1.01.2005

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» TIP: 8 winning tips from a winner
» TIP: When failure becomes unbearable
» TIP: A man is only as faithful as his options
» TIP: So you've got the job. Now what?
» TIP: Only the paranoid survive
» TIP: Learn to swim, not drown in the metrics
» RANT: When companies outgrow their spreadsheets
» TIP: Focus Like a Laser for explosive success
» TIP: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

TIP: 8 winning tips from a winner

via MSNBC - One day, you become a leader. On Monday, you're talking and laughing with colleagues about life and work, and gossiping about how stupid management can be. Then on Tuesday, you are management. You're a boss. Suddenly, everything feels different because it is different. Leadership requires distinct behaviors and attitudes, and for many people, they debut with the job. Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

Without question, there are lots of ways to be a leader. You need to look only as far as the freewheeling, straight-talking Herb Kelleher, who ran Southwest Airlines for 30 years, and Microsoft's quiet innovator, Bill Gates, to know that leaders come in all varieties. In politics, take Churchill and Gandhi. In football, take Lombardi and Belichick. Each of these leaders would give you a different list of "rules."...

Yet, some ways of leading always seemed to work. These became (Jack Welch's) eight "rules."

  • Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.
  • Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breath it.
  • Leaders get into everyone's skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.
  • Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.
  • Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.
  • Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.
  • Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example.
  • Leaders celebrate.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: When failure becomes unbearable

Some words of wisdom may help.

Success vs. Failure

  • Failure is The tuition You pay for success. - Walter Brunell
  • Sometimes a noble failure serves the world as faithfully as a distinguished success. - Edward Dowden.
  • A minute's success pays The failure of years.
  • One slip does not make a person forever a failure, any more than one good turn makes a person forever a saint.
  • Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure
  • Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing. - Denis Waitley
  • There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. - Paulo Coelho
  • Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up. - Chinese Proverb
  • Try and fail, but don't fail to try. - Stephen Kaggwa
  • I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong - Benjamin Franklin
  • Failure? I never encountered it. All I ever met were temporary setbacks. -Dottie Walters

Success within Failure, and vice versa

  • Success is The Ability To go from one failure To another with no loss of enthusiasm. - Sir Winston Churchill
  • Failure is The condiment that gives Success its flavor. - Truman Capote
  • you are thinking of failure as The enemy of success. but it isn't as all. you can be discouraged by failure - or you can learn from it.
  • Good people are good because they've come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know. - William Saroyan, in New York Journal-American (23 August 1961).
  • I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate. - George Burns US actor & comedian
  • Success builds character, failure reveals it. - Dave Checkett
  • Never walk away from failure. On the contrary, study it carefully -- and imaginatively -- for its hidden assets. - Michael Korda
  • A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in on the experience. - Elbert Hubbard

From Success to Failure, and vice versa

  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
  • I will not allow yesterday's success to lull me into today's complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure. -Og Mandino
  • You always pass failure on the way to success. - Mickey Rooney

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: A man is only as faithful as his options

that's what Chris Rock tells us in one of his stand up specials for HBO, ccckim blogged. This is meant to be a slam on men and fidelity but it applies to humanity in general.

People are only as faithful as their options... People are only as "good" (that being a relative term) as they are incentified to be. You are incentified not to break the law by your freedom. You are incentified not to speed by not wanting to part with $$. But it's finding that balance that makes the incentives worth it.

Would you be so worried about speeding if the fine was only $5, payable on the spot and nothing ever went on your record?...

On April 15, 1987, 7 million children in the United States disappeared. Do you know why? Because that was the first year the IRS required Social Security Numbers of dependents on tax returns. Whoops. People were suddenly incentified to do the right thing. Were there some that still cheated? I'm sure, but there were 7 million less dependents that year.

It made me think about my customers. What incentives do I give them to continue doing business with me? Are they good enough?

I would say our customer retention is about average. But average isn't remarkable.

People still buy from people. All your cutting edge technology and buzzwords aren't why people sign the checks. They sign them because they like you, you somehow make their lives easier, you make them look smarter, you take away some pain... All this technology meant to bring us together, actually pushes us apart...

Working Smart quick takeaway: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Something vs Nothing > Style vs Substance

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TIP: So you've got the job. Now what?

via CIO - ...There are three ways to start: You can spend time figuring out what you just got yourself into, or go right in and "fix" everything or continue "business as usual." The right answer is a combination of all three, naturally; it all depends on what you just inherited.

