By now, at least in the States, you’ve seen ads and reviews for “Moneyball”, starring Brad Pitt. It’s based on the 2003 book by Michael Lewis and I’ve referred to it several times in previous posts. My colleague Ravi even posted a cricket version!
My fellow Moneyball fan, Kris Dunn, when he gave us all a heads up about the movie back in July, correctly described the book as being really about thinking differently in valuing talent.
We tend to stick with conventional wisdom and/or what’s worked in the past and this limits our ability to spot new and perhaps better (at least for you) ways to win. You can discover previously unrecognized value in your workforce by changing your perspective on what strengths and weaknesses really apply to the challenge you are currently facing.
It works like this. Right now, you are shaping your workforce around what you think you need it to do in order to best execute on your strategy. Makes sense, right? Here’s the thing, your view of your workforce is shaped by this thinking as well. You tend not to see your workforce capabilities any way other than what you need it to do right now.
If it ain’t broke…
Don’t fix, right? But what happens if:
1) You are no longer able to get or retain the kind of workforce you need to win? For instance, one or more competitors with more resources (e.g. cash) hollow out your workforce?
2) Your company’s circumstances suddenly change and the strengths of your workforce are no longer key to sustainable competitive advantage? For instance, a new technology appears and the marketplace in a very short time does a 180 on you?
And on a slightly more positive note:
3) You come across a new opportunity that is either not recognized or not captured well by other companies. You think it could be a huge money maker for your company, but you don’t really know if your workforce has the capability you need to pull it off.
It’s true you might (and probably really should) take defensive steps to keep key talent. You could also build an employer brand that draws new talent to you. But beyond that, you need to expand your view of what other strategies your current workforce is capable of supporting.
A plan for thinking different
Where to start?
1) Start by not limiting your view of your workforce to just what you think you need. Each person in your workforce very likely has experiences, skills, knowledge, etc. that are not known or being used right now. Help your workforce see a benefit to them in sharing this information with the company.
2) Next, think about other strategies that could be applied to your company’s business. One way is to put yourself in the shoes of a new entrant and think about possible ways you could disrupt the current incumbent. Or ask what new management would do if current management was fired (i.e. the Andy Grove question.)
3) Also, bring fresh perspectives into your thinking by working with people with a diverse set of experiences. If they have the right kind of thinking skills, can analyze a situation and quickly identify the key leverage points in a challenging situation, then their different perspective should at least be able to give you some ideas for new ways to look at the problem.
Above all, keep in mind this is not about some clever recipe that suddenly solves all your issues (e.g. On Base Percentage vs. Batting Average) - that’s an artifact of the relative constraints around baseball which business doesn’t have. It’s about the difficult thinking required when figuring out how your strategic options interact with your workforce capabilities.
Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures