Posts Tagged ‘human capital’

On A More Personal Note

It has been a little while since I wrote my last entry, but I promise I have good reason: my family and I have finally moved back to Maryland!  The last year has been absolutely crazy, and while this may not seem like a huge event, for us it is.  My wife is from Maryland, and I lived here for almost 4 years before getting a promotion last year and being moved to Philly.  After losing my job in February and starting my own business in March, things have been very tough on many fronts, so this is a much-needed change back to an area where we want to be.

As I have finally been able to sit and gather my thoughts and think about what my next article should be about, I came upon a blog by Roger O. Crockett called White Executives Should Head to the ‘Hood.  At first glance, this article sounded interesting, potentially politically incorrect, and possibly crazy, but once I read it I really thought about myself and my own experiences.  The premise behind the article was that many more executives should take the time to get out in to the “‘hood” and take some lessons from the people there, as well as use it to help bridge the gap in communication and understanding of others situations.  I can relate, and think about this quite often.

I grew up in a town that had the rural areas, as well as some of the city lifestyle.  My parents separated very early on (before I could remember) which made me somewhat strange in a time when that certainly wasn’t the norm, at least for everyone else.  I had a step-dad who didn’t really want much to do with me because I wasn’t really his child, and he let me know that physically, emotionally, and mentally through degradation and abuse.  We didn’t have a lot of money, and I was always told that if I wanted to go to college I was going to have to figure something out on my own, because we just didn’t have the money and never would.  I was gifted intellectually, but didn’t want to be branded a nerd and get picked on any more than I already did for not having name brand clothes, being a big kid, and being smart.  Because of this, I downplayed my intelligence in school, and did just what I needed to get by.

My Mom owned and ran a print shop where I was fortunate enough to gain quite a bit of business experience, as well as my grandparents owned their own concrete servicing company (building and servicing concrete plants internationally).  Even with all of this going on, I managed to get in to the wrong crowds and spiraled down very quickly from about age 13 to age 21.  I became involved in drugs, drinking, and anything else that I could get in to, simply trying to find my way.  I don’t blame anyone for my mistakes, and know that I have myself to blame for my decisions.  After a failed marriage, receiving an Other Than Honorable discharge from the US Navy, and essentially losing everything that I had gained up until that point, I knew it was time for a change.  At the age of 21 I made the decision that I wanted more than what I had and what I saw myself as ever having on the path that I was on; I knew that I should and could have more.  I left everything I had left, and where I was, and moved back in with family and started over.  That was about 7 years ago.

I still don’t have a college degree, but I have had a tremendous amount of experience over the years, both in business and in life.  I have accumulated education over the years, and look towards the future and getting a formal education, but now it’s because I find what I do interesting and I want to learn as much about it as I possibly can.  So why am I even telling this?  How many people do you think ever ask about, or even care about, my life experience or my intelligence past my formal education?  Believe me when I say very few.  I have had recruiters tell me outright that my resume looks great and my experience is impressive, but I must have a Bachelor’s, no exception.  It makes me wonder how many bright, talented people out there are missing out on opportunities and how many organizations are missing out on their next bright start because of this thought process?

Because of my history, I have an appreciation for everything that I have, and loyalty almost to a fault.  My work ethic is above reprieve and I am proud of that.  My passion for what I do is just about second to none.  I have a diverse understanding and appreciation of life and the people in it.  Those are the good traits.  I also know that because of my history, I am more direct in my communications than most people like, and generally speak matter-of-factly.  I also know that I tend to take on more responsibility than I should at times, and allow myself to get overburdened.  I strive to continuously receive praise and recognition for my work, and to make a real impact.  How many of you would want an employee that exhibits these traits? 

How many companies are missing out on these opportunities?  Which is more important, someone who has the passion and wants to learn and grow and is excited about it or someone who comes in and does the job and has a sense of entitlement, or does it simply because that is what they are “supposed to do”?  I’m not saying that this is specific to any one generation, ethnicity, age, sex, religion, or otherwise; what I’m saying is that organizations need to put more time and effort in to finding the people, like myself, who once given the opportunity can and will strive for excellence and helping the organization that they belong to.  I have seen it time and again, as I am sure that many of you have as well.  As I say many times, everything in your organization is impacted by your human capital; are you diversifying your portfolio enough, or are you playing it safe with degrees and credentials that will get steady results and obedience?  Could your organization use an injection of innovation, creativity, and passion?  I encourage you to give an opportunity to some people whom you might otherwise overlook (a measured risk of course), and see what kinds of results you get.

