Wednesday, December 29, 2010

IPOs and Organizational Leadership Capability

The book "The 2020 Workplace" by Karie Willyerd and Jeanne Meister discusses a future where organizational teams are hired intact into new organizations and where you are hired into an organization based upon your social capital. So it was with interest when I got a response from last week's blog on Leadership Capability Portfolio Management from one of my LinkedIn connections...Suranjan Benjamin Soans. He asked the following questions, which were intriguing:

"Keith, do you think sometime in the future, investors are going to have access to Leadership Capability Portfolio Management of companies? Or, is it better if that is treated as a company's secret? Do investment bankers take a good look at this (LCPM) before an IPO is issued?"

It's possible that understanding and measuring the overall organizational leadership capability as a critical component to an organization's financial rating in the future. Why? Let's look at some examples of why leadership capability already matters in organizations...

- Leaders impact the organization through factors such as employee retention and employee engagement. Both critical to organizational performance and financial performance.

- The 2010 IBM Global CEO Study indicates that CEOs continue to see the relevance of having a leadership capability that are creative, act under uncertainty, drive innovation and organizational performance.

While I study the impact of leadership and leadership development on organizational performance at the UPenn Chief Learning Officer (CLO) program, I know that before I invest in companies, I want to know what the company's leadership capability is. Companies leverage their position on such lists as Leadership Excellence's top leadership development programs and Fortune Magazines Best Places to Work when advantageous.

While award winning leadership development programs are good publicity, I reference Dr. Bradley Hall's quote from his book "The New Human Capital Strategy." There he states that "Success is not world-class leadership development but best-in-class industry leaders." If you believe that...we need an ability to measure the best-in-class industry leaders part of Dr. Hall's statement.

With this in mind, wouldn't you want to know whether an organization's leadership capability is having the intended impact on organizational performance...especially before you invest in it?


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Playing Talent Mad Scientist...


I recently came across a very cool game called Phylo. It was part of an article in Wired Magazine titled "Computer Games Makes You a Genetic Scientist." The intent of the online game is to take advantage of the prowess of the human mind's pattern recognition capabilities. As the article states:

"Phylo players move colored squares representing the four nucleotides of DNA to find the best alignment between snippets of DNA from two different species. These particular sections of DNA, called promoter regions, determine which parts of the genome end up as traits in the organism, whether it be blue eyes or heart disease."

The connection of this game to our role as Human Capital Management (HCM) and Talent Development leaders is interesting...Just as Phylo is leveraging the human ability to see pattern's, we should be doing the same. Looking for patterns in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment is difficult, especially when it is focused on talent that drives our organizational success. Driving to success in this type of VUCA environment, while difficult, is not impossible.

Dr. Charles Dwyer of the University of Pennsylvania and the Aresty Institute's Leading and Managing People Academic Director at the Wharton Business School stated recently at a session I attended, that leaders need to think strategically and systematically. This is no more apparent than it is now in relation to acquiring, developing and retaining talent to drive business and mission results. Effective HCM leaders are able to identify strategic capabilities needed to fuel innovation, agility and competitive advantage. They are able to understand and see patterns in their current workforce capacity in respect to the identified capabilities. With this knowledge, they are able to make informed engagement with organization leadership to recommend the right approaches in enabling Buy, Build, Rent and Partner decisions.

When I visualize this activity...I see a Talent Mad Scientist...identifying the basic talent DNA building blocks for organizational success. Attempting to find the right pattern that will make an evolutionary leap in capabilities for the organization...

When you think of the Talent Mad Scientist...what do you see?


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

You Need a Leadership Capability Portfolio Manager...


So we know that the 2010 IBM Global CEO and CHRO studies identified that both groups believe that leadership and leadership development is important, but 2 of 3 CHROs didn't think their organizations were effective at doing it. Let's start to take a closer look at something that can help change that equation.

Learning can be directed in one of three areas based upon the Unit of Analysis. This is typically focused on individuals or teams, but it can also be at the organizational level. The linkage to today's blog is by taking this same approach in the management of the learning and in this case...focused on an organization's leadership capability.

Disclaimer - I am NOT a financial investments expert. That is why I pay for the service from the pros to help me manage my resources. So what I am about to say is my simplification in terms for today’s blog.

In the financial services sector, it is fairly well known that as individuals we can make investments in a number of different financial instruments like money markets, bonds, stocks, etc. Each of these involves a strategy to maximize the return on investment, but each carries a form of risk. Investment strategies are intended to develop a portfolio of financial instruments that can weather periods of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity…like today’s global environment…for both short-term and long-term gains.

Now look at the investment your organization is making in leadership development. As discussed in previous blog posts, it is estimated that within the United States, that over $9.5 billion is invested in making leaders better. However, that investment is typically focused at the individual level. By investing in the individual’s leadership development, it is assumed we will reach a tipping point in the organization that will lead to maximizing the overall organizational leadership capability.

This doesn’t account for risk though. In the current global environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous…the VUCA environment plays havoc with the development of an organization’s overall leadership capability. In order to maximize short-term and long-term investments and returns on leadership development…a different approach is not only recommended, but required…that is portfolio management. Like a mutual fund manager, organizations need someone that can act as the Leadership Capability Portfolio Manager or LCPM.

To do this requires a strategic perspective by understanding the business strategy and the leadership capability needed to execute that strategy…so that is a no brainer. However, we know that most competency models that leadership development programs are based upon are focused on what leadership capability you need now and not building the kinds of leaders you need for future competitive advantage. Additionally, if you take a strengths-based approach to leadership development like me, you know that there are going to be some capabilities within your competency model that no matter how important they are…not everyone is or will be a 5 (On a 1-5 scale) in every competency. The law of diminishing returns kicks in and increased investment in developing a tactical execution focused leader into a strategic vision leader will be wasted.

Now enter the realm of the LCPM…Because this person or group in your organization understands the business strategy, HR/HC strategy, leadership competency model, future leadership needs to execute, etc. your team is better positioned to manage for risk in the leadership pipeline and make targeted investments in areas where more risk can be taken or areas where less risk is advisable. This approach also allows you to manage individuals as a true capability. For example, if you know that the business will need frontline leaders that are collaborative and with high emotional intelligence in the next 2-3 years and reduced change management because your future looks stable (OK…this is probably WAY unrealistic)…then you can afford to “divest” change management investment in the leadership development program in order to “invest” in more leader capability in collaboration and emotional intelligence.

Taking this approach shows a direct understanding of the business and future HR/HC needs o enable its continued success AND a prudent approach to human capital investment. So the only thing left is one question…

How are you managing your leadership pipeline?


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is HR too big to innovate?


A recent story on Google got me thinking about the state of our profession. In the story by Business Insider titled "Internally, Google Knows It Has an Innovation Problem", they discuss the key differences between Google and and their respective abilities to innovate. While the overall story made a number of key points, the one that caught my attention was this one...

"Google can’t keep its teams small enough. Instagram was started by two guys who rented a table at DogPatchLabs in Pier 38 (the first time I met the team was when Rocky and I did this video on Dogpatch Labs). The exec I was talking with said Google Wave had more than 30 people on the team. He had done his own startup and knew the man-month myth. For every person you add to a team, he said, iteration speed goes down. He told me a story of how Larry Ellison actually got efficiencies from teams. If a team wasn’t productive, he’d come every couple of weeks and say “let me help you out.” What did he do? He took away another person until the team started shipping and stopped having unproductive meetings."

