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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle


Using an Editor

I am a recent convert to the idea of using an editor, but once I got my ego out of the way, it has turned out to be a wonderful addition to my virtual staff.

My first editor came from elance.com It turns out that she went to the same university with me, but I have not met her, and neither have I spoken to her on the phone. She has worked for me on different projects for almost a year now, and I don't recall whether she ever told me which city she lives in.

I recently also started working with a local editor, who I also met on the internet, but this time through her blog. She happens to be editing this blog for me, and is doing a great job in fixing the typos that creep in from time to time. We are yet to meet in person.

It's been great working with them, and they have become indispensable to me, in helping to shape the words that have been coming out faster than I can write.

I recommend them, and their services, and they are becoming typical of the kind of relationships that are needed in this age to get work done. In other words, a professional who is limited to only working with people in flesh and blood is likely to be limiting themselves severely, and not know it.


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Open Positions at Framework Consulting (update 10.14.07)

Consulting Project Consultants: None at the moment

Administrative Non-Consulting Positions:

1. Web Designer (part-time): We are looking for someone to refresh and monetize the Framework blogs. We also want to use GoogleAdwords advertising to advertise the website in key places.

Job Description: Preferably living in Jamaica, the Web Designer must have a working knowledge of html and php and display a high standard of work, plus a healthy regard for due dates.

Volunteer Positions:

2. HR Researcher (part-time): We are looking to expand CaribHRForum, the online community sponsored by Framework, to a wider audience of professionals, and to include more students across the region. We also want to gather more pertinent information for the benefit of our members, and to launch initiatives that deepen the participation of the HR community across the region.

Job Description: This individual will support CaribHRForum, an online community, with key information. Good internet skills are needed, as well as sound research skills and a great attitude. The work will be done virtually, and the researcher may reside in any country that allows them to use high speed internet service on their own computer.

3. Contributing Writer (part-time): We are looking to collaborate with other business writers in publishing FirstCuts, The One Page Digest and this blog, Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle. Interested writers should become familiar with past issues, and with the general style of writing and topics of interest before deciding their interest-level.

4. Thought Partner - Time Management (part-time): This position is for someone who has read our time management blog and likes the ideas enough to have some different, original ones of their own. Read the 2Time Mgt blog here: http://2time.wordpress.com

Send email to me fwade99@gmail.com


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Creating a Signature Experience

I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review that spoke to the idea of "Creating a Signature Experience" for employees.

The idea is simple -- what do employees experience as they work within the company?

I have worked as a consultant to several, and can think of a few examples of companies that left me with strong impressions. A few were so "strong" I have vowed never to do business with them again -- this as a paid contractor.

For employees, some companies create the experience of chaos. Others are stingy. Some are challenging, with high standards. In others, anything goes.

I don't think that any one experience is necessarily better than another, but I do get the impression that few companies actually give much thought to the experience they are creating for their employees.

This is too bad, as a good reputation leads to good people being hired, and vice versa. Also, some business results are better achieved by certain corporate cultures than others. For example, a culture of accountability is always a good thing -- never bad.

Companies need to define the experience and its various drivers if they are serious about the destination they are headed in.

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Outsourcing Customer Service

I think it would be a great idea if companies in Jamaica were to outsource their customer service. Apart from the hotels (which give service to tourists and rely on Jamaican pride as an essential component) our service levels are low.

In a prior post I explained that there are three kinds of service: Tourist Service, Friend Service and "Res' a Dem" Service.

I think that many companies would benefit from simply outsourcing their service to a company that could
  1. train their people to deliver better, more friendly service
  2. hire fewer people
  3. pay them better
There are too many places in Kingston selling expensive goods while delivering service that just does not make the cut. If I were interested in running this customer service business, I would probably partner with a security company (they have experience hiring a lot of people on contract) while developing a method of hiring people who have the ability to give good service.

Actually, the same company would do well in Trinidad and Barbados, where the same problem pertains.


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FirstCuts15.0 -- Having a Vision vs. Being a Visionary Leader

Follow this link to the latest issue of FirstCuts: http://urlcut.com/FirstCuts15


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The Cost of a Broken Promise

In an earlier post, I mentioned this idea I have of a promisphere.

To take the idea a bit further, I have been wondering: what is the cost of a promise that falls through the cracks?

In other words, what happens when a promise is broken, by virtue of it being ignored, forgotten, or misplaced?

The follow-up question is simple. If companies found a way to improve the degree to which promises were kept, what difference would that make to the bottom line?

To answer the first question:
  • Cost to the the individual: I don't know about you, but I remember those people who are unable to keep promises. I don't ask them to do very much, or if I must, I replace their faulty memory with my reminder system. This costs me time and effort, but it also causes them to lose a bit of their personal brand in my eyes. I may stop doing business with them altogether if I realize, for example, that keeping the promises they make is just not important to them.
  • Opportunity cost: Projects fail, and opportunity costs are incurred as the project's goals remain unmet
  • Rework cost: A failed project sometimes must be restarted. Efforts are duplicated and precious resources are wasted.
These seem to be the main costs of a lack of promise management.

The way I would fix that with some magical technology is that I would have a device hanging around my neck that detects whenever a promise is made. This "promise-keeper" would record the promise, the due date and the accountable person. It would automatically remind the person at regular intervals, and also send a request for an update whenever I wondered for just a
moment what the latest update might be.

In other words, I would not have to worry about promises. This system would do all the work for me.

Of course, others might find it to be a pain, because it would offer a perfect way to remind both of us when a promise was due. I would be able to accept hundreds and thousands of promises.

Unfortunately, such a system does not exist.

But Promisystem does, and is well on its way to becoming a magical way to keep track of promises.


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Vote Here for a New Paradigm in Time Management

Recently, I made a proposal.

On ChangeThis.com I recently proposed that the old methods of thinking about time management as a bunch of little tips is bankrupt, and that a new paradigm is needed.

The cool thing is that if you are impressed by the proposal I submitted (reproduced below), you can vote on it. If the proposal gets enough votes, then I will be asked to "Write a Manifesto" which they will post on the site. (There is no cost or payment involved.)

So, should I "Write this Manifesto?" -- let the world know and follow these steps, if you'd like:

1. Read the "Proposal" below

2. If you like it, vote for it by clicking here to be taken to the site and then click on "Yes, write this manifesto." Then pass on the link to others so that they can vote on it also.

3. If you LOVE it, visit the 2Time blog that outlines the 11 Fundamentals of 2Time Management

4. If you go beyond loving it, let me know by sending me an email -- francis@fwconsulting.com or by leaving a comment on the 2Time blog.

I will post the outcome after October 19th, when voting closes.

Here is "The Proposal"

On Time Management: Toss Away the Tips, Find the Fundamentals

Author(s): Francis Wade

There is a stew of tips floating around on how to improve one's time management skills, confusing the professional who is trying to become more productive.

However, neither a professional basketball player nor a concert pianist becomes great by learning a bunch of tips. Instead, their expertise comes through practice, learning, coaching and reflecting on the fundamental techniques they learned at the very beginning.

To witness Michael Jordan sinking free-throws, or Leonard Bernstein practising scales, is to know that their public triumphs were won long before the bright lights were turned on. Working professionals have never been taught the fundamentals of time management, and are stuck chasing after the latest tips and coolest gadgets.

Imagine MJ chasing after the latest sneakers...

What are the unalterable, fundamental elements of time management? How can they be learned? How can they be practiced? How can they be coached? How can they be perfected?

The Answer Is...

Remember, if you like it, vote for it by clicking here, and then on "Write this Manifesto" and pass on the link to others so that they can vote on it also


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HR Trend #2 -- Social Networking

CEO: "We need a social networking site in this company to enhance our CRM efforts and to enable knowledge sharing."

VP-HR: "A what?"

