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    Entries in 8 Man Rotation (126)

    Tuesday
    May242016

    The most important relationship on any team

    The most important relationship on any team (work, school, sports - any of them), is the one between the leader (boss, coach, manager), and the best or most talented performer on said team.

    Want some context?

    Check the comments from a recent interview with former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt when asked about his relationship with the Cavs' top player, the legendary LeBron James:

    “The role of the coach is much larger as far as impact and persona,” Blatt said. “It’s much more of a coaches’ show. In the NBA, it’s a players’ show.”

    He also said: “You better be on the same page as your best player. If not, you’re going to be in trouble.”

    Pretty savvy observation from Blatt, who was actually hired by the Cavs prior to LeBron's decision to leave the Miami Heat and return to his hometown club. Once LeBron made his decision to re-join the Cavs, Blatt's job quickly changed from one of developing a young team for the future to one of molding a more veteran club to compete for a championship right now.

    And the key to all of this was LeBron, and how (or if), LeBron and the new to the NBA coach would be able to co-exist.

    Fast forward about 18 months later and we know how things turned out. Blatt, LeBron, and the Cavs lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 NBA finals and midway through the current season, and despite a stellar won-loss record, Blatt was fired by the Cavs.

    Ultimately, Blatt's undoing was his inability to find the optimal common ground between himself and LeBron, the best, most talented, and most charismatic player on the team. On paper, Blatt was 'in charge', but in reality, and by virtue of his talent, track record, and sustained contribution, LeBron was and is the most important member of the Cavs organization. When the organization, (and LeBron), determined that the relationship between Blatt and LeBron was not salvageable, well, Blatt had to go.

    It is probably tempting for managers and leaders to take an approach of treating everyone on the team more or less the same. It seems logical and equitable to spend equal amounts of time and energy on all the team members - making sure no one feels slighted or left out. We are all one team after all, right?

    But as sports in general, and the Blatt - LeBron story in particular remind us, not everyone on the team is actually 'equal'. Some team members contribute to overall team success much more than others. Some team members would be much, much harder to replace should they leave than others. Some team members exert significant influence over the rest of the team, much more than the average team member.

    Any leader's role is at least in part to be fair and honest with every member of the team. But the best leaders also realize that some team members play an outsized role in the overall team's success. And the very best leaders recognize that their relationship with these star performers is likely the most important one that they will have in the organization. 

    That is if they want to succeed, and if they want to ensure they won't end up like our pal David Blatt, on the outside looking in while the Cavs chase the NBA Championship yet again.

    Wednesday
    May182016

    The secret to buying software

    Indulge me, if you will, with a short quote from The Book of Basketball:

    (Isiah Thomas, NBA legend with the Detroit Pistons):

    "The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball."

    Here’s what Isiah Thomas meant: the guys who have the best numbers don’t always make the best team. There is more to winning than just the raw talent (although that plays a huge role).

    What Isiah learned while following those Lakers and Celtics teams around: it wasn’t about basketball.Those teams were loaded with talented players, yes, but that’s not the only reason they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics, and valued winning over everything else." 

    What does the 'secret' of winning basketball have to do with 'real' work and more specifically, enterprise software?

     

    It is that more and more the 'secret' of making the right software solution purchase decision for your organization has less and less to do with the traditional measurements - system features, fit-gap analysis, and on-paper capability; and has more and more to do with the your mutual vision for the future, and the ability to execute on that shared vision by your potential software provider.

     

    Solution capabilities, certainly at the enterprise level, are evolving and expanding faster than ever. With cloud-based software deployment, shorter enhancement and upgrade cycles, and the comparative ease for organizations who wish to adopt new these capabilities to be able to derive value from them - the actual list of capabilities or 'yes' responses to an RFP questionnaire matter less than ever before.

     

    No, what matters today, and will likely matter even more in the next 5 years, is your ability to assess a potential software providers ability to 'see' around the corner, to articulate an idea of what will matter most for work, workplaces, and employees, and present more than just a list of software features, but rather expand upon a vision of how they (and you), will navigate the next few years of a working world that will almost certainly look much different than the one we live in today.

     

    Think I am wrong about this? That 'features' matter less than vision?

     

    Ok, think about this.

     

    If say three years ago you went out to collect bids for a new enterprise-wide performance management system, you would have challenged your potential vendors to show you features like goal alignment, cascading goal assignment, proportional competency evaluation, the connection of performance rating scores to compensation plans, and more. You would have made final evaluations not only on these points, but also on how easily you could migrate your existing annual performance management process to this new system.

    Fast forward to today, where we are entering into a new world of employee performance management.

    Today, if you were again to collect bids for a new enterprise-wide performance management system you likely would be looking for features like real-time feedback, peer-to-peer recognition, the ability to do 'scoreless' reviews, and a connection of the performance tool not to your comp system, but to your enterprise collaboration tools.

    The main features you would be chasing would be very, very different.

    That's why the secret to buying software for the organization is that it isn't about the software - at least not as it exists at a fixed point in time.

    If three years ago your chosen vendor for performance technology had the vision, and the ability to adapt to the new world of performance management, then you likely would not need to chase another new solution to meet your (and the workplace's) changing needs. But if they didn't? And they were really only or at least primarily concerned with checking 'yes' to every question on the RFP?

    Then three years later you are left with a technology that can really only support yesterday's process.

    Don't get caught up on features. At least don't make features the only thing you think about when evaluating technology.

    Features are cheap. They are easily copied. And they fall out of fashion faster than you think.

    Vision?

    Much harder to come by. And much more valuable.

    The secret to buying software is that it's not about the software.

     

    Tuesday
    Apr192016

    NBA team jersey ads are coming - here's the HR tech vendor who should sponsor each team

    A few days ago it was announced that starting with the 2017-2018 season, small corporate advertisements will be permitted on the front of NBA player jerseys. It is estimated that these ads, which initially will be limited in size to a patch measuring 2.5 x 2.5 inches, will generate anywhere from $50M to $150M annually in revenue for the league.

    Since corporate ads on NBA jerseys are now absolutely going to happen, speculation about which companies will sponsor which teams has begun. And since I am all about the NBA and have lots of opinions about all things HR technology, I thought it would be fun to mash up these two worlds in one post. 

    How can such a mash up make sense you may be asking? How about if we pretend that only HR technology companies would be eligible for these NBA jersey sponsorship and then decide which HR tech company 'fits' each NBA team and match the NBA team to the HR tech company.

    Sounds fun, right? Here goes. And note, teams are listed in reverse order of their regular season finish in the season that just concluded a few days ago.

    30. Philadelphia 76ers - Sponsor: SmartRecruiters. No reason other than the Sixers really, really need to find some better players. Linking a company with the name of SmartRecruiters to a team in need of smarter recruiting is a good fit.

    29. Los Angeles Lakers - Sponsor: Aon Hewitt. Aon Hewitt has been no stranger to big-name jersey sponsorship in the past, (Manchester United), so I can see a scenario where Aon would jump into NBA jersey sponsorship with a big time team like the Lakers.

    28. Brooklyn Nets - Sponsor: Infor. Infor is a New York City-based company, and I went to a Nets game this season in Brooklyn and sat near the Infor lounge (to which I was denied entry, by the way).

    27. Phoenix Suns - Sponsor: PeopleDoc. This one falls into the camp of 'I think this company does some cool things, and they should be a part of the NBA sponsorship program'. The Suns play in a big market, have typically been a destination of choice for free agents, and seem like a fit for an HR tech company trying to build its name in the US market.

    26. Minnesota Timberwolves - Sponsor: The Muse. The T-Wolves are a team on the rise, filled with tons of young talent. Good match for the kinds of things The Muse is all about as well, with their focus of helping organizations connect with up and coming talent.

    25. New Orleans Pelicans - Sponsor: Namely. You may not know Namely, but the company has emerged in the last couple of years, raising funds and even advertising on cable TV channels like CNBC. I think that Namely would probably want to be a part of the NBA ad program, and nabbing the team with one of the league's best players Anthony Davis would be a coup.

    24. New York Knicks - Sponsor: ADP. They are both huge, recognizable names in their domains, and have some shared geographical ties as ADP is headquartered in the greater NYC area. I can just 'see' and ADP logo on a Knicks jersey and it would feel like it would make sense.

    23. Milwaukee Bucks- Sponsor: CareerBuilder. The Bucks are a team that many think could evolve and develop into a contender in the next few seasons, they just need one or two more pieces to be in the mix. Pairing up with a vendor that is all about making connections with talent seems like a good fit.

    22. Denver Nuggets - Sponsor: iCIMS. Another HR tech company that it seems would have to be a part of the NBA program, iCIMS continues to grow and expand and the name and brand recognition that would come from being a NBA team sponsor seems to align with these growth plans. 

    21. Sacramento Kings - Sponsor: Globoforce. This one is more about what the Kings need and less about what the sponsor needs. The Kings have been a pretty dysfunctional organization for several years, and they could use a pairing with a vendor who focuses on making work better and more human.

    20. Orlando Magic - Sponsor: Dice. I don't have a super reason behind this match, but I think Dice would have to be in the NBA mix somehow, so I will slot them in here with a Magic team that hopefully has better days ahead of them soon.

    19. Utah Jazz - Sponsor: HireVue. While there are several HR tech companies in the Salt Lake City area, I just associate Hirevue with the area so strongly, they have to be the pick for the Jazz sponsorship. And nothing says 'You're in Utah' more than jazz music.

    18. Washington Wizards - Sponsor: Equifax Workforce Solutions. It only makes sense that the team in the home of the US Federal Government be sponsored by an HR tech company that is synonymous with compliance - Equifax is a natural fit for the Wiz.

    17. Houston Rockets - Sponsor: CivilSoft. Maybe a stretch by me, but I like the idea of pairing the team from America's oil and gas industry capital with one of the few, if not the only, HR tech companies that is HQ'ed in the Middle East.

    16. Chicago Bulls - Sponsor: SAP. Great history, been around what seems like forever. Known all over the world, SAP seems like a match with the Bulls on all these levels.

    15. Memphis Grizzlies - Sponsor: Kronos. The Grizz have long been known as a blue-collar, grind it out kind of team, so pairing them with Kronos, the biggest player in the time keeping space seems like a good fit.

    14. Dallas Mavericks - Sponsor: Glassdoor. The Mavs owner Mark Cuban is famous for speaking his mind, and being incredibly open and transparent. Matches the Glassdoor ethos of making information about work and organizations more open and transparent for job seekers as well.

    13. Detroit Pistons - Sponsor: WorkForce Software. The team from Detroit, the city long-associated with hard work needs to be paired with a sponsor coming from the same place. I like the match of a tech vendor with deep roots in the hourly workforce space with the Pistons.

    12. Portland Trail Blazers - Sponsor: Virgin Pulse. Portland feels like the kind of place/team that is a fit with the vibe of well-being that Virgin Pulse is all about. 

    11. Indiana Pacers - Sponsor: Mercer. I like Mercer for the Pacers as they both give off a feel of solid, stable, trustworthiness. You don't have to worry that they know what they are doing/saying, they just put in a great effort every night. 

    10. Charlotte Hornets: Sponsor: SumTotal. This may be a reach, but the Hornets have had a really, really good season despite not having any 'star' players. They have been, in short, better than the sum of their parts. So matching them up with leading learning vendor SumTotal works.

    9. Boston Celtics - Sponsor: IBM. The modern day Celts are not flashy, but continue to achieve at a high level and feature solid coaching and front-office leadership. Plus, there's decades of success in their legacy. Sounds in some ways like IBM to me.

    8. Atlanta Hawks - Sponsor: Kinetix. Though not exactly a tech company, Kinetix lands the Hawks sponsorship by virtue of their Atlanta HQ and KD's affinity for Dennis 'German Rondo' Schroder.

    7. Miami Heat - Sponsor: Ultimate Software. Ultimate is a South Florida company, so that is a fit. And I once heard Pat Riley speak at an Ultimate user conference.

    6. Los Angeles Clippers - Sponsor: Cornerstone OnDemand. Cornerstone is an LA-area company and it makes sense that they would link up with one of the LA teams. The Clippers just seem a better fit to me than the Lakers. 

    5. Oklahoma City Thunder - Sponsor: Paychex. This one is simply because like Oklahoma City seems to be an unlikely place to be the home of a top-level NBA team, Rochester, NY, (home to Paychex and me too), is also a fairly unlikely place to be the home of a leading HR tech provider. But it is and this one seems like a solid fit.

