Is this Future Shock?

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Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

Trust your people… let them free.

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trust sculpted

Having a quick glance at Hugh Macleod’s excellent blog, from last week, my attention was caught by his humanification bit where he chats about a previous posting:

4. You’ve already done “efficient”. We’re living in a post-efficiency world now. We already know how to make things better, cheaper and faster than the previous generation. We already know how to squeeze our suppliers till the pips squeak. We already know how to build systems that maximize profits at every stage of the production and selling process. We’re already outsourcing our stuff to China, and so is everyone else. Been there. Done that. So where does the growth need to come from? What needs to happen, in order to save your job?

THESIS:

5. The growth will come, I believe, not by yet more increased efficiencies, but by humanification. For example, take two well-known airlines. They both perform a useful service. They both deliver value. They both cost about the same to fly to New York or Hong Kong. Both have nice Boeings and Airbuses. Both serve peanuts and drinks. Both serve “airline food”. Both use the same airports. But one airline has friendly people working for them, the other airline has surly people working for them. One airline has a sense of fun and adventure about it, one has a tired, jaded business-commuter vibe about it. Guess which one takes the human dimension of their business more seriously than the other? Guess which one still will be around in twenty years? Guess which one will lose billions of dollars worth of shareholder value over the next twenty years? What parallels do you see in your own industry? In your own company?

The comments on that post led to this post which was talking about how Lee Bryant viewed “humanification” – or as he put it “Humanising the Enterprise

By elevating the individuals in the organisation above systems, and by re-balancing the relationship between people and process, we can create a social fabric that lives and breathes the values that large companies are trying to instill in their organisations. We have the tools and the ideas to do this in ways that were not possible before, and we are in a position to finally move beyond Taylorism and the factory model to a new era of genuinely people-powered organisations and networks. We know how to create rich and purposeful social networks as vehicles for collaboration and co-operation. We know how to aggregate ideas and negotiate common language to create better forms of information organisation and retrieval. We know a lot more about what is possible when people trust each other by default; and we also know a lot more about how to engage in debate and deliberation with people who agree with us and people who do not.

In my own company there are ongoing tensions about achievement, performance, reward – and there’s a perception that there’s not as much trust as there could be. Let’s hope we do trust our people – and deliver what Lee and Hugh seem to think is achieveable.

Image Credit: doctor paradox
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Written by SteveEllwood

August 11, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Management, performance

Fast food outlets & professional communities

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Quincy Market

Why can’t we have a chip shop?

Having come back from a lovely holiday in Boston & Iceland, I wondered if I had any inspiration for a blog post. I do, a little.

In Boston, I stayed near to Quincy Market, an old market hall, now jammed full of fast food outlets. There must be over 50, serving pizza, teriyaki, clams, lobster rolls, steak sandwiches, moussaka, sorbet, hot dogs, burritos, caramels, ice cream and way more stuff.

At home, in the little Highland village I live in, we have no fast food outlet. A couple of pubs will let you get food to take out, and the wood-fired pizza restaurant will give you pizza to go.

Why so many in one hall in Boston, and none in an entire village?

Well, there could be all sorts of reasons – yes, there will be more customers, as Boston is a busier place. But why in that one hall?

  • It’s a good place to buy fast food – so customers will come from some distance.
  • It’s a good place to sell fast food – so suppliers will come from all over
  • There’s a wide range of things to buy – so a customer can meet their needs there
  • If you can’t sell a meal there, you could still sell a dessert, a drink, coffee – as there are so many suppliers and customers together. If there’s a lot of demand for something, you betcha there will be people starting to provide it. [Like, clam chowder. *Lots* of places sell that in Boston!]

We don’t have the outlets crowded together, pulling the customers way into the Highlands – so we don’t even get a chippy!

Quality through Competition

I’m sure the outlets in Quincy Market vary in quality. The worst I saw was Good, as you wouldn’t survive in the maelstrom of competition there, if your food wasn’t acceptable. Most of the the experience was Very Good, and the teriyaki experience was Outstanding for fast food.

So?

