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  • Weekly Newsletter: February 8

    I collect articles from around the web for this weekly newsletter. It includes all the interesting things that I’ve seen over the week in management, leadership and strategy (plus any blog posts).

    You can subscribe here.

    Michael Porter

    This week in Leadership

    Culture Versus Morale: How To Avoid A Common Trap
    “Culture should be viewed as the Operating System for your company, because it’s characterized by the things you do and repeat on a regular basis.”

    Microsoft and the Case for the Insider CEO
    “Strong evidence supports the notion that a well-groomed insider is a key to sustained company performance. In my analysis of 1,800 successions, for instance, I found that company performance was significantly better when insiders succeeded to the job of CEO.”

    The ‘Moneyball’ Approach to Hiring CEOs
    “The biggest shortcoming of executive recruitment, the researchers say, is the failure to apply “Meehl’s Rule:” Never meet a job candidate until you decide to make them an offer. The late Paul E. Meehl, a psychologist from the University of Minnesota, advised using relevant, quantifiable factors to judge candidates. Instead, height, body build, gender, accent and looks often get considered, the authors note.”

    Eight Essential Questions for Every Corporate Innovator
    “So I’ll pose a question now: What questions should corporate innovators use to increase their odds of success? There are some classics out there, such as Peter Drucker’s (“If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we would start?”), Ted Levitt’s timeless contribution (“What business are we really in?”), and the question Andy Grove asked to transform Intel (“If the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?”). ”

    Christy Wyatt of Good Technology, on Minding the Details
    ” But people look for symbols, and they look for meaning where maybe there isn’t any. So now we’re overcommunicating. You have to talk about the little stuff as well as the big stuff, just to make sure folks aren’t running away with ideas.”

    This week in Management

    Unlocking the Power of Stable Teams with Twitter’s SVP of Engineering
    “This is Twitter Engineering SVP Chris Fry on history’s greatest example of successful hyper-growth, and the tactic that made it possible: stable team building.”

    Employee Management in the “Big Data” Era
    The main message ofThe Decoded Companyis that companies are missing a major opportunity for growth and profit—by not applying the same technologies used to identify, track, and sell customers to improve employee performance.

    The Secret to a Better Workplace: A Lot Less Sitting
    “Everyone knows that attracting and retaining top talent requires creating a work culture that keeps employees engaged. Sometimes that can be as easy as a walk in the park—or a meeting without chairs. If you want to promote a healthier, livelier workplace, it’s time to get your employees on their feet.”

    Yes, You Really Do Need to Deal With That Slacker on Your Team
    “Whether they intend it or not, slackers are productivity vampires, slowly draining your team of life. The worst of them blame others for their faults, maintain a toxic attitude, and even deliberately stir up trouble.”

    The Mommy-Track Myth
    “Workers with kids are just as productive as those without, according to a new study…. the more alarming wage gap might be the one between mothers and childless women: One recent paper found that women with kids make roughly 7 to 14 percent less than women without them.”

    The Scaling Lesson from Facebook’s Miraculous 10-Year Rise
    “Facebook’s organization kept growing, so we kept watching it for lessons that might apply to other situations. Here’s the main lesson we took away from its success: Effective scaling isn’t just about establishing the biggest footprint you can, and as fast as possible. It’s even more a challenge of spreading the mindset your great new solution requires.”

    This week in Strategy

    Strategy in a World of Constant Change
    “His point, of course, is that when entirely new, transformative futures arrive (like the mouse in 1965) their effects take a long time to become evenly distributed — typically a long, long time even in the supposed fast-moving tech sector. Yes, Amazon is utterly transforming the way Americans shop, but 20 years after it was founded.”

    Strategy is Dessert for Culture’s Feast. Innovation is the Main Course
    “Unsurprisingly, Booz found that 84% of executives believe culture is critical to their business success while 60% of executives believe culture is more important than strategy or their operating model.”

    The First Strategic Question Every Business Must Ask
    “What business are you in? It seems like a straightforward question, and one that should take no time to answer. But the truth is that most company leaders are too narrow in defining their competitive landscape or market space. They fail to see the potential for “non-traditional” competitors.”

    It’s Time to Put Your Strategy on a Diet
    “David Packard once famously quipped, “More companies die from overeating than starvation.” As it turns out, recent studies about dieting show that Packard’s clever metaphor might be more instructive than he ever imagined — and they can provide modern leaders with important lessons about planning and strategy.”

