A Mountain Of Data

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So I heard this interesting perspective on information and data analytics…


Basically, it comes down to this: 

“Most organizations are data rich, but information/insight poor.”


Or put another way:

“Data is collected, but not used.”


Hence we don’t know what we don’t know and we end up making bad decisions based on poor information. 


Just imagine if we could actually make sense of all the data points, connect them, visualize them, and get good information from them.


How much better than a pile of rocks is that? 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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I Like Working Here

Monsters

I got some bad news and really good news from a colleague at work this week. 


The bad news was that he was concerned that he hadn’t gotten the raise that he wanted from his company for the last number of years.


The good news was that he said that despite that, “I and everyone else on the team really like working here–it is a special group.”


It was funny, because recently someone else from a different office stopped me on the elevator when I was getting off on my floor, and she points and says “everyone says that is one of the best groups to work in!”


I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear this feedback.


And while I certainly know that “you can’t satisfy all of the people all of the time,” it was especially meaningful to me to hear this on such a fast-paced and high performance team–where people routinely seem to not only pull their weight (and more), but also pull together. 


As to the raises from this gentleman’s company that is a separate matter, especially as I understand that we all have bills to pay, but in terms of a good work environment and inspiring team that is something that also means the world to me. 😉


(Source Photo Andy Blumenthal)

You Can Be Nice and Powerful

You Can Be Nice and Powerful

According to the Wall Street Journal, workers “value kindness in their boss” and compassion–this is natural, as we are all human with tests, frailties, and yes, everyone even makes some mistakes (and hopefully they learn from it).

So while there may seem to be a contradiction between being nice and being an effective leader, there really is not.

For example, we can have empathy for people, while still holding them accountable to do a good job through programs like flexible schedules, telework, and other workplace accommodations.

Power in the organization can be wielded by a boss in so many ways, and they don’t even have to eat their spinach to do it.

From what assignments you get, whether you have to work odd hours, to whether you get a good evaluation or even that promotion, for that matter.

Many may be too quick to put on the punching gloves, however.

Sometimes, the boss will laud publicly over some employees, while degrading or shunning others…that sends a message doesn’t it.

Worse is boss that yells, tells someone their ideas are stupid, or glares at someone like they are a moron…that takes someone straight to employment hell.

The email chain is the classic message!

So while power can be wielded, it can also be shielded by appreciating each person for what they can do and their contribution, if sincere and merited.

While employees value a nice boss, this doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be challenged, we do–challenge adds some meaning to our jobs and our day–that’s why 75% would rather work for a high-achieving, but demanding boss than a nice, but ineffective one.

But combine nice and high-achieving into a boss, and I think we will all want to work for such a leader and follow them wherever they go! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Those Are Some Prosthetics

Wow, prosthetics have come a long way–these are tough!

This video from Biodapt shows their high-performance Moto Knee being used in a variety of action sports including snowmobiling, motor biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, water skiing, snow boarding, and jet skiing.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (11 July 2013) explains how the Moto Knee has hydraulic components that provide “tension and range of motion for intense physical activity.”

They cost around $6,000 and don’t replace the regular walking version, but Mike Schultz, the developer understands the need for these advanced prosthetics having lost a leg himself in a 2008 competitive snowmobiling accident.

I think it’s wonderful that these high-tech devices are being made available for disabled people to be able to do a wide range of exciting activities.

My hope is that as the technology continues to advance that we can have–like a person’s legs–one prosthetic device that is adaptive for use in every day use as well as more intense activities and sports.

It is hard to imagine people voluntarily trading their body parts for mechanical implants–but one day, in the not too distant future, these mechanical limbs will not only be a substitute for repair of real body parts, but will actually provide some superior capabilities–they will be used for body augmentation–and thus even be desirable by those who haven’t lost limbs.

What gives a leg up to prosthetics, as Hugh Herr in the Wall Street Journal (12 July 2013) put it is “that the designed parts of the body can improve in time, whereas the normal body, the biological body, degrades in time.”

With regenerative medicine and replacement parts by design, more than ever our physical bodies will be just the transient vessel that houses our heart, mind and soul–that which really makes us, us. 😉

Lessons Learned on IT Customer Service and Team Building

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In Public CIO Magazine (12 December 2012) Andy Blumenthal talks about lessons learned as an IT leader.

You’ve got to serve the mission, solve problems, take care of your customers, while at the time forming a cohesive, high performing team. 

Read here for the full article.

Hope you enjoy!

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Dell Inc.)

>Match Me With You

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eHarmony and Match.com and other matchmaking sites are all the rage on the single scene with recommended partners for people being done by computer algorithm.

Now this concept of matching of people is going beyond people’s love lives and into the world of business.

