Ulrich and his RBL associates offer what they characterize as “a handbook for HR transformation” in which they synthesize and summarize everything they have learned about it. Specifically, what a transformation is and what it requires; what it isn’t; what works, what doesn’t, and why; how to plan it; how to mobilize the resources needed (especially people); how to launch it; how to measure progress throughout the transformation initiatives; and how to apply the lessons learned to sustain a constant refinement of what HR is and does to increase its impact and value.
“Simply stated, we propose that the biggest challenge for HR professionals today is to help their respective organizations succeed.” Obviously, to accomplish this worthy objective, the authors correctly assert that there are certain factors that must be present. Here are three: (1) It is imperative that the HR professionals themselves recognize the authenticity of this challenge and not only accept but embrace it as a unique opportunity for their own development but also for what the transformation will enable their organization to accomplish. (2) It is even more important that senior managers recognize the need for the transformation and commit to its completion whatever resources that may require. They must also be patient. Change initiatives worthy of the name are messy, complicated, unpredictable, and sometimes stalled temporarily. The change agents need and deserve senior management’s full support. (3) There must be a game plan for the transformation process and I think the one that the authors provide in this book is eminently worthy of careful consideration because it is cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective. What I like about it is that it combines some of the best features of Six Sigma and Lean methodologies without limiting the options of those who select it. In fact, the authors provide invaluable advice with regard to how to modify the four-phase model to ensure that it fully accommodates the needs, interest, and objectives of the given organization.
In an uncommonly informative Introduction, the authors assert, “Our point is that HR professionals often focus entirely in the function of HR rather than externally on what customers and investors need HR to deliver. If HR professionals are to truly serve as business partners, then their goals must be the goals of the business. Transforming HR professionals into business partners isn’t an end in and of itself; it’s the means to a strategic, business-oriented end.” Those decision-makers who have that specific objective would be well-advised to absorb and digest the material in this book.
There are books that I don’t get to, but wish I could. And then there are other books that I don’t get to, but really should. This sounds like one of those books.
I first read about it in this column by Nicholas Kristof, Divorced Before Puberty. (By the way, everyone should read Kristof regularly, just to keep the compassion muscles from atrophying).
The column was prompted by this book:
Here’s an excerpt of his column:
It’s hard to imagine that there have been many younger divorcées — or braver ones — than a pint-size third grader named Nujood Ali.
Nujood is a Yemeni girl, and it’s no coincidence that Yemen abounds both in child brides and in terrorists (and now, thanks to Nujood, children who have been divorced). Societies that repress women tend to be prone to violence.
Nujood’s father asked the husband not to touch her until a year after she had had her first menstrual period. But as soon as they were married, she writes, her husband forced himself on her.
He soon began to beat her as well, the memoir says, and her new mother-in-law offered no sympathy. “Hit her even harder,” the mother-in-law would tell her son.
And he ends with this paragraph:
The United States last month announced $150 million in military assistance for Yemen to fight extremists. In contrast, it costs just $50 to send a girl to public school for a year — and little girls like Nujood may prove more effective than missiles at defeating terrorists.
We just finished enjoying the feats of the Medal winners at the Vancouver Olympics. We speak of their discipline, their courage. I promise you, there is no Gold Medal Winner who was as courageous as this 3rd grader who demanded to see a judge who would grant her a divorce.
There are always horrible stories in the news — about suicides, abuse, attacks, gunmen at schools or at the Pentagon… But the story of Nujood is remarkable because it describes an entire society that condones unspeakable, systemic abuse. And it is the story of one very young girl who simply said, in all the ways that she could, “No More!”
This is primarily a blog about business books and business issues. I think business leaders should think about helping to create places where there will be no more 3rd graders seeking a divorce.
Coming for the April First Friday Book Synopsis:
Gawande’s Checklist and Crawford’s Soulcraft
This morning, we gathered for the First Friday Book Synopsis at the Park City Club. (They do a great job at the Park City Club – a wonderful buffet breakfast, with made-to-order omelets, a stuffed French Toast dish that should be illegal!, superior service — a great place for a meeting!) This marked the end of our 12th full year of gatherings.
Karl Krayer presented the book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, and I presented my synopsis of the new Heath brothers book: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. Both books provided wise insight, and practical “this is what to do” counsel. We should have these synopses available for purchase soon on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
For April, I will be presenting my synopsis of the important and useful book by Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (I have blogged about Gawande, and this book, often). Karl will present his synopsis of the best-selling and thought-provoking book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford.
If you live in the Dallas area, mark your calendars now for the April 2 First Friday Book Synopsis, 7:00 am. Come help us begin our 13th year of learning together.
