Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 34 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 1

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 12, 2017

This is my 34th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been writing about bringing in and retaining creative excellence in a business, and on securing and maintaining a best possible assembly of skilled, experienced and innovative hands-on employees and managers there, throughout this series. And at the end of Part 33 of that narrative progression, I cited two approaches to business communications, as can be carried out in-house and among hands-on employees and managers, that I have previously invoked when discussing business operations per se: two basic categorical patterns of communications that shape the employee and manager experience, and what they are allowed to do, and what they are required to do at work:

Structured and even formally structured communications, as arise for example in the context of annual performance reviews with their pre-vetted review forms and protocols (to couch this in a specific case in point example of possible Personnel and Human Resources terms), and
Unstructured communications, as tools for arriving at unexpected insight and types of it.

And I added that I would delve into the issues and implications of those two modes of communications here, and use those selectively stated points of definition as a starting point for discussing best practices in identifying and cultivating innovative potential in a business.

Let’s begin this by at least briefly reconsidering these modes and patterns of communications in general, and for what they bring with them that would shape how we would think about and understand businesses that employ them in general.

Structured communications systems and the communications channels that they allow and support, are crucial to the day-to-day functioning of a business and certainly for standard and standardized processes and practices as collectively comprise routine business operations in place. There, a same basic flow of work is carried out and tracked and reported on, and by essentially the same people and on a routine basis. Exceptions to that, as arise when employees join a business and enter into these communications flows, or leave it and move on, do occur. And they arise when key participants in these conversations are out on vacation or on sick leave or maternity leave too, to add in three other possibilities here. But however these disruptions arise, they represent types of exception that at least should be prepared for, at least in general terms, and even if specific instances of them can create special challenges – and even for what would nominally seem to be more routine positions.

The term single point of failure enters in there, when for example a business suddenly discovers that some specific manager or hands-on employee was the only one there, who can actually carry out some specific and here-crucial task, at least in a timely manner – and suddenly they are out sick or away and out of touch on vacation, or they have just left the business for a new work opportunity elsewhere. But let’s set aside that range of possible contingencies at least for now, in order to keep this discussion more focused and free of possible digressions from the core topic under consideration here. Structured communications form the information sharing framework for routine business as usual, and certainly insofar as real effort is made to develop and adhere to standard business as usual practice and avoid ad hoc exception making.

And to add in one perhaps complicating detail to that, which in fact always has to be taken into account, this is also essential for maintaining standardized and routine-enabled security control over sensitive information held by the business too. I have only skimmed the surface of this area of discussion here, noting that there is a lot more to it even if this should suffice for purposes of this series and its narrative.

Unstructured communications arise when the more structured approach that I have just made note of, break down and for whatever reason. And I raise this entire line of communications patterns discussion here, to separate out some of the possibilities that can easily become conflated and blurred for their separate types and significance – and to the determent of a business that faces that.

Unstructured communications become necessary, and certainly in the eyes of the people who resort to them, when the systems and processes that they rely upon that should be more routine and standardized, significantly break down and in ways that block their being able to carry out their essential duties to successful completion. This can mean carrying out tasks that they would in fact complete themselves and for use within their own work team, and with little if any direct follow-through consequences for any others if they cannot do so. But more importantly, and I add much more commonly, this can arise in contexts of task completion dependency where a more distant individual or another other work team in the business, here identified B cannot complete, or at times even effectively begin to work on one or more essential tasks that they are responsible for until A has completed some task that they are responsible for, and until it has handed off the results of that work to B and at least indirectly to C and D and others who are waiting further down some task completion dependency track.

If standard and routine break down and others and perhaps many others are depending on work affected being completed, the pressure becomes enormous to find work-arounds to accomplish that. And when this means having to bring in non-standard resources and the stakeholders who would provide or at least control them, that means entering into less or entirely unstructured communications flows too, as roughly defined above.

Here, unstructured reflects a more “shoot from the hip” crisis mode response to the unexpected and unplanned for, and a response to what is now suddenly challenging for that. Compare that with the second basic scenario that I would raise here, for how this type of communications mode can arise, at least as described in general terms:

• The emergence of need for creative and novel communications patterns, bringing together what for that business would be non-standard combinations of stakeholders with their particular areas of knowledge and expertise, and of authority to provide resources and approvals to use them,
• That can become essential when pursuing disruptively novel sources of potential value for the business: possible disruptive innovation opportunity.

What binds these two communications contexts together: one negatively framed and the other positively framed here, and in ways that can make them difficult at times to distinguish between and certainly when attempting to do so without the benefit of hindsight? A succinct starting point to answer that can be found in how different stakeholders and involved gatekeepers can and do see and understand risk, and the relative levels of benefit and risk that might be expected.

I am going to further flesh out my second scenario as started above: the possibilities of positive value creating disruptive change from within a business, in my next series installment. And after that, and building from this posting and that continuation of it, I will more fully consider the issues of risks and profitable benefits and how their evaluation, as variously considered, shapes both communications within a business and its capability to either innovate for itself, or respond to innovation taking place around it.

Then I will step back from that narrative at least somewhat to reconsider innovation and the capacity to innovate, as an at least potentially innovative business moves from early startup to established business: and does or does not develop itself in ways that would make that readily possible. Who is brought in and retained, is only one piece to that puzzle, but it is one that I will explore as a more central point in that discussion to come.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Advertisements

Intentional management 44: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 5

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 4, 2017

This is my 44th installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-43.)

I have been discussing a set of eight to-address points in this series, since its Part 40 that all relate to:

• What a business would do, and consistently and by default if it were to assiduously follow its strategically mapped out business plans and its formally agreed to operational processes and practices in place,
• And how businesses and the people who work there can and at times do deviate from that default business plan-based approach and even consistently and systematically so.
• And I also at least briefly made note of at least some of the consequences risked, that can arise from that type of ad hoc hands-on and managerial practice. Ad hoc and spur of the moment can lead to capturing and developing unexpected sources of positive value and benefit and they can become necessary when faced with unexpected problems and challenges that are not addressed in more routine contingency planning. But businesses that come to embrace it as a more routine approach, or that do not effectively learn from its use when it is turned to in exception handling, risk becoming riddled with disconnects between their actual day-to-day business practices and their planned for overall strategy. They come to develop disconnects between what is expected and planned for, and what is actually done, day-to-day.

Then after delving into those issues in more general terms, I began focusing in on the specifics of how they arise and play out for specific business stakeholder types, beginning in Part 43 with managers, and with a specific focus on lower and mid-level ones who do not themselves directly contribute to the conversation that shapes and defines overall business strategy or its overall operational execution.

I pursued that line of discussion as framed by an at least seemingly simple single question:

• What makes a good manager?

Then at the end of Part 43, I stated that I would take this by now multi-installment discussion thread, more out of the abstract by considering other stakeholders as well. And at least starting that narrative, is the goal of this posting.

I simply said “good manager” in my Part 43 exposition, and without explicitly stating there, that I would focus on managers who do not carry executive authority or responsibility, in what would immediately follow. So I turn here to in effect complete my answer to that basic question as initially posed, at least to the level of a first draft response to it, by explicitly reframing the basic question itself:

• Think of Part 43 as addressing the question: what makes a good lower level or mid-level manager whose primary responsibility is to apply overall business strategy and its operational guidelines, into the specific circumstances of their more focused areas of work responsibility?
• Now, what makes a good senior or executive manager who contributes to creating and maintaining that business-wide overall organizational framework?

And I begin addressing that second question, by raising two fundamentally important points of consideration: authority and responsibility.

• Many, and even most people who work in businesses, and certainly in large and complexly structured ones with large headcounts, tend to see the senior managers and C level executives at the top of their lines on the table of organization, as having authority to make binding decisions. They see them do this, and in ways that have real impact throughout their lines of their table of organization, affecting many in the process. And they construe this to mean that these executives as being allowed to, and empowered to make even major decisions on their own, and as if at least largely independently of the dictates of others.
• But in a fundamental sense, the higher up you are on that table of organization, the more hemmed in you can become by the overall dictates of the business’ overall strategic planning and its approved operational systems of strategic execution. This is because most lower level managers make decisions that for the most part only involve or at least directly impact on specific aspects of their own functional area of professional activity. But to consider the opposite end of this spectrum, a senior manager or executive working towards the top of a line of functional activity on a table of organization, always has to think and decide and act with a full awareness of the impact of what they do, throughout the organization. They have to take into account the larger, and even the essentially complete picture, with all of its in-house competitions for shared but limited resources, where liquidity and direct fundability is often only one facet of a much larger competitive arena. And this can and at times does mean intentionally, knowingly agreeing to decisions that would at least in the short term, mitigate against their own area of direct business oversight and responsibility, deferring to the needs of other parts of the business and their priorities instead of focusing on their gaining what their own people would need and now, in order to function optimally and achieve their own goals as quickly as possible.
• Authority usually points down the table of organization and in the direction of those who a manager or leader directly or indirectly manages themselves. Responsibility points in all directions, and that means down the table of organization and it also means higher up on it. And for senior executives certainly, that also means laterally and across the business as a whole. And every point in the business that this points to, brings its own shaping constraints into any best decisions that might be made, and whether that means addressing short-term and more immediate needs or longer-term ones – or what is more likely the case: a combination of them.

And that does not even begin to consider the added complication of other stakeholders that a manager and their team might be doing essential work for, and either in-house and across the table of organization or outwardly facing (e.g. to the marketplace and its customers, or to business-to-business collaborative partners, as for example are found in supply chain systems.)

I began this posting’s narrative by explicitly focusing on the line of responsibility and command as it runs up and down branches of the table of organization. I will continue from there in a next series installment to include a wider range of stakeholder interactions, and how complexities and constraints can arise for managers throughout a business when dealing with them. Then I will move on to consider a wider range of stakeholders themselves as they view a business and their roles in it, and as their involvement, of necessity shapes their decision making and follow-through. And with that considered, I will reconsider, yet again, ad hoc and special exception practices, and the emergence of the “ad hoc standardized” and its consequences.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 33 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 16

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 3, 2017

This is my 33rd installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-32.)

I focused in Part 32 of this series on the issues of encouraging and supporting, and retaining creative employees that you might already have in your business – who all too often are typecast as if they could only do well at the routine and even rote tasks that they are doing now.

• Businesses can and all too often do hemorrhage talent from their ranks, and without even knowing what they are risking and losing as they do this, as managers in pursuit of the routine in their task completion lists, fail to look beyond that to see what their teams and the people in them could do.

So I wrote about non-managerial, hands-on employees in Part 32, as a source of what could be innovative excellence and for at least some crucial fraction of the workforce in place. And I ended that by noting that I would at least begin to discuss how to better address this challenge here. I will do that. But first, I need to expand out the range of the Who side to this topic as considered here, by including frustrated managers who are stymied as their creative drive and potential go unrecognized too.

Non-managerial employees who do essentially all of the direct hands-on work at any business of any size, are an obvious fertile ground to look through for unrecognized and unappreciated creative potential. There are, after all, usually more people in that overall category than there are people with managerial and supervisory responsibilities in a business. So this is an obvious place to begin – and certainly as hands-on employees tend to have a lesser voice and a shorter reach in expressing it than managers do, and certainly when mid-level and higher level managers are considered. But it is vitally important to look for and identify, encourage and develop and support the innovative potential in the management team too, and certainly in the pool of lower level and mid-level managers in place, who take more orders overall than they give, and certainly within the managerial ranks where their own areas of responsibility and action are determined.

What do you look for there? I would begin answering that question by noting what you should look for in non-managerial employees too, who have managerial and leadership potential, as that means looking for the same traits that you should look for in already-managers who have real potential for further professional growth and advancement. Look for people with:

• Good, strong communications skills,
• Who can work well with others,
• And who do not work in a rut of only seeing their own here-and-now immediate tasks at hand.

Look for the people in your business who routinely see and think in terms of bigger pictures, and how individual efforts fit together, as well as the details that they have to work on. And look for the people there who think in terms of how larger parts of the business do and do not fit together effectively and how and why: larger ranges of the business than are encompassed by their own direct workplace responsibilities.

Note that I did not add wider hands-on expertise or unusually impressive technical skills there as general identifiers of leadership and management potential. And I did not include anything like an ability to expertly do a wider range of jobs hands-on themselves, than they are held responsible for now in that either. This is because good managers and leaders facilitate the people who work with them and under their supervision, to do better at their areas of expertise. And they help them to work together more effectively, and in a more smoothly coordinated manner. A good leader: a great leader excels in organizing larger efforts to meet larger goals in carrying out larger tasks and even when they do not have the hands-on expertise needed to actually take over for anyone on their team.

They do need to know the basic issues and the language of their area of responsibility and well enough to be able to ask the right questions and convey the right information to others. And they need to know enough of the more technical side to what is being done for them to be able to tell when they are being given good answers, incomplete answers that need to be further developed … or obfuscating jargon and the ineffectual and non-answers that sometimes also arrive on a manager’s desk.

• And in the context of this posting, a good manager has to be able to work effectively with the new and the uncertain,
• And when and how to support and advocate for those who seek to create new and positive through innovative effort, and when to more highly prioritize more basic and routine tasks that others in the business depend on their doing and completing.

Look for non-managerial staff with the capability and the interest in moving into positions where they would manage and lead others, developing and exercising their potential in that direction. Look for mangers who could effectively advance to greater and more wide-reaching levels of authority and higher up on a table of organization. And strive to facilitate this and even if you do not have a simple solution as to how right now, with a clearly defined opening on your table of organization at this time, so you do not end up watching your best walk out the door in frustration – and certainly not avoidably.

And with Part 32 and this installment up to here in mind, I add:

• Look throughout your organization for unmet potential that can be developed and encouraged and supported as sources of positive value for your business,
• And look for ways to more effectively capitalize on this potential – and even when that means you’re being creative in finding new ways to do that, that do not simply fit your perhaps cookie-cutter, linear business growth pattern in place.

This does not mean you’re never losing talent and even extraordinary talent from your workforce; it does mean striving to limit that loss and at all ranks in your business where that can realistically be achieved.

And with this 900 plus word start to this posting, I finally at least begin to address something of the How of all of this. And this means delving into two basic categorical types of communications that shape the employee and the manager experience, and what they are allowed to do, and what they are required to do at work:

Structured and even formally structured communications, as arise for example in the context of annual performance reviews with their pre-vetted review forms and protocols, and
Unstructured communications, as tools for arriving at unexpected insight and types of it.

I am going to delve into those issues in my next installment to this series, and use that as a starting point for discussing best practices in identifying and cultivating innovative potential in a business. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Intentional management 43: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 4

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 23, 2017

This is my 43rd installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-42.)

I have been addressing a series of issues in this series, leading up to here, first from the How perspective operationally, and then from the Who: stakeholder and participant perspective. And I repeat that list of topics points here for purposes of continuity of narrative for what I will turn to now, as offered in Part 42:

1. How is a business under analytical examination being managed now? (Note: this is a complex question because it raises issues of what it is doing in principle and as a matter of intended process and practice, and of what is actually being done and on a day-to-day basis and by whom and where in the organization and under what circumstances, and how consistently. The following questions in effect dissect out what would go into this question and what would go into answering it and from both the intended side and the actual in-practice side to that.)
2. Does this business actually follow a seemingly entirely ad hoc approach as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future either?
3. Or does it more systematically pursue at least a close approximation of the default model approach as laid out in Parts 38 and 39, with its systematically pre-planned out and followed processes and practices?
4. Or does it in some systematic manner differ from that, with non-default features brought in and included, and for at least specific areas of the business?
5. If this business does at least situationally resort to consistent non-default management approaches, where and how and when does it do so?
6. Is this resorted to in order to address specific perhaps recurring problematical situations or events, or in order to capture available value from specific perhaps recurring opportunities that the “standard” approach cannot handle in and of itself? Does this, in other words, reflect an alternative approach that might be resorted to on a needs and opportunities, functional process-defined basis?
7. Or do one or more specific areas of the business (e.g. specific departments or specific organizationally distinct sections of them, or specific satellite offices in a larger geographically dispersed enterprise) simply pursue their own course in how things are routinely done and across all functional areas and processes carried out?
8. This is only a starter list and one of the goals of any business review and analysis here would be to progressively, iteratively refine and elaborate on what is asked here, drilling down into the specifics of the particular business and away from the more generic as has been offered up to here.)

My goal for this posting is to step back from consideration of specific types of stakeholders in businesses and in their relevant outside contexts, and how they do and do not act and why. My goal here is to address, and in fact reconsider the issues that I have been discussing here from the perspective of an at least seemingly simple question, which I posed at the end of Part 42 in anticipation of this posting:

• What makes a good manager?

I have in fact been addressing this question in general, throughout this blog and as one of its central points of discussion, so my goal here is much more limited. For purposes of the here-and-now context of this series, I will focus on how a good manager identifies and understands the types of issues that I raise in my above-repeated list, and in the specific day-to-day contexts that they actually face at work. And I will focus on how that knowledge and understanding shapes and informs their decisions and actions too.

There are a variety of starting points that I could build this line of discussion from, but one in particular comes immediately and forcefully to mind for me: that of taking an ownership approach to the business that we work for, and regardless of any equity-holding or similar, fiscally grounded ownership considerations. I write here of a level and type of responsibility and of taking responsibility, and a level and type of pride in the quality of work done. And I write of commitment and follow-through, and with an ongoing goal of excellence as a basic standard to be worked towards.

For background material that more fully outlines what I mean by “ownership” and an internalized sense of it here, see:

Building a Sense of Ownership and Responsibility into Business Operations and Processes, and into Core Business Culture,
• And my seven part series: The Importance of Taking Ownership in Your Work and Your Business, as can be found at Business strategy and operations – 3 as postings 445 and following.

The issues that I raise there and that I return to here are crucially important. And they become more and more so in the context of this discussion, as a business scales up and as its senior and executive management that hold responsibility for overall strategic and operational planning, require more and more of their input on what is actually done and how it actually does and does not work, from managers and employees who work farther and farther removed from their own direct experience.

The single most important thread running through all eight of the above numbered topics points is that of adherence to or deviation from a business’ overall planning and the expectations that they would be built from and that they would further advance. Beyond that, I focused on issues such as process and process system effectiveness, but with explicit acknowledgment that ad hoc and unofficial but standardized work-arounds that achieve positive results short term, can only create risk of larger problems long-term. These short-term work-arounds lead to and in fact help create the single points of failure that can seemingly suddenly bring at least areas of a business to their knees and without warning to those who supposedly lead the organization, overall. And even when they do not cause more abrupt challenge of that type, they do create friction and inefficiency that can cumulatively limit the business as a whole and even quite significantly and certainly when that business functions in a highly competitive context.

I have been writing about communications in this thread of discussion, and over the course of much if not most of this series. I am writing about this here too, and by highlighting some crucially important points:

• Good managers supervise and lead the members of their teams. And they both supervise and manage the members of their teams as individuals, and they bring them together and coordinate their collective work in addressing and resolving tasks that are larger than any one person could handle and succeed at on their own.
• But they do not and cannot do this as if they and their team of direct supervisees were functioning in a vacuum. They have to do this in the larger context of their overall business and in the context of its overall functionally connected environment: its relevant outside context with its market and customer base, its supply chain and other business-to-business partners and providers and more included.
• Good management faces and acts in multiple directions, and not just inward towards the smaller group of employees, or of the employees and their lower level managers, who happen to fall within a given business leader’s specific management purview. And their management of their direct and indirect reports is not always of necessity the most important direction that they face in all of this, and certainly not at all times and under all circumstances.

I have been offering and outlining this approach in general terms here, and will step back to consider some of the specific in-house stakeholders that I have delved into in recent series installments, in my next installment to this series – and with a goal of taking this posting’s discussion out of the abstract with real world examples. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 32 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 15

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 24, 2017

This is my 32nd installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-31.)

I have been successively discussing a set of six bullet pointed topics in this series, starting with Part 27 (with an initially shorter four point list) and finishing with Part 31 (with Point 6 of the full, finalized list):

1. First, you need to reach out through communications channels that the people you seek to reach actively use,
2. Then you need to craft conversation starting messages that will prompt them to reach back to you, and to at the very least look further into what you have to say, and into what you do and are as a business.
3. Then you have to actually engage, and with a goal of starting a conversation – which would lead to these people thinking of your business as a possible next employer, and with their coming to see one or more positions that you have available as possible good next career steps for themselves.
4. And this crucially means you’re learning more about them, just as they reach out to learn more about you.
5. How can you more effectively bring current employees and managers on-board with change in hiring and in personnel policy and practice, as your and their business pivots towards being more innovative – and even in its basic business processes where that would create greater business flexibility and competitive strength?
6. And how can you best enable a smoother integration of the type of change that I address here, into a perhaps very settled existing system and in ways that can increase buy-in from stakeholders and gate keepers already in place – and at a structural organizational level in your business as well as at a more strictly interpersonal one?

