Saturday, June 24, 2017

Business Discipline 6: Develop & Manage Human Capital - Managing Through Crisis (Part 1)

In this episode of the AppsJack Capable Communities podcast, business technologist Eric Veal speaks with a panel of Seattle business leaders and consultants about modern techniques to Develop & Manage Human Capital. The group delves into Dealing with Crisis at work, led by Joe OKonek.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Business Discipline 6: Develop & Manage Human Capital - Taking Risks at Work (Part 1)

In this episode of the AppsJack Capable Communities podcast, business technologist Eric Veal speaks with a panel of Seattle business leaders and consultants about modern techniques to Develop & Manage Human Capital. The group delves into Risk-taking at work and how individuals can take risks without risking getting fired.

Check out this episode!

Managing Information Technology Meetup - Kirkland, WA - 6/20/2017 - Recap Notes and Podcast Prep

In attendance were: Richard Schurman (Attorney), Mark Mitchell (CFO), Eric Veal (Technologist), Richard Webb (Technologist), Dominic Wong (Management Exec), Steve Kubacki (Psychologist and Inventor), Kifaya Dawud (Marketer)

RW talked about “Business Stacks”.

RW talked about how good the Amazon TPM (Technical Program Manager) role is:

They own the architecture, PM role and tech
They have clear scope
They are organized to work together
They are measured objectively and fairly: difference between TPM doing poorly themselves (as a leader/worker) and the thing they are producing failing

Example TPM role: there is a person who is responsible for running “events” for Amazon (like father’s day).  Mark: Walmart did this as well with stores in Texas with stuff like Cinco de Mayo.

Amazon TPM rollup structure:
Regional TPM
Top TPM – meets with Bezos

Same role with widening scope that aggregates

Communication flows up and down this TPM chain

Tools for organizing management:
- Mark: adaQuest has a way to communicate strategy throughout the org
- Also ManageHub - Eric and Mark to further look into ManageHub for organizational uses for process improvement with Doug Hall

CRM Systems
Are they important?  Eric says they are central but there is an issue of adoption and data capture, data quality and people playing games with their data like hiding it strategically.

Examples of modern integration frameworks: Zapier, IFTTT, etc. for integration vs. old tools and people that integrated systems.  "We don't do it like we used to.  It's all as a service now." - EV

RW coined that these types of integration utilities are “(Hardware and Printer) Drivers at a different level”.  Totally agree, very interesting.

Drivers are hard to write because they break if either end changes, which prevent scale.

RW had some funny commentary about SOAP and REST and why one didn't work and other did: "SOAP didn’t work because programmers are dirty.  REST worked because programmers are lazy."  Microservices architecture becoming a big deal.

Eric had a recent VR experience with HTC Valve simulating “in the office” where he made coffee, 3D printed things and ate a donut.  Very amazing stuff.  Changes your mind and belief of what's possible.

Current “dialogs” and programs are too linear in their current form and are too project/product-oriented (developers need to finish and can't guild the lily, just want the basics to get done). 

Eric's vision of the world of the web now (as different from APQC + Process Triggers 10+ years ago):  There are "Listeners" (the people gathering the data with instrumentation and telemetry) + they provide or sell WebHooks to others who + People that write services that hand off of the events.

EV had a question, “Can we teach computers how to HARD SELL and effectively CLOSE a person on a big transaction while the person knows it is happening?”

We seemed to agree that we could and that it was actively happening now.

RS said that it depended on how the information is presented and when.

Richard gave examples of Blue Apron knowing if he read an email from them or not (by tracking a pixel).

Mark said that Google know if you walked into Nordstrom (location services on).  This is clearly very powerful for very many marketing-related things.

Companies every day are designing and running campaigns that work against (with/for) people’s weaknesses, predilections and interests.  Insidious from one perspective, genius, smart, intelligent and useful from another.

Excellent sales processes happen all the time in games (in app purchases), etc.

This can get into some edge / unethical realms if there is blackmail, for example. Open issue/question:  What's a person's recourse against these systems?

Richard talked about how Americans respond best to English and Australian accents, so they are used a lot in advertising to us.

