Put your best people on the most promising things.
That’s the simple sounding, but often overlooked, rule laid down by Andreas Kramvis, the CEO of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies, in a recent interview with McKinsey Quarterly.
“Most people think that reallocation only means the reallocation of capital,” Kramvis notes. “I also like to think about the reallocation of people and mindshare.” It’s difficult to reorient people, Kravis adds, but it’s well worth it. “Moving your best managers, researchers, salespeople, and so on from low-growth or failing businesses to areas with higher growth and profit potential can be one of your most effective levers as a business leader,” he adds.
As much as any words we’ve read in a while, Kramvis’s could slip into a book by Peter Drucker without changing so much as a comma. “Assignment control is the key to the productivity of the skilled worker,” Drucker wrote in Managing in Turbulent Times. “It requires that they are assigned to opportunities, and those opportunities are the right ones for them.”
This means taking employees away from products and programs that have run their course, while getting the entire organization “to perceive in the new an opportunity rather than a threat.”
As we’ve noted, there is always a huge temptation to put top talent on fixing problems. But whenever a company does that, it’s sure to “squander its best resources on things it should never have been doing or should no longer do,” Drucker warned in Managing in a Time of Great Change. “As a result, it will lack the resources, especially capable people, needed to exploit the opportunities that arise when markets, technologies and core competencies change.”
“To be change leaders,” Drucker added, “enterprises . . . have to starve problems and feed opportunities.” In the end, there’s nothing better to feed them than your very best people.
How often does your business reallocate people to the highest-opportunity areas?