Friday, March 28, 2008

Increasing Productivity through Preventive Maintenance: How to Avoid Falling into a “Funk”

Have you hit that slump yet? Maybe it’s the winter blues. Maybe it’s spring fever. Maybe it’s just a case of the Monday’s! Whatever “it” is, you just can’t seem to be productive. You’re working hard, but your productivity is down. Boy oh boy…What to do?

We all hit that stage at some point don’t we? I know I’ve had those days, weeks (hopefully not months or years!). It’s what I call “in a funk!” What should we do? Well, the best approach is to be proactive and not reactive. Reaction is a needed skill to help put out fires, but proaction is much more crucial. Proaction is a critical skill needed to prevent the fires from happening. Proaction helps forecast those “funks” and helps us do what it takes to prevent those funks.

Let’s take a look at a manufacturing floor. Machinery will inevitably fall into a “funk:" that downtime caused by malfunction, breakdown, broken parts, etc. In the manufacturing business we try to forecast and prevent (that’s the keyword today) that funk. We call it preventive maintenance. It’s where we “schedule” downtime in order to work on the machinery to help avoid future breakdowns! Preventive maintenance is essential to keeping machinery running and avoiding those “funks.”

So, how does this relate to humans/managers/workers. Well, I think it is essential for us as humans to master the art of “preventive maintenance.” That is, how do we take a proactive approach to preventing those “funks” or “ruts” that we all seem to fall into at times? What steps can we take to ensure our productivity stays at a maximum level?

1) Master the art of scheduled downtime – That is, make sure you schedule breaks for yourself. If you’re feeling overworked, then take a break. Maybe you like to sit in front of the t.v., maybe you prefer to read a book. Whatever “it” is that brings you into a state of relaxation, you must schedule “it” into your days and weeks.

2) Master the art of a new approach - Break up your days. Try something new. Take a different approach to those monotonous tasks. Andrew Clark gives us a nice list to try:
"Try writing left-handed. Walk around your office with your shoes off (with the approval of your co-workers)… Try something out of the norm to get the “out of the norm” out of your head."

3) Master the art of balance – How do you find balance? What gives you balance? For me, it’s spending time with my wife and daughters, and also participating in adult league sports. I make sure and find time to take an active part in these two “pleasure” centers, as well as my career. Don’t exhaust all your energy on one aspect of life (for many, this would be career), but make sure and save some of that energy for other areas. (Note: On the flip side, make sure you don’t get overextended and pulled into too many directions)!

4) Master the art of ESP – You know….that 6th sense? Really, this just means that you need to be able to foresee when your “rut” or “funk” may be starting to form, and head it off. Look for those familiar early warning signs so that you can be proactive in stopping the funk from ever starting!

Those are four tips that I’m sure will help you fight off those winter blues and lost productivity. What are some tips you have? What else can our readers add to their list?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Draining Corporate Culture: What to do?

I've pasted below a blog post that I wrote some time ago. At the time, I felt it would be a rather humorous post to display the kind of corporate culture that I felt some organizations have created. It was a bit facetious on my part. Looking back, I didn't really do much with it, but write it down and leave it at that.

What I'd like to do this time around is ask you a few questions after reading it. I have left it unedited, in it's original format. Instead of looking at it as a humor piece, I would like to get your thoughts on whether or not you have been a part of an organization like this before. If not, have you seen these kind of cultures in other companies? What do you do to challenge these cultures? Are you a change agent or do you merely walk away from the company?

Let me know your strategies for dealing with this situation: (Disclaimer: The below excerpt is from a fake interview with a made up executive of what I believe is a non-existent company, completely made up for your enjoyment and to foster discussion):

“Welcome to Black Hole Light Processing, Inc. Here at the Black Hole, we pride ourselves on employee retention! Sure, our corporate culture may be dark, shady, and lonely. We may foster a shallow and empty morale, driving the fun out of the organization. But, look at these turnover rates!! They’re lower than the self-esteem of everyone who works for us! And check out our productivity: Higher than our top executive egos. Now that is success at its finest!”

“So, how do we do it here at the Black Hole? How do we keep turnover down and retention up? Well, quite frankly, we do just enough to keep people here. Raises and bonuses are common and competitive. When you pay your people properly, it’s much harder for them to leave. We practice the “Tear-‘em-Down-then-Build-‘em-Up” philosophy. We push hard, and then we push harder. If morale gets too low, then we build them up with praise and complements. It’s these few and far between “pats on the back” that they’ll remember! Trust me, it’s these random acts of kindness that keeps them coming back for more.”

“We also discourage creativity and risk and we make tasks repetitive and uniform. Doing this dumbifies the workforce, where the employees know nothing better than what they have. We also overload the drones, creating 12 hour workdays, 6 days a week. When the employees are busy, they don’t have time to search for other jobs.”

“Well, I can’t give away all our secrets. Otherwise, how would we maintain our competitive advantage? The above was just a few tips for you to share with others on how they can begin to lower their turnover. See, once you’ve got your people in the quicksand, they’re never gettin’ out. The harder they try, the more stuck they get. And that’s really what it’s all about: Recruiting the right stars, and keeping those stars in your galaxy!”

Have you seen this type of culture in an organization? How do you deal with it? What strategies do you have when walking into a company like this one?

275 Reasons Why People Don't Get It!

"Why don't they get it?"

I know you've asked that question to yourself before? I mean, it seems so obvious, yet sometimes people just don't get it. Why, you ask? Well, I know 275 people that are going to attempt to answer that very question, but you'll have to wait until the release of the second "Age of Conversation."

That's right! Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton have teamed up again to collaborate on a new Age of Conversation book (if you haven't read the first one, I suggest you go here on March 29th and get yourself a copy). In the new book, myself, along with 274 others will attempt to answer "Why don't they get it?" I can't wait to see the writings! This will truly be an amazing collaboration of bloggers and nonbloggers.

Although I wasn't a contributing author to the first go around of AOC, I couldn't be more excited to be participating in this one. I look forward to a rewarding challenge. I will keep you posted along the way. In the meantime, hang tight, and check out the list of the other 274 authors:

Adam Crowe, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Beeker Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bulldog Fever!

Whether you are a basketball fan or not, or whether you are a central Iowan or not, have I got a GREAT story for you? I'm sure you've heard about it by now (because it's all over the national news and sports), but the Drake Bulldogs have completed a magical regular season, and look to continue their awe-inspiring, team play at the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

Tip off today for their first round matchup against Western Kentucky is at 11:30am on your CBS affiliate. Many of the national "experts" have picked the Bulldogs to lose this one in an upset, but I feel this bodes well for Drake. It gives them that "underdog" feeling that they have come accustomed to. It may just provide the motivation for them to go out and dominate (that's my hope anyway)!

Good luck Bulldogs! Make your state proud!
My prediction is Drake Bulldogs 67, Western Kentucky 61

Friday, March 14, 2008

Recipe for Success

What ingredients have I left out? What ingredients have I included that shouldn't be there? Are my portions off the mark? What recipe would you develop to help portray the skills needed to be successful?
My challenge for you is to think about what characteristics you feel are important and come up with your own recipe. Then, come back here and share it with us! This could be a fun little exercise!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Good Luck Drake Bulldogs!!

I've got to tell you that this is an exciting time to be a Drake Bulldog basketball fan! Heck, it's an exciting time to be living in the city of Des Moines, or the state of Iowa for that matter! Why, you ask?

