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.


  1. Hi Keith - great article, also highlighted the results of a very useful tool, assessing the differences between the perceptions of importance vs. effectiveness in people management.
    This was chosen as one of the Top 10 HR Transformation articles in June from HR Transformer Blog.

  2. Thanks Andy...Means a lot to be recognized by you on the sharing of my thoughts and experiences. Hope I can continue to exceed your expectations and those that read my blog.