Breaking news (well, yesterday actually)! Accenture, one of the world’s foremost professional services firms, is getting rid of the annual performance review. I applaud this move and think it is truly a forward-thinking, momentous event for Corporate America. Congrats to them and I wish them well. Such a move will surely have its growing pains (How do you ladder? How do compensation reviews/raises work?), but I believe it will save tons of operational and system administration time. Wait and see, I suppose? Or pull the parachute and get over to Accenture if you’re in that industry ASAP?
Til Next Time,
Soapbox Spoiler Alert: I am fairly confident single-sex education works. How, you may ask? I am a product of it during my high school years and witnessed its success.
Which is why, when I saw a Buzzfeed article effectively promoting the bastardization of single sex education (courtesy of Katie JM Baker, who was apparently just citing the opponents and not necessarily voicing her own opinions), I felt compelled to put at least a few tidbits out there for reaction.
First off, the City of Austin was fairly moronic in coming out with claims that they employ “gender-specific strategies” as part of their same-sex education trials. I readily admit that. They are opening themselves up to severe criticism and people that will assume they’re touting a “boys are better than girls” type of mantra. Although, I do not think that is a necessarily-bad thing to have some level of catering to a person’s sex in an educational environment. Boys and girls do learn differently, and creating environments that make the majority of students in a given classroom more comfortable is a good thing. When people are comfortable, they learn better. It’s that plain and simple. And, saying that boys and girls learn differently isn’t an insult to either set of individuals. It just acknowledges that many parts of a child’s growth (the best instance I can think of is the most obvious of course – their anatomy) are influenced by whether a kid got an extra ‘X’ or a ‘Y’ chromosome. So – while I will admit one of the cornerstones of Austin’s justification may be flawed, that’s not a reason for the likes of the ACLU to trash the initiative on these grounds alone. I am a firm supporter of civil liberties, Title IX, and many other forms of societal evolution/advancement. But the senseless rhetoric that organizations like the ACLU spew are cancerous in my opinion to the larger discussion that reasonable individuals would otherwise like to have on the matter.
Enough ranting. Back to my perspective. The reason same-sex education works is that surrounding students with members of the same sex allows them to forego any nerves associated with the opposite sex. Like it or not, the statistics are the statistics, and only a minor portion of our children are intimate (primarily sexually) with members of the same sex – and I do not believe that we should scrap the whole idea for the sake of a smaller portion. I would call this democracy, but you may call it ignorance. I am largely indifferent towards the name-calling I may endure for having this opinion.
But let me reiterate, I speak from experience. And you can say that what the Jesuits do with their same-sex education installations is largely successful due to the backgrounds of its students (largely more middle-class or affluent individuals who clearly value education because they are willing to pay tuition for it), but I would disagree. Some of the greatest success stories from my experience were students that came from poorer areas and had less resources at their disposal to compete in such an advanced academic environment.
Taking shots like this and basing an argument upon a sliver of someone’s statement or on some “independent research” (which, funny enough, was conducted by some esteemed members at UW-Madison in the psychology department who had a fair amount of incentive to pick the proper 57 out of 187 studies to choose to show “no effect” to support same-sex education benefit since they were queueing up their argument that the psychological “damage” by going same-sex would cause long term detriment) is no more effective than you or me proclaiming the Earth is flat. Reading the staunch supporters of same-sex education tee off in the comments section really did make me crack a smile though…
Til Next Time,
I know I have mentioned it before, but I am a massive fan of gamification. Not only do I think it drastically increases participation, energy, and adoption of ideas/concepts/programs. I also feel like it helps sustain individuals and keep them coming back for more. Gamification is the reason people keep coming back to applications like FourSquare. If you think about it – what’s unique about FourSquare (recently rebranded Swarm I believe)? It’s a relatively pedestrian concept: here’s an app that lets you check in to retail, dining, or specialty locations and share that news with your friends. What’s so hip about that? It aces the ‘adoption’ test though, because it filled a gap in the market and was something that consumers could get behind and derive value from (even if only social status/recognition). Hence, it was downloaded a couple million times and reached a tipping point. But what made it sustain that momentum?
