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    Monday
    Jul112016

    Is it a great company culture or just a collection of great talent?

    Lots and lots of folks like to push 'culture' as the primary driver of organizational success. I have written and presented pretty extensively on why I think that's wrong. Check any of my 'Rock-Paper-Scissors' posts in case you are interested.

    One of the many reasons I get a little skeptical about this 'cult of culture' is that by its very nature culture is hard to define, to measure, and hard to draw any kind of a direct (or even a dotted) line from culture to actual results. I'm not saying it's impossible, but just really, really, tough.

    But another reason why culture gets too much emphasis is how easy it can be to confuse a great culture with what is really just a collection of great talent. This challenge was discussed, I think very effectively, on of all things an NBA podcast I was listening to recently, by ESPN writer Kevin Arnovitz on the July 6 episode of The Lowe Post Podcast.  Lowe and Arnovitz were discussing the recent decision by NBA star Kevin Durant to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors - a team famous for their 'culture'.

    Here's Arnovitz' observations on culture v. talent, then some comments from me after the quotes:

    On an NBA team is culture permanent? Or is it really just transient? Is it this fancy word people like us to describe what is really just a concentration of good talent, but it seems like culture? But actually what it is is just really good basketball players there? Which is why they (the Warriors) win, it's not because they have any special connection to the community of San Francisco like people like to talk about. 

    Steve here - I think these observations are spot on, especially in a business setting like an NBA team where individual talent and excellence plays such a critical role in organizational success. Said a little differently, it is almost impossible to achieve the highest level of team success in the NBA without at least one superstar player, and one or two other All-star caliber players. You simply can't win without that talent level no matter how fantastic your team's culture may be.

    And I know that I get a fair bit of heat from folks for trying to make these kinds of HR/talent points using sports analogies, as some folks think that an NBA team and its dynamics offer little to us to learn from, back here in the real world. But I continue to think that they are valid ones to make, especially as more and more organizations and work teams have to rely on ideas, innovation, creativity, and quite simply talent, in order to succeed in a hyper-fast, hyper-competitive world.

    Ask yourself some of the questions about your organization that Arnovitz hints at.

    What would really drive increased performance at your shop? More talented people? Or a somehow 'better' culture?

    Which one of those levers is easier for you to influence? To measure? To replicate?

    This isn't about me trying to convince you that culture = bad and talent = good.

    It's about making sure we keep both in mind, (along with Strategy, if we really want to get back to my Rock-Paper-Scissors take).

    When you put 4 of the best 10 or 12 best basketball players in the world on the same team you are going to win A LOT of games. If at the same time you have a great culture, you may win one two extra games.

    But the great culture without the great players? Good luck in the draft lottery next year.

    Have a great week!  

    Thursday
    Jul072016

    Signs of the corporate death spiral #4 - Dress Codes AND Report to the Office

    I have hit 'too much attention being paid to dress codes' as well as 'no more working from home' both on the blog in the 'death spiral' series previously, so it should come as no surprise to regular readers that this week's announcement from Charter Communications caught this death spiral watcher's attention.

    Here's the important bits from the Fortune piece titled, 'No More Working From Home for Former Time Warner Cable Employees', then some FREE (and damn insightful) commentary from me.

    Here's what you need to know:

    Charter Communications closed on its acquisition of Time Warner Cable less than two months ago, but it’s already moving to replace a somewhat more relaxed corporate culture at the new unit.

    In a memo to employees at corporate locations, including the New York City office that used to be Time Warner’s headquarters, St. Louis-based Charter restricted a series of common practices at the acquired company. No more jeans in the office, no more working from home without high-level approval, and no more early departures on slow summer Fridays.

    The move echoes a controversy that broke out after Marissa Mayer took over as CEO at Yahoo in 2012 and banned working from home for most employees. A few other companies followed Mayer’s lead, but most workplace research shows that the practice enhances productivity.

