Final Thoughts

This course has introduced me to the conceptualization of technology’s involvement in the “flattening” of the word and really allowed me to identify room for advancement in my own career. Although, I travel the globe as part of my current job, I learned many new insights that I will carry forward.  One thing I am interested in doing is taking another look at Kevin Kelly’s tools website to see what technologies overlap with the Top 100 Tools for Learning. Although my company is using what I believe to be effective software systems for communication, I strongly believe (as I mentioned in last week’s post) that a leader must be willing to embrace new technology and critically think about how its implementation could benefit their company or organization.  I spent the last few days meeting with key business executives in Tokyo.  In a conversation with the President of what was one of Japan’s largest life insurance companies, he was clear to state advancements in technology, changes to market trends and their apprehension to adopt change at a faster pace, is what has led to their demise.  The story is very similar to that of Blackberry and Kodak.  Competition is always looking for a new innovative way to take your market share.

We are currently predicting how the market will look 10 to 20 years out in the future and forming a transformation strategy to align business practices and our operating model.  As our CEO always says, Wayne Gretsky is great not because he skates to where the puck is, but he skates to where the puck will be.   This statement resonated in my mind throughout this course because as a leader, we must predict ‘where the puck will be’.  Clearly, flattening is continuing to happen at a rapid pace and we must have strategies in place to embrace and lead change.

The knowledge I’ve gained in this course has further solidified my decision to acquire an advanced degree in interdisciplinary leadership, as we must be fine tuned and kept abreast of what is happening around us.  I appreciate all of my colleagues and Dr. Watwood for active thorough participation in this course as it has been unconventional, but equally effective in driving the sharing of knowledge. I am looking forward to using these new tools as a professional and I also plan to maintain my blog as a personal outlet for managing and communicating my process as a doctoral student. Wishing you all the best of luck and regards in the future.

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By millervr

Hold on tight; mind boggling technology is here

I can remember just as if it were yesterday. We were in Mrs. Comer’s elementary classroom, and as an 8 year old, I was competing in the flash card championship round.  I was the undefeated classroom champion.  But, this time I was losing and it didn’t have anything to do with my confidence in knowing the answers to all the simple addition, division and multiplication problems. I couldn’t see the numbers on the cards! A day later, I was being teased by my bullying classmates and being taunted as four eyes for having to wear glasses that people associated with the bottom of a coke bottle.  My goal in life was to get rid of the glasses.  Fast-forward to now more than three decades later, the new most revolutionary thing for the future will be wearing a pair of glasses.  Can you believe the very same thing that I thought was embarrassing will eventually allow you to engage in live videoconferencing, serve as GPS or even check to see if you will need an umbrella or not on your way out?  That is the power of emerging technology and if you don’t believe search Google glasses.

As leaders we see the world continuing to change around us.  How do we continue to stay abreast of the advancing technologies?  The simple answer is forward thinking, ongoing research and continuing to seek information about what is happening globally.  In business, our goal is to develop a culture that drives these types of behaviors.  We invest in emerging technology.  This of course has to be prioritized, and once we discover something new, we push to become early adopters.

The development of collaboration labs, that were designed to make leaders research and brainstorm the future state, has been instrumental in developing this innovative culture.  We actually conduct annual training on how to be more innovative.  We use different types of techniques one being the Apollo leadership Development Experience that was derived from the NASA training curriculum.  We leverage these types of mind challenging courses to enhance a culture that inspires both radical and incremental innovation.  Remember, so much has happened around us we must be in constant motion, searching and seeking information.

The priorities for being a leader are continuing to evolve. In the past, where one may have spent much time on ensuring the business maintained effectiveness and efficiency, now even more attention has to be placed on futuristic thinking.  Leaders can’t leave it up to chance.  Success has to be designed and it starts with understanding what is happening around you

By millervr

Ethical Concerns Associated With Social Media

According to dictionary.com, ethics can be defined as a system of moral principles, or rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions.  So, who governs the rules of conduct associated with social media outlets?  Professional networking, sharing with friends and family, learning new things, entertainment, cyber dating and marketing all occur within the various networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Instagram.  But, that’s not all that happens on within the pages of these sites.  In a previous blog, I described a situation that occurred whereby a leader claimed to be too sick to work, but according to Facebook, was well enough to party on the beach.  This is just one of many ethical dilemmas we are facing with social media, and the guidelines for controlling these issues are evolving.

