I have a perpetual stimulus mining effort going on when it comes to Innovation Leadership. Here are three pieces of stimulus that converged in my mind: Stimulus 1) Harvard Business Review published Why HR Still Isn't a Strategic Partner. The excerpt that caught my attention:
...business leaders still wonder aloud why their organizations even have HR departments. For their part, many HR leaders are willing to partner with the business, but given the unique situation of each individual company, they have little in the way of concrete guidance about how to fulfill that role.
Let me suggest a way to start. Of every action you take as an HR leader, ask this simple question: does it cause friction in the business or does it create flow? Friction is anything that makes it more difficult for people in critical roles to win with the customer. Flow, on the other hand, is doing everything possible to remove barriers and promote better performance. The question applies to virtually any company in any business and it will take you farther down the road faster than the hazy, abstract injunction to become a strategic partner. Even in what appear to be routine HR responsibilities, you can inject the business perspective simply by asking whether what you are doing is going to enhance the flow of the business or impede it with friction.
Stimulus 2) Vanity Fair published Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant. It exposes the company’s use of “stack ranking” as a primary reason for them losing their “innovation mojo.”
Author Kurt Eichenwald interviewed employees and found that they use “. . . a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
One former Microsoft engineer says that his performance reviews were “always much less about how I could become a better engineer and much more about my need to improve my visibility among other managers.” Stimulus 3) Doug Hall’s post on “Innovation Culture Change 2.0 Beta” and an overt inclusion of HR to help accelerate the new innovation culture with a modified reward system to recognize innovation system leadership. While that specific reward system may be different for each company, it’s my belief that it will have at least 3 things in common across the board (particularly after observing the 2 articles from above):
It will be a system that’s clear. It will be a system where everyone can win. It will be a system that creates flow to help those innovating do more of it more often.