Last Time on "As the Action Gets Spooky"

William Tully over at LOGICal eMOTIONs started a meme asking folks to list ten posts that define what their blog is about and why. The estimable Blue Shark tagged me, and it seemed like a good thing to do. So here the ten post that best define Spooky Action.

Spooky Action Predicts: Nick Carr Has Your Number (.8 Probability) The first post; sort of like a debut album, it has the accumulated ideas of several years, and you'll find an awful lot of my philosophy there. Yeah, it took a while to shake the sophomore blues, until I wrote:

Good to Great Throughout the Ages Are the keys in Good to Great a mirror of essential elements of epic mythology? I make the case in a piece that shows the kind of non-linear thinking that shows up here regularly.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Concepts is the embodiment of the Product Irreverence ethos. You'll never see a pencil sharpener the same again. This piece is now part of MBA By Blog!

How to Make Important Decisions Go ahead. Google the title. Nine months at Number One, baby! My take on how the mind works.

Crash Course in Learning from Harry Potter Inspired by posts from two of my favorite bloggers (who sadly are both not currently blogging), this is a visual mash-up of their most creative training advice. Lots of Easter Eggs and cross-references; one of my favorite pieces!

Categories of Fun and Experience Design I've written a book-length treatise on Experience Design based on the concepts here, and you'll be seeing more of that material coming soon. This one has been linked quite a bit by people who know more than me on the subject!

STATISTICS SHOW EATING ICE CREAM CAUSES MURDER After being double-dog dared by my friend Liz Strauss to write this piece, it now occupies prime Google result position on the subject. Hey, at least they'll get a laugh while doing that term paper research!

Where is the Line Between Gift and Investment Sometimes we think Deep Thoughts here.

Four Jokes to Live By Now you can listen to me bloviate, too!

Cause and Effect in Professional Services What do you get when you mix McConnell and Huba, Green and Maister, Keiningham and Vavra, Blanchard and Bowles, and an overactive imagination? This post, which synthesizes teachings from all of them into a model for building strong professional services practices.

I'm not going to tag anyone, since I'm not wild about these things, but feel free to join in the fun if the mood strikes you!

posted by Mike at 5:01 PM 0 comments


What I Learned from Being Abandoned in Mexico City

[MZM's latest group writing project concerns lessons learned from travel.]

Back in the late 80's I did a lot of business travel, usually on short notice. One such trip took me to Mexico City. I arrived around noon, and was picked up by a local colleague, who took me to my hotel to freshen up before a 4:00 meeting and then dinner. I relaxed a bit, and reviewed my work for the next day. At 4:30 my colleagues called to say they were running a bit late. At 5:00 they called to say they'd be over at 6:00. At 6:30 they called and said that the meeting was off, but that we'd meet for dinner at 8:00. When the phone rang at 7:30, guess what? Yep. Dinner was canceled due to protracted meetings that would go on very late.

So there I was in a unfamiliar foreign city, having sat by myself in the hotel for several hours, in an ever-increasing state of agitation. Normally I'd just resign myself to room service in this situation, but I needed to get out for a bit. I recalled my boss (who had traveled extensively) saying that one of the best meals he'd ever eaten was at a place called La Fonda del Recuerdo. Since my Mexican hosts were paying for my expenses, I figured I'd give it a try. I asked the concierge for the address, and she suggested I take a taxi. No problem. My now-rusty high school Spanish could get me through that part. The ride was longer than I expected, and before long it didn't feel like I was in happy-fun-tourist-land anymore. I was beginning to wonder if the taxi driver was taking me for a joy ride, and thinking this might not have been such a good idea.

Eventually, the driver dropped me off in front of the restaurant, and I walked in and asked for a table for one. The maitre d' greeted me warmly and showed me to a table. My waiter didn't speak english, but having lived in Texas for a few years, I knew how to say "Cerveza, por favor" to get things rolling. The restaurant was a bustling place, with families and business people, all having a great time. There were strolling bands, and people happily sang along with them. When it was time to order, the maitre d' returned to help me navigate the menu (not available in Gringo-friendly form). He suggested that if I was hungry I should try the Veracruz Sampler or some such thing. I thought that sounded good.

