Hire the Best People, and Let Them Work from Wherever They Are

I love this article published in the HBR, February 8th, 2016 by Cassandra Frangos, Cisco Systems


I ran into a former HR colleague at a conference last month. We got to talking and she mentioned she was finding it difficult to hire a cyber security expert. I wasn’t surprised. Security talent is scarce in the tech sector right now. “I found someone phenomenal, but she’s in Washington State, and she won’t move to our cyber security group in San Francisco,” my friend lamented.

I said the first words that popped into my head: “That’s great.”

Hiring a candidate who is going to work remotely has three levels of benefits.

  1. The company benefits. Removing location as a limiting factor offers organizations access to (literally) all the talent in the world.
  2. Hiring managers benefit, because they have an opportunity to create diverse teams. For instance, it’s widely accepted that people who come together from different backgrounds bring new information and diverse perspectives.
  3. Individual employees benefit, because they can live where they want, close to family or perhaps in a place that has the type of climate they prefer.

Most organizations say they are more open-minded than ever about virtual teams, and yet they still have old-school systems in place for hiring people across the country or around the world. From where I sit, the overlapping barriers come down to structure, culture, and mindset.

Structurally, many organizations remain hierarchical. Decisions are still passed down from one to many as opposed to emanating from small, autonomous teams.

Culturally, the face-to-face meeting is still an important symbol of productivity. Want to finish something? Sit around a table together and get it done.

Mindset is the toughest impediment of all. Many traditional leaders fear a loss of control if they give people the latitude to work where they can’t be overseen.

This way of working is no longer sustainable. The talent gap in certain technical specialties, such as security and data science, is one reason. A more universal reason is that removing location as a limiting factor gives organizations a lot more freedom to find and hire the very best global talent — and keep them. How do you make virtual teams the rule rather than the exception? What kind of process do you need in place for hiring that superstar in Washington State? Four things are required:

Do deeper due diligence. No matter how sophisticated the process, companies usually design interview questions to rate a candidate’s experience and fit — in other words, to find out whether they have the skills to succeed and the mindset to thrive in their specific corporate culture. In hiring virtual candidates, however, you need to dig deeper.

This next level of direct questioning should assess whether the person is independent, passionate about their work, and collaborative. They need to be flexible and willing to travel and know that corporate headquarters is still where the action takes place. In addition, the most important experience this individual should have is past success working remotely. Find out how they made it work and double down on the due diligence.

I live in Boston — 3,000 miles away from Cisco’s San Jose headquarters. I work with executives around the globe; so being on Telepresence and Webex is a natural way we communicate. Still, there are many times when I need to be at corporate headquarters because important conversations need to occur in person and because informal hallway banter can surface new ideas and accelerate solutions.

Look at leadership capabilities. Consider the individual’s leadership style and how he or she projects himself or herself. In order to make an impression from afar, people need to stand out in a crowd and be an advocate for their ideas. In addition, the organization needs to scrutinize not only the candidate but also the manager to whom they will report. Remote employees need someone who will advocate for them regardless of where they live. Does the leader have the experience and dynamism to lead virtual teams? Does she value results over face time? Is her compensation tied to the success of her team?

Invest heavily in relationships. I recently ran across a team of three dynamic leaders who manage a business unit in tandem from three separate cities. Operating out of Germany, New Jersey, and San Jose, California, respectively, the trio is a high-functioning, collaborative team. How do they do it? They respect each other and communicate constantly. Initially, they invested significant, in-person time to forge the relationship. They understand each other extremely well and now they finish each other’s sentences. They tackle tough customer issues in unison and are on the phone or video together constantly. They’ve been together for several years and it works because they attend to their relationship.

Do a logistics and tech check. Setting people up to succeed off-site requires attention to IT support and infrastructure. Can people easily teleconference from their mobile device or PC? Are all team members comfortable using collaboration tools? Is any data flow to and from the virtual team secure, and do all team members understand the company security protocols? At Cisco, we use technology to make communication as dynamic as possible. When language and cultural differences come into play, for instance, seeing each other over a video feed that’s clear and reliable can make a big difference in deepening the interaction.

