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    Entries in Organization (55)

    Monday
    Jul112016

    Is it a great company culture or just a collection of great talent?

    Lots and lots of folks like to push 'culture' as the primary driver of organizational success. I have written and presented pretty extensively on why I think that's wrong. Check any of my 'Rock-Paper-Scissors' posts in case you are interested.

    One of the many reasons I get a little skeptical about this 'cult of culture' is that by its very nature culture is hard to define, to measure, and hard to draw any kind of a direct (or even a dotted) line from culture to actual results. I'm not saying it's impossible, but just really, really, tough.

    But another reason why culture gets too much emphasis is how easy it can be to confuse a great culture with what is really just a collection of great talent. This challenge was discussed, I think very effectively, on of all things an NBA podcast I was listening to recently, by ESPN writer Kevin Arnovitz on the July 6 episode of The Lowe Post Podcast.  Lowe and Arnovitz were discussing the recent decision by NBA star Kevin Durant to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors - a team famous for their 'culture'.

    Here's Arnovitz' observations on culture v. talent, then some comments from me after the quotes:

    On an NBA team is culture permanent? Or is it really just transient? Is it this fancy word people like us to describe what is really just a concentration of good talent, but it seems like culture? But actually what it is is just really good basketball players there? Which is why they (the Warriors) win, it's not because they have any special connection to the community of San Francisco like people like to talk about. 

    Steve here - I think these observations are spot on, especially in a business setting like an NBA team where individual talent and excellence plays such a critical role in organizational success. Said a little differently, it is almost impossible to achieve the highest level of team success in the NBA without at least one superstar player, and one or two other All-star caliber players. You simply can't win without that talent level no matter how fantastic your team's culture may be.

    And I know that I get a fair bit of heat from folks for trying to make these kinds of HR/talent points using sports analogies, as some folks think that an NBA team and its dynamics offer little to us to learn from, back here in the real world. But I continue to think that they are valid ones to make, especially as more and more organizations and work teams have to rely on ideas, innovation, creativity, and quite simply talent, in order to succeed in a hyper-fast, hyper-competitive world.

    Ask yourself some of the questions about your organization that Arnovitz hints at.

    What would really drive increased performance at your shop? More talented people? Or a somehow 'better' culture?

    Which one of those levers is easier for you to influence? To measure? To replicate?

    This isn't about me trying to convince you that culture = bad and talent = good.

    It's about making sure we keep both in mind, (along with Strategy, if we really want to get back to my Rock-Paper-Scissors take).

    When you put 4 of the best 10 or 12 best basketball players in the world on the same team you are going to win A LOT of games. If at the same time you have a great culture, you may win one two extra games.

    But the great culture without the great players? Good luck in the draft lottery next year.

    Have a great week!  

    Monday
    Jun132016

    Signs of the corporate death spiral #3 - Fifteen years between new products

    Some death spirals are shockingly abrupt, (the 'Secret' app, Theranos), and some others are so slow, and play out over such a long time horizon, that at times it must seem like the organization really isn't in a death spiral after all.

    But then something happens to reassure and remind everyone that indeed the organization is on the decline, just a little bit slower and a little harder to detect unless you're watching closely. Submitted for your consideration a recent announcement from the good folks at General Mills, a company you probably have not thought much about, if at all, in ages.

    From the piece 'This is General Mills' first new cereal in more than 15 years'

    General Mills the creator of iconic cereals like Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Trix, is adding a new brand to its fleet. The cereal is called Tiny Toast, which the company describes as “tiny pieces of crunchy toast covered with even tinier pieces of delicious fruit.”

    It’s available in two flavors, strawberry and blueberry, and it’s made with whole grains and flavored with real fruit and other natural ingredients. According to a press release obtained by Fortune, the cereal contains no artificial flavors or colors.

    Though the food giant has consistently released new versions and flavors of its already-existing brands, this is the first all-new cereal that General Mills has launched in more than 15 years.

    To be fair to the folks at General Mills it isn't as if they have not introduced any new variations of their products in 15 years. After all there are at least 14 different varieties of Cheerios, many of which have been launched more recently. So it's not like the General Mills folks have been doing nothing over the years and have been just sitting back, contentedly counting those great Lucky Charms profits.

    General Mills is kind of in a rough spot for a few reasons. Cereal sales have been in decline for a decade or more, and folks that eat cereal tend to be loyal to one or two brands. So from General Mills perspective, it probably has not made a ton of sense to invest too much in new product development and market research in order to launch new brands of cereal into a declining market. 

    But still, nothing truly new, (and the 15th variety of the Cheerio isn't really 'new'), in over 15 years is definitely a sign of the death spiral, even if it is a long, slow, and hard to notice decline.

    What is the larger message that we can try to take from the General Mills situation?

    Probably that if you are thinking about your career, and the kind of organization you want to be a part of, taking a close look at the pattern and cadence of new product/service development and innovation is an important consideration. 

    Would you be happy sitting in a brainstorming session discussing what other fruit flavor you can sprinkle on top of a Cheerio? How about Pineapple Cheerios?

    Or would you rather be a part of an organization and an industry that is constantly looking to create, to invent, and to re-invent?

    Have a great week!

    Tuesday
    Dec222015

    Best of 2015: I don't want to work with companies, I want to work with people

    NOTE: As 2015 winds down, so will 'regular' posts on the blog. For the next two weeks, I will be posting what I thought were the most interesting pieces I published in 2015. These were not necessarily the most popular or most shared, just the ones I think were most representative of the year in HR, HR Tech, workplaces, and basketball. Hope you enjoy looking back on the year and as always, thanks for reading in 2015.

