Summer’s Moving To Fall

Summer’s moving to fall
Teachers brewing coffee
Preparing classrooms

My wife awake before me, coffee ground, french press timed. Classroom preparations, lesson planning and coordination, so much effort this last week before school starts back up. 

Forget the thermometer, this shows the season’s change. 

An Element Of Efficiency: Slowing Down To Speed Up

Eienstein Quote.jpg

With all the work I’ve done studying organization and productivity systems, a common element: taking time to thoughtfully consider actions. In today’s day-and-age, it’s easy to get caught up in stimulus:response, on reactive reactions. Or, as the adage goes, “running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off”.

Taking time to:

  • Determine the scope of the problem
  • It’s nature
  • What really is the causality
  • Reviewing our priorities

These are all critical to developing the correct solution for a particular challenge. There are always multiple responses and actions one can take. Knowing which one corrects the situation without creating a worse one requires considering all these elements.

It’s so easy, especially in today’s hyper-sped world, to lose sight of the time necessary. The urge to “do something NOW” is so powerful, and it often creates more damage than solution.

Our progress moves faster when we aren’t spending time repairing damage our inattention to details creates.

Seth Godin’s: The Toxic Antidote To Goodwill

I’ve long admired Seth Godin’s writings and blog posts. Today’s post got me thinking, since it covers situations I’ve needed to respond to, and on many different sides.

The toxic antidote to goodwill

Seth points out:

“Anyone who has done the math will tell you that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust, spread the word and grow.

And yet…

It only takes a moment to destroy. Only a few sentences, a heartless broken promise, a lack of empathy, and it’s gone. Not only that, but the lost connection can easily lead to lawsuits.”

I’ve had team members act this way, seen my leaders act this way, and, most importantly, received this attitude many times: “It’s not my fault. I did a perfect job. Tough luck.”

It destroys connection. Word of mouth now will work against you. In today’s highly connected world, these sorts of slip-ups can go viral and bring you a great deal of negative attention. And, sorry, I don’t buy the “any attention is good attention”.

When I was at Starbucks, I was part of the Corporate Social Responsibility team. Environmental issues, business practices, and corporate charitable giving were key components of our work (though that’s not all inclusive). When asked once, what value we brought to the company, my reply was “being allowed to stay in business”. More and more people are expecting companies to live ethically (within a range of definitions of “ethical”, of course). Considering such things as communities protesting the building of Wal-Marts, it’s clear, to me, that companies are going to face expectations of behavior that they ignore at their existential peril. And expecting to wait 5 years before acting is probably the most fatal of all thoughts.

Over the years, I’ve had Milton Friedman’s statement “a business’ responsibility is to maximize shareholder value” presented to me many, many times. Though I my eyes roll at that (I’m firmly buy into the Triple Bottom Line engagement model),  I find the response of “what time period are we talking about?” to be the best. “Maximized shareholder value” for today? This minute only? Should the future ability to operate be sacrificed for maximized profits for the next earnings report? How many times has Wall Street rewarded such short-term thinking? Massive layoffs create a super strong quarter? Exciting! Except now the company can’t scale, or, sometimes, can’t even meet their current business flow. Considering the long-term detriment for such short-term decisions needs to be rewarded.

One additional thought with all this: the power of the individual. Sure, I can post a nasty critique of <insert evil company> on <Twitter/Facebook/Instagram> and get thousands/millions of views, have the “contact us” section of your website crash, and your phones ringing incessantly for days. But there’s the other side of this. The power of the empowered employee who chooses to engage, and solve problems. Sadly, it won’t be as powerful. It would be great to see “Oh My God, <company x>, your <employee name here> did <awesome thing> and our lives are so much better” end up with 1.5 million likes and RTs. But that won’t happen without a significant cultural shift. But that pushes you in the right direction. And if you don’t have a huge global presence, that’s the gold. Might actually be the only gold. Which, once tarnished, is so terribly hard to get back. You might not be able to make that investment in time/money/energy to repair before your company fails.