And I developed and addressed all of these points essentially entirely from the perspective of bringing in new hires from the outside. Looking back on that, I have to acknowledge a measure of self-conscious irony in that, and particularly when I wrote in Part 31 of seeking out dissatisfied innovators who are currently working for others, with a goal of hiring them away from their current employers.

New innovative hires can come to be vitally important factors in turning a less than innovative business around and for making such an enterprise more competitively creative again. But what of the people who are already there – and the innovative people already on the payroll who see this and wonder why no one seems to listen to them or give them opportunity to be creative too? I have seen this happen. And I have seen businesses lose from among their best people, with the greatest positive potential, because they were pigeonholed as only doing one type of rote work that they also happen to be good at.

I concluded Part 31 with a brief anticipatory note regarding this installment, where I made note of the need to:

• Reconsider the innovative potential already in place in your own business, and the possibility that you and your personnel and management processes, might be leaving at least some of your potentially most creative employees frustrated. Are you setting up your own business for becoming the one that truly innovative new hires leave as they move on to new opportunity, and even with one of your direct competitors? Are you setting up your own business for becoming the one that at least some of your potentially most creative employees would want to leave, and in that way?

So my goal for this posting is to turn the discussion that I have been pursuing in recent installments inward, and with a goal of better identifying and enabling your most creative and capable current employees, and with a goal of giving them opportunity to more fully succeed. And I have to add, this means you’re pursuing the goal of better retaining them too.

Where would you even begin to start this? Look to your managers and with a strong focus on your lower level managers who directly and specifically supervise and direct the work of your hands-on employees, and for what is usually essentially all that they directly do. What do they actually do in their ongoing evaluation and review processes and how quick are they to typecast the people who report to them, as if they were only capable of doing precisely what they are doing in their current immediate here-and-now? How open are they to push the people who report to them, to do more and to learn more and to advance in what they can do? How open are they to employees who seek to do more, and who have ideas that would go beyond their immediate here-and-now tasks and responsibilities?

Now look to middle and higher management, and with a simple (seeming) starter question:

• How are managers: lower level ones definitely included here, being supported or stymied as they seek to identify and develop the creative abilities of the people on their teams?

And be sure to include Human Resources and their policies and practices in this. Where in the overall business, are your personnel-related processes and practices in place, supportive of change and flexibility and of employee enablement? And where are they rigidly limited, and in ways that do not actually reduce risk, and even if they are justified in that or some similar vein?

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider the specific details of performance reviews and where and how they are conducted, and feedback and other documentation coming from individual employees themselves. And I will discuss that set of issues in the context of how managers work with the people who report to them and on a more day-to-day basis, and in the context of the employee perspective to all of this. Then after completing that line of discussion, I will switch directions to consider the issues of automation in a human employment context, focusing there on the shifts that can be expected in the overall pattern of employee profiles that most businesses will routinely hire for and seek to retain, and how this will impact on workplace creativity and innovation.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Intentional management 42: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 3

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 14, 2017

This is my 42nd installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-41.)

I have been addressing the Who side of intentional management as a systematic business management approach, since Part 38 of this, and a specific to-address list related to that since Part 41, at least for its current form and contents. And I repeat that list here, as a starting point for this posting and for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative:

1. How is a business under analytical examination being managed now? (Note: this is a complex question because it raises issues of what it is doing in principle and as a matter of intended process and practice, and of what is actually being done and on a day-to-day basis and by whom and where in the organization and under what circumstances, and how consistently. The following questions in effect dissect out what would go into this question and what would go into answering it and from both the intended side and the actual in-practice side to that.)
2. Does this business actually follow a seemingly entirely ad hoc approach as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future either?
3. Or does it more systematically pursue at least a close approximation of the default model approach as laid out in Parts 38 and 39?
4. Or does it in some systematic manner differ from that, with non-default features brought in and included, and for at least specific areas of the business?
5. If this business does at least situationally resort to consistent non-default management approaches, where and how and when does it do so?
6. Is this resorted to in order to address specific perhaps recurring problematical situations or events, or in order to capture available value from specific perhaps recurring opportunities that the “standard” approach cannot handle in and of itself? Does this, in other words, reflect an alternative approach that might be resorted to on a needs and opportunities, functional process-defined basis?
7. Or do one or more specific areas of the business (e.g. specific departments or specific organizationally distinct sections of them, or specific satellite offices in a larger geographically dispersed enterprise) simply pursue their own course in how things are routinely done and across all functional areas and processes carried out?
8. This is only a starter list and one of the goals of any business review and analysis here would be to progressively, iteratively refine and elaborate on what is asked here, drilling down into the specifics of the particular business and away from the more generic as has been offered up to here.)

I have focused on the first four of those Points up to here in this overall narrative, but returning to Points 2-4 for the moment, those business model options can in brief be identified respectively as:

• An essentially entirely ad hoc business model and business management approach,
• An essentially entirely planned out and strategically oriented and executed, business model and business management approach that is centered on overall business-wide consistency, and
• A more hybrid business model and business management approach, where at least certain functional areas recurringly face operational contexts that they have come to address with novel, nonstandard approaches that do not actually fit into the overall operational or strategic plans in place – even if they are carried out very consistently as “standardized” ad hoc process flows in and of themselves. In a hybrid context as discussed here, the rest of the business is managed for the most part according to a more centrally planned out, Point 3 design.

I concluded Part 41 by stating that I would “turn to Points 5, 6 and 7 of the above list in my next series installment. And in anticipation of that, note that I will focus there on communications enablers and restrictions, and on how a Point 2, 3 or 4 approach is arrived at and particularly by the best managers who seek most actively to perform as effectively as possible in reaching all of their assigned goals and on time.”

I begin here with an initial focus on that last detail. When less experienced or inefficient managers and their teams of employees follow standardized and formally agreed to processes and procedures and in ways that do not deviate from normative and expected paths, outcomes achieved do not necessarily particularly raise issues as to the validity and effectiveness of those normal operating procedures per se, and even if their outcomes are less than expected – unless of course more effective managers and their employee teams begin facing the same business challenging results from following them too.

This becomes more interesting as a source of possible challenge to the validity and effectiveness of processes and systems in place, when good managers and even the best of them have to find work-arounds to get their jobs done and meet their deadlines and performance goals. And in this, it is not as important at least in the here-and-now instance, whether the more non-standard approaches that they use as work-arounds are one-off and unique to the instance, or whether they have become standardized, even if unofficially so for some specific type of work.

