Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Worthy Manifesto for Any Organization

This cuts right to it. While I can preach these sorts of cultural guidelines, coming from a guy who has run one of the world most successful hedge funds gives this a functional credibility that can't be brushed away.
Hat tip to  The Big Picture and to Farnam Street . The Farnam link will take you to the full piece.

Management Lessons from Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio, the sixty-one-year-old founder of Bridewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund, offers the following management advice. Dalio says “Taken together, these principles are meant to paint a picture of a process for the systematic pursuit of truth and excellence and for the rewards that accompany this pursuit. I put them in writing for people to consider in order to help Bridgewater and the people I care about most.”
“Two of the biggest impediments to truth and excellence are people’s ego’s and organizational bureaucracy. Most people like compliments and agreement, and they dislike criticisms and conflict. Yet recognizing mistakes and weaknesses is essential for rapid improvement and excellence. In our culture, there is nothing embarrassing about making mistakes and having weaknesses. “
“We need and admire people who can suspend their egos to get at truth and evolve toward excellence, so we ignore ego-based impediments to truth. We have a different type of environment in which some behaviors discouraged elsewhere are rewarded here (like challenging one’s superiors), and some behaviors encouraged elsewhere are punished here (like speaking behind a subordinate’s back).”
Think and act in a principled way and expect others to as well“all outcomes are manifestations of forces that are at work to produce them, so whenever looking at specific outcomes, think about the forces that are behind them. Constantly ask yourself, “What is this symptomatic of?”
If you don’t mind being wrong on the way to being right, you will learn a lot
“I once had a ski instructor who had taught Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, how to ski. He explained how Jordan enjoyed his mistakes and got the most out of them. At the start of high school, Jordan was a mediocre basketball player; he became great because he loved using his mistakes to improve. I see it all the time. Intelligent people who are open to recognizing and learning from their mistakes substantially outperform people with the same abilities who aren’t open in the same way.”

I have tended to point to fear as the biggest barrier to the kinds of necessary changes so many organizations need to go through, but ego and bureaucracy are highly related.
There is more here as well. Bridgewater--Culture and Principles

For those who are interested in joining our tribe (more on this to come), this is required reading!

News Flash! Canada Needs to Cultivate Innovation

Wanted: Culture of Innovation

Innovation doesn’t happen in the abstract – corporations have to manage for it. Successful innovation happens in four distinct areas.
Product innovation: The capacity of a firm to introduce new products and services ahead of competitors, to anticipate consumer needs or even to create them.
Market innovation: The capacity of a firm to decide to change its market, whether it’s geographically, virtually or creatively.
Process innovation: The capacity to change how goods and services are produced and delivered to reduce cost, improve efficiency and increase convenience for customers.
Organizational innovation: The capacity to convert creativity, market and customer knowledge and technology into marketable innovations.

I believe the organization is where we can best leverage our individual abilities to be part of a groundswell surge of innovation. The nexus of it is, we don't have to belong to business organization, or any specific organization to invest our social or intellectual capital. Rather, we can be part of a network that extends itself within the organization, where you, me, we can collaborate to create value and innovation.
I will be extending on this very theme in the coming days, weeks, months.
The question is, how can we create a solid enough network where we can further our skills, knowledge, connectivity in way that enhance the group, can extend itself within networks in collaborative ways where both parties benefit, and sustains itself?

Power Corrupts

Power, corruption, exploitation. Holdovers from the twentieth century, and the centuries that preceded it. And the very antithesis of what is going to get us through this century.
Where is currently one of the worst examples and practitioners of power, corruption and exploitation? You might be surprised.

The Shame of College Sports.

Its a very long piece from The Atlantic, but should be required reading for all of us who want to relegate this kind of organizational abuse to the history books. The practices of the NCAA and big business universities of college football and basketball in the U.S. have no place in a modern society.

For all the outrage, the real scandal is not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.

Don Curtis, a UNC trustee, told me that impoverished football players cannot afford movie tickets or bus fare home. Curtis is a rarity among those in higher education today, in that he dares to violate the signal taboo: “I think we should pay these guys something.”
Fans and educators alike recoil from this proposal as though from original sin. Amateurism is the whole point, they say. Paid athletes would destroy the integrity and appeal of college sports. Many former college athletes object that money would have spoiled the sanctity of the bond they enjoyed with their teammates. I, too, once shuddered instinctively at the notion of paid college athletes.
But after an inquiry that took me into locker rooms and ivory towers across the country, I have come to believe that sentiment blinds us to what’s before our eyes. Big-time college sports are fully commercialized. Billions of dollars flow through them each year. The NCAA makes money, and enables universities and corporations to make money, from the unpaid labor of young athletes. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Creating a 21st Century Organization

This is my big audacious dream. An organization that networks together investment management, capitalist enterprise, investors, management, workforce, venders and suppliers, customers, community.
The culture, the management philosophy and tools, the technology, the need all exist right now to make this possible.
With the right leadership, drive, determination and desire to become the model, the leader, in what an organization can be and what it can do, we can and will create this organization.

For myself, I am driven by a sense of purpose around defining what capitalism can be in the age of networks. A capitalism that can spread it's creative awards to those who participate.
A capitalism that not only rewards its core participants, but also looks forward to be part of solving society's most pressing problems.
A capitalism that can help create the vibrant, healthy social and economic society the future wants, the future needs. A win-win capitalism.

We're at the beginning. We're a seed. To grow, we want to attract the attention of those that can give this concept energy. Their social capital, their intellectual capital, their financial capital. Those that can understand the concept, and contribute their experience, their skills, their minds to make it better. To seed that culture of constant, never ending learning and improvement, a culture of growth.

A concept I am looking for feedback on right now is the idea of creating a investment fund, I am calling the North American Capitalism Investment Fund. I believe I have sound ideas around this, but it needs the expertise of fund managers who are looking for a creative edge in their investment strategies.

The Significance of a Socially Networked Organization

This for me illustrates the necessity for a socially networked, team environment organization. Protecting your top performers:
The Dark Side of High Achievement  (Hat Tip--William Reichard via Google Plus)

 In the movies and on stage, the leader usually fails because “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” a la Charles Foster Kane. Or, as in the case of Macbeth, the leader is tortured by thoughts of a sin for which he can never atone. In real life, however, many managers face similar problems even when they have committed no major sins and when their power is far from absolute. Indeed, becoming isolated and self-obsessed is something every business leader should fear, not just corporate titans but also middle managers and owners of small companies. To the detriment of their firms, their employees, and most of all themselves, many managers cling to the techniques that got them to the top long after those techniques have become obsolete.

One reason for this has to do with the personal attributes that lead to success within an organization, says Thomas DeLong, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. Characteristics such as a high need for achievement and a focus on task accomplishment, which are invaluable in precocious new employees, can lead to counterproductive habits once a person has attained a managerial position. High achievers, while intelligent and hard working, are often terrible at taking criticism and examining their own weaknesses. Driven by their need for tangible accomplishments, these people end up managing their professional images at the expense of their core skills and their personal relationships.
Culture matters. A socially networked culture matters more. A team environment is intrinsic to a socially networked culture. High performer sports teams know this. They protect their top talent.

This also illustrates the strength of a learning organization. Today's socio-economic environment is evolving too fast, is too chaotic, too complex for anybody's knowledge, skills and techniques to last long.
A learning organization understands this, and creates an environment where learning is part of the everyday experience.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back from a Self Imposed Hiatus

It's been six months of digging deep within myself to find what it is I really want to do with the rest of my life. I am 52 years old, I've spent the the last fifteen years of my life studying and learning, developing a role I can effectively play in helping create the kind of sustainable future we need to sustain a growing population of us humans with the resources we have available. Oh, and earning a living being a carpenter.
Out of that learning process, there was no position I was particularly suited for other than a consultant. A consultant of what? is a reasonable question.
The answer comes back (every time I examine it) is I want to help organizations to thrive in any kind of future social and economic environment.
As we cannot predict the future, by the very nature of this purpose organizations have to a certain self awareness, a certain awareness of trends, an aversion to complacency, and what I've learned as two stand out features:
A desire to lead.
A desire to innovate.
While this has always been true, as numerous others have written, it is not easy.
Groups, organizations tend to ossify.

I continually seek out material, seek out the people with the skills that can transform organizations out of complacency, to break free from ossification.

My personal barriers to playing a more active role in developing highly adaptable organizations are working full time in the exciting and demanding field of custom home building, as it has it's own demands of time and energy.
That in itself is not that difficult to overcome. What's more interesting, is my process involves a pretty radical change, and people natural resist change. This is inherent with all those (there are too many amazing people and firms that endeavor to create the changes we need for healthy sustainable organizations) who ply these same waters as I do. Change is hard!
It's exciting for me, as I get to experience the changes I need to continually develop in order to pursue my passion, and learn from those who share this passion.
This is to say, securing willing clients is a tall order.

I also have a passion for creating and building. Essentially, building homes has been a very satisfying way to create and build!
But at this stage of my life I want more, much much more.

The question became this past six months, where and how to direct this energy, this passion? How to best utilize and express my full potential?

It keeps coming back as: Develop and grow an organization that is the full expression of all I've learned to this point in my life.

An organization isn't, of course, a solo unit. It is a company of people with a purpose. As the organization I envision is a capitalist one, a profit is the key output.

To develop this organization, we need a team. That core. This tribe of equally passionate people who want to build the same thing, be part of this mission we are on.

The purpose of this blog, along with my Google+ account, is create this shared vision, and find the people who want to build it.

One of the core values we begin with is win-win relationships. Win-win actions. We win, our workforce wins, our customers win, our suppliers and venders win, our investors win.
This is a key insight into what we are building. We are network of those components. Our whole will be greater than the sum of those parts.