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    The Absolutely Urgent Necessity to Think for Yourself!

    My grandfather was a pretty deep thinker with some really rough edges. He once told me, “If you got two people who think exactly alike, you only need one of them. Shoot, you could kill one and get along just fine with the other.” Those of you who have never heard of Michigan hyperbole might be uncomfortable with that sentiment. Grampa was merely making the point memorable, not suggesting a course of action.


    Thinking Woman

    You can't make your special contributions if you don't think for yourself. If you follow the herd, or the pack, or the lemmings, you have in truth rendered yourself useless. (photo - christopher-sardegna - unsplash)


    In the middle 20th Century, thinking for yourself was considered the prize jewel of American freedom. Farmers with 8th grade educations could chop through the news that affected them better than any group of today's TV talking heads. I know first hand; sometimes I could even keep up! They weren't just blathering their opinions past each other, either. They were making use of simple, but effective, forms of critical thinking to get more out of their farmland efforts and investments.


    By contrast, today's America could get along just fine with two Republicans and four or five Democrats on Capitol Hill. Maybe fewer if you spread them out just right. Congress is a pretty weak, if not extremely expensive, brain trust.


    How does your organization handle independent thinkers? Are they assets or liabilities?


    In my NASA team, we needed independent thinkers. Our missions were too complex for any one person to wrap their head around them. Yeah, we all had pretty much the same training. Physics is physics after all. But our minds didn't use those tools in a standardized way. And because of that, we could count on each other to find each other's mistakes and keep the mission from “crashing.”


    So independent thinking wasn't merely tolerated. It was a valuable necessity. We even went so far as to map out how it worked so other people leading high-risk, high-tech ventures could benefit more from independent thinkers.


    If you're the boss, determine for yourself if you prefer the safety of numbers supplied by large numbers of “yes-men,” or if you prefer the value generated creative, independent thinkers. Not independent loudmouths, mind you. The value of real thinkers.


    If you're in the managerial chain, how does the culture direct you to use your voice? Perhaps you don't care because you've found a comfortable situation. But if you do feel you have contributions to make, are you in a company where you can put them on the table for real consideration?


    Here's our map for making use of indpendent thinkers for fun and profit: Optimizing Luck. It worked in the toughest business environment on the planet. It'll work for your organization, too.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M100919 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Three Steps to Set Up a Person for Success

    I'm working with a small corporate client whose aspirations are requiring it to shift gears. Presently, they have little practical experience with the art of delegation. Up to this point in time, the principals have operated as solo professionals; their book of business was small enough to support personally. Now, they want to deploy their small staff into new responsibilities, but they don't know how to do it so that it works.


    Female Leader

    You can't just stuff an inexperienced person into a new role, cut him loose, then “rip him a new one” when he doesn't succeed. (photo - advocate.com)


    In recent history there has been much frustration in the leadership ranks on the inability of junior personnel to simply “step up and get it done.” The owners judge their personnel as they might judge themselves. “I can figure anything out,” said one owner. “Why can't they?”


    Well, the answer to that is obvious. These junior people weren't hired to provide skills that empower independent research, and so they don't have such skills. That being said, the staff is a group of really bright people. Perhaps all they need to perform to the company's new needs and vision is a different approach for handling personnel on the part of the owners. New needs strongly suggest a new approach, don't they?


    Well, then, here are three steps, perhaps, more like phases, for setting people up for success when new business conditions require it.


    1. Get them each trained in the new skills they will use most often going forward.

    2. When assigning a new piece of work, especially something big, or long term, or unusually complicated, be sure to describe the nature of the work in as much detail as is available.

    3. As the work progresses, provide willing mentoring as needed to help the junior person find ways through their barriers more quickly.


    There's no point in griping about the cost of training if your business really depends on people having new skills. Just make good choices in the skills required, the effectiveness of the training provider, and reasonable price point. It's not rocket science (I know).


    And don't whine about the amount of work you have to put into the work description. The more everyone knows and understands about the new piece of work, including you, the owner/leader, the better the project will go. One of the things that is currently under-appreciated by this customer is the value of rich information flow between team members. It raises the company's intelligence corporately. It builds bonds between those who share the information.


