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The following are extracts from ACE member Janice Caplan’s latest book “Strategic Talent Development: Develop and Engage All Your People for Business Success,” published by Kogan Page in September 2013.

 INTRODUCTION

The central theme of this book is that our world has changed and is changing in ways that call for a transformational response from organizations in attitudes and in ways of doing things, especially in ways of leading, managing and organizing people. My purpose is to put forward a response.

The changes are profound. They affect many aspects of the way organizations structure themselves, how people within them interact and the detail of how they do things in their day-to-day work. Three particular areas of change must be in our minds:

globalization;

communications and technology, and

attitudes across society.

These factors have some common characteristics; one is the speed with which change is happening; another is that it can emerge from anywhere; a third that these are not independent factors but interact with each other. This is creating a new world business environment, where products and services that were revolutionary two years ago are rendered obsolete if they don’t adapt to market changes fast enough, and where new competitors seem to spring up overnight.

…………………..

Create a new world organization

All this demands a ‘new world’ organization in response, where:

  • People develop their skills and abilities so that the business has the right capabilities available when needed.
  • Organizational culture encourages collaboration, innovation, flexibility and rapid response.
  • Autocratic and hierarchical styles are replaced by leadership styles that create ‘shared values, shared visions, and shared understanding.’
  • People are engaged around a compelling vision and strategic direction so that their efforts, motivation and commitment are directed to the success of the enterprise.

It has probably always been impossible to simply instruct people to innovate and have a realistic expectation that they will do so. Rather, it is necessary to create the conditions for such innovation and speed of response. This is exemplified by the experience of Xerox Corporation that famously generated many extraordinary ideas at its Palo Alto research facility. ‘Established in 1970 in an industrial park next to Stanford, PARC researchers designed a remarkable array of computer technologies, including the Alto personal computer, the Ethernet office network, laser printing and the graphical user interface.’ (Markoff, 2011). These brilliant and influential developments also illustrate another lesson, because the Xerox Corporation did not exploit a single one of these inventions that have formed the basis of huge industries. ‘Years later, Dr Goldman explained Xerox’s failure to enter the personal computing market early on as part of a large corporation’s unwillingness to take risks.’ (ibid) Creating the right conditions for innovation requires action that extends beyond the laboratory.

Another leadership challenge lies in a change in how we perceive the world. Our expectation of change is creating ‘New World Organizations’ where the need to adapt quickly to new markets, and new competitors and to innovate quickly is driving them to be less hierarchical, to have flatter hierarchies and to employ management structures where people’s jobs move from team to team, they work across functional and national boundaries and in partnerships with external organisations. This increase in real collaboration represents a permanent shift in attitudes from the adversarial approach of simply buying-in at the lowest possible price.

The changing internal business model

 A consequence of these changes is that traditional ‘command and control’ management systems, where information is passed up through levels of a hierarchy and instructions pass the other way, simply don’t work effectively. They are much too slow and they stifle innovation. Moreover, lean, de-layered and inter-connected organization structures have made management through close personal supervision and controlling the detail of what and how people do things mostly impossible.

Today ‘shared values, shared visions, and shared understanding’ set the culture and the tone. When people know where the organization is going, how it is going to get there, when values are clear, this sets the boundaries and people know how to act, take decisions, take responsibility, and they know what is expected of them.

This is also a new world of ideas that create competitive advantage or even whole new business streams; and businesses must be sufficiently agile, future-focused, and innovative to keep pace with overnight change in technology or ways of doing business if they are to keep ahead of competition. These ideas may arise anywhere within the organization, at any level. Managers need to recognise them, be open to them, and encourage their colleagues to come up with them. They must create the culture that will encourage their people to spot opportunity, and they must ensure they and their people develop the capabilities that will enable them to take advantage of this opportunity.

The smartphone presents a good example of flexibility. It is easily forgotten that the first such integrated, touchscreen device that we would recognise as a smartphone today was unveiled by Apple founder Steve Jobs only some six years before this sentence is being written. He did not invent the concept but he reinvented it and made it better. The new product transformed Apple to be the largest company in the world by market capitalization by 2012. Yet, within months of that first announcement competitors were producing their versions and, before 2012, Korea’s Samsung had overtaken Apple’s global market share in smartphones. In contrast, the market share of Nokia, previously the world’s dominant maker of mobile phones had plummeted and its share price had fallen by 90%. (The Economist, 2012). The ramifications of it being slow to react were serious on a national scale since in 2011, its revenues totalled 20% of the country’s GDP. The point here is not Apple: my point is the contrast between Samsung and Nokia.

Economic pressures on leadership

 Years of lower growth and the prospect of an uncertain economic climate ahead have affected attitudes, expectations and perceptions, creating some special leadership challenges. For example, slimmed down structures have created wider spans of control, which demand new skill-sets, and give rise to bigger workloads. These same people who perceive themselves as stretched to the limit, are then being asked to find energy to learn new skills, develop new ideas, and create growth. Managers are being asked, at one and the same time, to cut costs, but invest in the development of their people. Many suddenly find their skills are no longer as highly valued, or perhaps their sphere of influence, or even their pay, has been reduced affecting their self-regard and their morale; or maybe they have had their hopes and aspirations dashed as plans and investments have been put on hold. Moreover, many people are frightened to take a risk on untried and untested ideas, even though, when everything is changing, pursuit of the new and different is the key to survival. With growth in home markets slow, businesses need to develop new income streams and exploit new markets but to do this requires new capabilities and an entrepreneurial outlook. Where do these come from? How do we develop them? Leading people has never been easy, but in a difficult climate it also becomes more urgent.

Strategic Talent Development

 I have outlined what needs to be done and the leadership challenges that face us in getting there. But there are ways of overcoming these challenges and that is what this book addresses. My proposition is that if we value everyone, not just the few high-performers, meet their aspirations, and engage them with business success, this translates into improved, long-term business performance.

This approach is as much about behaviours and values as about systems and processes. 
It is strategic because it means looking ahead and aligning individual development with future organizational needs and with the strategy of the organization. It is inclusive because it recognizes that decisions and actions that will be pivotal to success may occur anywhere in the organization.

Inclusive talent development is more than aiming to harness people’s talents and help them be the best they can be, though that is part of it. It is more than having people available to fill key roles, though that too is part of it. It is a way of thinking and doing things that gets to the heart of relationships within the organization. It includes people in the vision and direction of the business so that they input their ideas, and actively seek to create opportunities and make them happen. It includes people in decisions that are made about them or that affect them, so that leadership and management are multi-way processes and people have more control over their destinies. It is also about how staff, managers and HR work together to create an innovative, creative, skilled and adaptable workforce that is willing to learn.

 

……………  See e-SimulatorTM or Iperquest Web to learn about the latest methods.

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