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Month: November 2009

Get a big job done twice as fast using the psychology of goal setting

We love goals that simplify what we have to do

We are a hopeless species! Give us a goal and we cannot help ourselves. We chase it.  But if the end is not in sight, we feel tired and we stop.

Hence the three rules of goal-setting.

  • Make the goal definite and visible.
  • Show our progress to the goal in real-time
  • Make sure it is doable before we get tired.

Blog migration

My predicament

I have been writing this blog in WordPress.com for two years. Now that is is established, I want to move it to a self-hosted site using software from WordPress.org.

I am going to move to a magazine layout which means that the last post from each category will be visible on the front page. And the reader is able to click to a category’s index to see everything I’ve written in chronological order.

The big task

My difficulty is that I have dozens of categories. I eventually settled on a format that uses 5 categories and I have chosen the categories.

Now I need to reclassify 500 or so posts into the 5 categories.   At a handful a day, this could take me a year to do!

Clever goal setting is motivating & doable

I’ve finally found a way to do the transfer that is motivating.

  • I look down my categories list, pick one with few entries, and resort the posts. Eventually the number becomes 0.
  • Then I delete the category from the list and the categories list grows shorter!

It will still take me months but eventually

  • I will have a blog with all the posts categorized under 5 topics
  • I will have reread everything I have written in two years and done some light editing
  • I’m bound to have write some more summary posts
  • It will be easier for me review my own posts and find the questions that I have answered well and should answer soon!

The trick has been to arrange the work so

  • I can see where I am going
  • I have a constant sense of progress
  • I can organize the work into chunks that I can finish before I get tired.

Great goal setting!

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Social media is not putting anyone out of work, not even journalists

Computers have never put anyone out of work!

I got my first job using a computer before I could use one!  I had been given a massive job calculating a correlation matrix for 500 or so people on 35 variables and I had 6 weeks to do it.

I didn’t fancy spending my summer doing clerical work, so I took a week’s course in programming, barely understood a word, talked my way into the University’s computer centre, found a programme, and finished the job in 3 weeks instead of the 6 weeks allotted. Two of those weeks were spent looking for a comma, though I didn’t know that then.

The last three weeks of my 6 week job were spent teaching at the Institute of Personnel Management, administering psychological tests to select junior bankers, and writing up the manual for a set of tests.

Herein, I learned three important lessons about IT

#1 Computers really can cut out the drudgery of office work.  Think how nice it is to cut cutting out 90% of the time you spend on paperwork.

#2 When you don’t know what to do, ask. Often the problem is something trivial that is obvious to someone who has done a similar job before

#3 Computers have never put any one out of work.

But will social media or web2.0 put people out of work?

The troubles of newspapers in today’s world has led me to wonder if it is still true that computers have never put anyone out of work. We hear of newspapers shutting because of competition from bloggers and Twitter.

Is it possible that web 2.0 will put people out of work where web 1.0 didn’t?

After some thinking and scouting around, my best guess is no. Work will change and some newspaper owners may not achieve ‘rents’ they achieved in the past. But the work is still there.

Big institutions need to manage an institutional voice

Today I looked at the NZ Labour Party blog and really, they could do with some professional journalists on their staff.

What does it mean to be authentic when you represent an institution

I know we all want an authentic voice on web2.0. I love it that Paulo Coelho is on Twitter and has real interviews every night.

A NZ Labour Party blog though, represents an institution. There is nothing wrong with MP’s dictating their blog post, or drafting it, and sending it to an editorial team who sub it and check it for coherence (dotting the i’s and making sure it toes the party line).

That’s what Obama does with his speech writers. He is in control and they work on replicating his voice.

In a political party, the MP’s would initiate content and the sub’s would tidy it up using the MP’s voice.

Because the Labour Party is a team, an editorial team would also check whether posts support or contradict each other, extract emerging teams and even hold up a mirror to MP’s about what they are saying and how it might be perceived by their audience.

There is nothing wrong with a service like this running in the background. It is no different from teaching people to write and edit, or, taking a degree in politics and history.

After all political voices aren’t ‘born’. They don’t come ready-made. They are cultured.  And we join political parties to work together on something we find important.

Social media creates better work for us all

So no, I don’t think social media puts people out of work. Social media allows us to work together and accomplish more than we did before.

Social media will not put journalists out of work. It will generate more opportunity for them.

And it may generate better work, in new career tracks, with more opportunity to influence the world.  Lucky them to lose old ways and find new.

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Positive psychology and an adult response to the financial crisis

The day I crossed the Rubicon to adulthood

It was a hot, in October. The rainy season was approaching but had not yet arrived. A fan was going full tilt in my office. Behind me, my windows were shut. Below my window, our lorries belched diesel fumes as they queued to exit the factory gate and take flour and maize meal for hundreds of miles around.

My phone rang and in the brisk and formal business culture of Zimbabwe, I answered it promptly: “Jo Jordan. Good afternoon.”

My caller came from outside the company. We had been at university together. And she had a lot to say about the local psychological association. I agreed. And said so.

