01 September 2021

Climbing Mount Denali

"Better we raise our skill than lower the climb."

--Royal Robbins

At 20,310 feet (6,190 meters), Mount Denali is the highest peak in North America. Translated as "The Great One," the former Mount McKinley (name changed in 2015 by the U.S. Department of the Interior), is the centerpiece of the six million acres of Denali National Park located 240 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska.  

Mount Denali Alaska
(C) USA Today

Denali, which is the common expression, is the third tallest of the "Seven Summits" (the tallest peak on each continent), after Mount Everest (29,032 feet) in Asia and Mount Aconcagua (22,838) in South America.  The first verifiable ascent to Denali's South Peak was achieved on 7 June 1913 by climbers Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum.

The National Park Service says the average trip expedition to the top and back is 17 to 21 days.

New summits to climb

During a recent "tundra wilderness tour" of Denali National Park, our guide stopped the bus and pointed in a northwest direction to the Alaskan Range where Denali resides in all its grandeur.   

Did we see Denali that day?  
 
Unfortunately, not.  We failed to qualify for the 30 percent club, the percentage that glimpses the tallest mountain in North America.     

However, in this phase of the pandemic, other challenging summits are in clear view needing to be scaled.  

Here are four:

1.  How we address Covid-19 (and variants).  The virus appears to be moving from a pandemic or global outbreak to an endemic or virus that's constantly maintained.  Everything else on this list is significantly affected by how we understand and respond to the coronavirus in terms of science, government policy, and personal decisions related to vaccinations.

Covid-19
(C) Food and Drug Administration

What's the goal? Is it to control the virus (influenza) or eradicate it (smallpox)?  And who decides?  The answers to those questions will likely define what normal becomes.  

2.  How we work.  The September return to office timetable for professional, managerial, and technical personnel has been set back by a surge in the Delta variant. This situation should only increase our appreciation for others whose work, such as medical personnel, has required on-site duty from the pandemic's beginning.  

Work from home (WFH) and hybrid schedules get the most attention.  And employees in some fields like tech seem to have an upper hand with flexibility as a prize possession.  

The other side looks like this: Projects take longer. Training is tougher. Hiring and integrating employees is more complicated.  Younger professionals can't sit next to experienced colleagues and learn the trade.  

When it comes to promotions, out of sight is probably out of mind.  

Whatever corporate culture exists is built on pre-existing relationships.  At some point, those interactions exhaust themselves, and new ones are required to keep shared beliefs and values alive.  

If you've been in business for any length of time you know the future happens face-to-face--assuming employers can find people to work.  Larger companies are doing okay while smaller businesses struggle to meet employment goals.  That's especially true for the dining and lodging industries. 

3.  How we educate our children and youth.  In the U.S., government-run schools, which continue in enrollment decline, are the main providers of instruction for around 90 percent of the country's 56 million or so K-12 students.  

A joint Stanford/New York Times study of 70,000 schools in 33 states showed that those offering remote-only learning at the beginning of 2020-2021 experienced a 3.7 percent decline.  Those with in-person schooling went down 2.6 percent.

A McKinsey study shows that the impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year. The pandemic widened preexisting opportunity and achievement gaps, hitting historically disadvantaged students hardest. 

In math, students in majority Black schools ended the year with six months of unfinished learning, students in low-income schools with seven. High schoolers have become more likely to drop out of school, and high school seniors, especially those from low-income families, are less likely to go on to postsecondary education. 

And the crisis had an impact on not just academics but also the broader health and well-being of students, with more than 35 percent of parents very or extremely concerned about their children’s mental health, the report concludes.

4. How we live.  The Wall Street Journal identified the following in the U.S.:  Mobility is increasing.  Individuals and families are looking for more space to improve working conditions at home. Younger people are leaving the cities earlier than usual.  Some older households speeding up retirement. Suburbs the winners with large cities reducing decades-long growth trends.

A Zillow report shows the median existing-home price for all housing types in June 2021 was $363,300, up 23.4 percent from June 2020.  Affordable housing and starter homes are in short supply. 

Other inclines

Travel ...

All Delta flight segments--Detroit-Salt Lake City-Anchorage and back through Minneapolis/St. Paul--was full.  The Marriott in downtown Anchorage was full.  The Wilderness Express trains were full.  The Denali resorts were full.  

