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Month: April 2010

Bad job descriptions . . . norm and embarrassment

Do you want traffic to your blog?  Write about bad job descriptions!  I mean it ~ bad job descriptions.  See, I know how to do SEO.  Bad job descriptions.  People put bad job descriptions into Google.

Amazing.  But they don’t have to search far. Job descriptions are uniformly bad, spinny and scammy and show woeful lack of understanding of the purpose of a job.

In the throes of a general election, Britain, home of satire, has produced this wonderful spoof of the typical HRM effort at describing what we do at work. Jobsgopublic.

It’s funny, very funny, but not so much for the HR profession. When will we lift our game?

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Who knows if there will be another dawn? Tonight we can be what the gods are!


Do not strike the chord of sorrow tonight!
Days burning with pain turn to ashes.
Who knows what happens tomorrow?
Last night is lost; tomorrow’s frontier wiped out:
Who knows if there will be another dawn?
Life is nothing, it’s only tonight!
Tonight we can be what the gods are!

Do not strike the chord of sorrow, tonight!
Do not repeat stories of sufferings now,
Do not complain, let your fate play its role,
Do not think of tomorrows, give a damn–
Shed no tears for seasons gone by,
All sighs and cries wind up their tales,
Oh, do not strike the same chord again!

Faiz Ahmad Faiz

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Meeting of hopes & dreams: will that happen in this General Election?

Affect images and political campaigns

“for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

I badly want to hear candidates in the general election describe “we the voters”.  I so badly want to hear.

I want to feel the “throbbing resonance” of shared beliefs, shared purpose and shared hopes.  I want to feel the protection of an arm around me as we whisper our fears.

As a relative newcomer to UK, I want to hear the shared mythology that long time residents share and reassure them we are in this together. I want to see their shoulders relax and their eyes light up.

We are a different place from the US and we are on a different journey.  And maybe in my noobe status, I am not hearing what is being said.

Maybe though we are going to have big surprises when the results are announced.  Maybe too social movements like Hang_em will take off.

What do you think about the connection between the politicians and the voters?  I’d love to know.

QUOTATION FROM: Barack Obama addressing the United Nations Wednesday 23 September 2009

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3 ages of control

Leaving adolescence

It’s interesting when we start to take control of our lives.  We make a plan.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.  And we resign ourselves to being powerless.

Encountering adulthood

Then we get a bit older and we resolve to make things work.  And we do. When a plan threatens to come apart, we jump around and keep it altogether.  And feel very good for it.

Muddling through middle age

It’s only much later that we realize that we weren’t really keeping things together. We were feeling better. We were exploring other stories about ourselves in the world.

Not confronting the experiences of middle age

I see the converse too.  I know people who are brilliant at retelling a story as if the world does it’s bidding.  They can’t countenance a notion that sometimes the world really is not on your side.

They’ve never made the transition from that early stage of needing to be in control.  They’ve just learned to divert their strong need to be in control to a story that convinces .  .   . well, them.  It doesn’t convince anyone else. They are still aiming to feel better and they are willing to pervert reality to regain that feeling.

Living honestly with our lack of control

I can’t believe that this self-deception is a good thing.  Misreading the world is dangerous.  The world simply doesn’t do our bidding.

Our best bet is to position ourselves in the river and go with the current, steering lightly but not fighting.   It’s tough though. I still don’t like being washed along.  I have to reverse attitudes I worked so hard to learn.

But maybe I can achieve more through inaction?

There!  I still want to achieve.  Maybe by promising myself that prize, I can experiment with inaction and simply enjoy the river in all its tumultus chaos?

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Let the energy drip into your heart

Sometimes my heart feels like a solid rock.

Time to step back and ask if I am going in the wrong direction?  Life shouldn’t be this hard.

“The world is made to be free in.”  David Whyte

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Let the world look at you. I assure you, the world will like what it sees.

Gratitude or selfishness?

When I first encountered the idea of a gratitude diary, I was discountenanced by feeling grateful for things like . . .  well, my coffee.  I suspected greed, not gratitude.

Once I started using a diary, then I realised that I was often thankful for the meals I had had that day.  I am grateful for a homemade soup, for example. but am I grateful just because I could have been out all day and been subjected to junk food?  Partly.  Yet  when I feel grateful for soup, I never simultaneously think of the disgusting fare served up as food up-and-down the arterial transport spokes.  I am think of much I appreciate a well made home made soup.  I experience pleasure not gluttony.

In short, I experience me.

This still seems selfish, doesn’t it?  But it is my job to see me.  It is my job to appreciate who I am.

The funny thing is that we cannot see who we are, or appreciate who we, are except in the eyes of the world.  It is when I reach out to some thing I value and treasure, when I recognize what is good in the world, that I recognize the good in me.

Khalil Gibran talks of adventuring a path and meeting the soul.  Not a soul.  The soul.

David Whyte talks of the universe taking its ball home too, when we get up and take our ball home. He points out that universe is not punishing us.  It is just that without “the faculties of attention, there is nothing to be found.”