Last year, a friend of mine shared with me the fact that he was joining a new company that specialized in social networking in companies.

I had an idea of what he meant in theory. I thought I knew what Facebook, MySpace and the all the rest of these sites were all about.

That is, until I joined Facebook -- and I was amazed. Not only did was it interesting, and addictive, it actually fills an important business need that I have always had to stay in touch with a large number of people.

I discovered that it makes the effort easy, efficient and that it saves ALL sorts of time. It has not only come, it is bound to stay.

Now, what my friend said to me makes perfect sense. Facebook, and social networking sites are coming to companies near you. And the larger the company, the more it is needed, especially for those companies in the region that are geographically dispersed. Here is a link to the company he works for: SmallWorldlabs.com

For the HR professional, it is a good idea to get into the swing of things NOW, before the conversation listed above happens. In fact, it would be a good idea for HR professionals across the region to pioneer the idea and demonstrate some leadership in implementing a tool that will be taken as a requirement (I think) in just a few years time.

To folks on CaribHRForum -- this is a great application that we could use to deepen our current level of networking. People have often asked me for a list of contact information for people on CaribHRForum and it just does not exist. Their idea was that if they visited another country it would be great to arrange to have lunch with a member here and there.

Great idea! A tool like Facebook would be quite helpful to all of us, even if only a half were to use it.

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Creating a Bad Culture pt 2

Here is a continuation of the list of things I would do to create a really bad corporate culture, if I were the CEO.
  1. Create a Culture of Fear
    I would fire people at will and without warning, showing people who is in charge. I'd do my best to humiliate others wherever possible so that even the smallest challenges to my leadership are quashed. The "Art of War" would be my friend.

  2. Make it Clear Personal Money is Paramount
    I would casually mention in conversation that my main priority is my retirement, and how I plan to fund it. People would hear from me they they should be doing the same, if they know what is good for them.

  3. Blame the Customer
    I'd make the message plain -- if customers don't want to do business with us, then they should go elsewhere, as it is their "right." They'd need to know they are wrong for asking more than we are prepared to give them.

  4. Focus on the Short Term
    I would waste no time on developing fancy vision statements and the like. After all, no-one can predict what will happen with much accuracy in the future. Instead, I'd gear people to short-term results and meeting the goals that will make me look good to the board. My job would be to motivate people using money and personal gain wherever possible, forcing them to compete with each other

  5. Keep Around Non-Performers
    While I would fire at will, I'd make sure to keep around some employees who are mediocre - after all, we can't ALL be stars, can we? I'd move them from job to job, to keep them and everyone else happy in the short term. Making employees happy and comfortable on a day-to-day basis, without any sense of sacrifice, would be critical to getting them to like me.
It's interesting, but I was surprised when I made this list how easy it was to create. Changing culture is easy to do badly, or inadvertently. My clients are often surprised at the degree
of fallout they experience when they do something dumb (i.e. against their self interests.)

It is much harder to do everything right, and unfortunately, building a great culture requires a leadership performance that is not perfect, but sets the limit of the change by the weakest area visible to others.

For example, a manager might be a good leader in most respects, but a bad listener. Guess which characteristic will have the greatest impact?

Managers and executives need to be working on themselves all the time, as the bar is constantly being raised by those around them. Success only breeds higher expectations and greater challenges.

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Creating a Bad Culture pt 1

People talk about how hard it is to change a corporation's culture, but I have started to think that they are wrong, in part. I think it's easy to change corporate culture if one wants to make it worse.

Let us imagine a newly appointed CEO, who is really intent on screwing up the culture. Where would he start?
  1. Complain about everything
    If I were that CEO, I would start by complaining to anyone who will listen about anything that I think needs to change. If I were skillful, I would make sure that no-one could see what I was doing.

    I would complain about things that can't change, like things in the past, or taxes. I would make sure that I pointed the finger at other people, blaming them for anything that didn't go right.

    I would conceal how much I enjoy complaining, and pretend that I really wanted things to change.

