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    Tuesday
    Apr162013

    Email Chains and The Price is Right $1 Bid Strategy

    I bid one dollar, Bob.

    Email threads with more than three people Cc'ed remind me of the classic game show, The Price is Right.

    No matter the subject, the email thread starts more or less in the same way. The writer poses a question, asks for feedback on the matter in question, and sits back and waits for responses. And the responses she gets are usually pretty predictable.

    An Alpha dog type on the copy list chimes in immediately with their opinion. Sort of a strike first and strike quick kind of mentality that they hope frames the discussion. They want their opinion or position to be the default simply by virtue of being the first one that is revealed. This strategy can be successful - they have staked a claim to the high ground and need to be pushed off by anyone who responds after them.

    Next, someone, let's call them Beta dog,  will either (gently) question Alpha dog or offer an alternative approach to try and take or re-take some territory and mindshare. 'What about this way?' they will ask. Alpha dog will immediately respond, (possibly with a 'Sent from iPhone' footer), re-stating their position and making sure that no one else gets a 'I agree with Beta dog' in the mix before they remind everyone they are running this conversation.

    Then as the thread progresses, and depending on how many folks were included on the original message, you will get a few 'I agree with Alpha or Beta' messages. These add almost nothing to the conversation, save for reminding us that the senders are indeed still alive, and despite the fact they have nothing to say about the discussion, they want to be sure to be included on future, similar discussions that they will also contribute nothing useful towards.

    Almost every time I get pulled in to one of these mass email threads I like to lay back and wait. I want to see what Alpha dog says. I wait to see if anyone wants to step up and challenge. I like to observe if any of the players on the edges want to get into the mix. 

    I want the last word after everyone has had a chance to state their case, reveal their intentions and interests and show their cards. I like to jump in then.

    It's like being the last bidder on The Price is Right. That spot, if you could get there and not run out of time, was the prime position to be in. You held the cards. You had the knowledge of everyone else's position.

    If everyone bid too low, you'd drop in with the 'Highest bid on the board plus $1' bid.

    If you thought everyone was too high, you'd drop a classic 'I bid one dollar, Bob', and wait for your shot at the Showcase.

    Both strategies give you a great chance to win. But you have to be patient. You have to bide your time to let everyone else show what they are thinking. 

    And once they do, you can drop the $1 bid on everyone, and more often than not, win the game.

    Monday
    Apr152013

    What do cat videos and unauthorized outsourcing have in common?

    Let's review two recent stories of shall we say, extremely 'creative' approaches that individual workers have taken in order to get their jobs done more efficiently:

    One - Collections agent develops software program to automate 95% of his job, uses his free time to play cube wars with his colleagues and watch Office Space

    Two - Software developer outsources his work to a Chinese firm for a fraction of his salary, spends most of his 'workday' surfing Reddit and watching cat videos.

    Pretty amusing stories, and they justifiably made the rounds across the tech news sites when they hit. Everyone, particularly occasionally too smart for their own good techies, love a good Dilbert-esque story of managerial incompetence, developer/employee creativity, and the absurdity of corporate life.

    But dig just a tiny bit deeper than that and what do we see in these examples? What's the common denominator across these tales?

    Well to me, they are almost completely classic examples of management (or leadership if you think that reads better), lack of attention to, respect for, and appreciation of the talents, ideas, and abilities inherent in their teams.

    In the case of the collections agent, it was obvious that even a cursory attempt to streamline and automate the existing work process would result in both cost savings and increased collection rates. And in the case of the software development outsourcing, again, clearly it was a business strategy that resulted in equal or better product quality and significantly reduced costs.

    Both these novel and creative approaches were so apparent and easy to uncover for these two workers on the front lines that they were able to implement them on their own, without the need of a big project team, some kind of formal process or model, without a fancy consultant coming up with the idea, and perhaps most importantly - unencumbered by corporate hierarchy, politics, and 'We have always done it this way' syndrome.

    The ideas your organization needs are not locked up in some guru's head or just floating somewhere in space. They are probably right in front of you - in the workarounds, shortcuts, and 'unauthorized' arrangements that your most creative workers have already taken. 

    You'd be better off trying to get these ideas more out in the open, rather than continuing to perpetuate an environment where great ideas have to hide.

    Friday
    Apr122013

    Off Topic: This is how you sound when you talk about your 'Personal Brand'

    It is, perhaps, the most inane concept of the last 10 years.

    Source - Dinosaur Comics

    As an aside, you should really check out Dinosaur Comics, it has one of the most interesting concepts for a comic that you'll ever see. The artwork - meaning the characters, panels, flow, etc. is exactly the same every day, only the dialogue changes. It sounds crazy but it works, and as evidenced by the comic above, often times it really hits the mark.

    Have a great weekend everyone. And quit it with the 'personal brand' stuff.

