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Management is a Bad Idea.

Who decides what?

In the late 1990s I was courted for 11 months to join someone else’s business. The biggest red flag was that the CEO was a Harvard MBA in his early 60s. Not much could make me more cautious than working for someone with that kind of ivory tower pedigree..

I said no a number of times. My biggest concern was how he, and by extension the company he had built, would make decisions. Would they let those most affected be involved in decision-making, or would they make top-down decisions like other companies stuck in bankrupt Industrial Age thinking?

I finally said if he spent a few million to build a new operations center, and committed to investing $500k or so each year each year that the company grew, that I would join the company. To my surprise he committed the first few million to the ops center, so I joined up.

We took the company from $8.5 million to $13 million the first year, but when it came time to put just $500k more in to support the next year’s growth, the CEO decided not to do it. Later that year when I asked for workstations and employees to support more growth, he emailed me and said I hadn’t put it in the capital expenditure forecast 10 months earlier – request denied. The golden handcuffs clouded me into staying for almost three more years, but two years after I left, the company went bankrupt and was sold in a fire sale.

What happened? Exactly what I had feared up front – the people closest to the ground were not involved in the decision-making process and had to implement decisions in which they had no say. Management knew best and didn’t need any help making decisions. Classic, but broken management practices.

Management is a Bankrupt Industrial Age Idea
“Management” as a function wasn’t common before 1900. Frederick W. Taylor (1911) popularized the separation of decision-making from the worker, who he felt didn’t have the smarts to be involved in decisions. He emphasized having Management make decisions that workers then simply carried out. My Harvard MBA CEO carried that practice right through to bankruptcy.

None of us is as smart as all of us.
In the real world, none of us is as smart as all of us. If you push through 112 years of bad management practice, you find that people who are most affected by a decision are most likely to have the best input. This should be a major leadership principle followed by all business owners. It doesn’t mean everyone just makes decisions by themselves, any more than having management make it by themselves. It means the owner/implementer of a decision should have the most say.

I Got Over-ruled
We’re designing the messaging and cool stuff that goes on the walls of our new Business Transformation Center. I had specific ideas of what I thought should go on the walls. When the designer came, the other staff there that day had wildly divergent ideas, and they would live with the results every bit as much as me, in some ways more. My ideas aren’t going to be implemented, but I got a few things that I wanted, too. The Chief Results Officer will make the decision.

What do you Believe?
We don’t believe in management and workers. We believe in the Wisdom of Crowds, which says that in a team there is a better answer than any one expert can give on their own. We don’t believe in consensus, either. A giraffe is a horse designed by consensus – close, but no cigar.

Make More Money – Trust Others to Make Great Decisions
Those with the most at risk get the most say. Even if someone doesn’t own stock in the business, they should own their work and their results. In MANY cases the business owner(s) has less at risk than those who will have to carry out the decision. And they will make more money if they let others who are closer to the ground make the decision.

Leadership 101
1) Know you don’t know everything – none of us is as smart as all of us.
2) Respect the input of others
3) Whoever has to live most with the decision should have the most input.
4) There is still a Chief for each decision, but many times it should NOT be the Chief Exec. Officer. Everyone in our business has the title “Chief” of something, and the decisions get made by the Chief closest to the ground and most affected by the decision.
5) All of us should get input, aggregate information, and deeply respect the input of those most likely to have to carry out the decision.

The art of leadership is to know how few times the leader should actually make the decision.

It’s a great way to avoid bankruptcy.

 

Employees are Always a Bad Idea.

Children or Adults

This Industrial Age concept was never a good idea for companies, and was worse for the “employees”. Today, companies that move forward without employees will thrive. Those that don’t will fall behind.

The Industrial Age gave us cool toys and a cushy life, but it also came with some Business Diseases. One of the most rabid of the Business Diseases is the concept of an employee, which is a very new idea in the history of man, and one that needs to go away.

When machines took over most production, they couldn’t run themselves, and so the Industrial Age re-created people in the image of machines in order to run them.

