Posts Tagged ‘business’

workoutAs we work in a creative environment, we probably spend more time than most thinking about how to preserve and enhance the capacity of our brains. In the advertising industry, you’re often said to be “only as good as your last idea”. Which is why this research echoed with us. Anything we can use to keep our ideas fresh and flowing is good news!

But, a brain workout?

Yep, it’s a thing.

Fact: We are outliving our brains. Life expectancy in the developed world is now about 80 years old. And the trend towards longer living is speeding up. With better nutrition, shelter and medical care, girls have a one in three chance of living to 100, while boys have one in four.

And the problem?

Well, our cognitive brain performance actually peaks in our early 40s. That means mental functions like memory, speed of thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, and decision-making decline in the last 30 or 40 years of life. Ironically, as we accumulate “life wisdom”, we gradually lose the ability to access it and use it. And as our population ages, and we retire nearer 70 than 60, for example, this becomes critically important.

The truth is most people don’t consider their brain health until they’re faced with injury, disease, or simply getting old. But just as we’ve come to realise that we can improve our physical health through diet and exercise, we can improve our cognitive health too.  It’s simply a matter of engaging in the right mental workouts.

Science now strongly supports the fact that our brains are one of the most modifiable parts of our whole body. Our brains actually adapt from moment to moment, depending on how we use them; they either decline or improve, and which direction they go depends on us and the way we challenge them.

exercising brainA research team at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas is working on how to improve brain performance at all ages, and their findings show that making our brains stronger, healthier, and more productive requires actually changing the way we use them every single day.  And that’s where daily changes come in.

Before we can really perform at peak levels with our brains, we all must first abandon toxic habits that are depleting brain resources, and also incorporate complex thinking into our daily routines.

So are you ready to make your brain smarter? Here are a few scientifically proven ways to do it.

Quiet Your Mind

“Don’t make rash decisions!” In a word, slow down. And give your mind a break, now and then.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve all been given that advice, and as part of our career has been “helping people to make better decisions more easily” with the business “decisions, decisions” we warmly applaud the idea. Unwonted speed in decision making is often a recipe for failure, and sometimes those failures can cascade disastrously through an organisation, when if a little time had been taken for reflection, and we had employed tried and tested decision-making tools, we would have made our chances for success much greater.

Why take a break? Well, the brain can often better solve complex problems when you step away to reflect on ideas and crucial decisions rather than acting without weighing choices.

Shhhhhhhhh.

Shhhhhhhhh.

A halt in constant thinking slows your mind’s rhythms, allowing it to refresh.

Put a knotty problem in your subconscious, be confident that a solution will occur to you – indeed, say, “my subconscious is going to solve this” out loud – and then forget about it for a while. More often than not, a solution will occur when you least expect it. Your subconscious mind will pop out an answer without you wearing yourself out worrying the problem to death.

As a simple rule to give your brain a chance to help you, employ a “Five by Five” principle where you take a break from whatever you’re doing five times a day for at least five minutes to reset your brain.

When we let our brain work behind the scenes, we have our best “a-ha!” moments. And don’t we all want more of those?

In the Wellthisiswhatithink dungeon we find ours occur in the shower. So often, in fact, that we sometimes take a long, hot, relaxing shower when we don’t really “need” one, because the insights seem to flow so easily!

Translate Your World

Move away from surface-level, uninspired thinking and eschew predictable thoughts by pushing past the obvious and really think.

There is so MUCH to think about. How do you decide what you MUST think about? Answer: synthesise.

There is so MUCH to think about. How do you decide what you MUST think about? Answer: synthesise.

For example, if you were asked what a movie was about, you, like most people, you would often give a play-by-play of events that occurred, full of detail.

But to boost brainpower, think instead of the major themes of the film and relate it to personal situations in your own life and how they apply.

As an exercise, think back on one of your favourite movies or books from the past year and generate five to eight different short take-home messages you can glean from it.

This consciously analytical or critical process, which is called “synthesised thinking”, strengthens the connections between different areas of our brains. Our brains actually become quickly jaded by routine – by driving through the treacle of vast amounts of information – since they were actually built to dynamically shift between details and the big picture. When you’re a cave man being chased by wolves, it becomes unimportant to be able to describe each wolf in fine detail, and very important to work our which one is closest to you and likely to catch you, and what to do about that. Get the idea?

Our brains also hate information downloading, so it helps to think like a reporter. What really matters in the story? Don’t get overwhelmed by information flow – in fact, demand that you are relieved from it.

When taking in large amounts of information, try to explain it in a few sentences. Kick off your meetings with provocative big ideas. Power important email messages with simple but thought-evoking subject lines.

Stop Multi-tasking. Really. STOP.

We have written before about how we are inundated with more and more tasks every day.

Nu-uh. Not going to happen.

Nu-uh. Not going to happen.

Relentless simultaneous input and output fatigues the brain and reduces productivity and efficiency. You may think that by doing two or three things at once – like participating in “corridor meeting” on your way to somewhere else while tapping out a couple of emails on your smart phone –  you are actually moving faster through your day. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Our to-do lists keep getting longer while performance and accuracy slip. So, when working on higher-order thinking tasks that matter, allow your focus to be completely uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes at a time and then gradually increase the length of those intervals.

And remember – you can never do everything. There will always be “something” on your list of things to do. Worrying about the length of the list is a sure-fire way to increase your stress, and stress reduces your ability to think clearly.

So prioritise your lists, and be comfortable with the fact that “everyone dies with something on their list”.

Move Your Feet

Recently published research shows that aerobic exercise stimulates positive brain change and memory gains faster than we previously thought possible.

Adding regular aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate to your routine at least three times a week for an hour won’t just help with physical health, it will also increase brain blood flow to key memory centres in the brain and improve our memory for facts. When you combine complex thinking with aerobic exercise, brain health benefits are amplified. You don’t have to become a gym junkie – a brisk walk round the block or your local park is an excellent choice.

Works just as well in an office as it does on a 747.

Works just as well in an office as it does on a 747.

And here’s a thought: if you really can’t get away from your desk, what about doing some of those “sitting in your place” exercises that they now recommend to help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis on aircraft?

Roll your neck, shrug your shoulders, shake your hands, waggle your feet, push them up and down.

Anything that improves circulation and muscle use will help your brain, too.

Action this day.

Until recently, we thought that cognitive decline was an inevitable part of getting old, but the good news is that’s officially not the case.

Toxic physical and mental habits and a life on autopilot are key culprits for unnecessary cognitive decline. Research has shown that healthy adults who use these strategies can regain lost cognitive performance, improve blood flow in the brain, speed up communication between its regions and expand its structural connections.

See results fast!

Just like all those ads for food supplements and gym memberships, you can actually evoke some of these positive changes in a matter of hours. Adopting this new, healthier way of thinking translates into immediate real-life benefits that support our ability to make decisions, think critically, reason and plan.

In other words, shaping your brain by engaging in the right kind of daily mental exercise has the power to reverse brain aging and actually make you smarter, more creative, and less stressed.

So boost your brainpower! You have nothing to lose, and much to gain.

This core of this article was originally written by Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, author of “Make Your Brain Smarter,” who is founder and chief director of the Centre for Brain Health, and a Distinguished University Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. Wellthisiswhatithink has added to it substantially.

earsTo become an effective communicator, with all the ease and success that phrase implies, you need to learn to listen just as much as you need to learn to speak.

This article, which is largely from reproduced from an article by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. at Psychology Today with a few additions from the Wellthisiswhatithink team, is excellent advice on how to achieve that.

Unfortunately, most people focus more on the speaking than they do on the listening.

Whether in a one-on-one conversation or a group meeting or classroom, focusing on what others are saying allows you to present yourself more effectively. And when you listen correctly, you also learn more, and make better decisions.

