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Management Challenges for the 21st Century


In February 2008, the National Academy of Engineering proposed 14 grand engineering challenges that represent the biggest opportunity for human improvement in the next 100 years. Well, if the engineers can do it, why can’t we in management and leadership determine the greatest opportunities for human advancement through the profession of management? In May of 2008, a group of business leaders and academics met in Half Moon Bay, CA to do just that — identify the biggest challenges facing the...

To Twitter or Not to Twitter


A few weeks ago I reluctantly jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and claimed the address: @seanpmurray.  For the un-initiated, Twitter is a communication and networking tool, similar to blogs, that allows you to broadcast short (140 characters or less) messages to followers.  The technology puts a premium on being both concise and witty. My initial impression (like just about everyone else) was to view Twitter as another annoying technology bent on disrupting my day and reducing my productivity. ...

Zappos: Bribing Employees to Quit


One of the more interesting companies to debut on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list in 2009 is Zappos, coming in at 23.  That makes Zappos the highest ranked new comer to the list this year.  What makes Zappos, an e-commerce retailer, so unique, especially among start-ups, is an early commitment to defining a culture, and then designing systems and processes that support that culture.  Take one of their Core Values, “Deliver Wow through Service.”  This is an extremely customer-focused...

The 5A’s Framework: Making Training More Effective


One strategy for companies continuing to invest in leadership development  during these tough times is to look for ways to reduce the cost of training. Another strategy, which I consider much smarter and more strategic, is for companies to focus on the overall effectiveness of training.  Yes, training budgets are down 11% from last year, but there is no reason why a smaller budget can’t produce more effective results.  Improving business success from training is a subject my colleague Dr...

Training Down, Leadership Development Up


When the economy is shrinking and businesses are struggling, training budgets get cut back just like everything else.  However, this time companies with a long-term view on talent management are approaching things differently.  The Wall Street Journal reported this week that although training budgets at U.S. corporations are down an estimated 11%, the share of budgets allotted to leadership development is growing: Yaarit Silverstone, global managing director for the organization effectiveness...

Global Quest for Talent


I was following John Byrne’s (Editor-in-Chief of Businessweek) twitter acount and he mentioned that the most popular article on today is “Microsoft: Layoffs for Some, Visas for Others:” As recently as Jan. 5, the company posted a policy proposal on President Obama’s transition Web site requesting that the government “remove caps that bar entry into the U.S. by high-skilled immigrants.” Several weeks later, on a Jan. 22 earnings conference call, the company announced plans to...

Business Trust Report Card: D-


Trust in business is falling like dominoes all over the economy.  Just think back over the past year.  Last year, Bear Stearns collapsed and was purchased by JPMorgan Chase for a pittance, leaving its stockholders and creditors facing steep loses.  Dock a few points from the trust barometer.   After all, Bear Stearns wasn’t some fly-by-night operation (or was it?).  It was one of the major Wall Street investment banks.  Around this time, business leaders started asking themselves, ‘if Bear...

Managing Human Capital During An Economic Crisis


Revenue is down, costs are increasing and your operating income is being squeezed.  When you look at your Profit & Loss Statement, one of the largest line-items (maybe THE largest line-item) is labor.  What do you do? In the past, the conventional wisdom, especially in the United States, has always been to reduce the workforce.  In fact, the U.S. economy has been widely praised for its flexible labor markets.  U.S. companies are thought to have a competitive advantage over European and...

Black Swans


Three hundred years ago, it was a well-known and widely held belief (thought to be indisputable truth) that all swans were white.  With the discovery of Australia and the subsequent sighting of black swans, a “truth” that was confirmed by millennia of observation by humans was completely invalidated.   Interesting trivia, but what does this story have to do with leadership?   It turns out, quite a bit. A Black Swan is a low-probability event that is very difficult, if not impossible to predict...

Blogging and Leadership


By 2006, one could find a few early-adopter (and very brave) CEOs using blogs to communicate with their employees, customers and shareholders.  Although these were high-profile and often successful examples of leaders using this new media to communicate, it left many rank-and-file employees scratching their heads, thinking to themselves “well, that is interesting for a CEO, but I don’t ever see myself blogging at work.”  Think again. As it turns out, blogging is a very effective management tool...

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