We are what we are grateful for

We are what we are grateful for.  It’s a simple as that.  When we remind ourselves of what we truly appreciate, we remind ourselves of ourselves.  We are validated.  We belong.

But because we are simple folk and all these word feel like mental contortions, we can listen rather to the words of Mr Chips’ fellow teacher.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

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Time to bring your life alive?

Will you die from an overdose of satisfaction?

The delightful Paolo Coelho quotes Salvador Dali in his blog today.  I deduce that Dali is an artist.  But you and I are probably more interested in his attitude to life.

“The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant. At the age of six years I wanted to be a chef. At the age of seven I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambitions have continued to grow at the same rate ever since. Every morning when I awake, the greatest of joys is mine: that of being Salvador Dali. There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.”

Do your ambitions continue to grow?  Do you like being you?

I am pretty sure you do.  I’ve never met anyone whose eyes don’t light up when we acknowledge their existence.

But so many of us are trying to be someone whom we are not.  We are exhausted by our constant pretending.

It’s so much easier to look at each day and marvel at the moments when we were just doing what brings us alive.  We can put aside the long commutes and grubby trains.  We can put aside the dentist’s chair.   As we pick our way through the rubbish tip of western life much as a small child does on the rubbish dumps of third world cities, we can still find time to celebrate not only what fascinates us but that we are fascinated at all.

Can we celebrate being us and not airbrush ourselves out of the picture leaving only the rubbish dump for the world to see?  Hey this is us. Why should we bring our lives down to the tip around us?  I nearly said, “sorry not me”.  But I am not even going to give that possibility that much airtime.  I’m too busy.

Put rubbish in the rubbish bin where it belongs

I say to university students, “when something is rubbish, pick it up and put it in the rubbish bin where it belongs.  And move along.”  They are always so relieved. They think they are obliged to honor rubbish.  They aren’t.  They just have to bin it.  With gusto and applomb.

They are too busy and too interesting to waste time on refuse.  That belongs on the dump.

Have your ambitions being growing at the same rate – chef at 6, Napolean at 7?  If not, then it is time to bring your life alive!

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5 competences for space creators in our networked world

Entrepreneur, leader, space creator

The great desk tidy continues.  Professional organizational designers will instantly recognize what I am going to describe as Level 2 or C Band in Paterson parlance.

Understanding what is needed when

Let’s imagine a mechanic.  He, and increasingly she, has served an apprenticeship, gone to college, and worked on lots of cars under the supervision of experienced mechanics.

A car arrives.  They look at it.  The learn of symptoms from the driver.  They make some investigations in a manner that any other trained mechanic would recognize as methodical (or haphazard).  They take action.

From time-to-time though, the bundle of symptoms is out-of-pattern.  It may be a rare case that they haven’t encountered before   It may be a complicated case where feedback to the basic tests they carry out is obscured and muddies the decision making process.  The case may be complicated by factors not really to do with the car itself.  Spare parts might be short or the car might be needed in less time than the mechanics need to do everything as well as they would like.

When the job becomes complicated, a more experienced colleague steps in “reads the situation” and explains the priorities to the skilled but inexperienced worker.  Now that they are oriented again to a set of tasks that they know how to do, they can pick up the task from there.

In time, of course, they become experienced themselves and mentor others.

Directing traffic

In an organization, the role of the experienced worker is sometimes played by a controller who cannot do the job themselves.  The archtypical example is the Air Traffic Controller, who prioritizes aircraft and coordinates them with each other and resources on the ground.  The controller is not the aircraft Captain’s boss.  But does give orders of a kind.

The intersections of networks

In networked industries, the role of the controller is likely to become more common.  They may have rudimentary grasp of the skills they coordinate – they may have the equivalent of a light aircraft license, they could join in firefighting in elementary roles, they can do elementary electronics – but they are specialized in control.  They have the mindset to concentrate on what is in front of them for long periods.   They have good mental maps which they keep up-to-date.  They are important enough for psychologists to study them in depth.  Indeed many of the advances in applied cognitive psychology have come from studying air traffic controllers.

And so it will be with “managers” of the future.  Though that term has developed so many connotations that we may have to drop it.

We will have people skilled at managing “space” where people come together to get things done.

People in this line of work will probably start early.  We will see them organizing conventional clubs at school, working online and developing mental models about how to create cooperative spaces in a networked world.

Five competences for space creators in our networked world

As I am on a great clean up of my paper world, I want to write down five competences that the “space creators” of the 21st century will have.

#1 What needs to be done

#2 Emotional energy to connect

#3 Form a collective umbrella

#4 Delegate tasks to protect the collective

#5 Keep commitments to positive emotional space

Sort of abstract but it follows a logic to be: what needs to be done, why are we bothered and how or why would this be our priority, what is the space that we need to work together, what are the important tasks to maintain this space and who will do them, are we having fun here?

How do we learn these skills?  A post for another day, I think.  First, any comment on the competences?