Domestic leisure travel is holding its own although bookings for fall are beginning to slow due to the variant.  Business travel, where the profits are, is not recovering at the same pace and may not for some time.      

Most countries are open to travelers from the United States. But as Covid-19 cases continue to surge some places like the European Union are looking at resuming restrictions like pre-arrival testing, quarantines, and travel bans according to a report in The New York Times.

Gatherings ...  

Everything from concerts to conventions to churches.  There was momentum this past year to return to auditoriums, hotels, and houses of worship. But those gains may slow if people begin to feel unsafe indoors in crowded conditions.  

To show up some performers are requiring audiences to mask up. 

Motivations for climbing

Those who traverse Mount Denali have different motivations but one similarity.  All must first know what kind of mountain climber they are. 

Scaling the coronavirus requires knowing who we are to collectively reach the top to conquer something that for now has conquered us.  
 

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01 August 2021

Managing Oneself--First

 "Self-control is strength; right thought is mastery, and calmness is power.

--James Allen

Peter Drucker, the famed management consultant, and author took the month of August each year to review his life and profession.  Why not December?  Most likely he found the end of the year to be too busy and too late.  A crowded holiday season doesn't lend itself to contemplation.    

So consider making the dog days of summer (in my hemisphere) a time for intentional reflection and renewal as we look at managing oneself--first. 

Crises are revealing

Looking back over the past 18 months what have you learned about yourself?  What have the different types of crises, social and economic, revealed about you?  And how are you transitioning from crisis mode to focusing on the future? 

Perhaps now is the moment to look deeper into your life and habits to see what should stay the same, be strengthened, or removed.

Holding sway

One way to improve your personal and professional life is to consider desired outcomes for yourself and the organization.  Then determine where to allocate hours, days, and weeks to achieve those ends.  

Positive influence over the behavior of others comes from knowing where time should be spent, its purpose, and with whom.  That's the first step in managing yourself. 

Here are questions for you and others to think about:  

-Internally, where does leadership have the most influence?  The least influence? 

-In which area are you spending most of your time now? With what result?

-How do self-knowledge, self-awareness, and self-discipline contribute to being different? 

Observations on human behavior

1.  It's difficult if not impossible to manage or influence others without the ability to control yourself.  Proverbial wisdom says that a person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.

2.  By temperament or wiring, a few have a head start with a disposition toward making themselves work.  They behave in a particular way without anyone telling them what to do.  These individuals are more settled, more mature at an earlier stage of life.  

3.  In developing the right behaviors some need more time than others.  Or the right experiences.  Interpreting those moments is often a delayed process.  A trusted friend or mentor can play a pivotal role in helping us get to where we need to be. 

But rewiring our brains is also a possibility.  A lot has to do with how you think of yourself, and less about the circumstances into which you were born.

4.  Knowing who you are, what you believe, what you stand for, is absolutely essential for moral leadership.

5.  Time is the most important non-renewable resource we have.  Where to spend it?

Too much time on the least controllable areas and not enough time on the more controllable areas hinders executive performance.  And those misplaced priorities give permission for associates to do the same.    

If your time allocation is out of balance, how to reset the leadership clock? 

What gets your attention

The world entangles the mind.  Technology scatters the mind.  Pandemics and politics confuse the mind.   

What are you thinking? (C)

Leaders tend to be confronted by too many distractions.  Employees and customers are in the same predicament.  Digital is a culprit, but not the only one.

On average our minds wander almost 50% of the time.  That includes thinking about things that are not going on directly around us, contemplating events that happened in the past, that might happen in the future or will never happen at all.  This analysis comes from Ness Labs.  

There's good to be gained from intentional mind-wandering.  Your brain needs that type of exercise, according to the research. However, wandering too much and too afar comes with an emotional cost, their report concludes.

Shifting gears, how do you get your brain to concentrate on what matters?

To improve focus, Ness Labs recommend the following--

  • Manage your distractions.  Put the phone away--although you may work better with background noise or music.
  • Monitor your mind. To wherever you drift, learn to return to the task at hand.  It's not about never losing your focus--which would be unrealistic--but about monitoring your attention.
  • Strengthen your brain's circuitry.  Focus on your breath. The reality of losing focus and bringing your focus back to breath improves concentration.  
An August refresh

Here's a closing thought from philosopher, Tom Morris--

If grit keeps you going, and resilience picks you up, self-renewal helps you stay energized.  And it's ironically easiest when you're working for something greater than self. 


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© Bredholt & Co.


 




01 July 2021

Dysfunctional Teams Are Still Around

"Sometimes problems don't require a solution to solve them; instead they require maturity to outgrow them."

--Dr. Steve Maraboli


In 2006 at a conference in New York, hearing best-selling author Patrick Lencioni reminded me of a professor filled with inexhaustible things to say but wisely limiting his thoughts to a far-reaching few.  Those who follow Mr. Lencioni know that he teaches using--fables.  

Trained as a writer, the former Bain & Co. consultant discovered that telling a story is an effective way to provide relational insights to clients.  The main theme:  "Organizational health is the single greatest competitive advantage in any business," says Pat Lencioni.     

New season-old habits 

Covid-19 may have pushed unhealthy behaviors off to the side, making way for survival. However, inconsistent and detrimental practices are never far away. 

Coming out of a global pandemic, and a return to work transition, this may be a good time to revisit the main points in "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," a book of fables that sold over three million copies. 

Brand 1123RF (C)

Think about each dysfunction in the context of a year's long physical separation; working from home; millennials as the majority of the workforce; and a significantly changed office environment for those who return.

Here they are: 

1.  Absence of trust—unwilling to be vulnerable within the group.  

2.  Fear of conflict—seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate.

3.  Lack of commitment—feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization.

4.  Avoidance of accountability—ducking the responsibility to call peers and superiors on counterproductive behavior that sets low standards.

5.  Inattention to results—focusing on personal success, status, and ego before team success.

Consider the following

-What, if any, of these dysfunctions existed in your enterprise before the lockdown? How were they being addressed?  

-Are there any abnormal functionings within your leadership teams currently?  What are they?

-How does interpersonal behavior affect the execution of corporate strategy?   

-As the economy resumes, and safety improves, is face-to-face a better way to deal with these problems? 

Exhausting but necessary

Building cooperation throughout a company, but especially at the top, is a never-ending task.  An effort like this requires time and emotional energy. 

Holding any group mutually accountable (including leadership) is even harder when self-importance supersedes organizational purpose. 

This difficult undertaking may explain, at least in part, why for nearly 20 years "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" remains a best-selling book.



Source:  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni, 2002 (Jossey-Bass).



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01 June 2021

Books of Summer

(C) McGraw-Hill Executive Library 

Here is a list of recommended business reads from Inc. Magazine.  The titles are drawn from 2020--we will wait to see what makes the list in 2021:

1. Always Day One: How the Tech Titans Plan to Stay on Top Forever

by Alex Kantrowitz

2. Billion-Dollar Brand Club: How Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, and Other Disruptors Are Remaking What We Buy, by Lawrence Ingrassia

3. Experimentation Works: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments

by Stefan H. Thomke

4. Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution, by Robert Chesnut

5. Lead From the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking Into Breakthrough Growth, by Mark W. Johnson and Josh Suskewicz

6. No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, by Sarah Frier

7. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

8. When More Is Not Better: Overcoming America's Obsession with Economic Efficiency, by Roger L. Martin

9. Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber

by Susan Fowler

10. A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond, by Daniel Susskind


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(C) Bredholt & Co.






01 May 2021

Navigating the Suez Canal

 "Ships are safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships are for."

-John A. Shedd

An ultra-large Golden class container ship, Ever Given, became stuck in the Suez Canal on 23 March 2021 at 05:30 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).   The ship, operated by Evergreen Marine, was en route from Malaysia to the Netherlands when it ran aground after winds allegedly blew the ship off course. An investigation by Egyptian authorities, who own and operate the canal, is underway.

Ever Given container ship, stuck in the Suez Canal.
(C) University of Miami

The Ever Given, a ship as long as the Empire State Building is tall, completely blocked the canal for six days.  After being freed and refloated on 29 March, the Ever Given made way for a backlog of over 400 ships to pass through the canal.  

However, with a seizure of the Ever Given by Egyptian authorities and a pending $1 billion fine, the ship isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Time is money

Where is the Suez Canal?

