Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Zig Zag Theory of Organization

I have mentioned on any number of occasions Kent Blumberg's blog on Leadership. In a recent post, however, Kent wrote about his reaction to a U.S. News & World Report article on education in this country as well as a CNN piece on illiteracy along with some conclusions reached by the Education Testing Service in a paper they published entitled: "America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future"

I too share Kent's concern, and I am sure the concern of millions of other Americans. I have written about this on my own blog on a number of occasions, but as Steve Levy, 50% of the voice behind The Edge noted in a comment here a few days ago, since there are only 13 others beside myself who read this blog, clearly we have a ways to go in order to get to anything close to a tipping point.

I am all too painfully aware that of the issues facing our country there are many that could easily contend for the top spot on our "we just have to fix this" hit parade. I also have been running around life and the business world long enough to know that nothing really gets fixed unless the "pain" gets to the point where "leadership" acts.

For those who may not be familiar with it, here's what is meant by what has been called the Zig Zag Theory of Organizations: The pressure from the organization below the "head" becomes so great in its momentum in a given direction that the "head" has no choice but to follow.

That is what I think faces us in terms of the education gap in our country. Tom Friedman has talked about it at length on many occasions as have many, many others. Indeed, Kent could easily have filled up his entire post with links to blogs, articles, etc. on the subject.

Kent also asks in his post what is to be done. Don't I wish I had the answer! At this point I guess my suggestion is that we have to do all we can to make more and more of us aware of just how important this gap is and the consequences of what many think will occur it we don't fix it. Don't believe me? Ask any hiring manager and/or recruiter (inside or 3rd party) if it isn't getting tougher and tougher to find candidates who can read and write.

If awareness can be raised, then "leadership" no matter what party, will have no choice but to "follow."

Friday, March 23, 2007

And the Search Goes On

My colleague Joseph Daniel McCool ExecuNet's Senior Contributing Editor who writes our newsletter RecruitSmart Today recently returned from attending the Association of Executive Search Consultants annual conference.

In sharing his feedback on the conference, Joe reported that one of the keynote speakers was Geoff Colvin of Fortune whose remarks were focused on the eternal search for the magic potion that produces competitive advantage in the unforgiving world of business.

While Colvin talked about the usual suspects such as people, cultures and the relationship betweent the two, he also felt that in today's economy, and in a broader social contex, things like ethics, leadership, and executive transition and mobility also played a key roles.

Really? Haven't they always? Certainly "leadership" (the holy grail of business) and ethics (a concept that seems all too foreign in many businesses these days - read Enron et al) we hear from members all the time who are thankful for the moblity factor. Why? Because it gives them the opportunity to look for an organization where by day they can apply their talents and walk out at night with a feeling of pride at not having to feel guilty for having made a profit.

Surveys such as our Executive Job Market Intelligence Report as well as many others around the country have long reported distrubing stats around job satisfaction at the executive level, and Jerry Maguire notwithstanding, it's not about the money.

In my wishful thinking approach to life, I keep trying to convince myself that leadership, ethics, cultures, and profit are not terms that are mutually exclusive, or are they?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What's Going On III: Older People

I read so much of what John Sumser has to say about the world of staffing in cyberspace that I sometimes feel like all I really should be doing is simply post the coordinates for his Electronic Recruiting News and be done with it. That said, I have no doubt there may well be those who stop by this blog from time to time who might well say that doing just that would be a major step forward, but I am, as they say, going to "press on regardless."

In the last week or so, John has been running what I find to be a fascinating series of articles on the state of the "space" so to speak. It started with an article entitled What It Was Like which was not only a great place to start, but which is well worth reading just to remind ourselves as to just how quickly things have changed.

The article referred to in the title, What's Going On: III Older People, is the 12th piece in the series. Indeed, I would suggest that if you have interest in the history and changes in the world of staffing that you set aside some time and read them all.

In any case, the main reason I paused on this particular piece is because in it John puts a slightly different light on the issue of what companies are faced with when it comes to the demographics of the current marketplace and the implications they carry for us all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


My colleague Robyn Greenspan reminded me that today marks two years that she coerced me into doing a blog. Given that my normal attention span is something short of a nano second, I found it hard to believe that I have actually stuck with it, mostly because I still have an uncomfortable feeling in putting my thoughts on electronic paper when no one has asked for them. Just seems a bit presumptuous. I am much more comfortable when people ask me for my opinion rather than my just putting it out there as if it was too important not to.

Still, it has been and continues to me an interesting experience for me, and I have to admit, there are times when I feel better for having written some things down.

Anyway, Robyn, who in addition to heading up the publication of one of our bi-weekly newsletters called the Career Smart Advisor, also gets "rewarded" by being the author of our annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report survey which she is just finishing up as we speak.

In addition to my blog, Robyn also reminded me that this year's EJMIR as we call it, also has an anniversary. Specifically its 15th. Hardly seems possible, but for sure it's true, and in preparing this year's report, Robyn shared a few interesting stats that have developed over the years.

While it won't be published in its final form for another few weeks, for those who are interested, here are a few early headlines:

Back in early 90s, healthcare, medical/pharmaceutical, high tech, environmental and manufacturing were identified by recruiters as the top five growth areas in executive hiring. In this latest 2007 report, three of the frontrunners have shifted positions, and environmental and manufacturing didn’t even make the top five list.

On the other hand, some of the issues that were at the forefront of executives’ job search journeys in 1992 are the same concerns they have today. Age discrimination and the length of time to find a new job are two issues that have been most prominent over the last 15 years. We’re happy to note considerable improvement since 1992.

In 1992 (remember that recession?) a 41- to 50-year old executive could expect a search time of roughly 14 months, but in 2007 this has shortened to 9 months for this age group. Fifteen years ago, executives aged 51 to 60 could expect a 16 to 22 month job search. Now, those in this age range report that it should take under 11 months before they land a new position.

The biggest — and most encouraging — progress lies in what we’ve learned about the 60+ executive. In 1992, this group of senior leaders expected it to take 27 months to find a new position — more than twice as long as what the 60+ group is now reporting on average about their expected time in job search.
I know there are some who would wonder why one would even comment on someone over 60 or even 55 for that matter in terms of making a career change thinking that over 60 and jobs is an oxymoron. Maybe it was close to that 15 years ago, but it isn't now, and certainly isn't given the current dearth of talent in many sectors. It isn't just about "adult supervision", it's about the retention of 'know how' and the passing of knowledge in order to remain competitive both domestically and globally.

If this were not the case, you would not be seeing the surfacing of such sites as: Retirementjobs; Jeff Taylor's new gig Eons, Senior Job Bank or Jobs4.0 which is the most recent of which I have become aware.

And from the more things change the more they remain the same department, every year in the survey we have asked the search world how long it takes them to fill an assignment. Interestingly enough, the answer has not changed over the course of the entire survey. The answer then and now is 3-4 months on average, technology notwithstanding.

Monday, March 05, 2007

It's Not the What, It's the How

I really didn't look that hard to find the current guesstimated number of blogs and even if I had found one, I knew it would be out of date once I closed the page. All of which is enough to underscore what we all know already - there are millions of blogs and if you try and visualize all the combinations of how people can now connect with someone else, I am not sure there are enough commas for whatever that number would be.

Anyway, what got me thinking a bit about this was stumbling across a blog called MarketingProfs: Daily Fix authored by Ann Handley. In a recent post she was writing about what she thought was the best invitation she had ever received asking her to "link" with someone on LinkedIn. If you read it, I think you'll agree that it really is very creative and clever, but beyond the creativity of her friend's communication with her, I also read into her post another message, and one which we talk to our members about with great frequency - that is the process of building both reputations and relationships is always about quality, not quantity.

The point being that while each of us, be it on a personal or a professional level, know either intuitively or by experience that our connections and relationships with others is by far the most powerful business and/or career management tool we have. While in the electronic age, saying you have hundreds or even thousands of "connections" sounds impressive, it is a long way, to state the obvious, from measuring the quality or effectiveness of your network.

In my own experience I have always found that in terms of degrees of success or failure it isn't so much what I am trying to achieve so much as how I go about trying to achieve it that really makes the difference.

Ann's buddy Charlie clearly understands all of that and more.