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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Talent Management: Making Sense of the Grissoms and the Ecklies of the World.

I must admit that I am a late blooming fan of that spectacular TV Series, CSI. I spent the past few weeks devouring seasons 1 to 8 and is looking forward to seeing the rest of series soon. As much if not more than the mind blowing crime scene investigations, I got very interested in the dynamics of the CSI workplace. The HR man in me kicked in as I observed the characters' jobs and realized that they are in their right positions in the organization even if at times, it seems that they shouldn't be so. Grissom, the night shift supervisor and Ecklie, former day time supervisor and now Grissom's boss are a perfect study in talent placement.

For the non-CSI fans, let me tell a bit about the situation here. Between the two, it would appear that Grissom is the better scientist and the only reason why Ecklie edged him to that higher position is because he plays the politics card which to my eyes look like organization savvy.

If you sit through those many episodes and seasons, it is hard not to be blown away by the Grissom genius.  You'll be so much of a fan that you know he should be a shoo-in for promotion. I felt the pain (his pain?) when they promoted Ecklie instead of him because just like everyone else, I want the good guys to get rewarded with plum promotion.

In hindsight though, I realize why Ecklie's perfect for his job and there is nothing better for Grissom than to continue to show his brilliance where he is. Know why? If you are a fan like me, you can probably see how Grissom will suck in a job where he does not look at DB's (dead bodies) anymore and instead work his way through the bureaucracy to get things done. Ecklie is so much better in doing the latter than the former.  Grissom is at his best when he works closest to the ground while Ecklie is best at making sense of the administrative bureaucracy and using the same to get things and people aligned. There are very few scenes where Ecklie is given a chance to show some redeeming factors and that's probably because Americans like to 'stick it to the man.' I do hope to see some of it in the episodes I haven't seen.

What's the point, you may ask.  Placement of people in roles where they can be at their best is crucial to organizational success. Many organizations however, follow the Peter Principle. People expect promotion for the prestige and additional salary and perks it brings. This is why we have a lot of supervisors who are still possessive of their old skills and choose to "do the job" instead of delegating it. That's because they can't let go of things they find most enjoyable to do... And they don't enjoy the supervisory stuff as much.

I can go on and on with examples of popular people who are better coaches than players or better players than coaches. Think Freddie Roach, Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, Manny Pacquiao, etc.
 We are not learning. We designed our organizations where people can't be stuck to being great players and people who have better potential at strategizing and leading are  overshadowed by star players.

How do you change this situation? I believe it requires a great deal of paradigm shift (ah, paradigm shift, I just have to put that favorite HR word in!). We need to build a culture where staying in a position where you obviously can do better than leading a bunch of folks can be more rewarding both financially and emotionally. We need to design two career tracks (or more?) where the technical track go as high as the managerial track and therefore can be as rewarding. If we do this, we can only get people to take on leadership or management roles for the sheer joy of doing it and not just for the perks. We also need to take a closer look at people's competencies in order to better match them with jobs. HR needs to get into this competency modeling business and learn how to put the models to good use in hiring and placing people. This is of course not to say that great players cannot be great managers. Of course, they can, but not all of them, just some. I mean, how many Clint Eastwoods are out there? Know what I mean? Some people should stay as actors and forget about being directors. Doing it and making others do it require different sets of competencies.

Check out ExeQserve's Competency Modeling Proposal:
ExeQserve Competency Mapping Project

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