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Archive for November, 2007

Psst… your title doesn’t matter and your department may be a joke!

… I say that only as a friend 🙂

So, I have been doing some thinking (big surprise) and I have bought a few new books.

  • Writing for the Web 3.0
  • Peopleware
  • Business Intelligence: Using teamwork as competitive advantage

A few correlations emerge with some of my past work experiences with both large medium and small companies. These concepts seem to be quite foreign to those either (1) new to the workforce; (2) those that have stayed at one type of company for a long time; (3) the idealistic… (even more idealistic than me!).

Business Hierarchies can guarantee failure!
Most organizations start out small with an innovative and “get’r done” group of people that has a set of traits and is able to try and fail. Then after succeeding and becoming funded, all of a sudden or inevitably people get overloaded and start to look at adding other skills.

At some point, there becomes a hierarchy of established roles, job descriptions, and all this structure, buzz terminology, and salary level justification. I call this an industry equivalent of  the “but everyone else is doing it!” syndrome.   Isn’t that the biggest irony of it all? If everyone else is doing it, how do you differentiate? How do you get or sustain a blue ocean of success?

Why titles are meaningless

Whether your title —  seems obvious or menial, like Designer or janitor,  —  is a role, like manager, director, department head, chief, or VP…. it really doesn’t say much about the traits that matter like…

  • ingenuitive, innovative, collaborative, lazy, …
  • encouraging, inspirational, provides a challenge, …
  • will suck the air out of the room and continually be your “devil’s advocate”

Sure, you can say these are more reputation adjectives and interpersonal, but doesn’t it make you think these things should be baked into an organization more so than industry buzz skills. Seriously, I would rather know a coworker “will make you hate your job”, “would be a great encouraging cohort and venting buddy” rather than “can code HTML”.

Where are the qualifiers? How do you get to know someone before you decide to add them to your team!? I would love to see a new business culture centered on personality typing than titles and job ‘skills’. For instance, I am an ENFP. Some people will either love me or hate me… and if I don’t think they are stupid or intentionally mean, then.. I usually win over most of the people that start out at ‘hate me’.

I just recently found out that I am a ‘maverick’. I never really heard that term outside of our Dallas basketball team or some western movie. Once I was asked to google it with innovation and read more, I also started to feel sorry for previous bosses and some exboyfriends. Man! I am hard to handle for most people 🙂

A department as a joke

Most organizations have subteams, but due to financial requirements, like budgeting and forecasting, as well as HR practices of team building, goals and personal development…. people become categorized and labeled into departments or worse… “business units”. Sounds good and reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well, yes and no… In theory and practice, it can be super affective (intentionally not written as effective!) in creating team comraderie and fleshing out some level of patterns or mentoring.

So, what’s my problem? Okay, it’s great and even necessary to have departmental goals; however, we are all humans. Psychologically, when you segregate people and give specific responsibilities and measures to an individual or a person in charge of a group of individuals, inevitably we really go too far and take things either too literally or too personally. That’s what people do… they think/decide/follow and/or feel before they act. It’s how humans are wired.

Can departments of people NEVER work? That’s definitely not what I am saying. I think the trap most companies fall into is the Mine vs. Yours. (note: this is where I get REALLY fired up about the topic of killing innovation and the concept of team building)

Okay, this is where my angry passion and idealism collide…. Here are some terms and phrases that tell you if your department is in a “Mine vs. yours”

  • “that’s a good idea/point, I/we just don’t have the resources right now” (To me, this usually signals a broken set of goals or measures of success across a company. Although, in some rare cases it is true, but usually not followed up with a tangible proposition to get it doen anytime soon!)
  • “you need to involve someone on my team” (Okay, the sheer use of NEED and ‘someone’ instead of a person’s name sends me red flags here. More than likely, if I or the person saying have the respect for the input from someone in that department, either the ‘need’ would have been apparent or a specific person would have been mentioned! The tone behind this almost always denotes a departmental pissing match, but can also be a general warning against demotivating the responsible team.)
  • “we will be contracting out for that” (ugh! this usually means the budgeting and/or  cross-departmental communication is screwed up. If a department decides to hire out because THEY have money to spend to get things done,

Department head conflicts can signify that they really don’t care about the company. Collaborate, compromise, make a decision, move on, and learn from mistakes. It wastes less resources (time, money, people) and retains more integrity in the short and long run. These types of battles make the people in the middle feel like the baby with two mothers that wants to seem them split in half! It’s stupid.

Easy Tips for fighting back!
Even around the most hierarchical and ridiculously segmented organizations, you can still take advantage of being human and may end up being seen as “innovative” for doing it!

  1. You are only as big of a cog as you act. Realize departments and teams really only have one “Business Unit” and that is the largest functional organization, brand or company. Do the best you can at meeting
  2. Care about learning. That doesn’t mean take classes or get certificates or buzz skills. It means have empathy about the company. Find something you can fight for and do what you can to support it.
  3. Find ways to grease the machine. Realizing that you are just one of many moving puzzle parts. If you realize you can make a difference with your idea. Talk to other people and get their input as well. Ask to go to lunch with people responsible in different areas that your ideas will affect and get their take informally. Listen to their pain points and assess areas you may be able to improve or reposition to make it a sweeter sell. Also, it really doesn’t hurt if you even make it feel like it was “their” idea. Sure, it may hurt your ego, and you may feel overlooked, but if any aspect actually gets done. Document it for yourself. You will find a way to use it in your favor. Whether that person, company, or on your next interview. People can’t steal your innovation and desire to make things better.
  4. Submit and discuss ideas, even if you think no one cares! Trust me, it is worth your time. If it does nothing else, but show your desire to move the company forward and give your mind a way to think aloud to flesh out your thoughts. It will pay off. You will make others think. If your company does not support that simple activity… MOVE ON! Submit your resume online NOW!

I’ll leave it at that. If you have more tips or want to argue, post a comment.

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