Random Thoughts on Life and Work

December 3, 2014

WestJet Does It Again

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 2:14 pm
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Congratulations to WestJet again for going above and beyond expectations.


August 19, 2014

Looking for Work? Here’s What You Can Expect

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 11:33 am
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Nothing! What did you expect – the job was just going to be handed to you? Sorry, doesn’t work that way.

On the other hand, here is some of the communication you might get from organizations as a result of your application submission:

  • Nothing
  • An automated email – We have received your application. If there is a match, we will be in touch
    • Then nothing, or
    • A phone call or email to schedule further action
  • An automated email – Thank you for applying. Please go to this web address to complete some more information
    • A web survey that has little to do with the job and a lot to do with behavior – all of which is “gameable” if someone just thinks about it
    • Then nothing or
    • A phone call or email to schedule further action
    • Sometimes an email saying there was not a strong enough match
  • A postcard response from a mailed in application
  • An email requesting the completion of a standardized, impersonal video “questionnaire”

And the list goes on and on in terms of style and communication methods. I’d like to think there is a better way. A much better way. We know organizations receive a large number of applications for open positions. Many of the applicants will have no match to the required skill set. Many others will have at least some match. It doesn’t take much to humanize the process and make the organization look good and make the individual feel good about him/herself. Let me throw out some thoughts:

  1. Reply to EVERY applicant. Even the automated email is better than nothing and confirms to the applicant that the information has been received.
  2. If an applicant is not going to be selected for further action – send another email. In today’s world of HR database systems, it shouldn’t be difficult to flag individual applicants for a response.
  3. If the job posting has a deadline, don’t wait for the deadline to start your response process – you might lose the applicant to another organization. If the submission isn’t even close to what  the organization needs, put them in the reply pile and send the closure email immediately.
  4. If the organization does insist on waiting until the job posting closure date, keep applicants informed that the process is continuing. Again, this shouldn’t be difficult to automate. At least it is something that the applicant receives.

Don’t be the organization that develops an arrogance that says, “Everyone wants to work here so we can treat applicants however badly we want to.”

We can do better at following the “golden rule” and treat people with dignity and respect.

April 1, 2014

Effective Meetings

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 9:55 am
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Is this how some of your project meetings end up? Do you come out of them with a sense of, “what just happened?”

Thanks to FastCompany for pointing me to this.

February 19, 2014

Organizational Structure vs Fluidity

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 11:53 am

I’ve been wrestling a lot lately with the concept of organizational structure. Some variation of the following question always seems to come up, “how do we organize our staff to optimize our output?”

The interesting thing is, there is usually no right or wrong answer. The answer needs to be based on the needs of the entity at the time. Ultimately, whatever arrangement is proposed will likely be built on concepts of command and control rather than on efficiency and fluidity. And this is where the frustration comes in. Our concept of “organization” requires a logical, ordered process with clear lines of responsibility and ultimately the perceived ability to control the result or at least control those who have impact into the result.

Structure vs Fluidity

Structure vs Fluidity

While I doubt we will ever be able to get away completely from the traditional organizational chart, what would happen if we begin to think fluidly? Staff move in and out of roles based on need, project description, skill sets, etc. At times they serve in multiple areas.

One of the things that I have observed over the years is that the reliance on command and control systems negatively impacts cross-channel/cross-departmental communications. If one department has need of a service from another department, there is no ability to ensure that the service or project is completed short of a control function or the good will of the department leader. Creating a fluid, cross-functionality group removes that tendency and provides enhanced communication, better scheduling and quicker response times.

A colleague once said to me, “Re-organization is a panacea for effectiveness. We need to look busy and in control so we re-organize the (XYZ) department.” In general I agree with the sentiment. Most re-organizations are predicated on a perceived need. And while homage may be given to “being reactive” or “being fluid”, the end result in most cases the still pays homage to command and control structures. Who will manage this group or that individual?

Let me issue the challenge for a new way of thinking. I dare you to throw out the organizational chart and start over. Think strategically and plan fluidly. Build teams to solve challenges or develop new products rather than structures to serve the HR and Payroll functions.

February 10, 2014

The Introvert, The Extrovert, and The Office Culture

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 3:41 pm
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An introvert and an extrovert walked into a meeting. The extrovert was praised and promoted. The introvert smiled.

Okay, that’s a short, abbreviated story that makes little to no sense. But just maybe it will prompt a thought process that will lead to some great things.

The extrovert dominated the meeting, and was perceived to provide lots of input and value. The introvert quietly listened, left the meeting, wrote a detailed project proposal to his boss, and saved the company millions.

Does your working culture encourage all employees to thrive? Is your floor plan flexible enough to be conducive to various working styles? How well do your staff collaborations (otherwise known as “meetings”) work to get the most from your staff?

Thanks Lisa Evans at FastCompany for this great article.

