For years I’ve been fascinated by something that Jim Collins labeled “catalytic mechanisms” in a 1999 Harvard Business Review article. The article, entitled “Turning Goals Into Results: The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms,” described how to powerfully influence people in organizations to change their behavior—easily, permanently, and nearly effortlessly. Recently a Volkswagen campaign called “Thefuntheory.com” rekindled my interest in the topic with their website dedicated to finding fun ways to change people’s behavior for the better, so I reread the HBR article and started pondering how this approach might be useful in influencing behavior on project teams. While I’m in the early phases of experimenting with catalytic mechanisms in my own work and life, I’m excited to share this with you so we can exchange ideas and all get busy transforming the planet for the better. (That’s my theme for 2010, and I have to admit it’s a bit daunting, so I can use all the help I can get!)Continue reading
A lot of my work in the past couple of years has been consulting with a company in Tokyo called ALC Education. It’s the biggest project of my life, with the longest time horizon of anything my A.D.D. brain has ever had to wrap itself around. The goal of this project is nothing less than planetary transformation, something I’ve had a hankering to work on since my youth, but lacked the personal vision of exactly how to go about it. All kidding aside, the senior executives who lead this company have told me quite matter-of-factly that they intend to transform the Japanese economy for the better, for the good of the world, through shifting the mindsets of leaders in international Japanese businesses. When pressed, they estimated that it will take somewhere around a decade to get some traction on this whole mindset shift that will enable their clients to “solve global problems profitably”. Continue reading
This past Christmas one of my closest friends gave me a dish towel that says “Being unstable and bitchy is all part of my mystique.” Knowing that there is truth in sarcasm, and understanding the importance of good communication skills and positive relationships to project success, I’ve decided to recommit myself to improving my relationships through improved communication skills.
Step 1 – Categorize the kinds of conversations I’m having. I figure that being able to identify the different types of conversations should help me engage in each of them in more appropriate ways. Here are a few of the most important that I’ve identified, and some guidelines for each:Continue reading
“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
It’s easy to get stuck. From time to time it happens to everyone. One foot nailed to the floor, we go ’round and ’round – full speed ahead, but with no progress. Eventually we wonder why the scenery looks hauntingly familiar. If we’re lucky someone will throw a bucket of cold water in our face and shout “What in cripes sake are you doing?!!” If not, well, we might wake up a decade later and wonder why we’re still struggling with the same issue-infested life we ended the century with. With 2010 nearly upon us, it’s time to steal a glance in the rear view mirror and do a little reality check. Does the road ahead look exactly like the one behind? If so, how are you likin’ it? If you’re not absolutely jazzed about being alive, eager to leap out of bed and get engaged in the banquet of a day spread out before you, you might want to make a few changes before the clock ticks another tock.Continue reading
Thomas Friedman said The World is Flat, and I certainly feel that the business world is getting smaller. Many companies today are looking overseas for new markets and new customers in order to sustain the profitable growth of their businesses. New behaviors, skills and thinking are required to succeed globally, and companies must act strategically in order to secure the talented people required to fulfill their increasingly global vision. This has led many HR departments to pursue what they often call global leadership “training” programs, but you don’t “train” humans to be global leaders. You train dolphins to do tricks in a swimming pool to earn fish treats. Continue reading
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
“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.
The 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
I’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