28 March 2011

What the most admired companies actually do (without blablabla)

FORTUNE magazine recently released its annual list of theWorld’s Most Admired Companies and as we do every year, my colleagues and I at Hay Group took a deep look at the companies that made the list to determine what makes them “tick,” how they earn the admiration of their peers, and what organizations and leaders can learn from the practices of the “Most Admired” companies.
You can read the original article here, or you can skip the blablabla and just go straight to the point of what they do better:

1 - Empower employees at all levels to take decisions and "reasonable" risks, pushing decision making the closest to the action as they can. Less red tape = quicker problem solving (sometimes even before it become a problem).

2 - Ask employees for their input, involve everyone in problem solving.

3 - Ongoing employee development.

Now we know why just a bunch of companies are most admired, while others are ignored. The winner takes all in the war for talent.

21 March 2011

I have no time for important things because I waste 40% of it

From the Future of Work blog:

The paradox at the heart of work

So here is the thing… last week I heard two paradoxical facts:
Fact 1 – we have no time. 
We are nearing the end of our research consortium focused on the future of work and need to ensure that the ideas that have come from the research are translated into facts, ideas and actions for the companies that have participated. That’s going to take time – perhaps four hours a week of focused team-work to ensure the translation takes place. Yet when we ask executive teams about putting this amount of work in thinking about the actions for the future, the overwhelming response is that many teams are simply too busy to dedicate this time. It’s not that they don’t think this is important for the future – but as often happens at work, the short term is overwhelming the longer time priorities. So – the first fact I heard this week is that many executive teams simply have no time for this type of longer-term work.
Fact 2 – we waste 40% of our working time.
That reality was in my mind when I worked earlier in the week with a major US based multinational company. The team was mulling over the results of an analysis of the working patterns of hundreds of employees they had commissioned. What was clear was that more than 40% - yes you have heard it right – not 4% but a full 40% of work currently being undertaken was not actually productive work. Doing stuff that was not needed, working on projects that had no significance, going to meetings that had no outcomes.
Now the paradox emerges. At the very time that we are overwhelmed by the minutia of everyday work – we are simultaneously engaged in work that has no productive outcome. Now that’s interesting. 
So how has this happened? If you want to check what Lynda Gratton think about it, just go to the original post, but here is my simple take on why is that:

1 - Strategic direction / vision is not clear enough (not 100% actionable by every employee) - "increase sales", "grow", etc can be interpreted in a million ways. If it is not clear, at best, I will have my own take to do it. Which can lead to a lot of spinning wheels or rowing the boat to the wrong shore. This leads to problems in prioritization, which end up as the "everything is a priority" mindset. When everything is a priority, then you will be counting on luck to pick the really important things to get done. Work is infinite, time is not.

2 - Bad management skills - if the above problem is more connected to leadership, this one is purely management: effective meetings with clear output, clear delegation, scraping the BS and focusing on the priorities, etc. In my short corporate life (around 8 years), I am absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of people who cannot create a simple plan, run a meeting where people know the objective, delegate something with clear deliverables and satisfaction conditions, decide something when a decision is needed, etc. I strongly believe this should be tough in schools, that is basic education nowadays: getting stuff done.

02 March 2011

Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives

Since I got my Kindle, Amazon instant ebook delivered has pushed me to buy (and read) more books. Way of the Peaceful Warrior was recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Phil!) and I devoured it in just 3 days, so much I enjoyed it (and so little it allowed me to sleep if I just would let it go).

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

Way of the Peaceful Warrior has a novel format, but is in reality a self-biography of the author Dan Millman (and it is not hidden or anything, the main character is Dan Millman). Basically the novel tells the story when Dan was in the university and randomly met an old man which he called Socrates. Socrates is a very special and intriguing man and Dan starts being mentored by him in the way of the peaceful warrior.

The above paragraph is a dry description of the book and might make you think of “uff, yet another self-help book, give me a break, Sergio”. But the book is much more than that, it shows a whole philosophy of living every moment as unique moments, the secret of unreasonable happiness (happiness without reason), about life, the universe and everything. And it does in a pretty compelling way.

If you read Castañeda, you might recognize Socrates clearly as a Nagual, but surprisingly much more accessible than the enigmatic “ask the wind” or whatever shamanistic BS Castañeda’s Nagual would throw on the poor student. The book depicts Dan’s journey on the way of the peaceful warrior, but not to the peaceful warrior (that actually makes sense, believe me). While searching for happiness outside and never finding, then suddenly realizing what true happiness is and how useless is to struggle to find it. In the end, Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a book that teaches people how to live a fulfilling and joyful life, without the common tricks of “it is easy to do be happy” and “5 clear steps to happiness”. It is not easy and it is not a destination, it is a path. There is no "achieving" a peaceful warrior. It is forever the way that makes the warrior (and vice-versa). The book is enlightening, inspiring, emotional and, indeed, may change lives. But only if you go through the way yourself. If not, than it is just like any other good book.

I had been acting lethargic; Socrates suddenly grabbed me and shook me. “Wake up! If you knew for certain that you had a terminal illness—if you had little time left to live—you would waste precious little of it. Well, I’m telling you, Dan—you do have a terminal illness: It’s called birth. You don’t have more than a few years left. No one does. So be happy now, without reason—or you never will be at all.”

Then, once you read it, I hope you can answer these questions:
-          Where are you?
-          What time is it?