By our metrics we shall be known: selection for the knowledge industries of the global information age

Metrics

Metrics are good.  They make us do something that psychologists call “operationalize”.  Operationalize isn’t some complicated Freudian notion.  It just means that we take a rather vague slippery idea and say exactly what we mean.  We don’t use “operationalize” to sort out clients who are in an emotional mess. We use it to sort out us ~ to make sure we are clear about what we want to do.

Applying the wrong metrics . . . ouch!

It’s alarming then when we look out into the world and we see people using the wrong metrics.  Often people take a technology and use it in the wrong circumstances, terribly impressed that they are generating a number but apparently unaware that the numbers they are looking  at does not match what they say they are doing, or need to be doing.  It’s doubly scaring because it is clear they haven’t simply made an error.  They have no idea about what they need to do or how to do it.  Nor, it is clear, do they understand the very ‘technology’ they are applying.

New organizations

The world is changing and we are going to need new ‘technologies’ for new situations and new metrics to define exactly what it is we are doing and how well we do it.

Choosing people to join an organization

Big organizations will still have a familiar task: choosing people to join them.

The old idea that we would match people as pegs to holes like the game we give to 1 year old’s just doesn’t wash anymore. What was designed to quickly allocate hundreds of thousands of conscripts to roles in WWI and WWII is not well suited to today’s business.

We have a ‘talent war’ now.  This means that our success depends upon know-how brought into the organization by our people. What we do and how we do it depends more on their ingenuity,creativity and judgment than our preconceived notion of what to do and not do.  After all, if we knew what to do, we  wouldn’t be hiring them as talent.  If we knew what to do, we could probably use a computer or a robot.

There are some roles still where “Mac” jobs rule.  Goody.  Just knowing that the organization runs on “mac” jobs is enough to make look for something better.  Decide the level of your product.  If it is . .  well least said.

Metrics for new selection

What is, then, the essence of selection for new organizations?  And what would be the metric.

I like the idea of assessments that are genuinely two way: in which the candidates find out about us.  Even if they choose not to join us, through that exploration they become clearer and optimistic about their opportunities.  And we become clearer about what we are doing, and the value of what we are doing because of the questions they asked and the conversation they stimulated.

My metric for new selection

Could the measure of an assessment system be the percentage of people who believe that the conversation we invited, initiated, and managed was worthwhile?

Thinking like an academic,

  • Would the opinions of the applicants be uni-dimensional, or would we have to break it up?
  • Would the applicants’ opinions of our conversations tally with our own?
  • Do good quality conversations predict good quality conversations in the future?
  • What are the features of good quality conversations and do they fit known models (such as Losada’s model of team performance)?
  • Would good quality conversations lead to increases in productivity in the units hiring?
  • Do good quality conversations lead to insights about how to negotiate the improvement of the entire supply chain?
  • Are good conversations associated with JIT labour supply?
  • Are good conversations associated with lower total costs of HR administration?

Hmm, I’ve seen this rolled out without the metrics. And I’ve seen plenty of utterly misplaced metrics.

When are we going to step up and serve the knowledge industries of the global information age?

When, o When?

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This is not a recession. Stop dithering and step up to the plate . . .

HR and the recession

People are out hunting again for information on HR and the recession.  I’ll briefly recap my thoughts her.

1 Keep positive

The over-riding goal of HR during a recession is to remain positive.  I don’t mean vacuous gushy “everything will be alright” talk.  We look foolish when we deny the reality of the precariousness of our financial situation and our the hardships being encountered by people around us.

In practice, being positive means this. Get yourself home. Get your staff home. Have plenty of R&R.  Begin the survival course of the recession by keeping the HR team in blooming psychological health.

Then work on the managers. Make sure they are in rude psychological health. Get them home.  Make sure they are keeping things in perspective.

And lastly work on the employees. Make sure they have plenty of time off and if they are on short-time, try to arrange training and meaningful activities that speak to their innermost dreams and sense of who they will become in the future – good economy or bad.

In short, our job is to “do our blooming in the crack and whip of the whirlwind”.  We can’t stop living just because the economy has gone bottoms-up.

2 Get business minded

Cut out the BS, the bullying and the waste of trees.  Get the business facts onto the table.  Ask what evidence there is that something works or doesn’t work.

Ask what needs to be done now. Right now. When someone is throwing their weight around, ask them for one hour when they can stand up in front of the company and explain their vision of the future with facts and figures.

Keep the discussion focused on what our current customers are buying, what we do well, and what we could do more of quite easily.  If someone has a wish-list, ask them to sketch out a project and take charge of it – including persuading people to cooperate.