    4. Toronto Raptors - Sponsor: Ceridian. They have a pretty strong presence in Canada so it just makes sense for Ceridian to connect with the NBA's lone Canadian franchise.

    3. Cleveland Cavaliers - Sponsor: Workday. No other reason than a high-profile team like the Cavs would have to be paired with a big-name sponsor, so Workday gets the nod here.

    2. San Antonio Spurs - Sponsor: Indeed. The right for the Spurs was a little tough to come up with, but in the end I went with a pick that at least reminds me of the low-key, efficient, and fundamental way the Spurs play basketball - the job aggregation behemoth Indeed. 

    1. Golden State Warriors - Sponsor: Oracle. Kind of a no-brainer, since the Dubs play in Oracle arena. Once a team's home gets associated with a corporate brand, a really tight bond develops.

    That's it, your guide to NBA jersey sponsorship, HR tech edition.

    Disagree with any of the pairings? Hit me up in the comments.

    Tuesday
    Feb092016

    Goal alignment sounds boring, but it can get you fired (NBA coaching edition)

    My favorite sport is basketball, my favorite league is the NBA, and my favorite team is the New York Knicks.

    Yesterday, my beloved Knicks relieved their head coach, Derek Fisher, of his duties about 2/3 of the way through his second season as head coach, with the Knicks currently possessing a 23-31 record, good (or bad) for 12th place in the NBA's Eastern Conference and about 5 games out of the 8th place, and the final playoff spot in the East.

    There were various reasons for Knicks' team ownership and management to make the move to release Fisher, but I want to focus on one in particular that has been cited in many of the reports of Fisher's firing. It's a classic HR/Talent Management concept as well - dull sounding goal alignment - the basic, but as we will see overlooked in the Knicks' case, idea that organizational goals should be defined, communicated, and understood throughout and down the organization. Playoffs? Playoffs?

    The goal in question that at least partially served as a catalyst for Fisher's demise: for the team to finish in the top 8 places in the Eastern Conference and make the NBA playoffs, one season (and a few new players) removed from last year's franchise worst 17- 65 record, and dead last finish in the East.

    Here's an excerpt from one report on the firing on how management and Fisher's boss, Knick team President (and NBA coaching legend), Phil Jackson were disapponted in some recent comments from Fisher regarding the Knick's goal of reaching the playoffs this season:

    More importantly, however, ESPN reports that Fisher wasn't developing as a coach quick enough for Knicks management. Some of that pressure may have been because the Knicks, for stretches, looked like a playoff team. Yet in the midst of a rough patch, Fisher, during an interview, said missing the playoffs wouldn't be a "disappointment."

    "No. Disappointed in what?" Fisher said in an interview on ESPN radio. "We’re a developing team with a ton of new players. ... We have to be reasonable about who we are and where we are and accept what is and not get caught up in what we should be and allow other people to define what our success is."

    Let's unpack that a little, exspecially for folks who don't follow the NBA as much as I do, (everyone).

    At the start of the season the Knicks were incorporating several new players, their best player (Carmelo Anthony), was working his way back into form following an injury/surgey last year, and after only 17 wins a yar ago, probably could not have been reasonably expected to compete for a playoff berth this year. Jackson and Fisher, both veterans of the NBA, had to have known this, even if they said different things publicly.

    But then a few things broke in the Knicks favor in the first half of the year. Anthony rebounded well from injury and was playing some good basketball, rookie Kristaps Porzingis was MUCH, MUCH better than anyone would have expected, and several new players made contributions to the team. The team was actually in contention for a playoff spot until their recent swoon - losing 9 of their last 10, culminating in the firing of Fisher yesterday.

    So the organizational goal at the beginning of the season was probably something along the lines of 'Let's be better than last year, let's develop some new players, and let's figure out which players are not going to cut it.'

    About half way in the season, due to some unexpected and better play, at least to Jackson and managment the goal shifted to 'Let's make the playoffs this season.'

    But somehow Coach Fisher either didn't get the message, or, didn't buy in to the new goal as one that was reasonable, and one upon which his performance should be evaluated.

    Against the first set of goals for the season, even at 23-31, Fisher's performance would have at least been 'acceptable.' The team is better than last year, rookie Porzingis has been a pleasant surprise, and (mostly) Fisher has found a way to be competitive game in and game out.

    But against the revised or re-calibrated goal of making the playoffs this season? Well it seems almost certain after losing 9 of 10 that the Knicks are not going to achieve that. Fisher publicly stating that missing that goal 'would not be a disappointment' said to Knicks management that their was a disconnect between what the organization was working towards and what one of its key managers, (Fisher), had in mind. And so Fisher had to go.

    It's ok for leaders to change course, set a new goal mid-stream, or ask even more from people who are performing well. But if those folks you are asking to do more and be better are not fully on board? Well then you have pretty different definitions of 'success' in the organization, and that ultimately will drive a wedge between leadership, management, and employees.

    Note: I have probably watched 45 or so of the Knicks 54 games this season. I don't think they are a playoff team either.

    Tuesday
    Jan122016

    Reacting to a sudden change in leadership

    It's Monday night as I write this and of course just like you I am watching an NBA game and thinking about work, workplaces, and management. 

    The game in question is the Spurs vs. Nets and why this particular game is interesting (aside from it involving the always fun to watch Spurs team), is that it is the first game for the Nets following the (kind of) sudden firing of their head coach Lionel Hollins and the re-assignment/demotion of their GM Billy King on Sunday. The Nets players were certainly aware of their 10-27 record and position as one of the league's worst teams, but they would not have had much if any advance warning of the imminent sacking of their coach.From the Nets better days

    Fast forward about 36 hours and these Nets have to take the court against the Spurs, one of the NBA's elite franchises, and possessors of a 32-6 record and winners of 5 NBA titles in the last 20 or so years. But the Spurs success is not what matters for my point today, but rather how the Nets players, and by means of extension, any of us react to a sudden change in our own organizational leadership.

    The way I see it you, me, the guys playing for the Nets can react one of three possible ways to the news that the boss, the big boss, or the really, really big boss is suddenly gone, and there is a little bit of uncertainty about what is going to happen next.

    1. Panic - even though I advised yesterday that in most cases that it is probably too late to panic, some folks inevitably will. In the Nets example, the player's agent will immediately start working the phones, looking for a potential new team for the player and leak stories to the media that the former coach never really gave the player a fair chance or used him in a way that best exploited his talents. For us 'normals', that means an instant LinkedIn profile update and bending the ear of everyone who will listen that the former leader 'never liked me' or 'always had it in for me.' 

    2. Enthusiasm - Some players on the Nets will see the change in leadership as a way to get a fresh start, and to try and impress the new leaders with extra effort and diligence to their tasks. These guys are probably ones who felt like for whatever reason they were not able to be their best selves under the old regime. They will in the short term work extra hard, and spend more time talking about the potentially bright future instead of focusing on the disappointments of the past. This reaction is usual reserved for younger players who are in the early stage of their careers and don't have much time or emotional commitment with the outgoing leadership. 

    3. Insubordination - The worst of all three potential reactions, and the one that can possibly cause lingering damage, is outright insubordination. Veteran players, especially ones with long-term, guaranteed contracts could consider themselves pretty insulated from any negative consequences and out and out work against the new leadership. This is particularly dangerous because very often the new leaders need the support of the organization's most senior and influential players. But these players, and the similarly long-tenured staff at any organization, often have outsized levels of power inside the group, and any new leader is going to have to find some common ground with them in order to try and fix what needs fixing. 

    When there is a sudden, and possible unexpected change in leadership everyone in the organization immediately begins to evaluate their own position, their place in the organization, and the health of the organization overall.

    If you are a role player or a favorite of the old regime, it may indeed be time to start working your network and calling in some favors, as your days may be numbered as well. But if you were a solid worker who always thought you could do more but were never given the chance it could be your time to try and step up and fill in some of the leadership and talent vacuum.

    If you are the new leader suddenly thrust into power, you'd do well to assess the folks on the team and sort out what group they seem to be falling in with before too long. Some will be with you, some will be against you, and some will just be a mess. It is good to know who is who. 

    Either way, these kinds of quick changes in leadership force us to be at least somewhat honest about our own place in the organization, and perhaps more importantly, force us to consider if we have a future with said organization as well. 

    Complacency can be a real bastard. It sometimes takes some dramatic change to wake us up.