Three Questions to Anticipate the Need for Change


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Back in 2004, I came across the paper “Change in the Presence of Fit: The Rise, the Fall, and the Renaissance of Liz Claiborne” by Nicolaj Siggelkow (it is long, however, reading about the fashion industry was so interesting!).  Based on the author’s concept of “Fit”, to anticipate the need of change we must:

  1. Look inside:  Does the organization have internal fit?  (Do all the functions of the company work seamlessly and efficiently?)
  2. Look around:  Does the organization have external fit? (Do the products, services, strategy and structure of the organization interacts effectively and efficiently with customers, suppliers, competitors, government and other environmental factors?)
  3. Look ahead:  Is the current internal fit an asset for the company’s future external fit (which can be different from the current definition of external fit)? Responding this question requires am analysis of the short term and long term risks and opportunities for the organization.

If the answer to any of the questions is “No”, then change is needed soon or within a few years.  Such change could be disruptive and inclusive of apparently perfect processes and models.

Below I pasted a couple of charts from the article.  One illustrates the fit concept (using Ford as an example) and the other shows the change framework.

Performance Landscapes

Performance drops when the internal fit is no longer an asset for the external fit of the organization. Article excerpt.

Change Framework

Starting from a status of perfect internal and external fit, shifts in internal or external fit impact organizational performance. Article excerpt.



Meetings and Smartphones


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Yes? No?… Maybe? An article in the Forbes magazine headlines “Why Sucessful People Never Bring Smartphones into Meetings”.  Aside of the title (never bring? that sounds extreme), the survey information is interesting.  I usually don’t check e-mail during meetings, however, there are times where I would really want to do it.  As bad as smartphones are, many times the issue is the meeting itself: Its duration, relevance, pace, productivity and politics.  Culture and staffing also influence behavior. The person could be swamped, always in meetings she cannot decline, demanded or could get in trouble if she doesn’t check.

Aesop stories are good reads for kids and CEOs

The Hare and the Tortoise Illustration

Illustration by Mike Burns @

Simple, yet so true.  There is even a book that pairs the fables with real business stories!

The original fables are all available in Google books. Below I post one of the classics, “The Tortoise and Blockbuster”.  Sorry, I meant “The Tortoise and the Hare”.  Netflix was not exactly “plodding”, but oh well! there is only so much Aesop can include in the story:

The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

“That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

“Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race. Then said the Tortoise: “Plodding wins the race”.

In Negotiations, Step One Is to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

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Nobody wants to get ripped off, yet it happens time after time to so many people. I still remember when it happened to me. I was browsing cars in a dealership when “he”, this slender, assertive, smiley and friendly sales rep, literally had me give it all for so little.  From all persons, he ripped me off!!

Why did that happen? Why?

Negotiations literature blames fear, lack of preparation and a misperception of what win-win negotiations are.  I invite you to join me in my overpriced ride to understand and overcome each one of the blamed factors.  Here we go:


This one is simple.  Alan M. Webber (founder of Fast Company magazine and a former managing editor of the Harvard Business Review) expressed excellently what goes on: “[…] fear can make us act meek and obsequious – which means that we are likely to end up with our goals unmet.  Or it can make us behave aggressively and angrily – which would break down the discussion altogether”.  Now that we know what fear does, the question is, how do we leave it behind?  To make my point, I will borrow some of JD Shammer’s advice to overcome communications fear (negotiations are no other thing than tough communication situations):

