“A fool with a tool is still a fool.” ---- Grady Booch
Imagine you are taken to the emergency room with two problems: a heart attack and a scraped knee. You would think the attending doctor would treat the heart attack first and then once that’s under control look at the knee. The fact that the doctor has just gotten a revolutionary new CT scanner for knees and is anxious to try it out shouldn’t be the deciding factor in which medical problem to treat first, should it?
Unfortunately many in HR/Compensation are guilty of this. They get hyper-excited about a new system, program or process and rush to try it out without analyzing if it's really what they need.
“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” ---- Albert Einstein
Einstein’s quote illustrates an important point. Before jumping in to solve a problem, you need to step back and first define what you’re trying to solve. The best tool you come up with will be in direct proportion to the quality of that problem definition.
Begin with the end in mind. This is one of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people. You must know what you want to accomplish, how you’ll know when you achieve it and how you’ll measure its success.
I have a method I use that works for me because I’m a visual person. I use a whiteboard and write the words “Present State” on one end and “Future State” on the other end. Then I work through three steps:
1) Define the “Present State” --- the problem. Under “Present State” on the whiteboard write descriptions --- what the problem is, the impact it’s having, what the consequences have been and what needs to change. This step is where you list all the details. Then start asking why.
If you’ve ever spent time with a child, you know what I’m talking about. The child asks you why something works. You answer, and s/he asks why again…and again. Just like the child you need to ask yourself why over and over to try and flush out all the details. The process of problem definition is in-depth --- not broad-brush.
Maybe you’ve seen the Charles Schwab commercial on TV where the little boy keeps asking his father why about how his money is being managed. Each why leads to another why until finally the father --- who looks like he’s beginning to have his own questions now --- has no answer.
2) Define the “Future State” --- the desired result. At the other end of the whiteboard under “Future State” write a description of what the end result will look like. How will the new process, program, etc. work, how will you know you’ve reached it and how will you measure its success?
3) Build the link --– bridge the gap. This step is all about describing how you will get to the end state. Are there internal and/or external constraints? Are there people, policies, systems that don’t provide the right information, training, etc? What approaches have been tried so far that haven’t worked? Write all these descriptions in an arc connecting the two “States”.
Once you’ve built the bridge connecting Current and Future states, you’re ready to look at relevant solutions.
4) Select a solution. There are dozens of programs and systems to select from. Just don’t lose sight of the analysis you’ve done and get side-tracked looking at the wrong ones.
If you need help from an external professional, be very careful who you select. If not, you may just find yourself getting advice from someone who is actually a “fool with a tool”.
Does anyone have an example to share?
Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in Global Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel. Her expertise encompasses many areas of HR --- compensation, benefits and wellness, learning/development, strategic workforce planning and mergers and acquisitions. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expatriate twice during her career. She has certifications from HCRI, World at Work and Human Capital Institute as well as a B.S. and M.S. in Psychology and an MBA. Jacque has been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications.