Monthly Archives: April 2008

//April

How much willpower does an interim manager need?

Sometimes, when I am driving through a new initiative and need to lobby a pathway for the subsequent change management and project teams to flatten out and widen even further, I ask myself why am I doing this? What can start out as a good idea can become a nightmare, especially if the change is big and the lobbying needs to start at the very top and work its way down. At these moments I tend to go back to the project charter and remind myself of why the project was set up in the first place and what needs to be done. The project charter becomes like a religious reference book, a document to return to, to digest and to reflect upon a given situation. But a project charter is not a religious work, its authors are not divine, it is (presumably) a document that contains the method and reasons for increasing shareholder value in some way or another, either in the long or short term.

If it can be considered that it is willpower that drives interim managers, and to a large extent it is true (many interim manager’s profiles reveal people that like to make an impact on their environments, and to do this they need a great deal of willpower), then willpower becomes the energy source that drives them and their desire to influence their environment becomes the motivator.

On a corporate level bringing about change is relatively easy for those professionals with the right skills and experience. However with change on a personal level, everything becomes so much harder. Motivating oneself to change is never easy. We begin with the best intent and motivation, telling ourselves that this time it will be different, but so often we fall back into our old ways. In his book ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’, Robin S. Sharma gives the reader all the tools to bring about significant personal change and growth.

I said in my blog ‘Who is Your Guru?’ back in November 2007 that I would report back on this book, it has taken me much longer than planned because I have been unsure about it. On the one hand, its meaning is good but Sharma tends to repeat the same concept in too many different ways and thereby adds unnecessary complexity and it becomes a little tedious. In fact, I think that if his book was half its length then it would become an even bigger international best seller than it already is.

If you are seriously looking to change your life in any significant way, I can recommend Sharma’s book, even if you only adopt one suggestion, it can be enough to justify the purchase and the investment of reading it. (I quite like the idea of dedicating at least 10 minutes per day looking at an object in detail). When I was a student, it was my pint of beer, today its something else. But Sharma’s style might not be to your liking. It is rather mystical and you are always aware that it is a story beyond belief.

Being the pragmatic person that I am, in my book I suggest some exercises to discover just who you really are and how to set about creating map a new path or ‘life map’ forward for yourself. However, what is becoming more and more obvious to me is that although we maybe very good at reading other people and motivating them to change, when it comes to ourselves it is very unlikely that a book on its own could ever do it, not even mine!

So when Robin Sharma mentions “Willpower gives you the energy to act. …..It gives you the control to live the life you imagined rather than accepting the life you have”, you will need to remember that you first have to understand your past and establish an environment in which you will be able find the energy to change into the person you would more like to be, to have the career that you would more like to have. To do what you want, without feeling guilty or a burden upon others.

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Business Intelligence (BI) – An analogy

This week I sat down to write a short piece to illustrate exactly what Business Intelligence (BI) is. A colleague of mine needed something to support a presentation he had to give to his directors. What I wanted to achieve was to create a lasting image of what BI is, how it can be useful and why it is absolutely needed in order to out smart the competition by seizing on opportunities that only knowledgeable and responsive companies have. So I wrote this story (in fact I wrote it a long while ago to explain something completely different to a bunch of investors, it worked then so hopefully it will work tomorrow in its new context)!

Imagine you are a fighter pilot in a state of the art F16. You are flying high over enemy territory when suddenly there is a blip on your radar screen. Your on board computer systems tell you that the blip is most likely another aircraft. Business intelligence is knowing whether the pilot of the detected aircraft is an enemy or a friend, before he even knows you are in the sky.

Today, most companies (without sophisticated Business Intelligence systems) can see a blip on their radar screen and, after some deliberation, can detect if the blip is another aircraft and if it is from their own squadron. But when it is not one of theirs, then they can not be sure about anything. The aircraft can be enemy or friendly (from another geographic location). Thus for companies with inadequate BI systems, fast global decisions can be risky and flawed. Quite simply their Chief of Staff (CEO) and Wing commanders can not see the complete global picture in front of them, and any picture they might have will most likely not take into account all of their assets, resources and opportunities.