“Employees are “Silent”
Over time companies made it clear they only wanted the productive part of the person to show up. They required people to leave the human being (the messy part) at home. As a result, the generation which entered the work force at the very peak of the Industrial Age (1945-1960-ish) was given the worst generational label ever – The Silent Generation. If you had a “Silent” as a parent, you learned to live life the way they had been taught – “Be loyal to the company. Do what you’re told. Show up early, leave late. Shut up, sit down, don’t make waves, live invisibly, go out quietly. The company will take care of you.”

Employees are Children
This view of work (and life) turned adults back into children. You were taught that the most mature person was one who obediently took orders, did what they were told, didn’t question authority, was blindly loyal to those in charge, and lived passively as others directed their lives. Pretty much what we want a four year old to do.

In order to keep the children from ruining the house, and to make them extensions of machines, the Industrial Age boxed people in with extremely clear and narrow limitations on what they could do, the hours in which they could do them, and endless limitations on being human and “adult” at work. It stripped them of their need to think, create and solve because the machine didn’t need them to think, create and solve. It just needed them to do.

Employees Are a Disease, not a Cure
We reject the business culture of the Industrial Age as a bad idea that needs to be corrected. Employees are one of those Business Diseases that should be eradicated. Because of the Industrial Age, the word “employee” has become synonymous with “child”. We can’t even use the word anymore. We don’t want to hire children who need to be told what to do and managed closely so they don’t run into the street.

Employees are Replaced by Stakeholders
So we don’t hire employees, but have replaced them with Stakeholders. Our Stakeholders are sold out to living well by doing good, and are not employees who punch clocks. Stakeholders are first and foremost adults who can think, take initiative and make decisions, carry responsibility, take ownership, be creative and solve problems.

Stakeholders are Adults
Our Stakeholders are all adults. “Employee” is a four-letter word for us. Adults don’t need someone to keep them from running into the streets or ruining the carpets. Adults ask questions. They don’t live passively but are self-directed, creative, and solve problems. They don’t shut up; they make waves, they are highly visible and they don’t expect the company or other adults to take care of them. Adults own stuff, and they own their work as a natural part of being an adult. And the whole messy person comes to work, not just the extension of the machine.

Stakeholders Require Leadership, not Adult Supervision
If you hire Stakeholders (adults) instead of employees (children), it changes the way you direct people. We don’t have office hours, vacation time or personal days. We’re not interested in whose car was in the parking lot first or who left last. We believe office politics is a waste of time, so no one will ever be promoted.

Stakeholders Focus on Work, not Promotion to the Next Title
Every adult who works with us (over 20 full and part-time and growing) has a title that includes the word Chief; Chief Results Officer, Chief Connecting Officer, Chief Transformation Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Development Officer, Chief of MIH (Making it Happen).

We don’t have supervisors or managers or directors or VPs – just Chiefs. None of us will ever need to be promoted, we’re already all at the top. We’ll just grow into more responsibilities as we become better at things. As we do them, they will be recognized and somebody might change our title (there is no centralized title giver).

Stakeholders Create Better Teams
We believe in working together as Committed Community (adults live in community) to get results for each other and for other business owners. Every full-time Stakeholder will take part in profit-sharing. Why wouldn’t they? They’re all adults who own their work, they should own profits from their work as well. That’s what adults do.

Stakeholders are Self-Motivated
Although we lease 1,500sf of office space for training and rent other spaces around the city, none of us have an office there – we all work from our homes and places like breakfast joints and coffee shops. If it helps somebody to get things done better, we’ll get them an office.

Stakeholders Make You and Themselves More Money
Our business grew 61% in 2010, 41% in 2011, 75% in 2012 and projected at 50% in 2013. Why? Because every Stakeholder is an adult, taking responsibility, creating, problem solving, making it happen, and taking ownership of whatever needs to be done to bring our clients the best experience and the most tangible results possible. And everyone is a lot happier because they all work with adults who pull their own weight.

Employees are a bad idea. Stakeholders rock.

Attitude actually ISN’T everything.

Close, but no cigar.

I’ve heard it all my life. Your attitude determines your altitude, attitude is everything, attitude is a choice, etc. Good luck with that. It sounds like a big fake “grind” to me. And I’m certain it won’t make you successful.

People aren’t successful because they have a good attitude. They have a good attitude because they have something much deeper figured out. Attitude is a RESULT of something much bigger. If we don’t have the bigger thing, ginning up a great attitude is like lipstick on a pig.

