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The Peter Principle, Why things go wrong by Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull

With foreword by Robert Sutton

Let me have men about me that are fat
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous
– Julius Ceasar, Shakespeare

We hire people after our own image. The authors cite Napolean who felt that people with big noses make better leaders. The Retrospective Decision making model predicts that we make decisions intuitively and retrospectively give a reason (possibly logically) for our decision.

We make judgments about people’s competence. Sometimes from brief interactions. The more powerful you are, the more impact. Interviewers sometimes take as fast as 30 sec to form impressions.

The Peter Principle predicts that many people are promoted to their level of competence.

Several examples of signs of people who posses this malady.

Papyrohobia
Cannot tolerate papers or books on his desk. Probably such piece of paper is reminder that he hates his job. He makes a virtue of his phobia by keeping a clean desk, creating the impression of incredible fast decision making.

Structurophilia
Obsessive concern with buildings, planning, construction, maintenance and reconstruction. But unconcerned about the work going on, inside the buildings.

Such as those with a compulsion to build memorial statues.

When i read this tiny book of 161 pages or halved if you put in A4 size, it was amusingly refreshing. Most bizarre types actually exist in organisations especially because the skill sets required for different levels of organisation from technical in front-line supervisors to political skills needed at higher levels of management.

What then is the solution?
As someone interested in productivity, I am curious about how to improve our decision making on promotion and hiring.

Unfortunately, beyond naming the crime as incompetence, this book sheds little light on how to solve the problem.

Perhaps its beyond my competence to read between the lines. Or frankly, no one knows. Management is as much an art as a science.

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Photo: 999 glass fishes at the Oceans Financial Centre Singapore.The work holds a message about strength from community and collaboration.
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Technology alone likely won’t deliver the uplift in performance that organizations seek.

There are three reasons to value human capital:

– People are the creators of technology – it does not create itself.

– People are the stewards of technology – they cannot control it but they can shape it and are less effective without it.

– People are the champions of technology.

Companies such as Airbnb and Uber, optimise technology but also have huge teams of people to service their customers. Humans know best how to partner with technology.

“What gets in the way is that there is an insufficient understanding of disruption, there is pressure from stakeholders and the strategy for human capital is not aligned with the strategic goals of the organisation.

Smartphones, data-collecting industrial parts and other innovations of the Digital Age are amazing, but none of them pack the productivity-boosting power of the lightbulb or the telephone. Indeed, apart from a short burst between 1996 and 2004, the digital technology revolution actually hasn’t boosted overall productivity.

Airbnb offers a strong example of what can happen when people are enabled rather than replaced by technology. The firm might have fewer than 3,000 people on the payroll, but it depends on tens of thousands of creative, ambitious and talented human hosts to supply those 2 million rooms worldwide. Technology may connect hosts to potential guests, but Airbnb has no business without the hosts.

The “Talent Trumps Tech” idea applies to the executive suites, too. Yes, the boss likely will be able to use technology to instantly get real-time data about the firm’s pipeline of sales, cash flows, threats from competitors, even the value of individual customers …. At the same time, it will be easier for CEOs to get concrete business options from intel- ligent software. These AI-infused programs can use current data and past experiences to identify trouble spots or opportunities and make recommendations to improve the business.

Making the call
However, no app or robot is going to make the final decision on what business strategy to pursue, or whether to open a new office in Austin or Amsterdam, or whether to merge with a rival firm. “I’ll never say never, but I can’t imagine CEOs giving up those decisions,” says Nels Olson, vice chairman and co-leader of Korn Ferry’s Board & CEO Services practice. “Artificial intelligence will be there to provide input.”

Excerpts from 2030: The Very Human Future Of Work by Hazel Euan-Smith & Russell Pearlman & Karen Kane in the series on “The Future of Work is Human”
– KornFerry Institute

https://www.kornferry.com/institute/2030-the-very-human-future-of-work

It’s human talent, not capital or technology or anything else, that is the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century, says Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. Work, he says, shouldn’t be a race between humans and machines, but a part of life that helps people recognize their full potential.

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An individual’s potential is not fixed—it can be influenced, enhanced and unleashed to the benefit of the organization.

