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    The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy - Part II

    Several weeks ago I posted 'The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy' - a little piece highlighting the sage advice of the former NBA coach and current announcer with respect to developing leadership capability throughout the organization.

    Well JVG the Wise is at it again.

    During a broadcast of a Los Angeles Lakers game this week, in a timeout while the Laker team was in a huddle, the Laker coach Phil Jackson was overheard on audio encouraging/admonishing/coaching star player Kobe Bryant to get more aggressive and attack the basket more strongly on offense.

    For the non-basketball fans reading this post (assuming you haven't bailed by now), Kobe Bryant is by far the best player on the team, the team leader, and one of the very best players in NBA history.  He has four league championships, an Olympic gold medal, a league Most Valuable Player trophy, numerous All-Star game appearances and league scoring titles.

    In HR or workforce terms he is a 'Top Performer', 'A-player', 'rockstar', take your pick.

    So in the huddle, as the viewers listened to Coach Jackson talk to Bryant, JVG the Wise offered up this comment:

    See this is why Phil Jackson is a great leader. He is not afraid to coach his best player. He needs his best player to get more aggressive and is not shy about letting him know.  That sends a message to everyone on the team, that if the star player can be coached, then everyone else can as well.

    JVG is on to something here, I think.  When the coach singles out the team's best player and gives some instruction, feedback, or direction it makes such an important statement to the both the star (Bryant) and the rest of the team (other guys that are all talented in their own right, and may at times feel they might be 'above' coaching as well).

    The star gets the message that being the 'star' means delivering great performance, and that they simply can't be satisfied with what they have achieved in the past. The rest of the team sees that the top performer still has room to improve and can be coached and guided.

    Inside sports teams and often in work teams it becomes clear who the top performers are.  It really isn't much of a secret. When these stars set the right example, if they can be coached, if they continue to try and make themselves better, while realizing that the team objectives are primary, the team has a much better chance for enduring success.

    To win a team needs a star.  But it also needs a coach that is not afraid to coach that star.

    And that is this edition of the Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy.


    Microsoft and Microblogging

    This week Microsoft announced what they call a 'concept test' of an enterprise microblogging service that they call OfficeTalk.  In this concept test, Microsoft invites a limited number of organizations to participate in testing, and to work with Microsoft to provide recommendations and feedback.

    OfficeTalk is a product that has been in internal pilot at Microsoft and is developed by OfficeLabs, the Microsoft lab for testing internally developed ideas. OfficeLabs asks participants to view these experiments as 'Concept Cars', not necessarily intended or promised to become 'real' products, but ones that certainly offer a glimpse at what the massive organization is experimenting with, and potentially might one day market, or as in the case of OfficeTalk incorporate into existing products and platforms.

    Microsoft did share a few screen captures of OfficeTalk, the basic features will certainly be familiar to anyone that has used Twitter, or Yammer, the most popular microblogging service designed for internal corporate use.

    OfficeTalk users create personal profiles, 'follow' other users, and the Twitter conventions of mentions and tags seem to be present as well.  Microsoft has also built in the ability to see threaded conversations and to shorten URLs in updates.

    On the surface the features of OfficeTalk are entirely familiar, and even a bit pedestrian.  Yammer and other similar services like Socialcast and Obayoo have been out for quite some time now offering all of these features and more.

    But none of the existing players in enterprise microblogging can compare to the reach, familiarity, and development muscle of Microsoft. One can easily see the potential for Microsoft to integrate OfficeTalk into Sharepoint, Outlook, or Office, and almost immediately become the dominant player in the still very new market for enterprise microblogging.

    Whether or not Microsoft actively pursues this market, and eventually releases OfficeTalk remains to be seen, but I think the ability for the service to one day integrate with the existing installed base of MS Office, and to also be installed on-premise (still important to many IT shops), could position this kind of service as a significant and viable competitor in the enterprise microblogging space.

    Just like SAP, which is also experimenting with new forms of collaboration capabilities, (see it's recently renamed StreamWork application), Microsoft may be late to the enterprise microblogging and collaboration party, but it probably should not yet be entirely dismissed as having missed its chance to join the fun.


    Missing the Health Care debate

    Some folks that know me, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook know by now that my Dad has been in the hospital for what is now going on 13 days. 

    It started, as many of these kind of cases do I have learned, with what seemed to be a cold, then a bad cold, then a fall at home, then a call to 911, and finally a diagnosis of pneumonia (along with some other assorted issues that have popped up).

    As this process has unfolded, his condition has gone up and down, probably a bit more down, as additional issues and complications have arisen in the past few days. In the course of his care, the doctors (and there have been at least five, specialists for infectious diseases, neurology, endocrinology, cardiology, and  psychiatry), and nurses have been very professional and have done their best to help both my Dad and us stay informed of what is going on in what has proven to be a complex, challenging case.

    And as the number of doctors, nurses, clinicians, specialists, and other professionals has multiplied, so have the number and frequency of tests, procedures, and medications that have been involved in his care.  There have been really too many to count among the MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, blood tests, and more in the last 13 days. In truth, my Dad's case has been extremely complex, and at times they have not been completely sure what is going on, and as such, several of the tests have been perhaps a bit speculative.

