WSJ – Lt. Withers Act of Mercy has Unexpected Sequel

•April 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This Wall Street Journal shows how even in extreme situations one can still make the right decisions.  In this story, Lt. Withers, an African American soldier in World War II decided to break status quo by allowing two Jewish kids stay with his camp instead of sending them back to the prison at Dachau, were all the Jewish prisoners of war were kept after they were rescued by the allies.

Lt. Withers took a huge risk by doing so because at that time the African American soldiers were segregated and he knew it was especially important for them to obey orders.  This also had a personal risk for Lt. Withers because it could possibly get  him a dishonorable discharge from the army.  He made his decision because he felt like it was the right decision and also because he wanted to keep his men’s trust and respect as a leader.

By taking this risk, Lt. Withers was able to not only make a difference in his own life and the 2 Jewish fugitives, but he was also able to make a difference in the lives of his family, their families and his men.


WSJ – How Col. Dowdy lost his command in race to Baghdad

•April 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This Wall street Journal article illustrates how even the best leaders can be subjected to failure when they are put in a system where they are not in agreement with majority of the group.  This article reminds me so much of the Dean’s Disease.  This is an example of failed system where one is considered to be the bad apple merely for questioning the decisions of their superior.

I understand that in a battlefield time is of an essence but I don’t believe that is an excuse for group think.  I don’t believe that a colonel’s voice should not be heard just because he opposes the majority voice.  In this case Col. Dowdy believed his men’s lives were more important than completing the mission in the time-frame given to him by his superior.  I don’t have the expertise to decide whether or not this is true.  But I do believe that his thoughts as an admired commander should have been fully considered and that his voice should have been heard.  I also don’t see his opposition a legitimate reason for his termination.

Harvard Business Review – Level 5 Leadership

•April 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This Harvard Business Review done by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, illustrates that it takes more to become an outstanding leader to achieve greatness and to standout among other leaders.

Collins argues that a level 5 leader is one that channels her ego needs away from herself in order to achieve a larger goal in taking a company that is good to great.  Level 5 leaders are as ambitious and fierce as other leaders but it is their humility that sets them above other leaders.  Indeed a level 5 leaders ambitions is for the institution they lead not for themselves.

In addition to humility, level 5 leaders also posses extraordinary amount of will.  This review is filled with examples of leaders, most unknown by majority of the population, who posses extraordinary amount of humility and will.  Individuals who put their organization needs before their own and instead of putting themselves in the spotlight put their products and organizations in the spotlight.

Do you need a level 5 leader to succeed?  Not necessarily.  In fact, in my opinion, you can have leaders who put themselves out there in the spotlight by sometimes even obnoxious behavior and decisions and reach greatness. In fact I know there are plenty of  them out there.  But you can’t deny the fact that a failure rate for a level 5 leader must me a lot lower than the other other 4 levels of leaders.

The Dean’s Disease: How the Darker Side of Power Manifests Itself in the Office of Dean

•April 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In this article Arthur G. Bedeian discusses how giving a leader (a dean in this case) too much power can backfire in many ways.   My thoughts while reading this article was that why is the author only pointing his fingers at university deans abusing their powers.  After all we see this far too often in many other organizations.  My thoughts are that Bedeian either wants to use his first hand knowledge to make an improvement in the academic world or maybe there is an old grudge somewhere that he does not mention in his article.

Regardless of why this article is called “The Dean’s Disease”, this has been one of my most favorite articles that I’ve read for my organizational behavior class.  This article reminds me of how we are all human and we are made to make mistakes.  It doesn’t matter what our function is, even in the academic world where individuals are expected to be highly educated, you see how power can be abused in a way that it affects the entire education system at a university.

While reading this article I see how the main cause of this disease can be traced back to our insecurities.  I think all of us are potentially insecure with ourselves.  I think this is why we are all (at least I think all) hungry for power.  Because power means controlling, controlling other people and thus controlling our own future.  And even someone as intellectual as a dean can be blindsided by this when they see the constant praise from their colleagues and staff.  How is someone with so much power supposed to know she is making mistakes when none of her staff will speak up and reject her ideas?  And why won’t anybody stand up and voice their opinion?  Because the Dean has been given too much power.  Because majority of people are with her (or at least it seems like), because she has all the power to help them with their research or whatever they need.

So the author suggests that there should first be some prevention measures when hiring a dean, to weed out the deans who have been infected by the dean’s disease and second to have safeguards in place to make sure once they are in power they won’t abuse the power given to them.  These prevention measures and safeguards can be applied to any individual with power, not just deans.  Perhaps, the most important thing is to educate ourselves with just how diseased each one of us is capable of being when the opportunity for holding higher power arises.  Maybe the moral safeguard, is the best safeguard where we check our own behavior to see if we are behaving within the ethical code of conduct.

Stanford Graduate School of Business Case: Gary Loveman and Harrah’s Entertainment

•March 31, 2010 • Leave a Comment

When Gary Loveman was offered a position as a chief operating officer at Harrah’s he was fresh out of business school and new in the industry where individuals usually get promoted from bottom positions on a casino floor to up.  Loveman was essentially thrown into this position and had to work hard to gain respect and trust of his peers.

Harrah’s then CEO, Phil Satre, was planning to retire in 2002 and needed to find a strong follower. He believed that Harrah’s had strong technological capabilities and efficient operations but suffered from ineffective marketing.

Harrah’s introduced a reward system that also gathered data on their customer base. The problem was that Harrah’s gathered all this information but they did not know what to do with it and how to best utilize it. This is when Satre took a huge risk by bringing someone as inexperienced as Loveman for COO of the company.  In order for this to work out, without other employees to feel threatened there had to be a strong company culture with open communication and trust.  This is what Satre had already established for Harrah’s.

Loveman gained success at Harrah’s by emphasizing on teamwork and more importantly using science, experimenting, running numbers and gathering data and using them properly to determine the needs and the wants of the customer and customers loyalty.  He turned the system that was a friendly place to work, as long as you didn’t break the law and managed to achieve some modest level of performance into a more meritocratic system. His experience as a management professor at Harvard’s Business School gave him the skills to change the cultural environment inside the Harrah’s.

He also emphasized on the importance of his shareholders satisfaction, but I think for Gary Loveman, his shareholders were not only the people who invested in the company but also every customer that stepped foot in any Harrah’s properties.

Harvard Business School Case Study: Diamonds in the Data Mine

•March 31, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Gary Loveman gives a great insight on how Harrah’s differentiated itself from its competitors by creating an extremely devoted clientele base.

They used two main techniques to achieve this. First, they use science based methods of data mining to determine their customers’ needs and wants. Second, they provide exceptional customer service.  These two techniques have made Harrah’s stand out amongst giant casinos on the Las Vegas strip with all the dazzle.

This makes complete sense to me because  a  fountain show can impress people once or twice but for frequent customers that come to Vegas to play big money, the service is the key factor that keeps them coming back.  Harrah’s seemed to have banked on this idea.

Loveman also focused on identifying the customers that were most valuable for the Casino in the long run.  They were able to create a method that predicted customers’ worth- the amount they could expect that customer to spend in the long-term.

They also split their customers into three segments: Gold, Platinum and Diamond Cardholders.  It created competition between the customers to try to upgrade to better cardholder status.

Harrah’s has been successful by relying on their human resources, customer service and scientific based marketing methods that show the real needs and wants of the customers.

Harvard Business School Case Study: Evidence-Based Management

•March 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The study done by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton shows how the fundamental of how we do business and make decisions are wrong and need to be reevaluated.  They show how we often take the lazy way and the way that we have been taught as opposed to intuitive ways that require much dedication and wisdom.

We have been taught to take shortcuts or even emulate the shortcuts others have before us to get ahead in life or just to keep up.  Evidence-based management, from it’s name, is about making managerial decisions based on evidence in hand as opposed to following what has worked before.

In my opinion it all comes back to the education.  every year, thousands of people graduate with MBAs but all too often they seem to put in practice what has worked in the past instead of using what was learned in classrooms and instead of analyzing and considering the evidence provided in their surroundings to make their decisions.

Evidence-based management requires a change in the way we think and the way we’ve learned to think.  We need to search for evidence even if they are not so apparent and easily found.  We need to use logical thinking and hypothesis testing to examine the data given to us.  We need not to be afraid of experimenting and we need to be more humble when we realize what we had thought initially was completely wrong.

Evidence-based management opens the door to a lot of opportunities but it can also be very demanding and challenging.  It can be difficult to face the fact at times, but once that major step is taken evidence-base management can help us take more intuitive approaches to solving problems or just improve on the way we have been doing things in the past to improve the overall outcome that we wish to achieve.