Sunday, August 24, 2008

What are the right strengths for your company's strategy and culture?

In the previous post, I have raised the question about how companies, especially smaller ones, should define the critical strengths they need for their unique strategy and culture.

This is not a simple question, as there is no universal talent profile for sales people, customer service people, accounting people and son on. The book “First Break All The Rules” makes it very clear that the strengths required for the same job can be very different depending on the organizational culture and strategy (p. 100):

“In the early nineties Gallup began work with two of the largest retail brokerage firms in the United States. Both companies wanted help in selecting brokers. And both of them defined the role in exactly the same way – the broker was not paid to be a money manager, doing financial analysis, picking stocks. Instead he was paid to be a money gatherer, identifying high-potential prospects and the persuading them to invest their money in this firm. He was a salesperson.

Although the definition of both roles was the same, each company organized itself differently. One was extremely structured. Each broker spent months learning how to represent the same suite of meticulously packaged products, and regular refresher courses helped keep him from straying too far from the company’s mandate.

By comparison, the other company was wildly entrepreneurial. Licensed brokers were told, “Here’s a phone, here’s a phone book. I want to see 500,000$ in assents under management by this time next year. Best of luck.

Both strategies had their strengths. And as it turns out, both strategies have proven very successful. However, both could not be executed by the same kind of person. Although the job title was the same – “broker” and the job description was the same – “gather money” – the talent profiles were significantly different.”

For the structured company, the critical striving company was Achiever and the critical thinking talent was Discipline. For the entrepreneurial company, the critical thinking (and striving) talent was Focus, ideally in combination with the thinking talent Strategic.

The quotation above is one of my favorite parts in the book "First Break All The Rules". I find the connection between business strategy and employee's strengths most fascinating. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that a mismatch here is worse than a mismatch between a job's required strengths and the employee's strength. I have been researching the internet and literature for more insights into how to match strengths with your company's strategy and culture, but I haven't found a lot so far. Therefore, I would like to ask you whether you know any valuable sources of information or have made your own experience?