• One-off work-arounds can arise in a variety of contexts. To start, I would argue that they arise in the context of business systems fragility and from lack of operational agility, where tasks that are supposed to be carried out in some planned for, standardized and expected manner cannot be resolved through them, at least consistently and reliably. In practice, this type of event sheds light on the overall levels of communications efficiency or lack thereof in the organization, when a manager has to make it up as they go along in order to resolve a sudden challenge, and without opportunity to obtain either approval or support from their own manager or above on the table of organization, for how they would resolve matters and get their assigned tasks done. (I assume here that more effective communications would lead to change in official and expected processes in place that do not work, with new alternatives that do.)
• For a second context, consider businesses where results achieved are viewed as being more important than how they are achieved. This creates opportunities for hand-off disconnects when work flows have to be passed on to other teams and other managers for further work on their part. That business model approach and the consequences that result from it can come back to haunt a business. To at least briefly cite a relatively simple case in point, friction-point that this approach can create (that I have seen play out) consider the impact of ad hoc unplanned use of bottleneck creating, limited availability, shared resources that many need but that few can use at any one time, as a business growing pains example. But I could just as easily have cited how this management approach throws off task completion and overall work schedules in general, too.
• Systematic but nevertheless unofficial work-arounds, create fundamentally distinct channels for managing and carrying out work flows that are not allowed for or included in officially expected operational systems. They do not arise because of one-time, disruptively unexpected events. They arise from a long-term break-down of officially recognized and offered processes and procedures and systems of them, and with senior and executive management often left unaware of this. So they do not even know that the operational plans and processes that they have arrived at for carrying out their strategy in place, do not and cannot work and for at least some key areas of their business. In a more extreme and ongoing form, this scenario usually leads to change management resolution, or at least a need for that. But in any event, this reflects long-term and much more systematic and deep-set business inefficiency and risk.
• Note that I write in the above bullet point, of unawareness on the part of the most senior management in place, and of their operational and strategic planners. I am explicitly not writing here of businesses that for example, acquire smaller specialty businesses to round out their portfolios of value creating strengths and resources, that maintain them as if largely separate entities, allowing and even encouraging those new parts of their now expanded systems to maintain their own processes and even their own internal corporate cultures, so as to protect the sources of value they paid for when acquiring them. I am writing here of businesses that have essentially by default, split off what amounts to independent fiefdoms within their organization that in effect go their own way.
• How can that arise? I am fairly sure that every large and widely distributed business organization has at least a few empire builders in their management hierarchy who at the very least would like to do things their own way because of that. I have certainly worked with people who fit that mould. But communications breakdowns and the drift from “official” that that can create, are commoner causes of this, even as they in effect can force the development of protective silo walls in the organization, walling off even entire lines on the overall table of organization so those within them can get their jobs done.

I have in fact at least begun addressing Points 5-7 of the above to-address list in this discussion, and with a goal of at least briefly outlining some of the forces and pressures that managers and that non-managerial employees face as they seek to carry out their jobs and succeed there. I will continue that discussion in a next series installment, from a more explicit Who and Why perspective for these business systems participants. And then I will turn to Point 8 of the list and the issue of asking the right questions in the right ways for specific businesses under consideration.

Looking further ahead, I will then turn to consider individual personality, preferences and experience in shaping management style, and the issues and challenges of shaping a consistent management approach while supporting individuality and diversity, and differences in vision and perspective. But turning back to the question of what I will focus in on in my next series installment to this, I will begin by posing a seemingly simply question that I will start that with:

• What makes a good manager?

This is at least easy to ask, and it can be conveyed in just a few words. I will use this question as an organizing point for what follows it.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 31 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 14

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 9, 2017

This is my 31st installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-30.)

I initially offered a four point to-address list of topics related to finding and securing the best, most innovative new hires, in Part 27 of this series and began addressing it there. Then I added two more topics points to that list in Part 30 and began discussing the first of them there. I begin this posting by repeating this now six point list, for purposes of continuity of discussion, and with a goal of addressing the last of the six, concluding my discussion of this list and its issues in this posting, at least for purposes of this series:

1. First, you need to reach out through communications channels that the people you seek to reach actively use,
2. Then you need to craft conversation starting messages that will prompt them to reach back to you, and to at the very least look further into what you have to say, and into what you do and are as a business.
3. Then you have to actually engage, and with a goal of starting a conversation – which would lead to these people thinking of your business as a possible next employer, and with their coming to see one or more positions that you have available as possible good next career steps for themselves.
4. And this crucially means you’re learning more about them, just as they reach out to learn more about you.
5. How can you more effectively bring current employees and managers on-board with change in hiring and in personnel policy and practice, as your and their business pivots towards being more innovative – and even in its basic business processes where that would create greater business flexibility and competitive strength?
6. And how can you best enable a smoother integration of the type of change that I address here, into a perhaps very settled existing system and in ways that can increase buy-in from stakeholders and gate keepers already in place – and at a structural organizational level in your business as well as at a more strictly interpersonal one?

The last two, more recently included topics points to this list are in fact very closely related, and even if Point 5 is considered strictly on an individual employee and individual manager basis, and Point 6 is considered strictly from an overall organizational perspective. After all, you have to effectively enable and promote positive change at both levels at once, if it is to effectively take hold at either. So in practice, while I focused in Part 30 of this series on the above-repeated Point 5, I did in fact at least touch upon Point 6 and its issues there too. And I will have to at least briefly address Point 5 issues here, when focusing on Point 6 too.

I focused in Part 30 on the issues of bringing the right people into hiring process conversations from within your business, and with that including Marketing and Communications expertise related to online social media, in helping to identify and connect to the right new potential hires through those communications channels.

• Yes, by now it should be expected that essentially anyone working at a business has at least basic familiarity with online social media and that expectation is in fact validated in most businesses and for most all of their employees. People follow and post to social media and actively two-way communicate through them, just as they phone each other, and routinely.
• But no, not everyone in a business is going to be expertly familiar with the branding and the basic organizing message that their employer has developed, for officially representing their organization. And when hiring managers and Human Resources personnel reach out to and connect with potential new hires, they are representing their business and need to be in synch with that when doing so – and even when using resources such as instant messaging or Twitter. So general guidance at the very least from Marketing and Communications can be very helpful there, and with people available from that service to turn to, when and as specific questions arise that they could help resolve.

As a hiring manager, and particularly when seeking out non-standard employees with special skills and experience, you need to be able to reach out to your best candidates flexibly and creatively in drawing them in. But at the same time, you need to hire them into the business you work for, and in ways that do not violate basic policy or message in place, and certainly where ad hoc could create problems and both in that particular instance and when moving forward.

I addressed this from more of a What to do perspective in Part 30 and have just reconsidered it from more of a Why perspective here. And the basic reason for this division of this discussion here is simple: I focused on the job candidate search and hiring process from an individual instance perspective in Part 30, and am focusing here on this from an organizational and policy-level perspective. And with this point of distinction in mind, I turn to more formally consider that second side of hiring and of personnel. And I begin that by posing a simple and perhaps obvious question:

• How can you tell when a “creative a hoc” employed to secure the hire of a great employee search candidate was good and effective, and when it might have been problematical and even for the business as a whole, and even if it seemed to work that time?

Look out for special exception offers and agreements that would likely create resentment and consequent friction from those already working there, or that set a bad precedent moving forward and for future hirings or promotions, or both. This means thinking through what you would offer and how, to a highly sought after job candidate. And just as importantly, this is a question of how you would present what you offer there, to the business as a whole. If you find yourself struggling with how best to word that, then an offer made and its terms, would probably be problematical.

