If all I hear are benefits, either you aren’t thinking or you are in sales

I just read

http://scn.sap.com/community/cloud/blog/2014/08/04/moving-to-the-cloud–what-the-hell-is-cloud-computing by @Kunal_Pandya

It’s a good piece about the benefits of cloud. And it does a great job of explaining some terminology. However, I came across one bit that I just couldn’t let go.

“What % of your customers are on the latest version of your software?”

If the answer is less than 100%, it is not multi-tenant.

Four times a year SuccessFactors would answer less than 100%. Why? Because some companies have paid to be upgraded slightly later than others so as to ensure that if they are any issues, they are less likely to see them.

Also within SuccessFactors customers, many would not be using the latest tools. Why? Because they have opted not to run those areas, as change management is costly and they don’t see the need, yet. Are they running the latest version – arguably yes and no, they have access to it, but certainly they are multi-tenant within the data centre.

Within the HANA Cloud Platform, one has the option to run an application/database without downtime for 6 months – it will continue to run on the version of the software that was released at the time the application was started. However, the platform is updated every 2 weeks. Bounce your application and it will pick up the newest runtime. Clearly not every customer is using the latest version of the solution. Is the solution multi-tenant? This is perhaps a harder one to answer as even within the same data centre there are different versions. However, all these versions are running within containers that are provided by the same software. So perhaps it is multi-tenant? I’d suggest that it is, but it fails the 100% on one version test.

My points here are 1) it is dangerous to make sweeping generalisations and 2) that whilst there are large benefits to moving to multi-tenant solutions, there is also a real business demand expressed in $$$ to ensure stability of solution, which is a real risk of a “true” multi-tenant solution.

The diagrams of Sven in SaaS and PaaS: a symbiotic relationship delivering enterprise value do well to show the immense value of cloud solutions over traditional onPremise model but don’t hide the downsides either.

I think it’s worth while to show two sides of an argument. When trying to convince someone to buy an apple rather than an orange, point out that the orange is juicier, but perhaps the apple has less risk of spilling juice down your shirt front when biting in to it.

I think it is imperative that if we are to be trusted as advisers to those that claim that they don’t understand #cloud (and probably those that do too) we should probably discuss the downsides too.

Perhaps that’s bad practise in sales, to point out the bad sides of your product? Perhaps why sales people are consistently rated untrustworthy? Me I’d rather not have someone accuse me of being in sales. 😉

Reader’s Digest Poll – Trusted People 2014

Gallop Poll – Honesty/Ethics in Professions

 

Intangibles, appreciating your employees motivates, performance ratings processes don’t

Sorry, here I go again. I just read Steve Hunt’s post: http://www.tlnt.com/2014/08/04/performance-management-we-wont-fix-the-problem-by-ignoring-it/

And of course I’m all worked up. Why? Two reasons.

Firstly, I strongly disagree on the premise that performance management actually achieves improvements for the employees that are being “managed”. This is using Steve Hunt’s own definition of performance management:

Standardized and defined processes used to communicate job expectations to employees, evaluate employees against those expectations, and utilize these evaluations to guide talent management decisions related to compensation, staffing and development.

This has nothing to do with motivating and improving employees. It’s all about figuring out what is the smallest amount you can get away with paying your staff.

A process that can actually help employees improve is by working with them to find out their interests, find out what they want to do and shape their work around that. This isn’t the world of Gen-X and Boomers any more. People are far more interested in making work part of their life and life part of their work. Will they do that if there is a regimented process that is going to measure them against the cookie cutter mould? No, they won’t. Because no employee is exactly alike and no employer that wants to get the best out of their employees is going to manage that by trying to shape an employee to the employers expectation. We need instead to understand the great whole of the employee’s values and use that to motivate them. An employee that is doing what they feel is valuable and feels that the company supports them in this is far more likely to perform well than one that does not.

We have the tools (in a creepy big brother kinda way) to be able to analyse far more than just our employee’s achievement of our stated corporate goals, but also the interests, engagements, networks and influences of our employees. By better understanding our employees, and then aligning our business goals with their goals, we stand so much more chance of motivating and retaining talent.