Trying to rank those outlets from 1-5, say, when looking at my worldwide catering experiences [which include British roadside cafes] would result in everything in Quincy’s market being 3-5 (more probably 4-5, but work with me on this).

Why are they better – because they learn from each other, all the time. If one offers free samples – so will another. If you can get your chowder in a bread bowl in one… another will offer something similar or better.

If you did rank them them from 1-5… the lowest (1 ranked) place would be a 3 against most British outlets – and that makes it a little hard to use a global ranking…

Professional Communities

I won’t apologise for riding my hobby horse again; I think professional communities have a lot to offer – and are one of the best ways you can lift performance, professionalism, accreditation and interest amongst a group.

Lots of professionals

You want a project manager? Good place to find one might be your putative “Programme & Project Management” Community. There’ll be a lot there, and they *should* be supporting each other and helping the level of certification and experience. They’ll learn hints and tips from each other.

Hey, maybe your project/bid manager needs a service wrap? Natch, there’ll be a service designer there who should be able to assist the team.

Lots of demand

As you have all these customers walking up to take services from your communities, you should get a damn fine idea of what these customers want. If you *don’t* have the Ruby on Rails guy, maybe there’s some other service you can provide the customer… while you think “Hmm, might need to get some RoR guys available”.

Explaining ranking

In a community of professionals, you generally have a self selecting group of achievers. There will be folk that are Good; some Very Good; and even a few Outstanding. Generally, if you aren’t at least Good – you won’t have had the wherewithal to make it into a community.

Now, if you force rank the individuals in the community… sure, you can do it. Take the people who’re in external terms good, and mark some of them as, say Generally Satisfactory or (kiss of death) Needs Improvement.

This is Vitality Curve behaviour – particularly if there’s a mechanistic approach to invoking HR involvement in bureacratic Performance Improvement Plans. Which there is, in large swathes of corporate Britain.

Vitality Curve damages Communities?

I’ve alluded previously to my concerns about this sort of approach.

I *need* to look better than you. Rather than spending time sharing my knowledge, or increasing my skills, it might pay me better to game the system.

So, rather than sharing my knowledge with people, I have to consider how I can look best at showing how much more I know than everyone else, and the most public way I can show how I’m sharing this knowledge.

Otherwise, I might not get marked Good, won’t recieve a bonus, and likely won’t get a pay rise.

Even better, if I get the opportunity to use a modified COTS “Performance management” system, and produce reams of impenetrable evidence, I’ll be able to show *what* I’ve done – even if it uses time I should spend on work…

On the other hand…

If you want Professional Communities… maybe let them manage themselves. Professionally. Not with advice from Neutron Jack.

Picture Credit Me!

Written by SteveEllwood

May 30, 2008 at 3:40 pm

So, how’s your outsourcing going?

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If you look back, perhaps you can occasionally learn what the road ahead may bring.

JP Rangaswami, MD of BT Design used to work at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, and was a believer in outsourcing – as are we all in this day and age.

He had some useful warnings, listed here:

http://www.watersonline.com/public/showPage.html?page=129216 

But what about outsourcing, which has become Wall Street’s cost-saving darling? Isn’t this one way banks can rid themselves of routine tasks? Rangaswami warns investment firms of the seduction of supposed cost savings. “What I lose with offshoring is far more than I gain,” he says of DrKW’s own experience, which was “focused on the war for talent rather than wage arbitrage. With outsourcing I may reduce the core execution cost but I pay for it by increased coordination and training costs.” DrKW found in some cases that the local offshoring staff had to be spoon fed and that the typical attrition rates of 40 to 50 percent meant they were often training staff to ultimately benefit others.

Rangaswami also urges firms who do embark on outsourcing contracts to “clean up their garbage first,” rather than dumping it onto the vendor, who will most likely charge a considerable premium for the cleansing. “In the current climate, we cannot afford to feed the mouths of outsourcers. The focus has to be on getting rid of the layer of fat and then parceling it off neatly to someone who has the critical mass to provide economies of scale,” he says.

Sensible really. Work out what you’re outsourcing; why; and what the likely true return is.

Written by SteveEllwood

November 23, 2007 at 10:37 pm

Posted in JP, Management