From a five year study of HR practice in talent management and succession planning, one conclusion is clear -- most of the charts, competency frameworks, nine box grids and other paraphernalia (for which read "HR Bling") have little or no convincing evidence of efficacy and may actually undermine the process of developing effective leaders. Select "leaders" by the size of their noses, give them privileged exposure to developmental conversations, reputation-building projects and opportunities to mix with existing leaders... and it is difficutl to evidence that the outcome would be any different from what happens now!
The problem, as I explore in my book The Talent Wave, is that these processes are based on simple, linear systems thinking, when the relationship between talent and the organization is a complex adaptive system. Linear systems lead to mediocrity at middle management levels, and hence inadequate diversity of choice for leaders. Linear systems are also much easier for sociopaths to manipulate -- and they do. It's time for HR to stop trying to control talent (identifying who is and isn't talented, steering their careers etc) and focus instead on creating conditions where talent can emerge of its own volition.
This is what is happening in many companies with strong informal intranet based communities. Leadership is becoming distributed, with three core functions: identifying potential for change, creating innovative solutions and facilitating implementation. Only the last of these needs to happen in the C-suite (and even that can be pushed down the hierarchy a lot more than is normally the case); the first two aspects of leadership can be exercised by any talented person anywhere in the system. When junior people team up with seniors to identify and resolve issues, they are demonstrating their leadership potential.
These informal conversations are one of four critical kinds of conversation that underpin a complex adaptive systems approach to talent. The others are: the conversation the talented person has with themselves, to understand their strengths, weaknesses, values and personal purpose; the regular conversations they have with their key stakeholders and especially their boss; and the conversation that HR and leaders have with talent employees generally, to align aspirations and ambitions.
When I started promoting these ideas, most HR people I spoke to at conferences were horrified. Now I find that a slight majority find the idea of doing without "HR Bling" liberating. I find that encourage