    Thursday
    Apr112013

    #HRHappyHour 160 PODCAST - 'Data, Technology, and Insight'

    Earlier this week myself along with HR Happy Hour Show co-host Trish McFarlane pre-recorded a special HR Happy Hour Show with Dann Adams, the President of Equifax Workforce Solutions, a division of the large data and services company Equifax, that you might know from their work with credit scores.

    You can listen or download the show from the show page here, on iTunes, (just search the iTunes store for 'HR Happy Hour'), and from the replay widget below. But if you MUST have that 'live' HR Happy Hour Show experience, the show will automatically replay at 8:00PM ET tonight on the replay show page here.

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    It was a great and really interesting conversation with Dann about how data, and in particular employment data, (the kind that Equifax Workforce Solutions specializes in), can be harnessed by organizations to make better decisions, to actually help employees and their well-being, and gain insights into organizational talent strategies. 

    We talked about a lot of subjects you might not think 'fit' into an HR conversation - about the genesis, purpose, and limited (at times) value of credit scores, about how the growing mountain of student loan debt is influencing hiring and retention strategies, how getting financing for a car is going to start changing soon, and how data privacy continues to be top of mind for individuals and organizations.

    If you're interested in Big Data in HR and in learning some ways in which a better understanding of that data - combined with a new and emerging set of analytics and visualization tools to make that data accessible and relatable, then you should definitely check out the show/podcast.

    HR Happy Thursday!

    Wednesday
    Apr102013

    Preparing for the Post-PC era

    Last week the analyst and advisory services firm Gartner released a new set of market estimates and predictions about the market for 'personal' computing devices - traditional PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The Gartner predictions are summarized in the chart below:

    The main takeaway, at least for some analysts, from these market estimates? The PC market is dying.

    Their argument being as PC shipments begin to decline, while smartphone and tablet sales continue to rise, then the simultaneous impact of software and application developers focusing their efforts on the growing market segments, combined with individual (and possibly business), lengthening the typical useful life cycle of the PC (essentially making do with an old PC or laptop while making sure you have the latest Samsung Galaxy or iPad), will combine to further erode the PC as the primary personal computing platform. 

    I think both these arguments make perfect sense, particularly when thinking about how people are engaging with technology for their personal needs. The skeptic would say that for work, for 'real' work that usually, (but not always), involves content creation or heavy, data-intensive tasks, that the PC is not going anywhere - not for a long while anyway. That is a pretty compelling, and I think still somewhat valid, defense for the PC. Tablets and smartphones and even 'dumb' Chromebook-type devices are simply not yet up to the heavy tasks that workplaces demand.  We may be moving to the Post-PC era, but we, at least in the workplace, are not there yet.

    But not being there should not be an excuse for organizations or software providers to think that one day and probably sooner that we all will be ready for, the PC will no longer be the primary or dominant device via employees engage with enterprise technology, creat content, and engage with each other. If you don't yet buy-in, check out this excerpt from a recent interview with Aaron Levie founder of Box, a consumer-to-enterprise cloud storage and collaboration company that continues to make major waves in more and more large, global organizations.

    "I think like everybody else we recognize the opportunity that mobile has created. This idea that there's going to be, I don't know what the latest figure is, over a billion smart devices, smart phones, probably two billion. But mobile devices are outselling PCs three to one, two to one, and at a rate that is really unstoppable at this point. We think that fundamentally changes how businesses are going to work. Not just the fact that now I have another device that I can access information from, but more importantly, this becomes a primary computing device for a whole new set of job functions.

    We see that as kind of our PC moment. If you think about the transition from the mainframe to the PC, how that created new leadership opportunities for Microsoft and Intel and others, we see the same kind of transition from PC to post-PC as creating those kind of leadership gaps and opportunities. We happen to be a company that was born right at the center of this shift. On day one of our company we thought about the mobile implications of having access to your information from anywhere. We were rapidly orienting and organizing our company around that effort. You're going to see a lot of stuff from our platform, from our hiring, from where we're building out our teams that is completely oriented around the mobile enterprise, the post-PC enterprise, and we really want Box to be the hub for content and for information in this new post-PC enterprise."

    The money line from that long quote from Levie is this:  On day one of our company we thought about the mobile implications of having access to your information from anywhere. 

    Levie and Box were and are thinking about this market shift from a vendor's perspective - they make and market solutions for content management and collaboration. But the sentiment - preparing for a workplace where everyone demands access to their information, (used in a really broad sense), from any device and at any time - well that is not just a vendor problem, it's your problem too.

    Take the Gartner data, take the comments from a guy like Levie for what they're worth, but if you really need to know what's going on in your organization just ask some people, or better yet, just observe them when they are not chained to a PC. Chances are they are still trying to work on whatever devices they have or that you've provided. The question really is are you doing enough to think about and focus the way that Levie describes - are you actively thinking about how to provide access to the information your employees need, when, where, and how they want it?

    The post-mainframe era was a b$%^& if you were on the wrong side of the divide. The Post-PC era figures to be the same.