We talked about humans training computers (other-learning) vs. computers training themselves (self-learning).  Humans can also train humans and computers can train humans and humans can train themselves.  Lots of vicious loops and cycles here.

We wondered, "What are the limitations of IT today?"
Richard said, "We have to get rid of the I.T. and make it “we” (make it work for us)

Eric and Richard talked about Enterprise Architecture, strategy and a recent HBR article on data strategy which talked about Offensive and Defensive uses for data.

Steve Kubacki showed up and was entertaining as usual.  Steve, “How many project managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  It depends on the location of the lightbulb?”  Har-de-har-har but also fairly insightful and true in my opinion; everyone is or should be a PM.

SK when talking about Virtual Reality applications and Andrew Sengul's work with Scenario Tech, "You want people to come forward with their own imagery."

LISP.  Andrew Sengul and Ben Sidelinger are both working on modern applications using the LISP language now.  What's up with that?  List of JavaScript LISP implementations.

We had a discussion about the design/experience of video games being way too open or way too closed/structured and cited examples.

Eric talked about a future computer design where there is immediate feedback between the writing of code and the existence of the application (run time and design time).  "Real time run time."  You heard it here, folks!

SK had many great quotes:
“The Theory of Totality”.  Everything is incomplete.  Goedel. 
SK: Can a corporation have empathy?
SK: “A corporation “has a” sociopath.” (as a property) pretty funny
SK: “We are fundamentally social creatures.  Self-interest is directed by the social interests.”
SK: “Brownian motion” how things aggregate

Eric made the point to Steve at some point about different types of grouping: Aggregation (requires a common interface of the members) vs. Composition groupings (no commonality required, they are simple assembled and joined...but could be very well designed to work together systematically like a car has many parts).

Steve made some great points about how we need to intentionally design and implement systems that decentralize.  Such a great point and such an interesting area.

Someone said that IT Development has been declining over the last 20.  I guess this was something Eric Schmidt of Google has said.

Steve says that we are seeing an increase of democratization within the workplace which sounds like a really good thing to me.

Eric made the point that "ownership" (of the work ie things were fully delegated) was previously delegated to the VPs (for example, the APQC model would probably recommend that someone owns each area and are responsible for throughput and continuous improvement of it) and is now delegated to actual and real units of business (products and projects).  This is the TPM role and how this power has shifted/is shifting from functions and processes to products, which is generally great for innovation, for example.

Steve shared more ideas about how different the culture will be on Mars: it is an un-earth-based culture.  Totally different than anything we have ever known?

Richard Schurman talked about some book tech and mentioned Scrivner, 

Kifaya showed up, too.  Thanks for coming, Kifaya!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Podcast Recording Summary - June 10th, 2017 - Developing & Managing Human Capital

Last Saturday, June 10th, a group of us gathered to record the Human Capital episodes of Season 1 of the AppsJack podcast.  We were very pleased to be joined by such a large and awesome group.

On the Upcoming Episodes:

Aftab Farooqi

Rachel Alexandria

Lee Carter

Joe OKonek

Steve Kubacki

Andrea Cremese

Eric Veal

Episodes Recorded:

Develop & Manage Human Capital - Taking Risks at Work

The group delves into Risk-taking at work and how individuals can take risks without risking getting fired.

Develop & Manage Human Capital - Managing Through Crisis

The group delves into Dealing with Crisis at work, led by Joe OKonek.

Develop & Manage Human Capital - Organization Health

The group delves into Organization Health, how to think about it and methods of studying and improving it.

Develop & Manage Human Capital - Conflict

The group delves into Conflict at work and covers ways to avoid, cope and manage through conflict, led by expert and author Rachel Alexandria.

