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Rethinking the Meaning of Labor Day

Rethinking the Meaning of Labor Day

Accept and embrace it: summer is almost over. After all, Labor Day is next week and doesn’t that mean it’s time to get back to work, stop going to the pool, and start planning winter vacation? Doesn’t it mean a last barbecue, a neighborhood softball game, and a final long weekend before autumn arrives?

But what about celebrating “Labor”? Isn’t it called “Labor Day”?

When my kids were young I remember one of them posing a similar question: “Why doesn’t anybody work on Labor Day?” my daughter asked. So I tried to explain that this ...


Four Ways To Develop A Better Strategic Plan

Four Ways To Develop A Better Strategic Plan

This post was coauthored by Logan Chandler.

No great strategy was born without careful thought. That’s why the process of planning a strategy itself is an important vehicle for setting priorities, making investment decisions, and laying out growth plans. But for many companies, the activity has devolved into either an overexplained budget or just bad amateur theater – lots of costumes in the form of analysis, charts, and presentations – but with very little meaningful substance that can be translated into action. As a result, many strategic plans end up as shelf decorations or hard-to-find files in crowded hard drives.

Whether ...


Why Managers and HR Don’t Get Along

Why Managers and HR Don’t Get Along

Have you ever noticed how ambivalent line managers are about the Human Resources function? On one hand, most of them want their HR people to be involved in key strategic decisions; on the other, they want to make sure that whatever they do is not perceived as an “HR program.” Managers often rely on their HR partners to help them build an effective team, but then chafe at them for forcing them to “follow the process.” The bottom line, as Ram Charan argued in his recent HBR article, is that many line managers are disappointed in their HR people.

While ...


Dealing With Denial Is A Team Sport

Dealing With Denial Is A Team Sport

Great leaders tell it like it is. In other words, they focus on reality, no matter how painful or unpleasant it might be, and then figure out what to do about it. In contrast, less effective leaders sometimes avoid hard truths, argue with the data, and delay tough decisions.

While it’s easy to be critical of leaders who can’t face the facts, the truth is that most of us engage in denial at one time or another, usually without even knowing it. As human beings, it’s one of the most common defense mechanisms that we use to ...


Why Consultants Should Be Accountable For Results, Not Recommendations

Why Consultants Should Be Accountable For Results, Not Recommendations

When I recently asked a group of MBA students to define what it meant to them to be a consultant, they quickly rattled off phrases such as “trusted advisor,” “problem-solver,” “objective third party,” and “subject matter expert.” What was interesting was that none of their definitions mentioned the word “results.” In other words, from their perspective, the consultant is not someone who actually produces results – but rather generates advice that someone else (the client) presumably turns into results.

As Clay Christensen and colleagues pointed out in the Harvard Business Review, the consulting industry is ripe for disruption. And this common ...


Good Managers Look Beyond Their “Usual Suspects”

Good Managers Look Beyond Their “Usual Suspects”

In the movie Casablanca, there’s a famous scene where Captain Renault, the head of the French police, avoids investigating the murder of a Nazi officer by telling his people to “round up the usual suspects.” The implication, of course, is that everyone should look busy and professional, even if the routine doesn’t really accomplish anything.

I’m always reminded of this line when I see managers respond to performance challenges by putting together a task force of the “usual suspects” to deal with the issue. These task force members usually end up with multiple specialty assignments piled on ...


Watch Out, Boomers, Here Comes the Millennial Workforce

Watch Out, Boomers, Here Comes the Millennial Workforce

I recently heard a stunning statistic: For the next 18 years, 10,000 people per day will turn 65 years old, and (presumably) retire shortly thereafter. While this graying of the Boomer generation certainly has implications for health care and social policy (and for me personally, as one of those eventual retirees), it may have even more significance for the nature of the workforce and the job of the manager.

First, there will be a shortage of workers for key jobs. This may sound hard to believe at a time when U.S. unemployment hovers around 7% and Europe is ...


Where You Sit At Work Determines What You See

Where You Sit At Work Determines What You See

Depending on how you look at the picture below, you’ll see the silhouette of two faces or a vase. It’s a classic illusion that psychologists use to demonstrate that all of us have biases that influence how we interpret events. To some extent we see what we unconsciously want to see.

_Copy of optical illusion image.png

Understanding this kind of perceptual distortion is crucial for getting things done in organizations. Most projects or processes require collaborative work with people who come from other parts of the organization – different functions, levels, locations, or business units – and who see the world differently. If you assume ...


Skip the “Best Practices”: How Several Hospitals Used Disciplined Experimentation to Make Complex Initiatives Successful

Skip the “Best Practices”: How Several Hospitals Used Disciplined Experimentation to Make Complex Initiatives Successful

As a consultant, I have the privilege of working with leading organizations in a variety of industries around the world. Despite the wide diversity in geography, size, and industry of our client base, I can confirm that there is one thing that every single organization has in common – each is unique. In fact, at some point in the first 15 minutes of every sales call I have made, the prospective client gave me some form of warning along the lines of, “You have to understand, things around here are different than in other organizations.” And of course they are right ...


When an Inability to Make Decisions Is Actually Fear of Conflict

When an Inability to Make Decisions Is Actually Fear of Conflict

When a company’s planning and decision-making process involves a lot of meetings, discussions, committees, PowerPoint decks, emails, and announcements, but very few hard-and-fast agreements, I call that “decision spin”. Decisions bounce around the company, from group to group, up and down the hierarchy and across the matrix, their details and consequences changing as different stakeholders weigh in. Often, the underlying problem isn’t an inability to make decisions – it’s a tendency to avoid conflict.

Decision spin doesn’t prevent decisions from being made altogether. But they often don’t stick, because people hesitate to express their disagreements during ...


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