Article and Book Reviews

Published by Scott Neilson on 04 Mar 2014

Just what I need…Another meeting!

This is a good article to read on the over proliferation of meetings…and how to handle it…with a little bit of good humor thrown in!

It is about defining your organizations rhythm. Don’t observe what exists and add more.  Let your goals and objectives define your key progress measures, and build your operating rhythms around monitoring, measuring and managing those.

It is worth a read.


Published by Scott Neilson on 26 Jan 2014

Good quick article…

Very good article about the prevailing business wisdom that the primary objective of corporations is to maximize shareholder value…and the steady stream of business failures left in it’s wake.

Clearly states what we ALL know to be true…and what will be the likely outcome if you only focus on the interests of one group of stakeholders.

So, why is it we can’t see this and change it?

Because the people who are in the position to change it are the ones who benefit the most by keeping it the way it is!!!

Published by Scott Neilson on 21 Jan 2014

Get it right!

Here is a good article on improving the performance of your team…see the link below for a quick read and reminder!

It is just good basics, but my observation, as you know, is that organizations often fail at doing the basics right.

In addition to the better use of progress reports and meetings, improve your skill at giving feedback and coaching in those settings.  You cannot refine the performance of your team if you cannot make it clear to them the ways in which they are missing the mark.

Sometimes people find these types of conversations to be difficult because of the inherent elements of judgment and confrontation assumed to be buried in the conversation.  Check out this post from some time ago about some tips on being good at giving feedback…

It is just good basics, but my observation, as you know, is that organizations more often fail at doing the little things right.

Published by Scott Neilson on 10 Dec 2013

Change Back!!! Another take on leadership adaptability.

This article looks at leadership adaptability from a systems perspective…How do organizational systems adapt, and how can we as leaders enable our organizational systems to adapt and grow?  It is submitted by Christy Holland, Business leader in Strategy Development, Execution and Transformation.

In the 1960’s Family System’s therapists promoted a theory which stated that each family member was part of an inter-connected system. Any change in one member of the system, would cause a ripple effect throughout the entire system. As the ripple made its way through the system, members within the system became uncomfortable and would direct their persuasive power get the person to “Change Back.” These theorists discovered that families rejected both “positive” and “negative” changes with the same fervor because what they wanted was homeostasis. Members interpreted the therapeutic advancements of one family member as a threat to the family’s survival. Consequently, though perhaps unknowingly, the system would reject the potential to thrive.

Systems theorists saw the similarities between the work organization and family systems.  People in the workplace also desire to predict behavior and feel stress when people do not behave in accordance with their role. When someone behaves in a way we do not expect, we frequently say that are “acting out of character” or “throwing us a curve ball” or coming at us “from out of nowhere.” When we make these statements, they are not meant as a compliment. We are telling the person to “Change Back” and follow the rules of engagement.

So how do we, in our organizational systems, allow the turbulence of a new idea among our teams and look for ways to adapt and grow?

We know that “Change Back” mentalities will ensure extinction rather than growth, and we encourage innovation as a strategy for success. Those who thrive are collaborating across the company, utilizing technology to improve processes, and looking for new ideas in the customer experience. Our organizational systems can withstand change and the ripple can be positive. Innovation depends on sustaining the turbulence of change.  It demands we let go of the fear of uncertainty and when we hear a new idea, say “Yes and…” to build on that idea instead of persuading someone to “Change Back.”


Published by Scott Neilson on 03 Dec 2013

The China Sin-drome?

It is inconceivable to me that some leaders feel that the best way to maintain order is with force, and when resistance appears, increase the force.  Here are some accounts of a recent incident in China!


Tiananmen Square

Photo from Reuters and,

“On October 28, an SUV driven by a Uyghur man and containing two members of his family rammed into a crowd at Tiananmen Square, killing two tourists. The vehicle’s occupants then lit themselves on fire.

This is a serious problem because it may portend a cycle whereby violence triggers repression and tighter repression begets additional violence.

Violence in Xinjiang appears to be worsening significantly, despite Beijing’s large commitment of money and manpower to… preempt social disorder.

A gaping socioeconomic divide helps fuel violence in Xinjiang and such gaps exist elsewhere in China as well, raising the specter of additional attacks throughout the country as unhappy groups without a real political voice turn to violence as an outlet for their grievances.

The recent attacks point to a future in which repression alone will no longer be enough to guarantee stability.

The current problems emanating from Xinjiang increasingly point to a future in which repression alone will not be enough.”


There is a great lesson in this for societies of all kinds…including businesses.  It speaks to inclusion, involvement, and participation.  Failure to include all people/groups in the goals, actions and opportunities/rewards of an organization, leads to a state of repression or oppression that tears at the basic fabric of that organization, and lead to its ultimate failure.

