BHV's blog

Workplace Dasein

On Rethinking Work

Great thoughts by Barry Schwartz: 

The truth is that we are not money-driven by nature. Studies show that people are less likely to help load a couch into a van when you offer a small payment than when you don’t, because the offer of pay makes their task a commercial transaction rather than a favor to another human being. And people are less likely to agree to have a nuclear waste site in their community when you offer to pay them, because the offer of compensation undermines their sense of civic duty. 

A Newtonian revolution in the world of work

Long time ago, physics, astronomy and the study of the natural world were accomplished through pseudo-scientific process. “Scientists” would reflect upon the structure of the world, describe movements by appealing to ether, essences, and other concepts that do not figure in our scientific conception of the world. The sun revolved around the Earth, who was known to be a flat surface. Then, through the power of disciplined, objective observation, Copernic, Galileo and many others pioneers gave us good reasons to believe that things might not be how we think they are. The Earth might not be flat and might not at the center of the solar system. Physical objects might not move because they have a “nature” to be “actualized”.

If we can identify a critical event in the scientific revolution that transformed the western world after the Middle Age, it would be the introduction of mathematics in physical science. As hard as it is to imagine, before Newton, physics did not use mathematical relationships, but was a qualitative science. Movement was not described by equations, but through vague concepts. Newton changed the course of history by giving us scientific laws expressed in mathematical equations. In other words, he helped ending the guesswork, the approximations, the pseudo-science that were the hallmark of traditional physics, and replaced it with precision, accuracy and predictability. Once we have a scientific model, we can make prediction, we can understand the world, and even change it. We can predict when comets will show up, and we can use our knowledge of gravity to build planes, space shuttles or bridges.

The management gurus of the last 50 years are the pre-Newtonian physicists of the business world. Many management ideas are actually ideologies, dogma, hype, personal experiences or success stories that receive an aura of acceptability under the label of “best practices”. Every year, a management expert studies an organization, an industry, a leader, a historical character, and come up with a book on management and leadership lessons. To name a few: the FBI, Amazon, Steve Jobs, Formula 1 racing, Shackleton, the Bible, Jazz, Muammar Gaddafi, Genghis Khan, Star Trek, the Cherokee Medicine Wheel have all been used as the basis of for a book about management. Every expert has his or her 3 fundamental truths, 5 principles, 7 rules, or 10 practices of success. We are inundated by business publications, authors, journal and books. It seems as if we somebody comes up with a new breakthrough or revolutionary framework every year.

There are some good reasons why this is the case: for sure, it is hard to consider management as a science, since it is not an observational activity. Leaders and managers have to act, decide, change, transform, and achieve results. They have more in common with an engineer than with a scientist, as the first one applies the knowledge to create and change things. People and organizations are complex systems, and it might be hard to explain them by a couple of equations, thus a better alternative is to learn by experience, yours and that of others. And there is some wisdom in this approach: learning the success stories of others gives us directions to solve problems or navigate uncertainty, and inspiration to go through difficult moments.

We have, however, more knowledge about human behavior than ever: from decades of research in neuroscience, cognitive science, evolutionary biology, social psychology, and behavioral economics, we have now a better understanding of human nature. We do not have to rely solely on gurus, “experts”, past experience and inspiring characters. We can apply this knowledge to better manage people and lead organizations rather than reinventing the wheel every time or falling for the latest fad. We can use evidence rather than hunches and personal experience. We can see patterns and generalizations behind the diversity of experience. Despite the variability of people, organizations and cultures, science can help us understand what motivates us, how we collaborate, what affects performance, etc.

It is not – and might never be – as crisp and elegant as Newon’s law of motions, but there is a scientific revolution happening within the management world. We let go of myths, dogma and unfounded practices. Enlightened organizations look for scientific knowledge (derived from behavioral science) and for a scientific approach to management.

Take recruitment: you can have your own hiring managers interviewing everybody who applies for a sales position. Using their own experiences and conventional wisdoms, they might select the loud, extravert sales person. Unknown to them, dues to their cognitive biases, they might also select people that they find attractive or who share a physical resemblance with  themselves, as research showed. You might not end up with the top performers. Another approach would be to build a detailed profile of a successful salesperson, using research on high-performing salespersons, looking for the common traits among people who close more deals and bring more revenues. And to make sure that this person also has some affinities with the current employees of the organization.

Science is a collective process. As Newton himself said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”; not one person or company can claim to have initiated this scientific revolution. Rather than relying on one individual’s intuition and experience, we need to look for data, evidence and knowledge. We need to create hypotheses about workforces, find the conditions under which they would be true or false, and submit these hypotheses to the tribunal of experience to see which one will be selected. We need to end these Dark Ages and create a new Enlightenment, a new Age of Reason, and advance management through the scientific method.

