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July 2011

Innovation That's "Good Enough": What Can Your Team Attack in a Day?

I've written a good bit in the past regarding the concept of "good enough" - how products and services that solve simple pain often get used more than products with a greater degree of complexity. Complexity is often the enemy of actually getting people to "use stuff".

If you agree with that statement, then doesn't it make sense that you would force teams to ship features and services around your product in the shortest time possible?   Give teams more time, and what creeps in?  Usually more features, complexity and a drop in usability.  They had more time to think about the possibilities.  What did you expect?

That's why I was interested to see this post by the folks at Sonar6, a performance management software company based in New Zealand.  They recently held a FedEx day focused on "shipping" a new feature based on a day's work via cross-functional teams in the Sonar6 HQ.  Here's a breakdown from their site:

"The other week the Auckland office had a crack at our first ever Fedex Day. Fedex-8-199x300

Loosely based on Atlassian’s Fedex day, the idea is to pick a project that can be delivered in a day, and then spend the day – just the one – doing it. Projects don’t have to necessarily be 100% complete or highly polished when the deadline hits, but they should be presentable. Cross-functional teams are encouraged, as is working on something you wouldn’t usually get to play around with.

Ours went a little something like this…

Thursday afternoon Everyone met to present their ideas and expectations were high. Proposed projects ranged from loading screens and interactive customer maps to product specs and database overhauls:

Kai and Xavier proposed building a game that would draw review information from Sonar6 and make it easier (and more fun!) for managers to track team progress and review completion.

Bobby, James and Craig planned to restructure the internal Sonar6 Helper Tool, making it easier for everyone in the company to get customer information and see what’s happening inside the software."

Game changing products/features from a day's development time?  Probably not, but it sure seems like that type of activity helps a company build muscle related to the discipline it takes to develop new features quickly and be brave enough to ship them before they're "perfect". Whatever that is.

Revenue generated by FedEx day at Sonar6- next to 0.

Message sent on discipline it takes to create features that are "good enough" and get shipped quickly - priceless.

Need to Resign From Your Job to Take My Offer? Here's What Your Length of Notice Means...

Capitalist Note: Just talked about what a lengthy notice period meant with one of our recruiters - referenced this post, so I'm sharing it again...

You just accepted my verbal offer, now you're in the process of tendering your resignation with your current company.  Here's what the length of the notice you negotiate means (white collar version, applies only to those currently employed):

--2 weeks- It can mean a lot of things, but generally speaking, if you negotiate two weeks notice, it means that both parties agree that it's time for change.  You've offered the minimum, they've accepted, and everyone agrees it's time toQuit move on.  Could be because business isn't good anyway, or that there's some general discord on one side or the other.  Not judging, but let's face it, it's the minimum.

--3 weeks- You caught your current company flatfooted and/or they don't want to lose you.  You're a good pro and when they panicked, you offered to do 3 instead of 2 weeks.  You burn no bridges and that's generally a good sign.

--4 weeks - See three weeks - it's the same thing although you've allowed your company to guilt you into more than what's reasonable (which is three weeks).

--I'm out now or less than two weeks (for sales, finance or HR pros) - Probably means your company doesn't want you around the data.  We'll take you early...

--I'm out now and there is no company policy or security issue as a reason why - OMG, did we make a mistake?  Get me the background check summary, STAT...

Everything means something.  Even the length of your notice...

5 Things HR Pros Can Learn From the 2011 Netflix Pricing Changes...

Raise your hand if you're pissed off about the Netflix price hike...

Many of you are, others of you have no idea what I'm talking about.  You undoubtedly know who Netflix is - they're the people who killed the local video store - Blockbuster, et al - by changing the game.  Instead of having costly retail space, Netflix originally provided videos through mail order - you paid a monthly fee, then Netflix you could rent a movie that would be mailed to you, then you mailed it back to get another movie sent to you based on what you had reserved.  All you can eat, you just have to get it back in the mail. Brilliant.

Netflix always innovates.  One thing they've spent a lot of time on is the ability to "stream" portions of their video library - taking advantage of the broadband connections in most homes and the tech savvy nature of their customers. The move to streaming would help make the business more profitable - mailing out all those DVDs isn't cheap, it turns out...

So, onto the recent news - Netflix announced a pricing change in July 2011 - here's the rundown of the details from TechCrunch:

"Netflix is officially on an all-out assault on the DVD — or so says their just-released pricing strategy. The new prices yell loud and clear that streaming is the future and you’re going to pay (literally) if you don’t hop on the bandwagon. Maybe this is why Reed Hastings stated back in May that DVD shipments might go down for the first time ever.

Gone are the plans that include streaming and DVD. Customers previously had the option of selecting the streaming plan for $7.99 and then paying an additional $2 to be able to rent one DVD at a time. Now the plans are separate with the streaming plan costing $7.99 and the DVD plan at $7.99; selecting both options for $16 results in a 60% price increase. Current subscribers will be able to ride the lower price until September 1st, but the plan just went live for new customers. Ouch."

The reaction among Netflix customers was ugly:

"And, as you may have heard, customers were not happy. No, they were not happy at all. In fact, on the blog post in which Netflix announced said pricing changes, over 12,000 comments were posted (and that’s using Facebook’s commenting system, something TechCrunch readers are unhappily familiar with), most of them angry, and many in turn did their own announcing, saying they would be tendering their resignations, effective immediately.

Of course, but, so what? Well, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex, in the ten days since Netflixmade its price changes, the national perception of Netflix’s brand among adults dropped precipitously from a 39.1 on July 12th to -14.1 on July 18th, and currently sits at -6, putting Netflixin a virtual tie with Blockbuster. With a margin error of 5, that’s no tiny aberration."

So what's it all mean?  What can you learn from the Netflix pricing change as an HR Pro?  I think the following 4 things:

1. Costs and margins matter.  Don't kid yourself.  If you believe you can migrate the customer to a similar product but a cheaper delivery platform and you choose not to do it because you're scared of the blowback (from employees in your case), you're going to run the risk of having an operator make the call for you.  Put on your big boy/girl pants and make the call.  It's called business, and you have to participate.

2. Take all the pain at once.  If you're making a move that's going to be seen as negative, ask yourself the following question: "What do we need to include in this organizational change, so we get as much of the change out of the way with this single announcement as possible?"  Don't do 2-3 change announcements if you can do it all in one package.

3. Communicate why you're doing it.  Why?  What's the goal?  Does it make the organization more stable as a result?  Sell the reasons - or get judged without your voice present.  Netflix didn't do this - their move was designed to drive people away from the costly DVD model or make them pay dearly for it - and they didn't say that.  You can do better.

4. Consider grandfathered tiers in the change. Can you make the change effective with new employees and protect grandfathered status for existing employees?  May not be the right thing in your situation, but certainly a damage control mechanism (if the math works out) that you should consider.

Blowback happens.  Take the time to read through the Netflix pricing situation and the resulting uproar from customers and ask yourself - what would you do differently if you had to migrate all of your employees to a consumer-based health plan in January?

It's your business, and the issues at play are the same for a VP of HR as they are for the CEO of Netflix.

Facebook, The Winklevoss Twins and How You Dress at Work Gets Judged...

If casual dress codes have done anything, they've made it harder for a select group of stakeholders in the employment process to figure out how to dress.  Take these two examples from my life last week:

Example #1:

Me (to candidate): "Hey, the other thing I wanted to let you know is that we're business casual to Winklevoss casual in how we dress in the office at Kinetix.  I'm probably going to be wearing jeans, so do what you need to, but keep that in mind."

Example #2:

Client (to me): "Hey, we've got a casual dress code at ACME.  You don't have to wear a suit and tie, if fact, it'd probably be better if you didn't."

Simple, right?  Not so fast.  If anything, it can make it harder.  You've got a casual to business casual dress code. Great!  That's attractive for you to have as an employer, but it's hell on the people who want to work with you/for you.  Thoughts that go through the mind of the candidate/potential partner:

1.  No tie - got it.  What about the jacket?  If I go shirt with a jacket, is that too much?  Do I get penalized for that?

