Back on deck, almost

We are back from our holidays, lots to do before I feel in control again. Skiing was excellent, company was excellent and the food was outstanding. All in all a great 8 days break, although Jayne has come home with a sore back we think from falling earlier in the week.

Even though we were off the grid, mobile phone coverage at the top of the chairlift, still lots of technology talk. One thing I am amazed about is the number of people, over 21 talking about Facebook. I am still yet to get an account but maybe just maybe I will.

Away for a week or so

We are heading off for a vacation over the next 9 days, skiing!  During this time I will be virtually off the grid (no email, no IM, no cell phone, hopefully no PC) so do not look for any updates by me during this period.

I shall return to my semi-normal routine around 30th July.  In the meantime feel free to check out the archives or use the Random Page feature to have some fun.

Do you have the inside info HR?

If you have the inside information on what is happening with HR in Australia, or you want to have the inside information, head over to a new site called HR Buzz.

The site is the brain child of Kevin Howard, Jobs In HR fame and frequent commenter on this blog. The site will be a collection of forums for discussion and document storage to build an open knowledge base for Australian HR practitioners.

HR Buzz is a collaboration space for the Australian HR profession. There are forums where you can discuss issues with your peers, ask questions and share ideas related to Human Resource Management.

There is also a document repository, where you can share generic policies, templates, forms and other documents. Consultants can also share articles and ‘whitepapers’.

The site was officially launched 2 days ago with a couple of documents and has a few discussions already underway, like:-

The value of this site will only be seen once a community it built around it, in the meantime check it out and add some content, don’t be shy.

links for 2007-07-19

My productivity tips

A couple of weeks ago Tony Goodson sat down and had a chat with me about productivity, being a productivity buddy, Twitter and life in general. The audio is not the best, Skype was playing up and we had to record in 3 different sessions but we got through it. Following recording Tony went and moved house which delayed it being posted.

If you are interested in productivity go check out the show, just skip my interview :-).

The skills of Gen Y

It seems that Gen Y is not all bad, their technical skills save them, other than that we need to write the off as a wasted generation. What! Well that’s what 315 business leaders across Australia would like us to think based on the results of a survey conducted by SmartCompany in conjunction with Roy Morgan Research and Dun & Bradstreet.

The Australian IT has an interesting summary with quotes like:-

They were also more likely to demand better office amenities, time off to study, and more training opportunities and mentoring.

Some 48 per cent of the SME owners were disappointed by Gen-Y communications skills, and 37 per cent complained of a lack of acceptable professional skills.

The SmartCompany article has some very damming quotes:-

Poor spelling and grammar and a failure to understand what constitutes appropriate corporate behaviour are the biggest bugbears, with almost 70% of surveyed employers reporting dissatisfaction with their Gen-Y employees’ performance in those areas.

Or

Once they’re on staff, Nagle says it is important to constantly communicate with, train and “indulge” Gen-Y staff to build relationships and get them enthused about being at work.

These people need constant work, why bother! 😉

Well it is not all that bad:-

However, Gen-Y have a key strength in tech skills, the poll finds. While 94 per cent of employers considered Gen-Y employees demanding in seeking the latest hi-tech gear, 85 per cent were happy with their younger workers’ technology skills.

Gen-Y was more focused on the community and the environment than earlier generations.

Some tips from SmartCompany on getting the best from your Gen Y’s

1. Retention starts with recruitment.

2. Be flexible.

3. Provide the ‘why’.

4. Provide regular and constructive feedback.

5. Set clear career paths and determine goals.

6. Coaching and mentoring appeals to this demographic.

7. Salary, salary, salary.

8. Develop an organisational culture that is inclusive of everyone.

9. Watch your words.

10. Practice what you preach.

Are you up to the challenge? If so Management Issues has some further tips here, and here.

Social Networks

Lee LeFever and his wife Sachi are at it again with another video Social Networks in Plain English, worth a watch.

Of interest is I really grok the concept that networks get things done, d’oh! Also a social network site allow you to uncover the hidden value of your social connections, be it for money, jobs, opportunity or love.

This is an ah ha moment for me or if you are switched on a “d’oh Michael is slow off the mark”. In organisations we all know it is not what you know but who you know that gets things done.

Have a problem in Finance, well call Bob, Control Manager, who you met at the last leadership course and get it solved, need a new product feature call Mary in product development. But you might not know that Mary knows Jane in product marketing who can get you those freebies for the special even you are running where the CEO of you biggest customer is attending. A social network system inside the organisation boundaries would solve this issue and expose these connections. The system has now allowed you to uncover value in your network to solve a real business issue. ROI.

Case in point many of our employees are now in LinkedIn, guess what I have started using LinkedIn to find new connection in my network, without even thinking about it!

