Friday, March 21, 2014


  Today, instead of talking about a concept or idea, I'll just put together an exercise on how we can do things differently. But of course before that I will put a picture of some inspiring painting. 

  I recently discovered the art of Egbert Van der Poel, I am a huge fan of the crudity of Francisco de Goya's painting and I accidentally stepped into the good Ol' Egbert, who lived a hundred years before Goya, wich surprised me. His work somehow reminds me of the Spanish's famous painter although there were more than a hundred years of difference between them.

  Particularly there is a painting in which after a restoration they have discovered a new part of it, I encourage you to read the whole story, I found it fascinating.

Barn Interior - Egbert Van der Poel / Collection of Calvin Colling, Grand Rapids, Michigan

  Now let's get to work. For this exercise I will lay out an hypothetical case of a Software Company (Dough Inc.) in which is necessary to create an appraisal management framework from zero. I will use SCRUM to distinguish needed phases that would be needed in the creation of an appraisal and talent&development management plan.

  Note that all the valuation has been based on ad-hoc estimations based solely on my own experience and it is intended to be solely illustrative for the main purpose of the exercise. I am aware the lacks of internal consistency and technicality issues in some of the facts of the whole exercise, but I would suggest this to be taken only as what it is: an example which would need to be reviewed in order someone is interested on its escalation (i’d be happy to help if this is the case, don’t hesitate contacting me).

Dough Inc.

Mission: Help to manage the money of our customers so they can live better.
Vission: Create a personal finance control environment so easy it looks like a game.

  Personal financing software company Dough, which has leaded the desktop personal financing software by its simplicity for the last 4 years has recently seem his business is suddenly threatened by the competency, who have migrated their products to the Mobile Market long before they have even considered doing it. Despite the mobile market, the company still has its leadership position strong in the desktop market as well as a well founded brand awareness. However it took too long to them to analyse and jump into the mobile platform and this is reducing their competitiveness exponentially.

They have also realised they have not taken advantage of their current cloud system (which was originally designed to sync app data between work and home computers) although it is totally finished and works seamlessly, unlike the services in their competitors. After a quick estimation they thing their team is enough capable of delivering an interesting mobile product in no longer than 4 months.

However, the Director’s Board has decided the time to create a structured appraisal and talent&development management framework has arrived. They want to start with the appraisals to decide the members of the team that will lead the new mobile division. Business Intelligence has estimated the new mobile division will be in charge of the 40% of the income in less than a year and 70% of the income in less than 3 years period, and D’sB has decided to grant only to top-performers and most engaged employees to join these new division. Only the ones whose attitude is more aligned to the company culture and values will have the chance to be part of the mobile team and its expected fast growing opportunities.

The company never has had a talent and development management framework because they did not consider it was something they needed (they only had a product which was working perfectly well and they were not considering any steps ahead of maintaining their leadership position). Nevertheless, now they have seen the perfect time to set it up.

The team will use the same methodology they use to develop their software to develop their development plan: SCRUM. In SCRUM there are three main roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team.

In this case, the Development Team will be made up of 6 HR Specialists, the Scrum Master will be one of the Project Managers of Software Development (which has a wide experience on Scrum implementation and carrying out Scrum Master’s role), and the Product Owner role who will be held by the newly hired HR Development Expert.

There will be only 2 people left in the HR team which will be in charge of describing the necessary key positions in of the new mobile division, prior to the first RELEASE when will come the time start designing and organising the upcoming training for the managers and the rest of the team.

The SCRUM TEAM takes to commitment to have its first release for the end of the second week, delivering a tool with the required minimum consistency (according to the previously agreed Definition of Done) to start the work of implementation.

Because there is no previous history and velocity measures, all the SCRUM Team agrees they can accomplish 32 Story Points in each Sprint.

In the first Sprint Init meeting the SCRUM Team design together the Product Backlog.

Story Pts
Topic I want to… so I can… Notes Priority Status
Initial Tools … make an inventory of the workforce based on the person and position. … balance the person/position ratio to its real need and identify the potential. It will let us make a detailed analyse of needs that will be the foundations to the training plan. High (Sprint1)

Initial Tools … define the positions. … control and identify possible unbalances between responsibilities and tasks. It will let us know if there is duplicity and overloading in any positions. High (Sprint1)

Initial Tools … make a valuation and classification of the positions. … measure the efficiency of the compensation plan. It will be important to know what is the compensation line in the company so we can figure out how to transfer this into a totally new division.

Initial Tools … make a valuation of the rewards in the competency and the market. … evaluate the internal equity and the competitiveness. It is important to set up mechanisms to prevent human capital flight particularly in a moment of such strategic significance.

KPI’s … describe the KPI’s for every position and activity. … analyze the results. Only if we can measure our productivity we will be able to take steps to improve it High (Sprint1)

Appraisal Design … create a tool of annual reviewing that bears in mind not only individual or group performance of an employee but his cultural engagement with company values too. … have a measurement tool for our team that can be used to determine different variables of growth and development. Analize independently the different constructs in which are built and consider the performance as an addition of every one of these to get an statistically valid value.  High

Objective re-designing … redefine the objectives of the positions with SMART criteria. … deliver the leadership team a more optimised and measurable working environment. We need to outline some principles, we need to set a wider framework with leadership’s contributions.

Follow-up Tools … create tools to work with the improvement opportunities in a continuous basis. … identify rapidly the weaknesses and be able to react soon. Design tools fast and easy to work with.

  In the first Sprint Init meeting the SCRUM Team design together the Product Backlog.

  Once the SCRUM Team has built the Product Backlog, we take as startin point the items with highest priority to prepare the first Sprint on Sprint Planning meeting.

  Here is defined the project with 4 Sprints of 1 week each and with an agreed Release in the third week and a commitment of shipping the complete product at the end of the 4th week.

  This has been a quick example of how to implement SCRUM in HR. As I mentioned before there are some consistency gaps but I think its a valid example on how we can use the most advanced and innovative ways of production also into the HR field. The challenge is not on the process, the challenge is on getting creative in order to have the work done in the most agile way posible.

Written listening to "Grinderman - Grinderman 2" album (Rate:8,5/10)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


  Some years ago I remember discovering a piece of art by Salvador Dalí that really captivated me in a way just a few paintings have gotten to do. The work was "Soft-Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)" and it shows two parts of what appears to be an only monster wrestling with himself. Dalí wanted to reflect the self-destruction that occurs in a Civil War like the Spanish Civil War.

Self Construction with Boiled Beans - Salvador Dalí / Philadelphia Museum of Art 

  When we find conflict we, human beings, have developed hundreds of different cognitive-emotional strategies to cope with it the faster the better, even though it means not getting much from it. Although first reaction when spotting conflict let us identify this as a premonition to harmony collapse and we immediately tend to suppress it, studies show how important and neccessary is to deal with it in the right way.

Benefits of Conflict

Increases level of IMPLICATION
CHANNELS animosity
Promotes CONNECTION and sense of belonging
Increases ACTIVITY
Promotes CHANGE
Promotes new IDEAS
Reveals difficulties and ANXIETIES towards tasks
Reveals feeling and underlying EMOTIONS

  However, we need to control the environment of conflict and, as team leaders, try not beeing the source that provokes it.

  The conflict management guru Josep Redorta gives us the key to analize conflicts: "in a conflict situation you must always attack the emotional roots first, they have at the end made it explode." After this we need to clarify what the conflict is, there are multiple and very usefull ways of categorizing the conflicts (Prof. Redorta created the Conflict Analysis Typology, a standardization of 16 conflict elements that help us categorize the type of conflict in a really brilliant and highly comprehensive way). After the clarification comes the analysys of the excercises of power, he says "the power is always in the centre of the interaction". Lastly, analyze the values, norms, beliefs and the importance of them between the conflict and start an strategy to mediate effectively.

  For me the most fascinating part of his proposal is how to deal with different underlying emotions. However, you need to know although it might seem easy to identify different emotions, it is not, and it requires a certaing amount of time and training to master the technique of doing it.

  Anyhow, here I paste you a simple guide of how to react and cease the arousal of this different basic emotions that normally underlie on conflicts. Even though it needs more explanation (I strongly recommend Prof. Redorta's book), I think it might be a useful guide at least to think about it.

