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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Talent is always in demand

A friend and I were discussing the economy the other day and yes we both were going a bit negative, well actually really negative. The US government says unemployment is at 6.7%. However, I realized I was focusing on the wrong number, let’s switch the number around and you realize that 93.3% are employed. The Brazen Careerist blog had a great post titled: Reason to give Thanks that pointed out:

- Jobs for low-level candidates are increasing
- There are plenty of entry-level jobs to be had
- College grads are doing fine in today's market

And she is correct; most organizations plan to continue college recruitment programs in 2009, but what if you aren’t entry level? Even when unemployment numbers were much lower it was difficult to find good talent. This difficulty was not for lack of candidates, I would review thousands of CV’s and resumes to conduct lots of interviews only to be disappointed. Why? Because there isn’t a lot of skilled high performance people separating themselves in the market place. I have met many individuals that can say the right buzz words and talk the talk; to actually deliver on the talk appears to be something else. There are jobs out there. If you can walk your talk, then don’t fret about the unemployed and focus on what talents you bring to the table and market them.

- Did you struggled with an exceptionally difficult task and managed to get it completed?
Was there a new idea that you discovered or developed?
- If you had a project fail what did you learn from it?

My friend was telling me that he had not worked on a “cool” project for about a year, yet he described his work doing business development in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Shanghai, and Beijing while based in Singapore. I was stunned! His stories of the tasks and projects that he worked on were incredibly interesting, and after describing each project he realized that his frame of reference was wrong. Each of the projects possessed so many interesting facets, challenges successfully overcome, and some very surprising learning opportunities. After our discussion he realized that he could separate himself for the thousands of job seekers; he actually had powerful real world experience.

2009 may prove to be a difficult economic environment. Even so I subscribe to the philosophy of Robert H. Schuller’s aptly titled book: Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do! Take some time rethink your skills and experience and have a successful 2009.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book Review: Change Management

A 94 page manifesto on how to manage change in an organization and I would recommend all management professionals should have this book in their desk reference books. People and organizations naturally resist change and having the proper tools within reach to identify and manage through this resistance will enable you to bring your the organization to the next level. Adding the additional 54 pages of appendices including tools and worksheets to speed your implementation and this book becomes a complete tool set.

Jeffrey Hiatt has written two additional books on change, ADKAR and Employee’s Survival Guide to Change. Both of these books build upon the ADKAR model introduced in Change Management: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Jeffrey Hiatt and Timothy Greasey make the case that this model is applicable to both personal and organizational changes and when used properly will allow for the process of change to happen; carefully laying out the case that “as individuals we, experience change differently, we go through change in stages”. From my personal experiences change is never an easy process to manage especially when dealing with tight deadlines; some classroom training in the ADKAR model will enhance the benefit of this book.

The authors have broken down the change process into 7 basic principles:

Principal 1 – Senders and receivers
Principal 2 – Resistance and comfort
Principal 3 – Authority for change
Principal 4 – Value systems
Principal 5 – Incremental versus radical change
Principal 6 – The right answer is not enough
Principal 7 – Change is a process

Each principal is demonstrated to bring you back to the ADKAR model. I have taught change management extensively to business managers, project managers, and analysts and when ADKAR was effectively applied the result was consistent success. Yes the material is a bit text book but the purpose is to provide a quick desk reference tool and if your organization wants to be effective in a challenging global environment the books simple layout provides quick access the keys elements for managing change.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Annual Review and Goal Setting

The ability to deliver solid cost efficiencies and bottom line profits will be the measure of success for 2009. We are at the end of what I would consider to be a very difficult year and by many accounts a challenging year into the 3rd quarter of 2009. It is with this in mind that I wanted to look into the year end review and goal setting process with an eye for accomplishment. Rich Vosler in his blog post, "This Goal Setting Process Works!" said, "If you do a Google search for Goal Setting you’ll get over 9 million results" and I agree with him. Not a lot of these results were focused on goal setting for individual contributors within the corporate functions of an organization.

