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How Mediocre Hiring Managers Hire Mediocre Employees

Once upon a time, there was a hiring manager who always worked with mediocre employees and had never worked with a great employee.

One day a great employee A from another organization decided to work for the organization of the hiring manager.

The hiring manager took a long, hard look at employee A’s resume and said, “Oh my, what funny mediocre employee you are!”

The hiring manager thought employee A was a mediocre employee because s/he had never worked with a great employee but had always worked with many mediocre employees.

“I am not a mediocre employee at all.” said employee A by explaining s/he goes above and beyond the basic expectations.

“Nonsense!” said the hiring manager. “I’ve worked with more mediocre employee than you have years of experience, and I know a mediocre employee when I see one.”

“If you’re so sure that I’m a mediocre employee,” said employee A, “then why do you say I am a funny mediocre employee?”

“Well, just look at the way you communicate,” said the hiring manager. “It’s all so refined. Mediocre employee don’t have good listening or extrapolating skills. And look at all those experiences and qualifications! Mediocre employee don’t have experience and qualifications like that. And look at the way you dress! It’s too refined and needs to come back to reality. Mediocre employees don’t dress nicely like that.”

And before employee A could reply, the hiring manager hired the great employee.  The hiring manager informed employee A that s/he doesn’t need to showcase/use their experience and skillsets in this position. The hiring manager informed employee A how s/he should communicate in the organization. And the hiring manager made the great employee go for an organizational orientation which emphasized organizational values and dressing sharp was not one of them.

As soon as the hiring manager was finished with the demands, it was lunchtime. So employee A met up with another great employee B from another organization.

“Well, well,” said employee B. “Aren’t you a funny great employee!”

“Well, at least you know I’m a great employee,” said employee A. “Thank goodness for that!”

“What happened to you?” asked employee B.

“Well,” said employee A, “A hiring manager thought I was a mediocre employee. And since mediocre employee don’t go above and beyond the basic expectations, s/he asked me to do the same. And since mediocre employee don’t have good communication skills, I was asked to communicate how the rest of the organization communicates. And since mediocre employee don’t dress sharp, I was asked to conform to the dress code of the organization.”

“The hiring manager must be very foolish, indeed,” said employee B. And with that, employee B told employee A about an organization where hiring managers used rewards and incentives and appreciated (1) how you communicate, (2) how you use your experiences and qualifications to go above and beyond and (3) how you dress.”

“Also remember this”, employee B continued, “there are a lot silly hiring managers in the world who think that mediocre employees are great employees, or that great employees and mediocre employees, or that all sorts of things are like other things without understanding context/nuance and are unable to extrapolate beyond the immediate needs. And when they are silly like that, they do very foolish things. We must be sure to stay away for that hiring manager and other hiring manager like her/him.”

What do you think happened next? Did employee A leave the organization or remain in the organization to be forced to become mediocre.

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5 Questions to Ask About Information Technology (IT)

Any organization of any size from governments, military, law enforcement to academia and private sectors use Information Technology (IT) directly and/or indirectly. In today’s connected and competitive world where efficiency and effectiveness are highly valued, IT has become the cornerstone for most organizations to survive and thrive. But what is IT, really?

In most organizations, there is an Information Technology (IT) Department which refers to a group of individuals who are responsible for creating, managing, securing, maintaining and retiring systems, technologies, and networks that are used across the organization. The IT Department is led by the Chief Information Officer (CIO) who typically reports to the Chief Finance Officer (CFO). The most common type of interaction that employees have with the IT Department is the IT Help Desk. System failures and security threats can both affect an organization’s bottom line which the IT Department is responsible for. Whenever the IT Department does a project for any functional unit/team outside of IT, they call that functional unit/team the Business (e.g., Accounting, Administration, Business Development, External Customer Service,  Finance, Human Resources (HR), Management, Manufacturing, Marketing, Operations, Production, Research & Development (R&D) and Sales, etc.).

From an employee (aka end-user) standpoint, the IT Department is considered someone that troubleshoots internet connections, emails, websites, printers, computers, laptops, and mobile, etc. From an organizational (enterprise) standpoint, the IT Department provides advice on how various technologies can be leveraged, improve customer services, protect against cybersecurity threats, development/management/disposal of databases, software development, outsourcing/vendor management, telecommunications, acquiring/keeping/transporting data and maintaining organizational networks, etc.

Since systems are used in every functional unit/team, the responsibilities of the IT Department also cut across every functional unit/team providing enablement through technologies. Despite these responsibilities, over the years, there has been a disconnect between Business and IT, based on some realities and some perceptions. In fact, Business-IT Alignment is a major concern for most organizations today. How did organizations came to this point is dependent on many factors but the most evident ones are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Miscommunications
  3. Extrapolation

Leadership

It requires leadership both at the Business-side and IT-side to move the entire organization in the right direction. The problem arises when the Business-side considers IT as a cost center rather than an enabler for organizational improvements. The CIO reporting structure and the lack of trust have attributed to this disconnect.

On the IT-side, CIOs still struggle to get their seat at the (executive) table which causes organizational strategies to be developed without IT resulting in misalignment. On the Business-side, IT is considered only order-takers and their inputs are not valued. While it is true that IT are implementors but it is also true that if you want to change, transform and disrupt aspects of the organization and/or industries you need to develop a strategy with forward-looking IT Departments. It should also be noted that leadership is not only a title/position but a cultural mindset that requires both the Business-side and IT-side to display it. 

Miscommunications

It is important to have effective communications at all levels (executive, middle management and front-line employee) that leave no room for misinterpretations. Unfortunately, by the time information is relayed from the Business-side to the IT-side, things/requirements/justifications might have changed. Reality is that whenever IT-side takes on a Business-side project, a system needs to be created which does not happen from a push of a magic button. Another issue is jargon when both Business-side and IT-side use their own acronyms, understanding and function-specific language which results in things getting lost in translation. (Mis)communication is a two-way street. 

Extrapolation

If we don’t know what others can do then we won’t know what they can help us with. Business-side is unaware of all IT capabilities. IT-side is unaware of all Business roadblocks. By being not on the same page, Business-side and IT-side stay in their silos and are unable to see beyond their own functional boundaries. One way to address this is to have cross-functional teams from both Business-side and IT-side that meet often to discuss and solve how things can be improved. Appropriate incentives at all levels (executive, middle management and front-line employee) should be provided to do this. 

As you can see from the above concerns, organizations cannot move forward if the left-hand does not know what the right hand is doing and they can collaborate with each other. To get the ball rolling at least start by thinking holistically and asking the following questions:

Today Tomorrow

Who is part of the Business-IT cross-functional team?

Who should be part of the Business-IT cross-functional team?

What functional areas are responsible for organizational improvements?

What functional areas should be responsible for organizational improvements?

Where is the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) when it comes to organizational improvements?

Where should be the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) when it comes to organizational improvements?

When are organizational roadblocks identified?When should organizational roadblocks be identified?
Why is IT important?Why should IT be important?

 

5 Questions to Ask When Working From Home

In my previous post, Can Technology Help During a Pandemic?, I talked about the importance of creating a culture of trust as the central pillar both at the employee-side and at the organization-side when it comes to working from home. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the globe, it has become abundantly clear that having employees work from home is not a luxury but a necessity.

During this time, it is incumbent upon organizations to understand that business processesbusiness continuity, and information security are a priority for the entire organization. This recognition of priority is both refreshing and stressful at the same time. It is refreshing because it is no longer just IT’s job to do these but it has become an effort for the entire organization as it should be. It is stressful because there is a learning curve that requires time, patience and adjustment.

In regards to business processes,

  1. Organizations should not assume that working from home is business as usual. It is not. In fact, this is the opportune time to see which business processes and IT processes were overkill. It is also the time to reduce and eliminate steps in the business processes and IT processes that are redundant, obsolete and wasteful. One way to do this is to map all the processes that occur in your organization and link them directly to organizational objectives with metrics.
  2. Organizations need to understand which of their business processes and IT processes are dependent directly and indirectly on vendors. One way to do this is to imagine what would happen if one or all of their vendors went out of business. What would the organization do if this happens, how fast organizations can recover from it, what would be budget for this, etc?
  3. It should be noted that the business processes and IT processes that are documented might not even be followed. This would also mean that some of these would be ad-hoc and be highly dependent upon only the people who knew them in their heads.

In regards to business continuity,

  1. Organizations should not assume that just because they have it on paper that it is implementable. This is where organizations that planned, tested and improved would outshine others. It should also be noted that IT plans are not to make IT people look smart, but in fact, are needed and thus appropriate budgets should be available to do this.
  2. Organizations need to see themselves as holistic entities with multiple moving parts and each part needs attention. Organizations need to be proactive and be prepared to start from scratch. Optimize, automate, adjust and repeat.

