Are You A Blockbuster or a Documentarian … ?


MoviesI enjoy summer blockbuster movies …

You know, the ones with interchangeable actors and actresses, a plot line with little development or internal consistency, humorous and completely unrealistic dialogue, with crackerjack special effects … especially explosions.

We pay a lot to watch a blockbuster because the more you pay, the more value you receive, right?

We enter a dark and quiet place to do so, as a visual reminder that we are escaping from whatever the world is throwing at us.

We get to suspend our disbelief, let someone else “drive” for a while, and just enjoy the comedy, the thrills, the adventure, the mystery, the horror … the sheer bigness of it all.

We relax, knowing that the hero or heroine will prevail, even if only a few stars survive to the final credits, and that size and power do not matter if your heart is pure, your motives are altruistic, or you know how to crack a good joke in the middle of horrendous scenes of destruction and carnage.

Summer blockbusters exist for two related reasons: 

1)  To make us go “oooh”, “aaahh”, and “Oh My God!”

2) To make tons of money for someone other than those watching the movie.

Documentaries are more serious ….

They often feature people we have never heard of or who are not of particular interest to us, at least before we see the film.  The plot lines are non-standard because they follow real life instead of the hero’s journey on which so many movies are based.  The special effects are usually minimal or standard and the dialogue is awkward, stilted, and not all that funny, just like real life communication.

Documentaries are often quite reasonably prices or even free, although they still struggle to reach an audience of any significance.

We enter that same dark and quiet place to watch the documentary, but find no escape from our worldly concerns.  On the contrary, we usually leave the viewing area more worried than we were when we entered.

We try, but fail to suspend our disbelief at the needs and challenges which exist in our world.   We realize that the cavalry is not coming, Gandalf will not magically appear with an army, and the good guys don’t always win.

Documentaries exist for two related reasons, as well:

1)  Because someone cared about something really on our world and wanted to share it with others.

2)  We need to know, to understand and act to make the world better than it is.

Please feel free to discuss the ethical aspects of these thoughts as you stand in line for tickets to the Next Big Screen Thing.

Looking for some popcorn and a cheap seat to the theater of life in the Heartland ….

John

Book Review: “The Decision Maker” by Dennis Bakke


TheDecisionMaker_DennisBakke_black-240x240

“It’s the quality of decisions that determines the success or failure of any organization.”

Can’t argue with that …

Dennis Bakke, who many of us will remember from The Joy of Work, has a rather radical approach to improving the quality of decisions in our organizations.

Let people decide …

Sounds innocent enough, until you realize the extent to which Bakke recommends that we let go of decision-making.

THE STYLE …

I have not always enjoyed narrative style business and leadership books …

Maybe I get caught up in the story and miss the message.  Sometimes the author has great knowledge, but is not adept at telling stories, creating characters, spinning the narrative in an engaging way.

I am very happy to report that Bakke is NOT one of the above.   “The Decision Makeris a leadership fable about the journey taken by several interesting characters toward

Here’s where Bakke starts:

“ We’ve got a lot of rules, because we assume people can’t think on their own.  We’ve got managers and consequences to keep us in line, because we assume people are going to break the rules we give them … we take grown people, and we treat them like kids.  Not even like good kids.  Like kids we’re pretty sure can’t be trusted.”

As I said earlier, I normally am not a fan of narrative business fables, but this book has changed my mind.

THE CONTENT …

Here’s my paraphrased perception of the gist of Bakke’s contentions about leaders and decisions:

1)  The leader’s job is to choose someone to decide.

2)  The person chosen needs to gather information from others.

3)  The person chosen decides.

It’s that last one that makes the difference between this and most other leadership decision books.  We are all familiar with the idea that the leader creates opportunities for others to experience leading through decision-making.  We know that effective decisions are based on careful consideration of data and other information that relates to the situation.

… but actually letting the person chosen decide?

Sounds great, until the decision is important or the person’s decision is not the one we would have made.

Not that Bakke is all squishy about giving away the decision-making authority: 

“It’s not really your decision if there aren’t consequences to it.”

Bakke uses the narrative form to expand on his general idea in detail, over time, in an organizational setting and with characters that most of us will easily recognize.

THE VALUE …

 “If the person who makes the decision doesn’t have any responsibility, the decision doesn’t mean anything.”

This is where our best intentions are waylaid by our strong sense for self-preservation and the perceptions outlined in the first quote about not really trusting people.

Bakke contends that this is the heart of truly effective leadership:  The ability to COMPLETELY TRUST those who you lead.

The best thing about this book is that it is based on Bakke’s experiences at several organizations where the concept of the decision-maker was implemented.  He includes the pitfalls and the cautions in parts of the story which focus on the many levels of resistance to the idea.   This story has the ring of truth.

Toward the end of the tale, one of the people who was most resistant (a co-owner of the company) describes their new reality thusly:  

“I’ve never been a part of anything like this.  A company where people get treated like people.  Where everyone’s not just the same.  Where we expect people to think and learn.  Where they get to make their own decisions.  Not just the execs and the creative types.  The guys on the line, and all the way up.”

Sounds good to me …

Spend a few dollars and a few hours with The Decision Maker and you may just experience a birth or rebirth of hope that we can all work in companies like this.

