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    Empty your cup

    There is a famous Zen story or Koan called 'Empty your cup' that reads: Flickr - kazukichi

    Nan-in, a Japanese master received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

    Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

    The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

    "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

    The point is a telling one, that preconceived notions and pre-drawn conclusions effectively limit one's ability to accept new ideas, consider new approaches, and see things in a new light.

    Since I am a professor of sorts, this koan is one I think about often.  As teachers, it can be incredibly easy to walk into class with a 'full cup', comfortable in the knowledge that your views, your experience, and your insights are the only important ones, and that since you are the 'teacher' it is the student's that carry the empty cups, relying on you for wisdom and guidance.

    But truly, that is an extremely short-sighted, and selfish point of view.

    Each time I have taught, I have become more and more convinced that I learn as much from the class as they learn from me.  In many ways I am simply a facilitator or experienced guide, but the real learning only can come from their interactions with each other, and with the larger community.

    I have tried to introduce more 'community' into my class, by encouraging the students to use Twitter and read and comment on blogs, and in the last session of my most recent class by holding a really exciting 'virtual' Expert Panel discussion.

    Going forward, I plan to emphasize these elements more, and try to de-emphasize my role as the 'sole source of truth'.

    After all, when class begins the next time, I will walk in with an empty cup.



    Who do you call?

    Dali or Gauguin, whichever you like
    Originally uploaded by steveboese

    This Wednesday, February 25 I have the great honor of presenting a Webcast for HR.com on Workforce and Succession Planning, titled 'Understand your workforce today, so you can plan for tomorrow'

    In part, the presentation will cover the more or less traditional, or generally accepted steps in designing and implementing a Succession Planning process. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, it is altogether fitting and good that I cover these  concepts in the webcast.

    But as I did the research and preparations for the webcast, I came across some really interesting research that has the potential to alter the idea of 'best practices' for Succession Planning programs.

    Namely, the idea that 'who you know' may be as significant as 'what you know' when making a determination of which employees
    are likely to demonstrate success and high achievement in a new role.

    The common sense reasoning behind this is likely very familiar to most, in the classic example say a Senior Manager position is vacant, and the 'best' performer from among the Manager's direct reports is promoted into the role.

    The promotion may be 'deserved' on the basis of past performance in the former job role or based on seniority. The new Senior Manager may even have demonstrated most of the key competencies the organization has determined are necessary to perform at a high level.

    But one essential element is missing from typical succession planning, namely the identification and analysis of the former managers key personal network, those colleagues, mentors, friends that he or she has relied upon for aid in decision making, determining strategy, navigating new responsibilities and gaining deep organizational knowledge.

    Let's call the departing Senior Manager Jane. Jane, over the years, developed a deep personal network that she drew on to support her in the successful performance of her duties. Specifically, she relied upon different components of her network to support different aspects of her role. For example, the people and resources she relied upon for budgeting and forecasting help, were not the same people she called upon for employee relations and motivation concerns.

    This distinction in personal network segregation or specialization is an important one. So often when junior employees are promoted into more senior roles, or placed in managerial roles for the first time, they bring with them very developed practical and technical skills and networks that while still important to their new managerial role, are not always the most critical in predicting success in the new, more complex role. It is quite likely the new manager's skills and perhaps more importantly their current personal networks are centered around those 'old' skills and capabilities.

    Let's call the newly promoted manager Jake. Jake was the top engineer and formerly a good designer. The first time the Jake is called on to participate in a complex strategic planning exercise with his new peers, will he perform below his potential at least partly due to the lack of a mature valuable personal network in which to support him in that function? If Jake keeps trying to draw on his 'old' network of designers and engineers, most of whom are not involved in strategic planning, he is in a position to struggle.

    How can the HR leader identify and address these situations?

    One method is to develop a process to identify the key or top performer's personal networks and the roles those network actors perform. So for Jane, have Jane identify the three or four most important skills or competencies that she needs for success, then identify the key individuals she relies on for support, advice, and guidance. This categorized personal network can then be compared to Jakes', and it is quite probable it will reveal that Jake has not yet developed relationships with many of the KEY players that he will need to count on to be a success in the new role.

    Plans can then be put in place to ensure personal introductions and/or meetings are arranged with Jake and these new individuals that he will need to start building his relationships with. This kind of intervention can be a key factor in how quickly Jake adapts to his new role, and quite possibly if he ultimately succeeds at all.

    A by-product of this kind of personal network analysis is that in can reveal much about the 'hidden' stars or key cogs in an organization. If analysis of the personal networks of your staff of senior managers reveals that all or most of them call upon a key individual or two somewhere down the hierarchy for advice and counsel, the organization would be well served to to make sure those key influencers are happy, and that adequate succession plans exist for them, even if they are considered on paper to not be critical or 'high-potential'.

