Monthly Archives: May 2007

Nurturing Talent & Creativity

John Cimino recently posted some quotes from architects on the Creative Skills Training Council chat site. A couple of quotes reminded me of the movie / documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry which I saw last year, thanks to the generosity of the Powerhouse Museum.

I loved some of Gehry’s quotes in the movie (as I remember them):
Talent is liquid trouble.
It’s quite fragile – finding your connection [to your purpose]. (He told the story that one of his architecture teachers told him he wasn’t made for architecture).
[In business] You only have a sliver, maybe 10% of creativity, the other 90% is commerciality, but you’ve got to protect that 10%.

Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink focuses on the fragility of good decision making and how certain people and environments can impact our judgment.

I agree that talent and creativity are fragile things and need a nuturing environment and recently have been paying more attention to the environment that we as managers can create for our people.

My Environmental checklist currently comprises five headings and I’m building as I go:

Direction – a clear direction and milestones for getting there

Physical – space to work comfortably – lighting, heat, amenities, to collaborate and to work quietly

Learning – space to experiment, admit you don’t know, question and debate

Performance – support for high standards of performance ie. completion, meeting deadlines, quality, customer satisfaction and regular constructive feedback about progress

Reward – relevant intrinsic and external rewards as well as time out for play

What else do you need in your environment, to motivate you to succeed?

Ethical Investing and connecting with ‘old’ colleagues

Talk about a small world. Walking through Luna Park recently I ran into an ‘old’ SEALCORP / ASSIRT colleague Michael Walsh and was pleased to hear that his business Lifecraft was doing well, employing 12 people and that he was enjoying the good life, based in Evans Head. Then he sent me a copy of ethical investor, which his business purchased in 2003. The edition of the magazine was perfect for me (co-incidence?) on the topic of Sustainable Human Capital Management, so now I have a new goal – start writing articles for ethical investor! Watch out Michael.

It’s been a busy month with regards to the SEALCORP connection. When I was over in Perth I stayed with Wendy Barnao, who is approaching 15 years with SEALCORP and who is enjoying her current role managing the web side of things as well as continuing to renovate her beautiful home and run a hobby business on the side called Just Pelmets (although it should more correctly be called Just ask Wendy because she knows much more than just pelmets). Wendy was instrumental in helping me find the perfect upholstery fabric for our upcoming renovations.

I have also been in contact with Sharon Lenon recently. Sharon was a Researcher at Assirt and I am assuming she will get in touch with Michael soon, so the connections will continue. Sharon now runs a coaching business and still has connections to clients in financial services.

Finally, in a ‘two degrees of separation’ connection, Karina Samperi of Samperi Consulting referred someone to me, so hello to Karina, who is busy finishing her MBA I think.

I also run into Mike Mitchell and Mark Rantall, MD of Godfrey Pembroke, occasionally as I visit the MLC Campus in North Sydney and last year I ran into Geoff Pritchard in a bizarre co-incidence as I had turned up to the wrong hotel for a function. But it must have been the ‘right’ hotel because I got to say hello to Geoff and find out a little about his role as CEO of Western Pacific.

Must be about time for a reunion.

Execution Excellence – how much is Discretionary?

I was googling “execution excellence” recently and I was amazed at how much there is new on the topic, so I have lots of reading to do. But as I read the first few books / articles two themes started to emerge.

The themes are discretion and discipline. Some articles refer to how much discretion individual managers and employees have to impact execution for better or worse, despite all the efforts leadership teams put into designing strategies, systems and processes that generate consistent outcomes. The other theme is the need for discipline in order to execute excellently.

Bower & Gilbert (HBR Feb 2007) have studied the discretion that managers have to use their asset allocation discretion to support or ignore strategy and Jeffrey Immelt from General Electric (interviewed in HBR in June 2006) was even able to put a number on it. Despite all GE’s efforts to create disciplines on the cost side of their businesses, a recent study of pricing in the GE appliances businesses indicated that their salespeople have discretion over an estimated $5 billion in revenue. This is an astonishing figure, according to Immelt, that could translate into $50 billion across the whole of GE. The answer, according to Immelt, is to create more discipline in [the execution of] pricing decisions.

In many organisations I see the same issues occuring: managers and individuals have discretion over pricing, discounts, complaints, claims and resourcing decisions, which can affect the people and product strategies of their various business areas. One of most important roles of management is to support others to make disciplined decisions, rather than easy decisions, because although most people want to come to work to do a “good job”, their habits can get in the way.
Continue reading

When is Good Enough, enough?

As a perfectionist, I have long struggled with “good enough” vs “the best” and have found a book by Barry Schwartz called “The Paradox of Choice” to be very useful to me. He articulated my concern, by identifying that some choice was good, but too much choice could be overwhelming and that aiming for “the best” was problematic, because you could never know if you really had “the best”. Today you might, but things could change tomorrow!
In my trainings, I often draw a normal distribution or “bell curve” and ask managers to describe what is “good enough” performance, compared to “not good enough” and “excellent”. Of course, it is usually hard for them to put the distinctions into words, yet this is a fundamental need of employees – to know what standard of performance is required of them.

This is where solutions focused questioning is helpful, so we can move from an abstract concept like “the best” to practical examples of what is “good enough” (or “best enough” for those of us who think “good enough” is a cop out).

For examples of solutions focussed questions to help flesh out “good enough”, keep reading.
Continue reading