When studying and analysing some organisations’ approach and investment in their overall success I can’t help hearing the daunting backing music from the movie Jaws just before the shark appears to wreak havoc… Da dum…da dum… da dum… its ominous – well to some, obviously others seem completely oblivious.
Why are they oblivious? After all they’ve got the best systems, tools and technology, they’ve hired the ‘smartest’ people and have spent so much time on their strategy – why is that music still playing??
From our experience and supported by research – there are two main reasons:
- Miscalculating the value proposition and proper ratio of their investment between their hardware, software and liveware.
- Confusingly addressing current performance behaviour rather than sustainable cultural and people skill development.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail: pay particular attention to Liveware :
Most organisations, with the means to do so, will make the highest investment they can possibly make in their hardware and software, and this is definitely an important and necessary part of the equation but only ‘part’ of the equation – tip of the proverbial iceberg.
- Hardware – your equipment, tools, technologies available to do what they do
- Software – your procedures, work design, structure, systems…
BUT, they repeatedly miss the target with their Liveware.
- Liveware – your people and relationships who use the other two and actually produce the results
This is sometimes a complete fail, meaning they don’t address the liveware element at all, they simply think the solution is just hiring the right people (from their primarily subjective and often bias oriented selection criteria), ‘training’ them how to use the hardware and software and expecting results. When they repeatedly don’t get the results – well, change the people! Vegas has odds on this approach and they’re not good!
Hit the RIGHT Target
Most common however, is taking a shot but shooting at the wrong target (point 2 above).For those of you who manage departments or run companies / organisations ask yourself a very straightforward question. When you assess your liveware (people) what are you actually assessing and why? Take a few minutes to think about this fully and earnestly.
If you answer: we assess and then enhance our people’s actual skills and ability to engage, participate, problem solve, work as a team, Lead, communicate, contribute; their understanding, appreciation and chosen commitment for our vision and goals, in other words their non-technical skills – <I use the term skills here rather than traits because it is the actual degree of practical use of the skills you want to know.>
CONGRATULATIONS – you’re in a rare place, top 3-5 percentile and are very likely to have tremendously successful results in whatever it is you do.
If, more commonly you answer: ‘We regularly assess our performance and what our people think about our current situation and our direction’, then you are within the realm of the majority of organisations. You’ve got the right intention but you’re uncovering and measuring symptoms not causality, shooting but at the wrong target. The methods for these are often annual reviews, surveys, even some psychometric tests – but perhaps not the correct ones, etc. which are good ‘snap shot’ tools and have valid and good uses but not diagnostic or road to best sustainable performance tools. And more often than not, you’ll ‘do the right thing’ and support these findings with some type of training to ‘fix’ anything, which doesn’t align with your targets or expectations – but in most cases you’re ‘fixing’ an indicator not the core, addressing symptoms not the cause. It is lipstick on a pig. So what is the more reliable and sound approach? Let me come to that after one small paragraph.
Going back to the question for a second, if you answer: ‘We don’t assess or need to train our people because … <no shortage of unfortunate excuses / reasons here> ex. ‘Our people / team, is the best, they don’t need any help or development, we’ve hit our targets xxx months in a row or we’re the envy of the industry / field.’ To you I say, please reconsider your stance and perspective – or <cue the Jaws music again> just let us know where to send the flowers and condolence cards when your organisation fails.
Professional Journey Steps Tip for this edition:
OK, finally a solution to consider – for those of you who do assess but didn’t realise you are only getting a current snapshot of symptoms rather than assessing more deeply to pinpoint the real issues. Start taking a much deeper look at your most valuable resource within your and every organisation, your peoples’ true level of skill – not their ‘credentials’ and ’technical’ skills, not even in some cases their experience, but their level of practical mastery of inter-relationship and leadership skills. Then find out where the gaps or mismatches are and address those directly with proper development designed to get real skills as an outcome, not just concept awareness and another hollow ‘certificate’.
What will you get as the R.O.I. for this exercise? People (Liveware) who will be much more innovative, goal and vision focussed, invigorated and highly integrated not to mention an exponential increase in retention among many other positive capabilities. One final question; What value would you place on that capability and investment?
Enjoy the journey