Food for Thought: Anil Dash’s “The Year I Didn’t Retweet Men”

Twitter's Megaphone

I’d forgotten about Anil’s post to Medium a “little ways back”, so I was able to look with fresh eyes.

“The Year I Didn’t Retweet Men”

I really appreciate his efforts to amplify responsibly. And have tried, over the years, to take the same idea to heart. I may not have Anil’s reach, but I have a significant online following. Significant enough that I feel a certain responsibility to use my platform justly.

I like how his efforts changed:

  1. the nature of his online interactions
  2. the flavor of his feed
  3. and how it changed his perceptions about the world
  4. made his experience on Twitter happier

Though not a fan of the whole “resolution” thing, and since it’s August, seems kinda silly anyway, I like the idea of making purposeful decisions.

I intend to be much more thoughtful about what I share. I have tried to avoid the meme-du-jour, and things everyone else is doing. I also have avoided any hate-retweeting. Our world has enough rage, including the things that drive me towards rage. I have been trying to focus on the positive, yet avoiding a Pollyannaish approach. Positive and effective efforts, change, thoughts: that’s what I try to amplify.

So, doubling down on this. Thanks, Anil, for the reminder and motivation.

Thoughts on my latest real estate journey 

As you may know, I took on a new role at the beginning of the year: managing feasibility and permitting for a builder. What a journey it’s been! 

I don’t know how clear the title is, but “feasibility” is critical to our company. Can we build at a profit? To state the obvious, in our culture, profitability equals survival. 

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service provides a form specifically for this. I’ve been asked a lot about it lately: most agents never use it. And they don’t understand what it’s for. 

The purpose: time to explore the components of build-ability. For some projects, say a custom home, we’re exploring whether the costs fit into your budget. Will state, county or municipal rules let you build at all? If so, can you afford it?

Construction is cleaner but more complicated. Can what you are able to build sell for for a profit? 

In Snohomish County, well, the whole state, we have challenges related to growth management. Important concerns, for the good of the community, and the ecosystem we draw our life from. I’ll get to that soon. 

That time I tried to get a job in Antarctica

Back in the mid-80s I came across a job opportunity in Antarctica. An expedition was looking for database managers. I’d just finished up a technical program for Information Processing. I’d built dBase databases, and pushed the information through Lotus, then used Word Perfect and (I think) Pagemaker to build presentations. I note some additional skills, like I’d converted an electronic typewriter so that it was a printer. I could print letter quality docs straight from my PC. In 1986 that was a unique thing.

I had a vision of the whole journey. Very wrong, of course. Laden with naivete. If I’d pulled that off, though…so much would’ve been different. 
I was certain I was a great fit for the job, and that I would get it.

I didn’t get the job. 

Back then, I was lucky to received a typed postcard (perhaps a simple 3 x 5 card) acknowledging receipt. Though I received the “No Thanks” letter a few weeks later, it was still pretty cool. The disappointment strong, yet without bitterness.

Looking back, it’s striking how much job hunting has changed. Starting with research. Now, with Google, I could’ve learned about the lead scientists, the focus of their research; I didn’t even know their names! 

The typed responses tell me they probably processed a handful of applications. I read about this in an article somewhere. There were no online job boards. A job board was, literally, a bulletin board with job postings on it. They evolved to binders in college placement offices, (and other spots, too). Nowadays, with the online job-search eco-system they’d have hundreds, if not thousands of applicants. An upside: the acknowledgement and decline processes should be fully automated. And the larger recruit pool gives them a better chance at finding a more specific skill set. But, still, thousands of applicants…

It’s striking how different life is now. But it doesn’t FEEL that different. Well, not until I look back. Not that much simpler, though, as opposed to the adage air “simpler times”. The complexities were different. I’m happy, for the most part, with the path of our evolution.