Millennials – plus ca change, la meme chose

It is very interesting to read recent posts from Frank Clayton and Charlie Walker-Wise about millennials’ attitudes and values.  Their remarks make valuable contributions to the rolling discussion about this demographic, which seems to me to be often unfairly slighted for being work-shy, recalcitrant and pessimistic.

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Learning in the new millennial

 

So much written about Millennials suggests that they are turned off by the way generations before them have done things. As someone engaged in professional learning this interests me.

Millennials, it would seem, are more civic and community minded than their predecessors. Lacking the financial security from which their parents have benefitted they are not as interested in a career path as generations before them. Instead, meaningful work, creative outlets and immediate, interactive feedback mean a lot. One only needs to look at a random selection of start-ups  to see this behaviour in evidence.

What does this mean for those of us now who work in more traditional institutions, based on and run by baby boomers or Gen X-ers? It’s an important question because bigger and slower moving organisations still need to employ, engage and retain millennials.

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The curse of the accidental manager

On July 12th, the FT published an article headlined “The UK’s productivity problem: the curse of the ‘accidental manager”, you can find it here – https://www.ft.com/content/b96ce8f2-5dd9-11e8-ad91-e01af256df68.

Are pork pies good for you?

It is somewhat disquieting to read that the “Peter principle”, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle, continues to thrive in UK business.  Our poor productivity performance arises because too many people gain promotion into managerial roles beyond their level of natural competence.  However, in the firm featured in the FT article performance is improving.

It strikes me, however, that simply hanging up figures of Superman (is this unconscious bias by the firm’s leaders?), and doling out pork pies are rather superficial practices.  The only likely outcome of this epicurean approach is hardened arteries.

The firm’s performance growth is due to its managers doing something much more profound, i.e. the way they “serve” their employees, see Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Servant-Leadership-Robert-K-Greenleaf/dp/1576750353/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1531821205&sr=8-3&keywords=robert+greenleaf.

At the simplest level, they should be talking to their employees as equal partners striving for success.  When this is achieved, I hope they’re rewarded with more than cholesterol laden pies!

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Strategy and structure: squaring a necessary circle

Strategic decision making – is it history?

In 1977, the historian Alfred Chandler of Harvard Business School published a seminal book on the history of strategic decision making at the highest levels of American firms, including General Motors, DuPont, Standard Oil and Sears Roebuck.  Of these, GM and DuPont remain strong businesses.  Standard was broken up as in illegal monopoly in early 20th century although its progeny,  Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, continue to thrive.   Sears struggles as do so many retailers in the face of the storm called Amazon.  The book is called “The Visible Hand:  The Managerial Revolution in American Business”.  From the book comes a maxim that I believe still rings true.  It is attributed to Alfred Sloane, one of GM’s founders.  The maxim is, “Structure follows strategy”.

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What You Think You Deserve vs. What You Have Earned. A Tale about Hard Work

I was resting before my next fight during my latest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament when a mother of one of the kids, who was competing in the children’s competition,  approached me, looking quite desperate, looking for feedback she told me that she needed my help.  Her son had just lost his first fight against a more skillful kid and she insisted on showing me the video of her son’s fight to see if I could give her tips on how to improve his technique.  Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a sport that does not believe in talent. One improves by training constantly. There is no secret formula for overnight improvement, just like life.  I looked at her and noticed that she was very concerned and recommended that she should have a talk with her son’s coach to understand the process and let him take care of his progress.  She replied, “I want to help him but I do not know how”.  I am also a father and completely understood her position.  We do not want our kids to go through unnecessary hardship.

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