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Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Leap of Reason: Post #3 - Funders can Help Outcomes

Invitation from the Periphery: Funders help organizations when they demand clarity of the change sought, how the organization will accomplish that change, what data is needed, how it will be collected, and then how it will be used.
a. “Leaders with an innate desire for good information are the ones most likely to make a real difference in the lives of those they serve.
b. The best performance-management systems help users do what they do better and make what they do easier.
c. The technology behind these systems is not nearly as important as the mindset of the leaders who put these systems in place.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Leap of Reason: Post #2--Delivering on a Promise

We’re Lost But Making Good Time. The bottom line of this chapter is that when nonprofits don’t manage to outcomes, the impact of the organization is greatly diminished. While not a new problem, it’s a more urgent one due to dwindling discretionary budget funds, both state and federal. A few salient tweets from the back of this chapter:
a. “The vast majority of nonprofits have no reliable way to know whether they’re on track to deliver what they promise to those they serve.
b. Managing to outcomes means investing in continuous collection and use of information to guide the organization’s decisions and operations.
c. Managing to outcomes requires a significant cultural shift within the organization. It’s primarily about culture and people—not numbers.”

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Leap of Reason: Post #1: Overview

A Leap of Reason: Managing Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity by Mario Morino (Venture Philanthropy Partners, 2011) reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., June 2011)

Overview: As a business owner who sits on nonprofit boards, I want to say “thank you” to Mario Morino. In his new book, A Leap of Reason, he presents the bottom-line premise of the book: “We don’t manage to outcomes thus greatly diminishing our collective impact.” Indeed, nonprofits are so guided by their hearts that they often forget their heads. They are ultimately business-like entities—no money, no mission (as Stephen Covey would say). As such, nonprofits can’t act solely on gut feeling, emotion, or intuition—especially in an era of budget trimming (more like severe pruning) and austerity. The country simply can’t afford to keep investing in social-sector activities that can’t sustain themselves. I really think this book could have been called “Good to Great for Doing Good.” Jim Collins, vaunted author of Good to Great, has already written a neat monograph (Good to Great in the Social Sectors) in anticipation of social-sector research he’s doing for a future book. And, with this book, Mario Morino has substantially added to social-sector literature and the progress of this movement. A gifted businessman with an extraordinary and disciplined commitment to philanthropy, Morino has given all of us a new set of glasses to look at the social organizations we all love and care about with a sharper eye that will ultimately help them do more good, for more people, for a longer time! Thanks again, Mario. What follows over the upcoming days are a selection series of “take-home tweets” at the end of each chapter that might be useful for someone considering reading this book.

PS This book was sent to me by the author, whom I and have a lot of respect for.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Culture is the Key: Managing outcomes successfully requires a leader with courage who’s willing to develop a culture of performance appraisal.
a. “An organization’s culture has a huge impact on whether the organization can achieve what it hopes to for those it serves.
b. The best way to influence culture is to recruit and retain top talent whose values and skills match the culture to which you aspire.
c. Take time to flesh out your guiding principles, and do what it takes to make them more than just slogans on the wall above the water cooler.”

Best Business Books #10--Organizational Culture

Organizational Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein (originally published in 1985 and republished by Jossey-Bass, 2004) stands as the bedrock for trying to understand corporate culture—a term that Schein coined. According to Schein, corporate culture is a series of assumptions, patterns and behaviors that organizations develop in response to external influences and internal adaptation. In response to external changes, organizations experiment, adapt (to survive), and pass along teachings to protect the organization. The basics of corporate culture involve a number of assumptions, including humanity’s relation to nature (determinism vs. self determination); the nature of truth and reality (the accepted norm of truth); human nature (Theory X—people are lazy and must be closely watched and Theory Y—people want to achieve and belong). Shein also shed much light on the development of culture (and organizations). Three stages are birth and early youth (the entrepreneur and founder); organizational midlife as new cultures infiltrate into the organization; and, organizational maturity where organizations sentimentally “hang on” to outdated beliefs and assumptions. Here is where the company is weakest and most vulnerable unless change takes place. Changing the corporate culture happens only with consensus in 5 areas: core mission, goals, means to accomplish goals, ways to measure progress, and remedial or repairing strategies.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Best Business Books #9--Human Problems....

The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization by Elton Mayo (originally published in 1933 and republished by Routledge, 2003) remains a classic. Mayo, a psychologist and Harvard Business School guru, and his team studied a manufacturing plant called the Hawthorne Works in Western Electric’s plant. The findings of their experiments were enlightening, so to speak. By merely changing levels of light, productivity increased. Several great findings: Changes in working conditions increased output; morale and output are connected (when people think special attention is being paid to them, they improve); group cohesion is critical (the instinct of belonging to a group far outweighs the best management logic and intention); informal groups are very powerful, and management ignores them at great peril. Mayo laid the groundwork for other human relations greats like Herzberg, McGregor, and Maslow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Best Business Books #8--How to Win Friends...

