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In Semi-Total Somewhat Moderate Disagreement

A series of recent events on my own Facebook experience has forced me out of blogospheric semi-retirement. I want to talk about how social media etiquette, specifically in this day and age of political and ideological posturing.

First and foremost, when you are on somebody else's wall, act as you would if you were on their front lawn or in their living room. Your Facebook page/wall is yours; their Facebook wall is theirs. Period. Do not pick fights or misbehave on another person's wall. There are, however, ways to express your views on another's wall. To do so, we need to differentiate between agreement/disagreement and respect/disrespect. These are not the same, and they should be treated as two different axes on the graph:


You'll notice by the tone of each statement or question on this graph, you're showing how you feel about the person's ideas as well as the person.

Another thing to consider is the audience on their wall. When you engage a person on their wall, all of their friends can see it. While that person may agree with you, their friends may not, so you need to be aware of a much broader audience. I recently had to unfriend and block a person from my Facebook wall (I'd like to think of him as a friend due to our shared history, but after seeing his true colors, I realized quickly that he was not the type of person I wanted to subject my other friends to, let alone myself) because he attacked one of my other friends over a rather trivial topic (not even related to politics) that I'd posted on my wall. What he didn't realize is how many people saw that, and what that did to his overall brand and reputation. I deleted his thread just to save him from himself.

Also, consider your assumptions BEFORE you comment. We all have personal filters that cloud how we see things. Do an assumption check on YOURSELF to see if you have your perceptions in the right place. This can best be done through messenger out of the public eye.

Finally, just play nice. Here are some basic rules of engagement. You don't have to compromise your own core beliefs to recognize that somebody may have different from your own.

You Can't Outmaneuver Heimlich

9a979fc9f1ebf37a3bac2c4d3d27b8d8In church last week, my pastor shared the story of Henry Heimlich, now 96, who for the first time ever in an emergency situation, last week had to use on a fellow nursing home resident the very maneuver he invented. He had demonstrated the technique thousands of times throughout his life, but in his twilight years, he was able to put it to the use for which it was intended. He was no longer just a teacher; he was a practitioner. 

This story made me think of a lot of people I've met on the speaker circuit over the years. They talk a good game about project management, leadership, social media, or other business principles, but it's been years since they were in the trenches doing this kind of work. All they do now is go around and talk about it. I wonder if some of them would ever survive in a real corporation having to do the actual work they talk about.

Some people have asked me why I haven't moved into full-time teaching or speaking. I guess there are still things for me to learn about the craft of accomplishment. I always want to be the speaker/teacher who has the best stories because I've continually lived out my passion. I still sit in cubicles. I still make project plans. I still attend meetings. I still deal with difficult people. I still review requirements. I still have to ask the tough questions.

What about you? What's YOUR "maneuver"? Are you using it every day and actually accomplishing tasks around your passion, or are you simply talking about it?

Fast Pass Plus

Open-uri20150422-12561-1l7bijo_995042b1Last month, my family took a spring break trip to Orlando. We wanted to capture the Disney magic one more time before our kids were out of the house and off living lives of their own. With a high school sophomore in the house, that day is coming faster than we thought. I've always had a Love-Hate relationship with Disney. One of my favorite jokes is that EPCOT really stands for "Every Pocket Cleaned Out Thoroughly." To be fair, Disney is a money-making machine. Their mission statement (2013) says "The Walt Disney Company's objective is to be one of the world's leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products." No where in there does it promise people will have a good time, or that its customers will enjoy what they consume. They just say they'll produce it.

Our experience this time at Disney was different primarily because of one thing. We've stayed on Disney property before, so that wasn't it. We enjoyed the transportation included in our package, so that wasn't it either. We purchased a park-hopper so we could move around if we wished, and that still worked equally well. So what was different? The Fast Pass. For those not indoctrinated to the Disney experience, the Fast Pass was this amazing trick to avoid long lines. It used to work that you got a Fast Pass to a popular ride when you got into the park. After a certain period of time (generally once you had used your previous Fast Pass), you could get another and another, and another throughout the entire day. A savvy customer could actually plan out their day pretty well and get to ride a lot with this technique. Great idea, right? So let's make it even better with the (drum roll, please) FAST PASS PLUS.

The Fast Pass Plus allows guests to schedule their Fast Passes several weeks in advance. However, once the rides are filled up, they're filled up, and no more Fast Passes are issued. Also, Disney advertises that you can get more Fast Passes when you get to the park. The part they don't tell you is that you can't reserve any more until you've used all the pre-scheduled Fast Passes. It seems everything about Disney - rides, food, activities - has become increasingly over-scheduled. And to be honest, a bit chaotic and stressful (especially if you're a project manager looking to get a vacation from scheduling tasks weeks in advance). At least with the old way, everybody walking into the part started on equal footing at the start of the day.

