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    Entries in Organization (43)

    Tuesday
    Feb182014

    Dog food, champagne, and Email

    I am grinding through about 12,000 speaking proposals for the upcoming HR Technology Conference in October 2014, and in a recent review call, a rep from one of the vendors made almost a side comment about their own internal use as a company of the HR solution that they are offering in the market. The context was a discussion about a newer recruiting application the vendor was advocating and the vendor rep sort of off-handedly mentioned something like 'And we used the tool to source and help assess candidates for the 15 developer positions we needed to fill last quarter'. 

    Not a big deal right, that a HR technology company would use its own HR technology to help it solve its own HR problems and challenges. You would, as an observer or a potential customer of an HR technology solution sort of expect that the actual developer of a solution would have to naturally want to and be strongly motivated to use their own solutions in house. click to see what I am talking about

    This concept of a supplier company and its employees using the technology, products, or services that they produce is refrred to as 'Eating your own dog food' or for more sophisticated suppliers, 'Drinking your own champagne.' And typically, and especially in the minds of potential customers and prospects, when a company 'Drinks its own champagne' it is a sign that one, they are committed and passionate about the product, and two, the product actually works.

    This 'dog food/champagne' issue was in the news again recently when the President of PayPal, David Marcus, came down hard on PayPal employees who had refused to install the PayPal payments app on their phones, had forgotten their PayPal passwords, and essentially were not advocating for the product and brand by using the product (and using it publicly). 

    Here is a short excerpt from Marcus' email to the PayPal team to give you a feel for just how serious 'eating your own dog food' is from this Exec's point of view:

    As a matter of fact, it's been brought to my attention that when testing paying with mobile at Cafe 17 last week, some of you refused to install the PayPal app (!!?!?!!), and others didn't even remember their PayPal password. That's unacceptable to me, and the rest of my team, everyone at PayPal should use our products whenever available.

    Marcus goes on though, and this next part is even more interesting:

    In closing, if you are one of the folks who refused to install the PayPal app or if you can't remember your PayPal password, do yourself a favor, go find something that will connect with your heard and mind elsewhere.

    Boom.

    Marcus moves from, 'You really need to be an advocate for our products while you work here' to 'You probably should not be working here if you are not going to advocate for our products.'

    Lots of commentators came down pretty hard on Marcus for the tone and message (maybe it was a bizarre set of !!! and ??? mixed in), but I think I am with him on this one. Wouldn't you expect someone who worked at PayPal to actually use PayPal?

    I would. Just like I would expect a big payroll provider trying to sell payroll technology to my company to actually use that same technology to pay their own employees.

    If a company doesn't internally use their own stuff (where applicable) or can't convince its own employees to adopt their products, to me that is a big red flag about the viability of the product, the commitment of the employees and the long-term chances of a successful partnership with their customers.

    Postscript - If you click on the thumbnail image on the right side of this post, it will expand a 1977 advertisement for corporate email technology from Honeywell. If you read the fine print, (and it might be hard), after the copy that describes how wonderful this new email service will be, your 'Contact us to learn more' information contains a phone number and a postal or physical address. No way to contact Honeywell via email, even though that is precisely the service they are selling. Sure, in 1977 maybe none of the prospects would of even had email themselves, but to me that is not really the point. Honeywell would have looked really sharp and progressive if indeed, they offered email as a way to contact them about using email.

    Postscript 2 - I am a Diet Coke fan. Last year at a vendor conference I was about to moderate a panel that included a participant from one of Coke's competitors. This panelist noticed my Diet Coke and asked me kindly but seriously, if I wouldn't mind leaving the Coke behind as we took the stage. And I did.

    Have a great day!

     

    Thursday
    Nov212013

    What if we had fewer managers?

    For a few minutes yesterday I dropped in on the always interesting #Nextchat on Twitter which was on the always popular HR and Talent topic of employee engagement. In the discussion most of the comments and observations around the topic of engagement were what we have come to expect, (and know to be true). Nevertheless, there were some excellent insights shared by many of the participants.

    But you know the story around engagement, right?

    Employee engagement is a reflection of the 'extra effort' people choose to make or not make, bad company culture drives much of the measured low levels of positive engagement, and most interesting to me, that managers are the prime drivers or enablers of engagement in the organization.

