management

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The Happy High Achievers

Are you happy in your job? The data says you’re probably not. I can also speak from experience. For most of my life, I operated under a false assumption that the more successful I became, the more happiness I’d feel. But what I found was just the opposite. At one point in my early thirties, I had the experience of attaining everything I had once dreamed of. But instead of feeling elated and happy, I felt burdened, stressed, and beaten down by constant and competing demands. In my experience in the Young President’s Association, a worldwide group of successful CEOs, I found that very few were actually genuinely happy as well.

Why is this? Why doesn’t greater success seem to lead to greater happiness? There’s an interesting study on success and happiness by Dr. Vance Caesar of the Caesar Group that sheds some light on this phenomenon. In an ongoing study of high achievers (the top 2-3 percent of individuals in a given field) across all walks of life, Dr. Caesar discovered this: Only 1 out of 10 high achievers (.2 to .3 percent of the total pool) rate themselves as authentically happy. Imagine that: If you gather ten thousand top achievers from all walks of life—the rich, the famous, the talented—only a handful will actually consider themselves happy.

What’s the difference between a happy high achiever and the rest? In his research, Dr. Caesar identifies eight attributes that dictate both success and happiness. Most of these are fairly easy to recognize and intuitively make sense. They include a driving sense of purpose, a compelling vision, and the intrinsic feeling that your work is meaningful. Other attributes include beliefs and behaviors that create inner peace, a regular process involving the three Rs (review, renewal, and recommitment), and outstanding discipline. Additionally, happy high achievers generally work with mentors and coaches.

It turns out that one of the secrets of the top of the top—the tiny fraction that is both successful and happy—is that they mastered the game of energy management to such a point that they get more than they give from all of their key relationships. That may sound confusing at first so allow me to explain.

As we’ve discussed, everything is a system and every system exists in relationship to other systems. What happy high achievers recognize is that everything in life is ultimately an exchange of energy. After our health, the single greatest factor that energizes us or depletes us is the quality of our closest relationships. If you’ve ever been in a “vampire” relationship that sucks all the energy out of you, you know it can take days to recover from even a brief encounter. On the other hand, if you have a best friend who always seems to […]

By |2021-05-18T04:56:16-07:00March 11th, 2012|Articles|2 Comments

Where Are Your Energy Drains?

According to the laws of physics, your success is determined by how you manage energy – and there’s a universal success formula to prove it. Quite simply: success is a function of integration over entropy. Your goal is always to have high integration and low entropy. In “How to Choose the Right Strategy“, I explained how to create high integration in your company. What gets too little attention in business, however, is the havoc that high entropy plays on a system. It truly is the ultimate killer. Or as physicists Sir Arthur Eddington aptly put it in the early 20th century, “The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”

So if there’s anything you should be doing in your business that you’re probably not focused enough on, it’s cultivating an awareness of entropy and a commitment to reducing it. Personally, I didn’t appreciate the significance of entropy in my own business until I ran into it. Hard.

In 1998, at the age of 28, I co-founded an affiliate marketing company in Minnesota and moved it to Santa Barbara, California. By 2001, the company was soaring like a rocket, generating incredible growth rates (much easier to do for a small company than a large one but it’s still a very exciting time), and was adding staff and customers as fast as we could to scale. During this period, everyone who associated with the company, from the staff to the customers and even people on the street, seemed genuinely blown away by its energetic, passionate, and committed culture.

As co-founder and CEO, I would often walk into the office and feel lifted two feet off the floor by the collective energy and enthusiasm of the group. I had installed a giant train whistle on the wall that the sales team would blow every time there was a sale. While the bankers on the second floor weren’t too happy with the frequent “blassssssssssssssssstttttttttttttttttt” of the whistle, we would all cheer loudly. It was a heady and intoxicating time.

Most of us had a feeling that the company had a growing opportunity in front of it and that we had the capabilities to execute on it. It was also relatively easy to make and implement decisions and there was a […]

By |2021-05-18T05:49:57-07:00February 27th, 2012|Articles|Comments Off on Where Are Your Energy Drains?

