Posts

Critical Lessons from Start-Ups for Human Resources

By Darryl Wee

The news is constantly discussing how digital start-up companies are disrupting their industries. Interestingly, when I examine these companies further, I find that many practices which are common among start-ups to drive more value in their businesses that HR should also consider adopting.

Are there lessons that HR can learn from start-up companies?

1. Start by Resolving Pain Points

When I listen to CEOs from successful start-ups describe the ideas behind launching their companies, 95% of the time the business was designed to resolve a real-life problem they faced: a specific pain point.

In HR, we should adopt a similar perspective, by looking at organisational pain points. Notice I refer to organisational pain points, not only HR pain points. HR can create the most value by looking outside of our core function and to the entire organisation.

In order to do this successfully, we must approach the pain point from the perspective of the customer and the business as a whole. We must examine how, as an organisation, we can resolve an issue for the business or customer. The solution may bring us back to some HR policies or practices; however, our analysis should not begin inside the HR function. It is important that we look at the issue strategically and from the outside-in, and not from the inside-out.

I am not suggesting that as HR we should not represent our function, or use our functional expertise to address said issue, but I have found that when HR operates as a business leader rather than just as a functional expert, more value is created. The business as a whole benefit from another pair of eyes, analysing an issue with an external lens. Once we have clarity on the pain point and how we may want to respond, we can then add our HR lens to explore additional solutions.

If we are looking at resolving HR pain points, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our employees and honestly look at what is and is not working. In order to make a real impact, we must minimise our emotional defensiveness from the perceived effectiveness of an HR solution, and really listen to what our customers are telling us.

2. Think Big, Test Small, Learn Fast

After launching their products, start-ups develop, improve, and adapt when necessary. Frequently, after these numerous improvements and tweaks, the original value proposition of their product is significantly different from the end result.

In many larger organisations, there is an expectation that the product be 100% perfect prior to launch.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no matter how much we plan, unexpected things can happen that we are not prepared for. While I do believe that we must be very thorough in our work, I also feel that a more agile approach allows us to react more quickly, focus on solutions, and accomplish more optimal results.

The ‘think big, test small’ methodology is being implemented throughout many organisations. I have noticed that even government ministers are using this terminology. I would believe in this concept but take it one step further: ‘learn fast’.

For years, Dave Ulrich has inspired HR and business leaders to ‘think big’. From my perspective, we should always plan our actions in order to have the most significant impact on the entire business. By thinking big, however, we should not be deterred by the size or complexity of the issue or solution at hand. ‘Testing small’ is an excellent means of quickly piloting a solution to ensure its feasibility and scalability. Start-ups constantly send prototypes that are 70-80% finalised for beta testing with the intent of receiving meaningful feedback before the full product launch. The company expects imperfections but is committed to obtaining insights into potential shortfalls and oversights as quickly as possible. This agile approach allows organisations to act swiftly in refining the product before the final launch.

The third element is to ‘learn fast’. Testing small is not effective or useful if we are not learning from customer feedback to adjust our products and solutions accordingly. In some cases, we see companies rapidly realising a more compelling and practical application of a solution or product, so they ‘pivot’ their focus entirely. As HR, we should also learn how to be agile, and pivot to boost our organisation’s value and total impact.

I am sure that there are many additional lessons we can apply; however, in following the theme of this article, I believe that HR can actively help reduce organisational and individual pain points by ‘thinking big, testing small and learning fast. Utilising this methodology, we will increase our impact on the people within our organisation.

This article was originally posted on rbl.net

Contact us at info@brg.co.za to equip HR to drive more value in your organisation. Business Results Group is the exclusive African partner to Prof Dave Ulrich’s RBL consultancy group.

 

DAVE NORTON IN SEPTEMBER – MAKING STRATEGY A CORE STATE OF THE ART COMPETENCE

create value                                                                  Dave Norton says,  

“Behind every story of shareholder value, there is another story of value creation. That is the real story of strategy execution.”

Having had the privilege today to proof read the delegate materials for the upcoming Dave Norton Progress Conference on the 11th September, I cannot resist offering a little sneak preview of the 100 plus slides he has prepared for his South African audience.

In essence, he says, strategy must be a core competence and his presentation shows you precisely what you need to accomplish to make it a core state of the art competence. You can be assured of rich content with case studies and real life applications relevant to both the Private and Public sectors. His content flows seamlessly, offering delegates a deliberate journey through which they can contextualise their strategy execution efforts. And behind every success he shares with you he also tells the story of how the value was created.

THE STRATEGY MANAGEMENT VACUUM

First and foremost he will show how management systems have STILL not changed to keep up with the way the world has changed.  This is what he calls a Strategy Management Vacuum. He goes on to reveal his research into why strategies continue to fail and offer solutions to overcome this sadly, prevalent reality.

MAKING INTANGIBLE TANGIBLE

I was fascinated by his take on intangible assets and how describing your strategy begins by understanding the value the intangibles offer. He cites Apple, General Electric, IBM and others and will illustrate how Tom Stewart’s thinking in respect of how knowledge that exists in an organisation creates differential advantage. Dave remarks, “A good strategy focusses on the processes and people that have greatest impact on customer satisfaction.”

CLOSING THE STRATEGIC PERFORMANCE GAP WITH CAUSE AND EFFECT LOGIC

Dave has prepared a prolific set of strategy maps, scorecards and themes that have been applied within leading organisations. He asserts that your strategic theme is critical to create change and value.

“Intangible assets are bundled”, he says. “One initiative is not enough to execute strategy. You require a portfolio of several initiatives that are interdependent and cannot be treated on a stand- alone basis.” And again, he provides real management tools to show you how to include specific ways to define your strategic architecture, create robust strategy maps and tailor relevant strategy themes. In particular he provides delegates with specific Balanced Scorecards to show how they consistently fill the strategy management vacuum

LEADERSHIP IMPERATIVES FOR EFFECTIVE STRATEGY EXECUTION

Dave also says, “It is not a simple process for a CEO to mobilize transformation.” But his content goes on to provide tried and tested leadership essentials for certain success. He shows what is required in terms of left and right brain thinking to build your effective strategy management systems and why leadership issues are most often the dominant barrier to effective strategy execution. Just one barrier cited is how politics, in 89% of cases, is the major factor that prohibits the successful execution of strategy. Enter Dave’s right brain change management techniques and priorities, with ways to break down silos, get politics out of the way and cascade the strategy and scorecards to all key executives, business units and departments with appropriate accountability.

What follows on from there are the left brain change management tools that he has observed and that have been shown to achieve desired results.

MAKING STRATEGY EVERYONE’S JOB

Dave illustrates how Hilton Hotels did just this by linking their Balanced Scorecard to education, personal goals, incentive compensation and communication. Looking forward to how he will unpack this for us on the day.

SETTING TARGETS & FUNDING THE STRATEGY

Be prepared for prolific content and techniques to define your measures and targets and determine adequate funding.

SUCCESSFUL HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT ATTRIBUTES

An annual survey of CEO’s Presidents and Chairman showed that Human Capital Development is the most important issue facing senior management. “People driven strategies counter slow markets and economic conditions. The Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame shows that successful strategy execution begins with Human Capital Development”, he says. And then goes on to share the results of Public & Private sector results whilst showing you which are the key Human Capital Value Multipliers. He will also show us how to develop competency profiles for each essential strategic job family and in particular how to determine the gaps between individual and group level.

THE CHERRY ON THE TOP: BUILDING YOUR EFFECTIVE OFFICE OF STRATEGY MANAGEMENT: THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS

As he insists that strategy is a core competence and that managing strategy is a whole new ball game very different to managing functions, he will show you why new organisation approaches are needed to facilitate cross-functional alignment. He defines the responsibilities of the office of strategy management and suggests the best practices in terms of conducting your meetings and reviews to keep your strategy on course including frequency and structure.

This blog barely scratches the surface or even does justice to what Dave Norton has in store for delegates on the 11th September, but hopefully provides you with some ideas to provoke and challenge your thinking in respect of your strategy execution efforts.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Dr David Norton is the co-creator of the Balanced Scorecard and leading global practitioner in applying the Balanced Scorecard in both the Private and Public Sector. Together with Professor Robert Kaplan, he has been acclaimed by Harvard Business Review for his significant contribution to the management profession in the past 75 years. More recently Thinkers 50 have ranked them in their Hall of Fame alongside Tom Peters, Kenichi Ohmae, Warren Bennis, Howard Gardner, Henry Mintzberg, Charles Handy, Philip Kotler and Ikujiro Nonaka for their mammoth contribution to business management and leadership.

On the 11th September 2014 Dr Norton will present a full day seminar in Johannesburg on EXECUTING STRATEGY IN A NEW ECONOMY – Balanced Scorecard Essentials.