A New Blog by HR Competency Expert, Robin Kessler Tue 30 Nov 10

Robin Kessler, a good friend of mine (we went to B-School together way back when) has just become one newest members of the blogosphere with her blog.  Robin is a Competency Speaker and HR Consultant.  Note that I said "Competency" not "competent" (although she is that too).

Robin is an expert on competencies - those skills that are essential to be successful in our job.  She's written 3 great books on them:

Anyone of that's written a resume, had a job interview and performed or received an employee evaluation (who hasn't done these?) will find these useful and you may want to check out Robin's blog to get the latest insights on this.  After all - it's your career - do all you can to make it a good one.

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How Technology Enhances Collaboration Wed 20 Jan 10

The unheralded benefit of tech collaboration: resolving disagreement.

Disagreement_tanakawhoPadmasree Warrior, Cisco's chief technology officer, wrote a thought- provoking blog post recently entitled "The Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise". While the NGCE label sounds like just another marketing package (Cisco is a hardware vendor, after all), Warrior's article is definitely worth reading.

One comment she makes almost as an aside is particularly noteworthy. "It is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made. Nor does it suggest that there is no room for individual creativity," Warrior writes. So true, and so very well stated.

I would take this a step further and say that a prime role of technology in collaboration is to highlight and even foster disagreement. Rephrasing Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, I'll go as far as making the seemingly incongruous statement, "disagreement is good."

Continue reading "How Technology Enhances Collaboration" »

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IT: It's Not Just About Technical Skills Wed 11 Nov 09

Why interpersonal skills may be more important now.

While perusing the online versions of some of the more well-know information technology journals recently, I was surprised to find one that had quite a few stories on the stupidity of users. While these stories ostensibly were presented as humor, they also represent a dark side of IT behavior: The IT guys really are the smartest guys in the room, and users are dumb and annoying.

A closer reading of some of the stories shows the fallacy of this: Users were having problems, and the IT person was more concerned with showing his superiority than in providing customer service. This type of stereotypical behavior has long been an impediment to IT's success and acceptance in the corporate world.

The good news is that this attitude among IT workers isn't nearly as prevalent as it used to be. We've made great strides in improving customer service. These stories, however, show that our job is not complete. There is more to do.

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IT's Business Lesson Wed 28 Oct 09

Learning how the business side works can yield better IT systems and service.

Different Approaches To Time I just returned from a week of vacation in London, which was fun as always. The great thing about being an American in London is that it forces you to rethink a lot of things. This ranges from driving on the other side of the road (I hope my U.K. friends appreciate that I did not say the "wrong" side of the road) to fries being chips and chips being crisps and so on. Many things seem the same--but not quite.

Obviously the British have no difficulty with these things. It's second nature to them, it's their culture. It is only those new to their way of doing things who have to adjust. This is the same feeling many of our users experience whenever we roll out or modify a system. We roll out systems, processes and programs that perform adequately but somehow never feel natural to our users.

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'I taught it, they didn't learn it, it's on them' Thu 19 Mar 09

IT's attitude towards helping our users learn may need some re-thinking

I heard a great story on NPR yesterday, "D.C. Schools Chief Turns To Rookie Teacher Corps".  It's about Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools and what she is doing to improve the schools there.  It's a great story and worth listening to.

What really caught my attention was a section where they talked about the attitude displayed by some teachers:

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Guest Post - The Courage To Lead Mon 23 Feb 09

Terry_oceanport Terry Seamon is one of my favorite bloggers.  He writes Here We Are. Now What?, a blog dealing with leadership, transition, and as he says "Facilitating wisdom to make the world a better place."

He is running a series of guest posts on the topic "Leading in the Crisis" and has honored me by asking me to guest post on this topic.  You can find my post "The Courage To Lead" on his site.

Thank you Terry.

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Nurturing IT Wed 07 Jan 09

In a recession, keeping your IT staff happy is critical.

"People, Process and Technology" is the cliché about what you have to manage to be successful in information technology. We often focus mainly on these in the reverse of the order listed because it is easier.

Technology is cleaner, it's factual, it's quantifiable and it's not personal. Dealing with people involves all the things technology isn't. It's messier and much more difficult. However, People are what will make Process and Technology work.

Unfortunately, the recession is going to highlight our People issues and make our jobs more challenging in oh so many ways. As CIOs, you have a number of specialists you heavily rely on because of their technical expertise and institutional knowledge.

It is difficult to imagine how you can cut these positions if called upon to make staff cuts. At the same time, it is difficult to keep these same people motivated and engaged if you have to cut back on new projects and need to have everyone pitch in to help with day-to-day activities.

Like all the other C-level executives, we are challenged to "do more with less." It will require us to make some hard decisions and to be creative with how we manage our most important asset--our employees. Here are some areas CIOs should focus on in 2009.

Staff Retention: First, let's put aside the knee-jerk reaction of, "In times like these they should be thankful they even have a job." It really isn't very helpful. If you've had to make staff cuts, the people you have left are the best and most valuable, and you probably have had to sacrifice bench strength. In this situation you really can't afford to have a key person leave.

Also keep in mind that the recession will impact other companies and industries differently. So although you may be operating in a tight environment, someone down the street may be hiring.

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Hiring the Right / Wrong IT People to Achieve Alignment Mon 19 May 08

Need_a_job_saffanna_2_3Dr. George E. Strouse had a great article recently on CIO.com entitled "Are You Hiring the Wrong IT Staff to Achieve Your Alignment Goals?"  Strouse contends that the major cause of business and IT mis-alignment is that IT is not hiring the right kind of people.   He states "The right people need strong backgrounds in both business and technology. Most IT hiring managers place too much emphasis on strong technology backgrounds."  Although I cannot comment on whether or not this is the major reason for the misalignment I wholeheartedly agree with his comment on the needed background nonetheless.

The most popular post I've made (accounting for about 20+% of site visits) is one that contains what I thought was a good business analyst job description.  While this job description does contains some technical requirements as you might expect it also contains skills that are not often found in traditionally trained IT folks.  These are the types of skills that are needed for an business analyst to understand business.

Dr. Strouse contends that the reason business can not get the right people is that we are asking for people with a Computer Science degree rather than an Information Systems degree.  As a professor of information systems at York College in Pennsylvania he is eminently qualified to layout the distinction and makes a strong case.  Now before anyone with a Computer Science degree gets upset please read his article carefully.  As he points out there is a need for both types of degrees but each is better suited for different functions.

Continue reading "Hiring the Right / Wrong IT People to Achieve Alignment" »

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Are We Too Smart For Our Own Good? Mon 26 Nov 07

Thinking_i_think_stenbough_2 There are a lot of smart people in IT.  In fact the stereotype of IT folks are the smart guys and gals that are good a computers, math and science but are horrible at social skills.  There is some truth, I believe, in this stereotype although the stereotype is greatly over exaggerated.  It isn't that IT people don't have social skill it is just that they often choose not to use them since after all the power of their logic and the strength of their reasoning and knowledge is more than sufficient isn't it?

A recent post by Penelope Trunk at the Brazen Careerist blog entitled "Stop thinking you'll get by on your high I.Q." would suggest otherwise.  She laments that we seem to value high IQ over social skills as if high IQ was all that mattered.  In reality it is a balance between the two.  But because we in IT are so comfortable with the technical side we tend to forget the people side.  We have to remember that success is just as dependent on the social aspects at it is the technical on ones - the old people, process and technology cliche.

As Trunk points out based on an article from the College Journal, recruiters of B-school graduates look for 5 traits:

  1. Communication and interpersonal skills

  2. Original and visionary thinking

  3. Leadership potential

  4. Ability to work well within a team

  5. Analytical and problem-solving skills

Interestingly enough these traits or competencies are very similar to ones that I wrote about in regard to a Russell Reynolds (a large international executive recruiter) analysis of the competencies required for a CIO.

So why are these so important?

Continue reading "Are We Too Smart For Our Own Good?" »

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Take The Test: Are You An IT A**hole Or An IT Hero? Wed 11 Jul 07

Stanford Professor Bob Sutton recently wrote a book with the catchy title "The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't"  This book deals with a problem that seems to be growing uncontrolled in the corporate world - a**holes in the workplace.  See Kent Blumberg's excellent review for more detail.  In addition to the book Sutton discusses this issue on his blog Work Matters

Like it or not this is an issue applicable to our IT departments.  After all IT does have a reputation with a certain a**hole quality about it.  For example:

Students_taking_a_computerized_ex_2 On his blog Sutton provides a quick 24 question A**hole Rating Self-Exam (ARSE) - Are you a certified a**hole?   This got me to thinking.  Why not a test of a**holiness for IT?  So I've developed my version of a test of for the IT department -- IT A**hole or IT Hero?  I did this on a departmental basis since that is the way we are usually judged, fair or not.  You may also think this to be unscientific, arbitrary, capricious and subjective.  Well you're right.  It absolutely is, but you have to start some place.  So take the test and let me know what you think.  If your not in IT take the test on behalf of your IT department and send them results.  Who knows what fun that will start?

So on to the test.

Continue reading "Take The Test: Are You An IT A**hole Or An IT Hero?" »

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