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    Entries in 8 Man Rotation (146)

    Thursday
    Jan262017

    Two years away (from being two years away)

    At the National Basketball Association player draft in 2014, former college basketball coach and now broadcaster and analyst Fran Fraschilla offered this classic observation of then 18 year-old Brazilian prospect Bruno Caboclo and his potential to become a successful NBA player:

    "He's two years away from being two years away, (from being ready to play in the NBA), and then we'll see."

    I thought about this gem of a line from Fraschilla in a recent conversation I was having with a friend about potential career choices. Why did the '2 years away' line come up?

    Because I think that 2 years may be the new 5 years, in terms of the old classic interview "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" question. Take your pick from fast-changing technology, new business models, disruption coming from all sides, and toss in a side dish of the gig economy and I think most people would have a really hard time seeing out five years into the future and be able to offer up a credible or coherent idea of what they think they will be doing then. Two years seems at least more tangible. The future can't move that fast, right? Don't answer that.

    The really important point isn't just that 2 years might be the new 5 years, but that just like our pal Bruno Caboclo, what you don't want is to find yourself two years from now STILL being two years away from whatever goal/plan you had set out to reach.

    It may be more realistic and reachable to set out career plans and goals in 2 year increments as opposed to 5, (or whatever your dopey interviewer says), but the downside is that 2 years passes really, really fast.

    Just ask Bruno, who in 2 1/2 full seasons in the NBA has played in a grand total of 22 games and scored a whopping 16 total points. 

    The upside? Bruno is still only 21 and has time to get to where he wants to be. 'Losing' two years might not hurt him that much. 

    But I am pretty sure that most of the rest of us don't have that kind of luxury. Or an NBA contract.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    Jan232017

    On the balance between data and people

    Quick shot for a busy Monday. If your organization is one of the many that has or has implemented or has at least considered implementing a more data intensive and analytical approach to the HR and talent management, then I recommend taking a quick look at the comments from a young leader in another discipline where data and analytics have completely changed talent management - the world of professional soccer.

    Since Moneyball, and maybe even before that, all kinds of sports (baseball, basketball, soccer, and more), have seen a kind revolution and sea change in the approach to player evaluation, team building, and even in-game strategy driven by the increasing availability of advanced data about player performance and better tools to assess and crunch that data. No leader of even a half-decent professional sports team fails to consider metrics, data, analytics, etc. when making decisions about talent.

    And so it has also come to pass that in the 'real' world of work, more and more organizations are or have embraced similar and data driven approaches in their talent management programs. Assessments that validate a candidate's 'fit' for a role, algorithms that assess employee data to flag flight risks, or models that pinpoint expected future leaders are just some of the examples of how data/science/analytics are being used in HR.

    But if you have begun adopting these data-driven approaches to talent management processes and decisions how can you know if you have perhaps gone too far, or have let the 'human' part of human resources fall too far by the wayside? 

    I think the answer is that it is kind of hard to know for sure, but you probably know it when you see it. But i think it stands to reason that today still, in any field that human performance and human capability are what matters, then it can be dangerous to completely trust the data and fail to consider the people.

    Here's what Julian Nagelsmann, (millennial, for what it's worth), manager of the German Bundesliga side Hoffenheim has to say about blending data, analytics, and the 'human' side of management in forming his approach to leading his team. (Courtesy of The Ringer):

    I studied sports science and have a bachelor of arts. The variety of football data is becoming more and more specific. You shouldn’t make the mistake of looking at football as a science, but there are more diagnostic tools, and the examination of the human body is improving in football: What effect does AstroTurf have on the body? What does lots of shooting do? What does lots of passing do to muscles? There are always new methods and you have to go with the science, but football will never be a science.

    There will be more influence from science to analyze games, and you have to keep educating yourself. But you mustn’t make the mistake of seeing football as something technocratic or based on something that is fed by science. You can develop the person by using scientific aspects in your judgement, but the human is still the focus.

    A really interesting take from a manager of a team of highly accomplished (and highly compensated), professional soccer players. Even in sports, where every move, every decision, every physical reaction to game circumstances can and is analyzed, and the subsequent data parsed and performance conclusions reached - Nagelsmann still cautions us to not forget the humans. 

    In fact, he goes much further than that - he claims the human has to remain the focus.

    Take in the data, be open to the data, don't be a data Luddite - but don't let it become the only tool you use as a manager or a leader.

    Super perspective and advice from a leader who sits completely in the nexus of an industry and discipline that has been historically a 'gut feel' business that is being disrupted by data and analytics. 

    Use the data. But don't forget about the people.

    Great advice for a soccer team or for an organization near you.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Jan202017

    The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy - Part VIII

    Time to revive an old series on the blog, and one of my favorites - on the (continuing) Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy.

    Since it has been a while, here's a little refresher on just who Jeff Van Gundy is, and why management, leadership, and organizational culture types should listen closely to what JVG has to say about performance, talent, and team dynamics.

    JVG is currently an NBA analyst and announcer for ESPN, previously he was the head coach of my beloved New York Knicks, as well as the Houston Rockets. He was successful as a coach, but may even be a better fit for broadcasting, as he over the years has shown consistent insights into the game, coupled with humor, irreverence, and fun that makes games in which he is broadcasting essential viewing for NBA fans.

    We've covered many of JVG's insights on the blog in the past, (good examples are here and here), and while listening to JVG recently being interviewed on ESPN's (Zach) Lowe Post Podcast, he had this nugget of enlightenment about the importance of conflict amongst team members, and how it is necessary (often), to drive performance improvement.

    Here's the JVG quote, and then a quick comment from me:

    (Some context, Lowe and JVG were discussing if players who are 'bad' or who have abrasive personalities should have that held against them when judging their performance) 

    JVG - To me, it is not about are you 'easy' in the locker room, it's are you right. If you are causing tension for the right reasons at the right times, to help spur your team to confront their issues, and their problems and you're willing to be confronted as well about your own issues and your own problems, then tension is a good thing. 

    This idea that everything should be happy go lucky in a locker room when you are a mediocre team, I disagree with. It's hard to get from mediocrity to average then from average to pretty good and from pretty good to good and then from good to great if there's no conflict. Conflict puts everybody's cards on the table. If you are causing tension for the right reasons at the right times and you are willing to be coached as well and confronted as well then I think tension is a good thing.

    A really interesting, and I think accurate, assessment of how conflict, how an occasional 'difficult' personality type on the team, and the tension and butting of heads that that kind of a person can cause should not be immediately looked at as a negative.

    In NBA basketball, and probably in your organization as well, there are plenty of folks who think their performance and their contribution is perfectly acceptable, and their position on the team is totally secure. They may even be your 'top' performers. But even they, probably, need to be challenged from time to time. Even they need to examine their own performance at least once in a while.

    And in basketball, and again, probably in your shop too, it often takes a gruff, difficult, hard to get along with personality type to force people into that kind of self-examination. And often in basketball, and for the final time, at 'normal' workplaces too, the tendency is to immediately point the finger at Mr. or Ms. 'Difficult' and ostracize them, (or simply get rid of them), for rocking the boat.

    As JVG reminds us, when a team of any kind aspires to do more, to do better, to achieve great things, some conflict along the way is not only inevitable, it is likely essential.

    Think about that the next time you are wondering what to do to make that hard to get along with person who likes to find the issues in what is going on around the office to simply pipe down and get along.

    Maybe they're not actually the problem after all.

    Have a great weekend! 

    Thursday
    Jan052017

    Over, Under, and Properly Rated #3

    My current favorite sports talk show is the Russillo and Kanell Show that airs nationally on ESPN radio. On the show, the hosts occasionally do a 'rated' segment where they categorize sports teams, players, and other aspects of sports and pop culture into one of three buckets. 'Overrated' for things they think are generally praised or valued more than they should be. 'Underrated' for the opposite - things that do not get enough attention or accolades. And finally 'Properly' rated, for the things that receive about the correct level of praise or derision.

    It is a fun segment, complete with sound effects, and in the spirit of having lots of 'real' work to do in this first week of 2017, I am going to steal borrow the idea for this site. So here goes, the first in what may be a series if I remember to do this again, of 'Over, Under, and Properly Rated' (SFB edition). Expect a mix of HR, workplace, Tech, sports, pop culture, and whatever else comes to mind.

    Overrated

    1. 2017 Predictions - Yes, I am a little biased since Trish McFarlane and I just did an HR Happy Hour Show titled 'There are no new HR predictions', but nonetheless, 99.95% of the 'predictions' pieces you see about HR or work or technology are 87.95% worthless, and more or less a waste of your time. Stop with the predictions and get on with the getting stuff done.

