Friday, 24 January 2014

Mom vs the machine

If you haven’t had this type of conversation with your aging parents, let me tell you, it’s coming your way. 

We have warmly augmented the actual dialogue of a middle aged son guiding his octogenarian mother over the phone on how to fix her cable TV.

Me: Okay, so is there a button on the Samsung remote control to turn the TV on and off?
Mom: I don't see any buttons.
Me: Um...well, it might be on the top right.
Mom: Top right…
Me: Yes, maybe a round or square button that says ON/OFF?
Mom: I don't see any buttons.
Me: No buttons?
Mom: No.
Me: At all?
Mom: No.
Me: I think the remote will have some buttons.
Mom: Well, don't I operate it from something else? Usually this riggin with the coloured circles. [Riggin is a word for all things that defy explanation]
Me: Operate?...Hang on, what are you looking at?
Mom: The TV.
Me: Not the remote?
Mom: You said the TV.
Me:…okay, let's forget the TV. So is there small riggin you hold in your hand?
Mom: Yes.
Me: So, okay, pick it up and...
Mom: There's two.
Me: Two what?
Mom: Riggins. I remember there were two. But I can only see one right now.
Me: Two riggins.
Mom: Yes.
Me: Okay, is there one that says Samsung?
Mom: The TV says Samsung.
Me: But that's not the remote.
Mom: But it says Samsung.
Me: Yes...well it should…so look for the small riggin that says the same thing.
Mom: Says what?
Me: Samsung.
Mom: (Silence for a space of time, movement, then....) Here it is!
Me: Okay, is there an ON/OFF button?
Mom: No.
Me: No?
Mom: No.
Me: Okay, well, is there a button near the top right that maybe just says ON?
Mom: No.
Me: No?
Mom: No.
Me: Does the Samsung riggin have buttons?
Mom: Yes. Lots.
Me: Okay, but no ON or OFF button.
Mom: No.
Me: Um…well…what do some of the buttons say?
Mom: There is a button near the top right that says POWER.
Me: Aha! Power, okay, then I think you have the right button. Push that button.
Mom: Okay.
Me: And…what happened?
Mom: Nothing.
Me: Nothing?
Mom: Nothing.
Me: Push it again.
Mom: Okay.
Me: And? 
Mom: Nothing.
Me: Nothing?
Mom: No, nothing. I think it's broken.
Me: What is?
Mom: The riggin. It's broken.
Me: Well, can you tell me if there is any picture on the TV?
Mom: I don't know.
Me: What do you mean you don't know?
Mom: Well, the riggin was in the office with this other thing by the pencil sharpener.
Me: Um...well...okay, so go back into the living room and face the TV.
Mom: (Walking) Okay.
Me: Now, point the remote at the TV.
Mom: Okay, but I still think it's broken.
Me: Point the remote at the TV.
Mom: Yes.
Me: Now push the POWER button.
Mom: Oh! …Oh, now it's gone.
Me: What's gone?
Mom: Well, something flashed on the TV too quick for me to read.
Me: Is the TV on?
Mom: It's all black. So it's on.
Me: Black and on?
Mom: Yes.
Me: How can you tell?
Mom: Because the little red light in the bottom right is off and it's off when it's on, and on when it's off.
Me: What?
Mom: The red light.
Me: Off?
Mom: Yes.
Me: So, it's on?
Mom: Yes.
Me: Um, okay, so if the TV is on, and it's black, maybe the Rogers [cable] box is turned off.
Mom: Those people charge so much money and I hardly ever watch TV!
Me: Well, yes, but right now we should…
Mom: Years ago, when Don brought home our first TV, he plugged it in and then you got TV. None of this cable nonsense, and they just want more money. And now we just get a few blurry channels at the cottage because we don't have cable.
Me: Mom?
Mom: Didn't we buy something for the cottage that would give us TV?
Me: Mom?
Mom: Yes?
Me: Can you find the other riggin with all the coloured buttons? That's the universal remote and it says Rogers on the top.
Mom: But I don't have cable.
Me: Of course you have cable.
Mom: No I don't.
Me: Yes, you do.
Mom: I don't have cable at the cottage.
Me: Okay. No. Here. Where you are now, you have cable.
Mom: Yes. But it doesn't work.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Let's electrify recruiting

At a conference recently, while quietly schmoozing the room (I’m an introvert by nature), it confirmed for me that the traditional recruiting process is a truly artificial way to get to know people. The way I meet a new person is to have a little something in common to generate an interesting two minute conversation. We break apart, speak to others, and maybe come back and continue the conversation with many smiles, nods, and handling of tea cups bridging the space in between. It's a dance to slowly build trust - moving from stranger to friend through unfolding stages of self-disclosure. 