Experience should tell you that if there is no current crisis (if only we could be so lucky) then the right way to get your feet wet is to become an observer and a student of your new environment... This is a time for meetings to understand what is good and bad about your new organization and formulate a go-forward strategy. Spend time with your direct repots and their direct reports, find out what they do, what their skills are, what they think is right and wrong. Since you are the new person, they may not trust you yet, so keep the groups small and make it personal. And don't have managers in with their reports!

Once you have a sense of what your team is feeling, then it's time to talk with your clients. Look first for the business unit leaders and get recommendations from them as to which of their people you should talk with. One school of thought is to do your internal client's business for a day. There is no better way to learn about issues than to experience them first hand. Lastly, talk to you new boss. Now that you have some data points you can have a better, more detailed discussion on what your focus should be...

you ask six questions to everyone you meet. The one that is most relevant is, "If you were me, what would you focus attention on?" The questions you ask should provide you with a starting point for prioritizing the things you need to do and the things you want to do...

  • "What do you want to keep?"
  • "What do you want to change?"
  • "What do you want me to do?"
  • "What are you afraid I'll do?"
  • "What else do you want to ask me?"

But, what if there are problems when you enter the organization - problems that can't wait months to be resolved? Remember, they looked long and hard for you because you had something they needed in the organization. This is when you get your hands dirty and become an instant part of the fix. In other words, go deep toward understanding the issues. Attend meetings you wouldn't normally attend and work closely with the hands-on folks. Use the phrase, "At my last company we did it this way" sparingly because it gets old really fast. This is also the time to use all of your expertise and experience to analyze the situation and make decisions. Remember some of your best decisions are made before you have all the facts because you instinctively know what needs to be done. Take copious notes so that when the crisis is over you know how to prevent if from happening again.

This is also a great time to see what process and/or procedures are in place and how they affect the outcome...

So, that leaves us with "business as usual." There are many things that could be said about this but then I suspect that your predecessor would agree that it really isn't the right way to go. If the people that hired you wanted business as usual, would they have hired you? Understand that you are bringing ideas and methodologies that you have picked up over time. Now is the time to leverage them and create synergistic solutions. Everything that gets fixed isn't necessarily a problem, however: Creating efficiencies or cost effective solutions for things that aren't broken can contribute as much as fixing broken processes.

Your first hundred days will tell your new company what you are all about. It is also the best time to introduce change because that's what you were hired for.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want

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TIP: Only the paranoid survive

Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction, former Intel CEO Andrew S. Grove wrote. The more successful you are, the more people want a chunk of your business and then another chunk and then another until there is nothing left. I believe that the prime responsibility of a manager is to guard constantly against other people's attacks and to inculcate this guardian attitude in the people under his or her management.

The things I tend to be paranoid about vary. I worry about products getting screwed up, and I worry about products getting introduced prematurely. I worry about factories not performing well, and I worry about having too many factories. I worry about hiring the right people, and I worry about morale slacking off.

And, of course, I worry about competitors. I worry about other people figuring out how to do what we do better or cheaper, and displacing us with our customers.

But these worries pale in comparison to how I feel about what I call strategic inflection points... a strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.

Strategic inflection points can be caused by technological change but they are more than technological change. They can be caused by competitors but they are more than just competition. They are full-scale changes in the way business is conducted, so that simply adopting new technology or fighting the competition as you used to may be insufficient. They build up force so insidiously that you may have a hard time even putting a finger on what has changed, yet you know that something has. Let's not mince words: A strategic inflection point can be deadly when unattended to. Companies that begin a decline as a result of its changes rarely recover their previous greatness...

We live in an age in which the pace of technological change is pulsating ever faster, causing waves that spread outward toward all industries. This increased rate of change will have an impact on you, no matter what you do for a living. It will bring new competition from new ways of doing things, from corners that you don't expect.

It doesn't matter where you live. Long distances used to be a moat that both insulated and isolated people from workers on the other side of the world. But every day, technology narrows that moat inch by inch. Every person in the world is on the verge of becoming both a coworker and a competitor to every one of us, much the same as our colleagues down the hall of the same office building are. Technological change is going to reach out and sooner or later change something fundamental in your business world.

