Archive for July, 2008

Revolution or evolution in business & sport

July 27, 2008

The Tour De France is over again and for the third successive year there is a different winner, Carlos Sastre. There was no clear winner through the race. In the end it was a close thing with the favourite Cadel Evans coming second. After three years a new multi tour winner has not emerged to fill the void left by Lance Armstrong.

Carlos Sastre in the final decisive individual time trial

Lances’ legacy remains strong with many reminders of his great wins and survivals throughout this years tour. When Lance became a Tour superpower everyone was out to topple him until he retired in 2005. Over time a new dominating Tour superpower will no doubt emerge. In sport and business revolution or evolution is always a constant.


“Would the real”…person…”please stand up”

July 11, 2008

I think Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point author) is right in his parting comment from his ‘Mismatch Problem’ presentation , “you only know what a person is like when you have worked with them”. Gladwell criticises the recruitment selection process for sportspeople, teachers and lawyers. However he did not put forward an alternative method. Perhaps that’s in his next book! Referring to today’s hiring practices and commenting on Gladwell’s talk, Guy Kawasaki posted: “Guess what: this method doesn’t work. Jobs–of all types–are more complex, and the desire for certainty increases but is manifested in measuring the wrong things. Do you hire people based on the measuring the wrong variables?”

Jim Collins’s classic Good to Great (2001) research refers to the importance of organisational culture in creating an enduring firm, with culture forming from the founders personality, beliefs and the collective employees. Jason Powell of 37 Signals recently posted about the importance of culture in Pixar’s tightknit culture being its edge.

Collins believes that ingrain character attributes of: work ethic; basic intelligence; dedication to fulfil commitments and values are the things to really look out for in potential new employees. Collins goes on to say whilst other attributes including educational background; practical skills; specialized knowledge and work experience, remain important they are all learnable. I think the challenge is that its much easier to select based on education/experience than in identifying the real persons character.

Many of us have been through the various recruitment selection processes to weed out the best knowledge workers, including : hand written applications; panel interviews; psychometric tests (e.g. Myers Briggs) and even team recruitment days. However with practice all of these methods can be learnt, the right answers given and thus real persons character can remain hidden.

If we have not worked with the person or are unable to rely on social networks our only real choice is to very carefully go though the process, check-up on references and trust in your gut instinct. I bet the Pixar team take great care when selecting new employees to maintain their pure culture. The audience at the future of management conference seemed surprised by the significant amount of time senior management time Larry/Sergey and Dr. Eric Schmidt of Google spends on screening up to 80-90 candidates weekly. Interestingly one of Google primary criteria for new recruits is educational background and achievements.

The dangers of bringing people that don’t fit can have a far reaching and significant knock-on impact on employee culture. If the people in the company are really the most important asset then the selection process must also be one of the key priorities for the firm. Perhaps winning the right people is even as important as winning new business.

Does your CEO really believe “our employees are our greatest asset”?

July 4, 2008

Susan Scrupski had some strong words in her post about GenY and the self-serving behaviour of management 1.0:

“we excelled at the selfish art of Machiavellian achievement, in the end it took my generation down a path that led to, well, the S&L scandal, Enron, one-dot-oh greed, and now, the subprime meltdown. Our narcissism is our legacy.”

The caricature Gordon ‘Greed is good’ Gekko has become a real living nightmare reeking havoc on the economy. Is our current management of business now changing with the arrival of the next generation and their affinity with social media?

The social spark of Web2.0 is igniting Enterprise 2.0 and fanning the fire of management change. In addition Gary Hamel is banging the drum of a much needed management change with his trade marked term Management 2.0 and latest book. Many others must be in agreement with Hamel as he’s been propelling to the status of the most influential management guru.

Google has been put on a pedestal by academics such as Hamel because of its innovation model, flat management structure and people centric approach. Hamel recently interviewed Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the future of management conference, it’s long but if you ‘listen’ below there are some insightful pearls of wisdom from a seemingly un-egoistical 2.0 Manager.

Jeffrey Hollender and Keith Sawyer who were both at the event have produced good reports.

The similarities between Google and Opensource are strong. Both are increasingly challenging some of the world’s most profitable software business models and our current approach to organisational management. Neither Google or Opensource has a management hierarchy, they both carefully select the best employees/contributors and then engage and empower them. Interestingly this moves much of the managerial power from the self serving individual to the shared decision making of the collective.

However the Google and Opensource models are not without weaknesses. Most Opensource developers or contributors to projects such as Wikipedia have day jobs which pay them enough so they CAN contribute to a community as a hobby. Interestingly one of the motivations of Opensource developers is based on the ego. As for the Ad model, it breaks down when Ad revenues top out or if Ad’s are strongly rejected by visitors.

As examples the Internet poster child Facebook has been unable to fully capitalise on Ad revenues because of user kick back. In the case of Wikipedia, they are too worried introducing Ad’s in case of alienating their unwaged contributors.

Like the Google and Opensource models the next generation are challenging the norm, however they maybe warn down by management hierarchy and copitulate to make money and progress careers. Like many of us GenYers want to be happy and satisfied at work. They are increasing looking for firms like Google which give them the chance to have a real say in decisions so they can make a difference.

Scott Gavin’s GenY ‘Meet Charlie’ deck is a must see

If firms that embrace fundamental management change gain greater economic performance then most firms, through survival, will evolve this way. It is important to attract talented GenYers but they alone unaided are not going to be able to change a 100 year old engrained management hierarchy. However GenY and the catalyst of Social Media are critical parts of the jigsaw of change.