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (originally published in 1936 and republished by Simon and Schuster, 2009). This book is a classic and one that has sold well over 15 million copies over the years. Carnegie makes two big points: First, handle people effectively. Don’t criticize, complain or condemn and give honest and sincere appreciation. Also, Carnegie offers his big second piece of advice: Make people like you: Be genuinely interested in other people, remember people’s names, be a good listener, encourage people to talk about themselves, make the other person feel important, and finally smile! While Carnegie was not a researcher, his basic tenets can be supported by today’s research and by common practice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Best Business Books #7--The Fifth Discipline

The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge (Doubleday, 2006) stands as a theoretical breakthrough by Senge, the director of MIT’s Center for Organizational Learning. He posits that all successful organizations must be “learningful” and that it’s not enough for just one person or even several to be concerned with lifelong learning, but the entire company needs to have learning at the forefront. And there are 5 disciplines associated with organizational learning: Systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, a shared vision, and team learning. Senge was the researcher who added systems thinking to organizational learning to make it accessible to real leaders and managers, working in real companies.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Best Business Books #6--Competitive Strategy

Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter (Free Press, 1998) is considered a modern classic and a bible for corporate strategists. Porter, considered the father of modern corporate strategy, contends that there are three generic strategies ( a company must adopt one to compete): Differentiation (value added that people pay a premium price for); Cost-based Leadership that involves offering products and services at the lowest cost; and Focus—or a combination of the first two and market targeting. Finally, Porter offers five competitive forces (to sustain their competitive edge) which are embedded in the following: 1) Entry of new competitors; 2) the threat of new substitutes; 3) the bargaining power of buyers; 4) the bargaining power of suppliers; and 5) the rivalry among existing competitors.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Best Business Books #5--Competing for the Future

Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad (Harvard Business Press, 1994) argues that strategic planning is not simple and mechanical, rather complex and emotional. The authors suggest opening up strategy by considering meaning, purpose and passion. Unfortunately, managers spend less than 3% of their time in this important area. Hamel and Prahalad posit that a company should see itself as a portfolio of competencies rather than a collection of business units. They offer a great list of “Rules for Success,” such as: “A company surrenders tomorrow’s business when it gets better without getting different.” Also, one of my favorites: “Companies pay millions of dollars for the opinions of McKinsey’s bright 29-year-olds, but ignore their own bright 29-year-olds.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Best Business Books #4--The Change Masters

The Change Masters by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Simon and Schuster, 1983). Considered one of the most important books on corporate change, this book focuses on the importance of empowering and managing people. In fact, one vital finding of Kanter’s research is that companies committed to human resource management were more profitable and financially fit than those who lacked such commitment. Kanter finds that innovation is critical to future growth. Such innovation requires three skills: persuasion, problem solving, and understanding the nature of change.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Best Business Books #3--Built to Last

Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (Harper Business, 2004) was the sequel to Collins’ blockbuster Good to Great. While lesser known than its predecessor publication, Built to Last drives home an essential tenet—that values matter a lot. The basic premise of the book (a compilation of analysis of 18 companies that outperformed the stock market by a factor of 12 since 1925) is that great and enduring companies have solid “core values” that do not change. However, while core values and purpose don’t change, business strategies and practices adapt constantly to a dynamic world. Collins and Porras would argue that any vision must consist of core values (clear guiding principles) and core purpose (mission—the company’s most fundamental reason for existence).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Best Business Books #2--Action Learning

Action Learning by Reg Ravans (Blond & Briggs, 1974). Reg Ravans is a guy I would like to meet. Action Learning revolutionized the way teams solve problems, learn to get along, and teach themselves leadership. Ravans came up with this highly inquisitive model while working with a bevy of Nobel prize winning physicists at the famous Cavendish Labs in England—the home of modern physics. Imagine wrestling with the egos of Nobel laureates to solve big problems facing them as they tried to move to the next level. “Action learning is about teaching a little and learning a lot.” The theory rests on the notion that learning takes place based on opening up to insightful questions. Indeed, questions are at the heart of the process, where people can’t speak unless asking a question or answering one.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Best Business Books #1--Overview

The Best Business Books Ever, published by editors at Basic Books (2011), reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D. June, 2011.