To win in a competitive market place companies need to be able to detect enemy aircraft before they even leave the ground. This might sound like a dream but good (well integrated) global Business intelligence systems can give this kind of advantage.


Thus for me business intelligence is knowing what information you need to have and why you need to have it. It is no use simply gathering data on every measurable event. You need to know what matters and what does not. And then you need to know what you are going to do with the knowledge, once you have it. Far too much time and money is wasted by middle management collecting data to prove that their departments are running smoothly.

The best BI systems integrate external events with internal events and allow company managers to create opportunities by making intelligent decisions, based on real data. A classic utterance from a manager from an under performing company without good BI: ‘If only I had known that there was a shortage of my product in that geographic region, I could have shifted my overstocked product there and sold it at full list, instead of dumping it at a knock down price in the market where it was originally sent to!’

Interim managers need to be aware about BI, what it can do and how to implement it. It is a lot more than just a Balanced Score Card feeding results into an Excel spreadsheet.

As T.S. Eliot wrote “After such knowledge, what forgiveness” This can mean anything depending on how you interpret it, but to me it means ‘how can we excuse ourselves for the fact that we did not know better, and the mess we made because of it?’

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The Interim Manager and the ‘Ringo Star phenomenon’

Someone once told me that although Ringo Star was technically not necessarily the best choice of drummer for The Beatles, his contribution to the group was certainly as important as any of the other individual members. The reasoning behind this seemingly crazy point of view is that Ringo Star was the Beatle who kept the group emotionally together. He was the one who lightened up the situation when the others were arguing or pulling in different directions. In short, he kept them together for as long as it was possible for any mortal. For him the groups' collective performance was the prime concern.
The question this week is – do you have a Ringo Star in your board of directors or management group and is he, or she, the person that binds the group of individuals into a team? If so what other qualities does he, or she have, perhaps their talents are a little hidden but are there none the less? It’s worth thinking about, before making purely rational decisions when it comes to re-structuring…

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The Perfect E-mail

This weekend I have been taking advantage of the good weather by spending some time working in my garden instead of in front of my computer screen. The decision left me with very little time to write this week’s blog. Ironically though, the lack of time became my source of inspiration.

Recently a business colleague told me the expression “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” He told me that he thought Blaise Pascal had said it. But subsequent research has shown that actually Mark Twain, Voltaire, Ciscero and even T.S. Elliot are all attributed for saying it. (I like to think it was T.S. Elliot because anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a fan of the poet and indeed he can say so much with such few words, although it can take a while (read ‘a life time’) trying to work out what he actually means.

‘The perfect e-mail’ should be short and to the point. It should be clear without ambiguity, polite and have the result on the reader that was intended by the writer. (So many man hours are lost by making excuses for rushed e-mails which can be avoided by getting them right in the first place).

The trick to e-mail writing is to begin by typing the objective in a maximum of one or two words, such as; to amuse, to inform, to castigate, to motivate etc.. Once this is done write your message as fast as you possibly can. When it is finished, do not re-read it. Stop and switch your attention to something else for at least half an hour. After a suitable pause, re-read your mail with your hands behind your back. After re-reading it, delete all the words you possibly can without destroying the meaning. Ask yourself if it is still in line with the objective.

A big mistake in e-mails is to try and bring two subjects into one mail. Inevitably people reply to one of the subjects but (annoyingly) completely forget the other. It is far better to send two short e-mails, each with their own subject.

E-mails are not suitable as long documents (these are best left as attachments). If the attachment contains important information, paraphrase it in just a few words in the e-mail so the reader sees why he or she should read the attachment.

So, the next time someone sends you a long, boring and irrelevant e-mail you can send them a link to this blog and perhaps they will get the message? To make it easy for you, below you will find a draft text which you can simply cut and paste into your reply. (I wonder how long it will be before someone sends it back to me)!

Message:
Thank you for your e-mail, unfortunately I did not have sufficient time to give it the attention it possibly deserved. However to assist you with future correspondence I would like to refer you to an article (see link below) that I think you might find helpful?

Kind regards
(add name here)

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