Posts made in January, 2014

Managing for the Unexpected –Understanding Emergence Theory In Business

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Great Leadership By Dan | 0 comments

Guest post by James M. Kerr:
Driving the types of significant changes that truly transform an organization is tricky business.  Contrary to popular belief, if you’re too conservative, you can end up with some unexpected consequences – that’s the theory of emergence at work. 

At the heart of emergence theory, prominent in such fields of study as artificial intelligence, climate modeling and smart grid energy distribution, lies the thought that complex behavior can emerge from the congregation of elements that are not found in the individual elements themselves – meaning any subtle change can bring about an unanticipated outcome from ghosts in the machine. 

The implications of the theory are far reaching, in that, it suggests that fixed deterministic models are not enough to make sense of the complexity that confronts us when implementing dynamic change within an enterprise.  So, as suggested in my most recent book, The Executive Checklist(Palgrave-Macmillan, January 2014), pursuing improvement for the sake of improvement is not a wise move.  Incremental change is too susceptible to the effects of emergence theory.

Rather, we should renovate only in order to strategically differentiate our enterprises from the competition.  This distinction is an important one to make because it serves to inform the decisions about which types of changes and improvements we should pursue.

To be the organization of choice, for example, suggests that we offer the right products, at the right price, through the right distribution channels while providing the right customer experience.  It does not automatically imply that we offer the lowest price or the best product in order to be “of choice”. Quite the opposite, in fact, it proposes that we possess the optimum combination of elements to make our enterprise stand out within the markets in which we compete.

That’s why understanding the reason for business renovation is so important.  For business renovation efforts aimed at simply becoming the least expensive provider or forming the most sophisticated product portfolio may be ill-advised.  A more appropriate approach may be to aim business transformation efforts at initiatives that yield the right combination of product, price and service.

The same can be said for differentiation initiatives derived through employer and investment of choice objectives as well. It follows that a subset of the renovation program attends to establishing the right work setting, with the right culture, and the right compensation models to attract the best employees and leading the organization in a way that delivers sector-leading financial performance to its stakeholders.

By making strategic differentiation the goal of all business renovation activities, organizations will begin to push for the right kinds of changes in the way work is performed and in the way the enterprise is run. In fact, when a business transformation program is designed with “of Choice” goals in mind, improvements in virtually all areas of an organization will result.

With that said, rethinking the whole process is the only means to get the edge needed to become and remain “of Choice” and be positioned to deal with any emergence issues that result as a by-product of the institutionalization of needed changes.  Here are some things to consider when approaching business transformation a whole process at a time:
ü  Processes will need to be reviewed and redefined, independent of current organizational boundaries.  Emphasis will need to be placed on performing the “whole job” instead of only specific pieces.  Artificial boundaries that promote a “silo” mentality (see next section for more complete definition) need to be eliminated.
ü  Jobs will be redefined.  All attendant responsibilities and commitments related to performing the “whole job” will need to be folded into job specifications.
ü  Managers will need education on how to manage the process to optimize results rather than managing the activities of people performing the work.  The game is won by gaining the expected results, not by micro managing the work of each employee.
ü  Projects aimed at reengineering selected business processes will be necessary to ensure that “best practices” and other quality standards are designed into new processes.
ü  Business Re-Design strategies will need to be adopted to continue the improvement effort on an ongoing basis.
ü  Educating employees about new organization designs, process definition and job responsibilities is essential in gaining buy-in and reducing feelings of friction or alienation that often come with change.
To close, it is imperative that we tackle the whole process when endeavoring to transform our organizations.  Incremental improvements will never lead to the sweeping changes required to enable the level of breakthrough thinking and strategy formulation required to stay competitive for years to come.

Indeed, incremental change is far more exposed to the effects of emergence theory than across-the-board redesign because wholesale redesign dashes what was there before and replaces it with a complete new system of operation.  That’s not to say that the unexpected may result, but, if it does it is more likely to be due to faulty design or implementation than the emergence of behaviors ruminating from ghosts in the machine.

About The Author:
James M. Kerr is a Partner at Blum Shapiro Consulting located in West Hartford, CT where he heads the strategic planning and organizational behavior practice. He is a recognized authority in corporate transformation, strategy formulation and business process redesign.

The Executive Checklist (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) is Jim’s fourth business strategy book.  It demystifies all of the elements needed for flawless execution and presents them in the form of content-rich checklists that are easy to understand and use.  The book is intended to be a comprehensive guide for setting direction and managing change.