Emotionalism is Not a Good Attitude
People with great attitudes that aren’t backed by the bigger thing are usually pretty obvious. They’re convinced that attitude is everything, so they rely on emotionalism and “everything is GREAT!” “live is wonderful” statements on the outside while they’re dying on the inside. And they just hope that “fake it until you make it” will get them through. It won’t.

It impossible to have a good attitude by deciding to have a good attitude. It’s like squinting hard to make a wad of bills appear in front of you. At times I do have to “just decide” to have a good attitude, but I guarantee you I would have no motivation to make the decision if it wasn’t driven by something bigger.

The Fourth “S”
The Industrial Age taught us the “Three S’s” – Safety, Security and Stability. The problem with the three S’s is that they are at the bottom of Masloew’s hierarchy – they are just survival mechanisms. The Three S’s will not give us enough motivation to have a great attitude. The fourth S, the one the Industrial Age couldn’t afford for you to have – Significance – that is the driver of attitude.

Clarity on what you want out of your business and your life is what drives good attitude. If you know where you are going, what you want when you get there, and when you want to be there, it will have a transformational impact on your attitude.

The Big Why
In Crankset Group we talk a lot about “The Big Why.” The Big Why is that one big thing that gets you out of bed every morning that gives you the motivation to create a life of significance. If you have a Big Why, you will rarely have to work on getting your attitude straight, and when you do lose it, it will be much easier to get your good attitude back. It’s not about good attitude, but about having the motivation to have one.

Attitude is a Result, Not a Cause
Focus on Significance, not on attitude. Figure out what is really deeply important and run toward it with everything you’ve got. Use your business to get you there. You’re attitude will follow.

Business Diseases of the Industrial Age

Great Toys. Bad Karma.

The Industrial Age lasted a very short 150-200-ish years in the ten thousand years of recorded human history. It brought us a lot of cool toys and a cushy life, but we’ve been afflicted with a lot of Business Diseases that came from the Industrial Age. Here’s just a few of them:

Big Disease
I’m addicted to big. I can’t help it. Giant Corporation, Inc., giant government, giant megalopolises, giant houses, giant movie stars, giant cars, giant malls, giant markets – it’s all so very alluring. I know my ancestors use to live in small, committed communities, but I’ve got a garage door to hide behind.

Employee Mindset Disease
It’s not my job. Tell me what to do. I leave “me” at home. I don’t think at work. I work at work, I play somewhere else. It’s not my fault. I’m a victim.

Employee Contribution Disease
I’m not significant. I believe what the Industrial Age taught me – Shut up. Sit down. Live invisibly. Go out quietly.

Retirement Disease
I’ll wait until I’m 65 to live significantly. I’ll go through the motions for the first 65 so I can get there. Until then I’m just marking time.

Scarcity Disease
I live in a world of scarcity. You either live in a world of scarcity or a world of abundance, and whichever one you choose affects every decision you make. Industrial Age scarcity rules. Abundance doesn’t exist – it’s woo-woo crap.

Competitor Disease (symptoms are similar to Scarcity Disease)
Everything is finite and I need to get mine before I help someone else. If someone gets the work and I don’t, then I “lose”, because there is only so much to go around.

Me First Disease (just another name for Competitor Disease)

Complexity Disease
The more complex things are, the more impressive they are. Surely they must be better, too. Just because the profound things are always simple doesn’t mean I should embrace them. Complexity is good.

Planning Disease
I don’t move unless the entire route is planned out. I’m waiting for all the lights to turn green between Chicago and New York, then I’ll start moving.

Cognition Disease
I’m a thinker. My 3rd grade teacher applauded me for it. So did my college professor. I’m really good at it. I’ve heard that committed people make history and thinkers write about them later, but that’s just crazy talk by committed people. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I can come up with 100 reasons why they’re wrong.

Safety, Security, Stability Disease
My mother told me to put my mental galoshes on before leaving kindergarten. I’ve had them on ever since. It may not ensure I’m safe, and it does ensure I’ll never do anything remarkable, but she has to be right and Maslowe was wrong – safety, security and stability are the pinnacle of human experience.

Money Disease
You give me money and I’ll give you the best 50 hours of my week and the best 40 years of my life. I’ve heard that time is the new money, but I’m not buying it. I’ll retire on cue at 65, then live significantly if I have any time or energy left.

