Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 11 Jun 06 06:12
I'm not clear on what 'this situation' is.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Sun 11 Jun 06 08:49
Being a clueful person working under clueless superiors.
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Sun 11 Jun 06 13:58
Sharon -- What Carl said.
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Sun 11 Jun 06 14:02
SHARON: So we shared a terribly underperforming supervisor, J Michael. Not exactly clueless, but more concerned with managing up and staying around in a Theory XYY organization long enough to vest his pension than he was in making an effective organization. You did well as a manager in that organization for quite a while -- how did you manage J Michael to your section (and your own) benefit?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 11 Jun 06 15:17
Huh. I'd never really thought of him as being underperforming, though I agree with your description of his motivations now that you mention it. I dunno, it was never really a problem and I didn't end up dealing with him much. That organization hired a layer of management around that time, and we were given a fair amount of freedom to do what we thought was important. Unless we did something stupid, we were pretty much left alone. I was blessed with a couple of very good employees, so I looked good, and it didn't take me much work to put together a nice section with them. (In comparison to another person there I'm thinking of, who would work 12 hours a day and do a much less competent job, while I left at 5; I think time spent becomes counterproductive after a while.) I do remember the supervisor you mention getting on me about the condition of my office, though. Other than that, I pretty much gave the appearance, at least, of knowing what I was doing, and as far as that organization went, I did. Then I started getting grief from a higher level about why I was spending so much time and space covering that Internet crap, and I kept insisting that it was important, and then one day I made the fatal mistake of, when that person came up behind me on a Thursday afternoon to ask me a question, continuing to type rather than stopping typing to turn around and look at him to answer the question. Because of that, he decided I was rude, went around to the newsroom to see whether other people had ever thought I was rude, and before the end of the day I got put on probation for being rude. Then that supervisor you mention got put in charge of my probation, and he gave me the list of things I was supposed to accomplish to get off it. Since the list was essentially impossible, I coasted for the first two weeks of the four-week probation and then gave notice. Ironically, I'd been planning to quit to go full time freelance in January anyway, so what ended up happening instead was I went to Comdex on my own nickel and used it to launch my freelance career, which I did successfully for three years, til I got two competing job offers from other magazines and took one.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 11 Jun 06 16:41
I should add, the person you mention, I feel that his focus was primarily on operation, not vision. The person who told me to quit writing all those Internet stories, that was the vision guy.
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Sun 11 Jun 06 23:11
Sharon, that's pretty outrageous. What year was that?
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Mon 12 Jun 06 11:46
SHARON: You sort of half-defend J Michael, but really he participated actively in the sickness, did nothing to stop the Theory XYY behavior. He was part of the reason the organization was so unhealthy. Just to put it in perspective for others, this organization produced a lot of high-quality work. The staff was good. And vision guy could be very effective (though his vision wasn't very visionary). A lot of smart people working very hard even for a second rate management team can be very effective in the short term. Vision guy's sociopath-like behavior undermined it constantly, but it still basically functioned and delivered. Eventually, he got rid of enough high performers for self-indulgent (pulling the wings off dragon-flies to watch them squirm) reasons that the staff wasn't good enough (or motivated enough) to overcome the overhead of his XYY behaviors. This doesn't happen much in baseball. The last time I can think of was the 1954-1966 Boston Red Sox when owner Tom Yawkey ran his shop like that. But it's such a losing model for an org in an endeavour as competitive as baseball, you don't see it last long. But back to J Michael. You're right, he was the operations guy...just like a concentration camp guard who didn't actually hate gypsies or jewish folk, he was just making sure the "showers" ran on schedule. Without guys like him, though, the "vision guys" can do their thing.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 12 Jun 06 15:53
Gosh, that's really an overly harsh analogy, at least in my experience. vard, that was in 1988.
