Now more than ever, organizations are scrutinizing the purpose of their every hire, and the ongoing and elevated 9.2% unemployment rate in the United States bears witness to this current culture of selectivity when it comes to human capital.
Within this constrained context of corporate fiscal austerity, I had the opportunity to review an article by Auren Hoffman, and it struck a chord with me in a “Right message at the right time” kind of way. Entitled, “Position Players Versus All-Around Athletes,” Auren insightfully lays out the critical personnel qualities that leaders need to consider when determining how to best scale their organizations, and begins by asking the question, “Should you hire someone who’s really good at one particular thing – or someone who is more of an all-around player?” His answer – like so many things in life – was an elegantly evasive, “It depends.”
The word “entitlement” has appeared repeatedly in the news over the past few months, and every time I encounter the word I cringe. For some reason, I seem to react on a subconsciously visceral – dare I say, “gut level” – to this word, perhaps because it just seems so “Un-American.” Hoping to calm my stomach, I decided to pursue some clarity on the matter by informing my primitive prejudices with the sterile academia of Merriam Webster’s Intercollegiate Dictionary, but the definitions therein only made my condition worse:
Entitlement – a belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
One of my favorite truisms is a familiar saying that reads, “Actions speak louder than words.” For those of us with an eye on the market and who analyze industries for a living, the most compelling evidence for what today’s large corporations genuinely think about the future of the economy can by best discerned not by what they are saying, but rather by what they are DOING.
The news and images coming out of Joplin, Missouri this week have been staggering. With over 117 confirmed dead, hundreds more injured, and over a thousand still unaccounted for, the F4 tornado that blew through the city on Sunday has been confirmed as the single deadliest U.S. tornado since modern record-keeping began more than 60 years ago. The path of devastation left in its wake included the complete destruction of a high school, damage to countless homes and businesses, and a direct hit to one of two large trauma centers. Summoning a stiff upper lip and Midwestern resolve, the courageous Mayor Mike Woolston pledged not to let the tornado ruin his city, declaring in a May 24, 2011 interview on CNN.com, “This is not the type of community that’s going to let a little F4 tornado kick our ass. So we will rebuild, and we will recover.”
Regardless of the organizational structure you currently have, definitely want, or are striving for, always design an organization with a two-to three-year time horizon in mind. Anything shorter than two to three years makes the organization unstable, and anything beyond two to three years is patently unrealistic. For example, if you’re trying to design an organizational structure based on a six-month timeline, instead of the recommended two to three years, you’re basically focusing on all short-term goals with no long-term plan; it’s a little like building your company on quicksand. You have to go beyond six months, even twelve months, even eighteen months (and more), to project far enough along to create realistic goals for yourself and your company. Too short a timeframe also means instability for the organization – people will constantly be thinking about “what’s coming down the pike” instead of focusing on the job at hand. Transformation needs more focus, not less.
The Kentucky Derby crowned their 2011 champion this past weekend, in a race which will be remembered more for the intrigue OFF the track that ON it. The 137th running of the Kentucky Derby was won by Animal Kingdom by 2 ¾ lengths, ridden by jockey Robbie Albarado’s last-minute replacement Johnny Velasquez, and at a Beyer Speed Figure of 103 – the second slowest for the Derby in the 20 years that these ratings have been published in the Daily Racing Form. However, it was the storyline book-ending the event outside the oval that captured the attention of the racing world.
The structure of the organization refers to the formal way in which people and work are grouped into defined units. There is no one size fits all design. Choose a structure that best aligns with your vision and strategy. Any design you eventually choose will have its pros and cons forcing you to make trade-offs and compromises.
Many companies are eager to transform, but few experience any meaningful, measurable, transformation. Why is this? How can serious, dedicated, and committed companies not achieve their transformational goals when, across the board, everyone in the organization seems to want transformation?
The Timken Company, a bearing and steel maker conglomerate, recently announced their results for the first quarter of 2011. According to the press release, Timken earned $113 million during the first three months of the year, as sales exceeded the $1 billion mark, and set the company on pace to achieve record earnings for the rest of 2011. When asked to explain their historic success, Timken President and Chief Executive Officer James Griffith said in a written statement, “Our strategic work over the past few years to transform the company is serving us well.”