Are such developments a constructive or a destructive force? In my view, they are both. And they are inevitable. In technology, whatever can be done will be done. We can't stop these changes. We can't hide from them. Instead, we must focus on getting ready for them. The lessons of dealing with strategic inflection points are similar whether you're dealing with a company or your own career. If you run a business, you must recognize that no amount of formal planning can anticipate such changes. Does that mean you shouldn't plan? Not at all. You need to plan the way a fire department plans: It cannot anticipate where the next fire will be, so it has to shape an energetic and efficient team that is capable of responding to the unanticipated as well as to any ordinary event. Understanding the nature of strategic inflection points and what to do about them will help you safeguard your company's well-being. It is your responsibility to guide your company out of harm's way and to place it in a position where it can prosper in the new order. Nobody else can do this but you. If you are an employee, sooner or later you will be affected by a strategic inflection point. Who knows what your job will look like after cataclysmic change sweeps through your industry and engulfs the company you work for? Who knows if your job will even exist and, frankly, who will care besides you?...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Something vs Nothing

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TIP: Learn to swim, not drown in the metrics

It has been said that what gets measured gets done. But this is not strictly true - managers today are deluged by a sea of metrics that are completely irrelevant to the task at hand, Floyd blogged. In fact, as early as the 1960's, academic researchers were discovering that top executives rarely if ever used or relied upon the stacks of reports that were painstakingly produced and dutifully delivered to their desks each month. Instead they were much more likely to rely upon the news, hallway conversations, rumours and gossip in making business decisions.

The truth is that what gets managed gets done, and choosing which metrics to manage is the most highly levered strategic decision that an organization of any size can make. This indeed is "the hard part". Choosing what is important is both science and art and requires attention to an uncommon mix of disciplines - psychology, business strategy engineering, systems science, finance etc. And you must choose. As a rule of thumb, the human short-term memory limitation of 7 items plus or minus 2 is an excellent guideline. You should choose a total of somewhere between 5 and 9, and preferably 5 metrics for your organization to focus on.

So how do you choose the 5 numbers to manage?...

The bad news is that even by answering these questions, you can still get it wrong - wildly wrong - like the call center in which support representatives are rewarded for increasing the number of calls handled, and thus hang up on their customers as quickly as possible. Here are some characteristics it takes to choose great metrics:

  • Truth telling. There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. Do not fall into the trap of choosing numbers that make the situation look better than it is. The more transparent a metric makes your organization, the better it is...
  • Systems thinking. Follow Peter Senge's advice and look for the first, second and third order effects of optimizing your business around a particular metric. In the example above, if call volume is increased at your call center, what will the impact on customer satisfaction be? What will the effect of that change on customer loyalty? What will the impact of customer loyalty be on transaction costs? Etc.
  • Undying curiosity. Understanding why things "are the way they are" is the best way to figure out how to make them better. Sometimes you may want to choose a metric just so that people in the organization will become curious about it. Perhaps the best thing about choosing a particular metric to focus on is that it will inspire passionate debate amongst those who care about making things better.
  • Story telling. Selecting metrics is part of the process of creating a story that explains why the people in your organization should get up and come to work in the morning...
  • Strategic intuition. Often the route to success is not around optimizing an internal operation, but instead requires a complete change in the direction and focus of the organization to access some new dynamic in the external environment...
  • Tolerance for imperfection. Numbers will never tell the whole story; they are merely an approximation of reality. Still, these approximations are incredibly useful in focusing attention, and raising questions that drive organizational learning...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness > Achilles' heel

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RANT: When companies outgrow their spreadsheets

via CFO - (When are spreadsheets alone not enough?) ...Midsize companies have relied on spreadsheets and manual budgeting and forecasting processes since the earliest days of personal computers, and spreadsheets remain the de facto standard for day-to-day quantitative analysis. Indeed, well-crafted spreadsheets may be all the technology a new company needs to get up and running quickly. They are easy to understand and use; nearly all staff have some proficiency with Microsoft Excel.

However, large enterprises in recent years have migrated from spreadsheet-dependent processes toward more sophisticated automated planning, budgeting, and forecasting tools. These tools promise a greater level of operational detail for analytical purposes, more robust financial reporting, quick consolidations of financial data, and more input by business managers. The tools also liberate finance departments from the mundane manual processes of "racking and stacking" data to focus on a more robust understanding of the real drivers of business.

...A recent survey by CFO Research Services (a sibling of CFO.com) asked finance executives at midsize companies about their efforts to transform their planning, budgeting, and forecasting processes... This study found, across the board, that survey respondents believe they spend too much time on forecasting, budgeting, and planning. When asked about the most acute problems with their current planning process, more than 60 percent said it "takes too long." Nearly 43 percent said "not enough time to analyze data," ... What are the root causes of these problems? Respondents indicated that human factors such as collaboration among planning participants and uneven technical proficiency were primary causes. "Overdependence on key personnel" was cited by nearly 50 percent of respondents, "version control" by more than 35 percent, and "collaboration, consolidation of users' work" by nearly 35 percent of respondents. These issues add time to the planning, budgeting, and forecasting process, thereby reducing the amount of time left to actually analyze data on operational performance.

