Your “pet” problem solving method

July 29, 2019

By Art Smalley via  Article

Change Your “Pet” Problem Solving Method

“Some business problems require a quick reaction to “stop the bleeding” while others require creativity or more analytical approaches to reach better target states or attain breakthrough results.

No matter the problem, it probably will fall into one of the types in the helpful framework that author and veteran lean management practitioner Art Smalley introduced in his recent book, Four Types of Problems. The flexible framework helps leaders and teams apply the right problem-solving approach by recognizing the four problem types:

  1. Troubleshooting: A reactive process of rapidly fixing abnormal conditions. (When a house is burning, extinguish the fire.)
  2. Gap-from-standard: A structured problem-solving process that aims at the root cause. (Determine what caused the fire and how to prevent another.)
  3. Target-state: Continuous improvement (kaizen) that goes beyond existing levels of performance. (Use superior building materials that are much less likely to lead to fires in the first place.)
  4. Open-ended and Innovation: Unrestricted pursuit through creativity of a vision or ideal condition that entails radical improvements. (Ask why not have systems that detect, prevent, or immediately stop fires from occurring right away?)

In this interview, Art reflects on why we make the mistake of reaching for the same problem-solving technique over and over, how the framework helps us talk about problem solving, and why troubleshooting is so important. Finally, he offers examples of different types of problems when he gets locked out of his hotel room by a faulty lock.”

The next home run

July 29, 2019

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” – Babe Ruth


A risky retirement strategy

July 29, 2019

By Mark Miller via  Article

“Cleo Parker had a simple plan before retiring: She would work well into her 60s as a marketing analyst in the automotive business. But recently, she has been searching for a Plan B.

In 2006, just as she was about to turn 50, Ms. Parker’s longtime marketing job with a Detroit-area advertising agency was eliminated. For the next decade, she worked a series of short-term-contract and full-time positions — many in the volatile auto industry, which has reduced employment levels drastically since the 2008 financial crisis. Ms. Parker’s last full-time job, as a marketing analyst for a pet supply retail chain, evaporated in 2018.

Ms. Parker has since interviewed for more than 30 positions. At age 62, she often finds herself chasing jobs for which she is overqualified and that pay far less than what she had been earning.

‘First, you have to deal with persuading people you are O.K. with a salary level at or below your last position,’ she said. Age discrimination also has been a barrier, she suspects: ‘I feel they often have a vision of an eager person younger than themselves walking into the job, and while I tend to be very enthusiastic, I am not younger than anyone I’ve interviewed with in many years.’

Ms. Parker’s story is a cautionary tale for anyone planning to postpone retirement and work indefinitely: It’s a fine aspiration, but it’s best to have a backup plan.

… a recent study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that 37 percent of workers retired earlier than planned — and that the odds of success fell as the goal became more ambitious. In that study, among the 21 percent of workers who said they intended to work to age 66 or later, 55 percent failed to reach that target.

The most common causes for unexpected early retirement are health problems and job loss, said Geoff Sanzenbacher, associate director of research at the center.”

The dreaded performance reviews

July 29, 2019

By Chris Woolston via  Article

Low marks for performance reviews

“Out of all of the methods used to rate and grade employees, the dreaded annual or semiannual performance reviews are especially unhelpful and potentially harmful, Pulakos says. ‘They’re really toxic and people hate them,’ she says. ‘You’re creating artificial steps just to check a box.’ Pulakos points to brain imaging research positing that even high-performing employees automatically go into a defense mode during performance reviews, turning a supposedly productive meeting into a fight-or-flight scenario.

Formal annual performance reviews can be extremely damaging to a company’s culture, says Herman Aguinis, the Avram Tucker Distinguished Scholar and professor of management at George Washington University in Washington, DC. ‘It’s a soul-crushing enterprise,’ he says. ‘The employee doesn’t know what they’re supposed to do, and the manager doesn’t see any value in it. They’re only doing it because human resources told them to.’ …

The growing body of research questioning the value of performance reviews has encouraged many companies to rethink their approach. Dell, Microsoft, IBM and other big business names such as the Gap, Accenture and General Electric have ditched the process, a move at times fanfared in press releases and headlines. But a 2018 survey by the research firm WorldatWork found that 80 percent of companies still used formal performance reviews. ‘Behavior change in organizations is really hard,’ Pulakos says.

Businesses that abandon formal performance reviews still have to keep tabs on employees, Aguinis says: ‘Companies that say they are getting rid of ratings are still using ratings. They just have different labels.’ For one thing, managers must have some rationale for assigning promotions and raises. If there’s no data on performance, the process of handing out promotions and raises can turn chaotic. In some cases, companies could be vulnerable to lawsuits if they don’t have a way to justify decisions.

To really understand the value of their employees, Aguinis says, managers should double down on the practice of everyday management. That means checking in on employees every day and giving them real-time feedback on things they’re doing well and areas where they can improve. ‘When performance is a conversation, when it’s not something that happens just once a year, the measurement becomes very easy and straightforward with no surprises,’ he says. He adds that it’s important to gather input from many different people within the system — peers as well as supervisors. ‘The best source of data is often not the manager,’ he says.”

What motivates your people?

July 22, 2019

By Steve Keating via   Article

“Authentic Leaders know what motivates their people because they have asked them. Other leaders assume they know or they figure what motivates them will also motivate everyone else.