Let me step back from this line of discussion for a moment to dispel what was once a truth that has now become a somewhat quaint myth. It used to be true that terms of hiring and of employment could be and were held essentially completely confidential and for salary and other compensation offered and for essentially everything else offered to a new hire or to a current employee. And this held true for essentially every position along the table of organization from the lowest level positions on up, except perhaps for the President or Chief Executive Officer of a publically traded corporation, where public disclosure of salary and overall compensation has long been legally required. Now, a business has to assume that any and all such information can and will become visible, and transparently and very publically so, and for any and all positions and types of position in their organization, and for their competitors too. There are a great many resources such as GlassDoor that have come to serve as publically visible clearing houses for this type of information, and with data contributors from essentially all industries and types of business and from essentially all functional areas and work positions in them, adding to the array of insight available.

Personnel policy of the type that I write of here, has to be drafted and enacted and day-to-day followed and adhered to with this transparency in mind – and particularly now that everyone in a business is so social media connected.

With that in mind, let’s reconsider the above set of six points as a whole:

• You and your business are looking for creative, innovative people who would thrive in a business that actively seeks to be creative and innovative as a whole, now too.
• So look for people with both hands-on innovation and management skills, as a starting nucleus to build your business around, as a place of innovative excellence.
• This is only one possible scenario here, but it is one that makes sense for businesses that seek to become innovators, where they have not been living up to that dream, at least recently and in their current and ongoing practices. But this can also be an effective approach for launching a business that could become a magnet for the innovative too, as it starts out and takes off.
• Be willing to walk the walk as well as talk the talk in this; don’t just market your business as being innovative – be willing to build new teams around the right managers as you find them and bring them in. And really be innovative and supportive of that in your own words and actions.
• And look and listen as well as speak and show there.
• Mine resources such as LinkedIn for profiles of the type of people who you would most want – who are hands on innovators or who are still lower level or middle-level managers and who say the right things in their profiles – and who have recommendations and endorsements to verify that the things they claim to have done, are seen as true by others who have worked with them.
• These people might be so positively supported by current employers, that you could never bring them to move on to new employment opportunities – with you. But see if you can meet with them, and reach out online to contact them and ask them. And look for the truly innovative who are frustrated where they are now for not being allowed to be as creative as they could be too.
• Tell these people about what you seek to do, and how you would offer the right hires opportunity to build creative teams and systems that you would actively support.
• Beyond this, look to see who these known innovators recommend and endorse, and who else their sources of recommendations and endorsers really like too. Throw a wide net and seek out the best possible catches.
• Tap into and mine the conversation, and enter into it to start the conversation thread that you need here.
• And keep the issues of Points 5 and 6, above in mind here so you do not leave others already in your business behind, as you build or rebuild to support more active innovation too.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to reconsider the innovative potential already in place in your own business, and the possibility that you and your personnel and management processes, might be leaving at least some of your potentially most creative employees frustrated, as touched upon in the above set of bullet points. Are you setting up your own business for becoming the one that truly innovative new hires leave as they move on to new opportunity, and even with one of your direct competitors? Are you setting up your own business for becoming the one that at least some of your potentially most creative employees would want to leave, and in that way?

After exploring that set of issues, I am going to turn to consider the issues of automation in a human employment context, focusing there on the shifts that can be expected in the overall pattern of employee profiles that most businesses will routinely hire for and seek to retain. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Intentional management 41: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 2

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 29, 2017

This is my 41st installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-40.)

I began explicitly discussing intentional management as a systematic approach to business operations and strategy, from a more What and How perspective in this series. And then I switched orientation and began addressing it from a Who, and a more Human Resources and Personnel perspective in Part 38, Part 39 and Part 40. And as a key organizing element to that, I offered and began to systematically build from a to-address topics list, that I repeat here for purposes of narrative continuity:

1. How is a business under analytical examination being managed now? (Note: this is a complex question because it raises issues of what it is doing in principle and as a matter of intended process and practice, and of what is actually being done and on a day-to-day basis and by whom and where in the organization and under what circumstances, and how consistently. The following questions in effect dissect out what would go into this question and what would go into answering it and from both the intended side and the actual in-practice side to that.)
2. Does this business actually follow a seemingly entirely ad hoc approach as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future either?
3. Or does it more systematically pursue at least a close approximation of the default model approach as laid out in Parts 38 and 39 (and in Part 1)?
4. Or does it in some systematic manner differ from that, with non-default features brought in and included, and for at least specific areas of the business?
5. If this business does at least situationally resort to consistent non-default management approaches, where and how and when does it do so?
6. Is this resorted to in order to address specific perhaps recurring problematical situations or events, or in order to capture available value from specific perhaps recurring opportunities that the “standard” approach cannot handle in and of itself? Does this, in other words, reflect an alternative approach that might be resorted to on a needs and opportunities, functional process-defined basis?
7. Or do one or more specific areas of the business (e.g. specific departments or specific organizationally distinct sections of them, or specific satellite offices in a larger geographically dispersed enterprise) simply pursue their own course in how things are routinely done and across all functional areas and processes carried out?
8. This is only a starter list and one of the goals of any business review and analysis here would be to progressively, iteratively refine and elaborate on what is asked here, drilling down into the specifics of the particular business and away from the more generic as has been offered up to here.)

These points, as offered here take a more What and How perspective than they do a Who perspective. But at least since Part 38, I have begun systematically addressing the issues that they raise from the perspective of the people who would carry them out, and certainly at a management level. And in that, my comments as offered up to here address in large part, lower level and middle managers who actually work with the hands-on employees who perform the bulk of the work in any business that goes into actually carrying out goals and priorities-oriented tasks and processes. If the expected and the official of a business’ operational processes and procedures are bypassed and functionally replaced with a more ad hoc, and on a real world day-to-day basis, these are the people who would make the decisions to do that.

As already noted, ad hoc in this can become the actually followed and adhered to standard and certainly when resource restrictions and other challenges mean that official and formally expected cannot work as well in meeting actual performance goals and deadlines. Ad hoc per se does not necessarily mean one-off. This type of systematic necessary ad hoc, as a work-around for keeping the business functioning can be one-off but entire alternative and essentially set systems of actually carried out processes and practices can arise too, and in ways that cut across the table of organization and in ways that the senior executive leadership of the business do not know about.

When this type of systematic disconnect between hands-on and lower and middle management, and executive leadership there, hits a tipping point for prevalence and level of impact, this becomes a change management demanding problem. But I write here of “sub-tipping point” situations for the most part, acknowledging that even the best businesses can have elements of this type of disconnect and its inefficiencies in at least a few of its offices and functional areas in them. So I am not explicitly offering this posting or this portion of this series as a whole, as a change management discussion per se.

With that said, I have already delved at least briefly into the first two of the numbered issues in the above list in the immediately preceding postings to this series. And my goal here is to at least begin to address Points 3 and 4 from that list here, and once again from a Who perspective. And I begin by briefly reconsidering Point 2 in order to put that discussion into perspective:

• Does this business actually follow a seemingly entirely ad hoc approach as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future either?

