Sunday, November 15, 2009

Change Is In the Air- I Think....

It has been an interesting couple of weeks. I have heard from several people I am close to that they have found important new roles that they are pleased about. I have decided to make a change and sharpen my focus in my own endeavors. The stock market is up- at least temporarily. Many economists are declaring the recession over.

The first thing that is interesting to me is the issue of the economy. I have heard "experts" begin to refer to this as a "jobless" recovery. I don't get that. Is that like Jumbo Shrimp? How to we pronounce the recession over if we have large numbers of people who are still unemployed or underemployed? Because the stock market is up? How is that affecting your personal financial well being?

I read some information recently about a change that concerned me, but didn't shock me. The "change" was that the large financial players have been using the bailout money to fund investments in the market rather than reinvesting in programs and things that really benefit the average American. Coming from financial services recently that doesn't surprise me that much. Most financial service organizations stopped making their profits in the traditional sense; the "margin" between what they paid for deposits and what they make loans for some time ago. They borrowed some "creativity" from other industries and found that there are much better opportunities to generate fee income for "services" such as overdraft protection, ATM access, and other transaction fees.

The interesting thing to me is that they are missing huge opportunities to increase their income and benefit their stakeholders by utilizing things like supply chain management and TQM techniques, but they have been relatively slow adopters.

This weekend the House passed the most sweeping legislation since Medicare on health care reform. Depending on which side of the equation you represent this is either a huge step forward or the continuing "socialization" of our economy. I am suspending judgement. I think our current health care system has significant flaws in a number of areas, notably our ability to deliver high quality health care in an efficient and cost effective manner.

I had hoped that the recession might cause more employers to examine their relationships with stakeholders, especially employees and to address flaws in our models that have existed for years. In many cases I feel like we lost traction. We went back to the "be grateful you have a job model".

We need a new leadership model. Much of our leadership modeling is based on financial and economic metrics- i.e. a "jobless" recovery. When I read about the stresses and reactions from those stresses I am concerned that we are kidding ourselves.

I have decided to focus my "change" efforts at a very basic level, by hopefully effecting the way organizations select and orient their senior leadership teams in their hiring and selection process. My colleague, Joseph Skursky refers to this as "hire hard-manage easy".

I see things on the web asking whether it is OK to probe employee's values alignment with your organizational values before you hire them. My answer is "duh", of course. You can't and shouldn't get into protected areas, but do you really want people in your lifeboat who don't support or understand your core values? I have to tell you after thirty years of experience, changing somebody's values is really hard. It is much easier to align them upfront.

As an employer you also have the freedom within reason to set the values of your organization and require compliance if not commitment to those values. You aren't saying to those who don't share your values they are bad people, you are saying they would be better suited in an environment where they share the organization's values. Trust me, people who are technically competent , but don't represent a good "fit" will never really be outstanding performers.

So I think that we are at a stage where we accept the status quo or we become our own personal change agent. I know which choice I have made, what about you?

Mark Herbert

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