Friday, March 31, 2006

How Effective Are Your Escalation Meetings?

Yesterday, I led a new class I'm designing to strengthen our escalation meeting management.

We've built some role play scenarios that show how the ouput of an escalation meeting falls far short of the product that's needed for a customer meeting.

I did a series of web searches in my research, looking for a 'great conference call template' (especially one where plan of action creation is involved), but came up empty.
So, we designed our own.

It seems like running this type of meeting/call would be straight forward, but we identified 30+ attributes of a well-run call.
In our opening role-play, with senior managers/engineers, we are only hitting 10% of these attributes (room to improve!).
After training, we're hitting 90%.

Of course, we'll follow this up with job-aides and action coaching.
No matter how 'intuitive' something seems, you can't assume it will be done correctly...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Airplane Reading

Flew back from Singapore yesterday.
Long flight, but we got an upgrade to business class, so that was nice.

On the flight, I read two books.

1) The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists - Interesting book.
About a month ago,I read this article in Metro (which, by the way, is now downloadable in pdf format) . Besides having a GREAT title (I love puns), it intrigued me with it's tale of desperate men using NLP to pick up girls.
Anyway, I saw "The Game" in a Singapore book store and picked it up for some light in-flight reading.
The 1st third is hilarious, and highly entertaining, as we watch socially inept geeks learn the art of seduction.
The rest of the book, however, loses momentum as it heads into the inevitable morality tale and love story.
Still, worth reading if you want a glimpse into a world you will hopefully never enter on your own.

2) Freakonomics - An economist takes on some decidedly non-academic questions, like 'why do drug dealers live with their moms?', and 'what's more dangerous - a pool or a gun?'
He then answers those questions with data, stories, and surprises.
Challenge your assumptions!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Checking in with an old friend...

Angie and I had dinner tonight with our good friend Jodi Chia, and her kids.

We ate at California Bistro, in the Esplanade.

Chicken sandwiches - good
Fish and chips - very good
Weather - hot
Air - humid

Seeing an old friend - priceless

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Exploring Singaporean Music

The sun is rising in Singapore... Stephanie Sun Yan-Zi, that is.

As part of my continuing world music series, today I will introduce you to Stephanie Sun.
Here's her profile. And a fan site.

Singapore's most famous performer, she is a singer/pianist with an excellent voice, singing in both English and Mandarin. She's been a huge success throughout the Chinese world since 2000.
She performs a wide range of songs, but sweeping piano ballads are her specialty.

Here's one of her hits - 'Kite'.

Good late night music.

Singapore Fashion

It's fashion week in Singapore.

As we were passing through Raffles City Shopping Center (designed by none other than I.M. Pei - it isn't one of his most inspired works, but it's interesting), a show was about to start, so we stuck around to take a few photos.

I'm not a huge fan of runway models - too skinny, too tall, too pale.
But hey, I always keep an open mind...

This statuesque creature must have heard my comment, because she appears to be staring a hole through me.

Singapore has the Best Food in the World

I firmly believe that...

You can see all of Singapore in a week, it's true.
But it would take you a good five years to eat your way through the Lion City.

Last night (my birthday, by the way) we had dinner at the Cafe Lotus, at Clarke Quay.

Here's a close-up of my Beef Rendang, a beef (obviously) dish cooked in a spicy coconut (anything's better with coconut, is my belief) gravy.

As Montgomery Burns would say, "Excellent...."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bringing the World to your Desktop - from Singapore

Here is a view of famous Orchard Road, at the intersection of Scotts Road.
I'm shooting from Border's Cafe, towards the Marriot.

Orchard Road is the premier shopping, eating, people-watching zone in Singapore (some would say Asia).

I personally think it's the best people-watching spot in Asia. Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysians, Thai, Americans, Australians, and Europeans all mix here.

Sidewalk cafes abound, so a pleasant day can (and usually does) consist of sitting, watching, talking, and eating.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Engaging the Singaporean Workforce

This was the first trip I've made to Singapore since I saw the Gallup Q12 data that showed Singapore having the least engaged workforce in the world.

Marcus Buckingham makes a pretty big deal out of it in his TLC presentation, roughly saying, "When they offer you that great job in Singapore, don't take it".
The statement, like many of Marcus' statements, draws a big laugh (dry British humor wins the day, again).

Gallup reports that only 4% of the Singaporean workforce would call itself 'engaged' (compared to 29% in the US, or 9% in Japan, at the time).
Since I lived in Singapore for two years, everyone asks me, "Is it true? And why?"

Well, yes. The data has the ring of truth to me. Why? I'll try to answer that. 

