Browsing Tag

human resources

Restructuring your strategy: An economic imperative

I’ve been speaking and traveling a little more of late and the economic discussions continue monopolize discussions. Been busy on a bunch of things, but a common theme of the discussions I’m having is “what worked 90 days ago doesn’t work today” or “Differentiation today is different than last year – the market have moved to X in the last year”.

While the system outlined below is little overly diagrammed, the 10 steps are spot on. Thanks oukearts!

Principles: Shading strategy, execution and interactions

prin·ci·ple [prin-suh-puhl] –noun

1. an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct: a person of good moral principles.
2. a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived: the principles of modern physics.
3. a fundamental doctrine or tenet; a distinctive ruling opinion: the principles of the Stoics.
4. principles, a personal or specific basis of conduct or management: to adhere to one’s principles; a kindergarten run on modern principles.
5. guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct: a person of principle.
6. an adopted rule or method for application in action: a working principle for general use.
7. a rule or law exemplified in natural phenomena, the construction or operation of a machine, the working of a system, or the like: the principle of capillary attraction.
8. the method of formation, operation, or procedure exhibited in a given case: a community organized on the patriarchal principle.
9. a determining characteristic of something; essential quality.
10. an originating or actuating agency or force: growth is the principle of life.
11. an actuating agency in the mind or character, as an instinct, faculty, or natural tendency: the principles of human behavior.
12. Chemistry. a constituent of a substance, esp. one giving to it some distinctive quality or effect.
13. Obsolete. beginning or commencement.

14. in principle, in essence or substance; fundamentally: to accept a plan in principle.
15. on principle,
a. according to personal rules for right conduct; as a matter of moral principle: He refused on principle to agree to the terms of the treaty.
b. according to a fixed rule, method, or practice: He drank hot milk every night on principle.

The funny thing about principles is that not only is the construct so nuanced that it supports 15 different dictionary use cases, but we often forget iT shades most daily actions. I was reminded of this throughout the week based on three different interactions within multiple settings – professional, social and familial. The trifecta of situational proof points that principles could be seen as an individual’ personal acceptable use policy.

Each situation for each participant is shaded by not only personal experience/biases, but constrained to the context of one’s principles. A friend has told me time and time again, your “world view” impacts your reactions and others reactions to YOU. For example, my view of productivity and follow up is not the same as others or vice versa. which while circular logic is the recursive spiral many interactions get into because of core DNA differences with folks. At times you just can’t connect your idea, emotions or actions toward what may or may not be common goals. Ultimately, how does an individual internalize a strategy, a brand or an action plan in the marketplace or in a cohort group is often the common thread of miscommunication between folks, as least that’s my lesson of the week around principles.

To effectively lead, manage or interact this is a baseline reality is often forgotten and overlooked, MYSELF included. I find myself not asking enough questions, but instead interpreting reactions and actions within how I would see/feel on a given topic which is more of an anchor than way to move forward and drive change. So my personal and career challenge to myself of week is to use my ears more than my mouth and to ask questions as to why something isn’t as effective as I thought it would be, rather than to make assumptions based on my own understanding/filter.

I think with this approach then perhaps I can avoid the pitfall of the best laid plans going awry. So now I think I have 101 things to be thankful for.

I really get excited when life hits you in the head with a blunt object and make you realize the best thing is that we are all different and bring different view, strategies and tactics.

For me it’s those situational reminders which provides clarity on things. I think I’ll read the 4 agreements again.

Kill the cheerleader – improve communications


Despite multiple people informing me to the contrary – I consider myself a man of the people, with that comes some union stewardship activities within the organization. Not a true beat people up with baseball bats union role, more of a “hey, I’m noticing “X” in the organization and blah, blah….”. Essentially I’m always willing to hint “maybe we should look at X” to management kinda guy. I know, how un-[tag]proletariat[/tag] of me – but I do think [tag]middle management[/tag] has the best position to drive change and improvement.


Nevertheless – so what is the cheerleader? It’s both a persona and a group mentality, at some point, I’ll write on the persona as part of Stuck in the Middle, but it’s the Corporate Cheer Culture which represents an erosion of corporate-wide execution and what I want to rant about today which may help middle managers be more effective and improve corporate communications.

