Class notes - week nine, Fall 2017

After this week the semester is sixty percent complete. It feels like just as I’ve gotten adjusted a break is on the horizon.

Table of contents

This week seemed a little easier, probably in part because last week was on the higher end of the difficulty scale. But then there was also a fairly light reading load for SHRM and no assignments due for SP. It feels like the focus is really shifting to group work in both classes at this point. In SHRM our project group coordinated schedules and got the interview with the organization we’re profiling set for a couple of weeks from now. At this point we need to really start focusing on drafting questions for that interview. In SP our project group met after class on Tuesday and then had our scheduled meeting today with Prof Bryson to discuss how the project is going and plan for next steps. We’re set to meet again on Sunday to do a mapping exercise and work through a framework for our paper.

Tuesday was Halloween and I was in class instead of out trick-or-treating with my kiddo. I did however come home between work and class, dressed up in a Storm Trooper costume, and our family got some Star Wars play time in together. Our little one was Rey, I was Finn, and mama was a Jedi warrior. They dropped me off at class in costume on their way out and picked me up after to have a little more play time. I was the only one dressed up in class, which people seemed to think was cool and had a bit of fun with through I felt a little self-conscious about. It was worth it though, and honestly was probably a good thing for helping me take myself a little less seriously.

Notes from Strategic Planning

This week’s SP class featured a guest speaker who was the executive director at a local nonprofit for eight years, and currently does consulting and leadership transition work. Much of what they discussed was fairly specific to their case studies, which is generally not what I write about here. So my summary is instead of a handful of nuggets of wisdom gleaned from their talk.

  • If you can be really clear about your strategic objectives and make the case, funding can be found. Articulating a persuasive case is key to convincing funders
  • A broken organizational culture can be the result of people being micromanaged. People slowly get more demoralized as they’re given tasks to do instead of working on strategic objectives.
  • Big believer in ROWE, let people be in charge of their own time. Flexible schedules help with the culture piece.
  • All problems in this world are either adaptive or technical. Technical problems can be solved by resources, but adaptive problems require a systems change
  • If you have unclear governance structures, things can get chaotic
  • Approach to layoffs - hate when orgs keep it a secret and drop the ax. Be open with people, give them as much severance and notice as possible, have seen that when you treat people well in this difficult situation they can end up being more productive in their remaining time than ever before.
  • On storytelling, you can throw all the facts and figures that you want at people, but in the end what they’re going to remember are the stories. Storytelling is a lot like doing strategy work. Present your strategy in a cohesive way.
  • Get your major donors to come see your programs at an event that demonstrates your peak impact. This will do a better job of really communicating value than a document full of program stats.

Proceeding to the second half of class lecture..

  • Trying to bring about positive change is a very human endeavor. Strategic planning is a toolkit to help leaders bring that about.
  • The research is very clear that people go to solutions really quickly, often too quickly and before defining what the problem is.
  • Strategic issues need to address problems that have more than one possible answer
  • There are lots of different ways to think about strategy. It’s not a thing. Lots of different ways to think about strategies
  • If you make mapping part of your regular process, you’ll have a feedback effect. You hang onto them and build on them.
  • How does this relate to the things that organizations spend most of their time doing? Business as usual is strategy implementation in action. Much further down on the map conceptually. Strategic plans are up on the map, business as usual is down.
  • The disconnect between strategy and actions is often called an implementation gap
  • Shared understandings are really crucial. Without that the strategic plan won’t do much for you.
  • Socratic dialog was about leading students by asking questions
  • Oftentimes, especially in large organizations, you really depend on leadership from the middle

Notes from Strategic Human Resources Management

  • Shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans happened in a lot of companies around the early-1990s. 401k was originally designed as a supplement to traditional pension plans.
  • Same shift has occurred in healthcare. HSAs patterned after 401k model.
  • Key concept of this course is that people matter
  • Wage compensation gap between local/state government and private sector. In mid-1990s state employees were (for a brief time) slightly better compensated than private sector, but the gap has opened up in recent years. Local has traditionally been lower than state govt employees. Both are roughly 10-12% below private sector.
  • Compensation in the low (10th percentile) range is 5.9% higher in public sector than private. In the middle (50th percentile) it’s a -3.6% gap. In the top range (90th percentile) it’s -11.3%.
  • Benefits as a portion of total compensation:
    • 29% in private sector
    • 31% in nonprofit sector
    • 32% in public sector
  • To remain competitive, 1/3 of organizations increased their overall benefit offerings in the last 12 months
  • How do benefits compensation fit into strategy?
    • What do employees value?
    • How do you compare to competitors?
    • Are your benefits aligned with your org strategy, culture, and values?
    • Are your benefits effective and sustainable?
    • Do you communicate benefits to employees effectively?
  • Family friendly benefits are important because they reduce the pressure on people, and when they carry less stress into the workplace they’re more productive
  • The social contract in the US has been revised. Used to be that companies would act paternalistically to employees, and they would often stay at a company for their entire career. Changed first with substituting 401k plans for pensions, then changed in the healthcare model.
  • Big effect of this change, employees now have more flexibility to change jobs and not sacrifice their pension
  • Increase in the number of companies offering assistance for one-on-one consultations with retirement investment advisors
Written on November 2, 2017