Archive for September, 2007

I participated in this research. It was alot of fun. I sat in on a few of the interviews with the companies themselves. I helped write up some of the summaries that the judges panel used to select the top companies. I got to sit in on a few of the internal meetings with the talent consultants where they talked about the findings/areas of interest in this year’s research vs past year’s.

I was amazed at how much some companies do to develop their employees. Of course, there is a lot of self interest involved there, since they aren’t really doing it for the employee’s benefit, but that’s fine…both parties are getting something out of it.

It also struck me that a lot of companies have the same programs and practices around developing leaders, yet the way it plays out is far different. Its like someone saying “Exercise is one of my top 3 priorities”. That may mean 1) its a top priority (as is winning the lottery), but you don’t do anything with it, 2) I exercise a few times a week, am fit, and put fitness below loved ones and work in my list of priorities (which means its up there, but not really all that much compared to the other two) or 3) I spend a significant amount of time (25% to 35%) on this priority and I bring it to the table as an important topic in all discussions.

Almost all the companies that participated in the study answered that Leadership was one of their top priorities, but very few of the companies actually spent alot of time on it (from senior leaders down to line employees), linked leadership development to measurable goals/financial incentives, and brought it to the table daily as an important topic.

Lots of companies have Leadership Development Programs (LDPs…so many companies have them that there is an acronym for it). A) Some just send some employees to a classroom for a week or a day to listen to current thinking on leadership. B) Some have senior leaders lead those discussions (which is more effective). C) Others (the best) have senior leaders bring real business issues to a hand-picked group of high potential employees. Those employees, with the senior leader business sponsor facilitating, are given time and company resources to map out a solution to the issues. They then implement it, write up a case study, and share results. The LDP has an alumni group ongoing that keeps in touch and provides support to current participants and each other.

Option C takes a lot of time and effort. The company I work for (which did the research) is probably somewhere between <non-existent> and <Option A> on the leadership continuum. As they say, “Those who cannot do, teach (or in this case: consult).”.


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Today is the last day of my first job. It was actually several jobs over 3.5 years, but it was on the same large project: managing the tech side of a platform of services to give 120,000 employees of HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) their benefits.

Inanimate objects take on human qualities if you work with them long enough (which is why people name their cars). I have come, over the past few years, to view myself as sort of the “protector” of this large, old, bloated, taped up system.

As pathetic as it is to say, it is my friend in a way. I am able to “kick the jukebox” so to speak. Other people get their quarters eaten. Its like that old car that you have to turn the key and press the gas in a very specific way to get to start. I know all the quirks. They say it is broken. I say it works but you have to know how to use it.

The fact is it works pretty well considering you’re trying to anticipate and code for all possible behaviors of 120,000 people while making sure you don’t break anything else. We interface with HCA’s payroll, their HR system (hires, terminations, etc), offer 11 different benefit plans which require interfacing with upwards of 20 different benefit providers (aetna, cigna, prudential, etc). We run the call center (imagine trying to train people who make 10 dollars an hour in all the hundreds of nuanced rules that make up HCA’s benefits package). You run up against a well known truism of software development: You can’t code around idiots.

This doesn’t really mean they’re idiots (although some of them likely are). They (employees and benefits center reps) simply do things we never anticipate, and when something goes wrong and we can’t see it…..we have to wait until the employees identify themselves, at which point people get upset, especially if it happens to someone who works at HCA corporate. They get to scream directly at us, instead of using the call center or HR departments like everyone else.

The neat thing about this is that I got to see it develop. I went from knowing nothing and thinking it was all vastly complex and unknowable…literally being in awe of how quickly and accurately some people could make things happen… seeing all those people move on to other jobs and have other people think of me the same way. I now realize it isn’t all that complex or unknowable, it just takes a very long time to learn….which is a good thing. If it were quick and easy, I would make 7 bucks an hour.

So I say good-bye to my ailing system. Go reveal your secrets to someone else.

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So the website disappeared for…..I don’t know. A while now. And even before that I had stopped posting.

All the old posts, from 2002 to 2007….still exist of course. I don’t know if I will ever put them back up to be honest.

As for why I stopped posting, why I took the website down….I’ve answered that question personally to a few people. No one else likely cares.

Anyway, its sort of spooky to be able to go back and read part of the inside of someone’s head for 5 years. It cries out to be misinterpreted, and it usually was.

So, since I’ve put the website back up, does that mean I’m starting the whole cycle over again? Maybe, after all….I’m not always that smart. I have better controls now though. I can password protect posts or even whole parts of the website and make people sign in to read. I probably won’t do that, but its an option.

As for the “cool” (in my opinion) chasing eden format/theme… know, the pic, and the colors and all that:


I will slowly rebuild that…maybe. I don’t have as much time to come up with all that jazz anymore. I was unemployed when I built the last site, and the technology has changed a lot since the days of editing html in wordpad.exe.


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