Ethics almost irrelevant?

August 19, 2013

By James Pilant via Pliant’s Business Ethics Blog   Article

Why unethical conduct in business is so common at this time in our history? Why is business ethics almost irrelevant?

“How did doing financial speculation amounting to little more than gambling become respectable? How did the idea of a responsibility to the other citizens of a nation become amusing to the elites?

There are several factors. The first was the advent of the baby boomers to power and authority replacing the Depression and the World War Two Generations. …

The second factor … is the advent of the Chicago School of Economics and the doctrines of Milton Friedman. …

…the doctrine of “social responsibility” taken seriously would extend the scope of the political mechanism to every human activity. It does not differ in philosophy from the most explicitly collectivist doctrine. It differs only by professing to believe that collectivist ends can be attained without collectivist means. …

The third element is the gradually increasing wave of deregulation …

The fourth element … Hostile takeovers and corporate raiding become regular parts of the business news. The basic significance of this is that it is a war. A war fought between manufacturing and finance, with manufacturing losing at every turn. …

Now, let’s combine them. Those Americans familiar with the pain of the results pass on the reins of power to a new generation. The Chicago School of Economics will provide the philosophical basis for discarding societal responsibility. The government reacts with deregulation which makes it exceptionally difficult to re-regulate industries. The financial industry begins destroying manufacturing in its search for profits.”


Getting in the wheelbarrow

August 5, 2013

By Issie Lapowsky via   Article

Master the Art of Appreciation

“… business owners stand to learn a lot about employee engagement from the 19th Century French tightrope walker Charles Blondin. … Elton, co-author of the book All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results, recounted the story of how Blondin, already famous for being the first tightrope walker to cross Niagara Falls, once asked a roaring crowd of fans if they believed he could cross the Falls again. They all said they did. Then, Blondin asked who believed he could cross the Falls with a wheelbarrow. Again, the crowd declared they believed. Finally, Blondin asked the crowd of supposed believers who among them would ride in the wheelbarrow as he crossed the Falls. Suddenly, the crowd fell silent. 

The moral of the story? ‘There’s a difference between saying you believe and getting in the wheelbarrow,’ Elton said.

Elton, who studied hundreds of thousands of businesses while researching his book, says that one thing all succcessful businesses share is employees who are true believers in the company’s mission. Elton told story after story of employees who deeply believed in–and were actively part of solidifying–their company’s culture. There was the Hard Rock Cafe waitress who joined right in when a customer started dancing on a table in the restaurant. There was the Apple employee who, after accidentally dropping a customer’s already broken iPod on the ground, replaced it with a working iPod at no extra charge. And then there was the Avis rental car agent, who kept the airport location open an extra 45 minutes to wait for a customer whose flight was delayed.

‘When people truly understand and believe in why they do what they do, they do it better,’ Elton said.”

Blueberry pancakes and battleships

May 27, 2013

By Seth Godin via   Article

“The typical industrial-era organization is like a battleship. Hundreds or thousands of people onboard, …  most of them aren’t actually directly responsible for the work that we hired the battleship to do. … The battleship can go far, with impact, and change the course of history. … it’s designed to survive with people who are merely good at what they do.

The typical professional services company, on the other hand, is a lot like a blueberry pancake. While there’s an essential support team, the firm is all about blueberries working in parallel. …  As the firm gets bigger, it doesn’t get thicker. You don’t make a better pancake by making a thicker one. You make a better pancake by hiring ever better blueberries …

Apple is now a battleship. Most of the tens of thousands of people who work there have a line job, selling, building, fixing or interacting. Only a few are dreaming up something that you can’t even imagine.

Your favorite record label, though, ought to be a blueberry pancake. Each musical group is mostly alone, figuring out something that just might work. The goal isn’t to lock and repeat and scale. …

If you want to make your battleship work better, be really clear about defining the mission, the tactics, the chain of command and most of all, precisely what you measure from each person on the team.

Your pancake, on the other hand, gives up swing weight and firepower and instead gets flexibility and the possiblity of non-fatal failure (and game-changing magic).

Both work. The problem kicks in when a successful pancake thinks its future is in the battleship business. Or when battleships are asked to dance.”

