Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jim Collins "Life is ??" and CV#1

Last week I attended SHRM 2012, and it is truly amazing how vast the HR industry is. The show floor could have given even the best Las Vegas casino a run for its money with the amount of glitz, glamour and bling. The highlight of the show... for me at least was the Jim Collins keynote speech on Tuesday morning. To be honest I have been a big fan of Jim Collins ever since Good to Great. Collins methods of showing hard data in the results of what makes (or doesn't) great companies is something ever business person should become familiar with. To conclude his presentation, he ended with "Life is ??" (I give the full quote at end of the end of the blog).

At SPARC we have 6 Core Values, the first one is actually numbered as #1 with the rest being just bullet pointed. We made a conscious decision to do this as we felt like our core value number one was the most important, with the rest being of equal weight. SPARC's core value #1 is "People First, First".

Living the core value of People First, First... sounded really good and most people are pretty agreeable, at least on the surface with the spirit and importance of it. Initially we struggled with what this catchy phrase really meant and how to practice it. So we created some explanation around it, Put people, the person first. Make time to listen. Give others the benefit of the doubt. This worked pretty good and for the last two years... within reason I felt like I had done a decent job living up to this core value.

I had always seen the flaw in it though... what if there was a contradiction? What if there was a situation where putting one person or set of people first, was then going to not live up to the value with another person or set of people... what then should we do? While admitting to the opportunity... the phrase sounded really good and I always had the belief that we could break the equation and always find a way to put the needs of all parties first.

Well in the last 30 days we've been hit with a slew of these... and to be truthful I feel like we did pretty darn good on almost all of them... except 2. One was a company one and we as a company came to the conclusion that we would use this as a learning experience... and we have. We have since done our best to recover from it... and make things right. I have seen many micro lessons learned and we are even documenting the macro ones.

The second one was actually a personal failure... it was a tough, complex situation and I had run through the situations and scenarios multiple times in my head. Coming closer and closer to a plan, but never quite feeling like I or we understood what to do. And so without the confidence I needed I turned to data. I gathered all the data I could find. I created a spread sheet, a whole presentation and documented all the pro's and con's. I even had multiple meetings with all the people around the situation hoping for some gleam of light on how to bring everything together. ...And therein lies the opportunity(for improvement).

In both cases I (we) was building a case to be right. Being right just feels so good! I have solid ground and I can stand on it, and be transparent... because its right or at least I believe it's right. What I should have asked myself, what I should have spent my time on, and what would have made all the difference would have been me focused on a completely different question.

How do I deal with this in a People First, First manner?

Had I just done that one small shift, had I just ask that question, had I just made that the top priority over everything else... it would have made all the difference. Now hindsight is 20/20 and it did take me some good wakeup calls and some soul searching to figure this out. But you can bet your very last dollar that, that question will ALWAYS be asked in the future and it is where I will start the solution from.

So Collins quote was "Life is People"! Damn! I (we) knew this! That's why we made it CV#1, and while it sounds so simple and clearly true, in the business world of analytics, hierarchy, crazy pace and competition it's just too easy to forget.

So I ask you...  will you add a new question to the top of your tool box or will you keep just being right? :D