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    Tuesday
    Dec302014

    REPRISE: On Nobel Prizes and Email Responsiveness

    Note: The blog is taking some well-deserved rest for the next few days (that is code for I am pretty much out of decent ideas, and I doubt most folks are spending their holidays reading blogs anyway), and will be re-running some of best, or at least most interesting posts from 2014. Maybe you missed these the first time around or maybe you didn't really miss them, but either way they are presented for your consideration. Thanks to everyone who stopped by in 2014!

    The below post first ran back in April and hit on a subject I was kind of obsessed with in 2014 - Email. For many, and often myself, email is a kind of scourge. It never ever stops. And while it is most assuredly a part of almost all of our jobs it shouldn't be the better part of our jobs, and all too often it feels like it is. So this piece offers a slightly different take on email - namely, if you are good enough at what you do you get to decide how you spend your time, and how responsive you are to emails. 

    Happy Tuesday.

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    On Nobel Prizes and Email Responsiveness 

    I have a 'hate-hate' relationship with email.

    No matter how much time I try to spend on email the 'task' is never completed, there is always another message that needs a response, (or the person who sent the message at least thinks it needs a response), and most responses just spawn even more messages, the digital version of the old myth of the Hydra, when cutting off one of the monster's many heads simply resulted in two more appearing in its place.

    Plus, I am bad at email. Bad in the sense that I actively try and manage the time I spend reading/sending emails so that I don't reach the end of the day with nothing really to show for it, except an endless, meandering trail of email threads. If sending/responding to email is all you do in a day, then you can never be really happy I don't think - you can never complete anything. Which is the reason, even when I am really, really busy, that I try to blog every weekday. No matter how insipid, irrelevant, and lacking in insight any given post might be, it is always done. And there is some satisfaction in that.

    Also, if you are someone reading this post that has been (persistently) trying to get my attention via email lately, you probably are nodding with understanding and also probably cursing me out under your breath. I will get back to you, I promise. I mean it. Really.

    It is from this place, that this piece caught my attention the other day. Titled, Richard Feynman Didn't Win a Nobel by Responding Promptly to E-mails, it shares some insight into how a great and successful scientist manages to stay productive and focused. One way, certainly, was by not getting bogged down or distracted by non-essential tasks, (like 90% of emails). Feynman also says 'No' a lot - basically to any request for his time and attention that takes away from his main goals - doing great science.

    From the piece:

    Feynman got away with this behavior because in research-oriented academia there’s a clear metric for judging merit: important publications. Feynman had a Nobel, so he didn’t have to be accessible.

    There’s a lot that’s scary about having success and failure in your professional life reduce down to a small number of unambiguous metrics (this is something that academics share, improbably enough, with professional athletes).

    But as Feynman’s example reminds us, there’s also something freeing about the clarity. If your professional value was objectively measured and clear, then you could more confidently sidestep actives that actively degrade your ability to do what you do well (think: constant connectivity, endless meetings, Power Point decks).

    That is a really interesting take, I think. Tying most jobs and workplaces inability to measure success unambiguously and objectively with the perceived need to spend time on those activities that 'degrade your ability to do what you do well.'

    You spend countless hours doing email and sitting in status meetings because that seems to be what you should be doing, but I bet that often it is because no one knows what it is you really should be doing.

    So the lesson from Feynman? Figure out what you do really well, and then focus on that as exclusively as you can. If you get good enough at it, and it is valuable enough to the organization, then you get to decide what other nonsense you can ignore.

    Until then, better get back to your email. Me too.

    Monday
    Dec292014

    REPRISE: The Analytics Takeover Won't Always Be Pretty

    Note: The blog is taking some well-deserved rest for the next few days (that is code for I am pretty much out of decent ideas, and I doubt most folks are spending their holidays reading blogs anyway), and will be re-running some of best, or at least most interesting posts from 2014. Maybe you missed these the first time around or maybe you didn't really miss them, but either way they are presented for your consideration. Thanks to everyone who stopped by in 2014!

    The below post first ran back in March and is a good example of a combination of themes that I love writing about on the blog: NBA basketball and talent management. In this piece I took a look at the trend developing in the modern NBA, where business and tech savvy (and new) team owners are valuing data and analytics skills and experience more than decades of actual basketball experience when making executive hires. As you would expect this change in hiring philosophy will have pretty significant implications for talent, and might just be indicative of bigger talent management challenges. 

    Happy Sunday!