The Three Cultures

January 28, 2013

By Art Kleiner via strategy+business   Article

The Cult of Three Cultures

“there are at least three separate professions creating their own cultures … the “operational,” “executive,” and “engineering” cultures. … Members of each culture consistently misunderstand each other, even when they earnestly desire to work together. …

The first, the operational culture, is the culture of day-to-day line managers — the people who get products and services out, procure supplies, process bills, and make delivery trucks run on time. Operations people appreciate teams; they understand, as nobody else does, how to get a bunch of disparate individuals to pull together. … Leaders in this culture are often connoisseurs of human “character.” They expect good people to be loyal, candid, and trustworthy, and they do their best to shut out those who do not fit in. …

If you want to find facility with deals, leverage, and capital flow, you have to look to the second corporate culture, the executive culture. Members of this culture typically include the CEO, the board, the business-unit leaders, and the finance-oriented staff. … They are the only ones directly accountable for the organization’s obligation to return money and value to outsiders, both to shareholders and to society at large. … they tend to see themselves as lone heroes, embattled and competitive. …

The third corporate culture, the engineering culture, is personified by engineers and technical specialists, particularly in information technology and process engineering. They are stimulated by puzzles and problems, and by the design challenge of creating an ideal world of elegant machines that operate in harmony. The only thing they’re impatient with is the other people. This culture … is preoccupied with “designing humans out of the systems rather than into them.””

“What You Manage Is What You Get”

January 28, 2013

By Tim Brown via Design Thinking Blog   Article

In Service Cultures, “What You Manage Is What You Get”

“How often have you experienced unfriendly or grumpy service on an airline, in a restaurant, or in another service environment? Quite a few times, I imagine. In the vast majority of cases, I would take a bet that this is not so much a result of poor hiring or training, but a reflection of a poor internal culture.

Service brands often use the vocabulary of theater to describe what good service looks like. They talk about “performance,” “scripts,” and “stages” when instructing their staff. However, they forget one crucial difference between acting and working as a service provider. On the stage, the performer has a chance to prepare, and can treat the moment as a separate experience. A sales clerk in a retail environment has to cope with unpredictable customers and shifting levels of demand — never having the opportunity to distinguish the “performance” from the rest of the job.

When brands attempt to script their service performance, but do not give equal attention to their internal culture, it should be no wonder that these organizations inevitably fail to meet consistent service standards. Companies that have combative relationships with their employees, or fail to engage staff in a respectful way, risk seeing these same negative attitudes filter into staff interactions with customers.”

What Women Know about Leadership that Men Don’t

November 5, 2012

By Tony Schwartz from HBR Blog Network   Article

“No single challenge has been greater for me as a leader than learning how to take better care of the people I lead, and to create a safe, supportive space in which they can thrive. Like most men I know, I grew up with very little modeling around empathy — the ability to recognize, experience and be sensitive to what others are feeling.

Empathy proved especially difficult for me whenever I felt vulnerable. My instinctive response was to protect myself, most often with aggression. I equated aggression with safety, and vulnerability with weakness. Today, I recognize the opposite is often true. The more I acknowledge my own fears and uncertainties, the safer people feel with me and the more effectively they work. But even now, I’m amazed at how dense I can sometimes be.

An effective modern leader requires a blend of intellectual qualities — the ability to think analytically, strategically and creatively — and emotional ones, including self-awareness, empathy, and humility. In short, great leadership begins with being a whole human being.

I meet far more women with this blend of qualities than I do men, and especially so when it comes to emotional and social intelligence.

To a significant degree, that’s a reflection of limitations men almost inevitably develop in a culture that measures us by the ability to project strength and confidence, hide what we’re feeling (including from ourselves), and define who we are above all by our external accomplishments and our capacity to prevail over others.”

As You Grow, Maintain A Small-Company Culture

November 5, 2012

By  in Inc.   Article

“A new survey [of 11,000 employees] finds the happiest employees work at companies with fewer than 100 employees. What can you learn from that? … If your company is bigger than 100 people, how do you create the same level of engagement and happiness that the smaller businesses do?

Much of the answer lies in giving power away. In smaller businesses, employees are trusted because they have to be–there’s no spare capacity for too much oversight. That freedom is incredibly productive and, in my experience, very rarely abused. Instead of competing for bonuses, incentives, or recognition, people work because seeing the immediate impact of their contribution is reward enough. Nothing motivates people more than the developing sense of their own value and capacity.

In bigger companies, this internal motivation is often distracted or drowned out by process, procedure, targets, and incentives. The individual starts to feel insignificant, compliant rather than creative. But this is not inevitable if they’re given freedom and trusted to use it well. Interestingly, the hallmark of a great big business is how small you can make it feel.”