Organizational Agility –Leadership and Talent is the Name of the Game

July 30, 2015

By Randy Samsel
In a recent Washington Post article, Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme disclosed that the firm will be eliminating the annual performance review as well as the notion of forced rankings. This follows a similar move by Deloitte earlier this year. These are bold moves for massive, people-centric organizations. Why would they make such a move? Overall, it represents a shift from measuring employee value after the fact to positioning people for improved performance in the future.

In a related article, Nanterme was interviewed about leading a global consulting firm in a rapidly changing world. Here are some excerpts from that article as they relate to leadership and talent.

On leading an organization to be more agile - Delegate authority to the people on the ground. It’s not going to come from me or from the top.

On the critical nature of people in a professional services environment - Talent is key. And for many of our clients, whatever the industry, they all are coming to me saying their No. 1 challenge is getting the right talent. So first, I figured out that leadership and talent is the name of the game. Second, it’s all about how you motivate people, how you’re making sure they’re going to stretch their own boundaries.

It’s about selecting, hiring the best people, but that’s not enough. Performance management is extraordinarily important to get people to their very best. Do you feel good in your role? If yes, that’s the perfect time for you to experiment with something new, to get out of your comfort zone. This willingness to learn is probably the most important thing for leaders.

On leadership development and training - What I learned is that leadership is about letting go. Trust people. The art of leadership is not to spend your time measuring, evaluating. It’s all about selecting the person. And if you believe you selected the right person, then you give that person the freedom, the authority, the delegation to innovate and to lead with some very simple measure.

On the decision to eliminate annual performance reviews - . We’re done with the famous annual performance review, where once a year I’m going to share with you what I think about you. That doesn’t make any sense.

Performance is an ongoing activity. It’s every day, after any client interaction or business interaction or corporate interaction. It’s much more fluid. People want to know on an ongoing basis, am I doing right? Am I moving in the right direction? Do you think I’m progressing? Nobody’s going to wait for an annual cycle to get that feedback. Now it’s all about instant performance management.

It should be about you. How are you performing now, and do we believe you are prepared to move to another role? We are getting rid of all this comparison with other people. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be easy—that we’re not going to measure, to evaluate. We’re going to do all of this, but we’re going to do it in a very different way.

On overall leadership agility - If there is something I am fighting against every day, it is conservatism. Status quo.

On leadership priorities - The big challenge for large organizations is lack of focus, fragmentation, too many initiatives. The name of the game today is to be famous for something, to scale rapidly, to focus a lot and to take a leadership position. If you fragment yourself, you’re dead.

While the headline of the article was about Accenture’s decision to ditch the annual performance review, the content seemed more about organizational agility and relevance. For Accenture that includes a focus on leadership and talent, and a forward-looking performance management process.

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