  • Practice asking for more (or less).  Just as simple as that.  Asking for more can be the most uncomfortable thing; sometimes words just don’t come out right.  If you practice asking for more (especially how you are going to say it), you will feel much better.
  • Visualize success.  You need to know what you want and how much is worth what you have to visualize success.  No matter how inexperienced you are, that slender smiley guy is no better or worse than you.  Trust yourself and project confidence.  When you negotiate, aim high and you will probably get the real value of what you have.  Will this make your negotiations process tougher and longer? Probably, but just with yourself  (the very first person you will negotiate with).   Never underestimate what you bring to the table.
  • Remember, you are the owner of your time.  Don’t let anybody put a ticking bomb in front of you.  If it happens to be there, you can always ask for a longer deadline, do a counter offer or simply use the famous “Farpoint Gambit”. The tactic is so good that I have to include the classic Startrek  dialogue  that explains it (isn’t it awesome?  Robert J. Robinson found the concept’s origin in a TV show): Unfair, crazy alien judge questioning the captain of the Enterprise says to bailliff: “Bailiff, if the next word out of the captain’s mouth is anything but guilty, kill him!” Right after that, he turns and asks the captain: “Defendant, how do you plead?”.  The captain thinks for a moment and then says: “Guilty”. As the courtroom gasps (and after an inevitable television commercial break), he adds, “Provisionally”. There it is, the Farpoint Gambit at its best.
  • Remember, business no matter how cozy it gets, is always business.  No matter what happens or how much time you have spent in a negotiation, you can always walk away.

Lack of preparation

We slightly touched the item when I talked about practice, however, preparation is much more than that. In a nutshell to be prepared you have to:

  • Do your research (a LOT of research)
  • Know what you want and know what the other party wants
  • Know who you are negotiating with (in my case, I should have known that I was talking with a car seller, not a pal that happened to sell cars and that was willing to give me the “greatest deal”)
  • Know what your BATNA is (best alternative to non-agreement), it will tell you when is right to walk away
  • Have a plan.  The plan shall include a purpose (what do you want to get out of the negotiation?), an agenda (what items are you going to cover?) and a pace (how long is it pertinent to negotiate?)
  • Find the right framing. It is different to say “I am looking for a mini-van for my family of five” than saying “I have a family of five and I want to see if I can afford a mini-van”

A misperception of what win-win negotiations are

Win-win negotiations are not negotiations where both parties get what they want.  Win-win negotiations are negotiations where both parties get what their negotiated items are worth.

When we negotiate, we have to make sure that our side of the win-win equation is calculated correctly.  I can’t count the number of individuals I have seen give away the store (including myself), just because they forgot to look outside of themselves or of their own internal valuation of things.  A win is not just getting what we want, a win is getting what our side of the table is worth to the market, even if our side of the table is worth nothing to us.  In the case of my car, paying $500 extra dollars for the tire insurance felt like nothing in the greater scope of things (It now hurts to think that such insurance was not worth that much).

[I need to insert a note here: Sometimes the market doesn’t recognize the value of what you have and you have to settle just with what you want instead of with what the asset is worth.  That’s ok, in those situations, you just need to do every effort to embed the contracts with clauses that allow you to get back what was given away if it ever becomes worth more.]

Easy right? And yet, I failed… if only I had known then what I know now.  But oh yes! Rest assured, in this world, there is no other person that enjoys more buying a car than me.  It is not a matter of transportation, it is a matter of honor.


Webber, A. How to Get Them to Show You the Money. Issue 19, Oct 1998. Fast Company Magazine.

Robinson, R. Defusing the Exploding Offer: The Farpoint Gambit. Negotiations Journal. July 1995. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Lewicky, R. et. al. 2003. Negotiations: Readings, exercises, and cases. McGraw-Hill.

JD Schramm. How to Overcome Communication Fears. Academia posting at the Harvard Business Review Blog. Mr. Schramm is Director of the Mastery in Communications Initiative at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business

Lead and Manage

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Loved the article, a leader who doesn’t manage is like an orchestra conductor that suddenly forgets to give the tempo.

From the HBR Tip of the Day (Nov 11) by Robert I. Sutton:

Don’t Forget to Manage When You’re Leading

The distinction between leading and managing is a subject of ongoing debate. Leading is often characterized as the more glamorous job: leaders guide, influence, and inspire their people while managers implement ideas and get things done. But leaders who focus exclusively on coming up with big, vague ideas for others to implement can become disconnected from their team or organization. Avoid being a “big-picture only” leader. Make decisions and develop strategies that take into account the real-world constraints of cost and time. Stay involved with the details of implementation. Sure it’s easier to come up with ideas and tell others to make them so, but you also need to roll up your sleeves and understand what it takes to make those ideas a reality.

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