Downsizing with Downsizing Employee Morale

Update 11-24-09:

I’ve been keeping track of a number of firms that have been downsizing for quite some time, and here is one snapshot. For more information, read on below.


Original Post 10-14-09:

The French business magazine, Business Digest, recently interviewed us as part of their profile of publication this spring in the MIT Sloan Management Review.  We were able to elaborate on our study and provide additional information not available in our original article.  Here is an excerpt from the Business Digest article:

In the face of a downturn, many companies turn to downsizing to cut costs. Yet, they often fail to achieve the expected payoffs, and in some cases, they end up worse off than they started. According to Aneil K. Mishra and his co-authors, downsizing doesn’t have to spell corporate disaster. When companies increase flexibility, innovation, and communication, they can emerge stronger, faster, and smarter.

“When leaders use open, empathetic communication (that is, they listen to employees with an open mind and try to understand their thoughts and feelings) and are clear about how the organization needs to improve, employees will feel ‘heard,’” says Karen Mishra. This in turn fosters trust, empowerment, and innovative behavior.  A.Mishra explains, “When people have the necessary information to make informed decisions, they will start to say, ‘How can we get better?’ The only way they’re going to [get better] is by being flexible and innovative—because they’re typically not going to get new resources.” And, Gretchen Spreitzer adds,
“Flexibility and innovation also encourage empowerment because they allow the possibility of new ways of doing things—not just one way—the bosses’ way.”

For a copy of the full article in French or in English, please go here, or contact us.


Anthony Horowitz is a genuinely nice guy (and author)!

Our son, Jack, loves the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz.  Maggie has read and enjoyed them, as well.  So, when we learned that Mr. Horowitz would be at our local Schuler’s book store, we just had to go.  We bought his new book, Crocodile Tears, the day that it came out (2 days earlier) and Jack had it finished by the time he met Mr. Horowitz.  I didn’t know what to expect since I had not read any of his books, but after hearing him talk, I’m ready to read his books over the Christmas break.

Meeting their favorite author

Mr. Horowitz spent about 45 minutes talking to all of us (kids and parents) about how he decided to write the Alex Rider series, how he chose the names of his characters, why he enjoys writing YA (young adult) books, and anything else the audience asked of him.  He was engaging and genuinely enthusiastic about writing and being with his readers.  It was very refreshing, to hear someone to excited about what he does for a living.  Since he has sold more than 12 million of these books, he probably did not need to do a traditional book-tour, but you could tell that he enjoyed it and that his young fans enjoyed it as well.  One topic that he touched on that I appreciated was that he feels that he has an obligation to his young audience to be very careful with his characters, for instance, NOT to kill them off at a young age like a certain other author he mentioned.  He feels that it is his responsibility to care for our childrens’ feelings and emotions when he is writing, which I appreciate as a parent.

This is not the best picture–I took it with my blackberry, but we had to capture this moment.  Mr. Horowitz was very gracious, signing books and having his picture taking with kids both young and old.  It was a great evening!


Meet Brenda Bernstein: The Essay Expert!

If I had a nickel for every time I’m asked to provide help on resumes, I could retire easily.  Karen and I have provided feedback to more students, friends, and alumni than we can count over the years — all for free.  We’re both simply too busy to keep doing this as much as we’re asked, and besides, there’s an expert out there who’s really the best person to provide this feedback and guidance:  Brenda Bernstein of The Essay Expert LLC.

I “met” Brenda through the Ivy League Referral Network on, and was impressed with her website and answers to questions on LinkedIn.  I asked her for some input on some of my business writing in order to see if she would be an appropriate referral for my students and others requesting help on their business writing.  She gave excellent feedback, and so I’ve routinely been referring individuals to her for the past several months.  Those who have used her services have raved about her and her team of consultants.  I’ve also seen firsthand the huge improvements she and her staff can make on resumes and other business documents.

Here is my interview with her about her firm and its services.  I highly recommend you hire her if you are need of improving your resume, cover letters, or any other important business communication.


What services does your firm provide?

We provide writing and editing services in the following areas:  Resumes & Cover Letters; LinkedIn Profiles; Job & Scholarship Applications; Bios; B2B writing, Web Copy & Production; and Academic Writing (including Legal Writing Samples).