That, my friends, is the gamification element. And the insanely easy thing about their strategy? It is provided at no cost. The badging that they have built into the app is genius, and entices users to want to continue to use the app (thereby promoting the app and creating a snowball effect where even more potential users look into downloading/becoming regulars on the app). Who would have thought that simply unlocking a virtual, (financially) meaningless badge because I had checked into my 25th airport was so cool? Perhaps it’s the humblebrag in us all. Perhaps it’s just a way to occupy our minds. Either way, the addition of gamification can’t be denied when considering FourSquare’s success.
But gamification should not stop with social media/apps. It should be everywhere. It should be in meetings. It should be in our schools. It should be in our families. It should really be everywhere in our culture. I sincerely think you’d see a lot more engaged, active, and happy society. Which is why I’ll continue to bang the gamification drum and support anyone who is trying to use it.
Til Next Time,
Just the other day, I was participating in a meeting where we were discussing general communications strategies and what the best way to reach as many people as possible is considering the need to communicate as efficiently as possible all while keeping the information digestible, relevant, and timely. Scary proposition, huh?
At the highest level, I am a firm proponent of having a central, dedicated corporate communications team. It must be an organization that wakes up every day with one goal: telling your story. So often we get caught in situations in Corporate America where everyone in the building is going a million miles an hour in their own direction, without even 30 seconds to give you the latest on their neck of the corporate woods. I’ve seen it time and time again at clients and competitors alike where my friends and colleagues work.
My boss actually shares her thoughts on the matter really eloquently. Most of the time, the problem is not that people are not doing things. It’s that they are not telling people what they’re doing. Most organizations are mature enough by now to have (at least partially robust) policies and governing procedures to ensure that healthy business initiatives are prioritized, staffed, and funded. A lot of times what I have seen as the missing link though is a mechanism to allow for those stories to be told to the wider company. And, without a dedicated central corporate communications team, this will always be a challenge.
It’s the same reasons companies hire Public Relations firms. Do you think that, empirically, a company that specializes in metal piping really has any subject matter experts around that understand what good communications look/sound like? Probably not – or else they’re likely not very good at their craft. The fact is that people dedicate their life’s energy to these things, and it’s always the best idea to have someone telling your story that has the skill of great communication.
Til Next Time,
For all of the (mildly, jokingly) unflattering things I’ve ever said about data science, I really do respect it and think they people that pursue that as their trade are supremely intelligent. Which is why, when I caught this article on Tech Crunch today, I figured I had to share it and weigh in.
Marking the difference between queries and algorithms is, in my opinion, the most poignant piece of the article. Put simply, a query is a “one-way” function that will return exactly one result. Algorithms, alternately, mold to the data set which is fed to it. They have the capacity to “learn” or adapt to different sets of data. Hence – they are much more powerful than queries (short nod of apologies to all my friends who live for SQL code). I know a lot of people that think anything can be solved with a query. And – in their defense – this is the type of education that permeates a lot of traditional information science degree programs (especially abroad). But if we’ve learned anything in recent history, it’s that we are far from traditional in this new age of technology.
So that would be my challenge to everyone (including myself at times) that bangs on data scientists. First off, we have to arrive at a mutual understanding of what it really means. Then, we really need to start embracing it. Because one day soon, the guy or gal that can master data science will rule the world.
Til Next Time,
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of professional services, contractors, and staff augmentation. I think there are definite benefits as well as drawbacks to relying on this type of labor in your organization. I’ll start off today by analyzing some of the pros. I do promise to come back in a few days though and review “the case against” as well though.
Professional services firms and workers are largely very capable, talented, and respectful individuals who serve a great purpose in their part of the organization (or at least in the area of the business that has retained/hired them to perform a particular function).
In short, here is a list of pro’s I have for professional services:
- They can be specialized in very specific areas to add value to very detailed functions immediately (e.g. a specific technology, industry, location, function)
- They are flexible and can often show up on a moment’s notice (sometimes even same-day)
- They can and will travel in case you need them deployed to a different location (or locations) that is not their “home base”
- They do not bear many of the costs an internal employee would bear (e.g. health care, retirement contribution matches, training)
- They can be negotiated to relatively affordable rates, especially when you can have different firms/groups bidding on the same work
- They have contracts that are generally tied to specific time frames so you are not stuck employing them indefinitely even if their function or role is no longer needed
- They are completely expendable and can often be terminated on extremely short notice (in the event there has been something happen that requires this)
It’s not always a match made in heaven though. Again, stay tuned for my “case against” professional services in the near future.
Til Next Time,
I’m sure I’ve posted many times about the power of recognition, but I saw a slice of an info graphic the other day on Linked In that made me compelled to reinforce the message here.