February 6, 2014

Are You Gaining the Correct Talent

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 4:43 pm
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Recently read a great article on Forbes.com about the ways that companies drive away talent. What I appreciated about it was the hard look at hiring practices and the way that potential employees could be driven out before they even start.

There is one concept I’d like readers to give some thought to though. In the article Liz Ryan speaks to the Black Hole Recruiting Portals. Specifically at issue is the number of questions that could drive people away. If you are concerned about this possibility on your own job application site, let me pose these thought considerations for you.

  1. Are the questions legally necessary?
  2. Are the questions job relevant?
  3. Is your layout friendly and inviting?
  4. How many “pages” are there and does your applicant know where they are in the process?
  5. Have you included questions to separate the resume broadcasters from the truly mission interested?

This last question is especially critical in today’s job market. With a potentially high number of applicants for any one position in your organization, do you have a quick way to weed out those that are not a great fit? An applicant who is desperate for a job may not truly be interested in what you do and why. Their long term success with  you will be limited by their calling to the mission.

Give some careful consideration to the way your online application is designed and how you might save yourself a bit of time by asking the right questions in the right way. Find the balance and hire the skilled “evangelist”. Don’t drive away the truly skilled by creating a monster of an application process.

December 10, 2013

WestJet Brilliance

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 4:23 am
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WestJet implements a brilliant Christmas marketing surprise using a unique blend of technology and staff.
The end result – customers for life.

I dare you to watch without smiling.

August 26, 2013

A Passion For Your Product

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 8:06 am

I’m a Subaru owner (2) and proud of it. When I was young, my parents owned an early version of a Subaru wagon that was the pre-cursor to the Outback. We loved it. It went just about anywhere which was a good thing because living in Africa meant it had to handle some rough stuff. I guess that early love stuck. I told myself that someday I would own a WRX – the rally inspired model. Eventually, I did!

Subaru has done an interesting thing. They have created the Subaru Total Badge of Ownership. Subaru owners can order badges that show how many Subarus they currently own or have owned over time. You can add on Lifestyle badges that share your passions. All of this is FREE. (I have my first set on one of my vehicles.)

What I love about this concept is the passionate engagement that Subaru encourages. For a minimal cost, Subaru encourages its owners/customers to talk about its product. Not everyone will participate, but those who do are passionate about their car(s). And aren’t those the ones that we want to talk the most?

The challenge for us is to develop a way for our most passionate supporters to share their love of our organization. Some may even be willing to pay for it. For you, badges are likely not the thing that fits. Consider the following –

  • Clothing
  • Stickers
  • Temporary (or permanent?) tattoos
  • Event participation (cycling, running, etc)
  • Tools to share via social media, email, etc

How simple is up to you and your budget. Your fans will eat it up!

August 22, 2013

Failure Is An Option

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 1:38 pm
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We often hear the statement, “Failure is not an option!” – usually said in movies by the hero who is facing a big challenge. Unfortunately, there are organizations who adopt the mantra and try to live that way as well.

I once met an organization that was afraid of failure – afraid of making a mistake. So afraid that all decisions were made at the highest levels of the organization through one individual. Most of the staff were subject to endless review of all ideas, promotional pieces, hiring decisions and even office space decoration. It went so far that even a stool which was going to be used in a back room by a technician had to be approved by the executive office.

While control systems can be a good thing, there is a balance between maintaining a high degree of excellence (which often requires frequent review) and trusting your teams to use their God given skills to accomplish the organizational mission. Each organization has to wrestle with that issue and decide where that line is for them.

Here are some thought conditioners:

  • Is speed at issue?
  • What is the cost of a potential mistake?
  • If a mistake is made, do you look more or less “human” to your public?
  • What does your control system cost in terms of moral, initiative, and retention?

There’s a time and place for both control and freedom (and dare I say encouragement to explore). Finding that sweet spot of balance is the key to amazing results.

August 8, 2013

Avocado Leadership

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 12:55 pm
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A friend and former colleague, Gary Foster, had a profound paragraph in his newsletter this week. I quote it here:

Avocados are extremely easy to bruise. So farmers used to try to carefully arrange them in the box after picking. However, they still experienced costly bruising. Over time, they noticed if avocados were simply set in the box, they would settle themselves in just the right formation as the farmer simply left them alone and walked on. It’s the same with leadership. There’s a time to plan and to act strategically. There’s also a time to just let things settle in as we walk on. Sometimes we bruise things in our efforts fit things in rather than letting them fit.

I have found this to be true in organizations that are struggling with defining structure and processes. It is amazing how many leaders and managers will try to force a solution onto a group that is wrestling with a process. Often the leader is directing a solution through their own filters rather than allowing the group to wrestle with the challenge on their own.

Question – are you forcing a structure or letting your team develop into a working unit naturally?

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