We need a system that enables rapid teaming and problem solving in our new reality – a world of ever-increasing complexity, uncertainty, and change. HR can lead the charge, as the function already has massive amounts of data at its fingertips, combined with a focus on maximizing business potential through the only asset safe from diminishing returns – people.
Our hack solves multiple problems – but we’ll focus on two.
1. People sit in organizational silos, limiting problem solving and innovation potential.
2. An HR information system exists – but mostly functions as a data repository solely used by the HR function.
Both of these are gnarly problems to solve. There is an increasing need to pull people out of their silos – quickly – to solve the problems facing organizations and business models in today’s world. We can’t succeed in this century with the lack of visibility into, and connection between, the talent that sits within and outside of our organizations. People love the sexy HR information systems out there today – Workday and SuccessFactors, to name a couple. But the data is static. The data is there, the graphs are pretty – but neither help individuals connect with each other to solve problems and innovate.
Our solution is a new system that enables people to connect to solve problems, leveraging data that already exists in today’s HR information systems. We’re calling this solution the Agile Talent System.
This system would include many of the modules/functions that exist in today’s typical HR information systems: Core Employee Data, Compensation, Benefits, Performance, Succession, Learning, Recruiting, etc. But in addition, the Agile Talent System would function as an internal recruiting tool, a way to pull people in to solve business problems via short-term or long-term projects, and day-to-day interactions.
The Agile Talent System would contain the following data elements, in addition to what already exists in HR information systems today: a list of each employee's passions, experiences, interests, skills; a list of the company projects and the ability for each employee to start a new project; and a tie between the projects and the business outcome they seek to achieve (simple fields, such as grow revenue, grow margins, eliminate waste, acquire a new segment of customers, etc.).
The Agile Talent System would enable a pull system. It would enable peer-to-peer interaction and team building, made possible by employee data paired with project data. The Agile Talent System would be the sole driver of the company and all of its day-to-day internal operations. The Agile Talent System would be 100% transparent – everyone across the company would be able to see the list of ongoing and upcoming projects – and if the skills can't be found or developed inside the organization, an employee would have the ability to open the role to outside talent/contractors.
In addition to the elements described above, we'd add a gamification element to make this fun and positively competitive. If an employee successfully completed a project that increased sales by 10%, that would be visible to the whole company (maybe via a platinum badge or a picture of the employee with a cake from the CEO).
This system would fundamentally change how organizations solve problems. A problem will no longer be limited to the ‘sales’ function, or the ‘engineering’ team. Sure, people will always have skillsets that make them a better fit for certain projects. But this system will enable the formation of multi-paradigm teams. We will end up with a truly diverse team, faced with a high-impact challenge and an opportunity to make a real impact on the long-term success of the business.
This system also changes the role of HR professionals – from process owners and succession planners to team facilitators and problem solvers. HR will help build teams – ultimately, by using its knowledge of people, organizational behavior, and business issues to help teams achieve their goals.
This hack changes the game for everyone. A few follow:
1. The role of functions somewhat diminishes. (HR, Ops, Eng, etc.)
2. The role of middle management shifts.
3. Top-down problem identification becomes bottoms-up
4. Top-down budget allocation becomes tough to rationalize.
Our suggestion for organizations: prove that, with this system, your teams solve the most daunting problems faster than ever. The cheer from your customers will drown out the whining from the naysayers.
To demonstrate the success of this technology in an offline way, an organization should assemble a multi-paradigm team to solve self-identified, high-impact business problems. For one month:
1. Remove job titles and functions from a diverse team of 6 employees – one from Finance, Sales, Engineering, etc.
2. Remove organizational and performance barriers.
3. Let the team of 6 identify a painful business problem – or glowing business opportunity.
4. Watch the magic happen.
Matt Frost, Bruce Lewin, Nigel Cox, Kylie Cantwell, John McGurk