Emotion Compensators
Anger Calm / Divert
Fear Understand / Protect
Sadness Care / Cheer Up
Interest Help / Explore
Surprise Guide / Prevent
Excitement/Joy Understand / Share
Disappointment Explore / Guide
Envy Avoid / Explore
Guilt Reduce / Displace
Admiration Rationalize / Learn

  These are important ideas and thought I'd like to share:

- Don't panic if the conflict appears on your organization, look at the bright side, consider this an opportunity to reinforce your team.
- Before acting there are several things you need to think first, and there is a first one over the other ones: what is the emotion this appeared from.
- Think and ellaborate a strategy, elicit a compensator.
- The solution of a conflict is in cooperation and cooperation is an important value, an asset you will be able to use in the future. Use the conflict resolution as an example once you are sure it had a healthy healing.

  Hobbes stated in his Leviathan people live in constant war because man need to share sources of pleasure, which are defined as scarce. Most people is self-interested and causes of conflict are self-inflicted and because of this nature come all the conflict between man: homo homini lupus est.

  I am not saying this statement is distinctively wrong, it is not, but time has passed since the era of the Imperialism and our objectives are different and now the trend is not looking at the causes, but the forms of conflict which are widely more useful if our ultimate goal is to mediate and help solving them.

"So that in the first place, I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death." Leviathan Chapter XI

Written listening to "Country Joe And The Fish - Electric Music For Mind And Body" album (Rate:7/10)

Sunday, December 8, 2013


  I often study how different companies show themselves to public, how they promote themselves to position as top employer brands. Nowadays almost every important company is interested on being a desirable place to work, and this is a step forward. We are committed to create confortable environments with our workplaces, we want our employees to be happy, engaged and proud of working where they are working. As I said, this is something good and brings important value and return to the companies, but sometimes this could end up being only a beautifully tailored cover of underlying communication problems inside teams that lead to unsolved discrepancies, threats and fears. I know, that escalated quickly.

  Hence, a good way of taking a holistic and complete care of the workplace (defined as a place where people work together) is working on your internal cross level and peer communication. This grows horizontality and increases trust. If you really promote a place where anyone from the janitor to the CEO can ask or be asked, you are creating a safe environment where ideas matter. But today I'm not talking on the benefits of feedback, which are widely described everywhere. Today I am stepping on the form of giving and receiving feedback.

  First let me introduce you to the genesis: Socrates. Socrates was a man who embraced dialogue as a form of improvement between his pupils and himself, even when it was hard taking.

"One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him."

  Let me use this way of thinking to state Socrates defined what is the right attitude when receiving feedback: Calmly contained.

The Death of Socrates - Jaques-Louis David / Metropolitan Museum of Art NY

First rule: feedback is a two way road. If you can be a giver you have to be prepared to be a receiver too.

How to receive feedback and what to demand from feedback giver

  Make sure you understand what is all about, ask for directions if necessary, it has to be clear and relevant and you are on your right to ask for further clarification. Don't be sassy, the person who is giving feedback is making an effort for you to improve, you have to appreciate that in the first place.

  Do not respond immediately, do not confront, don't be deffensive. Take your time to take this feedback and if you want to respond later or explain yourself, do it, but what's important here is taking your time to elaborate what has been said to you.

  Respond with empathy. Try to understand where does this come from and who is saying what to you.

  Learn from your worst detractors. Even when you think what has been said to you is a nonsense, irrelevant or something out of point, make the exercise of taking it for evaluation and reflection. Feedback can have multiple purposes, sometimes even mean ones, but there is always a little part of truth in every kind of them, and, as Socrates said, you are the only responsible of learning something from whatever comes to you.

  Thank, even when thanking is hard, tough, breathtaking, mixed with anger... but do it. Express gratitude for the effort of standing by you giving you feedback.

The formation of constructive feedback

  Before giving feedback think why you are giving it, take it into a positive thinking or state of mind. You want to give feedback because you want somebody to improve so you both can have a benefit from this. If you are not thinking in terms of building something together, forget about it, you better save your feedback or even better: think again, because you are not doing it right.

  Align. Talk about what you have in common and why is this important to both of you.

  Feedback has to be immediate, but it has to be well formed. Before giving it think on the suggestion you are giving first.

  Focus, limit your feedback, keep it specific.

  Acclaim the good first, there is always a good side, something well done, extol so you can introduce the suggestion later and ease the way the other person takes it.

  Talk about you, your honest feelings, in which position left you what you are pointing.

Follow Up

  When you give a feedback you commit to this person to build a better something together. If you see improvement you need to return this too. A feedback is not complete without a return, it is a multiple round practice.

  When you introduce feedback in your workplace as common language and do it the right way, you will realize it is the most powerful tool to personal development. From my point of view feedback is the number one practice to work on every team, invest in teaching how to use it effectively and promote its use constantly.

  A good way of doing this is sharing best practices on feedback, save a moment in which teammates share how somebody's feedback has done good to them. Save a moment to thank. Treat feedback as what it is: a gift.

Written listening to "David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything that Happens will Happen Today" album (Rate:8,5/10)

Monday, November 18, 2013


  I love Wikipedia. Excuse this deliberate love demonstration but I have to say, for me this thing is one of the biggest achievements of humanity. I wanted to read Goethe's Prometheus Poem and I found, once again, reasons to love Wikipedia more and more. Check this out, even if you are not interested reading the poem (although it is indeed an amazing poem, specially the last part). Isn't this astonishing?

Prometheus - Theodoor Rombouts / Royal Museum of Fine Arts Brussels
  Even if its not directly related, thinking about guilt, accusation, human striving is always inspiring to think on how corporations have been doing in the past and how they are trying to do today. 

  But this blog is mainly about HR, and I intend to keep things the way they are around here (by now) and that is why today I bring you a model, a typology on the perfect HR Manager. After finishing the book Re-inventing HR by Margaret Butteris these are some of the conclusions I came out from what CEO's and companies need from HR Management nowadays.

1. Structured leadership also in business matters. It is required HR has a wider impact and knowledge on business and specially the operational part of it to be able to adequate and reconcile the executive strategies with the company's specific knowledge management. At the end, provide the tools to help your human assets achieve the goals in a better and faster way.

2. Set up control and measuring strategies and mechanisms which permit measure and monitor the talent and the performance of their employees and this have to be dependent and specific to the role (competency models). Taking control of this patterns allow companies have a better leeway and knowledge on the relative causes of productivity and performance as well as executing as fast as possible compensatory plans (individual or team based development plans, redistribution of human capital...).

3. Promote the creation of company values that encourage a common culture and nexus that arouse a sense of belonging as well as nurture philosophies that cause positive impact attitudes in employees according to the interests of the company (increase productivity). The promotion of this enterprise culture align the individual interests with company interests.

4. Reduce the administrative tasks or even outsource them strategically to focus efforts and budget on the earlier points, which are focused on getting the most value from the specific human capital of the company.

5. Provide strategies, technical expertise and tools to increase flexibility and versatility, deal with ambiguity, conflict and change management... Ultimately to provide a human setting equipped to build a company ready to deal with dynamic and changeable scenarios.

6. Supply updated knowledge in human development, leadership and interpersonal savvy. HR should provide the company with the best practices that could allow a predictive framework on the upcoming endogenous or exogenous challenges.

Written listening to "Butthole Surfers - The Hole Truth... And Nothing Butt" album (Rate:9/10)

Friday, November 8, 2013


How does a messy corporation look like?

- Divergence between areas. There are places where energy and resources are being explicitly wasted.
- There is confusion, every leader, manager, director has its own perspective of what is going on. The culture of rumor has installed and there is little or no information.
- The leadership and the employees are highly reactive, they respond adversely to any new event or occurrence.
- There is neither intention nor purpose and the topics, decisions and actions adrift from one scene to another.

How does a fine-looking corporation look like?

- United. Leaders have learned to debate and solve openly and maturely their conflict and disagreements.
- There is common strategies, objectives and a shared operational procedure.
- Corporation takes the initiative and acts over the competitive setting.
- Employees and leaders actively take part of the corporation and they are fully engaged with the objectives.
- A common purpose sense is shared throughout the company. There is progress.