The Cure
The cultural carnage of the Industrial Age was broad. It will take us a few decades to fully recover. But identifying the diseases will help us get there faster.

What Industrial Age diseases have you been afflicted with? Add yours.

The Industrial Age is Dead – Time is the New Money

The Industrial Age is Dead – Time is the New Money

As a business owner, you’re likely carrying a lot of baggage from the Industrial age (1800-ish to 1965-ish) that won’t fully go away for decades to come. He who makes the rules wins. You need to stop running your business on Industrial Age rules.

The Industrial Age brought us two incredibly bad ideas that led to many other bad ideas:

  1. Retirement
  2. Separation of work and play

A few weeks ago we said retirement is a bankrupt industrial age idea . Here we’re saying separation of work and play is a bad idea.

Time vs. Money
A young web designer friend of mine just one year out of college was given a huge pay raise by an ad agency, from $48,000 to $69,000. The company saw him as indispensable and didn’t want him going anywhere. A few months later, as winter approached, he quit. They wanted him there 8am-5pm and in the winter the only time to ride a bike was in the afternoon.

He would have worked in the evening, and that would have had no impact on the company, but they were stuck in the Industrial Age that valued money over time, and couldn’t see it. They were giving him the same tired “I’ll trade you money for your hours” deal that was dominant in the Industrial Age. He now runs his own very successful company and goes for a run or bike ride in the middle of the day any time he wants.

The Old (and Returning) Normal
For thousands of years people lived where they worked (over the storefront, on the farm) and played where they worked. Community was built around work and small markets. The kids ran and played, learned and worked there, the grandparents helped out – everyone was involved.

And there wasn’t much separation of work and play in the process. We look back and have a dreary and incorrect view of what life before “jobs” was like. What we miss is that above all else, we had community, something we’re only now beginning to recapture.

Humans as Extensions of Machines
It’s easy to see how this happened. During the Industrial Age, machines needed humans to become extensions of them in order to serve the machines properly. The machines needed people to be there all the time to run them, so we created humans in the image of machines. That “condition” was spread across all vocations, and “jobs” that separated work and play become the norm, even where there were no machines.

The Silent Generation – the worst label ever given
And it all worked in response to the needs of the machine, not the person. As the companies that owned the machines became huge, the pervasive need was to serve the corporation, and we were told to shut up, sit down, live invisibly, be loyal, don’t make waves and go out quietly. The generation which lived at the pinnacle of the Industrial Age, who are now in their late 70’s and early 80’s, have been labeled by marketers and sociologists as “The Silent Generation.” Can you think of a more condemning label? But it accurately reflects the damage the Industrial Age has done to us as a culture.

Time is The New Money
The Industrial Age taught us to value money above time. Giant Corporation, Inc. wanted you to focus on making money, not on having time to do anything with it. They needed all your time to run the machines. In the 21st Century we will understand that riches may equal money, but wealth equals freedom – the ability to choose what to do with my time. We will understand that money does not give us freedom, only time can do that.

Do you have time (wealth) or just money (riches)? Stop focusing on making money (see my book, Making Money Is Killing Your Business on the same subject), and intend to be wealthy instead. You’ll actually make more money and have a lot more fun in life, too.

Bismarck had it all wrong – Retirement blows chunks.

Shut up. Sit down. LIve invisibly. Go out quietly.

I’m working on my third book “Retirement is a Bankrupt Industrial Age Idea” and the research confirms everything I’m seeing in the world around us – the title of my book reflects reality. We’ve got to rethink the whole idea.

The Industrial Age, which is a very short 175 year snapshot of life in the last 10,000 years, left us with a lot of great toys and a luxurious lifestyle, but we’ve paid dearly as a society for it. The whole bankrupt idea of retirement is one of those casualties. You should get a Business Maturity Date instead.

Retirement – The Worst of the Industrial Age
We were sold a bill of goods by Bismarck who thought up the crazy notion of retirement in 1889 (he set it at 70 when the average age at death in Germany was about 49). The entire idea is only 121 years old – for 10,000 years before that we did just fine without it.

