Egypt Lately & what we can learn from it...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Random Correspondence

It's that weird text message you get, the random Facebook message or even the spontaneous tweet... Be it an unknown user with who it is first time contact (I had a message this week from someone who said "thanks for accepting my friend request and by the way you are very pretty") or the blast from the past (I had an old friend contact me to pass on the phone number of an old boyfriend who had ditched Facebook) they really are rather awkward and uncomfortable for the most part...
How do you respond? And what kind of correspondence is more intimate than others..? For me now, text seems quite personal and direct-not so much the casual catch up convo I would think...? And the random compliments I guess you would call them, how else can you reply other than "no prob, thanks" ?????

Friday, July 22, 2011


       The internet is an unregulated, uncharted territory for humanity. Unlike what some may have been led to believe, it is not a series of gated communities. Website providers in this context act as the government of these communities, and much like governments in the real world, there is a constant struggle for order amongst the chaos. Much like the question of the meaning of life, the “meaning of the internet” has no agreed upon definition. We all have our own take, given our context, values and beliefs, about the answers to these fundamental questions, yet we can all agree that these are the foundations on which everything else rests.The process of defining something by its very nature, requires us to shave off details, to simplify things and to condense them into soundbites. But if we don’t know something then how can we really begin the process of defining it? Surely we should ask those that are native to the context? 

        The term “digital natives” does not insinuate that technology is natural to children, rather that they are native to the technological environment. They don’t know a world without the internet. A constantly, globally connected and wired world. Yet does that mean they understand it or the consequences it may come with? We don’t know. Ask your son or daughter if they know what the “Y2K bug” is? You might be shocked at the response, we constantly are! But that doesn’t mean that they should be left to their own devices, think of Lord of the Flies, is that really what we want to be creating virtually? We don’t think this would be a world we want to bring children into, without finding any answers to these questions. And we keep hearing from parents who are overwhelmed and out of their depth trying to keep up with the technologies, but at the end of the day this isn’t about technology, these tools are just ways for us to communicate and interact. Just like when we all adjusted to having cellphones, we too will develop our own understandings, purposes and values around their use, and these may not always be the same.

This generation takes for granted the digital technologies we are still struggling to comprehend, and by the nature of their context, kids today learn quicker than us. To try and keep up with them and put in rules and controls, is inevitably going to fail, and by believing this is the only answer given the context we find ourselves in, would be foolish. After all hindsight is only a bitch because it means you missed something in forethought. What might seem like moral courage to one generation may actually be plain old naivety to the next. After all, Schumpeter in 1911 first wrote of the fact that we had overlooked that we used to call business, family business, so much so that the word family became redundant and we dropped it. Yet 100 years later we now have large multinational corporations holding our governments ransom over this currency of exchange we call money. We don’t need to put in more rules, we need to get back to basics. 

So the short story is, you have to Engage first across the generations, so we don’t miss anything. Educate from all sides about the topic and then Empower. Let’s find that balance again between the youth pushing boundaries and the elders pushing back, after all that’s what being a kid is all about right?

  • Engage - Parents need to engage with their kids digital lives - not being a parent online in today’s digital world simply really isn’t enough to ensure their safety. Not to mention, there are advantages afforded to you as a parent to look out for your kids online, are immense.  Get kids to help show them how to use the technology, set aside an hour a week for a “technology lesson”.

  • Educate - Learning needs to be a two way street, but first parents really need to drop the fear levels a little and level with their kids. Statistics show that the greatest risks perceived by parents are waaay off what is actually experienced in the distress levels of their kids. While parents perceive some great threat coming in from the outside (like pedophiles & old men- which do of course still exists to some degree) the greatest threat of harm and damage are being caused by these kids, to each other. We have parents asking us all kinds of questions all the time about various sites and services, but we’ll let everyone in on a wee secret here; know who we ask when we get one we don’t know? It’s your kids! Or someone else’s kids that we have seen online who seem lost with a shitload of potential and those whom have seemed unnecessarily hateful to each other. Well, actually thats not true, we ask you all, but they are the majority of the ones that have engaged with Jess online in recent weeks as she almost sent herself crazy “going native” & avoiding the phone! The same ones that have in some cases even told her at points, she should “just end it all now” and other lovely suggestions that would make any parent proud! Your kids can teach you, their parents, about the new technologies and how they work! And tell you how they work, not do it for you, they are different! From NetHui reviews recently, we quoted “Don’t let the geek touch the technology”. Try it, it requires patience, a skill that never hurt any of us before now…. 

  • And while this is happening, the parents can teach kids about the aspects of these technologies that they might not have otherwise appreciated. After all, none of us had to have these technologies when we were sixteen, and we have no risk of us having to be persecuted for having said something on a permanent, public record, laying dormant and unnoticed with the  potential to be used against us at any moment. And one would hope to think that if we had known that, we might have been more careful.

  • Empower - Just like when teaching someone to drive a car, there is only so far in learning that theory can really take us. There is only so much you can know and foresee while you are still not in control of the wheel. And at some point someone is going to have to give over the keys. Does that mean that it should be a “free-for-all”? No way- the learners & restricted licenses are important stages before your full license after all.

‘Till next time folks! - Jess & James x

Friday, April 29, 2011

Traditional Versus Values-Based Organizations

Traditional Versus Values-Based Organizations

When people planning gets personal - CEO Forum Group

When people planning gets personal - CEO Forum Group

When people planning gets personal
Grahame Maher - Managing Director - Vodafone Sweden
Grahame Maher
Grahame Maher
More and more organisations now see culture and values as important competitive differentiators. Yet, as recently departed Vodafone Australia's Managing Director (and now Managing Director, Vodafone Sweden) Grahame Maher argues, being a values-based organisation counts for little without a rigorous selection process, ongoing assessment of culture fit, a strongly differentiated leadership development program, and a willingness for the CEO to actively plan their own succession. How and why did you go about planning your own succession as CEO?

Grahame Maher: To me the issue of succession was always a key priority, virtually from the time I took up the role three and a half years ago. I'd always thought you needed at least three possible successors for maximum flexibility, so as well as internal candidates, I went looking externally and appointed this potential successor Chief Operating Officer 18 months ago and he did, in fact, become my successor. Would you encourage other CEOs to plan for their succession from early on in their appointment?

GM: Definitely. It forces you to think about the longer-term future of the company, not just the quarter-by-quarter results. It's a very important part of your job, and if you are not doing it, you are failing the company in that regard.

One other thing that I found very useful prior to moving on from my current role this year was to take a five-week holiday late last year, during which I was committed to not getting in contact with the business. The value of this was that it gave me a chance to get really clear about my own future, so that I could hand over to my successor without any of the ambiguity you can sometimes get where the incumbent isn't really sure whether they want to go! That time away certainly helped me let go of the role, and add real value to the handover process. How does being a values-based organisation affect how Vodafone approaches people issues generally within the organisation?

GM: As a values-based organisation, the ability to grow our people is really at the core of what we do. Accordingly, people and leadership development has implications right across our business.

"You simply can’t find out all you need to know during selection to always get it right..."

A good example is how we recruit. We tend to focus more on talent and values, rather than direct experience as such, so that means we have a fairly rigorous selection process. Recently, for instance, we recruited some new people into the executive team. Each candidate would have been through about 24 hours of face-to-face interviews, involving up to ten different people. A large part of this is trying to get a good understanding of whether there is a good culture and values fit between the candidate and the organisation. Having multiple people involved also allows you the benefit of all those different perspectives.

Another part of having a strong emphasis on people development and values is deciding whether people should stay with, or leave, the company. Based on both on-the-job performance and values alignment, we are always looking out for people who don't fit the organisation, and seeing whether they should leave the company. When there is no fit, a person leaving is, I believe, good for both the company and the person involved, although it can be a tough decision and process. If you're serious about values, however, you really need to do it. At the end of the day, if someone is not aligned with what the organisation values, then they can never truly perform. That type of selection process you describe must be fairly demanding of resources. How far down the organisation is that rigorous type of selection process applied?

GM: We currently do it for the top two levels of our organisation, which are the executive and leadership teams, but hope to extend it further down the organisation. One thing we looked at in our call centres, for instance, is a kind of group recruitment process. This is almost a kind of pre-employment induction program where, say, you invite 100 job candidates to a one- or two-day program, from which you will then select twenty. Whether and/or how we would do this, however, is something I will leave the new team to work on. Do you have specific targets for people you want to exit the organisation, as some companies do?

GM: No we don't. Instead, every time we do appraisals and succession planning, we assess people on both their values alignment and their performance. As a result, we have three broad categories: leaders, who are really our high-potential and performing people; core delivery people, who may not have the same ability or attainments but are vital for the company's ongoing success, and those who aren't going to make it, who we really want to leave the organisation.

After the appraisal process, we will sit down with people and give them their feedback, so they can plan their careers accordingly. Sometimes, of course, that feedback can be very direct, such as “Well, we know you wanted to be a senior manager, but we don't think you can achieve that”, or even “We just don't think you are right for this organisation, and we need to help you find another place to go.” That's interesting, as a common complaint many employees have about performance appraisals and development plans is that there isn't that kind of frankness, and instead it's a bit soft and fluffy! Do you think there is tendency to avoid these tough discussions when doing these appraisals?

"We can easily underestimate the ability for long-term employees to think differently..."

GM: Yes - you really have to tell people if they are not right for the organisation – it's essential if you want to have a strongly values-based organisation. That doesn't mean being brutal, of course – one of our values is that we have a duty of care to all our people, so, where it isn't going to work, we have generous separation policies, long notice periods, make outplacement services available, and so on. We had an example where we had to close our call centre in Victoria . We gave all the staff 12 months' notice, gave them access to outplacement services and redeployed many to other areas of our organisation. Interestingly, the call centre actually worked the best it ever had over this last 12 month period. How quickly or slowly do you make the call on culture fit? Ideally, of course, you want to get it right during selection, but presumably this is not always possible.

GM: An old mentor of mine told me that, if you get selection right two out of three times, you are doing really well. I agree with this – you simply can't find out all you need to know during selection to always get it right. It's only when they actually come into your organisation that you can get a closer look.

My own view is that you can usually make the call after the first three months of on-the-job performance. Personally, I've found that, although I can make the assessment after three months, I tend to put off having any needed tough discussions for a few months after that! I think the problem is that, having only recently recruited them, there is a natural inclination to avoid this. I do have a discipline, however, of making sure I do have any needed discussion within the first six months of their employment, and I take responsibility for doing that. Its important I model that behaviour for the rest of the organisation, so that I am seen to be doing what we say we do, not just telling other people to do it! How important are values relative to performance? For example, do employees performing well on the job but missing the values present difficult choices?

GM: The split is at least 50% on values, in the sense that missing the values can cost you your job, even if you are performing well. Dealing with these type of people is a very important decision for the business. To me it is very clear – these are the people you have to hunt down and kill! They can be a cancer in your organisation, as they are often performing at the expense of everyone around them. It's like a sporting team who has one selfish ‘superstar', who makes sure he performs even if the team does not! How do you go about developing leaders internally? Do you have a strongly segmented program around the leadership/core delivery distinction you nominated earlier?

GM: Certainly. We segment our development programs across a range of factors, such as potential, function, experience and geographical/cultural considerations. This last one is about keeping a balance between having a global talent pool, while at the same time recognising that there are advantages in letting local operations develop their own approaches to leadership. Leadership in Japan , for instance, may not be the same as leadership in Sweden , or leadership in the UK .

In all cases you need to be really clear about what you are trying to achieve with your development programs – and they aren't always about leadership. In my case, for instance, I'm a good leader, but a pretty lousy doer, so there are other people who can do things better than I can. These doers, or core delivery people, have the same right to development as anyone else. How easy do you find it to assess people's leadership potential, even if they have been working in the company for some time?

GM: It's enormously complex. People can, and do, change, particularly when they are going through the self-development programs we put them through. One of our key operational executives is a good example. She's been with the company 17years, and I have known her for 10 of those, and she has really emerged as a top leader in recent years. This highlights to me that we can easily underestimate the ability for long-term employees to think differently. It's easy to leave finance people in finance, sales people in sales, and so on. If you move people around internally between functions, you often get great development outcomes.

However, that doesn't mean we can change people – I firmly believe that you can't. Only people can change themselves, and that's the point of our programs. All you can do as an employer is provide people with a resource so they can be the best they can be.