    The new Charter memo also banned jeans in the workplace without approval from an executive vice president. “We will provide a harmonized workplace dress policy in the coming months, however unless approved by an EVP for a specific department and location, jeans are not deemed professional attire,” Marchand wrote. “In advance of the policy, if you are in doubt as to whether your attire is appropriate, better to not wear it.”

    Nice shot, Charter - the double whammy in one memo. 

    Quit it with the jeans you Time Warner hippies, and while you are at it, make sure you turn up to your assigned office as scheduled no matter how long you have been successfully working under alternative arrangements in the past. 

    There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Charter, (and he is wearing a snappy blazer and tie AND at his desk gosh darn it at 8:30AM ON THE DOT).

    It is tiresome to still have to read and gripe about this kind of stuff in 2016. 

    You know what Time Warner and Charter need to be worrying about instread of dress codes and work from home policies that made sense in the 1970s?

    How about cord cutting? How about the next generation of consumers who don't want or need Cable TV?

    How about social networks like Facebook and Twitter increasingly moving into live video feeds of sports and entertainment, making the need for Cable TV packages even less necessary?

    How about the next competitive pressure coming down the road that has not even been invented yet?

    No, let's not worry about that, or at least let's take some time to make sure that we are CRYSTAL CLEAR that wearing jeans is no longer acceptable. And while we are at it, let's make sure all of our Chino wearing staff is at the office every day. 

    And let's make sure that everyone working here who has some better options begins to think about doing some 'cord cutting' of their own.

    Talking about dress codes? Issuing blanket 'No working from home' edicts?

    Surely signs of the corporate death spiral.

     

    Wednesday
    Jul062016

    VIDEO: The best introduction you will hear all year, maybe ever

    This is the best speaker/performer/sportsman introduction that you will hear all year - maybe ever.

    It comes to us courtesy of the Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest held on July 4th and delivered by Master of Ceremonies George Shea, as he introduced competitive eating legend, and former champion Joey Chestnut.

    Forgive the very shaky quality of the video embedded below (email and RSS subscribers click through), as it was recorded by me with my phone from a DVR replay of the event.

    Trust me, you want to give this a minute and a few seconds to watch/listen.

     

    Here's the full text of the intro, in case the dodgy audio was tough to decipher:

    Two years ago on this stage he asked his girlfriend to marry him. And then last year one week before the contest the wedding was called off. And then on the 4th of July he lost the title of World Champion. And he was beaten and he was broken and he was alone. And nothing that he owned had any value, and his thoughts had no shape and no meaning. And the words fell from his mouth without sound. And he was lost and empty-handed, standing like a boy without friends on the school yard. But then he remembered that he is Joey Chestnut. And there is a time for pain and there is a time for punishment. A time for doubt and a time for dominance. A time for forbearance and a time for fury. And there is never, ever a time for submission. Ladies and gentlemen, the former champion of the world here to take back what was once his  - Joey Chestnut!

    Did that bring chills down your spine, or what?

    Awesome.

    Why write about this, or bring attention to it at all?

    Because it is a perfect example of someone, (Shea), going the extra, extra mile. It is a master class in combining facts, context, emotion, and excitement to make his audience interested in and excited about what is about to happen.

    Because it is an amazing 1:15 showing a person (Shea) at the absolute top of his game. And not for nothing, shortly after this introduction, Chestnut went on to reclaim his Nathan's Hot Dog Champions title, (and Mustard Belt).

    The next time it is your job to introduce someone for a speech or a presentation you'd do well to watch Shea's introduction of Chestnut a few times to find some inspiration. 

    And the next time I get introduced for a presentation, I am going to demand that George Shea gets the job.