It is the icon of the worst of what came out of the Industrial Age – “Shut up, sit down, work hard, live invisibly, don’t talk back, make the company successful, be loyal, and go out without making waves. We’ll take the best 45 hours of your week and the best 45 years of your life, and if you survive all that, we’ll let you do something significant with your life when you’re done.”

The Next Generation Has Already Opted Out
The X,Y and Z generations know this is bankrupt. But they’re still hearing their mothers voice in their ears telling them that the top three priorities in life are safety, security, and stability – all three which are deadening to the idea that anything significant will happen in your life.

Great reward only comes from taking a risk – it doesn’t even have to be a great risk, just take one.

Big Business is Dead, Long Live Small/Local Business
Retirees who bought the lie know by experience it isn’t working. There is a better way. Fortunately the world is actually going back locally.

The era of big business is as dead now as the railroad was in 1903 – neither one of them knew it at the time, but it’s over. Long live the local business owner, which is exactly what they will do – without the bankrupt notion of retirement and all it represents hanging over them.

Read more on what Rieva Lesonsky says about the retirement myth here, then come back and talk with me.

Here’s some ways to solve it, too.

I believe you will enjoy life more, have more fun, relax more, and probably even take more vacations if you never retire. Love to hear if you think I’m nuts.

Is Industrial Age Thinking Crippling Your Business?

Retirement is a bankrupt Industrial Age idea.

The Industrial Age of 1780-1960-ish was the greatest advance in physical lifestyle benefits in history, and likely the worst thing that ever happened to our real lifestyle.

As a business owner, your view of business has been radically tainted by this very short period of time in history, and the sooner you stop using it as a reference for your business, the better off you and your business will be.

The Industrial Age gave us a lot of bad legacies, and a couple of the worst are:

  1. Retirement
  2. Separation of Work and Play

We’ll deal with Work and Play in a later post.

Retirement. What a dumb idea. In 1889, Bismarck invented it to give German laborer’s hope that there was a carrot at the end of the stick. He set retirement at age 70 when the average life expectancy was 42.5, and for those who made it to 20, they could hope to live all the way to 60. In 1913 the U.S. institutionalized it at age 65, three years after the average age of death in the U.S. Hmmm… great – thanks.

This was actually only the natural evolution of an Age that asked us to give the best 8-12 hours of our day, the best six days of our week, and the best 40 years of our lives to do something that was many times not fulfilling and did not allow you to think, be creative, or express your humanity. But if you worked hard, you could enjoy what’s left of your day, your week, and your life – AFTER we got the best of what you had to offer.

The Industrial Age worker bought it hook line and sinker, and as a result we have a whole nation of people who dream about “retirement”, which implies at least two things:

  1. Work is not fulfilling – it’s just a means to a future end a long way off.
  2. Significance and fulfillment is something you get AFTER you’ve worked really hard for decades.

Fortunately the alphabet generation (Gen X and Y) don’t have the baggage of having grown up in the Industrial Age, and are leading a peaceful revolt against the whole idea. They expect work to be fulfilling, meaningful, significant, and enjoyable RIGHT NOW. Not when they retire. It’s mystifying to their parents because it looks like they’re not willing to “settle down and get a job”. (pssst – Mom/Dad – they never will).

We need to learn how to stop waiting on decades of toil to eventually get us to something meaningful. I would suggest that you replace “Retirement” with “Ideal Lifestyle”. Retirement happens at 65-ish, but your Ideal Lifestyle is in your own hands to create any time you want. And as a business owner, I believe you can get there in 3to5Years from the printing of your business card.

If you’ve been in business for 20 years and aren’t at your Ideal Lifestyle, you might want to look at the model in your head for what your intending to get out of all this. Likely you just took your employee mindset with you from the Industrial Age and that giant corporation you used to work for, and repeated that same system that will (maybe) allow you to retire someday

He who makes the rules wins. Stop accepting the rules handed down to you by the Industrial Age and USE YOUR BUSINESS TO GET TO YOUR IDEAL LIFESTYLEnow. Life shouldn’t be meaningful tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes.

Take a look at my book at and other posts here to see how to get off this treadmill. You’ll enjoy life a lot more if you do.

Abundance and Significance – Making More Money in the Participation Age.

