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Posts Tagged ‘development’

Paragons and Renegades

Posted by Ken Klaus on February 13, 2011

Recently I’ve been playing Mass Effect, a role-playing game (RPG) set in outer space.  (Feel free to insert your favorite Star Trek related nerd joke here.)  As with many of the sophisticated RPG options in the market today, the game is designed around a series of tasks, or quests, which get more difficult as the game progresses.  For me though, the actual game play – star ships, swordplay or sorcery – is not as interesting as the character development, the role part of the game.  Some of the RPG games I’ve played let you choose the moral disposition of your character, whether you want to be a good guy or a bad guy.  So from the beginning of the game your choices are determined by your role as the hero or the villain.  Accordingly your actions and personality are based on your predetermined nature.  However, some of the more sophisticated games, including Mass Effect, make your character’s nature a matter of nurture – meaning you become either moral or immoral based on the choices you make during the game.  In Mass Effect you develop either as a paragon or as a renegade.  But here is where the game and I started to have problems.

From the beginning I assumed each quest could be solved either “positively” (helping me develop as a paragon) or “negatively” (earning me points as a renegade).  So as the options were presented I made what I believed to be the “right” choice.  In some cases the “positive” and “negative” choices were clear.  But for some of the tasks there was only one choice to make and in almost every instance that choice was “negative” and earned me renegade points.  This not only frustrated me, it also made me question whether there was any point in trying to do “the right thing.”  I also thought it was unfair because in real life we always have more than one choice.  But do we really?  Are there times when “breaking the rules” is the only option?  The more I thought about it, the more I began to see that the game was playing fair – that there are times when the only way forward is to become a renegade.

But here be dragons my friends.  This is a slippery slope that can lead to all kinds of problems, not the least of which being chaos, anarchy and unemployment!  So the question seems to be, when is breaking the rules acceptable, even necessary, and when should it be avoided?  In his book The Way We Are, Allen Wheelis wrestles with this problem and suggests a way forward of sorts.

Does not all creativity originate in boundary violations, in breaking through to realms outside the old limits?  The completely moral life – that is, the meticulous observance of all of the rules – leads, for both the individual and the group, to a rigidity that falls increasingly at odds with a changing world.  Yet boundary violations, if reckless – reckless measurable, usually, only after the act and its consequences – destroy the individual and destroy the social order.  The individual becomes an outlaw, the group becomes a mob.

Creative change in a society issues from violations great enough to alter the social structure, but not so great as to bring it down altogether.  One wants a society of law that allows some laws to be ignored.  It is those violations we let stand that organize the ongoing transformation of social structure.  The observance of rules, with a wise measure of slippage, coupled with the violation of rules, with an ironic measure of prudence, creates flexibility, strengthens the group, and thereby creates the possibility of nonviolent change in the social order.

So the questions we need to consider then are first, whether the breaking of a rule is reckless, that is, does the risk – the potential consequences of our choice – outweigh the hoped for reward; and second, whether our violation of the rules also serves the interest of progress, meaning the way forward can only be achieved if the rules are broken?  I understand this is perhaps an overly simplified way to think about this problem and I’m not suggesting that the ends justify the means. Yet I do think that there are times when progress is utterly blocked by “the rules” – the business processes we’ve had in place “since the company was founded”; our multi-layered bureaucracies with their endless forms and approval chains; the “blockers” in the organization whose raison d’être is to obstruct, obfuscate, and aggravate.  In these instances I believe the judicious breaking of the rules is most definitely in order.  Understanding that the point is not to bring down the system (or your career), but to move the business forward – the end result being a stronger, more flexible organization.

Acknowledging that we may need to play the renegade from time to time is not easy, especially for those of us who, by nature, are designed to play by the rules: We want to do the right thing for the right reasons.  We want to work for companies that value and respect their workers and treat them fairly.  And we want to believe that everyone else in the organization wants the same.  But if we are honest, we know things are not always this way; and if we can learn to make choices based on what we know, then we can also learn to accept that we may have to break the rules so that the world in which we live and work can evolve beyond what it is, to what we want it to be.  Building a bridge to span this gap is only possible when individuals, who are paragons by nature, can also learn to wisely nurture their inner renegade.

Posted in change, development, learning, risk, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

How about giving your Boss a Performance Review?

Posted by Vivian Wong on April 14, 2009

handshakeAs an employee, it’s easy to think of a Performance Review as a one way street where the manager reviews your performance. In some ways, a Performance Review is just like social networking (such as Twitter/Facebook)- some make the most of it, while others think it’s a complete waste of time.

If you make the most of your Performance Reviews, then congratulations! I hope you walk away from them knowing:

  • How you are doing at your job – what’s working and what’s not
  • Suggestions/Action items for growth
  • Hope for continued career growth – honest discussion so your manager can help align your strengths and career aspiration with the business needs

You can take it one step further. 

From time to time, you should give your manager the ultimate gift as well. As Meg noted in her Managing Your Boss blog, part of your job is to help your boss succeed. Just like your manager lets you know how you are performing, you should reciprocate and give your manager some feedback on how they are doing as your boss – all relationships (work or personal) thrive on a two-way communication.

So ask yourself: 

  • What is it that your manager does that either helps or hinders you from performing your best
  • Do you want your manager to continue or stop a particular behavior? 
  • What do you want your manager to start doing to bring out your potential?

I am betting that I am not the only manager who appreciates honest feedback from my team. 

For example, I would definitely want you to tell me if I have broccoli stuck in my teeth  or that I was abrasive in my communication or worse, I am de-motivating you unknowingly. I would also like to know if I am doing enough for you and whether  I am providing the right level of support to help you grow

It’s one thing to do the best I can, it’s another to know that my efforts have the desired effect;  and if not, I’d be happy to make improvements and be a better leader and manager!

So go ahead – give your manager some feedback – it might even help your manager to help you in finding happiness at work.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Mistakes Are Just the Icing on the Cake

Posted by Ken Klaus on June 16, 2008

I have friend who is a total foodie. He has no problem spending Sunday mornings sprawled on the couch watching a full week of recordings from the Food Network. One of my his favorite shows is Ace of Cakes, which follows the adventures of master pastry chef Duff Goldman and his posse of extreme cake makers at Charm City Cakes. My friend thinks the employees at this company have achieved career nirvana: the perfect blend of fun, imagination, inspiration, and sugar. For the uninitiated, each week Duff and his crack team of decorators create edible works of art. From corvettes and roller skates to bulldogs and baseball stadiums, no challenge is too big. Their motto: You dream it, we’ll bake it, you eat it! Unfortunately, even with good planning and near perfect execution accidents happen. Some mistakes are made by the staff, like spilling food dye on a finished cake; while other problems are completely out of their control, like traffic jams, potholes and the weather. Fortunately Duff, ever the master of cool, is rarely phased by these mishaps. In fact he expects things will go wrong from time to time and tells his staff not to dwell on the problem, but to concentrate on how to make things right. Not surprisingly, some of the most creative moments on the show happen when things do not go as planned.

Over the years I’ve made some pretty spectacular blunders myself – from sending out emails in a moment of anger, to deleting a semester’s worth of grades a week before graduation when I worked as the Assistant Registrar at a small graduate school outside of Boston. A mistake our IT department spent the better part of their weekend fixing. I’ve also had to deal with problems that were out of my control, things like shifting project priorities, organizational upheaval, technological meltdowns, and psychotic co-workers – but that’s a topic for another post.

When things go wrong often our first impulse is to fix the blame before we fix the problem; when our primary focus should always be to make things right. Once the problem is resolved we should also take time and reflect on the how and why of our mistake. Though this process can sometimes be a painful exercise, I believe our most profound learning experiences happen not when we succeed, but when we fail – and very few individuals, if any, have ever succeeded without making mistakes along the way. Perseverance, not perfection, leads to success. So if success is the cake we enjoy when things go right, then let the icing on the cake be the lessons we learn when we fail.

Posted in leadership, learning, management | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Kids these days

Posted by Meg Bear on April 8, 2008

There has been a lot of talk in the industry about Millennials and how they impact a talent strategy.  Given the age demographic (newly joining the workforce), it is natural that the segment that has been giving this the most attention is the Recruiting process.    Most recruiters today are actively taking advantage of new technologies and social norms to increase their access to a larger (and hopefully more qualified) candidate pool.  This is all goodness.

Today, I’d like to suggest that there is another, equally important part of the talent “wheel” that really must stand up and take notice.  This is the Learning group.  As some of you probably know, this is a topic near and dear to my heart, but like anything that you are close to, I have also been guilty of wanting the answer to be in providing more methods of delivery vs. really needing to re-think the whole business strategy.  Would that it was as simple as providing a few wikis and making eLearning available as a podcast.   I am now convinced that starting with the “delivery will save us” premise, is a recipe to being totally irrelevant within your HR Business strategy in the next 5-10 years.

Watching this video about university learning, is a good start to understanding what is different today in how people learn.  I personally believe that this is not  just a GenY issue.  Even our news channels, which have an over 30 demographic, feel the need to provide an increasingly large volume of content at a more rapid pace.  The world is expecting information faster.  Sure, younger generations are more quick to adapt to this kind of change, but that does not mean that it is only the under 30 crowd that is expecting more today then they have in the past.

How people “learn” and how they are “trained” are often not well aligned in most organizations today.  I believe this problem is growing and that we need to start to think about this in the context of a “Learning strategy” vs. just a Millennial problem.  To that end, I’ve decided to try and articulate what I think is needed for a impactful learning strategy.  I’m sure I’ve missed some things, so please feel free to sound off in the comments with additional ideas.

Meg’s suggestions for a Next Generation Learning strategy

  • Organizational Development and Training organizations need a tighter alignment then the loose “competency gap” relationship they have today.  Companies need to be able to drive the need for learning to individuals based on a wide-variety of “triggers”.  Competencies are certainly one, but what about things like missed objectives, long term career plans, poor customer satisfaction surveys, or even manager or individual observations?
  • Learning groups need to be comfortable expanding their influence and take an active role in the dreaded worlds of knowledge management, informal land experiential learning.  To do this, we must realize that we need a seamless transition for people between formal and informal learning.  Not everything is going to be managed by the catalog and not everything can have the same level of formal monitoring as compliance training. 
  • Take advantage of “wisdom of the crowds” and avoid the tendency to have everything centrally managed.  Tier your programs so that you can get comfortable with the volume of information that is going to naturally come along with the idea of opening up to the unwashed masses.  Don’t run away from these concepts just because they are complex. 
  • Recognize that key learning today is not just coming from static channels, it is also coming from people.  Having better understanding about what human assets you have that can help your organization learn is key.  Who knows what and who is willing to share what they know is going to be one of the key elements to understand.
  • Begin to think about incentive and tracking programs for learning.  What is mission critical for your business?  What learning is needed to make that happen?  How do you drive that learning to the individuals?   How do you help individuals get real value from your learning programs so that they continue to participate?  Understanding individual incentives is key.
  • Be open to the idea that the learning department will turn into a facilitator of learning vs. the source of learning in the organization. 

It is my prediction that learning departments will either embrace this new world and find their place in it, or they will become a third appendage with only compliance as their real value proposition. 

Posted in learning, social network, teams, wisdom of crowds | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »