Links for March 28 2010

I’m trying out a new approach to my link sharing posts. I’m now using delicious to capture the the articles that I want to share along with my notes. I then use a javascript call to pull the bookmarks for each week from delicious. Hope you get some value from this new approach.

Links for Jan 3 2010

Competing with Pirates by Mark Fidelman on Seek Omega and Cross Posted on CloudAve

Why Planning Is Important, Your Plan is Not by George Krueger and Mary-Lynn Foster on Blog For Profit

Are You Willing to Lose Your Best and Brightest Over a Bag of Pretzels? by Vincent Ferrari on KnowHR Blog

Breaking Through Organizational Silos in HR by Lance Haun on Rehaul by Lance Haun

I Can’t (Read: Don’t Want To) Change by Julien Smith on in over your head

Why You Should Fire Yourself by Ron Ashkenas on

Project Leadership Lessons From a Jigsaw Puzzle by Kevin Eikenberry on Kevin’s Blog

Partnering in Outsourcing Deals: Is It a Myth or a Genuine Strategy? by Sara Cullen on The Cutter Blog | Debate Online

When Your Company Culture Isn’t Ready for Social Media by Jeanne C Meister and Karie Willyerd on

Three Enterprise 2.0 Themes You Should Be Watching in 2010 by Hutch Carpenter on I’m Not Actually a Geek

Marketing, technology, and storytelling by Scott Brinker on Chief Marketing Technologist

A Breakdown in Culture, Communication, and Technology by Gene De Libero

10 Ways to Get Serious About Social Media by Amber Naslund on Altitude Branding

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Employee Engagement – how it affects you

Some interesting research results being reported over on Fistful of Talent by Lizz Pellet who is the Chief Culture Officer at EMERGE International in a post titled “The Economic Recovery F-You Factor“.

And yes…for those keeping score, this is the 2nd day in a row that I’ve linked to Fistful of Talent…they’ve got some great stuff over there.

A few highlights from the article:

Leadership IQ Group surveyed 4,000 individuals who watched colleagues get laid off and were left behind to carry on and found:

  • 75% said their productivity had declined
  • 70% said the quality of products/services had declined
  • 81% said customer service had dropped

Interesting numbers and not surprising.

Do you want to do business with an organization that shows these numbers?  Would you want to give your hard earned money to a company who’s employees just aren’t engaged and really just don’t give a hoot about their job, their product/service or helping you?

Think employee engagement doesn’t matter?  Take a look at those numbers and then think again.  Employee engagement is more than a buzzword or something consultants are trying to sell you…it’s real and effects your employees, your organization, your customers and you.

During downturns like this, organizations always have to cut costs and inevitably there are lay-offs.   That said, the manner in which companies cut costs, treat their employees and handle employee layoffs will come back to haunt them.

What happens to these companies when the economy picks up?  It won’t be pretty.

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CIO’s – what’s your focus?

Early this week, I asked a question to my readers (and myself).

The question was “What’s your focus?” and immediately after publishing the post, I read a great post titled “The HR Professional – Chasing two Rabbits” over on Fistful of Talent that basically asks the same question.

In the article, the author points out an old Chinese Proverb that says:

“A hunter who chases two rabbits catches neither one.”

Great proverb…and one that fits the current HR world perfectly according to the author.  The post continues with:

I’m thinking this is a similar situation in HR. There are two rabbits in its cross hairs – the strategy, the big picture, seat at the table – and the little stuff, I-9’s, Benefits Enrollment, 401K enrollment, policies, procedures.

I’d say this is the same problem IT faces today.  There are at least two rabbits in the CIO’s cross-hairs – Strategy Rabbit & Tactical Rabbit.  Which do you focus on? Can you focus on just one?

CIO’s – What’s your focus?

The role of the CIO has always been one that required an ability to handle multiple projects and juggle multiple priorities.  The problem with juggling multiple priorities is the same as the hunter trying to chase two rabbits.

While there are some CIO’s who’ve been able to handle the multiple priorities put upon the IT group, I’ve not met many who’ve done a good job of it.  I’ve met some IT groups who were great at implementing new systems but poor at maintaining them after ‘go live’.  I’ve met CIO’s who have a great mind for tactics (i.e., operations) but did a poor job with the strategic thinking that is necessary in today’s world.

So what’s a CIO to do in this fast-paced world with multiple priorities?  It’s impossible to say that you should pick the Strategic or Tactical and focus on that…but one of these ‘rabbits’ must win out over the other.

Should the CIO be focused on the Strategic or Tactical?

I think the CIO’s focus should be on the strategic aspects of IT & business…but perhaps there are some CIO’s out there who want to focus on the tactical.  Fine…pick one and focus…but you’ve got to find someone on your team to focus on the other. Find your focus and get moving….let members of your team focus on other aspects (e.g., operations, etc).

You’ve got 2 rabbits to chase…chase them by yourself and you’ll most likely miss them both.  Find another hunter to help and you’ll get both rabbits.

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Humanity and Business

Can an organization be built on individuality with a focus on bringing humanity back to business?

I think so.

The modern day corporation was developed to build ‘stuff’.  To build ‘stuff’, organization was needed.  To keep the organization flowing, management was needed.  Management created processes, procedures, flowcharts, operational efficiencies, human resources, etc etc etc.

Many of these things are necessary to manage production.  To build a car, you have to have an assembly line that is run by processes.

These operational processes were built to take the humanity away from production.  Processes are built to force compliance into an agreed to standard of doing things.

Processes kill individuality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing on the production line or in mission critical areas. You wouldn’t want an airline pilot to be flying be the seat of her pants…you want to feel comfortable in the knowledge that they are following a set of procedures.

Processes are a good thing for an airline pilot…but what about someone trying to work in Customer Service or in the marketing team of an organization?

This operational mindset fails when you move into other areas of business.  The people facing areas require a much more humanity driven approach.  In these areas, people should be allowed to be people. Employees should be allowed to speak with their own voice and use their given talents.

Look at Zappos as an example.  Their Customer service reps have the authority to do whatever it takes to make the client happy.  The service reps don’t read from a script or follow a process…they help their customers. They have the authority to recommend their comeptitors if needed.  I’ve even hear that they can buy from their competitors and have the order shipped overnight to the client just to keep them happy.

What does Zappos management tell their reps?  “Use your best judgement“.  Zappos allows their employees to be themselves and USE THEIR JUDGEMENT. That’s what I mean about bringing humanity back into business.

Zappos used this approach to reach $1 billion per year in revenue. That’s BILLION. They’ve gone from zero to $1 Billion in less than 10 years. What are the other shoe companies doing?   Building processes.  Building operational efficiencies.  etc. etc.

Amber Naslund touched on this subject a few days ago.  She asked the question “Why IS it so hard to be human?”  She writes:

We’ve always drawn lines between business and personal. We’ve been told not to cross the streams, that business and personal are expressed in different languages somehow, and as marketers, we sure as hell developed a vocabulary all our own for the “business” application (often whether or not anyone was speaking that way).

Zappos has kept things human and so have a few other companies that understand the power of letting their folks be themselves. By telling their employees to ‘use their best judgement’, Zappos is letting their employees wing it.

Amber touches on this a bit too. She writes:

Winging it makes businesses especially uncomfortable. We have strategic plans, business plans, processes, flowcharts, and procedures all designed to make sure we color inside the lines. That we reduce the variables and mitigate the unexpected.

Exactly.  Businesses have built processes to mitigate risk.  But these same processes mitigate humanity as well. They kill individuality.

Perhaps you’re calling me a knucklehead right now…I am….but that’s beside the point. Processes are OK. Processes are good for certain parts of a business. Just don’t kill individuality by processing it out of your employees.

The only real advantage organizations have today is their people. Technology and processes can be mimicked…people can’t.  If you hire the right people and let them loose to do what they do best, you can bring humanity back to your business.

Give your team some ability to wing it and you’ll see how much they’ll surprise you. They may even stick around after the recession is over if they feel valued and trusted enough….but that’s a post for another day.

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Mike Schaffner on Marketing IT

Mike Schaffner posted two great blog posts about Marketing IT….or rather the Un-Marketing of IT.

Mike starts the topic with this comment (which I wholeheartedly agree with):

IT seems to be the only area of an organization that I can think of that actively discourages people from using its “product” even if they use it properly. Tobacco, liquor and gambling all have warnings to discourage use, but even they don’t seem to take it as far as IT. I don’t imagine any of us ever thought of IT as a “vice.” Some examples:

  • We promote the use of e-mail but then limit the amount of inbox storage or the size of files that can be attached to e-mails.
  • We tout the Internet as a data goldmine and then we block people from visiting so-called non-business sites. Sometimes it is human resources pushing this, but sometimes it is IT.
  • We provide people with a PC as a tool to make their job easier but lock it down so they can’t add programs or even choose their own wallpaper.
  • We warn people of the dire consequences of not using the application properly, threatening them with legal action every time they use the application or start their PC.

Mike started a survey and reported on the results in his “Survey Results” post. The results overwhelmingly backup Mike’s argument that IT has done a tremendous job of Un-Marketing itself.  I’ll not share the results here but you should jump over and review them…they are enlightening.

The basic argument that Mike is making is the same one that every person who isn’t in IT makes everyday.  People wonder why the restrictions are in place and many go so far as to think they exist solely for IT to gain power.  In most cases, this is completely wrong…the restrictions exist for some reason…but they’ve never been outlined for the users.

Take a look at Mike’s articles…great stuff (as always).

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