Thursday, January 15, 2015

Throwback Thursday: A "User Group" in 1985

Part of "redirecting" since "retiring," for me is to clean my office and office closet. Considering that I've worked from a home office probably 30 of my 45+ career years, this is daunting as I've not seriously done this for 17 years. It's a true excavation into my past. I've been finding some fun stuff -- this article from a 1985 Management Technology magazine, being one such that reminds me of how important these kinds of groups can be in fostering innovative solutions.

Back in the early 80's, I, with friends started a user group called the "Culture Club" as a safe place away from our respective employers to discuss issues important to us in our work -- how to ensure that technology had a positive impact on people and their organizations. At the time I started this, I was a management systems consultant at SRI International -- one of the first women to join a group of older men, most of whom had been CIO's in major corporations. They weren't willing to just have free-flowing discussions about what really works when introducing new technologies. We needed that safe, non-judgmental place where we didn't have to be experts, but could truly explore and develop our thinking. The group was comprised of practitioners, product people, lawyers, researchers, and consultants from Apple, Bechtel, Institute for the Future, Intel, HP, McKesson, SRI International, Stanford University and more from Silicon Valley in the 80's. The picture below was a typical scene of our discussions at a members' home. A few members: Jim Bair (SRI and later Gartner), Paul Saffo (IFTF), Bonnie Johnson (Intel at the time and later Interval), Dot Allen (IDC), Charlie Hoerner (McKesson) among others. Since most of us now are in our late sixties / early seventies, sad to say not all still living but still a part of my memories.

I can't tell you how valuable this group was to me -- started in 1983 and lasting well into this century, although it did morph from the Culture Club -- focused mostly on technology implementation to the Learning Community -- focused mostly on organizational learning and systems thinking. What made it work so well, I think was that we were truly a collaborative discussion group -- no leaders, no sales pitches, no speakers, no smoking, and as the article says no chicken divan. We always had an administrator who kept it running with monthly notifications, collections of dues (not much but funded our parties), maintenance of the mailing list, and postage (yeah....we didn't initially use email), etc. We talked, we ate, we drank, we learned from each other and took our learning back to our respective jobs. We even got speaking gigs and spun off at least one consulting / training group (Catalyst).

We were all techies, but deeply concerned about key technology issues, some of which never change as a focus although the technology has changed: literacy (about continuously and innovatively adapting evolving technologies to evolving needs), ergonomics (back in the 80's that was a key topic as people who didn't use technology turned more and more to desktop computers and had to design effective work spaces), integration (back then, a lot about the issues of early networking and integrating data and text), and change management. And mastering change and it's impact on people was the key theme that concerned us most -- some things never change, eh?

Click on the two pages to actually see the entire article. Good stuff in there for today too with the last refrain being -- we will always want more high touch and less high tech, and we all got it from each other.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is there anything I can do to help?

Yesterday, after 45 years as a loyal customer, I closed my Bank of America account. NO “Thank you for so many years of loyalty and income,” no attempt to keep me—nothing. #Fail. Just one of many, I suspect. That’s what I tweeted in 140 characters yesterday. The response from an “official Bank of America Twitter rep” was as follows:

I work for Bank of America. What happened? Is there anything I can do to help?

Yes, there are things you could do to help and it was nice to hear from you, but let me tell you a story first. This is a story I tell of “people that impacted my career.”

Out of college in 1967, I interviewed for jobs at various corporations: IBM and Bank of America among others. Bank of America wanted me to work writing for their newsletter. I wanted a job as a programmer, tested well, and was hired as one of the first five women in Systems and Equipment Research. Not long after I was hired, there was a luncheon for all of the recently hired bank officers…and me (as they paid programmers comparably to bank officers back then). At the luncheon, presided over by Claire Giannini Hoffman (the daughter of the founder, A.P. Giannini), she asked each of us what we did. Most talked of the branch where they worked. I explained I was a programmer, using Cobol on their IBM 360 (the first outside of IBM at the time). Her response to me: “I know computers are important and the wave of the future, but never forget they serve people.

Simple comment. Over my career, it’s been an underlying theme for me that computers and automation need to be used to serve people.

So, yes , you—or more importantly, the people at the branch—could have looked me in the eye, instead of just at their computer screen, when I asked to close my account. They could have said, “Sorry to see you go after 45 years.” They could have said, “Is there anything we can do to keep you?” (and the money you’ve made for years as I keep my balance high enough to avoid charges). And they could’ve NOT charged me $10 to write a cashier’s check. Really? Really?!?

But then they would be serving people instead of their computers and rules.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Coming back home....from Italia

Two and a half weeks in Italy have cleared my head! I am excited to be returning home tomorrow from Milan for a quiet weekend unpacking, petting the lonely cat, seeing what's happened to my garden and eating healthy food -- maybe -- I must admit that Italian food is just so good that I may have to make a Bolognese sauce to help make the transition. And, Monday, I'll be returning to work, with a fresh mind. I must admit though, that I kept up with many emails. Otherwise, there would be hundreds or more. Many were about the HR Technology Conference -- the highlight for anyone seriously using, inventing, or supporting HR technologies. See the latest CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey for the research results I presented for the seventh year -- thanks to Bill Kutik!For me, the other highlights of the conference were all the sessions on analytics, although many others would argue that it was more about social media. And, of course, the best highlights were seeing all the friends made over the years from this wonderful HR technology arena.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rally for Sanity, 2010

First day home with an hour to spare since September 29th! Pretty much non-stop travel. But in all that travel, the family went to the Rally for Sanity. It seems so long ago, but here's a few pictures that caught the sentiment for me:
The crowds
There were lots and lots of funny costumes and teeshirts and signs....
And moments of utter sanity as expressed by these twins
And the best of all was to go with Ian

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Balance in Life is Not a Serial Thing

I'm an early riser but I mostly force myself to not start work until 8. Instead, I spend some time reading, then in my quilt studio and then out in my garden (which after two weeks away is in sad shape). When I do these things, I start my "work" day more relaxed and often with a sense of accomplishment, something that I don't always get from my work as there are parts of it that take days, if not weeks, to complete.

As I was working this year to finish the CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey, I neglected this daily start of the day. Now that the survey is done and out, I've returned to my normal day's start and I feel ever so much more refreshed. Of course, a week on the beach with my family helped too.

As I was quilting this morning, I started thinking about balance and realized that there are some other things that I don't do when I'm under the gun that I think would give me more balance. For example, I work out with a personal trainer twice a week -- that regime makes me get at least that much exercise, but I know that's not enough. So, I've told my husband that "when I retire, I promise myself to work out more." But why not start now? Another example, is weekly date nights -- these go by the wayside when I'm under a schedule gun. But weekly date night with my wonderful husband is something that balances me, nurtures me, and helps both of us be better support for our family and friends. And, there's so many other things that give me balance -- daily meditation, weekly sitting at the sangha, vacations, letter writing....and so much more.

Dear Friends: please remind me next time I get embroiled in work that I know better!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An old-timer's view of HR Technology Conference

I was reading a first-timer at the HR Tech Conference and it got me thinking about what I saw/learned at my latest event. I've had the pleasure to present the CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey there for six years. Ron Hanscome, who I think is a superb survey person reviewed this year's findings quite well.

First of all, hats off to Bill Kutik and David Shadovitz and the entire LRP/HR Executive team involved in putting this together. Bill, who I think has turned mellow with the advent of Nancy, was a jewel to work with this year from my perspective. And while being mellow, he still put a keen wisdom to getting great speakers, vendors, analysts, bloggers. Truly well done and thank you!

Second: It's always great to attend the special events and dinners -- thanks to Paterson's and absent Naomi Bloom, Kenexa, Oracle, and my colleague David Carter and a treasured client -- but never again will I puff a cigar Len and Michele! Also, for the brief time with the Chicas -- my drinking girl friends and the few guys we "let" join us if they pay. You are the ones that make HR Technology special for me. Elaine Orler and I vow that we will have a grand reunion in Las Vegas! Thank you Naomi for showing us all what is truly important by being with one of your long time friends at her time of need.

Third: Doing the survey for 13 years is a personal labor of love and a gift to our community from CedarCrestone. I appreciate all that respond and especially those that respond to all questions and do so year after year. Please feel free to contact me through if you have comments or questions.

It is from the perspective of being a broad researcher on HR technology adoption and the value achieved that I'd like to make a few comments about the conference. In the fervor of social networking and the latest/greatest from software companies, there are two types of organizations and their decision makers I don't see at the conference:

1) Sophisticated users that have an advanced HR applications portfolio. By this I mean they have few software vendors and most often have a extensive set of talent management, social networking, and business intelligence practices and technologies built on the same platform as their ERP(Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft). These are the ones I see amongst our survey respondents that are doing the best financially. I think we could learn much from them about topics like talent analytics, workforce lifecycle management, use of SOA to automate processes not covered by existing technologies, and advanced learning and development technology use.

2) Late adopter organizations that have not yet turned to much technology. Their decision makers have not begun to think about social networking except to unwisely ban it; they have no self service; and they actually don't do a very good job of serving their employees. Some may argue they won't be around long as they are so non-innovative, but they've been around for years and we buy/use their products and they will be around for many more years. Think steel companies, some health care, many universities, and more public administration organizations. Can we as a community figure out how to wisely and gently get them involved?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not collaborating is a power trip or we just don't know how ?

I've been thinking about why people don't collaborate and specifically collaborate in the sense of sharing information. I remember from a research project in the early 80s on the use and value of groupware, that back then we had tools that enabled people to share information just like we do today with wikis, blogs, Twitter or even simple email today. Back in 1983 or so, I was talking with a representative in IT at the Air Force and someone there said that people don't share information because "information is power" and sharing means giving up that power. It means giving up one's perceived competitive advantage. Like -- how can you teach something if everyone knows it or how can you be an analyst if everyone knows about what you are talking about? Nothing new between then and today although perhaps that power means a bit more in the Air Force than elsewhere.

But I think not sharing information is also because people don't know how to and they get no reward for sharing information. At the Air Force in the 80's, there was no pay for performing information sharing...after all, pay is a matter of grade level. And using something like Lotus Notes as a repository was not all that intuitive to use anyway. Today, sharing information still takes time with most of our social media solutions. Simple example: my quilting buddies don't know that they can actually provide a url about how someone does a technique like how to mitre corners and instead will download an entire YouTube video and then send that huge file. Or in my work where to really be an effective collaborator, one should not only share a file that may have valuable information but also explain why it is important to entice people to actually read the file. And, who has the time for that? Or for people to share information in repositories of customer information, they need to report news, site visit notes, conference attendee notes all the time and it it's not easy to do, people just won't do it.

Organizations have to pay in some way to reward people for sharing and make that part of the value system and recognize it in performance reviews. But people too need to realize that sharing information is pretty powerful not just for the organization but for themselves too. It shows you care to help your colleagues, and we all want to be caring individuals. It shows you know enough to realize the value of the information you are sharing and to articulate that value for othrs.

So, I encourage all of us to take the step from the individual's perspective and start sharing just for the value it will bring to you. Learn how to use social media as a collaboration tool. We can work on having organizations pay for collaborative actions later.