Look around the room during a lecture, presentation, or lunchroom. The tell-tale signs of people not actually listening are everywhere.

Some individuals put on a blank stare that can only be described as their “screen-saver face”. You know what that screen-saver face looks like: it’s that blank stare in which the eyes are dull and looking blankly into nowhere and the face has absolutely no expression on it at all.

You’ll also notice people in a group or audience who don’t look at the speaker at all. In fact, they look everywhere else.They fiddle with their pencil or longingly gaze at their cellphone or even try to sneak a peek at its screen. If there’s a window in the room they stare at the sky, even if the view is just that of the neighbouring office building. A great speaker may captivate even the most recalcitrant audience member. The average speaker, colleague, friend, or family member may have a hard time grabbing the gaze of the assembled listeners who don’t know how to practice basic listening skills.

If we are speaking, we want others to listen. So why can’t many of us perform the favour in reverse?

It’s possible that social media are causing many people to lose their focusing ability. Traditionally, the average listener requires a shift in stimulation after about 20 minutes. However, with rapid-fire messages coming everywhere from Facebook to Twitter to push notifications from online games, many people require a shift in stimulation after perhaps as short as 20 seconds. Unless you’ve got that charismatic touch, you’re going to have a hard time fighting the attention deficits of your audience.

The problem with poor listeners is not only that they are perceived as rude but that they miss out on important knowledge.

Studies of the harmful effect of multi-tasking on student learning show that students who texted on their mobile phones, emailed, updated their Facebook status, and sent instant messages had poorer grades than those who listened to lectures without distraction. According to the “cognitive bottleneck theory,” proposed by psychologist Alan Welford in 1967, you can only process so much information at once before your learning starts to suffer. Indeed, evidence continues to mount that this is the case.

Returning to the rudeness angle of poor listening, people who don’t listen also seem to have poorer social skills in general. In a study of over 300 undergraduates, Louisiana State communication experts Christopher Gearhart and Graham Bodie found that students low in the quality they identified as “active empathic listening” had lower scores on a social skills inventory. Being a poor listener is associated with poorer social and emotional sensitivity.  There may also be a third (or more) factor affecting both listening and social skills, but that qualification aside, the results are intriguing.

Another qualification is the fact that this was a college student sample, and admittedly not representative of the whole population.  Still, one could argue that it’s particularly detrimental for people to learn listening skills when they are in the emerging adulthood phase of development.

The social skills you learn in your late teens and early 20s stay with you throughout life and can influence the quality of your life. If you don’t develop your social skills in your early adult years, you’ll have a harder time finding a job, a romantic partner, and a support network you’ll need as you progress through adulthood. You might even be a more effective salesperson, if that’s the line of work you decide to pursue.

The Active Empathic Listening (AEL) measure that Gearhart and Bodie used in their study actually came from a model developed by Drollinger et al. (2006) as a way to help salespeople listen, and hence, sell more products.

The AEL has 11 key items that indicate how well you sense, process, and respond when you listen to a communication partner.  The 11 items break down into 3 scales representing the three stages you need to go through in order to be an effective empathic listener.

Active listening isn't an accident. It's a learned skill.

Active listening isn’t an accident. It’s a learned skill.

Active listening is only part of the skills. Active empathic listening shows that you also understand what’s going on inside the mind of the speaker as if you were that person. It’s a concept that traces back to the client-centered approach of the well-known psychologist Carl Rogers. When you’re empathically listening, you do more than hear, you show (verbally, physically) that you know how the other person feels.

The three stages of AEL involve sensing, processing, and responding in empathic ways.

In the sensing stage, you indicate that you are taking in all of the outward and inward features of another person’s communication.

Empathically sensing means that you understand not only what is said but how it is said.

In the processing stage, you put the pieces of the conversation together to construct a “narrative whole” that provides you with the essence of what’s being communicated.

Finally, in the responding stage, you ask questions to make sure you understand what the person is saying. You also show, verbally and nonverbally, that you are paying attention to the speaker.

With this background, see how you rate – honestly – on the AEL’s three subscales. Better still, why not ask your colleagues and family how they think you rate.

Sensing:

1. How sensitive are you to what others are saying?

2. Are you aware of what others imply but do not say?

3.  Do you understand how others feel?

4.  Do you listen for more than the spoken words?

Processing:

5.  Do you assure the person talking to you that you’ll remember what they say?

6.  Do you summarise points of agreement and disagreement when appropriate?

7.  Do you keep track of the points that others make?

Responding:

8.  Do you assure others that you’re listening by verbal acknowledgements?

9.  Do you assure others that you’re receptive to their ideas?

10. Do you ask questions that show you understand others’ positions?

11. Do you show others that you’re listening by your body language?

These items all are scored positively so that a “yes” gives you a score of plus 1.  A quick check of the number of plusses you received out of 11 will show you how you stand on the AEL overall.

Being an actively empathic listener means, then, that you not only make sure you’re actively paying attention but that you let the speaker you know you are. You ask questions when you’re not clear on what the other person is communicating, you try to infer what the person is feeling, and you let the person know that you remember what he or she actually said. You never drift off into la-la land, and your face doesn’t assume that of a computer in sleep mode.

To these excellent points, add that a good listener not only uses active empathic skills but also takes a cue from good actors.  You can see these qualities in actors on TV or in the movies, but the experience is most impressive in live theatre.

Actors involved in intense conversations with each other look directly at each other’s eyes. If they want to show that they’re involved in these conversations, they don’t look out at the audience, nor do they look blankly into space. You could practically draw a laser beam line between their eyes.

Actors avert their gazes from each other when they want to show that they’re bored or don’t care about the other person. Occasionally, for comic effect, they may break the “frame” and look at the audience or even at a person sitting in a particular seat.  However, the norm is for actors to show their emotions and their emotional reactions to each other through direct eye contact and focused body language. In fact, some actors learn to develop their listening skills through workshops that help them learn to life “in the moment,” such as Esalen Workshops.

If your active empathic listening skills need help, try taking a page from the playbook of great actors as you work through the three stages of sensing, processing, and responding.

Look directly at the people you’re listening to and turn toward them in a way that shows you’re open to what they’re saying.  Put away your cellphone, stop doodling, and sit calmly while you look at them.

Don’t think about where you need to be or the fact that you’d like the conversation or lecture to be over because you’re bored. Really focus on what and how the speaker is communicating. and why.

Chances are that when you clear your mind and truly show that you’re listening, you will find it much easier to become engaged. Active empathic listening may require effort at first, but once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll find that it more than pays off in the emotional benefits you get out of your interactions and, incidentally, romantic relationships.

Active listening plays a key role in creating the type of mutually rewarding relationships we all desire – both in terms of just getting along together well, with minimal conflict, and in enjoying a successful intimate sexual life. Active listening validates both our partner’s wants and needs as well as those things that annoy or unsettle them. The result is deeper and more meaningful relationships that are more satisfying for both people.

That seems a good enough reason to practice our active listening techniques, right there.

yoThis well-researched article gives the lie to those that argue that corporate tax rates in America are too high, and continually blame the state of the economy on welfare recipients and the unemployed. If you tire of hearing this nonsense parroted daily by right wing politicians and commentators, I suggest you share this post widely with your friends.

What is bizarre is that here in Australia, and in the UK, American corporations are coming under increasing fire for not paying any taxes locally either. So one is obliged to ask, where is all the money going?

From RT.com

Twenty-six of the most powerful American corporations – such as Boeing, General Electric, and Verizon – paid no federal income tax from 2008 to 2012, according to a new report detailing how Fortune 500 companies exploit tax breaks and loopholes.

The report, conducted by public advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), focuses on the 288 companies in the Fortune 500 that registered consistent profit every year from 2008 to 2012. Those 288 profitable corporations paid an “effective federal income tax rate of just 19.4 percent over the five-year period — far less than the statutory 35 percent tax rate,” CTJ states.