The answer to that question, as simply stated is yes, that can happen. I have all too frequently seen this in early stage startups, and particularly when their founders have launched their ventures with visions developed from their hands-on work and from frustration of never having an opportunity to pursue them when working for anyone else. Some of them have had at least low level management experience, working with small teams, and I have run into true mavericks with at least some middle management experience who have attempted to start their own businesses with a yes to that question too.

They each start their particular startup “as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future” because they have never really learned the value of systematically building for ongoing consistent operations – or for ongoing and consistent strategy either.

Systematization can create stability, and it can enable agility and resilience and in ways that a strictly ad hoc never can. And this brings me to Point 3 and to a serious, systematically organized effort to create and adhere to a consistent and “official” to the business, operational and strategic approach.

• This type of approach cannot simply flow down from on-high and from the executive suite to all below it on the table of organization.
• Effective, realistic, sustainable operational systems that can be adhered to and without recourse to ad hoc work-arounds require ongoing communication that actively includes and involves the people who have to carry them out and who have to live with their direct consequences: good, bad or indifferent. And all of this communication has to go both ways, and in fact in multiple directions.
• And this means communicating with and really listening to the people in a business who are at the sharp point of the stick for processes and practices and systems of them that are in place, and who would find them supportive of their doing their work effectively or challenging for that or even as preventing it – and with that creating impetus for all of those work-arounds and ad hoc alternatives.

I add here that these notes also address the Point 4 alternative to Point 3 as listed above. Managers who actively seek to do their jobs well and who actively seek to enable the teams that report to them to succeed in this too, arrive at following a Point 2, 3 or 4 approach as a response to the resource based context that they work in and the level of support that they do or do not receive in doing their work and as they seek to find a for-themselves, most productive and reliable path forward.

I am going to turn to Points 5, 6 and 7 of the above list in my next series installment. And in anticipation of that, note that I will focus there on communications enablers and restrictions, and on how a Point 2, 3 or 4 approach is arrived at and particularly by the best managers who seek most actively to perform well in reaching all of their assigned goals and on time.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 30 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 13

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 22, 2017

This is my 30th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-29.)

I have been writing in recent installments to this series about finding and hiring the best, and particularly for critical needs positions in your business and when you need to find new employees who do not fit into any given, standard cookie cutter-type moulds. And with that in mind as a general overarching area of discussion, I successively addressed four specific issues and their possible resolution in Part 27, Part 28 and Part 29 that I repeat here for continuity of discussion as I proceed on from that starting point:

1. First, you need to reach out through communications channels that the people you seek to reach actively use,
2. Then you need to craft conversation starting messages that will prompt them to reach back to you, and to at the very least look further into what you have to say, and into what you do and are as a business.
3. Then you have to actually engage, and with a goal of starting a conversation – which would lead to these people thinking of your business as a possible next employer, and with their coming to see one or more positions that you have available as possible good next career steps for themselves.
4. And this crucially means you’re learning more about them, just as they reach out to learn more about you.

I have, as just noted, offered at least a foundational answer to the issues and questions raised in those four numbered points in the three immediately preceding installments to this series. And I continue on from there, with a goal of putting that flow of discussion into an organizational context, where I took a more individualized approach to special needs hiring there. And that brings me to two more areas of consideration that I made note of in Part 29 and that I repeat here, as new additions to the above list:

5. How can you more effectively bring current employees and managers on-board with change in hiring and in personnel policy and practice, as your and their business pivots towards being more innovative – and even in its basic business processes where that would create greater business flexibility and competitive strength?
6. And how can you best enable a smoother integration of the type of change that I address here, into a perhaps very settled existing system and in ways that can increase buy-in from stakeholders and gate keepers already in place – and at a structural organizational level in your business as well as at a more strictly interpersonal one?

Simply promulgating policy and passing it down the table of organization here, is not going to in any way guarantee either buy-in or compliance, or even a shared understanding as to what is supposed to be done now or why – which can explain a lack of actual day-to-day realized buy-in and compliance in and of itself.

I have made note in recent installments to this series, and certainly in Part 29, of how both compliance with and even shared understanding of new policy and practice of the type discussed here, can require active support from the corporate culture in place. And I have explicitly stated that making a change to the type of hiring and staff retention approach that I write of here, can require change and even relatively fundamental change in the overall corporate culture in place too. I stated there, that I would delve into this complex of issues in the course of this overall discussion, and will begin to explicitly do so here in this posting, as I at least start considering Point 5 as just listed above. And I begin that by posing a challenge, or rather by acknowledging one that the ongoing momentum of a business can and often does offer.

• Supervisory managers who are looking for new hires, and I add members of Human Resources who are supposed to assist them with this, and help keep processes followed aligned with business norms, all tend to follow processes and practices that they themselves have had to follow in their own careers, and from both sides of the hiring table.
• When these processes have come across as onerous or difficult, even the managers who found them the most objectionable when they were going through them, can come to see them as “paying one’s dues” and as a necessary part of the new employee candidate-filtering and selecting process – and not as problems that they might have prevailed over themselves but that nevertheless create avoidable problems for all concerned, and on both sides of that hiring table.

So as a starting point, Point 5, above is in many respects a matter of bringing decision makers in the hiring process to see this workplace and task performance requirement through fresh eyes. And for finding and bringing in the best possible new hires, and particularly the creative and special skills and experience best, that means looking through and thinking through the hiring process both from their own perspective and from that of the candidates who are under consideration – and particularly for those candidates who could bring the most to the business if hired, and who all of your competitors would want to hire too.

• This is important; re-envision the hiring process as a manager or as a Human Resources professional who works on hiring-process tasks, from the best candidate perspective, and from the perspective of you’re looking to hire those best candidates in a seller’s, candidate favoring market.
• When you are looking at these candidates, the market is always going to be at least somewhat of a seller’s market, and even if it is an essentially entirely buyer’s, hiring business-favoring jobs market for finding and bringing in more routine hires.

Now, how do you actually bring these business-side hiring process gatekeepers on board with all of this, as the business they work at seeks to pivot towards being more effective in finding, hiring and onboarding their next business step forward, new hire enablers?

I at least begin addressing that question by turning back to the above repeated Points 1-4 of the numbered list at the top of this posting. The interactive online experience as an all but ubiquitously expected presence, and online social media have changed the playing field here and for both job seekers and hiring businesses. And at the same time that this has affected how candidates and employers find each other, come to know about each other and interact, this also offers a key element to the answer to that question too.

Effectively bringing a change like this into a business means offering the people involved in it as stakeholders and gatekeepers, the tools that they would need to actually follow the new approaches and processes put in place. And that begins with information gathering and communications.

Marketing and Communications is always involved in the hiring process when a new hire would work in that department or service and in that functional area. But in an interactive online and social media shaped context, it is vitally important to bring relevant skills and experience from these professionals into the hiring process in general, and exactly as more generically skilled Human Resources professionals are brought in, to help organize and manage specialty skills hiring for other functional area services. An involved member of the HR team does not have to be an expert in the skills sets that they would help another department or service to hire for; they do not necessarily have to actually know anything about the details of what a new hire there would do. That is an area that the people involved in this from the hiring department or service would be expert in. Similarly, a social media and related communications expert from Marketing and Communications, need not be an expert in what a new hire in another department or service would do either. But they could offer real expertise in finding and vetting the right online channels to connect with the right potential new hires through. And they could offer assistance in crafting a conversation with these people, that could be built from as best candidates are identified and pursued.

