June 27, 2010 at 7:12am
RRO (Resource Renewal Officer) responsible for creating a ready supply of confident, fearless managers. Promising managers participate in complex scenario training with few clear answers, risk taking, and conflict resolution. Responses and tendencies become part of their personal record (i.e., risk in not taking risks). The training period: three years.
A lack of adaptability, fear of change, a culture that discourages or tamps down creativity (i.e., ideas not typical and/or not proven). Ironically, this problem can exist in a successful firm that continues to rely on a previously proven formula despite a changing environment, and an unsuccessful firm immobilized by its own failed efforts. The base problem is discomfort with uncertainty and risk, and the career influencing impact of failure.
By and large, organizational inertia in the absence of a truly exceptional culture fails to prepare future managers for change and uncertainty. Fear and insecurity trump confidence and risk taking. At the extreme cultural camps can develop within a large organization where ideas coming from one part of the organization fail to gain traction in another, arriving DOA. When the need to change finally prompts action the organization will look outside for a new face to bring in new ideas and champion change.
A fear of adding the fixed costs associated with resource renewal represents a final contributing factor. As our finance colleagues have made clear, fixed costs impact short-term financials, however so slightly, and those that are difficult to link to ROI are particularly suspect.
Institutionalize at the VP level someone whose sole responsibility is to foster the personal growth of promising managers. As a starting point, the RRO and the costs associated with his/her office and efforts can be calculated as some accepted percent (portion of a percent) of revenue. The calculation follows the belief that such a approach takes the firm away from the inevitable saw tooth pattern of no change followed by a market uptick associated with successful change, followed by the slow descent than comes from inertia-driven stagnation. Just as the CFO is ultimately responsible for the cost and use of capital, the RRO is responsible for the cost and long-term use of human resources.
The training/socializing approach for promising managers uses scenario training of all types (i.e., role playing, cases, simulations including computer games -- even fantasy role playing, etc.). The training occurs in well planned stages over a three year period. Not all managers who start the training will necessary finish and some of the training can by asynchronous while other parts are cohort or group based. In the process the organization learns more about the managers, especially how he/she responds emotionally to difficult situations. At the same time, the manager acquires increased self-awareness and confidence. The overall culture benefits from the clear value placed on human resources.
Assumptions: 1) When dealing with uncomfortable, uncertain situations emotions often override intellectual responses, literally blocking the manager's ability to access that what he/she already knows to be theoretically true about how best to handle the situation. 2) Inexperience in handling conflict and uncertainty combine with a natural fear of the unknown and career protecting risk aversion to immobilize a manager. 3) Training to overcome unproductive emotional responses increases confidence and allows a more complete intellectual consideration of the problem at hand. In essence, induction-based training opens the door from more deduction.
Establishing and funding the RRO sends an organizational message while also establishes a systematic approach for fostering strong managers. The RRO becomes the go-to person for identifying cutting edge approaches for identifying and training top talent. The organization develops an inertia that includes learning to deal with the unknown and recognizing creative, doable solutions. Managers receive career-changing feedback on their own strengths and weaknesses while given an opportunity for personal growth. Career-long learning becomes a given. The organizational context shifts from a crisis-driven struggle to identify talent to one that takes a process approach of enhancing talent with the natural outcome of clearly identified managers ready for the next generation of challenges.
Here are three first steps.
1) Develop the argument. In order to sell the idea at the highest level the argument must be well supported, convincing, and well presented, including examples of effective scenario-based training and a financial impact analysis.
2) Board and CEO commitment is a must. It will be very helpful if the CFO gets on board or at least believes sufficiently enough to agree to a reasonable multi-year trial period.
3) Search widely for a first RRO, someone with a track record of strengthening an organizational culture. Avoid the temptation of hiring someone who has a track record of simply identifying talent.