As people grow in knowledge, experience and seniority over time, they bring even more value to the business.

In contrast, machines typically operate at a limited maximum output and depreciate over time.

Experts say human talent becomes only more valuable as technology grows. It will be humans, not robots or artificial intelligence software, who will brainstorm new ideas, inspire others and drive organizations to succeed.

Social skills—such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others—will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, according to a survey of chief human resources officers by the World Economic Forum in 2015.

Investing in skills, rather than just hiring more workers, is the key to successfully managing disruptions to the labor market for the long term. 

Excerpts from 2030: The Very Human Future Of Work by Hazel Euan-Smith & Russell Pearlman & Karen Kane in the series on “The Future of Work is Human”
– KornFerry Institute

What’s your take on whether robots will replace your job?

(Shared by my friend GK)
It’s Tuesday and I’m very tired. Thank God for this joke to get through another morning.  No offense intended.

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Corporate joke from a friend…

A woman in hot air balloon realized she was lost…

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Photos from my trip to Taitung during the Hot Air Balloon Festival.

She reduced altitude & shouted to a man  below “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend to meet him an hour ago but I don’t know where I am.”

Man below replied : You are in hot air balloon 30 feet above the ground. You are at 41 degree North latitude & 59 degree West longitude.

Lady : You must be an engineer.

Man : How do you know?

Lady : Everything you told me is technically correct but useless & the fact is I’m still lost.

Engineer : You must be in Top Management.

Lady : Ya. How do you know?

Engineer : You don’t know where you are or where you’re going, you have no technical knowledge.    You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep & you expect people beneath you to solve your problems..!!

😀😀😀😃😃😃😄😄😄

First, what’s MOJO.

Its that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside.

I don’t like acronyms and if you hang around GEN Ys, you get that alot.

FOMO, YOLO

So when I saw a title like MOJO, especially after a colleague used that work, I had to pick up this book.

MOJO by my favourite coach Marshall Goldsmith, whose “What got you here won’t get you there”. Like his previous book, Goldsmith is an executive coach for senior executives and his examples reveal many of such insights with Scorecards and questionnaires and frameworks.

Mind the GAP
There’s a gap between how you see yourself and how others see you.
We sometimes underestimate our great moments and overestimate the impact of our bad moments.

Does anyone ever really change from leadership sessions?
In true Peter Drucker style, Goldsmith answers through a survey of 250,000 respondents.
Very few people achieve positive, lasting change without on-going follow-up.

Unless they know at the end of the day that someone is going to measure if they’re doing what they promised to do, most people fall prey to inertia. (Known as “Hawthorne effect”).

Hence, try the reputation questionnaire

  1. Name six “great” personal moments in the last 12 months at work. (You can consult your calendar and family, but Goldsmith says you can’t ask colleagues. In my opinion, if you can’t even name it, then what’s happened to your personal appraisal.. uh oh.)
  2. What made these moments “great”?
  3. In what way, if any, did these moments resemble one another?
  4. Can you identify the personal quality embodied in that resemblance? Can you give it a name?  For example, if you cite two “great” moments when you went out of your way to help a colleague with advice, you would label that personal quality as “generosity” – which feeds into a reputation for being “generous”
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most well known, how well known are these “great” moments to people you work with?
  6. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most agreement, how much would the people you work with, agree with the personal qualities described in your answer to question#4.
  7. Name six “bad” personal moments in the last twelve months
  8. What made these moments “bad”?
  9. What did they have in common?
  10. Can you identify the personal quality they had in common? Can you give it a name? For example, if two “bad” moments involve episodes where you lost your temper, the personal quality could be labeled as “hot-headed”
  11. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most well known, how well known are these “bad” moments to other people you work with?
  12. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most agreement, how much would the people you work with, agree with the personal qualities described in your answer to question #10.
  13. Which answer, to question #4 or #10, is most likely your current reputation, or is it both?

If you work for a corporation, this is a useful guide to prepare for the yearly performance appraisal or performance management. Then compare it with the company values. Are you being effective or just busy.   How much do others appreciate what you’re doing?

