Would a 3000-word memo get you all fired up?

Last week Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent out a 3000-word memo to employees about his vision for the future of the company. You can read it all on Business Insider. It got me thinking about how I’d have acted if I’d been in his shoes.

Nadella’s memo contains these rather highbrow words of wisdom: “Productive people and organisations are the primary drivers of individual fulfilment and economic growth and we need to do everything to make the experiences and platforms that enable this ubiquitous”. Very poetic, but if you ask me, a bit too intellectual. It’s important to communicate with your team on a level that everyone understands. I’m not suggesting ‘dumbing down’ but if you’re trying to inspire and your message isn’t clear you’ll fail.

If I asked you to explain what the future of your company looked like, would you say something like this? “We will transform the return on IT investment by enabling enterprises to combine their existing datacenters and our public cloud into one cohesive infrastructure backplane.”

I wouldn’t.

I’d try and tell a story, paint a picture with words. I’d describe the difficult situation that Jim the Infrastructure Manager finds himself in, having to continually justify his spend to the CFO; how the  Microsoft team put their creative minds together to develop the cloud and demonstrated to Jim how he could simply add to what he already had in place, making his life so much easier.

Stories are inspiring and people remember them, especially when they are personally relevant or told from the heart.

If I was addressing my team about the year ahead I’d be honest about the challenges we were facing together. I’d show my team that I trusted them to pull through and find ways to empower them to achieve our collective goals. In fact to be fair to Nadella, something like this would do: “Microsoft will light up digital work and life experiences in the most personal, intelligent, open and empowering ways.” But Nadella said nothing about the competition, perhaps ignoring the elephant in the room.

To inspire enmasse you need to be concise and say what you mean, but there’s a fine line. I’d probably omit this part which sounds a bit like a threat: “And if you want to thrive at Microsoft and make a world impact, you and your team must add numerous more changes…. that you will be enthusiastic about driving.”

The memo ends: “With the courage to transform individually, we will collectively transform this company and seize the great opportunity ahead”. Do you think this is visionary?


Please don’t make me play frisbee

The other day I was talking to a colleague about recruitment assessment days. She said her friend had recently applied for a job at TGI Friday and the assessment was to play frisbee for an hour. From that single activity the recruiter would decide whether she was employable, a good fit for the role.

Two students playing frisbee
I wouldn’t enjoy having to play frisbee to get myself a job. Photo from the University of Maine.

Before I knew it I’d said out loud: “If anyone made me do that, I’d just walk out”.

Strong words.

And afterwards when I was reflecting on it I thought perhaps I’d been a bit hasty.

A game of frisbee could actually tell a recruiter a fair bit about the candidates:

  • If they were a ‘team player’ willing to ‘muck in’, who made the effort to pass the plastic disc to their team mates, who congratulated success and commiserated and motivated following failure;
  • If they had the qualities of a captain who could lead by example and communicate the vision of goal after goal, or empower others to take the helm when they showed promise;
  • If they could take direction and show willing to do what they were asked to even if on the face of it, they weren’t 100% sure of the point!
  • That their personality was the right ‘fit’ – in many organisations being able to have fun and maintain a balance between work and home life is seen as really important;
  • That they could follow the rules of the game and work within the boundaries they’d been set by the facilitator.

But to be effective the frisbee assessment would have to be relevant to the role.

I imagine at TGI they were perhaps looking for staff who need to be enthusiastic, customer-focussed, energetic and positive communicators, as well as being physically fit, so using a game or sport as a type of assessment is appropriate. But if the role wasn’t demanding of the qualities the game evokes then it feels to me like using this technique could perhaps be a symptom of a ‘power trip’ by the recruiter.

Have you ever been on a recruitment assessment day? Have you been asked to do something you thought was irrelevant to get a job? Have you experienced an assessment that you felt was ‘spot on’ and you rather enjoyed? Let me know your thoughts below.

Remember to look for the gorilla

Not a sentence I ever thought I’d be saying to a room full of people at work. But I did. Let me explain…

Sanctuary is implementing a new company-wide computer system (SAP) and I’m project managing the process of moving the data we have in our current computer systems over to our new one.

Man in a gorilla suit holding a banana
Can you see me?
Image from Costume Craze

Once the data has been moved over to SAP the business needs to check that what they thought had moved actually had moved, and that any financial balances are still the same. Basically that we haven’t gained or lost a few million pounds during the migration and that what we know to be a house in our existing system hasn’t magically become a garage in SAP. This process is called reconciliation and validation.

Last week my team and I presented this concept to the business. To keep it simple and get the key messages of: 1) this is really, really important and 2) you need to know what to look for when you’re reconciling and validating, we used this clip as the opener:


In the clip you’re asked to concentrate on how many basketball passes the team in white make, but a few seconds in to the game a gorilla walks across the screen, giving a little wave on his way.

About half of the audience completely missed the gorilla. They got the number of basketball passes right and had they been asked to spot the gorilla I’m sure they’d have seen it. If they’d known to look out for it, it would have been blindingly obvious.

So the point was, if you know what checks you need to perform on your data, what questions to ask, what to count, you’ll be more likely to find problems, whereas if you go into the validation process with little thought, you’ll miss the errors.

The same can be said for all things marketing and digital. When you’re proof-reading copy or checking print proofs you should be following a tried-and-tested process that will support you to find mistakes. For example when I proof-read I look for one type of problem at a time, so first I check sentence structure, then I work through the copy again and look at spelling.

With any Analytics programme you need to have an idea of what you’re trying to measure and why, before you start measuring it. A collection of numbers of site visits, bounce rate, or Likers is just a collection of numbers but if you’ve thought about its value it becomes insight which enables you to make more effective marketing decisions.

So remember, always look for the gorilla. Have some idea about what you’re trying to find before you start looking for it.