    Next up a piece from February, I don't want to work with companies, I want to work with people, a take on one of 2015's enduring themes - 'free agent nation/The Gig Economy' 

    I don't want to work with companies, I want to work with people

    The hard thing about blogging sometimes is that for various and practical reasons you often can't write about stuff that actually happens in your actual life, personal or professional. Sometimes you have to change names, change details of a story, obscure some elements that might not be terribly important to the overall point, but at least give you some plausible deniability, (and protection as well, for the most part, most bloggers are not independently wealthy, i.e. we still need to make a living).

    That disclaimer serves two purposes really; one, as an acknowledgement and reminder that there have been plenty of really interesting and potentially really very good posts that I and lots of other HR/workplace type bloggers have to quash in the interests of personal protection/employability. And two, as a preface to what I wanted to really write about, (getting to that next, I promise), which is based on some actual events with real people, but with the specific names left out and some details slightly changed. Ok, here we go...

    One of the interesting aspects of the transforming nature of work and workers from corporate lifers into more entrepreneurial, flexible, contingent, and more or less free agents (who may affiliate with a company for a time for mutual benefit), is that customer/partner loyalty is now much more often tied to people and not organizations. Said a little differently, buyers and potential business partners are more and more drawn to the actual people involved in the project or transaction, and not so much, (if at all), their current, (and likely temporary) corporate affiliation.

    The specific circumstances that caused me to think about happened last week, in two separate discussions I had with some HR industry folks. Both of these were concerning projects and initiatives where I had been working with, or at least working on collaborating with specific individuals that was interested in working with again. And in both cases, as these potential initiatives became socialized inside the corporate meeting rooms of the organizations where these folks are aligned, the geometry of the deals began to alter.

    Suddenly, more (or different) folks needed to be involved. Now more higher-ups from these organizations had to have their opinion heard, (even when I had not talked with any of them previously). There was at least some reluctance in one of the cases by management to 'allow' their person to work with me on the project, as they wanted to have their other, preferred person, (who I did not ask for), leading the effort.

    As more professionals see themselves as free agents, who affiliate with companies in more fluid, shorter, and transitory arrangements while simultaneously building their personal networks, professional portfolios, and reputations independent of any corporate overseer, these kinds of tensions will only increase. In the examples I cited above, I was led to and wanted to collaborate with specific individuals based on past experiences (prior to them arriving at their current roles), and personal conviction in these individual's ability and competence. Quite frankly, their current corporate affiliation does not really matter. At least to me.

    But it does matter, naturally, to the folks that are the executives at these places, whose job it is to build, protect, strengthen, and make more valuable their company brands. But this will be increasingly more challenging, in many relationship-driven kinds of businesses anyway, when the company brand is really only comprised of a loose affiliation of individual brands, who are going to move in and out of the company umbrella more or less on-demand, and who have many more outside connections and relationships than in the past.

    This 'free agent nation', this new world that is sometimes referred to as the 'Uber-ification' of work where most workers are essentially carving out their own personal careers, less dependent on organizational support (and protection) than before is one that puts not only these workers under more pressure than before, as they shoulder more personal risk than ever, but it also will stress their company brand owners as well. I don't think my perspective as a potential partner/customer is all that unique; I am interested in collaborating with the best people I can, and often, (and maybe soon always), I am not that interested in their 'official' titles or what their current company leadership believes how I should interact and engage with them. As sometimes I like to say, that is a 'you' problem, not a 'me' problem.

    I guess I will leave with this - the free agent nation has delivered exceeding benefits to company brands - less fixed costs, less regulations, more flexibility, and even more profits. But there are some risks too. Some of your free agents don't really need the company brand as much as the brand needs them. And some of your best customers and partners want to work with people, not with companies. And as the ties between people and companies continue to loosen, (almost always at the behest of companies by the way), the company's hold on talent and opportunity and profit will loosen as well.

    Have a great week!

    Tuesday
    Dec152015

    PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 227 - Measurement and Drivers of Org Culture

    HR Happy Hour 227 - Measurement and the Emotional Drivers of Workforce Culture

    Recorded Monday, December 14, 2015

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Anthony Abbatiello, Principal, Human Capital Practice, Deloitte

    LISTEN HERE

    This week on the show, Steve and Trish were joined by Anthony Abbatiello from Deloitte to talk about Workforce Culture and how it is measured and driven - and how culture is intrinsically and inherently tied together with organizational strategy.

    Anthony is a Principal in the Deloitte Human Capital practice, based out of the New York office. Anthony focuses on advising global clients on building high performance businesses that drive growth and optimization through Human Resources and Talent Management.   He is the responsible for the Leadership, Culture and Engagement practice.

    In this episode of HR Happy Hour, we cover some compelling aspects of workforce culture, like:

    • Misalignment of corporate culture with business objectives
    • How people make decisions 
    • How to harness the learnings of marketers when examining human behavior
    • Putting emotion into culture analytics
    • Implementing an effective culture
    • How to take analytics and measurement and use it to enact real cultural change

    Additionally we talked about Deloitte's CulturePath, a set of technologies and methodologies designed to help HR and organizational leaders better understand the drivers of culture and how to better align culture with organizational strategy. CulturePath helps organizations pinpoint their existing cultural strengths and gaps, and then continuously cultivate that's right for them. You can learn more about CulturePath at www.deloitte.com/culturepath.

    Steve and Trish also talked some NBA basketball, how Trish is now very tight with the NBA's Orlando Magic, and how Steve talked Anthony into rescheduling a family vacation so he could speak at the HR Technology Conference in 2014.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or using the widger player below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through).

    This was a really fun and interesting show - thanks to Anthony for joining us to talk culture, strategy, and organizational success.

    As a reminder, you can find the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes and all the major podcast apps for iOS and Android. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' and add the show to your playlists and you will never miss a show.

    Monday
    Nov022015

    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!