Friday, May 29, 2009

The New First Class Compromise

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When companies cut budgets, a typical target is anything considered to be a frivolous gadget. An unneeded gizmo. There certainly are a lot of frivolous gadgets and unneeded gizmos. It all makes perfect sense.

But then I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone when I talk to clients who have cut their annual or bi-annual on-line performance appraisals and assessments when I clearly remember them saying to me in the past that they don't know how their team, their department, even their business as a whole could continue to function and grow without them. 

They used to say stuff like “We were such a dysfunctional, uncooperative bunch.” 

So when the tools that 'functionalized' the dysfunctional and got the 'uncooperative' to cooperate are put to pasture, I always want to say “My word! Is it that bad? I hope you didn't have to get rid of the Tassimo coffee maker too!” But, inevitably, I get my head on straight and get with it again.

Here is what we need to do. 

If your team, department, or company as a whole is a dysfunctional, uncooperative bunch but you can't seem to find room in the budget for the tools and support that you need to 'fix it' then either you're company is not taking the 'human factor' seriously enough or providers are not taking your budgets seriously enough. It's probably a little bit of both.

They say that in money, a perceived need is as real a need as a real need. I don't know if they actually say that, but I think it's true. We were going in this direction anyway, and it is simply the case that the state of the economy has accelerated the HR market's need for easy to use (which is time efficient) and cost-effective (which is cash efficient) technology solutions. 

HR needs to start making the case that these tools are as necessary a part of the frictionless functioning of a business as the workstations, the network bandwidth and the Tassimo. Uncooperative people don't just start cooperating especially when they are afraid that their jobs are on the line. No company would sell all of their workstations and replace them with typewriters to save money. It would end up being more expensive... that's why we have computers. The best question to ask is, “How is that any different than getting rid of the other tool that time and again has provided stability and openness to the workforce?” 

At the same time, HR solutions providers need to start innovating and moving away from the old model that companies don't see room for in their budgets. Solutions providers cannot just weather the storm and when the skies clear up approach their clients with the same garbage that got tossed at the first sign of trouble. That is about as backward as selling off workstations for typewriters. HR solutions providers need to learn that HR is now going to want more control over implementation and management of these systems. It's a particular brand of protectionism. HR solutions providers need to have a whole new game that's easy to learn. The products need to be better than they were before and we can actually define what we mean by "better": easy to integrate into company culture, easy for the client to learn, easy to use, quick to deploy, stable, error free. Of course, some HR solutions providers will be quick to say “oh but our systems have always been like that”. But, if that were true then we wouldn't be having this conversation.  

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It Was All a Dream

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What's that line from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? 

"Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? 'I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time'."

Remember when we were in free fall?

"Oh, what will become of me?"

Remember when we paniced and drank the one the read "Drink me"? And that didn't work. Or that time we ate the one that said "Eat me"? And, well, that didn't work either. So we got rid of the free coffee and shed 600,000 more jobs.

"Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking again."

And then manufacturing orders rose sharply! Rose sharply from where? Had we really fallen?

No, of course not. It was all a dream. Business as usual. 

I wonder why there are so many empty desks around here...

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Profit In Not-For-Profit

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nonprofit jobs

The accountant teaching my finance course made it quite clear:  “The only difference between for-profit businesses and not-for-profit organizations is that one pays taxes.”  I’ve since found he was only partly right.  What he meant to say was that the only accounting difference was paying taxes. It’s taken me a while to learn the real difference.

I’ve spent years making money in the for-profit sector, and it’s been rewarding and challenging. I’ve learned a lot.  The last few years I’ve been more involved in the not-for-profit world. It’s been even more rewarding and challenging, and I’ve learned even more. 

As a volunteer for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic ( I helped convert books into audio files for people who can’t read text. It always amazed me to think that a person who has trouble reading could digest a textbook on quantum phyics, epic poetry or computer programming by listening to my voice.  At a thank you dinner for volunteers, one of RFB&D’s clients told me, “I know your voice - you read the case study for my marketing course.  Thanks for helping me get my MBA!”

At SCORE (, the volunteer arm of the Small Business Administration, I counseled dozens of entrepreneurs trying to turn their dreams into businesses. One of them now runs a medical escort service for senior citizens who need to travel; another develops websites for arts organizations.

My current volunteer activity has almost become a full time job.  I work for the Executive Service Corps of Chicago (, a not-for-profit that takes the management experience of people like me and transfers it to the not-for-profit community in Chicago.  We give them the tools they need to carry out their missions.  In my six years at ESC, I’ve logged a few thousand hours of volunteer time.  

  • Coached the Executive Director of an agency that teaches kids life skills through the discipline of musical performance
  • Helped a park district develop a strategic plan that will result in more recreational opportunities for residents
  • Facilitated a growth plan for an agency that helps people with nervous disorders lead a normal life
  • Built an advisory board for a halfway house that helps ex-felons re-enter society as productive citizens
  • Did team-building for an agency that helps people find and keep decent housing
  • facilitated peer group meetings of executive directors in which they share their challenges and solutions
  • Taught management skills for a library’s staff
  •  Developed a marketing program for an association of people with dysphonia, a speech disorder
  • Taught a hundred or so other ESC volunteers how to do Strategic Planning and Coaching

My reward?  I’ve got a certificate of thanks on my wall, a couple of engraved pens, some coffee mugs -- and the personal and genuine thanks of dozens of executives, managers and volunteers for helping them help other people. I get the same reward they get:  in a small way, I’ve helped make the world a little better.

So, what’s the real difference between for- and not-for-profits? Check your organization’s mission statement.  Does it contain the words, “Increase shareholder value”?  Or does it say, “Help someone who needs help!”

George Krafcisin is President of Mosaic Management, Inc., where he does coaching and training for businesses and executives who want to become better leaders.  He gives his services away to those who don’t have “profit” in their mission statements.  Contact him at,, or

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Results: 360 Degree Feedback Systems

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Year after year, companies treat their 360 Degree Feedback process as a routine. They claim they are happy with it. We have never encountered a 360 Degree Feedback program that is perfect. There is always significant room for improvement.

I want to thank all of you who participated in our survey to study the perceived effectiveness of 360 Degree Feedback projects within companies. This has been just one of many studies conducted by HR-Meter and HR-Worldview into the effectiveness of 360 Degree Feedback.

Here are the main results:
  • 45% of individuals surveyed believe that their current tool is not time efficient.
  • 38% of individuals surveyed say that their current report types are not easy to read.
  • 46% of individuals surveyed said that their tool did not ask the relevant questions.
  • 68% of individuals surveyed said that their tool would profit from more customization to their job.
For the full report, Click the Report Button below