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Archive for the ‘workforce strategy’ Category

What are we all really worth?

Posted by Mark Bennett on September 25, 2011

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

Posted in workforce strategy | 1 Comment »

Some Great Books from 2009

Posted by Mark Bennett on January 3, 2010

Here are some very good books and if you haven’t read them yet, you might want to check them out. The list is restricted to books published in 2009 that I read (there are several others published in 2009 that I still have on my reading list). The list is grouped somewhat by topic. Enjoy!

Enterprise 2.0 / Collaboration

Driving Results through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth by Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas

I referred to this book in Not One of Us, When More Isn’t Always Better, and Is Bacon at the Center of the Universe? It covers the whole range of scale from individual performance and productivity impact of collaboration to the impact of collaboration on organization innovation, projects, and processes as well as the impact of organization culture and strategy on collaboration. There are many solid use cases provided. Cross focuses on social network analysis as a way to understand how information flows through an organization, how it goes into decision making, etc. I wrote about his work being done through manual surveys at Fortune 500 companies prior to leveraging social networking software two years ago in Finding Value in Enterprise Social Networks.

Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten T. Hansen

I wrote about this book in When More Isn’t Always Better. It is primarily focused on large-scale collaboration and paints it in the starker colors of “good vs. bad” collaboration, highlighting the hidden costs of collaboration without some kind of business purpose and understanding of tradeoffs. Hansen lays out the hidden traps companies fall into with collaboration, identifies the barriers to collaboration, and three levers to avoid the traps and overcome the barriers. It has many use cases as well. Oliver Marks has a great post about this research and our colleague Christine found this great Economist article about the book. Hansen recently wrote about collaboration failure in the intelligence community due to persistent issues regarding incentives, workforce mix, and talent mobility in this Harvard Business Review article.

Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges by Andrew McAfee

McAfee coined the term “Enterprise 2.0” a while back as a way to identify not just the technologies of Web 2.0, but the way in which organizations would use them to get improvements in productivity, innovation, etc. I wrote about McAfee’s work two years ago in Finding Value in Enterprise Social Networks. McAfee has a great way of presenting four different, real business value based use cases that were not being addressed adequately by existing (pre Web 2.0) collaboration technologies (i.e. “Groupware” and “Knowledge Management”), then sort of leaves you hanging (a great “sticky idea” mechanism), then introduces the concepts of Web 2.0 in an accessible, non-techy way, and finally comes back around to show how the four use cases were successfully addressed by various Web 2.0 tools. Furthermore, each of the use cases focuses on a particular level of interaction from close-knit workgroups out to people with shared interests who may not even know each other.

Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance by Arthur L. Jue, Jackie Alcade Marr, and Mary Ellen Kassotakis

I wrote about this book being published in Talking about OraTweet in Social Media at Work. This book is similar to McAfee’s in that it is less about the technologies themselves as it is about how companies can best adopt and exploit them to gain competitive advantage through increased productivity, innovation, and engagement. This book is also loaded with relevant, real-life use cases that demonstrate how Web 2.0 tools were able to address a tricky problem, trigger innovation more rapidly, etc. It also addresses the organizational adoption issues head-on, such a threats to power and status quo and offers advice on how to tackle those issues.


The Failure of Risk Management: Why It’s Broken and How to Fix It by Douglas W. Hubbard

I referred to this book in HR: Why Improve Your Analytical Intelligence? and HR: Why Broaden Your Risk Perspective? Hubbard’s book is an eye-opener about how badly most companies are handling risk, due in large part to misguided comfort in following supposed “best practices.” Hubbard pulls no punches and is especially vehement in targeting “fluffy” risk analysis approaches that use things like “heat maps” that are based on “scoring.” His main objection is that these approaches have no way to be really tested as to whether they work because there really isn’t a testable measurement being used. He refutes those who object by saying that some things just aren’t measureable by providing examples of how to do it (some of which are taken from his previous book, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business.)

The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty by Sam L. Savage

I also referred to this book in HR: Why Broaden Your Risk Perspective?. It’s a great companion book to Hubbard’s but takes a lighter approach. The first thing that Savage does is dispense with the arcane terms used so often in statistics that drive most people away. He correctly identifies that as a leading cause for why so many people miss out who could benefit from actually understanding what statistics really has to say about uncertainty and risk. He then goes into a whole series of examples to show what he means about how people get themselves into trouble. The book weighs in at 360+ pages, but it’s divided into 47 bite-sized chapters, some of which he signals can be skipped if you don’t want to do math.

Workforce Strategy

The Differentiated Workforce: Transforming Talent into Strategic Impact by Brian E. Becker, Mark A. Huselid, and Richard W. Beatty

I wrote about this book in HR: Why Improve Your Analytical Intelligence? It is a continuation of their “HR Scorecard” and “Workforce Scorecard” books, although reading them is not a prerequisite, nor is the book a rehash of the previous material. Instead, it introduces enough of the basics from them and expands on them to focus on how to best invest in your workforce so as to maximize its impact on your strategic success. In many ways, I saw this book as a companion to Beyond HR: The New Science of Human Capital by John W. Boudreau and Peter M. Ramstad. Between the two, you’ll have an excellent framework from which to construct or modify your HR strategy.

Photo by by mrkathika

Posted in book reviews, collaboration, risk, social network, Uncategorized, web2.0, workforce strategy | Tagged: | 7 Comments »