Young at Heart Achievers

clip_image002Several years ago, on a flight from London to Melbourne, I sat next to a soft-spoken Scotsman from Aberdeen, who was then CEO of a business unit of Siemens.

Long haul business travellers usually seek solitude. but on this occasion we engaged in what was the beginning of a friendship.  The humility and enthusiasm of this generous high achiever was uplifting as he talked about using role models to motivate his organization. 

One he enthused about was Cliff Young, an Australian who at 61 achieved the impossible to win the  1983  Sydney to Melbourne ultra marathon, a 900km run.

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Are you qualified to be CEO?

Free Aung San Suu Kyi

North Korea is keeping the heat up around Asia,

Myanmar is clarifying it’s diplomatic standing upon Aung San Suu Kyi.

And maybe we can have a chance to meet Iran’s first lady after the June election


What these events share in common is the question “Who’s going be the leader?”

For interest, I wondered what similarities these CEO’s have with leaders in business and what such people need to reach that position in their working career.

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Cutting out the Middle Man

clip_image002As large companies continue to consolidate and look at ways to rationalize they inevitably focus to cut out the middle man. The falling out of Singapore International Airlines with one of their major agents, Flight Centre in Australia, tells the story of this type of change.

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Is Being Social Good Business?

An example of a social network diagram.

 As social networking in business continues defining itself so rapidly we will see many large and small players circumvented if they ignore it.

 One thing I notice with many business peers, including CEO’s and business leaders alike, is they generally focus on what they understand well.

Social networks” as a relatively new phenomena is generally not one of them.

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Tackling the XY Generation Gap

Those who have come into management jobs in the last 18 years of clip_image002growth and affluence now have challenges.

Companies are now very lean and highly intent on remaining viable as they look to position for upturn when it comes.  The skills for pulling all this all together are in short supply.

I am not sure if the so called XY Gen awakening is so evident yet. But these guys are seriously racing to get skill sets needed to manage all this. I have no doubt that there is  a rapid maturing of the so called good times over indulging and conservative “me” generations that make up much of our business culture .

I am privileged as a real McCoy baby boomer, like many of my peers, to have done quite well in life, We have made the mistakes through some good and tough times and now find we can still add significant value and ideas to younger managers of today.

As source of great power for us is  the natural peerage of old boy’s networks. But adding to this now are  recent innovations such as online professional networks and social networking. LinkedIn for example has reconnected me with many former peers whom I had lost regular touch with.

I now connect and sometimes even meet up with a much wider circle of old boys for business and current issue discussions. It is like being in a private club where your past successes and sins are known and taken for granted as part of the journey of life.  The great thing is “me” is out as is competitive vying. Such self indulgence is not tolerated  so people actually make valuable contributions as they listen.

With such transparency and social circumspection the pearls of pure wisdom just drop out in most conversations. And many XYGENs are taking up these forums too and getting it all by osmosis as they quickly pick up the threads and contribute well. They are also naturally forming their own breed of networks as they realize the value more so than we ever could.

In a meeting for breakfast recently I joined one such old boy’s network, for a comfortable continuance that has met for years. Discussions were about stability issues and business and personal ongoing prosperity. Double edged and quite eclectic interaction was only punctuated  by plates clattering and “more coffee Sir”.  From this peer meeting I  left my mates with a sense, that for many of us BB, time is not quite right to let go of  the reins.

At that breakfast we discussed many things like managers ability to reincarnate themselves from acquisition to  restructure mode; from asset stripper to asset preservationist; and from strategic planner to a strategic implementer and so on. We also discussed the value of high risk investment of training  human resources who invariable left as they were coming of age. We also covered things like basic skills and willingness to do things. Consensus was clear that a plethora of ready-made skills of small contracting teams now also give us better options.

Many of these skills, being movers and shakers in their time who can still make it happen, are now keen to rejoin a team and work for a steady fee to bring in results. Hence the choice is there at least in the short term to be able to chose from the “best” without the “invest”.

We also discussed the world wide latency that is evident generally in people’s ability to plan and change and move on new strategies. A consensus also offered is that this is now limited by relentless focus on process automation and wide use of cheaper process labour that discourages initiative and innovative thinking. The  knowledge workers and middle management who are responsible for now are much more skilled at concentrating on getting logical efficiencies and KPI driven results so a large gap has opened on innovation.

