Service of Holacracy

May 26th, 2015

Categories: E-Commerce, Employees, Management

 

Confusion

“Holacracy is a radically different management system that changes how an organization is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed. 300+ organizations are already running with holacracy”– http://holacracy.org/

 

 

zappos 1The policy at Zappos, according to Rachel Emma Silverman, has been to pay a month’s salary to any new hire who wants to quit because Tony Hsieh, whom Silverman called “the leader,” only wants employees who are “truly excited” to work there. From one to three percent accept the offer. Now, for the same reason, he’ll pay at least three months severance to any employee who isn’t comfortable with a change in management structure and 14 percent—210 people–accepted the severance. Zappos is an online retailer, originally headquartered in San Francisco and now in Nevada, that sells shoes and clothing.

In her Wall Street Journal article “At Zappos, Some Employees Find Offer to Leave Too Good to Refuse,” I first heard about Holacracy. Silverman wrote: “The exodus comes amid the company’s transition to an unusual management structure called Holacracy, in which employees essentially manage themselves, without traditional bosses or job titles.”

Leaving the companySilverman continued: “The company has acknowledged that the transition to this new form of self-management has been a difficult one. In March, Mr. Hsieh sent a 4,700-word memo to staff stating that Zappos, an independent subsidiary of Amazon.com, was taking too much time switching to this new management structure.” That’s when he offered the severance.

On May 20th, Silverman wrote a front page Wall Street Journal article, “At Zappos, Banishing the Bosses Brings Confusion,” which goes into the concept more fully. In the second article Silverman quotes 26 year old Brironni Alex: “I am managing the work, but before I was managing the worker.” Silverman continued: “Ms. Alex says the changes give her more time for a workplace diversity committee and to perform on the Zappos dance team.” Alex is also on the team to convert the company to the new management system.

The article was illustrated by a wall of cut-off neckties because of the retailer’s “no neckties allowed” policy. I saw this at a steakhouse in Dallas, Texas some 20 years ago so I was surprised a company that tries to distinguish itself by being hip fell for such a tired idea.

It’s unusual enough to motivate employees to stay by paying them to leave. It will be interesting to follow the success of the self-management style which is great for self-starter types that most people claim they are during job interviews. Entrepreneurial types would also excel.

Have you heard of Holacracy before? Do you know anyone who has worked in such a management system? Have you instituted a new system or worked at a company that did? What was it like? Do you think people make such changes to keep employees alert and on their toes?

confusing management chart

Service of Making the Best

May 21st, 2015

Categories: Attitude, Awards, Books, Compassion, Help, Live Performances, Music, Optimism, Thinking of Others

Photo: news.bbc

Photo: news.bbc

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out,” is credited to three-time All-American basketball player and coach John Wooden. I’ve chosen three examples to illustrate this great quote.

Patrick Donohue

Patrick Donohue

I first heard it at The Christopher Awards last week. If there is one person who took this quote to heart it’s Patrick Donohue who said it in accepting the James Keller Award, named after the organization’s founder. His daughter’s baby nurse shook the infant so violently that she destroyed 60 percent of the rear cortex of the child’s brain. That was 10 years ago. Since then Donohue founded a research initiative as well as the International Academy of Hope—iHope—the first school for kids with brain injuries like Sarah Jane’s and other brain-based disorders. It’s in NYC and he plans to expand to other US cities. 

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Carol Graham and Major General Mark Graham [retired] accepted Yochi Dreazan’s award. Dreazan was honored with a Christopher for his book, “Invisible Front.” The Grahams also illustrate the Wooden quote. The book is about how the Army treated the deaths of their sons. Jeff was hailed a hero after being killed while serving in Iraq and Kevin’s death, by suicide, was met with silence. Today the Grahams work to change the Army’s treatment of soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], to erase the stigma that surrounds those with mental illness and to remind active duty, National Guard, Reserve, veterans and family members that seeking help is a sign of strength. This summer General Graham and associates plan to convert two call centers into one which will be supported with private funding: Vetss4Warriors.com @ 855-838-8255 and Vet2Vet Talk @ 855-838-7481. The keys to their crisis prevention telephone program: Trained peers counsel and advise callers, provide referrals and follow up with them. 

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz is the third example in this post. A stranger to us, we attended his memorial concert at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College last Sunday. A passionate music lover with a special appreciation for Gustav Mahler, Liebowitz paid for the concert–Mahler’s Symphony No. 9–so that it was free to the mourners as well as to the community. He made the arrangements with Bard president Leon Botstein before he died. Tributes in the program described Liebowitz as “modest,” “kind,” “direct,” “generous,” “loyal,” “disarmingly unpretentious,” “delightful,” and “warm.” But he wasn’t always successful. This Bard board member went bankrupt when his first business failed. His New Jersey egg farm thrived until supermarket chains put him out of business. He earned his fortune in his second career as a Florida real estate developer.

Botstein wrote in the program, “Murray Liebowitz was a true gentleman. He was a man who enjoyed enormous success in business but one who never let success in life go to his head. We live in an age where money and wealth appear to be valued above all other achievements. They stand uncontested as the proper measure of excellence. To be rich, it seems, means that one might actually be superior to others. This corrosive calculus is one in which Murray never believed. He was without arrogance.”

Many face personal tragedy, devastating business reversals—and even overwhelming success—and make the best of the way things work out. Can you share additional examples?

making the best of bad situation 1

Service of Shaggy Dog Stories

May 18th, 2015

Categories: Cheating, Marketing, Promotions

shaggy dog 2

You may remember from a previous post the story my dad used to tell about a dog in a small French town who every time he visited the butcher would enjoy a pat and a toothsome bone. One day the butcher played a trick on the dog and he tucked the bone in the dog’s collar, on his back, where the pooch couldn’t reach it. According to Dad, the dog was insulted and never returned.

The rest of this post is also reminiscent of a recent one, “Service of False Advertising.” What’s in the air? It must either be the season or the economy.

30 percent offI fell for a “30 percent off winter coat dry cleaning” poster in the window of a place near my office that I frequented a lot last year. I was shocked when the bill was $17 to clean a simple no-frills jacket and asked about the discount. “That’s been factored in.”

Like the dog, I don’t plan to return. I don’t like being bamboozled. Arf. An upstate dry cleaner, Thims, whose prices have been comparable to this one’s charges $10-$12 [with no discount]. Previously the cost differential on any item was never more than a dollar or two. While rent and salaries are less in Dutchess County, a midtown Manhattan cleaner has a volume that far surpasses that of an upstate business.

And yet I keep falling for these things.

reams of paperI bought a few reams of paper at a major office supply store and sent in the rebate information [which I've done countless times before]. A few weeks later I got a postcard. It said that I hadn’t sent the correct receipt. [There was only one so it was impossible to make a mistake]. Perhaps they were counting on my not having a copy, which I didn’t. I was irritated about wasting my time, won’t be doing the rebate thing again and will also avoid buying that brand of paper.

Is the secret to not being taken to fall for zero promotions, rebates and special offers? Does a business that plays such games think it is following a clever strategy? Are there any legit ones?

Shaggy dog 1

Service of Marketing Slipups for Bud Light & Twitter

May 14th, 2015

Categories: Advertising, Marketing, Mistakes, Technology

  Oh no 1

Is there a single soul who hasn’t felt that heart-sinking feeling of “Oh no!” after clicking on “enter” or “continue” whether they’ve inadvertently sent an email to the wrong person, allowed spell check to have its way with them or incorrectly completed an online form due to a runaway autofill function on a computer.

sendSome missteps can be avoided with a diverse marketing team—I suspect the first example occurred because decision makers were all men. Others are due to computer glitches that will happen increasingly as corporations race to market a service with insufficiently tested technology.

Don’t Take This Lightly

Budweiser ClydesdalesErica Martell sent me “Bud Light Label Snafu Teaches the Value of Proper Message Vetting,” by Christine Birkner in Marketing News Weekly. Birkner wrote: “On April 28, Leuven, Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev NV pulled Bud Light labels with the message: ‘The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever.’ The label messaging had ignited a social media firestorm because some consumers perceived it as promoting rape culture.”

I don’t know about you but that was the first thing I thought of. The label was part of the brand’s #UpForWhatever campaign to appeal to ingratiate themselves with millennials with a devil-may-care approach to life. In addition, Bud Light created a beer festival in Crested Butte, Colo, a town they renamed “Whatever, USA.”

According to Birkner here were some of the reactions:

  • “A Change.org petition asked A-B InBev to remove the labels, stating, ‘The brand is blatantly linking their product to sexually assaulting people while under the influence of alcohol.’”
  • “The Center for Reproductive Rights tweeted: ‘So gross. Nope, definitely not #UpForWhatever.’” 
  •  ”Other marketplace responses on Twitter included comments such as, ‘Budweiser execs  should be ashamed,’” and,
  • “‘Maybe I’ll drink a bunch of @budlight & then drive a bulldozer into their corporate headquarters, since I’ll be #UpForWhatever.’”
  • “Twitter users created a hashtag in response to the label: #UpForThingsIExplicitlyConsentTo.”

Chirp

Bird with bugSpeaking of Twitter, in Social Media & Marketing Daily Erik Sass wrote “Whoops: Twitter Runs Ads Next to Porn.” Sass wrote that affected brands included Nielsen, Duane Reade, NBCUniversal, and Gatorade.

Sass credits Adweek, which broke the story, and continued: “The Promoted Tweets appeared in Twitter feeds that were clearly inappropriate, with profile names like ‘Daily Dick Pictures,’ helpful purveyor of all your day-to-day dick pic needs, and ‘Homemade Porn,’ which sounds nice and crafty. The naughty ad placements apparently resulted from a bug, and unsurprisingly marketers are suspending their campaigns until Twitter fixes the technical glitch.”

All male boardroomCan you share other examples of lamebrained marketing? In the Bud Light case, does it happen because the marketers are too rushed or, as I suggest above, all male? Given that Bud is now owned by a Belgium-based company, might it be an example of global marketing run amok? As for Twitter, in its rush to sell ads, did it jump the gun before its staff understood how to use the technology or was someone in the digital layout department not paying attention–simultaneously tweeting friends, perhaps?

Lamebrain

Service of Grownup Books for Children

May 11th, 2015

Categories: Awards, Books, Children's Books

 

MaddisFridge9781936261291

Eliza bingThe grownup subjects for books written for even the youngest children is a trend I’ve observed since I first wrote about The Christopher Awards and its winning children’s books in 2010. Forgiveness, hunger, ADHD, being an outcast orphan in Africa and dyslexia were topics for youngsters in pre-school, kindergarten and those aged six, eight and 10. These mature topics are moon miles from my beloved Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline series or Dick, Jane and Spot. The Christophers honor these hardbacks for young people along with books for adults, films and TV/cable programs and present the awards to authors, illustrators, writers, producers and directors whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Hope SpringsPersonal experiences inspired the authors to pick their topics whether Henry Winkler–the Fonz—who is dyslexic; Carmella Van Vleet whose daughter suffers from ADHD; Lois Brandt whose childhood friend’s refrigerator was shockingly empty and Eric Walters who founded and runs the Creation of Hope, an organization to care for orphans in Kenya’s Mbooni District. As for Nicole Lataif’s subject–forgiveness–who hasn’t struggled with this?

Are you surprised at the sophistication of these subjects for little ones? Do you think that topics covered in children’s books reflect their era? If this is so, how come some last for generations? What books you read as a child–or to your children–made the biggest impression on you?

