The optimal top performer footprint

Jan 6, 2011

We’ve taken a thorough look this week at the organizational impact of ‘big dogs’ – the top performers in the organization who you depend on to power your recovery and competitive edge in 2011 – particularly as this year will be a tough time to hold on to them.We started on Monday by looking at how Big Dogs emerge, and how they first impact the organization: heavy on tactics and actions, not so much on the organization’s mission (vision, values and goals) and strategies.

Tuesday gave us a chance to see how the Big Dog footprint develops – often to negative effect – as the organization battles Whitewater.

Yesterday was all about what happens when management begins to hire in top performers from the outside, in addition to developing their own – usually as part of an attempt to accelerate through Whitewater into Predictable Success.

Today’s is the final post in the series yourselves: what the optimal Big Dog footprint is, if you want to avoid the perils associated with the earlier post. Here it is – I call it ‘The Arrowhead’:

Note: If you’re viewing this in your RSS reader and cannot see the image below, please click here to view it online
The optimal top performer footprint

div class=”demo” style=”font-size:smaller”>If you are interested in learning more about the “Mission, Goals…Actions” pyramid above, watch this short 7′ video where I explain it in more detail.

Those of you who have followed the series through thus far could probably have drawn it without any help from me. In fact, given the content of the rest of the week’s posts this footprint is by now so obvious, I won’t insult you by over-explaining it. Here’s the skinny:

1. Keep your Big Dogs ruthlessly focussed on the actions and tactics they’re responsible for – that, after all, is why they are top performers in the first place. Allow for a fair amount of bleed as they creatively experiment (you do trust your top performers to be creative in their own area of expertise, don’t you?).

2. Involve them in a consultative manner in your mission, vision, values and goals discussions. The general sense of these discussions should be: “All your contributions and opinions are valued and welcome, but I make no commitment that they will necessarily be adopted.

3. Most importantly, severely constrict – at least initially – their autonomy at the level of strategy / systems and processes. Once they have proved themselves capable of exercising the discipline necessary to adhere to your minimally-required systems and processes, you might start letting out the choker, but not before then. My recommendation is least 6 months of observation – 9 is better – before you allow yourself to be convinced. A 360 assessment couldn’t do any harm either.

To summarize, here’s the rhythm of your optimal Big Dog interaction:

– You consult with them on mission, vision and values, and goals;

– Based on that consultation, you agree needed strategies systems and processes;

– These are inviolate (until your next regularly scheduled review);

– But they get all the autonomy they want on tactics and action.

Make sense? What have I missed? Where am I over-generalizing? What other approaches have worked for you?

Let me know – that’s what the big open box below is for: