The Remedy for a Sore Rump

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Theodore Roosevelt



A few years ago, my team and I took the Strengthsfinder’s assessment by Tom Rath.  In a nutshell, it is a personality assessment that helps identify your strengths.  There were no surprises when I took the test other than one.  It put my “strongest” strength as Responsibility.  At first I thought it was way off until I started thinking about all of my behaviors.  The truth is that I take responsibility for pretty much everything around me.  Even if I have nothing to do with it.

So with the responsibility of the world on my shoulders, I am writing this blog to B^*&ch about the demise of accountability in the workplace and life.

I recently had the misfortune of having to pull one of my consultants from a client.  The consultant was not succeeding and it was evident that the project would suffer if they continued.  I’d love to say that I have a perfect record of picking strong, senior level resources, but no one’s perfect. (This story is a combination of a few similar situations over the last 27 years).   Here’s the difference though, my client didn’t tell us to pull the consultant.  They didn’t see the problems that we did.    We told them we needed to act.  We explained the reasons we were failing and how we would fix it.  I was reminded of the most important lesson from what happened next.   The client’s reaction? Gratitude and surprise.   They shared that they might have seen some of this but they overlooked some issues.  I even received a call from a client executive thanking me for the way that we handled the situation.  The executive said that in all their years, no other consulting firm had proactively taken action and pulled their own resource.  They’ve always waited to be told to remove someone. Once again proving to me that accountability is one of our most important differentiators.


And therein lies my issue.  When did accountability become such an extraordinary expectation?   Or maybe the expectation is being met but the expectations are too low. Everyone seems to use the term responsible in place of the term accountable. I believe that is an error that sets up a series of unfortunate consequences.  Why?  In my 25+ years of work experience, I have only met a handful of people that weren’t responsible.  (I’ve dealt with a few con artists unfortunately).  For the most part, people want to do the right thing and will put forth the effort to meet expectations. The number of people I have met who take accountability for their actions and their work has been far fewer but much more important to an organization’s success.

From frivolous lawsuits to finger pointing to blaming our woes on another group of individuals…why is it so difficult to take ownership for our own decisions?  If you screw up at work, don’t point the finger at someone else! I’m always amazed at the strength of an apology.  I learned a long time ago that problems don’t fester when someone apologizes.  I think it’s because no one expects an apology so they prepare for a fight and then are thrown off when they get an apology instead.  An apology often helps people move on so that I can focus on how to correct the problem rather than spend time discussing the past.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t make it a practice of accepting other people’s mistakes but it does come in handy when I want people to focus on fixing something rather than being stuck on figuring out who can be blamed.

Studies show that when we set higher expectations and give our children opportunity and support, they will rise to meet those expectations.  Shouldn’t CXOs be setting higher expectations for their employees?   Shouldn’t we all be setting higher expectations for ourselves?   Until that happens, I will be happy to uphold accountability as one of our company differentiators.






A fish out of water. Well, a sea urchin, actually. Well, ME, actually

I just came back from a vacation with my daughter to Japan. It was her graduation present. She graduated 2 years ago but better late than never. It took me that long to stop nixing all of her choices. We finally agreed on Japan. Fast forward, even though I had set low expectations, I had a great adventure.

My favorite experience was when we walked into a restaurant in Kyoto thinking it was a different one. It was nondescript.  It was a tiny sushi restaurant with just a counter and 3 patrons. When we walked in, the kindly looking older sushi chef and his assistant had a look of fear on their face. We were about to turn around when the nice couple from Seattle sitting at the counter stopped us.  They explained that the chef’s fear was that they didn’t speak a word of English and it had taken them 20 minutes to decipher how their restaurant worked.  My daughter was all gung-ho to stay.  Not so much me.


Full disclosure….I eat like a kid. Sushi has never been my thing.  I’ve gotten away with this as an adult so far.  Yet, I saw that I was about to be called out.  The couple said this restaurant came highly recommended by a friend. I was being triple dog dared.  My daughter talked me into staying (ok, belittled me into staying).  It didn’t end there.  My daughter enthusiastically shared my lack of adventure in eating with the Seattle couple so they decided to stay and watch me eat. (No pressure)

Long story short, I ate the chef’s choice (minus the sea urchin which no one on earth should have to eat that)… (if I offended any sea urchin lovers please forgive). It was an adventure and I am still standing. It wasn’t the best meal of my life but it was well done and beautifully prepared. So let me get to the other half of my story.

While I was freaking out about the sushi, it was obvious that the chef and his assistant were freaked out about us.  The restaurant didn’t have much signage and I’m guessing that their clientele are mostly locals. The chef was this kind older man. It was obvious that he took care and great pride in his preparation of the sushi.

This was not our first meal in Japan but we pulled out our dictionary at the end of the meal and told him in Japanese that “It was delicious”. OMG… The reaction we received was amazing. Now maybe they lit up because I said something funny but after many words between them, they came out from behind the counter and presented my daughter and I with a gift of two handkerchiefs.  The chef had a huge smile and kept bowing to us (a sign of respect).  He was genuinely thrilled by our compliment.  And here’s the thing….it didn’t take any effort. It was easy.  We gave him a genuine compliment given the love and care he put into preparing our meal.   3 words turned a concerned face into one of joy. So much that he followed us out of the restaurant and we continued to bow to each other.  A small moment made that meal one of the more special moments of our trip.

Gratitude changes everything

There are times I realize that I neglect to properly acknowledge the work that people around me do. I say thank you but don’t go beyond.

So this little lesson about a Japanese sushi chef, reminded me of the power of words. Most people are so busy that they forget to thank someone for putting in a little extra effort. It’s a simple lesson that we should all remember now and again. So reach out today to someone you work with or works for you and find something nice to say.  Make sure it’s genuine.  Look for those things that you always assume will get done since “that’s their thing.”   Those kind words will go a long way.


P.S. Thanks for reading this!



The Role Culture Plays When Managing Global Projects

Occasionally I will be hosting guests to post articles in this little corner of mine.  I’ve invited one of our very own from Peritius, Ricardo Viti, to share his thought on managing global projects and cultural differences. Welcome Ricardo!


A friend of mine, an Argentine woman living in France, shared with me something that happened to her in a business meeting. She was introduced to a couple of German meeting attendees. To greet them she kissed them on the cheek; this is a common practice in Argentina. The expressions on the poor guys’ faces were ones of disgust, surprise and horror.  I remember thinking that was not a correct move on her part, even if their reactions were a little exaggerated.  And although I have many years of experience working on multi-cultural, global projects to leverage, even I can be taken aback on occasion.  As a matter of fact, only one month later I was attending a business meeting in Buenos Aires and one the male attendees that I had met a couple of times before, greeted me with a kiss on the cheek.  It shocked me… and I was born in Argentina!

International business man travel with trolley, global business concept

So, I guess we all have things to learn… Below are the aspects of managing global projects that may be more understated, but nevertheless are key to the successful management of outcomes when working on global projects:

  1. Establish relationships. Yes, establishing strong relationships are always important when managing any kind of project, but it is even more important when working with Latin cultures. They are more relationship oriented and you will be rewarded by spending time attending to that orientation and developing a strong bond with your team members/stakeholders. If you are able to create that type of working relationship, you will be repaid with loyalty. This will help to ensure a quick response during a crisis and the determination to do whatever it takes to deliver.
  2. ‘Second class citizen’ syndrome. You will no doubt be working for the corporate headquarters and often priorities/compromise/objectives are acted upon based on the size of the local office. Always show respect for their demands and follow up on their requests, they will respond to you in the same manner.
  3. Face to Face meetings. Although they can be expensive, they can in the end reduce costs and avoid conflicts. In one of my recent global projects I met a very demanding executive. He was not collaborative and his attitude was passed down to his employees. I traveled to his office, met with him, discussed the issues and… just as important… I socialized with him. From that moment on things changed! The project began to progress and flourish in a more active and positive environment. There was one small sacrifice though… I had to eat a maguey maggot (a nutritious delicacy in Mexican cuisine) to win him over.

