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Delusions of Employee Development

Delusions of Employee Development

Marc Effron wrote a wonderful piece on employee development. Great in its realism, pragmatism and simple truth. What a great contribution!


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The Future of Work – Richard Florida’s view

Dealing with knowledge makes the creation of new knowledge and innovation paramount. According to Carnegie Mellon professor Richard Florida there is a “creative class” of workers rising that make up 30% of workers in the developed world, and up to 50% in the US – as much as industry and service combined.  In “The Rise of the Creative Class” he writes: “They thrive of technology, talent and tolerance. But to develop the economy, the creative class has to collaborate through human contact and networks in real communities and places.” He highlights the need for tolerant, open communities as a basis for success. Stubbornness and intolerance hinder the creative elite massively.  This becomes important as not machines, capital or land are the competitive advantages, but the ability to attract and make productive these creative talents. And tolerance is a most important factor in this – patience combined with trust.

The German magazine „Brand Eins“ is dedicated to exploring these new work realities. For years, they have covered the changing nature of work. “Digital Natives” is one of the names for this rising group – people who grew up in a digital environment and have their expectations set by the web. A statement in a recent issue says: “We want to work not tied to a place, but have room to experiment, have high transparency. We want to know the visions of our colleagues. We want mentors, not bosses”. Trust, purpose and a partner-like relationship with their company is the culture they hope for. “I don’t want to find purpose in a world-tour when I retire, but daily. There is a constant evaluation: does this make sense here? Can I get something out of this job? Why am I doing this? It’s not that I have to work for a non-profit, but I want to know that I am doing good work”.

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A Network of Brains – Driving Breakthrough Performance in the New Work Environment

This week I was sitting in front of a webcast looking at charts that say that everything is changing. I am bit tired of oversized pitches for some HR consultancy – but this week’s presentation by the Corporate Leadership Council did have something going for it.

The intro was familiar: work is increasing, higher profits can only happen through higher profitability, current skills are not enough. But then there was a twist to it that I found new and enlightening:

“to get breakthrough performance, organizations need to focus on improving all employees’ ability to improve the performance of others.”

Did I hear that correct? “of others”? So, the focus on individual goals and bonuses are not helpful anymore? Rather than simplifying goals and performance measures, organizations should help employees with the complexity. Take this graph as an example. Only 23% find their job reflected in the performance management system. NOT EVEN A QUARTER!


Why is that so? Take these next two graphs as an example. Stuff is more interconnected. Goals are multidimensional and dynamic.


So, CLC came up with the model of adding Network Performance to Individual Performance to come up with Enterprise Contribution. I find this fitting. Not only personal effectiveness is considered. How an individual interacts with others is becoming ever more important for the business. Right on!


How many people do that currently? CLC came up with a number of only 20%. Only one in five. Why is that?

Most people can’t voice these new competencies well. Maybe managers don’t have a full understanding of the interactions, and for sure they are not familiar with the competencies that drive network performance. And the current PM systems don’t support this networked understand, leading to working ratings and skewed assessments, as well as wrong role definitions.

Good input that webinar. It is a fascinating question how you orchestrate performance in an ecosystem? Henning Kagermann, former CEO of SAP used to call it “network of brains” – how do you manage such a network of brains? Becoming verbal about it might be a first step, but there is more questions than answers at this point.

Filed under: future of work

The Future of Work – Peter Drucker’s view

Fredmund Malik took Peter Drucker’s view further and discussed the implications for corporations. According to his world-view, the main challenge of the future is to manage complexity and adjust to environments. He centers his approach on the Viable-System-Model that highlights the adaptability of organizations to their environment. It requires leaders and workers to be more versed in the ideas of change, organic systems and whole-system perspectives.