    Now, lastly, mentoring. Delegation and mentoring create success for junior individuals in so many ways. There are the short, little one-on-one sessions when something new or unexpected needs to be communicated. There are the quick questions to fill small knowledge gaps. But even better, as the relationship grows, the junior person will internalize the wisdom of the mentor. In an increasing number of cases, the junior person really can watch the mentor lead by example, because they understand the meaning and impact of the mentor's actions. And it will also come to mind with increasing frequency to ask, “What would my mentor do?”


    These leadership behaviors are also instrumental in producing a corporate, or enterprise level, culture of success. The Digital Clones community defines “culture” as the collection of real, behavioral habits through which an organizatin conducts its business. Success might not always be assured, but the habits to produce success can become a vital part of your organization's culture.


    We have written the best known manual for building a success-generating corporate culture: Optimizing Luck. It worked in the toughest business environment on the planet. It'll work for your organization, too.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M100219 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The Miracle of Trust: Ethics and Corporate Erosion

    One of my classmates in pastoral training, Jonathan, eventually became the minister of my parents' small church. When I was back in Michigan for Christmas a few years ago we were catching up during one of the member's traditional Christmas party; always a great time. He was telling me about one of his kids teaching English in a church-sponsored high school, which high school was allowed to operate with the blessing of Xi Jinping 's Communist government. “Why is that?”, I asked.


    Rugby Meditations

    If American corporations can get away with murder, so to speak, why shouldn't American individuals start acting that way, too?


    He said, “Well, they're not allowed to proselytize, but they are allowed to teach ethics from a Christian perspective. For thousands of years corruption was simply considered a legitimate part of the government process, and for businesses the crooked fees for dealing with the government were simply accepted as part of the cost of doing business in the country.


    “But when China's economy started booming, and the values of long term deals started hitting the trillian dollar mark, the risks associated with traditional corruption just got too high, and they hit an economic ceiling because of it. The central government saw a whole new reason to develop trust in the economic system of China, and Christian ethics were viewed as one system that was worth exploring for the sake of continuing their growth.”


    Geez, a market-driven rationale for ethics in both business and government. Who knew?


    Trust: a relationship adhesive. You could study trust via ethical philosophy. You could teach it through a religious system. But the bottom line is that in business, you have to experience the trustworthiness of people in the way they handle their agreements. The lower the trustworthiness, the higher the risk, plain and simple.


    I was talking with a new colleague today about a topic that is affected by trust. It didn't come up that way, but here's the issue. He and I both work in the area of informal educational options for gifted and talented kids. The highly visible hot buttons right now include global warming, and the young people are expressing themselve with massive, angry protests. There is gun control, over which the young people are expressing themselve with massive, angry protests. More broadly, the failure of the American economy to raise standards of living for “common people” are causing them to respond with crazy and angry voting choices. Why is all of this happening?


    Because these populations are feeling desperate, and feel that they have nothing left to lose. They've lost trust in their system. Their greatest risks are embodied in the status quo.


    The magic of trustworthiness is exactly like the air around us: You don't notice how important it is until it's gone.


    Well, the kids are now angry, and they're coming for the jobs of the untrustworthy. Get youself a copy of Understand Life by 16: How Will We Look at Life? so you know how they're going to take them.


    Order Your Copy of How Will We Look at Life? Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M092519 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Leadership Magic: Uniting the Power of Many Brains

    History has numerous examples of big, tough guys who can boss around a big bunch of big, tough guys to get them to do big, tough guy stuff as a team. What would it look like if a really smart person could pull together a group of really smart people to be brute-force smart as a team?


    Rugby Meditations

    Are you the kind of leader who can figure out what kind of team to use when, or are you more of a “one-trick pony” kind of frontman? (photo - erik-brolin, olga-guryanova - unsplash)


    Look, there are many business contexts where coordinated brute strength is the solution, or powers a major delivery process. It is also the case, though, that the traditions for building solutions out of those kinds of muscles are very old and very well tested.