CIO Magazine (1 Nov. 2010) reports in an article called “Call Center Matchmaking: Analytics pair customers with the right agents for better service” that companies are using similar technology to match customers and call centers reps in order to get higher satisfaction ratings and increased retention rates—and it’s working!

Since implementing the IBM system called Real-Time Analytics Matching Platform (RAMP), for example, Assurant has increased customer retention rates by 190 percent.

Other companies have been doing customer matching on a more elementary level for some time—for example, financial service firms route calls from high-net worth or high-balance customers to “premier agents.” Similarly, calls made at certain time are “routed to Boise instead of Bangalore.”

With computer systems like RAMP, there is a recognition that customers can do better by being matched with specific customer service representatives and that we can use business analytics to examine a host of data variables from sex and age to persistence in calling to match a customer to “the right” representative to handle their issues.

Based on success rates, computers have been shown to perform sophisticated business and data analysis, and to successfully match people for more successful business (and life) transactions.

If we can successfully pair people for love and for customer service, it makes me wonder what’s next (maybe happening already)? For example, will we pair people to “the right”:

  • Potential adoptee parents?
  • Neighborhoods?
  • Schools?
  • Jobs?
  • Bosses?
  • Coworkers?

In essence, as the “bar is raised” in a highly global and competitive environment, will we be pushed to seek to maximize our potential for success interaction with others—for developing high-performance and highly profitable interactions—by pairing exclusively with those that “screen” positive for us?

With genetic testing already being used to screen for babies that people want—like an order at Burger King—“hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us…”—we are already well on our way to “special ordering” the people in our lives.

Companies have also started to use intelligence and personality tests to weed out applicants, and the use of personality tests like Myers Briggs is already being employed for better understanding each other and working together.

However crude all this may be, it is essentially a high-tech way of trying to optimize our performance. The question is can we use technology to enhance personal interactions and elevate performance without subjecting people to undue bias, criticism, and violation of their privacy? This is a very slippery slope indeed.

Another potential problem with computer matching is that when we rely on computers to “tell us” when we have a good match, we are potentially missing potential opportunities for matches with others that cannot be easily quantified or summed up by a computer algorithm? As they say, for some “two birds of a feather flock together” and for others “opposite attract”—we shouldn’t limit ourselves to any creative, positive possibilities in relationships.

>Building High Performance Teams

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At work, there is almost no greater feeling than being part of a high-performing team, and no worse than being part of a dysfunctional one.

Teams are not, by definition, destined to succeed. In fact more often then not, they will fail unless they have the right mix of people, purpose, process, commitment, training, and of course, leadership—along with the time for it all to jell.

I remember being on a team in one special law enforcement agency that had the “right mix.” The project was both very successful and was written up as a case study, and everything in the project was really fulfilling personally and professionally: from gathering around the whiteboard for creative strategy sessions to the execution of each phase of the project. Now, that is not to say that there were not challenges on the project and on the team—there always are—or you are probably just dreaming rather than really in the office working. But the overall, in the experience, the health of the team was conducive to doing some really cool stuff. When the team is healthy and the project successful, you feel good about getting up in the morning and going to work—an almost priceless experience.

Unfortunately, this team experience was probably more the exception than the rule—as many teams are dysfunctional for one or more reasons. In fact, at the positive team experience that I was described above, my boss used to say, “the stars are all aligned for us.”

The challenge of putting together high-performance teams is described in Harvard Business Review, May 2009, in an article, “Why Teams Don’t Work,” by Diane Coutu.

She states: “Research consistently shows that teams underperform their potential.”

But Coutu explains that this phenomenon of underperformance by teams can be overcome, by following “five basic conditions” as described in “Leading Teams” by J. Richard Hackman (the descriptions of these are my thoughts):

“Teams must be real”—you need the right mix of people: who’s in and who’s out.

“Compelling direction”—teams need a clear purpose: “what they’re supposed to be doing” and is it meaningful.

“Enabling structures”—teams need process: how are things going to get done and by whom.

“Supportive organization”—teams need the commitment of the organization and its leadership: who is championing and sponsoring the team.

“Expert coaching”—you need training: how teams are supposed to behave and produce.

While leadership is not called out specifically, to me it is the “secret sauce” or the glue that holds all the other team enablers together. The skilled leader knows who to put on the team, how to motivate its members to want to succeed, how to structure the group to be productive and effective, how to build and maintain commitment, and how to coach, counsel, mentor, and ensure adequate training and tools for the team members.

One other critical element that Coutu spells out is courage. Team leaders and members need to have the courage to innovate, “ask difficult questions,” to counter various forms of active or passive resistance, and to experiment.

In short, harnessing the strength of a team means bringing out the best in everyone, making sure that the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals offset each other—there is true synergy in working together. In failing teams, everyone might as well stay home. In high-performance teams, the whole team is greater than the sum of its individual members.