Telekom HR-chief and former Lufthansa-HR-head Michael Sattelberger took his philosophy of talent development to Germany’s biggest telecommunications company: “we build a talent environment rather then a drill-based military-like complex. Talents want participation.” He highlights the need for people to not be stuck in a job too long, exchange with peers and shape the strategy of the business they work for.  “Companies have to become more democratic and give talents room to participate and create options on the future”[1]. This also means that people need to account for more responsibility for their careers, take on part-time engagements and strive for flexibility and experience. It also means that jobs will follow people and companies need to offer perspectives for the employees they want to attract and retain.(see Brand Eins 04/2010)

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The Future of Work – Peter Drucker’s view

Peter Drucker was one of the first to introduce the notion of knowledge work. Since the 1960s he advocated a shift in how we do work and what that means for corporations. He predicted that the prominence of the large corporations (1950 big business employed a third of American workforce; vs. 8% today)and its command-and-control structure will diminish in favor of orchestrating and “writing the score”. Instead of running a business in Talyorism way of fixed input and predictable output, the work is to define the results, work to your and other’s strengths,  determining how to make a contribution and accepting that knowledge workers outlive their organizations. This means, they are responsible for the own development and should create opportunities themselves.

Productivity speaker David Allen states it as this: “What’s tricky is defining what “done” means, and then defining what “doing” looks like. In other words, your work is not self-evident. You have to define it. And even though people are giving you stuff to deal with, they’re not pre-digesting it for you. I don’t know anyone who got their current job and who was given a list of the 63 projects—clearly defined—that were going to be required to fulfill their job requirements, and the 153 action steps they needed to take to make that happen. And that’s what’s new: In the old days, you just showed up and the work was self-evident. Today, everybody has to have their own individual responsibility to define what their work is—at both the outcome level and the “how-do-I-allocate-my-own-resources-to-make-this-happen” level. We haven’t been trained to think that way.”

In turn, it means that corporations have to treat individuals as if they were volunteers and accept the fact that they do not know most of the time or the details of a person’s work or how they spend it – highlighting the need for trust and self-management. In “Management Challenges of the 21st Century”, Drucker defined six factors for knowledge worker productivity:

  1. Knowledge worker productivity demands that we ask the question: “What is the task?”
  2. It demands that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge workers have to manage themselves.
  3. Continuing innovation has to be part of the work, the task and the responsibility of knowledge workers.
  4. Knowledge work requires continuous learning on the part of the knowledge worker, but equally continuous teaching on the part of the knowledge worker.
  5. Productivity of the knowledge worker is not — at least not primarily — a matter of the quantity of output. Quality is at least as important.
  6. Finally, knowledge worker productivity requires that the knowledge worker is both seen and treated as an “asset” rather than a “cost.” It requires that knowledge workers want to work for the organization in preference to all other opportunities.

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The Future of Work – Howard Gardner’s view

Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner came up with the idea of multiple intelligences. Rather than just looking at solving math problems or remembering things, there are a certain set of mental abilities that are becoming more important. In “Five Minds for the Future” he lays the capabilities out that will define the key areas in the future as:

  • Disciplined Mind: knowing one thing well and working on it, improving and achieving mastery.
  • Synthesizing Mind: the ability to deal with inundation of information; understanding what to pay attention to, what to ignore and how to put the information together.
  • Creative Mind: thinking outside the box, having new ideas.
  • Respectful Mind: asking what are one’s responsibilities as a worker or citizen, not “what are my rights”.
  • Ethical Mind: more than tolerance of differences; cultivating respect and emotional and interpersonal intelligence.

Some of the advanced and daring business schools of our age have taken up this approach to teach mindsets rather than a set of skills or disciplines. The IMPM at Insead is an example of this, and this trend will continue in the future.

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How should we manage – Patrick Lencioni’s view

Patrick Lencioni has taken the sides of employees and asked: what does it take to have a miserable job. In his “Three signs of a miserable job” he states them as:

  • Anonymity – their manager has little interest in them as a human being and know little about their lives, aspirations and interests. This means, managers should take an active interest in their people.
  • Irrelevance – when employees cannot see how their job makes a difference. Everyone needs to know that the work they do impacts someone else – a customer, coworker or supervisor. Reminding people on the impact of their work is important.
  • Immeasurrement – the inability of employees to assess for themselves their contribution or success. Then they need to rely on subjective opinion of others. Managers need to help establish ways to measure and assess their performance.

Filed under: management philosophy, ,

How should we manage – Gallup’s view

Taking this research approach further, the Gallup Institute began asking: what does it take for employees to be engaged? They came up with a simple list of 12 questions that can determine how much the employee is into his work and committed. The Q12 questionnaire for employees has a flip side for the task of the manager who can influence a number of these questions directly. The 12 statements are:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count
  8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work
  10. I have a best friend at work
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress
  12. This last year, I have had the opportunities at work to learn and grow


Out of the Gallup Institute there are a number of popular books on management and engaging of employees. Marcus Buckingham has written in “One Thing” about simple rules for handling employees: each manager needs to know their employees by being able to answer the following questions promptly – what are their strengths, what triggers activate those strengths, what is their learning style? Ken Blanchard’s “the One-Minute Manager” is similar where he says that good management can be done by spending one minute a day with each employee and in that minute doing three simple things: aligning with them on what they are doing, praising them for things done well, criticizing or correcting them for things that are not going as planned.

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How should we manage – Henry Mintzberg’s view

In 1975, Henry Mintzberg published an article in Harvard Business Review on what constitutes the nature of managerial work. Rather than looking at what managers should do, he analyzed the way managers spend their time. He consolidated this into three areas and 10 roles that a manager fulfills:

Interpersonal roles

  • Figurehead – every manager must perform ceremonial duties
  • Leader – motivating, encouraging and aligning employees
  • Liaison – making contact outside the vertical role, with peers and others

Informational roles

  • Monitor – the manager perpetually scans the environment for information, interrogating liaison contacts and subordinates, and receiving unsolicited information, much of it as a result of the network of personal contacts.
  • Disseminator – the manager passes some privileged information directly to subordinates, who would otherwise have no access to it.
  • Spokesperson – the manager sends some information to people outside the unit and as a spokesperson, every manager must inform and satisfy the influential people who control the organizational unit.

Decisional roles

  • Entrepreneur – the manager seeks to improve the unit, to adapt it to changing conditions in the environment.
  • DisturbanceHandler – the manager involuntarily responding to pressures. The pressures of a situation are too severe to be ignored—a strike looms, a major customer has gone bankrupt, or a supplier reneges on a contract—so the manager must act.
  • ResourceAllocator – the manager is responsible for deciding who will get what. Perhaps the most important resource the manager allocates is his or her own time. Also, as resource allocator, the manager authorizes the important decisions of the unit before they are implemented.
  • Negotiator – managers spend considerable time in negotiations.

The popularity of Mintzberg’s work is due to its realistic description. It is not so much as philosophy as a way-things-are-done. Is shows the complexity and demands on the manager. Here management is more art – the blending of different demands.

Filed under: management philosophy,

How should we manage – Fredmund Malik’s view

Fredmund Malik of St.Gallen Management School is one of the world’s renowned experts on the practice of management. He has a very practical framework on the tasks and tools of management. According to his approach in “Managing, Performing, Living”, the manager needs to focus on 5 tasks to be effective in his role:

  • Managingobjectives – the first task of effective management is to ensure that goals are set. These need to be the right goals and they need to be clear. They are the means to focus people and an organization – in effect, leading them.
  • Organizing – managers need to ensure that people are working on what the customer pays for. The organization needs to be set up so people can contribute their skills to the whole.
  • Decision-making – deciding is the core nature of leadership. It makes or breaks the manager.  Even more important is the implementation of the decision and realizing the results of it.
  • Supervising – work has to be measured and controlled so that the desired quality can be delivered. The means are many and where it is not possible to measure, the contributions have to be assessed and judged.
  • Developing people – people are the most important part of an organization. It is a prime responsibility of the manager to develop their people – knowing them and placing them where they can contribute their strength and where their weakness becomes irrelevant.

This is a very task-focused description of management. It breaks down the areas of responsibility and steps to management and has become the standard in many corporations, especially in Europe. Management is more a craft than art for Malik.

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