Looking forward with these work practices  and markets changing rapidly, we also pondered the folly that conservative XYGENs, making up much of the middle managements, may be  displacing  aging experience that is flexible and still current and comes without attitude and  and often at lower cost to make it happen.

So seems as business leaders we need to rethink and fix this problem if our businesses are to survive another generation.  Our XYGENS must plan well the takeover completely as the old guys let go or drop off the perch.

What we read in April 2009

rapheastman1How can we take holidays in the middle of recession. Just do it, I say and why not if you can get away with it?  It is is a great thing but you sure come back to earth when you find it  all there waiting for you. But I am back now and here is a quick round up the last month and some stuff on whats’ to come.



My  Quote for this month

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.    – Peter Drucker

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Last month over 7000 visitors come to read us and over 60% who stayed over.  As I am wrting this there are 251 people visiting now according to our blog meter. So it looks like we got something going which we  hope we  can keep up!!

Here is what we wrote about:

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In scope or not?

BAGHDAD - FEBRUARY 16: Representative from al-...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

This week, I had a meeting with the finance depattment of client to review their  requirements for a project to change their Business Repoting process. Turns out that most of the points we asked were responded with “please put it as an option in the proposal”. What this indicates is that clients don’t know what they want at all and go fishing. Continue reading

Asian Economic future: Australia getting it in perspective!

Krung Thep Maha Nakhon
Image via Wikipedia

“Our economic future is increasingly underwritten by the rise of Asia.”

It is interesting in Asia where lifestyles are good, the flow on economic slowdown has been less severe.

Something must be different?

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How was it done in 1957 & now?

imageDo things really change or is it the way we see it? 


To  those who knew how things were in 1957 it may have seemed that the  life was simple but it was not always easy. But considering it now maybe then it was a much better deal. 

I wonder if it is possible to get that back and still keep the best of both worlds. Should we  try to and if so how? 

“Work Hard Play Hard” was our school motto at East Ivanhoe Primary School in Melbourne Australia. It still looks the same to me now as it did in 1957 when I was in Grade 4 there. So what has really changed? 

Many of you may have seen this study or something similar. It is a lighthearted look at how the very same scenario is managed in two very different eras. 

Now read on and enjoy !!! 

Scenario 1: Jack goes rabbit shooting before school and pulls into school parking lot with rifle in gun rack.

1957 – Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack’s rifle,  goes to his car and gets his rifle & chats with Jack about guns. 2007 – School goes into lock down, Star Force called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his Ute or gun again.. Counsellors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 2 : Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1957 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins.  Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies. 2007 – Police called arrests Johnny and Mark.   Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it. Both children go to anger management programs for 3 months. School board hold meeting to implement bullying prevention programs.

Scenario 3: Robbie won’t be still in class disrupts other students.

1957 – Robbie sent to office and given 6 of the best by the Principal.  Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again. 2007 – Robbie given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. Robbie’s parents get fortnightly disability payments and School gets extra funding from state because Robbie has a disability.

Scenario 4: Billy breaks a neighbor’s car window and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1957 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman. 2007 – Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison.

Scenario 5: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1957 – Mark gets glass of water from Principal to take aspirin with. 2007 – Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6:  Pedro fails high school English.

1957 – Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college. 2007 – Pedro’s cause is taken up by state.  Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching. English as a requirement for graduation is racist. Parents file class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro’s English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a bull ant nest.

1957 – Ants die. 2007- Star Force, Federal Police & Anti-terrorism Squad called.    Johnny charged with  domestic terrorism, Feds investigate parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated.  Johnny’s Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary.  Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1957 – In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing. 2007 – Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in prison.  Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

I noted when I look at my old primary school web site that has a theme now of  “Fun, Caring, Learning, Cooperation, Fairness, Respect”. and a motto “Care Excellence and Justice”  

It is interesting  that it seemed those values were a given once and did not even have to be stated. 

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A change we need – Asian case study

imageAs US President Obama passes his 100th day office in the white house, a poll reveals that his popularity is still up there. Following shortly, outbreak of the deadly A(H1N1) hits the front page of every newspaper and talksshow. I slowly realize that all of this is related to “change”.

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