I didn't realize I was ordering dinner for four. The waiter brought out a platter the size of a small picnic table loaded with what had to be three pounds of meat (carne asada, pork, and chicken mole) and a full set of sides! I did my best, but after an hour there was still a considerable portion of food left and I wanted to be able to walk out of the restaurant.

When the waiter brought the bill and I did the conversion in my head, the total was under $15! I tipped 30% and slipped the maitre d' several pesos, too. He hailed me a taxi, and I returned to the hotel a much happier man than the one who had left there a few hours before.

So what did I learn from this story? That sometimes bitter disappointment can be the seed for great adventure and enjoyment - if we're bold and/or smart enough to look past our initial expectations!

posted by Mike at 6:19 AM 7 comments



Long time FOSA (Friend of Spooky Action) John asked me to comment on David Maister's post The Consultant and the CEO, in which a reader poses a question regarding a bad consulting situation:
“For the last month or so I have been working well with a client and her staff helping them develop their brand strategy. My client heads a division of a company. A couple of weeks into the project I’ve become aware that my client has an abysmal relationship with her CEO, whom she reports to. I also quickly learned that the CEO is a tyrant and displays many of the characteristics Bob Sutton described in his book The No Asshole Rule. The CEO makes the lives of her staff miserable. They are both terrified and befuddled by her unpredictable, bullying and overbearing behavior.

“Last week my client went overseas for work and the CEO has decided she wants to run the branding project during my client’s absence. The CEO attended a meeting of the leadership team I’m working with and she proceeded to denigrate her staff telling them that their opinion meant nothing and then proceeded to attack the project. The staff all looked at me to say “sorry” but couldn’t say a word.

“My question for you and your readers is this. How involved should a consultant get in trying to help a group of people who can’t make headway because the way the CEO behaves?”

Ugh. I would venture that most consultants have been in this type of situation. David's answer was that the consultant shouldn't get involved in trying to help the group. It's a no-win situation to do so, thus you shouldn't even try.

I have learned that there are certain people with whom I shouldn't differ without very carefully examining my reasoning. David would be right at the top of his list, and his advice is wise and prudent. As a consultant, it isn't your job to be an organizational therapist (unless that is specifically what you were hired to do).

[Takes deep breath]

But, as one of the commenters pointed out, there is a change management aspect to practically every project, and that includes people at all levels of the organization. In this particular situation I as consultant wouldn't take on the task of fixing the relationship between the CEO and her staff, but I would ask my client and her staff if there is a WIIFM or MMFI regarding this project for the CEO, and if they honestly think that she understands them.

WIIFM stands for "What's In It For Me?" People make decisions for personal reasons, and often later backfill with 'facts' to justify that decision. Most major-account sales programs are designed around this paradigm. WIIFM is very personal and situational. A consultant has very little chance of being able to divine/define the WIIFM at a deep personal level until they have invested the time and energy to become a trusted advisor. One would hope the CEO's staff would have better insight into her inner workings. The WIIFM might be tactical and tangible (the project will result in a 50% increase in sales which will mean $X to you personally) or strategic and intangible (a chance to leave a lasting legacy to the community).

You should also make sure that your project doesn't have any major negative WIIFM's to a key executive. I once worked on a project to revamp some training so that it could be completed successfully in two days instead of five. Since this training effected hundreds of technicians, our team felt that this was a clear winner all around. Except that our division president had told the CEO that it was impossible to complete the training in less than five days. Our success was detrimental to her personal reputation. Unless we found a positive WIIFM for her, she would squash our project like a bug!

Which brings us to MMFI - Make Me Feel Important. The other question I would ask as a consultant would be: Is there a way to make the CEO feel important in conjunction with the project? As with our division president, there are often people who aren't integral to the project, but who can sabotage if they don't see a WIIFM. In many cases, Make Me Feel Important is that WIIFM component. In the case of our division president, even though she had been opposed to our efforts, we had to allow her to save face with the CEO by letting her take credit for championing the initiative. Yes, we had to grit our teeth and swallow our pride, but in the end it was a win for everyone.

Before taking on any project as a consultant, it's important to know the WIIFM for the team, the people influenced by the project (such as users or suppliers), and the sponsors and influencers in the organization. If there are any major negatives or unknowns, you should plan to deal with them or rethink the project. If you ignore these change management considerations, you'll pay dearly down the line. I know, I have the career scars to prove it!

posted by Mike at 8:22 PM 0 comments