The story of Ellison and his approach to innovation seems counter-intuitive as the author points does to me, but I want you to think to some point in your past. Were you ever on an important HR team that was really attacking an important problem in the organization and feel like it was too big to make decisions or...yes...innovate? I have...

The recent 2010 IBM Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) Study identified three key areas requiring attention.

1. Cultivating creative leaders.
2. Mobilizing for speed and flexibility.
3. Capitalizing on collective intelligence.

All three of these focus areas will rely heavily on the ability of HR to innovate itself at a pace that keeps up with the global changes taking place. But a key question for HR is are we too big to innovate? Are we so focused on tactical and operational that it inhibits creativity and innovation in HR? I discussed this in July when talking about an HR Skunk Works approach.

My perspective is HR may be too "big" because it is burdened with a "little" thinking approach. A report from the Korn/Ferry Institute titled "Business Today Demands a Comprehensive Talent Strategy. Can HR Deliver?" argues that HR leaders need to be more strategic. To do that, then HR needs to build the right competencies for itself. The report specifically states the following:

"Developing Strategic HR Leaders - Strategic capability includes a number of competencies: business acumen; strategic agility; problem solving; perspective; and the ability to deal with ambiguity, to learn “on the fly,” to manage innovation and creativity, and to make quality decisions on complex issues that have long-term consequences."

The key for HR to innovate and meet customer needs in the future...find the right people and put them in charge! Find the right kind of people early in their HR careers...and nurture them!

Then it won't matter how big HR is in the future...

Nuff said!


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Are CEOs and CHROs Aligned on Leadership?


So an interesting question that I pose. On the outside it seems a no brainer. CEOs have a business strategy and they know that the need leaders to enable the strategy in the organization. CHROs know that they need to deliver leaders through recruiting and development that can execute the business strategy. Yet here we are in 2010 and we find the appearance of let's review the bidding.

In 2008, IBM's CEO Study titled "Enterprise of the Future" laid out five key areas for consideration that organizations needed to be successful. These areas included Hungry for Change, Innovative Beyond Customer Imagination, Globally Integrated, Disruptive by Nature, and Genuine, Not Just Generous. There was a realization in this study that organizations needed a new breed of leaders. This was made explicit in the 2010 study. In May, IBM's Global CEO Study was released titled "Capitalizing on Complexity." In the study, CEOs identified "creative leadership" as a core need of their organizations in the future. This quote from the study shares some of the implicit thinking behind creative leadership...

"Creativity is often defined as the ability to bring into existence something new or different, but CEOs elaborated. Creativity is the basis for “disruptive innovation and continuous re-invention,” a Professional Services CEO in the United States told us. And this requires bold, breakthrough thinking. Leaders, they said, must be ready to upset the status quo even if it is successful. They must be comfortable with and committed to ongoing experimentation."

Then in October 2010 comes IBM's Global Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) study titled "Working Beyond Borders." In it, CHROs continued to indicate the importance of developing leaders in the organization as captured in this piece from the study...

"Building an organization with flexibility and dexterity requires leadership with the creativity to adapt to a constantly changing environment. These leaders must be able to negotiate through a maze of differing cultures, complex inter-generational dynamics and varied communication styles...Creative leaders share a set of common characteristics that help them innovatively lead their organizations. They challenge every element of the business model to realize untapped opportunities and improve operational efficiency. Leaders grow their businesses through the exploration, selection and execution of diverse, even unconventional, ideas about the potential of new markets. They leverage new communication styles to motivate talent and reinvent relationships, both internally and across the supply chain, to create collaborative productivity. They focus on the bigger picture — the global marketplace — and how to lithely optimize the collective skills of their organizations."

So there appears to be alignment in the need for creative leaders or at least that CHROs read the CEO study. But then 2 of every 3 CHROs admit their organizations are ineffective at developing future leaders (See the attached graphic from the IBM Global CHRO Study). That is surprising (IBM thought so as well)...

So taking a different perspective based upon the CHRO study is important, because admitting that we are ineffective at leadership development has ramifications. First we are saying that the estimated $9.5B per year we are spending on leadership development is being wasted. Second we are saying that what is most important to CEOs we are not good at doing for them. Are these the messages we want to communicate to our bosses and organizations? Kind of doubt it, but that is how it came out...

Are CHROs and their teams ineffective at building leaders? Probably not...In an earlier post here titled "Leadership and Organizational Performance...Lack of Linkage" I raised the aspect that academic research had problems, for a variety of reasons, in linking leadership to organizational performance and by default leadership development programs have the same challenge.

So how do we adjust and meet expectations? For starters, as Human Capital Management (HCM) leaders we have to get serious about defining leadership capabilities needed to execute the business strategy and workforce analytics needed to measure whether we are being successful. In fact, the effort put towards measuring the impact leadership development should equal the effort we put into leadership development itself. Without the key metrics, we are unable to determine impact or make adjustments in leadership development programs...this is critical to changing the perspective we have set for the organizations we serve.

Nuff said...


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm Looking for Great Leadership...Not Just Effective Leadership...


The role of leadership in organizations is recognized as a critical need for their evolution. This has become even more important in a world so complex and volatile as the one we operate in now. CEOs taking part in IBM’s 2010 Global CEO Study titled “Capitalizing on Complexity” admitted the following:

“In our past three global CEO studies, CEOs consistently said that coping with change was their most pressing challenge. In 2010, our conversations identified a new primary challenge: complexity. CEOs told us they operate in a world that is substantially more volatile, uncertain and complex. Many shared the view that incremental changes are no longer sufficient in a world that is operating in fundamentally different ways…Today’s complexity is only expected to rise, and more than half of CEOs doubt their ability to manage it. Seventy-nine percent of CEOs anticipate even greater complexity ahead.”

Yet, our current leadership model is hurting our ability to deal in a world loaded with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity…a VUCA world. I recently read a blog post by Ted Coine on his 21st-Century Business blog. In his blog titled “Management is War? Make That Was.” Ted discussed the role of World War II in creating our current organizational structures in the private and public sectors. Watch HBO shows like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” and you will see it…command-and-control leadership. People with experience and capability are put in positions of authority to get goals accomplished. Whether storming beaches or taking a town one house and street at a time…the great thing about command-and-control leadership in World War II is it got results. Missions were achieved and the war won…But according to Ted it has created challenges and an overall inability to leverage the talent in our organizations as noted in his comments below….

“Here's the thing, though: top-down leadership creates vast waste of human talent. It motivates us to do what the big boss orders, but it also turns off our inner drive to exceed when no one's watching, or monitoring, or counting one acute measurement of our output.

Order your people around, and they'll do the bare minimum to keep their jobs. Measure their performance by the numbers, and they'll give you those numbers - and very little more. Think for them, and they'll stop thinking for themselves - they'll stop thinking for you, for your company.”

The importance of leadership has never been more important in our country than it is now. Yet, we find ourselves wanting for great leadership. This was recently brought home for me when the Partnership for Public Service announced its 2010 Best Places to Work rankings for the Federal government.

While many factors are considered in the overall index ranking for organizations...the key factor shaping how employees see their workplace, for the fifth time in a row, was effective leadership. Much of what you would expect is rolled into determining the grades for this category. The survey asked about the ability of senior leaders and supervisors to generate motivation, commitment, opportunities for employees to lead and developmental opportunities. Scores for the largest Federal departments and agencies varied from 73.5 at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Who was recognized as the #1 place to work in Federal government) to 46.5 at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But there is something deeper as Ted Coine sees from his perspective of the private sector that is even more prevalent in the public sector.

When you look at scores for large Federal organizations in "Effective Leadership"...It's kind of sad...for the top 28 organizations with scores it averaged out to the following overall grades for "Effective Leadership" in the Federal government since 2007:

2010 - 55
2009 - 53.2
2007 - 51.7

While there has been improvement in the average scores since 2007, even if you grade on a significant curve...a 55 is a failing score (Let’s be honest…the 73.5 that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission scored is just average). These kinds of scores speak to what can only be seen as a leadership gap not because people are leaving positions, but because they are in them!

So why don't we have more of it in the Federal government? Could be any number of reasons. My experience and perspective tell me top-down driven, bureaucratic organizations where the working environment is about rules, standards, process and tasks driving organizational activities, senior leaders and supervisors are more like a boss than a leader. I discussed this in a previous blog post on my DNA of Human Capital blog titled "Is Your Boss Your Leader?" There is a big difference between the two and what benefits they bring to an organization. Leaders inspire people engagement and drive innovation and results by leveraging talent in the public sector and not wasting it. In the future, Federal government organizations will need great leadership and not just effective leadership to create and fuel the kind of results that efficiently manage resources and effectively achieve results that drive the United States. The kind of great leadership that is transformational...The American citizen requires no less.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Flexible Human Capital Response Options...


The world is filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) as I have discussed several times. This kind of environment makes agility and adaptability a premium in being able to deal with this environment and prevent what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls "Black Swan Events." Taleb's theory "refers only to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history. Such events, considered extreme outliers, collectively play vastly larger roles than regular occurrences."

The United States Intelligence Community (IC) and military understand the importance of trying to identify Black Swan events early and prepare plans that allow commanders Flexible Deterrent Options (FDO) in the deployment of available forces. These show of force operations usually involve the build-up or deployment of forces, an increase in readiness and level of activity. The concept of Adaptive Planning provides the following:

"The adaptive planning concept calls for development of a range of options during deliberate planning that can be adapted to a crisis as it develops. Where the crisis builds slowly enough to allow, appropriate responses made in a timely fashion can deter further escalation or even diffuse the situation to avoid or limit conflict. Where such options fail to deter or there is not time to execute options, a stronger response may be required to protect vital interests. The eventuality of attack without prior warning must also be considered."

So in understanding this approach and why it is used in the Department of Defense, I turn to Human Capital Management(HCM). The current economic environment has created challenges in looking at strategy as a "long-term" need. In some respects during the initial stages of the financial meltdown...strategy was emerging on a weekly basis in many organizations. In that context, it was difficult for HCM to be proactive and support the business and really precipitated reactive tendencies.

So this provides the context for application of adaptive planning in creating flexible human capital response options (FHCRO) in private and public sector organizations. HCM leaders must start by getting into the organizations strategic planning cycle. Playing a proactive role in this process by understanding the organizations short-, mid-, or long-term strategy allows for defining the human capital capabilities (knowledge and skills) required to execute the business strategy. This however, is just to create FHCROs, HCM leaders should conduct scenario planning sessions that seek to identify the most and least likely human capital situations aligned to the strategy. This allows thinking about potential Black Swan events and their effect on the organization's human capital.

By combining scenario planning and business requirements definition, the HCM leader can develop a series of tailored FHCROs that are agile and adaptable enough to adjust to quickly changing events. Because in the future...organizations that can adjust the fastest to VUCA environments will be the ones best positioned to excel.


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Leadership and Organizational Performance...Lack of Linkage...


So imagine my surprise last week as I started my Doctorate of Education program at Wharton and the UPenn Graduate School of Education when the creator of the Executive Program in Work-Based Learning Leadership, Dr. Doug Lynch, stated that there is a lack of academic research linking leadership to organizational performance. As a lifelong learner, I was curious about this statement, so I started looking at what research is there and was amazed…

It is a common belief…maybe in this case an assumption…that effective leadership is key to organizations. Think of any number of great organizations like GE, Cisco, Google, etc. and you immediately think of great leaders. Yet, the research can’t make a connection. Most research has focused on the different leadership paradigms like differences of visionary and transactional leadership styles in organizations. For example, it has always been believed that visionary leaders played a larger role in organizations than transactional leaders…but because of research limitations the findings are not clear. One study by Fenwick Feng Jing and Gayle C. Avery of Macquarie University in Australia titled “Missing Links in Understanding the Relationship between Leadership and Organizational Performance” states the following:

“No clear picture has emerged about the relationship between leadership and organizational performance. Despite increased research into the leadership-performance relationship, many problems and gaps remain in existing studies. There is a lack of integration concerning the relationship between leadership and performance, a narrow set of variables has been used in previous studies, and context and levels have been ignored. Therefore, there is a need for clarification.

Another key challenge in linking leadership to organizational performance is the issue of performance measures itself. The same study by Jing and Avery states:

“One problem relates to the quality of performance measurement. When selecting the measurements of performance, previous researchers have employed either financial measurements or non-financial measurements, rather than employing both kinds of measures in order to enhance the validity of the research. They have neglected the interrelationship between financial performance and customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. This provides a narrow measurement of performance that may not have appropriately evaluated the sought-after performance effects appropriately. Thus, both financial measurements and non-financial measurements of performance are essential in order to enhance research validity.”

The implications to the profession of Human Capital Management (HCM) and development are significant. If there is no academic research to directly correlate leadership styles to organizational performance, then there can be no linkage of leadership development programs to organizational performance. According to Bersin and associates 2009 High-Impact Leadership Development study, it assesses that leadership development is a $9.5 billion industry. That is a ton of cash to be spending on something and not know whether it is having the intended impact on the organization.
Of course, many organizations make use of anecdotal evidence that leadership development is having the intended impact. One private sector organization uses the number of new $1 billion businesses generated by action learning projects (ALP) during its leadership development programs. But as Bradley Hall states in his book “The New Human Capital Strategy,” our focus should not be on world-class leadership development programs, but world-class leadership capabilities. Because leadership capabilities should be driving organizational performance as we have seen…Even as I lead my organizations leadership development capabilities, I can’t tell you whether organizational performance is improving or even changing! Again…lots of assumptions and anecdotal evidence is being used across the HCM space in many respects.

I think it is important to understand the relationship, or in this case the potential lack of a relationship between leadership and organizational performance. Our organizations, and in particular, HCM leaders and their organizations should be engaging with the academic community to enable research that helps understand what we assume as a linkage between leadership and organizational performance. If we are unable to understand the linkage and the role that leadership development most obviously plays in our organizations…then we can’t leverage it to its full potential.

Nuff Said…


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Is Your Boss Your Leader?


As most of you, I have had many different supervisors over the last 25+ years. During my time in the Navy, I got a new supervisor every 1-3 years because of rotations in and out of the organization. My experience during that time would be very similar to those of you reading is fairly easy to segregate the great from the not-so-great leaders...that ratio is probably in some cases 1-to-100.

In my time as a Naval Intelligence officer, we had a tool that was called the "Alpha Roster." The Alpha Roster was something of a planning tool that listed all of the Naval Intelligence officers, their current command/unit, and when they were due to rotate to a new job. While its intended purpose was for career planning also had provided a way to track those not-so-great leaders to ensure you didn't end up even in the same geographic region with them again. In many respects, those these supervisors were in leadership positions...they were really my boss and not my leader.

How does this story relate to the topic? I think there is a significant difference between bosses and leaders...While your boss can be your leader...that doesn't happen nearly as often as your boss never being your leader.