The canal cuts through Egypt, linking the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Red Sea in the south.  It's one of the world's best-known and most important waterways.  Nearly 19,000 vessels passed through the canal last year carrying 1.2 billion tons of cargo.  Around 13% of maritime trade passes through the Suez Canal, including a large proportion of the world's oil.  (Suez Canal Authority; The Wall Street Journal)

The Suez Canal.  

An alternate route goes around the Cape of Good Hope off the southern coast of Africa.  But that course adds two weeks to the same trip from Asia to Europe.  

Major sailing routes. (C) Researchgate

The backstory

The size of ships is growing faster than ports can expand. Ships' size is directly related to consumer demand.  With household spending on the rise, logistics problems are likely to get worse.

For the U.S., a certain percentage of Peleton bikes, large screen televisions, and hot tubs are now being shipped by air to avoid a backlog in the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.  The LA port is North America's busiest while China is home to seven of the world's 10 largest container ports. (American Enterprise Institute) 

A National Retail Federation survey conducted in March before the Suez Canal blockage found that 98% of respondents said they had been impacted by port or other shipping-related delays.  More than half said congestion was adding at least three weeks to their supply chains.

The Ever Given was carrying 20,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent) containers filled with goods of nearly every kind. 

The incident

How did the ship get stuck in the first place?

The Suez Canal Authority said high wind speeds were a factor in causing the accident.  The Authority is also looking into human error and technical malfunction to see if they played a role.

"You can't steer straight if the wind is blowing sideways," said  Robert Flannery, an active pilot from New York who is familiar with this waterway.   

From the accident report, the Ever Given was moving north up the canal toward the Mediterranean Sea when it was caught in a season dust storm known as the khamsin where wind speeds can reach 40 knots or 46 mph.  Its bow then veered into the right side of the channel becoming embedded in the canal wall--and wedging the vessel across the entire width of the channel.

Convergence 

When stuck in a bad situation it's not likely you'll get out on your own.  So it was with the Ever Given cargo ship in the Suez Canal.  Let's think about what could be helpful in your next crisis:

1.  Are you on the right side of the problem?  Tugboats stationed north of Ever Given made it almost impossible to free the ship until reinforcements from elsewhere arrived at the south to pull on its stern.

2.  Scaling up means bigger and more complex problems. Twice the thick cables with which the main tugboat pulled the container ship snapped under the tension, the first time the crew has seen such a rupture.  Do you want to grow your business?  Then be prepared for unfamiliar circumstances and obstacles of size. Without previous experience management solutions often result from trial and error.  

3.  While asking for help keep in mind that experts are no guarantee of a fix. Workers had dredged more than a million cubic feet of sand and silt beneath the 1,300-foot-long vessel.  And then the tugs took advantage of an unusually high tide to begin moving the tanker back and forth.  But instead of slipping free and gliding to the center of the canal, the Ever Given remained stuck waiting for the next high tide.   

4.  Have hope--but hold the public optimism.  The Canal Authority began letting ships in from the north after engineers calculated the Ever Given would be pulled free.  This decision just added to the problem creating an even greater traffic jam.  

5.  One last push. The ship's owner hired Smit Salvage from the Netherlands.  A backup plan which called for unloading containers to lighten the load was put in place but added weeks to the rescue mission, something the Canal Authority wanted to avoid at all costs.  Instead, they chose to go for one last push hoping to extract just enough sand and debris for the Ever Given to slide free. 

Supermoon.  (C) The Guardian

6.  An assist from E.T.   Sometimes we get a break from a third-party source to help us out of a jam.  In this instance, the rescue team received an extra-terrestrial gift--a supermoon.  That type of moon materializes when the full moon coincides with the moon's closest approach to Earth in its orbit. Scientists say supermoons make the moon appear a little brighter and closer than normal, although the difference is hard to spot with the naked eye. (space.com) 

There are only four supermoons scheduled in 2021.  Amazingly, the first one came at just the right time on 28 March and pushed the tide higher.      

7.  Ship ahoy. The Alp Guard tugboat, with the pulling power of 285 metric tons arrived, providing a significant boost.  Fighting high winds and strong currents, the tide began to ebb and the Ever Given began to finally stir.  

On 29 March at 3:05 p.m. local time, the ship was free.  



Additional sources include CNBC; USA Today; Wikipedia; BBC; Popular Mechanics; and the Maritime Executive.


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01 April 2021

The Power of a Predictable Leader

"Nor yet be overeager in pursuit of any thing; for the mercurial often happen to leave judgment behind them, and sometimes make work for repentance."