The Misaligned Organization and What to Do About It

In 1993 I was a college student in St. Paul, Minnesota. I drove a twenty-year-old canary yellow Toyota Corolla with bald tires, a broken heater, and a misaligned chassis. Because my spending priorities then were the necessities of college life (pizza, beer, girls, and rent), I never invested in making the car safe to drive.

Navigating that car on the icy roads of thirty-below Minnesota winters required a certain ability to go with the flow. But eventually, my refusal to to replace the tires and align the chassis caught up with me. Driving late one winter night … it’s easy to guess what happened. Wipe out. Crash. Car totaled.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

I share this story because it’s easy to tell when a car is misaligned. The car squeaks, there’s friction and a loss of power, and it’s difficult to steer where you want to go. Similarly, if you know what to look for, it’s easy to tell when your business is misaligned. If you act early on, you can avoid a crash and even improve performance fast.

What It Means to Have an Aligned Organization

Well after I had sold that old Toyota, I received some more equally important lessons on the value of organizational alignment. In my late twenties to mid-thirties, I personally led two companies into compound annual growth rates (CAGR) exceeding 5,0000% per year. From startup to $4M and $12M in two and four years respectively. While this may be chump change to some entrepreneurs, these periods of rapid growth were priceless learning for me. They also provide a valuable lesson that’s applicable to companies of all sizes and at all lifecycle stages.

The surprising thing is that, in order to get that kind of exponential growth, I didn’t have to fight, cajole, or struggle for years. Instead, the leadership team and I created the right internal and external alignment for growth to occur. Because we got the alignment right, the businesses executed extremely fast. The same lesson holds true for you. If you can get the internal and external alignment right for your business, you’ll dramatically increase its probability of thriving and executing very quickly. I’m not guaranteeing 5,000% CAGR. In fact, I’m not even recommending you try for that — it’s much wiser to shoot for more sustainable rates of growth. But the act of creating alignment is essential to every business. Get it right and your company can execute swiftly and powerfully. Get it wrong and you won’t get back on the growth curve until you do get it right. Alignment is the key.

At the most basic level, “external alignment” means that the company’s unique capabilities are well integrated with growing market opportunities. […]

By |2021-05-18T05:21:42-07:00February 10th, 2012|Articles|2 Comments

Mastering Team-Based Decision Making

Every business has mass, which is a measure of its resistance to change. The challenge in getting an organization to change direction is the fact that its mass isn’t neatly self-contained. Rather, it’s scattered throughout its people, systems, structures, and processes – and the collective inertia causes resistance to change. In order to get the organization to execute on its strategy, you’ve got to get the mass contained and headed in one direction.

Having aligned vision and values, as well as an aligned organizational structure, is the first step. If you have misalignment in these areas, then no matter what, you’re not going to get very far. At the same time, alignment in vision, values, and structure alone won’t cause the business to move. They just help to hold the mass together and keep internal friction low. Making the organization come alive and move quickly in a chosen direction requires that two things be done well: making and implementing decisions. In fact, the secret to organizational momentum lies in continually making good decisions and implementing them quickly.

The Most Important Process in Your Business

Every business relies on multiple processes (sales, customer service, finance, product development, marketing, etc.). These can be highly visible or nearly invisible, organic, haphazard, detailed, flexible, constant, or changing and either a boon or a burden. When a process is performing well, it allows the work to get done better and faster. When it’s not, you feel like you’re swimming upstream.