You may have noticed professionals are now sharing advice by blogging or posting material in many of the various sites.  This is especially prevalent in the legal world.  But, what happens when an Attorney gives bad advice that’s now viewable for millions across the world to read.  Advice that was at one time privileged between Attorney Client is now being openly shared.  It doesn’t stop here.  Simply Google reviews about Attorneys, Doctors, restaurants, schools and businesses.  Reputations are made and some severely damaged as a result of posts from consumers.  How do you know the comments are true?  At work, we monitor social media posts that make mention of our company’s name and respond, where appropriate, to the complainant to resolve concerns.  Approximately 16% of all posts made are negative and involve a specific situation for an individual.  In contacting 60% of these complainants, we resolve 98% by simply listening and not changing our original position on the case.

Social media cases are also becoming more prevalent in the courtroom.  Can you be fired for liking a comment on Facebook?  In the case of Bland vs Roberts, six employees were fired for liking a comment that opposed the boss.  They sued claiming the firing was a violation of the first amendment, and the federal court of appeals agreed, citing Facebook likes were protected by the First Amendment.  This is just one of many social media concerns making it into courts of law.

Organizations are researching candidates on social media before agreeing to hire.  Is this fair?  Are perceptions being formed without your knowledge?  It happens.  Rules are also tightening for those already employed.  Just last week, new social media policies were implemented at my place of work.  My position requires worldwide travel.  It’s common to tweet or post photos on Facebook of the various places we visit.  Because other employees in the company view the comments and visuals, all types of questions have come up.  How was this person selected for this particular trip?  If we are cutting expenses, why were they allowed to spend money on entertainment?  What was business and what was personal?  Because we’ve been voted one of the most ethical places to work for six consecutive years, we decided to put in a strict rule to not allow those on business trips to make any mention of the trip on social media.

There are many more ethical concerns associated with social media.  I’ve only shared a few just to demonstrate it continues to evolve

By millervr

I believe the Pros outweigh the Cons

What started as a way to solve our office space challenges due to double digit annual growth, quickly became a way to gain efficiency; thus, also solving a hiring challenge.  These three concerns were all solved with the introduction of networked workers also commonly referred to as teleworkers.

In 2002, we began constructing our new building designed to accommodate up to two thousand employees.  When construction began, we had only twelve hundred employees to be housed in the new location; which gave us a good feeling knowing the building would only be at 60% capacity upon completion.  Fast forward five years later and we literally had employees stacked on top of one another.  The growth pushed us to twenty two hundred employees.  We created a second shift for non-customer facing employees to allow for desk sharing capability.  This was a very unpopular decision that led us to introduce the network worker, whom we labeled as teleworkers.  To entice volunteers for this new role, we promoted these selling points:

  • Work from the comfort of your own home
  • Save on gas
  • Reduce clothing expenses
  • Set your own hours
  • Be a part of the future
  • Avoid the dreary traffic jams

Employees jumped at the opportunity.  And in just two years we went from zero to having 30% of the staff teleworking.

We quickly learned the teleworkers were more productive than the brick and mortar staff.  This could have been driven by the fact that we selected top performers.  Nevertheless, we increased all productivity expectations for teleworkers by 20%.  Collectively, this team of workers has achieved an overall 28% productivity increase since inception.  We were also able to expand our hiring pool by removing geographical boundaries.  This has helped to raise the skill level bar in the workforce.

