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Enhancing Organizational Performance

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As those at our southern border are stigmatized by the right I am reminded of this piece from a few years back. Constant vigilance is the price to be paid in order to avoid repeating history.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

December 8, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Justification of Decisions

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via Justification of Decisions

Making decisions with your gut? The data says you are on shaky ground.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

November 28, 2018 at 9:47 am

Speaking up

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Note to Staff: As the CEO of a company, one choice I make, nearly every day, is when do I speak up or speak out, and when do I keep quiet and let others follow the paths and actions they think best, or take the lead in putting out messages to staff, to clients or others. I am not a fan of micro-managing, but neither am I a fan of chaos, where people might be pulling in different directions. We must all pull together. And while this note is not about specific client related issues, after yesterday, once again I feel the need to speak to you. Forgive me if you feel I am being intrusive into your personal life.

Over the past few weeks we have seen abhorrent actions and one tragic event after another unfold across our nation or influenced by our nation’s current actions/policy on a  global basis. Perhaps this should have been expected in the run up to an election that many view as the most consequential in recent times, and I am worried that more stupidity might be foisted upon us before that election. Children, some extremely young, are still held in detention camps, separated from their parents. Any psychologist worth their salt can describe to you the lasting damage this will have on these children and I simply can’t describe to you how abhorrent I find this. Children, some younger than 5 are appearing before immigration judges, without representation,  to “plead their case” to determine whether they should be allowed to stay in this country. A 5-year old, of course, has absolutely no clue what is going on.  Last Wednesday, in Kentucky, a gunman tried to enter a black church and when thwarted, went to a Kroger supermarket and killed two, a likely hate crime. Pipe bombs were sent to outspoken critics of the current incumbent of the White House or those who practice journalism, a foundational bedrock which makes our democracy possible. In the Saudi embassy in Turkey, a journalist, who was viewed as a threat to the rulers of Saudi Arabia, was dismembered while alive and the audio recordings seem to indicate that he lived for 7 minutes while various parts of his body where cut off. In Yemen, a proxy war between Iran and Saudi is being fought, with USA supplied weapons. A few weeks ago, one USA missile killed a bus load of school children and today it is estimated that up to 13 million people are about to starve to death. Yesterday, in Pittsburgh, 11 people where killed while simply celebrating their faith. The list of tragedies can go on and on and they are in fact connected. They are connected or rather I should say enabled by the words and actions that are coming from this current administration. While we have seen tragic events before, events triggered by hate, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, the lust for power and wealth, and purposely fanned fears aimed at dividing us, we have never before seen the leadership of the USA openly promote such viewpoints (of course there have been racist presidents before). This current president as well as his enablers within the White House, within congress and within the judiciary have put this nation on a terribly dangerous path, one that serves their personal interests, or their personal beliefs, but not the interests of the nation itself or the principles upon which this nation was founded.


There are two phrases that I simply can’t get out of my head the last couple of days. One is “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” and the other is “a million candles burning for the help that never came”. I am unsure about the origins of the first, but the second is a line from a Leonard Cohen song. And while these two phrases might seem somewhat contradictory, the first suggesting a course of action, while the second suggests the hopelessness of that action, I am not about to give up for there is simply too much at stake. Last night at a memorial service that thousands attended in Pittsburgh for the slain congregants, a chant was taken up. It was one word, “Vote”.  It is not too late, light a candle, Vote.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

October 28, 2018 at 9:01 am

My Jeans are Irregulars

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How can one person remember the utmost details of an event, while the other doesn’t recall it happening? One possible answer is saliency, as described in this old post.

Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

There are many stories that get passed down through families of European origins regarding what members of the family did to escape, avoid or deal with the horrors of WWII.  One method that I have read about was how families struggled to obtain fake passports to be used in their attempts to flee. There is one story that takes place in Poland in the late 1930’s. In that story it is described how passports were forged by studying old passports from many different countries, their style and format were then copied creating new fake passports for those trying to escape.

One day a man, who was part of the underground, set out to collect old passports through whatever method he could. He was extremely successful and by the end of the day he had collected a large number. On the way back from his activities he was stopped by the…

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

September 27, 2018 at 9:32 pm

The Problem with Experts

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

September 22, 2018 at 10:03 am

Sunk Costs

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When you wonder how those in congress can go along with increasingly undemocratic behavior that goes against everything this country has stood for, a partial explanation might be found in this piece on sunk costs.

Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

The patient in the ICU had given instructions for no heroic life support. Heroic is of course subjective as one person’s routine might be deemed heroic by another. Never-the-less over a period of almost two weeks the measures taken would be described by most any observer as heroic. How did it happen?