    In knowledge work industries those kinds of ancient, physical skill management traditions don't really exist. People keep trying to figure out some kind of magic for leaders in knowledge work companies to follow, but the results haven't been very consistent. The efforts I partcicularly detest are when people attempt to transplant something that worked reasonably well in the manufacturing sector to a knowledge work context. “Oh, but,” they say, “it's a metrics-driven system.” Yeah, well, it took my discipline, physics, the better part of 2000 years to figure out what the right metrics were. Two or three decades of trying metrics on knowledge-based efforts still leaves a lot to be desired.


    So, of course, you'll be asking, “All right, Dr. Genius, Whadda you got?” Well, let's say any leader has three ways to approach a piece of knowledge work.


    1. The leader tells the team, “Here's what needs to get done, and here's how you're all gonna do it.”
    2. The leader tells the team, “The C-suite says we need to make 'X' happen. I think 'Y' is the approach to take. How do we make 'Y' happen?”
    3. The leader tells the team, “The C-suite says we need to make 'X' happen. I think we have a big opportunity to push a vital innovation on this. What's the killer solution for 'X', and how are we going to make it happen?”


    Now, I've personally worked all three of those approaches. You know why I like #3 the best? Because I almost always get to watch the magic of well-coordinated, brute-force intelligence create something eye-popping.


    Knowledge work isn't always about innovation, but when it is, you have to let all of the team's brains bounce the ideas off of each other. There is expertise that can bubble up at the right kinds of prompting by other team members. Once that phase of thinking runs its course, you will usually get to watch a convergence to the novel solution. This will also generate growing excitement in the team. The progress toward the solution speeds up. A good first draft on the concept gets produced, and a great time was had by all.


    Knowing how to facilitate a group mind-meld is a powerful feature in a great corporate culture. Our book Optimizing Luck is the only NASA-proven approach for building strong cultures that succeed in high-risk business contexts. Get a copy to learn how to build more mind-melding into your company.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M091919 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The Key Leadership Skill: Alignment of Purposes

    “My way or the highway!” is not a purpose alignment strategy.


    Tug of War

    When you don't even know what game you're playing, it's very hard to bring a winning team together. (photo - anna-samoylova - unsplash)


    The legislative houses in the USA and Great Britain are composed of elected officials who act as if the game is “party superiority” instead of “conduct the country's business.” While it's tempting to jump into political commentary here, I only bring up these current pieces of news to illustrate a situation that is common in many businesses, too. Your officers and employees may not be working and playing well together, either.


    What has been your experience when different high-level stake holders forgot that the game in your company was “conduct the company's business”? What happened when some of the players forgot that some of the rules included heavy punishments if broken?


    Did you catch these issues in time, or did your lack of oversight allow big troubles to apparently spring upon you?


    The metaphor of “playing the right game” is only meaningful for groups of people who want the same thing(s). As often as I say I'm not one for sports analogies, they keep cropping up in my writing. So there's the phrase “pulling together,” right? The best example I ever read was The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. It's about the underdog American rowing team that took the gold medal in the 1936 Olympics at Berlin, Germany. A clearer example of a group of people wanting exactly the same thing cannot be found.


    How clear and simple can you make a company mission such that all of the stakeholders will desire it and do what it takes to achieve it? What kind of discipline will you have to rebuild so that all of the needed skills are in the team, and the team knows how to coordinate their efforts to produce success? And most importantly, how do you get the team members to deeply value each other and the contributions they all must make to win?


    Complex businesses make these questions harder to answer. Yet, there are ways to localize and personalize corporate objectives so that buy-in to perform to win can be built. What's the special mix of idealism, personal pride, and financial reward that keeps each team member aligned toward business success?


    “Pulling together” is a powerful feature in a great corporate culture. Our book Optimizing Luck is the only NASA-proven approach for building strong cultures that succeed in high-risk business contexts. Get a copy to learn how to build a fully aligned company.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M091119 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The Three Requirements for Large-scale Cooperation

    Boris Johnson is queing up to join the growing list of British Prime Ministers who badly, or completely, misread the social forces and resulting political conditions surrounding his/her administration. How come this trend at bad political engagement is becoming so consistent, irrespective of the political philosophy of the Minister?


