Infographic of my CMI Keynote presentation on 11 November 2015
Infographic of my CMI Keynote presentation on 11 November 2015
In strategy, we often think of organisations as portfolios of capability. Capability creates options. The set of capabilities in an organisation enable you to do some things and not others. Managing that portfolio to allow for performance, adaptation and growth is critical to success in changing environments.
The same principles apply to learning for individuals in organisations. We can help our people see learning as a way to manage their portfolios of capability. This approach creates options and adaptability for the individual and the organisation. Individuals who manage their own portfolios of capability will have richer and more purposeful careers.
Traditional learning approaches borrow from the industrial management mindset. What matters is the role, which is an input in a production process. The role has to have certain fixed capabilities. Therefore we recruit and train our people to have those capabilities.
When something changes, we have a problem. We focused on a fixed role, not the people. We treated people as cogs in a process and hoped we could find or stuff them with the capabilities required for a role. This learning largely happens independent of the individuals purposes, hopes or dreams. Their desire to have a role requires them to learn fixed capabilities.
Managing a Portfolio is Adaptive
Nobody is in perfect identity with the capabilities listed on their role description. We all have diverse portfolios of capability. We have different education, experience and networks. We are hired because we bring more to the role than others.
How often have you seen someone with skills required elsewhere but who doesn’t get to apply them? An IT manager once challenged me to demonstrate that new employee profiles couldn’t help him with his need for a programmers in a particular language. “I know all the programmers here”, he said. The first name that came from a search of employee’s profiles highlighted a financial analyst in the same organisation who had a masters in computer science and had declared their experience in programming in that language. The analyst was unknown to the IT manager. What secret talents are hidden in your employee population?
Let’s manage people, not roles so that we can leverage our individual and collective portfolios of capability. People adapt by drawing on additional skills and capabilities. People can look ahead and learn for the next role or the next challenge. Importantly that allows our employees to manage their own portfolios of capability beyond this role and into their whole life.
A Capability Portfolio Approach for Organisations and Employees
Changing circumstances demand changes in approach. Clinging to the old ways can be dangerous.
The Praying Mantis in the Schoolyard
When confronted with a threat, a praying mantis has a set program of responses to take advantage of the advantages of excellent camouflage: freeze & blend in, sway like a leaf, run to the nearest tree. All these strategies work well in the normal circumstances of a praying mantis, the leafy greenery of trees.
However when the wind is blowing strongly and a praying mantis finds itself blown to the unfamiliar circumstances of schoolyard asphalt, none of these strategies work. It can’t blend in. Freezing exposes it to risk of being stomped. What it runs towards is not a tree. It is the leg of a small curious boy. In the end, it need a generous young girl to carry it back to the bushes to escape the growing crowd.
Change Your Approach
A praying mantis can’t change its approach immediately. Evolution will take a while to catch up with asphalt. It will eventually adapt as a species, but that doesn’t help any individual insect.
Your organisation isn’t programmed by genetics. When circumstances change, your organisation and its people can adopt new approaches, experiment to find new ways and learn how to succeed in the new environment. If your organisation is still responding to the new network economy with the same approaches and practices that worked in the industrial era, it can be as dangerous as outdated practices were to the mantis. Nobody will be generous enough to return your organisation to its preferred environment.
There is No Formula – Just Learning
Many managers find this discussion deeply unsettling. Advocates of the future of work are calling for change, but they are often either highly conceptual or discussing concepts that seem very alien to the circumstances in an organisation.
The abstraction has a reason. The future of work is being driven by a network economy where the right strategies are often emergent and adaptive. Adopting a new fixed formula is as dangerous as the last one. While we would like a formula (and many offer to sell one), the future strategies need to be learned for each organisation in its own circumstances in the network. Change can’t be imposed it needs to be led one conversation at a time.
Creating a responsive organisation that can leverage the human potential to learn and experiment a way forward will take new techniques and new ways of organising. Many of these techniques that are rising to the fore in discussion of the future of work and responsive organisations are ways to foster the emergence of a new better approaches for organisation using networks, rather than fighting them. That’s why much of the conversation comes back to enabling people to learn and act in new ways:
As a senior executive starting to use social collaboration there will be a little nervousness when you engage at first, unless you are supremely confident or incredibly extroverted. You need opportunities to practice your new mindsets and learn new skills of social collaboration before you hit the main game. Even if you are confident and extroverted, you may need practice, because you may need to learn to adjust to the expectations of others.
Here are a few actions to help the new-to-social executive to get ready for the art of social collaboration:
From that point on there are plenty of experts that tell you how to use Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social tools for business.
Search, experiment and keep the practices that work for you
This is the second of two short posts on tips for the senior executive looking to move into using social collaboration tools inside and outside the enterprise. This post deals with actions to get you started. The previous post dealt with mindsets.