Thursday, April 28, 2011

Exploring the Many Faces of Learning Agility - Part II

The most popular posting on this blog has been the piece I did on the different profiles of Learning Agility. It has been about a year since that post, so I thought it would be a good idea to do an update based on some more recent research we have done into the different profiles. Following are some key takeaways from some in-depth interviews we conducted with individuals belonging to different profiles. They provide a deeper glimpse into each profile and what differentiates that particular style of learning agility. More on this will be featured in an upcoming whitepaper that should hopefully come out in a month or two.

The Thought Leader: Making An Impact From The Wings
One of the Thought Leaders we spoke with had a role as a Communications Manager. She hated being in the spotlight and having to do her own public speaking but took a great pride in speech writing for executives and helping coach them towards success. A memorable success occureed when working with an executive who had previously has some rocky presentations and had low confidence. Through intense partnering, practice and feedback, the Thought Leader guided the executive toward making a standout presentation. The Thought Leader reflected that, "I would never want to be on stage giving the speech, but there is nothing more exciting than seeing a person whose speech you wrote get a high score or standing ovation. That person now wants to work with me again."

The Trailblazer: Results (But Not Necessarily) At Any Cost
Some Trailblazers have gained perspective on their hard-driving ways. While they can still get quite animated about results (especially when they aren't up to expectations), they have learned to moderate their style to get the best out of others voluntarily versus pushing them to extremes. Said one Trailblazer, "I have matured in my leadership style - I have learned to tap into what makes others tick and have been much more successful with that. In the past, during the first 15 years of my career, I would have been much more of a "jump on the train, or else..." kind of guy."

The Champion: Guerilla Business Strategy
It's one thing to take an idea and run with it, it's another to make it all your own and exceed everyone's expectations. The Champion has a pre-requisite however: "Leave me alone and let me do it." One interviewee relayed her assignment to start a new line of business in a very hard to break into space. She converted the "we've never done it, let's be conservative: attitude of her leaders into a call to action. She was energized by the challenge because no plan or process would get results; it required what she referred to as a "guerilla business strategy". In less than a year, her results were double her goal.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Are You Ready for the 51% Challenge

One conclusion that I have come to during my relatively short time here in Asia is that there is a pressing need to identify high potential talent, as there is in other regions of the world. The main differentiator is that, due to the increased pace of change taking place in Asian business relative to other regions, the size of the leadership gap and the speed at which it needs to be closed is even greater. The end result is that a type of hyper-development is required to create tomorrow’s leaders today. There are certainly ways to do this through very targeted and aggressive 70-20-10 development efforts. But more than that, it will require leaders, both HR and line, to take unprecedented risks with talent.

This very matter was confirmed by a recent conversation I had with the APAC Regional President of a global life sciences company. During our discussion, he turned and pointed to a quote he had placed in large print beside his desk and said that the philosophy captured in the quote was critical to shifting his mindset and driving his efforts around talent.

Here is the quote, attributed to Koh Boon Hwee, a prominent Singaporean business leader:

"If the man or the woman who has worked with us is 51% ready, I will give him or her the job. But he or she will come up to speed so that he or she is 100 percent ready in a short space of time, or we will deal with the problem. It's fair."

I found the quote intriguing. It seems to take the notions of learning agility, assignmentology and development heat to the next level.

What are your thoughts on this philosophy? Is it sufficient for meeting the apparent challenge at hand for many businesses or is it simply stretching too far?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Principles and Practices

A few months ago, a client asked me to address a group of internal HR leaders on the key practices associated with integrated talent management. In piecing together the presentation, it occured to me that more important than the practices themselves were the particular principles that informed them.

Without clear, substantiated principles about things such as development, potential or the role of HR within the broader organization, the actual practices didn't have a lot of meaning and were likely to have limited impact on outcomes. In other words, to build something of high quality and enduring value, you have to have clear principles and beliefs to guide your efforts.

This brought me around to thinking about one of my favorite phrases - "form follows function" - and the broader quote associated with it. The popularization of the phrase is attributed to Louis Sullivan, a late 19th century architect that many consider one of the founders of the modernist architecture movement. Here is the quote:

"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
of all things physical and metaphysical,
of all things human and all things super-human,
of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul,
that the life is recognizable in its expression,
that form ever follows function.
This is the law."

The essence of what Sullivan is trying to see is that the manifestation of something (be it a building, a system of government or a talent management system) should be in keeping with the underlying purpose for which it exists. Thinking about it another way, if you can truly identify the "why?" behind something, the "what" and the "how" should follow accordingly.

I encourage you to reflect on the talent system you have in your organization today. Is it a clear expression of an underlying purpose and a clear set of principles around talent or is it something else? If not, perhaps something got lost in translation or the purpose and principles were never defined in the first place. Either way, I hope this gives you something to reflect on and apply. Please share your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stay Tuned

After a brief holiday respite, things are in full swing on several fronts. Unfortunately, this has left precious little time for entries. Expect to hear more developments soon with regards to my CIO research, the Asia 2.0 initiative and fresh findings on the learning agility profiles. In the meantime, I will direct you to the published version of last month's blog entry, which can now be seen on SmartEnterprise Exchange. I welecome your thoughts and comments, especially if you have experience with managing global teams.

Now, back to work for me.