involving this book and his newer one, Imagine.

It's interesting how things of such short proximity collide in my brain. A couple of months back, I read a thought-provoking piece by Jon Ronson in the New York Times entitled, "How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life." In this piece, he dissects numerous incidents of public shaming. In this day and age of social media, it's pretty easy to pick a metaphorical skeleton clean in a matter of seconds and retweets. A couple of paragraphs struck me, though:

Still, in those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.

Eventually I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized. (NYT 2/15/15, Ronson)

I know I've felt the self-righteous twinge of vengeance when I've perceived a wrong, whether against me or somebody else. In the early days of social media, Ronson nailed it: there was a leveling of social justice. But now it all seems so swift, so severe. And in this day of social media and mobile phones with video cameras, anybody and everybody seems to be fair game.

My bottom line is this: yes, there are people on this planet who do stupid, careless, thoughtless, and rude things. Their reasons are as vast as the stupidity of their actions. (Guess what? We all fall into that category; most of us are just fortunate enough that our actions weren't captured on camera or on social media.) Perhaps it's this Easter season and the thought of forgiveness is forefront on my brain, but maybe - just maybe - afford people a little leniency (or at least a meaningful dialogue) before passing judgment.

From "Go To" to "Gone"

Dahls ClosingOur Dahl's grocery store has shuttered its doors for the last time. We are pretty fortunate, since we live within a two-mile radius of about four grocery stores. While we were fairly stable Hy-Vee shoppers, Dahl's was always our "go to" store, since it was the closest. I felt the pain for the first time yesterday when I was tasked with fixing supper for the family. I needed a few last second ingredients. Usually, when the terms "need" and "last second" enter a sentence, the grocery flowchart arrows point to Dahl's; however, due to Dahl's bankruptcy, I ended up going to Hy-Vee.

I'm a little nostalgic about it... after all, we've shopped there for 19 years. I remember scurrying there when we first moved into the neighborhood to pick up a few things just so we could have breakfast the next morning in our new house. We've learned about the cashiers and their lives. We have memories there. But, as I already mentioned, we also have other stores.

The Dahl's closure made me think about the "go to" PEOPLE in our lives. Who are the ones who seem to have all the answers, all the resources, all the contacts? Are you treating them with the appropriate level of respect and appreciation, or are you just using them like we used the Dahl's grocery stores: they're around when I need them, but I have others with whom I'd rather spend my time?

As I mature in my career, I've learned how valuable those "go to" people really are in the day-to-day battles to seize the accomplishment. Invest in them and their goals, demonstrate your appreciation, and foster the relationship to something beyond "as needed" - these will go a long way to ensure your "go to" person doesn't go away from lack of use.

My grocery shopping habits will adjust over time. Maybe the grocery gods will smile, and our former Dahl's store will become a Trader Joe's (fingers crossed). Most likely, it will become some kind of ubiquitous strip mall, purporting Pilates, checking cashing, and tattoos. Sigh.

Audvisor: Sound Advice

AudvisorWords fail me.

That seems ironic given I'm announcing an app where people are talking.

I guess that I still get "star struck" when it comes to my heroes in the business world. When I think about the past 9 years of social media presence (another wow, since the anniversary of my first blog post hits at the end of the week), I'm in awe about the blessings of being able to meet so many amazing people in our shared journey of improving the modern workplace.

Last June, I received a Facebook message from Rajesh Setty (another of my social media friends I've just not yet met in real life), asking me if I'd like to talk to him about an opportunity. Many phone calls, emails, and a Skype chat later, the opportunity came to fruition. That opportunity was an app that launched today: Audvisor.

Audvisor pulls together many of the people I've admired and read over the past decade. The roster reads like a who's who of a modern business library: 

  • Anil Gupta
  • Ari Meisel
  • Dr. Avnesh Ratnanesan
  • Barbara Safani
  • Berni Xiong
  • Bill Belew
  • Bill Henderson
  • Bill Treasurer
  • BJ Bushur
  • Blair Dunkley
  • Bryan Kramer
  • Chris Edmonds
  • Chris Taylor
  • Chris Warner
  • Colleen Stanley
  • David Meerman Scott
  • David Newman
  • Debra Fine
  • Denise Lee Yohn
  • Devon Bandison
  • Dilip Saraf
  • Dorie Clark
  • Ellen Petry Leanse
  • Guy Kawasaki
  • Hiten Shah
  • Ian Gotts
  • Janet Fouts
  • Jason Womack
  • Jay Heinrichs
  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz
  • Jodi Womack
  • Joel Comm
  • Justin Popovic
  • Karin Hurt
  • Kevin Eikenberry
  • Laura Stack
  • Lily Hills
  • Lindy Cozens
  • Dr. Liz Alexander
  • Mark Thompson
  • Michael Port
  • Michelle Tillis Lederman
  • Mike Michalowicz
  • Mitch Axelrod
  • Mitchell Levy
  • Pamela Slim
  • Paul D'Souza
  • Paul Kirch, PRC
  • Perry Marshall
  • Dr. Prasad Kaipa
  • Renee Airya
  • Richie Norton
  • Robin Gilthorpe
  • Rory Vaden
  • Sally Hogshead
  • Seth Godin
  • Shamash Alidina
  • Simon T. Bailey
  • Sramana Mitra
  • Dr. Stanislav Galik
  • Stephen Shapiro
  • Steve Yastrow
  • Sunil Bhaskaran
  • Tanveer Naseer
  • Dr. Tasha Eurich
  • Terry Starbucker St. Marie
  • Tom Chi
  • Tom Peters
  • Dr. Tony Alessandra
  • Vinod Khosla
  • Will Bunker

... and yours truly (talking about accomplishment, project management, office politics, and systems thinking). I still have more "insights" (their term, not mine) to add, so check back often.