2.  OK - I'm going no jacket.  Do I go button up dress shirt?  Polo?  Hmm...

3.  If they're casual, do I go for the full monty and wear jeans?  That's who they are - do I get penalized in the "getting to know you" phase for wearing jeans like the rest of the company does? Is that good or bad if I do it?

It's tougher than it looks.  And just in case you don't think people are judging you every step of the way, consider this video from Larry Summers (former president at Harvard), where he talks about the Winklevoss twins at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference.  For those of you not in the know, the Winklevoss twins were featured in the movie The Social Network - the movie about the creation of Facebook - they claimed that Facebook founder Zuckerberg stole their idea and created Facebook.

The quote:

"One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o'clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they're looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole. This was the latter case.”

Here's the video.  Take a look....

Great stuff.  My advice?  Always go business casual.  The extremes, regardless of what's been reported as acceptable, will probably kill you.  Pick the middle option and hedge your bets...

PODCAST: Openview Labs/HR Capitalist on HR, ROI in HR, etc.

Check out this link for a nice podcast featuring OpenView Labs and the HR Capitalist.  We talk a bit about a presentation I've done related to How to Raise Your HR Game By Thinking Like a VP of Sales, ROI in HR, etc.

Click here for the podcast.

While you're at it, check out the OpenView Labs vibe.  OpenView is a venture capital firm - as part of their model, they've developed a content play to help early stage businesses on a variety of topics - corporate strategy, product management, finance, etc.  Pretty cool resources for the early stage business that doesn't have venture capital in play yet, but would like to in the future.

Through OpenView Labs, you get great access to how those firms think and how they help their portfolio companies - and you also get some of the tools without giving up equity in your firm... :)

Take a listen and check out OpenView Labs!

Here's the Money Quote of the Day to Impress Your CFO (or Friends In Finance)...

Don't act like you don't need it, HR.  You want me on this wall, you NEED me on this wall.

Here's a quote to get your friends in Finance chuckling and then quoting something you said repeatedly on and off for the next year:

"Costs are like fingernails.  They grow organically and must be cut regularly."

Boom.  You're welcome.

Quote comes to you from my travels this week, from an organization that - let's just say - values fiscal responsibility...

You think it sounds hokey?  That's OK, use it playfully (I'd use it in the voice of Carl from Caddyshack) to lighten the mood so the Finance folks don't think you're taking yourself too seriously.

Deliver this one right, and they'll quote you - HR - often.  That seems like a good place to be with kids from Finance.

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #85 is "You Know What The Best Part of My Day Is?" (Good Will Hunting)...

New series at the Capitalist: The Top 100 Movie Quotes of all time for HR Pros.  In no special order, I break down the 100 movie quotes that resonate most for me as a career HR pro.  Some will be funny, some will be serious... Some will tug at your heart like when the Fox voice-over guy said, "Tonight - a very special episode of 90210"... You get the vibe... I'll do it countdown-style like they're ranked, but let's face it - they're ALL special..

#85: "But you know what the best part of my day is? The ten seconds before I knock on your door, 'cause I let myself think I might get there, and you'd be gone. I'd knock on the door and you wouldn't be there. You just left. Now I don't know much, but I know that.""...

--Chuckie Sullivan in Good Will Hunting

In HR, you feel responsible for talent getting treated the right way.  But, humanity is messed up. Sometimes great talent gets trampled on by economics, horrible bosses or other things out of their control - and yours.  Yet they stay.  Maybe they've come to rely on you as a sounding board, so much so that you've told them the best thing they could do is leave.

This conversation pretty much sums that situation up.  The best part of my day?  When I think maybe you finally had enough of the bad situation and freed yourself by becoming a volutary turnover statistic.

Sometimes it's the only way.  Start listening at 2:10 if you don't want to listen to the whole thing (but it's all pretty good).  NSFW with lots of F-bombs, so volume low or earpieces... Email subscribers click through for the video....

HIRING BUBBLE: "I'd Really Like Someone Who Came From Salesforce"...

What's a Hiring Bubble?  A hiring bubble occurs when a factor in the recruiting process is valued beyond the return it can possibly yield.  Like a tech or stock market bubble, when you see a hiring bubble occurring, you know the results aren't going to be as positve as promised.