Jim can be reached at or by calling him at (860) 231-6635

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How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: 3 Helpful Habits

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Positivity Blog | 0 comments

Step out of your comfort zone“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”
Brian Tracy

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
John Augustus Shedd

People often get stuck in mostly discussing or reading about making positive changes. Instead of spending that time and effort on actually making the changes they want in life.


One big reason in my experience is simply that it is uncomfortable to step outside of your own comfort zone.

So what can you do about it?


In this article I’d like to share three habits that have helped me to make it easier to step outside of my own comfort zone and to make real changes in my life.

1. Mix the small things up. Often.

This is an easy to do habit you can use every day if you like.

You can for example:

  • Try new music. Listen to music that you wouldn’t usually listen to or have never heard before on Spotify or a similar service.
  • Eat something new. We try to cook from at least one new recipe each week. It often makes for an interesting experience, a tasty treat for the taste buds and has helped us to find many, many new favorites in the past few years.
  • Read something your friends wouldn’t guess you would read. It can give you many new ideas and open your mind up to new perspectives.
  • Take another path home. Instead of taking the usual route home from work, school or a friend’s house take another path and see something new even if you are in transport mode.

Mixing things up in these small ways every day or several times a week will help you to change you perception of yourself from someone who likes to stick to the good old comfortable to someone who is curious and likes to try new things out and to step outside the comfort zone quite often.

And the very nice thing about that change is that it make it easier and makes it feel more natural to mix things up in other areas of life and to take steps outside of your comfort zone when it comes to bigger things than what to eat for dinner too.

2. Take small steps forward.

Making big changes can feel so scary that you start to procrastinate and so no action is taken towards what you want.

So instead, take just one small step forward. And if you come up with a small step but it still leads to procrastination then find an even smaller step and take action on that one.

If you want to get into better shape then focus on going out running or lifting weights for just 5 or 10 minutes a week at first.

If you want to improve your social skills then focus on just smiling and being kind towards one or a few people a day. Or simply have one small conversation a day where you are fully listening and focusing on the other person for a few minutes.

If you want to write and start selling your own e-book or course online but it seems daunting then do what I did. Take a smaller step and just create a very short e-book to give a way for free to new subscribers.

Take one small step after another to make the uncomfortable feelings manageable so you can keep moving forward and towards what you want out of life.

3. Bring a friend along.

A friend to keep you accountable to stick with it and to keep going outside of your comfort zone is a great way to make it more likely that the change you want to make will last.

So if you are going to a party where you know few people then it may be easier to bring a friend. Otherwise it may feel so uncomfortable to go that you skip it and spend your evening doing something else.

If you have decided to start going to the gym it is often easier to actually get going and to keep going there every week if you have a gym-partner that will give you a nudge forward on the days when you feel like just staying on the couch and watching TV.

And in my experience, having a friend that also wants to start eating healthier can make it a lot easier to stick with it until the new habit becomes the new normal for you.

Image by Graham (license).

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4 Ways Spin Harms Us

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Leadership Now | 0 comments

We all spin – just a little.

We all tell stories in such a way as to make ourselves look good or at the very least understandably wrong.

Of course there’s good spin and bad spin. Each play with reality a bit, but good spin is never a lie. It’s always on the level. It’s designed to highlight the positive and the uplifting. It opens us up to possibilities that were not readily apparent to us.

Bad spin is a lie. It misleads and exaggerates. It’s opportunistic; design to benefit the spinner. It distorts reality and narrows our possibilities. It’s short term thinking. It may benefit us in the moment but it spoils us in the future.

Bad spin harms us in a number of ways:

First of all, it demonstrates a lack of personal responsibility. Rather than facing the facts and dealing with them is displays our penchant for changing the facts to justify our mistakes.

Second, it signals that we are immature in our understanding of success and failure. We should celebrate lessons learned and communicate that mistakes are a part of the growth process. Bad spin communicates that winning is the only thing and is to be valued more than teamwork and support.

Third, it nullifies the feedback we get. The feedback we get is critiquing the spin and not the reality—it becomes delusional. Feedback based on spin confirms what we want to believe but it is worthless because it’s critiquing a lie. Only feedback based on reality is helpful.

Fourth, it distances us from each other. We become cynical of each other. We lose trust. We lose respect for each other. We want straight answers from each other but we are never sure if we are going to get it. It becomes more difficult to be open, transparent, and non-judgmental.

We crave smooth answers in times like these. Uncertainty makes us crave comfortable answers. Fear makes us accepting of reassuring rhetoric. But if it isn’t honest, it only dumbs us down.

We can avoid bad spin if we respect each other, seek the truth, welcome growth, and make ourselves and others accountable for what we say and do.