Assuming they know what motivates another person is an all too common mistake of ineffective leaders. Every person is unique. They have different life experiences that shape their beliefs, their likes, their dislikes and their motivations. To assume otherwise is a fool’s errand.

Authentic Leaders invest the required time to understand the unique motivators for each of their people. Sometimes that means helping their people discover what motivates them because oftentimes people don’t stop to consider this important question on their own.

Authentic Leaders know that everyone is naturally motivated. Some people lose their motivation along life’s way and need to be reminded and refreshed. Some people just need help maintaining their motivation.

Whatever circumstances your people find themselves in, one of your key responsibilities as a leader is to help them maintain or restore their motivation.

There are leadership development programs that discuss “clues” to finding what motivates your people. There are leadership developments programs that offer tools like the DISC Test to help determine a person’s motivations.

I’m not a big fan of any of that. I’m a fan of a leader talking with their people on a regular basis to truly get to know them. I believe Authentic Leadership requires that level of personal leading take place…frequently.

If you want to know what motivates your people and how you can help them stay motivated to reach their goals and excel in their job and in life then ASK. The question will surprise people who have never been led by an Authentic Leader. Ask anyway!

Ask and then demonstrate another leadership characteristic they may not be used to…LISTEN to their answer.

Disengaged employees can suck the life out of any organization. Unmotivated employees quickly become disengaged. When you lead your people to what keeps them motivated you give them and your organization a chance at lasting success.

Do YOU know what motivates YOUR people?”

An ethical dilemma

July 22, 2019

By Steve Keating via  Article

Defining ethics

“The concept of ethics is easy to understand but it is difficult to define in a precise way. Ethical behavior refers to treating others fairly but “fair” isn’t exactly precise either.

When I think of fair I think of things like being honest, maintaining trust and credibility. Fair to me means following the rules and behaving in a proper manner. It means doing your share of the work and accepting responsibility when you don’t do something you should have…or did something you shouldn’t have.

An ethical dilemma is a situation where you have multiple choices and each choice has some undesirable elements with negative ethical consequences. I hear about supposed ethical dilemmas from time to time but most often they don’t meet the true definition of a dilemma. They don’t meet the definition because while most of the choices might have the potential for negative ethical consequences there is at least one choice that doesn’t.

The actual dilemma in those cases is that we want to make one of the choices with the negative ethical consequences. We see what’s right but what’s right is not necessarily what we want. So we claim an ethical dilemma and do whatever the heck we want.

I’m tempted to say we have all, at one time or another, sacrificed our ethics for something we really wanted. But I can’t say all; surely there are people in the world who have such high ethical standards that they would never trade them for anything.

I’d love to say I’m one of those people but I can’t say that either. Well, I could say it but lying about your ethics seems to me to be an especially egregious ethical violation.

What I can say is that I’m a work in progress. I understand the three levels of ethics and I’m much closer today to level three than I’ve ever been. The struggle is that when I think I’ve got level three locked in I slip back to level two. That’s not bad but at level two your motivation can be called into question.

Level one is what experts call the Pre conventional level. At this level an individual acts in their own best interest and only follows rules to avoid punishment or receive awards. They break moral and legal laws if they think they can do so without being caught. Sometimes they don’t even care about being caught.

Level two is known as the Conventional level of ethics. This level is where individuals conform to the expectations of others. They uphold moral and legal laws because they believe it’s right and they want to fit in.

At level three, known as the Principled level of ethics a person lives by an internal set of morals, values, and ethics. These are upheld regardless of punishments or majority opinions. These individuals are ethical all the time, in every circumstance, even if it means they are completely alone.”

An important number

July 22, 2019

By Amelia Josephson via  Article

What Is a Good Debt-to-Income Ratio?

“The debt-to-income ratio is a number that expresses the relationship between your total monthly debt and your gross monthly income. Here’s the formula:

DTI = total monthly debt payments/gross monthly income

Say you pay $1,600 a month on your mortgage. You pay $400 a month for your student loans and have no other debt. Your total monthly debt payments come to $2,000. Your gross monthly income is the money you earn before taxes and deductions. If that’s $6,000, your DTI is 33%.

Why the Debt-to-Income Ratio is Important

From your perspective, the debt-to-income ratio is an important number to keep an eye on. That’s because it tells you a lot about how precarious your financial situation is. If your debt is, say, 60% of your income, any hit to your income will leave you scrambling. If you have to step up your spending in other areas (medical expenses, for example), you’ll have a harder time keeping up with your debt payments than someone with a DTI of 25%.

From the perspective of creditors and lenders, the DTI is an important measure of risk. Folks with higher debt-to-income ratios are more likely to default on their mortgages and other debt. When you apply for a mortgage, calculating your DTI will be part of the mortgage underwriting process. In general, 43% is the highest DTI you can have and still get a Qualified Mortgage. You want a Qualified Mortgage because it comes with more borrower protections, such as limits on fees.

What’s a Good Debt-to-Income Ratio?

If 43% is the maximum debt-to-income ratio you can have while still meeting the requirements for a Qualified Mortgage, what counts as a good debt-to-income ratio? Generally the answer is: a ratio at or below 36%. The 36% Rule states that your DTI should never pass 36%. A DTI of 36% gives you more wiggle room than a DTI of 43%, leaving you less vulnerable to changes in your income and expenses. Of course, if you can manage your finances in such a way that your DTI is, say, 18%, so much the better.”