This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades
, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy
. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.
Does your organization possess the skills necessary to successfully implement your strategic plan?
Strategic Planning Is Not Enough
Organizations invest a lot of time, talent and money in a strategic planning process. They carefully consider market segments, opportunities, trends and competition. Then they develop strategic initiatives and projects. They examine assets, products, pricing, costs, headcount, revenue projections and develop detailed 3 -5 year projections. Sometimes shareholder value and market value models are created.
I have spent considerable time with organizations on strategy, planning and process as strategy officer, as interim CEO for several companies and as a consultant. I am surprised how often the entire process misses a key element of strategy: a strategic talent assessment.
If the organization does not actually possess the key skills to execute the strategy, what skills are needed and how can they be obtained? No matter what process is used for strategy development, a strategic talent assessment is needed before “dropping the flag” on execution.
What is a Talent Assessment?
Simply stated, a strategic talent assessment examines the organizational skills needed to execute the strategy. It should include:
- Necessary skills to assess the market needs, attractiveness, competition and size
- The know-how to define, plan and price the product
- Type of talent to actually develop the product
- Competence needed to market, sell and deliver the product
- Skills to provide customer readiness and adoption
- Expertise needed to provide service to customers for products
- Leadership talent to actually execute and deliver the strategic initiative
- Certain cultural elements of the organization: decisiveness, accountability, delegation, results, etc.
Performing a Talent Assessment
Ideally, the assessment should be performed when key strategic initiatives are identified. It is especially important to assure that the talent is available to assess the market and opportunity at the next level of detail before committing major resources.
The assessment should be performed at a sufficient level of detail to enable successful execution. Avoid a tendency to categorize talent at high, abstract levels. A good test for the level of detail is to imagine that you are trying to hire a person with these skills — how would you identify that the person possesses the skills? For example, do not just indicate “technology skills” but specify the exact technology skills. Likewise, do not indicate “sales” but what type of sales skills – consumer, consultative, B2B, etc.
One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership. Even if all the necessary talent resides in the organization, execution will fail if leadership is absent. We have all seen a sports team with an abundance of individual talent but with no leadership to get the talented individuals to perform and deliver as a team.
The result of the talent assessment should be a “skills gap” matrix that lists the skills currently resident in the organization and the skills needed to execute the strategy. They can even be ranked critical, important, necessary, etc. The “skills gap” matrix should be used as a guide to acquire the necessary talent.
One gap that often occurs in current strategies is when organizations want to utilize “big data analytics” in products, marketing or sales but actually have no resident skills in analytics, statistics, large database technology or modeling.
Another example is when organizations want to capitalize on “social media” but have scarce skills in the organization that actually understand how to best use social media to reach their goals.
How to Remedy the Strategic Talent Gap