Competing Through People  | January 2014 Edition
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MAC 2011Talent Abuse Award Winners

I read one of those typical end-of-the-year articles on the biggest business debacles of the year.  All the "winners" that made the list did so because of a variety of financial and legal miscarriages.  That got me thinking.  Do organizations sometimes abuse talent more than they do financial assets?  The more I thought about it, the more it seemed possible.  There are sure plenty of opportunities to squander talent . . . and most of its not illegal!

With that in mind, here are my thoughts on practices that would serve as my nomination criteria for the Talent Abuse Awards.

Succession Planning Only at the Top
Typical succession planning involves individual leaders at the top of the organization creating back-up lists for their role.  On the face of it, this seems like a sound practice.  However, the hit rate on back up lists is typically very low, around 15%.  In addition, valid and reliable talent assessments require input from multiple sources, not just someone's manager.  Effective succession "management" involves assessing and engaging pools of talent at all levels of an organization.  (Click on these links to learn more about Succession Management , Assessing Your Talent or Leadership Development.)

Incapable Leaders in Key Roles
I'm often surprised that, after assessing the leadership talent of an organization, we find low-performing leaders in key roles.  These marginal leaders hold others back, cause turnover, are stress carriers and are capability anchors around the neck of the  organization.  Organizations often have a culture of not confronting these issues or may actually use practices that enable the creation of these talent anchors.

Putting People First, Not Strategy
I know this sounds like a paradox:  How could "putting people first" create talent abuse.  To me, the idea of a "People First"  strategy just doesn't make sense.  First of all, its not a strategy.  Beyond that, talent has to be created, developed and sustained against some context that's different for every organization - its strategy.  Talent can only have value to the extent that it helps drive strategy.  If not, then you end up with misguided and disengaged talent.

The "Next Shiny Object" Syndrome
This usually starts when a leader reads a new business  best seller that is not based on any real research - just a catchy title and some potentially good ideas that grew from anecdotal evidence.  Companies create programs based on the shiny object that soon fade away because there is no ROI. 

Training for Activity, Not Impact
Like the Shiny Object Syndrome, this often starts when HR is tasked with coming up with training because "something has to be done" to solve a problem.  The training is implemented without a needs analysis or success preparation.  The number of "butts in seats" and smile sheets are the measures of success. The training has little impact, the number of butts declines, and someone finally asks if the training is worth it . . . . and its not.  (Follow this link to learn How to Waste Lots of Money on Training.)


So those are my top criteria for the Talent Abuse Awards.  Do you have some to add?  If so, I'd love to hear from you.



Crafting A Strategy That Makes A Difference


I had a busy fall designing and facilitating a variety of Strategic and Business Planning sessions.  I always enjoy this work because of what I learn about an organization, its opportunities and its challenges. 


This year, many organizations (for- and non-profit alike) where facing an environment that required them to put their strategy work on steroids.  There was less confidence in forecasts.  Markets are changing.  Funding is unreliable.  New competition is emerging. Government action (or inaction) has created uncertainty.  Talent requirements and availability are shifting.


To address this planning challenge, we worked with leaders to upgrade their planning processes, including:

  • Involving more stakeholders in the planning process
  • Protecting the plan by identifying, assessing and addressing potential threats in a more formal manner
  • More clearly identifying measures of success and targeted improvements
  • Doing a more in-depth analysis of products, markets and the emphasis each will be given
  • Making the Strategic Plan a living document that is reviewed quarterly and updated as needed
  • Creating more detailed strategy deployment plans
  • Building the capability of the senior team to execute the plan.

Though the challenges were greater, the leaders came away with improved confidence in their plans.

What Are You Up To?


Here is a quick summary of a few of our recent projects.


Challenge:  A regional human-services client was experiencing high-levels of turnover on roles that were mission-critical.  Teams had worked on the issue in the past but had not made much progress
What We Did: Designed and facilitated a team session in which the project was succinctly defined, measures of success were established, project guardrails were set and high-level project plan was prepared.  The Team felt it got more done in a short meeting than it had in many prior sessions.
Challenge:  A medium-sized manufacturer wanted to build a new perspective on the continuing work needed to complete a business turnaround and instilling new energy in the leadership team.
What We Did:  Designed and facilitated a planning session with the top leadership team that built a strong consensus on a path forward and defined what the leaders needed to do as a team to make it happen.
In This Edition
Talent Abuse Award Winners
Crafting a Successful Strategy
What Are You Up To?
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"Building Strategy-Capable Organizations"