Dickens quote from “A Christmas Carol”…

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both…but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom”.


Click the link below to read the full article…very interesting!

Published by Scott Neilson on 08 Nov 2013

VERY good article…

Check it out.

Published by Scott Neilson on 16 Jul 2013

Gender diversity…

I just saw an interesting article on gender diversity…posing the question about whether or not gender diversity drives performance.

Gender diversity, or diversity of any kind, in and of itself does not drive performance.  You must also demonstrate that people from all groups have an equal opportunity to contribute, be recognized for their contributions, and advance in order to get their best performance.

  • If you have a diverse team but are not including all members of the team in the business of your business, you will not benefit from their varying perspectives and strengths.
  • If you are not engaging and fully utilizing all members of your team, then, by definition, you are carrying those that are being excluded and not getting the best productivity you could.
  • If you are not providing equal opportunity for career advancement to all members of your team, you are de-motivating the ones who are being excluded and, therefore, putting the entire burden of performance on the shoulders of those few whom you are favoring.

It is not simply a matter of having a diverse workforce.  It is a matter of engaging and motivating all members of your workforce. 

One company I was hired to turnaround was 80% female, yet the entire management team was male.  Do you think the females in that company felt that they had any opportunity for advancement in that company?  No.  Do you think they were motivated or de-motivated by that fact?  De-motivated.  A simple employee attitude survey indicated that the single biggest problem with the company (as the employees saw it) was that there was no opportunity for advancement.

The turnover rate in that organization was 25% per year.  Even though the organization had a healthy revenue growth rate, it was not profitable.  As I set about improving this organization I restructured the management team to be better balanced from a gender and racial perspective.  I also made sure to have representatives from each business unit on the leadership team.

In 4 years we improved profitability 16 percentage points and reduced the turnover rate to 8%.

While making some changes to the leadership team was only one of many things we did to turn that business around, effectively engaging and motivating our diverse workforce, not just having a diverse workforce, was a key element of the turnaround.

Published by Scott Neilson on 07 May 2013

The Power of Deliberate Mistakes…

Good article…

I would make one caveat though.  “A smart person learns from his/her mistakes.  A wise person learns from other peoples mistakes.”  Not sure who said that.

I would also add that you need to be careful how accepting you are of mistakes. You do not want to create a culture in which mistakes and failure are acceptable. They need to be the exception, not the norm.

Here is the article…worth a quick read.


Published by Scott Neilson on 19 Feb 2013

Don’t be naiive!

I want to rerun a post I ran a couple of years ago.  It is about negotiating the terms of your employment…your contract…or any other contract for that  matter.  Recently I have been hearing a lot of complaints about contracts and agreements in which the wording is very one-sided.  Must be a side-effect of the difficult economy and people taking advantage of some desperate times.

I was recently looking at a contract in which it said something to the effect that if any lawsuit arose out of the relationship between me and this service provider, that I would be responsible for all legal fees…mine AND theirs.  The same had been true in an employment agreement offered to me some years ago.

In both cases I crossed out that wording and signed the document.  There was no challenge to my doing so in either case.  In addition, there were other areas in which the contract language was very one-sided.  I also crossed out that language and substituted my own language which was more reasonable…covered their concerns but did not leave me powerless and subject to their whims.

The point is, when someone gives you a contract to sign, recognize that this step in a business deal is like any other…it is just one step and in most cases there is room for negotiation.  The contract they give you at the start is their opening position.  They absolutely have room to negotiate on it, even though they will try to convince you that they do not.

Have a read of this article by Howard Matalon…


Published by Scott Neilson on 05 Feb 2013

Shop the competition…

I got a lot of good responses to the post “Be the Customer.”  As a follow-on try “Shopping the Competition.”

Be objective…look for the things your competitors are doing right. You are not going to learn anything from things they are doing wrong!

This is a good way to start the year.  Recalibrate your product position or service offerings.  Contact your competitors as a prospective customer and see what they offer…see how customer oriented they are…use their voice response systems and website and see how user-friendly they are…Shop the Competition.


The idea tends to be a little difficult for people to wrap their minds around.

  1. They fear that they will be caught “spying” on their competitors, and everyone in the entire industry will know what they have done!  (PS…Anyone who will criticize you for doing it is only doing so because they do not have the courage to do it themselves.)
  2. They are afraid to see how great their competitors are for fear that they will not be able to keep up.  (FYI…if you are NOT looking then you are SURE to not keep up.)
  3. They only go into it looking for what others are doing wrong, so they miss the opportunity to get new ideas from what they are doing right.  (Be objective and look at it as research.)

Here is a good article on how to!

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