  2. Listen to Complainers
    I would also encourage others to complain to me. They would be able to commiserate as much as they want, and I would listen and add my two cents worth. I know they would be blaming others, and I would agree with them all.

    I would promote the people who are the really big complainers, and support them in passing on responsibility to others. I would have no problem as they justify their poor performance.

    After work, I'd support long sessions over drinks while we all spend some more time wishing that things are different.

  3. Break Promises
    I'd make public promises and simply never bring them up again if they are never met. It would be a case of selective amnesia.

  4. Communicates Infrequently and Irrelevantly
    I would rarely speak to groups of employees. I would also never encourage a Q&A and use a script wherever possible. I'd avoid speaking about the issues that people care about the most, unless I have really good news.

  5. Never Let Them See you Sweat
    I'd be sure to communicate confidence and capability at ALL times. No matter what uncertainties or doubts I may have, I'd never show them, and learn to hide my true feelings (the better to build trust in my leadership.)

To be continued...

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Research: Creating a Culture

In recent research conducted by Accenture, the following factors were given as the most important when it comes to the all-important task of building a corporate culture. These are given in rank order of importance.
  1. Behaviour modelled by management
  2. What leaders pay attention to, model and control
  3. Performance and promotion systems
  4. Criteria used for selection, retention and termination
  5. Leaders' reactions to critical incidents and crises that threaten survival and test the values of the organization
  6. The organization's formal and informal design and structure
  7. Systems, policies and procedures that determine how work is done
  8. Stories and legends about key people that are told throughout the organization
  9. Ceremonies (company celebrations, awards, rites of passage or advancement)
  10. Formal statements of philosophy, principles and values
There is a lot in this list that is very interesting, and the research is based on interviews with 65 companies.

I'd be willing to bet that all of those companies are based in developed countries, and that no more than one or two are run by people of colour. It leads me to think that the survey instruments they have devised are less than useful for Caribbean companies, and would need to be modified before use.

Read the complete report entitled "Creating a Corporate Culture that Drives Greater Financial Returns and High Performance".


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The Making of an Expert

From time to time on this blog I have written about the need for professionals to commit themselves to mastery, as a way of expressing a love for what one does, and as a way of becoming very, very skilled.

Then, along comes an excellent article in Harvard Business Review that makes the case that research is showing that an expert is made, and not born, even in the case of a Mozart or a Jordan.

The article is well worth reading, and gives hope to those of us who remember the old power were taught as kids:
The heights of great men reached and kept,
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they, while their companions slept
Were toiling upwards through the night.

-- Winston Churchill
I strongly recommend the article -- available for about US$4 from the Harvard Business Review site.

It's message is important, and it is urgent, as it counters the dis-empowering thinking that what you are born with is the absolute and essential ingredient to any kind of success.


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HR Trends #1a -- Diversity

(Also posted on the CaribHRForum discussion list)

Imagine the setting of a corporate meeting room, and a critical point in the meeting when a CEO turns to the VP HR, looks them dead in the eye and says:

CEO Question:
We need a diverse corporate culture. How do we go about building one?

VP HR: I'll have a plan to discuss with you in a couple of days.

In the plan presented, the VP HR (who hopefully has been thinking about this for some time,) has laid out the following:

  1. Based on the strategy we are following, what are our 10-20 year goals?
    If we don't have any, then diversity is a moot point because it's a capability that cannot be built today, but only years in the future.

  2. In what way does it need to be diverse?
    Does it need to be more diverse than our society at large? If so, in what ways? Here are some examples: ethnicity, age, gender, education, sexual orientation, religious background, native language, class, etc.

    If we are looking to sell religious icons to people from different faiths, we had better hire people who understand those faiths.

    If we are looking to have a very creative workforce, we had better pay attention to those studies that say that tolerance and creativity go hand in hand. Our hiring must be flexible enough to attract people of all backgrounds.

    We will need to define the new target population that we want to have in our workforce, and compare it to what we have today.