While your business has many different processes – some working well and others maybe a total clusterf#@*k – it’s the process of decision making and implementation that’s most critical to your success. Why? Because at the most fundamental level, a business is simply a decision-making and implementation system. Think about it — every problem and opportunity require a decision to be made (and yes, deciding to do nothing is a decision too) and a solution to be implemented. If the business does this well — if it continually makes good decisions and implements them fast — then its momentum will increase and it will be successful. If it does the opposite — if it makes bad decisions, or if it makes good decisions but implements them slowly, or my personal favorite, makes bad decisions and implements them quickly — then it will fail. Just as a haphazard sales process results in lost sales, poor fulfillment, and an inability to scale, a poor decision-making and implementation process results in poor decisions, flawed implementations, and an inability to scale the business.

What’s ironic about the process of decision making and implementation is that most businesses don’t even think of it as a process. (In case you’re asking… decision making and implementation are not two distinct things. They’re […]

By |2021-05-18T05:23:17-07:00January 24th, 2012|Articles|Comments Off on Mastering Team-Based Decision Making

The 5 Classic Mistakes in Organizational Structure: Or, How to Design Your Organization the Right Way

Is your organization designed to be a rocket or a parachute? If I were to ask you a random and seemingly strange question, “Why does a rocket behave the way it does and how is it different from a parachute that behaves the way it does?” You’d probably say something like, “Well, duh, they’re designed differently. One is designed to go fast and far and the other is designed to cause drag and slow an objection in motion. Because they’re designed differently, they behave differently.” And you’d be correct. How something is designed controls how it behaves. (If you doubt this, just try attaching an engine directly to a parachute and see what happens).

But if I were to ask you a similar question about your business, “Why does your business behave the way it does and how can you make it behave differently?” would you answer “design?” Very few people — even management experts — would. But the fact is that how your organization is designed determines how it performs. If you want to improve organizational performance, you’ll need to change the organizational design. And the heart of organizational design is its structure.

Form Follows Function — The 3 Elements of Organizational Structure & Design

A good design supports its purpose. There’s a saying in architecture and design that “form follows function.” Put another way, the design of something should support its purpose. For example, take a minute and observe the environment you’re sitting in (the room, building, vehicle, etc.) as well as the objects in it (the computer, phone, chair, books, coffee mug, and so on). Notice how everything serves a particular purpose. The purpose of a chair is to support a sitting human being, which is why it’s designed the way it is. Great design means that something is structured in such a way that it allows it to serve its purpose very well. All of its parts are of the right type and placed exactly where they should be for their intended purpose. Poor design is just the opposite. Like a chair with an uncomfortable seat or an oddly measured leg, a poorly designed object just doesn’t perform like you want it to.

Even though your organization is a complex adaptive system and not static object, the same principles hold true. If the organization has a flawed design, it simply won’t perform well. It must be structured (or restructured) to create an design that supports its function or business strategy. Just like a chair, all of its parts or functions must be of the right type and placed in the right location so that the entire system works well together. What actually gives an organization its “shape” and controls how it performs are three […]

By |2021-05-18T05:25:49-07:00January 9th, 2012|Articles|16 Comments

Getting from PSIU … to Really Good Management

If you’ve been following along in the management guide, you know that there are four fundamental forces (PSIU) that shape individual and organizational behavior. You also know that these forces compete for available system energy and that if even one of the forces is absent, the organization will perish. I’ve also mentioned that, if you want your organization to do something new – such as change direction or accelerate performance – you must engage the appropriate force. But how does all this translate into practical steps? And how can you use it to be a better manager of people and situations?

1) Know the Forces at Play

Knowing the forces at play within an individual or an organization delivers fast insight into what otherwise appears as complex or random behavior. For example, if you set up a team with all Producers, then that team is going to demonstrate some predictable behavior and outcomes. It’s going to move very quickly, produce a large volume of work, and blow past its milestones in record time. However, the work is going to have errors (it will be an inch deep and a mile wide), it will totally miss out on the implications and the coordination with other departments, and it will lack creative problem solving. A team of all Unifiers would have very different but equally predictable outcomes.