Believe it or not, this post isn't a dog-pile on Disney. My family still had an enjoyable enough time. We ended up waiting in line a bit more than we would have liked, but we bonded and more or less got to do the things we wanted.  The Disney app is a great tool to tell you wait times on lines, and we leveraged it quite a bit. The purpose of this post is to talk about efficiency vs. effectiveness. As Peter Drucker described it, "Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things." One could argue Disney is both efficient and effective. When you look at doing things right (i.e., using the fewest resources to produce a result), Disney is a master of efficiency. They pack people into their parks and keep them moving and going and riding and eating and watching and buying from park's open to close. And to Disney's credit, they are much more efficient than Universal (we also spent a day doing the Harry Potter thing). The effectiveness part is where I question Disney. Certainly they are meeting their mission, but how happy are the consumers with their experience? Really happy? How many moms and dads and grandparents left their Disney vacation thinking, "Wow, I can't wait to come back!" vs "Wow, I can't wait to get out of here!"? (Based on the number of child meltdowns observed, I'm guessing more of the latter. When my teenager pulled me aside to thank me for great parenting that prevented her from acting like THAT, I knew it was getting it her as well.) Ironically, some of the longest and crankiest lines were those at the very few Fast Pass kiosks around the park, as customers frustratedly tried to make changes.

Will Disney change? Doubtful. Tale as old as time, there will always be parents willing to fork out major dinero to create some magical experiences for their children. But what about your business? In the pursuit of efficiency, what effectiveness are you sacrificing? Have you become the Fast Pass Plus of getting customers through as quickly as possible, only to have those customers have no desire to return? Are you meeting all your project milestones, but churning your project team in the process and making them never want to work with you?

Ten Years and a Day

Tenth_birthdayBlogging isn't something I do a lot these days.

Ten years ago yesterday, I wrote my first post. I can't believe an entire decade has passed.

Ten years ago, I had a kindergartner and a toddler (today they are a high school sophomore and a fifth grader).

Ten years ago, I was not in a good place career-wise, and now I am highly content with where I am and my projects.

Ten years ago, I was an SUV driver exclusively; now I'm on my second sedan.

Ten years ago, we were living in a different house and going to a different church.

Ten years ago, the world hadn't even heard of a fictional place called Downton Abbey.

But some things haven't changed.

I still love to write.

I still own a Shih Tzu (version 2.0).

I still adjunct at my alma mater.

I'm still curious about my surroundings.

Will I keep blogging? Sure, when the Spirit moves me. My friend, Patti Digh, recently put me through my own little writing boot camp. Her feedback proved invaluable to my decision to put fingers to keyboard once again. There's a lot out there affecting accomplishment... and projects... and creativity... and office politics... and life.

Will people disagree with me? Heavens, yes! Civility has gone out the window as a certain candidate has proven again and again. Am I going to try to be civil anyway? Yes.

So a belated happy birthday to carpefactum.com

Let's see what another decade can do.


Corporate Culture: Live it or Leave it

I-Love-(Heart)-My-Awesome-Company-T-ShirtsCompany culture.

It's one of those fascinating terms that conjures different meanings for different people. We all filter it through the cultures in which we've worked. For some people, it's a wonderful term equated with teamwork and comradery and accomplishment. For others, it may mean drudgery and distrust. 

I've always been fascinated by culture, especially being a consultant. I've been exposed to numerous cultures inside and outside my home town. I've watched cultures shift over the years... some for the better, others for the worse. My current client has an amazing culture, and much of the credit is due to the fact they make their employees aware of the culture and their individual impact on it.

I think awareness is a key aspect of any organizational culture. I recently sent copies of my books to a friend. He's been reading my book, GUST, about office politics. Before he started, he offhandedly remarked that his organization was free of politics. Now that's he's halfway through the book, he's aware of the some of the signs of office politics he never noticed before. Sometimes, you need to be able to look at your own culture through an outsider's eyes.

I've also written before about toxic cultures, where people are blindsided by sneak attacks. If you're not paying attention, you miss a lot. The signs of your culture are there for you to read and interpret.

What is your corporate culture telling you? If you were to look at your coworkers, your furniture layout, your dress code, your meetings, your policies and procedures, and your general vibe through fresh eyes, what would you see?

Just some thoughts to start out your work week.


It's a Shame

ShameI was catching up on news the other day online and ran across the story of Adam Smith, the former CFO who was fired after his vitriolic Chick-Fil-A video went viral. He went from making $200K a year with a million more in stock options to being on food stamps. He had managed to get a job elsewhere, but when his new employer found out about the video, they also fired him.

About the same time as seeing the news story, as I was cleaning my shed (have to love post-move spring cleaning)I ran across Jonah Lehrer's book, How We Decide. It reminded me of the plagiarism and fabrication scandal involving this book and his newer one, Imagine.

It's interesting how things of such short proximity collide in my brain. A couple of months back, I read a thought-provoking piece by Jon Ronson in the New York Times entitled, "How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life." In this piece, he dissects numerous incidents of public shaming. In this day and age of social media, it's pretty easy to pick a metaphorical skeleton clean in a matter of seconds and retweets. A couple of paragraphs struck me, though:

Still, in those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.

Eventually I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized. (NYT 2/15/15, Ronson)

I know I've felt the self-righteous twinge of vengeance when I've perceived a wrong, whether against me or somebody else. In the early days of social media, Ronson nailed it: there was a leveling of social justice. But now it all seems so swift, so severe. And in this day of social media and mobile phones with video cameras, anybody and everybody seems to be fair game.

My bottom line is this: yes, there are people on this planet who do stupid, careless, thoughtless, and rude things. Their reasons are as vast as the stupidity of their actions. (Guess what? We all fall into that category; most of us are just fortunate enough that our actions weren't captured on camera or on social media.) Perhaps it's this Easter season and the thought of forgiveness is forefront on my brain, but maybe - just maybe - afford people a little leniency (or at least a meaningful dialogue) before passing judgment.

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