New Year, New Decade, Same Old Problems?

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“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” – Helen Keller

It’s the beginning of a whole new year and an entirely new decade. What do you want to be saying on Dec. 31, 2019? My wish for you is that you won’t be looking back with regret.  Personally, 10 years from now I intend to be looking back on a decade of surprising breakthroughs and unprecedented progress towards becoming the kind of leader I admire and the kind of human being I aspire to be.  And I sure don’t want the people of this Earth to be facing the same problems then that we’re facing now in this world.  (Nope!  Let’s have new and more exciting problems to tackle in 2020!)Continue reading

The “Yes We Can” Boys of Akishima, Japan

It’s easy to be a cynic, like the person who made this ever-so-uninspiring sign . . . but . . . weird things are happening to me when I travel abroad since President Obama was elected.  I was recently at a local summer festival in Akishima, near Tokyo.  Now, just to give you some idea about the town of Akishima, it’s a good hour’s train ride from the center of Tokyo, and that’s on an express train.  They’ve got a bit of industry there, but it’s fairly “sleepy” as a town compared with Tokyo.  The big attraction for the festival, which was held at the elementary school near the train station, was a raised platform where the townspeople took turns amusing one another by belting out karaoke tunes.  My friend’s 87 year old mother snuck out of the house to go back to the festival after we’d called it quits, and we found her sipping sake and eating noodles with the over-80 crowd in the VIP tent when we finally tracked her down.Continue reading

Tokyo Book Launch Party "Genki"!

Kimberly_Pink“Genki” is a word my Japanese colleagues frequently use to describe me.  They tell me it means I am cheerful and fun, but I’m pretty sure it is a secret code meaning that I’m noisy, wild, and just a tad scary.  Nevertheless somewhere around five dozen people turned up for the book launch party for the Japanese version of “Scrappy Project Management” last night, and they all seemed pretty “genki” to me.  One of the party guests, who was a graduate of one of our six month Global Leadership Development Programs this past year gave a rousing congratulations speech.  The highlight was when he asked the audience to participate with him as he “challenged convention” in such a speech, removed his suit jacket, rolled up the sleeves on his crisp business shirt, and then got everyone flinging their arms in the air while shouting “Exciting!” to help express his feeling about the whole book lalapalooza.  His final wish was that I become a billionaire, but I’m not sure if he meant dollars, yen, or rupees.

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Scrappy Project Management Published in Japanese!

ScrappyPM_Japanese-cover-smallerThe practical and slightly wacky guide to project management realism was just released in Japanese by the biggest business book publisher in Japan, Nikkei Business Press.  The Japanese version of Scrappy Project Management was translated by an experienced senior executive, Tack Tanaka, who claims that he found it deep, insightful, and . . . well, a heck of a lot of fun!  This translation came as a result of the books popularity in the US, my monthly trips to Japan over the past 4 years working to transform the mindset and results of Japanese business leaders, and . . . well, luck.  In fact, this is yet another example of something that seemed impossible, and then happened nonetheless.  The editor liked the word “Scrappy”.  Ironically there is no literal translation of this word into Japanese, so Tack had a very tough job!Continue reading

Onboard a Flying Swine Flu Screening Clinic

worlddoctorfluI’m healthy and I have proof!  Yes, indeedy, I have a cheerful yellow A4 size piece of paper from the Japanese government that testifies to the fact that I survived and passed a quarantine inspection.  That’s no small matter, to be sure, but it pales in comparison to surviving: 1) the hellish drive from my home to the San Francisco Airport, 2) the security inspection line at the airport, where well-meaning security guards who remind me of my mother bellow admonitions like “Take your shoes off!”, 3) airline food, 4) economy seating (the meaning of numb-bummosis should be clear even to people who are NOT medical professionals), 5) Eight channels of mildly uninspiring movies to choose from on the 10 hour flight.Continue reading

Welcome to the Worldwide Economic Mood Disorder!