Ratey has written a book in which he explains — in layman’s terms (to the extent that is possible) — how physical exercise can “supercharge [provide a `spark' to] mental circuits to avoid or overcome stress, sharpen thinking, lift mood, increase memory…and much more.” Obviously, these are all highly desirable results to achieve. Alas, many children as well as adults are out of (physical) shape, do not eat properly, and continue under severe stress to meet their obligations. The implications of what Ratey explains and recommends should be of special interest to young adults, their parents, school administrators, teachers, and coaches as well as to business executives who are responsible for the performance of those whom they supervise. Here are some of the questions to which he responds:
What are some of the most common misconceptions about “the brain-body connection”?
What in fact is true?
How can aerobic exercise physically remodel our brains for peak performance?
Why is physical exercise the best defense against addiction, aggression, ADD, menopause, and even Alzheimer’s?
What are the most significant revelations of a fitness program sponsored by the Naperville (IL) public school district in which more than 19,000 children participated?
Why should such a program (with necessary modifications) be made available to other school children?
In the absence of such a program, what can parents do to increase their children’s physical exercise? What sacrifices (if any) must be made to accomplish that?
At a minimum, how frequently should we exercise…and for how long?
What are the benefits to be gained even from minimal exercise?
All of Ratey’s observations and recommendations are research-driven, supplemented by his own personal experiences. He seems to be on a mission (one that is commendable) to do everything he possibly can to broaden and deepen public awareness of the consequences of obesity, lethargy, and indolence but also, more to the point, to provide reassurance that even a modest increase in physical exercise can have substantial benefits, not only in terms of improved health but also increased achievement and consequent pride in the classroom as well as in the workplace…indeed in every realm of human life.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Ratey’s A User’s Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain and John Medina’s Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Book & DVD). It is worth noting that everything that Ratey recommends is consistent with the various “rules” that Medina identifies and discusses, notably #1 (“Exercise boosts brain power”), #7 (“Sleep well, think well”), #8 (“Stressed brains don’t learn the same way”), #9 (“Stimulate more of the senses”), and #12 (“We are all natural explorers”). How simple it seems: Eat right and get lots of exercise and sufficient rest. If you do, you will reduce stress and nourish your curiosity. To many of us, the obvious is often invisible until we are enlightened by others such as John Ratey and John Medina.
Eight Things Your Employees Want From You
I often have to remind the dedicated, smart CEOs I work with that leading takes time and energy. Directing the feelings, attitudes, actions, and behaviors of a team is a big task. Often, I also hear the secrets of these CEOs’ employees, about what truly aggravates them and what they love about their bosses. To keep top executives on track, I’ve created this list of what employees want their leaders to do.
1. Tell me my role, tell me what to do, and give me the rules. Micromanaging? No, it’s called clear direction. Give them parameters so they can work within broad outlines.
2. Discipline my coworker who is out of line. Time and time again, I hear, “I wish my boss would tell Nancy that this is just unacceptable.” Hold people accountable in a way that is fair but makes everyone cognizant of what is and isn’t acceptable.
3. Get me excited. About the company, about the product, about the job, about a project. Just get them excited.
4. Don’t forget to praise me. Motivate employees by leveraging their strengths, not harping on their weaknesses.
5. Don’t scare me. They really don’t need to know about everything that worries you. They respect that you trust them, but you are the boss. And don’t lose your temper at meetings because they didn’t meet your expectations. It’s often not productive. Fairness and consistency are important mainstays.
6. Impress me. Strong leaders impress their staffs in a variety of ways. Yes, some are great examples of management, but others are bold and courageous, and still others are creative and smart. Strong leaders bring strength to an organization by providing a characteristic that others don’t have and the company sorely needs.
7. Give me some autonomy. Give them something interesting to work on. Trust them with opportunity.
8. Set me up to win. Nobody wants to fail. Indecisive leaders who keep people in the wrong roles, set unrealistic goals, keep unproductive team members, or change direction unfairly just frustrate everybody and make people feel defeated.
Your job is to make it practical for people to succeed. When you do this, everybody wins.
For over a decade, Melissa Raffoni has worked directly with more than 100 CEOs as president of Raffoni CEO Consulting. She has served on the faculty at MIT’s Sloan School and Harvard’s Kennedy School. Melissa holds an MS in Corporate Strategy and Managerial Communication from the MIT Sloan School and a BA in Economics from Colby College.