Fascinating stories about two presidential campaigns and how they embody modern management

From Wikipedia, a modern tale of management :


Contemporary organisational innovation

A prime example of progression from the antiquated hierarchical structures with its layers of middle management staffed by gate keepers congesting the flow of communications can be found in the 2008 Presidential Campaign conducted by Barack Obama. Obama’s team harnessed the potential of social media to create a flat structure. Local activists were communicated with directly from campaign headquarters. Individuals became leaders in their own domain. They were able to access campaign material, and register supporters immediately upon accessing material provided online via the campaign website.
This innovative form of campaign allowed Obama to raise $750 million, primarily from small donors, along with registering one and half million volunteer campaign workers in twenty seven thousand campaign groups. However, following the appointment of Jim Messina as the campaign manager for the 2012 Presidential campaign the 2008 strategy was declared antiquated – indeedSteven Spielberg reportedly advised Messina to blow up the 2008 campaign it was so out of date.
In a future where any task that can be described as predictable or repetitive will invariably be delegated to forms of artificial intelligence, the old hierarchical command and control systems will become largely redundant. Success will be premised on speed and innovation, on the ability of organizations to synthesize real time information and perform strategic pivots that will allow immediate access to new opportunities. The 2012 Presidential election presaged how this may look in practice. Whilst the campaign remained grassroots oriented, continuing to harness social media, the engine behind the effort was a metrics driven campaign. The sheer magnitude of the data organizing effort was staggering, but all within one single comprehensive database.[23][24]
In what was the largest political campaign in US political history, the technical staff utilized consumer data along with demographic information to devise a more accurate model of the electorate – in small slices. By taking cognizance of the ‘Long Tail’ of human preferences,[25] analysts were able to develop micro campaigns that targeted key demographic groupings that many had predicted would not vote due to the impact of the economic downturn and high unemployment that underscored the administration’s failure to deliver a quality of prose in government that had been promised by the poetry of the campaign. By identifying who the voter actually was through data mining and attaching a support score of 1–100 for each individual voter, the campaign team were able to build a macro picture of the election by breaking it down in its component parts.[26]
The campaign itself became an evolutionary process designed to react to ‘just in time information’ that allowed the campaign to pivot in a new strategic direction to meet identified demand.[24] This development from rigid hierarchical structures to an infrastructure deliberately designed to support innovative, but empirical evidenced decision making, represents the future of organizational development. Steve Jobs spoke of the need for future organizations to be run by ideas not hierarchies.[27]

The problem when employers and employees pretend it’s for life

Today, few companies offer guaranteed employment with a straight face; such assurances are perceived by employees as naive, disingenuous, or both. Instead, employers talk about retention and tenure with fuzzy language: their goal is to retain “good” employees and the time frame is . . . indefinitely. This fuzziness actually destroys trust—the company is asking employees to commit to itself without committing to them in return. (…)
Both parties act in ways that blatantly contradict their official positions. And thanks to this reciprocal self-deception, neither side trusts each other. Not surprisingly, neither side profits as fully as it might from their relationship. Employers continually lose valuable people. Employees fail to fully invest in their current position because they’re constantly scanning the marketplace for new opportunities. 

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh

To put it bluntly – on good and bad organizations

In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. It is a true pleasure to work in an organization such as this. Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves. These things make their jobs both motivating and fulfilling.

In a poor organization, on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting, and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not. In the miracle case that they work ridiculous hours and get the job done, they have no idea what it means for the company or their careers. To make it all much worse and rub salt in the wound, when they finally work up the courage to tell management how fucked-up their situation is, management denies there is a problem, then defends the status quo, then ignores the problem

From, quoting Ben Horowitz The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz 


Unlock the People Equation: Using Workforce Analytics to Drive Business Results

Executive Report: “Unlock the People Equation: Using Workforce Analytics to Drive Business Results”

This study from the IBM Institute for Business Value looks at the rapidly growing and indispensable role analytics plays in workforce management today.

As the complexity of workforce challenges continues to rise, so will the demand for more quantitative approaches to address the increasingly difficult people-related questions central to organizational success.

Download your complimentary copy today and learn how to realize value from investments in workforce analytics and impact business outcomes.

[WHITE PAPER ]The smarter CHRO – Key trends and recommendations to help leaders of HR become more strategic

Online here:


The smarter CHRO – Key trends and recommendations to help leaders of HR become more strategic

The Human Resources (HR) function is evolving rapidly. Whether we call it strategic, integrated or optimized, there is a growing recognition that this contribution of HR to organizational success is becoming more significant. Through our research and discussion with many heads of HR, we have identified three key trends that impact HR leaders, and a series of recommendations to help ensure that Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) help their teams become more strategic advisors to their organizations.

5 things you did not know about talent management

Talent Acquisition
The two most common job search strategies used by applicants are responding to online job board posts and referrals from colleagues, friends or family members—approximately one third of applicants use these strategies. And job security remains the most important reason employees are attracted to new job opportunities (75% cite job security as very or extremely important).

Talent Leadership & Engagement
Effective managers yield more engaged employees (89%) than ineffective managers (35%), and are more likely to retain employees (24% turnover intention for effective managers vs. 42% for ineffective managers).

Talent Optimization
The most commonly used learning resources are coworkers or subject matter experts within the organization–46% of employees report these as their preferred resource when learning needs arise. And, employees can more easily identify subject matter experts when they work in organizations that use social collaboration technologies to share information about employee knowledge, skills, and work experience (91% vs. 70%).

Talent Rewards & Recognition
When organizations communicate about their pay policies, twice as many managers feel prepared for (89% vs. 43%) and comfortable with (86 vs. 44%) pay conversations. When managers communicate effectively about pay, four times as many employees believe their pay is fair (79 vs. 19%).

Talent Analytics
More than half (53%) of organizations assess Quality of Hire to evaluate the effectiveness of their recruitment processes, and most organizations evaluate Quality of Hire via job performance ratings (55%).


Source: IBM Smarter Workforce Institute

La culture comme avantage compétitif (1) 1. L’ère sociale

Nous avons eu le règne de la technique, l’âge des machines, l’ère de l’information et des média, l’économie du savoir. Nous en sommes maintenant à une nouvelle phase, qu’on pourrait qualifier d’ère sociale. D’une certaine façon, cela est un peu anachronique, parce que nous somme des animaux sociaux depuis l’aube des temps, mais il est vrai que les modes de gestion des entreprises évoluent d’une façon qui se montre plus sensible à, et plus axée sur, notre « socialité », alors qu’en parallèle la connaissance scientifique et la technologie qui facilitent l’interaction sont en pleine explosion. En cela, le rôle de la technologie est en pleine évolution. Une des conclusions majeures d’une étude réalisée en 2012 auprès des chefs d’entreprises (2012 IBM CEO study), est que

La conception selon laquelle la technologie est un vecteur d’efficience est maintenant obsolète; les PDG voient maintenant la technologie comme un facilitateur de collaboration et de relations – ces connections essentielles qui alimentent la créativité et l’innovation. 

Pour illustrer le rôle de notre socialité, pensez qu’aujourd’hui, 1 humain sur 7 est sur Facebook! De 1 million en 2004, nous avons atteint le 1 milliard en 2012. Et cela, sans compter tous les autres médias sociaux, utilisés autant pour créer de la valeur (« crowd sourcing », « crowd funding ») que pour la détruire (pensons à des émeutes, ou cet exemple frappant : selon le Daily Mail (GB) lorsque Dave Carroll a mis en ligne la vidéo United Breaks Guitars, United a perdu 10% de sa valeur en bourse, soit $180 million).  Partager de l’information est maintenant un acte quotidien. Et bien sûr il y a les réseaux sociaux d’entreprises. Il est maintenant courant d’embaucher des « gestionnaires de communautés », des individus qui vont faciliter la création de communautés d’employés, de clients, fournisseurs, et autres intervenants.

Au-delà des réseaux sociaux, l’intérêt accru pour la socialité comme source de valeur s’exprime dans cette tendance des entreprises à évoluer vers une « post-bureaucratie » : dues aux pressions compétitives, l’accélération des changements industriels, une économie de service, la globalisation et complexification des organisations, et l’évolution technologique, les entreprises évoluent progressivement vers des modes de gestion qui valorisent l’agilité et l’autonomie responsable. On réduit les paliers de gestions, les procédures et les silos administratifs, et promeut  des organisations à base de projets, d’équipes, avec moins de hiérarchie et plus de collaboration.

Donner la chance à ses employés de se surpasser (entrevue avec La Presse)



Des défis, les entrepreneurs et les gestionnaires en rencontrent tous les jours. La Presse vous propose une série d’articles présentant des difficultés et des solutions inspirantes adoptées par des gens sur le terrain. Cette semaine: comment aider ses employés à donner le meilleur d’eux-mêmes?

Les employés du cabinet en assurance de dommages la turquoise ont eu la chance, il y a environ deux ans, de «choisir leur chaise» selon leurs forces dans quatre groupes de travail. L’objectif était de permettre à chacun d’occuper le poste qui l’allume le plus.