    Boris Johnson

    You don't have to be crazy to be detached from reality. To initiate your detachment, start by rejecting the concept of “factuality.” (photo - getty)


    If you're a decision maker for a major organization (be it commercial, public sector, or non-profit) how well are you connecting with stakeholders that relate to your organization? Or, how well are your departments engaging each other? Some of you will be doing reasonably well, and others of you will be sitting in the same boat with the latest crop of British Prime Ministers.


    Would any of you care to do better at your collaborative activities? If so, here's a distillation of an approach that has been working well for some international collaborative groups for several hundred years.


    1. You have to have a body of facts that you all agree to.
    2. You have to have methods you all agree are the best that you can all use to collect those facts.
    3. You have to have methods you all agree are the best that you can all use to debate the meaning of those facts.


    Let's start with Bullet 1: If you ain't got no facts in common, you ain't even got anything to misread.


    This is what I'm referring to in the photo caption. Real measurements on things made in the real world are the closest thing you can get to reality. If you ain't talking about real degrees of ocean warmth, or number of parts made in a factory, or dollars actually spent on real refugees, you ain't talkin' about nuthin'. If the problem you wish to discuss with another major party isn't defined by real numbers obtained by real people attempting to measure or otherwise quantify critical facts about a serious situation, you and the other party will never even begin to talk about the same thing...you have no shared reality.


    Bullet 2 means that you have to have standardized ways of making measurements and collecting facts. Let's look at this closely. In current political arguments, one party either doesn't like where the other guy got their facts, or they don't like the way they got their facts. This is often a legitimate criticism. However, until two conversing parties actually come to an agreement on the processes that are believed to deliver facts from the real world, there will never be trust in the other party's facts.


    That leaves us with the toughest bullet to bite. Intellectually, this is the most challenging. Bullet 3 requires that the conversing parties actually share a worldview. In a field like physics, this allows us to debate the meaning of unexpected results, that is, hard facts (as in Bullet 1) that came from our standardized laboratory practices (as in Bullet 2). In fields like politics, it requires the players to agree on the higher purposes to obtain their working worldview, and place their specific viewpoints in service to those higher purposes. This all strongly implies that we start electing better educated people with deep skills of discernment to solve the big problems.


    I talked a lot about the process of learning things from the real world. For that reason, I'm going to recommend one of our best grade school ebooks for this blog post: Build Your Own System of Rules. The emphasis is on learning how to watch the world around you in order to obtain usable facts for leadership roles.


    Order Your Copy of Build Your Own System of Rules Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M090519 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The Disproportionately Strong, Real World Impact of Bovine Scat

    So, off and on through the day I catch a little of the Mueller testimony on Capitol Hill. Here I am, trained as an astrophysicist, and I understand that obtaining a grasp of reality is exceptionally difficult. The big difference between astrophysicists and politicians is, well, at least we try!


    Big Babies Top

    What can you expect from a profession based on winning beauty contests by manipulating perception on a grand scale? That depends on how gullible the audience is! (painting - ©Jonathan Heath - “Attack of the Big Babies”)


    It's been aggravating watching elected officials attempt to help Mr. Mueller interpret his report on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. Which words define a crime vs. which words define a non-criminal act which may or may not have legal implications? What's Constitutional vs. what's a tradition with little or no Constitutional support? Physics ain't perfect, but at least we know we have to lock those kinds of things down so we can all be talking about the same thing in our discipline, especially when there are measurable conflicts active in our scientific community.


    Getting two groups of people to come to common terms is difficult even in those cases where people are coming to the table in good faith. Well, then, what kind of terms do you get when neither group is coming to the table in good faith?


    Ahhh, that's when the participants are producing large amounts of bovine scat, or, (as they like to make contractinos in big pharma commercials) BS. Or, since BS has some questionable history in its usage, let's use “bo–scat” for this blog post.


    All right, so, we know bo–scat is used to recreate reality for various kinds of followers and believers. The Mueller testimony produced a collision of two bo–scat generated worlds for easy viewing on TV. (There are those, then, who would say that “three worlds colliding” was on display, but perhaps Mueller's world was composed of a smaller amount of fertilizer.)


