(#370) What’s Your B.M.I. (Bureaucratic Mass Index)?

June 25, 2017

Has your bureaucracy morphed into a soul-sucking and
resilience-retarding beast?

Bureaucracy catches a lot of heat. “The Bureaucracy.”  When something goes wrong….blame it on “The Bureaucracy.”  Of course, “The Bureaucracy” provides the structure. The people (the bureaucrats) make it move or stall. The organizational chart might tell the people where they fit in as a cog in the structure.  But those same people give life (or inertia) to the chart.

Anyone who has ever worked in or attempted to navigate through a bureaucracy may think of the words entrenched, glacial, and obstacles.  How does this happen? A short list includes ineffective leadership, poor hiring practices, rigidity, and an institutional culture that rewards non-risk-taking transactional interactions over transformative measures.

Before you can begin to unravel this Gordian knot of inflexible mindsets, you have to recognize the causes of organizational (structural, leadership, and followership) inefficiencies. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review listed seven warning signs that your bureaucracy has morphed into a soul-sucking and resilience-retarding beast.

  1. Bloat: too many managers, administrators, and management layers;
  2. Friction: too much busywork that slows down decision making;
  3. Insularity: too much time spent on internal issues;
  4. Disempowerment: too many constraints on autonomy;
  5. Risk Aversion: too many barriers to risk taking;
  6. Inertia: too many impediments to proactive change;
  7. Politics: too much energy devoted to gaining power and influence.”

The article says to take account of, what the authors call, the B.M.I.: “Bureaucracy Mass Index.”  A difficult task that takes concerted effort by insiders and customers alike.

The HBR articled asks, “How pervasive is bureaucracy in your organization? How much time and energy does it suck up? To what extent does it undermine resilience and innovation? Which processes are more trouble than they’re worth?”

The HBR list can (at least) provide a starting point for a conversation.  Just don’t let the conversation become one more stultifying exercise in bureaucratic futility.

More poignantly, do nothing and Pogo proves prophetic.


Video recommendation for the week.

Perhaps this young actress will help us listen more intently to the “Sh*t Bureaucrats Say.”


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#368) Fake, Illegitimate Or Incomplete Information?

June 11, 2017

Just because you find a lot of information does not mean
you have found accurate or credible information

If, as famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright claimed, “An expert is a man who stops thinking because he knows,” then can we say the same for a person who claims one source of information as the fount of all legitimacy and contrary accounts to be illegitimate or “fake”? Has she stopped discerning because she “knows” what is legitimate and what is fake?

More than five years ago, I shot a quick video (see below) outlining four basic considerations when considering information to address an issue or task?

  1. What information do you need for the task at hand?
  2. Where will you find that information?
  3. How will you evaluate the information you find for accuracy and legitimacy?
  4. How will you organize and use the information for your audience?

Can we grow as individuals if we filter what we read, hear, and see through one source (or a number of like-minded sources)?  Are we motivated to grow–or just “be right” even in the face of confounding information?

Do we care?

A friend shared two stories this week.  I doubt they are apocryphal.

  • A neighbor asked my friend where she got her news. My friend rattled off a list of seven or eight sources. Out of hand, the neighbor dismissed the entire list as thoroughly “illegitimate.” When asked what her source of information was, the neighbor mentioned one source. Just one source. It was, according to her, legitimate. End of story. (See numbers two and three, above.)
  • My friend has found the same situation in her college classroom.  No matter the topic,  two camps emerge. Diametrically opposed. Refusing to listen and discuss with the other. Each considering their source(s) of information legitimate and the others’ suspect at the least and fake at the worst.

Is this a sign of intellectual laziness? A lack of critical thinking? Or is this sort of thing nothing new—just magnified because everyone can have a social media platform where we surround ourselves with “likes” and “shares” and then block opposing viewpoints?  (I still remember my mother often warning me (more than fifty years ago) not to speak about politics or religion.) It does seem like today’s volume, as well as the personal vitriol, has been cranked up considerably.

I offered a suggestion to my friend.