Get out of the boxThe current global crisis, which I’m calling the “worldwide economic mood disorder” (WEMD for short), hit right about the time I was feeling that I’d finally recovered from the dot-com bubble bust of 2001. Although that period of business convulsions did reach beyond the Silicon Valley, my neighborhood was definitely “ground zero”. My cushy job as VP of Program Management and Organizational Effectiveness at a Xerox Parc spin-off evaporated, along with my inflated six figure salary and a very snazzy Jaguar that I hastily replaced with a second-hand Mustang convertible. I watched my exceedingly brilliant, experienced and well-educated friends from Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the like, hit the job-search streets like bums looking for a place to crash for the night. I kept a list of all of the people I knew who were unemployed on my desk so I could send them job leads.Continue reading

No Oxygen at the Top – Project Management Challenges at the Everest of Organizations

bth_everestIf you’ve ever been inside of a tin of sardines you will have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to ride the subways of Tokyo during rush hour – only in the subway the sardines are still alive. Even though we are packed together with greater intimacy than most sexual encounters, my inscrutable Japanese companions manage to wear a mask of serenity and composure. Most of my fellow riders have their eyes fixed on their mobile phones, looking up train schedules, checking email, texting their pals, or doing a little shopping on-line. These 21st century urban dwellers use their phones for everything! (I’m told that the average mobile phone purchase in Japan is over $50!) My phone works there, but it costs a bundle per minute, something approaching the cost of a college education, so I tend not to use it much. Instead, I’m looking around to see if anyone else notices that those of us fortunate enough to have a seat have our faces at crotch-level with the people standing.Continue reading

Lights, Camera, Get Me the Hell Outta Here!

scared-monkey.pngLast week I spent 3 days in a TV studio in Tokyo filming 7 hours worth of my maniacal approach to breakthrough leadership. The 14 thirty minute shows will first air on Japanese business TV, and then be available for all the world to see on a broad band learning channel associated with one of the most successful global business schools in all of Japan, Kenichi Ohmae’s Business BreakThrough organization.

When I met Mr. Ohmae he was sporting a painting of a little soldier on his fingernail, something entirely out of alignment with everything the “experts” had told me about stodgy old Japanese businessmen. (I guess the world is changing faster than the experts can keep up!) Now 10 years ago I would have considered this video opportunity a dream come true. But the only feeling that I had as I pushed my way through the teaming masses in the humid subways of Tokyo was complete and utter terror. “Make love to the camera.” my friend advised. I just hoped I’d get to be on top. Continue reading

Tokyo Really Does Rock

road_destroyed_by_japan_quake.jpgThis morning started off just about like any other day – dreams of transforming the planet, concerns about my own inadequacies in that department, and thinking about what I might have for breakfast.  But soon my day took a turn for the more unusual . . .  I had quite a scare this morning as I was soaking in the tub when the 7.4 earthquake began.  There I was, surrounded by water, really enjoying the rocking motion of the . . . tub!  Finally it dawned on me that the waves were kind of big for a bathtub.  Then I noticed that my necklace, hanging from the hook on the door, was swinging rhythmically in tune with the waves.

Funny how the mind works during a crisis – I jumped up, asking myself aloud “What should I do?” repeatedly.  Then I did what every fashion conscious gal would do . . .  washed my hair, brushed my teeth, got dressed and then put on my lipstick.  As I headed  downstairs to have breakfast (and to see if anyone else was as panicked as I am) I decided I had better take the stairs in case the elevators weren’t working.  The door to the stairs were locked!  Now a whole new level of panic began to set in as I realize that the hotel I have been staying in hundreds of times in the past 2 years has locked my emergency escape route, the location of which I had carefully made note of every visit.  There was elevator music playing in the hallway, so I thought, “what the heck!”, I’ll use the elevator.  Continue reading

Strangers Make the Best Friends

japaneseswordcrazyguy.jpgMy work takes me to lots of different places, mostly Japan. My home is in Silicon Valley, California, and I’ve lived there for as long as what my dad calls “a coon’s age” . . . which never made sense to me because i don’t think racoon’s live that long, but – hey – I’m no expert on mammals. Having lived there almost 2 decades I’ve made a boatload of wonderful friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, but traveling as much as I do, my friends are often thousands of miles away and 17 time zones off. I;ve had to learn to make do without them most of the time.

No worries, it’s “strangers to the rescue”! Yes, I’ve found that strangers make the best friends. They don’t know my checkered past, are fascinated by me (mostly because they don’t know me well), and are not yet irritated with my habits and quirks. In fact, strangers frequently find my curious behaviors somewhat intriguing, even considering them among my positive traits.   And, since they haven’t had to put up with me for a decade or more of friendship, they are more tolerate of my playful, sometimes hyperactive, behavior. Continue reading