    2. Apple - leaving Apple on the overrated list again. Why? I just saw a Kickstarter project for a device to essentially replace all the MacBook ports that Apple decided you didn't need has been a runaway smash. What is happening with Amazon and Alexa reminds us (again), that the hardware is less important than the software and the platform. 

    3. Work/Life Integration - As yesterday's post about the new 'No email after 6PM' regulations in France suggest, I think the notion that most people want 'Integration' or 'Fit' between work and not-work may be finally unraveling, at least some. it could be that many, if not most people, don't want to bring their work home, or on vacation, or on Thanksgiving. It could be we want to work hard, (when we are working), and forget about work when we are not working. Just because a few pundits try and tell you that 'Balance' is the wrong term and concept doesn't mean you have to believe it.

    4. Company Culture - Important, sure. But not more important than Talent or Strategy. (A repeat from last time as well, I am going to keep beating this drum until, well, for a while longer anyway).

    5. The New York Knicks - Just lost their 6th in a row. Moving them from 'Under' to 'Over' rated. Another wasted season seems more and more possible. Time to trade 'Melo. 

     

    Underrated

    1. Amazon - Fun Fact! Amazon was my #2 underrated the first time I did this post last summer. Why are they on here again, and now at the top spot? Because all the interesting news I heard this week from the big CES show in Vegas has been about Amazon and their Alexa operating system. They are into everything - enterprise cloud services, content, drones, spaceships, and now they are set to dominate AI and conversational interfaces. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about Apple's Siri? 

    2. Electronic signatures - Been processing a ton of contracts, agreements, etc. lately and the lack of adoption of electronic signatures has been a major pain in the neck. I have had to print, sign, scan, save, then email I am not sure how many docs in the last month. So tedious. Let's all please move E-sigs up on the list of things to do in 2017.

    3. A basketball hoop in the driveway/backyard - Had the chance to play a little backyard hoops over the holidays. Man, I miss having a hoop in the backyard. Goal for 2017 is to get one. And a yard. 

    4. Email consolidation - In 2017, I have gone from 3 main 'work' email addresses and calendars down to 2. (I know I should only have one, but cut me a break). I already, three days in, have noticed a huge difference. AND, I cleared out my voice mail (finally). But please, don't leave me a voice mail.

    5. The Rose Parade - It's is still fun. It is still a great tradition. It is still what helps you get over your New Year's Eve hangover the next morning. I am there in person next year.

    Properly Rated

    1. Tech M&A - Yes, it is that time of year when companies start acquiring other companies, doing mergers, or making 'acqui-hires'. These events are almost always met with breathless and excited coverage and commentary from industry pundits and observers. But the thing is, M&A, and Tech M&A in particular, is about a 50/50 proposition, (at best). Maybe slow your roll on how wonderful the next big M&A deal is going to be before the new company business cards are even printed.

    2. Tesla - Probably not as influential and important (yet) as the insane amount of coverage they get warrants. They delivered 76,000 cars in 2016. That is 76,000 out of a market of over 17 million vehicles. Keep that in perspective.

    3. Ad blocking software - Is it just me, or are more and more 'free' websites failing to load if you have Ad Block software enabled? Ad blocking is now only marginally effective, and thus, 'properly' rated.

    4. The 'Process' - The mad scientist plan of former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie to rebuild the team by essentially losing almost every game for three seasons has swung from over, to under, and now has settled I think inot properly rated. But Joel Embiiid himself is probably underrated.

    5. Snow at Christmas - Yes, it's pretty. Yes, it makes it 'feel' like Christmas. But by December 26 it is just, for the most part, a nuisance. I am angling for Christmas on a beach somewhere next year.

    What do you think? Do I have it right? 

    Is this post itself over, under, or properly rated?

    Monday
    Jan022017

    VACATION REWIND: Five quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League

    NOTE: I am out of pocket more or less until the New Year, so I thought I would re-air a few pieces that I liked from earlier this year for folks who may have missed them the first time. Hope you are having a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

    From July - Five Quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League

    I am out at the NBA's summer vacation also known as Summer League in Las Vegas joined by a couple of members of the 8 Man Rotation crew, Kris 'KD" Dunn and Matt 'Matty Ice, akaBruno' Stollak.

    As in the past sojourns to NBA Summer League, the reason to attend is not just about the basketball. In fact it is perhaps not even half about the basketball. Rather it is for what happens and is happening outside the lines - the observations of members of NBA team management, league staff, players on the sidelines, and the general approach towards talent management that the different teams take as they all strive to reach the same goal - an NBA championship - in many, many different ways.

    Add in the natural sideshow/carnival atmosphere that is Las Vegas, and Summer League becomes just about the perfect confluence (for me), of sports, Talent Management, development, management philosophy, and business strategy played out in the open and in real time.

    So with that said, here are my first five quick takes from about a day and a half out at Summer League:

    1. A little bit of 'real' experience makes a huge difference. The best players in this year's Summer League have tended to be more experienced players like Devin Booker, D'Angelo Russell, and even the Nets' Sean Kilpatrick. One commonality across these players? They all have at least one full year experience in the NBA already and have come back to Summer League to continue to work on and refine their games. These players and others have shown how much even one year of development and experience makes a huge difference in performance. The lesson to me for managers of talent is that of patience. Even in this world of 'go-go-go', it often pays to invest in talent and development and to be patient to realize increased benefits later on. In other words, don't look at new employees just as ones that have no idea what they are doing, try to envision the value that they can deliver after a year of prep and learning.

    2. Stakes matter, i.e., if you give someone a lousy project don't be that surprised if their performance dips. Friday's games at NBA Summer League were all loser's bracket games - the final game of the summer for teams that had been eliminated from Summer League title contention. Basically, there was nothing on the line in terms of team goals in these games. And perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of play suffered. Even though many of the players had plenty personally at stake in these games, collectively they had no goals in common. The result was a day of mostly sloppy play, bad shooting, ill-advised shot attempts, and generally bad basketball. The real world implication of this? When you give employees and teams thankless, low-profile, and low-impact work they are naturally going to be tempted to give less or worse effort. That is just human nature. Don't judge someone solely on how they perform when the nature of the assignment drags their performance down a notch or two.

    3. But great organizations and leaders rise above these lousy circumstances. The best game amongst the losers, featured the Spurs topping the Kings in overtime. The game was entertaining because it went down to the wire sure, but the real reason I enjoyed the contest was that the Spurs, probably the league's best-run organization over the last 20 years, took such a professional, competent, and serious approach to the game, one that meant nothing in terms of the outcome. The players were engaged, the coaching, led by Becky Hammon, was exceptional, and the execution of the team when it mattered most was excellent, resulting in the win. So while I just said you can't judge individuals solely when things are going bad, you can see how world-class organizations get that way by seeing how they approach bad situations. The Spurs looked and acted like this meaningless game really did matter - and to great organizations everything matters, which helps make them great.

    4. Talent trumps everything. But you already knew that. The last game we caught on Friday night involved the Philadelphia 76ers and their new star, first pick in the 2016 draft Ben Simmons. Simmons was clearly the best athlete, had the best basketball instincts, and at times was held back by the inferior talent he was playing with and against. The key for Simmons' early development seems to be that he needs to understand both how good he is, and what he needs to do to improve. Simmons is a great rebounder and passer, but probably needs to work on his shooting in order to realize his full potential. It would be easy for him to stick with what he is comfortable doing, and excels at doing at the expense of working on the parts of his game that need improvement and he seems uncomfortable with (at least at the moment). But to be the best he can be, he needs to do more than just one or two things. HR lesson? The greatest talent can do more than one or two things exceedingly well, but they might need to be pushed a little to do those things that are uncomfortable with. But if you can and do that, then youu develop the rarest of commodities - someone who excels at all aspects of the game/job/function.

    5. You have to judge talent on performance, not by appearance. We had the chance to watch (and very briefly meet), NBA prospect Josh Magette, a point guard who starred in the NBA's Developmental League last season, and is playing for the Brooklyn Nets summer league squad. Magette was probably the best point guard in the  D-League last season, and has a real opportunity to break into the NBA this season. That means he is probably one of the best 500 - 1000 or so basketball players in the world right now. And Josh is listed at 6'1" , 160 pounds. And after seeing him up close, let's say those measurements are generous. Josh looks like he could still be playing high school ball, is not physically imposing at all, but yet can compete at the highest levels of basketball against guys that have six inches and 60 pounds on him. If you saw Josh on the street you would never think he was in upper echelon of basketball players in the world. And you'd be dead wrong. Final lesson from Summer League? Talent is everywhere - even in places you'd never expect to find it, and are often afraid to look.

    That's it - I'm out for now and about to hit another full day at the Thomas & Mack Center  - there might be a wrap post up early next week for those of you, (both of you), who can't get enough of these sports and HR takes.

    Have a great and exciting and prosperous 2017!