--William Penn

In a recent survey of over 1,000 executives, more than half--in different industries--said their roles had changed due to the pandemic.  Some 30 percent said their jobs have changed permanently according to Chicago-based WittKieffer who sponsored the research.  

The study raises this implication--many leaders are being asked to do work they weren't previously trained or prepared to do.  "While some are excelling in a new environment, other executives are struggling to find their place during the pandemic," the report stated.

That analysis describes how an outside force like COVID-19 causes disruptive change. 

What are organizations doing to themselves?

Destabilizing influences

Even as the economy rebounds, it's hard to blame any remaining woes on infectious disease.    

Professor Howard Stevenson, who teaches at Harvard University, says that companies were destroying necessary predictability leading up to 2020.  

"The practices that leaders are adopting to make their organizations more competitive are ignoring the human need for predictability," Stevenson observed.  "Corporations must recognize the paradox that many management tools in fact destroy what holds the organization together," he concluded.  

(C) The Telegraph

That need for predictability among associates is not a need for guarantee--it's a need for clarity and consistency.

Professor Stevenson points to the following causes of damage to employee morale and cultural glue:

--Reengineering throws out all the old procedures and rules of thumb by which an organization has operated.

--Continuous improvement programs promise only that an organization's rules will continue to change.

--Matrix management requires that two (or more) managers, who need not agree with each other, judge employees' work and determine their future in the company.

--Rightsizing sheds people, often regardless of their individual skills or performance.

In the age of Zoom Professor Stevenson adds that "nowhere is the notion of predictability more threatened than in a virtual organization which is not much of an organization at all."

Unpredictable

Mercurial describes someone whose mood or behavior is changeable and unpredictable; or who is clever, lively, and quick.  It's out of that temperament where management fads often originate.  Compulsive behavior is the opposite of being predictable.   

Apple's Steve Jobs had a mercurial style. His behavior included rapid and unpredictable change but also qualities of eloquence and ingenuity.  

The real world is not straightforward and people are complicated.  Working for an impulsive boss, which can be a difficult experience, means you have to adapt or move on. 

Predictable 

British author, Roderic Yapp, writes that if you’re working with people as part of a team, you want to be predictable. "You want to make it easy for them to meet your expectations because unpredictability is a nightmare for people trying to manage upwards," he notes.

How does one be more predictable?  He offers the following advice:

1. Deepen the relationships you have with your people. 

How can you motivate someone and improve their performance if you don’t know anything about them?  Build a deeper relationship with the person by asking them about their personal history.  What is important to them? What drives and motivates them? What do they want out of life and how can you support that aspiration. 

In the exchanges, give them a roadmap to you.

2. Remove emotion from the equation.

Do you purposefully act in a chosen and deliberate manner or are you simply reacting? The two are very different. Reactions happen quickly. 

The most common is when mistakes are made, tempers get lost and voices get raised. These behaviors lead to a climate of fear and, at best, compliance. Impertinent conduct undermines open, honest conversation and challenge. It causes those around you unnecessary stress. An unbecoming habit can result in the best people leaving. 

Acting deliberately is a choice. It involves being aware of your behavior and the impact it is having on other people. 

Gaining composure

We're all wired differently. However, remaining consistent and undisturbed inside that unique wiring is not always easy to do.  It comes naturally to some like doctors and airline pilots.  But for others, it requires practice to get there. 

While leopards can't change their spots and tigers their stripes, we're not as fixed in our frame of mind as some might think.  Maturing in attitude and behavior is a big part of professional development.  Personal growth leads to wisdom which is a desirable trait and an overlooked strength.  

Ultimately, the right kind of power, and predictability, accrues to a leader with self-control. In turn, that composure gives confidence to others when they need it the most.    



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01 March 2021

The Last Mile Strategy

"All endeavour calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil."

--Henry David Thoreau

The term "last mile" or "kilometer," metaphorically speaking, is a familiar one for those in the cable television industry or supply chain management. For cable, it's all about getting service to the end-user.    

Supply chains are set up to move goods from transportation hubs to final destinations (e.g., UPS, FedEx, Amazon).

The big jab

More recently the last mile concept is being applied to getting Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and now Johnson & Johnson manufacturing plants into arms. AstraZeneca is approved in the European Union, UK, and other countries but not the U.S.

