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11 May 2010

Accentuate the Positive

In my weekday gig, we are working through a change in culture. Step one is reading and discussing Jack Stack's book about how he and managers at the leveraged buyout company Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation developed a company-wide way to keep score and keep the eye on the Big Picture, first to survive and pay back all that debt incurred to purchase the near-bankrupt division of International Harvester, and then, to grow and thrive.

There's a lot of skepticism and being in the second group of readers, I can see why.  First question would be, if this works, why hasn't the first group, which has had at least a six-week jump on this book and represents the Company's best-and-brightest, begun practicing any of this share-the-information, help-the-team-succeed, break-the-problem-down-into-smaller-problems-but-keep-your-eye-on-the-Big-Picture stuff?  We don't see yet any change in attitude from those ten or twelve colleagues.  Is the expectation on us as "second child"s (not a typo) to do the heavylifting -- the cheering for the cheerleaders, the spectating for the rolemodels on parade, the Costellos for the Abbotts? If so, I guess we have to "get it," before we can see that sea change from the trailblazers.

The first four chapters are full of little myths to be busted and pep phrases to remember, such as Accentuate the Positive.  Of course, twenty years later (this book was firs published in 1992 about the few years previous), after dozens of how-to-manage books including Jim Collins's  Good to Great, this seems obvious.  However, people need to be reminded, continuously.  Additionally, there's a whole generation of managers who have never heard of Freddy Laker's People's Express Airlines, although we now have dozens of descendants from Southwest Airlines to Ryan Air.

I must personally confess that I am an optimist.  So optimistic am I that I am continuously bruised and battered by reality and I must tamp down that optimism with negativity.  Truly, this is a skill I must hone daily.  I got excited with reading the first four chapters that I allowed my optimism to bubble up and did a couple of things at work one day which resulted in my being totally crushed.  I did not realize I was testing the waters until I got burned.  So, that's why the preceding paragraph is so negative.    If this continuing process becomes interesting enough to report, I'll let you know.

To accentuate the positive, though, I want to report a great use of the word, "literally."  Again, because it's a Wall Street Journal article, I will quote as well as link as the link may disappear or cost you the price of a subscription to read (and as the Wall Street Journal is selling content, that is perfectly reasonable).  It's an article by PeterWallsten analysing the Florida race for U.S. Senate and Obama's possible role. Charlie Crist who had been trailing in the polls for the Republican primary for U.S. Senator, has been considered a moderate Republican, but the once "now-who's-the-Big-Tent-Party?" party is no longer tolerant of anyone left of right.  So, he decided to run for the Senate as an independent (after the writing of Mr Wallsten's article).  As speculations grew on whether or when and how Crist would make the break with the Republican Party, speculations grew on a direct relationship on how the Democrats, especially President Obama, would respond, considering likely Democrat nominee Kendrick Meeks appears to be polling third in a three-way race.

Mr. Meek "is the president's candidate" and that it was a "safe guess" that Mr. Obama would campaign for him.

Still, people familiar with the conversations say that several factors could color Mr. Obama's approach to the race. Polls show Mr. Meek trailing significantly behind Mr. Crist and presumptive Republican nominee Marco Rubio in a three-way contest, Mr. Crist leads the pack, at least for now. Because Mr. Crist has not ruled out caucusing with the Democrats as a senator, the White House could have reason to help him defeat Mr. Rubio—or at least to avoid steps that would impede his campaign.

In addition, people familiar with the conversations said that Mr. Obama's history with Mr. Meek could play a role in his thinking. Mr. Meek was a staunch backer of Mr. Obama's chief rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton.

By contrast, Mr. Crist literally embraced Mr. Obama on a trip to Florida early last year when the president was selling his economic stimulus plan—and supported the program as Mr. Obama was seeking Republican support to lend bipartisan credibility to his agenda. Mr. Crist was later punished by his party for that support, as Mr. Rubio and other Republicans used it to undermine him in the party primary for Senate. 

For those who do not know, Crist really did physically hug the President and thus, this is a superb use of "literally."  Thank you, Mr Wallsten.

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