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    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.
    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.


    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.
    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.
    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.
    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!”


    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.
    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.


    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.
    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.

    Three Questions to Determine if a Hire is Self-motivating

    Adding any person to any given group of people can be viewed as an extremely complicated social science experiment. Suppose someone joins a new religious organization. What's likely to happen? In most cases, pretty much nothing. But if the new member is rich and likes to throw their weight around, the new person could be quite disruptive to the life and mission of the community.

    New Hire

    If modern enterprise leaders continue to make hires as if people are interchangeable parts, then they should expect large numbers of business system failures. (photo - tim-gouw - unsplash)

    What if a group of people needs someone new to produce a specific set of business results? Quantifying the specific business results is the easy part. Quantifying the social effects that the new hire should produce within the group is another matter entirely.

    One of the difficult aspects of doing modern leadership well is tuning the mix of personnel to optimize those business results. Increasingly, especially in knowledge work businesses, the characteristics of the social context are often key to productivity optimization. Small frictions here and there can add up to large losses of profit.

    Well, if I say I have three key questions that will help you find the right fit for all of your company's new hires, I might really have them, but you won't know how to use them. These questions aren't, “On a scale from 1 to 10...” kinds of things. These questions are tools that you will have to learn how to use. Let's take a look at them, and then think about the things they might be able to tell us about an applicant.

    • What's your most notable accomplishment, by your standards, not the world's?
    • What struggles did you encounter, including disruptive people, while working on this accomplishment?
    • Who were the people who provided the best and most reliable help to you to get this done?

    If we learn how to listen, what kinds of things can we learn from an applicant using Question 1 (the bullets are just a starter set for you to build on)?

    • What kinds of values they apply to important goals, including how they identify them.
    • How they size something big or significant.
    • Where some of their motivated interests lie.

    Question 2?

    • How they define a struggle.
    • How they characterize the troublemakers they encounter.
    • How they respond to setbacks.

    Question 3?

    • How they identify helpful talent.
    • How they deal with superior talent.
    • How well they listen to and use input.

    These questions are not magic bullets. They are only meant to help you collect meaningful, culture-impacting information from an applicant. It's your listening skills that make these questions work. Once you get a better idea on how to use questions to expore what makes a person tick, at least, the ticking parts that will interface with your team, you should write out questions of your own.

    You see, in a modern business context that emphasizes technological innovation, your most important innovations will be in the methods you use to identify the right people for your business's needs, and the processes you build to integrate them effectively into the team.

    Innovation will be easier to create when you declutter your mind of all of your habits and preconceived notions of what leadership and management are. We have a video program that will introduce you to the nature of that clutter and how to move some of it out of your head.

    Buy and Download
    LO+FT Leadership - Preparing Your Mind to Innovate Today

    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    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 M060719 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    3 Steps to Fix Your Broken Team

    When a governmental body or a business team forgets that they are small and the world is big, the team is broken. When individuals in the team think they are bigger than the team, the team might be irreparable.

    Team Unknown

    LO+FTTM demands a huge change of perspective from a broken team. Since LO+FTTM empowers well defined missions, mission identification is a broken team's first action. (photo - charles-forerunner - unsplash)

    This blog post presumes that a team knows it's broken and it's made the decision to attempt repairs. This was likely an emotional decision. It's also likely that some team members left because they no longer believed that they could get what they wanted from the team. How do those who are left proceed from here?

    If the team originally started without consensus on the definition of the mission, then they need to get that definition locked down first. It's a serious and huge mistake for everyone to operate as if “we all kind of know what we're about, don't we?” At best, such team-held beliefs leave the team completely uncoordinated, and at worst lead to wide spread hostility. Why? Because everyone thinks that all of the other members are sabotaging the effort!

    Then there are teams that had a clear mission, but the team broke for other reasons. If in addition there was a shake up, it may be that the team left does not embody all of the needed skills for that old mission. How should these people proceed?