One-third, or 93, of the analysed companies paid an effective tax rate below 10 percent in that timespan, CTJ found.

Defenders of low corporate taxes call the US federal statutory rate of 35 percent one of the highest companies face in any nation. But the report signals how the most formidable corporate entities in the US take advantage of tax breaks, loopholes, and accounting schemes to keep their effective rates down.

“Tax subsidies for the 288 companies over the five years totaled a staggering $364 billion, including $56 billion in 2008, $70 billion in 2009, $80 billion in 2010, $87 billion in 2011, and $70 billion in 2012,” CTJ states. “These amounts are the difference between what the companies would have paid if their tax bills equaled 35 percent of their profits and what they actually paid.”

Just 25 of the 288 companies kept tax breaks of $174 billion out of the $364 billion total. Wells Fargo received the largest amount of tax subsidies – $21.6 billion – in the five-year period. The banking giant was joined in the top ten on that list by the likes of AT&T, ExxonMobil, J.P Morgan Chase, and Wal-Mart.

AFP Photo / Etienne FranchiAFP Photo / Etienne Franchi

 

About 1 in 11 of the 288 companies paid a zero percent effective federal income tax rate in the five years considered.

Pepco Holdings – which supplies utility services to Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey – paid a cumulative five-year effective rate of -33 percent, the lowest of any company in that period.

In fact, utilities came out particularly well among other industries.

Reuters / Jonathan ErnstReuters / Jonathan Ernst

 

“The sectors with the lowest effective corporate tax rates over the five-year period were utilities (2.9 percent), industrial machinery (4.3 percent), telecommunications (9.8 percent), oil, gas and pipelines (14.4 percent), transportation (16.4 percent), aerospace and defense (16.7 percent) and financial (18.8 percent),” CTJ reported.

CTJ said the companies are allowed to pay such low federal rates based on factors that include offshore tax sheltering, accelerated asset depreciation based on continued investment, stock options, and industry-specific tax breaks.

“Of those corporations in our sample with significant offshore profits, two thirds paid higher corporate tax rates to foreign governments where they operate than they paid in the U.S. on their U.S. profits,” according to CTJ.

The non-profit group says this lax taxation climate among the most powerful US corporations comes amid an aggressive push by lobby and trade groups on Capitol Hill “to reduce the federal corporate income tax rate, based on the claim that our corporate tax is uncompetitively high compared to other developed nations.”

Just this week, US House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (Republican) introduced a tax reform proposal that would lower the maximum federal effective tax rate to 25 percent.

Though, tellingly, this aspect of the plan – among other attempts at bipartisan consensus in the proposal – renders it no chance of even getting a hearing in the Republican-dominated House during a mid-term election year, when such a conciliatory offering can be used as a cudgel against disapproving conservatives.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) (AFP Photo / Chip Somodevilla)House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) (AFP Photo / Chip Somodevilla)

 

Companies have already disputed CTJ’s report, saying that the study only looks at federal income taxes while ignoring other tax burdens they face, such as on the state and local level. In addition, the companies say low effective rates are part of congressional attempts to offer tax relief to corporate America in order to create larger economic opportunity.

To reverse low corporate federal tax rates, CTJ recommends Congress end corporations’ ability to “defer” taxes on offshore profits; limit use of executive stock options that reduce taxes by “generating phantom ‘costs’” the companies don’t really incur; end accelerated depreciation opportunities; restore the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax; and strengthen corporate income and tax disclosure regulations.

“These findings refute the prevailing view inside the Washington, D.C. Beltway that America’s corporate income tax is more burdensome than the corporate income taxes levied by other countries, and that this purported (but false) excess burden somehow makes the U.S. ‘uncompetitive,’” CTJ concluded.

Centralised wealth creating socialists more effectively than any socialist speaker ... some things haven't changed much since the early 20th century. Indeed, the trend continues.

Centralised wealth creating socialists more effectively than any socialist speaker … some things haven’t changed much since the early 20th century. Indeed, the trend accelerates.

Researching some photos to illustrate this article, and as luck would have it, I came across Charlie Chaplin’s astonishing cry from the heart in The Great Dictator, (see below), calling in both despair and hope for a better world.

It’s a dry old subject, but cracking down on tax avoidance and more equitably sharing the burden of creating a fair and just society would be a good start to creating a world that everyone can enjoy.

The power of centralised wealth is reaching epic proportions, greater than at any time in humanity’s modern history.

One does not have to hark back to the trade union-dominated era of much of the Western world post-WWII, nor to toy with ideas of reviving nationalisation and  government-owned enterprises (although in Australia renewed Government ownership of Qantas should be considered in return for taxpayer support) to see that the current situation is a million miles from the idealistic dreams of a participatory, share-owning democracy where capitalism would produce widespread wealth.

Concepts of “trickle down” economics from low-tax regimes have been comprehensively debunked as nonsense. I am a fan of markets that are as free as practically possible, but what business needs to face up to is that with freedom comes responsibility.

Where the Directors and Boards of massive corporations devote the bulk of their time to avoiding tax rather than growing their businesses, democratic Government must intervene to correct the balance.

If they do not, the reaction will be severe. The people are beginning to work it out: machine men with machine minds and machine hearts – be warned.

 

You, the people, have the power. Look up. Look up. Naive? Perhaps. But it is wonderfully, inspirationally naive. Little wonder the “powers that be” in America hated Chaplin with a passion. If you haven’t seen it before, I warmly recommend it.

Gynaecology Restaurant

Signage F*** Up? Well, yes, in more ways than one, really.

So gather round, Dear Reader. Apparently intelligent people decided the directional signage in this hospital.

Managers. Paid a lot of money.

Then skilled tradespeople painted the signs on the wall.

NO-ONE thought this was unwise?

You know, like, “Italian restaurant …” “French restaurant …” “Gynaecology …”

Oh, never mind.

One can only wonder what they serve.

Placenta pie? Clam bake?

And is it our fevered imagination, peeps, or do the plate and eating irons seem to be spelling out “Lol”?

As well they might.

"You know what, Jean? it's just ... just ... something's nagging at me ..."

“You know what, Jean? it’s just … just … something’s nagging at me …”

This is a real product.

It’s on the company website.

This went through product development, the creative team that designed it, the client’s various levels of management, and they still came up with this.

There is much we could say. After 25 years in the marketing business we will simply say, it is possibly … unwise.

Words fail me.

Words. Fail. Me.

 

yolly

The author, Stephen Yolland

Or  USING THE SIX VITAL PRINCIPLES OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATION TO MOTIVATE YOUR STAFF

Either title works.

This is an article I first wrote some years ago. Coming across it by chance, not only does it still stack up well, (with a very little judicious editing) but sadly, I do not see the ideas in it being understood or implemented, at least not to any great degree.

Which is shame. Because this article is the distillation of some 35 years very successful experience in both management and communications – both internal and external – working with some of Australia’s leading organisations across a vast gamut of industry and public life.

If you are a senior executive, there is gold in this article. What you do when you’ve read it? Well, that’s entirely up to you.

Enough said, let’s go:

In any modern organisation, the power relationship of the executive and management team vis-a-vis the rest of the company has changed radically in recent years.

Many people will argue that that the primary responsibility of the boss or bosses is to shareholders, stakeholders and owners.

And that job is important, no doubt.

But if a happy and productive group of employees is the best possible way to ensure a viable and growing return on investment, then it follows that an executive’s first priority, logically, must be to create the environment that will deliver that type of workforce.

We all pay lip service to that principle. But “How?” is the question.

RE-THINKING THE BOSS’S ROLE

It is a cliche to point out that just as any chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so any organisation is only as strong as the motivation and skills of its entire range of employees.