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Enjoy Open Space events by becoming a player

Lost at an Open Space event

Cindy Hoong comments that at Open Space events, we wander around feeling lost and pretending we aren’t so that we fit in with the geeks.

Mmm . . . . yes, I did remember that feeling as I cast around looking for landmarks to orient myself.  We do like a measure of order in our lives and plenty of control for ourselves.

The first stage of group formation, anyway, reminds leaders that we are totally dependent on them to answer the question in our minds, “Do I belong here?”

Landmarks help people move from dependence to independence.  Social landmarks help us feel included.

What can we do when we feel lost at an Open Space event?

One of the most important features of an open space event is that everyone takes part – even if it is only to demonstrate how to make a cup of coffee.

If the event is half-half – then I would fall back on the open source principles. Think of something you like to do and volunteer to do it.  Offer to staff the reception area.  Offer to make the coffee. Set yourself up as official photographer or blogger.  Do something inanane ~ match people in green sweaters to people in green sweaters.

But do something. Preferably something you like to do.  Preferably something you are good at.  Preferably something that achieves a goal important to you.

Then your mindset changes. You want to know where the signing up board is.  You want to grab a room. You want to get to know the other participants so you can tailor your presentation.

Get into the flow.  Join the river.  Become a player.

Hope that helps!

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The give-and-take between us as we follow our dreams strengthens us as individuals and as a group

Thoughts on stray cards on my desk

I confess just to tidying up my desk and wanting somewhere to put a sentence I wrote on the back of one my business cards.  Looking at the card, I must have written this 18 months to 2 years ago.

“The give-and-take between us as we follow our dreams strengthens us as individuals and as a group.”

A touchy-feely sentiment perhaps but also a profound statement of the essence of business.

Give-and-take is the heart of business

The heart of any business is the give-and-take between us.  Give-and-take is not something we add as a layer of style or a way of resolving tension. Give-and-take is the heart.  Our business exists only to give-and-take.

We have give-and-take with our customers. We have give-and-take with our suppliers.  We have give-and-take among ourselves.

Too many businesses, though, set the process of give-and-take in stone.  The give-and-take evolves and it is the ability to build a business the grows the give-and-take that is genius.

Losing the give-and-take

Let me give you examples of misunderstandings of give-and-take.

Some Terms & Conditions on the internet put all the responsibility on the user.  Totally back to front.  The Terms & Conditions should phrase the responsibility and limits on the person who offers them.   In plain English, the T&C should state what I bring to the table and how I will honour you.

A standard role play in assessment centers sets up a “customer” as a bit of buffoon.  Managers, particularly those with accounting and legal training, often try to put the customer in the wrong and wring out of them monetary concessions based on the letter of their contract.  The smart manager judges the situation and looks at it as a way to deepen the relationship with the customer and the customer’s reference group.   A bad situation is simply an opportunity to grow the relationship and do more and better business.

How many times do employees tell managers that something is going wrong only to have their “heads bitten off”?   It is usually productive to ask for more details of the “symptoms” and to find out what the employee proposes.  Both are likely to be interesting.

Open-ended interaction is not always right nor is it predictable

It’s tough to interact with people and just to “see what comes of it”.  I don’t want to do that all the time, of course.  I am not really interested in “generative moments” with an immigration officer at the airport.  Beyond being as cheerful as possible, I just want to have my passport stamped quickly.  On a short haul flight, I also have no interest in manufacturing social moments, though I might do it to lessen the pain of standing in those ridiculous queues.

Long haul flights are quite different.  Being cooped up for 12 hours is a recipe for climbing the walls.  But the nature and quality of the interaction depends on my neighbor as much as me.

I’ve moved out my seat to allow someone two seats and the possibility of a nap.  I’ve asked the airline to find me a bank of seats so I can sleep. I’ve baby sat.  I’ve had people help me.

The story unfolds in a an unpredictable way and the flight is always better for flexibility rather than rigidity.  Of course, I hope there has been no vagueness about the fuel or the engineering.  But most of the human side is generative.  And we are more likely to chose an airline again when the interaction went well.

Give-and-take and management theory

Give-and-take is a difficult concept though.  Too often, in the management sciences we treat organizations as if they are the sum of individuals.  It is true that the interactions between individuals depends on the individuals.  I doubt Professor Stephen Hawking would find my thoughts on physics very stimulating, for example.

But after, all if the interaction of physicists wasn’t stimulating, then it wouldn’t really matter who was around him.

As it is much harder to stimulate and manage generative interactions than it is to find and hire people (buy their time), firms who understand interaction are likely to be the winners.  Brilliant people are probably better off in the company of less brilliant people who interact well than with other brilliant people who interact badly.

The practice of give-and-take

This is all theory though.  I didn’t want to lose my pithy little statement and this blog is my filing cabinet.  What I want to keep goes here.

Hope you find it food for thought.

If nothing else treasure the interactions you have with others.  Guided by their dreams, we grow stronger together.