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

Scrappy Pitfalls – Synopsis of Scrappy PM

burningmanbugIf you are genetically gifted with the ability to get results that other people claim are highly unlikely or darn near impossible, you don’t need to read this. But if you are faced with an insurmountable “To Do” list, here are twelve predictable (and avoidable) pitfalls that could stand between you and your goals.

1. Forgetting about the customer. Henry Ford said that the company doesn’t pay employees a salary, the customer does. The employer is just the middleman. But many businesses operate as though the customer is an afterthought. If you want to be successful, be completely and unrepentantly obsessed with the customer, whether internal or external.

2. Failure to set clear goals. According to a blizzard of studies and my own observations over the past 20 years, the number one reason people don’t achieve their goals is that they don’t have clear goals. Fear of failure prevent people from clear goal setting or makes them settle for fuzzy, ambiguous goals. Double your chances of success by making sure that you and your co-workers have shared, measurable, challenging, and achievable goals.Continue reading

The Ultimate Question

hand_water_ring-solo.jpgWhat SEEMS impossible, but if it WERE possible, would transform your job, your team, your company, heck . . . YOUR LIFE . . . for the better?  That is the paradigm-shifting question that I learned many years ago from Joel Barker, a Futurist who made a movie called “The Business of Paradigms” a way back in the last century.  The movie has been updated, and now it is cleverly called “The New Business of Paradigms – 21st Century Edition”.  No matter, it’s timeless.  (It had BETTER be, it is only 18 minutes long and it costs almost a thousand bucks!  But the preview is free. Check it out here if you haven’t seen it.  Tell them I sent you and you might even get a discount.)  This question has the power to unlock possibilities that otherwise would peek out from behind the cloak of consciousness, and I have have frequently used it to achieve what seems impossible, but is merely difficult.   Human beings are animals, and we spend a lot of our time on autopilot.  We live many of the minutes, hours and days of our lives in some kind of trance state, highly functioning, no doubt, but not exactly highly consciously aware.  I mean, really, haven’t we all found ourselves at the end of a busy day wanting to shout out “Has anyone seen where the day went?”  And I have personally been on long drives in the car when I suddenly wondered who had been driving the last 100 miles.  Most of my brain was off scampering around somewhere, but fortunately some part of it was driving the damn car! Continue reading

Breakthrough Leadership

In 2008 Kenichi Ohmae’s “Business Breakthrough, Inc.” filmed 14 episodes of me ranting and raving about “Breakthrough Leadership”. (Ohmae-san is famous for having directed McKinsey’s Japan and Asia Pacific operations, and writing many popular business books, like The Borderless World” and “The Mind of the Strategist”.) It was a thoroughly terrifying experience, which I described in gory detail in a previous blog. Someday soon they’ll be shown on Japanese business TV. Here are the Power Points for the first episode. It’s just not the same without the video (as with all PPT, you might be tempted to say “I don’t FEEL the power and I certainly don’t SEE the point!”), but for now it will have to do. Let me know if you want a copy of this first set for your very own and I’ll send you a pdf. The who series of PPT can be viewed on slideshare by clicking on the link above the PPT in this blog.

In the videos that accompany the PPT, I speak quite slowly so that non-native English speakers will be able to easily understand what I’m saying, even when I’m ranting. (They’ll be sold through BBI.) Let me know if you want to hear when they are released (kimberly@wiefling.com) and I’ll drop you a line and a link. You can always play them with the sound off to amuse your cat! – Kimberly

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

There is No "I" in TEAM

teamcircle.jpgThomas Edison, when asked why he had a team of twenty-one assistants “If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.”  Another rather amusing fellow I know said “There is no “I” in TEAM, but there is an “I” in WIN!”  Whatever your philosophy, working in a team is challenging, especially when separated by distance and time zones.  Team work requires taking into account the views of others with whom you may not agree, and working with people who may seem irritating, stubborn, or just plain sociopathic at times.  And there is always some level of conflict, which most people don’t enjoy (although some people argue for sport!), so the road of “journey shared” can be a bit rocky at times.Here are some survival tips based on my 20 years of working in teams:

AVOID TEAM WORK!

–          Well, only if you don’t NEED a team, of course!  If you can accomplish the goals without investing your time and energy into building a team, avoid working in a team.  Teams should only be used to accomplish what cannot be accomplished alone.  If you are playing a game that only a team can win, you’d better have a team!

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go with others.” – African Proverb

CHOOSE TEAMMATES CAREFULLY

–          OK, we don’t always have a choice of who’s on our team.  But, your individual success will be tied to the success of the team, so when you do have a choice, be selective in choosing teammates.  Personality clashes and lack of shared values are a recipe for lots of angst and very little progress.  I’ve quit plenty of teams, and even jobs, to escape torturous teammates.  Life is just too short!Continue reading

The Power of Negative Thinking – Engineering Management in Reverse

img_1274.JPGMost of my work revolves around the power of creating breakthroughs through extreme optimism and hideously positive thinking for which “hyperbole” simply isn’t a big enough word. I frequently rant and rave about the hazards of know-it-alls who poo-poo every idea and wield their negativity like a scythe, cutting down anything new or imaginative in its path. But the popularity of negative thinking is undeniable, and, like most veteran business leaders, I’m a pro at it. I was reminded of this when I recently received a note from a guy I used to work for at HP who, after reading my book, mused “It seems a bit cynical. Is that intentional?” Jumpin’ Geezus on a pogo stick! Yes, of course it’s intentional! Any human being who’s been a manager in the corporate world for more than a couple of hours and hasn’t become a tad cynical simply hasn’t been paying attention.

Negativity for its own sake is an annoyance at best, and a soul-sucking experience similar to what I imagine a psychic vampire would produce. But in the right hands, it’s a weapon of mass construction, freeing the mind of half-hidden dark thoughts, and an on-ramp to the superhighway of results in your business. Jump in, strap in and hold on ‘cause we’re going to take the curves up on two wheels.

Negative Thinking is Easier, I’m Positive!
Perhaps due to some quirk of evolution and slight survival advantage (my apologies to the creationists out there), human beings seem to find it easier to think of things from a negative perspective. Don’t believe anything I say, of course; check it out for yourself.
Continue reading

The Anti-PMBOKxidant – Courage

kimberlychickencollage.jpg“Hey, has anyone seen my rubber chicken?”  He goes with me everywhere as I travel the world spreading the word about breakthrough leadership and execution excellence.  You might say he’s a “frequent flyer”, or perhaps even a “frequent fryer”.  One thing is for sure, he’s vital to my work, which mainly focuses on helping people overcome the biggest obstacle to their success – their own self-limiting assumptions and beliefs.  When I want to help people learn something from the rubber chicken I just hold him at shoulder height and release him.  “What causes the chicken to fall?”, I ask.  “Gravity?”  That’s not the answer I’d give.  Not if I was determined to be a menace to mediocrity, a person who is committed to creating breakthroughs in their projects and in their life.  No, “gravity” is the victim’s retort.  The real reason the chicken falls is because I released him.Now there is always “gravity” out there on our projects – things we can’t control – but it’s no use rocking back and forth moaning “woe is me” while all hell breaks loose on the project.  When the doo-doo hits the fan a true project leader asks “How did I contribute to this and what do we need to do now to deal with this?”  It seems like a simple enough lesson, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to learn.  It takes courage to accept responsibility for what is happening around us, to avoid blaming circumstances and other people, and to focus on what we can do to make a positive difference.  Winston Churchill said “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”  Continue reading

More Tequila, Por Favor!

tequila_-726505.jpgI recently spent 4 days working in Mexico for the first time.  Eye-eye-eye!  What a place!  There wasn’t a Taco Bell in sight.  The tequila was more aromatic than the most savory brandy, and the seafood was as fresh as a daisy, served raw like the sushi in Japan, but with incredible spices and sauces that made the flavors bounce out of my mouth and do a samba dance on my tongue.  This was an eye-opening experience for me because I previously have only been a tourist in Mexico, soaking up the sun and indulging in a margarita or two.  Get ready, world, Mexico is becoming a center of technical excellence for software development!

THE CULTURE -Forget every stereotype you ever heard.  Beneath the mariachi music and spices beats a global pulse.  Multicultural doesn’t begin to to describe the experience of being there as a business person.  One night you can be dining in a world-class hotel, and the next you can be enjoying the world’s most delicious hot dog (real meat!) from a street vendor.  After passing a couple of calves and chickens on the road, I arrived at a spa where I enjoyed an incredible facial and shiatsu massage.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