James P. Hall

Managing on Purpose

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My office-in-the-home is something of a shrine. I have a large framed photograph on one wall of Ernie Banks, which Banks signed for me some ten years ago. It says “To Jim, Let’s Play Two.” For the uninitiated, that was Ernie’s saying. He played for the Cubs for 18 pretty much fruitless seasons (counting 1953, when he came up late in the year) , but when the visiting team showed up to play day games (all they had at Wrigley during Ernie’s career), he’d say that it was a glorious day for baseball, and that they should play two.

On… Continue reading

The Heart of the Matter
James P. Hall

From “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” you recall of course Jeff Spicoli’s reaction to one of Mr. Vargas’s laboratory lessons on the human body—memory fails me as to what system Mr. Vargas was showcasing on the day in question—but Jeff’s loud response was “Gnarly!”

Spicoli’s classmates displayed similar reactions, many recoiling in disgust, turning away and putting their hands to their mouths.

What lessons like Mr. Vargas’s bring to light may be our general ignorance of what our innards are like. Perhaps the problem is our skin. If it were translucent… Continue reading

Readiness and the Writer

James P. Hall

There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,’t is not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.

Hamlet. Act v. Sc. 2.  

In my college writing classes, early in the term, I ask students to envision the following scenario.

A professional football game is about to begin; I usually pick our local team, the Baltimore Ravens, against a foe such as the Cleveland Browns.  I say… Continue reading

Well, of course you do.

At least, I sure think you do. My standard comparisons are: chefs need recipes, pilots need flight plans, actors need scripts, football teams need game plans, teachers need lesson plans–and so on and on.

What do business plans do? They answer three core questions about your business: Where are you? Where are you going? How will you get there?

I think people may define “business plan” too narrowly. They think of it as the booklet you prepare when you’re going to a bank or other investor to obtain financing. Not that this isn’t a good… Continue reading

Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.

Sir John Harvey-Jones

Why Do Strategic Planning?

To See Where You Are

Some people, in some organizations, don’t really want to know where they are. There is some bliss in ignorance. These people will do tomorrow what they did today and hope for the best. They think they know who their competitors are, but they may not. They think they have costs… Continue reading

As promised, here is some additional guidance about using the semicolon. Before I get to the semicolon guidance–actually to lay the groundwork for it–I need to mention another punctuation mark.

This flimsiest of punctuation marks, the comma, barely slows a reader down. We hardly see them. This is the reason your English teacher was so horrified when you made what she called “comma splices”–you used the wimpy comma to separate two independent clauses, two groups of words that each could have been a sentence. Shame on you!

There really is logic here. If we are to digest “main ideas,” we… Continue reading

Actually, this question should never come up, as the uses of the two punctuation marks are quite different!

The colon is a very strong punctuation mark. It brings the reader to a dead stop! The only stronger punctuation mark is the period. You use a colon most often when you want to stop the reader before presenting a number of items in series.

For example–

Our reasons for choosing Hanover as a place of residence are these: the excellent school system, the weather, and the small town quality of life we experience here.

You can also use a colon for… Continue reading