Moderna vaccine. (C) ABC News

As of this posting, more than 245 million doses have been administered across 107 countries.  The latest rate is 6.79 million doses per day. In the U.S. more Americans have now received at least one dose than having tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.  According to the Bloomberg Tracking site, 76.9 million doses have been given.  In the last week, an average of 1.82 million doses per day were administered.  

In terms of government agencies, the four stages of the vaccine process are authorization; prioritization; allocation; and distribution. After much trial and error, the last mile of the vaccine strategy, vaccination, is catching up with the first mile. 

"Complexity is the enemy of speed," someone said. However, obstacles such as accessibility to the shots, are being unraveled with real-time experience. 

Why?

Because the learning is in the doing, even tackling variants to the original coronavirus.    

Every day health care officials, along with private enterprises and volunteers, are figuring out how to turn this unparalleled collaborative venture into a workable solution.  There's a long way to go but progress, not success, is the better measuring stick. 

The last part of the last mile, jabs in arms, is up to the individual who has the final say in this emergency supply chain.  Keep that in mind the next time your organization launches anything.

Landing on Mars

NASA successfully landed its fifth robotic rover on Mars, Thursday, 18 February 2021.  Perseverance touched down at 3:55 p.m. ET.  

Launched 30 July 2020 on an Atlas V-541 rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Perseverance traveled 293 million miles to reach the red planet surface of Mars.  The ability to explore other planets is made possible by the Ingenuity helicopter (drone) which is part of the mission.

Getting to Mars with help from a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and interplanetary cruise stage was one thing, but slowing down from 12,100 miles per hour to a soft 1.7 mph at landing is another.

What about the last mile?

Perseverance landing on Mars. (C) NASA

The rover’s landing featured the typical “seven minutes of terror” that NASA engineers describe in any spacecraft attempt to land on Mars. That’s the time it takes to enter the Martian atmosphere and descend to the surface, and it’s named as such because it takes 11 minutes for any communication to travel from the rover back to Earth--meaning the time delay requires that the spacecraft and rover perform the landing autonomously.

Row, row, row your boat

News reports confirm that Jasmine Harrison from the UK is now the youngest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

It took 70 days, three hours, and 48 minutes to row across the Atlantic Ocean--a 3,000-mile journey from the Canary Islands of the northwest coast of Africa to the Caribbean Island of Antigua.  

At 21, Ms. Harrison is the youngest woman ever to row solo across an ocean. Her boat is 23 feet long, weighs about a ton, and includes a small cabin and a bunker that she slept in.

Navigating on her iPad or phone, which broke during the trip, was easy because she was heading straight west, she says.

Jasmine Harrison crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
(C) The Times

It wasn’t all smooth sailing: Harrison capsized twice. The first time, a rough wave hit the side of the boat, sending her overboard until another wave flung her back on deck. She says this experience didn’t shake her.

And the last mile?

Two days before she completed the journey, a bigger wave sent her flying into the cabin seat. Harrison hurt her head, lower back, and her elbow--which made it difficult to bend her arm to row.

"At that point, I was kind of glad about the capsize because it made me want to actually then finish," she says. "I was ready to finish and ready to say goodbye to the ocean." 

The end game

 When it comes to a last-mile strategy for businesses or nonprofits--

  • Avoid false starts.  They ripple through a system all the way to the end.
  • Don't celebrate too soon.  Outcomes become clearer only as we get near that last mile.
  • Identify a point person to be responsible for last-mile execution. To paraphrase, a successful launch has many sponsors but poor results are an orphan. 
  • Build flexibility into the organizational culture since it's better to bend than break.  
  • Use positive and negative feedback from frontline workers and consumers to make adjustments in the strategy. 
  • What emerges is often better than what's planned. A healthy ego can live with that idea.


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01 February 2021

Remembering Whitey Ford

 "No one likes to hear it, because it's dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same - pitching."  

--Earl Weaver, Manager, Baltimore Orioles (Baseball Hall of Fame, 1996)

Nineteen sixty-one was a great year for Major League Baseball.

It was baseball's first expansion since the American League entered the major leagues.  The Los Angeles Angels played their first season in the American League while the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and the Twins played their first major league season.

The New York Yankees (109 wins) and Detroit Tigers (101 wins) put on an exciting race for the AL pennant with Detroit holding the lead for more than half of the season.   The Yankees fought back and eventually won the pennant on the momentum of a three-game sweep of Detroit during the first weekend of September at Yankee Stadium. 

On October 1st Yankee Roger Maris became the first person with sixty-one home runs in one season, dueling with a teammate, Mickey Mantle who hit 54. 

New York went on to win the World Series defeating the Cincinnati Reds four games to one.    

A bygone era

Major League Baseball players head to spring training this month hoping for a safe season inside a global pandemic. As teams gather in Florida and Arizona, we pause to remember Yankees’ Hall-of-Fame pitcher, Edward Charles (Whitey) Ford, who passed in October of last year at the age of 91.

Ford has been called the best starting pitcher in the long history of the New York Yankees; a six-time World Series champion; and one of the best left-handers of all time.  According to sportswriters who covered the team, Ford relied on pinpoint control, mound presence, and maybe a slight trick or two.  All within a slight five-foot-ten frame.

He finished his career with a record of 236-106 and a 2.75 ERA.  Contributing to Ford's stature were 10 All-Star teams, the Cy Young Award, and World Series MVP in 1961.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.  

Big day in Vehicle City

The news of Ford's passing brought to mind a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the great pitcher in that magical summer of '61.  

Hall of Fame pitcher, Whitey Ford, New York Yankees.
(C) Associated Press

The unlikely encounter took place during a grand opening celebration of The Yankee Stadium Store (a discount chain) at the Northwest Shopping Center located at the corner of Clio and Pierson Roads in Flint, Michigan.  Whitey Ford was there along with All-Star teammate and catcher, Elston Howard, the first African American player on the Yankees roster. 

First baseman, Norm Cash, who would become the American League’s batting champion that year with a .361 average, and pitcher Frank Lary, a two-time All-Star, known as the “Yankee Killer” for his success against the Bronx Bombers represented Detroit.

Veteran Tigers’ broadcaster, Van Patrick, who was succeeded in the 1960s by George Kell and Ernie Harwell served as master of ceremonies.

In the presence of greatness

The special guests, standing on a constructed platform in front of the new Yankee Stadium Store, attracted quite a crowd, according to the book, "Remember Flint, Michigan."  The city and its surrounding areas, located just over an hour northwest of Detroit, was a solid fan base with the Tigers broadcasts available on WTRX Flint, WKMH Detroit, and eventually a long-run on WJR Detroit.

At twelve years of age and against great odds, my goal was to maneuver from the back to the front to get as many autographs as possible.  What I hadn’t counted on was everyone wanting to do the same thing. With a smaller frame, I worked my way forward reaching the platform, only to be crushed by the crowd.  

That was my first lesson about the perils of cutting in line.

On an unusually warm day and separated from my friends, I almost passed out. Whitey Ford noticed, came over to where I was leaning, and in an act of compassion lifted me onto the platform where I could breathe fresh air. 

There I was standing in the presence of Elston Howard, Norm Cash, Frank Lary, and Whitey Ford--each with their own career achievements.

The last thing I remember before leaving the platform was a someday Hall of Fame pitcher offering to autograph my baseball. Whitey Ford's signature faded but sixty years later the memory of his kindness has only deepened in my mind.    

___________________________


In 2020 it was reported that in one 42-day span alone, five Hall of Fame members passed away: New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver; Lou Brock and ace pitcher Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Joe Morgan; and New York Yankees left-hander Whitey Ford. Detroit Tigers slugger Al Kaline died in April and knuckleballer Phil Niekro passed at the end of December.  (The Wall Street Journal)  


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01 January 2021

The Core Idea

"Human history is, in essence, a history of ideas."

--H. G. Wells

Geologists estimate that 3,200 miles beneath our feet lies a “Solid Inner Core” of the Earth made up of iron whose diameter is 70% the size of the moon. (Red)     

There are three other layers of the Earth:  

-A "Liquid Outer Core" the size of Mars. (Gold)

-A "Mantle" 1,800 miles thick composed of different kinds of rock making up 84% of the Earth's total volume. (Olive)

-The layer closest to the surface is called the "Crust" also composed of rock and representing 1% of the Earth's volume. (Gray)
(C) NASA

If you cut the Earth in half, like an apple, that's what you would see: Solid Inner Core; Liquid Outer Core; Mantle; and Crust.  