  So the question is, what do we change in "messy corp" to become "fine-lookin' corp"? First of all, we need to focus on identifying the underlying problems. But don't panic, these use to be quite predictable. Normally there can be identified 5 behaviours that need to be changed: Divergence, Reaction, Apathy, Inactivity and Drift. The leadership need to turn this trends into others.

  Once we know what to do... how do we end up changing things? Here are some proposals to get this trends swapped.

- Turn Divergence into Solidarity: Provide a more consistent understanding of what is the situation for the company, invest resources making sure everyone is in line with the company's point of view.

- Turn Reaction into Initiative: Define a well landed strategy based on specifics. Clarify how the company is expected to achieve goals with the given resources.

- Turn Apathy into Proactivity: Inspire the members of your corporation to embrace the culture of effort and illusion for achieving goals.

- Turn Inactivity into Activity: Mobilize your people to transform their resources into means to achieve the goals. Set the right expectations, reach an agreement and harmonize collectively the objectives.

- Turn Drift into Purpose: Spread the sense of responsibility through managers and employees. Everytime its possible, make them part of the decision making and strategy design so the sense of belonging flourishes among them.

  Important Note: Leadership is not something that one person is, leadership is a process, a social dynamic which is shared in a given context in a given moment. So we should stop talking about leaders as individuals and start talking on situational leadership. To know more on this topic read the super comprehensive Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory.

Written listening to "Mogwai - Kicking a Dead Pig" album (Rate:8,5/10)

Saturday, November 2, 2013


"And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles its a very, very
Mad world"

Tears for Fears - Mad World

  I was thinking how mad the world turns when we are heading nowhere. Come on... I know it sounds lame but I'll get to a point, I promise :)

  As I was saying, everybody needs a direction to head on and this is something sometimes difficult to manage when you are leading a team. Some of the main responsibilities of a leader towards his teammates is to handle this individual development. But this is easy to say, now, how we can deal with this? First amendment of employee development: Everybody likes to feel special.

1. Assessment: Schedule a calendar in which you need to talk to your reports individually at least once in a month. Managing means having your ear ready to anything that could lead you to a better guidance with your teammates. To get the most productivity on your team you need to approach every member one to one first, make sure they are on the best possible role to help the group.

HR has to provide with specifically designed (together with managers) development plans towards a particular and measurable model of competencies. Define the necessary competencies by task, not only by role (this is a common error, in order to get the most from a team you need to go to specifics). Only then you will be able to identify the bias and develop the tools to face this better.

2. Open Cross-team Re-Recruitment Processes: Why not democratise the progress of your best talent? Make the measurements collective and accessible to all members of a group. Bring back the 360º's. Make a culture on sharing best practices collectively.

I'm not saying anything new if I mention the sense of belonging is probably one of the most important engines of motivation any human being can have. Make all your team a participant of a process, specially when this internal promotion stays inside a particular working team. This will transgress the expected vertical secrecy through your company and will help building community feeling.

3. Founding Trust: As you can read in one of my previous posts, one of the most common causes of leaving the work is for trust between employee and company. When this divorce occurs, oh boy... Friedrick Nietzche said once “I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you”

If you re-recruit, if you promote your people instead of finding the resource outside, you will grow instant trust among everybody. But be careful, even though it is not your fav one, you need to base your recruitment process on pure meritocracy. Make objectivity and logic flourish in your company. Promote only the bests, but promote them, look what's inside before looking outside. This will help create a culture of competition and self-improvement.

4. Grow Culture of TalentTop Performers need excitement. They need to feel they are doing the best they can in the best place possible. Use your own talent development to convince others to embrace the culture of performance

5. Be the first to offer: You might not bear in mind that your best employees are being contacted by other companies several times a week. If you offer first the odds are high talent will stay in your company because of inertia.

6. Get out the rut: An employee excitement cycle is short. It's even shorter if this one is a top performer. Your talent behaves like the overexcited infant, once the sugar rush ends the kid crashes anyplace. Take control of this variable, promote the activity. 

  Some parts of this post were inspired by Dr. John Sullivan's (The Michael Jordan of Recruitment) article in TLNT.

Written listening to "Tears for Fears - The Hurting" album (Rate:8,5/10)