Then I drew myself to a halt. I was the Secretary of the Association and had been for 3 months. If there was anything that needed to be done, it was my job to get it done.

And hence, I crossed an important Rubicon. I was no longer teenager/student/young adult . I was a citizen fully responsible for the way we ran our affairs.

When did you make the transition from adolescent to adulthood?

Some people never make that transition. Forever, everything is someone else’s responsibility.

Today, something in my feed caught my eye and jolted my memory of when I grew up on a stifling hot and dusty day when we were waiting for the rain and for the new agricultural season to begin.   The story was about the general loss of respect for employers in the wake of the banking crisis.

Employment is not a private activity

A feature of employment law is that the manager, representing the owner, knows best. It is an absurd assumption but some people insist upon it. When we do, we take on a mantle of responsibility, not just to the owners, but to people on whom we imposed our judgement. And to deliver, we have to manage events not just inside the company but outside too.

We cannot manage the rains, perhaps. But we are responsible for responding adequately to the weather, whatever it brings.

Our outrage at the bank failures and MP expenses

The reason why the bank failures and the MP scandals have shocked us so is not the professional errors themselves. Few people understand exactly what happened in the banks or the mysterious absence of accountants and auditors in the Houses of Parliament.

But we do understand that both groups claimed status that put their judgement above ours. And they weren’t able to deliver on their promises they made when they arrogated status about ours.

We are hearing arguments from bankers and MPs that the privileges of office must be sufficiently high to warrant the responsibility they carry.  So they do understand what they promised!  But their arguments are back to front, of course. First, they need to show they can carry out even the basic responsibilities of public office before we worry about awarding privileges!

All public office, being a prefect at school, being secretary of the sport club, and for that matter, being a director of a private company carries the same basic responsibilities.

Implicitly, we promise to

  • Speak up when something is blatantly wrong
  • Live up to the procedures of contract and documentation that our culture has worked out over the centuries
  • Understand where the world is going and make adequate provision for the range of events that might occur
  • Show uncompromising loyalty to the people we represent and presume to order about
  • Represent the whole team without whining and making excuses

There is a big difference between nitpicking and exercising our office responsibly

You may feel my argument is completely wrong

It may be that you see no connection between the behaviours I listed and things going right or wrong. If you don’t, I’d be happy to see a rebuttal but experience tells me that you will not advance a logical argument. You may argue that no one will notice any way. You will probably just dismiss me with contempt.

You may dislike nitpicking implied by rules

You may also have an inherent distrust of nitpicking. Exercising judgement and compassion, I would argue, is different. People who exercise judgement and compassion don’t hide behind rules. They judge the situation and manage it so that we achieve the outcome we want and help the person we assisted grow into a leader themselves – responsible, thoughtful, effective, loyal and with good moral & practical judgment.

You may feel you have no responsibility to anyone but yourself

It is also possible you see your job about looking after you and your own rather than every one around you and beyond. You are likely to have made up your mind on this point quite early in roles that you held at school, college and university. Early on, you will have decided how you would execute collective responsibilities.  Is the group there for you, or you for it? Did you speak up when things were plain wrong.  Or did you allow rubbish to accumulate thinking you would be out of the picture before the results became evident.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

You will know your own opinion, of that I am sure, and you might tell me here.

But it is likely that I have divided opinion. One group will dismiss me with contempt and pity.

They other would like to know more about acting responsibly and would like to work in environments where responsibility is more highly valued.

Is it too much to agree with Edmund Burke that we all allowed the system to drift into such disarray?

Where are doing exactly the same thing – keeping our heads-down because we believe so little in the people around us that we don’t believe they will listen or care?  Where are we speaking up contentiously and carping and whining rather than engaging on matters that we are responsible for?

Should we begin by ticking off parts of the system that work well and doing more of them?

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HRM – ready for the recovery? On your marks! Go!

HRM in a fast moving world of the recovery

Earlier today, I posted my understanding of HRM and work psychology in today’s fast moving world.

In the previous post, I laid out the questions that employees or individual players ask, and the questions that project leaders or organizational representatives ask.

And what HRM has to do to pull together these questions in near-real-time so that the organization can move swiftly to negotiate and capture value before an opportunity evaporates.

HRM service for a fast moving world post-recession

One of the practical services that HRM is called upon to provide is a website and community forum that

  • Articulates the vision of a collected group of professionals
  • Provides a readwrite website that allows everyone to comment freely
  • Manages the technicalities and social features of the website
  • Is trusted by their past, present and future employees who are happy to add their visions

Moreover, it is probably necessary to launch a website like this simultaneously with major changes including

  • New appointments
  • Departures
  • New projects
  • New developments in other companies!

HRM skills in a world speeded up by social media

Do we have the facilitation, copy writing and technical skills to work at speed in the public gaze?

We do need to work publicly and fast in today’s world of social media.

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We are getting whooped by people who use ‘pull’ management? Why don’t we?

