Profits without prosperity

Currently reading:

It’s interesting how the argument is that share buybacks allows executives to collect handsome profits, without distributing the same with the working people. The article, and the video, explain the idea nicely.

I can’t help but wonder, what are the larger social, political and economic implications that will materialize because of the ongoing crisis? It seems likely that some changes – favorable or unfavorable to the general public – will attempt to be implemented during this tremulous time.

We already have the request to suspend constitutional rights due to the coronavirus:  One can only wonder, what is coming next.

Currently Reading: Getting to Yes. The theory of negotiation

This is the book that is suggested via MIT’s Open CourseWare, as the work of Roger Fisher who is the name in negotiation theory.

Fisher, Roger (1991) Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

From the syllabus ( ):

This course starts from the observation that the world of planners, managers, lawyers, public officials, analysts, and other professionals is marked by interdependencies, fragmented sources of power, and an uncertain future. In this unruly world, the sources of understanding and stability are often provisional and the ability to learn and to manage change is at a premium. The diversity of our society and work force contributes to conflicts over goals, interests, and frames of reference. These characteristics create an ongoing need for the ability to craft stable agreements that advance interests, build trust, and construct understanding in complex and unstable environments. They create a need for negotiation.

To help you develop the understanding and skills necessary to respond to this challenge, we will explore three insights that currently shape negotiation research, theory, and practice. The insights each describe negotiation as an interactive process. The first insight is that even simple interdependencies create a dynamic environment in which multiple outcomes are possible. The bare fact that a bargain requires the consent of both parties is sufficient to open a complex space for interaction between negotiators. The second insight is that negotiation is rarely a zero-sum process. Negotiators affect not only how value is distributed, but also how much value there is to distribute. The third insight is that negotiation is a social process. Through their interactions, negotiators shape the terms in which they understand problems, their sense of what kind of behavior is fair, appropriate, and desirable, and their ability to trust.

We treat these insights as providing a foundation for the study of negotiation and for negotiation practice, and the bulk of the term is devoted to exploring them. This inquiry is organized around three questions. We will begin the course by exploring situations in which interests are potentially in conflict. We examine how negotiators manage their interactions in strategic bargaining and ask, “Why do we get one deal rather than another?” We move on to situations where negotiations offer (or demand) an exploration of additional degrees of freedom and ask, “How can we affect what’s on the table?” or, alternatively, “How can we create value in a negotiation?” In this section we will consider how negotiators create opportunities for mutual gains that make it possible to resolve negotiations that look intractable and to reach better outcomes where a deal is possible. Finally we turn to the question, “How can we shape the game we play?” Here we take a micro-view of negotiations to analyze how negotiators draw on and shape expectations and roles, build understanding (and misunderstanding), and construct relationships in which trust and cooperation are (at least sometimes) possible in their interactions. We will conclude the term by examining the ways in which introducing history, adding parties, negotiating at multiple levels, and acting in an organizational context influence negotiation practice.

By exploring these questions, we hope to accomplish two goals. First, we hope that you will develop skills that will make you a better negotiator. Second, we hope to help you connect your developing understanding of negotiation to adjacent questions about learning, rationality, ethics, organizational behavior, and other fields. In more substantive terms, this course should help you to diagnose conflict, prepare to negotiate, negotiate purposefully and thoughtfully, and critically evaluate outcomes and experiences.

We will examine a variety of contexts and problems that create a need for negotiation, and raise questions about what it means to negotiate well. We will explore a systematic approach to negotiation that we think constitutes good advice about what to do when your interests or beliefs are in tension with others’ and you cannot act unilaterally. We will also raise other issues that will situate this model in a broader field of intellectual inquiry.

You will have the opportunity to experiment with this approach and to try out alternative approaches in negotiation exercises and case analyses. These exercises form the core of the course. We will use them to examine concepts and analytic approaches. You will also find that the value of these negotiations sometimes exceeds our ability to provide an account. This means that the opportunity is always open to extend our understanding of negotiation. It challenges us individually, and as a group, to provide as clear an account as we can of our experience, to listen carefully, and to reflect critically on our experience. This suggests that you can think about the course as a research seminar, in which the common experience of negotiating with each other provides the substantive basis for our analysis. At the same time, you should expect to finish the course as a more effective negotiator.

At a general level, we will move from negotiations that involve fewer factors to ones that are more complex. By the end of the course, however, we hope that you will appreciate the layered complexity that was involved in what at first appeared to be simple negotiations.

First, Break All the Rules [summary]

1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
2. Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good
5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
10. Do you have a best friend at work?
11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?



Apart from word usage, effective communication combines some major skills including

  • engaged listening,
  • nonverbal communication,
  • management of stress at the moment, and
  • assertion of self in a respectful way. (Principles of marketing, 2010)

Collateral is printed or digital material salespeople use to support their message. It can consist of brochures, position papers, case studies, clinical studies, market studies, and other documents. (Principles of marketing, 2010)

  • select for talent, not experience, intelligence, or determination
  • set expectations by setting outcomes, not processes
  • motivate by highlighting strengths, not weaknesses
  • develop an employee for the right fit, not for the next rung on the ladder.

AIDA model: attention, interest, desire, action.