Kathy Sierra in her blog post "how to be an expert" said,”the most troubling--and where we have the most leverage--is with the amateur who is satisfied with where they are. These are the folks who you overhear saying, ‘Yes, I know there's a better way to do this thing, but I already know how to do it this [less efficient, less powerful] way and it's easy for me to just keep doing it like that.’ In other words, they made it past the suck threshold, but now they don't want to push for new skills and capabilities.” It is the manager’s responsibility to encourage the employee to step out of the comfort zone and further develop their skills.

There have been tremendous work done on studying goals and lots of evidence that if you just write down your goals you are already ahead of 90% of the population. As business managers it becomes our responsibility to look to our staff and like a coach or teacher build the goal setting process as part of the annual review. The purpose of goals at the individual contributor level is to encourage the further development of skills and the adoption of technology and efficiency enabling the individual to have more time for additional opportunities within the organization including improved personal fulfillment through their work. Goal setting will enable the employee and the manager to:

- Decide what is important for them to achieve their job functions

- Allow for prioritization of activities

- Develop a measure of how well the individual is doing

- To build self-esteem

performer the goal isn't just repeating the same thing again and again but achieving higher levels of control over every aspect of their performance...each session they are working on doing something better than they did the last time.” How do we as managers help our staff to do this by setting good SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.

Specific: For a goal to be specific it should be stated in one or two sentences. If the goal is extended into a paragraph or more the result is confusion. It is much better to break the goal down into several goals rather than have a complicated statement

Measurable: How will you determine the outcome of the goal; timed completion of tasks, certifications, or customer feedback ratings? Adding a measurable component to the goal setting process will enable straight forward determination of success or failure to complete the goal. Measures should be agreed between the manager and the employee and should be straight forward so that even an unknowing third party would be able to agree with the result.

Achievable: Achievability is the most important component. If we are going to work with staff to stretch to the next level we have to ensure that we are not setting targets beyond their capabilities. If the employee does not believe they can accomplish the goal then when they encounter their first setback they will choose to quit.

Relevant: We are talking about setting goals for the workplace; therefore, the goals should be targeting areas and practices that will benefit the company, within the employees’ role, or a development area.

Time Bound: After agreeing to the previous four items the manager and the employee will agree on an appropriate time frame. Generally these goals are defined on an annual or semiannual time frame so that they fit into the management and feedback cycle of the organization.

The best guideline for goal development with staff is to set three to five major goals for the year and then break these into quarterly sub-goals or deliverables. The result should be a collection of mid-term deliverables enabling staff members to verify that they are still on the correct path of achievement. . Michael Hyatt in his blog post, “Goal-Setting: The 90-Day Challenge” talking about adding 90 day based goals into his organization said, “I believe it has gone a long way toward creating a focused and disciplined organization that produces consistent results”. Three to five goals with 90 day deliverables and monthly check points moving team members forward along the path to success; each accomplishment building upon the earlier and ultimate completion at year end.

Zig Zigler recommended using the question, “does this bring me closer to or further from my goal.” To effectively answer this question requires breaking down the goals further into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. For the purposes of the annual goal setting process annual goals with quarterly deliverables will generate consistent results from the team. To further break the goals down into daily activities I recommend looking into some great blogs for more information.

Zen Habits



Getting Things Done in Academia

My Stuff for Getting Things Done

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Book Review: Mastery, the keys to success and long-term fulfillment

I just finished reading the book, "Mastery, The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment" by George Leonard. George Leonard practices and teaches Aikido, considered to be the most difficult of martial arts to learn and achieve. The beauty of Aikido is the path on which you travel rather than the speed at which you attain the levels or trappings of success in this sport. By interweaving the teaching of Aikido into how you can achieve mastery in your life whether it be marriage, work, or learning he argues you can live a more fulfilled life by appreciating the path you are on.