It should come as no surprise that personal networking is considered the most successful way to land a job. So how can we mimic real life in the recruiting process? And please don’t say “job fair.” If you are not convinced you should shake things up, let's set up the argument. I would like you to become aware of systemic bias that may be hiding in your recruiting processes, limiting your company's ability to build competitive advantage. 

Company side

·    We know that qualified candidates are not being interviewed, thanks to ubiquitous automation - you don't know who you are missing. (Lengthy personal aside: I was electronically turned down for a knowledge manager position without so much as an email inquiry despite 17 years of living and breathing KM at the poster child company for KM.)
  • Cultural fit is impossible to assess on paper.
  • Some companies are not very experienced at the recruiting process and may not be describing the job accurately, nor understanding the skills and behaviours needed to succeed. Have you evaluated your top performers and captured their success factors?
  • Does an external recruiter really know your company's culture? The ones I’ve talked to barely understand the job, let alone the company.
  • You need to diversify your team. You have to get past the "looks like me" bias. Homogeneity prevents successful innovation. Since you aren’t sure from where the new talent might hail, let's invest in serendipity and cast a wider net.
  • People are your IP, your future, the reason the company exists. That's why they call it human capital – attracting new talent has to be a priority to get right.
Candidate side
  • The candidate wants to know that you are the best employer - you have to sell your culture, service/product, future career growth. The best candidates won't work for just anyone.
  • Different personalities perform better or worse under intense interviewing. How can we help everyone shine?
  • Resumes come in all shapes and sizes - some candidates sell themselves well, others not so much. Have we proven that the paper persona directly correlates with success on the job? Lots of people don’t even write their own resumes anyway.
  • People seeking new challenges do not want another job where they've been there, done that. Yet, companies look for a track record of having done the exact same job with the same titles. Yaaawn. Do you want a bored employee who will leave for something better?
All these points above are about being aware of systemic bias that may be hiding in your recruiting processes, limiting your company's ability to build competitive advantage. 

Let's throw a recruiting party

I would like to propose a different approach to recruiting next time you are in urgent need of new blood to grow the company.

My friend is a VP for an awesome international marketing consulting company, but can’t get more than 10 people to respond to her job postings. She needs to hire to stay on top of the growing Toronto office, but since the company is new to Canada, people have never heard of the company, don’t know it’s growing, nor that it has a kickass fun culture.  She needs a new approach to recruiting - the traditional methods are not working.

I know you realize you can't carry on short-staffed, but you dread the time it’s going to take to find and integrate new people. You are risking your long-term growth outlook if you don’t get more hands on deck. Overloading existing staff will lead to disengagement, burnout, and departures of top talent. If yours is a fun and daring company, why don't you throw a recruiting party? I have thought through the process to help get you started. I'm sure once I have you thinking about these steps, you will be able to customize my suggestions easily. 