    If the organization has bad managers, or not enough good managers and then you will have an engagement problem, (and a retention problem and a recruiting problem, and on and on). Managers need to be engaged themselves in order to have a better chance at rank-and-file employee engagement. Managers are often the barrier to engagement, as they simply don't know or realize the importance of engagement in a broader organizational context. Managers are the devil's spawn and their mere presence haunts the hallways of the company headquarters.

    Ok, that last comment was not really stated, but you get the idea. The manager as the key to engagement, (and lots of other really important talent management practices), was beat to death.

    After watching the discussion carry on in that manner for a bit, I finally (at least to me), offered the only suggestion that might actually have an immediate impact, (not necessarily a positive impact, I admit).

    Here it is:

     

     

     

    I was kind of being a wise guy but not totally.

    If (bad) managers are truly such an important driver of engagement and talent management, and we have known this for ages, and at least according to the consistently poor engagement levels we see in many if not most businesses we are doing a terrible job of selecting and coaching these managers, then wouldn't it make sense to simply have far fewer of them?

    Find the 20 or 30 percent of the managers that actually are really good at engaging teams, guiding career development, challenging employees to reach their potential, etc. and just let them manage everyone.  Take the rest of the managers that aren't good at those things and either let them focus on the actual work they are good at or let them move on.  Or make them sort of 'technical' managers that don't have the messy 'people' manager side of things and can focus on the work, sort of like how football teams have offensive and defensive coordinators that set strategy and tactics but don't really have to deal with the players on an individual and personal level.

    I don't know, it just seems like after years of lamenting about the shortcomings, disinterest, and general imperfections of 'managers'  that at least some of the problems could be solved by having fewer of them.

    What do you think?

    Monday
    Nov042013

    ECON 101: Comparative Advantage: Or, why it still can be ok to be worse at everything

    I was talking with a friend recently, the kind of person who is just good (and often really darn good), at just about everything. Successful in their career, well-respected in their industry, good-looking, model family life, knows how to cook/fix/find just about anything.... you get the idea.

    We probably all have a friend or colleague that fits that description, maybe even going back to childhood perhaps where the memory of our high school nemesis that was just a little better than us at sports and in class and with the ladies (or guys), always just ticked us off to no end.

    No matter what the activity or subject or context, this person was just better.  At everything. And it can easily be pretty annoying.David Ricardo - 'He amassed a considerable personal fortune'

    Until you recall (or learn for the first time as in the case of the high school me), the Law of Comparative Advantage. Let's do a quick ECON 101 review:

    In economics, comparative advantage refers to the ability of a party to produce a particular good or service at a lower marginal and opportunity cost over another. Even if one country is more efficient in the production of all goods (absolute advantage in all goods) than the other, both countries will still gain by trading with each other, as long as they have different relative efficiencies.

    The idea of comparative advantage has been first mentioned in Adam Smith's Book The Wealth of Nations: "If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry, employed in a way in which we have some advantage." But the law of comparative advantages has been formulated by David Ricardo who investigated in detail advantages and alternative or relative opportunity in his 1817 book On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation in an example involving England and Portugal. In Portugal it is possible to produce both wine and cloth with less labor than it would take to produce the same quantities in England. However the relative costs of producing those two goods are different in the two countries. In England it is very hard to produce wine, and only moderately difficult to produce cloth. In Portugal both are easy to produce.

    Therefore while it is cheaper to produce cloth in Portugal than England, it is cheaper still for Portugal to produce excess wine, and trade that for English cloth. Conversely England benefits from this trade because its cost for producing cloth has not changed but it can now get wine at a lower price, closer to the cost of cloth. The conclusion drawn is that each country can gain by specializing in the good where it has comparative advantage, and trading that good for the other. 

    This Business Insider piece from the weekend spurred me to think about Comparative Advantage (and what can happen when really powerful and attractive companies like Google are powerful enough to essentially ignore the 'law' in many respects), a look at some of the worst aspects for working for such a desirable employer.

    Among the chief complaints raised about life at Google was that their hiring standards are so high and that fact, combined with seemingly everyone wanting to work for them, that many, many sort of mundane positions are staffed with over qualified, exceptional, and often wasted talents. 

    Here is an example of how that plays out:

    There are students from top 10 colleges who are providing tech support for Google's ads products, or manually taking down flagged content from YouTube, or writing basic code to A|B test the color of a button on a site."

    Adam Smith's law of Comparative Advantage, if Google cared about such things, would probably tell them that it was relatively inefficient for them to try to be the best at everything, that more or less, they should focus on those elements where their advantage in the market (for talent in this case), was the greatest compared to their competition, and let the wanna-bees fight it out over the rest.

    But I don't really care about Google, I care about you, (I am a giver that way). We both know what it's like having to deal with that person who is just better at everything than we are.

    It is tiring.

    It is frustrating.

    And often, we will simply give up and move on to something else when we really should have stuck with what we loved.

    Everything is comparative. If you get a job at Google you are probably going to feel dumb much more often than you are accustomed to feeling.

    Note: I had a recent piece over on Fistful of Talent that looks at this topic a little more as well. 

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Jul312013

    Red eye flights, skinny jeans, and being tough enough to work here

    Disclaimer: It is a total coincidence that I have the second post about Ford Motor Company in as many weeks. I am not on the Ford payroll. In fact, I have a Chevy truck. So there.

    Mission statements, culture maps, or an articulation of the 'vision' or purpose of an organization - these are all fairly common in organizations and often mocked or at least ignored. Usually they are either so vague and obvious that they are meaningless - 'We strive to delight our customers every day', or are so specific and drawn-out that they read like marketing brochure copy - 'Our goal is to be the top-rated supplier of industrial fasteners, ties, and aluminum sprockets to the machine, engine, and turbine sub-assembly markets that we compete in around the world.'

    So when you come across a mission statement or a list of operating principles that actually doesn't suck, and doesn't take itself too seriously, (I think a pre-requisite for 'not sucking') that are a part of an organization's DNA it is fairly noteworthy or at least interesting.

    So the connection back to Ford, (and once more for clarity, I am a Chevy guy), is this piece from Forbes - Are You Manly Enough to Own a Ford Truck?, that provides a glimpse into some of the unique rules/expectations/operating principles that are apparently a part of the makeup of not just people who buy Ford trucks, but as you will see from some of the items on the list, also the people that work at Ford building the trucks.

    Here are a few selections from the list - and I'll have some comments after the break:

    • Raw meat is acceptable team food.  Raw fish is not.
    • Roller luggage is expressly forbidden, except for golf bags.
    • Earplugs are not permitted at NASCAR races or National Hot Rod Association events.
    • No whining!
    • Airport trams and moving sidewalks are off-limits in order to promote team conditioning.
    • No wimpy cell phone ring tones.
    • Jackets or ponchos are acceptable rain gear. Umbrellas are not.
    • True BFT Truck Team members wear real jeans, not skinny jeans.
    • For flights departing at 7 a.m. or later, an office appearance is expected prior to departure. Red-eye flights are expected to maximize productivity.
    • There are no “travel days.”

     

    A pretty cool list, if not totally serious, but it does go quite a bit further than most standard mission statements or organizational philosophy statements do to better describe the type of people that will actually be likely to succeed, (or at least get along), in the group.

    I like the list because it is descriptive, specific, and funny. The kinds of traits that we often find lacking in most corporate-speak that passes for HR and organizational communication. Are these 'real' rules for working on the Ford Trucks team? Are they actually used in hiring and retention discussions?

    I don't know for sure, but that doesn't make them less cool, and it doesn't stop any of us from thinking about our version of a similar list of philosophies, expected behaviors, and personality types of the people that we want to work with and that will succeed.

    Have a great week everyone!

    Tuesday
    Jul162013

    Vacation Week - Read this instead #2

    Note: The blog is on vacation this week, so you should read this instead...

    Atlantic.com - How Shareholders Are Ruining American Business

    From the piece:

    This notion that shareholder interests should reign supreme did not always so deeply infuse American business. It became widely accepted only in the 1990s, and since 2000 it has come under increasing fire from business and legal scholars, and from a few others who ought to know (former General Electric CEO Jack Welch declared in 2009, “Shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world”). But in practice—in the rhetoric of most executives, in how they are paid and evaluated, in the governance reforms that get proposed and occasionally enacted, and in almost every media depiction of corporate conflict—we seem utterly stuck on the idea that serving shareholders better will make companies work better. It’s so simple and intuitive. Simple, intuitive, and most probably wrong—not just for banks but for all corporations.

    Read the rest here.