Monday, May 18, 2009

Business Storytelling

There's a reason why storytelling has such a bad rap in corporate America.

The reason? Because to most executives, Business Storytelling = B.S.
Too much noise. Too much meandering. Not enough meaning.

Executives want to hear a story...
That's why they are forever asking, "What does this mean?"
But most of us aren't giving those executives a story, we're just giving them context.

I'm afraid that most people don't know how to tell a business story or how to tailor it to their audience.
It's not that difficult, actually.
I'm not saying it's easy... but there are a few pointers you need.

In my next post, I'll show you the NO B.S. formula.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

John Wooden's Pyramid of Success

When discussing leadership, you just can't go wrong with John Wooden, legendary former coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball team.

I'm a big fan of his Pyramid of Success. I may think it's a little more complicated than it needs to be, but I didn't coach 10 NCAA champions - so I'll assume he knows more than me...

Enjoy... and find more on Coach Wooden's website.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fun with Fishbones

Last week, I facilitated a fishbone diagramming session with an in-house team.

I really enjoy the practice of drawing a fishbone, which seems to surprise a lot of people.

Fishbones are very useful, so here are a couple of tips:
  1. Write a clear problem question for the 'head' of the fish. Something like, "Why are 50% of customers dissatisfied with operation of Product A".
    Not, "customer dissatisfaction" - vague problem statements lead to a messy fishbone.
  2. Use the 4 Ps (or the 4 Ms) as the primary bones of the fish. The 4 Ps (process, product, place, and people) are my favorite, but the 4 Ms (man, machine, method, material) work as well. These will make sure you consider a wide range of possibilities.
  3. Use a separate sheet of paper for each of the 4 Ps. In the photo, you'll see the head in the bottom left of the photo, and the 4 'bones' in the center. The outside sheets of paper build off of the 4 P's.
  4. Divide your fishbone team into 4 groups. Have each group take a separate sheet and start working on it. They should answer the problem question for their 'bone' - for example "Why can process cause 50% of customers to be dissatisfied with operation of Product A."
    This step eliminates the waste of time that occurs when someone suggests an idea and everyone wonders what 'bone' to put it under. Endless discussions like, "Is hiring a process? Or is it really under people?" will paralyze a fishbone session.
  5. Make sure the 'whys' are expressed in negative terms. Don't just write 'documentation', write 'documentation is not available in Japanese'.
  6. As energy decreases, rotate the four groups. They will then mark-up and add to the work of the previous group. Do this until all groups have added to all four 'bones'.
  7. Paste the bones together. All the above should take about 45 minutes.
  8. Rate each major 'bone', on a scale of 1 to 5 - how likely is it to be a cause of the problem.
  9. Split into teams to attack the most likely causes!

This high energy approach makes fishbones fun and effective. 
Give it a try.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

God is in the Details

A River stone adorned with a natural lei

While I'm gregarious and fascinated by people, I love solitude - the kind of solitude that Edward Abbey so perfectly captured in "Desert Solitaire".
I hate it when Angie goes home to see her parents. I miss her constantly (she is - literally - the yin to my yang), but it's good for me.

Today, I went for a hike. Alone. Where I might usually be chattering to Angie, today I just wandered quietly, looking and listening. It was a sunny warm day with wildflowers bursting everywhere. 

Wildflowers in Alum Rock Park

German Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, "God is in the Details". It's a quote that was often applied to Frank Lloyd Wright's obsession with detail.
Today, I lingered on the details.

Caterpillar walking

Lingering on details is something I've tried to do more of at work. More quiet. More listening. More thinking. More reading. Allowing more space for details to emerge.
I'm not good at it, but I'm working at it. 
Surprises emerge, and that's a good thing.

By looking for details, I also found a gray fox, which just goes to show that the search for detail can sometimes lead to big things as well.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Revenge of Lego Glenn

Want to see yourself as a Lego character?

Want to see me as a Lego character?

Well, too bad...
Lego Glenn is here.
He's a got a big-ass book in his hand and he's not afraid to use it!

You can make your own mini-lego-me here.

A Cinco de Mayo Recipe for Good Times

Want a recipe for a great evening?
  1. Get some warm weather
  2. Find some cool people
  3. Go to a nice place
  4. Pick an interesting topic to discuss
  5. Hope for some serendipity

Last night met all the above criteria.
  1. After a couple of weeks of (by California standards) crappy weather, the sky cleared and the temperature warmed up last night.
  2. Brent and I met up with Randy Emelo and Brian LaComb, of Triple Creek Associates for dinner.
  3. We went to Santana Row - the best place in San Jose for atmosphere on a nice night.
  4. We had an outstanding conversation around mentoring and some of the best practices that Triple Creek is implementing. I left with a brain full of ideas, and more questions than I came with (always a good thing).
  5. It turned out to be Cinco de Mayo. I should have known that, but didn't. Still, it was a happy surprise.  We had drinks outside, listening to music and enjoying an energy that you don't usually see on a Tuesday night.

I highly recommend that you visit Triple Creeks website and visit the resources section.
Randy writes a great newsletter and is very generous with podcasts, as well.

They are good people doing some great work, so check them out!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched

I reviewed Amy Sutherland's "What Shamu Taught me about Life, Love, and Marriage" in a previous post.
An enjoyable, quick read - it was a no-brainer to add "Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched" to my reading list.

I love reading 'behind-the-scenes' articles and books. 
I'm fascinated by processes - always wanting to see a well-made "making-0f" documentary on a DVD.
"Kicked" is exactly that. 

Amy Sutherland spends a year at the Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) program in Southern California, where she tracks students and subjects through all the highs and lows you would expect in any school - but where the students are more passionate about learning than most of us were in college and the subjects can literally kill you.

Sutherland disappears, simply observing and reporting the events of the year. This is not her story, which is a great choice, as there are plenty of stories here to be told already.
It's been a long time since I picked up a book that I literally couldn't put down.

If you're interested in animals, interested in learning, or just like a good story: pick up "Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched".

Friday, May 1, 2009

Book Review: Dancing in the Mind Field by Kary Mullis

I've got a week off from my Masters program... which means I get to pick my own reading!

Surprising even myself, I choose to dig into Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis' "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field". 
I found it in a used book store and was hooked after reading the chapter "The Attack of the Loxosceles Reclusae" a hilariously off color recounting of his reaction to a series of spider bites.

The whole book fits this profile - funny, clever, and surprising at every turn. Science should never be boring, but sadly, it usually is.

Well, fortunately, Kary isn't a geek in a white coat. Let me rephrase that... he is a geek in a white coat, but he's also much more.
His childhood stories of launching rockets to see if the frog astronauts come back, of mixing random chemicals to see how they react (often badly), his fascination with bodies (particularly female ones)... these are all stories from my youth (and the youth of a million American males like me).

One of my favorite books is Michael Crichton's (yes, the Michael Crichton of ER and Jurassic Park) "Travels" - an autobiographical journey into what's possible, if not explainable, in this world. I had always hoped for "Travels 2", but Crichton died a few years back. 

Fortunately, it looks like Mullis wrote it for him (and me).

Here's one of my favorite straightforward rants from the book:
The temperature of the earth is due to the size and shape of the orbit that it follows around the sun, the angle that its rotational axis is tilted to its orbit, the length of its days, the radioactive decay and residual gravitational heat deep below the crust, and the elements that were here from the beginning, and God knows what else, but not us.

We are a thin layer of moss on a huge rock. We are a little biologic phenomenon that makes words and thoughts and babies, but we don't even tickle the soles of the feet of our planet.
I don't have to agree with all his opinions to enjoy all his stories.
Here's an article about him, if you're interested.