    The alarming power of bo–scat is its ability to transport people off of the real world, educate them in blatant gibberish, and beam them back to earth to put the gibberish into operation. The social effects are demonstrably massive, and frequently unforeseen. Everyone acts on what they believe; does what they believe lead to large-scale actions that improve conditions for people generally, or are the bo–scat inspired people of the world themselves suffering badly from unintended consequences.


    Now, this type of bo–scat generated social force doesn't affect only national politics. It affects your organization, too. Almost everyone in your organization detects changes in the volume and composition of bo–scat as it comes down from on high. In a high bo–scat organization, risk and innovation die because decision trends are either unsupportable by the facts, which some people do have in hand, or the decision trends are volatile. Your organization is likely to bump along OK, but the business news media doesn't cover mediocrity.

    Big Babies Bottom


    Facts and real data are the fuel of the modern enterprise. Our book Optimizing Luck pre-supposes a love of good data on the part of management and leadership. Get a copy to learn how to build a great company without bo–scat.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M072419 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The Temptation to Re-invent the Wheel

    The legendary wheel has been around for a long, long time. Archeological evidence suggests that it was used to make pull toys long before it was put to use on animal-drawn transportation. Small things tend not to persist as long as big things, so the absence of animal-drawn carts and horse-drawn chariots from the same time periods of wheeled toys might indicate how long it took “smart” people to overcome the “toy bias,” and build new business applications from this simple machine.


    Wheels

    Trying to re-invent the wheel, or just putting the wrong wheel on the wrong vehicle? If it's about rolling well in business, then it's about speed and a smooth ride! (photo - tania-melnyczuk - unsplash)


    There's something unhelpful that I'm starting to encounter in small businesses. The basis of this is actually something that ordinarily would be thought of as good: Reading about successful business builders and using their ideas. The unhelpful aspect of this is that some of the small business owners and entrepreneurs reading these good stories attempt to take the business model described in the book as completely transferable to their own fledgling business.


    To be fair, there are two kinds of small business/entrepreneurial contexts here to consider. If you are poised to unleash a truly disruptive business on the world, taking an Amazon-like model into your business might work. But those kinds of businesses are genuinely rare, and we all need to watch out for the trap of thinking of our business in over-glorified terms. It's much more likely that your business conforms to a small number well-tested models that will get you to your desired business results much more quickly.


    A business model and a management structure need to make things easy to learn and easy to do. You can have a simple business, like renting people as temporary workers. That's not what Amazon does; why use that model for a simple staffing business? You burn a lot of excess overhead using something like Amazon when you probably should be looking at Kelly Services. You might not think Kelly is as sexy as Amazon, at least not until you see how much easier it is to get your staff cranking efficiently and the money starts rolling in.


    I was discussing this with another consultant, and he suggested that an entrepreneur might want to put something more up-to-date in as a business model in preparation for rapid growth. That's not a bad point. Let's go back to wheels, and maybe add “shifting gears” as a business growth idea.


    You start out as a local delivery business. You do the minimal legal work to use the family SUV as your delivery vehicle. Six months later you've got six handy delivery trucks, the family SUV is taking kids to soccer like it should, and one of your customers says, “Hey, my brother's got a parts business. Have you got a big rig for overland transport?” What do you do?


    If you think your growth is in local delivery, then you just do more of the same. Do you want to jump into big-rig, long-haul freight? You might be looking at shifting gears into a different type of business model. But until you needed the long-haul business model, there was no need to build it into your business.


    Now, in either case, there was no need to invent a business model. You look for one that fits to get you started. Then you study up on what's been driving your progress, and look for some new models that look like a good fit for the next phase of your business...just shift gears!


    The trick is to figure out which models might optimize your luck. Our book Optimizing Luck provides a framework for understanding your organization as a system of habits that you can re-engineer to create habitual success at all levels. The right model will help your whole team become a luck optimizing force for your business.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M071919 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The Three Leadership Pitfalls of Micro-management

    I've seen two young entrepreneur/business owners do it. They ran their companies as if no one else had a useful brain in their heads. And in both cases, they managed down to their lowest expectations. Individual performance was lack-luster, and their businesses limped painfully along for a decade or so.


