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    Entries in Organization (51)


    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!


    Fondly remembering the days of 3% raises

    Quick shot for a busy Tuesday - check out this piece that ran on USA Today online over the weekend - Is the annual pay raise dead?, a look at some recent studies and trends in the world of employee compensation.

    For what seems like ages, once per year the big total rewards consultancies like Towers Watson or Aon Hewitt would diligently report back that for the average employee annual salary increases would be about 3% (again). The news that annual salary increases would be about 3% became somewhat of a running joke, since it was so consistent and predictable. The phrase of employees being '3-percented until retirement' was fairly common.

    Well, if the latest news on annual salary increases is accurate, we may all look back on the 3% raises of the past and wonder what happened to them. Check out some of the comments in the above-mentioned USA Today piece:

    "Base salary increases are flat. We don't see the prospect of that changing much at all in the next several years," said Ken Abosch, who studies compensation issues for Aon Hewitt.

    In other words, the annual raise is dead. It was already on life support last decade, but the Great Recession has finished off the raise. It's been replaced by "variable compensation" — the bonus.

    "The quiet revolution has been the change in compensation mix," Abosch said. "Through a series of recessions, organizations have pulled back dramatically on fixed costs. And base salaries are often a company's most significant fixed cost ... [They] have a compounding effect, and create a drag on an organization's ability to change."

    Awesome isn't it when your salary, (and by extension, you), are described and probably considered as 'a drag on an organization's ability to change', instead of, I don't know, a strategic investment of organizational resources in order to hire and retain great people.

    One of the effects of a relatively higher percentage of one's overall compensation being shifted towards bonuses or other kinds of variable pay is that it makes 'regular' employment look and feel more like contingent labor. One of the reasons people like 'regular' jobs is the 'regular' nature of their weekly, monthly, and annual earnings. Drive more of these earnings into more company-friendly (and easier to reduce and/or eliminate), irregular compensation, then, well, earnings stability becomes much more tenuous.

    Companies need to be more agile and flexible these days, no doubt. But at least in the US they have had the benefit of pretty much universal employment-at-will arrangements to ensure labor and labor cost flexibility. Now it seems like that might not be flexible enough for many organizations.

    They want your 3% as well.


    Signals of the Corporate Death Spiral #1 - Talking about dress codes

    We have probably all been, at one time in our careers, in an organization where things were not going so well. Maybe sales were down due to increased competition, maybe our products and services were not in alignment with what the market was demanding, or maybe we flat-out had exhausted the supply of every customer who might want one or two of whatever it is we were offering. There are probably thousands of reasons why once successful organizations can fall on hard times. 

    But often, especially when working in a classic support function like IT or HR, we are not immediately aware of just how bad things are becoming for the organization overall. Sure, the CHRO probably has some idea of what is going on, when he/she is asked to provide some numbers on potential staffing reduction scenarios, but often awareness of these plans does not reach very far down into the organization until, of course, it is too late for impacted folks to react or 'pro' act, if you get my meaning.

    So for rank and file folks, who are always the last to know everything, it pays to get attuned to the signs or signals that things in the organization might not be going as well as they once were. These are smaller, more subtle kinds of things that are not as dramatic as a layoff or a C-level shakeup, but might be as important nonetheless, as they point to a present and future that might not be as fun and gamesy as the past. 

    What are some of these signals? First up, courtesy of our pals at venerable technology giant HP is the 'Dress Code Crackdown'. Check this excerpt from The Register:

    Troubled HP has hit upon what it thinks is a terrific idea to revive its fortunes: tell techies to leave their T-shirts and shorts at home and obey the corporate "smart casual" dress code instead.

    Some R&D teams within HP Enterprise Services were sent a confidential memo this week reminding them to follow the IT giant's rules against workplace fashion faux pas, The Register has learned.

    "If you aren't dressed like the models in the posters that HP displays around its locations, then your appearance is sapping the productivity of the workers around you," one source, who asked to remain anonymous, quipped.

    The dress code memo was sent out because higher-ups believe customers visiting HP's offices will be put off by scruffy-looking R&D engineers, we're told.

    The order to tuck in shirts and smarten up for guests has not gone down well, apparently: some HP developers, who do not deal with customers directly, were quite enjoying wearing T-shirts and shorts at work during these warm summer months.

    According to HP, men should avoid turning up to the office in T-shirts with no collars, faded or torn jeans, shorts, baseball caps and other headwear, sportswear, and sandals and other open shoes. Women are advised not to wear short skirts, faded or torn jeans, low-cut dresses, sandals, crazy high heels, and too much jewelry.

    The Enterprise Services division employs more than 100,000 people across the world, from the UK and Australia to India and Germany, as well as cities in the US.

    "There are customers around, and HP doesn’t want them to think riffraff work here," one source told El Reg.

    Nice. At least HP is sticking to the script and the classic reasoning of the dress code police - that 'customers' somehow might be offended if they spot a coder in a T-shirt and a hoodie. 

    What matters here has nothing at all to do with customers, or even if there are really some technical folks at HP that are going a little too far with 'coder casual' attire at work. No company has a 'dress code' problem. They might have a few people here and there that need a little bit of guidance, sure. But when organizations, especially massive ones like HP start going off with internal memos about dress codes and posting up examples of 'acceptable' dress, then you can be sure there are problems far, far worse than the Queensryche T-shirt that Jeremy wore last Tuesday.

    It is a signal, and an ominous one at that. 

    When you are talking about dress codes you are not talking about things that really matter. And often it is because you've run out of ideas for how to attack the things that do matter.

    If you are in a company and get one of those memos, take it as a sign that worse news is coming. and maybe sooner than you think.

    Have a great week!


    Five signs the organization will do just fine without you

    There are plenty of mistakes we make managing and navigating our careers. Some are kind of obvious, and easily avoided with just a smidge of common sense (like don't park in the bosses' reserved parking space). Others are a little more complex, more subtle, and usually involve sorting out more nebulous concepts like who the office's hidden influencers are or what projects offer just the right balance of exposure, likelihood of success, and work you actually know how to do.

    But possibly the most significant mistake we make in personal career management is that we overestimate our relative value and importance to the organization, or said differently, we take on a "there is no way they can get rid of me" kind of mentality. 

    Of course they can get rid of you. In fact, it is usually shocking just how easy it is for the organization to move on after you are gone. But in case you are still deluding yourself as to your essentialness, here are a few tips that you can use to check yourself. How can you be sure the organization will do just fine without you? 

    1. You've been there fewer than 2 years - It took you 3 months to figure out where to park your car, to find the cafeteria, and to sort out the office dress code. Then it took 6 months to learn all of the corporate acronyms. Then you (sort of) got down to learning just exactly what it is you were supposed to be doing. So maybe that took another 3 months. Face it, you have been only marginally productive since this March. If you were gone tomorrow, it would not grind the wheels of progress down to a halt. No one hardly knows you are even there.

    2. Your job has a Roman Numeral in the title - Maybe you are a Financial Analyst II or a Senior Marketing Planner III. Either way, the mere presence of a Roman Numeral in your title suggests that there are plenty of folks ready to step up a Roman Numeral into your job. In fact, even the most famous Roman Numeral job, Pope, is not immune to this reality. A week after Pope Innocent IV calls it a career, there is a Pope Dominic III ready to step in.

    3. You never get called or texted by work after 5:30PM during the week and NEVER on the weekend - In this age of constant connectivity and decreased demarcation between work and not work, if you are never being called upon or contacted after hours or on the weekend or even when you are on vacation that is probably a sign that you are not as important as you might reckon. 

    4. Your 'war stories' no longer have any practical value, (but they might still be funny) - If your 'back in the day' tales start to lose any connection to both the reality of current market conditions or the sensibilities of your (probably younger) colleagues, then it could be time for some self-examination. After a while, these stories start to move from 'the wisdom of experience' to 'the insane ramblings of a crazy person.' When does that line get crossed? Hard to say, but once on the other side, it is pretty much a done deal that you are not coming back. 

    5. You can explain what you do to a stranger in less than 60 seconds - The depth, breadth, and complexity of what you do should not be able to be summarized in the time it takes to microwave some Top Ramen. If what you do can be distilled into such a compact package then it stands to reason it would not be hard or expensive to train up the next guy to step in for you once you are gone. 

    The truth is we all are replaceable. All of us. Bill Gates doesn't run Microsoft any longer. Steve Jobs passed away, and Apple still prints money. Steve Perry of Journey was replaced by some guy that the band found on YouTube.

    The organization will be just fine without you. That doesn't mean you didn't do a great job and were respected and valued.

    It just means that the time comes for everyone.


    The culture of performance and firing by form letter

    Super look at just one of the ways that a 'performance is the only thing that matters' culture that is professional American football manifests itself over at Deadspin last week in the piece This is the the letter you get when you are cut from an NFL team.

    Take a look at a typical player termination letter from one of the league's clubs, the Houston Texans:

    A couple of things about the letter, and then i am out for the rest of a summer Monday.

    1. First up, in a really hands-on job like 'NFL Player', physical ability to perform issues are number 1 and 2 on the 5 possible termination reasons. For the rest of us who are not NFL players, this could equate to keeping up our skills, learning new ones as business and technology shifts, and importantly, not 'faking' it in terms of what we say we can do.

    2. Reason 3, and the one that this example from 2006 shows, says basically, 'You are just not good enough, i.e., the other guys on the team are better'. No details, no wordy explanations or nuances. Just a cut and dried 'You're not good enough.' That's cold, but again, completely aligned with the organizational values and culture. Performance trumps everything. Want a high-performance culture? Then you have to be ruthless in trimming the organization of people who don't meet the standard. And you as a leader can't let it bother you too much either.

    3. The organization also has a broad right to terminate you for 'personal conduct that adversely affects or reflects on the club'. Heck, that could be just about anything, since it is the club who gets to evaluate the 'impact' of your behavior. In other words, we (mostly) care about your physical condition and your performance, but we can fire your butt for just about anything we want at any time. Heck, that sounds a lot like many of the places us 'normals' work too. Employment at will is a great deal for sure. Until you get fired, well, just 'because.'

    Hiring, promoting, rewards, and even terminations all play a big role in defining, supporting, and communicating an organization's values and culture. If you are going to go all-in on high performance, well, you need to remember the dark side of that decision too.

    And firing by form letter is one example of that.

    Have a great week!