Everything that I ever needed to know, I learned from…

I remember a book called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum, which talks about some of the simplest rules in life that everyone should practice as they get older.  Some of these include such truisms as “play fair”, “put things back where you found them”, “say you’re sorry when you hurt someone”, and “flush” (you can see the complete list here).  Needless to say many of these are seen to be applicable to the business world.  That is what really got me to thinking!

I was watching my 14-month-old son the other day, as he was playing with a toy.  The toy is a Chuck The Dump Truck, which talks and moves, and sort of reminds me of a cartoon version of the old Tonka trucks.  Now, generally that wouldn’t be a big deal except that until now he really had very little interest in it, but as time has passed and he continues to develop I am amazed at the changes that happen.  When we got him the truck two months ago for his birthday, he showed little to no interest and really didn’t understand the concept of it.  But after some time, he has figured it out on his own and was rolling it around the living room; it was a proud moment, and I was so excited to see it happen!  As soon as I saw it, I told him “Good job!  I’m proud of you buddy!”  to which he sat up on his knees, smiled, and clapped his hands, and then went back to playing.

There are quite a few lessons to be learned from being a parent, and from watching kids grow and develop, that can and should be applied to the business world.  I find myself always marveling at the natural development of small children and how the constantly find everything around them to be interesting.  Most adults are very similar to this, but too often I think that this trait gets stifled (amongst others).  This in turn stifles the organization that they belong to and affects every component of the organization.  We can call it what we want (satisfaction, engagement, etc.) but the truth of the matter is that there is certainly a piece missing.  Children are looked at as being amazing and special, and treated as such.  They are told the rules by those more senior around them, and then generally have those things modeled for them.  They are encouraged to grow and develop, and to see the world as a wonderful place.  What happens when they get older?  Why is it that the support component disappears?  Who continues to tell them “good job” and show excitement for their growth and development?

These are components that need to still be alive and well within each and every organization, and the leaders in the organization truly need to be leaders, just as parents and grand-parents are.  This isn’t to say that people should be removed of responsibility for themselves, but the support structure needs to continue to be there.  Ask yourself, where could you/would you be today with that type of support structure?  Or where are you today after having that type of support structure?  Are you passing it along?  For those of you reading this that are parents, what have you learned from your children today, and how are you using it?

There are many opinions, but when does it change?

As I sit in front of my computer and begin to type out another blog entry, I think back to a few months ago to when I first started writing.  I believe that I have always been a better verbal communicator than written, but I wanted to take the chance in doing something different and see what happened.  I figured at best, I would get followers who wanted to hear what I had to say about the art and science that I love so much and the business that I am building around that and would enjoy it, and at worst I would end up essentially talking to myself and getting an opportunity to work on my written communication skills.  I believe that I have struck a chord somewhere in the middle, and I look at this as a developmental tool for myself and my readers.  However, I think I missed one very important point: You have to write about things that people want to hear about.  That’s not to say that I don’t think that what I am writing about is interesting or necessary, but I think I need to put some of my own commentary in here a bit.  So, this will hopefully be the beginning of what I believe will be much more interesting reading, involving both my opinions as well as some of the more specific information in to the subjects that I have been writing about up till now.

To start this new journey, I felt like I should talk about something that evokes quite a bit of emotion from me and that seems to be a “hot button” topic for others as well.  In fact, I just read someone elses blog about this topic this morning.  You can see the same entry at  I generally enjoy the articles from Steve, even if I think he is a bit too harsh on the Harvard Business Review.  He makes a lot of sense as he talks about what he calls “Radical Management”.  Essentially the concept is exactly what every consumer and worker sees, hears, and believes about the business world: in general, it is broken.