Strategize and prepare

  • Advertise the party internally and assemble a small team - 2 to 4 people - to strategize on the party arrangements.
  • Be clear that this is not a job fair. It's a party. So get everyone energized.
  • Interview your top performers to develop a solid candidate and job profile for writing the ad. 
  • Place a job posting in as many places you can afford to or think of (yes, I know, that sentence ended with a preposition). 
  • Take all the resumes and review every one in original physical or electronic form, remove only the most egregiously unqualified people. Or maybe don't - keep everyone - they applied for some reason, you just don't know it yet.
  • Arrange the date and time that fits with your culture. If everyone rolls in at 10 am, then don't try an 8 am meet and greet. If traffic is brutal before 10 am, schedule it closer to lunch.
  • Engage your current employees in the hiring party, they have a vested interest in hiring competent and amiable co-workers.
  • Your existing team will be the party ambassadors, so have it in the office - no more than 2 hours needed. 
Invite candidates
  • Write a great party invitation that reflects your culture - be sure to explain this concept clearly in your email. 
  • Social media the heck out of it. Build buzz. Build energy. 
  • Ask attendees to sum up their personal brand in 3 words and include it their name tags.
  • Set a shortish acceptance deadline to ensure you have only candidates who are highly motivated. Have a plan to deal with people who cannot attend.
  • Use a survey feedback form to gather registrations and close the form when the deadline arrives. This helps if the volume is high.
Figure out the format
  • I know I said it was a party, but in this case, skip the booze. Substitute a pot luck, each dish labeled with fun description of the contributor.
  • Make sure you have plenty of chairs to sit and chose a cozy space, not cavernous. Err on the side of too small, not too big. 
  • Assign a small cluster of candidates to ambassadors - say 1:3 or 1:5 (accounting for inevitable 10% attrition). Their job is to meet, greet, answer questions, and create a safe, personable environment.
  • Use name tags creatively to group people via colour codes or personal statements. MAKE SURE I CAN READ IT AT 20 PACES. (Personal aside: at the network roundtable event, the surname and company were in a 10 point font in light orange on white.)
  • Sprinkle in conversation starters everywhere possible - what things can people notice and chatter about BESIDES THE WEATHER? Posters, costumes, roles, brands, keep thinking.
  • Have a formal presentation component - I suggest company history, examples of client successes, future growth plans, work highlights from ambassadors holding the position on offer, and a perspective on the culture. 
  • Don't forget a Q&A portion.
  • Create fun exercises to get the crowd interacting. Number name tags and raffle off your company's product. If ball bearings are not really useful to the average person unless installed, perhaps a gift certificate, event tickets, tech widget, or book. 
  • Wind up the party explaining the next steps for followup and deeper interviews.
Follow up with interested candidates
  • Debrief quickly after the party with your ambassadors - who would they like to see again? Pull out the resumes and schedule the interviews. 
  • Include the ambassador in the interviews to increase comfort levels. I love 2 on 1 interviews - it takes the pressure off and feels more like a conversation rather than an inquisition.
  • Schedule a full day to interview as many people as possible and debrief as a team to see who should continue on to final round interviews.
  • Don't forget to email everyone who applied or attended to let them know when the position is filled. 
  • Followup with a candidate satisfaction survey to learn how you can make your next party event better.
I hope you find this idea electrifying. Imagine the buzz you will begin to create. Make sure you chronicle it on your company's blog. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Rock star employees

I aspire to being an amazing employee. Let's face it, we all think we are outstanding in some fashion, but do we really understand concretely the characteristics of an amazing employee from our employer's perspective? I'm going to say that we know some, but not all, of the ingredients needed to surprise and delight our employers.

10 Things Really Amazing Employees Do by Kevin Daum published in Inc. outlines traits that should be recognized and rewarded. It's a perfect employee handbook both from the employee's and manager's point of view. Please do read this original article. I have taken great liberty in my interpretation - it's such an excellent thought-starter.

1. Understands the business - It took me a long time to figure out what a McKinsey consultant was working to achieve for a client and how they did it. But once I understood their pressures, skill set, process and approach, I was better able to fit my services to their needs. I encountered many people in the company whose work was so isolated, they had no idea what the conference invoice was achieving or how their work fit into the master plan. The McKinsey IT helpdesk is probably the best example who to train a group of non-consultants to operate at their level, problem solve with them, and really get into the shoes of their customers. Kudos to Adrian, Bob, Sandra, and Michele.

2. Ambassador and steward - There have been a number of examples of increased employee engagement when employees are shareholders - the company IS their own and they are in charge of its future. When this kind of incentive is not available to all organizations, it comes down to an employee's integrity and strong values to act as a responsible steward of the company's resources. I remember a consultant from South America, unfamiliar with the Canadian winters, charged her purchase of new snow boots back to the client as a business expense. I sure hope that one was disallowed.

3. Generates growth opportunities - Drawing on a strong understanding of the business (point #1), a great employee on the front line is in a tremendous position to make improvements and observe the client in a special way. I remember the CEO of Philips encouraging us to call out the issues that may not be in the scope of the project, but are of importance - put everything on the table. Fresh eyes to a situation can be unbelievably valuable.

4. Solves problems proactively - Some people seem to thrive on complaining about problems. I have met so many people who will spend hours regaling problems and solutions (oddly enough), because they are in the position of point #3. In the words of Dr. Phil, "How's that working for you?" I like a good problem and have generated a ton of interesting projects for myself and my career has been rich and rewarding as a result. The complainers have not been so lucky.

5. Tell the truth - At McKinsey, we were governed by a strong set of values and we reviewed them annually on Values Day. My favourite value is "the obligation to dissent." It was the way we ensured that the people with ideas gleaned in #3 and #4 could be assured of an open-minded reception, even if they were very junior. An important point about uncomfortable truths is that we learn from failure just as much as we learn from success. Fear of failure results in a stagnant environment where innovation is considered too risky. No decision IS a decision.

6. Deliver high quality consistently - Naturally, rock star employees are noted for their high quality contributions - this is probably the clearest characteristic and easiest to understand. Not every employee will know where the bar is set for quality. I have found many great managers spend time talking about what they need and less time about how to do it - helping to iterate toward the end result. Top quality work is a team process - everyone contributes and makes the efforts of others better. No man is an island. Thanks Charles.

7. Mentor and bring others along with their success - Spread the wealth, the knowledge, and the secret sauce. Have you ever met someone who was clearly out for themselves at the expense of others? Fortunately, I usually had the opposite experience - see my previous musings on trust in the workplace.

8. Learn and adapt - Ah, was there ever a day at McKinsey when I was not pushed to bend my poor little brain around something I had never heard of before? Yes, there were a few rare quiet days, but most were action packed and challenging. My static colleagues were just that, caught in a rut wondering why opportunities didn't come their way. I characterized my time with McK as "the university of McKinsey." I steeped myself in new knowledge with every team I served. It was so much fun.

9. Strong EQ - Having that emotional quotient to understand how the actions of one influence the attitudes of others is a critical element of success. The best leaders I worked with all had it. This is the one I watch most closely, trying to pick up all the cues, just like an episode of "Lie to Me" which was unjustly cancelled. One senior manager I know is in a complete panic under deadlines and you know what that does to everyone else - yes, they are freaked out too, and not happy about it. I like to calm people down by being calm. When they articulate worst case ("what if they had an accident"), I counter with  another view of the situation ("it's probably just a subway delay"). It seems trite, but the person just wants to voice their worries. I try to radiate calm, even if I get that sinking feeling when the computer STOPS WORKING!

10. Make their bosses look great - This is my favourite characteristic and left for last. We work as a team to move forward the goals of the organization. I completely recognize that what a leader brings to the table and what I do is different. My job is to make your job easier. I am not like some folks who grouse about their managers wondering what they do all day - they just don't understand how the manager's job is not to be a souped-up (yes, I checked this idiomatic spelling) version of the employee. It is intangible and metaphorically similar to pushing a big broom.

A collection of amazing employees makes an organization successful. Employees are the backbone of any service to any client or customer. Can you imagine a company with no employees? Nonsensical. Yet, do we always remember what human capital really means? Sometimes, it might be overlooked in the crush of activities.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Surprise critique for a job hunter

A surprise arrived in my email today - an unsolicited critique of my resume.  I guess I had uploaded a resume in response to a job posting and an affiliated company had taken it upon themselves to look it over (or so I thought). My resume was awarded a respectable score of 70%.

As an active job hunter, advice in any form is a total bonus, so I eagerly logged in to find out what these kind folks had to say about it. As an introduction, I have taken an unconventional approach to my resume because a) that's who I am, and b) I am showcasing writing and design talents (in addition to awesome content knowledge).