There are a number of great perspectives on what makes great leaders standout from people that are playing your boss. The Faster Times Fred Wilson recently posted on "The Three Things CEOs Do." In the post a Venture Capitalist shares what CEOs do and importance on organizations...

"A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank."

While this seems simplistic, the first attribute is a critical component in differences between bosses and leaders. Rosalyn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, once shared her perspective on just the difference between leaders and great leaders.

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”

This quote gets to the Venture Capitalist comments on what CEOs this case great leaders have to set a vision of the future and get the organization and its culture to move to this new proposed future.

Bosses have their role to play...detail-oriented, efficiency focused, standards, risk management, and process driven (Let me clarify that this is my view of bosses). There are of course much more negative attributes of people I lump into the "boss" category that we have all seen and said to ourselves..."That is not the way to lead and I am not going to do that when I am a leader"...I focus on more of what I see from bosses. These "boss" attributes lead to results that can move organizations, teams, and individuals to new levels, but at the end of the day...these things do little to inspire or enhance employee engagement.

To be the great leader that Rosalyn Carter have to create a future shared vision for the team and/or organization, communicate clearly and effectively, inspire trust and openness, create a culture of innovation and disruption and how the team working collaboratively can achieve results.

Great leaders with these abilities are talent magnets...drawing people to them and their organization because they see a new and potential future that this talent can play a part in creating...Like the Venture Capitalist discusses as the number two thing that CEOs do. This is why companies like Apple, Cisco and IBM draw great talent to their organizations. you sit around today contemplating this blog post...think to your past supervisors or your current set and ask the question...

Is your boss your leader...your great leader?


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Clarity Agents and Chaos Double Agents...You Need Them...


A good friend shared with me the perspective of someone he knew as we spoke about leadership. The quote went something like this...

"Leaders create clarity from chaos and create chaos when there is clarity."

That is a profound statement and really sets the tone for what great transformational leaders are and should be about in their organization. Our organizations are going through massive swings in volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity...the VUCA world I have discussed in prior blogs. A great transformational leader is able to embrace what is happening in a VUCA world and turn it from challenge to opportunity for them and their team and organization. To do that requuires someone that can see through the fog and move the team in the right direction to achieve results that are impactful. These leaders take the chaos of the VUCA world and add clarity to it...become a Clarity Agent...This allows understanding within your team and sets the tone for accomplishing those things that are most important to business or mission impact.

In 2006-2010, as we merged the Defense Intelligence Agency's learning capabilities with those of 12 global Combatant Commands, my team and I were in VUCA trying to create clarity from chaos in some respects. All felt they were unique and requiring tailored support, training, and opportunities. But by setting a strategic vision to align learning, communicating that vision and executing a cross-organizational plan, we were able to make the transition smoothly in a global environment.

The more interesting side of the equation is creating chaos when there is clarity. So why would you want to do that? Why have a Chaos Double Agent?

The enemy of improvement in performance and enabling the ability to innovate is being comfortable and allowing the status quo to maintain. In the future, successful organizations will be defined by leaders that are disruptive and creative. These leaders will have a sixth sense about the why and when of change. In a VUCA world, leaders with this vision and skill will define their organizations success. The ability to create chaos from the inside-out or outside-in depending on the contextual environment will be a key skill.

Bottomline...You need this kind of leader on your team and in your organization. You need to grab them and cherish them and covet what they can bring. The current environment that we are all operating in is likely to continue...Having Clarity Agents and Chaos Double Agents is the key to success.


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Measuring Action Learning Projects in Public Sector Leadership Development

Action learning projects in leadership development have continued as an important development tool for many organizations. It was a recent topic in the Imagining the Future of Leadership blog series hosted by Harvard Business Review in one blog post by Trina Soske and Jay A. Conger titled "Its Time to Focus Executive Development on Real Business Issues."

In the blog, Soske and Conger make the case that...

"The complexity, interconnectedness and transparency of today's organizations mean that no one individual can get much accomplished by themselves. Most challenges and opportunities are systemic. Leadership is distributed and change now requires a collective sense and a coordinated set of actions."

My team enables a key leadership development program named GEMSTONE. The intent of the program is to take the best and brightest leaders at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and create the next generation of DIA leaders. Like many other leadership development programs, GEMSTONE utilizes action learning principles through Capstone projects to enable key program goals. These include skill development, collaboration and team building, and critical and creative thinking.

Key aspects of the Capstone projects are their alignment to a specific Directorate (Business unit equivalent in private sector) with senior executive sponsorship. Through a series of conversations with Directorate senior executives, we are able to determine key challenges facing the organization that are within the control and authority of that senior executive to take action.

Our Capstone projects lead to a series of project recommendations. The senior executive sponsor has one of four options:

1. The project plan is accepted, a team is formed and funding is procured;
2. Interesting elements of a plan are evaluated further;
3. The project plan is accepted but staged for future investment; or,
4. The project is halted because the timing or investment is not right.

The intent of GEMSTONE is not unlike other private sector leadership development programs. Cisco's Executive-Action Learning Forum is a case in point. Led by Annmarie Neal, vice president of the Cisco Center for Collaborative Leadership, the program looks to accomplish the following:

"While executive leadership programs are common, the Cisco Center for Collaborative Leadership – known as "3C" – is unusual in how it implements such teachings. As part of the program, Neal's team helped design Cisco's Executive Action Learning Forum (E-ALF). In E-ALF, five to six teams of 10 promising executives work together to build the strategy and tactics for addressing crucial business issues that have $1 billion in potential revenue generation or cost-savings. In most cases, the work of the teams leads directly to major initiatives the company implements. Each program has at least one senior executive sponsor."

Key differences between measuring the impact of action learning projects between the private sector and public sector is the revenue generation measurement component. In Cisco's case, addressing crucial business issues that have $1 billion potential in revenue generation is a key metric. Since public sector doesn't engage in revenue generation, we have to focus measurement in other areas that also show impact and program effectiveness.

Key areas to measure for GEMSTONE and other public sector programs include the following:

1. The number of organizational challenges addressed - Tracking the number of challenges is really just a first step. If recommendations are accepted by the senior executive sponsor on aspects of mitigating the challenges to improve organizational efficiency and/or effectiveness, ultimately measuring these outcomes and their impact are the goal.
2. Resource optimization - In the public sector, optimizing resources to enable more efficient use of the taxpayer investment are important. Measuring these types of outcomes may enable investment in new capabilities to overcome other organizational challenges.
3. Project alignment to organizational strategy - In many organizations, just aligning projects to the strategic goals of the organization can be extremely helpful. In some organizations, leaders can't always see the alignment.
4. Social Network Analysis - Creating leaders of the future as Soske and Conger discuss is about collaborative and collective engagement. Bringing
together future leaders from across the organization should lead to measurable improvement in collaboration and communication that are critical for the future success of organizations.

The benefits of action learning projects are well established in leadership development. Now take the next steps to align the impact of this helpful tool to developing your future leaders in the public sector and the key metrics that tell the story of its impact on the organization.


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Jonathan Kayes...Passing of a Learning Leader

I just found out that Jonathan Kayes passed away the evening of 5 August quite unexpectedly. Jonathan was the former Chief Learning Officer (CLO) at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until his retirement earlier this year. He had in retirement started working with Elliott Masie of the The Masie Center and was serving as the Learning CONSORTIUM CLO.

I had known and admired Jonathan for his learning leadership within the Intelligence Community since 2005. He was a driver in collaboration across the Intelligence Community learning enterprise. Because of his insights and perspectives not only on learning, but more importantly leadership, I had asked him to serve as a mentor to me, which he graciously accepted and did with the utmost professionalism.

