Talking About Generations

This was a parody but it reflects a lot of discussion.

The Trouble with Kids Today

“A PROGENY YET MORE CORRUPT”

In Book III of Odes, circa 20 BC, Horace wrote:

Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more
worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more
corrupt.

In your face old man…  Our history says that each generation historically complains about the next younger generation.   We are no different with the millennials, generation c, z, next 2020.

The difference today is that we are now going well beyond complaints and into madness.

Of course there is a “comedy response”

While this all seems funny .. sort of.. the traffic keeps flowing on how we need to understand this generation and accommodate them.   We literally assign behaviors to generations.

I think this is a symptom of a larger problem.   We seem to have a strong desire to separate people into groups, it is almost as if we can’t help ourselves.   Our understand of individuals is overtaken by our belief about the group.    What we are failing to do is respect people as individuals.   It is true with no question that people in different age groups have different experiences during their time growing up.   It is true that due to environment conditions and other factor that people in these groups have perspective relative to their experience.   Isn’t that true of everyone?

 

Pull it Together..

We simply need to stop doing this and turn it off.  It is harmful to the people we work with, it is harmful to this generation and will hurt our younger generations behind them.   This is not helpful to anyone and companies generally spend money on these concepts only to find out that they got it wrong.    What we need to do, is focus on actions and activities to truly engage employees.

Dale Carnegie Tips and Guidebook is a good place to start http://www.dalecarnegie.com/assets/1/7/ee_tips_guidebook_blue_061813.pdf

If we keep up the generation madness we will have to start sub types.

Millennial generation born between x-y , comes from the north east, mixed parents,  went to school in district 9…  then we can find common things about them to make videos about..

 

 

 

The Truth of Human Resources and KM #PracticalHR

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Visually Compelling Organizational Development

The work by Kevin Desmond was thoughtful and emotionally charged.      It is tough to be a leader in general, but the world today makes it even more difficult.

Leadership is something I care deeply about.   I strive to be a better leader in the same way that Jascha Heifetz said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”

It takes practice and clear commitment, but the results aren’t always as beautiful as a heartwarming tune.   It may result in tough decisions and failure, but you have to strive on and keep trying.

I have a team and they are geographically dispersed.  I care about them as a group and certainly care for them each as individuals.   I am lucky and honored to have this amazing team and I have a responsibility to honor them and give them time to learn more about each other, including building their own relationships.    Finding time is not always easy, but this was something that I chose to do with the support of my leadership.

The compounding factors in team dynamics and collaboration are always moving.  It feels as if we have to hurry to get something going in order to get this snapshot of a moment in time.    This is where Kevin was able to come in and get us started.

The answers aren’t always.. 

Right and wrong aren’t clear concepts as they used to be.  Some would argue that they are clear, but what I would say is that perspective and context are key to a shared determination of what is right and wrong.   In order to share common perspective or context, we must be able to communicate and share our ideas.    Our ideas are born from our knowledge or our perceived knowledge about something.    Regardless, we must level set and to do that “level setting” we must compromise.     In order to compromise we have to have a willingness to compromise.    We have to build trust.   Trust is a critical enabler.   It is THE critical enabler.

Kevin came down and sat in my office a while back, he looked right at me and told me that I may have to do some things that would make me uncomfortable but I would have to trust the process.    We went through some of the ideas and concepts he would use with a clear objective of helping the team baseline or “level set.”    He said, “Howie, you realize this is only the beginning, right?”

We set the objectives and goals,  built in some time for flexibility and discussion and included some primers for thinking.   There was clarity in the thinking and of course what we sought to achieve, but the results were emotionally compelling right from the start.   For the sake of privacy and respect for my amazing team,  I will only share my personal experience and my personal thoughts as part of a similar thought exercise not directly aligned or reflective of anyone other than my experience.

It is the reason for the Cohen tombstone at the top of this post.   If I am to choose a picture of what I want to represent who I am and I am given a controlled group of images, which would I choose?

