Osborne Group Principals are flexible, experienced executives who fill senior-level positions in any functional area on an interim or contract basis.
I am a fan of Colin Powell. His leadership style and thoughtfulness is seldom demonstrated today in what seems to be a high risk environment where decisions are deferred and conservatism prevails. I would argue that this happens to be the very time when we need to take some risk to not only run public institutions, but also private companies more effectively. After a successful career in both the military and public services, Powell leads a private life but is still well sought after for his international relations advice.
In his series of lessons for “A Leadership Primer” in 2001 he cites 18 lessons that describe leadership hints to prospective leaders in any sector or organization. The one I think I will spend some time on today is all about risk management. That is, taking appropriate risk to change an organization’s direction, goals or improve its performance. Inevitably in everyone’s career one will always be able to find people who are “no” focussed. They say no because it’s their role, no because it’s never been done and no because change is too risky. It’s very easy to say no as any parent with a 2 year old will tell you this but is this where organizations, boards and executives really want to be? The opportunities to grow and become more sustainable require change. The moral here that Powell brings forward is simply “don’t ask”. Period! Less effective management generally endorse the sentiment “If I haven’t been explicitly told yes then I can’t do it”. Whereas good leaders believe if “I haven’t been told no I can!” It’s a big difference of views! So for fun take one of your ideas long put away due to all the no’s you received and imagine if you tried to get away with it. Was it valuable? Could it have been positively impactful? Was it positioned at the right time when you first considered it? More often than not it would have been appropriate and had positive impact.
So next time you need to move forward with a strategy or project, instead of simply acknowledging the “no” camp try pushing the idea forward without a large permission process. It could be the very thing that propels your career to the next step! Until next time!
As a taxpayer and someone who has been in the private sector (manufacturing) his entire career, I believe that the federal government must continue to fund basic research as well as support the various business sectors with new technology.
The May 7th announcement by Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science & Technology) is not a welcome new direction if the role of research into basic science goes missing in Canada.
Is basic research best delivered by the NRC, Universities or private sources? Probably all of the foregoing have a role. Universities are heavily into private – public partnerships and as regional academic bodies tend to specialize in areas of local industry interest. Think University of Waterloo and computer/digital/mobile giant Research in Motion or the excellent medical research at the University of Toronto in conjunction the Toronto Health Sciences community.
The NRC has for many years reached out to the private sector; one example would be IRAP, their shared funding program with local manufacturing initiatives. The NRC website lists eight private sector collaboration success stories since Jan. 1 2013 (not since the May 7th announcement). I’ve personally contacted them on the fly for technical support and quickly received help without red tape or fees. And that was many years back so they have been helping the private sector for a long while.
It may be that their basic research needs more focus, however I am sure that access to international research, which Canada needs, is facilitated by reciprocal access to meaningful new knowledge from Canada. A parasitical approach to gaining innovative research is unlikely to be welcome in the global community. Measure them on their contribution for sure but do not drop basic research from their mandate.
The last thing we need in Canada is an NRC tasked with generating news releases meant to demonstrate support for a politically motivated government policy. Connecting the dots, is this meant to off-set the federal government’s pull back from its Scientific Research & Experimental Development program (SR & ED is administered through the CRA as a tax break and until recently a massive private sector boondoggle)? If so, it’s a mistaken approach with disastrous long term consequences.
Selective, well-funded, with global recognition for excellence, basic research, must continue to be part of the NRC mandate regardless of which political party is in power.
Emotionally and businesswise, I believe all renewables and energy conservation are good BUT I am increasingly troubled by BIG Wind.
The first time I saw the Shelburne, Ontario wind farm was on a bright, clear, starry moon lit night driving across the county road with light blowing ground level snow and the big sweeps were magnificent shadowy beasts coming through the misting snow. I had a meeting in the nacelle of the Toronto Hydro wind machine at the CNE, the view across Toronto was spectacular, the soft sound of the blades was soothing and the little motors and computers rotating the prop direction were fascinating toys for boys.
But all is not well with the big machines!
The big machines are generating their best electrical energy at night and in the spring and fall when winds guaranteed take a pay rate of 11 to 14 cents per kWh -- about 4 to 5 times what base load nuclear energy can supply without needing other generation sources. The big machines are not required to be paired with either storage and/or alternate generation like a gas powered electrical generation facility plant so that wind machine supply package is 24/7/365 part of the electrical energy supply.
The regulated 500 meter minimum set back from a residence is questionable at best. The Grey/ Bruce County Medical Officer of Health‘s interim report documents the negative impact 24/7/365 low level noise/ air pressure change is having on people’s health. Farm animals can’t talk to the vet but productivity issues are surfacing. The federal government has a major health impact study to be completed years forward but the damage will be done, and who is going to pay to move the machines?
Denmark, the world’s leader in wind energy, with some 20% of electrical generation from off shore wind farms now has people/animal issues as wind farms get located on land near residential and farm buildings.
It is time for a time out on Big Wind before the damage becomes too big to fail.