Remunerate at the market rate for the skills that the employee possesses, if they gain more skills then pay more. Or if those skills have nothing to do with your business, don’t try and hold on to someone who would be happier elsewhere. Likewise, if the desires of the employee do not align with your corporate goals, don’t attempt to force the employee to comply, you are both better off without each other. Have the frank discussion that their desires and your goals don’t align at all. If their goal is to sit and eat chocolate and drink coffee all day and you don’t have a coffee and chocolate tasting role in your company, then it’s probably not going to work out. But it is good to know this – it’s time to move this employee on. Not because they don’t do what they are supposed to do, but because they have no desire to be doing it. Be frank, you can’t get rid of them if they are doing a reasonable job, but they will never be stellar unless _they_ want to do the work.

Now, I’m sure that this approach isn’t going to work in many, if not most, industries. If you have a load of jobs that people will only do if they are paid enough to suffer through, then this approach will not work. In this case fall back on Steve’s approach, just realise you’re very unlikely to develop or retain any talent.

However, if you are in an industry where people (or at least some of them) work because they love doing the work and are enthused about being the best, then I think my approach has some real advantages. Of course you will get and hire bad apples. This is where I believe performance management comes in. You now attempt to manage that person out of the company and ensure that you are not at legal risk by following a clear process. I’m sure there are risks in only performance managing those you’d rather have leave the company, but there are certainly rewards too.

And now to my second point of why I’m unhappy with this article. It was written by someone with the job title Senior Vice President of Customer Value at SuccessFactors/SAP Cloud HCM

If this is what SuccessFactors believes will drive more customer value, then I’m very worried that innovative and alternative approaches to making talent management work are not likely to get a great reception.

I strongly agree with Steve that we need to find out and measure how well our people are doing, but that does not need to be against a defined set of company goals, but against an slightly less well defined set of individual personal goals that the company can hopefully align with and benefit from. I believe that the next step for talent management solutions like SuccessFactors is to help employers with the analysis of who their employees are and what they want. Then use that information to help align both the business’s needs and the employee’s desires. It’s a huge technical challenge but we have to start somewhere. By at least acknowledging that there might be better ways of doing things rather than just dismissing them, we’d be making a first step in the right direction.

Companies that start to embrace the holistic view of the employee rather than the company centric one will, I believe, start to reap the rewards.

I could well be just dreaming, but at least I’ll be dreaming with some of the most motivated and enthusiastic people around who are all trying to achieve their goals in my company.

 

 

On being a dodgy international business empire

Recently I got an email from a company that I hadn’t heard of with an invoice for a month of electronic fax services that I had supposedly signed up for.

Now normally these sort of emails go directly to my spam folder and never see the light of day. But this one rang a bell and also they claimed to have my credit card details and were going to debit automatically!

You see, I had signed up for a service similar to the one mentioned (the ability to send faxes via email) but I certainly hadn’t agreed on any sort of monthly service fee. What I had signed up for was a pay-per-use fax service. If I needed to send a fax, I sent an email, and the cost of sending the fax would be debited from my credit card. But that wasn’t this company, or the service I was being billed for.

A trawl through the unread emails in my inbox found another email from the company now trying to bill me. It seems that they had purchased the small Australian company that I had previously made an agreement with, and had “upgraded” my account to one with a monthly service fee.

So unilaterally they had changed the terms and conditions of my agreement, and only given me notice of this through an email (that very much looked like spam marketing.) It seems that they also had sent another email which came from the company I had an agreement with, but had spoofed the from address – so I had assumed it was spam.

The biggest problem – the company I had originally had an agreement with had passed on my credit card details to this mega-corporation ( just type email fax into your favourite search engine, they’ll be at the top – and probably own the other top ten results too, it seems they are pretty much cornering this business.) So now they had my credit card details and were going to bill me.

Fortunately for me, the credit card I had used for the original service has been cancelled for some time – somewhere along the line, its details were stolen and it was used fraudulently which HSBC thankfully informed me about and I cancelled the card.

So I’m now having a nice email exchange with mega-corp asking them kindly to stop invoicing me for services I did not sign up for and have no intention of paying for. Also asking them to immediately and retrospectively cancel any service that they believe I have signed up for. Whilst they keep asking me for new credit card details (like that’s ever going to happen!) I’ve read on other forums that they can get pretty nasty about this, bringing in debt collectors and the like whilst not cancelling the service and invoicing more and more. So we’ll see what happens.

This said, the nice lady I spoke to when I phoned their customer service department was quite helpful in apparently arranging cancellation of my account. We’ll see how this pans out.

This raises for me some concerns. How is it that a company can be purchased and the new owner is able to make unilateral changes to existing contracts? Surely that is illegal? If not – it should be!

How can an email sent from a different domain than the purported sender (in this case an email from support@faxmate.com.au was sent from cpro30.com) 1) not automatically be assumed to be spam marketing/phishing 2) allow or justify unilateral contract modification.

Should it be legal that a company that purchases another automatically has access to all the purchased company’s records including customer credit card details? I guess to a certain extent that this has to be the case, but in the case where an Australian company is purchased by an international shouldn’t there be some protection about our personal details suddenly being transferred overseas?

I’m glad my credit card was already cancelled, but I’m sure there are many others out there right now in Australia who are trying to figure out whether or not to just pay a few dollars or fight this seriously dodgy business process.

 

 

Scaling or cropping profile images into circles when the source isn’t a square

WARNING CODE AHEAD

<geek>

It took me probably too long to figure out how to do this so I thought I’d share.

circles

To do this in a way that most browsers support wasn’t so obvious (to me).

in the end I did it by (approximately):

HTML

<div class="profile-image" style="background-image:url('profile-img1.jpg')">
 <img src="profile-img1.jpg">
</div>

CSS:

div.profile-image {
 width: 47px;
 height: 47px;
 background-repeat: no-repeat;
 background-position: center center;
 background-size: cover;
 overflow: hidden;
 border-radius: 23.5px;
 -webkit-border-radius: 23.5px;
 -moz-border-radius: 23.5px;
 box-shadow: 0 0 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, .8);
 -webkit-box-shadow: 0 0 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, .8);
 -moz-box-shadow: 0 0 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, .8);
 border-radius: 23.5px;
}
div.profile-image img {
min-height: 100%;
min-width: 100%;
 /* IE 8 */
-ms-filter: "progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha(Opacity=0)";
 /* IE 5-7 */
 filter: alpha(opacity = 0);
 /* modern browsers */
 opacity: 0;
}

The image tag is in there so it’s still possible for the user to interact with the image, i.e. save it if they want, but it is made see through.

So the user “sees” the background image which is positioned such that it covers the div, so all of circle will have content, and the middle bit of image will be shown. The circle is made by making the border radius half the width of the div.

The important bits were the “background-size: cover;” and the “background-position:center center;”

Obvious when you know how.

</geek> (as if!)

 

credits to : http://stackoverflow.com/questions/11552380/how-to-automatically-crop-and-center-an-image for the inspiration!

the future is fiori

#SAPPHIRENOW what it meant to a developer

I make no secret that I love developing. My favourite job title is “Chief HR Geek”, I adopt others as the need arises, but as a real in the dirt developer, content is always more important to me than flashy styling.

That’s why I was one of the only attendees at SAPPHIRENow 2014 wearing shorts. It’s fricking HOT in Orlando in June, wearing a suit?! Are you kidding me?

But it’s worth noting that to most businesses in the first instance, flashy styling is worth more than content! BUT – flashy styling with content, that’s awesome.

Fiori

With the announcement of Fiori being available as part of standard maintenance (yar boo sucks to those companies who’ve decided to skip SAP maintenance and have a third party do it) there comes the possibility of a double whammy of flashy styling and good underlying content.

The demo of a CFO drilling down in real-time to underperforming or problematic areas of the business and analysing why was compelling. I think Robbo has written about this as the killer app for HANA. I think he might be right.

But the key thing for a developer here, was the front end that this was achieved with, wasn’t a Business Objects add-on, wasn’t some WDA functionality. It was SAPUI5 over an OData layer exposed by Gateway.

If companies are going to be able to adopt these applications – and more and more of them are coming – there is going to be a clear need to support them.

Using tooling to build UI5 apps using ABAP won’t cut it

Whilst there are some amazing frameworks out there to help migrate stuck-in-the-mud ABAP developers across to building UI5 app, this does not help when there is a need to extend a standard Fiori app. Developers will need to learn JavaScript (or more properly ECMAScript, but that’s just me being pedantic.) If you can’t code JavaScript and refuse to learn, start calculating your redundancy payout because that’s what you’re going to be worth to your company. Alternatively, brush up on your SQL skills – and you can start writing some of the pushdown code for HANA. Either way, ABAP is going to be complementary to either DB manipulation or front-end display, but not a stand-alone skill set.

Fiori extension points

Did you know that many (not all!) Fiori apps have built-in extension points? You can use these to substantially alter the behaviour and appearance of the app. But to do so, there is something you should know – guess what? JavaScript!  Whilst the RDE (fingers cross for R to start meaning Rapid in near future) allows for some pretty amazing WYSIWYG modification to apps, the likelihood is that some form of developer intervention will be required. At the very least someone is going to have to figure out if the business requirement can/can’t be met using this simple customisation. And what skill set is going to be needed to figure out what those extensions can/can’t do? Yep you guessed it, JavaScript.

In Summary

For once I’m going to keep to a simple post without the detail that me as a developer I love so much. Because I want to emphasis this message.the future is fiori

I’m eventually learning to understand, unless you have flashy styling (Fiori), it doesn’t matter how good your content is (HANA) you can’t sell it. Combine the two together, and you have something that will change the marketplace and means developers need to change their game.

Perhaps if I ever attend SAPPHIRENow again, I’ll compromise and wear my jeans.

 

To rank or not to rank, ‘cos that won’t work in the real world will it?

Following up on my recent post about Stack Ranking:

Vijay was puzzled by how I thought that a system that didn’t rank or rate employees might be extended into larger organisations.

Firstly I’d like to expand on the assumption there that it is easier to do in smaller organisations. Why might that be? The obvious reason is that instead of writing down and ranking employees in a systematic manner you are instead doing this in your head – and that is the basis on which you manage your employees, their compensation and rewards.

I’d like to say this isn’t what I’d like to do, it may well be the case in many smaller organisations where they have rejected the performance review process, but it’s not what I’d want. So some ideas about my blue sky ideal fluffy HR world:

Why do we currently use performance review results for?

  • succession and career development,
  • workforce planning(?),
  • compensation reviews,

I’d suggest that the use of review results in workforce planning is a dubious idea at best, but it really comes down to why we use it in succession and career development. We use review results to rate the behaviours of our employees and to generalise as to whether they are capable of better things. I’d suggest that because a person is good at their current job is a pretty poor indicator of whether they will be good in a more demanding/different job. You will have heard of the “promoted to their level of incompetence” Peter Priciple. This can only happen if one relies on the ranking/rating of the employee’s current job as a predictor of performance in the next. What if instead we were to look at the skills that the employee is gaining/exhibiting in their current role? Do they have the ability to explain a complex idea? Can they present well to executives? Do the work well in diverse environments? Do they speak French? Whatever! but quantify in yes/no answers (any kind of ranking is difficult to assess) the skills that the employee has. Use these skills along with a description of the higher level role (broken down by the skills required) to decide if the employee is ready for promotion, and or needs more training/experience to carry out their current role better. Use that to manage their career progression and training. It’s going to make your workforce planning a lot easier too as you can start looking at how to get from A to B in a realistic way. If the employee is performing badly in their current role, but has all the skills required for that role, either there is a bad mapping of the skills or the employee is demotivated and attempting to address that via a performance review is unlikely to help…

Finally, the old nugget of compensation and remuneration being based on performance. It seems the fairest way of doing things, good performers get more, bad ones less? Fair! However, beyond a certain level, higher pay does not bring higher performance. It may well help keep your top performers from being poached by the competition. But in my experience, top performers are motivated far more by the work that they do, the level of autonomy they have, the respect they command and their ability to pursue their vision than the dollars they earn. Yes there must be a certain base (other people will not respect you – there are cultural mores around higher performers having more cash (unless you’re a Tibetan monk)). But after that base is reached the motivational payback for cash increases diminishes. I know from my experience my team would much rather have the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas each year to attend SAP TechEd rather than take that as a cash bonus. Why? because we’ve got that discussion about salary and divorced it from performance. I expect good to exceptional performance, but I’m not going to mess with your salary if I don’t get it. Why because not giving you a pay rise won’t improve you.

Perhaps this is where Vijay sees my scheme not working in large organisations, perhaps where you know you will be dealing with poor performers and an expectation that performance equals cash, you have to have a system in place. My point is not to refute that, a system must be in place to provide performance management of poor performers, my point is that giving a rating to anyone isn’t really helpful and those things that we use it for can and could be better managed in other ways.