For almost 200 years we were in the Industrial Age, followed by four “Ages” in less than 40 years: The Post-Industrial/Service Age. The Technology Age, the very short 5-10 year Information Age, and what some including me are now calling the Participation Age.

The hallmark of the Participation Age is “Sharing”. Shared technologies, shared information, shared resources, and shared participation in developing new products. But most of all the Participation Age is identified by the re-development of the concept of community – people living and working together toward a common goal.

Linux, Druple communities, interactive media, blogs, and social media such as Twitter and Facebook are all examples of shared community. Independent programmers are meeting for a weekend and developing an application in just a few hours together.

The results? A big one is that we are now in the age of Two-Way Marketing. You can no longer afford to have a one-way “push” message. You must be listening as much or more than talking, asking more questions than you answer, and participating with your community in the development of your brand, not telling people what your brand is.

The Age of Participation – Social Entrepreneurship

An even bigger result is that the best companies will be focused on creating abundance and significance for the owner, the employees and the world around them. They will be returning to what we were taught in kindergarten, to re-learn how to share and participate with others in building a better world.

Besides two-way marketing, alert companies will understand that they can no longer afford to be interesting, but that they now must be interested – finding ways to promote the interests of their customers and their community to increase their profits.

It’s not a foo-foo idea anymore; it is becoming a staple of business. Social entrepreneurship is not a fad. It’s a result of living in the age of participation and the information sharing that is possible as a result. And those companies that put the interests of their customers and community first will make more money.

Selling a product or service doesn’t cut it anymore. Last year Wired Magazine ran a cover story on the need for people to reconnect with the concept of “meaning”. In the eighties the bumper sticker was “He who dies with the most toys wins” and in the nineties we got to try it and found it wanting. In the last ten years we have begun to reconnect with the idea that it’s not “He who dies with the most toys wins”, but “He who lives with the most significant goals wins.”

Great companies in the 21st century will move from Survival, through Success to Significance. And they will do so by changing the business mindset from one of scarcity – “I need to get mine first because there is only so much to go around”; to a mindset of abundance – “I will get mine as I help others get theirs.”

Use your business to do more than make money; you’ll make more money if you do. All the best businesses are growing as they give back. It creates the right leadership mindset for a business to grow.

You either live in a world of abundance or a world of scarcity. Whichever one you choose effects every decision you make.

Have a great finish to 2009 and an abundant and significant start to 2010!

Retirement is a Bankrupt Industrial Age Idea

Retirement is a really bad, bankrupt, industrial age idea that was never a good idea in the first place. It was invented by big businesses to steal the best 40 years of our lives so they could discard us when our good years were all behind us.

What makes it so wrong? A few very important ideas:

1) A goal realized is no longer motivating.

Retirement is a goal that can be realized, and once it is realized, it’s not what we were promised. In the Industrial Age, the average life expectancy for men after retirement was 18 months. No longer motivated. Out to pasture. Stick a fork in them – they were done.

Men are beginning to live longer after retirement, but for reasons connected to Lifetime Goals – they’re finding meaningful things to do after they stop going to work every day (or choosing to continue going to work).

2) The very concept of retirement teaches us to put off doing anything really meaningful and substantial with our lives.

I heard it hundreds of times growing up from future pasture-geezers still in their 40’s – “When I retire, I’m going to….[fill in the blank.] What a horrible way to live – always hoping for a future time when you’re actually free to do something with your life.

3) The other really bad notion of retirement is that you’re supposed to work until your 65, then begin enjoying life.

The not so subtle message here is that work and play do not mix, and that you are really supposed to live two lives – your work life, and your meaningful life (shouldn’t work be meaningful, too?). And the ideal way to do it is to live your work life first, and hope you have time left to live your meaningful life afterwards, when you have no energy left to do so.

Wealth is the freedom and the ability to choose what to do with my time.

The retirement game teaches us you won’t be free until you retire. What a load of crap. Stop living for a future that never arrives. Don’t be that guy who, when you’re gone, others say “Too bad he didn’t get to enjoy his retirement.”

Lifetime Goals give us something to begin to enjoy today that we find meaning in, the rest of our lives. Do you have Lifetime Goals that you’re already living, without any need to be retired to get after them? Life should be meaningful, fulfilling, and satisfying today.

Tomorrow never comes. Carpe freaking diem already.