There’s another important benefit to knowing the forces at play. It’s this: it allows you to see and accept things for what they are, with less judgement. You should not underestimate the power of this. On the one hand, judgment is the capacity to assess situations or circumstances astutely and to draw sound conclusions. Obviously, good judgment is a critical skill for a manager. On the other hand, it’s hard to be a good manager when you’re holding personal judgment against someone or something. That type of interpersonal judgment causes us to close down, stop seeing what’s really there, and miss out on finding creative solutions. It also causes the other person (the person being judged) to feel resentful, unrecognized, and discounted. Like everyone else, I’ve experienced both sides of judgment, as both the judge and the judged. I can unequivocally say that interpersonal judgment demonstrates a lack of personal responsibility and results in a waste of energy and a loss of opportunity.

Growing up, my younger brother Carter and I fought constantly. I was the “responsible” older brother intent on working hard and “making it big” in the world (PsIu). He was the young, carefree spirit who loved to hang out with his friends (psiU). I’m ashamed to say that I would frequently nag, condemn, and ridicule him to get his act together, “be a man,” and make something of himself. The truth is that my vision of […]

By |2021-05-18T05:27:17-07:00December 5th, 2011|Articles|1,061 Comments

The Key to High Performing Teams

Growing up, I had a good friend whose dad was very successful. They lived in a gorgeous home on Lake Minnetonka and I was lucky to spend time a lot of time there, hanging out and enjoying their largesse. Among the things I vividly recall about their home was a refrigerator magnet that read, “Behind every successful man is a wise woman.” I remember that magnet because it made my fourteen-year-old self wonder, “Hmmm, is Mrs. B trying to tell the world that she’s equally responsible for all this magnificence?” and “Is it really true that all successful men have a supportive woman behind them?” or “Maybe it’s her way of putting her husband in his place…” I didn’t have the answers then. But looking back, I can see that this message (dated and cliche-ridden as it is) is worth pondering and has implications for marriages and businesses alike.

The Secret to a Successful Marriage

Marriage or partnership is an exemplary opportunity to match and leverage complementary PSIU forces. No one can be predominantly change-driving, change-responding, focused on the parts, and focused on the whole all at the same time. For much of human history, sexual and gender differentiation resulted in men playing the part of PsIu while women played the part of pSiU. That is, men were responsible for bread-winning (P) and strategy or career advancement (I) while women were responsible for organizing domestic life (S) and taking care of children and family (U). In short, the left side of the PSIU chart shows the classic “feminine” functions and the right side the “masculine” ones.

In the United States in the 1970s, when baby boomers shifted to a dual-income family model and women entered the professional workforce en masse, women joined men on the Producer and Innovator (or traditionally “masculine”) side of the chart. The result? Couples started outsourcing their Stabilizer functions to housekeepers, bookkeepers, and organizers and their Unifier functions to babysitters and marriage counselors – all to keep the family together!

Today, as many of us have outgrown long-standing assumptions about gender and marriage, we can see that the point is not about gender roles. Rather, it’s that all four forces must be present for a family – however you define it – to thrive. Specifically, what all successful and harmonious unions have in common is that both partners naturally complement each other. For example, a partner who is a PsIu will tend to harmonize well with someone who is a pSiU. If one partner is naturally externally focused on career innovation and the other is internally focused on domestic harmony and organization, the partnership can really work. If one partner is naturally better able to focus on short-run needs […]

By |2021-05-18T05:30:34-07:00December 1st, 2011|Articles|1,050 Comments

The Unifier Style


The Unifier is primarily focused on who is involved in a situation and the interpersonal dynamics of the group. To get an immediate sense of the Unifier’s qualities, think of a very likeable, gregarious, warm people person. That’s a Unifier. If you put this person in a rowboat and say “Row!,” what will they do? Well, they’ll want to know where everyone else is! You can’t expect them to row all by themselves. They’ll want a team of people, ideally their friends, to climb in the boat and row together.