    Mean Manager

    Even if you're not nasty about it, micro-management, by definition, can only lead to very small results. (photo - icons8-team - unsplash)


    Setting aside the debate on the differences between leadership and management, it's all about the productivity of the relationship between the boss (of whatever title) and the worker (of whatever function). Relative power differences can work for or against this productivity. So can skill set differences. But these are just the backdrop conditions. The real issue is the power of respect that's earned between boss and worker.


    Pitfall 1: Treating People Like They Have No Brains


    Sure, it's often the case that some managers or business owners inherit the hires of other people. But I continue to be amazed at the number of managers who hire people that they think of, or treat as, or call idiots. I simply, personally, cannot fathom why anyone would hire someone they think of as an idiot. Now, such a manager is likely to say, “Look, I didn't know they were an idiot when I hired them.” Actually, I can believe that. But somehow, probably reinforced by the patterns of outcomes from their hiring history, they knew they were hiring someone they could bully on the basis of intelligence.


    Or, in other words, they wanted to hire someone they could abuse. Job requirements and business performance were secondary considerations at best. The hire was, instead, all about filling a dark need.


    I can't imagine hiring anyone for any other reason that do to a job well. I'm too cheap to pay for non-business reasons, and I'm too lazy to do the work that I want the new hire to do. I want to hire a well-qualified person to do the job, and I hire for a high level of independence as well as job skill qualifications.


    Pitfall 2: Treating People Like Speed is the Only Thing That Matters


    Urgency and impatience will drive certain kinds of worker responses. In my case the response is, “Geez, another pinhead who can't plan and execute.” I started my career in old, legacy ventures who had plenty of past experience and still made big errors in planning and scheduling big jobs. It's really hard to do well. Working without a plan means that the only thing you can produce reliably is a long, continuous string of business-killing errors.


    If people need to work fast, then hire people who can generate the results with the required speed. Understand that most people can't without special training and deep experience that includes high-speed delivery. And like I said in a recent blog, if you can't afford to hire the right people for a job, don't waste time and money hiring people who can't get the needed work done.


    Pitfall 3: Jumping into a Worker's Assignments to Speed Them Up, or Fix/Redirect Their Bad Direction


    “Look, you're doing it all wrong...” Sure, that's a possibility. Another possibility is that the worker is doing the work completely differently, but is doing at least as well as or better than the method in the boss's mind. Nonetheless, the manager will proceed to do the worker's assignment in many cases, or dictate the set of steps for the worker to take right then and there.


    Well, if both the manager and the worker are going to be doing the same job, you only need one of them. I'd save the money and fire the micro-managing manager.


    Sure, there's more than one way to become a great manager or leader, but they are very rare compared to all of the ways you can become a badly performing manager. Our book Optimizing Luck provides a framework for understanding your organization as a system of habits that you can re-engineer to create habitual success at all levels.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M071419 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    If You're Too Cheap, You Just Can't Succeed!

    Have you heard the question, “How are you going to pay for that?” lately? In politics these days, that question usually presumes that there's no money available, which then further suggests that the action in question shouldn't be done. The proposed action of one party is presumed to be a frivolous expense by the questioning party. You don't even have to debate (and risk losing the argument) the merits of the proposed action: There ain't no money, so there ain't no point in continuing the discussion.


    Diner Sign

    Everyone knows that an under-capitalized venture is a DOOMED venture. When you need to invest, find the money and invest! (photo - sam-balye - unsplash)


    So, let's take a cheap and stingy country like the United States of America. Refugees from Central America are piling up like cordwood at the southern border of the country. Let's just ask some quick questions about the economics of this situation:


    • What would the startup cost and ten year's operating cost be to install impenetrable border security?
    • Follow-up question: What would the economic return on that investment be at the end of those ten years?
    • What would the startup cost and ten year's operating cost be to house those refugees and train them in job categories currently in demand in the USA?
    • Follow-up question: What would the economic return on that investment be at the end of those ten years?


    What if you asked those kinds questions of the Veterans Administration, or asked them about the extensive system of incarceration centers? Can you turn those human resources into contributing members of society, or can't you? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”, if you simply make the decision to do so.