With a surface as hot as the sun, the Solid Inner Core is a source of creativity, energy, and selective destruction.  Spinning faster than the Earth itself, the Solid Inner Core is leading, not following, even though hidden from view.    

What's a core idea?

Organizations, big and small, that consistently accomplish their aims do so with a simple idea that shapes and drives the enterprise.     

Take UPS, for example.  

Founded in 1907 as American Messenger Company by two teenage boys, James Casey and Claude Ryan, with a $100 loan, the business prospered by providing the best service at the lowest rates.  Cars were scarce so reliable and courteous teenagers were hired to deliver telegraph messages, pharmacy orders, and groceries to homes around the Seattle, Washington area on foot and bicycles.

That was the core idea.
More than a century later, Atlanta-based UPS partnered with FEDEX in the U.S. to ship 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to mitigate against Covid-19.  That may have been the most important pharmacy delivery of all time.      

As it lives and breathes

Clarity on the concept of a business or nonprofit comes from a critical mass of employees making the idea come alive. Those same individuals are also stewards of the organization's spirit and aspirations.  Having "culture carriers" throughout the system is an informal way of socializing new associates and advancing institutional knowledge.  

Trusted individuals who lead by example often produce better HR outcomes than formal mentoring and development programs.  Healthy working relationships, clear expectations, and comprehensible goals underpin a successful execution of strategy.  

Also noted in the research is that the core and identity have an interdependent relationship. Combined, they're central, enduring, and distinguish the enterprise from its peers. (Albert and Whetten, 1985)  For identity to be clear the core must be clear--especially as it's reinterpreted and reimagined for an emerging workplace and world.  

It's the serious qualities of a firm, such as wisdom and good judgment, which resist bad change and accept good change.  Absent honesty and moral courage in an organization's leadership, anything goes.   

Rethinking the core
"... no humanly constructed core idea or business endures forever in its original form."
The data in consulting libraries show that organizations often fail to take advantage of the full potential of their main business.  Not getting enough from what it already does the next move is to abandon the core and start chasing after someone else's ideas.     

Eventually, someone holds up a mirror and discovers those borrowed ideas don't fit. Only in retrospect does management then see the error of its ways. For some, it's too late while others are fortunate to get another chance.

Writing in Scientific American, Claude J. Allgre and Stephen H. Schneider remind us that the Earth and its atmosphere are continuously altered.  "Plate tectonics shift the continents, raise mountains, and move the ocean floor.  Such constant change has characterized Earth since its beginning some 4.5 billion years ago." 

In a similar pattern, no humanly constructed core idea or business endures forever in its original form.  

Why?  

Over time the assumptions on which the organization has been built (environment, mission, capabilities) and is being run no longer fit reality. ("Theory of the Business" by Peter F. Drucker)

As a management practice UPS periodically updated its assumptions, building on a stable core with a disruptive edge.  From bicycles to drones and back to bicycles.  Delivering messages to managing sophisticated supply chains. Over 5,000 independently owned The UPS Stores franchised by the corporate parent in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada.

The company spans 114 years but keeps the aging process at bay by holding to its original values of reliability and high ethical standards while staying close to customers.

Is this a good time to revisit your assumptions and where the core business should go next?

Management writer, Dr. Chris Zook, who studies core structures offers strategic questions--

1.  How do you know when your core needs to change in some fundamental way?

2.  How do you determine what the new core should be?

3.  How do you go about measuring the vitality which remains--is the energy exhausted or does it still have legs?

4.  How profitable are your customers, and how loyal?  

Remaking commerce

One reason makeovers have a high rate of failure, some say as much as 70% (McKinsey & Company), is that businesses tend to travel great distances seeking success in unfamiliar territory (Microsoft and Nokia). Those in the 30% who succeed stay close to home (Disney and Pixar).  

What do they discover?

Hidden assets.

"The real question," says Dr. Zook, "is how to open management's eyes to the hidden assets in its market. How to mine the treasure that's within their reach."    

Planning ahead

Coronavirus is doing something to your employees and customers.  The full impact remains to be seen.  In the meantime, here are additional questions to consider as you think about the future--

o  What's your core idea and business?
o  What's worth keeping in the core?
o  What needs changing or remaking?
o  Are current customers aging out?
o  Where will you find new customers? 



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