Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


E-mail Steve
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio

    free counters

    Twitter Feed

    Entries in change (10)


    Deconstructed Protocols

    I have been on a bunch of long, cross-country type flights lately. And part of the deal with a long flight is the time honored tradition of casually glancing at the laptop or tablet of the person sitting next to you to catch a glimpse of their Facebook feed, the movie they might be watching, or my personal favorite - the contents of the PowerPoint deck they are likely about to present the next day.

    On my flight from JFK - SFO yesterday I succumbed to my curiosity to steal a glimpse (or three), at my neighbor's laptop. She was preparing and refining a PowerPoint presentation on some kind of really, really complex subject related to health care and disease control in hospitals (I think). While I was not able to make sense of the slides that I was able to see, one slide in her deck just about jumped out at me. It was the slide that seemed to mark the transition from 'These are all the crap things that are going on right now' to the section that would hold the ideas on 'Here is how we fix this mess and (hopefully) fewer people die.'

    The slide was titled 'Deconstructed Protocols.'

    And when I saw the slide title, I was really blown away. The gist of her presentation, I think, was how hospitals needed to really break down and dissect the specific steps, or protocols, associated with a certain procedure in order to try and figure out why an unacceptable level of post-procedure complications, like infections, have been occurring. And the only way to try and fix the problems is to tear down every element, every step, every piece of communication, every patient interaction, every handoff of responsibility, every piece of equipment used, every medication prescribed, and probably a dozen other things, and assess them both individually and as they exist and contribute to the overall process.

    All of which, for a complex medical process, seems absolutely exhausting and probably has lots or people lined up against it.  

    Deconstructing this process will take ages, will make people in high positions uncomfortable, and will likely require increased investment in the short term thay may take some time to pay off. All things that are hard, are hard to sell internally, and often have people lined up against anyone trying to drive the changes that need to be made.

    What is the point of all this? 

    A guess just a good reminder that even in situations like in a health care setting where making needed process, technology, or workflow changes can result in PEOPLE NOT DYING, often the agents of change run up against all the same barriers that you run into in your corporate role.

    It will cost too much. This will anger the VP of something-something if you cut his team out of the process. You can really KNOW for sure if your changes will have the desired effect. And on and on and on.

    But I hope you stick with it regardless. 

    Maybe you are not in the business of saving lives but I bet the change you are (or want to) advocate for will make people's lives better - employees, candidates, managers - doesn't matter. Even when the benefits are obvious and important, effecting change is still hard.

    And when the benefits are less clear, like as in most of what we do in HR/Talent, it is even harder. But keep the faith. And deconstruct the protocols.

    Have a great week!


    Learn a new word: fact-resistant

    Let's start with the definition, courtesy of Wordspy:

    fact-resistant adj. Impervious to reason, counter-examples, or data, especially when they contradict one's opinions or values.

    From the examples given on the Wordspy entry (on the science behind global warming, politics in the Middle East, violence due to firearms), the term fact-resistant seems to have been most commonly applied or ascribed in these kinds of political or 'hot-button' kinds of contexts. I suppose using the term fact-resistant is a slightly kinder and gentler way of saying. 'What the heck is wrong with you, you big dummy. Can't you just accept the truth of what I am telling you?'

    But where fact-resistant is likely to be more relevant and applicable in the HR/workplace/talent management worlds are the conflicts and tensions that can arise between the data and analytics camps and the folks who prefer (or are just more comfortable with), the traditional or old-school ways of evaluating, assessing, and managing people.

    Here are a few specific scenarios where you, as a modern, progressive, and 'seen Moneyball six times' HR pro might run into some fact-resistant colleagues:

    The hiring manager that 'just can tell from looking in the candidate's eyes' whether or not they should be hired. He's been managing by 'gut feeling' for so many years, why should he change now? What does it matter what your data shows about what sources, backgrounds, and characteristic of candidates predict better performance? 

    The CEO who 'gets a good feeling' when she walks around the office at 8AM (and again at 5PM), and sees cube after cube of people diligently working. She is not interested in hearing about your data that shows that engagement, retention, and productivity would all be improved by the introduction of more flexible working arrangements. Everyone looks happy to her, so why make changes?

    The Chief Operating Officer that doesn't care that your compensation benchmarking data shows that you are trailing the market in some key areas and job roles - those same places and roles where your data also shows increased attrition and longer time-to-fill open roles than in less important areas. The COO just want to ensure that 'we pay just a little below market' to ensure stable and consistent gross margins. Peg everyone to '5% below market' and stop bugging me about this.

    I think you get the idea. But the trouble with these fact-resistant types is not identifying them, it is trying to figure out how to rebut them. Because your normal and expected recourse is to just present more facts. And by definition, this probably isn't going to help very much.

    Maybe appealing to the end results, the outcomes, instead of the math and data needed to get there is the best bet. Rather than hitting them with dashboards or spreadsheets that try to sell your idea, just go big on how you know how to fix the problem with X, Y, or Z, and how they will not only benefit, but also look like a hero in the process. 

    The fact-resistant types are tough though. I still think the Knicks are a title contender this year.

    I don't care what the numbers say.

    Have a great week!


    The Mindset List

    I am such a mark for Beloit College's annual Mindset List, a look at some of the important and sometimes really surprising changes that have occurred in the last 18 years or so, or expressed differently, just how much differently this year's crop of college freshmen have experienced and view the world compared to us older folks.

    Right off of the bat, Beloit reminds us that this new group of students, (mostly born in 1987), have never known a world where hybrid cars were not mass produced, South Park has not always been on TV, and among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.

    The Mindset List is always an interesting read every year, but the odd thing about the list is that while it describes and highlights the world view and perspectives of 18 year olds, they are the ones who are likely the least interested in the actual contents of the list. Their world and world view is just what it is. They don't stop to try and think of or conjure up a time where free Wifi did not exist in every Starbucks in the world. It is the modern version of the classic 'I had it much worse than you' line that every parent in every generation for the entire history of time has at one point leveraged to try to make their children feel guilty about how good they have things.

    I am serious, the first evidence of this phenomenon in recorded history was from some primitive cave drawings and inscriptions found in France. Loosely translated, they read, 'Sure kid, it's so easy to kill that antelope with that accurate, sharpened spear. When I was your age, all we had to fight for our lives with was a big rock.'

    These kinds of admonitions have only weakened over time. I can recall on more that one occasion lamenting to my son that he did not understand how good he actually had things, since when I was his age my TV remote WAS ACTUALLY ATTACHED TO THE TV WITH A LONG CORD.

    Hard times for sure.

    There are some real gems on the Mindset List for this year of course, here are a couple of my personal favorites. Incoming college freshmen:

    They have never licked a postage stamp.

    When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their large phones, usually in cars, for emergencies.

    Their proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.

    There are plenty more gems like that on the list, and I recommend taking a few minutes to take a look at the entire piece.

    I know it is a little obvious, and maybe seems kind of unimportant to most of us but it is really, really easy to lose sight of just how much the world and technology and society and work and everything else changes in a relatively short time. 

    It is good, no matter how old or young we are, to think about how folks not quite like us see and understand the world.


    Stable, but not still

    So this past Sunday morning I have to admit getting caught up in a several hour Law & Order marathon - that staple of American basic cable TV. To the unnamed friend of mine who got me hooked on these old dramas - thanks, I was probably watching too much English soccer anyway.

    On one of the episodes the District Attorney dropped a fascinating line about a theory of law that he subscribed to, something along the lines that while there always will be fundamental principles that form the foundation of law, (and right and wrong), that changes in society, technology, values, etc. over time, demanded that the law be flexible and changeable over time.

    This concept in law was first popularized (as far as my 8 minutes of extensive research was able to ascertain), by the American legal scholar Roscoe Pound, who said, famously, that "The law must be stable, but it must not stand still."

    Pound contended that the law should adapt, slowly, to changes in society, and argued against the idea that the law should try to force or influence society to change. Pound fought the notion of a largely unchanging Common Law, a position not always in the majority then as now.

    Why bring this up? 

    Because the Pound maxim, "The law must be stable, but it must not stand still" could just as easily apply to most of what we do in HR and talent management and in trying to lead in organizations today. It is really easy and fun and less restrictive to talk only about radical change and disruption and need to move 1,000 MPH in modern business, but the truth is very few organizations are architected to operate in that manner, and even the ones that do probably fail as often as not.

    Pound's take, that have a stable, (Note - 'stable' is not the same as 'rigid'), while simultaneously understanding the need to change, to evolve, to in his words, to not 'stand still', is about the most practical advice for the vast majority of organizations and settings today.

    Stable, but not still. I dig that. Nice, shot Roscoe.

    Now, back to the last hour of the Law & Order marathon...

    Have a great week!


    The Progressive Service and re-imagining the organization

    There are lots of fantastic aspects of being a college student - the parties, the football games, the almost complete lack of real responsibility when compared to what often comes next - the corporate world, the 9-to-5 grind, and trying reasonably hard not to screw up, (after all, all that fun in college came with a price tag, probably in the form of tens of thousands of student loans to pay off).

    But besides all the obvious fun and cool elements of student life, there is at least one other - the chance to work on projects, develop ideas, and present provocative concepts all safe in the knowledge that these ideas will usually be evaluated mostly on their creativity and inspiration, and not out in the real world where at most organizations they are likely to be met with 'That's not how we do things here' or 'That will never work' or 'Who are you again?'

    And out in the real world massive, transformational organizational re-designs almost never actually happen (and work). There is so much legacy baggage, locked-in contracts and structures, and often a substantial level of resistance to change that the change that anyone tries to make to an entrenched institution is usually incremental and small in nature.  All change is hard. Big change is just about impossible to pull off.

    With all that in mind, I recommend taking a look at a student project that focuses on the kind of massive change that is normally only talked about in the detached, theoretical setting of academia. The below presentation is titled United States Postal Service Thesis, and was created by Tom Calabrese for a Masters program. The deck, which presents some ideas and kind of radical concepts for the US Postal Service of the future, is below, and I'll have a quick comment/challenge after the break.


    Did you click through the deck? What did you think?

    A couple of things stood out to me. One, that providing, for a price, the ability to refine and tailor your own mail delivery preferences is an idea worth pursuing. And two, the more radical idea about somehow connecting the Postal Service social graph to other, more higher value add services and products.

    But the real reason why I decided to post about this was not any of the specific proposals for the USPS, but rather as it was a great reminder that we almost never spend any time thinking about re-imagining our own organizations in a similar manner. Now certainly most of our organizations don't face the same number and type of daunting problems the USPS faces, but it's also certain that we underestimate the problems, (maybe ones that have not yet even manifested), that face our organizations.

    So the challenge is this - what if you could (or had to), completely re-imagine your workplace?

    What if you were to start from a blank sheet, or close to it, and start over?

    What would you keep? What would you let go? What are you doing simply because of inertia and tradition and internal resistance to change?

    What would the 'new' organization look like?

    Have a great week all!