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15 February, 2012 / Karl Maier

Globalization of Power: a Paradigm Shift in World Culture

Paddy Ashdown proposes that the world is going through a major shift in power from a nation-centered power structure to a global power structure.  The implications of this shift in governance are massive for everything from business and finance to security and communication.  Look for these changes in the world and how they impact your business.

9 February, 2012 / Karl Maier

How to Buy $70 Million of New Inventory for $50 Million

Recently I was reminded of a consulting engagement I did for a company with two ownership groups.  The ownership groups were arguing about the On Targetvalue of my statistical / BI consulting work on their inventory. I proposed that the company could improve their inventory and purchasing practices. The management disagreed with these recommendations and was backed by the majority shareholder. The minority shareholders saw value in my recommendations.

At one point, the company had inventory of $70 million*.  At that time, the company received an offer to buy the company for $50 million*.  Essentially, the inventory was priced at a discount and the whole business was thrown in for free.

At first glance it is not obvious why the management would not want to improve the inventory management. Upon further inspection, the incentive system of management was focused on sales and profits, not return on capital like an investor would consider.  So it was to management’s advantage to have lots of inventory, because it was free from their perspective.

Make sure to step back and look at how everything fits together for your business including key performance indicators, reporting tools, incentive systems, ownership goals, communication and culture.

* The values are the correct relative numbers, but adjusted to avoid inadvertent disclosure of private information.

7 February, 2012 / Karl Maier

How to run Super-Effective Meetings

I have randomly been in some meetings that were far more effective than I expected.  These meetings have been rare and I never could put my finger on why

The Culture Game

The Culture Game

those meetings were better than other meetings.  The following process (and much more) is in the book The Culture Game.  Check it out!

First, start your next meeting by designating three roles. One is “Facilitator.” (In real Scrum, this role should be the “Scrum Master,” but doing so requires training outside the scope of this blog post.) The second is the “Product Owner,” the person who defines what qualifies as the “deliverable.” Scrum has very few rules, but one is that the Facilitator (Scrum Master) cannot also be the Product Owner. The third role is the team, and that’s everyone else.

Second, start your next meeting with the Facilitator helping the group establish working agreements. Do this by asking people how they respond when others bury their nose in their laptops or multitask with their smartphones. Don’t be surprised if the chief offenders here (I’m holding my hand up again) may say that they find it annoying. Then, as a temporary working agreement, ask what the group is willing to commit to. Most will say “no cell phones,” “no computers,” “no phone calls,” etc. The Facilitator should post these on the wall or whiteboard, where they are visible to everyone. Note that they will say this — it requires no confrontation on the part of the Facilitator.

Also, some people during this process may disclose that they have some reason to break the rules, and these exceptions go up on the list. In our meetings, I mentioned two people by name whose calls I would take. I then pushed my cell phone to the center of the conference table so everyone else could verify that I would take a call only from those people — and not from my bookie.

Third, set a schedule. For an extended meeting, like one going all morning, establish clear breaks. We settled on 50-minute work cycles with 10-minute breaks. During the breaks, people can email, text, use the restroom, refill their coffee cup, or anything else — including going outside for some fresh air. The blocks of work are called “iterations.” The psychological impact of knowing that a break is just a few minutes away transforms the iterations from possibly pointless meetings into goal-directed bursts of activity. People know that even a wandering, off-purpose iteration will end. You’ll find that everyone will be far more able to stay engaged and avoid the beeps and vibrations from their electronic friends.

Fourth, start each iteration with a big countdown clock, visible to everyone — and start it. As it begins to click down, ask the group to define what constitutes “done” for that iteration. Even if the group spends 15 of its 50 minutes on this question, that’s a great investment. In one of our meetings, we defined “done” as determining all of our company priorities, assigning them to a group with a lead person, and getting all of this set up on project boards. We had struggled to do exactly that for months, and we did it in a single 50-minute iteration, which included the time to define “done.” The team members may ask the Product Owner questions of clarification or scope.