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Mon 12 Jun 06 23:44
How would you characterize the guy and his role, Sharon? It's really interesting to see you and Jeff discussing him from different perspectives.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 13 Jun 06 06:42
Well, like I said, he was the operations guy. He wanted to make sure the book got out every week, on time, with reasonable content, but he didn't have any particular investment in the *sort* of stories we should be doing as a whole. I think characterizing him as "I was just following orders" is overly harsh. I know that he sometimes felt alienated in that atmosphere as well. This was his day job, not his career. You know?
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Tue 13 Jun 06 14:46
I think most of us have worked with people like that and some of us have probably been people like that (or appeared to others to be).
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Tue 13 Jun 06 17:12
We're getting far away from MBB, but I hold J Michael accountable for two reasons, one general, one specific. The general one he was not a barista -- he was making really big bucks, well into six figures in current dollars. When an organization pays you that much money, you owe it "career" commitment (not "day job" commitment) whether you really feel that way or not. And his choices ended up costing the organization a lot. The specific one was just a transgression that crosses my moral line, which is he knowingly lied about an important personnel issue -- not to help the organization, but for his own personal comfort. One can't be an effective manager (beyond a very short period of time) if one makes a habit of perfidy.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 13 Jun 06 17:25
Ah. You know, I figured that you must knew of some incident I did not know or recall that colored your opinion. >choices ended up costing the organization a lot I'd be curious to hear more about that, in private if you think this digression has gone on long enough.
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Tue 13 Jun 06 23:48
>in private NOT ON YOUR LIFE. We can't just let you two take this offline! Jeff, I still want to hear about your clients and how they adopt/adapt your theories to their issues.
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Wed 14 Jun 06 09:36
STEPHANIE SAID: I still want to hear about your clients and how they adopt/adapt your theories to their issues. +++++++++ It's uneven. The most common adoption model is a client that gets the analogy when I present it, and is able to see the situation more clearly that way, but doesn't go on to develop MBB models of her own. My favorite engagements are when a client brings observations to the mix she wouldn't have had without the "shock" of the baseball analogue, and we use them either whole cloth or synthesized with my own tools. When I'm given a lot of latitude (I sometimes only take on a client when I can negotiate that in advance) I will inject a baseball model not usually found outside the sport or experiment with one. This doesn't happen as often as I'd like, but it does happen. Occasionally, nothing happens...the baseball analogy is either an emphemeral data point for them (acted on, then forgotten) or simply clangs off their cognates. We all know no one thing works for *everybody*, and baseball is one thing. This last, no-op doesn't happen often, in part because I listen to a person for a while before I try to communicate myself -- I am pretty effective at recognizing in advance who is incapable of learning by analogy. That gap is like color blindness -- when I was young and naive, I thought it meant "stupid", but there are people who just don't *do* any analogy. A few clients have been so close to the baseball models already that they find it easy to adopt others. (they are already Talent IS The Product places, and with a healthy appreciation for how important it is for management to make the staff successful, as a rule).
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Wed 14 Jun 06 11:36
I wanted to remind everyone that a "cheat sheet" of sorts for MBB is online at http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/mbm/ There's some promotional material for the book, some blurbs, and a great summary/series of excerpts that will give the reader the concept even if you don't have time right now to read the book cover to cover. Jeff, what about promotions? Are you doing a reading tour? I think I asked you above if you will be passing through "a bookstore near [us]" anytime soon. Does your publisher "get" this book and have a good handle on how to promote it?
It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Wed 14 Jun 06 12:46
Do you find that non-baseball people are able to get your metaphors clearly, even though they don't have a good grasp of the game?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 14 Jun 06 14:18
It's hard to believe that it's been two weeks since you first joined us, Jeff. This has been a great discussion and we thank you and Stephanie for being our guests. Though our virtual spotlight has turned to a new interview, that doesn't mean this one has to stop. The topic will remain open indefinitely for further comments. Please stick around if you can, and if you can't, at least tell us where we can see you in person at a reading!
Cogito, Ergo Spero (robertflink) Wed 14 Jun 06 17:47
Some of the MBB points and experience reminds me of the problems getting industry to adopt modern concepts of quality especially as it applies to management, particularly upper management. Perhaps this applies to Demings idea of profound knowledge among others as well. Any comments on these or other such antecedents? The baseball analogy, as far as I can appreciate it from the discussion, seems very powerful indeed.
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Wed 14 Jun 06 22:12
CYNTHIA ASKED Jeff, what about promotions? Are you doing a reading tour? I think I asked you above if you will be passing through "a bookstore near [us]" anytime soon. +++ Monday, June 19, 7:30 p.m. Black Oak in Berkeley on Shattuck It would be great if some of the participants here came to have dialogue or lurkers came to ask questions (or lurk). If you don't know Black Oak, it is the finest kind of bookstore with the finest staff I know if. CYNTHIA ALSO ASKED: Does your publisher "get" this book and have a good handle on how to promote it? +++++++++ I'd say "yes, pretty much so". The structure of the business itself makes it hard to promote a book that draws from two diverse audience groups. I think they've done a good job, a great job if you consider the resources the staff have had to work with. Collins and I disagree on one point (and remember this is their business, not mine); it seems like they feel a lot of a book's success depends on luck, that there's only so much a publisher or author can do and that much of it rests in the hands of The Fates. While I acknowledge fate plays a role (imagine if one's book was due to hit shelves 9/12/01), I believe what Branch Rickey believed: "Luck is the residue of design"...that either way, we have to behave as though our fate is almost all in our hands.
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Wed 14 Jun 06 22:16
Cogito, Ergo Spero said: Some of the MBB points and experience reminds me of the problems getting industry to adopt modern concepts of quality especially as it applies to management, particularly upper management. Perhaps this applies to Demings idea of profound knowledge among others as well. Any comments on these or other such antecedents? +++++++++ Deming is in the book (well, he was mostly cut for space reasons, but there's still a little bit of him). I need to address your point in detail and I'm about to go to the airport. I hope to answer your important question midday tomorrow. But quality (vs the usual quantity obsession) is one of the vital areas where baseball proves without doubt what works in a competitive system.
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Wed 14 Jun 06 22:19
It's all done with mirrors asked: Do you find that non-baseball people are able to get your metaphors clearly, even though they don't have a good grasp of the game? +++++++++ Many do and some don't. Some of the stories are mostly people stories. Some rest on adequate knowledge of the game's rhythms. I think all business books with real points leave some people behind, and I suspect this one does, too, as hard as a tried to make it flat out entertaining as well as useful.
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Thu 15 Jun 06 13:57
We'll look for you tomorrow afternoon or evening, jeff! Safe travels.
Jeff Angus (jeff-angus) Thu 15 Jun 06 17:55
TO REPEAT AND FLESH OUT THE response...Cogito, Ergo Spero said: Some of the MBB points and experience reminds me of the problems getting industry to adopt modern concepts of quality especially as it applies to management, particularly upper management. Perhaps this applies to Demings idea of profound knowledge among others as well. Any comments on these or other such antecedents? +++++++++ The classic legs of the Deming stance, rigorous obervation/monitoring/analysis before implementation, acceptance of change as an imperative, systemic thinking, stochastic/flexible approaches rather than cast-in-concrete autonomic solutions, are all standards in baseball. Deming probably didn't get it from baseball, but baseball was doing it before he got his first college degree. The diff between Deming's effort to diffuse these (baseball-like) practices to industrial organizations, esecpially publically-traded ones (as opposed to owner-operated) is the management, especially upper management, sluffs accountability, **AND CAN**. In baseball, you can't fluff the record, there IS no Enron in baseball, because the box score, the instant replays, the year-to-date stats, all make transparent who is doing what. Yes, upper management in most publically-traded companies reject quality because they can "do without it" and it leaves them less subject to accountability. In baseball, no one (outside of Kansas City for the last 5 years) can escape the reality of quotidian success or failure. In the end, though, we have to try for quality, and they way to push things in that direction, as I posted here earlier, is to crazy-glue accountability in every day in every way one can. Make sense? What do you think?
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