The “High Performer” high-wire act

Great post by Mike @Figliuolo that points out the pitfalls of hiring in high performers.

More often than not, however, we hire for all the wrong reasons and never think beyond our immediate needs for hiring that superstar. When we do so, all we’ve done is arm the timer on an employment bomb that will go off in our faces.

I’ll extend Mike’s remarks by sketching  out how that bomb works.  As he notes, we can tempt ourselves into a hire for “immediate” needs.  What this can lead to is a transactional relationship with the high performer that spirals downward quickly.

Short-term thinking leads to a star being brought in as — and treated like — a consultant.  The focus is on the fire to put out, the project to deliver, the team to reorganize. Promised rotations and exposure are repeatedly delayed for expedience.

She’s disappointed, but then adjusts her expectations.  Unfortunately, she now views the role as another notch in her resume and a stepping stone (or detour) to someplace else.  Even worse, her performance suffers as she scouts around for the next gig.

Sometimes the situation is flipped — the high performer could be mercenary from the start — but the resentments and recriminations are preordained if the cycle isn’t broken.

Which brings us full circle to the prescriptions of Mike’s post.

Matt Ridley on Gut Feelings and the Writings of Gerd Gigerenzer

Merry Christmas!  Here’s the gift of a little science for all you “gut” deciders. Matt Ridley posted this yesterday, pointing to research that suggests that…

more detailed analysis does not necessarily improve a decision, but often makes it worse. He believes, in effect, that less is more: Extra information distracts you from focusing on the few simple aspects of a problem that matter most.

Just don’t call it a hunch, call it a heuristic.

Why I left SAP…”macro” negatives

Second-guessing oneself is a risk when deciding to leave a leading company, so I needed to ensure that I had no regrets when I left SAP.   In particular,  I didn’t want short-term personal or “micro” stumbling blocks to obscure great “macro” opportunities in the rest of SAP.  Unfortunately, there were too many big picture concerns that nagged at me, at least from my less-than-exalted perch:

  • The “Post-Shai” Backlash:  The reaction to Shai’s departure was almost giddy in many quarters, which wasn’t a surprise.  The real surprise was the scale, scope, and snarkiness of the reaction.   A lot of non-Palo Alto folks minimized Shai’s contributions when it was convenient — see Peter Zencke on Shai’s “second tier” involvement with BYD — and blamed him when it wasn’t convenient (e.g, BYD didn’t perform because of NetWeaver). 
  • Condition of SAP’s Product Portfolio:  For those familiar with the BCG Matrix, IMO the SAP portfolio is unbalanced.  Nearly all of the SAP portfolio can be classed as either cash cows or pets.   I just don’t see enough “stars” on the solution horizon. 
  • Confronting the Reality of Business ByDesign:  Speaking of pets, there was way too much happy talk about BYD for far too long.  The funding that was poured into BYD — while SAP increased its margins — came out of the hides of other parts of the company.  

This last point highlights the fundamental doubt I had about the validity of SAP’s strategy: Was it still able to produce “stars” organically?  A “not-invented-here” mindset only works when you’re still able to invent.  It is one thing to miss on product development, it is another to deny the miss. 

 Leo is certainly aware of this issue, but this unwillingness confront reality has continued to spread IMO.   I’m not sure that SAP understands just how much damage it has done to itself by running some sides of the company with a gimlet eye, while other sides seems to be living in the best of all possible worlds.

CIO job rotation and commitment to IT value

Great interview by Linda Tucci at searchCIO.com (here) with Richard R. “Rick” Roy, CIO at CUNA Mutual Group about his experiences as a line manager and how they’ve transformed his IT leadership approach.  This passage on a shared sense of urgency struck me:

I think the other thing in operations is the sense of urgency. In your customer service centers, the phone rings and you either answer it within your service standards or not; you either resolve the question within your service standards or not, or pass it on to another level of service.

IT operations has that flavor to it, but when you get over into the application development world, it typically doesn’t. They typically are working on projects that can span months, if not quarters, even years. Trying to drive that sense of urgency is probably the other big reminder for me as I have come back into the CIO seat.

Roy also hints at something PMOs need to do better: maintaining the same pace as the business.  A PMO needs processes that are nimble enough to keep up as the business responds to the market, competition, etc. by “adjusting and going perhaps in a different direction.”

PM Quote of the Day — Chinese Fortune Cookie

Commitment is what turns a promise into reality.

Deming and Project Management

I liked this post (here) by Bob Tarne on how Deming’s 14 points align with project management (especially agile).  Our studies of  Deming, Crosby, and Goldratt were among the most valuable parts of business school.

While we’re on Deming, I also believe that it is particularly important for initiative leaders to get their arms around his concept of developing an individual system of profound knowledge:

Appreciation of a system: understanding the overall processes involving suppliers, producers, and customers (or recipients) of goods and services.

Knowledge of variation: the range and causes of variation in quality, and use of statistical sampling in measurements.

Theory of knowledge: the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known.

Knowledge of psychology: concepts of human nature.  

Manager-Leader Gap in IT Strategy

So who is the visionary in this bunch?

A leader, a manager, and a business person?

An illustration of the manager/leader gap discussed earlier (here) is drawn in this back-and-forth among Glenn Whitfield (here), Andrew Meyer (here), and others.  All good stuff, though the last two comments on Glenn’s post — from Long Huynh at CIO Assistant and Glenn himself — get closest to my perpsective.

The idea that a CIO can perform well by operating with one style is pernicious.  Unfortunately, many reinforce this idea — see this State of the CIO 2007 feature from CIO Magazine that identifies CIO archetypes (and even offers a “self-assessment” tool for self-archetyping).

I wonder…how can a single-archetype CIO be successful when his/her IT portfolio must contain very disparate types of projects and programs (e.g., “stay in the game” vs. “win the game” vs. “change the game” initiatives)?

How do you judge character?

I got an out of left field perspective during the Dalai Lama’s visit to MIT this past week.  He was asked about model leaders and

[h]e singled out President George W. Bush for his straightforwardness, but stopped short on complimenting him for much else.  “I love him”, said the Dalai Lama of President Bush, “but as far as his policies are concerned, I have reservations.”

For me, it was a welcome reminder that disagreement doesn’t have to blind us to the virtues of others, even others with whom we passionately disagree.

PM Quote of the Day — James Michener

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries

PM Quote of the Day — Howard Stern

I will never feel successful

Howard expresses the emotions that fuel his drive for success and acclaim, which I touched on earlier in my post “The Muse that is Melancholy“.  As that post notes, however, that doesn’t mean one will be happy.  And Lord knows Howard ain’t a happy man.

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