…So today I read two interesting pieces. The first, from Patrick M. Wright on HRPA here talks about the importance of ensuring an incoming CEO has a team whose skill set is aligned with his/her own. From the piece:
…at a recent Center for Executive Succession meeting hosted by Kevin Cox at American Express. A number of the CHROs in attendance discussed the importance of evaluating the entire Executive Leadership Team once a new CEO was in place. They noted that every CEO has a unique set of skills, weaknesses, and blind spots. Thus a team that functioned well under the previous CEO may not be ideally suited to the new one who comes into the role with a different skill profile.
^This intuitively makes sense because anyone that has ever been part of a team – almost regardless of level – can speak to the way that said team shifts in responsibilities and makeup over time in response to the skills it gains and loses via attrition (in all of its forms). In very low skills groups (or in groups where knowledge transfer has been optimized) this effect can be mitigated or even completely erased… but most of the time when a team loses someone the way that work gets done changes even when the headcount is replaced.
And so I think that from a talent management standpoint an integral component of good succession planning has to allow for examining the differences between a talent’s skill set and that of his or her predecessor. Because too often, I think there’s a focus on developing leaders by focusing on getting them XYZ critical experience (or hiring for those KSAs if looking outside) without understanding the impact that the leader’s differences will have on the efficacy of they and their team. Instead, we place emphasis on if the talent can flex into the new culture – which I suppose is fine in low impact roles but less so the higher up the org chart the hire is.
HR all too often doesn’t know exactly how to impact the bottom line so it settles for improving existing processes. If we think about the kinds of outcomes HR can achieve, a common distinction is efficiency vs. effectiveness vs. impact. Efficiency is literally about cost and time savings for existing processes: can they be done with minimal waste? Effectiveness is about program design: do the programs as designed accomplish their objectives? For example, are people trained with the intended skills, are rewards differentiated by performance, and are qualified people recruited quickly enough to fill open positions? Impact is the ever-elusive Holy Grail: do the programs have a material impact on the business?
The problem with measuring (and having) impact is that effectiveness does not guarantee impact. Employees might be trained with the intended skills, but those skills may be just what’s needed to keep operations going, not what’s needed to address weaknesses in strategy execution. Rewards may be differentiated by performance rating, but performance rating rarely reflects the missing contributions the business needs to improve competitive advantage. Filling open positions quickly can avoid outages in product and service delivery but do nothing to address needed improvements in innovation.
^From an HR standpoint, I think we can develop talent programs that take a more holistic view of talent – cultivating pipelines of folks that can be successful in a variety of roles. But it requires us to go beyond just having talent talks and putting together processes that enable us to effectively source/recruit/reward/retain talent and think more about what sort of talent we want to develop to begin with. That requires thinking less about process and more about destination.
…Apologies if this thought stream is a bit disjointed. I think I have more to say here (the above is much easier said than done). Will likely revisit later…