So this blog post is to recognize Jonathan for what he was...a great person. You will be missed.

God bless...


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Importance versus Effectiveness Gap...Closing...Slowly

I attended and presented at the Human Resource Management Institute 25-27 July. It was a great opportunity to engage with senior HR executives representing the areas of talent, diversity, learning and compensation.
It also presented the chance to validate of key findings from the IBM 2009 study I have referenced in previous blog posts.

I asked the group, using Turning Technologies audience response system (great tool to engage the audience and collect data), to rank the nine human capital challenges from the study by voting for their top three challenges.

The voting came out this way...

#1 - Defining skills, knowlegde and capabilities to execute business strategy.
#2 - Developing succession plans and career paths
#3 - Sourcing and recruiting individuals.
#3 - Retaining valued talent within the organization.

I then asked the group to rate their organizations on a 1-5 scale regarding importance and effectiveness....

1. Defining knowledge, skills and capability requirements for executing business strategy is an important need for my organization.

2. My organization is effective at defining knowledge, skills and capability requirements to execute business strategy.

Importance rated a score of 92 out of 100 and effectiveness rated 51 out of 100. This provided an Importance vs. Effectiveness gap of 41%. This compared favorably to the IBM study gap of 48%, but still a pretty big gap.

So what does it mean? For starters, I was pleasantly surprised at what was #1. While the other eight human capital challenges in the study are important, organizations will have a difficult time negating these challenges without knowing what human capital capabilities are required now and in the future.

My concerns continue that there is such a wide gap between importance and effectiveness. There could be some good reasons for it. There has been such volatility and uncertainty since the financial meltdown starting in 2008, that attempting to identify skills, knowledge and capabilities was a bridge too far. Many organizations were making strategic decisions on a week-to-week and month-to-month basis and couldn't focus much more strategic than that. That kind of environment is not good for anything other than reacting.

The message for Human Capital Management (HCM) is the time to position your organizations for future success. A number of HCM leaders of prominent organizations are successful at defining the workforce capabilities needed for their future strategy...IBM, Cisco, and Google are a few. If you don't spend time with your customers understanding where they want to drive the business and culture, you have a difficult road ahead. If, on the other hand, you have a sound approach in place to work with organizational leadership to define current and future are ready to play an important role for your organization and our profession.


Twitter: JKeithDunbar
DNA of Human Capital:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Skunk Works...Innovating from the Outside-In...

My team went through a major change initiative starting in 2006 that involved merging with ten organizations with geographic and functional responsibilities. While each conducted the same mission by collecting, analyzing and disseminating information to support leadership decision advantage, in many respects...each felt it was unique and did their mission differently. Each had learning functions that ranged in size of 1 to over this was the environment and scene my team faced in building a global learning enterprise that leveraged my organization's learning capabilities, while integrating their capabilities.

What my team came to find out that in order to integrate effectively and efficiently...we would have to change from the "Outside-In." What this meant is that in many respects, while trying to integrate and align these various learning capabilities, changing how we conducted business at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) would be possible by changing how we operated with our new customers. For example, within DIA's schoolhouses we used different course evaluations with some standard questions, but in large part no common standards. One of the first initiatives with our learning integration efforts was to develop and accept a common set of evaluation questions. This move precipitated a similar discussion internally.

We accomplished this and other key initiatives by treating our effort as a Skunk Works...Made famous at the height of the Cold War, Lockheed Martin created a group that revolutionized and transformed airborne reconnaissance.

Our internal Skunk Works supported change management during the integration and alignment period. By leveraging a world-class best practice in defining a common set of skills, knowledge and capabilities for all organizations...we were able to integrate learning and align existing solutions at a quicker pace. It allowed our new customers to see that while their organizations had different responsibilities, the challenges faced, the work they did and the type of human capital capabilities needed were very similar.

The lesson for Human Capital Management (HCM) leaders, creating a team within your HCM organization that has the green light to try creative and disruptive new approaches can enable change across the HCM organization. That can lead to new efficiencies and effectiveness in meeting customer needs and in our case...accelerating major change initiatives...from the Outside-In.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Is There a Positive in BP Crisis?


So great news that BP has finally stopped the unrestricted flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It took a long time and as an organization they have suffered greatly and in many people's eyes deservedly so.

As an example, I looked at a total of 25 blogs written in Harvard Business Review about a number of angles on the BP crisis. The most positive...and that is relative speaking of the BP oil disaster...was by Vineet Nayar titled "I'm Thinking About BP's Employees." Most however focused on some aspect of BP brand, culture and of course failure of leadership.

But I wonder if a silver lining can't be found for the future of BP or other organizations able to get BP talent in the future...

In many organizations, we attempt to replicate the conditions of the organization in our leadership development programs. We do this through action learning activities that help participants practice what they learn through business projects or solving organizational challenges. While these things are of immense value to the is difficult in a classroom setting to replicate crisis. The kind of crisis that comes in a world ripe with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity...the VUCA world.

The environment that new leaders in BP are growing up in now will pay dividends for them in the future. These BP leaders will be able to take advantage of volatility, make decisions under conditions of uncertainty, create clarity from complexity and adapt to ambiguity. All priceless traits for leaders of the future.

It would be extremely easy to just focus on the negative of the situation, but as a strategic human capital management leader...I prefer to focus on the positive.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DOCGI Leadership in a VUCA World

DOCGI Leadership in a VUCA World

In the past few weeks I have seen a number of blog posts and articles discussing different leadership attributes and their application to our current world state. All of these have one thing in common…they are intended to allow leaders to function in a world that is consumed by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity…a VUCA world.

Coined by the U.S. Army to define environments that forces would operate in, it allowed personnel to make sense of the world. Our Armed Forces don’t only operate in a VUCA world though. Our CEOs and Directors operate in this world daily. A world so complex and volatile, that CEOs taking part in IBM’s 2010 Global CEO Study named it “Capitalizing on Complexity.” In the study, CEOs admitted the following:

“In our past three global CEO studies, CEOs consistently said that coping with change was their most pressing challenge. In 2010, our conversations identified a new primary challenge: complexity. CEOs told us they operate in a world that is substantially more volatile, uncertain and complex. Many shared the view that incremental changes are no longer sufficient in a world that is operating in fundamentally different ways. Four primary findings arose from our conversations:

Today’s complexity is only expected to rise, and more than half of CEOs doubt their ability to manage it. Seventy-nine percent of CEOs anticipate even greater complexity ahead. However, one set of organizations — we call them “Standouts” — has turned increased complexity into financial advantage over the past five years.”

So at this point in the blog I want to use my power of engaging the reading audience and ask you whether you think your organization is operating in a VUCA world? If you don't...It would surprise me to find anyone who thinks they are not in a VUCA world now...

So if we agree that this is what is facing our organizations, what kind of leaders do we need to develop that can thrive and excel in a VUCA world? Some hints have started to come out in a number of places. Attribute areas that I consider important. I am calling it DOCGI Leadership…

Disruptive - This was written by Heather Vogel in her HR Whisperer blog titled “Aim To Misbehave.” In it she discusses the principles of Disruptive Leadership and what that can do for an organization.

"Disruptive leadership is a concept that is rapidly gaining ground in the new millennia – leaders create problems that must be solved. The solving of the problem serves as the catalyst for the organization to create change, whether that change is a new product, new service, or just a new way of doing things. When an organization has to solve a problem, it can provoke the necessary motivation to make a huge leap in innovation."

Open – Charlene Li co-author of “Groundswell” and her new book “Open Leadership” makes the case that in today’s super-connected world and the level of complexity associated with it, that leaders will have to give up need to be about relationships and a culture of sharing. Charlene Li believes the following statement about Open Leadership:

“Having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control, while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.”

Creative – The 2010 IBM Global CEO Study identified Creative leadership as a key area for leaders in the future to focus in order to overcome uncertainty and complexity.

"Creativity is often defined as the ability to bring into existence something
new or different, but CEOs elaborated. Creativity is the basis for “disruptive
innovation and continuous re-invention,” a Professional Services CEO
in the United States told us. And this requires bold, breakthrough thinking.
Leaders, they said, must be ready to upset the status quo even if it is
successful. They must be comfortable with and committed to ongoing

Globally Integrated –
IBM’s white paper titled “Developing Global Leadership” discusses the following perspective in developing their global leaders:

“For greater global effectiveness, decision-making authority needs to be owned and executed by those who are best positioned to make quick decisions and be responsible for outcomes.”

What Does It Mean

So what will a DOCGI Leader look and feel like? A DOCGI Leader is someone that can thrive in a VUCA world by being a risk manager and nurturing their workforce in the same environment. It is someone that is OK with failure, because the organization learns from that and creates and innovates further. A DOCGI Leader is agile and adaptable that can make decisions quickly to take advantage of shortened time lines, mobilize global teams for execution, and develop strategies that are short or long-term in nature.

The consideration in the future with Gen Ys moving into leadership positions how do we develop these attributes in our future leaders? a story for another time.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

You Don't Know What You Don't Know...In This Case...We Do...

I'm a big fan of Cisco and their CEO John Chambers. In a recent Newsweek interview, he focused on "Knowing What You Don't Know" and impact on the future of leadership. His perspective, always refreshing to me, gets to heart of issue facing strategic Human Capital Management (HCM)...looking into the future at what is coming and its impact on HCM leaders to enable business and mission success.

We recently hosted an Enterprise Symposium at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) focused on looking at areas of collaboration across the Defense Intelligence Enterprise. A very good friend and I were co-leads for a session titled "Developing the Workforce of the Future" where we sought to frame the 2020 workplace, challenges faced executing the mission in 2020 and attributes of both leaders and intelligence professionals needed in 2020. The session provided a great opportunity to engage participants and provide an update to the DIA Workforce of the Future white paper from 2003.

We were honored to have Karie Willyerd (Former Sun Microsystems CLO and now Future Workplace) share with the audience insights from her and Jeanne Meister's new book "The 2020 Workplace". While there were many key points and new knowledge taken away...several things stood out for me.

1. By 2020, the Generational mix at the workplace will be drastically different per the attached slide. The implications to leaders and leadership development are significant.

2. The understanding that to become an expert requires 10 years of dedication. However, knowledge is doubling every two years and in some areas every one year. Impact to you and I you ask? We can't possibly keep up with that much data. Hence our reliance on social networks will continue to grow and expand.

This gets to topic of this DNA of Human Capital blog today...The old phrase "You don't know what you don't know" is really not applicable to HCM leaders and the tsunami of the 2020 workplace, five generations in the workforce and the continued expansion of knowledge that will make expertise not nearly as important as your social network to get work done.

The task at hand for HCM leaders is to prepare their organizations for what the future is bringing. In today's challenging environment, it is difficult sometimes to look into the following week or quarter, much less at 2020. Yet, like the certainty of the tides...this new environment and workforce will inevitably come ashore like oil in the Gulf of Mexico. We will have to collectively look at this new future and determine how we position our human capital capabilities to ensure success in this environment.

For our own credibility, we will not be able to say we didn't know what we didn't know...because in this case...we did.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Human Capital Dominance...That is the Goal!

My Department of Defense experience has provided me depth and breadth in a number of areas over the past 25 years. One of those is the concept of Information Dominance and application to our work as Human Capital Management (HCM) Leaders. The formal definition for Information Dominance is captured in this issue paper and is located below:

"Information Dominance" - the degree of information superiority that allows the possessor to use information systems and capabilities to achieve an operational advantage in a conflict or to control the situation in operations other than war while denying those capabilities to the adversary. (Current - FM 100-6, Information Operations)

When we think to what we are trying to achieve for our organizations...strategy execution, competitive advantage, long-term growth, etc...this is applicable to our activities in HCM. What a similar definition of Human Capital Dominance would look like is below:

Human Capital Dominance - the degree of HCM and workforce analytics superiority that allows the organization leadership to use human capital capabilities to achieve an strategic or operational advantage in a competitive market or industry sector while denying those human capital capabilities to the competition.

As HCM Leaders...this is what our goal should be. Providing our companies Human Capital Dominance and Superiority. A number of challenges impact our ability to achieve this ultimate goal in positioning our organizations for future success. We discussed one last week in the defining of knowledge, skills and capability requirements to execute business strategy. Others from the study included the following:

1. Determining headcount and FTE capacity requirements by job assignments and location.
2. Sourcing and recruiting individuals.
3. Developing training strategies.
4. Retaining valued talent within the organization.
5. Evaluating workforce performance.
6. Determining strategies for reduction in force, redeployment and retraining.
7. Understand collaboration and knowledge sharing.
8. Developing succession plans and career paths.

Recent articles and studies indicate challenges are on the horizon that will impact Human Capital Dominance at our organizations.

A recent i4cp survey of senior executives indicates "Nearly 50% of business executives say that the pace of change is becoming hard or impossible to predict...and it appears many companies will suffer as change inevitably happens: almost 20 percent characterize themselves as poor or very poor at handling such initiatives."

This has a direct impact on at least three of the human capital challenges addressed above. Particularly collaboration and knowledge sharing. The most agile and adaptable organizations now and in the future know that one person like the CEO must depend of a collaborative network of leaders to embrace and execute in the complex world we exist in now. This then impacts retention of valued talent and succession planning to provide organizational leadership the right human capital capabilities to succeed.

A recent survey by Execunet also identifies items for consideration. In its annual 2010 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report identified the following trends among senior executives.

• 45% of corporate leaders considered or prepared to voluntarily leave their organizations in 2009
• 80% of HR executives are concerned about retaining executive talent in the coming year
• 46% of CEOs claim their résumés are ready to send to a recruiter right now

What these informative surveys tell us is that Human Capital Dominance, while the goal, is a challenge to achieve. Those organizations that can negate their importance vs. effectiveness gaps at executing these key human capital challenges and can establish strong workforce analytics capabilities (human capital information superiority) will have a greater opportunity to achieve Human Capital Dominance. These organizations will enjoy greater alignment of HC to strategy, greater agility and adaptability in executing strategy, and a greater competitive matter what market or sector the organization decides to engage.

A storm is the economy improves, HCM Leaders will get opportunities to really show what our profession's contribution is to the organizations we serve. Doing our best to provide Human Capital Dominance will speak volumes!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Holy Grail...Human Capital Development Aligned to Strategy...

For a long time our profession seems to have had an identity crisis. We wanted to be strategic business partners but we couldn't get there. IBM's 2009 report titled "Getting Smart About Your Workforce: Why Analytics Matter," showed key strategic human capital (HC) challenges that Human Capital Management (HCM) leaders face and their perception of importance vs. effectiveness in overcoming them to impact business results. One of those areas with a significant gap in importance vs. effectiveness (48% in last weeks graphic) was the definition of "knowledge, skills and capability requirements to execute business strategy."