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Are You Too Hard to Reach?

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in No More Cold Calling | 0 comments

email_sigWhy doesn’t your email signature have a phone number?

A prospect recently left a voicemail for me and stated his phone number so quickly that I had to listen to the message three times from two different phones. I didn’t even get his full name. It was David “something or other.” I have no way of finding him on LinkedIn. I will try the two numbers I think he said, and maybe I’ll get lucky.

To sell successfully, we must make it easy for customers to buy. This, of course, means making it easy for them to reach us. If we make it difficult, they’ll go someplace else. Yet, in our email-obsessed world, many professionals don’t even provide clients with their most important piece of contact information—a phone number.

This baffles me, and apparently I’m not alone. In this month’s guest post, Brian Hansford, director of client services for Heinz Marketing, explains why he won’t buy from vendors who make him look up their phone numbers:

“The business world is enamored with social media and texting as channels to communicate and connect. But these social channels often prevent people from socializing and having live conversations.  Phone conversations are still important, more so than through any other channel besides face-to-face meetings.

What’s Your Phone Number?

I am amazed by how any professionals, at all levels, don’t use any kind of an email signature … ever.  No company name. No email. No social handle. And worse yet, NO PHONE NUMBER.

To me this is lazy and unprofessional. Leaving out email signatures is bad business, and it can hurt a customer’s experience.

Why Don’t You Want to TALK to Me?

If we are so focused on ‘engagement’ and ‘conversations,’ shouldn’t we be able to do that on the phone when needed? Phone conversations are critical for working through opportunities and resolving problems.

Email, on the other hand, can cause communication problems. Most of us have had an email exchange that spun out of control when a simple phone conversation would have cut through the confusion. And what about email exchanges where customers want to buy something or subscribe to more services? If they need to finalize closing details over the phone, an email signature with contact information makes it easy!

If I can’t get in touch with someone because I can’t find a phone number after a series of emails, I will find an alternative option, vendor, or partner. Sure, I could probably find the number on the corporate website or via Google. But why should I have to do all that when I’m a paying customer? Shouldn’t salespeople want to hear from me? And if so, shouldn’t they make it easy for me to reach out?

Do you have your phone number listed in your email signature? If not, why? It’s not hard to set up signatures for replies and forwards, and it’s super easy to delete it from individual messages if you want to do so.

Stop hiding from your customers. After all, if they can’t reach you, they might just find a vendor who makes it easier to connect.”

About the Author

brian hansfordBrian Hansford, director of client services for Heinz Marketing, is a 20-year veteran of the technology industry. Prior to joining Heinz, Brian was the chief marketing officer at Zephyr 47, a marketing-automation agency where he helped EMC Isilon win an 2011 Eloqua Markie award. You can follow Brian on Twitter @RemarkMarketing or Google+, and view his background on LinkedIn.

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The Incredible and Incalculable Power of No

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Terry Starbucker | 0 comments

the power of noIt’s so easy for a leader to say yes.

Its a simple nod of the head, or a “yep“, or an “OK“, or a smile and a “sure“.

And, we like to throw in an embellishment for good measure.

“No problem!”

Most ambitious leaders like to think of themselves as doers, so to turn anything down is akin to failing, or looking less than the awesome superperson that we’re supposed to be.

There’s something insidious at work here- fear.

We fear the “no” because of what we think the consequences would be.

“Oh, you can’t do this, can you – oh my goodness, you aren’t superperson!  You are letting me down.   You are missing the boat.   You’re missing out on something.  You, you, are just so….negative.”

Indeed, those imagined responses get us every time.   So much so, that we can’t help but utter this word.


But the fact is, “yes” gets us in more trouble than “no” by a country mile.

In the more human universe that most of us play in,  ”yes” is a verbal contract.  An assent to something I asked for, offered, or proffered.   It’s not a “maybe“, “possibly, if I can find the time“, or “yesbut I reserve the right to change my mind later“.

So if that contract isn’t met, it breaks something.   Something ever so critical to a leader’s effectiveness.


No“, on the other hand, may cause some disappointment, but we can get over that pretty fast.   Breaking trust is a different story.

It just boils down to this – we need to learn how to say “no“.

No” gives us the power to put our very best feet forward after the times we DO say “Yes“.

No” gives us the time to more deliberately choose the “Yes“.

No” gives us our best chance to be the great leader we want to be.

My mentor Bill Bresnan summed up the power of no so well for me many years ago:

“Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t do”

Great leaders don’t have to be a superperson.

They just have to be more human.

Lead well!

The post The Incredible and Incalculable Power of No appeared first on Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie.

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