Look for Susan's Columns

Paychecks With A Purpose

Posted by Susan Cramm on 1:51 PM Sunday November 22, 2015 under

Amazon has taken a lot of heat over its corporate culture. When I read the initial New York Times article detailing the company’s inner workings (parts of which Amazon has rebutted), I wasn’t shocked — it actually reminded me of some companies I have worked with over the years. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have been taught that work is “just business.” Any elevated expectations for self-actualization should be left at home with our flip-flops.  To read more, click here.

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If you haven’t read the book Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, by Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, you are missing out. Pfeffer lambasts the leadership development industry — including business schools, human resource departments, authors, and leadership programs and coaches — for being clueless about the harsh political realities of the workplace, and for promoting behaviors that are aspirational rather than practical. To read more, click here.

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Strengthening Your Cultural Fortress

Posted by Susan Cramm on 9:07 PM Tuesday June 23, 2015 under

I’ve often wondered what goes into creating a company that people are happy to work for — a company that lands, for example, at the top of a Forbes list of best places to work. To gain some insight, I scheduled an interview with... To read more, click here

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Speak Honestly, Lead Honorably

Posted by Susan Cramm on 7:21 PM Tuesday March 17, 2015 under ,

On a recent Saturday morning, around 2:00 a.m., I toured a corner of hell. It’s a lot closer than I thought it would be—around the corner from an amusement park near my home. To read more, click here.

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The False Dichotomy of Wages Vs. Profits

Posted by Susan Cramm on 11:37 AM Monday December 22, 2014 under ,

For more than 10 years, I worked as an executive in the fast food industry, and during my tenure, I believed that increasing the hourly wages of frontline employees would lead to lower profits. I now know I was wrong. According to Zeynep Ton, a professor of operations management at MIT, companies can provide good, well-paying jobs and drive profits at the same time. Choosing one over the other is, according to Ton, an “unnecessary sacrifice.” During a recent conversation...[to read more click here]

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Lead By Doing, Not By Delegating

Posted by Susan Cramm on 11:50 AM Monday August 04, 2014 under , ,

It’s just another day in leadership paradise. An important project is languishing—like a bad houseguest, it’s going nowhere, but no one is calling it out. As the head of your team, do you take the matter into your own hands and get the job done, or continue to slough it off on an unfortunate subordinate?  To read more, click here.

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Do Winners Give - Or Take - All?

Posted by Susan Cramm on 8:25 AM Thursday June 26, 2014 under ,

Matt (not his real name) is a classic taker. His office walls are a veritable ego-museum, laden with awards and photos depicting his many talents and cozy relationships with high-profile celebrities. Conversations and emails are peppered with personal pronouns, causing speculation about whether he earns a commission each time he uses one. In bad times, he asks for help, but in good times, he offers none. To read more, click here.

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Getting Fired For the Right Reasons

Posted by Susan Cramm on 10:17 AM Saturday June 14, 2014 under ,

You have to admire a leader with the courage to say to his team, “Chances are I’m going to get fired and, if so, I want to get fired for doing the right thing.” This is the philosophy of Wayne Shurts, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Sysco. With more than 18 years of experience in top-level positions in IT, e-business, supply chain management, sales operations, and logistics, Shurts has never been fired—and he probably never will be. In my experience, leaders with the courage to do what’s right, without fearing possible repercussions, rarely are.  To read more, click here.

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Encouraging The Next Generation

Posted by Susan Cramm on 7:33 PM Thursday March 06, 2014 under ,

This blog post is in honor of two women who have dedicated their lives to helping children transform into young adults. In particular, they made a profound impact on the life of a 13-year-old girl named Sarah, who shares her story. To read more, click here.

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Align With Your Star Employees

Posted by Susan Cramm on 7:30 AM Tuesday March 04, 2014 under

Think back. Reflect on your career and write down your five biggest leadership disappointments.

If your experience is typical, your list will include losing top-quality talent. The memory of “suddenly” losing one of your best and brightest never seems to fade. The story is always the same: They weren’t looking, but a great opportunity just fell into their lap.

(Right. Sure it did.)

To read full length essay and take an interactive quiz, click here.

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Would Your Employees Work For Free?

Posted by Susan Cramm on 12:08 PM Monday February 24, 2014 under ,

Here’s the ultimate leadership litmus test: Would your employees still work for you if you didn’t pay them?  

To answer this question, I traveled to Saddleback Church, a so-called mega church that wouldn’t be able to fulfill its mission without volunteers. On a typical Sunday at its main campus in Lake Forest, Calif. (where I visited), more than 1,000 volunteers are needed to make sure that the 20,000 attendees are welcomed, parked, fed, inspired, and connected. To read more, click here.

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Can Business Find Value in Joy?

Posted by Susan Cramm on 8:45 AM Friday January 03, 2014 under

Truth be told, I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to books about leadership—most of them lack the substance to justify their 200-plus pages. But there’s a new leadership book on the market entitled Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love (Portfolio, 2013), which has changed my mind a little. I found Joy, Inc. (and a subsequent interview with the author, Richard Sheridan) thought provoking, and, surprisingly, it left me wanting more. To read more, click here.

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Are You Disabling Your Organization With Advice?