In regards to information security,

  1. Organizations should not assume that employees’ home/personal computers/devices have the same level of security protections as work computers/devices. At home, there are multiple points of vulnerabilities from weak wi-fi and computers/devices passwords to older versions of software, lack of antivirus and lack of antimalware. One way to address this would be to provide every employee with computers/devices from work that adheres to security guidelines. Another way would be to reimburse employees for purchase/update of software, antivirus and antimalware. The physical security of computers/devices also needs to be addressed.
  2. Organizations need to outsource to keep up with the security demands of VPN and Cloud but they also need to have their due diligence tougher and faster. One way to do this is to have a preselected vendor list. Another way is to have references from the past 5 years of potential vendors directly from their clients and learn what did the potential vendors learned from their mistakes.
  3. Security training should be considered future-proofing rather than a time-sucking activity. Also, any organizational leaders that think security is an add-on after the fact have already missed the boat and have opened their entire organization for trouble.

Now, that we have a clear view of what needs to happen during and after this global pandemic, organizations need to ask the following questions when their employees are working from home.

Today Tomorrow
Who are the most important front-line employees of your organization? Who should be the most important front-line employees of your organization?
What areas are being addressed when it comes to working from home? What areas should be addressed when it comes to working from home?
Where is your data and processes being captured, stored and retrieved? Where should your data and processes be captured, stored and retrieved?
When do data and processes become vulnerable? When should data and processes become vulnerable?
Why working from home is important? Why working from home should be important?

5 Questions to Ask About Data Collection

Data, data, data. Every organization today, is collecting data in one way or another. Due to the declining cost of data storage, data collection has become an obsession for most organizations. This data can come from employees, customers, suppliers, governments and many other sources. The basic premise behind collecting all this data is that it can be used to make informed decisions. But is it?

Informed decision-making should be based on sound data which requires data to be collected in a way that does not portray a false landscape. In other words, if the way data collection methodology is incorrect then the decisions made on that data will also be incorrect. Whenever we do data collection, there are a couple of things we should consider:

  1. Is the data coming from a primary source or a secondary source?
  2. Is the data coming from an individual or an organization?
  3. Is the data coming from conducting a survey?
  4. Is the data coming from conducting a study?
  5. Is the data coming from ongoing business activities?

Sometimes comprehensive data collection is time-consuming, costly, cumbersome and impractical. Considering these restrictions, we have to collect sample data and have to be cognizant that if this data can or can’t be generalized for decision-making. The wrong generalization of data from a small data sample can result in errors that might not be evident to the people who are making decisions on this data. 

Let’s assume that you have been given the task of collecting data that can help the organization in Business-IT Alignment. For this, you conduct a survey in your organization to get a feel of what is going on. Your goal is to collect all this survey data, make sense of it and present it to the executives so they can make decisions.  Here are the steps you take:

Step 1: Create a survey to collect data

Step 2: Reach out to relevant respondents

Step 3: Understand what the data is saying

On the surface, the above steps sound good. But here are the problems with each of them. 

In step 1, when you are creating the survey, you can run into issues when:

  • You ask leading questions that direct the survey into a certain direction
  • The tone and mannerism of the survey/surveyor can make respondents uncomfortable
  • A standard question across various respondents can be easily compared but based on the context the answer may differ drastically

In step 2, who you think the respondents are can affect the survey when:

  • You only ask a subset of the respondents but you are unaware it was the wrong subset
  • Respondents provide no answers
  • Respondents don’t have access to the survey
  • Respondents provide false information

In step 3, your tallying and interpreting the data can have issues when:

  • Your personal biases (we all have them) influence your interpretation
  • Others’ personal biases influence your interpretation

As you can see from the above errors, you have to be careful in data collection so it reveals the truth rather than a skewed version of a hypothetical scenario. The basics start by asking the following questions even before you start creating the survey for data collection:

Today Tomorrow

Who is going to respond?

IT (Help Desk, Software Developers, Management, Database Developers, Network Support, Cybersecurity, etc.) 

vs.

Business (Accounting, Sales & Marketing, Finance, HR, Operations, Management, Customer Service, etc.) 

Who should respond?

IT (Help Desk, Software Developers, Management, Database Developers, Network Support, Cybersecurity, etc.)

vs.

Business (Accounting, Sales & Marketing, Finance, HR, Operations, Management, Customer Service, etc.) 

What areas are covered?

Person-to-person interaction

vs.

Organization-wide capabilities

What areas should be covered?

Person-to-person interaction

vs.

Organization-wide capabilities

Where do you think is the organizational misalignment?

