Category Archives: management

Dangers and rewards in the Fortune 50

A Fortune 50 Executive said it was one of the more difficult times of his life.  He was in charge of identifying 2000 MBA’s in their organization who would receive layoff notices in December.  These were dedicated workers from top schools who were earning fat salaries.  They were putting in long hours on important projects, sure their futures were secure.  Just before Christmas they would get their pink slips.  Their lives would shatter.

Of course he had been on that same track and made it past middle management.  He was actually going to be well rewarded that year.  He was dramatically cutting costs.  His bonus was tied to how heavily he slashed employees.  It was tough, but every person fired was a little more gravy for him. He was earning more than he could have at any mid-sized company.

The rewards are great, but so are the risks in the Fortune 50.

Most of those huge companies are divided up into groups and divisions so that they run a lot like a mid-sized company with strong financial backing.  That does provide stability and a chance to be part of a high risk/high reward project.  However, all that strong financial backing can disappear when 3/4ths of the company has a bad year.  Then out come the knives.  The most profitable divisions also have job cuts at those times.

Just last month I was talking with my son about the Fortune 50 company he is working for that is cutting folks at a division with a 50% profit margin and high growth rate.  Sometimes it seems odd.  There is always a good reason somewhere when they do something like that.

Is it better to work for a mid-sized or small company?  No one knows.  That’s because no one knows the future.  I’m sure that at least half of those 2000 MBA’s went to mid-sized and small companies after they were cut loose.  Their experience and education got them all new jobs within 6 months or a year.

When you get a chance to work for a huge company, remember the risks as well as the rewards.  There is no free ride.  Reward and risk always go together. Don’t forget the rewards of experience as well as the money, or the risks that come with being part of an organization where you are an expendable replaceable cog.

Something to do today

Look at your own job stability.  How subject are you to layoffs not related to your area’s performance?


Coming up

Scrabble and muck and get ahead

When to give up and go elsewhere


And a final thought about the same question and the government

You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly too.  (John Kenneth Galbraith)

One way the economy is really affecting hiring that is critical, but few notice

10 years ago the average car buyer visited 4.1 dealers before buying. Today he visits 1.7 dealers. The buyers are better informed. They can even find the dealer invoice amount, dealer only incentives and other bargaining information before they buy. The speed of decision making has dramatically increased.

3 years ago companies we deal with sometimes took months to consider who exactly they should hire. There was no hurry. Candidates were plentiful and not moving into new jobs quickly. Slow hiring was not a problem.

Now the need to fill particular jobs is more acute. I’m talking about the highest demand jobs.  Even in this economy there are critical jobs that desperately need to be filled. Companies need to hire quickly.

Even after an offer is accepted, more candidates are being courted by the company they are trying to leave and the companies they turn down. That courting often continues for months after they start their new job. For these critical jobs, 20% or more of the people that accept a job, get stolen by someone else before they start.  The speed of decision making is increasing as well as the need for good decisions.

Companies are less and less likely to seriously consider you unless you are serious about a move. They won\’t allow you two weeks to decide if you want a job. If the company waits that long then they may lose their two backup candidates. The companies just can’t wait.

Since companies and candidates are moving faster now, I\’ll give you some guidelines about how you can make decisions quickly over the next few days.

Something to do today

You are at least considering leaving your job. Write down why. It will help organize your thoughts.


Coming up

How to make a quick decision

Support net preparation

Personal brainwork

Job research

Company research

The real reasons large projects fail

All large projects do not fail.  Only 1/3 of them.  The 5 main reasons for failure of large projects that will transform the way people work are well explained.  You just think this only applies to Information Systems.  Think about the last large transformative project you saw attempted or completed.

Read more here.

How to prepare your boss to promote you

Prepare yourself for the world, as the athletes used to do for their exercise, oil your mind and your manners, to give them the necessary suppleness and flexibility, strength alone will not do.  (Earl of Chesterfield)

Julie called my office.  She wants a promotion.  I’m a recruiter, it’s my job to help her find that promotion in a new company.  I hate to have someone turn down a job because their boss makes them a counter offer they can’t refuse. So, I asked her, “How often do you tell your boss you want a promotion?”

“I told him at my last performance review.”

“How long ago was that?”

“It has been over a year.  We’re so busy the managers just can’t find time to do them.”

She’s a superstar performer going nowhere.  When the office is jumping with activity for months at a time, no one counts her performance as exceptional.  They just know she isn’t any trouble.

So, I suggested she declare her candidacy in a way that makes her an obvious choice for that promotion. It will also make it easier to find a new job with a promotion.  First Julie needs to invite a few of her bosses out to lunch.  She needs to let them know she wants the promotion.  She needs to find a mentor.  Then she needs to get a plan put together with her mentor’s help.  She needs to prepare for promotion.

