Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

03
Jul
11

Change for the Change Catalyst

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile pursuing a new opportunity. I’ve moved to Madison and taken on a new challenge.

The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) is a 501 (c) 3 organization with the mission to make the Wisconsin manufacturing environment the best in the world. We help small and medium manufacturers stay competitive in a more demanding and global market. Our team brings a long-term perspective and great experience to everything they attack.  

It’s an interesting change for me. The WMEP’s mission and values align with my beliefs. It’s a true chance to make a meaningful difference. My whole career has been based on helping struggling manufacturers find new ways to profitability and competitiveness. These have always been single opportunities with minimal outside impact.  

This is an entirely different game. The MEP system has helped tens of thousands of organizations, while the WMEP has engaged over 35% of Wisconsin’s manufacturers to improve their operations. We have a tremendous opportunity to help these companies to grow their businesses and become more competitive – both in their present markets and creating future opportunities. It’s a great chance to test the skills I’ve developed. 

Buckley BrinkmanThe WMEP is a whole new game. My skills are being tested against the best talent in the toughest situations. The key requirements mean dealing with a whole new group of people: entrepreneurs, bureaucrats, politicians, and a variety of other people who can help the WMEP’s mission. It’s a much more public position than any I have had before; one that will make my moves transparent. The results expected are very clear: jobs created and dollars created for the economy.  

It’s a chance to grow and expand my capabilities in new ways. It’s a great new adventure and one I’m embracing the challenge and am looking forward to the new frontiers. How are you embracing the same challenges?

30
May
11

Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day is always a great day for me!  

Growing up, it was long weekends of playing at the Uncles’ farms, interrupted only by the reverential viewing of the Indianapolis 500. All of us were glued to the set, watching AJ Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, or one of the Unsers make a charge for the wreath and that long swig of milk. It was always a great way to kick-off the summer and endure the final few days of school. 

American FlagMemorial Day takes on a different tone for me these days. Appreciating history and the tremendous blessings we have in this country, it’s one of those days to pause and give thanks.  

On this day, it’s time to give thanks for all the men and women who made our freedom possible and keep our company strong. The line started with the General Washington and the improbable band of upstarts taking on the most powerful army in the world. It continued through battles on our side of the ocean as we “formed a more perfect union” by struggling with enemies from without and our own collective conscience in the Civil War. 

We ascended to world power status, aiding our allies in wars on several continents, turning back evil forces and setting the stage for events to play out in an international arena. That included forays into unfamiliar places on the map, backing unpopular causes, and all the time making it possible for us to live free and strong as Americans. 

HeroThe same holds true today as men and women, stationed around the globe stand watch for us. They face new challenges, new threats, and new opportunities. Like their predecessors, they make it possible for the rest of us to live in a country of eternal promise and endless possibility. 

Take a few minutes to think about what these patriots do for us…and say thanks! Every time I do that, the magnitude of the challenge hits me and fills me with a sense of awe and gratitude. Allow that feeling to fill you this Memorial Day! 

Oh…and have an extra hot dog for me!

24
May
11

Drop in Crime: What’s Up?

There was an interesting headline in this morning’s paper: “Experts are confounded by violent drop in crime across the U.S.” The most recent crime statistics showed crime at its lowest level in 40 years. The results totally baffled the experts (that’s always fun). They expected higher numbers due to the weakness in the economy and a lower incarceration rate. 

The experts have no explanations. The counterintuitive results also came in the face of large reductions last year. By all expert accounts, crime rates should be up sharply. Instead, the experts were left with no answers. 

Right above the crime story was this picture.

 

We were hit with serious tornados here in Minneapolis over the weekend. They ripped a six-mile path through the north side of the city. It’s not the destruction of Joplin, MO, but it has put a hole in a large part of the city. This is only one of a portfolio of pictures that show neighbors pulling together to bring their neighborhood back.

