Open Letter to the KaizenBiz Community

Dear KaizenBiz Community,

It is with some sadness that I write this open letter. So many of you have participated and listened to our conversations on Twitter. Since I took over the chat four years ago, it has been an honor and a privilege facilitating the online chat, finding interesting topics and introducing guests. As you may remember, the mission of the chat was/is to apply critical thinking, enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding in a kaizen (incremental steps) sort of way as we gathered each week. However, it seems we have reached an end of a chapter.

Explored so many business topics and ideas

Over the last four years we have discussed various topics such as

There are many more topics ranging from leadership, branding, influence that are worth reading and taking the time to consider.

Our guests

We have had such interesting guests over the years that deserve our thanks for taking the time to present their ideas and engage with us as we applied critical thinking. Here are the guests who added so much to our knowledge and understanding:

It is with deep appreciation that I thank each and every one of our guests for the time they put into writing the framing post for their topic as well as being live on the Twitter chat.

Special thanks to the team

Over the last four years, there have been a few people who have helped make the chat work. First and foremost, a special thank you to CASUDI (also known as Caroline Di Diego). CASUDI has been an advocate and inspiration. There have been times when I could not be physically present for the chat and Judy Gombita and Lois Martin were able to substitute as chat hosts. Many thanks for your generosity and high level of competence! Bernd Nurnberger contributed by setting up our LinkedIn page where we can still connect. Many thanks to Cathryn Hrudicka for sharing each and every post on her blog. Her generosity and support is deeply appreciated. Many thanks to another avid supporter is Eric Bryson who helped announce the chat each week. Finally, a grateful recognition to Cathy Larkin who has been my right hand person as well as tech and Twitter chat advisor.

To a talented and brilliant community

Over the last couple of years, our community has changed due to many members becoming busier in their careers. While it is great to see so many deserving professionals becoming more successful, we miss their warmth, insight and expertise on the chat. You, the community, have been excellent participants in taking a deeper dive into all kinds of topics. Due to your intelligence and curiosity, I found myself learning about economics, holacracy and so many other topics. Besides meeting people that I am delighted to know, KaizenBiz has deepened my own skills and knowledge. It has been a joy to have people from Japan, India, Africa, Portugal, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Colombia, Mexico and the United States sharing their expertise, insight and opinions on so many topics.

That said, over the last six months, attendance on our weekly chat on Twitter has dwindled to just a handful of people. With that in mind, it seems time to put the chat on an indefinite hiatus.

Let’s stay connected

While the conversations may not be as regular as meeting each week on Twitter, it is still possible to remain connected and share ideas in our LinkedIn group. I also suggest that if you find or write an article that is the thought provoking type that we would discuss on one of our #KaizenBiz chats, that you post it on Twitter and feel free to use the chat hashtag. I hope you will reach out and let me know your thoughts about putting the chat on a hiatus due to low attendance. You can always connect with me via my website or on LinkedIn.

As of this Friday, 26 September 2014, we will not meet on Twitter.

My best wishes for your success, keep thinking and developing your skills and you!




The Skills Gap-Imagined, Real Or Something Else?

Over the  last few years, there has been a lot of discussion about a skills gap in workers. This has been particularly discussed in reference to US companies and unemployment and there seem to be opposing views. On one hand, employers across the globe are saying that they cannot find workers with the right skills. On the other hand, Peter Capelli, Paul Krugman and others state that employers (particularly in the US) are “whining” and there is no gap at all.

Dueling surveys

It makes you wonder if they are talking about the same thing when it comes to the skills gap. In a survey supported by the MIT project on Production in the Innovation Economy and the Russell Sage Foundation, it was noted that the skills needed in manufacturing were basic math, reading, writing and computer skills. The respondents reported little to no difficulty finding people to hire. A Boston Consulting Group survey from 2012 that focused on manufacturing also reported similar findings.