So in smart organisations today, executives are not appointed to “rule the roost”, but to guide and advise those around them and that means looking both up and down the corporate ladder.

Today, executives are making decisions and taking actions, in effect, as “ruling delegates” of the company’s entire staff – on their behalf, and in pursuit of greater harmony, efficiency and productivity.

"I'm warning you. If we tell them why we chose the coffee supplier we did there'll be no damn end to it. It'll be executive salary packages they want oversight of next, you mark my words."

“I’m warning you. If we tell them why we chose the coffee supplier we did there’ll be no damn end to it. It’ll be executive salary packages they want oversight of next, you mark my words.”

If one accepts that this is a healthy and effective model of modern corporate leadership, then it also follows that staff have an innate right – a need, in fact – to understand the activities of the executives that run their lives, and in detail if they so desire, or if it will help them perform their job role.

THE PRINCIPLE OF TRANSPARENCY

To achieve this, executives must thoroughly adopt a mindset that a matter is available to all to know, unless there are strong reasons of legality or personal confidence why that should not be so.

This reversal of the norm that applies in most organisations inevitably produces a markedly different result to the alternative mindset, which is, of course, that everything is innately confidential unless an argument is made that it should be public.

This extends to matters that appear that they should be confidential, but in reality need not be.

"I think they're all gone. Quick, let's move the parking space allocation around a bit."

“I think they’re all gone. Quick, let’s take the chance to move the parking space allocation around a bit.”

Many matters are held tightly to the chest when in reality good things would result from them being made public at an early stage, and more thoroughly.

I once knew a 20+ year employee leave a company (and he was a good employee, too) because they moved his car park space without asking him politely if he minded. I kid you not.

It wasn’t the car park space that pissed him off, it was the secrecy with which it was handled.

Suddenly a thousand tiny resentments at a secretive management team boiled over, and off he went, taking his wit, wisdom and priceless knowledge with him.

Also: think clearly. You know that the free flow of ideas, suggestions, warnings and information is enhanced by a reduction in confidentiality.

That is why democracies, for all their faults, operate more efficiently than totalitarian states, and are inevitably more stable in the long term.

But the assumption that no-one else really has any right (or need) to know what “we” are doing is usually entrenched and often difficult to over-turn. It belongs to an older and more cynical age, when capital and labour were permanently locked in an atmosphere of mutual mistrust and mutual blame, but many executives today still live in that paradigm.

Confidentiality – the knee-jerk, unthinking assumption of confidentiality – is a cancer.

It grows inside our organisations, eating away at our vitals, until we reach the oft-quoted situation that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. In the resulting confusion, people are often unwittingly working actively against each other, duplicating effort at best, and stymieing each other at worst.

In fact, confidentiality can become such a corporate habit, that the left hand sometimes doesn’t even know that the right hand exists.

Confidentiality is also a drug. It entices and bewitches those who have it within their grasp to conceal matters.

Why? That’s easy. To hold confidential information is to be of the inner circle. To be “in the know”.

And whether or not knowledge really is power (which it undoubtedly sometimes is) it is certainly a heady brew for many. And it produces workplaces that are excessively “political”  and internally competitive.

So: the solution to all this nonsense is simply to reverse the paradigm.

We should make people argue on a case-by-case basis that people should NOT know something, with the highest possible requirement for any such argument to be very convincing, rather than requiring people to prove that others should know before information is routinely made public.

"I don't want you to feel threatened, but there's a guy in the next building who I've been told has a good idea."

“I don’t want you to feel threatened, but there’s a guy in the next building who I’ve been told has a really good idea.”

Just as one example of this style of thinking: why should any team meeting be routinely “closed” to “non-members” of the group who are having the meeting?

Why, indeed, should it not be actively advertised, with all those who feel they have useful input invited to attend?

Yes, yes, yes. One can instantly sense busy executives shuddering at the thought of endlessly extended meetings – as if we don’t all have enough of those already – enthusiastically infested by the eternal committee-sitters that are so easily identifiable in any organisation.

But restricting meetings to an elite few is not the solution to that problem.

Rather, the solution to THAT problem is to have meetings that have clear and concise agendas, chaired by people who are skilled at controlling wafflers and time wasters.

Or in other words, it’s better to have one waffling air-bag punctured in public than to have one staff member who actually has the answer to a problem excluded from contributing because no-one thought to ask them along to the meeting.

Here again, the democratic principle is a useful guide: Councils and Parliaments, for example, all have “Stranger’s Galleries”, and the most stringent conditions have to be met for those galleries to be cleared and for the body to go into secret session.

And needless to say, on those occasions when a cabal or clique is seeking to do the wrong thing, then corporate governance is enhanced when more people know what’s going on.

Which leads us neatly to:

THE PRINCIPLE OF PRO-ACTIVITY

In order to give meaning to the first principle, (instead of merely adopting it as a high-minded ideal that means very little in practice), there should be an assumption that a company’s bodies will make every effort to disseminate information pro-actively, straining every sinew to ensure that information reaches the further possible point of the corporate family in a timely and easily-understood manner.

"Goodness me yes, I'm pro-active. I sometime shout at them BEFORE they need it, just to keep them on their blessed toes."     "Hell yes, I'm pro-active. I sometime shout at them BEFORE they need it, just to keep them on their blessed toes."

“Goodness me yes, I’m pro-active. I sometimes even shout at them BEFORE they need it, just to keep the little blighters on their blessed toes.”

The leaders of organisations should critique their efforts in this regard, constantly testing to see whether such pro-activity is genuine, thoughtful, enthusiastic and effective.

Where this requires extra effort or expenditure, such burdens should be managed with equanimity, secure in the knowledge that what is being done is vital to the health and growth of the organisation, rather than a tiresome annoyance.

The goal should be to seek out the gifts of the widest possible audience as early as possible in any decision-making process, content that the best advice is frequently commonsense, and that commonsense frequently appears from the least-expected quarter, and frequently from outside the management team. (See: How to save eight million bucks by spending twenty.)

But of course, there is no point doing this unless organisations also adhere to:

THE PRINCIPLE OF SIMPLICITY

Information that is convoluted, partial, or badly explained is less useful that no information at all. It will cause misunderstanding and confusion, leading to mistrust and disputation.

As a logical consequence, every effort should be made to reduce unnecessary and tortuous prolixity, the purpose of such verbiage merely being, as far as one can ascertain, as much to obscure as it is to enlighten.

Simple enough for you?

Simple enough for you?

Or in other words, use fewer words.

And then communicate those words briskly and effectively. By embracing …

THE PRINCIPLE OF PROFESSIONALISM

If the foregoing principles are to succeed, then executives should seek out the best means possible to disseminate the information available, constantly critiquing performance in this area to check that other, more powerful mechanisms or technologies have not presented themselves as a better way to get things over to people.

And every communications item, whatever its medium, should be attractive and engaging, properly laid out and presented, or well performed, well-written, enticing, intriguing, and informative, and avoid unnecessary legalism, conventionalism, and conservatism.

"My wordy yes, Mr Hopgood, everything down here is the very model of professionalism."

“You want me to upload a video to our intranet website and send out an EDM to everyone at one minute to 9 so they start their day by watching it? And then copy the video to their partners on their home email with a polite explanatory note asking them to a company celebration? Yessir, Mr Hopgood, Sir.”

So here’s the homework. If you apply these standards to how your organisation works, how are you doing?

Bear in mind that any changes that organisations adopt will amount to a hill of beans, and a small hill at that, unless every decision taken is consciously subjected to the following checklist:

  • The matter we are discussing can anyone see any compelling reason why everyone shouldn’t know about this?
  • How can we best let the largest number of people know about it, and as quickly as possible at that?
  • What is the simplest, clearest way we can present the information?
  • What will be the most effective medium for transmission?
  • Do we know what we’re trying to achieve?
  • Have we made it easy and effective for people to respond?

