One Page Talent Management: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: April 24th, 2011 by bobmorris

One Page Talent Management: Eliminating Complexity, Adding Value

Marc Effron and Miriam Ort
Harvard Business Press (2010)

A comprehensive analysis of “the most powerful, repeatable processes that create successful talent”

The claim by Marc Effron and Miriam Ort that they offer “the most powerful” processes that create successful talent is, at best, debatable. However, they do recommend a three-step process by which to increase value while reducing complexity of talent practices by integrating behavioral science, simplicity, accountability, and transparency within those practices. This process is eminently sensible but, of course, its effectiveness depends almost entirely on how well it is planned, executed, and then sustained by those who adopt it. Effron and Ort duly note, “Because talent practices work only if they are implemented, ensuring successful implementation must be a primary goal.”

Most change initiatives fail, many if them the result of cultural barriers that James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Changing talent practices is certain to create resistance. Effron and Ort identify four talent-building barriers: (1) reluctance to eliminate needless complexity, (2) inability to create value, (3) unwillingness to stay current with cutting-edge research, and (4) reluctance to be transparent and accountable. The material provided is based on four assumptions with which I wholly agree: the available and relevant science works, only effective implementation matters, managers want to succeed, and finally, transparency and accountability guarantee results. OPTM can generate verifiable evidence to support these assumptions and thereby eliminate the aforementioned barriers.

With regard to the significance of “one page,” Effron and Ort realize that the key form or process for every talent practice can be reduced to only a single page. However, as we all know, most electronic or print documentation about almost anything in business can be substantially reduced. For example, check out “American Express: A One Page Response to Challenging Times” (Page 19). Throughout their narrative, the co-authors make skillful use if several reader-friendly devices, such as various Tables and Figures:

Table 1-1, Example of Transparent Action (Page 21)
Table 1-2, Examples of Accountable Actions (Page 23)
Figure 2-1, OPTM Performance Management Template (Page 47)
Figure 3-1, Example of OPTM 360º Assessment (Page 65)
Figure 3-2, Example of OPTM 360º Report (Page 72)
Figure 5-1, Example of OPTM Engagement Survey Report (Page 124)

It is important to keep in mind that Effron and Ort are sharing their own experiences with OPTM and base their observations and recommendations on real-world situations. Their insights are empirical rather than hypothetical or theoretical. The process is a framework within which each reader must formulate what is most appropriate to her or his own organization’s needs, interests, resources, limitations, and strategic objectives. Moreover, I presume to add that an OPTM program will always be a “work in progress,” sustainable to be sure but dynamic, responsive to change, and subject to frequent and rigorous evaluation.

At GE, the CEO selects his successor and Reginald Jones selected Jack Welch in 1981. His only advice: “Blow it up.” The elegant and patrician Jones correctly realized that the company had become complacent and needed someone like Welch (scrappy, profane, volatile, confrontational) to lead it next. Welch became known as “Neutron Jack” as he sold off under-performing companies and eliminated under-performing executives. Attracting and retaining peak performers was one of his highest priorities. He devoted at least 20% of his time to mentoring and coaching high-potentials in middle management. I mention all this by way of suggesting that a methodology such as OPTM, if established and maintained properly, will accomplish two immensely important business objectives: it will attract high-potential candidates and then develop them and their associates to become high-impact workers at all levels and in all areas.

Here are two quotations that, I think, provide an appropriate conclusion to this review. First, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Hence the importance of focusing on what is most important. Now this observation from Albert Einstein: “Make it as simple as possible…but no simpler.” Obviously, Marc Effron and Miriam Ort agree.


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