Saturday, February 27, 2010

Making the Globally Integrated Enterprise and the Human Network a Reality

So let me be upfront…I am a big fan of the companies I am about to write about this week. I think IBM and Cisco are world leaders in their respective industry sectors and we have much to learn from them, and if applied correctly within the context of your operational environment and culture can allow your human capital organization to “leapfrog” to a new level of partnership.

I think IBM and Cisco continue to do a fantastic job of looking at the external environment, understanding what is happening and looking into the future to see what the world will look like. Without this ability they cannot position themselves for future success and transition their business as necessary to meet changing market conditions. So the real question is what makes them so successful at it? Once they define a strategy…what makes it happen? Cash is always a good thing…can do a lot with that. Technology is super…it allows the connections to happen. But at the end of the day it takes human capital to execute, human capital that has the right knowledge, skills and attributes to execute the business strategy. Without it… doesn't matter how good your strategy is…you will not get from where the business is now to where it needs to be in the future.

So if this hypothesis is true…what makes IBM and Cisco better positioned to execute their business strategy? For starters, the Human Capital elements within IBM and Cisco are world-class organization themselves. I have seen Ted Hoff, VP for Learning at IBM, several times and the things they do are a testament to the position he has as a trusted advisor supporting IBM global operations. Both human capital organizations have an ability to understand what things are important in human capital development in enabling execution of business strategy and jettisoning transactional activities that while necessary, provide limited strategic value. By focusing on the business strategy and what human capital is necessary to execute, they are able to play a more proactive role as a partner to recommend various human capital courses of action, vice being ordered to create a five-day course (We have all been there…right?).

They are able to execute their role as strategic human capital developers because they have a process that identifies what organizational capabilities are needed to execute the business strategy, identify top performers overcoming these challenges daily in executing the business strategy and develop the necessary human capital development requirements down to the performance behaviors and knowledge, skill, attributes necessary for individuals. With human capital capabilities defined, IBM and Cisco are able to determine the current capacity of the workforce in these areas and make recommendations on where valuable and scare resources should be applied to develop the human capital capability. These recommendations can take the form of buying new talent, developing existing talent or outsourcing where talent is located.

The power this provides is amazing…As we have executed the same human capital development model within the context of my organizational environment; we have seen a compelling difference in our ability to engage our customers at a strategic level on what human capital capabilities they require to execute their mission strategies. Doing so has allowed the Defense Intelligence Agency Directorate for Human Capital to “leapfrog” 10 years of applied process in the private sector. While still early in our journey, it has started to pay dividends in having meaningful discussions with customers on their most important strategic human capital needs.

As Human Capital Leaders, we have spoken many times in the past about being strategic mission or business partners and showing the value of our efforts to the organization. Organizations like IBM and Cisco have achieved their success with a determined approach to human capital and talent development and its alignment to organizational strategy. My experience has shown that it can alter the customer relationship in a positive and meaningful way. As Human Capital Leaders...let's stop talking and start can make a difference.


  1. I canot really speak for Cisco, but as an ex-IBMer I still have an enormous respect for the company. I only realised how much I learned about people management from the company after I left and found that nobody else did what I had come to take for granted.

    However, I have to ask if they constantly refer to their people as "Human Capital." I know it is becoming commonplace in management-speak, but I ma finding increasing resistance to the term amongst employees. They are people and want to be treated as such and called that - not human capital! If this is not recognised they will start to damage that DNA!

  2. Bay,

    I think there is a balance between the individual people part of organizations and recognizing that in order for organizations to succeed in executing business strategy that you have to build the human capital capabilities necessary to do it...

    Your former company in IBM is one that has that balance and successful organizations in the future will need that balance...

    Thanks for reading and commenting...