I hope that clears it up a little 🙂

Stack ranking, one of the worst ways to approach an already flawed idea

There’s a pattern here, Vijay posts up something on HR and I feel compelled to reply but end up writing far more opinionated rubbish than I should…

http://andvijaysays.com/2013/11/26/stack-ranking-it-doesnt-have-to-be-evil/

Nice post Vijay! But I will disagree.

Comparative employee rating (also known as stack ranking, vitality curves, rank and yank…) does not IMNSHO lead to useful or helpful results. In the case where enough employees are available to make bell curves a statistical likelihood (which I think would mean a huge number of employees and a huge variation in management and employee prowess which would most likely indicate a failed recruitment process, rather than a diverse company) then the likelihood that it would be possible to accurately compare one employee with another is very limited, Stack ranking only (doesn’t) works when it is possible to compare the employees. Which means the employees likely know each other, which means it’s probably in their own interests to screw each other’s performance. Check out the well publicised story at Microsoft – http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2012/08/microsoft-lost-mojo-steve-ballmer – under heading “The Bell Curve”.

“If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” said a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

As I have previously mentioned I think the whole idea of performance reviews and ratings does nothing to help the employees, rather it just helps identify where good and bad management is occurring in the organisation. When we start linking review scores to payment, it gets even worse. Why? Because employees then start linking (even more strongly than they do already) their salary with their perceived self worth. Then when for whatever reason a large pay increase is not possible, the employee values themselves less. In the worst cases of this I have come across organisations where the employee contracts state that a performance review rating of 5 equates to n% of salary bonus payment, whilst a 4 is slightly less, and so on. The organisations have fixed salary/bonus budgets, so in order to pay out, they adjust the employees’ performance rating down (very rarely up!) so that the budget is met. Excellent employees are told that they are just “good” because there isn’t the budget to pay them if we tell them that they really are excellent.

I believe that there is a place for strongly objective reviews of employees, it’s the dark side of performance management. It’s that work that you need to do to be able to fire a disruptive or underperforming employee without having your arse hauled through the courts for unfair dismissal. Probably not an issue in the US I hear, but certainly a consideration in countries where the law is a little more friendly to employees. However, to drag all employees through a similar procedure when you don’t intend to fire them in the end, is not ideal methinks.

crystal ball

 

Peering into the future, short and longer term

Given my thoughts (and of course I haven’t a lot to back that up) that the only real positive value of current performance reviews is to evaluate the effectiveness of the management teams, I suggest that we remove the soul crunching and mainly pointless reviews and replace them with alternative ways of checking manager effectiveness. Google appears to have been doing a good job of this with its Project Oxygen and 360 reviews of managers – read the excellent HBR article http://hbr.org/2013/12/how-google-sold-its-engineers-on-management an excerpt which quotes one of the Google manager which illustrates the value of the program is below:

“I was surprised that one person on my team didn’t think I had regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. I saw this person every day, but the survey helped me realize that just seeing this person was different from having regularly scheduled individual meetings. My team also wanted me to spend more time sharing my vision. Personally, I have always been inspired by Eric [Schmidt], Larry, and Sergey; I thought my team was also getting a sense of the company’s vision from them. But this survey gave my team the opportunity to explain that they wanted me to interpret the higher-level vision for them. So I started listening to the company’s earnings call with a different ear. I didn’t just come back to my team with what was said; I also shared what it meant for them.”

This approach appears to be working at Google. Perhaps too well! A Google full of managers rather than leaders would be almost as bad a place to work as Yahoo for me. However, the concept of 360 reviews providing actionable areas for improvement, I think, is something that isn’t quite so blue sky. This is an idea we’d be better off implementing right now. I think there is a clear difference between “management” telling you that you could do better in areas compared to the team that you manage telling you that you could improve.

Looking to the longer term, I think it will not be far off where we can use data that we would not have considered analysing previously (social network graphs, semantic and sentiment analysis of work communication, external to enterprise group and social sentiment, etc.) to give us hints as to whether employees are more or less productive, motivated, stretched, likely to leave, etc. What is more, predictive analytics will improve in the HR space (hello HANA and comparing huge sets of data across multiple organisations available due to SaaS set up of the HR tools and therefore comparable data sets). We should start to be able to get that data and the predictions about how an employee is going to act in time to do some real time/preventive management (hopefully). This is going to be far more valuable than the formalised soul destroying performance appraisal process happening once every n months.

