Archive for February, 2010

February 23, 2010

Chasing that dream…

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for a blog called “Beyond the Gray” recently. Today, it was published.

Check it out:

February 12, 2010

Layoffs are, as it turns out, not the answer.

There’s a great Newsweek article out now about the trend in downsizing, and how the layoffs are not saving the ship as once imagined.

Sometimes people do need to be let go, and I think that if there’s a scientific and exhaustive measurement process to ascertain the job fit for the employees, a massive ‘rightsizing’ might be appropriate. If new skills are needed and the workforce isn’t keeping up (i.e. technology) or if the hiring process has been examined and found inadequate, there may be a real value in showing those who are fit for the jobs that quality counts.  This is something the article does not go into.

However, as the article very well explains,  layoffs don’t help the bottom line as much as assumed. I agree with the author’s argument, but wish there had been as good an explanation about alternatives to layoffs when money is tight.

Organizations still need to save money, especially when there are problems meeting payroll, and the article didn’t really address ways that leaders can really make the case for rejecting the layoff solution. If one chooses to refrain from letting people go, there need to be alternatives suggested.

I’m a big fan of layoff alternatives, not only because I was laid off after 9/11 as a result of the recession and our shrinking client base.  It was the third round of layoffs after the recession had started, and being in that situation is something I hope to never experience again. I think it informs my career choice more than most other experiences I’ve had.

In my case, I know that many of my coworkers may have agreed to take a pay cut and work fewer hours if it meant that we could keep working.  I don’t know anyone who has been furloughed in California, and I’m sure such a plan has it’s psychological downsides as well. But it sure beats the unemployment lines.  I’m going to look up some other alternatives and share what I find here.

February 11, 2010

On developing a culture of excellence.. a start

It has been found that organizational culture is difficult to influence; when attempting to breed new behaviors success often depends on a mixture of strong leadership/followership and the institution of intuitive and relevant process and structural initiatives.

When considering the bigger picture, often the multi-dimensional value of consistent training and development is overlooked.

One aspect is motivation.  A consistent and perceived-fair training and development program is a great motivator in helping people realize their potential.  When there is institutional pride in the work being done,  it has been found that people are more motivated to accomplish even the most mundane of tasks.  Giving someone a training opportunity makes them feel like their work is important in the eyes of their managers, and that sense of appreciation goes a long way.

People need to feel like they are doing well, but sometimes that doesn’t leave room for improvement.  When training opportunities arise, it stirs the pot up a bit, and shows people more of what they do not know in a way that empowers them to achieve. As opposed to what some organizations do when they pit employees against one another in what some think is a ‘healthy’ competition. For example,  “Bob over there is performing fantastically. Just look at his numbers. You need to make your department more productive, like his.”  A motivation-minded leader would find out what Bob is doing differently and provide others in the organization with a learning opportunity.

I have seen poorly-planned and unfair training initiatives as well, and the effect is generally one that creates even more displeasure and distrust. “Aww geez, I have to go to that training, ” I’d hear, “might as well take me out and shoot me.”  Or, “Why does he get to go to all of the professional development courses? I’ve been here longer and have been begging for a class for years.”  I suppose with everything that might benefit people there is a chance if done poorly it could harm.

As this is just a start of the conversation, I’m trying to figure out where to go after motivation. I think it’s good to invest in the intellectual capital of the organization, and see it as a long-term investment, but the economy and workforce is in a state of unstable uncertainty right now. Sometimes I think we should create a new type of guild system, in which people with different skills need to belong to professional organizations and hold one another to account for the excellence in the profession as a whole. That might open up a very large can of worms.

Whether the training and development takes place through a workplace or professional organization, however,  I believe it is going to make the difference between success and failure for many people. The landscape under our feet continues to change at an ever-increasing pace, and agility as we move shall be measured by how much we know about what is around us.

February 6, 2010

Insert job title here

A discussion on an organizational change management group I’m a member of on LinkedIn posited the question: “What is the best term to replace ‘change management’?”

I find this humorous because I had recently been advised by a very wise person to drop all of the jargon from my elevator pitch.  He quoted some wise words from “The Dilbert Principle” to drive the point home, and it surely worked.  Nothing like Scott Adams-sounding phrases coming from my lips, and being called on it, to wake me up in the morning. Note: taken.

In another post I posited that we might not be best serving people to “manage” change, as change may be something to embrace rather than control. If that is the case, when people ask me what my concentration was in grad school, I would have to say “change embracement consultation.” Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but I like the idea of puttling a positive spin on it. It feels like saying “yes” instead of “no.”

Some ideas: change incorporation, change cultivation, mmm.  I could run through the thesaurus but I don’t think I’m going to strike gold just yet.

Also, I’m not sold completely on abandoning the “management” of change, but I think it might work to qualify that phrase. Perhaps, as the “management of very human reactions to change which may or may not include an acclimatization to the inevitable nature of all things.” Or maybe “change happens.” Which I think is why “change management” caught on. It’s simple, but can mean anything depending on who’s saying it. Which is also why I support the creation of something better. Less jargony.

Not sure how this is going to go. Should be interesting, though.

February 6, 2010

There goes that PTSD again…

Today’s New York Times had an interesting article about the after effects of being unemployed. (

I am professionally interested in the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that people are feeling in the workplace and see working on it as key to unlocking organizational ills. Those who are left behind are bitter for having to do three peoples’ jobs, worry that they will get laid off next, and distrust the leadership who can’t seem to make them feel secure about the organization no matter how hard they try. Up against the global economic collapse, leaders find themselves manning the bilge pumps and fending off mutinies, all while keeping what may feel like a rudderless ship afloat. Those who were laid off have the anxiety of not being able to pay their bills. And it all seemed neat and tidy; address the grief and loss of the organization as a whole, assist in creating agile and transparent systems which have resilience and adaptability.

However, in this article, the trauma that once-laid-off-newly-re-employed workers bring to their next job is discussed.

So another dimension of PTSD is introduced. We need to, then, deal with the systemic trauma on four levels: 1) leaders, 2) survivors, 3) unemployed, *and* 4) the re-employed.  In moving forward out of the “great recession” there are going to be many people who have been out of work for even two years perhaps, whose lives were turned upside down and for whom there may be years of economic recovery in store.

Reminds me of that scene in the original Jaws, when Brody first sees the shark. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Indeed.