  1. Pick two sources of news that generally disagree on issues and stances.
  2. Find one current news story on which both of these sources present a similar account of the issue or event.
  3. Print both stories without any attribution (nothing that would identify the sources).
  4. Ask your friend (or students) to identify the “illegitimate source” based solely on the content presented. If both stories are drawing the same conclusion then how can the argument hold that a particular source is always illegitimate?

Perhaps you could do it as well to at least start a rational conversation. Start with common ground and move from there.


Video recommendation for the week.

Just because you find information does not mean you have credible information.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#357) Perspective

March 26, 2017

Our attention will determine our interpretation.

What thoughts and feelings come to mind when you see the photo below?

 

Now, same question as you expand the view and context of the photo?

Hmm. Marriages performed juxtaposed with a bedpan–with a prickly little cactus.

How about this view?

My, my. Marriages performed connected to a bedpan with a smirking vulture (with beads, no less) standing guard.

When I first saw the scene (in Cedar Key, Florida), my eyes were immediately drawn to the vulture. “Is this an art gallery or second-hand shop?”   As my eyes drifted to the right, I saw the sign.  I said to Laurie, “I’ve got to have a photo of that. It’s priceless.”

It was not until later in the day that I spied the bedpan. I laughed at what I had missed and another spin on the message popped into my mind.

A scene, situation, or dilemma takes on different meanings depending on where our gaze falls.  Our attention will determine our interpretation.

We have to understand perspective if we want a clear (or clearer) picture of a situation at hand.

One definition of perspective requires “seeing all relevant data in a meaningful relationship.”

It’s something to consider with collaboration and relationships. Do we narrowly frame a situation and thus miss opportunities? Do we start with answers and, consequently, miss the important questions?  Do we think of moving the spotlight or adjusting the focus so we go a little off-center?

We all have to be aware of our cognitive traps. This week, consider moving the spotlight a little. Whether you find a smirking vulture or not, your shifting perspective could help you better understand what you need to do in a perplexing situation.


Video recommendation for the week.

Do you believe what you perceive you receive?  Consider this perspective!


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

All photos taken by Steve Piscitelli. (c) 2017.

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#354) What Can You Really Control?

March 5, 2017

Perhaps understanding and accepting the uncertainty
will allow you to see additional choices and paths to success.

Last week seven words focused my attention.

Are you afraid to ad-lib your life?

Do you have to script each moment as you attempt to control each outcome (professional or personal) of your day? Unfortunately, too often I attempt to do that. And I exhaust myself!  The good news: I am aware.  I am a work in progress.

Scripting allows me the illusion of control. More so, it feeds my need to control. I create an urgency that commands (and commends!) me to orchestrate every step of the journey with the intent to control all outcomes.  And it drives me to distraction.

We have to recognize that we do have control over our thoughts, words, and actions. Think of a goal you reached.  It originated with a thought, you put it to words, and you took action. To a certain degree, you maintained control over the goal process. But you really could not control the outcome.  So many other factors came into play.

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Before any presentation, I take responsibility for the preparation process:  my words, visuals, mode of presentation, research, my handouts, speech patterns, and mannerisms.  I hope that my rehearsal and attention to detail will produce a certain outcome for the audience.

The reality remains that I cannot control the audience outcome.  Sure, I can say with a bit of certitude that certain demonstrations will invariably produce this result or that.  But I have no control over who walks into the room that day. Or what they have just experienced in their personal lives.

At times, I torture myself with whether or not a flight will be on time or a connection through Atlanta gives me enough time to dash to the next concourse.  No matter how meticulously I plan the itinerary, I have zero control over delays.  Yes, I can attempt to minimize the chances for delays. But I have zip for influence.  On days that I accept that certainty, I feel more relaxed.

When my wife went through chemotherapy, initially and naively I attempted to control the situation. I quickly discovered (what my wife already knew) that I could not control the dropping of her blood counts. In fact, those blood counts became a certainty throughout treatment that neither of us could do much to control. I had to learn how to handle that and the entire process. Once I did, I became a better partner for that journey.

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There will always be uncertainty. For my own wellbeing, I have to accept (embrace?) that ambivalence. Whether it is an audience reaction, the success of a podcast, the on-time arrival of a connecting flight, or the sales of a book, there is only so much Stevie can do.  When I lose that perspective, I go into a downward spiral of stress. And I am not much good to anyone, least of all myself.

