Archive for December, 2008
Malcolm Gladwell has been over to London, talking about his new book, The Outliers. I haven’t read the book and I’ve only scanned the reviews, but the talent management component of the message seems to be that;
Outliers focuses more on the social and cultural context of individuals to explain their extraordinary success… Gladwell explains how success in the 21st century is less about sheer intelligence and more about collaboration and hard work
We’re always in favour of collaboration, although concerning Gladwell, the BPS blog linked to a wonderful interview with Gladwell and Katie Couric in which Couric asks Gladwell if he is stating the obvious. Gladwell’s reaction before answering is well worth the three minutes and preceding advert!
However you perceive Gladwell, it is wonderful to watch someone who has been so closely entwined with the zeitgeist for so long.
According to Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC Holdings;
Values go beyond ‘what you can get away with’ and that values are, in the end, critical to value – to sustainable value, that is
Green goes on to say;
“For companies, where does the responsibility for this begin? With their boards, of course. It is their job to promote a culture of ethical business throughout their organisation. It is true for banks at this time, but also true for all our businesses at all times.” Most of his industry colleagues wanted to do this and to be able to look at themselves in the mirror and know they were doing the right thing, he added.
Evidently, very relevant advice, if perhaps acknowledging that the horse has already bolted. That said, such sentiments go a long way to endorsing the opportunity and recognising the potential value that comes from successful leadership development.
Quotes via People Management
- Self Awareness
I spoke a bit more about our own, Wilber inspired perspective on the topic. If you fancy a listen, the podcast is here.
A fragmented approach to the elements comprising workforce development led to lack of integration and inability to align the workforce to current and future business demands.
Who’s doing it [Talent Management] well? According to Michael Specht no single organisation jumps out as doing it all well. Several are doing some bits well but nobody is doing it end-to-end as yet.
Research in the recently published Cedar Crestone 2008–2009 HR Systems Survey has found that organisations that extend their talent management strategy across the entire workforce have better returns.
This research is confirmed by another survey from IBM on the ROI of Talent Management, where it was noted that organisations “that apply talent management practices demonstrate higher financial performance compared to their industry peers”.
Gary Cokins highlights some recent Dutch research that suggests;
overall enterprise performance is improved by defining accountability for sales turnover and profit and loss simultaneously over multiple dimensions (e.g., by product, region, account, market segment, industry). This “multidimensional” concept means that for each dimension, a separate manager is held accountable –and with consequences of reward or punishment
While a full appreciation of multidimensionality is for me at least, some way of, I am intrigued and interested to read that;
The Dutch study implies that reshaping an organization’s social structure with multidimensional principles is emerging as a trend. Implementing a performance management framework most certainly is an essential enabler to make such a vision a reality.
Commentators are currently polarised around the future of the HR function. Some suggest that the function is about to enter a boom period as after several years of cajoling, organisations are placing far greater significance on talent management and putting strategic HR activities at the heart of the business. On the other hand others believe that HR is still struggling to rise to the challenge and is destined to remain a transaction based cost centre for the foreseeable future. As with most things, in the truth probably resides somewhere in the middle. This article explores the evidence for both perspectives and suggests that solving apparently intangible human capital problems is the best way for HR to profit from the current circumstances.
The Case for Boom
In examining the factors contributing to the possible ‘boom’ scenario, there are at least four underlying developments which contribute to this.
The Talent Management Agenda
The most significant development is recent research conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) and McKinsey which suggests that talent management is now a major priority for business leaders. PwC report that 89% of 1,150 CEOs agree that the people agenda is a top priority and a further 67% believe this is where their time is best spent. Meanwhile, McKinsey state that “By far the most significant trend – cited by 47 percent of the executives – is the intensifying battle for talented people. Shifting centres of economic activity and increasing technological connectivity were the next most important trends, each with 34 percent.” Such data paints a clear picture that executives are now firmly focused on talent management as a key, if not the top priority.
The Growth of Talent Management Software
The second development is the growth of the talent management software market, suggesting that leaders are paying more than lip service to the “our people are our greatest asset” mantra. Gartner defines such software by saying that “most large companies have implemented an integrated set of administrative human capital management applications. Now, these companies are turning their attention to strategic talent management applications to get more value from their investments in people.” As reported by the Yankee Group, this market has a CAGR of 26%, making the market worth $4.0bn by 2009. The forecast also seems to be holding good with Gartner analyst Jim Holincheck reporting more enquiries for talent management software this year compared to last, along with a record growth rate for 2007 of 20%.
While Bob Sutton knows GM very well (research, speaker, existing contacts there), he can’t stop himself from feeling compelled to speak his mind. Here are some extracts from his piece;
I am ambivalent about whether the auto industry should receive the 25 billion dollars… I worry that it will be a waste because the industry has lost so much money and so many jobs in recent years that these firms are in a death spiral that is impossible to stop… I also believe it will be a waste because the leaders of these firms (at least GM, which I know best) are so backward and misguided that the thought of giving these bozos any of my tax money turns my stomach – which is pretty much the same point made by observers ranging from ultra-capitalist Mitt Romney to near-socialist documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.
To me, a pair of root causes standout: Most of the senior executives — and many of the managers — are (1) clueless about what matters most and (2) suffer from a “no we can’t” mindset… the norm in meetings is that the highest status person in the room does all or most of the talking… more so than any organization I have ever dealt with, employees are expected to express agreement with their bosses… GM is a culture where subordinates are expected to shut-up and kiss-up when the boss is around… Do I believe that that the current crop of executives could transform the GM culture to include these and other practices that will increase their awareness of what is going in their company and in the marketplace? No… But this “can’t do” mentality is pervasive.
Perhaps the most salient example comes from the perks offered to executives…
Consider the case of the free GM cars. This isn’t a new problem. Many other observers have commented on it before me. I commented about it very forcefully about to some GM managers a few years back. I argued that they needed to abolish the program because it caused the whole top of the company to be out of touch with the car ownership experience. They answered that GM couldn’t possibly get rid of the program because they had negotiated such a great tax deal with the state of Michigan (much better than Ford, they bragged) and because it was one of the few perks left for white collar employees. I was not very nice, I argued that this mentality was one of the reasons that the company was in trouble and would get in more trouble. They treated me like I was insane.
If there were ever a case of a firm’s human and economic values being out of line, this must be one of them!
In lots of large corporations, innovation and integration are unnatural acts. Silos block cross functional cooperation and resistance stifles new ideas and concepts.
A piece in HBR then “explores how some companies are overcoming these boundaries by proposing and establishing two new types of cross-organizational teams.”
This also reminds me of Jody Hoffer Gittell and her work on relationship coordination to raise performance by integrating teams and departments.
Philip Preissing talks about some fascinating research from Microsoft in which the outcome of software projects reflects and is very heavily influenced by the organisational structure in which they were conceived and developed. Building in part on Conway’s Law, a study of Window’s Vista said;
They evaluated their metrics on the Codebase of Windows Vista (over 3400 Binaries, >50 Million Lines of Code, thousands of developers) with very astonishing results. They tried to estimate which binaries of Vista would have a fault in the field (are failure-prone) and which are not failure-prone. 86.2% of the predicted failure-prone binaries were actually failure-prone (precision) and 84% of all actual failure-prone binaries were correctly predicted (recall)… As it can be seen, the organizational structure metrics out-performed every other metric in terms of precision as well as recall!
I suspect there may be more lessons to come from such work and it may well apply to fields beyond software development.