Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gluten Free

I learned that I have either Celiac's Disease or a severe gluten allergy in 2002. For the previous nine years I was ill to some degree almost every day. Since 2002, I've tried to maintain a gluten free diet. I am not tempted to cheat because I get very, very sick and no amount of chewy bread or crispy-sweet cookie is worth the weeks of recovery.

I thought when I eliminated gluten from my diet I would feel really good again but that has not been the case. I feel immensely better than I did during the "sick years" but not great. Stuff I've been reading lately makes me think that I must have either additional food sensitivities or some other autoimmune response taking place.

I wonder if it is worth investigating. After all, I don't feel terrible, just not terrific. But then, does any 46-year-old feel terriffic?

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Is it ever okay to lie? I try really hard to be truthful but today a coworker asked me a question to which I knew the true answer would be very upsetting. The last time I answered truthfully on the issue my coworker went into a tailspin, had to leave work and ended up on depression medication. So... First I evaded. She pushed. I lied. And I feel guilty even though I think it was the right thing to do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I have learned that when a staff gets sufficiently beaten-down it loses all semblance of motivation. There is no "us vs them" to add fight (dysfunctional but still some level of motivation). There is no shared vision. There is no hoped-for future. As a friend put it yesterday, when the best you can say is, "Well at least I have a job." What is that saying?

And what could I, as a manager but not the chief staff officer, do to combat this? Where does my vision come from? Can I have a vision separate from my organizational leadership without causing further discord?

Monday, April 26, 2010

It Only Took A Year and a Half But It Is Finally Done

It has been more than a year since I blogged about trying to get a project completed that was taking a lot longer than I wanted it to take. Today, I finally published WATDA's first e-learning course. Hopefully it will be well-received.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Emmanuel Gobillot at DigitalNow

Emmanuel Gobillot is the author of The Connected Leader and Leadershift.

"In the past we've learned situational leadership... The more you focus on the situation the more likely you'll be to miss the context."

Demographic Expertise Attention Democratic -- DEAD -- Everything you deliver becomes less relevant.

Most of us start with a purpose in search of assets. Eventually we become assets in search of a purpose. Really it is all about relationships.

Focus should be on an individual versus a role; reciprocity versus rules; and social and moral obligations verses economic incentives.

How to migrate to a people-focused leadership
  1. Simplify (not clarify) -- subtraction and coherence; Don't tell intent. Tell the story -- use narrative environments
    Exercise: What's your story in 140 characters or less?
    Too many leaders live by the Elvis Fallacy: A little less conversation a little more action - the reality is that effective actions = conversations + shared history
  2. Unify people around the cause: social role + self image = people who see themselves in the task you want them to achieve
    If you put people in a role when they want to engage they will do the task. 4Ds
    Discovery - who and what
    Dream - what we want to do
    Design - how we want to do it
    Destiny - taste autonomy
  3. Personify - We tend to be emotional beings before we are rational beings. Love is the ability to nuture, value and help people grow. Just be open to people about who you are. People respond to who we really are - stop palying a role/pretending to be you - People will engage with you
  4. Abolish performance management for 6 months and instead talk to your people every day. See if they are doing less.

Have conversations.

How to balance conversation with the need to get a lot accomplished? We believe conversations slow us down - dumb conversations do but good conversations speed things up and prevent false starts. Start with a clear goal for the conversation. Explain that the purpose of the conversation is what they take away. (When someone asks "What did you do with what we talked about?" A: "What did you do with what we talked about?")

Set out the story and the purpose. Shared history is how we keep people involved in conversations when things get rough.

Ask after every conversation: "Have I made then feel stronger and more capable?" (Not happy)

Metrics are critical - you need them to help managing people. You don't manage metrics. You'll never be an effective leader if you don't have a passion for people.

Fallacy: I can do everything that needs to be done.
Instead: Do your best with the 10 or 12 people around you so that they can do their best with the 10 or 12 people around them.

Fallacy: Trust must be earned. It builds over time and is rational.
Instead: We tend to give or withdraw trust shortly after meeting people. It is not rational.

Fallacy: Trust is easy to break and hard to regain.
Instead: Once you've gained peoples' trust you can get away with a lot - as long as you make people feel stronger and more capable.