    • If the people who remain are able to carry on the mission, and they've improved their execution plans, they can give the old mission another try.
    • If the remaining team members are insufficient for the old mission, they can hire new people to fill out the roster as needed, and proceed with old plans or incorporate lessons learned from the broken team phase.
    • It may be that there were so many things wrong with both the mission and the team that the remaining team members define a new mission.

    Good mission design should include flexibility to engage new, success-enabling options as well as respond effectively unforeseen negative challenges. The LO+FTTM viewpoint helps team leaders to do this. This is done by defining mission objectives in clear, measurable terms. When you define a mission with this kind of detail, it allows you to study methods and procedures well enough that you can map out how well, or how badly, they can move your team toward success. If you find a method or procedure that produces the results you seek, then you can work on that to see if improvements can also be made, speeding up your progress.

    The second way you use LO+FTTM to fix your team is to examine team members to fit their assignments as accurately as possible to their interests and strengths. Fitting professional skills to mission needs is the easy part. Fitting emotional strengths is a lot tougher, and takes a lot of practice just to start getting good. You observe who works well under pressure. You spot who manages the challenges of change well. You keep track of those who are rock-solid reliable regardless of what the day brings. These are the people you trust with the more difficult aspects of the mission.

    The third way you use LO+FTTM is to manage your team through the learning curve that leads to mission success. LO+FT is all about success through learning, and in a mission context, very targeted learning. Focused study of your mission, its progress, external changing conditions, and the way your team makes progress through twists and turns optimizes your chances of catching an opportunity, or side-stepping a disaster, with the longest possible lead time for response. Lead time is always a critical success factor: Build it whenever you can.

    We have started a video series to help leaders learn to use LO+FTTM to build more effective teams. The roots go back to NASA mission management techniques. The first episode is called Introduction to High Achievement. If you start getting good at a LO+FTTM leadership approach, you could go from running a broken team to outperforming other business teams by a factor of 10!

    Buy and Download
    LO+FT Leadership - Introduction to High Achievement Today

    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    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 M052919 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    The 2 Empowering Advantages of Principle-based Simplicity

    One of my most promising customers rolled out a new organizational chart to better leverage the company's resources. It was dreadfully complex, and from my perspective quite demoralizing. The result, if implemented, would have been to burn precious time on fulfilling organizational obligations as opposed to doing important, business-building work.

    Space Collage

    Simplicity is almost always better than complexity. Simplicity guided by well-chosen principles is best of all. (photo - NASA+t-meylan)

    Even among various types of intelligent, well-educated people, many believe that the best way to demonstrate their intelligence is to build up some complicated thing to do something clever. Conversely, physicists and various schools of learned mystics seek out small, easily articulated principles to understand the world around them, and then use these simple principles to create highly effective approaches to things. (To save time I won't run through examples!)

    Let's say that there is a need to clarify the structure of an organization. Let's use simple principles to define our requirements for this description. Let's further define these principles in the form of questions (queue the Jeopardy(tm) music).

    • How does the new org chart clarify roles and responsibilities?
    • How does the new org chart focus managerial activity?
    • How does the new org chart simplify resource allocation processes?
    • How does the new org chart streamline in-house interactions and transactions?

    In this case, how many principles are being used here? Four? Two? One?

    In my mind, I used one principle: reduce complications. What I did is that, by my own choice, I defined a simplification for each organizational function in the bulleted list above.

    Now, that's actually just a “brute force” use of simplification itself as a simple principle. But let's expand on this capability, like the physicists do. Is there a small number of simple principles that help us achieve a wide range of objectives? Of course!

    Hundreds of years ago, Isaac Newton defined, in very simple terms, what a force is. Isaac defined force, F, to be the mass of the object acted upon multiplied by its change of motion, or acceleration, a (any change of speed or direction). This is Newton's Second Law of Motion, written mathematically as F=ma. We take this definition for granted today, but back then this choice of definition made a lot of scientific investigations easier to conduct. Furthermore, it provided a common basis for experimentation that all scientists could easily use, and then easily compare results.

    Newton's definition of force is often used to describe the way gravity works. This simple description of gravity allows you to explain why the galaxies look like they do. You can also use it to get people to the moon and safely back to earth. One simple principle lets you do many, vastly different things...if it's the right principle!

    We are starting to train gifted kids to find simple rules and principles to optimize their chances of a successful adulthood. Experiments with adult leadership training show that the same material works well for grownups, too. In our ebook series Be the Boss by 12 you can find the volume Build Your Own System of Rules to help you in your quest for simpler, yet more powerful, ways to accomplish the things you need to do.

    Buy and Download Build Your Own System of Rules Today

    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    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 M052419 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    2 Types of “Being Demanding”:
    One Builds, One Wastes

    A customer screams at a waiter because the soup is cold.

    A boss screams at a team because they're too junior to work at the desired level.

    A child throws a tantrum when told, “No!”

    Red Diner

    Making professional demands on your people in the mode of a real leader always pays off better than making demands as a spoiled brat. (photo - alex-iby - unsplash)

    The form of “being demanding” illustrated above comes from our animal roots. It's built on intimidation and threat. Among animals it sorts out the pecking order. Among human beings, where very different social rules usually operate, this form of demanding weakens the ability of people to work together. Often, they waste time and human energy because there's a recovery “duty cycle” that comes along with every unpleasant interpersonal experience.

    You might ask, “Well, if this kind of being demanding is so bad, why is it so common?” It remains common because it actually works a little bit. It's really inefficient. In a small business it can generate a lot of turn over. But while people put up with the abuse, they will, in fact, attempt to meet the demands in order to get the dreadful boss out of their faces.

    There are other alternatives to the demands of interpersonal conflict that help people work together more efficiently, and in most cases, more safely. Of these, let's look at how a culture's collected wisdom gets turned into “institutional demands.”

    Institutional demands cover groups of laws, rules, customs, and even methods and procedures that people have found useful for organizing their life and actions together. Some examples I'm familiar with include

    • Traffic laws
    • Securities and Exchange Commission rules and regulations
    • Family religious customs
    • NASA Space Flight Software Certification Procedures.

    Even with their imperfections, these institutional demands keep us out of trouble with one another. They keep us from cheating one another if they're enforced. They can help keep peace in a family. They can help a business leader or a manager help their people do a great job.

    At NASA, for example, most of us managers simply transferred our scientific methods and procedures to our work responsibilities. This gave us a way of studying the job requirements, studying our people, and building models that matched the skill sets we had available to the responsibilities we had to fulfill. Our institutional demands came from our scientific discipline.

    But few non-scientists have the training to understand how people and work flow match up. Most people in positions of responsibility fall back on their animal instincts to drive their teams from behind, instead of building good plans to lead their people from the front. And even though new managers and business owners are encouraged to find examples of great leaders to follow, most do not.

    Our book Optimizing Luck provides the emerging leader with examples of institutional demands that can be used to create team success. In fact, we outline the system where your organization meets the demands of other groups of people, most notably, your main markets. When you understand how your team's work fits into the real world, you can build the right team and create the right methods and procedures to improve your results greatly.

    Order Optimizing Luck Today

    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    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 M051419 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Success within Uncertainty

    If “business” hates uncertainty, how come anything gets done at all? Maybe enough business people approach uncertainty like farmers do: “Well, it might rain too much. It might not rain enough. But if I don't plant at all, it is certain that my family and I will starve!”

    Dice in the Air

    Uncertainty and change might not be “absolutes” in your business context...except that it's absolutely certain that they will occur. (photo - max-felner - unsplash)

    My guess is that, like the farmers, most business people have a range of conditions within which they can operate and feel reasonably secure. Perhaps also like most farmers, they can remain in business for an extended period of bad conditions. Farmers save cash to get them through two to five years of crop loss. Likewise, many small business owners stockpile a fixed amount of savings for retirement or a large capital expense. If need be, these can be used during long-term lean times.

