The dog was first to the January edition of the Harvard Business Review. Consequently the front cover had a different impact on me – its slick eye catching headline left in a series of smaller pieces. A dog is no respecter of premium business magazines. As I gathered up the pieces and stuck them together with tape, the headline emerged – THE 100 BEST CEOS IN THE WORLD. I have not yet read the article but glancing at the photographs of smart charismatic business leaders and finding Steve Jobs in the No. 1 position – I think I’ll take the dog for a walk instead.
What is it with us? Across a large part of the western world business and politics is falling short – struggling to deal with difficult problems. Many would say the problems are more than difficult – they are complex and without answers. And yet we perpetuate this nonsense idea that there are heroes out there bringing home the bacon – single handedly.
In the meantime, people are rotting in organisations for which they feel decreasingly loyal or in dole queues. Turnover of high potential employees is increasing and employee engagement is continuing to decline. Unemployment is at a record high in the Eurozone. In our experience, organisations have lots of resource – people with ideas who are capable of offering much more if they are given the right setting, encouraging management and there is belief that they can be part of the solution, turnaround and growth. The last piece of research I saw that looked at happiness and productivity demonstrated that unhappy people operate at 40% of their capacity – 60% per cent is un-used. If people were capital assets running at 40% the Board would be asking the Chief Engineer and the Supply Chain Director some very hard questions.
I wonder why is realising the potential and productivity of people in organisations hard? Is it getting harder? Or have we stopped trying? Is it that organising the company to access the resource of their people is too hard? Is it that the management and leadership of people require skills that are in short supply amongst managers and leaders? Is it that organisations have low expectations of their people and institutionalise this belief?
I think great CEOs – ones that add value to the company they steward – set up, monitor and maintain that company to use the skill and creativity of their people. But is this actually the case?
I think Agile companies – those that experiment, learn fast and adapt as the market shifts recognise that agility lies in the capacity of the whole organisation to participate in experimenting, learning and adaption. But is that just what I like to believe?
Right – I’ll go and read the article now and check the data against my experience and belief.
I’ll be back!
HBR Jan-Feb 2013