Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roger Martin has a post up on blogs.HBR.org talking about how CEOs create the example and signals that allow for cultural change.  He highlights P&G CEO A.G. Laffley's actions that created those signals (visits to customers and removal of stock tickers).  Laffley also changed how he was measuring performance.  In short, he made a number of changes that embody what he wants his organization to be.  There are two general principles I'd like to pull out from this example.

  1. Ideas don't exist until you (or something) embodies them.  This is one major reason why examples are so important.  If you want something to exist you have to create it and words, by themselves, don't do that. Words based on the foundation of something that actually exists can and the foundation of example has to be first.
  2. The means and the ends are the same.  I've discussed this before because I think it's a critical fact.  You can't reach a specific goal or condition by taking actions or using tools that go against the nature of the desired goal or condition.  This speaks to the idea that there are no silver bullets, only pieces that contribute to the whole.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Power in the people

Andy Porter has a post up talking about how organizations would benefit from differentiating between key positions and those that aren't.  Why? Because most people are average, as are most positions and believing you can fill every position with Top Talent may be a fond dream rather than a practical reality.  I agree to a point with this sentiment, but I do believe that an entire organization can be top performing even without have top talent in every position.

In fact, I think it's necessary.  If you rely on having top talent in every position as your primary (or only) competitive advantage then your advantage can walk away at any time.  As Kris Dunn is fond of saying, we're in a free agent nation.  That means if your competitive advantage gets a better offer somewhere else, a chance that is increasingly likely the more talented they are, there isn't much you can do about it.  I have a hard time accepting that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Persuade people, not positions

Steve Roesler has a great post about talking about people as people and not just as their position.  I agree with his assessment completely, especially because he acknowledges that position is still a factor in working with people but not the dominant one.  My friend has had an experience that highlights the importance of this.

My friend works on an ergonomics safety program for his employer.  They are working on reducing repetitive motion injuries, which can cost over $100,000 each and have been on the rise in recent years.  While a normal workplace problem this expense represents two important things: people getting hurt and people being made less effective at their jobs.  My friend knows that if he can change this he can get a win for himself on his appraisal, a win for his coworkers in the form of fewer injuries and a win for his company as reduced injury costs.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recruit the right market

Having just explained why sports metaphors don't always work in the business setting, I felt it only fair to talk about a lesson learned from the sports world.  Kris Dunn writes powerfully on why the opinion of old folks on the ugliness of sports uniforms doesn't matter.  In fact, it may be an indicators things are going well.  This doesn't just relate to recruiting for college sports, there are also lessons about recruiting for your company.

Recruiting is largely a marketing effort with several different customer groups to satisfy and a variety of markets to target.  For the recruiter the product could be considered the new hire, but candidates are also a customer.  In my experience, most new hires are lower down in the company where learning is as important as earning.  The trouble?  The people usually determining hiring strategy are much farther up in the organization, or at least longer of tooth.  Humans tend to think other people are like them and those who aren't are broken.  This means that the people being recruited will like what they like and share their interests and so can be found in the 'usual places'.  That simply isn't so.

Monday, September 5, 2011

5 reasons sports metaphors breakdown

Sports metaphors are fairly common in the business world, with good reason.  Sports are a complex environment where limited resources, sordid politics, intense emotions and extremely public and measurable goals collide.  They provide a great stage for management and leadership styles in addition to general organizational effectiveness.  However, they're not a perfect metaphor for at least five reasons:

  1. Much of business isn't teamwork, it's collaboration.  That has important implications for how people behave.  One of the most common is the confusion of goals, let alone strategy.  With a sports team the goal is fairly straight forward and the difficult arises mostly in selecting a strategy and successfully executing it.  For a business as a whole that may be true as well, but for individuals within that organization there competing goals (many of which are unstated).  This leads to conflicts that seem irrational.