1st Executive Blog


As we continue our series of pieces based on the 2019 Mindshop Business Leader's Report, we asked the question are you to lean to grow?

"For over 10 years since the GFC, organisations have been pushing to be ever leaner in their business operations, reducing head count, implementing disruptive technology, adopting offshore workforces or simplifying their business models." The Mindshop report says.

We agree! One of the most common human resources tasks that is currently winning us engagements, is the need to do a simple workforce plan. By aligning the roles and responsibilities of the workforce with strategy, we are able to establish if the enterprise is under or over resourced and indeed if the current roles being performed in the business are actually supporting the strategy. We overlay this with potential and performance scores and we start to create development plans that can be aligned with the goals of the business.

There is no doubt that running with a lean workforce has allowed businesses to stay competitive and perhaps eke out a profit which may have otherwise been unavailable. However, one of the things that we are now noticing is that many teams are now too lean to take advantage of growth opportunities or the need to adapt quickly when they are required to. 

As the Mindshop report suggests, this lean thinking can quickly turn into self sabotaging attitudes and behaviours. The report identifies that being too busy or having no time is the top concern raised by business leaders for 2019. That is quickly followed by their capacity to retain good team members, an overall ability to implement, and the capability of the team. While there are other issues that they are concerned about we just want to comment on these critical human resources issues. Mindshop Business Leader Insights for Success 2019_Page_05extract

At such times the fundamentals of good human resources management need to come to the fore. In most work forces, around 20% of work completed is actually unnecessary. In order to release this unused or wasted capacity businesses need to do some simple things. These strategies include:

  • Defining clearer roles and responsibilities - too often we see  responsibilities double handled because the organisation has been incapable of clearly defining the expectations that exist within the role
  • The need to reduce complexity and organisational structure, simplify reporting lines, and produce a simple strategy map provides clear line of sight between the outputs required in the job and the goals of the organisation
  • Reduced complexity in structure, offer and technology
  • Only when the business has engaged in this basic requirement to reveal unused or wasted capacity, can training for team members in improved delegation, prioritisation, focus, project management and problem solving deliver results
  • We also find that senior management needs to take a more hands-on approach to performance management to reflect the required cadence of the business. Despite a couple of decades of literature, many managers still see performance management as a burden, tend to complete it retrospectively, and are not having results based conversations frequently enough.  Consequently they are not taking corrective action with their team early enough.
  • One of the most common facilitation tools that we use with leaders is Stephen Covey's time management matrix. Covey held the firm view that managing time is all about choice and lamented how little focus managers often give to the important but not urgent quadrant. This is the quadrant of quality.

Only when managers can find a way to release a modest amount of capacity in themselves and in their teams can they develop the capability of the organisation and its individual parts.

We recently published a piece on the future of leadership development which we quoted a current Harvard Business Review article which correctly identified that for managers who were time poor a combination of:

  • blended learning
  • learning while working on the priorities of the business
  • collaborating face-to-face and online at the appropriate time
 provided the necessary step-by-step improvements that businesses need to turn lean into agile.