Posted by Susan Cramm on 1:49 PM Monday October 14, 2013 under

Meet Dave. To his bosses, he’s an experienced executive who gets results with the company’s best interests in mind. But to many other people who work with and for him, Dave is a downer.

Dave likes to give lots of unsolicited advice. His need to be the smartest guy in the room means he makes decisions to which he (but nobody else) is committed. His poor listening skills prevent him from tapping into the gifts, passions, and abilities of others. His proclivity to find fault breaks down spirits and relationships, as survival instincts cause people to turn inward and stop working as a team.To read more, click here.

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Retaining Top Talent: Yes, It Really Is All About Them

Posted by Susan Cramm on 12:08 PM Monday August 19, 2013 under

Think back. Reflect on your career and write down your top five leadership disappointments.

If your experience is typical, your list will include losing top-quality talent. The memory of “suddenly” losing one of your best and brightest never seems to fade. The story is always the same: They weren’t looking, but a great opportunity just fell into their lap (yeah, right).

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Would You Want Your Child To Work For You?

Posted by Susan Cramm on 7:44 AM Tuesday July 16, 2013 under

There’s no question that staying competitive requires change, and that change creates winners and losers. Every day, leaders make decisions that affect people’s lives. The challenge is to make them with heart, as if your children are watching.

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Are You Leading Like It's 1980?

Posted by Susan Cramm on 8:45 PM Tuesday July 02, 2013 under

Employment isn’t what it used to be and it’s not what it should be.  Reid Hoffman said it right, “You can’t have an agile company if you give employees lifetime contracts—and the best people don’t want one employer for life anyway.  But you can build a better compact than ‘every man for himself.’” 

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A Love Story (About Consulting)

Posted by Susan Cramm on 7:23 PM Tuesday June 18, 2013 under

What’s love got to do with consulting? Typically, not much—it’s usually a marriage of convenience where the qualified become even more qualified. The successful grow even more so. But there is a new consulting love story unfolding where the unqualified get qualified. And those for whom professional success seemed once out of reach find rewarding and robust careers.

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Why We Need More IT Leadership, Not Less

Posted by Susan on 9:37 PM Tuesday June 05, 2012 under

Have you heard the latest?  The CFO is the new CIO.  In some companies, CFOs are assuming responsibility for IT.   These companies have decided that IT development and delivery can be decentralized across the various business units and functions. The CFO, they believe, can provide the necessary central coordination to ensure that IT-enabled investments generate value and that IT is operating in a cost-effective, high quality, and secure manner.

To read further, click here.

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Cloudy With a Chance of Blue Skies Ahead

Posted by Susan on 9:23 AM Monday May 30, 2011 under ,

Cloud computing is inevitable.  

The end state promises computing resources that deliver against the New Normal's need for speed, collaboration, productivity, and scale.

The transition state, however, delivers nothing but challenges for all involved.

On the vendor side, big names don't necessarily equate to big capabilities.  Every "world class" cloud vendor consists of mere mortal employees who are struggling (given organizational silos, fragmented technology, and dramatic growth) to deliver on their company's service level commitments .  Buyers beware.  Take your reference checks to a new level - and focus not only on vendor capabilities but also the internal capabilities necessary to make sure the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

On the company side, technology and process changes are pretty well understood, security implications less so, but the organizational impacts are the most profound and sure to confound.  

As we transition from managing assets to services, what is the role for our MVP technologists?  With the transition to cloud, they are being asked to transfer their knowledge and manage service levels without direct access to the tools that allow them to do so.  As an technical IT leader said to me recently, "We are now managing relationships and tickets - not technology."

Don't write off these employees as "unnecessary" in the end state and replaceable in the transition.  Companies need to "lift and shift" their MVP technologists from the micro to the macro:  architecting, integrating, innovating, directing, monitoring, resolving, negotiating.

As you move to cloud computing, how are you making sure that your people are moving with you?   

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Bring Shadow IT Into The LIght

Posted by Susan on 10:21 PM Sunday May 15, 2011 under ,

Question:  Why would a major technology vendor fire people for leveraging IT?

Answer:  When the employees are leveraging IT without involving IT.

A well-known technology company has become the poster child for locking down IT to capture efficiencies gained through consolidation and standardization.  Now, all IT decisions must be funneled through IT.  It's a good idea that has gone bad.  It's not unusual for engineers to wait a year for technology decisions.  Going it alone risks termination.  Courageous business leaders mask IT spending in their project budgets by calling it "equipment."

IT is at a crossroads - it needs to either figure out how to bring shadow IT out of the dark - and into the light - or risk being marginalized as increasingly tech-friendly business leaders take innovation into their own hands.

It's time for IT to control what matters. Imagine if IT defined investment policies rather than stewarding all business cases through approval?  Imagine if IT certified project managers rather than managing all IT-enabled projects?  Imagine if IT approved vendors rather than getting involved with all IT vendor provisioning?  Imagine if IT controlled access to applications and data rather than the access devices?

Shadow IT reflects a need.  Rather than shutting it down, IT should be building it up - while ensuring that it meets the needs of the enterprise as well as the individuals within.

How is your company bringing shadow IT into the light?


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