Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

I began a new job this week: I am the Executive Director of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light. This is a statewide organization here in Ohio whose mission . . .

. . . is  to empower a religious response to climate change
and to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.
We focus on tangible results in religious communities – putting our faith into action.

OhIPL is part of a growing nationwide network, with chapters in most states, that brings together people of faith to address the great issue about which we share one concern — the Care of Creation. We present educational programs and work with congregations of all kinds to reduce their carbon footprint, increase efficiency, and save money.

We work with many partners such as the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, which has been described as “ground zero” of the green building/energy efficiency movement in communities. This week GCEA announced the receipt of $17 million in stimulus money to pay for energy audits and retrofit projects throughout southwest Ohio.

A unique aspect of this program is the eligibility of non-profits, including communities of faith, to receive funds. OhIPL will work with GCEA on outreach to those communities. Houses of worship as a group are among the “leakiest” buildings in the country. But people of good will in those communities can be a powerful force for real change.

As I told the Board of OhIPL, it’s very exciting to me to be working with them at this critical time. Everywhere I’ve gone, when I explain to people the work of OhIPL, the reaction is the same: “What a great idea!”

I’ll be working with OhIPL on a contract basis through December 31, 2010. My task is to help OhIPL move toward the next chapter in its future (at present we are an affiliate program of the Ohio Council of Churches). I’m still engaged in wrapping up my teaching duties at Miami-Hamilton, which will keep me busy through next week.

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Last week I attended a demonstration of the presentation style PechaKucha (alternatively Pecha Kucha, or just PK). Named for the Japanese term for “chit-chat,” it was developed in Japan as a way of combating the familiar phenomenon of “death by PowerPoint.” Based on one exposure – eh, maybe.

In theory it couldn’t be simpler: 20 x 20, or 20 slides, 20 seconds each, 6 minutes 40 seconds precisely. That’s it. You can see the correspondence with the Japanese esthetic of haiku, to take one example: 3 lines, 17 syllables. The idea is to strip content from the tyranny of bullet points and pare it down to its essence. Not surprisingly, since it was developed by artists and architects, the focus is on images, not text.

PechaKucha is pronounced pe-chak-cha, by the way. Since its beginning in February 2003, PK has spread virally to cities around the world; here in Cincinnati there have been three instances of PechaKucha Night (r) — yes, that’s a registered trademark — in the past year. The emphasis on night is a further reflection of its social/artistic origins, and the distance between PK on the one hand and business and academic presentations on the other. Not that the latter couldn’t use a little shaking up — but I’m not sure PK is it.

To be fair, the presentations I saw did not appear for the most part to have been produced from the ground up in this style; they looked more like conventional presentations re-worked to fit PK. The biggest problem I saw is that the form in essence demands not a single presentation but a series of 20 micro-presentations. Because presenters needed to view their screens to keep the timing right, there was not much eye contact with their audiences. Quite often the comments on individual slides went long, but ones that were too short were even more problematic.

I know from my radio experience that one of its indispensable skills is the ability to match vocal content to a precise length in a hide-the-artifice way. Doing that 20 times in a row is an enormous task. Comments of 18 or 22 seconds — even comments of 19 or 21 seconds — don’t quite get it. And if it’s not done right, the technique calls attention to itself in a bad way: the audience pays less attention to the presentation because they’re wondering if the speaker will make it. Over and over again.

I hope to attend a PK night in Cincinnati and see how artists and architects do it. I’d love to be proved wrong, but I suspect that the power of this form is not going to transfer very well to more formal settings, where innovative concepts like those from TED.com may be better bets (or Garr Reynolds’ approach in Presentation Zen, also inspired by Japanese models).

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BacktoBusiness_webhdr[Note: the date of this workshop has been changed. It’s now February 2, 2010.]

Call this product placement, but I’m excited to be putting together a November 4th February 2nd publicity workshop under the auspices of the University of Cincinnati College of Business Back to Business program. I participated in the first session of B2B this past summer, and it was a great event from start to finish. Aimed at “displaced professionals,” it was like a mini-mini-MBA (my term, not theirs), with fabulous teachers from UCCB presenting 80 hours of instruction in comparative marketing, database design, understanding financials, etc.

I’m working with fellow B2B alum John Hingsbergen to put this November workshop together, featuring Cincinnati-area public relations professionals like Jeanette Altenau of Channel 12, Susan Eiswerth and Marsie Hall Newbold. Lots of fun, and perhaps the precursor to some other events. This one focuses on traditional media, and the next logical step will be to focus on social media if this one’s a hit.

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W. Shakespeare, Gent.

I posted a blog entry today at Lisa Haneberg’s Management Central site on the topic of motivation vs. behavior. In it I quote Hamlet to Gertrude as he advises her to have nothing to do with his murderous stepfather:

Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
. . . Refrain to-night,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence; the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either exorcise the devil, or throw him out
With wondrous potency.

In other words, behavior. Don’t become virtuous so that you may act virtuously; instead, act virtuously so that you may become virtuous.

The problem here is that we need to recognize that while Shakespeare may articulate this or that idea, we mustn’t fall into the trap of the Shakespearean fallacy: acting as if Shakespeare is advocating the same. He isn’t; his character Hamlet is.

Or take this better-known speech, from the same play:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

This is Polonius to his son Laertes. How many motivational speakers have gotten 4 hours ot of this? But:

  • Is this Shakespeare’s advice?
  • Sure, it sounds reasonable.
  • But Polonius is a fool.
  • Does that make his advice worthless?
  • Does it matter?

This why, in Shakespeare, you end up throwing up your hands and say it’s the ultimate example of John Keats’ negative capability — the capacity of the artist to create believable characters who may (or may not) be like their creator. Sort of the opposite of the clueless Dan Brown.

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UCB2BIn June and July I participated in an 80-hour intensive program called Back to Business, presented by the College of Business at the University of Cincinnati. It was aimed at “displaced professionals” such as yours truly and was in many respects like a mini-mini MBA (my term, not theirs).

One of the goals was to prepare us for re-entry into the job market through immersion into website architecture, project and process management, spreadsheet engineering, market research, LEAN manufacturing, etc… Our instructors were faculty members of the College, in several cases full professors. I was tremendously impressed by the caliber of our instructors and by the makeup of the class.

One of the most remarkable things about the whole deal was that it was, essentially, free. We paid $500 registration up front. Those who completed the program — and I think almost everyone did — got the $500 refunded, and the hope that once our personal economy improves, we’ll remember UC and the College with a handsome gift. Judging from the class reaction, I’d say that was a good risk.

Well done, UC.

*kudos is a Greek word meaning praise. And don’t let the -s fool you; it’s singular, not plural.

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Reflected Best Self

CPOS-LogoI’m enrolled at a program called Back to Business at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Business. Last week we studied an assessment tool called Reflected Best Self, which is copyrighted by the University of Michigan. I’ve never used it but it looked to be an interesting way to address the performance review dilemma.

Frankly, everyone hates performance reviews. We always remember the negatives, no matter how much positive there is. Yet we know that people are more likely to change with positive direction. This method looks like an interesting attempt to make that work.

There are quite a few web sites about Reflected Best Self. Here’s one from Michigan.

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