For the most part this book is a call to forsake the instant gratification and instant achievement society professed by the American popular media and return to the joy of the journey. George argues his point in a short 175 page book broken down into three parts:

- The Master's Journey
- The Five Master Keys
- Tools for Mastery

While I did enjoy this book as a brief read, outside of a couple of quotes there is little that you could take away and apply to your life that would actually produce results. The essence of this book can be summed up with the following quote:

"Those we know as masters are dedicated to the fundamentals of their calling. They are zealots of practice, connoisseurs of the small incremental step. At the same time, and here's the paradox, these people, these masters, are precisely the ones who are likely to challenge previous limits. To take risks for the sake o higher performance and even to become obsessive at times in that pursuit. Clearly, for them the key is not either/or, it's both/and".

Essentially enjoy the periods of plateau, when you feel like nothing is happening in your life, focusing on the simple yet boredom inducing; for the beauty it posses. Your ability to appreciate these periods that will grant you a life of fulfillment.

I enjoyed the book but it left me feeling like I wanted more, but not certain I was willing to make the effort to find the "more" I was looking for. I would say it was like watching a movie trailer and when the trailer finished remarking to those with you, "I am not sure I want to see this movie... maybe I will wait for it to come out on DVD".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving; the smell of cooking turkey filling the house, setting up the tables in preparation for the guests to descend upon my mom’s house. Great grandma and Granddaddy would hold court as all of the grand-kids would gather around to hear stories of their world travels. When I think about fond memories, Thanksgiving always comes to mind. It is a time that extended family gets together, each person responsible for a different dish.

Early Thursday morning my mom would get up and prepare stuffing for the turkey, cutting the onions, softening the butter, and mixing the corn bread; finally stuffing the turkey and placing it into the oven. As each of us wake up we would quickly eat breakfast and then set about getting the house ready for our guests later in the afternoon for an early dinner. I always enjoyed the wonderful smell of a Turkey cooking as it wafted through the house. It was always a comforting.

The November mornings in Southern California are always cool but never too cold so that the air has crispness to it, inviting you to dress in your fall sweaters and corduroy pants. After breakfast each child set about their assigned tasks of getting out the folding table, digging to the back of the linen closet to find the table cloths and setting up card tables and folding chairs. Cleaning everything up and then assembling the tables; resulting in a crazy inconsistent pattern of big and little chairs to accommodate the large crowd. The best part of thanksgiving in Southern California is that by afternoon it is warm and that meant we could often sit outside on the back patio to enjoy the fresh air was we ate.

We would hold thanksgiving as a potluck style meal where the host family provided the main dishes and each invitee brought a dish: rolls, drinks, salads, dessert or other interesting creation. It was the experimental dishes that added the interest to our yearly event. Over the years and the marriages and divorces certain dishes materialized as the signature or required dishes for thanksgiving. Three dishes really stand out in my memories, both good and bad.

First was the discovery of cheesy onions. Now I am not certain the history of who discovered them but boy did they become a requirement. Cheesy onions were the small pearl onions were the small pearl and small boiling onions steamed and then mixed into a cream of mushroom soup and sharp cheddar cheese sauce. I still remember the first year I gained responsibility for this dish, learning that the onions had to be cooked prior to putting them into the cheese sauce, boy the family had a laugh that day as I had to strain out the onions and cook them quickly.

We had Pineapple smash which came by way of my uncle’s second wife and while she didn’t stay, the recipe did and it was certain to show each year. I never really like this dish much so it hasn’t made it into my thanksgiving meals.

The one most famous of the family lore was the beet salad from my auntie Margie, the crazy creative aunt. I remember her superb talent in sewing and creating items that sold well at local crafting villages. However, that same talent and creativity extended to her selection of what to bring for her dish to Thanksgiving. And the most interesting was the Beet Salad; though it did end up being the least painful of here concoctions. We all claimed to like it to prevent something even stranger showing up the next year. I am not certain the recipe but I will share that from the red canned string beets and some form of white sauced emerged the salad; it was only missing something blue to make it the ultimate patriotic dish for 4th of July.

Wishing everyone the best for Thanksgiving

Friday, November 21, 2008

Excess Baggage

I was sitting down for my morning coffee on Monday getting ready for my new commitment to write something every day. Actually I am calling it my write one edit two previous writings. The idea being that I can achieve my goal of posting to this blog once a week; if I write every day I may actually have something that I would want post at the end of the week.