    Let's bring this closer to home. I had lunch with a friend this last Friday. He had quite strong feelings about the inability of an association he belongs to to collect membership dues payments online. Apparently, Paypal might be charging them a buck and change for each membership collected. The association leadership saw that as an expensive show-stopper. My friend saw a great loss to the association because of the added inconvenience to new, potential members who would readily pay online.


    There's another case of an IT company in a kind of start-up mode. The owner hires very junior people, young in skills and probably never worked a job that required self-direction. The owner delegates very advanced tasks to these young people and cuts them loose to get it done. They don't know how to set themselves up to succeed at the assignment, and drift aimlessly. When the owner discovers their lack of progress, he gives these junior people a very hard time.


    If you can't afford to hire the right people for a job, don't waste time and money hiring people who can't get the needed work done.


    Look, I'm as cheap a guy as there is. I'm a Michigan farmboy with German and Swiss roots. I can squeeze a penny hard enough to get Lincoln screaming! My main approach to things it Do It Yourself. Farmboys do it. NASA astrophysicists do it. But when you need mature skills in a person, or a special piece of equipment to make a process work, you better cough up the money and get the right person, or the right box.


    Unless a business leader has the right fiscal training, they bring their money habits from home with them to work. If they waste money at home, they will waste it at work. If they can't apply the right amount of money to important needs at home, they won't know how to do it in their businesses, either.


    We look at home-grown habits in one of our ebooks for kids and leadership. We don't deal explicitly with money in this volume, but you'll get the idea on how the habits you take for granted often need major adjustment to help you build success. Get yourself a copy of Building Habits to Win, to help you sort through your habits about money, or any other habits you need to improve in order to build your success more quickly.


    Order and Download Your Copy of Building Habits to Win Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M070719 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The Shortest Path to Innovation? Delegation!

    When our NASA colleagues convinced us that we should write up our astrophysics mission as a case study in business leadership and high-tech management, we were pleased to discover that all of the founding management and science operations personnel were still alive and available for interviews. We interviewed around a dozen of them. In a more or less self-congratulatory tone, we started the interviews with the same question:


    “What do you think made the IUE Project so successful?”


    And in virtually identical words, they all answered:


    “We hired great people, and we let them do their jobs!”


    Innovator

    You've got 20 great ideas that need development. Delegate them to 20 people or teams and watch the magic happen! (photo - austin-distel - unsplash)


    OK, so, yes, this post presumes that you've learned how to make good hiring selections. I will concede that for most managers this is not a given. But we're talking about innovation and delegation here. I'm sure in the future the methods for great hiring will appear in this blog.


    This also assumes a “knowledge work” business context. If your people are turning cranks, watching dials or working the line, this post might not actually matter to you.


    In a knowledge work business, opportunities for innovation are really just laying around all over the place. You could apply innovation to your own business processes and save money through higher efficiency. More often, though, innovation is thought of as the means for providing a new type of product or service, or a radically reconfigured product or service, for a customer.


    At the IUE Project, our teams innovated mostly at the service delivery side of things. In the Project's very old age, the innovation drivers tended to go like this: “Our science customers have better computing than we do. What array of services do we need to design to overtake them, and how will we put the services together?"


    The research center I ran delivered scientific analysis tools to the astrophysics community, so our innovation time scales ran from days to weeks. Another branch did a deep dive into the evolution of satellite data quality over time. These studies led to new data reduction software that yielded the best possible data that the satellite's cameras could deliver. Then, there was the time when everyone decided that the third fire in the ground station's ancient mainframe computer called for a complete refurbishment of the ground system...and that took a few months.


    Shoot, most businesses can't even get their websites straightened out in a few months.


    The point is that those major projects were not driven by top-down direction. The needs were described to our good people, and we let them innovate their brains out. Life is good!


    As I think about it, I can't really speak about delegation without giving some thought to good hiring. You have to hire people who can actually do what you want to hand over. Delegation is about allowing a person to perform their job with a high degree of independence. In recent years I've observed young managers delegating big tasks to very junior people and getting disastrous results.


    The increasingly successful manager learns how to match a delegated task to the capability of a given team member. As a person demonstrates the ability to operate independently, the manager can increase the level of delegated responsibility. This takes more time than most managers are willing to spend, but for those who figure out the interplay, delegation can give the good manager great powers to accomplish so much more.