To summarize, do not take for granted that people from other countries/cultures will react to a situation the same way that you would. No matter how broad your experience. Understand that with different cultures come different understandings.  What may seem innocent to you may result in discomfort for the other individual, but sometimes it can be far more serious.  Do your homework.  The best rule of thumb is to observe and remain respectful.



The Brady bunch of Strategic Execution: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

I often feel like Peritius is the Jan Brady of the business world:

  • Highly ignored,
  • always getting blamed when something goes wrong,
  • not glamorous and
  • getting the “left over” attention.

Peritius works on the execution side of strategy. We take the pretty, highly coifed strategy and we drive out the desired results.  I know that sounds like I’m whining but…. I’m JAN.

Marcia is strategy.  Sexy, smart and people are always throwing attention (in business…money) at her. If you are a successful strategy consulting company (you know who I’m talking about), money flows at your feet to help organizations define their strategic vision.  Money is no object.  Don’t forget…Marcia is sexy. Everyone wants to be Marcia.  She’s exciting.


In Jan’s world, she is often overlooked. Jan is dull.  Just a necessary evil in drafting up that wonderful Marcia strategy.  A cog in the wheel.  In other words, “Jans” are considered a dime a dozen.  Who cares about Jan? Jan’s role plays a far second to Marcia.  If Jan doesn’t get the attention she needs and  people don’t understand her role in the whole scheme of things, it usually translates to a poor implementation of the strategy.

Without an effective implementation of the strategic plan that your company spent so much money on, it becomes a futile exercise. Seen that too often.  Millions of dollars spent and results that never got companies where they expected.

Yet, here is the newest rub. Some of the Tier One strategic consultancies are now getting more involved in execution.  Marcia sees that to grow, she needs to branch out into Jan’s space. (See what I’m saying???)

But these are two different skill sets that aren’t easily translated. Strategy has the attention of executive management.  This  small group spends millions and freely gives the consultants the latitude to do their thing.

Implementation is more about working with the lower echelons of the organization.   The Jans.  People skills become much more critical in this world.  You don’t have carte blanche to make things happen because you have the masses that don’t always play along.  Implementation is more about making your way into everyone’s life when they don’t “see” you and finding a way to still get what you need to happen.  We have seen organizations try and play in each other’s space and seldom succeed.  Marcias make things happen by dating the football quarterback.  Jans get things done by pushing harder.

So I’m okay remaining Jan. Look how she came out.  In later years, Jan was a smart business woman and held her own.

They both have their own roles in life and business. Face it.  Where would Marcia be without Jan?  Without both of them in the picture, there would be far fewer good story lines.


Life Lessons from the Magic Kingdom

I just got back from Disney World with my fiancé. He had never been to Disney in his life and didn’t take his children as they were growing up.  His excuse is that he took them to Space Camp.  I wasn’t buying it.  His punishment….a few days at Disney.  So we packed our bags and bought our Disney tickets (due to the latest increase, we used our retirement IRAs to pay).  Our mission: (which he had no choice but to accept) find anything with the Dopey character on it.  See, I love Dopey.  Though as I’m getting older, I’m starting to have a thing for Grumpy too…but I think that has more to do with my age and the loss of my remaining filters.  But I digress.

I know that most people think that I’m nuts (I prefer “special”) but fairy tales do in fact teach you about life. Being the project manager I am, my perspective is that it teaches you about maneuvering life in the business world.  For instance, fairy tales teach kids (and enlightened adults) about the benefits of diversity.  Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes.  Take the seven dwarves.  Each dwarf is a caricature of the team members you work with.


Take Doc.  Doc was the (self-appointed) leader of the group.  Think project manager/department manager.  He/she doesn’t always have the right answers, often has to deal with some aberrant behavior but uses leadership skills to take control when the going gets tough.