I’d go as far as to suggest formal reviews only exist because we have this feeling that we need to have something “objective” to use to manage our people. However, in reality the best/happiest/most productive workplaces are going to be those where the subjective views of the employees are that they are being well and fairly treated. I think we can do an awful lot more in our workplace to help our employees be happy and productive. And most of that improvement isn’t going to come from paying our employees more or telling them where on a scale of 1 to 5 they scored this year. Perhaps we like to think that an objective review feeds a subject view, I don’t think it does (or if it does, it’s rarely going to be positive.)

Edit – to try to clarify a few points here I wrote yet another post  To rank or not to rank, ‘cos that won’t work in the real world will it?

 

Lies to Children – Simplification for the sake of easy explaination

simplicityI was so close to tweeting this:

The earth & sun orbit around their combined centre of gravity. simply explanation isn’t the same as accurate, just a lot easier to explain

It even fits in 140 characters, but I don’t think it does justice to the point I wanted to make.

Michael wrote:

and I commented:

Michael replied:

I lol’d.

However, it raises a point I’d like to address, we often hear some very compelling stories about how thing are. One of those stories is about the earth orbiting the sun. If you look closely at the details, what the earth orbits is the sum total of gravitational influence in the solar system. It happens that sum total is pretty much smack bang centered on the sun, but it certainly isn’t always.

The simple story is compelling, and it may even be true for most use cases, but were I trying to calculate the trajectory of an asteroid potentially on a collision course with earth it wouldn’t be.

Likewise if Michael took my story about SaaS meaning the end of upgrades to his business it would be a very compelling and simple one. After all, someone else is managing that in a SaaS world aren’t they?

Look into the detail however and you might find things like APIs that you’re using for integration getting depreciated over time, certainly you’ll hope to find that the UI/UX changes, and so your training documentation will need updating. New functionality will come along and you may well adopt it.

Beware any simple and seemingly logical statement – especially if it comes from someone trying to sell you something.

because:

 

Organisational Charts, is there a better way forward?

What does your company’s organisational chart look like?

a) the Eiffel Tower,

b) a bowl of spaghetti?

SuccessFactors Professional Edition – a thought provoking trial

I’ve been trying out the SuccessFactors Professional Edition (SMB market) software recently (and no, this is not a review of it, that’s coming later (maybe).) It gave me a moment’s pause to think. Does the organisational structure at my company actually resemble a tree (an upside down one I guess) at all? The SuccessFactors software has a great organisational structure visualisation tool (far nicer than the Nakisa one IMNSHO), but it’s all about visualising a traditional hierarchical organisational structure.

Different types of structures

At the same time I was thinking about this, I happened to read the supposed “Valve Handbook for New Employees“. On page 4 (I’ve included the link, if you haven’t read it, I can recommend it, fascinating stuff and far more than just the bit I’m talking about here) it describes the structure of the organisation.

valve_org_chart

It makes a point:

 “Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily.”

Like Valve, I don’t see the organisation that I work for being particularly militaristic. I grew up as an “army brat” and therefore have a very healthy (in my eyes) disregard for any kind of imposed authority. Someone telling me that I must do something in a certain way, is almost a guarantee that I’ll try to find a different way of doing it. I try to treat the people I work with like I would like to be treated. Telling someone to do something is pointless, explaining to them why they should do something – that’s more like it.

I’ll digress from my main point here for a little bit, because a random memory has just sparked, and it’s sort of relevant. When I was a new grad starting out in the big wide world of SAP HR consulting all those years ago, my boss at the time hauled me out of the clients where I was shadowing and learning, and into the office. For one week I helped the office admin team file expense reports, collate time sheets and put together invoices After that, although I may never have been the best at getting my expenses in on time, when they did get in, they were very clearly and neatly arranged. Why? because I had learnt that doing so was a simple task for me, but made the life of the admin person so much easier. Because someone had taken the time to show me why I should do something in a certain manner, I was very happy to do it.

Hierarchy and innovation, not great mates

In their employee handbook Valve go on to say:

“But when you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.”

I’ll put my hand up right now and admit that Discovery is not an entertainment company, despite it sometimes being very entertaining to work here, yet I’ll completely agree with the sentiment of it being an absolute innovation killer to tell people exactly what they must and must not do. To me to provide the sort of environment that people are going to thrive in means everyone having a say and everyone moving forward.

Such a dynamic (yes my description and substitute whatever smanky term you want to use instead) way of doing things cannot, I believe, have a non-dynamic organisational backbone.

