August 2012
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TD Magazine

Nimble, Effective Staffing To Meet Strategic Objectives

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lean but Agile: Rethink Workforce Planning and Gain a True Competitive Edge

By William J. Rothwell, James Graber, and Neil McCormick

(AMACOM, $45, 240 pp.)

Reviewed by Phaedra Brotherton

"Now is the time to assume uncertainty of talent needs and develop good ways to manage that uncertainty," say noted authors William Rothwell, James Graber, and Neil McCormick. And that means rethinking what work actually should be done and who should be doing that work.

The authors introduce a strategic model for what they dub a "lean but agile" workforce planning approach for cost-effectively meeting the organization's long- and short-term objectives in a constantly changing environment. "Lean but Agile is a strategy for being both very agile in responding to change (or risk becoming quickly irrelevant) and adept at leveraging scarce resources wisely (lean)," note the authors.

Their model aims to clarify goals and focus on measurable, desirable outcomes, designing the most relevant work, and managing the staff to achieve those goals. The model involves

  • focusing on strategic and high-impact work or ensuring that work aligns with the organization's strategy
  • building a talent pool by understanding the talents and the associated costs of the current workforce and talent pool
  • using alternative work sources, which the authors note can be stated as "staff up with full-time employees to meet minimum work demand but rely on alternative workers to meet maximum demand."

The book focuses a good deal on the strategic benefits of optimizing the current talent in the organization and managing an appropriate mix of "alternative" workers, including part-timers, temps, consultants, freelancers, contractors, and others who are not full-time employees, to remain competitive and meet organizational objectives.
A key to strategic work and workforce planning is for organizations to understand and know the skill sets and talents of all their employees to optimally plan and assign the work. The authors point out that many organizations don't know much about the skill sets and preferences of their current employees or the potential sources of talent, including former consultants and former employees.

When it comes to succession planning, the authors suggest expanding the concept from executives to all employees. And instead of basing decisions for developmental assignments and promotions on "potential," the authors suggest using more concrete and proven criteria such as education, experience, and past performance.

The book includes useful FAQs, samples of actual agile and lean workforce plans, and case studies of those who have begun putting the strategic model and approach into practice. It also includes detailed and clear explanations of how to implement a lean but agile approach.

Four cups!

The ASTD Management Development Handbook: Innovation for Today's Manager

Edited by Lisa Haneberg

(ASTD Press, $129.95, 560 pp.)

The ASTD Management Development Handbook is a compilation by some of today's most provocative management thought leaders. Editor and management expert Lisa Haneberg has assembled this volume to "bring together dozens of great management thinkers and practitioners—people active in the field today and people who are innovating today." The book includes chapters from more than 37 authors whose work is organized in the broad areas of Fundamental Ideas for Managers; Managers as Culture Builders; The Goal: Team Members Who Do Their Best Work Together; and Management as a Social Act. The book also includes a handy, but comprehensive, appendix with a listing of the contributors' blogs and websites, as well as a thorough reference section.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Tony Hsieh

(Writers of the Round Table Press, $12.95, 80 pp.)

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose is a comic adaptation of the book with the same name. In a comic book format, with large pictures and easy-to-read text, Delivering Happiness narrates how CEO Hsieh built Zappos into a $1 billion company in just 10 years.

Within this visually appealing presentation, Hsieh uses scientific research and theories, such as Maslow's hierarchy of needs, to explain how happiness not only drives profits, but also can produce passion and purpose for every employee.

Delivering Happiness is ideal for those who are looking to improve their business leadership or management style, and want a quick, visual, and light read.

Performance Thinking: Mental Skills for the Competitive World... and for Life!


Jacques Dallaire

(Dallaire Consulting LLC, $29.95, 230 pp.)

Performance Thinking: Mental Skills for the Competitive World... and for Life! is a book for those who are looking to identify personal performance goals, and then exceed them. Dallaire addresses two basic questions that affect a person's performance: "How do I mentally sabotage my own performance?" and "How can I learn not to?"

Dallaire, with 40 years of human performance improvement experience, uses the ACT model, which integrates seven key rules. These rules can help readers to understand how the way they think influences their performance, and act as guidelines to cultivate the mental skills needed to improve performance.

What's on Gary Hamel's Bookshelf?


The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees by Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald. The authors share insights from their study of successes and failures at more than 400 organizations that have used social technologies to foster and capitalize on customers' and employees' collective efforts.

Breakout: One Church's Amazing Story of Growth Through Mission-Shaped Communities by Mark Stibbe and Andrew Williams. Breakout is the story of one church's move from a "come-to-us" to a "go-to-them" model of mission.

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey. Examines the birth of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism, and how the wealth of nations grew not from economic factors, but because rhetoric about markets and free enterprise became enthusiastic and encouraging of these countries' inherent dignity.

Innovation Tournaments: Creating and Selecting Exceptional Opportunities by Christian Terwiesch and Karl T. Ulrich. Provides a principled and practical approach to creating and identifying promising opportunities, and then evaluating and filtering them intelligently for greatest profitability.

About the Author

Phaedra Brotherton is a trained career development facilitator and certified professional resume writer. She is former manager of ATD’s Career Development Community of Practice, and was previously senior writer/editor for ATD.

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