    But as this process continues on, I can't help but wonder a few things:

    One - had my Dad not had health insurance coverage in the form of some combination of Medicare and insurance from his former employer, just exactly how would all of this played out?  Would any of the decisions and approaches to his treatment actually been any different? Does everyone in his situation get the same comprehensive, and I am sure incredibly expensive care?

    Two - Is it entirely normal and expected that the actual costs of treatment are really never discussed with the patient and family?  As each test, procedure, medication, etc. have been ordered, they have been discussed with us in detail.  The goals, steps, process, potential complications are all carefully described.  But not one time has the subject of cost ever been discussed.  Should the cost of care, of each additional test or procedure be a part of the decision making process?  I imagine that the Doctors or the hospital administrators take the costs into account, but to have what has amounted to zero discussion of cost between service provider and service recipient is certainly unusual (at least to me).

    Three - These last two weeks, as the US health care reform debate, compromise, and vote has played out on the news, in the blogs, and in social networking, most of the (limited) information that I saw was primarily focused on the macro level.  The many millions of uninsured people that would now get coverage, or depending on which cable news network you prefer, the billions of dollars that would be saved, or squandered as a result of these reforms.  Big picture discussion on percentage of GDP and national obesity rates.

    But to me, what is clear as a result of what my Dad and our family is going through, is that any talk of health care reform really starts and stops at the micro level. It is about what happens when Dad or Grandma gets sick and needs intensive, expensive care, (and rehab). It is about what happens if the new baby is born weeks and weeks early.  It is about making a decision, as many people do, to stick it out in a dead-end and soul crushing job in order to cling on to a marginally decent benefits plan, because your spouse has been sick for a long time, the kind of sick that insurance types like to call a 'pre-existing condition'.

    I have been really distracted the last two weeks, talking about ventilators, CT scans, catheters, spinal taps, and blood work.  So perhaps I simply have not had the time or attention to think about the big picture, and what these reforms mean to the country, the economy, the workforce, and the next generation. For me, at least right now, these concepts are too vague, elusive, and certainly contentious to fully grasp. 

    Right now, for me, the only thing in 'reform' that I care about, is whether reform will affect my Dad's ability (and you can insert your own loved one's here), to get the needed treatment, and walk out of the hospital one day soon.

    And I suppose any reform that makes that kind of positive outcome more likely for my Dad, and your Mom, Grandpa, daughter, husband, or friend, is the kind that we can all support. 


    The Culture Show - Recap

    Last night on a fun and engaging HR Happy Hour show, Charee Klimek from Vocii, and Meghan M. Biro from TalentCulture joined us to discuss organizational or company culture; what it means, why is it important, and how companies and candidates can better understand and leverage culture.

    If you missed the show, I encourage you to listen to the replay here:


    The show brought up quite a few interesting topics, and honestly one hour probably was not enough to cover such a wide-ranging, slightly ambiguous, and diverse subject such as company culture.

    For me, a few points really resonated:

    One - There has never been more of an opportunity for organizations to communicate the message of what they believe in, how they see themselves, and the kinds of attitudes, behaviors, and values that the people that inhabit the organization exhibit, and by extension what types of people would be good candidates in the future. With all the free and low-cost tools and mechanisms available to organizations, if your message is not getting out the way you desire, either you simply don't care, or you are not really trying hard enough.

    Two - Culture is not just about having a cool company blog, or a CEO that likes to Tweet.  There actually were great company cultures and places to work at before Zappos came along, (I am not sure anyone actually said that in the show, but I think it is true).  Culture is woven into the everything the organization does, from what products and services it offers, to the way it deals with its stakeholders, even to the way it is reflected in its physical surroundings, the way it treats the environment, the community, and even the world at large.

    Three - And thanks to Mary Ellen Slayter from SmartBrief from the SHRM VIP Tweetup in Washington, we learned that SHRM (at least at this week's Legal-themed event) is doing a solid job promoting fear, restraint, and a firm grip on the status quo with respect to the use of social media.  Rather than rehash it all here, go check out Mark Stelzner's blog for his take.

    Thanks once again to Charee and Meghan and all who called, listened, and tweeted!


    What wastes more time at work than March Madness?

    Today is the start of March Madness, otherwise known as the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship tournament.

    And in the grand tradition of lazy editorial calendars everywhere, we see a slew of articles about the 'cost' to organizations in terms of lost productivity from employees filling out brackets, watching the live stream on the internet, and taking long lunches to watch the games.

    Sure, some time will be 'wasted' by employees talking, watching, and Horrors! - betting on the games, but no more than is wasted every day by scores of other things. 

    So in that spirit, my friend and fellow blogger Trish McFarlane and I have come up with our 'Top Ten List' of things that waste more time and suck more productivity at work than a few days of March Madness can ever match.

    So here we go:

    The Top Ten things that waste more time at work than March Madness:

    10. Paper Jam!

    9. 'I'm not sure, just do a search for it on the company intranet'

    8. Great news! We are doing an off site team building day at a Ropes Course!

    7. Time to upgrade the ERP system - ask me for that report again in 9 months

    6. I can't print.  Can you print? I can't print. Is the network down?

    Jump on over to the HR Ringleader blog to see items five though one.

    Good luck with your brackets!

    Now get back to work.