For the sake of this posting and in practical consideration,  I chose a grave stone with my name on it.   I would preferred it to have said Howard Cohen, Father, Husband, Brother, Son, Time Traveler, Stunt Car Racer, Lover, Fighter,  Good Guy, Bad Guy, Hardworking Guy,  and on the bottom “Crack is Wack” because I think I am funny sometimes.     I mean to say that I consider my mortality.  I consider my life in that I am thankful for it and I am thankful for each day.  I think of death as I understand that it is an end or beginning and I don’t know which, but I know that it can come at any time and that I should be true to who I am and love hard, play hard, work hard, but mostly be the best person I can be.   Not so easy to pick a picture, but is something that we have to do.   Every moment in our lives is like the iPhone video application,  you can take movies, but every once in a while you have to push the button and get that single frame snapshot.

The exercise of taking this image and sharing it with you and potentially the whole world is a little embarrassing I suppose and a bit revealing of some of my weakness and maybe strength, butall  in all, it is important because it is part of building trust through sharing and revealing who I am.    One of my team said “there is the face you show and the face you hold close” the you that you are is a multitude.   Of the many, you are a person and what you choose to show or hide consumes energy.

With one act and one question,  Kevin started an activity that set a course for myself and my team to share and consider the multitudes in each of us.   In my willingness and/or the willingness of the team, we could begin to share start a process of “level setting.”

Measuring the Distance of Knowledge

How do you measure knowledge?   How do you measure trust?   What was the best team you ever had?   Who was the best leader you have ever known?    How do you measure success?  How do you define success?   What if success for you is failure for someone else?  Is that always the case?   Are you running a race?  Is this race with yourself or others?  Why do you jump out of airplanes?    What would make you better and how would you measure that?  How would you be sure that you were better?

** I just started working for Booz Allen and was working on the floor of US Joint Forces Command Integration Directorate.    An old Marine was running part of the military architecture shop, he was a contractor himself but commanded the equivalent of a cell.   In other words, he had his team on lock down and he was no joke.    He called me over to speak with him, looked at me in the eyes (sorta scary) and said “son, what’s your CV?”   I really didn’t know what the heck he was asking me so I just stood there looking at him.  He said, “ok, were you in the service?”   I said “yes sir, I was a Damage Controlman.”    He looked around for a moment and literally stood himself taller almost as if I were to shrink down and he asked “How the hell does a DCMan get here?”    My answer..

“Well sir,  I went(s) to college”    In fact, by that time I had a Masters but it isn’t like you carry it around like a patch on your arm or anything.

We are judged by what we do or what we have done and that is in the realm of someones idea about us in which they (think) they know and/or make assumptions about us.   Even if there is a measure that exists or criteria, these are still open for discussion.    I went to school but maybe the school I went to wasn’t the top school in the nation.   What if I had the best teacher in the nation in one of the lower tiered schools?   Would there be a measure or some condition or factoid that would illuminate that as a fact?    The answer is of course “no.”    The point is that we have to measure what we can, and define success as we can but in order to do this we have to be clear about it in the scope of our activities and relative to a moment in time.

Throwing the fastest pitch consistently over time matters only if these measured factors produce the result that you threw that same pitch during a game and as a result won!

Kevin helped illuminate these points through a series of activities and discussions.   He talked about measures and what they mean’t and the importance of using them.   He also spoke of the context in which they apply.

The Human Resource to Knowledge Connection

I enjoy the thinking that Knowledge Management and Human Resources is tied at the hip and they are their own combination of many things that add up to one.   The idea that we have to be able to have a person in a mode to listen or receive,  and a person in a mode to transmit.   The active listener actually listening and not thinking to rebuke or over take the conversation.    It is the primary condition in communication.    The condition to be ready to listen, learn, read, pay attention and think about what someone else has said or is saying.     If you are reading this right now, you are allowing me the honor of sharing with you and I thank you for that.    It is the precondition for knowledge sharing and knowledge management.   It is also a condition provide though an act of respect.   It may very well be that after you read what I have written that you lose or gain respect for me but under this condition at this very moment, you are providing me a channel in which I can communicate with you.   This is where the organizational development begins but the preconditions and factors must allow for it.   Just as if you are growing something in a garden,  you need the environment, conditions, and factors to all come into play.   Human factors, human engagement and understanding of cognitive, physical and social conditions, are the preconditions for our knowledge connection.

 

Bring It

I am writing about this because I believe that OD doesn’t get enough recognition.   The words say “Organizational Development” but what it really means is “Factors, conditions and practices, to make people better.”  As a result of helping people, the organization will naturally become better and that results in a domino effect that spreads in multiple directions.   Why?  Because kind acts matter.

If you want the details of how to make all this stuff work,  you could reach out to my friends Kevin Desmond  or Tom Tiberia as they are actually the experts.  I am just sharing the results.   What were the results anyways? 

I walked away with a to-do list of things that I need to work on.   I also have a list of team goals aligned to my organization and organizational goals tied to myself as an individual.  I have a lot of questions that went unanswered but that is good because I never thought to ask some of these questions and I didn’t know how important they were.    I have ideas on measures that matter and I have homework for myself and my team.

Adam Grant Author of Give and Take recently said in a post “We love asking successful people for their secrets. But often, they’re not even aware of what they do differently from others.

Next time you want to learn from someone, instead of asking directly, go to that person’s collaborators. They have the clearest window into unique habits.”

What I had a chance to do here and what Kevin and Tom gave me was a window into my actions through the lens of others.   I can see a glimpse and take action on keeping my strengths strong and working on my legs..   <– that was a joke, you ever see those guys that just lift with their upper bodies?  They look top heavy.. I think you can look that way intellectually or emotionally as well if you don’t round out your work out.

gymguy

As usual.. questions comments, complaints..

 

 

 

Collaboration Tool Crazy

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Dazed and Confused -Hammer Blaming

Don’t blame tools for your confusion.   Companies are buying too many tools and trying to implement them thinking that tools will solve their problems.   This is nothing new.  The problem is exacerbated by software as a service driven applications available to everyone.  I heard this termed “Credit Card IT”  where individuals decide that they don’t like the tools their companies provide and they go buy their own.

The buzz today is “Digital” that is all I hear right now.    It is absolutely ridiculous for companies to continue down the path of buying new solutions without rationalizing what they currently have.   The IT spend is out of control in many companies and while they are trying to flatten their budget, they are only spending more.   The only way to offset this is to either lay off employees or “green” the landscape, meaning trade old folks for new younger ones that are cheaper.

With a total focus on tools vs people or actual business needs,  the tools keep getting bought, every one gets “all digital” and they wind up or will wind up with a digital spaghetti mess in the corner.

If you look at this “Elements of Modern Enterprise Collaboration”, it makes sense but most organizations only focus on the technologies portion.

 

Harsh Words for Dummies

Does this look cheap? Digi_Mktg_Map_Final_April_2015.gif

Came from https://www.gartner.com/marketing/.

Do you understand what the heck these things are?

Do you have any idea of how they relate to each other?

Do you have any idea of how much they really cost?

Do you have staff on site that isn’t trying to sell you something that honestly understands this?

Do you know how all of these are relevant for your business?

Do you have knowledge management practice of any kind?

Do you have enterprise architectures? (not solution but enterprise)

If you can’t answer these questions, you probably should stop buying tools.  Well.. stop buying tools anyway but…  They will wind up in the corner gathering electron dust right near your CRM system that no one cares about.

Stop Spending Money .. Now

Stop spending money… <– yes.. stop spending money.    The first thing that needs to happen is “stop the madness” in spending.

There is no perfect enterprise and their won’t be perfected enterprise collaboration but what is for sure, is that we can do better.    The world is really truly moving towards an application based enterprise.   This means that their will be an ecosystem of tools and capabilities in the enterprise.    There are patterns of collaboration and communication that have people working together through different applications under different contexts.   Just think of it as your smart phone.   The standard is the phone, the applications are put into the app store and you use what you need when you need it based on the needs of the moment.

This is really the way things are going.    When you see Microsoft SharePoint 2016, apps will be a big part of it.   Look at any of the tools coming out, all application focused.

Still, I am talking about the tools.  The real focus should be on the business.   The first three things to do are…  (if you are with a medium or large company)

Grab your best Enterprise Architect, if you don’t have one.. go get one immediately.

  1. Start with Vendor Management and IT security – Between these two groups, you can get a good start on what you have in the enterprise.
  2. Create an EA framework to understand the enterprise portfolio of tools.
  3. Start a formal Knowledge Management initiative.

The results of these activities will start to highlight the “best things you never knew you had.”