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Analytics Takeover Won't Always Be Pretty

    Seems like it has been some time since I dropped a solid 8 Man Rotation contribution here on the blog, so to remedy that, please first take a look at this recent piece on ESPN.com, 'Fears that stats trump hoops acumen', a look at the tensions that are building inside NBA front offices and among team executives.

    In case you didn't click over and read the piece, the gist is this: With the increased importance and weight that a new generation of NBA team owners are placing on data-driven decision making and analytical skills, that the traditional people that have been the talent pool for NBA team management and executive roles, (former NBA players), are under threat from a new kind of candidate - ones that have deep math, statistics, and data backgrounds and, importantly, not careers as actual basketball players.

    Check this excerpt from the ESPN piece to get a feel for how this change in talent management and sourcing strategies is being interpreted by long time (and anonymously quoted) NBA executives:

    Basketball guys who participated in the game through years of rigorous training and practice, decades of observation work through film and field participation work feel under-utilized and under-appreciated and are quite insulted because their PhDs in basketball have been downgraded," the former executive, who chose to remain anonymous, told ESPN NBA Insider Chris Broussard.

    One longtime executive, who also chose to remain anonymous, postulated that one reason why so many jobs are going to people with greater analytical backgrounds is because newer and younger owners may better identify with them.

    "Generally speaking, neither the [newer generation of] owners nor the analytic guys have basketball in their background," the longtime executive told Broussard. "This fact makes it easy for both parties to dismiss the importance of having experience in and knowledge of the game.

    The piece goes on to say that since many newer NBA owners have business and financial industry backgrounds, (and didn't inherit their teams as part of the 'family business'), that they would naturally look for their team executives to share the kinds of educational and work experience profiles of the business executives with which they are accustomed to working with, and have been successful with.

    The former players, typically, do not have these kinds of skills, they have spent just about all their adult lives (and most of their childhoods), actually playing basketball. A set of experiences, it is turning out, no longer seems to provide the best training or preparation for running or managing a basketball team. 

    But the more interesting point from all this, and the one that might have resonance beyond basketball, is the idea that the change in hiring philosophy is coming right from the top - from a new generation of team owners that have a different set of criteria upon which they are assessing and evaluating talent.

    Left to tradition, hiring and promotion decisions would have probably only slowly begun to modernize. But a new generation of owners/leaders in the NBA are changing the talent profile for the next generation of leaders.

    The same thing is likely to play out in your organization. Eventually, if it has not happened yet, you are going to go to a meeting with your new CHRO who didn't rise through the HR ranks and maybe is coming into the role from finance, operations, or manufacturing. In that meeting your 19 years of experience in employee relations might be a great asset to brag on. Or it might not be.

    And you might find out only when you are introduced to your new boss, who has spent her last 5 years crunching numbers and developing stats models.

    Friday
    Dec262014

    REPRISE: I don't see him like a robot. I see him like a person.

    Note: The blog is taking some well-deserved rest for the next few days (that is code for I am pretty much out of decent ideas, and I doubt most folks are spending their holidays reading blogs anyway), and will be re-running some of best, or at least most interesting posts from 2014. Maybe you missed these the first time around or maybe you didn't really miss them, but either way they are presented for your consideration. Thanks to everyone who stopped by in 2014!

    The below post first ran back in January and is a good example of a theme I seemed to keep coming back to throughout the year, actually for the last few years - the workforce impact of more powerful and sophisticated automation technologies like Baxter the Robot . 

    Have a great weekend!

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I don't see him like a robot. I see him like a person.

    A couple of years ago when I know I was one of the few folks in the space regularly writing about robots at work and the potential impacts that were going to be realized from these developments, I used to get a boatload of Google search traffic simply from keyword searches on the word 'robot'. These days, I see much less of that kind of search directed traffic, even though I am probably writing even more frequently about the topic. 

    But lately it seems like everyone in the HR/work/workplace blogosphere is talking, writing, and speculating about robots and the increasing automation of all kinds of work. While I do think that this increase and almost mainstreaming of attention on the topic is really quite needed, I also think that at some level we might be already getting a little tired of the topic, and are even beginning to tune out these messages.

    So rather than run the latest piece about the newest advancement or application of robot or otherwise machine intelligence to a new form of work and issue off another warning about how you or your kids need to take this all very seriously as one day the robots will take all our jobs and leave us, well, trying to figure out what to do with ourselves, I decided to share a simple, short video about a specific application of new robot technology in the workplace, and let you decide what it might mean.

    Embedded below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), is a recent video from Rethink Robotics, the makers of the pretty amazing industrial robot known as Baxter. Baxter, you might have heard, represents an improvement to traditional stationary and bespoke, single-use manufacturing robots of the past. Baxter is flexible, can be easily programmed, and can work in very close proximity to people.

    Check the video and pay particular attention to the comments of one of the plastics plant supervisors, a Ms. Martinez about what it is like working with (and supervising as it were) Baxter:

    Really interesting, for a couple of reasons I think. Certainly the big, easy to remember line is when Ms. Martinez admits to 'seeing' Baxter like a person, like the person who would have previously had that job on the line that Baxter is now cheerfully, ceaselessly, performing. But we also hear some comments from the plastic factory leadership about how the cost savings and efficiency gains from automation are necessary to save jobs in the aggregate, even if the shift to Baxter(s) will cost at least some jobs in the process.

    No matter if you take the 'robot threat' seriously, or think it all a bit silly, I think it does help to ground the conversation at least a little bit sometimes, and the experiences and observations of front line organizations, managers, and co-workers that are now, increasingly, co-existing with more and more advanced robotics are worth considering.

    Thursday
    Dec252014

    REPRISE: Christmas Past - Smokes, Guns, Chicken, and Beer

    Note: The blog is taking some well-deserved rest for the next few days (that is code for I am pretty much out of decent ideas, and I doubt most folks are spending their holidays reading blogs anyway), and will be re-running some of best, or at least most interesting posts from 2014. Maybe you missed these the first time around or maybe you didn't really miss them, but either way they are presented for your consideration. Thanks to everyone who stopped by in 2014!

    The below post re-runs my Christmas piece from a couple of years ago - a look back to a time when we were all far more innocent, less jades, and Christmas meant lots of firearms, booze, and smokes. 

    Merry Christmas!

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Christmas Past: Smokes, Guns, Chicken, and Beer

    Just a quick note to wish everyone a fantastic Christmas, Happy Holidays, and to simply take a well-deserved break from the hamster wheel.

    Like many folks, sometimes I like to look back over the years and reflect on special occasions and holidays and think about what is different about them today, when compared to the sometimes sketchy recollections of wonderful and idyllic holidays of yore. Sometimes our memories deceive us, certainly, and we often color our memories to fit our pre-determined conclusion, whatever that conclusion might be.

    After thinking about this carefully for some time, and trying hard to be as clear and unbiased as I could, I came to a conclusion: Christmas used to be WAY more fun. And here is the evidence that I submit in my argument that Christmases of year's past were much more of a white-knuckle ride of guns, booze, smokes, and chaos compared to the kind of tame celebrations of today.

    Exhibit A - Nothing says Christmas like some unfiltered goodness. Ron Reagan would not steer you wrong!

    Exhibit B - You know what is great to wake up to on Christmas morning? Guns!


    Exhibit C - And after the gifts are unwrapped it's time to eat! Pass the bucket of chicken.


    Exhibit D - Nothing like a cold drink to wash everything down. You know what would go perfectly with that bracelet? A cold Bud!

    I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

    Anyway, I hope you have a fantastic holiday, even if your holiday doesn't include smokes, guns, greasy food and booze.

    Happy Holidays!

    Wednesday
    Dec242014

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 197 : Non-predictions for HR in 2015

    HR Happy Hour 197 : Non-predictions for HR in 2015

    Recorded Tuesday December 23, 2014

    HostsSteve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    For the might-be-the-final show of 2014, HR Happy Hour hosts Steve and Trish took a quick look back at some of the big themes in HR and HR technology in 2014, (data, really BIG data. And also analytics too), while coming to a fast agreement while this may have been a trend in 2014, that actually speculating or predicting on future trends is kind of silly. What makes a trend anyway? Do any of these HR predictions matter?

    We also hit on some thoughts about what 2015 might hold for HR and HR tech (Note: these are NOT predictions), and hit upon one of the most interesting current stories impacting work and technology - the recent hack and leak of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Long story short - EVERY HR shop has loads of sensitive HR and employee data getting passed around the organization in Excel spreadsheets. And you put way too much private stuff in Emails. Be careful out there friends.

    Additionally, Trish staked out a plan to do a live HR Happy Hour Show from the Tournament of Roses parade in 2016 and Steve pitched a potential live New Year's Eve show for next week.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below.

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

     

     

    Also you can access and subscribe to the show on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio, (or your favorite podcast app). Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to add the show to your playlist/subscriptions and you won't miss an episode.

    This was a fun show about some of the big things happening in HR and HR tech and hope you find the show fun as well.

    Happy HR Holidays!