Deciding who to promote in an office of heads down hard workers is tough.  There is no standout leader.   No one has already taken the helm.  However, in an office with a bunch of hard workers, one of whom has been working with the boss to develop leadership skills for a year, which will get promoted?  Obviously the boss’s protégé.  The person who has declared themselves for the job.

Julie may need to take a bookkeeping course, sales training, management classes and take the lead in 5 or 10 projects.  What she needs can be determined with her mentor.  As she does these things, she will be seen as the obvious choice for a promotion.  Her bosses and her coworkers will both see she is the obvious choice for promotion.

If you want to be promoted ask one of your bosses to help you prepare now.  Find a mentor.

Something to do today

Invite your boss or his boss to lunch.  Ask him to mentor you and help you get ready for a promotion.


Later:               You are underpaid, right?

Why and how to find a good manager to work for

A manager is making you happy or miserable.  A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM) concluded that 79% of people who leave their jobs say that lack of appreciation is a key reason.  Happiness at work is, therefore, the manager’s fault.  People quit because of their managers.  In the end, your managers will make or break your work experience.

The average person who changes jobs only gets a 5% raise according to another study.  That is not a lot of money. Quite often the next raise would have met or exceeded that.  So money is not a major factor

Recognition, praise, rewards and awards are part of a manager’s duty. Yet many managers get so caught up in projects and budgets that they never say, “Well done!”

So, when you are looking for a job or a promotion, you know the most important thing to look for. Find a good manager.

How do you decide who is a good manager?

Find a chance to ask people who have been working for that person how they like it.  Listen carefully for hints of happiness or unhappiness.  Follow through on any hints with more questions.

Think about the managers you have liked.  Haven’t they been the ones who knew how well you did, and recognized you for it?

Something to do today

List your last 4 managers. First rank them by how well they appreciated your accomplishments.  Then rank them by how you liked them overall as managers.  Is there something to this?  What kind of a manager or team leader are you?


Later:               A kick in the teeth

You vs offshoring

Prepare to be a manager

You are underpaid, right?

Office politics – train your eyes

Seeing office politics is not easy.  Seeing the final disastrous result of office politics is easy.  You can train yourself to see invisible office politics before they kill you.  Let me give you an example of being trained to see what is already there.

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. (Albert von Szent-Gyorgi)

I took my Boy Scouts out into the woods.  We went to look for animal signs.  The boys couldn’t see a thing.  Nothing.  Then one spotted a bird.  They all saw it.  Another heard a woodpecker.  Suddenly they could all hear it and they also noticed the trees with woodpecker holes in them.  I pointed out a rabbit run.  The leaves were broken up into littler pieces than the surrounding leaves and there was also a tunnel under some bushes.  They started seeing rabbit runs.  We walked down the road and I saw some deer tracks.  They looked and found the path that the deer were using.  It was just like a rabbit run, only bigger.  As their eyes were trained, they saw more and more.  Once they concentrated on looking for things out of the ordinary, they got good at spotting animal signs.

Training yourself to see office politics is difficult.  Often you see the person who gets what they want, and not the people who enable it.  Look at the interactions where you are.  Who really makes decisions?

Choosing a guide is a great idea.  Don’t choose the loudest person.  Choose the most effective person.  Who seems to get what they want?  Invite them to lunch or just find a moment to be alone with them. Ask how they do it.  Sincere interest is a form of flattery that is almost impossible to resist.  You will quickly find out what you need.

Warning! As you are finding out who the gatekeepers and roadblocks are, learn to keep your mouth shut.  Getting experts to trust you with their secrets depends on your keeping their confidence safe.  Ask questions.  Don’t spill the dirt.  Funny thing about gossip, effective people shun it.  They like helping people understand how a department really works, but they shut down and hurt gossips.

You can have a training program you don’t have to pay for.  If you are worthy of their trust, the people who know will train you.  They will want you for an ally.

Something to do today

Take a few days and become an observer.  Ask questions.  Find out the lay of the land.  Who are the people who benefit from the power brokers?  Who really are the power brokers?


Later:              Job ad red herring

Resume red herring

Interview red herring

Office politics – is documentation or lunch the way to win?

Go for the throat office politics can be won.  The bureaucrats can be defeated.  Here is how I did it once.

I was on a team of outsiders making massive updates to their computer system.  Every time we went around one of their team members, they sent us an email.  If we didn’t do things their way, we got an email.  We got a lot of emails.

The president of the company was a figurehead.  The VP of Operations from out of town was the person who had funded the company.  He wasn’t the head, he was the leader.  He actually had the power to fire the president.

Things finally came to a head when we were about to finish the project one week late.  We had charged an extra $300,000 and were 15% over budget.  All the over budget charges were for taking over jobs that the staff just wasn’t getting done.