Bashful.  This is your introvert.  This may be a tech resource that would rather be working on the computer than working with the people in the room.  They know what they are supposed to do but don’t like to be in the spotlight.  They don’t like when you ask questions or put them on the spot.  They prefer to be a wallflower.

Grumpy.  We often call them the Doubting Thomas on the team. Grumpy is the first one to grumble about a new project or a change in the organization but when tragedy hits, he/she is still waiting to charge in to help.  Yet, as a whole, the doubting Thomas is too often ignored.  Sort of like the boy who cried wolf.  But if you listen, you may realize that there is some truth to their complaints.  They are often the best risk managers in the organization.

Sneezy.  The sick day team member.  The one whose slack the team has to pick up because Sneezy is (either legitimately or not) out sick.

Sleepy. This one makes me personally nervous.  You know the one.  I look over during a meeting and find Sleepy asleep.  Not fully engaged, Sleepy has a hard time keeping up since THEY AREN’T CONSCIOUS!!

Happy. The team member everyone wishes for.  No matter what the task or the workload, they always have a smile on their face.  The Zen Masters of the team.

Dopey. Dopey tries hard and is always positive.  Dopey has the right attitude so may be the best team member to mentor.  When given Grumpy, who may be smart but have a lousy attitude or Dopey that may not be as smart but has a desire to learn, I’ll take Dopey every time.  Not sure that my fiancé likes that fact too much.


As diverse as the dwarves were in their thinking and their personality, they worked together as a team. Each dwarf added something to the total household and they came together in the mines and in their rescue of their houseguest.  Face it.    Where would Snow White be without them?

So, I think I’m going to make an annual trek to Disney going forward. It is amazing the type of insight fairy tales can bring to real life.  (Plus, I am still looking for that perfect Dopey t-shirt.)


Diversity with a Blindfold

I can be pretty oblivious. No really…..I am. It would have caused me many an embarrassing moment if only I knew enough to be embarrassed.

Yet, while most people would find being oblivious a negative trait, I’ve come to realize that often our weaknesses can also be our strengths.

Take hiring as an example. I’ve been in business for 26 years and I’ve hired a lot of people. I’ve also had a history of diversity. Different ethnic, religious and sexual orientations have always been part of our make-up. The funny thing is that I didn’t drive my search in that manner. As my head of talent management says, I am “an accidental diversity employer.” It isn’t that I didn’t want to get there. It’s just that I didn’t think about it. It just happened.


Whether you say I’m oblivious or that I’m good at looking for the best in everyone. I’ve been able to create a great team of strong, diverse consultants. It comes pretty easy. When I read so much about how hard it is to create a diverse culture, I wonder, why? Why is it so hard to create a diverse culture?

I have a friend that was quite high up in a huge global Fortune 500 company as the head of HR. She retired and was in great demand elsewhere. She shared with me that she was wooed by a large financial organization to head HR. She arrived at the headquarters a couple of hours early on purpose. She spent the time watching the crowd coming to work. She noticed that there was little diversity among the people walking in. She went to her interview with the CEO and she called him out. She said that (paraphrasing), If you want a diverse workforce, then you have to hire for it.” (She is so cool).

So how do you create diversity? Simply… by being aware of your biases. I recently had scheduled an interview with a candidate that was causing me some anxiety due to a personal bias. My talent manager (of color) told me that she had never seen me like that. That comment alone pissed me off. I was probably more anxious about the fact that I was anxious than the interview itself. It wasn’t like me and I wanted to make sure that I gave this individual a fair interview.

Fast forward….the interview was great. By realizing my bias, I was able to remediate it. I evaluated the consultant fairly. I walked out wondering, what was the big deal? The candidate was engaged during the interview and we laughed A LOT! (I can sometimes be funny though my talent manager was a little jealous because she thinks she is the funny one.) I overcame my bias to realize that there was a potentially great resource for our organization.

So how it did it happen?