The same change is happening throughout our country. Tough times for everyone are bringing out the best in all of us. Instead of seeing the worst in each other, these times are causing us to see the best in each other and to reach out to those around us. More people, pulling tighter together, provide less space for criminals to operate. 

That’s one man’s opinion on the changes that are causing crime to drop. 

Oh…the only place in the country where crime increased across the board? 

New York City. 

Any theories on that?

 

 

 

27
Mar
11

Five Key Ethical Breakdowns

Businesspeople are facing an ethical crisis in their profession. Our public esteem is at an all-time low with no signs of rising. It will take all of us working together to fill in the hole we have made. Ethics have never been more critical – or more precarious. 

One of the issues we all face is our ability to assess ethics – our own and others – under changing conditions. In the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, Max Mazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel show how any of us can go astray. In their article “Ethical Breakdowns,” they outline five critical factors that can trip anyone up:

  • Ill-Conceived Goals. Inadvertently setting goals that promote a negative behavior. The pressures to maximize billable hours or revenue per customer are both examples of goals that can promote negative behavior.
  • Motivated Blindness. We can overlook the ethical behavior of others when it’s in our interest to remain ignorant. Baseball officials ignoring the spread of steroid use in their game is a good example of that phenomenon.
  • Indirect Blindness. We hold others less accountable for unethical behavior when it’s carried out by a third party. A drug company licensed one of its marginally profitable specialty drugs to a third party, then raised the manufacturing price, which in turn led the licensee to raise the consumer price. The company used the licensee to impose a 1,000% price increase, deflecting attention from itself.
  • The Slippery Slope. We are less able to see others’ ethical failings when they happen over time. Auditors may fall prey to this if a company’s questionable practices accumulated over time, rather than all at once.
  • Overvaluing Outcomes. We give a pass to unethical behavior if the outcome is good. A researcher with fraudulent clinical trial entries is more likely to be given a “pass” if the drug works than if it doesn’t.

We all face examples of these conditions in our everyday business roles. The article does a great job of pointing out how these biases can cause even the most ethical person to slip into an unethical position. It’s often not the clear-cut decision between good and evil that trips us up. Rarely is it that simple, clear, or visible. 

Almost all of us aspire to high ethics and the best of behavior. If that applies to you, I encourage you to read the article. You will be surprised how our internal biases and can throw us off that high road!

 

20
Mar
11

Ready Made Leaders

The need to renew capitalism is clear. Trust in businesspeople is at historically low levels and our economy is struggling to make a comeback. Structural changes are needed, as well as each of us to take a personal stand on right and wrong. We explored some of the ways each of us can engage in order to change our poor public image.  

A friend of mine also reminded me of some great examples in our society. These people are consistently ranked at the top of public perception surveys. They are unquestioned leaders, taking on the toughest situations. Finally, they contribute to our country in innumerable ways. 

HeroOf course, these are the men and women of our armed forces. They make personal sacrifices so that we can live securely. They willingly step into to the toughest situations and provide an immediate response to difficult and complicated situations. They serve all of us and make our lives better by doing things we could never do for ourselves. 

These leaders are now finding new roles as business leaders. Their training and experience allows them to step into key roles and quickly make an impact. They only require some specific subject matter knowledge to become valuable members of a business team and ready to make a difference.  

Not only that, they are ready to be great examples and show us how to make a difference as well!

 

13
Mar
11

Changing Capitalism — (Unintended) Part 3

The OWM checked in from his den.

 

The OWM Himself!

“You made some very good points last week and I agree with most of what you wrote.” He said. “I’m just not sure what I should be doing. What must I do to be saved?”

Here are three ideas:

  • ·         Help yourself – set high standards;
  • ·         Help fellow life travelers aim high; and
  • ·         Help a kid and show them the way.

