Class notes - week six, Fall 2017

Fall semester is 40% done at this point and summer is clearly gone. The weather has changed and autumn colors are on full display.

Table of contents

This past week felt easier than the previous weeks have been. The workload throttled back to a normal amount, I got some more sleep and started feeling calmer about being in school, it no longer feels quite so brand new and novel and anxiety producing. I’m starting to get to a point where I’m not as stressed about finding enough time to get my schoolwork done. My family has stepped up to help with childcare so I can have free blocks of time to get schoolwork done, and while it’s still a lot of work and a huge challenge, it’s something that I’m managing.

My grades from last week’s assignments came in. The SP assignment that I despaired over came back with a better grade than I expected. But then the SHRM assignment which I was more confident about didn’t some back with as good a grade as I hoped for. Such is student life I guess.

In the department of not all learning happens in class, last week I met a guy at the barbershop with an inspiring story. Michael was in the chair over from me and joined in the ongoing conversation that my barber and I have around issues of politics and race. He had a fascinating perspective, in his words the perspective of a black man from Mississippi with a history degree. He showed us photos he took of his dad in his hometown of Jackson on the bridge where Emmett Till was killed. But the most fascinating thing was his personal story of recovery from a massive stroke two years ago, which he’s chronicling in remarkable detail on a blog called Post Stroke Life. His writing is dense and raw, powerful and brave. I’m in awe of his story. It puts my own challenges in perspective. Grad school is difficult, but it’s a challenge that I’ve taken on voluntarily for the purpose of advancement. I’m lucky and privileged to have this as the hardest thing going on in my life right now.

Classes this week were somewhat unremarkable. In SP our professor was out at a conference, so the teaching assistant led the class through an exercise (with minimal additional lecture). In SHRM, I skipped out on the second half of class to go see the Pixies in concert with my spouse. We bought the tickets back in January, I’ve never seen them live, they haven’t toured in years, and we have their lyrics engraved in our wedding rings. It was a blast. And a good reminder that we need to find more time for date nights. Our stress levels are pretty high right now, working on our relationship helps soothe that and builds empathy to get through the challenges. I’ve found it easier - too easy - to sacrifice time spent with family for school. It’s not easy to find the time, hire a babysitter, set the work aside for a little while, and focus on our relationship. But it’s really important to do that too.

Notes from Strategic Planning

In our Strategic Planning class this week Prof Bryson was out at a conference, so the teaching assistant led the class through an exercise doing a SWOT/C analysis about the case study, evaluating the conditions before and after expanding the coalition.

  • Vision sketch - a brief description, typically formulated earlier in the process
  • How to sell a vision
    • What will persuade people to say “yes”
    • Create a slogan or motto to help people envision the results you want from the coalition
    • “Journalist’s Technique” - explain who, what, when, where, and why

Notes from Strategic Human Resources Management

Tonight’s question: What is performance management and how does it relate to work organization and job design?

Something that I took note of was the comment about how the United Way and Foundations have pushed the nonprofit sector to articulate outcomes. This adds up with a lot of talk I’ve heard in professional circles the past several years about how measurement has become so much more important, and how that impacts organizations information technology needs.

  • What in the reading struck you as interesting or important?
    • Number of employees who perform worse after a performance review
    • Was interesting to see the word strategic in front of job analysis. Encouraging to see job descriptions being treated as dynamic rather than static
    • Found it interesting how different methods of analysis were identified as more appropriate for different kinds of work
  • There’s an attempt to bring the two literatures together - the micro and the macro. Assigned readings were chosen in part to show the class how this current effort is playing out.
  • It’s about managing to the results, not managing to the process
  • Many organizations manage to the process. Enforce the rules and the means of getting things done, at the expense of focusing on whether they’re getting results.
  • Performance budget - budgeting for what you want to accomplish. Results oriented decisions.
  • Employee objectives and learning - not sure we’ve thought very hard about how, what does what the individual is doing link back to the overall objectives of the organization?
  • We don’t ask frequently enough about how nonprofit customers / constituents feel about how the organization is serving them.
  • McKinsey research - identified three best practices for a healthy organization from a study of 115,000 respondents
    • Clear roles within a structure matched to needs
    • Articulate a compelling vision of the future
    • Develop an environment that encourages openness, trust, challenge
  • Performance outputs - simple measures of activity, does not indicate quality
  • Performance outcomes - outcomes relate to citizens, often called impact measures
  • Outcomes measure efficiency, outcomes measure effectiveness
  • Government has done well at stating outputs, not very well at stating outcomes. Nonprofit sector has gotten ahead in this regard, largely due to pressure to articulate outcomes from the United Way and foundations

The class then broke into teams of 2 or 3 and answered the question, “what are the three most important advantages of and most significant problems with job descriptions that you have seen or used?”

I left after the group exercise but was able to pick up the following notes from a classmate who was kind enough to share:

  • Strategic Job Analysis and Performance-Based Management
    • Strategic Job Analysis is necessary for Performance-Based Management
    • Need to determine results expectations
    • Adding the requirements for the job, as well as the results that the person in the position will need to have in order to keep the position
  • Job Competencies
    • Leading and deciding
    • Supporting and Cooperating
    • Interacting and Presenting
    • Analyzing and Interpreting
      • Data, info, situations
    • Creating and conceptualizing
      • Can be tough to be creative
    • Organizing and executing
    • Adapting and Coping
      • People who can adapt have a real advantage
    • Enterprising and performing
      • Capable of getting it done?
  • Balanced Scorecard
    • Four Factor System
      • Financial
      • Employee Learning and Growth
      • Customer
      • Internal Processes
    • It’s about how you treat employees and customers
  • Performance measures in Job descriptions or annual work plans are critical for developing a robust performance management system and a well functioning organization
  • Can’t manage without a good performance evaluation/management system
Written on October 13, 2017