  1. The hardest part of addressing your bias is to be aware of your bias. That isn’t easy.   If I didn’t have a diverse talent manager, my result might be different. She recognized my bias and put my feet to the fire on the interview. She pushed me to have the interview. Once I understood that I did have a bias, I was able to confront it.
  2. Having diversity in the recruiting process can help. Now I’ve had other people in the talent management role before and still had a diverse organization but nothing like today. In looking back, I might not have had as much diversity because of the bias of my talent managers. Tough to admit, but true.
  3. When you force yourself to address your bias, your results begin to change.

And for those of you that are assuming that with diversity I must have a lower end talent pool, (hello, bias much?), quite the contrary. As a smaller business, my talent has to be top of the line or my clients have no reason to use me.

So what? I have a diverse team. Where is the value? I have an interesting and dynamic team. We may not be huge, but we all have fun when the team comes together on Fridays. I will sometimes see friendships coming together that I’m unclear would happen otherwise.  I know that I have a team that speaks to any of the needs of my clients. They have different views on life that allow them to work together– to think outside of the box. Being diverse has allowed me to truly focus on getting the best of the best. My microcosm of a company represents the world.

I may be oblivious but I’m not naïve. In our business, there are risks to diversity. Out of all the work that I’ve gone after in 26 years (oh by the way, Happy Anniversary to me), the odds are in my favor that I’ve lost something due to our diversity. That part is out of my control. Yet the diversity of my firm brings so many advantages that outweigh that one risk.

So to all of the CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies that struggle with creating diversity, I ask WHY is it so hard?

So learn a little about being oblivious. Be color blind and read the subtitles. Turns out I’m okay with being oblivious. I’ve come to understand that it is one of my greatest strengths.

Laura tries to tackle all problems with an objective eye. But if you pick your nose in public, please don’t apply for a job. There are some things she just can’t ignore.

Project Management is the Journey, Outcomes are Your Destination

After years of contemplation and introspection, I’ve come to the conclusion that it IS About the Destination!  (See, I’m trying to retire before I hit the ripe old age of 85).

I came late to financial investing in my life.  I never really understood the value of the market and stock options.  I worked for Microsoft early in my career when stock options were plentiful and Microsoft wasn’t that big.  Needless to say by not understanding the value of the market and the stock options provided….I’m still working for a living.  See….I was focused on working for my money rather than having my money work for me.  I forgot about my long term goal (destination) and delayed my retirement by another 40 years.

So I learned, did my research and finally understood that the key part of success in investing is to define your goals and consistently work toward them.


Mind you, this is not a lesson in investing.  Yet, I always look for similarities in different parts of my life.  For instance, my progression up the investment learning curve and how most companies manage their portfolio of strategic initiatives.

Let’s assume that most companies have goals that are defined in the strategic vision.  These strategic goals plan for their future growth.  Yet how many of these companies monitor their portfolio regularly?  How many companies align their portfolio with their strategic goals in order to measure whether they were able to successful reach their desired outcomes?   If they aren’t doing it, then why spend all this money to create a strategy in the first place?  It is a waste of resources both human and financial.

Unfortunately, I see this way too often.  I previously described this in my previous blog: Project Management is “Broke.”   By the time a project is kicked off, stated project goals are defined as on time on budget and within scope.  But what happened to the project purpose…. the strategic goals? Is the company spending money to check off the box or to solve a problem, grow the business, reduce or contain costs?  I contend that the reason many companies fail in reaching their desired business outcomes is because they aren’t aligning their project with their desired outcomes, monitoring them for changes, and working consistently toward those outcomes.  Implementing a new system or changing a process is great but what were you trying to address by putting in that new system or changing the process.  Don’t train everyone on a new system for 12 hours without understanding what your users need to know and target the message accordingly (actual recent case study with a prospective client)

Companies need to stop focusing on project management and begin to focus on Outcome Management.  Outcome management looks at the big picture.  Take the cartoon that shows two doctors standing over a patient.  The first doctor says, “The surgery was flawless”….the second says “too bad the patient died.”  What are you trying to achieve?  A perfect surgery or a healthy patient?

Outcome management focuses on four things.

