the blog Synergy

Friday, June 30, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Do you know who is celebrating their birthday today?

Someone who preaches about simplicity.
Someone who writes about the Nine Fruits of Leadership.
Someone who thinks England will make it to the finals of the World Cup.
Someone who fulfulled a life long dream to see the Eagles in concert.

Someone with whom it is an honor to call a friend!

Happy Birthday, Trevor!

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Celebrate your Four-Fold Capacity.

Are you a manager?
Trevor has inspired us in writing about “people over programmes” this month, and if he has you thinking too, I invite you to take a look at an article I wrote for today.

Inspired by some project work I’m currently tracking by two of my corporate clients, I wrote about the four-fold capacity just waiting to be discovered in people, and how you can apply it to mentorship.

When we mentor, we want to help another discover all they are capable of achieving in a full exploration and celebration of who they are, and who they can be.

Today, I look at our capacity for work in four different ways; physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Within each realm, we can reveal the incredible potential people have, because we look at their innate strengths with a bigger view; we ‘see more’ of them in that we see them with a greater wholeness.

At, I look at these four different dimensions of human capacity one at a time. In short list form, they include:

Physical Capacity
athleticism and health
demeanor and our disposition
personality traits
learned skills
born-in talents

Intellectual Capacity
knowledge and how we use it
how we think and reason
how we make decisions
problem-solving ability
thirst for learning
idea generation

Emotional Capacity
self-esteem and confidence
the assertiveness which stems from personal values
our tolerance and load factors for stress and burn-out
sense of belonging
the need for security
energy level

Spiritual Capacity
our inventory of personal values,
grounding and sense of place
the aloha spirit
social responsibility and civic duty
humanitarian endeavor

Would you add anything to my list?

You can read more here: Discover your 4-Fold Capacity

Friday, June 23, 2006


Another day's note from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People calendar by Stephen Covey tells me:
Win/Win is not a technique; it is a total philosophy of human interaction. In fact, it is one of six paradigms of interaction. The alternative paradigms are:
  • Win/Lose
  • Lose/Win
  • Lose/Lose
  • Win
  • Win/Win or No Deal
It seems so simple to me to do things in Win/Win.
Why would we consider doing it any other way?
Maybe that's why "The Power of We" makes so much sense!
Maybe that's why the people are more important than the programmes!
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Monday, June 19, 2006

Recognize the front

One of the ways we can help to recognize the frontline folks for what they do is to provide a formal mentor program using peer leaders. I expand upon an idea from a Boston Globe article and develop it further (yes, adding my two cents) over here.
Do you have peer leaders?
Does this work for you (your company)?
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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Take advantage of your dad

A very happy Fathers Day to all the fathers out there!

This morning, I have written on Talking Story about something I have my children do every Fathers Day -- I would love to share it with all of you in the blog Synergy community too; please click in when you have a moment, and read about:

A Great List Every Child Should Have.

If you are a father, feed the women in your life some Dad List suggestions that would rock your world! Help her create for you the kind of relationships you want with your children, and have a wonderful day. You deserve it.

Hey, come to think of it, and in the spirit of our recent discussions here, A Great List Every Child Should Have is a good blend of people and programmes Trevor, don't you think?

Friday, June 16, 2006

“Please, do disappoint us.”

I was compelled to share a story with all of you in light of Trevor’s plea that we “focus on people, not programmes.”

I sat in on a managers’ meeting today in a client’s corporate headquarters, something that periodically will happen for me in light of my long-standing tenure with this company as their coach; at this point of our partnership they are quite accustomed to my presence, and will not curtail their business discussions when I’m there. I was therefore privy to a conversation in which a manager tried to explain why his staff would be working into the evening and possibly the coming weekend (It’s Friday evening as I write this).

His department leader challenged him to explain why that would be necessary, and he did.

His department is critically short-staffed right now, and he was very forthright in admitting that they were currently working “near crisis mode.” When he was asked if he was turning away, or failing to capitalize on any business prospects, he admitted that it was happening on an almost daily basis.

This manager is not a tyrant. The rest of us could see that the conversation pained him greatly, and it is quite a testament to the extraordinary atmosphere of this workplace that such discussions can be had so openly. He took full responsibility for the state of affairs he spoke of, and at one point he spoke of how very proud he was of his staff’s work ethic and ownership of the situation at hand, for they had volunteered for the extra duty on their own time.