Well, because this private Missouri Valley Conference school, located in the heart of Des Moines, Iowa, has produced one of the most intriguing and exciting stories in modern NCAA basketball history. The Drake University mens basketball team, picked to finish 9th out of 10 teams in the MVC, has finished up a regular season magical run to a record of 28-4. In the process, they have scooped up a bevy of championships and national awards:

  • 2008 MVC Regular Season Champions

  • 2008 MVC Tournament Champions

  • 2008 MVC Player of the Year (Adam Emmenecker)

  • 2008 MVC Coach of the Year (Keno Davis)

  • 3 members named to 2008 MVC Most Improved Team (Adam Emmenecker, Jonathan Cox, Leonard Houston)

  • Outstanding Player of 2008 MVC Tournament (Adam Emmenecker)

  • 2008 MVC All-Tournament Team (Emmenecker, Cox, and Josh Young)

  • 2008 Sporting News Magazine National Coach of the Year (Keno Davis)

  • 2008 U.S. Basketball Writer's Association District VI Coach of the Year (Keno Davis)

  • 2 members named to the All District VI team (Emmenecker and Young)

  • Finalist for 2008 NATIONAL Coach of the Year (Davis - we won't know results of this until later this month)

  • 2008 ESPN the Magazine's Academic All-American Player of the Year (Emmenecker)

And this doesn't even include the success that the women's basketball team is having! The lady Bulldogs have wrapped up a share of the MVC regular season championship and they enter the MVC tournament this week with confidence. They also have some nice accolades coming their way.

The most amazing part of this whole "cinderella" story, is that Drake University is definitely an academic school first. The athletic programs pride themselves on creating and building true "student athletes," as is shown by their academic standards for athletics. Drake requires athletes to maintain a 2.0 grade point, while the NCAA only requires a 1.8 GPA. The student athlete cannot be exemplified more, than by Adam Emmenecker, Drake's senioir leader and point guard. Adam's on-the-court excellence barely compares to his in-the-classroom excellence. He carries four majors and two minors, and has a 3.97 GPA.

Finally, Keno Davis. This man is an amazing coach, and an amazing leader. This first year head coach has done nothing short of outstanding in the way he has developed this basketball team. I'm telling you now folks: If you haven't watched any Drake basketball this year, you have missed out on some exciting basketball. I have never seen such an unselfish team play. They work hard and they pass a lot! It's quite a sight. So, if you're feeling inclined to watch, tune in to the first round of the NCAA tournament, and get yourself a piece of the magic!

Good Luck Bulldogs.....I'll be right there with you, cheering you on!!

note: the following video is from an ESPN interview with Keno Davis and Dr. Tom Davis. Just a little something to show you what kind of man Drake's head coach is.

note: picture courtesy of Chris Creamer's

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Steve Farber Teaser......

You've probably realized from a couple of my previous posts that I am a big Steve Farber fan. He's an extreme leadership guru and has authored two very practical business fables: The Radical Leap and The Radical Edge. They are smart and witty, and written in a way that will captivate you and hold your attention.

Well, he's at it again. Steve's working on a third novel (the title is up in the air at this point) that will release in January 2009, and I've got to tell you I am overly excited to see what practical knowledge he'll lay out for us again. If you get a chance, hop on over to his blog, where you will get a little two part teaser. He's put it out there for you: the prologue and chapter 1. It won't take long to read, but it will be enough to build your enthusiasm for January 2009. In the meantime, here's a little excerpt from chapter one:

I’m not really sure what to call it when things line themselves up without my slightest knowledge or influence. It’s like someone is executing a profoundly interlaced conspiracy to make all the random pieces of my life fit together. What is it? Karma? Kismet? Synchronicity? I don’t know, but it happens to me a lot, and more often than not it works out well. I just seem to meet the right teachers at the right time.

I’ve been blessed (maybe that’s the word) with the opportunity to work with some of the world’s preeminent thinkers in business leadership—like Tom Peters and Jim Kouzes to name a couple. And in recent years, under extremely odd and seemingly fortuitous circumstances, I’ve learned directly from some of the masters of Extreme Leadership—like William Maritime and Agnes Golden and Ted Garrison, names that’ll be familiar to readers of my previous books.

I’ve done a pretty good job of conveying the lessons I’ve learned along the way, and I think that’s why I’ve made a bit of a name for myself in certain circles. Some have even used the words “Steve Farber” and “leadership guru” in the same sentence, which, although gratifying to my ego, makes me squirm like I have a load of wet worms in my socks.

Right teachers. Right time. Odd circumstances.

I was thinking I should print that on my business card, because it was starting to happen all over again......