The last part of hiring people who are going to work remotely is knowing when it won’t work. There are some jobs where location is fixed. In some companies, for instance, the head of sales needs to work in close proximity to the CEO. For other mission-critical positions, it is necessary to be face to face with local accounts or available for the community.

Yet, I would argue that this is quickly becoming the exception, rather than the rule. Knocking down the cultural and psychological barriers that make hiring the best global talent impossible can open everyone’s eyes to the virtues of a more dynamic working environment.

 

Cassandra Frangos is vice president for global executive talent and organizational development at Cisco Systems. Connect with her on Twitter: @c_frangos.

 

MaxCo Advisors, April 2016

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Is A Dose Of Outside Ingenuity What A Company Needs To Stay Healthy?

Most Companies Will Die Before Their Fiftieth Birthday

It’s a medical truth—chronic diseases are the most deadly and costly threat to human health. In the US, they’re responsible for 70% of deaths and 86% of healthcare expenses each year, according to the CDC. Diagnosing and managing these illnesses early can drastically reduce both numbers.

The same concept applies to countless companies, except the disease is complacency and the ideal treatment is innovation. As a new EY report explains, most companies today will not live beyond their fiftieth birthday. John Chambers, ex-CEO of Cisco, believes that 40% of today’s leading companies will not survive another decade.

“Today’s disruptive environment is ripe for new markets and opportunities,” writes EY Global Vice Chair, Markets Uschi Schreiber in conjunction with this month’s EY Innovation Retreat in San Francisco. “Every industry and government body must rethink how to connect to their clients and constituents.”

To take but one example from the ever-shifting tech landscape, in 2010 the US Federal Aviation Authority estimated that there would be 15,000 civilian drones in use by 2020. Right now, at least that many are sold every day.

As it becomes increasingly challenging to envision the future, conventional diagnoses and remedies that have led to past achievements just don’t apply any more. Previous success can lead to “a collective cognitive myopia,” explains London Business School’s Gary Dushnitsky. “It’s hard to see beyond something that you’ve excelled at for the last 15 or 20 years.” So what is a health-conscious executive to do? Recognizing the risks of present-day stagnation is only the beginning of successful self-preservation therapy.

 In 2010, the US Federal Aviation Authority estimated that there would be 15,000 civilian drones in use by 2020. Right now, at least that many are sold every day. 

“A lot of companies want to move to a new culture of innovation and entrepreneurship but there’s a reason that incumbent companies become incumbent,” argues author and “Innovation Activist” John Kao. “They’ve mastered a lot of skills: managing complexity; managing resources; attracting talent. These are necessary for the today business but leaders need to understand that they are really managing two agendas and their job is to adjudicate between them.”

The R&D team offers a natural place to foster this life-saving new culture, but internal obstacles may hinder the cure. Even on a team tasked with developing new products, it can be difficult for members to recognize external trends, pursue opportunities not directly related to the company’s standard market, and move quickly enough to benefit from new models.

Corporate venture capital (CVC)—which broadly refers to company investment in external startups and fields—is seen by many leaders as a potent dose of innovation. CVC addresses the critical importance of bringing the outside in, incorporating talent and ideas that are by their very nature foreign to the organization and crucial to its adaptive survival. Investing in exterior entities affords large companies an opportunity to experiment with more agile processes, daring projects, and cutting edge tech and to apply these lessons to the best practices of the organization as a whole.

“When done right, CVC can be a hugely powerful spur for innovation and growth,” explains Bryan Pearce, EY Global Venture Capital Leader. “These investments, when managed effectively, can help company leaders identify new opportunities for growth; new ways to find and excite their customers; and new ways to transform a legacy business so that it is future fit.”

Companies set up CVC funds that look like standalone incubators, strategy department sub-units, more traditional VC equity models, and many other structures. And while the type of CVC dosage will vary from company to company, it’s clear that the most robust organizations build up their defenses well before the most destructive afflictions come knocking. Jan Timmer, the former Philips CEO, printed up a mock newspaper declaring “Philips Goes Bankrupt!” as soon as he became president in 1990.

Exercises like these inspire companies to access the knowledge and capabilities that will help fend off infirmities and remain fit. “Create a story about a future that you want to avoid and then make it detailed and graphic,” John Kao says. “You have to find a story that tunnels under all the intellectual shields, denial and complacency and rattles the emotions.” And while imagining the story of a company’s demise might not be enjoyable, it’s the ideal first step towards ensuring its continued health.

