Thursday, 26 February 2009

HR can't help you

You work for a large organisation. Your Human Resources (what a scary and dehumanising term that it is) department has devised a tabular job framework. The columns represent different kinds of job. The rows represent steps up the promotion ladder. Documented competencies are needed to progress from one level to the next higher one. So you can plan your route to the top of company? Right? Wrong!

Your promotion might be arrested by The Peter Principle. You may reach your "level of incompetence" and remain there. But what competencies really matter in promotion to a high level? Not necessarily the documented competencies.

Consider two kinds of competency - analysis and gambling – as two kinds of people. Analysers make decisions on the basis of information. Extreme analysers collect as much as information as possible before they make a decision. By way of contrast, gamblers make decisions on little information. Extreme gamblers make decisions on the basis of information so inadequate that their decision is near to random.

As an analyser, you will read career guidance, then take care to acquire and demonstrate the documented competencies. You may thus reach the top grade in the job framework. When you get there, you will be frustrated to find you are not a member of the top management team and are unlikely to be invited to join it.

However well your organisation has designed and documented its formal career paths, the route to the top management table is uncharted. An informal hierarchy overlays your formal tabular job framework, and it becomes more important as you rise through the organisation. Promotion in this hierarchy does not depend on gaining qualifications. Other factors matter more than documented competencies.

An analyser’s first instinct is to apply rational thought to a business issue; fact gathering and analysis are their tools of choice. Gamblers prefer to apply social skills to the same business issue; they develop and hone these skills to their purposes.

Promotion depends partly on the personality you reveal in work place social interactions. In the public sector of old, the sherry party and the Masonic lodge played their part. Now, more likely, it is the golf course and the management away day.

Promotion depends also on others’ recognition of your skills and successes. Considerable effort is needed to appreciate the skill of the analyser – since it involves following their analysis. What you need is a track record of “making a difference”. Or rather, you need others to associate you with successful innovations and decisions, and to perceive you as having such a track record. So, how to acquire this reputation?

1 comment:

  1. There is more to develop in the calculator / gambler distinction you made. I think that calculators are those with better 'systems' minds. They are more able to understand how a decision can be best made (they may even understand perfectly well when a decision has to be made with limited information).

    The gamblers don’t gamble because they choose to approach the decision that way - they do it because they really don’t have the mind to understand how the decision could be approached another way. The problem is that promotion depends on personal interaction and recognition. ‘System’ minds come with autistic characteristics that inhibit their personal recognition. Whereas the 'gambler' has the social skills; so those whose 'lucky' decisions go well appear to have everything.