According to Madden and Jones (2008), roughly two-thirds of working Americans can be described as networked workers. There are several benefits that these individuals cite as having regular access to the Internet and/or e-mail. First, the round-the-clock connectivity allows individuals (especially leadership) to stay involved in all of the happenings of the organization. In addition, the flexibility of being able to work from home (or wherever!) relieves some of the stress that can come with being stuck in the office for hours on end.  We were able to take advantage of these opportunities in two ways.  Customers are able to email us 24/7.  We were able to move this entire function to our teams of networked workers.  They monitor inboxes 24/7 and respond in an average of 4 hours.  Secondly, we discovered many of our complaint emails or social media posts were occurring after 7pm.  This is another function we transitioned to the networker team.  It’s amazing how quickly upset ‘emailers’ calm down when some responds immediately to the concern.

But, with everything there are challenges.  Functions that have clear expectations, objectives and visible workflow are much more successful in this model, from what we’ve experienced.  For other roles, gains become more subjective.  Additionally, we’ve found that many of the employees become disconnected with the company’s culture.  They become more independent and feel less a part of the greater good or bigger picture.  Finally, stress levels can be high also noted by Madden and Jones (2008).  The demands of family challenges that may be festering in the next room, coupled with the demands of turn around time expectations, can be overwhelming especially to those less experienced network workers.

But, overall it’s clear from my ten years of hands on experience with network workers, the pros outweigh the cons.

References:

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Madden, M., & Jones, S. (24 September 2008). “Networked Workers.” Pew Research Center.

By millervr

Everything has changed and continues to evolve

Everyone gets sick….right? So, it’s reasonable to expect that a respected leader would unexpectedly miss work from time to time by virtue of being so sick she can’t even get out of bed.  But what happens when this respected leader, whom we all trust, is caught in a ‘virtual lie’ for all of her subordinates to see?  Let’s call her Jane Doe.  Jane, who leads a team of twenty-five employees, called her boss and explained that she couldn’t make it in to work because she was too sick to get out of bed.  But, a couple of hours into the day, she regrettably posted real time pictures on Facebook of her and friends at the beach dancing and drinking!  One of her direct reports pulled the posts off Facebook, emailed them to other employees at work with a message that simply stated, leadership by example!  What would you do?  This story is true.  Check your employee handbook and see if it covers these types of social media nightmares. The nature of work has changed (Gartner 2010), and for a leader, these changes are bringing forth new challenges and new opportunities.

Every organization is looking to attract new talent.  The flattening of the world as Friedman (2007) described has made recruiting talent more efficient and effective, while allowing for collaboration.  In the past, we would fly potential candidates to our headquarters office for an all day interview process.  This would consist of one on one discussions with various company officers across the different business units.  And, if you were to be hired for one of our several different site locations, we would fly you to the site and put you through a similar process.  Afterwards, the leaders would participate on a conference call and debrief.  Fast forward to the now.  I am in the process of hiring a leader for one of our site locations.  Four of us were able to conduct a virtual panel interview via videoconference with a candidate more than 800 miles away.  And, we’ve agreed to allow the selected person to work from home.  Everything has changed and continues to evolve.

Daily interactions in the workplace have changed.  Think about the time you called someone, didn’t get an answer, but immediately received a text or email back from the person.  How did that make you feel?  Was this person avoiding speaking to you?  The world will never know.  How would you feel if you were excited to call your boss about a new idea and ended up going to voice mail, but yet, seconds later you get a pop up message asking, “Did you call”? Except for the person calling my assistant to schedule a meeting with me, my phone would probably never ring.  In today’s digitized world, take a one-week measure of live chat messages, text messages, and emails compared against phone calls.  Get the picture? Everything has changed and continues to evolve.

These types of implications resonate in some fashion across all disciplines.  For example, in my call center, instead of representatives calling a help desk for assistance when they have question, they simply chat live with a SupervisorBut, this is not the only form of communication happening throughout the day.  To ensure adequate personal employee development and behavioral coaching, Supervisors schedule daily touch points with each employee.  This combination approach applies across the board.  For our training area, we use virtual trainers and online training tools, but bring people in live for a final question and answer session to clarify any key points.  This live session also may involve demos and practical application.  Everything has changed and continues to evolve. As a leader, we take advantage of the opportunities and prepare for the challenges.