First, I wanted to know how Singaporean workers would respond to the data.
I showed the data to my friends, including the HR director, and asked, "Is it true?"
After a moment of silence, they nodded. "Yes".

Does that mean you shouldn't take the job in Singapore?
Are you kidding? Take the job, I say!!
When the management bar has been set that low, you can't fail.

Want to make a difference? Go to Singapore and engage 5% of your employees (or better)...

But there's still the nagging question - Why would only 4% of Singapore's workforce consider themselves 'engaged'?

In 1997, I was managing a young, new Customer Service group in Singapore.
I'm the kind of manager who tries to catch people 'doing good' and then reinforce that behavior, so I walked around a lot, looking for the type of behavior I wanted to see and complimenting it.
More than once, people commented on how much praise I delivered. They weren't used to it. It scared them.

One Monday morning, at a staff meeting, I called out the extraordinary efforts an engineer made to get a specialized oscilloscope from a vendor. This allowed him to fix a difficult issue that was critical to our customer.
This, I said, is the type of initiative that makes us part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

After the staff meeting, my Singaporean manager called me into his office.
"Glenn," he said, "I want to give you some feedback".
"We don't give compliments in Singapore. You'll need to stop."
Ummm... please explain.
"Well, if we compliment our workforce, they will think they are good."
Okay, I'm with you so far.
"If they think they are good, they'll want raises and promotions. And then they'll leave."

I see. Let's assume that's true. Let's agree that complimenting will drive out employees.
How is the 'no compliment' scheme working out for you.

Well, turnover in the group at that time was about 20%.

I decided that I couldn't do much worse than that by giving compliments.
I'm a guy who's unafraid of failure. In fact, I welcome failure if I can learn from it.

One thing I can't stand, however, is making the same old mistakes.
If I'm going to fail, I want to fail in new and interesting ways.

So, my manager and I agreed to disagree, and I went on with my positive ways.

Result - in two years. I lost only one employee, who I actually encouraged out (great guy, wrong place).

Note - this pattern repeated itself over the next 5-7 years.
Chinese Manager - high turnover
Western Manager - low turnover
In other words, it wasn't any magic gift I had..... (damn...)
So, what was it?

Over those two years, I interviewed many engineers who wanted to work for me.
I always asked the standard interview question, "Why do you want to work for KT?"
Some answers -
-"You are an American company"
-"You are Caucasian"
-"You are not Chinese"
-"I want to work for a Western Manager"

These responses always came from Chinese Singaporeans, and came often enough to create a pattern.

My read on this?
I think a combination of status, hierarchy, fear, and freedom created a conflict.
The East/West mix of Singaporeans means that hierarchical structures and relationships are often in place, but the workers are westernized enough to not like it.
  • Sometimes that manifests in a "I'll get promoted so I can boss them around" thought process (If you can't join them, beat them).
  • Other times it results in "I'll work for a Western Manager". On average, a Western Manager will provide a more nurturing, involving, rewarding environment for a Singaporean worker.
  • Or it just creates surrender.

But not an 'engaged' workforce.

I'm sure there are 100 other reasons for the 4% result.
But I'm also sure that any manager in Singapore who makes an effort to get positive responses from his team on Gallup's 12 Questions will be, as Marcus Buckingham says, 'an employer of choice'.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What do people remember? Thoughts from Singapore

This week, I'm reading "Lessons in Learning, e-Learning, and Training" by Roger C. Schank.
Roger is an expert in AI, memory, and training.

He is also a contrarian - which makes him one of the good guys in my mind.
Excellent book, filled with quotable lines.

One of my favorites:
"What do people remember? Their feelings. Fun. The behavior of others. What they don't remember are the details - they are not the important stuff of human memory".
So, how do you inject feelings into your teachings? Do you?
Or are you missing one of the best tools of memory?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hot and Humid in Singapore

95 degrees with thunderstorms.
The kind of day where the sidewalks are sweating.

You know what they say - fight fire with fire.
So, Angie and I headed to 'Patara', a downtown Thai restaurant that we really like.

Tom Ka, Pomelo Salad, Fried Olive Rice, and fried springrolls helped cool us down (Okay... Angie's coconut juice, my Singapore Sling, and the air-conditioning didn't hurt).

Tomorrow and Wednesday, I deliver 'Transistion to Management' to the local team.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Flying to Singapore

There are only two emotions in a plane:
boredom and terror.

~Orson Welles

Hopefully, today there's only one...

When in Japan, drink like a Japanese

One of the pleasures of being in Japan is drinking fresh squeezed Chu-hi.