Unifiers are excellent communicators and team builders and are especially good at listening and empathizing. They tend to make everyone feel uplifted, listened to, and respected, thus improving collaboration and loyalty in the workplace. They always have time for a chat and seem genuinely concerned with how you’re doing and how they can help you. They’re excellent at smoothing things over and intuiting how someone else is really feeling. For example, if a Producer and a Unifier went on a sales call together, the Producer would only interpret what the client was actually saying (the literal level) while the Unifier could tell exactly how the client was feeling beneath the words (the non-literal and emotive levels). Our best Unifier qualities are our ability to create rapport, understand and motivate others, build cohesive teams, and create sound organizational cultures based on caring, empathy, and loyalty. Without the Unifier force, we would have no ability to respond to change efficiently because the organization would not be able to act as a whole.

The Big U

When the Unifier trait is extreme, we call it a Big U. A Big U is like a politician who always seeks to curry favors and plays the political winds to his or her advantage. One the one hand, Big U’s value and leverage personal relationships; on the other, their words or actions can’t really be trusted because their loyalty will shift with the prevailing political winds. The Big U comes to work when expected and leaves when expected. If they have an office, it’s probably very warm and inviting. Big U’s love to have meetings because this gives them a chance to connect with others and gauge where they really stand on an issue. During a meeting, they prefer to sit and listen while others do the talking. Their biggest frustration is when others won’t engage with them in a dialogue, shut them out, or keep up a stoic guard. Their common complaint is that others aren’t working well together and thinking of the team.

The answer to most problems for a Big U is to gather input from others and process feelings – both their own and others’. This takes time and that’s why a Big U tends to […]

By |2021-05-18T05:30:11-07:00November 27th, 2011|Articles|1,017 Comments

The Innovator Style


The Innovator is focused on driving change while finding new and better ways of doing things. To get an intuitive sense of the Innovator’s qualities, think of a dynamic, creative, big-picture person who has a plethora of new ideas and is usually excited by the latest one, until a new one strikes again. That’s an Innovator. If you put this person in a rowboat and say, “Row!” What will they do? Well, they’ll start to come up with new ideas! “Why don’t we put a sail on this baby? How about a glass bottom? That would be pretty cool! Come to think of it, a 250hp motor would do just the trick; I bet we can find one at the marina. Be right back.”

The Innovator has a tremendous ability to peer into the future and to anticipate how seemingly disparate trends will (or can be made to) merge together. They are highly conceptual and get easily excited about new ideas and opportunities. Because an Innovator can sense change occurring faster than other styles, they spend a lot of time trying to get others to see the same thing they do. They usually attempt to do that by explaining the idea and sharing their enthusiasm, and by trying to get others to understand and be enthusiastic too. Our best Innovator qualities are our ability to anticipate change, to be imaginative, charismatic, and inventive. Without the Innovator force, we would have no ability to adapt to changes in our environment and we would quickly become irrelevant or extinct.

The Big I

When the Innovator trait is exceedingly strong, we call it a Big I. A Big I is like a mad genius. It’s always cooking up one crazy sounding idea after the next. The Big I comes into work whenever they want and leaves work whenever they want. If they have an office, it’s likely a testament to their own unique individuality and creativity. The Big I doesn’t like to have meetings unless it’s to discuss a new idea and as long as they get to do most of the talking. Their biggest frustration is that things are stymied in production and implementation or that they get bogged down in managing release schedules and milestone dates, rather than working on the next new thing. Their common complaint is that others “don’t get it.” Their answer to most problems is to come up with a new idea.

The Big I is not usually comfortable giving schedule estimates because they recognize they just don’t have the interest (or a clue) as to how long something will actually take. Those are details for others to figure out. But they’re happy to give predictions on when market trends will converge. However, because they see a future (not […]

By |2021-05-18T05:31:12-07:00November 16th, 2011|Articles|1,032 Comments

The Stabilizer Style


The Stabilizer is focused on how to do things and working methodically to get them done the right way. To get an immediate sense of the Stabilizer’s qualities, think of a very structured, process-oriented person who likes to analyze the data before making a decision. This person is highly organized, has outstanding attention to details, and takes their time in their words and actions. That’s a Stabilizer. If you put this person in a rowboat and say, “row!” What will they do? Well, first they’ll analyze the rowing mechanism and plan the most efficient stroke. Then they’ll want to understand where they are rowing, for how long, what the best route is, when the water and food breaks will occur, and the prevailing winds and currents. Once everything is planned in detail, with two contingency plans in place, then they’ll start to row!