In this Updated Edition of Profit from the Core published by Harvard Business Press (2010) and written with James Allen, Chris Zook provides updated key examples while adding new ones and renders “the lessons learned in a way that management teams can use can use as a tool to reflect on the way forward in today’s economy.” Zook’s concept of “core” bears striking resemblance to Jim Collins’ concept of the “Three Circles”,” introduced in Good to Great: (a) What a company can be the best in the world at (and equally important, what it cannot be the best in the world at), (2) What drives the company’s economic engine, and (3) What those in the company care most passionately about. For Zook, a core business “as that set of products, capabilities, customers, channels, and geographies that defines the essence of what the company is or aspires to be to achieve its growth mission – that is, to grow its revenue sustainably and profitably…The essence of a company’s growth strategy is to define the core business as we have defined it and to pour company resources into this core business until it achieves its full potential.”
Of special interest to me is what Zook has to say about five paradoxes that most management teams encounter when seeking to revitalize the growth of their company. They usually focus on the underperforming units. Zook and Allen argue that “growth requires instead on increasing the performance of the best businesses, no matter how well they are doing at present. Why? Paradox #1: The better performing of business units are likely to be those operating the furthest below their full potential. When discussing adjacency expansion, they introduce Paradox #2: “The stronger your core business, the more opportunities you have both to move into profitable adjacencies and to lose focus.” When addressing when and how to redefine a core business, they introduce Paradox #3: “The management teams that have been most successful in building a strong core business and that have benefited from adjacency expansion are also the most vulnerable to industry turbulence.” In Chapter 5, they provide some guidelines for the process of developing and refining growth strategy, then introduce Paradox #4: “All organizations inhibit growth…Overlying all the analysis in this book is a final paradox: From focus comes growth; by narrowing growth one creates expansion.”
In order to continue creating value, it is eventually necessary for any company to invest in adjacencies. There are three basic types: a direct move into an immediate opportunity (e.g. Enterprise Rent-a-Car); an “option” purchased in a business related to the core, functioning as a hedge against future uncertainties (e.g. Intel and Microsoft); and a series of sequential moves that expand the boundaries and capabilities of the core business (e.g. Cisco’s acquisition of Pure Digital Technologies). Whichever approach is selected, there are certain “pitfalls” that must be avoided. They are identified in Chapter 5 and there are seven of them: expanding toward an entrenched position, overestimating the profit pool, false bundling (of products, services, or both), invaders from unexpected directions, failing to consider all adjacencies, missing a new segment, and single-mindedly (stubbornly?) pursuing high-end adjacencies. They are thoroughly discussed on Pages 97–105.
In this Updated Edition of a book first published in 2001, Chris Zook with James Allen provide a wealth of information and counsel that a management team needs in its quest for sustainable and profitable growth. I agree with them that turbulent conditions create “confusion, blurred boundaries, less time to react, less tolerance for error, and often fewer resources” but they also create “unique opportunities to strengthen and expand string cores, and even to invest to reshape the structure of [its] industry ahead of competitors.” For those in need of an operations manual, compass, and mine detector, here it is.
I had two brushes with higher education this week.
The first was at a speech I gave in New York. There were several Harvard Business School students there, invited because of their interest in marketing and exceptional promise (that’s what I was told… I think they came because they had heard that Maury Rubin would make a great lunch!).
Anyway, they asked for my advice in finding marketing jobs. When I shared my views (go to a small company, work for the CEO, get a job where you actually get to make mistakes and do something) one woman professed to agree with me, but then explained, “But those companies don’t interview on campus.”
Those companies don’t interview on campus. Hmmm. She has just spent $100,000 in cash and another $150,000 in opportunity cost to get an MBA, but…
The second occurred today at Yale. As I drove through the amazingly beautiful campus, I passed the center for Asian Studies. It reminded me of my days as an undergrad (at a lesser school, natch), browsing through the catalog, realizing I could learn whatever I wanted. That not only could I take classes but I could start a business, organize a protest movement, live in a garret off campus, whatever. It was a tremendous gift, this ability to choose.
Yet most of my classmates refused to choose. Instead, they treated college like an extension of high school. They took the most mainstream courses, did the minimum amount they needed to get an A, tried not to get into “trouble” with the professor or face the uncertainty of the unknowable. They were the ones who spent six hours a day in the library, reading their textbooks.
The best part of college is that you could become whatever you wanted to become, but most people just do what they think they must.
Is this a metaphor? Sure. But it’s a worthwhile one. You have more freedom at work than you think (hey, you’re reading this on company time!) but most people do nothing with that freedom but try to get an A.
Do you work with people who are still in high school? Job seekers only willing to interview with the folks who come on campus? Executives who are trying to make their boss happy above all else? It’s pretty clear that the thing that’s wrong with this system is high school, not the rest of the world.
Cut class. Take a seminar on French literature. Interview off campus. Safe is risky.