How do you do this differently or better than your competitors?

We give extremely personalized service to every customer.  We have a team of writers and editors with various specialties so when you contact us we will match you up with an expert in the type of writing you need.  We work fast and on your deadline.

What results can you/have you achieved for your clients?

Many clients tell us they were stuck for weeks trying to get something written, and after speaking with us it’s done in a few days.  The result is peace of mind; one client wrote, “Wow!  This looks great.  I will sleep well tonight.”  A consistent and concrete result is that clients who had not been obtaining interviews suddenly start getting multiple calls from interested employers.  Our first resume client, an architect who had been unemployed for 7 months prior to working with us, just obtained a job as a Senior Architect and Project Manager in his location of choice.

Who recommends you?

After our first 9 months in business, we have dozens of happy customers from around the country.  Many people post recommendations on LinkedIn even before we ask them to.  Our clients speak to the clarity of our writing, the insight we provide, and the success we have in helping them express themselves in words.  Recommendations are posted on The Essay Expert’s testimonials page and on my LinkedIn profile (

How does someone contact you?

Call 608-467-0067 or email me at  I’m happy to speak with you about how we can help with your project.











For more information view our website at

Two Cheers for GM’s Chevrolet Volt

Update 11-19-09:

Here’s a review of the driving experience of the Chevy Volt from the New York Times:

Unlike many electrics, including the Tesla Roadster, the Volt’s electric drive has no whine. The car feels solid and planted on the road. Clicking the Sport button on the dashboard releases a bit more oomph than when in Normal mode; in terms of efficiency, there isn’t much difference between the two except at peak power.

The Low mode— Chevrolet plans a flashier name for it by next fall — is unique in the electric-car world, and a useful feature. While coasting, it applies electric motor braking, then smoothly blends in the regular brakes.

Update 8-11-09:

DETROIT ( — The Chevrolet Volt, GM’s electric car that’s expected to go on sale in late 2010, is projected to get an estimated 230 miles per gallon, the automaker announced Tuesday.

The fuel efficiency rating is based on the EPA’s proposed methodology which GM used in its Volt tests and applies to city driving only. Henderson said GM is confident that when Volt’s combined city/highway mileage average is calculated, it will be over 100 mpg.

Henderson conceded the cost of building a Volt will be expensive, about $40,000 per vehicle. But he said the vehicle will qualify for a $7,500 tax credit, which will reduce the vehicle cost by that amount for consumers.

He also stressed that GM has not set the pricing for the Volt, and conceded the company may have to subsidize the vehicle. The goal: Make enough sales to move the Volt from “first generation” to lower-cost future designs.

“The cost of the vehicle in the first generation is high,” he said.

I’m doubtful with GM’s financial woes as to whether they’ll be able to offer much of a subsidy for the Volt.


Update 3-10-09:

Now comes another reason that GM’s Chevrolet Volt will have a tough time being successful in the marketplace.  It looks like GM’s planners and decision makers didn’t take into account important economic concepts such as marginal utility and marginal cost when designing the Volt’s electric-only mileage range, as reported by Fortune magazine’s auto industry reporter, Alex Taylor:

…one of the main justifications GM offers for its long-term survival, “leadership in advanced propulsion technology,” has been shaken by a report from Carnegie Mellon University.

The study concludes that plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt – GM’s most publicized technology project – “are not cost effective in any scenario.” GM says the Volt can go 40 miles on a single charge. But a better choice, according to the report, is a car that goes less than 20 miles on a charge.

But GM made some unusual decisions in designing the Volt. It decided that it wanted the car to go 40 miles on a single electrical charge because that was the maximum distance that it said most Americans travel on their daily commutes. Trouble is, configuring the car for all that electric driving means installing lots of big, heavy batteries.

The Carnegie Mellon study…found that small-capacity plug-ins that get less than 20 miles per charge are more efficient than conventional hybrids. And it said that large capacity hybrids like the Volt that go 40 miles or further on a charge are never cost-effective, because the batteries cost and weigh too much.

A car with the Volt’s range, according to the study, would also be extremely uneconomical traveling fewer miles as it hauls around battery capacity it doesn’t need.