The cheerleader mentality can easily be recognized: it’s when just doing your job – the job for which you are paid for – becomes a corporate-wide messaging platform from which senior executives send ad-hoc, real-time blackberry-driven snippets to the organization to prove who is the most transparent and dedicated member of the leadership team. Let’s put it in context of [tag]Bring it On[/tag]:

Isis: Where we come from, ‘cheer’ is not a word you hear very often…
Lava: They should call us ‘inspiration leaders’ instead.
Jenelope: Ooo, that’s deep… I like that

Often it starts with the line executive who feels the need to send a “who’s awake” message and prove that they are not really sleeping in their bed, with the initial non-global email that declares project completion at 2 am on a Saturday, which get escalated to the whole organization due to him/her having global distribution list sending rights.   The two word “GREAT JOB!!!!” [tag]email[/tag]s lack originality….

Missy: You ripped off those cheers!
Torrance Shipman: Excuse me, Missy, our cheers are 100% original. Count the trophies!
Missy: Well, your trophies are bullshit, and you’re a sadass liar.
Torrance Shipman: All right, that’s it! Get out of the car, I’m gonna kick your ass!

Communication of project accomplishments should typically remain internal to the group participants or team and leverage a more formal vehicle for corporate-wide communications to be done by the CEO or a similar GM level role.   Not all projects are worthy of corporate-wide communication, and some departments, by their nature have more “projects,” which if the communications plan and policies aren’t well managed, could ultimately suggest a preferred team over another.  For example, IT has all kinds of projects, but Collections…not so much.

Unbalanced, ad-hoc and unstructured communications to an entire organization does not solve for the “you don’t communicate enough” complaint which is never satiated by more communication – really!

Effective communication should start with middle management and be group-oriented. While not an article on general communication on a Hill and Knowlton blog, it is still an important framework to use for the “great job team” stuff, paraphrased:

  • How do you manage culture change/improvement?
  • Where are the middle managers in the communication process?
  • How can you increase your credibility as communicators and the credibility of your communication channels?
  • How can we better use measurement to bolster our communication?

If a “great job” communications plan for the whole company doesn’t address the items above, then it basically degrades to promoting and public recognition for a team which is essentially doing what they are paid for.

If, however, middle management institutes a post-completion, “lessons learned” step into the project plan that promotes coaching and further growth, the company will be better off – every project has coaching opportunities, and global “great job” emails minimize the opportunity to strengthen individual teams and eliminate the effectiveness of more strategic corporate-wide communications which leverage formal or established channels.

Think about it – if the VP of Human Resources sends a 1 line great job email and the line Executive rights a missive on great execution, a little hard to coach most people. Everyone has an ego and an artifact in their inbox to PROVE they did well, regardless of the opportunity for improvement.

Corporate cheerleaders need to determine when and how they will communicate encouragement and appreciation to the entire team.   Again another Bring it On thought:

Sparky: I am a choreographer. That’s what I do. You are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded.

Perhaps group email love-fests for the whole organization are just bad choreography from a limited leader who wants folks to know what they are doing and how important THEY were in organizing/leading the effort.  There are more sparky’s than one would think on most [tag]leadership[/tag] teams.


Stuck in the Middle: The Geologist

As part of the stuck in the middle series, I will develop multiple personae for examination – the first one is “The Geologist”. The Geologist can be a leader or an individual contributor whose actions of each are on opposite poles of detail – too much or too little.

The Geologist as a leader, says “Bring me a rock” – most often in business this cliche has many use cases, but in my view its the project sponsor, manager or executive who only knows they need something which has a hardness on Moh scale than talc, but clearly we don’t have time for diamonds or a meaningful/supportable/executable explanation of what is required.

Don’t get me wrong, I like bullet points like the next person – but not in the project definition phase – conclusions, lessons learns and general presentations – bullet=rock, but not in the “project contract” for lack of a better word.

Typically this [tag]leader[/tag] will not fully understand what they want – “I want a new “X””. The geologist doesn’t know what it is, but they clearly know what it is NOT. So contributors will go labor, come back and get told “not exactly”, go labor – come back, “nope”, so the loop continues…

There is a point in time typically when the geologist realizes 2 or 3 of the loop iterations ACTUALLY were close, they synthesize and go home. This can add as much as N-times of effort, had the leader defined his or her wants the first time or understood their wants.

Now the [tag]individual contributor[/tag] which is a geologist type, endlessly “tumbles” their rock until it is shiny and cool. It’s not at all the right rock, but they have spent so much time that they are convinced it is valuable – kinda of a fools gold deliverable if you will.

When you get a geologist leader AND executor, you are sure to have over efforted products, content and requirements which will total miss the spirit of the project, but not the letter. After all, the Bullet=Rock, so everyone is fairly happy right until the market launch. Speaking of market launches, this can at times be a great persona for embracing the perfection trap.

At some point you have to stop the tumbler, make an assessment and deliver goods – even if it is a ROCK.