Management hasn’t changed a lot in the last 100 years.  And what has changed, changed a long time ago – 50 years ago.  If your company hasn’t caught up, this is what you need to know!

‘Push’ management

In the olden days, or in a NZ meat-packing plant for example, the assembly line dictates the pace.  A carcass arrives.  A worker cuts off the relevant part, rinses the knife in water, and repeats.  Each cycle takes less than 30 seconds. The carcasses keep coming.  That is ‘push’ management.

Work is pushed at us. Adverts are pushed at us. As the poet said in The Charge of the Light Brigade – Ours is to do and die.  Ours is not to wonder why.

‘Pull’ management

Toyota perfected “pull” manufacturing ages ago.   There are three terms that you want to know.   (The New Yorker has just written an excellent case study which you may want to bookmark if you are in management education.)

  • The andon allows a worker to stop the assembly line whenever they think it is necessary.
  • The kanban is their signal that they need more parts.
  • And kaizen means continuous improvements which are driven by them.

All-in-all, pull manufacturing moves the engine of improvement from managers to workers.

Why have we been so slow to implement ‘pull’ management?

If ‘pull’ management works so well, why don’t we copy Toyota?

Simply, we because the only way to get the advantage of the system is to do it.  And that means trusting in our workers and their ability to drive quality.

And it that works so well, why don’t we trust our workers in the west?  What is it about our system that we don’t trust the people who work for us?

Or is the truth that we know that they cannot trust us?

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HRM – drop the shopping list and give me the information I need!

The psychology and HRM that we are teaching is not good enough

We, psychologists and HR Managers do ourselves a disservice. We train our students in technicalities. Psychologists learn to run laboratories and do stats. Future HR Managers are taught the steps of recruiting, selecting, and paying people who work as employees.

We produce drones, who have enormous difficulty communicating with other people in an organization.

Even our blogs tend to drone on-and-on as shopping lists of what to do when. People hate us – for good reason. We concentrate on forms and procedures. We know the price but not the value. We know the answers and not the questions.

I want my HR Manager to know

  • Who I am
  • Where I come from
  • What is important to me
  • Where I am going
  • Why I am here
  • What specific things I bring to the party
  • The things I want on and off-the-job
  • And not least, where I can find people elsewhere (outside the organization) who can meet my needs – including ex-employees!

As a manager, I want to hear from HR

  • How many people are interested in the work I am doing
  • Where they come from and where they are going to
  • Whether interest in our work in the ascendancy or in decline
  • New interests that are emerging
  • How people in the field relate to each other and how their inter-relationships are changing
  • And some ideas of how I can build my interests on the interests of others as they come and go, morph and change.

HRM in fast moving industries

In fast moving industries, our interests and motives are continuously changing and quite fast.

HR has a large challenge to come up with a report structure or dashboard which keeps abreast of changes and opportunities in the labour supply.

  • As a player inside the organization, I have needs that come up very quickly. Is the organization able to meet my demands in time to create value?  What does the organization need to do in the background to have that readiness?
  • Equally, the people who work in my field and who could create exceptional value if we worked together have needs which come and go. How do we detect that it would be a good time to approach them and can we negotiate a deal before they move on to other opportunities?
  • Can we get ahead of the game by making a place where people come together to discuss their ongoing and ever developing needs? How do we invite them to join in, how do we help them to influence discussions, how can we show them how to extract what they want, and how do we help them to decide when they should move on?

Should we decide to work together in for a longer period and should we need a formal contract, what structures will facilitate the mutual journey?

Our role is to facilitate the interests and motivation of people who are moving very fast. That is what we must understand and that is what we must shape.

  • Do we hold up a mirror so they can see themselves change?
  • Can they see patterns in how every one else is changing?
  • Can they see ahead and position themselves to take part in the most lucrative join ventures that are emerging?
  • Can we keep the information up-to-date in near-real-time because the opportunities change as people react to each other?

Please drop the shopping list approach to HR! Organizations will not exist to amuse us.

We must make organizations that allow value to emerge in specific industries. Anything else is just clerking.  It is close to worthless and utterly dull.

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5 worldly happiness hacks!

Gretchen Rubin over at the happiness project has 5 happiness hacks that are worth considering.

Would following even one help you enjoy your life more?  Or make you more enjoyable to live with and work with?

# 1 Impulse to tidy up?

Add File 13 – the rubbish bin. See if you can fill it up!

# 2 Determined to exercise some self-control?

Cut down the times you have to self-control to no more than 2 a day! Stop beating yourself up.  Side-step nonsense.

# 3 Think you need a treat to lift you up?

Live well all the time!  Make each meal a treat. Tidy up as you go.  Live elegantly!

# 4 Think you need to help people in the world?

Help people close to home! Look around the room!  Halve some else’s irritation in your own kitchen, your own office, your own commuter train.

An irritation shared is usually quartered.

# 5 Resolving to do something?

Don’t. If you must have a resolution, have one, till it is done! Pick the most important and don’t put anything else on the list!

 

 

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