fistful of beans, blog, Toby Elwin

Fistful of beans 02/09/2011

Five things I’ve seen, read, or thought might seed results:

1. Apple, With or Without Steve Jobs — Bloomberg Businessweek

Perhaps there is a coincidence last week’s Fistful of Beans presented an article to divine Google’s possible transformation through their leadership queue, but it looks like Apple is heading into their own multiple-choice risk scenario. Now that Steve Jobs has taken a second medical leave from Apple, what are Apple’s near- and long-term challenges to sustained growth and to the future of producing game-changing consumer products.

This is a great look into who is in line for leadership and what each might do to impact Apple customers, shareholders, and the 50,000 Apple employees. Both Apple and Google at a crossroad, talk about succession planning. That now leads nicely into 2 …

2. Taking Talent Inventory — Talent Management Magazine

Losing a key contributor occurs frequently in organizations and a basic challenge many companies have with succession planning. Succession planning efforts focused too narrowly at the top fail to address talent needs for other employees. But emerging trends — most notably retiring baby boomers being replaced with a younger, less experienced generation that is also smaller in number — require more complete succession planning strategies and processes throughout the organization.

Also, some companies will face a post-recession hiring rebound. Startlingly, a 2009 Academy of Management Journal article, “After a round of ‘involuntary’ layoffs, ‘voluntary’ attrition spikes by as much as 31 percent, and precisely the wrong people — those who have the strongest track records and brightest employment prospects — are most likely to leave.”

3. The Power of Positive Deviance — Diversity Executive Magazine

Taking a practice from one company and making it work in another isn’t easy, cheap or guaranteed to succeed. Consultants and professionals who import best practices may routinely ignore the importance of the implicit and explicit organizational context that made these practices work in their native environments.

Positive deviance is based on the simple principle that within any group of people with similar resources and constraints facing a challenge, a small percentage of individuals manifest exceptional personal behaviors that enable them to achieve better results. The goal of a positive deviance project is to find these pockets of excellence and make those behaviors available to the entire group, resulting in an overall rise in performance.

4. Scenario Planning the Future — Chief Learning Officer Magazine

Scenario planning is a great way to develop a whole range of strategic possibilities. Grounded in reality, but stretched past the comfort zone of many, scenarios allow people a range of options not thought previously and a range of risk alternatives with very credible impact.

Scenario planning offers 3 primary learning opportunities. Firstly, naming uncertainty provides a way to confront issues that are unconscious or uncomfortable. Secondly, scenarios provide new context to understand internal and external business dynamics. And finally, scenarios offer a unique way to inform action and a framework for feedback once action has been taken.

5. Why Our Best Officers Are Leaving — The Atlantic

The American military produce the most innovative and entrepreneurial leaders in the country, then wastes that talent in a risk-averse bureaucracy. That is a rather striking paradox.

The men and women who volunteer as military officers learn to remain calm and think quickly under intense pressure. They are comfortable making command decisions, working in teams, and motivating people. Skills that easily translate to the private sector, particularly business: male military officers are almost 3 times as likely as other American men to become CEOs, according to a 2006 Korn/Ferry International study.

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