15 strategies to prevent being mad as the times

ON EXCELLENCE

January 10, 1994|By TOM PETERS

An early autumn headline in the Financial Times of London claimed that about one-half million European auto-parts manufacturing jobs were at risk, due to lousy productivity. The same day's USA Today reported that the NBA's Golden State Warriors paid $74.4 million for the services of Chris Webber, who had not logged a minute of professional playing time.

It's that kind of world. Old industries wallow in despair, new ones bulge with opportunity. As 1994 debuts, here are 15 strategies for dealing with these utterly mad times.

* 1. Get on-line. The Internet computer network is growing by 1 million members a month. If you're not getting your toes, calves and thighs wet in the new technologies, you're headed for trouble.

* 2. Subscribe to Computerworld. Traditional business magazines are usually a year behind. The 125 or so weekly xTC pages of Computerworld keep you up to date (even if you're a novice) with the wild technological developments that are, literally, reinventing the world.

* 3. Build a skills plan. You must be significantly better at something by the end of 1994, or you will have fallen dangerously behind.

* 4. Undertake a major educational experience. Whether a six-week trip to Eastern Europe, two college-credit courses in accounting, or a half-dozen classes at your local computer store, dig into your wallet and make a significant educational investment.

* 5. Update your resume every June 30 and Dec. 31. Even if you're determined to stick with your current employer, keep revising your resume. Document projects initiated and completed -- including measurable results and references from internal and external customers. If you're not noticeably more marketable 180 days from now -- as reflected in your revised resume -- you're in trouble.

* 6. Say thanks! Whether boss or junior clerk, take 10 minutes at the end of the day to thank those who've gone the extra inch (or mile) for you.

* 7. Manage your Rolodex. You're only as good as your network. Is your list of contacts in and out of the company growing by the month?

* 8. Pursue a lousy assignment. A colleague demoted himself to his software company's customer service unit (a well-known Siberia). Eighteen months later, his unit was paving the way for significant corporate growth -- and he was a hot commodity.

* 9. Take a sabbatical. You simply must clean out your mind now and again. With or without company support, and whether or not it's good internal politics, get out of town for at least four consecutive months sometime in the next two years.

* 10. Think Asia. Young or old, boss or minion, what are you doing about Asia? A new economy is busting loose on the far side of the Pacific. You should be involved.

* 11. Set wild goals. Constant improvement is not enough. A recent study of re-engineering programs shows that most limit themselves with modest aims; top programs encompassed outrageous challenges -- e.g., tenfold rather than 10 percent improvements.

* 12. Have fun. Is work a turn-on? If not, do something about it. Now. Dull products and dull services usually come from dull companies. Use your and your colleagues' imaginations to perk up your 25 or 2,500 square feet.

* 13. Take the "spunk test." Does walking in the front door of your company (or, at least, your department) add a little spring to your step? Or give you the shivers, even in July? Plan to improve the score of your cross-the-threshold spunk test in the next 30 days. Retake the test each month.

* 14. Benchmark against the zany. Benchmarking usually falls short of its potential, because we compare ourselves with the wrong organizations. Test yourself against the most interesting/zany companies, not yesterday's stars. If you're in an auto company and it's not as exciting as CNN, ask yourself why.

* 15. Conduct a failures audit. Can you imagine a basketball player going a season (or even a game) without a missed shot? Or an embarrassing boo-boo? If you (and your subordinates) aren't chalking up regular, outrageous failures, then you're not pushing the limits -- and that's the deadliest of sins these days. One solution: Evaluate your missteps every six months. Are you measuring up?

Tom Peters' column is distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc., 720 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, Fla. 32801; (407) 420-6200.

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