Enjoying the opportunity to read a good story and learn something of value to boot in the Heartland ….

John

 

Disclaimer:  As is often the case, I received a copy of this book for review.  This did not influence my perception of the value of this book.  IF I let a free book influence me, I’d be reviewing trashy romance novels and science fiction.

 

10-10-10 … Adds Up:)


10 10 10 - Suzy WelchThe concept is deceptively simple …

 In Suzy Welch’s book “10-10-10”, she lays out a clear and very useful set of frameworks through which we can assess our potential decisions and actions.  These three views use distinct, but related time frames.

Here are the basic questions and my take on them:

How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now?

We look at the immediate benefit to doing something.   This speaks to the urgency of things and our need for immediate gratification.  We often feel a great need to act on something, to do it now.  

When we act based on an immediate need, we usually do receive something in return:   we satiate our hunger, release the pressure, we may even think we have solved a problem.

Sometimes we eat a fresh, glazed doughnut, knowing we will be hungry again down the road. 

Sometimes we decide to focus on a thing and put our energy and time into it, based on our emotions and situation at the time.

Making a decision usually provides relief, if nothing else.

 

DoughnutsHow about 10 months from now?

This is a relatively short-term time frame, but ultimately very useful.  This range is close enough to a year to matter, but still relatively close.  If we are able to respond honestly and with some intelligence, the direction and consequences of our earlier decision become clearer. 

Now we can see the non-immediate results of our initial actions.  Did the hunger remain satiated, the pressure off, and was that problem actually solved?

Will we still carry the residual weight of that fresh, glazed doughnut around our waist?

In our current political and economic environment, 10 months can hold a fair amount of change.  Predicting change is often risky and seldom completely accurate … but trying to respond honestly and accurately to this one puts us ahead of those who do not think in more strategic terms.

 

How about 10 years from now?

Now we are thinking long range for most decisions, whether they be personal direction or business strategy. 

Except for a gifted few, most of us cannot imagine what our world might look like this far down the road.  However, we can use this time frame in connection with another important measurement:

How will what we decide today, in our ten minute time frame, move us closer to our overall goals?

We might feel real good about a decision at the time we make it and it may prove to be continuously positive in a year or so, but not fit within our long term goals and direction.  

Our goals should not be anchored in change which may or may not happen, but be flexible enough to respond to changing conditions, while solid enough to provide us with consistent direction through whatever happens.

The final question:   How will that fresh, glazed doughnut affect our overall health, weight, and longevity?

… of course, all this assumes that we have or develop well-thought out and articulated long-term goals in the first place … otherwise, just enjoy eating that doughnutSmile.

 For a more detailed discussion of this concept and the book, CLICK HERE.   You may find this exercise useful, with some well-formed goals.

Thinking about the consequences of eating a fresh, glazed doughnut down the road a bit in the Heartland ….

John

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love Ya, Tomorrow, But …


“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”

Benjamin Franklin As quoted in Curiosities in proverbs, (1916) pg. 130.

The words may be original to Franklin, but the underlying theme is as old as civilization.

Simple words, direct call to action, and a bias towards achievement … doesn’t get much more American than this.  We are a society of doers and we sing the praises of the brash action, the “can do” attitude, the positive …

So why would you NOT do something today when you are capable of doing it?

I came up with four:

Prudence:   Just because we can do something does not always mean that we should do it.   Our technology gives us many capabilities which carry moral and emotional cost.  Do we really need to work at the speed of light every day?

Ethics:   Sometimes the ability to do something conflicts with the rightness of doing that thing.  I’ll bet you can come up with a number of things related to privacy, intellectual property, and civil rights that are doable, but wrong.

Anticipation:  This one may be a stretch, but I believe in the ability to anticipate.  As a child, my Christmas started on December 1st every year and continued right up to Christmas morning, when it ended with a tremendous dose of reality.

Process:   Something magical happens when you allow an effective process to work at its pace and not your own.  Our ability to work quickly and “get it done” is not always the best long-term approach to a task, a problem, or an issue. 

What have I missed or misstated?

Trying to put a few things off until at least Tuesday in the Heartland ….

John

Leading by Example Is Not As Easy As You’d Think …


“Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”

Albert Schweitzer  As quoted in Building Character: Strengthening the Heart of Good Leadership (2007) pg. 49

Easy for Schweitzer to state this articulate thought about the absolute importance of authenticity.  He almost qualifies as a saint among men.  What about us mere mortals?

Most of us do not have the opportunity to create a living legacy as Schweitzer did with his medical work in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, we do have our opportunities and our examples to follow in our more mundane lives:

 Think those who volunteer for Habitat Humanity or deliver meals to those in need.

Think those who act instead of just making speeches.

Think those who have the courage to speak their real mind in a meeting.

Think those who want to say “no” and do so.

Think those who deliver what they promise and give a day’s work for a day’s pay.

Think those who live lives of congruence and honesty.

Well, if being authentic were that easy, everyone would do it, right?:)

So what stops you … really?    Fear of failure, of consequences, of reactions, of people disagreeing with or even disliking you?

What do you think Schweitzer would say to you, if he were here?

Oh, he’s already said it, hasn’t he:).

Trying to set a good example in the Heartland …

John

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