Nearly 50% of U.S. vehicle miles are traveled by automobiles covering less than 20 miles per day, according to the report, and it concludes that 20 miles is a more sensible range. It also notes that as the charging infrastructure in public places becomes widespread, cars will be able to travel shorter distances between charges.

Let’s hope it’s not too late for GM to make some changes in the Volt’s design to reflect the economics and preferences of America’s drivers.  After all, as I learned in college when majoring in economics, they, like all consumers, always make decisions at the margin.

Original Post 9-17-08:

I am rooting for GM to succeed in its quest to give us a radically new vehicle that will help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve our environment.  So, I am glad that it has continued to move forward in its plan to produce the Chevrolet Volt:

However, I’m not glad that GM will likely have to raise the price for the Volt beyond its initial proposed amount.  According to the New York Times this week:

Finally, there are questions about the cost. G.M. executives concede that they are revising the price upward. While the company initially hinted at a $30,000 starting price, executives have recently suggested that the Volt might end up in the mid- to high-$40,000 range.

The higher the entry-level price, the less likely this car will be able to make an impact in the marketplace and on Americans’ driving habits.  Honda has already announced plans for one of its new hybrid vehicles, the new Insight, to underprice the current Toyota Prius:

The new Honda Insight, which goes on sale in the US in April, is expected to sell in relatively high quantities. Honda is targeting annual global sales of 200,000 units per year, with approximately 100,000 in North America. Honda is aiming for affordability with the new Insight, which is expected to sell for approximately $19,000—several thousand dollars below the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius. At the same time, the new hybrid should match or exceed the fuel economy of those vehicles. The new Honda Insight will be unveiled at the 2008 Paris International Auto Show in early October.

Currently, we own a Toyota Camry Hybrid and a Honda Civic Hybrid.  I’d love to drive an American hybrid that truly delivers outstanding fuel economy.  The question is whether GM will deliver such a vehicle at a price I can afford.


Meet Tyler Consulting

I met Virginia Tyler when she was a participant in my Health Care Leadership executive education program a couple of years ago at the University of Michigan.  She not only was a great leader in my classroom, but we’ve kept in touch since then, continuing a lively conversation about health care policy and outcomes and how they can be shaped by engaged leaders across our country.  I’m pleased to announce that she’s launched a consulting company in Rochester, NY that I would highly recommend to anyone in the healthcare sector.


Tyler Consulting provides strategic advisory services to healthcare and nonprofit clients.  We utilize a team of experts with national experience to provide local results.  We concentrate our services in three areas:

  1. Industry and market research
  2. Business and program planning and analysis
  3. Resource Development

Our Model
Tyler Consulting is a virtual firm with over 20 consulting project partners. Project teams differ for every project we do.  We use this model for two reasons: to ensure the best match of skill to client needs, and to keep overhead as low as possible. Many of our consultant partners have worked for industry-leading providers and professional firms. As a result, you get world-class consulting without the high-end cost.

Our Clients
Our clients include hospitals and non-profit organizations from Rochester, NY to Orange County California.  We have worked with literally dozens of hospitals, healthcare organizations, physician practices, agencies, and other non-profits. Our clients range from 50 beds to 500, and from $50,000 budgets to $500 million.  Some of our clients are just starting out, whereas others have long and varied histories.  In every case, our clients are assured of a high degree of professionalism, timeliness, comprehensiveness and integrity.

Virginia Tyler has more than twenty years of management experience, with a decade in healthcare management. She has held leadership positions with HANYS, Thompson Health and Navigant Consulting.  She focuses her practice on provider strategy and program development.

She can be contacted here.

Hire Tiggers Instead of Eeyores

Here are some excerpts of a fascinating interview with Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSN, Inc. in the New York Times:

Q. Let’s talk about hiring.

A. There are a number of things that are really important to me. One — and people laugh that I have this philosophy — is that you only hire Tiggers. You don’t hire Eeyores. It doesn’t mean they have to be loud, but I need energy-givers and I have to get a feeling that this person is going to be able to inspire people. Are they going to be optimistic about where they’re going? Are they going to attract people who are like that?