If leaders are prepared to sign up to these principles as a guide, then work can begin promptly on the changes necessary to begin implementing them in a practical way.

As a first step, these principles could be “read into the minutes” of a Board, for example, and formally adopted as the principles by which the organisation’s peak bodies operate.

The next step would be to implement a communications program to have these principles understood by all management, and, in turn, by the staff as a whole, and to decide what impact the principles have on the way communication flow happens within the organisation.

But we have to be clear about one thing.

Effective communication is not a mechanical issue. It is a state of mind.

If anyone senior in an organisation has any serious reservations about adopting this style of management, and also has the power to “white ant” the process as soon as it gets underway, then there’s simply no point worrying about the “how to”.

Because it is clear that, like most things, achieving genuine progress in internal communications requires real visionary leadership.

So ask yourself: are you that leader?

Stephen Yolland is a businessman and business consultant working primarily in Melbourne, Australia, and also in the United States, Malaysia, China, and Britain. He lectures on matters of business interest and is a sought after public speaker on business, marketing and other topics. He has worked in a variety of senior roles in sales, marketing and advertising for 35 years, and is the founder of and major contributor to the Wellthisiswhatithink blog. He is also a popular commentator on political and civics issues, and is a published poet.

This ad was printed in 1937.  The fancy bottle was the “Steinie.”  It was specially made this way so it easy to handle and didn’t take up space in the fridge or icebox. In an interesting bit of trivia (and according to another Schlitz print ad), the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company pioneered the idea of bottling its beer in brown bottles.  This was done to keep unwanted light out and keep the freshness of the beer in. The good old days when "a truth well told" was at the core of advertising.

An ad from 1937. The fancy bottle was the “Steinie.” It was specially made this way so it easy to handle and didn’t take up space in the fridge or icebox. In an interesting bit of trivia (and according to another Schlitz print ad), the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company pioneered the idea of bottling its beer in brown bottles. This was done to keep unwanted light out and keep the freshness of the beer in. The good old days when “a truth well told” was at the core of advertising.

Case histories of head-butting brand versus brand challenges are always interesting to advertising and marketing tragics like me … read: tired creaky-jointed ad guy who is old enough to watch Mad Men and wonder “Why are they making a movie of my life? More to the point, why aren’t I getting a royalty? I was that soldier!” … but also to most of you, it appears.

But really: who would spend five long, detailed blogs writing up the story of the beer wars in the United States, focused on the brand he loves, Schlitz and it’s everlasting battle with the likes of Budweiser?

Well, my mate Bill, would.

And it’s a good read, too, packed with heaps to learn for marketing managers and ad agency people and consultants and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, including avoiding the hubris that also led icon brands like Coke and Fosters-CUB to change the formulas of their brown fizzy water and Victoria Bitter respectively .

http://billsbrainworks.com/beer-wars-the-birth-of-the-brands/

Don’t say I never give you the good stuff.

If Schlitz want to win the beer wars again – and it would be so nice if they could, because I remember drinking it appreciatively when there was only one American burger bar in the whole of the English town I lived in – yes, I go that far back – which was called, with delicious homage to the States “Alice’s Restaurant” – and yes it was actually run by a bird called Alice – well, if Schlitz need a hand, I reckon they should call Bill in for a chat.

What have they got to lose? If passion equates to likely success, Bill’s their man.

Image

Nick Barnett

Oh well, back to business. I am indebted to my colleague Nicholas Barnett and his team at Insynch Surveys for sending me their latest newsletter which includes this excellent article on the factors that separate really successful, fast-moving organisations from others.

As Insynch have one of the best employee engagement survey businesses around – if not the best – then I find their research really compelling. If you want a copy of their newsletter, or to get the whole report, just flick them an email to info@insyncsurveys.com.au. It’s always a good read – and if your business or organisation has got some sticky bits that defy improvement, why not ask them if they can help you find out why? Trust me: I’ve been around the tables a few times. They’re good.

I saw lots of graphics for High Performance Organisation and they were all crap and predictable. Then I just saw this and liked it. Is it relevant? Dunno: just a nice illustration, honestly. Yee-har.

Um … I saw lots of graphics for High Performance Organisation and they were all crap and predictable. Then I just saw this and liked it. Is it relevant? Dunno: just a nice illustration, honestly. Yee-har.

Oh. PS. The 7 Habits aren’t rocket science. But they do require a committed focus. How good is your situation, measured against this list?

Article follows:

Our latest research unveils the 7 habits of high performance organisations that have steered them through a low growth economy and an increasingly competitive environment.

The research helps leaders of all organisations, regardless of size or type, understand how to increase productivity, performance and profitability.

Here’s a summary:

1. Live an inspiring vision

An organisation with a clear and inspiring vision is far more likely to gain employee buy-in and the extra discretionary effort, energy and focus from employees that are essential to achieving sustainable high performance. More than half (54%) of employees from high performance organisations believe their leadership team has an inspiring vision, compared to 24% from low performance organisations.

The lesson: High performance organisations understand that they don’t only need to develop a shared, compelling and inspiring vision; they must make a habit of continually espousing that vision and make it integral to everything they do. The vision then becomes authentic, relevant, aligned, achievable and memorable and something all employees can understand and be proud of.

2. Communicate clear strategies and goals

An inspiring vision becomes the single guiding light that points the way for employees. Strategies and goals aligned to that vision add focus and urgency to the individual plans, actions and goals of employees. High performance organisations make it a priority to communicate their strategies clearly. More than two thirds (69%) of their employees are clear on the strategy.

The lesson: High performance organisations engage their employees in developing their strategy which gains their buy-in and increases the likelihood of achieving the strategy. High performance organisations also spend a lot of time considering how the strategy can be simplified and best communicated to all employees.

3. Develop your people

Nearly half (45%) the employees of low performance organisations state that their organisation doesn’t have effective plans for developing and retaining its people, compared to only 19% for high performance organisations.

The lesson: Many executives say that they can’t afford to develop their employees because the investment is often not worth it, as many employees leave too soon after they receive the relevant education and training. This is a “cup half empty” perspective and not conducive to building leadership talent and capability. The concern should not be “what if we develop our people and they leave?”, but “what if we don’t develop them and they stay?”

4. Go out of your way to recognise people

Over half (55%) of employees from high performance organisations believe their senior leadership team goes out of their way to acknowledge and thank people for their contribution. This is compared to 27% for low performance organisations. On this factor alone, employees of high performance organisations are more likely to be engaged and happy to come to work each day.

The lesson: Until acknowledging and thanking people for their contribution becomes a habit, leaders need to consciously make the extra effort to increase the extent to which they recognise their staff. There is very little extra cost, other than a small amount of time, and the payback will be significant.

5. Genuinely care for your people

The psychological contract refers to the often unwritten expectations of an employee towards their employer. If employees perceive that this contract has been broken, their trust in, and commitment to, their employer will be diminished. The majority (59%) of employees in high performance organisations perceive their organisation to be caring and committed to them. There is also a strong reciprocal relationship, with more than three quarters (78%) willing to recommend the organisation as a good place to work to family and friends.

The lesson: Some organisations aim to manage the psychological contract more effectively by making their employee offer explicit (documented), rather than implicit (unwritten). These organisations take great care in crafting and documenting an employee value proposition (EVP) that appeals to the people most suited to working in their organisation.

6. Listen and adapt to customer needs

More than three quarters (79%) of employees in high performance organisations believe that their organisation consistently shows a commitment to achieving long term customer loyalty compared to only 47% in low performance organisations.

The lesson: High performance organisations demonstrate a much greater, more structured and thoughtful commitment to their customers, and take a longer term view to customer loyalty. They are more likely to partner with their clients by getting to know them and how they can service them better. They understand that, as they demonstrate a true understanding of their customers’ needs and deliver services that meet those needs, they build customer loyalty and advocacy.