So let me try to put that on paper for you

I tried to draw a simple map of the relationships between a few of the employees in our company (disclaimer, I didn’t stop to think too long about who is linked to who very hard here, so if you’re on this chart and I didn’t link you correctly, sorry, it isn’t a real org chart because there wasn’t a whiteboard involved.)

org+structure

when I tried to add just one more employee (Karsten) it just got far too messy:

org+structure2

My point is, that as a small company, we just don’t fit into the traditional hierarchical organisational structure. And to follow on from the point made by Valve, I don’t think it is in the best interests of our organisation or staff that we do.

Scientific interlude to counter excess HR fluffiness

Another digression (sorry) even evolution (Darwin’s tree of life) isn’t consider a tree these days, it has been recognised that due to the transfer of genetic information from and through viruses and bacteria there is an awful lot of our genome that doesn’t come from our direct ancestors, but from other species. It’s called horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and has been found to play a major role in forming species. To use this analogously, I should suggest that who you are working with, who influences you and who you influence are more important to who you are than the person that you supposedly report to.

Back to HR (or HCM, or whatever…)

Now I don’t think that either Discovery or Valve (or Dawin’s web(?) of life)  are unique in this. I think the days of the hierarchy are numbered, and what is more, we are inventing and deploying the tools right now that will be its undoing.

Tooling up for the revolution

Enterprise social networking, whether using tools like Jam, Streamwork, Yammer, Google+ (we use this a LOT internally, it’s free, simple and powerful!) or even going more external with tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and, so help you, Facebook is clearly in vogue. It should be a simple matter to leverage these tools (along with email ) to find out who is talking to who. From this we would have a clearer picture of who is talking to who, how often and in what formats. We could use this data to help us consult the right people. We already do this in many ways, but imagine having a system that could help us. In the same sort of way that GMail prompts you to include certain people in an email based on your past emails but that would also check the content of your message (I know this sound horrendous to some of you, but I’m just imagining stuff here, not planning for an actual solution, bear with me). The possibilities of how we could capture and utilise the connections between our employees to add value to the business are only just starting to be explored.

I’d push the analogy that I’m trying to make so far as to say that communities of interest are the new org units of enterprise. Although you might not send a leave request to be approved by your local ketchup appreciation group (I used to read the USENET alt.ketchup group at uni for a laugh, how the world has changed! I can’t even find a link to it now.) You are more likely to check that your vacation isn’t going to leave the project teams you are working with in the lurch, rather than checking with the team with whom you are theoretically assigned but haven’t worked with for the last 6 months.

When it comes to handling career goal planning, I think that we need to be encouraging everyone to be part of the process.  (I happen to agree with Prof. Culbert about the usefulness of performance reviews, but strongly believe that goal setting is a great way to understand how to get to the next level, in a positive way.) 360 type reviews (where we reference and review with the people we are working with, rather than an arbitary “manager”) of the goals that we are setting allow ourselves allows us to help ourselves and our teams understand where are heading,  without the soul-sucking negativity associated with most performance reviews. For such a distributed process, there is no benefit to a rigid structure where person A conducts the review for person B, C and D. Again I see great potential in the use of social communication tools to share and organise and optimise these processes.

Full circle

So back to my original musing, what does my organisation look like? I don’t think I know yet, but I think it’s going to be fluid. If I want to be part of a successful innovative company (and who doesn’t) I think it need to be able to change shape depending on how and why I’m looking. And my view of the organisation should be able to change that shape without me needing spend days of constant restructuring.

And to finally relate that to something SAP

Returning to my thoughts about the SuccessFactors Professional Edition product and its use of strict hierarchical structures. I don’t think that these do fit with how many SMB companies are choosing to operate today. Yet, I can see how a SaaS solution that is planning to integrate “social” into everything they do (one of the strong messages from SuccessConnect) will possibly get me there a lot quicker than an onPremise solution will. I hope that by posting this up people will read this and start to think about how we can start to leverage the tooling that SAP is providing to be more creative, dynamic and successful. SuccessFactors people, you have a real opportunity to create something in this space, please let’s build something awesome.

