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Free Webinar: How to Avoid Getting Tangled Up in Our Innovation Underwear ... Or Why It's Important to Simplify Innovation

Ron Ashkenas will lead this free webinar, hosted by Executive Networks, on April 25 at 12:00 noon EDT.
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It’s virtually impossible to like everyone you meet. It’s even more unlikely that you will get along with everyone at work. People have different personalities, biases, values, ambitions, and interests, all of which affect the chemistry of their relationships. And if you throw in the pressures of the workplace, it’s hardly surprising that tensions arise between colleagues and co-workers. But when members of a senior management team don’t get along, the negative impacts can cascade through an organization. Those conflicts have the potential to reduce productivity and morale for dozens or hundreds of people. - Ron Ashkenas' latest blog for Harvard Business Review
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Suzanne Francis to Speak at the
"Innovations in Making M&A Work" workshop

If 75% of all mergers and acquisitions (M&A) fail to achieve their financial or strategic objectives, what makes the other 25% succeed?
On April 22-23, San Francisco State University’s program on Innovations in Making Mergers and Acquisitions Work brings attendees up close and personal with the thought leaders and best practices in M&A execution. This program highlights the key strategic, organizational, human, cultural and financial factors that matter most in eventual M&A success. And, it provides an opportunity for attendees to meet with world-class experts on M&A to discuss how lessons learned from past M&A can be applied to current or anticipated mergers and acquisitions.
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Podcast of Ron Ashkenas on the Critical Mass radio show with Richard Franzi
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We’ve all heard the famous bromide that “honesty is the best policy.” But when it comes to performance feedback, honesty often falls by the wayside.  Many managers hide behind performance management checklists or water down their feedback with generalizations. And on the other side of the equation, employees tend to position themselves in the most favorable light possible in their self-assessments, and avoid giving constructive feedback to the boss, even when it’s requested.  The result is a lack of candid dialogue between boss and subordinate – which not only prevents the organization from improving, but also stymies individual development.
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Have them in circles
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To retain high-potential employees, the conventional wisdom is deceptively simple: Identify, develop, and nurture them. By paying special attention to the very best people, they will stay with the firm and eventually emerge as key leaders. But translating this into action is much more difficult.

In this blog post from Forbes.com Ron Ashkenas explains by organizations struggle to identify and retain these high performing employees.
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From Ron Ashkenas and Lisa Bodell via Forbes:

We think it’s important for managers to have a strategic framework that they can use to address complexity in their own areas, at their own pace, in their own ways. So to that end, we would like to offer a “simple” seven-step simplification strategy. While we present these sequentially, they can be implemented in any order, depending on where you might be able to make the greatest difference most quickly. Over time however, it’s important to do all seven so that simplicity becomes a core capability of your organization and not just a one-time project
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Most of us have grown up assuming that career success is vertical. We climb the ladder and move from junior positions to senior ones. As such, we implicitly compete with others because there are fewer positions as we advance. It’s like a reality show where people get kicked off the island.
The problem with this powerful paradigm is that today’s work is no longer divided up into small tasks that require higher and higher layers of management to put together. Instead most work is accomplished through horizontal processes that cut across different functions, geographies, and specialties. Therefore real success comes less from controlling people that report to you, and more from the ability to align stakeholders who surround you.

From Ron Ashkenas on Forbes.com
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While most managers complain about being overloaded with responsibilities, very few are willing to give up any of them. "Why We Like Being Overloaded -- And What To Do About It" is Ron Ashkenas' latest posting on Forbes. He discusses the psychological dynamics that make it easier to get things started than to get them stopped and gives a few tips for simplifying the process.        
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Ron Ashkenas' latest blog entry for Harvard Business Review:

Unless you follow tech companies, you might have missed the startling announcement by collaboration and communications software maker 37signals that it has decided to refocus the entire company on a single core product.

“Refocusing” might be an understatement.  37signals has developed a dozen different products and services since its founding in 1999. They will now be a “one product company” focused on Basecamp, its popular project management software.  To emphasize the point, the company is also changing its name to Basecamp.  So instead of following the conventional wisdom about growth through diversification, CEO and founder Jason Fried is doubling down on one successful area and putting all of his resources in one basket.
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Schaffer Consulting: Real Results, Real Fast
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Schaffer Consulting has been a leader in the development and practice of organizational and cultural change for 50 years. Here are a few of the many Schaffer Consulting pioneering innovations:

  • We created the "Rapid Results" approach in which short-term, results-producing "Breakthrough projects" serve as the vehicles for accelerating change.
  • As a member of the original team, we helped General Electric develop the WorkOut methodology and co-authored the authoritative text on WorkOut.
  • We pioneered in making the integration of acquired companies an organized process rather than an improvisation.
  • Working with the World Bank and other global aid organizations, we have introduced the Rapid Results Approach in developing countries to achieve vital tasks and empower community participants.
  • To advance this breakthrough approach in international development we created the Rapid Results Institute, a non-profit corporation, and support it with time and funds.