AppsJack will release a new episode every Sunday starting in June!  Tune in.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Episode 7 - Business Skill 5 - Customer Service - Chat 3of3

Show Notes - Episode 7 - Managing Customer Service

Recorded: May 13, 2017
Host: Eric Veal
Guests: Ele Munjeli, Michael Cavitt, Andrew Sengul
Legend: Bold = key point


  • AS: Cargo cults further explained.  Tribes would keep hoping for the planes would keep coming.  Doing non-value adding things and hoping.  Opportunity to find low performers and bring them up (low hanging fruit).  Need to set priorities and focus.
  • EM: What and how are you measuring success and failure.  What is a meaningful failure?  Some people rewarding the wrong things and behaviors (like people fixing bad issues) it encourages more bad behavior in the future.
  • MC: Celebrate the architects or the recovery team?  Information overload can be bad.  Not good to just get all the info.  Know the questions.
  • EM: Designing good metrics is a trick.  Need to avoid bias and ask good questions (need good science).  There's a wrong way to ask questions and gather info.  Witch hunts, for examples, not a great way to gather info or do science.
  • AS: Absurd metric examples.  "How slurred is their voice?"
  • EV: Instrumentation and telemetry a big part of this (more is good) but still need filters and need to roll it up, prioritize, control, etc.  But more data generally a good thing.
  • MC: Text-to-speech analysis is important and good feedback source.  Changes many things.
  • EM: The relationship and rapport allows us to get better data.  Have users participate in the process.
  • EV: Cost of getting feedback reducing through better instrumented products.  Doesn't require customers to actively give feedback but do through use instead.  Build the feedback system right into the product like a vacuum could detect it being kicked or sworn at.
  • EM: Want a closed feedback loop where the feedback you gave was finally told to you that your comment mattered, when and how.  
  • AS: Investment and significance.  
  • EV: Investment happens on both sides: the customer and the provider.  Both need to be invested and quid pro quo may be needed.
  • AS: Speculation and investment.  A financial question.
  • EV: Human capital is next.

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Developing and Managing Human Capital - Notes from the May 23, 2017 AppsJack Business Services Meetup in Kirkland, WA

"Human Capital" was the topic to be discussed.  It was a sunny late-May afternoon and I headed down to Big Fish Grill to have the discussion with about 10 others who had gathered.  Unlike the normal gathering, we were given a smaller table, which in the end wound up being a little better: cozier and easier to hear people.  We never broke into smaller groups and had a good dialog with a big group.

At first it was just me, leadership coach Alan Andersen and coach Susan Stringer.  I had never met Susan before and was immediately impressed by her grace, experience and knowledge.  She has a great present and is a very fun conversationalist.  Eventually, more arrived and we kicked off the discussion about "Developing and Managing Human Capital", the first support process in APQC's process classification framework.  The first thing that was made clear is we all agreed that the CAPITAL word in human capital is evil, wrong, etc.  Richard Webb suggested that thinking of people as money is no worst than thinking of them as slaves.  There was agreement on this point.

In search of a starting point, I rattled off the APQC's subtopics:

  • Develop and manage HR planning, policies and strategies
  • Recruit, source and select employees
  • Develop and counsel employees
  • Reward and retain employees
  • Redeploy and retire employees
  • Manage employee information
I told people that I was personally most interested in the "Manage Employee Information" area, where I had the most experience.  It's subtopics are as follows: Manage reporting processes (who reports to whom), Manage employee inquiry process (how management gets info from employees), Manage and maintain employee data, Manage human resource information systems (HRIS), Develop and manage employee metrics, Develop and manage time and attendance systems (we agreed this was an optional step for some places), Manage employee communication.

No one seemed to bite on the above high-level concepts so I started rattling off the discussion topics that we'd covered over the last year: good books we'd read about HR and people-management, alternatives to the resume and is the resume dead, how to get a great job, how to get maximum wages sustainably, what are the current trends and issues, problems in HR management, what does the modern worker like, what do they expect and need, what is the future of employment, what will technology do to HR and management with tools like LinkedIn and CrystalKnows?  Before I could get too far down the list, people locked on the resume topic and we were off on our first big topic.