    Your stance on innovation depends upon where you sit
    “Do leaders in different levels of the organization have to lead differently? Of course they do. A line supervisor has very different leadership challenges than the CEO. That’s where CCL’s leadership roadmap is useful in helping leaders figure out how they can grow and develop as their careers advance.”

    Management.Disrupted is a blog about management beyond the production line. Thoughts on better management, leadership and strategy for knowledge work from Steve Pell.

    Visit the website at or follow me on Twitter @stevepell.

  • Weekly Newsletter: February 1

    I collect articles from around the web for this weekly newsletter. It includes all the interesting things that I’ve seen over the week in management, leadership and strategy (plus any blog posts).

    You can subscribe here.


    This week in Leadership

    How to lead in a crisis
    “Leadership is about focusing on that future vision instead of the past, while leveraging the lessons of the past to ensure you do not make the same mistakes while trying to reach that future vision. Crisis leadership takes all of this to a higher level. There is so much more at stake. In my world it may make the difference between life and death.”

    After 500 Years, Why Does Machiavelli Still Hold Such Sway?
    “The past few months have seen a flurry of celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Niccolò Machiavelli’s classic leadership “how to” text, The Prince. It may be five centuries old, but The Prince remains one of the most quoted leadership tomes of all time.”

    Trickle Down Intimidation
    “The same leaders who carefully craft inspiring messages for the frontline, may be undercutting their efforts by inadvertent trickle down intimidation. Fear is contagious. Leaders watch the level above them and take their cues on how to act and what to say.”

    Every Leader’s Real Audience
    “You deliver a big public speech to a group of potential investors who can make or break your results… But who else is listening most intently? Your own team of implementers. They couldn’t care less about ringing rhetoric quotable by future generations. They want to know whether to update their resumes or renew their commitment to the work.”

    Life is Luck — Here’s How to Plan a Career Around It
    “Daniel Kahneman has claimed the following as his favorite equation: Success = talent + luck, Great success = a little more talent + a lot of luck. Most of us can live with the upside of this observation: we tend to claim credit for good luck anyway. But the downside — the thought of our careers as the playthings of fate — is almost unbearable.”

    Noreen Beaman of Brinker Capital, on Accountability
    “One of the things I keep telling our staff — and this is something I had to do — is that you have to do two jobs before you get the next job. You have to do your job really well and start doing the next job a little bit by, say, raising your hand for a project.”


    This week in Management

    A Simple Daily Intervention Decreases Employee Stress
    “Stress levels and physical complaints declined by roughly 15% after employees were directed to spend 10 minutes writing about three things that had gone well each day, says a team of researchers led by Joyce E. Bono of the University of Florida.”

    Strengths, Weaknesses and Engagement
    “1. If your manager primarily ignores you your chances of being actively disengaged are 40%
    2. If your manager focuses on your weaknesses your chances of being actively disengaged are 22%
    3. If you manager focuses on your strengths your chances of being actively disengaged are only 1%”

    Why Most Of What We Know About Management Is Plain, Flat, Dead Wrong
    “The fundamental reason is that we are going through an amazing set of economic and social changes. The world has changed, but management hasn’t. As a result, what used to work doesn’t work anymore.”

    The Four Secrets to Employee Engagement
    “Line supervisors, not HR, lead the charge. It’s difficult for employees to be truly engaged if they don’t like or trust their bosses….That’s why it’s critical for supervisors to treat team engagement as a high priority.”

    The Ten (and a half) Commandments of Visual Thinking
    “Any problem can be solved with a picture. Strategic, financial, operational, conceptual, personal, and emotional: it doesn’t matter the nature of the problem we face – if we can imagine it, we can draw it. Drawing out our problem is always worth a try: even in the worst case – if no solution becomes visible – we’ll still end up with an infinitely clearer view of our situation.”

    HBS Dean Makes An Unusual Public Apology
    “Among other things, he pledged to more than double the percentage of women who are protagonists in Harvard case studies over the next five years to 20%. Currently, about 9% of Harvard case studies—which account for 80% of the cases studied at business schools around the world—have women as protagonists.”


    This week in Strategy

    Growth for the Rest of Us
    “The Boston Consulting Group studied the performance of 1,600 global companies with revenues over $1 billion… Over longer time frames, mature companies that increased their top-line growth even modestly (by 2 points or more) delivered shareholder returns 40 percent higher than the market average.”

    Are You Ready for the Second Machine Age?
    “When we look past the current business cycle, we are convinced that the next 30 years will deliver even greater innovation and economic bounty to America and the world. We’re in the early stages of what we’re calling the second machine age; the first was the Industrial Revolution.”

    81% of big firms now have a chief marketing technologist
    “this senior hybrid role — “part strategist, part creative and part technologist” and “broadly the equivalent of a CTO and a CIO dedicated to marketing”— is growing in popularity. Within large companies… 81% of them now have a chief marketing technologist role, up from 71% just a year ago.”

    Big Data’s Dangerous New Era of Discrimination
    “Big Data creates Big Dilemmas. Greater knowledge of customers creates new potential and power to discriminate… So where, in your corporate culture and strategy, does value-added personalization and segmentation end and harmful discrimination begin?”

    Transparency: The New Competitive Advantage
    “The value and benefits of such radical transparency are becoming a significant competitive advantage. Since disclosing their salaries, Buffer received 2,886 applications for job openings, compared to 1,263 in the 30 days beforehand. Potential employees are clearly seeing how this level of transparency and authenticity portray an environment they would prefer to work in.”

    Why the Future of Your Business Depends on Curiosity
    “The future will be less about money, power or size, but more about agility, networking and sharing. In order to survive, businesses need to grow to a permanent state of curiosity, making it a core strategic competence.”


    Management.Disrupted is a blog about management beyond the production line. Thoughts on better management, leadership and strategy for knowledge work from Steve Pell.

    Visit the website at or follow me on Twitter @stevepell.

  • Weekly Newsletter: January 26

    I collect articles from around the web for this weekly newsletter. It includes all the interesting things that I’ve seen over the week in management, leadership and strategy (plus any blog posts).

    You can subscribe here.

    This week in Leadership

    How to Create a Shared Vision That Works
    “This is a “how to” post – for leaders and team members who want to create a shared vision… This is the roadmap for the process I use to create a shared vision that not only inspires, but provides clarity on direction and ongoing guidelines for decision-making.”

    Using Neuroscience to Boost Your Creativity
    “That breakthrough idea you had that doubled sales? Your incredibly funny quip at the strategy meeting? Don’t get too full of yourself–you were probably just having a good day chemically… Shiv’s research focuses on the role neural structures play in decision making and economic behavior.” 

    The secret to creativity, intelligence and scientific thinking: Being able to make connections
    “The image makes a clear point—that knowledge alone is not useful unless we can make connections between what we know. Whether you use the terms “knowledge” and “experience” to explain the difference or not, the concept itself is sound.”

    Why Women Are More Effective Leaders Than Men
    “What do women do that creates this difference in leadership effectiveness?… When we ask them to explain why women were perceived as more effective, what we frequently heard was, “In order to get the same recognition and rewards, I need to do twice as much, never make a mistake and constantly demonstrate my competence.” 

    7 Ways Leaders Maintain Their Composure in Difficult Times
    “When leading – especially during times of uncertainty and adversity, crisis and change – you must avoid showing any signs of leadership immaturity or lack of preparedness that will make your employees feel unsafe and insecure.” 

    Why leadership-development programs fail
    “We’ve talked with hundreds of chief executives about the struggle, observing both successful initiatives and ones that run into the sand. In the process, we’ve identified four of the most common mistakes. Here we explain some tips to overcome them.”


    This week in Management

    Study: Management Transparency Motivates Employees
    “Management transparency is the top factor when determining employee happiness – (In the context of this survey, “employee happiness” is a concept similar to “employee engagement.” Suffice to say, employees in a positive mindset are generally more committed to an organization and therefore productive.)”

    Does Your Company Make You a Better Person?
    “The companies we call DDOs are, in fact, built around the simple but radical conviction that the organization can prosper only if its culture is designed from the ground up to enable ongoing development for all of its people. That is, a company can’t meet ever-greater business aspirations unless its people are constantly growing through doing their work.” 

    The cult of overwork
    “But what happened on Wall Street is just an extreme version of what’s happened to so-called knowledge workers in general. Thirty years ago, the best-paid workers in the U.S. were much less likely to work long days than low-paid workers were. By 2006, the best paid were twice as likely to work long hours as the poorly paid, and the trend seems to be accelerating. A 2008 Harvard Business School survey of a thousand professionals found that ninety-four per cent worked fifty hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of sixty-five hours a week. Overwork has become a credential of prosperity.” 

    Is It Time to “Repot” Your Career?
    “Fifty years ago, in his book Self-Renewal, John Gardner, the late former cabinet secretary… first described a career strategy he referred to as “repotting” as a way to stay engaged and innovative. The idea is that a career reboot not only helps prevent managers from staying in one position too long, being lulled into complacency or leadership fatigue, but that it also pushes leaders to keep learning, to see new challenges with a fresh perspective and ultimately find meaningful work that leaves a lasting legacy.” 

    Three Ways Your Company Can Attract the Right Talent
    “We’ve all heard how brutal the competition for top talent is. But some companies, like Google and Apple, hardly have to try, because top performers are already desperate to work for them. “Their pull is irresistible,”… because they’re not recruiting talent – they’re attracting it. So how can your company draw in the best employees, even if you’re not as famous or sexy as the Silicon Valley giants?” 

    If You’ve Just Taken Over a Team, Quickly Let Underperformers Go
    “The best way for a manager to be successful is to build a top-notch team. But when most managers take on new positions, they hesitate to act quickly in replacing poor performing incumbents. Months later, when reflecting on what they could have done differently, almost all of these managers say that they should have moved faster in making the tough “people calls.”

    Thinking Outside the (Big) Box
    “For every dollar of increased wages, one retailer that was studied by Fisher brought in $10 more in revenue. For more-understaffed stores in the study, the boost was as high as $28…Ton, however, argues that workers are not merely a cost; they can be a source of profit — a major one. A better-paid, better-trained worker, she argues, will be more eager to help customers; they’ll also be more eager to help their store sell to them.”


    This week in Strategy

    Five Questions Every Leader Should Ask About Organizational Design
    “A few years ago Dave Ulrich, a management thought leader from the University of Michigan, made a comment I found both insightful and profound: “Every leader needs to have a model of organization design.” Typically a graphic depiction of the organizational components to be addressed in a redesign (for example, McKinsey’s 7S model, which includes strategy, structure, systems, staff, skills, and so on)… Dave didn’t advocate any particular design model, just one the leader knows how to employ and one flexible enough to be applied to the range of organizational situations a leader faces in the course of a career.” 

    The Power to Decide: What’s the point of all that data, anyway? It’s to make decisions.
    “This anecdote suggests a way of understanding the era of “big data”—terabytes of information from sensors or social networks, new computer architectures, and clever software. But even supercharged data needs a job to do, and that job is always about a decision.”

    Strengthen Your Strategic Thinking Muscles 
    “Being more strategic doesn’t mean making decisions that affect the whole organization or allocating scarce budget dollars. It requires only that you put the smallest decision in the context of the organization’s broader goals. Nurturing a relationship, such as one that could provide unique insight into a supplier, a customer, or a competitor is highly strategic. Everyone has an opportunity to think more strategically.”

    The choreography of design, treasure hunts, and hot dogs that have made Costco so successful
    “Costco, the sixth largest retailer in the world, succeeds because of its adeptness in breaking the rules of retail common sense. Costco has no advertising for non-members, though contained in a vacuous space, they offer no signage, then when you check out they do not bag your purchase. On top of that, the Costco store contains a mere 3,600 SKUs… At Costco, if you want ketchup, you get just one choice, not 12. And all this comes with a membership fee; the shopper has to pay to even enter the store. But it works, and here’s why”  

    Do You Know What Makes Your Company Distinctive?
    “Your customers determine your differentiator. I often hear large companies claim that “leadership” or “culture” is their differentiator. But customers do not buy these; they buy the products and services that result from a great culture/leadership. If you believe your culture is your differentiator, ask yourself, “What does your culture make possible that is of value to your customers?” Or, how does your leadership translate into something that customers would say sets you apart? Your answers will provide critical insights into your unique value.”


    Management.Disrupted is a blog about management beyond the production line. Thoughts on better management, leadership and strategy for knowledge work from Steve Pell.

    Visit the website at or follow me on Twitter @stevepell.