About five years ago, the concept of focal jobs emerged. Advocates of this concept stressed the importance of identifying the most critical roles in a company and investing development dollars in these roles as well as rigorous planning for successors to the incumbents in these roles. Despite persuasive thought leadership in this arena, the focal jobs concept never got serious traction in the business world. Here’s why: it’s obvious which major leadership positions need strong development support and succession planning. It’s not so obvious which other roles deserve this level of attention. The reason for this lack of clarity is that most breakthrough work in today’s business world is not done by individuals. Its’ done by teams.
The advocates of nurturing individuals in focal jobs had a sound concept, but they missed the mark. Now is the time to revisit the “focal” concept and apply it to teams. Unlike trying to identify focal jobs, finding your focal teams is not looking for a needle in a haystack. Your most mission-critical teams can be readily identified without much research. Others can be identified by looking back to the business strategy and asking questions such as “which teams need to do what critical activities for the strategic objectives to be achieved?” It shouldn’t take too many of these questions to find the right teams to nurture. This approach can be a big relief for leaders of large companies who otherwise might focus development efforts on thousands of employees, few of whom are doing mission-critical work.
As a CEO, you don’t need to be expert in talent management or leadership development. You do need to make sure your organization’s resources in these areas are properly focused. Emphasizing focal teams is a great way to make this happen.