The old ways of management are not applicable anymore, and yet we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.  I can’t help but to think back to the last organization that I was an employee of, and the debacle that was, is, and will more than likely continue to be there.  Every time I read a blog entry or other article that speaks the way that Steve does about the multiple mistakes being made in the corporate world it makes me wonder how many times the same message has to be heard again before changes are made.

One of the most poignant points that Steve Denning talks about is how there is an “iron triangle” that is composed of employees, customers, and management.  He states that many business improvements will affect only one side of the triangle in a positive manner while sacrificing satisfaction in the other two, or affect only two sides positively while the other side suffers.  Sad to think about, but it makes sense.

I want to address this for just a moment.  It is my belief that you must have ALL of your Human Capital working towards the same goal, and therefore any improvement solutions that you attempt to put in place must connect all of these in pursuit of the same goal.  As I have said before, the strategy of the organization is where it starts and if everyone in the organization is not working to achieve the same strategy then the organization will not succeed.  With that being said, I can completely agree that if you implement an improvement initiative for only one population of your organization (meaning only for front-line employees, or only for middle managers, etc.) it will not succeed.  It must be supported by all stakeholders in an organization, and it must be in support of the overall organizational strategy.

When you talk about customers ending up receiving the short end of the stick, you have to ask yourself  one very important question: Are the activities in the organization being done to meet the needs and desires of the customers from the beginning, including all of the performance improvement initiatives along the way?  I think that sometimes it becomes very easy to get so wrapped up in our internal business world that we forget that we are in business to serve our customers.  When it becomes all about making money, then you are going to lose sight of why you do what you do and for whom.  This isn’t to say that it isn’t important to make money, but it shouldn’t change your morals and values to accomplish it.  How many businesses built themselves from the trust and service that they provided to customers, only to fall like Goliath to David as they became a bit too big for their britches and began to do things that would never have been thought about only 15-20 years earlier?  I think many names in the financial sector could come to mind, among others.

Another thing that I want to touch on is how organizations are so quick to get rid of training, performance improvement, organizational development, knowledge management, or other initiatives when things begin to get tough.  We’ve all seen it and experienced it I’m sure.  Financially it’s seen as a drain on the organization, when the money could supposedly be utilized elsewhere to create more money.  How’s that working out for you so far?  Not too good?  Sorry to hear that, but not surprised.  This goes back to the beginning of this article: the old ways of management are not applicable any more.  As the generations change and people continue to evolve, so does the business world.  Those that are continuing to succeed and grow are those that are able to adjust to the changing market place and needs of both customers and employees!  But there are still plenty of businesses that are not faring as well and instead are choosing to stay with the command and control way of thinking as Steve Denning explains.  Something has to change.  You can’t continue to cut the components of the organization that are in place to help you and your organization to grow and develop and prepare for the future of business and expect that there will be no repercussions.

So I pose the question: When do companies start to listen, and take the chance to change in truly amazing and beneficial ways?  I’ll be looking forward to that time, and will continue to work towards that with those that I come in contact with.  Take care, until next time!

Taking Strategy to Reality!

The title of this blog is the new focus for Provative when it comes to our customers.  You could call it our catch phrase, or motto, or value statement…whatever you want to call it, this is what we will be telling our clients we will do, and what we will be utilizing our entire bank of knowledge and experience to accomplish.  It’s an evolution of the company (not a revolution, but we will talk about those in the future), and I think it’s a great step towards becoming the ultimate value partner for our clients.

So what does this really mean, and how does this apply to Organizational Development and Performance Improvement?  First, let’s define strategy.  Ask yourself for just a second, what is strategy?  Is it the end goal?  Is it the way that you achieve it?  Is it the thing that makes you different from your competition?  Is it a plan to achieve all of these things?  Well, don’t feel bad if the definition escapes you.  The same can be said for academics the world over.  The truth is, it is a combination of all of these.  A strategy should be an end goal or goals and the components that help you to achieve them, and that differentiate you from your competition.  Now, this is really a condensed definition of my own creation, but to me this is what makes sense.