The Stabilizer has a tremendous ability to find better, more efficient ways of doing things. They excel at organizing, planning, controlling, and systematizing things. They create order out of chaos and usually have outstanding retention of pertinent details. The Stabilizer tends to value control over freewheeling innovation, unless that innovation can be analytically justified. They have little patience for errors, sloppiness, or anyone or anything violating a defined process or procedure without good cause. A Stabilizer is methodical and makes decisions based on analyzing the data and finding more efficient solutions. Naturally, it takes time to gather and analyze data and to understand the intricate details involved in a decision. Consequently, the Stabilizer moves at a deliberate pace in their thoughts, words, and actions.

The Big S

When the Stabilizer trait is overly high, we call it a Big S. A Big S is like a bureaucrat that seeks to control for change by establishing and following processes. They value efficiency over effectiveness, even to the extreme. The Big S comes into work on time and leaves on time. If they have an office, it’s likely very clean and orderly with files neatly arranged and spreadsheets and objective data readily on hand. The Big S schedules regular meetings and always has an agenda prepared in advance. Their biggest frustration is that others aren’t following the process. Their common complaint is that others don’t pay close enough attention to important details.

The answer to most problems for a Big S is to analyze the data and document a plan. Because of this, they tend to falsely believe that proper planning can account for any contingency. Therefore, when getting schedule estimates from a Big S, recognize that the schedule will look excellent on paper. It will be very specific, down to each nut and bolt, but also totally incorrect because change is a constant. Consequently, there will likely be several creative ways […]

By |2021-05-18T05:31:41-07:00November 14th, 2011|Articles|1,069 Comments

The Producer Style


The Producer is focused on what to do now and working hard to get it done rapidly. To get an immediate sense of the Producer’s qualities, think of a fast-charging, focused, determined, high-energy person who thrives on working long and hard. That’s a Producer 1. If you put this person in a rowboat and say, “Row!” What will they do? Well, they’ll just start rowing straight ahead — and fast! They don’t need to ask questions, plan a route, understand where they should go, or even how long they’ll be gone. They just row and keep rowing until you say, “Stop!”

The Producer has a tremendous capacity to work hard to accomplish a goal and takes great pride in winning. That could be winning the new account, completing the project, achieving a goal, or beating the competition. A Producer is decisive and makes decisions based on what can be accomplished now, without waiting for all the information to be in hand. Instead, they figure it out as they go. Our best Producer qualities are our ability to act, lead the charge, overcome obstacles, urge a team to action, and be effective, assertive, and victorious. A Producer is a lot like the engine of a car. The bigger the engine, the faster the organization can go.

The Big P

When the Producer trait is exceedingly strong, we call it a Big P. A Big P is like a hammer. It sees every problem as a nail and the solution is to hit it. Hit it with hard work, more work, and faster work. The Big P comes into work very early and leaves work very late. If they have an office, it’s likely very messy with lots of projects and tasks to complete (and usually awards and trophies on display). The Big P doesn’t like to have meetings unless they’re short, to the point, and focused on the most pressing task at hand. Their biggest frustration is that things aren’t getting done fast enough according to their own internal clock. Their common complaint is that others aren’t working as hard as they do. Their answer to most problems is to work harder, longer, and faster. Because of this, they tend to overestimate the amount of work that can be accomplished by a team. Therefore, when getting schedule estimates from a Big P, recognize that they are going to significantly underestimate the actual time it will take to complete a team project. If they say one month, it will be more like three to four months.