As per always, these are my own personal views, and do not necessarily represent those of the company I work for. I purposely take a line which is at times controversial and contrary to many people’s beliefs. I don’t think I’m correct, it’s just that no-one has convinced me otherwise yet. This blog was originally published at http://scn.sap.com/community/erp/hcm/blog/2012/07/09/my-organisation-looks-like but I thought it really ought to be here too. Partly inspired by Vijay’s blog about talent being unmanageable, and my thoughts on what does that mean about talent being managers. What I’d want to point out is that I see a future coming where out HRIS system may mean the end of people managers as we know then – thus solving the conundrum of how do we manage talent and/or should talent be managers.

 

 

References: in a list to make life easier for you


Valve Handbook for New Employees

http://www.successfactors.com/small-business/professional-edition/overview/

http://www.scribd.com/doc/90526695/Valve-Handbook-for-New-Employees

http://www.quora.com/Social-Media/What-is-a-Smanker (my own adaption)

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126921.600-why-darwin-was-wrong-about-the-tree-of-life.html?full=true

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126923.000-editorial-uprooting-darwins-tree.html

http://mashable.com/2012/06/24/social-media-workplace-study/,

http://apcmag.com/why-social-media-in-the-workplace-is-not-the-enemy-business-benefits-of-staff-usage-.htm

http://byresearch.wordpress.com/

http://gmailblog.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/dont-forget-bob-and-got-wrong-bob.html

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/1269/is-it-bear-or-bare-with-me

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_of_interest

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/opinion/02culbert.html?_r=1

 

Should you be a manager?

A response to “Talent cannot be managed” by Vijay Vijayasankar.

I read Vijay’s excellent post http://andvijaysays.com/2013/08/29/talent-cannot-be-managed/ about how talent should be lead and not managed.

It seems to have had a stratospheric response, with lots of people loving it. I had to pause for a moment and wonder why.

My first thoughts – involve a little set logic

leadership

Of all the people that are out there in the world, there are PLENTY that are unmanageable. (n.b. I do realise I spelt that wrong in whiteboard sketch, some reason there isn’t a spell check on whiteboards (now that’s a cool idea for a future demojam)). There are also plenty that out there that desire leadership more than they like being managed. Of that group there is a small subgroup that are “talent”. I’ve drawn a bigger overlap with “desire leadership over management” for talent as I agree more with this, but the overlaps aren’t really supposed to indicate % of overlap, more that there is some.

Vijay defines some other things about “Talent”: Loyalty, requirement for trust, lack of scalability, need for direction, these are all other things I could have drawn on the diagram. In all cases, there would be an overlap with the other areas (although not being very good and drawing n-dimensional diagrams on a whiteboard I didn’t attempt it.)

The point I’d make is although Vijay states (and I’d tend to agree) that talent possess these attributes, these attributes do not define who is a “talent”.

However, I’m pretty sure that anyone that read the article would be able to identify with two or more of those attributes. Unless the reader had particularly great self awareness, then the “logical” jump is “if I have these attributes, I must be a talent”. Result – instant warm fuzzy feeling. Next result – share warm fuzzy feeling with as many other people as possible. Result, lots of reposting.

Ok, I’m being a little  😉 cynical here, but I don’t think I completely off. Vijay has written a lot of other articles that have been just as good, and many of them have been less subjective. But perhaps haven’t addresses such emotional areas. This article has had a huge response and I think in part (and compared to his other excellent blogs) it’s because of the group identity emotional response trigger that it pulls.

I’m waiting for his next blog “Actually, you’re not a talent” and see if that gets the same response 😉

But that wasn’t the post title – it was “Should you be a manager?”

When I read Vijay’s post it did trigger some thoughts though, primarily, if someone were to identify with these points and consider themselves a “talent” should they really be in the manager role? Now, in most companies in the world, it’s impossible to rise to the top unless you take on some people management skills. But should we, could we, reasonably expect a “talent” that by Vijay’s definitions, “doesn’t mix with non-talent” to effectively manage a team of anyone other than “talent”? Given how rare “talent” is to find, could we even expect such a team to ever exist?

Do we need to think about special training for our “talent” to make then a little more accepting? Or do we risk taking them out of that talent space if we start burdening them with management responsibilities? Or perhaps there are special “talents” that exist who’s talent is people management? What does it say about the career progression and potential of talent if we can’t make them people managers?

One of the comments that I made on reading the post was:

Management is distinct from leadership – Talent leads, that is clear, but can/should it manage? That’s my question back to you Vijay 🙂

Thanks for such a great post.