    Tuesday
    Jul052016

    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 250 - Hot Topics in HR and HR Tech with Namely

    HR Happy Hour 250 - Hot Topics in HR and HR Tech with Namely

    Recorded July 1, 2016

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest Co-host: George LaRocque

    Guest: Matt Straz, Founder & CEO, Namely

    LISTEN HERE

    This week on the show, Steve and special guest co-host George LaRocque welcomed Matt Straz, Founder & CEO of Namely, a leading provider of HR technology solutions comprisnig a full suite of HR, payroll, benefits administration, and time-tracking features for midsize organizations. 

    On the show, Matt, George, and Steve talked about the continuing challenges that midsize organizations face around compliance and regulations, and how modern HR technology tools offer midsize and even small companies better access to leading and powerful technology solutions. Additionally, we talked about the increasing appetite for and adoption of mobile HR technology solutions in this market, and how at least according to Steve, we are entering a new 'Golden Age' of HR Tech.

    George also shared some interesting findings from his recently released HRWINS report titled 'Where Purpose Meets Performance',  around employee engagement, cultute, technology, and benefits. Finally, Matt (beacuse Steve was irrationally fascinated), talked about Namely's recent TV commericals, and why they decided to pursue that marketing approach.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or using the widget player below:

    This was a fun and interesting show, thanks Matt and George for joining!

    And thanks to our show sponsor Virgin Pulse, learn more about them at www.virginpulse.com.

    Reminder: Subscribe to the HR Happy Hour on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcast app - just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show!

    Sunday
    Jul032016

    Founding Fathers, Ranked

    It's the long Independence Day holiday weekend here in the USA as we celebrate all things America and summer and cook outs, so why not a quick rundown of some of the folks that helped make this long weekend possible?

    So therefore I offer for your consideration this unresearched, incomplete, unscientific, completely subjective, and 100% accurate list of Founding Fathers, ranked.

    Here goes:

    10. Thomas Paine. Maybe not as well remembered as the folks who get their faces on currency and coins, but Paine's writing of Common Sense and other missives were critical to rallying support (and soldiers) for the impending War for Independence.

    9. Patrick Henry. Merits inclusion on the list for breaking out the money quote of the Revolution - "Give me liberty, or give me death." Sadly for Henry, the British obliged. With the death part I mean.

    8. Samuel Adams. Early rabble rouser with the Sons of Liberty and had a hand in the Boston Tea Party. Strong advocate for independence whose stock has climbed in more recent years by having a pretty decent beer named for him.

    7. James Monroe. The youngest of the group, he gets props for being the guy in the boat holding the flag in the famous 'Washington crossing the Delaware' painting. Later rose to the Presidency and created the Monroe Doctrine, an important and influential element of US foreign policy for decades.

    6. Alexander Hamilton. Pros: Helped create the American financial system and was the first US Secretary of the Treasury. Also the face of the underrated $10 bill. Cons: Killed in a duel by Aaron Burr. Seriously, a duel? How do you not find a better way to settle a beef?

    5. James Madison. Main writer of the US Constitution, which is a pretty amazing credit. Later became the 4th US President, showing some impressive ambition as I am pretty sure if I had written the US Constitution I would have closed up shop and hit the corporate speaking circuit.

    4. Thomas Jefferson. Principal author of the most famous political document in US history, the Declaration, so that has to give him a place on any such list. Also, as the third President negotiated the Louisiana Purchase for less than a year's worth of Timofey Mozgov, (nice one Lakers), and sent Lewis and Clark out on their adventure.

    3. Benjamin Franklin. First American Renaissance Man - inventor, businessman, diplomat, writer, etc. Pretty much could do it all. The colonial version of the 5-tool player. Bonus points for being the face of the $100 bill. That's a baller right there.

    2. John Adams. Great resume for JA. Worked on the Declaration of Independence, helped sort out the Treaty of Paris, became the first Vice President, and then the second President. Adams was an integral player in all the big events of the day. 

    1. George Washington. Pretty much a no-brainer pick for the top spot. General, leader, the first President, didn't let the other guys on this list make him the King. What's not to like about the guy?

    Of course you could disagree with these rankings, but you would be wrong.

    Happy holiday weekend!