It is always about people. Make sure you have the right people. "You can teach a turkey to climb a tree but it is a whole lot more cost effective to buy a squirrel."

Find your squirrels, have conversations with them, help them to be stronger and more capable and you are leading.

DigitalNow Speaker Rita Gunther McGrath

Growth in the Face of Uncertainty

If Ian Ayres is the Supercruncher, Rita McGrath is the Disciplinarian. In the reality of daily work we don't always have the luxury of complete data and analysis. McGrath's discussion was on disciplining ourselves to be discovery-driven decision-makers.

90% of growth barriers are self-inflicted. We need to remove internal obstacles to become poised for change.

How do we plan for something when we don't have the data to make an informed decision?

Problem: As knowledge is uncertain we increase assumptions - assumptions about what we know versus what we think we know. Too often assumptions become fact in our memory. We take in things that confirm what we already believe to be true.

Assumptions underlying a typical corporate plan are forgotten within 6 weeks. Document Assumptions.

Five disciplines for Working with People
  1. Define what success would look like
  2. Am I being sensible (do benchmarking)
  3. Lay out operational specifications
  4. Articulate and document assumptions
  5. Plan to checkpoints (rather than the end product)

1. Define what success would look like/define the prize. For example build an upside-down income statement. Begin with required profits and then figure out what amount of revenues less allowable costs will help you achieve those profits. Consider return on time and dollars invested relative to other opportunities.

2. Am I being sensible? Remember the discipline of the market. (Example: black widow spider farm) Can it sustain your revenue goals?

3. Lay out operational specifications - implementation and execution

4. Articulate and document assumptions. Use an Assumption checklist. (Click on Rita McGrath's slides)

5. Plan to checkpoints - What are the moments of time at which I'm going to learn a lot. Map assumptions to those checkpoints.

How to anticipate potential roadblocks...External Barriers

  1. Power of incumbent stakeholders: anything that takes away someone's job - stuff that people have always done
  2. Risk - retaliations
  3. Reaction from advocacy groups (e.g. Monsanto in Europe - Frankenfood)
  4. Inertia or indifferent recipients - when will people be more confortable with the status quo?
  5. Embeddedness required by offering (example RFID baggage handling)
  6. Regulations

Internal Barriers

  1. Internal political maneuvering
  2. People are busy - reluctance by those needed for active implementation
  3. Resource constraints - platform changes required (e.g. Blockbuster vs Netflix)

Have I built an organization that is capable of delivering on my vision? The kite metaphor (see kite analysis on page linked above)

Components of Kite Analysis

  1. Agenda: Time & attention - Match manager meeting agendas to strategy. If they don't match why? Should things be incorporated into your strategy that aren't currently or are you focusing your attention in the wrong place?
  2. Norms: Values and behaviors e.g. When I promise somebody something it will be done
  3. News: Measures and information - make sure you interpret. Data does not equal insight.
  4. Structure: people and their relationships - there is a catastrophic decline in information flows when the distance exceeds 60 ft
  5. Allocations: Resources - if you say innovation is important but the way people get ahead in the company is by keeping their head down you really don't want change
  6. History: the corporate inheritance e.g. Disney does it well
  7. Leadership: Substance and symbols - everything has both substance and symbolic fallout, for example an office move. All too often we focus on the substance when the meaning is equally if not more important (e.g. Postal service retiring a machine) Bad symbolism will kill you (e.g. German minister of defense) Never try to respond to the symbolic challenge on substantive grounds

From Q & A:

How to get people to see what is an assumption? Ask, "What data could cause you to change your mind on an assumption?" Articulate early warning system on outcomes.

How would you apply the thought process when reorganizing? Ask what do you rall want to accomplish? Which have served their purpose? Come up with a stop doing list. Figure out stakeholders, determine where the harm will occur - emotional, substantive, and address that. Don't assume what people will feel. emotional responses are not necessarily resistance - it is most likely adjustment.

DigitalNow Keynote Speaker Ian Ayres

Regression Analytics

Ian Ayres reminded me how much I like Pandora and the Bodeans. It had been a while since I'd paid attention to either and by using Pandora as an example of the way regression analysis can help an organization more accurately meet its member's needs, I was hooked. Sure, I knew Pandora had numbers behind its recommendations but Ayres explained the use of data in a very accessible manner.

