Monday Dec 14, 2009

Employee Engagement

Two members of the Sun Eco leadership team, Marcy Lynn and Lori Duvall, have been holding a conversation through their blogs recently (last two posts here and here).

In her latest post Marcy is lamenting the state of employee engagement at Sun. She cites the lack of "green teams" and inactivity in the Eco Facebook community as evidence for her sense that employee engagement hasn't gotten going to the extent that it has in other companies where "green teams" have taken off.

But I wonder if we really take our motto, "Every job is an eco job", to heart, and we look at what's taking place in the organization, are these valid ways to measure employee engagement?

For example, our Workplace organization has made serious strides in embedding sustainability into their activities for this year, embodying the "Every job..." concept. But since they're already a team, would it make sense for them to register as a "green team"? Do they need to share the ideas they're working on within their org on Facebook, since they already have the authority and budget to act on them?

I could cite similar examples for what's going on in energy efficient design in the product teams, or the great work our datacenter teams have done creating much more efficient IT and labs for Sun.

My realization from reading Marcy's blog and thinking about this is that if you really execute on "Every job...", then it just becomes part of what they do, and it gets harder to see exactly what they are doing and how they are doing it. A parallel may be to say "Every job is a business job", which in a company is generally true. But that doesn't mean that every employee self-identifies as a business person, or as part of a business team.

Ironically, one of the reasons we started the "Every job..." campaign was that we realized there was lots of opportunities in areas we didn't know anything about, so we wanted people to find them themselves. What we didn't think about was that folks might buy into the idea, find opportunities we didn't see, do the work, and we'd never find out!

Finally, I don't want to risk overstating what we've accomplished in employee engagement. We've got a long way to go. But I also don't want to miss out on what is happening. In at least some areas I don't believe we have a disconnect in employee engagement, but instead its a failure of recognizing and measuring employee engagement.

Friday Dec 28, 2007

YASC, but different this time

If you don't hang around developers, you may not know that any acronym that starts with YA usually means "Yet Another". In this case, YASC is Yet Another Sustainability Conference.

If anyone profited off of environmental concerns in 2007 it was the conference industry, where a rash of new energy efficiency, sustainability, environmental and green themed conferences hit the market. I found many of them useful, especially earlier in the year when the information was still fresh, but by the end of the year I found myself showing up, doing my part, and heading out. Too many corporate advertisements, too many canned speeches, and not enough real information exchange.

But with so many companies having to work their way up the same learning curve, and with so much innovation starting to happen, I think there's still a need for people to be able to get together and share ideas and experiences. Since our business at isn't conferences, we're free to try something a little different. Based on our experience with "unconference" style get-togethers for developers, we think there's real potential for that format of meeting in the sustainability space. And to see if we're right, we're going to hold on.

So if you're around San Fran in early January (Jan. 10 to be exact), consider stopping by the first OpenEco Energy Camp. We've got over 200 folks signed up, including some big names and thought leaders from a number of area companies. In addition to lots of discussion time there will be book signings, videos and some food. It's an experiment, but as its shaped up I'm more and more convinced that this type of get together has an important role to play.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday May 15, 2007

Software patents

Microsoft is bringing software patents to the forefront with their article this week in Fortune. My sense is that they are testing the water - if you have a reaction to this you need to tell them what you think, either directly or through your purchases.

The Sun bloggers have already produced some interesting reading on this. Greg P and Jonathan are laying out Sun's position more and more clearly, and Tim provides his thoughtful-as-always commentary (follow the links to his earlier work, but the last line says it all..."Shut up or litigate"). But make sure to read Mike Dillon, Sun's general counsel and senior most legal guy - it'll open up your eyes to what's happening.

I'm not going to tell you that this is as important as dealing with climate change, but if you run a business it is important to you, and if you run a technology-driven business, then it is critical to the future of your business.

Friday Apr 13, 2007

Second Work

One of the things I'm increasingly interested in is the role of gaming technology in the office. As Sun, with its OpenWork program and increasingly global workforce, gets more and more distributed, we need integrated core services such as secure identity and presence, audio conferencing, multi-party chat, etc etc etc. Today's massive, multi-player online games are as close as we have to examples of systems that integrate all of these things in a coherent way. Unfortunately they're almost always closed systems, and lack some of the basic features that an enterprise would require (yes, I need to be able to have an internal meeting without worrying about pig grenades). We're working on two separate threads of this right now. The first is Project Darkstar, our Java-based infrastructure for multi-player on-line games. We've been getting tons of attention since our announcements and demos at GDC, and there's more to come at JavaOne. The second is a SunLabs project called MPK20. The name is a play on the building naming scheme in Menlo Park, where our campus currently goes up to MPK18. MPK20 is the next building, but it will only exist in virtual space, so that we can finally get some reasonably sized auditoriums, window offices for everyone, etc. Lots of cool work going on with this - check out the demos at JavaOne for MPK20 as well. We're not sure where this is going yet, but the more time we spend on it, the more we're convinced that there's something there. If you're interested in this space from a research or product perspective, give us a shout - there's tons to work on. Also, we've got some developer positions open - check out this, this and this. Game on!