In my honest opinion, the HCM leader's capability to act on this particular human capital challenge is more important than other importance-effectiveness gaps the report identified. Why? Because as HCM leaders...if we can't define organizational capability requirements (That is really what our customers want...not HR speak like knowledge, skills and competencies...we can do that internally) to execute the business strategy...we are in essence lost. No "seat at the table" is forthcoming. So we have to execute on this one human capital challenge gap with the agility and adaptability the organization requires to function in the global complexity. And we have to do it...flawlessly.

At the Defense Intelligence Agency, we faced a similar challenge as DIA merged with ten worldwide Combatant Command Directorates of Intelligence. Treating the merger as a major change management project as Combatant Command civilian employees were integrated within DIA, the DIA learning team decided that for a successful merger, we needed a simple approach. The approach was to define the individual Combatant Command capabilities that would allow the team to look at common, core, and critical capability requirements across the Combatant Commands.

Pioneered by Dr. Reza Sisakhti of Productivity Dynamics and used by successful companies like IBM, Cisco, and HP, we were able to focus on three mission critical job roles at the Combatant Commands to drive our efforts...Intelligence Analysts, Collection Managers and Intelligence Planners.

The process involved two simple steps...

1. Engage strategic leaders and determine each Combatant Command's mission, strategy, strategic initiatives in place or planned, and the challenges faced in executing the strategy.
2. Identify top performers in the organization. These top performers are top performers because they are able to overcome challenges and achieve results. What behaviors make them successful at executing the strategy and overcoming challenges?

With this data, the team was able to start alignment of available learning at DIA and at the Combatant Commands in direct support of mission strategy execution. From a change management perspective, ten Combatant Commands with different functional and geographic responsibilities were able to see the knowledge and skills necessary to execute their mission strategies for the three identified roles were the same. The only difference was the application of these human capital capabilities in their respective environments.

The decision to take this simple, but proven approach in a massive change effort was risky. But the payoff was a group of global learning professionals at the Combatant Commands and DIA that are considered the vanguards of enterprise integration by senior leaders within the Defense Intelligence Enterprise. It has ushered in a new level of collaboration and innovation that led to the team's recognition in 2009 by Chief Learning Officer Magazine with a Learning-in-Practice Gold award in Division I for Global Learning.

So the message this week HCM leaders...focus on defining knowledge, skills and capability requirements to execute business strategy and take a could lead to a huge payoff for your organization and HCM.

Monday, May 31, 2010

People Skills Key to Strategy Execution? CEOs Think So...

First, I want to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day...please take time to remember why we get these opportunities in the United States.

Last week I discussed what I considered a "hidden message" in the IBM 2010 Global CEO Study - "Capitalizing on Complexity" because of the precipitous drop in CEO's view of the impact of People Skills as an external force which will have the biggest impact on their organizations. This week, I go deeper in to the study and the implications of CEO's thoughts and perspectives on strategic Human Capital Management (HCM).

While the thoughts of CEO's on the idea of creative leadership to deal with the complexity and ambiguity in their organizations got all the air play after the release of the study on 18 May, there are other parts of the study that provide a wealth of information on what your CEO is thinking that can help us shape approaches to HCM. One particular section is in the chapter discussing the reinvention of customer relationships. In the survey, IBM asked CEO's what was the most important dimension to realize their strategy in the next five years. What came out number one at 88% was "getting closer to customer." Makes sense...if you want to execute a strategy you will need to be closer to the customer to understand what is driving their most pressing challenges so you can develop solutions that help them overcome those challenges.

What came in second though is the important piece for me. With 81% of CEOs stating that People Skills are an important dimension to executing their strategy. So it presents a little dichotomy in that CEOs saw reduced importance as an external force having the biggest impact on their organizations, but they consider it the second most important to executing their strategies.

So the key opportunity for HCM leaders is having the ability to translate CEO strategy into clearly defined people knowledge and skills...something that is apparently not easy for our profession. In IBM's 2009 report titled "Getting Smart About Your Workforce: Why Analytics Matter," it surveyed Human Resource (HR) professionals. One of the key findings was the following:

"Defining the requisite knowledge, skills, and capability requirements needed for the execution of business strategy. Organizations must have a firm understanding of what skills and capabilities they have in-house, where gaps exist, and the best ways to fill those gaps through external hires or internal mobility."

The interesting piece from this study as evidenced by the graphic is HCM leaders understand the importance of identifying knowledge, skills, and capability requirements to execute business strategy...we are just not effective at it as represented by the 48% gap in importance vs. effectiveness. So when we compare data from these two studies...we find ourselves in a conundrum...

CEOs understand the importance of people skills to executing strategy as do we...but if we can't figure out a means to do it effectively we will become just another perceived resource drain on the organization.

All is not lost though. A number of organizations are really effective at defining necessary people skills to execute business strategy and develop the right sets of integrated human capital solutions. HP, Cisco, and IBM come to mind for me, as well as my own organization, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). So we have organizations we can learn from and continue to show our own profession's skill in enabling business success.

In my next blog...we will go in to a Human Capital Development (HCD) model that can really start to shape your HCM ability to be effective in defining the necessary knowledge, skills and capability requirements to execute business strategy. Our profession depends on it!


Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Hidden Message - The 2010 IBM Global CEO Study

I really look forward to IBM's bi-annual Global Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) studies. This year's study titled "Capitalizing on Complexity" was like having to wait for the World Cup or Olympics since the 2008 Global CEO study,titled "Enterprise of the Future." During the time between the 2008 and 2010 studies the landscape in the private and public sector has changed significantly. Additionally, the studies have historically provided some great insights and perspectives in the thinking of two key groups that I am interested in understanding...CEOs and CHROs/CHCOs.

So first...hats off to IBM for another quality study and kick-off even where the results were streamed live over 24 hours. You can get to the recordings here.

This week there were a number of organizations that picked up and focused on the main message of the 2010 study and that was creative leadership. Austin Carr at Fast Company wrote a great article earlier this week highlighting the study results ("The Most Important Leadership Quality for CEOs? Creativity") as well as a Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog by Prasad Kaipa, Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja titled "How To Ignite Creative Leadership In Your Organization." Because of this immediate focus this week on the 2010 study...I think we can count on seeing a number of books and new vendor training that will tell and show us how to create armies of creative leaders. But for today's blog...I am going to focus somewhere else and the more subtle or hidden messages that global CEOs may have been communicating that we need to understand as strategic Human Capital Managers.

My interest is on the overall trends in external forces with the greatest impact on their organizations. Since 2004, when the first study was conducted, one of these factors considered by CEOs was People Skills. It was in a strong second place and had increased in importance, while maintaining its second place status from 42% to 48% between 2004 to 2008. In the 2010 study however, People Skills goes from 48% to 37% and fourth place on the list (Please see attached chart). Now rated above People Skills are Market Factors, Technological Factors and Macroeconomic Factors. The only significant hole in the study in my opinion is no discussion on why this has occurred. So we are left to hypothesize for now...

Trying to understand why this may have occurred, let's look at what has happened in last two years. Mass layoffs, whole companies disappearing, recession, and slow growth. Part of the surprise for CEOs is that massive cuts still left a workforce able to do more with less. This of course has led to trust issues in many organizations because of how this all transpired. This HBR Blog post by Tammy Erickson titles "Restore Trust with Employees? Forget About It" details challenges organizations will face.

Some questions that will need answering...

1. Did the shift in employee demographics after layoffs change CEO perspective on what is needed to be successful?
2. Did organizations during the layoffs actually layoff the right people...those without high performance and/or high potential allowing a more capable workforce to stay at the organization?
3. Did organizations have the proper alignment of people skills to strategic direction within organizations meaning that HCM had prepared organizations for the future events between 2008-2010?

What I hope is that the 2010 Global CHRO/CHCO Study will answer some of these me that is the hidden message to understand and learn.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Taking the Long View...Why "Strategic" Can't Mean One Year...

So I am a huge believer in Strategic Human Capital Management (HCM). Taking a strategic approach allows for you and your team to play a more proactive and impactful role in positioning the organization for success. Yet I am the first to admit that in today's world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA)...the ability to look strategically and plan for the Human Capital Capabilities (HCC) to execute the strategy is extremely challenging.

Because of VUCA pressures, the need for agility and adaptability are forcing time compressed strategy development and execution. During the recession, it appears strategy took a backseat to managing the organization's resources on a day-to-day basis. The external environmental factors were changing so quickly that survival was critical success factor...nit strategy.

A March 2010 Harvard Business Review blog titled "Strategy on the Morph" by Walter Keichel (Author of "The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World") really provides insight in to what was happening in respect to strategy. In the blog, this quote really points to the perspective that strategy is wounded.

You may have read one such proclamation in the Jan. 25 Wall Street Journal. "Strategy, as we knew it, is dead," argued Walt Shill, who leads Accenture's North American consulting practice. An article titled "Strategic Plans Lose Favor" goes on to quote him saying, "Corporate clients decided that increased flexibility and accelerated decision making are much more important than simply predicting the future."

So if HCM leaders buy in to this view...we should just sit and react. We can sit and wait for our customers to come and tell us what they want and how they want it and we can deliver on it. So if you believe may be in the wrong profession.

Research by the Stanford Center on Longevity released in February that taking a strategic and "long-view" in HCM will be critical. The report titles "Population Age Shifts Will Reshape Global Workforce" indicates taking the long-view will be important based upon future workforce demographics. If we don't take a proactive stance to drive customers to think strategically about HCM and impact to future capabilities required to execute the strategy...then we are really not doing our job to support the organization's continued growth and mission accomplishment.

My virtual friend, Daniel John Roddy (HCM Leader for the Institute for Business Value (IBV) at IBM Global Business Services) stated it simply in a discussion on the One HCM Global Community on LinkedIn...

"But would you really want to recommend a major investment in building out your workforce in any country without understanding the social and economic implications of its urban development and demographic trends? I don’t think so.

And what if, in taking the long view, the emerging market workforce strategy itself could become a source of sustained competitive advantage? An input to strategy formulation, rather than only a work stream of the business execution plan?

In my view, firms hoping to differentiate on their emerging market workforce strategy will need to add three additional competencies to their current workforce analytics toolbox: population demographics, cross-cultural attributes analysis, and an understanding of, and vision for, what the United Nations has termed ‘Human Development’.

So actually, I don't think the quantification attempts in relation to human capital are the problem, more at issue is the typical reactive and short-term perspective we are bringing to the task.

Maybe I have been in China too long, but I have become a big believer in the importance in taking the long view of desired outcomes, in business and in life."

Taking the long-view is a critical competency for HCM that we will need to continue to develop in order to lead our organizations in to the future.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A "Once-in-a-Career" Team

Three weeks ago I was asked to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Global Leadership Academy. I consider it an honor and validation for my efforts in the last three years to get this opportunity to shape the future leadership capability of DIA, the Defense Intelligence Enterprise and the Intelligence Community. But I also know that my new and exciting opportunity is because of the hard work of a team that I started to put together starting in May 2007. Today's blog post is to honor and thank them for being that "Once-in-a-Career" team.

As an unknown person once stated "A leader without true followers, is simply going on a walk." My current team, the Global Learning Solutions Group, exudes this statement. While I took "walks" from a mission and vision perspective over the last three years...this team took the walk with me and together we achieved amazing results. My team learned to depend on each other's strengths and when we needed to come together for big projects...we did so with the utmost professionalism and energy to ensure success.

The week of 26-30 April, we came together for possibly the last time for our annual professional development week where we continued to expand our knowledge and skills and determine the best ways to meet our customer's mission needs. That week we shared dinner and said our goodbyes...While we are a high performing team, we were also in many respects family. We looked out for each other and were always available to lend a hand when we needed to help each other whether at work or outside of it.

Scott Williams once said that "A great leader doesn't care about being the leader, but instead cares about the mission, the vision, and the people they are leading." While I make no pretenses of being a great leader...that is for my team to decide...I know that my interactions with each of them individually and collectively made me a better person and a better leader.

So I say thank you to a group of professionals that have not only enabled our customer's individual and mission success, but gave me the privilege to lead them on this journey and provide me this new opportunity. You will all have a special place with me as that "Once-in-a-Career" team...and family.

For those of you reading this today...I say cherish the time you have with your teams could be a "Once-in-a-Career" team.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Human Capital - Bad Grammar or Organizational Success?

A January HBR blog post by Roger Martin titled "Why Good Spreadsheets Make Bad Strategies" makes the case that organizations have gone too far to the quantitative side in an overwhelming need to make sense of an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) at the expense of the qualitative nature of organizations. The great example he gives is that you can measure the number of people in the room, but you don't know whether they are happy, sad, motivated, etc.

Mr. Martin's blog elicited an interesting response from Charles H. Green, co-author of the book "The Trusted Advisor" and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates. In his comment, Charles states the following:

"We now talk about "human capital" with the proper roles of adjective and noun reversed, largely so we can measure the impact of behavioral change."

So the question is have we as Human Capital Management (HCM) leaders done ourselves a disservice by approaching our work in such a way as to allow the measurement of behavioral change and its impact on business strategy execution? In order to position our profession as a "strategic business partner" that could affect the company's bottomline, we put our profession in terms that we thought would resonate with leadership...human resources, human capital, talent management, etc. This has created some angst as people inside and outside our profession saw this as lessening the "people" side of our business because we weren't treating them as people but as commodities of the business like cash or buildings.

Historically, organizations have treated people like resources making decisions about their application to business strategy and execution (See my earlier blog post about impact of layoffs...). John Boudrea's book titled "Beyond HR" advocates for a decision science around human capital...My experience in the Department of Defense indicates there is a chasm between the ability to enable decision advantage in human capital and the need to do it.

My perspective is that human capital decisions made based on incomplete and faulty data can be catastrophic to an organization. If decisions about necessary capabilities to execute the mission and the workforce's capacity to execute the mission are based on anecdotal and incomplete analysis of the challenges being faced then we do our organizations and our profession a disservice.

I believe there is a balance that exists and is developing to address HCM activities and solutions in quantitative and qualitative perspectives...recognizing that we as HCM leaders are striving to create individual and organizational capabilities to execute the business takes people in our profession with the ability to see the forest and the trees as part of a larger talent ecosystem that is alive with hopes, desires, and feelings acting in a global system driven by the strategy of the organization.

Does it need a new name or a correction in grammar? I am not sure. I know we need to enable business and mission success. Whether we do that as the Chief Human Capital Officer, Chief People Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer or Chief Talent Officer should not matter and/or be transparent. What matters is enabling individual and organizational success through human capital decision advantage. Those organizations whose human capital can thrive in VUCA environments with greater agility and adaptability will be hugely successful in the future. Those who are not...well think Enron, Lehman Brothers, etc.