The Big P can’t stomach falsity and they’re often brutally honesty in their communications. If you went into their office, the first thing you’d hear about is how hard they’ve been working and how much they still have to complete. When […]

By |2021-05-18T05:32:30-07:00November 11th, 2011|Articles|2,707 Comments

The Four Styles of Management


What is your work style and how does it interact with other styles? Who’s on your team and how can you help them to reach a higher level of performance? And what about the style of your boss or your spouse – how can you best influence him or her so that you both get what you desire? These are all million-dollar questions. The answers can be found in understanding how the four forces — Producing, Stabilizing, Innovating, and Unifying — operate within each of us.

Each of us expresses a certain work style – understood in its broadest sense as a mode of operating in the world – that reflects our own unique combination of the Producing, Stabilizing, Innovating and Unifying Forces. All four forces are present in each of us in some form, but usually one or two of them come to us most naturally. In addition, when one force is relatively strong, one or more of the others forces will be relatively weak.

While we may modify our general style depending on circumstances, stepping out of our natural strengths costs us more energy than operating within them. For example, imagine a highly innovative entrepreneur who is forced to do bookkeeping for a week. Sure, she may be able to do it, but she’s also going to feel extreme tedium, effort, and a loss of energy as a result. It’s because of this energy cost that most of us express fairly consistent characteristics that reflect our usual way of managing. Effective management therefore requires understanding your own style and its relative strengths and weakness, as well as that of the people with whom you work and interact.

The chart below shows how each basic work style compares to the others. It compares the pace (slow to fast) of how a style tends to act, think, and speak; the time frame (short view to long view) of how a style tends to perceive a situation, trend, or idea; the orientation (process-oriented to results-oriented) of how a style tends to relate to people and situations; and the approach (structured to unstructured) of how a style tends to operate in daily tasks.

The 4 Styles. Each of us has some combination of the Producer, Stabilizer, Innovator, and Unifier styles (PSIU)

The Producer

The Producer (P) has a high drive to shape the environment and is focused on the parts that make up the system. Thus, this style moves at a fast pace, takes a short-term view, is results-oriented, and follows a […]

By |2021-05-18T05:33:27-07:00November 9th, 2011|Articles|1 Comment

The Secret to Managing Everything


The secret to understanding management is this: Complex adaptive systems (such as people and organizations) must (1) shape and respond to changes in the environment and (2) do so as whole organisms, including their parts and sub-parts. If they are unable to do so, they will cease to get new energy from the environment and will perish.

Intuitively, this makes sense. For example, imagine a family of four. If the family is to survive and flourish, it must shape the environment by getting resources such as money, food, and shelter. It must also respond to the environment, including to changes that are economic, societal, ecological, and so on. At the same time, it must pay attention to the all the parts that make up the family system – things like the act of cooking, cleaning, commuting, paying the bills, and taking the kids to school. It must take into account the different and often conflicting needs of the individual family members. It must also give focus to holistic dynamics so that the family acts like a single, unified whole – for example, making sure that there’s plenty of love, warmth, laughter, support, and nurturing for all of its members.

If the family isn’t able to shape or respond to the environment, or if it loses focus on the parts or the whole, it will quickly run into trouble. If the pattern continues, then the family will disintegrate. Just imagine a family that doesn’t have income, or a family that can’t perform its daily routine, or that can’t respond to new economic changes, or whose members are always fighting among themselves. Obviously, it’s not a family you’d want to be a part of. It is not resilient or adaptive to change. It costs all of its members more energy than they get in return. Such a family is on the precipice of complete failure.

The same is true for every organization. It must be constantly shaping and responding to change while focused on the parts and the whole. Therefore, I am going to classify observable behavior, at its most basic level, as either shaping or responding to change while focusing on the whole organization or on its parts or sub-parts. I call this the Adaptive Systems Model of organizational behavior.

