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 2019  >>

View posts in large calendar

Recent Comments

Comment RSS

BHAGs ain’t for everyone!

by Rick Baker
On Apr 20, 2011

The graph below shows the way Goals and Self-Esteem are correlated.


Moving from left to right along the curve, the key points are:

  1. When Self-esteem is low it is difficult to set goals...so Goals, if any, are weak and don’t cut it
  2. When Goals are weak and they don’t ‘test the mettle’ Self-esteem tends to suffer and drop
  3. When Self-esteem is ‘normal’ people are comfortable setting Goals [some thrive on it]
  4. When Self-esteem is ‘normal’ it tends to increase with the challenge of the Goals
  5. When Self-esteem is at a peak Goals can be challenging…they can be ’stretch’ Goals
  6. When Goals become too challenging Self-esteem starts to drop, sometimes it plummets
  7. When Goals become unrealistic Self-esteem can quickly drop below ‘normal’ levels…and stay there
  8. BHAGs ain’t for everyone!



Conclusion: the concepts of success-consciousness are not for everyone. For many, it is better to set short-term stretch Goals, encouraging the use of  S.M.A.R.T. goals than to use that ‘word’ BHAG.


Entrepreneur Thinking | Goals - SMARTACRE Goals | Thinking as in Think and Grow Rich

Some thoughts about ‘Fake Work’

by Rick Baker
On Apr 13, 2011
  1. You can do work that contributes to your business goals.
  2. You can do work that does not contribute to your business goals.
  3. You can do work that maybe does or maybe does not contribute to your business goals.
I think people only do 3 things: Good Habits, Bad Habits, and New Things.
Say you have business goals.
Say you do work that contributes to your business goals – that work is Good Habits.
Say you do work that does not contribute to your business goals – that work is Bad Habits.
Say you do work and you are not sure if that work contributes to your business goals – that work is also Bad Habits.
When you do work that contributes to your business goals, that work is ‘real’…it has meaning and substance.
When you do work that does not contribute to your business goals; that work is fake…according to Peterson & Nielson1 that work is Fake Work.
According to Peterson & Nielson, there are 10 Causes of Fake Work:
  1. Failing to Understand Your Job - Your Real Job
  2. Failing to Recognize the Finish Line
  3. Failing to Focus and Prioritize
  4. Failing to Understand the People Around You
  5. Failing to Communicate About the Right Things
  6. Failing to Understand the Importance of Your Team
  7. Failing to Clarify and Drive Strategy from Top to Bottom
  8. Failing to See the Execution Gap - Alignment Then Execution
  9. Failing to Manage - No Matter Our Level
  10. Failing to See That Culture Creates an Environment of Fake Work
  1. 'Fake Work' (2009) by Brent D. Peterson & Gaylan W. Nielson


Goals - SMARTACRE Goals | Habits: Good Habits, Bad Habits, & New Things

People We Know, Fate, & Power of Will

by Rick Baker
On Nov 16, 2010
The best laid plans…often don’t work out.
You know this from your experiences…often ‘fate’ intervenes or ‘people things’ change and plans need to be adjusted or shelved.
Maybe, the best laid plans rarely work out in the manner our ‘power of will’ wants them to work out.
So, why bother planning?
Why not just take each day as it comes to you, recognizing you have the strength and talent to face whatever circumstances and situations happen to come your way?
Of course, there are spiritual implications and these sorts of questions touch deep at ‘the human condition’, ‘what is success’, and ‘why we are here’. But, that’s not territory of this Thought Post.
We are business people.  At least, that’s one of the roles we play. And, it is a role that captures a good portion of our days…and lives. So, recognizing we are in business
Why bother planning?
Here are 2 reasons, one very practical and the other, for some readers, will require a leap of faith:
The Value of Direction: Consider the native guide who described with animation the magnificence of the thundering waters…then raised a hand , showing the European explorers the right direction …then helped them cross difficult terrain, all the time adjusting the hand as it pointed…until they heard the water thunder and saw what we now call Niagara Falls.

Direction supports a positive attitude. When we see fingers pointing toward our desired destination it is easier to be confident, courageous, honest, persistent, creative, adventuresome, etc…enjoying those states of mind aligned with success.
The Magnetism of Purposeful Action: some believe fate, [or is it luck], favours those who act and especially those who act with purpose. Quality people are drawn to their cause…some of these quality people become acquaintances…some become friends, some become champions for the cause…others become crusaders, expanding the envelope and the experiences. The better the cause, the more the magnetism. 

Consider Terry Fox. Just one young man, filled with hope and a dream…knowing exactly the direction he was going…supported only by family and friends. Then…


Change: Creating Positive Change | Goals - SMARTACRE Goals | Hero Worship

An argument on the sequence of strategic planning work

by Rick Baker
On Aug 12, 2010
This blog contains an argument in support of doing strategic planning in the following sequence:
  1. Vision Statement 
  2. Mission Statement 
  3. Culture Statements 
  4. Market-Sector Statement 
  5. Market Niche[s] Statements 
    • Target Markets, 
    • Value Propositions for each Target Market, 
    • Differential Advantage/Unique Selling Proposition 
  6. Goal Statements 
  7. Etc
Placing a personal or business Vision in writing is tough thought-work.
Placing a personal or business Mission in writing is tough thought-work.
To believe one can understand one's Clients’ needs and desires or one's Clients' Clients' needs and desires when one can not express one's own needs and desires in writing is flawed logic. Starting from flawed logic neuters one's ability to succeed…or, at the very least, makes the next tasks a game of chance. So, we need to start with our own needs and desires: our Vision, our Mission, etc.
Perhaps the best example of proof is the fact the vast majority of people can not write out a Unique Selling Proposition (Differential Advantage) for their business. To make sure my point is clear: a USP/DA is a concise statement that answers the Clients’ question: Why should I buy this from these folks rather than (1) buy something from someone else or (2) do nothing? Many people may be able to state something, place it in writing, and call it a USP/DA but after a bit of scrutiny it doesn't pass the test.
We can consider the USP/DA as the teeter-totter fulcrum that balances one's needs and desires against the needs and desires of one's Clients. Put another way....if there's a meeting of the minds between us and our Clients then the USP/DA is how that meeting of minds is described in simple and clear words. The USP/DA addresses my needs and desires. The USP/DA addresses my Clients’ needs and desires. Things are in balance.
As a general rule, it is a challenge to understand others.
As a general rule, it is challenging enough to understand oneself. And, if we do not understand ourselves (to the point we can describe our needs and desires in writing) then we are deluding ourselves if we conclude/presume/assume we can understand other people's needs and desires.
I suppose we could start our strategic exercises at the USP/DA [ie, at the teeter-totter fulcrum]. We could then quickly determine whether or not the 'us' side and the 'Client' side are in balance,
But, that will rarely work. So, we should start with our needs and desires: our Vision, our Mission, etc.
I'm saying, something like 99 out of 100 people can not or will not write out USPs/DAs. So, starting there is pretty much doomed. And, the 1 time out of 100 it will work the person will ask why we aren't starting with the Vision statement.

Maybe there is an 'I' in Teamwork?

by Rick Baker
On May 24, 2008

In the past, I've written strong critiques of cliché talk about Teamwork in Business 

I've really objected to sayings like, "There is no 'I' in Teamwork".

And, I've penned a new organization structure that would fit both well if business and team sports truly wished to be similar. 

So, I admit I'm not inclined to overstate the similarities shared by business and team sports. However, comparing business to team sports can help us firm up our thoughts about business goals, rules, action, and success...and, of course, about ourselves, other people, and how we can work together. After all, people are people. 

[I recognize professional sports teams are businesses, however, that’s a whole different topic.] 



Some points to consider when comparing business and team sports:  


  • In business, the puck or ball isn’t so easy to define or see and whether or not it can be seen as a tangible thing of possession it is rarely carried by a single person.


  • In business, most roles are heavily skewed to either offense or defense...in business, there are value-addition roles and there are quite different and typically quite separate value-protection roles. 


  • In business the defensive players have significant day-to-day influence over their team’s offensive players and this isn’t common in team sports. 


  • In business, we don’t get to hear tens of thousands unite to create thunderous noise and we don’t get to see standing ovations when we achieve our annual targets. On the other hand, we also don’t get to hear real-time Bronx Cheers or see octopi projectiles coming our way - in fact, stuff like that is frowned upon in business.


  • Most business consultants would be very troubled by managers or leaders who have a style like that of NFL Coach Bill Parcells. In fact, most people in business would say and do whatever they could to make Bill Parcells change and conform to much softer, kinder, and more-empathetic ways.




When we have business goals and we are committed to achieving them it is possible to separate our work into 2 broad categories: work designed to move us toward our goals and work designed to stop action that could reduce our ability to achieve our goals. We could call these offensive and defensive roles.

While there are radical differences between the work of team sports and the work of business a team sports metaphor, laced with offense and defence, can help us sort out our thoughts.  

In sports, there is offensive work and there is defensive work. In sports like North American football the lines are clearly drawn between offense and defence. There are offensive players, trainers, coaches, etc, and there are defensive counterparts. That doesn't mean the roles are permanent. In football one interception causes everyone on both teams to reverse roles instantaneously. For basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc, a change in possession of the ball causes most players to immediately shift their focus from offense to defence and vice-versa.

In many sports, possession of the ball is subject to task-completion/failure rules. In baseball one team gets to be on offense until it fails enough to have 3 outs. If we ignore the pitchers [or at least ignore some of them some of the time] baseball players are half-game defensive players who have the opportunity to take turns being the key point of offense a few times during the other half of each game. It seems to me that must also be happening in cricket but I'm going to need a lot more time to figure that out.

Again, in certain team sports the rules of the game require a sequence of repeated failed offensive actions to cause a change in possession of the ball…that applies to baseball. In other team sports failed offensive action can cause an immediate change of possession where the offense is required to leave the field of play…that applies to North American football. In other team sports, possession changes frequently and as a consequence all the players alternate frequently between offensive and defensive roles and action…that applies to soccer, basketball, and hockey. 

In sports like soccer and basketball, where most or all of the players split their work regularly between offensive and defensive action, the players often focus on one of those roles. Forwards are primarily offensive while defensemen are primarily defensive. However, both types of players alternate roles and take the action that best suits the situation. The situation is defined in terms of many things such as: where are we located on the field?, who holds possession?, and how much time is left in the game? We could describe these team sports players as 'majoring' in one type of work while 'minoring' in the other.  Often possession of the ball dictates their choice of action and always the rules of the game limit the extent of the action.

But, who is carrying the ball in business? 

Does any individual player ever actually carry the puck in corporate business? 

In business, the puck or ball isn’t so easy to define or see and whether or not it can be seen as a tangible thing of possession it is rarely carried by a single person.

Do we ever pull the Purchasing VP with less than a minute on the clock so we have one more person in the Sales Department?



In sports, players cannot gain unfair advantage by going offside and stepping out of bounds carries consequences. 

While there are many official rules, the sports coaches can set bounds on action tighter than the rules of the game. Αs an example: (while I haven't really spent much time on hockey since the Leafs completed their first couple of decades of playoff lackadaisy), maybe goalies are not allowed to cross the centre line? That could be the rule for hockey. On the other hand, the coach could set a team or individual rule that limits the goalie's forward progress to the blue line. The coach may set similar restrictions on defensive players…restricting some players to be defensive defensemen while allowing others to be offensive defensemen. Or, some forwards could be told to back check while others could be set up ice to cherry pick. 

Regardless, in many team sports the players alter their actions swiftly back-and-forth between offense and defense. There are game rules. There are also team/coach rules. In most sports there are considerable rules governing what defensive and offensive players are allowed to do: penalties for offsides stands out as a general rule that applies to many team sports.

[Attention to the rules is very important in sports while in business, particularly smaller and mid-sized business, there often is no detailed rule book.]

In business, most roles are heavily skewed to either offense or defense…in business, there are value-addition roles and there are quite different and typically quite separate value-protection roles. 

There are business-development roles and there are business-risk-management and business-control roles.

This is a key area of difference.  

Ideally, the value adders in business will be considerate of the risks and temper their action when required. Ideally, the risk managers and controllers in business will be considerate of the need to grow through expanded commerce and ease their rules and actions when required.



In business the defensive players have significant day-to-day influence over their team’s offensive players and this isn’t common in team sports.

That is another key difference between team sports and business. As examples: CFOs, legal counsel, and credit managers can dictate policy that limits the day-to-day actions of purchasing, marketing, and sales people.

This control isn't limited to pre-game, pre-set rules...it also happens in an ongoing way during the day-by-day actions of business.

If business and team sports were similar at the action level then we might regularly see many defensive players repeatedly screaming “Be Careful” or “You can’t do that as their offensive players pressed toward the other team's goal. And, if team sports were like business then maybe Bobby Orr would have only scored short-handed goals when he got really lucky flipping the puck in from centre ice? 

This difference identifies a key need in business that seems to go without saying in team sports: in business we need to make efforts to optimize the balance between offense and defense...not just in theory and in practice but also in action throughout the game.



In sports, the scrutiny on action is intense, sometimes off the Richter Scale. Consider penalty kicks, breakaways, and bases-loaded at bats. In these game situations at least 2 people are under intense scrutiny: one offensive person and one defensive person.

Scrutiny of action is extreme in sports. Feedback is immediately-rewarding in sports. Fans scream, sound systems wail, the jumbo screen flashes, and coaches ride emotional roller coasters. [And if you are in Tampa Bay then you get to see a pirate ship fire its cannons.] 

In sports the rewards of the immediate, intense feedback can be positive or negative. In fact, most often it is both positive and negative at the same time. Your team and your fans cheer your success while at least some fans who root for the other team yell insults and deride you and your performance even if it clearly was a terrific piece of action and a scored goal.

Those who watch you perform in sports are biased…and many of them are not timid at all about showing it, wearing it, screaming it, or, from time to time, rioting during or after the game to prove it.  We don’t see that often in business.  In business, feedback about our actions is much more subtle. As business individuals, our action isn’t monitored by a zoomed-in camera lens.  

In business, we don’t get to hear tens of thousands unite to create thunderous noise and we don’t get to see standing ovations when we achieve our annual targets. On the other hand, we also don’t get to hear real-time Bronx Cheers or see octopi projectiles coming our way…in fact, stuff like that is frowned upon in business. 

We see and hear even less immediate feedback in the day-to-day commercial trenches while we are doing the buying and selling action of business. Business people can operate with some privacy, whereas, sometimes, in some sports stadia, your own fans give you that Bronx Cheer.

In sports, sometimes your coach hugs you while tears stream from all eyes. At other times your coach screams vulgarities at you and you can watch replays of the whole thing over and over on the jumbo screen and later you can watch it on the Sports Channel when you get home from the game.  

Missing a penalty shot or letting an overtime goal sneak by you – that’s newsworthy.

Failing to make a sale or paying too much for some raw materials – that’s not newsworthy. 

Scrutiny of performance and feedback on performance – in sports versus in business – are areas where huge differences exist. In sports winning is revered. Winning is revered to the point where critics and fans and coworkers applaud the end result and they also applaud the means to that end result whether the coach is Bill Parcells [known to be a tough autocrat] or Tony Dungy [known to be a real people person].

In business, we often hear coaching-and-counselling advice about teamwork. We hear, “There is no ‘I’ in teamwork”. I suppose team-sports players may hear the same counsel? That counsel seems to be an attempt to state that something about individuals must be of lesser something than something about the team. That interpretation should come across as nebulous. That’s because comments like “There is no ‘I’ in teamwork” are nebulous. Perhaps, the common interpretation isn’t nebulous. Perhaps, the comment means each individual should be prepared to sacrifice personal needs whenever they conflict with team goals. If that’s the case then there are better ways to express that sort of thinking. The reality is: every team consists of individual people, each of whom is an ‘I’. So, rather than talk in terms of letters of the alphabet we should be more specific. For example, we could say the key to team success is optimizing: optimizing the balance between the team’s goals and each individual’s goals and optimizing the balance between each individual’s goals and the goals of each other individual. That would at least allow us to focus on each person’s needs/goals and the needs/goals of the team. We could seek an understanding of whether or not the various goals are similar and aligned. We could talk about individual compromise in objective ways. We could work out acceptable individual adjustments.   



In business, we are much more conflicted about management style and often we hear advice that the likelihood of winning increases under certain leadership and management styles.

Most business consultants would be very troubled by managers or leaders who have a style like that of NFL Coach Bill Parcells. In fact, most people in business would say and do whatever they could to make Bill Parcells change and conform to much softer, kinder, and more-empathetic ways.

[In recognition of another way of looking at it - Bill Parcells did get to present some of his sports-to-business leadership thoughts in Harvard Business Review. The message he presented in HBR made sense. It is interesting to consider his HBR words while watching him in action at the sidelines.] 

Whether Bill Parcells or Tony Dungy, for team sports differences in leadership style, coaching style, and management style are embraced. Style differences are embraced by owners, fans, players, and media critics. Style differences are embraced while a potential to win is in the mind of the sports critic. When the potential to win is no longer in the mind of the sports critic the sports critic often promotes leadership change specifically to bring about a change in leadership style. If the failed sports leader was viewed as ‘too nice’ then the critic would promote a change to tougher leadership – more discipline, more control, and a firmer hand. If the failed leader was viewed as ‘too autocratic’ then the critic would promote a change to a more easy-going leader. Interestingly enough, these sorts of radical changes in style often do bring about near-term success in team sports.  

Sports fans love this stuff...they call in to talk shows, watch the highlights and the pundits, etc.

But, what about in business?  

In business, how often do we hear, “Let’s bring in an autocratic leader to inject a good dose of discipline into this organization”? 



People invented sports.

People invented business.

Both business and sports are fundamental to our human condition.

While business and team sports are both constructs that combine human cooperation and human competition, they are so different it is dangerous to assume too much similarity.

It is particularly dangerous to think the concept of teamwork in business is interchangeable with the concept of teamwork in sports. Business might be much easier to perform if it was performed in a manner similar to the relatively simple way sports teams perform.

490 Dutton Drive - Suite C6 - Waterloo ON N2L 6H7 - phone 519-886-6522 - fax 519-886-8795
Copyright © 2012. W.F.C (Rick) Baker. All Rights Reserved.