7. Continually improve your systems

Almost three quarters (73%) of employees in high performance organisations agree that their organisation is committed to continually improving its systems compared to only 41% in low performance organisations.

The lesson: High performance organisations ensure that their systems are fit for purpose and well integrated as a key enabler for improving productivity and customer service. Inadequate systems hinder many organisations in executing their strategy. If you genuinely care for your people (habit 5), you will ensure that they are not frustrated as a result of inadequate systems.

OK, impossible to believe, I know, but words fail me on this one. They saw NOTHING wrong with this billboard at all – none of them – the client, the agency, the regulatory authorities – no-one.

Ye Gods. For the other Advertising F*** Ups we have recorded, plus a couple of “whoa! Well done advertising!” just put the word “advertising” in the search box top left of the page, hit enter, and enjoy …

20130317-130736.jpg

Hang on, what was that number again?

 

I am most grateful to Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink for spotting this one. Does anyone know where this excruciating piece of nonsense ran?

This article was originally published in 2010 in the Australian Financial Review. In it James Strong, chairman of Woolworths and IAG, and former CEO of Qantas, who sadly and prematurely died aged 68 this week, reflects on the value of walking the talk on management style.

A considerable outpouring of sadness reveals how this successful Aussie businessman was widely respected and cherished, and when one reads this article – packed full of commonsense – it is easy to see why.

I have always said I can tell everything from a  potential business contact by how they treat waiters, waitresses and barmen.

The first thing I do in a restaurant is find out the name of the person serving me, as we don’t have the charming American tradition of them introducing themselves. I then use their name throughout the meal, and thank them for the work they are doing on my behalf.  Of such common courtesies is the world built. People who ignore them will genuinely not be the type of people with whom I want to do business.

How do you get to the top? A dash of luck, a lot of determination, and in James Strong's case, by all accounts, vast amounts of commonsense and dignity.

How do you get to the top? A dash of luck, a lot of determination, and in James Strong’s case, vast amounts of commonsense and dignity.

Years ago, I spoke to a group of managers from a telecommunications business on the importance of understanding how your own behaviour sends a message.

Their leader at a subsequent dinner said how he totally endorsed this very personal approach, whilst at the same time disdainfully dismissing with a wave of his hand a young waiter trying to offer him some wine. No eye contact, no acknowledgment that the waiter was a person. My heart sank, as I knew I had wasted my time.

Years later, I recounted this story to 500 guests at a business luncheon. After the event, the hotel manager rushed up to tell me that his entire staff were amused that the audience was suddenly unusually polite to his staff at every table – lots of eye contact, with smiling acknowledgment of service!

Why should that not apply to every person providing service? They could be your son or daughter, niece or nephew. They are entitled to respect.

Very successful groups tend to share a fundamental value in how they operate, implicitly or explicitly.

This is recognition that the key factor in creating high performance is how you treat people, inside and outside the organisation, every day in every way.

The gap between what someone in a leadership position says they believe in and what people actually observe I crudely refer to as the “urinating in a wetsuit” style of management. The person in the wetsuit gets a lovely warm feeling, but no one else from outside can see that anything has changed.

Dang, this Willy Wonka meme is useful ...

Dang, this Willy Wonka meme is useful …

So when a leader promises enlightened and empathetic change, and there is no discernible difference in the organisation, you predictably get “the rolling eyeball effect” as staff mutter “another wanker telling us the same old story, but we know nothing will really change”.

It is behaviour that matters – it’s how you actually treat people, not how you say or think you treat them.

People are much more likely to do their best and deliver extra discretionary effort for an organisation when they experience respect, encouragement, personal development and opportunities to grow.

It is all too easy to underestimate the intelligence or powers of observation of people. All of us are making assessments of people and companies or groups every day – guaging sincerity, credibility and trustworthiness. Where actual daily behaviour and treatment do not match stated value propositions, cynicism and distrust flourish quickly. (And productivity falls vertigionously – Ed.)

Many frothy mission statements or management “manifestos” declare the importance of people, and a set of high-minded values held dear by the organisation. If this is not the actual experience each and every day, it is no surprise that those words mean nothing.

The central proposition should be to establish and display authenticity and believability with people through consistent daily behaviour and powerful personalised communications. The greatest compliment any speaker or writer can receive is a comment such as “I understood everything you were saying”.

During my time at Qantas [Strong was CEO from 1993 to 2001], we evolved a format of presentations immediately after every six-month results announcement. Each forum was attended by 1,000 people from every level and area.

It started with the financial results, then a simple explanation of our profit and loss account, so people saw our costs and revenue streams, taking the profit onto the balance sheet, showing why a company needs profits to invest in its future, dividends to pay its shareholders, plus a cash-flow statement to show the importance of timing in balancing investment, etc. All simplified and easily understandable.

The rest of each day was a report by the CEO on challenges, issues and directions, then an update by the head of every major division of the group – aircraft fleet plans, engineering, IT, marketing, people issues, etc. Always a section by a front-line team telling their colleagues how they had taken on a problem in their area, and what they had achieved. They were powerful messages. From a doubtful “Is this a brainwash?” start, people were bidding from all over the business for an opportunity to attend. They walked out feeling they had been trusted with enormous amounts of information and were now incredibly well informed. The atmosphere was always electric. They had individual kits and an obligation to share with colleagues.

People like to be well informed, to feel like “insiders” as to what is happening, what is planned. It makes them feel they are respected and trusted.

It is very difficult today for CEOs to spend a lot of time speaking directly to staff in groups, but it remains the potentially most powerful way to influence people. Fronting up has great credibility in good times or bad.

Exciting atmospheres can be created by inviting staff to participate in problem identification in their area of work.

For example, Woolworths in the past experienced some difficulties with its huge warehouse distribution system in relation to turnover, absenteeism, productivity and staff engagement.

The senior management backed an outsider with an impressive track record of real cultural change in tough environments to bring about a transformation. In his usual daring form (and with the approval of the CEO), he invited the whole senior management group to hear a presentation by staff from one distribution centre. They were forklift operators, team leaders and others from the front line. They were nervous, but they outlined what they thought were the problems where they worked, and what they would like to have a say in changing.

They told about quality and suitability of equipment, safety and workplace injuries, rostering and manning practices, and being treated as though they had something to contribute. Hallelujah! Amazingly, this matched the management concerns.

They began a process of people in distribution centres forming groups to take responsibility for critical issues such as safety. They also were given data so that today you can walk into any centre and they can tell you their cost per carton handled and how it compares with other sites, with a real competitive edge and attitude of ownership.

Never underestimate people. If things are not as they should be, perhaps the way you are managing is creating a negative atmosphere. Ask them, listen to them.

Warmth, sincerity and good intentions will not convince everyone.

Some resist change and don’t care; some seek to sabotage.

However, genuine chances for people to grow and have greater influence in where they work appeal to most because of that most powerful incentive of personal growth and improvement. It is a positive resource to be tapped in inspiring people to strive to achieve their full potential.

Amen.

blind

This is reproduced from the January 1, 2006 Harvard Business Review, by Paul Rogers & Marcia Blenko. It was sent to me by a client experiencing the need to clarify their decision-making on a particular significant matter, as he kindly thought it should be of interest to a guy whose business is called Decisions Decisions.

It was – and I hope you find it useful, too.

I have seen more chaos caused in organisations by the true decision-maker being obscured or inadequately supported than from any other single factor, except, perhaps, confusion over what the decision that is actually being taken really is.

This breakdown solves the first problem. To solve the second, call me on +61 419 290708.

The Idea in Brief

Decisions are the coin of the realm in business. Every success, every mishap, every opportunity seized or missed stems from a decision someone made-or failed to make. Yet in many firms, decisions routinely stall inside the organization-hurting the entire company’s performance.

