Posts Tagged 'Thinking'

The wrong question

Enjoyed the recent HRINZ conference in Wellington. The ‘Restoring the Trust’ theme was right on from the current economic environment Well run with a provocative series of speakers especially Roger Steare (Ethicability) , Vanessa Stoddart (Air New Zealand) and  Fermin Diaz (Mercer). The conference ran like clock-work. Well done to Beverley Main and the HRINZ team.

I did take issue with David Thompson (Beyond the Dots) who talked about Talent Management. I think I may be in a minority of people who object to the idea of identifying the few talented ones in an organisation! I don’t think I’m being a socialist here. The whole approach is based on the wrong question – ‘how do we identify and support our talent?’. If you ask the wrong question, you will come up with the wrong answer. Focusing on a relatively few high performance individuals is dumb.

Here’s one of the reasons why. Lets say your talent program identifies 10% of your organisation as talent. If your program raises their performance by 50% (which is hard as they already are high performers) the net organisational gain is a mere 5%.

I think a better question is – ‘how do we unlock the talent throughout the organisation?’ Because if you can raise the performance of the rest of your organisation (the 90%) by just 10% (which is easy as they are low performers) the net organisational gain is 9%. An 80% improvement on focusing on the talented few (ie. 9% instead of 5%).

I’m not an HR professional, but I think …

The problem is that talent management sounds like a good idea. But if HR is to build trust with business, it needs to stop advocating strategies that are fundamentally flawed and will not deliver value to their business. Eventually the results will speak for themselves and Talent Management will fail to meet it’s expectations. That will damage HR’s credibility and reliability which in turn will damage trust.

My second point here is about the art of questioning. Such a powerful and under-utilised skill. Our individual credibility is communicated as much though the questions we ask as though the stories and experiences we share. But take care not to ask the wrong question. Give the right question some consideration.

Of course, I could be quite wrong. Happy to heard alternate points of view.

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Progress

It’s often refreshing to read the Harvard Business Review. They seem to understand how to communicate incisive business ideas in a very engaging way. It was particularly refreshing to see Teresa Amabile’s contribution to Breakthrough Ideas for 2010 (January-February 2010).

The number one motivator (by a long way) for motivating people is Progress. (ie. the feeling of making progress in one’s work). That’s based on the Amabile/Kramer multi-year study of hundreds knowledge workers. I’m calling it Achievement.  I think we’re on the same page.

What I’m arguing is that the best investment an organisation can make is in supporting it’s people to achieve something that aligns with the strategic direction of the organisation. There are no silver bullets, only fundamental questions.

Everyone should ask themselves:

  1. Given the current situation, what specific achievement should I be focused on? What specifically constitutes progress?
  2. How would this be meaningful to me?
  3. How do I enroll the people I need to support this specific achievement/progress?
  4. How do I create a sense of momentum that motivates myself and the team?
  5. What does reality look like? Am I making progress?

Worth thinking about!

Because you know. The greatest opportunities for leadership development, learning, motivation, change, engagement, value, etc – lie in front of us in the work that we do.  It is just a matter of how we think about it.

ps I’m back after a summer recess! You’ll be hearing more from me.


Thought leadership

I’m sensing an increasing premium on thought leadership at the moment. We’re living at a time of significant change. A time of opportunity surely, but also danger.

Anything that supports and develops better and more creative thinking should be encouraged. There’s a lot more value in thinking differently at the moment. There’s a lot more value in thinking for ourselves. That’s why I love Twitter as a channel for connecting with a wider perspective on what’s happening in the world. Individual ‘tweets’ may be low value, but hearing how others are thinking makes you think differently. Valuable thoughts emerge from the diverse and potent mix of stimulating ideas. It can’t be premeditated though! You just need to let it happen.

In this spirit, here is an intriguing conversation with  Robert Sapolsky (a Stanford neurobiologist) about Toxo!

http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge307.html

It probably has very little to do you’re day job. Unless you’re a neurobiologist!

But I hope it makes you go “wow”. I hope it makes you think about how little we know. I hope it creates an openness to different ideas. I hope it stimulates a curiosity to learn more. I hope it helps you to be a stronger thought leader. And I hope you find it stimulating enough to subscribe to edge.com.

HR2.0

I spoke yesterday at HRINZ on change and HR. It was version 1.o of some thinking I’ve started on these two topics. It was a start. One of upsides of the current economic turmoil is that its forcing individuals and organisations to think again about ‘value’.

I often encounter unflattering comments about HR’s value from senior and line managers in organisations. I wonder if HR has become overly preoccupied with process, systems, tools, technologies and frameworks.  It reminded me of the IT industry. And led me to thinking about how pervasively we use the web today. It’s a long way from the IT industry I knew in the late 80’s.

The internet has transformed itself from simply a transport mechanism into something that delivers real value to people. The current term being used is Web2.0.

Web2.0 is about technology:

  • as a platform for it’s users to create individual value (eg Flickr)
  • as an architecture of participation (eg blogging)
  • as a means of harnessing collective intelligence (eg Wikipedia)
  • providing users with a rich user experience (eg RSS)
  • letting users pull information to meet their immediate demands (eg Google)

WEb2.0 has lead to an exponential rise in the use and creativity of the web. No change management plan here!

What would HR2.0 look like?

As a starter I’d suggest that HR 2.0 could:

  • insist managers are responsible for achievement of goals aligned with the overall strategic intent of the organisation.
  • let individual managers decide what they need (from HR and others) to achieve those goals. And who, when and how those needs are met.
  • focus at least 70% of their effort and resources (budget) on meeting the individual in-action needs of managers striving to achieve clear goals.
  • work within an organisational framework of clear values, culture and shared sense of accountability.
  • offer a suite of useful tools, frameworks and resources without advocating any.
  • inspire people to be bolder in their sense of possibility and potential.

Interested in talking with anyone interested in further developing this thinking.

Value for Money

VFM is a bit of a catch-cry at the moment. There’s a lot of talk, but I doubt whether any significant improvement in VFM will occur. For three reasons:

  1. Reducing head count and other resources puts more pressure on day-to-day operations and people have to pedal faster to keep up with business as usual. There is less time to think systemically about innovating and improving value from the public’s perspective.
  2. Reviewed budgets line-by-line while appearing to save money can actually result in cost increases elsewhere in the system.  So overall costs can go up. But more importantly missing the bigger opportunity to make larger system-wide improvement.
  3. And talking about the system … the wider political system is inherently highly risk averse. It would be a brave CE who would risk his reputation and career by being bold and failing.

To make significant improvements in VFM we need to:

  • think systemically about what’s happening and understand the demands placed on the organisation.
  • consider ‘value’ from the perspective of the consumers or public.
  • identify a limited number of focus areas (no more than 5) for significant improvement. (I hear, that even Microsoft has there 3 big bets!)
  • find ways to manage (rather than avoid) risk taking.

Interested in thoughts from the front lines.

Inside the box

It’s a cliche today to “think outside the box”. Everyone seems to want creative, innovative ideas. Few are prepared to invest in making them happen though!

I had lunch with a friend last week who talked about her boss’s interest in thinking outside the box. Liz had a different point of view. Liz was passionate about the need for more thinking “inside the box”.

I have just finished reading John Seddon’s book “Systems Thinking in the Public Sector”. It’s a sobering critique of the British government’s reform agenda. He uses some compelling examples of how ideological approaches to improving public services are in fact increasing cost and lowering quality. He takes a systems approach and draws on the thinking of Edward Deming and Taiichi Ohno. Ohno was the developer of the Toyota Production System.

Anyway, here’s a quote from Ohno.

“Everything you need to know in order to make improvements will be found in your own system. If you go looking elsewhere, you will be looking in the wrong place”

Liz is right, lets think inside the box! I think Liz sees plenty of opportunities for improvement right in front of her.