Chu-hi is a shochu (rice whiskey)-based drink that's mixed with juice and sparkling water.
It's refreshing, with a nice kick.

You can buy it canned, but I like it best when I've squeezed it myself.

It's available in many flavors - lemon, plum, and lime, for example - but my favorite is grapefruit.

I used to joke about creating a new alchoholic drink for children called, 'pikachu-hi'. 
Get it? Pikachu and chu-hi? Yeah, no else thought it was funny either...

Here, I'm pouring the grapefruit juice into my glass and getting ready to say, "kanpai"!

Tomorrow, we're off to Singapore.

Does your DiSC profile change when you travel?

Yesterday, I was leading a 'High Performance Teams' session in Yokohama, Japan.
We always do individual behavior profiling, using DiSC, to open our session.

In the past, we've tested everyone using the English version of DiSC, since we're a US-based company.
This trip, for the first time, we used a Japanese language version.
As a test, I had my good friend Fumio Nishikata take both the English and Japanese versions.

Since he does a lot of work with both the US and Japan, he took the Japanese version thinking of his Japanese work environment, and the English version thinking of his US work environment.
I wasn't very surprised to see that his profile changed slightly.

In Japan, Fumio is a 'power D' (directive), with a secondary 'I' (influence). Under stress, his 'D' becomes even more pronounced. So Fumio uses primarily a directive behavior in Japan.

In the US, however, Fumio is a 'high I', with a secondary 'D'; meaning he is more likely to use influence. Under stress, his directive behavior drops, and his 'S' (sociability) rises, so he's more likely to agree to consensus decisions.

As we discussed this, we surmised that most people who are successful in global organizations probably have a similar pattern. That is, it's likely that they will become less directive, using more influence and consensus away from home.

The people who continue to be directive, on foreign land, are usually the ones who fail...

Traditional Clothing in Japan

It's March, which means it's graduation time in Japan.

As a result, we see hakama-wearing girls clip-clopping down the street periodically.

Here's a trio of graduates outside the Intercontinental Hotel that were kind enough to pose for me.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Exploring Culture through a Japanese Festival

Here's my buddy and co-worker, Martin Woodrow, exploring Japanese culture...

We were in Yokohama last August to lead some classes. On the weekend, we stumbled on a matsuri, a Japanese festival.
In the hot weather, the festival participants tend to dress lightly...

Martin, an expert at learning, decided to get a closer look. 

Do you think this is what Ed Hall meant by 'transcending culture'?

What did we learn?
Well, for one, you never know what you'll find around the corner.

Secondly, not everyone puts on their pants one leg at a time.

And finally, it's great to be the one behind the camera...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Putting the Support back into Technical Support

I led a workshop today at our office in Yokohama, Japan.
The workshop is called, "Coaching for Technical Support Engineers".

In the class we discuss the Situational Leadership Model, which points out that there are four stages of development.
Without explaining the model (go here for some details), a coach needs to provide varying levels of direction and support, depending on what stage of development the coaching target is at.

Typically, in our company, we excel at 'Directive' coaching, and do less well at 'Supportive' coaching. The problem with that scenario is that many of your employees won't grow to self-sufficiency.

What's interesting is that our field offices really feel this conflict.
They feel that they are at a level of development where they require support, not direction, from HQ.
Unfortunately, our culture (along with the natural inclination to want to control things that are far away) drives us to over-direct.

The answer? Well, we need to train the coachee to say, "Wait. I don't need direction here. I just need your support."

Then? Well, then we have to support them...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Learning through Film - Japan

In the interest of right brain/left brain balance, today is film day.

Here, in no particular order, are 5 Japanese films that will give you a better insight to Japanese culture.
  1. Seven Samurai - Perhaps the greatest film ever made. I'm not claiming it's the 'best' (a futile discussion if ever there was one), but it sure is great.
    There is no question that you're in the hands of a master filmmaker here (Kurosawa, of course), but that doesn't stop it from being Fun with a capital 'F'. An added bonus is the commentary track that explains many cultural points in the movie.
  2. Audition - Horror doesn't come any more horrific than in this Miike Takashi spectacle. One of those 'only from Japan' films, this isn't a cheesy slasher film. This is the horror of everyday life.
  3. After Life - Is about the after life... It's funny, with interesting characters and a unique view of what happens 'on the other side'.
  4. Bounce Ko Gals - This movie about high school girls who engage in 'compensated dating' with business men could have been cheap and tasteless, but it isn't. It's a peek 'behind the curtain' of a phenomenon that you know is there, but you'll never see.
  5. Princess Mononoke - I could have flipped a coin to choose between this and three other Miyazaki films. All have their charms, but this is my personal favorite.

