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    Playing a different game than the rest of the league

    A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend the Human Capital Institute, (HCI), Talent Acquisition Strategies event in New York City. One of the highlights of the event was the closing presentation given by New York Mets executive, Paul DePodesta, who you may remember from the Moneyball book and movie. DePodesta was an assistant to Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane during the years profiled in the book and film, (in the film, the Jonah Hill character was based on DePodesta).

    With the success Moneyball, both book and film, plenty of opportunity and time has been spent on analyzing the process that Beane and DePodesta undertook to determine some less well understood keys to winning baseball games, and then to find and recruit undervalued (by the rest of the teams), talent to help them execute their competitive strategy. As I am sure you know by now, the A's were very successful for a period of years, though they fell short of winning the ultimate championship, despite a relative lack of resources compared to the traditional league powers like the Yankees or Red Sox. If you have somehow been under a rock for the last few years and are not familiar with Moneyball, I highly recommend the book, and sort of recommend the movie, (the book was better).

    I don't dredge this all up again to try and re-tell the Moneyball story, or try to wax philosophical about how some of the ideas from Moneyball can be applied in the workplace, or to talent management, (lord knows we have had plenty of that), but rather to share a comment made by Mr. DePodesta during the question and answer portion following his presentation at HCI. An audience member asked, essentially, since Moneyball, and the concepts, process, methods utilized by Beane and himself were now widely understood and copied, thus diminishing (or eliminating), the competitive advantage that the Moneyball approach provided, what did DePodesta think would be next, i.e. the logical successor to the Moneyball method, that perhaps would also offer significant and important advantage to the team that could figure it out, (and exploit it).

    DePodesta paused just for a moment, then replied, (I am paraphrasing here), that the successor to Moneyball, which was at its core a different way of analyzing prior outcomes, or what has already happened in prior baseball games, and applying the analysis of that data to evaluate players and to form a team, would be a new and better way to predict which players would eventually grow into high performers. Baseball players are typically drafted and signed as young as 17 or 18 in the USA, and even earlier in many of the foreign countries where baseball teams recruit talent. Many of these players require 3, 4, or ever 5 years of seasoning before they are even ready to start playing in the Major League. Making more correct talent assessments of 17 year-old high school players than the next team is often the difference in building and sustaining a successful franchise, (and saving your job).

    DePodesta would not really get into what specific traits or attributes he was thinking about that would be a better predictor of performance some years out into the future, but suffice to say that he and the Mets are spending time and effort in working out new, more, and better predictive models.

    What if anything does this have to do with you, Mr. or Ms. Talent Professional?

    Just a reminder that like Moneyball, most corporate secrets don't last for long, and the advantage that comes from being better than the competition at analyzing what already happened eventually whittles away to nothing. Every team, (or most anyway), eventually get in on that game. And a Brad Pitt movie makes sure of that.

    Knowing what is going to happen next, or at least what is likely to happen next - that's when you are playing a different game than the rest of the league.



    People, Process, and Productivity Killers

    Last week an interesting piece called '5 Ways Process is Killing Your Productivity', ran on Fast Company, a look and take on how overly rigid productivity systems, (like Six Sigma or TQM), can potentially have a detrimental effect on organization productivity and potential for innovation. As someone that has always balked or at least held a cynical point of view when productivity systems based in traditional manufacturing models were attempted in non-manufacturing environments, I thought the piece raised some excellent arguments, particularly when we think about the application of soft or people processes inside organizations, whether for performance management, development, or even for methods of collaboration.

    I won't re-cast the author's entire point of view here, I'd recommend reading the full piece on Fast Company, but I do want to pull out the five productivity reducing ways that over-reliance on process methodology can have on performance and productivity, and ask you to think about them in the context of your organization and your initiatives, challenges, and opportunities as a talent or human resources professional.

    1. Empowering with permission, but not action

    HR example: Tell employees 'they own their career development', but offer no support at all, (time off, funding, guidance, suggestions), as to how they might pursue development opportunities

    2. Focus on process instead of people

    HR example: Did all the mid-year performance reviews get done? 100% in? Success!

    3. Overdependence on meetings

    HR example: Actually this is not limited to HR, most organizations still rely on the formal meeting, with way more than necessary attendees, to move along projects and initiatives. Just look at it this way, how do you typical react when a meeting suddenly gets cancelled? If you are like most, you revel in the 'found' hour or two back in your day. Meeting cancellation is like a mini-Christmas.

    4. Lack of (clear) vision

    HR example: Sort of a larger point to try and cover here, but certainly you can relate to being buried in the process or function of people management, legally required and self-imposed, that we simply miss or fail to articulate, (and then act upon), a bigger vision for how we can enable people to succeed and execute business strategy. This is the 'in the weeds' feeling you might be experiencing since it is Monday. But does it really ever go away?

    5. Management acts as judge, not jury

    HR example: Obviously, earned or just unfairly ascribed, the position of HR as police or judge has a long and not easily remedied place in many organizations. HR can't and shouldn't always be an advocate for the individual employee at the expense of the needs of the organization, but when the function is viewed as simply punitive, or even just indifferent, the chances for HR to effect meaningful and positive impact on people is certainly diminished.