  1. Solutioning. This is the alignment between strategy and execution. Are companies using their investment money wisely? Have they prioritized their project portfolio to ensure that they are spending their money on the optimal initiatives that have the best chance of getting them to their goals? Through a better understanding of the organization’s strategic goals, you can ensure that the project is both on point and aligned with strategy.
  2. Execution. This occupies the space where most place project management. But I contend that by today’s standard, not in the proper way. A mix between art and science (see Sept. 2014 blog), focusing on ensuring that the effort is on time, on budget and within scope while keeping a consistent focus on the prize is the only way to be truly successful. As an example, a large public company involved in a merger was looking for synergies in every department to help cut costs. However, early on in the project, they realized that the original goal had been met. By measuring throughout the life of the effort, it gave the organization an opportunity. They could continue cutting through every department or they could use the fact that they had already met their strategic objective to retain their employees to provide an even greater competitive advantage. They choose the latter. They made a course correction mid-way through the execution of their plan and were able to surpass their stated goal. My experience has shown that the typical organization would not have been measuring their progression to their strategic goals. They would have continued through their original plan and cut their employees to the bare minimum. Here is the important distinction. The merging companies could have decided to continue down that path but by measuring outcomes, they were able to create and take advantage of an unforeseen value that resulted from the formation of a new organization. They were able to make a business decision rather than have one forced upon them.
  3. Adoption and Adaption. This is the soft mushy side of making things happen that many organizations think is baloney. If you’ve been in business long enough (say 6 months), you will most likely live through an example of a project that completed and brought no discernable value to the company. This could be for many reasons but I would bet that the majority of reasons are based on a lack of buy-in from the necessary parties. I’ve been involved in a lot of mergers and acquisitions. It’s amazing how many of them (95.8% but who’s counting) have not focused on bridging the cultures. The companies’ focus on the integration of process, technology and people but not the culture. Some companies will attempt this in the form of change management but either that is cut or skimped on in the budget, or it is addressed at the tail end of the initiative. It takes seven times to hear a message for it to sink in. It takes 30 days of constant focus to change a habit. People don’t change easily and they resist it where they can (directly or indirectly). Adoption is about communication. Frequent, transparent and early. Keeping information quiet or sharing on a “need to know basis” never works out well. Even if you don’t have all of the answers, give your users an opportunity to hear about something from the beginning. They will feel like they had a part in their destiny. Getting people to adopt a new process or technology is not as hard as you might believe. Even if they don’t buy-in, understanding who might stand in your way is better to know early than it is after they’ve dropped a piano on your head.
  4. Last of all are the Metrics and Measurements. At the beginning of every effort, reengage your strategic goals. Ask two key questions. What does success look like? And, when is done done? From those questions, you can define the proper metrics to track from project initiation through implementation and into operational mode.   Measurements should start at the beginning of the initiative.   Think about your financial portfolio. Your financial consultant would be reviewing your investments and course correcting all along.  Many organizations don’t want to measure due to a fear of being held accountable. If they are found to be wrong, it brings eyes on what might be viewed as failure. But if you are focusing on all of this from an outcome perspective, this information will give you two opportunities. First, it will allow you to course correct earlier. If you aren’t going to meet your objectives, you will find out sooner (easier to course correct at the beginning than towards the end of an initiative). Second, if you fail and you’ve been measuring your progress to your strategic goal, chances are that the strategy might have some false assumptions. These metrics allow your company to integrate this knowledge to create a revised strategy for the future. How can that be possibly be a bad thing?

make the change concept with related word cloud hand drawing on blackboard

I’m guessing that at no point did corporate America decide that “Our key strategic goal is to get all of our projects completed on time, on budget and within scope.  If that goal is accomplished, we will reach our desired business outcomes”

Managing to desired outcomes brings companies back full circle to their overall strategy.  Outcome management is changing up the way things are done.  It creates accountability (a whole different blog), and a focus on adoption for which the benefits are huge! Better returns, better information yadda yadda.

I bet my Microsoft earnings (if you can find them).