I could name a dozen more, but I won't. At least not today...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Two Things You Must Do in Seoul, Korea

I'm in Yokohama, Japan now. but I wanted to close out our Korea trip with two pieces of advice, if you happen to visit Seoul.

1. Eat a dinner at Sanchon, home of delicious vegetarian temple food (pictured here with my wife, Angie). And, just to be clear, I am a confirmed carnivore. These canine teeth of mine get a regular workout. However, this is one vegetarian restaurant that doesn't leave me wanting...

2. Make sure to see a Korean dance performance. Sanchon has a show every night. Korea House and the Chongdong Theater also have shows. All are worth seeing...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Art and Context in Seoul, Korea

I have always had a fondness for the 'lion-dogs' of Asia.
I took this photo of one such creature at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

"Good art is always high-context; bad art, low-context. This is one reason why good art persists and art that releases its message all at once does not."

- Edward T. Hall "Beyond Culture"

Training Top 100 - Again!!

Shameless self-promotion, I admit...

For the 5th consecutive year, KLA-Tencor was named to Training Magazine's Top 100.

Here's the downloadable article of the 2006 winners.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Learning Through Film - Korea

I was having lunch a couple days ago with co-workers Yu Jin Kwag (pictured at her desk) and S.Y. We had excellent Chinese Shrimp in Chili Sauce and discussed Korea movies.

As I firmly believe that film is one of the best ways to learn about a culture (be careful not to take it too literally - just like all Americans don't carry guns; most Asians don't know kung fu), I thought I'd give you a list of my five favorite Korean films.
All are available, with subtitles, in the US.

1 - Attack the Gas Station - A Tarentino-esque take on a night of escalating events that ends with the best 'Mexican standoff' I've ever seen. A hilarious film that also addresses the pressures that Korean youth feel.
2 - JSA - The best look at the tensions/ties between North and South Korea. Intense and human.
3 - Chunhyang - A beautifully filmed version of a classic Korean tale that could be called their 'Romeo and Juliet'.
4 - Tell Me Something - If you're into psychological thrillers, this one puts a particularly Korean spin on the genre. Definitely a mind-bender.
5 - Christmas in August - A quiet, touching look at life, love, and death. Too real to be considered a 'chick flick'. It's just a great, great film. This is a film that demonstrates the 'high-context' nature of Asia. So much is said without being said at all.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Managing Change in Asia...

Everyone 'knows' that Asians don't like change. It's a given, isn't it?

Well, consider this...
When I lead Change Management classes around the world, we do an exercise where everyone has to change 5 things about themselves, then 10 more, then 10 more.

In the US, some attendees will start rolling their eyes right from the start.
In Asia, the attendees dive straight in and enjoy the process.

This photo of two serious, hard-working managers (In Geun Seo and Eric Han) shows how quickly they could adapt to this classroom request. Note the inside-out jackets, unbuttoned collars, and the tie around In Geun's head.

Why, you might ask, can they accept this change so easily, but resist others.
The answer, like so many things in Asia, is context.

Most of Asia is a high-context environment. That is, everything around an event or product is just as, or more important than the event or product itself.
Packaging, introductions, relationships, surroundings, body language - all of these contribute more to your success than the value of the product you present.

As a result, when I ask people to do this exercise in the US, they question my motives. They want to know 'why' and 'how long' and 'to what purpose'. They need to understand the value of the exercise.

In Asia, the attendees look at the context. We're in a classroom. I'm a facilitator/teacher. I was introduced by the President of the organization. Therefore, what I ask must have a reason and purpose. They don't need to ask. They accept.

Next time you try to introduce change in Asia (or anywhere), consider whether you are dealing with a high or low context environment and position yourself for success.

Change can be easy to sell or hard to sell. Your choice.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Can we move Beyond Culture?

I'm in Seoul this week, delivering two classes.

Each day I have a 90 minute subway commute to the office in Sunae.
I've got my i-pod, a world full of new people to watch, and a book in hand - so I'm happy.

Today, I finished reading Edward T. Hall's "Beyond Culture".
There's at least one thought provoking statement on every page, but here's a favorite quote from the book...
"Today, man is increasingly placed in positions in which culture can no longer be depended upon to produce reliable readings of what other people are going to do next. He is constantly in the position of interacting with strangers, so he must take the next step and begin to transcend his culture. This cannot be done in an armchair."
The emphasis is mine.
Written in 1976, the statement is truer today than ever - and, as demonstrated daily on the world stage, no closer to reality than it was then.

Hall's books give us clear stories and steps to begin the process, making the books true gems. I highly recommend them...