Navigating to over the weekend


This probably doesn’t mean much for the average reader of this blog, but depending on how you subscribe to me, you may stop getting updates. (Which, in some cases, may be a blessing for you.) The URL will be the same, and I’ll connect social media sites once I get it set up on the other side sometime this weekend or on Monday.

The reason I’m doing it is because having a .org, self-hosted site will give me access to some more features — SEO, newsletters, etc. — that might allow me to try and build up some aspects of a freelance writing, content, and marketing business. As I’ve blogged about before, 2015 was a rough year. I’m aiming to make 2016 better — and having a website with more options in terms of outreach and branding, etc. is a good start.

See you guys next week on the new and gradually-improving version of this blog. Until then, be well!

Please stop listing your core values. You’re missing the point.

Core Values List

There are a lot of tremendously fraught things about the idea of “company culture” or “mission statements” or “visioning” or whatnot. By my count, the No. 1 most-fraught thing is that often (read: almost all the time), the ‘values’ of a company are determined by the CEO and the top senior management people. Problem: senior leaders often have a different focus, as well as different fears, as the rest of the company. Because their focus is often on making money, they tend to kind of lip-service ideas around culture and mission — so they assign buzzwords and pie-in-the-sky concepts that are hard to define, then they push those down the chain and say in an all-hands meeting, “This is our culture now!”

Limited buy-in there.

The thing is, it’s hard to argue with. All companies have something like “Be great at what you do!” or “Serve humbly with co-workers and customers!” Right. Who’s gonna argue with that? “I ain’t trying to serve humbly, Bob! I’m out here trying to nuke my sales targets!” People may believe that, but they’ll never say it.

Long story short: the way most companies approach ‘culture’ is simply ‘a listing of core values with some action verbs.’ That totally misses the point.

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Growth and innovation come from the customer

Growth and innovation come from the customer

Here’s an interview with a marketing professor (Tim Calkins) at Kellogg/Northwestern where he’s discussing innovation and products and revenue growth and all that good stuff. Here’s a money quote:

It’s not enough just to look for opportunities and innovations and new ideas, you’ve got to find the ones that are going to turn into profitable opportunities and, ultimately, into cash flow and growth coming from those. Growth is really about the customer. If you’re going to grow, you’ve got to find ways to get out there, connect with customer needs, to deliver against their needs and wants.

Here’s Ridiculous True Story No. 1 of this post: I once had a job and was leaving around 5:30pm. I heard the CEO on the phone as I walked by his area. This was a successful, growth, etc.-type company. They were making money and keeping people happy. On the phone, I heard him bellow “I’m looking for a $27 million value play!” I told a bunch of my co-workers that. Absolutely no one had a clue what he possibly could have been discussing.

That’s the whole thing: growth (which most companies covet) is really all about the customer and their wants/needs. It’s not about the margins, the KPIs, the revenue play, the CAGR, the innovation mindset, the Type-A personality, the elite sales guys, etc. All that maybe factors in a little bit, but growth and innovation start with the customer.

That has a lot of ramifications, though.

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Does marketing focus too much on campaigns?

I’ve worked in a bunch of different marketing departments and capacities at companies in different industries and verticals, and I’ve always seen — especially from middle managers in marketing — a hyper-focus on “campaigns,” and especially “campaign launches” or “rollouts.” It’s always funny to me, because it seems like there’s a lot of attention paid to a campaign up until about the 25th hour it’s out in the world, and then everyone rushes around getting organized for the next campaign. I feel like this is misguided.

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What if we let employees design their own jobs?

Let’s start with these points, OK?

If you take those things together, basically you have a preponderance of work environments where this happens:

  • People get hired on poorly-contextualized, out-of-date job descriptions
  • Their managers are then in charge of determining their workload and work flow
  • Their managers don’t often know their own priorities, so how can they be expected to prioritize work for others?
  • You now have pockets of people all over the org collecting paychecks and essentially doing nothing because no one really bothers to know or ask what they do

If you think this sounds curmudgeonly, well, I apologize. But every since place I’ve ever worked, it’s been like this. There’s always somewhere between 6 and 30 people (or more in bigger orgs) who basically come in, surf Facebook and Amazon all day, and make their $60,000 to $100,000 a year, simply because no one knows what they are supposed to do and no one bothers to ask. Their manager has no time — gotta douse themselves in flammable gas and race to their 2:30 standup about Q3 margins — so the system perpetuates, often for years.

What if we blew the whole thing up and let employees design their own jobs?

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The definitive time equation to remember at work

This is primarily going to be anecdotal — i.e. based on people I’ve worked with, my friends have worked with, etc. If you want some science on people having problems balancing and understanding time (especially at work), you can read this or this.

Let’s walk through a standard work process, OK?

  1. You get assigned a task or project.
  2. If you’re good and thorough, you ask what the goals are, how the project will be evaluated, the essential why of what’s happening.
  3. There are stakeholders, and you identify them — meetings happen, stand-ups, etc.
  4. So far, so good.
  5. At some point in the arc, someone probably sets a fire or swoops in with an e-mail that’s totally out of context. This is all fairly common.
  6. Usually on the fire side or the e-mail side, you get into one of those ridiculous Reply-All e-mail tree deals where everyone is just talking for the sake of talking:

Alright, so now it’s Chinese Fire Drill time. Everyone’s rushing around screeching about ROI and KPIs and bandwidth and how busy they are, and half the people are like “Get it out the door!” (as if it’s a bird trapped in their office) while the other half is like “It has to be perfect,” and view perfection as line-editing some tweets associated with it. Welcome to Corporate Culture, Writ Large, 2016 edition.

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The most common interview questions do little to advance the hiring process

I just came across this post on HubSpot about ‘The 10 Most Common Interview Questions — And How To Answer Them,’ which is in turn based on March 2015 research from Glassdoor into ‘The 50 Most Common Interview Questions.’ The order of the two lists is a little bit off, so I’m not 100 percent what the ’10 most common’ really are, but I’m going to use Glassdoor’s ranking for this exercise.

Before we get going, let’s admit this upfront: the hiring process, as mostly constructed, is fairly flawed. To wit:

Let’s move onto the questions.

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