    We captured a number of IUE stories about innovation and delegation in Optimizing Luck. The book shows you how to build delegation and innovation into your corporate culture. Then you can repeat innovation successfully whenever you need it.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M062019 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The Three Most Damaging Uses of Business Measurements

    It took the students of physics around 1500 years to figure out which quantities in the universe were usable to create scientific understanding. It turns out that those quantities all boil down to matter and energy. If we take double entry accounting as the first real quantitative advance in business mathematics (above merely counting your money), then business people have at least another 600 years to go before they get business and other useful economic quantities properly identified.


    Avionics

    The controls don't mean nuthin' if you ain't got the right gauges on your dashboard. (photo - mitchel-boot-70005 - unsplash)


    As an astrophysicist who operated within the NASA business environment, I have high confidence in my comparisons between those two human activities briefly described above. We were running what at the time was considered the most cost effective and productive astrophysics satellite mission ever launched. It's still considered one of history's best space science missions.


    The company I was working for at the time wanted to introduce a manufacturing industry approach to work quality called TQM. This was to show our NASA customers how seriously we took quality in our part of the space program. So as conscientious employees with world-class capabilities in measuring things and interpreting those measurements, we dug in to learn how to apply it.


    Well, even though we were all measurement monsters, and obsessed with observation, we simply couldn't make any sense out of TQM, at least, not as applied to conducting science operations for a space telescope. Making widgets for Japanese cars, sure. Making more chips with fewer errors at Intel, you betcha. Doing high-end knowledge work, not so much. But I know there are a lot of businesses who are hurting their performance because they...


    • Use a system of measurements that doesn't actually apply to their industry and its primary business processes.


    Then there's the class of entrepreneurial geeks who seem to believe that if people agree to perform against a system of OKRs and KPIs, regardless of how arbitrarily defined they are, that business success will appear. Setting aside that this is, again, a manufacturing performance rubrik (which also irritates me to distraction), the concentration on flawed systems of measurement comforts the geeks that they are busy on measured tasks, and being measured they are obviously important. High activity in creating marketing content is also thought of as worthy use of time. The most common business activity geeks avoid by using measurement systems is sales. So, a lot of businesses hurt their performance because...


    • They point to the high level of activity they put in on everything they measure, so sales will just have to wait.


    The contrary viewpoint held by venture capitalists in the mid-Atlantic region is, “If your sales aren't growing rapidly, we're not interested.” Now while a single performance measurement like this probably isn't an adequate assessment of investment potential either, it does illustrate that you can choose to make judgments based on any measurement you like whether it creates the understanding you want or not.


    The last bullet: If you're reading this, you aren't likely to be doing the following - Doing evil with your measurements. There are all kinds of ways to do this, but let's look at just two.


    • Setting people up for failure with bad targets or outright manipulated data.
    • Using falsified measurements/data on reports to customers.


    There's currently news of government contractors supplying living quarters for military personnel and their families. They've been reporting to the government that all housing is meeting contracted specifications, but the news team videos show absolutely dreadful conditions. I mean, from a straight, risk-management standpoint, how long do people really think they can get away with that kind of thing? Everybody's got a video cam: They don't have to go to the Inspector General anymore to get action.


    Let's wrap up. Measuring stuff is easy. Figuring out what the right things to measure are...that's a real challenge. As a rule, many of us take it for granted that a popular management fad automatically fits our business, and once we have it implemented, success will just automatically come into our company. However, all of these fads, even the genuinely good ones, pre-suppose a business model that isn't likely to match yours. You would need to study the fad and your own business model to determine “goodness of fit.”


    We wrote Optimizing Luck to provide some helps in thinking through a variety of business performance issues. It's a system-level thinking exercise, and if you're going to be measurements based, or data driven, you ought to get your clues from people who understand data-driven businesses best.


    Order Your Copy of Optimizing Luck Today


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M061719 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Modern Enterprise Leadership and LO+FTTM

    Optimizing Luck Cover
    1

    Study the present very carefully to build possible versions of the future.

    2

    Generate strategic options based on those possible futures.

    3

    Work quickly to create long lead times, and watch events carefully to select the best options.


    Optimizing Luck
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