Several months ago I blogged about the need for sprinkler systems in retirement and long-term care homes in the province. It is hard to disagree with this position until you start looking at the cost of retro-fitting very old facilities (which many long-term care homes are). Managing this cost has provided a ready excuse for not taking action, but really, is this defensible?
So it was wonderful to hear the Ontario Premier’s announcement last week that the government will mandate sprinkler systems in all long-term care homes regardless of the age of the building. As usual, the devil will be in the details of this commitment, but the signal it sends is important – our seniors are valued members of our communities and the value of their lives shouldn’t be measured against the cost of a sprinkler system.
Along with the promise of more physiotherapy services to support seniors to remain active and mobile (also announced last week), and the recent Seniors’ Strategy that contains many ideas to ensure that older citizens can live safe, secure and fulfilling lives, Ontario may well become an excellent place to grow old.
We should all be very happy about this; many of us are closer to needing these services and supports than we like to admit.
Not-for-Profit agencies make up 7.1% of Ontario’s GDP, employ over 1 million staff and engage 5 million volunteers. They cover the waterfront – from neighbourhood associations to mega hospitals and are found in most communities. All are governed by volunteer boards of directors who dedicate their time and energy to overseeing the delivery of a myriad of important services.
The role of not for profit boards is undergoing a transformation – changed roles and expectations, difficulty recruiting people with the requisite skill and talent, increasing demands from funders. Fewer and fewer people have the time to dedicate to volunteerism. The result is increasing competition for volunteers to serve on boards of directors.
Many boards of directors find themselves with ongoing board vacancies and no capacity to fill those vacancies. They simply coast along from month to month and year to year, knowing that they are experiencing a problem but they do not know what to do about it. As they don’t assess their performance in an organized way on a regular basis, they don’t realize that these vacancies are symptomatic of a larger governance issue – one that is facing too many agencies in Ontario. These are often organizations that are functioning “on the line” financially, do not have the resources to fundraise and do not have the profile to draw in new board members. These situations can go on for a number of years unattended to.
Boards of directors facing these challenges must face the facts. Their governance strength has eroded and the result is that the current board members may be placing their organizations at risk. Leadership is essential to moving these agencies through an objective process of examination – what might the options for the future be, do the organizations have the resources required for renewal, are the organizations’ services isolated, are there other organizations with a similar mandate that they could partner with? The options are numerous.
The first and most important step for agencies facing this governance challenge is to recognize that there is a problem. This is often the most difficult task of all. The second most important task is to seek assistance – assistance to objectively examine what options might be available.
Being in the Information Technology business, I have a bunch of sort of nerdy friends (oddly, some of them would describe me the same way). As a rule, when we get together we often talk about the sorts of things that people think techie people talk about – web sites, cool applications, project we are working on, and of course Star Trek (original version, the movies and occasionally TNG).
A while ago some friends and I were talking about the first computers we owned or used. One used a Commodore 64, someone else used the TRS-80 sold by Radio Shack. It was interesting to consider how far these devices have come in 30 or so years, how ubiquitous they are now and how integral they have become to our everyday lives.
I had been thinking that the first computer I used was a mainframe at university where I used punch cards to enter the programs, but on the weekend another thought occurred to me. I was listening to a radio broadcast about iconic brands that mentioned the Etch A Sketch, and I was thinking that surely the Etch A Sketch was as iconic in it’s day as my iPad tablet is now. And long before I bought my first iPad, before my first laptop, even before my first home computer, the first personal tablet-type device I ever owned was an Etch A Sketch.
While it didn’t have a touch screen, it also didn’t have a keyboard, and you couldn’t type on it even if you wanted to. It had a graphical user interface.
It had two knobs that let you draw or write, one that moved the cursor vertically, and one that moved it horizontally. I recall that the original patent application for the computer mouse (actually called an “X-Y position indicator for a display system”) was a wooden shell with 2 wheels that marked horizontal and vertical positions on a graphic display.
It wasn’t able to store and retrieve the image I created, although when I did a particularly good one I put the Etch A Sketch on the shelf like a picture frame so that nobody would accidentally erase it. There are now artists who work using Etch A Sketches and they have figured out a way to make the image permanent, although it does require taking the device apart.
And while the image that was created wasn’t actually an electronic image but rather a physical once, it sure felt pretty high-tech when I was a kid.
And what other kid’s toy has an tech support FAQ? http://www.skrause.org/humor/etch.shtml
Sounds like a real computer to me…
Part time and contract personnel are utilized by most organizations today to provide greater workplace flexibility and supplement their fulltime staffing complement. In addition, third party temporary employees have filled in for vacationing staff, sudden departures or overload situations for decades. Interim managers are temporary employees but their role is not as well understood or developed as the typical “temp”.
Often, interim executives are brought on board when a senior executive leaves suddenly and there is no one internally to step in until a new executive is hired. This is a painful time for an organization and they need someone who is able to take the reins during the search period. Similarly interim executives often fill in for temporary leaves and illness. Successfully replacing a departed executive is an important and typical role for an interim executive but it’s not the only role.