The staff figured they had us up against a wall.  They wanted our blood. We were going to be a week late.  We had made them look bad.  They had undeniable documentation of all our failings and our failure to listen.

So we called a meeting with the VP, the staff, and our team of outsiders for 11:30 AM.  The VP had to fly in from out of state to attend.  The staff was sure we would be crucified.

He got in and we sat down.  The head of the staff had a stack of emails 3 inches thick that he had printed out.  Proof!  He handed it to the VP.

The VP asked, “Will the system go live in a week?”

“Yes,” said the staff head.

“Will it work well enough to keep the company running?”

“Yes, but they…”

“Were you able to test the system they put in?”

“Yes, but they…”

“Did they charge us for anything they didn’t do?”

“No, but they didn’t do what they were supposed to.  I’ve got documentation here.”

“But they got done what we needed.  They finished the job that had to get done.  It’s lunch time.  I’m going to lunch.  Who wants to come with me?”

The meeting was over.  How had we won?  Politics.

I kept in phone contact with the VP.  I kept asking him what he wanted done.  I told him, that it would be expensive.  I told him his staff was getting in our way.  Every time I called, I had a solution to a problem.  I also kept reminding him of how expensive it would be if we failed.

The staff just kept sending him emails.

He listened to me because I had solutions to his problems.  He ignored the staff because they just whined. He was also hungry and the meeting was right before lunch, so he had no desire to listen to whining.

Be the person who brings solutions and gets things done, and you will notice that office politics shatter around you.  No one can beat you because you get the most important stuff done.

Think about it.  How does that apply to you?

17 non- obvious signs your company is in trouble – The tsunami is coming

Some signs of company trouble are easy to ignore.  They aren’t obvious signs of trouble.  They can even look like progress.

In the great Indian Ocean tsunami some people survived because they knew the signs of a tidal wave of disaster waiting to happen.  They had learned, “When the sea retreats far past the beach, run for the high ground.  It will soon come roaring back.”  It is a natural occurrence before a tsunami.

Job disasters have signs of impending doom like the tsunami causing water to retreat from the shore.  Think about it.  What happens before a car plant closes down entirely?  Work is cut back.  Minor layoffs occur.  Sales are obviously dropping.  Cars stay on dealer lots for longer and longer.  Rebates and special incentives are used to sell cars.  Managers, supervisors and foreman are laid off.  Finally the plant closing is announced.

An old Thai proverb says,

At high tide fish eat ants.  At low tide ants eat fish.  (Thai proverb)

A healthy company succeeds by doing effectively what a dying company struggles unsuccessfully to do over and over.

Signs of doom I have seen where I worked included:

  • A new quality program annually.
  • No more flowers sent to funerals of workers and their family members.
  • Business travel cut backs.
  • On the job training cut back to “just in time” training.
  • Payments for outside tuition cut back.
  • Technology innovation specialists moved back into production jobs.
  • Promised bonuses cut back or not paid.
  • Refusal to let employees transfer to other areas in the company.
  • Relocation expense reimbursement eliminated.
  • Sudden personal interest in the workers by the company president and chairman.
  • Empowerment training during declining markets.
  • Not replacing people who quit.
  • Reorganizing more and more often.
  • Stock price dropping.
  • Replacement of salespeople at a quick clip.
  • A frenzy of competitor acquisitions.
  • A sudden focus on getting “good press” or being in trade publications.

When you see the signs of impending problems, you may still have years to prepare.  Or you may have days.  The important thing is to start preparing without being part of the problem.  Take positive steps in your own sphere of influence.

When the water retreats from the shoreline, it may look like a great time to go out and pick up the fish left behind.  When your boss is sacked, it may seem like the perfect time to get into management. And it may be true.  But be careful and look for signs that a tsunami is coming to wash your whole company away.


Later I will talk about how businessmen in India cope with far worse problems than Americans can even begin to understand, and do it with a smile.

Something to do today

Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper.  On the left put signs of company strength, reasons for optimism.  On the right put a list of troubling signs of decline.  Now pick how you can help accentuate the positive or eliminate the negative.  Not only will your actions help your company, they will insulate you from layoffs and prepare you for a new job.


Tomorrow:     Businessmen from India

6 rules for recruiting IT pros

Try as they might to hire just the right candidate, HR professionals can miss the mark when it comes to recruiting IT professionals. Software engineers with subpar skills, developers with the wrong certifications, network administrators who don’t fit the corporate culture–they all can be the unfortunate by-products of an HR manager who doesn’t find the right talent for an IT team.

How HR and IT professionals work together….   more

How to manage engineers, developers, (and accountants)

“The reality is tech support people, engineers, and developers have more in common with each other than they do with anyone else,” said Paul Glen, an IT management consultant and author of Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People who Deliver Technology. “We see the world somewhat differently and we, as groups, interact differently.”

Read on…