***

EY’s Better Questions series asks some of the tough questions faced by today’s global businesses. Better questions. Better answers. Better working world. Discover more. #BetterQuestions

This article was produced on behalf of EY by the MaxCo Advisors marketing team and not by the MaxCo Advisors editorial staff.

MaxCo Advisors, April 2016

Teach Us to Treasure the Bird in Hand

This is an article recently published by David L. Katz, MD, Founder, True Health Initiative. I have embellished it a bit. It’s powerful and very relevant. I would encourage you to read it completely. This is one in a series of articles where professionals provide advice for the next U.S. president.

It could be re-titled, “We will never cure Cancer, because we are too invested in NOT curing It.

Dear Madam / Mr. President: For more than twenty years, across an expanse of both democratic and republican administrations, we have neglected one of the greatest potential advances in the history of public health.

I invite you, and I implore you, to lead us toward that reachable, luminous prize: the addition of years to countless lives, the addition of life to countless years. We can eliminate up to 80% of the total burden of chronic disease — heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, dementia, etc. — by applying knowledge of the root causes of such disease not only now in hand, but in hand already for decades. You could pledge your commitment to this campaign, and lead us. And because you can, you should. Lives — lives we know how to save — are at stake.

I respectfully urge you to make the combination of longevity and vitality, followed more often than not by a timely, swift, and gentle exit into that inevitable night, the new American standard. I ask this of you because it can be done.

Like so many others, I was moved when your predecessor, whom I admire, leveraged the imprimatur of his high office, and the State of the Union address, to propound his will against the menace of cancer. I was moved in particular because the enemy was not diffuse and pervasive, but seen through an intimate window. I felt the pain and loss in the resolute set of Joe Biden’s face. This was a nation’s mission, but born of a family’s loss.

We are moved by such things. We are, despite our proclivities for fractious discord, indelibly caught up in one another, in the common motivations of humanity. At a level deeper than our discords, we know we are family. When a menace invades such private spaces, when it roils the expression of a face we know, we are moved. We are motivated to act.

So it is that I admire the assertion of will, the pledge to find a way to end all cancer. But alas, it is misguided.

President Obama likened curing “cancer” to reaching the moon, and were the analogy robust, we might indeed see it done. But the analogy falls from the sky.

Even those decades ago when President Kennedy committed us to the moon, we had in hand the technologies to get there. We knew where there was; it was a single destination. There was one, clear, achievable mission.

The cure for all cancer is not a single mission, but many. Cancer is not one disease, but many. Ending cancer is not one destination like the moon, but more like the scattershot of stars in the cosmos. Getting there will depend on innovations yet to be conceived. When we know so little of the ultimate ways, we are ill advised to assert that presidential will reliably presupposes them all.

We should continue to foster and fund the already impressive advances against cancer. We have seen considerable success. We struggle, too, against great frustration born of ignorance we may hope to overcome.

But we already know the short list of lifestyle practices — avoiding tobacco, eating optimally, being active routinely, sleeping adequately, dissipating stress effectively, and nurturing our social connections — that can not only help prevent a large percentage of all cancers and an even greater majority of other leading disease killers including dementia, but can even modify the contributions of DNA to our defense. Studies show that lifestyle practices can throw the epigenetic switches that forestall the advent of cancer, and its progression once begun.

I humbly urge you, Madam/Mr. President, to promise us a mission we know can be fulfilled, and lead us in the keeping of it.

Admittedly, this flight plan of mine is rather pedestrian in contrast to far-flung stars, the shine of Nobel Prizes. Progress is gauged in simple, lifestyle choices every citizen arguably owns. But if so homely a route, so long not taken, leads to the most luminous of prizes, surely in this instance those ends fully justify such means.

By asking you to lead, I am not refuting the relevance of personal responsibility. But the choices we all make are ultimately subordinate to the choices we all have. You have something to say about the choices we all have.

In those places around the world where longevity, vitality, and peace at the end of life prevail, it is not courtesy of citizens battling against the currents of their culture. It is where the currents of culture lead toward, rather than away from, just such blessings.

