Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Paging Dr. Maslow...

...Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, that is! Have you ever heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? If you haven't read the Wikipedia link I've provided. You'll find it enlightening.

I had my first exposure to it in my early college years in 1990, but also later when I was working through my MBA degree, not to mention in my talks with senior managers throughout the years.

Maslow's hierarchy depicts how humans are motivated. The basic premise is represented in a pyramid of needs. If and only when a lower level need is met can a higher-level need and its fulfilment become a source of motivation. Here's what the pyramid looks like:


You'll notice that Physiological and Safety needs are the lowest level in this pyramid. So, these needs and wants must be met before Love and Belonging needs can be. As a simple example, if you have the business end of the gun to your head with the trigger about to be pulled, the only thoughts in your head will be that of survival rather than whether your mom still loves you, even though you didn't return her call this morning! (Note to self: don't forget to call mom tomorrow.)

Maslow's hierarchy is quite an important and powerful tool to understand, especially when we, as managers, directors and leaders try to find ways to motivate our teams, peers and customers in business. It's an especially important concept to comprehend in a recession.

Why, you ask? Think of it this way. In order for our companies to lead our sales and delivery staff to achieve and surpass our goals, we must encourage and motivate our coworkers to creatively look for new business or novel business ideas. This requires that the person being asked to be creative be unencumbered from concerns over whether they'll be able to put food on the table (Physiological need), or have a secure job tomorrow (Safety need), whether their families will still love and respect them (Love / Belonging needs) and they're respected by their peers, giving them the confidence to carry out their work (Esteem need). All of these have to be in place before you can motivate a person to take risks, solve problems creatively or just be plain creative (Self-Actualization need).

So, ask yourself how are your actions affecting your company? What culture are you promoting? Are you "shortening the leash" and becoming a task master in order to show you too can be tough on "non-performing" employees, i.e., scrutinizing every decision of your managers and individual contributors? Are you downsizing every two months, or "motivating" your teams through threats?

Do you think these actions will promote your remaining team members to suddenly become creative and bring in new business or use their creativity to more efficiently deliver products and services? Think again! Your actions may have reduced your workforce to a group of highly risk averse individuals who are only worried for their physiological and safety needs and not at all interested at helping you and the company grow.

Realize I'm not saying you should never reduce your workforce. Nor am I advocating a total anarchy in business, eliminating all control. No. What I'm suggesting is something more subtle: First, I assume you've investigated all ways in which you could save the company's proverbial behind AND insure continued future growth before realizing you have to downsize.

Next, even if you've made this decision unilaterally, then I suggest gathering your team in a room and telling them what you've had to do. Give them the reasons for your decision and how you arrived at it. You don't have to ask your work family whether it's the right decision, but you should explain why everyone should buy-in to your decision. That's your job as a leader and a visionary. This'll insure your squelch many of the questions that would inevitably come up about whether you considered every option before deciding whom to cut. I would avoid specific examples of why someone is no longer with the company. However, make sure everyone knows how you took care of those you let go and how you're helping them find a new work-home elsewhere.

That's fine and dandy, but what about raising morale for those remaining? Believe it or not, that's easy. Tell your team you're putting a moratorium on layoffs, at least for a period so that you can put your new plan to action.

You know your greatest asset in the company is not you, it's your people. It's through their efforts that you've come to prosper. It's through their creativity that you've delivered so many successful solutions over the years. So, come up with an incentive plan, monetary or otherwise to allow them the same freedom to create and take risks. I suggest you invest some money here. After all, in order for you to lift people out of the lower levels on Maslow's hierarchy, you have to provide them with a feeling of security and fulfill their physiological needs. Nevertheless, be sure you associate some sort of ceremony for each achievement. This'll insure people get the recognition and acceptance they crave too (Love/Belonging and Esteem needs).

You'll want to announce that you've set aside a bucket of money for each achievement level for your new company sales and productivity goals. Once you've defined these, give control to your mid to lower level managers and get out of their way! Give them plenty of room to make decisions on who gets which incentives. Insure the managers that so long as they're delivering on their goals and their employee and customer satisfaction numbers numbers are high, they will have no meddling from senior management.

This all may sound "fast and loose," and it is to some extent, but you get the idea. You see how this approach is substantially different from the negative reinforcement that the "Theory X" management style promotes. Don't let anyone tell you you shouldn't make waves and take risks. Leadership is all about knowing what risks to take and when. Notice there's no "whether your should take risk" statement in that sentence. Learn from Sir Ernest Shackleton in taking risks and leading your company and team to greatness.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Do You Have a BHAG?

Do you have a BHAG? Don't laugh! This is not a disease or a psychological condition.

BHAG may or may not be one of the more common acronyms heard these days in the world of business. I first read it in one of my business classes at Chapman University. Then I heard it from speakers at the Chapman University's Distinguished Speaker series. I believe it was either Rob Ukropina, the founder of OverniteExpress, or Jim Mazzo, CEO of Abbott Medical Optics, who uttered the acronym at one such event.

BHAG stands for "big hairy a## goal." It's the kind of goal that some may describe as astonishing, almost impossible to attain. It's often so absurd that it shocks people who hear it. Some may even laugh from the surprise. Nevertheless, the person stating the BHAG is committing to achieve it.

Let me give you a case in point of a BHAG, one I committed to recently.

We've all read the news and heard that mid to senior level executives can spend an average of six to nine months by some estimates, or nine to twelve months by others, in transition. That's a long time. That's what the masses tell you. Mind you, this is the "average." So, assuming a normal distribution curve applies here, that means there are outliers, those people who take longer and shorter...much shorter than the average.

As I thought about this after a conversation with a friend, I realized something. I'm not average. Anyone that thinks I am, doesn't quite understand me. Likely, I've done a poor job of showing them otherwise. In either case, I'm not average. I was the first in my family to finish college, even though I was the youngest in my family...not average. I attended UC Berkeley for my first degree, not an average university. Not satisfied with my original intent to pursue law, I went back to school at UC Irvine for a second degree, this time in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, neither are average degrees with general knowledge.

After spending the next decade in the business world, I decided to sharpen my business acumen by attending a business school. Unsatisfied with being average, I, along with three others, entered a business plan competition at Chapman University and won, then went to compete internationally, making it to the last round of elimination. Once again, not average. I graduated business school in the top 90th percentile, far from average.

There's nothing average about me.

So, why would I want to now fall into the "average transition time" category? I don't. So, I set my BHAG. I will be employed in Orange County working for a health care organization by September 14, 2009, spending only four months in transition! This is not a "I wish" I will be employed or that "I hope" I'll be employed. I KNOW I'll be employed, in the same way that I KNOW it is now 9:50 PM on a Tuesday evening as I write these words. I can feel it in my bones. I say this same statement when I go to sleep and wake in the morning. I have absolutely no doubt of it.

This is not just big and hairy, it sounds impossible to some folks. I've seen people's expression when I tell them of my BHAG. Every time it's the same: people give me a pause. I feel the words people don't want to utter, "are you crazy?" They've likely bought into what the media tells them about the averages, but I know better. I will take less than four months from my unemployment to find my next role.

I firmly believe that without setting such ostentatious goals we're like travellers with no destination. We may end up somewhere, but it'll likely not be what we're looking for nor anything we'll be happy with. With my BHAG clearly set and specifically defined, I can cut through a lot of the noise, the offers to work as a contractor in the auto industry, the full time position available in a VAR company, and take a shortcut to my destiny.

Mind you, this is a personal BHAG. Why can't we set a BHAG for our own companies, divisions, employers? Let's say you're a sales VP. Your company's average annual revenue growth over the past 5 years has been about 15%. We're now in a recession and everyone around you, including your superiors, are happy with flat growth. Should you be? No!!! Take the lead and set this year's sales revenues to increase by 25%!

Sounds absurd? Good. That's exactly the reaction you want initially. Then make all of your sales staff believe they can achieve it by giving them higher than norm incentives, the best CRM solution you can afford...then, get out of their way.

Make them BELIEVE they can achieve this goal, the same way they believe the sun will come up tomorrow morning, and then see how they'll surpass your BHAG. You may think 25% in a regular year's great, right? Fine, but you're setting a BHAG. May be you don't like to increase the incentive plan, but what would you loose if you did and your people achieved this goal? You will have achieved what others term as the "impossible," and, as a result, you'll cement your way as a visionary and a true leader who knows how to inspire and lead the march out of this over-stated and over-staid recession.

So, what are you waiting for? Set your mind to it, figure out your BHAG, believe you can achieve it, so much so that you already see that you have, and then announce it to the world.


-- Arash Sayadi

Higher Educated and Certified

First, my apologies for being off this blog for the past ten days. I've been engrossed with preparations for my PMP examination set for August 3rd, 2009. I'm taking the exam since I'm preparing to be employed by September 14, 2009. More on this latter point in the next blog.

Second, I'd like to expound on the whole idea of certification as a means to demonstrate expertise. It's times like this that I wonder whether my higher education helps or hinders my progress and reasoning. It's about midnight and I'm just now wrapping my day. I haven't worked continuously. I've taken breaks to read my emails, had lunch with my brother, who's also out in the market looking for work. These days "work" for me means searching for my next employer by meeting people, letting them know what I do and what I'm looking for, researching target companies, and...studying for my PMP certification exam.

In case you're unfamiliar, PMP stands for Project Management Professional. It's a certification program whereby the Project Management Institute, an international body, determines whether I have the experience and the knowledge to be considered certifiable. If you know me well, you know there's no doubt I'm certifiable, possibly even in Project Management, but I digress.

PMP certification seems to me just another barrier to entry into the management profession that some use as a measuring stick to determine whether you're qualified for a position these days. Mind you, I've nothing against barriers to entry. After all, how else can you reduce the number of applicants to a position and still insure knowledgeable people enter a profession? Or, how can you insure that someone understands a body of knowledge except through either an organization that tests a person's knowledge of the subject or by hiring that person and working with him or her for a number of months, if not years? The latter can be expensive both in terms of time and money for all parties involved.

Overall, I think certificates are a good way of showing knowledge, but I ask you this: how good is knowing what a wrench does and how it would fit a bolt to open or tighten it, unless you know how and when to use it? For that matter, when should I use a standard wrench or an Allen wrench?

Processes are just like these tools, but processes and our knowledge of them are only the entry points for mastery of a field. We live in a world that's nothing if not inundated with the "grays" with a few blacks and whites speckled here and there. Much of what we deal with in management has to do with judgement and decisions based on circumstances. It's really an art, not a black and white definition, binary or an on/off switch.

So, yes! We should values degrees, certifications, and knowledge, but give substantial weight to experience that often can short-circuit so called bodies of knowledge and deliver more robust solutions in shorter amount of time and, sometimes, even in a more orderly manner. I've seen many experienced managers with 20+ years of experience and no degrees "school" their younger counterparts with a few years experience and many degrees.

We must all remember that mastery is not just ownership of knowledge, but knowing the nuances that make for all the exceptions, knowing how to address those nuances, how to maneuver the waters of human psychology and emotions, how to negotiate and motivate, and too knowing when and where to keep quiet. Enough said!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sr. ESB Developer Position

Today I received an ESB Developer opening anouncement from a friend. He'd received it from a recruiter. The content below is that of the email from the recruiter to my friend:

Sr ESB Developer
We have an opening for a Sr ESB Developer position, please see the job description below. Please feel free to share this opportunity with your network. All interested candidates can send the resumes directly to me - olukash@clarientinc.com .No third party agencies at this time please.Regards,Oksanaiam Oksana Lukash, PHR Sr Human Resources Generalist31 Columbia, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656ph 949.425.5822 fax 949.425.5864 olukash@clarientinc.com Clarient, Inc. clarientinc.com Nasdaq: CLRT

Sr. ESB Developer
The following document illustrates the roles and responsibilities for the Enterprise Service Bus focused Sr. ESB Developer position within the Clarient IT organization. This position reports to the Application Development Manager and is responsible for the diligent execution of the roles and responsibilities outlined within this document

ROLE:
Provide technical leadership for in the design and development of ESB (WebSphere) projects
Coordinate the implementation for all ESB projects
Create MessageFlows, service objects, and data transformation utilizing the ESB
Participate in the SOA architecture design team
Develop and implement SOA design best practices for the ESB
Develop SOA governance plan

RESPONSIBILITIES:
Primary:
This position will act as the subject matter expert for the design, development, and implementation of the ESB-based components of the SOA architecture
Maintain relevant skills in the following areas:
IBM WebSphere Suite (e.g. MessageBroker, MQ, WTX, MQ FileTransfer)
XSLT/XPATH/XML
Java
JavaScript
Database Design support
Microsoft SQL Server

Secondary:
Maintain Strict Adherence to the company SDLC
Microsoft .NET language (C# preferred) Provide leadership and mentoring to the development team in respect to the specifics of ESB development

IT ASSOCIATATE RESPONSIBILITIES:
Maintain a clean and orderly work space
Maintain a professional appearance and attitude
Adhere to the scheduled work hours as established by management
Provide timely communication with all customers for issue resolution
Live the Clarient brand: be accountable, committed, a team player, respectful, trustworthy, competent and customer-focused

EDUCATION:
B.S./B.A. in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Data Processing, or related major preferred

