ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Diamond's to You: January 2011 Newsletter


It’s a New Year, with new beginnings. A few of my corporate contracts were completed at the end of the year, and I am now ready to take on new challenges. If you need my services, please get in touch with me. Or, if you know of anyone who needs my services to enhance their business please introduce us.

Some of the areas in which I might be of service to you are:

  • teaching executives how to effectively work with their teams,

  • managing change due to acquisitions, mergers, new CEO, etc.

  • reducing conflict, integrating diverse teams, and creating effective communication, and/or

  • updating, streamlining, re-engineering systems working with your teams.

Of course, as you already know, I am available to work with individuals as mentor, counselor, and coach. I often shadow executives so that I can help them improve the skills they need to be even more effective. May I also ask that you forward a copy of this newsletter to a few people you think might be interested? Thanks.

Streamlining for Business Friendly

President Obama recently announced that he wanted all government agencies to change two things: 1) get rid of the waste – streamline the systems, and 2) get rid of the unnecessary regulations and make the system business friendly, encouraging existing businesses to grow and new ones to feel free to start.

When I conducted research asking C level executives why they stay in Silicon Valley and why they leave it for other places the answers I received for why they stay almost all included the universities and intellectual climate here as well as the weather. The reasons why they leave are:

  • Problems with the infrastructure

  • Too many regulations and restrictions

  • Transportation congestion

  • Prices of housing – cost of living compared to other places.

Having consulted to government agencies, as well as to both large and small businesses, I have some tips for those planning to implement this new mandate. Look carefully at each function each person is doing and ask:

Is it necessary?

  • When streamlining I’ve discovered that people take adding machine tapes in addition to a double-check coming from computer entries, and bank deposit entries. Why? Because that’s what we did before computers.

  • I’ve noticed the “in-box” phenomena. Work sitting in the inbox of someone whose sole responsibility it is to enter it into a log and then pass it on to others.

  • Cities demand permits for items that are harmless and never inspected. But, someone has to go down to City Hall and apply for, pay and receive the permit. Water heaters are a case in point. · Is it logical?

  • When Second Harvest Food Bank was requesting permission to open a facility in a Silicon Valley city, the Fire Marshall questioned what type of food would be in each refrigerator. The Food Bank representative explained that most of the food was donations and that they didn’t know from time to time what was going to be placed in each refrigerator. The Fire Marshall said he couldn’t approve their permit without that information. We had to go higher up and get the approval.

  • How many parking spaces are really needed in a shopping center?

  • How many handicapped spaces? Ever notice that where they are really needed, there are too few, and where not needed, way too many.

  • Do you know the story about the toilet kiosks – and the fact that the ADA (Americans with Disability) demanded an equal number of wheelchair access toilets to snail kiosks? Well, it meant far less snails, and much more money for the wheel chair access ones – which were never used.

  • Is it real, or political?

  • The story of the smelts comes to mind. Yes, of course we want to preserve the ecological balance in nature. Yes, of course we need to be less wasteful. BUT – I visited the Delta and saw what they do. They close the locks and trap thousands of these tiny little smelt, scoop them up, put them in a truck (where many die) and relocate them to a lake some distance away. How does this preserve the natural environment? AND, of course, while doing this, they are depriving the farmers in the central valley of much needed water.

  • Some of the regulations in San Francisco have forced business owners to stop doing business with contractors with whom they’ve done business for years and made them do business with other contractors that the city believed were more politically correct.

  • Is it right to force small business owners to provide health care to employees, when having to do so may force them out of business, and these very same employees would be without a job.

  • Are the decisions about pay, pension, and other benefits made realistically, or is there some force from unions and from council members who might be strongly attached to the unions? When I streamline systems with my clients (notice I said with, not for) we work in teams of employees at different levels in the organization and from different departments. The perspective of those outside the system itself often lends light to a process that is too cumbersome, or unnecessary. My first task is always to build trust among the process improvement team, and to create opportunities for them to look at things in a different way. I do not allow formal flow-charting, nor do I allow Power Point Presentations. It is in the informal (thanks for post-it notes) that the most change can happen.