Fifth, do the work to get to “done.” Anyone is free to make suggestions or point out that “15:33 is left on the clock.” Some groups will start by outlining a set of steps to get to done, and others will jump in. The Facilitator may interrupt and ask if the group knows how it will get to done, but these interruptions should be minimal. This system puts everyone in a flat meeting, without rank. I’ve implemented this simple form of Scrum in meetings when the CEO came in to check on our progress. In one case, he began to critique the meeting while also playing with his iPhone. In one of the best moments of my professional life, a subordinate pointed out that the CEO was welcome to join, but only as a team member (technically, he was “de-authorized from speaking as the CEO”). And, she added, our rules require no gadgets, so the boss had to please either put down the phone or exit the meeting. He complied and sat down, as a participating team member. He later said that the meeting was the most productive he had ever attended.

Sixth, end the iteration when the clock times out. Alternatively, take a break when the Facilitator calls an end to the session. If you have time before the clock hits zero, ask: “Did we get to done?”

Seventh, after the break, start with a five-minute “retro” on what worked and didn’t work in the last meeting. Based on this brief reflection, the Facilitator may ask if the group wants to amend the ground rules, such as “no sidebar conversations.” Then start the process again. Begin with a check in on rules and assignment of roles (these likely won’t change), and move through establishing “done,” doing the work, ending the process, and taking a break.

Reportedly, meetings that might have been dominated by “I’m great” (and you’re not)” tones flip into fully functioning, high-performance tribes.  That would be a fun way to have meetings.

Reference: article

2 February, 2012 / Karl Maier

Stand-Up Meetings are Great Tools

I have had great experience with stand-up meetings.  Keeping the comments short Meetingand focused helped keep the team paying attention.  This recent

WSJ article gives a number of examples of how to run a stand-up meeting.  I personally like the no table version.

Not every meeting is a good candidate for stand-up meetings.  However, regular status meetings are great for this approach.

31 January, 2012 / Karl Maier

Learning from Mistakes

Learning is one of the key base tools for teams or individuals.  The lessons are helpful for improving in so many ways.

6 December, 2011 / Karl Maier

Respect the work: Do it!

Take a risk, try something new, learn a new skill, do some work. And start now.

Check out this great list of 106 excuses for not trying / doing something. And why those excuses are bogus.

Carpe Diem!

3 November, 2011 / Karl Maier

Culture supports Innovation

The more trust and self-motivation occur in an organization, the more innovative is likely to occur.  This statement has an element of common sense to it.  It is also supported by a recent study on culture and leadership*.

In the study, the firms studied were divided into three major groups based on governance and cultural factors.  The three leadership styles are called self-governing, informed-acquiescence and blind-obedience firms based.  There is a strong correlation between each style and the level of trust in the firm with self-governing organizations having the higher level of trust.

Lack of trust may inhibit innovation, too. More than 90% of employees in self-governing firms, and 66% in the informed-acquiescence category, agreed that “good ideas are readily adopted by my company”. At blind-obedience firms, fewer 20% did.

Building trust into a culture does pay off in innovation.

* Study by Boston Research Group, the “National Governance, Culture and Leadership Assessment” is based on a survey of American employees. (subscription)

2 October, 2011 / Karl Maier

Time as a way to understand other cultures

Time is central to a person’s worldview. This video breaks down six major ways to view the world and talks about the implications of each perspective.

25 September, 2011 / Karl Maier

How to Save the World Economy in Six Steps

There are six keys to a wealth creation societies.

1. Competition
2. Scientific Revolution
3. Property Rights
4. Modern Medicine
5. Consumer Society
6. Work Ethic

Historian Niall Ferguson explains how the west is losing its dominance:

11 September, 2011 / Karl Maier

Secrets of success in 8 words

Here are the secrets to success in 8 words in three minutes of video.

Passion, Work, Focus, Persist, Ideas, Good, Push, and Serve

25 August, 2011 / Karl Maier

Words of wisdom from Steve Jobs to Stanford

With the recent resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, it is worth looking back at his advice to the Stanford class of 2005.  He tells three moving stories about his life and decisions he made.  The stories provide some perspective on how to make decisions in one’s life.

His closing words are, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

20 July, 2011 / Karl Maier

How to Motivate People to Buy from You

This is a classic TED video that I ran across. See if this simple approach can work for you. According to Simon Sinek,

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

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