Case in point:  I tweeted out last week a nifty automated tool I found called the Job Change Notifier. Tech-Bubble-PopJust link your LinkedIn account, provide your email addresss, and the tool gives you an email every time that someone shows a new company in LinkedIn, which obviously means they have a new job.

I signed up a week ago.  Got my first notification today, here it is with the name withheld:

-----Original Message-----
From: Job Change Notifier [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Saturday, July 16, 2011 4:57 PM
To: Kris Dunn
Subject: 1 of your connections has changed jobs

<name withheld> has an updated position.

Previous job(s):
National Account Manager at eSuccessFactors

New job(s):
Worldwide Sales Rep at <company name withheld>

This reminded me of a type of common hiring bubble, namely the kind that overvalues experience with a specific company in a hiring process.  Last year, I was running a search for AEs in the Bay Area, and, of course, I heard, "we'd really like to steal a rep from Salesforce".

Of course you would. It's SALESFORCE.  If they're there, they have to be good.   SuccessFactors is another company that SaaS companies have targeted over the last couple of years for AE's, especially those in the Human Capital/HR Services space.

What makes REALLY wanting a rep from a certain company a hiring bubble?  You're valuing a brand over what the rep can do.  The mere fact that you're really hot for someone from Salesforce/SuccessFactors means you're going to overestimate what the average rep from either one of those companies can do for you.  There are some great people at both companies.  There are some weak ones.  Don't be like Biz Markie and sniff The Vapors....

My client in that search forwarded me a profile of a Salesforce candidate from LinkedIn.  "Have you talked to this guy?".  I looked at the candidate, which remember, was for a hunting sales pro.  43 contacts in LinkedIn.

43 Contacts.  For a hunting sales pro.  I could hear "I need some leads if I'm going to close business" in the background.  Your cost of customer acquisition just tripled by hiring that guy. 

aka: Hiring Bubble.

Buy Low, Sell High my friends.  Don't get suckered by a logo.

HR: Like Sales, But Without the Commission...

Quick: Take a look at the picture to the right...Daxko job funnel

What is it?  OK, I know that it's numbers, Einstein... What do the numbers  represent?

If you said a sales funnel, have a free subscription to Jessica Lee Writes and Deadspin, on me... That's how I roll...

The point?  There's something universal about the concept of the sales funnel.  So universal, in fact, that I think it can be applied to almost any job in the world.  You do activity to get results.  You know that not all of your activity is going to be successful, but you also know that repetition is part of the process.  You also know that you can limit the amount of dead repetitions by being smart about what you do in each stage of the funnel.

Let's look at my chart in the picture.  These were some scribbles in a conference room at DAXKO last year, where I was meeting with a VP to discuss an open position in their organization.  The top represents the total number of applicants or sourced candidates.  Moving down, you've got the total number of phone screens I did from that pool, the total number of live interviews to date (with a question to the side - I could bring in 2-3 more that would compare favorably, but do we need to?), with a "1" at the bottom of the funnel to represent the ultimate hire.  The only question now is whether the VP wants to see more candidates when she has two she really likes.  Because I work with great people, she said she only wants to see them if they can compete with the 2 she likes (yes! right answer!).

2 main points to close this post:

1. Almost everything in HR can be broken down to the equivalent of a sales funnel.  Don't believe me?  Take employee relations.  We work on issues and cases (the top of the funnel) and apply our process to resolve issues as you move down the funnel.  What's at the bottom of the employee relations funnel?  Probably getting sued, my friends.  If you've been in the game long enough, you have an idea how many cases it takes before your company is sued, even if you're working your value-added process.  (Allegations are free and anyone can sue - It's America!!) 

2. To be a player in HR, you need to know the numbers in the funnel without having to look them up.  I'm close enough to the position in question where I know my numbers.  That's good, but I'm not perfect.  I can't tell you what the numbers were for the last AE jobs I closed.  Shame on me, that means I have room to improve, because I'm not the HR cyborg I thought I was.

HR.  It's like Sales, but without the commission.  At least for the true players...