Topic: Organizational Behavior


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How to Build Relationships and Deliver Happiness: The Story of Zappos

Zappos

Photo by bunnicula

In 1999, Tony Hsieh made an investment in a online shoe shop that was then called shoesite.com.  It was renamed shortly thereafter, and today we know it as zappos.com.  The first year wasn’t very pretty, but in year two Zappos started to show some traction.  It ended the year 2000 with $1.6 million in gross sales.  Gross sales continued to climb, and by 2008, they had exceeded $1 billion.  This is an absurd level of sales growth, yet the fuel for this growth was amazingly straightforward.  Read More »

Three Mental Models Great Managers Use

Shangri-La

Photo by Dhilung Kirat

Organizations, left unattended, move toward disorder.  The realities of Parkinson’s Law – the idea that work expands to fill the amount of time allocated to complete it – have been well documented.  So, Parkinson’s Law helps to explain why organizations naturally evolve towards disorder, and ultimately poor performance.  Managers, of course, act to correct this.  An array of mental models assist managers in working against this natural disorder, but there are three primary mental models that produce the majority of the results:  Read More »

The Story of Les Schwab and His Pride in Performance

Schwab Close

Photo by ocad123

Business often comes down to a core set of principles.  And the story of Les Schwab is no exception.  Keeping things in their simplest form (Reductionism) is what allows us to arrive at a core set of principles, but this is often difficult to do. Reductionism is a key aspect of understanding anything.  If we apply this concept to business, it always comes down to people.  It really comes down to decisions, but decisions are made by people.  And what I love about the Les Schwab story is that he so clearly understood the importance of this.  He loved people.  And if you’re in business, it really helps to love people – no matter how weird, how exotic, how aloof, or how awkward.  Read More »

Is There an Ideal Team Size?

Teamwork

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People are always looking for ways to get things done better or faster.  Depending on the task, that can often mean putting together teams.  Of course, a team isn’t always the best way to accomplish something.  I mean, there’s obviously no need to create a team to do something an individual could do as well or better.  However, if a team makes sense, what is the ideal team size?

Unfortunately, there’s no consensus on what the ideal team size should be.  This is probably because there just simply isn’t one.  And that, of course, is fine.  But everyone seems to have an opinion on what’s best.

Steve Jobs liked to keep his teams to no more than 100 people so that he could remember names; Peter Drucker said teams work best, as a rule, if they have three or four members (and should normally not exceed five or six); Google likes to limit teams to a max of six people; 37Signals thinks three people is the optimal team size for a product release; Reid Hoffman (of LinkedIn) would likely refer to Dunbar’s Number to substantiate groups of up to 150.  And the list could go on…  Does this mean that teams are effective at any size between three and 150 members?  It’s more likely that this simply means teambuilding is a situational exercise, and nothing more.  Read More »

The Most Important Organizational Behavior: Empathy

Empathy

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Mental Models Used: ,

Peter Drucker once noted that the basic personality profile of an individual has been formed by about age five.  If even close to true, this has noticeable effects on organizational behavior within a group.  It implies that trying to alter someone’s personality to “better fit” an organization is a fruitless exercise.  But although attempting to change people is likely wasted effort, understanding them is most certainly not.

Understanding people, or the ability to share feelings with them, is what we call empathy.  And a group using empathy in its communications with each other will create stronger connections between themselves.  Stronger connections = better performance.  And as a side benefit, using empathy within a group often creates an environment where empathy is naturally used for communications or interactions with people outside the group as well.  And this is just like a little waterfall of goodness.  Read More »

An Accelerated Master’s Degree: Manufacturing in One Book

Create

Photo by Stuck in Customs

There have been plenty of books recently published on the concept of Deliberate Practice, which essentially says that it takes 10,000 hours of a certain kind of practice (called ‘deliberate’) to gain expertise in something.   It makes sense that the majority of what you want to learn in any discipline is going to be experiential (or gained through practice).  But in order to better understand your experiences, you want to have some kind of framework of what to expect.  You want to develop a Theory Structure.

Books are what give you this theory structure, and certainly the quality of the theory structure you begin with impacts the amount of deliberate practice you need to become an ‘expert.’  So it’s important to choose the right books, as they will provide the base infrastructure upon which you will layer your experiences.  You’re looking for books that concisely capture the overriding concepts of a particular discipline.

And in any discipline, at least one fairly well defined, there doesn’t need to be that many books to accomplish this.  I would generally say that 3 books or fewer, for each discipline, will give you a proper theory structure.

With that in mind, let’s look at Manufacturing (or really, Production)…  Read More »

How to Increase Employee Productivity: The Science of Making Work Happen

BoredEmployee Pic

Photo by 9likenave.com

Most businesses I talk to would like to figure out healthy ways to grow.  And in almost all of those businesses, that requires people (or employees).  It may simply require greater capabilities amongst current employees, or it may require adding more employees.  In either situation, it makes sense to design the organization so that each person within it can reach peak performance.  And eliciting peak performance from employees is the result of two things: training and motivation.  As Andy Grove says, “A manager generally has two ways to raise the level of individual performance of his subordinates: by increasing motivation, the desire of each person to do his job well, and by increasing individual capability, which is where training comes in.”  Read More »