You may have worked for a boss who attempted to control everything—every little step and process—of your day.  How did you feel? Maybe you are that dominating boss. How’s that working for your health and those you lead? (Do you really think your employees awaken each morning, stretch their arms over their heads, and say, “Gee, I can’t wait to get to work so my supervisor can attempt to control every step of my day, belittle me, and browbeat me. I am so motivated!”)

When it comes to the need to control, consider addressing the underlying issues at hand. What is it you really need? Can you get beyond answers like, “I need to meet my quarterly numbers”?  What are the underlying motivations for a control obsession?

Understanding and accepting the uncertainty may allow you to see additional choices and paths to success. And, by chance, you may be able to ad-lib a bit of your day.


Video recommendation for the week:

Times of change can lead us to control what semblance of an old order we can lasso. That is not change management. That resembles someone attempting to manage disappointment.  An older video of mine reminds us that when it comes to change we have a four-step process. You will notice that control does not factor into the equation.

logo-island


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#353) Change Management

February 26, 2017

We all are in the change management business.

Did you know that about 500,000 jobs exist in the “change management” field? Titles like, “Culture Change Manager…Change Management Analyst…Change Management Lead…Change Management Specialist….”

Who knew?

As I prepare for two corporate programs—one in Las Vegas and one here in Florida—that scrutinize the topic of “change management,” two questions guide my thinking.

  1. Haven’t we been managing change at one level or another for a long time? After all, Heraclitus offered more than two centuries ago, “Change is the only constant in life.”
  2. Since change is not new, then what is new about it in the current context and—why should we care?

We could make an argument that to every generation the change it faces is monumental, huge, and precedent busting. No one has ever faced anything like it before or will again.  Or, at least so they think in the moment—their moment.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Maybe the change involved technology (assembly line), government (the Constitutional Convention), women’s rights (suffrage amendment), equal access (Brown v. Board of Education), aviation (the Wright Brothers) or education (Title IX). You can name many more.

One measure used by economic historians to measure the rate of change looks at how long it takes 50% of the households to adopt the change. By that standard, it took electricity and TV about twenty-eight years.  Radio, television, and the Internet, less than a decade.

Again, Heraclitus told us that, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.”

Bottom line, we all are in the change management business. Whether we hold responsibility for workplace productivity, renovating our home, or handling a healthcare crisis, change faces us. If we think that we will drown in change, know that we have been through it before and will confront it again.

Everyone thinks of changing the world,
but no one thinks of changing himself.
― Leo Tolstoy—

The first thing to do is consider what change we need to consider. The CEO may look at change as it relates to technology, rapidity, different generational attitudes, uncertainty, institutional culture, and/or sustainability.

I would suggest, at the least, we need to understand the professional and personal perspective from which to address change. When we talk about change, what do we expect those we lead and ourselves to do? Consider this short list as you move forward with change management in your life. What do you want to do as it relates to change? Do you want to

  • Accept it?
  • Anticipate it?
  • Cause it?
  • Control it?
  • Follow it?
  • Ignore/resist it?
  • Slow/speed it?
  • Understand it?
  • Question it?
  • Do something else?

Some choices move us forward. Others, not.

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” 
― George Bernard Shaw


Video recommendation for the week:

Change will happen. So, what do you do with the change resistors? Click here for one strategy.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

55031146_high-resolution-front-cover_6597771-1

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#349) A Tangled Mess

January 29, 2017

We could ignore the tangles and hope they go away on their own.
What is the healthiest and safest manner to help us stop going in circles, loosen up, and prosper?

Ever had to deal with a root-bound plant? You know the kind. When you gently remove it from the pot for transplanting, you find the soil enveloped by the root system.  Plants in this condition need attention to survive.  If the tangle is minimum, you might be able to gently massage the root ball with your fingers to loosen it up.  At other times, when the root’s streamers are many and tightly wound, you may need to use a knife to cut through the tangle.

While the “violence” may shock the plant, it has a better chance for survival after this intervention.  As one planting blog states, “The only alternative is planting it root bound, and no root bound plant can thrive. It will be hard to water and it will live a short, sad life, always sickly and constrained, if it makes it at all.”

