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Talent & Team

July 13, 2011

By Michael Tatham, President, The Tatham Group.

During a conversation with Mike Clement, Managing director of Strait Insights, we discussed the topic of talent and team.  There is a new generation of highly capable young leaders moving into prominent senior positions, but are you fast tracking a leadership capability for the present culture or future one?

I always enjoy conversing with Mike because he thinks outside the box, shares the Tatham mentality of challenging the status quo and is infatuated with execution.  He maintained strong professional integrity through the turmoil of a long career in a very large financial institution working in human resources and corporate communications.

Our conversation about creating a capability around talent and team was sparked by discussing the Tatham value proposition; our model of active learning and collaboration.  We have been in business for over 40 years and have a great track record of successful clients.  We also have a founder who was successful because of his ability to convince executives worldwide to invest in talent and team to get things done.

So why and how have we survived when so much of our success is dependent on our clients execution capability?  Mike and I agreed that it comes down to empowering your average person to make a significant impact on the business by changing the way it fundamentally operates.  Many leaders are reluctant to do this because of one reason, ‘Institutional Hierarchy’.  It is what provides order but it is also our enemy.

Wikipedia has an interesting component in its definition that I’d like to share:

Members of hierarchical organizational structures chiefly communicate with their immediate superior and with their immediate subordinates. Structuring organizations in this way is useful partly because it can reduce the communication overhead by limiting information flow; this is also its major limitation.’

No organization wants to limit information flow that is value-added.  Unfortunately, this is a reality in every industry.  Starting at entry-level positions we are programmed to speak for ‘what we think our customers are saying’ and report back solutions to our superiors in the hierarchical pyramid.  We are trained to come with solutions to problems instead of being given the time to come to the ‘heart of the matter’.  These solutions are usually guesses and intuitions. This culture creates that ‘hero mentality’ that we all love to hate.  If you are a leader looking to surround yourself with people who can execute and you choose the talent that has perfected cutting across organizational boundaries, then you have also answered the question of why things are never sustained.  That band-aid model doesn’t work.

I’m not suggesting you take your average entry-level position on the org chart and give them unsolicited power to make random changes.  What I am saying is that talent is located in places you have not been accustomed to looking.  Here are a few tips and tricks that we suggest to help executives with the locate that talent.

  1. Ask your leaders to be customers.  Experience what it is like to do business with your company.
  2. Treat problems as opportunities and praise people for making problems visible.
  3. Reward people for following the documented process exactly as it is and then pointing out where in the process things break down.
  4. Ask, “What does our customer think?  How does she measure things?”
  5. Shift from asking for solutions to asking for “root cause”.
  6. Promote experimentation to learn root cause, not a testing ground for spur-of-the-moment solutions.
  7. Attach yourself to a customer request and follow it through the entire organization.
  8. Start using the measure of Process Yield.  What percentage of your product/service flows comes out correctly the first time?  No rework! (Don’t be surprised if it is close to zero even if your customer sat scores are high).

These eight tips will not only start to change the mentality of your team, it will also reveal a new type of talent.