Useful too, for interviews to get your next job

For those of us, working for ourselves, i.e. entrepreneurs or creatives. Very effective to think about the Brand or the Reputation you’re creating for #Brand You.

I’ve a rude wake-up call.

Consistency and Discipline though, is necessary.
If you’re known as a sarcastic boss, you have to bite your tongue for a long time.
Ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”

  • How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience form this activity?
  • How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience form this activity?

Change how you approach the same activity. It does not have to be with inertia.

For instance, if you’re about to attend a one-hour, mandatory meeting, your mindset is that the meeting will be a boring waste of time.

You have two options:

Option A: Attend the meeting and be miserable.
Option B: Make the meeting more meaningful and enjoyable. Observe your colleagues more closely or create a new idea to inspire others.

(Download the MOJO Meter)  http://debisilber.com/mojo-meter/

People don’t care what you know, but they know when you care. – John Maxwell

Recently, I did a mental count on how many young adult students I interact with, in a week, during my intense teaching period. Close to 600. In a year, it comes to 1,000.  Like many leaders, lecturers and people in the customer service business interact with different personalities.

In a book, GEN Y NOW, Millenials and the Evolution of Leadership by Buddy Hobart and Herb Sendek, the authors believe that most organisations are broken down into three types of folks: Teamers (20%), Fence-Sitters (60%), and Lottery Winners (20%).

“Teamers are loyal and dedicated employees who always give their best. They to be positive folks who trust their leaders and strive to do their best. Unfortunately, as they are low maintenance, managers and leaders tend to ignore them and not give them much time or energy.

Fence-sitters make up the majority and tend to be silent, neither overtly negative or positive. Managers also do not spend much time with them either.

The final group “Lottery Ticket winners” are the squeaky wheels. To them, nothing is ever right. They think (and say) they are smarter, more qualified and more talented than their bosses ( or anyone else).Seldom do they offer proactive ideas, but always first to point out the negatives. Usually, they are the most vocal and demanding of attention, and managers spend overwhelming  majority of their time and energy with this group.

Teamers tend to just shrug the lack of attention off, while the fence-sitters quickly learn that in order to be noticed, you need to be negative. Managers convince themselves, that, if they could just win over these negative folks, everyone else will follow.  Therefore, managers waste countless hours and enormous amounts of energy trying to motivate employees who are frequently a lost cause.”

Powerful. Do you have employees, volunteers or students like that?

The authors tell a “Lottery Ticket” Story. [Incidentally, the $13.9 million lottery ticket was claimed last night!]

A husband and wife woke up one Sunday morning, check the newspaper, and discovered that they have just won the lottery, a $45 million jackpot. The paper says there are two other winners, so their take will be $15 million.

The couple was overjoyed.  However, as they reflected further, both were afraid the windfall will change everything. But not for the better. They have read countless stories of how lives were ruined after just such a lottery windfall.  Already, happy and healthy, there’s nothing else they need.

So both decided, after hours of soul searching to give up the ticket. They decided who should bring the ticket to office, flipped a coin, and it was the husband who wins the toss. On Monday, the husband walks into work, and will have to hand the ticket to the first person he sees.

On Monday morning, our generous husband sees Joe, the office naysayer and cynic. True to the agreement, the husband approaches Joe, explains the situation, and hands him the one (of three) winning $45 million lottery ticket.

Joe takes the ticket, puts it in his pocket and says “Tough luck, you give me the ticket, but I have to split it with two other tickets” and walks away.

That’s a “Lottery Ticket Winner.

The authors’ advice is that, for some folks, even being given a winning lottery ticket is not enough. Yet it is just this type of person who demands our time and energy. The regrettable mistake is, we give it to them.  We are ignoring the “Teamers’ and teaching the “Fence-sitters” that inappropriate attitudes are rewarded with time and attention. Your goal for the Lottery Ticket winners is simple. They can:

  • start pretending to be positive
  • Start being positive
  • Shut up altogether or
  • Leave

Are there negative people you interact with?    If you interact with a lot of people, its natural.  Where do you focus your energy?   On the 5% negative ones or the rest?

Focus on the “Teamers”, the authors suggest. They deserve it and you will be teaching the “Fence-sitters” the correct leadership lesson.