Interviews with CFOs at midsize companies confirm these survey findings and shed light on the real world problems that companies face when running their enterprises off a mosaic of spreadsheets... "With our spreadsheet model, I was unable to do 'what if' scenarios or work flow management," Green says. "I spent more time building and managing the model, and making sure none of the links were broken, than I did managing the data and analyzing it to ensure it fit the strategic plan. Aligning the spreadsheets was a nightmare. A simple change like someone adding an account threw the whole template [of operating expenses] out of whack. But the real drawback was my inability to do an analysis of data to make better decisions, to re-forecast or otherwise plan accordingly." ... And the company's struggle to build and maintain accurate analytical models distracts finance staff from higher value, analytical activities. "It's a hellish process that gets more complex every year,"... "If we take an annual salary for someone and spread it over 21 business days in a month, a simple change to 22 business days requires us to change a ton of formulas. We've also had to endure errors, where we've added up sales for all the branches, but we're undermined by the one branch that didn't extend the formula to reach enough rows and missed a whole person's salary." McArthur says that each year the model gets more complex, and "we introduce more potential for error. We need improved clerical accuracy on the budgeting side, where the numbers always add up. And on the forecasting side we need better analysis tools for looking at the business."... "We hit the month of May and realized there was no way we would make the forecast and cut our sales plan back almost 10 percent." C.F. Martin's executive team needed to immediately determine the overall financial impact of the reduced sales plan. "I spent a week without sleep trying to forecast the impact," McNair says. "Unfortunately, our spreadsheet-based systems were inadequate to successfully provide this analysis in a timely manner. I couldn't take all 50 budget centers and blow down the sales impact quickly to each individual budget, so I ended up doing this top-down, with a new operating plan focused on executive level budgets. We spent the next six months trying to drive the changes down to the responsibility managers who needed the appropriate metrics for measuring their performance against the revised plan. For the rest of the year, we were not as effective as we could have been." Had he used an analytical application for the re-forecasting, McNair says, "none of this would have happened & I would've hit a couple buttons and budget managers would have instantly realized the impact of the re-forecast on budgets, allowing them to make decisions accordingly."

Interview subjects say poor data integrity and accuracy affect their satisfaction with planning, budgeting, and forecasting...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap > Success Breeds Failure

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TIP: Focus Like a Laser for explosive success

via FunCareers -- A common mistake for almost all new work at home / home business beginners is the trap of trying to be all things to all people. They will take any job, even if it not what they set out to do, simply because the job pays money

It's tough to focus, we know!...

In the modern world, specialization is the key to success. If you were choosing a brain surgeon to operate on you I am sure you'd prefer one that only does brain surgery and nothing else! The same applies to your business.

If you do just one thing... You may be surprised to learn that making your focus more narrow actually gets you more customers. By offering one targeted product or service you can charge higher fees and you attract the customers that are willing to pay for your expertise. This applies to the online world as well as the real world. I'm sure you've seen hundreds of those "mini-sites", just one long sales page and nothing else. That's an extreme example of focus - not even a site, just one page, one product, it sells or it doesn't.

You can learn a thing or two from those pages for your real world business and create a laser like focus on the one thing you excel at, only targetting the customers that crave your product or service so you can increase your home business income...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap > When Less is More

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TIP: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

via Monster - "To be a marketing manager within five year, and have a hand-picked team reporting to me," replies Phil. This is a very specific and narrow goal, which may not be an option at this company...

"I have been so busy with my responsibilities and achieving company goals that I have not focused on personal long-term goals," answers Shawna. While a strong work ethic is certainly desirable, this answer does not demonstrate vision or planning.

Begin by setting short-term goals. Right now your goal may be to get a job. But what kind of job? And where do you go from there?

Be employer-centered. The employer is looking for someone to come in and solve problems. Since planning is a key factor in this job, think of examples where your planning has affected the results...

(as an example) "I have learned that long-term goals are best achieved when I break them into shorter goals. My short-term goal is to find a position that will put me in a forward-moving company with solid performance and future projections. As part of a team, I want to add value and continue to grow the company. My long-term goal will depend on where the company goes. My plan is to move into a position of responsibility where I can lead a team."...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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