«Dans 95% des cas, les dirigeants étaient arrivés aux mêmes conclusions que les employés», raconte Lise Lévesque, directrice des ventes, services aux particuliers, chez la turquoise.

Elle affirme que les résultats ont été au rendez-vous.

«Lorsqu’on fait ce qu’on aime, c’est difficile de ne pas performer», dit-elle.

Le patron peut aussi décider simplement de dialoguer avec ses employés pour connaître leurs intérêts.

«C’est très important de discuter avec ses employés, notamment pour cibler lesquels feront de bons gestionnaires», indique Benoit Hardy-Vallée, consultant spécialisé en mobilisation des employés chez Kenexa.

Choisir les bons gestionnaires

Le leadership d’un gestionnaire fait une différence sur le dynamisme d’une équipe de travail.

Lors de la publication de son palmarès Employeurs de choix au Canada, la semaine dernière, Aon Hewitt révélait que les travailleurs de la génération Y sont mobilisés dans une proportion de 69% cette année, comparativement à 63% en 2007. Pour expliquer cette hausse, on précisait notamment que 75% d’entre eux ont affirmé que les gestionnaires reconnaissent leurs efforts et leurs résultats, comparativement à 63% il y a sept ans.

Devenir un gestionnaire capable de mobiliser ses employés n’est pas donné à tous.

«Avant de promouvoir un employé comme gestionnaire, il faut s’assurer qu’il a un intérêt réel pour la gestion de talents, affirme Benoit Hardy-Vallée. Il doit avoir cette propension naturelle à aider, à coacher, à soutenir les autres. Si ce n’est pas le cas, on peut promouvoir cet employé autrement, en le nommant expert technique, par exemple. Un avocat très talentueux ne devient pas nécessairement vice-président du cabinet, mais on lui confiera des projets majeurs.»

Par contre, les gestionnaires des petites et moyennes entreprises gèrent des talents, mais aussi bien d’autres choses.

«C’est vrai qu’un gestionnaire doit réaliser plusieurs types de tâches, mais pendant qu’il est à l’oeuvre, il a des tonnes d’interactions avec ses employés, indique M. Hardy-Vallée. Il doit toujours garder en tête que sa priorité est d’être un leader positif et qu’il est là pour soutenir son équipe.»

Objectifs clairs, autonomie, rétroaction, soutien

En 2013, le gestionnaire recherché n’exerce pas un contrôle sur ses employés; il les responsabilise.

«Les employés doivent tous avoir un concept très clair de ce qui constitue un succès pour savoir sur quoi leur performance sera évaluée, affirme M. Hardy-Vallée. N’hésitez pas à afficher le principal objectif de l’entreprise ou du département à la vue de tous. Ensuite, on peut développer des objectifs selon les types de postes.»

Chaque employé doit ensuite pouvoir utiliser ses forces et ses stratégies pour atteindre ses objectifs.

«Par contre, le gestionnaire doit s’assurer de donner le soutien et la formation nécessaires pour qu’ils puissent y arriver, indique M. Hardy-Vallée. Le gestionnaire doit aussi idéalement enlever les barrières à ses employés, par exemple en fournissant des outils technologiques, ou en donnant de la flexibilité dans les horaires.»

Chez la turquoise, Lise Lévesque donne des objectifs de vente à chacun de ses employés, chaque année, en lien avec l’objectif global de l’entreprise. Elle les rencontre en début d’année pour leur évaluation, puis au milieu de l’année.

«Entre-temps, je fais un suivi constant, souligne-t-elle. Je suis toujours sur le plancher pour avoir le pouls de l’équipe. Si je vois des irritants, je réagis rapidement pour tenter de les éliminer. Je veux que mes gens soient heureux au bureau pour qu’ils donnent le meilleur d’eux-mêmes.»

D’après le consultant de Kenexa, une entreprise spécialisée en gestion du capital humain acquise l’an dernier par IBM, il est beaucoup plus profitable de réagir rapidement en cas de problème avec un employé que d’attendre à l’évaluation annuelle. Cela vaut aussi pour la rétroaction positive.

«Dès que le gestionnaire voit qu’un employé fait quelque chose de bien, il devrait le souligner en public ou en privé, soutient Benoit Hardy-Vallée. Si, par exemple, un client a fait un commentaire positif sur l’employé, n’hésitez pas à communiquer ce qu’il a dit. C’est difficile de donner trop de reconnaissance. Par contre, pour être pris au sérieux, il faut le faire en suivant des critères mesurables et cela doit venir du coeur.»

Benoit Hardy-Vallée

Get in touch with me