The resume, truth, recruiting and qualification

Susan gave us some great and interesting facts about millennials in the workforce: that 50% of the workforce will be millennials by 2020 and 75% of the workforce by 2025.  Incredible statistics.  Susan is doing a presentation soon on millennials in the workforce that I will plan to attend.  She is a student of the topic.  I raised issues about complexity dealing with individuals vs. working with people in populations.  Working with 'classes' and things in groups is far easier than but as humans we seem very reluctant to exclusively deal with things in groups and need to give the attention that people and organizations need at an individual level.  

Richard said that the age of authenticity is what's next and was seeking a term for millennials.  I suggested that they were Generation M to keep it simple then we laughed about sequence issues.
We talked about predictive analytics and the power of organizations like Facebook and LinkedIn to predict events from data such as divorce with very high confidence.  Data is a very powerful thing.  
I suggested that the resume is just one signal in the collection (stack) of things necessary to understand and work with a person professionally.  Other signals include online profiles like LinkedIn, social media presence, reference checks and the interview.  We didn't believe that the resume would be going away and generrally believed that i was a gateway and door-opener to other aspects of the person.

Susan impressed us with some of her experiences doing hiring at the executive level and gave examples of people she had vetted by requesting 12 references from them: 3 supervisors, 3 peers, 3 suppliers and 3 others.  This sounded very rigorous to me but I could appreciate just how important getting this information really is for some high-risk, high-reward opportunities.

Susan shared that she asks these questions to the candidate, "How would your former managers describe you?" and to the former managers, "How would you describe your former employee?"  They are very open questions and she would listen for incongruity between the stories.  She said she had been referred to by some in the past as "the female version of Columbo", the TV show detective.  What an amazing skill to go this deeply into someone's background not make sure they are who they say they are.


We got off on a discussion about the quality of leaders and the leadership and it was stated that only A players can hire A players.  Richard told us stories about the days (joint-venture between Microsoft, Walmart, and some India companies) and how complex and different those cultures were and how they used a 'bus' to communicate effectively.  Another aspect of that collaboration that worked well was to pass information through a key resource they called the seamstress (it was a man) who would bridge the gap and coordinate between the three different teams.  


We talked a little about books here and there and Andrew Sengul regaled us with stories from Aaron Hurst and The Purpose Economy.  The book says that people can be broken up into three categories: those motivated by money, prestige/fame or a deep personal commitment.  The book suggests to only hire the people with deep personal commitment.  Andrew cited quite a few examples of how it is hard to manage and create organizations of these kinds of individuals.

Alan and Susan both highly recommended the book Leadership and Self-Deception.  Alan believes that everyone is a leader (at least sometimes) and they have to start by leading themselves.  


Richard is obsessed with the idea that things and people are corrupt.  He believes and here was agreement in the group that one thing we are trying to do with all of these systems and controls in businesses is to weed out corruption, corrupt people and takers.  Richard says that there is a worthy goal to "instrument corruption" (develop systems that can measure and detect corruption at all levels).  Andrew jumped in and offered that experts at corruption really are good at it: that low-grade corruption is easy to detect and that some people really are grade A snakes.  

Steve Kubacki showed up a bit late (but I had already referenced a couple of his ideas) and we talked more about his idea of random firings to weed out corruption and sick cultures.  
Steve says that more of this needs to happen at the top of the organization than the bottom.  Susan said that, "A good leader assesses the talent and weeds out the tenured people."  So her theory is that this can be done by good people but I agree with Steve in some ways that this needs to be done by policy and not just by people (heroes).  We went into a discussion about CEO and he Board and how those two things should work together for control and regulation of the organization.  

Richard wanted to know how to test for integrity.  Everyone agreed that business and corporations really was a battle or war and that more people need to understand that situation.  We went into a discussion about the role of the HR department (few liked it) and Susan gave us examples of HR departments that provided coaching through the "HR Business Partner" who coached the manager of the group.  I have personally witnessed limitations of this model, especially when the management is not ready for coaching.  

"Balancing the bottom line and people" is a big topic that Susan thinks is a key challenge for organizations.  

We went off on a long rabbit trail tangent about sociopaths and predators (evil people) who are ladder climbers.  We tried to separate between those who are sick, ambitious and charismatic.  There is a desire by people to detect and weed these people out.