Just another fun adventure on this wild roller coaster of life.

You can download the app to your smart phone here.


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Holy Things-I-Didn't-Know, Batman!

1349626232_alfredauntharrietGood old Aunt Harriet.

You Batman fans remember her from the 1960's television show. That lovely, doting busy-body really had no clue that her nephew and his playmate were superheroes, right under her own nose. Her blue blood personification made us smile. After all, many of us had an Aunt Harriet (albeit one who wasn't filthy rich).

But do you REALLY know Aunt Harriet? More appropriately, do you know the actress who played her, Madge Blake? Ms. Blake passed away soon after the series wrapped up, but it was her life BEFORE acting that astounded and surprised me. Every once in a while, I will go on a Wikipedia rabbit hunt, whenever curiosity gets the better of me. Batman reruns were such an integral part of my childhood that I decided to do a little research on a show based primarily on two superheroes, a butler, a clueless police force, and four recurring villains (with a new villain thrown in from time to time to keep it interesting).

What I discovered about Aunt Harriet was Madge Blake didn't take up acting until the age of 50 (so there's still hope for my career change in a couple of years). Prior to that, she and her husband were integral workers on the Manhattan Project, helping in the construction of the atomic bomb detonator and testing critical equipment. Both received citations from the US government.


I was bowled over like the Joker in the last five minutes of an episode.

You work with a lot of people day in and day out. Certainly you've come to your own conclusions about their "story" (or for most of us egocentric primates, their role in YOUR story). But here's my question for you: Have YOU taken the TIME to really LEARN about those PEOPLE in your life's STORY? Are you fascinated by them or bored with them? Do you feel you know everything you need to know, or are you still curious?

If you've lost that curious edge, it may be time to open up the relationship, check behind the bookcase, and yell, "To the Bat Cave!"

Fifty Shades of GRRR

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtLet's be clear: I've never read the book, Fifty Shades of Grey. I don't plan on seeing the movie by the same name. But the title does make excellent pun-fodder for me to post a list (in no particular order) of some of my top project management pet peeves:

  1. Indecisive decision-makers
  2. Passive-aggressive business analysts
  3. Developers who don’t follow requirements and specifications
  4. Project stakeholders who throw people under the bus
  5. The buses that keep hitting project stakeholders, thus requiring risks be written if this event happens.
  6. Status reports that read like stereo instructions
  7. Methodologies (outside of common sense and experience)
  8. Methodologists who act like Cubicle Pharisees
  9. People who drive slow in the passing lane (I’m sure there’s a project tie-in somewhere)
  10. Quality assurance analysts who refuse to log defects
  11. “Well, it’s technically done…”
  12. Micromanaging executives
  13. People who accuse without adequate fact-checking
  14. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I leave you off that distribution list on that message affecting your project?”
  15. Blatant incompetence
  16. Posers who are more interested in climbing than doing
  17. No clear scope statement… and no desire to research it either
  18. No compelling rationale for the project
  19. Passionless projects
  20. Forgetting a stakeholder
  21. Making assumptions with no valid basis
  22. Not documenting the assumptions made
  23. Those who wish to make estimating an exact science
  24. Executives who hold teams exactly to their estimates
  25. No time to plan properly
  26. Not providing the correct resources to develop the plan
  27. Not providing the correct resources to execute the plan
  28. Turning a lessons learned session into a witch hunt
  29. Inability to prioritize (especially where the triple constraint is involved)
  30. Holding a meeting only because it’s Tuesday at 9:00 AM
  31. Scheduling a meeting for Friday at 4:00 PM
  32. Leaders who can’t facilitate a meeting
  33. Blatant, unchecked dysfunctionality
  34. People who talk too much in meetings
  35. Forgetting to say “thank you”
  36. Lacking a sense of humor
  37. Fill-in-the-blank templates… where half the blanks are required but irrelevant
  38. Executive temper tantrums
  39. The genetic cross of the Peter Principle and Weebles: they’ve hit their point of incompetence but keep bouncing back
  40. “Not my job”
  41. “We can’t do that”
  42. “We’ve always done it that way”
  43. Those who equate project management with filling in blanks on a project plan
  44. Those who don’t consider project initiation and planning to be “real work”
  45. “That person” in meetings
  46. Conference callers who don’t know the difference between “on hold” and “mute”
  47. Those who have more stupid answers than intelligent questions
  48. Overabundance of ego
  49. Dog haters… I don’t mind if you love cats, but if you hate dogs, take your Gantt chart and move along
  50. Those who don’t understand project management skills are universal; you can put a seasoned project manager into any well-adjusted team in any industry/environment/organization and they will thrive

What forms of torture would you add to the list?

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