As Ayres said, "If you aren't running some regressions and running the numbers, you're screwing up."

Clearly there is a need for data driven decisions. ASAE's 7 Measures of Success includes data-driven strategy as one of the measures of a great organization. Ayres agrees. He also pointed out that anyone trying to introduce data-driven decision-making into an organization that traditionally doesn't use data will run into the "Iron Law of Resistance" the natural tendency of most to say, "What I do is too special to be aided by statistics."

How to apply regression analysis in associations? Start with moving from a dashboard, which provides descriptive statistics to regressions which provide predictive statistics. Also, Come up with attrition scores for your members. Go beyond engaged/not engaged to a membership value score. You know whether or not to do a study with the decision rule. If you are not willing to write down a decision rule it isn't worth doing the study. e.g. member value score below X, don't offer renewal = decision rule

Good regressions contain both a precision estimate as well as predictions. Regression procedure makes an estimate of the precision of the prediction as well as the prediction. For example, forcast on Bing. Supercrunching can go wrong - think AIG.

Randomized Testing

Randomized testing is more powerful than regression because you get more buy-in from decision-makers using the data. Example, a charity wants to raise X dollars. Through randomized testing the charity knows that people who have already donated tend to respond more to "to go" appeals whereas people who have not yet donated tend to respond to the competitive pressure of "to date" appeals.

Randomized testing is more accurate than "experts" because randomized testing focuses only on what comes up and at what frequency. Experts tent to over-emphasize 3rd and 4th level factors rather than properly weighing 1st level factors.

Randomized testing differentiates between cause and effects. Regression analytics doesn't always differentiate.

The flaw with randomized testing is that you need a minimum sample size to get significant benefit. You can do credible studies of 200 or 300 but larger groups are better. Randomized testing & regression analytics may not be the best technique to use in the following circumstances: insufficient numbers, results don't justify the cost, not consistent enough data pools or legal and ethical issues.

I would love to do more with data but I'm afraid WATDA might fall into the too small of a data pool category. This is on my list to research further once my current projects are completed.

As an aside, Ian Ayres did extensive research on discrimination in auto finance transactions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

DigitalNow Breakout Session Notes - 2

Here Comes the Immernet was a session that explored the idea of immersive virtual environments expanding beyond games and becoming the main style of internet interaction. (bye bye website) My favorite quote from this session was "We're drowning in information, grasping for knowledge and devoid of wisdom." Knowledge management is now an oxymoron.

Web 1.0 allows us to connect to the web. Web 2.0 allows us to connect through the web.

The Immernet democratizes participation and allows us to connect within the web.

The web has caused fundamental changes in the way digital natives (DNs) function as compared to previous generations. DNs have different goals, different ways of learning and working, fit into teams better and compete less. DNs are most effective at using immernet tools.

Information = currency, interaction = transfer, insight = outcome, individuals = transport

Caution: What we do when we see a new technology is we use it to fit the forms we already know. e.g. the first websites were brochures, roads are the width of a 2-horse cart. This next generation of the Internet should take it outside of fitting the forms we already know.

As we become so comfortable with virtual social worlds that we can use them for business and learning we are getting closer to using the Internet not as fitting an existing form but in an entirely new and effective way.

Strategic Planning over the Internet was a session that outlined how one association used web-based tools to improve on its strategic planning process.
  1. Reach out to everyone - the association establised a permanent email address for strategy-related discussions. The actual planning committee is limited and meets remotely several times per year. In addition strategy issues are occasionally sent to the entire membership. Strategic planning is also handled at the association's annual meeting and final board meeting of each year. The strategic plan is periodically sent out to members and made continuously available online.
  2. Be concise and clear - the old style strategic plan is 20-plus pages of goals, objectives, vision, mission and gobbledygook that nobody reads after the document is completed. Instead limit the strategic plan to a single, 2-sided page. Include no more than 5 or 6 goals.
    Length of plan? 1 year to 500 days. It should follow some logical cycle. "Continuously updated" doesn't necessarily work because it typically doesn't, in fact, get continuously updated.
    BHAGs? If you list them, show your progress along the path of achieving them.
  3. Emphasize the outcomes not the process - Members get involved in making goals a reality not in simply making goals.
  4. Be transparent - publish the plan where members and the public can see it. If your plan contains tactical or competitive information you may want to limit access to those pieces, but the overall goals should be visible to everyone.
  5. Communicate the plan constantly to staff and volunteers - obtain buy-in from staff and use staff and committee member enthusiasm to inspire buy-in from members. Tailor messages to constituents.
  6. Prioritize- While always checking that the plan reflects current priorities, be sure that competing goal structures don't arise. Reduce skunk-works reports and projects by relating everything to the strategic plan.
    Implement a program review advisory group that evaluates every program against the strategic plan.
    Get members to talk about what they're getting and keep your finger on the memberships' pulse. Survey and hold focus groups both in-person and online. Also, because your board is not typical of your membership, videotape the focus groups and show segments to your board when explaining strategy.
    Answer: What are the outcomes this organization will create in the world?
  7. Don't let the process overwhelm the results - As Jim Collins said, "Vision without execution is hallucination." The purpose of strategy is to ensure that the entire organization is accomplishing things together. Also, the budget cycle and the planning cycle should synch.