Diversity, Affirmative Action, and Truly Valuing Different Perspectives

When I use the word “diversity” in my work, I am talking about the many differences among people that come together in the workplace (or the school room.) We work with and manage people from many cultures, generations, sexes, value systems, ways of thinking, etc. When I use the term “diversity” I am not talking about a numbers game, nor am I talking about reducing standards in order to hire someone. I respect all people and realize that by lowering my standards, I am disrespecting a particular group of people. The other night I was at a political meeting and the guest speaker demeaned the term “diversity.” He described it as forcing an employer or education system to fill a quota. As he spoke, I thought, what was meant to be positive has become a dirty word. It is not about forcing quotas. Honoring diversity – valuing different perspectives – can only add to our understanding of each other, to enhancing our ability to work in a global economy, and to become more enriched, productive, and creative.

Hiring Mediocre Talent produces Mediocre Results

A colleague of mine insists on working with a mediocre webmaster to have an association website redone. It looks like a data sheet and is hard to maneuver around. She, my colleague, has great personal taste and is quite discriminating. BUT, she feels sorry for this guy, who can’t hold a job, and so she has given him this task – and has to request modifications over and over and over again. I’ve suggested several times that she stop using him and find a graphic artist that does web design. I’ve even given her some names. She is wasting her time, that of the rest of the board members (and I’m one) and ultimately hurting the association because people see this mediocre website and think we are mediocre. The old expression, “You get what you pay for” certainly holds true in this case. Sometimes, though you pay dearly and get mediocre. I’m referring to the many times large consulting and/or accounting firms make slick and glossy presentations, given to your staff by their highly trained sales personnel. You hire the firm. Who though do you get to do the actual consulting? Not the big guys! The odds are you get a young person recently graduated with her/his MBA following the script that the company created. When you hire Diamond Associates – you get me!

Audits don’t have to be conducted by accountants

Now, I know that’s a strange statement to make. But I say it because I’ve been reading about recent audits that found millions of dollars of waste in various government agencies – waste created by employees not doing their job, spending money frivolously, and treating themselves to all kinds of perqs. When I consult within a company and work with teams to either re-engineer, streamline, or in some way change systems, we often find these problems. What a company needs is a good set of eyes, ears, and the power of observation – as well as the ability to work with others and get them to honestly answer the questions being asked. System streamlining is a form of auditing – changing what is to something better. It requires seeing and understanding the “what is” part.

2010 Articles

As I do each year, I share with you the list of articles that have been published in my prior year’s newsletters. So here goes:

January · Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself · Workplace Bullying – by Evelyn Field, FAPS, a guest writer

February · To Drink or Not to Drink: The Social Convention of Drinking in Other Countries · ADR Review: Dispute & Conflict Resolution for Managers and HR Professionals · Apathy Kills

March · Negotiation · Mediation · Rumors and Innuendos · Friendship · Audit – Streamlining

April · Managing Change is Quite a Challenge · Gods of Management · Managing Across Generations · Workplace Safety and Ergonomics · Some Leadership Traits · Association and Non-Profit Boards: Best Practices · Autism – Why?

May · Prioritizing Values · Delegating Down · Board of Directors – Best Practices · Memories in the Making (For Alzheimer’s Association) · Managing Conflict · “Days of Tooth Fairy Politics over”

June · Are we destroying creativity? · Power Point – Good or Lazy Presentations · Powerful Presentations · Memories in the Making (for Alzheimer’s group) · Learning from the Beatles · Similarities and Differences in the Workplace

July · Lessons from Hollywood · Managing Change · Being in Legal Compliance · Hiring the Best

August · Witness Preparation · Non-Profit Boards & Committee Involvement · Valuable Employees or Pawns on the Board? · Classy or Trashy?

September · Effective Workplace Communication – More than Language · Managing Effective Virtual Meetings · Too nice could lead to Bad Decisions · Equity vs. Equality

October · Calling Cards – Business Cards · Non-Profits and Lexus · Seven Ps to Management Success · Managing Effective Virtual meetings

November · Mediation/Conflict Resolution · Conflict Resolution in the Workplace · Employment Law – Compliance Training · Creativity and Innovation

December · Canary in the Coal Mine · Minutes of the Association · Who signs the checks?

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