    Long-term experience in the training industry strongly suggests that the last thing a small business person wants to do is to change their routine, even if for the sake of vastly improved revenues. It's tempting to think that this unwillingness to change is due to laziness, but it's probably more likely that self-inflicted change is still change, and change caused by anything still feels like a big risk...the outcome is uncertain.

    So, then, if a business person is “playing defense,” and they're making a living within the common business cycles and few big economic shake-ups, then we have little to offer.

    Business growth, though, requires change. In many cases, remaining truly competitive also requires change.

    For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, Wal-mart wiped out numerous small businesses in many villages and small towns. Wal-mart took 'em out on price. I met with a number of them. They thought Wal-mart played unfairly. I wasn't there when it happened, so I only have one side of the story.

    The bottom line appears to have been that the Wal-mart business model completely blind-sided the small business owners. After all, these people had lived with big stores like Sears and K-mart up to that point. They survived the big transition from downtown business centers to sub-urban malls. Wal-mart was simply operating on a totally different plane.

    There are currently disruptive things going on in the market. Energy is driving disruption. Internet and smart phone technologies are driving another disruption. The wave of nationalism sweeping the planet is driving disruption. Those are the ones making the news today. Are there others just as big and powerful, but more subtle?

    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    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 M042919 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Feedback vs. Interaction...(?)

    The way an article about feedback usually proceeds strongly implies that a leader or a manager is disconnected from the team for very extended periods of time. If this is the usual case, then feedback isn't actually the issue. Leadership engagement is. But if a leader or manager is engaged, then why do so many writers bemoan the lack of feedback to worthy employees?

    Talking Birds

    How much knowledge-work horsepower do any of your communications generate in your team? Or are you just squawkin'? (photo - wynand-van-poort - unsplash)

    Let's dispense with the typical treatment of the topic of “feedback.” Instead, let's start out with this idea: As is the case for the rest of the big animals on land, the human brain is tuned specifically to generate physical actions in real time in response to all of the things the senses detect, also in real time. And, even though human beings sometimes experience a longer attention span for some things, even thinking and language are geared toward real-time action.

    What does this psychological reality suggest about communication between people in general? It suggests that virtually any communication is going to be judged or evaluated on the basis of what's actually going on when the message is delivered. If the communication doesn't fit the immediate situation, then it's not going to get serious levels of attention.

    Is this a problem, or can this be the basis of a great communication solution?

    What this means is that, if we as leaders and managers want our communications to get full attention and generate the needed business behaviors from the team, then we have to compose the context for our communication event to fit the message itself. Now there are some natural, animal patterns to do this that some people use, however, they tend to be feared base. The manager screams and hollers and threatens, and the listeners become glued to the messanger.

    For those leaders who've hired people who often become complacent, one supposes that this actually needs to be done occasionally to motivate the needed behaviors. Or, a leader can stage communication in a way that avoids any drift towards complacency. How does that work?

    Odd as it might sound, you as the leader, have to be personally involved in the activities that apply to your responsibilities. A goal of yours that's set for completion six months from now still has day-to-day aspects...and this is where your people live. You have to keep that far-off goal a daily reality for them. Instead of applying episodic feedback, you interact daily, both for them to check in and for you to deliver feedback that actually fits their here and now.

    Feedback is often, maybe even usually, thought of as delivering a corrective. Let's go with that. Isn't it going to be easier to apply a few small correctives in real time, making the work go better in real time, than to have some gut wrenching meeting to deliver a year's worth of short comings? Of course it is! The sooner you spot small issues and apply the needed small amounts of feedback, the easier your people's activities will be to manage in the long term.

    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    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 M041819 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Modern Enterprise Leadership and LO+FTTM

    Optimizing Luck Cover

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


    Generate strategic options based on those possible futures.


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

    Optimizing Luck
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