  3. How do we get there?
    There are a few levers that we have to play with.
    • One is that we change the way that we hire. We can specifically tune our outreach efforts to bring in more people with different backgrounds. This is relatively easy to do.
    • The second lever to use is a change in the corporate culture. This is particularly hard to do.
    • There are several angles to take at the same time when creating a cultural intervention:
      • -- authentic leadership by example
      • -- performance management
      • -- public events
      • -- large group seminars
      • -- personal coaching
We can design a culture that will help us to attract the right kinds of people, giving us whatever kind of diversity we want.

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Voting for Music

The email below just came to me from Boom Networking in relation to the party this weekend. This has GOT to be the first party I have ever attended that asked me what music I wanted to hear several days ahead of time!

WICKED! (in the good way...)

We figured that you are already in a voting mood. We believe that you should always get what you want so we will "play what you say!"

Get ready to hear the music you want at SQUISH 3
This Saturday, September 8th at the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club
9:00 p.m. until we say stop!

Vote for the music you want to hear!

(if you can't click on that link, just go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=ePk_2bGlnesewWG7WSQXxMlQ_3d_3d

Tickets are $3,500 all inclusive and are available from the usual suspects!

And of course we will have limited registration for TRIBE Carnival 2008

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Caribbean CRM and Facebook

Here is the genesis of new possibility...

In an earlier post, I mentioned the idea that doing CRM properly here in the region would benefit from a way of finding out who are the people in a prospect's network.

Funnily enough, I am discovering that Facebook is precisely and exactly the right solution to the problem of finding out who is in one's network. Here in the Caribbean, this equates to opportunity, as everything important is done through "who you know" and for the first time, you can find a LOT of people that are known and trusted by each other without asking them directly.

I am amazed that no-one seems to have taken advantage of this in any way that I can see.


But I am sure it's just a matter of time before someone sees Facebook as more than just a cute application, and an addictive pastime, and starts using it to get into the world of influential people.

Actually, maybe the folks over at Boom Networking may have gotten the right idea. They have opened up a page on Facebook to advertise their next event this weekend. If I weren't on Facebook, I wouldn't have heard about it, and I have been trying to attend one of their events for the longest time. (Once again, I'll be missing out, too.)

Stay tuned for more on this topic.

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HR Trends #1

Recently, Framework Consulting did a survey of the participants in CaribHRForum, an online discussion group that we sponsor.

(The results can be obtained by sending email to hrsurvey2007@aweber.com, and then following the instructions in the confirmation email.)

One of the results that came out clearly was an interest in following the most recent HR Trends.

I imagine that this has something to do with wanting to stay current and up to date with what is happening in the field. At times, this is not too difficult to do -- just watch what is happening in a Developed Country in the HR field.

Yet, on another level we know that most HR products and services just cannot be imported into Jamaica wholesale. Instead, they require customization. Some can't work at all.

Perhaps the way to think about this issue of emerging trends is to not focus on the foreign trend, but instead to think about the kinds of questions that CEO's and MD's might put to HR professionals in the future. How would an HR professional respond if asked for example, to build a diverse workforce?

I am going to try to ask and answer some of these questions on this blog, and see where the answers lead.


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Forward-Thinking Cultures

An interesting article in the Jul-Aug Harvard Business Review describes how countries that are more "forward-thinking" have achieved better results in measures such as GDP per capita and levels of innovativeness, happiness, confidence, and competitiveness.

In the article, "forward-thinking" is defined as the extent to which a culture encourages and rewards such behavior as delaying gratification, planning, and investing in the future.

While the study was confined to countries, I can imagine that it also applies to companies.

In the Framework approach to strategic planning, we use a method of scenario-generation that looks 20-30 years out into the future. This approach is described in the August issue of FirstCuts in more detail -- Issue 14.0 which is available at the Framework Consulting website.

Essentially I think this article is backing the idea of taking a very long view of things, which we endorse.

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