References:

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Gartner says the world of work will witness 10 changes during the next 10 years. (2010, August 04). Gartner. Retrieved from http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1416513

 

By millervr

The Triple Convergence….hmmm makes sense doesn’t it?

As Thomas Friedman described in his book, The World is Flat, there are forces that are flattening the world.  Events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, Outsourcing, and Offshoring are three of the ten he described in the early chapters of the book (Friedman, 2007).   In chapter 3 he introduced the concept of ‘the triple convergence’, which is creating an even flatter global playing field.

 

The first convergence of the trifecta is the complementary effect of the ten flatteners to further globalization.  Web based platforms allow for multiple forms of communication, document sharing, and managerial functions to be globalized.  This allows for things such as outsourcing, offshoring, and insourcing to be easily supported.  Barriers related to geographical location are no longer a concern.  Having visited counties known for sourcing like India and the Philippines, it is interesting to see the marquis signs for US based companies, British companies and Dutch companies all on the same block in some cases.  Clearly the world is taking advantage of the globalization opportunities, which to Friedman’s point, can be distinctively linked to components of his ten flatteners.

 

The second convergence is emergence of specific skills and positions that take advantage of these flatteners.  As I look back at my own organization, it was only seven years ago, when we hired the first person in a full time role called ‘Change Manager’.  This individual would be the one to help drive adoption of new technology and push for the realization of benefits related to outsourcing and efficiency gains.  Fast forward and we now have an entire Center of Excellence Division comprised of Change Managers, Lean Sigma Experts, Partner Relations Managers and Procurement Coordinators comprised of approximately one hundred employees.  The positions are critical as we are working to transform our business model with a combination of process reengineering, technology replacement and people retool.  I will be leading this effort, which we’ve projected to be a ten-year investment and engagement for the corporation.  Business transformation, supported by change managers and process engineers, is what’s trending now in the corporate world.

 

The third convergence is the entrance of billions of people onto this newly leveled playing field due to the political and economic changes seen in China, India, Russia and other countries. These nations’ citizens were now able to join this newly formed free-market, becoming a catalyst for the explosion in the number of individuals in the global economic labor force.  Generation Z, or Zippies, as Friedman termed the young, confident, creative Indian youth who are looking for the good life, are changing the culture.  Recently, while searching for a potential technology partner for a company project, one of India’s largest domiciled corporations agreed to send a team of innovation experts from its Center of Excellence Operations to meet with me and other key leaders.  We spent an entire day exploring innovative creations, which were designed in their lab by a team of research scientists.  The design concepts included new industry applications for mobile device and tablet users.  To further understand more about our business, they agreed to leave Mahesh behind, who I would describe as a Zippie.  This impressive young man spent two weeks interviewing employees, conducting collaboration sessions, reviewing manuals, and examining technology capabilities, to get to the point where he was able to recommend a specific mobile application to enhance our sales model.

 

Finally, with this flattening effect, along with software developments that support instantaneous communication, and the influx of social media tools, our approach to knowledge management has changed.  What once was people reviewing and sharing content, is now live a chat with someone sharing knowledge that at one time was only documented in his or her head.  With this, tools like SharePoint and blogging sites now exist for employees at all levels to engage in dialogue and the sharing of knowledge.  We are living in the future!

 

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Dixon, N. (2009, May 2). Three Eras of Knowledge Management. Retrieved from NancyDixon.com: http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/05/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-one.html

 

 

By millervr

Use SharePoint…I do!

 

SharePoint in Plain English – YouTube

► 3:05

 

Picture this.  You are working on a large team.  Effective communication is essential to project success.  But, there are two many emails going back and forth.  You’ve lost version control of critical documents.  No one is sure which is the most recent! Ever experienced this challenge?  Try SharePoint.  It can solve your problem.

 

Performing a Google search led me to find the attached animated video.  Take a look; it’s worth the three minutes to provide insight on a tool that can help you.