As organizations look for greater flexibility in their workforce they are finding more opportunities to work with interim managers. In my role as an HR interim executive, I have worked with several organizations to develop solutions that fit their unique situation and provide a flexible cost effective arrangement.
One company had a small HR department but needed a senior level HR Director to provide strategic leadership as part of the senior team while leading and mentoring the HR staff. The company did not have the budget or the need to hire a full time Director. In this case, the solution was to provide one to two days a week on-going interim executive support with flexibility to add days as needed.
In another situation, a not-for-profit organization with under 30 employees, wanted to provide senior level HR support to their employees. Working together with similar organizations in their building, we customized a program that was cost effective and met the needs of each organization.
While these are not typical interim management assignments, I think it speaks to the variety and flexibility that interim executives bring to organizations.
Interim executives are not just “temps”. We have been executives in organizations and understand the requirements and the business of our clients. We add value to business opportunities including mergers/acquisitions, turnaround situations, new business opportunities and change initiatives. We provide flexibility and senior level expertise whether the assignment is short term or long term; a day a week or 5 days; corporate or not-for-profit and large or small organization.
I ran across a poster the other day that left me totally befuddled. “We All Can Do It!” proclaimed the headline atop an illustration of three rather fierce looking young women, fists raised, each representing a different ethnic background. Not too sure what the meaning of “it” was in this sentence, I read on to learn “Feminism is worthless without intersectionality and inclusion.” Strong words certainly – but what on earth do they mean?
As a woman, I thought there must be a message for me here, but it totally escaped me as I had absolutely no idea that “intersectionality” was even a word. And I’ll bet you didn’t either.
As a professional communicator, I find it a fascinating example of how the choice of words can have virtually the opposite effect of the intention. If “inclusion” in this example was part of a call for all women to reach out to each other, the word “intersectionality” did nothing but make me feel excluded from some secret society using a lingo I could not fathom. I’m quite sure that wasn’t the idea.
Of course, it did manage to spark my curiousity. I did a quick Google search and sure enough, there are several pages of lengthy definitions. My Oxford dictionary, on the other hand, does not acknowledge it exists. For those of you who know what it means (hint – you’re probably a social worker), I challenge you to come up with a plain language translation that will help the poster say what it means.
I’ll let the rest of you Google “intersectionality” for yourself – there’s not room here to explain it – and I invite you to join me in the fight against obscure public communications. Send along your own examples. I’d love to hear from you.
The changing of the seasons is, technically speaking, a precise instant in time which can be measured to the second. But in the world as we experience it, the signs that spring is here depend on the criteria we have each developed from our own life experience.
For some, the first sighting of a robin denotes a new season. For others, the first cutting of the grass is the trigger point. For the mass media, it depends on whether a celebrity groundhog sees its shadow as it first emerges (or is rather reluctantly extracted) from its winter shelter. However, for me and many others who play golf, spring arrives each year during Masters week, the first major event of the year in the world of men’s professional golf.
There is no one defining moment that spring arrives at the Masters. One only knows that it is still winter when the week begins and it is spring by the time the winner is wearing the famous green jacket.
The new season arrives gradually with each powerful image that television captures as the drama builds throughout the week. The visual crescendo starts out with simple pictures of grass – greener grass than we Canadians have seen for six months. It then moves to close-ups of many different flowers; the Masters occurs in Augusta, Georgia at the peak of bloom.
Then come the jealousy-evoking shots of eager ‘patrons’ (spectators are never to be referred to as ‘fans’, according to the omnipotent committee that runs the event). These fortunate folk have won a veritable lifetime lottery for the right to walk the hallowed turf of Augusta National.
On TV, the Golf Channel gives us in-depth coverage of the Monday and Tuesday practice rounds. We actually get to see some golf shots! They don’t count for a thing, but who cares? The commentators talk endlessly about minutiae like who is carrying an extra hybrid club or who is grasping their putter differently than they did the week before.
Then comes Wednesday and things notch up a bit for the par three tournament. That unique tradition dates back to 1960 and reminds us that golf can be fun! It is less of a tournament and more a social event for people of all ages. The players often have their children carry their clubs – an easy task as they only need a putter and a few short irons to play the course. Some of the golfing dads even let their kids hit a few shots in front of the golf world. Speaking of people of all ages, Sam Snead won this event in 1991 with a three under par 24 at the age of 78.
After three days of buildup, it is Thursday morning and the actual tournament begins. But there is one tradition that must take place first. That is the honourary start at the first tee. It is arguably the greatest privilege in the sport to be asked to hit one tee shot, receive some loud applause regardless of the quality of the shot and then call it a day. Back in the early 1980’s, it was Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen who did the honours. Mr. Sarazen’s final appearance was in 1997 at 97 years of age. At present it is Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player who continue the tradition.
Then comes the tournament proper. We enjoy a four day window on a surreal, immaculately groomed stage with a backdrop of the most vibrant colours nature has to offer. While one’s immediate object of interest is the tournament, the subconscious mind is always alert to the beauty and warmth of the natural surroundings. It is truly the real beginning of spring!