For weeks the news media has been buzzing with stories about poor planning for implementation of Obama Care. One Wall Street Journal Opinion piece went so far as to refer to the President as An Executive Without Energy. What’s really surprising is that Americans are viewing this as some kind of unique screw up when actually it’s really business as usual for many senior executives, including presidents. Remember, for example, the absence of planning by the Bush 43 administration for how to manage Iraq after the initial invasion. Or, to take a business example, the failure of Blackberry to develop a smart phone platform fast enough to compete with Apple and Android.
A recent HBR blog piece, Get the Strategy You Need — Now, makes a compelling case for focusing the allocation of investment dollars to a few strategic priorities rather than spreading them across most initiatives. The blog points out that many companies fail to do this. I would like to add that it’s just as important to put the right people behind strategic priorities, and many companies also fail to do this. We see this happen all the time — in fact right now. Very successful companies properly conclude that the future requires new ways of thinking and new investments. So what do they do? They invest in acquisitions of small companies with new products and technologies which never go anywhere after the acquisition. In most cases, the leaders of the acquired companies don’t have a prayer of navigating the culture of the mother ship.These companies never even consider the alternative of taking their best leaders and performers and moving them to products, services and markets of the future, handing them the ball to make the right investments, including whatever it takes to integrate acquired talent, products and technology with the broader brand, organization and value chain.
Another big mistake is failing to consider that the talent needed for a strategic imperative might not be within the organization. When it came to creating smart phones, Apple obviously had talent that Blackberry did not. Yet you can be sure that Blackberry’s technology and design experts assured leadership that they could do the job. But to validate expert assurances and avoid critical strategic missteps, it is incumbent upon leadership to get below the waves and ask the really tough questions. In those cases where the in-house talent is deemed to be lacking, leadership must bite the bullet and recruit the best from outside.
Finally, great work requires great teams, which only exist where personalities are compatible and complementary. I’ve written a lot about this subject. For now, suffice it to say that strong and systemic use of team personality assessments like Four Groups 4G is required to be confident that a high performing team has been assembled. And this includes assessing talent being added from outside the organization.
Being strategic requires execution in a strategic way by committing financial resources and the right talent to the strategic priorities. We call this Strategic Workforce Planning.