ET HORA LIBELLUM DELENDA EST!

In ancient Rome, during the Punic Wars, Cato the Elder is said to have ended every speech he delivered before the Roman Senate with the phrase, “ET CARTHAGO DELENDA EST” (and Carthage must be destroyed!). He did this without regard to the subject of his speech.

It is in this spirit that I will begin to close all my post with the phrase, ET HORA LIBELLUM DELENDA EST which, loosely translated, means, “and the billable hour must be destroyed!”

With New Employees It Is Easier to Put in Good Habits than to Change Bad Ones

Once your employee has learned a bad behavior, changing it will take considerably more time than would have been required to put in a good one. I am sure someone will have the answer to why it happens, but all too often a employee will learn a bad behavior in a split second that can be very difficult to change. Putting in a good behavior to replace it will take more time and more repetitions.

Do not feel your employee knows and will consistently offer a wanted behavior simply because he does it a few times on command. Often, we desire a behavior to be automatic with no command. If we are consistent, that behavior will become a natural and accepted habit.

Initially we provide guiding actions, controls, and controlling equipment, such as checklists. We also control with our voice and our body. Plus, we lure, reward, and reinforce the wanted behaviors to show our employee what is expected in everyday situations. Do it enough and the behavior you are guiding him into will become a habit. A well-behaved employee is simply an employee with good habits!

When training an employee, it is important that we do not make mistakes that create an unwanted behavior. Think ahead. Do not make a big issue out of imperfections, but learn from them and work to create a better action and avoid the imperfection the next time.

We are really helping the employee to learn. The employee should come to see our actions as rewards or non-rewards — and not be fearful of us in any way. The “reward” can be praise or another positive result. A “non-reward” does not mean punishment, but simply that you withhold the positive result. This way he will want to work with us and please us within the partnership. By thinking ahead and using common sense, we can achieve that.

Think training and education are still the same thing, click here for the original article. Don’t offer training to your employees and customers – educate them instead!

An Economic Theory of Everything

One of my all time favorite TEDTalks is by Rory Sutherland, a principal at the advertising firm Ogilvy. His brilliant analysis was on display again at Zeitgeist 2011.

 

The lessons here are many, but for me key learning is the link between Austrian and Behavioral economics:

  • All value is subjective, AND…
  • All prices are contextual.

The implications of these two statements together are profound and in my opinion amount to an economic theory of everything.

TCMOOTITATIWWWPWAUTC

The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. – Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p. ix

edwin-friedmanThis quote, with which I often open a speaking engagement, has had a profound impact on my career and, indeed, my life. Its application ubiquitous – to family, to colleagues, to church groups, to political parties, to international relations – and I encounter its effects daily and often multiple times in one day.

The name of this post is, maybe not so obviously, an acronym for this quote. In the past week I have used it, the acronym no less than four times in various on-line conversations. (One person, after just seeing the jumble of letters, asked me if I was alright. I think, perhaps, they thought I was having a stroke.)

Just yesterday I was in a conversation with a colleague about some folks who seemed to be caught up in the past. In a meeting he attended with them, they were unmoved by the mounting evidence he was presenting that the situation was, in fact, changing. This was clearly contrary to their belief and they refused to accept it.

He then asked how I might approach changing their minds. I was, yet again, reminded of Friedman’s great quote. I replied that it is futile to try to change their minds because, well, it is their mind, not his.

I did suggest that in the future when confronted with a similar situation he ask the following question, “Are you willing to admit that there is a possibility that the situation could improve in the future?”

I said that only if he gets an affirmative response to this question should he agree to continue the conversation. Anything other than a “Yes” response would mean it would be futile to continue. If an individual or group is unwilling to recognize this possibility, no amount of data, evidence, anecdotes or emotional appeals will change them. Continuing the conversation will only heighten your anxiety and theirs.

Which reminds me of another famous quote by Robert Heinlein, “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

What about you? Are you open to the possibility of a better future?

PS – If you are interested in learning more about the work of Edwin Friedman this video provides an good overview.

Forget Being Effective, Be Efficacious

Most of you, I am sure, are familiar with the scene in the classic movie Spinal Tap, in which Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel utters the immortal words, “These go to 11” about his beloved Marshall Amp.

“It’s one louder,” he intones.

 

As foolish as Nigel appears, he is making an important philosophical point. He is seeking the maximum total benefit from his amp and for his fans in the audience. In short, he is striving to be efficacious. This desire, to seek the maximum total benefit for a customer, supersedes in my view our desire to be effective – seeking to produce a benefit or result for a customer.

The problem is that if you are focusing on just being effective (seeking a benefit/result), there could be a perception on the part of a customer and temptation on the part of a consultant to see fixed price agreements as a way to maximize your profit and not on your customer’s profit. Focusing on efficacy (seeking maximum total benefit) removes this perception and temptation.

As an aside to those of you still mired in the efficiency v. effectiveness debate: you are now behind by two generations in thinking!

I am sure that there are those of you who believe I am taking this debate of semantics to the nth degree. I am, but I am just being efficacious.

How is your product/service/knowledge efficacious?

A New Favorite Word – Sprezzatura

I am sesquipedalian. So when a new word that I had not ever heard comes my way, I am very excited. This one comes courtesy an exchange between Ron Baker and Jim Caruso, Partner in charge of Financial Management Outsourcing for Fesnak and Associates LLP.

Jim send the following email to Ron a few days ago and Ron passed in along to me.

Saw this great quote on Twitter from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan.

“Only in recent history has "working hard" signaled pride rather than shame for lack of talent, finesse and, mostly, sprezzatura.”

sprezzatura (plural sprezzaturas) From the Italian, Sprezzatura meaning nonchalance; (art) The art of doing a difficult task so gracefully, that it looks effortless

[It] gives new perspective to the concept of the billable hour as the basis for revenue generation, doesn’t it.

I plan on using this one quite often. It is a characteristic that to which all professionals should aspire. Of course, if you bill by the hour, it is not possible.

For further reading check the wikipedia entry.

April is turning out to be a big month

First, I received word that an online comment I made on a Harvard Business Review blog post would be printed in the magazine.

image

For those of you that can’t make it out, my 15 seconds of fame reads, “Business ain’t science.” I told the copy editor that I had more to offer than that and that I usually am grammatically correct, but they did not seem interested. “No, your thought really says quite a lot.” Uh-huh…

Next, my article on using project management to replace the timesheet finally made it into the Journal of Accountancy. Please comment there as I would love to get a big long string going.

Could it be that the Mets getting out of the gate strongly? I can only hope!

Cynics v Sentimentalists

Fred Wright from Aries Technology Group recently reminded me of one of my favorite regarding price and value. The exchange is from the Oscar Wilde play Lady Windermere’s Fan:

Cecil Graham What is a cynic?
Lord Darlington A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Cecil Graham And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.

It is obvious, to me anyway, that as pricers we are striving for the midpoint between the two. However, I am curious as to your thoughts on this.

Go!