About Wayne McKinnon
As a foot note in history, Wayne once worked as a member of the team that assembled the particle detectors used in nuclear physics to discover the first evidence of quarks.
Wayne no longer works with the building blocks of the universe; instead he works with the building blocks of organizations. Unlike the tiny quark, the results that Wayne achieves for his clients are visible and have an extended lifetime.More
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Monthly Archives: July 2014
In my first real job out of school I earned a whopping $13,000.00 per year, at least I think it was per year. I only stayed in that job for a little over a year before doubling my salary by taking a different job in another organization, and then doubling it again with my next move a little over a year after that. It wasn’t the last time.
The rapid increases in salary in my early days had more to do with where the market was for the sorts of skills that that I had acquired by that time rather than the dwindling demand for the skills that my formal education had given me. Soon people began hiring me more for my track record of successful projects, and my attitude and willingness to learn new things, (or rather, to figure out what the customer needs and deliver on that.) I never recall stating that the work was not in my job description as some of my colleagues had done. I was happy to work above my pay grade.
Those meagre beginnings were a lifetime ago. Like many of you, in the early 1980s I was part of a new breed of worker in a world where union jobs and lifetime employment was still the norm. Including those modest first steps, every significant step in my career has been the direct result of my willingness to do the things outside of my formal job description that enabled me to stretch my competencies (I’m not talking about also being willing to wash the toilettes, but instead willing to perform some of the duties of my boss, or those of a vacant more senior position when the opportunities arose).
My willingness was one of the keys to career growth that gave me the exposure to new skills and new ways of thinking that I would never have learned if not for my attitude. Meanwhile many of my colleagues who preferred to stick to work within a smaller comfort zone found that their jobs eventually disappeared as they not only failed to progress, but also to adapt to changes in demand for their skills. Some went back to school again in order to change direction. Others took safe jobs in other positions or industries where their low salary reflected the poor fit of their past experience and the relative commodity of workers in those areas. The ones that took risks and stretched their comfort zone excelled beyond the norm.
I’m not recommending that you leave your employer or go back to school, but what I am recommending is that you recognize that work evolves and so should you.
I was in the area so on a recent business trip I stopped in at Elvis Presley’s estate.
Contrary to the verse in Marc Cohn’s song, I did not see "a pretty little thing waiting for the king down in the jungle room." The room was vacant.
What I did see of course was the rows and rows of gold and platinum albums and singles that Elvis produced throughout his career. How is such a prodigious body of work even possible?
In one of the rooms in the basement, the wall is adorned with his personal logo that he designed. It is TCB with a lightning bolt – taking care of business in a flash.
This motto would go a long way in many organizations today where over analysis, red tape and indecision stifle both productivity and innovation.
In my experience the part of any business or support process that takes the longest time is the time between the steps. If a decision is so important that it requires careful consideration, make as many of those decisions once, in advance, and apply the results to the process, rather than repeatedly revisiting the decision.
For the decisions that cannot be made in advance and are left within the process, realize that business depends more on results than it does on indecision.
Follow Elvis Presley’s advice and take care of business in a flash.
Would you rather be flying high with success or wandering around lost in the jungle room?
I've worked in different parts of the arctic over the last few years and it has given me new perspective. Being situated above the Arctic Circle poses challenges that most organizations do not have to contend with when it comes to delivering services.
Electronic communication is one example. They rely on satellites. On one visit, whenever I asked someone his or her opinion on why that is so challenging, I was consistently given a concise answer. Sunspots!
Twice a year there are major interruptions due to interference sent to earth from the sun. These interruptions can be lengthy and get in the way of good communication.
In addition to that, one of the peculiar things that I have noticed in my travels to top of the earth is that the sky, as we know it is not above our heads. Sure you will see a sky if you look up, but it is not the same sky that we see from most other places in North America. Satellites that orbit closer to the equator can barely “see” over the curve of the earth. The sky as we know it is not above the arctic, instead, it is “over there” just behind the mountains.
Our sky is at their feet.
Some people that you attempt to communicate with may have problems easily accepting perspectives from the field. I am surprised that we so easily fall back to thinking the earth is flat...or that beyond head office, branch offices may not actually exist and operate differently.
When I returned home, this observation about the angle of satellite dishes and the unique perspective that I had gained from my travels beyond the home base lead to what I thought with be an interesting discussion with some of my educated colleagues, but when they chimed in I lost interest pretty quickly as their egos took over.
One of the things that I have learned over the years is that I do not have to have an opinion on everything, nor do I need to be the expert on something that I know little about. My opinions are based on my experiences and observations, intended to help, not on conjecture and a need to feel important.
When I stated that I found it interesting that television satellite dishes in the north appear comical since they seem to point at the ground since the signals must follow the curve of the earth, all sorts of experts in the room piped up proclaiming that that satellite signals are line-of-sight and that what I saw was impossible.
I have so many issues with this line of reasoning.
1) The fact that a satellite communicates using electrons, photons or Jell-O is neither here nor there. The conversation was about different perspective and my colleagues lead with their own agendas.
2) My comment about “curve of the earth” was accurate in the context that I intended it (the earth gets in the way.) Rather than question my intent (which would be a valid approach) the group each applied their own meaning without questioning for understanding.
3) Their response caused me to shut down, to remove myself from the conversation. Apparently sun spots are not the only thing that can shut down communication.
In my consulting business I help organizations improve service delivery and assists their teams in identifying and moving towards work of higher value. Too many times I witness this behaviour within the halls of my client’s organizations as service providers shut down the conversations that their clients would like to have with them. Ego driven conversations become a game of one-upmanship, and no value can come of it.
What I find even more comical than the angle of the satellite dishes is the experience base that the self-proclaimed experts lead the conversation from. They each asserted that their extreme technical knowledge gained from having had a service person out to their houses to install satellite dishes made them eminently qualified to prove me wrong.
Even though my early career formal education in the early 1980s in designing microwave transmitters or telecommunications purposes would have made it easy to do so, I chose not to dispute their technical assertions. Why bother, it was not germane to the intended discussion. I'm a management consultant.
Don't let yourself be blinded by sunspots. Good communication can be difficult enough. Take what you will from the example that I have written here. What have you learned that you can apply to your own conversations, behaviour and certainty of perspective?
So that I don't get mail attempting to drag this example into yet another technical conversation, satellites communicate using microwave signals. These signals travel in a straight line unless they bounce off something that changes their direction (a wave-guide, a satellite, or I suppose even a rock, but not a lump of Jell-O. Lumps of Jell-O are penetrated, their molecules excited and the cooking process begins). Microwave signals from the south can be interrupted by the curve of the earth. The ones that do make it north are not very high off the horizon since the north pole is on top of the earth and not beside the equator.
My calendar popped up reminding me that today is Nunavut day. Nunavut is one of Canada’s northern territories to the east, and its capitol city is Iqaluit (pronounced Ikaluit).
Iqaluit sits on Baffin Island and is closer to the country of Greenland than it is to the US border. Nunavut sometimes needs consultants. When I was working there in March I joked (in my best Sarah Palin voice) that I could see Greenland from my office.
Iqaluit is situated on the shores of Frobisher Bay. Early explorers looking for a northwest passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic Ocean discovered the bay. To the south is Hudson’s Bay.
One of the earliest Hudson Bay company trading posts is located here. (The crowd behind me is a Hollywood movie crew shooting on location. I'm sworn to secrecy until it hits the big screen).