Tuesday Feb 06, 2007

Oops!

Sorry to those of you who've written comments over the last few months. I discovered today that I wasn't getting the emails that comments were in the queue waiting for may approval, so they've just been sitting there. I think I have it working now...

Thursday Sep 14, 2006

Finding our Voice

I got my first issue of Good Magazine the other day I've enjoyed reading it. First off its got a good sense of humor. But I also appreciated the optimistic, action oriented tone of the work.

One piece that particularly caught my attention was "Doublespeak: Do companies really give a damn?" by Jonathan Greenblatt, founder of Ethos water. It's an editorial about authenticity, and how sometimes corporate communications has it and sometimes it doesn't. While it brought back painful memories of a few weeks ago when Tim Bray chided me for an unreadable quote of mine in a press release, it really hit home in the context of our upcoming corporate social responsibility (CSR) report.

How do we make a report like this sound authentic? What makes it sound like we mean it, and what makes it sound like we don't? In short, what is Sun's "authentic voice"?

I don't have a great answer yet (I suppose the proof will be in the pudding), but its causing some interesting discussion and experiments to take place. More to come on this in upcoming posts...

Tuesday Sep 12, 2006

Digitally Divided

Like Hal, I thought some of the responses to Jonathan's digital divide entry were a little too, well, divisive.

My first reaction mirrored Hal's: this isn't a valid either-or. If I told you "I'm concentrating on my job for the next couple of months, so I'm going to have to stop being polite to others", you'd call me, at best, crazy. Well, with over 30,000 employees, bigger things can happen.

My second reaction relates to the changes I've seen in Sun since I left in 2001. In the traditional business model, there's the company and there's the potential customers, the latter being a group who has been targeted by the company through some business plan. You come up with marketing plans, budget for sales folks, build out a field engineering team, etc.

Lets apply this point of view to Jonathan's digital divide post: Yowza! This can't possibly make sense! Sun is diluting its focus and going after a market that clearly can't justify the cost of customer acquisition!

Now I'm not going to argue that this traditional business approach is wrong. What I'm going to argue is that the traditional business/customer relationship is not the only meaningful one in the Participation Age. Sun needs relationships with developers, hosting companies, handset manufacturers, bloggers, sys admins, etc, etc. Most of these relationships lack the well-defined structure of the traditional business/customer relationship, but that doesn't mean they lack value. Furthermore, the "cost" of these relationships doesn't have to be as high as the traditional relationship as well.

The ability to identify these other types of relationships, putting plans around them and executing on them is one of the big changes I've seen in Sun over the last five years. And it's through this thought process of a wider range of relationships that Sun looks at the broader set of opportunities outlined by Jonathan.

Monday Sep 11, 2006

Remember

Just wanted to take a minute and remember my friend and colleague Phil Rosenzweig. Phil was a long-time Sun employee and was killed five years ago today on one of the planes that left Boston.

In memory of Phil, someone else you know, or the whole event, please try to do something nice for someone today. Go a little out of your way to hold a door open, call someone you haven't talked to for a while, or give someone you love a hug. We need to remind ourselves and everyone else of the things that are great about this country and its people.

Monday May 22, 2006

Why Sun?

Since returning two weeks ago, I've gotten the "Why did you decide to go back to Sun?" question many times.

I'll be the first to admit that corporate profits and resulting stock performance have not been exactly stellar (I still have a bunch of stock from when I was at Sun before, so I've been paying attention, too). But when I looked at it, there were 3 things that made it compelling:

  1. Innovation. As I've written before, I believe we're going to need serious innovation in order to tackle our energy and environment challenges over the coming years. Sun has the track record of innovation that I'll hold up against anyone.
  2. People. There's folks who are still there, folks who've come back, and new faces that I know from elsewhere. I can start naming names, but if you follow Sun at all you know great examples from all three of these categories.
  3. Critical mass. I could be innovative in a startup with a small group of hand selected folks, but I know that I'd never have the leverage that you when you tap into the power of a company the size of Sun.

Finally, I came away from my previous tour at Sun knowing that it was a place that I could get things done. The environment that Scott, Jonathan et al have created works well with my style.

So, that's the background on the job and why I'm here. Now its on to eco topics!

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