###

Preschool and up: I Forgive You (Pauline Books and Media) by Nicole Lataif, illustrated by Katy Betz ; Kindergarten and up Maddi’s Fridge (Flashlight Press) by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel; Ages 6 and up Here’s Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too! (Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin) by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver; Ages 8 and up Hope Springs (Tundra Books/Random House) by Eric Walters, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes; Ages 10 and up Eliza Bing Is (Not) a Big, Fat Quitter (Holiday House) by CarmellaVan Vleet

9780448479972_large_Bookmarks_Are_People_Too!_#1I forgive you noon

Service of Clumsy Communication

May 7th, 2015

Categories: Communications, Elephant in the Room, Errors in Judgment, Uncategorized

Strong people

The three people who made these errors in judgment didn’t mean to offend—I’m pretty sure. All these examples involve volunteers.

Fifth Choice

Please helpA friend whose career is skyrocketing is counseling a fledgling group in her field pro bono. Several times one of the principals of this company has called and asked her if she can do something for them on such and such a date and when she says, “Yes,” the person replies, “Good. I’ve asked five other people before you so I’ll get back if none of them accept.” She is secure in her talent but found the communication insulting and irritating enough to mention. We now laugh because the situation has happened a few times since we first spoke about it and after the last, she told her contact that she’s done helping them.

Last Choice

panel of womenThen I heard about an organization’s committee co-chair who was looking for panelists among winners of a grant. She approached my friend, a winner, the day before the event, to see if she could participate. My friend knew she was clearly a last choice and said “no.” From the start the co-chair should have asked all the winners to attend—there weren’t that many–see who could come and then select her panel and moderator. The more the merrier: Their mingling before and after the formal discussion would have benefited the other guests who were attending to learn more about the grant.

Choice Words

I often identify the elephant in the room which is unusual these days–has always been in fact–and many don’t know what to make of it. If I’m on a board or a committee, I feel it is my responsibility to suggest a solution when most don’t dare recognize the problem. I know when and how to be deferential and polite and to carefully word what I write or say whether I’m suggesting a different approach or pointing out an error.

mistake 2I was taken aback when a person, in front of a third person, asked me recently to first show her correspondence I was going to send about a mistake someone had made. She said she feared I’d be too harsh. [Common sense taught me eons ago to be gentle when I want something/or a correction. It works.] This was not a client—I don’t make a move without client approval on copy and for decades my clients have trusted me to write appropriately worded missives. I was distressed that this person didn’t trust my ability to distinguish between offline private chatter and communicating with others. I sent the note, copying only those affected by the error—not this person [who was only peripherally involved]. The recipient was extremely apologetic as she realized she’d made a mistake—which happens. She immediately fixed what she could. As for my relationship with the distrusting person, my mother used to advise, “Bury the bone but remember where you buried it.” I’ll give it a try once again.

What causes some to take down others unnecessarily? Is it thoughtlessness? A feeling of power? A case of foot in mouth disease? A misunderstanding of the dynamic in a volunteer relationship? Have you been the target of such insensitivity? Then do you forgive–how many times–or walk away?

Volunteers

Service of Sticking to the Rules

May 4th, 2015

Categories: Competition, Fair and Square, Justice, Photography

camera 1

I read about an Italian photographer–Giovanni Troilo–whose first prize in the Contemporary Issues category was revoked by the organizers of the World Press Photo competition because he’d staged the winning images in his “The Dark Heart of Europe” series. Staging was against the competition’s rules.

First PrizeHenri Neuendorf reported in “World Press Photo Winner Giovanni Troilo Busted for Faking and Stripped of Prize,” on artnet.com: “In a statement Lars Boering, the managing director of the Amsterdam-based organization, said ‘We now have a clear case of misleading information and this changes the way the story is perceived. A rule has now been broken, and a line has been crossed.’” Neuendorf credited The New York Times with breaking the story.

