Monday, February 28, 2011

That's The Way We Do Things Around Here

In Making It All Work, David Allen makes what I think’s an interesting distinction:

“Because what I teach is actually not a system but a systematic approach, it can be adapted…”

When I first read that (in context) I thought I knew precisely what he meant. Looking at it again, though – Do I really know the difference between a system and an approach? How about a methodology? A formula?

What got me thinking about this was a visit to the SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) Web site. I was following up after something I’d read last year, that Deluxe Corporation, one of the largest check printers in the U.S., was teaming up with SCORE to make its Counseling Methodology available to smaller businesses.

To my mild surprise, I discovered this time around that the words ‘counseling’ and ‘methodology’ have been chopped in favor of ‘mentoring’ and ‘program’. Hmmm. Mentoring Program strikes me as less structured, less prescriptive, less pushy…

I don’t know how much thought or debate went into the name change. But I think it matters, at least to this extent:

If you'd ask a small business owner to describe what her company does day-in and day-out in its efforts to be successful, there’s a good chance she’d end by saying something like, “That, in a nutshell, is the way we do things.” There'd likely be no references to systems, methodologies, etc. In this respect there's a disconnect...between typical small business owners and the mentors (or consultants or coaches or facilitators or advisors) who call on them.

What can be done about it? Well, if you're in that second camp and your mission is to help smaller businesses succeed, you can do 'em a favor by bridging the gap. Be clear about who you are and what you have to offer -- and learn to use their lingo. Down to the last word.

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For kicks, here's how some other thought leaders describe their offerings:

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Mind Map Of Sorts

It seems to me there are a lot of smart management thinkers saying the same thing: the old way of operating and governing businesses is no longer working (most convincingly communicated, in my opinion, by John Seely Brown and his BIG SHIFT team) but there's a promising and overarching new way that is. The questions they're asking and the solutions they're offerering are strikingly similar. 'S'far as I know, though, the smart guys I have in mind are relatively un-connected to one another. Would or could it be beneficial to bring 'em together as a group? That's what I've been wondering these days. Maybe this (below) will shed light on why:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Balancing Act

Where and when does a company get its best results? Les McKeown: in the Predictable Success stage. David Allen: in Captain & Commander mode. Either way, it's all about balancing freedom and order:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Can You Name That Impulse?

Just a quick, note-to-self-like post:

For years, Les McKeown saw what would later become his methodology for bringing sustained, lasting and predictable success to an organization – in his mind’s eye – as a statue:

“I’ve spent a lifetime ‘sculpting’ Predictable Success,” he wrote in his 2010 book of the same name. “My career has been a process of chipping away the confusion, misinformation and presuppositions to uncover the true nature of success hidden beneath.”

Reading about this recently reminded me of Buckminster Fuller’s Tetrascroll.

Tetrascroll tells the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It was written and illustrated for children, but for Mr. Fuller it also represented “everything I think and feel in mathematics and philosophy and everything else.”

I hestitate to call it (just) a book. The original edition was bound on triangular pages that were hinged on two sides. When closed, the whole thing formed a large equilateral triangle; when opened, it could be unfolded into a circle, a forty-foot strip and more.

A stone statue. A triangular solid.

It seems to me the impulse in both cases to want to communicate by means of an art object had to have come from the same place. I can’t quite put my finger, though, on where that place is. 

Can you?

And what the heck is it about wanting to make complex ideas simple? What roles do permanence, elegance, and even reverence play? Would the guy most people called Bucky back then get any satisfaction from Tweeting today?