Overview: An executive once asked me how he could get well grounded in leadership now that his job had changed. I gave him a daunting list of books that I had read over many years. The big problem was that this guy had a “day job” which limited his reading time. There are several compendiums of business book summaries, and I have found The Best Business Books Ever to be one of the best of this summary genre, mostly because I like the standard structure that they used for every book. The consistent structure consisted of 5 critical elements: “Why Read It?” (bottom line of the book/author’s contribution to the discipline of business); “Getting Started” (the author’s main theme); “Contribution” (key bullet takeaways of the book); “Context” (both immediate and long-term impact of the book); and “For More Information” (a bibliography for more related info). This simple, consistent structure adds a surprising power to the book, which I recommend as a reference to any executive wishing to attain fundamental, grounded business literacy. This month I’ll review a number of key summaries that were like visiting old friends and meeting some new ones. Note that my reviews are only the tip of this very deep business intelligence iceberg. So, if you avoid reading the entire book, it will be at your own peril!

Monday, June 6, 2011

On Leadershp: Ancona Post #8

In Praise of the Incomplete Leader by Deborah Ancona et al. from the MIT Leadership Center (originally published in the HBR, 2007). One could build an entire leadership curriculum around the findings of this group. The premise is that no one leader is complete and has all the strengths needed for an organization. Rather, the incomplete leader knows that real power exists in the organization and in diversity of talents on the team. Further, for a company to survive and thrive there are four (4) major strengths required of leadership teams: Sensemaking (understanding the current business market); Relating (building trusted relationships within the company); Visioning (communicating a clear, compelling vision of the future); and, Inventing (developing new ways to get to the bold new vision). Think of Sensemaking and Relating as characteristics at the bottom half of Maslow’s Triangle. Both of these (Sensemaking and Relating) provide the foundation for an organization and enable and motivate the people to change. Visioning and Inventing are creative and action oriented and develop the energy and capacity for companies to change.
Read this HBR article with care.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

On Leadershp: Collins Post #7

Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve by Jim Collins (originally published in the HBR, 2001). By now most leaders have heard of Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, as much I suspect as an aspiration for their corporate visions as a good read of solid principles. In either case, Collins will go down in history as a leadership guru. One key finding that his research produced was the ”Level 5 leader”—a strange, uncanny ability of the best corporate leaders of all time to have a magical blend of both humility and a fierce will—a strange finding indeed. The 5 levels consist of Level 1: the highly capable individual; Level 2: contributing team member; Level 3: competent manager; Level 4: effective leader; Level 5: executive. To get to Level 5, Collins offers the following advice, gleaned from his research: Attend to people first (get the right people on the bus); deal with the brutal facts (The Stockdale Principle); push the corporate or organizational flywheel; and, use the “hedgehog concept” by looking at what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and how you can make a living at that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

On Leadershp: Bennis Post #6

Crucibles of Leadership by Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas (originally published in the HBR, 2002). Every great leader has had his or her butt kicked at least once, often many more times. The authors call such attention-getting incidents “crucibles” or transformative events. Interestingly, the Marine Corps (one of my alma maters) calls one of its basic training exercises ‘The Crucible’ (the rite of passage for Marines). Great leaders go through such crucibles and come out the other side, bruised, tried and “transformed.” The authors offer insights into these mostly unplanned but highly transformative crucibles. First, crucible experiences can lead to deep reflection by the leader. Second, crucibles come in different sizes and shapes. Some are more positive than others, but they all cause transformation. Finally, leaders learn how to: Engage others in shared meaning, develop a distinctive leadership voice, display integrity, and develop adaptive capacity.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Leadershp: Heifetz Post #5

The Work of Leadership by Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie (originally published in the HBR, 1997). Adapting to change has gone from an interesting concept to a critical activity of any company or organization hoping to compete in a dynamic global market. The authors offer six (6) principles for adaptation, spanning the threat of doing nothing to the threat of actually doing something. Clearly, according to the authors, adaptive leadership is not without its risks to management. Nonetheless, the authors offer the following suggestions. First, get on the balcony: if you spend too much time in the weeds (the dance floor), it’s hard to see the big picture. Second, identify the adaptive challenge. Finding out the “real” problem by talking to the various stakeholders before trying to solve the issue is critical. Third, regulate stress. Too little stress and people slip back to the comfort of the status quo, but too much stress and people become frazzled. Fourth, maintain disciplined attention. Don’t let people stay on the surface and get petty with each other. Keep them focused on the underlying tough issues. Fifth, give the work back to the employees. Don’t take on the problem, but encourage employees to take chances and, when they fail, support them, dust them off, and send them back in for another try. Sixth, protect leadership voices from below. Don’t quell dissenters or whistleblowers. Rather, ask “What’s s/he really saying?”

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