No. 2 is, will they be able to stand up to me when they believe in something? I’m very passionate. I need people who are going to be able to make me look at things in a different way. So, I have to ask those questions, like, “Give me an instance where you really believed in something and you were able to change the course and it was successful, whatever that was.” That’s really important, because you don’t want people telling you what you already know, or not telling you what you need to know.

Q. What else?

A. Quality of values is really important to me — what people believe. I ask people what they abhor most in companies or people. On the flip side, what are they most passionate about outside of work? What lessons have they learned about right and wrong in cultures? I look for successes that people have had.

The other thing that’s really important to me is people who have taken risks. They’ve had to put themselves in a situation, whether they took a lateral move to get to the next step or they went to a company that wasn’t performing, and it was their first opportunity to manage a team that had to do a turnaround.

For more about HSN, Inc., please go here.


AT&T Wireless Keeps Our Trust by Providing Outstanding Customer Service and Listening to Us

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m not shy about expressing my likes and dislikes, especially when it comes to customer service.  I’m happy to report that AT&T Wireless, which in my case is our cell phone/mobile phone (pick your term depending on what country you live in) provider and has been for the past several years.  Whenever we’ve had a billing issue, and there have been a few but not too many over the years, AT&T has readily fixed the problem.

Importantly, when there have been miscommunications or conflicting information provided between two of AT&T units (e.g., a local AT&T store, an AT&T representative retail store like Wireless One, or their corporate 1-800 people, AT&T usually and quickly resolved the matter in my favor.  They refunded several hundred dollars in international roaming charges for me once when I complained that I received conflicting information about whether unlocking my phone before traveling abroad would invalidate my cell phone warranty.  They’ve provided me with seamless transfer of phone numbers for all of our phones, and worked to get me easy-to-remember phone numbers when we moved from North Carolina to Michigan.  They quickly fixed a phone bill error this morning that saved me almost ninety bucks.

When our car was recently broken into,less than five minutes after my Karen and my daughter went into a local Starbucks, they quickly shut off our daughter’s cell phone and data services in case the phone was stolen (we couldn’t find it initially because luckily it had fallen under the car seat as the thief was scared away).  They just as quickly and seamlessly reestablished service on our daughter’s phone when we realized it hadn’t been stolen (she now takes it with even if she’s out of the car for only a few minutes).

I don’t like the amount of time I’m on hold occasionally waiting to talk to a support person, but usually the wait is very short.  Everyone I talk to at AT&T is both professional and unfailingly polite.

Occasionally our phone calls drop.  Sometimes we don’t get 3G speeds inside buildings or other places.  We pay a lot of money each month for our calling minutes and data services for our family’s phones.  Nevertheless, we’re very satisfied AT&T customers and expect to continue to be so in the future.


Does Texting Destroy Trust?

I’m still not as big a fan of of David Brooks as I used to be before he wrote a column back in August of 2008.  Nonetheless, I did agree with much of what he had to say in his New York Times essay yesterday.  (That is, once I waded through the first part of it which was designed to hook you in I suppose.  All it did was remind me that there a lot of shallow weirdos out there that Mr. Brooks comes across or reads about more often than I do.):

But texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination. A coat of ironic detachment is required for anyone who hopes to withstand the brutal feedback of the marketplace. In today’s world, the choice of a Prius can be a more sanctified act than the choice of an erotic partner.

This does not mean that young people today are worse or shallower than young people in the past. It does mean they get less help. People once lived within a pattern of being, which educated the emotions, guided the temporary toward the permanent and linked everyday urges to higher things. The accumulated wisdom of the community steered couples as they tried to earn each other’s commitment.

Today there are fewer norms that guide in that way. Today’s technology seems to threaten the sort of recurring and stable reciprocity that is the building block of trust.

Karen and I had lots of the kind of help to which Mr. Brooks refers.  Some of it was wanted, and a lot of it unwanted.  It came from our families, our church, our friends, and others to guide us in our five year courtship before we got married.  Because I’m not a patient person, I know I didn’t enjoy all of the deferred gratification that I had in my younger years, whether it was waiting to marry Karen, finishing my education, or achieving other important goals.  The guidance we received and fun we postponed (and still postpone as we raise our two children) nonetheless did help Karen and I learn how to develop unconditional love and total trust in one another.