Maybe it is is not manufacturing skills that employers are struggling with? In the Manpower Group 2014 Talent Shortage Survey, it was noted that, globally, employers are reporting a skills gap. However, the skills are necessarily in manufacturing. This survey reports talent skill shortages in

  • skilled trades
  • engineers
  • technicians
  • sales representatives
  • accounting and finance staff
  • sales managers
  • IT staff
  • office support staff
  • drivers

That list goes beyond manufacturing. It is interesting to note that another survey of American workers conducted by Udemy listed specific skills that employees report deficits.

  • Computer/Technical skills
  • Management skills
  • Financial skills (including use of spreadsheets)
  • Administrative skills

Then there is the Fast Company article, “The Job Skills Gap You Haven’t Considered” which focuses on how much social media is part of doing business. More specifically, skills in information and communication technology are lacking.

Maybe it is not the skills but the willingness to pay for the talent

In Krugman’s opinion piece, he states that US employers are not willing to pay workers higher wages. When you look at pay levels globally, there is a great range. In some regions, wages are rising to attract talent while wages in other regions are staying steady or showing declines. There are also questions about whether employers are avoiding hiring older workers (which leaves a large number of people unemployed or underemployed) or preferring to hire immigrants because they can pay them less. It may be neither of these but a policy of austerity.

So, is there a skills gap?

It would seem so. When you look at the global picture, there seems to be a deficit in certain skills. If you base your argument strictly on the manufacturing skills, you miss the larger picture. Whether it is graphic artists having to rethink design because of 3D printers or the increased use of mobile devices. As James Bessen points out, graphic artists have had to adapt quickly from learning Flash to HTML5. For managers, there are expectations that workers have now about how they mix work and life which has an impact on how one communicates, where one works and how the work really gets done. Maybe the skills gap is not only one of knowledge but the ability to learn and adapt.

What is your observation of the skills gap? How does it vary globally? What are the most desired skills where you live and work? Share your insight and expertise on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, 19 September 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

 How realistic are the expectations of employers that workers will have the skills prior to applying for positions?

Who is most responsible for training workers in the desired skills-school/universities or the employer?

How would you describe the discrepancy between the opposing views on whether there is a skills gap?

With the various adaptations of technology in the workplace, how much responsibility does the worker have to maintain or enhance current skill levels?

How accurate is the perception that employers are simply not willing to pay better to attract desired talent?



Apple’s Story- Reinvention or Evolution?

Apple, Tim Cook, iPhone6, Apple WatchIn case you somehow missed it, Apple released the Apple Watch and the latest iPhone on Tuesday (September 9, 2014). One thing you can depend on with an Apple release is that people, technophiles and others, all are interested to see what features and capabilities the devices have. After all, Apple has a reputation of developing things you did not know you wanted.

This release is more than the devices

This release is Tim Cook’s release. Since taking the helm of Apple, Tim Cook has been watched and asked how he is going to fill Steve Jobs’ shoes. Jobs was was a singular person with his own talents and intelligence. However, for Cook, this may be an uphill climb, no matter how talented or intelligent he is. So, with yesterday’s release, people are watching him. The Wall Street Journal called the Apple product launch “Apple’s Tim Cook Makes Boldest Bets Yet With New iPhone, Apple Watch.” The tone of the article seems largely positive. Yet, a post on the HBR Blog Network asks if Cook is able to step away from Jobs’ influence and lead Apple his way. Another interesting perspective comes from this tweet:

Tim Cook’s Apple is less about ‘i’ and more about ‘we.’

— saschasegan (@saschasegan) September 10, 2014

Time may tell if Cook pulled it off. Jobs was larger than life and it may be how Cook creates his own perspective and, thus, his stamp on Apple that defines the direction, innovation and culture.

And, of course, the devices…

Apple always has an hard act to follow as its history is chock full of innovative products that revolutionized people’s use of computers. Functionality has never been enough for Apple. The design is a key element as well. In essence, the device must do amazing things and look good (even beautiful) while doing it. As many journalists and blogggers have pointed out, Apple was not the first to create a smartphone or a smartwatch. The question for this week’s launch is, “did Apple bring these devices to a whole new level?” The real innovation here may not be the smartphone or even the watch. It might be Apple Pay. This e-commerce capability enables users to put their wallet on their smartphones and there are a number of stores ready to accept payment.

