What if companies knew as much about their employees as they knew about their customers? That is the provocative question at the heart of The Decoded Company — a book written by a group of entrepreneurs connected to a technology-driven health care marketing agency called Klick Health. Klick Health CEO Leerom Segal and his co-authors are great believers in the potential of big data — the myriad of information that is quietly and continuously collected from you as you go about your business as a consumer. Surprisingly, while companies have near-unanimously embraced the use of big data technology for their customers, very few attempt to find out more about their employees.
Using their own experiences as leaders of a fast-growing technology company, the authors describe in their book three fundamental principles for decoding your organization — that is, truly understanding in real time the individual skills, motivations and successes of employees, recognizing the challenges they face, and supporting each individual or groups of individuals as needed.
Principle 1: Technology as a Coach and a Trainer. According to the authors, most organizations use technology as a referee rather than as a coach. Technology allows companies to monitor what employees are doing and to whistle the fouls when they fall behind or fail. In decoded companies, technology is a trainer and coach — preparing employees for the game (to continue the metaphor), then watching from the sidelines and jumping in to coach as needed. One coaching idea proposed by the authors is the hiring of a “concierge” — someone who might use some of the traditional HR tools, such as career counseling or performance reviews, but whose one and only goal is to design a customized solution for each employee that helps them perform and grow. Technology as a trainer, the authors explain, means using “data and systems to watch blind spots, identify teachable moments, and proactively intervene with just-in-time training.”
Principle 2: Informed Intuition. The second principle is that technology does not replace but rather augments the intuition of leaders born from their experience and knowledge, thus allowing them to make better decisions. The capture of ambient data — ongoing information about what employees are doing or saying — is vital. (One example of the creation of ambient data is your Facebook activity. Facebook tracks with whom you communicate on their site, how often, from where and through which method, such as posting or chat message. This ambient data determines which Facebook friends end up on your newsfeed.) After analyzing a combination of ambient data and selected self-reported data, such as performance self-evaluations or monthly results, managers in decoded companies use their intuition to seek solutions to employee challenges. Bank of America discovered that the performance of call-center employees improved based on whom they talked to during overlapping lunches. The bank thus decided to create more opportunities for employee conversations by changing a policy that had restricted overlapping breaks.
Principle 3: Engineered Ecosystems. The third principle is to use data to set up the culture and the environment that enables employees to work at their highest levels. Engineered ecosystems are both data-driven and talent-centric. For example, the authors describe how Google — which, as the company that tested 41 shades of blue for one of its toolbars, is notoriously data-driven — launched a major initiative to identify the most important traits for its managers. The results seemed at first less than earth-shattering: The eight identified traits included not micromanaging, expressing interest in employees’ success, having a vision and a strategy, and having the technical skills to advise the team. The data, however, not only identified the traits but also ranked their importance, and this is where Google’s leaders uncovered a truth about its culture that was contrary to everything they believed: technical expertise, once thought to be the keystone of a great Google manager, is the least important trait that a manager can have. Everything else comes first.
While Segal and his co-authors use Google and numerous other companies in a variety of industries as examples, it is their own success at Klick Healthcare that make The Decoded Company an authoritative, balanced and real-world exploration of the human resources potential of big data.
What does it mean to be brief? For most of us it means cutting down the time spent to say or do something. But Joe McCormack provides a different definition: Brief = Clear + Compelling / Time. Being brief is not just about time, it’s also about what happens during that time.
Joe McCormack is on a mission to help organizations master the art of the short
story. In an age of shrinking attention spans, non-stop interruptions, floods
of information, the messages business leaders send out are getting lost in a
sea of words.
In our upcoming Soundview Live webinar, Making a Bigger Impact By Saying Less, Joe tackles the challenges of inattention, interruptions, and impatience that every professional faces. His proven B.R.I.E.F. approach, which stands for Background, Relevance, Information, Ending, and Follow up, helps simplify and clarify complex communication. BRIEF will help you summarize lengthy information, tell a short story, harness the power of infographics and videos, and turn monologue presentations into controlled conversations.
Please consider joining us for our conversation with Joe. It’s guaranteed to be brief!
Trying to get the message of your company or brand heard in today’s social media environment is equivalent to trying to hear an ant’s footsteps while seated next to a jet turbine. The secret, according to author, blogger and publishing executive Michael Hyatt, is to build the virtual stage from which you address your carefully cultivated following. In Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Hyatt gives executives a thorough method to connect and build your business.