The culprit? Ambiguity over who’s accountable for which decisions.

In one auto manufacturer that was missing milestones for rolling out new models, marketers and product developers each thought they were responsible for deciding new models’ standard features and colors. Result? Conflict over who had final say, endless revisiting of decisions-and missed deadlines that led to lost sales.

How to clarify decision accountability? Assign clear roles for the decisions that most affect your firm’s performance-such as which markets to enter, where to allocate capital, and how to drive product innovation.

Think “RAPID®”.

Who should Recommend a course of action on a key decision? Who must agree to a recommendation before it can move forward? Who will perform the actions needed to implement the decision? Whose Input is needed to determine the proposal’s feasibility? Who decides-brings the decision to closure and commits the organization to implement it?

When you clarify decision roles, you make the right choices-swiftly and effectively.

The RAPID Decision Model

For every strategic decision, assign the following roles and responsibilities:

PEOPLE WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR
Recommending

  • Making a proposal on a key decision, gathering input, and providing data and analysis to make a sensible choice in a timely fashion
  •  Consulting with input providers-hearing and incorporating their views, and winning their buy-in

Agreeing

  • Negotiating a modified proposal with the recommender if they have concerns about the original proposal
  • Escalating unresolved issues to the decider if the “A” and “R” can’t resolve differences
  • If necessary, exercising veto power over the recommendation

Performing

  • Executing a decision once it’s made
  • Seeing that the decision is implemented promptly and effectively

Inputing

  • Providing relevant facts to the recommender that shed light on the proposal’s feasibility and practical implications

Deciding

  • Serving as the single point of accountability
  • Bringing the decision to closure by resolving any impasse in the decision-making process
  • Committing the organization to implementing the decision

Decision-Role Pitfalls

In assigning decision roles:

  • Ensure that only one person “has the D.” If two or more people think they’re in charge of a particular decision, a tug-of-war results.
  • Watch for a proliferation of “A’s.” Too many people with veto power can paralyze recommenders. If many people must agree, you probably haven’t pushed decisions down far enough in your organization.
  • Avoid assigning too many “I’s.” When many people give input, at least some of them aren’t making meaningful contributions.

An example of the RAPID model in action

At British department-store chain John Lewis, company buyers wanted to increase sales and reduce complexity by offering fewer salt and pepper mill models. The company launched the streamlined product set without involving the sales staff. And sales fell.

Upon visiting the stores, buyers saw that salespeople (not understanding the strategy behind the recommendation) had halved shelf space to match the reduction in product range, rather than maintaining the same space but stocking more of the products.

To fix the problem, the company “gave buyers the D” on how much space product categories would have. Sales staff “had the A”: If space allocations didn’t make sense to them, they could force additional negotiations. They also “had the P,” implementing product layouts in stores.

Once decision roles were clarified, sales of salt and pepper mills exceeded original levels.

Making Critical Decisions the RAPID way

I believe it is increasingly important, no matter what the size and complexity of your organization is, to have a defined decision-making process.  Having been a leader of extensive global and regional underwriting and marketing business units that require many fast and accurate decisions, my teams had no choice but to establish formal decision-making roles and responsibilities.  In retrospect, while these written authorities provided some clarity, they were fairly one dimensional written “lines of authority”.  To support these basic decision-making rules required constant interaction and an enormous amount of communication.

Executing a strategic plan successfully depends upon the success or failure of the actual people executing the plan to make good decisions.  It stands to reason that if you can improve your team’s decision-making abilities then plan execution and results should also improve along the way.  The RAPID decision-making model goes a few steps further than what I call “written lines of authority” and is an easy but effective way to instill professional decision making within an organization.

According to a Bain and Company Study, the average organization has the potential to more than double its ability to make and execute key decisions.

On a decision-effectiveness scale of 0 to 100, the best companies score an average of 71, while most companies score only a 28, according to Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers, authors of Decide & Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization.

Quick summary of RAPID

  • RAPID was developed by Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko – two Bain & Company Consultants.  Their article: “Who has the D? How clear decision roles enhance organizational performance” which appeared in the January 2006 Harvard Business Review has since become one of HBRs “10 must reads”.
  • The Acronym RAPID describes the various roles and responsibilities for clear decision making within an organization.  With respect to critical decisions, it ultimately shows how power flows through an organization and/or business unit.
  • The objective with this approach is to create a more formalized, participatory approach towards decision-making process within an organization.
    It is also useful as a “post mortem” tool to diagnose failed decisions – to see what element or elements in the RAPID process was/were lacking or missing so the next time a critical decision has to be made so you are not repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
  • Implementing RAPID can be messy; it can reveal a convoluted and faulty decision-making process so there must be a full commitment to “check egos at the door” and accept the need for adopting RAPID as part of an organizational improvement initiative.  If your organization is in flux, it may not be the appropriate time to implement RAPID.
  • The web site http://www.decide-deliver.com designed by Rogers and Blenko can help you assess your decision making prowess and also, do the same type of assessment of your organization.
  • One of the pitfalls of this approach can be that it actually slows decision-making down. Therefore, at the outset of a project it is recommended that you decide which projects will follow RAPID and which ones will not.

Characteristics of High Performance Companies That Use RAPID

High-Performing organizations make good decisions quickly. Some of the characteristics they exhibit are:

  • For complex issues that require rapid decision making, achieving the right mix of control and creative freedom is critical for sustainable success.
  • A list of critical decisions in priority order must be part of the Strategic planning process. Determining which ones will follow the RAPID process is also required.
  • Decisions that build value are most important and thus, have the highest priority on such a list.
  • Action is the Goal.
  • Ambiguity is the enemy.
  • Speed and adaptability are key.
  • Decision roles trump the organizational chart.
  • A well-aligned organization reinforces roles and responsibilities.
  • Practicing beats preaching.  That being said, a communication plan needs to dovetail with the RAPID process.
  • Remember the “Rule of 7″: once you’ve got 7 people in a decision-making group, each additional member reduces decision effectiveness by 10%. Thus, a group of 17 or more rarely makes any decisions.
  • Managers spend 50% or more of their time in meetings, but Bain & Company research shows that two-thirds of meetings end before participants can make important decisions. Not surprisingly, 85% of executives are dissatisfied with the efficiency and effectiveness of their companies’ meetings.

If you think your meetings, strategy planning and decision-making as less than optimal, perhaps RAPID® is the answer?

RAPID® is a registered trademark of Bain & Company, Inc.

What he said.

What he said.

OK. So this always happens. The minute I post a new Advertising F*** Up, my inbox is deluged with other examples.

What does this say about the abilities of the advertising industry worldwide, or it’s quality control levels? It says they are frequently crap, and, er, frequently crap.

Anyhow, we should be grateful for small mercies, because they are very funny and/or cringe inducing. This one falls into the category of “Oh, no, surely that was done in Photoshop, no one would really do that, right?” But as it was Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink that emailed it to me, I think it deserves a run, or I won’t get my tea.

I actually think it could be real, because what I know about the outdoor advertising industry is that it is more than capable of producing “skins” in a factory somewhere and all they are interested in is the technical accuracy of the production run, and not the creative content.

Personally, I once ran a double-page full colour ad for a client that read “Oustanding Value”. It got through our agency quality control process, the client signed off, the magazine quality control process signed off, and, indeed, had been in the public arena for half a week before anyone spotted it.

So without further ado, here is today’s contender. Further comment superfluous.

Yummy

Yummy.

D' oh!

Oh dear. A rather, er, prominent mistake.

Well, OK, technically the first one is packaging, not advertising. But, you know – same diff.

Always a good idea for the creative department designing the label to know the ink density and absorbency of the paper being used.

