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Are You Missing the Intellectual Heart of Your Organisation?


Time to talk about people. The greatest asset of any organisation is its people. The people in your organisation are the tribe, cultural backbone and intellectual heart that drive the current and future success of all business performance. The talent, knowledge and skills are held collectively by the people of the organisation – the strategy and ability to deliver on it are meaningless without your people.

Great things come when we empower people to do great things with awesome people. Whilst this is one of my personal values and it’s how we select the clients we work with and the people that work for us, it is often bandied around by a lot of organisations but all it turns out to be is rhetoric.

Payroll is often the biggest expense of an organisation, which puts it at the centre of the bullseye when decisions need to be made on how to reduce overall costs. In the fractious environment of an uncertain economic climate where some industries are uncertain about the future and are undertaking a variety of measures to stay afloat, the easiest and fastest way to reduce costs and pressure on the bottom line can be to reduce the headcount of an organisation.

Avoid Intellectual Drain

Losing people can be a cost that is exponentially larger than the savings that will be made in the short-term. The intellectual drain on an organisation when people are lost is often something that can’t be easily replaced and can take years to rejuvenate. When we acquire and merge companies we look for ‘key people’ to ensure the knowledge stays within the organisation. Often these key people are not the obvious choices, and we also need to ensure we hold on to the link people. Link people are the glue inside every organisation. These are the people that know how to get things done and are part of the communication and social fabric. Link people can be in any position and are often not the traditional leaders or high performers that we look to on a day to day basis.

If you have people, teams or divisions that are underutilised or unable to complete their normal work, and the organisation can sustain it, now is the time to insource and redeploy resources into teams to support the delivery of the new program of work and/or innovation projects. It’s about using your existing skills and resources and applying them in different ways.

We need to have an all hands-on deck mentality. Now is not the time to worry to much about the skills, talent and specialisations of the people who are underutilised. What will matter will be motivation, enthusiasm and interest to be part of a team to create a difference or opportunity. Typically, many leaders believed that their ability to pursue innovation was dependent on a small group of one or two people, external resources and other ‘experts’. Oftentimes the genius is in our own teams and organisations, and some of these people may now have a little extra time to exercise their innovation muscle to explore new ideas.


Insource and Redeploy with New Teams

Going through the previous steps you will have prioritised projects and work requirements. The following steps will help create new teams to utilise the genius inside your organisation:

  • list out the underutilised resources, including estimate of their time availability a summary of their core skills.

  • Match the skills to the projects / work requirements.

  • Establish teams and, where necessary, provide them with a champion that can support and guide the people on the team if they haven’t utilised a project management methodology or led a team before.

  • Agree a zero-cost staff methodology to avoid transferring any costs between business units during these abnormal times.

As we discussed in step one, in many cases innovation is not part of the strategic planning processes, which makes it more difficult to establish innovation ideas, processes and teams to deliver projects in boom times, let alone times of crises and contraction. Growth and innovation are not mutually exclusive, and we need to move away from the mindset that innovation is inherently a change that takes the focus, budget and attention away from achieving agreed short-term business goals.

People and culture are the key drivers of innovation and it will be the people inside your organisation that will create the momentum during this process. Whilst you need to utilise resources and skills in the way that suits the organisation and the immediate needs of the organisation, which may be a bit different from their substantive role. You also need to have a view for the future and what will happen once the restrictions are lifted / the wheels of the economy start to move again. Do you bring the team back together – or do you acknowledge the change and growth that has occurred at an individual level, team or divisional level? Be open to a new way of thinking and working and considering how this may create a better result overall.

Innovation can be a trend in large organisations that swings in and out of fashion, and generally is often the first to thing to be put away in times of downturns and contraction. The aspirations of executives and leadership teams to innovate in times of downturn and their ability to deliver are often hampered by a variety of reasons, but that reason should never be their people. The talent, knowledge and skills of your people are the glue of the organisation and if you give them a shot they will surprise and delight you with the ideas for growth, efficiency and innovation they are bursting to develop.

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