Resources - Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. -Henry Ford
A New Leaf

January 2013: In This Issue

The turning of the calendar to 2013 brings the opportunity for all of us to assess those changes  needed to improve our organizational performance.  This edition’s “Book Review” of Topgrading shares important insights in the critical area of hiring and managing A players to lead your organization.  The “Feature Article” addresses why a detailed planning process is critical to successful execution.

Having the right people in place executing a thoughtful business plan are key ingredients to success in 2013. Best of luck as you tackle the known and the unforeseen challenges in the months ahead.

- Mike 


Execution-The Discipline of Getting Things DoneBook Review:“Topgrading”

The most important decisions we make as leaders relate to the people we hire. They represent the future of our organizations. The following data reflects the importance of our hiring practices to organizational performance:

*Return to shareholders for companies with top talent practices are 22% above industry means

*A survey of top HR executives found that 80% of their external hires turned out to be disappointments

*Promotions produced disappointing results a full 75% of the time

*A recent survey of CEO’s indicated that only 21% felt they got their money’s worth when they hired external candidates

 In his 3rd edition of Topgrading,  Bradford Smart expands on his best selling model for the identification, interviewing, hiring, promotion and coaching of “A players”.  

From GE to Honeywell and the other 40 case studies providing in the book, the topgrading methodology has been implemented to consistently and significantly improve organizational results.  This process takes on a whole new dimension when the cost of a “mis-hiring” is estimated at 15 times the base salary of the underperformer.

Topgrading is defined as the practice aimed at filling at least 75% of positions in the organization with A players. “A players” represent “someone in the top 10% of the talent pool available”.  As noted earlier, the financial and operational impact of settling for or keeping those that are not high performers is staggering. Smart is quick to counter the myth that A players are only available to a handful of top performing companies.

How to find, interview and hire such star performers is the ongoing challenge for all companies. Topgrading clearly lays out a 12 step process maximizing the likelihood of hiring the best talent available. The topgrading process sets forth the importance of articulating detailed job expectations and competency definitions, engaging in thorough applicant screening and interviews and following up on the appropriate forms of reference checking. Detailed examples of what is needed and how to perform each of these steps is provided.   

Smart’s over 300 page ”how to” manual offers leaders  everything they need if they are serious about hiring and promoting A players to take their organization to the next level.  If you are truly interested in making your organization the best it can be, a reading of Topgrading is a must. If you don’t share that interest, ask yourself why.   A reading of Topgrading will convince you that you should.   


BrainFeature Article: "The Importance of 2013 Planning"

As a leader, you control many aspects of your organization. You chose what products you are taking to market, the people you decide to hire and mentor (see Topgrading above) and the strategy you decide to pursue.
Unfortunately, your competition is never at rest. Whatever you may be doing well today faces the risk of being marginalized tomorrow by the dynamic forces of the marketplace. Absent a robust planning process addressing your future strategic needs, the risk of losing your competitive advantage is exponentially increased.

The rate of change in the marketplace has never been greater. Major structural changes may be occurring that threaten your business model (e.g.  Best Buy, Barnes & Noble).  Strategic missteps may result in unanticipated adverse consequences (e.g. JC Penney, Netflix).  In addition to survival (which should be enough) following are three key reasons that participating in a periodic business planning exercise is a necessity.

 A thoughtful, candid planning process:

*Engages your team in focused dialogue providing a reality check of your current business model

*Provides a necessary roadmap and benchmarks to assess future performance

*Helps ensure strategic organizational alignment

Planning engages your team in focused dialogue providing a reality check of your current business model :
Your team is constantly putting out day to day fires.  Leaders continue to focus on aligning employees’ actions with the goals of the company.  Other than taking time out for a scheduled, focused planning process, seldom is there an opportunity for team members to consciously step back and evaluate whether the company’s direction is still the most relevant one. 

An effective planning process brings together all constituents in a safe environment where each person has a voice at the table. Constructive conflict is encouraged and necessary. The focus is not only on what the company has been doing but what the company needs to do to grow its market position.  The testing and reaffirming of all assumptions of your current business model is a required part of your planning process. The greater the frequency of this affirmation, the more likely your organization will be to maintain its market position. 

Planning provides a necessary roadmap and benchmarks to assess future performance:
In addition to affirming your business model, a thoughtful planning process formalizes an agreed upon set of goals for the upcoming year. Key managers are held accountable for detailed action plans supporting these goals. These plans include accountabilities, completion dates, action items and means of measurement.  When effectively completed, the plans provide clear steps to successful execution.

In addition to providing this clear roadmap, the goals offer benchmarks to assess organizational performance. These benchmarks allow managers to celebrate individual and organizational successes and, when necessary, to make mid course corrections.  Both processes of celebration and correction are critical to maintaining high morale and generating momentum towards achievement of stretch performance.

Planning helps ensures strategic organizational alignment:
Once established as part of the planning process, corporate goals are cascaded throughout the rest of the organization. This helps define for all divisions and departments what’s important to achieve and objective measures of performance.  This internal consistency of goal derivation decreases the likelihood of turf wars and departmental objectives that may maximize individual performance but diminish overall organizational success. Without an effective cascading process resulting in alignment throughout the organization, financial and operational results will never be maximized.

Has your 2013 planning process achieved the above objectives?  If so, congratulations and best of luck in responding to unanticipated marketplace changes.  If not, there is still time to revisit your process.  The longer you wait, the greater risk you face that 2013 will not be as strong a year as it can be. 

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