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Hope @work

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson

Hope is the great motivator in our world. It gives us anticipation and an expectation for some desirable result. President Woodrow Wilson spoke of the spirit of hope in 1913 while addressing a group of college students. His hope was to inspire the next generation to leave the world a better place than they found it.

A few weeks ago, I watched the movie Dunkirk from director Christopher Nolan and I found the presentation of the historical events in the movie deeply moving. The film’s characters reacted to their situation in a variety of ways. Some exhibited a great hope for survival and acted courageously while others felt hopeless and resorted to acts of cowardice and selfishness.

I considered the role hope plays in an office environment:

  • Workers hope for advancement and it motivates them to go beyond their job description.
  • Workers hope to close a sale and it inspires them to create solutions that never existed for a customer.
  • Workers hope to create a new product and it drives them to consider new ways of thinking.
  • Workers hope for a job in a different field and it inspires them to train and study new skills.

The ability to influence actions is powerful. That’s what hope does. While people have different hopes based on their situation, one thing is the same. All of us are driven to action when we have a strong hope for a different tomorrow. Hope is the great equalizer that can help someone who is less skillful or knowledgeable out-perform a competitor. Where there is hope there is achievement.

May the hope be with you.

Onward and upward.

 

Employee Growth Chart

Childhood memories.

Did your mom mark your height on the door frame as a child? Let’s admit it. Those pen marks on the door-frame each year were exciting. It was even more fun if siblings, or other relatives, were marked on the door as well. What was it about the marks that made it so fun? Was it that we could see how much we were growing each year? Was it that we could see how close we were to a height goal? Or was it that mom would see our progress? Whatever the reason, one aspect that jumps out to me is the childhood growth chart was a visual control. We didn’t think about that at the time, but using visual controls play an important part of business life.

 

Employee growth.

A few years ago I wrote about a key concept for employee development, “employee development is better executed as an ongoing part of a business rather than an event.” As I map and transform many of my business activities to TPS and Lean principles, I think about how this relates to Principles 9 and 10.

 

Principle #9 – “Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others.”

Principle #10 – “Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.”

 

The verbs ‘grow’ and ‘develop’ describe an ongoing process. To measure progress of the growth journey, we’ll need visual tools and controls.

 

Make a chart.

One tool I started using a few months ago is a flow and performance board for visual management. This is a good spot to track employee growth metrics. I’m doing this with an eye towards professional skills enhancement and team cross-training.

 

Step 1: Create a skills matrix of the staff to document the current state

Step 2: Create an individual training plan for employees that addresses their personal growth as well as overall coverage the team provides to the business.

Step 3: Make it visible just like mom did. J

 

Here’s a very simple chart framework.

(Ratings 1-5)

Skill A Skill B Skill C
Employee A 2 4
Employee B 3
Employee C 2 3

Here’s a simple action plan (employee development plan).

Task Due Date Notes
Employee A increase skill A to level 3. December 31
Employee B learn skill A to a level 2. October 31 Currently employee A has no backup for skill A
Employee C increase skill C to a level 4. November 15

Onward and upward!

 

Photo Credit: Rochelle Hartman via Flickr Creative Commons

 

Work with a rhythm

So many things provide rhythm to life.

  • Music
  • Dance
  • The seasons
  • Waking strides
  • Heartbeats
  • Speech
  • Faith

What rhythm means to me.

Before I ever thought about my daily routines mapping to a rhythm, I was following patterns. Looking back, I remember specific practices I used during high school to complete assignments and study for tests. I used time blocks in college to stay organized with activities and school. Today, I have routines for work, exercise, money management, and a host of other life spaces. These elements provide rhythm to my life.

I don’t see standard disciplines as some robotic repetition. To me, life rhythm is a recurring set of actions that are completed for a purpose. Exercising at set intervals is meant to keep the body healthy. Arriving at work before the official start of business is meant to allow time for uninterrupted planning and thought. Avoiding or minimizing personal debt is done to allow more freedom in spending choices later.

A few of my favorite examples.

Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative, says it this way, “There is a way, however, to ensure that you’re always poised to experience creative insights when you need them. You must establish practices that support your creative process and give you the focus, energy and time you need when an opportunity arises“. Establishing rhythmic practices in your routines is a how he supports creative processes in his life.

The Apostle Paul found rhythm in God and his faith. In a speech in Athens his words are recorded in Acts 17 as, “For in him we live and move and have our being.

One of the Principles of Lean and the Toyota Production System is, “Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.” The point of standardized tasks is not to become inflexible, but to find and expose pieces of work that can be improved.

Find a rhythm but understand the why.

Creating and setting a rhythm in life is important for achieving success on our daily ‘to-do’ lists. But the benefits of setting a rhythm are way better than accomplishing a few to-dos. If we use our mission statement, personal or business, as a basis for our rhythms then we are building a foundation s for working on what is most important while at the same time creating opportunity for continuous improvement.  Now that’s a song worth dancing to.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: Ineke Hulzing via Flickr Creative Commons

Take this job and love it

Johnny Paycheck didn’t talk to me

I’m blessed to say I’ve never been in a job I hated.  I’ve been challenged and grown professionally in each position I’ve held because I positioned myself in a career field I enjoy. But I’ve also developed a few routines over the years to enhance my work experience.

  1.    Engage with people

I’ve learned cube hermits rarely enjoy their job or surroundings. I believe collaboration is more successful when I can see and/or hear my customers and team partners. So I increase my engagement with work by getting away from email and visiting others in-person or calling them on the phone.

  1. Go to the Gemba

The phrase gemba is a Japanese term meaning the place where value is created. Before I was introduced to the word in Lean teachings, I discovered the power of the concept. When I was a product manager, I noticed I was spending as much or more time with the business unit owners as my peer group. I moved my desk inside their business unit and not within the IT area. This move increased my understanding of the business and made collaboration with my customers easier.

  1. Take pride in your work

A wise man told me in college that every piece of work I turn in has my signature and approval. It left a mark on me. My work output reflects how much I care about the customer, my company, and my work. My work is my signature, so do it right and take pride in it.

  1. Seek to align with other departments

Aligning with other departments means actively listening to understand their needs and finding solutions that are mutually beneficial. It means aligning to common goals in the business and not thinking my goals trump others. Isolationism within the company will ultimately leads to frustration, misunderstandings, and inefficiencies.  

That’s my recipe for loving your job. What’s yours?

Onward and upward!

Photo credit: Britt Selvitelle via creative commons

IBM reverses course on work-from-home

We can improve business results with this change!

IBM recently announced the end of work-from-home for the Marketing department as it moves towards regional offices for co-locating the Big Blue workforce. They aren’t the first to do this. Yahoo reversed course in 2013 by banning work-from-home and Best Buy followed their lead. Could this be another business cycle forming? Companies have been centralizing and decentralizing organizational layout for years as they switch between shared service cost-savings and greater focus on customer needs. Now it appears working-from-home, telecommuting, and flexible work arrangements may start going through similar cycles.

The debatable points.

Working-from-home has many characteristics and touch-points to create debate:

  • Team collaboration vs private think-time
  • Consistent schedules vs flexible schedules
  • Meetings together vs conference calls
  • Productivity of the group vs productivity of the individual
  • Commercial office cost vs home office cost
  • Relationships and culture
  • Employee retention
  • Commute time

The irresistible force to change something.

It’s easy to see how business leaders are drawn towards this policy as a means to improve efficiency and productivity of their workforce. The debatable items can all impact workforce productivity. But change is initially disruptive and must be executed properly to yield the desired results.

Obviously there is no single right answer. Organizations must weigh options and make decisions based on their business environment, their workforce, and their culture. Workers have preferences based on their life-stage, distance from the office, position in the organization, and personality.

Regardless of personal preferences, it does not change the mission of the organization or the commitment required of the workforce to produce great work. Ultimately, managers make a decision and move forward with it to create the culture and environment they want to achieve the mission of the organization. The work-from-home policy attracts or repels would-be workers. But the workforce needs to understand the interests of the company must survive to provide services customers will buy and to provide long-lasting security for employees.

Onward and upward!

photo credit: Debra Roby via creative commons.