We talked about the authoritarian personality and how many people are okay with it (even seek it out) and like to live inside of authoritarian structures because they are given something from daddy.  

Conclusions and Next Steps

We had a great turnout.  It was me, leadership coach Alan Andersen, executive coach Susan Stringer, technology architect Richard Webb, professional services pro Lee Carter, delivery operations pro Dena Carter, operations manager Dominic Wong, business owner Thomas Mercer, business leader Thomas Mercer, software product developer Andrew Sengul and creative psychologist Steve Kubacki.

Please join us soon for Episode 8 of the AppsJack Capable Communities Podcast on the HR/Human Capital topic which will feature consulting business owner Aftab Farooqi, coach Rachel Alexandria, psychologist Steven Kubacki, executive and consultant Joe OKonek and professional services sales director Lee Carter.  We will record on Saturday 6/10 and the conversations will be dripped to the major podcast outlets each Sunday morning during June and early July. 

Our next topic for the meetup and podcast will be managing information technology, a topic near and dear to my heart and another key enabler to business.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Prepping for the Upcoming HR topic

A year ago, the group met and we had the following things to say about HR:

Books. At least three books were mentioned during the meetup.  Bruce sited “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” and “The Glass Cage: Automation and Us”, both by Nicholas Carr.  Richard mentioned "Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers" by Alexander Osterwalder.

What is talent? Richard, a highly entertaining and intelligent man, is known for dropping wonderful, unique, newly-coined quotes and one from the meetup this month was, “Talent is like migrating birds.”

We discussed a variety of topics: “Humans and Machines”, “Is the resume dead?  Hiring for cultural fit.”, “Bad HR policies and practices”, “Social Networks and Personal Profiles”.  

Applications of CyrstalKnows, LinkedIn and other tech. We got into specifics about the recent acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft and also the potential applications, scope and scale of Crystal Knows (  Crystal puts people through a simple personality test (DiSC profile) and then provides services to help individuals best connect with and relate to others based upon their assessed types.  Richard also said that CK has algorithms to crawl users’ social medai profiles from Facebook and other sites to determine personality.
We talked about the technology of Human Resources Management and specifics about Learning Management Systems and applications like Enterprise Search.

Cultural differences between USA and India. Jehan led us in a discussion where he shared about differences he has noticed between India and USA.  He sees USA kids as “gullible” and the India kids as more street smart.  India has a bigger focus on STEM and he has seen India transform substantially (from “another planet” to what it is now) over the decades.  He sees India as “dog eat dog” and the USA is as “procured”.  Jehan said, “We [in America] live in a virtual world.”

Classifications of workers, millenials. Richard, always entertaining, talked to us about thinking of people as either A) talent or B) task worker.  Others made us think of the world split between products and services. According to Richard, two properties that he sees defining millennials are that they have A) anger issues and B) a plan.  Richard has millennial children.

1099 vs. W2 models. We talked about 1099 and W2 relationships between employers and workers and were blessed to be led by PJ and Mike Lazer, both experts in the industry.  Solid contributions came from Dominic as well.  Some of the reasons that go into picking one or the other are trade secrets, risk management/mitigation (blame and culpability), as well as changes in business models.

The Seattle market and talent pool. The question was asked if Seattle the hottest market in the USA and many agreed that it may be.  Seattle has “the cloud” here (Microsoft Azure and AWS).  We are the platform.  Compare this to the bay area, for example, that has / makes many of the apps that run on the cloud.  Seattle is infrastructure and the rest of the world is the apps / things.  Where will this place Seattle in 5-10 years?

This year we are going to follow the APQC model at least for starters. Here's the cheat sheet on this area. And their L1 topics are:
  1. Develop and manage HR planning, policies and strategies
  2. Recruit, source and select employees
  3. Develop and counsel employees
  4. Reward and retain employees
  5. Redeploy and retire employees
  6. Manage employee information
Two questions come to my mind that I would like to discuss:
  • What is the modern practice of recruiting?
  • What is the best and worst onboarding experience you have had?
  • What challenges does your company currently have with HR?  Retention?