The dimensions of behavior within the Adaptive Systems Model exist on a relative and time-dependent scale. For example, if there’s a high drive to shape the environment, then at the same time, there will be a lower drive to respond to change. If there’s a high drive to focus on the parts, there will be a lower drive […]

By |2021-05-18T05:34:14-07:00November 5th, 2011|Articles|1,006 Comments

The Pre-Startup Checklist


Before a startup ever launches, you should have a checklist of critical items in place. These items have nothing to do with writing a business plan or forming the articles of incorporation. In line with the old saying “well begun is half done,” without these basic requirements, the venture won’t get off to a successful start. Even worse, ignoring this checklist can lead to your investing a lot of capital, time, and energy – only to find out that you’re doing the wrong thing, with the wrong team, at the wrong time.

The Real Difference Between Startup and Pre-startup

I’m going to define the core difference between startup and pre-startup using a single word: commitment. Commitment means that the entrepreneur and founding team have taken a real risk to make the business happen. They are clearly and unequivocally in. It’s Dodge City or Bust. Without commitment, the venture will remain stuck in pre-startup mode – as an idea that will never be actualized.

For example, I recently had coffee with an old colleague who wanted to talk about his new “startup.” He had written a business plan, registered a domain name, and was seeking advice on raising capital and building the technology. He was still working at his day job, where he planned to stay while building on the idea in his spare time. As we talked, I could tell that what he really wanted was someone with whom he could discuss the idea – to explore it further and get another perspective. He was still just trying it on and not yet fully committed.

You can always tell if someone is committed to a new venture by his or her actions. Have they taken a significant risk such as quitting their day job or putting their own money into it? Are they excitedly and constantly talking about the opportunity? Are people rallying around their cause and vision? These are all great signs of commitment – and that’s when you know you’re in startup mode. With them, a new business can be born and has a chance of success. Without them, you’re still in pre-startup or it’s a non-starter.

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By |2021-05-18T05:35:05-07:00October 31st, 2011|Articles|713 Comments

The Stages of the Execution Lifecycle


Navigating your company up the execution lifecycle 1 and keeping it in optimum shape is a great challenge. This article will show you how to do it successfully.

The stages of the execution lifecycle become easier to understand with a little pattern recognition. Basically, every business must shape or respond to its environment and it must do so as a whole organization, including its parts and subparts. If it doesn’t do this, it will cease to exist. Recognizing this, we can call out four basic patterns or forces that give rise to individual and collective behavior within an organization. They are the Producing, Stabilizing, Innovating, and Unifying (PSIU) forces. Each of these expresses itself through a particular behavior pattern. The combination of these forces causes the organization to act in a certain way.

Just like the other lifecycles, the execution lifecycle exists within a dynamic between stability and development. The basic stages of the execution lifecycle are birth, early growth, growth, and maturity and, from there, things descend into decline, aging, and death. The focus within the execution lifecycle should be to have the right mix of organizational development and stability to support the stages of the product and market lifecycles. That is, the lifecycle stage of the surrounding organization should generally match the lifecycle stage of the products and markets. If it’s a startup, the surrounding organization is the entire company. If it’s a Fortune 500 company, this includes the business unit that is responsible for the success of the product as well as any aspects of the parent organization that influence, help, or hinder the success of the product.

The surrounding organization should act a certain way at each stage of the product/market lifecycle, as you’ll see below. Note that, when a force is or should be dominant, it will be referenced with a capital letter:

• When piloting the product for innovators, the company should be in birth mode and be highly innovative and future-oriented (psIu)
• When nailing the product for early adopters, the company should be in early growth mode and be producing verifiable results for its customers (Psiu)
• When beginning to scale the product for the early majority, the company should be standardized and operations streamlined for efficiency (PSiu)
• When fully scaling the product for the early majority, the company’s internal efficiencies should be harnessed, as well as the capability to launch new innovations and avoid the commodity trap (PSIu)
• When […]

By |2021-05-18T05:37:49-07:00October 28th, 2011|Articles|3,857 Comments