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Sometimes we might feel like that plant. All tangled up with the challenges of daily life. One tangle might come from work, another from our social circle, and still another emerges from our emotional state. We could ignore the tangles and hope they go away on their own.

They probably won’t. They will overtake our wellbeing. Perhaps we need an “intervention” of sorts. And while I’m NOT suggesting we “take a knife to the ball,” the level of the intervention will depend upon the severity of the tangle. Just how tied up in knots are we. The first step is awareness, followed by a questioning of assumptions.

If we want to thrive, we cannot ignore our challenges. And we must not subject ourselves to continual self-flagellation. Just like our root-challenged plant that has been sliced and manipulated, we also need some loving care. Like a massage, understanding words from caring friends and family (and ourselves), improved diet, uplifting readings, quiet time, a visit to a therapist, or whatever provides healthy solace and movement toward improvement.


Video recommendation for the week:

Continuing with this week’s metaphor, this video provides a quick 67-second strategy for dealing with root bound plants. As the horticulturist says, if we do not deal with the problem, the plant will wither. Listen to his words. They provide something to consider as we encounter challenges.  What is the healthiest and safest manner to help us to stop going in circles, loosen up, and prosper?


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#348) Repair The Bucket. Fill The Bucket.

January 22, 2017

Who can help you? Who can you help?

Do you sometimes just get tired?  Feel like you are getting nowhere fast? Might even believe you are moving backwards?

A friend reminded me of a powerful visual. This woman is the caregiver for a family member who recently has experienced significant health challenges. My friend, who has always been a ray of sunlight for those around her (read: positive, upbeat, whimsical, witty, a joyous person) told me she had hit the wall. She felt like a dark cloud had swallowed her up.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

In short, her resilience—for a moment—failed her. She felt crushed by the worry. She had run out of fuel. Nothing was left.

Think of resilience like the water in a bucket.  At times, we lose water. Other times, we add.  When we lose water, envision picking up a ladle and spooning a bit more water back into your bucket.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

But maybe the bucket springs a leak. You  lose a bit more water than usual.  You find a way to patch the bucket, stop the leaking, spoon in replacement water, and continue onward.

Consider the water as a metaphor for your energy, your resilience, your ability to cope. When you (the bucket, the vessel) are challenged repeatedly, you may start to show wear. Perhaps you spring a second “leak.” Then more hardship—and more leaks.  You do what you have always done. You pick up the pace and pick up the pace and pick up the pace of shoveling in more, more, and more water (fuel or resilience)—until you can no longer do it.  You’re spent.

Like the person with a bucket springing more and more leaks, at some point you cannot physically or emotionally keep up. No matter how fast you ladle, the number and size of the bucket holes overtake your good efforts.

Exhausted, you drop the ladle, and the bucket runs dry. You are at a loss. You know the bucket (you) needs repair but you no longer have the energy, or at least the amount of energy you need to repair and refill. You have difficulty taking care of yourself.

A few blog posts back, I spoke of The Six Fs of our lives.  When one area—the family member’s health for my friend above—begins to crumble under strain and stress, what other area can help you regain your balance (and repair the bucket, and regain your resilient self)?  For my friend, it was a friend of hers who made a suggestion which lead to an action which brought about relief (for all involved).  To be sure, there are still significant challenges (the bucket, after all, has experienced lots of strain) but my resilient friend has been able to catch her breath and begin to see the light from within the darkness.

Six Fs (Steve Piscitelli)

Six Fs (Steve Piscitelli)

Perhaps you feel like that straining bucket. Maybe you don’t, but someone close to you seems to be springing leaks faster than he or she can plug them.

When we are resilient, we tend to bounce back and adapt.  Grit, another oft-used concept, looks at our perseverance to continue onward.  My friend not only bounced back, she moved forward.  Will her bucket run low again? Probably. Will yours? Probably.

Think of a particularly difficult or challenging situation you have in front of you this coming week. What can you do to help you regain your strength and desire to move forward (plug the bucket)? And, what can you do to move forward (begin to refill that bucket) and move toward the goal?

Who can help you? Who can you help?


Video recommendation for the week:

How can we help our children build their resilience skills? What lessons present themselves for adults?


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

55031146_high-resolution-front-cover_6597771-1For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


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