3 Get negotiation minded

No one is in business to please us. Not our customers. Not our suppliers.  Not our employees.

What are they willing to do right now?  This minute.  What of those choices is good for the business?  Get that done right now.

When someone sulks, ask them what they are willing to do right now.

Of course, negotiation is a two way street. What are you willing to do right now. And do it when called for.

Is this HR?

Sure it is. HR isn’t a set of tree-wasting morale-hoovering procedures.  It is keeping the team together in a constructive mood.

We can only achieve our mission when we are feeling fresh and rested.  We can only do that when we are talking about mutual goals (business).  We can only do that when stress belonging – what we are doing together rather than what we are not.

And it begins with us.  If our mental health is ragged, we can’t support the managers.  They will become ragged and they can’t support their employees. If necessary, retain a positive psychologist to telephone you weekly or even daily.  Otherwise just look after yourself.  Go home. Eat fresh food. Take exercise. Keep a gratitude diary.   You will notice the difference.

Then cut out the time-wasting and focus on business.

Then focus on belonging.  Why does this person want to be here?  Why do we want them here? Have we made that clear?  Are we setting th tone for a positive inclusive enviroment?

HR is a leadership role

A stern tone – yes, I think I am becoming impatient.  That won’t do.  I must take my own advice.  But this why I am so certain of my advice.

This is not a recession folks.  Stop dithering, and step up to the plate to deliver the positive, business minded, inclusive leadership that we joined HR to do.

And that applies to me too.

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Lao Tzu to Contemporary Management via Psychology

Suspicious of poetry

As a young psychologist, I bought into the notion that psychology must tell us something that is not common sense.  Many leading psychologists still think this way.  I don’t think it is right.  The profession is setting itself apart from the world, above the world, beyond the world.   It is now other worldly.

We should be more like management scientists.  You know those tough guys who schedule the plans and manage the electricity grid so an airport never has more planes and people than it can cope with and the national grid doesn’t fall over when we all make supper at the same time?

Hard core scientists don’t set themselves up against common sense.  They support common sense.  Maybe they also read poetry.

Bridging the divide between poetry and management

That being said, maybe we need some prose to help people take the first steps.  Writing coach, Joanna Young, tweeted this Lao Tzu quote today.

Kindness in words creates confidence.

Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.

Kindness in giving creates love.

LaoTzu

The core of contemporary management thinking

Sounds soppy, but these words from 1500 years ago are the core of modern management thinking.

Kindness in words creates belonging and the possibility of collective efficacy.

Kindness in thinking leads to creativity and strategic clarity and hence provides the bedrock of common action.

Kindness in giving creates the common ties that allow resilience and flexibility.

Some time on Google Scholar and you will drown in academic references.

Leadership, management, human resource management

Leadership:  who are we journeying with and why are they essential to our journey?

Management: which way are we going and what can each of us do to help?

Human Resource Management: who feels secure with us and will be with us tomorrow?

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3 prongs of HR in our Networked World

The HUMAN Resource album cover
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10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world

I am currently writing about 10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world and I stopped to consider the specific issues faced by startups – defining their fans & customers.

For HR too

HR are another group who face special problems. HR are last to the party and we often feel that there is little we can do about the structure and climate we inherit.

Well there is.

HR in the Recession Stressed World of 2009

First, promote positive psychology.

Full press. Positive psychology is the biggest favor we can do for our organization.

And to develop an infectiously positive outlook, we personally will take more vacations, play more golf, laugh more, and have fun! It begins with us.

Second, read the 10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world

Originally written by Umair Haque to defend networks under attack, the rules provide a framework for an organizational structure that will work in today’s fast moving world.

Our structures will be a little different to the ones we have now.

The job of corporate HR in a networked world

Why do we need an organization anyway?

In the ‘corporate’ office, our task is to develop the collective properties of an organization that the people out in the field need to compete effectively.

We, for example, work on discounts that make it easier to get good rents in the shopping malls. But we don’t sign exclusive deals that block the initiative of the people in the front line.

We conceptualize the meaning of the collective.  But ot in terms of return on our funder’s capital.  Interest on capital is incidental to our business. So are we, actually.

We conceptualize why the field units are better off working under one umbrella and we work out which aspects of the organization must be coordinated and which do not have to be.

That’s what we went to university to learn and that’s how we contribute significant, inimicable value that exceeds the cost of our salaries.

Just how lightweight can the organization be?

And then we execute those aspects of coordination in as light weight form as we can.

If capital is needed, so be it. But we don’t become prats and hand-over the business lock-stock-and-barrel.  We let the funders have their % return.  That is all.