The company explained that they used their proprietary software and a resume consultant to arrive at this score. I love this assessment:
Your role tends to carry with it an air of importance or significance in the workplace. This is simply a fact. Your resume needs to carry that same air about it (and about you).
But then they go on to shoot their foot. 
The good news is you've included a career summary in your resume, which is the right choice for someone of your experience level. Here is the career summary that we evaluated: 
"Strategic management consultancy, 17,000+ employees in 100 offices."
The not-so-great news? Your career summary needs more work to be truly effective.
Um, that's a description of my employer, McKinsey & Company, not my career summary. Here's a comment on structure:
It looks like your resume could use more bullets in certain sections. 
At McKinsey, we live and breathe bullets - I stopped counting after 120 bullet points.

Voila! They examined the length of my resume and declare it too long. 
Right now your resume is just too [damned] long to be effective (about 2149 words). 
Emphasis mine. 
To clarify, I have structured it more as a portfolio. 1 page is cover, 2 pages resume, 1 page skills, 2 pages SNA overview, and 1 page workplan. Yes, 7 pages in all of fascinating reading! 

Ah, it's all a marketing ploy. Yes, for $229 I can have a resume consultant write me a new resume that fixes all the apparent problems. Geez. How can I take any of this seriously when it is clear that no human eyes fell on the screen, the assessment is riddled with errors, and it's clear they don't understand me or my needs. 

Well, I'll have to live with 70% - not too bad for a newbie. I am happy to share my resume, just send me an email.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Is it a success or a failure - half empty or half full

Recently, I had the opportunity to learn about a role that required picking up a software rollout from the implementation team. It was characterized to me as a failure because many steps were missed and it had not achieved 100% adoption. So I was reflecting on how to approach this project to move it forward to the next level. But a little background first.

At McKinsey, we were in a constant state of change – new leaders, new mandates, new clients, new priorities – everyone worked on making change happen in some capacity. My work in knowledge management was all about developing new approaches to serving clients and then influencing how 7,000 consultants do business. I developed a very strong understanding of my audience, their needs, their communication styles, and how new approaches would make them smarter and more efficient. I built new knowledge delivery applications and analytical approaches directly in response to problems that needed to be solved. I'm the implementer - a critical team member who makes things happen when others could not. My secret is to build collaborative relationships to accomplish my goals. Changing and improving is all in a day's work and a bit taken for granted.

Now, the project in question had achieved a 25% adoption rate in a 8 month timeframe. This translated into nearly 2,000 people actively using the system after limited communication rollout consisting of 3 emails and a webinar - yet, my discussion partner considered it a failure!  Gosh, the darned thing practically sold itself!

In light of reaching this number of people, I recommended that they rebrand the soft launch as a pilot and put a positive spin on the high adoption level. They could then, develop success stories and include some analysis of the ROI to help build enthusiasm when communicating the value proposition to the next wave of users.

At McKinsey, we have had great success when cells volunteer to join a schedule of implementation waves - they chose the timing that works for them. This allowed the small implementation team to work at a sustainable level and time to integrate learnings from past waves so that they could improve the process each time they began working with a new group. This method engages new users, helps them gain a sense of control and ownership, reduces resistance, and increases the chances of success.

Below is an excerpt from a McKinsey Quarterly article outlining the importance of engaging the frontline and the value of focusing on the aspects that go well, rather than what does not. 
By looking at the approaches used by companies that executives describe as most successful in transforming themselves, we found evidence suggesting the importance of engaging employees collaboratively throughout the company and throughout the transformation journey. Another major theme was the importance of building capabilities - particularly leadership capabilities - to maintain long-term organizational health. In addition, a focus on strengths and achievements, not just problems, throughout the entire transformation process is strongly tied to success. Strong leadership and maintaining energy for change among employees are two principles of success that reinforce each other when executed well. For example, when leaders ensure that frontline staff members feel a sense of ownership, the results show a 70 percent success rate for transformations. When frontline employees take the initiative to drive change, transformations have a 71 percent success rate. When both principles are used, the success rate rises to 79 percent. 
Early participants would then become change evangelists to help drive higher adoption levels to future waves. In 18-24 months, I would consider a spectacular success if it achieved the following:

  • 90% adoption by happy users
  • Quantifiable cost savings and ROI
  • Clear understanding of what is preventing the stragglers from converting 
  • Change team actively working to satisfy the remaining identified needs

Of course, that’s not the end - there are many sub-phases and steps to get ready for the next push, all of which are tumbling around in my head right now. I can only scratch the surface of ideas I have for rolling out a large-scale change project.  I've been attending some Prosci change management seminars recently and realize that this only scratches the surface of a strong structured change management project plan.

These types of projects are so much fun - they have so many moving parts - never a dull moment.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

20,000 social network analysis - trick or treat?

A colleague wanted to pick my brain about how to run a social network survey with a company of 20,000 employees. He was worried that it may be more trouble than it's worth. This is a great challenge - the scale necessitates a well thought-through plan to lead to flawless execution. Little mistakes are magnified when you multiply by thousands.

First, I offer a set of questions to get a feel for what's feasible, the lay of the land.
  • Do you have survey software capable of dealing with 20,000 respondents? Is it home-grown and will it crash when too many people log on at the same time?
  • Can your software comfortably load and display a name list containing 20,000 employees?
  • Will the name list be easy for employees to search, filter, and discover their co-workers?
  • Can your survey software export the data in a way that minimizes the amount of manipulation required to put it in a format readable by the visualization software?
  • Can your visualization software deal with 20,000 nodes and potentially 1 million connections without errors or crashes?
If you answer "No" to any of the above questions, here are two more:
  • Do you have a budget to build, buy, or outsource the capability?
  • How much time do you have to build, buy, or outsource?
  • Do you have the expertise to build, buy, or outsource successfully?
Other points to consider:
  • If you are not fully committed to SNA as a standard organizational development technique, you may not wish to invest too much in building capabilities until you understand the impact it can yield. In that case, outsourcing to a consulting firm that can handle this size of network would be the best option. At McKinsey, I recently worked on project for a financial company; the survey displayed a name list of 60,000 employees and the network contained 20,000 people with half a million connections. The data files were 450 meg! 
  • Are you in a rush to see results? Is there a looming deadline for which SNA forms a critical diagnostic component? Again, you may wish to outsource to a firm that does this all the time.
  • Do you have the IT capabilities to develop the technology in-house? If not, then a good survey vendor could be a partner for developing a module to add on to their existing platform. This process takes time and requires a good understanding of what is needed to gather the data from survey participants and the format for downloading the raw output. 
  • Although there are many survey vendors out there, very few are familiar with SNA. It may take time to cultivate and negotiate a relationship with a survey vendor to allow you to build the capability.
Once you have solved for the issues above, there are some tactical items next on the list.
  • With a name list of 20,000, budget on a solid day or two of cleaning up the list to remove or clarify duplicates and similarities. For example, although Rob Smith and Robert Smithe are not identical names, their co-workers may not see the difference clearly when presented in the selection list. These types of near-duplicates need to be augmented to something like: Rob Smith (Accounting), Robert Smithe (Germany). This is an important point related to integrity of data. 
  • Can you generate a comprehensive list of participants from your people systems? You need email addresses, first/last name, department, location, function, and other demographic information so that participants can filter to just their location. While it may seem ridiculously easy to some companies, this task can be time consuming for other companies. 
  • How should names be displayed - first name, last name or formal vs nickname? In some cultures, first name is always first. In one situation, the name list contained formal names of Chinese employees, but these employees had familiar names that were used for everyday interactions.
  • Is everyone able to access the internet via a high-speed connection? Typically, these surveys are connection heavy and are painful or impossible to complete over low speed or dialup. Do you have staff in the field, remote African mines, or no internet access at all? You will need to accommodate all of their needs. Many offices in India restrict access to the Internet completely - I had to speculate why.
  • It is important to test the rendering of the survey on the various internet appliances that an employee may use - Ipad, Iphone, BB, laptop, various browsers - and then let them know if any technology is not suitable.
  • The raw data file should be formatted to upload directly to your visualization software - without manipulation. If you have to make changes to anything over 1 million lines in an Excel file, you're out of luck. If you have helpful DBAs, then you could turn over transformation to them. Be sure to stand over their shoulder; you cannot afford to have any connections mixed up. This data is all about the individuals.
  • With an audience of this size, there will be questions while the survey is in the field. This is not a familiar type of survey, so many people will want to understand more about it. Be prepared with a dedicated person, mailbox, and help-line to answer these questions.
  • The response rate needed for a robust social network analysis is 80%. I have seen companies where employees dutifully respond promptly to every survey request. Congratulations if this sounds like your company - you are in the minority. More likely you will need to create a compelling communications campaign and enlist the assistance of group managers to round up stragglers. 
Next comes making sense of the data. This is the fun part. Mining a large network for insights is a substantial undertaking, here are some things to think about.
  • Your project should have a set of in-going hypotheses to test or investigate - myths to prove or disprove. You do need a person who can ask great questions to get the most from it.
  • Again, how much time do you have to dig into the data?  A network this size can take months to properly analyze. Don't forget that you have invested a ton of staff time into completing the survey (20,000 x 15 min = 5,000 hours), it would be a pity to rush the analysis and miss important insights.
  • What is your plan of attack? Prioritize all the analyses you wish to run with the data, keep a list updated and circulated with the team so that you keep your team on track and don't dive down time-consuming rabbit holes. When new ideas crop up, park them and reprioritize as needed.
  • What kind of non-survey (qualitative) data can you match up to the people or units in the survey? I've had some tremendous revelations when performance data was matched with network data - e.g., high performers have more diverse networks, high performing units have an egalitarian management style, positive attitudes yield better networks.
  • What are you trying to achieve with the analysis? SNA data can be used for so many different purposes - do you have a good sense of what you are trying to fix? 
  • SNA data is a snapshot in time. It cannot be used indefinitely. People come and go and networks change as circumstances influence them. You certainly can do a pre/post analysis to see what's different after you have made targeted changes.
  • You can use the data for what-if modelling. What if a senior person leaves, who else might follow? If we remove this person from the network, how many people become disconnected?
A large SNA project is truly coveted by practitioners. The research potential in a big data network is unmatched. I hope to find a company who would like to embed this capability into its human capital strategy. Wouldn't that be so cool.