The specific reason he gave for his team needing to work through the weekend, even though they did not expect to have any customer concerns arise then?

“The next quarter’s budget forecast is due next week, and we haven’t even started on it yet. As you all know, our non-performance will create a domino effect for the rest of you, and we hate to disappoint.”
His team leader’s response?

“Please, do disappoint us. The budget is a task that pales in comparison to the spirit of your people. We will gladly extend that deadline and any others that are standing in the way of your staff having a good life while they work for us. There is nothing more important than the morale and well-being of our ‘ohana in business here. Give them the weekend off, and have them go home this afternoon at the normal time.”
Wow. I was so proud of her.

In my business, we can choose our customers. At that moment, I was absolutely thrilled with the choice I had made to coach that organization, for they honor their people, and in doing so they manage with aloha.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Focusing on People

In a follow-up to Trevor's article, Focus on People, not Programmes, I've posted my thoughts here. To say I agree with Trevor is a MAJOR understatement.

People are the potatoes that make it all worthwhile! All too often we forget about this, but it's true. People can make the process, but process can NOT make the people.

Phil Gerbyshak

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Personal Engagement Trumps Technology

Where technology is an enabler, personal engagement is the killer app! People want to feel connected to their employer. People want to feel like they are contributing. People want to feel valued. This can't be acheived with an email message. This requires personal engagement.

What happened to Management By Walking Around? Wasn't this like super hot a while back? THE THING TO DO? Did it stop working? Or has the flattening of our organizations and our obsession with doing MORE WITH LESS squeezed all the walking around time out of the workweek?

Remember when PCs were first introduced into the workplace. Didn't someone say with the implementation of this technology we would have more free time than we would know what to do with? That didn't happen. The PC didn't enable our managers to do more walking around, it just enabled them to pare their workforces down.

And now we send emails to people who sit 10 feet away. Once upon a time, one could look around the room and see his co-workers and wave, nod, wink, throw pencils at the back of their heads, whatever. Not now. Cubetronics killed that. The blue-gray fabrications were erected and the emailing commenced.

When was the last time you even saw a No. 2 pencil?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-technology, computers, email, etc... That's how I make my living. And processes and programs (however you spell the word) are good things. I happen to be a process improvement guy myself. But neither technology nor process can take the place of personal engagement.

Sure, the Web 2.0 thing is super cool. I love it! I talk about it almost everyday at work. But when it comes to people management, no platform, no matter how cool and efficient, is going to make people feel warm and fuzzy about coming to work. It won't make them work harder and it won't make them work longer. And when the company across the street offers them seventy-five cents more an hour, they will take the money and run.

People first

Distance attempts to measure how much is getting in the way of our team communications due to various factors.

The greater this ‘distance the more chance of miscommunications.

Gerold suggests 5 factors which contribute to Communications distance in software engineering teams :

  1. Geography
  2. Clarity of Focus
  3. Team Cohesion
  4. Team Experience
  5. Process Capability
From Ken Thompson writing at The BumbleBee comes this posting.
I find this is appropriate for the discussion this month on people over process.
How far away from the frontline is management?
Does management walk the frontline to meet with and reinforce the people there?
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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The art of leadership

The World Cup kicks off on Friday. 32 teams in a contest to determine number one. Essential to the success of each team will be maintaining the health of the key players. On the field, the leadership of the team captains will be critical.
Read through this article highlighting 7 captains and note the decriptions of what they bring to the art of leadership:
  • know your place
  • fulfill role
  • bring order and organization
  • intelligent
  • calm
  • authoritative
  • know when to slow down
  • when to inject urgency
Doesn't this sound like what would be required of any leader? Whether in business or in the sporting world?
The captains excel in keeping the team together!
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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Online Conversations

Of particular interest to me was the following:
There was a sense both of disconnection and of coming together, sometimes in different ways at the same moment. Class members drifted from the reading to participation, from one topic to another, and from answering others to contributing their own ideas. The discussion was imbued with more of an expectation of a traditional class (eg information flows downward from the teacher) than of community.

During the week, however, Nancy had added a podcast, and by Friday there was a live chat with brainstorming about how chat can compliment a tool like
Moodle for an NGO. The effect of hearing Nancy's voice and the synchronous communication seemed to galvanize the group in a way different from their asynchronous replies and participation throughout the previous period.
The Bold is mine for emphasis.
Team Synergy recently had its first conference call and it was so good to hear the voices of those that attended. The call went by so quickly. We had so much to talk about. I came away with a similar feeling of the group being "galvanized" in a way different from our email and blog comment conversations.
Need to do more in this area. There must be something there.
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Where are all the smart women speakers?

Stowe Boyd has this posting commenting on Debbie Landa's posting with the same title.
Sounds almost like what we discussed here in April.
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06/06/06 - Part 5

As we move along the trail, from the internal self, to healthy activity, to explore (feeding the mind), looking for the good stuff, we come to realize the Power of We.

No man is an island - John Dunne

We are all in this together.

So let's be good to one another.

Let's help each other along the way.

And let's make one last stop on this day.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Care for Staff

Care for Staff
Originally uploaded by

A good example of teamwork and collaboration comes from posting this picture.

Trevor (and others) are having trouble posting photos directly into Blogger. One method that works very well is via Flickr.

Hence this photo is being posted by me for Trevor. It should have been included in his posting Focus on People Not Programmes

Way to go, Team Synergy!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Focus on People not Programmes

In management, leadership and organisations I have always believed people matter more than programmes.

I need to nail my colours to the mast right away by saying I am not an anarchist who believes we can manage without process. I am not calling for total chaos with no strategic direction or vision. Quite the opposite in fact - I have always believed we desperately need process. My contention is that many organisations get the balance between passion (People) and process wrong.

In my view the most successful organisations – and the best to work for - are those who operate with a gallon of passion and a pint of process.

The organisations I have seen that get stuck and bogged down in insular behaviour and a guarantee of non innovation have a gallon of process and a pint of passion.

I was a manager for 35 years in the UK National Health Service which is a very labour intensive organisation. Over 1 million people work in the NHS. I remember very well in about 1990 I did some in-depth analysis of the budget I was responsible for. My annual budget was around 1 million pounds. I discovered that over 85% of that money was in fact wages. In other words flesh and blood. Human beings. People.

Of course it was important to make sure the non-staff expenditure was controlled and yes it was important to be prudent about spending on the marginal stuff like encouraging careful use of consumables ... BUT it is through PEOPLE that stuff happens.

If we are serious about looking after the 'bottom line' we have to look after folks doing the work. It really is as simple as that.

For every pound I was responsible for, 85 pence went on flesh, blood and brain power – a stark way of putting it.

I therefore always tried to put my management skills into finding out what made the staff tick and then I saw my job as a manager to do things that helped front line staff do their job with patients.

To me a manager in healthcare is a facilitator simply employed to make the job of front line staff working with patients less complex and good place to be.

My experience also taught me that the NHS is far more ‘process driven’ than ‘people driven’ which is really ironic and paradoxical when one considers just how labour intensive it is.

I think one reason the NHS is often considered ‘under innovative’ is because we do not allow people at the front line to flourish because they become too bogged down in complex and often unnecessary processes that are designed to ‘protect’ the organisation rather than to allow creativity to flourish.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Teamwork and Open Space

Putting some pieces together. Sort of a puzzle. Starts with an objective but there are no boundary pieces available to frame the puzzle.
Objective: Power of We
Piece 1 - first team synergy conference call occured this past week. Four of us managed to get together on a conference bridge for a hour and half but it seemed to go more quickly than that.
Piece 2 - found this set of principles for Open Space
1. Whoever comes is the right people.
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
3. When it starts is the right time.
4. When it's over it's over and when it's not over it's not over.
Piece 3 - found this "Art of Hosting Good Conversations Online" by Howard Rheingold.
What do you make of this?
Is there a connection to be made?
Where do we go from here?
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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Point of View

gradweek_60530 018
Originally uploaded by shersteve.

The dogwood tree in my back yard is blooming. The dogwood flowers are changing from greenish to white. This particular angle seems to make the yard a green wonderland. Well, it is green but the angle is decieving.

Look around where you are.
Move around a bit.
Check out your different viewpoints.

Do some views make the place you are in look more wonderful than others?

Was it hard to change to this view?