Here, we wring our hands not just about cancer, but dementia, stroke, and heart disease; about rampant obesity and the rise of type 2 diabetes in our children. Yet, we continue to peddle multi-colored marshmallows to those very children, as ‘part of a complete breakfast.’ You might persuade us out of our insouciant stupor, prod us to ask: what part?

In our country, we encourage good and moderate food choices, even as we market food willfully engineered to be addictive. Where is the outrage against such hypocrisy? You might lead us in outrage, and by opposing its reasons, help us end them. But alas, its that’s money thing again.

Ending cancer is not a moonshot; it is, for now, a pipe dream, sprinkled with stardust. But we could banish tobacco to the ashtray of history’s bad ideas, and you could lead us there. We could end the subordination of what diet could do for the health of people and planet alike to predatory profiteering, and you could lead us there. We could be a culture that doesn’t feel compelled to count our every step, because we consider our native, animal vitality and the chance to exercise it a reason to count our blessings; and you could lead us there.

Good may, of course, issue from reaching for the stars; or, more parochially, for that proverbial bird in the bush. Good may issue from ardent aspiration. But there is the danger of promises that cannot be kept, and the disillusionment they engender.

Please beware the reach that exceeds our grasp. That may serve to rattle the bushes, but will never claim their contents. Those bushes are home to things with feathers, flighty ever.

We have known for two decades and more how to eliminate some 80% of all chronic disease; we have known how to enhance the length and vitality of life. Please, make us the generation that turns what we have long known into what we routinely do to advance the human condition. Lead us, and persuade us, to treasure what’s in hand.

And please, beware the conflation of will for way. That itch may tempt your hands to clench, those fists to pound the lectern as you proclaim the inclinations of your power, and glare past the horizon. In the hush that follows, you may open your hand to find the ruin of a beautiful, luminous bird that was in your hand all along. As it is, and has long been, in the hands of us all.

MaxCo Advisors

April, 2016

Internet of Things Is Changing How Media and Entertainment Companies Operate

IoT is helping helping industry marketers gather (and make sense of) valuable data.

While the “internet of things” is still in the early stages of development, the media and entertainment industry already has many of the digital building blocks in place to make it a reality. Large publishers and broadcasters—many of which control the content and its delivery—have switched to digital business models and have the network and IT infrastructure to support high-speed transmission, new formats (e.g., 3-D, 4-D, 4-K ultra HD, high dynamic range, virtual reality) and multichannel delivery, as explored in the new eMarketer report, “The Internet of Media and Entertainment Things: What Marketers Need to Know Now.”

Because a growing percentage of media and entertainment content is consumed on digital and mobile devices, the number of industry-related IoT connections is rising. In its “State of the Market: The Internet of Things 2015” report, Verizon Communications found that IoT connections on its network in the media and entertainment vertical increased 120% in 2014 compared with 2013. The industry was third in terms of growth, behind manufacturing (204%) and finance and insurance (128%).

Other research reveals similar growth potential. An April 2015 survey of worldwide business executives by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) found that while the average per-company global IoT spending by media and entertainment organizations wasn’t remarkable when compared with other industries, it was expected to increase nearly 54% over the next three years, to $72.6 million in 2018 from $47.2 million in 2015. And as a percentage of average company revenues, this spending was 0.57%, second only to the travel, transportation and hospitality industry.

The same study found that the bulk of IoT activity in this industry involved the use of apps on smartphones, tablets or other digital devices. More than six in 10 global media and entertainment executives polled said they monitored customer data through mobile apps. To a lesser extent, survey respondents also reported IoT use in production and distribution operations to track product flow (33.3%), the use of digital sensors in products (12.5%), tracking devices in business locations (8.3%) and customer wearables (4.2%).

While nearly all types of media and entertainment businesses will benefit from the IoT, publishers and broadcasters are ahead of the curve. Many can already harvest various forms of data—location, behavioral, consumer-preference and demographic among them—from a variety of devices and systems, construct detailed consumer profiles and use them to create and instantly deliver personalized content across multiple screens.

Other companies seeking a piece of the media and entertainment industry IoT pie include telecom and cable service providers, advertising and marketing agencies, information technology firms, consumer electronics manufacturers, TV and movie studios, sports organizations, recreational facilities, event promoters, gaming companies, casinos and many others.

This Is (Going To Be) Big: How the Internet of Things Is Transforming Travel

Mobile Devices Play A Key Role In The Travel IoT

Whether it’s monitoring the performance of airline engines, enabling keyless entry to hotel rooms or helping tourists find their way around Disney World, the internet of things (IoT) is creating exciting opportunities for the travel and hospitality industry. By connecting smart devices, systems, processes and people in new ways, it is streamlining the back-end operations of airlines, hotels, resorts, cruise lines and rental car fleets.

At the same time, data from these connections is helping marketers deliver more personalized campaigns and enhanced traveler experiences. Simply put, the IoT is helping this highly competitive and schedule-driven industry turn information into action, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “The Internet of Things: What Travel and Hospitality Marketers Need to Know Now.”

As technology becomes cheaper and more powerful, much of the innovation has shifted toward enabling these smart devices and systems to communicate with each other and with larger systems. Many travel and hospitality brands already have some IoT functionality in their back-end operations and are experimenting with ways to put the technology to work for customers. With potential to transform nearly all aspects of the travel experience, the IoT will enable these companies to collect and integrate large data sets from different sources and instantly personalize traveler experiences.

Travel and hospitality companies are under constant pressure to provide better service at the lowest possible cost. For this reason, they have been early movers with the IoT, at least by some accounts.

According to an April 2015 study by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the industry topped the list with regard to current IoT spending per company. The firm reported that industry executives worldwide expected their organizations to spend an average of $128.9 million each on IoT initiatives in 2015, or 0.60% of revenues.

While nearly all types of travel businesses are likely to benefit from the IoT to some degree, larger hotel chains and airlines are leading the charge out of the gate. On the enterprise side, many have IoT systems already in place to boost efficiency and streamline operations. Hotels manage use and maintenance of their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), security, plumbing, elevator and other facilities-related systems. Airlines employ sensors to gather real-time information from aircraft parts and systems that are then used to track flight data, optimize fuel consumption and anticipate maintenance issues.

In a March 2015 survey of 200 airline IT executives worldwide conducted by Airline Business for IT company RSW/US SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques), 86% of respondents believed that the IoT would deliver clear benefits in the next three years, and 37% had already allocated budget.

eMarketer, January 21, 2016
– See more at: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/How-Internet-of-Things-Transforming-Travel/1013487?ecid=NL1001#sthash.K5TmC9El.dpuf

 

MaxCoAdvisors
January, 2016

Be Careful Not to Lie To An Uber.

We were dressed and ready to go out for a dinner and theatre evening. We turned on a ‘night light’, turned the answering machine on, covered our pet parrot and put the cat in the backyard. We ordered an Uber ride though the app on my smartphone. The Uber arrived, and we opened the front door to leave the house. As we walked out the door, the cat we had put out in the yard scooted back into the house. We didn’t want the cat shut in the house because she always tries to get at the parrot. My wife walked on out to the Uber, while I went back inside to get the cat. The cat ran upstairs, with me in hot pursuit.

Waiting in the Uber, my wife didn’t want the driver to know that the house would be empty for the night, so she explained to the Uber driver that I would be out soon. “He’s just going upstairs to say good-bye to my mother“.

A few minutes later, I got into the Uber. “Sorry I took so long”, I said, as we drove away. “That stupid lady was hiding under the bed and I had to poke her butt with a coat hanger to get her to come out. She tried to take off, so I grabbed her by the neck. Then, I had to wrap her in a blanket to keep her from scratching me. But it worked, so I hauled her downstairs and tossed her out into the backyard. She’d better not crap in the vegetable garden again“!

The silence in the Uber was deafening.

 

MaxCo Advisors

January 2016

 

Heros. David Bowie, January 10th, 2016

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we’re lovers, and that is that

Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time,
just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d’you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing,
nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes,
just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads
(over our heads)
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall
(nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes,
just for one day

We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes

We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying,
then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
just for one day

Oh-oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-oh-ohh,
just for one day

———————————

Good Night Major Tom.

MaxCo Advisors
January 11th 2016