I recently started an initiative where I am recognizing coworkers of mine (typically via email but sometimes over the phone, face to face, and through other outlets) for positive praise they receive from customers or coworkers. I have never felt so proud of my team and it is amazing to get optimistic, positive feedback in return from everyone involved. It really does make a difference to recognize people for their accomplishments.
A lot of times, due to the operational nature of most businesses, too much time and energy is focused on “what’s broken” or “what we need to do to be more efficient/better/faster/leaner”. Where are the props for the jobs well done? I really think it’s time that we as a culture did a better job of rewarding success rather than focusing on failures (and how to “fix” them).
Til Next Time,
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating: infographics are awesome. Just how awesome you ask? Wildly awesome… In fact, HubSpot ran a post yesterday on their blog about the power of visual communication. It was, not surprisingly, an infographic. Take a look and I hope you enjoy it!
Til Next Time,
Nobody writes letters anymore. I get it; we live in a digital age. E-mail is the norm. It’s efficient. It’s (largely) free. The postal service is antiquated. Stationary is a ripoff. But let me present to you an argument for a handwritten note.
When you take the time to write a note by hand and have it delivered (or, better yet, deliver yourself), you:
- Develop better handwriting skills which are highly useful for whiteboarding/sharing notes with colleagues
- Instill a sense of trust and create a personal connection with others to whom you exchange notes
- Build personal brand and establish a reputation as an upstanding person
- Buck the trend of digitizing absolutely everything in your life
- Differentiate yourself from “everyone else” who probably sent a quick email (or forgot to send anything at all)
- Help people recall the “good ol days” (reminding them how far we’ve come, a warm-n-fuzzy for all)
Whether it’s a “thank you”, a “congrats”, or anything else, you are building your character and people will respect the hell out of you.
Til Next Time,
I read a fantastic article on Upworthy the other day on the benefits of bucking the 9-to-5 trend. It makes a lot of sense to think about why companies should more readily offer people flexible work schedules. Especially now more than ever in a digital age with tremendous opportunities to work virtually, I think it’s a shame that so much of Corporate America is handcuffed to a 9-to-5.
Personally, I see massive benefits in allowing employees to set their own time and place for work. Just a few to spark some thought:
- TRAFFIC: yes, being an Atlantan, this one is going to be first on my list. I lose at least one hour a day to commuting (and, many times, 2+ hours) and I think about how bitter I get either when I arrive at the office or home for the night after an unusually long commute… It’s really hard to get back on point after you sit in a car for 90 minutes.
- WORK LIFE BALANCE: people need time to do things that make them happy. For me, going to the gym is really important. Fortunately, I work at a site where I can escape to the gym a couple days over lunch. I can’t tell you what that does for my own energy and mood when I get back to the office. It is a perfect way to split the day up and I don’t walk around all afternoon like a zombie.
- PRODUCTIVITY: some people are simply more productive in comfortable environments. Office life can be daunting. Some are night owls; some early risers. Why confine everyone to a schedule that may not fit their biological body preferences?
- FINANCIAL PLANNING: adjusting work schedules allows people to take better control of their personal finances. Whether it’s saved fuel costs from not sitting in traffic (see #1) or the ability to do more home cooking rather than dining out, there are great benefits financially to having more flexible work schedules. Also – mothers and fathers that could potentially split days home to save on child care costs would be an incredible way to allow young couples to be happier, healthier, and wealthier (and, as the graphic shows, happy employees are key)
The only argument I see against it is two-fold: either 1) people are lazy and unproductive when they aren’t surrounded by others or in a controlled environment, and 2) collaboration takes a massive hit when you aren’t able to meet face to face with people. First off, some of the least productive people I know are the ones that live at the office and put in hours much longer than 9-to-5 (ever had that person who sends you an email “needing” something by the end of the day at 4 PM? Why did they wait so long?). Second, while I do agree that face-to-face collaboration is hard to beat – there are ways to ensure there is still ample amount of in-person collaboration and meeting time. It just has to be carefully constructed within a company’s workplace bylaws. Telecommuting has gotten ridiculously simple and the ability to connect virtually is easier now more than ever.
I know I may have oversimplified a lot of the content above, but it’s silly to me that more companies wouldn’t explore this. If your company claims it has “the best people”, why would they not want to commit to making them happy?
Til Next Time,