Rick Baker Thought Posts
Left Menu Space Holder

About the author

Name of author Rick Baker, P.Eng.

E-mail me Send mail
Follow me LinkedIn Twitter



<<  December 2023  >>

View posts in large calendar

Recent Comments

Comment RSS

Empowering people for great decisions

by Rick Baker
On Jan 12, 2011
Of course, good leaders want to:
  • Do a good job at delegating authority for decision making
  • Empower people so they are motivated to expand their decision making
Here are a couple of important considerations:
  • Delegation must be consistent…people need to be told the rules and the extent of their authorities
  • Delegation must be communicated…it is not enough to say “Our people are empowered to make decisions”. It is important to ensure people understand how and when their authorities should be exercised. It is important to ensure people understand your decisions can be questioned…’within bounds’.
How should we go about setting up Decision-Making authorities so people are empowered?
Leaders - here is simple way to approach this: consider the people who directly report to you then have those people perform the same exercise for the people reporting to them.
According to Brian Tracythere are 3 types of decisions:
  • Command Decisions: decisions made by the Leader alone
  • Consultative Decisions: decisions made by the Leader after the Leader has consulted with his/her direct reports [and other folks, as required]
  • Consensus Decisions: decisions where the Leader delegates the decision-making authority to his/her Leadership team…i.e., like the others, the Leader gets a single vote
As mentioned above, communication is important. The first step is informing everyone you think it makes sense to follow Brian Tracy’s advice and use 3 types of decisions. After that, start by saying, “This is a consultative decision” or “This is a consensus decision” or “This is a command decision”. This probably will not be required because people will understand the decision type by the way you introduce the decision. On the other hand, there is no harm in making sure by saying things like “I would like to consult you about this” or “Can we come to group consensus about this” or “I have made the following decision’. When in doubt – over-communicate.
About Command Decisions: I have told people I have a 10-3-1 Guideline:
  • For every 10 [command] decisions I make I expect about 3 will be questioned
  • For every 10 [command] decisions I make I expect about 1 to be strongly resisted
It seems to me 10-3-1 is about the right ratio. When I make command decisions I will make mistakes…hopefully, I do not err more than 3 times out of 10 decisions. If I do then I shouldn’t be the boss. Occasionally I will make a glaring mistake…hopefully; I do not do that more than 1 time out of 10 decisions. My communication of the 10-3-1 ratio is an effort to ensure everyone is comfortable questioning my decisions…’within bounds’.
According to Dale Carnegie...
"When Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, he confessed that if he could be right 75 percent of the time, he would reach the highest measure of his expectation.
Roosevelt's 75%... that supports the selection of 3 in 10-3-1...or, at least, it suggests having 3 of 10 decisions questioned is in the right ballpark.
Link to Brian Tracy www.briantracy.com


Delegation & Decisions | INSPIRE PEOPLE - GROW PROFITS! | Seeking Simple!

Seeking Simple & subtracting before adding

by Rick Baker
On Dec 30, 2010
Maybe, your plate is too full.
On top of having a too-full plate, you may be missing the forest because of the trees.
Those idioms exist for good reason…I mean, where there is smoke there is fire.
Questions: How do people’s plates get too full? Why do people miss the forest because of the trees?
Answer: Because people often do not Seek Simple.
There are several ways to Seek Simple:
  • We can look for the essence of the thing at hand…we can do that by peeling off the layers of complexity until we approach ‘the essence’. For example: at our home we have a white, four-legged, domesticated mammal, which others [not so close to the trees] would call a dog.
  • We can pay attention to our intuition, like Obvious Adams1. When our gut feel says this or that we can accept that our gut feel is often able to help us.
  • We can strip away complexity…when stuff doesn’t make sense we can assume it is mumbo jumbo until someone proves it is not.
  • We can do a good job of delegating.
  • There are many other ways to Seek Simple.
As we peel off and strip away layers of complexity…we are subtracting.
Subtracting is one key way to Seek Simple.
And subtracting provides several benefits, including:
  • Subtracting is one way to initiate the Creative process. The ‘look for the essence’ point above is actually a step recommended by creative-thinking experts. When we know the essence we can begin to use creative-thinking processes. It is not the only way to go about a program for creative thinking…but, it is one way that works.
  • Subtracting is a key to good communication. For example, it is key to marketing messages. Chip and Dan Heath2 provide tremendous advice in their books Made to Stick and Switch. Here is a link to a Thought Post that provides an introduction to the Heaths’ views.
  • Subtracting is a key to problem solving. Remove the chaff so you can see the wheat of the problem. As you remove the chaff good solutions will jump out at you. Here is a Thought Post on problem solving.
  • Subtracting also works in mathematics. In fact, it is one of the first mathematics functions we learn. When we want people to understand us we must build our messages, from arithmetic to algebra to calculus. We can not assume people follow our jargon or our complicated spreadsheets or our complicated charts. We need to start with subtracting.
  1. Obvious Adams
  2. Chip & Dan Heath, Made to Stick


Delegation & Decisions | Seeking Simple!

Roles in Business…what Gerber & Covey have taught

by Rick Baker
On Jul 28, 2010
Stephen Covey & Michael Gerber have provided great advice…and much of it overlaps…these two ‘gurus’ have presented similar messages but they have expressed them in different ways. Here, I am referring to Dr. Stephen R. Covey…the father of Stephen M.R. Covey [who is continuing the family tradition of using the name ‘Stephen’ and teaching business folks].
About roles in business…Gerber and Covey each set 3 levels:
Leaders [Covey] or Entrepreneurs [Gerber]
Set the Vision
Set the Mission
Set Overall Corporate Goals
Are proactive not reactive
Define Success
Then what do they do?
  • They provide Hands-Off Latitude [Covey]
  • They oversee The Mapping [Gerber]
Follow the Leader’s Instructions on Goals
Report Progress to the Leader/Boss, at agreed-to Timing
Their levels of Delegated Authority range from Go-fer [the minimum] to Results Reporting [ the maximum]
Create the Maps…to take the business from “Here – where it is” to “Goals – where it wants to be”
Organize, Prioritize, Establish and Document Process, & Supervise People, who are called: 
  • Technicians [Gerber]
  • Producers [Covey]
Technicians [Gerber] or Producers [Covey] 
Understand the Goals
Do the day-to-day Work
Are Specialists in their selected areas
Follow Instruction
This outline of roles, whether applied to business roles or to roles in not-for-profit organizations, is a good benchmark.
From time to time, I like to refer to this Covey-Gerber benchmark.
It aligns with Seeking Simple…:
  • role clarity removes ambiguity
  • role clarity improves the hiring process
  • role clarity improves the performance-review process
  • role clarity removes inefficiency and duplication of effort
  • role clarity ensures all the bases are covered
  • role clarity creates a starting point for decisions [example - who to invite to brainstorming sessions]


Delegation & Decisions | Seeking Simple!

Seeking Simple

by Rick Baker
On Mar 23, 2010

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog, more like a detailed paper, titled Seeking Simple.

Seeking Simple is about making good decisions.

Seeking Simple is about really communicating.

Seeking Simple is about solving problems.

Seeking Simple is about reducing our stress levels.


Seeking Simple© is about more than that…but that’s a good-enough introduction for now.

Here are a couple of pieces of inspiration…

A 14th century English friar, William of Ockham, came up with a razor [rule of thumb] that has been translated many ways, one being:

"When confronted with multiple solutions to a problem, choose the simplest one."

In 1916, Robert Updegraff created a little classic book titled, ‘Obvious Adams: the story of a successful businessman’. [I am thrilled to have a 1916 copy, with a most-endearing father-to-son note penned on the title page.] Obvious Adams is a little story about a fellow who sees what everyone else misses. While everyone else is bogged down in the details, Obvious Adams sees the obvious. And, the obvious is simple. We can learn from Obvious Adams.

Here’s a link to an Obvious Adams book review


My goal here was to introduce the concept - Seeking Simple.

I would like to obtain help from you folks who read my blog…I would like to hear or read your stories about how simple decisions or simple communications or simple solutions to problems have served you well.

So, please, if you have some personal anecdotes then please share them with me…and our other readers.

More about Seeking Simple in future blogs…


Delegation & Decisions | Seeking Simple!

How should we view and analyse a Market Sector?

by Rick Baker
On Jun 5, 2009

A few decades ago, Michael Porter presented a way to analyse an industry sector…ie, a marketplace.  

He recommended Five Forces Industry Analysis”...see Michael Porter, ‘Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors’, [1980].


Porter’s Five Forces are:

  1. threat of new entrants
  2. bargaining power of suppliers
  3. bargaining power of buyers
  4. threat of substitute products or services
  5. degree of rivalry among existing competitors

It is wise to consider the Five Forces described by Procter…[perhaps after almost 30 years that’s now considered common sense]. 

It also makes sense to look at your choice of business sector from different perspectives.

This note is about a different way to think about your market niche…the sector where you are doing or will do business. 

Last year, Fernando Trías de Bes presented some different thinking in his book ‘The Little Black Book of Entrepreneurship – A Contrarian’s Guide To Succeeding Where Others Have Failed’ [2008].  

The book focuses on why businesses fail. Rather than talking about only KSFs [Key Success Factors] it recommends we consider KFFs [Key Failure Factors]. The author answers the question – “Why?”…”Because in order to apply the success factors, you need to clear the terrain of failure factors.” 

Is that contrarian?  [What about the W and the T of SWOT?] 

According to the author, one reason entrepreneurs fail is poor choices of market sectors. The author believes the root of the problem is many entrepreneurs do not consider the market sector to be a decision. Rather, they consider it to be a consequence of a random idea.  

The chapter on market sector is titled ‘ROUND NINE - No Novice Ever Won a Nobel Prize’ 

An example is given: a vacationer sees a new type of shoe while visiting a foreign land. The vacationer – the entrepreneur – knows that shoe is not available at home. The entrepreneur’s random idea is: we could sell that shoe at home. And the consequence of that random idea is: we will go into business in the shoe sector.   

Another example is given: a fellow became enthralled with a particular fast-food outlet. He spent six months studying the business of that fast-food outlet but failed to ask himself if he had a real interest in being in the fast-food sector. 

The author believes entrepreneurs often fail because they ‘back into’ the market sector because they are convinced they have a good idea for a product or have a good idea for a specific business.  

The way I’m looking at it, Fernando Trías de Bes tells us what we better think about before we follow the ‘process-analytics’ advice provided by folks like Michael Porter.  

Fernando Trías de Bes provides the following advice:

“The choice of the market sector for your business venture must be the result of a considered decision.

Choose your sector or product because it appeals to you.Go into a sector you know.

If you don’t know the sector, either take time to learn it or surround yourself with people who do know it.

You must bring something new into the market sector you choose to do business in.

Innovate by knowing the rules so you can break them.” 



Some Additional Thoughts: 

Fernando Trías de Bes at the cover of his book describes himself as a contrarian. It is sometimes difficult to tell the traditional from the contrarian.

One section of the Introduction of The Little Black Book of Entrepreneurship – A Contrarian’s Guide To Succeeding Where Others Have Failed’ caught my attention. At page 3 of the Introduction the author describes an on-line exercise he did using the words ‘key success factors’ and ‘key failure factors’. The author states,”Out of curiosity, I typed ”key success factors” into a search engine and found 636,000 pages; a search engine for “key failure factors” yielded only 119 pages.”

Last December, I performed an exercise using a few combinations of words like “Why Businesses Fail” and “Why Businesses Succeed”. My results, at least , my views about my results, are certainly contrary to those of the author. I feel I obtained the opposite result. For my search, I was not interested in the number of pages search engines found. I was interested in what the first 10 pages [using Google] contained for each search [see www.google.com]. My goal was to find 10 lists where writers provided their views about “Why Businesses Fail” and 10 lists where writers provided their views about “Why Businesses Succeed”. I was astonished to find a huge amount of free on-line articles and summaries covering the topic of  “Why Businesses Fail”…it was easy to find free-information and compile numerous lists of  “Why Businesses Fail”. Going from memory, I believe the first 12 websites contained 10 lists…so, my task of generating the 10 ‘failure lists’ was done quickly. Conversely, I had to read through almost 100 websites to find 10 ‘success lists’…and, I had to cheat a bit to get that done. I had to cull the ‘success’ verbiage to create lists while the ‘success’ writers volunteered simple lists…some numbered, some with bullet points.

After performing the above free-information-search exercise, I reached two conclusions:

  1. People who write about “Why Businesses Succeed” want to be paid for their opinions…so, they don’t write them out the way others write about “Why Businesses Fail”. Rather, when you search those business-success words you end up at sites that sell books…and 
  2. People who do express free advice about “Why Businesses Succeed” make far more subjective claims than do people who write about “Why Businesses Fail”. For example, they state things like business success is linked to long-distance running, meditiation, etc whereas the people who write about failure focus almost entirely on business reasons such as poor marketing, inadequate finance, etc. 

My December 2008 exercise coupled with the author’s differing view about on-line searches cause me to think two things:

  1. Many people think other people will pay for business-success education, so business-success information is not offered as freely as is business-failure information. There’s a good argument to be made this is all about packaging… and 
  2. I’m not sure Fernando Trías de Bes is a contrarian. His search-engine test...I struggle with that.

Copyright © 2012. W.F.C (Rick) Baker. All Rights Reserved.