    I think one of the essential conflicts that arise in interpersonal relationships is the conflict between people that prefer or need strict rules and order, and the more free-spirited folk that see rules and strictures at best as more like broad guidelines, and at worst as mandates set by people that lack their own creativity and vision and can be safely ignored.  Or said differently, between people that have to clean all the dinner dishes before bed and those that are happy to let them sit in the sink overnight. Both are 'right' of course, which leads to many of these kinds of 'process vs. freedom' kinds of arguments. 

    What do you think?

    Have processes or set-in-stone rules you may have imposed in your organization helped?

    Have they allowed people the room they need for creativity and innovation?

    Do they keep you in the role of HR police far too much?

    Happy Monday!



    Off Topic: Generic Equivalents

    You've probably seen or heard of the phrase, 'It doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be good enough', or if you read a lot of popular business or productivity books or follow the tech start-up space, you'll be familiar with the common mantra to 'just ship', shorthand for 'Don't endlessly obsess on every last detail in a pursuit of a kind of elusive and ultimately unreachable perfection that will only result in you never actually producing anything and giving up in frustration, i.e. it's better to 'ship' or release too soon than too late.'I have never had this. Probably.

    I generally tend to agree with those sentiments, even if sometimes I think the 'just ship' people start to drift dangerously close to the 'Just be fantastic if you want to be fantastic' types. Like the kinds of tautological statements found in many self-help books, inspirational tweets, and inside fortune cookies. Oh really, if I want to be incredibly successful, I just have to start doing things that will make me incredibly successful? Wow, thanks for the tip.

    But in our professional lives these kinds of decisions have to be made all the time, whether to chase the bigger and better solution, to invest time and money in the latest technology to support a particular organizational process, or whether we need to extend our normal salary ranges and budgets in order to land that person or two that might be formerly out of our reach and likely to get snapped up by our better known and better funded competitor. Even in our personal lives we come up against this all the time. How many folks reading this have already had a mental conversation with yourselves about ditching the iPhone 4s you just got for the upcoming iPhone 5 will be the right move?

    So here is my question for you on a Friday - how do you know when 'good enough' is really 'good enough' and perfect isn't needed? What criteria do you use? Do you ever get comfortable accepting less when better or faster or more capable is still out there, just a little bit out of reach?

    When might you decide, for example, that generic beer will do the trick?

    I'm curious.

    Have a Great Weekend!


    WEBINAR: 5 Ways to Use Video to Raise Your HR and Recruiting Game

    The merry band of misfits over at Fistful of Talent are at it again, ready for another classic no-holds-barred, (Really, you're probably asking, are there truly no holds barred? What about the Sleeper? Or the Figure 4 leglock? The Boston Crab? Trust me, even those holds are fair game.), free webinar designed to share information, insight, and real, actionable strategies and tactics all delivered in the trademark FOT style. This time the crew will be tacking video, and more specifically, how video is and can be used more effectively in HR and recruiting.

    Here are the particulars:

    You’re a progressive HR and recruiting professional (that’s why you’re reading this), and you know that video is more than a lame feature of bad compliance training.  You get that video transcends quirky YouTube videos that go viral or running Netflix/Hulu on an iPad.  You get that mobile video is the trend that will change the way your department works in the coming years, but you’re just not sure where to start…

    That’s why Fistful of Talent created their latest webinar – The Future of Talent: 5 Ways to Use Video to Raise Your HR and Recruiting Game. Join us for this webinar, and we’ll give you the 411 for how to think about video within your HR or recruiting practice and a road map to get started in the following areas:

    •    Employment Branding
    •    Recruiting
    •    Role Play for Mangers
    •    Training Shorts Delivered via Mobile
    •    A “How To” Guide to Get Started with Video in Your HR/Recruiting Organization

    This webinar comes with the Fistful of Talent guarantee:  60% of the time, it works every time.  Join the FOT crew as they break down the video scene and brainstorm about the best way to build video chops in your HR or recruiting practice.

    Compelling stuff, right?

    Seriously, I promise it will be worth your time to check out the webinar, the FOT style and approach to webinars is not at all the usual boring, '45 minutes of some guy reading slides' method that you are used to.

    It will be fun, informative, and relevant - and you'll walk away with at least a few practical and actionable ideas for video that you can begin to work with right away.

    Register here, (did I remind you it is FREE?), and to learn more visit here.


    Looking for Innovation in Recruiting Technology

    Tomorrow and Friday I will be attending the Recruiting Innovation Summit, an ERE Media event, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. I will also have the great pleasure and honor to serve as one of the members of the judging panel for the event's startup competition, where six companies, selected from almost 50 initial submissions, will vie for a $10K grand prize, and get the chance to demonstrate their innovative solutions to a gathering of industry experts and leaders.

    Innovation in any market often comes from the startup space, where experimentation is encouraged, barriers to change are less, and ideas often have more of a chance to find their way to the market. Having a chance to demonsrate their solutions, and to network and engage with so many industry experts in one setting makes for what should be a really fantastic experience. 

    In addition to the startup compentition, the Recruiting Innovation Summit will have presentations led by lumiaries like Steve Cadigan from LinkedIn, Lars Schmidt from NPR, Mike Junge from Google, and more.

    Additionally, the Recruiting Innovation Summit will stream live over the next two days, you can sign up to be notified when the stream commences where to watch from here.

    It should be a fantastic event and I hope to see and meet up with anyone in attendance, and if you can't make it out to Mountain View then be sure to check out the live stream, it will definitely be worth your time.