What did he do? Troilo lit the back seat of a car in one of the photos of a couple supposedly making love. Turns out the man was his cousin. Another was staged in a Brussels photo studio, not in the town supposedly featured: Charleroi, Belgium. How was he discovered? Because the Charleroi Mayor saw his photo essay and objected to the negative portrayal of his town and observed that some of the photos weren’t even taken there.

styling photo shootWhat interested me was that other photojournalists felt he should have nevertheless been awarded his first prize. Neuendorf wrote: “New York-based photographer Yunghi Kim conceded ‘I don’t fault the photographer, it just seems World Press is having an identity crisis.’”

Do you agree with Kim–that there was wiggle room to let Troilo keep his first prize and that the competition’s judges were too harsh? Or was World Press Photo competition management correct in awarding the prize to the second place photographer?

no big deal

Service of Medical Care Going the Extra Mile

April 30th, 2015

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Medical Care, Medicine

Extra mile

J. McCarthy, who posted a comment on my recent post, “Service of Little If Any Assistance: Physician Admin Staffs Fall Down on the Job,” followed up a few days ago with another relevant comment describing medical care that he had just received from several doctors and their staffs.  It warranted a post of its own, not just to present a fresh perspective on medical care, but also because the woman who wrote the previous post made the most distressing point about how horribly she had been treated by several of her doctors and their administrative staffs.

He wrote:

I’m referring to my previous advice, “Do what a specialist with a national reputation told me to do. ‘If you want to get a good doctor, get an old doctor.’ Old doctors tend to have competent staffs.” The following story about what led up to the unsolicited, unexpected phone call my ophthalmologist’s most solicitous, crack, long-time nurse just made to me, might be of interest to your readers.

happy patient 3On a visit for my routine annual eye checkup, I told the ophthalmologist about something strange that had happened recently with one of my eyes. He took it seriously and gave me an even more extensive examination than usual. After it, he told me that there was nothing wrong with my eyes, but that he suspected I might have a circulation problem. He asked me if I still was seeing my longtime cardiologist who coincidentally is his patient as well. I said yes, and he picked up the telephone and called him.

Three days later, I was in the cardiologist’s office. We go back 30 years, and even though he practically has my heart memorized by now, he thoroughly examined me. (He took my blood himself as he always does.) Next, he had his nurse, who has been with him since he opened his practice, hook me up to a bunch of machines and do a series of heart tests. I’ve known her as long as him, and trust her absolutely.

Happy patient 4The next day, the doctor called to tell me that the tests had turned up nothing new and that, as far as he could tell, I did not have a circulation problem. Then, he gave me two choices: Either I could see more specialists and take more tests to double check, or I could do nothing and see what happened. I chose to do nothing. My doctor agreed and said that he would follow up with our ophthalmologist. I was satisfied and thought that was the end of it, but it was not.

Nurse on phone 1What did theophthalmologist’s nurse call me about? Her boss wanted me to know that he fully concurred with thecardiologist’s and my decision. That was a call  that did not have to be made. It was going the “extra mile.”

Incidentally, both doctors accept insurance and are all well over 65. Their nurses both have been with them at least 20 years.

Have you heard of doctors who collaborate with each other and their nurses in this way? Or is medicine more like Washington where the executive and legislative branches clash, and our senators and congressmen and women don’t cooperate with each other? Do you have examples of medical admins in today’s “rush-rush” climate who make your day rather than ruin it?

Great communication

 

Service of Time vs. Result: Is it Worth It?

April 27th, 2015

Categories: Details, Photography, Time, Value

clock 2

I wonder if anyone remembers my dinner parties of yore: After a 60 hour week at work I’d spend all Saturday making a complicated main dish from scratch. As I saw my guests swallowing the food which was gone in minutes, I’d wonder whether those hours of prep were the best use of my time. Would anyone know the difference if I’d simply roasted a chicken? Would they have had a better time?

An actor friend immediately related to this. It takes hours and sometimes days to set up what becomes just a few minutes of film. Does the general public get the nuances? Do they add up to an Oscar or a great review?

photog shooting living roomIt’s the same with still editorial photo shoots. You warn homeowners that it could take all day to get three good shots of a single room after a team styles and lights each to perfection. The homeowner is baffled. Do those who see the result in a magazine or online realize the effort that went into what’s on the page? Are the editors trying to impress their readers or other editors?

photog shooting modelA friend who works with models says some will tell her, as they arrive on a job, “I’ll be done in an hour, right? I’m meeting a friend.” She’ll tell them “Cancel your date; you’ll be here for hours.” The results are in catalogs and on Instagram and in fashion magazines. Had the session been shot in a flash would anyone be the wiser?

Too much time spent on a project must be treated like shoes that don’t fit: More than annoying but forget it and move on. Do you always spend the right amount of time for each task? Do you feel that there are some elements of a project you could deep six and nobody would know the difference? Are some projects time sponges and there’s nothing you can do about it?

shoes that hurt

 

Service of Auctions: Charitybuzz Says A Lot

April 23rd, 2015

Categories: Auctions, Charity, Customer Care, Customer Service

Auction

You don’t need to have skin in the game to find the sport of following auction sales thrilling; though to covet something and watch what happens to its price is exhilarating and nail-biting. Look at EBay’s success.

I wanted you to know about another online auction—Charitybuzz–that I became charitybuzz try thisintimately familiar with as part of a New York Women in Communications [NYWICI] Foundation committee to grow the scholarship fund. Charitybuzz is a brilliant business concept providing a seamless way to raise money for nonprofit organizations around the world from the African Rainforest Conservancy to the Zimmer Children’s Museum. The lots generally offer experiences rather than objects.

The partnership with NYWICI works well as the organization knows industry personalities–broadcast celebrities, editors in chief, CEOs of international marketing/advertising/PR agencies and cutting edge corporations for example—who generously give of their time. Wealthy bidders fly thousands of miles–and pay–to meet a star or business guru over lunch, breakfast or coffee for an hour or two or to give their son or daughter the experience of counsel from the C-Suite in their offspring’s dream industry. One of the lot headlines offers to ”Jump Start Your Career With a Summer Job at Publicis Worldwide North America.” A gift for the woman who has everything is a ticket to the Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year event. You have until May 5th to bid on the lots in the NYWICI Foundation auction.

NYWICI Foundation logoLast year this committee made $80,000 for the scholarship fund, after Charitybuzz took its percentage. It earns every cent. The staff introduced us to some top lots; kept meticulous records from past and current auctions to save us time; informed the 100,000 high net worth bidders in its database about our auction and continues to promote it—and that’s just for starters. Our contact was Logan Holzman, auction specialist, who is smart, responsive, and incredibly quick. She’s an unmatched multitasker and has a great sense of humor. We tossed hundreds of balls at her with hard deadlines looming and she didn’t drop one.

farm auction 1The first auctions I ever attended were on the prairies of North Dakota where it didn’t take long for me to learn that the fellows in overalls, when overalls weren’t fashionable, were millionaire farmers. I was an apprentice to a secondhand furniture dealer who took me with him to find the pieces he’d refinish and sell. There were no TJ Maxx stores at the time. The cheapest new furniture available was badly made, ugly and overpriced. Newly married with no budget for furniture, the solid oak chairs and tables were a good option. I left behind the last of my North Dakota Farmhouse Collection—the 50 cent chair–on a move two months ago. That name for the chair was a misnomer if you add the cost of the stain, sandpaper, steel wool and sweat applied to spruce it up.

Sotheby's auctionWhen I was an editor at Art & Antiques Magazine I went to countless auction previews and for years haunted auction house exhibits to see remarkable art and furniture destined for private hands. Along the way I’ve also bought art and antiques at my share of auctions—both silent and standard.

The first auction item I bid on and wanted so badly to own–but that got away–was a pew from an old church that looked a little like the one in the photo below. I also remember buying some amazing bargains and incredible furniture and accessories. How about you?  Have you followed, participated in or attended a thrilling auction?

The "fish" that got away.

The “fish” that got away.

 

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