Off I go now to form some more creature connections.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Trust makes the workplace tick

In a small gathering of 7 professionals who had never met each other previously, I was struck by the level of trust we engendered in just 90 minutes. I was happy to see it happen spontaneously since my experience tells me work gets done in a culture of trust and a lack of it fractures an organization.

At McKinsey, I witnessed blind trust on a daily basis. One person in particular, Meg, an engagement manager from Chicago, was leading my co-workers through a crunch. She knew she needed all hands on deck to achieve the size of the analysis we would deliver in 2 days. She assigned tasks to each of us and we sat around the table crunching. You say, yeah, so what, what makes her so special?  Well, Meg had never met or worked with half of us previously, yet somehow, she assigned each person a task that played to their strengths.

I remember Meg was in the window for promotion to associate principal and one of her teammates was enthusiastically rooting for her. And as I worked with her into the night, I too came to value the special sauce she had. I expected to hear of her promotion imminently as it appeared to be a slam-dunk. Imagine my surprise to discover that she had not received the promotion and moved to a new company in an excellent role shortly afterward. What a sad loss for us. She was a person that everyone wanted to work with - let me assure you - a rarity, indeed.

In social network language, trust makes networks work. Gideon Rosenblatt explains clearly why trust is important in the workplace.
When I trust you, it makes it easier for me to deal with the increased risk that comes from lowering my guard. When I trust you, I open myself so that it’s easier for us to collaborate. I tell you what I’m really thinking, set aside formality and shift my focus from figuring out your intentions to actually getting work done together. Organizations that trust each other can safely set aside formal agreements and rigid processes and replace them lighter weight ways of working together. 
During my time at McKinsey, I received calls and emails exhibiting blind trust that I could help, wanted to help, and would be receptive to any approach or timeline. In turn, I enjoyed blind trust as they accepted my advice and counsel intelligently and collaboratively - every interaction was a learning experience for both parties. 

Now I search for a company that values trust and engenders trust in its culture. Is that too much to ask?

Off I go now to form some more creature connections.