We’re experimenting a bit with a few posts on leadership, strategy, and people issues. The topic: strategies don’t die because they’re bad – they die because organizations foolishly ignore the people implications of the plan. In true thoughtLEADERS form, this won’t be a blathering set of ethereal platitudes. We’re going to give you some concrete steps you can take to stop screwing up your strategy.
Why is it so critical to nail this HR planning piece of your strategy? Failure to do so means the plan fails which means you lose in the marketplace which means you don’t get a bonus. Capice? (That’s Italian for “Do you understand?”).
We’re going to bring you perspectives from three of our team members: Mike Sheehan, Dave Willis, and Mike Figliuolo. We’ll cover this topic both here on the thoughtLEADERS blog and also on SmartBlog on Workforce (it’s an awesome resource that’s also tied to their SmartBrief on Workforce and SmartBrief on Leadership offerings – I don’t recommend many things but I’m TELLING you to sign up for these because they’re great and they’re free. They save you the trouble of finding the good stuff because they find it and summarize it for you!).
Enough preamble. Strategies die for many reasons (bad analysis, poor decision making, flawed assumptions) but the most egregious and most common reason for failure is you botched the people planning. It’s unforgivable because it’s completely within your control – you simply don’t focus on it because it’s not “sexy.”
Porter’s Five Forces? Sexy. Org charts? Not sexy. Right?
DIAGNOSING THE PRESENCE OF A PROBLEM
Our first perspective comes from Dave Willis who is a Senior Instructor with thoughtLEADERS. In a past life, Dave was Managing Director of the Human Resources Practice at the Corporate Executive Board. He heard first-hand from Chief Human Resource Officers how companies regularly sabotage their own efforts due to poor HR planning. Here are his observations on how you can diagnose whether you have a problem or not:
– Open your last strategic plan. Is there a human resources plan included IN THE MAIN DOCUMENT (vs. buried in an appendix)? No? FAIL.
– Does the senior-most HR representative attend strategic planning sessions for their assigned business unit (e.g., CHRO in the corporate strat planning meeting, Division HR Director in the Business Unit strat planning meeting, etc.)? No? FAIL.
– Is that senior-most HR representative included in the creation of the plan (i.e., actively contributing to the formation of the strategy) or are they simply treated as an after-the-fact HR transaction engine (hire, fire, recruit, train, pay) who is tasked to “make it happen?” The latter? FAIL.
This is pretty straightforward: too many “business leaders” out there don’t treat HR as an integral part of planning. You set a poor tone from the top when you do so. Sure, this bad behavior is rooted in the transactional nature that HR has been practiced at many companies. That doesn’t mean it’s right. Be a leader. Break the mold of treating HR as a transactional afterthought.
And for the senior HR leaders who are cheering me on right now for beating up “the business?” You’re not off the hook either. You have to insert yourself in the process and demonstrate how you can contribute to the problem solving. If you get lazy and simply make the donuts by being transactional, “the business” will keep treating you as such.
Are you actively analyzing the sources of your highest performing talent (whether internal or external) so that you can rapidly ramp up capabilities in support of new strategies? Have you forecast the total cost of workforce under the various business scenarios upon which your strategic plan is based? Do you understand exactly which capabilities the organization will most need to execute on different elements of the strategy, and do you have a clear plan for building, buying, or renting those capabilities as needed? If you’re still focusing on simple metrics like aggregate turnover and time-to-fill, you’re not adding value.
OUR PATTERN OF STUPID BEHAVIOR
How do we currently do things? We pull together a cool strat plan (which isn’t always as cool as you think – for more on that check out our strategy articles). We get all amped up about awesome marketing plans, sweet market dynamics analyses, and incredible hockey stick financial projections. Everyone is psyched as they walk out of the boardroom briefing either to the Board of Directors or the senior executive team.
On the way out, someone asks “hey, who’s gonna do all this stuff?” Blank stares ensue. Heads swivel to the senior HR representative who now has the loathsome and impossible task of staffing a team and building an organization to support the hare-brained strat plan (often with 137 “top priority” initiatives).
That poor HR rep shuffles off to their cube (which incidentally is in another building and not co-located with the business unit they support). They pull out the team roster and look at the names on the list. They rack their brains over who has had what experiences and who has or doesn’t have which skills.
After completing their “analysis” they eke out 30 minutes with the head of the business unit to make a recommendation on who on the team should do what to support the strat plan. If they’re brave they might even beg for additional job requisitions to hire some folks to do all the additional work.
In the end, the business unit doesn’t add resources, hire new players, or fire/transfer existing ones. Instead it simply rearranges deck chairs on the Titanic. Sound familiar? This happens because the organization is doing it backwards. It’s starting from the people and working toward the org chart which then drives the execution of the strategy.
Let’s do a quick recap of strategic planning: set strategy and goals, determine which initiatives to pursue, define org structure, and complete HR planning. How does your company do strat planning? Does it let the individuals and their skills determine which initiatives to pursue which in turn determines your strategy? That’s a recipe for disaster. Perhaps your organization’s needs going forward and your existing resources aren’t a match any longer. That’s an issue deserving HR’s full attention. In some cases, that’s an opportunity for a serious people restructuring.
So now that we’ve diagnosed the presence of a problem and described the typical root cause, it’s now Mike Sheehan’s task to explain how to fix things. You can read Mike’s thoughts in this Thursday’s SmartBrief on Workforce.