 

Microsoft SharePoint has sharing capabilities, organizational tools, development opportunities, and leader forums that allow it to be useful for growing and developing your organization. In my role as a VP of operations, responsible for approximately 1700 employees working in different roles from front line to leadership, I lead my team in a variety of ways using SharePoint.  For any leader, communicating the vision is critical.  All team members can visit the site, understand where we are headed, and see how our objectives align to the corporate strategy.  To stimulate thought and conversation around our strategic vision, employees can click on my ‘Let’s Talk’ page, read my latest blog and engage in an open discussion.  Based on engagement survey results, this approach makes them feel valued, heard and empowered by allowing employees to have a voice in decisions that impact them.  This social feed option is my favorite feature of the tool, since my team is able to communicate in an informal manner and receive direct responses that can be viewed by all.  For example, each Tuesday morning, employees gather for several hours in collaboration areas for Innovation Day to ‘blue sky’ new ideas.  The results of the sessions are posted in SharePoint so that everyone is in the know.

 

Knowledge management strategies are unique to each organization.  For us, it begins with online manuals and ends with employees sharing real life experiences and the different techniques used to help our customers.  This allows others to learn and understand effective behaviors from peers.  We do this using SharePoint.  Employees can query to access information quickly or enter into a chat with a peer to learn how he or she has handled a similar situation.  Using Friedman world flattening concept, SharePoint is another tool that flattens the world.  Gone are the days when you enter an office and stare at the 2000 page manual covering the desk with notes and highlights on ever loose page.  And, there is no longer a need to be face to face to ‘pick someone’s brain’, when this can be done with collaborative tools like SharePoint.

 

Lastly the tool can be used for the creation and sharing of reports, slides, and graphs instantaneously.  Instead of sitting idle awaiting your next staff meeting to receive performance reports, you can view them in SharePoint and have your questions ready when the team arrives!  Try it and see what you think.

 

Sources:

 

Friedman, T. (2007). The world is flat 3.0: A brief history of the twenty-first century.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s12Jb5Z2xaE

By millervr

Is anything really flat?

Friedman’s theory of the world is flat brings several thoughts to mind.  Having visited twelve states in India and seeing the technology mecca of Bangalore, it’s hard to put into words.  My reflection of the Infosys campus can be recalled as, ‘there’s nothing quite like this”.  There was a clear vision of the founders that this would be the technology capital of the world. This is what I would describe as a peak.  But as you leave that area and travel to other parts of India, you will see the many valleys where people are not connected and technology doesn’t exit.  This same peak and valley, have and have not, visualization exists throughout the world.  Duly noted, travel to Moscow and then, go outside it’s modern city and see what you will find.

So, to a certain extent, I agree with Friedman’s general observation that technology has created equal opportunities for success at the individual and population levels. Certain innovations have certainly created a new economy that has allowed for progression in several fields; however, not ALL individuals benefit equally from these inventions, as Friedman suggests. For example, Carmody (2012) articulates the adverse economic impact of cellular phones in Africa. We know that in the U.S. and other resource-rich countries, cell phones are a cash cow. Though their introduction in Africa was thought to help “flatten” the continent and “allow for economic development through facilitating connections between places,” they have proven to replicate patterns of this continent’s “adverse inclusion in the global economy” with the recreation of new forms of “economic disarticulation” (Carmody, 2012). This is where my siding with Florida begins. The “peaks and hills” that he mentions are certainly reaping the economic advantages of advancements in technology, however, there are still many “valleys” that prioritize infectious disease morbidity and mortality over the latest iPhone or flatscreen TV.

Based on the readings, it is evident that in an ideal world, we would all have the same opportunities due to technological advances, but in its present state, the economy is only seeing “spikes” in more developed areas where jobs are ever present in urban populations.

 

Reference:

Carmody, P. (2012). The Informationalization of Poverty in Africa? Mobile Phones and Economic Structure. Information Technologies and International Development, 8(3), 1-17.

Florida, R. (2005, October). The world in numbers: The world is spiky. Atlantic Monthly, 48-51.

Friedman, T. (2007). The world is flat 3.0: A brief history of the twenty-first century.

Shirky, C. (2009). How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube can make history.

By millervr