So what is tough love? How does it work? The “tough” part is easy to explain. Because great managers use excellence as their frame of reference when assessing performance, Tough love simply implies that they do not compromise on this standard.

I should work for the benefit of others. Even QA – they think they do important work, so let them think this way. Let me be an instrument in helping them feel better about their work, to do the work better.

To “care” means to “set the person up for success.”

Customer satisfaction is: (1) accuracy, (2) availability, (3) partnership, and (4) advice.

The University of Minneapolis textbook is very good. Some things in it are not enough detailed, some are wrong (for example, the customer satisfaction segment is uneventful. I drew so much more inspiration from “First, break all the rules”. That book said, the customer satisfaction has four components to it: (1) the offering must be accurate, e.g. if the toothpaste claims to clean teeth, it should clean teeth; (2) the offering must be available and timely, e.g. if I’m going to a restaurant to eat, there should be a table ready for me; (3) the offering must give the customer a sense of partnership with the company, e.g. I have a portable espresso maker and I really enjoy that it was invented and that I have it, it improves my life; and (4) the offering should advise the customer on how to improve her life (and that is the point of most products, to improve customer life). E.g., amazon advices on products, and google maps advices on best driving routes. (Buckingham, Coffman, 2016). Given these four principles, the customer should be satisfied. It is understandable also that partnership and advice are advanced topics, and the company’s profitability may come before that. I think this is a deeper insight than what the bus 5112 textbook said, which was basically, “customer should be satisfied.”

Investing in their best was, first, the fairest thing to do; second, the best way to learn; and, third, the only way to stay focused on excellence.

There are only three possible routes to helping the person succeed. Devise a support system. Find a complementary partner. Or find an alternative role.

Broadbanding is a vital weapon in the arsenal of great managers. (This has to do with pay structure.)

The Four Keys (again):

  1. select for talent
  2. define the right outcomes
  3. focus on strengths
  4. find the right fit

When interviewing for talent, ask open-ended questions:

  • How closely do you think people should be supervised?
  • What do you enjoy most about selling?
  • Tell me about a time you overcame resistance to your ideas
  • How do you feel when someone doubts what you have to say?

Recent research into adult learning reveals that students stay in school longer and learn more if they are expected to direct and record their progress. These four characteristics—simplicity, frequent interaction, focus on the future, and self-tracking—are the foundation for a successful “per formance management” routine.

The strengths interview:

  1. What did you enjoy most about your previous work experience? What brought you here? (If an existing employee) What keeps you here?
  2. What do you think your strengths are? (skills, knowledge, talent)
  3. What about your weaknesses?
  4. What are your goals for your current role? (Ask for scores and timelines)
  5. How often do you like to meet with me to discuss your progress? Are you the kind of person who will tell me how you are feeling, or will I have to ask?
  6. Do you have any personal goals or commitment you would like to tell me about?
  7. What is the best praise you have ever received? What made it so good?
  8. Have you had any really productive partnerships or mentors? Why do you think these relationships worked so well for you?
  9. What are your future growth goals, your career goals? Are there any particular skills you want to learn? Are there some specific challenges you want to experience? How can I help?
  10. Is there anything else you want to talk about that might help us work well together?

Performance Planning Meeting

  • What actions have you taken?
  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What partnerships have you built?

Then, direct the discussion towards the future:

  • What is your main focus?
  • What new discoveries are you planning?
  • What new partnerships are you hoping to build?

If you hate your job, it’s probably due to your manager. Not the benefits, perks, or the work itself.

We have said that an employee may join a company because of its prestige and reputation, but that his relationship with his immediate man ager determines how long he stays and how productive he is while he is there. We have said that the manager is the critical player in turning each employee’s talent into performance. We have said that managers trump companies.

Perceptual Control Theory

A Book Recommendation. This book by William Powers offers a complete basic theory of psychology – and a very interesting one at that.

‘Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) is both the name of the theory and the name of a book by William Powers. I have found it immensely interesting and intuitive, a good way of explaining why people take actions that they do. This book definitely takes a spot on my shelf of recommended reading. Buy in on Amazon.

An example, from Wikipedia: A simple negative feedback control system is a cruise control system for a car. A cruise control system has a sensor which “perceives” speed as the rate of spin of the drive shaft directly connected to the wheels. It also has a driver-adjustable ‘goal’ specifying a particular speed. The sensed speed is continuously compared against the specified speed by a device (called a “comparator”) which subtracts the currently sensed input value from the stored goal value. The difference (the error signal) determines the throttle setting (the accelerator depression), so that the engine output is continuously varied to prevent the speed of the car from increasing or decreasing from that desired speed as environmental conditions change. This type of classical negative feedback control was worked out by engineers in the 1930s and 1940s.

Another example is inverse kinematics, used in 3D animation as well as robot control. You have the goal: for example, a “wrist” movement, and the system that senses and affects things to reach that goal.

Overall, I think the concepts of this theory are super useful both for personal development as a human, and for building digital systems.

PMBA – A review

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman is a great book all around, and is likely to help you with personal efficiency, self-actualization and achieving personal goals.

MBA as taught in schools has several areas of study: finance & accounting, leadership & management, marketing & strategy, technology & operations. Kaufman in this book gives accurate insights into what goes into MBA education, as well as what goes into the practical applications of such.

The book’s website is and of course you can buy it on Amazon.