• Even when a new hire would work in the most abstruse technical areas, an initial conversation starter that might lead to their applying for a job with your business, is not going to be technically detailed and abstruse. It is going to be more general and two-way introductory, and more generic in many respects for that. It is going to be more about “this is who we are; what are you looking for as a next best opportunity and how can we work together to reach our respective goals?”

I have started addressing Point 5 of the above, here-expanded to address list by expanding the range of expertise brought into the candidate selection process at the very least, and in building a more effective communications bridge that can be used in the next hiring process steps. I am going to continue addressing Point 5 in the next series installment and will at least begin addressing Point 6 there as well. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Intentional management 40: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 1

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 10, 2017

This is my 40th installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-39.)

I began focusing on the Who side of intentional management in Part 38 and Part 39 of this series, building from a more What and How approach to it that I have more actively pursued in earlier installments. More specifically, I briefly outlined this more Human Resources and Personnel-related side to intentional management in those installments, in order to further develop this side of intentional management as an organizing system, and to mesh it with the process and organizational structure perspective to this management approach. And I offered a briefly sketched out to-address list there, of at least some of the key points that I will address here and in installments to come as a part of that.

In the course of offering what might be viewed as this second-perspective restart on this series, I briefly re-sketched out a basic default management approach that I initially offered from a business process and systems side, this time from the personnel side (see Part 1 for my original presentation of this default, baseline model.)

I stated at the end of Part 39 that I would begin adding real-world complexities and requirements, and management approaches for best resolving them into this narrative here, and I will start doing so by posing a set of questions of a type that would come up in any significant review of the management systems in place in a business, and certainly if the leadership of that business were bringing in an outside business consultant to help more fully identify and clarify, and correct problems and challenges in place.

I begin this with the absolute fundamentals and at step one to any process of even just understanding where a business is now, independently of whether or not any change might be contemplated too.

1. How is a business under analytical examination being managed now? (Note: this is a complex question because it raises issues of what it is doing in principle and as a matter of intended process and practice, and of what is actually being done and on a day-to-day basis and by whom and where in the organization and under what circumstances, and how consistently. The following questions in effect dissect out what would go into this question and what would go into answering it and from both the intended side and the actual in-practice side to that.)
2. Does this business actually follow a seemingly entirely ad hoc approach as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future either?
3. Or does it more systematically pursue at least a close approximation of the default model approach as laid out in Parts 38 and 39 (and in Part 1)?
4. Or does it in some systematic manner differ from that, with non-default features brought in and included, and for at least specific areas of the business?
5. If this business does at least situationally resort to consistent non-default management approaches, where and how and when does it do so?
6. Is this resorted to in order to address specific perhaps recurring problematical situations or events, or in order to capture available value from specific perhaps recurring opportunities that the “standard” approach cannot handle in and of itself? Does this, in other words, reflect an alternative approach that might be resorted to on a needs and opportunities, functional process-defined basis?
7. Or do one or more specific areas of the business (e.g. specific departments or specific organizationally distinct sections of them, or specific satellite offices in a larger geographically dispersed enterprise) simply pursue their own course in how things are routinely done and across all functional areas and processes carried out?
8. This is only a starter list and one of the goals of any business review and analysis here would be to progressively, iteratively refine and elaborate on what is asked here, drilling down into the specifics of the particular business and away from the more generic as has been offered up to here.)

It is important to note that many businesses at least contextually and circumstantially find themselves in positions where for example, their executive leadership could legitimately answer “yes” to any combination of questions 2, 3 and 4 from the above list – and certainly for how their business is actually day-to-day run and across its entire table of organization. Though I add that a business that actually simultaneously pursues all of those management approaches is in most cases going to be one with an executive leadership that does not fully know that, until that is, that fact is brought to their explicit attention through an ad hoc process and performance review that would be added into their ongoing strategic planning schedule and even as a deviation from it for how it is carried out.

The ad hoc of question 2 in particular, is rarely discussed or even openly acknowledged and certainly if more systematic processes are at least formally in place – and even if ad hoc has become the de facto, actually followed norm for large and significant areas of the business as a whole. And this is where I shift focus in this installment from the What and Where and How of management to the Who of it. And I make this transition by noting that however the above questions are answered, and both for what is formally on paper as to how a business is supposed to be run, and for how it is actually run and day-to-day, its management is all planned out and carried out, and performance reviewed when it is, by specific, real individual people.

So I reframe the approach to management that I just outlined in my above first seven more-generic starter questions, in terms of who decides to do what and how of all of this, and particularly in actual practice and in the face of tight schedules and performance demands and in the face of real-world resource limitations, that might be very different from what is nominally and “officially” expected.

• When on-paper and official processes and official practices give way to alternatives that are actually followed, look for gaps and differences between what “nominally expected and officially followed” expects in the way of resource availability, and what is actually consistently and reliably there. And look for the perhaps even consistently recurring emergence of key resource shortfalls as “exceptions” too, that might in fact be predicable and even very reliably so for their recurrence.
• These gaps and shortfalls in most cases, in effect define the parameters that shape the “what is done” for how it deviates from the “what is formally on paper as being done.”
• When standardized effective processes break down, and for whatever reason in the immediate and often compelling pressure of the immediate here-and-now, ad hoc arises to fill the gap that this creates. This is a first response and the greater the ongoing and recurring uncertainty faced by managers under pressure to perform, the more likely it is to be resorted to and the more likely it is going to become the standard response taken.
• When specific recurring breakdowns become consistent and known for how they will arise and play out, alternative “standard” processes and procedures start to emerge – where they are still deviations from the officially expected.

This progression of points outlines one of the more common paths that would spell out why individual managers, and even particularly the best of them who actively seek to meet all of their performance goals and compete all of their assigned tasks and on time, can find themselves resorting to ad hoc and other non-standard management and business process approaches – and particularly when business systems friction: added in limitations to information availability and to communicated support, force them to decide and act on their own, and with them moving into what for them might be uncharted waters in doing so.

Ad hoc, to focus on that extreme deviation from standard-official here, can arise from sloppiness and ineffectualness, but that is self-limiting and if for no other reason than because poor managers who do it and consistently, tend to stand out poorly in their ongoing performance reviews in general. They make themselves and their job tenures self-limiting so their doing this and their making things up as they go along: their ad hoc tends to go away. But when good and even very good managers do this in order to stay effective in outcomes achieved, and they succeed in that and in meeting their assigned goals, their ad hoc and band aide solutions tend to be overlooked and they tend to go unreported too. That is where hidden but emerging patterns can and do begin to emerge – that come to light only when they are specifically looked for.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will more fully consider questions 3 and 4 of the above list, and from a largely Who perspective. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

%d bloggers like this: