Saturday, 12 September 2009

Success > Execution


   Success Factors provide one of my favourite HCM technology systems, and they do some great research.  They (Erik Berggren) have also written one of my favourite HCM (Performance & Talent) blogs, although this dried up back in April, and has now been retitled the Business Execution blog.  In fact SF itself has repositioned itself fairly dramatically as a provider of Business Execution software.

I’ve got no doubt that this is a smart commercial move, and commentary (eg Josh Bersin, ZDNet) seems to agree.

However, I would warn HR practitioners against totally accepting SF’s argument that

“Execution is what explains the financial performance of your company.  Execution creates sustained competitive advantage.”


I mean, yes, this is largely true, and I do totally support Erik’s comment that:

“With an average of 70% of your operating expenditure comprised of labor (for not taking contractors into account) there is no bigger expense post to optimize if you want to drive better execution.  It’s not a matter of what but rather who drives the execution of your strategy.”


I think SF’s perspective is fine as long as you believe, like Josh, that Human Resources is a business support function (even one that has a direct impact on competitive advantage).

But if you believe, like me, that HR can be a business leadership function, then you’re going to want to look for a bit more from your people than simply their ability to execute strategy.  You’re going to want them to inform strategy as well.


Successful teams execute, but they provide the basis for new business opportunities too.





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    1. Jon

      I'm with you on this one. Success is NEVER something you can achieve on your own, and execution is something that ultimately, unavoidably requires people, so it therefore seems obvious that you need to make more of your people if you want to execute well and hence to succeed.

      It also seems absolutely ridiculous that business leaders expect to be the source of all good ideas, thereby reducing the odds of innovation by more than just the ratio of managers to staff. After all it is the people who actually do the day-to-day work are the ones who are more likely to come up with better approaches.

    2. Hi Jon,

      I agree 100%.

      Execution of business strategy depends on the people believing, wanting and engaging to make it happen. And that very much depends on how dynamic, open and flexible leaders are.

      Hewit just released it's findings, Best Employers in Asia. The list is not important, but what separates them is. I quote, as follows:

      "The judges found the following characteristics in the Hewitt Best Employers in Asia:

      • A strong commitment of the CEO on taking good care of people in both good and bad times, along with their commitment to people and customers being upheld during the current economic crisis

      • Alignment between human resources systems/initiatives and employee perception which reflects the high quality implementation and execution of human resource systems and initiatives. HR initiatives which were highly regarded by the judges were those being executed with strong sponsorship and commitment from the CEO and line executives rather than those being "pushed" by HR professionals"

    3. Agreed - it's both strategy AND execution that count.

      I've just been reading SuccessFactors' report on Business Execution, which I've annotated furiously, so I think I'm going to be coming back to this one shortly.


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