People & Strategy Spring 2017 Vol. 40 Issue 2 - 30
to break down silos, so that each area did not just do their
own design in their own way, but there was a consistent and
Another example would be if a head of human resources
had direct reports for "business partners" and functional "centers of excellence" (e.g. compensation). The head of human
resources would be the crossover point manager for the integration of these two areas to ensure and balance the requirements for both excellent functional capability and excellent
business partner delivery to the internal business clients.
Using this cross-functional accountability and authority
framework adds far more precision, specificity and comprehensiveness than a typical matrix approach. Improvements
include the role of the crossover point manager; setting of
context and prescribed limits; delegating clear managerial
accountabilities and authorities; delegating cross-functional
accountabilities, each of which has commensurate authorities; and establishing an issue resolution and context clarification process.
In matching people to positions, we find that three dimensions are important. The first is the skilled knowledge
required in the position. This includes knowledge, technical
skill and social process or people skill. Using all three factors
is helpful. For example, people sometimes have very good
technical skill but not very good social process or people skill.
The second dimension is application-would someone fully
apply themselves to all requirements of the position? This
can be important when people move from technical or professional positions into managerial positions. Sometimes they
don't really want to be a manager but only move to a higher
level position in the organization. In this case, it is possible to
lose one of the better technical or professional contributors
and get one of the worst managers in one move.
The third dimension provides the most unique added
value. This is the information processing capability that an
individual has. Each stratum is different in the nature of the
work, the complexity of the work, and the information processing capability required. Information processing capability develops in individuals over time. Some stay at a Stratum
1 level all their lives, very high capability individuals can go
up to Stratum 9, and others are in between. This becomes an
important dimension in promotions. We often find that the
best performer in one stratum is promoted to the next stratum. However, the individual may not have the information
processing capability required in the higher stratum, which
can lead to the Peter Principle (rising to one's level of incompetence). While information processing capability can be
assessed by outside assessors, the research and organization
experience shows that, in properly stratified organizations,
managers can judge this as well as outside assessors. We find
this to be preferable since if puts the accountability where
it belongs with the managers. Having this measurement is
invaluable in helping people use their full capability without
being pushed to failure.
The approach would include a series of talent pool meetings from the top of the organization on down. A manager
PEOPLE + STRATEGY
once removed meets with direct report managers to assess
individuals in the stratum below. There would be some minimal education on strata and information processing capability. Managers would make judgments about direct reports.
It is interesting that the judgments tend to be quite precise.
For example, at Stratum 2 we would expect the diagnostic
capability that professionals and first level managers should
have. Managers are able to not only make judgements about
the stratum of the capability, but also assess it as being at low,
medium and high within a stratum. Further, this process
can determine which individuals are high potential (which
we define as moving up at least two strata in information
processing capability during one's career). This assessment
approach tends to be more specific and transparent than
most. We often find that organizations that use this approach
often modify their high potential lists since many other methods tend to be more vague and therefore end up being more
Deliverables alignment involves ensuring that people at each
level are doing the complexity of work for which they are being paid. We often find that the complexity of work is below
the level of compensation. This is a waste of money and can
result in important work not getting done.
We find these issues in many parts of an organization,
and will use sales as an example. Sales at a Stratum 1 level is
transactional-a product or service is delivered and paid for.
The time span is quite short, often hours or days. The work
is proceduralized, and procedures are used to get the work
done. Sales at a Stratum 2 level involve relationship management. A relationship is developed and managed, often with
an objective of enhanced opportunities for a broader range
of selling and servicing. The time span here is often between three and twelve months. There is a requirement for a
diagnostic capability which one would expect in professional
A position in sales at a Stratum 3 level usually involves
territory management and the development of the Stratum 2
sales individuals. Territory development tends to have a time
span of 12 to 24 months, often around 18 months. What we
often find is that this level of work is not being done. The
Stratum 3 incumbents are really doing Stratum 2 relationship
management work, and "babysitting" rather than developing
the Stratum 2 individuals. This relationship is often compressed. The very important territory management work does
not get properly done. Checking on the actual deliverables
relative to the complexity of work expected can significantly
improve the return on investment.
There can be many opportunities to improve deliverables
alignment. A starting point would be to determine if an
organization has an integrated planning and review system.
We often find that there are several systems (e.g. strategic
planning for higher lever executives; business planning which
is often financial; and performance management which is
often run by human resources) that are not integrated.
Another important improvement can be to ensure that
the measurement system understands and respects the time