While drinking my coffee and pondering on what to write I notice a businessman dressed in his official business attire, a suit, on his way to the airport express. For those of you not familiar with Hong Kong the Airport Express is a train that travels from Central, Hong Kong to the airport in about 26 minutes. He had to two bags with him .the first being the standard issue carry-on or roll-away bag quite normal for the average business traveler. This stood out to me not because he was the only person in the plaza but because of his struggle, one which I find myself dealing with when I am traveling. It was the second bag that caught my attention for this bag was really a briefcase of sorts. Well not an actual a briefcase more of a soft sided messenger type bag, something many of us use to place papers laptops and other stuff when going places. His struggle caught my eye reminding me of how I deal with this on a consistent basis, the annoyance of trying to balance the bag on top of the carry-on while rolling it. Now I don’t know about you but for me I have not discovered the secret trick to getting the bag balance correct and I find myself stopping every so often to adjust the bag back to the center, only to have it fall again and again.

I have tried the accessory bag clip that comes with the carry-on trying to get it set just right so that my bag doesn’t drag on the ground as I roll through the airport. I have studied the flight attendants and captains as you might have notice their bags seem to sit just right no doubt from countless hours of practice. I have studied and applied all of the tricks to effective packing so that your clothes don’t wrinkle, yet still struggle to figure out the best way to balance a bag. I am able to take satisfaction in knowing that I am not alone as I watched the fateful traveler struggling to open the door while his second bag tilted to the side pulling his arm in some strange angle. He did make it through. And as I admired his spirit I grabbed my bag and headed to the office to start my day.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Musings for October

I often even have to remind myself that if I am concerned then my team members are in the same situation and it is my responsibility to go out and remind them not to give up on dreams and goals and that life will go on and we need to be experiencing it.

Right now the world feels like it is spiraling out of control and that can cause a lot of concern and worry. Yes, there is much that we cannot control; there is always a reason to stop and give up. But I recommend that you do not stop. This too shall pass; we can weather the storms be they economic or other and will get through and be better for it. Glen Bland in his book Success said, “Your life is defined by the people you meet and the books you read”, I would add and the places you have been. For many of us our life gets wrapped up in our work and we often forget that it is work that is performed for the purpose of living. Each year we should take stock and re-evaluate how our time and effort is being spent. There are many things that we do not have control of but so often I find that there are just as many that we can control.

Earlier this month I was having a conversation with several of my team members and they were trying to decide if they should cancel their vacation plans during the upcoming national holidays. My first question was have you already paid for the trip, all answered with a resounding, well yes of course we have. My answer back was then yes you should go. Why? What the US government, the markets, or our organization's actions are not in our control and will happen whether we stay home or go on a trip. Given the choice between a life experience or sitting home staring at the news channels trying to forecast the future, I will take the life experience every time. I would rather be climbing Mount Fuji, lying on a beach, riding my bike through China, or some other exciting activity and gain a life experience that I can share with my friends and family the next time we get together.

I believe that your life is a collection of the books you read, the people you meet, and your experiences.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Three Excellent Economic Blogs

While the current economic situation has been unfolding I have been trying to understand how we got into this situation. Fortunately there are some really high quality blogs that focused on the economy and their insight from the beginning has been spot on. I would like to share the three primary blogs I read and a free newsletter from John Mauldin.

John Mauldin’s Thoughts from the Frontline

A friend referred me to John Mauldin’s weekly news letter. I found his insights and ability to simplify complex concepts into understandable language refreshing. It was here that I first learned about how this economic crisis was evolving.

In my quest to gain more understanding of what was happening and my frustration with the mainstream press’s inability to provide the detail I was craving; I started looking further into the blog world. Being a part of the financial industry I knew that there was much more to what was happening than what was currently being discussed. After finding a list of the top 10 economic blogs I discovered Mish’s Global Economic Analysis and Calculated Risk. What I liked about these two blogs is that they pull information and articles from all over the web and include their commentary.

