Posts Tagged ‘training’

Damon Oldcorn berates the entrenched ageism of the IT industry.

The word ’empower’ is used a lot these days to describe a company’s ability to meet change by giving authority to the people at the sharp end. Words like this always seem to be touted around by public relations people, nothing too detailed of course, just some well concocted statements to mark some occasion or other. So the poor workers on the shop floor (as it used to be known) are going to be empowered. I do hope someone has told them about this new era of decision-making and accountability.

As you know, global organisations and our own high technology firms have thinned down their company structures, partly because of economic pressures, partly with the introduction of newer technology. Companies emerge with a streamlined look, not much middle, a flat top and a flat bottom. The idea behind the structure is that the strategic decisions made at the flat top can be whizzed to the troops at the flat bottom for them to implement tactically, making ever more accountable decisions as they go. Great in theory, but not so great in practice if you’re the 45-year-old who had to be removed to make way for this new wave.

Most of the companies I come into contact with, many in the computer and communications industry, have not trained the executives at the flat top in the new-age skills needed to compensate for this rapid change in business strategy. So as you can imagine it is extremely unlikely that they have got round to the training needs of the flat bottom to help them adapt to the new demands of this empowerment process. The question is, can the executives at the flat top grasp the new-age skills for this tremendously taxing change? I mean this change is major league, so not to be treated lightly.

sensitivityTo achieve corporate excellence today, the executive will have to have many facets in their management kit-bag: creative insight, sensitivity, vision, versatility, focus and patience (to mention just a few). Let’s focus on sensitivity for a moment ( a word not often heard in this rough, tough, high technology market). If, in the final analysis, people are an organisation’s greatest asset, then the new type manager must understand how to bind them together in a culture, wherein they feel truly motivated in the pursuit of higher goals. Face to face communication, ongoing training and development, creative incentive programmes and job security all display the sort of sensitivity that nurtures strong cultures.

Every strong culture and in this case the empowered culture derives from management sensitivity. Without it employees feel unmotivated, under-utilised,even exploited. It only takes a flick through the online job bulletin boards to see how we treat our employees. The turnover of staff, both junior and senior, is as fast and furious as ever, and there is a common pattern to people moving on. A majority when asked why they changed companies, would reply that they were not managed or spoken to in a professional manner. What a waste of time and money for all concerned. Let’s see some action to design companies so that empowerment is a balanced reality between decision-making, accountability, training and management support.

jin-tt-vs-nospringchicken-flatTo return to a point I touched on earlier, ageism, there seems to be an unwritten law in this industry that says because we keep inventing shiny, new products and services, that we must always have shiny, new younger staff as well. The number of over-45s who seem to get sidelined is amazing. What happens? Is it self-perpetuating because we have younger senior executives or younger recruitment staff? Are they unsure of their industry skills or even political ground to keep on older and more experienced staff than themselves. The older executive does not lose his or her ability to make decisions, to contribute creatively and energetically. Let’s not keep falling into the trap of discarding experience, if the industry is to mature it needs that stability.

The number of young executives I see looking for answers to basic business questions (on any online industry forum) that got answered  a long time ago concerns me. It’s not their fault, who have they got to learn from if the older mentor figures keep disappearing? There has to be a process of regeneration, a cycle where experienced professionals, grounded in business skills, impart their knowledge to the next set of executives. Who else will do it? The major company training schools seem to have diminished, or if not, focus too often on technology orientated product courses. You can only learn so much from self-help business books or company sponsored MBA courses.

Day to-day business sense has to be learned on the job, from people you respect and want to emulate. You can’t just hand out senior management positions to young executives before they are able to cope with the pressures that surround these demanding roles. So let’s match the investment that is made in the technology with investment in the long-term skills and care of our people at what ever stage of their careers, young or older.


I hear it all the time, company scaling fast, maybe 200 + people on board or even 1000+,  3 or 4 years in. The functional teams are growing and need managing more closely, You are good at your job, getting good reviews and now prime to be given that first non task orientated management role. Even if it is only 2/3 people, maybe some older than you, you were promised training, but what with the growth and pressure of work the company has not managed to get round to that yet. So you are a little lost, a nice person, well liked, maybe even a good communicator, but in reality now really worried about how to handle all this.

Well the first thing is not to stress too much or panic, the company has failed you a little here, even if they have been great in most other areas. Let them know in a professional manner, nothing over the top, that you really could do with a basic principles of management course. Either bought in to be run in-house or which I think is better offsite, with other company’s people so that you can share experiences together. In the interim pick up some of the better known handbooks on management, the difference between task and people management. There is no shortage on-line or off or recommendations, Peter Drucker’s “The Effective Executive” is a good start, this stuff tends not to date.

So what is this PODC in the headline? Something I was taught over (well let’s not say how many) years ago when I was in my first team leader role in a multinational telecoms company. I too was a young sales hotshot, dumped into the role because of my outstanding sales results, not a grounding for management, as I was a killer loner, which is why I usually won. Luckily they did train me, as was the nature of big companies in those days, with some of the best trainers in the business. PODC has stayed with me across the years from managing small or large 100+ teams in big established companies to whole companies as Founder/CEO of entrepreneurial start-ups.

It is a very simple framework for most things that come across your desk when you are moving at speed and juggling balls..

PRIORITISATION: Set out the key things that you want to achieve, the must haves over the next month or quarter that you can hang your hat on as success in relation to how your particular organisation makes up the count.

ORGANISATION: Set up you team’s resources to be able to deal with the priorities you have set. Work with the team to discuss what they are being allocated and your expectations of how they will approach their tasks and allocation of their time.

DIRECTION: Now walk the talk, management is about communication and support of the team to help them exceed their targets and make them feel good about the process. Don’t shy away from conversations if someone is struggling or going off at a tangent, keep talking and inputting.

CONTROL: Measurement and a checking process is a constant to keep moving in the way you want the team to grow and win. Results positive or negative are valuable, so gain ongoing feedback as well as the ultimate scores at the end of this particular set of tasks. Then reflect and do it better next time.

There is a lot more to this as you can imagine and years of experience help, but it is good place to start and hang on to when the whirlwind seems to engulf you, always good to return to base and map it out, your people will thank you for it.