So how do you define your strategy?  One of the most important components is to understand your business.  When we say business, that does NOT mean just how to do whatever it is that you do well.  You have to know the market, customers, and the industry.  You may have a great product or service but if you don’t know how it meets your customers needs, and how you do it better than your competition then it really doesn’t matter.  One way that you can find out much of this is through market research.  This allows you to get a feel for what current customers like, and what they don’t like quite so much.  It can also be utilized to find out what potential clients or customers would like to see that would make them use one place of business over another.  Once you have this information you can really begin to, as I discussed in a previous blog, reverse engineer the organization.

It is the leader’s responsibility to be the initiator and supporter of this process!  This includes being prepared to have the tough questions asked.  Unfortunately, more than not the uncomfortable questions are the ones that produce the best solutions, because they strike at the heart of what an organization, all the way from the top down, is doing (or not doing for that matter).  This is where creating a strategy or challenging what is thought to be a strategy comes in to play.  When you combine the results from the market research, with the right questions to the right people, you uncover the infrastructure that makes an organization tick and ultimately succeed or fail.

As I have said before, and will continue to say, people touch every single aspect of your business and your Human Capital is the most important asset your organization has.  Even with this knowledge, in many companies Organizational Development and Performance Improvement departments are seen as a cost center (as opposed toa profit/revenue center).  This is in large part because many of the activities surrounding OD and PI are intangible, and therefore difficult to measure.  Difficult, but not impossible.  It is the responsibility of the OD/PI practitioner to know how to, and to functionally, measure results.  At Provative we have a proprietary way of measuring not only results, but also the expectations.  This allows for both quantitative and qualitative measurement that keeps the improvement process continuous.

Another key point is that in the Performance Improvement world, especially for those that follow the Human Performance Technology model from ISPI, you should be looking at the performance of an organization both systemically and systematically.  This falls directly in line with creating or altering an organizations strategy.

Ultimately, when you think about your company strategy you should be thinking about Organizational Development and Performance Improvement.  These are keys to the succesful creation and implementation of your strategy, and includes utilizing your Human Capital, as well as analysis of the organization to make sure all of the pieces fit, and creation of solutions if they don’t.

Answer to a question…

 I was recently contacted and asked the question, “What unexpected hurdles have you encountered as a result of the recession?”  What follows below is my response.  I hope you enjoy!

We often think about the recession as being a completely negative event, but I tend to believe that there have been some positives that have come out of it, and will continue to as we rebuild.  This is a time of change, growth, and development.  What once was is no more, at least not in the form that it was then.

Let’s look for a moment at the changes that have happened in the large corporations (which, by the way, small to medium-sized businesses can learn from).  There is a giant paradigm shift taking place in the realm of transparency.  Many organizations are finding that they need to be more transparent at every level, not only from a legal standpoint, but also because it is what the employees want!  This is a revolution that there is no guarnatee would have happened without a tremendous shock to the system.

Companies are beginning to realize that their human capital is the most important thing, and beginning to re-evaluate the way that they develop, mentor, coach, and help their people to succeed.  Collaboration is no longer a dirty word, and neither is engagement.  Finding new ways to create collaboration and engagement, and what they even mean, is starting to make it to the top of the list of things to do for business leaders.  The realization that the recession has been hard on everyone, and if businesses don’t take care of their people they will be gone at the first chance they get, has become a reality.

And what about changes to the workforce?  In more than one article across many online and print publications you can find the irrefutable evidence that many businesses were scared at the potential fall-out of losing, in grand droves, the majority of their senior leadership and talent due to retirement.  With the recession, while it is tragic that people have had to postpone a well-earned retirement, it has afforded many companiesthe ability to utilize the talent that they have now to prepare the talent of tomorrow.

How many small businesses have come in to existence only because of the push instigated by the recession?  So many people, including myself, were in jobs that they felt they had no other option to be in and were too afraid to simply walk away from a “guaranteed” paycheck to set out on their own and blaze a trail.  Once given a push, many people have found that they have more fortitude and ability than they ever thought possible of themselves before.  Things may be tight at times financially, but these new business owners are doing something that previously they only imagined, and it might not have ever happened without the recession.

Have there been challenges because of the recession, and are there still more to come?  The answer is yes.  But small businesses can and are leading the way, and hopefully will be learning a lesson from the mistakes of the big corporations.  The business environment as we once knew it cannot, and should not, ever exist again.