Tag Archives: leadership strategy

How to Praise Good Performance

Cover of

Cover of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Opportunities to change perspective and build a more positive organization requires hard work in scouring published materials for the latest research.

I am reading a book called, Mindset by Carol Dweck (psychologist).  Dr. Dweck identifies a couple of different mindsets that people have – fixed and growth.  She believes that if we have a fixed mindset that we are not open to feedback.  If feedback is a description of someone’s value, they may not seek feedback.  Negative feedback to a fixed mindset is a horror movie in real life.

Dr. Dweck and Dr. Claudia Mueller conducted an experiment with a group of children.  Children were complimented on ability and effort.  Those that were complemented on ability (You are so smart) were found to seek easier problems, quit sooner and overall . . . performed worse.  Conversely, those children that were complimented on effort were found to seek harder problems, perservere and perform better.

So why did children perform worse when complimented on ability?  Basically, it is because when you succeed because you are smart . . . then when you fail, you are dumb.  Persistence in a difficult task risks being labeled dumb.  Who wants that?

Praise for ability in adults works the same way according to research done by Ryan and Robert Quinn in their book, Lift. When you praise adults for their ability, they believe their ability is fixed.  Executives and workers alike may become afraid of feedback for fear of failure.  Entire organizations may get caught up in their successes and avoid negative feedback.  That is, until it is too late.

Finding ways to view your organization in a different light sometimes requires negative feedback that executives don’t want to hear.  Fear of failure can be costly.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and enable workers to build and refine their service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Dr. Deming’s Seven Diseases Still Haunt the US

W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am reading Joyce Orsini and Diana Deming Cahill’s new book, The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality.  I have not read the entire boo, but thought it would be good material for a series of posts.  The book is an accumulation of Dr. Deming’s articles, papers, etc.  As Out of the Crisis was not a “How to” book, neither is this book.

Early in the book, I am reminded of American managements’ failures.  The decline of American competitiveness and how managing by visible figures alone is fundamental to this decline.

The seven diseases and obstacles that went with Dr. Deming’s 14 points still ring true:

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis of short-term profits
  3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating and annual review.
  4. Mobility of management
  5. Management by use of visible figures.
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive costs of liability

Go into any organization worldwide and you are bound to see one or more of these diseases and obstacles obstructing the path to transformation of management.  The real issue is most organizations see these as good things.  The damage is to far removed from management blinded by a combination of financial and operational reports.

I am also reminded that unemployment is a direct result of bad management.  Management is good in finding excuses for their inability to manage.  Reorganization and downsizing is often the answer for managements failure or if you are a consultant you become the target – you have to blame someone.

As many of you know, I am long disappointed with the fads of quality that are steeped in copying the Japanese or even using them as the standard by which we measure good and bad.  Seems we would be better off going to Rosetta Stone and just learning the language as this creates as much value as these fads.  They create a smoke screen to real improvement.

Dr. Deming warned against models for improvement, “none are perfect, some are useful.”  Having seen many methods I have learned the same – all methods can be improved upon.  This, after all, is the challenge of continual improvement.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Hostess – A Reflection of What’s Wrong with American Business

Another American icon bites the dust.  Sure, we still have our auto manufacturers even if they are a shadow of their former selves.  We are a divided country . . . haves and have nots, 1% and 99%, management and labor, Republicans and Democrats.  The list can go on.  Winners and losers, except in the case of Hostess it is clear that everyone losses.

Who didn’t grow up eating Ding-Dongs, Cupcakes and Twinkies?  Not the most nutritional of snacks, but they were really good.  They just never continued to get better.  The product was a cash cow and I can not find one new product.

English: A Hostess CupCake, shown whole.

English: A Hostess CupCake, shown whole. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a management problem.

A declining market in what would be like trying to sell buggy whips in an age of cars.  The cash cow, suddenly becomes a boat anchor.  The ship sinks under the weight of management and labor taking advantage of past successes through pensions, increased salaries and other balance sheet and income statement busting actions.  Who would get most of what is left of the wreckage?  Not a question designed for a going concern.

These difficulties are exacerbated by six different leaders in the past 10 years.  The last CEO being a “turnaround expert.”  This, however, was a liquidation or more so a demolition.

This is a management problem.

As Americans, we have grown used to having managers going through a revolving door.  Leadership needs to be stable, so they can learn.  The misfits in management instead know how to manage a balance sheet and income statement but no little about growing a business or in this case how to build a Ding-Dong and not be one.  For American management this is what it has come too.

Management and labor are need of working together to end the madness.  The change needed is that management must first respect the worker and together work with them to improve the system.  Not just to reduce costs, but to improve culture and work on innovation.

Lesson learned?  We can only hope.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Support of Top Management is Not Sufficient

“Can you blame your competitor for your woes?” he would intone to groups of corporate managers. “No. Can you blame the Japanese? No. You did it yourself.”  – W. Edwards Deming

The bruising of egos for those in management was a staple when Dr. Deming would speak to such groups.  A certain disdain for those in management that didn’t or couldn’t understand the new philosophy.  He lacked the natural charisma to charm his audiences and little effort to do so.

The most damaging single group to American lack of competitiveness is management.  Labor gets all the headlines as this group has been maligned by all to many . . . anyone for a scape goat?  Look to management.

Management to Leaders

The use of arbitrary numerical goals coupled with the focus on short-term profits are only part of the problem.  My recent article in Quality Digest illustrates the need for management to become leaders by getting knowledge through understanding the work and the system in which they work in and influence.  This is not someone else’s job, it is the job of management.  Boys to Men, girls to women and management to leaders.  The right of passage.

The incessant copying of the Japanese is mostly comical at this juncture.  We have to speak Japanese to improve?  Did Deming ask the Japanese to use American words and phrases in July, 1950?  No, he asked them to learn.  This requires different thinking than that seeks management to set arbitrary numerical goals.  Deming’s famous quote is, “By what method?  Different questions lead to different answers.

Management’s active engagement is a requirement, not a like to have.  The ignorance of current thinking has to be replaced with knowledge.  There is no other way.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Designing Work for the 1% is Costly

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal got my attention.  The article is titled, Why We Lie and describes the fact that 1% cheat no matter what you do.  The rest just need to have deterrents to keep them mostly honest.

The telling example in the article describes this by “locked doors” that will keep the mostly honest people out as the locked door eliminates an opportunity.  However, the 1% will get in a steal stuff no matter what.

Isn’t this the way of the world?

There are many different forms of lying and cheating.  Executives will cheat for rewards, especially when the culture encourages this behavior.  Consultants will even steal clients by misrepresenting facts and changing history to support their intent and position.  Sometimes it comes in the form of hidden fees to customers.

Regardless, you can”t prevent people from cheating and lying that represent the 1%.  However, many organizations attempt to do so.  This is done by separating the work so that someone can’t cheat.  Seems logical, but separating the work loses the accountability that provides the deterrent to the “mostly” honest people.  Instead, once the work is separated no one is accountable.

Designing work that is interesting and challenging provides a positive deterrent to workers and provides a better leadership strategy.  This counter-intuitive truth that better work brings is something that can separate your culture and your service from all others.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.


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Buried Deep Inside the Management Factory: Value

In my last article to Quality Digest, I gave a description of the management factory.  More often than not, the management factory has been put in place with lots of bureaucratic, non-value adding roles.  The value work has literally been buried by all the policies, rules and political BS.  Customers and front-line workers get in the way of profits.

Service organizations have lost their way.  Buried the very value that creates value and reduces costs in a sea of red ink.  Management has not a clue on “what matters” to customers.  They are too busy to bother with such menial tasks as understanding customer purpose and measures that matter.

Instead, targets are set without knowledge and show “green” on Red/Yellow/Green reports.  The problem is that what is being delivered is far from “green.”  I have too often seen managers perplexed when they are hitting their numbers, but are down-sized because the company is failing.

Uncovering value in a large service organization is not hard if you know how to look.  However, all these other pursuits of management take their time, attention . . . and add no value.

Cynical, but management has become a game of manipulation.  If you can manipulate the numbers and people.  You have a future in management.  Breaking the cycle requires leadership, not sheep.

New leadership characteristics needs to be sought.  Good looks and a silver tongue can not replace knowledge.  Knowledge does not come from a management report or a meeting with other managers.  It happens when your customer shows up, calls or emails for service.  So few in management have made the connection.  Knowledge is forever buried within and value is lost.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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US Government – Ideology or Evidence?

As other governments look for examples to get out of their current mess, they should not be looking to the US or UK for guidance.  The UK expenditures have tripled in health care and doubled in local authorities.  The US has performed no better . . . . health care (Medicaid and Medicare), social programs, social security and just about every program run by government in the US is run so poorly that we have a tremendous deficit.

But our biggest deficit in the US is one of thinking.

You see ideology which breeds emotion and foolish decisions rules the day in the US.  Republicans want less government, and a balanced budget.  Democrats want more programs to be added to help people (i.e., more government), and more stimulus.  The two parties are at such odds that they can’t get anything done and everybody is mad.  Independents hold their nose and vote.

The problem in the US is ideology of both parties blinded by huge assumptions and biases.  At each others’ throats day in and day out.  Either side trying to keep power or trying to get it.  No agreement on anything – gridlock, frustration and irate voters.  Ideological stupidity reigns in the US.

Because of the extremes of both parties their learning has been lost to spinning – the art of failures being twisted to be a good thing.  Attack and counterattacks rather than coming together to solve problems.

What about evidence?

No one actually looks for evidence that would be foolish.  US Government systems are too complex, they require ideology.  And so the pendulum swings between the ideologies of left and right . . . Democrat and Republican.  Stalemate.

Evidence of what works and doesn’t work can be found but you have to look without bias and ideology.  It does require actually putting petty party differences aside, rolling up the sleeves and getting in the work – together as Americans.

On September 11, 2001 I drove to work from Randolph, New Jersey to Morris Plains.  A clear day and on those clear days you could see the Twin Towers rising from the City.  Later that day, all I could see was smoke of what remained.  Maybe we didn’t come together enough as Americans . . .

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Sarbanes-Oxley Purpose is Being Misapplied

Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D–MD) and Rep. Michael G. ...

Image via Wikipedia

Sarbanes-Oxley, the legislation to prevent fraud.  Companies seem to have forgotten the purpose of this legislation.  It was to prevent the egregious acts done by Enron, Adelphia, Tyco and Worldcom that was the reason for it.  More importantly, it was to prevent the likes of Lay, Kozlowski, Rigas and Ebbers from making companies their own personal banks.  Instead, more and more Sarbox is being used to audit the front-line.

However, the problem is not the front-line.  The greatest frauds of our time have come from the leaders of public companies and bankers.  The finance game is the one to be watched.

This does not sit well in organizations.  Think about it, if you are in governance, audit or risk will your focus really be about executives?  I don’t think so.  These are the ones that pay your salary.  Makes more sense to aim lower and justify a non-value added existence.

Organizations go after easy targets the front-line.  Making it virtually impossible for those that create value to do their work.  Lots of wasted time analyzing systems access, and authorization levels for the front-line is easier than finding back-dating of options or CEOs and CFOs colluding to manipulate stock price.  Doing so would be political suicide.

If the purpose of organizations is to make products and provision services that improve customer’s lives.  It may be boring, but you don’t get into creative accounting or unnecessary interference with those that help customers get what they want.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Problem with Budgets

Headline:  Iran Attacks USA, but No Budget to Fight Back

News at 11 . . .

Well.  That headline would get some attention.  Robert Gates claimed that he can’t fight two wars on the budget he was given.  Whether to fight two wars or not is the right thing to do is not the question I am addressing here.  The question is whether the budget should dictate what we should do.

Needless to say, I am against all this focus on budgets.  Because when we talk about budgets, we are talking about costs.  Politicians are notorious for trying to reduce costs, but they wind up increasing them.  Sometimes because of ideology and sometimes because they just hack away without knowledge of the systems they tamper with

. . . and this is the management paradox.

I am all for spending less, but in the words of W. Edwards Deming, “By what method?”  There is no way that by congress or law that we have any chance to reduce spending without knowledge of where the waste is in  any system.

Take a view that if we cut costs to eliminate our ability to fix potholes that their would be loss to the system.  Cars with flat tires and people would complain . . . a lot.

The question becomes where to cut and that can only come with knowledge of what we are doing today.  Not a line item on a budget.  This is true for both business and government.

“Reduce expenses by 9%” to meet the budget is as stupid as the removal of the wrong arm in surgery.  Managers have to be better and smarter than that to succeed.  Executives with such mandates should tarred and feathered in public for offering up such ridiculous solutions to their problems.

Management needs to understand the dysfunction that is caused by the setting of targets with budgets.  Does it get people’s attention . . . absolutely.  Cut travel, cut unnecessary expenses, but what is unnecessary?  Somebody is traveling for a reason.

It should be called “Corporate Stupidness.”  As I have often seen managers saddled with such expectations wait for the “stupid period” to end, so they can get back to doing their real jobs.

All this caused by an arbitrary number that someone committed to during that investment call.  This is just good business . . . except it is not.  It is short-term thinking at its worse.  Driving value out and expenses in over the long-term.

Budgets have long become obsolete, just when will managers discover their carnage?

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Let’s Design a Code of Ethics into Our Systems

Harvard College

Image via Wikipedia

Harvard, the master of all things business, status quo and losing touch with reality in its MBA program, is making a shift.  The shift is to revamp the curriculum in the wake of the financial crisis.  The elitists even recognize the pendulum has swung too far, so the response is predictable . . . we now needs ethics.

This discussion can get into religion and politics which is a road to nowhere.  Even the most ethical base their decisions on faulty theory.  Rewards and incentives drive behavior, but too often the wrong behavior.  I have seen owners and presidents of Fortune 500 organizations turn a blind eye to dysfunctional activity and then blame an individual for gaming the system to get a reward.

Who is responsible for that system that encourages cheating and damaging behavior?

The same executive and owner that promotes the bonuses and boondoggles to their staff.  What did you expect?  The employee to say, “No, no bonus for me this year.”

Ethical by design should be our aim.  Building systems that accommodate doing the right thing.  When our focus is on targets that become the defacto purpose of our work, we risk everything.

However, when our focus is on the customer there doesn’t have to be bad behavior.  Think about it, no laws to pass to protect the consumer and no outcomes that damage the economy.  The paradox is that focus on the customer actually creates more profit.  It’s all the junk we are forced to do to mitigate risk that creates costs.

Designing our systems outside-in with the focus on the customer creates more profit, less need for regulation and happier customers.  We are saved from enduring educational institutions that have to walk the tightrope of ethics classes.

Join me for the International Deming Conference in New York City on March 21 – 22.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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