Being a moderately heavy user of group-chat across distributed teams I can completely relate to the post by Jason Fried “Is group chat making you sweat?“, because he has managed to capture the frustrations, short-comings and culture expectations that we unwittingly place on ourselves when we rely on group chats as our primary form of communication. There’s a lot to digest in his review, and it’s well worth making some changes in our expectations and habits of how we use group chat.
Before you start humming to “There’s Something in the Water” by Brooke Fraser (simple and ridiculously catchy I know); cast your mind to the last time you needed to make a big decision; perhaps it was hiring, restructuring, or deciding to pull the plug on an idea. More than likely you would have leaned on past experience as well as the input of some advisors. In some cases these are friends, in other cases these are colleagues or peers who have walked a similar journey to the one you have walked; and come out on the other side.
The question is “Who do you take this advice from?” and further to this “Who earns your trust?” and “Who should just be fans on the bleachers?” This is where I tend to lean on people who not only have the experience, but the ones that have a similar value system, a similar outlook, understand the risks and the context. This is our community, where our culture is fostered. It is very difficult, perhaps even impossible to make decisions of any kind outside of the influence of our community; as this has such a large influence our framework of thinking. To this end, its critical to choose the community to which you belong; it has a profound and direct impact on your decision-making.
Every organisation is trying to reduce their cost of production, regardless of their industry. One of the core contributors to this cost is that of their employees. Increasing market competition is forcing organisations to reconsider how they manage this cost to ensure they remain relevant to the market. This places a high significance on the importance of strategic human resourcing. Together with this, employees are also changing their minds with regard to what type and form of employment they require as other socio-economic factors become more important than permanent employment. These 2 elements are the primary reasons that flexibility in the work place is becoming a key factor of Human Resource Management.
FLEXIBILITY IN THE WORKPLACE
Flexibly in the work place creates a mechanism for organisations to acquire the required skills at specific times to deal with abnormalities in their product or service demand. The idea of flexibility is that organisations do not carry the financial burden of skilled resource cost while the resource is not required or while the resource cannot be utilised for profitable gain. Thus the concept of flexibility is closely related to that of free markets and capitalism.
Although flexibility is most often referred too in the context of numerical flexibility, 2 additional forms of flexibility are also available to organisations and employees:
• Numerical Flexibility: Matching organisational employee resource requirements with the required resources for the optimal period as to not waste any of the organisations funds on redundant or inactive employees.
• Functional Flexibility: Dissolving of functional boundaries of a role as to allow excess capacity in a role the ability to assist in another area of need.
• Pay Flexibility: The practice of offering varying degrees of financial compensation for the same or similar work based on geographical, social and economic differences.
Flexibility however comes with drawbacks. Putting any form of flexibility in place will require additional management and in some cases more intentional effort on the part of the employer. Any grant of flexibility will fall outside of a normal practice. This by implication will require boundaries for this flexibility to be created and documented. The result is that catering for any form of flexibility needs to still occur within a defined structure, but this structure must allow for some movement/variation. All employees that engage with an employee through a flexible agreement will also need to be informed so that they can adapt their way of working with this person. A flexible working arrangement will also place a large responsibility on the individual to ensure that their required work is completed in the same quality and timeframe as if they were part of the standard.
OBSERVATION AND RECOMMENDATION
The concept of flexibility is often spoken about during our prospective employee interviews. More and more candidates are asking question regarding working hour and geographic flexibility as one of their key considerations for considering the advertised post. Unfortunately the trend is for the hiring organisation cheerfully respond with a positive response, but rescind on this once employment is underway. Often this is because the hiring manager does not trust employees to perform their required duties when they cannot be directly observed.
Although the concept of flexibility is often discussed and theoretically agreed too, it has not been successfully executed in general. This excludes functional flexibly, where the writer has experienced the complete opposite; organisations are more than willing to remove the bounds of a role so that the work can be performed. This is believed to be so because it has a direct benefit to the organisation; it does not have to procure additional resource capacity or additional skills.
Flexibility is a key factor in todays labour market. However the impact on the management of the organisation is not always fully understood, which may lead to a contracting of flexibility as employers actively look to reduce management overhead in exchange for the additional resource cost for permanent employment.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING:
• Drive, 2011 – Dan Pink.
• Success built to last, 2007- Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery, and Mark Thompson
Atkinson, J. (1984). ‘Manpower strategies for flexible organisations’, Personnel Management (August)
Price,A. (2011). Human Resource Management (3rd ed., p.587). Pearson Education.
Positive Focus is what we need in a time of economic challenge. All indications are that there is tremendous pressure on the global economy. This is true unless you live in the USA of course, where the economic spinsters are able to camouflage the frail situation. The mood of the economic powerhouses in turn ripple down to the local organisations, who then logically start a process of contracting spending to protect their profits and minimise risk. This can often result in the adoption of a negative mindset towards growth, innovation and positive people management. Out come the old sticks and the old habits! It is easy to slip into controlling management, emotionless-engagement and to simply start counting our customers as numbers. What’s needed however is focus, not any focus, but positive focus.
In these tough times we have the opportunity to challenge the status quo of process, norms and what has ‘always been’. If the need (and it is a need) is to move into measures of austerity then lets take a “post-war” or “post-depression” view on our organisations.
How we can have a Positive Focus:
- Eliminate waste. A ruthless focus towards waste within our organisations. The removal of waste in all aspects of resources, people (talent or time) and technology.
- Identify our strengths. This is a perfect time to reflect on what the organisation is good at, what it’s people are good at, and what our customers love about us the most. This is the sweet-spot we should focus on. Cut the rest, mercilessly.
- Invest. The greatest winners during tough economic times are those that invest with the future in mind. Protect your assets (again relating to people, process and technology), or simply put, the things that truly create value for your organisation.
These are simple steps but they are by no means easy; at best the are counter-intuitive; but the best companies never really follow the common actions of others.
Can you venture a guess as the number of Strategic Projects Failing? According to a recent PMI report* nearly 50% of all projects fail globally, across all sectors and all industries. This is a shocking statistic! What is not surprising is the huge sigh of relief we all feel when we look at our own basket of project driven initiatives and acknowledge that this global stats probably accurately reflects our status-quo.
The question that emerges is “Can industry continue to support this level of success? “. In a word, No. In a world were innovation , renovation and transformation is required by the bucket-full we cannot be losing nearly 1 out of every 2 dollars (Rand) spent on these projects. These arrays of quick-sand projects severely hamper the ability of the organisation to pivot to market demand, competitor activity or new opportunities. We need to address this challenge immediately and stop so many strategic projects failing.
How to prevent Strategic Projects Failing:
- Review the way projects are defined, measured and controlled. How much tolerance is acceptable to maintain scope and budget? At what point should a project be considered nonviable and be terminated.
- Define a list of “kill point” criteria applicable to the project at its definition.
- Hold stakeholders accountable to the results of their decisions which result in scope and cost deviations.
- Dramatically improve they way projects are planned; initially and continuously throughout the life cycle of the project.
- Ensure the project teams are sufficiently educated in the project approach which the organisation has chosen, and not their own definitions of what or how something needs to be done.
To implement these changes within established project organisations will require complete buy-in from senior management. But the number speak for themselves; the strategic projects failing are simply too high and require a drastically new approach to find success.
*PMI, 2014, The high cost of low performance.