Hyatt didn’t acquire more than 200,000 Twitter followers without providing a mountain of bankable advice. Platform gives readers the best of the best in a jam-packed read that should sit close at hand on an executive’s desk or digital reader. He begins with the observation that too many social media books overlook: start by creating a great product. Fortunately, Hyatt’s advice about product creation covers everything from how to be compelling to how to create a memorable name.
Once a company has its outstanding product, Hyatt takes readers through the steps to prepare for launch, build a strong strategy, expand your reach and stay actively engaged with your followers. The section on building your home base is can’t-miss reading. In an era when litigators are fielding more and more questions about intellectual property, Hyatt’s tips to protect oneself are well-considered.
Of the utmost importance to executives is Hyatt’s staunchly realistic reminder about how a great platform is built. For any leader who considers platform creation a task that can be farmed out to what Hyatt calls a “babysitter,” he provides the following advice. “Take a long look in the mirror. The person you are looking at is your new chief marketing officer,” he writes. Executives can lead the charge to be heard and Platform is the book to help them do it.
Most companies have “pockets of excellence,” according to Stanford University professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao — units, departments or subsidiaries where people perform at the highest levels and generate the best results in the organization. The problem that bedevils many leaders, however, is how to spread that excellence throughout the company — what is known to practitioners as “scaling” or “scaling up.” In their new book, Scaling Up Excellence, Sutton and Rao describe five principles required to scale up the excellence.
Hot Causes, Cool Solutions. This first principle involves the debate on what comes first: changing the mindset and beliefs of the people in the organization (hot causes) or making people change their behaviors whether they believe in the cause or not. The authors argue that either order can work.
Cut the Cognitive Load. Scaling up requires new actions, new processes and new learnings, and sometimes employees can get overwhelmed by all that is new. The authors recommend that organizations that are scaling up look not only to add” but to “subtract” as well. Limit the bureaucracy whenever possible. Find the old processes or old structures that are no longer needed in the new scaled-up organization.
The People Who Propel Scaling. “People propel scaling,” as the authors put it, and that first means having the right people with the right skills doing the right things. Hiring the right people, however, is just the beginning. No matter how talented your employees, scaling up doesn’t work unless they are accountable: that is, they are compelled to work in the organization’s best interest.
Connect People and Cascade Excellence. Connecting people is also key to spreading the excellence. Diversity plays a role: The more departments, functions, locations and positions on the organization’s ladder are represented, the greater the reach of the scaling-up effort.
Bad Is Stronger Than Good. Because they will have much more impact than any positive actions, it is essential to prevent and eliminate any and all destructive attitudes, beliefs and behaviors from the organization, according to the authors. Lesson number one: Nip it in the bud.
Each of the principles are supported and illustrated through a variety of case studies and academic research. In addition, the authors offer a specific and detailed list of practical how-tos to instill the principles in an organization. For example, among the seven ways to ensure the talent and accountability required for successful scaling up (principle three) are squelching free riders and bringing in guilt-prone leaders — those who will feel guilty for putting their needs above the needs of those they lead.
Catholicism vs. Buddhism
One of the key questions that leaders of scaling-up initiatives will need to ask themselves is whether or not one size fits all. The authors call this the Catholicism (replicating tried-and-true practices throughout the organization) vs. Buddhism (having a guiding mindset but adapting the practices to fit local conditions). There is no right or wrong answer. Leaders, however, will need to figure out which path is best as they launch their initiatives.
Based on what they call a “seven-year conversation” that included combing through hundreds of academic studies, conducting detailed case studies as well as targeted interviews, and presenting emerging ideas to a wide range of business audiences, Scaling Up Excellence is a definitive guide on one of the key paths to organizational success.
Checklists are a modest way to reduce failure, ensure consistency, and safeguard comprehensiveness. We use checklists to do the grocery shopping or to plan a weekend project. What if there was a checklist for running a successful business?
Jim Kerr provides an “executive checklist” for those dealing with the extreme complexities and challenges of the 21st century business world.
Establish Leadership – the foundation for change.
Build Trust – a vital component for enduring achievement.
Strategy Setting – translating vision into action.
Engage Staff – the way to gain support and accelerate success.
Manage Work through Projects – a means to strategic alignment.
Renovate the Business – a way to become “of choice.”
Align Technology – it’s at the core of all we do.
Transform Staff – the people part of enterprise-wide change.