Posted by Robert Beauchemin on Sep 9, 2010

As the saying goes, assuming often makes an ASS of U and ME. Assuming is often lethal in business, in sales, or in managing people. Assuming that history is a warrant for the future will likely prove wrong. Assuming that co-workers, partners, customers will tell you all the truth and nothing but the truth will likely prove wrong. Assuming that your staff will easily change their current modus operandi will likely prove wrong.

For me, the opposite of "to assume" is "to know". And knowing requires research, analysis, conversations, argumentations, points of view, experiences and validation. Clearly, no one can know everything about every little detail. There such a thing as wanting to know too much. It leads to indecisiveness, procrastination, analysis paralysis and stagnation.

But there is a balance. For me, although there no way to truly measure this, the balance is in the 75/25 range – 75% data and facts and 25% intuition and gut feel.  And yes, we can argue it should be 70/30 or even 60/40, and it can vary based on the situation. But for sure, you have to do better than the flip of a coin, leading to a 50/50 change of being right/wrong. Certainly, you cannot go running a business on 20/80 ratio without getting yourself into trouble many times, way too many times, or perhaps one time too many. Read the rest of this entry »

Believe it or not

Posted by Robert Beauchemin on Apr 15, 2008

We all know the power of the brain. No one would argue that humans can achieve the seemingly impossible when they apply their collective brain to a problem. Since the beginning of human kind, countless proofs of the power of the human "belief engine" can be found in everything that surrounds us, from harnessing the power of fire, to the invention of the wheel, to landing a spaceship on a moving planet traveling at 87,000 km/h, 36 millions miles away.

Beliefs shape how we act in our everyday life. Albert Einstein had beliefs, despite his Cartesian approach to science, based on logical analysis and mechanistic interpretation of physical phenomenon. He had postulates [hypothesis assumed without proof] on which all of his work is based. He believed, for example, that the speed of light [c] was constant which is a fundamental premise for his famous E=mc2. He even believed in God, as he repeatedly said "God does not play dice", referring to the predictability of outcomes.

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Nothing else Matters until the Big Picture is Clear!

Posted by Robert Beauchemin on Apr 8, 2008

When all you are allowed to see are the two beige pixels, it is hard for anyone to get a good perspective of the task at hand.

Are these two beige pixels part of a bigger picture, the sole of a shoe perhaps? Even knowing that this is the sole of a shoe is not all that enlightening. The second picture gives more details: the shoe belongs to a child sitting on the ground scribbling on a piece of cardboard. That still, you guest it, does not give the full picture – because you've seen there is a more complete picture below showing other kids sitting on the ground also scribbling.

Surely, now you can tell me what the big picture is! If you can't, I can add that the scene is in Afghanistan. The caption under the picture started by saying "Even in a war zone, learning continues." It then continued by saying "Students in the Northern Alliance territory take final exams at a school that has no building."

The pictures alone would not have sufficed at delivering the message. The explanation alone would not have helped either.

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“If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it”

Posted by Robert Beauchemin on Mar 25, 2008

This famous quote from Albert Einstein rings so true to me. If Einstein needed a picture to understand, be assured it is even truer for employees. I have met with 8 CEOs over the last week. They all had a few things in common:

But, as they explained how they were going to shake the torpor, I have to say that all of them were all over the map. All of them!

So, how is their staff supposed to get it? This erratic discourse is symptomatic of organizations who have not done the basic effort of analysing precisely how they got were they are. They are not creating a plan to shake the torpor; they are throwing ideas together that further shows the lack of deep reflection. Read the rest of this entry »

Is leading a company like driving a car?

Posted by Robert Beauchemin on Mar 11, 2008

I was having lunch with a great CEO and we talked about how much tolerance many CEOs have about driving without a clear understanding of their organization overall destination. It made me think about how analogous it is to driving to somewhere. Leading an organization is very much like driving your family somewhere!

CEOs know what road they are on. They know how fast they are going. They know how much fuel they have and how much they need to the next gas station.

They are aware of the traffic around, other drivers competing for space, position, speed, leadership. They see the confusing market signs pointing you to a whole bunch of directions, perhaps not relevant to them, but are they really?

They know their car, what it is capable of, how much it can be pushed, its past performance and how to tweak it to get the most out of the machinery.

But when asked "where are you going", they will talk about the next exit, the next town, or the next stop at the end of the day, but beyond that, they just can't say clearly. Somewhere over there!. Or they will say they are building on their strengths as they go.

Well, this may be fine on a bright sunny day. But when the weather or the road conditions worsen, they become disoriented and focus even more on the next exit. And forget about asking for directions, advice or getting counsel. It feels they are relying on Good Luck.

Knowing the end destination, and having prepared many itineraries, may have allowed the CEO to take a different, less travelled, less damaged, but safer road. And perhaps a faster road!

I would suspect that women in leadership positions, unlike men's driver reputation in real life, are more likely to be OK about asking for directions. Are CEO's more prone to driving off the end of the road than asking for coaching?

Having a clear vision (a view to an Envisioned Future) and a set of stratagems (the several roads you may want or have to take) is simply not an option.