Offline

vs.

Online

Where should be the organizational misalignment?

Offline

vs.

Online

When did organizational-misalignment appear and reported?When should organizational-misalignment be identified and reported?
Why is the data being collected?Why should the data be collected?

 

5 Questions to Ask About Business Continuity

Business Continuity is the idea that your organizations’ should be able to continue operations even after potential and/or direct threats. These threats can be internal and/or external. Some examples of internal threats include theft, sabotage, espionage, and IT-outage. Some examples of external threats include weather-related, vendor-dependent, health crisis, supply chain disruptions, and cybersecurity. The most important thing for any organization is its employees and its customers. Thus, organizations should be able to be well-equipped to make timely decisions with optimized business processes and relevant data that helps its employees and its customers.

In order to continue operations in difficult circumstances, organizations need to create a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) which addresses how people, processes, products, services, and technologies can be applied efficiently and effectively for the entire organization. The BCP should be created with support from all stakeholder especially employees who are in the frontlines dealing directly with customers and/or their work directly affects customers. The BCP should be a holistic document whose purpose is not only to identify risks, critical processes, and critical data but also to provide solutions to what should be done in case something happens. Most importantly, the BCP is an organization’s self-awareness document that should always be tested and updated to represent reality. 

Depending upon your organization’s industry, size, culture, and technological capabilities, Business Continuity would be different from other organizations. However, Business Continuity would be similar for most organizations when it comes to payroll systems, financial systems, accounting systems, technology infrastructure systems and the ability for the employees to work remotely.  Now that we have a good understanding of what is Business Continuity, let’s keep the following questions whenever you are creating/analyzing, testing and implementing Business Continuity for your operations. 

Today Tomorrow
Who is involved in creating the BCP?Who should be involved in creating the BCP?
What areas are critical for BCP?What areas should be critical for BCP?
Where does the data reside for BCP?Where should the data reside for BCP?
When is BCP tested and updated?When should BCP be tested and updated?
Why BCP is helping your organization?Why BCP should help your organization?

 

 

5 Questions to Ask About Business Intelligence (BI)

According to The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI)‘s The Rise of Analytic Applications: Build or Buy?, Business Intelligence (BI) is the process, technologies, and tools needed to turn data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into plans that drive profitable business actions. BI encompasses data warehousing, business analytics tools, and content/knowledge management. In other words, Business Intelligence is the right mix of business operations and technology implementation that provides data to make effective decisions. By no means, BI is an IT-only or a business-only project.

BI is about capturing the data, interpreting the data and using the data to improve the organization. This BI data can come from internal sources such as accounting, customer service, finance, human resources, information technology, marketing, operations, and sales departments. This BI data can also come from external sources such as customers, vendors, partners, and governments. When your organization collects data from internal and external sources then this is the first step in understanding what data is used across the organization. Due to the siloed nature of most organizations, you would quickly find out that certain types of data is redundant and captured multiple times by humans (which is prone to errors) and by systems (which is prone to duplication).

Let’s say that you now have a better understanding and appreciation of how various types of data flows in your organization and which departments/teams use which data. The next step is to figure out which data is used for regulatory, compliance, legal, decision-making and is just nice-to-have. From this, you can also figure out which data is used more than once or should be used at least once across the organization. This will give you a good sense of which data is really relevant for improving the organization.

With all the information that you have gained, you have to now figure out ‘who’ will have access to this information and ‘how’. To figure out ‘who’, this will be a discussion with various organizational departments, top organizational executives and frontline employees. To figure out ‘how’, this will be a discussion with the IT department if they have the budget to build and maintain a system that can capture data from various sources or if they have the budget to buy and maintain a system that can capture data from various sources to make ad-hoc or canned reports through a dashboard and what models (forecasting, predictive, prescriptive and optimization) can be used. At the end of the day, BI is about providing data to the people who need it the most to carry on and improve their tasks.

By now, you have a better understanding that standing up a BI system is a holistic endeavor that requires cooperation and collaboration from all parts of the organization and even beyond the organizational boundaries. To keep the idea of organizational improvements at the front, always ask the following questions:

Today Tomorrow
Who is going to use the BI system?Who should use the BI system? 
What data is relevant to the BI system?What should be relevant to the BI system? 
Where does the data reside for the BI system?Where should the data reside for the BI system? 
When does the BI system update its data? realtime vs. scheduledWhen should the BI system update its data? realtime vs. scheduled 
Why is the BI system important for your organization?Why should the BI system important for your organization? 
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