    Who employees turn to for help and information is a incredibly valuable piece of organizational intelligence.

    Who do you call?


    Ask the Experts

    News flash - I do not know everything. Flickr - Great BeyondIn fact, even in my area of expertise, HR Technology, I do not have all the answers.

    So when you accept the fact that you don't know everything, but still want or need to provide answers, insight, customer service, whatever, what do you do?

    You find people who do have the answers, or at least can help lead you in the direction of the answers.

    So for me, for the final session of my HR Technology class, for the part of the class where the students typically look to the instructor for some final thoughts, insights, and advice for the future, I did just that. I asked the experts.  I put out a request to the Twitter community for HR and HR Technology experts willing to connect to a web conference and participate in a expert panel Q&A session with my students.

    And in a show of community and support that is a hallmark of the Twitterverse multiple experts volunteered their time, and shared their knowledge, expertise, and insights with my class. I have thanked them all on twitter, but I would like to thank and acknowledge them once again here. So, here they are, the Steve's HR Technology Class Expert Panel for 2009: (in no particular order):

    Diedre Honner - aka The HR Maven follow her on Twitter - thehrmaven

    Lisa Rosendahl - the voice behind HR Thoughts - follow her on Twitter - lisarosendahl

    Karen Mattonen - from HireCentrix - follow her on Twitter - HireCentrix

    Becky Allen from Serco North America - follow her on Twitter - beckyallen

    Michael Krupa from Infobox - follow him on Twitter - pdxmikek

    Susan Burns from Talent Synchronicity - follow her on Twitter - TalentSynch

    Mark Stelzner from Inflexion Advisors - follow him on Twitter - stelzner

    Without exception, each expert brought great perspective and wisdom to the class, and I truly thank them once again, and appreciate their contribution.

    Already, folks are asking me when the next chance will be to connect with my students and do it all over again, so I am sure these type of expert panels will continue.

    I don't have all the answers, but more and more, I know how to find the people who do.





    HR Carnevale

    The Carnevale delle Risorse Umane or Carnival of HR is up at the great Jon Ingham's Strategic HCM Blog.

    While I am really glad to be included in the Carnival for the first time, it is a bit bittersweet, as the theme of this Carnival is the global recession, and the Carnival is full of posts about job loss, job seeking, but ultimately moves to a more optimistic and positive light with posts about the Job Angels movement and Lisa Rosendahl's advice on getting the job offer.

    Thanks Jon for hosting the Carnival and for your continued excellent work.



    Breaking Us in Two

    Always liked Joe Jackson (the singer, not the baseball player, although I am pretty convinced the baseball player got a bad rap, but I digress). 

    Joe the singer had a really cool song back in the day, 'Breaking Us in Two'.  I heard it the other day and Flickr - I'm Heavy Dutycoincidentally I have been thinking about a breakup of sorts, that is a breakup of my HR Technology class into two separate classes.

    Currently, the class covers a wide range of topics and technologies, starting with the basics of HR Technology - 'Define ERP', progressing through the various components of Talent Management and their associated technologies, and eventually covering new trends and directions in HR Tech.  Things like the growing impact of social media in recruiting, discussions on the use of external social networking by employees, the concept of the corporate social network, and demonstration and testing of some of the technologies in that space.

    Each time I give the course, the latter section about new technology and trends seems to get bigger, and since it is much more current and interesting, some of the 'older' material and concepts are starting to get squeezed out, and that really is a shame.  This quarter, I spent really not enough time on ERP and the issues and challenges inherent with ERP, did not talk about workforce scheduling and management technologies at all, and gave not nearly enough attention to Learning and Development technologies.

    Even my sections on 'new tech' felt somewhat rushed, as we were fortunate to have the use of great Talent Management software from Halogen, that we spent quite a bit of class time using. Now I am at the end of class, wishing I had about three more weeks to really cover collaboration and internal social networking properly, with real software to use like Mentor Scout or SocialCast.

    The remedy might be to split the current class and curriculum into two separate courses, an HR Tech Part I and Part II.  Part I would start with the basics, definitions, ERP, etc. and continue though the various components of Talent Management (recruiting, onboarding, performance, succession and comp).  Part II would then pickup with the impact of Web 2.0 on all these technologies, modern approaches to recruiting with social media, the use of external and internal social networking.  We could find a internal community platform vendor like SelectMinds to partner with the class to let the students roll out a full deployment of a mock internal social network for our class company. We'd spend time on internal use of blogs, microblogging and other new methods for company communication.

    Does it make sense?  Is there really enough content and technologies to split one HR Tech Class into two?  Is this all just a shameless ploy to double my (meager) salary as an instructor?

    What do you think?  Is HR Tech so big now, that 'Breaking Us in Two' makes sense?