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Views from the Prairie

June 2023

Distracted from Real Goals

Are you distracted from the real goal? Many get distracted by having their name on the building. At least one business person worked hard to get his name on buildings, casinos, and golf courses. That name on the casinos and buildings has not kept those businesses from going bankrupt over and over again. That name on the buildings is not a brand for quality. Often, when we distracted and start focusing on our own prestige, we lose sight of our customers and what they want.

There are so many ways to be distracted from the real goals. We can be distracted by political events. We can be distracted by the constant problems that need solving. We can get caught up in building our own empires and promoting ourselves. All of these distractions take energy away from the real goal.

Back in the 1980's, when Southland Corporation let people know of their plans to build a new headquarters building as part of a real estate development, a number of people criticized the decision. Southland Corporation wasn't that profitable and building a huge place didn't seem like a good business decision. The fanciness of the place didn't help either. The move was compared to building an Egyptian pyramid as a monument to self. In a few short years, Southland Corporation had gone bankrupt and sold itself to its Japanese franchisee.

The name on the building, the brand, the image, all are an invitation to come in. When there is no substance behind the image, the brand loses what value it might have had. When the community organization forgets to serve the community and only welcomes some, that organization fades away. Or the fancy wedding cake that has the top layer being simply frosting over Styrofoam leaves a bitter taste to those who try to bite into it.

Because of all the distractions, it helps to regularly bring the focus back to the real goal. We operate in a world full of distractions, interruptions, and invitations to other actions. A crisis can spring up at any moment. It helps to plan time to reconnect with each other and with our common goal.

It helps to reduce necessary distractions. Many corporations have sold their buildings to real estate investors and other companies that can better manage the buildings. This has freed up those corporations to resize, move, and be more nimble when dealing with changing business conditions. It also reduces the complexity of the office as the corporation no longer has to deal with daily maintenance and other upkeep.

Many people tell us to have different goals. Others "butter us up" in order to take from us. We need to let them have their own organization for those different goals.

Our goals need to be clear, focused on the customer, and pushing towards the best quality we can offer at that price. Let's not get distracted from the real goal.

Make Office Work Great Again?

Many people are pushing back against the huge number of changes that happened over the last few years. We saw a large number of companies adopt remote working during the pandemic and many are mandating a return to the office. This is not being driven by any hard metrics of worker productivity, but from the needs of managers. Managers do not believe that remote workers are as productive even when the few metrics show that remote work has been as productive or more productive that being in the office. But we need new metrics and new tools for managers as remote work is not going away.

Managing remote workers is tough. It is a lot harder than managing people in an office. Most managers were thrown into the situation without any training, without the tools to measure remote worker productivity, and without much support for all that they needed to learn. It is no wonder that they want to go back to the old ways again.

To properly manage remote workers, the job has to be defined far more rigorously and the productivity metrics have to be well defined. It has been a major effort to make many office jobs into remote jobs. These office jobs were not well defined and a manager could get a gut feel for productivity by walking around and viewing behavior. That doesn't work for remote jobs.

That productivity research is lacking for many a modern job and many managers do not have the tools to measure office worker productivity. The result has been a belief among many managers that remote workers aren't doing the job well.

Yet, because allowing employees to work remotely is the fastest and cheapest way to give a "raise" to employees, remote work is going to continue and grow.

Risky World

A local food inspector in India was taking a selfie when he dropped his phone into a reservoir. He ordered it drained and retrieved his phone in a few days. But it was so waterlogged that it no longer worked. He has been suspended for wasting the water.


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