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Everything I Learned About Management I Learned at the Opera

Posted by on Feb 27, 2018 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

Part 1 – Rigoletto I was sitting at the opera last night thinking about what I was seeing and how it provides evidence of what good leadership – or, more commonly, its opposite – looks like. So, I plan to write occasionally about the management lessons found in the classic opera repertoire. First up, Rigoletto. What can we learn from this opera? (I’m not going to include a full plot summary – if you need that you should look here) Rigoletto works as a court jester for a powerful duke. Urged on by the Duke, Rigoletto has mocked and belittled other courtiers so not only do they have no loyalty to him, they actively dislike him. [Rule 1 – Build collaborative relationships and networks with your colleagues. You never know when you might need their help.] Later, Rigoletto meets with an assassin who will help rid him of his enemies – for a fee. Rigoletto doesn’t hire him but keeps his services in mind. [Rule 2 – Keep your options open when you are trying to solve a complex problem, and recognize that you may not have the needed skill set in-house.) The Duke has seen Rigoletto’s beautiful daughter, Gilda, from afar, and finds out where she lives to attempt to seduce her while pretending he is a poor student. [Rule 3 – Do thorough reference checks.] Other courtiers come to Rigoletto’s house and kidnap his daughter. [See Rule 1. Again.] Back at the palace, the Duke seduces Gilda (doing his Hollywood producer thing) while his courtiers, enablers all, egg him on and prevent Rigoletto from rescuing his daughter. [Rule 4 – Have a no-harassment policy and enforce it across the entire organization.] Far from being a poor student, the Duke turns out to be a serial womanizer/predator. While Gilda watches, he sings the famous “la donna e mobile” aria about the flightiness of women. [Rule 4a. Don’t point fingers or make up excuses for your own behaviour.] A small digression – see link to this part of the aria – elephants yeah – which has nothing to do with management behaviour but makes me laugh when I hear it. Towards the end of Act 3, the main characters sing the beautiful quartet “Bella figlia dall’amore”.  This quartet illustrates a common feature of operas, when multiple characters sing different lines of music that fit together beautifully. The problem is that they are all singing at the same time so their different perspectives are not being shared. [Rule 5 – You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in appropriate proportions.] Rigoletto hires the assassin to kill the duke, but he kills Gilda instead. Rigoletto, after paying the assassin,...

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Solving The Right Problem

Posted by on Aug 24, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

Just the other day I saw an ad for a fast food chain and was reminded that this particular chain has served square hamburgers for many years, ostensibly so that the cheese will fit properly on top of the burger. This is a classic example of not solving the right problem. The most important part of a burger is, well, the burger; and while the other components that complete a burger (bun, cheese, condiments, etc.) make a huge difference to the quality of the eating experience, the meat patty is the raison d’etre of the whole thing.  It seems wrongheaded to reshape a burger to fit the shape of the cheese, particularly when the whole thing is ultimately served on a round bun.  Surely this chain has enough market strength either to use square buns or to buy round cheese to go on round burgers on round buns, which is, of course, the usual, right and proper way to make and serve a burger (with one exception that I will get to later). To extrapolate to a business setting, the idea here is that to solve your business problem, you first have to diagnose what that problem is. You have to make sure that you solve the right problem. On too many occasions, I have met with clients to discuss their challenges and they tell me that their business problem is that they need a Client Relationship Management system, or an Enterprise Resource Management program, or that they need their data to be better organized.  Too often, these discussions are based on an incomplete assessment of their current business situation, strategic directions, and organizational capability, coupled with the hope that there is an obvious and straightforward solution that will fix the problem. The risks of not solving the right problem fall into two categories. If the issue does not fully get addressed, goals or outcomes are not achieved, and business results are compromised. If the solution is incomplete or inappropriate, budgeted expenditures may not have been well managed – either wasted on the wrong solution or insufficient to cover unplanned expenditures required to fully address the problem. When I work with clients, I want to make sure there is a clear understanding of the problem that needs to be solved before deciding on a solution.  My starting point is to do to an assessment of the current situation by reviewing all relevant elements: strategic plans and initiatives, organizational and functional goals, staff skills and abilities, policies and processes, and business systems. These activities make sure that the problem is understood (and documented) before the implementation of solutions begin.  It’s great if clients have ideas about what sort of solution...

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The Perils of Not Being Customer-Focused

Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

I was thinking about the idea of being customer-focused in the context of some recent customer service gaffes that have had a lot of visibility – particularly in a time of social media “instant gratification” feedback.  Why is customer-focused action seemingly so difficult, and what is the cost of poor customer service decision-making – besides the embarrassment of being called out on Twitter and Facebook? First, there was the Canadian loyalty program issue. This organization suddenly put an expiry date on points, didn’t make it really easy to redeem points, and, under pressure, ultimately reversed the decision. This loyalty program is one of the most successful loyalty programs ever created, with something like 70% of Canadians having the card in their wallet. (Full disclosure: I worked at a division of that organization for a couple of years about 10 years ago.) I have always had a lot of respect for their leadership team, and felt they had a good sense of customer needs and customer service – so this little saga surprised me. It’s not clear if someone was providing poor advice or someone wasn’t listening, but I imagine that this episode has made their loyal customer base a little less so.  So maybe more points have to be offered or maybe more redemption deals might appear – either way, there is a cost. Me – I’m kind of thinking that I want to send back the products that I purchased with my “not enough points for what I really wanted so got some stuff so as not to have the points completely go to waste” points and have the points put back into my account. The second notable example was a major US air carrier and their handling of the removal of the passenger from a flight back in April.  Setting aside the issue of using police to physically remove someone from an airplane seat (another blog entry entirely!), the responses from the usually on-point CEO were completely tone deaf.  And at one point, there was even an industry analyst on TV sounding like the passenger was to blame for causing this incident. So people are boycotting this airline, and every airline has had to review and comment on their own policies and how they handle over-booking seats.  As well as reducing the image of that airline – and having them absorb the real cost of boosted compensation to bumped passengers – other airlines get free publicity showing off their comparatively better policies.  Oh yeah – and while nobody seemed to lose their job over this, the planned promotion of the CEO to Chairman is apparently not going to go ahead.  So maybe a big personal cost too....

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My Trip to Vimy

Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

  With all the recognition in recent days of the battle at Vimy Ridge in 1917, I have been thinking about my own trip to Vimy a few years ago. I didn’t go because I had relatives who fought and died there. I didn’t go because I am a war historian. I went because it was Remembrance Day. I was actually born on Nov 11. And I often like to travel to somewhere interesting around my birthday and have a nice dinner somewhere. But wherever I am on Nov. 11, I try to go to a Remembrance Day event. In 2008, Paris was the selected dinner destination. Before we went, my pal Mike phoned me and said, “Since we’ll be in Paris, what if we went to Vimy for Nov 11 this year?” I phoned Veterans Affairs to find out what would be happening that day – they told me that the big celebration would be on the Sunday prior but there would be a small service at 11, led by the student interns who were working there (what a cool job that must be…). So we flew to Paris and drove up to Arras on the 10th. Arras has been an important trading, financial and cultural centre in that part of Europe since medieval times. But in WWI it was only a few kilometers from the front line. We sat on a patio in the beautiful town square that evening and drank local beer and looked at the beautiful Flemish-Baroque style buildings – all looking like they were hundreds of years old and yet all mostly built or rebuilt after the end of WWI. The next morning we drove to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial just outside the town. As we walked onto the site, we passed the marker that shows the area that France gave to Canada for the memorial – so we were temporarily back in Canada. The size and dramatic impact of the memorial is hard to describe – it’s big and sits on the brow of a hill, so you can see it from a good distance away. The names of dead soldiers carved into the sides (an afterthought not enthusiastically embraced by the artist) go on and on. I thought of each one being a person with parents and loved ones and children (and many were not more than children themselves) who would never see them again. About 100 people gathered for the service. Mostly Canadian, I think – but a wide variety of ages.There were a few members of the military in uniform, a couple of individuals in civilian clothes but wearing the peacekeeping blue beret which we used to see on...

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Every Job is a Temp Job

Posted by on Mar 16, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

  Watching political shenanigans going on everywhere (admittedly, worse in some places than others), I am reminded of lines from old TV shows and movies that seem to have current relevance both in politics and in the workplace. Here’s my latest thought. Remember the movie “Dave”? Kevin Kline plays a guy who runs a temp agency and is a dead ringer for the US President. When the actual president is incapacitated by a stroke, senior aides bring Dave in to the White House to fake being the president so they can keep their corrupt plans going forward. At one point late in the movie, Dave says this about being president: “I forgot I was hired to do a job …and it was just a temp job at that…I forgot that I had…people who were paying me to make their lives a little better…I ought to care more about you than about me….I ought to care more about what’s right than I do about what’s popular.” I think this is a great mantra for interim management – to come in and get a job done, make things easier for people in the organization to keep making progress on strategies and goals, to help figure out and execute the right thing to do when faced with an issue or crisis. As an extra advantage, interim managers also provide great objectivity to any organization that wants someone with fresh eyes to see what is working and what isn’t. Interim managers don’t share existing organizational biases and aren’t worried about getting a promotion – we can tell you what we see and recommend changes, directly and fearlessly. But we rely on references from previous engagements so we have to do our work with integrity, with commitment and with respect. I think it’s also relevant to generalize this mantra to “permanent” jobs. The days of working for the same company for your entire career are long gone for most people. Even if a job lasts 5 or 10 years, thinking about it as a temp job helps you focus on doing the right work for the organization and your colleagues, keeps you from becoming complacent, allows you to stop worrying about what is popular and do your work with passion and integrity. End note: if any reader wishes to forward this to elected officials north or south of the 49 parallel to help them understand the parameters of the job they have taken on, be my guest!)      by Christy DeMont Information Technology Visit osborne-group.com for other ideas and opinions from our Principals on a range of topics. Their views are their own and do not necessarily represent The Osborne Group’s perspective. The Osborne...

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