It started as simply some abdominal pain. A trip to the ER revealed a small perforation in the intestine, a complication of diverticulitis. The patient was admitted, put on intravenous antibiotics and a small amount of supplemental oxygen. At first the antibiotics seemed to be working, but then the patient took a turn for the worse. An abdominal abscess was discovered, the dosage of the antibiotics being given was increased and a pathology report led to a change in the type of antibiotic being used. Again, positive signs emerged. Up to this point fairly routine healthcare.

After a…

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 19, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Cultural Resiliency

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It is very hard work to change a culture. Whether that culture is the essence of what defines an organization, or that culture is part of a larger society. Culture change is tough, culture is resilient and change does not come easily or simply by wishing it were so.

Let me give you an example. Many times over the years I have worked with organizations that have extraordinary high amounts of turnover. They may be hiring students, or part-timers, or people who are looking to supplement their income during certain times of the year.  Year over year, the members who make up their front-line staff can change dramatically, yet their scores on an annual employee survey can remain very stable, even when the organization is working hard to improve those scores. “How can this be?”, is a question I have been asked more than once. In one case, almost the entire front-line population had changed out, meaning virtually no one from the previous year’s survey was left, and yet the scores were within 1 point of where they were a year earlier. Management in this case, thought that all the unhappy malcontents would leave, and that, combined with their improvement efforts should improve the scores. But this is what tends to happen in organizations:

  • The policies, practices and procedures, the frustrations employees experienced in getting their work done did not change, so even as the new staff entered they experienced the same environment as the departed staff and quickly assumed the same attitudes
  • Turnover was not uniform. Those in management for instance did not exhibit the same amount of turnover, so the new employees experienced the same people, with the same behaviors that the departed staff experienced
  • One common cause of turnover is the lack of ability to achieve one’s career aspirations in your current organization, and just because the staff turns over, if you are hiring similar types of people (e.g. students, young professionals), their career aspirations will likely be, as a group, no different than the previous year’s group. The career aspirations of any one person can of course be different
  • Another cause of turnover is frustration with the effectiveness of the organization, the way the work gets done. That does not change simply because new employees enter an organization.

It is possible to achieve steady, meaningful improvement in an organization’s culture scores through hard work, consistency and continuity of effort, but when a score shifts dramatically higher or dramatically lower in a short period of time, it is not unusual to find out that there is new leadership within the organization, whether that be a department, division, business unit, company-wide…

…or at a country level.

The findings on culture change that are seen within for-profit organizations have analogs within our country and society overall, after all both are made up of people with all of their foibles, strengths and similarities. The overall culture of the USA is resilient (for better or for worse). Meaning that as immigrants come to our shores there is very little danger of large cultural shifts occurring as long as the institutions of the USA remain intact. Those democratic institutions make up the policies, practices and procedures which define and by which our society operates. Just like organizations that experience steady state cultures, (for better or for worse), over time the same factors come into play as new people have entered and will continue to enter our country, because they are exposed to and live under those institutions. Yes, you may get access to new foods that immigrants bring, or other “cosmetic factors”, but underneath it all people are people and the factors that drove my grandparents to escape the pogroms of Russia are the same factors that drive people to our shores today. A search for dignity, safety, a better life if not for themselves then for their children, have driven people to us for hundreds of years. And the drive of those people to achieve their goals is what has made this country great. Virtually none of these historical immigrants would have gotten in on their “merits” of education or wealth, but succeed they did, and succeed their children did, based on their hard work and desire to have a better life.

With our recent change in leadership, the attacks on our democracy by Russia, and the subsequent attacks on the policies, practices, and procedures by which we have prospered, we are running a grave risk that the culture inherent to our democracy, the culture that represents our “secret sauce” or “special essence” can begin to swing and be put into jeopardy.  Consider this a warning from someone who has studied organizational culture for over 30 years.

Complacency during this dark period in our history is not an option. Ellie Wiesel saw this happen in Germany and concluded, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

Many of the institutions which support our democracy are under attack. The traditional role and dignity of the office of the Presidency is under attack, and at the moment has largely been destroyed. The critical role of a free and unfettered press is under attack, minorities are under attack, children and families are under attack, our access to egalitarian education is under attack, our very planet is under attack which means that the future of our children and our grandchildren is under attack.

While culture is resilient, we are seeing dangerous cracks in our culture developing. Divisiveness is growing. Hate groups are newly emboldened. Fascists and anti-democratic forces are becoming stronger. Each day we move closer to becoming an autocratic kleptocracy with a fondness for dictatorial strongmen. Our traditional adversaries rejoice in our lack of leadership and in our failing strength while our allies are feeling abandoned and forlorn. The USA, even with all of its shortcomings, was the leader of the free world and a shining beacon for humanity on this planet. We have abandoned that position. It will be a long road, but we can begin the repair the damage that has been done, to ourselves and to the world. We can repair our culture and this world and use this experience to enhance our country’s future resiliency. Vote in November.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 14, 2018 at 7:55 pm

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