My thoughts... The Immernet presentation seemed pretty-out there as far as practically implementing immersive technologies with our members. Gaming is not typical among our membership and they are still most accustomed to mass-media type communications. I don't think this is something I need to try to anticipate and budget for this year.

The strategic planning presentation was interesting. The association that presented was able to afford staff devoting significant time to strategic planning and web implementation of online strategy projects. I really like the idea of a published, 1-page, shorter-term strategic plan that attempts to involve the full membership in the process.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Breakout Session Notes from DigitalNow 2010 - 1

I attended several breakout sessions at DigitalNow that, as usual, provided lots for me to consider as I look at WATDA's limited budget and try to gauge the wants and needs of WATDA members.

From the session on the Semantic web: What is wrong today is that we have to sort through results based upon key words. The system only understands words as a token and there are problems when the same word has different meaning, e.g. tea party; or different words have the same meaning, e.g. organization/company; or different words have related meanings e.g. "organization" meaning company, charity or trade union.

Semantic programs pull information index and tag it and then add context so that when you access the information you don't have to sort through multiple results with widely disparate meanings in order to find what you're searching for. Semantic programs also add sentiment rules so that when you say good/lousy the software "understands" what you mean.

What does semantic web mean for WATDA? Not much at the moment. What it would probably be wonderfully useful in accessing our legal database, it is too costly a product to purchase for something we currently give away free to members.

My hope is that we'll start seeing semantic rules cropping up in search engines (bing supposedly has some) and that we'll eventually be able to have semantic search without cost.

From the Disney session on innovation: Keys to a Collaborative Culture include

  1. passion for the purpose
  2. shared values
  3. communication - people want to be a part of something - get them to buy-in
  4. trust - when I put my idea out there it will at least be heard and considered
  5. variety of perspective - not just from those in the board room

Also use "Yes, and..." and "Yes, if..."statements instead of "No". For example, Walt wanted to have a zoo at Disneyland, CA. Instead of telling Walt no, his team said, "Yes, and we'll have to figure out where we'll house the animals when they aren't on display," and "Yes, if we can find space to store their food." By using the "Yes, and..." and "Yes, if..." method, Walt's designers were able to help him to see that live animals at Disneyland weren't feasible because of the space involved -- without telling him that animals were a bad idea. Walt went on to build animatronic animals to accomplish the experience he was hoping to achieve. And, 40 years later, Walt's dream was realized at Animal Kingdom in Disney World, FL.

A few other brainstorming tactics:

  1. Pick a card - using index cards (involve people from all areas of business)
    Enter an opportunity sentence, for example "Employee paychecks will be electronically deposited in a weekly basis."
    Select 4 critical words to spark thought - pass the cards around have people write 1 word per card and then go through the pile and pick the best 4. In the example, "paycheck, electronically, deposited, weekly"
    Assign colors of index cards for each word look/write words that come to mind.
    Take the cards and develop a slogan or message that is relevant and understandable.
  2. Blue sky - this is a round robin imagining session. Example: I have a bag of rocks and I'd like to start a coffee shop. How can I relate the two?
  3. Storytelling - begin traditional brainstorming with story so that everyone understands the meaning of their activity.