The kicker is no one in “Corporate” or “HR” has authorised/deemed/declared/mandated the use of LinkedIn, it is growing organically which is the best feature of a social network (Web 2.0 technology/concepts/systems) and why Twitter works.  The real trick for people wanting to use Web 2.0 technology/concepts within an organisation is to have them grow organically! Ask you change management expert how to do that and I would guess most would not know how.

Communication with employees

We all know that most issues in our lives result from a lack of, or the wrong type of communication (well most of us know this) . A lack of communication between employees and their managers can be and many times is the bottom line problem in employee performance.  Basically the manager is incapable of communication with the employee or the employee is incapable communicating with the manager.

This lack of communication could stem from many things, personal, political, historical, etc. Just because one relationship is broken does not mean that either party can’t communicate typically it is just with each other. This communication issue does not have to remain an issue. It can be solved.

Most of the time both parties need to stop and think about the world from the other side and give a little. Sadly this rarely happens.

Tip for the day – Spend a few minutes per day getting to know others personally.

Always On communication update

It has been just over a week since I started using the HP iPaq 6900. My thoughts

  • Battery life is a bit low, standard battery just makes it through the work day, I have been running the extended life battery, just bigger.
  • Having push email is very good, allows me to keep tabs on what is going and respond immediately to email. Not just the urgent ones but the ones that take 10-15 seconds. I have got into a habit of leaving emails Unread when they need a Next Action.
  • Having push calendar and tasks is great, can capture next actions and appointments whenever I need to.
  • Outlook on Windows Mobile doesn’t easily support my implementation of GTD, need to work out the best way to operate.
  • 150+ tasks don’t work well on the device, this is either a Windows Mobile or a CPU performance thing not sure. Would like to trial a few other devices, but I doubt I will get the chance.
  • No quick way to create a task, without listing all of the current tasks, which takes about 60 seconds.
  • There does not seem to be a way to permanently have the tasks application open with a specific filter, although I am doing some research on this.
  • I have not got completely hooked to the always on email, but I can see if happening, self disciple is important.
  • No scroll wheel on the device is a missing feature, also no way to change the applications that launch from the front application buttons.
  • GPRS is slow, too slow for mobile web.
  • Office Communicator Mobile doesn’t work like I first thought, no VOIP, and there are all sorts of dialing plan issues with corporate address books. IM kind of works. I haven’t spent the time on this side of things, next week.
  • Not installed other programs.

Is a Windows Mobile device for me, maybe. I need to sort out a few of the items above first.

Can you build a company in a weekend?

An interesting team development activity took place of the weekend of Jul 7-8. Get together a group of people, lock them in a room and for 54 hours build a product, set up a company, and launch it to the market. The idea is called Startup Weekend!

The weekend had all the social media blog’d (via Technorati), photo’d, live video’d, YouTube’d (and here) so you can read, watch and learn all about it.

In reading the analysis it is clear to me that the group of 70 diverse individuals came together and very quickly organised around a single goal and worked damn hard to achieve, something any management team would be proud of!

There is a great final analysis that I felt had impacts on organisations and management.

The team went through the Bruce Tuckman team development model, forming, storming, norming, performing and the newly added adjourning. This always happens, if you are a team leader, accept it.

I would suggest the organisers were able inspire such dedication for the 54 hours for several reasons. Rewards, all participants were equity holders in the new venture. Recognition, if this worked you had bragging rights for being there, not to mention the links on the blogs, photos, videos etc. A sense of purpose, they all knew why they were there, to build something new over a weekend.  Key learnings for all.

One of the biggest failures (from my point of view) of the weekend seems to be that some things were left to chance, ie the selection of technology platform, Java. The platform was selected by the Type-A personalities, how often are things railroaded in an organisation. This meant that many skills available to the team were not used, they were in disuse and probably meant that some people were in a stage of being “abused” by the organisation due to the workload expected of them to build the product. Never assume you know everyone’s background as the most unexpected people can have just the skill you need for success.

Communication seems to have also been as issue. There is a comment in the analysis;

It was then announced that it was midnight or bust. At midnight, we had to leave the temporary office we had gotten the use of for the weekend. The live camera went offline for good.

How often do organisations trip over themselves because management assumed everyone knew?

In the end there are 4 really good pieces of advice for all managers:-

1) To make the goals clear both inside and outside the room.
2) To make your most experienced and respected folks the team leaders. Development is hard. This is all that will matter.
3) To not be so laid back as a group about important decisions.
4) To make the Sunday midnight deadline very firm. Launch something at that time, no matter what.

Overall I would say the experience should be viewed as a success, there are lots of comments about this being as much a social experiment as a business experiment, true.

Now my question. What could a regular organisation achieve if they pulled a similar cross functional team together gave them 3-5 days away from the office and provided the support (but stayed out of the way) needed to bring the product to market?