Don’t dog nod your way to unemployment. Read this and get on your soap box


After yesterday’s slightly risqué rant, I received an interesting comment from Nigel Barron (pictured) this morning, an avid follower of HFS over the years, who spent much of his career with CSC and subsequently DXC before recently going independent (and clearly off the leash and wagging his tail!):

“Since 2008 every job has become a hustle and analysts are no different. Authenticity is not a winning attribute. To survive, being the nodding dog is the difference between having a paycheck and not having a paycheck and when they’ve got mortgages to pay and kids to put through college truthful, honest and clear research might not be the best bet. That’s not to say its the right thing to do, just an observation. I speak from experience also.”

I refused to become a nodding dog. It’s simple if you keep at it…

Nigel Barron:  Nodding Dog Sympathizer

Well, Nigel, I also speak from experience here. I used to work for Deloitte Consulting back in the day, and my lead Partner demanded I take my blog offline (having initially been fine with me continuing with it, during the interview process).  The firm literally could not tolerate one of its consultants having freedom of thought and bypassing its painful thought police (aka “risk”) process.  I eventually left the firm after that… I just couldn’t stomach an employer putting the muzzle on thought leadership.  Especially mine!

A couple of years later, I was working for AMR Research (now part of Gartner) and a huge debate ensued among management whether “Phil should keep his blog up”.  Many of the clients insisted one of the reasons they stuck with the firm was because of my blog, so money eventually spoke – they felt they got some real views of the industry and wanted to call me to discuss as part of their research contract. In fact, our Chief Research Officer, Bruce Richardson, at the time candidly said, “Let’s just let all the analysts blog, I can guarantee only 2 or 3 will bother”.  Bruce was right.  In fact, I think it only me who actually bothered.  And then another boss decided to try and ban analysts using LinkedIn.  My god… where do they find these people?

Amusingly, around that time, I went for a job interview with SAP (yeah OK, I wanted a Merc)… and the first thing the hiring SVP asked me was “Phil, you will keep your blog going, won’t you?”.  I nearly fell off my chair – you’d have thought the Germans would be the first to censor free thought =)

Find an employer who lets you express your ideas and views.  Otherwise just work for yourself.  Or just be a nodding dog…

If you are a nodding dog who’s happy nodding away and taking home your paycheck each month, then I am very happy for you.  Life is good.  However, if you are bored out of your mind and are desperate to craft a living that utilizes your creativity, please get out of your predicament… for your own sake.  The digital world is all about people with creative relationship skills and entrepreneurial capabilities.  Nodding dogs can (and will) be replaced by automated ones… please don’t nod your way into unemployment.

Let’s face facts, the world is a digitally-scary place, and the only way to deal with it is to keep trying to learn more and keep talking to colleagues and peers in other firms about how to get ahead of this. Suddenly, we have become disposable assets and we need to keep reinventing ourselves to keep sounding like we’re up on all the new stuff. Suddenly, we live in a world where everything is about to be transported to the scrapheap of legacy professionals who can’t be retrained to do anything meaningful anymore. So keep nodding at your peril…

However which way we look at this, the real answer is that we simply don’t actually know what the future has in store for our careers, our companies, our economies, politics and our children, but what we can do is keep understanding the facts and keep sharing knowledge with other like-minded people… and the future will unravel before our eyes as we keep trying to make sense of it all.

Our recent study on Intelligent Operations, conducted with the support of Accenture, which covers the views and dynamics of 460 global 2000 operations leaders, gives us some real insight into this shift towards the creative, curious types, with a thirst to learn and an obsession with networking and partnering:

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The focus is heavily shifting to dynamic, entrepreneurial individuals who understand how to define outcomes 

So if we’re one of these obsessively socially curious animals with a penchant for constantly knowledging-up on all the cool new stuff – and we love to talk partnerships with other companies in our network, the near future is actually pretty encouraging for us:  our skillset now tops the list for what global 2000 leaders are looking.  Leadership is under intense pressure to change the norm, to align their operations with the direction their customers are taking them.  The wonks who spend all day staring at spreadsheets, focused on execution “left-brained” activities are less in demand – they need to learn how to wrap the needs of the business into broader processes that can cater to customers and support management decisions in real-time.  Essentially, if your operations are not in sync with the customer-driven front office, you will likely fail.  Yes, you need opinions, you need to speak up, yes you need to stop the nodding and find your inner digital mojo.

The Bottom-line: This is the new normal – leaving our comfort zones and getting out there to make stuff happen.  End the nodding now!

It really is as simple as that – we’re all leaving that big comfortable world where all you had to do was turn up for work, do the same routine activities each day, go to the same mundane meetings and keep the lights on.  We all know those days are leaving us behind, and if you’re under the age of 55, it’s unlikely you can plot that sneaky escape to early retirement… we’re living in a world where we need to learn about new technologies (you don’t need to code anymore), we need to share experiences and use cases with peers across the industry, and we need to reach outside of our cosy internal networks to talk through smart partnerships with tech firms, supply chain partners, customers etc.

You only have to look at the reason 200 executives showed up at the HfS FORA Summit in New York to understand motivations have changed in an anonymous poll:  they are going out to get educated and share experiences with peers.  The days where conferences were all about job hopping are over – it’s more about how to stay relevant and ahead of the game.:

In essence, there is no written rulebook where this all leads – the world has become an uncertain place politically and we have yet to experience an economic downturn for many years.  However, what is clear is sitting in a quiet office all day staring at your emails and nodding in a canine-like fashion is unlikely going to get you where you need to go next in your career.  This is the age of getting networked, getting smart and learning from collective experiences.  The only comfort zone is the one you make for yourself – being comfortable with the impact of change agent technologies and the experiences you can have working with them.

So let’s wage a war on the turgid dog nodding motherhood and apple pie, people… Ugh, it makes me want to curl up into the foetal position and reemerge in the 1960s… when thought was valued, and democracy was everything.

Posted in : Talent and Workforce


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