Mish's Global Economic analysis
I have found that Mish has been accurate on most of his writings and when wrong it has been for being optimistic in his forecast.
We can all understand that forecasting is really a game of best guess so I usually let these errors go. Mish does tend toward the Austrian Economic model rather than Keynesian Economics and as I watch the credit crunch begin to take its toll on the world economy I am leaning a little more toward Mish’s way of thinking.

Calculated Risk
Calculated risk is more focused on the US real estate market. This blog more often provides a wide range of articles and videos which is a good starting point for a daily dose of news.

Finally this last blog I discovered earlier this week while trying to understand why the emerging market economies were getting into financial trouble so quickly. I found Brad Setser’s Follow the Money blog

Brad Setser: Follow the Money
In this blog I quickly learned the emerging economies were borrowing in dollars because their currencies were strong against the US dollar.
However, when the financial crisis really picked up speed this summer there was a flight to safety and that meant the US dollar has strengthened against many currencies. Countries need to pay their loans in US dollars and quickly depleted their dollar reserves.

Take a look at these blogs for a much better explanation of the current crisis. Cheers

Friday, October 17, 2008

Credit is tight Manage Your Capital

Much of what we are hearing in the press about the financial markets is beginning to spread beyond the finance industry. The cost of money (capital) has gotten very expensive and many capital providers are no longer issuing credit. Therefore as organization leaders, we should begin the process of capital preservation to manage through the economic downturn.

Maximizing profit is not your top priority in this environment, as this crisis continues there will be a negative impact to the overall economy and at this time, we should have a plan to address the worse case scenario. How quickly a business can ratchet down for the impending economic storm will be the difference between long-term survival or near term failure.

I have been talking with my colleagues and the common recommendation is a two-step plan to addressing an organization’s current capital position: Assess your current funding and then build your cash position

Assess Your Current Funding
Assessing the current funding is really looking at time, covenants, and lenders. The first, Can your organization survive on the funding from normal cash generating businesses or do you need regular working capital to manage the collections cycle? If you accelerate payment collection and receive no additional working capital infusions, can the organization remain solvent? Shorten credit terms with clients. For new business, ask for larger upfront payments. Second, ensure that these conservation activities will not place the organization at risk of a margin call and ask lenders with restrictive covenants for changes. Regularly check the status of the more difficult covenants working out limitations before they become an issue. Finally look at each lender, determine their viability in the marketplace. The lending community is rapidly adjusting its policies and target market daily therefore, many may no longer lend in the same business segments as before. To protect your organization, add credit lines with new working capital providers. Then, regularly talk to the lending community to gain insight into the availability of these funds. Applying these simple solutions will enable an organization to protect access to funding sources.

Build Your Cash Position
Cash is king and that means draw down your credit lines, delay payments, and control costs. After assessing funding it is time to draw on the credit lines and place the cash into your various bank accounts (be certain your bank is not at risk of failure). Remember the motto; “banks lend to those who do not need it”. Therefore, it is better to get the cash now. Second, review vendor payment terms and renegotiate; just like your bank loan covenants, tracking vendor payment terms will avoid issues later and contribute to the long-term reputation of your organization. Finally, and this is the most painful, start looking at your spending. There is significant overcapacity in the marketplace for almost all goods and services. Focus on the three most costly areas first: put expansion plans on hold, stop hiring, and reduce travel to “essential only”. These steps will allow you to stay liquid for longer period.

Recessions are part of the normal business cycle and the marketplace will have to work through the current overcapacity before a recovery can begin. Strategies for maximizing profit or market share can prove costly in this environment. However, a capable organization with proper working capital management and cost controls can come out the other side of this cycle positioned to take advantage of the next expansion.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Volleyball Reminded me of Three Keys to Teamwork

Tuesday was a holiday in Hong Kong and I had the opportunity to attend my high school daughter’s volleyball team practice. I really enjoy team sports and have always welcomed the opportunity to delve into what makes a team work well together.

As I watched the players practice the bump, set, spike drills I noticed a lot of “chatter” between the team. When ball would come over the net the first hitter would call out that she was going to hit the ball to the rest of the team. The setter would then call the ball to her and identify the girl she intended to “set” the spike for. While this was going on the other girls would take up positions to backup various team members in the event the ball was somehow missed; each calling out to their teammates what they were doing. Everyone understood their role and communicated it to their team every time the ball came over the net. Often team members would adjust their role depending on where the ball came over the net; each knowing the roles that needed to be filled and called out their role to the rest of the team; each team member would then fill in the gaps created by the shift, essentially the team constantly adjusted and filled based upon what each member was saying they were doing. At no point did any member of the team say it wasn’t her job to perform a role, if the position or the back up needed to be done she stepped in and did it while letting her team mates know what they were doing.

While watching this practice I realized there was three points that continued to reoccur throughout the bump, set, spike exercise that enabled success:

- Know your position or role (but be flexible)
- Back up your team mates
- Constantly communicate what you are doing

Know your position or role (but be flexible)
Each team member understood the position she was playing on the court and had the flexibility to fill any gaps that appeared when the ball came over the net. The office environment is much the same. We should each understand our role and act to complete the functions of our role as effectively as possible. However, there are times when we will need to adjust because of the nature of the project and how it came into being. The key here is to be flexible. If a team mate said, “it isn’t my job to bump” then the ball wouldn’t stay in play. The same is true in an office environment. To keep your company in play and succeed you will need to have flexibility to step into another role on occasion.

Back up your team mates
Often we are assigned projects that are much bigger than one person can do on their own. To succeed we will need to enlist the help of others and that is why we back up our team mates. We should be constantly looking at our team members both upstream and downstream and offer to help them. I have encountered countless office environments where each person understood her specific role very well but couldn’t tell me how her output affected the overall process. Often we are spending our time focused only on ourselves when we could be so much more valuable focusing on the group.

Constantly communicate what you are doing
Too often we assume that people know what we are doing when the reality is much different. We should talk to our peers and upstream and downstream team members. Let them know what we are doing and collaborate on ways to improve how we are working. If we are not consistently working to improve our productivity we will lose out to organizations that are that much better or cheaper. (The subject of another post will be the importance of managing against the margin compression) Team work is about getting to know your team, spending time with them, and understanding how your partners work together.

If you were to apply these simple principals in your daily work activity, I believe you would find work assignments more enjoyable and with fewer errors.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Benjamin Zander

I don't know if you have had the opportunity to look into the great series on the web called TED talks (available at: I was online the other day and stumbled upon one of my favorite presenters, Benjamin Zander the conductor for the Boston Philharmonic. I read his book, "The Art of Possibility", and really enjoyed his way of using music to teach. I have placed his TED talk below and would encourage you to watch it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

About Me

Short bio

Jeffrey Hurley is a seasoned executive with business building acumen including development of multi-million dollar revenue generating organizations in Asia. Currently based in Hong Kong, Jeffrey’s background includes a wide variety of study, experiences, and extensive travel. His breadth of expertise is illustrated by the organizations he has worked with throughout the US and internationally.

Long Bio

Jeffrey’s roots in leadership come honestly, goal driven from early childhood he had the desire to blaze a different trail in managing people, process, and technology. Consistently finding new innovative business solutions and seeking out organizations wanting to improve their competitive advantage. “First, I want managers and leaders in business to try new ideas and think differently. Second, I would like to see businesses who adopt these ideas gain competitive advantage in the global marketplace.”

He seasoned his leadership skills working for various Fortune 500 companies including The Walt Disney Company, Cendant, H&R Block, and the former Lehman Brothers. After leading start up business teams, acquisition teams, and even a bankruptcy liquidation team, Jeffrey became a passionate believer in the importance of superior delivery of goods and services while maintaining top tier compliance, record keeping, financial solvency, accounting, logistics, safety, and security.

His talent for leadership on a global scale and insight into different cultures has enabled him to interact with vastly different organizations throughout the globe. Jeffrey has held leadership responsibility for teams in Korea, Japan, India, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and multiple US cities including such exotic locations as Los Angeles, Kansas City, Chicago, and New York.


Team leadership, production management, consulting, business strategy, technology, strategic sourcing, offshore and near-shore centers, business process management, project management, and finance.

Contact Details:

jeffrey the @ symbol economicoperator dot com