  1. The EA activities will highlight tools and spending, it will also help immediately lower your IT and business risk.
  2. The EA framework will provide a starting place to process enterprise capabilities, tools and find reuse.   Companies bleed out money because of a “lack of awareness.”
  3. A KM practice will get your organization focused on the business of knowledge.  Knowledge is your business.  It is that simple.

Of course there are successful companies that don’t have a formal knowledge management practice but chances are they have an informal knowledge management practice and it is part of their culture.

Contractors, Consultants and Experts OH MY!

If you are going to hire brilliant, expensive and knowledgeable consultants, ask to see their enterprise collaboration practices.    When I say ask, what I really mean is get a tour with real people not just partners and senior executives.   Senior leaders will talk a good talk but the truth is most of these companies including the big four don’t use their own collaboration tools well. They don’t generally speaking understand KM either.  The reason why is generally more associated with the business model and practices vs tools.  What I mean by that is large consulting firms don’t get partners in silo cost centers rich by sharing.

Bottom line here is we have to be honest about this whole thing.    Don’t spend the money on all the enterprise tools if you don’t care about the people aspect.  If leadership looks at staff as just a number and doesn’t truly believe in employee engagement, it will be a waste.

Too Much?

This isn’t personal.  Companies have made that clear with the sheer amount of transformation, cost cutting, layoffs, restructuring etc.   They still find dollars to re-tool or add tools to the organization.   This makes little sense.   They let experts in their business walk out the door in exchange for tools they don’t understand.   The stock prices go up with the stories of how they are embracing technology and transforming but the fact remains that most people spend over 6+ hours a day in Email.

Go figure..  rolling all those heads and still email is the most used and most common tool set in the enterprise.    Try shutting that down..

So, lets not blame the tools for our problems or for that matter, the amount of tools that you have in the enterprise that you are allowing to accumulate.

Focus on the business, work with people and engage with them using best practices of Knowledge Management and Enterprise Architecture.   Let the story be told so that you know what actions to take.  Then once you “get it” you can “get all digital” but for now..

Stay analog my friends..

Thanks @Wendy Woodson for helping us “keep it real”

 

 

 

 

How Can I Help? #Advocate

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Three+1 Things You CAN Do


Wake up in the morning, get my cup of coffee,  head to the office to start my day.  Open my email, it is full to the brim, I switch over to the calendar and see my schedule is full.   How did my day become consumed by meetings?   I go through my day,  I eat while I am working, it gets late,  I go home.  I tend to my family and then back to the email, maybe a little book reading and off late to bed to restart the whole thread.

Somewhere in the mix I have to hold on to my humanity.  All the work that I do is electronic and amounts to a pile of nothing, but electrons and virtual transactions.  How the heck can I help anyone?

Take Time to Listen

When someone writes, calls or knocks on the door, make the time to listen.   Sometimes you are standing between two connections and you are the bridge, you just didn’t know it.  Active listening is a great skill to have and it certainly takes practice. https://cohenovate.com/2015/02/22/understanding-conflict-and-knowledge-management/  Listening is good for them and good for you!

Share Ideas, but Don’t Share Answers

Sometimes the answers come easy, but the real solutions are difficult.   In other words,  having an answer on how to fix a problem may create more of a problem.  Sometimes we need to just talk through ideas and come to solutions on our own.  Offer up ideas or thoughts but, offer them as concepts and not answers.

Be a Shoulder, not a Boulder

Being there for a person and helping means you have your attention focused on their needs.  I have found that listening to people and helping them sort through their problems can help me with challenges that I face.   The best thing to do is to stay focused and help them and be strong for them as they need.  Adding your problems to the discussion is a weight added, not a burden lifted.

Recognize and Advocate for Others

They say that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Some suggest that this is not true, but that smiling may cost us less overall energy. http://zidbits.com/2011/09/does-it-really-take-more-muscles-to-frown-than-to-smile/

It may seem that it takes more energy to advocate and recognize others than it does for yourself, but if you practice recognizing others and advocating for others, it will take overall less energy and be helpful to you.  Realistically, we can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but our entire world is built on the foundation of relationships.   Recognizing a contribution or advocating for someone helps strengthen the bonds and the ties between us.   We are better together and we are better when we recognize each other.   It is simple to do.   Be mindful, be courageous and bold, advocate with intent and without fear, the costs are low and the results will always pay off.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Thanks Wendy Woodson for your creative contribution