Once you know that, it’s all about kerning, people.

But then again, does anyone in today’s ad industry actually know what kerning is?

Hmmm?

Doesn’t the Apple just do that for me?

Mummy?

Meanwhile, Dear Reader, a quick lesson in not necessarily using every space available in this lovely world of ours for advertising, or if we do, let’s make sure the creatives actually see the site before they’re asked to beaver away at their keyboards, eh?

Take their coffee and cocaine away from them, pop some sunglasses on their precious little noses, and send them out into the real world.

Coz, see, I am reasonably sure this is not the sub-conscious image that Turkish Airlines wish to leave in the minds of their potential customers.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

 

(BTW, I really can’t be arsed to post links to all the F*** Ups of 2012 – just type advertising in the search box top left and you’ll soon find them all.)

Excuse me? Say what?

Well, I just told you, actually.

It’s as easy as this.This is the good oil. The stuff the ad agencies never tell you, either because they don’t know themselves, or because they’re trying to keep what they do a mystery, so you keep paying squillions for it.

Make your headline a question, not a statement.

See … you’re reading this now, aren’t you? The headline has done it’s job: it’s got you into the body copy, to find the evidence you now know you want.

And here is that evidence. In a survey done by the NRMA in Sydney some years ago, headlines with questions in them were found to be SIX TIMES more effective at gathering a response than headlines that were statements.

So in other words, restrain yourself from saying “We make the best widgets in the world.” Or even “New widget released!”

Instead, say “What would it mean to you if we had invented a better widget?”

Most marketers have never learned this, and consequently blather on about their own products or services intensely and boringly. (And expensively.) Then they wonder why their ads don’t work very hard.

Most ad agencies are now staffed with people who don’t know this too.

If you don’t believe me, run one ad with a question for a headline, and the identical ad with a statement, and see which works best. It’s dead easy to do online now, for example, at virtually no cost, and very easy to track the results.

If your ad agency won’t listen to you when you see that I am right, call me on 0419 290 708, and I’ll re-write your advertising for you so it works harder.

Yes, really. Life sometimes IS that simple.

I was originally going to do these once a month, until they came flooding in so thick and fast that they just demand being published.

For today’s it’s All Hail the Mighty Target, (Australian branch), who, in an interesting wrinkle on recent controversies, (forgive the pun), are here found guilty of not air-brushing their models enough.

He’s very handy, this chap, isn’t he? Still, I expect he’s basically ‘armless.

How many can you count?

The catalogue page on the Target Australia website has now been corrected – luckily someone spotted it and got it out into the blogosphere first. And thank you to Caitlin for bringing it to my attention.

Somewhere inside Target is a little marketing assistant who won’t sit down for a week, not to mention his or her counterpart in the art department of the ad agency. “Such a drag, all that proof reading. I know: let’s go to the pub instead!”

And wait … those perfect families in catalogues aren’t real? Surely not!

The other Advertising F*** Ups we’ve spotted this year, if you missed ‘em.

The world’s stupidest billboard placement: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-gX

Not the holiday anyone would really want: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-hJ

Stores abusing innocent shoppers: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-j8

My personal favourite so far, the most embarrassingly badly worded headline in history: http://tinyurl.com/7enukvd

And the most recent. Oh, those crazy whacky country McDonalds eaters: http://tinyurl.com/83vgpng

More soon, no doubt. Keep ‘em coming people.

I was contacted by Mark Tipping to alert me to the arrival of his brand new blog (and related business) which is called, brilliantly, “The Tipping Point“.

http://www.thetippingpoint.me.

If the rest of the blog is as good as its name, we’re in for a treat!

young tree

"From tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow" my mother always said. Well, OK, by the look of it, that's not an oak tree at all, in fact I'm not sure what it is, but you take my point.

Having read his first couple of articles, it sounds to me that what Mark is trying to achieve, to combine a successful consulting business with active philanthropy, is very worthy of our support. So well done him, and I look forward to reading more.

Search Engine Optimisation - the myths debunked

Is SEO all it's cracked up to be?

Very interesting and helpful article (the first of a series, apparently) about Search Engine Optimisation (SOE) and what does (and doesn’t) work in getting people to click on and read your blog and/or website.

http://fastthinking.com.au/group/articles/index/3eea-seo-debunking-the-myths

Written in easy-to-understand Plain English – hoorah!

Qantas's famous aboriginal art-style plane

Not in the Top 10? Trouble for the Flying Kangaroo.

Qantas is not even in the world’s Top Ten airlines for safety according to this body … despite never having lost a passenger, as pointed out so amusingly in Rain Man. Not even the safest in Asia. (Anyone who’s ever flown on most Asian airlines, if you’ll forgive that tortuous sentence construction, will raise an eyebrow at that.)

Anyway, does this lend weight to unions’ concerns that Qantas is not what it used to be? What do you think?

http://au.news.yahoo.com/latest/a/-/latest/10143966/agency-names-worlds-10-safest-airlines/

Perhaps the planes have too much paint on them?

One thing I have never understood: why does Qantas not promote itself by sponsoring an international cycling team, headed by Cadel Evans, taking part in the world cycling circuit including Le Tour de France. Seems like a lay down misere to me*. I would have thought, despite the obvious investment, they’d get a hell of a lot more value out of that, worldwide, than their relationship with the Wallabies and the Socceroos, much as I applaud those sponsorships. After all, it is their international business which is leaking money; presumably, partly, through lack of effective promotion overseas.

Am I wrong? Am I missing something? Hundreds of millions of people around the world follow cycling, especially the Tour, and Australia produces some of the world’s best cyclists. Seems like Blind Freddie could see the argument, but then Qantas doesn’t exactly strike one as a very innovative or well-run business sometimes … perhaps that’s harsh … I like their Frequent Flier programme, and the way they run it, their phone support is usually very good and courteous, and their website is excellent. But they just come over as bureaucratic, lumbering and boring. Do you agree?

*The phrase “a lay down mesere” means that something is blindingly obvious or a certainty to happen, and is common in Australia/New Zealand slang. e.g. “This election is a lay-down mesere for the Groovy Party”. Its origins are in the card game “500″. In normal play the idea is to win a number of tricks bid (or more). But if a player has a very poor hand, they can opt to bid to lose every trick in the hand (“mesere” bid), and further if they lay their cards on the table it is an “open mesere” or “lay down mesere”, and often carries enough points that the game can be won in a single hand.

Pelican affected by BP oil spill in the Gulf

Some mistakes can be very expensive indeed

It was just your average “Nah, that’ll do, we can fix that later, stop fussing, that’ll do” moment that any middle manager could have had, really.

BP Plc. so far has paid a mind-bending $5 billion to people who were affected by the 4.8 million litre oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in those waters in April 2010. That cost doesn’t count what the market value of the comnpany has slumped by, of course.

Or the damage to their brand. Or the cost to the men who died or were injured, and their families.

Anyhow, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the independent entity created in August 2010 to administer BP’s indemnification fund, issued a report this Tuesday covering its first year of activity. The GCCF reported that during this past year it received 947,892 claims, of which 97 percent have been processed and a total of 204,434 claimants already have been paid.  Over the past three months, 61,558 claims have been received from new claimants and others whose initial claims were rejected and who are re-filing, and the weekly claims volume has been 4,397, on average.

The claimants come from all 50 states, but mainly from the five in the region of the Gulf of Mexico: that’s to say, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, prime tourism and fishing zones that were affected by the spill. The processing of the documents received to date and the payments will take until August 2013.

The state that has received the most payments has been Florida, with $2 billion, followed by Louisiana with $1.52 billion and Alabama with $862 million.

My mother would have said “For a ha’porth of tar, the ship was lost.” If you see what I mean.

You can find out what I think about oil companies generally by clicking here: http://www.cafepress.com.au/yolly.460473488