Calculating Success: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: July 5th, 2012 by bobmorris

Calculating Success: How the New Workplace Analytics Will Revitalize Your Organization
Carl Hoffman, Eric Lesser, and Tim Ringo
Harvard Business Review Press (2012)

How and why “the connective tissue between vision and execution is workforce analytics”

According to Carl Hoffmann, Eric Lesser, and Tim Ringo, “there is more measurable value in an organization than meets the eye – if it is sought out and quantified. Taking a structured approach – in this case our Six Step method – and combining it with the right expertise and sponsorship can unlock immense value.” Their book explains how to do that.

It is difficult (if not impossible) to manage what cannot be measured but, obviously, so much depends on selecting the correct metrics for the given situation. Hoffmann, Lesser, and Ringo focus on analytics that, they assert, are more appropriate to what they characterize as “the new workplace.” I am greatly indebted to Tom Davenport for what I have learned about analytics and consider it strange that there are no references to him and his pioneering research in Hoffmann, Lesser, and Ringo’s book. Competing on Analytics (2007), for example, and more recently, Analytics at Work (2010), in which Davenport and his co-authors develop in greater depth a five-stage model for analytical maturity (“God has decreed that all maturity models have five stages”) but supplement it with an abundance of “pragmatic suggestions” with regard to the design and implementation process.

Hoffmann, Lesser, and Ringo offer a process to achieve similar strategic objectives:

o  Translate strategy into profitable action
o  Balance talent supply and demand
o  “Untangle” the drivers of workforce performance
o  Measure the value of collaboration and knowledge capital
o  Solve the “turnover mystery”
o  Build a sustainable workforce analytics capability

Readers will appreciate the provision of mini-case studies that demonstrate various ways four quite different organizations have used new workplace analytics to revitalize themselves:  Delta Airlines (Pages 13-23), “ABC” (an American manufacturing plant, 44-51), CORP Service Centers (117-135), and PHARMA (171-191). Leaders in each of these organizations used analytics to achieve specific objectives. Other exemplars are also identified and briefly discussed. Most change initiatives fail or fall far shirt of original (albeit unrealistic) expectations, especially organizational revitalization and transformation. I commend on their provision of the information. Hence the importance of the information, insights, and counsel that Hoffmann, Lesser, and Ringo provide in abundance.

Here are a few of several dozen passages that caught my eye:

o  A Six step “common sense” approach to addressing workplace challenges (Pages 5-6)
o  “The Six Step Analytical Process: The Intersections of Science and Industry” (18-27)
o  Developing Workforce Stands: Luxottica Retail and IBM (57-62)
o   Defining Action Steps to Implement the Solution (95-102)
o  Using Social Networks to Measure Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing (142-148)
o  Applying Wisdom of the Collective Organization (148- 150)
o  Solving the Turnover Mystery: An Extended Look at the Workforce Analytics Process (167-190)

Business leaders who read and (hopefully) re-read this book and then begin to take a hard look at their own organization will corroborate Hoffmann, Lesser, and Ringo’s comment, “there is more measurable value in an organization than meets the eye – if it is sought out and quantified.” That is a HUGE “if,” of course. Fortunately, business leaders are provided with a Six Step method process to follow; also, the central involvement of Six Step method as their virtual mentors. It is essential to “make haste slowly,” to engage positive and collaborative involvement in the process from Day One (including, especially, residents of the C-suite), and combine persistence with patience when attempting to create “immense value” that might not otherwise be accessible. Game on!

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