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Tag: skills

Get to the heart of what will be the vibrant, interesting, & lucrative jobs and careers in the 21st century?

New management

When I went to university, we were told that management is the art of getting work done through people.  A passport to laziness and exploitation!

Today, we say management is developing people through work.

Work should be fun.  It is fun for some of us.

And work should be fair.  Not only should we receive a fair day’s pay for a fair days work.  We should be growing as a person and capable of doing more with each hour of work that we put in.

Rewriting the training manuals for jobs and careers

In 20th century management manuals, Stage 1 of work was doing.  For about 10 years, roughly from 16 to 26, we learned a trade and built breadth & depth through education and exposure.  Our job was to cultivate a deep knowledge of our materials and tools, appreciate our customers, and adapt what we did for their needs.  We wanted to learn enough about the wide range of situations that we might encounter in the future so that we could go with the flow and make a living as the years went by.

Sadly, of course, markets change and revolutions happen in technology.  With very little notice, customers defect to other products and markets, competitors outrun us, or the technology changes sufficiently to require another 10 year apprenticeship.

In the ‘olden days’, HR departments were responsible for seeing ahead and retraining staff ahead of any abrupt changes.  By definition, the HR Director’s job was to spot changes on the horizon and get everyone retrained in new ways without disrupting today’s operations.  There was a reason for that high salary!

You are now your own HR Director

Today’s management theorists and leadership coaches counsel another approach.  They recommend that each of us scan the horizon for changes and retrain ourselves in good time.

This is quite hard to do.  As noobes, we barely understand the business.  We don’t have data to see ahead.  Indeed it might be kept from us.  And training tends to focus on skill  rather than the ‘sweet spot’ where are skills are deeply valued by our customers.

The sweet spot where your skills are deeply valued by your customers

I know that there has been a lot of research on how to train people on the sweet spot.

  • I recall attempts to train doctors by introducing them to patients from day one.  The conclusion, I recall, was that the pre-clinical training was necessary to speed up communication between noobes and experienced doctors and the experiment was abandoned.
  • Cognitive psychologists have developed computer games to test whether it is better to learn the market before we learn the underlying technology of our business.  They concluded no.  First, learn the technology, then try to make money.
  • Military psychologists have found that youngsters trained to manage their attention on computer games performed better as fighter pilots.  In the game, the recruits played the part of captains of de-mining vessels.  Each ‘month’, or game cycle, they would concentrate on the overall outcome of running the ship and concentrate on learning one of the functions only ~ navigation, finance, HR, etc.  The limitation known with this approach is that under pressure we often go back to the “level” that we first learned, requiring, once again, that we can see into the future and pick our “level” correctly.

It seems easy to mess up our mental models of the sweet spot and what we need to do to manage it.  We can overemphasize the money end and underemphasize the skill.  We can also learn to manage situations that are too small to sustain a living.

More research needed on managing our own training for 21st century jobs and careers

None of these experiments have focused though on developing a sense of the sweet spot and organizing skills and commercial acumen around a sweet spot that morphs, ebbs and flows.  I know no experiment where “subjects” were explicitly trained to monitor what is happening around them, to think of their own skills (and the skills of their team) and bring those together into a rewarding balance.

I wonder what would happen if we learned to think that way from the get-go?

 

Organize your own thinking about vibrant, interesting & lucrative jobs and careers in the 21st century

If you want to try, to organize your thinking about the sweet spot between your skills and the needs of customers, this is what I recommend.

Pick on anything you did today that you enjoyed and draw out 3 spokes

  • name the key technical skill that you used to provide your customer with value
  • name the customer and describe his or her needs
  • name the sweet spot and try describe it in one sentence

These three spokes correspond logically to three factors associated with successful business teams:

  • The teams ask questions more often than the give answers
  • They concentrate on the outside world a little more than on themselves
  • The look for what is going well and are positive 5x more than they are negative

Become your own HR Director

I think it will take quite a few lots of 10 to 15 minutes jotting down notes for this way of thinking to come easily.  But when it does you will be your own HR Director

  • Looking ahead
  • Retraining on time
  • Finding the sweet spot where you feel vital, involved, entertained, valued AND rewarded!

Do let me know how it works out!

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Which skills will be valuable in 5 years time?

Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

Mary, the HR Body put her cheerful face around the door and said “Lunch”.  Yep, I was keen.  There is just so much that I can take in at one time and the Dashboard at Xoozya is pretty comprehensive.

