energizing breakthrough performance

Killers Out of Nowhere and Deep Future Strategic Thinking

Author: ; Published: May 11, 2017; Category: Customer Service, Leadership, Mentoring, Strategic Planning, Workforce Planning; Tags: ; No Comments»

 

A three-year planning horizon is generally appropriate for development of a strategic plan.  The speed of business and the rate of change preclude usefulness of a plan which extends five years or more.  However, today’s three-year strategic plan should be developed against a backdrop of 5-10 year “skyhooks” if we are to cultivate readiness for a tomorrow which will be radically different from today.

 

Several long-term dynamics should serve as our backdrop for near-term strategic planning.  The future is unknowable, but, now more than ever, an organization which doesn’t plan for its future isn’t likely to have one.  Let’s agitate our thinking before we initiate strategic planning. Here’s a partial list of budding trends organized by category which will likely define the business environment of 2025: (1) Technological Advances and Challenges; (2) The Competitive Landscape; (3) Forces Impacting the Ability to Hire Top Talent; and (4) Overarching Challenges.

 

Technological Advances and Challenges.  The “advances” are the “challenges.”  How can we cultivate organizations which apply technology optimally? Artificial Intelligence, Block Chain Technology, interoperability, and the highest-and-best use of the cloud are among the deep future considerations which need attention in a near-term strategic plan.  Intense pressure to automate any function which is performed more than twice will continue to rise. Also consider the implications of the fact that the last “fully human” generation is already here and in the process of expiring: Whether through implants or strap-on devices, sole reliance on the human brain qua brain is fading quickly.

 

The Competitive Landscape.  At what point does accelerating evolution achieve altitude and become revolution, pure and simple?  This has become a distinction without a difference. Business disruption is increasingly frequent and revolutionary in its consequences.  Expect the emergence of killers out of nowhere, causing overnight obsolescence of previously viable business models.  Think about how Amazon killed  — or at least wounded severely – the retail shopping mall.  Think about how Wal-Mart killed the mom-and-pop optometry practice on Main Street.  Think about how Motorola got blindsided by the Digital Revolution a quarter-century ago. Looking ahead, think of a technology company with not all that many attorneys in tow capsizing the traditional law firm consisting of attorneys assisted by technology.  New and largely unexpected competitors will define the next decade.  Wild card possibilities need to be factored into the strategic planning process.

 

Forces Impacting the Ability to Hire Top Talent.  Future competition for employees educated in “Computer Science Plus” (CS +) will be fierce.  CS + law; CS+ medicine; CS+ engineering, CS+ social science, and the list goes on.  To compete successfully for this new breed of employee will require offering a bundle of value which surrounds the employee and fosters passion.  Strong mentoring and coaching, which positions the employee towards career satisfaction will be differentiating.  Creating and facilitating systematic pathways to the “next job,” including pathways which may lead outside of your firm will create favorable buzz.  In addition, conscious well-executed decisions to shape and reinforce the corporate culture will be essential.   For example, will we seek consciously to erase the boundaries between employees’ personal lives and their corporate lives by enticing them to remain on-campus for a longer day through pizza and ping-pong? Or, will we afford flexible time-off policies?  Or, will we do both and more depending on the needs and preferences of the employee, coupled with our corporate strategy to heighten the employees’ need for “belonging.”

 

Overarching Challenges.  Today’s techno-infatuation too often derails the alignment of strategy and structure with our systems – an alignment which is vital to satisfying current and anticipated needs of the customer.  “Magical” over-reliance on technology in and of itself absent alignment with strategy and structure has contributed to recent customer service debacles in the airline industry, as one example.  How can we become truly customer-centric and eradicate disregard or even contempt for the customer? This question is usually unspoken in most organizations but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t central to future success. As one of my mentors put it a couple of decades ago, “IT is too important to be left to the IT people.”

 

The life-cycle of any business model will become evermore brief.  “Those not busy being born are busy dying.” Complacency must be eradicated when survival is at stake

 

A few other megatrends to consider?  Extreme weather will continue to intensify, interrupting supply chains, employee productivity, transportation, and more. Continued decay of the neglected US infrastructure will disrupt transportation and other utilities, rendering an increasing number of routes impassable and congesting severely those routes which remain. Big companies will get bigger and richer, with strategic implications for merger and acquisition activity at all levels. The continuing devaluation of “expertise” will require that professional services firms demonstrate added-value at the gold standard.  Political turbulence will intensify with more frequent crescendos of “populism.”  The dependency burden in Europe and the US will continue to grow as will political pressures for a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG).  The amazing historical ability of capitalism to morph itself and re-integrate with the polity and society to ensure its continuity is approaching a challenging climacteric. Customers for anything will experience frustration, and this will express itself in tsunamis of anger and resistance fueled by social media; future incident volatility will put some organizations out of business overnight.

 

In conclusion, these and other skyhooks are already visible.  Our strategic planning needs to factor these skyhooks if we are to create a three-year plan informed by a sobering vision of just how challenging the faster future will be. Onward through the fog!

 

Share These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Print
  • email
  • blogmarks
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Mixx
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • YahooBuzz

Mentoring and the Perils of the “Strengths-Only” HR Theology

Author: ; Published: Dec 12, 2012; Category: Mentoring, Uncategorized, Workforce Planning, Workforce Succession Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

There is no question that effective mentoring entails helping the mentee to “find his or her strengths.” Once key strengths have been identified, the talent development task focuses on helping the mentee to maximize these strengths, thereby increasing the employee’s near-term value to the organization.  A suitable strategy, as far as it goes. However, can we stipulate that strengths are just part of the equation? Can we also acknowledge gaps or “opportunities for improvement” which need to be addressed if the employee’s career vision and/or company succession plans are to be pursued successfully, as supported by mentoring and/or coaching? Heaven forefend, can we admit that there is or should be long-term value as well as near-term value?

Lately, I have demurred on assignments where HR required a strict, unwavering emphasis on the “finding your strengths” theology.  Why?  Because while strength-finding is a critical part of the story, it’s not the whole story.  To ignore areas of need in the mentoring process while focused slavishly on strength-building is a disservice – both to the individual and to the organization.

A few examples illustrate this point.  For instance, a Chief Scientific Officer is a genius in his specialty, but his people skills are severely off-putting to staff, peers, and clients, damaging relationships, productivity, and adding to turnover. Is it prudent to focus solely on maximizing his scientific prowess? Shall we allow our malignant hero to proceed apace, without regard for long-term collateral damage?

An introverted forensic investigator delivers impeccable analysis, but is a nervous public speaker who fails to present her findings to the jury at trial so as to convince rather than confuse: All steak, no sizzle. Shall we simply maximize her analytic skills and hope for the best at trial?

A senior executive who possesses critical management skills and world-class engineering mastery takes the podium before several hundred employees and fails to connect with them, delivering one uninspiring speech after another; members of the audience never fail to marvel and giggle at the speaker’s now-legendary monotone.  Shall we just let this ride, accepting that the executive’s impact will be circumscribed by this deficiency? Maybe letting the employees catch up on their sleep isn’t such a bad thing after all!

Reversing weaknesses is difficult work, requiring dogged determination and creative thinking from both mentor and mentee. While it is blasphemy in some HR circles to say so, I believe that the “strengths-only” HR theology which enjoys a certain popularity today belies a neglectful disregard of pressing developmental needs for both the individual and the organization. It’s akin to enjoying a high success rate because you only take on the easy cases and decline the hard ones. This short-term viewpoint does not plump the talent pipeline for the strategic future. Quality mentoring focuses on the needs of the total individual, and while maximizing the individual’s strengths remains critical, let’s not forget that the bundle of strengths that got you here today doesn’t always take you to where you want to go tomorrow.

Share These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Print
  • email
  • blogmarks
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Mixx
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • YahooBuzz

The Mentoring Persona

Author: ; Published: Nov 20, 2012; Category: Mentoring, Workforce Planning, Workforce Succession Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

I am sometimes asked the question, “If someone is a great manager, does it also follow that they will be a great mentor?” The answer is….it all depends. There is no question that core managerial skills, e.g., communication, problem-solving, effective feedback, challenging and confronting, motivating, etc., are at the heart of effective mentoring. However, my experience is that effective mentors give expression to these management-relevant skills using a different persona – a persona which has a relaxed and reflective flavor, an almost Zen-like presence whereby the mentor has mastered the art of answering a mentee’s question with a well-chosen question, designed to challenge assumptions and stimulate new thinking, if not prompt a meaningful metamorphosis. Naturally, there’s more to it than that, but I abbreviate today. 

Many organizations use “machine-mediated” mentoring relying upon electronic protocols, prompts, and interactions rather than necessarily using a face-to-face approach.  To be sure, use of the computer for mentoring purposes need not preclude development and use of the mentoring persona, but it does heighten risk of near-mechanical or “transactional” advice-dispensing interactions between mentor and mentee, delivering “economy” mentoring if you will, rather than “premier” or “concierge”-level mentoring.  Training mentors in how to develop and express the mentoring persona ahead of their deployment as mentors can go a long way towards lifting the quality of your mentoring program right from the start. 

There are several reasons why higher-order mentoring matters to the mentor, the mentee, and the employing organization. The mentor both provides and derives greater satisfaction.  Part of the persona is to slow down and reflect rather than rely upon “quick-draw” manager-like responses. This is good for mentor and mentee alike. The mentee becomes more self-reliant as his or her leverage over the mentoring relationship increases. Thoughtful, comprehensive and reflective interactions define quality mentoring relationship and the mentoring program begins to institutionalize as you hoped it would, permitting the setting and attainment of more aggressive professional development goals and objectives. 

To the extent that such high-quality mentoring relationships are in abundance – be they in-person or virtual – the mentoring program momentum can be built and sustained.  Mentoring programs are sometimes launched and then collapse of their own weight, degenerating into “we tried that once,” or “mentoring: yeah, there’s an app for that.”  There are numerous reasons why fizzles happen but inadequate or incomplete preparation of the mentors is usually among the root causes of disappointment. With the passing of the baton to a new generation now fully underway, failures in mentoring are not an option.  Time’s a-wasting.

Share These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Print
  • email
  • blogmarks
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Mixx
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • YahooBuzz