Help yourself and set a high standard. I was talking with a friend last week about a man I work with and his extraordinary high standard of ethics. My friend commented that it was much easier to maintain a high standard of ethics than a lower one. “It takes away more of the gray areas.” He said. I thought about it for awhile and tend to agree.  

That makes the case for setting an impractically high ethical standard that stretches us to new levels. Set a clear standard for yourself. Two possible standards are the “New York Times” and the “If everyone…” standards. The “New York Times” standard calls for you to act in a way that you would be proud to see it on the front page of the “New York Times.” The other standard asks “If everyone acted the same as you, would the world be a better place?” Both of them are high standards and provide a way to measure and reflect on our actions. Aim high with your ethics. It’s much easier. 

Second, help your fellow travelers in life aim high with their standards. The first step is to set a good example by your own actions. It’s a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to helping others aim high. Next, engage and encourage your friends and peers to reach for their own high standards. Make sure you understand their perspective. Gary Cohen modifies the Golden Rule a bit in order to put this into a bit of perspective. We all know the “Do unto others…” part of the rule, but Gary changes the second half to read “…as others would do unto themselves.” That change forces us into their shoes. We need to understand their position, but refuse to accept anything but the highest ethical behavior from people in our personal circles. You can show other people that ethics do matter. 

Finally, help a kid and show them the way that ethics can make a huge difference in their lives. First, provide practical help. Be a tutor. Join a reading program. Serve as a mentor. Use these times to show them the high road and teach them how to make good choices. Then, encourage those good choices. Grow where you are planted – make a difference where you are. Move and get into the game! 

OK OWM, there are three ideas to put the ideas into action. The irony is that you taught them to me!

 

 

 

06
Mar
11

Changing Capitalism – Part 2

It’s time to refresh our capitalistic system. It is the greatest economic system ever devised by mankind and it requires constant attention and vigilance to maintain its relevance and vitality. These are times that demand that leaders step forward and take a courageous stand. 

At its core, capitalism depends on trust and leadership to survive and thrive. Right now, trust in business leaders is at an all-time low. We need to change business-as-usual in order to change the tide. If we don’t raise the bar and hold our profession to a higher standard, we will cede the right to control our future to politicians and regulators. 

Unfortunately, we deserve the ratings we are receiving right now. Our leaders have been involved in numerous ethical breaches from Enron to Wall Street. We have failed to truly embrace innovation in a way that harnesses all our talents and potential. We surrendered some of the strongest parts of our economy to foreign producers. As businesspeople, we have not done a terrific job in maintaining our world leadership. 

The Great Recession only emphasized these points. The downturn left us with high unemployment and slow growth. Our traditional growth engines have stalled with little opportunity for robust recovery. It’s unclear how we will grow in the future and people are looking for leaders who can make sense out of the present situation. 

It’s time for business leaders to step up and the downturn provides many opportunities. Managers can no longer masquerade as leaders: The present situation is too important and too fertile to be left to people looking for incremental solutions or actions that worked in the past. Stress opens gaps for genuine change and opportunities to engage in a new way. 

The true challenge to refresh capitalism is to raise the bar for all participants. It’s time to demand better performance on all fronts – not just the financial metrics. All of us must live up to a higher standard of personal performance and ethical benchmarks. It starts with each one of us individually answering the challenge. 

We live up to the standards individually, but we are judged collectively. Therefore, it is no longer acceptable to just look at our own performance and the performance of our charges. We must also accept responsibility for the actions of our peers and hold them to the same level of accountability. It’s no longer acceptable to say “I’m good” and leave clean-up to someone else. We are being judged as a group and we are only as strong as our weakest link. We can no longer stand by, wring our hands, and grumble about those who let us down. 

As leaders, we must demand more from the system. That means you and it means me. How are you making yourself better this week? How are you helping your organization live up to a higher standard? What are you doing to make that standard a norm in your community? 

It’s a difficult challenge…but no hill for climbers! Our future success demands that we set the new standard.

 Are you ready for the challenge?

 




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