But is this a reinvention or an evolutionary step?

For those watching Apple with the expectation that something uber-new is coming, there may disappointment. If you read the comments on some of the blogs, you would wonder how Apple has any customers at all but that is probably hyperbole. Apple is an established company with a reputation of creating cool and beautiful products. With Tim Cook as CEO leading his first big launch, there are doubters and avid fans. Apple could focus on smaller innovations rather than whole new classes of products. Apple could be setting the stage for something completely new and wonderful.

Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, September 12, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and add your insights and expertise about whether Apple is reinventing or evolving.

What is your initial impression of Apple’s latest launch?

 How significant is it that the watch is named “Apple Watch” rather the “iWatch”?

How does Tim Cook step out of Steve Jobs’ shadow and maintain Apple as an innovative company?

Apple has history of being innovative. How does this affect people’s perceptions of Apple’s new products?


Navigating the Challenges of Talent Management in 2014

talent management, human resources, HR, navigating challengesGlobally there are some interesting challenges for talent management emerging as we enter the last half of 2014. Deloitte’s 2014 Human Capital Trends survey reports and examines what organizations are facing as they develop their employees. Human resources is being urged to rethink their position as “people administration to a focus on people performance.” Thus, they need to increase their understanding of the financials and overal business goals and focus more on advising,training, coaching or other resources employees may need to fulfill their jobs.

What are the overall trends?

Jeff Schwartz, Josh Bersin and Bill Peltser wrote in their summary of the Human Capital Trends survey that the top ten findings are

  1. Leadership, retention, HR skills and talent acquisition are the top global trends in perceived urgency.
  2. Companies report low readiness to respond to the trends
  3. The largest capability gaps are reported in leadership, analytics, reskilling HR, talent acquisition and access and the overwhelmed employee
  4. Leadership is the top priority in developed and growing economies
  5. While global trends are similar around the world, program needs to vary by region
  6. Human capital priorities vary by industry, with one exception: Leadership
  7. “Excellent” HR companies and teams focus more on the urgent human capital trends
  8. Business leaders have less confidence in their organization’s readiness to deal with future trends than HR leaders
  9. HR and talent executives grade themselves a C-minus for overall performance
  10. Companies worldwide plan modest increases in talent and HR investments in 2014

Two things definitely stand out in these trends. The need for leadership and that HR has not been able to respond to the trends effectively.

What is getting in the way?

If you do a search on how people perceive human resources, the results come up with very negative descriptions. In a recent post on the HBR Blog Network, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic outlines what he believes are the reasons for the ineffectiveness by human resources and talent professionals. He cites the following reasons:

  • Being unaware of one’s actual company culture
  • Confusing employee engagement with happiness
  • Ignoring the toxic effect of office politics
  • Misunderstanding leadership
  • Relying on intuition instead of data

In fact, Chamorro-Premuzic calls these reasons toxic. He states that the best way to reduce or eliminate these obstacles is  a “rational, data-driven, and scientifically informed approach.”

Is it that simple?

Misunderstanding leadership appears to be consistent with the findings in the Human Capital Trends survey. Chamorro-Premuzic focuses mainly on how an individual company self-sabotages itself. It is not clear that it is as simple as that. According to the survey, each region weights the human capital priorities differently and human resource and talent professionals, as a whole, do not seem to exhibit readiness to respond. As human resources goes through a transformational process and regions show varying degrees of economic recovery, navigating the challenges of talent management will need both grand and localized solutions.

What do you think? What is the best way to navigate the current challenges of talent management? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and share your insights and expertise.

Since the global recession, has the role of human resources changed? If so, how?

What is the difference between employee engagement and employee happiness?

What are the greatest misunderstandings of leadership?

If you look at only business global trends, how are these misunderstandings of leadership affecting organizations?

What outside (social, political, economic, legal) variables interfere with an organization’s ability to respond to the global tends described in Human Capital Trends survey?





Holacracy: Is It Passing the Real World Test?

holacracy, management, ZapposManagement theories often reflect the times in which they emerge. The good ones withstand the poking and prodding that comes from people wondering if the theory works in the real world. Holacracy is one of the latest theories to emerge.

What is holacracy?

According to, it is described as a social technology. It was started in 2007 by Brian Robertson. While it is much more involved than I can describe here in a blog post, it has a constitution which provides detailed description about how an organization is governed, how and when to organize circles, decision-making and responding to “tensions.” The main point is to “get the work done.” It distributes authority throughout the organization via circles so there is no manager in the traditional sense. There is quite a difference in vocabulary as you dive deeper into holacracy.

Role: This is not a person. It is actually the task, function or activity involved in achieving a purpose on behalf of the organization.

Circle: A group of people organized to fulfill a function within the organization. These circles may be formed or reorganized at a governance meeting to meet the needs and aims of the company.

*Olivier Compagne of HolacracyOne was kind enough to clarify the definitions in his comment below. The Circle is not a group of people as I wrote. Mr. Compagnie explains that it is the group of roles and people can fill one or more of these roles. In my research, it was also stated that people may fill these roles in more than one circle. The people are called “partners.”

Governance meetings: These meetings evaluate how the company is operating and respond to any problems or glitches (termed “tensions”). A member of the circles, the Rep Link, can propose a change or protest changes to his/her circle. The constitution outlines in detail what procedures must be followed for the benefit of the organization.

*Mr. Compagne also kindly clarified that there are governance meetings for each circle besides the ones evaluating how the company is operating and responding. He also clarified that any circle member (partner) can propose changes

Partner: This person is a member of a circle and responsible for working a specific project, accountability and noticing problems or issues, “tensions.”

Rep Link, Lead Link, Secretary, Facilitator: These core roles in a circle are elected roles which serve to manage the project and keep it on time and organized, represent the circle in governance meetings and take care of any unfilled roles.

There is much more to this model. Essentially, holacracy provides a clear structure that supports the purpose of the organization and rearranges the hierarchy to ease the process of how the work is completed. Everyone in the organization is urged to participate in their circles, notice problem areas and respect the areas that are the responsibility of other circles. There is still a hierarchy even without the management titles but it does support all members of an organization to have a voice and decision-making authority.

Critiques of holacracy

Holacracy is probably not a clear management theory. It is really more an organizational system and tool for companies to meet their mission. Zappos is one of the most well-known companies adopting this system and it makes sense for them. Zappos has a history of adopting unconventional practices that work well for it. However, that is one company. Is holacracy a system that other companies can adopt successfully?

Might be better suited for small companies: This seems apparent since smaller organizations can act with agility and engage its employees more readily. There is less bureaucracy so a new system can be adopted and made part of the whole operation. Larger companies tend to have more institutional memory, the likelihood of disengaged workers and overlapping or duplicating systems in place.

It is a complicated system to learn: Despite a constitution that spells out how to organize and get the work done, it is not an easy read nor does it really define the terms well.

Management theories and models often don’t last: Holacracy could be a flash in a pan or even a model that only works in certain types of companies (think small, fast growing). It seems to depend on the workers being able to tolerate ambiguity while following a certain set of procedures at all times.

Buy in of the organization’s values: William Tincup expresses concerns that it could be more like a cult because you have to “hire to it, fire to it, live it…each and everyday. Bye bye values!”

Clarity of daily work and future direction of the organization: One of the areas holacracy is very strong is the delineation between the work on which each circle is focused and the strategic direction. Also the purpose of the organization is reinforced.

This is just the beginning

Holacracy is a new way of thinking about managment and it challenges one to consider how work and people are organized. It will be interesting to see over the next few years how Zappos performs once they complete the process of adopting this new system.

Are you familiar with holacracy? How do you see it operating in the real world? Add your thoughts and opinions to the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz Friday, July 11, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT.

What do you know about holacracy?

How could holacracy reduce the problem of disengaged workers?

Why would a Lead Link rather than a Manager be a more effective way to assign tasks and manage the work of the circle?

How do people design their careers in a holocratic organization?

Would you say that holacracy work work better in retail, tech companies, health care organizations or somewhere else?


KaizenBiz-What’s On Your Summer Reading List?

KaizenBiz, Tom Asacker, summer reading, booksWith the slower pace of summer days upon us (although some of the KaizenBiz readers are in winter), you might be thinking about those books you have been meaning to read. As for me, I’m looking at a copy of Resonant leadership : Renewing Yourself and Connecting With Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion by Richard Boyatzis. While it is always interesting to read the newest books, sometimes we  have to go back to already-existing list and pick one of those titles.

Speaking of the newest books…

Every year on Small Business Trends, there is a business book contest and the books cover a variety of topics. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Number Sense: How To Use Big Data To Your Advantage by Kaiser Fung- Fung has put a book together that explains  how to look at Big Data and figure out when it is really bad data…or useful

Innovation: How Innovators Think, Act and Change Our World by Kim Chandler McDonald- This is for all the #KaizenFolk who get jazzed about innovation. The books contains interviews with innovators from around the world and shares insights and encouragement.

Culture Without Accountability – WTF? What’s the Fix? by Julie Miller and Brian Bedford- As a big fan of accountability, this book caught my eye. Miller and Bedford put forth a process that supports a company putting an accountability system in place and what could happen without it.

The Business Of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us To Believe by Tom Asacker- Since Tom Asacker is one of our KaizenBiz community members, it is good to highlight his sixth book. If you’ve been with us on the chat, Asacker has shared his insights and perspectives so take a look at his book, get more than 140 characters.and discover your assumptions about leadership and how influence works.

Some suggestions from

This site is a great source of books for anyone interested in leadership. Every month, they have a list of books that they recommend. Here a few from the last months:

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph by Ryan Holiday- We all experience adversity and often look for a way to handle it. Holiday presents how using the philosophy of Stoicism can be a tool for overcoming adversity and achieving success.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown- Lots of us talk about having too much to do and too little time. McKeown’s perspective is that we need to follow The Way of Essentialism and do less but create more quality in our lives.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace- Catmull is one of the co-founders of Pixar Animation Studios as well as co-writer of this book which focuses on the process Pixar used to create unforgettable animation. Catmull and Wallace explain how companies can use the same creativity process.

These are the ones that caught my eye. What’s on your list for summer reading? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, June 27, 2014 and share your recommendations.

How do you choose a “work” book to read? 

What one thing have you learned from a book that moves your business/work forward daily?

What books are you reading right now?

What books are you looking forward to reading over the summer?









Shareholders Aren’t #1 Anymore?

Aspen Institute, shareholder primacy, Steve DenningIt is easy to get into the camp of those who believe that customers should be the primary focus of a business. After all, customers are the ones who spend their money on the products and/or services. Revenue and profit are always good for a company. It seems to be quite fashionable to talk about the customer being the most important person. Yet, you can’t deny the influence Milton Friedmann has had on defining the purpose of a corporation (we touched on it here and it comes up frequently during the live chat). It should be noted that Friedmann’s words have gotten over-simplified to simply state that the sole purpose of any business is to increase its profits. While there is more to his philosophy, there is also the sense that it does not really matter who is running the business as long as customers keep buying and dividends keep getting paid out.

So what are the perspectives on shareholder primacy?

The recent report from the Aspen Institute (worth taking a look at to see the different positions for and against shareholder primacy) lists them.

Arguments for shareholder primacy

  • Restricts powerful senior managers from primarily acting in their own interests
  • Shareholders tend to be long-term investors
  • Stock market is an efficient reporter of information that supports better decision making as it “entails the virtues of simplicity”
  • Everyone benefits when you serve shareholders
  • Provides a useful metric to evaluate corporate performance
  • Acknowledges wide range of owners

Arguments against shareholder primacy

  • Based on two false premises that shareholders are owners and ownership confers a financial obligation
  • Encourages short term decision making and actions
  • May be an outdated and potentially harmful notion in 21st century
  • Majority of shareholders are institutions and thereby not able to provide effective accountability
  • Makes the company the center of the universe
  • Most owners of corporations do not know nor possess the necessary amount of information about the organizations in which they invest
  • A sense of mission creates more wealth than the pursuit of creating more wealth for shareholders
  • Shareholder thinking and behavior does not account for natural complexity

The “world’s dumbest idea”?

Steve Denning has an interesting discussion about the Aspen Institute report . He’s the one who states that shareholder primacy is the “world’s dumbest idea.” He acknowledges that conventional wisdom puts the emphasis on maximizing shareholder value. If you have read his posts on Forbes, you are probably aware that Denning strongly states that maximizing stakeholder value is misguided and really the customer is where the focus should be.He critiques the report by stating they missed the debate by focusing on “fighting short-termism,”

The substantive debate is not about short-term versus long-term. It’s about whether organizations should operate as money-making machines solely for the benefit of managers and shareholders or as instruments which add value to society.


Despite Denning’s advocacy for the end of shareholder primacy…

Wall Street, business schools and conventional wisdom still heavily influence the focus on who benefits from the profits. Shareholders still hold  primacy. Maybe for larger organizations that are publicly traded, there is more pressure to show quarterly earnings. It seems whatever they do, everyone else does. So, are shareholders still number one or is this idea is on its way out?

What do you think? Should shareholders be the primary beneficiaries of wealth and value creation? Is it really “short-termism” that is creating such a problem? Join us on Friday, June 20, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to see if the purpose of a business is really changing and in what direction.

What is the purpose of a business/corporation? Why?

How does this change our conception of business’ ?

If shareholders still retain the power to hire or fire senior executives, why should the customer’s perspective even matter?




The Hidden Side of Negotiation

Negotiations, negotiating, emotions, nonverbal Negotiations are a frequent event in businesses. Ultimately, both parties want to walk out of the process feeling positive about the agreement. However, finding the details that will produce the mutual agreement is often the most challenging aspect of negotiating.

It starts with the handshake

Most business conversations, whether at a networking event or a negotiation, begins with a handshake. There is some interesting research from Harvard Business School that seems to point out that the handshake is a clue to how the participants view one another as well as the willingness to cooperate. Like many conversations, nonverbal cues are key parts of how the negotiation progresses. There may even be more attunement in negotiations because both parties are keeping information back from one another. Being able to get a feel (literally) for the other person can help foster a positive relationship plus clue you in on their emotional state.

Yet, there can be misunderstanding of the actual term, negotiation

Even when you are attuned to the other person, the discussion may take a form that is more like haggling. According to, the definition of negotiation is “mutual discussion and the arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement.” Haggling is defined as “to bargain in a petty, quibbling and contentious manner.”  According to Jeff Weiss, going into a negotiation in an adversarial manner is simply haggling because the focus is on the “win” and downplays the possibility of relationship. Like most things, there is a time and place for everything and haggling (or positional bargaining) is simply one choice. But Weiss says something else about the difference that is interesting,

Positional bargaining rewards stubbornness and deception; it often yields arbitrary outcomes; and it risks doing damage to your relationships. Most importantly, it causes you to miss the opportunity to get more value out of the negotiation than you originally expected. In other words, you won’t be creative and find ways to expand the pie because you’ll be so focused on exactly how to divide it up.

If every bargaining conversation is haggling, you run the risk of alienating customers, potential outside collaborators and colleagues/co-workers. It may be a more difficult discussion because you have to think beyond your own wants, needs and position but the discipline and preparation involved may yield more satisfactory results for everyone. The key is to know when to haggle and when to negotiate.

And then there are those pesky emotions

Weiss’ point about knowing when to haggle and when to negotiate point out how we can let our emotions run our behavior. When the stakes are high, it is much easier to get sidetracked by emotions. Shirli Kopelman goes into more depth about how emotions can work to the mutual benefit of both parties. She writes that positive and negative emotions can inform you about the nonverbal aspects, how they are helping or hindering and if there is any advantage to amplifying them. Interestingly, there seems to be a bias against emotions as there seems to be a perception that they cannot serve you in negotiations. But perhaps it is more of a misunderstanding that anything else. When we describe someone as emotional, we are noticing that they are in the thrall of frustration, sadness, anger or other intense emotions. This will certainly hinder the negotiation process. But even Stuart Diamond, who advocates being dispassionate, acknowledges that empathy and curiosity are powerful emotional tools that can encourage a better discussion and ultimately agreement.

Awareness is the hidden side of negotiations

The handshake, noticing emotions and paying attention to the type of discussion you are having with your counterpart are important ingredients to learning the hidden side of negotiations. It is significant that those lists of tips on how to negotiate better all say something about managing the “soft side” of the discussion. It may be the right time to haggle. It may be the right time to explore more about what is most desired from the negotiation (it may not be the final financial agreement). The awareness is the best tool you can bring into a negotiation.

What do you think? How well do we understand the hidden side of negotiations?  Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, June 13, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.


What is the biggest challenge in a negotiation?

To what degree should you focus on building a relationship before you begin negotiating terms?

How important is cooperation in negotiations? Why or Why not?

What are the risks involved in acting more relationally or authentically during negotiations?


No Customer Engagement, Workplace Sexism & Arguing With Friedman

Twitter, Twitter chat, KaizenBizAbout once a month, we do something different on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. It’s “Bring Your Own Headline”. It tends to be much more wide ranging and quick conversations about business ideas, events or news. What are you reading or viewing that made you stop and think? This week, we are going to move from topic to topic and see what big ideas are popping up. So, check out these stories and bring your own this Friday to the live Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am.

Customers don’t want to engage?

Gregory Ciotti has a provocative post on, “The Shocking Truth: Customers Don’t Want to Engage With Your Company.” Ciotti writes that customers don’t want to have conversations with companies and that a recent Corporate Executive Board study reveals three myths:

  • Myth #1: Most consumers want to have a relationship with your brand.
  • Myth #2: Interactions build relationships
  • Myth #3: The more interaction the better

But…but…but…many marketers tell you to converse with customers on blogs and other social media platforms. However, the research is telling us otherwise. Consumers think with their pocketbooks and values. Ciotti explains that creating brand loyalty comes from understanding what does drive customers to purchase, recommend and repeat. The two biggest driver is the sense of shared values (think Toms Shoes or Harley Davidson). The premise is that consumers will identify with a shared idea or belief and buy.

If customers can suffer from information overload, how much interaction is enough?

Ciotti recommends “making an enemy.’ To what degree do brands invoke a sense of group identity?

Is brand loyalty more likely to occur if a customer receives a discount and/or a sense of money well spent?

 Sexism is more underground?

With the firing of Jill Abramson from The New York Times, there has been discussion about women, gender expectations and the workplace.The conversation never really goes away and Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In has stirred things up as well. According to Rosalind Barnett of Brandeis University, there is a soft war against women going on around us. Fast Company has a recent group of posts that look at various ways women are penalized in the workplace for being…well..women. From the Mommy Tax to entrenched biases discovered through research, it seems that this tension is likely to remain a part of the workplace for the forseeable future.

How are gender roles expressed in the workplace?

What underlies the discomfort when a person acts outside of gender role expectations?

How do traditional gender roles benefit the workplace?

Arguing with Milton Friedman

Economics is one of those subjects that most people consider dry and esoteric. Yet, when we talk about corporate responsiblity, fostering start ups or which regulations should enacted and/or enforced, we are applying economics. Milton Friedman was an avid advocate for capitalism and free markets. He explained in 1970 that “There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.””There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” In practice, this means that a company can operate and comply with best practices and laws but not necessarily engage in corporate social responsibility.

According to Roger Martin, there is a problem with the logic of Friedman’s argument. Martin writes that the trade-offs  that Friedman objected to are unfounded and that “100% focus on shareholder value to the exclusion of other societal factors actually produces measurably higher value for shareholders.”  Instead,  Martin offers an Aristotlian perspective that shareholders get greater value when businesses offer excellent customer service, create positive work environments and engage with the community in a sincere and socially responsible way. There may be a straw man in Martin’s argument but there are many questions since the global recession about how free markets should be and if pure capitalism truly benefits all.

According to Friedman, increasing profits within the rules of the game is the one responsibility of business. How is this still true?

What are the advantages of free markets? Disadvantages?

To what degree must corporations live a “virtuous life” or is this more about individuals living this way?

How is our understanding of living a “virtuous life” changing capitalism in 21st century?

Time for your suggestions

The above topics are my suggestions for our lighting roundtable discussion on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. If something caught your attention this week, bring it the discussion on Friday, June 6, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. Remember to include the link and even  a discussion question.


Productivity – Just What ARE We Trying To Do?

productivity, organization, workTime management apps, list making apps, pen and paper, notebooks, sticky notes, ergonomic desks and chairs, quiet rooms…what do all of these things have in common? They are some (and only some) of the things people use to increase their productivity. While work productivity is an age-old and ongoing quest, there seems to be something curious going on with the current concept of productivity.

Is it the fault of Lean thinking, the Great Recession or something else?

There has been this line of thinking of somehow producing products, services or results with as few resources as possible. Some of this comes from Lean. And yet, more and more companies are trying to do more with less. There are workplace and technological trends that encourage this way of behaving. Nearly everyone has a smart device so it is easy to stay connected and work in other settings beyond the traditional office. So, if there are more tools and ways to be productive, why are there so many blog posts (yes, I’m guilty of writing those posts too) explaining how to be more productive?

The usual obstacles

One of the most frustrating obstacles is when you have to wait for someone else to complete a task before you do your next part. But there are some that are more personal like fatigue, procrastination, impulsively checking email or social media streams, illness, stress overload, multitasking, distractability and inattention. Organizationally, you may find your productivity hampered by poor communication, inconsistent policies, lack of coherent action plans, lack of appropriate resources and poor management.

Something more in play here?

I call it the “Cult of Productivity” but it could easily be the “cult of doing” or the “cult of business.”  There seems to be this mindset that we must be busy doing. Somehow we are all being encouraged to act like workaholics regardless of how high or low we are in our organizations. This ignores the growing body of research providing reasons and correlations as to why working excessive hours and days is counterproductive and unhealthy. According to study in Pakistan by Subha Imtiaz and Shakil Ahmad of COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, “Stress results in high portion of absence and loss of employment. The ratio of stress affectees in organization are increasing on alarming rate which effects both the employee performance and goal achievement.” Their findings are similar to results in North American & European-based research.It’s as if an infection is growing globally that is putting pressure on every one to remain at work or that blurs the lines between work and personal time. This Cult of Productivity affects not only the bottom line but hurts people’s lives.

Just what are we trying to do?

Workers at all levels of an organization are often expected to have high workloads and tight deadlines. Work is getting done. But if we stop to look at productivity, what kind of philosophy or mindset is pushing all of us to work as constantly as possible?

Productivity – do we really know what we are doing? And why? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

How do we define a “good day’s work” in 2014?

What does productivity really mean if many of us are knowledge workers?

What kinds of observations have you made about productivity obstacles?

Who sets the “rules” for how we define productivity?

If we spend so  much time “doing” and fretting about doing, how are we changing what a productive life looks like?