She dangled a key.  “Bring valuables,” she said, “but leave everything else as it is.  We’ll lock the door”.

The canteen wasn’t far and I could hear the buzz as we approached.  It was just as hyped.   Salads, fruit and hot food and the refreshing absence of the cloying smell of old fat and overcooked vegetables.  Sweet.

Mary, ever the professional, asked nimbly whether I ate fish.  I do, and she said, “I’ll get two fish pies – they’re good.  You grab some salads.  I’d like plain lettuce and tomato and pear or some fruit.  Water OK to drink?”  I caught up with her at the cashier where she introduced me as noobe and I put my food on my tab.  We grabbed napkins and cutlery and she led the way to a corner table.  “We’ll join Peter Wainwright, the HR Director.  You remember him, of course?”

As we approached, Peter rose, smiled warmly, and said “Hello, Jo.  Welcome to Xoozya!  Here’s to a prosperous and happy alliance.”

We fumbled around, as one does, arranging trays and getting comfortable and he asked about my morning.  I told him it was clear I have some thinking to do to set up a communication system that leaves me informed but not overwhelmed with information.

He nodded and added: “Well, take your time.  Every minute that you spend in exploration now pays off handsomely in comfort and organization later.  We also want you to base your judgments on what matters. You’ve joined us with your skills, as has everyone else here,” he said, waiving his hand at the crowded canteen.

Future capability and value

“There are skills that are essential to what you do and there are skills that will change with technological change.”

  • “We want you to jot down the skills that are absolutely essential to what you do.  These we will nurture and respect.”
  • “Then there are skills that are going to change significantly over the next five to ten years.  We want those on a separate list because those require significant investment in time and energy”.
  • “And there are skills that we don’t use anymore.  Those we give a respectful burial.” He smiled.  “When we have identified a skill or process that we no longer use, we get an occupational psychologist to document it and we make a display for our skills museum.  Then we have a little wake,” he chuckled, “to see it off.  It’s quite cathartic.”

Nostalgia for skills & practices of the past

“So which skill in the museum is best-loved?” I asked.  “Which grave attracts the most flowers?”

“Ah, we hadn’t thought of doing that.  Good idea.  We should put the skills up on the intranet with the choice of . . . flowers or . . . a good kick . . . or a big ? mark for ‘who was this!’.  And see what we get back!”

My induction so far

Well, I obviously have some thinking to do.  It is only lunchtime and I have to think about

BTW

Which skills are utterly essential to your work?

And which will change so fundamentally in the next five years that you will need to retrain?

And which skills deserve a respectful burial?

Which are you happy to see go and which will you miss?

And if you are enjoying this series, please do feel free to join in!

  • Leave your thoughts in the comment section
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  • If you comment on this post from your blog, please link back to this post from the words Jo Jordan, flowingmotion, or Xoozya
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And PS, if you are new to this blog, Xoozya is an utterly fictitious organization.  This series began on the spur of the moment as I started to explored the principles of games design and Ned Lawrence of Church of Ned mentioned how much time people put into designing their avatars, or online identities.  Xoozya is an attempt to imagine what an organization would look, sound and feel like if it were run along lines recommended by contemporary management theorists.

And PPS Ned is an online writing coach and is available for hire.

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Active listening

For fear of ever losing it, I must quote The Bumble Bee word-for-word here.

“Imagine you are the leader of a new team or network.

How can you quickly find out what each team member’s number one concern is about working in this scenario?

Dr Lewis recommends you get each of them to repeat the following 5 words out loud without thinking about it too much:

“We can’t do that here”

Listen carefully to which of the five words they stress – if it’s:

  1. We – they are worried about their identity
  2. Can’t – they are worried about their beliefs and values
  3. Do – they are worried about their skills
  4. That – they are worried about their behavior
  5. Here – they are worried about the environment”

UPDATE:  This heuristic is quite sophisticated listening, yet it is needed.  Even IT people struggle with comments like : We can’t do that here.  What exactly does someone mean when they say that.

Can we separate out the ideas a little more?

1  We – what will my friends and significant others think of me?

2  Can’t – that doesn’t make sense with the other things we think and do

3  Do – we don’t know how to do that, or manage that

4 That – we can do it another way but not like that

5 Here – what you suggest will harm this place

This is highly nuanced listening which helps to find a person’s underlying objection.

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