Management Design: The “designs” we have now: Recruit someone from a successful comparable organization
The Manager by Designsm blog advocates for a new field called Management Design. The idea is that the creation of great and effective people managers in organizations should not occur by accident, but by design. Currently, the creation of great managers falls under diverse, mostly organic methods, which create mixed results at best and disasters at worst. This is the latest of a series that explores the existing designs that create managers in organizations. Today’s design: Hire someone from a successful comparable organization, such as a competitor.
In this “design”, organizations solve the problem of finding good managers by seeking people who have been in successful organizations elsewhere. It is a great way to find talent, because it makes sense that someone who has been successful elsewhere, such as a competitor, can bring that success to your organization. They have the smarts and methods to change things for the better in your org.
However, there are some risks and downsides to this design. As we are looking at creating better designs for finding and creating great managers, new management designs need to account for these issues.
a) It’s expensive
To lure someone from a competitor is a necessarily expensive proposition. They are looking for a better deal in the new situation, and their track record of success will create a premium for that person. It may be worth it, because you are getting someone who knows success. But as a design, it is expensive.
b) Did the person succeed because of the organization, or did the organization succeed because of the person?
Many organizations are designed to create high productivity out of an average worker. That is, in fact, what an organization ought to do. It should create a collective output that is greater than the individual contributions provided by each person. Successful organizations are good at taking average performers and creating great results. Now, taking one of these performers and putting them in a different organization assumes the exact opposite, that it was the individual and not the organization that created the success. For example, if you have a sales processing system that allows salespeople to do sales a higher percentage of time, is it the salesperson, or is it the processing system that created the success? If your organization doesn’t have the same set up as the prior one, you are essentially making a bet that the new person can adapt to your ways and be as successful as they were elsewhere. This is a low-percentage play.
c) The business model generated success
That person you hired was successful in the prior organization, but was it the business model and business growth that occurred while the person was there that created the success? And was that person responsible for this? For example, a company with a great business model will create thousands of “successful” employees. Was it the business model, or was it the employees? Sure, the employees executed on the business model, but does that mean that the same results will occur in the new org? This is the implied message when you bring someone in from a more successful competitor or comparable organization, but this, too, is a low-percentage play.
d) The person is, by definition, an outsider, and what they did was different
You bring in someone from the outside to translate that success into your org. Great idea. Now, keep in mind that everything they did at the prior org was different. The new person has to adjust to your ways, your processes, your team, your culture. By definition, what they did at the prior org was different. This different stuff was what made them successful. You are asking them to be successful, but now in your way, which is by definition less successful. Many people can and do adjust, but bear in mind that, by design, you are requiring the successful person to change away from their successful ways.
e) You usually can’t bring the team
An obvious point, but many people were successful in their prior organization (and the organization as a whole), based on the team’s collective efforts, not a person’s individual efforts. When you bring in someone from the outside, you are requiring that person to re-form a team and the conditions for good teamwork. This takes time, and unless that person knows the precise means for bringing a team to high performance, you’ve designed-in team underperformance compared to the person’s prior situation.
There are more risks and problems with this design! This post identified reasons why a successful person one organization doesn’t necessarily translated into success in the new organization. In my next post, I’ll focus on some change management issues created by this design.
Have you ever hired someone from a “successful” organization, only to discover that it was the organization, not the person who generated that success? Has this happened to you?