Take the initiative to lead us into the networked world

And we step-up! This is the age of sweat equity. We are in the age of organizing ourselves around our talent and around our relationships with customers.

This is our task as HR managers of the 21st century

1.  Conceptualize the organizational structures that add value to the business.

2.  Organize the corporate office to add that value.

3.  Help talent make the transition from solo operator to team player and from talented employee to customer-oriented professional.

That’s what we do now. We are the entrepreneurs of the 21st century!

And if you are not in corporate HR?

Start learning.

You can activate positive psychology in the workplace without anyone’s permission.

Indeed, if they are inclined to say no, that is all the more reason why you must activate positive psychology, for the sake of your own mental health.

If you don’t understand that argument, contact me, and I will explain.

And activate social media for the functions you do control.

All works parties, sports teams and fund raising can be managed with social media.

Begin, so your skills are up-to-speed when you need them.

To recap: HR in the Networked World

1.  Positive psychology

2.  Social media

Why?

1.  We want to find the organizational structure that brings value to business.

2.  We want to organize the corporate office to execute the structure to add that value.

3.  We want to help each and every person in the organization go from being solo-performer with talent to a customer-oriented professional who is supported by a team and supports a team in turn.

I have my mission. I hope I have helped you find yours.

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3 opportunities for HR in social media. Join me?

Plateau du jeu des petits chevaux, variante fr...
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I’ve this minute discovered Norwegian blog Human Resources and Social Media, where Vegard Iglebaek asks today – are there any collaborative organizations out there?

I spent much of my career consulting to a variety of multinationals in a regional hub, a career which allowed me to get a sense of how management styles differ by nationality.

Norwegian firms are highly collaborative but also very disciplined. You aren’t allowed to bypass the collaborative process. Nor can you act as a loose cannon. That can be a shock to people from more ill disciplined cultures or cultures where position allows personal license.

I think Vegard is asking a more general question. What are the opportunities in social media? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this too and these are my conclusions.

3 issues for HR & #So.ME.

1   Helping conventional organizations use Social Media in their existing structures or take the first baby steps to learn about Social Media.

I have rubric for aggregating #So.ME skills in an organization and slowly assimilating #So.ME expertise in a pragmatic way, if you are interested.

2   Helping #So.ME organizations use conventional management to pursue their more collaborative goals (doing HR and OD for them).

Many of these young organizations need some basic help in putting in management systems. We should take care though to adapt our systems to the nature of their organization. We shouldn’t just copy procedures from old organizations.

3   Understanding the new organizations that will emerge and how they put some of the organizations in 1 out of business (requiring some redundancy work from us.)

I am impressed the US military is using social media quite assertively. For the most part though, it is not enough to tack social media onto the end of an organization as an afterthought.

The correct thinking is to sketch out the value added chain for the whole industry and to ask where #So.ME will be the game changer. Then leap frog to that position creating a vigorous viable organization that is competitive right here, right now.

Choosing the concentration for our own practice

While these three prongs are clear, trying to service all three groups at once can split our attention.

I would love to form a consortium of HR people who use #So.ME so we could each specialize in one area and bring in our colleagues specializing in the other prongs on a project-by-project basis to add depth.

It seems to me though that HR people in #So.ME don’t have confidence in the new zeitgeist.  Does it seem like that to you?

We need to put our money where our mouth is.  We need to be seen to be working collaboratively (and in as disciplined way as any conventionally collaborative Norwegian organisation).  The our clients will readily believe what we say.

Contact me if you are interested!

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Lighten your personal burden for navigating 2009

A tumultuous year ends

So we come to December 31st, the arbitrary marker of one year ending and another beginning.  What a rough road the year has been.   The emperor’s clothes of the financial system has shocked us, as has our previous collective unwillingness to call what we all knew.  The generational baton has passed from Baby Boomers to Gen X with the gripping election of Barack Obama.  In other parts of the world, change has happened, and sometimes of equal significance, change has not happened.  It seems that where ever we live, we have reached a fork in the road, and we are unclear about what lies ahead or how to commit our energy.

Anxiety competing with optimism

So as we approach 2009, we have a nasty knawing feeling in our stomachs.  If I commit myself to optimism, we think privately, will pessimism turn out to be the better route?  Or, vice versa?

Together into the unknown

The reality is that this is a false dilemma and a false choice.  We don’t know what is on the road ahead and whether it is to be feared or not.  We don’t know if the roads will fork again, or even if the forks we see will rejoin themselves shortly.

All we can really do, is gather ourselves up, surround ourselves with people we like, and set off with a spring in our step.

What we need on the journey along an unknown road

  • to stick together, to remain within sight and sound of each other
  • to keep our resources safe and focus on navigating the road
  • to keep spirits up, lest we drift to that emotional place of bargaining with choices that aren’t real.

In organizations we know

For some of us, the journey ahead may not be quite so obviously into the unknownn.  We may be in a viable business that we own, or that employs us.  For you, I am happy to say, the most popular post on this blog on the last day of 2008,  is one I wrote when the recession seemed likely: a positive approach to HR in the recession.

I made three very similar points back in July about the role of the Human Resources team during recession.

  • Our own health. Our first priority is to ensure that the HR team has plenty of emotional R&R (rest & recreation).   Emotions are contagious and if we have low grade depression, we in HR will spread our low spirits like a forest fire!
  • Positive goals all round. Our overiding programme is to help each and every person in the organization develop explicit & positive goals and we stop, only, when everyone is brimming with enthusiasm for the year ahead.
  • Healthy leaders. The chief item in our contingency budget is a lot of time to nurture the emotional health of the leaders.  If they are not in good shape, they will be not detect opportunities and we are all sunk.

If you aren’t in HR, or don’t have an HR department, you may want to delegate one person to take charge of this brief.

Into a year of the unknown

For those of us facing the unknown, maybe our businesses are new or our careers are unstable, our work follows the same parallels.

  • We shape the collective. In hard times, we may be very tempted to go it alone.  And I include here whining about other people not helping us sufficiently.  If we imagine ourselves walking along a road, as confused as everyone else around us, this is the time to talk to others.  This is the time to take care to include everyone we meet.  This is the time to take time, and to spend precious resources, on little rituals that celebrate  the commonness of our journey, our guts, our gumption, our hope, and that we are on the road together.  We may be very reluctant to do this because budgets are tight and we feel resources are limited but this is the time.  This is the time to be clear about the collective in our own minds, and through our clarity, help others keep the wellbeing of us all in the front of their minds too.  I can make you this promise. The half-an-hour you spend today quietly thinking about who is around you on your journey into 2009 will bring you unparalleled dividends in the year ahead.
  • We cherish individualism. With the need to protect the collective, we might become overly demanding and even whiny about the responsibilities of others.   The collective depends not on what individuals give to it, but what it gives to individuals.  To be effective, a collective celebrates the strengths of its members, and makes room for people to have quiet time alone and with intimates to recover their breath and keep their own dreams alive.  How much empathy do we have for others around us?  Do we understand the shoes in which they walk? Importantly, are we leaving enough time in our day and our transactions to stop and listen and think and understand the people around us?  How could we make a quiet half-an-hour each day to slow down and cherish the people around us?
  • We trade tasks and lessen the burden. A burden shared is more than halved.  There can be a temptation to go it alone on the one hand, or to try to use people to do our work on the other and to become demanding and bossy.  Organizing is a little different.  We identify tasks that are important to the collective and we make sure everyone has a real and respected role to protect the well-being of the group. To extend the metaphor of an unknown road, we put the good map readers onto to reading the map, we put the active and restless to scouting ahead, we put the cooks on to cooking, and the story tellers onto entertainment.  Can we make time, once a week or once a month, to stop and think about what must be done, who is the natural person to do it, and what we will do for them while they are doing that for us?

And when it seems hopeless or too hard

And so what if we are new to a place, or in an unpleasant place, with no collective spirit and evil leadership?  I know this is hard.  I am a pseudo-refugee after all.  My advice is to take it step-by-step.

  • Think through what you need to go down the road, and understand that everyone else needs exactly what you need.
  • Talk to each person you meet and understand their journey.
  • Once you understand their strengths, ask them to trade with you what they do well and easily, with what you can do for them.
  • Set up the time when you will swap.
  • And continue adding people, all the time keeping the ‘swapping time’ positive, when you also celebrate collective well-being.

Lighten your personal burden for navigating 2009, as and when the opportunity arises, and through your needs, come to celebrate the journeys and strengths of others.

2009: A year of leadership?

In western ritual, we don’t have a year of  this or that.  Maybe this is the year of leadership?

In years like this, as we walk along an unknown road, we need leaders

  • who think through what needs to be done
  • who have the emotional energy to understand and celebrate the journeys that other people are taking
  • who form the collective as an umbrella
  • who delegate tasks to protect the collective
  • who keep commitment to the collective with a vibrant emotional space where we come to recharge rather than be depleted.

I’ll be interested in your stories as the year unfolds.  Here’s to a fun, happy and unexpectedly prosperous 2009!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.




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