CERTIFICATIONS:
IBM Certified Solution Developer a plus
IBM Certified Solution Designer a plus

EXPERIENCE:
Minimum of 5 years direct experience working with IBM Websphere Suite required
Minimum of 8 years in software/systems development required
Minimum of 3 years experience as a project development lead required

Monday, July 6, 2009

Grassroots Relationships

I met up with a Tim Tyrell-Smith of SpinStrategy and Quixoting fame this past week for a cup of coffee. We spoke about how we can help each other in our networking and then moved to the personal stuff. This is the part of my conversations and relationship building that I really enjoy. I'm a firm believer that if you want to really get to know someone, ask them what they do in their free time, what they do with their families, and how you can help them on a personal level. It's a simple axiom and one that deserves a "no, duh" comment from some of you out there.

In any case, the conversation eventually veered to what this new economy, with its added incentive for workers to build strong relationships, will mean for our future professional and personal lives. Tim made a very good point: we may be seeing the onset of local, grassroots or, to borrow an overused terminology from Marketing, guerrilla relationship-building.

Finding your next position through your network and relationships is nothing new, but it seems it's now widely practiced for all types of positions. These days you may have to lean on your relationships for landing anything from an information worker, meaning anyone in the line of business, up to senior management. It's all a sign of our times.

This reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. There seems to be just enough people in need of tapping the hidden job market to drive substantial traffic to and promote the services of networking sites such as LinkedIn or professional coaches around the country, not to mention self-professed networking gurus. This, of course, has its dangers, such as paying for services of quacks that don't know any more about networking than Joe Blow down the street, or for information that you can readily have from any one of the many LinkedIn groups gratis.

If you've read my blogs you know what I'm about to write: the opportunities and the potential upside in all of this. I think the opportunity is very clear: if you have any expertise in networking, then you can put it to use by introducing the novice to the art of relationship building. You could use your newly-developed expertise do good for the larger local population, such as what Sven Johnston is doing with We are Orange County group on LinkedIn. All of this will insure two things happen:
  1. You help another professional with their career or new business search
  2. You build a stronger network of people who think of you as the "Go To Guy"

And this last point is the ultimate upshot. Today's economic conditions is actually helping us refocus on our personal, LOCAL relationships. Living in a world where meritocracy is the ONLY method of distinguishing yourself doesn't cut it anymore.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying landing your next position, getting your next promotion, or landing your next big sale depends purely on your relationship. No. However, it's not JUST what you know anymore either. It's also who you know and how much they trust you. Your word now must carry weight again. When building relationships, if you say you're going to do something like make an introduction, develop marketing material for a friend, help build a marketing website, you better deliver. Otherwise, you're creating the wrong buzz for yourself.

Here's the crux of what I'm proposing: as the free market is gaining momentum and most of the folks in the market begin to land, few things will happen:

  1. The newly landed marketers, developers, salespeople, HR personnel will have an understanding of how to rely on and leverage their network to land any future positions
  2. Due to their newly found professional friends, they can listen for rumblings in the market in various industries. This'll help them build their sales pipeline, hire new employees, or get the word out on their products
  3. This new breed will have a huge advantage over those fortunate enough to have remained employed over this past downturn: because of their relationships and their newly acquired skills to leverage them, they'll quickly rise in the ranks, possibly faster than they would've if they hadn't made a transition

So, if you're out of work and already in search of a new role, build your strong, local relationships and know full well what advantages you'll have in this new economy. If you're already employed, I suggest reaching out and meeting some of these fine candidates and ambassadors of grassroots networking.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Networking Tips for the Uninitiated

I spoke with one of my colleagues yesterday and he made a great observation: many people entering this market have never used social and professional networking to find their next job. If they have, they may not know the etiquette, especially with the current market conditions. He asked if I could write in my blog about it.

I considered writing all that I know, but what I've learned over the years and the updates I've picked up over the past couple of months all are summarized by a very able writer, Tim Tyrell-Smith on his blog Spin Strategy.

So, instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll point you to a few key topics and entries that I've found very useful in his blog:

Happy hunting!

Risk Aversion Downfall

Remeber yesterday's blog on hiring Executives at Bargain Prices and the risk-aversion of the already-employed?

Well, Seth Godin wrote about taking risks today here. You ought to check it out.

iPhone Developer Position Opening Iin Healthcare

I came across an Orange County based Healthcare provider that's looking for an iPhone software application developer.

If you're interested or know someone who is, please have them contact me immediately via my LinkedIn profile at http://www.iengineer.net .