Andrew Zolli - First Keynote from DigitalNow

Andrew Zolli is a futurist. His talk was entitled "The Road Ahead - Thriving in Complex Times." Here is a link to a recent interview on PBS Some of the core thoughts of his presentation were:

People generally focus on fast-moving trends rather than slow-moving trends. The example he gave was that 1 in 20,000 people will be directly affected by terrorism; 1 in 6 people will be directly affected by global warming and yet vastly more money is spend fighting terrorism. It is because it is much easier to fear and respond to something we can understand e.g. bad people & bombs rather than slowly rising oceans and melting glaciers. The problem is that the slow-moving trends are the ones that really mess things up when they reach a crisis point.

Innovation is the act of creating new value in anticipation of future demand. It isn't just responding to a leading edge of demand, rather it is actually creating value for demand that has not yet begun. Companies that have a culture of sustained innovation tend to have similar DNA:

  1. Holds the top accountable.

  2. Makes lots of small bets.

  3. Invests in the employees close to the customer.

  4. Leverages innovations outside the company.

  5. Copies best practices sparingly (best practices are outcomes not strategies)

  6. Uses a Cognitive Portfolio Approach.

  7. Systematically scans for weak/disruptive signals

  8. Creates differentiated learning partnerships

Zolli then moved on to some of the long-term trends he sees and discussed some possible was they might impact society.

Demographic transformation - remember who your members are determines how they will interact with your organization. Here is a picture of the current US demographics.

Zolli stated that the fastest growing demographic right now is in the population of people over 85. One of the resultant trends is elderly parents moving in with their adult children.

When your population looks like this wage-earners can support those no longer earning such as children and the elderly. The US trend is moving toward an hourglass shape where the population requiring support far exceeds the wage-earners.

Some of Zolli's suggestions for dealing with this trend were to massively increase legal immigration to enlarge the wage-earner group. Also everyone, retailers, manufacturers and membership organizations alike need to be aware of this change. Their customers are dealing with work/life balance issues as never before. Generation X is the first recent generation to commonly have both parents and children living at home at the same time.

Another change trend is women entering the fast lane. While I'm sceptical, Zolli stated that women will soon have great impact on corporate and political leadership. (We'll see. I've read too many articles like this one to believe it will happen during my career.

Distributed networks will have increasing impact on the way we organize and communicate. By empowering the edge leaders can attract a substantial following but they also do it without any real control. The two examples Zolli gave we Linus Torvalds vs Osama bin Laden. Both do a great job of attracting followers to their cause. Both have little, if any, control over their followers actions but rather give leadership through the ideas they espouse. As Zolli pointed out through this example, distributed networks can be good or bad but the risks are mostly deemed worth it.

Finally, Zolli talked about the impact mobile is having around the world. The US is actually behind in adopting mobile as more than just a phone/text/email device. Companies that recognize the impact mobile has - it is changing habits and actions - have a great chance of harnessing that change for their benefit.

I'm always a little concerned when I condense a speaker of Zolli's quality and complexity to a few notes and bullet points. Zolli was a fascinating and thought-provoking speaker. As the first keynote of DigitalNow he prepared me to learn from and question all that was to come.

Monday, March 1, 2010


This isn't a particularly clever blog - just a list of favorite websites and such.
website:, facebook (yes, I'm addicted), twitter (my new best news source) and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (BBCs H2G2)

Favorite things: Maybe this was where I was leading to when I decided to post something about favorites. There is this woman who is a fb friend (as opposed to a real-life friend) who is constantly posting raves about God. For example: "can't wait to see how God's going to work in lives this weekend at the ladies retreat. SO EXCITING!!! Woooot Woooo!"

For some, probably deeply psychotic, reason these have the opposite effect on me. Instead of thinking I should pray for the ladies retreat (or the ladies), I think "God just isn't woot woo for me." Don't get me wrong God is my most favorite, deep to the core of me, life influencer, creator person - just not woot-ish.

The US olympic hockey team, yep, they rank a woot (assuming I ever woot'ed). The people who support my industry so that I have a good job and a paycheck - definitely a woot. God? He's more of an awed silence for me.

So when people post their "post this to your status if you love God" statements and I don't; when my friend woots and I don't; it isn't because God isn't important, rather I don't think I can do what, for me, trivializes Him. He is outside of my favorites list, greater than the people and events I cheer for and far more complex-difficult-holy-glorious than I can even begin to comprehend.